Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Season, Every Season . . .



Not to reduce the beauty of acts of kindness, but I've always been fascinated by the psychology of human behavior--particularly when we're somewhat anonymous, i.e. behind the wheel or in a crowd.

You know--those moments when we're in a parking lot at the end of an event and one driver (you, perhaps) pauses to offer another driver an exit from a blocked off lane? You look in your rear-view mirror and notice other drivers repeating the behavior. All of us, at times, accuse others of driving like asses and only thinking of ourselves. I'm not convinced that it's always a conscious behavior. Perhaps more that we're caught up in our own mental lists and timelines and forget. Forget how simple and rewarding it is to be kind to others.

So, my goal this season has been to make my lists, lay out my route and then go out and be as courteous as hell.
Happy Yuletide Season to all of you!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Raising Citizens

After talking with one of the wee folk this past week, I sent an email to members of staff directly involved in the topic of the discussion:

"I had a conversation with one of the wee folk yesterday. It all began with, "Mrs. Miller, my brother told me there's this new dumb rule about not climbing on top of the monkey bars."
I explained that rules may seem dumb, but they're usually made after too many people get hurt. He understood and even came up with his own examples {of changed rules}, but I was wondering if it would help the students respect the rule if they're told why."

I received a reply telling me that the leadership committee would be meeting soon and my concern would be put up for discussion. Exactly the kind of response that keeps citizens engaged in their community.

A second email was received from a friend and playground duty aide. She respectfully told me that her opinion differed. She's more of a "do this because I say so" person, and because she's loving and respectful, the majority of the children heed her directions. But even with respect and love, I don't believe it's possible to create citizens in an authoritarian environment.

Ever since I had a HS principal in the 70's, who involved the entire student body with any rule disputes or changes via a special whole school assembly (for questions and discussions), I've believed that's how we raise citizens. Engaging children in the decision making process or having group discussions about decisions already made, are part of that process. Every single one of us has a different status in our community/society. It's a fact. And also why a healthy society runs smoothly. Otherwise we'd have chaos. But every status should have a level of involvement and the input from that involvement should be listened to, discussed and respected.

(If only I could remember all I wrote in my head on this subject in the shower. Perhaps I should record those thoughts . . . at the risk of being just as disappointed in the results.)

Another blogger speaks more eloquently on this subject here


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Penne with Pumpkin and Sausage Sauce

Adapted from the Webicurean Blog's "Spicy Pumpkin and Sausage Sauce"



Penne with Pumpkin and Sausage Sauce

1 Pkg of 5 Aidells Pineapple and Bacon Chicken Sausage, sliced into 1/4" coins
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 Small onion, sliced thin
1 cup of white wine or dry vermouth
2 cups of chicken broth
4-6 cloves of garlic, diced
3 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1-1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound of penne rigate, cooked
1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan Cheese
splash of heavy cream

1) Heat large skillet to medium. Add tsp olive oil and sliced onion. Cook and stir until lightly browned and transparent.
2) Add sliced sausage and tsp of olive oil. Stir until sausage is lightly browned.
3) Add white wine or vermouth. Turn heat up to medium high, stir constantly until reduced by at least half.
4) Add chicken broth, garlic, sage, red pepper flakes and pumpkin puree.
5) Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
6) While sauce simmers, cook penne pasta.
7) Salt and pepper sauce to taste, add parmesan, splash of heavy cream and drained pasta.
Serve

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reluctant Witness

~September 20, 2014, approximately 4:30pm~

N and I were out for an afternoon drive in the Newport area during our weekend camping trip. We were just ending our obligatory cruise along SW Bay St, when we heard a motorcycle revving loudly in the line of traffic behind us. The rider revved again and again as we turned onto SW Naterlin Dr., heading north to merge onto Highway 101.

Unbeknownst to me, N had been watching the loud motorcyclist in his rearview mirrors, as the rider passed the cars behind us on both the left and the right. Then there he was-- veering widely, accelerating as he passed us just short of where cars merge onto 101.

