Friday, February 6, 2015

Ellen DeGeneres says I'm doing it wrong

Is that me on the Ellen DeGeneres Show?!
I thought my sister was kidding when she announced on Facebook that I had been on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this past Wednesday.

A joke that reminded her of me? A doppelganger, perhaps? Nope. Three seconds of yours truly talking about the most terrifying experience of my entire life. The one where the airplane roof opened up and the plane barreled toward the earth. The one I thought I was going to die.

We'd just landed (again). I was answering a few questions in Sacramento International that April Fool's evening (seriously). I think the reporter had just asked me to rate the scariness of the experience. I said "On a scale of one to ten? Twenty-five."

Only, apparently I was "doing it wrong."

Ellen's team pulled the clip and included it in new segment called "You're doing it wrong" where they make fun of people for things like not understanding the basics of rating something from one to ten. (See below)


Wow. Not how I pictured getting on The Ellen DeGeneres Show! SO. MORTIFYING.

I was at once reminded of finding out I'd been a punchline on NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" game show many years ago after I used the word "dude" in an interview with an AP Reporter to describe my seatmate, Gary. I just stopped being red from that experience, and now this!

Ellen, I'll be in L.A. in a couple weeks with your number one fan (my sister, Emily Poffenberger, who never misses your show, even when she's in labor!). We'd love to come visit and explain how when airplanes turn convertible, you need more numbers on a scale.


Southwest 812: I prefer my plane without a sunroof, thanks

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday 13: Life lately

I almost bragged too soon.

Getting the Christmas decorations put away the second week of January? Unheard of in this household. And the direct result of a bet. The terms: If I could get all the Christmas decor put away in one night, Mr. T promised not to razz me about my upcoming trip to Disneyland (see #11 below). So I did. I made sure every last stitch of Christmas was boxed and bagged, and ready to go back into the attic.

And then I blinked and a month passed, and Christmas was still in the living room. I probably have to make another Valentine's tree since the forecast for getting that sucker put away is marginal at best.

All this is to say, life's been busy around here but I'm alive and kicking, and tormenting babies with tickles (see below). Hope you're well, too!

1. A recent photo: Somebody turned one recently!!
Let's not confuse this an "exciting auntie-niece bonding moment." No, that kid was trying to escape my one snuggle of the day, so I rewarded her with upside down tickles. 
2. A proud moment: Watching collaborator, Thomas Dodson, give Above the Fray's first public presentation. So cool to see our research about teen online life (and tips for parents!) start to be shared with the world. Want to learn more about what teens are up to online, including our shocking discovery that upwards of 75% of teens report NO supervision of their online activities? Read this. And then call Thomas. Seriously.
Thomas spoke to a regional Parent Teacher Association group at Shriner's Hospital in Sacramento. Interested in bringing him and Above the Fray's youth empowerment message to a school or civic group near you? Visit 
3. Something I'm excited about: Lady A's activity box birthday present. She turned one last week--my how the time does fly--and I'm having so much fun finishing up her birthday present which is a collection of gadgets and hardware mounted to a pretty wooden box. The idea is to encourage play and develop fine motorskills, and obviously, teach her how to open doors, turn on lights, correctly put plugs into sockets. Skills all small toddlers need, right? At least it's not a loud gift!
Big thanks to Mr. T for helping me with the engineering, drilling, and mounting. And Goliath, for supervising, obviously.
4. A major accomplishment: No cavities! Likely because all of my teeth are filled already, but a major source of joy this month was finding out my obsessive dental hygiene is finally paying off.

5. Nerd coolness: Learned recently that an article I co-authored with a dear friend titled: "The Positive Outcomes of Negative Emotional Displays: A Multi-Level Analysis of Emotion in Bureaucratic Work" was accepted for publication in a special edition of the Electronic Journal of Communication. Woo! (Intrigued by the nerd work? You can read more here and here.)

6. A cute moment: Goliath rehearsing his rendition of "The Pup and the Pea."
He's cute for an old man dog.
7. On my mind: Jobs, careers, and callings. In grad school, I read an article (you can too) that discussed how people orient to their work. People generally look at work as either: jobs that bring financial benefits, careers that can bring advancement/prestige, or callings that speak to their passions. You know those folks who say they never work a day in their lives because they love their jobs so much? I'd like to be one of them some day.

