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Wordless Wednesday: Cat dog

By Robin Dearing
Thursday, January 30, 2014

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They’re growing up — hide the food!

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There's been several Haute Mamas post in the past where I lamented the fact that Jonas would not eat. It made me worry, fret, and I'd let him eat dessert first just to get some calories in him. He is a tiny kid and I've used lots and lots of mental energy trying to figure out how to change that. Then, I just gave up. I mean, you can lead the cow to water thing is pretty much true. I can't make him eat.

Then, one day, about five months ago he started eating all his dinner. His lunch boxes were empty. He started opening the fridge and finding snacks. He jumped in the scrum over fruit snacks.

I'm pretty happy to say the least. He's still tiny but tall.

But, now he's eating and so are his brothers. They eat and eat and eat like locusts on a fresh forest. I buy groceries, they're gone the next day. Yup, six fruit cups, two boxes of chewies, an entire box of Ritz, all the baby carrots, all the cheese — gone two days later. Two hundred bucks of groceries gone and I'm left scrapping together a meal from broccoli and rice.

I buy a lot of those easy foods to pack in the boys' lunches for school. But, I can't seem to get the idea of rationing into their heads. "Don't eat it all at once" goes in one ear, out the other. (Who still says that anymore?)

So, the last time I bought groceries, I took a hoard of "lunch" type foods to the garage and hid them.

Yup, I'm hiding food from the children. But, what else can I do? Lock the fridge? Spend more money?

I'm guessing other families have rationing problems and find ways to solve them but when I Google it I only find this about a "Extreme Cheapskate" mom who counts out Cheerios. That's weird. I'm not talking about starvation, I'm just talking about teaching the boys a little moderation when it comes to snack foods.

As always, some advise?

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Accidental Vegetarians

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

While Bill was back East and my mom was in the hospital, I had to come up with meals all by myself. As I’ve stated before, I’m not a good cook, mostly because I lack creativity or imagination.

If I have a bunch of ingredients, I can’t figure out what to make. I have to Google recipes using the ingredients. Luckily for all of us, I can follow a recipe … for the most part.

To make our cooking/eating situation more complicated, a couple of months ago Margaret decided she wanted to be a vegetarian. I took this opportunity of just having to cook for the two of us to find some good vegetarian recipes.

Luckily someone (me) bought Mar a vegetarian cookbook for Christmas. A cookbook with pictures. So we looked through the book and found pictures of food we wanted to eat and I ran to the grocery with my list (yes, I still talk to myself in the store. Embarrassing, but apparently essential if I want to end up with everything on my list).

The first thing Margaret picked was pasta fagioli.

It looked just like the picture when I was done and we both loved it. Success! Phew.

Then I made tortilla soup, followed by, my favorite so far, chickpea and vegetable curry with couscous. My red beans and rice was a bit bland (it needed Andouille sausage … mmm, sausage). But a strangely named dish called Mexican hot pot was remarkable good even though I couldn’t decide if it was a soup or a bean dish.

Bill and my mom finally came home and I kept making vegetarian dishes from Mar’s cookbook.

We’ve had potato cheddar soup which was a big hit. Followed by corn and bean chili (I forgot to put in the corn and it was still delicious) and vegetable and lintel soup.

My meat-loving husband said the other day, “I don’t miss the meat.” Neither do I. But having said that, we both agree that we don't intend on becoming full-time vegetarians. I mean life without ever having chorizo, bacon, hamburgers … nah, not for us.

I will say that I do not miss cooking with meat at all. Handling raw meat has always kind of grossed me out. It’s much better when we get the locally raised beef. Grocery store meat can’t even compare.

Tonight we are having cauliflower bisque.

And you know what all these recipes have in common?

They were all cooked in our handy, dandy Crock-Pot. Yes, every meal I've made this year was done in ye olde slow cooker. The cookbook I’ve been obsessing over is the Crock-Pot (The Original Slow Cooker) Vegetarian Recipes. And if you go to their website, you can find free recipes. Even meat recipes.

I couldn’t be more happy with this cookbook. The recipes create really flavorful food with ingredients that are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. There’s a mix of fresh veggies and canned foods, so it’s easy for someone like me with minimal cooking skills.

