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motoring to Cartersville...

Sunday, February 28, 2016
...today to meet for lunch. P. came down from Chattanooga, and we drove up from Decatur. I am convinced there is a good local Mexican restaurant to be found in any town in north America, if you will just take the time to look. And since that only requires a quick Googling any more, it's done before everyone can get their seat belts buckled.

We had the standard fare at the generic Los Amigos, and roamed the streets of Cartersville for a bit. Poking around in the local outdoor outfitter, located in a storefront on Main Street. The little town seems to be thriving, with lots of local eateries and a wide variety of stores in the downtown area that seem to be independent, local merchants.(Most of which have the good sense to close on Sundays, as well they should.) I did not leave any of my money there, other than buying our lunch.

Had our photo tooken in front of the First Ever 'Drink Coca Cola' sign painted on the side of a building any place in the world, according to the little plaque placed on the brick wall, where there was a fresh, red and white, bright, shiny reproduction of the original sign.

ant invasion...

... as if the millipedes were not problematic enough, in recent weeks there has been a mysterious proliferation of ants in the house. I am totally baffled. I grew up in a house that had a continuous influx of: mice, roaches as well as (you are not surprised - I've written about this before now) periodic snakes that take up residence and expect to happily cohabitate with humans. But I don't recall ever having a problem with ants before. I am not sure if they are the mean, biting, aggravating sort we diligently avoid that are commonly known as Fire Ants. But whatever the variety, the are not welcome in the house.

They appeared some weeks ago, in a relatively small infestation, that caused me to go to the store and buy little traps in an effort to do a homeowner elimination. The traps come four to a pack and require you to cut an opening to allow the insects to be attracted by and creep into the small clear box that has a appealing sticky liquid. They, of course, get stuck. I guess it sort of worked, or perhaps I was lulled into believing success was achieved. Then the weather got really cold/wet and they came back with a vengeance, just like a bad monster movie from Japan in the '60's. Invasion of the Man-eating Whatever! 

Whereupon I became convinced they had taken up residence inside the walls. Requiring a visit from the professional pest control guy. I hope/guess it worked. The newest little sticky traps I have put out have remained nearly ant-less, meaning they are gone or dead or planning a full scale invasion that will make the humans evacuate.

About a week ago, I walked out of the carport onto the concrete apron of the driveway and noticed a little line of ants traveling from the yard toward the house, across the edge of concrete where it transitions from rough of driveway to smooth of concrete floor in the carport.  So I got out my little handy-dandy fire ant killing powder and sprinkled a line the length of the little ant trail. When I looked the next day: there were a gazillion ant corpses scattered along the edge of the carport

Though I would like to think the ninety dollar visit by the pest control guy resolved the problem, I am not much optimistic about a long term solution. As the weather warms and they come out from underground (probably living under the concrete driveway, warmed by solar heat) I expect to see lots more of them  being a major nuisance in the yard. I am wondering if they do not care to inhabit yards where there are chickens that love to stir up the dirt, peck at bugs, dig for protein, search the leaf mulch for tempting morsels?

cuzzin' lunch for february...

... proved to be a pleasant affair. The perfect number of people to sit around the little round table from the kitchen of 1209 North Court St., with only a little scootching chairs closer together to accommodate. And as was traditionally reported in the 'society column' of goings on in small town America in the previous century, 'a good time was had by all'. Even though we did not participate in the finery wearing: no white gloves or dainty little hats perched atop heads with delicate lace veils.

 The Decatur cuzzin' brought her ninety year old mother in law, who can generally be depended upon to provide great humor and considerable amusement. She lives in a senior high-rise apartment complex, and reported being the 'program' for a recent 'rise and shine' event. When she asked if there were any other residents among the 100 attendees who were Atlanta natives,(where she admitted to expecting only a dozen in the audience) only one hand was raised. She talked about her early years, and things she remembered from growing up in the area. I am sure it was both educational and entertaining as she loves to tell stories, recount events from history.