We watched in horror as he began to lose control of his big heavy bike. He had leaned too far to the left, making sparks as part of his bike made contact with the pavement. He corrected upright, accelerated and bounced into the curb, accelerated again and into the curb again. Only this time, the momentum of hitting the curb sent him perpendicular into 101 traffic. He tried to swerve, but not enough to prevent his bike from going directly in front of a big Dodge Ram truck. The driver tried to stop as soon as possible, but his truck pushed both the bike and the rider for several feet down the highway. Somehow (I don't understand the physics), the driver was propelled into the air off of his bike and onto the highway. He landed behind the truck, face down on the pavement.

We waited around to give our statements to the officer in charge. Thankfully, it was long enough to learn that the rider, though unconscious, was still breathing when they loaded him into the ambulance.

I felt foolish for sobbing. I was only a witness--completely unscathed. But the accident brought a rush of memories of another accident N and I witnessed over 34 years ago. I was pregnant with my first daughter. We had taken our car out for a test drive on a beach road in Kalama, WA, after N had rebuilt the engine. A young man, who had grown up near me, sped around us on his motorcycle. His best friend was riding on the back. My neighbor ended up losing control on a bend right after passing us. The bike traveled up into the air, over the edge of the road and crashed on a sandy beach peppered with large rocks. We stopped the car, N ran down to the beach, but the passenger had died when his head hit one of the rocks.

That time, I did manage to make the drive to tell someone, but had been unable to talk. Thankfully, being a small town, Fran Hylton knew me and was able to ask me yes or no questions to find out where the emergency was. This time, I was able to communicate with the 911 operator, but thanks to cell phones I was just one of many callers and the EMTs were already on their way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Love My Job











It's true. I really do love my job.

The past two years had several days when I clicked my heels together and wished I was ANY place else. I'm thankful it was only days and not weeks or months. This year I'm starting with a teacher I can respect, like and who seems to really understand and want what is best for the short folk. AND she knows how to train them from the get-go. {pauses to sing "hallelujah"} I have immense admiration for her.

But, my hours have been cut. In June, it was explained to me that it was "my turn". Over the past 22 years, my hours only changed when I went from half day to full day. When hours needed to be cut, other aides bore the brunt. I don't wish other aides ill, but I've always appreciated those in charge understanding the enormity of the job of working with the short folk.

  • So much prep
  • boo boos 
  • hand holding 
  • training 
  • errand running 
  • phone calls
  • and K teachers not having pull outs to have any prep time of their own.

Things I'm learning:

  • It's incredibly discombobulating to come to work with the crowd of parents dropping off students and when class is already in session. 
  • I have no time to get my wits about me or plan the day with my teacher.
  • I wear my frustration on my sleeve (not planned, but observed via a co-worker)
It's one of those moments when a person feels tested. 
"You can do this!"
"It's not personal."

A tiny part of me is enjoying the extra time to get a chore or two done in the morning after everyone has left the house. (I have a Pollyanna side) Though it's still in the awkward stages. I mean, how many times can a person vacuum the house during one week? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Road Coffee

My first memory of coffee while camping, is from the early 70's. I wasn't even a teen at that time, so the memory doesn't involve drinking it--only observing the process, enjoying the smell and the ritual. A morning ritual that brought people out of their sleeping bags, rubbing their eyes, ready to begin another day spent in the company of community.

My folks and their friends enjoyed camping on Dry Creek in the Gifford Pinchot Forest, situated on the Carson side of Mt. St. Helens. It wasn't a campsite by today's standards. N explained it was probably a road/turn-around made by water trucks, to fill their tanks during fire season. I know there was an evolution of camping equipment over the years, but the time I remember most clearly is when everyone in the group had a camper on their trucks.

Despite trying to massage my grey matter into releasing a clearer picture, I can't remember if there was one shared coffee pot with a designated brewer or if everyone had their own. Though, I can visualize an active stainless steel percolator near the morning campfire--maybe on a grate belonging to one of the group. And there's an image of a white cup (small by my current standard) filled with a light brown brew. Coffee was most likely an extravagance when raising five children, so I imagine stretching that can of Folgers or Maxwell House was a priority.

