Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kind Neighbors and Focus

It has been over three weeks into my Couch To 5K running program and things are still going well.  I have been doing some new runner reading in my spare time and came across an article early on that has been an inspiration.  This morning I rolled out of bed and put my running clothes on.  I knew it was going to be a "nice" day and that it might be one of my last our door runs until spring.  The little voice in my head kept telling me that I was going to be miserable, it was going to be cold, and that I was not going to enjoy my run.  And then this article popped into my head just like it does whenever that little voice gets too loud. 

How to Focus Your Mind 

"By Danny Dreyer

Whether it's a 5K or an ultramarathon, focusing your mind is the surest way to feel great throughout your race, especially as you cross that finish line. With ChiRunning, you can learn to focus your mind, moment-by-moment, and use your mind to listen to and support your body to run in a way that is both relaxing and efficient. The practice of focusing your mind can then be transferred to focusing on long term or more significant goals in your life. The key is to practice.
When you focus, you create a stronger connection between you and the object of your focus. When cooking a meal, if you think about what you want your food to taste like (instead of allowing your mind to wander), you'll end up with a more delicious meal. If you focus on the few extra pounds you may have gained this winter, you might just become more "connected" to them. If instead you focus on eating well and running consistently, that is what will happen, and those pounds will melt away.
When successful people were studied to understand how they achieve their goals, being able to focus their mind was one of the common and key skills.

To amplify the power of your mind, chose a very specific goal for your race: it could be to win your age group, to finish without pain, to enjoy yourself fully, to use your pelvic rotation, to run a specific time or to bring in $1,000 for your favorite charity. The connection that is created by focusing your mind adds something very tangible to you as a person, so it is best to focus on qualities that are truly meaningful to you. For instance, feeling strong, centered, flexible, energetic are all positive focuses that can enhance your whole life.

When you focus your mind, you set your mind and intention in a specific direction. Not letting your mind wander to the many other options that might distract you from your goal. If there is one thing we have a lot of in this life, it's options. Have you noticed the laundry detergent aisle in the grocery store? I focus on finding one that is least harmful to the environment and that does not leave a perfumed odor on my clothes which quickly narrows my options.

Let's say your goal is to run your first marathon. You can then get more specific with your original goal and chose to complete your marathon injury-free. Then you can refine that goal and decide, "I don't only want to be injury-free, I want to feel great when I'm done. I want to complete a marathon pain-free and injury-free." The key to success is to get a clear goal in mind, and stick with it.
In the movie "A Beautiful Mind," John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia. He explains that to overcome his very intense delusions, he has to go on a "diet of the mind." He focuses his mind on what is real and chooses not to allow his mind to wander toward his delusional world. That concept of a diet of the mind is an important one when you are practicing how to stay focused on a goal for your event. Staying focused means that you don't allow your mind to entertain other negative thoughts, like not running the marathon, not finishing the marathon, finishing the event but feeling like hell afterward, finishing but never running another step because of an injury.
This doesn't mean that you can't ever change your plans or your goal. Focusing does not mean that you block out important messages or warnings coming your way. That's not being focused, it's being stubborn, or worse. In ChiRunning, we encourage you to listen to your body and make necessary adjustments if your body is clearly telling you that running a marathon is just too long a distance with your level of training. You then adjust, and can run a half marathon instead.

When practicing ChiRunning, you focus your mind on listening to and feeling your body. It might sound simple, but it's harder to do than you think, and more rewarding than you can imagine. Your mind will want to wander, as everyone's does. You have to repeatedly stick to your "diet" and bring your mind back to engaging your core muscles, to gently leaning from your ankles, to swinging your arms to the rear. By doing this you are actually creating a stronger neuro-link between your brain and the nerves and muscles in your body. In the beginning there may be little connection, but over time, as the connection grows stronger, you will have more control over your body, and your mind. Additionally, the body and mind begin to act as one whole -- YOU -- rather than the two separate entities of your body and your mind.
Focus is a very powerful skill and one of the keys to running a successful, injury-free event. As we say on our shirts:
Focus Your Mind
Strengthen Your Core
Run Like the Wind
Choose from our four ChiRunning Training Programs to help you Get and Keep Focused."

