21 Jun

Sunday Sentiments

School is out.  So you’d think that I’m just consumed with free time.  On the contrary.  This week has rivaled end-of-school busy, and this weekend even more so.

First, we received our foster license in the mail this week.  So that’s official.  We also have a respite placement for the weekend.  And it’s kicking my butt.

Let me start by saying this: any parent who ever manages to leave their house without stains all over their clothes is a wizard/witch, and you should ask them what their patronus is.

But for those of you who aren’t bogged down by play doh and kiddie pools and the question “why” being repeated ad nauseum… or for those of you who have a better handle on this whole parenthood thing… here’s some reading material.

This sweet chili pineapple sauce… omigod!

Aziz real talks relationship red flags.  Because… yes.

I’m obsessed with lettuce wraps.  Now you can be too.

If money can’t buy happiness, maybe you’re spending your money wrong.  I’m only sort of joking.

Reading about the science of happiness is basically my only hobby.  Where’s the science that proves that this makes me happier?

Speaking of happiness, I’m obsessed with Gretchen Rubin and her podcast “Happier”.

I’m hitting our local gluten free bakery just as soon as I drop these kids off at day care Monday morning.  For serious.

07 Jun

Sunday Sentiments

This week.  Oh boy, this week.  There’s been news, celebration, and mourning.  Joel’s uncle, who we’ve been extremely close with these past several years, lost a years-long battle with cancer Thursday evening.  It wasn’t altogether unexpected, but that never makes it easier.  Since I still had to go to work on Friday, it should be noted that I have really incredible coworkers/friends, and my students were unbelievably generous with me.

In substantially better news, Joel and I are now licensed foster parents.  I also only have 4 days (really 3.5) left in the school year.  Woot!

Regardless of how this week has been for you and yours, here are some things that should definitely make it better.

Forget motivation, use systems.  This spoke to my soul.

Who needs National Doughnut Day as an excuse to eat doughnuts?  I sure don’t.

Joy the Baker is on point with these GF angel food cakes.

Weight Watchers Lemon Brownies.  You had me at lemon.

I’m obsessed with Chinese take-out style food, these day.  This sweet and sour chicken is no exception.

Hash brown waffles.  Yes, please.

I woke up at 5:42 this morning and totally freaked out.  My alarm is supposed to go off at 5:30.  Then I realized that it’s Sunday.  Enjoy this last day of the weekend.

30 May

Saturday Sentiments

Strawberry Waffles

Joel’s super busy this weekend, which means I’m going to be super busy watching the Kardashians and eating strawberries.  I’ve got some sewing projects I want to get started on, but well… we’ll see.  No promises.

In the meantime, here’s what the internet has to offer us this week:

Tracy Shutterbean made the most amazing looking strawberry shortbread situation.

12 copycat recipes.  Yes, please!

As an introvert, I sometimes lie.  We all do.

My obsession with home textiles can be fully realized with these knitted placemats.

I’ve been reading all about what it’s like to be a foster parent.  I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

23 May

Saturday Sentiments

Last weekend, I practically killed myself getting a bathing suit for when we go sailing today.  And then the high temperature decided to be 72 degrees.  Oy with the poodles already!

This week, the internet had a lot to offer.  Here’s a snapshot.

Life is rough for female comedians.

Here’s something from my favorite one, who writes about juice in a way that will make you rethink your whole life.

Allergies have hit me hard this year.    It’s good to know there’s no hope.

But plants aren’t all bad.  They can clean the air, too!

Gluten free pizza bites.  YES!

You had me at cheesy.

I need to get to work on my popsicle game this summer.  I think these will help.

Enjoy your long weekend.  You had better believe I am!

16 May

Saturday Sentiments

I’m full of opinions this week.  I’ve been thinking a lot about parenthood lately.  And how very important it is to monitor our expectations.  Part of me dreams about the days spent playing with my kids, taking them to baseball games, and cooking dinner while they work on homework.

Except that’s a little silly.  Because I haven’t the slightest idea what’s in store for me or them.  What if they’re struggling learners?  That whole multitasking homework thing is probably out the window.  What if they have sports?  There are a thousand what ifs, and I can’t possibly prepare for all of them.

And then I think about my students right now, who I absolutely adore.  About how they love learning, but they weren’t that way 9 months ago.  About how we learned and grew together this year, and I love them for it.  And every one of them is delightful and lovable for their own very distinct reasons.  And I didn’t have any expectations of their interests before they entered my classroom.

Keeping expectations in check is a tricky thing.  Because it’s easy to get caught up in a dream… predicting for yourself what things will be like.  But it’s so much better when you expect nothing because then everything will exceed that.  Working on this…

In the meantime, I’m thinking about how to make sure my children are feminists.  I have no expectation that they will be when they come to me.  And I recognize that this transition could be easy or difficult depending on past experiences.  But it’s an important value of mine and my husband’s so we’re going to have to figure out something.

