Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quiet summer is here

Today is the first official day of summer break. I celebrated by going to bed early last night and waking up an hour later this morning, lol. I made a run to the Dollar Store because I forgot to buy mayo yesterday, and I decided I needed to get some frozen shells. I have a ton of eggs. Two friends with chickens each separately gave me a bunch. I plan to use some in a green bean pate recipe that calls for a lot of boiled eggs. I'll make two quiches, also. Hence the need for frozen pie shells. (Red pepper & onion quiche, and mushroom and cheddar quiche).

I've got some laundry tumbling in the dryer and some writing to do. I've got chamomile sun tea brewing in mason jars in the sun outside. I've got lime and green apple fruit infused water steeping in the fridge.

At 3:00 at church we have a meet & greet our new prospective pastor. That should be really fun. Afterwards I'll come home, make the stuff I mentioned above, and then watch a young John Wayne in a 1934 movie "The Lucky Texan." I LOVE westerns!

All in all a great first day of summer. Some friends are headed to concerts. Some are headed to beaches. Others are fighting off bears on camping trips. Me ... I like the quiet life. Sun tea, a table fan, and a book is all I want. I'm glad friends are on the go. But I'm the kind who likes to stay.

The backyard
The side yard
My view for the next 70 days!!

Friday, May 30, 2014

The end of the school year

EPrata photo
I live across the street from one of my District's elementary schools. Not the one I work at. My school is 6.5 miles up the street.

This was the last day of school for teachers. The last day of school for students was last Friday. The buses came to their parking spots and turned off the ignition...and that was it. There they will stay until it is time to crank up the school year again.

Now not even teachers' cars will come and go. The parking lot will be empty and for the most part, so will the school. (The Administrators, secretary and custodial staff will be in the schools). Compared to the hundreds of people who populated the schools each day, it is a veritable skeleton crew.

I like living by a different schedule than the schedule the non-teaching world lives by, January to December. In Georgia, the year for me goes from August to May. The buses are quiet...the school is quiet...the playground is quiet. Right now the quiet is welcome. But by August, I'll be saying, "It's quiet...TOO quiet."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Colorful phrases are worth their weight in gold

There is a lady I work with at school who is fantastic at including the most colorful phrases in her stories. I mean picturesque in a quaint way. She was telling about a person she knew many years ago who was a taker. You know the kind of people who take and take and take but never give back? She said "That lady would ride a free horse to death."

photo "Race Horse on Gallops" by Paul. Labeled for reuse

I literally almost fell off my chair laughing. (That wasn't hard to do, I was sitting in a minuscule kindergarten chair). I loved that phrase so much I committed it to memory. I take it out of the memory box once in a while; while just to make myself laugh.

Today I looked up the phrase to see if it had an origin. It does. The phrase is actually "Never ride a free horse to death." In this book published in 1922, "The Antiquity of Proverbs: Fifty Familiar Proverbs and Folk Sayings by By Dwight Edwards Marvin, it is explained,

"Never abuse privileges that have been granted as favors."

"Though the date of this saying is unknown it was used before the sixteenth century. There never was a time when men have not been found who would not take advantage of the liberality of others and their acts have been freely expressed in proverbs." Give them a pea," as the Guernsey folk say, "and they will take a bean," or "Invite them to your home for a while," as the natives of India declare, "and they will take possession of the whole house." A borrowed horse is to them a gift of service that may be used to the limit of the animal's endurance, hence the warning that the beneficiary should not abuse a benefactor's bounty. "If I have told right, thou hast given thyself above a thousand stripes; that is enough for one beating; for, to use a homely phrase, the ass will carry his load, but not a double load; ride not a free horse to death." — Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a.d. 1547-1616, Don Quixote.

So yesterday we were talking again and she described a woman she used to work with who laughed a lot, saying, "She laughed so hard she like to lay an egg."

I fell over laughing again. Isn't that description so colorful, and apt?? (Yes, women do cackle).

I haven't been able to find an origin for that one. Maybe there isn't, or it's too obscure. It sure is funny though.

I appreciate the people I work with for the unique individuals they are. They're intelligent, they're story tellers, they're caring. They make me laugh, they teach me things, they encourage me. As much as I enjoy summer for the privacy, I will miss my colleagues. When August comes I'll be the first one through the double doors, saying "Hello! Glad to see you!"

