Monthly Archives: July 2013

Summer Bucket List: And the Summer Winds Down

Our summer semester ends next week, so time is beginning to run out on our bucket list items. This week, we review our June goals and see how far we got:

Colette: It has been a lovely summer and I’ve accomplished several of the things on my bucket list.  I’ve written new pieces, working more recently on songs rather than poems. I’ve eaten food I’ve grown and done a thing or two which scared me – though I didn’t even come close to doing something courageous every day.  That goal was either too lofty or I’m a coward.  I’ve wiled away many a pleasant hour in my lapidary shop, with the beat up hands to prove it.  (I definitely won’t be hand modeling in this lifetime).  I haven’t gone fishing yet, but Pam and I have plans to empty Marrowbone Lake of its biggest fish in the next week or two.  I also haven’t been rockhounding, looking for some of Tennessee’s famed agate.  That may not happen this summer, so it’s a good thing the weather stays beautiful late into the fall. 

 One of my son’s favorite book series as a child was the Redwall series.  Each season, the wisest mouse in the Abbey would thematically name that season and record it in their history annual.  In honor of that tradition,  I’d have to say my history annual will show this was the “Summer of Lounging in the Sun Spot like a Kitty.”  Not especially productive, but wholly enjoyable. 

Emily: If I remember correctly, my bucket list was a bunch of boring home maintenance. We did get the trim painted (thanks to Kathy Emery for the painter recommendation) and put a new roof on the house.  These are all things I’ve been procrastinating about for years, so do I win a prize?

As for fun things, who needs summer fun when you have a new roof! 

Pam: Summer bucket list…I should be kicked in the bucket, perhaps. Okay, update includes YES, I did go camping-sort of at the Whippoorwill Festival where I slept in my car on top of two pillows and wrapped in a dog blanket. It was quite invigorating. What I have NOT accomplished YET, is to go kayaking, but it is still in my thoughts. I’ve even combed thorough Craigslist in search of a kayak for sale. I am wanting to go fishing/camping. A fishing day is upcoming over at Marrowbone Lake, and there will be a small boat involved with a rental fee of $8. (the motor is $28, anchor $5…you get the picture). Now, lastly, I hope to go rock hunting with Colette before summer’s end. 

Jolly Librarian: On the plus side, I wrote a couple of stories, read two more presidential biographies, visited a farmer’s market, and fixed my door. I’ve practiced piano and French most days. On the negative side, I didn’t actually finish any of my proposed projects. So I’m concluding that the whole concept of summer is a myth.

Monday Motivator: Show Your Fear

One of my colleagues, a speech instructor, is acutely aware of how petrified her students are about giving speeches. (This is a fear I share with them. If I taught speech, my syllabus would state something like, “I know you’re afraid of public speaking, and you should be. Because it’s TERRIFYING!” Which is probably the reason I’ve never been asked to teach a speech course.)

Unlike my own teachers who tried to convince us there was nothing to be afraid of when we stood up in front of the class, my friend goes out of her way to agree that their fear is real, but so is their ability to proceed in the face of that fear. So she shares her fears with them. Once she filmed herself at the dentist’s office. Today she is sharing her fear of flying bugs, especially the ones that make walking from one building to another a hazard this week. (One actually flew into my hair, but with my wild curls, it could be forgiven for mistaking my head for a bush.)

I admire my friend’s approach. We often try to make students, our children, or our friends feel better by saying things like, “Don’t be afraid. It’s not scary.” But that doesn’t help when they ARE afraid and the project in front of them seems daunting and downright frightening.

It can be more helpful to say, “Your fear is real. I’m afraid of things too. But this is how I work through it. I know you can work through your fear too.”

Summer Bucket List: Enjoy a Summer Meal

Probably everyone’s memories of childhood summers include food: picnics, cookouts, ice cream trucks, and/or gardens. So this week, we decided to indulge in some summery gastronomic delights:

Colette: The best summer eating, I think, comes from eating fresh.  This week I made a recipe using as many ingredients from my garden as possible.  There is something very rewarding about going into your yard and coming in with dinner.  I made a smoked gouda, tomato and basil frittata. 