My only complaint with the book is that the serving sizes are really small. I’ve found a recipe that says it makes four servings, make three Dearing-McCracken-sized servings. Maybe we eat too much. But I’ve just been doubling the recipes and it all works out great.

Another plus is that I can get everything in the pot in the morning and not worry about it until dinnertime. My cauliflower bisque is in my Crock-Pot right now.

Here’s the recipe for Crock-Pot’s Chickpea and Vegetable Curry:
1 can (about 14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth, divided
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups cut fresh green beans (1-inch pieces)
1 can (about 15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 carrots, very thinly sliced
½ cup golden raisins (we don’t like raisins so I left them out)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups hot cooked couscous
Chopped green onion and toasted sliced almonds (optional) (I really like it with the green onions. Haven’t tried it with toasted almonds yet.)

1. Coat inside of Crock-Pot with nonstick cooking spray. Combine coconut milk, ¾ cup broth, curry powder and ground red pepper in slow cooker. Stir in green beans, chickpeas, carrots and raisins; mix well. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 7 hours or on HIGH 2½ to 3 hours or until vegetables are tender.
2. Whisk remaining ¼ cup broth into flour in small bowl until smooth; stir into vegetable mixture. Turn Crock-Pot slow cooker to HIGH. Cover; cook on HIGH 15 minutes or until thickened. Ladle into shallow bowls; top with couscous. Sprinkle with green onion and almonds if desired.

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Pickleball

By Randee Bergen
Monday, January 27, 2014

Pickleball. Have you heard of it?

Makes me think of charades. Two words. First word. Sounds like tickle. Pickle. Second word. Sounds like wall. Ball. Pickle, ball. Pickleball.

It’s a game. Sort of a cross between badminton, tennis, and ping-pong. It is played on a badminton-sized court, which is about one-third the size of a tennis court, with paddles and a ball that is similar to a wiffle ball. The net is two inches lower than a net on a tennis court. The ball moves about one-third the speed of a tennis ball. It is supposedly easy to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced game for experienced players.

I’ve been hearing about pickleball here and there. When the improvements were done at Lincoln Park last year, pickleball courts were built, complete with lights for playing at night.

I read that indoor pickleball happens at the Lincoln Park Barn during the winter months.

I also know that it’s a quickly growing sport, especially among the retiree set. Easy to learn. Fast-paced. Can be played out-of-doors, free-of-cost. Can be played at night under the lights. Can be played indoors during the winter. Is doable as singles or doubles.

I think I want to try this game.

I dabbled in tennis, as a kid, and then again in my twenties. I liked it, but it was obvious that I would never be that good at it because I’m not very fast on my feet and there is a lot of area to cover on a tennis court. Consequently, I got into racquetball, which is similar but has a smaller court. I do alright in racquetball, even without being a fast mover. I play racquetball three times a week, usually with my friend Jim.

Lucky Jim. I’m going to get him to try pickleball with me.

We’re not looking to replace our racquetball time with another sport. And we’re not of retiree age (yet). But I can totally see us riding our bikes to the courts on late summer evenings to play a little pickleball under the lights.

And maybe we’ll win the Pickleball National Championship 60+ age group if we start playing now.

Jim’s birthday was this month. Lucky Jim. He got a pickleball paddle and some wiffle balls for a gift. I got a little gift for myself, too–a pickleball paddle.

I did some quick research on paddles before buying them. Fortunately, Sports Authority had a few in stock. An employee there said they’ve been selling like crazy. They were out of official pickleball balls, but they are similar enough to wiffle balls so I bought a bag of three wiffle balls.

What I know about the paddles is that they come in wood or composite (graphite) material. I believe the composite paddle is slightly heavier, thereby requiring less strength to hit the ball as hard or as far as you might with a wooden paddle. There is only one size of paddle, but the handle size can vary. Larger hands do better with a wider handle. At Sports Authority, there were three different paddles to choose from. They all looked about the same to me. The one major difference was that one was “rimmed.” It had a raised edge. The others were rimless, “for increased maneuverability and faster play.” I hadn’t read anything about that online, so I decided to get one of each type.

And here’s what else I know about pickleball paddles: they’re not cheap. I couldn’t believe that they cost more–two or three times more–than a basic racquetball racquet.

