Be Happy Anyway

Be Happy Anyway
From Brave Girls Club

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Mistress of Make Do

One of my favorite online/TV people is Ree Drummond - AKA The Pioneer Woman. When I need something tasty, I often choose her recipes over those of other celebrities like Martha Stewart or Ina Garten. The PW makes meals that aren't complicated but full of flavor and appeal to everyone in my family.

The easiest recipe I have found on her site is for oven roasted potato wedges. The problem with most recipes in my house, however, is I don't always have all of the ingredients. This means I either have to forego the recipe or make do with what I have in the pantry. This weekend like most weekends was a make-do kind of day.

I really wanted to have potatoes, but when I looked through the pantry and fridge, I found I was short ingredients like olive oil. I also am not eating butter this month (say it ain't so!). This left me wondering what to do. I then looked in the closet and found a jar of coconut oil. I couldn't figure out how to pour a solid over potatoes. Then it hit me, Warm it up! After melting it in the microwave for a few seconds, I poured it over the potatoes and mixed in a variety of seasonings  I found in the cupboard (salt, pepper, garlic powder, cajun seasoning) before throwing it in the oven 450 degrees on a foil-lined pan that I sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

The result? Golden tasty potato-y goodness.
 Straight out of the oven - hard to resist burning the fingers.


The Mistress of Make Do is in love with these potatoes, and they are perfect for my current Whole30 way of life. I might have to make them every week.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Reason #2367 Why I Don't Sleep

I was asleep until my cell phone rang. It was my house phone calling. Why is my house phone calling? Hello? Hello? James is that you? Click
Me: (debating whether to get up or not and finally getting up to look for the phone.)
James, why do you have the phone?
James: I thought there was someone looking through my window?
Me: (confused how he saw someone in the window with the lights off, dark outside and the view of the  window blocked by a bookcase. )
Give me the phone. (Hanging it up and heading to bed)
James: Sorry, mom.
Me: Goodnight  (but now I'm curious. Did he really see someone? Dang it! Putting on winter coat and boots, I head outside with the phone as if I could do anything)
NOTHING

Now I lay awake when I should be asleep since I have class tomorrow morning. And people wonder why I don't leave him home alone.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I guess that's so. When you look at photos taken by Ansel Adams or Annie Liebowitz, they definitely tell a story. The only difference between your photos and photographers like these two is you may never see yourself in a museum or on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. That doesn't diminish the stories that your photos tell.

Take for example this photo that showed up in my newsfeed today. What do you see?


The man was my Sweetie Bobby. He would have turned 50 on Monday.

The car was his pride and joy. There was a carwash near his house that offered a rain check up to three days after your first wash. He used that raincheck and would upgrade to a full wash every time. When asked what kind of air freshener, he would always get New Leather. He took very good care of it, making sure to get the oil changed as directed and rotating the tires regularly. He needed to do this because his job had him driving long distance, and every three weeks he drove nine hours through the West Texas heat to see me.

In addition to the car, I see plaid shorts and gray trainers. He was a khaki pants, "dad jean" wearing kind of guy. He felt dressed up if he wore Dockers deck shoes. Bobby let me dress him, choose his clothes and even his shoes. So when I see those plaid shorts, I smile because it shows how much he valued my opinion.

Another thing I notice are his calves. When he would go to the gym, he would get on the elliptical machine and bang out the miles. He would call me after the gym and rib me about how many calories he had burned. Bobby also learned about spin class at the gym. There was something about the loud music and frenetic pace that grabbed his attention.

You may notice he is taking a picture. It was probably with an iPhone. That man loved technology, especially his Apple products. I once converted him to Android but it was short-lived. When the next iPhone came out, he immediately switched. His dining room was not a dining room. It was his technology center where he took apart computers or experimented with Raspberry Pi circuits.

Lastly, you will see that this photo was taken in the mountains. Bobby loved the outdoors, camping with his youngest and traveling. This trip was to the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains. When the instructors taught about the planets, stars and satellites, Bobby was all ears. As we left, he was already talking about the next time.

