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The glories of a grilled cheese

11 Mar

 

Until grade seven, I was able to walk home for lunch. It usually consisted of simple food like chicken noodle soup with bread strips or a grilled cheese.

Ah, grilled cheese. It is still comfort food.

In my first few years of teaching, when I lived near Huntsville, Ontario, we used to drive south on Highway 11 to the Pine Valley restaurant where we would order grilled cheese for dinner and apple crisp for dessert. It was the first time I had a grilled cheese on anything but store-bought white bread.

A few years ago, I was on the Sibert committee. One of the Honor Books we chose was Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix.  Because of this book, I started watching The Chef Show on Netflix, which stars Chef Roy Choi. In one episode, he makes a grilled cheese. His version was nothing like the ones I had grown up with or made myself. He used different cheeses and sourdough bread. It was a revelation – especially the sourdough bread. So, now, I make my grilled cheese exclusively with sourdough bread. If you don’t, you should give it a try.

P.S. You can see Chef Roy’s recipe here.

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People in my neighborhood – The Recyclers

2 Mar

I held the back door open and set one foot on the top step. As Lucy hopped down, I heard rustling behind me. Someone was going through our recycling bins.

As Lucy took a moment to sniff – the air, the dirt, the rose bushes – I looked to see who it was.

“Good morning,” the female voice called to me. “How are you?”

“Great,” I replied. “And glad it isn’t raining.”

She laughed as Lucy and I walked past her. She was familiar to us. I don’t know her name but she is one of a number of regulars who collect cans from recycling bins in the neighborhood. She, like several others, come around with shopping carts, laden with can filled bags. There is a fellow who used to come around with a cart, but has since purchased an old, brown Ford Econoline van. He is not as chatty as this recycler. He is not as quiet as the elderly gentleman who comes around on his bicycle, bags hanging from every possible place. He never says a word, but I can tell by the look in his eye that he is terrified of dogs – even Lucy.

As Lucy and I walk past the recycler and descend the back steps to the street, I see the cart.

“Sorry about the cart,” the recycler says.

“No problem,” I reply, “Lucy is small and can get around anything!”

We walked South down the street. As Lucy stood staring off into space – something she does more and more lately – I heard the wheels of the shopping cart head North.

 

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Finish strong – Day 1 of the SOLSC

1 Mar

Today is the first day of the Two Writing Teachers’ March Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) and I am writing about endings.

At several of the conferences I had last week, I told families that we wanted their child to “finish strong”. And finishing strong was what I spent my weekend doing.

People think that once the knitting is done a project is complete, but there are several things that need to happen before a project is well and truly finished. I had finished the knitting of my most recent project last Sunday and proudly posted this picture.

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I received many lovely comments about the work, and about Lucy. No one commented on all the little loose ends hanging off the side. This weekend was all about tying those loose ends, literally and figuratively.  It took me most of Saturday morning to weave in all 96 loose ends neatly. And there was still work to do.

First, the wrap needed a bath, then rolled in towels to remove moisture.

 

Then, it had to be blocked.

The Knitter’s Dictionary  defines blocking as “a catch-all term for manipulating your finished knitting to smooth out the fabric, even out the stitches, tidy up the stitch patterns, and bring the fabric to the finished size”.  This can be done in a number of ways, but I decided this pattern needed to be pinned on blocking mats. The problem was, that I didn’t have a surface large enough, or the right number of mats, so I did some MacGyvering and came up with a solution that would keep it out of Lucy’s way.

In a day or two, it should be dry enough and for me to remove it without out fear of it losing any of the size it blocked to. Then, and only then, will it be truly finished.