Monday, May 26, 2014

Two Ants

Two of the kindergarteners I worked with drew pictures of an ant. One picture is several years old and the other is from this year.

This one is standing straight up. It's full face. She knew there were 8 legs but she drew them all crowded up at the bottom, lol. A main feature is the mouth.

This "ent" is left-to-right. Profile view.  The main feature is the eye.

Two children. Two ants. Two perspectives. Each child is a snowflake- unique

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fog, and poetry

Another warm day is on deck. We're supposed to get thunder boomers later. Here is a photo that always makes me feel cool:

By Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

 The fog bank rolled in to Machiasport Jasper Beach, Maine. It is a foggy area, the foggiest in the US practically. Nearby Lubec has that distinction. Fog is quiet. Fog is mysterious. Fog cools without drenching.

I miss fog. I really miss foghorns.

Here is one foggy photo I took here in GA. It is of a foggy morning in my backyard-

And this is the side yard:

The Sun and Fog contested
By Emily Dickinson

The Sun and Fog contested
The Government of Day –
The Sun took down his Yellow Whip
And drove the Fog away –

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bountiful Basket day: fruit infused waters

There are things I do every other Saturday morning to prepare to the onslaught of fruit and veggies I receive on my produce co-op's local chapter. It's called Bountiful Baskets and I have written about it many times.

When I get home on BB Saturdays I like to soak and wash the produce in vinegar water. To prepare, I wash the dishes, clean the sink and then sterilize it. When I get home I put it all in the sink and fill it and add a half cup of vinegar. Let soak for 10 min. I do this even with fruits or veggies that have a hard rind like oranges or cantaloupe.

I learned this week that cantaloupe is one of the top ten dirtiest foods that can make you sick. Cantaloupes can contain Listeria. Apparently the fact that they lay on the ground as they grow, in soaking water that may contain sewage or other contaminants, and are easily retained in the wrinkled rind, launch them into the top ten along with chicken and beef. When you cut into a cantaloupe the germs on the rind travel inside to the fruit and infect you as you eat. Gross, I know but important to know. So not only do I soak cantaloupes in the sink's vinegar water but I turn them every few minutes as they bob.

I decided to try fruit infused waters. I'm sick of looking at juice ingredients and seeing sugar, sugar, sugar. Corn syrup or High fructose. All the same, sugar. I don't drink soda and Orange Juice is too expensive, especially the kind that's juice only. I usually have a jug of water in the fridge I put a little lemon in when I drink it. I also have jugs of sun herb tea. I easily eat the BB produce in two weeks but occasionally I have some left over, like this week with three mangoes. It's nice to actually have extra produce in which to branch out. I figure they'll be perfect to try fruit infused waters with.

Eating regular fruit gives you the fiber, and it the best way to consume it, I believe. But chopping it up and adding it to water and ice with some herbs or spices isn't too bad either! The only problem is that I don't have a pitcher. In my mode of "use what you have" rather than "run to the store right now and buy one" I thought and I thought and I remembered I have two wide-mouthed vases in the top shelf of the unused cupboard.

The one on the right has a rim that is the same size as the lids on commercially bought dips etc. so I'll be able to cover the top. They both hold 48 ounces of liquid. A lot of that space will be taken up by the fruit and by 3 cups of ice, but that's OK. I don't think regular pitchers are a lot bigger.

I'll start with "Day Spa Mango Ginger Water". I have the mango, which I mentioned already. I've chopped it into cubes and it's freezing as we speak. I don't have real ginger but I do have powdered. It'll have to do. I dug out the ice cube trays and made room in the freezer for those. I don't like ice in my drinks so the trays were relegated to the back shelf long ago. But the fruit infused waters don't use ice in the drink, only the infusion process. The ice cubes are placed in the pitchers to hold the fruit and spices down and help it infuse. Here's the recipe:


1 inch Ginger Root, peeled and sliced
1 cup Frozen Mango- fresh is fine too

Get Started:

To peel the ginger use the back of a spoon or a vegetable peeler, just peel the part that you will be using. Using a sharp knife slice ginger into 3-4 coin sized slices. You want them about the size and thickness of the coin.

-Drop into your pitcher and add in the mango.

-Top with 3 cups of ice and then add with water.(the ice is important, it holds down the ginger and mango to help infuse the water)

-Place in your fridge for 1-3 hours before serving.


