Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do you see what I see?

Things are right with the world again. Blue skies have returned and it is finally feeling like spring. (Hopefully for good this time.)

But I am stuck inside, trying to dig myself out from under piles of papers and midterms. For my senior capstone course in college, all of the students turned in massive papers detailing their individual personality development over the course of their life as well as their theory of how personality is developed. My paper ended up being 87 pages...single spaced. The paper nearly landed a large majority of the class in a mental institution. However, looking back now as a teacher, I seriously don't know how our professor maintained her sanity reading through all of those papers. Granted, those papers were written by those for whom English is their first language, and she wasn't checking for things like comma splices. But still...one moment of thinking about that paper adds a great deal of perspective to the stack of essays I'm currently working my way through. 41 essays down...5 to go...then it's onto the midterms.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spoiled Rotten

I don't know that I'll ever be able to move back to the Midwest.

One thing I'm extremely blessed with is the fact that the city I live in has almost perpetual sunny blue skies. I've visited enough polluted cities in China to be extremely grateful for this fact. Seriously, it's like Florida here, you know, except for the fact that it's at least sixty degrees colder. Winter may last for eight months, but at least it's a sunny winter. However, for the last week we've seen the sun for a total of no more than four hours. As a Midwestern gal this shouldn't bother me. I should be used to day after day, week after week, even month after month gray weather. That is winter in the Midwest. But apparently I've been spoiled. Each morning when I wake up to another gray day with yet more drizzling rain, my heart cries out, "Where's the sun?!?" Life seems so drab!

At least there are colorful umbrellas to lighten up the scene. Look out the window of a skyscraper in Chicago on a rainy day and you'll see an endless procession of black, navy, dark blue, and other drably and drearily colored umbrellas. Look out the window in China and it's like a parade of Easter eggs. Pastels dominate, with iridescent and shimmering purples and blues thrown in as well. The Chinese know how to brighten up a gray day.

The perpetual rain and lack of sunshine has led to quite chilly weather...both inside and out. Since the calendar seemingly indicates that the weather should be warm, our heat has been shut off. That means that as May rapidly approaches, I'm still living in fleece pajama pants. At the moment I'm huddled under a fleece blanket. Due to the lack of heat, it's actually the "coldest" season of the year right now. Sunshine come back!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Toy time

As a teacher, sometimes you carry more things to class than you would for a weekend getaway.
Last week the load included my laptop, speakers, 23 student journals, handouts, power strip, water bottle...and these guys...
Because the week before the biggest exam of their college career, all students really need to do is play with toys.
I'm serious! Look how happy they are:
OK, so the toys also had educational value. The lesson last week was focused on expanding our students' arsenal of adjectives. Because if I read colorful or lovely one more time in my students' writing, I may just have a mental breakdown. There is simply nothing better than a bunch of baby toys for teaching sensory adjectives. Just think of the possibilities: striped, spotted, silky, fuzzy, squeaky, jingling, squishy, bumpy, vibrating...the list goes on and on.Toys are educational..."He's squishy, and fuzzy..."
And let's be honest, they're just downright fun. And we could all use a little more fun in our lives.
I also carried to class objects with strong odors, so students would have opportunities to use words like rancid, pungent, and fragrant. The list included things like hand sanitizer, vanilla, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and oregano.
I made the important discovery that liquid smoke is a Chinese student's kryptonite.
One whiff of that and they'll wave a flag of surrender.
Except Sabrina. She's impervious to the powers of the liquid smoke.
I thought about taking a class field trip to the bathrooms for a precise example of rancid, but decided I really didn't want to assault my nostrils. Warmer weather + poor plumbing + old building = no deep breathing as you walk the halls.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Guess what arrived this week?


What once was dead now springs forth new life; the timing couldn't be more appropriate. Blessings as you celebrate new life this weekend!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quotes of the week

"Twilight is like High School Musical for Emo kids." ~Robb

"'The Graduate' touched a lot of my root ganglion." ~Junior student's movie review.

"No paint, No gains" ~ As seen on a student's t-shirt

(On a related side note: I think China is having adverse effects on my movie tastes. I must confess that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the High School Musical series and Twilight repeatedly. I have quite unabashedly become a sucker for sappy romances. There may be need for an intervention...very soon.)

