Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas vacation started yesterday at 2:30

Today was the first day of Christmas vacation. Phew. Working in school is great, and being stationed in the kindergarten wing is the best, if you ask me. Except perhaps, the excitement the week before Christmas break. It all gets to be a little much, lol. The kids are wildly excited and as Friday nears they can barely think straight. It truly, truly is like herding cats.

Our state is being hit hard with flu, extra quickly and extra severely.

Center for Disease Control
These last ten weekdays we had many children out with the flu and many staff as well. At one point with three kindergarten classes, we had only about 10 kids in each class, or nearly a 50% absentee rate in our wing. Other grades were not so hard hit. The little ones don't seem to take the no nose-picking, no uncovered sneezes, no uncovered coughing as seriously. Germs spread fast. I'm glad vacation came now so that we can all clear to personal home corners and stop the contagion.

Today I slept until 7:00 am, late for me. I enjoyed leisurely coffee, watched the last two episodes of the British detective show "Broadchurch." Then I had a nice brunch and then went back to bed at 10:00 until noon.

When I awoke I decided to finally clean out the fridge and do the dishes. When I'd completed that long-overdue task, I processed fruit. I'd bought a pineapple, half-cantaloupe, mangoes, and grapefruits several days ago. Unprocessed fruit does not do my body one bit of good so I spent a while chopping and peeling. If it is ready in the fridge, I'll eat it. I hate to see unpeeled fruit go to waste. Now I have chopped up and cleaned fruit to throw in the delicious homemade granola my friend gave me for my birthday. I also roasted potatoes, broccoli, and processed a bunch of jalapeno peppers and roasted them too. A friend gave me some of her fresh eggs for a Christmas present so I boiled four eggs to be ready to put into spinach salads this week. All that took me several hours.

The afternoon was filled with bible study, and also learning how to use the new bible study software I'd bought. I studied the Sunday School lesson, and I wrote a blog entry at the other blog, ("The Way of Balaam"). Then the evening was for dinner (ham sandwich and roasted potatoes and broccoli) and playing with photos. I experimented with layering and making a collage out of one of my pictures. I'd taken a shot of the full moon last week, and I used a lasso tool to make a cutout of a butterfly photo I had. I opened Pixlr to layer with the items they have on their photo editing software. It's harder than it looks, but here is what I came up with-

We go back to school January 5 and the kids return January 6. I'm looking forward to more study, more reading, more learning how to make art out of my photos, more cooking, and more tv and movie watching. I like the hermitage here, and I don't plan any social activities.

Except for church. And speaking of that, I better get to bed so I'll awaken fresh and ready to worship tomorrow, this last Sunday before the birth of our Savior.

Vacation is here and it just feels so good!!


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fresh bread and staying in

I'm still in my pajamas. I'm savoring every last moment of school break.

In my defense, I was making bread in the machine and I didn't want to leave the house until it was finished. A safety precaution, not leaving the apartment with electrical appliances running.

Now I'm waiting for the bread to cool for ten minutes, so I can slide it out of the pan. But then I'll need to wait another thirty minutes to slice it so I can taste and see if the switch to different ingredients improved it any.

After that I'll be guessing I'll need to wait until the carb coma nap has passed. But then it will be dark and I won't want to go out anyway. If you give a mouse a cookie...

I'll probably go out, really. I need to use my $5 off coupon from the Dollar Store and I definitely need some groceries. I don't have the ingredients to make pea soup, and what would the start of my winter week at work be with no soup??

screen grab
I watched an independent documentary last night, "The NY Pizza Confessions." It was an OK movie, consisting of mostly stopping people on the streets of NY to ask them their opinion about pizza. Only one guy, a recent immigrant, said he did not like it. But he said he DID like the fact that New York is exactly the same as in the movies.

One gal who was pretty expressive, said that getting a slice last thing at night after a hard day, is like putting a pillow inside of you. Right on, sister.

One guy who was stopped on the street gave his answer to the pizza question, then said like a typical New Yorker, "Um, I don't want to be offensive...but...you're doing it wrong." The cameraman laughed and said "Is that right? Would you like to try?" And the New Yorker said, "Yes!" He took the microphone and put on the headphones and walked up and down the street interviewing people for a long time, lol.

