Sunday, November 30, 2008

"This, is the North Pole." "No it isn't! Where's the snow?"

First snow in Missouri.

Ok, these pics turned out way worse than I thought. In the bottom set you are supposed to be able to see the snow falling. And in the top one it is thick on the ground. I can't figure out how to upload the pictures the way I want them to be.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

I was invited to a coworker's house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was very nice of her to invite me and it was a fun group of people to spend the afternoon with.

It was really funny to compare the dinner with my family's traditional Thanksgiving dinner. My mom spends two days cooking. Wednesday she starts with pies. Always 2 apple pies, 2 pumpkin pies, and 2 lemon meringue pies. Then probably some hors d'ouvres and anything else that can be done the day ahead, like rolls. On Thanksgiving a 25 lb turkey goes into the oven.

My family starts eating as soon as we get up. We believe in pie for breakfast, so we might start with some pie for breakfast. But then the hors d'ouvres come out. There is always a cheese ball with crackers, usually hummus, cheese, and some veggies, chips and salsa or guacamole, sometimes there is fruit. All morning long we walk back and forth past the kitchen table and eat and eat.

Then it is time for the actual dinner. Turkey, of course, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, rolls, green beans, stuffing, salad, raspberry jell-o salad. And now my oldest sister also contributes side dishes to the meal, usually veggies or salad. It is an enormous amount of food and a huge variety.

At my coworker's house, four single people gathered and we just brought a few things. My coworker cooked a 14 lb turkey, and had a can of gravy and a can of cranberry sauce. Her friend brought mashed potatoes, apple pie, and cornbread. I brought green beans, brussell sprouts, and pumpkin pie (gluten free). And the other friend brought rolls.

The funniest part to me was that after passing the food around one time they all sat back and said "Oh, I am so full!" And I thought, wait, we're supposed to pass the food around a couple more times.

I did make a gluten free pumpkin pie which I took. It was pretty easy to make, except that it was impossible to roll out. Because it wasn't done with regular flour it just wouldn't roll and just mushed and broke. So I wound up just pressing it into the pan. It got rave reviews. I was so proud of myself because everyone really enjoyed it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.

I was so excited last week because I drove home a different way and passed a movie theater. In passing, I glanced at the sign (of course) and noticed that The Dark Knight and Wall-e were playing. I thought that was odd, so when I got home I googled it and it is a $2.00 theater! Yay! Civilization!

So today, I decided to go to see The Dark Knight. Apparently I had a pretty crappy summer, and didn't see any summer movies. I walked into the movie theater and bought my ticket. I was the only person there, but it was 1:00 on the day after Thanksgiving, I just figured most people went to the real movies. There were only two people working and so they just handed me my ticket without telling me which theater the movie was showing in. I walked down the long hallway and found The Dark Knight in the last theater (there are only 6). I walked in and it was like 80 degrees! I was so hot in there. I picked my seat and sat down, and the seat flipped clear back so I was almost laying down.

I just started cracking up. But then I moved to the next seat, and it wasn't nearly as bad. I got all settled, and a couple other people came in and the movie started.

But then the movie started flickering really weirdly. One of the other people got up and told the manager, and then the manager came in a hollered "Just give me five minutes to change the lightbulb on the projector." Everyone was really patient. But there was a little kid and his dad sitting behind me. The little kid started asking his dad all these questions about the movie. Clearly the kid was too young to be there, because he didn't understand the movie at all. Then the kid finally said, "And it takes 10 minutes to change a lightbulb?!"

"How many movie theater managers does it take to change a lightbulb?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I say a little prayer for you

I had an unusual morning this morning. I got suckered into going to the Mayor's Breakfast. Our college President reserved 3 tables at the Mayor's Breakfast, and needed people to fill them. He got quite a few administrators, but he really wanted some faculty. So, he sent Cheryl down the hall to the newest full-time faculty - me and my office mate. We tried to strike the delicate balance between willing and hesitant, while not honestly being able to say we were unavailable. I tried for unavailable by asking what time it started, my class starts at 11, I was hoping the Mayor's Breakfast could more appropriately be considered a brunch. And when I was told it starts at 6:30 am, I responded, "Oh no. I don't do 6:30." (Which brings up a whole other reflection for another day).

Still, I found myself with a ticket in hand, expected to show up at 6:30 am for the Mayor's Breakfast. And so I did. As the program started they said that they had over 700 hundred people in attendance. With that many people, there is no way I can complain about the food. It was good, and they seemed to have plenty of it. They had a choice between sausage or bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy. I had never seen biscuits and gravy before we moved to the South, and now that I have moved to the Midwest, I fully expected to never see it again (and I can't say that I would miss it). But there they were, traditional Southern biscuits and gravy. And my office mate claimed they were a traditional American breakfast. So I learned something. But I kept walking down the line expecting to see a basket of fruit. And when it wasn't there I thought, oh well, it's because this is the hot stuff, the fruit will be outside. No. Not a single piece of fruit.

