I've been staying mostly sequestered over break, and it's been nice, but today I needed to head out for a variety of reasons. And, as is often the case, I was struck by just how pleasant people can be. The people at the coffee shop where I met a friend, the friend I met there for a conversation in the sunshine, people at the walking track, the woman who works at the post, and the young man at the cash register at the store. I am grateful for all their smiles.
2011 hasn't been a record year for me and movies. We've gone to very few because nothing seemed to call out to us, and we haven't even ordered that many from Netflix. But we've chosen some goodies in the past few days: Trollhunter, Meek's Cutoff, and (Christmas-themed, but in a dark way) Rare Exports. Two of the three are Scandinavian films (Trollhunter from Norway and Rare Exports from Finland), so maybe I should check out more Nordic cinema? And Meek's Cutoff was a sharp reminder that there are American filmmakers out there who are doing very interesting things.
Our Meyer lemon tree was ready to be harvested, and we weren't sure what we wanted to do with the fruit. We thought of lemon curd, since Chris has fond memories of it from his time in England, and we enjoy it from time to time in the States, too. It turns out that most lemon curd uses eggs, which Chris prefers not to eat. The world-wide web to the rescue! Several recipes are out there for vegan lemon curd. We tried one of them this evening, and the preliminary taste tests are encouraging.
And I found out this evening that a former student of mine was named an "artist to watch" by artinfo.com. This made me very happy. He came back to campus to give a lecture this fall, and I loved seeing his work and hearing him talk about it, so I knew he was doing good stuff. It's nice that other people think so, too! He's such a good spirit--it's nice when spirits of that sort get some wind in their sails.
It was wonderful to be outside yesterday, but today's been rainy--a good day to be indoors, doing indoors things: learning more medical etymology, working on a new abstract comic, and finishing The Little Prince in Latin.
I had forgotten how The Little Prince ended (I have a talent for repressing sad endings to books and movies), so I cried as I came to the conclusion. Wilkie came to guard me, to make sure I was okay. Faithful friend!
Getting ready for some holiday time by straightening the house, doing some cooking, and enjoying one another's company. It makes me happy when all four of us, two humans two cats, are all on the bed together, and I can hear Wilkie purr.
Tonight's dinner: pierogi casserole. I'm Polish but didn't grow up eating pierogis, except at friends' houses. One of my parents' former students brought my family pierogi casserole once, though, and ever since I've lived on my own, I've enjoyed making it now and then. Chris likes it, too, and today we tinkered with our normal recipe (which is more of a feel than a recipe), and we enjoyed the results.
The Met's sometimes surreal, sometimes stark, quite stylized, and not-so-much-for-children production of Hansel and Gretel. We watched it here in town at the movie theatre as part of the Met's broadcast series. It was an interesting experience to hear music I remember from my childhood while watching such a grown-up vision of the story.
During the semester I don't seem to be able to write in my journal in a steady way, but I miss taking the time to slow down and reflect. Over summers and holidays it becomes part of my routine, and I'm glad to be returning to it this break.
A phone conversation with a friend this evening, touching on so many topics and a pleasure throughout.
I also got a holiday card from a childhood friend today. On the back of the envelope she had put a sticker depicting a set of ice-skates, and she added a hand-written note: "Remember when we used to?" We had done a good amount of skating on frozen lakes during the winters of high school, and it was nice to know that she remembered those times as much as I do.
Some quite not-good news from work today, but both Chris and a departmental colleague were supportive and sanity-inspiring. They actually saw the not-good news as having a substantial silver lining--and it is probably the case that they are right.
And the weather was nice enough that I could venture out on the lake in my kayak to take a break from email and worry. Here's the glorious water:
Here it is again, digitally altered:
One of my new students this year told me that over the summer he listened to the English audiobook of Winnie the Pooh while following along with the Latin translation. I thought it was a clever thing to do, so I decided to give it a try. This evening I listened to the first half of The Little Prince while reading the Latin at the same time. A cute way to build vocabulary, see idioms at work, and increase reading speed.