There was a very affecting and poignant interview with a homeless man. Apparently there is one spot down near the wharves where you can get a slice for a dollar. The homeless and migrants panhandle for change until they accumulate enough, then they buy a slice. And then start all over.

This man the crawl said was "Al Carpenter" spoke poignantly of life on the streets. Of trying to get people's attention who studiously look the other way, of the reduction in spirit until crime is the only way to stay alive, of all the people passing him, have a home to go to. A place where they put a key in. He spoke of loneliness. He was sad but didn't appear to be bitter, just a lost soul on the streets. It was the best part of the movie.

But then a while later he appeared again in the movie and this time his language, previously clean, was foul to the max and he was angry. Spittingly, gesticulatingly angry. Perhaps the man is schizophrenic, or perhaps simply focusing on his life to a stranger roused long suppressed emotions. I don't know.

Now here is definitely a good thing to think about. One man who was interviewed ran a pizza condiment company. You know at McDonald's you get packets of sugar or salt or pepper and they're in paper packets? This is the same, except they're strictly for pizza. The Red Pepper pack, or the Parmesan pack, or the Oregano Pack...the man said that the most unsanitary thing in a pizza parlor is the cheese shaker. People who use the bathroom and don't wash their hands use the shaker. People who cough into their hands use the cheese shaker. And then you use it and touch your pizza with those same hands. Ewwww. He has a great point.

It was a movie about pizza, why we like it, what we like on it, how to eat it, and what it represents (the more philosophical interviewees opined.)

It's warmed up here. I suppose I ought to go out and be a productive citizen and do my chores. Let me think about it for a while...while I finish my tea...



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Best Food Movies!

Now that I've recovered from my turkey-stuffing-green beans-sweet potatoes-cranberry-roll-apple spice cake Thanksgiving dinner, and the obligatory leftovers of turkey-cranberry sandwich on toasted rye with sweet potatoes on the side, let's discuss the best food movies ever!

I blogged about Jiro Dreams of Sushi at my other blog, from a Christian perspective. But if you want to every detail of sushi from the buying to the preparing to the eating, and see a lovely, incredible art form of making sushi at its world highest level, this movie is for you. You WILL be hungry for sushi after.

Babette's Feast. (In Dutch with subtitles) I saw this when it first came out in 1987. It is so hard to believe it has been that long. Sigh. Anyway, it is an amazing movie. As Epicurious.com describes the film:
Almost a quarter-century after the film's release, the culminating scene of this quietly urgent Danish drama still stands as the most beautifully rendered depiction of a lavish meal ever committed to celluloid. But it's not just spectacle for spectacle's sake: The triumphant banquet sequence also communicates volumes about the movie's central theme, the eternal tug-of-war between self-denial and sensual gratification.

Big Night: two Italian brothers in 1950s NJ run a restaurant that's failing. The elder brother (Tony Shaloub) mourns that the locals do not appreciate his delicate touch, while the younger (Stanley Tucci) persistently trues to convince his brother to try new approaches. They pin their last hopes on cooking for Louis Prima.

Kings of Pastry: once every four years French pastry competition. Lovely artistic sugar creations! Coupled with the drama and heartbreak of competition. It's gripping and absorbing...and beautiful.

The Moo Man- Yes, it is about milk. Wikipedia, "The film focusses on a small dairy farm run by Steve Hook, which produces and sells raw, unpasteurised organic milk. Near Hailsham, Sussex, Longleys Farm is situated on the Pevensey Levels. The farm was started by Steve's father Phil, who is still involved in the business, and who also features in the film, along with Steve's wife and four children. The film covers Steve's struggles to keep the 55-head-herd farm afloat in the face of the power of the supermarkets, and shows his close relationship with his cows, especially Ida, a 12-year-old Friesian. The documentary was filmed over four years." It sounds boring. It isn't.

Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers: documentary is an ode to "the stinking rose". As the reviewer in IMDBcom said, "This is a very good movie about garlic with shots from the Gilroy Garlic Festival and lots of good information about cooking with garlic from some of the best cooks in the SF Bay Area. I view this as a comprehensive guide to garlic provided in a very entertaining fashion. "

The Restauranteur: IMDB, "A film about the grueling construction of not one but two world class restaurants. We follow Danny Meyer, arguably the most successful restaurateur in America. Our cameras follow the creation of Eleven Madison Park and Tabla during the hellish eleven month construction process. Meyer imparts his business and restaurant philosophy while trying to keep his cool. Jumping back to the future, 2009, we learn how the restaurants have evolved, EMP receiving a coveted four stars by The New York Times. The title card sparked cheers in the audience at The Sonoma Film Festival, where the film was awarded Best Documentary - Food." It's really fascinating to get an insider view of what it's like to build and maintain a restaurant, and the restaurateur's philosophy of the food/dining experience. Look for a young Tom Colicchio- with hair.

