Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The First Day of School

The first day of school always makes me excited and nervous. My friend, Adrienne, calls it "butterflies". I call it faster-than-normal-nervous-talking and a giant knot in my right shoulder. Either way you slice it, even for us teachers, the start of a new school year brings an anticipation like nothing else.

This morning I woke a couple of times before my alarm. I had my outfit all planned, which is very seventh grade of me, but it also shaved precious minutes off of my getting-ready time. I wore a pretty blouse,

grabbed my trusty Dr. Grip pen (along with two other bags of supplies!) and hauled my butt downtown.

Once I was on campus, I started to feel the energy--students everywhere! University campuses really come alive during the school year. I practically pranced to my first class, and it only got better from there. 

As I predicted, my students are all bright, charming and pretty with-it. We will see how the semester develops, of course, but for now, I feel like it's going to be a great one! 

What about you? Do you have a memorable "first day of school" story? What makes you get "butterflies"?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

book talk: cookbooks

As the start of the new semester draws ever-closer (ahem, that would be tomorrow), I am obsessed with food. This, of course, is my go-to coping mechanism for my educator stress. Food is always enjoyable. Food is completely controllable. Food doesn't talk back, ask you questions you already answered at the beginning of class, or email you 12 hours after an assignment is due to tell you that food has lost its assignment sheet, and also has NO IDEA what to do for said assignment, and by-the-way, could you pretty-please accept said assignment a couple more days late?


So, I've been pouring over my cookbooks recently, in an attempt to distract my anxious, over-worried mind and feed my face while I'm at it.

I should also mention that all of this anxiety will have dissipated by, oh, next Monday. It's purely based in the unknown. Once I settle in, meet my students (who will be great and funny and quirky and lovely) and get into the groove of the first unit, we'll all feel so relaxed. Especially me.

But for now, I cook!

This Barefoot Contessa cookbook was a wedding gift, I think from my grandma. I cooked from it almost exclusively throughout our first year of marriage!

A couple of years ago, I read an interview of, I think it was Jennifer Garner, who said that if you ever want to feel like a cooking-rock-star, you should just make an Ina Garten recipe. I couldn't agree more.

And with my cooking-rock-star reputation at stake, I absolutely asked for this beautiful Barefoot Contessa tome for Christmas. 

What I like about Ina Garten's cookbooks is that she is very direct in her writing style. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Also, I am one of those people who must have photographs of what she's cooking--this is both to ensure that I've made it correctly, and to soothe my visual-learner brain. 

On my cookbook wish list is this beauty:

Doesn't that cover look splendid? I am just itching to get my hands on this book! I spied it in a twee little shop on one of our trips this summer, and just biding my time...

What about you? Do you have any go-to cookbooks? Which ones are your faves, and why?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Meatless Monday: breakfast planning

This week, I am getting ready to start my first semester teaching at a new university. Aside from occasionally breathing into a paper bag, I feel absolutely fine about it. Which means, of course, that anything that I can potentially worry about/plan for, I am. 

Which leads me to today's Meatless Monday post: breakfasts. Specifically, filling, nutritious breakfasts that I could--in theory--make ahead of time so as to be able to grab/eat-with-a-spoon-standing-over-counter in my morning rush. 

I am really intrigued by the idea of making hot cereal with whole grains, like quinoa. This helpful article in Whole Living got my brain going. As the weather gets chillier, it appeals to me to have a hot, stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast to start the day. 

Then again, I might just make these cookies, and call breakfast for the month done

Thursday, August 25, 2011

picking back up

Hellooo! Ah, friends, I am sorry that I've been missing this past week. Let me tell ya, there's lots going on in my part of the Mitten! Between concluding my summer writing course, and getting set up in my new teaching 'digs' in the city, I have been in the thick of things.

But now, I'm settled into my new office (which has a view of this iconic museum!), and things are about to start rollin' pretty soon. Next week, classes start. I will be teaching new(ish) courses in new classrooms in a new city.

My goal is to keep posting...even to see my little brightmitten grow! It will be fun posting about more about my experiences in the city--teaching, eating, chilling--and even maybe some fun thoughts and musing thrown in as well.

