Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sundance Shoes

I bought these last week and just love them! I feel like I'm walking in warm mud. They last all the work day with no hot spots or pinching toes. They come in a few other colors that are beckoning me.

I'm a happy teacher when my feet feel good. :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Stuffed Artichokes

Many years ago when I was fresh out of college and a newlywed, I had a friend of Italian heritage. She was born and raised in New Orleans and we became friends as our new circle of young married couples formed. She married a good friend of mine who joined the Navy fresh out of college. (I like to say "fresh out of college":) He was trained to fly F-4 jets and during his time in the Navy our vacations centered around wherever they were stationed.

One of the things I remember most about our visits with them in Virginia Beach, Pensacola and New Orleans was the food. Between her Cajun influences and her Italian upbringing, she would make wonderful meals that I still think about today.

Here's just one. If I had never met her I would never have made...

Stuffed Artichokes

The ingredients are simple and making them is a bit time consuming, but the result is worth it. Here's what you'll need:

Artichokes, olive oil, Italian breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, celery, green onions, flat leaf parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.

Chop off the top of the artichoke.

Using sissors snip off the sharp tips on each leaf.

Add a tablespoon of salt to a pot of boiling water.

Drop the artichokes in the boiling water and boil them for about 10 minutes. They should brighten up and turn a nice shade of green.

When the artichokes are done put them upside down to drain. Prepare the rest of the ingredients for the food processor. I don't know the exact amounts of each vegetable, she never got around to giving me a written recipe. I guess it's about 10 green onions, 7 stalks of celery, a half of a cup of flat leaf parsley, 3 gloves of garlic, salt and pepper.

Don't process it to a liquid, just process it enough to make it looked chopped really well.

In a large bowl prepare the dry ingredients. I use equal parts Italian bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. I add salt and pepper as I mix the two together.

I combine the wet ingredients with the dry.

I put the wet and dry in a large bowl so that I can put the artichoke in the middle and stuff them in the bowl. This makes the stuffing easy and much less messy. My friend taught be to pull back every leaf and gently stuff each one with the mixture.

By stuffing each leaf, every serving (leaf) has the tasty mixture as well and the tender bite at the end of the leaf.

Now this is the part that just amazed me. She put the stuffed artichokes in a pan with a bit of water and then......she poured an entire 32 oz. bottle olive oil over the artichokes and let them simmer on low all day. (I've found that putting the artichokes on a rack in the pan keeps them from burning on the botton.)

I was speechless and awestruck at the same time. In all my 28 years I had never used olive oil and I had never seen anybody pour an entire bottle of anything over food. It's the Scotch/Irish in me I guess. Cooking was never a big part of my day to day life growing up.

Well, needless to say I was hooked and wanted to know more. Over the next few years she taught me how to make gumbo, shrimp creole, bread pudding with rum butter sauce, red beans and rice, lasagna, hot tamales from scratch, and meatballs, to name a few. Sadly, our friendship didn't last and I haven't heard from her in years. Still, her cooking tips and recipes remain and I use them often.

Here's to my Italian friends, old and new. :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer guests '09

This is Eddie. Eddie visited us for three days in June. He was one of our all time best house guests ever. He was quiet and slept most of the time. When he wanted to go out he let us know in a very family-friendly way. Outside he ran, jumped, barked and ... slept. He found a frog that he tormented until the frog got smart and dashed under the deck.

This is one of the many fawn that grace our backyard in the spring. They're lots of fun to watch as their mother watches closely too. She snorts and stamps her foot when she wants their attention just as any mom would do. They romp and play for a while then in an instant they're gone for the day.

I have no idea where this guy came from. He was alone so I guess he got away from his gaggle.

Here's Eddie's frog just before he took shelter under the safety of the deck.

Our fav. house guest again....relaxing. :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two of my favorite Penguin fans

These kids were students of mine and are children of one of my best friends. They've just finished their first year of college. This is how most of Pittsburgh felt Friday night!!

And guess what? They are twins! They have an older sister who I also had in class a few years ago and the three of them are as different as night and day....each special and talented in their own way.

I love to talk about my students.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pittsburgh Penguins win The Stanley Cup!

Even though I'm a fair weather fan, it's lots of fun watching your hometown team win the championship.

Friday, April 17, 2009

No more flu shots!

