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traveling on the weekend...

Sunday, January 31, 2016
...visiting my penpal in SC on Saturday. I've been making an effort to look at my calendar and go up to see him once a month in recent years. Thinking of how I still miss my dad, and so often wanting to call and ask for advice or see him, talk about daily happenings.  Knowing with Mr. Homer, that  a man of nearly 93 will not be around forever, for me to see on a whim.

I drove up to Decatur on Friday afternoon, to spend the night, and get up early on Sat. to make the run up I-85 to South Carolina. I veered off the highway at the state line, to loop back to the GA. Welcome Center and request info. they might have on the Georgia Guidestones. The well-informed, friendly state employees there gave me a slick little hand-out, and all the personal knowledge they had, which was nearly nothing.

The more I don't know, the more I am curious, and the greater the 'bizarre' factor is about this construction. Made of Georgia granite, quarried in nearby Elbert County, designed to last a gazillion years, are engraved with writings in a number of different languages, offering wisdom for the ages. The archaic languages engraved on the fours huge stones, facing in the four compass directions, include Sanskrit, Classical Hebrew and Mandarin Chinese.The stones are set up on a hill, near the GA/SC border, out in the middle of a pasture, looking like a modern-day Stonehenge... equally mysterious about origin. My little flyer reports that those wishing more info. should contact the Elbert County Chamber of Commerce, www.elbertga.com.

Then went on to SC to arrive in Greenville about ten a.m. I always stop at a grocery store and buy a breakfast pastry to share. So we ate when I got there, and then immediately started talking about lunch. Went to a little café and had vegetables and rode around town a bit. Then we went to the visit his cronies, and cheerful group of geezers at the American Legion.

Left Greenville about 3:00 to go south and see one of my most favorite cousins. Looked at the latest, cutest photos of sweet, funny grandchildren and had a nice visit, then I got back on the road to get to Decatur before I fell asleep. Due to having slept poorly the night before, I felt compelled to consume some caffeine, hoping to not find myself 'under the influence of drowsy' while driving. Safely back into the city.

fifth subbing job in two weeks...

Friday, January 29, 2016
...had me in a major quandary before I decided this morning. I'd looked last night, wanting to see what was out there, and could not make up my mind about which one was the lesser of the evils. Sad that the process is mostly deciding which one would make the least miserable. And really sad to think that those people who choose to do it for a living could easily feel the same way...what a frustrating experience it must be for someone who feels trapped, and has to do it day after day after day, etc.

Today was in a small neighborhood school on the south side of town. With a teacher I have worked with several times in the past. If memory serves, she spent years working as a para-pro., going to classes at night over years and years to get a degree. Then finally got the position she had been eyeing, with many years of classroom experience under her belt, before she was actually being paid a decent salary. 

She had a couple of problem kids, but nothing she could not handle. The most outstanding one was a kid with a beautiful smile, but practically non-verbal. He apparently goes into a therapeutic situation for several hours early in the day, then into the classroom before lunch. Not so much disruptive, as just unaware, blissfully oblivious, and unable to communicate. What in the world will become of a child like that? He will continue to mature physically, but likely remain in that same state mentally? What in the world will happen when he is physically an adult?

I debated last night when I was perusing the options about a job at a high school. I've already decided it's not in my best interest to take teaching jobs in elementary or middle schools. Not worth the stress and frustration of wrangling stampeding cattle all day. But this school is the highest rated in the county and has a rep. for being so tough, the students don't have time to act up. I'd have been the teacher, in the classroom with two dozen teenagers; paid considerably more than my little para-pro job. As a Latin teacher. Pretty funny, huh?

this sweet little third grade...

guy who signed up for homework help is the person I was working with on Thursday afternoon when I went out to the biiiigggg Baptist church at Ellerslie in Harris County. He was really late, to the point of me thinking: 'hmmm... how many minutes were we required to give the professor before we could  just sign our names on a sheet of paper and leave?' My little guy, AJ, was even later than that. So much that I was dangerously close to taking a nap when he finally arrived.

He had a sheet of math problems to do. If you know me, you will know that any level of math problem is going to be problematic: totally math impaired. But hopefully able to handle the sort of homework assigned to a 9 year old. I did  not embarrass myself yet, as all he was doing was practicing his 3's. With a variety of addition and subtraction facts thrown in and jumbled up on the same page- you really have to pay attention to know whether you are combining or deconstructing.

He came in really late, and had a lot of stuff to do - reviewing for tests that apparently occur each Friday, plus a double fist-full of worksheets his teacher found in his desk that he was trying to avoid.
So we did a couple of the things that he was hoping would disappear into the black hole, and had to quit on the catch up stuff, to start on what was really assigned for him to be ready for the Friday testing. Little guy did not know is spelling words, probably got 6 out of 16 right, so he had to write the missed ones twice for practice. I don't expect he did very well when they were having them called out by the teacher today.

even tho'...

Thursday, January 28, 2016
...it's just barely after eight o'clock in the morning, I've had a busy day. Made three pans of cookies, and have a pie ready to go in the oven when that last pan of peanut butter bars is ready to come out. The pie, not yet cooked, is that same Chess Pie recipe I have made a couple of times recently, after a considerable search to find a recipe. Yeah, I know about 'googling', but I found mine by looking through cookbooks accumulated over the years. I think the cookbook where it was discovered came from my mom's house, a big thick paperback version of Fannie Farmer Cooks. I've put many cookbooks in donations/yard-sales/give-away, but still have a dozen, sitting on the shelf, waiting for someone to show some interest - kinda' like the languishing, forgotten, raggedy Velveteen Rabbit... you just gotta' have some love.

I will usually make a note on the 3 x5 index card when I write the recipe down as to source, but I have no idea where this one came from. The Very Best ones are often in someone else's handwriting, so when I go on a search and find that particular one I am thinking of: I see the script of my grandmother, or aunt, or a far-away friend. Can't help but smile, when I think of that person, and circumstances when I had something tasty from her kitchen.

I have shared the recipe for the peanut butter cookies (with fork-prints) and the chess pie previously, so I won't do the tedious part of typing those again. But that last one, for the bar cookies is pretty good, and worth sharing. Possibly came out of a magazine that always has some mouth-wateringly good photo on the front cover, like Southern Living or Good Housekeeping.

