Once a mom…

sleeping in chair

…always a mom. These two little critters are now 29 and 24. When I look at photos like this one I want to turn the clock back. Please? Just for a little while? What would I do differently? Nag more? Worry less? Check homework more often? Read more stories at bedtime? Feed them more vegetables? Make more of their favorite cookies?

I try not to second guess myself too much.  They have turned into amazing young men and I am very proud of them. They both graduated from Durham Academy, where I teach, an academically demanding school.  Each had to be in my French classes in the middle school, one for three years, the other for two. They were lifers, attending DA for 14 years each. They were very good athletes, balancing homework, practices and games. Both won awards and were team captains in their respective sports. One had to play basketball for his dad. Both graduated from college, one from Guilford College, the other from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Go Quakers. Go Vols. Son #1 played college basketball, the equivalent of working a demanding part-time job. He is now a dad (hence my previous posts about the joys of grandmotherhood). And a very good one. He is moving into a new job in his chosen field of school administration and teaching. He has brought EB into our life, my chance to finally have a daughter. Buddha dog is pretty cool, too. Son #2 is in law school and has successfully interned with a real estate law firm for the past year. He has moved twice since his Knoxville days, now settling into Charleston, SC, a city I plan to visit soon. He has a girlfriend and we are already quite fond of her and her sweet pup. They recently adopted a kitten they named Charlotte after the city where they met (Charlie for short).

These darlings aren’t perfect. Neither am I. Not by a long shot. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, played hours of UNO, SkipBo, and now Cards Against Humanity games, eaten many, many breakfast-for-dinner meals, hugged, covered thousands of miles on family road trips to Nebraska, Québec, DC and to the NC mountains and beach, watched countless sporting events together whether on TV or in person, laughed at silly sitcoms and game shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway, learned to count in español with the Sesame Street gang, sung along with Barney while wearing Barney bedroom slippers, tried to figure out the ending to several seasons of CSI, watched Disney movies from the late ’80’s to the mid-2000’s, including The Little Mermaid about a million times, eaten more than our fair share of popsicles and bags of microwave popcorn, read every single Berenstain Bears book multiple times, built lego spaceships and castles… I could go on and on, but I risk making myself cry if I keep this up. Right now, the eyes are just a bit misty. I just hope that they know that I have done my best.  (Now, I am crying.)

Some favorite photos–

 

2009beach

Jakes grad 11

beach14

I love you, Son #1 and Son #2.  You are all I could ever have hoped for in the mom department.

Son #1’s Sausage and Brie Bites

Son #1 loves to make these at the beach and on our back deck. Buy whatever kind of sausage you like- we usually buy andouille. Cut it into bite-sized pieces (but not too small). Choose a good creamy French Brie cheese and leave it out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. We usually use Triscuit crackers for our feast. Fire up the grill. Cook the sausages, being careful not to lose any to the coals! Sprinkle with red pepper flakes or any other seasonings or sauces you like.  Voilà.  Let the party begin.

Son’s #2’s Shrimp and Grits with Sausage

peeling shrimp

Grits
1 c. grits
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 c. cheese (extra sharp white cheddar or Gouda)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Cayenne pepper, paprika, Tabasco, salt and pepper, to taste (usually better to start with small amounts, taste and adjust)

Cook grits according to instructions on package.  As grits are finishing, whisk in butter, cheeses and seasonings.  Cover and keep warm.

Shrimp
3 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil
2 c. sliced leeks
1/2 c. chopped shallots
3 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 lbs. 20-30 count shrimp
4-5 grilled andouille sausages, cut into bite-sized slices
1/2 dry white wine or vegetable stock
Chopped roma tomatoes, if desired
4-5 strips of bacon fried crisp
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish, if desired

This cooks very quickly.  Be sure to have everything ready and easy to reach before beginning.
Heat large skillet until hot.  Add olive oil and butter.  As oil begins to smoke, add leeks and shallots.  Sauté until translucent.  Toss in shrimp to cover bottom of pan.  Before stirring, add salt and pepper.  Stir until shrimp just begin to turn pink all over.  Let pan return to original hot temperature.  Stir in garlic and be careful not to burn it.  Add sausages.  Deglaze pan by adding wine or vegetable stock.  Stir for about 30 seconds or until everything is well-coated.  Add tomatoes, if using, and toss for about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

To serve:
Spoon grits on to plate.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture on top of grits.  Crumble bacon on top.   Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Bon appétit to all moms and sons. To all families in all shapes and sizes. Hug each other as often as possible.