I rarely take a sick day from school. If I do it's a mental health day because I'm sick of school. :) I usually have one of those a year. I just don't get sick very often. At least I didn't get sick very often until two years ago when I started getting flu shots. I got my first flu shot ever in November of 2007 and in February 2008 while I was at a conference in New Orleans where I was to speak at one of the sessions, I came down with horrible cold, cough, and sore throat. What was supposed to be an exciting adventure turned into something I had to drag myself through.

This year I got another flu shot and last weekend (Easter) I got sick again. Same thing, cold, sore throat, and cough. And this year we were in New York City. We arrived in NYC to visit our daughter and both my husband and I became sick as dogs. We didn't feel sick as we started our journey, it hit us suddenly and simultaneously, and once in the city it was clear...sore throats, feverish, headache and bad coughs. It's impossible to be sick on Easter weekend when visiting your daughter in NYC. So, each morning we'd put on our happy healthy faces as we dragged ourselves out of bed, showered, shampooed, makeup (me:) and dressed to begin a fun-filled, action-packed, non-stop day in the Big Apple.

But each night back in the hotel we'd collapse on the beds. The room took on the look of a hospital ward with Kleenex, Robitussin, cough drops, NyQuil and bottles of water strewn everywhere, and the two of us completely zonked on our beds, wheezing, coughing, moaning, groaning.

This was an important trip. We were meeting the new boyfriend and he was hosting us at his home for Easter brunch. He made a great impression, brunch was both delicious and lovely. But as for us, our first impression...not so much.

We managed and didn't die, although there were a few subway rides where I thought I might. :)

So here's what I've decided, Boyfriend :) ... Flu shots :(

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

There are ALWAYS signs

A tragedy occurred last weekend in Pittsburgh. A woman placed a 911 called asking for help with her 22 year-old son. He came home drunk again and his dog left a mess on the floor. She'd had it and wanted him out of the house. Police arrived. They entered the house and two were shot in the head. A third was shot as he came to their rescue.

All three police officers died. Two others were injured. So, so, sad....

According to the first report from a high school acquaintance this was a nice, quiet, smart kid. Soon the public learned he was kicked out of high school and later enlisted in the Marines. He lasted a few months and was thrown out when he got mad and hurled food at his Sargent.

Back at home he began to stock pile weapons and post messages on hate websites. His looks changed drastically as he posted pictures of himself...head shaved, tattoos representing all sorts of evil things. There are many more pieces to this puzzle unfolding as the sad week strains on.

There are always signs. This didn't happen over night. There are always signs.

As a high school teacher I see kids who struggle to fit in all the time. They come in many shapes and sizes....the signs and the kids.

The signs are there in middle school and even elementary school.

I'll bet you think I know the signs.....and I'm going to list them here. Well, no. If I knew the signs, so would the Columbine teachers.

What I feel compelled to write about is what I've observed and learned about what works with [some] kids.

1. Kindness Sadly some kids rarely hear a kind word, or a compliment, a real genuine compliment. It doesn't have to be elaborate or fancy. Good job ... You look nice today ... You did that? Wow! ...I think.

2. Consistency Kids need some consistency. Some of the same things will happen everyday. Someone will be home everyday after school. There will be a dinner of some kind every night. There will be an alarm every morning to get up to and go to school. Stuff like that. Not knowing make kids nervous. ...I think.

3. Consequences Kids need to know there will be appropriate consequences for their actions. And when the consequences are closed, a new day. If you smack your little brother after we told you not to, you will be in time out. When time out is over you will sincerely apologize, hug and then go play. If you come in at 12:30 and your curfew is 12, (and I've been sitting here for half an hour waiting for you) you will not go out for two weekends. ...I think.

4. Listen I'm big on being a good listener. It's so easy and so many adults don't it. Just shut your mouth and listen. Then watch what happens. Silence (and eye contact) speaks volumes. It says, I care about you and what you are saying. I do not have to comment on every little thing. I don't have to hear my own voice. Look them in the eye when they start to tell you something. Don't rush them. Just look at them with your best, I'm listening look. Add when necessary...And then what happened? ... or... really? they know you are listening. I found if they ask me what they should do, or for advice, I say, "hmmmmm" and wait a second or two....because they already know the answer. If this starts in elementary school it creates a safe secure place for kids to go and share at home. ... I think.

