Comment Time!

January 28

DSC_8026(just because it’s a pretty picture)

It’s been a while since I wrote comments, those narrative reports each student receives as a part of a report card in schools where such things are possible. I’m not talking about a “here’s-the-number-now-find-the-corresponding-adjective” comment, but a real life, 3-4 sentence description on how the student actually performed.

For those who write comments, it’s a big deal. They have to be in on a deadline, of course, but there is real agony over the right way to phrase things. Diplomacy is the name of the game. Who knows how long that family might keep your words? “Little Johnny is a complete screw up who can’t keep his hands to himself” might turn into “In the upcoming marking period, we’ll work with John to help him turn his energy into productive endeavors.” Or “Johnny’s social nature sometimes makes it difficult for him and others to concentrate on the task at hand.” When you are writing about 60 kids, individualizing them on paper can be tough when you’re trying to sit down and write them all at once. Writing the comments over time, a useful strategy in theory, generally doesn’t happen because of a couple of things. 1) You have to finish grading the actual papers and tests and projects before you can do the grades, which will impact what the comment says and 2) You are often “given” a day in which to write said comments, meaning no students and (theoretically) no other responsibilities.

This time, yesterday, when I sat down to write comments for my five students, I was able to relax and really enjoy the process. Yes, I have five kids. Yes, I teach cooking. Which means no homework. No tests or papers or “assessments” that need assessing before I could write the words. Yes, I am fortunate.

What I realized as I wrote, though, was how cool these kids are. I could relive special moments for each of them, be specifically anecdotal about my experiences with them in the kitchen. I could hear their voices, their laughter, as I sat at my computer typing out the words. What a great experience.

IMG_7577And last night I received a gift from a friend, though she may not know it as such. Maddie, our 13 year old, is applying to a special program at the local high school for next year, and she has to ask for letters of recommendation. She chose to ask Wendy for a rec. Wendy not only said yes, but delivered a beautiful piece in a short amount of time – and even sent me a copy. In it I can see Maddie through her eyes, with specific anecdotes shared. It’s as if Wendy wrote a (long) comment for Maddie’s report card on life. And it’s a keeper.

Between my comment writing and Wendy’s recommendation, there was a lot of time involved. Time to focus on each kid individually, in words that they will read. It made me very aware of the power of all of it. The time, the focus, the words. And especially the kid.

Pretty badass.

Like what you read? Leave me a comment here! Connect with me on Facebook, or subscribe to me on YouTube. Let’s focus on the power of connection and influence the world!

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The luck fairy doesn’t really exist

January 26

It’s a cold rainy Monday morning, where the weather forecasts of possible snow turned last night into an emotion-fest more akin to Christmas eve than a normal Sunday night. I’m almost as bad as the kids, checking my phone every few minutes and hoping it will ring to tell us about a delay or a closing. I don’t think it will happen, though; it’s 6:05 and so far the only sound is the sound of rain hitting the window.

But I digress.

“You’re so lucky,” someone will say. They’re not talking about where I was born, or the color of my skin. both of which open more doors for me than many people around the world even know exist. No, they’re talking about an opportunity that’s come my way, or a comment made about our 2 extended sailing trips.

I’m a little tired of the word “luck”. Luck ought to be reserved for those things we have no control over (and they do exist, make no mistake about it), not the things we work for.

Someone getting a sweet promotion or even a decent job in the first place? That’s hard work at play there, from work in school or work maintaining relationships or work in the workplace. Getting into a top notch college? Sacrifice for sure, of sleep or social life or family time.

The way we use the word “luck” is more in response to driven focus and an opportunity found and seized, not about some behind-the-scenes fairy waving a magic wand.

I’m working consciously on responding with “Wow! Nice work!” when I hear of someone’s opportunity. I’m also working hard on creating what someone else might see as “luck.”

Now if only that phone would ring. Because a snow day is nothing more than luck.

Want to find ways to focus and create your own “luck”? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment here, or connect with me on Facebook or YouTube. Let’s work together to reach the skies!

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Success

January 23

One of my businesses is an MLM.

GASP. I admitted it, out loud. An MLM! Ack! One of those pyramid scheme things, where you talk to people and share what’s worked for you and invite them to join you! A networking marketing company! Which is terrible, because, you know, talking to people and getting their recommendations is so NOT the way to do any kind of business!

