Saturday, May 30, 2015

Frugal cooking begins with frugal shopping

The Bountiful Baskets site closed down in our area, so for the last 10 months I've sadly been doing without. However a few months ago a friend who decided to make the trek to the next nearest site in the city offered to pick one up for me when she goes. I was grateful for that, and several times in the last few months I've once again received a wonderful basket of goodies. I truly miss the variety of foods, known and exotic. Satsuma tangerines, champagne grapes, jicama...all unfamiliar to me and unavailable in this area. As a matter of fact, the Satsumas were available for the first time in the US thanks to BB. As for the known foods, the word "bountiful" is not a misnomer. Last time there was a blueberry add-on and I bought a flat. There were 12 half-pints in it and after giving a few away, I ate every single half-pint within a few days. I could live on berries and tomatoes for the rest of my life.

My friend lives 10 miles up the road, pretty close to the city. All she needs to do is get on the highway and she can zip in. It is further for me, so I don't go. When she returns to her home town I am there waiting at her nearby local convenience store to pick up the basket she got for me in the city. It works out. I'm so grateful for friends who offer to do things like this.

Speaking of friends, another one emailed me, alerting me to the fact that our local grocery store's weekly special included blueberries this week. Usually a pint costs $4, but on sale they were $2. I will definitely buy a pint of delicious blueberries for that price. I was glad she'd let me know. I had not planned on doing a grocery shopping this week.

As it was, when I got there, various other items were on sale. I stuck to my guns, and bought only things on sale, and emerged with a good load of groceries for $19. The baguette that was $1 would be a bit stale, but Ill turn that into bruschetta with fresh basil from my herb garden and garden tomatoes a friend at work gave me. The cottage cheese on sale was an item I'd normally buy. That is the hard part about sales. You have to remain conscious of your usual habits and refrain from buying items just because they are on sale. Only buy what you use.

By sticking to mainly what was on sale or marked down, I saved nearly $7. I bought a variety, including protein, fresh fruit and veggies, bread, and a treat in the creamer.

The Deli/Bakery item is a marked down baguette. I used the bread to make bruschetta with garden tomatoes a friend gave me, with my own home-grown basil.

Anyway the other point of this essay about frugal living, besides buy what's on sale if you're really going to use it, is friends. In the pioneer days, and in the Depression,people depended on one another. Each person had a skill or a favorite food or was particularly good at growing thus and such. They keep each other in mind and swapped. That is what we like-minded friends do now. We keep an eye out for each other, remember what we like, and sometimes just pick stuff up at the store for each other unasked.

Friends and sharing make frugal living easier. Not only financially, as when I shared blueberries with a friend or another friend gave me the tomatoes, but emotionally, We are all trying to make it. It is nice to know there are like-minded people out there, and also that there are people looking out for each other.

As a side note, I have to say I love living in Georgia where there are home grown tomatoes already!! Here is a photo of my bruschetta, with honey lavender hot tea.

The back story is I came down sick during car rider duty yesterday, fever, chills, and when I got home the fever that had been 101 spiked to 103+ and hung there. I don't think I've ever had such a high temperature as an adult. It was a little scary.

This morning I felt better and the fever was back down to 99, but this afternoon it's back up over 100. However, I haven't eaten much in the last two days except for a scrambled egg. With fresh tomatoes on the windowsill I cannot hold back any longer. I made bruschetta, with freshly picked tomatoes from a friend's garden and fresh picked purple basil from my herb pot.

You brush the bread with olive oil, grill or toast, and meanwhile cut tomatoes very small and place in strainer to drain. Toss with a bit more olive oil, salt, and the basil. Top the bread with it while the bread is still hot. Who needs chicken soup when you have tomatoes?!

The baguette I bought was marked down to $1.19 because it was the expiration date. As time goes on and the bread gets staler, it will make even better bruschetta, since you need a hard bread to handle the juicy topping. Another thing the Italians do with older bread is make panzanella, a bread and tomato salad. A recipe for that one is here.

