Sunday, March 29, 2009

Look what I made!

My latest swashbuckling kitchen adventure involved the ever-fascinating rising yeast and its companions, the sweet but sneaky cane sugar and the strange beast called flour! Pounding the combination into the table and heating it yielded some fantastic results, and this pirate came away with booty to share! Behold - the taming of the baking ingredients!

It's delicious, too. Not whole wheat, as we didn't have whole wheat flour, but for bleached flour it turned out well enough. The crust is deliciously crispy and the inside is soft and light and chewy. I did an egg wash over the tops, as suggested by a friend online, and the tops turned a gorgeous shiny golden brown. One loaf suffered some mild discoloration where it came into contact with a rust spot on my cheap bread pan (sadly, I only have one good glass one) but having spots in no way diminishes its edibility.

So far I've done bread and butter as a late-night snack (I started baking late, and the loaves came out rather close to midnight, but I couldn't resist cutting off the end and crunching happily through it), thick-sliced toast in the morning with jam, and another slice for dinner with turkey and mashed taters 'n onions. I suspect both loaves will be gone by Friday, but that just gives me an excuse to get some real whole wheat flour and do it again! Thanks for the recipe, dad. ^_^

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Help the Homeless

Just found this site and thought it was interesting. Some people see it as abusive or exploitation, but my honest opinion of any site that helps people get off the streets and makes sure they stay that way is a great thing, no matter what you call it. They've raised quite a bit of money so far and have put one man through a full detox and job training, and are on the road to helping two more, with plans to expand the program to multiple cities. Think it's worth it to Pimp This Bum?

In other news, I've been caught in the crossfire between parent and school on one of my cases. The school wants to kick me out entirely, and the mother wants me to stay there and is fighting tooth and nail with the school to keep me there. I'm with the mother - the school says they're overstaffed with me there and that they have complete control over what's going on and don't need me, despite the fact that they're not doing for the child what they say they are (and what they should be) even after 7 months of fighting with them over sensory breaks, PECS interventions and IEP goals.

My supervisor tells me this school is the worst in the district and I believe her; I'd never send my child there after having seen how they work. The worst part is that they're so passive-aggressive about it; they tell me nothing and ask me nothing directly, and then send letters to the insurance rep stating that the child "seems irritable" around me on top of me being a third wheel in the classroom. It's not that it's personal; any TSS would be a thorn in their side... but now that they've opened up this can of worms, I'm going to take great pride in watching this child's mother remove him to another school next year... because I don't mind having to move to a new client if my hours get dropped, but I worry about the child and how much he's being ignored in that classroom. No kid deserves to be the victim of a school system that thinks it's too good for advice from outside.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Procrastination Station - The train will leave.... eventually!

I'm rather frustrated with myself today.

I hate paperwork. This is no surprise, really. I've never liked bureaucratic measures of self-reflection and my progress notes are as bad as they come. As much as I understand the need to keep records of such things as a child's progress within the system, it's painful to be spending 3-6 hours per week of my unpaid at-home time doing so, especially with my habits of procrastination.

Take today, for example. I tried staying up late last night, thinking that numbing myself into brain-deadness with lack of sleep would help, but all it did was make me less able to focus, and I've been having tons of trouble focusing on anything already these last few weeks.

Then I tried getting up really early after very little sleep in an attempt to just force it all to be done before the deadline (which was this morning), but I felt like I was coming down with the flu this morning, slept 2 hours past my alarm, and dragged myself up at 5:30 only to get a text message from my client's mother telling me he's still sick and won't be in school. I tried to shrug that off and finish the paperwork anyway, but having been let off the hook for the entire day, I gave up after two attempts at sitting down and crawled miserably back into bed where I've been all morning.

This afternoon I tried again. I really did. I cleared off my desk yesterday so my paperwork is all on there nice and neat and surrounded by clean desk instead of piles of distractions. My computer is still in need of repairs so I don't have to worry about sitting there and staring at that little Firefox logo on the screen. I put my iPod on random and turned it to the perfect background noise volume to drown out Rick's little snores (because he worked 2pm-7am) and made sure I was warm enough and had food and tea.