They don't recommend the powdered ginger, which they say doesn't have the same flavor and clumps in the water, but oh well. Maybe I'll toss the frozen mango chunks in some powdered ginger before putting it in the water. Below is a link to a less commercial discussion about naturally flavored waters.

If I'm going to toss in slices of lemon or orange or other fruits into water I plan to drink, then it is triply important that I've washed the outside, the rind, and thoroughly disinfect the item. I'm not a huge fan of cucumbers but I've read that adding cukes to water is 'seriously refreshing' so that is another frugal aspect, I can not only infuse waters with items I haven't gotten to eat within a ripening time frame, but also use produce that is second-tier in a way I may enjoy more.

This link shows the waters infused in mason jars, which I really like, because mason jars are a great way to both store things and use. I like the single serving aspect, too. A friend gives me canned items in mason jars and I have half a dozen jars now. I love them. I'll try the pitcher and the mason jar method and see what works. I think living frugally and cooking well both stem from a willingness to experiment.

Here is an excerpt:
Naturally Flavored Water by Monica Matheny
"The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach to Flavored Waters
My natural tendency is to go overboard and overcomplicate things, so I really have to fight that when I'm developing recipes. I read about and was tempted to try all kinds of methods for flavoring water that involve blenders, boiling, specialty infuser pitchers, and lots of different ingredients. But, I know myself. If I truly want to transition completely away from soda & juice and drink more water throughout the day, I have to make this simple so it can be an easy routine for me to maintain. When I read celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's quick and uncomplicated approach to making flavored waters, I was inspired to follow his lead and keep it simple. My easy formula for making KISS flavored waters is to use only fruit and herbs, water, ice, and a jar or pitcher. This is something I can make in a minute or two so I can always have flavored waters on hand in my fridge."

Now my go-to beverages will be water, herb sun tea, and fruit flavored natural waters. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, May 23, 2014

School's out

It is the last day of school with the kids. Ahhh ... summer, we meet again. Is there anything sweeter than beautiful weather, green pastures, and day after day of peace and privacy? I submit to you that the answer is NO.

The magnolia is blooming. The magnolia is a very tall tree. While it's nice to see the huge blooms in the distance if I crane my neck to look up, it's kind of like the Presidential Christmas tree, you can't see the detail on ornaments way up top. But I noticed one bloom very low, at eye level. I decided to take a picture of it every day and watch its growth, short life, and death. I plan to post them all, in order, when I'm done.

There is going to be a meteor shower tonight that is supposed to be "torrential." It is from a destroyed comet that ran into Jupiter's gravitational field and swerved just enough to swing by us. The debris field is supposed to be heavy so there will be lots of flames in the sky as the debris hits our atmosphere and burns a streak across the clear skies above. Should be pretty.

It's really hot today, 94 degrees. Unusually hot for this time of year. I haven't turned on my AC yet so it is hot inside the apartment, and no air is moving. The cats are laying around with their tongues hanging out.

Tomorrow I'm picking up another basket from Bountiful Baskets. I can't was it. I hope there are berries in it! And tomatoes! And anything else!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Two and a Half Days

That's how long until the children are finished with this 2013-2014 school year. That's how long until I'm essentially done with the school year. I have a few days after the Memorial Day holiday of boxing up and cleaning up, but no kids will be in the building. By next Friday noon, I'll be sprung for the summer.

I'm looking forward once again to a long summer break of reading, writing, eating fruit and vegetables from Bountiful Baskets.

I'll nap, watch movies, visit.

I write a lot at my other blog. As a para-professional (fancy name for teacher's aide) in an elementary school, my salary is a 9-month salary but it's spread out over 12 months, So I will receive a paycheck through the summer (for work I already completed in the school year). It is a pittance, a paltry amount, but it's my pittance and I love it.

What this means to me, someone who is essentially a writer, is that I am paid while I stay at home and write! This makes me very happy. I will also read a lot and this also makes me happy. I've got Hulu, Snagfilms, Crackle, and Youtube to watch movies and documentaries at night and I enjoy that a lot.

It won't be a busy summer but it will be an enjoyable one. In two and a half days.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Carolina wren is expanding her nest under my window

There is a bird nest under the window air conditioner. The bird made the nest some time ago, before I moved to this apartment. The air conditioner is nailed in and not removed during the winter. It seems like a pretty smart thing to do to build a nest there.

