Archive for December 2008

This one is for you…..

December 31, 2008

At some point in time, son, you are going to find yourself away from home – in a college dorm or your first apartment – and hankering for that dish that Mom made that was your favorite.  Naw…not the open can of Chef Boy R Dee’s ravioli or that Ramen noodle stuff.  It’s one that was handed down to me from my mom.  I mean, how can one ever forget coming in from a cold, wet fall/winter day to the smell of simmering swiss steak?  Yum.  It’s second only to the simmering pot of chicken and dumplings…or chili….but that’s another post.  Because you have never had the patience to sit still and watch – let alone help – I thought I would post it here for you.  So you can pull it up at any time….and make it for yourself.  So forgive me regular readers…and especially my vegetarian friends…but this one is just for him.

Swiss Steak Extraordinaire

Start with a regular round steak from the market….and look for cheap.  We don’t want to break the bank or anything.  The good stuff happens after you buy it anyway.  Cut the round steak into smaller pieces.  (My mom always left it whole and cooked it on the electric frying pan.)  Now slice a good sized sweet onion into very thin slices. 100_0692

Pour a thin coating of EVOO (that’s olive oil – thank you Rachel Ray!  I love that I even have it in my kitchen…) into a frying pan and layer about half the onion slices in there.  Turn the fire on low and get them cooking.

100_06931Now comes the fun part.  It’s messy.  Spread some newspaper on the counter top and cover it with wax paper.  Sprinkle the wax paper with some flour and dredge a piece of the steak in the flour.  ‘Dredge’ means to drag it through or coat it.  And you know that cool little hammer in the kitchen tool drawer you like?  The one with the spikes?  Well, wail away at that piece of meat, keeping it dry by turning it over and 100_0694over in the flour.  This is called ‘tenderizing’ but there is nothing ‘tender’ about it.  I have some fond memories of you and your sister helping with this part at times.  Why is it that you both like pulverizing red meat??  You need to do this with each and every piece.  Have fun!  Oh…and sprinkle on a teenybit of garlic or garlic salt now and then.   Not too much though.   

100_0695Layer the meat on top of the oil and the onions.

Layer the rest of the onions on the meat and put the cover on the pan.  You will need to turn the meat pieces occasionally…making sure that each side of 100_0696each piece gets a turn at the bottom of the pan, nearest the heat source. 

When each piece has been browned a little  you are going to pour in about a cup of water that has two bullion cubes dissolved in it.  Replace the top and let the pan simmer for a while.  ‘Simmer’ means it’s all going to be bubbling just a little…not a rolling boil. 

100_0700When it’s all cooking and smelling good – and here is the part you can omit if you are making it just for you because I know you profess to hate mushrooms – cover the whole deal with sliced, fresh mushrooms.  I usually buy a couple of whole ones and slice them really thin but the sliced ones were on sale this time.  I still ended up slicing each piece even thinner.   Your grandmother used canned mushrooms for the most part.  They were easier to find in the grocery store back in the olden days when Mom was a girl. 

100_0702The trick is to let the whole thing simmer (remember – a gentle bubbling not a boiling roll!)  for a long time.  Like an hour or two.  In fact, the longer the better.   Check it and turn the meat pieces now and then…and regularly scrape up the stuff that gets stuck to the bottom.  That’s good stuff for the gravy. Ew…don’t like what the camera flash does to the color.  This was a lovely warm, brown dish of flavor.

Whip up some mashed potatos from a box or toss one into the oven to bake.  And make some green beans or some other kind of vegetable  ….. please.  Do it for me.  For old times sake.

And there you have it. 

Your favorite thing that Mom cooked for dinner –

100_0705when you were 14……and a carnivore. 

 

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The Best Christmas Gifts Ever

December 31, 2008

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Eh…the picture turned out a little blurry .  Sorry about that.  You can still see the red heart.    They were lost amongst the i-pods and clothes and remote control helicopters.   I had to rescue them from the mass of candy and socks and new underwear in stockings.  They are the best Christmas gifts ever.  An after thought tacked on to a quickie shopping trip.  An off hand purchase found on a stroll through the school supplies looking for the mechanical pencils that the Prince loves.  A gift to them from me….and given back to me.  Two little leather bound books with an elastic strap to hold them shut.  My intention is to write something in each of them, every day, for a year.  Nothing big or philosophical.  Just an account of daily events they might not remember.  It’s an idea I got from my parents when they gave me a notebook last summer with an account of my first trip to Florida when I was three years old….fifty years ago.  Yes…it was falling apart…and it was so much fun to read. 

