The Vacation is Over

That face says it all. The week off of work is winding down and I’m trying to gear myself up to go back to work tomorrow. The week was rainy and cool (we turned the heat back on one day) but it was perfect studying weather. I spent most of the week reviewing for the History and Social Sciences Teacher Certification Exam. Short version of the long story – I needed points in History to renew the Social Sciences portion of my license this year so I scheduled the test at the end if Spring Break. I had two and a half hours to take the test; I finished in 45 minutes (including the ‘how to take a test on the computer’ tutorial) and … passed! They don’t give you a score, just a pass or fail, but out of 120 questions there were eight I wasn’t totally and completely sure about. Even after reading them over two and three times because they seemed pretty easy. The practice test I did Monday was harder.

20140330-173758.jpg Gracie tried to help me study on Thursday when I was panicking because I couldn’t keep any of the Greek philosophers straight. I still can’t tell you what Euripides did, but I do know where to look to find the answer (and it is not online).

20140330-173952.jpg I also made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies this week. I decided on an oatmeal version so I could delude myself into thinking they were somewhat healthy. They do have whole oats in them and those are good for you. But the two sticks of butter give lie to that rationalization. On the up side, they were so good Bob and I managed to eat the entire batch this week.

20140330-174210.jpg We ended the week (and celebrated my passing the test) with a Wine Walk Friday night. This is one of Ringling’s fund raisers for the museum so we got tickets a month or so ago. I loved this event, way more than Forks & Corks which is held in the courtyard of the museum. The Wine Walk set up stations on the grounds of the Ca D’Zan (the mansion of a John and Mabel Ringling, now part of the museum) so the crowds were spread out. We got a glass for tasting wine, a plate for food and a small guide to help us know what we were tasting.



It’s Spring (and Spring Break)

It’s spring and while I say it every year, it is definitely true – teachers and staff look forward to the break from school more than the kids do.  I, amazingly, finished almost all of the IEPs and meetings, completed my reevaluations and managed to get caught up on most everything. Just in time for testing season to begin.  I think I’m testing between 24 and 28 days over six weeks.  Sigh.

We decided to stay home this week in part because we couldn’t agree where to go, or where we wanted to go was cold, and because Bob just doesn’t have the time off.  So I’m hanging around the house and prepping for my certification exam on Friday.

Yes, I have to take a test.  Despite my 200 hours of inservice points and everything else I have to renew my certification, I have to take a content area test. I won’t go into details but I am not happy about this as it was the fault of the district and some incorrect information (or they just changed their minds again).  I am not happy about having to do this, but it should be fine – I got a 90-something on the practice test. I am brushing up on Geography and Ancient History.  Not my favorite subjects.

But as I study this week I have some very cute furry creatures to keep me company. 20140325-155255.jpg

The kitties have been hanging around the house lately.  Even Gracie has not ventured too far.  We think it is because of the neighborhood cats that have been hanging around.  Whatever it is I am very happy to not be woken up at 2 am when she decides to come home.  Now she just wakes me up at 3 for cuddles.




Jessie looks pretty good for an 11 year old dog. She still loves her walks and she adores laying in the sun.  The last few days have been too rainy for her to go outside but she will go as often as she can. As you can probably tell from the plant, that was taken a few weeks ago – the bougainvillea has way more flowers on it now!  It likes the backyard and the pot apparently.



I love this plant.  I loved it the first time I saw it at the nursery.  The leaves, the flowers, the color.  I had almost given up on it when we moved it to the back.  It makes me so happy to see it blooming so fully.

Bob and I did start my vacation right – we did a cheese class at  our favorite cheese shop. Yes, we talk about this place a lot, and we are slightly obsessed with good cheese (although in all fairness I’m obsessed with good food, not just good cheese). But cheese is a simple food and the variety is amazing and it just tastes so good (and pairs really well with some wine) that its hard not to love.  Well, for me at least.


This cheese class focused on American Cheeses. Not American Cheese or, as much as it pains me to admit that I like it on occasion, cheese product, but real Artisan Cheeses produced right here in the USA.  As much as I get into local food movements and knowing where your food comes from, I was surprised at the range of American cheeses.  Pleasantly so. We went through ten cheeses from very soft fresh cheese to the I won’t eat it but Bob loves it blue. We found lots to love, but narrowed our take home choices to three.

First is the Oma.



This cheese is from Vermont and the Von Trapp (yes, those Von Trapps apparently) Farmstead.  This is the cheese Val gushed over at Christmas and it is still that good.  I was surprised when the lady sitting next to me took only one bite of this one – it is really just about a perfect cheese. Mild in flavor, great texture, but with enough character to let you know you are eating real food.  I almost asked if I could have the rest of hers, but I thought that might be a little rude.


