Finding ways to connect…

Navigating this new world that connects people through technology while leaving us disconnected as a working mom, high school science teacher has been no less than challenging.  As a high school teacher, I thought I know what to do to stay connected and transparent with my children. I do this for a living. However, I find myself losing at this as I am drowning in the sea of social media and the race to nowhere.

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My 13 year old and I LOVE FOOD. We love to eat, buy, cook all types of food. I don’t know if I nurtured this in her, or we both, just had this passion for it.  She has a killer palate. She can smell and taste things in food, that sometimes, I can’t even figure out.  My 16 year old is also into food and culture. She savors the history behind cuisine and culture.

So, how do I stay connected and grounded with my kids, using technology as a tool and food as a muse? So here we are… OOH-MOM-ME.  The name says it all! You will experience foods that are cooked using local farm ingredients and from cultures all over the world jam packed with flavor. Umami (ooh-mom-me) itself is one of the unique tastes that we experience. The recipes will be pretty simple and easy, because that will allow us to enjoy the foods prepared while not overwhelming us.

Living in NY has allowed me to join a CSA(Community Supported Agriculture) and access to many local farms and purveyors helping us as a family to understand the seasonality of produce and the value of organically farmed ingredients.

We want to share our experiences as a family with food, farms, fitness, fellowship and fun with you. Just as our food is, our posts will also be organic. It’ll be what the day brings us. It may be a post by us individually or collaboratively. It may include the history(political, cultural, etc.) behind a certain food that we prepare. It may just be photos of foods we happened upon that given that day that gave us joy.  Join us on this joyful culinary journey. Stay connected. Stay kind.

Is the sun shining? Yes ma’am, it sure is…

Yes, this started as a culinary, mom and daughter blog… but at the moment, I am using this as a life journey blog with culinary sprinkled in. As cooking and my daughters are a HUGE part of my life.

I had never seen myself as a writer or reader. I know, I know, find the right book and then you’re a reader. There is truth to that. In life, we spend time doing things that we value or give us some benefit.  Reading was never an escape for me as a kid. I definitely could have used ways to escape life, but reading was not what I chose.  As an adult, work, family and other responsibilities got in my way.  Some people choose to exercise as an escape. I had no such strategies.

Today, my kids are older, 17 and 14. There’s a lot more time on my hands and less reasons to find escape routes. But now, I find time to read. Reading to gain clarity about the world around me. Reading to be enlightened about my spiritual journey and reading to become a better educator, mom, wife, daughter, human being.  So, because I am not a reader, I choose carefully. I choose books that I know I will finish. Even when I lose my concentration, I convince myself to finish. This past summer, I read.

The first book I picked up again,  after a couple of years was Hacking Leadership by Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo. I began my journey into (learning about) educational leadership a year ago. No books prepares you for all the nuances of a job. No book prepared me for teaching, I just had to do it. However, books give us language to pull from. This book also was simple, simple language and clean organization. It doesn’t need to be filled with educational jargon to be educationally sound. I like the practical advice and the overwhelming emphasis on PEOPLE and RELATIONSHIPS. It will be a book I go back to, often.

Then I read, On Your Mark by Thomas Guskey. In a recent educational leadership course, I met Jonah Schenker. He was debonair and dashing but most importantly, really full of heart. He is one of the leaders at Ulster BOCES and was Principal of PTECH. The way he described his work, his students, made me want to work with him. He guided us to Thomas Guskey’s work on assessment and grading. My 20 years of teaching has brought to  place of true introspection and making good choices that affect all my students positively. Guskey asks us to look at grades and the value of them. Educators give grades as “feedback” to increase student achievement. But do grades do that at all? Education is a big institution as are governments and religions. It’s hard to break down years of systemic practices.  But with one teacher at a time, change can occur. Guskey asks us to reflect on our practice and then act on it.

Launch, by Juiliani and Spencer allowed me to think about design thinking in my science classroom and has me planning some cool project ideas for my high school science classes next year.  LAUNCH is an acronym for the process and provides practical ways to boost creativity.

The One thing is a book I had to read for a class but stuck with me. We are ALL pulled in so many directions. Let’s focus on ONE THING at a time so that is done well. It allows you to be present and engaged in whatever it is that you are doing. It was liberating in many ways.

