Cooking and Composition

adventures in discourse and dinner

Wonderful Father, Wonderful Day — June 15, 2014

Wonderful Father, Wonderful Day

It doesn’t take a special day of the year for me to remember how lucky I am to have my father. Unlike many people I know, I’m lucky that my father is in my life, but I’m also lucky because he’s a genuinely wonderful, great man.

I have a very special bond with my father. It’s kind of funny because as an infant/toddler, I wanted nothing to do with him. But I grew into a daddy’s girl after my first couple of years of life, and now I have so many exciting, fun, and silly memories with my dad.

Like this: watching a storm roll into Kansas in 2010.

I’ve already written about my love of reading and that connection I share with my dad. But I’ve been realizing lately just how much my dad has shaped my personality. From pushing me to be a self-sufficient, independent person to nurturing my creative side, my father (and my mother, too, I won’t deny) has always been there for me, making me into the driven and spirited woman I am today.

So for today, in honor of Father’s Day, here are some things that I associate with my dad:

“Little Black Back Pack” by Stroke 9.

Do you know this song? Because most people my age don’t really remember it. I’m pretty certain I still know all the words, and that’s because Dad and I heard it twice every week when he drove me to and from dance classes. It seems odd to think that approximately 20 years later, I don’t even listen to the radio in my car (I plug in my ipod or phone), but back then all we had was the radio!

Making Home Videos

My dad used to occupy my brother and I with the most creative stuff! We would sometimes make our own music videos. There’s a great home movie of my brother singing “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” with my dad. We also created our own newscasts. I’d love to dig through my parents’ home video VHS collection (and update it to the digital world!) so I can see and relive those silly moments.

Class Field Trips and other School Events

My dad was the first father to be a room parent at my elementary school. This was a big deal–the newsletters came home asking for “room mothers” and my dad volunteered. My teachers were really excited that he wanted to chaperone our field trips and plan our holiday parties. After first grade, my school finally started asking for “room parent volunteers” instead of limiting it to mothers. Go Dad!


My dad was always great at Halloween. One year, he dressed up as Two-Face. I’m pretty sure my brother was Batman, and I was, less appropriately, the pink Power Ranger. When I was two or three, my entire family dressed up as the Ninja Turtles. As I got older, we stopped making these family outfits, but it was still a great memory/experience for me.


From the fun (snow ball fights, snow angels, and snow men) to the practical (shoveling snow), a fresh snowfall always makes me think of my dad. But when I started driving, the snow brought a new appreciation for my dad, who always left for work before the rest of the family. Whenever I would go out to start my car, the snow and ice was always mostly scraped off. When I started college, I cried reading “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden because it reminded me of the little things my dad has always done for me.

I’m so grateful that I have a loving father who has always helped me and supported me. I could talk more and more about how much he has shaped me, but I think I will save those for another post. 🙂

Today was a great Father’s Day for my family. We made homemade, grilled pizza (yum!), and my mom finally broke out the ice cream maker we bought her for her birthday.

Blackberry ice cream, dark chocolate brownie, whipped cream and almonds. Delish!

I hope you all had as much fun today as I did. What do you love about your dad? What’s your favorite memory or the most interesting way your dad has shaped you?

Hello, Summer! — May 18, 2014

Hello, Summer!

Is it really summer already? I know I’ve been “done” with teaching for a couple of weeks, but it doesn’t quite feel like a “vacation” yet.

I’ve been mostly quiet on the blog sphere. The end of the semester always exhausts me. Between the marathon grading (and it was, up to the last minute almost this semester) and dealing with students complaining about their final grades, I’ve been thankful to have a couple of weeks where completely vegging out was possible.

I haven’t kept up with my e-mail.

I haven’t read any other blogs.

I haven’t even been inspired to blog.

Today, I was hit with a panic that I had forgotten to submit my 4C14 proposal. But, I did just turn it in (thanks to a friend’s reminder of Facebook!) and it’s all out of my hands now. Continue reading

Weekend Productivity & a DIY Planner — February 9, 2014

Weekend Productivity & a DIY Planner

This has been an unusually productive week/end. I am keeping up with my grading in manageable chunks and doing things that keep me feeling accomplished so that I’m not just wasting time.

My productivity really started on Thursday, when my mom and I spent the day at the coffee shop working. I got a lot of papers graded, and it was nice to be out of the house.

On Friday, I kept grading grading grading (because, of course I did) and ended up having an impromptu knitting night with one of my BFFs. We had planned to make ear warmers, but instead she showed me a great pattern for a dish cloth that she uses. I need to practice with the smaller needles, and I thought it would be a good idea to making something more practical and quick, rather than just knitting a bunch of scarves all the time. Continue reading

Quarter Life (Health) Crisis — January 14, 2014

Quarter Life (Health) Crisis

One of the most exciting things about the collaborative research project I’m doing with my students is that we aren’t just writing collaboratively; we’re actually learning collaboratively about an important issue in our society.