This little gem is a Wisconsin  sheep’s cheese called Dante.  Yes, that is a sheep cheese.  Doesn’t look like it, but it is probably one of the best sheep cheeses I’ve had in a long time.  It has a crumbly texture and deep, deep flavor.  The rind looks like wood grain which is pretty darn cool in my book. Bob and I both liked this one so we picked up a chunk that we can eat throughout the week



And last, but not least was this one. This is a Utah cheese (who knew) that is rubbed in espresso and lavender. Barely Buzzed is its name and it is really hard to describe. Obviously if you eat the rind area you get coffee – lots and lots of coffee, but as you eat into the cheese you get more lavender and more put cheese taste.  Again, I can’t really compare it with anything else, it is unique.


I did make the chicken pie the other week, but forgot to take pictures.  It wasn’t too pretty either. I’ve been doing some cooking, but nothing terribly exciting.  Bob is putting up with my vegetarian experiments or tried and true veggie dishes and I occasionally reward him with BBQ chicken or sausages.  I’m pretty sure the food portion of this blog is going to be in a  sorry state for the next few weeks, but hopefully I can get one interesting dish in before the end of the school year.  I also hope to have a few minor adventures to share – we are doing the Wine Walk at the Ca’dzn mansion this week, so if I can get a few pictures I’ll make sure to post them. All in all life is pretty much the same here, and that is pretty darn good.

Hope everyone is making through the (hopefully) last snow storm of the season.

March Cheese Box

It’s not that I’ve forgotten to post the last week or two. Really, I do remember that I should when I’m falling asleep on the couch, waking up to a cat wanting attention at 3am or in the middle of a meeting at work, but none of those are good times to sit down and write.

I did make the chicken pie last week, and it turned out pretty good. For using what I had in the fridge, it was darn good. Do I remember what I did? No. Can I recreate it later? Probably not. But that’s ok because it will give me an excuse to try again soon.

What we did do this weekend was our cheese box. Now regular readers will note we have more than three cheeses in this month’s selection and that is because we had company and I decided to pick up two more for the cheese dinner. John came down from Orlando and Leta came from work for thus month’s cheese box. We sat outside, ate good cheese, drank pretty good wine and just relaxed. Relaxing is underrated.

We started out with two soft cheeses – Green Hill from Sweet a Grass Dairy and Magnolia from … I’m not sure anymore. Both were soft, bloomy cheeses that had great taste and texture. The Magnolia was salty, almost too salty, but paired with a jam or honey it was beautiful. We had two Italian cheeses – a Pecorino Romano and a Toma that were great examples of their kind, but more cooking cheeses, although I did eat the rest of the Toma for lunch this week. The star of the show this month, however, was the cloth bound cheddar from Jasper Hill and Cabot. Cabot is a huge cheese producer and Jasper Hill is a tiny cheese producer. Combine these two and you get a cheese that is distinctive, tasty, easy to eat and will surprise you at every bite with how good it is.

20140320-214848.jpg Obviously I am a huge cheese fan, but really I am a good food fan more. I like things that are interesting and different and even if I won’t go back for seconds, I can appreciate that it is good food. I’ve done this with entire dinners – love the experience if not every bite of food. I think this is why I love the Magnolia so much, it was different. Smooth and creamy but salty and tangy. It wasn’t what I expected so I enjoyed it more.

Spring break is next week and I am so grateful to have a week off it isn’t funny. Once I head back to school it will be all testing until the end of May. I think I have the schedule worked out, but am waiting on final approval. Pretty much, I won’t see or speak to … Well, anyone, until the end of May. I might go stir crazy, but at least I won’t be near phones or email for a while.

Hope everyone had a wonderful first day of Spring. I’ll refrain from including Dad’s spring poem. It’s better for everyone that way. Happy Spring!


I started out last week determined to cook a few more experiments. I wanted to focus on vegetarian options since our box generally contains meat. I started out well with a farro risotto with sweet potatoes.

I went with roasted onion and sweet potato and cooked the farro risotto style, coating the grains initially, deglazing with wine and slowly adding broth.

20140308-124424.jpg It seemed to be going well, so I added some shelled edamame I had on hand (well. I had the edamame but had to shell them myself – it was kind of fun).

20140308-124538.jpg I kept cooking until all the liquid had been added, the mixed in the roasted veggies and some finely grated cheese. I *think* I used the Swiss from the last cheese box, but I can’t exactly be sure. All in all this was pretty good. I do think next time I need to cook the farro in the regular style in broth and just mix everything together at the end. Bob liked thus dish and didn’t seem to mind the lack of meat.

Then Monday came and all my plans and good intentions went out the window. Monday started a icky week where I got sick and work got insane. I was sure it was a full moon on Tuesday, but nope. Just regular old insanity. This being the case, I went easy for dinner. I picked up a chicken at the store (yes, pre-cooked) and used it as my base for Butter Chicken. I love the food at the Indian place near us, but most of the time I look at recipes and want to weep. Tons of spices that I just don’t keep on hand, and I few I’m not sure where to find. I managed to find a recipe that wasn’t too hard and managed to have things I had in the house. So … I managed to put together a dinner (with a few changes, obviously) that was pretty good and not too difficult.