I hope you can hear my utter sarcasm.

But really, the point of this post is not MLMs. It’s about a statement I hear over and over when people are talking about these opportunities, people who are passionately supportive of this way of doing business. And that statement is something along the lines of “you’ll be successful if you just keep showing up. Decide you’re going to be here in a year, in 5 years, and you’ll see others dropping off the bandwagon.” And yes, of course that’s true, though it’s not just a matter of showing up – that would be like saying “Hey, put your workout clothes on every single day and you’ll get fitter!” There’s a fair amount of work involved in the endeavor, which is why it’s called a business . . .

But here’s the thing. That advice, to show up and do the work consistently? That’s great advice for success in whatever you’re doing. If you are in school and decide to show up and do the work? You’ll do better than the person who doesn’t. If you are a parent, and decide to show up and do the work? You’ll do a better job and get more out of it than the person who throws his/her hands up in despair and goes to sulk in a corner.

It’s kind of like the Murphy’s Law of finding objects – they’re always in the last place you look. Well, duh – once you find them, you stop looking. Of course they were in the last place you looked.

Except I’ll call it the Badass Rule of Success. 1) Show up and do the work. Decide you’ll still be there, showing up and doing the work, 1,2,5 years out.

Works for MLMs. Works for writing, or teaching, or finishing a project. Go get ‘em.

I’d love to hear about your successes. Leave me a comment here. Find me on Facebook or follow me on YouTube. Let’s unleash more badasses into the world!

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Nachos!

Thursday, January 22!

IMG_9327

The biggest food Sunday of the year in the US is coming up in about 10 days, and though I’m not usually a proponent of eating this way, it’s fun every now and then to just eat crunchy chips oozing with cheese. So this week’s Tasty Thursday is NACHOS!!!

The thing is, this food thing for me is a lifestyle. It’s not a diet, filled with “ooh don’t eat that” or “eat every bite of kale in the world every day.” It’s not a limited-time engagement, where I deprive myself of favorite foods for a while then go gorge on them. It’s a way of LIVING, and for me, sometimes, that living includes this kind of “indulgence.”

Will I eat the whole pan? No. Will I enjoy every bite? Yes.

Here’s the other thing – I know what’s in my nachos. I make them with plain tortilla chips (no Doritos, thanks) and Vermont cheddar cheese (no CheezWhiz “processed cheese food”) and other toppings that I make.

And my family loves them. And they’re easy. And delicious.

Go football team. Whichever one you’re rooting for.

NACHOS

  • Chips
  • Cheese (I do a combination of cheddar and Monterey jack)
  • Other toppings as you want/see fit/have on hand (taco meat, olives, beans, refried beans)
  • Sour cream and salsa and jalapenos

Directions:

  • In a large baking pan, spread out the tortilla chips. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Top with other toppings but NOT the sour cream, salsa, or peppers!
  • Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
  • Remove from oven and dot sour cream, salsa, and any peppers on top. Serve with napkins and extra salsa!
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New York, New York

January 22

IMG_9143 (George Washington Bridge)

New York is full of big things, of course. From bridges to buildings to traffic to people and everything in between. But memories from this weekend were filled with small bits too. The subway stop a block away. The fact that there are 3 grocery store/deli spots within that block. The marvel of high skyscrapers against a blue sky. IMG_9205The people who were so kind, offering to help when we were confused about where to go in a subway station. The dogs being walked, mostly clad in sweaters or rain jackets against the weather. (I even saw my first diapered dog.) The public transportation.

We spent the weekend in New York City, living it up in an apartment that belongs to friends of my parents. The apartment, really 2 units together, is larger than our house in every respect. From the ceiling heights to the room sizes. The 6 bathrooms (!!!). The closets and general storage scattered throughout the home. Needless to say, it was pretty luxurious. Getting a parking spot on the street right in front of the door was a huge bonus – that the car did not have to be moved until Thursday (Monday was a holiday) was kind of the icing on the cake.

The point of the weekend was to go see Honeymoon in Vegas, a new Broadway show that had its official opening this week. My brother’s friend, David Josefsberg, has the leading “supporting” role, if that makes any sense, and we wanted to go cheer him on – we’ve been entertained by him for years in Vermont. IMG_9217So the show was the focus, but we turned it into a full-on weekend extravaganza.

