Friday, August 29, 2014

Long weekend and mason jars

It was a gorgeous morning driving to school today. In the pre-dawn gloaming, there was white mist rising above wooden post fences and green pastures with grazing cows and sheep. Lovely.

I think if you live where there are no large animals you're missing out. I love the cows, sheep, deer, horses, emus, buffalo, donkeys, and goats where I live. They animate the landscape, make it dynamic. Their lively lives on the pastures remind me I'm not the only living thing on this patch of earth. I share it with other beasts.

And the animals are cool. I enjoyed all the cows running to the freshly delivered hay yesterday, they are ungainly but also run with a gait that is almost rhythmic. The donkey foals leaping around on ungainly legs are so cute. The buffalo staring. OK, that last one scares me a bit. But large animals are great and I'm blessed to have them around.

Of the smaller variety, there are plenty of those! Rabbits (a warren next door on the pasture), loads of chipmunks (seem to be getting overrun) skunks (a family lives in the culvert in front of the house), coyotes (occasionally) and foxes, armadilloes (yes, they're in GA), possum, and snakes ('nuff said) all make for a very alive place to live in.

In the USE WHAT YOU HAVE category, I was making poached eggs recently. I never got over the loss of my microwave poacher. I've looked and looked at the Dollar Store and on Amazon for a new one but either they are to fancy or too expensive or too cheaply made (tend to explode the eggs). In using water to poach, I have to remember to put a drop of vinegar in the water so the egg white doesn't pull apart. But what I really want is a ring to put them in while they poach in the water so they stay contained and come out in a nice circle. I looked around and thought and thought- "What do I have for a sturdy metal ring the size of an egg that can withstand heat and be the right height for the pan?" Aha! The mason jar rings that close the mason jar. Voila, it works perfectly. It is just the size of an English muffin. Use what you have! Chances are, you already own or have access to something that will work well or at least approximate the task you need the thing for.

There is no better feeling than coming home with fresh groceries (thank you, payday) and knowing there's fresh produce in the fridge to gorge on for the weekend. Pineapple! Cantaloupe! Peaches! Bananas! I see smoothies in my future!

Unless it is emptying the lunch box and stowing it away for three days! No work...Ahhh, a long weekend. I'm looking forward to it. Are you?

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I like mushrooms. I am searching for mushroom soup recipes right now and I got to thinking about the mushrooms I like.

Once in the fall on the foggy mountains of Umbria, I saw an old Italian man and his dog searching for the elusive and potently tasty black truffles. It was truffle season and soon the entire mountain would be covered with aged Italians with wisdom gathering this bounty from the ground.

Once, my husband and his friend and I went searching for tree mushrooms. They are known as oyster mushrooms and they are edible. Though they can be tough, if you cook them in broth and butter for a while, plus garlic of course, they were supposed to be tasty. Our friend had learned about which mushrooms were poisonous but he wasn't typically a pay-attention type, so this was a big adventure for us, both gathering food direct from the earth and also relying on our scatterbrained friend to tell us which shrooms were safe to eat.

Once in Maine outside my office, a humongous mushroom grew on a tree. It was not an oyster mushroom. We called our friend the mycologist Sam Ristich and he came over and told us about the mushroom. It was a polyporus squamosus, also edible. We didn't eat it. We just admired it. Until it grew so large it fell off the tree and then the snow came and covered it up.

Last fall we had days and days of rain. A mushroom patch sprung up under the tree. They were pretty mushrooms, unlike the oyster or dryad's saddle. They were perfect delicate little white mushrooms. I wanted to eat them in the worst way but I think they are poisonous. I believe they are from the amanita family and this genus has names like Destroying Angel and Death Cap. In my imagination I thought that the elves and fairies would live there and I called it Mushroom Town.

Here are the mushrooms I have known. Two photos are from Maine and the rest are from my yard in Georgia!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Biphasic sleep or sleeping in segments sounds pretty good!

We completed our first full week of school yesterday at 3:00 and it was a success. The kids did very well and the teachers got into the swing of things very quickly.

The weather did not cooperate as usual, being August. Though I have to say that August 2014 has been relatively cool compared to previous years. Temps went above 100 for the first time this week so mostly we have been spared the searing high heat and soul-crushing humidity. And the temps usually break in mid September so even if we have a mini heat wave at this point, it will all be over soon.

Because of the heat we stayed inside for recess the last two days, but mostly the school week went well.

I enjoyed the kids, their little clean hair bows and new sneakers and shiny backpacks and light-up-the-world smiles when they figure out how to do something that's new correctly.

