Homegrown Texan

Born and raised in Texas, I've found the home of my heart and soul in the Pacific Northwest. I love trees, cool weather, and rain. I'm a back to basics kind of gal just trying to raise my family and find a bit of time to slow down in this hectic life.

Sad...that I didn't get to be at home for my kids' early childhood, and that I don't get to be home for their summers. Yes, I work from home, but I'm holed away in my office where I really don't get to see them.

Tired...of the hot, dusty summers. I hate the heat, especially when there is SEVEN MONTHS of it, and I hate dust. I really do hate it here.

Depressed...that my job is so uncertain, but even more important and frightening, that I can't seem to get motivated to look for another job.

What I really want: to be a stay at home mom. To volunteer at my kids' school, or homeschool my kids (in a very interactive, make sure they are involved in activities with other kids sort of way, not a reclusive sort of way). To grow our own food. To be nearer my parents. To be somewhere cooler and more green. Some of these things are mutually exclusive, I know, but I can't even seem to get one thing right at this point.

I feel so beaten down right now, I don't even know how to move. I know I'm the one who has to change my life, but I don't know how. I don't know what to do.

I love Indian food/curry, but have never known how to make it. Several years ago I spent hours researching recipes, bought all sorts of ingredients I knew nothing about, and slaved away in the kitchen in an attempt to reproduce one of my favorite Indian restaurant dishes: palak paneer. What I came out with was the most bland, tasteless thing on the planet. Being unfamiliar with the spices, I had no idea what to do to correct it. We opted to go out, and that meal has gone down in history as my Worst Meal Ever. Seriously. And I've been afraid to try it again.

Then a few months ago, we invited Leaner to our house for burgers. I asked her to bring a side dish, and she brought a curry with cauliflower, potatoes, and green peas. I've never been much of a cauliflower or green pea fan, but in the interest of being polite, I took a small portion. And oh. my. god. That was the best stuff, ever. I didn't even know I was eating usually-hated vegetables. I seriously could have eaten the whole pot of the stuff. She was gracious enough to give me her recipe, and told me that garam masala is the secret ingredient (and was even nice enough to pick some up for me from the market she buys it at....nice, wasn't she?). I haven't made that exact recipe, in fact I'm embarrassed to admit that the first time I used it was a trashy eats rendition of ramen noodles I threw together for lunch one day (but they were yummy ramen noodles :) ). However today I was trying to figure out a way to use some quinoa I've been wanting to try, and it occured to me to try the curry again. And it was *delicious*.

You'll have to bear with me here because I don't really measure, so all amounts are approximate

Curried Potatoes & Spinach with Quinoa
- Enough cooked quinoa for the number of people you want to serve; about 1/4-1/3 cup dried quinoa per person
- diced potato; about 1 small per person
- chopped fresh spinach (you could probably use frozen); about 1.5 cups per person
- chopped nuts (optional)
- olive oil
- salt
- onion, diced (I used dehydrated minced because my onion turned out to be rotten on the inside) about 1/4 onion per person
- garlic, 1-2 cloves per person (I love garlic), minced
- garam masala
- broth (I used chicken, but you could also use veggie)
- goat cheese or yogurt for topping (optional)

Cook the quinoa, 2 to 1 ration of water to quinoa. Cook it like rice (covered); it will take about 20 minutes once it starts to boil. Be sure and rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve before cooking to rinse the natural saponin coating off (the saponin gives it an unpleasant bitter flavor).

Sautee the onions and diced potatoes in olive oil. Cover with a lid to help the potatoes steam a bit. After about 5 minutes, sprinkle about a spoonful per person of garam masala add in the minced garlic, salt to taste, and stir to combine. Add in enough broth to cover the pan. You don't want a real brothy sauce, the broth is just to give the dish a little moisture. Cover.

When the potatoes are almost done (about 10 minutes later) add in the chopped spinach and nuts. Stir to combine and cover to allow the spinach to steam about (about 3 minutes).

Here is what it looked like when I added the spinach in:

Once the spinach is wilted, serve over the quinoa. I've discovered that I love goat cheese combined with curry, so I crumbled some of that on top. Yogurt would also work well, or you can skip them both.

After the spinach has wilted; this is ready to serve:

If you like heat you could add in some diced peppers with the onions, or fresh on top as a garnish.

