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Summer Means Sangria July 27, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Recipes.
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7 comments

sangria

My first experience with sangria put me off the stuff for 20 years. My college roommates, Mary and Elisse, mixed up a batch in the bathtub of our apartment for a party. It was either one very small bathtub or one very big party. Gallons of cheap jug wine with apples bobbing and orange slices floating on top. What was that subtle aftertaste – Ajax?

But my husband Richard makes killer sangria, which is what you get to drink if you come to my house. Richard’s one of those people who doesn’t need a recipe. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. He’s an alchemist in the kitchen.

Since I do need a recipe, when he made sangria the other night, I made him stop and measure everything he was “throwing” into the mix. According to Richard, the exact amounts aren’t all that important “because alcohol covers up any indiscretions.”  He also said when it comes to ingredients, the cheaper the better.

We tried the sangria at Gus’s the other night, and I dare say it was just a notch above Richard’s. But my alchemist quickly figured out they’d added some Southern Comfort, though the waitress said she’s wasn’t allowed to tell what was in it. So that’s the newest addition to the recipe and it rocks. One pitcher serves 6 (at two glasses apiece). The pitcher goes fast, so you might want to have ingredients for more than one batch.

Richard’s Sangria

Ingredients

 

1  bottle red wine (cheaper the better)
2 oz. Triple Sec
2 oz. brandy
1 oz. Southern Comfort
10 oz. seltzer
2 oranges
1 apple
1/3 c. sugar
fresh mint (optional, but it’s dang good)

Directions

In a cup, combine 1/3 c. sugar and 1/3 c. water.  Put in microwave until sugar dissolves and forms “simple syrup.”  Add to pitcher along with the juice from 1 orange (seeds removed), brandy, Triple Sec, Southern Comfort, red wine, and seltzer.

Slice 1 orange, then cut slices into quarters
Slice 1 apple, cutting away midsection with seeds

Add fruit, lots of ice, and a sprig of fresh mint.  Enjoy!

Photo Credit:  Jan Marshall

Facebook Alert July 26, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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1 comment so far
pigdog

Penny the dog/pig protects her pictures on Facebook.

 

 

I received the following ALERT from two friends on Facebook today.

“ALERT:  Facebook has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures without your permission.  To prevent this,  click on “Settings” up at the top where you see the “Logout” link. Select “Privacy.”  Then select “News Feed and Wall.”  Next, select the tab that reads “Facebook Ads.” In the drop down box, select “No One.” Then save your changes. Help your friends…cut and paste this into your status.”

I googled this as I’m not prone to hysteria and found everything you need to know in a July 24 article from  The Los Angeles Times.

If anything, it’s a cautionary tale about reading the fine print.  I’ve already done the reset.  My worst fear is having MY face on one of those on-line ads where the windshield wiper sweeps away all the the wrinkles (that is unless I’m the “After.”)  >wink<

The Digital Natives Are Restless July 22, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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8 comments

American Gothic

When I arrived at my friend Cathy’s house in Kansas City, the first order of business was to log onto their wifi account. Cathy had a password written down, but it wasn’t working, so she called her 23-year-old son.  Matt rattled it off over the phone. Twenty plus letters and numbers. “This isn’t a password – it’s the nuclear launch code,” Cathy mused. Once I was back on-line, my DT’s (Digital Tremors) subsided. Whew.

That got me thinking about how everything has changed due to technology. On the flight back to the Midwest, the plane couldn’t take off.  “There are still electronic devices on in rows 15, 32, and 34,”  the flight attendant announced. So we waited. Another announcement. Finally, we taxied.

I give my parents, who are in their 80s, a pass on technology. My dad bought a computer years ago and has so many security programs installed to prevent identity theft that every time you press a key a security alert pops up about possible suspicious activity. Talk about killing the creative muse.

Both my parents have cell phones, but I don’t bother to call them because they’re usually turned off. And my parents never figured out how to retrieve messages. I have to admit that it wasn’t until we ditched our landline, that I was forced to figure out all of those features on my cell phone. And I’m still reading up on how to shoot an independent film using it.

While I was visiting my parents, my brother was there along with his daughter, Allison, and her boyfriend, Jeff, both who just graduated from college. For them technology is second nature. Missed the last episode of True Blood? Jeff downloaded if for me and emailed it to my dropbox so I could watch it on my computer.

Jeff carried his iPhone with him and set it on the table during meals. Sitting at Runza Hut, we got talking about whether the exquisite and highly addictive Runza (a doughy mound filled with ground beef and cabbage) was of Polish or German origin. Jeff googled it. Turned out it’s German/Russian. So there!  Meanwhile, my phone kept dinging. “I keep hearing something,” my mother said looking around. It was yet another incoming text message on my phone. Sometimes technology can be too much of a good thing.

Because my parents Wifi connection was spotty, I was worried I’d have to cruise the neighborhood hoping to piggyback on someone else’s wireless. Jeff informed me this is called War Driving. I googled the Urban Dictionary just to make sure. Who would have known?