8. A nice flight: Flying has been unfortunately scarce in my life lately, thanks to weather, work, writing and now teaching. But Mr. T and I went to Livermore a few weeks ago to pick up some car parts and snag lunch. Love me some left seat flying.

Beautiful winter flying in the Sacramento Valley.
9. A kick in the pants I needed: School started at Sacramento State last week and on the first meeting of my night class--a senior seminar in organizational communication--we made introductions. I asked students to find out the usual information about their classmates--name, major, hometown, but also what super power they would have if they could and what they saw as their life's ambition at this point. I explained how I would love to be able to grow money (I am a gardener, after all) and that my ambition is to write New York Times best sellers. I admitted I was supposed to have my book proposal for 101 Patdowns done by the start of school and god bless 'em, my students gave me a firm deadline to meet. February 18 and the book proposal will be done!

10. Something yummy: Spring rolls! One of my 2015 goals is to use new ingredients. January's item was spring roll wrappers. Easy but work intensive, I included boiled shrimp, romaine lettuce, rice noodles, carrots, shredded beets, jalapenos, shredded zucchini, avocado, bean sprouts and cilantro. Served with spicy peanut sauce, of course.
Next time, I will make the shrimp pieces smaller (or just buy smaller shrimp) and quick marinade them first before cooking. Also, I overstuffed my wrappers so some of the rolls broke apart. 
11. On the horizon: A family trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Ahhhhh! (Reference: A Mother-Daughter Disneyland Adventure. See also: Celebrating the PhD: A Sister Trip to Disneyland)

12. How my garden grows: Peas and more peas. Snow, English and Sweet.
Really, I have some pea-monster bushes overtaking the garden. Note to self: Not so close together next year!
13. Something I suck at recently: Dieting. I did a Cranberry Kick detox thing. I joined a "Friendly Biggest Loser" group on Facebook. I agreed to try 30 push-ups a day (OUCH) and jump rope (HA, soon). But I have not yet seriously committed to changing eating habits. Case in point: This vat of sauce of I made for a family gathering last month and the mea culpa cake I made this week (to make up for eating T's slice of cake over the weekend, even though he said he didn't want it at least three times). I need to reconcile myself to the fact that salads at lunch are not license to eat all the things at night. Alas.
Want to make sauce like an Italian grandma? Here's my damn fabulous recipe: The Best Spaghetti Sauce in the West

Other Thursday 13s:

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wishful thinking: Cooking Light's sausage and kale pesto pizza

Let's be clear: I wanted to love this pizza.

My version of Cooking Light's sausage and kale pesto pizza, cooked in a cast iron skillet.
The image of bubbly cheese, bronze crust, rich pesto and sausage jumped off the pages of my January Cooking Light magazine. The cooking method--store bought crust in a cast iron pan--seemed novel and fast. The ingredients sounded divine--cheese! sausage! crust!--the kale a necessary but health adding evil. And the whole meal (recipe here) would be a reward for a long blood donation.


Alas, the pizza was merely okay. The cooking method worked well until the crust browned up to the point of charred in a few places, completely my fault of course. (Note: If you use this method, really, just a couple minutes on the stove and then into the oven, whether or not the bottom is golden brown yet.) In the oven, the cheese refused to bubble in the time frame noted in the recipe, so it stayed in the heat longer which further exacerbated the burnt bottom.

But the real issue? The meh flavor and texture of the pesto. Perhaps because I was expecting a traditional spicy basil pesto taste, I was disappointed by the more muted and grassy kale flavor. If I were to do it again, I would crank up the garlic, dust with cayenne, and spritz with fresh lemon juice for more zing.

And more than anything, I should have trusted my instinct that for once, a recipe made too much sauce. The precise proportions of the pesto recipe resulted in a thick smattering of sauce which, while pretty, had a grainy mouth feel that wasn't pleasant. Next time, I would use a thinner layer or consider buzzing the sauce longer in the food processor, as opposed to the "pulse until just combined" directions.

All that said, I will likely use the cast-iron method again in the future. It's easy and helps get the nice pan-crust edges that don't seem to work as well on a pizza stone.


Other dinner things:

Friday, January 30, 2015

An introvert in the classroom

Stock photo used with permission.
Last night when I rolled in near 9:30, it was all I could do to get to the couch with a grilled cheese and watch Scandal (#Gladiators, OMG, we have to talk!). I felt the week in every sore muscle, in the reverberation of a hundred conversations, in the residue of a couple up-before-dawn, home-after-nine days, in the "I must be forgetting something" anxiety that comes when relaxing after a jam packed day.

