Saturday, October 27, 2007

No one loves you like your dog...

It's true. In the world of unconditional love, the dog wins every time. I've had a great dog for almost 17 years now. His name is PudgeDog - all one word. I got him in Jan 1991 from the animal shelter in Greenwood, SC. I was a sophomore in college.

He was the cutest, most stubborn puppy known to man. He lived on the farm where he romped through the woods, wallowed in the creek, chased various woodland creatures, and drug home the occasional dear carcass. (Only after rolling in the putrid thing first.)

Over the last 16 years, I have moved 4 times. PudegeDog has gone from a 200 acre farm to a tiny back yard, and now a only slightly larger back yard. (Half an acre isn't much if you are used to 200!) He went from running freely and riding in the back of a pickup through fields to having to learn he is supposed to stay INSIDE the fence.

He has been hit by a car once, happily he recovered after some hip surgery. He has jumped the fence at least five times, and came home on his own three of those times. Once he was caught by a neighbor who called us and once he got so far away from home he ended up in the next county in the animal shelter there! We got him back that time, too. Once he even got lost when we were in SC on vacation. Two weeks went by and an old farmer about 5 miles from the farm we were on called and said he was in his barn. Once again, recovered.

In each one of the instances, PudgeDog has been cold, or hungry, or more recently with out his old dog meds for days. And in every case he has been thrilled to see us when we went to get him. Never questioning - why did you leave me? Why did you let me get so hungry? Or why am I in pain? Instead - he always greets us with open, unabashed, unconditional love.

PudgeDog is getting pretty old. His hearing is not so great now. He can't see at night. His hip is really bothering him and he is a little wobbly on his feet at times. And he stands at the gate every morning and every night looking for the people he loves to come home or go to work. Sometimes he is so wanting to give you love you have to leave his line of sight so he will eat.

Nobody loves you like your dog. And I can't think I can love him back enough to do him justice.

Why exactly do I need to spend time doing this??

Why exactly do I need to spend time trying to explain to students and parents why Child X has done a horrid job in my class? Because I work in a school where students are allowed to be lazy and blame the teacher because their parents pay tuition. It sounds cynical, I know, but in all my years of teaching, which is in the double digits, this is the only place I have had to spend almost as much time getting ready for what happens AFTER a test as I do before it.

If the students had it their way, we would do ONE chapter all year, they would all get As and feel some sense of superiority to their local public school counter parts. It gets worse every year. We cover less and less, the grades get lower and lower, and the parents get more and more abusive towards the teacher (that would be me) when their child does poorly. If I hear "my child has never made a C before" again I might just drop dead. And it isn't even true 85% of the time! Or "I heard no one did well on that test." Again, I can honestly say this is NEVER true. There are ALWAYS kids that do well, in fact, I don't have a Bell Curve, I have a "U curve". Those that do - do well. Those that don't - well, don't. There is rarely much in between.

I spend hours and hours planning for my classes. I am always prepared. I try and have an activity or lab or demo every week to keep it interesting. I work very hard to make everything accesible and fair. I give hours and hours of my time to help students outside of class, which I don't have to do. I have a web page I update every single day with what we did in class, what the HW is, and self help tuorials and online acitvities, links to handouts, and even links to the videos we watch in class. In return I ask that students do their HW - which is limited to less than 22 minutes a night by school policy, study a bit - which is counted in the 22 minutes a night limit, and take responsibilty for themselves. Is this unreasonable? Is it something that is simply out of the question?

I have made it past the typical 3 year burn out. I made it past the 10 year mark, which is pretty darn amazing. I don't see 20 in my future. I might not even see next year. I don't know what else I would do, but I think I am clearly not doing much where I am. Other than taking crap from kids, parents, and adminstrators - all with a smile and never making the 'customer' upset. I could work a consumer complaint line. I would still take abuse, but I wouldn't be spending 10+ hours a week at home working on top of the 40+ I work on campus doing my job.

I think it is time to start looking for Plan B.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Diets may be evil, but tight pants are just plain unattractive.

