About the writer

Writer, blogger, photographer, breast cancer survivor. I write about whatever strikes my fancy as I meander through life.

chorizo black bean chili



2 – 1 pound packages of chorizo sausage sliced into bite-size pieces
1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 – 14 1/2 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 – 6 ounce can of tomato paste
1 – 1 lb. 13 oz. can of goya black beans (drained)
One large red onion and one small white onion
Six cloves of garlic
One cup of Ricatito cilantro cooking base
Goya adobo or salt and pepper to taste
Three carrots sliced or diced small
Three medium size potatoes sliced or diced small
6 ounces of frozen corn kernels 
One cup roasted red peppers (drained and cut into uniform pieces – not too small or it will disintegrate. If I don’t have time to make fresh roasted peppers I will buy roasted bell pepper strips “deli sliced”)
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon basil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 teaspoons Mexican style chili powder
3 teaspoons dark chili powder (I have to get this via mail order from Whole Spice )
You want a large Dutch oven for this or pasta sauce pot – which in my house are basically one and the same. I use a stainless steel pot for this because black beans can stain enamelware.
Start by browning your sausage in a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil,and then add onion and garlic . 
When onion and garlic is starting to turn translucent add potatoes and carrots.
Add the black beans followed by the crushed tomatoes and Ricatito
Add spices, and tomato paste. Allow to cook for about an hour on a very low flame and then toss in  frozen corn kernels and roasted red pepper strips.
Allowed to cook down on low lid cracked off with a splatter guard over your pot and then the lid on top of splatter guard. 
After a couple of hours of burbling away on low burner, check your chili for spices and salt and pepper or add Goya adobo. I don’t cook with a lot of added salt because so much of our food has sodium content.
Turn off the stove and let this come to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. The next day skim off any fat that may be on the top and bring to room temperature and heat thoroughly. 
You can serve over rice or just eat plain with a little shredded cheese or even plain Greek  yogurt  or sour cream on top.
You can get a few meals out of this and it freezes well.

coming soon

So….a little news: yours truly will be an exhibiting photography artist at Christopher’s in Malvern for June 2015!  

It has been a long time since I have done any kind of a show so I will spend the next few months agonizing over what I am going to frame and mount. 

This past month David Campli has had his photography hanging in the restaurant. It’s marvelous and wow what a tough act to follow! I am in particular enamored of the giant photo he has mounted on the rear brick wall of the restaurant that is of two little old Italian ladies sitting outside. One is dressed to the nines and one is wearing sneakers. I just love it! 

Anyway, I hope when the time comes you’ll go in and have a meal at Christopher’s and take a look at my photography. What I frame and mount for the show will be for sale in the restaurant at that time. 

I’m really excited to do this and can’t wait for June!!!!

Thanks for stopping by!



growing up pumpkin bread



I love pumpkin bread, it is probably my favorite of the quick breads.  I wanted to do something different with it and have worked on a quick  bread recipe that was without nuts and raisins, but not boring. The other day I decided to make it with molasses and not just sugar. I think that made all the difference. I have a very moist quick bread that has some depth to it. Molasses is definitely something fun to experiment with.


New Pumpkin Bread Recipe
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup oil (canola of olive)
2 cups sugar ( can use all white or half white, half brown)
1 cup molasses at room temperature
4 eggs beaten in a small bowl
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon table salt 

Mix together with  mixer the following: pumpkin, oil, molasses, and sugar. Add eggs. Mix really well. Add vanilla mix a little more.

  1. Add remaining ingredients and mix just until all dry ingredients are well incorporated and there are no flour lumps.
  1. Pour into 2 well greased and floured 8 or 9 inch loaf pans. Use butter or oil or Crisco as the grease, not a baking spray.  Baking spray just doesn’t work as well as the traditional grease and flour for baking pans. Dust the batter in the top of the pans with sugar – either turbinado or plain white – it gives you a nice little crust.
  1. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean, and depending upon your oven it may take slightly longer than an hour to cook. I found they cooked perfectly in an hour.

When you remove the loves to cool on a rack let them sit in their pans for about 20 minutes to half an hour, then remove them from the pans and allow to cool completely. These loaves freeze nicely. 

* you can serve this pumpkin bread plain or for breakfast with  a little almond butter or whipped cream cheese or Greek Cream Cheese which has lower fat and calories.

girl power

childhood

If only childhood and girlhood was as simple and idyllic as the photo above depicts.

