Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Some Favorites from 2013 (+January)

So at the end of last year, I did a year-end post about several top five things of the year. Simple, yet also satisfying to look back on. I wanted to do another one this year, but I was in the middle of reading THE BEST BOOK OF MY LIFE, and I felt compelled to include it on every other post I ever do, so here goes, the 2013 plus January '14 Best Of list:

(Disclaimer: I like superlatives.)

  1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I worry that anything else I read right now will pale in comparison to the language, characterization, and story telling in this book. It is literally art on paper. Every sentence is beautiful, and you can really appreciate the work that went into making it so, so beautiful. 
  2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. LOVE teaching this! Reading it for the second time in five months, and discovering new things every page. 
  3. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  4. We Are Water by Wally Lamb
  5. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (Fun read, but.......... I guess I didn't read very much last year. #englishteacherfail)
  1. Dallas Buyer's Club (Oscar or bust for David Wooderson.)
  2. 12 Years A Slave
  3. Wolf of Wall Street
  4. American Hustle
  5. Zero Dark Thirty
Ranking as the worst movie of the year would be Her. Why oh why oh why oh why oh why is that a movie? Anyone else have this same reaction?

How Did This Get Made?
Last year, I did This American Life episodes. Mixing it up will the much less highfalutin, but much more hilarious podcast with Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael. They discuss how awesome terrible movies are. I would link each episode, but it's a lot easier to just download from iTunes.
  1. From Justin to Kelly
  2. Howard the Duck
  3. Toys
  4. Nothing But Trouble
  5. Hudson Hawk
Chef Kelly English is responsible for three out of five. It's official. I'm in love.
  1. Peacemaker at Bouré
  2. Bone marrow at Iris (My first foray into the marrow world. When can I go back?)
  3. Pimento cheese fries at Second Line
  4. Surf and Turf at Iris (A strip steak stuffed with blue cheese and fried oysters. Food Network's even in on it.)
  5. Chilequiles at Beauty Shop (Never lets me down.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Immersion Blender, Where Have You Been All My Life?

When it's convenient, I like to pride myself on the lack of technology in my home. Not that I don't love some technology (the television and microwave, in these particular circumstances), but there is a part of me that likes the idea of making what I have work. I'm perfectly happy watching TV on my computer and heating up my spaghetti in a skillet (mmm, crunchy noodles...)

But I received an immersion blender, and Y'ALL! It has changed the way I breakfast, no it's changed the way I live. So forget simple blender living. So not convenient. 

(I blogged 18 months ago about loving the smoothie making with the whey ice cubes. In this post, I did whine about the trouble it takes to clean a blender, and UPDATE: what I still have in my freezer? A baggie full of whey cubes. Why? Because I never made another smoothie....UNTIL NOW!)

In every way the regular blender sucks, the immersion blender shines. It's quick, not messy (i.e., doesn't spill), and gloriously easy to clean. I recommend, recommend, recommend. Since school started, I've been making this smoothie every night: 

Handful of old fashioned oats
Teaspoonish of chia seeds
8 oz of plain non-fat greek yogurt
generous pour of almond milk (maybe a half cup)

Stir it all together and let it sit in the fridge overnight. In the container that comes with the immersion blender. With a ghetto foil lid on top. (Side note: I once rode in a cab in Chattanooga at 3AM with a driver drinking something that looked eerily similar to this. Except I believe she had replaced the almond milk, yogurt, chia seeds, and oats with vodka. Terrifying.)

Back to smoothieing (smoothing?): When you're up and ready to conquer the world the next morning, find your overnight creation, pour in some more almond milk to keep things moving, add in frozen fruit, maybe a half a banana, and a touch of honey, and then blend away. 

What a great way to start off the new year! Thank you to my parents for the gift!

In sourdough news, homemade English muffins are [inaudible sounds]. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bulletin Boarding

It's no secret that I love making bulletin boards. I just go through creative spurts and lulls with them.  At the end of the semester, I had some extra time, and three bulletin boards were in desperate need of Pattiwagonning, so stapler in hand, I went at at.