It turned out to be a great run once I got warmed up.  There is this small gradual hill that is on my regular route, and no matter how fast or slow I move I always am going up the hill during the hardest point.  Today it was at the end of my run, and as I am pushing up and over the top the little voice was suggesting that I just walk the rest of the way to the top.  I pushed through with the positive thoughts, and just as I am cresting the hill an older gentleman is walking over the top towards me.  He smiled at me and said "Great job!"  That was all I needed to boost my confidence and float my way home.  Two kind words to support the kind words in my head.  Thanks neighbor, I hope that you read this!

Enjoy ~SJ

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Freezer

Yup, I just posted a picture of my freezer on my blog!
I like to cook, and when I decide to cook I sometimes go a little overboard. Usually during my morning cereal and coffee I study a cookbook.  Since cutting meat with feet from my diet and trying to incorporate as many vegan friendly recipes and  ingredients, cooking now takes a little studying.  Last week I made a lengthy list of recipes that I wanted to make:
  • Minestrone (Moosewood)
  • Stuffed peppers(SJ Original)
  • Wheat/white sandwich bread (Joy of Cooking/SJ)
  • Apple bread
  • Salmon pie
  • "Chicken" pie (SJ Original)
  • Shepards pie
  • Spicy tomato soup (Moosewood)
  • Tomato sauce (SJ Original)
  • Zucchini soup (Moosewood)
(See what I mean by a little overboard?)

Dorky math teacher finds humor in her labels!
After creating the list of recipes, I then needed to make the grocery list.  I will spare you the details, but it did take a trip to Shaw's and over an hour to find all of right items.  By the time I got home from shopping I was exhausted, and the cooking hadn't even started.  Saturday morning I woke up refreshed and ready for the challenge of cooking.  I don't think that I have ever chopped or minced as many onions in my life as I did last weekend.  It seemed that every recipe started with "saute onions until tender".  Needless to say, the recipes list was so long that it spilled into Sunday and the last two on the list are saved for another day.  I don't know how many meals all this food equates to, but I do know that dinners for the next few weeks will be a lot more satisfying.

Enjoy ~SJ 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And She's Off....

Learning all about my feet at Maine Running Company
I realized while coaching field hockey season that I need to run.  Not because I see me needing to outrun a charging moose or anything like that.  More because I have a big looming birthday and I realized that what I was asking my field hockey players to do was just not in my ability range anymore.  So now that the field hockey is over, I'm learning everything there is to know about running.  I spent a lot of time learning all sorts of tips for new runners, and even found a training program for out of shape people like me called the Couch to 5K.  It is an interval training program that starts out with a lot of walking and increases over time to all running.  I also downloaded and app for my iPod that times the intervals and informs me when to run or walk. 

My first steps in my new kicks
After my first run in my old kicks my feet were so sore I didn't think I would ever want to go out running again.  One of the number one tips I kept reading about for new runners was to get fitted for sneakers.  When I did a three day 60 mile walk a few years ago I got fitted for walking sneakers, and knew that it was time again.  If you have never gotten yourself fitted for sneakers, indulge and go.  This weekend I went to Maine Running Company and got myself fitted for new kicks.   So after nine short weeks (although I'm sure that they will be very long) I might just be able to make it through one of my own practices. 

Enjoy ~SJ

Craving, Doing, & Thankful For

From the fabulous River Valley Blogger Gals: Amity, Katie, & Rach

A variety of winter hand coverings for driving, skiing, and playing.
A stocked kitchen to fulfill all my vegan
cooking ideas.
The energy to get through my quantitative research class (and the reason for my lack of blogging).

Lots and lots and lots of reading, thinking, and writing.
Having fun teaching with lots of technology.

Thankful For
MacPro - the computer and the man
My supportive and fabulously creative Mom
My three wonderful fur-children
Lower my debt one month and one payment at a time.

