Friday, April 26, 2013

The real final assignment...LOL

I was wrong about the last assignment entry being the last one.  I think it safe to say that since this is the last week of the class that this will truly be the last assignment.

Here is the assignment:

Summarize your reactions to the other group projects. How do they compare with what your group has produced? Do they seem to have the same idea of their audience? Do they incorporate the same level of audience choice or control? How do the multimedia aspects compare? Explain.
Did other groups seem to have some good advice for your group? Explain.

Here is a breakdown of the projects


Evenings-English concentrations
Afternoon-RPG game with vulgar language
Weekend Team A-Info tree
Dupuis Robertson-childhood dropouts
Henry and Potampa-children’s literature
Weekend Team B-Using Facebook for school
Wednesday-children’s literacy
Tuesday/Thursday-Multimedia options

Our Evening group produced a website that focuses on the individual concentrations within the English Department.  It is an interactive website that allows the end user to make choices and navigate the site in their own way.  The Afternoon team created a RPG game that I had trouble with.  It has some vulgarities in it that really don’t seem to be appropriate for the English Department’s website or any University website for that matter.  A game that is to be included on the English Department’s website that included vulgar language, that one team member admittedly said her boyfriend put in the game is insulting to the department and the school in my opinion.  It just sends the wrong message for the college.  Weekend Team A created a presentation that was quaint with its “tree of knowledge” as I call it.  You can go to a different branch and click to get more information about the topics.  Dupuis Robertson did a really nice presentation about children who have dropped out of high school.  I liked that it didn’t just give facts and figures about high school drop outs but that it included short videos about the children individually and included links to a website that can show you how to help the problem.  Henry and Potampa did a wonderful presentation on children’s literature and the way that it has changed over the decades.  I loved the inclusion of the popular book titles for each decade.  I not only remembered the books that my children read as well as some that I read as a child.  Weekend Team B created a presentation about using Facebook and social media for school work, study groups, and other uses.  In today’s age and the social media savvy of students, this is a great tool.  Wednesday’s group also used a tree idea to address literacy in the United States and ways in which to build good “roots” in reading for children.  Finally, the Tuesday/Thursday group created a presentation that shows the alternative multimedia options to use for school presentations other than Power Point.  There were several in this list that I knew nothing about.

I don’t believe that all the groups had the same idea of who the audience would be.  I think Weekend Team B and the Tuesday/Thursday group had the same audience in mind that our team did.  They seemed to be as focused as we were on the serious college student.  I don’t think that the incorporate the same amount of audience choice that our team did.  Our project was a truly interactive site, it required quite a bit of thinking and decision making to move through the website.  I also think that the multimedia incorporated in our project is eye catching and appealing to the user.  I do feel that good advice was given in the many suggestions of changing the name as I didn’t get the “What to expect when you’re expecting….English” either.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Oftentimes, I sit trying to think of what to write on this blog.  Then, just when I think I can't come up with something, a friend will ask about something and my proverbial light bulb comes on!  I guess this means if you know me in real life, keep asking questions!  

Today, my friend Amanda was asking me about freezing veggies.  So, let's talk about freezing!

For most veggies, like corn, green beans, etc., that you choose to freeze if you're not one who thinks canning is for you.  In fact, I prefer corn to be frozen, this is just my preference. 

Prepping veggies for the freezer is really easy.  It's blanching, shocking, drying, packaging and labeling.  

Blanching can be done in water or steam.  I have a large enameled pan with a steamer insert that I love.  It's good size and without the insert, can be used as a smaller stock pot.  I like to use the steaming method because I think that you leave the good vitamins and minerals behind in the boiling water.  Whether water or steam, it is a matter of putting the veggies in the water or steam for a few minutes.  Here is a guide that will give you some cook times for the different veggies.

Shocking is simply dumping the veggies into ice water to quickly stop the cooking process.  If you are doing a lot of veggies, you will use a lot of ice.  I seriously love my ice maker when I'm doing this!  Generally, I leave the veggies in the ice bath for how ever many minutes they were in the hot water or steam.

For drying, I lay clean kitchen towels on my kitchen table and then as I remove the veggies from the ice bath, I lay them out on the towels and let them dry for a few minutes.  This step will help to keep the veggies from becoming a vegetable brick in the freezer.  They'll be more separated once frozen.

I use Ziploc freezer bags for packaging.  I like them over containers because I can lay them flat.  I put the veggies in the bag until it's full but not bulging, like I said, I like to lay them flat and stack them, it saves space.  Try to get as much air out of the bag as you can and seal it.  

Make sure you label them with what is in the bag and the date you put it in the freezer.

