Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Modern Living

My home was built in 1985 with no regard to cross breeze; it had central a/c from the get-go. Very early on, we found that the days when open windows create an ideal climate are rare, and there have been many summers in the last 15 when the house has stayed closed up from June to October.

Oh, air conditioning can be seductive all right: its promise of complete climate control and the undeniable relief of entering an artificially cooled place on the hottest of days draws us to the thermostat. Some days it's not even the heat, it's the humidity-- when the bills start curling up on my desk, I'm inclined to close the windows and crank the a/c.

When I was a child air conditioning was rare. In the hot hot heart of summer we sat around with windows opened wide and all manner of box fans blowing. When the heat was at its worst, we were advised to take a shower and go to bed wet so we could fall sleep.

None of that seems like a hardship, even now. These last few days have been both cool and dry, and even in this ill-designed house open windows have regulated our days perfectly. This morning I heard on the radio that a front would be passing through bringing along with it warmer and more humid air. I believe I felt the change in the weather when I came downstairs. Things were just a little stickier, and there was a scent in the air of green things growing in moist soil that transported me back to those days when every morning felt like this morning.

Who needs air conditioning? I thought, until my downstairs neighbor grabbed her cell phone and cigarettes and camped out below my living room windows. I'm sure we'll open them again soon...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Piper

It wasn't a peck, but I did pickle a pint of peppers I picked from my petite pepper patch this morning.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Breather

As I write, all the windows are wide open and we are enjoying a cool evening breeze. This is our second break this week in the typical July heat and humidity. I'm headed out to the deck with a glass of wine and a little Wagon Wheel playing.

Who can say much more than, Aaaaaaaah?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

And so We Beat On

On our way to drop Sonic off at his family's home pending their return from Charlottesville, we noticed that The Great Gatsby was playing any minute at the theater we passed. "Want to go see it?" I asked Heidi.

She shrugged. "Sure."

And so we did.

Great movie! Personally, I love Baz Luhrmann and this Gatsby did two things really well:  it, #1, made Daisy a pretty sympathetic character, and by doing so, it, #2, made me actually believe in the green light. Despite knowing the outcome, I was like, Yeah, Jay, this could totally work out!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Identical Cousins?

It seems like forever that I've known that eggplant and tomatoes are related. Both are members of the night shade family, which also contains peppers, potatoes, tobacco, and bella donna. Besides recognizing that the food members of this botanical group pair well, I never gave it much thought, particularly in terms of appearance.

Until today. Summer has delivered a bounty of all things night shade and I am serving them up-- raw, roasted, fried, etc., it's not dinner without one of them. And so tonight I prepared these:

Now... which fruit of the night shade family might this be?

Friday, July 26, 2013


This morning in Hershey we played a version of BINGO with Josh's younger brother and sister, Jonah, 5, and Evie, 7. It had colorful cards with pictures for the non-readers among us and a nifty plastic dealer that spit out two plastic chips at a time with images corresponding to the cards. The object was to be the first to call out the chip you needed and then mark off that space on your card with it. There were many duplicate images, and as we played, there were some hard feelings especially when one child beat the other to the call.

Oh we played through it, using the game as an opportunity to model and discuss good sportsmanship, (we ARE teachers, after all!), but even so, some of the fun was gone. After several rounds, I volunteered to clean up. Restoring the chips to the dealing device I did so deliberately, pairing up all the images so that they would appear two at a time. Two kites, two smiles, two trees, two cats, two houses, I laughed as I imagined the next game-- would there be more harmony? confusion? delight?-- and then I slid the lid on the box and put it away.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pick Me Up

Once, when Josh was little, we drove up to visit him and his mom. He was excited to see us, and even more excited to show us his new stuffed hamster. As he cuddled it proudly, I heard a rustling in the corner. "What's that?" I asked.

"That's my other hamster," Josh said. He shook his head sadly. "He's not a holdin' hamster."