When N and I were first married, being the only drinker, I never bothered with coffee when we went camping. Besides, if it didn't fit in the trunk of our little sedan, we didn't bring it. Later, when storage was less of an issue, I brought instant coffee and after that  "coffee bags". Coffee bags or "coffee singles" are a small step up from instant, and the taste was slightly better. Years later, when we bought a tent trailer, my home coffee ritual had changed along with the rest of the country. I bought beans, ground them only when I made a pot, kept the brew in a thermos instead of "burning it". And while I esteemed a cup made in a French press, I still liked the convenience of a coffee maker. But, I decided, a French press was perfect to create my own morning ritual while camping.


An important detail when camping: whether you're in a tent or a motorhome (not the king sized variety), water needs to be used conservatively. I did my best to find a way to use as little water as possible while cleaning my French press, but it was a messy process. During a trip with friends, I noticed they used a pour over method using a filter. The results weren't great, but I didn't discount the process.

This summer we made the move from tent trailer to travel trailer. Another opportunity to change the way I make my coffee! At least that seems to be what happens whenever I've taken time to sort through our equipment. With both the memory of the pour over cones and a local coffee shop that always talks about different brewing methods on their Facebook stream, I began to search. What I like about the French press is the ability to decide how long to immerse the ground beans in the hot water. Enter the Clever Coffee Dripper, made by the small Taiwan company, ABID (Absolutely Best Idea Development).

The results? I think the brew is as full of the same bold flavors as what the French press offers, but it's a step up. The tones are clearer and a muddiness (I hadn't noticed until now) was absent. Oh and the clean-up? Since a filter is used in the Clever, all I do is toss and rinse. How clever is that?

Ps. During some discussions following this blogpost, I learned another great option is the Bialetti Moka Pot. My only concern is whether a camp stove flame can be adjusted to the correct temperature. Plus I heard they work best when used on a regular basis. I might have to pick one up just to play with and to see how much water is needed for clean-up.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tomato Galette

Ever since N and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a fresh blackberry galette during a visit to The Bread Board in Falls City several years ago, galettes have been on my mind. I'd never heard of them before that day, but thanks to Google I've learned the crusts are as varied as the possible fillings.

[Enter our summer friend, the lovely tomato--or even better, the heirloom tomato.] 

Last week, dear Fran had been searching for tomato galette recipes. In her absence, I found a printed copy of Smitten Kitchen's version in the printer tray. She's been leaving me on my own in the kitchen, which can either be "fine and dandy" or "umm, what were you trying to make?". Lucky for the eaters in the house, all was fine and dandy.

A couple of years ago, we began buying the giant sized tomato plants from Godfrey's Nursery. As a result, we've been able to harvest tomatoes instead of just growing plants in our shady backyard. Add to that the lovely heirloom tomatoes that came our way via MIG's farm.

Enough chatter, here's what I did:
I made the crust from the Smitten Kitchen recipe up above, but used a Food52 tomato tart recipe as a guide for what went into that crust. I didn't roast the garlic, but I did use a fork and olive oil to make a paste. Also, I added about a Tablespoon of pre-made pesto. The tomatoes could've cared less about the garlic, pesto, onion and cheese. Their bright flavor shone through. Each bite made me swoon. The tomato galette is a keeper.




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting Lost

If I remember correctly, it was last year that Fran began to ask who would like to join her on a hike in the McDonald Forest near Corvallis. This happened not long after she went with Lise and Brian. That experience was a hike that was less a hike than a chance for Lise to take photos and realize how long it had been since she'd hiked up a steep hill. I know that feeling. It's very clear to my muscles even four days later. Of course, Fran knew that if Lise went with her that it would be for taking pictures, but reality is always different from what we imagine. Isn't it?

This summer she had asked if either N, I or both of us would join her. But the timing was never right and the memory of that last recounting was still fresh in my mind. Then the moment and desire happened to line up last week. Watching from above, I couldn't believe it was me agreeing (perhaps even suggesting) to go along. I nixed the idea of bringing the pups. Who knows why--a premonition?

We filled our water bottles and drove the scenic route to our destination. Once on the path, the warmth and the incline had me feeling my age. Who cares if you've been walking 50+ miles a week on hikes and treadmill? A woodland trail doesn't! But if you're going to walk uphill, there isn't a better way really--a soft path, the cover of a forest and a happy companion make it less work and more recreation.