I guess that means that we WILL like this sport. It’s mandatory, now that I’ve invested in two paddles.

I looked through my Parks and Rec Activity Guide and was surprised to learn that there were no pickleball classes being offered. There was, however, a number listed for Grand Junction Pickleball. Grand Junction Pickleball? There’s a club? Now I know for sure the sport is taking off. I gave the number a try and talked with a nice man named Ken. He explained that Parks and Rec does not offer classes in the winter because there is not enough indoor playing space. I will look again in the next Activity Guide that comes out in the spring.

Until then, Jim and I will try to hit the wiffle ball back and forth. We can use the outdoor courts on nice weekend days or the basketball or racquetball courts at Gold’s Gym.

Oh, and about that name Pickleball. Legend has it that the creator of the game had a dog named Pickles. Every time the ball, which belonged to the dog, was mishit, Pickles would grab it and run and hide in the bushes. They named the game for their dog’s ball, Pickle’s Ball, which became Pickleball. That’s how the story goes.

The truth, however, according to Joan Pritchard, wife of the inventor of the game, Joel Pritchard, is that the game reminded her of the Pickle Boat in crew, where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. (Wikipedia)

Leftovers–a little tennis, a little badminton, a dog’s old wiffle ball, some make-shift paddles.

And some more truth: the Pritchards didn’t get their dog until a few years after they invented the sport. So, the dog was named after the sport.

As the weather gets nicer and the days longer, I can start playing some real pickleball games. In the meantime, I'll stick to racquetball.

And charades.

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Addison’s disease: It’s been a rough year so far

By Robin Dearing
Thursday, January 23, 2014

My dear, sweet mother-in-law, Clara Palmer, passed away early January 14. Thanks to the loving support of my husband and his wonderful sister, Valerie, and the seemingly limitless number of friends and family in and around the Buffalo area, her passing was filled with love and dignity. For that I am eternally grateful.

I wish I could have been there. But I stayed behind. Margaret had school. I had classes to prepare for. Plus, my own mom was sick.

Shirley was sick enough to earn her a 10-day stay at the all-inclusive St. Mary’s Medical Center. She’s doing much better thanks to 14 days of IV antibiotics, a new pint of blood (Have you ever had blood or been around someone getting blood? There’s a bag of human blood just hanging there dripping into an IV. Disconcerting to say the least), surgery to replace stints near her kidneys, many giant, smelly pills and good old-fashioned nursing care.

The whole ordeal took its toll on my health as well. With Addison’s disease, my body has no way of dealing with stress. If I don’t take more steroids, I get sick. I did not take enough steroids. I got sick.

So sick, I ended up in the emergency room a week ago. I knew I was starting to crash. I had all the symptoms that led to my diagnosis in June. But this time I was alone and scared.

Margaret was in school. My mom was in the hospital. My husband was 1,800 miles away. I started to panic. I called Bill and he insisted I go to the ER. I listened.

The staff at St. Mary’s ER were wonderful despite the fact that I was on the verge of hysteria. I knew what I needed, but they were hesitant to give me the IV Solu-Cortef and fluids I needed because my blood pressure was up and I was not presenting correctly for an Addison’s crisis.

I have never presented correctly for Addison’s. I have bizarro Addison’s (that’s not a real thing as far as I know, but it’s what I call my disease).

I wish I had kept my wits about me. But honestly, I’m not the type to do so. I’m more of the hysterical type. The doctor called for a social worker to come help me with my stress.

I got pissed. Seeing red pissed. Lasers from my eyes pissed. Which, of course, made things worse.

I stayed in touch with my husband who called my endocrinologist who coordinated with the ER doc. I got my meds. I did not die and ended up walking out of the ER feeling better than I had in two weeks.

Now, a week later, we are all home and back to our routines. I’m starting to feel better and am working on getting back to my normal steroid dose.

Bill and I started classes this week and are so thankful because of it. We both love teaching and being back in the classroom brings normalcy and purpose.

There’s still the cast of sadness over our day-to-day lives. The mourning continues as Bill figures out his life without his mom. He’s still finding his way. But sadness and loss is all part of the deal, so we carry on.
 

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Interview: Actress Bella Thorne

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, January 23, 2014

I did a one-way phone/video interview yesterday with Disney’s Bella Thorne. She was promoting the United States Postal Service’s love stamp and encouraging kids to make their own Valentines.

