book · reviews

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel

I just completed reading my next book. This book was a SLOWWW read. I’m not sure if it was because of the book or because I was reading it at the beginning of the school year or a combination of both, but I felt like it took me forever to finish the book this time.

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel by Elizabeth J Church begins during WWII when Meridian Wallace is a 17 year old college student studying ornithology at the University of Chicago. There the innocent Meridian meets 2 men who are as opposite as opposite can be. In the end, she falls for Alden, a physics professor. Alden sweeps Meridian off her feet by opening her eyes to the world of words and knowledge.

Meridian is hesitant to give up her schooling, but wants to be with Alden who is now working for the government in Los Alamos, NM. Life in Los Alamos is very different from the world Meridian knows in Chicago , but she find that even in Los Alamos she can follow and learn more about her precious crows.

It is in her studying of her crows that Meridian’s life takes another turn. Here she meets Clay. Clay offers Meridian the type of relationship she no longer has, or actually never had with her husband.

Meridian spends life wishing she has more. Wishing she was more. But, in the end she is who she is, and that can never change.

Read about life in the US changes from the 1940s to the 1970s. Live life with Meridian and think about what choices you would have made in her shoes. Would you give up your dreams for Alden. Would you leave Alden for Clay? Follow Meridian as she negotiates the changing rolls of women in the country.

I did like this book. I mean I finished the whole thing. There was a lot to think about and a lot of incite into how different life was in that time. How much life changed in a few decades and the views of love, life and respect changed over time. I guess it would be a 3.5 out of 5 star book for me. I won’t tell you “run our right now and get this book” but I would tell you that it is a good read. I think you have to go into it looking for an impression of life in that time and you will enjoy the book more.

 

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family · food · reviews

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Cookies

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This weekend my school held their fall festival. This was an opportunity for the children to show off their classrooms, play games and play in the bounce house. We also had the book fair open and were selling items at a bake sale. All the staff members were asked to bake items to sell at the bake sale. So, I got thinking… what am I going to make.

I decided to bake two different cookies. First I baked S’more cookies, and messed up the recipe. It turned out ok, but would have been better if I followed ALL the steps.

The second kind I decided to bake at pumpkin spice oatmeal cookies. I figure, oh everyone is head over heals for pumpkin spice these will sell like hotcakes. Well they didn’t, but I don’t care they still tasted really good (and I am not a huge pumpkin spice person).

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal cookies. (edited from Food Fanatic)

  • 1 cup Butter, Softened
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, line your baking sheets
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, and mix in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla
  4. Add the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice and oats). into the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.
  5. Scoop out dough with a large cookie scoop and place on the lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown, its okay if the middles look slightly undercooked, they will finish cooking on the pan as they cool.
  7. Allow to set for 4-5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 2018-10-08 14.08.42

These cookies were REALLY tasty. They were not dry in the least. Colby took home some of the extras from the bake sale and they were sticking together. Colby was hesitant to try it at first and then loved them. I think he took home 4 bags from the bake sale. I guess I will have to bake these again. I bet they would be very tasty if you used apple pie spice in lieu of the pumpkin pie spice. I have more pumpkin pie spice now I want to make snickerdoodles with the pumpkin pie spice… yummy!

food · reviews · through my camera lens

chicken salsa

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Chicken salsa is a recipe I created years ago. It started as a quick recipe of just chopping chicken up, popping it into a skillet. After the chicken cooks a bit, I would add in salsa and let it finish cooking. Then I would put it on top of couscous and top it with cheese.

Over time I’ve made this in the crock pot or even in the pressure cooker.  With both of these cooking methods I would just cut the chicken into bite size pieces and put the salsa in to start. When you do it in the pressure cooker, it makes it more like shredded chicken which is perfect for nachos!

Well, since we have been working on adding more veggies into our meals I decided to revamp salsa chicken.

