Thursday, February 25, 2010


My birthday was on Tuesday ("Welcome to your mid-30s!"), the result of which being my dragging Ed to Brooklyn from Monday to Wednesday. It rained the entire trip, pretty hard at times, rendering my original plan of frolicking outside around Brooklyn moot, but we had a good time anyway. We went to Junior's for lunch (because it's very important to introduce non-natives to the glory that is their cheesecake), then wandered across the street to LIU in the hopes of finding a few people to talk to (utter failure; I was happy to see some former co-workers but a few folks I really wanted to see were either in meetings or were off campus). We decided to hit up the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side; we went on the "Getting By" tour, which was really interesting, especially considering it wasn't a museum I'd heard of before this trip: They'd bought a tenement building and restored two individual apartments (one from a previous Prussian Jewish family in the 1870s; the other from an Italian Catholic family during the Great Depression), while leaving the rest of it intact. (I love history museums.) Really good stuff.

For dinner we went to Les Halles, in the Financial District. Appetizer: Tartiflette (sliced potatoes, bacon, onions, and imported cheese); entree: Choucrote de Poisson (seafood sausage, smoked salmon sausage, sea scallops, smoked herring, salmon caviar, boiled potato, and sauerkraut slow cooked in Riesling) and a glass of the 2007 Pinot Blanc. And the chocolate mousse for dessert. After dinner we attempted to walk around Brooklyn Heights, but once we got off the subway we were nearly knocked over by the wind and rain, so we called it a night. I left feeling frustrated by the sheer amount of rain. Nothing like being smote on your birthday; fortunately we had a really good time anyway.

But - presents! I got books! Specifically: a Thailand travel book; a Tokyo City Guide; and a cookbook of Irish traditional cooking that has recipes in it that I fear will require me to practice them several times before they come out well enough to be edible.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I love to bake, and as such, I bookmark a lot of recipes. (I'm a dweeb. This is public knowledge.) Periodically I go through my recipes folder and weed out the recipes I'd meant to take a closer look at, or those that only ever really half appealed to me, etc., and I keep those I'll want to revisit.

Today I rediscovered two recipes I had very excited about (which makes me sound sad and pathetic) and decided that my baking them must be an imminent event: chocolate-covered salted peanut caramel cups and spicy sweet roasted nuts. Alas, both require sea salt, and as David Lebovitz (formerly of Chez Panisse, which, by the way, is one of the best restaurants I've ever been to; I highly recommend it if you're ever near Berkeley) had recommended a specific sea salt - Fleur De Sel - I went looking. (Sea salt can come from a variety of different geographic areas, can have different flavors, colors, and grinds.)

Amazon didn't currently have any available, but I discovered another site that I immediately bookmarked: My Spice Sage. I bought a four-ounce bag of Fleur De Sel for $11, and even better, because of a promotion my order came with 10 free Madagascar vanilla beans. And - and! I got to choose one free ounce of any of their other spice, so I chose another ounce of Madagascar vanilla beans.

I love all these different spices and seasonings, and I've always been really interested in all these different types of high-end salts, so I'm a bit excited to be playing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Grammar Woes

So here I am, firmly ensconced in teaching my first two college-level courses where I'm not being hovered over. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself, but there are a lot of things I'm still working out.

For example, the ENG 100 (Fundamentals of Writing) class meets twice a week. In one sense, it's less interesting to teach because I'm teaching more low level stuff; on the other hand, it's easier to teach because it's more fundamental. "Less interesting" is also unkind, and a slight misnomer; I can't figure out how to make the grammar lessons suck less and be less mind-numbingly boring to learn.

At the beginning of the teacher's edition of the book we're required to use are sample syllabi, based on the number of weeks in the semester. I chose the 15-week syllabus as a model, and have been following that. (Since this is my first time teaching this level, I figured I'd take advantage of said availability.) In every class we do some writing, and in every class we do some grammar. (Since the students have begun working on a second essay, we were able to use their initial draft as a means of discussing thesis statements and introductory paragraphs, but we also covered parallel sentence structure.) I like to have the students writing in every class; I think it helps them retain what they're meant to be learning. I use a lot of the book's writing prompts and assign many of the practice exercises for homework, which I then collect. Besides using some of the grammar exercises in the book, I've been printing out worksheets for them to work on as well, but I want to find a way of making it less deadly. I swear I could see their eyes glazing over as this was actually happening.

ENG 105 (College English I) is a bit easier because I've taught a comparable class previously; I used a lot of the same readings and writing prompts. There are three differences, though: The book (which is not a novel; it's a collection of readings) was predetermined by the department (and is used department-wide); I didn't assign a novel; and the class meets only once a week, for two hours and 45 minutes, which means I need to have a lot more planned per class session. I'm finding that the most challenging; I need to have more for them to read, discuss, and write about in class. It would be easier if they were a more talkative bunch. I find it more interesting to teach, though, because it allows me to get more in depth with the readings, and assign more difficult writing.