5. And...Snoop. Yep, I said snoop. I know, I know, respect their privacy. But until they are 18 they are your responsibility. You are responsible for turning out a decent human being. How are you ever going to know what they're up to if you don't fold the laundry and put it away in their drawers? Or, suddenly lose your favorite shoes and wander into their room looking for them. Or have a question about tomorrow's lunch menu, etc. ... I think.

BUT, if you snoop you have to be ready to deal with what you find. If say, you find a note to your kid from another kid saying another kid doesn't like your kid, put it back. Or, if you find a drawer filled with Hershey Bar wrappers, leave them alone. There are many things much worse than these that still fall between the normal bars on the, Is My Kid Normal, chart. Be careful to freak out about the right things.

Starting early in elementary school become aware of what kids are/should be into. Know their friends and their friends parents. Make sure those parents' values and rules are similar to yours. Invite their friends over after school. Ask them to stay for dinner on occasion.

Finally, if you find drugs, drug paraphernalia, suspicious magazines, or weapons of any kind do not walk away respecting privacy. Do not! Privacy goes out the window. Tell your kid you love him/her with all your heart as you pull out the incriminating material and listen a bit, then start talking. It's your house, your rules, and your love.....above all your love, which is never, never negotiable. It's always there.
So, child of mine, here's what's going to happen...

Oh and while I'm on my high horse, pleeeeeeeeeese don't be the "cool" parent who lets the kids drink at your house because you've taken all the car keys and will let them sleep it off in your basement/family room. First of all, it's I.L.L.E.G.A.L. to serve alcohol to minors EVEN IF IT'S IN YOUR OWN HOUSE. AH-HUH! You could (and should) be arrested. And second, those pre-pubescent, pubescent, post-pubescent bodies cannot handle the alcohol the way you can. They could die or suffer irreversible brain damage after five or six beers. (I saw that on ER last week and I also happen to know it's true.)

I have no idea what happened in the childhood of the young man who shot the Pittsburgh Police officers. He is so young to be so angry. It just made me wonder.

I'm not an expert and I know many wonderful parents who have done all the stuff I've mentioned here and more and still have problems with their kids. Who knows....this is just me and my thoughts from what I've seen as a teacher.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Happy Birthday!

...if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours...

Happy Birthday Mike! :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!"

...Arthur Carlson, WKRP in Cincinnati

The above quote is from the famous "WKRP in Cincinnati" episode where Station Manager, Arthur Carlson (played by Gordon Jump), arranged to have live turkeys dropped from a helicopter as an advertising stunt on Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be a serious miscalculation. The poor birds plunged to earth, never even having a chance. Their tragic "last flight" was relayed to WKRP listeners by reporter Les Nessman, played by Richard Sanders:

"It's a helicopter, and it's coming this way. It's flying something behind it, I can't quite make it out, it's a large banner and it says, uh - Happy... Thaaaaanksss... giving! ... From ... W ... K ... R... P!! No parachutes yet. Can't be skydivers... I can't tell just yet what they are, but - Oh my God, Johnny, they're turkeys!! Johnny, can you get this? Oh, they're plunging to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Not since the Hindenberg tragedy has there been anything like this!"

Click here for a short clip of audio highlights in RealAudio.

How popular was the WKRP "Turkeys Away" episode? In a poll asking fans to rank the episodes they enjoyed the most, the most current results put this one at #1.

WKRP in Cincinnati was a great comedy back in the day and from that particular show I was convinced turkeys could not fly. As if a weekly sitcom could be a reliable source for information. Seriously though, after hearing that, what would you think?

Turns out they can fly ... a bit. They're not gathering all their friends together in the classic V formation and heading south each year, but since they perch in the lower limbs of trees for the night they can get up the speed and the lift to get to their night time branch.

The ones in our backyard definitely do not fly. I mean, I've never seen them fly. They always walk on to the lawn from the woods and scratch at the grass. They flap their wings and run real fast if we chase them off the grass, but no soaring above the farm looking for small rodents.

And Thanksgiving turkeys, Butterball or Honeysuckle White? Those gobblers never feel the wind beneath their wings. They just sit and eat all day so that you can sit and eat all day.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Give this photo a name!

Photographed yesterday coming out of our woods.