Peanut Butter Squares

2 cups sugar (I made a note the last time I made this that I only used 1 1/2 cups gran. sugar)
3 eggs
1/4 cup oleo
Beat these three together till well mixed. I melted butter and stirred vigorously.
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Add to liquid mixture.
2 cups Self-rising flour.
Stir in flour. Batter will be stiff. Spread in 9 x 13 pan, dipping hands in water to smooth into corners. Bake 300 for approx. 45 minutes until set and golden brown. Makes about 40 squares.

I will take these to a meeting tonight, where it's always a surprise to see what sort of treats show up. It has to be a finger food, or something like chips/dips, just snack-y stuff. Thinking I will make a little sign to go on a toothpick to warn people it has peanuts products in it - as there are so many allergies and people who avoid nuts these days.

even though it was cold and wet...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
... a dismal damp day, just damp and bone-chilling with wind and misty blowing rain, we went to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, near Dadeville, Alabama. It was pretty interesting, as well as likely pretty pretty in the summer when the trees are all leafed out. We made the looping drive though the park, and I noticed that most of the verge on the narrow asphalt roadway had thick green  moss growing along the edge. Meaning it is so shady and moist there in that horseshoe shaped bend in the river, under the overhanging deciduous trees that the moss grows well, with adjacent Tallapoosa River keeping it well watered.

A sad period looking back in American history. Makes you realize in a disheartening way how the Anglos have been bullying the rest of the world for as long as we have recorded history - back at least to the time of Roman occupation of most of eastern Europe. With eastern Europeans thinking they are superior to everyone else on the planet, taking over entire continents by force, subjugating natives from around the globe. There were a number of historic photos, reproducing illustrations from that era, in the early 1800's, well before the advent of camera and Mathew Brady.

There in the visitors center, we viewed a short video, looked at exhibits, including a flintlock rifle. Reading and seeing the illustrations/journal entries, providing a pretty accurate retelling of the actual battle, that only lasted one day, from the point of view of the victors - without much emphasis on the results. Pretty much glossing over the blood bath that occurred,  and what happened to the families of those warriors who were determined to fight to the last man. The natives, largely Creek Indians and some Cherokee, did have some firearms, but were both out numbered and out gunned by Anglo militia/Army regulars from Tennessee, lead by Andrew Jackson.

It was an interesting trip, fulfilled 1/12th of my goal of attempting to visit a national park once a month during the year. Doing my part to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of our federal park system. The one lone ranger attending the visitors center there at Horseshoe Bend was full of information. And when I told him about my plan for the next eleven months, suggested Tuskeegee. I've been, but it has been several years, and he said they had recently opened a new exhibit with more information and history about the Tuskeegee Airmen and their training for flight during WWII.

cooking at work... warm corn salad...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
...was on the menu. Actually the only things on the recipe card were 'side' dishes, as the protein/meat was prepped by the seafood department. A fresh item that is cooked in a bag, baked in the oven that the seafood workers will prepared to your specifications. You get to pick the type of protein you want, choosing from a list of different fishes, shrimp or scallops. Then decide how you want it flavored, and they put it together for you to take home and bake- ready in about twenty minutes.

I was cooking tilapia with some Mediterranean flavors all day on Monday: black olives, feta cheese and couscous. I didn't taste it but customers who did seemed to like it, and be impressed with the idea that all they do is order their preference and put it in the oven. The part I did assemble was two different salads: one was called a BLT because it had bacon bits and halved cherry tomatoes mixed in with romaine lettuce. And was, in my estimation: average, though it had a good dressing.

Corn salad
1 medium poblano pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, coarsely chopped (I was using snow peas)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 T. canola oil
1 - 16 oz. pkg. frozen whole kernel corn
salt and pepper to taste
3 T. honey
 Put the pecans in a skillet and toast a couple of min. Remove. Put the oil in the skillet, add the corn, cook a few min, to thaw, warm. Stir in peppers and peas, cook a couple of min. till tender. Remove pan from heat, stir in honey and pecans. Serve warm.

I thought the pepper would make it too firey, but it didn't. A number of tasters reported liking the corn dish better than the fish, and asked for recipe. If I was to make it at home, I would substitute some diced bell pepper for the poblano.

according to...

Sunday, January 24, 2016
...the cover story of my National Geographic magazine, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the US National Parks system. I think the first one was Yellowstone? If memory serves, it had something to do with Teddy Roosevelt, and his desire to preserve the untamed wilderness of the west?

So I have been googling, thinking it would be a good plan to try to visit a national park once a month during their celebratory year. I discovered the most visited of all is the Great Smoky Mountains, straddling the state line between TN and NC. Probably most popular due to the population density along the eastern seaboard, and proximity/convenience of travel for vacationers. And second behind the Smokies is Grand Canyon - much less accessible, as it is  not really 'on the way' to anywhere - you have to deliberately want to go to get there.

But sadly, I do not find any National Parks close by that would be an easy day's adventure. There are lots of historic sites like Andersonville Cemetery, or the Little White House at Warms Springs, where FDR enjoyed vacations and surreptitious assignations. Or the boyhood home of former President Carter in Plains, GA. But no National Parks.

I was poking around and found a Battlefield in SC, not too far from Greenville, that was an important event in the Revolutionary War. And one over in east Alabama, where Andrew Jackson made a name for himself in an Indian massacre. So I am leaning towards Horseshoe Bend National Battlefield, though it sort of makes me sad that men with muskets and gunpowder fought a very one-sided skirmish against natives armed with hatchets, knives and bows. Of course the white man won- he had no intention of fighting 'fair'.

I am some how surprised to discover there are not more National Parks. But there are so many other preserved areas with some sort of federal designation, like presidential libraries, or birthplaces of signers of the US Constitution, or fortifications along the east coast. So there's plenty to see and visit during the coming months, though I am sort of bummed that Parks are not more accessible from here.

the original plan...

