Saturday, December 6, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes - Staying In School

One of the reading groups in class has been reading biographies/studying people who have made a difference over the last couple of weeks.  This week their passage was about Elizabeth Blackwell, the first women to receive a medical degree in the US.  The passage told of how, in a time when a woman's role was vastly different than it is today, Blackwell always worked very hard in school, always practicing and asking for more work.  Her father had also been quite influential in her motivation.  I asked the kids some guiding questions to build comprehension of the reading.  They found words that were new to them and used the context clues to figure out the meaning.  During this discussion about working hard in school, one of my boys said, "My dad tells me I have to stay in school and learn."  We all agreed and then he said,  "My dad quit school and now he is plumber."  I told him that a plumber is a good job.  (My plumber makes more per hour than I do.)  He shook his head, "No, my dad said he has to work in poop.  He comes home with poop all over his pants.  I'm going to stay in school.  I don't want to get poop on my pants."
Well, that's as good as any reason to stay in school!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

When It Only Rains Every Couple of Years Or So...

"It is like a firehose aimed at us from the south of Hawaii," was the news report this weekend about the rain forecast for this week.  As we know, it doesn't rain here very often (especially over the last 3-4 years in particular) so when a storm is coming it makes headline news.  I wasn't holding my breath though.  We've had a whole year worth of rain forecasts that were unfounded.  So imagine my pleasant surprise when it was actually raining this morning when I left for work.  I wouldn't say "firehose" raining, but it was real rain anyhow.  I think this was the last time it rained for real here.  It has been that long since I've used my windshield wipers.  They're maybe three years old and have only been used a couple of times.  And that's why they did this this morning on my way to work...
My short drive to and from work this morning had the rubber on the bottom of the driver's side wiper flapping back and forth, the wiper virtually useless.   It frustrates me to have to buy new wipers when, literally, they've been used less than five times.  The dry weather and lack of use dries them out so quickly that they probably last less time than if I used them regularly.  
Replacing the wipers is also a challenge for me.  Obviously, buying new wipers is few and far between, so I'm not very practiced in it.  I threaten to really watch how to take them off hoping that will help me understand how to put them back on.  But in the end, I have such trouble with them.  They're like a puzzle, and the directions on the package are unclear.  
By the time I get to the autoshop, the storm will have passed.  There, I'll buy another pair and it'll be another two years before I get to use them again.  
But hey, at least it IS raining.  It's sorely needed and definitely a welcomed sight.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hasta La Pasta

After my first trip to Italy about 10 years ago, I came home obsessed with making my own pasta.  Up until that trip my only experience with pasta was dried, from a box.  Fresh pasta is on a whole other level. It is heavenly.  I bought a hand crank pasta machine shortly after returning home.  I used it a couple of times and then it found its way into the small-kitchen-appliances-that-were-a-good-idea-at-the-time cupboard.  And stayed there for a very, very long time.  Up until this most recent summer break, I had kind of forgotten I even had it as was evident by the inches of dust on the box.  
I pulled it out out and cleaned it up over the summer and made a couple of batches - linguini and tagliatelle.
The making of the dough, even by hand, is pretty basic - flour/water, flour/egg, flour/egg/olive oil.  There are a few options, but all combined using a well of flour.  The challenging part (and the reason why the box was covered in dust) is the rolling and cutting of the dough.  It's difficult to turn the hand crank, feed the dough through, and catch it coming out all at the same time.  Three hands would be ideal for this job.  After the summer was over, the box was packed back up and put in the small appliance graveyard cupboard. Making pasta from scratch was just too time consuming once back to work.
For my birthday, however, I received pasta rollers and cutters that attach to my KitchenAid stand mixer.  While quite excited to try them out, I just didn't have the time to experiment...until this week! We had the entire week off for Thanksgiving.  Between family gatherings and art projects and chores, and leftovers, I found a little time to play with my new toys.
Oh my goodness!  It cut the time in half, maybe more!  The process is the same.  The only difference is the rollers/cutters turn on their own so both hands can be used on the dough.
After the dough had rested and was ready to work, the pasta sheets were rolled out in no time. I was able to divide the dough into fourths and it went right through.  On the hand crank, depending on the dough consistency (which changes as it sits out), I'd have to cut it into more pieces to make it work.  The sheets zipped through in seconds.  The cutters were most impressive.  The hand crank was very finicky and didn't always cut evenly or at all for that matter.  Again, in seconds the sheets were cut into tagliatelle. I wasn't ready to cook and serve it yet.  It kept nicely in the fridge on a floured pan until I was ready to boil it.  Originally I served it with a light tomato/basil sauce.
The next day, I heated the leftovers in pan with a little butter and a lot of garlic and topped with a little grana padano cheese.
They were both delicious!
Fresh pasta certainly isn't a 30 minute meal, but with the new tools I can see it being made more often than it was before.  Anyone need a hand crank pasta machine?
PS - There were so many photos I wanted to include so I put them into some basic collages.  That makes them a bit small, but the collage will enlarge into full size and make things easier to see...if you are so inclined.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Turkey Day!