The thing about teaching Shakespeare

21 May

I forgot how much I laugh at the end of the year when we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

At first the kids are nervous, thinking it is going to be hard. But then these things happen:

  • we write skits in Elizabethan English and two naughty boys perform “A Midsummer Night’s Endgame”
  • they start adding eth to almost everything and I hear words like “noeth” and “oofeth” in the locker room, and I can’t help but laugh
  • they laugh at words like “nosegay”, “bosom”, “virgin”
  • our tableaux aren’t true tableaux because Lysander and Hermia can’t stop their shoulders from shaking in mirth as he cups her face and looks longing into her eyes
  • the look of terror in Hermia’s eyes as she realizes she is about to say “O, hell” in class and the twinkle that lingers there afterwards

Next week we will write Shakespearean insults. I can hardly wait.

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Allergy eyes

30 Mar

There is something in the air.

I know because I feel it in my eyes.

I feel it even before I wake up: the heavier than usual lids, the itch, the grit, the tears that run from neither joy nor sorrow. Allergy season has hit my eyes.

It takes some time to get them serviceable. This means drops and hydrocortisone cream. This means frequent looks in the mirror to gauge the degree of puffiness and redness. This means extra wrinkles as the swelling goes down. This means NOT rubbing them.

It takes some time for them to feel normal again. Well, normalish. In allergy season, normal is a distant memory and desire. By noon, I feel normalish and I wonder when I will wake up and feel normal. I wonder, too, which student will be the first to comment.

Today, I replace the SOL logo with something more representative of how I’m feeling today.

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Furiously knitting

29 Mar

“Do you ever take commissions?” my librarian friend asked.

I cringed inwardly. It can be an awkward question to answer and I gave my standard reply,”Yes, but I have rules.”

Her raised eyebrows were a sort of encouragement to go on, so I explained, “I won’t accept payment and you have to live with my timeline. I could finish it in a week, a year or never. I love to knit but don’t like pressure to perform. I want to knit a project because I love it. What did you have in mind?”

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My friend had been on last year’s Printz committee. What she wanted was a pussy hat with the word “Fury” on it, in celebration of Damsel by Elana K. Arnold.

“Let me think and look around,” I said.

I found a free pattern  –  Hamilton Pussyhat by  on Ravelry. – that captured the beauty of the cover.Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 3.39.27 PM

During the Rose City Yarn Crawl, I made it my mission to find some yarn that would capture the colors of the book and work with the pattern. I did.

 

I took the peace of Spring Break to adapt the pattern, replacing “Rise Up” with “Fury” and began knitting. I learned to knit a Latvian braid and, slowly, but surely, the hat took shape.

It is now finished and blocking. I’ll give it to my friend when I see her at our next book club meeting in two weeks, unless I see her at the library first. I hope it is a good fit.

 

 

Mammogram 2019

28 Mar

Every other Spring Break I make the drive. I didn’t go last year, so it was on for this year.

I arrived 15 minutes before my appointment, as proscribed, checked in and took my seat in the waiting room.

I’d brought my book – the new graphic novel version of The Giver. It allowed me to read, but also pay attention. For the first few minutes, no one else was called .here weren’t many people in the waiting area. It was mostly women, but there was one very large man with a very tiny woman, who I took to be his mother. As I read Jonas’ story, one woman was called in and five came out.

Finally, it was my turn.

“We’ll take a right, then a left,” the nurse told me, smiling. Everyone in mammography is cheery.

She pulled the curtain on a cubicle and handed me a gown.

“Oh, it’s warm,” I commented as I took it from her hands. She laughed and pointed to the warming cupboard where they were stored.

I smiled, entered the cubicle and put on the gown. Once changed, I sat on the bench in my cubicle. Curtain open or closed? I wondered. Closed felt weird so I opened it and waited. The door across from me opened and a blond woman, similar to me in age, height and weight stepped out with a smile on her face and called my name. I followed her in for Mammogram 2019.

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Intruder alert

27 Mar

I don’t know when or how it arrived, but there was a big fly in my house last night.

It could have slipped in through the front or back door as I took Lucy out for one of several Spring Break walks. It could have slipped in while I was taking out the trash or recycling. Regardless, it was here, in the evening, buzzing around the house.

I was thankful that Lucy was asleep. If there is a fly, she is on high alert, zooming from room to room, trying to catch the darned thing. She was curled up next to me, snoring, as I knit and watched a season 11 of Doctor Who.