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Salsa chicken

  • 1 package of chicken thighs
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cubanelle peppers
  • 3/4 stocks of celery
  • salsa
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • chili powder
  • S&P
  1. put pressure cooker on high
  2. trim up chicken thighs, add to crock pot
  3. dice up onion, peppers and celery, add to crock pot
  4. add spices to your taste preferences
  5. add 1/2 jar of salsa
  6. put the lid on and cook for 3-4 hour on high

I served it over farro as well as couscous to serve this over. Colby added cheddar cheese to his chicken salsa. We ate the WHOLE crock pot worth of chicken salsa. We did have farro and couscous leftovers, but I’ll take that. I enjoyed the increase of veggies and felt it added to the taste as well as the health levels.

 

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Mixed Berry Sauce

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Colby had requested pancake for dinner tonight. So we had pancakes and bacon for dinner. While I do get one cheat day/meal a week I decided I wanted to have a slightly healthy addition to our pancakes.

While Richard made the bacon, I whipped up our favorite homemade pancakes. Here is the link to the pancake mix we use.

I also made a batch of mixed berry sauce. I have frozen mixed berries for my smoothies, this bag was strawberry, blueberry and raspberry,

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I used the berries as a topping on my pancakes as well as topping a dish of vanilla yogurt. Since I did not add any sugar to this mixture the sweetness totally came from the berries.

Mix Berry Sauce

  • 2 c. mixed berries
  • 1 lemon
  1. put berries into the sauce pan over high
  2. zest and juice the lemon adding both to the pan
  3. once it comes to a boil, reduce the head to low and let the mixture simmer
  4. stir to assist in the breaking down of the berries
  5. remove from the heat and let cool
  6. serve over pancakes, yogurt, ice cream… whatever you want/need a berry sauce

This batch had a strong raspberry flavor, but it was very tasty. I am planning to make a batch of just strawberry, and then experiment with a peach sauce since I have frozen peaches too. I really liked this over the yogurt and the fact that I can control the amount and quality of berries added to my yogurt!

 

food · reviews

Lemon or Lime cookies

So Richard had a bbq to go to after work today, I decided to bake cookies for him to take. Shocked? Yeah I’m sure his co-workers won’t be shocked either. Oh well, at least I’m predictable in a tasty way?

So I was originally going to make a make your own oreo recipe, but decided I didn’t want to deal with rolling out and cutting cookies. I had gone to the grocery store and picked up some lemons and limes. I decided to make lemon and/or lime cookies. I went searching on the web and stumbled across a recipe for Lemon Chewy Crisps.

Lemon or Lime Chewy Crisps Cookies (adapted from allrecipes)

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • zest of a lemon (or two limes)
  • juice of a lemon (or two limes)
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  1. preheat oven to 350
  2. cream butter and sugar
  3. incorporate egg, zest, juice, vanilla, baking powder and baking soda until blended
  4. add flour until just mixed
  5. scoop onto cookie sheet
  6. bake 10-12 min until edges start to brown
  7. let cool 1 min on sheet then remove to cooling rack

I made one batch of lemon and one batch of lime. I got about 22 cookies in each batch. While the color of the cookies were pretty much the same (oops guess I should have added a drop or two of food coloring), that is where the sameness ended. The lemon (right picture) ones didn’t spread much at all and ended up with a crinkled top. The lime (right picture) ones spread out more and had a smooth top. The lemon flavor was barely there just a hint of lemon to be found. The lime ones had a much stronger flavor.

I said to Richard “Now I need to go get an orange and try it with orange.”

I may try them again, we will see. I might have to search for a different recipe. I wanted something more crispy and these were certainly a chewy cookie.

 

reviews

Dos and Rage– card game reviews

I’m always on the hunt for new games to play.  Many nights we play a game together as a family before the boys go to bed. We have done this since they were little. We have a large selection of games. We play board games, card games, new game, old games and pretty much any game we have.

We really enjoy card games especially on nights that we do not have as much time to play. There is typically very little set up and not a huge learning curve.

I recently purchased two new card games…. Rage and Dos.

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We played Dos first. This is the squeal to Uno. We struggled with this game a bit as the directions seemed to be missing a few key pieces. We ended up pulling up a few you tube videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq1VgsYLFxQ) and that helped a great deal in understanding how to play this game.

