Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Academians are snobbish

Not all of the time.  But sometimes.  We (and I'm absolutely lumping myself into this high-brow bunch mostly because it seems to be the group that I self-identify with, perhaps out of desperation...) seem to think that once you teach a class, you own it.  Once you own it, you let others know that you own it.  Once you let others know that you own it, you "freely" share your wealth of information about what you own.  We're just kinda snobby with each other

You have to prove yourself with your colleagues, and it always starts with some variation of "What is your degree/experience?"  This is often sneakily hidden in a seemingly innocuous, ice-breaker-ish line of questioning.  "Oh, hi.  My name is Amy.  We haven't met before.  What do you teach?  How long have you taught?  I teach X class; please, let me tell you nuanced details about it that allows me to strut my academic peacock feathers (gender ambiguity, intentional) and then I'm going to make a slightly cutting remark about how you don't know what you're getting into [awkward social laughter]."

It's good to have an educational background that you're proud of because no one (bar none!) wants to walk around at conferences and the like forced to admit that they bought earned a degree from an online degree mill.  That just earns you pitying looks and even more unsolicited information about how you don't know what you're getting into [awkward social laughter].  For the record--I didn't buy my degrees.

It's also good to not make assumptions about anyone around you given their physical appearance, though frankly, I wish some of my colleagues of yore would head this piece of advice.  Just because I have 2 social left feet and do the wallflower shuffle more often than not, that doesn't mean that I'm a) inept as an instructor, b) desiring you school me in how I can be a better, more aware, instructor, or c) unaware of your awesomeness [awkward social laughter].  And frankly speaking fellow academic snob, don't discount what I say just because I don't have your tenure.  While I fully recognize and understand that we don't have to be bosom academic buddies, I also fully recognize and understand that I don't want to be like you, even when I have accumulated some more notches in my belt of tenure.  Oh please let it be known that I wholeheartedly try to not insinuate my experience on others when I sniff out someone less experienced than I.  Please don't let me be that academic shark. 

That being said (and not really directed at any one individual so much as my somewhat tongue-in-cheek observations on academics as a whole), always wear layers to a conference.  The room is always colder than you expect, and you're stuck there for hours.  A doughnut can only assuage the goosebumps so much (i.e. not at all). 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pie-d Piper

I'm a baker at heart.  I can and not often enough do spend an afternoon putting things together in the kitchen.  It's especially something I enjoy when the girls are spending some QT with the boy and I can just go

Perhaps because I'm there all of the time, I can multi-task purty well in that domain.  As of late, that's about all I can focus at with any ability, it seems like.  My head's been all in a-whirl as of late with new ventures starting and new things to figure out.  It's fundamentally soul satisfying to be able to put together something enjoyable for your kid or spouse, whatever that offering may be; for me, I fall into the cliche of food for my fam as a labor of love.  There's nothing that original about it.  I know my people's biggest weaknesses and though they aren't my own, I'm more than willing to work those into the rotation.  The boy never met a cookie that he didn't like and big sprout is all about the cupcake.

But the boy also has a soft spot for pie.  The one dessert that I could not care less about.  There has never been a time in my life where I have been tempted to order pie off of a menu or have forsaken pretty much anything else sweet in favor of a piece of pie.  It's not even close to my dessert of choice (of which there are many).  And, in all of the 9 or so years since I have had some semblance of my own kitchen, I have never just felt motivated to make a pie. 

  *has a mercurial base in its crust--either decent or really bad, and much too often, it's really bad
  *doesn't have a toothsome quality of pretty much every other dessert
  *is fussy
  *can require a lot of fruit or pecans, neither of which are generally what I consider to be cheap
  *isn't worth wasting all of that fruit or pecans when I can luxuriate in both of those countless ways,
    for much longer

I made it once, a few years ago, giving in to the psuedo-begging of the boy.  There's something unsavory about him raving about his mom's pie (see * #1), which I've come to understand is more of a childhood warm-fuzzy rather than a true devotion to pie, but it still rubs me uncomfortably.  I CAN MAKE PIE, TOO, DANGIT.

So I did, again.  I don't know why, probably because I love the boy, but I promised a blueberry pie if/when I went blueberry picking out of thanks for babysitting the girls in my absence.  (I know how that sounds; it's not like I have to pay him for taking care of his own children, but I appreciate small tokens of sacrifice in exchange for my work around here and I try to reciprocate.  Don't send the feminists of yore after me; it's all about choice.)  What do you know...I stumbled upon opening day in the blueberry picking season and came back some 14# richer in those sweet, sweet little nuggets.  And I even took one of the two tiny tots with me, so his babysitting duties were fairly insubstantial.

But I did it.  True to my word, I made a pie.  And it was a decent looking pie.  I even made two pies.

And...I forgot to add sugar.  Luckily, they were blueberry pies, so they're not pucker-tart as some other berries.  And frankly, I didn't miss the sugar though the boy admitted to being a touch disappointed.  It was still a tasty little pastry. 

