Monday, June 30, 2008

Music Monday: Music in my Life

For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

I've always loved music. One of my earliest memories was dancing around the house to musicals and the songs of Yves Montand.

As I got older, music led me in various directions. I played piano for 9 years and guitar for 6, but was never good at either, despite a lot of periodic effort on my part.

As a teen, lyrics "spoke" to me, as I think they do for most teens. I was particularly affected by "Miles of Aisles" by Joni Mitchell. I can probably still recite most of the lyrics from most of the songs on that album.

College brought dance nights at local music venues along with the concept of mood music. Additionally, since I was in design school, music kept me going on my drafting and rendering all-nighters.

As an elementary teacher, my classroom was filled with music. I always had different music playing as the children entered in the morning, and we used music to learn about other cultures, to create art projects, and as a stimulus for writing projects. Students would also bring in their favorite cds for break times.

That tradition continued when I taught middle school - my 8th graders seemed to live in my room, and the different music that was on throughout the day taught me about their loves and interests.

It's harder for me to use music in my high school classes now. We only have a little over an hour together each week and I really need to use every second. My students still make "soundtracks" for what we read as creative projects, and I still find it fascinating to see what they'll choose to translate Wharton or Fitzgerald.

I still use music throughout my day. It's agony to cook without music; I listen to music as I work out, when I drive, and if I'm thinking. Music makes housework bearable (sort of). The one time I can't listen to music is when I'm writing. I really need silence for that, oddly enough.

This summer is a summer of taking stock. There are many things I'm trying to sort out. Part of that is thinking (yet again) about my spirituality. My spiritual path could take up many, many entries, but you'd all be bored to tears, so it's not something I'll be discussing here.

I will say that these are two pieces I've been listening to a great deal lately:

Grace by U2
Fishin' For Religion byArrested Development

How do you use music in your life? What are you listening to these days?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday - Brunch with Anno and Mint Pesto

Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

Yesterday was a special day.

I have a very dear friend, and many of you "know" her: Anno of Anno's Place. Anno and I knew each other long before our entry to the blogiverse, and while our main connection started as being fellow homeschooling moms, with children the same age and husbands who worked together, we quickly discovered our similar loves of reading, cooking, and writing, and from there moved on to discussions about family, life, the universe and everything. She also writes a great blog.

Anno is one of the rocks in my life. When I need sage words or gentle energy, I know I can turn to Anno. When I need lyricism, I can read her stunning writing. When I need to know how to cook paella, use a neti pot, hook up a sink - there's Anno again.

Another thing Anno and I share is that we're caretakers. We have several people in our lives who need much of our time and energy. For that reason, we seldom have time to really relax together - I cherish our almost-weekly meetings for a quick cup of coffee, but it's lovely to have more time.

Yesterday we had that opportunity: C is up north at camp and m is taking a workshop at the teen center in town, so we had hours available.

And I really wanted to do something nice for Anno, and admittedly, for me as well. So I made us brunch:

We had strawberry scones and whipped cream, Nuria's Rice Mint Balls with Pistachios and Shrimps (but no shrimp - sorry, Nuria, shrimp seemed a bit much at 10:00 a.m.), with mint pesto:

fresh figs stuffed with mascarpone and topped with toasted walnuts and drizzled with honey:

and squash blossoms stuffed with fresh mozzarella and proscuitto:

D was very happy, because there were lots and lots of leftovers. Michigan weather decided to cooperate for a change, and Anno and I were able to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the warm sun (hence the rather shadowy photos). The best part of the brunch was Anno, and while I took her picture, I also promised her that I wouldn't post it unless it was a good picture, and the photo really didn't capture her warmth, beauty and charm, so you'll just have to imagine that part.

