Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving Weekend Dog Blog and Other Thoughts

Well, I'm back to Texas after a too quick 5 days in Oklahoma. I had a fun-filled week and also did just a bit of cooking. My week was spent visiting the OKC zoo (a favorite OKC destination--they have a great zoo), eating Thanksgiving dinner at the family of a friend, doing a lot of cooking for my own family's Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, spending some quality time with my parents, spending more QT with a certain someone else, driving through my hometown's Festial of Lights, a beautiful display of over 3.5 million lights, and of course EATING!

I am thankful this year for my family, my grandparents (my grandpa was actually sober and civil at dinner--first time in years that I can remember him eating w/ us). He's about 83 or 84, my nephew who is living w/ my parents--he looks out for his Papa pretty well.
I'm thankful for what lies in the future. I'm excited about a new path before me and where it may lead. There's much more to share, but I'll save it for another time.

Following are some pictures and recipes from the week. Enjoy!

I didn't pick the best time to finally take pictures of Dakota's Garden, but here it is. Lots of memory inspiring things there, includng yellow mums that bloom beautifully come spring.



The sunsets from my parent's house are always breathtaking. I miss seeing sunsets--don't get to see them here in the concrete jungle where I live.

And here are some I took from my car at the Festival of Lights. Their website has better pictures--there is a bridge over the pond covered with lights that is very cool. I may try and get pictures of it when I am home over Christmas.

This is located in a park just blocks away from the first house I remember living in. It's a beautiful historic park that holds lots of memories for me--seeing the peacocks that used to be there, the first kiss w/ my HS sweetheart, picking up litter while in HS as a service project, a classmate swimming across the pond on a dare, taking my nephews there as a last visit before moving to FL way back when, Dakota's wonder at all the lights while driving through during his last Christmas season with us here on Earth, parking in HS (heehee).





The following are recipes I make for family every year. The toffee is a recent addition (2002) but is expected. I've been making fudge for as long as I can remember. I switched recipes in 1997 after the relatives preferreed my grad school neighbor's recipe over mine. He swore me to secrecy, but still shared his recipe. :)


MIXED-NUT SPICED TOFFEE

For a festive presentation, place the toffee in clear cellophane bags and tie with French silk ribbon.

Make sure you have a candy thermometer!

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon mild-flavored (light) molasses (I omit this most of the time--either don't have it or forget it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (I use more)
2 cups coarsely chopped toasted mixed nuts (such as cashews, almonds, and pistachios)
5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Butter small rimmed baking sheet. Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Add next 6 ingredients; stir until sugars dissolve. Attach clip-on candy thermometer to pan. Increase heat to medium; boil until thermometer registers 290°F, stirring slowly but constantly and scraping bottom of pan with wooden spatula, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Mix in 1 1/2 cups nuts. Immediately pour candy onto sheet. Spread toffee to 1/4-inch thickness. Immediately sprinkle chocolate atop toffee. Let stand 1 minute. Using back of spoon, spread chocolate over toffee. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup nuts. Chill 1 hour. Break toffee into pieces. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before serving.)

Makes about 2 pounds.

Bon App├ętit
December 2002

Extra Special Creamy Fudge
1 stick butter
4 1/2 cups sugar
12 ounces evaporated milk
18 oz. semisweet chocolate
14 ounces marshmallow cream (13 to 14)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 lb pecans, chopped

1. Bring sugar, milk, and butter to a boil and boil for exactly 7 minutes.

2. Remove from stove and stir in other ingredients

3. Place in greased 9X13 pan lined with waxed paper. Poor in and cool in fridge. Cut when set.


My dogs enjoyed the great outdoors of my parents' place in OK, but I think they were ready to get back home and used to the house-dog lifestyle again! :)






Check out Sweetnicks to see all the other cute dogs in this weeks' WDB!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

WDB #?

The dogs and I road tripped up to OK this weekend to see my parents. I left them there since I am going back on Tuesday for Thanksgiving. Harley has been gimpy, so I backed up to a bench on the deck so he wouldn't have so far to step down. He was still a bit uneasy, but Sam the kitty cat (look under his legs) helped him along. She is fearless!
Peanut wasn't keen on the posed shot w/ Sam either, but I snapped fast.






Check out Sweetnicks to see all the other cute dogs in this weeks WDB!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Problems

I 'fixed' the problem described below by removing the referring URL link. Don't know why that messed it up, but at least it's fixed now.
_______________________________________________
What happened to my blog? Why are all of my sidebar links moved way down to the bottom of the page? I thought it was the recent pictures added, but I temporarily unpublished them and had the same result.
Is it my browser or my blog?