The lesson here is to be frugal with your shopping but never be frugal with your friends!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A normal Saturday

We have some end-of-the-year activities that are very fun for the kids but very tiring for the adults. Field Trip, Field Day, and this week, Accelerated Reader reward party and VIC reward party. The AR party occurs outside where the kids who have read to meat a certain goal over the quarter are rewarded with being able to run around the field in bathing suits under a fire truck's hose as a giant sprinkler, dance to amplified music, eat Popsicles and generally have fun. The VIC party is a reward party for children who have met a certain behavior goal over the quarter. These kids slide down bouncy houses into a pool, like a mini-water park. There's amplified music and general goofing around in the field. It is fun under the sun, but it's also all-hands-on-deck for the parapros as we monitor and help make sure the kids are safe and enjoying themselves. Not to mention working the daily grind of keeping all our little charges in the school academically occupied and behaving or at least contained, lol,  as the school year winds down to the 5 days left. I came home tired Friday night.

This morning I got up at 6 am refreshed from a very long week at school. It was very cool so I took advantage of the weather to use the oven for a long period to cook and roast. I made granola, which I adore. Three cookie sheets of crunchiness to enjoy for the next two weeks:

In addition to the three pans of granola I put in some red potatoes to bake, rainbow carrots, cabbage rounds, and butternut squash to roast. All were tossed with virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I don't toss the veggies with a lot of spices because I usually turn them into something else. The squash will likely become squash and potato soup, or mashed pan-fried patties. So I save the extra spices for later so as to be versatile. I also cut up a basketball sized, juicy and perfect cantaloupe. It was on sale at the Marketplace for $1.00. Part of it will become smoothies.

After all that, while listening to sermons and some music, I went back to bed. Ahhh, what a treat to be able to do that. I did sleep for about an hour and a half, snoozing happily in the cool air with the cats. What bliss. When I got up I wrote and studied a while and this is what happens when I settle down at the table with the laptop:

Bert settles in. Luke jumps up to either settle also or to groom Bert

Luke wants in. First he grooms Bert, then he settles down on the other side of the table.

Murray wants to be around us, to be near, but not exactly with us. He is under the table.

I'm really blessed. I've got a full fridge, a full house, a full mind and a full heart. Pretty good for an old, tired parapro!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

There's No Tired like End-of-the-year-Teacher tired

There's a thing going around Facebook. It is a quote on top of a cartoon of an exhausted teacher and the quote says,

"There's no tired like end-of-the-year teacher tired."

Yes, except there is no tired also like end-of-the-year para-pro tired, too.

We have so many end of the year activities, end of the year assessments, end of the year deadlines, it's bewildering.

Today we had a party outside sponsored by the Library at school. The school librarian, her parapro, and other staff associated with them held a reward party for accelerated readers. All those children who earned a certain amount of points in a reading program were treated to an end-of-the-year party. This party, which was held outdoors, included amplified music, Popsicles, and a fire truck spraying water! The kids were told ahead of time and wore their bathing suits to school. Release 120 kids on the soccer field to run around, dance, do cartwheels, chase each other, and play under the fire hose, all under breezy, cloudless, 80 degree skies, and well, you have the perfect recipe for fun under the sun. You never heard so much kid laughter.

For me it was exhausting, it was hot, but it was absolutely wonderful to see so many happy kids playing outside, all because of their success in reading and being rewarded for their efforts!

I was pretty beat when I left school. But it is Thursday and if it is Thursday I must grocery shop. I must. Luckily the Dollar Store and Grocery Store are only 1 mile from school so I drove down and noticed the new striping when I approached the stores' parking lot. The two stores are adjacent to each other. I am glad the parking lot was re-striped. It was getting kind of like a free for all there with cars parked every which way. I like things to be organized. So I was happy with the new striping alerting one and all as to where they should park. Organizing the world one parking lot at a time.

In the Dollar Store, which was mercifully quiet, I was bleary and not making good decisions. Or maybe they were excellent decisions. In addition to my other groceries, unusually I ended up with a bag of popcorn, a bag of chips, and a bag of potato sticks. Clearly salty and crunchy is my comfort food.

I came home and made an open faced tuna & grapes sandwich, spilled out some chips, and drank chilled hibiscus tea mixed with fizzy club soda. I had a piece of blackberry pie with Cool Whip for dessert. Ahhh, home and peace and quiet. But mostly sitting down. I was sitting down. That's my goal in life now. Not being President. Not winning the Pulitzer. Not finding a cure for cancer. Just sitting.

Now to make it through Friday, then the next 4.5 days at school with the kids, and the next 5 days after that. Then I'm sprung. For now, I'll watch Bosch on Amazon streaming, have a glass of milk, pet my cat, and soon after, fall asleep.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kid Art

At school kids love to draw. Give them a blank piece of paper and a pencil or crayons and with no hesitation they will get busy. As they get older the blank page scares them into writer's block and illustrator's block, but not when they're 5 years old. They love to draw.

