Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring is Coming!

We've had warm, thawing weather, and then we had snow again and "cold". It DOES seem that spring is finally on it's way, though. Today it got up to 38 deg. F out of direct sunlight. Unfortunately it's getting cool enough at night to make the roads slick in the mornings till enough cars have passed to start the snow melting again.

So, let's see.... What's happened in the last week?

Tay met with the child psycologist and took the "Weschler Individual Scale for Children" test. It was apparently some sort of IQ assessement geared to judge how well a child follows orders; organizes thoughts and/or items; solves problems; comprehends ideas; etc. I go back in on Thursday of THIS week to find out how she comes out in that test. L. seems to think that the test should pretty well show that Tay has some learning disabilities, and should point in a specific direction as to the type of disabilities that Tay may be facing.

With Tay's therapy, we met Stephanie finally on Friday. She came over for a bit of "get to know you" time, Friday morning before Tay and I headed in for Tay's bi-weekly meeting with L. Then Stephanie is going to start coming out here to meet with Tay 4 to 5 days a week, in the mornings. Tomorrow morning she'll come out and hopefully we can get into working on school work with Tay. Stephanie said she'd be very willing to sit down and try to help us go through Tay's school work, and to help Tay with the learning process. *sigh* I hope _I_ can hold my temper when Tay starts getting nasty about doing the school work. I'd say that I hope Tay can hold hers, but at the same time Stephanie needs to get some idea of what kind of help Tay needs, and the only way that's going to happen is when Tay initially blows up in front of Stephanie. At the same time, of course, I'm hoping that simply having Stephanie here helps Tay calm the impulses to be mean when she's faced with something she doesn't want to do. And Stephanie DID say that she'll be taking Tay out and doing stuff as well, not just schoolwork here at the house. Which is FINE BY ME. *grin*

**********

Kinda ironic/funny (and yet, very very NOT funny at all), Thursday night, Scott and I were talking about the Recession/Depression we're in. He had noted how yet another TV commercial was promising some sort of aid plan for buying the cars they're all so desperate to sell, or the home improvement merchandise, or the vacation, or anything else you see on TV or hear on the radio. Seems like everybody's out to tell you how they can help you save money or get ahead with this recession. Anyway, I commented on the fact that just 5 short months ago, the government was still trying to tell us that there WASN'T a recession, that it was all a bunch of hooey, and that things would be all peachy keen. And now EVERYBODY sees that not only IS there a recession, but a lot of folks are expecting it to become worse and last longer than is being admitted to as yet by the government.

(There was a clip in a Time Mag. or maybe it was NewsWeek, not to long ago about Suze Ormond's predictions and advice for weathering the recession, and she claimed that she feels this could go on till 2015. That sounds LONG, but honestly more believeable than the other financial "experts" who are "expecting" a turn around by Dec. '09.)

Well anyway, Scott commented on how things around here still seem pretty good and his company (his INDIVIDUAL company, not the international group of companies as a whole, JUST the one here in town that Scott works for) actually made a 70+ million dollar profit last quarter. I reminded him that those profits will continue ONLY as long as the rest of the country and the rest of the world can afford to buy the goods that Scott's company makes. Admittedly, Scott's co. sells chemical blends to oil producers, and as long as the oil producers need these chemicals, Scott's company will continue to sell them. So it's NOT like it's based on the individual purchasing power of your every-day working stiff in Kentucky. BUT, when it gets to the point that the guy in Kentucky and 50 million countrymen just like him cannot afford to buy fuel for the house, then the oil companies will stop being able to buy the chemicals that Scott's company produces. THEN Scott's company will see some slack in their income. Scott was predicting that this would take a while.

Friday, they had a meeting that Scott said was almost funny, in that I'd "called it" accurately again. Turns out that the international group of companies has been directed that EVERY employee in their employ must take 2 weeks of leave-without-pay this year. The difference for Scott's company is that he and his coworkers are being given the choice as to HOW they want to take that leave. Thus far, the boss told Scott that he can take it all at once, or portion out one day at a time throughout the year, so long as it totals up to 10 days without pay in the course of the next year. Now mind you, that's gonna hurt, but not so bad as somebody else in a different branch of the company who is being forced to take 2 weeks without pay all at once. If Scott takes a day here, a day there, he can manage to keep his paychecks from getting so low that it hurts us. And for that matter, if he tries to take them this summer, we can have those slim paychecks during the time we'll hopefully need less electric and heat, resulting in smaller electric & fuel bills during the time when we've got less money. And that time can be used to do work around the house here, or gardening over at the inlaws, or even hunting and fishing. So, ultimately it's not a GREAT thing, but at least they've given Scott and coworkers the option to portion it out slowly. And Scott admits that as hard as that could his US, it's going to be a hell of a lot harder for some of his coworkers who're already having a hard time keeping their heads above water. (Thinking of Mike and Tasha who've got 4 kids and live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment because they cannot afford bigger. Tasha doesn't work, so that means 2 weeks of decreased pay for Mike will hit them harder than 2 weeks for Scott will hit us. Admittedly, that financial crush is a small part of the reason we stopped at 1 child, instead of having 4 of them. So part of it for us is luck, part of it is just good common sense in the use of birth control. *wry smile*)

**********

Here are a couple of recipes I tried this past week. DANG they were good!

Pork & Pinto Beans

1 pound dried pinto beans
1 boneless pork loin roast, 3 to 4 pounds (I think I used a shoulder instead.)
1 (14-1/2 oz) can stewed tomatoes (I used diced.)
5 medium carrots, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1-1/2 c water
2 (4 oz) cans chopped green chilies
2 tsp chili powder (original recipe called for 2 TBSP, but I KNEW that'd be too hot for us, 2 teaspoons was perfect!)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano (just used italian seasoning instead)
dash pepper
2 pkg corn tortilla chips or 30 (9-inch) flour tortillas (I used lime-flavored tortilla chips. YUM!)
Toppings: chopped green onions, sliced ripe olives, chopped tomatoes, sour cream and/or shredded cheddar cheese.

Place beans in a saucepan; add water tocover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. (Or, you could just soak them overnight without heating them first.)

Drain & rinse beans; discard liquid. Place roast in a 5 quart slow-cooker. In a bowl, combine beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, water, chilies, and all the seasonings. Pour over roast. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, reduce heat to low; cook 5 hours longer or until beans are tender.

Remove meat, remove as much fat as possible from meat and discard fat. Shred meat with two forks and return to slow cooker. Stir into bean & veggie mixture well and allow to heat through for about a half-hour again. With a slotted spoon, serve meat mixture over tortilla chips or rolled up in tortillas. Serve with toppings as desired. Makes 10 servings.