Consider yourself tagged!

Enjoy ~SJ

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"When you know, you know! You know?"

or an alternative title to this post could be "And she said yes!"
After  my morning coffee MacPro asked me to find an activity to occupy my time with inside the house and informed me that I shouldn't go outside or on the porch.  Although the directions were odd, I found something to watch on Netflix in bed.  After about an hour, through the sounds of cardboard and the smell of paint and came and asked me to go on for a canoe ride.  I thought it was an odd time of day for a boat ride, but am always up for an adventure.  Upon arriving on the dock I found that he turned the canoe into a gondola!

He instructed me to relax and that he was going to paddle.  Once getting situated in the boat, he started to paddle and sing "O sole mio" (he looked up all of the words on wikipedia).  All good Gondolieres sing!  He paddled us around, we watched a loon family, and then he asked the big question!  I said yes (of course!), and the rest is history!  Well actually, then we went to play mini golf and eat ice cream.  

It was a memorable day, and the whole thing makes for a great story! 

(FYI: No official plans as of yet.  Maybe something small on the dock)

MacPro and his homemade gondola

MacPro singing O sole mio

SJ in the gondola
The view from the boat, perfect day on the lake
SJ and the new ring!
Mission accomplished!
Skyping with MacPro's Mom and Sister
What day is complete without a little mini golf?
And ice cream!
Enjoy ~SJ

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cool Cat Tech Tips!

This is a cross post from my Educational Technology University blog.  These tips are so great I needed to share twice!

Cool Cat Teacher Vicki Davis just posted the most insightful list of twelve healthy online habits.  If you are a fellow Walden student you might recognize Vicki from a few mentions in weekly vodcasts from EDUC 8847: Instructional Design & Multimedia.

Here are her 12 tips:
1) Share
2) Respond
3) Comment
4) Link Generously
5) Read (or Listen) Prolifically
6) Distribute Yourself
7) Beware of Flattery
8) Live Life Online AND Off-Line
9) Latch Key Your Legacy
10) Laugh (a lot)
11) Take Every Presentation Seriously
12) Expect Criticism  

Please click through and read her detailed explanation for each of these twelve tips!

Enjoy ~SJ

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Fill-In we go!

1. This is what life does. It lets you have fun.

2. Stop and appreciate the moment.

3. Upon reflection I think that the loons on the pond are trying to tell me something.

4. I haven't gone camping for quite a long time.

5. Later, you wake up and sip coffee with MacPro on the porch.

6. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a walk around the pond, tomorrow my plans include measuring and planning a new project and Sunday, I want to spend countless hours at Lowes shopping for the new project!

Enjoy ~SJ

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Shamrockettes Swim

Last summer my amazing (and crazy) cousins started a little tradition of swimming the length of the Pond. We estimate it to be somewhere around 2 miles from Honey Run Beach to The Outlet. The Swim is a whole weekend of events. Friday night they arrive, we have a carbohydrate loading dinner, make mixed cd's for the boat, and visualize a successful swim. Saturday we try to get out and swimming before noon. And on Sunday we have brunch with our mothers and Grandmother.
Mi Prima brought along her new guy and his canoe, so we could have two boats in the water. The two boats made it safer for the swimmers since we could protect them from other boats better. The second boat even allowed me to swim a portion of the pond. MacPro has came along in one of the boats and was in charge of snacks and photos. He peeled bananas and passed them down to the swimmers along with their water bottle.
And their off!

MacPro and SJ
Mrs. Incredible in the groove!

Look Ma - No Hands!
Mi Prima's Guy, great addition!

SJ giving Mi Prima a little advice "There's plenty of time"

I'd like to add, she didn't hold onto the boat once!

SJ joining the swim

Mi Prima in the groove
The Shamrockettes at the end!
With good tunes and plenty of bananas the cousins made did the swim in under two hours, shaving over 20 minutes off their time from last year!

Enjoy ~SJ

Friday, July 9, 2010

Yeah, I'm That Good!

