27 December 2014

Making do...

Today's prompt:  Time to show off your handiwork: what did you make this year? 

Seriously, the only thing I'm really good at making is a mess.  I'm secretly very jealous of crafty folk. I've tried knitting; my stitches get too tense and tight.  I think I crocheted once.  Maybe I could handle that.  I managed to spray paint a frame without ruining anything.  I did find a latch hook when I was cleaning a couple weeks ago.  Maybe I could hook an obnoxious rainbow rug.  
I did make a few resolutions, some of which I actually kept for a while.  Nothing really earth shattering, just stuff like paring down my junk mail by actually unsubscribing from emails every once in a while rather than just trashing them.  
I manage to make do pretty well.  I'm good at using something slightly akilter from its original purpose, or getting by with worn or slightly damaged items that still work.  I've been using a three-legged stainless electric frying pan for years, not because I'm some kind of martyr, but because those things rock, and they're hard to find.  Ugly end tables and worn out chairs are still quite sturdy and useful; a little wood glue and a comfy blanket hide many ills.  So, that's what I make.  I make do.  

24 December 2014

Today's prompt:
What are you thankful for? Maybe it's from this year – or maybe it's something in your past that resonated with you recently. And – we hold people, places, and things in equal regard: a sense of gratefulness can take many forms. 

After the Thanksgiving bandwagon on November, it seems trite to count my blessings in a blog.  However, I shouldn't disdain the concept of gratitude simply because it needed to be nudged.  Let's boil the concept down to people, places and things, just as the prompt suggests.

People:  I am immensely grateful for my family, both those immediate to me by blood, and the extended clan we call ours by choice. We have our bumps, our feuds and fallings out, and our joy, sometimes all mixed together.  We may not get it right all the time, but we love each other.  We are lucky to have an extended circle to give us encouragement and advice when needed, and to share our joys.

Places:  Connected with those people are the places, and we got to return to Holland, and discover Scotland this year, where we rekindled one love and found another one. Saving our pennies to return as soon as possible.

Things:  Our poor old van may be on its last legs, but it has been reliable for for many years.  I'm thankful for all the use we've gotten from ol' Bessie, and hopeful she still has some time left if we can pin down her problems.

Here's wishing a Merry Christmas to you and yours,

21 December 2014

Good intentions renewed!

As I tick projects off my list, I am renewing my own focus on reading and writing for pleasure.  Nora over at Chez Pez unwittingly tipped me off to Think Kit, so I joined the party late, but will use the prompts to kickstart my own narcissistic writing efforts!

First prompt:

A Thousand Words
Nothing like a strict word count to kick off our month of blogging...just kidding! Share your year in photos. Was there a moment of unrestrained happiness? An unexpected encounter? What role do photos play in your life – were you more selective with your phone (er...camera) this year? Or are you the King of Selfies? Dig into the deeper meaning of a moment frozen in time.

Although it was only two weeks of the year, we focused our time, energy and finances on a family trip to Scotland and Holland this summer.  As I mentioned previously, I didn't take many photos, but the rest of the family especially my husband and my daughter's boyfriend, really came through.  After a security check, I'll link our Flickr album.  Another project will be going in and tagging and captioning the photos, so if you're confused, check back later and your questions may be answered. Also, the photos are in no logical order, as they came from several sources.  


