Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Seen in a Foreign Country

The Coolest Thing I  Have Ever Seen in a Foreign Country was not actually in the country, but in the water off the coast of Australia. If you haven't guessed by now, it was the Great Barrier Reef. The colors, in the reef are intense.

I could spend hours just staring our into the water watching the fish and other creatures swim about.  We saw sea turtles, sea anemone, fish, and many other creatures.  It was fascinating and beautiful.

The water was so clear and such a beautiful color that you just wanted to dive right in.  I wish I could find fabric in the clear, bright colors that I saw there, but I do not think man can ever capture the pure colors of the reef. We can come close, but I doubt we could ever duplicate them.

It is like the Alaskan glaciers you can not match those colors in nature no matter how hard you try. Yo u can come close, but only Mother Nature can make those perfect colors.

Mexican Lasagna

I love experimenting and trying new recipes and found one that I as usual twisted around to my liking.  I call it Mexican Lasagna.  Tom likes it and considering that for years he turned up his nose at zucchini that is saying a lot. It is fairly quick and easy to make, though I like to let the zucchini drain for a few hours so that it is not so juicy when cooked.

Ingredients:

2 small to medium or 1 large zucchini shredded.
2 -3 carrots shredded
1 tsp oil (I use olive or coconut oil.)
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 peppers chopped (I prefer red and yellow or orange.)
1 cup crushed taco shells or tortilla chips. (I bake corn tortillas and crush them as they are lower in sodium)
2 - 14 oz cans low sodium diced tomatoes or use crushed tomatoes.
1 TBSP chili powder (I use a mix of chili and ancho chili powder as we like it spicier.)
1 tsp dried oregano or if you have fresh that is better.
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 - 1 tsp Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipolte Seasoning Blend
1 TBSP parsley
black pepper to taste
Cayenne Pepper or Red Pepper to taste if you like it spicier. (We do)
1 can low sodium black beans rinsed and drained. (In a pinch you could substitute red kidney beans.)
2 cups Mexican Shredded Cheddar Cheese.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Shred the zucchini and carrots and let them drain for an hour or two or over night. You can also pat them with paper towels to help dry them so they are not so juicy when cooking.

Saute the onions, garlic, and peppers in the oil or put them in a microwaveable dish and steam them for 1 to 2 minutes until the onions are opaque.  I also sauté the onions without oil as I have waterless cookware and this reduces the added fats.

I blend the tomatoes, spices and onion mix so they are less chunky and more like crushed tomatoes. You can just mix them in a sauce pan and add the spices: cumin, oregano, and chili powder.
Heat to boiling and reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or so.

Lightly grease a 9x7x2 inch casserole dish.

Layer crushed tortillas, tomatoes mixture, black beans, zucchini, cheese, and repeat.  I always top it with the tomato mixture.  You can add more cheese after it bakes it you like lots of cheese. You can also mix the beans in the tomato mixture if you want and just layer them together.

Bake about 30 minutes, and let set for 5 minutes before serving.

We find that this makes four large servings which are perfect for the two of us, as we get dinner and lunch the next day.

You can make smaller servings and add a salad or bread and then it will serve 6 to 8.

Sliced avocados make a nice side dish, also.

For dessert try sliced strawberries with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings.



Friday, December 6, 2013

Cruising the Alaska In-Side Passage One

We decided at the last minute to cruise the In-Side Passage of Alaska.  We booked a cruise to Vancouver from Whittier, Alaska and back.  Having never been to South-East Alaska or on a cruise I had no idea what it would be like, other than to expect rain.  We only had three days with rain the entire trip.

We took a bus transfer from Anchorage to Whittier, where we boarded the Sapphire Princess, our home for the next fourteen days. We had a false start on our trip as they told us to go to the Egan Center, only to discover that it was closed due to remodeling. Luckily our friend did not just drop us off, and was able to drive us over to the Deni`na Center.

Bryce met us in Whittier as he was delivering a load of bags to the ship. He came on the ship to have lunch with us, which is one of perks of his job.  He also gave us a brief tour of the ship including where the ice cream counter is.

We had an inside cabin, which was fine as we were only there for sleeping and showers.  We spend most of our time out roaming the ship, out on the deck, or hiking around the towns we stopped at, and I mean hiking. We sailed out of Whittier and were off on our adventure.
The big building in the background is an old barracks that the army built in WWII and is where most of the residents of Whittier live.
Tom and I blowing bubbles as we cast off to sea. We read that this was a fun thing to do since you can no longer throw confetti from the boat. We had fun.







