Friday, December 23, 2011

Viburnum: Doing Its Job

Cool when stuff blooms in winter. I have lived in SC for 9 years now and I don't think I'll ever get over that. Or 65 degree days in December. Or Thunderstorms in December.
Or not having to wear 9 layers to go Christmas shopping.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

This is What I Have to Say

"Bob, I absolutely refuse to buy you socks for your birthday. You will simply have to come up with other ideas. If you need socks, get them yourself. They are not a luxury item."

"Taylor. It's time. Take off the grey hoodie and put this long-sleeved henley on. You are not 7 years old anymore."

And so that's what I said after my errands this morning. 

Bob's birthday is pretty much always a problem. Years ago, when he needed tools, or had something he enjoyed that needed equipment, like cross-country skiing, I would gather money from the family and splurge on something really really great that, more often than not, was able to double as a Christmas gift. Skil saws, skis, a weight bench...that kind of thing. Now what he does is publish a list that is supposed to work for both events. And inevitably that list has 5 items on it that cost between 5 and 10 dollars each. Well? No MORE! Thank goodness I didn't draw his name for Christmas! I don't know who did, but it's THEIR problem now! 

This is the first year we've drawn. The 5 of us did, $100 limit, I got Taylor. Who wants a 20" monitor for his computer...worth more than $100 but I owe him $40 for last week's Christmas bush purchase. Yes. Bush. It's not a tree. Oh sure, when it's out there on the tree farm, growing out of the ground, shaped gloriously like a Christmas tree, it looks like a Christmas tree. But once you hack off enough lower branches, and you see that it has more than one main trunk growing out of the ground? You end up saying to yourself, "darn, but if this thing isn't really a BUSH!"

Where was I?

Taylor. He wears grey hoodies all winter. Actually, fall, winter and spring. T-shirt underneath. Not a sweatshirt. Not a zip-up hoodie. Just a pull-over hoodie. Grey. He has two shades of grey. And he doesn't wash them often enough for my taste. So I am dragging him kicking and screaming into adulthood and I am buying him other warm, long-sleeved options. He didn't fuss! But then, he's not much of a fusser. I just told him he's too old to dress the same every single day. When people don't know who they are? They describe him thus: "You know...that tall brown-haired kid with the grey hoodie?"


So foot has been put down. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bragg Liquid Aminos-a new favorite product

photo from

So here's a product I discovered a couple of months ago and am I glad I did! I adore soy sauce. When we order Chinese food, or I make it at home, I always use a ton of the stuff. But the sodium really throws my system out of whack. First there is the night-long thirst, then there's the swelling in my fingers. It's like eating an entire large bag of potato chips by myself. It always seems to take 48 hours for the effects to wear off.

I started noticing Bragg Liquid Aminos in recipes. They would call for soy sauce or BLA. Since this product is not sold in regular grocery stores, I'd never heard of it and couldn't find it when I went looking. But I did see it at Earth Fare. I decided to try the small spray bottle. It was not cheap...about $4 or $5. But it sure has been worth it. I believe the first time I tried it I used it in a gravy recipe. The gravy (vegetarian) was fantastic, so I branched out to stir fry and now use it to spray on Chinese take-out. I fully expected it to be an "acquired taste." I figured there would be a funky aftertaste, as is the case with so many things we use as substitutes for stuff we are used to. Not the case at all with this.

The website reveals that liquid aminos are not their only products. They have a range of items from vinegar to olive oil to seasonings and put out a newsletter, as well.

"You are what you eat, drink, breathe, think, say and do. Take control to live a long, vital, happy life!"
Patricia Bragg

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Right to Die & Being Prepared for the End of Your Life

So lately I've been recording the Dr. Oz show and watching it at my leisure. Good stuff on there most of the time. But today I watched yesterday's episode about the Right to Die debate, and it's been walking around with me ever since.

There was a woman on the show that suffers from a terminal illness and I can't really get her out of mind. Here is a clip from her part of the show. She is bound to a bed or wheelchair all of the time. She is not able to do anything at all but speak. She wants to die because she's tired of fighting for life. She doesn't seem to be in pain. She seems to have full capacity to speak her mind.

I AM a proponent of the patient's right to ask that they be allowed or assisted to die. But I wish this woman hadn't been one of the examples of someone who would use that. When I think of someone who wants to end their own life, I think of someone that is in horrendous pain. Or someone that is reliant on feeding tubes and respirators to continue living. Or both. Not someone that can still have the capacity to finish raising her children, albeit from a bed. Not someone that can help her family with important life to deal with relationships, how to choose a college, whether to take a job or not, or even whether to wear purple socks with a red sweater. I don't think of someone with perfectly coiffed hair and the ability to communicate clearly with others without pain.

I think of someone in Montel Williams's situation. He talks about it here. And worse. (If you haven't watched "You Don't Know Jack," you really need to.)

I certainly don't want anyone to think I believe the other woman is not suffering. Clearly she is. But to me, she still has a lot to offer right now.

That said, Dr. Oz touched on another subject that is very real. He didn't spend much time on it, but that other subject is that of preparedness. No matter who you are, no matter how young or old you are, you really need to keep your affairs in order and up-to-date. You need to have a living will and you need to be sure you have the right beneficiaries set up for your assets. Recently an acquaintance of mine passed away tragically. It was discovered after his death that he never transferred his beneficiary information on his retirement benefits to his wife. Those benefits are assigned to another family member who, it appears, does not plan to turn them over to her and their children.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE for letting these details slide. NO. EXCUSE.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Two Restaurants to Try

I'm excited about two restaurants I want to try.