Sadly, it has come to my attention, via my closet, that I partook of too many frosty summer beverages (and maybe cheese fries) and now none of my clothes for the fall appear to fit quite the way they did this time last year.

I am unpacking my boxes of fall and winter clothes (yes, unpacking - I live in an old house with no closet space) and remembering that, while I love summer, I like fall clothes. Sweaters, turtlenecks, boots, wool jackets (not unlike my wool shoes, and we know how I feel about them!), and even an occasional scarf. It's all good stuff. favorite after work bum around the house plaid skirts....happy times! In my excitement, I decide now would be a good time to decide what to wear tomorrow! Not something I would normally do, but the clothes look so inviting, so friendly, so very comfy! So I pick out a pair of slacks and a nice long sleeve shirt to give a turn. This is where it gets ugly. The pants don't fit right. They're too tight! Not good, not good! Abort the fall pants - it's still warm enough for the late summer pants - go for the shirt. It's a good transition piece. Oh no! It doesn't fit either!

This is not the pleasant experience I thought it would be. Distraught, I fish around under the bed and locate the scale...and step on...and eventually get the courage to open my eyes. The closet does not lie. My clothes were not somehow magically shrunk, it appears (quite literally) that my ass has not so magically expanded!

So the four letter word DIET has reemerged in my vocabulary. The little white kitchen scale is back on the counter. Meals are carefully planned, weighed, and crafted. And I am hungry.

I am a reasonable person, I won't let it go too far (after all, cheese fries are in season), but I must face the fact until I lose about 13 pounds, I will not fit properly into my clothes. And while diets may be evil, tights pants are just plain unattractive.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Crock Pot Lima Bean Soup

My mom had a gift for making really good food out of almost nothing.  This was one of her soup "recipes" that got made pretty often in our house growing up.  I have since adapted it to make it more suited to my needs, but it is the same basic recipe.

Over night soak: one bag of baby lima beans (I like the little ones, but big ones work, too)

The next morning, drain and rinse the beans and dump them in a crock pot.  Set the crock to LOW if you have an 8+ hour work day.  Addto the crock pot:

1-2 diced onions
1-2 diced carrots
1-2 diced potatoes
1 left over ham bone (or a packet of ham from the meat section along with a packet of smoked ham flavoring) or a couple meaty smoked ham hocks
salt and pepper
a healthy squeeze of catsup (I know, it's weird)

cover with water and cook until beans are tender

That's it!  When the beans are tender, pull out the hocks or ham bone if that is what you used.  Pull/pink/dice the meat and toss it back it in.  Adjust salt/pepper if needed.

I like to serve this with chunky cornbread.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Day...the green shoes have been freed!

I love summer. I love hot, sweaty weather where you bake yourself in the sun and attempt to soak up 8 months worth of Vitamin D so you can make it through the long winter. So you would think it would make me sad when the weather turns to fall. But here is the weird part - there is one thing about the turn of the weather that I absolutely love. What could it be, you ask? My ugly woolly green clogs. I adore these shoes. They make me happy to the point of it being a bit unnatural.

I had a blue pair, but they eventually had to be put down. I glued the soles back on twice. The green ones I have now are still on their original soles, but they have cork...which has a limited life. I have decided that I have to be nice to the green shoes this season. That means no wet grass, very limited outside, and never, never wear them in the rain. It's a challenge, but it is worth it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Naked Cupcakes

I have been craving coconut cake for two weeks, so I decided to break down and make some coconut cupcakes (that way I can give away the extras easily.) Once I made them, I realized I didn't really need any icing on them - just a plain cupcake would do. This set off the most ridiculous rant from my husband!

Apparently, eating "naked cupcakes" is one of the seven (now eight?) deadly sins! He was so upset by the idea he threatened to get up in the middle of the night and ice them all himself to keep me from eating one naked. I talked him down, but it still haunts him. I received an email, a text message, and now this note:

all in the past 48 hours! Who knew?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Libby's Mac and Cheese

My mom could cook.  Like, really, really cook.  She made some of the best mac and cheese - and everybody who has it loves it and can't believe how easy it is to make.  What makes it even BETTER is the fact that the 'recipe' is barely a recipe.  It is really just a technique.  You can use it to make as much or as little as you want.  (But you'll want to make a lot, it is super yummy.)  In typical "Libby" fashion, she never had this written down on a recipe card anywhere.  It was learned by just standing with her in the kitchen and paying attention. 