 The eggs came courtesy of our chickens, Grace, Scout and Frederick (who got a boy’s name because she was named by a child who didn’t know chicken gender from a hole in the ground).  We get three eggs each day, so it takes two days to gather the eggs necessary for the recipe.  The tomatoes (I used a handful of grape tomatoes because I like those best), basil and jalapeno came from the garden.  Since I don’t grow olives or make my own cheese (yet) those ingredients came from the food store.

 Smoked Gouda, Tomato and Basil Frittata

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon diced jalapeno
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced (or grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 pound smoked gouda, diced
  • 2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk.

Pour the oil into a large ovenproof skillet. Place over medium heat on the stovetop and pour in the egg mixture. Scatter the tomatoes, cheese, jalapeno and basil over the eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the bottom just begins to brown, place the skillet under the broiler just until the top is set, a minute or less. Remove from the oven and use a large spatula to transfer the frittata to a serving platter. Cool about 10 minutes, cut into wedges, and yum.

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Emily: It’s not exactly a summer recipe, but I baked a birthday cake for my dad over the weekend. Though you probably can’t tell it, baking a cake’s a day long undertaking for me – two days if you include the debate over what cake to bake. Last year I made a pistachio cake with a butter cream frosting that left me in tears. Taking note of the extreme humidity, I decided to go with a sturdier cake, chocolate peanut butter.

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Pam: Hey, I actually DID this one! On this journey with helping take care of my mother and attempting to feed her well on her journey with a fatty liver, while visiting her and her husband, Chester in Kentucky I threw this together, and it was a huge success! Mom, who announced she didn’t like kielbasa (as well as my step-sister Pam) snapped it right up! I sautéed turkey kielbasa in a small amount of vegetable oil. After the sausage had browned well, I added in snap peas, Vidalia onion (yummy), white mushrooms, and delicious red pepper. I added NO salt or pepper or anything, and it was simply delicious if I do say so myself- and I DO!  I served this atop a bed of rice and had cucumbers, tomatoes and a bowl of freshly prepped fruit to go with it, along with bread and butter. Yum Yum! 

Sally: Something cold is always good on a hot summer day.

Spicy Honeydew Pops:

3 cups cubed honeydew

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup Key lime juice

1/8 t ground red pepper

 Blend all ingredients. Pour into molds, freeze 8 hours.

Jolly Librarian: Okay. I made this assignment to force myself to make something. I had visions of buying veggies at the Farmers’ Market and whipping up a delicious and healthy dinner. Then as it became obvious that I wasn’t going to do that, I thought I’d find my old blender, buy some fresh fruit, and make a milkshake. That didn’t quite work out either. In the end, I did go to a restaurant with some friends, enjoy a nice summer hamburger and refreshing beverage, and laughed and talked for a hour. And that seems quite a summery thing to do.

Getting Better: Teach It to Someone Else

If you want to learn a thing, read that. If you want to know a thing, write that; if you want to master a thing, teach that. — Yogi Bhajan

The Jolly Librarian makes a confession: Despite my degrees in journalism and English, I was not an expert in basic grammar and usage upon finishing college. When did I become an expert? After my first semester of teaching Basic Developmental Writing. By reading over the rules and having to find a way to teach them, they became part of me. 

It makes sense. First, to teach a skill to someone, you have to know it. But then you also have to know it so deeply that you can find a way to make others understand the skill. (You may have to paraphrase, summarize, analyze, etc.) Also, unlike when you’re studying alone, knowing that you’ll have to teach someone else makes you aware of where you’re weak, so you commit more time to learning it. Plus, there’s built-in feedback. People either understood you or they didn’t.

How can you do this?

