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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Thanks for Not Packing For Me

One evening last week, while I was at a dinner, I realized my kids were packing for camp that evening. So I texted them a question – did they need to do laundry to pack for camp? They are both camp counselors now. If I try to take care of those details, they immediately tell me they can take care of themselves.

When I arrived home, laundry was running, and they were packing. Other than a good laugh at a dinner party over my hands-off mothering skills, I didn’t think anything of it.

When my kids returned, my daughter told me, “Thanks for never packing me for camp.”

Huh?

She continued, “Some younger campers had no idea what was in their suitcases or where things were. Their mothers packed them for camp. How will they ever learn how to take care of themselves if Mommy does it for them?”

There are risks in not packing your kids for camp. They might forget to pack shampoo, soap, and a towel, and return from the experience with a greasepit mosh for hair, smelling like a fish or worse. The kid who forgets to pack something one year will probably remember it the next. It’s also a teachable moment – if you forget something, try asking for help.

And the kid who forgets to pack soap and shampoo for camp could one day be the counselor assigned for a “High – Jean” skit to teach younger campers what hygiene is, remind them in a fun way to stay clean, and teach how to ask for help.

Those are the lifetime moments that form character and teach problem solving skills. When I manage a project, I want to work with a team of players who made plenty of mistakes and have learned from them. The person who has survived failure to succeed another day will work harder and more effectively than the coddled soul who never got the room to stumble.

The only way kids can learn from their mistakes is if we back off enough to give them opportunities to make them. And then when they do make them, we teach them strategies so they can learn from mistakes and do better next time.

 


The Seton Lifestyles Challenge Recipes

A week's produce share from Seton Harvest, a CSA in Evansville, Indiana.My Seton Harvest Lifestyles Challenge Recipes were fun, but exhausting.

How can a regular family  cook with this week’s ingredients? Here’s how:

Peas and cucumbers:

I started to cook last night after hosting a CAbi fashion party, so it was a late start. As I started to cook, I turned on the Queen’s Concert for her Diamond Jubilee and decided to make Coronation Chicken, which I blogged about this weekend. The rice salad on which my version of coronation chicken is served includes freshly diced cucumbers and peas. Nothing’s better than fresh peas, so that was a great choice.

Fresh peas:

Freshly shelled peas, lightly cooked are a treat this side of heaven. I bring a small pan of water to a boil. When the water is briskly boiling, pour the peas into the water and let them cook a maximum of 1 minute. I generally go for 30 seconds, until they have all risen to the top of the boiling water. Then drain them and serve with butter.

Red leaf lettuce, radishes, and baby spinach:

Since this week’s share included lettuce, radishes, and spinach, I thought about creating a salad with all of them. If the salad includes hard-boiled eggs and bacon, then my teen son may eat more than 3 leaves a lettuce and call it a serving.  So I would use this layered spinach and lettuce salad recipe as a guideline but modify it by first adding radishes. I would mix it just before serving and cut the layering of mayonnaise on top. Instead, I would give people the choice of which kind of salad dressing to use.

Kale:

Kale chips are popular in my family but need to be served as soon as they are prepped. There have been times when I’ve had that irresistible urge for potato chips that I’ve substituted kale chips. Not the same, but it quenches the crunchy craving. But they must be eaten immediately. They just don’t taste the same after the fact.

Red rain:

Red rain is a milder relative in the mustard green family. Last week, to cook it, I cut it into about 2-inch pieces and then simmered in broth, with 1 tablespoon of bacon grease and pepper. We discovered last year during our Seton Harvest that our family liked soul-food style cooked greens more than broccoli. So every week this winter, I made a batch of fresh greens.

This week, I’m trying something different with red rain: balsamic glazed chickpeas and mustard greens.

Cabbage:

A head of cabbage has many uses. Part of it can be cut off to put into a Chinese stir fry. If I’m in a hurry, I’ve also made a one-dish mock cabbage roll dinner. Instead of taking the time to roll the filling into cabbage leaves, I just chop the cabbage into pieces and cook it with beef, tomatoes, and other ingredients in a traditional cabbage role recipe.  Finely diced cabbage will also add a depth of flavor to a vegetable soup that can’t be matched.

