Saturday, July 30, 2011

How To Read a Poem

I love reading a good poem.  I love teaching seventh graders how to love reading.  I'm still working on a way to get seventh graders to love reading a good poem.  I believe a key component of teaching is modeling, so this is how I devour a poem.
  • I read the poem, listening to the words that swim off my tongue.
  • I go wash dishes. 
  • I think about the poem while I wash the dishes.
  • I go back to the poem and read it again. 
  • I fold laundry and think about the poem.
  • Sometimes, I listen to someone else read the poem
  • Then, I think about each line and how the lines tie together.  I think about the precise word choice by the poet.
  • I make an imprint on my brain of my connection to the poem.
Or sometimes, I just read a poem and makes an imprint on my heart, as did this lovely verse today.


by Carl Dennis

Don't be ashamed that your parents

Didn't happen to meet at an art exhibit

Or at a protest against a foreign policy

Based on fear of negotiation,

But in an aisle of a discount drugstore,

Near the antihistamine section,

Seeking relief from the common cold.

You ought to be proud that even there,

Amid coughs and sneezes,

They were able to peer beneath

The veil of pointless happenstance.

Here is someone, each thought,

Able to laugh at the indignities

That flesh is heir to. Here

Is a person one might care about.

Not love at first sight, but the will

To be ready to endorse the feeling

Should it arise. Had they waited

For settings more promising,

You wouldn't be here,

Wishing things were different.

Why not delight at how young they were

When they made the most of their chances,

How young still, a little later,

When they bought a double plot

At the cemetery. Look at you,

Twice as old now as they were

When they made arrangements,

And still you're thinking of moving on,

Of finding a town with a climate

Friendlier to your many talents.

Don't be ashamed of the homely thought

That whatever you might do elsewhere,

In the time remaining, you might do here

If you can resolve, at last, to pay attention.

*Source:  The Writer's Almanac

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Few Things on My Mind

I've had a few things on my mind lately.   It just can't seem to escape my notice.

I wasn't even aware of it when I made these Baby Bundts by Nigella Lawson.  I just had some leftover lemons that I needed to do something with and a mini-bundt pan that never gets used often.  Nigella recommends using a mini-Bundt pan with 6 molds, which I have, made by Pampered Chef.  The dimensions of the Pampered Chef pan must be bigger then the one she used because I only had enough batter to make four.  Four is not enough to justify me making icing.  We had one devoured as soon as we popped it out of the pan.  Three, definitely is not enough to justify me making icing. 

Baby Bundts
How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

1/2 c. plain yogurt
6 Tb. melted butter
2 large eggs
 zest of 1 lemon
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
7 Tb. sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  In a smaller bowl, combine the yogurt, melted butter, eggs, and lemon zest.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Fill the mini-Bundt pan with the mixture.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  Leave them to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then remove to a wire rack, flat-side down to cool.  Top with the icing.

1 1/3 c. confectioners' sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl, and add enough lemon juice to make an icing thick enough to ice the tops and drizzle down the sides.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ms. Left

Remember Miss Photogenic from last week?  Well, that was Ms. Right.  Ms. Left, however, was not as photogenic.  In fact, she was so ugly she scared the shit out of me.  I couldn't even bear to take the picture.

Ms. Left had a lump the size of a grape tomato.  Since I was chatting up the tech, she was letting me watch what was going on and the image flashed on the screen.  I gasped.  I didn't need a radiology degree to see that something sinister was brewing.

In today's fast technology, they make you wait.  I saw it.  I knew it was there.  I knew something else would need to happen.  Mammogram on Friday, results on Tuesday.  Ms. Left was going to need some additional glamor shots. 
Entourage, including Tiger and Big Baby.

I geared myself up with a pedicure and the entourage.  Additional, precise shots were taken.  The doctor was consulted and ultrasounds were ordered.  It felt strange entering the happy room where so many women get to see their baby's face for the first time.  The place where I saw both my baby's faces.  How could a room so full of positive energy now be full of my tension?

