Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Barbeque Burgers

Weekend Cooking is Hosted by Beth @ Beth Fish Reads

There are a few recipes that bring back serious childhood memories for me: homemade biscuits with a slice of American cheese melted in the middle for breakfast, tenderized and fried venison and rice, ground chuck roast with carrots and potatoes, and the subject of this week's Weekend Cooking, Barbeque Burgers.

This is a quick meal that my mom used to make for us when we really didn't feel like hamburgers (the same ole same ole routine), but she needed a quick fix for supper or maybe even for a weekend lunch.
I had forgotten all about this simple recipe until my mom made it for my kids at her house.  They all were lickin their fingers, and a lightbulb went off in my head.

I start with a pan sprayed well with no-stick spray.
No-stick spray is one of those things I cannot live without.

Then I put my burger patties in, salt and pepper them and brown both sides.

After the burgers are browned on both sides, I drain off the grease.

And add the barbeque sauce...Kraft Honey flavored is my favorite store bought brand.

I actually use an entire small bottle of the barbeque sauce to coat all the burgers really well.

Then I put the lid on the pan and turn down the heat so that the burgers can soak up some of that flavor from the sauce as they finish cooking all the way through.

I flip the burgers again about half way through the "soaking" process...

About this time the smells are wafting through the house, and my kids start making these kind of faces and tummies start to growl...including my own!

This is what barbeque burgers look like when they are done.

I serve them with fries or with PW's Potato Skins, which are another family favorite.
The kids make the burgers however they want.
The Head of My Household eats his plain on a bun, several of us eat them on a bun with a little mayo, and my firstborn puts cheese on hers.

I don't understand the cheese part, but each to her own :)

Happy Cooking!

Snapshot Saturday - Creepy Critters at the Library

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce over @ At Home with Books.

The little girl in the white shirt reaching out to touch the snake is my youngest.  Once a month our community library has an after school program for children, and this past week was "Creepy Critters."

Lea the Gerbil, Larry the Lizard, Franklin the Turtle, Terry the Tarantula, and the Ball Python in this photo, whose name I can't remember (because I was fighting off a panic attack), were the visitors for the afternoon.

So grateful to our local high school teachers who took time after school to give our kids this experience!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Most Inspirational Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.   Of all the memes out there, it remains my favorite week to week. 

This week's theme, Top Ten Most Inspirational Characters, made me think about first how I define the word "inspirational." 

I've read a lot of books, and there are a lot of memorable (for various reasons) characters...but I would certainly not put all of those memorable characters in the "inspirational" category.  I've said before that I want to be changed in some way when I read a good book...I want it to affect me...if I'm going to invest time out of my life for the book, that's the least it can do ;)  An inspirational character for me is one that touches me that I can relate to in an intensely personal way or would like to be able to relate to more...and one that I do not easily forget.  See if the examples below help me make sense here:

1. Father Tim - The Mitford Series by Jan Karon - Father Tim is a kind, middle aged Episcopal priest who lives an easy, quiet way of life and appreciates the world around him and the simpler things in life.  I need lots of help staying calm...always have...Father Tim calms me and helps me focus on what's most important. 

2.  Jo - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Jo is full of big ideas, brash, and sometimes obnoxious but always means well.  Jo wants so much to be who she was meant to be...if she could just figure out who that is :)  She pushes through the hard times and rejoices in the blessings and celebrations...and can even find beauty in the most tragic life events. 

3.  Marmee - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Marmee is the so-called "perfect" mother who battles her own demons while trying to raise 4 very different daughters in a world that's not quite ready for outspoken, independent young women.  She also holds her household together alone...even when her husband returns, he seems to lean on her strength.  Her daughters don't always understand Marmee's steadfastness...but respect her just the same.

4.  Scout - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Most folks admire or are inspired by Scout's dad Atticus...and while he also inspires me, I connect more with Scout. Scout is a curious kid whose "ain't afraid of nothin' and stands up for what is right.  Scout is mischevious as well and doesn't take kindly to being told she can't do something because she's a girl.  Sometimes her tenaciousness gets her in a little too deep before she realizes she may have stuck her neck out too far.