Other films with food as an important plot point but not about food per se are Mystic Pizza with a young Julia Roberts and Bagdad Cafe with CCH Pounder, Jack Palance and Marianne S├Ągebrecht. For sheer quirk-to-food information ratio, you can't beat either of those movies.

TV show- The Supersizers Go... A BBC production of food history in Britain. Restaurant critic Giles Coren and comedian Sue Perkins live and eat their way through the cuisine of six different eras in Britain's history. The duo are seen by a doctor prior, then they eat, live, and dress as if they were actually living in the era (Edwardian, Restoration, WWII, Elizabethan, 1970s, and Regency. My favorite episodes were the 70s and Wartime (WWII). After ward they are seen by a doctor again and some of the eras provide surprising results as to how healthy or unhealthy their diet was. The Restoration era offered some truly sickening food but it was normal to the people living at the time. I mean, Lamb's face?  And worse. They pair gamely eat all of it. Extremely interesting, and also very entertaining!

Happy Thanksgiving



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Follow up to crock pot cooking: sweet potatoes-quinoa patties

A couple of days ago I posted an essay about 23 crock pot recipes for Thanksgiving. I'd said I'd tried the one where you put whole sweet potatoes in the crock and cook them. It couldn't be easier. I cooked 7 sweet potatoes, which left me a lot of potatoes to eat.

So today I looked up sweet potato recipes. I found this one and I liked it because it uses quinoa. Quinoa is a super grain because it is high in protein and lacks gluten. Just how much protein is in quinoa? Wikipedia says (as do most other nutrition sites)- "Quinoa grain has been called a superfood...Nutritional evaluations indicate that quinoa is a source of complete protein. Protein content is very high for a cereal/pseudo-cereal (14% by mass), but not as high as most beans and legumes. The protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet, but is less than wild rice and oats."

Source
"While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom." (source)
I bought 50 pounds of red quinoa a few years ago and have stored it in the freezer. I have no idea if that was a good or bad thing to do, but it doesn't have appeared to alter the taste any. I bought the red quinoa variety.

So here are a few pics of the process of making sweet-potato quinoa patties:

Boil your quinoa. I always make extra. I use it for breakfast cereal too. Or salads. Quinoa does not take long to cook. About ten to fifteen minutes for a cup. It is done when the white coil springs out from the grain or when it is al dente-to-soft, depending on your own preference.


Chop onions and saute. Can use scallions instead if you want. I used half a small onion.


Mash your potatoes. The crock pot cooking meant that the potatoes' skin separated easily from the meat so I peeled them in just a very few moments. I used 2 medium sweet potatoes.


Add salt, a beaten egg, and a few tablespoons of flour. Add the quinoa. I eyeballed the flour and quinoa ratio. Not so wet they'd fall apart and not so dry they'd become hockey pucks.

Drop by large tablespoon and flatten a bit. Saute in hot oil. I used just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.


Turn when cooked through and golden brown on the bottom. Flatten a bit again. Dry on paper towels. Oops, where did one of them go? In my tummy!


With two medium-ish sweet potatoes and about a quarter cup of quinoa I made 11 patties.

The potatoes were on sale for 38 cents around so that was a frugal deal. I'd bought the quinoa in bulk so that was a good deal also. Having a healthy patty already cooked and in the fridge means I have a healthy side dish, meal, or snack to eat when I want to nosh.

It's all good!



Sunday, November 23, 2014

23 Thanksgiving recipes you can do in the crock pot

Someone on Facebook posted the above with a link. I read most of the recipes and I was excited that I would do many of them. The easiest was the sweet potato recipe.

The Marketplace (local mom & mop grocery store) had a sale on sweet potatoes, 38 cents/pound. I bought about half a dozen potatoes and vowed to try cooking them in the crock pot.

