Archive for the ‘Daily Life’ Category

Back to School

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Well, two important things happened this week. Potter and Andrea were married, and I started back to school. Since I started school on Monday and Potts and Andrea got married on Tuesday, first things first.

(Why do we say “got” married? Like we go to the store and pluck a married off the shelf? Anyway.)

It’s my first semester working on a graduate-level teaching certification. I have mixed feelings about it. I’ll admit that there was a little bit of despair at the beginning of the week (no surprise there; despair has sort of been my middle name for the past few weeks). The coursework is not something I am passionate about in the same sense as I am literature and writing.  I am depressed by the fact that we have “homework” assignments … yes, homework, like a bunch of middle schoolers. I haven’t had homework in more than ten years. Oh, yes, there are assignments and journals, but never homework.

Then one of my textbooks didn’t come in. Cue more despair. Bobby ordered it … six weeks ago? So he ordered me a second copy with two-day shipping. And, of course, the first copy arrived the next day.

Having now done most of my reading for the week (because I was hampered by the lack of textbook and aforementioned despair), I can say that it’s interesting to see these things put into words and to have terms to discuss the concepts … but it’s all so intuitive. I’ve been doing many of these things for years, from the time I was a trainer at The Piece till now, when I teach my web-design class.

I am trying very, very hard to maintain a positive attitude about this. If nothing else, I am not called “Hermione” without a reason: I can launch into schoolwork whether I like it or not, and the process of working through a list of assignments is itself rewarding to my well-conditioned brain. I am really hoping, though, to get a good amount of value from these classes. I don’t want to just go through the motions but to feel inspired to think and act on what I learn.

*sigh* I was spoiled by being a literature major where just about every class left me wanting to learn more, read more. Which I have tried to do in my break and am a little resentful that I won’t be able to continue doing now.

On a positive note, lifting the despair a bit is the fact that I feel like I’m finally working towards something tangible. Yes, last year I was too, but it didn’t feel as real. I applied for a classroom-observation internship with Carroll County at the start of the week, and then it felt real. Yes, it will take two years, but moving forward one week at a time is far preferable to the feeling of stagnation (and despair–there’s a theme here!) that has plagued me since school let out in March.

So my classes this semester are the introduction to teaching course, educational psychology (which looks like intro to psych from the PoV of a teacher), and secondary teaching strategies. The last is probably the one I look forward to the most because it seems like I might really get something out of it. Educational psych … well, like I said, it’s like PSYC100 for teachers, and I have a degree in psych. So while it will be interesting to see concepts that I learned as pure theory or in a clinical context applied to educational settings, then I expect that most of the major ideas will be a review … a much-needed review, but a review nonetheless.

I’m on the fence about the intro class. Bobby had this his last semester, and for one, the syllabus is rather confusing with a lot of conflicting information (always annoying), and it required a textbook about Microsoft Office, which thankfully Bobby didn’t insult me by buying for me. I suppose it is reflective of the fact that I more or less grew up with computers that I feel like schools and workplaces shouldn’t cater to people who haven’t managed to figure out how to use basic software programs yet. It’s not like Word and Excel are cutting-edge programs anymore. I had coursework in MS Office when I was in the ninth grade. I’m kind of scornful of having to pay for graduate credits to learn MS Excel.

Oh, and two of the classes require groupwork. Groupwork?! I told Bobby in a rather rantastic moment on the way home from work on Monday that teachers/professors who base one’s grades on groupwork have obviously never been one of the smartest kids in the class who inevitably get stuck in a groupwork setting and end up doing all of the work because, otherwise, the project will be shit. So it’s between choosing to break one’s back to get good grades for one’s peers or doing one’s part and accepting the grades for the mediocrity of one’s peers. I can certainly understand cooperative learning (although as a shy kid who got picked on a lot, I am cautious of over-relying on that), but grading a single student based on group efforts is distasteful to me. So I’m seriously, seriously hoping that these group projects don’t fall into that category. Because, based on what Bobby’s told me about the effort most people put into these education classes, I do not want to be stuck again sharing the rewards for my efforts with a lot of deadweights.


To borrow a cliche, I guess the jury’s out at the moment. I am going to try my best to eek whatever value I can from these classes, but I must admit that I wish I was still studying literature right now!

The Hot Pepper Bandit

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

We’re rapidly coming to the end of summer, and it’s the time of plenty right now in northern Maryland, when it seems impossible to walk out to the garden without returning with armfuls of fresh veggies. Bobby and I went to the Westminster farmers’ market today and Baugher’s farm and ended up with even more than what we’ve already grown. We’re slowly squirreling away for the winter as part of our continuing endeavor to lessen our negative impact on the world around us by eating locally produced foods as much as possible.

Yesterday, I added to our burgeoning jar of ground cayenne pepper and made three batches of jalapeño hot sauce. (Tangent: Firefox spellcheck recognizes jalapeno as a word but not jalapeño? WTF??) Today, I made a big jar of habañero hot sauce.

Habañeros are wicked, wicked peppers. They are given a heat rating of 10 on our big pepper poster, the only pepper to earn that honor. (Cayennes are second, being rated 9-10.) We didn’t even intend to grow habañeros this year. We planted too many last year and still have bags of them in the freezer downstairs. This year, when buying plants, we found an innocent-looking wee pepper plant called “Caribbean red hots.” Since we’re always looking to experiment with new plants, we bought two of them and planted them. They grew great! Only when they began to produce fruit, I realized that the fruit looked an awful lot like habañeros.

A Google search reveals that they are a super-hot variety of the same. I can’t bear to let fruit rot on the vine, so as they reddened, I reluctantly picked them and stored them in the refrigerator. As they amassed, I realized that I needed something to do with all of these hot peppers. To flavor with them takes only a pinch–and I do mean a pinch–and our habañeros always produce really, really well. That’s a lot of pinches.

I’ve decided to use last year’s frozen crop and this year’s crop to make hot sauce. And then give it away. Bobby and I like spicy foods but really do not need gallons of habañero hot sauce.

But, like I said, habañeros are wicked peppers. Bobby and I have both learned the hard way about working with hot peppers. Now, I not only wear plastic gloves but also cover my mouth and nose with a folded bandana. It looks more like I’m going to rob a train than cook a condiment, but if I breathe in hot pepper fumes otherwise, even from so innocent a source as running a bowl that held pepper scraps under a hot tap, then I am too miserable coughing and choking to get anything done, not to mention that neither coughing nor choking are ideal in the vicinity of food.

Today, I donned my train-robber get up and proceeded to eviscerate close to two dozen “Caribbean red” habañero peppers. All was going well until I rinsed my gloved hands to rid them of seeds. The little bit of mist was enough to set me off choking and sneezing, so I excused myself to go take care of that. After blowing my nose with a tissue, I folded it and dabbed the tears in my eyes. And–gross TMI warning–apparently I had enough capsaicin in my bogies that even touching my eyelid with a folded tissue that had touched my nose was enough that my eye ended up burning, and I had to wash my face in milk.

Habañeros are wicked, wicked peppers.

The good news, at the end of the day, is that we not only ended up with a big jar of hot sauce but also four jars of pickled jalapeños and five jars of spicy salsa. My right hand is burning (from washing dishes used in processing the peppers), but our canning shelf downstairs is filling up fast, so what’s a little pain? It will be worth it.