Cooking and Composition

adventures in discourse and dinner

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read in 2013 — December 31, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read in 2013

Wow. I can’t believe 2013 is over (fewer than 12 hours left!) and 2014 is about to begin.

This year has been a little all over the place: lots of changes, lots of ups and downs.

But we’ll save that post for later. Instead, here are the Top Nine* Books I Read in 2013.



If you aren’t familiar with Top Ten Tuesday, check out the weekly book meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish by clicking on the image above.

Continue reading

So Much Grazing, So Little Time — December 27, 2013

So Much Grazing, So Little Time

I have received four GRAZE boxes already, but I have not been keeping up with sharing my reviews of them. I think I did maybe two.

I have eaten a lot more Graze than that.

So here’s a little rundown/synopsis. If you are at all interested in Graze. . .or mail-order snacking. . .or my (probably very strange and particular) opinions on snacking, read on!

Box 1: Cracking Black Peppercorn, Honeycomb Crunch, Super Berry Detox, and Fruit and Seed Flapjacks.

Box 2: Dark Rocky Road, Fruity Mango Chutney, Chili and Lime Pistachios, and Pomodoro Rustichella.

Box 3: Raspberry and Coconut Muffin, Jalapeno Fiesta, My Thai, and Tropical Daiquiris

Box 4: Summer Berry Flapjack, Bonnie Wee Oatbakes, Graze’s Chocolate Orange, and Coco Paradise

Some I love, some I like, some I could definitely do without, and some I am saving or avoiding eating.. As you will see.

Must Have Them All Right Now:

  • Honeycomb Crunch. Easily one of my favorites. Chocolaty, crunchy, yummy.
  • Pomodoro Rustichella. I’m surprised how much I liked this because it’s tomato-y and I don’t really like tomatoes. At all. But it was wonderful.
  • Chili and Lime Pistachios. Love pistachios, and these had the right amount of kick.
  • Summer Berry Flapjacks. A chewy, rolled-oat bar with berry-infused cranberries. Yum!

Eat-It-Again Worthy:

  • Fruit and Seed Flapjacks. Like the Summer Berry ones but with seeds and dried fruit.
  • Super Berry Detox. A nice mix of berries with those delicious white raisins!
  • Dark Rocky Road. You can never go wrong with chocolate. The chocolate drops are a little big, which makes it hard to eat a bit of everything at once, but the flavors themselves are nice.

Still Not Sure How I Feel:

  • My Thai. Soy puffs with a sweet chili sauce. I think the dipping sauce was pretty good, but it does have a fairly intense flavor. It reminded me a big of an egg roll dipping sauce from a local restaurant.

No Thank You, I Will Do Without These:

  • Cracking Black Peppercorn. I wanted to like these. But I just didn’t like the taste of the puffed rice. It was almost chemically to me.
  • Fruity Mango Chutney. Black pepper dippers and mango chutney dipping sauce. Not a big mango person (don’t eat it much because a few times I’ve had allergic-like reactions to it). Mostly did not like the black pepper dippers. Probably for the same reasons I didn’t like the cracking black peppercorn.
  • Raspberry and Coconut Muffin. I also wanted to like this, but I’ve never been a big fan of coconut, and it ruined this for me. I tried to pick around the dried coconut pieces, but it was a little hard. The amaretti drops, raspberry-infused cranberries, and almond slices were good. If I could eat coconut, I might like this a little more.
  • Coco Paradise. I didn’t get this “trashed” before it was sent, so I’ve set it on the table in hopes someone in my family will it eat. My mom likes coconut, so we’ll see. I’m sure the cranberries and chocolate drops are delicious, I just don’t feel like digging through it.

Graze has a really wide variety of snacks, and I’m excited to keep getting more (and try the couple I have sitting in my box, waiting to be eaten)!

Another nice thing about Graze is you can influence what comes in your snack box. Don’t like something? Trash it. Don’t like a particular ingredient? Graze makes it easy to search for any snack that includes that ingredient.