This past year I successfully learned how to solve a Rubik's Cube.  It ended up being a unit that I taught to my 8th graders.  Today I decided to put my skills to the test and do it on video.

Enjoy ~SJ

Friday Fill-In we go!

1. Layers of clothes were not necessary this week in the Maine heatwave.

2. A new camera and time to sit and do homework brought insight.

3. I'd be willing to bet this could be the best summer ever!

4. The wild turkey in the backyard scares the dog.

5. I'm fond of popsicles and movies in bed

6. I''m having too much fun!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to barbecued vegetables , tomorrow my plans include breakfast at the Front Porch and Sunday, I want to relax!

Enjoy ~SJ

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Your Next Read

Over the last few days I have been trying to get caught up on my Google Reader blog reading.  Getting behind your Google Reader reading is like getting behind in reading Time.... they just keep coming!

I have come across so many fablous new tools and tips and here is one that I have to share with you.  It is called Your Next Read, and it basically recommends books to you.  You simply type in the title of a book that you enjoyed and it will recommend others to you.  Not only does it includ a picture of the book, but it also has reviews and summiries of it.  AND (you better be sitting down for this one) it includes a link to Amazon WITH the price!  Now if it could only tell me if it was available at one of my local libraries I would be all set.

I also have to give a little plug to two of my other favorite book websites, Paper Back Swap and Good Reads.  Paper Back Swap allows you to post your unwanted books that you are willing to mail away to people for free.  The catch is that for every book that you give away you get a credit to get your own book.  It is basically a giant network of people who want to share books.  Good Reads is a social networking website that allows you to connect with your friends.  You can see what books they have read, want to read, and are reading.  Until I found Your Next Read I used Good Reads to find lists of books that I wanted to read. 

How do you find your next book to read?

Enjoy ~SJ

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In this critical time

Indexed has been a favorite blog of mine to read for awhile now.  I think it is because they play to my inner scientist/mathematician.  Here is a timely one that I just had to share. 

Enjoy ~SJ

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


It's summer so that means time to relax and get some projects done.  There is no summer school for SJ this summer (beyond excited, you can understand if you have ever had the pleasures of summer school).  The summer so far has been living up to expectations.  My online classes are going wonderfully, learning lots of wonderful new stuff, "meeting" new people, and create wonderful new products.  I have a new blog dedicated to talking about the world of educational technology.  It even has its own domain (huge thank you to MacPro!), you can find it at  I have been working on creating a website all about me (professionally) in hopes of spreading my word and name.  Did a photo shoot last week (again, huge thank you MacPro!) for the pic of me on the new website.  Done tons of reading both professionally and personally, bought a new camera, and have even enjoyed my dock! Overall I would give summer '10 an A+ so far!

Enjoy ~SJ

Monday, June 14, 2010

End Of The Year Wrap-Up

When you say "another year gone by" most people are saying this in January, but teachers (like their students) count years from September to June.  Those months between June and September are special months filled with the excitement of not being bound to an alarm clock, filled with late lunches, and leisurely mornings.  It's getting to be the end of another year, some schools are already out, and some of us are down to the wire counting the days left.

This past school year was a successful one!  My students were funny and entertaining, they worked hard when they needed to, and knew when to have fun.  We learned how to solve Rubik's cubes, some with more success then others.  We can all solve basic algebra equations.  And we all got to enjoy a few days in Quebec.

There are all sorts of ways to know when the end of the school years is coming.  Sometimes your students even go out of their way and get you a gift, and this year I have to say I think I got the best gift ever.  Check it out!

Enjoy ~SJ

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Google and Pac-Man

So apparently Pac-Man turns 30 today (didn't know that we shared the same birth year....). I can't do as big of a tribute to this amazing game as Google did though! Not only can you saarch for site through Google today, but you can also play Pac-Man!
Enjoy ~SJ

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What have I been up to?

