Monday, December 30, 2013

The Plague...and also Christmas!

So I've been sick since December 8. Two days after singing for Lessons and Carols, I started losing my voice and developed a horrible cough that lasted for over two weeks. I thought I was getting better after spending 10 days on antibiotics, but then yesterday, the day after I finished my last dose, I ended up with a brood of tiny, hostile chickens laying snot eggs in my sinuses. Seriously, it's like they're out for revenge. (TMI?)

{Photo unapologetically pilfered from my mother's Facebook}

So we had a relatively quiet Christmas. My mom was still recovering from about three weeks of the flu, and my dad caught the same bug on Christmas Eve, so most of our family celebration was kind of postponed. We got to hang out with Josh's family and go to church on Christmas morning. We had Christmas dinner at my parents' house. Jason made prime rib with Yorkshire puddings and all the fixings, and he made another version of Mock Dragon's Tail this year. Last year it was made of cake with three different kinds of filling and puff pastry scales. This year, Jason outdid himself by making a chocolate version with chocolate sponge cake and homemade chocolate mousse and mocha filling. The scales this year were made by painting chocolate onto individual rose leaves. The effect was stunning. (You can kind of see the Dragon's Tail in the photo above. I apologize for not taking pictures! Next time!)

If you aren't familiar with the tradition of the Mock Dragon's Tail, it's from Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham:
It was still the custom for Dragon's Tail to be served up at the King's Christmas Feast; and each year a knight was chosen for the duty of hunting. He was supposed to set out upon St. Nicholas' Day and come with a dragon's tail not later than the eve of the feast. But for many years now the Royal Cook had made a marvellous confection, a Mock Dragon's Tail of cake and almond-paste, with cunning scales of hard icing-sugar. The chosen knight then carried this into the hall on Christmas Eve, while the fiddles played and the trumpets rang. The Mock Dragon's Tail was eaten after dinner on Christmas Day, and everybody said (to please the cook) that it tasted much better than Real Tail.
Hope you all had a lovely Christmas! I'm looking forward to spending much of the this week as I spent most of last week--lying on the couch and reading, still trying to recover.

Blessings to you all on this sixth day of Christmas, and may you be blessed richly in the New Year!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Secret Secrets

...Not so secret anymore!

So. It's time for this again, starting on Friday:

I decided this year to begin a concerted effort toward building an author platform, and that meant separating out some of the things that I tend to post about here (random thoughts, teaching stuff, family vacations, cats, general housewifery, etc.) from the stuff that writing peoples (agents, publishers, and other interested parties) would find interesting and relevant. Hence, another blog was born. And also this other one (because social media). The secret is that I've been posting on the new blogs for the last month, and I haven't told you guys anything about it. Sorry!

So now I am telling you. Follow them only if hearing about stuff I'm writing or book-related stuff I'm thinking about is interesting to you. I plan to continue using this blog for all the other stuff I like to write about. :)

So here's the run-down:

Barbers Zu Hause  (the one you're reading) is for general Barber Life updates. (I'll keep the NaNoWriMo word count widget up in the sidebar in case anyone wants to check in periodically this month.)

Anna Writes is for NaNoWriMo related posts, links to articles about writing/authors/books, general thoughts about writing, and hopefully, updates on my writing (my querying process, running tally of rejection letters, news of contract offers, etc.).

My Tumblr is also for writing/book related stuff but also for sharing all the pretty, shiny things I find on the internet. I have also posted some original content there that I haven't posted on either of my Blogger pages. I'm new to Tumblr, but I am finding that it is filling the hole in my life left by the demise of Google Reader and its sharing functions (reblogging on Tumblr is so easy!). There's so many pretty, shiny things on Tumblr! Go look!

So that's it! Have fun! Best Wishes!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Many Parts Does It Take...

...For a regular narrative to become an epic retelling? This isn't really Part Three. It's more like Part Two and a Half.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Summer, Part Two

Here's part two of the summer recap! Check it out after the jump!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Summer, Part One

I do realize that it is fall already (my favorite season), but I never got around to posting about our summer adventures this year. So here's the first installment, in which we go camping with Josh's family near King's Canyon and celebrate our fourth anniversary! Pictures and a full account after the jump.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Last Inches of Summer Pasta Sauce

Here's a thing I created tonight for dinner. It was delicious! Served over mushroom and Chicken/tomato/mozzarella ravioli with onions and enoki mushrooms sauteed in butter with garlic. With Parmesan on top. Yum.