     Sometime in the past twenty years or so, it became de rigueur for a restaurant server to check in with a table after the food arrives, and ask, "How is everything tasting?"  This has irritated me from the first time I ever heard it.  I could never quite put my finger on why it bothers me so much.   Does it focus too much on the food and not enough on the rest of the dining experience?  This is a possible factor.  As a server myself, I have probably wondered about this far more than any rational person should.  I have not-so-silently nursed this pet peeve for many years, and deeply pondered the way it annoys me.  I have been waiting on tables (and cars) off and on since I was 15, but I have never drunk this particular Kool-Aid.  I ask my customers, "How is everything here?" or some variation on that theme.
     We'll go out to eat, and inevitably, the question comes: "How is everything tasting?" My longsuffering husband will smirk at me across the table, knowing full well what's happening in my brain.  I find myself creating, and then (usually) stifling, snarky retorts.  "It's not tasting anything (anymore); it doesn't have a tongue." "It tastes great, but it's cold," and so forth.   I have been known to write tirades about it on the back of a guest check (note:  I am always careful to rest blame on whoever taught the server to say it, not the server, personally, unless the service also sucks; then, all bets are off).
     Last night, as we sat at a Perkins, the unwitting server dropped the "tasting" bomb, and after he walked away, everything came together for me. It was something I had known all along, as evidenced by those retorts I created, yet the reason rattled around, unarticulated,  in my subconscious just out of my grasp until it finally decided to reveal itself last night.  The phrase bothers me so much because when servers say it, they are using a transitive verb in an intransitive manner.  It was a headslap moment.  Duh!  The reason for my undue irritation all these years is that this particular infraction takes place at the intersection of my superior server and grammar Nazi personalities.  To get more complete information, you can go here, here (This one has "snarky" in the title! Bonus!), or here. Allow me to sum up with a couple of examples: I am tasting my food; it isn't tasting anything, unless I am a very bad hunter, in which case, my (intended) food might actually be tasting me.  When you use the verb "tasting," it needs to take an object or it just doesn't work, no matter how often you repeat it.  It tastes (intransitive) just fine, thank you (or maybe not, but I digress).
     This epiphany will not stop me from continuing to rail against this grammatical infraction; in fact, it will likely rally my spirit to fight against the verbal abomination with renewed vigor!  Now, dear reader, you will hopefully never hear it again without recalling this information, and it will bother you, too!  Together, we can stop this grammatical travesty from becoming further ingrained in the vernacular.  This use is not as firmly lodged as "15 items or less," so we should yet be able to undo the damage.  Twenty years is but a mere blip in the evolution of language.  There's still time to nip this in the bud, one poor, unaware server at a time.

06 September 2014

All roads lead home

I'm sitting on the patio of our camping chalet at Camping Het Amsterdamse Bos, enjoying a cool breeze, watching the bunnies swarm the grounds, and wondering where the last two weeks have flown.  

We have had adventure and misadventure, climbed the Scottish midlands and strolled the North Sea beach at Den Haag, and as much as we have enjoyed it, we are ready to be home.  
This campground sits at the edge of a municipal park four times the size of Central Park in NYC, and is ten minutes from Schiphol Airport.  It's a perfect find for our family.  Very basic accommodations, but beautiful and comfy.  All in all, we've been pretty lucky with accommodations.  We booked our Scottish lodgings through airbnb, and couldn't be happier. They were two very different places, but the people at both were wonderful and made the visit outstanding.  
In Holland, we were very grateful to be put up in the orchard bunkhouse of our exchange daughter's family, as well as in a backyard camper.  
Our trip started with learning to drive manual on the left, getting the two cars separated with no mobile phone service, reuniting , then blowing a tire along the Bonny, Bonny banks of Loch Lomond, which I couldn't even enjoy for the knot in my gut.  Luckily, it was smoother sailing from there, and the rest of our time in the Oban area was delightful.  We had a couple days on our own before joining up with the Clan MacDougall gathering at Dunollie castle. We visited Lismore on our own, taking the Port Appin Ferry, then walking three miles to the cafe and heritage center. 
It's a little different to trudge the Scottish countryside than my semi-weekly walk to the county road stop sign and back, but we strapped on our big kid pants and did the deed. The next day we visited Dunstaffnage castle with the Clan MacDougall group.
Then we explored Oban harbor and MacCaig's tower on our own.  
That evening we attended the Ceilidh with the clan chief and family (and my husband even danced!)
The following day we joined the group tour to Kerrera, another three mile walk from the ferry to the tea house, but this time near Gylen castle 
We sadly departed after A final trip through Dunollie, and headed for Glasgow for our flight to Amsterdam.  Scotland was a brand new adventure for all of us, but the joy of Holland was a wedding and the opportunity to reunite with four of our exchange daughters. 

We were so warmly greeted by our host family! They made us feel so welcome, even in the midst of preparations for a first daughter's wedding.  As a treat, a manicurist gave a house call for fancy wedding fingers. 