(This was delicious with the lime chips the first day, then reheated and served in tortilla shells for days afterwards. DO be careful of how much chili powder you add. As I said, the original recipe called for 2 Tablespoons, but knowing our limits I only used 2 teaspoons instead. That was deliciously spicy without being overbearingly so. I cannot imagine what the original 2 Tbsp would have been like, I only know that I would not have been able to eat it. *wry smile*)

*****

Baked Rigatoni with Ham and Mushrooms

1/3 oz dried porcini or 6 oz fresh button mushrooms
2 Tbsp unlated butter, if using fresh mushrooms, plus 6 Tbsp
12 oz dry rigatoni
1/4 c all-purpose flour
2-1/2 c milk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 oz Fontina or Swiss cheese, cut into julienne strips (I actually used over 8 oz!)
6 oz ham, roughly chopped (I used a full pound.)

If using porcini mushrooms, place in a bowl with lukewarm water and soak until softened. Drain, squeeze out excess water and chop finely; set aside. If using fresh mushrooms, cut off and discard the stems, wipe clean with towel and thinly slice. In a frying pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add the sliced fresh mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large pot bring 5 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook for about 6 minutes; they should be very al dente. (I would cook actually about 2 minutes longer as we found them a little TOO al dente, even after baking with the cheese and the sauce and everything.) Drain the pasta and transfer it to a bowl (or right back into the cooking pot, off the heat). Add 2-1/2 Tbsp of the butter and toss well.

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 deg. C). In a large saucepan, melt 2-1/2 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir till smooth, about 2 minutes. (Again, I'd double this part as we would have liked the pasta a good bit more saucy.) Stirring constantly, gradually add the milk. Continue to stir until it thickens and is smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the mushrooms, sprinkle with nutmeg and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grease a 8x12 inch baking dish with the remaining butter. (I used my 13x9x2 inch dish.) Arrange half of the rigatoni in the dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese and the ham over the top, and spoon on 1/2 of the sauce. Repeat the layers in the same order, ending with sauce. Place in oven and bake until heated through and bubbly, about 20 minutes. (I covered with foil to retain some of the moisture while baking. So, I popped it back in for another 2 or 3 minutes under the broiler to brown up the cheese a bit, after removing the foil at the very end.) Serve at once! Serves 6.

(As I said, I used considerably more ham and cheese than was called for, simply to seemingly have a bit sprinkled over. I cannot imagine how 4 oz of cheese could be divided over all this pasta and actually seem to provide much cheesy-ness. Next time I make this, I will also double the sauce portion, as we could have used considerably more sauce to moisten the pasta more. And the pasta would have been better either with more sauce to moisten the noodles better in baking, or to boil them more in the first place, so they weren't quite so Al dente. Scott and I liked this recipe pretty well. Tay didn't care for it overly much, though she admitted that it may just have been because the noodles were still a little too firm for her taste.)

*****

It's funny, for dinner tonight we're having grilled steak, baked potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. I think I've finally come to the point where I officially kinda like mushrooms. This will be the third time this week that we've had mushrooms. If I'm not careful, Scott and Tay may get burnt out. *wry smile* Growing up, my sisters and I all hated mushrooms with a passion. I started, little over a year ago, trying them now and again, trying to learn to like them. I've succeeded for the most part. (Prefer them either raw, or really nicely browned up with some onion. Lightly sauteed like in the Rigatoni thing above isn't QUITE my favorite way to eat them.) My sister Shelli is starting on the same attempt, but has only just begun making mushrooms for herself in the effort to learn to like them. I DO think it's quite true that it takes about 15 tries before you really learn to like something. (And I'm sure there are some things that some people may never learn to like. I'm pretty well off on the idea of trying insect anything, myself.) And Kori, to the best of my knowledge, is still very very opposed to the thought of actually consuming anything that contains mushrooms of any sort. So, yet again...... I'm least picky! *grin*

(This was always something of a gloating point for me, growing up. That of the 3 of us I was the most willing to try something new and eat my veggies. Brussels-sprouts, spinach, zucchini, onions, raw tomato, asparagus, broccoli WITHOUT cheese sauce, now mushrooms...... I think Shelli likes all of the above except the mushrooms now, but it took her well into college before she'd eat them. Kori still won't eat them at all, as far as I know. But me..... I love them all! Ok, LIKE them all at least. *wink & grin*)

Those are the only 2 new recipes I tried this week. I actually don't have any new recipes lined up for this coming week. So y'all will have to wait a bit before I post something new. *wry smile*

**********

We got new name-tags at work. Apparently nametags boost a feeling of community in customer service jobs. Our library director (great guy! really!!) read a study that showed this and decided that it was time we all wore name-tags. In the past, we pages have been instructed to wear tags that simply indicated we were library staff. Ironic how few patrons actually paid attention to them. *wry smile* (I cannot tell you how many times somebody would ask "do you work here?" even though I had the staff-badge hanging around my neck.) The old staff-badges were ugly as well. (Simply our library card with "Staff" written in the section where a patron would sign their name.) And we all had to wear them on these horrible elastic-necklace things. UGH! For me, the card kept getting cracked as I'd lean against it while checking out materials to patrons out at the desk. It hung at just the right level across my chest that the card would crack over the course of a couple of weeks. By the time I broke 3 of them, I just stopped wearing them at all. I actually bought some t-shirts with our library emblem just so that I could cry off from wearing the staff-badge all the time. (Hell, if I'm wearing a library shirt, that should be indicator enough that I AM a library employee. Especially if I'm found out in the stacks putting books away. *smile*)

Anyway, the new name-tags are non-negotiable. However we were given the option of lanyard, magnetic pin-backing, or pincher clip. I opted for the magnetic pin back. And we were given the option of one of 6 different pictures alongside our name and rank. I picked a brightly colored stack of books. (Ahhhh, clip-art!) Then I brought it home and "prettied it up" a bit more with a couple of stickers of dragonflies and flowers. *grin* Hope the boss doesn't have any problem with that! And now, all the folks who come through my line can know my name. *sigh*

*****

In that same line, there's a guy who comes in regularly who used to work with my dad. This guy started hanging around Dad about the same time I had Tay. At one point he came over to the house very shortly after Tay was born (and I was still living at home) and caught me in my night-clothes and was rather creepy in how he looked at me and how he looked at Tay. Since then, he's said and done other things that just gave me the creeps. (Not the least of which was last Spring when he and Dad were at the Farmer's market, and as Tay and I gave my dad a hug, this guy asked if HE could have a hug too.)

Anyway, so a couple of weeks ago he came in while I was at the desk and started getting on my case as to Dad's where-abouts. I told him that Dad was still in Spokane and advised him to get ahold of my dad himself, as he has Dad's email. He commented that my dad never returned his emails, and started to get nasty with ME while asking why that was, if he (this guy) had done something to tick off my Dad. Quite honestly, I've NEVER liked this guy. He's creepy and rude. And I only tolerated him for my dad's sake. Now that Dad's left state, I'd be just as well never seeing this guy again. But he won't leave me along, continually trying to strike up conversations that frequently result in him quizzing me as to my dad's every move. (As if I'm my dad's keeper?!?! I love my dad, but I'm NOT responsible for his whereabouts.)