My parents were most impressed with how you can go to Google Maps and see a 360-degree street view of your home. And all of this on an iPhone!  When my mother asked how we could look inside the houses, I bit my tongue.  Then my dad asked how much an IHOP costs. There’s a learning curve here and at this late stage in their lives, it’s a steep a hill to climb. No, make that a mountain.

Last summer, I read an interesting article called Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants by Marc Prensky that explains how those who’ve grown up with technology, the digital natives, actually think and process information differently than the rest of us. Whether you teach kids, have one, or were ever one yourself, it’s a fascinating read.

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #3 July 19, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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7 comments

mirror

In this series, I’m using a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping off point for a discussion. (Please read my Close Encounter with a Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started. Shhhh!) Here goes.

“What Is Ideal Love to a Narcissist?”

The DSM IV lists nine behaviors that characterize Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).  At least five must be evident to make a diagnosis of NPD. Let’s look at the second behavior.

2.  Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

Just what is “ideal love?” to a Narcissist? I’m afraid, I have to use the F word to explain. No, not THAT word. To a Narcissist, the F word is fantasy.

Actually, I often think that Narcissists are obsessed not with “ideal love,” but with the “idea of love.”   Despite the common misconception that Narcissists are “in love” with themselves, they actually despise themselves and are incapable of feeling real love.

I’ve said before that what a Narcissist loves most is the chase. The Narcissist confuses the excitement of honing in on new Narcissistic Supply (NS) with the emotion we humans call “love.”  I’m afraid this Idealization Phase is as good as it gets.

So what happens when a Narcissist actually “catches” the object of his desire? When the ideal becomes real, you better be careful not to blink, or you might suffer emotional whiplash. Let me explain.

Outside the town where I grew up, there was a dog racing track. At the sound of the bell, a line of mechanical rabbits took off and the greyhounds chased them. If a dog ever caught the “rabbit,” its racing days were over. That’s because once the dog knew the rabbits were fake, it would no longer run after them.

What does this have to do with NPD?

Just like the dogs, when a Narcissist finally catches who he’s been pursuing, he quickly loses all interest. But here’s where it gets interesting. It’s not because what he’s been chasing is fake, but because it’s REAL.

Let’s face it, real relationships involve who’s cooking dinner (and doing the dishes), which bills should be paid (or go unpaid), root canals, and trips to the urologist. This is not the unique life the Narcissist envisioned. So what if he’s two hours late and didn’t call. Geez, you’re so demanding!  Reality can’t compete with a fantasy, so the Narcissist immediately begins chipping away at that pedestal he put you on. The D&D is underway.

Unlike those greyhounds, the Narcissist never learns. He truly believes he can run that race again and next time (or the next, or the next) things will turn out just the way he imagined. Yes, it’s sad, because we already know how the story will end – badly. But for those with NPD, it’s in their nature and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change that.

The rest of us know that “ideal love” exists only in fairy tales. We’re happy to settle for real love.

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #4.

Photo Credit: Jan Marshall

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #2 July 12, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , ,
9 comments

mirror

In this series, I’m using a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping  off point for a discussion. (Please read my Close Encounter with a  Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started.  Shhhh!) Here goes.

Will a Narcissist Ever Apologize?

For what?  You have to remember that a Narcissist is convinced he/she is always right and the problem lies with YOU.  When someone apologizes, it’s an admission of wrong doing, and Narcissists are NEVER wrong.

Okay, they might manage an insincere apology if it will placate someone who’s a higher up (to save their job), or someone they fear, but mere mortals need not apply.  Even when the Narcissist is clearly in the wrong, they are loathe to admit their culpability.  If they are caught red-handed, they will deny that they have hands, or tell you their hands are in fact orange, not red.

Case in point.  My friend “Joe” regaled me with stories about how he’d flown kites as a child in boarding school.  I happened to be reading The Kite Runner and, low and behold, there was a description about how the boys coated the kite string with broken glass, just as Joe had described.  Excited, I brought in my copy of The Kite Runner so he could read the passage.  “See, this was just like I was telling you,” he beamed.

A few weeks later,  I bought him a copy of the book and handed it to him. See if you can guess who’s talking.

“How much did this cost?”
“It’s a paperback.  What does it matter?”
“But, how much did it cost?”
“Fourteen dollars.”

End of conversation.

Four months later, I ran into Joe.  He said he noticed how I’d  “pulled away from him.”  Duh.  I reminded him that when I’d given him the book, he’d never bothered to say thank you.  Again, see if you can tell who’s talking.

“I’m sure I said thank you.”
“No, you never said thank you.”
“I find that impossible to believe.  When someone gives me a gift, I always say thank you.”
“Well, you never said thank you.”

End of conversation.

If you’ve been close to someone with NPD, you have your own variation of this story.  If it’s any consolation, you’re not crazy.  They are. Thank you. I’m sorry.  Who would have know how hard it was to say two words.

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #3.

The Homework Myth July 6, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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12 comments

reesewriting

I’m beginning to question the whole “homework reinforces learning and teaches responsibility” crap argument. Recently, I stumbled upon a Q&A with Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth, that was published in the American School Board Journal.

Okay, I’ve still got to do my homework on homework (as in, buy and read the book), but according to the interview, there are NO studies that show that assigning homework in elementary school (grades K-3) improves achievement.  I know what you’re thinking.  At least it promotes self-discipline, right?  But according to Kohn, there’s no scientific evidence to prove this is true either.  Hey, is that my pig that just flew by?

I’ve always assigned homework.  Your reading log must be signed by a parent every night.  “I don’t care if your parent is passed out on the couch,” I’ve been known to say.  “It’s your responsibility to put a pen in their hand and move it around!”  Students who come to school without a parent signature are benched for morning recess.  Okay, it’s only 15 minutes, and they can still use the bathroom, but it’s the thought that counts.  I’ve had students weeping over the loss of that 10 minutes of runaround time.  We spend maybe 15 minutes a day correcting homework and another ten minutes talking about the homework that’s to be done that night.  It adds up.

For the record, I’ve spent two years designing and fine turning homework that incorporates the week’s spelling and vocabulary words, and English Language Conventions (read Skills) that we’re studying that week.  But I’m not sure this homework actually helps the kids who need help the most.

I’ve taught a cluster of English Language Learners (ELLs) for the past two years.  The other half of my students are English speakers, and last year I even had one boy who read at a 7th grade level.  They’re all over the spectrum. In a perfect world, I’d be differentiating homework.  But to be honest, I don’t have the time.  I could ask my student from Mexico to practice her English sight words every night, but there’s no one at home who speaks English. And when I looked at the homework one of my Korean students turned in, I could see his father had translated it word by word and then written the spelling sentences for him.

I’m hearing more and more that it’s not “practice makes perfect,” but “perfect practice makes perfect.”  So how does homework promote that?   Or should it?  Do students really need to work a second shift?

I do remember one homework assignment that yielded results.  Our vocabulary word was “exist” and I had students ask their parents (or whoever was in charge) about things we have now that didn’t “exist” when their parents were in the third grade.  Oh, the list we made!  Cell phones, iPods, Invisalign braces –  the list went on and on.  Of course, one girl’s father told her toilets didn’t exist, but I chalked that up to him growing up in rural Mexico (or maybe he just didn’t understand the question).

I also sent students home with plastic straws and paperclips and had them construct right, isosceles, and obtuse triangles, which they had to “hand in” the next morning by sorting them into the correct piles.  If only homework was always that interesting.

Once my students got the hang of Accelerated Reading (AR), I let them take home books from the class library so they could  take the on-line quiz the next day.  Talk about motivated readers!  And my students can alphabetize their spelling words and draw a line between a vocabulary word and its meaning, but still…

I’ve only had a few parents over the years who asked for more homework. They tend to congregate in the GATE clusters.  When parents do ask for more, I tell them their child would be better off watching the Discovery Channel or baking a cake.  Some look relieved.  Others are confused.

The week my students took THE TEST (the one that will determine who’s getting left behind), teachers were told not to assign homework.

A collective sigh of relief echoed through the hallways.  No dashing down to copy homework only to find the copier was broken.  No dashing down to find the copier had been commandeered by one of those upper grade teachers, who are always in the midst of printing out 35+ packets.  Waiting to use the copier is a lot like standing in line at a Methadone clinic waiting for my fix turn.  Fifty some teachers, two copiers.  You can do the math.  If life was fair, there’d be a technician chained to the copier 24/7.

To avoid this, I have all the homework on my computer at home and print it out on Sundays.  Did I mention that Sunday has become my least favorite day of the week?

In my master’s program, we had to pick a topic to do an Action Research project on over the next year.  My cohort’s topic is…homework!  No sooner had we decided on our topic than our district revamped its homework policy. The new guidelines cite the importance of daily homework to “reinforce learning” and report that “homework promotes responsibility.”

Okay, the jury’s still out, but it should be interesting to see what our research reveals.  In the meantime, if you don’t have that parent signature on your reading log, you’re benched.

True Blood July 2, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in TV/Film.
Tags: , , , , , ,
3 comments

After reading Twilight, with its endless descriptions of Edward’s chest, I swore off vampires.  Later, when my book club read Three Cups of Tea,  I even threatened to make a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast adjectives used to describe Edward’s chest with those used to describe the mountains in Afghanistan.  

But,  I have to admit that I enjoy watching True Blood on HBO.  First, it’s got a mighty fine theme song by Jace Alexander.  And how can I not love a show that, with all seriousness, has characters spew lines like “Clearly, she’s no fan of the fang.”  

I’ve written before about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and used the vampire analogy.  So last week when a character said, “He used me up and sucked me dry.  It was like I was his snack machine!” it was music to my ears.  Yeah, I’m a fan of the fang.

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