Monday, 26 September 2011

A Long Walk

Saturday afternoon I went for a long walk - about five miles.  Once you get out of the subdivision the area I live in is really pretty, so I took my camera to document.  Here are some pictures!

This made me think of Anne Shirley - "why are the roads red?"

Sunset with construction.

He tried to follow me, but I lured him off with some small children and escaped.

(Yesterday I took another long walk - I went to Kentucky.  No, really.  It's only about 2 miles away!  Unfortunately I set out in a light drizzle and when I was about 3 miles out suddenly they announced a severe weather alert over some loudspeaker... I had to rush back in the dark and rain.  I saw some fantastic lightning though!  Still I think in future I'll not walk that far if there's a storm threatening.)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Grasshopper Brownies

My friend Lisa had a birthday yesterday and I knew immediately what I wanted to take to her party:  grasshopper brownies from one of my favourite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen.  A dense, fudge-y brownie topped with mint-flavoured white chocolate ganache and bittersweet ganache.  I made them once back in January for my English class and everyone loved them, but they're so incredibly rich that I never make them unless I have lots of other people to help me eat them!

I never knew why these were called "grasshopper" brownies, but I posted about them on Facebook and my uncle says that according to Wikipedia "A typical grasshopper cocktail consists of equal parts Crème de menthe, Crème de cacao and fresh cream, shaken with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass.")
Then he added, "If I mix one with Kahlua instead of the Creme de menthe, I call it a "Cricket"!"  So I guess the "grasshopper" refers to the chocolate-mint (and the Creme de menthe, which I didn't use since I didn't have it.)

I didn't do any step-by step photos  other than this one while I was cutting them up - Deb covered that nicely. I did make a few changes, mostly due to the shortcomings of my kitchen at the moment.  The recipe says to line the pan with aluminum foil; I didn't have any, so I skipped that step, instead greasing and flouring the pan.  The brownies came out just as easily as they did last time when I used the foil.  I followed Deb's suggestion and used slightly less cream in the ganaches than the original recipe calls for; I didn't quite cut it in half, but I didn't use the full amount either.  I put in probably twice the peppermint extract, because I love peppermint, and I had fun with the green food colouring.  (I think it would be fun to make two pans of these at Christmas-time, and tint the white chocolate ganache green in one pan and red in the other!)

Also, I left out the cocoa powder in the brownie batter, since it turned out I was wrongly convinced I had some in my cupboard (and I made these at about 11:30 at night, so running to the store was not really an option.)  I added in a wee bit of powdered sugar instead.  I had dark brown sugar, not light, and not enough of it, so I used what I had of the dark, then supplemented with a bit of white sugar. Basically, I didn't follow the recipe at all, but it turned out okay anyway!

They always get rave reviews, and they look fancy but they're really easy to make.  There's a lot of "put this in the fridge and let it cool for x amount of time", so they're a lengthy process but you can go and do other things in between.  I recommend the recipe highly!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Random Wednesday

1.  I'm always slightly disappointed when I wake up to a grey, misty morning - and then it turns out to be hot and sunny later on.  I want autumn to be here for real!

2.  Part of my graduate assistantship is grading papers for the undergraduate music literature and history classes.  I really wish I were allowed to talk about it more, because some of their answers are hilarious!  But that's probably breaking confidentiality so I won't share details.

3.  Except for this one: six students in my first batch of quizzes thought Gregorian chant was sung in Sanskrit.  I'm not even kidding.

4.  I ate my lunch at 10:30 this morning.  Which means I'll be starving by 5 o'clock dinner at church...

5.  Wouldn't it be nice if we really could apparate?  That would save all the hassle of trying to find a parking space.

6.  Went for a run Monday evening.  My legs still have not recovered!

7.  In a pinch, double-pointed needles make very nice hair sticks.  But I would like to know where all my hairpins have run off to!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Fancy Oatmeal

I used to hate oatmeal.  Despise it.  Unfortunately for me (or perhaps fortunately for the building of my character) my family went through a period when oatmeal was about the only thing we could afford for breakfast.  I fought it tooth and nail.  But my mother was just as stubborn.  We had a rule that if you didn't eat a meal, you'd get the same food, cold, for the next meal, and the next, until it was eaten.  So I would pick at my oatmeal at breakfast... stare gloomily at the same bowl (now cold) at lunch, and poke at the dismal mess with a spoon at dinner.  Sometimes it would make a fourth appearance at breakfast the next morning.  I think it took me close to a year to learn to eat it the first time, and I still didn't like it.

But recently I've started actually craving oatmeal.  Some mornings it just seems like the right thing to do.  I don't understand this, but I don't fight it!