For now, here are some bits and bobs:

I'm starting to really obsess over summer-to-fall wardrobe options. What are some of your go-to transition pieces?

Twelve suggestions for parmesan pairings.

Interesting thoughts about a "morning reboot" when your day doesn't start off so well. I think I'd sub in "eating something salty" and "listening to good tunes" for her trench-and-coffee combo. What about you?

How cool is this outdoor feast that Claire posted about?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Theory Thursday: Rhetorical Appeals

So, one of the keystones  of my composition courses is the concept of rhetorical appeals. Being persuasive is key in academic writing (and speaking, emailing, etc.), and understanding how to appeal to one's audience becomes an important step in the process.

Which is why I was pretty geeked when ProfHacker posted this blog on Aristotilean Rhetorical Appeals (or, Ethos, Pathos and Logos). Having read Aristotle in grad school, I am always 1) glad I did, and 2) glad I don't ever have to, ever again. Ever. And 3) amused at how we've transliterated the greek words into our English terms. A language-nerd thing, I know! But the blog also pointed out that, as academics, we should be thinking through our "available means of persuasion," as Aristotle says.

For those who need a little refresher on Aristotle's "available means":

  • Ethos--persuasion based in personal character; who you are gives weight to why we should believe you (or, as my students once told me, "You'd believe Oprah, because she's Oprah. She has strong ethos. You wouldn't believe a crack head. A crack head has weak ethos.") 
  • Pathos--persuasion based in a passionate, emotional appeal; if I can play on your compassion, fear, humor, I'm utilizing a pathos appeal
  • Logos--persuasion based on logic, rationale, facts; this can be easily noticed in the form of statistics

As I get ready to officially start my new job, I can't help but think about being persuasive in my new academic environment. My ethos isn't automatic; no one really knows me, so I'll want to be purposeful in establishing and developing my ethos as an instructor, a colleague, a mentor, and a mentee. And, learning about "how things go" in my new workplace will be necessary to contextualize logical and emotional appeals, as well.

Ultimately, these are ideas I seek to get my students to think through. How well they establish the logic of an particular claims or arguments or ideas they have (which ties into critical reading strategies), how well they understand and appeal to emotions in others, and how well they convey themselves as people, and as scholars, can ultimately effect how they are perceived (and how successful they can become) in the academy, the workplace, and ultimately in the democracy. Not that this teaching-of-writing thing is brain surgery, but when you think about it, it is pretty cool--and important--stuff!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

29 ways to stay creative

Isn't this cool?!


book talk: required texts

Whew! Today was the day I sat down to work on the first draft of my fall syllabi. It took ALL DAY. However, I am proud to report that I have a draft, and I did choose the required texts.

First, there's Everything's an Argument:

And my go-to handbook, The Everyday Writer:

I've never used Argument before, so I'm interested to see how the students respond to it! EW is my go-to handbook for writing basics. There is so much packed into that little orange volume--citation guides, sentence structure stuff, and paragraph composing strategies, just to name a few. If you're looking for a helpful writing guide for academic composition, check it out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meatless Monday: end of summer

I don't like thinking about it. I wish I could avoid it altogether.

But, the end of summer will be here before I know it (and when I say "end" I mean, "August 31st," or sometimes students say "the first day of class"...instructors merely grunt like Rooster Cogburn and say, "reckon so."); I'd rather be prepared than blindsided.

This week, I will definitely be making this easy-sounding, vibrant-looking summer pasta dish (though I might toss in some marinated bocconcini):

And with the end of summer, comes our anniversary. On Wednesday, Jake and I will have officially hit the three-year mark! We've had a lot of fun and grown together in so many ways these past three years. One thing that I've enjoyed is the fact that we make our own little traditions...being poor, sleep-deprived  educators, we've taken to declaring an annual, anniversary bed-in (yep, a la John and Yoko). Except, instead of protesting the war, we protest not being able to just lay in bed every day. It is something I've come to really look forward to. 

I never make it a full 24 hrs, though. I usually get my fill of laying around, reading, listening to music. Also, I get hungry. So, after awhile, I'll get up and make dinner. That is how the artichoke tradition started.