A friend of mine and I were speaking yesterday of a pint sized terrorist in one of her daughters’ classes at school.  This is a kid, who as an elementary school student decides that when she wants her friends to come over, she (as in the child) is the one who emails and texts the other child’s parents. As in she decides and initiates without going to her parents and saying “mom can Annabelle come over and play?”  And no matter how often the parents are asked to be the ones to connect since it could be considered wildly inappropriate for an adult to make plans with a 10 or 11 year old they aren’t related to…it never happens.

This child is also a bit of a bully.  When she goes to birthday parties of other children, the parties become about her and not the birthday kid of honor. This kid has this drive to be leader of the pack, but not in a positive way.

But this is mild compared to often what other kids experience.  People often immediately think of boys when it comes to younger and middle school age bullying, but the girls are often worse.

A woman in a parenting group posted about the heartbreaking situation her daughter is in.  The girl is either 10 or 11 and finally in a pool of tears broke down to her mother to tell her what was going on in school. This girl is being teased, bullied, ignored, and ostracized all at one time.  She tries to eat with other kids her age and play at recess and they tease her, laugh at her, whisper about her right in front of her.  She is so tormented by some of these kids that for months she has not only been eating all by herself, but she takes recess in the library. Why? Because in the library she can escape into a book to get away from these kids.

The worst part of this is the teacher knows there is a problem and has been aware there is a problem for a very long time.

Someone wisely said to her  “with girls at this age, the Queen Bee mob mentality is really difficult. I hope the situation improves. As a parent, it is heartbreaking.”

I agree. It is.  As parents we want to protect our kids and slay their dragons, but it’s so darn hard when the dragons are part of their peer group, isn’t it?

This mother is going to the school and going to the guidance counselor. I think she should add principal to the mix and if that doesn’t work, the school board.

Bullying in all forms is in my opinion even more pervasive than it was when we were all growing up.  A lot of that has to do with social media and the political correctness police. No one wants to upset the little bullies and their parents. And then there is the age-old dilemma of the parents of the little bullies are often bullies themselves and/or  might write lovely supportive checks to the school and so on.

But where do we draw the line? All schools have some form of anti-bullying policies for cyber issues and real time, but getting them to keep policies updated and to even act on them often takes almost an act of Congress doesn’t it?

This particular child being bullied is outgoing and pleasant by nature. It’s like some mean girls are jealous and want to break her spirit because of it, but when you are that age, it just hurts.  There is no adult capability of looking at the situation and assessing it for what it is.  That is our job.

But the thing about bullying in our schools today, sometimes the only solution is to switch schools. And is that fair to the child? Sometimes the only alternative is to give your child a fresh start and they deserve as much, don’t they?

The reality is a lot of schools do not hold children who bully or their parents accountable for anything. They are afraid to a lot of the time and they also don’t really look at why the kid is bullying.  I have noticed that a lot of the kids who bully might very well just be acting out because of whatever is going on in their homes. Schools talk a good game, they all have a purported “policy” in place, but when push comes to shove not much happens.

If changing schools ends up being a viable alternative I don’t think any of us should discourage a parent from seeking what is best for their child in their home. However, not everyone has that luxury, so why shouldn’t we as parents do whatever we have to do to encourage our schools, to demand our schools do better? After all whether private, parochial, charter, or public we are paying for our kids’ education.

Now people will argue against moving a kid to a different school. They will say without learning appropriate assertiveness skills, these problems are likely to follow from one school to the next. BUT these are kids and well they often have to grow up too quickly as it is, so if we are teaching them the emotional equivalent of defensive driving at a young age, what are we doing to the magic of childhood?

And on a personal level, the mean girls I encountered between grades six and eight generally speaking grew up to be quite miserable adult women. I actually feel sorry for them now,  but as an adult it’s a lot easier ignoring them isn’t it?

Sixth grade was a pivotal year for me. It was the first time I experienced mean girls. It  was the year that the meanest of the mean girls in my class at a private day school decided to take a shine to me and among other things chipped my front tooth (the tooth is still chipped today).

My mother went down on that school like a Valkyrie. I remember that in and of itself gave me some empowerment feeling as a girl – that someone would care enough about me to go to bat for me like that. The school took it all seriously to a point and I was able to get through the rest of the year intact. But I never, ever forgot it.