Nuria, of Spanish Recipes Pic by Pic, posted this amazing recipe for Rice Mint Balls with Pistachios and Shrimps. I have to say here that Nuria has opened a new cooking world to me and her wonderful blog teaches us not only about Catalan cooking, but also about various aspects of life in her region of Spain. She is also generous and supportive as well as wonderfully creative, so if you haven't visited her, please do! As I said, I bastardized it a bit, and the next time I will certainly make the shrimp version. I think this might be my new favorite "go to" summer appetizer. Nuria speaks of the necessity of dipping sauce, and one she suggested was mint pesto, without giving a recipe. "Mint pesto?" I thought. "Hmmm... I have mint, I like pesto, sounds good!" So I experimented and Anno and I both loved the results. I think this would also go wonderfully on whole wheat spaghetti, linguini or a similar noodle, and might even be good as part of a cold noodle appetizer, etc. So, Nuria, thanks for the wonderful inspiration and the heavenly rice ball recipe!

Mint Pesto

1 large handful of fresh mint leaves
1/2 large handful of fresh parsley
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 small handful of toasted walnuts
the juice from 1 - 2 limes to taste
1 garlic clove
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Whirl mint leaves, parsley, garlic and walnuts in a food processor until well blended. Drizzle in the olive oil and lime juice and keep processing until a pesto consistency is reached.

Place in bowl or cup and add salt and pepper to taste.

Roll rice balls in dipping sauce before eating. YUM!

Finally, another nod to Nuria, who gave me this lovely award.

I've been remiss for several days in acknowledging her thoughtfulness, but as you probably know, it's been a bizarre few days. I have the privilege of passing it on to five more bloggers, so here are my pics for today, although I wish I could pass it to all of you:

Nuria, right back at you! ;-)
Anno, because I couldn't ask for a better friend
Sisters Sassy and Honeybunch of Sisters of a Different Order, because I get to MEET you guys tomorrow! Yay!
April of It's All About Balance, for providing such a great event on Monday, (Blogblast for Education), where I got to meet such cool folks and read such great posts on education
(Okay, I'm cheating here, squeezing in an extra) Teacher Patti of Teacher in the Hood and Kim of The Farmers Marketer - to local friendships and connections online and off!

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP Sunshine: May 2006 - June 23, 2008

You are my Sunshine
My only Sunshine
You made me happy
When skies were gray
You'll never know dear
How much I loved you
Please don't take my Sunshine away

Here's to the cuddliest, sweetest piggy of them all.
We'll miss you Miss Sunshine.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Silly Sunday

Big power outage
No power means no blogging
This, a true bummer

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blog Blast for Education: Why We Need More Types of Schools

For more Blog Blast for Education entries, please visit April at It's All About Balance

One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is how much I learn about other cultures, countries or ideas on a daily basis.

When I think about where I learned the most over the years, they've involved experiences, rather than a classroom:

* Living on my own in Soviet Russia and teaching English there
* Bringing U.S. teens to Soviet Russia for a camp experience
* Using a telescope on our terrace to learn about the patterns of stars and unique astronomical events
* collecting "specimens" by the seashore
* snorkeling
* reading cookbooks and really learning how to cook
* making my way around Paris, Vienna, Florence on my own
* biking through six countries of Europe and only speaking the language (sort of) in three of them

I also had some great "in school" experiences:

* making a "Senegal Village" in Central Park
* researching, writing and performing a play entailing the U.S. Civil Rights movement
* learning to play the violin as an entire class of third graders
* writing, taking to the streets, and eventually sending, petitions about ecology projects for New York State
* participating in a mock trial about similar ecological issues
* creating a 17-minute-long movie as a fifth grader, which we wrote the script for, acted in, directed, and did full editing
* an "Arts and Ideas" course where we read a specific author and studied an accompanying artist, then wrote stories/created art in the style of the writer/artist as well as wrote essays/copied an art piece
* creating the sets for an opera production and working on this in conjunction with artists from The Metropolitan Opera
* participating in a model U.N. session at the U.N. complex itself, alongside students from all over the world

So, yeah, I've been blessed, both educationally and experientially. I've had very, very rich experiences, partly to do with growing up in NYC, partly to do with having a set of parents who pushed me to try new things and who made travel a part of our existence no matter what our other financial obligations were, and partly because I liked a good challenge.

Another, maybe more important reason, though, was that I grew up in the 60s/70s and I went to alternative schools.

No, these aren't the types of "alternative schools" that are last-ditch stops for kids who "can't make it" in any other setting. These are the types of schools that were influenced by Summerhill, Dewey and Outward Bound. These were schools that were going to create competent citizens rather than academes.