The last two books were books that had nothing to do with “work”. It had to with the most important work though…WORK on ourselves. I chose these books because working on yourself from the inside is so important. Doing work on ourselves from the inside allows us to shine brighter on the outside. IMG_5479

I bought the audiobook, From Tears to triumph by Marianne Williamson. I came across Marianne by watching Super Soul Sunday on the OWN network by Oprah Winfrey. Oprah, as I am sure for many has led me to people and places that have only allowed me to live my fuller more authentic life. Listening this book narrated by Marianne, gave me strength beyond belief. She beautifully weaves and connects the threads of the major religions together. She helps us understand the religions but more so the purpose of our own lives and understand God on a very deep intimate level. Marianne is frank, honest and extremely vulnerable in this book. Marianne who is deeply affected by the book, A course in miracles ( another book I have that I intend to read) helps us navigate his journey on Earth by getting in touch with our highest selves and shedding our ego.  Ego being the most dangerous thing on this Earth. This book is a must read…a must listen!

Finally, I read The sun does shine   and that too, because of Oprah. I taught forensics for several years and always felt uncomfortable by teaching it. The percentage of error and the number of wrongful incarcerations was too much for me to bear and then to teach it to be a science.  I stopped teaching Forensic science for a year now and that alone has been freeing. But I picked up this book because of the message of hope that it conveyed. This book will anger you at the injustices and lack of empathy and compassion in our justice system. But it will also ignite a sense of justice and compassion in you that you never experienced. Bryan Stevenson, a stellar human being whose life’s work is to free the innocent. Stevenson’s organization, Equal Justice Initiative furthers his work. This book speaks about Stevenson’s good work but mostly speaks of Hinton’s time on death row. It speaks of a friendship that all humans deserve to have. To have that experience and to survive to write about it alone is no small feat and is a testament to Anthony Ray Hinton’s spirit. However, he exposes his humanity as he writes about his days of despair and hope and the ups and downs, reminding us that we are human too. No matter how spiritual we think we are or how Godly we are, we can lose hope. But you must pull yourself back up out of that despair.

“You can’t threaten to kill someone everyday year after year and not harm them, not traumatize them, not break them in ways that are really profound.”- Bryan Stevenson. Statistically, 1 out of 10 humans on death row are innocent. Hinton spent 30 years on death row for a crime he never committed. He listened to and watched 54 people walk to get executed, mere feet from his cell. But, he remained hopeful.  Read it, and experience hope like you never did before.

So what did this book and Anthony Ray Hinton teach me? There is ALWAYS hope. There are angels that come to rescue you,  but you must look for them, ask for them, and ALWAYS persevere until…

 

 

 

 

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(re)Centering

Teaching seems like a great gig. You teach only 180 days and you get summers off. Teaching is great. Your biological clock even syncs with the school calendar. You are energized in September and begin to lose steam right around the time when a vacation is nearing. Your body knows when to shut down and when to wind back up.Each day begins with interacting with resilient and powerful human beings, your students. Students who come in everyday with hearts on their sleeves. All they want is,  to learn something, find an escape and connect with other humans. The task of teaching is pretty heroic, if done correctly.

Summers have always been a time for me to escape and try to learn more about myself. Life long learning begins with learning about yourself. So here I am continuing on this journey.

I started this blog a year ago to share our family’s passion of food, fellowship, family and  and farm shares with you all. Life got in the way and wasn’t able to find my way back to to this blog.

Isn’t it weird how we don’t spend time on things that help us the most? This past summer, I have retreated so deeply, that I have forgotten to do what centers me. I haven’t connected enough with friends who center me.  I haven’t exercised or done the yoga I love. I haven’t posted fun cooking blogs with my kids. So I came across this on my twitter feed today.

So, I will write when I can and not be fixated on length of blog but I will commit to posting here as it energizes me.  Thanks for sticking with me and will get back to what shapes me and this blogging is part of that.

 

When life throws you lemons… not only make lemonade, prepare a pear margarita and a THANKSGIVING feast

”Tis  the season to practice and preach gratitude. Every year I host thanksgiving  & this year would’ve been no different. I ordered my turkey from a local farm . Planned to pick up a Thanksgiving vegetable box from my  local Hilltop Hanover  farm. All plans in effect. It’s November 10 and my dad is scheduled for a femoral angioplasty. He is scheduled at 7am and should be done by lunch. My mom, my daughter,Rachel and my sister and I  are all at the hospital. It seemed that we were all there, for what seemed like a simple enough outpatient procedure.