So, finally I talked to Dad a couple of days back and told him that this guy had been getting rather disruptive at work and would Dad PLEASE email the guy and get him off MY case. Even if I happened to be friendly with this guy, for him to be taking up so much of my time at work, and causing a scene as well, is not something I need. Dad kinda grumbled about how he hasn't kept in touch with ANYBODY from here, except ONE other former coworker, and myself. Evidently Dad hates writing enough that he figures even emails to "friends" from "home" are too much. Anyway, I pressured Dad till he agreed that he'd get in touch with this one guy and hopefully get him to knock it off in harassing me. I also kinda let my dad know that this guy was NOT somebody I felt like keeping in touch with myself, so please either tell the guy to find other friends, or to keep in touch himself. Hopefully that will be the end of this creep getting in my face.

(Wow..... I cannot help looking at this from the point of somebody who doesn't know me in person and getting the impression that maybe I'm just being mean to this guy. But that really isn't it at all. There have been very occasional people throughout my life who've set off alarm-vibes in my gut. I don't mean to imply that they ARE predators of some sort, but that my gut tells me these are NOT people I want to be associating with. This guy is one of those few people. I try not to make rush judgements as to people based on their gender or color or religion, so please don't think that this is some snap-judgement based on his gender. But honestly, people have intuition for a reason, and I try to listen to mine when it tells me to avoid a person. As I said, this guy has set off all kinda intuitional alarms since I first met him. I've met other of my Dad's friends who are perfectly fine and whom I've got little problem with other than basic differences in opinion about political issues. So, it's not that at all either. I don't know..... I don't want to give anybody any impression that I'm a nasty judgemental type person. Just, this guy creeps me out in major ways. Anyway.....)

*****

Well, I'd better finish this up. Sounds like Scott just went out to start up the grill. Better go get my potatoes and mushrooms going.

Have a Blessed Day!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What a Grumpy Brat!

And no, actually..... I'm not talking about my child this time. *chuckle*

There's a clerk at the grocery store, let's call her "Amy" shall we? Amy tends to have a VERY bad attitude. Now, to a degree, Amy reminds me quite a bit of myself. Short, pudgy, not blessed with a terribly pretty face by nature. (Hey, I know I'm not homely or dog ugly, but I'm also honest enough to know that I don't have a typically "pretty" face.) But..... It's amazing how a smile and a happy attitude can change the appearance of even one who's not naturally blessed with good looks. This girl, Amy, has a seemingly permanent sour expression and nasty attitude toward her customers.

For the longest time I've really attempted to give her the benefit of the doubt about the possibility that she's simply had a bad day. But, EVERY day? Every time I go into the grocery store (anywhere from 1 to 4 times a week, though I try to limit it to 1 trip a week), Amy is snarly, and scowling, and all in all considerably less than pleasant. Hell, I even know that a happy upbeat customer can help improve the day of a tired-on-their-feet clerk, and I try to be that customer just as I try to be that "happy, upbeat clerk" when _I'M_ on the job. It's not always possible, just as everybody else, I have my off days. But no matter how many times I've stepped into Amy's line, and smiled at her, and inquired as to how HER day is going, she looks at me, rolls her eyes, picks up her "phone" and calls for a bagging clerk to come help take care of my groceries. I ask as to her day, and she glares at me and DOES NOT ask me how my day has gone, much less respond to my initial question. She never wishes me a good day as I receive my receipt from her (as is protocall, from my understanding), much less calls me by my name. (Again, from what I've been told, it's pretty well required to address the customer along the lines of "Thank you Mr./Mrs. A. and have a good afternoon." when handing the customer their receipt.) Not ONCE in the couple of year's I've been using this grocery store weekly, has Amy addressed me by name, much less wished me a good afternoon.

And today, when I dared ask (because I didn't see it totalled up) if I'd received my bag-credits (for using cloth bags instead of plastic), she actually snarled at me and snapped that yeah, she'd given me the dang credit. *shaking head*

Enough is enough. Next time I go to the store, I'm going to corner Sue or Donna (the two Store Managers) and make a complaint about Amy's attitude. I try not to complain, because I don't want to be known as the griping customer. I go with the attitude that this is my neighbourhood and I want to enjoy the people I see regularly, and I want to enjoy seeing me when I come in. But, enough is enough. And, at the same time, I think I'm going to put in a good word on behalf of both Casey and Kathryn. Casey was terribly sweet today to keep an eye on my full cart while I ran to the restroom, and Kathryn always has a smile and spends a couple of minutes letting me enjoy the flowers (especially the hyacinths!) at the floral department. Most of the people at the store are dolls! I hate that it's come to the point where I feel I need to complain about one of them.

Would YOU complain? After years of being ignored and snarled at by this clerk, but giving her a good attitude in return, is it WORTH complaining after being snapped at, when you've let everything else slide over the past couple of years?

*****

Tay's going to see the Child Psychologist through the Raven school this next Thursday! Apparently 2 of the 3 categories on her IEP (individual education plan) test, taken last Friday, came back normal, but the Math category was low enough that it's requiring her to now see the Child Psychologist to be tested for learning disabilities.

YEAH!!!! I cannot tell you HOW happy it makes me that she actually tested LOW enough to qualify for the further testing. I was afraid she'd breeze through it all, and not qualify at all, and we'd be back to having to shell out the $$ to take her to a child psychologist on our own time and money. We don't have that kind of money, so it's a real blessing that her test scores, in even the one category, were low enough that she qualified for the testing through the school program!

This also means that she'll qualify for an IEP, which is basically special ed, even if she DOESN'T test positive for something along the lines of ADD or Dyslexia. And that need for Special Ed. almost guarantees her a spot in the YESS program next year. Combine the Special Ed. needs with the fact that she's seeing a therapist for behavioral/mood issues, and there's no reason why she shouldn't be in the YESS program next year.

Again, I cannot begin to express how big a relief this is. I know it's not perfect, that Tay is being diagnosed with learning disorders and in need of Special Ed. and a therapist and all........ But, for how badly things had gotten around here (how bad they can be, on days), this is a MAJOR blessing! And a major load of stress off my shoulders!!!

I WILL update as I get more info.

*****

Things did NOT improve at work this past week. Though it was rather comical that at one point the Kiss Ass approached me to gripe about the "mixed signals" she's getting from the boss: "yelled at for NOT asking a question, then getting yelled at when I DID ask the question." Her comment to me was about how danged frustrating this is. It was all I could do not to get snarky with her, considering she is an almost daily source of frustration for me and several of my coworkers. (As it was, I kept my tongue and responded only that yes, I understand frustration on the job all too well!)