I made 'way too much food. I don't know why. The casserole was designed to feed four, in a nine inch square dish. For some reason I thought I should double the amount: so put it in a 9 x13 dish (except for the bit that would not fit and went into a different dish to give away), to have enough to feed seven or eight people. Then only five mouths showed up so there was A Lot Leftover. Sadly, some will be enjoyed by the egg-laying group in the back yard - better they should look at it quizzically and peck at the pasta than putting in the trash at  home. I do feel badly about the prospect of feeding the chickens a chicken casserole, but also know I will be making a contribution towards my next dozen eggs.

Also had some fresh green beans (from that same Confetti Chicken casserole recipe) and a delicious salad with fresh spinach and strawberries. All yum-yum-yummy. And then there were desserts. I made a peanut butter pie. Got up on Saturday morning to put a chess pie in the oven to cook while I was getting my ducks in a row. When it got done, everything was loaded and ready to leave. And a sweet potato pie too. We ate toooooo  much.

devoted to community service...

Thursday, February 25, 2016
...is how I spent my day. After learning about an opportunity to attend a workshop that would provide information and education about growing organic gardens, I signed up to attend. Surprisingly, it was to take a place at a small neighborhood elementary school. There were several people there attending that I know from volunteering at the botanical gardens as a result of being involved in the Master Gardening program. As it turned it the class was aimed more at educators than growers. Designed to help teachers draw kids into nature, outdoor classroom, and develop an interest/love of growing things - both in the natural world, and as potential gardeners raising food crops.

The people who were instructing/leading the workshop were smart, well-informed, enthusiastic, energetic, knowledgeable and seemed very young - as well as thoroughly capable. In town for a Georgia Organics conference that is meeting locally over the weekend. It was really interesting, and I am glad I attended, hope that I will put some of that information to use as a volunteer with educational programs in our local botanical gardens.

Then I went out to do my little Thursday tutoring job with the third grade guy at Bethesda church. He is really sweet, but seriously struggling with basic reading skills. He had a library book we read today, about big machines. It is obvious he has learned to look at the illustrations in books to help him figure out what the book is about, but he tends to make up words instead of actually reading what is printed on the page. My guess is where ever he  started his education did not focus on phonics. So he really has a hard time sounding out unfamiliar words, and often substitutes/replaces the printed text with things he just guesses go on the page. This makes me sad for him, as I think of how he will likely always have difficulty in processing the printed words and understanding the meanings of what he is seeing. But also makes me very thankful that I can read and grasp meanings of what I see.

And after eating a delightfully greasy grilled cheese sandwich,  I went to a neighborhood meeting some locals planned to share info. about preparedness. What they think they will need when the grid goes down, and suggestions for how we should be getting ourselves ready for man-made disaster. They seem to be in a semi-survivalist mode, planning and packing gear to be ready for either getting home from some other location, or getting away form home when they feel the need to evacuate. I came home with a list of necessities: copies of important papers, medical supplies, food stuffs, water/food/camping gear. If I was not already paranoid before, now I am plenty. Loading up on energy bars, waterproof matches and MREs.

up before daylight...

 cooking chicken.  To make a dish that will travel to Decatur on the weekend. It's one I made at work, doing the little cooking demo., to give away to passers-by all day several weeks ago. I thought was so good, it is one that I willingly choose to prepare when I am not being paid to cook.

Going to the city on Saturday to lunch with the cousins. A day of amusement that we will hopefully continue to do and make a regular occurrence. Not really a big deal, just an opportunity to be together with some of my favorite people to eat, laugh, share stories, talk about what is going on in our collective lives.

I tell people all the time, when I am standing there in the cooking kiosk for eight hours, that I cook a lot more at work than I do at home. So for me to be putting this much effort into preparing a meal is remarkable and pretty unusual. You might remember reading about the recipe recently when I came home after making it several times in one day. It reminded me of a casserole dish served when we got down to the last of the turkey after Thanksgiving, and there was just enough meat to add to pasta and vegetables, bake in the oven and make one more meal before it was time for soup.

The actual title of the recipe, if you care to search for it in the Aprons listing, is Confetti Chicken, as it has pimento and green pepper that theoretically give it a 'confetti' appearance. I am sure when I start putting it together there will be some slight variations, as I tend to go with what's available in my kitchen. But I do have most of the basic ingredients, so expect it to be very similar to the original. Or at least fairly close to the 'Goodbye Turkey' one I have written on a recipe card from a friend, who claims to have invented it years ago, in order to use up the odds and ends of the Thanksgiving feast.

book review: "The Same Sky"...