 

Summer to-do list

IMG_0688 (1)

I am sort of a list maker.  Not that I always can find the list.  Or that I take it out and look at it. Or that I actually cross off everything more than two items. But I feel as if I have accomplished something just by writing the to-dos on a notepad. Mary Kay consultants are encouraged to make a Six Most Important Things list every day.  Maybe six is a manageable number?

6 most important

(photo: https://www.pinterest.com/thepinkbubbleco/)

What’s on my to-do list for tomorrow?

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Go to Responsive Classroom workshop.
  3. Read.
  4. Go to bed.

That’s all I know for sure. What’s on my hope-to-do list?

  1. See my granddaughter. (Maybe read her a story- she loves this now!)
  2. Have dinner with a couple of friends.
  3. Write.

Wow.  That’s seven things! Go me.

I guess I should think about my summer to-do list. In no particular order:

  1. Read my school summer reading book,  Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
  2. Go to the dentist (appointment made).
  3. Hit at least 10,000 steps on the Fitbit at least four days a week (maybe five?). This means lacing up the shoes and walking in the morning.
  4. Spend a week at the beach with my family.
  5. Take an on-line writing course.
  6. Try not to worry so much.
  7. Visit Chatham Hill Winery.  (I worked here part-time before The Sabbatical. I wrote an article about NC wines and Chatham Hill for the Durham Herald newspaper.)
  8. Try some new recipes.
  9. Go to the Durham Farmers’ Market at Central Park regularly.
  10. Blog as often as possible, but at least twice a week (should I make a schedule?).
  11. Work on my curriculum for the 2017-18 school year. Read the book I was given on curriculum design. (I think it is currently upstairs? Yep. Found it.) Keys to Curriculum Mapping: Strategies and Tools to Make it Work by Susan Udelhofen. We will be working on our curriculum map next year at school. Hello, Rubicon.
  12. Have lunch with friends at restaurants around town I haven’t tried yet.
  13. Read some books I want to read. (Stay tuned for an update on my reading list soon.)
  14. Write to my nephew once a week.  Send him some books.
  15. Eat as healthy as possible.

Guess we will see how many I accomplish! At our closing faculty meeting, some silly person commented that we had 72 days until school starts back.  And we now working on week 2. But I will not worry about that.  See, I am trying. I will look at photos like these of my Darling Granddaughter:

kennedyon tummy

She can now roll over.  In the night, she was babbling and when her parents got up to check on her, this is what they found. Photo 1:  “Oops. They caught me.”  Photo 2: It’s okay. I’m cute and how can they possibly be mad? I’ve learned a new trick.” Adorable, right?

I found a recipe for Tomato Pie and gave it a try over the weekend.  Not perfect, but pretty darned good.  Especially the second night. I put pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, grated more cheese on them, warmed them in a 375˚F oven for 10 minutes, then under the broiler set to high for about 4 minutes. It’s better when it looks as if it has almost baked too long.

19275035_10212175782364039_1938866333318129528_n

Biscuit Crust (recipe from King Arthur Flour website)

To make the pie “crust” skip step 4 and go to 5. Do not cut.  Pat the dough into a rectangle on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Do not pre-bake.  Set aside.

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, to taste* (I used only 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter or shortening (I used 6)
  • 1 cup milk, buttermilk, or water (I used about 1-1/4 cups buttermilk)
  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients. With two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter or shortening in until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  3. Add the liquid all at once, mixing quickly and gently for about 20 seconds until you have a soft dough.
  4. To make drop biscuits: Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a lightly floured baking sheet; or for tidier shapes, fill the cups of a greased muffin tin about two-thirds full.
  5. To make cut biscuits: Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4″ thick. Fold it into thirds like a letter and roll gently with a floured rolling pin until the dough is 3/4″ thick again.
  6. Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter for traditional round biscuits. Or, to avoid leftover dough scraps, cut the dough into squares or diamonds with a bench knife or bowl scraper.
  7. Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.

Pie filling: adapted from South Carolina Living: 7 recipes every S.C. cook should know 

Hattie Mae’s Tomato Pie

To avoid soggy tomato pie, use every bit of the salt the recipe calls for, says Heidi Trull. “It gets all the moisture out of the tomatoes. You’re not going to be eating that salt, because you rinse it off.”  (Note: I did not rinse the tomatoes as well as I should have. So, after tasting them, I did not add any additional salt.)