I can tell a lot about a child by their drawings. I'm fascinated by them, because they give me a window into their world, one they can't articulate but from their perspective things seem very different from the same world I inhabit with them. Grass is taller. Needles are longer. Things they don't talk about, like harvesting corn, they draw. Random things that otherwise I'd never have known they enjoy or think about.

I work in a kindergarten and as the kids draw things that tickle me I collect them. I have a stash of kid art going back five years now. Here it is, including the latest entries.

Hospital visit
 This little guy wound up in the hospital overnight. He drew, from left to right, the men's and ladies rest room doors (across from his room). Click to enlarge, and note the detail with which he illustrated the difference between the men's door and the ladies'. The next object is the TV on the high shelf mounted on the wall, with the plugs and wires hanging down. There he is on the hospital bed, with the nurse approaching with what looks to be a very long needle. Next to that is a family member sitting in the chair, and behind that is the tray full of medical objects the nurse had wheeled in- all needles.

Alligator, by K.
I think this is the most evocative alligator I've ever seen. With a few pencil strokes she captured the actual physical look and the spooky fierceness of the animal.

Combine harvesting corn, by W.
 In this one, I can feel the heat of the sun, see the dry stalks on the dusty ground and hear the rumble of the huge machinery as it grinds up the corn.

Ant, by A.
 My, but that ant looks tired. Just like A. usually did.

Visit to the Dentist, by H.
 Above from l-r, we have the door to the examining room, then the dentist holding the tube, then the patient with mouth wide open, mama standing by, and below, a random picture of a mouth with teeth.

Love, by A.
Above is an end-of-year picture given to me by a child, it is her and me, she said, with the heart in between. It's my favorite.

Once per year the kindergarten has Chalk Day. The children bring in colored chalk and they are allowed to sit on the pavement and draw as many pictures as they want. Until this year, I'd despaired a little because after only a few moments it seemed that the bulk of them became discontent and wanted to do something else. They complained, they fussed, they said it was boring. Was chalk drawing on the sidewalk a past-time from an era gone by? Well, this year my hopes were restored. The children settled into drawing very nicely, put time and effort into their creations, and cooperated like champions, helping each other out and making suggestions like pros. The photos don't do the chalk drawings justice, but here they are.

In 9 1/2 days I'll say goodbye to this year's crop. I believe I have done my best to support the children and support the teachers who teach the children. But with kids, you always wonder did I do enough? Did I do all I could to ensure they had the best support socially, physically, academically? In the end, the best I can do is the best I can do, and time will tell what kind of little people they will grow into.  They'll pass on to the next grade, where another group of teachers and staff are waiting to take them under their wing like we did. So long and farewell, my little ducklings.

Friday, May 15, 2015

School is almost out and my stack of books is getting higher

A spring Friday night...having finished a supper of fresh egg scrambled with a red pepper, bagel, and a creaky red potato. Yum. it's so goo, in fact, I've eaten this exact dinner all week.

I'm listening to Spotify's Folk channel. These are the gentle acoustic songs of my childhood of the 1960s I didn't like then but I do now. Especially the Mamas and the Papas, their harmonies are gorgeous.

I've been thinking about the 1960s a lot lately. It was a terrible, crazy time. The death counts on the nightly news with Walter Cronkite, toting up the cost of Viet Nam War in bodies and blood. The hippies turning everything upside down. The assassinations, riots and chaos. It felt like the world was ending. Or out of control anyway.
Entrance of the Drive In, showing screen, admissions office, and driveway.
HillTop Drive in, East Greenwich RI. It was a active drive-in for decades.
These photographs were taken before the site was adapted for another use.
Demolished 1999 Source

On the upside, it was a thrilling time too. The NASA space shots. Watching a man land on the moon, get out of the spaceship, and walk around. I was amazed. Color television. Bar codes. Piling into the wayback of the station wagon with bunches of cousins and going to the Drive-In Movie Theater in our pjs. It was thrilling and all coming on so fast.

I remember the Kent Cinema, the two-screen theater in town next to where the kids would go get milk shakes at the creamery after the game. If you tried to go to an R-rated movie the ticket booth lady would holler at you. "I know your parents. I am calling them right now!"

