Sunday, October 23, 2016

Have a Taco!

A few weeks ago one of the presidential candidates' surrogates made the comment that if something isn't done about the "dominant" Latino culture we'll have "a taco truck on every corner."  Here in Southern California, we have taco trucks on many corners, so that thought of one on every corner sounded like a GREAT idea.  I LOVE tacos.
Being a Californian, tacos are a way of life. We can get them with ordinary fillings like chicken, steak, pork, ground beef, and fish, as well as more "interesting" ingredients like brain, tripe, cactus, and corn fungus.  I'm not terribly adventurous in my eating in general so I leave the interesting ingredients for others and stick with the more common fillings. And generally when I make them at home I use braised or grilled chicken or carne asada, which is marinated flap meat (steak).  One type that I enjoy when I have it at a truck or restaurant is al pastor or marinated pork/pineapple.  The pork is traditionally cooked on a vertical rotisserie, which looks a lot like how shawarma meat is cooked, which is why I've never attempted it at home.   I saw, what looked like, a fun recipe on Facebook which used a skewer and marinated pork shoulder to create the tower of meat.
After buying the pork shoulder and planning on serving it for a get-together, finding the ingredients was a little more challenging than I thought.  There must have been a run on achiote paste and guajillo chili powder as both the Latino section of my market and the two Latino grocery stores nearby were out.  Maybe the Tasty recipe was making the rounds!
I ended up with a couple of substitutions (California chili powder and achiote seeds which I made into my own paste).
  On a side note, can we just take a moment to look at the voting guide in the background.  It is enormous - over an inch thick.  I, for one, can not wait until this election is over!
Making the tower was kind of fun, and an impressive sight.  There was a slight problem in keeping it standing while getting it into the oven and even once in the oven it kept losing its balance.
 After a few attempts we redid the tower into two smaller towers, which were much more manageable.
 It cut fairly easy off the tower and the flavor was quite good.  It certainly wasn't the real thing like on the trucks, but topped with cilantro, fresh pineapple, and salsa, it was a decent copycat version.

Do you like tacos?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Deleted Emails

No, not those emails!
Last week, my school district received an email from our tech department about a change over of our email servers.  The gist of the email was that school site email accounts would be taken down one at a time, transferred to the new servers and then brought back up before moving on to the next school.  It also said that depending on the amount of info on each server, and even each employee's account, the time for the change over could take an hour or two to a day or two.  Shortly after that email, I received my own personal email from the tech department.  It seemed as if the size of my email account was one of those that could cause the process to take days rather than hours.  I have been aware that I am an email hoarder.  I DO delete most of them, but then never empty out the deleted folder because I'm worried about needing to find them at a later time.
After receiving that email, I took a closer look and noticed that I was keeping emails as far in the past as 2004...2004!  Not too many, however 2005 and on took up a lot of space.  There were over 5,000 emails that hadn't even been opened before deleting them, that added to the rest there had to be 10, maybe 20,000 in that deleted folder.  There were so many that when I selected 2004 to 2014 to delete (I kept 2015 since that was just last year) it gave my computer a spasm and it was frozen for several minutes.
After deleting 10 years worth of deleted emails, there are still over 2,000 unread emails in the folder, which means in all there are even more.  But at least the purge got rid of most of them.  One of these days I'll have to go in and get rid of the ones that will definitely not be needed, but finding that time is hard. Case in point, it took me twelve years to do it!  But in those terms, it's like I'm starting from a clean slate...sort of.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Unit

My exasperation over our current presidential campaigns has pretty much reached my limit of sanity. I'm not nearly as conflicted over my choice in November as others might be, but I'm just tired of the 24 hour-ness of it all and what is worse about the 24 hour-ness is that most of it is just intolerable and bat-sh!# crazy.  I think most feel the same way as I do, so I am not unique in that position.
What might be unique about my position is that I teach a full blown (5-6 weeks) government unit to my second graders in October.  I enjoy teaching that unit so much and the kids enjoy learning about our state and federal governments' a second grade level, of course.  The unit is brought out every year, but when it is a presidential election year, it is usually a blast.  The unit is closed out with a campaign, debates, and an election.
I say "usually" it is a blast because this year I have absolutely no desire to do it.  Teaching about what is supposed to happen seems so idealistic when what is happening across the board with our government AND the campaigns is asinine.  The kids have a hard enough time understanding the ins and outs of it all, heck, so do I if I'm being honest.  Trying to rationalize that with what is really happening will leave them mumbling to themselves.
On top of it all, I'm worried about how I will handle those other opinions.  In previous elections, it has been much easier to stay neutral, even with students with differing opinions.  The ideas and talking points that have come out this year are so hateful and so offensive to me (and aimed towards many of my students), my neutrality might get thrown right out the window.  The unit is supposed to start tomorrow.  I'm all ready for it, everything is prepared.  Whether or not I end up taking it on is another matter entirely.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Saturday 9 - The Last Time