Part of it can also be cut into thin slivers to make sweet and sour slaw. Slaw that is made from freshly-cut cabbage has a richer, deeper flavor. In about 6 cups of shredded cabbage, I would shred a peeled carrot. I would also finely chop a red and green sweet bell pepper. After the cabbage and vegetables are well mixed, make the dressing.  It’s hard for me to give a recipe for the dressing because I just mix it together. I mix 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part sugar, and some water, spiced with just a dash of salt and pepper. The key to good slaw is the vinegar. A cider or flavored vinegar will give you a much better product than plain vinegar.

Squash:

Squash is a no brainer. It’s my all-time favorite vegetable, and I could happily eat one by myself every single meal every day of the year. One of the healthier ways to make it is to brush it with olive oil, lightly salt and then pepper, and then cook. It can be cooked on a grill, baked in an oven, or sauteed in a pan. You cook it until the edges are brown, and all is well.

Learning to cook with vegetables is a matter of trial and error. Sometimes the cooking has been a trial and the results have been errors. Very bad errors. At least once, I’ve tried something that tasted so awful that I spit it out and threw it away before serving it to my family.

Even so, when Seton begins and the greens increase in our diet, I feel better and know my family’s eating well. As a semi-southern girl who grew up with more gravy than biscuits, who used to have my grandparents’ cast iron frying pan that had cooked bacon in it every morning for 50 years (burned up in a house fire 10 years ago but that’s another story), our healthier eating adventures are a step up in the nutrition food chain.

 

 


First Step of the Seton Challenge

Remember my Seton Challenge? Well, it’s almost here. I’ve picked up today’s share and will prep food later tonight. Then, tomorrow morning, I’ll post blogs with recipes of what I cook. And I’ll appear on Local 7 Lifestyles at 8 to do a show and tell so they can taste and see what I made. Some of the items in this week’s share were unexpected, and I’m thinking through what to make.

Here is what I have to cook with:

  • Red Rain
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Squash

Do you have suggestions you would like me to make with these ingredients? If so, comment below.


Facebook – Keep the Under 13 Rule

Facebook is considering changing their rules for preteens to have Facebook profiles legitimately. I disagree.

Facebook is no book or place for a preteen. Some parents may let their kids lie about their birthdates and set a bad example about rushing gratification. I know several 9 and 10 year olds who have accounts. Just because some parents make bad parenting decisions is no reason to change the current rule.

Some parents also let their teens host keggers for under agers in their homes. Some share their pot, their meth, and their illicit medications with their teens. Just because some parents make bad parenting decisions is no reason to change the rule for everyone to justify their bad choices.

I am not just writing from the viewpoint of an old grumpy mother. I’m writing with the perspective of bad experiences. The creeps in cyberworld require the judgment of an adult to manage. Teens can manage it with adult supervision but still sometimes find themselves in bad situations.

To allow a 9 or 10 year old to have  a Facebook profile makes as much sense as it would to put them in the center of the town square holding a sign that says, “Hi. I’m 9 years old, and I would like to make new friends. Wanna talk?” Even if a parent is watching, the risks are too great.

With my own children, they got Facebook profiles on their 13th birthdays with the rule that their first 2 friends were Richard and me, and their third was a friend who’s also a prosecutor. When they asked why he had to be their friend too, I told them, “If you have to think twice before posting something a prosecutor might see, then you shouldn’t be posting it.”

As a youth leader and as a mother, I have seen bad experiences on Facebook that are just too hot to handle for under 13 year olds. I’ve seen a 15 year old boy who met an out-of-state predator in a cyber chat room. Their meeting later resulted in their becoming friends on Facebook, and the predator friending other boys in the same area. The predator was caught after I called parents and suggested they check their son’s online activities.

As a mother, I’ve also encountered at least 1 bad experience with my own teens. One of them received unsolicited, unwanted messages from a “friend of a friend” who revealed in what she sent that she was cyberstalking my children. We blocked the person. There was nothing explicit to her message. Nevertheless, her contact with under-age children was creepy at best and inappropriate at worst.