So I challenge you. Find a photo you haven't seen for a while. Look at it carefully. What story does it tell you?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

But You Are so White!

I've heard that many times in my life, and today wasn't much different.

It's actually a funny story. There is a girl who calls me mom. I never did get a chance to officially become her mom because Bobby and I never married. Nonetheless, LM is one of my children.

LM called me today while Caitlin and I were driving down the highway, and just like my other two kids, if she needs me, I'm usually going to do what I can for her. Her question was a funny one. "You speak Spanish, right?" Now the answer to that is a complicated one, but yes, Spanish words have been known to come out of my mouth. So I tell her I do and ask her why. Well, it seems while she was having a garage sale, there was a man there interested in buying a car she had. However, he only spoke Spanish. I tell her I am five minutes away and head over there instead of going to Hobby Lobby.

When I get to the garage sale, I introduce myself to the man who starts talking a mile a minute in Spanish. Uh oh! I give him my overwhelmed look, and he begins to slow down. I tell him what I can about the car, relay his questions to LM and her boyfriend R, and try to translate back to the man what R said. It's quite comical listening to me speak in Spanish at the level of a three year old because I clearly don't know how to say things like timing belt and battery. My Spanish is limited to asking where the bathroom or library is or telling someone that Juan is wearing brown pants. Nevertheless, we settle on a date for the man to come back and see the car when the garage sale isn't going.

As he and I walk away, he thanks me and wonders aloud how I learned Spanish. I explain that my parents are both Puerto Rican but I grew up here (Texas) to which he responds with the typical, "You're so white."

Growing up in America with Puerto Rican parents, I have learned a few things. 1) There are people of many races in Puerto Rico. 2) That seems to be the truth in any country. 3) Even Hispanic people can be ignorant to the fact that Latin American people come in many colors.

And this is why I gave this man my usual response. I nodded and smiled.

Some of my many Puerto Rican cousins. (2005)

Friday, January 1, 2016

OLW - GROW

It's that time again, time to reflect on the past year and decide what kind of progress I've made. My word for the year was FORWARD. Even though I didn't write about it at all, I feel I have managed to move forward pretty well. But to see how I've moved forward I would like to take a look back - waaay back.

A look back at where it all began - 2009



I said I wanted to develop good habits such as:
  • Cooking at least 5 days a week 
  • Drinking Water 
  • Exercise 
  • Reading books 
  • Playing with my children  
  • Sticking to my plans 
  • Saving Money 
  • Go to bed no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays 
Did I? Not so much then, but I do many of them now  and I think that says something. It says you may plant a seed to something that may take awhile to grow but with patience you will see results, especially with periodic reflection on where you have come from.

The year 2012 found me looking to live more BOLDLY and boy did I. That was the year everything changed in a big way. 

I went through a lot that year including moving out with my kids, moving back to Texas, starting a new job, and so many other things.


That has to be the funniest OLW ever. I still do't finish much - at least when it comes to crafty projects. I have a half painted bookshelf in the garage, an unpainted table in the garage and a table that needs to be repainted in the kitchen. I also have my feet propped on an ottoman that needs to be recovered. That's pretty much me - full of ideas that never get accomplished. In fact, I don't even think I even finished focusing on my OLW for 2013. Typical.

So this leaves me with 2015's word FORWARD  where I said:



The word FORWARD makes me think of this little clip from Meet the Robinsons:



Growth mindset is what we teach our students at my school. When you fail, you keep moving forward. So thinking about this concept leads me to my word for 2016.

GROW


via GIPHY

Will I blog about it? We will see. I'm looking forward to what 2016 has in store for me.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

What to Cook? What to Cook?

This summer found me being a bit lazy, especially because I was on vacation for three weeks and my youngest was away for three weeks. So imagine six weeks of not cooking when the little one asks, "What's for dinner?"

James's favorite dinner is spaghetti. I usually keep ground beef, pasta and sauce on hand as a go-to because I know it is something he will he eat.

