Banana Bread with Strawberries

Ah, good intentions. The road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions. I planned to share another in-season recipe last week, and the time and the baking got away from me. Here’s a recipe that used to include maraschino cherries. Now it has strawberries, very ripe and juicy, in a classic banana bread.

Banana Bread With Berries

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (one stick)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 ripe or very ripe bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour (whole wheat pastry flour is my favorite)

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 to 1 cup fresh, ripe strawberries

Directions:

Combine butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, bananas, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Mix in strawberries and chocolate chips. Add flour; mix well until all is moist. Pour into loaf pan or mini loaf pans (my favorite) or muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees. Large loaf pans: 50 minutes. Small loaf pans: 35-40 minutes. Muffin tins: 25-30 minutes.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Those red flags – the warning signs

We educators call them “red flags.”  They’re the metaphorical sticky notes in bright colors to call attention to a detail, an incident, an important event in a student’s record. Omar Mateen’s record – indeed, his life – was bristling with red flags.

Mateen was interviewed by the FBI not once, but three times.

Mateen’s ex-wife called him abusive and suggested he was mentally ill.

In his early school days, he was called “disruptive.” Educators noted that he seemed to feel no remorse. Terms like oppositional, lack of self-control, aggressive, rude, verbally abusive describe the young Mateen.

His middle and high school years were filled with suspensions. The details of these suspensions are not public, but include Fighting with Injury. 

His employment record wasn’t stellar, either. This guy had a background – a reputation, at the very least. From steroid use to inflammatory comments, he managed to get released from several jobs.

My concern, however, is that this young man showed signs of needing help when he was very young. His teachers, his counselors, the police school liaison officers, and most likely the administrators and deans all recognized that Omar was lacking somehow, somewhere. All those red flags! All that trouble! And then what happened?

Nothing. Despite behavior and emotional troubles, this young man went out into the world and earned a horrific place in the history books. He’s not the only mass shooter to leave a trail of red flags. 20/20 hindsight, people, isn’t enough. It’s time to pay attention. When educators point out students with potential for violence, it’s time for the world to listen.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Garden: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The good: Garlic is growing well.

The bad: Garlic isn’t full grown yet – no bulbs of multiple cloves.

The ugly: The onions nearby are too small, but seem ripe.

Good: Lettuce is starting to look good!

Bad: Spinach is notably absent.

Ugly: Broccoli has gone AWOL. Bunnies?

Good: We have a family of bunnies in the backyard!

Bad: The bunnies found their way into my peas and beans.

Ugly: We have a family of bunnies in the backyard!

Good: Baby raccoons are cute.

Bad: In a group, raccoons can open the compost bin.

Ugly: The neighborhood raccoon family thinks my compost is lunch.

Good: We have several farmers’ markets in my neck of the woods.

Bad: There’s a bad?

Ugly: A poor garden yield may drive me to the markets more often. More Often? I already go to at least two a week! This could be fun.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Fun with Planters

Folks who’ve been reading me for a while might remember that I had a papasan turned planter in my front yard. I now have a new-to-me papasan and a few more goodies.

Fun with flowers!

Fun with flowers!

On the table: a few herbs and an experiment: hula berries.

On the ground: purple hued grasses, hopefully due to grow taller. In front, the puppy with geraniums in place of doggie dishes. The puppy (a thrift store fun find) has faded in the years I’ve had him/her in the rock garden, but it’s always fun to find a pot or two to display in the pup. The other pot on the ground is actually a wooden bucket surrounded with what looks like bamboo or rattan. I picked it up at a rummage sale and thought it might look good next to the papasan. The table, with its rattan trim, came from the same sale.

I think this scene, so to speak, will evolve as the plants grow. I’ll share, I promise!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Dueling National Security Statements

Donald Trump, from Twitter: “Appreciate the congrats on being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

Congrats? Being right? What the…? Apparently, he’s feeling full of himself because he feels “right” about radical Islamic terrorism as he understands it. He can blame the 140 character limit for not explaining his so-called correctness and why someone might congratulate him in the aftermath of a horrific mass shooting.