"He bites," explained Michelle, Josh's mom. "So I got him a hamster he could hold."

Today, we drove the now 17-year-old Josh home after a week-long visit with us. Michelle had thoughtfully prepared some vegan blueberry muffins for Heidi. "Try one," she offered, "they have oatmeal, flax seed, chia seed, and chai tea."

It was delicious-- warm and cinnamony, and the texture was super-dense and moist. I like these," I said, they're kind of like portable oatmeal." 

A little while later Josh came in the kitchen. "What's this?" he asked.

"You'll love it!" I promised. "It's holdin' oatmeal."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rock Star

Emily was kind enough to arrange a college tour at her alma mater, the Corcoran College of Art + Design, for Josh while he is visiting this week, so at 10:15 sharp, the four of us trooped into the lobby of that famous gallery and presented ourselves to the volunteer manning the desk.

It wasn't long before Ayesha, a friendly graduate student, came and brought us back to admissions. There, in probably one of the coolest office spaces ever, we sat on retro red and white vinyl lounge chairs facing a serpentine cubicle divider which was perhaps six by twelve feet and folded entirely from brown craft paper.

When Sarah, the admissions officer, came to formally introduce herself and find out who we were, too, our group started with Josh, the prospective student, and proceeded to Heidi, his aunt, Emily, his aunt, and me, also his aunt.

Was it my imagination, or did Sarah hesitate just a fraction? "Josh is lucky to have you all supporting him today," she responded.

"Oh," I told her, "don't mind us. We're just his aunt-tourage."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Productive Avoidance

Isn't it always like this? Tonight I had my writing group, and yet with a whole summer, I woke up this morning with nothing written. No problem, thought I, I have all day.

Behold the most productive day of my entire vacation!

I gathered all the recycling and put it on the curb before going to a breakfast meeting with two other teachers to work on curriculum planning. I went to the grocery store, next. Returning home, I made lunch and then re-hung the pot rack, this time screwing it firmly into the oak board I stained to match the shelf above and which I bolted to the studs.  I replaced all the pots, taking care not to ding the freshly patched and painted wall. Then I turned my attention to the rest of the house, tidying up for my guests this evening. A little later, Josh and I spent some time in the kitchen working on our version of s'mores ice cream. We took marshmallow cream and used the kitchen torch to meticulously roast it to a caramely brown, then mixed it ino a vanilla custard base. Once it was frozen, I stirred chopped chocolate bars, graham crackers, and a few mini marshmallows. Delicious! 

By 5 PM, I hadn't written a word, and it was easy to kill another hour looking back over some of my older pieces, trying to find a thread of an idea. Then I had to take the dog out, feed the animals, and start the grill.

I managed to find some writing that I actually did four years ago, almost to the day. It was fresh and funny and well worth another look. Well, I thought so, anyway. Regardless, I shared it with the promise that I will have something substantial (and new!) by next month. 

If not, at least I'll get a few more things done around here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bucket List

Ride a Segway... Check!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I've had my eye on that fancy ice cream maker for a few years, not because I love ice cream (although I do), but rather because of all the opportunities it presented. Especially since Heidi went vegan, the lure of personalizing my own frozen desserts has been overwhelming.

Now that I have it, my fear is that it will be another expensive gadget, gathering dust and taking up counter space. To combat such dread, I have been drumming up my ice cream business. Vegan, classic, add-ins, custom-- you name your frozen fantasy and I will do my best to whip it up.

So far, I think my attempts have been quite good. In addition to classic chocolate and vanilla, I have made tasty vegan versions of both. For my birthday celebration, Emily made delicious lemon custard and watermelon sorbet. In addition, any houseguests we have enjoy the name your ice cream amenity. Just the other night? Josh wanted coffee, and of course Treat wanted tea. In my opinion, the Earl Grey was definitely one of the best so far.

