30 August 2009

The Summer, She is Finished

I am of the opinion that syllabuses (or syllabi, depending on your preference) are best introduced when accompanied by a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. As the instructor verbally outlines the work load of the semester, they give students something to munch on and, I would like to think, reduce the amount of stress they experience as I repeat, over and over, "late work is unacceptable and don't copy and paste off of the Internet. I have mad Google skills and will find you out."

I don't teach until four-thirty in the afternoon and have a seminar immediately before, which may work out to my advantage tomorrow. When I stopped at the School of Education this morning, the copier was refusing to make double-sided copies. The day before classes begin and the copier has decided to be moody. This is not good.

My advantage is this: I can drop off my syllabus, timeline, and phonics pretest at the copy center early in the morning and they should be done by the time class actually rolls around. I would go and make single-sided copies of all three pieces tonight but at seven pages each times twenty-four students, that's a lot of pages. (504 pages to be exact.) I'm trying not to be a tree killer.

But the syllabus is finished, so there is that to be thankful for. Not copied, but finished at least.

29 August 2009


There's a lovely vase of zinnias on the kitchen table, obtained from this morning's Farmer's Market. They're bright and cheery and make me think of this little old lady who would come into the flower shop I worked in as a high school student. Every Saturday, she would stop after grocery shopping and she would purchase five dollars worth of flowers, usually daisies and alstro, often stating that it would make sense for a woman on a fixed budget to spend that five dollars on food but the flowers fed her soul. She had to have them, especially when the dreary UP winter descended. I looked forward to her weekly visits, which continued through my last summer working at that small shop in college and hope she's still making her weekly floral purchases.

The zinnias got me thinking about my poor, neglected Lizard Ridge. They share quite a bit in common: brilliant color and a generalized feeling of happiness, save for the fact my poor Lizard Ridge squares are sitting in a pile. I'm still nine squares short, still have to weave in the ends of the squares already finished, and the blocking! Oh, I don't even want to think about the blocking!

The stack of knitted squares is indicative of a larger problem: I have far too many unfinished projects. Mittens that need thumbs, shawls in need of another skein of yarn, a half-finished baby blanket that might be complete by the time the intended child goes to college. I've made a list of all these projects and will, hopefully begin finishing them off in these first few weeks of school. The Lizard Ridge, I am hoping, will be done for December movie viewing... and then onto more holiday knitting. So much to be done, so much to be done.

26 August 2009

The School Year Begins

When I was an Assistant Hall Director at my alma mater, two of my staffers teased me that I spoke way too much with my hands. The above picture, taken as I was MC-ing the department orientation confirms as much. Every picture of me has some element of hand movement - at times, it looks like I'm attempting flight. I'm Italian; that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

Today's move-in day. Approximately 7000 freshman and their anxiety-ridden parents are moving into the dorms today, throwing the entire city of Bloomington into a frenzy. Traffic has been rerouted, out-of-town visitors are driving the wrong way on one-way streets, and there are people EVERYWHERE, which makes it an excellent day to stay home and begin the coursework that is coming. Unfortunately, grass is being planted at the House of Whelmed today so I'm spending the morning at Kroger, munching on Dunkin Donuts and attempting to finalize my syllabus.

I do like thinking that this is someone's first day of college, though, and hope their own adventures in the coming school year are meaningful, enlightening, and empowering. For today, I just wish they stay out of the way of my car.

23 August 2009

Canning Summer

When I was small, the signs of the changing seasons were less artificial than they are now: rather than the arrival of the Target back-to-school ad, the emergence of box upon box of canning jars from the basement heralded the impending close of summer. My mom was a thorough and thoughtful food preservationist, canning bushel upon bushel of beans, tomatoes, and apple sauce while pickling cucumbers in a variety of ways and still finding time to make raspberry jams for the cold weather ahead. At eight years old, canning season annoyed me. There were all those jars to be washed. The water bath made the house unbearably humid. My mom's temper would flair as she attempted to balance preparation for all these different processes. It was a trying time but one that seemed to fade into the background as we ate from these stores throughout the winter.