Last year, I bought some artichokes, and decided it would be wonderfully romantic to steam them and eat them, leaf-by-leaf. Then, I had a tiny meltdown when I got these prickly suckers home and realized I did not know what to do with them. I had to do some research to figure out what the heck I was doing...but depsite my neuroses and lack of cooking technique, it turned out lovely. There are so many interesting sauces to make, but my favorite is by far just a simple, balsamic mayonnaise, like this one

Then again, I may just toss the whole plan and make these a-mazing-looking artichoke fritters. Seriously? As if artichokes couldn't get any better!

What about you? Do you have any fun, made-up traditions? Any go-to special occasion recipes? Do tell!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Enough to impress

Folks, it is just shy of five p.m., and yours truly has been grading up a storm. Happy hour, anyone?

Thankfully, I'm heading to meet my mom and sister for a drink and some quality time, right now. I'm excited to see them--it is rare that we just have time, the three of us, to hang out--so it will be nice to kick back and just be together.

I'm bringing along a bottle of Leelanau Cellars Summer Sunset wine for us to enjoy (probably with the ubiquitous bowl of tortilla chips and salsa!)

I'm such a fan of our wines, here in the Mitten! I've always been of the mind that we should buy local, and support local businesses (which, of course, includes local wineries...duh.). But, I've been mildly obsessed with Mitten-produced wines ever since the trip I took to the Leelanau and Mission Peninsulas with my mom and sister last summer.

Touring "wine country" with Mom and Manda was so lovely. 

The beauty of the vineyards and surrounding countryside was enough, in itself, to impress. But the wine holds its own, believe me! 

Don't believe me? That's ok. Check out what Mario Batali has to say. (yay for Mitten vintages!) 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

book talk: recommendations

Today in class, my students pleasantly surprised me by asking me for book recommendations. As our semester draws to a close, they are working on their final portfolios, and yet, tell me they look forward to continuing their growth as readers, as well as writers. To be honest, I was a bit flabbergasted, and couldn't for the life of me think of one decidedly solid recommendation for them. I stalled by saying that I needed to think about it.

Well, I've been thinking.

Mostly, I've been thinking of books that have been recommended to me. For instance, last Friday, my dad recommended The Help:

I've known for awhile that I should pick it up--largely because the movie trailers intrigue me, and I can't justify seeing a book-adaption without first reading the book (otherwise when I read it the movie just plays over again in my head!). But, when my dad, who is very particular about the books he reads, and even more so about those he praises, told me, "It might be the best book I've ever read." The only sane reaction would be to stop by a bookstore as soon as possible.

I took up my husband's recommendation that I read the George R. R. Martin series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and have been steadily feeding the addiction. My husband can be relied upon for excellent book suggestions, and this one was no different. I am practically flying through book two right now. 

Also highly recommended (though not a book): Fringe. I first heard of it from my best friend, who is also the person in my life responsible for my Dr. Who addiction (thanks, Jen). I added it to our queue, and after that had it lauded first by my mensa-smart aunt Mary and then by our artist friends Jon and Meg. Only halfway through the first season, I can't say I'm totally addicted...yet. I believe my counsellors, though, and trust that very soon I will be. 

What about you? What books (or shows or movies or records) are you glad that someone recommended to you? Do you have any good recommendations for me? Or for my students? What are some good books to recommend to a group of college freshmen?

Monday, August 8, 2011

meatless monday: comfort food

Ok. I'm gonna be straight with you: I have exactly half-a-hormone left this month. In the past week, I have had a couple of mini-freak outs and an amazing craving for baked goods. If it contains pasta or cheese, I am making it this week, calories be damned!

This is one reason why I'm so grateful to Martha Stewart: she has an entire article on her website entitled "Meatless Comfort Food." I want to make this baked ravioli soon, so I can eat it

But, very soon after I eat the ravioli, I will need to make this stovetop mac-and-cheese. Omg.

Believe it or not, cottage cheese is one of my comfort foods. For this reason, my mouth almost instantly started watering when I saw this snack on Real Simple's site. I've also been enjoying cottage cheese with ripe nectarines for breakfast. 