I do take a short cut when I am going to use a veggie for cooking such as onions, celery and carrots.  I skip the blanching and shocking.  This shortcut is for veggies that are cooked with only, like onions in meatloaf or carrots and celery for making stocks, etc.  I will cut these veggies up in the way that I will be using them.  I dice the onions, slice the celery and carrots and lay them out to dry just a bit and then just freeze them.  If I have a lot of onions, I will lay them out on wax paper on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer until they're frozen and then move them to the Ziploc bag.  Also, the celery leaves are great for flavoring broths and stocks too.  I will rough chop these and put in ice cube trays, fill with water and freeze them.  Once frozen, pop them out and put in a Ziploc.  When needed just pop a couple of cubes in the stock pot.

This is a great thing to know how to do because even if you don't garden, when you see a really great sale at the grocery or farmer's market, you can get a few extra items and put them up in the freezer to use when you can't get them as inexpensively.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sure sign that it's almost Garden time!

You know, there are certain things throughout the year that are signs of what's to come.  Signs that you can count on every year.  It could be leaves turning telling you it's almost fall. The days getting shorter means almost winter.  Seeing more and more school supplies building up at the store means it's almost back-to-school.  Restless children means school is almost over!  For me, seeing this catalog confirms that it's almost garden time!

I love, love, love seeing the arrival of this book!  Cox's happens to be near where I used to live, that's how I became familiar with it.  In my humble opinion, it happens to be the best Plant farm within driving distance.  This book only comes out once a year and they have coupons in it!  Double bonus!

Seriously, I love this place because it is huge and has everything you could imagine for a gardener.  They have veggie plants and seeds, flowers both for the yard and for the house.  They have tools and accessories, even yard decorations.  

Funny side story...I had a friend who had been living with her significant other for probably 8 years when they decided to get married.  Now, I ask you, what do you buy newlyweds who've lived together that long?  They certainly didn't need a toaster!  While I was at Cox's shortly before the wedding, I stumbled onto the perfect gift.  I got them a concrete gargoyle for the yard.  It's was a given that this wasn't something they already had!  They have a wicked sense of humor so they both loved it and all these years later, it still sits in front of their home!

I am now about 25 miles from Cox's and still make the trip out there for my garden.  In fact, my family knows that this is what I want for Mother's day.  I want to go to Cox's and get what I need for my garden, taking as long as I want with out any complaints or "are we done yet".  I get my garden veggies and they pick out some flowers for the front of my house for my Mother's day gift.  Check them out!

I would highly suggest, if you aren't close enough to drive to Cox's, that you find your own version.  I like places like Cox's because, unlike the "big box" stores, Cox's doesn't ship in their plants.  They start everything from seed, nurture them until they are the size that you can easily put into your garden.  The bonus is that they're cheaper than the big box stores too (and don't forget, they have coupons!  LOL).  They don't hide what their doing either.  As you wander through the greenhouse (it's HUGE) you can see plants at different stages of growth.  

An experienced staff is imperative too.  Most questions I've ever had can be answered by the staff on the floor of the greenhouse.  Mr. Cox is there, on the floor as well.  I have NEVER had a question that he couldn't answer.  He also has a lot of creative answers to things that you might not have thought of.  He can help you whether you use chemicals or want to go all natural.  It would serve all gardeners well to find somewhere to get this type of advice when you need it.  

I would suggest that where ever you live, you find your own Cox's Plant Farm! I'd go explore different greenhouses, take a little time to look around at a few before you settle on one.  You want one that first and foremost, has a knowledgeable staff that can answer questions, that are friendly and not put off by questions.  You want to find one that isn't afraid for you to see what they're doing, they shouldn't have anything to hide.  You want to know if they ship in the plants and are just a retailer or if they truly are a plant farm and grow their own.  Are there guarantees?  I know at Cox's there isn't a guarantee on veggie plants but for things like trees or roses, they do guarantee them for a year or they'll replace them.  

In my opinion, any plant farm you go to should also be reasonably priced.  Just because something is four times the price does NOT make it better.  They're veggie plants.  Cox's is reasonably priced, even their heirloom veggie plants are priced the same as the regular ones.  Any place you go should have a variety as well.  I looked for Leek plants to try one year (it was an after thought for the garden) and no where in the city had them, not even the plant stores here.  I found them at Cox's.  I should have just started there.

Bottom line, you should find a place to buy your garden plants that care as much about gardening as you do.  The people running it should be friendly and willing to answer questions beyond "How much does this cost".  They should have a wide variety of plants, even multiple varieties of a veggie.  It's a bonus if they also offer pricing for flats, not just individual containers that have 4-6 plants in them.