Monday, February 22, 2016
...by Amanda Ward. Sweet story, even though I read it by listening to a set of seven CDs while driving to south GA and back the end of last week. Well written, to the point of possibly providing too much detail, about the life of a young girl growing up mother-less in Honduras. And a parallel story, told by young married woman living in Austin TX. The chapters went back and forth between the two, and caused considerable wonderment over how and when their lives would intersect.

The story of the  child living in extreme poverty in Honduras, with her grandmother and two younger brothers, voiced on the CD, by someone with an obvious Latino accent was heart wrenching. Painfully telling of the struggles those who have nothing in the way of resources manage to get through the day, finding scant food. Spending their time scrambling through other people's garbage, making daily treks to the dump, looking for both sustenance and something of value to sell for cash.
One of the younger brothers got hooked on glue sniffing, and left behind, as they made the hazardous journey.  It is a sad, though probably not uncommon story, of children desperately making plans to attempt escape by travelling the length of Mexico to cross into the U.S.: the land of opportunity. She endures a horrific experience as she makes the journey to Austin, hoping to reunite with her mother.

The young married woman has a charmed life, but has infertility problems and wants a family. Yearning for more, even though she is so fortunate, has so much to be thankful for: A good man, who runs a very successful business. The lives of these two finally mesh when the young Latino girl, after being raped on the train as she travels across Mexico, gives birth in Austin, and the child is given up for adoption. You guessed it: the young couple who desperately wanted a child had the opportunity to adopt that baby of the twelve year old who knew she could not provide a good life for her newborn.

It is was so sad, and disturbing, as I thought of how often this type thing must happen in real life. How many young girls, underage and unwillingly forced into sex, end up pregnant. And if they do not actually become impregnated by that forced manhandling, still suffer the mental, emotional and often physical damage/scarring for the rest of their lives.  Though it was fiction, the story of this young girl and her experience could easily be a straight from the evening news.

what i was telling them...(polenta)

... all day long yesterday when attempting to persuade them to eat something sort of 'foreign' that they had never tried before is: "it is really just 'glorified grits' with cheese". It was' polenta' on the recipe, but nothing more than cornmeal cooked in chicken stock. Some might want to cook in milk or just plain tap water, that would affect the taste, and maybe the consistency, as I think the milk or chicken stock would give a better flavor.

The other recipe I was cooking all day is something I decided to not consume, thinking I did not want to put dark meat chicken in my mouth. Sorry! I seem to have become peculiar in my eating habits, but recently concluded that I do not care to eat it. My loss, I know, as there is a unique item that is available in only one place locally that consists of dark meat chicken and rice, rolled in a flour tortilla with some wonderfully bad-for-you sauce that is really good. And now that I have decided I really don't care for the texture of that particular part of the bird, I won't enjoy going with some of my favorite people to eat something that used to be really tasty: Chicken roll-ups. Too bad.

Polenta recipe with cheese... so easy it's one of those things that you really don't need a recipe for...

4 cups liquid: this recipe calls for chicken broth/stock (low sodium)
1 1/4 cups ground corn meal
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 tsp. kosher salt.

Bring liquid to a boil. Slowly pour in cornmeal, steadily whisking into liquid (do it slowly or it will get clumpy and be lumpy), continuously stirring as you pour corn into liquid.  Reduce heat to med/low, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in cheeses and salt.  If you like grits, you will like this. It is smooth and creamy, like grits would be if you used milk for liquid.

a slow saturday: puttering around...

Saturday, February 20, 2016
...the house, being only marginally productive most of the day. But did get in the yard and plant a couple of things that have been lingering in pots far too long. Some succulents that wanted to be transplanted into a big planter a couple of years ago, and finally made the move today. A couple of little things I cut off to root back in the fall that finally got into pots with dirt.

