Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ah, Quinoa

 quinoa : red quinoa grain spread on white background with backlight - top view Stock Photo

       Since in my job I encourage others to open their minds and try new foods it seems only fitting I do the same. My current foodie experiment is a revised from a past fail- in other words, let's try again. Believe it or not, it takes more than one try to truly know if you do not like something. After saying over and over again to others, my soul was stirred to give this 'ancient grain' another chance.

quinoa : A word  Stock Photo
photo credit
         Pronounced KEEN-WAH, this 'ancient grain' is not a grain at all but the seed of a leafy plant that resembles spinach. Most is grown in the Andes of South America, often linked to the ancient Incas who referred to is as "Mother Grain". It has been said that due to naturally occurring saponins which cause a bitter taste the plant, the Spanish rejected the plant as a food source.
         Quinoa boast a somewhat nutty flavor providing an excellent source of protein and essential amino acids perfect for gluten free and vegetarian diets. Like rice, quinoa takes a 2 to 1 water to seed ratio and is cooked on low heat until the liquid is absorbed. Most foodies use quinoa as a grain replacement in pasta or rice dishes, and grind it into a flour to use in savory baked goods.
        quinoa : Raw white quinoa grains in jute sack on wood with red quinoa in other sack standing. Quinoa is grown in the Andes and is valued for its high protein content and nutritional value (Selective Focus, Focus on the white quinoa at the opening of the sack) Stock Photo

        As for me, my experimentation lead me to realize- I do not like it cold, as some recipes call for it cold in a salad; I prefer it heavily seasoned as to plain; using hearty bone broths are my favorite way to cook it. In general, I like it best as a rice substitute or simply in a bowl with some steamed veggies. Though my trials be few, I have decided it is worth the price to have a little in my diet now and then; however due to the price, it will be an occasional food not a regular dish.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

As We Return to Class..

      It is that time again- a time of joy and sorrow as new students step out the door for the first time; a time for returning students to bemoan; and a time for teachers to hold their breath and wait with anticipation. This week we return to class; elementary, secondary, college and kinder.
       As an educator, myself, I realize the shock that can occur as we encounter our new students these first few days. Some will be docile and seemingly distant; others may appear to climb the walls when you're not looking; then there are the ones who put a jolt of terror into your being as they seem bent on destruction. While we acclimate, let us consider:

       One may be hungry, possibly waiting several weeks for school to start just so he can eat...
or exhausted.. unable to rest due to a fear he just can't verbalize..
unsure how to cope with events outside of his control
building a wall around himself to keep out the hurt.. or pain.. or devastation.
There may be one hungry for attention but not sure the best way to get it..
one longing for acceptance and as of yet finding none..
one falling through the cracks.. sure everyone has given up on him so why shouldn't he..
one who feels her only worth is in her looks.. though she fears she lacks that as well..
one who just feels alone.

       As teachers we have a heavy load as well; work, home, family, maybe our own educational endeavors. This generally keeps us unaware of the things our students arrive at school having faced already that day. Our agenda pulls at us blinding us from their need; paperwork bogs our every moment so that even when we see it we feel powerless to dig deeper.
        In my classroom and now as I travel to various campus classrooms my heart aches for the faces I see. Many know situations I will never experience and face challenges I didn't realize existed. They are in my prayers and a part of my soul. My desire, as I encounter each one, is to bring a spark of encouragement to their day; to be a relief from their troubles and a friend no matter what.
        As we return to class, please take the time to consider the source of a child's actions.. pray for them.. and do your best to be there for them despite the to-do list.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dear Mother Who Left Your Kids in the Car