Oh, we have plans (and all the ingredients) to concoct a s'mores version in the next day or two, but beyond all that pure fun, today, my gadget took on a practical role. At a loss as to how best use all the freakin' cucumbers our CSA has provided, coconut cucumber lime sorbet with a hint of basil, mint, and cilantro is on the menu.

And despite what Josh says, it is verrrry refreshing!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

King Corn

Just a little while ago, Josh and Treat were shucking corn on the front porch. The coals were almost ready for the ribs and burgers when they delivered their handiwork to the kitchen and I crossed my fingers that it would be good corn, tender and sweet.

In my mind, few things go together as well as corn and summer. I remember when eating a whole ear was too hard and all I wanted was for my mom to cut the kernels off. Then I lost my front teeth and I had to eat it that way, and I couldn't wait to get back to the cob.

I remember how cleanly both my mom and my best friend, Nicci, were able to eat their corn off the cob. There was not a single ragged bit of kernel left on their ears. It was like they had a corn vacuum or something.

I remember when my brother lost his tooth while eating corn. We watched in fascination as my mom plucked it from the bloody cob like an errant kernel injured in battle. Then, a few days later, it happened again.

I remember the first summer visit we made to Heidi's family. One of the big events they had planned was a trip to the Eden Corn Festival. A county or two south of them, this event was like a fair or a carnival; it had rides and games and plenty of concessions, but their tradition was to eat corn, and only corn, for dinner.

I was very skeptical of their plan as we approached the corn tent. Volunteers sliced open big burlap bags full of local ears waiting to be shucked. Huge propane fired steam kettles simmered in the back, and the only thing on the menu was corn. "How many should we start with?" Heidi's dad asked, "Two or three?"

He meant dozen, of course, and although the six of us started with two, we easily polished off three and made a good sized dent in the fourth. That corn was probably the best I have ever had-- doused in salt and butter, each sweet kernel practically melted in my mouth, and I learned that night that corn can indeed make a mighty fine meal.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Oh yeah?

Don't make me and my best friend jump into a giant robot suit and smack you down!

We saw Pacific Rim today, can you tell?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Summer

One of the perks of having such a lengthy summer vacation is having the time to explore your own home town. Today Heidi, Emily, and I did three things that were new to all three of us. First we took the free tour of the brand new NPR building. For such a public radio person like me, it was a really great hour. Before it even began, I saw Melissa Block in the gift shop. Then, because they were trying to fix a bug, we actually got to go into the studio where they do both Morning Edition and All Things Considered, after that, we actually saw and heard Jean Cochran do the top of the hour newscast. It was awesome!

After the tour, it was off to the Atlas District for lunch at Sticky Rice. The food was good, and although the service was leisurely, it was kind of nice to spend time over a mid-day meal. It almost made up for the several hundred five minute lunches I've bolted through in the last twenty years.

Our final destination was Union Market. A friend at school had mentioned how cool it was, and since we were in the neighborhood, we went over to check it out. As we walked past Adirondack Chairs, picnic tables, and a half-dozen corn hole boards, a Streamline trailer selling snow cones, cold beer, and other summer food blasted music. At 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, the place was a party waiting to happen. Inside, we browsed the artisan food vendors and the hip housewares shop, and came away with a few goodies-- fennel pollen for me!

Heading back out to the car, I was happy to see bean bags flying and cold beer sweating on the picnic tables. The party had started! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


According to Wikipedia, over one billion people in the world live in slums. A slum, as defined by the United Nations is, "a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing, squalor, and lacking in tenure."

Perhaps you are wondering just who it is that doesn't know what a slum is, after all, the word carries enormous emotional freight, but as I listened to a piece on NPR this morning about the efforts of some residents of slums to use 21st century technology, GPS and satellite imagery, to literally put their homes on the map, it reminded me how skewed my perspective can be. 

1200 square feet with electricity and running water? Don't mind if I do.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Something for Everyone

I can't say enough how impressed I am by my 5-year-old niece's thoughtfulness. Take for example our daily conversations revolving around meal planning during her recent stay with us.