And a tiny little thing that might turn into a hundred foot tree and live for three hundred years. Everyone who went to the screening of a film about Long leaf Pine trees got one to take home and plant. The event was on Friday night at the Columbus Museum, and was sponsored by a variety of environmental organizations, both local and national. Chattahoochee River Keeper, Georgia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Trees Columbus, Ft. Benning. As well as several regional collaboratives designed to preserve natural habitat for declining/endangered species native to the southeastern states like burrow-digging gopher tortoise and red-cockaded woodpecker.

The film, an interesting documentary, was made possible by a number of grants, and produced by Rhett Turner, who would have the resources to do without any donations whatsoever. Relating the history of the pine that once covered the southeast from east Texas into North Carolina - millions of acres. But now only found in a few locations, National forests, protected areas on military installations, privately owned tracts. Fascinating to see how species are so interrelated and dependent on one another. Like all the animals that benefit from the burrows and co-habitate with the tortoise, seeking shelter from fire, cold, intense summer heat.

how to know you are....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
....loosing your mind. I went to a little informational meeting today sponsored by the people who want you to make a donation to support their organization funding research for a solution. So they really want your contact info. to send you little envelopes with windows requesting your financial support.

It was interesting, and informative. I already know far more than I want to about Alzheimer's disease and how it can affect families. And have been sending funds in a random haphazard fashion for a number of years, when asked to contribute to the annual Walk. But no one has asked in recent years.

Anyway: here is the info I picked up today, that gives you some guidelines for looking at your friends and family and deciding who amongst you is the one in trouble, headed down the path into the miry pit. The slick handout gives ten signs, that can be considered early hints of future problems. Funny thing is:  they can actually be applied to all of us at some point or other, on those 'not so good' days we all have on occasion.

1) Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2) Challenges in planning and problem solving.
3) Difficulty in completing familiar tasks.
4) Confusion with time or place.
5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
6) New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8) Decreased or poor judgement.
9) Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10) Changes in mood or personality.

They all come with 'qualifiers', things that are relatively normal or typical for age related changes, so every thing is relative. One of the most noticeable things might be just sort of loosing touch with reality, in that a person can't say what the month, season, or day of the week is. But that could be easily explained by someone being retired, after a long career, and not needing to look at a calendar to keep up with scheduled work-related events.

surprised by scheduling...

Saturday, February 13, 2016
... if you have been a willing party to my griping and whining over the months about the frustrating employment situation, you can now throw up your hands in total frustration. I did that very thing last week. After a conversation with the store manager, I am certain that nothing will occur that would provide even the remotest possibility of a positive change. It is more likely that I would find myself unemployed, than that I could expect an improvement in the currently frustrating and disheartening situation.

I had hopes that being diligent, reliable and remarkably dependable would be helpful in demonstrating my best efforts. Along with assorted good intentions, eventually providing management with the desire to transfer my hard working self  back into the produce department as a clerk. Instead of continuing in the current vein of being the person who does only the cooking demo. a couple of days a week. Actually just a day and a half, when the person who has the authority over cooking demo. randomly chooses to divide the hours allotted in an equitable manner.

Distressing is the fact that I could be employed indefinitely in my present position and never even have the glimmer of the hope for increased pay  -  and be continually to be conscientious at the same level of diligence without any possibility of notice/reward for good work/service. The store manager told me I should apply for the position that would transfer me back into produce department. But now tells me that there is no possibility that I could make the move allowing me to hope for an increase in pay (that decreased considerably upon  the transfer under the customer service dept.). So it looks like I am stuck. But having a difficult time being reconciled. When I was so optimistically encouraged into hoping that a change was possible, if not likely.

Sadly, it seems that 'dependable' is not part of the job description. So my rhetorical question is this: what is the world coming to? Apparently a place filled with people who can work at their convenience without a thought as to whether they could be putting their employment at risk?

you might not be....

familiar with the urban legend/myth of the Valentine Fox?  To the best of my limited knowledge, he really exists, and has been sighted over the years in various locations around the globe. Pretty hard to catch, along with other marginal fallacies like the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. But for those who are constantly alert and willing to do with minimal sleep, it is possible to catch a quick glimpse in passing. Sort of like Peter Pan: you just gotta' believe, and if you do, anything is possible.