Well my dedicated blog reader(s) (I know there are a few of you still out there, at least The Mother still reads.... right? Leave a comment if you came by, please!), I have been busy. When I rattle the question "busy doing what" around in my head nothing crazy like shark tank diving (must put on to do list). It has been a just kind of normal busy. MacPro and I (ok, mostly MacPro) has been working in the yard. There are big doings around the Shamrock - new retaining wall in the front, grass being planted, porch being built, more grass, and a firebrick pizza oven (I know, you just gasped, I heard it).

School has been crazy. I am organizing fantasy baseball for all of my math students and the staff. I know, crazy since I a) don't know a lot about baseball and 2) have never even played fantasy baseball. If that weren't enough I'm also planning an RSU-wide math fact bee, it's just like a spelling bee only with math facts.

The last thing that has been occupying my time is my course work. Besides The Never Ending Paper (it needs all capitals, it is that epic), I am also taking a course on the evolution of educational technology, and getting ready to go to my second residency. A residency is some quality face-to-face time with professors, other students, and faculty members that makes up for all of the online learning. The one I went to last year and Dallas was wonderful, so I look forward to my four days in Nashua, NH.

Enjoy ~SJ

Sunday, April 11, 2010

And the Panda Gets An F

I just read this article on NPR about a new book. The premise of the book (The Animal Review) is that two friends (Jacob and Steve) started a blog a few years ago handing out grades to animals. The rank the animals on a variety of skills, talents, and adaptions that they have.

Here is what The Animal Review guys had to say about the Panda (please keep in mind that the Panda might be one of my favorite animals because, well they are so darn cute!)

Panda: F

"Pandas have absolutely no interest in reproducing. They rarely mate," Lentz says. That goes against the raison d'etre of a species. "We spend all this money flying these animals around the world, trying to convince them to mate, and we could spend it on a lot of other stuff."

"Second of all, they eat bamboo. They're not supposed to eat bamboo. Their bodies are not adapted to digest cellulose, but they hang in there with the bamboo. But the result of that is that they have to eat a ton of bamboo," he says. "They don't have a lot of energy to do things like — to mate."

"That could be Nature kind of hinting around the fact that they should collectively shuffle off this mortal coil."

As some of you may know I traveled to China (the country not the town in Maine) a few summers ago. Seeing pandas, and the Great Wall might have been the high points of the trip for me. Since I had never seen a panda before my travels to China I was very anxious to see a real live panda in the fur. So as soon as we got to the zoo I found my way to the panda pagoda and here is my first view of a panda......

I do believe my words were "I traveled over 12,000 miles to see a panda behind!" Don't worry, about this first one was laying so that we could get a wonderful view of its behind, as we moved through the pagoda they animals got more exciting to watch. There were several eating, and one even interacting with the zookeeper. I think that The Animal Review guys might need to go and visit a panda in person before they rank the animals. The panda at least deserves a D- since it lays around at zoos showing off its behind!

Enjoy ~SJ

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 6, 2010

After a wonderful adventure "Down South" for sushi (yes, MacPro and I drove over 50 miles one way for some raw fish!), I decided on the way home to get the motorcycle out. The temperature was over 50 for most of the day, and I saw a lot of other bikes on the road. Here is a little video of the first ride......

Enjoy ~SJ

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Getting To Know Me

Thanks to Katie and Rach for this one.....

1. What time did you get up this morning?
Around 7-ish, its vacation who looks at the clock when you get up?

2. How do you like your steak?
Nope, it has feet so I'm not eating it

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Harry Potter this summer (sad but true)

4. What is your favorite TV show?
The Office and 30 Rock

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
I love where I live now, but more sun and warmer temperatures might be nice.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
Coffee and wheat Chex

7. What is your favorite cuisine?
Right now sushi

8. What foods do you dislike?

9. What is your favorite place to Eat?
I have lots of favorites, The Bistro, Slates, my Mom's house.....

10. Favorite dressing?
Bleu cheese.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Subaru Impreza WRX

12. What are your favorite clothes?
Jeans and a fleece vest

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
Galapagos Islands

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
1/2 full, no other way.

