Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the Halloween experience

Ah, that was fun.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Saturday, October 28, 2006


It means hope.

Thursday morning, I saw the bright orange glow of a sunrise a full two hours before the sun came up. The fire had started on the hills just a couple of miles away from my school. If you stood at the flagpole, you could see the flames coursing down the side of the mountain; it looked like lava.

By lunchtime, we'd heard about the firefighters from Idyllwild, the ones who were engulfed in flames so quickly that four men from the Forest Service were killed, a fifth one in critical condition. We didn't know yet that someone in our district had lost a father and a teacher had lost his brother.

On the eve of Friday, the fire had split. One bank of flames was headed toward San Jacinto, the other towards our house. The main street of our town became the perimeter where they hoped to build a firebreak, preventing the Santa Ana winds from allowing the fire to jump the road. This photo, from the LA Times, shows crews working on that road yesterday.

I looked out this window behind me and saw the orange glow and the red flames creeping over the top of the badlands in our direction. All we knew was that it was spreading fast and was out of control.

We packed a bag. We turned off our gas. We tried not to think about last year, being awakened by a pounding on our door and someone telling us to get out of our apartment immediately. We hoped.

On Friday, it was homecoming. Our school, under a thick black cloud of smoke visible in satellite photos, held a rally in the gym and watched four boys compete to eat the most hot dogs. Kids cheered while their dads and older brothers risked their lives to keep us safe.

By late yesterday, the fire crossed the highway. It managed to reach a large landfill but they held it to the east along the rest of the highway, by the houses and golf courses. I can't see the fire from my window anymore, just the smoke. The worst is over. My husband won't need to go into work this weekend though he volunteered to help with fire safety command.

Now everyone is hoping they find the arsonist behind this blaze.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


4 c. chopped apples

2 eggs
2 c sugar
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. oil

Mix with a spoon (preferrably one that is already bent slightly).
Add apples last.
Pan 9 x 12 - 35 min. or until fork comes out clean.
I baked it at 350 and it seemed to work.

Bonus grandma recipe (to make up for taking so long):

1 pkg yeast
1/4 c. warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar & 1/2 tsp. flour
(Mix above and set aside to let yeast do its thing.)

4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. of water and milk mixed
1/4 c. butter

1/4 c. butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp sesame or poppy seeds
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. paprika

Mix dough. Set aside to rise until double in bulk. Then roll into 3 rectangles approx. 16 inches by 5 inches.

Put filling ingredients in a small pan and cook about 2 min. (add Parmesan cheese very last). While slightly warm, spread on filling to each strip; pinch together sides. Braid the strips carefully and place on large baking sheet.

Cover and let rise a second time until double in size, 45 to 60 min. Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown.

ATM Lottery

Despite the sign, I stopped at the gas station anyway. I guess I was feeling lucky. Who will get their credit card stolen and who will get a free tank of gas? Step right up.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

historical misconceptions

God, I love my new job. I should take a photo of the view I have from my classroom door because it looks straight out of English-teacher-fantasy-land.

I turned in my resignation just before someone else (long story--another reason to be glad I'm gone), so the other district let me out of my contract, to my great relief. Good things come to those who wait? Or maybe I just got lucky. Very lucky. My counterpart/long-term sub had an exceptionally difficult time last week when a student went into premature labor....

So now I'm teaching English 9, nearly an identical class to the one I taught for three years in Minnesota. It is fabulous. Even the class sizes are ridiculously small due to a reduced-class-size-bond-initiative that passed a few years ago. 22 is the biggest. I told you it was ridiculous.

We jumped right in with MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech last week. I dug up a Google video of it and played it for them on Friday. You'd be surprised (or maybe not) how many young kids think that MLK was assassinated during his "I Have A Dream" speech on the mall in Washington, D.C. At least three students asked me separately if I was going to show the part where he gets shot. What a frightening thought--that he might have been assassinated in the midst of that inspirational speech in front of the thousands of people, or that a high school teacher would play the live footage of the assassination in front of students.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

back to school

I returned to work--new job, new school, new students. So far so good. My job is so cushy, it's ridiculous.

J isn't eating well at daycare yet. I am optimistic that he'll adjust, but still the leaving is difficult.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

apple butter

It's fall again, and time for talk of apples and orchards (soon it will be pumpkins and graveyards). A small town nearby is having their annual apple butter festival/fundraiser. I'm contributing an apple cake--recipe from my grandma Dorothy.

When you cook rarely enough, it's quite a trip down memory lane. I remember my grandma peeling the apples in one long curly piece while singing "round and round the mulberry bush." I tried to do the same for L, but it came out in 3 or 4 pieces at a time and I forgot all the words except "pop! goes the weasel." We had fun anyway.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

don't eat your vegetables

The second confirmed death as a result of contaminated spinach was announced today. It's especially devastating because he was only two years old.

As I understand it, this strain of E. coli can't be mitigated by washing or even cooking. The parents did nothing wrong. Where are the PowerPuff girls when you need them?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


My former (not yet) school district won't let me out of the contract, at least not anytime soon. Dammit.

school violence

This photo was stolen without permission from Creative Storm Photos.

Bush calls for a discussion of how to stop school violence.

Sadly, school violence is an old story. When then-president Reagan visited an elementary school in Missouri almost twenty years ago, they put up metal detectors to the chagrin of the parents. Then schools discussed metal detectors and campus security at all times. What was once feared about a knife or a gun taken to school as a threat changed after Columbine. Since I've been teaching, bomb threats are not uncommon (I've been through 3 in Minnesota), and even the most isolated school has discussed and practiced lock-down procedures (I've seen two legitimate ones).

The past week of shootings has frightened us all because it adds a completely new variable--sexual molestation. It is one thing to teach students anger management and to look for all the warning signs of a child who may turn to violence. It is out of our hands when a grown man with no connection to the school bursts through the doors and takes students as hostages in order to sexually molest them.

Even the crazed gang member racing through the streets and firing bullets outside of our school last year. The teen from out-of-town who stepped onto campus in July and murdered a fifth-grader was, if nothing else, still a teen.

Security is the first place to start. Schools need full-time police officers. Period. Not just a part-time bike cop with a can of mace. If a child cannot feel safe at his/her own school, we have not done our jobs as a community.

After that? I have no idea. I sure hope Alberto Gonzalez and Margaret Spellings can come up with something.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

ah, to be an alcoholic

The Mark Foley story offends me on so many different levels. And no, I'm not going to link to it because I'm too disgusted.

I am evil

What kind of mother lures her child to get a flu shot with the happy invitation, "Let's go get band-aids together! Doesn't that sound like fun?" The poor little girl nods and smiles. She has no idea.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Got the job!*

*Pending good references and the ability to wiggle my way out of a contract in the right window of opportunity so I don't end up without either job.

short shorts

The stories, not the fashion.

What's your favorite? I could use a good quick read.

In high school I went through a Raymond Carver phase and found a bunch of old recordings of him. Good stuff. Recently, I've been taken with the supper short Sudden Fiction International anthology.

A few stories I don't mind reading a dozen times:
"Blackberries" by Leslie Norris
"The Elephant" by Slawomir Mrozek
most anything by Alice Munro
and of course classics like "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson