Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A realization at Rubio's

My Tuesday night class, which focuses on inclusive educational practices and special education, has a student population composed of all the master's students in my program. This means that, possibly for the first time in the program, those of us getting our single-subject credential (and M.Ed.) are taking classes with those getting their multiple-subject credential (and M.Ed.) and the students getting their M.A. in ASL-English bilingual instruction (most of whom are deaf).

As I was waiting for my fish tacos to be made ($1 Tuesdays are the best), I noticed two of the deaf students signing to each other while standing in line. One got our her cell phone, one of those nice ones with the qwerty keyboards, and quickly typed up a message. Once they got to the cash register, she showed her phone to the cashier, who was able to take their order without a hassle.

I was really struck by the how much easier technology must make day to day interactions for those who sign. Perhaps more so than ever before, the world revolves around written conversation. People prefer to e-mail or text than to talk on the phone, so who cares if someone can't hear? (R and his family preferentially speak to each other over AIM, though lately Skype has been more popular in order to see the baby.) Obviously, I'm not speaking from experience here and in no way belittling deafness, but it does seem like things are getting better for those who are deaf. The world is online, and online is a world of text and images.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Here's hoping my plants make it through the day

Current temperature at my house: 87°F
Forcasted high: 95 °F

I thought it seemed awfully warm this weekend! Luckily, they say it will be getting cooler starting tomorrow. In other exciting climate news, one of the canyons by my house was on fire yesterday again.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Growing Challenge #9: Harsh lessons

In the time since I repotted, things have not been going so hot in my garden. Well, in truth, it's been too hot, which is probably why everything is dying. The fact that all the animals seem to remember my delicious garden from last year and are visiting earlier means that anything that hasn't died from the heat gets eaten. Radishes? All gone. Peppers? Withered. A couple of the tomatoes I started from seed survived, but only in the shadier places in the garden.

If I were going to be staying in San Diego, this would be a valuable lesson for me, but since I'm not I'll just share it with you all with the hope that it will help out someone else.

The lesson:
Start seeds early. Really early. You want them to be large enough to plant by February or so, when our tiny rainy winter ends. By the time April rolls around, it's pretty hot if you're not living right on the coast, so you want the plants to be big enough so that they can tolerate the heat.

I wound up picking up some (larger) plants while I was at Target today, because I still want to grow something, even if I didn't grow it from seed. Hopefully these ones will do a little better than my smaller plants did. I'm also thinking of planting some radishes along the margins of some of my planters. Assuming they're not eaten, they should be ready to harvest before the tomatoes and peppers get too big.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Funniest response yet

The reply cards have started to trickle in. I don't think the one I got today was meant to be humorous, but it struck me as freaking hilarious.

Bless you two -- Hope and pray you do better than your mother and [uncle].

Ah, family. You've got to love 'em.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Little bag of bones

My poor little kitty has been withering away. At first I thought it was all in my head, but as time went by we started to be able to clearly feel her spine. I tried tempting her with different foods, treats, and other goodies, but to no avail. She's meow hungrily whenever it looked like we were heading to the kitchen, but would give up after a bite or two.

I've spent the last two afternoons at the vet. As it turns out, my little kitty lost about a third of her body weight. She went from 11.6 pounds to 7.6. Poor baby! As it turns out, when cats stop eating (for whatever reason, perhaps due to an illness) it starts to mess with their liver, which in turn keeps them from eating. A vicious cycle, but I'm glad its not anything serious (though I do wish we had figured that out prior to all the expensive tests).

In any case, I've now got to keep her fed and hydrated until her appetite returns. I now know how to:
  • give pills
  • force feed
  • administer subcutaneous fluids

I've become quite the medic. Luckily, I've got a pretty compliant patient. The subcutaneous fluids are pretty hilarious, though, as they form a big liquid bulge by the cat's elbow. It's squishy!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Recipe Review: Steamed Asparagus with Ginger Garlic Sauce

You can tell you've found a good restaurant when after you return home, almost painfully full, you start planning your meal for the next trip. For the longest while, R and I have been searching for good Chinese food in our area. There is one restaurant we know near downtown San Diego, where R grew up, but that is a bit of a journey just for dinner. Thanks to some adept map searching, though, we were able to find a place just a few blocks away that is totally awesome.

What does all that have to do with a recipe for asparagus? Well, this evening we dined on the leftovers, but I needed a little more food to round out the small containers of broccoli beef and spicy honey chicken. I remembered that I had a half pound of asparagus in the fridge and so I tried out a scaled-down version of steamed asparagus with ginger garlic sauce. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the other items on the plate, or perhaps it's just that roasted asparagus is hard to beat, but I didn't find the recipe all that memorable. Not bad, but I didn't think it was really worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Recipe Review: Chocolate Banana Bread

Ever since R introduced me to TasteSpotting, I've been inundated with recipes. I try to only bookmark the ones that I might actually make, but my "New Recipes" folder is staring to bulge. This recipe, though, was too delicious to wait. As soon as you've got some ripe bananas, make it! I'm on my second slice of the evening and can tell you that you won't regret it.

Chocolate Banana Bread
Adapted from You Say Tomato... I Say Tomato (who in turn adapted it from Nigella's Banana Bread, How to Be a Domestic Goddess)
  • 1/2 c dried blueberries
  • 1/4 c whiskey
  • 1 1/4 c plain flour
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 small very ripe bananas
  • handful of chocolate chips
  • handful of pine nuts
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 23x13x7cm loaf pan, buttered and floured or with a paper insert

1. Put the dried blueberries and whiskey in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, cover and leave for an hour if you can, or until the blueberries have absorbed most of the liquid, then drain.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and get started on the rest. Put the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended.