We go get lunch and after a few minutes, the doctor calls us in. We anticipate seeing our dad at the end of his procedure. Unexpectedly and sadly, my dad  had a cardiac arrest  for approximately 30 seconds, while undergoing the procedure. This also was a reason why the procedure was never completed. Hearing this, I didn’t know whether to pass out or scream. I did neither. Tears streamed down all our faces while my sister placated my mother. All I could think was, “What would this mean? How is he? Is he going to make it? Is his brain in tact?”

Soon enough, we go to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. We see my dad laying there with machines and cords draped over him and piercing almost every single visible blood vessel. A breathing tube is jammed down his throat.  A sight that could throw any wife or daughter over the edge. We remain calm and unnerved, although all our nerves are in shambles and knots.

Eight days later, my dad is discharged from hospital. Yes, what we expected to be 5-6 hours became 8 full days.  The 8 days included my dad tortuously being weaned off the breathing tube, a trans-venous pacemaker rammed into his jugular vein. The TVP removed, with the idea that his heart didn’t need a pacemaker. The next day, his heart stops again for 6 seconds.  This eventually led to a pacemaker being implanted and sent home. Hoping this is the road to a recovery. Signs from above that led to the pacemaker being implanted

A few days later, it was Thanksgiving. We are always thankful during this season. This year, more than ever. My dad and mom are brought over to our home by my sister and family for our special meal. The day of thanks included family, food and fellowship and fun. The food was all that we believe in, locally sourced, organic, humane.  A day filled with thanks for all we have.  Our meal included so many different appetizers to graze on and a simple thanksgiving meal with pies baked from scratch by my daughters. A holiday that truly what nourished our spirits. This journey called life is hard and bumpy but blessed to be able to commune in love and peace when we can.

 

 

Comfort Pantry Pasta

I’m 13 years old, and my journey for cooking started since I was little. I’ve always loved baking, and all sorts of comfort food. From when I was in Pre-K to now, just being in the kitchen excited me. Cooking can seem intimidating, but it’s really not. One of the main reasons I got into cooking was the exposure I had to different foods. My mom being a foodie helped. She liked to cook different things and eat different foods. When my parents went out to dinner, they always took us. So, we’ve tried many different kinds of foods for many years. My sister and I stopped eating from the kids menu by the time we were 5 or 6 years old. Who wants chicken fingers  and fries when you can have a grilled ribeye with mushrooms in wine sauce over duck fat roasted potatoes?

So, whenever I feel like cooking, i will whip stuff together. Eating different foods exposes your palate to different tastes which actually helps you with cooking. You kind of know what goes with what. You’re not as afraid of experimenting with flavors or ingredients.

This is a super simple dish but super easy. This recipe can be varied with different ingredients that can be changed to your liking. The recipe shows how you don’t need the most intricate skills, but just a love for food..and maybe some salami, pasta, and peas :)! I just came home from school one day , craving a big bowl of pasta. I got started right away ready to make my creation: Pasta, with peas, Parmesan cheese, truffle oil, and some salami—that was really supposed to be for our school lunch sandwiches(mom won’t mind)! 15 minutes later, I had my bowl of pasta ready.

I hope this makes you want to  try it yourself or have your mom/dad/adult try it with you. Cooking is fun and can be relaxing. It’s a nice way to find your creative side.

Comfort Pantry Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. of spaghetti (or 1 lb. of any other pasta)
  • 1/2 cup of genoa salami sliced
  • 1/2 cup of sopresatta sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 1/2-2 cups frozen peas thawed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • small pat of unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • Parmesan to garnish(optional)

 

Ingredients:

  1. Fill pasta pot with water and wait until boiled-8 to 10 mins( according to package directins)
  2. Drain pasta( reserve a bit of pasta water) and turn on nonstick pan on med-low heat.
  3. Add olive oil and pat of butter.
  4. Cook salame in oil/butter.
  5. Once salami/soppresata crisps up-about 2 mins, add in frozen peas
  6. As soon as peas heat up,add in cooked spaghetti, or pasta of choice
  7. Stir pasta, and let pasta crisp up if desired-about 3 mins
  8. Drizzle truffle oil on top.
  9. Sprinkle Parmesan and enjoy!

 

Rainy Sunday eats…

This blog started back in June with the intention of finding ways to connect with my daughters over things we enjoy together, CSA, cooking and food. Hence, the name OOHMOMME. However, as life got busy, somehow the blog just turned to OOH MOM, the ME( my daughters) took a hiatus. But…we’re back together on the blog.