I have personal experience, and have had occasional sightings in years gone by. The latest possible interactions are the result of notes that might or might not have appeared in mailboxes in Decatur and Chattanooga. Maybe? Maybe not? He could be lurking any where....

an abundance of information...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
...at an event tonight sponsored by the Columbus State University Friends of Art. About the renovation and preservation of the estate of Eddie Owens Martin in Marion County just north of Buena Vista, GA. When he died, in the 1980's, he left his home and several acres of land that were inherited from his mother to the Pasaquan Preservation Society.

He called himself 'St. EOM', and requested that name be on his grave marker. He considered himself a visionary, and created a vast amount of art on the property using bricks, concrete, mortar and house paint to decorate all the buildings and walls he designed and hand-crafted. Lots of information can be found about him and his estate on Youtube. Too strange to even attempt to describe. Just look under his name or Pasaquan.

If you are knowledgeable about world religions, or an art history student, you will see many references in his constructions to the things that interested and inspired him, taken from world history and various cultures from around the globe. Things like statuary in yoga positions, mandalas and replicas of the Mayan stone calendar. Not what you might expect from a country boy from middle Georgia, or even someone who ran away from home at fourteen to live as a young adult on the streets of New York City.

His estate, now being carefully restored and preserved by a private foundation, is a unique construction. Currently being administered by Columbus State University, with an expectation of having a grand opening for the public in October 2016. It is a wonder to behold, and even after you  see it, you will likely not believe your eyes.

book review: "A Land Remembered"...

...by Patrick D. Smith. A novel based on early white settlers of Florida, long before it became a state. Very well researched, with a number of interesting characters, several generations of the (possibly fictitious, but likely based on reality) MacIvey family, that originally moved south from Georgia.  They settled in the Kississime River area in the mid-1800's,and began herding by catching the off spring of the cattle left by Spaniard explorers.

Fascinating story, relating the hardships of dirt poor farmers, struggling to plant crops and survive, scratching out a bare existence from the land. Cooking things that make you grimace to think of eating, that I am sure they were thankful to catch and put in the cook pot. From a time when there were no settlements in the interior of the state, and few cities along the coast line. There were isolated trading posts as a primary source of basic supplies like flour and gunpowder, that were often without those necessities. When settlers would ride for days through the dense palmetto undergrowth, skirting swamps full of alligators or bears, across the marshy plains, only to find the supplies they were hoping for were not available. A hardscrabble life, where survival depended on individual resourcefulness, and willingness to make do.

The MacIveys got into the cattle business when forced to go on a cattle drive to get fresh meat to troops during the Civil War. And later gathered wild cattle and drove them to the coast, to sell to buyers who would ship them to Cuba. They were paid in Spanish gold, literally heavy sacks of gold coins, they transported and stored in wooden chests, and accumulated great wealth. They used their funds to purchase vast tracts of land long before the land boom in Florida that occurred as railroads were built. Grazing cattle, planting thousands of acres in orange groves. Then clearing thousands of acres for growing vegetables to feed the tourist trade in coastal towns, in the Lake Okeechobee  area, where vast truck farms exist today.

book review: "Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule"...

...by Jennifer Chiaverini. Pretty fascinating subject matter, based on historical research, but with lots of fiction and elaboration to flesh out some interesting characters. Julia Dent grew up as a privileged daughter of slave owners, and was courted by and eventually married to Ulysses Grant. Jule was a servant in her father's house, and followed Julia's life from afar as Mrs. Grant became the well known wife of a famous Union General.

Julia could see nothing wrong with the lifestyle into which she was born, though Grant was vehemently opposed to slavery. After Lincoln proclaimed slaves freed, Jule left her mistress and started a life in the north, but always fearful of being found out and forced to return to her former owners, prosecuted as a runaway. The story follows the various campaigns of the war, and finds Julia having children, constantly on the move, as she relocates many times to be close to her husband. Lots of historical facts about the many battles of the war as Grant is given more and more responsibility for the troops, strategy, and decisions. Promoted to General of the Union Armies, and signs a peace agreement at Appamatox. Grant is portrayed as a generous, benevolent man, not wanting a war, but willing to fight fiercely to bring the conflict to a quick resolution. Lincoln is killed, Grant is drafted to run for president and serves two terms, then decides enough is enough.