All was fine for the first 3+ miles. We were (finally) atop a ridge and done with the steady incline. But then it all changed. In our path was a detour sign (prominently displayed), which we heeded. And then another. The second detour brought us to the decision between a path and a road without a sign. We chose the path. The path took us to a lovely view, but it circled back to where we made the choice. Fran decided that the road was where we wanted to go.

A little voice inside my head suggested we might be headed down the opposite side of the ridge, but my sense of direction has rarely steered me right. Rarely. The road, with it's fresh loose gravel, had the same incline as the path we hiked up--minus the shade. Two white trucks, associated with the logging unit that had been the reason for the detour, passed us for the first of four times. Each time they slowed and gave us a big wave. Of course, we smiled and waved back.

Somewhere between Soap Creek Road and our current road, we began to seriously question where we were. When a phone signal was finally available, our gps informed us that we were on the wrong side of the forest and miles of paved road and highway were in our future.

I'll sum up the unplanned part of our hike by saying how a walk on either a shoulder-less paved road or a highway are less than pleasant. It was the kind of experience that had me asking Fran for stories. Anything to distract from the sun beating down on us and the cars whipping by (one honking for some unfathomable reason).

When the turn-off for the secondary access to the McDonald Forest came into focus, my step quickened and my mood lightened. Soon we were back on a forest trail, believing it was possible to be home by dinner time. We still had a few miles to go and only a gulp of water left, but we made it and I may have made a spectacle of myself (if there had been bystanders) expressing my joy at seeing our car.  Our mileage for the day totaled 9.21. My weak back muscles waited until the following Monday to punish me for the excursion, but if she asks me to go on a hike again I'll probably say yes--as long as the moment and desire line up.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Compassion

Where is your compassion?

Do you only take it out of your pocket

To show to friends

To parade at parties

Or is it always on your sleeve


Not to be seen so much as to be felt

Slid across your cheek

To remind that you too have a vulnerable self


Who needs compassion?

Those cutting words you utter in private

Leave shadows across your face

A crick in your neck

A hitch in your step

And when you are aged

You will be asking,

Where is your compassion?

~KGM '14

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fusilli with Fennel, Spring Onions and Carrots

(I'm not positive which website this recipe originated from, so I'm going to include both links.)

This recipe was a taste of spring, but with filling pasta. The difference between the two recipes seems to be the type of pasta suggested. I keep trying to ignore that the academic site spelled fennel fronds wrong. (Get over it, K!)

Changes we made:
  • used gemelli pasta
  • Cut carrots in half, strips, and finally half inch pieces. 
  • removed garlic immediately after quick 30 second saute
  • added carrots a few minutes before fennel
  • saved pasta water for end.

( first site)Fusilli with braised fennel, carrots and spring onions
(second site)Whole Grain Rotini with Braised Fennel, Carrots and Spring Onions

This simple and light pasta recipe includes some of the most typical Mediterranean vegetables.

INGREDIENTS

Paired with grilled pork "riblets", salad and cantaloupe
Servings 4
¾ lb fusilli
2 cloves of garlic
½ lb fennel
3 ½ oz carrot
7 oz spring onions
3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon fennel frawns, chopped
2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
PREPARATION

5 minutes preparation + 25 minutes cooking
Slice the fennel bulbs in half, then into thin slices. Peel the carrot and slice into rounds, 1/8th inch wide. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and slice the onion into ¼ inch pieces.

Then in a fairly large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Once hot, add the minced garlic. Once the garlic begins to golden, add the fennel and carrot and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir from time to time.

Then add the onion to the previously cooked vegetables and cook for another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain after the time indicated on the bow and toss with the sauce.

Stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano and garnish with the fennel fronds before serving.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Making a Tian

My tian was made using The Barefoot Contessa's recipe with a few modifications. Click on the play button in the bottom left hand corner.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Over the Top Downtown Party Idea

Photo by Brian Hines 
The last Summer in the City event (what year was that?) felt uninviting and surreal to me: core downtown streets were fenced off with chain link. At one end, a giant blow-up liquor bottle swayed in the breeze, while unnecessarily loud bands made my ears bleed. You were either in the street or on the sidewalk. It wasn't possible to do both--not much fun for downtown businesses.