In this upcoming year my son will turn 15, is facing driver’s ed, another soccer team and another year of high school.  My daughter will be turning 14  and that brings a myriad of  things she may want to remember….or forget.  If I were writing in them today I would write about her disappointment that a power outage has closed her favorite indoor skate park…until Monday.  And she has a new skateboard to try out.   I would write about his absolute delight that I consented to purchase another goalie jersey and ‘kit’ from his favorite website – in exchange for the cash he got for Christmas.  Not a huge deal but he KNOWS how much I hate to carry cash.  It flows from my pocketbook like water. 

I am not sure who is going to have more fun with this ‘gift.’  Will it be me – taking a few minutes before I go to bed to contemplate the most important event of my children’s day?  Or will it theirs when the books appear again in their hands – holding a whole year’s worth of memories??    For the next 365 days, it will definitely be mine.  I can’t wait!

Happy New Year!

Home From the Holidays

December 30, 2008

There is something sort of surreal about spending a holiday great distances away from home.  In someone else’s home, with someone else’s tree and someone else’s life style.  NICE…but surreal.  For us it was a 13 hour drive to my sister’s home in South Carolina.  It’s been several years since we have done the drive on this particular holiday.  We left Michigan at 3 am with waist deep snow drifts in our yard.  It was cold.  It was blowy.  And then 13 hours later we were enscounced in a motel room taking showers and marveling at the warm weather.  My parents had driven up from their home in Florida.  We ate wonderful meals, attended a wonderful Christmas Eve church service, unwrapped wonderful, thoughtful gifts,  played games, watched movies together, pondered the balmy SC weather, went shopping and headed home again.

It was interesting to make the trip with two teenagers and the dog .  Both kids were plugged into their i-pods or watching movies on the little dvd player.  An impulse $9.95 Cracker Barrel purchase of the entire first season of  ‘The Cosby Show’ was the best investment ever.  It was fun to hear them giggling and outright laughing in the back seat.   On the way home I stuffed their little heads with WWII information as we watched ‘Band of Brothers’ together. 

But the neatest part of the trip?  HRH spent his Christmas gift money on a GPS system.  Now, I am a google map quest person.   Hubby swears by AAA Trip Tix.   I never saw the need for another mapping system.   I thought this would be just another ‘man toy.’  Yet the rationalization of all the soccer fields we have to drive to made the purchase make a teeny bit of sense.    The trip home was actually….boring….since I didn’t need to consult a map for him every five seconds.  I actually read an entire book without being interrupted.  An ENTIRE book!

And our new little computer friend is totally cute.  She has a bit of a British accent, can evolve into a wing flapping bird, a car or a pair of walking feet at will.  She tells you how far to go before making a turn, when to make that turn and if you get off your beaten track for a burger or potty stop, she insistently tells you to “make U turn when possible.”   I almost wanted to make a few stops just to hear her pleasantly implore to get back on track.  We are still trying to figure out a name for her.  Actually ‘Computer’ seems to fit for this family of ‘Trekkers.’ 

Welcome to the family, Computer!  Can’t wait to take you on another trip…..heh.

Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2008

It’s a quarter after ten at night.  The snow is waist high outside our door and it’s in the minus degrees with the windchill figured in.  Every stinking little gift – down to the mini tennis balls we bought for the dog –  is wrapped and ready to be loaded into the truck.  I am waiting for my jeans to dry so I can pack them into the suitcase.  HRH is dragging us out of bed at 3 am to start our 800 mile road trip to my sister’s in South Carolina.  My kiddos have actually packed shorts for the trip.  Does that make them ‘positive thinkers’ or just certifiably nuts?  I can’t decide.

We celebrated Hanukkah with my stepdaughter’s family on Saturday.  Good food.  Good company.  Good conversations.  Lots of kids and lots of wrappings.  Couldn’t ask for more.  The twin baby dolls for the twins were a hit.   Apparently they haven’t put them down.

We did the UAW family party on Sunday.  HRH was Santa again.  It’s become our holiday tradition.  Yes…that’s right.  For one night a year I get to sleep with Santa Claus!  Can’t quite figure out how to crop and post the polaroids from this year’s party.  You’ll have to settle for last year’s.  It’s one of my favorites anyway.   Have a wonderful holiday…..where ever you are!  May you be warm and warm hearted!

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For 15 minutes…..