I got in on Monday to find that the Kiss Ass had put together a partial cart of cds to be put away by somebody else, and had found other 'projects' to work on instead of ACTUALLY shelving those cd's herself. (Should I refer to her simply as K.A? or would that be confusing considering those are MY initials. *grin* Actually, her REAL initials are L.G.) Anyway, this is a tactic she's taken for MONTHS, then she shoves the cart out of the way where it will go ignored (by her, and everybody else) for DAYS before I, or my coworker CM, or the new girl Em. or Helen (the previously mentioned "slow" coworker with mental & physical disabilities) take that same cart out to put away those cds. Inevitably, we find that the cart has been inappropriately put together, resulting in more work for the one actually putting it away, seeing as you wind up having to walk from one side of the CD section to the other to put away improperly organized cds. (Mind you, the CD section at my library consists of probably 20,000 cds and is a couple dozen feet long by several feet wide.)

Anyway, LG simply shoved this cart full of CDs out of the way, on Monday, and left it to be put away by somebody else. CM, CF, Em. and myself are all "wise" to LG's ways, and do our best to NOT shelve these cds unless there's really no other choice. (Helen will take the cart just to avoid putting her own cart of books or cds in order. But it takes her HOURS to do what one of us can do in a manner of minutes, and she invariably packs the CDs into their spots, not always accurately, and often without shifting to make room for the new arrivals among the CDs that were already in their spots. This means Helen makes a bigger mess that CM, CF, Em. or myself must later clean up, along with our regular work.) Anyway, Tuesday afternoon, LG arrived for her evening shift, found the cart STILL not put away, and proceeded to load it up with even MORE CDs that had come in during the day on Tuesday. Then, LG stuffed that same cart, now double full of CDs, back out of the way.

Wednesday, I got in and found that LG hadn't bothered to touch the cart overnight, so I approached KO (the Lead Page) and complained that LG was creating work for the rest of us by filling up this cart with CDs, but never taking them out herself to put away. I made the point that Boss Lady had told us we needed to be better about putting our own ordered carts away, rather than expecting somebody else to take them out for us, and yet 3 days had now passed since LG had "organized" that cart, and yet she hadn't touched it to put it away. *wry smile* KO actually realized what I said was true, and said she'd talk to LG about it. It'll be interesting this coming week, to see if anything WAS said to LG, and if she puts anymore CD carts together.

It's funny, typing it all out, this seems so petty. I can only guess how petty it must seem to you all, my friends. But, it really becomes a hassle when this is a constant issue at work, and never dealt with by the Leaders/Bosses who are paid to deal with such negligence. (And, the CD carts are only a small portion of the things LG does to avoid doing actual shelving, while pawning things off on the rest of us, either overtly or covertly.)

*****

Let's see..... Meals this week?

Didn't really try anything new that I can share. Everything else I made (quick & easy Macaroni salad, without the tuna or shrimp this time; French Dip Sandwiches; Beef-Stuffed Sopaipillas....) I have shared before.

This coming week, however, I should have some new recipes to share, including a baked Rotini casserole, and a slow-cooker Pork & Beans dish.

But, nothing to share of any worth today. Sorry.

*****

The hockey tournament is over, for Tay's "Other" team. *grin* This is the team she was playing with as "second Goalie". The "main" Goalie faked an injury on both this morning's and this afternoon's games, in order to give Tay a chance in the net. This morning, she spent almost half the second period, and all the 3rd period, in the goal net. In this afternoon's game, the "main" goalie "aggrivated" the "injury" he'd gotten this morning, and Tay played the third period only. *grin* During her 2 and a half periods in the net, not a single goal was scored. the goals scored on our team were done during the time the "main" goalie was in the net. I shouldn't feel happy about this, because it IS a team effort and NOT just dependent on the skill of the goalie, but it does make me smile a bit on behalf of Tay, that she didn't let a single goal through.

All in all, though, our team lost. 3 of our 4 games were losses, with only this last game a win. The last game was 8 to 1 on our behalf. We took second-to-last place in the tournament, but at least Tay got to take part in the tournament, unlike her other team (the all-girls team) which is considered a "developmental" team and wasn't even invited to participate.

Along with the fact that Tay's IceBreaker team is a "developmental team" and not a "comp" team, it's also a team consisting of girls from 11 to 14 years old, and as such has members both too young and too old to participate in either 12U or 14U categories. FWIW, "Comp" is short for "competition" and implies a traveling team that plays a majority of games. A "Developmental" team is a NON-traveling team that plays games mainly for improvement of skills, and whose ice-times consist mostly of practices. A "Developmental" team is usually made up of kids who've only just begun in the sport, and don't have the years of experience that Tay, Jackie, and Caitlyn all do.

Jackie & Caitlyn being two of Tay's teammates who've been skating -and playing- with Tay for nearly as long as Tay's been skating. But, Tay has MORE ice time than ANY of the other girls, as she started playing officially a week after her 5th birthday, the rest of the girls had to wait one more year to start on a team. (And, we started Tay skating when she was 2, where as I know that most of the other girls didn't start till at least 4 years old. In this aspect as well, Tay has more experience than most other kids her age.)

So, no win for our team in the State tournament, but Tay got to at least participate and play with a team that had a shot at winning (and DID win) a game! And, though she wasn't supposed to, the Coach let her keep her Fury team jersey, and at the end of today's game they all signed each other's season jerseys. Even a couple of the boys who were initially rather antagonistic toward Tay finished off the tournament regarding Tay as their teammate, and several of them expressed a hope that she's on THEIR team next year. *grin* (The goalie, included! Said he'd like a fellow goalie to switch off games with, so they could EACH play out as desired.) It's funny watching Tay interact with the boys, as well. She can physically keep up with most of them, and is more physically capable than a couple of them. She interacts more comfortably with the boys, more at home talking about sports & video games, than she was at interacting with most of the girls on the IceBreaker's team. Most of the girls are already (even at 11 years old!) thinking about make-up and clothes and boys and making out. Tay's still at a stage at which she really can't stand the thought of boys beyond a friend aspect. It actually makes her very angry when teased (by the unititiated, as the rest of us know better) about having a boyfriend. She blows a gasket. So to sit in the locker-room all season listening to her teammates go ga-ga over the boys they were "going out" (or making out) with made Tay rather pissy. But man...... These boys she was playing with..... She had a blast! (At least, once they got past viewing each other as opponents, and started viewing each other as teammates.)

A funny little tidbit..... Mom, you remember JoBrett Trout, I'm sure? Well, his baby brother Jared was on this team Tay just competed with. Tay and Jared got along fairly well. I told Tay how JoBrett and I were friends back in First grade. I found it rather comical that now my daughter was playing hockey with (and, against, for most of the rest of the season) JB's baby-bro.

For those who don't know, this JoBrett of whom I speak went to First grade with me, and we were the best of friends back then. Then I got sent to a different Private school, and by the time JB and I met again, we couldn't stand each other. JB's got 10 sisters spaced rather haphazardly between himself (as oldest) and Jared (as youngest). That is, 12 kids, 10 of whom are girls. The fact that myself and my daughter would be friends with these two brothers seems rather funny. I wonder if JB's mom has told JB that his little brother is playing hockey with the daughter of the girl who used to be JB's best friend. I wonder, if she has, how JB reacted to that little bit of news. I haven't seen JB since a run-in back in HS. (At which point I STILL couldn't stand him. I wonder if I'd get along with him now that we're both adults?)

