Friday, January 28, 2011

Mostly Good News

The student I taught that ran away was taken into custody in San Antonio, Texas and will be coming home.  Her boyfriend ran off when he saw police, so his family is still waiting for resolution.  Continued prayers that he decides to come home are still welcome.

Rachel comes home, Cole still missing

Friday, January 21, 2011

My First Fancy Cookbook

I've never much liked cookbooks.  With me, they tend to get messy.  The one Weight Watchers cookbook I had got pear sauce in between two random pages while making a recipe and I never noticed.  When I picked it back up, the contamination of the pages made it unusable anymore.  I usually just use the web to find the recipes I need.

*B* ended up picking up a book from the library called Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers' Market.  It seemed appropriate, as we just received our first delivery of vegetables from the CSA we joined. The book explains what the different vegetables are, how to prepare them in general, and gives usually 3 recipes where they are featured.  The first foods he made from it were steamed kale and cheddar-apple panini. 

The steamed kale I could take or leave.  But, oh that grilled cheese.  Let me tell you - it was amazing!  I will never have grilled cheese without apples ever again.  He took homemade bread, sliced thinly, and brushed it with olive oil.  Then he sliced cheddar from pastured cows into very thin slices and covered one of the bread slices.  On that, he layered thin organic Fuji apple slices.  On goes the top slice, and into the George Forman grill.  The apple took the place that ham would have had, and it was delicious.

For breakfast Saturday, we made Spanish Tortilla.  It's just sliced potatoes, roasted peppers, onions, and eggs.  It sort of turned out like Egg Foo Yong with potatoes because we overcooked the eggs, but it was good.

That Sunday, we had my mom over and made cage-free roast chicken, homemade bread, and the maple syrup roast vegetables from the book.  I devoured the carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips, and actually ate the turnips and rutabaga.  The turnips might not ever happen again, but the rutabaga wasn't all that bad.

The food was so good, based on those three meals, that we actually bought the book.

The book came in the other night, so we made cauliflower au gratin, more kale, and parsnips and pears.  The cauliflower was actually tasty, but the parsnips and pears were my favorite.  I would eat them every day if I could.  We had a completely vegetarian dinner and it was amazingly tasty.  I didn't even miss the meat.  I'll be making many more recipes from this book, and I'll let you know how they turn out.

In the meantime, find out why I am in love with pears and parsnips and try this recipe one night for dinner:

Roasted Pears and Parsnips with Hazelnuts

1 lb Parsnips (smaller tend to be more tender, bigger are woodier)
3 Bosc Pears
Olive Oil
1 tbsp Butter
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
Kosher Salt (or any kind, really)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel and cut the parsnips into pinky-sized pieces.
  3. Quarter the pears and remove the seeds.
  4. Put the pears and parsnips onto a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and add a little salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.
  6. Melt butter in a skillet and add the hazelnuts for just a few minutes.
  7. Put pears and parsnips in a serving dish, add the butter and hazelnuts, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Urgent Prayers, Please

One of my students from my first year teaching (08-09) is missing.  Rachel's only 16, and she's with another kid that I don't know, Cole, who's 17.  They've been gone almost a week.  They could be anywhere in the Delmarva area, but the police are concentrating on the coast around Ocean City, Maryland and Lewes, Delaware.  Please pray for these young kids to make their way home quickly and safely.

News Story on Rachel and Cole

Friday, January 14, 2011


I am procrastinating hard-core right now. I have a number of things that must be done, and done soon, so that I can get my life back in order.

Item 1 - Getting my driver's license changed to get everything else changed
I hate going to the DMV. It takes forever, and they're only open to 4:30 from Monday through Friday. Because they close so early, and there are no centers near me, I have one hour to get from my school to the closest center and through the line. When I have off of school, the DMV is closed for a holiday. I cannot afford to take a day off of work. I tried going yesterday when I had to tutor after school, and forgot my social security card.  This better not be an omen.

Because I don't have a new license, there are a number of other things I either can't get changed or haven't gotten changed.  I can't change my bank information until I have a license, so I can't order checks yet.  Since I don't really know what name I'm known by in any given system, I also can't change beneficiary-type papers.  They're sitting in a pile on my kitchen table. God forbid anything happen to me in the next month or so.  Poor *B* would be in a world of hurt.

