…And Everything in its Place

I’m a teacher. In my classroom I have a table that works as my main teaching space. Beside my table I place a trash can for all of the scraps from the various activities I do with my students. Every day, when I leave my classroom, my trash can is resting beside my chair. When I return in the morning, this is where I find it …

 

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Things I learned from this weekend

This weekend was an exercise in cooking gluten free while also cooking within my own allergies. I am that rare person who is allergic to all grains except wheat and rice. As a result, when I was asked to make something without wheat, it limited my playing field severely. I searched the internet and found a few rice based recipes, but when I compared the shopping list of what needed to be purchased, with purchasing something pre-made, well the difference was immense for ingredients that I probably would not use again before they expired. On top of that, I was also searching for a means to make my recipes work for a gluten intolerant person. So that meant no fillo dough, no wheat based pastry, and no homemade bread in my kitchen. Some would say at this point that I could still bake using gloves, but truthfully, I couldn’t. For me to bake with anything outside of wheat or rice was to basically make myself ill for the next 3-5 days depending on how much of the ingredients I inhaled.

So the hunt was on for creative ways to make my recipes still work. Luckily, I found a fellow blogger who posted a recipe for Kibbeh using Quinoa. That worked wonderfully since the event was about the “Crossroads: Silk Road” from the medieval perspective. I then found rice crackers and experimented with them for a crust for my vegetable tarts. I found that if I put two crackers down and added a piece of cheese between them that the bottom cracker remained crisp while the top on joined with the veggie tarts. Another friend suggested a watermelon based salad. So I hunted around for different recipes and wound up ditching almost all of them for my own concept of watermelon, mint, feta, and a raspberry vinaigrette.

I was still stumped for the bread, though. I kept looking around. I ran into many different wraps, etc, but nothing truly looked appetizing. The wraps I found looked bland and tasteless. I finally settled on a rice based bread that did the trick. So my question for those of you who are gluten intolerant, do you have a tasty recipe for a wrap that I can add? I wanted to make a pita or a wrap, but never did find a good one. If you do have a good recipe for one, please post a link below.

Kitten Wars 9/17/14 The Pounce is Strong in This One

I came home to one very playful kitty (Cleo) and one very affectionate cat (Teeny). Now, Teeny has only recently become an affectionate every day cat. For the last week she has begun waking me at 6 AM, whether I want to get up or not, by coming up to my face, bumping it, purring, and prrruupping at me until I either get up or move her away. If you haven’t had a determined cat before, well, let me tell you, moving Teeny away is no easy feat. Oh, you can pick her up and place her off the bed, on the other side of the bed, etc while remaining under the covers. This does not deter her in the least when she wants you to get up. She knows when my alarm should go off and is determined that I get up out of my cozy nest of blankets. No amount of moving her, removing her, or discouraging her work other than placing her on the other side of the bedroom door. But, then she begins scratching at the door until you let her back in. So its either get up or have one affectionate cat all over you until you do get up because you simply cannot breathe with all of her bunny fur in your face.

But, I digress. Cleo was in a very playful mood when I got home and was gleefully pouncing on everything that moved and some that didn’t. If a shoe lace fell, Cleo attacked. If the shadow moved, Cleo attacked. If Teeny shifted her eyes, Cleo … attacked. When Teeny first came into my home in June, she was a grumpy grande dame who generally hissed at anything that she didn’t like. There were days when I believed that all she knew how to do was hiss and spit, run and hide. Those days, I am glad to say, are long gone. When Cleo attacked Teeny, rolling her over, Teeny rolled over and continued walking over to get her rub. Cleo attacked again, pouncing over Teeny this time and was completely ignored by the cat on a mission.

So, Cleo changed tactics. Instead of wrestling and pouncing, she decided to batt at Teeny’s ear tufts. Maybe this new maneuver would gain her the attention she craved. Teeny leveled a look on Cleo that any teacher would have been proud to own, stuck her paw on Cleo’s head and pressed down much in the manner of the Pope when he is blessing someone. I got the feeling she was telling Cleo something important. So Cleo backed up a tiny bit to rethink what she was doing, but when Teeny prepared to leap up to the bathroom counter, she just couldn’t control herself any longer. As Teeny’s back hips quivered in the “jump ready” stance, Cleo pounced for all she was worth. The two wrestled for a few moments, then Teeny, pinned Cleo with her paw and put her nose on Cleo’s, looking her directly in the eyes. Momentarily mesmerized, Cleo lay there just long enough for Teeny to make the leap to the counter to get her rub.