After some reading, I decided this would be the year I tried my own hand at canning. Armed with my grandmother's phone number, thirty pounds of tomatoes acquired at yesterday's farmer's market, and brand new canning jars, I began the process this morning.

Thirty pounds of tomatoes doesn't look all that intimidating at first. In fact, at ten this morning, I was still convinced that I had scored a great deal: thirty pounds of tomatoes for ten dollars. Thirty pounds of really lovely looking tomatoes from an organic family farm. Three hours later, after peeling all thirty pounds, I was thinking otherwise.

Don't let this picture fool you: I had a large stock pot and another smaller pot filled with these tomato quarters. The LeCrueset happened to be the most photogenic. I love that pot. Is it wrong to love a piece of cookware?

On to Sarah's, where the actual canning would take place. We've made the decision to make this an annual event, having helped her with her tomato canning last year. Along with our friend Yi-Ching, we began boiling jars, simmering lids, and filling said jars with what seemed like a never-ending supply of tomatoes. Thankfully, despite the balmy weather elsewhere, it was a relatively cool day here in Indiana and we were able to throw open the windows and the doors to make our task bearable.

In the end, I canned eleven quarts and six pints of tomatoes, all destined for dinners of chili and spaghetti and just general yumminess. My gram managed to talk us through how to can in the oven, which totally revolutionized our system, allowing us to get through all of my own canning along with all of Sarah's in a little over four hours. Not horrible considering how much we actually put into containers.

The side of my brain that love statistics and numbers is screaming that today probably wasn't all that economical. The money spent on jars, produce, and energy as well as time probably outweigh the money I would spend buying cans of tomatoes at my local market. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing where these jars of red deliciousness come from, that I spent an afternoon with my friends, laughing and telling stories, storing these away for fall's savory soups and winter's thick sauces. It was delightful, though I am thoroughly exhausted. My muscles hurt from yesterday's strength-training class (even my neck - unsure what that means...) and my hands smell like tomato.

Hopefully, I will be able to stay awake long enough to watch the new Mad Men... It's a goal.

21 August 2009

5T :: 8.21.09

5T :: 8.21.2009
Originally uploaded by LimeGreenOctopi

Things off to better homes this week:

2 photo frames, donated to Goodwill.
2 CDs, donated to the Friends of the Library store.
1 knitting gauge, donated to my LYS for use with school kiddos learning to knit.
1 HP bookmark, donated to Goodwill.

20 August 2009

The Books! They Have Arrived!

The first box of books for this semester's classes arrived this morning. It doesn't look like $200 worth of books does it? Such a small stack and only representative of a portion of two classes.

I also need to start thinking about buying clothes, even though I have to giggle a bit at the thought of going school clothes shopping at the age of twenty-eight. Giggles aside, an inventory of my closet reveals I have very few articles that actually fit me after last fall's weight loss meaning that I need to invest some money in new trousers and shirts. Given the strict budget, I have to be more than thoughtful in color combinations and individual pieces, which has never been my strong point. Perhaps there is something of a list floating out there on the Internet: the neccessities of a guy's wardrobe.

19 August 2009

Let's Face This Night and See It Through

I'm a little obsessed with this song, Skeleton Boy, from the UK band Friendly Fires. Like constant rotation on my iPod kind of obsessed. Great video as well - a bit creepy but overall just plain fun.

18 August 2009

Jumping the Pumpkin

School starts up in two weeks; I keep referring to this fact in order to remind myself to spend these waning hours of summer doing fun things, things I may not have time to do once my nose is stuck in piles of books and my fingers are flying across the keyboard writing papers. Yesterday, I feel, was a good use of time, engaged in some crafty goodness for the little ones in my life.

