I (Heart) A Chef’s Life

Finally deciding to take the plunge, the hub and I decided to unsubscribe from DirecTV.  Faithful subscribers for over ten years, we grew tired of calling every six months once their “deal” expired and our monthly bill skyrocketed.  Add on the fact there was never much on the 300+ channels which held both of our interests besides Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid, a ROKU box was in our immediate future.  The hub, our home’s IT expert extraordinaire whom the girls and I constantly pester once the printer fails to print, rose to the challenge.  Not only was he able to teach all three of us how to use the remote control in one lesson, but he hooked me on an informative cooking series on PBS, A Chef’s Life.

This series which premiered in September on PBS follows the life of Chef Vivian Howard as she creates dynamic menus from seasonal ingredients for her and her husband’s  restaurant, The Chef and the Farmer.  Addicting, not only does the viewer learn about indigenous ingredients to Eastern North Carolina, but also connects with her on a personal level as she juggles the roles of mother and wife.  After years of FoodTV and, more recently, The Cooking Channel, which has evolved from informative viewing to cooking contests, it was encouraging to watch a television show and actually learn something more than how to incorporate a gummie skeleton head into a main course.

McKendree Women’s Wrestling Meets the Girl Scouts

Proud of the fact Women’s Wrestling is in its first year at McKendree University under the leadership of Coach Sam Schmitz, I knew I wanted to introduce the two female wrestlers, Miss Leila and Miss Olivia, in my English 111 class to my two Girl Scout troops.  Exposing our Brownies and Daisies to women of empowerment is high on the priority list for my co-leader, Sarah Bohnenstiehl, and myself;  for, girls can do anything.  

Unfortunately, on the day scheduled for the two wrestlers to teach us some wrestling moves, Miss Olivia broke her arm while in practice.  So, Miss Leila was in charge of instructing roughly 20+ girls.  Of course, my two daughters were on cloud nine being able to talk with Miss Leila, “an actual wrestler,” on the way to the Girl Scout meeting and pretty much monopolized her time.

Upon arriving at the meeting, the girls outfitted her in a crown (as she was guest of honor) for our Thanksgiving feast.  Come to find out, though, she was attempting to make weight, so was unable to gorge with us at the time.

Once adequate protein and carbs had been ingested by the kindergarteners and second graders, Miss Leila went to work.  The Girl Scouts learned how to engage in a proper stance, how to grab their opponents’ opposite knees, and how to adjust their opponents’ shoulders for proper domination.

Miss Leila had the honor of holding the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance and then joined us in Little Sally Walker and the Circle Hug for our close to the evening.  

Perhaps, a wrestling workshop or camp for young girls will be in these Girl Scouts near future.  On my honor, I will try . . . to make it happen.

Saving Paradise Book Club

Mike Bond’s fictional work, Saving Paradise certainly holds true to its title.  Bond’s deep-seeded love affair with Hawaii is prevalent throughout:

To tourists Hawaii is an air-conditioned tanning booth with shopping, booze, bikinis, and lots of smiling low-paid help.  The real Hawaii is something else- the greatest mariners the world has ever known, brave warriors and wise healers, a deep-hearted family connection reaching hundreds of people and across whole islands, love of the ancestors, a magical way of life.  (6) 

Having been to the Big Island once myself, I long to return and see it as Pono, the ex- U.S. Army Special Forces protagonist in Saving Paradise, views it:

It was another magnificent dawn on Oahu, the sea soft and rumpled and the sun blazing up from the horizon, an offshore breeze scattering plumeria fragrance across the frothy waves  Flying fish darting over the crests, dolphins chasing them, a mother whale and calf spouting as they rolled northwards.  A morning when you already know the waves will be good and it will be a day to remember.  (1)

Pono, a self-described hapa haole, part white and part Hawaiian, has done time in not only Afghanistan, but also the Inside as he refers to prison.  Attempting to now live the life of a writer and teacher of surfing, he becomes embroiled in a homicide investigation.  A likeable character with definitive views regarding politics, “The wrong politicians commit is pretending that they’re not.  And while a whore actually gives you something for your money, a politicial just takes your money and screws you in a different way”  (10), the reader ends up rooting for his escape from one predicament after another.

From an English teacher’s perspective, though, I had no choice but to highlight grammatical errors such as “1930’s” (73) and “‘farms’.”  (47).  No apostrophe needed in the first example, and the period should be inside the quotations for the second example.  In addition, the protagonist’s switch from a Hawaiian dialect in dialogue to standard English in thought caused confusion when considering these differing sentence structures were originating from the same man.  Yet, perhaps this was intentional on Bond’s part considering Pono was of mixed heritage.