It could not have been easier. OK, it could have, if I had a butler do it. But here is the "recipe" and I put recipe in quotes because there is nothing to it, really

Wash potatoes and poke them. As is usual, try to find potatoes that are nearly the same size so they cook evenly together. Place in crock pot. No need to prepare crock. Just put potatoes in. Cover and cook on high 3-4 hours. That's it.

Mine took 3 1/2. They come out so creamy! Very moist, just falling apart. Top with favorite topping, butter, salt, cinnamon or even a bit of brown sugar. I like doing them this way because crocks use less electricity than ovens, and also I can put them in and go take a nap for a while and not worry!


If you want to take out the meat and use for a further recipe that works too. The meat just slides out and separates from the skin very easily. Wait until they cool, though, lol. My ole mum used to make Thanksgiving dish of sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. As a kid I loved it. I still do! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes you remember from childhood?


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cold ahead, Thanksgiving ahead, Christmas crafting ahead!

Everyone around here including me, is watching the weather for the coming week with a very wary eye. The high temperature by Tuesday is supposed to be only 35 degrees. The low doesn't usually get that low this early in the season, so people are rightfully worried. Pipes aren't insulated here. There are also lots of animals to keep warm.

I'm looking forward to five more days before the week off for Thanksgiving break. I made some food for the upcoming week's meals-

--Pea soup with potatoes, carrots, onions
--Kale chips
--jalapeno corn muffins
--chopped pineapple (to throw in cottage cheese)

Pea soup is so easy to make, and so good, filling, healthy, and delicious!

I started a Christmas project. I have all these photos I took, some are good, I think. And the free digital software these days is so powerful and versatile, I can manipulate the photos and make lots of things with them. I decided to make bookmarks from my photos, add scripture, print them on quality photo paper at home, and then laminate them at school. (The School charges a reasonable rate for personal use).

Just because the project is digital, doesn't mean it's easily accomplished. It takes time to select just the right photo, add a border that complements the photo, and to find a scripture to match. Deciding on the font and placement also takes skill, just ask any graphic designer. If the end result looks good, that seems like no big deal, but it is a big deal, because the designer did a perfect job that took much time. If the font is too big or too small, too scripted and hard to read, or off center, the project will look clumsy and amateur.

I had a hard time at first with cropping the size of the bookmark just right. Two inches by 7 inches seems to be a good, proportional size for a bookmark. Two of them I've finished will need to be redone because they are too wide. I saw this when I printed out a draft copy. But here are the results of the first pass.



In real life the nail bookmark is easier to read. But you can see the issues. Choosing a photo that isn't too busy is the key. Also being able to see a large photo and crop the parts that will translate well to a 2X7 inch strip, and still tell a story is also key.

In writing when one edits, it's all about what you leave out, and the same is true of any other creative art project. It's all about what you leave out. I'm excited to use the photos I've been taking for these many decades.

I'll paste a logo on the back, here it is

Have a good week ahead, try to stay warm!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Of leaf angels and London Bridge

The Arctic Plunge weather has arrived. We had a low of 26°F and a high of 48°F. Tonight is supposed to be colder. It's unusual that the daytime temps don't rebound. The strong sun and length of time the sun is usually out tends to make a warmish daytime even in the middle of winter. Brr, we're in for a chilly night.

It was a very good week at school, and at home. I'm very blessed to have creature comforts, a good job, friends, and my church.

This week at school there were several fun events. It's a fun time of year where there are several things going on. Next Wednesday the cafeteria ladies put on a Thanksgiving feast for lunch, with all the fixins. It is always a delicious meal. The kindergartners wear their Indian or Pilgrim hats and outfits they'd made and we make a parade around the school as we go to the cafeteria.

Sleigh Ride. EPrata photo via JAdams
In December there is a Christmas program. This week our event was we had photographs with Santa. A man dressed as Santa comes in and the children can have a portrait taken, and the parents can choose to buy it or not. The day that Santa comes is a very exciting day in the kindergarten-grade 2 wing of the school. I was on hall duty by the door and I heard the excitement in the pitter-patter of running footsteps, all hurrying, one after another as they entered, to tell of the news that Santa is coming.

One boy came to tell me that Santa was HERE. He'd arrived! He said, "And he didn't come in a sleigh! He came in a Silver Ford F-150 with a front license plate that says SANTA!"

A truck is even better than a sleigh, I'm guessing by the excitement in his voice, lol.