*****

Last little bit, the weather has been rather hit-or-miss lately. It's been sunny and warm, but so windy you can't stand to be out in the sun for very long. The temps have been dropping down to -20 and colder at night, then warming up to +20 or +25 during the day, with the sun out. Then come nightfall, it'll cool down again and the wind will pick up the pace a bit more. Climate shift???? I don't remember March being this windy when I was growing up around here. Then again, where I grew up, there were more trees than we've got in my current neighbourhood. But even so, it always seemed that August was the windy month, not March. It always struck me as funny as a child, that old verse "March Winds bring April Showers, April Showers bring May Flowers." It struck me as funny then, because it never seemed to me as if it were true. I wondered why it couldn't be, as it'd be great fun to be like the pictures and spend the month of March flying kites, then April wandering around in rain gear and galoshes, and get to enjoy flowers in May. Now it really has become that way. I can only assume that we are seeing some climate shift and that our climate has become slightly more temperate.

Might also account for the ability of some of my hill-dwelling "neighbours" to grow apples and pears and cherries which were NEVER local crops during my growing-up years. I cannot say that I find that aspect of Climate Shift regretable. Hell, if we have the ability to grow apples and pears and cherries around here, I would be thrilled! Central Alaska has the tendency only to produce berries with any regularity. Chokecherries and thumb-nail-sized crabapples are 2 exceptions to that "berries only" tendency, but even these are "transplants" and not native to Alaska. For long term ability to find locally grown fruit, I'll not be sorry at all if Global Warming/Climate shift allows us to grow more fruit around here. I know that sounds awful, and over all I don't want anybody to think that I REALLY mean I'd like to see the Polar Bears go extinct in exchange for apples, but you must understand that I CAN see some definite benefits to these fruits growing locally. (It makes me wonder if perhaps Maples, Oaks and other temperate-climate trees would also grow around here.)

As far as my own gardening efforts, I haven't made any except to receive my seeds. The FIL and I have talked about it a little, and he's going to see if he can't scrounge up some grow-lights this year, to help our seedlings along. But we haven't actually made any efforts toward starting any seeds yet. I also was mentioning to Scott that I'd really love to find a way to add a chokecherry or crabapple tree to our property, or perhaps some berry bushes. Ideally I'd love to put a British style hedge of mixed berry bushes and small trees along the bottom and back of our yard. (Or, perhaps a chain-link fence along the back border of our yard to grow beans and peas against.) But, I've often thought that having some hedge-type border for our yard would be nice. Now if only I could persuade Scott. *grin*

Oh, and did you see the news that Michelle Obama took part in breaking ground at the White House for a kitchen garden? She had a bunch of school kids come in for the ground-breaking, and they're going to be back in a couple of weeks to help with the first plantings, and later for picnics using some of the produce, if what I recall of the article is correct. This was from our local paper this morning. I found that rather happy news. If nothing else, this shows that the Obamas are willing to take the advice of some of their regular, every-day consistuents as I know myself and a great many other gardeners emailed President O. with the need to set a good example and put in a garden there at the White House. There has even been a few rather comical compilations of cartoon drawings and the tune "This Land is Your Land" in regards to persuading Pres. O. and family to re-start the Victory Garden efforts in our country. Along with fruit trees and veggies, they're also installing a couple of bee hives! What a fantastic example!

Anyway....... I guess that's enough meandering and musing for today.

Have a Blessed Day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Just more "This and That"

Well, as usual, not a whole lot of really interesting stuff from this past week.


I didn't get Tay's grades turned in Monday because I didn't have them finished yet, but that's ok because I found out that our teacher was going to be gone till THIS coming Wednesday for Spring Break. Eh, whatever. Suffice it to say, Tay's grades are still going very poorly. Her geography worksheets were well done (most of them), but it's not going to raise her 51% in history enough to be a passing grade. (Geography counts for less points over all than History, so it may raise it to about a 61 or 62%, but that won't be high enough for me to consider her "passing". I'm sorry, a low D is NOT a passing grade, as far as I'm concerned.) As it stands now, she's repeating 5th grade. And _I'M_ turning out to be the "MEAN" parent because of it, again. Scott continues to tell her that maybe if we bust our rears for the final two quarters, she'll still pass. Maybe if she does summer school. Maybe this, maybe that, maybe the other....... And yet, I continue to tell him that failing the first two quarters (primarily because of poor grades on tests, or not being willing to spend the time really thinking through the answers on her notes) means that even GOOD grades on Third and Fourth Quarters works will not be ENOUGH to make up for her failing the first two quarters. NOT to mention that we're SO far behind on school work right now that I don't think it's possible to even fit the 4th quarter work into the school year.


We've got Tay lined up to start into the group therapy and activity program at FCSA. She'll start having interactions with a "Group Coordinator" (who's also a therapist/councelor) and a Youth Councelor. The Group Coordinator leads the group therapy sessions, and takes the kids on their activity outtings. It sounds like the groups are limited to 5 or 6 kids, altogether. So there are multiple Group Coordinators. Tay was assigned to this nice, athletic guy named George. And each of the Coordinator has a couple of Student Councilors who work in conjunction with them and each Student Councilor has a couple of children that they are "responsible" for and really interact with on a day-to-day basis. Tay's Councelor is named Stephanie, though we haven't met her yet. (She was on training this past Thursday when we saw L. and met George.) It sounds like, when Tay gets really frustrated here at home, or I get really frustrated with Tay and need somebody to help "talk her down", one or the other of us can call this Stephanie, and she'll help manage Tay and almost be like a "big sister/mentor" to Tay. I'm really interested to learn more of how this works, though. I look forward to having a chance to ask Stephanie, George and L. more questions.


(I realize I'm using only one initial for L., but am calling Stephanie and George by their given names. I figure that as both Stephanie and George are relatively common names, but L's name ISN'T very common, I'll use her first initial but their first names.)


I have Tay's therapist's support AND the Special Ed. Teacher's support on holding her back, and yet that doesn't count for a lot when Scott keeps telling Tay otherwise, and makes ME out to be the "mean" one. I get really sick and tired of always being the one who is put in a position of making her follow the rules.