Last Inches of Summer Pasta Sauce

1/2 onion, minced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 large, fresh, ripe tomatoes, diced
1 8 oz can unsalted tomato sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup milk
Sugar to taste
Basil to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a small pot. Add onions and garlic. Cover and let simmer until the onions are transparent and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced tomatoes (skin, seeds, juices, everything) and cover. Let simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down, stirring and smushing them occasionally. Add tomato sauce and stir to combine. Taste and add sugar if necessary. Add basil. Allow sauce to simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens and reaches the desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Add butter; stir until melted and completely combined. Add flour. Stir to combine. Pour the milk in slowly, stirring briskly the entire time to keep the milk from curdling. Add salt and pepper to taste.



Friday, July 26, 2013


I happened upon a gift while cleaning today that my Plato students gave me at the end of the year this year, and it made me miss them terribly. They are truly wonderful people. So I'm posting the short speech I gave in praise of them at the Banquet this year, hereby memorializing their greatness of soul:
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In Plato's dialogue Apology, Socrates defends himself in court where he has been accused of (among other things) corrupting the youth of Athens. In defense of his insistently engaging in difficult and often frustrating discussions on a daily basis with the people of Athens, Socrates explains: "the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue [...] the unexamined life is not worth living" (37e-38a). The people of Athens sentenced Socrates to death.

Students in the Plato class, many of them in addition to their Foundations of American Thought workload, read and discussed nine Platonic dialogues this year including the entirety of The Republic, which we spent the whole second semester studying in detail. Embracing Socrates' advice to choose the examined life, Plato students choose to take this class. They start, perhaps with a vague notion of the importance of reading the works of a famous Greek philosopher from over two millennia ago ("Lewis liked Plato, right?"), but what they come away with is a deeper understanding of themselves, of society, of existence in general. Plato is an optional class, and many students have graduated and will graduate from our program without taking it. I commend this year's Plato students for taking on more work than they needed to for the pure joy of learning, and their commitment to facing head-on some of the most difficult and most foundational questions of philosophy--for choosing to do the difficult thing because it is worthwhile.

This was my first time teaching the Plato class, and it was my first time returning to read Plato since I read it in college, and I have to say, I have learned a great deal this year. In discussions we talked about justice, piety, virtue, justice, art, the mechanism of inspiration, justice, the nature of reality and existence, epistemology, the nature of the human soul, justice (sensing a theme?), and not least of all, why the interlocutors insist on swearing "by the dog." "By the dog, Socrates!" What dog? No one seems to know for sure!

While the content of what we read provided ample food for the hungry mind, some of the best things that I learned this year were not from the books we read, but from the students in my class. I was constantly humbled by their excellence, their clarity of thought, their commitment to seeking out and discovering the truth, and the deep and abiding kindness and care that they showed toward one another. Furthermore, I have never seen a group of students more committed to understanding the implications of each new conviction in their daily lives, seeking not just head knowledge, but the education of their whole souls: head, heart, and hand. Plato students, I am honored to know you. You have made me a better person. It has been a truly magnificent year. By the dog, well done.

Monday, April 29, 2013

YouTube Eliot Makes New Poems

Okay. I am finding the English closed-captioning for this video unreasonably hilarious. Is anyone doing a found poetry project via incorrect closed captions? Because someone totally should.

Watch, and make sure you hit the "CC" button (feel free to skip around--it's long):


Monday, January 28, 2013

The Year of Not Putting Up With Things

Sometimes I make New Year's resolutions; sometimes I don't. I usually ask my students if they've made any because I think it's good for them to be prompted to think about making helpful changes in their lives. And because I asked my students this year, I had to think about my own resolutions. Beyond the regular "be more organized" and "try to exercise more" and whatnot, I've been noticing a trend in my approach to daily life over the past month. I don't know what caused the shift in the way I think about and interact with physical objects, or why it seems to have taken place only in the last few weeks, but I'm pretty positive that this is going to be The Year of Not Putting Up With Things. Let me 'splain.