I’ll admit, I had to do a little homework about Bella Thorne. My boys are still a little young for the preteen shows on the the Disney channel. We watched an episode of “Shake It Up,” on which Thorne played one of the lead characters, CeCe Jones. They loved it.

She’s growing up fast and so is her career. Thorne is set to costar in an upcoming summer blockbuster, “Blended,” starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. This looks like a movie my whole family is going to enjoy.

HERE'S THE TRAILER

Thorne is also a singer, an author, and just one of those girls whose talented at so many things at such a young age. She's smart and well-spoken and I very much enjoyed interviewing her.

 

 

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France Vicariously

By Randee Bergen
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yes, I realize that I’m not the one going to France; it’s my daughter who’s going to be the exchange student. But I can’t help myself. I’m going to take this opportunity to learn as much about France as I have time for.

If I was starting up a whole new blog I suppose I would call it Vive la France du fait d’autrui. Or maybe just France Vicariously, since I would know for sure then that the words were in the correct order.

No, I do not parlez-vous français. My daughter is in French III class, but no, she does not speak French either.

It was right before Christmas when we learned she’d be spending her junior year in France. I wanted to put something under the tree to get our great learning adventure underway, so I started with these three little dictionaries that I found at our local Barnes & Noble.

We got a few good laughs from these literal meanings:

J’ai un coup de pompe. I’m feeling tired. Literally, I’ve been hit by a pump.

Il y a du monde au balcon. She has big boobs. Literally, the balcony is crowded.

Tu me gonfles. You’re getting on my nerves. Literally, you make me swell.

Je lui ai roulé un patin. I French-kissed him. Literally, I rolled a skate to him.

I’d say, from these examples, that this dictionary is definitely written for teenagers.

In addition to the confusion that such literal phrases will create, we also learned that French hipsters from the suburbs of Paris started “verlan” – a form of French slang created to confuse the uncool. Verlan works by rearranging the order of letters or syllables of a word. A sort of French Pig Latin, it sounds like.

And, of course, there are the French abbreviations, symbols, and acronyms used when texting.

:—) Je t’m +. C ni is the equivalent of Tu es un menteur. Je ne t’aime plus. C’est fini. You’re a liar. I don’t love you anymore. It’s over.

The smiley face emoticon with the long nose means liar. Bonjour Pinocchio.

How about this one? Cpa5p means C’est pas sympa. That’s not nice. Yes, the fourth character is a five.

That really isn’t nice. They’ve got their basic French, crazy literal phrases, verlan, and Frexting. (This is why I’m perfectly happy to be doing the French experience vicariously.)

After Christmas, we ordered several books, the one that grabbed my attention the most being Au Contraire! Figuring Out the French.

During the Rotary Youth Exchange selection process, we learned that France is one of the most difficult countries to go to for an exchange. But why? Surely, we cannot just say that the French are arrogant and loathe Americans. There has to be more to it than that.

Mort Rosenblum, in Mission to Civilize: The French Way talks about how surface familiarity can be deceptive. “Outsiders go wrong by looking at France through their own optics. It is always a jolt for veteran travelers to find that culture shock in France is more severe than in Saudia Arabia or Bolivia. Elsewhere, things look and sound different, so you expect them to be different. France looks like home, or at least like familiar old postcards and paintings. Surprise.”

The authors of Au Contraire! say that the surface similarities and hidden differences can lead to situations that are uncomfortable, confusing, comic, or catastrophic. One example is this. When Starbucks launched its French business in 2003 they imported their friendly U.S.-style customer service. Patrons were initially shocked and appalled when the baristas asked for their first name after placing an order.

Calling someone by their first name? It is clear that my daughter will be guilty of many a faux pas during her time in France. I hope to learn what I can ahead of time and share with her. She, in the meantime, will be busy learning the basics of the language.

For now, c’est fini.

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MLK, Jr. Day

By Randee Bergen
Monday, January 20, 2014

Prior to moving to Grand Junction in 2005, I taught kindergarten on the Front Range. According to the social studies curriculum there, kindergartners were to recognize three important U.S. figures--George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. So I did my best to help five- and six-year-olds understand why these men were so important.