It takes an ego like Trump’s to turn the worst mass shooting in United States history into a boost for himself. He didn’t specify how he’d been “right” or who had congratulated him or how he had received those congratulations. Frankly, no one knows if anyone gave him a boost or if any atta-boys were all in his narrow but active imagination.

Meanwhile, President Obama spoke. He expressed sympathy for the victims, their friends, and their families. He pointed out the courage of police and first responders who rushed in as others rushed out. Then, as he progressed in a statement that showed empathy for all involved and all affected, he reminded us of a terrible truth.

This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

As for actively doing nothing, Trump still opposes a ban on assault weapons. He thinks such a ban would prevent people from protecting themselves.

No one needs an assault rifle. Hunters don’t need them. Security guards don’t need them. Military inspired assault rifles have one purpose: to kill many people in a short period of time. As we spend time in prayers and in candlelight vigils, all of us need to become active. Prayers and candles will not stop mass killings from happening and indeed, from happening with increasing frequency.

It’s time to take action. Lawmakers, do you hear me? Radicalized, mentally ill, “disturbed,” no matter what the reason, our country needs to make it hard – no, impossible – for killers to gain possession of assault rifles.

It’s time to stand up and speak up, and then to make this killing machine illegal.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Mis-fortune cookie

Is it plagiarism when the fortune in your cookie has the first four lines of a Langston Hughes poem?

 

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

That was Chuck’s fortune. Mine just suggest asking a special someone out for a date. I think getting Chinese take-out was our date, actually.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Winter – and Prepping for Winter

I am a public school teacher. My work schedule coincides with the (arguably outdated) agrarian calendar. I start my school year at the end of August, and I end that school year in the beginning of June. I have my Summer “Off” in between.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a quote I’d heard on a fascinating television show called Unplugged Nation. The expert told the people starting their off-grid trial period that “Off the grid, there are two seasons: winter and preparing for winter.” I’m not off grid, but I can see the sense in this statement. Here at the O.K. Chorale, I spend a great deal of my summer prepping for winter, too.

I prep for winter to make my school year easier on me and the family. My workload, like that of teachers everywhere, is much more than the calendar might suggest. By canning and freezing foodstuffs all summer long, I save money, save time, and provide a better quality product for my family. Here’s an example: rhubarb.

Eating in season and eating locally means harvesting and cooking while it’s ripe. I make rhubarb desserts and rhubarb jams and rhubarb barbecue sauce each and every June. Any rhubarb left after that gets diced and stashed in the freezer. If you have a source of rhubarb growing like a weed in or near your home, here’s the rhubarb barbecue sauce recipe with a few Daisy twists.

Ingredients

8-9 cups of chopped rhubarb (approximately 9 pounds)

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1 medium jalapeno pepper, diced and seeded

2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup honey (local, of course)

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground or crystallized ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large pan and cook over low-medium heat until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Allow mixture to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning. Blend gently with an immersion blender until mixture is smooth.

Ladle sauce into clean, hot pint jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch head space. Add lides and rings on pint jars. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the jars to rest in the boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes. Remove the jars to a safe place (for example, on a towel at the back of the counter) to cool. Label and store after 12 hours.

To use rhubarb barbecue sauce: pour over a pork or beef roast in a slow cooker. Simmer all day until meat can be shredded with a fork. Serve on buns. Heck, serve any way you wish!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

It’s still complicated, but less so – My Hillary Factor

I poured my heart out in this post earlier in the presidential primaries. I reached a decision and voted in a manner I considered the wise way in Wisconsin’s primary.

Many local progressives, those people who are generous with their time and their skills, those who keep the local Democratic office running, are strong Bernie Sanders backers. Long-time readers will remember that I eventually supported Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012. I will support Bernie if he is the candidate in November.