What a weekend.

My mother-in-law flew up from Texas. My parents drove down from Vermont. My brother and his family drove out (or trained out, depending) from Connecticut.

And we just played. Dinner out on Friday night. Bagels on Saturday. IMG_9161Left the apartment at 9:30 on Saturday morning for a full day of walking, subway-ing. We saw Grand Central and the Empire State building playing peek-a-boo between buildings. We watched skaters in Rockefeller Plaza. We wandered Times Square in the daylight.

And we saw the show.

The show was unbelievable. Run and see it. The sets. The music. The script. The actors. Absolutely incredible. So good we all talked about waiting in line at TKTS in Times Square to see if we could score seats for the Sunday show . . .

IMG_9175And after the show, our day was not over. We got to go backstage, standing on the stage with David as he signed our playbills. We all walked en masse to a local bar where we talked some more before David had to head back to prep for the 8 pm show. Then dinner. Then more walking in Times Square, this time with lights blazing so hard it took a few minutes before we realized it was nighttime.

Sunday rained. And rained and rained and rained. So we did what any respectable visitor would do – we grabbed umbrellas and went for a walk in Central Park. IMG_9261And took a subway down for burgers at a bar. And went to the Guggenheim museum. And ordered an orgy of delivery (none of us can get food delivered where we live) for dinner, then watched football and Downton Abbey and crashed hard.

Sun woke us on Monday morning along with the realization that this was the last day. Last few hours, really. Subway hop to the World Trade Center site, where the 911 Memorial stunned us all with its simplicity and beauty, framed in the background by the Freedom Tower. We ate hotdogs and pretzels on the street, and ducked in for a slice of pizza. And then it was time to go home.

I wouldn’t want to live in New York – the bustle would wear on me. But oh is it ever fun to visit!IMG_9281

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Personal Development

January 16, 2015. (posting on January 20)

Day 16 of the Chalene Johnson 30 day Challenge program. So far this year I’ve thought about different areas of my life, set goals for each, and decided on a Push goal. I’m learning about CRMs and autoresponders, creating mobile responsive newsletters and landing pages. The learning curve is steep steep steep, but there was a deep satisfaction when I typed in a web address and up popped a landing page. Thank goodness my husband is a computer genius!

What is this program anyway? Part of the world of Beachbody is the understanding, if not requirement, that you spend part of your day working on bettering yourself. It’s called personal development, and when I first heard about it I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. Isn’t that the tucked-in-the-back-of-the-bookstore, asked for in furtive quiet voice – the self-help section. Isn’t personal development for losers? For people who are grasping for straws?

I no longer think this. I’m a proud junkie of this kind of book. Program. Audio course or podcast. What better way to spend my reading (or driving – yay podcasts!) time than in learning about ways to be more effective? I’ve read books about how to be a better salesperson, about being positive. Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability, Simon SInek and his work on the power of WHY. I read books on organization, willpower, leadership, focus. I listen to people speak about reaching others, sharing your message. Getting things done. Along the way I am repeatedly bathed in positivity, making it easier for me to be a positive force for myself and others. If this addiction makes me a loser, then so be it.

Chalene Johnson, perhaps more commonly known for her fitness programs, is one of my favorites. She has a podcast that comes out on her own schedule, many many online academies, a NYT bestselling book PUSH, and a 30 day free online course that’s based on the book. It’s this one that I’m just over halfway on.

Her program is designed to teach goal setting and organization. She’s got tips and tricks in there about setting priorities, to do lists, delegating work, and many many more. Each day a new video comes to your inbox, a 5-10 minute clip with the day’s assignment and an invitation to type in your responses below. I’ve gone through the full 30 days at least once before, maybe 2 years ago, and have started and stopped a couple of other times.

This year I’m on fire. The work I’ve been doing for the past year getting my brain into good shape to believe in the goals I’ve set, plus this free program to keep me organized, plus a fabulous accountability partner and a life coach? Boom. Jump on for the ride, my friends. This year is going to be fabulous!

Some of my favorite personal development authors:
Brene Brown Simon Sinek John Maxwell Darren Hardy Chalene Johnson
Brian Tracy Brendan Burchard Jon Acuff Dave Ramsay Diana Nyad Jeff Olson

Want more positivity in your life? I’d love to connect with you. Leave me a message here, find me on Facebook, follow me on YouTube. The two of us together will make a powerful team.