Hattie Mae’s tomato pie

SERVES 8

4 ripe tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup salt

1 cup grated hoop cheese (I had to google this… sad but true. I used Vermont sharp cheddar cheese, a mixture of white and traditional)

1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise (there is no substitute for this in the south! I also added about 1/4 cup of half and half- my mixture was not pourable, but spreadable anyway)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (totally forgot to add but I did sprinkle in some herbes de Provence)

1 medium onion, diced (decided to leave off)

Salt and pepper to taste

8 mini piecrusts (or one large) – used the biscuit crust instead

Slice tomatoes, and cover with ¼ cup salt. Let sit for 1 hour. Rinse well in colander, and pat dry with paper towel. Place piecrusts in pan(s), and lay tomato slices in pie shells. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over tomatoes. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.  (Mine needed to bake for about 35 minutes- the biscuit crust is different than a traditional pie crust.)

After it cooled for about 10 minutes, I cut it with a pizza cutter.  Kitchen scissors would work also. I cut it into 10 rectangles. You can cut the pieces as large or small as you wish. This would make a great appetizer. The Ex-Ex called it tomato pizza. He liked it and he usually doesn’t like “hot tomatoes.”

Day 2

tomato pie 2

Bon appétit!  Whether you are a list-maker or not, I hope you are having a great June.  It isn’t officially summer yet… Schedule in some fun.  And try to worry less. Wherever you go there you are.

Baguettes et Beurre vs Biscuits and Bacon

breakfast #1

It isn’t a competition for me.  Really, it isn’t.  I have been back from my annual spring break trip for almost two weeks and it has taken me this long to get to the blog.  I go through a sort of grieving process and a bit of withdrawal every time I leave France. This year’s kiddos were amazing.  Great eaters, non-complainers, roll-with-the-punches-walk-for-miles 8th graders.  22 of them.  2 co-chaperones. 1 tour manager. Me.  26 of us traipsing around France for 11 days.  The weather was unbelievably beautiful.  Picnics and eating outside were the norm this time.  So, I will focus this post on food.

Breakfast.  A good baguette tartinée with real butter and some honey or fig jam, s’il vous plaît.

I won’t say no to a pain aux raisins…

pain aux raisins

Or a croissant, especially the ones at the Hôtel du Musée that Claude and Laurence serve up every morning… (I won’t even talk about their fancy any-kind-of-coffee-hot-chocolate-grind-the-beans-steam-the-milk machine that I covet)

breakfast at HduM

Lunch.  Picnics whenever possible.  Outdoor cafés.

Our first meal in Paris, however, was falafel in the Marais.  My choice.  I dream about this and have lunch whenever I am there. The kids deal with it.  No, it’s not really French. My vegetarians love it.  I love it.

falafel

Lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. A simple sandwich of cantal cheese, jambon sec, tomato jam, and lettuce from a little place right outside the back entrance of the park. Of course, it comes as a package deal.  A drink. A sandwich. A dessert. Enough to share. My favorite meal this time.  Not necessarily due to the food.  Factor in the weather, the ambience, the people I ate with.  I said out loud to anyone who was listening that there was no where on earth I would rather have been at that particular perfect moment in time.

4 musketeers

Lunch in the Tuileries Gardens after a long walk down the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful Sunday morning.  Bertrand giving KR a lesson about the walls that surrounded Paris at one time.  Should you find yourself in Paris and in need of a first-class guide to show you the city (and other places around France), call on My Private Paris, Bertrand’s venture.  He is the best.

tuileries lunch

Another Paris lunch- at the sumptuous food section of Galeries Lafayette.  We let Bertrand, the expert choose, this time.  Cinco Jotas.  Bertrand is a Basque so this place takes him back to his roots.

lunch at galeries lafayette

We visited my dear friend GM and my students met their “pen friends” at the Collège Anne Marie Javouhey in Senlis.  They treated us to lunch in the school cantine.  At our school, we do not have a cafeteria.  We eat lunch in our classrooms with our advisees every day.  3-course meal for lunch in France instead of whatever I throw together at the last minute at home. (The sign said I could take 4 pieces of bread… so I did.)

lunch at AMJ

Lunch at an outdoor café in Avignon at Place de l’Horloge.  Goat cheese salad.  Another of my favorites. Mon dieu.

goat cheese salad

My après-marché picnic with La Brune in Arles.  Anything eaten with her is special.  We ate in the Jardins d’Été, a place that holds a place in my heart.  In 2005, before my cooking stage with Chef Érick, I took a book and un sandwich there almost every day. My favorite concrete bench was even open and waiting for us… next to the ruins of the Le Théâtre antique.