     It's in the news, on Facebook. printed in the paper, splashed across road signs and on the lips of people everywhere- deaths due to being left in a hot car. While it grieves me to hear or read of these terrible tragedies, I must admit a piece of me dies every time I walk through a parking lot only to see children sitting in a car- alone, unattended.
      Why? Are we that immersed in convenience we can no longer tolerate unbuckling the seat belt and taking the child with us? But an older sibling is with them. Yes, I have seen 7 year olds left 'in charge' of infants.. in a car.. in a parking lot. Is that really better? I left the car running. While the car is not 'hot' it is still unattended. They were fine- you just don't understand. You are right- I don't. As a parent we are given the responsibility to train up a child- how are we doing that by leaving them in the car when we pick up groceries, or a prescription (they have a drive through), or grabbing a cold drink at the station (again, go to a drive through?).
        Lest I sound as if I am passing judgment, let me say I am concerned.. confused.. and grieved by this recurring phenomenon and greatly perplexed as to what our responsibility or response should be. Yes, we could phone the police of the endangerment launching a possible CPS investigation and destroying a family. We could wait, confronting the responsible adult when they return to the vehicle which could provoke a nasty situation for both of us. We could walk away allowing the issue to be someone else's problem or the consequences to play out on their own. None of these options seem satisfactory.
         No, nothing has been solved here. No great solution found, though the news daily reports of gadgets and gizmos aimed at preventing such occurrences. They seem no more likely to improve the problem. Solution was not the point.. provoking thought was. So...
          Dear mother who left your kids in the car, I do not know your situation or the circumstances your find yourself in today. I do, however, urge you to think about the choice you are about to make.. the risk you are taking.. the dangerous position you may be putting your family in. I pray for you and I pray for your child/children... and I will sit quietly in my car, praying for you, until I see you return to them.. because I can't, in good conscience, drive away until then.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What I did this Weekend....

If you know me at all you are painfully aware of my obnoxious desire to accomplish 'the list'. Instead of succumbing to my nature to check of as many items as possible this weekend, I traded my multi-page task master in for:
a rocking chair and snuggles
story books and long strolls
silly songs and little leg 'giddy-ups'
for giggles and gurgles
squeals and spittles
You see.. I spent my weekend just being Grammy.
Oh what one little bundle of love can do to your productivity level!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Growing Sunshine

     There is just something about a sunflower. I can't explain it... it's like growing sunshine right there in your garden. Simple, pure sunshine... right there... smiling at you when you pass by. I have no idea where my fascination with sunflowers began, or what may have started it, but I do know that no garden of mine has ever been without these big, beautiful, blossoms.
      Sunflower, a composite flower of the Asteracea family native to North America distinguished by their ray flowers. Of the 52 species of Asteracea, the domesticated annual sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is the most commonly known and loved as opposed to its perennial cousin which tends to be quite invasive. Sunflowers provide not only vivid beautiful colors, but a focal point for any garden layout. Personally, I love variety often growing whorled variegated plants alongside traditional yellow mammoths.
       While their beauty is astounding, they are purposeful as well- most of you know things on my homestead must be purposeful and practical. Sunflowers provide seed for wild birds and our homestead poultry; stalks and stems are fodder for the goats and donkey. No part wasted, sunflowers are truly a frugal and functional investment for our garden space.
       Care and tending are minimal since sunflowers grow in most average soils and often reseed themselves by dropping to the ground or being transplanted by a bird. Garden designers often suggest they be a backdrop for layered gardens or a stabilizing feature for climbing vines- they make a great support for pole beans. I, myself, and a rather practical/functional gardener whose sunflower seeds get scattered here and there thus afforded the freedom to grow wherever they desire.
        And so it is, that I drive through my gate at the end of every day to be greeted by these faithful flowers which stand quite stately in the fruit garden. They are my ray of sunshine no matter what the day has been. As we prepare for the next growing season I can not imagine my garden ever being without them. Who doesn't want to grow sunshine in their garden?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yes, I am Alive....

     Can you believe it has been almost a whole month since we last met? Time has flown these past several weeks as a flurry of activity and change has come across our homestead.
     This spring's babies were weaned. Some have found new homes, while others still wait. We are downsizing our herd after the kidding season in hopes of another one next spring.

     The garden. Please. I don't even want to talk about it. Summer hit it hard (as did a few ornery chickens). After the last heat wave we decided to till it under and call it a day. Currently we are in the process of building raised beds in hopes of simplifying the process. One can dream.
      Instead of fretting over dead tomatoes, we spent plenty of time fishing, kayaking, and hiking the local state parks and national forests; perfect diversion from my brown dried up mess.
     Summer camp has drawn to a close. Hundreds of children of various ages cooked, played, and gardened their way through the long hot summer- stopping only to have some wonderful field trips and an awesome splash day.
      With camp closing we find ourselves focused on school starting. My oldest, a senior, will be testing his wit as a duel credit student at the local college while I prepare for a huge season of nutritional education with local schools and after school students. This past week we have focused on trainings, schedules, and building or amending gardens. It is hard to believe how wonderfully the program has grown over the past year.
       Little things here and there have become big things. Our lives change a little more everyday- not at all getting easier, but definitely getting more interesting. My parents are with us now; a grand baby is getting to spend some time with us; and a few spread their wings a little further.
        Hopefully routine will find me once again stopping in to visit with you. I miss our little coffee chats here on my corner of the web.