Two down and two to go

Grades are in for two of my classes — took longer than expected/planned.  Didn’t help that I am sick as a dog!  I’ve got two more classes’ final work to grade TODAY.  Yikes!  Wish me luck…

It’s beginning to look a lot like … Finals

Funny how the mind works.  I’ve had that darned Christmas song, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” running through my head for the last few days.  It’s a constant refrain ever since it snowed.  Ugh.

Christmas is, I admit it, probably my favorite holiday in the whole year.  Too bad every year I also have a ton of work to do right before the holiday.  As an English teacher, I end up with mounds of final portfolios (each one including  final versions of all of the students’ papers from the whole semester plus their original drafts to show improvement and an extensive cover letter assessing their work).  Whew!  Makes me tired just summarizing it.  Here is a picture of my current semester’s stack, guarded by our faithful pooch, Maggie, until I can get around to that important work…

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So, yeh, why am I not grading those papers right now, then…? Just taking a breather, folks, having  finished grading on-line assignments for a different class, I haven’t yet gone on to the next task.  Busy, busy, busy!  Ah, but lucky, too.  I like seeing the improvement of the students’ work at the end (usually there IS growth).  Makes me feel like it was worth it or some such nonsense!  🙂

Holady Shopping… Typos Matter, Even at Christmas

I am NOT the grammar police, okay?  But, honestly, sometimes I can’t help but draw attention to signage errors.  I mean, I’d want to know!   I live by that Do Unto Others credo, so shoot me.

I was at the mall this weekend buying a few last Christmas gifts, when I was surprised to see a See’s Candy shop.  Where the heck did that come from, I wondered.  I am quite certain it wasn’t there last time I visited the mall.

I hustled over to the store, though, to pick up a couple of boxs of nuts and chews and assorted chocolates.  Sees is not only delicious candy, but it brings back lovely memories of my grandma.  The company began right there in Sacramento, California, near my grandma’s house, in fact.  I am delighted that the company has done so well that it now has a store in the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, New Hampshire.  Go figure!

But as I was reading the description of one of their items to see which candies the box included, my eyes bugged out at this typo.  Can you SEE it?

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How appetizing!  Just what I want to buy for my kid’s stocking: a box with six soiled choco balls.  Mmm! Delicious!  Sample anyone? 🙂

I hesitated but then thought, goodness, this has to be fixed.  Or at least laughed at.  So I showed it to the two sales ladies, making it perfectly clear that this was, no doubt, NOT their fault.

Clerk One: “Yes.  Uh huh….  So you’re a teacher?”

Me: “Well, yeh. Er, I am. Ha ha.” 🙂

Clerk One: “And you teach…?”

Me: “English.  Sorry.  Typos just have this way of jumping right off the page at me, especially this time of year when I am grading so many student papers.  I can’t help it.”

Clerk Two: “Where do you teach your classes?”

Me: “At the University.”

Clerk Two: “I want to take an English class.  I need to learn English.”

Me: “Well, there’s community colleges.  They offer such classes.”

Clerk Two: “What I really want is a tutor, just someone to sit down with me and help me understand better.”

Me: “Our local library has such a thing — literacy tutoring run by volunteers.  You should see if your town has that.”

After the Clerk One lady rang up my purchase, she slipped three butterscoth lollipops into my bag and smiled. I guess she didn’t mind my pointing out the typo after all.  Still, someone should fix that sign.  Made me think I should carry around white out and a black marker.

Has anyone heard of that guy who goes around, on purpose to fix people’s typos? Now THAT’S annoying!

Happy Sankta Lucia Day

Yes, I know that all of you American and English readers are busy eating your Lucia buns and drinking the coffee that your eldest daughter brought to you at the crack of dawn and all that.  Sorry to bug you.  I just wanted to wish all a happy Sankta Lucia Day.

In case you don’t know (though I’m sure EVERYONE does), Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated in Sweden and Italy.  Yeh, that’s weird, huh?  Lucia was an Italian saint, a martyr who brought food to the Christians hiding from the Romans in the catacombs.  She is famous for wearing a crown of candles to light her way in the subterranean caverns (her hands were busy holding big baskets of food, get it?)  Of course, she was murdered, but not until after all the requisite miracles.  Etcetera.

