Friday, September 4, 2015

Are You Ready For Some Football Tailgate Recipes?

At our house, we take our football seriously.  Even more so, as the chef de cuisine of Casa Smith, I take my game day food planning just as seriously.

For me, ease of preparation and taste are the big concerns when I'm planning the weekend sports-watching menu.  That generally ends up meaning two little words:  slow cooker.  Through the years, I have managed to put together some yummy game day munchies that can be mostly done in the crockpot and that frees me up to do what I really want to do -- watch the game.

Pre-made salads, pasta salads and sandwiches can also be great for the same reasons:  ease of preparation and hands-off self-serving during the game for everyone you happen to be feeding.

This weekend, for the kick-off of the Mountaineer football season, I'm thinking a taco bar may be in our future.  I'll brown some ground turkey and onions in a skillet, spice it up, add a bit of salsa and pop it in the slow cooker to allow the flavors to meld together for an hour or two.  While that is cooking, I'll get the toppings and fixings together:  tortilla chips, taco shells, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sliced olives, sliced jalapeƱos, salad fixings, guacamole and salsa.  Then we can decide if we want nachos (chips, cheese, taco meat, fixings), taco salad (large pile of lettuce, meat, cheese and some crushed tortilla chips), or tacos (shredded lettuce, meat and cheese with salsa and guac).

There are a lot of other options, though, several of which can be made healthier with just a few simple substitutions -- lower fat cheeses, more veggies and less bread, leaner meat choices.   Here are some recipes ideas and my tweaks on making them healthier in parenthases beside the links:

Friday, August 28, 2015

This Should Not Be Who We Are in WV

West Virginia is a lovely state.  Everywhere you drive in this state, you can find some green fields and lush hillsides covered in trees.

We are so lucky to live here.

Not just for the scenery, but also because small town America still exists in a lot of places in our state.  Places where family still comes first, and you know the names of your neighbors and their kids play with yours on your street and on sports fields all over town.  Our communities feel more like family in a lot of ways -- still -- in most places across our lovely state.

But this week, a piece of that internal myth was shattered.  A student at Philip-Barbour High School held an entire classroom full of kids hostage at gunpoint for several hours (from People):

"She thought it was going to end right there; she already had accepted that fact," Principal Mark Lamb tells PEOPLE. At the same time, he says the teacher told herself, "I've just got to make sure that he doesn't hurt any of the kids." 
Teacher Twila Smith – a graduate of the school where her sister also teaches, and their father taught before them – eventually was freed, along with the 29 student hostages, after Philippi Police Chief Jeff Walters negotiated their release with the armed 14-year-old, who surrendered two hours later...
Philippi is a gorgeous town, known more for its old covered bridge than probably anything else, although it was also the place where the first land battle of the Civil War was fought.  (My students from 5th grade all proudly announced this to me last year when we went there for an away football game:  "Hey, Mrs. Smith, did you see the sign about Philippi being the first Civil War battle?  We already knew that from last year."  So proud of my kiddos!)  It is nestled among the high, rolling hills of the Appalachians, and is just a gorgeous place to visit.

Read that excerpt from People again.  The classroom teacher is a second-generation teacher at that school, having also graduated from there as well.  In WV, our roots run very deeply into the soil of our mountains, which is why everyone feels so much like family -- we've known each other in our little towns for so long.

So what went wrong with this particular boy?

We have always been a hunting and fishing state, but with an emphasis on safety and respect for the rules with firearms. I suspect that this is a 14 year old boy who is desperately trying to get some attention, probably from a very frightened girl, in a really misguided way.

I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad my whole life, but I would never -- and I mean NEVER on pain of serious punishment -- have ever touched a gun in his gun cabinet without permission, because he taught me gun safety and respect for other people's lives and safety above all else from the moment we first went to a shooting range.

No idea where things went wrong for this particular boy, why he thought that threatening the lives of his classmates and teacher in this callous way was acceptable behavior, but it makes me sad.

Around here, we tend to think of everyone in our town as a wider family, and this is so, so outside of that.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Woke up this morning and checked my Amazon sales stats, because I am hoping to get enough to buy a couple of new books for my school library and I need a little budget supplemental to make that happen.  Just about fell out of my chair and onto the floor.

Holy cow!

Some wonderful person used the links through this blog and ordered 108 items for their school year.  The revenue from this will allow me to now order several items for my school year as well.

Bless you, wonderful, wonderful reader!

This truly has made my day, and will make the day of my kids in library class when a new boss of goodies (read as new books!) shows up at the library in the next few weeks.  What a huge blessing for my kiddos and for me, and I cannot thank you enough for using my Amazon links and search engine for those purchases.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Word of the Day: Exhaustion

Today's word of the day is "exhaustion."

Probably because I've been staying up way too late watching the Pirates play baseball, and then getting up way too early to teach.  Where did the summer go so quickly?

My kingdom for a cat nap.

(Photo via dimbledar.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Last Minute Prep

Classes begin for me in the library tomorrow.

Spent most of the weekend and today getting all those last minute things ready:  check-out cards, classroom rules revisions, lesson plan tweaks, you name it.  The funny thing about teaching is that the job never ends -- your brain is always working on some new plan, taking something around you and turning it into an educational something-or-other to be stored away for future use.

But I am going to need some serious early to bed scheduling this evening, because I am just about as tired as I can be sitting here at the moment.  My students aren't going to appreciate it if I spend story time yawning.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Floating Along

It has been a seriously busy week at our house:  school is back in session, cheer practices are in full swing, and I am running around like a crazy person once again trying to juggle too many things with too little sleep and not nearly enough time to do them all.