December 18, 2008

     I have written before about my daughter’s aversion to dolls.  How we found all the Barbie dolls she received as gifts when she arrived from Russia stuffed under her bed.  How she refused to keep a collector doll in her room because it was ‘staring at her.’  How she screeched at the top of her lungs to ‘get me outta here this place is freaking me out!’ when we visited the Chicago American Girl store for the first time when she was seven.  How she became physically ill when we went back there with her girl scout buddies last February.  Lord knows I have tried to turn her into a doll lover.  Poor kid happens to have a mom who loves dolls.  Dolls of any kind.  Still.  But alas….her heart belongs to soccer balls and skateboards and anything that goes fast.  But for one brief 15 minute period tonight, I had the little girl I thought I was destined to have.  Brief.  15. Minutes.

     A box arrived on our porch tonight.  A box from the American Girl Company.  A box with Bitty Twins destined for my stepdaughter’s own almost four year old  twins.   A gift for Hanukkah.  We opened the box and oooed and aahed over them.  We undid the trappings that kept them safe in shipping.  I wondered about the size.  I sent my daughter for the plastic box in her closet that holds her own Bitty Baby. 

     She found it.  Way up high and way in the back.  Found some other things too.  But – for once –  it was the Bitty Baby that held her attention.  And all the outfits that we collected for it over the years trying to turn her into a doll lover.  So for 15 minutes we played with her baby doll.  And then it was stuffed back in the box and put back in the closet.  Up high and way in the back.  Sigh. 

     But….I have  pictures!

 

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First she was really into matching outfits and shoes.

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And then she decided that matching was SO…last year.

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And that bitty socks could be put to good use!

Holidaze?

December 11, 2008

I am so confused.  521 report cards…done.  Morphing project?  Chemical reaction vs chemical ‘properties’?  Holiday dance?  She wants to wear a DRESS?  No one is missing the Christmas tree?  What do you mean you have no clue where the ‘enter’ button is?  Secret Santa thing starts WHEN?  Work out room?  What work out room?    The fundraiser thingy is needed WHEN?  Christmas cards!  Power Points with custom animation??  See those reindeer fly!  Where do you find a dress for the holiday dance for a maybe kid size 12 or junior size extra small with absolutely nothing to fill the…uh…cups?  And still get her to soccer practice on time?  www.freerice.com  So whose big bright idea was it to choose FOUR item stars from the school ‘Giving Candle’ for needy families?  Okay…so it was mine.  Fish shaped fish sticks.  Staff party Saturday night.  Family party Saturday afternoon.  Shoes?  Black shoes for the band concert!!!  Homework…. fix dinner…. gas the car.  Hey! Only $1.50 a gallon today!!!  They were doing WHAT with the rubber balls at the Secret Santa shop??  It’s snowing.  And raining.  Again.  Weary.  Oh so very weary….and so very confused.

It’s Out There…

December 5, 2008

I teach Technology in a huge elementary school.  My students range from Kindergarten to 5th graders.  We learn the parts of the computer and what they do, login/logout, play with interactive learning materials, create/edit/file Word documents,  develop power point presentations, engage in web searches for information, etc. etc. etc.

 

I love my job. 

 

It’s creative and fun and a wonderful excuse to sit in front of a computer all ding dang day. 

 

In October my 5th graders wrote letters to the Presidential candidates about their most pressing issues.  They also created Halloween themed menus that I am sure made their parents….um….proud.  In November my second graders did a whole group web search for turkey facts and then created posters with that information.  My 3rd thru 5th graders wrote letters to our veterans for Veterans’ Day, thanking them for their sacrifice in the name of our peaceful country.  Last week my 3rd graders wrote to individual Kindy students as if they were an elf, encouraging them to stay on Santa’s good kid list. (The Kindy Teachers loved them.  They even put their red and green padded envelopes with ‘Elf Mail’ stamps in the freezer so they would be ‘North Pole cold’ when the kids got them.  Too cute…)  All the while my students have been inserting pictures and borders, changing fonts/sizes/colors and creating watermarks behind their writing.

 

I. LOVE. MY. JOB.

 

It’s also part of my job to teach internet safety skills.  My kiddos are not allowed to go onto search engines that are not deemed ‘child friendly.’  They are also not allowed to explore You Tube at school because of it’s grossly random inappropriateness.  Even though I know they do it at home.  So I do it for them at school.  When it’s difficult to settle them, I can flip on a video about ‘Christian the Lion’ or funny cats/babies/dogs or ‘Food Court Musical’ and I have them in the palm of my hand.

 

Today – on my lunch break –  I found this one.  I was looking for an example of ‘stop action filmography.’  I sat there and giggled like an idiot.  For someone who is stressing about finishing 521 report cards by midnight on Sunday, it was a welcome relief.  For someone who feels herself slipping into her regular holiday induced deep dark depression, it was a God send.  Let’s hear it for break dancing Santas!  Jingle..jingle…jingle!!