The first is Fern Flavors from the Garden, which is a VEGETARIAN restaurant that has opened in Charlotte! FINALLY! Their website is not built yet, but they do have a Facebook page and they have good status updates on there. Helen Schwab of the Charlotte Observer reviewed them recently here and here. They've only been open a short time. I'm not sure when we'll try them, but I know we will.

The other restaurant is Erin's Restaurant in Rock Hill. They are not vegetarian per se, but they will cater to you if you tell them you are vegetarian or vegan. However, since I have been adding the occasional fish to my meal, I have a feeling I'll feel compelled to try the Shrimp & Grits they are mentioning on their Facebook page this weekend.

So I'm excited. But we're not going to rush out this weekend. Too much other stuff going on right now. I'll take some pics and write something after I've visited.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gardening Junket Today

Neighbor Mary and I will go another plant-buying trip today. We haven't discussed where we'll go or even when we'll leave, but it promises to be a beautiful day.

The plants I put in a couple of weeks ago are doing well. Especially now that we've gotten some considerable rainfall this past week. The two hydrangeas started wilting about 2 days after I planted them so I had to get out there and water like crazy to pull them back. We've gotten nearly done clearing the underbrush and dead limbs from the woods, so now you can see all the way through to the back of our lot. It's cool seeing the dappled sunlight come through. You can almost imagine little critters around in there. Maybe a gnome or two...

I've been thinking about composting more and more too. I'd like to develop a plan for composting our kitchen waste. We use our garbage disposal a lot for eggshells and peelings and that's a lot of water use, too. My friend Julie says she collects it in a pail under her kitchen sink and then periodically goes out, digs a hole, and buries it. Maybe we should try that. I think a rain barrel probably should be in our future, too.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Let Me Drive to Your House and Read You the Announcements

A frequent comment I get from parents is, "I didn't know about this."

It's often said in an accusatory fashion. I like to think they might be accusing their own kids of not telling them, but really I think a lot of time they are accusing me. Or, if not me personally, they are accusing the school. Of hiding information from them? Of conspiring to keep them in the dark? Of trying to lose money by setting up costly events that won't fill up because we don't tell people about them? WHAAAT???

I don't know.

Yesterday a parent asked about an event we have coming up and wanted to know if it was too late to sign her kid up. I told her yes, it is too late, all the arrangements have been made. I'm sorry.

"I didn't find out about this until the phone message last night."

"I'm sorry."

"Why didn't I know?"

"Ma'am, I'm not really sure. We sent out emails and did phone calls. We advertised on our website and did announcements within the building."

"Well, can I be notified when you do this [event] again?"

"Certainly we will do a lot of advertising when it comes around again." (which, I'm thinking, you will ignore JUST LIKE YOU DID THIS TIME!!!!)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Gardening and Sun Salutations

The leaves are just now beginning to change. Just a tiny bit. In a few short weeks it will look like this photo on the left that I took last year up in Asheville.

So now we are in the spot of time where we want to get out into the cooler weather and do some maintenance in the back yard. This weekend I went to the Charlotte Regionals Farmers Market with  my neighbor Mary and bought some plants. I bought two fairly large hydrangeas and some heuchera and lenten roses to put around in some spots. Spent some time forking over the earth and digging up the buried soaker hoses. Some of them have holes in them now and roots have grown around them. So it's a big job digging them out. We'll lay them out and patch them and the place them again in the spring. The rain we've had the past couple of weeks has made the ground easy to work and the cooler weather has made it kind of enjoyable, even if I'm doing work I don't particularly love.

Tomorrow the yoga class at school is going to tackle their first Sun Salutation flow. I've devised a simple one that yogis around the around the world use every warrior poses or lunges...just pretty much standing to forward bends, lower to the floor and then back up. I asked them last Friday if they had some requests and one said she wanted a vinyasa flow. So here we go. We've done a mini sun salutation for a couple of weeks and they definitely have enjoyed that. The group seems to like having an assignment they can carry out over and over through several minutes at their own pace. They are very good at dropping into their own zones. I suspect it's because, as teachers, they are "on" all the time. Flows are nice for them because they can just focus inward, but in a directed way.

Here is the link to the mini sun sals we've done.

And here is the link to the Surya Namaskar I've modified slightly. I've added a down dog and plank after the standing half forward fold and before the chaturanga, and changed their up-dog to a cobra pose, which I encourage them to do as a mini or full cobra. I've never cared for dropping straight straight from forward fold to chaturanga. It just seems so abrupt to me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Currant Scones

It's been a weather day here in South Carolina and when that happens on a Sunday, I'm very likely to want to spend the day in the kitchen. I already had pinto beans started in the slow cooker, so my thoughts turned to cookies or brownies.

But then I remembered that $12 bag of xanthan gum I bought this summer when I tried making gluten-free bread. Out of that bag I had used maybe 1-2 teaspoons and it peeks at me from behind all my other little specialty bags of flours whenever I open the cupboard. "You are allowing me and my expensive contents to go to waste,"  it seems to accuse.

So I pulled out another spendy ingredient...sorghum flour... and checked the back for a recipe. (I should note here that sorghum flour is also about $12 a bag, but it's not as snotty to me when I dig around in the cupboard.)