All of which is not truly the drama of the Mayor's Breakfast. The drama started with the program. It turns out that the Mayor's Breakfast is a prayer service. And for some reason I am kind of bothered by that. Now, I generally consider myself a spiritual person. Most people would label me religious because I do attend church every Sunday. But I was kind of bothered by this whole service that started with a prayer, included a pastor reading a section from the New Testament and expounding on it, a singer singing some kind of crazy modern Christian music (which bothered me all the more because of the quality and she was singing along with a cassette tape) and the Lord's Prayer (the entire congregation was expected to join in singing the Lord's Prayer--since when is that sung and not just spoken?).

I have been thinking about this all day, and wondering why I was bothered by the religious aspects of the Mayor's Breakfast. And I think it simply comes down to the fact that I feel duped. I was asked to go as a representative of my school, a public community college with no religious affiliation at all. It was organized by the Mayor, an elected official who was elected despite any religious affiliation he may have. And it was simply called the Mayor's Breakfast, with no indication at all that there would be any religious aspect, and I was told it was simply a time for the muckey-mucks to rub shoulders. I think I just don't like being tricked into participating in religious events.

Although, if I could look past all of this, the keynote speaker was very interesting. She was traveling in the Philippines with her husband and they were taken hostage by a group affiliated with al-Qaeda who kept them for more than a year. After a year, she was freed by the Philipine military, but her husband was killed in the last gun battle. She had a fascinating story and was a good speaker.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If I cook the stuffing inside the turkey, can I kill all my dinner guests? That's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

I was getting so excited for Thanksgiving. You know, I'm the kind of person who can just really embrace a holiday that's all about eating. To prepare, I've been watching the Food Network, basically all the time. They are doing all kinds of Thanksgiving specials. I watched Paula Deen fry everything possible (which frankly is a little gross, and I think Paula is pretty annoying), but I enjoyed watching Rachel Ray doing Thanksgiving in an hour (while she is also annoying, it's an idea I can get behind). I watched some spiky haired guy make pastrami turkey, which was a little weird. But they were all just fascinating.

I have also been doing a bit of recipe searching. Of course, I can't eat all of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, so I have been searching for recipes to do some alternatives. My sisters have given me gluten-free cookbooks, so I am trying to decide between yogurt-apple pie and pumpkin pie. I know, just make both right?

So, I was getting excited. I like trying new recipes. And I am planning on going down to the Plaza for the Christmas lights show that they are doing.

But then my students asked me if I am going home for Thanksgiving. I responded that no, our break is too short and it is too expensive, so I am staying here. And they all said, oh no. And I was sad. And then I talked to my mom, and my littlest sister is very sad, so that made me sadder again. And then I talked to my office mate yesterday. He started the conversation and said, "So when are you going home for Thanksgiving?" And I said I'm not.

"What?! That's terrible! Why?"

So I had to explain the whole thing, and I was even sadder. Now I am not excited.

But there will be pie.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How often do you look at a man's feet? Update

I really just have to update you on this. Back at the gym this morning, I saw the same old man in the grey track suit. Still wearing his black dress shoes! And this time he was on the stairmaster!

I really thought it was a fluke. You know, like the time I forgot my belt. ... Or my bra. ... Or my towel. But those things NEVER happened twice.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I mean, how often do you really look at a man's feet?

I like to watch people at the gym. Sometimes I feel a little creepy about doing this, because I definitely don't want people to watch me when I'm at the gym. Because, ew. But most of the time I pretend that other people can't see me, and I just watch them to my heart's content (ever thought about what a strange phrase that is?).

This morning, well, let me start at the beginning.

I go to the gym about 7:30 in the morning. I'm a professor, I don't have anywhere to be. I am still surprised at how many old people are at the gym when I am there. I know the demographic is skewed based on the time, but it's still amazing to me. So I go to the gym and work out with all the old people. Let me tell you, it's doing wonders for my self-esteem.

This morning, I was doing crunches on the mat, when an old man walked over. And I started cracking up. He was dressed in a coordinated grey tracksuit. You know the kind, short sleeve shirt (I'm sure it has a jacket, but at this point he had ditched it), grey pants with the stripe down the side. And, on his feet, shiny black dress shoes.

And I'm serious about shiny. I'm sure he had just polished these nice dress shoes.

As I was laying on the mat, chuckling about the man and his dress shoes, I couldn't stop thinking about The Shawshank Redemption.

So for now the dress shoes have become my top favorite gym moment, and last week's moment has fallen to a distant second place. But I'll tell you about it anyway.

Again, I was on the mat stretch or doing crunches or something, and two girls walked over to use the mat beside me.

One was in a tube top.

A bright pink, terry-cloth-looking material, tube top. I just laughed and laughed. Who works out in a tube top? If you run (which she probably didn't), everything would just fall right out!

I guess that's one way to get some attention.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Excuse me, do you have any candy corn?

If a picture's worth a thousand words, then I better start writing fast, because I didn't have my camera with me.

Tonight I have my night classes. My early one is one of my favorites, the students are active and funny, although they can get a little rambunctious (secretly, I really wanted that to be spelled with a k).