Now that my homework for the week is done, I can start going through my Spring catalog and making my list and checking it twice!  LOL.  It's almost garden time!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reflections on Final Project

Here is what I believe to be the final assignment for my English class.  I debated on filling in fluff or being honest.  I chose being honest.  Let's hope it doesn't reflect poorly on my grade!

Reflect upon your final project. In what ways is it exceeding your expectations? In what ways falling short? What turned out to be helpful resources? In what ways has your understanding of your audience changed since the beginning of the semester? In what ways has your understanding of the material your project covers changed? Explain.

Our final project is a website.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not, but it has exceeded my expectations because I understood this class to be about “Finding my e-voice”, learning how to write online, not about creating websites, html coding, and the like.  I am trying to be positive about this but I’m feeling very overwhelmed that I don’t know enough about programming and such that I feel like I am falling short in this.  I can’t really tell if the project is falling short because first, I don’t know enough about programming to be able to say and second, I feel like my team mates are almost dismissing me because of it.  An example of this is that I submitted my part of the project on a Word document; I got an email asking me to convert it in such a way to make it easier to put in the website format.  I was honest with them that I had no idea how to do that.  I haven’t heard anything back from them yet. 

I found the English department website to be quite helpful.  It is somewhat difficult to find everything but with enough looking, the information is there.

My understanding of audience has changed a great deal since the beginning of the semester.  I have now learned that I can change the way that I write based on the audience that will be reading it.  It’s not all about academic writing. 

The material for our project was the concentrations offered at IUPUI within the English Department.  When I first transferred to IUPUI, I didn’t even realize there were so many concentrations within the English department.  I learned that although quite different, they have the same basics.  An English major at IUPUI offers so many ways to use an English degree depending on which concentration you want to follow.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Good Outnumber the Bad

Today, with all the sad news in the country, my thoughts are with those affected by it all.  

The people in the very small town of West, Texas are dealing with the explosion and subsequent fires at the fertilizer plant.  It is such a small town that it's one of those "everybody knows everybody AND their grandmother" type of places.  I couldn't imagine the feeling that these people are feeling in that everyone that I have seen interviewed on the news knows more than one person who was affected by this.  There was one man who is helping to identify the bodies when asked how many of them he knew, he softly said "All of them."  So very sad.

Those in Boston, not only dealing with the bombings at the Boston Marathon but now dealing with their entire city being locked down while the police and military search for those responsible.  I can't begin to imagine the fear those poor have been dealing with for the last few days.  I shared something on my personal Facebook page that I want to share here:

(CNN) -- Comedian-actor Patton Oswalt may not seem the most likely person to soothe the wounded national psyche after thedeadly bombs that struck the Boston Marathon. Oswalt has no obvious ties to Boston, and he makes a living telling jokes, not comforting the afflicted.
But Oswalt's eloquent thoughts about the attacks, which he posted Monday afternoon to his Facebook page, have been widely passed around the Internet as an inspiring testament to humankind's inherent goodness in the face of evil. (Warning: he uses strong language.)
"I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, 'Well, I've had it with humanity.' But I was wrong,' " wrote Oswalt, best known as the voice of Remy the rat from "Ratatouille" and for playing Spencer on TV's "The King of Queens."
"This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness," he wrote.

"But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
"So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.' "
As of Tuesday afternoon, Oswalt's post had received more than 300,000 Likes and had been shared more than 220,000 times.
It has also garnered more than 12,000 comments on Facebook. Among them was this one, from a woman in Annapolis, Maryland:
"Sharing this message. This is exactly what I told my children last night. The good will always outnumber the bad. My husband was there and is safe. But my heart is just broken for those who are not."

Please, let's all keep these towns and all the people affected by these tragedies in our thoughts and prayers.  And let's make sure the Good outnumber the bad!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gotta love Indiana weather!

A couple of days ago, it was 81, yesterday it was about 48.  Today, it seems we had a hint of both of those days.  My son had his first soccer game this morning and man was it cold and, of course, the wind kicked up about 15 minutes before the game started.  For once, I wasn't upset that my family leaves all sorts of random stuff in my car because I found my husband's goose down coat in the trunk.  Our Coach said I looked like Nanook of the North.  Ok, at least I was warm!  LOL.  

This afternoon, the sun came out and it warmed up quite a bit.  It turned out to be a pretty nice day.  Cool but sunny and bright!  Time for a little time outside!

In moving the blackberries and working to expand the strawberry bed, I find that I need more strawberries.  And more compost.  Hubby and I worked in the strawberry bed for a bit.  I couldn't get as much as I wanted done because of the lateness of the day but we got a good start.  We moved some of the strawberry plants to kinda fill in some space in the back.  I also planted some strawberry roots that a friend (Thanks, Alisha) had left over from starting her own strawberry bed and gave to me.  