Almacs where after you paid for your groceries the cashier would give the mom a placard with a black number on it. You went to the car and then drove up to the front of the grocery store, and the bag boy had taken your groceries and put them in a gray bin with a corresponding number to your  placard, and placed the bin on a conveyor belt with rollers. The guy would push it through a flap like a large doggie door, and they rolled on the belt outside to the front of the store. You pulled up curbside and gave the placard to the guy. He'd load your groceries from the bin to your car. Once in a while he'd get the bins mixed up and we wouldn't notice the wrong groceries were in the car till we got home. The kids heard some swearing then, and the mom would have to go back and track down her real groceries.

Well love beads gave way to puka beads which gave way to mood rings then pet rocks and Tomagatchis and then I was grown up and didn't track fads anymore.

So all that is water under the bridge. In today's fast world I have deliberately slowed my life down. I want peace and quiet. And here it is-

I have 9.5 more days of school then I am out for the summer. I got my summer kitchen chair out and swapped it for the winter chair. I sit at the table in the kitchen and sip chilled herb tea and read and watch movies and study and write. I need a good chair due to the length of time I sit in it! That means taking the 100-year-old Bankers chair from the bedroom and putting it at the kitchen table. The Italian metal and wood chair I usually use during the year is good and comfortable, but is about 3/4 inch too high. My calf muscles get cramped.

I am going to resume studying quantum physics, make collages and hopefully some cloth covered books with the huge pile of good scraps my friend gave me, and take photos and post-process them in Pixlr. I am going to watch movies and good TV shows, like Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing and then double feature it with a re-viewing of Branagh's version from 20 years ago. There is a show called Eureka that is a sci-fi series about a town full of quantum physicist-genius types. I'll watch that, too.

I've got my books stacked up and ready to go, John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence, and Fatal Inquiry, #6 in the Barker and Llewellyn Victorian detective series by Will Thomas. And a few others, as well.

Here is some Boogie Woogie to enjoy. The music is outstanding and the dancers are amazing. The pianist is Silvan Zingg, he can speak many languages, (French, German, Italian, English, to name a few)is considered THE finest boogie woogie pianist alive today,and is a tremendous pianist of any genre. He founded the San Francisco International Boogie Woogie Festival.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Summer of Elizabeth

What a lovely week, weather wise. No humidity, cool temps, and after the early rain on Monday, sunshine. Abundant sunshine with puffy clouds! I love April in Georgia.

This is the end of the year push at school. We have a few weeks to go, our school year ends for the kids on May 29. May is full of end of year testing, field trips, field day, Derby Day, Kindergarten program rehearsals, Kindergarten Program, chalk day, bubble day, extra recess...and academics crammed in between.

My plan is to survive till the end with the kids and make it through post-planning to reach that golden apple: SUMMER. Post-planning is just that, planning for closing this year out and planning for next year. It also involves completely reducing our classroom to boxes that are either stored on a shelf or on rolling carts. The custodians paint and do stuff to the floor over the summer, so all the furniture is moved to the edges of the room and everything movable is boxed and put up so when the time comes they can move everything out.

The end of the year is kind of melancholy ... we work hard all year to get the kindergarteners reading, writing and independently able to do some work. Small groups or pairs at centers click along with less fussing and more ability to complete the work by themselves. They have matured, get jokes, tattle only 1000 times a day instead of 100000, can read and do it excitedly, and are generally pleasant to be around. Many can even tie their own shoes and open their own milks by this point, lol. The team prepares them for the leap to first grade...and we start all over again with excitable little peeing puppies in August. And so it goes.

When I went outside this afternoon to put a bag in the trash, the sheep and lambs all ran over to see what I was doing. They baa'd and stomped, and were generally entertaining. They were probably very disappointed to see that I was not their shepherdess. It is very fun to have farm animals around.

I took a photo at sunset the other day. The puffy clouds were thinning out but still gorgeous, and pink. I tweaked it in Pixlr to look like an oil painting.

I don't do anything in summer. I stay inside except for early morning and evening, I read, watch movies and tv, study, write, and commune with my cats. I don't do anything like travel or see museums or waterparks or visit, because I don't want to do those things. I like home. Home sweet home.

I wasn't feeling that well today but I still hobbled around (my achin' back...neck...& head) and deep cleaned the apartment. I also de-cluttered. I am so so so happy right now in a clean and pretty apartment, smells of Pledge and spring flowers, all neat and orderly, who wouldn't want to stay here every single day? I would! And I am going to be able to, soon. In time this very good and great school year will end. It will be the Summer of Elizabeth! As long as it doesn't become the Summer of George. Oops, the Summer of George didn't turn out so well for him, did it?