Archive | November, 2010

Save our Musicians

10 Nov

Our school district cut over $10 billion from it’s budget last year.  It’s looking to cut an additional $10 billion next year.  Where do school districts look first when they want to save money?  Music.  Arts.  Foreign Language. Libraries.  Any curricula that is not on “the test.”  Schools are so caught up in their race to the top that they seem to have forgotten that we’re talking KIDS’ lives here.  I’m sure I’m not the only parent who sees her student as more than just a series of test scores.

Mr. 16 has always been a “smart kid;” more than capable academically.  He puts up with academics because he knows success as represented by grades will allow him to pursue his true passion: music.  If it weren’t for music, he wouldn’t play the school game.  He’s not the only student passionate about that which is not tested.  He’s not the only student doing well in school because he’s happier when he’s also involved in music.  Many, many research studies have been done that verify the connection between higher achievement and involvement in music and arts programs.  It seems to me that in the search to save money and still boost achievement, school districts are shooting themselves in the foot when they put music and arts on the chopping block first.

I just completed a budget survey on our district’s website.  To their credit, they are gathering input from parents and staff; hopefully using this information to make the best decisions they can.  (They have a pattern of “gathering information” after they’ve already made up their minds on whatever it is, but want to give the impression of including your ideas.)  Being an online survey, it is limited in the sort of information it can gather.  It’s hard to put into character-limited word boxes the look on Mr 16’s face when he gets a new chart to play in jazz band.  Bubbles can’t express how Mr 16 turns to playing his soprano sax when he’s feeling down or confused.  Ratings can’t communicate the collective pride of the marching band after performing the show of a lifetime at State Competition.

 Of course every student needs to be able to read, write, balance a checkbook, understand what buying on credit really means…but think about YOUR life.  Is that ALL there is?  I want Mr16 to be an adult with an appreciation of life that exists beyond a paycheck.  And if he’s truly lucky his paycheck will come from music, and he’ll be able to afford a second cup of coffee now and then!

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Salsa Slave

9 Nov

Last week was a busy one, trying to get the frost-induced harvest processed before my house was overtaken with fruit flies.  Fruit flies seem to love ripening tomatoes and tomatillos as much as I do!  Anyway, with the basil and parsley turned into nice neat little bags of pesto, it was time to make tomatillo salsa.

We have had an abundance of tomatillos in recent years, and because we love-love-love the pasta sauce (future blog entry!) we make from tomatoes, green tomatillo salsa is the only salsa we make now.  Tomatillos have a citrusy sweetness to them that blends nicely with heat…at least I think so.  Dear Husband likes his salsa without the sweet–more on that in a minute!  Tomatillos form inside little lantern-like husks that must be removed before using them.  Then they are sticky, so they must be washed.  We like this salsa to be sort of smooth, so all ingredients are run through the food processor.  The usual “recipe” includes: tomatillos, green tomatoes, green peppers, chili peppers, cilantro, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and vinegar.  Everything gets combined into a large stockpot (or two) and then cooked down to concentrate flavors and create a nice thick consistancy.

Ingredient amounts get adjusted according to how you want the salsa to taste….so, to accommodate both my and DH’s tastes, this year we split the salsa into two batches.  Mine we left a bit sweet; his got extra vinegar, red pepper flakes and extra jalapenos, along with (according to our friend Kellie, the source of these–“evil”) Thai peppers called Lemon Drop.  Our friend Nello named our usual tomatillo salsa a couple of years ago: “Verily Verde.”  The hotter variety needed a name as well…what to call it?  I posted the question on Facebook and got the answer from Linda D: Vaya con Verde!  Perfect!

So….it took 2 DAYS to get the flavors right and the consistency we were looking for.  Thankfully since it’s cold,  the salsa could be “refrigerated” in the garage overnight!  THEN, it still needed to be canned–involving cleaning and sterilizing jars, rings and lids, filling jars and then water-bath processing them.  I ended up with 25 pints and 3 quarts–4 canner loads.  I used two canners to speed up the process. 

