Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Community Thanksgiving

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ At Home with Books

I challenged my Comp I students with a Thanksgiving Community Service project.  Although we are all thrilled to be home and with family for 9 whole days off from school, there are a lot of families who don't have that luxury.  There are also a lot of school children who will be off from school like us for the next 9 days but will NOT have enough to eat.  The 2 hot meals they eat each day at school won't be available to them over the break.  
I told my students that I would give them 5 bonus points for 5 cans of food or other non-perishable items.  
They went crazy.
Most brought more than 5 items even though they knew they would only receive 5 bonus points.  Others specifically picked out "kid" food such as Cinderella and SpongeBob chicken noodle soup, ChefBoyDee ravioli, etc.  

I wanted to cry on Friday, which was the deadline.  It took 10 of my students from my last period class to load my car. 

My daughters and I packed the shelves of the church food pantry this morning.  Please notice that the cans go all the way to the wall and are stacked as high as they can go.  My church opens the pantry to those in need 12 months out of the year...November and December are the hardest hit months.

Several people at the church this morning said they couldn't remember a food pantry haul this large...ever...
I'm officially making this an annual Community Service project for my students.
I love my students...they make everything else about my job worthwhile.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cold Mountain - Discussion #2

The reality of the story's timeframe hit my students hard in last week's discussion of Part II of Cold Mountain...while some parts were hilariously unbelievable to them: 

Junior agreed that the roving life had been a fine one for him, and said that his troubles all began when he settled down and took a wife, for it came to pass that three years after the wedding she bore him a negro baby.   And further, she refused to name the father, denying Junior his just revenge.  He set about instead to divorce her, but the judge had declined to grant one on the grounds that Junior knew she was a slut when he married her.

...other places were grimacingly horrific to them:

It was war in its most antique form, as if hundreds of men were put into a cave, shoulder to shoulder, and told to kill each other.  There was no room for firing and loading muskets, so they mainly used them as clubs.  Inman saw one little drummer boy beating a man's head in with an ammunition box.  The Federals hardly even bothered to fight back.   All underfoot were bodies and pieces of bodies, and so many men had come apart in the blowup and the shelling that the ground was slick and threw a terrible stink from their wet internalments.  The raw diret walls of the crater loomed all around with just a circle of sky above, as if this was all the world there was and fighting was all there was to it.  They killed everybody that didn't run away.

Their discussions this week seemed to morph past the obvious and into more in depth thinking...several of them (Ch, A, T, H, and R) discussed at length Ruby's intelligence.  It was difficult for them to put into words exactly what they were trying to say because the character Ruby seems so primitive.  She had no book learning, but she was actually more equipped to stay alive....and not just in comparison to Ada...actually in comparison to a lot of people, men and women alike.  Ruby called a spade a spade...even questioning the invention of Thanksgiving...Ruby found it "a mark of a tainted culture.  To be thankful on just one day."

Ruby, for the most part, outshone Ada in this section...most of the students wanted to know more of Ruby's story.  Did her father really hate her mother?  Was he so grieved by his wife's death in childbirth that he dealt with it by hating her, his daughter and drinking?  
Al questioned the theme of death..."Was there so much death?" she asked me.
Her question led into a long discussion of no antibiotics, no doctors, women dying of childbirth being commonplace, children not living past three years old, hard life, short lifespan, living far away from others...essentially survival of the fittest.  There was law, but not as we know it today...there was no long discussion about why somebody stole your cow.  If a thief stole your cow, you shot him.

Al and M have also noticed a theme of astronomy in the story by now...both Inman and Ruby look to the skies for signs and messages...and both are survivors...from barefoot toddler Ruby walking to the neighbor's house for food and surviving to adulthood and able to take care of another human being to Inman's almost superhuman power to stay alive despite what must be one mortal wound after another.  

Al messaged me this morning and said, "I just finished Cold Mountain and can't believe how it ended!!"