15. Where would you want to retire?
That is a long ways away.

16. Favorite time of day?
That time of the day where you have all your work done and it is time for yourself. I also like sunny mornings.

17. Where were you born?
Farmington, Maine.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?
I don't really watch sports.

19. Who do you think will not tag you back?*
20. Who do you think will tag you back first?*
21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?*

22. Bird watcher?
Nope, but I do like to go to the aquarium and watch the penguins (I almost had a job in college as a penguin tank cleaner, but went for the after school outreach program instead.)

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?

24. Do you have any pets?
Two cats Phoebe and Stanley, and a husky Sasha

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share?
I'm on vacation!

26. What did you want to be when you were little?
Dolphin Trainer

27. What is your best childhood memory?
Swimming with a sea turtle for the first time

28. Are you a cat or dog person?

29. Are you married?

30. Always wear your seat belt?

31. Been in a car accident?
Not really

32. Any pet peeves?
Not pushing in chairs and straightening around the desks (can you tell I'm a teacher?)
33. Pizza?
Feta, peppers, garlic, and basil

34. Favorite Flower?

35. Dessert?
Ice cream please!

36. Favorite fast food restaurant?
No I don't like fast food, and it doesn't like me!

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test?

38. From whom did you get your last email?
My advisor giving me feedback on a paper

39. Which store would you choose to max out
your credit card?
I would have to have a credit card first, which I don't.....

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?
Today is spontaneous adventure day with Mi Prima!

41. Like your job?
I love it.

42. Broccoli?

43. What was your favorite vacation?
When I was 9 my family rented a sailboat and we sailed around the Caribbean, that was wonderful!

44. Who was the last person you went to dinner with?
MacPro, on Saturday we went to Dunkin Doughnuts, for sushi, and then to Arby's (I had a potato).

45. What are you listening to right now?
The dish washer, the wind, and the wind chime.

46. What is your favorite color?

47. How many tattoos do you have?

48. How many are you tagging for this quiz?*
49. What time did you finish this quiz?*

50. Coffee Drinker?
Yup, drinking some right now!

*Those questions are just not fun, I'm with Katie and not going to answer them!

Enjoy ~SJ

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cooking Challenge 4

This weeks menu did not come from a cookbook, but it came from my head. There is a local restaurant in town that happens to be a favorite of MacPro and I (and a few River-Valley Blogers since I see them from time to time there). We both love one of the dishes on the menu, Gorgonzola Alfredo. Every time I get it I ohh and ahhh over how wonderful it is, and then the cook inside me thinks "how hard can this really be to make", and then I am off trying to perfect it. Tonight was one of those nights, I attempted to make Gorgonzola Alfredo and much admit that it came out amazing. Below is the recipe that I created.

Gorgonzola Alfredo
1 cup gorgonzola cheese
1 1/2 Tb butter
1 1/2 cup milk
3 Tb flour
salt, pepper, and garlic to taste

1 bunch of fresh cooked asparagus cut into pieces
1/2 of a finely chopped onion (saute until cooked)
1/3 cup of roasted red peppers

Mix the cheese, butter, and milk in a sauce pan over a low heat making sure that the milk does not scald. Once the ingredients are well combined, thicken the sauce one tablespoon at a time with flour. Mix well and wait between tablespoons, once it has come to a thickness that you are happy with add the salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Once your sauce is thickened and seasoned add the asparagus, onion, and peppers. Let simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors blend. Serve over your pasta of choice.

At the end of dinner I relized that I had forgetten to put in the tempeh, oh well. I also decided that this was a sauce to bring out when you want to impress people with your simple yet advanced sense of cooking. Feel free to claim that you made up the recipe yourself!

Enjoy ~SJ

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Where Everybody Knows Your Name"

There are many downsides to living in a small rural community: no thai food in the wee hours (ok, scratch that, no thai food!), no pizza delivery, limited food choices at the grocery store, few stores to do your shopping at. Ok, the list could go on and on. But there are definitely up sides to living here as well. This whole thought came to me after running into fellow River Valley Blogger, Katie, at Wal-Mart. No matter where you go in the community, there is always someone to stop and say hello to. My grandmother is famous for not being to go anywhere in town without hearing "Hello Mrs. Irish"! How can you put a price tag on that?