Me: Would you like french toast for breakfast?
Annabelle: Yes! I would love that, but what will Aunt Heidi have?

And so it went, as what took me several months of living with a Vegan to wrap my brain around became second nature for her in one day. Mac and cheese for lunch? You bet! But what about Aunt Heidi? Hamburgers for dinner? OK, but what can Aunt Heidi eat?

At this time of year, when we're cooking out a lot, the answer to the question What will Aunt Heidi have? is quite frequently, "A mushroom." We do veggie burgers and chik'n patties, but more often than not, a couple of grilled portabellos and an extra helping of salad will satisfy our resident vegan. It's definitely our fallback entree.

When my sister and brother and I were kids, we used to play a game that started like this, I'm going on a picnic, and I'm going to bring [fill in the blank]. What are YOU going to bring? The object was to have some pattern in mind, so that whenever it was your turn, you gave an example of an item that fit your pattern, and the other players had to figure it out by trial and error.

So, if my pattern was alphabetical order, I would say, I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing apples. What are you going to bring? If the next person said balloons, or anything else that started with a B, then I would benevolently reply, You can come.

But, when they guess something outside your pattern, "You can't come!" is the answer. The audacious rudeness of that reply makes me giggle to this day, as does the shock on the face of anyone who hears it for the first time. Their eyes widen in disbelief and quite often they say, as Annabelle did when I taught her and Richard the game, "That is not nice!"

Even after a week of playing, at five-and-a-half, Annabelle never really got the game (although she played it like a trooper, and coined a new term, "Boss of the Picnic"), but at almost eight? Richard was totally on it, working hard to decipher our patterns and creating some very complex ones of his own. This afternoon he listened closely as Heidi started. "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing tomatoes. What are you bringing?" She turned to Richard.

"Lettuce?" he tried.

"You can come," she told him. She looked at me. "What are you bringing?"

"Bacon?" I offered, thinking BLTs, maybe.

"You can't come." There was something in her expression that made me realize the pattern immediately. "I'm bringing blueberries," she said. "What about you, Richard?"

He wasn't sure, so he looked around the table. "French fries?" he said.

"You can come," she said.

Annabelle was busy doing something with her mom, so it was just the three of us. "I'm bringing..." I paused and considered all the vegan options. There were so many, but I was feeling contrary. "...fried chicken!" I finished.

Heidi raised her eyebrows. "You can't come!" she said.

Richard was listening closely. "I'm bringing hamburgers!" he said.

I laughed.

"You can not come!" Heidi told him.

"I'm bringing hot dogs!" I said.


"Steak?" Richard asked.


By this time, Richard was collapsed in the restaurant booth, laughing hysterically. When his sister returned, he couldn't wait to explain the joke to her. "Annabelle!" he cried, "Aunt Heidi's picnic is vegan, but we're bringing things that aren't vegan!"

Annabelle frowned.

"What do you think? Can I bring chicken wings?" I asked her, suggesting one of her favorites.

"You can if you bring a mushroom, too," she said.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy Holiday

I know that after ten days away, Richard and Annabelle are really looking forward to seeing their parents, their cats, and just being home, but it is always the mark of a successful vacation when at dinner the night before everyone packs it in and packs it up someone says, "I wish we could just stay a little longer..." and nobody disagrees.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


When I stepped out onto my stoop this morning to greet the day and collect the paper, I noticed a firefly caught in a web that had been spun in the corner of our tiny front porch. The spider was nowhere in sight and the firefly looked very vigorous despite the mortal inconvenience of its predicament, and so it was really without a second thought that I scooped it from the edge of the web and set it free.

This evening I shared my experience at dinner. "Oh, yes," said Heidi, "I saw it there, too, but I was late for my class and so I kept going."

"What would you have done?" I asked my nephews, Richard, 7,  and Treat, 18.

"I'd have left him for the spider," Richard shrugged.