5.  Francie Nolan - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - Francie is another scrapper...she reads as an escape from a troubled reality and sees education as the key to her future.  Francie doesn't really have any idea what "a better life" looks like but she's ready to go get it.  A smart girl, Francie learns the lessons of life the hard way, but because of those lessons knows nothing worth having is easily gained.

6.  Miss Love Simpson - Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns - Miss Love is a woman who has overcome obstacles that would have destroyed most women during the time in which Cold Sassy Tree takes place.  She is "stained" in other people's eyes, but she sticks her chin up (in public anyway) and rides it out.  She is a perfect example of putting one foot in front of the other day by day...even when there is no guarantee that things will get better.  She is rewarded for her perseverence in the end.

7.  Edna Pontellier - The Awakening by Kate Chopin - A lot of people won't understand why I pick Edna for inspiration because most people see The Awakening as a tragedy.  But I don't.  I believe the ending is to be interpreted more figuratively than literally.  Edna felt different and wanted more...she was ambivalent about what she should do about her difference, so she tried hard to be who she thought she was expected to be.  Edna is a perfect example of what happens when the world tries to squash the human spirit instead of honoring individuality. However, instead of being a victim of the world and dying a slow painful death in misery, Edna took charge of her own future.

8.  Penn Cage - The Quiet Game by Greg Isles - A successful attorney, Penn Cage, has lost the love of his life, his wife Sarah, to a slow drawn out death from cancer and is raising their daugher alone.  He moves back to his hometown to be near his own parents and bears his sorrow with quiet dignity.  Penn loves his family and his child with everything he is even as he finds himself fighting social battles ever present in his southern Mississippi hometown. 
9.  Kathleen Chandler - The Painted House by John Grisham - Kathleen is the main character Luke's mother in this very different Grisham novel...this one is not a courtroom thriller and is the best Grisham to date in my opinion.  Kathleen has always dreamed of being able to move away from cotton farming in rural Arkansas but doesn't spend her days pining away and whining about how hard her life is.  She is one tough mama and takes pride in everything she does and in her family.  She cooks, scrubs and works in the garden to make sure her family has the very best of everything they can possibly have.  Luke has most of the stage time in this novel, but he no doubt gets his "grit" from his mom.

10.  Jack Salmon - The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - I don't have a lot of patience for women who leave their matter what the reasons are.  I do have a lot of respect for Jack Salmon, and he is an inspiration to all parents...He exemplifies tough to me...he is able to keep his children's lives together as normally as possible after the disappearance and murder of their sister, his other daughter Susie and their mother's abandonment.  I cannot even imagine what kind of pain that a raw, open, throbbing wound I would guess.  I can't even think about it anymore.

Whew!...I'm 'bout inspired out...This one was deep!

Next Week at The Broke and the Bookish: Top Ten Books I Wish I'd Read as a Kid

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and NonViolence

In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must
forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I use the text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech in my Comp I class during our Persuasion/Argument unit.  I am surprised each semester by how many students (of all races) have never read or even seen the video clip of the actual speech.  This experience solidly reinforces to me the notion that history forgotten is history repeated; each generation removed from an historical event loses some of the emotional impact the event/person originally caused or generated. 

There is no other way, in my opinion, to explain the explosion of senseless violence that seems to have become so normal today.  If a person doesn't care for another person's way of life, political stance, race, culture, sexual orientation, etc, annihalating that person and everything/everyone he/she stands for seems to be the knee jerk reaction these days.  Nevermind the innocents who may also be destroyed in the process...just collateral damage, I guess.

It is possible for us all to live together in the world today, but a healthy dose of perspective and an open mind (even if just a crack at a time) are vital in a world where violence is no longer considered the first line of defense.