Lunch near Omaha Beach.  We went back to La Crémaillière, a local restaurant we discovered last year in Saint Laurent sur Mer.  We were pressed for time, Bertrand called the owner, and she had poulet-frites ready and waiting for my crew.  The frites were pronounced the best of the trip.  And I have never seen a chocolat crème consumed as quickly as KR polished off hers!

Dinner.  I had foie gras once. Sprinkled liberally with sel gros.  We went to a salt marsh in the Camargue later in the trip to learn more about harvesting salt.

The starter at a restaurant in Arles.  Terrine du taureau (they are proud of those black bulls), eggplant and tomato confit.

arles starter

A really good beef stew in Paris. Flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  I know it is hard to believe that I normally do not eat dessert.  But when in France…

stew

Crêpes near La Tour Eiffel.  Ham and cheese with salad and caramel for dessert.

We tried something new.  We ate dinner in French homes.  Divided into 4 groups, with metro tickets and directions in hand, we made our way to our hosts’ appartements. I was with the vegetarian group.  It is arranged by VizEat.  My crew was in heaven.  A tiny apartment, hosted by a delightful woman with two children and two cats who works in a Montessori school and who is a vegetarian herself.  The appetizer, baked camembert cheese, was a real hit.  I think that we consumed every single one. She told me how she made them, but I am going to have to email her for the recipe.  I have forgotten what she said. A great adventure.

camembert bites

This is really what I prefer for dessert.

cheese plate

Snacks. Extras. Indulgences. Call them what you want.  Éclairs from Christophe Adam, an award-winning pâtissier.  Bertrand knows all the best places. Tiny little shop.  I guarded the door (from the inside, of course) to allow 4 kiddos in at a time to drool and make their selections.

And, as Laura Florand knows, it sure doesn’t hurt when the pâtissier is handsome.

adam photo

Fougasse in Aigues Mortes.  Flavored with fleur d’oranger. Really generous portions. The sugar crunch on the top is divine.

fougasse

Ice cream.  Café et chocolat.  Bought some for all of the kiddos who were hanging around with me.  A reward, of sorts, on a sunny afternoon.

icr cream

Alain Ducasse, rock star chef, has started a chocolate-making business in Paris.  A taste of his version of Nutella at Galeries Lafayette.  Divine.

Cooking classes with the kiddos.  Éclairs and gougères at La Cuisine Paris.  Macarons at L’Atelier des Gâteaux.  I was with the éclair crew.  The macarons group gave me samples. Being the good teacher that I am, it was my duty to sample all of the flavors.  I did this while on the TGV from Paris to Avignon.  Bertrand supplied the coffee.

A few other random food photos–

A quick pit-stop on the way to Normandy and the display of Haribo candy.

haribo

Cheese- on Rue Daguerre and at the market in Arles

A sign above a shop in Paris

paris map steak

Feeling a little crabby?  So is this guy spotted at a poissonnerie

crab

Oreos have hit France with a boom!  One of my kiddos has quite a few allergies, but Oreos are on his approved list.  So, when we were in Monoprix in Arles and I saw the Strawberry Cheesecake Oreos, I called him over to take a look.  Thank goodness he bought some so that I could sample one.

oreo

Sacks of pommes de terre outside a café in the Marais waiting to be made into frites

sacks of pommes de terre

A sign in the window of the Monoprix on the Champs-Élysées (I was sorely disappointed to find out that the main store is closed for renovations)-

monoprix cheese

Enough is enough for one day.  My tummy is growling and grumbling.  But let me finish by saying that I do not think that I have to chose one or the other.  Baguettes or biscuits? France or the United States?  I can love both equally.  Just because I miss France and want to go whenever I have the chance, it doesn’t mean I do not love my home.  Voilà.  I needed to get that off my chest.  I have the best of both worlds.