I nodded and turned to Treat. "What about you?"

"I would have recognized him for the bait he was!" he shuddered. "Save the firefly? Face the spider!!" 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

For the Birds

Heidi has a thing about documentaries. "Why don't we see more of them?" she demands, and who can disagree? So this morning I navigated to our "on demand" feature and found a documentary short that seemed like it might be interesting.

Birders: The Central Park Effect did have a pretty good premise-- that in this age of decreasing woodlands, migrating birds are actually drawn to urban parks as travelers to rest stops and so the diversity of the avian population there is rather impressively wide.

I love identifying birds to begin with, and so I was initially on board. The addition of author Jonathan Franzen was an interesting plus, as was the terminally ill birder who continued to find meaning in life through birdwatching season after season. Ultimately, though, the film dragged a bit for me. Perhaps it was all the distractions of a Saturday morning; in any case, I found myself more interested in the newspaper and my iPad than the television.

Or, that was true until our cat, Penelope, became interested in the TV. All the bird calls and footage of darting, diving, and flying activated her feline instincts and soon she was sitting on a two inch ledge, whiskers flush to the flat screen.

Her pacing and frustrated mewing forced my attention back to the documentary, and hey! We gotta get those birds, those fabulous birds!

Friday, July 12, 2013


Mom's a science major and Dad's a science teacher, but Heidi's 13-year-old goddaughter? Doin' time in Language arts summer school.


She's just not good at that stuff, so she why bother with the homework?

Oh my...

Send her to those humanities lovin' aunties!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

No Slave to Fashion

These are socks:

These are Crocs:

Can I wear my Crocs with socks?
Some might mock these Crocs and socks,
but I'll ignore their petty knocks,
and they may just react with shock
at how I rock these Crocs and socks!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In Praise of the Wish List

I started an Amazon wish list a year or so ago. It was really just a tool to help me remember the things I wanted. Of course, it is self-evident how fortunate I am that I need reminders of what I want. How can I describe the items on that list? They are things I consider luxuries; stuff I want, but don't want to buy.

When Heidi shared the existence of my list with my family, my first reaction was umbrage. Hey! That's my covertly coveted collection! It's a secret... I thought, until I started to receive the items on it. What a pleasure it was on Christmas to open the fermenting crock and weight stones I had so long ago wished for and forgotten.

This year, for my birthday, my family practically cleaned out my list, and I must say I have been both surprised (as dim-witted as that may seem) and delighted to receive each gift. Homemade ice cream? You betcha. Brightly colored sneakers? YES! Cast iron grill? Wow! What a difference! Burr grinder for highest quality coffee? Hooray!

So, although I'm quite sure that St. James did not have anything like this in mind, his words are undeniably fitting: You have not because you ask not.

And now I do have, because I'm lucky to have such a family with such resources. All that's left is to count my blessings.

Thanks everybody!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Prequel without Equal

We saw Monsters University today with Richard, Annabelle, Riley, Treat, and Emily. And it might just be the good company talking, but I'm going to go ahead and call it the best darn prequel I've ever seen.

OK, to be honest, how much competition is there in the prequel department? Star Wars? Not so much. Temple of Doom? Nope. There are some reboots that might be considered prequels (Batman Begins, X-man First Class) if they weren't um... reboots. Then there are some prequel-sequels, consider Terminator 2 and Godfather II, but do they count? Meh. Monsters U, on the other hand is a pure sequel and it has a few things going for it.

To begin with, I liked the original, but I wouldn't say much more than that. In fact, when my students wanted to watch it on the bus to our end-of-the-year field trip, it was with a shrug and a yawn that I punched play on that particular DVD. Once it was on, though, I started noticing that impeccable Pixar attention to detail, like the way Boo's laughter blows the circuits way back in the first part of the movie, and I confess to being impressed.

I think that's one of the reasons I liked the prequel, too. It is its own movie with a very entertaining plot, but the continuity with the first one is seamless, and this story enriches that one, particularly in the area of character development.