And then I made another pie today: raspberry.  I'm not hooked, but perhaps my mindset has changed?  A little.  Someone show me a pan of brownies before I start spewing forth more gibberish!  Make a pie and the boy will eat it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Disclaimer: I'm typing gimp tonight.  The cuticle on my left hand's middle finger sustained a serious minor cut which is all Bandaid-ed up.  If I appear to be off  my game tonight and let a grammar flaw slip through my rigorous lackluster editing process, let's blame that.

Of late, I seem to be wallowing in a bit more decadence than is normal, even for me.  In my personal dictionary (my own noggin), "decadence" equates with anything luxurious or extra special.  Examples, you ask?  My super soft gray sheets & down comforter (decadent).  The first two sips of a venti Starbucks drink (decadent).  Any sort of a paycheck (I jest...a little). 

But this is going to be something of a food post because food is always in season. 

Decadence #1:  coconut ice cream
Where have you been all of my life?  Good grief, it took me far, far too long to discover the joy that is this.  Admittedly, while I very much enjoy sugary things, I'm also someone who tends to revisit the same old-same old treats almost always.  I feel no need to try the pistachio cookie when I know that the chocolate chip variety is basically perfect.  And there's just about nothing worse in my food world than to splurge pay for something that is supposed to be a treat but turns out to be mediocre.  Hence, if I'm going to break out the wallet for something soul satisfying, I want to make sure it actually is soul satisfying.  And I'm the first to admit it proudly: I like vanilla.  I always get some variation of vanilla ice cream, in fact.  Always.  Vanilla ice cream with pecans, caramel, maybe brownies, maybe waffle cone...I'm drooling over here.  I pretty much get this yum in a bowl e.v.e.r.y. time we're at some sort of ice cream place.  We're big fans of the stuff, so that's pretty much the only place that we "go out to eat" anymore.  Other than Panera.  We are devoted fans of that place as well.  (It seems justifiable to spend $6 for 2 medium whatevers rather than $30 for 2 heavy dinners.)  So rewind to anniversary night out a few weeks ago and we found ourselves visiting not one but TWO dessert places after dinner.  One right after the other, the way it should be.  This is also how you know that I married well; I had the idea but wasn't sure if I should voice it given the piggish nature of it all when the boy up and reads my mind.  It almost made me blush.  We hit up a suggested cupcakery (which sadly was overrated when The Flying Cupcake was oh, so close by and is oh, so much better) and then drove a mere mile or so to a groovy and also recommended fro-yo place.  Perhaps I was still all blushy, but I foresooked the typical vanilla and went with...coconut (still white, still okay).  It was like a revelation, not because it was necessarily in and of itself so divine but my understanding of non-vanilla ice cream just exploded.  It was perfectly, exactly, undoubtedly what I was wanting.  Finally, it was worth it to take that chance!  And this leads me to...

Decadence #2:  Graeter's coconut chocolate chip ice cream

There's this little town called Cincinnati in this place called Ohio, and it is home to a sinfully delicious ice cream chain called Graeters.  We traveled to said burg this past weekend to visit the sis & bro-in-law, and they performed some mad host/ess skills when they packed us in our car and drove us 10 minutes to ice cream heaven.  Due to my recent revelation about coconut fro-yo, I stepped out of my comfort zone again and (gasp) asked to sample the coconut chocolate chip.  Immediate devotion.  That cone could not come over that counter fast enough.  Frozen yogurt is alright and whatnot in a pinch, but hard ice cream will always win my vote.  Combine that joy with coconut and Graeter's "chocolate chips" and you have achieved some zen-like transcendence for my being.  According to the bro-in-law, and I have no reason not to believe him because this is the type of thing he is good at knowing (random trivia), Graeter's adds liquid chocolate to the ice cream as it is churning, thus resulting in these fudgy, truffle-like nuggets of melty chocolateness pocketed throughout the ice cream.  If you find one of those "chips," you mine that puppy out without telling anyone of your conquest and hope to all of the gods great and small that no one else sees your prize and tries to wrest it from you, especially if you are so unfortunate as to be sharing a couple of scoops with someone.  You might love the person you choose to share the ice cream with, but you don't have to love them that much at that moment, right?  I don't know what got into the boy, but he actually GAVE ME FREE OF CHARGE one of his huge chocolate nuggets from his own ice cream booty, without me asking.  I looked up and there was a spoon of joy being offered to me.  I a) didn't tell him that I had a big chunk staring at me provocatively in my own cone and b) didn't ask questions but ate it post haste.  It's like he was trying to seduce me.  (Hello, are you new here?)  For the record, my local grocery store does carry Graeter's and in coconut chocolate chip and it is on sale this week and I bought myself a pint because that's about as much as one trip to Culver's so it's really money in the bank if I stretch that pint out over...3 days.  Actually, I'm pretty good at nibbling through a pint a couple of bites at a time.  This pint is still going strong, half way through, and I got it Monday.  Will power, my friends.  Strangely enough, this one also leads me to...