Even though I compost, with expanding the strawberry bed, I need more than I have.  Just as quick as I am done with finals (two weeks, I only have two weeks left!) we're going to bring in a load of compost to fill the new part of the bed.  That is a great hint, when starting a new bed, I always start with compost instead of topsoil.  It's much more nutrient rich and is like jump starting the plants without using store bought (chemical) fertilizer.

Working on the strawberries made me think about my canning stuff.  I know I need to start stocking up on SureJell for my jams and jellies.  Now is a great time to be on the look out for canning supplies.  Yard Sales, Garage Sales, Tag Sales, whatever you call them in your area are a great place to buy things like Water Bath canners, Jars, and other odd supplies.  I, personally, am on the look out for a new Water Bath canner.  My giant one covered two burners and was, as my husband puts it, a hundred years old.  It developed a leak.  My replacement is smaller but still good size.  I don't *need* a new one but I *want* a big one like I used to have.  I think I will hit up some sales in the country.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Voice Assignment

Here is another one of those assignments! 

Here's the assignment:

Considering your SL avatar, your blog, your wiki entries and the work you’ve done with your group project, do there seem to be aspects of your personality that are emerging as constants within your digital communications? Explain. Are you incorporating new elements into this emerging voice? If so, what?

Here's my answer:

In considering my blog, wiki entries, discussion boards and the group project work that I have done so far, I think there are definitely aspects of my personality that always come through.  I am keeping things simple and clean.  I find it odd that I can be long winded, so to speak, but it is still a simple message.  I am finding that I am enjoying writing on my blog the most.  I feel that more of my personality comes out there than anywhere else.  I can write about the things that I am passionate about, even though what I do isn’t necessarily what is in vogue today.  I feel that the blog lets me be me.  I do think I am incorporating new elements in this new and emerging voice online, for me, most notably the use of contractions.  I still can’t quite get over the fact that I have turned in college work with contractions in them!  I am also working very intently towards becoming more relaxed in my writing.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fresh air and sunshine!

Today was absolutely beautiful!  70 degrees, sunny, a nice breeze.  I'm hoping Indiana's iffy transition between Winter and Spring is over and Spring has won!

This afternoon and evening, we did some real work in the yard.  I'm still not very far but we're getting there.  Due to some health issues last year, I didn't get to properly close my garden for the winter.  I didn't get the 'trash' out of the garden last fall.  By that, I mean the remnants of the plants, they've all gotten dry and brittle so it really wasn't a huge deal to remove them and send them to the compost pile.  I also didn't get to do the fall tilling last year.  It happens.  It's not a huge deal but just means a little more work now.

Today, we cleaned all the 'trash' out of the big gardens, gathered up any limb pieces that had fallen out of our big tree.  The little stuff is in the compost pile and the big stuff is set aside for the fire pit.  

I have pulled the dead things out of the gladiolus bed.  That's another hint there...I planted them around the deck because they grow tall enough to cover the opening under the deck without having to put more money into deck materials.

I noticed in the melee of moving the blackberries and digging up the blackberries that had meandered their way into the strawberry bed that I am going to have to replace some of the strawberry plants.  I seem to have trampled more than I thought I did.  It happens.  

Bottom line, we enjoyed a nice day in the fresh air and sunshine and got a little yard work done too.  It's been a great day and we'll finish it off by cooking out.

What did you do to enjoy the weather today?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I have been asked a couple of times about compost.  I do compost.  I have done this for years.  To me, it only makes sense to use things I would throw away that will turn into something that I will go buy.  Compost is also excellent fertilizer, far better than anything synthetic that is out there.  It's all natural.

First, what is composting?  Composting is nature's recycling.  Organic materials naturally decompose into compost, a nutrient rich type of soil.  One that many people go buy each spring to "doctor up" the yard or garden.  It takes a few months for this to happen, depending on what you have in it.  It doesn't even require any work from humans unless you want to turn it which will make it decompose even quicker.  I turn mine.

I know people who have gone out and bought fancy composters, shoot, I even had one once.  I got it on Freecycle when I first moved to the city.  It was so cute, a small square plastic box that was about 3'x3' and about 3' tall.  It had little ventilation holes and a lid that snapped on and was hinged to easily open it to add to it. It was a total PAIN IN THE BUTT!  Sure you could open it easily enough to add stuff but turning the compost was nearly impossible and there was almost no way to get just a little out.  I passed it along to someone else.