I have a deadline coming up for submitting an abstract to a conference. I've been mentally tossing around ideas, and I even started to type some preliminary outlines for various possible papers. Everything I thought of seemed okay, but for whatever reason nothing grabbed me as the paper I want to be working on now. This afternoon I think I finally found something that feels right, and a sign of that was how easy it was to sit down and tap out some thoughts on my laptop.
Beginning a new book, mailing packages, going out to lunch on a lark, cleaning (or at least beginning to clean) my home office, walking with the neighborhood dogs, addressing holiday cards, and working on medical etymology (which means learning some truly crazy words)--all without wearing my watch, the sign that the semester break has truly begun.
I was working through a problem today, and Chris said what he believed was at the heart of it. He was right, and I immediately knew he was right, but I had been avoiding the crystalline articulation of it. It was good to hear it--the first step in owning it and moving on.
I woke up early on a day when I could have slept a little later than usual! Not a great thing, but I used the extra time to be leisurely with my coffee and then to take a walk on the ridge. Some of the neighborhood dogs kept me company, and they put me in good cheer.
This evening I decided to keep on working until I had all my grading for the semester done. I'm glad that I gave my efforts a final push: I especially enjoyed the last two sets of assignments I read, and tomorrow morning I won't wake up to grading.
This is the fourth December I've kept this blog, and I just reviewed a few entries from past years. In 2008 and 2010 it looks like it took me nearly till Christmas to finish my grading for the semester--that's not necessarily a bad thing, and it was good of me not to rush it if I was feeling tired and pressed. It seems that I was more timely in 2009. This year I'll at least even the score, and (as in 2009) I'll be able to be done just a day or so after final exam period ends. Taking time in the past, when needed, was a good thing--but not needing to take extra time is also good.
I enjoyed Molly Hughes' childhood memoir so much that I started reading her account of her late teens and twenties, A Victorian Girl of the 1880s. Today I read about her two terms as one of the first students of a new teacher training college for women at Cambridge. The excitement and interest of those days lept over the more-than-century distance.
I'm home-schooling myself! I am going to teach a Medical Etymology course for the first time this summer, and though I know all the Greek and Latin involved, I'm not familiar with all the medical-specific combinations of the Greek and Latin elements. So it's time that I start learning them. I began working through the textbook this evening.
At home today: banana bread for breakfast (a gift from a student) combined with cloud-watching and bird-watching. Last December we saw an amazing number of ducks and geese, and this morning's sightings made us think that the same might be true this year. The sky was so beautiful that I took my camera outside to snap a few photos, and while I was out some geese flew overhead and fairly low:
At school today: my upper-level Latin class met as a group for the last time this morning. They talked through their final projects in such a good-natured and thoughtful way; what a sweet final meeting.
For two of my courses this semester there's a final assignment involving a one-on-one meeting with me. I had a few sessions today, and it can be really pleasant to meet with folks on an individual basis, work intently on something together, and have some chit-chat before and after.
Outside good thing: First little snowfall of the season. Ah, when snow is pretty and sweet (and neither a worry nor a nuisance).
Inside good thing: Molly Hughes' memoir, A London Child of the 1870s. I'm usually not a memoir-reader, but this one is lovely, and I'm so glad I bought it (from my new favorite press, Persephone Books).
I haven't had much time to be arts-and-crafty lately, but today I put together a little something for a co-worker. It turned out well (I think), and it felt good to be making something with my hands.
I managed to grade a whole set of Latin tests over lunch today so I didn't need to bring them home to grade this weekend--and the students did well on them. It's not that I expected them to do poorly; it's just that at this time of year they have so many other tests, papers, presentations, etc. that you're never sure if they'll have a chance to keep study well. I'm glad they've managed to keep the Latin ball in the air so far during their end-of-semester juggling.
All three boys--one human, two feline--were sleeping and cozy today when I left for work.