What are your go-to comfort foods these days?

Weekend Roundup

I noticed lots of fun things around the blogosphere this weekend, but our time was so jam-packed--with good things, family hangout times...and grading (for me)--I just never sat still long enough to post about them! So, here is roundup of some cool finds from the past few days:

A neat post about the classic dancer-vs-ballerina rivalry.

My eyes lit up at this fashion-centric blog about Beryl Markham. (remember this?)

I heart this Michigan Pillow, but might have to save up for it.

A timely blog for gearing up to teach this fall: "Avoiding Burnout in the New Academic Year".

What cool things did you discover this weekend?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

book talk: climate change

On my way to school today, I caught the second half of the Diane Rehm show on our NPR station. She had several guests on to talk about climate change, what it means for culture, and just how radically it will likely force us to change our lifestyles. One of the guests said it just meant that we would, out of necessity, change from a consumer culture, to one where our life's purpose is not "how many things we have." I don't think I'd mind that.

It's a subject that Elise Morin and Clemence Eliard took on with their installation, Wastelandscape, in Paris. The mounds of CDs, which are made of petroleum, are meant to evoke an urban oil slick. I thought, how interesting: everyone has a different way of relating to climate change, and expressing our thoughts and feelings about it.  It is a subject that could be incredibly depressing, yet, it is something I believe that we must learn to talk about. 

So, what is the best way to express environmentally conscious ideas or stories? For me, I think images are powerful, particularly images of the sea--like this stunning photo I found while surfing the net this afternoon. 

The first, and deepest, impression made on me regarding the environment came through a coffee table book my father had--still has, on the bookshelf somewhere. Nothing like Jacques Cousteau to fill my young child-mind with wonder that the beauty of the ocean, and raise my consciousness to its fragility. 

As an adult, I'd say that Michael Pollan's classic about the various options we have for feeding ourselves made a thoughtful impression on me, and continues to guide my choices when it comes to food for our family--not just for the nutritional value, but for the impact such choices can make on our environment as well. 

What about you? What books (or movies, images or documentaries) have made the biggest impressions on you regarding the environment? 

(belated) Meatless Monday

Sorry for the lateness of this post, but I just had to share with you my latest meatless food-obsession: black beans!

While we were in the UP (that's "upper peninsula" for you non-michiganders...), we had lunch one day at Border Grill. I had the veggie-taco-bowl. It was, in a word, awesome. And one reason why it was so great was the fact that I didn't miss the meat. I mean, at all. There were black beans galore, and that seemed to do the trick.

So, tonight, I think I might need to try these for dinner:

I mean, black beans and goat cheese??!! (you had me at goat cheese, but these tortas look mouthwatering!)

Then again, this guacamole salad from the Barefoot Contessa seems like a no-fail.

Do you have any good black-bean recipes?

Monday, August 1, 2011

back in the mitten

Sorry if the posting has been sparse, these past few days. We were running around, getting ready for a long weekend up north. Not just the top of the Mitten, but (as my friend said) "in the squished-up-skinny-rabbit part of the state." Or, the Upper Peninsula.  Now, we are back in the Mitten proper. It was a great trip, but it is always good to be home:)

While up in Marquette, we hiked a small mountain...the payoff was fantastic views!

Lake Superior is just stunning. 

We also did a bit of wading, a bit of bouldering, to get to "Hidden Beach."

It is completely surrounded by these red, rocky cliffs... a private isle experience!

We wandered around downtown Marquette, checking out the art scene. I loved this fence made up entirely of skis!

True. Very true. 

This "tree" is fabricated. It "blooms" petunias!!

Taking shelter from a sudden rainstorm. 

We picked wild raspberries and explored behind our friend's Grandma's house.

On the way home, we stopped off at a beach to stretch our legs. Lake Michigan looked, felt, even smelled different than Superior had!

But both lakes were equally chilly! 

So, that was our trip. We had a great time, but now it's back to the routine. I'll hopefully get a Meatless Monday post up later today. Until then, hope you're having a great day, friends.
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