If a meeting on the beach in Hawaii is not in the cards for your book club, Tangueray martinis in honor of Pono and half-pound burgers similar to those served at Wipe Out, a downtown bar which Pono frequents, would serve as an adequate substitute.

Teaching with the Talk Show

Currently teaching Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle to my English 111 students, I needed a method which would not only involve the students, but also place them in the role of teacher.  After my morning class was practically mute while slumped in their chairs and hidden in their hoodies, I knew drastic measures needed to be taken.   Even after I passed out Hershey bars to instigate discussion (or a  sugar rush in the least) of Walls’ mother, Rose Mary, a woman guilty of nibbling on chocolate in secret while her children were starving, silence filled the room.   So, in an attempt to tempt lively discussion, I recalled reading Ellie Kemper’s “The Talk Show Circuit” lesson in Don’t Forget to Write.

Kemper, who plays Erin Hannon on NBC’s The Office and a contributor to The Onion and McSweeney’s, writes how she was once assigned an essay to write about a topic on which she was an expert.  A self-proclaimed “agonizer” over English papers, she came up with the idea of pretending she was a guest on David Letterman.

Adapting this idea for The Glass Castle, I put the students in pairs, with one being the host asking open-ended questions and the other being a character from the memoir.  What ensued far exceeded my expectations listed below:
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  1. The host must introduce his/her guest in a brief, yet accurate depiction. This includes name, profession, family, hobbies, interests, aspirations.
  2. The host must ask intriguing open-ended questions, questions which allow the audience a well-rounded view of the guest in question. Consider the entire memoir.
  3. The guest must answer questions thoroughly and accurately in full character. Consider using dialogue from the memoir.
  4. The host and guest must be able to correctly answer questions from the audience.

Engaged interviewing techniques were employed:  eye contact, listening, and spontaneity.  Case in point, a host accidentally fell from her chair (the chair was seated on a plastic mat).  The guest, an alcoholic Rex Walls proclaimed, “I thought I was the one with the drinking problem!”  In addition, students utilized props without being prompted (i.e. a water bottle disguised as a whiskey bottle and a pen disguised as a cigarette) to do so and created names for their television segments such as, “Dysfunctional Dads.”  Heads were not lowered reading verbatim from lined paper;  instead, a true exemplification of critical reading flourished throughout the room.  Who knew I had two sections of thespians simply waiting to release their Krakens?  My only regret being I wish I had the video camera rolling to capture these teachable moments.  Next semester!


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My friend, Sarah Kirkpatrick, introduced me to MoreLoveLetters.com, and I absolutely fell in love.  A site devoted to making others feel better through anonymous “love letters” is right up my writing alley.
Deciding to test the waters on my writing class with this site, the results far exceeded my expectations.  My students were asked to visit the site, read through the request for love letters, and chooose to respond to the one need which spoke to him/her.
What ensued was a healthy pile of heartfelt writing;  tears flowed when I read through their letters.  Told to be creative with font, color, etc., one student thought outside the box by including humorous pictures in his letter for Brooks.

Dear Brooks,
I heard about the things that you have gone through and just wanted to say that you are one brave little guy. What you’ve gone through is definitely tougher than anything I’ve experienced. Your friends and family must be very proud of how tough you’ve been throughout your rough times.
Your determination and bravery can be a huge inspiration to everyone around you and to all of those (like myself) that hear about your story. In the future, whenever I am going through something tough, I’ll think of Brooks and how brave he was to get through what he experienced.
Anyway, I found your story really inspiring and hope you have a GREAT DAY!!!
        Here’s some pictures that make me laugh. (Hope you like dogs)

826 Seattle

While in Seattle staying at the Hyatt, there was a bookmark on our nightstand telling about 826 Seattle, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center located in the back of a store, The Greenwood Space Travel Co. 
The list of workshops offered is definitely even a reluctant writer’s dream:  National Novel Writing  Month, Music Inspiration, Open Studio, to name a few.  Looking further, in-school workshops and field trips are also listed amongst the offerings.  
Drooling at all of the class choices, I was disappointed to learn the closest 826 to me is located in Chicago, a five-hour trek.  Ugh!

When I returned home, I started paging through my latest Barnes and Noble buy, Don’t Forget to Write for the Secondary Grades.  Comprised of motivational ideas for writing workshops, I found the ideas could easily be translated into the college classroom.  Come to find out, this writing resource is an 826 National publication.  Kismet!