Here it is plated up. Unfortunately my camera flash tends to wash things out when I take close up shots.

Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitter patter
goes the rain outside. The open doors allow the cool rain-scented air to permeate the house. I know it is short-lived, that soon we will be back to the punishing, scorching desert heat.

But for now, I enjoy the clouds and the rain.

I'm a bit of a snob about coffee. Perhaps it is because I've always had *good* coffee. When I first started drinking it, I, as usual, was trying to emulate my dad. Of course I only drank it black. That's how my dad drank it and it just wouldn't do to drink "wuss coffee". I thought it tasted vile, but I drank it anyway. And I grew to like it. I loved the smell, the way the warm mug (must be a ceramic/glass mug, never plastic!) felt in my hands, and the way the flavors swirled on my tongue.

When I was 16 or so, I went to work in an office where they had regular ole Folger's coffee. It smelled good and I thought "it can't be that bad". But, oh, let me tell you, it was. It was a small office, just me and the accountant I worked for. He was a very nice man and after saying I was a coffee drinker, I couldn't bring myself to tell him his coffee, well, sucked. But I could hardly stomach it, so I drank it with cream. That tempered the nasty edge the coffee had. I never drank my coffee with sugar. I've tried it, but I just don't like the taste of it.

Now I like my coffee, even my *good* coffee, with cream. Usually at home I just use milk, but occasionally I'll treat myself to cream or half and half. During the work week, I drink it from a sturdy mug. But on the weekends, I like to use a dainty little cup Jim bought for me at a school auction. It makes me feel like I'm treating myself. It's pretty and girly, which is usually not me, but I like it.

Unfortunately, this is an example of why I'm not a photographer...the color washed out a bit too much. Maybe it's also an example of why I need a better camera (or at least one with more adjustments on it).

Don't those beans look gorgeous? I love a good, dark roasted coffee. I also try to find organic coffee, because most conventional coffee is treated with pesticides. I don't really want to drink bug spray with my coffee. That just doesn't sound good, and it can't be healthy.

My friend Dawn recently visited me from Canada. She works in a coffee shop there, and brought me a bag of the coffee that they brew there. She chose one of their darkest roasts, because she knows that I like that. And oh, that stuff is heaven. So now, not only am I a coffee snob, I'm addicted to a local *Canadian* coffee. Thankfully, Dawn was kind enough to order a case of it for me (at wholesale cost!) and send it to me. Not very carbon footprint-friendly, but I couldn't resist. I just *love* this coffee!

It's from Kootenay Coffee Company, in Nelson, B.C. It smells delicious (the postman said he didn't even want to deliver it to me because it made his truck smell so good), and it tastes delicious. And I just love to say the word "Kootenay". Kootenay, Kootenay, Kootenay!

I have a big case of TGIF. I'm feeling very stressed and drained right now, and am really looking forward to vegging this weekend. My biggest goal is to play WoW all day tomorrow. Pretty pathetic, I know, but I need the time to decompress.

Sunday I'll do my usual grocery shopping at the farmer's market & Trader Joe's. I usually go every Sunday morning...I go to the farmer's market first, and then get whatever I couldn't find at TJ's (and Sunflower Market, if I need things from there). I didn't go last week because it was Mother's Day and for my day I chose not to have to go out into the heat. It was nice, but I will be glad to get back into my routine. Our eating this week has been thrown off a bit because of it. Jim went shopping for me on Monday or Tuesday, which was awesome, but there are some things I just need to be able to look at and decide on myself.

Oh, and I'll be doing laundry this weekend, as usual. I've stopped using the dryer to save on money and to try to eek more life out of the old one we have, which means I have to stay on top of the laundry because I'm using a drying rack that only holds one load at a time. So I can't let the laundry pile up and do it all in one day like I used to. But I really don't mind. Jim does the folding, which is the part I really hate. I actually sort of enjoy the quiet time outside when I'm hanging or removing the clothes (as long as I do it early in the morning or late at night, when it's not too hot).