Enjoy ~SJ

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Three Blind Mice

I got Stanley a new package a those little realistic looking mice toys today while I was in the supermarket. I actually planned the purchase while driving to the store. I was feeling bad for him since these little mice toys are his favorite and his most recent one (and only one in the house) had gone missing. The supermarket had a package of a dozen of them for around $6 ($0.50 per mouse does now seem a little steep, but the pleasure they bring him and the laughs it brings MacPro and I are priceless). Earlier this evening MacPro brought the remains of these toy mice to me in the kitchen. Apparently I had forgotten to put them in the toy cabinet and had left the package sitting in the living room. Stanley, in his attempt to get them out of the cat-proof packaging decapitated at least three of these poor mice. The living room is a mess of little pieces of fake fur, eyes, and chalky insides!
"Three Blind Mice" - Original work by Stanley The Manly
Enjoy ~SJ

Cooking Challenge 3

This weeks menu offered nutty potato cakes, asparagus and tomotoes with a basalmic reduction, and chocolate truffle bars.

Nutty Potato Cakes (The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook)

3 medium potatoes
1 Tb. butter
1 cup sunflower seeds finely ground
2 Tbs. green onion, finely chopped
Wholemeal flour for coating
Oil for frying

Peel the potatoes, and cut into pieces and boil until soft. Drain, and mash with butter and milk until creamy. Add seeds, onions, and pepper. If necessary add a little more milt to make a soft texture that will hold together. Form cakes and coat with flour, fry quickly in as little oil as possible. Drain on paper towels.

I could not find wholemeal flour so I used regular white flour, this made the frying part very difficult.

Balsamic Reduction (eHow)
  1. Pour the balsamic vinegar into the pan. Use enough so that you allow for it to reduce by half--I like to reduce a whole liter of vinegar and keep it on hand.

  2. Heat the pan to high.

  3. Whisk briskly, even prior to boiling. Once it starts boiling, keep whisking constantly to prevent burning.

  4. The vinegar naturally sweetens when reduced, but if you like a very sweet reduction, sprinkle in a tablespoon of sugar.

  5. Reduce by half, or until the vinegar takes on a syrupy quality. Allow to cool.

Chocolate Truffle Bars (The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook)

2 cups graham crackers, broken up
1/2 cup butter
1 Tbs brown sugar
3 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs corn syrup
1 cup raisins (optional)
8 oz chocolate

Crush the graham crackers finely with a rolling pin and place in a mixing bowl. Put the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and syrup into a pan and melt over a low heat, stirring all the time. Add to the crumbs with the raisins. Mix very thoroughly. Press the mixture into an 8 inch square pan. Break the chocolate bar into a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water until melted. Cover the cake with the melted chocolate. Refrigerate until cook, cut in squares and store in an airtight container.

Enjoy ~SJ

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cooking Challenge 2

First off, sorry that there are no pictures of this weeks food. MacPro and I were both hungry and I remembered about the pictures after we ate, I can only take this as a sign that the food was good.

The menu this week consisted to two recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook, Vegetable Stroganoff and Fruited Yogurt Dessert.

Fruited Yogurt Dessert
3 cups plain yogurt
1 cup fresh strawberries cleaned and cut
1/2 a cup of maple syrup (I used less, around 1/4 cup)
1 mashed, ripe banana
Dash of cinnamon

Combine the above ingredients and serve chilled. I served mine on top of pudding, it was a hit! I am thinking that I am going to keep this fruited mix of yogurt on hand for those times when plain yogurt just needs to be spiced up.

Vegetable Straganoff
I. The Sauce
3 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
3 Tbs. dry red wine
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 pound chopped mushrooms
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp dill weed
dash of tamari sauce
black pepper

Saute onions and mushrooms in butter until onions are soft. Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler and heat gently for about 30 minutes.