3 Cheese Dip

This is one of my family’s favorite appetizers and it is SO easy to make. It takes under half an hour to get everything melted just right. Use a whisk once the cheese starts to melt. That will take down the globby factor!

Words of advice on this one. Understand that cheese is made at different consistencies. Some may be stringier or creamier than others. It is always better to take a melted cheese recipe with a “rule of thumb” and be prepared to either add more cheese or milk depending on how the cheese melts. The creamier mozzarella is divine, but even the cheap stuff can and will work, you just have to watch it closely and stir it well. Also, you can use a cheddar instead of Colby-Jack, but the flavor will be changed. I prefer CJ because it is my son’s favorite cheese. I’ll admit that I use rough estimates because different varieties of the same cheese melt differently and I usually use whatever is left on the block I have in my ‘fridge.

8 oz White American
1 C Colby-Jack shredded, loosely packed.

1 C Mozzarella shredded (This one becomes stringy FAST so go lower rather than higher)
2 1/2 to 3 cups of 2% milk (Start with lower add if you want the dip less thick)

1) Put one cup of milk in a sauce pan to warm up on low to medium low. You do not want the milk to scald or bubble.
2) Add the American cheese. Stir regularly as it melts in. Use a WHISK.
3) Add the Colby-Jack and another cup of milk. Stir until these melt in.
4) Check the consistency here before you add the Mozzarella. If it is thick and globby, add more milk, about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
5) Add the mozzarella and stir until it melts in.
6) Once it is melted, check the consistency and add milk by the 1/4 cup until you have the consistency you want. I prefer a thicker cheese dip, so I go lower on the amount of milk.
7) Serve it in a bowl with some chips and put a spoonful of pico de gallo in the middle for garnish.

Options: You may mince up jalapenos and other peppers to add in, but be careful. They become too hot fast. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 of a single one and let it cook in for about 1/2 hour before you add anymore. Check it before you add more. Also remember that if you add the seeds, that the “hot” quality will intensify.

If you have leftovers, they go very well on top of noodles for a quick mac and cheese 🙂

Kitten Wars: Of Night Humans and Morning Cats …. 9/14/14

This morning I learned the difference between the Night Human and the Morning Cat. I went to bed sometime after midnight or closer to one after napping on the couch a bit. Teeny does not usually bother me on the couch other than to lay within hand’s reach for the occasional pet and scritch. However, when I went to bed well, that’s another matter. You see, my grande dame considers my bed hers. Actually I believe the bed is split into sections. The dog has the foot of it. Cleo sleeps under it. Teeny has the top when she deigns to sleep there.

But last night, I did the unthinkable. I put away all kitty food. That meant NO early morning snacking for the cats. Oh, wow, that was not the answer on the morning that I wanted to sleep in. At 4 or 5 Teeny decided to tell me all about it through and intense drum session in the litter box. Calling her name forcefully was not nearly threatening enough to get her to stop. I had to get up, out of my warm nest of blankets, and stand in a relatively cold room before she raced out. We went through a few of these over the next hour before the sleepy human realized that she could lock the cat out of the room. Well, that was not a kosher idea according to the cat.

She just started soft paw clawing at the door once she realized that the door to her domain was shut! So I reached around my door and blocked her stretching post (door frame) with the laundry basket. Unable to make the wond’rous sounds that she knows drives me nuts, she started her soft purr-meow which got Cleo to come out from under the bed to then soft paw the door from the inside. I think by this time it was close to 7 AM. I gave up and opened the door for the cats. They left the room and began playing somewhere else. Thank goodness Cleo distracted Teeny!

Photo: The morning cat, herself.

The Rights of a Child

At what point does an adolescent lose his individuality, his family, and his being to become one of the masses, the nameless homeless? A student of mine passed last week. Because both of his parents were in jail and no one had been formally assigned guardianship or foster care, he was declared homeless by the nameless government, cremated and ashes sent off to be “taken care of” with no care taken to look to find out if anyone would have been willing to do anything else for him. The students and teachers who loved him were not given the opportunity to have closure.

The funeral home was called repeatedly. They were expecting his body to come their way, but it never showed up. Finally, the coroner was called, but they were too late. My student’s body had already been cremated. No family was contacted because according to them, he was homeless. He had local family, but they were not close. He had friends who would have raised the money. He had teachers who would have footed the bill, but as a whole, no one was contacted because someone in authority declared him homeless.

Today, I’ve been going in and out of outrage, depression, and shock at what just happened to a child. At what point did we as a society declare that it is acceptable to throw away our children, even if it’s only their remains?