An Old Standby and a New Find


Yes, I do still cook sometimes. Tonight I was craving Spaghetti Carbonara. I used Nigella Lawson's recipe, which is sinful. I blanched some brocilli with the pasta, and added some mushrooms to the bacon. So, I got my veggies! I didn't refer back to the recipe; I can basically wing this one. Rich and creamy, smooth, and delicious. This is a favorite standby.

I stopped at Central Market on my way home. Of couse, I got about 30 more items than what I needed. One find was a 'sparkling mint beverage' called snow. All natural, it's a carbonated mint beverage. It tastes like a rumless mojito. It's very good and refreshing. I normally don't drink non-diet sodas, but may get this as an occasional splurge.


Pasta Carbonara

snow soda--and those are cookbooks in the background



Spaghetti Carbonara
from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat
(paraphased a bit, to save typing)

1/2 lb. spaghetti
4 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4 in. dice or 1/4 in. strips (NL says you can sub 3-4 slices bacon)
2 tsp. olive oil
4 T. vermouth or white wine
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan
freshly milled black pepper
whole nutmeg
1 T. unsalted butter

Boil the pasta in salted water. Put the pancetta in a frying pan with the oil on med. to high and fry for about 5 mins, maybe more, until it is beginning to crisp. Throw in the vermouth and let it bubble for 3 mins or until you have about 2 tsp syrupy bacon fat. Remove from heat. For the egg mixture, beat the yolk, whole egg, and cheese. Season with pepper, grate in some nutmeg to taste, and mix with a fork. When the pasta is ready, put the pancetta back on the heat, adding the butter as you do so. Drain the pasta, then turn it into the hot pan. Turn it with a spatula and/or wooden spoon, and when it's all covered and the liquid is absorbed, take it off the heat. Pour the egg mixture over the bacony pasta* and quickly and thoroughly turn the pasta so it's all covered in the sauce. Don't turn the heat back on. In time, the hot pasta and the residual heat of the pan will set the eggs to form a thickly creamy sauce that binds and clings lightly to each strand of pasta. This make about 2 platefuls, 1-2 servings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Friends



I just got back from a girls' weekend in St. Charles, MO (near St. Louis). I miss weekends like this-I don't get to have nearly enough of them! It's hard having your best girl friends scattered all about the country! I can tell we're getting older (ha!). We originally had plans to go out Saturday night to a restaurant in an area called "The Hill". I researched and found a great place and everything. About 3:00 that afternoon, we decided to stay in, order pizza, and play Texas Hold 'Em and watch a movie. J's boyfriend taught us how to play. He won. We also played some Chinese checkers. We watched a movie, but when 2 or 3 of us dozed off around 11:00, we called it a night! That's my normal bedtime!



"May there always be work for your hands to do, may your purse always hold a coin or two. May the sun always shine on your windowpane, may a rainbow be certain to follow each rain. May the hand of a friend always be near you, may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you."
- Irish Blessing

"There are many types of ships. There are wooden ships, plastic ships, and metal ships. But the best and most important types of ships are friendships."
- Old Irish Quote


S, J, me, M

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

We Are All Unique; We All Have Our Own Gifts

I've been told by many coworkers lately things like, "You are a saint", "There is a special place in heaven reserved for you", " I don't know how you do it", etc. My answer to other gen ed teachers is that I couldn't do the job they do. Me, stand up in front of a class of 30 MIDDLE SCHOOLERS? I don't think so! That would be a disaster waiting to happen. So, for those who can't understand WHY I would want to work with the students I do, especially those with more challenging behaviors, I say this: We each have our gifts. I consider myself fortunate to have found something I find both rewarding and that I can be good at (I think I still have a lot to learn). Just because you don't do what I do doesn't make me more worthy of the praise like that quoted above. Frankly, it embarrasses me.
Lula teaches preschool, and because I've seen how she interacts with her own kids, I expect she's excellent at it. That's her gift. My dear friend S. in Kansas teaches, most recently 4th grade reading/LA. I expect she's excellent at it. There are those that help build houses, that take care of sick people, that protect our streets and homes, that help advance technology, and even those that provide us with cookbooks and lots of new recipes to try (of which I have way too many): everyone has their own thing that they are good at, cut out for, and/or called to do. I hope you all are fortunate enough to find yours. I feel blessed that I have. :) It's takes everyone to make the world go round, ya know?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Poem

Written by a student in my Reading/LA class. I provided the form and asked them to write about a person they know. My comments are in parentheses.

Mrs. B. (that's me, but I'm not a Mrs.)
Mrs. B. is like a sports coach.
She is like an invincible motorcycle. (LOL)
She hops, skips, and jumps. (but not all at once)
She's my favorite teacher.
Mrs. B.