Throw together some gougères to impress your eaters.  And eat them warm, right from the oven.  I am going to do that right this minute.  Then I will come back and post the recipe.  Be patient!  I just happen to have some gruyère cheese in my cheese drawer…

gougeres pastry

Gougères

recipe gleaned from several sources, including La Cuisine Paris and David Lebovitz

This is the same pastry dough used to make cream puffs or éclairs minus the cheese and herbs.

1/2 c. (125ml) water

1/2 c. (125ml) milk

7 Tbsp. (100g) butter

3/4 c. (150g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. (6g) salt

4-5 eggs

Grated gruyère cheese (1/2 – 3/4 cup) or other “dry” cheese

Freshly grated pepper

Finely chopped herbs

Heat together water, milk, and butter on low heat.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat. Add flour and salt and stir.  Bring back to very low heat and mix quickly until it forms a dry ball that pulls away from the pan.  Remove and add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth and when you hold up the wooden spoon it falls into a sort of V.  It should be smooth and glossy.  Add cheese, pepper and herbs, if using.

Fill pastry bag and pipe small rounds (about the size of a cherry tomato, although I made mine larger this time- you really want them bite-sized) onto parchment paper.  Brush with beaten egg, if desired.  Sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, if desired. Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and on the sides.  Do not underbake. The puffs will deflate.  They will still taste good, though, they just won’t be as pretty.  I took mine out of the oven and then decided they weren’t quite done enough and put them back in for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and eat warm.  You could slice them open and fill with ham and a little Dijon mustard.

gougeres

Bon appétit!  Bon Poisson d’Avril!  Pack your suitcase every chance you get and see the world around you.  Be happy, mes amis et mes amies.

Green with envy/Verte de jalousie

green-guy

I know, I know.  Red and pink are supposed to be the colors now.  Valentine’s Day approaches. And I love hearts, flowers, and good dark chocolate.  Oh!  And don’t forget champagne. However, I am seeing green.  First, an author sent me an email asking me to review his book about living in Provence.  I jumped at that chance and the book is in the mail as I type this up.  More about that very soon since I will devour the book tout de suite.  (And I am thinking about offering a giveaway…) Next, Mme P from Pujaut sent me a link to a very funny AMERICAN stand-up comedian speaking FRENCH like a Français and making JOKES in French.  My jokes in English aren’t all that funny (just ask my students), but joking around and making people laugh in French?  Pas moi.  Pas possible.  This character, Sebastian Marx, has been living in France for 10 years.  I’ve been studying the language for 40+ years.  Ah oui, I’ve lived there a couple of times for a few months.  Voilà la différence.  It is indeed what I tell the kiddos and their parents.  We teachers cannot make you fluent.  We can stuff/cram/beat vocabulary and verbs into your darling little heads, but you can only become fluent by living the language.  C’est vrai.  And I never stop dreaming of moving over and doing just that once again.  Am I just a big romantic?  Do I put France and French up on a pedestal the way some of my French friends claim?  While I contemplate that for a few more minutes, watch this video of Sebastian and see what you think.  Funny guy.

If you don’t understand, maybe it’s time for you to move to France and learn French…  Just a suggestion.  We could start a commune.  And pledge to only speak French.  And cook good food.  And listen to good music.  And grow lavender.  And drink rosé year round.  And invite all of our new Frenchie friends over for apéritif. And hang our laundry outside to dry.  To heck with clothes dryers.  And ask everyone we meet “Ça va?” 

It’s just a thought worth thinking and daydreaming about.  So, I think that I will go do just that while whipping up some tapenade à la Fanny.  Oui, chef!

tapenade

Tapenade à la Fanny

2 cans of black olives, pitted
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (remove the skin and the germ)
Olive oil
5-6 anchovy filets (without the oil)
2 tsp. capers

Put all ingredients in a food processor and mix. Do not over process.  Add enough olive oil to obtain the proper consistency.

If you want to read (or reread) about the wonderful time I had hosting Fanny and Olivier at my house, click here.

Bon appétit and Happy Février!  Keep eating and laughing. And daydreaming.

Reflections

reflexion-of-tour

It is almost time to say Au revoir to 2016.  And Bonjour to 2017.  2016 had some tough days.  In life, though, that’s pretty much par for the course, n’est-ce pas?  That’s when we learn valuable lessons.  It’s when we learn to appreciate the whos and whats in our lives.  If we are smart.  And then we move on.  The sun comes up the next morning.  Sometimes it is difficult, if not downright nearly impossible, to let go of hurt feelings, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear– all of those emotions that can bring on a middle-of-the-night panic attack if we aren’t careful.  I know.  I’ve been there done that.  Learning to take deep breaths, forgiving myself as well as those I love, and remembering what is truly important takes practice.

