"I do not claim that I can tell a story as it ought to be told. I only claim to know how a story ought to be told." -Mark Twain


A Table for my Mother

Although Mother's Day was almost a week ago, I am just now getting around to posting
anything that resembles a Mother's Day post. 
My mother would not be that far behind.
She is much more efficient than myself. 

When I am lame about doing stuff inefficiently, not-as-well or not-at-all compared to my mom, I always tell myself, "Self, times have changed. That's why don't do that...blah blah blah." Ha! Does anyone else do that? 
Anyway, with all excuses aside, this is my Mother's Day post, five days late. I set a Mother's Day table using dishes that are my mother's, my grandmother's and a great aunts. You can't get more mother-y than that!
I think this post makes it quite obvious that I come from a long line of dish hoarders lovers. The fact that I can set a table for any occasion without having to go further than my dish closet is a testament to the love of dishes in my family. And lucky for me, they just keep getting passed down. 
When we were growing up, it could be safely said that we ate 95% of our meals at home. Maybe even more than that. (School lunches do not count). My mother insisted that we have a hot breakfast every day before school. Every. Single. Day. She also cooked a family meal every night. Even when we were active in school and had ballgames to go to, she had a meal waiting for us before the game(s) or when we got home. 
Not only were we lucky enough to get home-cooked meals every day, my mother made sure the table "was set" for each meal. There was no grabbing a fork or spoon from the drawer. There were no paper plates. She made sure there was a set table for every meal. 
It certainly did not have to be fancy. Corelle-ware ruled when I was in high school!  (That stuff was indestructible!!) 
But it was a set table, complete with the utensils in the right place and ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS with the napkin and glass in the correct spot as well. 
When I encounter people now that do not know the "correct" way to set a table I have to just shake my head and think, "Clearly, you did not have my mother!!" 
Not only that, we were an equal-opportunity family. My brother had to learn the same rules of meal etiquette as my sister and myself. Each meal one of us set the table and someone else cleared it off. There was no argument. It was just how it was. And we knew that!!
My mother took special occasion meals to further teach us. We knew the difference between a salad fork and a dessert fork and the placement of such, when we were very young. 
We knew about dessert spoons and ice tea spoons and butter knives and seafood forks like some kids knew the names of singing groups. If we were wrong when we set the table, we were instructed until we got it right. 
It is one of those life lessons that has served my brother and sister and I well throughout life. 
Certainly we do not judge others that like the simple tables or the grab-and-go meals, but we can appreciate the time, effort and thought that goes into a good meal and a well-set table. 
My mother was mixing and matching tablescapes long before I knew there was such a thing called 'tablescaping'. If the dishes that have been passed down to us are any indication, my grandmothers and great-aunts were doing so as well. 
I think that is why I enjoy tablescaping so much. It is in my blood.
When I set my tables on holidays I always try to include pieces that have been passed down to me.  
It is kind of like having those we loved still    there with us at the table.
My mother taught us that you do not have to be celebrating a special occasion to set a good table. 
The "everydays" of life are just as important and the special days. 
Then the "special days" can be made even a bit sweeter. 
Like using a collection of tableware that has been pieced together over many sales and auctions and gifts from friends. 
By using pieces that match but are not really a part of the set. 
By gathering up roses straight from the yard. 
By using fruit cups from a grandmother and pink-dishes-that-have-been-washed-so-much-they-are-almost-clear-from a great aunt....
All arranged "just so" to honor the Queen of Tablescapes herself, with a brunch on the deck during Mother's Day weekend. 

Showing her that the simple life lessons she taught us all those years were indeed learned and used over and over. Does it get any better than that? 
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Three Recipes and a Reveal

 As many who read this dribble regularly know, I teach high school English by day. Only if you know me personally do you know that while I teach high school English in the middle of Oklahoma, most of my students are Hispanic. 
 I have never talked about my student clientele here on the blog. Until now. 
On Cinco de Mayo. 
 Go figure. A high school in the middle of no-where-land-Oklahoma and my students are named Carlos, Isabella, Sugey, Ramiro, Jose, Juan, Silvano, Luis, Marcela, Javier, Nicho, Saul, Elizardo and Franco (to name a few). (Those books are from their Spanish classes by the way, not my English books!) 

 In all my years of teaching English, I had only had three Hispanic students before this job. Three. Total. Ha! What a culture (literally) shock I was in for when I began my present job five years ago. 
 To begin with, the majority of all high school students do not love English class. Now compound that with the fact that the students I teach have very limited English vocabularies. Yikes!!  (To the 100th degree yikes!!!)
 Even if the students have lived here for a while, their English vocabularies fall way behind the other students. There are way too many nuances of our language to grasp it quickly. You know what I mean? (Ewe no watt eye meen?) Just our words that are homonyms (like the sentence I shared). Or idioms: You drive me  up the wall. (Really, you're going up a wall?) That was a piece of cake (Cake? Where's the cake?) You have a chip on your shoulder (How'd I get a chip on my shoulder? I haven't even eaten any!)
 See what I mean? 
 To complicate things even further is that fact that in order to 1. get your drivers license in Oklahoma and 2. graduate from a high school in Oklahoma, you must pass your English state assessments. The state assessments (or EOI's --End of Instruction) tests, are the ones you hear about on the news. They are standardized tests given at the end of the school year across the nation. 
 These tests carry an enormous amount of weight. (hello--drivers licenses and graduation!!). My Hispanic students take the same tests that all students do in our school. As you can imagine we have LOTS to do between August (when school starts) and April (when tests are given). 
 So every single year I stress myself out trying to get my students to the point that they can pass their EOI's and actually enjoy--and learn--while they are doing it. Believe me, there is a huge difference between "learning" and "memorizing". My goal is to teach, so that they might "learn". 
 This year was harder than any I have ever experienced. I had my usual crew of Hispanic teens, then in addition I had four that were very limited in English and two that spoke about one percent English. It has been a tough year! 
 My students tend to always try their hardest on the EOI's. Obviously, once in a while there will be the lone student that clicks (the tests are computerized) his or her way through the tests, but by and large they try extremely hard. 
 They want to (obviously) do well so they can get their drivers license...and of course go on to graduate. But they also do well to please me...and best of all, they try to do well because I have convinced them they CAN do well. 
 The long, stressful year culminates in a long, stressful week of testing. We just finished that long, stressful week last week and I am happy to say my students did extremely well. 
 The only students I had that did not pass the test are those four that do not speak the language. What a relief! What an accomplishment for those students!  What a joy! 
 Those four that do not speak the language, will hopefully begin to pick up our (very complicated) English language and they will get more chances to pass the test. I will work with them individually and we will continue to take it until they can pass. 
Next year I will get a new class of students and the process will begin again. So today, on Cinco de Mayo I think of my students who have worked hard for me all year. Stressful, yes. Rewarding, without question. Maybe one of my students will have a big plate of tamales for me tomorrow. (Believe me, their tamales are the best! ) ....And that my friends is why this teacher is doing the nine-day-countdown till summer! Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo! 
Cute plates are from Pier One.

Beef enchilada  recipe (OHSOGOOD) can be found here.

Chicken enchilada recipe (THATKEEPSTHEBOYSCOMINGHOME) can be found here.

Taco salad recipe with special dressing can be found here

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