The Next 9 Minutes

Some days I crack my eyes and wonder

Why is this thing yelling at me?

Telling me to rise ,

Get out of my warm, cozy nest

Go to work!

Then my hand finds the snooze

…Bliss…

For the next 9 minutes.

Cold Salsa Soup

8 Roma Tomatoes

2 Jalapenos

1 Banana Pepper

1 medium-large Sweet Yellow Onion

1 medium-large Red Onion

10-15 sprigs of cilantro

8-10 sections of garlic minced

Juice of 1 lime

Zest of 1 lime

3 ears of corn

¼ c sugar for the water

1 Tb salt for the water

  • Fill a soup pot about ½ to ¾ with water. Add sugar and salt.
  • When it boils add the corn. Boil for 12 minutes. Take the corn out to cool.
  • Dice up the onions and garlic. Sautee in a non-stick pan. Use no or minimal olive oil
  • Dice up tomatoes and peppers. Do not throw away the centers. Keep the juices. Put them into a big mixing bowl. Make sure to remove all seeds and pith.
  • Mince up the cilantro leaves and add to the tomatoes and peppers
  • Zest your lime and add it to the mix
  • Juice your lime and put it to the side
  • Take the corn off the cobs and add it to the mix
  • Add the onions and garlic
  • Mix it all together and put it into the fridge for an hour or so.
  • The juices will mingle. Stir it before you serve it.

 

*It makes for a “mushy” salsa or a really good cold soup.

**If you are after a true salsa, use Plum Tomatoes for their texture and do not cook the onions.

***I use this one on top of cooked meat, too. It adds a nice texture and flavor to pork and chicken. It also makes for a good topping on rice.

**** Another variation is to add black beans.

This version is not very spicy. If you want to make it more so, keep the pepper seeds or add hotter peppers.

Happiness is ….

I had the sweetest wake-up this morning. Teeny, my affectionate on her own terms cat, was curled up next to me purring softly as my eyes opened. I reached down to stroke her bunny fun gray tabby coat as her purring got louder. After a minute or so, she decided to walk up to me to rub noses and bump faces before tapping my face gently with her paw. She can be the sweetest of cats when she wants to be. After a couple of moments, Cleo, my always affectionate but lets play, too, kitty decided to join us. All in all it was a wonderful way to wake up.

The loss of one too young

This morning before work, I found out that I lost a student. As a teacher, I become very attached to the kids I teach, but this one was more special than most. He was one of my troubled babies, but never call him baby to his face. In his eyes he was a man, and probably had been a man in his house for several years despite only being a teenager. He came from a shattered home and was familiar with the judicial system from an early age. He had a smart mouth, quick wit, and despite all the nastiness that life had dealt him, a closely guarded soft heart. He didn’t let many people in to know that he was secretly a really nice kid living a very bad life. There was not a mean thought or bone in his body, but he had a bad reputation from the time he was about 10 years old. The trouble was from home not being stable.

As adults we think of home as a place of comfort, love, sharing, and safety. He had none of those. From the earliest years he was exposed to drugs, sex, alcohol, and all types of abuse verbal, physical, and mental. He didn’t have a single place to call home. Instead he was shipped between places to live with relatives whenever his welcome was worn thin at whichever school he was currently attending. He was called a “behavior case”, and I admit that he couldn’t keep still or control of his mouth when he wasn’t medicated, which was frequently. Every teacher could tell on the days that he had taken his meds. On those days he was a bright student with a curious mind. He offered opinions, information, and help willingly. He wanted to share, but all of the experiences with the dark days of no medicine got in the way. People didn’t trust him to be the “good” kid that he could be. After a while it became easier to just be the bad kid and to stop trying on the days when his medicine was not available.

He was a very creative kid. He had ideas that he wanted to do and could plan them out. He knew people better than anyone would have expected. When I did a project with all of my students, he created the best out of all of them. Unlike the other boys who created male oriented toys, this boy created toys that girls would love. When I asked him why he did what he did, he said simply, “Girls love hearts. I hope my toys go to little girls who will love them.” I just about cried that day.

As I said, I lost him. He died in a motorcycle accident. Rumors have already started as to why he was on a bike during school hours. Most say he was skipping school or suspended. Some kids who knew him well though, are saying that he was running away, that life had finally dealt him a hand that he couldn’t deal with anymore. No matter what was going through his head, I hope that he finds peace, love, and joy where he is now. No kid deserves the life he was dealt.