This week's song inspiration is Diana Ross' "Last Time I Saw Him." I'd never heard it before.
1.  In this song, Miss Ross sings of a tender farewell at the bus station. When did you last say goodbye to someone at an airport, dock, train or bus station? The last transportation goodbye was probably my mom who flies in and out of town quite often.
2. Continuing with the theme of "lasts," who received the last gift you gave? My friend Tami and I share the same September birthday.  I sent her gift off to Idaho about a week and a half ago.  
3. Who last did you a favor?  Yesterday I woke up to a refrigerator that sounded like it was running in NASCAR.  The appliance repairman couldn't make an appointment after 3:30, which is the time I can be home if I leave RIGHT after school.  He offered 3:20, so my grade level team (colleagues) offered to take my kids at the 3:00 dismissal.  That way I was able to run out to my car and drive home in time for the repairman.  That was a relief, and the icing on the cake was it was an easy fix - only costing me a service call.
4. What's the last thing you dropped or broke?  I ALWAYS spill my coffee when I'm running late for work in the morning.
5. What's the last thing you borrowed or lent?  I can't think of anything off the top of my head, so probably something for work.  Teachers are always sharing materials.  Oh, I just borrowed some library books!
6. When is the last time you danced?  This evening, in the kitchen while heating up leftovers in the microwave.  I get songs in my head, and they inspire me.  :)
7. When were you last nervous?  I get nervous every time a certain presidential candidate says something hateful or asinine and his supporters cheer for him.  There has also been recent reports about how San Andreas Fault is due for another big quake soon.  Earthquake predictions make me nervous too.  
8. What was your last DIY project?  I almost decided to refinish a pair of Adirondack chairs that have been sitting on the side of the house for a few years.  Actually, I was initially going to throw them out, and then while looking them over I wondered if I should salvage them.  And then, when I lifted one up and the wood fell off the bolts, my hopes of a DIY were dashed I was relieved.  
9. When did you last check your horoscope? Was it accurate?  I don't read horoscopes very often, but I do find they are pretty accurate when I have.  I fall right on the cusp of a Virgo and Libra, but from every thing I've read, I'm definitely a Libra.  These made me chuckle.
 This one made me laugh out loud!  I can never decide where to go out to eat.
Happy Saturday!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Release

I have a love/hate relationship with Apple.  I really do like all the Apple products I own.  My phone, iPad, and Macbook all work very well for my needs, and because they are all Apple they also work very well together.  I can access pictures I took on my phone from the iPad or Macbook and text and make phone calls on my iPad and Macbook via the phone, to name a few of those working together ways.
Every-so-often though, they do something that irks me a bit.  When they switched from the 30 pin connector to the lightning connector, pretty much every accessory I owned had to be repurchased to accommodate this change.  They said it was to allow for more room for a larger battery, but part of me speculates changes like that happen to make customers buy new stuff.  They've made the phone just slightly different in size or shape in each release too, which means a new case every time as well.  I was also ready to disown my beloved iPhone a few years ago when there was news about the poor working conditions at their factories overseas.  After numerous suicides (jumping off buildings) over these conditions, the company installed nets rather than fix the problems.  I found the fact that companies, like Apple (as well as other tech giants), that make more money than they can even count were making this money on the back of these overworked/underpaid workers just deplorable.  And while I was ready to jump the Apple ship, all the tech companies are doing it so there doesn't seem to be an alternative to that with the exception of going tech-less, which I'm not so sure I can do.
Anyhow, earlier this month Apple announced the upcoming iPhone 7.  The next number release is always anticipated because that's when all the new features are shown.  Some of the changes are a better camera in lowlight (which has been one of my complaints on the iPhone for years), a (slightly) longer battery life, and water resistant.  However it seems as if the phone being damaged by water isn't covered under the warranty, soooo.  But the biggest change, in my opinion, is the removal of the headphone jack.
THE REMOVAL OF THE HEADPHONE JACK!?!?!  Apple has decided that the headphone jack is outdated technology.  Could be, but I see it as another chance for Apple to make us all purchase new stuff.  Funnily enough, they've come out with some new blue tooth headphones.  The thing about blue tooth is if you don't have a connection, you can't connect to bluetooth.  Guess what you don't need a bluetooth connection for...THE HEADPHONE JACK!  To make the transition a bit easier the new phone will come out with a special dongle that will allow us old-folks to still connect our outdated technology.  It's better than nothing, but I'm not a fan of the dongle.  Plus, it's one more thing you've got to remember to take with you.  And I wonder what people will do who have those very expensive noise canceling headphones.  I have never splurged on a pair for myself, but I bought my mom a pair of Bose a couple of years ago for all her travels.  She loves them.  I can't afford to buy her another pair of bluetooth ones!
Ugh!  I'm really an Apple girl, but this change might just put me over the edge.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