So the Italians celebrate her feast day (Dec. 13), but why the Swedes?  Well, one thousand years ago King Canute was experiencing a bit of Seasonal Affect Disorder and feeling glum because, well, Sweden is relatively cold and dark this time of year.  Then he heard about Saint Lucy and said, “Ah, ha!  This is the saint for us!!” So he proclaimed that Sweden would observe her feast day, too.

The Swedes today celebrate with Lucia buns and coffee in the early morning.  Girls wear electric lighted crowns and bring their parents the food.  Boys wear funny pointed hats and are called “Star Boys.”  There’s lots more to it and all, but that’s the basics.  Oh, and there’s a song, of course, as well!

Anyway, happy Sankta Lucia Day to one and all!

Ice Storm

We awoke this morning to the news that today my kid’s school was canceled due to an historic ice storm in New England…and then I called my university and found it was also closed for the day, thus leaving the semester forever unfinished.  No leave taking means no closure.  The last day of class is a very bad day to have a weather cancellation.

Ah, well, the students, no doubt, are rejoicing that they have extra time to complete their final portfolio essays, and I suppose it will not kill me to be unable to grade papers this weekend!

So my kid and I were home today.  Hubster had to go to work, governor declared state of emergency or not, his office was open!  Anyway, kid and mom have been housecleaning and ventured out to go to the grocery store, as we are a bit low on food.  So we went to our favorite local store where they sell a lot of organic foods.

When we arrived, we found that their power was out, and they were cleaning the fish and meat sections and tossing out a bunch of perishable food.  There were only a few lights on in the large store — eerie and more than a little weird to be let inside.  But they were selling food to those who made it to their store.  We got what we needed, including the last carton of buttermilk in all of Massachusetts, no doubt.  Thank goodness — since my quick bread recipe that I wanted to try out this afternoon calls for 3/4 cups of buttermilk.  Eeghads, what would I do without that ingredient?!

As we walked to the checkout counter through the frozen food aisle, I stopped to take this photo with my phone camera.  They had saran wrapped the doors all shut so nobody can buy the food from the freezers.  Think of the enormity of the waste and financial loss.  Yikes.

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In the parking lot, I started chatting with an elderly gentleman who works at the store as a bagger.  He was on his way home.  He first asked me if my power was out at home (so nice!)  Then he went on to explain that by law the store has to throw out perishable food if the refrigeration or freezer is shut off for three hours or more.  The store will lose tens of thousands of dollars, and it will take quite a while to restock. In fact, the Governor says none of the power in the whole state  is likely to be back on until at the earliest MONDAY.

What a terrible waste, I thought.  I mean, of course, there is the safety issue and all.  But if only someone from the store had decided at 2 hours and 45 minutes into the power outage that they should donate all the perishables to the local food pantry (which still DOES have power and does not have enough food)….  Alas, instead everything is being dumped into the county incinerator.

It was quite an eye-opener for my son.  He usually relishes storms, especially when they mean no school, but I think he is beginning to understand how interconnected everything is.  His school friend’s power is out and their sump pump is not working, so their basement is flooding.  Lows in the teens tonight will mean a chilly evening for that family.  I’ve called to offer them a place to stay with us, but I can’t reach them. Friends from church just sent out a plea on the church listserv asking to borrow anyone’s generator to run their sump pump because their basement, too, is under water.

As the sun begins to hang lower and lower in the sky, I can feel the temperature dropping.  We enjoyed about an hour of sunshine this afternoon, during which time the tres and bushes tried to shed as much of their ice encasements as possible.  The outdoors were blindingly bright, shimmering with falling ice, glittering in the sun. Now everything has turned gloomy again. High winds and low temps are expected tonight.  I can only hope enough ice melted earlier to keep us from joining the one million households in the northeast currently without power.

Saving Money at Christmas…

This year, since my husband was laid off in August and had to take a job at much reduced pay, we are particulary keen to save money.  Here are a few tips I thought I’d share with you:

1) Invest in LED Christmas lights.  Yeh, I know, that means spending some money.  But those little lights add up to a big savings.  Did you know that LEDs use one tenth the electricity of standard lights?  Plus, they are SOOOO much safer — very much cool to the touch.  And they last SOOOOO much longer than regular bulbs, so this is savings that will continue for years (not to mention it’s better for the planet).  I bought the colored mini-lights because I prefer their warm tones.  The white LEDs seem kinda almost blue to me.  Some people like that, though.  Whatever.