II. While the sauce simmers, steam 6 cups chopped fresh vegetables of your choice.
Suggestions: Cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, celery, cabbage, peppers, cherry tomatoes.

III. Cook 4 cups raw egg noodles in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and butter.

Assemble the straganoff on a platter and garnish with fresh minced scallions.

Enjoy ~SJ

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cooking Challenge 1

It was a success! The first Cooking Challenge menu offered Spinach Rice Casserole and Fruit Chocolate Sundae for desert.

Spinach Rice Casserole (Moosewood Cookbook)

4 cups of cooked brown rice (2 cups raw, cooked in 3 cups water) - Start this before the rest of the dish

2 lbs raw, chopped spinach
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
3 Tbs. butter
4 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbs. tamari
1/2 tsp. salt
a few dashes of nutmeg and cayenne
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Use a large stock pot to saute in since all ingredients will eventually be mixed together.

Saute onions and garlic with salt in butter. When onions are soft, add spinach. Cook 2 minutes.

Combine with all ingredients except sunflower seeds and paprika. Spread into buttered casserole and sprinkle the top with sunflower seeds and paprika.

Cover and back for 35 minutes in a 350 oven.

Fruit Chocolate Sundae (The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook)

Chocolate Dessert
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsps honey
1/4 tsp instant coffee
1 tbsp coco powder

Blend all of the chocolate dessert ingredients together in a saucepan and cook until thick, stirring continuously. Once think leave to cool.

Vanilla Custard
1 tbsp cornmeal
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp honey

Mix the cornmeal with a little of the milk to make a smooth paste and add the honey and vanilla. Heat the remaining milk until nearly boiling and pour over the cornmeal mixture, stirring until smooth. Return to the pan and re-heat gently until think, stirring constantly. Leave to cool.

Fruit Filling
1 large banana, chopped
2 cups of cut strawberries

Add half of the chocolate dessert to the chopped banana and mix tegether carefully.

Fill sundae gasses with layers of chocolate dessert, banana mixture, strawberries, vanilla custard and finally the plain chocolate dessert.

Garnish and chill before serving.

We concluded that spinach rice casserole if very yummy but would be extra great with diced tomatoes and a little Parmesan cheese on top too. Next time! The chocolate fruit dessert was amazing and makes 4 sundaes, but it is so yummy you will want to make a double batch! Now off to plan and shop for next weeks challenge.

Enjoy ~SJ

Friday, January 8, 2010

Welcome Back/Cooking Challenge 101

According to it has been a mere 78 days or 2 months and 17 days since my last blog post. Just one year ago I was blogging my fingers to the bone trying to reach my 365 blog posts in 365 days. I would like to say that in my 78 day hiatious that I have traveled around the world, or accomplished major goals, or had any exciting news to report. Unfortunately it was SJ just getting lazy and not being creative to come up with new blog topics.

With the New Year comes New Year's resolutions. This years list is simple: 1) Blog more often and 2) Reduce my overall meat consumption be first not eating "anything that had feet" (that means seafood is in - crab and lobster don't really have "feet", right?). So far the no meat resolution has been going great!

The blogging on the other hand not so well, until last night. Last might MacPro and I watched Julie and Julia, the story and Julia Child and one inspired 30-year-old who challenged herself to cook all 524 of Julia's recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie blogged this entire journey gathering fans as any good blog does along the way. This true story, turned book, turned into a wonderful movie that even MacPro found enjoyable!

I was so inspired by the movie that I decided to put my two New Year's resolutions together into one. No I will not be cooking all 524 of Julia Child's recipes, no I will not be trying a new recipe every day. My challenge is that I will try at least one new recipe a week attempting to broaden my cooking skills and nightly cooking variety.

I am all set to start the challenge this weekend. Recipe books have been consulted, two recipes have been selected, and the shopping list has been made. Tomorrow (I think) I'm off to the store to pick up a few necessary ingredients. Until then, what are your own personal challenges for the New Year?

Enjoy ~SJ