The next day, we were able to help decorate for the wedding and pick apples from the orchard for reception favors.  
The wedding was beautiful, and Thing 2 caught the bouquet, for which her long suffering boyfriend Jon, who is with us, gets no end of grief. My husband took far more and better quality pictures than I did, which I will share later. 
The next day, while the honeymooners honeymooned, we went to Efteling theme park. It's sort of an old-fashioned fairy-tale meets steampunk themed park, with attention to detail on par with Disney, but far less plastic-looking.  There we met up with a other of our borrowed kids.  
It starte off a bit rainy,  but after an hour it dried up an was pleasant. 
I was also pleased with how open folks were about bringing their own food and drink anywhere, without being relegated to a picnic area in the parking lot. Very cool. The next day we took the train into Utrecht and took in the Domkerk.   The kids were as amused with the pigeons as anything else.  
The honeymoon was relatively short, as the newlywed a are in the midst of renovating a house, so they returned in Monday and we spent the afternoon together in Den Haag, taking in some sights, the Politie, and the beach. 
This morning we packed up and headed in to Amsterdam, where the general consensus was to decompress
for the day. We were able to check in early, then explored the neighborhood a bit before settling in to enjoy a little sun. 
We'll check out at leisure tomorrow before heading to the airport and home again.  We are sad to leave, but we are ready for home. Perhaps soon I will be able to reflect more eloquently on our trip, but for now I wanted to put some of it down while it is still fresh. The saddest part of travel is how quickly the memories fade. 

11 August 2014

I did a food thing!

 We're eating kinda weird at Casa del Goose lately.  We're trying to use up anything we wouldn't want to greet us after a two-week absense.  We don't want anything crawling out of the fridge and attacking the house-sitter.  This had led to a few interesting concoctions such as Mac and cheese with leftover spaghetti sauce and a can of ro-tel stirred in (pretty good).  
As I was prepping for the mower today, I noticed that my first big gorgeous tomato had fallen off the vine and onto the sidewalk.  It was perfect and lovely and very, very green. I set it on the counter, wondering how long it would take to ripen. 
As suppertime rolled around, my thoughts turned to fried green tomatoes. The local CSA posted a recipe last week for FGT sliders with coleslaw. It looked wonderful, but I used up my cabbage in boiled dinner on Saturday.  I figured I could think of something, and went to the internet to learn about FGT. Minnesota is hardly a bastion of southern cooking.  The only thing we're south of is Canada.  I looked up several recipes and sought out the common themes.  Most called for a roll in seasoned flour a milk or buttermilk egg wash, and a final dredge in cornmeal or crumbs of some sort.  One genius called for bacon to be fried and the tomatoes to be cooked in the grease.  with two elements for BLTs now present, my wheels were turning.  We had a French bread on hand with little round slices, so BLFGT sliders were born.  
Several sites noted that the moisture from the tomatoes could be problematic to the flour sticking well, so I sliced the tomato about 1/4" thick and salted it lightly to leach out fluid. Then I started the bacon in the trusty cast-iron skillet (the recipes universally called for cast iron. Smart folks).
While those were busy doing their thing, I set up my dredge.  I seasons flour with garlic powder and a hint of white pepper. My buttermilk was frozen, so I used a milk and egg wash. For the crumb, I went to the freezer, where our tortilla chips go to die when they get too small to dip or go stale.  I tossed a couple of good handfuls into the food processor and let 'er rip. 
Once the bacon was done, I augmented the grease with a small splash of veg oil. 
I ran the tomato through the dredging gauntlet, then waited impatiently for the golden brown to happen. 

When all wa said and done, I assembled the BLFGT with only a scant swipe of salad dressing. 
They did not disappoint.  That little hint of sweet with the sour tomato and the salty bacon was really good.  They tomatoes crisped up nicely.  Not bad for a first run.  

