Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter bunnies and jellybeans

When I was a kid in junior high school, there was an Easter contest at the local grocery store (Almacs For you native Rhode Islanders!). It was “Name the bunny rabbit and win one!” Kind of contest. I am sure I didn’t ask my parents’ permission to enter, they would likely have said NO to owning a rabbit. But I entered, along with my very bestest friend.

I named the rabbit “Christopher.” This made total sense to me. My brother was Christopher, and as all ‘too-cool- middle school girls know, little brothers are animals.

My BFF named it “JellyBean”.

She won.

That name made total sense to everyone else, being an Easter contest. LOL, I still got to be around the rabbit because when I visited my friend, because we would feed him and clean his hutch.

I loved the Easter Sunday morning Easter baskets. I loved the chocolate, of course, and I think I loved the fake ‘grass’ as much. It crinkled and was fun to play with. As for the chocolate rabbits, I always ate them ears first.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Papas con queso fresco, yum!

I finally decided on this week's soup: Mexican potato con queso fresco.

Queso fresco is fresh cheese. Wise Geek explains,

"Queso fresco is a traditional Mexican cheese which is a common ingredient in a wide range of dishes. The cheese is a quintessential part of Mexican cuisine, and is often available in Mexican markets and grocery stores. In Mexico, queso fresco is often a raw milk cheese, but in the United States the cheese is made from pasteurized milk, due to concerns about bacteria in raw milk. Both cheeses behave slightly differently, with the American cheese being more prone to melting."

"In Spanish, the name of the cheese means “fresh cheese.” Classic queso fresco is snow white, very soft, moist, and mild in flavor. The cheese is also rather crumbly, making it ideal for crumbling over dishes like salads and enchiladas. The creamy cheese is also used as a filling in many Mexican dishes. True queso fresco will soften and become creamy when heated, but it will not melt. This unique property distinguishes queso fresco from similar cheeses."

It is similar to goat cheese, feta, and ricotta but not as acidic as feta or as pungent as goat cheese (my favorite cheese). Once my husband and I made paneer, an Indian cheese, which is made in much the same way as queso fresco. it is really easy. You take milk and acidify it, using lime juice or vinegar, and leave it to curdle, and then strain in cheesecloth and press. It is a fresh cheese so it won't last long in the fridge after the cryovak package is opened. That's why I used half the package in the soup.

I was googling potatoes and queso fresco (I had potatoes on hand) and found this recipe. It is a cold, rainy weekend so a heartier soup seemed to be just the ticket. Don't you love to have a pot of soup on hand in the fridge? I do.

Queso fresco is light, and crumbles but won't melt completely. It is very creamy so the potato soup is like a creamed potato soup. I didn't have chilies on hand so I just used red and black pepper. Photos of food never come out as appetizing as the professional photographers do it, and never as appetizing as the items really tastes, but here you go:

It tastes wonderful! I didn't use the cumin, garlic, or jalapenos. Instead of the tomato sauce I used a can of vegetarian tomato vegetable soup.

8 potatoes, peeled and chopped into squares
6 -8 fresh jalapenos
2 large tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of knoor chicken bouillon powder (consomme)
1 teaspoon cumin
12 ounces mexican queso fresco, chopped into cubes
2 -3 cups water
oil (for frying)


1. Bring jalapenos and tomatoes to a boil.
2. In blender add water, onion, garlic, cumin, chicken bouillon powder, can of tomato sauce and blend well.
3. Add boiled jalapenos and tomatoes and pulsate the blender 2 or 3 times just so that the tomatoes and the peppers are still chunky in the sauce. Set aside.
4. In skillet fry the potatoes until they start to look translucent and remove from fire. It is very important you do this. Don’t fully cook them or else they will end up like mulch latter.
5. Transfer the semi cooked potatoes to a bigger sauce pot and pour the sauce.
6. Add cheese and stir well. If needed at salt to taste and bring to a boil.
7. Serve hot and enjoy with warm tortillas!

I also made a peach cobbler today.

And last in a minute I'll make a fruit salad with grapefruit and craisins. That will complete my cooking for the weekend and take me into the first of the week for lunches. Buon appetito!

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Can we run around?"

We had that wonderful week of no heat on, open windows, warm temps, but that's gone now. We've had several days of cold weather and snow is threatened tonight. And for the weekend, a cold, hard rain.

But that's OK, it is a last gasp. The warm weather will be here within a week or two, to stay for good.

The kids at recess ran around like pinballs on the playground, crashing into each other, red cheeks, and cold hands. They would stop occasionally to scream, "I'm cold!" only to run off again before I could answer, them laughing hysterically just with the joy of being alive and breathing air.

I remember how it felt when I was that age. It felt like my legs were pistons and could pump up and down forever, whether running or on the bike.

I bring a kindergarten class of kids to the gym every day to sit and wait to be picked up by car. A few weeks ago we were the first class in there. So there's this huge empty gym and 8 kids...of course the first thing they did was ask me if they could run around. I said yes.

Today was a time when we were the first class again, and not missing a beat, the first thing they asked was "Can we run around??" Of course I said yes. Seeing 8 little kids running around in circles, laughing hysterically, made my day. We give them playstations, barbie dollhouses, iPads, and all they need is a big empty room...and maybe a box.