Ultrasound room.  I fretted that sheet all to pieces. 
I did the usual - cracked self-depreciating cracks about my boob needing to be lifted up out of my armpit to get a good view.  The ultrasound lady was so young and perky, she didn't get my joke.  I had to explain it.  Actually, I just showed her.  She still didn't laugh. 

The actual size of the lump scared me as she placed measuring lines across the images.    I wanted to cry.  I wished I had brought someone with me.  I wish I had been strong enough to say to someone, "Don't let me go in there alone."  I wish I could have said, "Thanks for the offer.  You're right.  I need you there."   There were two empty chairs beside the table to remind me that no one can do this alone. 

At some point, taking pictures of this here blog left my mind.  It was filled with so many questions that wouldn't get answered until a doctor's appointment four days away.  Again?  What is up with the slow response time?  It only takes two hours to get a driver's license picture, shouldn't a boob get a little quicker response?  I am now firmly convinced that all mammograms should be read by men.  They would have been all over that boob picture.

At this point, an ultrasound biopsy is scheduled for later this week.  I don't have a history of breast cancer in my family.  I don't have any other symptoms, such as discharge from my nipple (eeeww).   Chances are, it is just a mean ol' cyst.   It still doesn't keep me from worrying. 

It still doesn't keep me from earning money.  For a quarter, I will let you touch it.  So far this week, I have made $14.25.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Heat Wave

I don't know if you've noticed or not, but it's been a little hot lately.   My house didn't come with central air.  I would like to say that we are meeting this new challenge with no whimpering and brave smiles, but it isn't happening.  We are miserable and cranky with each other, fighting to see who gets to be in front of the one window unit we are running.  We run errands just so we can be in the car and stores where it is a bearable temperature.  We frequent Dairy Queen and Burger King for icees. 

So, if a friend calls and says that we are going to crash a mutual friend's pool, we are there.   The underground pool was just installed this summer, and it is still a work in progress.  All I need to know is that it has cold water and at least three hours of escape from the heat in the house.

Brave smiles
When we return home, we are wore out.  The last thing I want to do is cook dinner.  My new dinner routine usually involves wraps of some kind.  I can make them in the morning, put them in the fridge, and whip them out for dinner.  Frick and Frack like being able to customize what I put on the tortilla - peanut butter and chocolate chips, turkey and cheese, hummus and lettuce.  They are easy to make a few and have them ready to throw in the bag to take to the pool for snacks as well. 

No whimpering
This roast beef roll-up is one of my favorites;  Frick and Frack, not so much.  If you wanted, you could adjust the amount of horseradish, but I like mine with the kick.

Roast Beef Roll-Ups
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3-4 tsp. horseradish
6 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
green lettuce
8 flour or wheat tortillas
1/2 lb. thinly sliced roast beef

Combine the horseradish and cream cheese.  Spread mixture on each tortilla, then layer the rest of ingredients.  Roll up and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Dirge

"Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway."
~Emory Austin

There song in my heart today was a dirge.  It woke me up at 4 am for several nights this week and wouldn't allow me to go back to sleep.  When I did fall back asleep this morning, I didn't want to get out of bed.  It was going to be one of those mean red days.

I had company coming.  Company pulling into my driveway woke me up from the slump.  Company makes you at least get up and give them the courtesy of brushing your teeth and putting on a bra. 

My company seemed genuinely pleased that we were having a hearty breakfast of blueberry Eggo's with Aunt Jemimah.  She joined us and even drank straight-up cranberry juice with them without complaining.  She listened to me talk even though we were supposed to be working.  She didn't judge that I didn't shower. 

The dirge skipped a few beats and got slightly off rhythm. 

This afternoon for a treat, the kids and I went to Burger King for Coke Icees.  I think the medicinal qualities of Coke should be reexamined. 

The dirge was continuing, but it had lost some of its harmony and was breaking into discord.