Spring cleaning gone terribly wrong

There were three main reasons I chose to move into a new apartment this year. #1: A bigger kitchen (not having to move my fridge every time I want to get into my freezer is a wonderful perk). #2: Afternoon sunlight; I can't get enough natural light. #3: Beautiful, large trees outside my window. There is nothing better than laying on my bed watching leaves on big old trees sway in the wind. Granted, there are only leaves on the trees for a small fraction of the time I'm here. But when they're there, it's breath-taking. When they're not, I still enjoy the experience and hardiness communicated by a grove of old trees. Consequently, I was crushed when I looked out my window Saturday and saw this:
I don't know who is doing this to my trees...but I have photographic evidence of the culprits.
Seriously, how many men does it take to chop down/up a tree? I'm thinking the guy smoking is indispensable to this operation.
Just when you think they might stop...out come the ropes and the saw again.Doesn't it make your heart hurt?
Here's the remnant. Some of them had branches chopped off when the doomed trees got caught in them. Don't they look lonely now? However, at least a few trees survived...for now...fingers crossed...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New loves

Having my grad work load greatly reduced this semester has freed up time to pursue other hobbies, in particular, cooking. I've been spending a lot more time in the kitchen, and have been loving every minute! Here are some of my new favorites dishes.

Mound of Mini-muffins
This recipe for banana chocolate chip muffins is excellent. I make up a mound of muffins almost every week for student movie nights. The muffins are perfect for students--a little bit sweet, but not too sweet for their tastes. I stopped making cookies for students after the "add less sugar incident". Butter is too precious to waste on those who don't appreciate the final product! (Sidenote: yes, that is a large Ohio State popcorn bowl in the background. The Wus found that and gave it to me for Christmas. I think secretly they wish they were Ohio State fans instead of Michigan fans.)

Homemade Granola & yogurt

After four years in China, I've finally found a breakfast I love that is quick, easy, and healthy. I've been making up batches of granola (sorry...no recipe, I just kind of throw stuff in combining many recipes. One hint though, mashed bananas and honey can be used instead of oil for a healthier granola). In the mornings I mix that with yogurt and fresh strawberries. It's a perfect start to the day!

Pasta with zucchini & grape tomatoes
People, this dish is divine. I found this recipe about two weeks ago and have made it three times since then. For those of you who may shrink back at the mention of zucchini, trust me. I used to turn my nose up at the slimy vegetable (just ask my mother). However, I have grown to love it in certain dishes. In this dish it is simply incredible. There were many adjustments I made to the recipe: there's no cream here (let's be honest, this is probably a good thing) so I substituted milk, I used chicken broth (hot water + chicken bouillon) instead of wine, and I had to settle for dried herbs instead of fresh. With all of those changes, you'd think the final product would take a hit, but the taste is out of this world. Do yourself a favor and make it today!

Focaccia Bread
The title of this recipe is "the easiest homemade bread", and after making a variety of yeast breads, this truly is the easiest and quickest I've ever made. It quite possibly might also be the best as well. Easy and scrumptious? What more can you ask for! I followed the recipe pretty closely, except I left out the olives (can't get them here and don't want to get them here) and I bumped up the amount of garlic. Garlic is ridiculously cheap here (we're talking about ten heads for 25 cents), and I honestly don't think I've ever tasted something and said, "ooooh, too much garlic". But those of you who don't have such a strong love affair with garlic may want to keep it at one clove. You can serve this as a side for the pasta dish (it's great with a little olive oil & parmesan to dip in). With the left-overs (haha...good luck having left-overs), you can make up something like this:This one is straight from my mind and combines some of my favorite things. I marinated pounded, cut chicken breasts in a tomato & basil marinade made by McCormick for a few hours. While I sauteed up the chicken, I made a concetrated pesto sauce. Since there is apparently no fresh basil to be found in the country of China, I made this from a mix, just adding less water and oil to form more of a concentrated baste. I brushed that on both sides of the focaccia (sliced in half). One side got topped with the chicken, sliced tomato, grated mozzarella, and parmesan. I also sprinkled some parmesan on the other half because I live under the assumption that one can never have too much parmesan cheese. Then you just broil the sandwich at a high temperature for a few minutes, until the cheese turns just a little brown. Then prepare yourself for an amazing explosion of flavor in your mouth!

It's a good thing I've also had more time to work-out...