The groups, the pictures, and the viruses with almost-explicit images are too much to risk with an under 13 year old. Facebook is supposedly considering adding a layer of protection for adult supervision. I don’t buy it, and I absolutely, 100% do not recommend it.

Further, I’ve read they are going to let parents’ bank accounts be tied to their kids accounts. So if your 10 year old is playing Farmville and has access to your bank account, just imagine the shock when you open you bank statement and nearly fall over. Johnny and Susie were so excited with Facebook Farmville that they stocked their whole cyber barn with cyber livestock that isn’t real. But the charges to your account are real, and you get to pay the bill.

Then we will see news stories of parents appalled at what has happened.

Keep Facebook’s guidelines to age 13. That’s my bottom line recommendation. If they change it, I still strongly recommend parents not allow their preteens to have Facebook profiles.

In the Wild West, the bar on Main Street was no place for kids. Facebook isn’t a Kidbook either.


Coronation Chicken

What fun the Diamond Jubilee is to watch! Queen Elizabeth has weathered storms, maintained her dignity, and dutifully served as queen.

Twenty-six years ago, when I was a student studying in England, I participated in an Adopt-a-Family program where I got to spend time with a British couple. Douglas and Elizabeth Allam welcomed me into their home and shared parts of British culture with me that I could not have gotten from studying a book.  The Allams were a proper Tory retired couple who had lived a rich life including spending time in India with Douglas’s business ventures. Elizabeth was infamous for her wonderful curry dinners.

Elizabeth shared my passion for cooking and shared British recipes with me. One of those recipes she shared was called Coronation Chicken. She told me it was a chicken dish that was developed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. It’s a chilled chicken curry dish with an apricot base. After Elizabeth made it for me and I loved it, she shared the recipe with me. I’ve enjoyed making it for the past 26 years.

In honor of Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee, I decided to share the recipe on my blog:

Coronation Chicken

  • 2 roasting chickens
  • water and a little wine to cover
  • Bouquet garni (1/2 bay leaf, 3-4 stems of parsley, spray of thyme)
  • Salt
  • 3-4 peppercorns
  • 1 carrot
  • Cream of Curry sauce

Poach the chickens with carrot, bouquet garni, salt, peppercorns in water and wine for 40 minutes until tender.  Cool and bone.  Prepare sauce and mix with chicken.

Cream of Curry Sauce

  • 1 T. oil
  • 2 oz. Chopped onions
  • 1 tsp. Curry powder
  • 1 tsp. Tomato puree
  • 1 wineglass red wine
  • ¾ wineglass water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt, sugar and pepper to taste
  • lemon slice
  • 1-2 T apricot puree
  • ¾ pint mayonnaise
  • 2-3 T whipped cream

Heat oil and add onion.  Cook 3-4 minutes.  Add curry powder.  Cook 1-2 minutes.  Add puree, wine, water and bay leaf.  Boil.  Add salt, sugar to taste, pepper, lemon, lemon juice and simmer 5-10 minutes.  Strain and cool.  Add by degrees to mayonnaise with apricot puree to taste.  Adjust seasoning and add more lemon juice if necessary.  Finish with whipped cream.  Take small sauce and mix with a little extra cream and seasoning.  Serve on top of rice salad with peas, cucumber and herbs in French dressing.  (Green peppers, celery, apples and tomatoes can also be used.)

 


A Seton Lifestyles Cooking Adventure

A week's produce share from Seton Harvest, a CSA in Evansville, Indiana.This coming Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning will be a One Writing Mother cooking adventure, and you get to share in it.

Here are the details:

Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., I’ll go to Seton Harvest, where I am a shareholder, to pick up my weekly half-share of produce.  As a shareholder, I visit each week and pick up certified naturally grown produce, fresh from the field. When I go each week, I don’t know until I get there what that week’s produce will include.