In my opinion, Graze is definitely worth the $6/shipment. Even though I haven’t loved all of the snacks, I don’t regret trying them and I have been surprised by a couple!

Teaching Research with Collaborative Writing —

Teaching Research with Collaborative Writing

Sometimes, I end up staying up too late thinking about my classes. During the semester, this usually means toiling over how they aren’t meeting outcomes as I anticipated or gushing over something smart my student(s) said.

But it’s winter break, and what am I doing?

Rewriting the course I’ll be teaching in the spring, of course.

I’m struggling.

I was looking forward to this class when I started in the fall, but by the end of the semester I felt most critical of my approach to it. So I’m changing a lot of things for the spring semester, and I think it’s going to be much more successful in helping students to not only meet the outcomes of the course but also to understand why the writing strategies taught in the class are so essential to their academic and personal lives.

One thing I’m very excited about is emphasizing multiple perspectives and effective revision strategies through a collaborative research project that kicks off the semester. As a class, we (including me!) will collectively write a research project. Then, I will task students with revising the project independently.

I hope this project will model source integration strategies, as well as show students how we bring our own perspectives to individual topics and that there are multiple ways to address the same topic using the same information. I think there will also be productive conversations about academic integrity and what constitutes plagiarism and (un)ethical uses of your sources.

This project will be challenging for students, but I think it will also challenge me as an instructor.

It’s already challenging me, to be honest.

Mainly, what topic are we going to collaboratively investigate?

Fortunately, I have narrowed the choices slightly. This spring, I’m going to be teaching with Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst’s They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. I ordered the edition with readings specifically for this collaborative research project.

But now that I’m sitting down to actually write the class, I’m concerned about choosing the “right” topic. If you aren’t familiar with the version that comes with readings, my choices are the following inquiry questions:

  • Is higher education worth the price?
  • Is pop culture actually good for you?
  • Is fast food the new tobacco?
  • Why does it matter who wins the big game?
  • What’s up with the American Dream?

Honestly, all of these questions are fairly provocative. So how do you pick one?

I’ve thought about letting the classes vote on which line of inquiry to take. Whatever question gets the most votes is the one we will address in our collaborative project, and the others will be up for grabs when students are unleashed to conduct a research project on a topic of their own choice.

This brings me to some other concerns. First: is it better to have all three of my classes working on the same question? Pros: a much less taxing prep process because all classes will be reading the same material. Cons: Will my experiences in one class inappropriately affect the other two classes? And won’t this be an issue regardless of whether they are using the same question or different ones?

Second: How do I foster understanding multiple points of view and a healthy amount of debate while also coming to a consensus for our collaborative thesis? This is partially why I’ve chosen to also have an independent revision component. If someone really just disagrees with the argument the class chooses to advance (if any!), that student will have the opportunity to radically revise the paper when all is said and done. I’m also concerned about helping students see other points of view during class discussion. Some of these topics might be more controversial than others for certain students (and some students might just be apathetic about some of the topics). I’ve discussed controversial topics in classes before, but I want to make sure we end up with a topic that encourages productive discussion and learning and not ineffective argument that shuts down the other sides rather than understanding them.

Third: For a book that so heavily emphasizes research as entering a conversation, why are all of the questions closed? I have always taught research that begins with developing a strong, open-ended inquiry question. So this first project kind of flies in the face of one of the more important things I think seeing research as conversation teaches: that there is (almost) always more than two sides to a topic, and a good researcher/inquirer goes beyond for/against and yes/no answers to their questions. Of course, we could infer broader answers to the questions the authors pose; we do this in common conversation when we provide more than “yes” or “no” to a closed question.

Fourth: I need to account for unintended consequences, especially if I select a topic for the classes to work with. For example, I teach at a public university with a wide variety of learners, including many non-traditional students. They have a variety of backgrounds and experiences. I do not want to have a topic that alienates a group of students or even a single student. Likewise, I don’t want to choose a discouraging topic. As valid and interesting as it will be to discuss “Is higher education worth the price?” I’m not sure that I want to be the teacher that discourages a student from pursuing that degree, even if I don’t mean to. (I mean, clearly I think higher education is worth the price at least to some extent. I have two degrees and lots of debt to illustrate this.)