Saturday, January 23, 2016
...was that the cousins would have lunch in Decatur today. After making a decision last year that we should get together more often, and thinking Once a Month sounds good. But you can look out the window and see what the weather is doing, right? Crasie, uncharacteristic stuff for middle Georgia on a peaceful Saturday morning. Nothing at all 'peaceful' about the effects of the 'polar vortex', and 20 degree wind chill factor. Blustery winds blowing snow (snow!!??) around in every direction of the compass. Whipping it off roofs of houses, tree limbs, up from the patches on the ground, blowing up and down and all around at the same time.

My plan was to drive up on Sat. morning to spend the day, and go home in the late afternoon. But when the weather went nuts and weather watchers forecast the worst storm in a hundred years, I proposed to drive up on Friday afternoon. In order to make the trip before it got dark and cold enough to make the highway too slickery for travel.  Got my ducks in a row, and loaded up to spend the night in the attic in Decatur. Bringing groceries to make a broccoli salad and pie for dessert.

Sort of 'inviting myself' to spend the night, sleep on the couch in my snug, cozy sleeping bag that travels everywhere I do. And discovered in the 'inviting of myself', I was also crashing a birthday party. With really good eats: smashed potatoes, beef stew with lots of carrots. And some really sweet dining companions. People who are friends of the birthday girl, she has known for years, most of the time she has been a resident of the City. I don't often see these amusing folk, so it was a real treat for me to enjoy spending time with these smart capable moms/women/devoted friends.

And I don't have to worry about making the slippery drive up the interstate for lunch with the cousins. I'm already there/here! Now all I have to stress over is whether the roads will clear enough for me to get back home. I expect the interstates are all sanded/salted, but the fifty feet down the steep driveway to get to the street is going to be a real challenge...

the opposite of the most worst...

...day ever of working as a sub. teacher in the public schools happened yesterday. Thankfully, perfectly timed after two days of being in some less than desirable situations, a day of relative calm was welcomed.  I can't say whether the area of town, location of the school, really makes a difference. But I am certain that the years of teaching experience have a huge impact on the tenor of the classroom. Don't know how many years of accumulated 'lessons learned the hard way' are required for teachers to develop the necessary management skills to control a room full of energetic four and five year olds, but my day yesterday was a dream situation. Even though the teacher I was working with said this was her most challenging group in years of working in the school system.

I believe the students were about the same age as the ones in the schools where I was for two days earlier in the week. So I am inclined to attribute the difference in the atmosphere to those many years of developing the necessary skills to stay one step ahead of those few, usually males, who will be disruptive and distract the attention of the others who are making a effort to stay on task. I noticed her doing a couple of things as distractions began to occur, and realized what a good teacher she was as the day progressed. I even wrote her a note to tell her how amazing she is, what a remarkable job she is doing of teaching, retaining their focus while handling the disruptions with finesse.

I have not been doing any sub. work in a while, since the three days this week. But only had one day on the work schedule at my (semi) regular job, so thought I would try to get in some of the days the school system now requires as a minimum for remaining on the substitute list. All the while wondering to myself: 'why do I think I need to make the effort?'. There are days when I realize it would have been more pleasant to drop a brick on my toe than to devote my time to seven  hours of bull-dogging-wild-steer-wrangling-rodeo'ing.  But this last day, on Friday, was such a relatively pleasant experience, it almost restores my faith in public education. I think I will to write a  note to the principal of the school to tell how gratifying the day was,  in comparison to the other two I spent in classrooms during the week.

the cornbread/spoon bread recipe...

Thursday, January 21, 2016
... that you will read and think: What!!?? when you see one of the ingredients is broccoli. Don't disregard, don't discard, don't think 'yuck'. Give it a try before you say: ick. It is really good. You could leave out the broccoli but you will be surprised if you put it in and discover you really did not ruin the dish.

Broccoli Spoon Bread

cooking spray
1 package frozen chopped broccoli (10 to 12 oz.)
1 (8.5 oz). box corn muffin mix
1 (14 oz.) can cream style corn
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Coat 9 inch square baking dish with spray.
Microwave broccoli on high 3 min, or until thawed. Drain thoroughly - If you leave too much water in, the cornbread will not cook through. I pressed it with several paper towels to be sure it is dry.
Stir remaining ingredients together, then add broccoli, being sure the broccoli is in small pieces. You may need to chop bigger pieces before adding to cornbread mix. Spoon into baking dish. Bake 25-28 minutes or until center is set and top is golden brown. Makes 9 servings.
It would be a mortal sin, but I was thinking about adding some crispy cooked crumbled bacon.

true confessions...

...it was bound to happen. I fell off the no-sugar wagon. At work yesterday when I was cooking all day, making a really yummy cornbread recipe. It was the side dish to go with oven roasted pork loin. Which I did not eat because: it is pork, and glazed with maple syrup.

But, sadly, lost it with the cornbread. I knew I was going to be in trouble, when I read the ingredients. Starts with a box of Jiffy Cornbread Mix, with sugar as the second or third ingredient.  I love cornbread: there may be the teeniest bit running through my veins. The best, and therefore worst for you, is the one my mom used to make (and I am sure learned from her mom) cooked in a flat skillet, with lacy crispy edges. It's probably a good thing that I never learned how to make it, otherwise I would be stuck at  home, unable to fit through the door to leave.

And since I fell off the wagon yesterday, I will also confess that while backsliding, I had macaroni and cheese for lunch today. And then said: to hell with it. Eating roasted potatoes dipped in ketchup for dinner tonight. Tomorrow is a new day, right? Just get right up, dust yourself off and get back on.

not even remotely awfulest...

... in another pre-K classroom today, in a different school, with a different teacher who had a far and away better handle on the rowdies entrusted to her care. It is not likely that she had any more or any less as far as kids who could not relate actions to consequences, or little people who were less adept at social skills or anger management. Apparently the difference can be attributed to years of experience. They were remarkably well controlled, and for the most part, cooperative and willing to follow instructions.

There were actually more students in the class room today, and yes, there were a few who had  problems with following instructions: could not sit still, or keep their hands to themselves, mouths constantly chattering. Not unusual for four and five year olds. But most were able to get their work done. Even though some totally failed to follow instructions, obviously not listening to what they were told to do, just blithely going along, coloring, cutting, gluing in the haphazard manner they chose, rather than how the assignment was meant to be completed.  As table-mates diligently did  as told...  these few were randomly scissoring away blissfully unaware of the proper way to do their work.  As if they had earplugs in when the teacher explained, and demonstrated what she wanted: completely in a fog, doing their own little thing.