This evening I needed love.  The caretaker in me finds it very difficult to put into words and ask for what I need.  I went and actively sought it out.  My friends took care of my kids while I floated in the pool.  They cooked me filets on their grill.  They made me and the kids laugh.  They brought out their best for me without me having to explain what I needed.  They just knew.  They just gave.

For tonight, the dirge is silenced.  I feel a new song underneath that is fighting its way to being heard.  It's singing there, waiting for me to join in. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Boobie Trap

I hesitated talking about this.  Some things may be too personal for this here blog.  However, I'm running with a group of friends who are about my age.  I thought I would take the plunge and get that first mammogram.  I wanted to reassure my friends that this was a necessary milestone to go through.  Myself, I about fell off the table at my yearly exam last summer, when my woman doctor told me it was time for my first mammogram this summer.  It made me feel old. 

Some hospitals offer an incentive, like a limo ride for your trip to your mammogram.  Not my hospital. I rolled up classy in the Nugget Wagon with my entourage.  Frick was still dressed in her pajamas and bathrobe and refused to have her picture taken.  Sometimes, you pick the battles, and pjs and robe were fine, just GET IN THE CAR

If you know me, you know that I can be very quiet.  Unless, I'm nervous.  Then I chitter-chatter non-stop, asking dumb questions and saying ignorant, rambling things.  I must have been more nervous than I realized.  Before I know it, I had broken the ice with the tech, and I was taking pictures of my first boob smashing.  I'm not really sure there is ice to break because you can't help but talk to the person manhandling your girls onto a cold plate. 

The boobie trap.
The tech walked me through the entire process, gave me a stylish pink paper vest, and started the festivities.  I was a little timid about letting everything hang out, but since the tech is a professional, she didn't have time for shyness.  She placed, stretched, rolled, positioned me in a blink of an eye.  It was uncomfortable but it didn't last long.  She was kind enough to let me see the screen and explain what was being seen.  We had to repeat the process on the other side, and then in a slanted position for each side again.

Miss Photogenic, right side.  (Impressive, isn't it?)
It took a total of twenty minutes which included me taking pictures and asking questions.  Afterwards, I did ask for a sticker.  I feel it is important to make it rewarding in some manner.  There isn't any intrinsic value to be had for smooshing your boobies with a total stranger.  You need something tangible.  Even a picture of Daniel Craig to look at would be some kind of reward.  Instead of peaceful sheep in a meadow, you could at least imagine a scene where you are saying, "Oh, Daniel, you are being too rough.  I'm a gentle flower."  At least, that is how my thoughts run.

Peaceful scene to focus on.

What we need to focus on.
(Is he tall?  I hope not.  I really prefer shortness.)

Have you had your mammogram, yet?  I don't have a limo, but I will roll you up in the Nugget Wagon if you want to schedule an appointment.  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food for the Soul

Fridays are now Food for the Soul.  Today's song is brought to you by Tracy Chapman. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tinkerbell at a Rave

I took a small break from exercising.  Okay, a long break from exercising.  You know I have fads and DVDs that I love and then get bored with, so I'm always trying new ones.  I found Tracy Anderson from reading Gwyneth Paltrow's blog Goop.  Gwyneth was also on  Oprah touting her workout.  I was a little skeptical because Tracy's methods aren't your usual workouts. 

She encourages you to workout four to six times a week, for an hour doing the mat exercises.  In addition, she wants you to do at least a half-hour of cardio, preferably something that does not use repetition of your large muscles, such as running.  She is a big fan of dance cardio.  Also, she doesn't think women should use weights over three pounds, because it increases bulk and more skin sagging. 

If you know me, you know I love to dance.  The cardio would be easy.  You know that I am also a weakling.  Three pound weights made me happy.

The problem was the time.  Researchers encourage twenty minutes a day to maintain your weight.  If you want to lose weight, you need to do 60 - 90 minutes a day.  I used to struggle with that twenty minutes, and she wants me to find time for an hour and a half? 