The summer between sixth and seventh grades my parents moved us from the city to suburbia.  To the Main Line and the purportedly fabulous Lower Merion School District. Seventh through ninth grades were varying degrees of hell for any girl who wasn’t a cookie cutter image of certain cliques of girls. It was the emotional equivalent of the wild, wild west. I for the most part kept my head down and my mouth shut.

I found a core group of friends, many of whom I am still connected to today. I internalized a lot of what I probably should have told my parents in retrospect. But fortunately for me, my parents decided to move my sister and I to private school.

Private school had it’s own squadron of mean girls and bullies. They were just more well spoken and better pedigreed in some cases.  But for the most part they left me alone. And in high school you have a few more coping skills if you are lucky.  I didn’t have enough apparent weaknesses for the high school mean girls to practice their perverse social Darwinism on me. But others were not so fortunate. We had girls with varying eating disorders and other issues, and even an attempted suicide.  And in those days there wasn’t any counseling for heavy issues like attempted suicide, it just was.

Some people I went to high school with were left with such a bad taste in their mouths that as 50 years old  they still don’t attend any reunion activities ever. They refuse. Part of the reason I got involved with high school reunions was to give those who often did not feel included in those days a place to feel included today and recognized for the cool men and  women they became. Bullying can leave a mark for decades and a lot of people do not realize that.

The thing that always amuses me about mean girls and bullies is how they translate into adulthood. I look at a lot of them with pity and sadness because where the rest of us have grown, a lot of them are still adult versions of the tween and teen mean girls/bullies that they were. And their behavior patterns are often just adult versions of what they were when they were growing up.  Some of them have clawed their way into marriages to wealthy men that gave them stature and plenty of expendable income and stuff, but when you see them they don’t look happy; they don’t act happy. I think that is sad. And then there are the ones whose own children are more ill behaved than they were, or even more sadly, become police headlines in local newspapers. That is a particularly cruel form of Karma.

But the nice thing about being a grown up is when you see these mean girl and bully people again as adults you realize how sad they are and you turn and walk away feeling blessed for who you are and for not being like them then, now, or ever. That is a very powerful feeling. When I finally realized how much luckier and better off I was then a lot of them on so many levels, it was very freeing. In retrospect, I wish I had had the emotional maturity to grasp that years earlier than I did.

We are responsible for the future of our children and life is a balancing act.  We want to teach our kids to stand on their own two feet and stick up for themselves but we also want for them to be happy.  For girls teen and tween years can be extraordinarily difficult, boys too. And while we are trying to instill the best ethics and values and standards into our children as much as humanly possible we have to let them grow on their own.

But I am sorry, kids that are mean and destructive need to be held accountable, and their parents as well. No one wants to punish or reprimand a child, it is simply not fun on any level. But we are the adults and we have to teach the difference between right and wrong.

And as to the teaching, that is where our schools come in.  They need to be active partners in this. They need to teach kids bullying is wrong and how to be kind. They can’t just do lip service with half-assed anti-bullying policies.

Here are some great ideas I read from a stay at home mom who also happens to be a therapist:

1) make sure she knows it’s not her fault and it’s common. It can happen to anyone. (There’s a website called “It Gets Better” (I believe) where celebrities & regular successful adults talk about being bullied in the past. ) I also think it’s important she knows that it will come to an end and that she has many great experiences to look forward to. (My parents used to say – “These are the best years of your life” about high school – well intentioned but not helpful, also not true in my case.

2) tell the guidance counselor (or someone at the school she trusts and that you trust to keep an eye on it). If she’s seemed fine to you, it’s likely none of the adults at school can even see it.

3) try to help her find somewhere she can go at lunch. (Perhaps with a teacher or volunteering to help a teacher or something (and I would add that both you and she should be proud that she was resourceful enough to think of going to the library).

4) see if she wants to talk to a therapist. Therapy can be really helpful. A lot of smart, sensitive, introspective kids are afraid to talk to their parents about these issues because they don’t want their parents to be sad.

5) Maybe have her start a new activity separate from school (a clean slate if you will) where she can meet some new people and get some evidence that she is, in fact, likeable worthy of friendship.

 

If we as parents take consistent stands against bullying behavior in as positive a way as possible I think we can make a difference. Also, when you are dealing with bullying and mean girls don’t assume that the parents of these kids will be your ally here or even behave in an adult manner.  Often they are part of the problem.

Please pay it forward and encourage anti-bullying campaigns and programs and policies no matter where your kids are in school. Check out Signe Whitson and others.

Thanks for stopping by.