And the darned thing, is that despite the fact that I took French, Spanish, Art History, two English classes and two art classes my senior year, I didn't suffer academically from my lack of math and science.

I went on to several excellent institutions of higher learning.

We are in a "back to basics" movement right now, exemplified by "No Child Left Behind". As teachers, we are encouraged to "teach to the tests". Our schools are being graded - more and more academic requirements are being shoved at our high school students and everyone is expected to rack up huge amounts of debt by going to college. And to get into said colleges, we are all expected to have the same, carbon copy education.

This allows for no sense of the individual, no pursuit of interests, and often little passion for learning.

In most other industrialized nations, students begin to specialize by their later high school years. It's accepted that students will lean towards either the humanities, math/sciences, the arts, or vocational training. Yes, vocational training can be a huge bugaboo when it becomes a "slot" to push various classes or races or minorities, but it doesn't have to be set up that way.

What happened to dignity for all of those who CHOOSE hands-on fields? Why should someone who loves carpentry and wants to make things and make them beautifully, fall into college debt? What is this supposed to prove?

What happened to schools without walls? Alternative ed. programs, experiential learning centers, magnet schools?

We are supposed to be a society that prides itself on individualism. In the U.S. we have a truly odd educational system - we don't have national exams, we don't subsidize our students' university educations, we don't really have much decent vocational education, we don't allow our older students to specialize (these are features which are part of virtually all other industrialized nations' educational systems).

Through our system of local school districts, we have the opportunity to think way outside the box. Why, then, are we not taking advantage of this, but instead clinging to an increasingly cardboard cut-out dumbing down?

Not everyone needs trigonometry. Not everyone needs to be able to argue the finer points of Shakespeare or Hemingway.

Everyone needs guidance to find their best calling. Everyone needs experiences to learn what will make them happiest and most competent in life.

We need to go back to more choices.

Happy Birthday Jami!

For those who don't know Jami, of Not THAT Different, you should.

She is witty, brilliant, a great mom, a great educator, a stand-up comedian and an all-around great gal.

She's having a "special" b'day today - her 29th.

Drop by her place and wish her a Happy Birthday. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Farmers Market Thursday - June 19, 2008

spring onions
dandelion greens
fresh oregano

spicy greens mix

The variety is growing at Tantre...

And then we bought:

squash blossoms
fresh mozzarella from Zingerman's Creamery
a rhubarb truffle, Leopold Bros. Blackberry Truffle, and Leapin' Lemon from Sweet Gem Confections

C is at camp this week, which means D and I can eat vegetarian and eat some things that he might turn away from.

This must be the week for squash blossom yens, because both Shana, from The Gastronomical Three, and Mae, from Mae's Food Blog, made similar recipes this week. I will be going their route, as well, although I think I'm going to use some of the fresh mozzarella.

At this point, with the strawberries, we're just eating them fresh. They're too good to do otherwise.
I'm making a huge pot of minestrone today, using spinach, some homemade chicken broth, the carrots, beets, canned tomatoes, canellini beans and some pasta.
We plan to wrap the asparagus in proscuitto and grill it.
I'll also do a stir fry with the tatsoi, spicy greens mix, some of the carrots and onions, and some marinated tofu.
And, of course, salads.

To see what some other local folks have come up with shopping at the same market, see:
The Farmers Marketer
Una Buona Forchetta
Teacher In the Hood
Mae's Food Blog
The Hungry Masses
The Gastronomical Three
An Organic Summer

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday and Yellow for Bri: Cornmeal-Dusted Whitefish on a Sea of Gold and Green

Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

In addition to this being my regular What's Cooking Wednesday recipe, this is also my attempt to publicize an important blogging event/fundraiser:

This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.

Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.

She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.

The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.

CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri

Yellow is the colour of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.

The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008.

The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.

There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.
Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account.

This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE.
You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.