Item 2 - Thank you notes

I have gotten a fair amount of thank you notes done. I only have 14 left to write, but they are the hardest thing to get started. Once I get into it, I can do 8 or so. Getting up the motivation, though, is difficult.

Item 3 - Cleaning my bedroom
Last weekend, *B* and I did a ton of laundry.  So to accommodate, I pulled everything out of my closet and organized the clothes.  For the last 6 days, I've had piles of closet floor-dwelling things all over my bedroom floor.  I'm very tired of walking over, around, and through things when I'm at my sleepiest.  I haven't dusted since who knows when, and the floor hasn't seen a vacuum in at least a couple of weeks.  I must get this done for the sake of my sanity.

Item 4 - Relaxing
Sleep and relaxation are in short supply around here.  What with the three day weekend starting in four and a half hours, this is one thing on which I will not procrastinate any longer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


When I was first in therapy, I talked a lot about how I hated my job.  Kids (and parents) could be mean and disrespectful.  I felt like administration had a trip wire set up, ever raising it higher so that one was destined to fail.  I was permanently carrying myself like a beaten dog does - slumped shoulders and ducked head.  Most of the time, I missed my cats.  I realized later I missed them because I would hold them like children hold baby dolls for comfort.  It felt like the space I had at school was impersonal and cold.

My therapist suggested doing some things to make the space mine.  She posed the idea as an exercise - if I were an animal at the zoo, what would I need to feel at home.  So I made a few changes.  Most notably, I put up pictures of *B* and my cats.  That helped out a bit.  I also made an emergency bag, but I bought a really pretty bag that made me feel happy and warm (I'm a little bit of a Vera Bradley junkie.  Just a little.) 

That was over a year ago now, and I've realized I'm still missing one vital piece of my habitat - plants.  I love plants of all kinds, and there's very little greenery in my office.  One person has an aloe plant that looks like it might be plastic.  The best/worst part is I have a really nice sunny window just behind my desk.  So I'm debating on what plant(s) I should bring into work.

Should I get a spider plant?
By Wildfeuer (Own work (own photo)) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Some mint perhaps?


So a question to all of you out there:  what plant(s) should I use to brighten up my work space and keep the air here fresh and clean?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sustainability Goal Progress

This is day 10 of the new year, so it seems appropriate to evaluate our standing on our yearly goal so far.  *B* and I have been working hard to ensure that we eat more fruit and vegetables, as well as whole grains.  We've replaced our chain store skim milk with local, organic 2% milk, and our eggs come from the happiest hens I've ever seen.  Our fruit and vegetables are both fresh and organic.  Let me just take a moment to say:

I.  feel.  amazing!

I have a ton more energy now than I have in a while.  I feel healthy for the first time in a long time.  I'm not worrying about fat or calories or even sugar.  When one puts an emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables, the rest falls by the wayside.  Last night, we had local raw milk cheese with crackers, carrots, radishes, and homemade dip with sparkling apple cider to drink. 

It was so much tastier than what we'd eat on a normal night - some kind of dessert or soft pretzels or something.  A lot of times we'd have ice cream, despite the fact I'm lactose intolerant.  Though it makes me sick, I love ice cream.  With all the junk we were eating before, no wonder I feel better now!

Next up, our old, overripe bananas get a new lease on life in my homemade banana bread.  With any luck, I'll be able to make it on a snow day off from school!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I'm an Adult Child of Divorce - an ACOD. Though my parents' divorce isn't finalized (they're waiting on a judge's decree), they have been separated for two and a half years.  In that time, not a whole lot had changed.  Yes, my mom moved out into an apartment and then bought a house.  But really, they spent a lot of time together.  Probably 3 out of 5 times I called my mom on her cell phone, I'd hear my dad in the background.

At Thanksgiving, I invited my family to a New Year's party I knew we'd be having.  My dad said he'd have a "house guest" over and wouldn't be able to come.  He was very vague with pronouns.  A friend was coming.  They'd be here for two weeks.  They were from Ireland.