"We're having a party at your house, but you're not invited."

My over the top idea? Round robin volleyball tournaments (definition here) taking place at the edges/ends of blocked streets. Beer and wine tasting going on in various businesses and a food truck area. A kids' space, with a game, crafts and a bike rodeo. A passport/stamp game, to see how many stamps you can collect at local shops. And evening entertainment, with bands that don't make the ears bleed.

What would your Summer in the City look like?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June Good-byes

These past two weeks we've been reminding the short folks daily about upcoming endings and beginning: "This is the last time we'll be doing science in kindergarten. The next time you have science, you'll be a first grader."

Yes, I'm doing my yearly June routine of becoming one of those annoying people (on New Years Eve) who say things like, "this is the last time I'm washing my hair this year!". My short audience loves it, which makes it fun for me, too. But I don't do it just for fun, it's part of the process of encouraging them to start thinking about the cycle they've just begun. The cycle of beginnings and endings, hellos and good-byes, and climbing the ladder of responsibilities.

Yesterday, we had our end of kindergarten celebrations--no, not graduations. I chafe at the term, "kindergarten graduation". Graduation, I believe, should be reserved for those big moments when diplomas are earned. Besides, celebration fits this group best--they definitely know how to enjoy each moment.

This past school year has been full of changes, a reunion with a teacher I love AND two groups of very energetic children. And yet, with all of that going on, I'm feeling a strong connection to this year's group of short folk. It must go both ways, because several parents came up to me during our celebration to tell me how often my name comes up at home. I won't lie, it warms my heart to know the connection goes both ways and to know all that love I put into my days makes a difference. {sigh} Now it's nearly time to spend my summer break basking in that glow AND regenerating for the next group.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

One of my own dark stories . . .

I was a broken child. Broken, because I lived in the path of someone dealing with the powerlessness of adolescence and sexual frustration. (But that's another story.) When you're broken, your boundaries and decision making processes become flawed and skewed and simply screwed up. Add that onto adolescence and you end up with a story like this.

My first 21 years were spent in a small town. It was known (I was told) as an I-5 drug hub. Though it's possible that was part of the 70's folklore of the time--when the adults were trying to figure out what was wrong with those danged kids.

And because it was a small town, the school campus was shared by kindergartners all the way up to seniors, only separated by a short exterior walkway. While moving from grade to grade, it was apparent to us what privileges were coming next. When we became 7th graders, we knew it would finally be our turn to be a part of the "Sweetheart Contest", THE annual fundraising event. Each grade, in high school and junior high, would elect a princess. The decision of who would be queen was determined by the class who raised the most money.

I remember the excitement our entire 7th grade class felt. We were finally old enough to participate! My friend Tammy's family had saved up an entire (floor to rafters) garage worth of empty beer bottles, still in their cases. Our group was allowed to carry the cases into one of the local taverns. Oh the thrill felt by those 13 year olds! After that, there were bake sales and another family had donated several loads of firewood to sell. We were in charge of splitting, loading and unloading. For a reason I've never been able to understand, a small group of us were left alone at the wood lot. I suppose it's possible we planned it. One member of our group pulled out a Mason jar of Everclear and naively we began to pass it around. Not only had we just barely become teens, but I'm sure it had been hours since we had eaten. Truly a recipe for disaster.

Tammy, Teresa and I, must have either decided to walk to Tammy's house or to walk off the effects of the alcohol. My next memory was of staggering along with Tammy and Teresa on the side of a country road in the dark. And that's when Tammy lost her footing and rolled down into a deep ditch. I crumbled to my knees--could this night get any worse?! Rather than scramble down in the dark to help a friend out of the ditch, Teresa and I, ran across the road to an Assembly of God church. I can still remember the feeling of the enormous letters on the church as we hung on, both of us praying loudly and urgently to please help us get out of this mess.

