Snow Day? Get Your Crock Pot Cooking!

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The perfect time to get your Crock Pot cooking… a snow day, just like the one we’re experiencing!

A few years ago, I found a “Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala” recipe in Real Simple and have used it many times with several different variations.  I even blogged about my first experience making it.

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As Chicken Tikka Masala, it’s very easy and yummy; and the best part, it appeals to every member of my family.  Like most recipes, I modify or change it depending on the ingredients in the pantry. I use boneless chicken breasts, not thighs.  And this recipe is delicious without the heavy cream (if you’re trying to keep it low in fat) or for a slight change in the flavor profile, substitute  coconut milk or Greek yogurt for the heavy cream.  If you want a definite Indian taste, add more garam masala (available in most grocery stores). Garam masala differs from one manufacturer to another and can be a dry spice mixture or in a wet paste, but it usually contains a is mixture of pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cumin.  It’s aromatic, not spicy.  If you want a little heat in this meal, add some cayenne pepper to the spices. The cucumbers and cilantro salad add a crisp, refreshing bite to the dish, but are not necessary either (especially if they are not in your vegetable drawer)!

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Another way to make this dish is to use the basic recipe ~ chicken, tomatoes, onions, garlic ~ and add Italian spices (basil, oregano, parsley, and omit the cream, cucumbers and cilantro completely.  It’s yummy alone or over pasta.

I’ve also used this basic recipe and added taco seasonings from a packet, shredded the chicken for make-your-own tacos or burritos.

Happy snow & happy cooking, t

The Reading Project: Book Three

Three down, thirty-seven to go…

One-Plus-OneA little background: I spent my junior year of college studying British history at the University of Reading in Reading, England and those ten months changed me.  I feel in love with the county, its people, and their way of life. Their humor, manners, intelligence… it just seems “right” to me. Even a bustling metropolis like London doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet realizes its importance in the world.

Surprisingly, I have never gone back. Not once.  I’ve had the opportunity, but I always allowed something to be more important than my travel. I guess I am afraid that it won’t be like I remember it… some of the passion I feel the country and its people will fade and I will no longer have that port in a storm… a place to long for.

In the meantime, I read British authors… I read them over and over… J.K. Rowling, Charles Dickens, David Nicholls… and now, JoJo Moyes. The playful, yet serious, absurdity that is found in a more modern novelist’s approach to life is very appealing to me.

So, it should be no surprise that my third book of 2015, and the January choice of my book club, is One Plus One by JoJo Moyes. I must admit, having devoured Me Before You last summer, I was hesitant to begin One Plus One.  Would I compare the books?  Was One Plus One at a disadvantage because Me Before You was a book that stays with you long after the paper brittles, the characters and their actions are still crisp and clear in your mind?

Not comparable, but simply enjoyable… the book is hopeful.  Whereas I missed character development thus hindering my ability to understand their choices in we were liars, I really began to feel these characters, to understand them and to love them.  I wanted them to succeed and I enjoyed their journey. Not a thrilling page turner, but one where you turn the page because you care about the characters… they make you laugh, think, and yes, shed a small tear (nothing like Me Before You).

I would definitely suggest it for your 2015 reading list!

Happy Reading, t

 

 

Let Freedom Ring… the text of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

MLKToday we celebrate a man, a man who was the voice and face of non-violent activism in the 1960’s civil rights movement.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech in which he called for an end to racism in the United States, to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington.  These words are now considered the defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Although the conditions in the deep South in the 1960s might be hard for our children to understand, inequality is something that even our youngest family members can understand.  So why not spend some time today, as a family, and read the text of his speech. I guarantee it will spark a discussion about your life, world events, life in Alabama in the 1960s… and this Federal holiday will not have been in vain.

Here is the text of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The Reading Project: Book Two

Mid-month January and my reading project is continuing…. my second read of 2015 is e. lockhart’s we were liars.

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This young adult novel has landed on several “Best Reads of 2014” lists and with the praise of John Green and other authors, I decided to give a whirl.  Being in a mother-daughter book group, I really enjoy YA novels and find they are often in my reading queue.