When you play Dos you deal out 7 cards to each player Two cars are then turned up in the middle. On your turn you match the number on the card(s) in the middle. You can match it exactly or play two cards that add up to the number. If you match the color and number you get a color match which give you the opportunity to play an extra card down in the middle. If you play an addition set that is a color match (all three  cards are the same color), you get to  play an extra card in the middle and your opponents have to each take an new car for their hand. You have to say Dos when you have two cards left. First person to play all their cards wins. We haven’t played with scoring just yet since we tend to wait until we’ve fixed the learning curve first.

If you have ever played Oh Hell, 10 up/10 down, they you’ve played a game very similarImage result for rage card game to Rage. The directions on this game were very well written and we were able to figure it out after a few hands.

This is a trick bidding game with a few twists. The first round you deal out 10 cards, the next 9 then 8 and so on until you get to 1.

After the cards are all dealt, you turn the top card over and  that color becomes trump. You then bid on how many tricks you expect to take.

There are a variety of specialty cards that effect the trump that is used in that round a play. Some also effect the scoring. If you get the exact number or tricks you bid, you get an extra 10 points on your score.

Both of these games are a lot of fun. We played them with all four of us, and Colby and I played them just the two of us. It was better with more players, but just as good with just two players. I’m sure they will be pulled out often to play!

Do you play games with your family? What games do you like to play?

book · family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

P B & J sandwich cookies

cookies

If you follow my blog on Facebook, or follow me on Instagram (@teacherturnedmommy), then you know I baked cookies yesterday!

I have been reading the Hanna Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. AJ at A Petite Slice of Life, mentioned that she not only had read these books, but made many of the recipes in the books. That was incentive enough to test one out myself.

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I just finished reading Blueberry Muffin Murder and one of the recipes in that book was  Peanut Butter Melts. One of the suggestions she made was turning them into peanut butter jelly sandwich cookies. Well…. as it turns out Richard, Colby and I had just talked about pb & J cookies this past week. When we were in Amish country we purchased 4 jars of jelly. Colby has been working on polishing off the strawberry jelly and loving it with peanut butter.

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Sooooo the baker in me decided to use another jar of jelly to make pb & j cookies.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies -adapted from Peanut Butter melts by Joanne Fluke

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • jar of jelly (I used raspberry)
  1. Preheat oven to  375
  2. Melt butter in microwave add both sugars and vanilla mix well
  3. Add baking soda, baking powder and salt. mix until incorporated
  4. Add peanut butter to the mixture
  5. Add in eggs one at a time
  6. Add flour and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated
  7. Use small cookie scoop to dish out the dough, put onto cookie sheet leaving space between balls. press balls flatter with the tines of a fork in a crisscross pattern
  8. Bake at 375 for 6-8 min (if making bigger cookies bake 8-10 min) cookies should just start to golden on the bottoms.
  9. cool 2 min on sheet and then move to cooling rack
  10. when fully cooled spread jelly on the bottom of one pb cookie, top with another cookie to make sandwiches.
  11. I then put all the cookie sandwiches in the fridge to finish cooling and let the jelly set up

P1000282Colby loved these cookies. He had one last night and then quickly packed another to have at camp today for snack. He really wanted to pack 2 cookies but since he was having a PB&J sandwich for lunch I didn’t think he needed two cookies. I”m sure he will have one as a snack when he gets back from camp today.

Richard said they had a really good peanut butter flavor and liked them. He took a tin of them into work today to share with his co-workers.

I would tell you my opinion, but I haven’t had any yet. I’m using my will power! As I’ve mentioned I’m trying to eat healthier, working out and following a specific program. I do get a cheat day and plan on having that this weekend, so trust me I’ll have one then!

 

food · life · reviews

More protein needed!

Ok so I mentioned on Monday that Richard and I have started using BeachBody’s Liift4. First of all let me tell you that my body hurts and I’ve only done two workouts! Today is our rest day. This program has M, T, Th, F workouts and then W, S, S are “rest days”. We plan on sleeping in on Wednesday and then working out at night with the boys on that day doing either core or cardio workouts.