Scott's pissed me off a few times lately, as well. Like last night. On our drive home from the inlaws, Scott said that he'd like for us to go to the Ice Park this year. I asked him "When?" He kept saying "I don't know, one of these days" and I kept asking "well, WHEN?" I finally told him that he needs to stop being so abstract in his plans, and tell me a definite time, because the Ice Park would only be around for another week or so. (In fact, the last day it will be open this year is March 24th.) He told me to stop using such big words, he didn't understand what I meant. What does "abstract in his plans" mean???? Excuse me? "Abstract?" What the hell do you think "abstract" means?!?!? It means the opposite of "definite, defined". It means "vague", it means "loosely organized". I told him that I WAS NOT using big words, and he SHOULD know what "abstract plans" means, and he got all snippy with me again for using words HE doesn't understand. AND he gets mad at me when I tell Tay to look up a word in the dictionary, instead of giving her some watered down definition. He undermines me and tells Tay that she doesn't have to know what the word means. GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK! So, I snapped at him and told him I'm not going to DUMB DOWN my vocabulary just because he doesn't feel the need to learn what words mean or look them up in a dictionary, and that goes for the kiddo as well. I've ALWAYS had a reasonably sized vocabulary with the ability to use "big" words, and I'm NOT going to quit just because he decides it makes him feel dumb.


Case in point, I used the word "Emulate" last year, and he thought I was talking about "masturbate". That was very funny. The neighbour couldn't understand why Scott got so up in arms after I mentioned that the little neighbour boy liked to try to "emulate" Tay. But, it ticked me off, as well. I told him "emulate" doesn't mean anything bad, it simply means "to copy", and Scott started going off on how I should have just said "so-and-so tries to COPY Tay", instead of using the word "emulate" in the first place. Why the hell should I have to dumb myself down for him or anybody else?!?! That's one of the many aspects of what is wrong with our society, those who don't want to spend the time looking up new words (or facts) and therefore learn something new, expect those of us who DO spend that time learning, to dumb ourselves down for them. That's not how I work, that's not how I plan to START working. If he didn't like the fact that I tend toward trying to be smart, instead of enjoying being a complete idiot, then he shouldn't have married me. And I'm not going to change and try to be dumb just for him, 12 years into our marriage. *grumble* I'm just so tired of this kind of attitude.


And now Tay's picking up on it as well. "Why didn't you just say that in the first place?!?!" I DID, you just don't have the desire to brush up on YOUR vocabulary a bit to understand that the word I used means the same as another, smaller word, that's not MY problem. You don't wanna be dumb, then DON'T be dumb! Look it up! Explore, be curious. But don't expect me to "dumb down" for you.


*****

In a similar vein, we had a "Page Meeting" this past week. That is, Boss Lady scheduled for we Pages to sit down in a 2 hour meeting together and go over some new details we needed instruction on, as well as covering details on items that were being dropped. A week prior to the meeting, Boss Lady put a request out that if we had ANY points that needed to be discussed during our meeting (or, for the Circulation Lib. Assistants in their meeting this coming week), we needed to PUT THEM IN WRITING and give them to her in advance of OUR meeting.


Ok, at least 3 of us (I'm guessing it was 4 or 5 of us, really) did this. I know I did, and my coworkers CM and CF did. The three of us also made copious mention of the patronizing attitude and lazy behavior of "the Kiss Ass". We tried NOT to name names, but we made it VERY clear as to whom we were talking about in our concerns that this person was A) spending WAY too much time doing her "special projects" to the exclusion of any regular page duties such as shelving or shelf-reading; B) failing to get to the desk or to her back-up shift on time, resulting in time lost by the person who she was supposed to be replacing; C) her attitude toward the rest of us Pages (including our Lead Page, who's been at the library for over 30 years) has become incredibly bossy and patronizing.


The Boss Lady started addressing these "issues" (and there were a couple that dealt with the "Lead Page" as well as another Page that has been on the library staff for 30 years, both of whom have stopped pulling their weight even to the fullest of THEIR abilities in the past couple years) by saying how sorry she was to find out that "so many of you are so sad at this job, that I LOVE my job, and I'd assumed that the rest of you did as well." In answer to the request that 3 of us made for more follow-up on accountability in regards to shelving, shelf-reading, and organizing carts, Boss Lady told us that "you're only accountable to yourself, at the end of the day. There are 11 different personalities, levels of capability, work ethics at work here, and to expect ONE of you to be as accountable as the next is NOT possible. At the end of the day, if you can look in the mirror and think that YOU did a good job at work, then THAT is what matters!"


*shaking head* As my coworker, CM, emailed me later, it was like reading an expanded version of the quote from _Animal Farm_ "all pigs are created equal, some pigs are more equal than others." Because that's EXACTLY what we were being told, we're all Pages "equally", but some of us are expected to work harder and be more accurate and productive than other Pages. And those of us that ARE expected to work harder, be more productive, and more accurate in our job, well...... If we're NOT, then we're obviously ONLY letting ourselves down. *shaking head* No, quite honestly, I can say I'm NOT letting myself down on the job, even on days when I'm not feeling completely present and accounted for, and just don't "pull my weight" as I can on other days. I come home those days and feel completely fine with myself, knowing that this is not a NORMAL condition, and I can go in another day and bust my rump, but occasionally it just happens that I can't "pull my weight" as thoroughly. However, those Pages who come in and give it an all-over half-assed attempt and just don't want to work because they couldn't care less....... It's not about MY ability or inability to pull my own weight, but why am I to be expected to NOT have any cruddy days, when this other Page is allowed to have EVERY day be one where they don't pull their own weight?!?! Why am I getting chewed out on a day when I just can't do it completely, and yet this other person is allowed to have that lack of "with it" at all times?!?! Pardon me for thinking that this is a cop-out on Boss Lady's part in order to get out of having to ADDRESS actual issues.


On top of that, Boss Lady seemingly ignored most of our concerns about the "Kiss Ass", except the one in which that Page is seemingly, permanently, incapable of getting to her desk and/or back-up shift on time. (That came down to who's getting paid for what hours on the job, and if that Page was off in her hours, it threw other people off in THEIR hours and messes up our Time-cards. THAT is not allowed. Therefore, it was addressed and dealt with. The other issues that come down to "personality" and personal capabilities, were blown off completely.)


CM and I decided that we'll give it a week or two, see if things are improved. If they do not, we're going to each print out a second copy of the list of concerns and complaints that we gave Boss Lady, and we're going to take them to our Union Representative. We're trying to talk CF (the third Page whom we know handed in a list of concerns to Boss Lady) and one of the casuals (who may not qualify for Union attention, but at least can verify our complaints and be a witness to our concerns) to go with us to talk to the Union Rep. Things just cannot stay the way they have at work, and if Boss Lady refuses to do anything about it, then we go over her head. And as Boss Lady's Boss was in on the meeting (and was asked to read over our written memos as well, and didn't add or subtract anything from Boss Lady's schpeal), if Boss Lady's Boss doesn't do SOMETHING in the positive about addressing these complaints, then it IS time to go over their heads to the Union Rep.