I think he's probably the only student in that class who feels that way. :)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

You know you work too much...

when you bring it home into 'conversations' with you dog.

A while ago, Peanut was barking and whimpering to let me know she wanted out. I told her in my teacher voice, "Use your words, Peanut'. Then I looked around to make sure no one else saw/heard me and promptly got up to let her out. Sheesh.

Anyhow, we have had our new student for 2 weeks now. I was absent the past 2 days for training, so I can't say how they went, but my feeling is that he is doing better every day and we will make this placement work! The first couple of days, I felt like I'd been hit by a freight train at 3:30 when the kids get on the bus. It just takes so much more energy to work with this child! By the end of the first week, I felt better (it may have helped that I got permission to wear jeans/tennis shoes daily--the shoes especially are needed. They are much better for running down the hall in). The 3 days I saw him this week, I felt were a little better. That's not to say there haven't been difficult times, but the overall picture was much better. I have also realized that in spite of the exhaustion, the getting slapped hard enough to leave a mark, the physical struggle to get his pull-up changed--3x/day at least, getting who knows what on me (I always go home feeling germy), the sudden sprints when he beats us to the door, and so on--that this is the type of student I WANT to work with. I want to reach him, to help him understand the world around him better, to show and teach him productive ways of letting us know he wants something different or is frustrated (rather than hitting), to introduce different foods to him (he currently eats baby food), to help make his home life a little better for his family. That's not to say it's bad--he has a wonderful family but if I can do anything to make their routine better, easier, that's what I want to do.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Saturday

What do I have to do today? The list is so long I don't know where to start. I'm going to bake some cookies to send to a friend who is away from her family. I know I'm making the cookies I posted earlier; I also have a Martha Stewart magazine full of nothing but cookies, so I'm going to pick something out of it to make.

I also need to do some planning and creating for work. There is this cool software called BoardMaker that we finally got and I need to get busy with it.

I have a chicken defrosting and I'm going to make some chicken and dressing either tonight or tomorrow. I'm the new dressing maker in my family (thanks grandma) and since there isn't really a recipe and I haven't made it since last year, I want to practice. It's nothing fancy--just good ole' cornbread dressing like grandma's mom and her mother before her made. Yum!

I cooked in a chili-cookoff last weekend. I didn't win anything, which didn't surprise me because I couldn't get my chili to taste 'just right'. It's one of those things where I don't use a recipe, so some years I get it right, some I don't. This is hte first time my dad hasn't cooked since it started in 1986. He was one of the founders; it was started by the fire department and is an annual event in my small hometown.

Dad has another surgery to go--this time on his left knee. His right ankle/foot/toes are what were damaged in the accident, but the strain of being the only leg/knee to support him has really affected his left knee. Their last MRI showed extensive damage, and it has gotten progressively worse in the last 6 weeks or so. They will also take 2 of the screws out of his leg when they do this surgery. He got the stitches out of his toes (from his 2nd surgery on 10/17) but still has the pins--they are a gruesome sight because they are sticking out of the bottoms of his toes! EEeeewwwww. Physcial problems aside, Dad's spirits were up last weekend. I was glad to see this; it certainly makes me feel good to see him be more like himself.

That's all for now (can't you tell I'm having some writer's block? I have absolutely nothing interesting or exciting to share, hence the decline in posts lately).

100 Things About Me

I'll be surprised if anyone actually reads this. Anyhow, inspired by Amy of Beauty Joy Food, I decided to make this list, primarily to test as an exercise for my students. (Note now that I'm done: I don't think my students could do this!)