Why is that those who know their days on earth are numbered teach us the best lessons? I hate to break it to you, but all of our days are numbered.  Somehow, though, those who live with it daily are the wisest. Chris Rosati.  The lessons I have learned from him.  Chris has ALS.  Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Tuesdays with Morrie. Since his diagnosis six years ago, he has taught so many of us how to be kinder human beings.  I saw Chris last night at The BIGG Holiday Mashup in downtown Durham.

bigg-mash-up

He was able to put in an appearance at the end of the show.  Dressed as Santa, in his wheelchair, speaking through a computer that is somehow miraculously connected to his eyes and types out his messages.  Many of his high school friends and classmates were in attendance so it ended up being a big wonderful funny class reunion-type event for me.  I taught so many of these “kids.” See, Chris, see what you are doing?  Bringing all of us together for the Big Idea for the Greater Good.  A lesson I promise to put into practice in 2017.

So, instead of reflecting backwards, I will reflect forwards.  Think of the all the potential that awaits us in 2017.  The BFF doesn’t like odd-numbered years, but I have assured her that the coming one will be filled with Goodness.  Kindness.  Pure joy.  Hmmm…. How do I know this?  Because I am in charge of how good, kind and joyous I will be.  And so are you. There are indeed many, many things that we cannot in any way, shape or form control.  Why focus on those?  Instead, let’s focus on what we can control.  Our own attitudes.  Our own behavior.  Terrorists will not keep me from traveling to my beloved France.  The political leadership in my own beloved state and country will not keep me from hoping that good will come from this somehow.  Because we can band together and “kill them with kindness” as Mama Mildred has been known to say.

My 2017 will include the following:

  • Kennedy’s birth.  My first grandbaby.  I already get teary-eyed just thinking about her.
  • Finding new ways to show kindness and helping others do the same.
  • Spending more time with my family, be they in Charlotte, Spruce Pine, Washington, Brevard, High Point or here in Durham.  I am incredibly lucky. My sons, a soon-to-be daughter-in-law, mama, sisters, in-laws, cousins all close by.
  • At least two trips to France.  January (20 days) and March (76 days).  Ah oui, I do indeed count it down.  Every time I board the plane it feels like the first time.
  • Showing my friends how much I love them.  I am lucky in this respect, too.  I have some amazing friends who love me no matter what.
  • Joie de vivre.  I am very fond of this French phrase.  Love of life.  Joy in living.  Ed the Head, used it in 2013 to describe me when he presented me with the Hershey Award. I laughed with him afterwards as I complimented his French pronunciation.  I vow here and now to show this joie much more often.
  • Self-improvement.  At home.  In the classroom with the kiddos and my colleagues. With me.  More walks, more quiet time, good books, good music, good food, more writing.

A good place to start.  And I think I will get a week’s head start on some of those.  Pourquoi pas?

I will leave you with a recipe to make immediately (or as soon as you can assemble the ingredients) and share as gifts and/or make for the family and friends who will come a-calling.  A big bowl of deliciousness.  I fell in love with them the first time I tasted them at a foreign language meeting.  Our Latin teacher is quite a cooker.  She shared the recipe.  Merci beaucoup, JL.

rosemary-pecans

Rosemary Pecans

1 pound unsalted pecans

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried

2 Tbsp. melted butter

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cayenne or black pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Spread nuts on baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper.)  Bake 10-15 minutes- 15 minutes for crunchier nuts.

While the pecans are baking, combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.  Add pecans while still hot and toss to coat.

Serve warm or cold.  Store in tightly closed container.

Bon appétit to all and to all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Here’s to 2017!

Gratitude Project

This is an earlier post that I am moving over from my original blog.  It is one of my most meaningful experiences and I like to look back on it often.  It keeps me grateful and less likely to get wrapped up dramas or concerns that I cannot control.

Can you teach someone else to be grateful?  Do you just live it by example?  Why is it so difficult to just accept what we have and live each day with a grateful heart and mind?  Is it true that if you practice gratefulness daily that it will become a habit?  Research has shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit.  That is just three short weeks.  504 hours, part of which is spent sleeping.  30,240 seconds.  1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi.  While googling the topic, I found an interesting article on Psychology Today about happiness.  10 Ways to Make Yourself Happier in 30 Seconds or Less.  It’s worth a read.  Gratitude is in there.