She had to leave the classroom for a ninety minute meeting, and left me on my own. Scarey. Not at all what I expected when I signed on to be the teacher's assistant, never intending to be the person in charge. How out of control can they get in an hour's time? Not tooooo bad, I suppose. Thirty minutes of the ninety was lunch, so it was not tooooo terribly awful. But honestly: not what I wanted.

Some one came in the classroom in the early afternoon, passing out new pencils. With '100 Days' stamped on each wooden pencil. But unsharpened, so the teacher had to sharpen two dozen pencils before they went home. Took one away from one little boy, who had a complete loss of control, total meltdown for the remainder of the day. Even though she assured him he could get it tomorrow, he spent the rest of the day  crying and flinging himself on the floor, desperate for the return of his pencil. Defiant, belligerent, unmanageable. But the teacher never lost her equanimity, remaining calm and hopefully held onto her sanity till the end of the school day.

the almost awfulest...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
...experience in a classroom as a substitute happened today. Not quite the most worst, as I am still convinced that happened last fall, but this one runs it a close second. I was actually a replacement for the teacher's aide. In a pre-K class. How bad could that possibly be? Well, it was almost the worst, but not quite. Only because I did not think I needed to go home, and give up at 10:30, like I did when I was so overwhelmed and bamboozled by the third graders last year.

The person I was working with: I told her she was going to have a lot of stars in her crown. And this was after I had been in the classroom less than an hour. I came in and put my lunch box and jacket down and told her I would do anything she told me to, whatever I could to help, but she would need to give me some direction. And in an hours' time, seeing how disruptive and disrespectful those four and five year olds were, I began to wonder, as usual, 'what was I thinking?'

There were not more than fifteen children in the room, though it is hard to say with any certainty, as they were in constant motion, and as hard to count as chickens in the barnyard. Several were from Latino families and came into the classroom not speaking any English when school started in August. Fortunately the regular para-pro. does speak Spanish so was able to help both the students and the teacher to communicate. And several more, mostly males, obviously have some behavior issues that will need to be addressed before they will have success in a classroom setting.

Making me So Very Thankful for my family. For adult children who are capable, independent, smart, highly motivated, compassionate, fully functioning productive members of society. And especially thankful for the fact that they are decent respectful human beings. Plus all those teachers who devote their days and weeks and years to trying to instill knowledge in heads that can be very resistant and reluctant to instruction, the process of learning, growing, maturing to be ready to make their way in the world.


...at Stone Mountain Park just east of Atlanta on MLK day. We had tried to go on a day back in Dec., but got cancelled due to the weather. I think it had been too warm for the artificial snow machine to keep ahead, and the snow was melting faster than the machine could make  more fluff. There was a long convoluted rig-a-ma-role about getting the tickets transferred to a different date versus cancelling altogether. But it finally happened and we planned to go on Monday instead. The tickets were purchased for five people, and all we could come up with was a total for four.... so after all the unanswered calls, voice mail messages left and ignored, and frustration of not ever talking to a real person, being disconnected and/or ignored, we returned the tickets, got a refund and started over.

Going from what was likely the warmest day of Snow Mountain to what felt like the coldest when we put on all our layers and trooped out in the below freezing temperatures to amuse ourselves. We were assigned a ten o'clock time slot and we got as many slippery slides in as possible in the two hours we had for making the loop, up the hill on the moving sidewalk and zipping  back down the hill in inner tubes. Most of our time was probably spent standing and waiting, and as the crowd increased, there was more wait time, probably due to it being a legal and school holiday, with lots of families out for a day of good clean fun.

Check back later, you might see photos posted here....

girl scouting...

Sunday, January 17, 2016
...at an event I'd heard about back in the fall. And found that my planned weekend in TN, was the same as when this really fun event occurred. P. has been working for several years with older girls, in late middle and high school. Listening and discussing, talking and suggesting, helping the girls come up with ideas for events they would like to attend, learning life skills that will assist them in becoming capable and productive adults. This one was about cooking.

But not just cooking any-old-thing. Something they would really enjoy preparing and then consuming: homemade pizza. There is a new business that has recently opened in downtown Chatty., devoted to helping people develop cooking skills. Offering lots of different classes on a variety of themes. They have actually only been open a couple of weeks, and the class these eighteen girls had was nearly the first official one for the business: Sweet and Savory.com.

I volunteered to tag along, and hoped to be useful. So tied on an apron first thing, and said 'what can I do?' Was given a flour measuring job, and got to work. The couple that owns/runs the business have a lot of cooking experience, and seemed to be very well organized. They also have a lot of funds tied up in the furnishings, in an old renovated brick building. Professional tools like four commercial stoves/ovens, a dozen Kitchen Aid mixers, proofing boxes for yeast dough, all manner of tools to provide a wide variety of meals. Plus all the ingredients they will need to share their skills and teach other people who are interested how to prepare good eats.

The girls made dough from scratch, put it in the proofer to rise. Then learned how to make mozzarella cheese from scratch. You have to have 'starter', but it was remarkable seeing that clump of white gummy stuff turn into cheese. Then made the sauce. They put it all together, with choice of toppings, and baked personal size pizzas which they enjoyed eating. He provided recipes, with step by step instructions for doing it all at home, and I do hope they will show off their new skills and make more pizza before it all goes bad sitting in the fridge. Really interesting, and pretty impressive. I know the nature of teens is that they can be hesitant, tentative when trying something new, especially in front of peers. But I am hoping they will be impressed enough with their new skills to be willing to reproduce the pizza at home and show off for family.

due to being incessently...

..pestered for months about attending the fund-raiser concert in Chattanooga, P. had purchased two tickets to see Vince Gill performing at the Tivilo theater in downtown. He has been donating his time to help raise funds for the Child Advocacy Center for over ten years, providing care and support for abused children in the area. We've been several times, enjoying the show: both singing and amusing stories the performers tell.  We had better seats this time, down on the main floor, where as last year we were up in the balcony. Likely due to not getting tickets as soon as they went on sale.