We have the new PSAT books board (S/o to Maggie Dennis for the original. I just redid it after some major water damage.)  

We have the anti-bullying English hall board:

And finally, for my old friends on the History/Foreign Language hall, a 2014-themed board:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Books of 2013

I did this 17-word exercise after a teaching seminar last year, and I thought I'd try it again with the books I read in 2013. Sadly, my 2013 list is shorter than 2012, but what I did read, I read with much more gusto. #englishteacherprobz

So here goes, the books of 2013 in exactly 17 words:

*Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Loathed book as 9th grader, but Pip's adventures in England are CAPTIVATING! Havisham: most creative character ever? (LOVED it!)

*The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Reading number three, never gets old.  Favorites: picking chicken for prostitute, Hitler loved dogs, et tahm seben. (LOVED it!)

*Othello by William Shakespeare
Green-eyed monster still just as pernicious; teaching Shakespeare is intimidating, y'all. Tried to channel inner Professor Marshall. (LOVED it!)

*The Chosen by  Chaim Potok
Coming of age friendship between Jewish boys (Orthodox and Hasid). Very informative about Judaism minutiae, ergo dry. (Liked it.)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Fun epistolary story about a crazy mother's neighborly spats and eventual disappearance in Antarctica, needed another chapter. (Liked it.)

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
Disturbing and crazy and beautiful and engaging and enraging and gerbils and painting and lesbians, that's Wally. (Liked it.)

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Friendships and romances and histrionics from summer camp extend into adulthood, very much A Marriage Plot feel. (Meh. Kind of liked it.)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Sweeping continents and eras, a sweeping novel about Richard Burton's pitiful mistress and a wannabe movie developer. (Loved it.)

Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
Summertime adventures and experimentations of twenty-somethings. Crime rings, book warehouses and a girl named Phlox, maybe? (Liked it.)

City of Women by David Gillham
WWII era married Gentile woman falls in love with and forsakes (?) Jewish "Jew collector." Movie theater sex. (Liked it.)

Those last two were from January, clearly. And the *ed books were texts I taught.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Muskrat Love

In addition to being a terrible Captain and Tennille (love them otherwise!) song, this is what I've been feeling over the last week.  I spent a week in Florida for Christmas and participated in many old traditions and some new traditions (bird! watching! at the dump!).  One of my anytime Florida traditions has become thrifting.  Thrift shops are better in Florida for two reasons, which I will detail here: 1) Heaven's waiting room has a lot to get rid of.  And 2) Transplants from the north realize they no longer need their furs.  

My mom and I went on Customer Appreciation Day, which means 50% off boutique items, aka anything with sequins and 20% off everything else.  After narrowing down my choices to five dresses (including a Freaky Friday velvet ensemble), I perused the non-clothing section, and what did I find, but my one true muskrat love, a muskrat pelt!?!  Now, it was oddly shaped and had no lining, but these things can be fixed.  (Side note: I wonder if each section is a little muskrat.  I do feel a tinge of guilt for the harming of muskrats, but not so much I could refuse the offer.)

What didn't need fixing was the beautiful coloring, warmth, and softness of the fur. 

And the nifty price tag. Remember, 20% off. 

As soon as I got back to Memphis, I got to working.  I actually purchased a pattern to use, exhibiting my dedication to the muskrat. Furs like this don't come around often, and I wasn't about to ruin it with slapdashery. 

It came together quite easily, and I couldn't be happier with it.  It was a hit on New Year's Eve, but I could also wear it to school.  I feel like I learn a lesson every time I sew, and the lesson of the muskrat vest is darts, darts, DARTS!  They make all the difference in the world in the fit of a vest.  So go out thrifting, find yourself a muskrat, and put some darts in it! 

Happy New Year, Pattiwagoneers!