Edited to add: CM let me know via email that she actually talked to the Union Rep. yesterday after stewing over our blow-off by Boss Lady, and was given a talk that essentially said that there is NOTHING we can do about Boss Lady loading the Kiss Ass up with extra jobs, but that we CAN approach Boss Lady and "Using _I_ statements, explain that would like to be considered for any future "special projects" that arise." *sigh* CM seemed to think that this is the best we're going to get as far as somebody reigning the Kiss Ass in on her attitude and refusal to actually do the other duties in the job description. *rolling eyes*

**********

Anyway, onto better (tasting?) subjects. Here are a couple of recipes that I made this week. NEW recipes, that is. I'd never tried either of these before, and they both turned out very well. (And, neither of them as I post them here are the original recipes as I read them, but rather are how I've changed them to suit my needs.)

Creamy Corn Chowder

2 chicken bouillion cubes
1 c hot water
5 bacon strips
1/2 c chopped onion
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
1/4 c flour
3 c milk or half & half
1-1/2 c frozen corn kernels
1 can cream style corn
1-1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
tobasco sauce to taste

Fry bacon to crisp, remove to a paper towel to drain & cool. Set aside. Fry onion in bacon grease till translucent. Add flour and stir till smooth(ish) and the flour starts to brown a bit. Gradually stir in milk and water. Bring to a simmer. Add in bouillion cubes, seasonings, corn and chilies. Simmer 10 minutes or till heated through. Season lightly with tobasco sauce as desired. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon just before serving.

(The original recipe uses green bell pepper that is sauteed along with the onion, and forgoes the canned chopped green chilies. Also, rather than tobasco sauce, it calls for a bit of basil. I didn't have any green bell pepper or basil in the house, so I went slightly spicy instead of savory as the original recipe led toward.) This recipe turned out very good and Scott said he'd consider this as an alternative to my clam chowder, which he also loves.

*****

Rye/Wheat Bread

3 c all-purpse white flour
1-2/3 c rye flour
2-1/3 c whole wheat flour (You could just use 7 to 8 cups of all-purpose flour as is called for in the original recipe, but this mix turned out VERY well for me.)
2 c warmed whey (from making some yogurt cheese, the whey is the liquid that drains off the yogurt as you've got it in a cheese-cloth lined strainer. It's very good for a person, supposedly. Plain water could be used instead, or even milk.)
1/3 c sugar (original recipe calls for 1 whole cup sugar)
1/2 c melted butter
1/4 tsp salt (the whey is salty, so I only used 1/4 tsp regular salt. Otherwise, up the salt to 1-1/2 tsp)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp active dry yeast

Stir together flour, sugar, and yeast. Make a well in the center, stir in warmed whey, butter and eggs. Mix all together, beginning kneading before sprinkling in remaining salt and carefully kneading that in.

Knead till elastic. Place dough back in greased bowl, and turn over a couple of times to grease top of dough. Cover bowl with dampened towel, and set in warm spot to rise for about 2 hours.

Turn out to table or counter and punch down. Form into 3 loaves and place in greased loaf pans. (I could actually have made 2 larger loaves, but I wound up with 3 smaller loaves. White flour, or even whole wheat flour, rises better than rye does.) Cover with damp towel again, and allow to rise for 1 to 1-1/2 hour or until about doubled. Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes. Brush with melted butter as soon as removed from oven. Cool in pans about 5 minutes, then turn onto racks to continue cooling.

*****

Tonight's menu is individual meat loaves (got 5 of them from 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of pork sausage) and Au Gratin Potatoes. I NEVER follow the same recipe for meat loaf twice, so your best bet would be to find one you like, but be sure to add a Tbsp of horseradish to whatever meat loaf recipe you use, as it really enhances the flavor of the meat, without being actually able to taste the horseradish. (Unless you LIKE to taste the horseradish, in which case, by all means use more than 1 Tbsp.)

I'm also going to be making southern style turnip greens with dinner tonight. But that's easy, just sautee some chopped onion in reserved bacon grease. (I keep a bit of bacon grease in a jar reserved just for that, in my fridge. It's great for sauteeing onions for southern style greens, and sometimes just for adding a bit of bacon flavor to things you want to fry up a bit.) Anyway, once the onions are translucent, add in your canned or frozen greens and simmer up for a while. (I'm using greens from my garden this year, frozen till now.) Season with a bit of cider vinegar, just before serving, and serve with crumbled bacon, if you've got some on hand.

Anyway, here's the Au Gratin Potatoes recipe. I've never made this before. I have no idea how it'll turn out.

Au Gratin Potatoes

8 c cubed potatoes (peeled, if you like, I don't)
1/4 c butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1-1/2 c milk (I used half & half.)
1 pound process American cheese, cubed. (I used Colby Jack.
About 2 tsp tobasco sauce
About 1 tsp garlic powder
About 1 Tbsp worchestershire sauce (these last 3 are my addition, and I added them to taste, basically.
parsley

In a large saucepan, cook potatoes in boiling water (you can boost the flavor by adding a couple of chicken bouillion cubes) till tender, but not mushy. Drain and place in a greased 2-1/2 qt casserole dish. In the same saucepan (rinse it out first), melt butter. Add the flour. Stir to form a smooth(ish) paste and simmer 1 or 2 minutes. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, tobasco sauce, worchestershire sauce, and garlic powder (if you want to use these last 3). Add cheese and stir just till melted. Pour over potatoes. Cover and bake at 350 deg. F. for 45 to 50 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley. (Actually, I added in the parsley with the other seasonings, as I was using dried. But, with fresh parsley I'm sure it'd be better to use as a garnish instead of a flavoring.)

*****

Well, there you are. Some recipes for the week. I'll post more next week, I'm sure. *grin*

That pretty well covers it for now. Not a hell of a lot going on, lately. More of the same, really.

Hope to get by and visit every one of you in the next couple of days. Hope all is going well with each and every one of you.

Have a Blessed Day!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Some Pictures, more Recipes....

First, some gratutitous pet pics. Jenny looking adorable as she tries to figure out how to manage 3 tennis balls at once.













We were blowing raspberries at her when this pic was taken, trying to get a funny reaction. It really was funnier in person.






**********

So, I have done a good bit of baking over the last couple of days. I've been in the mood for some soft pretzels, and after seeing Alton Brown make some really yummy looking ones on his show "Good Eats," I decided to look up his recipe and give it a try. DAMN! Those are some good pretzels!


Here's the recipe for Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels


1-1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 deg. F) water

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

1 pkg (or 1/2 Tbsp) active dry yeast

22 oz (aprox. 4-1/2 c) all purpose flour

2 oz unsalted butter, melted

veggie oil for pan

10 cups water

2/3 c baking powder

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp water

pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and yeast. Proof 10 minutes. Mix together all but 1 cup of the flour, and salt. (Reserve 1 flour in case dough needs it, I found I actually needed less than was called for in the original recipe.) Add the water/yeast mixture to the flour/salt mixture. Stir in butter. Mix together ingredients well, stirring in more flour if needed. Turn out to table or counter and knead till somewhat smooth and elastic. Grease inside of bowl, and return dough to bowl, turning dough around to grease the top, as well. Cover with damp kitchen towel, and allow to rise in warm spot for 1 hour.