But down to the food.  Let’s talk for a moment about my obsession with Nicole Hunn from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  Here’s the bottom line.  I have no idea how that woman manages to publish so many cookbooks (I have all but classic snacks and use them regularly) and still manages to keep her blog so dang relevant.  I don’t understand, but I super appreciate it.  If you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon yet, I’m going to highly recommend.

Her recipes are consistently delicious.  Consistently inexpensive to make (at least for what they are).  And consistently helpful.  She tells you all the best places to buy your flours, which is especially helpful if you’re just getting started on the whole gluten free thing.  And once you have certain flours on hand, it’s really very easy to make almost anything she makes.  But even without that, she gives you recipes using “all-purpose” flour blends in the ingredients which obviously taste better with her blends, but work fine with store-bought.  She’s rad.

This week, she made brownies that are full of goo, and I’m absolutely dying for.

And then she also posted a recipe for gluten free bisquick which is literally the only flour blend in my pantry that I didn’t go to her for before.  You can bet there isn’t one now.

This weekend, I’m determined to find a bathing suit.  So you know… yikes.  I think there are gardening plans in the works, as well.  Enjoy these two little days!


10 May

Sunday Sentiments

I’m deep in the throws of bathing suit shopping.  I’m not really a fan of any type of shopping, but like… really not bathing suits.  Women are expected to prance around the beach in little more than their underwear, and sometimes tremendously less.  And if you’re not 100% comfortable in that, it’s mom bathing suits for you.

And if you want to actually swim in this suit rather than laying out on the beach (which is basically the least fun activity ever invented), good luck with that.  The moment you jump into the water, things will be falling off, and you’d better hope the water isn’t too clear.

But to top it off, I like to go swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, which is walking distance from my in-law’s house.  Which means I usually walk it.  In my bathing suit.  Along busy streets and past a dairy queen and burger queen.  Obviously anyone would want to walk that path in a skimpy bikini.

Hey, Jenny, why don’t you just wear a cover-up of some sort?  That’s a nice idea.  Oh wait, when we get to the beach, it’s a public beach that allows dogs, and I’m supposed to leave the cover-up on the beach while I swim (because I do that) where it can get trampled by a dog, blown away by the end, etc.

And to top it off, they cost an absolute insane amount.  Any woman who likes shopping for bathing suits is dead to me.

So let’s get into the exciting stuff:

10 Mother’s Day Cards You Would Actually Want to Send to Mom.  Seriously.  It’s just too real.

Tracy Shutterbean’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls look like something I need for breakfast/snack this week.

If breakfast isn’t your favorite meal of the day, we can’t be friends.  And if you’re gluten free, your options just got better.

Let’s pursue simplicity.  Or let’s just never do anything we don’t want to do unless it directly allows us to do things we want to do (i.e., things that pay you money).  But seriously, I kind of live by that.

Cornmeal crepes filled with taco stuffin’s?  Yes, please.  As always, we need to thank Nicole Hunn.  She’s basically my hero.

You had me at ranch.  Seriously, you did.

Let’s do life.  With or without skimpy bathing suits.

02 May

Saturday Sentiments

Last night, as Joel and I were driving out of Durham, I was ranting endlessly about something stupid that happened at work and was still frustrating me, and Joel stopped me and said…

“I care about what you’re saying, but you also need to look at the sky, because it’s pretty, and I don’t want you to miss it.”

And that’s basically why I married that man.  He has a much better handle on what’s important in life than I do.

I can be pretty doom and gloom at times, especially this week.  And this list is definitely a reflection of that side of me.  More specifically, though, this is a list of things that got me thinking.  They made me stop and go “hmm…”  My only hope is that it would help you do the same.

I’m a little late to be sharing this, but after reading it last weekend (thanks to Joy the Baker), I couldn’t not share.  We’ve got to figure out what to do about all these missing men.

I belong to so many privileged classes in America.  Sometimes, I forget that.  Embarrassing, but true.  Hearing the story of a less privileged person gives me the perspective I need.

I’ve been telling my kids all week that it’s ok to make mistakes.  It’s not ok to not learn from those mistakes.  Please let us learn.

Somebody asked me when slavery ended.  I gave them a funny look.  This is why.

I think we can all agree on how stupid we were in college.  Unfortunately, Mississippi police don’t care.

It’s interesting to read about another person’s struggle to fit into the social aspect of religion.

I very much want to eat all of my broccoli this way.

Breakfast?  Cookies?  Yes, please.

And I’m off to hang out with my mom, grandmother, and nephews.  Peace.

28 Apr

my heart wasn’t in it

Today, with my kids, we discussed the meaning of the phrase “heart wasn’t in it”.  We talked about how “heart” is often a euphemism for love.  It got me to thinking…

I’ve neglected this blog on and off for the past several years, because my heart hasn’t always been in it.  And I’m trying to revamp this blog so that it is a reflection of my heart.  I’ve been talking about things not strictly food related because more often than not, food is not my heart’s desire.