2) Send your presents to relatives who live far away NOW.  Do NOT wait.  It is five times as expensive to send things express at the last minute because you forgot to take care of this earlier.  Save money by thinking ahead.  And this particularly applies if you are sending presents to ME!  Don’t delay! 🙂

3) Cook for people.  Seriously.  Who really wants yet another bodywash/lotion/loufa sponge set or a kitchy little Christmas doo-dad?  Give folks what they really want: chocolate.  Here’s a simple truffle recipe that will make everyone SOOOO happy you are their friend.  Warm up one cup (240 ml) of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over low heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add one pound + 6 ounces (625 g) of semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped.  Stir until chocolate is melted. If you want to add 3 tablespoons of rum or some other flavoring, you can do so now.  It’s you liver.  Put the pan in the fridge about an hour until mixture is firm.  Scoop out teaspoon-sized mounds onto a baking sheet and refrigerate again about a half hour.  Then roll each one in your hands to make it into a smooth ball, and roll balls in plain cocoa power, chopped nuts, or coconut — whatever you like.  These look so time-consuming and  fancy and taste so delicious.  But this is a super cheap and quick gift (makes about 65 truffles in less than two hours)!

4) Regift.  I mean do so deliberately.  Get together with friends for coffee at someone’s house and bring items that you want to get rid of (new or gently used).  Put them all out on a table and then everyone goes around and tries to see if any items might work as a gift for someone you know.  (Of course, this doesn’t work if the gift you want to regift came from someone at the regifting party!!)  In my case, though, I’ve got a few different sets of friends, and we don’t really give each other gifts anyway, so I anticipate no worries on that count.  This is a great way to do children’s gifts, by the way.  I mean little kids especially are almost more interested in the box than what’s inside!  And I think this is going to be pretty hilarious, too.  I mean wow some of the stuff people get — at least this event’ll be good for a laugh. 🙂

5) Do not buy wrapping paper!  Use what you can find around the house…like brown paper bags turned inside out  with red painted stars and a rafia ribbon wrapped around a cinnamon stick…or tinfoil with shiny ribbon…or the tried and true–newspaper comics page…for a small gift, create your own fancy paper from a plain sheet of white paper with watercolor paint splashed on it….  Use your imagination.  Time spent on a nice wrapping counts as part of the gift, you know.  And it’s possible to make your wrapping look like it took SOOOO much longer than it really did.

And now, it’s time for me to practice what I preach and wrap those presents that I need to send to California tomorrow!

What I’m thankful for…

For Thanksgiving, we went to Grandma’s niece’s husband’s sister and brother-in-law’s house.  in other words, we were with family!  We follow my cousin pretty much wherever she and her husband go during the holidays.  They are the only relatives we have in the Northeast, and it’s to far and too costly to go “home” to California.  Anyway, it was the fifth time we’ve gone down to Connecticut to K and M’s house for the holiday.

This year I discovered something I never knew about K (the brother-in-law).  He had known Martin Luther King Jr. back in the day and had even marched with him.  During the “I Have a Dream” speech, K was able to squeeze his way into the fourth row, right up front. He was a classmate of MLK’s and had even been invited to King’s wedding.

K told me about how “when you go into a situation like what we faced, you have to have a plan and know the plan before ever setting foot there.  People just don’t know what it will feel like or be like when the violence starts or when the threatening presence of the police officers sweeps in.  It’s absolutely necessary to have a plan going in.”

He related a story about one day going into a cafe with a mixed race group and sitting down together to be served lunch.  They were hungry, plain and simple.  But they couldn’t just go get a bite to eat.  They had to have a plan. Ready for trouble, they finally filed in and sat down at a single table, black and white friends together. The waiter just served them their food.  Nothing happened.

At first, I was dismayed by the story, a little annoyed.  I thought, well, at least you could have gotten put in jail.  No beatings?  Bah!

Then I caught myself and realized how utterly ridiculous my reaction was.  It is because of people like K. and MLK, white and black together, that such blatant discrimination is no longer allowed.  As K. put it last night at dinner, sitting there loading his fork with a big bite of apple pie, “I’m sure you’ve already heard it, but it’s true. King marched, so Obama could run.” Then he spoke about how on election night his tears could not be stopped.  K. marched, too.  He helped make a President Obama possible.