Lo and behold I had on hand all the ingredients for these gluten-free scones. Even currants!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor (Use a bigger one than mine. Mine can't hold all these ingredients, so I mixed and cut in the butter by hand in a bowl) combine:

1 1/4 C GF Sorghum Flour
1/2 C Tapioca Flour
1 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/4 tsp Salt
4 Tblsp Sugar

Cut in until it resembles coarse crumbs:

4 Tbsp Butter,cut into 1/2-inch slices

In another bowl, lightly beat:

1 large egg


2/3 C low-fat plain yogurt or 1/2 C non-dairy milk (like a nut or soy milk)

Pour the yogurt mixture over the flour mixture and combine, mixing only just until all the dry ingredients are wet.

Fold in:

1/3 C Currants

Drop the mixture onto an oiled cookie sheet and push into a disk about 8-10 inches in diameter and 3/4 to 1 inch tall.

Brush the top with:

2 Tblsp Milk (cow, soy or nut)

Bake 12-20 minutes, depending upon how large and tall your disk is. Just give it a light flick with your fingernail after 15 minutes. If it still seems a little squishy, give it more time.

Remove from oven and cut into 8 triangles.

Notes: Remember this a quickbread, so you really don't want to overmix the batter. That will make it tough. Also, you want that butter to stay cold in the dough until you bake, so resist the urge to mix the dough with your hands. Work with wooden spoons and work quickly and you'll be fine.

Thanks for another great recipe, Bob's Red Mill!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oil Pulling

Image from
I've come across mentions of the practice of oil pulling in the past few months and decided to give it a try.

The most recent article I read was here in Elephant Journal. I had tried it for a few days last summer with sesame oil and just couldn't stick with it. This article mentions using coconut oil and I do agree that it is a bit easier on the taste buds.

There are many articles (here, here, and here are a few) about the health benefits of the practice and I'll be the first to admit that some of the claims are rather...fantastical. But essentially the idea is that the sticky oil "pulls" the toxics and bacteria away from the surfaces in your mouth. You spit out the oil and with it? The icky junk. You are supposed to do this first thing in the morning before you eat or drink or brush your teeth so that you can get all that stuff that has accumulated in there overnight. It does seem to make some sense.

It's not for the faint-hearted, though. Recommended pulling time is 15-20 minutes, but I think any amount of time you do it will be better than not doing it at all. I'm allowing a minimum of 10 minutes in the morning and, if I can keep myself occupied with lunch packing or sorting out my attire for the day, I'll go longer.

The jar cost about $9 at Harris Teeter but it won't go to waste if I give up. It's a great massage  oil (no, it doesn't smell like coconut), or conditioner for the hair and can be cooked with at moderate temps.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm Not a Yoga Teacher

But I've been playing one after school on Mondays. This past Monday I had only two students, but I have had 6 or 8 in other classes. I'm doing it for free. Because I think our teachers need relaxation and because it gives me someone to practice with. It's also because I'm not a teacher and I might suck. I remind them of this. I think as long as I have at least one person coming, I'll keep doing it. It's not the numbers that really matter.

It has been a bit of a challenge writing the sets. But not overwhelming. We are meeting for 45 minutes, so I'm designing sets that are a little less than half the amount of time I usually experience in my teacher's classes. I have a wide variety of people in there...some are fairly flexible and others are not at all. I worry about the ones with physical issues. What if I can't figure out stuff for them to do? But I can't worry too much. I have a teacher I can refer them to and I do that if I need to.

I think I might enjoy doing this. I'm finding myself thinking maybe one day I'll scrabble together the $$ to take yoga teacher training. Just so I can still keep giving it away.

We'll see.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Unimaginable

"I can't leave work to come get him. His father is all the way across town and it will take a while," the mother said when the school called her. She sounded defeated and at her wit's end. Her son had walked down the hall toward his classroom, came up to another boy and punched him. Her son's behavior in school had already earned him expulsion the previous spring and now, with school only in session four weeks, he was looking at expulsion again. And possibly assault charges.

The boy will be 16 soon and when he turns 16 he may be eligible for some other programs that are geared more for children with these kinds of issues. A regular, public high school simply does not have the resources to deal with children who are violent, unmotivated, possibly gang-affiliated or otherwise too far outside the mainstream with their behavior.  At some point the school and district have to make a decision that they can no longer serve this student. The safety of the other students has to take precedence over graduation rate.

My heart breaks for this parent. And for other parents that feel like they are at the end of their rope. When you bring home that brand new, 6 lb, 13 oz little boy, you never in a million years imagine that some day you may have to give him to someone else to get him to adulthood. You never in a million years think that you may be dealing with drug issues, violence, and abuse. You never think that your child might have severe learning issues on top of that. That you may get to the point where you no longer feel safe in your own home because you are worried this child may harm you or your other children.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Accidental Rose'

If you are going to accidentally buy rose' wine, this is a pretty good one. I do that sometimes...I'll be browsing through Harris Teeter, looking at the wines and reading the ratings, and then I'll find a white or red I want to try...and I'll accidentally get something I never would have tried on purpose. I guess I just didn't notice the clear bottle and redness of the wine?

As a rule, rose' wines frustrate me. I always feel like I'm drinking watered-down kool-aid. This one grew on me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yup. I Remember. But Some of it I Don't.

I remember sitting at my desk in my home office. I was working for The Cleveland Company, looking out over the back deck, listening to NPR, when I got a message from my brother-in-law.

 "Are you watching this?"
"Listening on the radio," I said. "I imagine St. Paul is a mess right now."
"Not the World Trade Center in St. Paul," he said. "The one in New York!"

Not a little Cessna. Four large, passenger-bearing planes. Boeing 757s and 767s.