I don't think I'm actually entering because I've had too much difficulty figuring out how to resize the photo, but here's the recipe I created for Yellow for Bri:

Cornmeal-Dusted Whitefish on a Sea of Gold and Green


1 lb. of whitefish fillets or the equivalent (somewhat firm, thin fillets) cut into four pieces
2 cups course ground cornmeal, preferably local and/or organic
3 baby yellow squash or yellow zucchini, sliced in half and then cut into slices
2 cups chopped, fresh asparagus (about 1" pieces)
3 green onions with bulbs attached (sliced thin and chopped)
2 TBS olive oil
1 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
1 lemon
1/4 tsp of dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat 1/2 TBS olive oil in large skillet on medium. Saute onions until fragrant and soft.
2. Add squash and asparagus. Cook until asparagus is bright green and squash is softer, but not mushy.
3. Remove from heat and sprinkle with oregano and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Heat 1 1/2 TBS olive oil on medium high in large fry pan.
5. Wash fillet pieces and pat dry. Pour cornmeal into a shallow bowl. Pat fillets into cornmeal, covering them thoroughly.
6. Cook fillets on both sides until golden brown (NOT dark brown). When outsides are crispy, pour in wine and cover pan. Cook another 5 minutes or so until fish is flaky.
7. Place a generous spoonful of vegetables on a plate, top with a fillet and garnish with lemon.

Enjoy with white wine, orzo or rice and a fresh salad.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Guest Posting at Brillig's place

I'm posting over at the brilliant Brillig's Place today.

See you all tomorrow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Farmers Market Thursday - June 12, 2008

garlic scapes
lemon sorrel

spring onions

That's our bounty for this week.

So how'd we do with last week's planning? Well, I came into an unexpected windfall of spinach, and spent much of last Thursday and Saturday blanching and freezing. So we've actually done less cooking with spinach than I'd planned to.

Spinach quiche - this will be tonight, and it will actually be a spinach, green onion, asparagus and zucchini quiche.
Spinach-Brown Rice Casserole - didn't happen. And for those who asked for it, I will be getting this recipe out to you - it's been a crazy week!
Salads of all stripes and forms - absolutely! My salad from yesterday's post, surprise salad, a salad made with spinach, apples, parmigiano reggiano, toasted walnuts and vinaigrette (based on a suggestion by Goofball), spinach and radish salad with vinaigrette and a fried egg on top.
Sweet Potatoes baked with spinach and hardboiled eggs (delicious, even if it sounds weird). - Another entry that didn't make it.

What we did have was cornmeal-crusted whitefish on a bed of asparagus and yellow squash (this will be my What's Cooking Wednesday recipe/Cooking for Bri recipe for next week), burgers and grilled asparagus for an early Father's Day meal, and an evening of asparagus/spinach stir fry and hotdogs (yeah, this last menu was more one of convenience).

We picked up some last rhubarb on Saturday, which I froze for later use.

This week's plans:

Vegetable quiche or souffle (see above)
the salad and "tortilla" combination from yesterday, and I think I'll make it again when D can share it.
strawberry shortcake!
strawberry-cornmeal pancakes
summer vegetable soup
more glorious salads

Two other interesting notes about the Farmers Market this Wednesday - we now have a knife sharpener who will be there each Wednesday. I'm really excited because I have a santoku and a serrated bread knife that are both in desperate need of sharpening and his prices are reasonable. The second is the addition of John Roos and his coffee roasting business. For those locals who don't know Roos Roast, it's worth your time to get acquainted. His beans are also either all fair trade or direct trade (in the case of direct trade, these are small, family farms working towards Fair Trade certification, but they aren't there yet).

To see what some other local folks have come up with shopping at the same market, see:
The Farmers Marketer
Una Buona Forchetta
Teacher In the Hood
Mae's Food Blog
The Hungry Masses
An Organic Summer

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday - Sublime Spring Lunch

Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

It's garlic scapes season. What are garlic scapes, you might ask? They are little blades of goodness whose flavor rests between yes, garlic, and maybe spring onions. They're milder than both, and fabulous in all sorts of dishes and sauces. They look like this:

I wanted a lunch that would showcase the taste of the mild scapes, so I came up with this:

Strawberry-Mint Salad with Garlic Scape Tostada

For the Salad:


a handful of fresh, local, spring greens or lettuce
5 - 6 large mint leaves
1 large radish or 2 smaller radishes
5 - 6 fresh, local strawberries (if possible)
1/2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/2 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning

1. Grab a handful of fresh spring greens, preferably from at least two heads of lettuce. Rinse and tear into bite-sized pieces.
2. Chop 5 - 6 good sized leaves of fresh mint and sprinkle it over the lettuce.
3. Slice a large radish or two smaller radishes. Scatter over the top of the salad.
4. Slice 5 - 6 fresh strawberries. Scatter those over the top of the salad.
5. Take 1/2 TBS extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 TBS fruity balsamic vinegar and 1/4 tsp Montreal Steak seasoning. Whisk together until vinaigrette is formed. Drizzle over the salad.

For the "Tostada" (I'm calling this a tostada, but it's really just a soft taco, served open-faced):


8 chopped garlic scapes
1 egg
1 egg white
a little buttermilk, cream or half and half to taste
1 corn tortilla
a few sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
1 TBS sour cream (give or take - I used reduced fat)

1. Heat a little olive oil in a pan on medium heat.
2. Add about 8 chopped garlic scapes - chop them fairly fine, but don't mince them.
3. Saute until garlic smell is released and they turn bright green.
4. Beat an egg, an egg white and a little buttermilk or cream or half and half if you have it and if you want to (I used a little lowfat buttermilk).
5. Turn heat to medium low and add eggs. Scramble together until the eggs are just set.
6. Heat a corn tortilla using whatever method you usually use (I wrapped mine in a paper towel and zapped it for 30 seconds).
7. Spread tortilla on a plate, place egg mixture on tortilla, sprinkle with fresh, chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

I'm Gonna Party Like It's... Belgium?

So, on good days, I get to have a chat online with my friend Goofball. She's a total delight, and I think we've learned a great deal from each other over the past several months. It's a deep hope that I get to meet her some day soon!

Yesterday we were discussing summer plans, and she said, "Well, you know, Belgium is the Festival Country."

No, I didn't know. What did she mean?

Well, she proceeded to reel off a huge list of festivals that take place almost nonstop, both in her home town of Leuven, and in various other cities through Belgium. I wish I could remember them all, but they have everything from traditional street fairs, to music festivals that put Bonnaroo to shame, to specific festivals that celebrate specific things.

Who knew?

Well, I'm sure Belgians know, and probably most citizens of Northern Europe, or maybe it's just me that didn't know.

This is the thing that I love about visiting new places - especially in person, but vicariously, as well, if "in person" is impractical.

Another experience I remember from years ago was taking part in a U.S./Soviet Peace Walk in 1988. 450 U.S. peace activists walked across stretches of the U.S. with 250 Soviet citizens from every walk of life. We walked anywhere from 7 - 15 miles/day, and stopped at festivals, towns, etc., to promote cross-cultural understanding. The itinerary had us walking from D.C. to Philly via Baltimore, bussing to Pittsburgh, walking through Pittsburgh, bussing to Rockford, IL, walking from Rockford to Des Moines, Iowa, where the founders of the Peace Walk movement lived, flying to L.A., and walking and bussing up the California coast to finally walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in SF as our finale.

We started from the Capitol Building, as I recall, or maybe from the Mall, and we had great festivals in D.C., Baltimore, and especially Philly. We got to lie on the beach in Santa Monica, go to Disneyland, have brunch in Monterey and be part of a fabulous music fest in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh.

So what was, hands down, the best part of the trip?

Iowa. Iowa. Iowa.

Iowa was experiencing the drought from Hell that summer. It was so bad that we passed horses that had dropped dead from heat as we walked past field after field.

Despite this, at every single place we stopped the locals welcomed us with open arms. We'd arrive to a one-stoplight town and the streets would be lined with cheering people, everyone had taken the day off from work, tables were groaning with home-baked goods and pitchers of lemonade, people hosted us in their homes every night.

Many of the Soviets were high ranking in their various fields. We had Communist Party officials, rock stars, opera singers, surgeons, cosmonauts, Olympic champions, etc.

This was a sophisticated crowd.

Despite this, we all loved Iowa best.

Who knew?

So, what cross-cultural, or similar type of experience, has surprised you in your travels or adventures? Where have you been totally taken aback? Where have your stereotypes been shattered?