Today, my heart dwelled on a couple of things.  One I’ll put on hold until I fully wrap my head around it.  The other is about poverty and resilience and a whole lot of other things I only partially understand.

1) Kids raised in poverty experience all sorts of trauma (aside from stated poverty) that those of us raised in relative wealth can’t possibly imagine.  Today was the anniversary of the death of a student who attended my school.  He was a classmate and friend to many of my students, and his death has taken a marked toll on my kids.  One student recently had his entire house burned down.  Another, has parents who are splitting up.  And while any of these things might occur to children in any class, they happen at much higher rates to families in poverty.  And all of that trauma makes dealing with life a whole lot more difficult, strains emotions, and makes good choices all the more difficult to make.  Add to that the constant feeling that the police are against you (which is more true than many of us white middle classers can even begin to comprehend), and you get a recipe for something like what happened in Baltimore yesterday.  And while I certainly would never say it’s ok to use violence, I think the situation is more complicated than “you need to not be a @$!%.”

2) Race relationships are complicated and cannot be boiled down a single court case or isolated police altercation.  Additionally, those of us belonging to historically more advantaged races (i.e., white) have an especially difficult time comprehending just how complicated it is.  I’ve only ever worked in a school where I’m the minority race, and every day I learn about some other advantage that I have taken for granted my entire life.  For one, that whole police thing I mentioned before.  I was raised to believe the police were there to help.  And while from time to time, I might have believed they were a little over-zealous in their traffic ticketing, I never once feared them.  I never once felt like they were constantly on the lookout for any possible way to destroy my entire life.  Unfortunately, I know countless African American and Hispanic American children who do not lead such a privileged life.

I’m not sure what any of this means in real life.  Probably just that it’s very important to keep all of this in mind before we criticize others for failing under a pressure that we’ve never experienced, even if that means excusing a behavior that seems otherwise deplorable.  I hate what happened in Baltimore yesterday.  But I hate what caused it even more.  To quote a lesson we learned in our foster parenting class, “Behavior expresses a need.”

26 Apr

Honey Garlic Chicken

I’ve been hard core prepping for prepping my students for our end-of-grade tests this weekend.  Joel kept accusing me of playing video games for how long I spent staring at the computer today.  And pretty much the only reason why I bothered to cook today, at all, is because I knew we needed leftovers to eat for lunch this week.  So I set out to make Honey Garlic Chicken from Just a Taste.  Problem is, I didn’t have multiple ingredients the recipe called for.

The really tricky part was finding gluten free hoisin sauce, which I never did successfully.  When I researched substitutes or how to make your own, several started with peanut butter or bbq sauce.  I had both, and I actually intended on using the peanut butter method.  But then the bbq seduced me with its simplicity.  It worked well, and I like having a recipe that doesn’t need to be complicated.

And while my husband was beating me in a board game and shoveling food into his mouth (that’s how we do), he kept pausing to say, “This is so good!”

And so good it was.  I have no doubt that her version is better.  This version works, though, and I’ll definitely make it again.  Here we go!

Honey Garlic Chicken

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
Adapted from Just a Taste

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (mine were frozen)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup low sodium gluten free soy sauce
1/4 cup strawberry jam
1 1/2 Tablespoons gluten free bbq sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Sliced scallions, for garnish
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Put the chicken breasts in the bottom of the crockpot.  In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, jam, bbq, olive oil, garlic, onion, and sriracha.  Pour over the chicken.  Set on low to cook for 4-5 hours.

When cooked through, pull the chicken out and shred it.  Put the sauce into a small saucepan.  Stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water.  Add to the sauce and cook over medium high heat until thickened.  Add some of the sauce to the chicken, and reserve the rest for topping.

We served ours with brown rice, broccoli, sesame seeds, and scallions.  It was divine.

25 Apr

Saturday Sentiments

I’ve been distracted this week.  There’s been loads going on at school, and even more going on at home.  This afternoon was the last step in the whole foster license process.  I happened to have a few minutes between getting off work and picking Joel up for the meeting, so I made a run by Daisycakes.  I figured, whether celebration or consolation, we’d need cookies when the meeting was over.

As it turns out, they were celebration cookies, which taste substantially better than consolation cookies.  Our foster care application is complete and on its way to be approved by the state.

In other news, the internet has a lot to say:

For one, I’ve found the neatest way to say “no”.  In general, I’m pretty good at saying “no”, but I love this method above all else.

There’s been a lot of talk about bed-making, an upgrade I was easily able to get added to my husband.  He’s the later riser, so it’s usually his responsibility.  And I’ve learned to let go of my pickiness in how it’s done.  If you’re unconvinced of the importance of the daily task, get on board.

In general, I’m opposed to hard and fast rules.  Here are some nice ideas, though.

Statistically, we’re very likely to have children other than our race placed with us through this whole foster process.  This list helped me think through some things.

I love it when food bloggers I love put together lists of recipes they love.  Also, who doesn’t need some new ways to cook vegetables?

With the pressure off on the whole foster care thing, we’re taking it easy.  I highly suggest you do the same.