I was beside myself with joy that she felt compelled to read ahead and actually wanted to know what was going to happen next :):):)

We're on Thanksgiving break next week and I'm curious to see how many others will finish it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The House of Seven Gables - Book Review

The House of the Seven Gables/Nathaniel Hawthorne

How? Kindle
Why?  I was supposed to finish this one by Oct. 14 for a R.I.P. group ReadALong...
Ahem. :p
What Now? to the glass case this one's a keeper

Golden Lines: 
 "It will never be allowed," said he.  "The custody of this secret, that would so enrich his heirs, makes part of your grandfather's retribution.  He must choke with it until it is no longer of any value.  And keep you the House of Seven Gables!  It is too dear bought an inheritance, and too heavy with the curse upon it, to be shifted yet awhile from the Colonel's posterity."

With what fairer and nobler emblem could any man desire to shadow forth his character?  Ah! but in some low and obscure nook, - some narrow closet on the ground-floor, shut, locked and belted, and the key flung away, - or beneath the marble pavement, in a stagnant water - puddle, with the richest pattern of mosaic-work above, - may lie a corpse, half decayed, and still decaying, and diffusing its death-scent all through the palace!  The inhabitant will not be conscious of it, for it has long been his daily breath!

Spinster Hepzibah Pyncheon lives alone with a scowl on her face in her family home until the day Cousin Phoebe with her bright sunshine shows up to lighten every aspect of Hepzibah's dreary existence. Together they try and hold the Pyncheon legacy together in the old house and seem to be doing well until Hepzibah's brother Clifford returns and brings back to the surface a generations old curse on the Pyncheon family.  A hidden deed, stolen property, mysterious relatives and a house that has seen it all weave a story that takes the reader back to the very beginning, providing clues along the way.  What really happened between the Pyncheons and Maules; why was one family set for life and the other destined to live in poverty?  What really happened that night so many years ago to plunge brother Clifford into a lifetime of despair?  And, most importantly, who is the real villain of this story??

My Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book...I enjoyed the language and the descriptions and didn't get caught up in them as I've read some people do.  Of course American Lit is my favorite, so I'm sure I'm biased.  I think what I needed from this book was a truly enjoyable slow paced, but not too slow paced, journey through a narrative.  I definitely got that.

I felt like I knew Hepzibah, Phoebe and even Clifford.  I hated Judge Pyncheon because he just reeked of meanness, and the way he treated Clifford was if he was just trying to push Clifford over the edge.  Holgrave, who lived in one of the gables, gave me the creeps a little because he was such a mysterious character the entire time...I was never sure of his intentions, nor was I sure Hepzibah or Phoebe was safe with him.  I loved Phoebe and Hepzibah...Hepzibah for her acceptance of her life (to a certain extent) and for welcoming Phoebe into her home and not even being jealous when her beloved brother wanted to spend more time with Phoebe than her...and Phoebe's simple acceptance of Hepzibah, just the way she was.  I also loved Phoebe's simple love of life.  She opened her eyes each morning to see the sun, to see Clifford, to see their garden, to spend time in the shop...she is a true pure hear, and I think her presence was a blessing for Hepzibah.

I kept waiting for a ghost.  Twice I thought I had the story figured out...and twice I was wrong.   When Clifford and Hepzibah left, I didn't see that coming at all and was so disappointed but frightened at the same time.  I decided then that Clifford was a psychopath...
See.  I was all over the place...and I really didn't know what was going to happen.  
I didn't figure this out until the very end of the story, and that was cool bc it doesn't happen very often for me anymore.  
Are you confused?

Final Recommendation:
I would read this one again just for the sheer enjoyment of reading Hawthorne's prose-like narrative.  If you enjoy words, language, Hawthorne, "typical" American Lit, dark, spooky old timey stories, you'll like this one.
Don't try to fly through it though; take your time and enjoy it :)
Yes, I'm an English teacher; why do you ask?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wanna Be More Organized Wednesday

This week is my "tight" week...I overspent a little on groceries the first week, overspent a little more the 2nd week and have Thanksgiving week coming up, during which I will need extra grocery money.  All 5 of us will be home together all week! YAY!!!  I'm looking forward to lots of house cleaning, cooking, reading and family.  I'm doing pretty well this week, partly because everybody's been so busy this week that I haven't had to cook much.  Here's the run-down so far from last Wednesday's report.