I like it a little dressed up, though.  It's fantastic with dried cranberries and chopped nuts, drizzled with maple syrup... but that's a little expensive for an ordinary weekday breakfast.  So this is what I do instead:

Fancy Oatmeal

1 cup water
1 cup milk*
dash salt
cinnamon to taste (about 1/2 tsp?  I just shake it in until it lightly covers the surface of the milk)
pinch of nutmeg
1 apple, chopped (don't bother to peel)
1-1.5 cups rolled oats


Put the milk, water, and spices in a pot and bring almost to the boil.  Add apple and oats; cook, stirring every so often, until the liquid is absorbed.  Dish out, sprinkle with raisins or other dried fruit, and top with pancake syrup or a sprinkle of brown sugar.

This makes one really large serving or two more reasonable ones, and can easily be doubled or halved.  And of course you can make it plainer or add more trimmings!

* You can use all milk or all water, also.  I like the slight creaminess that half milk gives :)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

What I Did This Weekend

1.  Drove to Jackson on Thursday for a dress rehearsal.  (And a fantastic choral concert.)

2.  Slept in.  Graded papers.  Lunch with my best friend's dad, tea with my voice teacher.

3.  Performed Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale".  (This is the show we did in the spring; we had a repeat performance as part of a conference on the legacy of the King James Version, which is having its 400th anniversary this year.)
I was "Time".  My main reflections on the part are that men's dress trousers were not made to fit my body, and I never ever want to wear white "clown" makeup again.  (The pocket watch was cool though!)

4.  Drove back to Clarksville.  (Saturday morning.)

5.  Sang downtown for the "Franklin Frolic" with the rest of the Austin Peay opera workshop class.

6.  Drove back to Jackson.

7.  Final performance of Winter's Tale.  Complete with technical difficulties and Mr Anderton, the director, doing hilarious impressions of everything that went wrong afterwards.

8.  Did not get nearly enough sleep.

9.  Woke up 15 minutes after I was supposed to have left for Clarksville this morning.  Still made it to church on time.  (Was very glad there were no cops on the road... *shifty eyes*)

10.  Took a 3-hour nap.  Won't sleep tonight because of it.  But it was worth it.

And now, videos from Saturday... if I can get them to imbed!  We sang outside in front of the Roxy downtown - it was fun!

"The Girl in 14G"

The "Papagena/Papageno" duet from the end of Mozart's "The Magic Flute", with baritone Walter Canales.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Life Goes On

I'm still alive, I promise.  The semester is finally getting into full swing and I find myself exhausted most of the time.  Something about waking up at 6:30 (or earlier) every morning and not getting home at night until around 7 (or later), probably.

I finally got my work assignments - assisting my voice teacher, grading papers for the music history and literature classes, and manning the listening library.  At the moment the last is the easiest - because nearly all the time no one is there, and one can sit and do homework or listen to music or, probably, sleep, uninterrupted.  I suspect it will make for excellent knitting time.  I haven't graded any papers yet but I look forward to it - music history and lit were favourite classes when I took them, so it'll be fun to review.  I'm trying to decide if it makes me a nerd to admit that I was slightly disappointed to hear that I don't get to grade the essays, just the multiple-choice sections!

This is the last weekend I have to go to Jackson for a while - we have two performances of The Winter's Tale (enlivened by an opera performance in Clarksville on Saturday afternoon, which means two round trips for me this weekend!) and then I'm DONE.  I've been enjoying revisiting the play but I can't tell you how happy I will be to be finished with the driving.

Meanwhile, today I sang "The Girl in 14G" -- the piece I'm performing on Saturday -- for a freshman piano class, to help me get over myself and actually act.  (Somehow I'm much more convincing in a practise room alone than I am in front of people... it's frustrating!)  I think it went well; anyway they seemed to like it.  Nothing like singing a string of high Ds before 10 AM!

I'm afraid this was not a very stimulating post.  I hope I'll find something more interesting to write about by next week (and maybe some pictures of socks, too.)

Monday, 5 September 2011

Riding the Bus

Since moving to Clarksville, I've been making use of the public transport system.  This is new for me, mostly because I've never lived in a place with an actually accessible transport system.  But here, I ride the bus.

I live about a 20-25 minute drive from my school, complete with too many stoplights and people who don't know how to share the road.  There is also a shortage of parking at school.  So taking the bus is a less-frustrating way to get where I need to go!

It goes like this.  I don't actually live on the bus route, so I have to drive a little bit to get there.  I like this drive though.  It's on windy back roads and it only takes me six minutes.  (But I have to pretend it takes twelve because I'm usually late getting out the door.)  I park at Wal-Mart, where my bus stop is, and hop on.

The bus takes a winding and circuitous route to the centre of town.  It's about a forty minute ride, which is almost twice as much time as driving myself would be.  But it's forty minutes I can spend reading, working on homework, or knitting (and answering curious questions about my knitting.)  And it's time that I'm not spending being frustrated by traffic!  It also saves wear and tear on my car, a good amount of gasoline each week, and I suppose I'm destroying the planet a little less, too.