Up first: the candy corn hat. Quite a few of my friends have babies and these small knit candy corn hats are irresistible as well as a quick, quick knit. I think this hat encompassed a whole hour and a half of mindless knitting while watching season two of Mad Men. I did deviate from the pattern a bit: rather than k1p1 ribbing, I made it a k2p2. I like the look of the k2p2 ribbing much more than the k1p1 - simply an aesthetic change. Another aesthetic change was to finish the hat after the k1k2tog decrease; when knit according to the pattern, the hat becomes really pointy. I wanted the top of the hat to be more rounded and finishing after that particular decrease accomplished the task.

This is a great project to use up odds and ends, should one have bright yellow, bright orange, and white yarn in their stash. I did not but collected said shades in Plymouth Encore Worsted at my LYS. I used so little of the yarn to make this one hat, I'm thinking one skein of each will be enough to make seven more. Or, at least, I hope.

Also: Why was I convinced that orange was the base color of a candy corn? Where did that come from?

Next: A trick-or-treat bag, or at least the prototype I will use to construct more later on. I've slowly but surely been spending some time in front of the sewing machine in order to build some skills. I was sick with mono when my classmates had sewing in Home Economics and my mom didn't think it wise to teach me, even when I asked. Hence, I've been reading, reading, reading, and attempting a few easy-peasy-lemon cheesey patterns. I had thought I'd found one such pattern in Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing - a tote pattern I figured would make a great tote for holiday-inspired candy gathering. I purchased fabric from the local Joanns, cut out all the pieces, ironed on interfacing, and prepared for an hour or so of sewing the next day.

Perhaps it's my lack of sewing schema or just a lack of comprehension period, but the directions lost me. I can read learning theory and have it make perfect sense but can't seem to follow directions for a simple tote bag. Epic fail on my behalf. Also: the interfacing I purchased wasn't so great, not adhering to the fabric completely and causing some issues with the sewing machine. So I improvised. Using some of the measurements provided in the book, I made the above tote: fully lined and reversible, ready for trick-or-treat goodness. My sewing skills still are not those of Adam, but I managed through a quilt top and now a tote-like bag. When can I start sewing coats and such?

I also managed, in course of yesterday, to make a pot of chicken noodle soup (to use up a stalk of celery - it made sense in my head when I woke up yesterday, but seems silly now) and a peach pie, which will be enjoyed tonight with vanilla ice cream. Not a lot of creating today, however: I have a syllabus that needs to be polished and at least three rubrics I need to write.

School starts in two weeks.

14 August 2009

5T :: 8.14.09

5T :: 8.14.09
Originally uploaded by LimeGreenOctopi

So I started doing the 5T thing and stopped, mostly because I went on vacation and then did the whole move thing... attempting to get back in the swing of it...

Things off to better homes:
Acrylic yarn :: donated to LYS for use in a classroom.
Cell phone :: given to a friend who goes through a lot of cell phones.
Charger :: yes, I'm counting it as an item this week. It went with the cell phone.
Pinnacle Video Converter :: listed on Amazon.com for someone else to utilize.
Electric Insect Swatter :: donated to Goodwill; someone will think this is cool.

Waning Days of Summer

I've been baking up a storm, slowly but surely working my way through the baking section of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. The latest project: cinnamon buns, which were stickily delicious and forced me to engage in an extra half-hour on the elliptical yesterday.

I'm procrastinating, wishing and hoping that a slew of baking will slow down the onset of the school year. I had my first "not prepared for the first day of school" dream last night, a reminder that yeast will make bread rise but will not make the hours pass any more slowly. I'm teaching two, taking four this semester, which may very well change before the end of the day. Two of the classes are in my minor, gender studies, while another is dissertation proposal preparation; the fourth is a class in online content analysis through our School of Library Science. When scheduling in the spring, I was counting on only teaching one section this term. With two, I'm unsure I can manage such a schedule and actually learn something in it. Online content analysis may be going to the wayside.