Plus, it has Helen Mirren.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pool Time

We spent a couple of hours at the pool today with a 7, a 6, a 5, a 4 and 1-year-old. Oh, there were splash battles and tea parties, cannon balls and dive contests, and even one life guard whistle (for running), but there were no harsh words and not a single tear. It's a pretty safe bet everyone is going to sleep well tonight.

When we were kids, every summer meant at least one visit to Aunt Harriett and our cousins, Jimmy and Bobby. They lived on a couple of acres in the country, but their close friends and neighbors, the Wilsons, had an in-ground pool that they were kind enough to share. After fun mornings, most of our afternoons were spent there, and many times it was just our moms and us-- having splash battles and tea parties, cannon balls and dive contests.

I remember two things clearly about those days. The first is the sign that the Wilsons had prominently displayed: We don't swim in your toilet, please don't pee in our pool. I guess there was just something about the symmetry of the construction that made me feel guilty every time I peed in that pool, either that, or it was a little freaky imagining the Wilsons, Jack, Leona, John, and Karen, so tall and so tan, swimming in my toilet.

The second thing I'll never forget is how everyone conked out at night-- no matter our big plans to eat ice cream, play cards, hunt fireflies, watch TV, whatever, it was always hard to stay awake much past dark. We didn't fight it, though, because we always knew that tomorrow would be another fun day.

And it will be. Some things don't change.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Kick 'em to the Moon

My niece Annabelle loves to sing. She comes by it honestly-- her grandmother pretty much has a song for every occasion.  My mom has been teaching us songs about every holiday, this river, that town, the moon, the flag, camp, you name it, for as long as I can remember. She even taught us cheers when we were little from her high school days, so it was with a great sense of familiarity that I chimed in with Annabelle yesterday in the car as she shared one of the cheers she learned in camp this summer:

California oranges, Texas Cactus, Annabelle started.
We think your team needs a little practice! I joined in with gusto.

But it was when she started singing What a Wonderful World a few minutes later that my ears really perked up. "I can play that one on the ukulele!" I told her. And so this morning, I did, and it was magnificently awful to hear a five-year-old belting out that Louis Armstrong classic with her novice ukulele-playing aunt strumming along.

So what? Go ahead-- put us in a high chair and feed us with a spoon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Equation

656 miles
13 hours
a basket of peaches
a fried green tomato BLT +
two helpings of green beans
a squashed penny on the train tracks
Richard and Annabelle for 10 days
Lookin good, July!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Trust but Verify

Yes, the title of this post quotes Ronald Reagan, a man not too ideologically similar to myself. Or at least I thought so at 18 when I first voted and voted against him. I did him the same courtesy in 1984, but I was outvoted by my fellow citizens again that year.

When you're young, well, okay, when I was young, everything seemed much more absolute, particularly right and wrong. Reagan was wrong, and I was right. Back then I developed an affinity for the liberal press, particularly the New York Times and NPR. How gratifying it was to read and listen, especially since it seemed like they reported just what I was thinking.

To this day, I love them both, but I am no longer their yes lady. It's to the point where I swear NPR is more conservative than I am, especially their big-data lovin' ways. Perhaps it started with the 2008 election and the giddy infatuation with Barack Obama. Regardless, it continues with their mindless reporting on education, particularly standardized tests and national standards.

Maybe it's because it's taken some time, but I do feel like I have some first-hand knowledge and perhaps even expertise on some of the things they are reporting, particularly education. Such a perspective makes me much more critical of what I'm hearing and reading.

Just yesterday, I listened to an interview with fireworks expert, John Conkling. It seems that true blue is the holy grail of fire crackers, and you can tell the caliber of the show you are seeing by the intensity and brightness of the blue. At the end of the piece Conkling is asked whether the average person would be able to tell if the blue was true.

