Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Twilight scares me

Or, at least, part of the reason. Mostly I hate it because it's unrealistic and badly written. Then I hate it because vampires are a traditional symbol of lust, and I don't think that symbolism has really been purged out of their depiction in Twilight. After that, there are all of the very good reasons in this article.

And after that, there is the fact that the 13-year-old girls in my classes are reading them, and picking up some highly inappropriate ideas -- including some pretty darn weird ideas about sex and relationships. Maybe adults would be able to see past this and make judgments about it, but the age group that is reading these books definitely should not be.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chicken Soup

I have been ill the past few days; let that be my latest non-blogging excuse. But as a consolation prize, I'm posting two recipes for chicken soup; one my old specialty, and one I discovered yesterday while trying to cure myself of pharyngitis. (It worked! or else the antibiotics did. I have made a speedy recovery.)

First, the discovery.

Mexican Chicken Soup, to be made while sick

Chicken on the bone
Black beans
Other Mexican spices
A slice of lime

On the way home from the pharmacy, buy a package of chicken thighs, or really any chicken so long as the bones are included. Also buy limes, if you can find them at 2 for 88 cents.

You've had beans soaking since yesterday, so put them on the simmer. Put the chicken in a big pot of water and boil it. Then you're supposed to skim it, which is hard when the boiling bubbles are all over the place and the steam is in your face. However, this is called the "steam cure" and is probably good for you. Turn down the heat and simmer the chicken for about a million years. Meanwhile the kitchen will smell really lovely, and you'll be starved. Leave it to boil while you go back to bed.

When you wake up, really only maybe four hours later, everything will be more or less ready. Scoop the chicken out of the broth, de-fat the broth (this one was very hard to do in the hungry hurry I was in. I am afraid it was not well de-fatted until I de-fatted the leftovers this morning), take the chicken off the bones, and put it back in the broth, shredded into pieces.

Scoop out about three cups of the chicken soup and put it in a small pot. Then open up the bean pot and discover that the beans are just right. Put maybe a half cup of them in the soup. Pull out some frozen corn and stick it in, maybe a quarter cup. If you have cooked brown rice, put that in too, though I am sure white would be good too. Then add some salt, some cumin (part of your bridal shower gift) and some strange Mexican seasoning you picked up about a month ago. I suspect chili powder would be a good substitution for that. Add a dash of Tabasco if you like it. If you found the cheap limes, take a slice and squeeze it into the soup, and then drop the slice into the bottom of your bowl. Pour the soup in, and garnish with sour cream. Yum! The peak of health should return after 24 hours.

Next, the classic. This has been my specialty since I was about 16 or 17, and I used to make it for my mom when she was pregnant with John Paul. It is excellent as an after-school snack, because it feels warm, cozy, and filling (which one's sandwich at school was not), but does not spoil your appetite for dinner. It also can lick the stuffing out of any cold, especially any throat or sinus cold.

Avgolemeno Soup

3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons lemon juice or white wine

Heat 3 cups chicken broth. For this soup, I would usually just use boullion cubes, but "real" works too, provided it is well salted. Add 1/4 rice, or a little more. You can add cooked rice, or cook the rice in your broth (though you will have to add more broth to account for the amount the rice will absorb).

Once the broth is at the simmer, get a container you can pour out of. A pyrex measuring cup, the kind that has measurements up the side and a pouring spout, which you can use in the microwave, is ideal. Crack into the container two eggs, and add 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, white wine, or half of each. (Half of each is best, but I don't often have white wine.) Mix together with a fork until it's a uniform color. Dip a little of the chicken broth out of the pot and add to the eggs -- this warms them up a little.

Then comes the tricky part. Pour the egg mixture very slowly into the broth, stirring all the while and pausing in your pouring periodically. You want the eggs to disappear into your broth, turn it opaque, and give you little egg shreds here and there -- not a big, visible "egg flower" like you have in a hot and sour soup.