Joining Seton last year upped my vegetable game as far as feeding my family. Their produce selections included foods I didn’t recognize. So each week, when I got home, I researched recipes and re-learned how to cook. And then I learned how to cook meals my family – including a red-meat-loving teen-aged son whose definition of a big salad is 2 lettuce leaves – would eat and maybe even enjoy.

So this Tuesday, after I pick up my shares, I’ll go home and make some recipes. Depending on what this week’s shares are, I may need to research and cook recipes for the very first time, with foods I’ve never before eaten. Tuesday evening, I’ll update this blog with a photo and list of what this week’s produce share includes. I may live tweet information that evening as I cook.

Then, Wednesday morning, on Local 7 Lifestyles at 8 a.m., I’ll bring in samples of this week’s produce shares and also bring in samples of the recipes I made to see if those on Local 7 Lifestyles will try them and find them edible. And I’ll share the recipes I used in another update on this blog.

If you want to see what happens, check back with this blog on Tuesday evening to see what produce choices I have. Then check out Local 7 Lifestyles Wednesday morning – and find the recipes back on this website.

What’s life without a little adventure?

 


Say This, NOT That to Your Professor – a Guide to College Success

Say This, NOT That to Your Professor

Click, don’t run, and buy Say This, NOT That to Your Professor right now. This is a perfect graduation gift. It’s a must read for every college student, every college-bound high school student, every parent of college or prospective college student who wants to help students succeed, and every professor.

If you want a concise, practical guide on how to communicate in college and how to do better in your classes, then this book is a must buy. With its 36 Talking Tips for College Success, the author Ellen Bremen, a tenured professor in Communication Studies at Highline Community College in Seattle, Washington, shares her perspectives from both sides of the professor/student relationship. With an easy-to-follow format, she shows what professors think when students ask different questions and offers constructive suggestions on how to ask better questions and build better relationships with professors.

This book is an ideal book for every college student as it illustrates what to ask, when to ask it, and how to communicate in difficult situations. The lessons a student learns from this book will help not only in college but also in the workplace. Whether a college student is a first-generation college student with no idea how to talk to college professors or a college student with helicopter parents who always fixed student problems, this book gives specific examples of how to own your own education and make the most of it.

One of the features I liked best about this book is that Ellen is real and shares mistakes she has made and how to do things better. She tackled tough subjects – flunking tests, missing classes, and missing deadlines – and discusses what can be done and said to learn lessons from a tough situation and try to make it better.

Further, she discusses methods of communication – in person, telephone, email, and social media – and shares pointers on how to use each method effectively.

I met Ellen earlier this year on a Twitter chat, #collegecash, where she led a discussion on how to help college students learn to ask their teachers for help. Her suggestions and encouragement were all on point. I knew I wanted to read her book to learn more. After the chat where Ellen and I met, we talked more about college success, and she sent me a review copy of her book to evaluate.

After reading Say This, NOT That to Your Professor, I realized it’s not just a book I’ll pass on to my kids. It’s the kind of constructive guide I will buy for each of them, so they can have their own copy to take to college and refer to if and when problems arise.

Ellen’s book is available in print and on Kindle.


A Spirit-Filled Dance on Pentecost

As I walked into Mass with my family to celebrate Pentecost, the Holy Spirit invited me to dance with Jesus.

“Me? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“You – I’m calling you.”

“But I’m not one of the pious. Often when I walk in the door I feel like a modern Samaritan woman walking into a room of Pharisees.”

“I didn’t call you to dance with them. I called you to dance with Jesus.”

“But I get so frustrated….”

“Don’t focus on them. Watch me.”

“Why would He want to dance with Me? I make more mistakes than I do things right.”

“Dance with Him.”

“I’m scared. If I start dancing, I don’t know what will happen next.”

“Make that first step. Walk by faith, not by sight.”

I start to inch my foot forward but feel the chains of the past holding me back.

“Doesn’t He know where I’ve been?”

“Of course He does. And He’s asking you to dance with Him.”

“This wasn’t in my plans today.”

“Your plans. Not His. Dance with Him.”

The bits of our conversation took place in between Mass readings about the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. On that first Pentecost, they spoke in many tongues.