"Well, it's something that people who have really been involved with fireworks look for when they watch a show. But for the average person watching our Fourth of July show, the other colors that are out there, the patterns they produce, the effects they shoot up in the air, the timing, it just is so overwhelming that there - I think very few people who leave the show saying, boy, I wish I'd really seen a good blue," he says.

And that's how it is with press coverage; if you don't know what you're looking for, it all seems like a really good show.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Let Freedom Ring

A riddle:

Q: Do they have the fourth of July in England?
A: Yes, but it's not  holiday.

Oh, America, you're so funny.

Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

First Do No Harm

We had our cat at the vet today and were waiting in the exam room when a short knock came at the door. A young woman in scrubs entered, and I knew from experience that this was the vet tech who would do the preliminary questions and exam. She introduced herself as Tatiana, and looking at her face, I knew I knew her. "Did you got to [and here I named my school]?" I asked.

She nodded briefly. "Yes I did."

"Do you remember me? I was your English teacher."

Over the years I have run into many, many former students, and usually they are friendly, or at least seem glad that I remember them. Not so with Tatiana. "Mmm hmm," she said and turned her attention to Heidi, "What seems to be the problem here?"

And that was it. She only spoke to Heidi for the rest of the visit. Afterwards, I thought and thought about what I might have done to get such a reaction from her, but I couldn't remember anything out of the ordinary. I do know that over the years, I've become a much nicer teacher; I've learned that you can have good classroom management and still be kind and empathetic. In fact those qualities help.

So, whatever it was, I'm sorry, Tatiana. I hope I'm a better teacher, now.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

You Say Restaurant, I Say...

Recently I heard a discussion about local zoning laws on the radio. The guests were on opposite sides of the issue as to whether there should be a moratorium on liquor licenses in their neighborhood. Their disagreement was civil, and as things like that go, not very good radio.

They did, however, make the distinction between restaurants, bars, night clubs, and taverns clear. It was a difference I had never considered, and one I have been thinking about since. Any of those establishments might have a liquor license. For a bar, it wouldn't make sense not to have one, because that is a place that serves alcoholic beverages. A tavern, too, serves booze, but they must also serve food; sometimes their menu is limited, sometimes not. A restaurant must make the major percentage of its income from food sales, even if they sell beer, wine, and/or liquor, and a night club offers entertainment to its patrons, with or without serving alcohol.

The other night, we went out for dinner at a place which I knew to have a full bar, but which also had an extensive menu. As we waited to be seated, a plaque I'd never noticed before caught my eye. It quoted no one less than Patrick Henry as saying, "The Tavern is the cradle of American Liberty."

Hmm. Maybe it is, I thought... but wait! Does that mean this place is a tavern? I think it just might be! That was a much more interesting idea to me.

And so my eyes have been opened to a whole new way of sorting things, and I like it. Just today, I heard a joke. A hamburger walks into a bar and orders a beer. "Sorry," says the bartender, "we don't serve food."

That's right.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Master and Student

I told Kyle that my old brain was only able to learn new tricks before noon, so if he wanted to teach me how to play Minecraft, he was going to have to set his alarm. I figured I might be safe, but this morning, as I read the news in bed, I got a text: GET UP!!!

I laughed and texted back that I was up, and I would come to the kitchen shortly. I found him there bleary eyed and wearing the Minecrafter t-shirt we got him for his birthday. He was eager to begin.

"Don't worry," he assured me, "I'm a good teacher." 

And he was. He was patient and protective, killing all the creepers and zombies and spiders, and he only laughed out loud at me once, and that was when I fell into a mineshaft. "I saw the whole thing," he told me. "You were looking up and you walked right in! You never saw it coming." He shook his head, unable in the moment to empathize with anyone who might have trouble navigating that blocky world. 

Overall, it was pretty fun, though, and I made sure I thanked him for going to the trouble of getting up early for me. 

"No problem," he said. "See you tomorrow morning-- you have a lot more to learn."