Tracy Wilson, a woman I know here in Durham has also started a daily gratitude journal.  I have subscribed to her updates and enjoy reading them now each morning, along with Sean Dietrich‘s Facebook posts. (If you are not a FB user, I’ve linked his website.)  It is how I choose to begin my day.

Now, back to my original Gratitude Project post.

Abby is a very wise young lady.  I continue to be amazed by her.  And I am so grateful that we bonded last school year.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mrs E:

What happens when a student and a teacher make a lasting impact on each other?  I realize that I have only known Abby for two years, but somehow it seems much longer.  There are a lot of things I could say about Abby, but this video will tell you part of our story.  See for yourself what an amazing young woman she is.
Many thanks to SoulPancake and their video on The Science of Happiness.  We used a short excerpt from the video.  If you wish to watch it in its entirety and find out more about their project, click on the link.
Many thanks also to the amazing Mr. Fitz who shared the video with us and inspired us to do our presentation in front of the whole middle school!
And finally, I would like to thank the incredible Abby who makes me want to be a better teacher and person every single day.  I refuse to think about next school year without you and your classmates.
We’ll always have Paris, Abby… and the Plaza Athénée and Dr. Lantieri –what great adventures! I hope that we will have many more!

Abby:

If you watched the video, I hope you understand the reason why showing appreciation is so important. You never know how far a simple thank you, phone call, email, or just a smile could go. And you don’t have an infinite amount of time with the people you love either. For me, showing my gratitude, as simply as sending a letter, led me to having one of the best relationships of my life. I’ve realized that life is short, and there is so little time to stay the things you mean to the people you love, so say them while you can.


Abby’s Queso Dip

1 lb or 16 oz of Velveeta, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb ground sausage
1 can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, undrained

1. Cook the ground sausage in a saucepan until browned, strain all the grease out and put the sausage back into the saucepan.
2. Add the Rotel and Velveeta, cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the Velveeta is completely melted, stirring frequently.
3. Serve warm with tortilla chips, I recommend Tostitos Scoops because you can scoop up a ton of queso with those things, they’re also good for making these really good mini nachos by the way.

Bon appétit, y’all.  I hope that you have someone in your life to be grateful for each and every day. Tell them.  Start your own Gratitude Project.  You will be amazed at the results.

28 Mother’s Days

 

I am attempting to move my old blog over to WordPress.  I think that I will now attempt to copy and past over the last post.  Cross your fingers…

I became a mother in 1987.  Son #1 came into the world as a perfect textbook baby, according to his pediatrician.  I had no other frame of reference.  He ate every four hours, rarely cried, slept through the night at four weeks, and made me feel like the perfect mother.  I actually had very little to do with it.  Other than the feeding and changing diapers.  The first thing the Ex-Ex and I did when we brought him home was to take him upstairs and change his diaper.  We were scared to death and really didn’t know what else to do.  I had zero to no experience with baby boys and their parts.  I managed to let him pee all over himself before I could get the diaper back on.  Live and learn.  I learned to always keep a diaper in place so that wouldn’t happen again.  I’ve come to the side of the camp that believes we are born with a certain personality and temperament.  If we are lucky, we have a spouse who loves us and helps us and understands that the bond between a mother and child has nine months to take hold and that it never lets go.  We are also lucky if we have enough resources to provide for all of this little bundle’s needs and a few of his wants.

I became a mother for the second time in 1992.  Son #2 was completely different.  He seemed hungry all of the time (my parts hurt just remembering that).  He cried with a gusto I didn’t know a little bundle could muster.  He rarely napped (anything under an hour doesn’t count, in my book).  And he suffered from night terrors off and on for a few years.  Our pediatrician, Dr. Will London, informed me that he was a “normal” baby.  Now he is as calm as can be.  A couple of years ago he asked me if he was an accident since there is almost a five year difference between him and his big brother.  No, he was planned.  We were thinking ahead to college tuition probably.