If you enjoy quiet, character-driven movies, I watched Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, starring the wonderful Joan Plowright. It was a great little gem out of the UK, and I recommend it. The Rockford Files still has enormous appeal after 40 years and is available on Netflix, and also Youtube I think. My observations: The desert around Malibu is empty and undeveloped, there are phone booths everywhere, and Mr Garner was very handsome at that stage of his life.

This weekend will hold no mystery for me. I am still making my way through Willa Cather's "O Pioneers!" and will make soup to combat the cold rain. Naps, church, and maybe doing a load of dishes and there you have my very important, fancy weekend.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A day off

The Weather Channel tweeted the following and called it "The Great Divide: weekend temperatures"

Embedded image permalink

I live in the red part. LOL. We are predicted to be getting up to 70 degrees today and 76 tomorrow. I am psyched about this.

One thing I really love about this season in GA, my favorite among the four, are the birds. All of them never really go away in the winter, so I get to hear some birds all year long. But when they come back in the spring is it a symphony.

It is a teacher workday today, meaning, no kids. I had asked for a personal day and it was granted. So I am home, enjoying the lovely day with my cats, having a leisurely breakfast of banana pancakes, and being in my jammies to surf the web all morning. Sounds good? It is.

I started reading Willa Cather's "O, Pioneers" and I really enjoy it. There's nothing like good writing. It doesn't matter from which era it's from, good writing is good writing.  Pilgrim's Progress, 1678 was great. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, 1741 was great. The Return of the Native 1878 is great. O, Pioneers 1913 is great. Lonesome Dove 1985 is great. Water for Elephants, 2007 is great. Let's face it, I just love to read.

I admit though, I'm slowing down. At night, my eyes ache and don't focus as well. The lure of the laptop often draws me away, but I'm still reading there, just sermons and essays and not books. Part of it is that there are so few good things to read anymore. That's why I went back to my classics shelf and came out with O, Pioneers!. And what a happy day when you're pleasantly surprised by good writing and a good story.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Crocheted Coasters

Look what a sweet, SWEET reader of my blog sent me as a surprise! Homemade crochet coasters and two cat toys! I am bowled over by how kind some people are. I don't even know this gal. Thank you!

Friday, March 08, 2013

"It's the first sign of spring"

The day starts out at 29 degrees and ends at 71. How am I supposed to dress for that?

Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Today was especially jewel-like. There's nothing better than watching kids run around on the playground under the blue sky and warm sun, playing ball and laughing.

I am glad the weekend is here though, I've had a bout of sinus gunk. I'm so tired of brain rattles and my ribs hurt. Argh, enough! And man, oh man, have the teachers at school been hit. Either norovirus, flu, or sinus has veritably wiped out many of even the most hardy staff.

I read that a Caribbean cruise ship was hit by norovirus, 108 sick so far.  There was one school in Vermont that had to be closed for two days, because 90 percent of students and 30 percent of staff came down with it. (There  are only 85 kids at the school). Part of the reason they closed the school for two days was to sanitize it. The cruise ship said the ship and the port terminal have "been thoroughly sanitized." Count me skeptical.

So today on the playground a little boy ran up and gave me a tiny, teeny, almost microscopic flower. He was the picture of quietude amid the maelstrom of screaming, pinwheeling first and second graders. "It's the first sign of spring," he said quietly. I felt like I was in a movie and butterflies were going to descend and carry me up to the cotton candy clouds. Or a unicorn was going to fly by and swoop us up to permanent Spring-land where teeny tiny blue flowers spread out as a carpet of dazzling azure with rainbows leaping from mound to mound...

OK, sometimes recess duty is boring and I have to use my imagination to liven it up.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

It's snowing

The birds think the snow is pretty cool...

Dr Seuss week

We concluded Dr. Seuss week here at school. The week was filled with fun things for our kindergarteners to do. We had the Story lady from the library come read to them, special guests, crazy socks day...and on Wednesday we ate green eggs and ham. "Hey! They taste just like white eggs!" LOL.

Friday we had a special reader come to class to read to the class. He read a book about hugging a porcupine. There were lots of animals in the book, and he stopped to discuss each one. When it got to the skunk, he mentioned the gland that makes the skunk smell as it sprays. One kindergarten boy piped up, saying quietly, "Skunk. The smell of doooooooom."

They say the cutest and most unexpected things. That's what I love about kids.

I'm not a fan of Dr Seuss. Don't worry, I kept that on the QT all week. It was definitely the minority opinion. I remember reading Dr Seuss when I taught first grade, and it used to take me forever to get through one of his books. They're long, and they are tongue twisters.

For a kid who was highly visually acute, the weird beings drawn in the book were mildly to acutely discomfiting. They're not identifiable as any one thing or another. For a kid with a logical mind like me, who must classify everything, this was a problem. The subjects were often mystifying. Like, why does that thing keep asking Sam if he wants to try green eggs? If Sam said once he said a thousand times, he does not want to try them. And the Cat in the Hat is just a weird intruder, the kids should call 911. (And why were they left alone, anyway?) These were the things I would think about as the teacher read the book to me as a kid, and then as I grew up and became the teacher, what I'd think about as I read it to the kids.

Here is a page from a book I like, "First Grade Takes a Test". It gives insight into how a kid thinks.

If you have a creative thinker in your life, congratulations. They are always interesting, sometimes frustrating, I know, but interesting and funny and quirky. I admit, I love the quirky ones. They are non-conformists that we need to take a few more moments to understand, or to coax out the thoughts which when uttered, will undoubtedly bless us.