Pie Five: Blueberry with cream cheese lattice top crust
Feb 14th, 2016 by alexfaye


blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar


the lattice was woven on a cardboard circle


the pie, fresh from the oven

This is the fanciest pie I have made to date.  I am feeling strangely confident.

I went out yesterday and purchased a food scale for baking; working on Pie Five merits a reward of some kind.  I also looked at rolling pins and baking cloths too, but snapped out of it and realized that for today, I only needed a legit food scale; I brought one home and proceeded to measure out everything in grams.

I relied entirely on the Spring Issue of Lucky Peach for the recipe and the technique, and the pie came out far beyond my wildest expectations.  [There’s a bunch of pie wisdom (Dana Cree and others) in that issue that I intend to explore more fully.]  But it is dawning on me that if I am patient and if I actually try, I can make these things that I’ve always assumed were beyond me.  I am learning to be in the moment as I work, and to be patient — to not rush to the finish line in the last moment, but to take my time.  There’s a tendency that I have to throw my hands up somewhere in the middle of the process and rush to the end.  I don’t know what is behind this.

So I am psychoanalyzing myself as I bake, which is lovely way to come to wholeness.  I get to think about these things, and then eat pie.  This pie is delicious.

Maddy wants me to try to bake a pie she saw on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives that features blueberries, lemon, basil and goat cheese.  So yes, I’m going to find that pie, and bake it.

“There is just no way you’re the pine scented air”
May 22nd, 2011 by alexfaye

I went to see Billy Collins read  the other night.  He’s a favorite of mine, and I guess most people who pay attention to poetry have heard something by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins — he’s straight forward, sweet, funny and observant.
I had read this poem before, but I came to appreciate it more after hearing him talk about it and read it.  In the poem “Litany,” Collins is poking gentle fun of love poetry that (over)uses imagery from nature to describe the beloved.  Shakespeare did this too when he wrote Sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…”  So Billy Collins is continuing in this tradition, and he took the first two lines from a poem, and explained that he, “rewrote the poem, as a courtesy …something that poets must do for one another from time to time.”

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

And now, the real reason that I am posting this here — something that will make me happy for the rest of my life.
ADDENDUM:  Actually, watching this is a poignant reminder of impermanence.   It’s been almost 18 months since this child’s mother recorded that video.  This boy is gone — along with his unique, heart rending pronunciation of “grass,” “shooting star,” “moon,” “trees,” and “teacup.”  One reason I listen to this is to hear his voice say to me, “But don’t worry…”  And then I reflect on impermanence.
I got fat
Oct 4th, 2009 by alexfaye

When I start to live in my head too much, and neglect my body because of the Dance of a Hundred Things to Do, my body slides down the hill FAST.  This is a surefire sign of aging:  take a walk, and every joint hurts:  toes, hips, shoulders, ankles.  Clothes feel tight.  Negotiating small spaces is awkward.  Simple everyday yoga poses are a challenge.

I think, somewhere Alex, there’s a woman your age training for a marathon, a triathalon; she’s swimming laps, she’s riding her bike.    Somewhere there’s a woman my age who is a competitive body builder.  She’s got her body fat percentage down low.  And although those women might not have — as Annie Lamott suggested once — rich inner lives, I’ll bet they are pretty grounded.  When you care for the body, the spirit and the mind calm down.

Anyway, I can’t write a blog post right now that is simply a repeat of the most boring litany in the world:  “I’m going to get myself back in shape.”  Ho hum.

I was talking in class about the urgent getting in the way of the important.  That’s a Steven Covey idea:  the urgent needs to be done now, but does nothing to advance the goals I have set for myself.  Writing, sitting zazen, stretching and strength training,  playing golf, gardening, taking long rambling walks…these activities have to supercede the Dance of a Hundred Things.  And yes, I know the trick of putting those things on the Dance Card, and marking them “A” for top priority.  So I will do that, but I always laugh a little in my head when I look down in my Franklin planner and see on the list, “Sit Zazen.”  It seems like a funny little zen joke.

Anyway, now it’s back to work.  First, I have to run out and buy cream for my coffee.  Very important.  And cook the chicken, and iron the blouse, and wash the dirty clothes, and make the Powerpoint, and send the email, and check my homework, and get myself ready for a busy day tomorrow.  Calling the city inspectors to come out and look at the sheeting on my roof so we can purchase roofing material, and get a roof on the house before the rain falls.  If it ever does.  We are in a drought, but still.  Why tempt fate?

Took out a loan so Maddy can finish her senior year.  We didn’t want to, but we had to.  I wonder where we will be next year, as she tries to enter the job market.  Chemists are eminently employable, but Maddy has something specific in mind (brewing), so we’ll see how it goes.  She has lived a charmed life thus far, and there’s no reason I can think of that this good luck and wind-at-her-back needs to change.