However, this much hasn’t changed. Hillary has all the traits I value in a leader. She’s intelligent, strong, experienced, knowledgeable, and the list could go on and on. Hillary Clinton would be an excellent president of the United States.

She still has baggage, but I’m coming around to realize that her baggage speaks to the depth of her experience.

Benghazi: She knows what’s going on in the world. She understands how dangerous certain regimes can be. Hillary Clinton will not jump the gun and impulsively enter the U.S. into an unnecessary war.

Email-gate. She kept organized and communicated well with her staff in an updated manner, one that in hindsight wasn’t the best choice. Hillary now knows why cyber-security outweighs cyber-convenience, despite the fact that no leaks have come from her private server emails. Like it or not, she’ll work within the guidelines of government security cyber-advisers when she reaches the White House.

Her age and her gender. Her age and her gender are not Hillary’s issues; they’re ours. It’s up to me and my fellow volunteers to put forth the word that Hillary’s age is a positive and her years in and around the White House come as part of her package – a valuable package.

Her outspokenness. Let’s reword this one. Hillary Clinton is articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, and willing to speak up. When Hillary speaks, voters need to listen to the content of her speeches. Female or male, soprano or bass, her words are the words of experience.

Like her? That I like her is a bonus. The main attraction in this election needs to center on experience and knowledge. In that respect, the choice is easy.

Hillary, I’m on your side.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Conflicts Avoided on Facebook

Subtitle: What I didn’t say out loud.

I’d shared a picture of Paul Ryan with this quote attributed to the Speaker of the House: “Kids from single mothers turn into welfare moochers, criminals, and ‘takers’. The second picture showed Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton with a title announcing “We disagree.”

A buddy from my college days was offended. He ranted at me that I’d been unfair to Paul Ryan.

“He’s spent serious time in inner-city neighborhoods with no publicity, learning from people in the trenches about what works and what doesn’t about alleviating poverty and promoting sustainable development rather than soul-sucking dependency. There are other Republican office-holders (not to mention the radio blowhards) who fit the stereotyped line better, but Ryan is not one of them.

Though it should also be noted that children of single mothers ARE at higher risk for just about every kind of social pathology (low achievement in school, arrest and imprisonment, teenage pregnancy, poverty, divorce, drug abuse, etc.). Not all have those problems, of course, and there are children of intact families who do, too, but the overall rates are notably different. It’s hard to solve problems when you deny they exist.”

Deny problems exist? I teach. I’ve taught in public schools for 20 years now. I’ve worked with single parents, mothers and fathers, people who faced challenges the honorable Speaker can only imagine.

I could have reminded my angry old friend that I live in Wisconsin, Mister Ryan’s home state. Teachers who are also his constituents have written letters, blog posts, and more to show the Congressman’s lack of knowledge and real-life experience. The evidence I’ve seen doesn’t point to “learning from those in the trenches,” but rather creating his own truths and announcing his own generalizations.

Ryan is among those on the high road – at this point, at least. He and my own representative Reid Ribble have both denounced the narrow minded partisan bullying on Capitol Hill. However, I’ll stick to my guns: I experience and understand the daily struggles of families with one parent much, much better than my intelligent yet ignorant friend.

I didn’t respond to his post. I know what he meant, and I know which parts of his argument were inaccurate. Frankly, I keep him on my timeline to keep me informed of how people are thinking on the other side of many issues. It’s too bad he didn’t realize he was talking to one who lives and works in a field about which he knows little.

Readers, how do you react when confronted in this manner online? Leave a comment, please.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Beast – an encore

Have you seen this Monty Python movie? This character was our first pet rabbit.


Here’s a photo of the celebrity in our family — the Beast Like No Other, acting protective of his friend Tiny. In reality, this big bunny is the mellowist, most relaxed rabbit around. He uses his big teeth only to gnaw on carrots and broccoli.

That’s Tiny Bunny pushing his little face in the way so he can be in the picture, too. Both of these furry sweeties made awesome memories at the O.K. Chorale.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS