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!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When Rigby Went Missing

Since it's Veteran's Day, it was a school holiday today.  It was weird not working on a Tuesday, right in the middle of a work week.  But I'll take it!
After spending the first few hours of the day on some around-the-house chores, I had big plans to do nothing the rest of the day except play in the art room and catch up on some recorded TV.  When I settled in, I realized my dog was not nearby as she usually is.  I called her a few times but nothing.  I went downstairs figuring she was outside, but she wasn't there either.  A house search ensued and after a few minutes of still not finding her panic set in.  Other than dragging the trash cans out to the street, I had not been outside, but I worried that Rigby might have snuck out behind me while the garage door or side gate were open.  I used the front door and looked out for her and even called her name a few times.  Nothing.  Another run through the house was made as I've been known to close doors to bathrooms and the other bedrooms to keep her out without realizing I've actually closed her in.  But again, the search was fruitless.  There wasn't a peep.  I called her again a few times   hoping that she was asleep under a table or in a corner.  And when that didn't work, I headed out to the garage to find her leash, figuring I'd have to start walking the streets.  When I opened the door from the kitchen to the garage there Rigby sat, head cocked to the side, looking at me like, "Well, it's about time."  What a relief!
Rigby is often right on my heels and does follow me out to the garage often.  Most of the time she follows me back inside as well, but must have been distracted (clearly so was I) because neither one of us realized she wasn't at my side.  It's funny though because she barks or talks to me about most things that are bothering her from being hungry, thirsty, full, even tired.  But being stuck in the dark garage didn't seem to warrant any kind of sound.  Silly dog.
She spent the rest of the day doing this with me...
She's so cute!  I'm sure glad she didn't really go missing. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nothing says "It's the holidays,"

Being the 2nd weekend in November, the holidays are nearing.  People are planning their Thanksgiving meals, Black Friday ads are already airing, Christmas music is playing in the stores, and there are loads of Christmas boutiques and open houses popping up all over town.  It's that time of year...oh wait, it's 90 degrees outside and my air conditioner just kicked on.  Nothing says "It's the holidays" like the sound of an air conditioner!

And just some funnies because it's way too hot to think about the holidays...
Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again...

Everything about the time change that occurred earlier this week makes me very happy.  Even the day "ending" sooner with dusk coming near 4:30PM is cool with me.  The only problem I have is I keep leaving the house under the assumption that I will drive home in daylight and the leave my glasses at home.  Twice this week I've had to use the spare pair I keep in the car, and then last night I left the spare pair in the house so drove home in my sunglasses tonight.  It's like anything else that becomes a habit, I'll eventually remember to bring them, it'll just take a few more times without them to make sure it sinks in.
Do you have a salt pig in your kitchen?  I do!  Well, I will have one - the order should be arriving tomorrow.
I'd never even heard of one until this weekend when I purchased a box of Kosher salt.  The salt grinder purchased at Costco a year or so ago is just about out, so I figured I'd buy a box to refill/reuse the grinder.  Best laid plans...the grinder is actually not refillable.  As hard as I tried, the thing wouldn't open so no refilling, and now I have a big box of salt and no place to put it. My research found that there is such a thing for this very problem - a salt pig!  It's used for easy access to the salt when cooking while keeping debris out of it. Some of the salt pigs I saw even had little pig ears on the top.  Mine does not, but it is red so it matches my kitchen which is all that really matters.
Last night's midterms were a bit of disappointment weren't they?  I guess that depends on who you ask, but if you're asking me, I was disappointed.  What is it about "us" that makes us vote so obviously against our own interest?  In all but a few states the voter turnout rate dropped (some to record lows).  Pathetic.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Day After Halloween

There are very few days during the school year that a teacher vehemently dreads, but the day after Halloween is such a day.  Which is why I am so glad the day after Halloween is ON A SATURDAY this year!  Having Halloween on a Friday (and a minimum day for my school no less) is the ideal schedule for a teacher.  Most years I do enjoy "celebrating" Halloween with my class.  The day after however sucks.  The kids are tired from the night-before's festivities while being amped up on candy at the same time.  They are useless so the day in the classroom is pretty much useless too.  My colleagues and I have often discussed how wise it would be to just make Halloween the last Friday of every October.  With all the festivities (both child and adult) wouldn't having them on a Friday with the weekend to recover make so much sense?!?!  I might have to try to get it on the ballot for the next election...teachers alone would give me enough signatures!
Yesterday was a good day.  The kids participated in some learning activities made fun with a Halloween theme.  We've been studying spiders this month so we wrapped up that unit as well.  There was a "party" during the last hour of the day.  We have such little parent help at my site so the party is low key since I plan it myself.  A little snack, a drink, a goodie bag, and movie is what made up this year's party.  That is pretty much my party M.O. 
I changed up this year's snack a bit due to our district's new wellness policy.  We are supposed to limit the sweets (candy, cupcakes, cookies) which at my site hadn't really been an issue due to the teachers running the show but had become quite a problem at some of the other sites where the parents are in charge of the parties.  Anyhow, trying to honor the policy I created treat bags for class with some healthier treats...
They were a complete hit!  The kids thought they were so funny, some almost fell on the floor laughing and gasping...especially about eating ghost poop!!  Just in case it isn't clear, the snack is dried cranberries, pretzel sticks, and air popped popcorn.
There were about 15 minutes left in the school day after the movie was over and we had cleaned up.  The kids had kept it mostly together up until then, but their excitement was coming to a head.  They were like a kettle that hums and shakes just before it starts to boil.  So we packed up, and I took them outside to play on the jungle gym for the last 10 minutes of the day.  Even then, I was exhausted just watching them.  The excitement was seeping out of them.  When the dismissal bell rang and their parents arrived, I waved and wished them a fun evening.  As my team and I walked back to our rooms we dripped with relief about not having to teach the day after Halloween.  
And I'm still relieved while still in bed on a Saturday morning writing this post.  This is a much better way to spend the day after Halloween! 
And to add to this happy, relief-filled weekend Day Light Savings time ends tomorrow!  It'll be so nice not to drive to work Monday morning in the dark.