When I called my dad the other day to see if he'd come to dinner at our house with my mom so that we could exchange gifts left from Christmas, he said "Bernadette's still here, she'd be coming too."  It kind of knocked me for a loop.  My mom, understandably, bowed out and we saw her this morning.  I didn't think I could handle some strange woman in my house who (I believe, though I might be wrong because I was never given a name) was the one who broke up my parents' marriage.

I'm still really angry with my dad for the divorce.  For so many years, he treated my mother poorly.  I don't mean leaving dirty clothes on the floor and not appreciating the work she did.  I mean yelling at her, cursing her out, even refusing to speak with her for three days because she put her hair in a french braid not just once, but on at least two occasions.  Of Valentine's Day and anniversaries, he'd scoff and say they were made up by the greeting card companies.  I remember their anniversary in 2001, the day before 9/11, my mom made my dad's coffee and put an anniversary card on top of the cup.  He dumped the card without reading it, took the coffee and left for work without a word to her. 

We ended up meeting my dad and his "friend" at a local diner.  It was the strangest thing I've ever been through. My dad was a completely changed person with this other lady.  He held her door open, helped her take off her coat, read her menu to her when she forgot her glasses.  He was genuinely excited for what was going on in her life.  Why wasn't my mom good enough for the same treatment?  With my mom, she wasn't even worth going to counseling to try to work things out.

All in all, Bernadette was a nice enough lady.  Things said during the course of the dinner insinuates that she's sticking around for a while (though she does still live in Ireland).

Right now I'm struggling with the fact that are very few resources for an adult dealing with parents divorcing.  Many of the support networks I've found deal with custody issues, absent parents, and parents' SOs disciplining kids.  There's very little out there for people who are still blindsided by the sudden loss of family.  Being an ACOD, I felt for a long time like I have no family. 

The last year with *B* has helped that out a lot.  I feel like I have a little seed of a family started now.  Though it may not be a mature family, it provides some hope and comfort.  In light of the problems my parents have had, we are being proactive in our relationship to make sure that we don't make the same mistakes and ameliorate the ones we do make.

It is my hope that eventually, everything will settle into normalcy.  I would like each of my parents to find someone to be happy with, though I'd secretly prefer it to be my mom first rather than my dad.  I'd like to know what holidays and birthdays are going to be like with this new kind of life rather than fear the attitude of the year.

Any ACODs out there?  How does it all work out?  Does it ever get easy?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Picky Eater and Her Vegetables

My mom prides herself on the fact that when my brother and I were little, we got homegrown, home-pureed baby food.  Apparently when I was a baby, I devoured beets like there was no tomorrow.  Now that I have an older, more sophisticated palate, I've grown into a "pickiness" out of which most people grow.

I have a hard time eating uncooked and unsmashed tomatoes, onions, peppers that are not cold and raw, pickles, cucumbers, beets, fennel, leeks, cabbage, most fancy lettuces and things like kale, and rutabegas and turnips (though I've never tried them).

I love fruit though.  Berries of all kinds, apples, oranges (if they're good), bananas (if they're unripe), grapes, peaches, plums, nectarines, pears, cherries, and most of all pomegranates.  I haven't found a fruit yet that I wouldn't eat.

My taste for vegetables pretty much knocks most typical salads off the list in general.  When I was a kid, my mom would serve bagged salad mix with blue cheese dressing on top.  When I got older (and weight conscious), I started using Italian dressing.  I'm now to the point that just the smell of Italian dressing makes me nauseous.  And don't get me started on ranch dressing.  I wouldn't, and couldn't, touch it with a ten foot pole.  I worked at Denny's - I've seen how it's made.

I was at Chuck E. Cheese's with my nephew last week (the first time I've ever been in my life), and got a salad because the pizza was gross.  Blue cheese was the only dressing they had that I was remotely interested in.  And wouldn't you know it, I destroyed that salad like it was the best food on Earth.

So that's the key.  I can eat some random food that will be hundreds of calories, or I can have a salad smothered with ~200 calories of blue cheese dressing.  I'm not too upset about it anymore, because there are fat-soluble vitamins in veggies that I'd be missing.  I'd rather get my vitamins than worry about fat content.

I know that the dressings in the store tend to have a bunch of preservatives in them.  My next mini-project will be to make my own salad dressing and to learn to love salad as a step toward our yearly goal of sustainable food.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Identity

It is so strange to have such a new identity thrust upon myself as it has been.  During the honeymoon and right after, I felt very little change in who I am.  I will say, the words "husband" and "wife" are taking a little time to get used to.  Though very little changed with regard to lifestyle, I feel like we're learning our roles with respect to one another again as if it were the first time.

I would imagine that in most professions, a name change is a relatively minor occurrence.  As a teacher, it has been tedious.  For the last two and a half years, my kids have called me Miss W.  Now that I'm Mrs. H, my past and current students stutter when they try to talk to me.  I also have a fairly common and very easy to pronounce maiden name.  My new name has to be pronounced and spelled a few times before the kids pick it up.

Legally, I'm in limbo right now.  I've changed my name with social security, but I have to wait to change just about everything else until I actually receive my new card in the mail. 

When we went on our honeymoon, I found out that my first name was spelled wrong on my passport!  It is a very common name with only one spelling of which I know.  So now I have to change both my last name and the spelling of my first name, which involves two different forms through the State department.

It will be very nice, one day, to be known as Mrs. H to everyone - including myself!  I'm just not sure how long it will take to get there.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 - The Year of Sustainable Food

While *B* and I were on our honeymoon, we read a lot considering how busy we were.  Two of the seven days on our trip turned out to be reading days.

I read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I loved this book.  It put into words a lot of the things I think about on a regular basis.  Pollan breaks his book up into three sections:  industrial, pastoral, and personal.  In each section, he tackles something new.  I was especially taken in by the first two sections.  I knew that we relied a lot on corn, but I never realized exactly how much corn and oil (as in petroleum) it takes to get food to our tables. 

Because I enjoyed this book so much, I've started reading another book of his, In Defense of Food.

So far, so good.  It talks a lot about the processing food undergoes on a regular basis.  His main point, as noted on the cover is "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."  I'm a little over halfway through it.  He had an in-depth discussion on the Western diet during the first part of the book, and I'm now getting into his definition of food.  I'm rather fond of one well-worn piece of advice:  don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

These books got both *B* and I thinking and provided ample conversation points.  We discussed our plans, past and future, and came up with a framework for what we want to do starting here in 2011.

Grow Our Own Food
Last year was our first foray into the world of gardening.  We've learned a few things in that first year.  One such thing is if you don't like tomatoes, do not grow tomatoes in 50% of your gardening space.   Another would be that carrots actually are better if you thin them out.  This year, we're organizing our garden in such a way that we maximize the natural partnerships that occur in nature.  We're going to try the three sisters method by co-planting corn, beans, and squash.  We're also using what we thought was dead space.  I'm very excited to make trellises up our fence for snap peas.  We devoured them last year, and given how many we harvested off of 8 or 10 plants, we'd be set for a good while if we made a perimeter out of them.

Eat Locally
Our next goal is to eat locally.  I'd rather have squash out of someone's garden that might have been sprayed once or twice than eat organically grown squash from California.  When you know where your food comes from, you're better off.  We've been going to the farmer's market in town and a larger produce market a town over for a while now.  I'm confident we could keep this up as far as produce goes.

Purchase Humanely Raised Animal Products
One of the passages that haunted me from OD was the bit about laying hens.  Those that spend time in battery cages are often put together with a number of other hens.  They can sometimes rub their breasts raw on the front of the cage.
Cage free birds are not a whole lot better.  They have more room to themselves, but they still don't have access to the outdoors. Free range birds have access, but they don't necessarily use it.  From what I've researched, the best things you can do are a) raise them yourselves, b) buy them from a farmer where you can see them raised, or c) buy eggs with a humane certification stamp on them.  Basically, we're looking to purchase products from animals that have been raised as close to nature intended as possible.

Eat Organic
This one is last because, if you manage to hit the other goals, it's least important.  For things that we can't grow ourselves, we're going to try to eat organic from our local market.

All this boils down to a diet of whole, unprocessed foods.  We're looking for food to be tasty and nourishing.  Groceries overall will be more expensive, but the food will be a better quality, which leads to greater health in the future.  I am hopeful that in trying to eat this way, we'll both shed a few pounds, too.  But the main focus here in 2011 is eating healthfully and sustainably for a better us and a better planet.