I was working with some kindergarteners, drawing. One boy drew a circle within a circle. Normally I just ask them to "tell me about that" because at that age, any line or squiggle could be anything from King Kong to an apple.

But the circle within a circle was drawn so perfectly that I felt it was safe to ask:

Is that a tire or a donut?
It's a potato!


I'm pretty tired actually. It was a busy week and my legs and feet are killing me. Today I awoke at 5:30 as I do every day and did nearly every day during summer. I got up and worked for about three hours, writing, reading the bible, and making oatmeal granola bars before it got too hot. Tired, I went back to bed until 10:00.

I've been working again, and I'll go to bed again after this session, probably by 11:30, for another nap.

I've been looking into biphasic sleep, or sleep segments. What I'm doing isn't sleeping in phasic, controlled segments, of course, it's just the sleeps and naps of the middle aged, sedentary, overweight, exhausted person. But, did you know, in middle ages, people didn't sleep for 8 solid hours and then get up for a day of work? That this sleep pattern is a new phenomenon?

Here is an article about biphasic sleep
For our ancestors as recently as a couple hundred years ago, this kind of nighttime darkness lasted up to fourteen hours (well, it does today, too, but we mask it with all that lighting and housing). Artificial lighting meant candles and firewood, and those cost (money or time) and don’t really replace daylight (anyone who’s stifled yawns around a campfire knows that) like today’s artificial lighting replaces daylight. People got to bed earlier – because, unless you’re rich enough to burn candles all night, what else are you going to do when it’s dark everywhere but, as Thomas Middleton said, “sleepe, feed, and fart?” – and their sleep was biphasic, or broken up into two four hour segments, with the first beginning about two hours after nightfall.

The first segment of biphasic sleep was called “first sleep” or “deep sleep,” while the second was called “second sleep” or “morning sleep.” Numerous records of these terms persist throughout preindustrial European archival writings, while the concept of two sleeps is common in traditional cultures across the globe. Separating “first sleep” from “second sleep” was an “hour or more” of gentle activity and wakefulness. People generally didn’t spend this time online gaming or surfing the web or trolling the fridge for snacks; instead, they used it to pray, meditate, chat, or to simply just lie there and ruminate on life, the universe, and everything. It was still dark out so they tended to keep it pretty mellow. Sounds nice, huh?
Polyphasic sleep is not the two segments of 4 hours each with at least one hour of waking in between. Polyphasic sleep is "the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period—usually more than two, in contrast to biphasic sleep (twice per day) or monophasic sleep (once per day)" according to Wikipedia, which also quotes historians as saying segmented sleep used to be the norm.

This can be seen even today in the European and Latin American siesta.

I'm for the polyphasic sleep. Yes, that's the one I pick! Actually during the summer when I allow my sleep patterns to emerge naturally, I tend to go to bed between 10pm and midnight, sleep till about 3 am, wake for a while, sleep again until 6:00 am, get up, return to bed around 3:00 pm for a nap for hour or even two, and then repeat.

I'm going to agitate for a polyphasic sleep fan club picket line. I'd start it now but I'm too tired. Time for a nap.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I love it when I do things early in the day

On Saturday I received my Bountiful Basket. I washed and dried and out away the produce. I thought about what to do with it so I would be ready to cook it on Sunday morning before church. I do this before the heat gets hot outside. Today is was 93 degrees. I roast, boil, and bake. Usually.

When I don't prepare ahead, I pay for it. You know how behind you get when you don't do the things that you know you have to in order to make the week go more smoothly.

I hate that.

So this Sunday morning I woke up at 5:30, and I got up and chopped, roasted and processed. I made roasted potatoes, roasted onions and peppers, and roasted cauliflower. I cubed many mangoes and froze them. I cut up the cantaloupe. I boiled some eggs for my protein at lunch. I was happy!

For Sunday supper I boiled some pasta shells and sauteed a tomato, and threw in the roasted peppers and onions. A little shaker cheese on top and we were good to go. The half portion I didn't eat, I put in the lunchbox for tomorrow.


Now all I have to do is repeat that 35 more times and I'll really be good...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Last Bountiful Basket day

It's Bountiful Basket Saturday, but it is a day of mourning. It is the last Basket pick up for our location. There is no volunteer who can step up consistently to administer the site so it shut down. It's been a good year and a half.

This week we received:

huge head of cauliflower
bag carrots
red potatoes (lots)
onions (lots)
'big-as-a-baby's head' tomatoes
celery bunch

yellow plums
mangos almost as big as a baby's head
Black Corinth champagne grapes (small that look like blueberries)

Photo is NOT representative- does not include cauliflower, carrots,
potatoes or onions which I already put away and was too lazy to get out
for the picture. I traded my cantaloupe away, too, for more mangoes.
One of the tomatoes of from the swap box.
I read the champagne grapes are susceptible to mildew
so I will need to eat these quickly. I received two containers.