I thought I would give it a try.  I turned to my number one source of exercise DVDs - QVC.  (QVC is my favorite source for everything.  You don't have to watch.  You can order online at any time.  Plus, 30-day money back guarantee.  No questions asked.  They don't pay me, but they should.)  After reading the reviews, I ordered the the Mat Workout, the Post-Pregnancy Workout (yes, it's been five years, just shush it), and Beginner Dance Cardio

I started with the Dance Cardio.  I couldn't follow it or keep up.  I tried.  I retried.  I was doing my own moves.  Or standing there watching her dance.   I need structure and I felt at times, she was dancing to her own internal beat.  She is beautiful and graceful.  Her dancing was like watching a cute Tinkerbell at her own personal rave.  I scrapped it.  I figured I could send it back.  (I didn't - if you want to try it, I will loan it to you.) 

Next, I tried the Post-Pregnancy Workout.  I have a belly that resembles bread dough.  Two c-sections in two years can wreck havoc on your abdomen.  I have done crunches, sit-ups, plank holds - that belly wasn't shrinking.  My sister always tells me that I "should just cut it off."  This was the first exercise that I've done in five years where I felt my stomach muscles truly working.  It hurt.  This isn't your typical sit-ups.  You move in combinations that your body has never used.  I was aware of stomach muscles that I hadn't seen in years.  At work, I was stapling papers and had to stop.  Did you know you use your stomach when you staple?  I discovered them from this video. 

The Mat Workout had the same results.  It made me body-aware.  There is a lot of repetition of basic floor and standing movements.  Your entire body is engaged at all times.  The first couple of times, I was unable to do all the repetitions.  I spent a lot of the time sitting on the floor, watching.  Every day, though I set a goal of doing 10 reps, then 12 reps, then 15 reps.  I did this tape for ten days throughout two weeks.  I saw results.  The arm reps will kill you.  You notice your arms, though.  You notice your tush.  You notice your abs.  You notice your posture.  She keeps saying in the tapes, "You're going to see AMAZING results."  I believe her.  I still am struggling working it into my schedule.  When I do, I hate her and love her.

She's not overly chatty which bothered me at first. I kept thinking, "What am I supposed to be doing?"   Now, I find it peaceful.  It is just repetition.  Keep watching her.  Her body is lean, long, and beautiful.  I don't need her insincere encouragement.  Her body structure motivates you. 

Overall, it reminded me of a combination of calisthenics, yoga, and Pilate's.  Don't be fooled.  I sweated like a hog.  I was drenched.  I felt good afterwards.  Enough to make me want to do it the next day.  These tapes are keepers. 

The abs and arms that I envy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beans Don't Burn on the Grill

I never got the lyrics to that song.  Who cooks beans on a grill anyway?  If you're from West Virginia, you cook the green beans on the stove for hours, swimming in bacon grease and butter.  That is the only way I knew how to eat green beans for most of my life. 

Until I met I Ina.  I know.  I should rename this blog "The Site Where She Just Makes Ina Garten Recipes and Posts Bad Pictures of Them". 

Actually, I've been buying the steamer vegetables in the freezer section.  My kids enjoyed the steamed green beans - add a little brown sugar and butter.  I wanted to fix fresh green beans that had that same fresh taste with out cooking them to a pulp. 

On a side note - a thing that I think is wrong with the world, not stringing beans together on a front porch.  I have great memories of picking green beans and then sitting together as a family, mom, grandma, cousins, stringing and snapping baskets of beans to be canned.  I'm sure I complained of the work at the time, but it is something I miss now.  Your hands were busy and your talk was casual.  I think it created a shared bond.  We now longer provide as many of these opportunities for ourselves or for our children.  It is a sad loss.

String Beans with Shallots
Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten (My notes in bold).