There are all types of different compost bins out there.  Bins, barrels and boxes, you name it and they've probably figured out a way to turn it into a compost bin.  Personally, I don't like any of them.  I just have a compost pile in an out of the way spot in my back yard.  It is important that you not put the pile on concrete or plastic or the like.  It needs to be on the dirt.  As the pile breaks down, the dirt will assist in the process and worms will naturally move into the pile to help the process.  When it is time to turn the pile, I just flip it over to a spot right next to it.  This makes it easy enough to keep it turned.  Just flip it from side to side.  It makes it easy to remove stuff from the pile too.  In my opinion, all you really need other than a place to put it is a pitch fork.

When it comes to what to add to your compost pile, that's a whole other story.  It's key that you have both 'green' and 'brown' materials.  Green materials are important for the nitrogen they bring to the party.  The Browns bring the carbon.  Ok, what are green and what are brown?  

I'll start with browns, they are leaves, straw and paper.  Be careful with leaves because if you get too many, they'll just mat together when wet and rot instead of decompose.  When I add leaves to my pile, I'll use the mower with the bagger attachment on it to make sure they are ground up to help with the matting.  You can just run the mower over them and rake them up if you want.  Paper should be separated as well for the same reasons.  I use straw sparingly because I use straw in my garden paths and till it into the garden at the end of the season because it aerates the ground and will decompose right in the garden.  Again, I make sure not to use too much.  

The greens offer more decisions for the gardener.  I do put all weeds that I pull from my garden and flower beds into the compost pile.  I will include grass clippings, too.  The decisions come with food scraps.  First and foremost, DO NOT EVER PUT MEAT INTO THE PILE.  EVER.  Or anything that includes meat or meat by products.  Food scraps are things like vegetable peelings, coffee grounds (and the filter), egg shells, tea bags and the like.  Make sure that you cut the veggies up really small to help it decompose quicker.  Things like cauliflower and broccoli cores will decompose faster if you either cut them into small cubes or thin slices.  Don't go overboard, we're not talking "wafer thin" (said in the Alton Brown tone from "Good Eats"..LOL) slices, just cut them down some.  The larger the pieces, the longer it will take to break down.

Because, even in the city, there is a small wooded area near me, I've seen both raccoons and opossums in my neighborhood.  Both are dumpster divers in the animal kingdom.  If you have critters in your area, they will love your compost pile.  Because I have small dogs (Chihauhaus), I do limit what I put out there.  Some of the critters are bigger than my hounds!  I don't want to discourage you from adding scraps to your pile, just making sure you're informed!

I know the experts say you don't truly have to turn your pile, but I do.  I try to turn it every week or two.  I think it helps to decompose things faster and, in my opinion, kind of keeps it even.  What I'm trying to say is if you turn the pile, it will work it evenly, and if you have something that's not decomposing as fast as something else, you can work that item towards the center of the pile to help keep it on the same pace as the rest of the pile.

In starting a pile, I'd start with lawn clippings.  They decompose quickly and will help you get things started.  After a couple of weeks, start adding other things.  Try to balance the browns and greens for awesome compost.  Before long, you'll have a little compost of your own!

Group Voice

Here is another one of my class assignments.  Just a bit of info, we are working on interactive presentations to be included on the English Department's website that covers the concentrations within the department, their requirements and why someone would chose the concentration.

Do you feel that your voice is being adequately represented in your group project? In what ways? Are there ways in which you feel your voice is being overlooked or is missing? Explain. How do you feel you might best assert that voice, or do you think your “voice” is incompatible with your group project? Explain.

I do feel that my voice is being represented so far in our group project.  We are doing our project on the concentrations within the English Department with each us taking one of them and one of us taking the introduction.  Although my major is Writing and Literacy, I was given Literature.  That’s ok, it’s giving me the chance to explore that concentration a little bit which I wouldn’t have otherwise done.  I enjoy reading but I dislike English literature which I am totally blaming on having to read Beowulf in high school…LOL.  As to my voice being overlooked, I am feeling a bit of that.  In all fairness, I missed the first chat session as I was dealing with a bad Ethernet card here but I read the chats and the information on the Wiki page and felt good about what was expected of me.  When we got into the chat this week, there was quite a bit of bickering between some about things that I thought had been addressed last week.  Half the members were involved in it and the other half were asking questions and I, for one, had asked questions that were just lost in the bickering.  I resorted to sending an email to the members during the chat.  This at least got my questions acknowledged.  I don’t think my voice is incompatible at all.  I think it is a large project and there was a little confusion but I just think that good, bad or ugly, you can’t second guess each decision each time we get together as a group.  Once a decision is made on the scope of the project, we need to work with it and move forward.  I think, in time, it will all work out.