Please share.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Singular Saturday: A Change is Gonna Come...


Join Jenn in Holland for other singularly wordy individuals...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Farmers Market Thursday - June 4, 2008

Greens galore
Spinach bunches bigger than your head
garlic scapes
spring onions
the sweetest radishes to grace the Earth

That's our bounty for this week.

I looked at last week's meal list and laughed. I did make some of the dishes, but often ended up with riffs on what was planned.

The lamb chops and grilled asparagus were heavenly. When I pulled out the pomegranate molasses, however, it had solidified, so a quick switch was made with blackberry vinegar and the results were still food of the gods. I didn't make the pitas, but we still had fresh bread.

Strawberries came in, and so did a wonderful frozen yogurt recipe, via Su Good Sweets, (click on her link to "make your own") so we've been having frozen yogurt with muddled strawberries.

I didn't make the lasagna, but I did make a layered, hot, spinach, green onions and asparagus with ricotta terrine. D loved it.

We've been doing lots with pasta and spinach or pasta and asparagus.

Since we received our share yesterday morning, I made a whole wheat pasta with sauteed spinach, green onions and garlic scapes, mixed with toasted walnuts and feta for a teachers luncheon at C's school, and last night I made whole wheat pasta tossed with the same vegetable sautee, lemon pepper, lemon juice and canned salmon and tuna.

Today we're having grilled lamb chops with an oregano-mint marinade, boiled new potatoes and steamed spinach with lemon juice.

In the next few days, I can see these things on the menu:

Spinach quiche
Spinach-Brown Rice Casserole
Salads of all stripes and forms
Sweet Potatoes baked with spinach and hardboiled eggs (delicious, even if it sounds weird).

We'll probably pick up some rhubarb and more strawberries this Saturday, but that may be it.

I'll be interested to see what my fellow Tantre members come up with.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday - Surprise Salad

Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

As I've mentioned in other posts, I love salads. I have a salad for lunch most days of the week. I put all kinds of things in my salads and that's how they don't get boring.

For today's recipe, I'm posting one of my favorite summertime salads. This really isn't "in season" yet, but I got some beautiful greens as part of my Tantre share from last week, and there were Georgia blueberries on sale at the market, and Georgia isn't as far away as some places... so I splurged.

So, for when the summer heat picks up, I give you my Summer Salad with Blueberries and Goat Cheese:

Jen's Summer Salad with Blueberries and Goat Cheese


For the salad:
2 large handfuls of spring/summer greens, rinsed and dried
5 large radishes, sliced
1 1/2 cups blueberries
2 oz. of soft goat cheese, preferably peppered goat cheese
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the dressing:
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS thick fruit vinegar or a good balsamic vinegar (I used a blackberry-balsamic mix)
4 large, fresh, mint leaves, chopped fine, or 1 tsp dried
a pinch of Kosher salt
more pepper to taste


1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and let sit, while you wash and prep the salad ingredients.
2. Toss together the greens, radishes and blueberries.
3. Grind pepper over the salad and toss with the vinaigrette.
4. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.

Enjoy with a nice glass of sweetish white wine, like a Riesling.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

PSA Tuesday - Older Women and Blog Blast for Education

Speaking of movies, a couple of days ago NYC/Caribbean Ragazza regaled us with this superb post. This post was typical of several reviews I saw that day concerning the opening of the Sex and the City movie. NYC said it in her usual inimitable style, and she also has the background to really cover this (as a producer), and I seriously, seriously recommend that you all go over there and read this now. Her main point, however, was that Hollywood execs feel that women won't "open" movies. Especially older women - older women actresses or older women viewers.

But despite this, SATC beat out my old friend Indy for total sales during its opening weekend. Open that male execs!

Soccer Mom in Denial had a different post, on the subject of women's bodies that have been, well, lived in. Or maybe I should phrase it as well-lived in.

She was horrified, as am I, by a new children's book, called My Beautiful Mommy, that prepares young children for what to expect if Mommy comes back from the hospital with a new nose, or a new set of... well, you know.