1 lb. French string beans, ends removed ( I used stringless green beans from the farmer's market.)
Candy Apple Red Onion - awesomely pretty
Kosher salt
2 Tb. butter
1 Tb.  olive oil
3 large shallots, largely diced (I used a candy apple red onion from the farmer's market)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes.  Drain immediately and place in a bowl of ice water.  Heat the butter and oil in a very large saute pan or large pot and saute the shallots on medium heat for 5 -10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned.  Drain the string beans and add to the shallots with 1/2 tsp. salt and the pepper, tossing well.  Heat only until the beans are hot. 

Do you have any slave labor memories associated with garden vegetables?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shake It

Mama said there would be days like these, just didn't know there would be so many in a row.  So, how do I deal? 

Do I drink?  I wish. At least I would smile and forget for awhile until the next morning.

Do I smoke?  I wish.  At least I would be skinny.

Do I exercise?  I wish.  At least I try.  But then everything starts jiggling and bouncing, and my self-esteem plummets and I give up.

Do I eat?  I wish I didn't.  Truth is, on days like these, I eat a bowl of cereal just to be eating something.  Preferably,  Frosted Mini-Wheats with fruit.  That seems to be the cereal of choice this week.

But do I dance?  Oh, yes, I do. My playlist on the iPod is called "Shake It".  I long for bass speakers to thump through the floor and cover me up, vibrating through my whole being.  I don't have them yet, so I just turn up the music as loud as I dare since moving into a neighborhood, and I shake it.  I shimmy.  I jump. I belt it out.  I can do this for hours on end.   I wouldn't say it is exercise because I love it too much. 

And this song, oh my word, this song makes me want to put it on repeat and dance, dance, dance.  Turn it up, you won't regret it.

That song requires salsa dancing or other assorted dances learned from Zumba.  If you are going to salsa dance, you need chips and Pico de Gallo.  Try this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. Her step-by-step instructions make it so easy to make.  It needs to be devoured on the same day that it is made.  I highly recommend that you buy the Tostitos with Hint of Lime.  My stars, it will put a spring in your dance. 

What song makes you dance?  Let me know.  I'll add it to my playlist.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Sunshine in a Bowl

Any cookbook by Ina Garten is one of my favorites.  Her recipes are simple, straight-forward with amazing taste results.  I love how simple this salad is.  We have a tendency to overcook many fresh vegetables, losing out on their incredible flavors. 

I could eat this every day in the summer.  I have eaten it on tortilla chips.  I have eaten it on top of grilled chicken in a flour tortilla.  I have eaten it on salad.  When corn is plentiful and cheap, you should double the recipe. 

Plus, it is just a pretty bowl of yellow on the table. 

Fresh Corn Salad
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

5 ears corn, shucked
1/2 c. small-diced red onion
3 Tb. cider vinegar
3 Tb. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. chiffonade fresh basil leaves

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone.  Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color.  When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob. 

Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil.  Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

*If you would like an easy way to cut corn of the cob, use a Bundt pan.  Stand the ear up in the center, cutting down the cob.  Makes an easy way to hold the cob and catch the goodness.  I, however, did not want to clean another dish so I just cut it into my bowl, raking my knuckles against the rim of the bowl every time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer Berries

It is turning out to be a lovely year for berries.  My mama's black raspberries are churning out gallons of berries.  I'm so fortunate that she shares them with me.

She also shared this recipe.  She usually makes a chocolate glaze out of melted Hershey's bars and drizzles it over the top.  I prefer mine plain.

Black Raspberry Cake

1 yellow cake mix (or french vanilla or white), plus ingredients called for on package, cutting water in half
2 c. fresh black raspberries

Blend all ingredients together as directed on the package, including the black raspberries.  Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake according to the directions on the back of the cake mix box. 

I also used this recipe from Joy the Baker for black raspberry muffins.  These muffins were easy to make.  They were just a good solid muffin, espescially warm from the oven. 

What's your favorite summer berry?

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