So tonight, we were writing a little bit, and one of the students finished so he got up and walked out. (This does not bother me. I don't want 20 year olds asking me if they can go to the bathroom). He --let's call him Jacob-- came back in with a bag of candy corn. I was observing my class, and so I watched him open it. He offered me some, and I declined. But then I said, "There's still candy corn in the vending machine?" And he said, "Yeah, and jelly beans."

He turned to the kid beside him --we'll call him Joseph (wow, picking fake names is harder than I thought, because I keep rejecting different names because they just don't fit personality-wise)-- and gave Joseph a handful of candy corn. Joseph takes them, turns away, then turns back with 2 candy corn stuck over his teeth to make little vampire teeth.

It was hilarious. Not original. But they are just so goofy that it was really funny.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I enjoy having breakfast in bed. I like waking up to the smell of bacon, sue me.

As part of my quest to be a grown up, I bought a big bed. I don't remember if I have mentioned it before. I used to have a twin bed. It didn't fit in the Honda. And I simply decided that I would buy a new bed. My dad seemed pretty upset by that and couldn't understand why I didn't want to bring my bed with me. I told him that I was going to buy a big bed. A queen size bed.

He made fun of me.

But I love my new bed.

Since I bought the bed, I have been searching for a new comforter (I did just buy the sheets from Wal-mart, but I wanted the comforter to be something I like). Fortunately for me, Linens'n'Things is going out of business.

Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

They've got corn, they've got meat, they've got fruit and drink.

I have already talked a bit about my food issues. But they were brought up again last night by my roommate.

I've been living with this girl for a whole two weeks now, but we basically never see each other (which is kind of perfect). She's a high school teacher and leaves the house at like 6 am. I teach college, and with my night classes I don't get home until after 8 pm.

But last night, we were standing around in the kitchen. She was trying to convince herself to wash the dishes, and I -- of course -- was eating. She says, "You eat a lot of fruit." And I wish mere words could convey the tone and expression. She attempted to say it - say as in a calm and casual observation of fact, but it came out in partial disbelief and partial disgust. I must have just looked at her, because she continued. "I mean, when I got home on Sunday, I thought that was a total mountain of fruit, and now it is gone."

I snorted, and pointed out that the majority of what was in the bowl on Sunday were vegetables, which I chose to put in the fridge because vegetables just rot after they are picked (let's review the difference between fruits and vegetables), and a big squash.

But she did succeed in making me totally self-conscious of my eating habits, which I recognize are not normal in any way. I loaded my bag up this morning with my usual food for the day: a cup of yogurt for breakfast (which I eat after my workout at the gym), a cup of rice'n'beans for lunch, and then I paused and looked at the two bananas in the bowl. Normally, I would have just shoved both in my bag, one for elevensies, and one for my afternoon snack. But I actually stopped and thought about it, no, I should only take one. I was rushing though, so I grabbed both.

And I'm glad I did! I was hungry at 3, and that second banana was all I had! And what's so wrong with eating fruit? If I'm enjoying myself and am happy with life, why do people have to be judge-y?

I'm gonna eat whatever I feel like, gosh!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

In times like this, I realize that I should've kept that teaching job.

I was asked the most outrageous student question today.

I got an email that went like this: "I had the chance to visit my father this weekend and I haven't seen him in a really long time. If I move to be closer to him, can you arrange the class so I can submit the work online so I won't have to drop?"

We'll ignore the fact that there was absolutely no greeting to this email, nor was there a signature, and we'll focus instead on the absolutely extreme demand.

It took me a while. I just stared at the screen. And then I was like, whoa, let me get this straight -- Emily, can you rearrange the class so that I can pass without bothering to show up? Yeah, because that whole attendance thing is so overrated. Emily, can you set up and run an online class just for me, because the whole coming to class thing just isn't working out. Sure, since I've never taught an online class I'm sure it will work out great. And since you are being so successful at coming to class and turning in the work in person, it sounds like a great idea.

So I wrote back and said, No, it isn't possible.


Decisions are made by those who show up. You gotta rock the vote!

I'm feeling a little let down. This election has been hyped and hyped. Everyone has been talking about it for two years. The "battle" has been dissected a million times. "They" said there would be record turn out, that more Americans are involved in politics than ever before.

I was one of two voters at my polling place.

I was so prepared! I took a book. I ate a snack. I was ready to stand in line for an hour. I wanted to see lots of people engaged in the political process! I'm a little sad that I didn't get that experience. I mean, really, it was supposed to be an Experience (which I capitalize on purpose)! A historical election. One that will be remembered. Instead, I walked straight in to my polling place (a University), showed them my driver's license (which they did have to check for validity, because I haven't updated yet). They handed me a ballot, I walked straight to a booth, cast my vote, and walked out two minutes later. So unmemorable.

Although, I think I have a great job. At 1:00 pm, I said to my boss, ok, I'm going to go vote now. He responded, "Oh great! That's good, go get it done!"

I realize that reads a little flat, but he was actually enthusiastic.