We sailed into Yakutat Bay on the seventh of July and Glacier Bay on the eighth. It was a drizzly day, but the glaciers were incredible.  I always get goose bumps when I see glaciers, and these were even more awe-inspiring than those I have seen in the past.  They are tidal glaciers and we were able to sail within five miles of them. The view was incredible. We saw them calve several times, and it is an amazing site.
 Calving is when a piece of glacier breaks off and falls into the water forming icebergs.

We also did yoga on the ship, three days each way, when the class the offered. It was great fun and good exercise. The only day we had a problem was the day we hit some rough seas on the way down and the boat was rocking very hard so it made it difficult to maintain our balance.
The third person is Kyle who was the yoga/fitness instructor on the ship. He is from Canada and did a great job.
Our first stop on the cruise was Skagway which is a small town that can be reached by road, ship, or plane. It is the only stop in Alaska on the cruise that can be reached by road, but like many places in Alaska you have to go to Canada to get there from here.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Break versus Winter Break


-->I started making a comment on my quilting blog and I try to keep politics off that page, so decided to post my thoughts here instead. 
"...January, shortly after Christmas Break. And yes I know that the politically correct people refer to it as winter break, but I am old school and it is Christmas Break." 

Next thing you know the politicians are going to say we can only have one day off from school, if that because of the atheist and others who think we are all so terrible. I think we should have a holiday for Hanukkah as well. Every one who believes in God deserves a day to celebrate that belief, without having to take leave.

I mean give me a break; I am not one of those "happy holidays" people. I say "Merry Christmas!" and if I know you are Jewish I say "Happy Hanukkah" out of respect for your beliefs. I do not try to change your mind and make you see things my way. I respect your right to believe something different than I do. I mean after all Jesus was a Jew and I believe that He will come again, just as you believe He has yet to come. When He does come we are both going to be celebrating His arrival and it will not matter if it is His first or second visit. What will be important is that He is here. 

If you are an atheist, go bury your head in the sand. I believe in God and I celebrate Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.  I do not care if you do not believe, you cannot tell me what I can and cannot do or what I can and cannot believe as this is a free country and God is everywhere.

We have God on our money, and in our pledge, and on buildings all over the country and those who think He does not belong there can go find themselves another country or bury their heads in the sand. Our country was founded on Christian principles and religious freedom.  So stop telling me that I cannot have God, the Bible, and things that represent Him anywhere I want. If you don't like it you don't have to look at. 

Oh, but wait He is everywhere, in the mountains, and the valleys, in the forests, and the seas. God created this land and its people, and the animals, and plants, and all that we see before us, so I guess you will just have to cover your eyes 24/7.

I believe that God is everywhere and I talk to Him everyday, does that make me one of those crazy Christians who are preaching my beliefs at everyone all the time, no.  I do not push my beliefs on others and I strongly believe that they should not push theirs on me. 

If everyone would just accept others and stop trying to force everyone to conform to their way I think this whole country and the whole world would be better off.  I mean lets deal with more important things like impeaching the idiot in the White House.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Energy Rating and Upgrading Experience

Doing the energy rating on both houses has been an experience. We had the zero lot line re-evaluated and they told us if we add insulation to the crawlspace and do some more sealing and caulking around the windows we can up our rating to 5 Star on the zero lot line and get reimbursed up to an additional $1,500.00. We thought about changing out the water heater to raise the energy rating, but it will not up the energy rating. At this point in time we decided to leave the old one in.  We did do the additional insulation and qualify to get back up to $7,000.  We spent about $5,000 so should get back everything we put into the house.
Tom unloading insulation.

Insulation, for the attic, stacked up the stairs.
We also worked on our house. We put in two heaters this last winter which was close to $10,000.00. We discussed replacing our water heater and a putting in an on-demand, but they guy who came out to give us an estimate said we should stick with the one we have as it is in great shape and was better for our needs.
The second load of insulation for our house.
We added insulation to both houses in the attic. The zero lot line only needed a few inches, but our house needed almost a half a yard. Quilters out there know that I mean about 18 inches. We had hardly any insulation in our attic and we have already felt a difference. Our neighbor said that the rainy days in the fall were chilly and she has had to turn her heat on, where as we had to open windows at it was in the 70s upstairs.

Now if I could just figure out how to raise the temperature in the downstairs as it is still rather cool down there.  I have decided to invest in a ceramic heater, but my hubby is concerned about the impact it may have on the electrical bill. I would appreciate any feed back you might have on this as well.
Bryce getting his workout for the day.
All set up and ready to go.

We replaced the front door, added attic insulation, insulated the electrical outlets, and added caulking around the windows, as well as adding insulation in the crawl space and putting in a new heater.