The other day Cait and I went to Sam's Club and bought a big box of spaghetti and a four pound package of ground beef, but I didn't bring home any sauce. My go to is Hunt's Traditional spaghetti sauce. It's inexpensive. It can be used for pasta, lasagna, meatball subs and many other things. However, when James said, "Spaghetti," my mind did a mental inventory and realized I had none. So what's a mom to do? Improvise.

I have never made spaghetti sauce from scratch but could imagine what would go in it. Here's what I came up with.

I found two small cans of tomato sauce (a staple in a Puerto Rican household), an onion, garlic, a random jar of roasted red peppers and regular seasonings. I asked Cait if she had remembered to divide the ground beef into one pound packages, but she didn't so we had to deal with a four pound frozen lump of beef. Somehow she managed to break the block into four even sections that she placed in freezer bags and placed back in the freezer. The pound that we needed was still frozen solid and it was suppertime, so we put it in the five quart pot with a quarter cup of water, turned the pot on medium and covered it. It wasn't long before the meat was cooked and Cait broke it up into large crumbles.

Normally, I would sauté the onions and garlic first and then add thawed ground beef and seasonings. So if you have thawed meat, try it that way. It will give the meat more flavor.

After the beef was browned, I put in the rest of the ingredients but found it was a bit acidic so I added a tablespoon of sugar. Caitlin tasted it and liked it so I decided it was good to go.

Cait cooked the spaghetti noodles to al dente, drained the noodles and put it back in the pasta pot. I scooped some sauce on the noodles and mixed it together. James ate it that way, and I served Cait and me with some more sauce on top.


For having never made my own sauce, I am pretty darned impressed as was James. I may be done using store bought sauce. Try it out and let me know what you think.

2 TBS Olive Oil
1/2 Sweet onion diced
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 TBS of dried oregano (crushed)*
1 tsp pepper
1 roasted red pepper chopped finely**
8 oz tomato sauce
1 TBS sugar

*The oregano I used was Mexican oregano because that's what I had.
** I had a jar of roasted red peppers in the pantry so I used one whole pepper from the jar.

Heat a 5 quart pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Sauté diced onion until almost clear. Add garlic and continue to sauté. Brown ground beef in the same pot until juices run clear. Add salt, pepper and crushed oregano while browning.

Once the meat is cooked throughly, stir in the chopped roasted red pepper, tomato sauce and sugar.

Simmer while you cook the pasta of your choice.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and serve.

Serves 6

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Meaningful Lunch

My mom doesn't live too far away but we only see each other three to four times a month. Sometimes I drive to her, sometimes we meet at the movies and many times she drives to where I live to eat at the local diner. Today was one of those days.

Lunch at the diner is nothing special. We usually see the same wait staff and eat the same food. Today, however, I got a big surprise.

My mom and I were looking over the pictures from my vacation when one of the servers complimented me on my sneakers. I looked at her and saw a flash in the eyes that made me ask her what her name was. When she told me, I couldn't believe it. She was a student from fourteen years ago. I told her, "I was your teacher!!!" She shouted, "Mrs. Victory!!!" and hugged my tightly.
Aren't they cute?

We then started talking about her and how she'd been. She was proud to tell me that she was married and had a child. She remembered being a difficult student. (She was.) She was one of those hard case kids whom everyone shook their heads about when they saw her coming down the hall. She was loud and disrespectful, and I felt I wasn't reaching her. But the kicker came when she told me, "But I learned from you. I learned that actions have consequences." It really touched my heart because it is the one thing I talk to my students about ALL THE TIME. 

I asked her about her plans. She told me about attending college and studying criminal justice. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! 

As we left the diner, she called out to me again. She hugged me again and then let me know something sad. Two of her classmates had passed - one due to drugs and the other because of gun violence. My heart was crushed.

It made me realize, you can't reach every kid. You can make yourself crazy trying to. But you try your best. Hold your students to high expectations. They may not all hear you, but the ones who do just might surprise you. 

SIDE NOTE: I referred to this young lady as "she" a lot. My mother always told me not to use "she" because of something the nuns used to say, but I didn't feel right using her name and using a made up name didn't seem to fit either.

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