It wasn't an easy task.

Today, I share with you one kindergarten student's writing. I think he sort of got it. I'm also sharing some art work we did to ensure that the kiddos would always recognize and remember MLK, Jr.'s face.

Enjoy!

 

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Nixon: Ketchup on cottage cheese

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, January 16, 2014

Last weekend we celebrated Richard Nixon's birthday. His actual birthday was Jan. 9, but as with all birthdays, I'm reserving the right to postpone presidential birthday celebrations until the weekend.

According to The Food Timeline, President Nixon was very fond of his wife's meatloaf and they ate it at least once a month. The site gives a recipe for "Pat's Meatloaf." I'm hesitant to expand my meatloaf beyond the basics. I use diced onion, ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, some ketchup, and some salt and pepper. My family likes it. Pat's recipe sounds pretty good, but adding a lot extra stuff like garlic and thyme and other spices just isn't necessary in my house.

It also says that Nixon liked to eat ketchup on cottage cheese. More important than meatloaf, Soren really, really wanted to give it a try. Everyone took a scoop, squirted the ketchup on his spoon, then dared each other to take a bite. Even me.

It's not good. No wonder Nixon was a junky president. His taste in snack foods was terrible.

Nixon also liked himself some fresh California fruit and chocolate chip cookies. I was too lazy for cookies, after having slaved over meatloaf, but I did put together a cherry Jell-O with fresh blueberries. This served as Nixon's birthday dessert, although whipped cream doesn't hold candles very well.

Oh well, I didn't want to put too much effort into it. It was a birthday party for Nixon afterall.

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It’s All Downhill from Here

By Randee Bergen
Thursday, January 16, 2014

One day last week I went straight to the grocery store after leaving work around 4:20. Gathering my bags from my cart, I tucked my purse tightly under my arm, got my keys in hand, and prepared to hustle through the cold and dark parking lot to my vehicle.

But as soon as I stepped outside, I relaxed. My pace slowed; my high alert button switched off; I lifted my chin up out of my jacket a bit. You see, it wasn’t dark out as I expected it to be. It was after 5:00, but daylight lingered.

I smiled, rejoicing inside. I had survived another dark December.

I don’t do so well when the days are short, when it gets dark shortly after I get off work. It seems I need to rush home, where it’s warm and safe, and where there’s too much food and a couch and quilts. To go out for any reason after getting home, whether for my daughters’ school events, to run errands, and especially to run, seems ridiculous.

It’s not all bad being at home so much. I have several inside activities I enjoy engaging in–hanging out with my daughters, reading, writing, staring at the Christmas tree lights. But it doesn’t take long to feel the effects of too much sitting and not enough movement. And that’s when I start feeling a little depressed, a bit like the winter solstice needs to get here and get over with now.

I teach second grade and studying the weather is a big part of the science curriculum. We look at The Weather Channel App every day to see what’s going on with the temperature, wind chill, humidity, precipitation, weather alerts, and, yes, the time the sun rises and sets. I am well aware that sunset was at 4:52 for nearly two weeks leading up to the first day of winter, December 21.

And now the sun is setting at 5:15. And a little daylight lingers well past that, almost until 5:45. That’s a huge difference from a few weeks ago.

I ran up and down one of my favorite hills a few times the day after I came out of the grocery store and realized it was staying light until after 5:00 p.m. I hadn’t run in the evening for weeks, hadn’t run much at all, to be honest, because the dark wintry days mess with me. Something about them just drives me home and makes me lock my door to the out-of-doors.

As I ran up and down this hill, I found myself enjoying the extra minutes of daylight in more than one way. Not only was I smiling the whole time, so glad to be doing what I need to do to stay healthy and happy, but I had some terrific views of the Bookcliffs bathed in the pinkish-yellow twilight, a beautiful evening glow upon the valley floor, and, then, like a cherry on top, a sunset.

Each time I trudged up that hill, I thought about the hill as December. Long, hard, a bit depressing. But once I hit the top, the hump, the Winter Solstice, I would turn around, see the glorious light upon the Bookcliffs and the valley, feel the smile spread across my face, and run on down, toward longer days and springtime and the promise of more outdoor activity time.

I did it! I made it through December, I’m over the hump, and it’s all downhill from here.

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