1. I live in Texas, but will never call myself a Texan.
2. I am an Oklahoman.
3. I am a huge OU Sooner fan.
4. I never went to school there.
5. When I lived in FL and OU was really bad and I had dial-up internet, I would listen to the games on the internet.
6. I even did this at times I could have been on the beach!
7. I've lived in 3 states: OK, FL, TX.
8. I met some of my best friends in the 11 months I lived in FL.
9. I have 2 Masters degrees (statistics and special ed).
10. I would like to get a PhD someday.
11. If not a PhD, I can see me getting a diagnostician's certificate.
12. I enjoy working with children with severe disabilities.
13. I am patient.
14. I am hopeless when it comes to keeping myself organized.
15. I can't remember the last time I balanced my checkbook.
16. I am a horrible house cleaner.
17. I often fall asleep when watching movies--either at the theater or at home.
18. I usually don't remember the movies that I do stay awake in.
19. I don't attend movies very often.
20. I work too much.
21. I can't see being good at my job w/o working the hours I work.
22. Sometimes, I don't think I'm good at my job.
23. I love to cook.
24. I also love to eat.
25. I like trying new ethnic foods.
26. When I make cookies, I usually eat the cookie dough raw. Or frozen.
27. I don't like milk.
28. My first job was as a scorekeeper at the softball field. I also prepped the field for play--spraying, dragging, and chalking.
29. My second job was at an Ice Cream and Dairy store.
30. I spent a summer during my college years working in a shock factory.
31. I don't like to be the center of attention.
32. Though I teach, I don't like speaking in front of large groups of people.
33. I worked in banking/finance for 6 years.
34. I knew early into that that I was not cut out for corporate America.
35. I cry easily.
36. My favorite sound is a young child's laughter.
37. I have a brother, but generally feel like an only child.
38. I wish I had more siblings.
39. My greatest fear is losing my parents and being alone in the world. Having that come w/i seconds of reality recently really hit me hard and put me in a funk.
40. My paternal grandpa committed suicide when I was 11.
41. For a while, I thought it was my fault because I didn't go see him that day, but chose to play with friends instead.
42. I am a daddy's girl.
43. Basil is my favorite herb to cook with.
44. I still miss my nephew Dakota daily.
45. It scares me to think that I may one day forget what his hugs felt like.
46. I have no musical talent whatsoever.
47. I never thought I'd leave the state of Oklahoma.
48. I hope to one day live near the mountains.
49. I played basketball my first 2 years of college (at a juco).
50. I bartended in college.
51. I let my little dog sleep on my bed.
52. I used to think dogs didn't belong in the house.
53. I love cool weather.
54. I celebrated my 26th birthday during Hurricane Irene in Jacksonville, FL.
55. My friends renamed it Hurricane Jen.
56. I kissed 20-some odd guys that night.
57. I don't drink that much anymore.
58. I also don't kiss as many guys. :)
59. I am still in touch with a friend (or more) from each stage of my life: kindegarten (Tish and James), grade school (Lezlie and Tammi, somewhat in touch with), High School (Shandi), early college (Tim), later college (Tiffany), grad school (Carrie and Justin), first post-college job in FL (Jackie, Shannon, others)
60. I have difficulty sewing on buttons.
61. My grad school neighbor once suggested that I was social-phobic.
62. I bought my house when I was 26.
63. I can be stubbornly independent.
64. I showed sheep in 4-H and FFA.
65. I am a 1000+ hour volunteer at Children's Medical Center of Dallas.
66. Part of those hours come from 4 summers as a counselor at a camp for children with cancer.
67. In my lifetime, I've known far too many children die.
68. I am a Christian.
69. I talk to my parents several times a week.
70. I was too stubborn to let my parents pay for my college. They helped me in other ways, but I took out loans and worked my tail off to do it myself.
71. I have 2 half sisters that I have met but do not know.
72. A year ago, I thought there was no way I'd ever move back to Oklahoma.
73. Recent experiences have me thinking about moving back to Oklahoma.
74. I've been in 6 weddings, maid-of-honor in 4 of those.
75. None of them has been my own!
76. I love to read.
77. I am 1/16 Choctaw Indian.
78. I love all flavors of ice cream, but Braum's peppermint is probably my favorite.
79. I've only been out of the US one time in my life, for 13 days in Italy and Switzerland.
80. I have visited only visited/lived in 14 states plus D.C.
81. I've been burglarized once, when I was in college.
82. As a result of that burglary, I slept in a room w/ human feces for at least 3 night before it was found on a bookshelf that was behind a door.
83. If I could choose any career other than what I do now, it would be a cancer researcher.
84. I completed a sprint distance triathlon in Oxnard, CA 1.5 years ago as a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program.
85. I also raised about $4,700 as part of this effort.
86. I also did a local sprint tri with friends a few months later.
87. I hate running.
88. I get easily annoyed by people lacking common sense.
89. I get snappy when annoyed. :)
90. I'm still friends with my HS sweetheart (though am really annoyed at him right now). He's also one of the friends I've known since kindegarten.
91. I can sleep just about anywhere, anytime.
92. I have lived alone for most of the past 12 years, but still get scared when at my parent's home alone.
93. Gin and tonic is my favorite alcoholic drink.
94. Vodka/red bull is a close 2nd.
95. I love to read.
96. I have about 20 books in my room that are waiting to be read.
97. I can't do my own nails, so my nails usually look like crap.
98. I am annoyed by the commercialism in our society today.
99. I would like to adopt a child someday.
100. I think I'm boring. I had to struggle to come up with this much. :)