I hadn't been listening closely. It was a beautiful day in my neighborhood in Minneapolis. The air was pleasant, the leaves were turning, I was thinking about walking to the precinct to vote.

This past Friday Taylor said they talked in their classes about where they were when the Twin Towers were hit. These kids are all 16. They were babies then. Kindergarten...first grade. He said he didn't have a memory of that day.

"You guys didn't tell me," he said. "Why? I didn't hear about it for a couple of years."

I had no reason. No recollection of deciding to tell or not to tell. Nate would have been 11. Did we talk about it with him? I don't remember that either. I said, "Surely you had to have known something was going on. We probably had the news on all day." He didn't remember. I don't either. All I could say to him was that I didn't remember. That we may have made a conscious decision to shelter him from it. We may have intentionally kept it down low as topic of conversation. We've never really been into hiding dark things from the kids, but we might have. I just don't remember.

I remember the moments I saw it on television after Jeff told me. I remember walking to the precinct to vote and it was so quiet. Everyone at the polling place was quiet...murmuring to each other. Quietly handling bad news like all Scandinavians do.

The quiet is probably a bigger memory for me of that day and several days that followed. We lived under the flight line of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Planes had all been grounded. So there was an eerie silence for all those days.

It was also my sister Julia's 40th birthday. My brother-in-law had planned a wonderful meal out at a nice restaurant in St. Paul. He'd made reservations for our entire family. He was in Seattle and should have flown back in time for the meal. But he was stuck there. "You have to go ahead anyway," he told us. "It's her birthday."

And so we went to this restaurant, which was very empty, and we ate a fantastic meal and we talked about the day and we wished Julia a happy 40th and commiserated with her that her birthday would probably forever be marred by this national event.

I suppose everyone born on December 7 before 1941 felt that way too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Weekend Plans

Stay tuned....

Monday, August 15, 2011

The 2011-2012 School Year Has Begun!

Today was the first day of school here and it was a busy busy day. There are always kids who show up the first day that are not registered. And most of those kids arrive without a parent, so we have to call the parent to come in and register. We try to get them pre-registered in the spring, but we always end up with a dozen or so that just won't come then, and then they are surprised (and sometimes angry) that they don't have schedules. And even more surprised (and sometimes angrier) that their parent has to come.

Then we have the schedule problems to resolve. Mass scheduling, while convenient, is not a perfect science, so we end up with kids with holes in their schedules or sometimes classes on their schedules that they've already taken. If a student took a class last spring and failed it, we may not have caught it and changed their courses for this year to allow them to retake it.

We also are still registering brand new students, and I'm still taking telephone calls from parents saying they need to come register. New student registration will slow down now, but not slow to a trickle until after Labor Day. Enlightened parents will check our website, see when we start school, and get in to register before then. Other parents who are not tech savvy, or may  not even have internet access (there are still a few in Indian Land), will have no idea. Yankee families will be surprised that we've started so early. Southern families will suspect it, but may not have actually checked.

So all that is to's general mayhem these days at school. But we have a fantastic new Principal, a new, fun and organized Guidance Counselor, and everyone is upbeat and ready to tackle whatever comes. It's been hard work but fun. I think this might be the best year we've had yet!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lifestyle Changes

Everyone goes through lifestyle changes. Usually several times in their lifetime. The changes could be the result of getting married (the new spouse might have habits worth adopting), having a baby (my mom quit smoking when she was pregnant with my brother), being done having babies (I joined Weight Watchers and lost 18 pounds and totally changed my eating habits), maybe moving to a new place, or just getting older and creakier.

Four or five years ago I joined Jazzercise and learned how to dance my way to fitness and lift weights. A few years after that I hit menopause and was too worn out and achy to jazz all the time, so I started yoga. 18 months ago I stopped eating meat. Two months ago I decided to add wild-caught fish back into my diet. A month ago I stopped drinking coffee in the morning. I thought I was stopping it altogether, and, truth be told, I haven't had any at all since I stopped, but I realize I may have some in the afternoons. The plan was to just stop turning my guts inside-out with coffee on an empty stomach. Three weeks ago I stopped drinking white wine in the evenings. It made me sleepy and then kept me awake in the middle of night. And the odd bottle would give me a raging, 3-day migraine. It turns out I like sipping cool herbal tea out my wine glasses just as much. I'm sure I won't stop drinking red in the winter, though. It's warming and good for the digestive system.

But I think probably the one change I made that has made the biggest difference in my life has been acupuncture. In March I went whining to an acupuncturist because of persistent problems with my left sciatic nerve and also bursitis in my left shoulder. She had me complete a three page questionnaire about pretty every system in my body and start whittling away at each item that was out of whack.

The first thing that went was the hip and shoulder pain. Then I began to warm up. I mean, like, my feet and hands were no longer cold. I even had a few hot flashes! Then my digestive system calmed down. Finally, my depression and anxiety began to dissipate. And now my migraines are much fewer and shorter. When I started with her in March I was taking a sleep medication, anti-depressant, anti-seizure (for persistent muscle tension), migraine medication and a statin drug for high cholesterol. Today I take the statin drug only. All in five months. I have the migraine prescription but don't use it very often. I have more energy, no anxiety, very few depression symptoms at all and my digestive system is perking along just fine. I'm back to jazzercise three times a week and yoga in-between.

I know acupuncture isn't for everyone. But for me? It's really been great. And I plan to keep it up.

Monday, July 11, 2011


MargaritaPizza by Food Fanatic
MargaritaPizza, a photo by Food Fanatic on Flickr.
I'm too lazy to look now, but I'm sure I've written too much about pizza already.