Why do I always forget how draining the first week of school can be? This semester is particularly tough as I'm teaching three different courses for the first time (along with my day job), and didn't think through the impact of leading a night class followed by an early morning class. Sleep deprivation lesson learned.

The physical labor of teaching isn't significant--I mean really, it's just standing and talking--but I forget about how much energy it takes to perform and interact with people. And it occurred to me this week, I have more than 100 new people in my life right now. This introvert is overwhelmed!

And I know it's not just me. It stands to reason I've got a bunch of introverts in class as well and it got me to thinking about how best to structure classes to accommodate those temperaments, too.

Those who know me socially, and indeed most of my students, don't realize I'm a classic introvert. It doesn't mean I'm shy, rather that I prefer to interact with the world in quieter ways (check out this list: "10 ways introverts interact with the world"). Although I often love social interaction, especially teaching, I find consistent socializing super draining and need time alone to recharge.

In groups, committees and classrooms, I'm hardly ever the first person to speak up. I often hated talking in college classes, and found it really difficult during a lot of grad school. Not for lack of opinions or insights, but because I'm not usually a think out loud kind of person. I like to have time to formulate ideas clearly, usually in writing. And if I don't feel like what I could say is meaningful, then I keep to myself.

So, I've been considering these personal feelings in light of teaching three very different courses, and wondering how can I encourage student participation and not just mean "talking in class" or sharing aloud. Generally, I do this through individual writing exercises, reflection papers, and the like. But I'm trying to balance accommodating learning styles and temperaments with encouraging people to practice new skills (I'm much better now about sharing in groups than I used to be). And I'm also, especially in my Interpersonal Communication course, thinking about how to encourage conversation dominating extroverts to allow space for the contributions of others.

After reading "How to teach a young introvert," which is aimed more at elementary classrooms, but still applicable for a university setting, I'm intrigued by building in more quiet spaces into my lessons and, students-around-the-land-cheer-teachers-don't-yell-at-me, reducing the amount of group activities in the day-to-day.

Any insight from teacher and student friends would be greatly appreciated!

a tired introvert

Other teaching things:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A post-Christmas, pre-New Year's jaunt to New York

We enjoyed a beautiful but frigid visit to New York City, post-Christmas and pre-New Year's.
Since most of our family lives in Northern California, we don't usually travel for the holidays. Just a few miles here and there. So planning for a post-Christmas, pre-New Year's jaunt to New York, along with the regular holiday hustle, seemed so very strange and stressful.