Mercifully, it is finally the weekend.  Hallelujah!

If you need me today, I'll likely be just floating along, bouncing around my "to do" list like so much flotsam after a ginormous storm, bobbing about and coming up for air once in a while.  If I am lucky, I'll get myself caught up a bit and find a way to take a nap, too.

Here's hoping...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Clearing a Bit of Fog

With the start of school this year, something has returned to my morning that I didn't realize had been missing:  silence.

Not the uncomfortable sort of silence that you get during an awkward conversation.  Not even the lonely sort of silence that stretches out far too long when it is forced on you by circumstances you do not want or by people who do not want you.  This is better than that:  it is the silence that comes from things in your life falling into place, the people in your life happily living their own truths and giving you the space to find that for yourself as well.

It has been a long time coming for me, but I feel some writing about to burst out of me.  There is a torrent of stored up words and thoughts and story ideas, all pent up and waiting to spew out onto the page.

More than anything, I need to make time for them to come out.

For me, though?  That is easier said than done.  A lifetime of habits: of putting the needs of everyone around me ahead of my own, of worrying about meeting the expectations of others while actively shoving my own to the side, of worrying more about pleasing other people than whether or not what I am doing is making me the least bit happy.  Everyone does this sort of thing at some point, but I may very well be the grand champion of people pleasing and self-deferment.

Lately, though, it feels like I may be coming out of that fog.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Finding Ways To Stay Sane During Back To School Week

This week has been a blur of teacher's meetings, getting the room ready, yesterday's Open House and then The Peanut's first day of junior high.  In all of the rushing around, we really haven't had a chance to savor this huge step as The Peanut moves from the little elementary school she has attended since she was tiny to the larger combined junior high and high school.

It is a huge step.

Seems like we ought to be celebrating the change a little more, but instead we have been rushing around like crazy people all week long, continually adding and subtracting from all of our "to do" lists, and from one practice to another, without really pausing to think about any of this.  That needs to change.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Back to School Is Around the Corner

It's that time of year again, and we'll be back in school before we know it.

Seems like we haven't had much of a summer, with a boatload of rain early on that kept us out of the pool for days and days on the front end.  Each year, we get busier and busier with The Peanut's activities, so that summer days get eaten up by practices and all sorts of extra this, that, and the other thing "to do's."

The good news is that I have spent an entire summer not having to deal with a surgery or cancer treatment of some sort -- the first free summer in a long, long time -- and our little family has really enjoyed that freedom to think and do things that had nothing whatsoever to do with "the big C," as it is sometimes known in our house.

The fact that my 12-year-old daughter worries every time I feel the least bit achy or tired is testament to how much this has impacted our house the last few years.  This summer, I tried to consciously spend more quality time with her, while also taking it easy and giving myself a little space to heal.

That meant taking a little time away from the blog to spend it with The Peanut, but I knew you guys wouldn't mind.

But as the school year cranks back up again, my little blog will be doing so as well.

I have been working on a doozy of a bulletin board and some crafts to start the school year.  There will be photos, I promise.  Let's just say that my Cricut Explore Air Wireless Cutting Machine has been getting a work-out this summer.

And then some.

Hope everyone has had a good summer.  It's been a relaxing one at our house...which was just what the doctor ordered for all of us.

(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Punch And Judy Show Returns

If it is election season, you can always depend on the same old bad pennies turning up, trying to steer the GOP primary conversations toward their own twisted slant on reality.

Like the perennial bad penny, there she is again like election season poison:  Judith Miller.  Attempting once again to sell her tale of woe to the rubes who want so desperately to believe in her virtue.

Nothing ups book sales numbers like a whiff of outraged controversy by a Fox News contributor in a heated election cycle frenzy.

This time she's enlisted a neocon pal to help her up her sales figures, with a plaintive tale of woe twofer in the very sympathetic Wall Street Journal.  Peter Berkowitz and Judy Miller share a lot of connections through the Hoover Institution and the Manhattan Institute, both neocon policy think tanks that funnel money and perks as a sort of wingnut welfare project for the neocon elite to meet and greet.  If you page through the websites for both groups, you'll see a number of familiar names from the Dick Cheney Veep parade of pals - it's like a stroll through bad memories lane.

The problem for everyone involved:  trials have transcripts.

Judy Miller can tap-dance all she likes, but it was not Pat Fitzgerald who elicited the most damning testimony from her with regard to Scooter Libby's guilt.  It was William Jeffress.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dark Lord Funk You Up!

I love this so much.  Genius.  Pure genius.

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Snow Day

It is pouring the snow down outside at the moment and has been for several hours.  The roads appear to be horrid, based on how slowly everyone is driving on the road in front of the house like snow-covered, cautious snails.

The poor birdies outside have very little to fight over, as I haven't been able to get out to refill my bird feeders since my surgery.   The photo above is from a storm last winter.  Think of this same cardinal staring woefully in at me, while pecking at a mostly empty feeder hoping beyond hope to find a remnant, succulent morsel of something good.

I have bird guilt.

The Peanut will, hopefully, be able to fill things up for me later today, once she finishes her school snow packet work for today.

Just based on the rate of snow, I'd say her basketball game this evening may end up being cancelled as well.

When winter decides to arrive, apparently it does so with gusto.  But it is hard to complain, given that we don't live anywhere near Buffalo-level snow belt craziness.  So I'll just sit back in the warmth of my cozy house and enjoy the view.

UPDATE:  Hooray for The Peanut, who went out and filled up the feeders for me.  It is so good to have a helpful child who is home on a school snow day, especially if you are a fluffed out, cold and hungry birdie.