Three Amigos? Three Muske-turkeys? Strutting their stuff? :)

Can anyone think of a clever name for this photo?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Academy Awards

"I still hear people asking: What have we artists to do with oil and economy, survival and honor? The answer is : everything. Our truth, if it is heartfelt, and the beauty we produce out of it, may perhaps be the only real guidelines left, the only clear beacons, the course for renewal of vitality in various cultures of our world. Where economists squabble, we can be clear. Where politicians play political games, we can move hearts and minds. Where the greedy grab, we can give. Our pens, voices, paintbrushes, pas de deux; our words...can reinforce us against moral deterioration. Perhaps, after all, it is only the artist who can reconcile the mystic with the rational, and who can continue to reveal the presence of God in the minds of men." - Leonard Bernstein

This is my daughter in a wig and bejeweled glasses as Mama Mae Peterson from Bye Bye Birdie, her last musical during her senior year in high school. She chose to channel the Mike Myers Linda Richman character, a stereotypical Jewish middle-aged woman, when deciding on costume and voice for the part. She was a riot. (I thought:)

I sent her this picture last night, wishing her happy Oscar night, because I knew she would be glued to her TV as I was. The Oscars are my Super Bowl. Yeah, I talk a good game about the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the truth is if they hadn't made it to the Super Bowl I wouldn't know what their record was, who Antonio Holmes was or what sunglasses what's his name wears when he cuts his grass.

But Oscar night is wonderful. The Red Carpet, the gowns, the jewels, the music, the extravagant set, the clips, the friendly banter on stage between announcements. Wasn't the Hugh Jackman/Anne Hathaway thing cute? The awkward moment when someone yelled "open the curtain" from off stage. The acceptance speeches, hurried, tearful, sincere, genuine. I love it all.

The poignant moments really got to me this year... Heath Ledger's family accepting for him. "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black ... couldn't resist an emotional moment when shedding a tear, he said, "Harvey gave me his story, and it saved my life."

But, I think Penelop Cruz accepting her award for Best Supporting Actress said what I feel about this arts. "... And I, always on the night of the Academy Awards, I stay up to watch the show and I always felt that this was, this ceremony was a moment of unity for the world because art, in any form, is and has been and will always be our universal language and we should do everything we can, everything we can, to protect its survival..."

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Shining Through

He left the house at 7 AM. He sat in traffic for an hour. He walked a mile and sailed across a river. He stood with 300,000 others in the bitter cold until get the shot. :)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Man's Best Friends

No Steeler party is complete without the Steel City's favorite beverage. A Steeler fan from Queens, NY sent this picture.

After searching all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, he ended up in Clifton, NJ for this hometown brew.

Thanks Steeler fan from Queens! :)
PS You have a fine looking dog, too. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inauguration Anticipation - Part 2

I can't get enough of the Inauguration. The pre-Inauguration activities, Obama's trip to the Lincoln memorial, the girls going off to the Sidwell School for their first day of school in DC, the controversy over the guest speakers, the mother-in-law scoop, the choice of first puppy, the unprecedented security measures, the Bible, Hay-Adams Hotel, Blair House, the train ride from Philadelphia to DC, all of it. Like the Olympics, I'm glued to the TV.

But, what I'm really looking forward is Michelle Obama's fashion; the parade suit and the gown. I'm anxious to hear the Inauguration speech of course but, call me shallow or superficial or irrelevant if you will, I'm eager to see what Michelle Obama will wear on Inauguration Day because so far, I like her style.

Michelle Obama, former associate dean at the University of Chicago; a member of six boards of directors including the prestigious Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and Tree House Foods; and Vice President, Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago Hospital a position where she was responsible for all programs and initiatives that involve the relationships between the hospitals and the community as well as management of the hospitals' business diversity program.....

Yes, I like her style.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NieNie Recovery - Buy the Book!

This cute little book is a compilation of funny blog posts from blogs all over the US. The proceeds from this clever book will go to the NieNie Recovery fund. A very sweet and funny blogger got the idea and did all the work to put this together. You can thank her here.

And here's some interesting news, I'm in it!! I won't tell you which post I submitted, but I'm in the book. It's not quite the 15 minutes I'm looking for, but that's just fine because it's not about me, it's about them. :)

So go here and take a look. If you feel compelled to the book!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winter Irony

A snow storm blew in from Chicago late last night.

It started coming down heavily around 2AM with a light dusting, escalating to a dense downward flow and continuing with a hard, non-stop deluge of small but powerful little flakes with no end in sight. It was very cold and there was a good four to five inches on the ground so that by 5AM if a decision had to be made, administrators would be calling the bus garage to get the news that the roads were too dangerous to transport students and they would have to call a Snow Day!

Except today is Saturday! :(