Preheat oven to 450 deg. F. Grease 2 large cookie sheets lightly. Set aside.


Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8 quart saucepan or roasting pan.


In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 20 to 24 inch rope. Make a U shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other TWICE and fold back down to press ends into the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Set aside on work surface and return to folding remaining pretzels.


Once you have all 8 pretzels folded, drop one at a time into the boiling water for 30 to 40 seconds. (I dropped them in, one by one, and turned them after 20 seconds, letting them go for 40 seconds each, total.) Remove from the water using a flat spatula. Place pretzels on the cookie sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture, then sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes (12 worked fine for me). Transfer to a cooling rack at least 5 minutes before serving.



(I also DIPPED my pretzels in melted butter within about 5 minutes of removing them from the oven.)


(I must have been having dislexic moments all weekend, I completely missed seeing that butter was to be included in this. They tasted fabulous without it! I also got the proportions of baking soda to water wrong, I thought the recipe read 3/4 c baking soda, till now.)


Here are the pretzels upon removal from the hot-water/baking soda boil.


As you can see, I wasn't quite done loading the cookie sheet up.






And here we have the lovely fat pretzels upon removal from the oven, as soon as I'd gotten them dipped in the melted butter.


We had a "Farmgirl Get-together" at my friend Mary's house last night. As this week's a rather financially slim one, I was somewhat at a loss for what to make to take along. I'd wanted to take cucumber salad, but didn't have the $$ to pick up more cucumbers at the grocery store. It occured to me that pretzels would be the perfect thing! And they were! They went over well. My friend, Mary, was the only one who didn't get to enjoy them, as she's still nursing her youngest, and the youngest is allergic to just about everything (dairy -butter included, obviously, eggs, nuts, the dog-hair clinging to my clothes when I arrived). So, anything Mary consumes, her little one consumes through her. She decided the butter that the pretzels had been dipped in would probably set off an allergic reaction. I'm sorry I didn't know about that before, I would have left off the butter completely. (Though, it REALLY DOES boost the flavor considerably!)

Anyway, everybody else wanted the recipe. *grin* And Mom wanted the recipe the other night when I was telling her about my first batch. (The pictures above are of the batch I made on Friday. I made a double batch yesterday as well for the Get-together.)


*****
In the spirit of trying to cook more frugally, here are a couple of recipes I've used from this past week.
Tuna Pasta Salad (from the April '96 Taste of Home Mag)
1 (7 oz) pkg small shell pasta (or macaroni noodles can be used!), cooked and drained
1 (6 oz) can tuna, drained and flaked
1 large carrot shredded (or sliced into thin half-moons)
3/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c chopped onion
1/4 c milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
(I added 5 large-ish radishes, thinly sliced into half-moons. Some diced dill pickle would also be good. And I added a can of tiny shrimp, drained of their liquid. This could be a good substitute for the tuna altogether.)
In a large salad bowl, combine pasta, tuna, carrot, onion, and radishes. Combine remaining ingredients; whisk until smooth. Pour over pasta mixture; toss to coat. Cover & refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
*****
Spaghetti with Garlic & Olive Oil
Bring 6 qts water and 2 Tbsp salt to rolling boil in large pot. Add 1 lb spaghetti noodles and cook until tender but firm. Meanwhile, in large skillet over medium heat, heat 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add 4 tsp minced garlic (3 or 4 good size garlic cloves, pressed should do it). Cook, stirring constantly, till garlic is pale blond, about 2 minutes. Reserving 1/2 c pasta water, drain pasta. In large bowl toss together pasta water, pasta and garlic & oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. No cheese should be sprinkled on top of this.
(I made this to accompany steaks. Could be a very simple main dish by itself, if you are so inclined. Maybe with a salad or some grilled zucchini?)
*****

Hamburger Dinner
1 lb hamburger, crumbled, cooked and drained. (I added half a diced onion to this before cooking the burger.)
3 c potatoes, sliced
1 small head cabbage
1 c milk
salt and pepper
(This is the ingredient list as it reads in the cookbook, I topped it with some shredded cheese this time, and next time I'd probably mix the milk with a can of cream of celery soup before pouring over the remaining ingredients.)
Shred cabbage and put 1/2 of it in a greased casserole. Add 1/2 of the sliced potatoes, half of the hamburger and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. (I also added a sprinkle of garlic powder when I sprinkled on the salt and pepper.) Add remaining half of cabbage, potatoes and burger in the same order. Pour on the milk and bake in a moderate (350 deg. F.) oven for 2 hours. (Again, I sprinkled this with shredded cheese at the last couple of minutes.)
This recipe came from an Amish cookbook my Mom or Dad got me while my middle sis was going to school up in Amish country in Lancaster, PA. Scott and Tay actually really liked the recipe as I made it this first time, but I found it a little on the dry side, and I think it'd taste better with that addition of cream of celery soup.
**********

On the crafting front this week, I've finished another project that's been in the works for years. A few years ago I was on a shawl-wearing kick, and I decided to make myself a knit shawl. It's a simple pattern with eyelet increases on each edge, to from the triangle up and out from the bottom. I wanted something relatively light and in a springy yellow color, so that's what I did. It didn't turn out picture worthy.
Since that shawl is finished, I've moved on to finishing a scarf I'd started a couple of years back. It's knit on one of those round knitting looms. Goes quickly. Should be finished before too long. Then I've got at least one afghan I need to get more work done on, before I pick up any more projects. I'm really wanting to get some of these older projects done before I start anything new again.
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Tay has finally finished the first Semester's work. However, she's done such a half-assed job in so many cases, that all I can see is that she's not going to pass. She had an open-book test for her 1st Semester test, and she refused to crack a book, until I started getting on her case for it. Even WITH the open book, she misspelled a lot of the state-names for the areas of the country she's been covering since the last test, and she didn't capitalize a single one. Those are BASIC mistakes; stupid, careless mistakes. Mistakes made because she didn't want to take the time.
And I gave her a last warning that NEXT TEST, I won't allow her to correct them. And if that means she fails Geography, so be it. I'm sick of her being careless and purposefully acting stupid. I just cannot seem to get through her head how important this is! What child FIGHTS about having an open book test?!?! WHY on earth is she arguing about it taking too much work to look through her text books and notebooks for the answer, if it means she'll at least have better odds of getting the answers right. Then to almost purposefully misspell the names of states, when she knows that this act will get her marked down?!?!?! I just cannot conceive of the purposeful idiocy of these moves. It's like she WANTS to fail!
I'm just getting so frustrated with her. I mean, I was physically feeling ill last night, as I was grading her school work. And I've got a lot more to do today before I need to turn it in tomorrow. I guess I'd better get offline and get a move on. I'll be taking some school work with me today to grade at work, instead of reading during my lunch break as I usually do.
*sigh* I guess that covers it.
Have a Blessed Day!