I chose to investigate the question posed by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, “Is Fast Food the New Tobacco?” As much as I wanted to give my students some stake in this project, I also wanted to have a schedule set when the class started. Fortunately, everyone seems at least mildly interested, and so far the readings have been thought-provoking.

So thought-provoking, in fact, that I’m engaging in my own critical reflection on my own health habits.

Cue yet another aspect of my quarter-life crisis.

Continue reading

It’s the Holiday Season! — December 9, 2013

It’s the Holiday Season!

Let It Snow Landscape
I took this photo at Whyte Horse Winery in Monticello, IN, over the weekend. Clearly that means I’m in the holiday spirits?

Final grades for this semester are due one week from tomorrow, at noon. I’m trying really hard to chug through the grading, but it’s. . .mentally exhausting?

I guess that’s a good way to put it.

Even when the papers are excellently written, it can be a struggle to read multiple research papers in once sitting. Unfortunately, I have about 250 papers (not all research-based, thankfully) that I need to grade and add to the gradebook within a week.

It’s going to be a very, very long week.

But after that, I am free for a few weeks, and I’m pretty excited about that!

I’m going to read!

I’m going to knit!

I’m going to spend time with my family!

I’m going to sleep in and watch TV and spend too much time on Twitter and Facebook, Buzzfeed and Instagram!

Speaking of family and the holidays, my parents, brother and I had an interesting conversation this weekend that I think reveals a lot about each of us. Instead of buying us presents, my parents suggested we all just spend a day out shopping and have some nice meals. My brother and I can pick out our own gifts and then my parents won’t have to worry about it because neither of them have a lot of time left for holiday shopping this year.

Personally, I was all for it from the get-go. A couple of years ago I went shopping with them and picked out most of my own presents. They loved it because they also made me wrap them myself.

My brother, however, kept getting hung up on needing to have that “Christmas feeling” on Christmas morning, and he wondered what we would do if we didn’t have presents to open on Christmas morning.

My dad said we would probably be going to our grandma’s, like usual.

My mom said, “We would still wrap the presents!”

This was a surprise to me. If we were going out shopping as a family, why would we bother with the process of wrapping the presents, just to unwrap them a week or so later?

Mom then called Dad and me scrooges. But it was interesting to see how we each interpreted the experience of going shopping as a family for Christmas gifts.

Just to annoy my brother, I offered to wrap all of his gifts in the awesome glitter paper I bought.

I used it over the weekend to send out a Secret Santa gift, and he keeps complaining that there is “gold glitter everywhere.”

Secret Santa Gift!
Who wouldn’t love this gold glitter paper?

But. . .but isn’t that the reason for the season? To put glitter on everything?

PS: It’s not too late to vote in my giveaway poll! It’s open until midnight this Friday, so vote away!

Top Ten Tuesday: What I’m Thankful For — December 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: What I’m Thankful For

I’m honestly not surprised I’m running a week behind. Last week was basically 100 percent chaos, and even though I posted last Tuesday, I never wrote my Top Ten Tuesday post.

But it doesn’t have to be the week of Thanksgiving to be thankful, does it?

Not familiar with Top Ten Tuesday? Be sure to stop by The Broke and The Bookish, who runs the meme, to see what’s officially on the docket today. 🙂

10. Knowing How to Break Mechanical Rules.

I cringed a little bit when I read my title, but whatever. It’s 2013, and we can end sentences on prepositions now. If it bothers you, just put your favorite derogatory name at the end. Example: What I’m Thankful For, Asshat.

9. Wonderful, Excellent, Awesome, Fantastic Holiday-Season Shopping.

I am not a Black Friday shopper. Never have been, and probably never will be. But this year I was a Saturday-After-Black-Friday Shopper and it was wonderful. One pair of Nine West Boots and one pound of Teavana Tea later, I was just getting started. I also snagged a great “Totes Ma Goats” bag, an awesome cat sweater, and a couple of lovely new dresses. All while saving money.

8. Music.

Music is such a huge part of my life. I started dancing when I was about four, and 21 years later you can still find my pirouetting in the kitchen in my socks. Even though I don’t dance in any organized way anymore, you can often find my rocking out driving in my car, working in my office, or even grading papers in the coffee shop. I almost danced into a worker at the Pie Company once, and I’m sure I’ve embarrassed my friends dancing through various stores and restaurants.

7. My Job, Colleagues, and Students.

I’ve always been very school-oriented, so I was (understandably?) nervous about my first year  out of school. It may not count (I am teaching, after all!) as being totally “out of school,” but I’m thankful for the break from being a student and for the opportunity to work in a department I love.

6. Finally Being able to Paint My Nails.

At 25, you would have thought I’d have mastered nail painting by now. I hadn’t. But I recently watched a friend paint her nails, and it was life-changing. Now, my nails no longer look like a five-year old painted them with one of those paint-by-numbers brushes.

