Saturday, December 16, 2017

Making the Season Bright

A few months back friends of my sister-in-law were actually moving overseas because of the election results last year. Big foodies, they had an enormous pantry to dismantle, and we scored a few luxury items. The roasted hatch peppers are still in the freezer, as is the duck fat, but the demi-glace is gone, and there is a dent in the Chinese cooking wine as well.

Today I also used the roasted chestnuts in my Christmas baking. I filled brown sugar and bittersweet chocolate thumbprints with a homemade bourbon crème de marron, and I also made some chestnut spice cookies rolled in cinnamon powdered sugar. I'm pretty pleased with the results, and it was fun to try something new using such an old-fashioned traditional ingredient.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Rights and Wrongs

A couple of the boys in my intervention group came roughhousing in the door.

"Whoa whoa whoa!" I stopped them. "What are you doing?"

"He pushed me!" one of them accused the other.

"He called me gay!" the other guy defended himself.

"And?" I raised my eyebrows.

What followed was an interesting discussion among all 8 boys in the group about whether or not such a remark justified such a response. The pushing guy held his ground firmly. "If someone says something I don't like, I can defend myself," he insisted.

"Have you ever heard of the first amendment?" another guy asked him.

"No," he shrugged dismissively.

"Freedom of speech?" the other kid continued. "You can't just attack someone for saying something."

The first boy grimaced. "Well, that's stupid!" 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Report Card

I looked at my wrist when the text message alert chimed.

Richard got a  92 on his exam and a 98 on his free verse, my sister wrote. Yay! This 6th grade ELA teacher was strangely relieved and even a little elated by the news that my 6th grade nephew did well on the ELA assignments I helped him with over the weekend.

But why? Just this morning I had a conversation with one of my own students about her assignment.

"Is it an A???" she asked urgently.

"Probably," I answered as I glanced at it, "but more importantly, what did you learn?"

"A lot!" she assured me. "So, is it an A?"

"We'll see, Franny," I told her.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Primary Sources

As part of my genealogical toolbox, I have a subscription to a searchable newspaper archive service. It hasn't proven to be very valuable when it comes to family history, but it is fascinating to look through scanned original news pages anywhere from 200 years to 2 weeks old. I can easily get lost for hours.

On a whim, tonight I did a quick search for "Christmas Recipes" for December 1962, and tucked between fabulous mid-century graphics and fonts, found a few fun cookie recipes that seem promising. I may try them, but imagining the breakfast tables where first the recipes were read, and then the formica countertops and linoleum floors of the kitchens where they were prepared, and finally the living rooms where perhaps the cookies were served, with Christmas trees and colored lights and tinsel and holiday records spinning on the stereo in the corner, was satisfying in its own way.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Home Remedies

“Are you sick?” a teammate asked me today, perhaps noting the hoarseness in my voice.

“Oh no,” I assured her. “It’s just a little congestion.’ Regular readers may recall that I refuse to use the verb to be when describing any health conditions. In my mind, I may have them, but they do not have me, and I certainly am not them.

A new teacher on the team seemed to get it right away, nodding with understanding. Later she poked her head in the door, catching me blowing my nose with more than a little gusto. “Hey,” she said, “did I ever tell you about my friend the naturopathic healer?”

I shook my head.

“She says that tea with honey and lemon and chicken soup really do have healing properties, especially when you have,” she paused meaningfully, “congestion.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “I love chicken soup!”

Monday, December 11, 2017

Peeping Teacher

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to help my nephew with his 6th grade English assignments. A book project and semester exam study guide on Google Classroom and IXL were an open window into the same class I teach 600 miles north.

It was interesting to peek through, and even more fascinating to see the whole shebang from the student and family's point of view. I wish I had some profound insights into the state of American education today, but to be honest, it was really just business as usual, and my nephew completed his assigned tasks with resignation and without joy.


Perhaps there is a bit of profundity there after all.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


"Look how big Richard is!" I said to Heidi pointing the facetime phone in his direction. "Can you believe it?" It didn't matter that we had seen him 2 weeks ago, he just seemed older and taller than before.

"But he is as awesome as ever!" she answered from Virginia. "Think of all the things we say that came from him."

I nodded and laughed. "That guy is moooooving!" we said at the same time with double barreled pointer fingers, just the way Richard had at 4, racing out to the front porch as a dump truck hurtled by.

"Wouldn't that be a good idea?" I said, just as five-year-old Richard had at the aquarium, explaining why he should be allowed to get a giant blue fish-shaped lollipop.

"Oh! What a healthy lunch!" Heidi replied, remembering six-year-old Richard's approval when I presented him with a small plate of rolled up turkey, string cheese and a few olives and cucumber slices.

And now that guy is 12! And just past that tweeny shrug and beneath that mop of hair, still as quirky and cute as ever.