I mostly tried to ignore the rotund, black beast – but it was big and LOUD as it zoomed from room to room. Was it looking for an escape? I grabbed a roll of ads from the recycling bin and decided to help.

I have this theory that flies seek light and fresh air. Wielding my rolled up weapon, I went from room to room, strategically turning off lights in an effort to lead the intruder to the kitchen and the back door. It worked until it didn’t and the fly buzzed out into the dark parts of the house. then it came back. it settled once, twice, three times in various places in the kitchen. Neither my roll of ads nor the broom I swung to reach to the top of the cupboards, smooshed the beast. Good thing. I have a really strong gag reflex and don’t do well with fly guts. Hence, the crafty light  strategy.

I’d left the door open and, although I didn’t see the intruder escape into the cool night air, at some point, there seemed to be no buzzing in the house. Was it truly gone or just settled in for the night? Morning would tell. If the beast were still alive (and Google tells me that the housefly – musca domestica – has a life expectancy of 15-28 days) Lucy will surely be on fly patrol. but she’ll have to wake up first.

Lucy on fly patrol
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Library people

26 Mar

Monday was officially my first day of Spring Break and I spent part of the day at one of my favorite places : the public library.  Truly a place for everyone, here is who I saw:

A mom pushing a toddler in a stroller and holding the hand of her older child, crossing the street, on their way to story time.

A dad with two daughters, dressed identically, though one was clearly older. Both girls pushed identical babies in identical strollers.

A woman at the circulation desk, getting help placing holds.

A man at the circulation desk, taking care of his fines.

A woman exiting a study room, leaving a man with headphones inside.

People of all ages, colors, socio-economic statuses using the computers.

Toddlers of all colors – and energy levels – in the children’s area.

The Street Roots vendor out front, chatting to a former Streets Root vendor.

And Harry, patiently waiting for his mom and sister.

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Music to my ears

25 Mar

Sunday afternoon found me a little restless. The sun was shining and Lucy and I had already been on a long walk. I wanted to knit but I was not in the mood for an audiobook or whatever program was playing on Oregon public radio. I knew I didn’t want silence, even though, lately, I’ve found myself sitting in silence. No radio. No audiobook. No music.

When I returned from three years in Medellin, Colombia, my first major purchase, after a car, was a CD player. It was 1994 and I was ready to move into the next phase of my life and career and that meant new technology. I was so sure about this that, while in Colombia, I purchased CDs instead of cassette tapes to bring home. Over the next two decades, my CD collection grew.

So, Sunday, feeling restless, I poked through my CDs, thinking something classical might be just the thing. I put on the CD I’d chosen, but it didn’t satisfy my need. I dug a little deeper and came up with Clasicos de la Provincia by Carlos Vives, the very first CD I’d ever purchased.

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Listening to me brought me back to 1994 and the previous three years in Colombia. The sun shining outside my Portland home, felt as warm as my memories of my Colombian years. I felt nostalgic and energized at the same time. I decided I would dig deeper into my CDs for more of those firsts.

 

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After Carlos, I put on Amplified Heart by Everything But The Girl. This was a band I’d heard a lot on the one radio station in Medellin that played contemporary music in English. I hadn’t listened to this CD in years, and was pleasantly surprised at home well I remembered the lyrics.

 

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Everything But The Girl led naturally to Diva by Annie Lennox. For some reason, I associate this album with the day I was supposed to leave Medellin for the last time. A pilot strike started that morning and I arrived at the airport only to discover that I wasn’t flying home that day. the night before, I had joked with a friend that I might end up on her doorstep. I burst into tears when I did. I’m pretty certain that we listened to this album that night. As with Amplified Heart, I remembered more of the lyrics than I had expected.

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Finally, I put on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan, who I hadn’t heard at all in Colombia. Hers was a transitional CD, marking my return to North America from South America. I listened as I transitioned from afternoon to evening, feeling content.

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