You may be lucky enough to have a captive audience. Perhaps you can corner your spouse, kids, or roommate, and you can all learn the names of the bones in the body together. (Warning: This tends not to be a popular approach.)

You can get a study group together, with each person in charge of teaching a particular part of the material. 

If you’re proficient in the subject, tutor those who are struggling. You get the benefit of helping others while reinforcing the skills for yourself.

Definitely, give this approach a try.  As Daniel Coyle, in The Little Book of Talent, states, the old saying, “Those who can’t teach,” really should be changed to “Doers who teach do better.”

Monday Motivator: Consider the Dragon

The problem with wise sayings is that there’s one for every situation:

“Out of sight, out of mind”

Or

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

“As you go the way of life you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.”

Or

 “Foolhardiness made the rat try to jump over the fireplace.”

My own belief is that if we mixed all the world’s proverbs together, the final message might be something like “Take chances, but be prepared when things go awry. For they will.” It certainly doesn’t mean we’ve made a wrong choice; that’s just the way the world works. 

As Tolkien said, “It does not do you good to leave a dragon out of your calculations if you live near him.”

This doesn’t mean that we stop our quest, just that we have to add such hindrances to the equation. Remember Bilbo Baggins’s first response to the idea of adventure: “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

Yet Bilbo Baggins did go on adventures. And so should we. Just keep the dragon in mind. 

The Library Week in Review

  1. Most Inspiring Moment: Former student returned to tell us that she now has her B.A. and is working for the Metro school system.
  2. CSI Moment: Investigating horrible smell in the back room. Turned out to be something totally unrecognizable in the staff refrigerator. 
  3. Most Futile Moment: Asking staff to remove leftovers from fridge before decomposition takes place.
  4. The Most Summer-Like Moment: Having to leave the office to go out in the steamy hot sun to warm up for five minutes.
  5. Best Research Question of the Week: Is it true that Thomas Hardy is buried in two spots?

Summer Bucket List: Take a Mini-Vacation

While summer is traditionally vacation time, sometimes it’s not possible to get away. In those cases, it’s good to take a mini-break instead. That’s what we did this week. Here are our reports:

Colette: Cramming a good vacation into a Tuesday night, or a last minute weekend is kind of tough.  With a few days off I’m sure I could do better :).  I had a sort of urban dude ranch vacation.  You know the scheme where country folk trick city folk into paying to come to their ranches and scoop poo out of their barns?  I had an urban version of one of those.  My roster of fun included cleaning house, doing laundry, pulling weeds and cleaning out the chicken coop.  On Sunday, I did take a long drive into the country, for no other reason than to take a long drive.  I forget sometimes that it doesn’t take much in Nashville to get beyond the concrete and chaos of the city.  It was a beautiful day and a beautiful drive and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Speaking of poo in barns (I can’t believe I actually am), I saw a little farm house for sale, where I could have pygmy goats, which has been a long time dream of mine.  Hmmmm.  It’s got me wondering.

Emily: I completely forgot about this task, but my weekend did involve two “mini-trips” — one to visit my grandmother in Clarksville and another to visit Eric’s extended family in Palmyra. Other than that, I did quite a bit of weed pulling and stick pickin’ up.

Pam: I just spent 40 minutes telling everyone about my fun weekend at the Whippoorwill festival-camping out in my car, and for ONCE decided to copy and paste it into a word document and spell check it first. Seconds before I could send it, the computer completely crashed, and when I rebooted it had not been saved in drafts, nor was it still held in memory from where I’d copied it. As well, Word had not saved it. I just simply do not have the patience to retype it. Sorry. Hope everyone had a good vacation or staycation. :-/

Sally: My mini vacation was in Clarksville at the Librarians and ROCC Summer Academies. I cycled and rode the RTA bus from Nashville to Clarksville. The librarians had a great guest speaker. She talked about embedded librarianship in Wyoming, and was very impressed with all that the TBR librarians are doing with the embedded librarian idea.  I also visited the NSCC campus in Clarksville and met Steve.

