New Adventure: A New Teaching Job


Monday I went to my new job, finished decorating my new room with a few posters, a giant puma drawing from one of my former students, and an old National Geographic photo of a giant redwood tree with several men stationed at varying heights.  This year I will be teaching English Language Arts to grades 7-10, a writing class, and Spanish 1 and 2.  The 7th and 8th graders will be a new experience.  However, several have already come by to meet me, chat, hang out.  Hard to knock that for starters. It is a nearly new building out in the country surrounded by fields and pasture with a feed lot down the road–ranching country where rodeo is a major activity.

On the east side of my classroom a giant window takes up 1/3 of the wall.  A small section of the window even opens.  Twice I have opened it and listened to the birds singing outside. The window sill can hold several plants because it is long and at least one foot wide. Plant shopping occurs this weekend. Students begin next week.

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Cod Loin with Fennel and Lemon


This recipe, one of my favorites, will appear in my soon to be released cookbook full of family and life stories about food, family, and friends.  I made this tonight around eight.  As usual, I made enough for leftovers for another meal. Makes it easier if you work or are really busy.

Two small cod loins or one large cut in half

3 gloves garlic, chopped

1 poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

Fennel essential oil

Lemon essential oil

Vegetables of your choosing cut into bite sized pieces

1 small handful of pepitas

Olive oil

I vary this by using different vegetables, e.g. spinach, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, beets, carrots.  Tonight I used Brussel sprouts.

Saute garlic in olive oil until golden.  If you use beets or carrots, sauce them with the garlic until nearly tender.  If you use spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, add them last.

Add the cod loins to garlic mixture and sprinkle each one with several drops of lemon and fennel essential oil.  If you do not use essential oil, sprinkle with ground fennel and add deseeded lemons.  If using Brussel sprouts, cut them in slices and add at the same time as the cod.  When the cod is half cooked, add the poblano peppers and cook only until cod is done and the peppers are cooked but still bright green.  If using spinach, etc., add them just before cod and peppers are done and stir until wilted.  Sprinkle pepitas over the rice and vegetables.  Serve over pasta or rice.

Note:  I have also used fresh fennel for this recipe.  If you decide to do this, saute it along with the garlic.

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Almost done.

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Served over Basmati rice.  Salad is red bell peppers, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, radishes, and scallions with roasted sesame seed oil for dressing.

Cutting Yucca


Yucca will take over if you let it.

 

Every summer after the blooms dry, I tackle them with long,

red-handled clippers and cut off  long stalks.

Not bothering to put on boots, I set out in black and grey Chacos,

cutting stalks in places unreachable by tractor.

 

I climb down to a rough area, open these long, red-handled clippers,

chop off the dead blossoms, then look down.

She lies there, her body slightly bigger than the size of my upper arm,

fat, not long.

A snake stretched out, only 1/8 inch from the front of my Chacos.

 

I look again.  Crap.  She’s a rattlesnake, one of those short,

stout prairie rattlers, perfectly blending with the grey and brown

rocks and soil.

 

Slowly, I inch backward, taking care not to fall on the steep slope.

When several feet away, I run to the barn, grab two shovels off their hooks,

run back.  She’s gone.  I search everywhere around.

 

I never find her.

 

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The Clerk


He’s gorgeous!

 

I walk into the department store,

plan to pay a bill, order a griddle for the new stove,

see a bald headed 30 something with a big, brown beard.

He is not what I get.

 

A younger man walks up, “Can I help you?”

Explaining what I want, I look.

Wow.

Caramel skin, five inches taller than I,

obsidian ringlets falling, not long,

cut short to a form a big ball, a glossy poof.

 

He’s not too thin, not too chubby.

Just right.

Straight nose, not too long, not too short.

Just right.

Arched eyebrows, oval face.

Just right.

 

He’s drool worthy.

It’s ridiculous.  I’m old enough to be his grandmother,

maybe older.

 

Do we ever get too old to look, to appreciate?

 

 

Missouri Roadtrip—the Missouri River Bottom


My mother grew up in Fortesque, Missouri, a once thriving town which now contains 32 inhabitants. Mom’s dad owned a farm right on the Missouri River near the Rulo, Nebraska bridge. Then eventually, it was my grandmother’s and then belonged to Mom and her two siblings. We went to visit and found the river really high.

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For years we crossed the Rulo, Nebraska, bridge and came to a restaurant at this site to eat catfish, carp, and all the trimmings.  A few years ago a really large flood destroyed it. This is the new building but obviously it is closed because of high water.

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Back on the Missouri side looking across the soybean fields.  Strange sight to see irrigation proceeding at the same time the river is high.  The Corp of Engineers is releasing  water upstream where the river is really high. The bluffs in the distance are across the river in Kansas.

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Several times in my life I have seen water at least 15 feet deep from bluff to bluff.  A few years back I knew people who lived inside a big levee and for nearly three months had to go to and from their house in a boat.  Needless to say, that year no one raised a crop of anything.

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Without levees, the river would be over all the fields now.

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I walked down the main levee and took this photo under the Rulo, Nebraska, bridge.

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While in the river bottom we decided to take the loop drive through the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge.  The last time I was here five years ago, there was more water and fewer lilies.  The smell of their blooms permeated the air.