Not knowing much about these actual historical characters, I cannot say how accurately they are portrayed in this novel, but it appears to be well researched. I believe the author read numerous memoirs and journals of that era, and did much research into historical documents. According to the novel, Grant died as a result of his love of cigars, from cancer of the mouth. And the book ends with Julia becoming fast friends with Mrs. Varina Davis, the widow of the president of the Confederacy.

cookin' at work... chicken casserole

... that was actually called Confetti Chicken, reminding me of the semi-famous recipe invented some years ago that was the second place (nearly) winner of the Cornbread Cook-off. The Confetti Chicken recipe could easily be confuse with what your mama used to make on the day after the day after Thanksgiving. It occurred when everyone was getting tired of turkey, but it was still a bit too early to put the carcass in the soup pot. With enough left over meat to turn the bird into a 'group dish' and hope to get one more meal out of it before insurrection when the troops refused to consume another mouthful of leftovers.

I've seen recipes that would have called it 'tetrazini', using bits of turkey or chicken, adding misc. veg, along with pasta, using a can of mushroom soup as the sauce, then baked in the oven. I have a recipe from a friend of the family calling that sort of casserole 'Goodbye Turkey', from the era when people would never toss any edibles away. Reusing and recycling food. Continuing to transform smaller and smaller quantities of meat into various forms, hoping to make one more meal out of the original item, disguised as something served on toast, or in a soup pot.

This recipe starts with a rotisserie RTU chicken from the deli, so the most time consuming part of preparation is taking the meat off the bones. I was telling people all day long that the bird will have enough meat to double the amount needed. So you can put half in a zip bag in the freezer, or make chicken tacos, or some other recipe your family likes.

Chicken Confetti Spaghetti

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
8 oz spaghetti pasta
10 oz. cooked, diced chicken (about 2 1/2 cups)
8 oz. trinity mix (diced onions, bell pepper, celery - or your choice of veg.)
1 (18 oz.) can creamy mushroom soup
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 1/4 cup shredded cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Remove chicken from bones, dice into bite-sized pieces (I used kitchen shears).
Break pasta  into 2 in. pieces before adding to boiling water, cook and stir 5 min., until partially cooked. Drain off water.
Combine  in microwave safe dish: chicken, pimentos, vegetables, salt, pepper, soup. Cover and microwave on high 2-3 min.
Stir in pasta, transfer to lightly greased 2 quart baking dish.
Mix bread crumbs and cheese, add butter, mixing well with fingers to blend butter into crumbs. Spread evenly over chicken mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees. Makes 6 servings.

accidently working...

Sunday, February 7, 2016
...more days than expected this week. Your week has not even started yet- since you probably don't go in to work until Monday morning. But I have already put in two days. And looking at several more, totaling close to what the rest of the world normally expects: forty hours.

People 'calling out', though I always thought it was 'calling in' as in calling the workplace to report you are indisposed and will not be on the job. Sorry about illness, but their misfortune is the reason I will be putting in more hours than usual. Lately my work schedule has been more than a little 'thin' on hours, making my little paycheck equally undernourished, almost to the point of transparency. So the opportunity to take full advantage of the poor health and misfortune of others will not be complained about. Rather - thankful for employment, fleeting though it might be....

pondering the universe..

Saturday, February 6, 2016
...about how things that seem to be so remote are really connected in ways we never really consider. After hearing a geologist interviewed on public radio in the past month or so, I can't seem to get this out of my mind. And wonder how many other things that seem to be so random really have some of that 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' attachment in ways no one has explained for our simple minds to grasp.

The backstory here is how the man, probably an author of a book or printed article, was describing the far reaching results of that tsunami that hit Japan a few years ago. Flooding caused widespread damage that included the shut down of a nuclear power plant that continues to leak toxic materials into the land and surrounding ocean. Because of the power plant disaster, several large governments in Europe decided to discontinue using nuclear fuel as a energy source. And shut down power plants in Germany, France, maybe another  country. Seeking alternative energy sources like wind farms and solar panels. Causing the solar panel market to begin to produce at a high rate, making the panels much more affordable and commonplace. Thereby creating a reduction in demand for fossil fuels and energy sources that are more expensive as well as dirty and not renewable.