On this Pentecost, the Holy Spirit inspired me to sing. With each line I sang, the chains of the past loosened, and I felt my foot again inching forward for that first step.

Near the end of the Mass, I joined the congregation as we said,

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

And with that, I again went forward and joined the dance with Jesus on the vigil of Pentecost.

My prayer is that in future days, if I grow discouraged, that I remember this night and the dance of a lifetime that changes everything.

 


Customer Service Gone Good

Today I enjoyed one of those too-good-to-be-true customer service moments, receiving help from Meredith, a young cashier in the Evansville, Indiana, J.C. Penney store.

It started out as a potential sour note on a shopping marathon with my daughter.  She had found a dress there the day before, and we had returned to buy it. When we went to where the dress had hung the evening before, it was gone, as were all the others. We asked a clerk where they were, and she said they had been taken upstairs to be shipped out because no one had bought them.

To put a setting on this, I had been shopping on a hot holiday weekend, and this was store #5 that we had ventured into. I was ready to eat and go home. So I snapped, “Well can’t we get one of them before they are shipped out?” The clerk told us to go find a manager as it wasn’t her job.

To put another setting on this: my daughter and I agreed the dress would work well. When mothers and teen daughters can agree on a purchase, it’s a milestone, and I hated to miss this opportunity. I went to a cashier’s station and explained my predicament. Meredith, the clerk, immediately paged a manager and began to help us.  We showed her a picture of the dress and its size. She went to find it in the upstairs stock room.

As she searched for the dress, I listened to a lecture from my daughter that the first clerk was just doing her job and I should be more patient. When Meredith returned, she told us the dresses weren’t there.

But she didn’t stop there. She apologized and asked us to follow her while she checked two additional stock areas. The dress wasn’t in the first stock area. It was in the last one, in her size, ready to buy.

Meredith was gracious and pleasant and turned this tired, hungry, and irritated mother into one very impressed customer. It took about 10-15 minutes of her time, and she may never know just how much I appreciate her help.

We live in an era when customer service is sometimes just “good enough.” Meredith instead shot for a standard of excellence.

Penney’s – if anyone in your store reads this – you need to commend Meredith, tell her thanks, and keep an eye on her. She’s a keeper.


Facebook and Fish – If It Smells Bad, Don’t Eat It

Imagine a new kind of fish is being offered on a menu with a grand opening. But as you get closer to the fish, it has an “ick” factor to its smell. “Do I really want to eat that?”

“Chance of a lifetime – everyone says this will be great,” those around you tell you.

But it stinks.

“It will be in short supply – those who buy early will be sure to get some. Everyone else will pay more for it later.”

When I get a whiff of it, the hairs on the back of my neck curl.

So do you go with your gut instinct or follow the crowd? That’s what I was thinking last week before the Facebook IPO.

I had no inside knowledge of over-valuation. But as a professional who helps multiple businesses with their Facebook presence, I had a gut feeling Facebook was desperately trying to boost its profitability. The ads got creepier and more obtrusive. Something didn’t feel right.

Yet, at a lunch meeting, an “expert” was raving about the opportunities of the IPO. I told him, “I’m not buying. It doesn’t smell right.”

Those sitting with him stared at me as if I were an Amish Luddite who couldn’t tell a good thing when she saw it.

I will not say I told you so. But I will say I won’t invest in companies when the CEO shows up for business meetings in a bathrobe. If he can’t be bothered, why should I buy?

I still believe in the public relations/reputation management/community building possibilities of Facebook. It can play a great role in top of mind marketing for businesses and can be a means by which they offer additional value to their customer base.

However, I hope Zuckerberg doesn’t throw the Face out with the Stockbook in his quest to generate profits. If he does, he will wipe the Face off the Book.

It all goes back to lessons learned looking at the meat counter:

  • If it smells bad, don’t buy it. And don’t eat it.
  • If it’s sprinkled with lots of spices, the higher price and fancy gourmet name might just be fancy window dressing to hide the fact that the slice of meat is a little grey around the edges and can’t be sold otherwise on its own merits.

Trust your gut.