Maybe we should all have more dreams.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Salon #2 - Balancing Personal and Professional

This week has been a doozy...not a negative doozy...or a positive doozy...just a doozy.  We started with Winter Storm Warnings all weekend last weekend to which all the children in our Southern Mississippi school districts listened while panting and drooling.  The safest course of action in our area, which is better known for hurricanes than snow, was to cancel school on Monday, so that's exactly what happened.  Once the cancellation was official, my 6 year old (and even my teenagers) ran around like crazy people gathering mittens, boots, scarfs, etc...things we only usually get to use one day out of an entire year (if we're lucky).  Unfortunately, the precipitation moved in late Sunday night/early Monday morning, and much to my children's chagrin was only nasty slushy ice :p 
I wish you could have seen my youngest who jumped out of her bed at 6 a.m. and looked out the window hoping to see snow.
And the tears that followed :(

The rest of the week was pretty normal until Thursday and Friday...I traveled to the MS State Dept. of Education as a member of our state's Literacy Team (community college/adolescent literacy representative) to help write the draft of Mississppi's new Literacy Plan.  Our draft is due to the U.S. Dept. of Ed on Feb. 1, and we really made some serious progress.  I'm proud of what we've done and am honored to be a part of the process.   MS consistently ranks near or at the bottom in many, if not all, of the educational comparisons in the U.S.  I believe with this plan we are really and truly going to make a difference in the lives of the children in our state.  I will also continue to be involved as the transition/implementation takes place. 
Isn't that cool???

I have a couple more trips coming up to help other schools, community colleges this time, as they try to ramp up their students' literacy experiences.  This part of my work is actually my passion...there is an incredible misconception in the world today that literacy instruction ends once children learn to read.  I promise you don't want me to get into all the reasons that this misconception is completely false.  Of course, most of the readers of this post (as readers) will probably completely get what it is I'm trying to say.  But, you would be stunned at the number of people who don't get it at all.  Even within other content areas, students need continued support as they work to learn the "languages" of those other areas.  You don't read and comprehend a science text or lab report the same as a close reading of a literature text or read and comprehend an algebra problem (and yes, you do read these) the same as a historical timeline.  As text difficulty continues to increase, so should the amount of guidance that students receive within each of their classes...and not just in an extra English or reading class.
See, I told you that you didn't want me to get started.

My first trip is to KY...I could almost make this trip within 24 hours...but to keep my sanity I'm spending one night in a small community very similar to my own.  I'll be working more with this school in the future via long term professional development, so I'm looking forward to getting to know the admin and faculty that will be involved in their project.
My 2nd trip, however, is to San Francisco...I have no earthly idea how many times I've been to SF and Oakland in the last 5 years.  For 3 years straight I was there every other month working for the Lumina Foundation on another literacy project.  As cool as SF is and as much as I have enjoyed visiting over the is a long way from home.  My upcoming trip (still 2 1/2 weeks away) is 6 days :(  And I am already anxious about it.  It's not the work; the work is fabulous...a group of people with the same passion as mine...who pay me to go out into the world and sing my song :)
I'm just a big ole baby, I guess.
My name is Peppermint, and I am a homeaholic.

On the personal reading side of things I'm responding really well to my new reading/blogging schedule.  I've got myself under just enough reading guidelines and challenges to keep me focused...and that is exactly what I intended :)
I seem to be on a roll with Ebooks and may finish that challenge in a couple of months! Yikes!
I finally had the guts to DNF Traveling with Pomegrantes and select another audiobook in its place, South of Broad by Pat Conroy.  My mom gave me My Reading Life by Pat Conroy as part of my Christmas loot, so I decided to read something by him before I read something about him.
My reviews of Little Men and Four to Score are almost complete...very different books indeed.  The Stephanie Plum mysteries are such fast reads that I may hold off on posting my Four to Score review until I'm finished with the 5th book.  We'll see.
I'm struggling a little with Christy Jordan's cookbook, Southern Plate...I'm reading/cooking from it as an Okra far I'm just not impressed...does this ever happen to you?  What the heck do I do...just not write a review? or write a review and explain why I wasn't impressed?? HELP!
A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollenstonecraft is giving me a run for my money...I'm really into it, but I find myself reading certain parts over and over again, and I just about decided last night that she is saying some of the same things over and over again. The perspectives of all the other members of the Feminist Classics Book Club are also mind stretching, and there are members who've even provided even more background documents for our perusal as we try to get inside MW's mind as she was writing this seminal feminist publication before the word "feminist" was actually even a word.
This next week will be another doozy as I prepare my own students for their beginning of the semester assignments and psyche myself up to travel.

Better go put my "big girl britches"on :):)