Decadence #3:  Vanilla Spiced Chai Iced Tea

You understand the connection, right?  Coconut chocolate chip ice cream...vanilla spiced chai iced tea.  Hand-in-hand.  Well, let me fill you in on a secret to the boy's family: they like good food, tea, trying new food things, and dessert.  I'm normally not much of an iced tea person seeing as how it's often a) bitter (which isn't always bad to me) b) nothing more than sugar water disguised as an acceptable drink or c) fairly tasteless.  I'm good with plain water, thanks.  I kind of feel like I'm failing at being an adult in one way that I still have to ask how to make iced tea should the fleeting moment hit me where I feel like drinking it.  Thus, color us all shocked when I stole a drink from the boy's glass over the weekend (that's right, at Cincinnati with the in-laws who prescribe to those four aforementioned food beliefs) and discovered not just iced tea but rather iced tea!  Who knows why, but he fixed himself a glass from some vanilla spiced chai that he found in his sister's pantry.  Maybe she suggested it.  Maybe he just got a little whimsical.  Either way, a similar glass quickly made its way into my hand and a box of those little tea bags found its way into my grocery cart bright and early the next morning.  It is a delightful little break from my two norms: water and coffee (which, ironically, I started drinking as a break from just water).  And as I am easing my way back into the world of caffeine, I delight in being able to slip this into my daily routine.  Someone throw me a teeth whitener.  Oy.

Decadence #4:  A 4-year old's mind

The boy's 31st birthday is coming up in the beginning of August.  This has created much excitement our 4-year old's world as there is nothing, not even running, that she enjoys more than a good birthday and all of the excitement that leads up to that.  This has led to many birthday-themed discussions as of late, including a little gem from yesterday that started by her saying something about Daddy turning 100.  Cheeky parents that we are, we nipped that number in the bud and said "Sorry kid.  Daddy isn't going to be 100 for another 69 years."  She, who travels in murky, hit-and-miss territories once she passes 30 in her counting, wondered what came after 30 then.  We wondered where 100 came from.  Apparently, it directly follows 30.  When she's on, there's nothing more delightful than to eat dinner together, listening to her imaginative stories and trying to follow her train of thought.  It's something of a psychedelic journey at times, as is the way of a 4-year old.  That is, undoubtedly, the best decadence of all, don't you think?  

Monday, July 15, 2013

In a groovy mood with the Uncles and the Aunts

Blink.  It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted last.  Why?  Because we've been in a groove of BUSY. 

How, oh how, is it that with two parents bumming around the house with their two kids (the ratio seems to be good here), we've been on some real life carnival ride?  It's like if the Scrambler and the Ferris Wheel had a little carnival love baby ride.  Crazy weird ride, right?  Yes.  It's been like that.  So that's why I've been snappish with my child who only wants a little snack in the afternoon.

No.  It's not just a little snack.  It's a production just as often as not.  It's sweet daughter chose to take her rest time early, which means she was finishing right when cuddle baby would need to go down, thereby negating any overlappage of rest time, which we all know means MAMA'S REST TIME.  And MAMA just needs to write ONE sentence, just ONE.  And sweet daughter bopping around MAMA in circles singsonging "Can I have a snack?  Can I have a snack?  Can I have a snack?" can only be ignored so long.  And when MAMA asks sweet daughter what she wants for a snack, after MAMA pulled some large chunks of hair out trying to focus for longer than a hiccup, angel voice responds "I don't know.  What can I have?"  Really.  You went with me to the store this morning.  You can look at the fruit basket on the table, a mere 2 feet from your Punky Brewster nose.  You.  Have.  Eyes.  Oh children.

But sweet daughter has been a sweet tagalong for the past couple of weeks.  We've been to not one but t-w-o zoos in less than a week.  We've been blueberry picking.  We've been all over town enjoying the respite from July heat.  And Mama has been visiting college friends and the lake with cuddle baby in tow. 

All of that is nice and all, but so far, who's still reading this boring drivel?  Here's the what what of this post.  My kids have excellent uncles and aunts.  This is my morning shower pondering: I have good uncles and aunts, but none that I would even remotely consider myself "close" to, which has not been something that I would go to therapy for.  It's my normal.  But my brothers and slew of brother/sister-in-laws have been nothing short of oh-so-much-better-than-I-ever-had.  And my kids just soak up the fun times and attention.  Now that sweet daughter is stretching out and all grown-up-ish (you know, for a pre-schooler), I adore some high energy play time...from the sidelines.  We aren't the de facto entertainment producers, and it's just fabulous.  Plus, my kids are unwittingly privy to some rich relationships that will undoubtedly serve them well for many a year to come. 

We made a quick weekend tour of Cincinnati this weekend and by a strange twist of scheduling managed to meet up with not only the OH uncle & aunt but the IL uncle and aunt as well.  It was nothing short of glorious uncle-and-aunt bliss for sweet daughter, to the extent that she made up a fun little "I'm so glad I get to play with my uncles and aunts!!!" ditty for all to hear in a public restroom in the middle of Findlay Market.  It's not the Mamas and the Papas.  No, it's better.  It's the Uncles and the Aunts in full giggling glory.