07 August 2014

Exercising futility

     Well, hello there you few poor stragglers.  It's been awhile, I know.  Every time I come back to Blogger, I have renewed intentions of writing more consistently.   You'll note, it's been mostly a biannual exercise in futility. Facebook and Twitter are terrible for writing stamina, encouraging shorter blurbs and pithy remarks rather than content and reflection. I am hopeful of a better run this time, though.  I am renewing my intentions to practice what I preach when it comes to writing.  Although the nature of the beast here is certainly more informal and conversational than academic writing, it's a way to limber up before the heavy lifting, so to speak.
     I have finally completed my second license in ESL, and am merely waiting for the state to sign off on the new license, or cash the check, whichever comes first.  This means I am currently finished with graduate classes, at least for the time being.  I may eventually decide to complete an entire MS vs. the licensure only option, but I need a break.  Wrapping up meant a couple of weeks of student teaching in the "new" content area, so just about the time summer started, I was back to work again.  When I finished that, I wrapped up all the paper- and portfolio work, and lo and behold, it was July.
     I had a couple of weeks scrambling to work on a Shakespeare project, then began slowly heading back to my classroom to get organized and ready for the upcoming school year, which begins the day after Labor Day.  I needed a bit of a head start as we are now less than two weeks (Holy crap, did I just say less than two weeks? I did.  ACK!) from our two-week trip abroad to Scotland and Holland.
Last time we went, we spent much of the trip telling each other, "Next time, we have to bring the kids." We weren't expecting "next time" to be quite so soon, but Karlijn, our second Little Dutch Girl, is getting married, and we wanted to be there.  As we hemmed and hawed over costs and possible itineraries, we noted that her wedding year coincides with Scotland Homecoming, a promotion which occurs every five years, and that the coinciding Clan Macdougall gathering (iPastor's maternal clan) is the weekend before her wedding.  A quick search found it was actually slightly LESS expensive to fly into Glasgow and back out of Amsterdam than a round trip.  I'm sure it was a serendipitous glitch in fares, which bounce unabashedly, but we're completely taking advantage of it.  And yes, this time, we are taking the kids, plus Thing 2's boyfriend, who's been around for five years and totally counts as family at this point.  So, we will spend a week in the area near Oban, Scotland, then fly to Amsterdam and spend much of our time near Utrecht, Netherlands.  Then we will come home and immediately get caught up in the festivities surrounding the wedding of iPastor's stepbrother.
     This format feels much like a letter to distant but fondly-remembered friends, which it very much is in many cases.  I will do my best to write more often and post pictures from the trip.  

01 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Rather than "resolutions," a friend posted a New Year's "Bucket List." I like how her bucket list items were very specific, and completely attainable.  My ideas are still more ephemeral, and less specific.  I haven't had the time to sit down with myself and formulate such concrete ideas, but I will start here and keep working at it.  Putting these out here for accountability and support.

More reading for pleasure.

    Lately it seems I only read for class, or inane crap on the internet.  While there's plenty of delightful entertainment out there, there's also plenty of timesuck. I do also read articles on subjects that interest me, but I feel my patience for long-form literature waning with each bite-sized blurb.  I need to rebuild stamina.

More writing for pleasure.

    Again, research papers, case studies, lesson plans:  blech.  I want to write for fun.  Or deep philosophic introspection.  Right.

More active interaction with my kids.

     We are actually making an effort to at least gather together with our various devices and distractions.  It's actually a very pleasant way to pass time.  I do not, however, want it to be the only way we spend time together, and that will require actually putting forth an effort.

I will try some sort of outdoor winter activity.
     I HATE  WINTER.  I resent being trapped inside and I abhor the dark and bitter cold.  I want to combat this by trying something I can enjoy outside in the snow.  Perhaps snowshoeing or cross-country ski.  We have paths nearby, and it's way less expensive and smelly than snowmobiling or ice fishing.

Send more postal mail.

    I have done this in the past, and miss it when I don't.  Also ties in with the writing.

More date nights/weekends/events.
    We've been thinking about this, and got a couple in.  Need to prioritize it and not let it fall by the wayside.

Thoroughly explore the possibility of a practicum abroad.

     I need to put in 45 hours student teaching ESL somewhere.  Why not overseas?

Start a Bitstrip chronicle of my life


I need to get going on some of these and get out of the chair.  Hope everyone has a blessed 2014!