So that’s what I’m thankful for on this holiday that is dedicated to gratefulness.  I am thankful that the sacrifices of so many for so long have at last come to this pass, that it is indeed possible for an intelligent and capable man whose father was black and whose mother was white to be elected to our highest office. Because so many marched — including a sprightly, elderly white man with a big fuzzy white beard, who just happens to be my grandmother’s niece’s husband’s brother-in-law — on January 20 we can give thanks for President Obama.

On Gratitude … and Lemons

While waiting in the foyer of my son’s school to pick him up this afternoon, some of the children’s art on the wall caught my eye.  I didn’t have a camera with me, so please excuse the less than ideal quality of the pictures I took with my phone camera.  But these were just too precious not to share with y’all in this season of giving thanks.

First off, there’s Ava, whose wonderful love of citrus first caught my attention.

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Who ISN’T thankful for lemons, honestly?!

And then there’s Jordan…

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… who loves ALL pie. I think I’m pretty open-minded, but, man, that takes the cake. 😉

Next we hear from Amanda:

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I’ll bet Caroline and Victoria are glad they rate above cornbread, though who can blame Amanda?  Cornbread IS tasty.

Finally, since this applies to YOU all, I include this message from Erin…

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Thanks, Erin.  You’re a sweetheart.  Don’t hate us too much when you find out how much we’ve screwed up your beloved world.  We’re trying to fix our mistakes now.

What are YOU all thankful for?

Why my son is sad… :-)

“I’m sad, Mommy.” (Yes, he still calls me mommy though he has now turned eleven.  For a while he wanted to change to mom and I said fine, but it was too hard for him to make the shift, I guess.)

“I’m sad, Mommy. I’m going to have to wear glasses and have braces and… be BALD!”

Sweet little guy.  “Not all at the same time, honey.”  Yeh, like that helped.

Bubby is myopic, it turns out.  We bought his glasses on Tuesday night and will pick them up Friday after school.  It will be an adjustment.  They are nice glasses, dark blue rims with open bottom, Ray Bans, featherweight lenses.  But it will be strange to see him with glasses on all the time.  I suppose we will all get used to it.

The braces, well that’s not until next year, says the orthodontist.  Have to correct an overbite.  No big deal.  He has told me that he wants orange braces.  Hmmm.  That sounds pretty gross.  And it’ll clash with the blue glasses, won’t it?

As for the baldness, we were chatting along one day and me an my big mouth — I mentioned that baldness is actually passed down through the mother’s father.  My dad hasn’t had much hair since he was…hmmm…when did he start losing it, exactly.  Ah, well, bald is beautiful.

My son has the loveliest face and beautiful blue eyes, and he is tall and strong and has a killer smile.  I know he has nothing to worry about.  But he has become a tweener and suddenly these things matter. On the other hand…

Yesterday he told me he was “really excited” about getting his glasses.  He’s sure a trooper!

Lefse season fast approaching

Ah, the crispness in the air 9we’ll hit a low in the 20s tonight), the wind swaying the bare branches of the trees, the red and green decorations appearing in the stores…yes, it’s … lefse time!  HUH?

For those of you uninitiated ones, lefse is just the most delicious treat ever, that’s all.  I’ve already posted a number of times on lefse, so I won’t repeat. You can click on the tab above to see those posts.

But I will add something new.  Someone recently searched my site with the terms, “making lefse large batch.”  So I wanted to give some advice on this topic.  I don’t know just HOW large a batch this person has in mind, but I’ve made a hundred lefse before, and that’s a lot for one person.

Do not cut corners on the mashing part, i.e., I always recommend ricing the potatoes to avoid lumps.  You can’t roll out a piece of potato lefse dough if there are hunks of potatoes left in it.  Maybe if you have a LOT of lefse to make, you could run the potatoes through a food mill, like you would applesauce — just make sure you leave no lumps.  Effort on this front pays off in the end.

Also, do NOT add all of the flour to the cold mashed potatoes at once.  Yuck!  It gets too sticky if it sits for a while.  Only add flour to maybe 2 or 3 cups of potatoes at a time, mix, and then roll out the individual circles of lefse.  Then repeat until finished. This will keep you from making too sticky a dough and then having to add too much flour.

When people tell me that they have had potato lefse and thought it was too heavy, I always think that the problem is the potatoes are not properly whipped and too much flour was added.  If you make it right, potato lefse is tender and moist.  That’s what Grandma taught me, and I’ve found it to be true as I’ve taken over the lefse-making in my family.

Ah, now I’m hungry.  Darn.