3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas and chocolate chips. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the pine nuts, drained blueberries and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.

4. Scrape into the loaf pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 1-1 1/4 hours. When it's ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out lacking in dough. Leave in the pan on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Recipe Review: Chicken and Asparagus with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce

Ah, my cookbook addiction. If you're part of a family that cooks then you know what I'm talking about. Every occasion is a reason for a new cookbook, every birthday, plus a few more on the side. I recently found a delicious looking recipe for Korean beef on fiery Chinese cabbage which looked delicious and led me to an out of print cookbook that, thanks to Amazon, I was able to order anyway.

Out of the many recipes I tagged once I got the book, the chicken and asparagus with mustard-tarragon sauce seemed the easiest, most seasonal, and least likely to offend the palates of my roommates, and indeed that is what it wound up being. Good, though I think it could have used a little more soul. Perhaps I should have served it on wild rice or seasoned rice, as it suggested, instead of plain white rice. I also substituted sherry for vermouth, which might have changed some of its essential character. Still, a nice dish. Something I would probably make again.

Chicken and Asparagus with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce
From On Rice: 60 Fast and Easy Toppings That Make the Meal by Rick Rodgers
  • French rice or steamed rice, preferably made with long-grain rice or wild rice
  • 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into strips 2" long and 1/2" wide
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/3 c finely chopped shallots or scallions, white parts only
  • 1 lb medium asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 c homemade chicken broth or low-sodium canned broth
  • 1/3 c dry vermouth or white wine
  • 1/3 c sour cream
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 t chopped fresh tarragon or 3/4 t dried tarragon
1. In a medium bowl or plastic bag, combine the flour, 1/4 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper. Toss the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. In a large (12") nonstick skillet, heat 1 T of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

2. Add the remaining 1 T oil to the skillet. Add the shallots and stir until softened, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus and 1/2 c broth. Increase heat to high. Cover and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the asparagus with the cooing liquid to a bowl and set aside.

3. Return the chicken strips to the skillet. Add the remaining 1/2 c of the broth and the vermouth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.

4. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, mustard, and tarragon. Stir into the skillet. Return to the heat and cook until just heated though, but not boiling, about 1 minute. Stir in the asparagus and its liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Spoon the rice into individual soup bowls. Top with the chicken, asparagus, and sauce and serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings. (In reality, it served the thee of us with no leftovers.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008


My grandmother's birthday is tomorrow, as is my step-mom's, so today the family got together for a celebratory brunch. In the midst of opening presents, my grandpa slipped my grandma a small wrapped box. Inside, she found a white jewelry box. You could see her multitude of wrinkles soften and her eyes glitter when she realized what she had been given.

Sitting in the box was a diamond engagement ring.

My grandparents had gotten married as adults (their wedding was when my dad met my step mom for the first time, 25 years before they got married themselves), and apparently Grandpa had never given Grandma an engagement ring. So now, 30 years later, he gave her one. Isn't that sweet?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How to make a bottle biome

Aaaand we're back! PACT (due on the 14th) and wedding invitations (for some reason, I have to get them out this week, though I don't understand why I feel that way) conspired to wipe me off the face of the blogosphere, but now that they're basically out of the way I'm free to answer my fan mail.

Okay, so fan mail might be too big of a word, but I did get a request for instructions on making a bottle biome. Hope I'm not too late to be of help!

Step 1: Find 3 clear 2 L soda bottles (the green ones work, too, but not quite) and remove their labels. Cut bottle #1 near the top, after the point where the sides start to curve inward. Cut bottle #2 near the bottom, before the point at which the plastic changes density and becomes really hard to cut. Cut bottle #3 near the top, before the point at which the sides start to curve inward. You'll probably want to start the cuts on all of these with a razor, then continue with scissors.

Step 2: Bottle #1 is going to be your aquatic section, so if you want to take any measurements or mess around with it later you should cut a hole in the side. The easiest way to do this is to stick a small piece of lumber into the bottle and cut out a square of plastic using the razor blade, cutting against the wood so that you don't cut your hand off. Keep the piece of plastic and tape it in place, so that the compartment can remain sealed while you're not taking measurements.

Step 3: Using a decently thick nail (not those tiny ones from Ikea), hammer a hole into the cap of bottle #2 (you should probably take the cap off for this and hammer the nail into that piece of wood you used in step 2). Thread a pre-soaked piece of cotton string through this hole. This will serve as a wick, carrying water from the aquatic chamber into the terrestrial chamber, so you need to have enough string to reach the water below and still make a decent loop above. Using a thumbtack, poke some holes in the part of bottle #2 near the cap, so that water will be able to drain out of the terrestrial section (but not so far up that they will be open to the outside world. Put all the pieces together, fill with some dirt, water the soil, and let it drain prior to putting the whole thing together (if you don't, your water will be really funky).

Step 4: Put all the pieces together. Fill bottle #1 with water (dechlorinate if needed), and then add aquatic plants and fish. Place bottle #2 on top and tape the two together. Plant terrestrial plants and add any bugs or tiny animals you might like. Finally, cap with bottle #3 and tape the whole thing shut, forming a nice tight seal (packing tape is good for this). Place in a sunny spot and enjoy!

Disclaimer: This project involves a razor blade and a hammer. I take no responsibility for your actions or safety. If you cut yourself or smash your wee little fingers, it's your own damn fault.