Mothers want their children to be happy.  It is as simple as that.  When they are heartbroken, so are we.  I am not a hover mother or any of the other titles that have been given to mothers who want to fix everything and make their child’s world perfect.  I know that you cannot do that.  Mama Mildred taught me that.  There will be some stumbles and probably some falls.  That’s how you learn self-confidence and resiliency.  Life comes with happy and sad.  You have to learn not to get too high on the happy or too low on the sad.  Balance.  It isn’t always fair.  Asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness.  Each of us is a work in progress.  For our entire lives.  Not everyone is meant to be a doctor, a five-star general or the head of a corporation.  As Abraham Lincoln said “Whatever you are, be a good one.”  Abe knew adversity.

There are no perfect mothers.  We are human.  We cry.  We stumble.  We take detours.  But we never stop loving our babies or wanting the very best for them.  Our worst fear is that our babies will leave us before we leave them.  That’s not the natural order of things.  We will always feel the need to fix things, even though we know we can’t.  That’s when we pull out a frying pan or a mixer and try to feed them something we know they love or at least they used to when they were little.

Someone gave me us the children’s book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch when the boys were little. This became their favorite bedtime story because it always made me cry.  (I am tearing up just thinking about it.)  On his website, the author says the book started out as a song.

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

as long as I’m living

my baby you’ll be.


I know that somewhere I still have that book.  It’s in a box of treasures in a closet, I am guessing, with the Batmans and Thomas the Tank Engines.  It’s the story of a little boy and all the stuff he gets into (as you can see from the cover).  It ends, however, with the grown up little boy taking care of his mother and singing:

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

as long as I’m living

my mommy you’ll be.

Click on the link above and listen to the author read the story.  You will understand why Love You Forever is a best seller in retirement communities.  I am not just tearing up at this point.  I am a lucky mother.  Dripping tears and all.

Son #1 was (and still is) a big fan of Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Wings back in 2002.  The internet was around at that point and he found the recipe on the Top Secret Recipe website.  I found the recipe yesterday while straightening out my cookbook shelf.  It’s actually a bookcase– I have a lot of cookbooks.

Top Secret Recipes version of Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Wings 

by Todd Wilbur

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 chicken breast fillets

4-6 cups vegetable oil

1/4 cup Crystal or Frank’s Louisiana hot sauce

1 tablespoon butter (the recipe calls for margarine, but I am a purist and only use butter!)

On the side:

bleu cheese dressing (for dipping)– we prefer ranch

celery sticks

  1. Combine flour, salt, peppers and paprika in a medium bowl.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk together egg and milk.
  3. Slice each chicken breast into 6 pieces.  Preheat 4-6 cups of vegetable oil in a deep fryer to 375˚ F.  (I use my deep cast iron frying pan.)
  4. One or two at a time, dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture, then into the breading blend; then repeat the process so that each piece of chicken is double-coated.
  5. When all chicken pieces have been breaded, arrange them on a plate and chill for 15 minutes.
  6. When the chicken is done resting, drop each piece into the hot oil and fry for 5-6 minutes or until each piece is browned.
  7. As chicken fries, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl.  Microwave sauce for 20-30 seconds or just until the butter is melted, then stir to combine.  You can also use a small saucepan for this step.  Just combine the hot sauce and margarine in the saucepan over low heat and still until the butter is melted and ingredients are blended.
  8. When chicken pieces are done frying, remove them to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels.
  9. Place the chicken pieces in a covered container such as a large jar with a lid (a tupperware-type bowl will work just fine).  Pour the sauce over the chicken in the container, cover, and then shake gently until each piece of chicken is coated with sauce.  Pour the chicken onto a plate and serve the dish with bleu cheese dressing (or ranch or whatever you like) and sliced celery on the side.

I also found a cookbook that Son #2’s fourth grade teacher and class put together.  The Comet’s Cafeteria.  Son #2 was (and still is) a fan of cheese sticks.  I remember searching for a recipe and having occasional success with it.

Fried Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1-1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 quart oil for deep frying

1 (16 ounce) package of mozzarella cheese sticks

In a small bowl, mix the eggs and water.  Mix the bread crumbs and garlic salt in a medium bowl.  In another medium bowl, blend the flour and cornstarch.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 375˚F.  One at a time, moisten each mozzarella stick in the egg mixture.  Then dip into the bread crumbs, and finally into the flour mixture.  Then fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

Bon appétit to all mothers.  Happy Mother’s Day!  Our babies might not be able to be with us, but they are in our hearts and souls.  Now and always.  As long as we’re living our babies they’ll be.