But, once we got to the city...
We rented a VRBO apartment that blew our minds with its size. For once, the pictures didn't lie.
Bonus: The bed was actually really comfortable.
Practically palatial and cheaper than a hotel.
Jet lagged people went in seek of "bacon tater tots" which ended up being not the comfort food I expected but haute cuisine at The Eddy. From top left: Bacon tater tots with pea puree (really), beef tendon puffs with salmon roe (a surprisingly good taste explosion), malt vinegar potato skins with salmon rillette.
Inventive menu but not the fare our just-crossed-the-country-on-four-hours-sleep bodies needed. We walked across the street for Indian before passing out at 8 p.m. local time.
Our apartment was just a couple blocks from the famous Katz's Deli. More on that below.
Bleak gardens in winter.
Wandering around the Lower East Side and Soho.
New York's finest.
Princess Manor Catering Hall in Brooklyn
The purpose for our New York trip: To celebrate our friends' 50th anniversary in the same place where they were married! Too cool.
Our friends clean up well.
Congratulations Frank and Angela!
Highlight of the trip: Watching seven couples who had been married for 50+ years on the dance floor.
Me and Mr. T
The party continued down the street at Raize's in Greenpoint. 
Best friends for the last couple decades.
Me and Deb!
Glamorous on their 50th anniversary, don't you think?
After the party, we had a couple days to sight see and I thanked the stars for "mild" weather. Thirties during the day and no snow! Happily the polar vortex blew in the week AFTER our trip.
My only touristy goal of the trip: To ice skate. Except I forgot to factor in the holiday crowds which meant an hour-long line and packed ice at Bryant Park, Central Park and Rockefeller Center. No thank you!
Nerd-tourists visited the New York Public Library, like you do.
New York Public Library reading room. Such a gorgeous building.
Loved seeing the city dressed up for Christmas.
New York City Library.
California popsicles at the library.
Best souvenir ever- My very own New York Public Library card.
Library love.
St. Pat's Cathedral which was happily open for visitors. When we walked by the front doors were opening, so we popped in for a few minutes. Spectacular architecture.
Could've spent an hour exploring St. Pat's. What a beautiful space.
Lots of construction at St. Pat's.
I don't think I could pull off stained glass at home but it's tempting.
The skating line at Central Park... Maybe next time. :(
A chilly day in Central Park. 
Last time we visited Central Park, it was Mother's Day and the lawn was covered with picnic people and kids playing.
Cheap seats?
If you're in New York when it's cold, get the hot nuts! So good.
Some of the hilarious junk for sale near Times Square.
Times Square! That Covergirl stage is where the Rockin' New Year's Eve festivities took place a couple days after our visit.
Also, Times Square between Christmas and New Year's = horrifyingly crowded.
Of course we saw a Broadway show. Kinky Boots for the win!
Obligatory Times Square snap. Covergirl stage behind and left.
In need of a place to warm up, we walked a couple blocks down from Times Square and found Bibble & Sip, a super cute coffee shop with creative pastries.
Bibble & Sip, and a Timsicle.
Walking toward Radio City Musical Hall and Rockefeller Center.
Radio City Music Hall at Christmas. Sigh.
Rockefeller Center.
Rockefeller Center, where the ice skating line was also insane.
The excited faces of people walking AWAY from the Rockefeller Center crowds.
We took the subway a couple times, but found it nearly as cheap to Uber around town.
How many fancy dinners start with scary alley ways?
At least one. 
Inside Freeman's in the Lower East Side. Delicious food but scanty in the vegetable department.
Counter service at Katz's Deli.
Katz's pastrami on rye. Enough for at least four people.
With homemade pickles!
All the pastrami.
I didn't realize Katz's was featured in When Harry Met Sally... I'll have what she's having!
Pastrami brunch at Katz's. Glad we got there early... the place was packed at 11.
We got to see Billy Porter headline Kinky Boots... incredible show!
Kinky Boots is about a failing shoe company that starts a new niche--making "kinky boots" designed to fit men. But really, it's the story of understanding, acceptance, friendship and love. I adored every second of the show. I haven't laughed aloud that much or felt so moved by performances like Billy Porter's. Go see it!
Excited for Kinky Boots.
Our last night in New York.
Visited Mecca, aka B&H. It's a city block long and multi-story by the way. Le sigh.
Stopped in at Uncle Jack's for a snack and to kill time before our dinner at The View, a revolving restaurant 48 stories up. Loved the atmosphere (and food and drinks) at Jack's, especially the friendly service and old New York flair.
We allllllmost stayed at Uncle Jack's, but I'm so, so glad we kept our reservation at The View. #1 it was damn cool to see the city from above and the food was good #2. We got to see a couple get engaged from three feet away! And there were three other engagements on our side of the restaurant. Although the waitstaff must see plenty of that sort of thing, it was a really cool experience for us.
Congrats again Brian and Ann!
Of course, all good things come to an end, and that describes perfectly our return trip on Delta. I was just DELIGHTED not to be allowed to bring my carry-on on board, despite having been able to bring it on my outbound flight. ESPECIALLY loved being told it "wouldn't fit" despite seeing one completely empty bin and several half-empty bins. I understand now why people throw fits at the airport--so frustrating to have ZERO control and deal with people who have no grasp of logic. Will not be flying Delta again unless there's no other choice. (Southwest, how about some direct flights to NYC already?)
Home. Well almost. Flying over Tahoe is usually the descent pattern for Sacramento, but we were headed to San Francisco. Yes, it occurred to more than one of us in our party to have a medical emergency right about here so as to land in Sacramento. (Kidding, kidding. Mostly.)

Other travel things:
Malvinis take Manhattan
My favorite tour guide
A few things I learned about Chicago
Evergreen Aviation and the Spruce Goose
Incredible Glacier Bay National Park (plus, whales!) Things I know about B&Bs
Oshkosh b'gosh! part 5
Traversing Traverse City, Michigan
Romantic Mackinac Island
Skagway, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, and bears, oh my! A helicopter ride and glacier walking in Juneau
Turning 30 and (not drowning) kayaking in Ketchikan