Under the AC unit in the windowsill well
This year the bird decided to build an annex. Who doesn't like to think about adding on sometime? This bird does. So this morning I and the three cats hear loud chirping and scratches and scrambling at the window. I go outside to investigate and the birds go bonkers inside, particularly the kitten, Murray. He tries to claw his way through the little extender arms that shut the inside from the outside between the AC unit and the wall. I nail heavy cardboard over it so he doesn't punch through and make a break for freedom, taking the bird with him. He still goes crazy, standing on tip-toe trying to see the bird. Bert is pretty interested too.

I go outside to investigate and this is what I see.

The bird goes in & out thru the hole at bottom left
What you see on the right is the AC vent and at the back is the slider arms that close the window next to the unit. Mere thin plastic separates the bird from certain gobbling as my formerly outdoor kitten hunches on the other side.

The bird is pretty tiny but did an amazing (and fast) job of building the nest. I stood outside against the garage directly opposite the nest to get a picture. That is the only spot I can stand due to the vantage point- too far to the right and the AC unit obscures, and too far to the left and the window sill obscures. I have to stand directly opposite and shoot the photo straight on. Luckily there is a tree next to me and if I stand still for a long time, the bird relaxes and starts building again.

Going in...
Coming out...
If I ever thought for one minute to buy a transparent window bird house, I have my answer. NO. It is too agitating for the cats and too aggravating for the human.

Birders, do you know what this bird is? Is it a Carolina wren?

Looking at the cats...

Here are some photos of visits by some other birds today--

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bountiful Baskets: daikon. Also, chow chow, and zucchini

Many of you have mentioned on Facebook, real life, and on this blog that you especially enjoy when I write about what I'm cooking. I don't consider myself a very good cook. As a matter of fact, I am a better writer than a cook, so when I write about cooking it always sounds better than it came out in real life. My hopes never quite match up with the execution, but I keep trying.

I'm sort of handicapped in the cooking department, not having a sense of smell at all and my sense of taste reduced to bitter-sweet-salty. I have no palate. Although Christine Ha's blindness didn't keep her from winning Masterchef 3, so I guess there is no such thing as a handicapped cook when it comes down to it. Effort, determination and perseverance are the ingredients for the successful cook. Unfortunately, I have none of those either so I'm back to square one in the success-of-dishes department.

My skill comes from frugality, consistency, and creativity. I mostly cook using handy ingredients, things on sale, and my preferences. I cook the same things, on the same day, contentedly. (That's the consistency). I also get the Bountiful Basket every other Saturday, and I stick to using whatever is in the basket for my main ingredients.

This week we received a daikon. Apparently it is a kind of Asian radish. It is supposed to be mild with a small bite. I looked up a bunch of recipes and the one that seemed best was pickled daikon. What made it best was:

--the recipe used few ingredients
--I also received carrots in the basket and the recipe called for carrots

Here is what it'll look like

Now, I don't usually make a practice of going to the store to buy one item, that destroys the frugality of the dish. But the recipe called for rice vinegar and that IS one of my staples. I also needed garbage bags. I'd run out. So I headed to the Dollar Store for those items plus creamer for coffee, and raw pinto beans (because someone gave me chow chow relish and the two go together wonderfully. I will crock pot cook them while I'm at church Sunday.)

Anyway, off I went. But the Dollar Store didn't have rice vinegar. They had plain vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and other Asian condiments like soy sauce but no rice vinegar.

That is a toughie to substitute. Rice vinegar is sweet and distinctive. I went across the parking lot next door to the little grocery store run by an Asian lady and her husband. Surely they would have rice vinegar! Not only didn't she have it but she acted like she had never heard of it.

OK, I still wanted to make julienned pickled daikon and carrot relish. I thought and I thought. I came up with two ideas:

1. Find a recipe that doesn't use rice vinegar.
2. Use the sweet pickle juice in the almost-finished can of pickles as the rice vinegar substitute someone had canned and given me.

In the end I found another recipe that uses warm water and sugar, but I am still going to use a bit of the sweet pickle juice.