Succulent doesn't cover the magnificent taste of this grape.

About Black Corinth Grapes (AKA Champagne grapes, Zante currants)
--the smallest variety of all seedless grapes.
--one of the few parthenocarpic fruits commercially available.
--in botany and horticulture, parthenocarpy (literally meaning virgin fruit) is the natural or artificially induced production of fruit without fertilization of ovules. The fruit is therefore seedless, says Wikipedia of parthenocarpy.

One of my go-to sites for learning about these different fruits and veggies is Here is what they say about champagne grapes:

Champagne grapes are the individual pearl-sized fragile skinned fruits, aka the berries, of the seedless grape variety, Black Corinth. When eaten fresh, they are known as a table grape. In dried form the Champagne grape is transformed into a raisin, in which they are known as the Zante currant, or dried currant. When the berries are fresh, at their peak maturity, they are intensely sweet and succulent with a mere hint of tartness. As a currant, the grapes' sweetness is magnified, their size dramatically reduced and their texture typical of a raisin
I've just eaten a bunch and they are the BEST GRAPE I ever tasted.

Champagne grapes are ubiquitously utilized for garnishing champagne flutes and decorating desserts and cheese trays. These traditional uses as an accoutrement merely celebrate the fruit as a table grape. The grapes can also be used in many other forms, added to pastries, such as scones, muffins and cakes. Like many other fruits, Champagne grapes make a great addition to fruit cereals, granola and yogurt. They can also be cooked and reduced down into a jelly, added to sauces for savory pairings with lamb, game and pork. In dried currant form the Champagne grapes can also be added to pastries as well as couscous, rice, fruit and green salads and paired equally with aged and fresh cheeses alongside charcuterie meats.
Not bad for $15!!! I sure will miss this. In addition, at the pick-up I chatted with a bunch of friends. It was a nice time.

I will roast the cauliflower, onions, and carrots, and bake the potatoes. I will make pasta and a sauce out of the tomato. I will enjoy the fruit with yogurt, plain, or atop the on-sale pound cake I got.

So I am back to routine for school. Saturday mornings I don't deny myself a leisurely cup of coffee, and I read my bible. But while it's cool, and early, I do chores. I vacuum, put a load of laundry in and do the dishes. On BB Saturdays I clean out the fridge and process the old fruit if I have any left over. This week, I did. I cut up three oranges and threw in a few of the grapes I had left, for an instant fruit salad later. I re-arrange the myriad tupperwares containing left overs and get the fridge ready to receive a batch of new produce. My Basket of fruits and veggies is being soaked right now in a sink full of water and white vinegar.

The vinegar cleanses the produce and a happy bonus is it makes it last a bit longer too. In a moment I'll dry it off and put it away.

I am done with chores and it is only 11:30 in the morning. I have the rest of the day to myself.

What I will do is:

--watch this week's episode of The Quest,
--read more of Elmer Gantry (more on my book buying spree and of good writers in the next essay)
--take a nap
--late this afternoon, write an essay for the other blog.

So that's it, have a good day everyone.

Friday, August 15, 2014

First day of school!

Today was the first day of public school in our county. I help in the kindergarten area, so the kids I see come in young, cute, and scared. Some weren't scared, though. They had taken the opportunity offered last week to come to three days of a mini-kindergarten. This is a new program that helps kids acclimate in advance to be ready for their first day of school. It's called KinderCamp. There are no other students in the building at "KinderCamp" and they spend three hours doing mini-rotations of all the things they will do during regular school day. It's a great program. The kids who participated are used to the school when they come on the first day. The parents are also relieved. And it helps the teachers, we know the children's names on the first day! Most of our kids took part, so that was good.

It's 91 degrees so needless to say I'm exhausted, grungy, hot, and overstimulated. I came home and shut the windows, and turned on the air conditioner. I closed the curtains. I took a looooong shower as cold as I could stand. I ate my Subway sandwich.


Some of the cute things:

I saw one little girl in first grade who I knew last year in kindergarten. She was having lunch. I said,

Hi! How is first grade? Is it hard?
No! It is not hard. I tried it!

Another little kindergartener was waiting to be picked up in car riders line with her older brother.

I said,
"Well, you're going home now. You can tell your mom and dad about your day and all that you learned."
She tugged at her brother and said,
"Guess what? I ate a burger with ketchup on it and I like ketchup now!!