Sunday is my mother-in-law's birthday. We did not go see her for Mother's Day (although Jim did take her to see Star Trek on Monday night). I felt sort of guilty about this, but it was my day too, and I don't really like going over to her house. She smokes, and so the whole house smells like smoke. It gets in my nose and hair and I can always smell it even after I leave until I take a shower again. It irritates my eyes, ears, and throat and I just don't like being over there. Plus she tends to have the TV on a lot, which I dislike. I hate having constant noise on. I'm not anti-TV by any means; I do have shows that I watch. But I don't like having it on all the time.

But I do feel like we should do something for her birthday. I'd actually like to make her dinner, as she has done for us so many times. I'd really rather make it at home, as I don't like cooking in her kitchen (nothing against her kitchen, it's just not mine; plus I'd have to haul everything over, and I'd invariably forget something). I'd like to make some salmon, rosemary risotto, and a salad. I wonder if she'd want to come over for that. She doesn't really like to leave her house any more than I like to leave mine, so it's a toss-up whether that would be at treat for her or not. I will ask Jim and see what he thinks.

Tonight is our weekly game night with the kids. We used to play board games, but we've sort of let it turn into Wii night. I'm not sure how I feel about that. They do enjoy the Wii, and we don't let them play it much at other times because we don't like them to spend a lot of time in front of the TV for entertainment. We prefer that they spend their time in actual play. And they are pretty good about it. But on the other hand, it feels a little bit less like together time when we play the Wii than it did when we played board games. I'm still figuring it out, but for now at least we'll keep it like it is.

Oh, and dinner. I had planned on making chile con queso & beans (something the boys love) for dinner, but we may be going out. The cheese sauce and beans I had portioned away aren't thawed because I forgot to set them out until a couple of hours ago, and I feel kind of brain dead, anyway. I could use some time out. So I guess I'd better get off of here and talk to hubby about dinner.

I've been posting some downers lately, so thought I'd focus on something positive. :)

Yesterday Nathan lost his first tooth! A few days ago he bit into something and cried out in pain. I looked, and his one of his bottom front teeth was quite loose. He's been avoiding chewing with that part of his mouth since then. Then last night he and Michael were eating (we usually eat dinner together, but I was having a bad day and didn't get it together to prepare a meal, so they were eating easy stuff) and I noticed them both hunting around on the floor for something. Turns out his tooth came out while he was eating. He didn't feel it anywhere, he just noticed it was gone. I told him he probably swallowed it (it was a little *tiny* tooth) and he immediately started bawling. I quickly recovered, telling him that if he left a note for the tooth fairy, she could look for it, because she's magic (more on just how magical she is in a minute). So I helped him write a note, he signed his name, and then he wanted me to add a request for what color his gem would be (again, more on that in a minute).

After the boys were in jammies, teeth brushed, and read to, we all congregated in their bedroom for a small ceremony. I turned out all the lights, lit a candle, and read a special poem. You see, in our house, the tooth fairy doesn't leave money. Something as dainty and magical as a fairy just doesn't carry around dollar bills, you know? Instead, she brings a gem:

This night it is a special night
As fairies dance upon the roof.
All the fairies must alight,
For Nathan just lost a tooth!

The Fairy Queen gives her commands-
Twelve bright fairies must join hands
Then together in a circle stands
To guard Nathan while he sleeps.

The Tooth Fairy into the circle leaps
The hidden tooth she takes
Ah, but has far to go
Before Nathan awakes.

Three times around the world she flies
Over valleys deep and mountains high;
Skirts the storm clouds thick with thunder,
Wings over waves all wild with wonder.

Deep within their earthly homes
Finally she finds the gnomes,
Who upon the tooth must work
Never once their duty shirk.

Some are hammering, hammering, hammering,
Some the bellows blow
Others sweat at the sweltering forge
And then cry out, "Heigh Ho!"

The tooth's been turned to a shining stone,
A glimmering, glowing gem
The tooth Fairy takes the gnomes' good gift,
And bows (curtsies) to all of them.
Before the sun's first rays are shown,
She returns to Nathans bed,
And then - - - away she's flown!

Ok, so the thing that I was so devastated about yesterday is that I found out my son's teacher may not be hired back next year. My son goes to a "Waldorf-inspired" charter school, and one of the unique things about this school is that the teacher follows the children for the 1st through 8th grades. 1st grade is kind of a funny year because it is the first year where the children have to, you know, sit down and do stuff (in kindergarten participation is encouraged, but not so forced as long as the child is not being out and out disruptive). So there is always a transition period for the children while they get used to the longer day and the new format. Add to this the fact that this was the teacher's first year teaching, and they had quite a learning curve ahead of them.