For Tuesday, when I really started to catch whatever was going around, I wanted simple, fast and mild. Not tasteless, but something that wouldn’t kill my stomach. So I took a quarter cup of honey, a quarter cup of soy sauce, a few tablespoons of sherry vinegar. two cloves of garlic and some ginger and mixed it up. I sautéed onions, carrots and red peppers together in peanut oil and shredded some more of the chicken. I boiled up some soba noodles (big fan of those) I added the chicken and noodles to the veggies, poured the sauce over it all mixed and cooked for another minute.

I loved this dish for two reasons – it was fast and super simple and it was really tasty. I too the red peppers and gave Bob most of the chicken

20140308-130002.jpg and both of us were happy. Bob told me to put this one in the rotation, which does say a lot.

I’m back to feeling normal and counting down to spring break where I can, hopefully, get some things around the house done.

Almost 40

I’ve never worried about getting older. I never feared the number and had no issues turning 30 or 31 or 35. Heck, when I started teaching and parents would ask me how old I was I would reply with, “would you believe I’m 30?” With a lot of time to reflect, yes, I was young and yes, I looked very young, but I was competent (not a great teacher, no one is their first year) and very willing to learn and adjust.

But this year, I’m almost 40. I was going to just start saying 40 because, really, if you say 39 everyone assumes you are 40. But I find myself not exactly able to say 40. Oh, I can at work for some strange reason, but in private, I’m hesitant to say 40. Maybe because 40 is twenty years into a career; maybe because 40 really is past having children (no, I’ve never wanted to be a mother, I still don’t, but 40 is the big risk increase so it is pretty much a non option even if I did want it) or 40 just seems very adult. It’s like recognizing that the 1990s were two decades ago, not one. Who knows, but I’m not sure I’m totally ready to say I’m 40.

Thankfully Bob recognizes that I am still 6 years old inside and has no problem letting me celebrate my birthday at Disney. We intended to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom then do dinner, spend the night and explore Animal Kingdom the next day. Best laid plans …. I managed to pull a muscle in my back at work Thursday, so wandering a park and going on rides was just not happening. But, we went up, checked into our hotel and had a fabulous dinner and saw the fireworks display.

Say what you want about Disney – they are a giant corporation that brands everything, gets lots of information about its customers and uses that information to make money. But I don’t care. Disney, for all it’s faults, does things right. They make the experience of being there wonderful and easy. The new Magic Bands? They are amazing. Room key, credit card, park admission and fast pass all in one wristband. Add a clock function and they would be perfect. The hotel? Even the less expensive ones? Detailed, comfortable and well thought out.


20140302-082812.jpg We stayed at Port Orleans this time (because Bob wanted the Magic Bands) and it was lovely. It felt secluded even though it’s in the middle of Disney. It’s well thought out, comfortable and very inviting.

Dinner. I’m sure I’ve mentioned one of my favorite places at Disney is the California Grill atop the Contemporary hotel. It overlooks the park and you can see the castle from most tables. John joined us for dinner and it was wonderful as always. We started off with sushi. Yes, I did sushi. But it was a pork belly sushi.

20140302-083554.jpg The pork was seared to perfection and the sauce was pretty amazing. Bob and John went with the goat cheese ravioli next

20140302-083803.jpg while I went with the apple and kale salad.

We also picked this incredible wine.

20140302-083900.jpg Ok, Bob picked it. California Zinfendel, organic and grown with no irrigation. Dangerous in California, but the taste was amazing. Long complex flavors and the palate changed as you tasted it. We liked this one so much I’m thinking about ordering a few bottles even though they are more than I tend to spend on wine. Keep a few for special occasions.
For main courses, I went with sweet potato gnocchi

20140302-084130.jpg while a Bob did the bison

20140302-084152.jpg and John had the seafood stew.

As we finished dinner

20140302-084242.jpg it was just about fireworks time, so we went to the observation deck to watch the show. Not only did we have a clear view of the castle and the show (my cell phone just could not capture it well) they had the music and character commentary piped in so you could hear it as well as see if.

20140302-084447.jpg Like I said, Disney does it right.

I start my last year of my 30s well. Great dinner, wonderful atmosphere and excellent company. I think Miss Erin needs to join us next year so we can take the leap back to 23 together. Maybe get Anne, Val and Emmie there too … Although that might be a touch dangerous. Anyway, I hope everyone survived the February snow storms and your weather warms soon. Your reward will be all the amazing flowers I can’t grow in a Florida – crocuses, tulips, lilies, etc.