Lately I've been pre-baking the crust before assembly. I've been using bread dough I keep in my fridge (from the book "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day"). I spread it out, slather it with ghee and pre-bake in a hot oven.
Top it, slide it in to finish and I'm done.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Cleaning out the Fridge

Minestrone by Food Fanatic
Minestrone, a photo by Food Fanatic on Flickr.
Minestrone is like the summer version of meatloaf (for carnivores) or frittata (for vegetarians). You just open the fridge and start pulling out all the stuff that needs to be used up before it spoils.

Today's version had:
Kernels from 1 cob of roasted corn
about 1/3 can of leftover black beans
A couple of handfuls of a wild rice blend
Swiss Chard stems
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 diced banana pepper
Some dried oregano, basil and red pepper flakes and a bay leaf
Seasoned to taste with salt
Garnished with fresh oregano

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Roasted Corn Chowder

RoastedCorn by Food Fanatic
RoastedCorn, a photo by Food Fanatic on Flickr.
When you can't find what you want, sometimes you have to just whip out the knife, open the fridge, and start piling stuff up.

I had 4 leftover ears of roasted corn. They badly needed using. Usually I don't think about making soup-type stuff when it's 90 degrees out, but every once in a while it calls to you. That and the leftovers.

I like use my mandoline to strip corn from the cob. Yes, you can use a knife. If you don't mind flying bits of milky corn everywhere. With a mandoline, you just set depth and slice away. It's really quite slick!

If you don't have fresh corn, don't worry about it. Take frozen corn and push them around in a skillet with a tiny bit of fat, like ghee or oil. You don't want much oil because you don't want to saute, you are really looking for carmelization. I got about 2 1/2 cups of corn off my 4 cobs, so shoot for that amount. Set the corn aside.

First set of ingredients:

2 T Ghee or oil
2 or 3 medium-sized leeks, white and pale green parts, sliced and cleaned
1 small clove garlic, minced

saute until the aromatics are tender.

2 potatoes, peeled and diced
Milk-enough to just cover the mixture
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp salt
2 or 3 grinds of black pepper
Red Pepper flakes to taste-I used about 1/2 tsp
1 tsp dried basil (Because my mom thinks corn on the cob should be eaten with basil. She's right.)

Bring this to a simmer and allow to cook until potatoes are tender. Then remove the bay leaf and, using an immersion blender or potato masher, mash up the mixture. Leave it a little lumpy. Some might like to take this out of the pot and blend in a blender, but I don't like to do this, as it tends to make the potatoes too starchy.

Corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper, diced

Heat through, maybe 5 minutes.

There you go!

Ought I?

I've been hanging about all day, mulling over the 5 or 6 ears of leftover roast corn in the fridge. Thinking I made a corn chowder some time ago that had roasted corn in it. It rated a "we should have this again" from hubby. The problem? Can't find the recipe.

So I've been googling off and on, while reading "Street Lawyer," by John Grisham, and watching "Ugly Betty" reruns on Netflix (hey! It's summer! I don't HAVE to do ANYTHING!). And I can't really find anything.

Surely I blogged about said corn chowder when I made I came here to my blog and did a search.


But Guilt. I've not written since April. Maybe I ought to do it again some more?  Write on the blog?

Ought I?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Phyllis's Eventful Day

So Phyllis had a rough day yesterday.

First, she had to go to Goodyear instead of her birthplace, Southtown Toyota. She tried not to act like a snob while she was in the company of all the gas-guzzling, metal riff raff. But it had to be endured. She had a tire problem and it had to be solved pronto.

Phyl had been telling her pet Karen that there was a problem with the tire, but Karen was so dense that she didn't realize the gravity of the situation. She also tends to get a bit lazy and just kept asking her friend, who she calls Mensa Boy, to put more air in there. Finally Mensa said he'd have to take it somewhere to be looked at.


Well, by then it was Saturday and Goodyear or some other place was going to have to take care of it.

Yeah. They took care of it all right. The tire couldn't be fixed. It had to be replaced. And no, they did not have same brand of tire that Phyllis wears, so they put on another kind.

It feels alright. But Phyllis feels stigmatized by having one mis-matched tired. Deep down in her engine she's concerned that now she may be one step away from becoming riff raff herself.

Then last night there was the hailstorm. Phyllis had taken her pets to Rippington's in Waxhaw. Due to Karen's EXCELLENT parallel parking skills, she was able to sit right outside the front door and keep a headlight on her family while they ate. When the rain began she was good. A nice, massaging hard rain is good for the soul sometimes. And make no mistake: Phyllis HAS soul!

When the hail began Karen went out to check on her and really couldn't do much but offer comfort and encouragement. She found hail the size of marbles and worried a bit, but hoped that Phyllis's fiberglass body would be able to withstand it.

On the way home, in driving rain, Phyllis suddenly came upon a tree that had fallen across the roadway. It was pitch dark and the rain was coming down in sheets. Karen barely saw the tree in time, but she hit Phyl's brakes, which dutifully went into ABS mode, and swerved around the tree. It was like a reenactment of the old tire commercials. Phyllis delivered her pets home safe and sound and rested for the night in her garage.

Phyllis has no discernible damage from the hail. But she's still a little stung by the mis-matched tire.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

For Want of a Roll of Toilet Paper

We had a library board meeting last night and sometime during the meeting, we heard the book security alarm go off in the library. You know those things you walk through and they beep if you have something that hasn't been scanned at the desk?

Richard, our Library Director, said that they've had a lot of problems with toilet paper being stolen from the bathrooms at the main branch. We all kind of looked quizzical at that point, but one of our members is the daughter of the founder of H.O.P.E. of Lancaster (Helping Other People Effectively). She said that food stamps don't cover toilet paper, so it's a big issue with needy folks.

Whaaat? That makes NO sense...

So when you are putting together some items to take to your local food pantry, through in a package of toilet paper while you're at it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Scene: Wednesday night yoga class. About 20 students.

Act 1: Cell phone goes off. It's a pleasant tune...Purcell's "Trumpet Tune." It's against the wall behind me. No one claims it. Eventually it stops ringing.

<5 minutes go by>

Act 2: Same Cell. Same tune. Same result.

<5 minutes>

Act 3: Same Cell. Same tune. Student in the middle of the class turns on her mat, stomps across the room, snatches the phone from her bag and stalks to the door. Before the door finishes closing I hear this violent stage whisper: "WHAT??? Stop calling!!! I'm in YOGA for God's sake! I'll call you back." She comes back into the room, puts the phone in the bag and goes back to her mat.

<10 minutes. Or so..>

Cell phone vibrates and stops.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time - Painful Patriotic Pancakes

Suck it Uuuuup!

The kids (and adults) at school have been very very tired these past several days. Ever since we "fell back" they are dropping heads onto their desks in every classroom. I myself had a couple of mornings where I allowed myself another hour of sleep. But I also had one morning where I got up on time and dozed off during a long hold in my yoga practice, and then caught myself snoring during meditation!

"Suck it up" seems to be the most-often-used phrase these days. Our nurse told me she has sleepy kids coming to the clinic saying they "don't feel good and just want to lay down." After a drawn-out argument where she tried to explain that we don't have naptime in school, she finally told the last kid to suck it up.

As she related this to me in the staff workroom that day, another teacher who was standing at the copy machine turned around and said she used the same phrase earlier in the day. "I told the student 'we're all tired,'" she related to us. "Then I said we pretty much all have to just suck it up."

I haven't been tired during the day, thank goodness. Fewer things are more miserable than being that sleepy at your desk. But I sure will be glad when the light comes on outside a little earlier.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Polenta Gratin with Leeks, Swiss Chard and Gruyere

Tonight's supper is from a recipe I found on NPR. It was a story called "Going with While Grains" that aired a year ago.

I've adapted this recipe to accommodate the fact that I don't have any dry white wine in the house. Actually no wine at all at the moment (*gasp!*). I've also added a few grates of nutmeg because I think I pretty much have to do that with chard or spinach. Just gotta.

Stuff you need:

6 C water
2 tsp salt
1 3/4 C yellow cornmeal
1 C grated Gruyere
2 T Olive oil
3 Leeks, thinly sliced and then washed
1 tsp dried rosemary or 1 T fresh, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard-white or rainbow, separate leaf from ribs, chop and wash
Juice of one lemon
Red pepper flakes
1/4 C grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Make the polenta: Bring the water to a boil with the salt. Whisk in the cornmeal. When it's all well-incorporated and bubbling, turn the heat down to simmer and monitor it for 15 minutes, giving it a stir periodically. Stir half the Gruyere into that. Season to taste. Set aside.

While the polenta is cooking, saute the leeks in olive oil until they begin to soften. Add in the chard. Start it cooking down and then stir in the lemon juice. Put in a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg, or 1/8 tsp. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let it all cook down until the chard is completely wilted and the edge is taken off the lemon taste.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Spread half the polenta mixture on the bottom, layer on the greens, sprinkle the rest of the Gruyere, and then spread on the rest of the polenta. Top with the Parmesan or Romano, whichever you are using. Bake until golden brown and delicious, about 45 minutes.

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie-the recipe

Ok, here is the recipe for the Vegetable Shepherd's Pie. My buddy Debbie Burgess tells me to go ahead and publish it. I don't know the chef who created the dish, so my only way to credit her is to point to her website, Chef Mei, Personal Chef Service in Fayetteville, NC.

Here is the recipe with my editorial suggestions in red:

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie
By Chef Mei, a personal chef. Given to me by Debbie Burgess

Mashed potato topping**
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried basil
2 T butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 T chopped parsley.

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 small leeks (white parts only), halved lengthwise, sliced ½ inch thick and washed
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
(I quartered these)
3 large carrots, cut into ¾-inch dice
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
(next time I make this, I might try sunchokes. I almost did this time because the grocery store appeared to be out. But the produce guy found some parsnips for me)
1 15-ounce canned cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 C frozen peas, thawed
2 T chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoon dried
1 T chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1 750-ml bottle red Zinfandel or Burgundy wine
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
3 T butter, room temperature
3 T all-purpose flour
4 C vegetable broth heated in microwave
½ C chopped parsley, garnish

**Mashed Potato Topping

Boil 4 large potatoes until tender, 15-25 minutes. Peel and mashed potatoes with 4 tablespoons butter and ½ cup milk. Season to taste and set aside until ready to use. You can also add ½ cup Cheddar cheese to the mixture along with some chopped parsley. Topping is enough to cover a 9x15 baking dish.


Filling: Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions for 2 minutes; add in leeks, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms and and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook until mushrooms give off liquid, about 5 minutes. Next add carrots, parsnips, and all the herbs. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes until vegetable begins to soften. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.

Add wine to the pot and boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 10-15 minutes. While the wine is reducing, mix together butter and flour in a bowl to form a beurre manie.