Elbow pasta, cooked until just under al dente.  She used the big elbows, but I am having a hard time finding them these days.
Good cheese, shredded.  A mixture of sharp and mild cheddar with a little parm is great (note - parm does not come out of a green can)
Eggs and milk

Cook your noodles until just under al dente.  Drain but do not rinse.  Spray your casserole dish with nostick spray (or butter it) and start layering.  Put in some noodles, then a layer of cheese, then salt and pepper the cheese layer, then repeat (pasta, cheese, salt and pepper).  Continue doing this until you are almost to the top of your dish.

Now, in a measuring cup start with about 1-1.5 cups of milk and 2-3 eggs.  Whisk them up really good and then pour them over the top of your noodles.  Now you need to peak in the side (push back the noodles to see) and see where the milk comes up to.  You want to continue to add milk and eggs until the liquid comes up about 70% up the side.  Now top with some cracker crumbs, bread crumbs, or what ever makes you happy.

Slide into a 350 degree oven and bake until set.  (Just peak on the side again.)  I can't really give a time because it totally depends on how deep and/or large you make your casserole.  I plan on an hour to 90 minutes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Korean Vegetable Pancakes

Every once and a while you come across a recipe that is just so good you can't hardly stand it.  This is one of those recipes.  It is incredibly easy, takes well to quick substitutions, and is a never fail wonderful result.  It is good hot - or cold the next day.

Korean Vegetable Pancakes and Dipping Sauce (as printed in Eating Well Magazine, May/June 1993)

3 large eggs
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/4 lb small cooked shrimp
10 green onions, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3-inch lengths
1 small zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced int fine julienne, 3-inch long
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into fine julienne 3-inch long
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

We don't use the shrimp (shellfish allergy), and we switch out what ever veggies we have on hand.  The last time we made it we subbed grilled (then thinly sliced) pac choi for the zucchini.

For the pancakes, beat together 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, flour, water, and 1 Tbs oil.  Set this batter aside for 20-30 minutes to rest while you make the dipping sauce and cut the veggies.

Julianne the veggies and set aside.  Beat together remaining eggs and egg whites.  Set them next to the veggies.

Working over medium low heat,  cook the pancakes -  put a small amount of oil in the skillet and pour enough batter to make a thin 6-8 inch pancake in the pan.  Then spread some of your veggies around on top of the batter.  Take your beaten eggs end drizzle (I use a fork) some of the eggs over top of the veggies (it holds them on - you don't need a lot).  When the pancake seems set and every so lightly browned, flip and cook for just a few minutes more to set the eggs all the way.  Remove from pan and set aside while you cook the others.

Dipping Sauce  (I usually double this)

3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped   
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted and ground

Again - always tasty!  Just dump and mix.  If you are in a hurry - you can use the tiniest splash of toasted sesame oil in place of the toasted and ground seeds.  We have also subbed garlic chives for the onions before and had great results.  It is pretty goof proof.

Serve pancakes cut into wedges with individual bowls of dipping sauce.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Everyday Bread

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
  • 6 to 6-1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or your favorite combination of flours)
  • 2-1/2 c. warm water
  • 1-1/2 TB instant yeast
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • 2-1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Combine water, yeast and 2 cups of the flour in a mixing bowl. Set aside to sponge for 15 minutes.
  2. Add honey, oil, salt, gluten if using, and 4 cups of flour. Mix until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Change to dough hook (or turn out to knead by hand), and knead 6 to 7 minutes (10 by hand). Add only tablespoons of flour if dough sticks to sides, being careful not to add too much.
  3. Form into two loaves and place in greased 9x5" pans. Allow to rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes (1-2 inches above pans). Preheat oven to 350 ten minutes before rising time is done.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through if needed.
  5. Immediately remove from pans to cool on a rack.