I have to say I was a little disappointed, hoping for more entertainment from Vince Gill. He brought another singer, young woman (Logan?) just starting out along with her guitar player. And his daughter Jenny, plus another guitarist who is a very talented player and song writer. So they all sang, original material, which meant less Vince. It is obvious he believes in mentoring the next generation of young talent, allowing them to show off their skills, providing opportunities for them to grow an audience, but honestly, I think we all showed up to hear Vince. 

Before the end of the show, all the people who work at the Child Advocacy Center of Hamilton County came out on stage for a photo op., chance to be recognized, congratulate each other, and be in the spotlight. Commending each other, taking a moment to be recognized for the good they do that rarely gets noticed. Probably with an audience of a 'sold out' crowd, so it was a good fund raiser for supporting a good cause. All in all, a good show. 

taking the weekend...

... off from work to travel. The once a month trip I have been making for several years to TN to see some of my fave-o-rite people who live too far away to visit in one day and get back home. Even though I am completely recovered from that last excursion of the trip from Valdosta to Savannah and back home in one twelve hour span, it's really hard on a body to spend hours and hours driving. Especially as the body gets older and  not as flexible and or willing to take abuse as one half my age. When I unfold after a few hours of driving, to make a pit stop, or just get to my destination it takes a few steps to get my knee and hip joints full operable.

I have a friend who lives in Marietta, met when her family lived in Valdosta and we took art classes at the college. She is now single, and we reconnected several years ago after she moved from north GA to the metro area. I've been to visit several times, and we actually took a road trip about a year ago, to visit a retired professor from Valdosta State. I was hoping to stop and see her when I was on my way to TN on Thursday morning, maybe have lunch, but she was 'under the weather' and reported being communicable, told me to avoid her vicinity. I offered to stop by and leave a can of chicken soup on the front steps... but she declined, did not want to share her germs.

Then I called another friend, who had relocated to north GA when her husband accepted a job someplace north of Atlanta. I had to track her down, making several calls to get to someone who could put me in touch with her. And finally called her on Thurs. before I left home, hoping she might meet me someplace close to I=75 for a quick visit, maybe a cup of tea or coffee. But when she answered, she reported she was in Columbus! And right there, almost in my neighborhood, where they had decided to buy a 'retirement' home, and settle when her husband quits working in a couple of years. Well, dang... so much for all my visiting plans.

I  did not want to arrive in TN until close to five o'clock, as the daughter there was working all day, and would not be able to get home until then. All  my grand plans shot down. I knew I would stop in Atlanta, to see the smart, capable, remarkable daughter who works on there in mid-town, have a little lunch and be on my way to TN. But all my plans that would result in foot-dragging and time wasting were for naught. I did have a good lunch in Atlanta, and some amusement while eating, but had 'way too much time to kill as I motored  north.

As it turned out, I got to TN much earlier than I had anticipated, due to most of my plans going awry. And could not decide whether a nap or a walk around the neighborhood would be better. But finally took a walk, and was moseying down the street when P. finally got off work and headed home. She waved and honked on passing, and waited at the corner. I asked how she knew that was me? And she said my bad knee, (causing me to limp like Walter Brennan in the  Real McCoys' old black and white TV show) gave me away.  Just gimping along....

peach cobbler...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
... in a pseudo-, bogus sort of way. If I had been using real, true. honest, genuine, south Georgia home-grown peaches it would be authentic. But using the ones out of the DelMonte can makes it only semi-real. Not the home-grown version your grandmother served, still warm from the oven, in a big crockery bowl, with a yummy scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top.

I was trying to think of something fairly easy to make to take along to a potluck dinner I attend once a month, and the cobbler seemed to be the solution. But it's pretty hard to make fruit cobbler without fruit. Which meant a run to the store to get a can of peaches. Though the recipe actually calls for a can of fruit cocktail, which seems to me to be about the poorest excuse for actual fruit there is. There is something about eating that combination out of a can that is really unpleasant, as well as ...bland?
And those grapes that have been languishing in the can, soaking in the sugary syrup have a really disagreeable texture. I'm thinking it needs to go on my list of things I hope to never put  in my mouth again.

Fruit cobbler

I guess any kind of fruit would do: your choice, but at least a 16 oz. can, you could even use some of the canned things that are actually pie filling like apples or blueberries.
one stick oleo or butter (put it in the 9 x 9 dish and microwave it to melt)
pour the can of fruit, with juice/syrup over the melted butter
3/4 c.self rising flour
1 c. granulated sugar
3 eggs, beaten
Mix the eggs and sugar, add in flour, stir till moistened. It will be hard to mix, be sure you get all the flour mixed in with wet ingredients.
Spoon the mixture over the fruit.
Bake 30 min. at 350.
The next time, I will drain the peaches, and use the syrup to make the flour/sugar mix a bit smoother, so it will be easier to spoon/spread/dollop on the fruit, but it will spread out pretty well when it heats up and bakes.

yep, the geraniums are frizzen...

Monday, January 11, 2016
...that have been blooming out by the front door. In a sort of sheltered spot where they get a few hours of sun mid-day and early afternoon, but under a wide overhanging roof, where they would not take a direct hit from rain. So I have tried to keep them watered over last summer and into the fall. But it's over for a while. I have read that you can uproot them and put them in a cool, dark place, in a basement or storage area, where they will not be exposed to killing cold all winter. Apparently they will sort of go dormant, you can re-plant in the spring and they will recover from the initial mistreatment/freeze that knocked them for a loop.

They are/were planted in a place that gets blistering sun for a short time, then no sun at all - a conundrum I have not solved, do not know what to put there that would be a permanent solution. Tried hostas, that did not thrive, mostly due to some sort of aggravating little insect that found them tasty. I think it gets too hot for ferns, and can't figure out what to do there. Maybe just a ground cover, since it is a raised area, surrounded by bricks, and something 'creeping' would not get out of control. But I would love to have something that would bloom: ideally all summer long like geraniums will do, looking bright and cheerful for months, or at least variegated for color... any suggestions?

well, it's cold...

 ...after my comments about how we were well into January and it weren't. Even though I try very hard to Not Watch TV, when I am sitting here pecking away on my computer, and it is blasting at me fifteen feet away, I can't help but notice. Those people who get even more excited about the weather than the guy who has seemingly taken root in the recliner are really worked up about that cold arctic blast pouring in from Canada. They referred to the chilly weather as 'frigid'. I have not been out in it yet, but pretty sure I would not disagree.

I would prefer to not take full responsibility for the change in temperature from 60's to 30's, and hope I won't get the blame. In talking to someone recently about unseasonable warmth we had through December, I was reminded that the peach crop in central Georgia needs some cold weather to be successful. Since I do not farm, and don't fully understand, can't say for sure how that works, or how much cold is necessary. But have read reports over the years of farmers distress when it has not been cold at the right time (shortly before the trees begin to bloom?) or cold at the wrong time (a killing freeze after the trees are blooming that kills all the buds that would produce the fruit?) Yeah, really glad I am not dependent on whims of Mother Nature to make a livelihood.

I've got on my wooliest socks, and several layers, and will put on more before walking out the door to get to work. And thankful for warm house, warm bed, warm clothes, electricity that runs central heat. As well as a microwave that makes me a nice friendly hand-warming cup of hot  tea.

the view from here...

Saturday, January 9, 2016
...nearing mid-January is that other than a tremendous amount of wetness, there has not been anything that could be considered 'winter' here - yet. I know, I know, we're just barely into the new year. But if you look at the seasons, as you remember from what you learned in the first grade we are one-third of the way through the one that is supposed to be cold. And yeah,  I admit, I have been wearing my wool socks to bed for months... but I am also willing to confess I wear socks to bed Every Night of the Year. If it is so warm I have been sockless during the day due to flip-flops, my feet will actually wake me up in the middle of the night, and make me get up to put on socks. Not give me any peace until they feel sufficiently covered thus allowing me to go back to sleep.

But here, in central GA, in what I consider the Deep South, it has not been cold enough to kill off the things that are normally considered annuals. I have gerbera daisies still green and blooming. They are  not sold as perennials, but mine are in a place that is minimally sheltered, in a planter under a wide overhanging roof and have been in the same place for four, maybe five years. They are certainly not what I would consider 'hardy', but seem to be protected just enough to come back year after year.

Even though there is plenty of time yet in the season to have lots of miserable weather with freezing temperatures and icy roads, it has not happened yet here. Definitely not complaining, and thoroughly appreciative of the fact that we have not endured any of the wintery conditions that others in the north are facing. Perpetually thankful I don't live in Minnesota or Maine or Alaska. Not sure my bones could tolerate the kind of bleak weather that sets in and seems endless. I could probably be content living in the tropics, where you would not notice the changes of seasons unless you were decorating bulletin boards in an elementary school classroom.

still at it...

... and hanging on with the No Sugar plan. Though I got sort of desperate at one point this morning when at work, and grabbed a Bolthouse drink to chug as soon as I got it paid for. Now that I know some of the smoothie type bottles do not have any refined sugar (or the alternatives like cane sugar), I'm feeling somewhat better about the all-around sense of deprivation. The ones I really want all have the bad stuff: yummy drinks like chai and mocha, so I can look forward to some of that when I quit this foolishness. I've already decided what I will have when I cannot stand it one more minute: really anticiapating a Snicker bar.

I had to read labels on a lot of cans of soup to find something i could have for lunch. Found one that was sort of chicken pot pie'ish.And so ready for something to chew, I opened the pop-top can and ate it cold. Had tortilla chips and hummus as soon as I got home. Or salsa, or guacamole: all delish and sugar free. Now for the next meal....

when I was driving...

Friday, January 8, 2016
...across south Georgia yesterday and it finally got light enough to see the landscape, it was a really pleasant day. A bit cool and overcast, but warmer than earlier in the week. Tooling along, listening to public radio, feeling in touch with the world, observing nature and the plant life along the highways of the flatlands was a nice trip. I'm very thankful for my handy little GPS a friend gave me a couple of years ago. I had no idea where I was in the dark, just hoping and believing that voice in the little device would not lead me astray. This is probably the first time I have completely depended on electronics to guide me, map lover that I am. Especially when I got to Waycross, and had to take a route different from the path I've taken for decades when heading due east for the coast (which I could do without much thought at all.) Headed northeast towards Savannah, often out in the woods, feeling well beyond civilization.

Lots of very familiar plants filling the landscape after the sun started coming up: scraggly volunteering slash pines coming up where acres had been bush-hogged clear. Along with oaks, sweet gums and other trees often considered trash to timber buyers. Tough hardy palmetto shrubs expanding into the right of way from the edge of the woods, a generally useless plant that is virtually impossible to dig up, bulldoze over or destroy. Clumps of broom sedge and wiregrass sprouting in land so sandy, lacking in nutrition that nothing else will grow. Low swampy places full of water from recent rains and swamp myrtle, which must be one of the hardiest shrubs ever to so placidly grow in extreme condtions of drought and flood.  As the sky lightened, and I could see more of the world, I noticed places that the land had been cleared,with long leaf pine seedlings planted, to start their years of growth before being harvested as a crop for lumber yards.

And vine-ing around the trees, when you would not expect anything at all to be blooming here in early January: yellow Carolina jasmine. Always makes me think of my dad, who thought it was one of the earliest signs of the Promise of Spring. It will grow as high as it can into the tops of trees, more noticeable in the winter when the deciduous trees are bare. Twining up the trunks and into the highest twigs, with bright yellow little trumpet shaped blooms opening to remind us that it won't be this dark and dismal forever. I've also noticed some little heads of hyacinths peeping up in several places in my yard, where bulbs have been planted, waiting for rains and sunshine to wake them up.

it's probably time...

Thursday, January 7, 2016
...to stay home for a bit. It's three hours to Valdosta, which I did on Thursday afternoon. And four hours to Savannah, which I did this morning. And four hours from Savannah to Columbus, which I did this afternoon, getting back about dark. Even though I don't really feel all that tired, since I was sitting all day, it's likely it will feel like jet lag tomorrow...

road trip...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016
...planned due to the uncommon occurance of a couple of days off from work. I've been thinking I should make a run to south GA to visit my auntie. And possibly extend the trip to become one of those 'stay and see Georgia' events by heading east after a night in Valdosta. There is a friend who relocated to Savannah several years ago, that I don't see often, due to geography/distance. Her family moved her from south GA when she had some health problems, relocated into a retirement center, then fall/broken bones/health issues forced her into  nursing care. She gets a bit older every day, and I feel like I should go and visit now when I have a bit of time to travel.