And here I am, awake at almost 1am (the latest I’ve been up ALL BREAK!), thinking about how to continue with my course planning and development in the best manner possible.

Readers, I would really appreciate your weighing in here. It doesn’t matter to me if you’ve been teaching composition for 40 years or if you’re still in high school. Leave a comment with your thoughts and/or vote my poll about what topic you would be most interesting in researching.

Review: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood — December 17, 2013

Review: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

I was up at 7:30 this morning because my body is not quite accepting that it’s able to sleep in now that we are on Winter Break.

Instead of trying to force myself back to sleep (it rarely works, anyway), I decided to get up and have some tea while reading MaddAddam.

MaddAddam by Margaret AtwwodI have been milking this book, the third in the series of the same name by Margaret Atwood. I read Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood a bit too faced, over a couple of weeks a few summers ago, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of MaddAddam. Even though I got it back in September when it came out, I didn’t get to read it until now.

So I tried to take it slow and really savor the post-Waterless Flood world. That worked, until today.

It wasn’t long before I realized I had read 100 pages just this morning. Then, a bit later I realized I had less than 100 left.

So, five hours and over 200 pages later, I’ve finished MaddAddam.

If you aren’t familiar with it, here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack.

I’m not sure that this teaser is the best it could be. MaddAddam gives us much of the history behind MaddAddam, the game where Crake got most of the people to help him engineer the Crakers, the somewhat creepy humanoid species that actually grew on me throughout this novel. We get the story mostly through Toby’s eyes, who hears it from Zeb. This story is both his and his brother’s biographies, the actions that really set into motion the waterless flood in which Crake cleared the chaos for the Crakers, and the mythical origins of the Crakers.

Click below to read on, but be aware that there may be *spoilers*

Continue reading

(Secret) Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town — December 16, 2013

(Secret) Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

This year, I participated in The Secret Santa Book Exchange, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

It was really exciting to buy a gift for another book blogger, and I enjoyed wrapping it up and sending it off. I’ve actually been checking her blog all week to see if she’s said anything about it because  I hope she loves it!

If you’re interested in another book blog to follow, you can visit her at Book Snob. (Coincidentally, we both reviewed Joyland recently, so that was cool to see!)

Go give Laura some love, guys.

But today my Secret Santa gift came in!

It was pretty exciting, and I had to contain myself and no open it until I could take some pictures (which meant backing up all of my phone photos and deleting some of them. Exhausting!).

UntitledHow smart to put this on the box. I wish I had thought of that when I mailed mine out.

UntitledPretty pretty pretty!

UntitledWe have some peppermint tea, which I can’t wait to drink at night because I always forget to by caffeine-free tea. Or I only like kinds that are caffeinated. Plus this is the best time of year for drinking peppermint tea. Rock on!

There’s also The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde.

I’m pretty excited about this considering I hadn’t even heard of this book until I opened the box. But the cover is pretty (win!) and on the back are two quotes that make me excited to read:

“Opening one of Jasper Fforde’s novels means stepping into a playful new universe” — New York Times

“Harry Potter fans outgrowing Hogwarts should dive in.” — People

Now, let’s be honest, here. I’m never going to outgrow Hogwarts. But this definitely got me interested seeing as I’m a total HP nut (I have a Deathly Hallows tattoo, so that should tell you something).

Then, I read the inside cover, which I’ve stolen here from Goodreads:

In the good old days, magic was indispensable—it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading: drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic.

Anyone else excited yet?

Now to figure out what book is getting replaced on my winter  break reading list! 🙂

If you’re reading this. . .Thanks, Santa!

Friday Favorites: Christmas Movies! — December 13, 2013

Friday Favorites: Christmas Movies!

Today’s the last day to vote in my give away poll! Please stop over and do so if you haven’t yet!Friday Favorites

It’s the MOST WONDERFUL time of the year!

To be perfectly honest, I’m not feeling much in the holiday spirit this year. I’m usually very excited, but this year it’s a bit of a struggle.