Pouring the egg in will have disrupted your simmer. That's okay, you can turn the heat down now. If you want to make sure the eggs get all the way cooked, you can leave it on for a moment longer, but I find they tend to cook sufficiently even if you turn the heat right off at this point. Now take some dill and shake it over the surface of the soup. Ladle the soup into bowls or cups. Big mugs are ideal. Serves 2 hungry people or 3 ordinary people.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring pictures

Time to upload a few more pictures!

Sunset over the school.

Daffodils in the rain.

Sunset over 66.

This and the next few are at Manassas Battlefield Park.

Some pictures of the cherry blossoms near the school.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Trying to keep up

It's hard to be a fiancee, a teacher, and a blogger at the same time. Other identities that slip through the cracks include good roommate, daughter that calls home more than once a week, faithful correspondent, writer, poet, photographer, student, reader for pleasure, music listener, and person decent to be around in the morning. I am just so busy!

And when I'm not busy, I'm still often a little stressed. Who wouldn't be? Today I left work smiling, in the realization that since my grades were in, I would not even have to think about school till Monday unless I wanted to. Two hours later, about two minutes after John and Claire walked in the door, a parent called. Why is her son failing? I am not really sure except that he is. I do know that the deadline for making up work has passed, so I don't feel too inclined even to talk about it. However, a concerned parent is a concerned parent, so I spent fifteen of the thirty minutes I had with John (before he headed off to his conference in DC) on the phone.

When I am not busy or stressed, I am sometimes lonely. Being engaged means that I want to be with John. Being in Virginia means that I am not generally able to be. Now I am aware that there are other people in the world. However, most people my age are single, it seems -- at least the ones I know, the other teachers and the parish people. As such, they are interested in other singles, and would like to associate with other singles in the hopes of ending their singleness. As a result, my roommate is always being invited to things, whereas I am often overlooked.

I don't exactly blame them -- after all, when they do invite me, I run home early so I can get my grading done, or sew a few stitches on my wedding veil, or call John, or any number of a million things I spend my time doing. And I don't really feel I'm missing that much -- I am not exactly close to any of these people, and I am not quite sure they know how to have a good time. To me, a good time involves lounging on the couch at Sean and Andrew's place and hearing John and the other guys discuss politics and pterodactyls. It can also involve bonfires and singing. Or wandering through the woods with a camera and a friend or two. It does not generally involve small talk, bars, or concerts.

So far, this email sounds very negative. In fact, I don't feel negative, at least not at the moment. I feel glad because John will be back from his conference soon, and we'll probably get together with our other friends and have something I would call a good time. I also feel glad because I can feel the time counting down toward a time that, hopefully, will make a lot more sense. Then, the same person I want to be with will be the person I am with. I will get to start putting a life together with the person I want to spend it with. We can arrange things to suit ourselves, instead of trying to fight our way through all the limitations that plague us like cellphone minutes and gas prices.

In the more immediate future, spring break, which I desperately need, is starting next Thursday. I am going home! For the last time, at least in one sense -- because the next time I go there, it arguably will not be "home," but "my parents' house." My "family" will be John and me, and my "home" will be a tiny little apartment in north Philly. All very strange, and will probably take some getting used to.

I am looking forward to seeing my family, especially the little ones who grow so fast and change so much. I also will get to see my maid of honor, whom I miss. In addition to being The Ideal Roommate (the kind everyone searches for and does not find), she is a good friend. She's going to be throwing a shower for me, and another day we plan to get together and do a wedding dress fitting. Both of those will be big events for sure. Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to catching up. It is such a shame that all my wonderful Christendom friends are scattered all over the place. At least at the wedding, most of us will get a chance to see each other.

After Easter, there are only about five weeks left of school. Five weeks is not a long time. In fact, it is way too little time to cover the different infinitives, indirect discourse, ablative absolute, and the subjunctive in Latin II. I'll do my best. But then the year will be over, and I will get a little break. The plan is to stay out here for the first week of June, and then head to Wisconsin sometime soon after that, to do wedding-ish stuff and spend time with my future sisters-in-law. Two of them are going to be going to the convent soon, so I have to catch my time with them while I can.

And after that? Why, at that point, it will be three weeks till the wedding! I imagine they will pass the slowest of any three weeks ever, but I know the day will be here before we know it!