Nice. Just the thing I'd want my child to read, because, you know, I think all young children should expect their mommies to get new body parts when the old ones look a little less shiny.

And then there's two of my Hollywood heroines, one old and one new. The first is Jamie Lee Curtis. Jamie Lee posed for MORE magazine in nothing but underwear. Not sexy underwear, just plain underwear, with no make-up, no airbrushing, no stylist for her hair, etc. She wanted us to know what late 40s/early 50s movie stars look like. For real. And for lack of a better, gender-appropriate expression, the Lady's got balls.

Karen Allen is my new heroine (and, apparently, the current cover for MORE ). I guess I have to include Steven Spielberg, too, but he's been a longstanding hero for other reasons. Karen Allen is up on the big, harsh, show-every-pore, movie screen with a face that shows her age. She is radiant, yes. I mean, she is Karen Allen, after all. She's still cute, she's still freckled, she still exudes health and energy.

And wrinkles.

And a post-menopausal paunch.

Just as nature intended.

How much healthier would our culture be if we saw the beauty in women as they are meant to be - in all their permutations, ages, skin tones and colors and body sizes? In the meantime, however, viva those brave actresses who act, and look, their age.

Now, speaking of heroines, I'd like introduce you to April, of It's All About Balance, for those who don't already know her. If you don't know her, and if you parent, or are creative, or if you run into adversity in your own life, ever, go - go now, and read her.

April is a single mom, with two beautiful, happy girls, who lives in LA. She's smart (she was just promoted to a position she's not credentialed for, because yes, she's that good), she's creative (actress and graduate of various prestigious arts programs), and a completely passionate, devoted mom and advocate for her daughters. April does not have the support of her daughters' father, and she is on her own. She's had many setbacks, but somehow she keeps it together in a totally inspiring manner.

One of the lights in her life has been her older daughter's experience with a KIPP school. KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Schools are free, open enrollment, college preparatory public schools designed to serve underserved students for future success in the academic world and in life. Sadly, though, there appears to be trouble on the horizon for her daughter's particular school.

As April was analyzing this situation in her usual thoughtful way, and attending meeting after meeting to try to ameliorate the situation (yeah, in all her spare time), she came up with a wonderful idea: A Blog Blast for Education on June 20th. You can read all about it here.

Cable Girl has designed not one, but two, gorgeous buttons to choose from. The one I'm proudly hanging to the right of this post is this one:

Here's what April has to say about the event:

"Education is an issue that affects every Mommy Bloggers' lives (and the Daddies, too).

We've been hearing lately how much power we have, let's utilize it. (Not to mention, it's an Election Year and I haven't heard nearly enough about education.)

Let's talk about whatever concerns us most. Let's talk about a brilliant teacher or curriculum. Let's talk about homework. What's the first thing you think about when you hear the word "education?" Let's talk about that.

And, okay, we may not get the ears (eyes) of McCain or Obama/Clinton from this, but we can learn from each other, right?"

I know that is one day I'll be cranking up my Google reader with great alacrity. I'm excited to learn about the pressing concerns and joys of others, and I'm eager to write about my own.

So, hell yeah, I'm going to be there on June 20th.

How about you?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Music Monday - The Movie Themes of John Williams

For other tales of musical adventure, please visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

We went to see Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yesterday.

I loved it, C liked it, and D hated it. Whatever.

My favorite parts? Seeing Karen Allen re-emerge as the oh-so-fabulous Marion Ravenwood and LOOK HER AGE. (That's fodder for another post in itself). And, in addition to Marion, there was the thrill of hearing "that" theme.

"That" theme that lets us know that Indy is about to crack his whip one more time. Or the theme that lets us know that Harry will battle Voldemort again, or that Luke and Leia will eventually rule victorious, or that we'd better not swim in "those" waters, or that ET can, indeed, phone home.

Yup, there's something about hearing each of those pieces and KNOWING that we're returning to beloved characters or favorite movies. Even if the current movie is sequel #92, at least when we hear that great John Williams theme, we have hope that we'll be transported to the greatness of the original.

I don't think I can "share" this medley, so I'm leaving you with this link.

So listen and transport yourselves to your favorite darkened theater, popcorn and drinks in hand.

Happy Monday.