Now for a nap. I've got to put my feet up. Me old dogs are barkin'.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Literacy and flowers

School starts Monday. I have the eagerness that each and every fresh start affords a person. Imagine being in a job where you can start over every 12 months! I like that. It's impossible to get bored.

To prepare, I was re-reading some of my textbooks from my graduate literacy program. I finished in 1998. I cannot believe it has been 16 years. It seems like yesterday, driving through the snow, sitting on the hard metal chairs, taking notes till your hand cramped up. I remember one late night in particular. I had a 7:00 class that got out at 9:45. I was driving my big old Cutlass through the late fall air, and the Northern Lights popped up. I stopped my car by the side of the road and was astonished at the view. I wanted to run up and down the road pounding on doors, kind of like an Aurora Borealis Paul Revere. No one came out to look, and all I saw besides the flashing ionized green and red particles waving like a curtain, was the silent smoke of the woodstoves curling upward to the stars overhead.

I picked two of the best matches to my current position in school to re-read: "Children's Writing" Perspectives from Research." I always liked that book. And "Facilitating Preschool Literacy". That book had lots of scans of the childrens' art and letter writing, something I'm fascinated with. Children's art tells you a lot. I wish I knew more about the subject.

However I was disappointed. Neither book really gave me the information I was looking for to help me crack the nut of pre-literacy writing in the areas I especially wanted information on. Either I've grown dumber over the years or textbooks aren't as helpful in the real world as I'd once thought.

However, both books did confirm my long-standing knowledge that reading and writing are inextricably linked, with writing even the slightly more important process in acquiring literacy. That children need a supportive and literacy-rich environment. That labeling and invented spellings are OK. And that learning to write is hard. It is good to be reminded of these things, and I'm glad I looked my books over.

I did some heavy re-organizing today- on my computer. I moved all the photos to their folders. I looked over all my writing in the working folder and either trashed it or put it where it goes. I have a lot of animal photos and I put them where they go. I collected the scripture verses I've been making and put them in a special folder. I did this because it drives me crazy to know I have a photo, for example, of a blue flower, and I can't find it. Having what you need is only half the battle. Getting your hands on it in a reasonably efficient amount of time is the other half.

After all my writing and computer work was done, I took a walk around outside. It was a very warm evening but the air was soft and the scenery was nice. Look who I met behind the house at the barn:

And the spider flowers are blooming

Spider flower, posterized

"Three spider flowers walk into a bar..."
And there are quite a few mushrooms of all kinds on the property too.

Under a toadstool crept a wee clover...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Second to last week day of summer vacation

Only one more weekday, then the weekend and then school starts. It's been a good summer. It felt that it went by fast and took forever to finish. Both.

I started readying things for Monday morning. I changed the sheets, prepared the laundry, and did some cooking. Tomorrow I'll vacuum and actually do the laundry. (It'll be cooler tomorrow than today and the dryer makes the garage go to 120 degrees... so I waited).

I had two overripe bananas ready for banana muffins. But I didn't want to make muffins from scratch, so I googled "banana muffins from pancake mix" and voila. I love the Internet.

They came out fine. As a matter of fact, they turned more golden on top than the ones I make from scratch with flour.

I also shelled and made a batch of butter beans, with onion, green peppers and carrot. I put diced bread and butter pickles on top with hot sauce to make a faux Southern pinto beans with chow chow.

And since I had two large zucchini and was using the oven for the muffins, I made zucchini crisps. Slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, toss in a slight amount of olive oil to coat, and press into a mixture of Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 450 degrees for half an hour. It caused a lot of smoke in the apartment, because the excess bread crumb mixture on the baking sheet burned, but oh well. What's cooking without a bit of smoke.

I listened to a sermon, watched the pilot of Happy Days, and read an old graduate book I had called "Children's Writing: Perspectives in Research." I also wrote another blog essay on the other blog, and moderated a lot of comments. I read 1 Samuel 12 and pondered that a long while. Of course the much beloved 3:00 nap was a given, with all three kitties on the bed with me. Even Murray is napping with us now. I'll go through withdrawal Monday when I have to give up my naps, and all this luxurious time to myself. But it's for a good reason, lol. It's called "Employment". Works for me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Bert and Luke

I've posted a few pictures of Murray lately so here are my other two kitties:

My wonderful Luke. Doesn't he have the nicest big eyes?
This was taken yesterday

These next two pics are from 7 years ago when I first got Bert and Luke. Bert had an infection when I got him so the vet put the dreaded cone on him so he wouldn't chew his bandage.

Did you ever see anything more pitiful? Unless it's the next pic...
"Mom, you mock me in my shame, and take pictures of it. O, woe is me..."