I’m slowly starting to get in the spirits, though. The semester is almost finished and we finally have the tree up. Now, I’m getting excited about watching some of my favorite holiday movies.

So for today, my favorite Christmas Movies. . .

5. Home Alone

It’s hard to choose which Home Alone is my favorite. I love the first one (and have probably seen it the most), but there’s something about the old lady and the turtledoves that makes me love the second one, too. But Kevin sets up some pretty awesome traps in the first movie, so I guess it would win out in the end.

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Cartoon Version)

Don’t get me wrong, the 2000 version with Jim Carrey is super fun, but it’s the animated version that’s classic for me. Maybe it’s my attention span, maybe it’s the fact that it has such a wonderful narrator reading the story. You can’t go wrong with this one!

3. Jingle All the Way

I laugh so, so, so, so, so hard at this movie. Every year. It never fails. Especially when Arnie ends up in the parade. I love it! And I especially love to watch it during the Christmas in July specials, too.

2. Christmas Vacation

My dad will probably be really sad that this isn’t number one, but I can’t help it! It’s definitely a close call, though. We watch this movie every year and usually end up saying the lines along with the actors. Sometimes we just laugh in anticipation. Sometimes we say lines from this movie to each other just because we can. Like the other day, my dad bought me something, I said, “and, if it’s not too much, buy yourself somethin’ nice.” We haven’t watched it yet this year, and it probably won’t feel like Christmas until we do.

1. The Year Without a Santa Claus

I’m Mister White-Christmas, I’m Mister Snow. . .

I know so many people that have never even seen this beautiful, beautiful movie. It’s wonderful! Poor Santa is sick and thinks that no one cares about him, and so Christmas is cancelled! This movie is my favorite because of the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser. I recently saw that they now have their own Christmas movie, too. . .which I’m probably going to have to watch soon. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to! It’s the best stop-motion ever.

What are your favorite holiday movies?

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR — December 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR

PSST: While you’re here, be sure to go VOTE in my giveaway poll! I wanna know what you guys wanna get!

It’s Tuesday again!

I keep forgetting because I didn’t have to go to school today. No finals, no classes. Wooooo!!!

I did do a lot of work in my favorite coffee shop, though, so it wasn’t like I real day off. I graded seven research papers, so I’m pretty pleased with myself. Only seven more to go!

But more exciting than the grading I did today is that it’s time for a Top Ten Tuesday post!


This week, the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish want to know what’s on our To-Be-Read list for winter.

I know there’s really no chance I’ll get through all ten of these, here are the Top 10 I’d devour in a perfect world full of long breaks.

10. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I love love love Westerfeld’s Uglies series, and I even enjoyed his novella Stupid Perfect World. Of course I’m gonna need to read this.

9. Divergent by Veronica Roth

I saw the preview for the movie when I went to see Catching Fire. And since I prefer to read books before seeing the movie, I guess I should read it!

8. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

People keep recommending this book to me. I hope I like it!

7. Fahreneit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I loved Ray Bradbury so much, but I’m a little surprised that I haven’t read this book yet. It’s time to get on it!

6. Ettiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

I’ve been seeing this book pop up in various blogs, and I’m fascinated by it! I just need to acquire it, now. 🙂

5. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

I bought this over the summer because Dreiser and I share roots in Terre Haute, Indiana. I had lots of classes in Dreiser Hall, but I’ve never actually read this book. It’s probably about time.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I’ve started a couple of books by Green but never finished them. I got TFIOS for $3 on Kindle during a pre-Black Friday Deal (or something), and I’m hoping it’ll be the one that finally gets me hooked. Plus he’s from Indiana!

3. What The Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain

Nothing like a little professional development over break!

2. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

I was going to read this after Joyland, but I went with MaddAddam instead because I needed a break from ghost stories.

1. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood.

This one is almost cheating, because I’ve technically already started it. But I’m only 100-something pages in, so I’m including it here because it’s going to be read. I’m just milking it a little bit because I love this series so much!