The worst things about this whole experience was the aftermath of adding the spray in insulation to the attic. I had to clean every book and knick knack upstairs in the house. It took me a week of dusting, washing, and wiping down to get everything cleaned and back on the shelves. It was a learning experience and if we ever move, we are going to do any adding of insulation and such before we move our furniture and such in to the place. 

We debated adding siding or below ground insulation and decided we should do the below ground insulation.

 We had piles of dirt around the house from where Tom dug out around the foundation. He worked really hard on this a couple hours every day after work and a few weekends.  My job was to take pictures and make sure he was fed. 

We are noticing that the house is warmer, except when we have those well below zero days and nothing is warm.

Tom is also doing a comparison of the heating usage for the last few years and it appears that our usage has gone down some. We will keep checking and see how things go as the winter progresses.

I need to schedule them to come and do the final rating so we can submit papers to get reimbursed for our house.  We are still waiting on the check for Bryce's house to come in and we submitted that in late August.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Carrot Soup

Last night I tried another new recipe experiment.
This one was a carrot soup, and it was very tasty.
http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3159/2766420644_e658cedebb_z.jpg?zz=1
2 lbs of carrots, washed and chopped in 1" pieces
1 medium orange sweet potato, peeled and diced.
1/2 - 1 cup pumpkin chopped
2 onions chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 onions chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 tsp ginger
1-2 tsp cinnamon
2-4 tsp black pepper

Saute onions in 1-2 tsp olive oil.  

Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until carrots are tender.

Puree in a blender and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to let the flavors blend. 

My husband said that the flavor of the pumpkin comes through and adds to the flavor of the soup.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Broccoli Romanesco Soup

Last night I tried a new recipe experiment.  It came out delicious.  It is a keeper.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Romanesco_Broccoli.jpg
2 heads Broccoli Romanesco
1 cup or one medium white sweet potato diced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, diced
2-4 tsp black pepper, depending on taste
1-2 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp thyme
1 cup onions, diced
1-2 tsp olive oil

Saute the onions in olive oil.  

Clean and chop Broccoli Romanesco in to 2" pieces.  

Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil, then simmer 15 to 20 minutes until the Broccoli Romanesco is tender. 

Puree in blender and and simmer on stove for about 5 to 10 more minutes to let the flavors blend. 

Serve with shredded or shaved Parmessan cheese.

I plan to try this using cauliflower next.  It was delicious and tasted great reheated for lunch the next day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Military Attacks Personal Beliefs

I was upset when I read the article Airmen Punished for Objecting to Gay Marriage. I was upset because I do not think anyone should be punished for their beliefs. I do not know how each of you feel about homosexuality and that is not what I am attacking here, what I am attacking is the fact that the military is telling one man that he is not entitled to his personal opinion.

Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk was put in an uncomfortable position and forced to make a choice.  He said, "“I don’t believe someone having an opinion for or against homosexuality is discriminatory,” Monk told Fox News."
I agree with Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk. Personal opinions should not be called into question.

Monk told his superior that she should use it as a learning experience, and instead he was told that he was not on the same page as his supervisor. She wanted him to have the same opinion that she did and because he knew he could not agree with her he chose not to answer and felt it was better that he leave.

Monk said that essentially, "Christians are trading places with homosexuals." He said that Christians are being robbed of their dignity and being forced into the closet. This is wrong. Each person is entitled to their opinion and should not be punished for what they believe.





This is as bad as people who say you are racist for not believing in Obama's politics. Both are wrong and in this case this man is being told what he believes is wrong, and therefore he must change his beliefs in order to serve in the military under this supervisor.  He has 19 years of service, and yet he is now not a good person because of his beliefs. Having a difference of opinion on this topic is now against military policy according to Master Sargent Monk. In my opinion this is a load of crap.

No one can tell you what you can think or believe. That is a personal right.  Unless we are now living in the past under Nazi rule, we are allowed our own opinions, that is what makes the world what it is. We are each unique and we are each entitled to own opinions and beliefs.