I'm looking forward to returning to teaching, despite the fact my syllabus has been chopped up into pieces. This will be the third year I've taught this class and finally feel like I have a grasp on how I want it to go, what I want to change to make it a better class for both my students and for myself as an instructor. I'm introducing a memoir project through which I hope to walk my students through both the writing workshop structure and process writing. I've mapped out concepts to be covered throughout the course of the year. I hope this will alleviate some of the pressure I feel to cover everything in the fall and then flounder a bit in the spring. I'm also hoping that this will more authentically connect assessment and methodology for my students. We shall see.

All of this, of course, relies on finishing actually writing the syllabus and then working through all of the assignment sheets and rubrics for grading. Syllabuses (just as correct as syllabi) are never simple and this current one just seems overwhelming...

12 August 2009

The Light, The Light!

Even in the wee small hours of the morning, the light in this house is amazing. It absolutely floods this place all day long. This, alone, makes leaving the old apartment worth it.

The House of Whelmed (and Womenly Wiles) is shaping up; we still haven't hung artwork in the main living areas, but with one Roomie preparing to begin data analysis and the other Roomie working diligently on her dissertation proposal, the energy is currently best spent elsewhere. In the meantime, I continue reading non-required text, baking, and knitting up holiday gifts. School begins in nineteen days. I'm attempting to avoid this fact.

07 August 2009

Baby Sweaters, Craigslist, and Settling In

One of my roomies is leaving for the weekend, which made me think that I would prepare some sort of baked good for her this morning before she left. So I gathered up baking ingredients last night and threw together a dough for cinnamon buns, allowing it to rise overnight so I might put the buns themselves together this morning. The alarm goes off, I get up, consult the recipe book, and realize that I made the wrong dough. The dough I made is for regular-type bread, which would make for some funky cinnamon buns. As soon as I post this, I am off to Dunkin Donuts to buy something sweet to send her on the road with. Drat.

Really, though, living in the house has been good. The third roomie has arrived home from Taiwan and we've managed to work with and around each other really well. There's a decent amount of space in the house, so it's not as though we are ever tripping over one another, which may be helping the "wow, I now live with two people" thing I've got going." It's good, this move into the house.

Also good: I met the Craigslist chap for coffee yesterday. Not a crazy, actually pretty interesting. I just hope I didn't babble too much... I'm a babbler in new social situations. I'm hoping there will be more coffee with this guy in my future. We shall see.

And the cute goodness above? That's the baby sweater I knit while on vacay in Michigan for my friend Emi's impending little person. I like to call it Baby's First Smoking Jacket. I'm a little in love with it, actually. It was a one day knit, moving pretty quickly on big needles, and I am absolutely in love with the color of the yarn, which reminded me of pickles. Who doesn't love pickles? I think one of my favorite features of the sweater might be the buttons, which my aunt gave me: vintage little Big Mac buttons from an old shirt of my cousin's. The perfect caramel color to complete the look. Adorkable.

Alright - off to Dunkin. While there will not be cinnamon buns this morning there will be sweetness. And bread.

03 August 2009

The Big Move

I always find packing to be strange: all the things of one's life neatly put away in boxes and checked against some master list, totally betraying the chaotic and insane everyday reality. However, for just a moment, my life looks really neat and tidy in the back of this truck.
Until it explodes all over my new space. In my defense, I managed to move the contents of an entire apartment - kitchenwares, furniture, and all - into this room. Well, almost all. I had to put the couch in the kitchen. It was an impossibility it would fit in this space without ripping a hole in both space and time.
There are some lovely things about moving into a new house: the smell of newly painted walls, sparkling new appliances, and the knowledge that you are the first in the memory of this home to wash dishes in the sink or do laundry in the bathroom. These are beautiful things. Some of the less attractive things about moving into a new house: the lack of carpeting on move-in day. Due to the rain we'd been having, the carpet layers hadn't been able to complete their task. Thankfully, the bedrooms were complete but the living room and stairs were still bare. Move in day was a dance, both the carpet layers and the moving crew shuffling around each other.
But look at the light. It streams into every window of this house. Just lovely. I want to scoop it up in a mug and drink it with my morning coffee. My favorite part: the orange door. I live in a house with an orange door. It's going to be a good year.