We have been cooking together and enjoying our CSA together but the blog together just wasn’t happening. So, here we are together on  a very rainy Sunday. We now have time to sit and share our fellowship with you. We are back together sharing not one recipe, but, two recipes. It’s your lucky day.  The second recipe will be on the next post.

Rainy Sundays during the fall always bring a sense of yearning for comfort food.  Today, my daughter made a yummy chicken pesto grilled cheese sandwich.  I made a yummy pumpkin dal soup in my Instapot( my favorite kitchen gadget yet) for lunch.  This dal can be eaten alone as a soup or poured over rice or quinoa.  My recipe instructions are for insta pot but the directions would be the same on stove. just watch it as it boils and it would take more time until  fully cooked.

Last week my daughter made the comfiest food of all, pasta. This pasta oozes comfort with peas, truffle oil, genoa salame and soppresata(whatever we had at home), and Parmesan cheese on top… what more says comfort? MMMM, Comfort pantry pasta.

 

Recipe 1 :Instapot Pumpkin Dal

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups yellow split peas(rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup of pumpkin/acorn squash cut into small chunk( 2 inch pieces) – you can buy frozen, we had fresh from CSA
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of mustard seeds( black)
  • 2 serrano peppers( eliminate if you don’t like heat)
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves, discard stems, just use leaves(optional)
  • salt to taste
  • water- minimum 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut(optional)

 

Instructions:

  1. Turn instapot on and click  saute function. (on the stove take a heavy bottomed pan and turn to med high heat).
  2. Add 2-3  tbsp of coconut oil but you could use any other oil.
  3. when oil is hot, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds until they sputter.
  4. Add chopped onions and the 3 garlic cloves chopped.
  5. Stir and 1 tsp of salt to accelerate browning and 2 tsp of turmeric powder.
  6. Stir until onions start to brown. Add cury leaves and serrano peppers( sliced).
  7. Stir while adding pumpkin. Within a few minutes, add the rinsed split yellow peas.
  8. Add water to instapot or pot on stove until the dal is covered. Add another tsp of salt. Stir and click manual on instapot(this should get it to low pressure). Press + to add time until it say 10 minutes).
  9. Close the lid and make sure the pressure valve is facing sealing not venting.
  10. The dal will cook for the next 10 minnutes. Let it nautrally release pressure.
  11. While the dal is cooking, you could puree the grated coconut( I grate in a food processor and freeze and use as needed. You could buy from the store-make sure it’s unsweetened). Puree the coconut with  a bit of water, one garlic clove and a pinch of cumin seeds).
  12. When the dal is completely cooked and the pressure is released, add the grated coconut mixture to the instapot. Close the lid and let everything melt together.
  13. ENJOY as is- a soup! Or pour over rice or other grain. Make a grilled cheese sandwich and dunk away. So many options!

 

16071 Sunsets later…

IMG_3235October 18 marked 44 revolutions around the Sun for me. It’s been such a ride. This past week,  2 of my favorite people in the world who also happen to be my colleagues were discussing, just this with me. Life is such a journey, ups, downs, twists and turns. It’s hard work. That whole stupid saying, ” You won’t work a day in your life, if you love the work you do.” BS! It’s still work, hard work, but you still love it. Marriage, life, kids, jobs…it’s still work. I love what I do, but it’s still work. I love my family, but it’s still work. I love cooking but it’s still work. When we use sayings like that, it gets people feeling like they are not following their true purpose in life. Following one’s purpose REQUIRES WORK.

16071 sunrises and sunsets later, maybe 15000 sunsets later, I realize what my highest calling is. To JUST BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE. If I do that in all that I do, then anything I do seems fulfilling. Showing a vulnerable side of myself to my students has helped me become a better teacher. Showing that side to my own children and husband has helped me become a better mother and wife.

How does one get to this point? I don’t know. We all have heard that life is a journey. It truly is. When you become your authentic self, the right people are gravitated towards you, allowing you to flourish in your authenticity. It’s hard to say what comes first, the right person coming into your life allowing you to radiate in your uniqueness or your uniqueness attracting the right people into your life. Chicken or the egg debate still remains.