A neighbor (remember, this is a small town and there were only 4 TV channels for entertainment) must have witnessed this spectacle and called my parents. My father arrived. Tammy and I climbed into the back seat (not sure what happened to Teresa). Dad made eye contact with me via the rear view mirror and said my punishment was to watch what would happen when we took my friend Tammy home. Her mother had a reputation of being a hard woman, someone you never wanted to tangle with. I watched as Tammy reluctantly left the car and then threw herself at her mother's feet, grasping her ankles, pleading, sobbing, apologizing. Her mother never raised her voice, but the cold, cold, horrible words that came out of her mouth! It was a glimpse into the dark side of another family and it made me realize none of us can ever know what another person deals with.

Oh and the Sweetheart Contest? That was the final year. A small group of broken 7th graders, broke a small town school's tradition.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Thinking Ahead

My principal told me, a week or so ago, that she needed to trim my work day by an hour. She let me know that I do have choices. I could go to HR, let them know that I want to keep my permanent hours and that I'm willing to move to another school to do so. Awhile back, I watched another aide go through this. They opted to move and then were told there wasn't a position with that many hours available. They ended up plugged into a spot with even less hours than what they had been demoted to. Me? I'm happy to stay, but I'm already thinking about the shape of my work day.

I can do it--flexibility is on my resume. So, it's not a big problem (except for working a year or two longer than I intended), but it's never fun to hit the road running. Which is what will happen when I arrive at the same time as the students.

When I first started working in kindergarten, my day matched the students. The teacher dealt with all of the prep and the two of us used part of the students' day to talk things through. It was the same when our family moved and I found another kindergarten IA job in Salem. I can still remember when my principal (at that time), Cathy Mink, pulled me aside one day and said the district was adding an extra hour to the kindergarten IA's work day.

And now it's heading in the opposite direction. I'm a bit sad and wondering how a budget can be balanced on the backs of one of the lowest paid employees, but it's all part of the swinging pendulum of change. I wonder if I'll still be around when it begins to swing in my favor again?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Braised Greens & Cannellini Beans

Fran made the braised greens from the recipe below to go with a grilled rack of lamb. It was a Saturday Market spur of the moment idea. One of our favorite produce vendors (Minto Island Growers) sells spring greens by the bag, but this time they were selling braising greens instead. I nearly put them back on the shelf, but then thought to ask Fran if we could have them with the lamb. And because she's not as stuck in her ways as her mother, she said "yes". :>)
It was an excellent side dish and if they keep offering that bag--we'll be eating it regularly.

Braised Greens & Cannellini Bean Panini

From EatingWell:  March/April 2012
A creamy spread of cannellini beans cooked with onion, garlic and white wine is the perfect match for tender braised greens. Press the two between pieces of crusty whole-wheat bread and you have an outstanding vegan panini.

6 servings | Active Time: 1 hour | Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

Braised Greens

1 1/2 pounds (about 2 bunches) hearty greens, such as kale or collards
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, sliced 1/4-inch thick (see Tips), white and light green parts only
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
White Bean Spread & Sandwich

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 spring onion bulbs or 3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans or one 15-ounce can, rinsed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 slices crusty whole-wheat bread
Olive oil cooking spray
Preparation

To prepare braised greens: Strip leaves from stalks. Stack and slice the leaves into 1-inch strips. Thinly slice the stems into 1/4-inch pieces. Keep leaves and stems separate.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks and the chopped stems and cook, stirring, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Add the sliced greens and broth. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover. If there’s any liquid left in the pan, continue cooking for another minute or two until it is nearly gone.
To prepare bean spread: Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions (or shallots) and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and cook until most of it is evaporated, 3 to 6 minutes. Stir in beans and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Puree the bean mixture in a food processor until almost smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot foods.)
To prepare panini: Coat one side of each slice of bread with cooking spray. With the sprayed side down, spread equal portions of the bean puree on 6 slices of bread. Top each with equal portions of the braised greens. Top with the remaining pieces of bread, sprayed-side up. Press in a panini maker until hot and crispy. (Don’t have a panini maker? See Tips.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicken and Rice redo

Busy Day Chicken, was one of several recipes my mother handed down to me. It must have originated in the 60's, when canned and packaged goods were simplifying homemakers' lives. The "highlights" of the recipe were a package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix and a can of cream of mushroom soup. I'm sure it was the overly generous amounts of sodium that made the dish something I craved.