Then a side effect of increased use of solar panels and developing wind turbines for generating energy, is that the price of gas has gone down dramatically. So the value of crude oil is lower than it has been in years, and filling your tank at the pump is cheaper than  in recent memory. I recall going on a road trip with my cousin less than ten years ago, and paying over four dollars a gallon for gas (and driving a guzzler as well.) But I am the person who can recall my dad handing me a quarter and telling me to walk up to the gas station less than a block from the house and get a gallon of gas to mow the entire yard on a Saturday.

I remember the geologist saying Everything is Connected, and it All starts with Geology. Hmmm...

Oh  - and I am so opposed to fracking I think we are not only ruining our continent, we are dooming the planet.

peanut butter dip...

... is what I was serving when I spent the day on Friday cooking at work. I made it on Wed. when I got called in to work half a day for a co-worker who had some health issues and left early. The dip was served with apple slices: how can you go wrong with peanut butter and apples? This version was made creamier by the addition of yogurt, to make it more spreadable, so it would be easy to apply to anything you choose to pair it with. According to the info. we were given to share with consumers, no fat in the yogurt and lots of protein. And so easy you don't need a 'recipe' to put together!

Peanut Butter Dip

1 cup unflavored, fat free Greek yogurt
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 cup peanut butter

Mix. Serve. How simple is that?
I found that if you put the yogurt in the bowl and stir in the honey before adding the peanut butter it seems to work better: you are lot having such a hard time getting all the tenacious stuff off the bottom of the bowl to have it well blended. I was using the little bags of pre-sliced apples that are treated with something to keep them from browning. And just dipping the apples, putting them on a plate with a generous glob of the dip.

Someone told me recently a good easy way to keep sliced fruit from browning. Things like bananas and apples, that exposed to air quickly discolor and look less than palatable. Dip them in club soda. It does not change the flavor like lemon juice or pineapple juice, but will keep them from turning brown before being eaten.

And had more people do a U-turn, come back for the recipe to know how to make the dip than I think were wanting the instructions for the chili-mac that was on the same card. The chili was good, but going by the recipe was a little spicy for my preference. Probably due to the addition of some salsa which had enough heat in it to linger on the tongue. And truthfully, if you have made chili a couple of times, you probably don't use a recipe anyway, right? This one had elbow pasta added to it, which I had not thought of doing. Several customers commented they were from the North, and that is common there - sometimes called 'Cincinatti Chili'.

another day of sub. teaching...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016
...that seemed like a good idea when I got home last night. This one is at a school fairly close to home, and I am hoping it will be a relatively placid experience. It is a newer school, and would draw students from a totally different socio-economic area than most of the ones I have been in since jumping into subbing in January. That is of course, no guarantee that it will not be a crazy day with a classroom run amuck. But I am pretty sure I have already had  my worst day, so nearly certain that will not happen again.... stay tuned!

'reading' while driving...

Monday, February 1, 2016
... really means listening while driving, as I always have a talking book available in my car, especially when I plan to be on the road for several hours. The most recent one was a very interesting story about a woman who grew up in the southwest in the late 1800's and into the twentieth century. It was written as a 'true-life novel', by her granddaughter.

Lily's earliest years were spent on a ranch in west Texas, helping her dad in the family business. Her father trained carriage horses, and she worked with him, helping to break the horses and provide the training of paired animals the family raised and sold. As she reached adulthood and wanted employment outside the family, she was hired as a school teacher in the area, working in a small one room building, with students of varying ages., With a limited education (having only finished the eight grade herself) she was none-the-less a dedicated teacher to youngsters of severely limited resources.

As a young adult, wanting to see the world, she moved to Chicago, and worked as a domestic for some years, realizing that more education would be the only way she could improve her circumstances. And over time did eventually get a degree. Working as a housekeeper during the day and going to school in the evenings.