This book was a quick read, but the subject matter was not easily forgotten.  Without creating a post of spoilers, it is the thinking, post-reading, that has me asking so many questions and feeling that every word the author chose had meaning. From the fairy tales to Gat’s ethnicity to the number three, all will leave the reader thinking and wondering.

However, the one thing missing for me is character development… I felt that many of the characters needed to be explored further to fully understand their actions and their reactions of others.   At times, we were liars seems disingenuous, and I wonder if this is because it is a YA novel or if it is intentional by the author as a statement on the main characters in summer 15.

Again, we were liars has me thinking… about the characters, the author’s writing style, and yes, my own life and decisions I made when I was younger.

Next up… One Plus One by JoJo Moyes!

Damaged Logic and our Children

Red shirtWhile reading an article by Ben Hewitt in Yankee Magazine this morning, I noticed he used the phrase “damaged logic” when referring to putting-up wood for the winter.  He likes to have all his wood cut and stored by the end of May, but if it is done by July 4, he is feels he has “hit our deadline.”  Although I don’t cut and store fire wood, or even aim to heat my home solely by a wood burning stove, I could not get damaged logic out of my head.  It resonated with me.

There is a new trend, “reclassifying,” in Fairfield County, perhaps nationwide, that is occurring and affecting our tween-age/teen male population. So they will have an advantage on the lacrosse field and in other sports and get into better, more competitive colleges or universities than they could academically, parents are having this segment of the population repeat a middle school/early high school year purely for athletic reasons. Reclassifying is nothing more than the age-old red shirting… yet, parents in more tony environments don’t want you to think that their son is anything like that southern football player who is trying to make it in the NFL and enters college older than most Freshman. So with many males in school today starting Kindergarten a year late to be properly ready to succeed academically and physically, and then being “reclassified,” we will soon have a growing male population of 20-year old college Freshman.

Where does damaged logic fit into this?  It seems to me that it is damaged logic for a parent to reclassify their son purely on their athletic ability with the justification that they will get into a better academic college.  Isn’t holding a child back academically just the opposite?  Aren’t you telling them that academically and physically they can’t succeed and need another year? By giving them an advantage on their competition, aren’t you actually thinking they cannot succeed within their own peer group?

I cannot help but think that in the long-run we are harming this segment of the population.  By trying to inflate their egos aren’t we actually, subconsciously telling them, they are good enough to succeed without help. By trying to solve their problems, aren’t we limiting their ability to succeed on their own and make crucial decisions on their own self-worth.  When older, out of school and sports, how will these children react when faced with problems… will they believe they aren’t good enough and not know how to solve them on their own, thus floundering, unhappily through life.  I honestly do not have the answer, but I do believe that this reclassification is setting-up a segment of our male population without some basic tools… self-movitiative, self-belief and self-satisfaction.

We are the first, and best, teachers of our children, and subsequently, they can read us like books.  They need our support, our love and our unconditional understanding.  They need us to believe they are the best, even when everyone else is telling them otherwise. This creates hard work, creative choices and motivation.  They need to actually understand themselves, not who we want them to be.  They need to believe in their choices, especially the hard ones, are the best choices.

This reclassifying academically purely with the hope to succeed later is not teaching them these lessons, but putting them in a harmful spot.  They are older then their academic peers, more likely to try and test things to look cool; and yes, lose even interest in that very thing that is suppose to help them succeed.

Believe me, I am all for parents doing what they need to help their children succeed, and yes, sometimes repeating a year of schooling is just what a child needs to gain confidence to believe in himself. I’ve seen it happen over and over with nothing but positive results.  I also think parents, better than anyone else, know what their children need and should act only in their child’s interest, even if this goes against their school system and popular opinion. But it seems to me that many parents are using damaged logic to try to give their child a “leg-up on the competition,” and in the long run, this could be very harmful.

This conversation is not over, and I am sure many will disagree with my thoughts.  But I do think a national dialogue needs to begin on reclassifying, so results can be measured and reasonable decisions made… and as many will want, my belief that reclassifying is damaged logic proven wrong.