5. A Car that Works, and the Ability to Keep it That Way.

I got Rowena brand-new back in 2009 when my Ginevra got totaled. Four years later, I’m so thankful to have a car that runs well and to be in a position to keep her running well. I’m not always mechanically-minded, but I know it’s much better to pay to keep Rowena fresh and happy than to run her into the ground in a few years.

4. Margaret Atwood’s Beautiful Writing.

I finally started MaddAddam and I’m so happy to be reading it. But I’m trying to make it last. There’s just something so engaging about Atwood’s writing style. I have never before been so interested in reading about a man surviving in the wild.

3. My Family.

Obligatory? Maybe. But sometimes it’s nice to remind people that you appreciate them, especially when you snap at them on. . .oh, a daily basis. It’s not easy moving back in with your family, but I’m thankful for the money-saving opportunity, and it’s nice to be close to them again.

Those boots I was talking about earlier? They were suede. I had to walk out barefoot to meet my friend Mark in the rain. Luckily, I had spare shoes in the car!

2. You Guys! 🙂

Is this more cheesy or silly? But it’s very true! I love seeing new followers and getting comments, and I love reading blogs and seeing what everyone is reading, making, doing, dreaming, writing. So thanks for following and writing!

1. My Best Friends.

I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. I’m sure I could write a lot about them, but I won’t say too much here. Kaylin, Jenny, Kaleigh, Teresa, and Mark. The past couple of weeks have reminded me why they are so important.

25 years old, Still reading with Dad — October 1, 2013

25 years old, Still reading with Dad

I recognize how lucky I am to have grown up in a family with a love for reading. I remember one of the first sets of independent readers my brother and I got; even though he was two years older than me, we often shared these sorts of presents, and I think that is probably where my passion for books came from. They were a Christmas present and came packaged in a blue milk crate. All of the books had the shiniest, glossiest cardboard covers, and I know that these books still sit on our shelves today, over twenty years later.

I am reminded daily where my love of reading comes from. Since I have moved out and moved back home with my parents, my bedroom also has the remnants of being their office for three years. Each day, I wake up and fall asleep next to an overstuffed bookshelf full of my dad’s novels. It is a bold but quiet reminder of how I am the way I am today.

A beautiful bookshelf!
There are a lot of books on this shelf.

My mother is an elementary school teacher with a reading specialty, and my father is a mailman who consumes, on average, two books a week and is never in the process of reading fewer than two books at a time. I remember reading with both of my parents as a child, but some of my favorite memories of books in general come from reading with my dad.

Not all of these are positive memories, mind you. I remember having to read “The Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury aloud to Dad because I couldn’t read it without falling asleep. In my mind, it will always be “the story about time traveling and killing a butterfly that I had to read to Dad.” In fact, when I googled that main clause to find the title of this short story, I was a bit surprised to find it was by Bradbury, who is one of my favorite authors. Perhaps I would like “The Sound of Thunder” better now that I am not falling asleep reading it in an oversized, hardcover text book.

Dad was also always available for reading plays. I love plays, but I would much rather see them. In the rare instances we were assigned to read a play out of class, Dad and I would switch of characters, reading different parts in different voices.

But the real fun of reading with Dad comes from being the only two in the family reading the same book. This started when I was in fifth grade, and my teacher started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to us. I was so enthralled, I checked out the book from the library and read it on my own because I needed so desperately to know what happened sooner than everyone else in my class. I received the first three books for Christmas that year, and after I read them, Dad started them. This continued all the way through the final installment: Dad would preorder the book on Amazon, and I would wait anxiously for its delivery. After it came, I would read it as fast as possible, hiding my tears and joy from Dad, who would always let me read the book first. When Hedwig dies early in the final book and I sat sobbing on our couch in the living room, my dad said, “Well, it must be good. She’s crying already.”

Harry Potter is only the first series that Dad and I have read together before anyone else in the family. My mom finally got around to reading all of them, albeit a bit slower than the two of us. This trend has moved on to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, which Dad and I started reading in late 2011. We are eagerly awaiting the publication of the next book. There are many other books that Dad and I have read together, like David Benioff’s City of Thieves and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. (As an aside, MaddAddam is sitting impatiently on my bookshelf, teasing me every time I go to sleep.)

This past weekend, Dad started Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. I had never recommended anything in the gothic genre to Dad, and I wasn’t sure he would like it. However, I loved the book so much that I simply could not keep it to myself. He said that he read the back of the book and wasn’t sure he would enjoy, but he decided to start it anyway. Now, he says he can’t put it down. In all honesty, I had pretty much the same experience reading it.

Books from the Bedside. Dad will read just about anything.

Dad and I don’t always like the same books, and we don’t always like books for the same reason, but I am glad that I have had the experience growing up of reading books and talking about them with someone else. I am excited for the day that I can share this familial bond with a child of my own. Until then, I will keep reading with Dad.