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Apparently, this is bull frog heaven because they were certainly actively croaking. In October and November approximately 400,000 geese and ducks migrate through here.

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At the north end of the drive through the refugee this beautiful sight occurs.

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The tunnel between the trees continues for several miles.

Later when we drove back to St. Joseph, we drove down to the nature center and the river’s edge there.

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No swimming in the Missouri River.  They warn people every year, but alas, people still try and drown.  The river moves fast and the undertow will pull even strong swimmers under.

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I was not happy out here.  Ema, my daughter, insisted.  If a person fell in, there is no hope.  She, however, keep bouncing around and playing on it.

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Even though I grew up in this area, I am always amazed at just how green and wet it is there even when they have a dry spell like now.  Plus the humidity–not like here in the Panhandle of Texas–it does not cool off that much at night in Missouri.

 

 

 

 

Missouri Roadtrip-the Home Place


6CC097FA-6B1F-4C37-8170-6026A42B8C30This is he house where I grew up north of Fillmore, Missouri.  My dad lived here in this house from 10 year old to 90. He died in the month after his 90th birthday.  The house stands on the land my great grandfather established after he arrived from Switzerland in the mid 1800s.

3A97C88F-30A5-4A32-99E3-5E4D8E1172F5This is the only building left at the site of my grandparents original house and barns.  It is an old carriage house.  In this photo my daughter and grandson are taking a look.  One of the original stained glass transome windows from the house hangs in my own house. My grandparents were Lilliebelle Werth and Pleasant Lightle.

 

D44A6726-4FF1-4FB0-9F89-47F7E7C98391When I was a child, this was once a chicken house but mostly the farrowing house for our registered Hampshire hogs.  Later I learned that when first built during Prohibition, Dad held dances here which the sheriff checked to make sure there was no alcohol.

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This is corn and soybean country. The view reaches across the land from the back of the home place.  We met the young couple who own the house now. They keep everything spic and span just like my parents did.  I am grateful.

 

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Antioch Christian Church where we attended church when I was a child.  My mom’s fruit pies were famous here.

Argentinian Adventure–Cafayate in the Calchaqui Valley


One of the highest wine growing regions in the world exists in northern Argentina in the Calchaqui Valley.  This lovely hotel where we spent the night reminded me of New Mexico.

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The hotel garden.

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The ceiling above the walkway.

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The walkway from the garden to the front of the hotel.  Spanish colonial architecture and design seem much the same everywhere.

Cafayate is small and lovely.  Like every other city, it too has a square with a church on one side. We went there instead of Mendoza, the city most people in the US associate with Argentinian wine, because Hugo, Gaston’s dad, prefers the wine from there over that from Mendoza.

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The church on the square in Cafayate.

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Many trees were in bloom there.  Gaston’s mom and I collected some seeds from this one and I have two plants growing in pots at my house.

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More colonial architecture.

Although most of this valley is filled with vineyards from one mountain range to the other, I did see fields as well.

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Behind the hotel where we parked the truck, the guy was raising fighting cocks.  I never had the chance to take of photo of them.

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After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we needed to the oldest winery in the valley.

 

 

Pasta with Sardines, Walnuts, and Figs


pasta of your choice–I use conchiglie

5 dried mission figs, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

olive oil

1/2 cup broken walnuts–I used black walnuts tonight

1 can sardines in olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

Saute garlic and walnuts in just enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan until garlic is lightly browned.  Add figs and sardines.  Do not drain olive oil from the sardines. Add balsamic vinegar.  Stir and heat through.  Add to drained pasta.  Stir to combine.  Serve with grated pecorino cheese and a simple salad.  This recipe serves 2-3.

 

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Note:  Why sardines?  There are good reasons to add sardines to your food choices.  First, they are near the bottom of the food chain and have little to no chemical residue as a consequence, e.g. no mercury. Second, small amounts have lots of protein and omega oils.  One little can has 22 grams of protein.  1/2 cup walnuts has 12 grams of protein.  I use pasta from an ancient Italian monastery.

Afternoon at the Library


Usually at the library I checkout and return books. Because my grandson is taking art classes at a nearby college for three hours in the afternoons, I go to read and observe.  The same older men show up everyday.  Some, acquaintances or friends, quietly chat. They look scruffy with dirty, stringy hair.  Are they homeless?  Does the library provide an air conditioned refuge?  They read, look at magazines.

One man in a tan Alaska cap takes notes from a large book.  He appears well groomed, clean, with a sculpted, small beard. Another alternates reading and checking his cell phone.  At a separate round oak table a man sits in a dark heavy coat–it said 102 on my car temperature gage when I arrived.  He never looks up, concentrates on the black laptop in front of him. The white earbuds stand out against his heavy dark beard.  His fingernails are dirty.  A white haired man approaches the round table I occupy and asks if he can sit there.  I reply, “Sure.”  His dark skin shows the heavy creases of outside work and age.  His fingernails are clean. He focuses on filling out an application for a commercial driver’s license.

In the several days I have stayed here to read and wait, I have seen only one woman where they allow adults to sit.  Do these men, day after day, come here because they have no place else to go?