Got a Christmas card from her family reporting she would be 101 on her next birthday, which was in late December. So you can see why I feel like I should go at the first opportunity, before putting a visit off any longer. It's a long drive to the coast, and not something I relish for doing in one day. I expect it will result in something akin to 'jet lag', and a day of strung out and worthless when I do get back to home base. But the fear of putting it off too long outweighs the prospect of driving eight hours in one day... so I'm loading up and heading out.

even though...

it wasn't really all that funny: me waking up in the wee hours, long before the (too early) time to get up and dress for heading out the door to work. I had to laugh. Which I did, although it was not much more than a small 'ha', if anyone had been nearby by to hear me bemused, they would have surely been concerned about my well-being and sanity.

I consume various and sundry potions before going to bed in hopes of sleeping well (and have actually given up on the possibility of sleeping All Night). With varying degrees of success, as there is an occasional, rare night when I am surprised at the time when I awake and glance at the digital clock across the room. But mostly awakening hours before there is any reason to actually get out of my warm little nest and dress to start the day. For the past two mornings I have been at work at 5:00 am, which means setting an alarm, for fear it will be that rare day when I do sleep well and don't startle awake to get on the go early enough.

But what happened today when I woke far too early will likely not have meaning to anyone else on the planet except my only sibling.  In the winter when it gets dark so early, still shortly after 6 pm. here, and stays dark for twelve hours, it's also fairly dark in our house, though there is some ambient light from neighbors who leave outdoor lights on round the clock and distant street illumination. I normally cannot tell if it is midnight or 6 a.m. when I wake, until I sit up to look at the glowing numbers on the clock. Today the numbers on the clock: 229. Sounds  like an ungodly hour to waken, and especially if your brain starts whirring so there is no hope of going back to sleep... knowing you have set the alarm for 4 o'clock, and anxious about it not going off to cause you to oversleep.

My dad's post office box number for about fifty years was 229. I knew it by heart when I was a little person, and he would let me go in and get the mail, with key in hand, all by myself: just like I was Really Somebody.  I wrote hundreds of letters to that address over the years, after I left home, and desperate to stay connected with parents. That number is so firmly imbedded in  my brain it is one of several I use for pin numbers with things that require you to have a password. Not something I will ever forget. So when I awakened and looked at the clock this morning, I had to laugh... wish  I had gone back to sleep, but that didn't happen....

how's it going...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016
...with the sugar free plan? Fairly well, I think. You know when you can't have something you really want, that's pretty much all you can think about, right? Well, I'm there. Trying to Not have 'visions of sugarplums dancing in my head'. Or eat the chocolate I have stockpiled and stashed away for the next dire emergency....

I went to Sam's Club today to do the weekly church shopping. A long list of things for feeding the youth on Wed. night, as well as a couple of items that appear frequently on the regular supplies.And noticed a big jug of Bolthouse juice/smoothie. I had not thought of drinking things that might not have refined sugar, but after reading the ingredients found it is all fruit and juice products. So it went in my cart for purchase.

Went through the checkout, got it all paid for and loaded in my car. I couldn't wait, drank half the bottle before I could get out of the parking lot. I am sure I could have chosen something that was probably much more healthy/nutritious (like the nasty green liquid that looked like a stagnant pond water), but I chose strawberry banana.  And I still have the second half  to enjoy when I am not nearly so famished, desperate, crazy from wishing I had something sweet.

Otherwise it seems to be doing o.k. I am still trying to figure out what I can use for turning things into hand held bites, like some sort of wrap or sandwich. Thinking maybe tortillas. The spinach flatbread I thought would be the solution turns out to have something lurking way down the list of ingredients. I had to do a google search to discover 'maltiol' is a product very similar to sugar. Pretty far down the list, so I don't think it would be really bad, but still 'cheating' in the strictest sense of the word.

Hangin' in there...

a coworker has the best...

...stories to tell about her family, and how much they like each other. It amazes me every time I talk with her and she tells me something new. They have so  much fun together, and seem to get along so well. I tell her every time she has another story to tell how fortunate she is. For any number of reasons: among them being that they all live right here in town, and can get together to celebrate anything or nothing.

They like each other so much they take vacations together. She told me they have rented a van and traveled together to Disney World. How can  they spend all that time in a vehicle and still want to spend time with each other in the park, then stay together in a condo., and get along well enough to not kill anyone before they get back in the van to return home? They went to Tennessee last summer, and had a great time doing all the fun things there are to do in and around downtown Chattanooga.

They spend the whole day together on a holiday, just enjoying being with siblings, in-laws and assorted cousins/kids. I am forever telling her how lucky she is that they are so congenial and love to be with their family. And now I realize one of the neatest things about this happy group is that when they get together, the kids are always there: with the adults interacting, talking, laughing.

So while the parents are cooking, visiting, talking about work. life, sharing experiences, the kids are right there, underfoot, observing how their moms and dads are acting around brothers and sisters. Seeing for themselves, and storing up knowledge for the future, watching how their parents, relatives, in-laws and family friends can get along with each other. Seeing people who can disagree, make decisions, discuss problems, resolve conflicts and still love each other. Seeing those adults model the kind of compassionate, caring loving behavior they will hopefully have when they grow into adults with families of their own.

fairly well, although...

Sunday, January 3, 2016
...it is only halfway through the second day. I am trying to be positive, though fully expecting to 'fall off the wagon", likely more than once, dust myself off and get back on. Kinda like your mental picture of the bronc busters at the rodeo? No, not quite that rigorous, but a rough ride nonetheless.

If you've been reading all along, you know that some weeks ago, I made a (possibly foolhardy) declaration that I would attempt to go sugarless for a month. After viewing a You tube video of some guy in Europe who had done it, and remarked on how differently he felt when it was over. Following the weeks of consciously, deliberately ridding his body of refined sugar, and the awful, miserable, disgusting craving (which I already have!) that possesses us all in this advanced civilization and land of plenty/plentiful junk food.  I know there will be times I take the path of least resistance. Especially at work, where a great variety of bad stuff is readily available, almost reaching out to you, leaping off the shelf/rack into your cart.