The first of the year I think may have been a bit chaotic. I think there were some children that had a hard time settling down. I know my son was bored with the drawing material (he's a talented drawer, so this didn't surprise me), and acted out because of it. The teacher was very gentle with him about it, we all sat down and talked. Michael learned that he needed to grow up a little and just deal with it, and the teacher did come up with some new things for him to do. So it all worked out. As we near the end of the year, I feel like the class has really hit it's pace. My son seems to be really excited about school again. I was very excited about next year. I talked with the teacher a few weeks back and he was telling me about some of his plans for the following year. I was really excited about the upcoming years, and felt lucky to have this new, fresh, excited teacher who seems to really care about the kids and want to just keep getting better. I'd much rather have someone like that, who makes some mistakes along the way, than someone who may be more polished overall, but is stagnate.

And then yesterday I found out that his contract most likely will not be renewed. I won't go into details because I'm not sure how much of what I know is supposed to be public knowledge. I will just say that I am about 99% certain that politics are involved. Which really pisses me off, because not only is he getting a raw deal, but the kids suffer. I am dreading telling my son that he won't have this teacher next year (I think maybe his teacher will tell him, but what I really dread is him having to find out, no matter the source). I know he was really excited about continuing on with him. The class is working on a play right now, and they are all excited about it, but for me it is so bittersweet. I have literally been in tears off and on since last night; last night I had to drink a triple shot of Scotch (something I rarely do) just to get myself drowsy enough to let sleep take over the churning that was going on in my mind. And then when I woke up, it was the first thing that popped into my head, immediately followed by this knot in the pit of my stomach.

I don't get to talk to the other parents very much, but Jim does. He hasn't heard any complaints about the teacher. And I know of at least one family who feels the same way that we do about it. I really hate politics and crap. I feel like there is something I should be doing. I feel like I should fight. I'm not a confrontational person, but this is big, and it involves people I care about. I care about this teacher as both a teacher, and as a friend. And obviously I care about my son. I just don't know what I can do, or at least what I can do that will make a difference.

Did you know that I hate the phone? Well, I do. When I was a little girl, I was actually scared to talk on the phone. I have no idea why. I remember the feeling, but I don't remember what I was afraid of, exactly. My parents would make me place phone calls in an attempt to get over this fear. I specifically remember one occasion where I wanted to go somewhere, and they told me I needed to call and make sure the place was open. My response? "Never mind, I don't want to go."

I'm not anywhere near that pathetic now. My first job out of college was working in the IT department for Motorola, which meant that I had to take lots of phone calls, so I got over any lingering fear of the phone pretty quickly. And now I telecommute full time, so I have to use the phone. I'm ok with it, but I still don't like it. I'd much rather use email or instant messaging.

I've been trying to figure out why that is. I think it's because I like to think things through before responding. When I'm on the phone, I feel put on the spot, and I don't like that. This really only applies to business type decisions. But I don't really like talking on the phone with my friends, either. Being a female, this is kind of weird. It's like, I have a mutant gene or something. I'm supposed to like talking on the phone. I don't feel put on the spot with my friends, per se. I think it's just that I'm not a particularly chatty person. Hmmm, that's not always true. I can sit and talk to some people forever. But sometimes I don't have anything left to say. Or just don't feel like talking. When I'm sitting with someone, small silences aren't weird. But they are awkward on the phone. I also don't know how to end the phone call. I feel like I have to have some acceptable reason to get off the phone. So I find myself looking for something, like "I need to make dinner" or "I need to put the kids to bed". If I don't have something like that going on, I panic, because then I don't know what to say besides "I'm tired of being on here, I want to go". Which feels rude. And it usually has nothing to do with the person on the other end, I'm just ready to be off.

I guess I'm just not a very verbal person. Maybe that's it.

I just found out some news that is very devastating to me, and that directly impacts my children.

No, no one died, or is terminally ill, or anything like that. And my children are fine and nothing has happened to them. I can't go into more details right now, but all I can say is I'm angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, and scared. I feel sick inside and can't wait until I go to sleep, because that's the only possible way I can think of to escape how I feel right now.