On the playground we ended the week with a sweet moment. I sometimes despair of the life ahead of the children as the movie and television entertainment gets darker and darker with each passing season. Their impressionable minds are so drenched with dark visions and thoughts. The kids play vampire games and play zombies, and even mimic the eating habits of zombis, which of course is cannibalism. Zombies eat flesh. Sometimes the games get rough as the zombie or vampire chases after a victim and tries to catch him. The teachers always put an end to the rough play right away. In past times, I remember on the playground playing Red Rover and Foursquare and jumping rope. Where were those games? Why did they die? Where was simple innocence?

My private cry was heard...because on the last recess of the week one of the boys lining up looked up at me. All red-cheeked, happy and flushed, he said, "We played London Bridge and made leaf angels!"

Awww. Thanks for the sweetness!

Tower Bridge, London, AKA London Bridge. EPrata photo


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hibiscus flower tea: A review

I mentioned a few days ago that I was excited to have bought some new herb teas to try. I am looking for new flavor and perhaps some medicinal value. To that end, I bought rose hip tea (flavor) and hibiscus flower tea, (medicinal).

I purchased Davidson's Tea Hibiscus Flower, 100-Count Tea Bags. USDA Certified Organic and Caffeine-free. Also Organic Rose Hips Alvita Tea 24 Bag, made with premium-quality organic rose hips and produces a light and delightful fruity flavor and aroma. Traditionally used for its antioxidant properties USDA Organic Gluten Free Kosher Suggested Use

I have no sense of smell, but apparently the rose hips are not only tasty but smell like heaven. The aroma of roses lingers and makes the room smell lovely.

The hibiscus is supposed to be powerful flavor but quite astringent and its medicinal properties are supposed to aid digestion.

I made the rose hip tea and it was very lovely tasting. Gentle, flavorful, like small flowers after a dewy summer rain.

The hibiscus blew me out of the water. It was very strong, acidic, and too powerful. I tried to sweeten it with some French vanilla creamer, but the creamer curdled right away. I learned later that hibiscus is the main ingredient in red zinger tea, a tea I’ve never cared for. Oh well, there goes all my careful research. I overlooked a big one.

The problem was, the only packet the rose hips came in (organic, good price) was a 24 pack, and the hibiscus for the same reasons came in a 100 pack. Oh, dear. I goofed. I should have remembered to try first, then invest. I do not want to be stuck with 99 unused, organic hibiscus tea bags, I don’t want to throw them out, no one I know would enjoy them I don't think, and I don’t like wasting.

I’m stubborn, you see.

I could have learned to like the taste, it wasn't awful, just not my cup of tea. I hope you see what I did there. But there had to be an ever better solution.

I googled the issue and I found a great potential remedy. There was a blogger who had the same issues I did, astringent hibiscus flower tea was not so much to her liking, but she found that if she cold brewed it, the taste was gentler. In addition, she made a simple syrup to add to the brew to sweeten it.

Chilled Hibiscus flower tea, and simple syrup
A simple syrup is just that, one part water to one part sugar. Heat to dissolve, while stirring. Store in a clean, covered jar (I have plenty of Mason jars) in the fridge, and it should keep for up to two weeks.

I tried making it the other night. I popped two tea bags in cold water and a large mason jar- 32 oz I think. I poured some yesterday afternoon when I got home from school. The color is jewel-like, cranberry color. Very nice.

I added a few teaspoons of the syrup and voila! Not only drinkable tea, but delicious tea! I really enjoy it. Hibiscus tea is refreshing when chilled! The difference between heating and chilling it, and adding a touch of sweetener, made it a delightful beverage to me. Thank you google. I lift a pretty glass of chilled herb tea to you, and to the lady blogger who gave me the solution.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Color Series: White

Examining the colors of the world: white

Clouds barely there...
EPrata photo
Not red, but white barns in calm fields
EPrata photo
And white barns with weathervanes
EPrata photo
Chickens brooding white
EPrata photo
Fog on cat little cat feet
EPrata photo
Ice cold and white
EPrata photo
Mayberry white fences
EPrata photo
Snow blanketing coldly, no warmth to be found under it at all
EPrata photo
Steeples against azure
EPrata photo
Wedding dresses and promises white and fresh
EPrata photo
We opened with a clear sky and barely there clouds, and end with the sky also, a moon looming and deeply present in white against dark
EPrata photo