Since daughter Fran has been cooking for us, I rarely think about those old standby recipes, until last week. And that's when it occurred to me--I bet she can turn that mostly unhealthy dish into something worthy of a spot on our table. I began a search and came across the recipe below--since she likes a starting point before she begins tampering and improving. So good!!

Chicken and Rice Casserole
via Simply Recipes

Chicken and Rice Casserole (photo) Larger photo
Chicken pieces browned then baked in casserole with mushrooms, onions, garlic, rice, stock, cream, and sour cream.
If you are avoiding cooking with alcohol, skip the sherry and deglaze the pan with a 1/4 cup extra of chicken stock.
Depending on how salted your stock is, you may need to more generously salt this dish. Can always salt to taste at the table.
You can make this entire dish on the stovetop instead of the oven if you want. Just use a large sauté pan with a tight cover, cook on low when all is assembled, low enough to keep a simmer, but not so high that you burn the rice.
Yield: Serves 6 (with leftovers)
INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces, patted dry
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
1 1/3 cups* chicken stock**
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cream
1 cup raw, medium or long grain, white rice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each of Italian seasoning and poultry seasoning (or 2 teaspoons of one of these herb mixes, or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)**
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
*This recipe assumes the rice requires approx 1 1/2 cups liquid per cup of rice to cook. Some rice varieties, such as brown rice, require more liquid (and a longer cooking time). Adjust recipe accordingly.
**If you are cooking gluten-free, use homemade stock or gluten-free packaged stock, use gluten-free packaged herbs and spices.
METHOD
1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high or high heat (hot enough to brown but not burn). Sprinkle a dash of salt on the bottom of the pan. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on two sides, about 1-2 minutes per batch. Add a little more salt to the pan (and more olive oil if needed) after every batch. This will help prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan. Remove chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl. Note that the chicken does not have to be cooked through, only browned.
2 In the same sauté pan add 1 Tbsp olive oil, lower the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 30 seconds more. Remove onions and garlic to a shallow (9 x 13 x 2) casserole dish.
3 Raise heat to medium high, add the sliced mushrooms. Dry sauté them (no need to add butter or oil), allowing the mushrooms to brown lightly, and release some of their moisture. Add the mushrooms to the casserole dish.
4 Add 1/4 cup dry sherry or dry white wine to the pan to deglaze the pan, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. (At this point, if you are making ahead, reduce the sherry to 1 Tbsp and pour off into the casserole dish. Refrigerate cooked onions, garlic, mushrooms, and browned chicken pieces until you are ready to make the casserole.) Let the sherry reduce to about 1 Tbsp, then add the chicken stock, and remove from heat. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cream, and the sour cream. Add the raw rice to the casserole dish. Then pour the stock, sherry, cream, sour cream mixture over the rice. Add the Italian and poultry seasonings (or fresh herbs) and paprika to the dish. Stir the rice, onion, mushroom, herb mixture so that they are evenly distributed in the casserole dish.

5 Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture (in a single layer if you can, they will be crowded). Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil. If the casserole is still too liquidy, let it cook a few minutes more, uncovered, until the excess liquid has evaporated away.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Medical Supply or Insurance Depot?

Suddenly, there I was, hip pain that neither my chiropractor nor ibuprofen could tame. Let the hoop-jumping-waiting-game begin!

  • Appointment with doc
  • Schedule x-rays
  • Wait for report
  • Prescription for NSAID
  • NSAID caused stomach pain
  • Would you like PT or an ortho pain consult? (while PT is valuable, it postpones dealing with this pain)
  • Wait for referral
  • Wait for appointment
  • etc.

Meanwhile, I remember hearing how helpful a TENS unit was to a friend dealing with pain and discover they're relatively cheap on the internet. Knowing they're not for everyone, I was pleased to feel some pleasant distraction via the muscular stimulation. Sadly, the unit arrived with only one set of reusable electrode pads and after 3 days I needed a replacement.

"I bet I could find replacement pads at a medical supply store. We have several in town."