Last Meek's Menu

Thursday - Basketball games - Hodge Podge*
*"Hodge Podge" is what wecall it when everybody eats just whatever they can find...I call Hodge Podge when I have leftovers for a couple of meals that don't need to be wasted, but there's not enough to feed everybody with the same leftovers.
Does that make sense?
I also call Hodge Podge when everybody is going in different directions...why the heck should I cook a meal when there won't be anyone here to eat it???

Friday - Tomato Soup - grilled cheese sandwiches

Sunday lunch - sandwiches and chips
Supper - Baked Tilapia with Tony Cachere's seasoning

Monday - Show Choir mtg - Hodge Podge again :)

Tuesday - work concessions @ high school bkball game - supper was concession stand nachos (don't judge me; we worked our hineys off)

Wednesday - Wednesday night supper @ church

I've taken care of a couple of bills this week that I really needed to deal with and didn't want to...The Head of My Household and I kept passing an old AT&T bill back and forth bc neither of us wanted to deal with it.  I ended up the lucky winner.

After 1 hour and 38 minutes and 4 human beings, I had gotten nowhere.  Essentially we turned off our phone service Oct. 2010 and they are charging us through June 2011...our word against theirs that we actually requested them to shut off our phone even though we never used the phone after October 2010.  
I hate AT&T.

I'm happy to report that I'm still on track to meet the budget this month...even though the biggest week is ahead of me.
Yay, me!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books on My TBR Shelf

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's theme is the Top Ten Books on my TBR shelf.  I'm one of those people who can't leave a bookstore without a book...even though I have a bajillion waiting at home on my TBR shelves.  I'm a weirdo and have my books on various shelves throughout my house based on which member of our family originally purchased them, genre and the gleaming glass cabinet where my favorites are on display as if they were expensive jewelry in a Tiffany's store.  My home office/media room, however, houses my TBR shelves (notice that I didn't say "shelf"...Oy.)  I feel guilty just by walking in there and browsing those shelves.  In order to complete this list, I had to actually go in there and scan those shelves.  I started to count them and tell you how many there are...but then I changed my mind :/

I did pull these 10 down and set them right in front of my computer they can yell at me on a daily basis over the holidays..."Read me! Read me! You know you want to!! Just sit down and read me!!!"

I'll let you know how that goes.

Middlesex - I bought this one for my classroom library in my old office building even though I'd never read anything by Eugendies.  Especially now that his new book is out, I'm anxious to spend some time with his other novels...

Little Bee - my dissertation chair gave me this book...we were both working on some special projects at our State Dept. of Ed. and she finished it while we were there.  I love to read books that I can talk about with other people.

Julie and Julia - I refuse to see this movie until I read the book...and I'd really like to see the movie :/  But, it's against the law.  So there.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress - I've always been fascinated by the Amish and in the last few years have grown quite fond of coming home/reinvention types of women's fiction.  Why in the world I've been able to resist this one so long, I do not know.

Half Broke Horses - I've wanted to read this one since I finished The Glass Castle.  If this one is half as good as the first one, I'll be in good company.

Reading Lolita in Tehran - another oldie that I've been interested in since it was first published...

The Book Thief - bloggers everywhere rave about this one...and it sounds so right up my why have I not read it yet.

Speak - I'm in a YA slump right now...and I bet this one would pull me out of hesitation here is the subject matter.  I have 3 daughters and I don't let go of deep deep issues very easily...especially if they hit too close to home.

The Thirteenth Tale - another one I'm constantly reading recommendations about...I've meant to read this for 2 Halloweens now...and still haven't

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - ok, how old is this one??  I haven't seen this movie either.  I told you; it's against the law to watch a movie based on a book if you haven't read the book yet.  Doesn't everyone know that???

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday at the Movies - The Devil Wears Prada

Every once in a while a movie comes along that is better than its book...every. once. in. a. while.
This is one.