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving today, I hope it's a great one with family and friends (and good food)!

The teacher in me laughed out loud...
And the liberal in me did too!
 I miss West Wing.
 Will you be participating in Black Friday?  I'm not going near a store tomorrow (or today for that matter).
Enjoy your day!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Cos

Since televisions became a staple in most homes, family sitcoms have been a mainstay in our lives.  The 50s had Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy, the 60s had My Three Sons and The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the 70s had The Brady Bunch and Happy Days.  I remember watching those shows in reruns when I was a kid.  But the 80s, my formative years, had The Cosby Show.  There was very little television I was allowed to watch growing up, but The Cosby Show was one I not only was allowed to watch, we watched it together as a family every Thursday night at 8:00.
It was a typical sitcom about a successful African American family.  The kids were essentially well-behaved and respected their parents.  It was funny and a lot of Bill Cosby's comedy act about family was adapted for the scripts.  His humor reminded me a bit of my dad.  It was a show I enjoyed.  Even as an adult, while flipping through channels, I've stopped a time or two and reminisced while folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen.  
What a disappointment to learn of accusation after accusation that Bill Cosby drugged and assaulted numerous women at the very time he was making this "perfect family" sitcom.  I guess claims on his behavior have been made and blown off for years, but I had not been aware of those.  So it was truly a shock.  This 80's cultural icon does not seem to have been as wholesome as we were all led to believe.  
Even though there will not be a trial due to the statute of limitations, Cosby has already been found guilty by the media and a lot of the entertainment industry.  His upcoming shows have been canceled and The Cosby Show reruns have been pulled off the air.  My feeling is that he probably did it.  It's a shame that these women are not going to be able to have a trial.  It's a shame that they felt like they were not in a position to make the charge all those years ago.  It's a shame that a generation's role model (warranted or not) has been exposed as a dirty old man instead.  It's sad. 
His behavior is no laughing matter, but leave it to Bill Maher to make me laugh...
"I think it's ironic justice that a nation of black teenagers now gets to say to Bill Cosby, 'Pull up YOUR pants!'"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014


This coming work week will be the first week since the second week in September that I will be in the classroom all 5 days.  Between holidays and staff development meetings/trainings I have been out (and have had to write sub plans) at least once per week for almost two months.  While it's always nice to have a classroom break from time to time, it makes getting things done or taught more difficult, especially when being out is a regular occurrence.  My regular sub is fantastic, but still, trying to cram 5 days of instruction into 4 (or 3 for some weeks) is very difficult, and I've often felt behind this year because of that.  It'll be weird to work in my room for 5 days straight, but I think it'll make the week go quicker.  Sitting in a meeting all day makes the day drag when you're used to to going all day long.
I'm feeling kind of handy again.  There were two broken drawers in the kitchen - in one the plastic piece that holds the drawer slide onto the cabinetry had become brittle and fallen to pieces and in the other the guide that helps the drawer move back and forth was cracked and kept falling off the slide.  Both have been broken for awhile as I really hate to ask friends to help with these minor problems...I like to save my favors for the big stuff.  And I've been waiting to have more things to fix to make it worthwhile to call my handyman.  Fixing it wasn't even in my wheelhouse.  That was until sitting in the other room while talking on the phone last weekend.  I had an eye-line view of the cabinet and its two lopsided drawers.  After the phone call, I marched into the kitchen determined to figure out what was making them fall.  I added giving a go at fixing it to my Thanksgiving break to-do list.  Then this weekend, I just decided to get it out of the way.  To make a long story short, after cleaning out the drawers, a trip to Home Depot (where they sold me the wrong thing), and so another trip to Lowe's I got everything I needed.  Not having all the tools needed, some things had to be done in a round about way, but even so it got done.  It's so nice not to have to look at those lopsided drawers anymore.
I made my first "one-pot" meal a couple of months ago.  Tonight, I made another one.  They're brilliant!  Everything (protein, veggies, and maybe a starch) goes in one pot, and about 20 minutes later it's ready to serve.  It's different than the slow cooker, which is also great, but the one-pot meals are done so much faster than the 6-8 hours using the slow cooker.  And the best part...there's only ONE POT to clean!  Maybe all meals should be one-pot meals.
Yep! It's Sunday!