First stop, Providence Home Health Supply. Wow, not much on display in here and the two workers seem to be working primarily as telephone operators. What we learned is that Providence does not run a medical supply store. It's more of a depot where you can order items prescribed by your doctor or pick ordered items up. The nearsighted receptionist who helped me, gave me a number that turned out to be a FAX number. A detail she couldn't read without her glasses, but I could see from across the counter. After the correct number was handed over, the distributor on the phone soon determined I did not have a prescribed machine. No electrodes for me! Daughter, Fran, remembered another medical supply store on the north end of Commercial. Not only was Pacific a real medical supply store, but the person behind the counter (who happened to be wearing glasses) knew where to send me.

Current medical journey to be continued . . .
Ps. NEVER touch electrode wires that have escaped their pads when TENS is on. Unless, you enjoy a good shock, of course.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Crow Stories

The parent club at the local elementary school our girls attended, sold bags of popcorn to the students once a week. One day, as I was leaving the school after volunteering, I noticed every tree in and around the playground was filled with crows. The large numbers were so remarkable to me that instead of the hairs on the back of my neck standing up in horror, I began to wonder what event they were anticipating. Crows don't gather without purpose. I don't know if I put it together that day or later after witnessing the gathering another week, but it suddenly became clear they were all waiting for lunch recess when the children would emerge with their bags of popcorn and inevitably leave many many morsels behind.

Several years later, I was sitting in my car waiting for a walking partner near a Willamette University practice field. There was a team of young soccer players attending a summer camp out on the field. The wood bleachers were decorated with the player's backpacks and duffle bags. While I sat watching, one young man ran over to his bag and removed his water bottle for a quick drink. Minutes later, a crow landed on the bleachers and casually strolled and hopped from bench to bench, with one eye on the team members. The crow zeroed in on the thirsty boy's bag, hopped on top, grasped the zipper in its beak and began to unzip the bag. He resumed his casual hopping from one bench to another while watching the boys and then returned to the bag. The crow pulled it open, eyed the contents and lifted out a sandwich wrapped in foil. He carefully folded back the foil, removed half and flew away. When the boys returned to their bags for a break, the owner of the violated bag appeared incredulous that someone would take his food. An unsolved mystery that was probably the cause for suspicion amongst the team members. All because of a crafty crow.

Last year, a friend shared a story of a crow who visited her backyard squirrel feeder. The crow visited every day for a week (at the same time), trying to figure out how it might access the peanuts inside the plastic tube. The following week, the crow showed up with a second crow. My friend said the original visitor, showed the  second one how he'd been attempting to access the nuts. Then the second crow hopped up onto the feeder tube and showed how to grasp the tube while upside down. It worked! It was as if the stymied crow had called in a consultant. Amazing!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another year, another person to learn . . .

I just discovered that this year's "new to me" teacher will be retiring. Glad she's doing what's best for herself--not everyone is in a position to be able to make a life changing decision like retirement. She's taught me how difficult it is for a teacher to switch grades. My friend, Shirley, made it appear effortless when she went from assisting in kindergarten to teaching third. But, looking back, she was always great at diving in and switching gears. I didn't realize what a gift and attribute her ability is until watching two teachers try.

How I wish the next school year would bring me a real, honest to goodness, kindergarten teacher! {clicks ruby slippers together} Not just for me (though I'll admit to loving the idea of that happening), but for the students to come. They deserve someone who understands many of them don't arrive knowing how to sit and listen, play with friends, write, read, cut, add or subtract. A loving and understanding atmosphere is essential, but not enough.

The other wee folk assistant in our school, had the good fortune to work with a teacher (Celeste Starr) six or so years ago. She still talks about how much she learned in their short time together. I know she's out there, with a desire to return to K. How great would it be to have a chance to work with her!

A girl can dream, can't she?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

End of Life Planning

Finally! Thank you Google.
I was so worried I would never be able to find the following websites again.
And so I'm creating this post mainly for myself.

I've completed most of the information on My Wonderful Life, but still haven't sat down to do the other. I hate how I procrastinate, even with the easiest of things.
Don't be like me.

Get Your Shit Together

My Wonderful Life

Oh and for those of you wanting to do something different with your ashes:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/51905/10-amazing-things-your-ashes-can-do-after-you-die

I think the stained glass is my favorite. Probably better than my idea of making a cement bird bath.