I don't take the bus every day.  Wednesdays I have to be at church downtown, and don't get out of choir rehearsal until after my bus stops running.  So I have to drive that day.  Tuesdays I have an evening rehearsal at school which means I take the bus to school for the day, then drive back in for rehearsal.  And for the next two weeks I'll have to drive on Friday as well, since I have to go straight back to Jackson after my last class.  Once that commitment is over, though, I'll only drive two days out of the week.  

I like that. 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

In Defense of Nannies

A couple of weeks ago I came across this blog post, in which the author states that children should be raised entirely by their parents (and especially by the mother); she also condemns the practise of nannying and says it is not something Christian families should consider, or Christian young women do.

As a young, Christian woman myself, who has moreover spent the past summer as a nanny, naturally this caused me to stop and think.  Are her claims correct (and more importantly, biblical?)  Was I wrong to spend my summer caring for someone else's children?  The issue has been bothering me ever since, but I think I've come to a conclusion, so I'm going to inflict my musings on all of you :)

First, let me say what I do agree with "Lady Lydia" about: a child's parents, if at all possible, should be its primary caregivers.  I don't believe a mother should, if not financially obliged, leave her child with a nanny or at daycare all day, every day, and not spend any quality time with the child.  That's not parenting.  (Obviously, if a mother must work to support herself and the child, that's a different matter.)

But hiring someone to watch your child on a part-time basis?  I don't see the problem in that.  I'm not a mother myself so maybe I don't have enough experience to make such claims, but from my own observations, it's a whole lot easier to do the shopping by oneself, rather than with three active children in tow.  If you're a gym sort of person, surely it's more comfortable to go alone.  If you have the means to pay someone to help watch your children, why not?  It seems little different than paying a babysitter to stay with the kids while you and your husband do out for dinner.

Lady Lydia also seems to be implying that the practise of nannying is completely a modern invention; that the historical record shows nothing but sweet pictures of mothers with their children.  Which, if you examine history at all, is not so.  The very poorest people, of course, did not employ nannies - but they don't know, either.  The wealthy have always had nursemaids, governesses, and other servants to help look after their children, and until very recently most middle-class families would have had at least a nurserymaid as well.  Certainly the medieval habit of children almost never even knowing their parents is not ideal.  But again, there is a huge body of historical evidence for mothers hiring other women to help feed, clothe, care for, and discipline their children.  Again, I am not saying this is the best way to do things, but certainly the idea is not a new one.

In my own experience, I watched two children (one just turned three, the other an infant) three mornings a week in their home all summer.  Sometimes their mother was out running errands or working out; other times, she took the opportunity of my presence to do chores or work around the house which would be difficult with children underfoot.  She was present, available for her kids, and never did it feel that my presence was undermining discipline or family rules.

One of the objections Lydia raised is that a nanny will teach your children habits, morals or even religion opposed to the family's beliefs.  The solution to this seems obvious; screen and interview potential nannies carefully, ask questions; hire someone you know and trust.  If rules, methods of discipline, etc. are made clear at the outset, the problem of bad habits is solved, and if one hires a nanny whose morals and beliefs are in line with one's own, there should be no issue.

This brings me to her statement that Christian young women should not be hiring themselves out as nannies.  Before I address her main concern, may I say that, if one believes that children of necessity absorb the morals and religion of their nanny, then more Christians ought to be nannies?

My greatest trouble with Lydia's view, though, is the reason she gives that young women should not e nannies.  She says "Young women need to marry and have children of their own, rather than desiring to become nannies. They can then be the nanny for their own children. If young women spend too much time raising other people's children, they [can] be discouraged from having their own children.  Mothers need to take care of their own children, because they were created for it."  This view presents so many problems to me that I hardly know where to start -- and I'm a very conservative woman myself.  I'll give the main three:

1).  The sole purpose of a woman is not necessarily to marry and bear children.  Paul speaks of some being given the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7) -- presumably this is not limited just to men!

2).  Even if one is intended to marry, what if one has not yet met the man God intends?  (I believe this is my own case...)  Why should a young woman not be a help to a mother, while learning valuable lessons about child rearing, and doing useful, paid work meanwhile?

3).  It seems a huge generalization to assume that every woman who nannies will lose the desire for children of her own.  I suppose if the children are wretchedly behaved this might be a deterrent -- but then what is to say that one's own kids will be likewise wretched?  I myself am more eager for children after spending a summer watching "my" two grow and learn and explore.

I suppose, then, that I agree with "Lady Lydia" in her most basic point: children are better off with their own mothers as much as possible; a 24/7 nanny is probably not the best idea.  But I disagree that every young woman should marry immediately and start having her own children -- again, what if she hasn't met the right man yet? -- and certainly I see nannying more as a good way to learn about child rearing than a deterrent to having children at all.

But I welcome the responses of others.  As I said, I'm not a mother myself.  Does that make a difference?