One of my biggest cooking challenges is cooking large pieces of meat on the grill or roasting them in the oven.  It is not something I do all that often, but when I do I'm pretty bad at it.  This week was no exception.  The recipe I attempted used a nice little pork loin rubbed in brown sugar, garlic, and olive oil and cooked on a roasting pan with carrots and potatoes.  Once the prep is finished (about 10 minutes cutting and rubbing), the beauty of this dish is that it goes in the oven and you don't do anything for about 45 minutes, so it basically is supposed to cook itself without any help from the outside.  
Just like every other time I have tried to cook big meat (for lack of better description), it didn't go as planned.
After 45-50 minutes, the pork loin was supposed to be at 150.  At that time, it was to be removed in order to rest for about 15 minutes while the veggies finished cooking.  However, after about 50 minutes, my meat thermometer showed it hadn't made much progress.  
 Now I have to say, that I have this never ending battle with my meat thermometer.  It is OLD, but that is sometimes a good thing (I keep telling myself).  There is an internal debate I have about whether or not I need to keep the thermometer in the meat while cooking or not.  Since it's not an instant read, it takes time to show the temp and by then I'm not sure if that is even correct.  When I research this topic, some websites say that I should leave it in while cooking and others say not to.  I talk myself in and out of what to do, mostly because if it is inside the oven isn't it taking the temp of the oven?
I don't know.  After the initial temp above, I kept the thermometer in the pork loin and stuck it back in the oven.  It was over 150 when I pulled it out the next time and thought, "Hooray!  It's ready!".  It rested while the veggies finished cooking.  And when I cut into it after 15 minutes, it was still pink.  "They" say pork can be a little pink, but I can't do that.  So back in the oven it went, this time without the thermometer inside.  Going on about an hour and half later at this point, the pan was removed and the temperature was 150, at least that is what the thermometer said.
I'm not entirely confident that my trusty OLD meat thermometer is all that accurate and after all these years of owning it (after inheriting it), so I finally broke down and bought a new instant read one.  I'm not entirely convinced it'll work either.  What if I'm the problem!?!?    

Friday, September 9, 2016


This week's Saturday 9 song is a fun one.  I actually listened to Shaggy (along with Maxi Priest) back in the 90s.  Reggae-fusion is good for the soul.

1) This song is a rather shameless come-on by an accomplished ladies' man. Do you enjoy flirting?  Hmmm, I don't think so.  I find that I'm not particularly good at it when it counts.  
2) Shaggy sings that he's like a turtle coming out of his shell. Do you think turtles, snakes and lizards make good pets? Or would you prefer a companion animal that has fur or feathers?  I do not think reptiles make good pets.  I like turtles, but not as a pet.  Furry animals are best, preferably a dog or a horse.
3) He also sings that if you don't feel like driving, you should hand him the keys. Are you comfortable letting others drive your car?  I don't mind at all.  
4) He tries to woo the girl with the promise of a bubble bath. Do you enjoy relaxing in the tub? Or do you view baths and showers as simply part of your hygiene routine, like brushing your teeth? Baths (tied with yoga) are the least relaxing relaxing-thing I can think of.  I find them boring and kind of gross - who wants to sit in their own body-water for any length of time...blech!   Who has time for that!?!?  And maybe because I've only ever had a regular size bathtub I don't know how to keep both my knees and my boobs covered at the same time.  Showers are my preference
5) Born Orville Burrell, Shaggy took his stage name from his shaggy hair. Using your hair as inspiration, what would your stage name be?  Ha!  Having a mind of its own wouldn't be a very good stage name.
6) Sam admits she hadn't thought about this 20+ year old song in years, until she heard it on a Chase Bank commercial. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, checkwriting dropped more than 50% between 2000 and 2010. Who received the last check you wrote?  I wrote a check recently to the contractor who repaired/painted my home's fascia.  I also wrote one to the groomers.  I so rarely write them anymore.  I pay, when I can, with my cell phone or credit card, quick, quick, quick.  This afternoon at the grocery store I was behind a woman who paid by check and it quite literally was a 5 minutes process between her writing it, then the checker checking ID and writing the info on the check, and then sending the check through the register, and then the woman having to fix the check because she wrote the two amounts on the check differently.  ARGHHHHHHH!
7)  Which would you prefer to receive in a birthday card: a $25 check or a $20 Target gift card? I've got a bday coming up, so either is fine.  ;)
8) Sam's mother refuses to pay bills online. All the news stories about data breaches scare her. Have you ever been hacked? If so, did it take long to get the situation resolved? I've never had an issue with my online banking (knock on wood) and it is so easy.  I have had my credit card number used on fraudulent purchases on a couple of separate occasions.  The cc company always took care of it without hassle, other than waiting for a new card and having to change any billing information.

9) In 1995, when this song was popular, Michael Jordan "unretired" and returned to the Chicago Bulls. Tell us about a decision you made that you wish you could undo. Recently, I wish I could undo the decision to be a teacher a lot more often than I ever used to.