Add vegetable broth
(As I said in my last post, I think I’d put in only 3 cups of the broth to start, then add more if it’s needed. I felt like there was too much sauce, and too runny.), Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and 2 teaspoon sugar to wine and bring to a low simmer. Whisk in beurre manie until blended and bring to a simmer until sauce slightly thickens, about 4 minutes. Add back the vegetable mixture, thawed peas and beans. Simmer covered for about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Topping: While the filling simmers, prepare mashed potato topping as described above. Melt butter and olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic and basil for about 30 seconds. Add to prepared mashed potato, stir to blend. 
(I think I’d thin this out a bit to make it more spread-able. Maybe pipe it on with a piping bag?)

To Assemble: Preheat broiler. Place filling in a 3-quart baking dish. Place baking dish on baking sheet. Spoon potato mixture over filling and spread evenly to cover. Broil 3 inches from heat until top becomes golden, about 4-6 minutes.

Notes: I sent this to my mom and told her I think this recipe would be just fine salt-free. The wine and butter really make it so savory that I think someone on a salt-free diet, as my dad is, wouldn't miss that tinge of salt at all. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie

This recipe was sent to me by my favorite personal chef (whose food I've never eaten), Debbie Burgess of the Hungry Fox Personal Chef Service in Lancaster. Because it was posted on a closed personal chef forum, I feel I can't publish the recipe here.
The real kicker to this vegetarian (well, not quite, because it has Worcestershire sauce in it) dish is the entire bottle of red zinfandel it has in the sauce. It has a way of adding zip to the vegetable broth which, in my opinion, usually needs something added to it to make it rich.
The recipe took me 2 entire episodes of "Little House on the Prairie" to watch, so it is a little mini-marathon of cooking. But well worth it!
The vegetables are typical winter fare: carrots, parsnips, leeks (and onions), cremini mushrooms and frozen peas.  A can of cannellini or navy beans also adds substance. The potato topping is enhanced with an aromatic butter mixture of garlic, basil and parsley.
Now I need to say here that I have never in my life made shepherd's pie before. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've only actually EATEN it maybe once or twice. So my problems with the mechanics of the recipe probably stem from my inexperience making (or eating) it.
For the topping, the recipe called for boiling "4 large potatoes." Well, that's fairly subjective. And I kind of think I ended up with a bit more potato than was perfect because the amount of liquid it called for adding to it really made a nice batch of mashed potatoes, but was a little thick for spreading on top of the filling. Maybe if I'd thinned it a bit I could have been able to spread it easier. But I think if I were to change the topping recipe, I'd give a measurable amount of cooked and mashed potatoes.
For the filling, I really ended up with too much liquid and it wasn't thick enough. It called for a 750-ml bottle of red zin or burgundy, which you cooked down to a cup. But then you added 3 cups of vegetable broth and the beurre manie, which was 3 Tablespoons flour/3 Tablespoons butter, really had a lot of liquid to thicken. I made another batch of 1T/1T and it helped, but I ended up using a slotted spoon to take the vegetables out of the pot and put them in the casserole, and then pouring liquid in until I felt I had the right amount. I ended up with a little over 1/2 cup of the liquid left. I think if I were change this part, maybe I'll add only 2 cups of broth and then pour more in if needed.
All in all, this is definitely a recipe I'll make again. The vegetables were wonderful, the sauce silky smooth. The garlic and basil in the potatoes really were wonderful additions. The guys loved it and so did I. If I find out at some point that the chef publishes the recipe, I'll be sure to come back to this post to point you to it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
As a vegetarian, I don't have a lot of use for my subscription to Fine Cooking magazine anymore. For Christmas I asked for (and received) a sub to Vegetarian Times.
I'd saved all my copies of FC, and so went through them and gave most of them to my friend Jeannie, who teaches Family & Consumer Science at my school. The only ones I kept whole were the holiday baking issues. But I did tear out a page or two of some of that I thought appealed to me and might be likely candidates for my kitchen.
So tonight I made Butternut Soup with Cumin & Coriander. My only adaptation was that I used vegetable stock rather than chicken. The soup is simply delicious! It's not something to whip up on a weeknight unless you want to try it with frozen squash. This recipe is made with roasted squash, which takes about 90 minutes to achieve in the oven.

2 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1-141/2 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Flesh of a roasted 2-lb butternut squash*
3 C vegetable stock
GARNISH: plain yogurt or heavy cream, minced fresh parsley

*Roasting the squash: Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 90 minutes, or until dark brown and very tender. Let cool and then scoop out the flesh

Heat oil and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and salt. Saute for 2 minutes and then cover and let sweat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, another 3 to 5 minutes, until the onions start to brown.
Add the cumin and coriander and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add in the tomatoes and season with pepper. Bring to simmer, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the flesh of the squash, breaking it up a bit. Add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, uncover, turn off the heat, and let cool a bit. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup gently, careful not to splatter hot soup.
Season to taste, warm up if needed, and serve.
Makes about 6 cups.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Melting Day

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
It's the first melting day here in the Carolinas. We got about 6 inches of snow Monday and then a nice coating of ice after that. The cold temps have allowed a lot of that to stick around. Today, however, the sun is out and the temps are to get above freezing.

We have not had school all week, and I imagine we'll have delays tomorrow. Ours is rural county for the most part, so we have worry about road conditions in the outlying areas.