I read this book for fun, without any expectations at all, and it was no doubt a fun read.  I usually don't see movies until they're released on DVD, and "The Devil  Wears Prada" was no exception.  But, from the first minute I sat down on the couch, I was hooked.

New York City, Paris
couture fashion
well run machine
the music
Meryl Streep...Meryl Streep...Meryl Streep
mannerisms, voice, power

I can't tell you how many times my girls and I have seen this movie...somebody always gets it out when it's least expected and plays it.  The rest of us within the first 20 minutes or so end up sitting down and watching it with whoever started it.
Minus The Head of Our Household...not exactly his kind of movie :/

The craziest thing of all is how much my 7 year old likes this movie...don't ask me why because I have no idea...but she will actually go through spells of watching it over and over and over during a weekend. She pulled it out Friday night; I was actually snoozing a little on the couch and actually turned over to watch...I do not let go of a nap lightly, let me tell you!
 I honestly don't know what the draw is for day maybe I'll ask her :)
While there certainly are scenes of insinuated adult situations, there is no nudity, the language is minimal and there really isn't anything troubling at all (that I can think of right this second anyway).

The story itself is a good one as well...The characters include a successful dragon lady who sacrifices every other aspect of her life to be successful (Streep), a business full of sycophants, a young ingenue (Hathaway) who applies for a job working for the dragon lady, hoping the position will launch her into the world of big city journalism, and a respected member of the staff who takes Hathaway under his wing (Stanley Tucci).  Hathaway finally gets the dragon lady's attention and gets pulled into her lair, learning how to step on other people on her way up.  The dragon lady never lets her completely in but gives Hathaway just enough space to  encourage her even further.  

This story is not one of good vs evil, however.  It's just not that's actually an effective illustration of how what we see on the outside is very definitely not reality.  Hathaway comes to understand the dragon lady...and why she is the way she is.  The dragon lady also understands Hathaway...and why she is the way she is.  In the closing scene, I'm convinced the dragon lady understands so much more than you think she does while you're watching the movie.  

The scenery, the costumes, the fashion, the models, the lights of Paris, the look inside the world of high fashion and heaven forbid we forget the soundtrack.  The music in this movie is enough to get you pumped up about fashion...even if you think you don't care anything about it.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Broccoli and Chicken Casserole

I'm still enjoying the recipes I'm finding on Pinterest.  What I think makes the recipes pinned on individual boards and passed on to other pinners different from other recipes in magazines or books is that real people are actually making the pinned recipes and on a daily basis.  I'm not slamming cookbooks, I promise...I have shelves of cookbooks and enjoy reading them almost as much as a good novel.  
With my new budget plan in full gear, I have struggled some trying to find budget conscious meals that are still good for my family.  I try to stay away from as much processed food as I can, but on weeknights especially, I need quick fixes like casseroles and crock-pot meals, many of which added canned soups, veggies, or processed items.

I found a wonderful blogger, however, who strives to make basic food for families but creates her own cream sauces etc. rather than relying on the processed kinds.
The website is called....Get Off Your Butt and Bake :)
You have to love that!

The recipe I made from the site this week was Chicken Broccoli Supreme

The picture above is hers because folks are scooping from my dishes before I can find my camera 

The difference between this recipe and every other chicken, broccoli, cream of chicken, ritz cracker topped, poppy seeded casserole you've ever eaten is in the cream sauce.
Butter, cornstarch, water, chicken broth, salt, pepper, milk and cheddar cheese make up the sauce for this casserole, and it blows canned cream of chicken and/or mushroom soup out of the kitchen!
I'm not a condensed soup snob or anything, but I am finding out more and more just how really easy it is to cook some basic things from scratch.  And, in this case, it is definitely worth the tad bit more time that it takes.  

The exact recipe can be accessed through the website link above...YUM!

My entire household liked this one...even my picky husband...from a 9x13 casserole dish, there was only a small portion left for my lunch the next day.

Weekend Cooking is hosted over at Beth F. Reads.