Posts by sarahjohnsonlabarbera

I am a writer currently based in Bloomington, Indiana. I work for Auxiliary Business Services Marketing Dept., hold an M.A. in English from John Carroll University (2016), and a B.A. in journalism and English from Huntington University (2012), with a minor in communication studies. I have previously worked as on the editorial staff for Business Horizons here at IU's Kelley School of Business, a PR and social media coordinator at a law office in Kirtland, Ohio, and a reporter at the Huntington County TAB in Huntington, Indiana. Writing specialties are web content, new media, journalism, and literary analysis.

Overheard in the Dorm (Ed. 4)

After the students’ two-week spring break, the house is once again filled with the sounds of high school boys! This week in the Johnson LaBarberas’ dorm . . .

First student back in the dorm from break: “Where is he? Where is he?”

Me: “Who?”

Student: “Livy!”

Livy barks from the apartment.

Student: “He’s calling me!”


Student: “I’m gonna get Miss Sarah! Miss Sarah!”

I enter the common area.

Student: “Here she comes! You’re in for it now! I called THE WIFE!”


First student: “You didn’t say anything about my birthday.”

Second student: “Yes, I did. I ate chocolate with you, bro. That was me saying happy birthday.”


Student: “We’re eating dinner in the dorm on Saturday? I will be here! Even if Barack Obama was walking by on the street!”


Student: “What is this?”

Tim: “It’s body wash.”

Student: “But it says ‘restoring.’ What does that mean?”

Tim: “It means it’s restoring your inner beauty.”


Playing poker with the students, first round of betting.

First student: “Check.”

Second student: “Check.”

Third student: “Czech Republic.”


With two of our Chinese students.

Me: “What kind of tea should we have?”

First student: “I want the Enemies of China tea!”

Second student: “What’s that?”

Tim: “It’s a tea blend I made up using Taiwanese and Vietnamese teas.”

Second student: “Yeah. I want to taste the enemy.”


Student talking to Livy.

Student: “Who’s a good dog soup? Good dog soup.”



Pi and Puns

Pie-and-CheeseI hate puns.

I’ll give you a second to get over that fact.

Assuming we can move on, let me say a few words in my own defense. It’s not actually morally reprehensible to hate puns…even if Jesus used them. Puns aren’t language nuggets made of virtues and butterflies.

Puns are just verbal hummus: some people love it, some don’t.

And I really do hate them. They make me want to curl up on the ground in discomfort like a slug drying out in the sun. I inevitably feel ashamed for everyone present when a pun gets dropped—and it is a dark, fathomless shame, guys.

My distaste was solidified at a young age by Laffy Taffy, when I continually hoped for a candy wrapper that would actually make me LOL, and instead I always landed dumb word plays that I was ashamed to show to my friends. Eventually I learned that every Laffy Taffy is like that.

So imagine the mayhem when March 14, also known as Pi Day, came around. This short language snob and recreational baker fell into a conundrum.

When Tim and I got married, we had a dessert reception featuring pie, because nothing else would do at a Johnson wedding. I made pie. My sisters made pie. My mother made pie. Everyone made pie. We gave them witty names like “Ginger Rogers Peach Pie” and “Did You Bring Your Mousse? Chocolate Pie.”

(Wait . . . Shoot. Even my wedding was tainted.)

If the concept that “Pie is the greatest good—no matter what” ingrained deeply into your fibers, and simultaneously you loathe puns with equal force, then what do you do on Pi Day?

You moan a lot, that’s what you do.

Then you bake a pie.

I made another pear pie, which is the ongoing experiment in my life. Pears are the Vermeer’s of the fruit world, both in physique and taste. I’ve been dying to turn them into a lovable winter pie for years, and doggedly keep trying.

Unfortunately, pears often need a little help getting into the spotlight. I use cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar for that cozy, wintry quality. Lemon and fresh ginger (lots) give the pie enough kick to stands on its own feet.

The latest development is grating Gruyère over the top before popping it in the oven. In Pushing Daisies, Charlotte Charles makes a pear pie with Gruyère on top, and, well, if Charlotte Charles did it, I was going to do it, too.

The Gruyère works, too! What doesn’t work is failing to cook the pie long enough to cook the pears through, which is what I’ve done the last two times. Note: don’t mix Asian and Bosc pears for cooking unless you are sure you can chop them properly to account for the cooking difference. Asian pears have more of an apple texture, and take longer to bake. Bosc are a great classic pear and fairly reliable, although not if your pie is running late for church group . . .

The real lesson of the day, though, is that pie is greater than anything. And sometimes you just need to get over yourself and do what needs to be done.

We can always get back to intelligent humor tomorrow.

Diane Chambers-Cheers