I have Digger with me. He is the mascot of the public library reading program this summer. He rides up on my handlebars and loves the wind blowing his ears. Today he met all the TBR librarians, and during my presentation he sat up in front on the computer speakers. He loves to read books, especially books about digging. His favorite is The Big Digger!  It’s about a steam-shovel that dug a hole through a mountain. After the meetings we rode around Clarksville and found some cool sites. One of his favorites was the old Clarksville Train Depot, built in 1882. I will take him to the public library tomorrow.  We are having a great time! 

Jolly Librarian: As luck would have it, I did have a nice vacation this weekend. First, I met friends for lunch at the Thistle Stop Cafe on Friday. They are both writers, so our talk was full of gossip about how cute Neil Gaiman is. (Okay, that might just have been me.) Then on Saturday, I got my hair cut and colored and felt about ten pounds lighter and ten years younger. Saturday night, I went to a dinner party at a friend’s house. We sat on the deck, looking out on the woods, and it truly felt for a few hours that I was miles away. 

Getting Better: Practice Like You Mean It

Tests are a different breed. We all know it. No matter how hard we’ve studied, there’s something about a quiet room with a clicking clock and a time limit. No matter how well we know those French verbs, or those equations, or those dates, tests make us nervous. And we start forgetting things 😦

So what can you do? Practice under the test conditions, my friends. Is your math test 50 minutes with about 20 problems? Then do a practice test of 20 problems in 50 minutes. And if the room’s always cold, crank up the air conditioner. If you have to write an essay at the end of your history exam, then practice writing an essay in 20 minutes without your book. If you have to stand up and give a quick speech in French to your instructor as part of the test, then time and tape yourself to see how you do under pressure. 

As basketball players know, making a hundred shots in a row doesn’t mean anything if you can’t make them during the game. Same for your studying. You’ve got to be able to show that you know it. So make sure some of your practice is as close to your actual test situations as possible. 

Monday Motivator: Be Grateful for the Mélange

Last Saturday, my writing group had a dinner party to celebrate summer. As I sat out on the deck with my friends, I realized that we had been together for more than 20 years. (I can’t tell you exactly how many, but when we started, Margaret had no children; now she has one who will soon finish college.)

Like many such groups, we differ on various issues. Over the years, we’ve found that we disagree on many, many things, from child rearing, to global warming, to presidential candidates, to the role of standardized testing in our schools. Especially during elections, we’ve ‘discussed’ so much, we sometimes have to rush through the actual reading part of our meetings.

We differ greatly in our opinions on writing and literature as well. One of us is a bit of a literary snob and has probably never read a mystery or romance novel in her life. Another is suspicious of all that ‘literary’ fiction stuff. Two are scientists who can really get caught up on some detail, like how fast something can rust.

Yet it’s this very mixture that works. When I have the sun in the wrong part of the sky in a scene, the two scientists will correct me. When I have two pages of inner monologue, I know one person might like it, another will hate it. By listening to both their comments, I have a better idea what to do.

I’ve found this approach works in most areas of my life. While at times, I think it would be very peaceful to have people who always agreed with me and thought my approach to life the best thing  since sliced bread, I know that our very strength often comes from this mixture of attitudes, approaches, and preferences. As long as we all agree on the main thing (We want good writing. We want a good department.), difference is good.

The Library Week in Review

  1. Best Moment: Helped a fellow library worker keep accreditation for his facility by having him spend a day with us.
  2. Worst Moment: Heard that former dean of Math and Natural Sciences, Charles McSurdy, had died.
  3. Most Statistical Moment: When we realized that only three of us can ever make it home before a storm hits.
  4. Best Behind-the-Times Moment: We officially gave up on VCRs this week. 
  5. Nicest Compliment: When a faculty member who writes a customer service blog said she was going to use us as a good example.