luncheon

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 7.56.30 AMThis weekend a professor-mentor of mine from Boston College came over for a luncheon along with a friend from my graduate student days. It was exciting not only because I care deeply for both of these brilliant and fun women, but also because it was the first time they were seeing my new home. I was excited and nervous in anticipation of their arrival and I started cooking and prepping food hours beforehand. You know a luncheon is fun when…..the food is eaten completely, the champagne flows liberally, and the conversation never ends. Over four hours later, we finally decided it was time to end our lunch date and plan for a near future next time.

Appetizers:

To start the luncheon I wanted to prepare some simple, clean, and yummy snacks.   I laid out on the table small bowls of carrots, white bean hummus (from Trader Joe’s), and my favorite crackers by Mary’s Gone Crackers.

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For something to warm the belly a little, I prepared a puffed pastry with goat cheese and fig spread. It looks so pretty and was super simple to actually prepare. I purchased puffed pastry dough, rolled it out, cut it into squares and then brushed egg yolk over them before baking them in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes (until golden brown).  Once out, I spread a bit of fig jam on top and topped it off with a small dollop of goat cheese.

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Salad:

For a small salad, I made a avocado, tomato, chickpea salad.  It was truly the hit of the luncheon.  In a medium bowl I added, sliced avocado, chopped cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup of diced onions, and one can of drained chickpeas. I then mixed together this dressing from Naturally Ella and served.

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The main dish was a recipe I have previous made on the blog, Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and the dessert was my tiramisu.

Bon Appetit!

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tiramisu

Heading out tonight to a dinner party with some co-workers, we have been asked to bring dessert.  We have not seen Rodney and Jocelyn for a number of weeks so I wanted to make something special.  I am so excited to bring over a super simple, easy, but truly delicious tiramisu!

Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 14 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 6 egg yolks
  • lady fingers
  • espresso
  • cocoa powder

Prepare the espresso on the stove top.  When ready, pour espresso into a medium size bowl and set aside. In a mixer, combine 1/4 cup of sugar, three yolks, two teaspoons of vanilla, 8 oz of mascarpone cheese and blend on high until smooth and a little whipped looking (takes approx. 4-5minute). This mixture makes the first layer of the cream. In an 8×8 dish (or really any shallow dish you like) dip the lady fingers in espresso and place along the bottom of the dish. Pour mixture over the ladyfingers and smooth evenly across. Repeat this for a second time.  When you have two layers of ladyfingers and cream, sprinkle with cocoa powder. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

not a snow day

This morning I woke with great anticipation of a snow day from school.  As you have heard before, I love my job and I know it is a super special place to call my home away from home….but there is something that is magical about waking up to a snow day!  Giddy, I peeked out the window this morning on the way to the shower, but it was obvious that the accumulation would not warrant one of these magical days home to cozy up on the couch next to David (let’s be real, if I got a snow day he would SO “work from home” too). Braving the slick, snowy streets, we headed out…

doing debates

Two teacher posts within days of each other!?  I know this is not usually my style but David and I are eating left-overs right now so blogging about that is a little lacking.  Skye is coming over tomorrow for a new dish and should it be a yummy one, you can expect to hear about it soon.  Now back to the teaching post….

The history department is notorious for hosting debates in class.  Eleventh graders are pretty adept at them. Needing little prompting, they research, read, script, argue, counter-argue, and question. Two days later they are prepared to engage in a lively, researched, and thorough undertaking. Do they get bogged down in one cycling argument?  Yes, from time to time, they need to be reminded to move along, advance the debate. Yet, debates are an interesting way for the students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic by having to demonstrate the mental flexibility debates necessitate.

Freshman debates look and feel completely different.  Yesterday, in the middle of the debate on who was justified in fighting the French and Indian War, a student interrupts and asks, “Wait, what are we discussing? What is this debate about?”  Ah….time to stop the debate immediately, back pedal, and start from zero.  This happens often in ninth grade.  Two steps forward and one step back.

Loving lists, this class decided to make one to help them organize, focus, and target their debate topic and materials.