I am also following their meal plan. I didn’t get the containers, I’m pretty good at portion control and I can measure if I need. They have provide a meal plan based upon your current weight that helps balance calories and type of foods consumed.

I’m allotted:

  • 3 veggies
  • 2 fruits
  • 4 proteins
  • 2 carbs
  • 1 healthy fat
  • 1 seed/dressing
  • 2 oil/nut butter

I’m drinking my shakeology for breakfast. Typically my shake is 1 protein, 1 carb, 1 fruit and 1 veggie. I use milk (1 carb and 1/2 an oil/nut butter), a fruit, spinach (veggie) and the shakeology powder (1 protein).

This leaves me 2 veggies, 1 fruit, 3 proteins, 1 carb, 1 healhy fat, 1 seed/dressing and 1.5 oil/nut butter for the rest of the day.

I have no problems with anything except the proteins. I will eat a portion of protein for lunch and one for dinner, but I have to fit in one more portion. Typically I’d grab nuts (those are considered healthy fats), cheese (also healthy fats), peanut butter ( oil/nut butter… oh and you only get 1 tsp in a serving), hummus (healthy fat)

They think of proteins more of meats and eggs. These are snacks to me. I can eat plain yogurt-yuck! I’d have to leave a fruit for this. I can have cottage cheese, which I like, but don’t want to have daily as a snack. They say to have tuna as a snack, but that doesn’t work in my mind… tuna is lunch not a snack.

Now I’m debating on making eggs for breakfast and then moving my shake for later in the day. But, I’m making the shake for Richard too in the morning, he drinks his on the drive into work. So it makes sense to just have mine for breakfast. Plus I’m used to having a smoothie for breakfast that is what I drank every day when I worked.

Ok people… help me how can I make find a way to have a protein snack?

book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit Part 2- parents and educators

I wrote a few week ago about reading the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. You can read that post here. I still haven’t finished the book, sorry it is going so slowly but it is deep and I feel like I need to read some and then digest it before reading more.

As the title of my blog states, going from being a teacher to being a mother is not always as easy as it sounds. When I read the section on teachers and helping children develop grit and such, I was like… that’s me… that’s how I run my class. I’m not sure I have provided my sons the grit they need, but that too is addressed in the book.

Angela Duckworth addresses parenting and the development of grit. She discussed two different types of parents. One being the parents of quarterback Steve Young. They pushed Steve to excel. They wouldn’t let him quit. Steve Young stated that he became a stronger player because his father pushed him to go beyond the basics. He was never satisfied with ok, he needed to be the best. It didn’t matter what he did, he had to do it to the best of his ability. One could state the Steve Young’s parents believed in the philosophy of tough love, they were there for their children, but the children had to step up and do beyond their best.

The second set of parents were the parents of Francesca Martinez, who is now a comedian in Britain. Francesca was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two. Her parents did not push her in any direction. They allowed her to figure out life on her own. The supported her and the decisions that she made. They allowed her to leave her formal education at 16 and focus on following her dreams of acting on tv. Her brother also dropped out of school to become a portrait painter. Her parents state that they didn’t over indulge the children nor did they spoil them, they believed in “no-nonsense parenting”, “follow your dreams parenting”.

While these parents may seem on opposite ends of the spectrum they have a few things in common. Both parents were child-centered in the aspect of putting their children’s interest first. They were not trying to relive their own dreams through their children. They supported their children and helped them, in very different ways, realize their true potential.

She encourages parents to develop a warm, supportive and respectful relationship with their children. There is a need for rules and high expectations to foster the grit needed for success. Children need to view you being gritty if you want them to become gritty. When children understand that everyone works hard in what they do and love to do they will understand that they too need to work hard.

We as parents need to look at effort, work ethics in their children. They need to show the same passion and perseverance in their own life. We need to model that the effort is just as important if not more important than skill/talent. We need to stop praising children for each step, but instead point out what they could do to make things better. Not being super criticizing, just letting them know you know they can do more.