She got married, had two children, and lived a long, full life with her family relocating a number of times in Arizona and New Mexico, as jobs/work situations changed. Often employed as a teacher, and often raising livestock, when her husband would take work as a ranch manager for absentee landowners. The book, written after many hours of talking with her mother and other family members was a marvelous story. And being from the perspective of a female, quite unusual as a retelling of life and experiences in the southwest when those areas were becoming populated by settlers moving from back east. "Half-broke Horses": was well written, and a fascinating tale about American history from the view point of one who lived it.

I will occasionally check out a book or set of CDs that will not grab my attention and cause me to return it without being completely consumed. In recent years, coming to realize there is no 'test', and I will not be expected to give a report to prove I actually completed the assignment. Therefore if the book is not one that holds my interest after a reasonable amount of time, I am more than willing to return it to the library largely unread. With no worries about bringing home a poor grade due to failure to complete my work.

on the ride home...

...from the concert last night, I was listening to the radio and found the 'Car Talk' show. Those guys amuse themselves so well, they don't really need an audience! I know it was a replay, and expect that they will continue to be a source of entertainment and education for years to come. Thoroughly entertaining even if no one is listening: as in - does the tree falling in the forest make a sound if no on is there?

And a weather report telling me to expect rain this morning, and wet for the rest of the day. Which I took as good news, since I had planned to go to help tidy up/pull weeds at the Botanical Gardens this morning, as part of the once-a-month ground crew. When I got the email reminder last week, I'd made a note on my calendar, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, but willing to devote an hour or so to the project. Then, with the prospect of a steady drizzle all day, optimistically sent an email to the organizer, hoping it would postponed for another day.

No such luck: And though it is completely overcast, dull and gray here this morning, there is no rain. I walked around the yard at my house yesterday, looking for signs of spring, and see lots of the bulbs, especially hyacinths, that are starting to peek up out of the ground, after lots of rain and a little sunshine. As well as lots of early spring weeds that were shouting for attention. I pulled a few, and hope to get out there to do some more before the undesirables bloom and have an opportunity spread seeds/reproduce. Demonstrating, I guess, the truth in the obscure saying I heard from my mother: 'It rains on the just and the unjust'....meaning, I suppose, that the weeds grow faster than the things we plant and desire to flourish?

"Peter and the Wolf"...

...was the performance at the RiverCenter when I was volunteering on Sunday night. I was reminded that it was written to help schoolchildren better understand and appreciate concert music. Last night it was performed by members of the Columbus Symphony and a group of young students from the Columbus Ballet. The youngest children in the dancing troupe were cute little girls of elementary age, with quite a few little round bellies from girls who have yet to shed their baby fat. Wearing leotards and butterfly wings, ballet slippers, seriously prancing around on the stage in the proper order.

The director of the symphony explained to a fairly small audience before the performance started that the different instruments were 'playing the part' of each character, as that character stepped forth for an introduction. Many young children in the audience, some of who had taken the opportunity to attend the pre-show 'petting zoo' and become acquainted with the woodwinds, brass, percussion and other instruments. Then the show began, telling of young Peter, living with his crochety grandfather, and the animals: bird, cat, duck, and wolf creeping in from the forest. With the different instruments performing as various characters took part in dancing on stage. Of course, in a children's tale, everyone lives happily ever after, so the wolf was captured and taken to the zoo, rather than facing a bad end. It was not a long concert/event: over in less than forty five minutes from when the orchestra began, so a pretty short event. But hopefully giving families with young children an opportunity for a positive experience to classical music and introduction to the workings of symphony experience.

My knowledge of "Peter and the Wolf" was limited to Music 101, many many years ago, back when I probably listened to it on a cassette tape, so it was pretty vague.  I definitely did not grow up in a home where this type music was present: the kind of stuff you hear in the middle of the day on public radio. But when the music started, I discovered that the tunes identifying the different characters to be quite recognizable. Realizing this is the the background music I hear when I make my annual walk through the Fantasy in Lights Show at Callaway Gardens. I think this music is played when you get to the part of the tour going through the snowflake forest, where strings of clear/white lights are hung by the hundreds, from wires stretched from tree to tree along the roadway. Brilliantly lighting that section of the woodlands as we pass through. So it was quite familiar, and a very pleasant surprise!