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I was very upset when I read on Todd Starnes  July 24 2013 Fox News Commentary, that a military chaplain was ordered to remove the following post:
“Chaplain’s Corner: No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II”
By Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes
Many have heard the familiar phrase, “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”
Where did this come from?
Research I verified in an interview with former World War II prisoner of war Roy Bodine (my friend) indicates the phrase has been credited to Father William Cummings.
As the story goes, Father Cummings was a civilian missionary Catholic priest in the Philippines.
The phrase was coined during the Japanese attack at Corregidor.
During the siege, Cummings had noticed non-Catholics were attending his services.
Some he knew were not Catholic, some were not religious and some were even known atheists.
Life-and-death experiences prompt a reality check.
Even the strongest of beliefs can change, and, I may add, can go both ways – people can be drawn to or away from “faith.”
With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese, Cummings uttered the famous phrase “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”
In one of my many discussions with Roy, he distinctly remembered a period on the “Hell Ships” – these were ships the Japanese used to bring POWs from the Philippines back to Japan.
They were unmarked and thus ‘fair game’ for attacks from the allies from the air and sea.
Of the 3,000-plus POWs listed on the ships, only 180 survived the journey.
“When our own planes were attacking us,” Roy said, “I remember Father Cummings calming us down by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and offering up prayers on our behalf.
For a brief moment I did not hear the yells and screams of dying men as our boat was attacked by our own men.”
He went on to say, “There was a peaceful quiet during the attack that I cannot explain nor have experienced since.”
Later on during the trip to Japan, Cummings, after giving his food to others who needed it more, succumbed to his own need and died of starvation.
Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular.
Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.
The real question is, “Is it important to have faith in ‘faith’ itself or is it more important to ask, ‘What is the object of my faith?’”
Roy never affirmed or expressed whether his faith was rooted in religion or not, but for a moment in time on the “Hell Ships,” he believed in Cummings’ faith.
What is the root or object of your faith?
Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?
Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?
What is ‘faith’ to you?

Supposedly it was an attack on atheists or rather out of respect for those who were offended by it. I do not see anything offensive in this writing, and am personally offended that it was taken down. To me it deals with history and talks about how people react in war, not in anyway offensive, just a reporting of what happened during WWII and asking people to think about themselves and how they would react in a similar situation.

Those who say there were offended by this in my opinion are just out to cause problems and make a fuss for the sake of a fuss.

Personally, I do believe in God and that is my choice. If you choose not to, that is your choice and we can simply agree to disagree. You should not be able to tell me that I cannot express my own views on the subject, and I should not be able to tell you the same. We can debate the issue if you would like, but I still have the right to express my thoughts and opinions, as that is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  This military chaplain was deprived of that right by others and in my opinion they should be punished for this, not him. The Chaplain's rights were violated, not those that complained.  They had the choice to read or not read what he wrote and they are the ones in the wrong. They owe the chaplain,  Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, an apology.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Retirement

I wrote this the summer after I retired, but for some reason never posted it. I just reread it and thought I should post it.

I just retired from teaching after twenty-six years, twenty-five of which were special ed.  Everyone says it will not really hit me until fall when school starts, but I know I do not need to spend part of my summer planning for fall, and I like that idea.

I can say that you know when it is time to retire. My heart was no longer in it. Being out last fall recuperating from my heart surgery was part of what lead to the decision to retire.  I did not miss school while I was out and I did not really want to go back to all the stress and the problem students.  Not all of them were difficult, but one bad apple can certainly ruin a class period.  This spring I got a new student and one kids in the class said to me that he was really ruining the class. He also said class was much nicer when the new kid was not there. Sad to say I had to agree with him.

What really made up my mind was all the paperwork and meetings that special ed teachers have to deal with on top of teaching. You work the same contract as the regular ed teachers, but with longer hours due to meetings before and after school and all the additional paperwork on top of lesson planning and grading. It was a lot of extra work and tons of extra stress.  Stress I did not need.

I am looking forward to relaxing, sleeping in when I want, being able to sew for hours, read, and go out to lunch with friends anytime. I do plan to sub on occasion, but I can decide if and when I want to accept a job. The best part according to a friend who is retired is there is no homework. You get to go in and work with the kids and then go home and relax.

I told my husband I am going to plan a lunch date with another retired teacher I know for the first official day of school, just because I can.  I am thinking that it will be fun, knowing I do not have to go to work that day. I am sure I will miss the kids and that is why I plan to sub some. I loved teaching, but not all the added stress of being a special ed teacher.

Update:

Since I retired two years ago I have enjoyed subbing and spending time working with the kids, without the headaches of meetings, and the endless paper work. I enjoy going to lunch with my friends who are retired or work in professions other than teaching anytime I want.  I also enjoy the extra time I have to quilt, read, journal, and just relax.  It is also nice to be able to travel anytime. I have been to Ireland, and to visit family and watch my son graduate from basic training and AIT. I have a trip planned in the fall to visit family and friends and I like knowing that I have that option.  Subbing is fun and gives me some extra money, but knowing that I have the flexibility to say no and to take time for me makes it all very worthwhile.  If you are considering retiring and can afford to, I highly recommend it.

If you are interested check out my quilting blog all the quilting and sewing projects I have been working on the past two years. I would never have gotten them all done if I was working full time and you can see how many unfinished things I have from back when I was working that I am still trying to get caught up on.

Save the Reef

Save the Reef
Global Warming is harming this beautiful natural phenomenon

Sunset

Sunset

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef
Awe inspiring