Finding the right friend who appreciates your truth and allows you to bask in that truth, be it ugly or pretty is what it took me to find  and BE my true self.  Having the right people that surround you allowing  you to take risks that test your true potential. Starting this blog with my daughter felt like a challenge. Professional risks I am taking are because of the friends that  expand my thinking about myself and my reality.  I am grateful for these sunrises and sunsets that  allow me to know that I can always start a new tomorrow and tomorrow the sun will rise yet again. Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

Beachbody or bust…

The ups and downs of maintaining a healthy weight and more importantly a healthy self image. In my memory, I don’t ever remember being called too skinny. I was always, fine enough.  I don’t ever remember being told that I was a picky eater. I always had a healthy enough body image. I was a tomboy for most of childhood even up to college. I would rather play sports with the boys than sit inside and hang with the girls. I wore mens’ shirts, everything fit loosely up until college.  Eventually, I dressed like a girl. I guess, in this day and age, it means to wear clothes that accentuate your “girliness” .  I think that’s when my unhealthy body image began to emerge. A muffin top that was invisible before was now visible. But I never gave a thought to my nutrition or health, I just victimized myself with my body image, like most girls do. Maybe that’s part of the problem. One needs to own the solution to the problem and not victimize themselves over it. Since college, I’ve been married and had two kids and my weight has fluctuated from fine enough to feeling extremely sick to my stomach when I would see photos of myself…still doing nothing about it.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. You lose so much weight and I WAS TOO SKINNY for the fist time in my life. I would’ve just enjoyed but it’s not just weight loss, it’s rapid heart rate and bulging eyes. I had to take medicine that would get my weight bouncing up and down for a few years until I was in remission. I chose not to remove my thyroid or do any other invasive treatments.

In 2014, I was approached by a colleague to try beachbody programs. I heard about P90X and Insanity Max 30 from my cousins but never realized that they were beachbody programs. She told me to try T25, and I knew I could not handle it. I was so NOT FIT for any exercise. I started with 21 day fix and started portion control with the containers. I was huffing and puffing during the warm up and barely able to walk after the first lower body workout. Since, then, I have lost over 20 lbs. I never thought I had 20 lbs to lose. I have done max 30 and many other advanced programs since then. I TOOK CONTROL of my body image for the first time in my life. Since then, I have gained 5-6 lbs. but I am not afraid of it, because I now know how to target it. Besides a sense of control I have gained a group of women in my life that I CAN TRULY rely on. Many of them I only see virtually but some are my colleagues at work. It’s a true sense of sisterhood that is unique unto itself. Being nomadic for most of my life and not having a true hometown, I’ve never been able to experience, “my high school friends or my college buddies”. This is my first experience. There is something to a shared journey of body image, nutrition, life’s ups and downs. We celebrate our successes and motivate through our stumbles.

Now, I understand how my body responds to foods. I know how food nourishes BODY and MIND. I still enjoy dinners out and a cocktail here and there, but I am smart about what I eat. I am committed to staying active whenever possible through these beachbody programs. My favorite quick thing that I make now for breakfast is overnight oats.  It tastes likes the yummiest pudding AND is healthy.  I am a teacher and once, my students talked about not having time for breakfast and I made overnight oats for two students. I put them in mason jars and hand delivered to their classrooms. They loved it. I impart my love of learning to my students and sometimes I impart my love of cooking and nutrition too.

Starting beachbody has helped me helped my daughters understand what a healthy body image is. They understand how nutrition works. They understand a healthy balance. Here’s a recipe for overnight oats that I have made. Add fruits if you want, change maple syrup to honey or agave if you want. I like the smokiness of maple syrup though.   Add more milk for a loose porridge texture. Make it savory by not adding sweet, but avocado or nuts. Make it your own!  This takes 5 minutes and you can make for 2 days ahead and leave in fridge. If you make more than one serving, it’s best to make servings separately to ensure each serving gets equal amounts of ingredients. It’s so easy, that my kids make it too. One loves it, the other not so much… but that’s life.

OVERLOAD ALMOND OVERNIGHT OATS( 1 serving)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oats( rolled or steel cut)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk or cashew milk or whole milk
  • 3/4 tbsp.. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. almond butter or peanut butter or other of your choice
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • cute mason jar( no less than 8 oz.) , you could use Tupperware or ramekins
  • Optional- fruits, nuts, flax seeds

Instructions

  1. Place into mason jar in the order listed of ingredients. Stir well. Leave in fridge overnight.
  2. ENJOY THE NEXT MORNING.
  3. Add coconut flakes or fruits…all optional.
  4. There are fun ways to top…