Things to do for a debate (according to my freshmen):

  1. Research:  What is the debate question asking you in your own words? Check with your team that they agree.  Research your topic.  Find concrete evidence and examples that support your argument.
  2. Offense: The best offensive is a strong defensive.  Research the opposition’s points and craft counter-arguments and questions.
  3. Logic: Use logic to have your points build off of one another… establish a “flow” of ideas and talking points.
  4. Don’t get personal: Try to avoid “I statements” if the debate is not a personal one, i.e. if you are debating about different sides of the American Revolution try to remember to be an objective historian.
  5. Stay focused: Stick to the topic. Get your points out and if you notice the conversation looping around and around the same point prepare a transition, “That is a good point, but I would like to raise a new one….”
  6. Listen: When you are not talking, don’t interrupt, and listen to what the opposition is saying so you are able to address them directly, thoughtfully, and well.
  7. Debates are most often lost rather an won: Ahh…I love this point and often write this on the board prior to a debate.
  8. Be respectful to your teammates and the opposition: no eye rolling and watch the body language.
  9. Tweak your argument in the debate as your process through the materials and answer counter-arguments….don’t just totally switch arguments in the middle….rather finesse it!
  10. Have some fun, laugh a little, keep it light.  Debates should be enjoyable, refreshing, and an opportunity for you to showcase all of your pre-planning.

Using their homemade debate guide, I grade this one and look forward to the next debate…and to their debates in the eleventh grade most of all.

seriously, where do i work?

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 7.49.21 PMThere is a scene in the movie The Hangover that stopped me in my tracks.  It is not one of its more notorious scenes involving tigers, drugs, or yanking a tooth out.  It is a fast moment at the very beginning of the movie and it left me laughing until tears ran down my cheeks. Bradley Cooper‘s character is rushing out of school having taught a full week of classes.  His wild bachelor weekend is about to commence when a “nerdy” little student rubs up along side him and starts “Mr. Wenneck, I was….” before he can stammer out the request, Cooper turns his flat hand to face the boy stating, “It’s the weekend. I don’t know you. You don’t exist.” Commence laughing hysterically.  It is so funny because I would NEVER say this, but sometimes when the clock strikes 3:25PM on Friday, I wish I could flip the switch from teacher mode into whatever it is I am on the weekend and run down the hall to my car.

I love my job but after pouring out my empathy and passion all week long, I am utterly drained and dragging on Fridays.  The last thing I want to do after classes on Friday is facilitate an afternoon activity.  Alas, this is my destiny.  So there I was today changing in the bathroom to teach Pilates to my 12 students in the afternoon program while envisioning this particular scene from The Hangover.  As I pulled on my yoga pants, grabbed my mat, and walked to the room we transform into a “yoga studio,” I knew I had failed to fire up the Bradley Cooper in me.

I stretched on the floor with the students and before long, I felt fully present with them.  Breathing heavy, stretching, and doing slow flow Pilates exercises is a sure way to reboot a LONG Friday afternoon. With ten minutes left to the class, one of my ninth grade boys came in and asked if he could hang out in the room while he waits for his carpool.  Since it was Friday, I agreed that he could join us.  Announcing to the Pilates kids that “in 4 minutes it will be time for Savasana,” the ninth grade boy got up and disappeared. I did not think much of it, perhaps his carpool arrived, and continued to lead our last exercises.

As we closed our eyes for Savasana, the ninth grade boy returned with his guitar. He sat down on the floor, dimmed the lights, and began to play Blackbird by the Beatles.  It was such a beautiful, random moment.  Instead of laughing hysterically from a cynical scene about teaching, I started to cry totally overwhelmed by how special this school is, how special these students are, and how I am so lucky to work each and every day with these thoughtful, messy, curious, funny, sweet and so-much-more kids. Pilates on a Friday afternoon was the best thing I could I have done before heading out to the weekend.  Being appreciative even when you are tired is always a good reminder. Happy Weekend!

back from break

Today was the first day back from break. The transition from vacationing to school is an assault of noise and energy.  The slow-paced days of waking late, reading in bed, and sipping lattes was replaced in a blink of an eye with 50 students all talking at once, seeking attention, and asking questions. While it is a whirlwind, I would not have it any other way. I enjoy listening to their noise as they share the highlights from their break, joke with me, bemoan the work on the board, and get comfortable again as a class. And to top it all off, my department head surprised me in our morning with a birthday cupcake from Kickass Cupcakes.  It was so good to back!

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