I  felt like the salsa ran my whole life for those two days, finishing the canning late into the night of the second day.  Being retired makes being a salsa slave not as bad as it would be if I had to get up and go to work the day after….like it always has been up til now.  So, I should stop whining and just have a second cuppa….or maybe some chips and salsa!

The Second Cup: Redefined…

4 Nov

Redefined due to a recommended “low oxalate” diet.  I’ve been having some great “adventures” with kidney stones for the last month.  Today’s visit to the urologist furthered the adventure with a list of evil foods I thought were good for me, and a strong recommendation to set up a “lithotripsy” (a blasting of the stone using high energy shock waves).  A friend has likened the procedure to the classic video game Asteroids, and wants to be the “shooter”.  I’m not sure my insurance provider will go along with that idea!

How did I get myself to kidney stone land?  The most likely situation is my habit of not drinking much water.  Teachers often don’t have the luxury of being able to get to a restroom as needed, so tend to control this by not drinking much water.  I’ve had 27 years of controlling my bladder.  Paybacks are, well…you know. 

So.  The newly evil foods include nuts, whole wheat, beans, blueberries, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes–all foods that most people consider healthy.  All foods that I enjoy, especially tomatoes!  Also included on the evil list: chocolate (waaaa!) and coffee (WAAAA!).  OMG!  I finally have time (usually…ok, sometimes) to enjoy a second cup of caffeinated nectar of the gods and now…sigh…that second cuppa needs to be green or herbal tea, or better yet, water to flush out the nasty oxalates provided by the coffee.

Freeze Warning?! Ack!

1 Nov

Double “Ack” for not blogging all summer and most of the fall!  Lots to look back on in the coming weeks…

For now, current events.  Western Colorado had a freeze warning a week ago; the same day as the 1A-2A-3A State Marching Band Competition.  What’s the connection?  As a band parent, I was organizing the catering for the judges, and was at Stocker Stadium all day.  I got home after 8pm–well after dark.  Dutifully, I grabbed a flashlight, a basket and my garden snippers and trudged out to the garden.  I snipped off all the basil by the light of the flashlight held in my mouth.  I couldn’t let my beautiful spicy little babies get frosted!   Basil safely deposited in the house, I set out to get the old bed sheets to cover the tomatoes, hoping for an extra day or two for them.

But no.  The freeze got everything.  Michael and I stripped the garden of all tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, squash, carrots and potatoes and deposited them next to the basil on the kitchen island.  Wow!  So much produce….so much work yet to be done…waaah!  Potatoes washed, dried and stored.  Carrots blanched and frozen.  Butternut squash stored.  Up next–basil pesto.

Basil Pesto is easy to make and freezes well.  Two things that make this easier still:  my Hamilton Beach “Big Mouth” food processor and one of these garlic peeling tube thingies:

    Seriously, these thingies work like magic, peeling lots of garlic easily in a flash!  The garlic clove goes in the tube, you roll it on the counter with a little pressure and shake out a perfectly peeled clove of garlic!  I’m tellin’ ya–if you don’t have one, run right out and get one!

So.  The pesto.  The recipe is easily doubled, and will still fit in the bowl of the food processor.

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil

4 cloves garlic–peeled (with the thingie!)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/3 cup pine (or other) nuts

Place garlic and basil in processor and rough chop.  Add cheese and nuts.  With machine running, drizzle in olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy right then, or store in 1/2 cup amounts in snack-size ziplocs.  Place those in a gallon freezer bag and feeze for up to a year!

Yummy!  A single recipe makes one cup of pesto.  End of story?  Not quite.  Parsley is one of the few still-green things in the garden.  I picked what was there, and today I made parsley-walnut pesto!  Same recipe, parsley for the basil (snip off all the stems), walnuts instead of pine nuts. 

Up next?  I bought a half bushel of roasted green chilis today, so probably a morning of peeling, seeding and freezing them.  Then I’m thinking on to the tomatillos for the second batch of tomatillo salsa for this season…none of this will happen before my second cuppa, though.  : )