I just put the ingredients on the stove to simmer for a pot of vegetable soup. I thought I could start with readymade broth, but it has sugar'ish stuff in it. Dextrose, maltose, sucrose: all cousins of refined sugar. Explaining why we are in the mess of massive obesity from empty calories our nation waddles around displaying.

My soup will have a little chicken in it, as the man who lives here would not eat just veg. I'll have it to take to work when I am there all day, and sorely tempted with all those chocolate bars whispering my name at the cash register. I'm not sure I can find any bread-ish type product that will not have sugar or some derivative as an ingredient, to be able to make wraps or some sort of hand held meal as an alternative to spooning my lunch. But will continue to read labels listing ingredients in hope of keeping the bad stuff at bay....

the side dish: rice and peas....

...that was served with the fish was so good, I could have happily made a meal out of it. A customer who declined to taste the fish, but was persuaded to try to side dish was very complimentary. She said that in a cooking class she was told that combining rice and peas or beans made a complex protein, which is what our bodies need when we are avoiding meat. I've been doing that for quite a while, rarely eating animals, but cooking rice and adding some type legume. A can of black or red beans, or opening up a can of garbanzos to eat straight from the can. Yeah, I know = really uncivilized. I do rinse them first in the colander, then just start eating. Sorry.

Citrus Mint Rice

1 3/4 cups frozen green peas, thawed
2 (8.8 oz.) pouches precooked white rice
2 lemons, juice and zest
1 Tbs. fresh mint, finely chopped
1 Tbs. extravirgin olive oil
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup golden raisins

Microwave rice following package instructions (or make your own).(Best to thaw the peas in a colander under running water, or just let them sit out a bit, don't microwave, or they will be the color of army BDUs instead of the bright fresh green of early spring.) Zest and juice lemon (3 Tbs. juice.) Chop mint. Stir peas into hot rice, let stand one minute to warm peas. Combine remaining ingredients and stir into rice.

No reason you could not use brown rice, or some you already have on hand rather than purchasing the RTU shelf-stable packets of Uncle Ben. When you get ready to chop the mint, put it in a small bowl, or measuring cup and dice up with your kitchen shears - much faster and easier than using a knife on the cutting board for chopping herbs.

It's good, and pretty, and that little bit of lemon zest and juice make it really 'sparkle' on your tastebuds.

cooking at work...(salmon)...

...something I would not eat, though from the feed back I was (slightly) tempted.  Quite a  few of the customers to who were persuaded to give it a try admitted to not caring for fish or seafood in general, and reported it to be 'tasty'. Actually saying it did not taste 'fishy', which would be my biggest concern if I should accidentally put some in my mouth. And those who completely declined to give it the taste test would often agree to take a sample of the side dish, which I did eat and thought: 'yummy!'.

So I can highly recommend the side dish and with reservations report that the protein was good as well, though I did not actually put any in my mouth.  Truthfully, all the recipes we prepare and serve in the store are pretty much guaranteed to be fool proof as well as crowdpleasers. Each one has been through so many preliminary screenings, and been taste-tested so thoroughly, there isn't much that can go wrong with home preparation. There are occasionally some slight variations required in-store, due to limitations of space or the equipment we use. But generally hard to mess up.

The fish had a hot sauce that was part of the recipe, poured over the fillets before it goes in the oven. I am always cautious about putting spicy stuff on food: I never, never put it on mine, and would always be very sparing about doing it to anyone else whether friends or passers-by, total strangers. So when the ingredients list indicates adding two tablespoons of chipotle sauce, I would use half that amount. Which is what I did all day Saturday. Trying to let customers who picked up the recipe know that I had made a slight alteration to the specifics printed on the laminated card. I would not deliberately hurt myself with excessive hot sauce, so would not do that to anyone else. We have so many people who come in with small children as well as older people who won't/don't eat firey stuff I just would rather err on the side of caution..

So here's the recipe, for you to try or ignore.

Baked Chipotle Fish

non-stick aluminum foil (did you even know they make this? it seems to work really well!)
1 orange, zest and juice
1 clove garlic finely diced
4 salmon fillets, about 1 1/4 pound with skin removed
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. chipotle pepper sauce (remember- I used half this amount... add more at your own risk!)

Place salmon on baking sheet lined with foil (you can use regular foil and spray with non-stick), check for bones.
Combine coriander and salt, sprinkle over fish.
Whisk orange juice, zest, pepper sauce and diced garlic until blended.
Reserve one Tbs. for later use.
Brush salmon with sauce and place under broiler.
Cook for 7-8 minutes until fish is 145F or opaque and flakes easily.
Drizzle with remaining sauce.

Our instructions in the demo. station were to not broil, so we had to bake, cooking a bit longer, testing with temp. probe for doneness. There were some who declined to try, saying that they did not care for seafood, but even those customers usually would try the side dish, which was so good, I could have eaten the whole dish.

about the peas...

Saturday, January 2, 2016
...that I knew I absolutely must consume on New Year's or risk disaster in the next 364 days. They cooked and cooked and cooked and never got done. Admittedly I was at a disadvantage, since they did not go into the pot to simmer until the pork roast was being dished up. I won't apologize for going off gallivanting instead of sitting by the fire (or with my feet in the ashes a la fairy tale.) And zero liklihood of the guy left at home in front of the TV taking responsibility for tending to the black eyed peas. The football games definitely took precedence.

I thought when I purchased the little plastic box of peas in the produce dept. on Thurs. evening as I was leaving work, they were 'fresh', ready to cook, and would only take a few minutes to get done. As it turned out, they were only 'soaked' from dried. With instructions to cook until they got tender. Which never happened. So I was forced to eat them crunchy before going to bed. Not really all that bad, though not what you expect from black eyed peas. More the texture of garbanzos. Which is really ok - since i will be reheating to consume in the next couple of days.

Just to keep my mother from spinning in her grave: I ate my peas on New Year's Day. Hopefully enough to ward off any impending disaster that will surely befall those who failed to consume the proper configuration of safeguards on the first day of a new year. No pork, no greens, but plenty of (crunchy) peas. I'm going to cook some rice this morning to take a dish of leftovers to work for lunch.