And then I sat there, finished calculating my hours on my timesheet, put a header on a progress note and stared at the black LCD on my desk and wondered whether I should go get a cloth with water or alcohol to clean off the fingerprints on it, and decided to come over to the living room to blog about it.

It's not that I have no willpower. I managed to get the dishes done yesterday, did the laundry, cleaned the litterbox, and spent about two hours on and off cleaning my desk and filing the resulting piles of paperwork, as unpleasant as that was (some of it had been there since March of last year, when I had my little upheaval and gave up on everything), but I only wrote out two notes (that's about 7 minutes of work) all day, despite not having anything else to do because my client that afternoon called off too. It's just that when it comes to this damned paperwork, it gets harder and harder to force myself to do it every week to the point that I find myself actively searching for other things to keep me busy just so that I have an excuse for not doing it. It's not hard, per se, and it only takes about 15 minutes per sheet, but I just can't sit down and do even one sheet at a time, even with taking breaks or rewarding myself (rewards are their own problem because all I want is to get away from the paperwork. Food doesn't help, media is too distracting, craft projects are hard to put down halfway through to go back to work).

I know I should just sit myself down and DO IT, but my frustration level is getting really high just thinking about it. I suppose I should at least try, before I end up doing it tomorrow morning at 4am.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

What's Cookin'

We're not exactly rolling in money especially since my student loans came due, but thanks to Uncle Sam we were eating enough, most of the time. My biggest struggle has been finding food that is quick and easy to make, but keeps well because I have 3 days a week where I'm home for 10 minutes in the afternoon after a 6 hour day at school, and want to eat before I run back out the door for another 3-4 hours. Usually this results in Ramen being used as a stopgap meal till I can get home for a proper dinner. Well, today I found out that we've lost our gov't subsidized meals (aw, shucks) and I finally got fed up... and made enough to feed both of us all week!

We had a ~20lb turkey sitting in the fridge thawing all last week, waiting for a roaster pan (and waiting for me, apparently, because Rick isn't a turkey fan and wanted suggestions). We don't have a roaster pan and our largest baking dish is too small for a large turkey. What to do?

What I did was get up enough motivation to play butcher, which was both amusing and educational (ever had to find a turkey's shoulder joint and cut through the ligaments to separate it?). We thankfully have the right kitchen knives for this task, and none of the blood spilled all over the table was mine (for once - remember kids: always cut away from yourself when using a sharp knife!). In the end, the carnage was complete - the turkey's chest cavity was halved and re-stacked with potatoes and carrots and green onion inside and around him in our little baking pan, and he was buttered up and tucked in the oven (it's going on 4.5 hours now - he's almost done and juicy as can be!). Drumsticks (both thighs and shoulders) were ziploc'd and re-frozen for later meals. The wings, the neck, and all the innards were dropped in the crock pot with another potato and carrot, some water, seasonings and about a cup of black bean broth from the beans I'd been simmering all morning in a fruitless attempt to soften them (the few beans that made it into the crock pot with the broth did soften up, so there's hope for the rest!).

When I came back from 2 hours at work, the house smelled like heaven. Now I've got several servings of crock-pot stew to freeze for later, and another couple servings of turkey and veggies to serve over rice or with biscuits and turkey gravy from the pan, or what-have-you, and I'm more pleased than the cat who ate the canary.

I guess there's really something to say for this buying and cooking in bulk thing (although the turkey was a Christmas gift from Rick's company, so it was technically free). I used:

2 old potatoes
2 old carrots
a handful of old green onions (peeled and diced, threw out the wilted tops)
Spices (pepper, salt, paprika, onion powder, oregano on the baked turkey and sage and a bay leaf in the crock pot)
A free christmas turkey

...and I got enough to feed our family of 2 for at least a week's worth of lunches and dinners, with a little more left over (still 1 carrot and 2 potatoes left - thinking of stuff'd baked potatoes later this week).

Rick's been experimenting with bannock, too, which is a terribly heavy flatbread and so quick and cheap to make that we'll eat well even without any money for food... which is good, because while we're making too much money for assistance programs, we're still not sure where our food money is going to come from. But hey - as long as we can make do with homemade bread, rice, black beans, and the leftovers from our turkey, we'll eat for another month, and probably much healthier than the neighbors!