Maybe we should blame it on the practice of frugality that seems to have come with my German heritage, but I've put up with a lot of minor inconveniences over the course of my life...little things being not quite right, particularly in my home or in my wardrobe. A belt doesn't fit quite right. A dress rides up funny on one side. A shirt feels a tiny bit too short. The trusty black pumps I've owned and worn for years have started to separate from their strap on one shoe. The toilet in the guest bathroom splashes the lid when you flush. The rug in our living room is too small for the space. Our air conditioning has never worked.

Little things--pinpricks of discomfort and annoyance. I've been noticing them especially of late. Normally, I'm of the work-with-what-you-have-and-make-it-last mentality: frugal, German. I try to fix things when they break. I use shoe glue, and superglue, and all the other glues, not to mention needle, thread, wrench, hammer, and screwdriver. But this month, these little annoyances have been compounding for some reason, and within the last few weeks, I've found myself saying "Life is too short to _________________" more times than I can remember. Life is too short to put up with ill-fitting clothes. To keep wearing shoes that squeeze your big toe. To live with toilets that splash when you flush them. And so on. There are some things that we must endure in this life, but none of these need be on that list. Revelatory.

On top of this, I've been thinking a lot about everyday aesthetics. Not everything needs to be mind-blowingly beautiful in life, but there's something to be said for cultivating neat, tidy, clean, simple, quiet beauty. I've done a decent job of cultivating this in some areas of our home (I should post a picture of our mug collection sometime--it makes me glad every time I open the cabinet in the morning), but in other areas, I've barely even thought about it. Only now, I'm realizing: life is too short to put up with ugly, shedding doormats.

Now, if we were wonderfully wealthy, having come to this realization it would be all too easy to fall into the trap of blowing wads of cash on new things to replace the stuff we don't like, but since we don't have that kind of money (hello, school loans!), we don't have that temptation. Also: frugal, German. That's not gonna change any time soon.

So the trick now is figuring out how to Not Put Up With Things while still managing to not be wasteful. I can send clothes that don't fit well off to the thrift store because I don't really like wearing them anyway and someone else might. I don't need to replace them, at least not yet. (Once glance at my closet will show that I am not likely to experience a shortage of clothes any time soon.) The black pumps will be replaced, hopefully by another pair that will last me equally as long or longer. I'm researching how to fix the toilet. I don't have to put up with these things. I can change them. I can fix them.

It's going to be a year of purging, simplifying, fixing, saving, and thoughtfully replacing. It's the year of actively seeking to make our daily lives more simple, more orderly, more beautiful.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Confession: we never got around to decorating for Christmas this year.

I felt slightly bad about not decorating all throughout December. We got a Christmas tree for free from a neighbor this year the last week before Christmas, and it went out onto our balcony and never made it inside. There was no nativity to set up. No stockings. No wreath. It was the season of almost-but-not-quite, the year of we'd-really-like-to-but-we-don't-have-time.

There were lots of reasons why it didn't happen this year, but the biggest reason (and the gladdest one, too) was because so much of our time and energy this Advent season was devoted to launching our new church. The Anglican Church of the Epiphany came into existence on December 2, 2012 this year after months of planning and a lot of hard work by a lot of people. We looooooooove our little church. We love singing in the tiny choir. We love getting to know all the people there. We love after-church potlucks. We love having a local church (finally!) just down the street. And we love having a place to serve. I was confirmed by the bishop on December 23. I have a Book of Common Prayer, and I'm not afraid to use it. This church is (in my reckoning) the best thing that happened this year.

Christmas was wonderful. We went to church in the morning, hung out with both sides of the family, and feasted on delicious food. I didn't really miss our decorations much at all. We'd carried Advent with us on our lips as we rehearsed the songs for choir all December long. I read Advent and Christmas poems to my students. We lit the candles in the Advent wreath at church each week. And when Christmas came, it came joyfully, with a pianist who played so exuberantly that I couldn't help but laugh out loud while singing "Joy to the World."

This Sunday was our patronal feast day. Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season, and looking back on this year, this might be one of my favorite Christmases yet. Even if the only sign of it in our home was a humble vase of holly branches on the kitchen counter.