In the classroom you will often see teachers tell their student that they know they can do more/better than they are doing now. I often could be heard telling my stuggling readers that I know they can read, that I need them to realize they can read. That I need them to do x,y,z to become stronger at whatever topic/subject we are working on at the time. An outstanding teacher sets the bar higher than each child can achieve and pushes the individuals to reach and exceed the bar.

The challenge with parenting is so often you are just excited to see the littler steps in your children. You find yourself cheering the children on for each step instead of pushing them to see where they can grow. As parents we often forget to set the bar high enough so the children have a place to grow towards. Do we show our children what we are working towards? Do they see that even adults need grit? That each step of the process is a step towards a long term goal? She states that we need to create an environment that acknowledges the rule “If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t, you won’t”. Parents need to stop making life easy for their kids and start helping their children see that hard work pays off.

Angela Duckworth discusses that with her own children she talks about them each having a ” A Hard Thing” to work on. The children have to pick their own hard task, and they had to stick with it for the whole season/session/ whatever you paid for. She has one daughter who found her hard thing in playing the piano as her hard thing. Whereas her other daughter has bounced around trying a variety of different things, finally landing on the viola. She also explained to her children that her work and her husband’s work were their hard thing and that they worked hard at the things needed to be successful in  their careers. The parents also have a physical activity that they consider their hard thing.

Duckworth discovered that colleges and universities look for students who stick with activities. They also discovered through research that students who stick with a given activity for at least two years in high school are more likely to be successful in the college years. This shows an additional level of grit.

How can we help? Stop focusing on and praising the steps. Show how they can improve and get better going forward. Give children specific tasks to work on and improve. Model grit and the understanding that hard work pays off. Provide opportunities for children to choose their hard thing and then have the stick with it. Let them interact with others (teachers, coaches, etc…) who can push them to excel and see their own potential. Recognize that finding the right thing is hard, but it is necessary. When you have passion for something you have the drive to work hard. You want to succeed and move forward in the learning of the activity.

I promise at least one more post on grit once I finish the book!

food · through my camera lens

Grandma’s Shortbread Cookies– Fantastic Bake Along

I have seen AJ at A Petite Slice of Life participate int he Fantastic Bake Along, on It’s a T-Sweet Day. for so many months. This time I decided to join in the fun!

They post a recipe for everyone to follow. You bake the recipe during the week and then post your results on your own blog on Saturday. It’s that easy.

This month’s recipe was Grandma’s Shortbread Cookies. This recipe had 4 ingredients… seemed fool proof to me… yeah I should have know that wasn’t the case, but hey whatever.

So I started baking.

Grandma’s Shortbread Cookies

  • 1/2 c corn starch
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 c AP flour
  • 3/4 c. softened butter
  1. sift corn starch, flour and sugar
  2. mix in butter with a wooden spoon until blended into a soft dough
  3. form into the shape you want
  4. bake 300 for 15-20 min until the edges start to brown
  5. cool on a wire rack

I decided to add a tsp of cinnamon to give them a bit more flavor. I also rolled the cookies in cinnamon sugar

When I mixed my dough it didn’t form anything…. it was a flaky powder mess. I ended up adding another 1/4 cup of butter and then it finally came together. I don’t know what happened it seemed as if there was WAY too much dry to the butter ratio.

So I tossed the dough into the fridge for 15 min and then I was able to manipulate it enough to create cookies.

I made one batch as rolled cookies and a smaller batch of slice and bake style.

The first batch was not even close to browning at the 15 min mark. They also had spread out too much. I should have started by adding a tablespoon of butter at a time to see if I could bring the dough together instead of just jumping into adding the extra 1/4 cup.

 

The cookies spread sooo much. Then the strange thing was they were a crumbly mess and were falling apart when I tried to take them off the silpat. I guess this attempt was a flop for me… oh well I tried!

I hope everyone else had better luck than me. Please go check out the other bloggers who tried out this recipe!