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The magic ingredient

IMG_9046 (kitchen art, of the hanging kind.)

IMG_9045_2(counter at work)  IMG_8603 (not the counter. But the kitchen.)IMG_0830(counter in action)

January 15

My brain is scattering this morning, mostly because I want to write myself into a space where the combination of these topics make sense. These blogs are off-the-cuff, not painstakingly crafted, almost my version of a written message like might happen in a Quaker meeting. Let’s see how this works out.

This morning’s Tasty Thursday is about chicken stock. Homemade chicken stock is pure liquid gold, in my opinion, adding a level of MMMM to anything it goes into. Soups and stews, beans, gravies. It’s pretty easy to pull together and most of the work is done quietly on the stove as it simmers down to the basics of deliciousness. There’s no precision in timing, or in ingredients for that matter. That the whole house smells warm and blanket-wrappingly cozy is an extra bonus. I’ll put the ingredients and technique at the bottom of this blog.

The thing with stock is that it’s there. It’s not the star of the show, and if you just cracked open a can you might not really know something is missing. It’s easy enough to forget about. But when you remember? Ooh.

Like many of my recipes, it starts with chopping up an onion.

I chop on a maple butcher block counter top that is the workhorse of the kitchen. My grandfather had a table made of butcher block, scarred and bleached from years of use. I saw him grab knives and cut right on there. He’d knead bread dough and roll pasta too. About the only time he’d use a separate cutting board was for meat, but I can’t remember a time when that table was not in use as a work space. Work space that doubled as a place to sit and eat – space that served both utilitarian and pleasure. Plus I thought it looked amazing, this large expanse of wood that he oiled regularly, highlighting the cuts and scars created when he cooked. Kitchen art in the best sense of the word, like a battered copper pot or a gorgeous wooden salad bowl.

When we put this counter, people asked me if I was going to varnish the wood. “Because then it will look glorious,” they said to me. countertop

What could possibly be more glorious than an expanse of wood that invites companionship and sharing? That allows me to say to friends, “Sure, help me. Grab a knife and pick a spot. “

I oiled the counter on Tuesday, squeezing dollops of “wood moisturizing crème” on the surface and massaging it in with my hands. Extra goop went to the corner where I do most of the prep work. Normally when I oil, I wipe the excess off immediately. This time, though, I decided to let it soak in overnight and remove any extra in the morning. There was a little hassle of getting out a board to chop the broccoli that was the mainstay of the dinner, but it wasn’t such a big deal that I resented it.

The wood today feels silky and smooth. It glistens in spots, showing the grain and the stray cuts. It’s almost happy, rested, the way I feel after a particularly solid night’s sleep.

Sure, I could have done the normal thing, oiling and wiping. I could have forgotten to oil completely. The counter would have been there, doing its thing. I would not have known any different.

Homemade stock in a soup. A moisturized countertop in the kitchen. Background ingredients that, mostly, take some time to pull together.

Time is pretty much the magic ingredient.

Happy Thursday!

Want to reclaim time for you, to make stock or oil your counter? Contact me by leaving a message on this blog, or find me on Facebook or YouTube. Let’s make some magic.

Homemade chicken stock

Ingredients:

  • couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 lbs chicken parts (backs, wings, legs chopped up, necks.)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • bay leaf
  • water

Technique:

  1. Chop onion, skins and all, into rough pieces
  2. In a large soup pot, heat 1 tbs of oil, then sauté the onion pieces until brown. Remove to a medium/large bowl (you’ll be adding some chicken pieces to the same bowl, hence the size)
  3. Add a little more oil to the pot, then brown half of the chicken pieces. Remove those chicken pieces and repeat with more oil (if you need it) and the rest of the chicken.
  4. Remove the second batch of chicken.
  5. Pour in 2 quarts of water, stirring to scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Then dump the chicken pieces and onions, plus any accumulated juice, to the pot. Add a bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bring to a low boil then turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours (if you go longer no worries – there will be less stock but it will be more concentrated.
  7. Strain out the stock, then cool. Remove any congealed fat from the top and store the stock in containers (I do 2 cup portions.)
  8. ENJOY!
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