Here she is — cute as can be.  The truth about parenting is that it is the same as running a long race.  You look out at the tree in the distance and say, “I just want to get to that tree, and I’ll be OK.”  Then at the tree, you set a new goal, “I’ll just run to where that red truck is parked up ahead, and then I’ll let myself rest.”  So, I thought getting her through high school was the biggest challenge:  the challenge of the driver’s license, the parties, all of the trouble that can waylay a young person.  Then, the goal was just to get her settled at a good college.  But now, as she approaches graduation, I worry about her work life.  “Worry” is the wrong word — Maddy has proven herself to be a smart and resourceful person.  But I do want her to land somewhere where she will be able to use her skills & her education; where she will be appreciated and valued, and where her work will be interesting and engaging.  That she will be surrounded by people who “get” her.  What a luxurious thing to think about, though.  So many mothers must carry much deeper concerns for their children, and here I am hoping people “get” my daughter and that her work will be interesting.  I understand that I am blessed.  Nobody can love a child as completely as a mom, but of course, children don’t really get that; they are not supposed to, or they could never move out on their own.  I know I didn’t understand how hard my mother prayed for me.  Loving my daughter taught me to reconsider my own mother anew.  cutemaddy

What I’m reading
Jul 1st, 2009 by alexfaye

This one from the UK seems obvious:   Google is forcing us to change our habits.  This article dovetails beautifully with what my students are reading this summer in Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. [As an aside, we have a book club at my school, and this summer we are reading Postman’s The End of Education. I’m in the middle first chapter, and as always, I am finding Postman fascinating.  I will write about that book here as I make my way through it.]

And I’m on Twitter quite a bit this summer, chasing down trends in education and technology, so I found this interesting about professors using Twitter in the classroom. We are in the middle of what they call Convergence Culture — or what Alvin Toffler described in his book The Third Wave (1980) — when a new wave (of technology) comes in, previous waves don’t just leave or die out. They thrive on their own terms, and they interact, provide resistance, provide support to new waves…so as new technologies come online, the old ones do not disappear — nor should they! You won’t find me arguing for the Kindle over the book. You’ll find me wanting the Kindle AND the book.

I am someone with one foot firmly planted in both worlds. I am constantly pushing my colleagues and peers toward technology while advising my students to back off. Oh! Speaking of that…here’s another little something by Howard Rheingold about Crap Detecting — the all important skill for young people to develop. In a world with everything at one’s fingertips, what is real? What is useful? What is valuable? And what is — well…crap?

[I crossposted a version of this at the AP Bloggers site.]

June 30: spent my day learning Word Press
Jun 30th, 2009 by alexfaye

I’ve made some progress, but I’m not convinced yet that I haven’t just been wasting my time.  Will the look and the functionality prove to be worth the time I’ve invested so far??  We shall see.  I’m still many hours away from really understanding how this site works.  I feel like I should know more code…maybe it’s time to learn.  Time to take off the water wings and learn to swim out into deeper waters.

Submitted my draft just now
Dec 22nd, 2007 by alexfaye

I recently created a lesson and Powerpoint presentation from They Say, I Say about appropriate ways to integrate the ideas of others into our essays. My kids are writing the Value of Life essay, and I looked at drafts last week. Am I tired? Stressed out with holiday hoopla? Why else did I want to put my head in my hands and weep? Several kids — despite all we have talked about — wrote dutiful little reports: Intro about difficulty of quantifying value of life, Par.2 what Hamlet said, Par.3 What Lance said, Par.4 What Human Life Calculator said, Par. 5 What the Sept. 11 report said, Conclusion about difficulty of quantifying value of life. Argggggh!

But I smiled at them. Thanked them for getting this far right before a holiday. Told them that this is a decent way to prewrite — to summarize everything they heard — but that essentially, what many of them they had so far amounted to an 8th grade report. I read some intros out loud from the better writers. Invited them to be philosophical, to add their voice to the conversation, and to use the pieces from the other writers as touchstones — something to riff off of. Have a happy break, I told them, and go think about life — talk to people over the New Years holidays about this topic.

My most recent birthday was my 50th, and although I hope to have many years ahead of me, I must acknowledge that a fair sized chunk is already behind me. (I have some junk in my cosmic trunk.) I always get a little reflective around my birthday, but this one was signficantly different. And New Year’s always gets me to thinking and writing. Also different: I’ve attended three funerals since October: a colleague was killed in a car accident, our school board president suffered a heart attack, my friend’s elderly father died. My own father is living out his last years in a hospital bed in our living room. I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about life recently. This value of life essay is an essay I could WRITE.

Another thing about this unit: my colleague came in my classroom to observe me on the day that I had the Human Life Calculator up on the wall via LCD projector, and we plugged in his numbers: 32 year old male, 35 year old spouse, both expect to retire 60-65, he earns $52k, she earns $35k, no kids: his life valued at $976,000. We plugged in my numbers: 50 year old female, no spouse, expect to retire 65, earn $62k, 1 child 19 years of age: $276,000. Then when my daughter turns 20 in March, my life’s value drops to $169,000. This just pissed me off. Not that it matters. Not that I don’t understand it. But it pissed me off anyway. And that anger gave me some insight into the 9/11 article.

The kids then said some very sweet things about my value to them, which almost made me misty-eyed, so to avoid a maudlin moment, I started thinking about doing push ups.

Then we plugged in hypothetical numbers, and just changed genders: here were the parameters without gender figured in: 27 years of age, spouse 25 years of age, earning $50k and $40k respectively, retirement at 65, 1 child. The male’s life was valued at less than the female’s! This surprised everyone for a moment, and then the males in the classroom theorized that their lives are worth less because they die sooner. That has to be the correct reason.

That money day was a strange day in class.

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