Monday, December 8, 2014

Two Mothers

I haven't written a blog post in two years.  But for some reason, I felt the need to write about something that happened today.  I don't ever want to forget it.

When I was leaving Target today, I saw a woman sitting in the middle of the parking lot in a wheelchair.  I stopped to ask if she was OK.  She pulled out a folder, and with shaking hands, showed me a stack of about 20 pieces of paper.  Each paper had information about various homeless shelters - how much they cost per night, how many nights one could stay, how many nights a person must wait before he/she is allowed back again.  She was beside herself because she had run out of options.  She asked me if I knew of any shelters other than the ones in her folder.  Sadly, I did not.  I told her about a nearby motel I know of that provides rooms for homeless people at a low rate.  She finished my sentence for me - she knew exactly which motel it was - and said she needed $59 for one night and $80 for two.  I had no cash on me, so I offered to call the motel and put the room on my card; the motel won't accept a third-party payment over the phone.

I asked her if we could go back into Target to have some coffee together.  We got inside and found the Starbucks was closed, so I took her over to the cafe and told her to order whatever she wanted.  She ordered a soft pretzel and a drink, but their soda fountain was out of order.  So then we went over to a checkout line, where she picked out a Gatorade and some beef jerky.  I paid for it with my debit card and requested cash back and gave her money for the motel.  She began to cry and asked if she could hug me.  I leaned down to hug her, and she hugged me hard and for a long time.  She cried as she told me of a man who passed her in the parking lot and called her white trash.  She told me how embarassed she was to have to accept the money and said that she never thought she would be a person who had to ask for money because she had nowhere to sleep.  I told her that there are many of us that could easily end up in the same situation if one thing in our life went wrong - a lost job, a medical condition, a bad accident.  She promised me she would pay it forward when she could.  She kept telling me she wanted me to know she meant it.  I told her I knew she would pay it forward in whatever way she could.  

We headed over to the tables, and we sat and talked for about 30 minutes.  She ate her pretzel.  I helped her open her drink, as her shaking hands made it impossible.  She told me she had a college degree in accounting but had to stop working due to her MS, which was diagnosed 16 years ago when she was pregnant with her son.  "How can I hold down a job when I don't know from day to day what my body will do?" she asked.  She has gone through periods of blindness, the inability to feed herself, and has been unable to walk for awhile.  We talked about raising kids.  Her son is 15 and in the 11th grade.  "I must have done something right if he's a grade ahead and doing well!"  She told me that social studies is his favorite subject, smiled and said, "He must get that from his father!"  We talked about the education system, jobs we've held, classes we enjoyed in college.  She told me about her dream of having an apartment and a job that gave her life meaning  When it was time for me to leave to get the kids, I said, "I'm going to ask you a weird question.  You said earlier you need help using the bathroom.  Do you need to go now?  I can help you transfer."  She said, "That's not a weird question at all.  You are so kind to ask.  I'm fine now."  We hugged again, and she thanked me and promised me again she would pay it forward when she could.  I helped her get her things together and get her gloves on; her shaking hands made these menial tasks difficult.  We shared one final hug and wished each other a Merry Christmas.

I don't think I will forget her any time soon.  I hope I never forget her.  Sometimes I need a reminder of all of the things I have to be grateful for.  I need a reminder of how important it is to raise children who have empathy and a sense of humanity.  I need a reminder that my job as a professor is so much more than teaching psychology.  Every day is an opportunity to help my students debunk the myths about marginalized groups that maintain racism, classism, sexism, and ableism.  Each interaction with my students is a chance to give them the skills and ignite the passion necessary to work for social justice.

Lately, I have been struggling with what I believe regarding religion and spirituality.  I do know that there is something bigger than me out there.  I believe that that bigger thing creates "synchronicity" - the things that seem like they might be coincidences, but there has to be something bigger and intangible to explain them.  Meeting this woman today was a bit of synchronicity.  We were meant to cross paths because there was meaning for me to make today from our interaction.  I hope there was meaning for her as well.  I think there was.    


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1 box frozen boxed spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella
  • 8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 4 gloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Squeeze all excess liquid from spinach, place in food processor with sour cream, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, cream cheese, garlic, pepper and hot sauce.
  3. Process until blended but still slightly lumpy. Add artichokes and pulse to form a chunky mixture.
  4. Place in 1-quart baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella.
  5. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Crab Dip

A co-worker was looking for a crab dip recipe and emailed me, suspecting I'd have a good one.  In fact, I do.  Several years ago at my husband's prior job, the company's diversity team put together a cookbook; it was filled with recipes contributed by employees.  This crab dip is one of the recipes I have made from the cookbook.  It's a hit every time I make it.

You'll notice that there are no exact measurements for some of the ingredients.  I just do it to taste, which I'm sure differs each time I make it.  Nonetheless, it always comes out great!

2 1/2 - 8 ounce bars of cream cheese, softened
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 T. horseradish
6 ounces pepper jack cheese (shredded)
2 ounces cheddar cheese (shredded)
Old Bay
Emeril's Essence
1 1/2 pounds lump crab meat

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix cream cheese and heavy cream with a mixer until a smooth consistency.  Fold in horseradish.  Add Old Bay and Essence to taste.  Add 4 ounces of pepper jack and all of cheddar.  Fold in crab meat.  Spread mixture in a buttered baking dish.  Bake until bubbline.  When ready to serve, add remaining pepper jack cheese on top.  (I like to add the cheese at the end so it melts.) 

Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or crusty bread. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Homemade Artisan Bread

No-knead artisan breads seem to be all the rage these days. I've come across a number of different recipes for no-knead bread in the past couple of months. I was using one recipe, but I found that the crust was always a little too crispy for my taste, even with under-baking a bit. One of my professors, Dr. Ed Taylor, bakes most of his own bread. He has brought warm bread into class several times, and it is delicious! I got the recipe from him last weekend and made it tonight to go along with some slow-cooker lasagna. This recipe makes four loaves, and you can store the extra dough for up to two weeks in the fridge. So with just a little bit of prep time, you can have everything you need for four loaves of fantastic bread - soft on the inside with a crispy-chewy crust. I'm excited to try some variations - maybe some fresh herbs or cinnamon and raisins. We had it with butter tonight, but I would also like to try it with some herb-infused olive oil. I think it would also work great for French toast or panini.

6.5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
3 cups warm water

In a large bowl, mix the ingredients together until well combined and form the dough into a big ball. (I mixed first with a wooden spoon and then my hands.) Let rise two hours, covered with a towel. Be sure it's not in a cold or drafty place. After two hours, split the dough into four even balls (use flour on your hands and/or the dough to make it easier to handle). Wrap three of the balls in plastic wrap and store in a zip-lock in the fridge for up to two weeks. (When baking bread from the dough in the fridge, let the dough come to room temperature for about 40 minutes before baking.)

Place a pizza stone on a rack positioned in the middle of the oven. On the top rack, place a pan of water for a water bath; this will create steam, which will help the bread brown and stay moist. (I used a 9-inch cake pan.) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

With floured hands, take the fourth dough ball and shape into a loaf. I placed mine on a well-floured pizza peel. When the oven is preheated, carefully move the dough from the peel onto the heated stone. Bake for 30 minutes at 450. Remove from the oven. Let bread sit for 5-10 minutes after baking before cutting.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Threefer

Apples and pumpkins. These are my two favorite fall ingredients.

In my doctoral program cohort, we take turns providing a snack for class each week. A couple weeks ago it was my turn, so I made some Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I found some fall-colored sprinkles at Target, so I used those to add some color and flair.

I had come across a recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. I love regular snickerdoodles and figured you couldn't go wrong by adding a fall twist to them. They were delicious! My husband loved them and was not happy about my wanting to share them with the neighbors; he wanted to keep them all for himself. (Sorry, no pictures of these.)

Lastly, I had some leftover pumpkin from the snickerdoodles, so I used it for some Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping - perfect for a cool Sunday morning breakfast. These have a healthy element to them in that they use some whole wheat flour and oatmeal, but the six tablespoons of butter probably offsets that, right? They made the house smell wonderful! I thought they were yummy warm out of the oven. They weren't too sweet, and you could definitely taste the pumpkin spices. Kate loved helping with the baking. As I measure each ingredient, she yells, "I want to dump it in!"

I have to get some writing done for school this morning, and then we may head to the orchard this afternoon to get some local apples and pumpkins. More fall baking to be done!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Crazy Cat Lady

Early Saturday afternoon we arrived home from being in Delaware for my sister's wedding. My neighbor approached me to say that she'd seen a black and white cat wandering around who seemed to be lost and wanted to be sure that one of our cats hadn't gotten out. Just then, the lost cat appeared. He's a sweet little guy - meowed and rubbed against my legs and followed me up to my front porch. He would've invited himself in if I had let him. He seemed well cared for and had a collar, so I doubt he's a stray. Our neighborhood has a blog, so I emailed the moderator some information about the cat along with a picture with hopes that we could find the owner.

I have received several emails from people in the neighborhood, none of whom are the owner. One woman in particular, Joy, has emailed me multiple times. She gives new meaning to the notion of the crazy cat lady. I don't know if Joy has cats, but because she is so (overly) involved with this cat, I think she's nuts.

Her first email's subject line reads: "Pray found this dear cat's home." Her message reads: "Did u? Can you take him in?" I replied that I can't take him in, as we already have two cats and a dog. The she emailed me to ask me to take him to the vet and pay his vet bills. I didn't reply. Then she emailed me again to tell me exactly which vet she wants me to take him to and that I should pay the bill. (She reminds me that it's tax deductible. Doubtful.) Again, I didn't reply. She emails me again to tell me she can pay its vet bills and gives me her phone number; she asks me for my phone number. Again, I don't reply.

She then writes to ask me to pray for the cat: "Pleeeeeaaase pray that he's OK. Please, please, please pray." Umm, OK...I hope that everything works out for the cat, but I haven't (nor do I intend to) have a prayer vigil for this cat and/or his owner.

Then she writes again to tell me that I should find the cat, get him in a carrier, and she'll go with me to take him to the vet. Ummm, again, NO. I'd be more likely to find this crazy lady, put her in a carrier, and take her somewhere for care (like a mental hospital).

To sum up: seven emails from the crazy cat lady who wants me to take in a stray cat, or at the very least catch him in a carrier and then call her so we can take him to the vet of her choosing, where I will pay the bill, together. And during all of this cat-catching and vet-transporting, I should also be praying for the cat.

I'm totally an animal lover, but isn't this a bit extreme?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Working for the Money

My cupcakes' reputation has gotten around, and I just finished my first paid baking job! Our daycare provider's niece is having a baby shower this weekend and asked me to make two dozen cupcakes for the kids who will be attending. She's having a baby girl, so I got to use pink sprinkles and pink frosting. I made red velvet with cream cheese frosting and vanilla bean with vanilla bean buttercream. (Both of the recipes are from My Baking Addiction.) I had a couple extra of the vanilla bean cupcakes, so I dropped them off to several of my neighbors. While I was taking the dog out, my neighbor brought a cupcake to her son who was playing basketball in the backyard. I heard him say, "Wow - this is amazing!" YES!