On another topic, someone had given me a homemade can of chow chow. Canning is alive and well in the south, and so is chow chow. Chow chow is a distinctively southern dish. The Armadillo Peppers blog says that chow chow is

"What is Chow-Chow Relish? The short answer is “good”. Chow-Chow Relish has long been a favorite on pinto beans in the South and its appeal is even broader when you consider hot dogs, hamburgers, black-eyed peas and its use on various greens such as turnip greens and collards. Chow-Chow (or Chow-Chow Relish) is made from chopped green tomatoes (and sometimes red tomatoes), cabbage, mustard seed or powder, onions, hot peppers, sweet peppers, and vinegar. Other optional ingredients include cucumbers, celery or celery seed, carrots, beans, asparagus, corn and cauliflower. Unlike most condiments, Chow-Chow retains a chunky (chopped) texture and is not pureed. The taste can be sweet, tangy, hot or a combination thereof. It is typically served cold and like many foods, there are various varieties with an increasing availability of “hot” versions."

The piece continues with origin and history of chow chow. All I know is that this relish is GREAT on top of pinto beans. I will wash and soak the pintos overnight and then cook them in the slow cooker while I'm at church tomorrow. Mmm hmmm, I might could make me some cornbread too, as they say in the vernacular.

The last thing I plan to cook is a yellow squash and zucchini casserole. I received both in the Bountiful Basket. I looked a long time for a recipe that doesn't use 8 or ten eggs (yes it's ridiculous, I agree). I found one that doesn't use eggs at all, which is OK, but the recipe doesn't use anything else either, except shaker cheese. So I am going to beef it up a little by using up my cottage cheese. We'll see how it goes.

No dessert this week. I'd bought some ice cream and have been nibbling on that. I don't need to make any cookies, muffins or brownies or even anything light like angel food cake with fruit. I'm about filled up with sweets. The ice cream did me in.

The Farmer's Market is behind the Dollar Store so I swung by to see if Jose had any bread left. He had hardly any, only two loaves by that late hour. The two he had remaining were not the crusty focaccia or olive bread I enjoy so much, but brown sugar-raisin-walnut. More of a breakfast bread. The loaf was huge though. Aw, man, twist my arm, it only took a few seconds of deciding before I said YES and scuttled away with a brown sweet loaf under my arm and visions of Pâté to spread on top dancing in my head.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Blue potatoes are just so wrong

We're winding down in this school year. In Georgia we go to school from August to May. This year had a later start in August so we'll gt out at the end of May instead of the middle.

I enjoy having a 9-month job where there are school breaks sprinkled throughout the school year and then the summer off. Its pay is a 9-month job, but stretched out via paychecks that are sent out 12 months. It's enough.

If one has the money, one never seems to have the time to enjoy things because they are always working, if one has the time, like me with a school year calendar, one never seems to have the money. LOL. I'll take the time.

The rest of the school year (about 16 days for the children) will be finishing end-of-year testing, the usual academics, but also field day, field trips, ice cream party, school talent show, and the like. In between, of course, we'll keep teaching up to the end. But I do enjoy seeing the kids be able to relax a little. The curriculum is very stringent here. They are always working.

I have no particular plans for the summer, other than to relax and enjoy it. I do plan to read a lot, both non-fiction (theological) books and some fiction. There was to be a new neighbor moving in next door (the other side of the house) but they partly moved in on May 1 and moved out on May 2. So that was that. When the final tenant moves in that will be an adjustment and we'll see how the routine goes.

The other neighbor moved out because as a single, divorced mom she wasn't saving enough money to buy her own house, and moved back in with her father to save a bit. It really does take two incomes these days to make a go of it. It is no easy task starting out these days. I'm glad I'm not.

The storms that rolled through the south have so far drifted north of us to Tennessee and South Carolina, and south of us to South GA and the panhandle of Florida. I can't say I'm sad. But I can't say I'm relieved, either. Tornado season isn't over.

Today I made a pan of roasted potatoes, roasted broccoli, roasted carrots, brownies, and boiled some quinoa for tomorrow's dinner of salmon patties with steamed asparagus on the side. I also cut up a cantaloupe and a few mangoes to make smoothies later.

The potatoes we received in the Bountiful Basket were Adirondack Blue potatoes. Yes, blue. Almost purple. They are a hybrid, made so that they'll have more 'anthocyanins'. Blue potatoes also boost the protein level of the meal. I decided I don't like blue potatoes. I don't like hybrids. They taste just fine. The look weird in a salad. Just give me golden mashed potatoes and I'll take care of the protein content myself, thanks. If I want more anthocyanins I'll eat blueberries.

It's a gorgeous, non-humid, cool but warm day. (Air is cool, sun is warm). With no one living on the other side of the house it is quiet here on the property. The cats are napping. All is well.