So I've watched a few movies, did a little reading, laundry, floors, and actually DUSTED (gasp!). I've also baked a bit and now am very low on ingredients. I'll probably go out this afternoon to grocery store.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sugarless Banana Bread

Banana Bread
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This is my second year of staying away from refined sugar between January 1 and February 14. Doing so makes me feel righteous, but mostly it encourages me to find ways to cook and bake with more natural sugars, such as agave, maple syrup and honey.

Today the Carolinas and Georgia (and probably points beyond, but I don't care) are socked in and slammed shut with snow. Apparently it started falling around 3 a.m. and we don't anticipate it stopping today. We did not have school today anyway, as it's the teacher workday between semesters, but I as a staffer was scheduled to work.

So it was just me and a few overripe bananas this morning. I don't care much for banana bread as a rule because it's so sweet and, well, banana-ey. I like starchy bananas.

I commenced googling for banana bread made with no refined sugars and found this recipe on for sugar FREE banana bread:

3/4 c. mashed bananas
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 lg. eggs
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. chopped nuts
Beat together mashed banana, oil, eggs and water until creamy. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Beat well. Stir in nuts. Spoon batter into oiled and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Spread batter evenly. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing.
(recipe here)

The bread baked up beautifully, as you can see, with an excellent crumb:
Banana Bread2

HOWEVER...definitely needs some sweetening. If I make it again I think I'll work some maple syrup into the recipe. But for today I drizzled a small amount on my slice and was quite satisfied. It's nice to be able to control the sweetness.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Free Music!

There's a lot of free music out on the internet. And I mean legal free music. Stuff the artists offer for free, either out of philanthropy or in an effort to gain exposure.

Since I bought an iphone I've been particularly interested in owning music. I've never been one for buying a lot of music because I usually get tired of something after playing it 49-11 times and then I don't go back to it for years. I also have gotten a lot of free Christian music from my husband, who gets advance copies of some albums at his work. And I subscribe to Napster, where I can download all the music I want and listen to it as long as my subscription is up-to-date. Up until a few weeks ago (when Napster launched an iphone app), I needed to own all the music I put on my iphone.

Enter the free music sites.
Spirit Voyage , a website devoted to Kundalini yoga, offers a free music track every Friday. Through "Free Music Friday" I have discovered many artists I'd not known about before, including Ashana, whose soaring voice and crystal toning bowls offer a transcendent musical experience.

I also found Noisetrade, which offers music from all sorts of genre. They suggest you make a donation per song, but only require that you give a little information: your name, email address and zip code. This helps them get their music out there and they end up benefiting by having greater turn outs for their concerts. You can also promote the free music on your Facebook page to help them out.

I've also been following The Free Christian Music Blog, which has exposed me to artists I've not heard of before. And FreeCCM also has some great stuff. I just downloaded a new song by Chris Rice called "O Freedom." Yesterday I downloaded an entire 18-song Christian song compilation album from Compassion International by signing up at New Release Tuesday.

Most of these, obviously, are Christian. But a quick Google for free music can yield many other genre. Give it a shot!

Saturday, January 08, 2011



I watched this last night. It was the first time I'd bought a movie on Directv. A GREAT FLICK! I loved all the plot twists...right up to the very end. They left you being perfectly okay, but knowing you will watch sequels. Angelina Jolie plays a CIA agent that is accused of being a Russian spy. Lots and lots of cool science stuff and cool acrobatic combat. They didn't muddle it with a long love story in the middle. It's just a nice, tight, spy thriller. It reminded a little of James Bond without the sex. But a lot more of Mission Impossible.

Friday, January 07, 2011


It's been hard to get up this week. Unfortunately, it'll be hard to get up tomorrow, too, because my yogabuddy and I are going to an 8 a.m. class over by Lake Wylie. Still, I'll get my beloved nap in Saturday AND Sunday afternoon, so I'll still be ahead.

It's been a  hectic week at school as we've begun closing out semester 1 and begun preparations for semester 2. I like the second semester much better because it has a much faster pace. Seniors are getting ready to graduate, underclassmen are registering for classes for next year...but most of all, the daylight hours will be getting longer rather than shorter!

To complicate matters, we'll be also hosting 4 elections in the coming months. We have a special election for a fire district coming up a week from Tuesday, and then SC House primaries, probably a run-off, and then election. I suspect we'll be moving the precinct out of the High School as soon as we can for the next General Election. It's just too much to try to have school and have voters coming in. We have to keep them away from the students, but most of all we have parking issues. I've told the election commission that they'll need to provide one or maybe even two traffic controllers during school hours.

Back to this weekend: I think maybe enchiladas tonight with my leftover refried beans. And I've been yearning for chocolate, so I'm sure I'll make some brownies at some point. I'm off refined sugar again, as is usual this time of the year, so I'll be making them with honey. I did that last year and got some good ones.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

How Sad

I haven't written. I'm not dead.
In fact, I'm quite, very much, alive!

We had a very nice Christmas with the guys and their friends. We went to a friend's house for a huge dinner. We exchanged a bunch of cool gifts, but nothing too extravagant. We took a family photo and even sent them out in New Year's cards:

(Bear is a little attention-deficit. I have no idea what he was looking at. There's just an empty dining room over there.)

We switched to Directv.
uh...that's it. I'll write about books...the stuff I'm reading. And really I have cooked a bunch. I need to work on writing about that. In fact, I'm off refined sugar again for 40 days, so I'll be playing with natural sweeteners again for a while. And I need to take photos. And learn Photoshop Elements version 9 or whatever it's up to now.
Sheesh. I'm kind of tired thinking about all that.