Step it Up for the Texas Super Bowl

imagesLooking for a step up from chili for your Super Bowl festivities?  How about Texas Pulled Pork BBQ.  WW Sonja passed this along with a high recommendation.  It not only is delicious and makes your house smell wonderful, but it’s another slow cooker recipe.  Can’t get better or easier than that.

Pulled Pork BBQ

7 lbs of pork butt (extra fat trimmed off)

Mix in a bowl:  3 T chili powder, 1.5 tsp of salt, 1 tsp fresh ground pepper.  Rub mixture all over pork roast.

Place 1 sliced large onion and 4 minced garlic cloves in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Add roast and 1 cup BBQ sauce (Sonja uses KC Masterpiece).  Pour water over roast until covered (about 4 cups).

Cover and cook on high until tender and meat falls off the bone (about 6 hours).  Remove pork from cooker, reserve on platter.  Strain cooking liquid into sink reserving the onions.  Return pork to slow cooker and shred with a fork.  Add 2 more cups of BBQ sauce, cook until heated.

Serve with portugese rolls and coleslaw.

Enjoy the Super Bowl … and all those commercials of course.

Making A List, Checking It Twice

writing-listEvery holiday season, I like to make a list of up to five activities that I commit to make happen during the month of December.  Last year – aka the stressful year from hell – only one item appeared on my mental list: decorate the Christmas tree. (As you may remember, we had struggled to assemble the pre-lit tree, but never got around to hanging ornaments on it.) 
We finally decorated the tree the 24th, albeit with distracted minds/hearts. We also managed to knock off a few other holiday activities like send out Christmas cards, but they were “extras” as they were not on the official list. Christmas had a different vibe last year, but I was satisfied with the celebration – and all because we managed to decorate that darn tree.
I began chopping Christmas traditions off my “must do” list the year my father died. I could not gather the energy or interest to send out holiday cards, so I didn’t. And I  discovered the world continued to spin on its axis just fine.  
With this scaled-down approach, our holiday traditions ebb and flow depending on what’s going on in the world.  Some of our activities have included: 
  • Taking a day off from work to shop with Wise Hubby while our young kids were in school.
  • Getting dressed up (tux/long gown) for his firm’s annual blow-out holiday party.
  • Making several dozen Christmas cookies to share with teachers and neighbors.
  • Crafting Christmas letters and/or designing annual photo cards.
  • Attending a friend’s annual Advent service.
  • Hosting a low-key Christmas Day dinner for the few family members still in town on the 25th. 
  • Hanging a lit wreath on the picture window.
  • Attending a Christmas concert.
  • Watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

This year only two of these traditions are making my short list. We may end up doing more, but, again, those will be extra and not essential to whether or not we “did Christmas right” this year.

According to W. Somerset Maugham, “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.” I like that sentiment! 

What traditions will you be following (or not) this holiday season?

A Meal to Consider for Chilly Fall Days

02_PA_1D01_04_98132_s4x3_lgAs the days start and end with that chill in the air, it’s time to start thinking of some hearty meals.  I stumbled across a recipe this past week and gave it a go, and with the exception of my vegetarian daughter, all gave it a thumbs up.  It was easy, and I just happened to have all the ingredients in my fridge or cupboard.

Give it a try if you’re in the mood:

Texas Brisket

3 medium or 2 large onions

1 4.5 to 5.5 lb fresh beef brisket

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup liquid smoke

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cups steak sauce (like A1)

1/4 cup strong brewed black coffee

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Slice onions and arrange in center of a roasting pan that will hold the brisket snugly.  Place brisket on top, fat side up.

2.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients; pour over brisket.  Cover pan with heavy aluminum foil, sealing it tightly.  Bake 3.5 hours or until tender.

3.  Remove from oven; transfer meat to a cutting board and cover with foil.

4.  Transfer onions to a blender with a ladle or two of liquid from the pan.  Blend until smooth; stir back into remaining liquid in pan.

5.  Slice brisket across the grain and serve with the gravy.

And add the mashed potatoes for the side.  Not a bad meal, especially in the middle of a busy week!

8 Things I Hate About August

AugustThe reality of August is hitting me. While most people (I think) associate these dog days with going on summer vacations, I have a different reaction to our eighth month of the year -  I really don’t like August.

(Hate is too strong a term, but the title “8 Things I Really Don’t Like About August” just didn’t have the same ring to it.)

Here are my top eight reasons why:

(8) The window of time left to schedule summer fun (e.g., concerts, picnics, baseball games, trips to the beach) is beginning to close. As a result, there’s pressure to squeeze in various outings before time runs out, as if all fun ceases as of Labor Day. Forcing fun contradicts the notion of the “lazy days of summer.”

(7) Buying new, summer clothes is almost impossible. The pitiful selection in stores is limited to one 70%-off rack featuring the polk-a-dot capris pants no one else would buy.

(6) The increasingly darker mornings make it harder to get up. As if I need another excuse to pull the covers over my head and avoid the gym.

(5) Uttering the S-word (school) in the presence of my son puts his mental health at risk (or so he tells me). Makes shopping for his “s-word” supplies a challenge.

(4) Speaking of s-word supplies, despite the countless aisles of pencils, markers, glue sticks and filler paper in every store, it takes trips to at least three stores before I can find the particularly sized spiral-bound notebooks required by the high school teachers.

(3) Turning a blind eye to the weeds for the month of July results in a jungle of foot-high weeds that must be removed in August. Not August’s fault, really, but the month still takes the blame.

(2) I’m tired of having to carefully ease out of my car as I peel my sticking skin off the leather seats. Happens on most car trips, even when I’m running the A/C .

(1) I hate the disbelieving question “Can you believe it’s already August?!?!” that worms its way into every conversation. (Or, it’s kissing cousin, “Can you believe the summer’s almost over?!?”)

Feel free to join the August hate-fest. Or, if you actually like the month (and, again, you’re probably in the majority), feel free to sing August’s praises.

Hitting a Homerun for Part-time Work

homerunWhile I am happily engaged in my new private practice, truth be told, the primary reason I made this leap was that I could not find a part-time professional opportunity. Clarification: I FOUND one suitable opportunity during my five-month job search, but withdrew my application when I learned it was part-time work at night.

Acceptance of part-time and other alternative work schedules has a long way to go. It’s a bit depressing.

But, I took some solace when I heard that baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr is in talks with his former team the Baltimore Orioles about rejoining the team in the front office. The news report said that Ripken was only interested in working part-time until his son graduates from high school. Ripken sounds comfortable and confident in his priorities as he outlines how much energy he can devote to work given his commitment to his family (see clip below).

When was the last time you heard a famous father publicly say he would only work part-time? Prominent men regularly cite “family reasons” as they make job changes, but the assumption is they’re moving to a less demanding full-time job.

I realize the public declaration of one (albeit legendary) man will not change today’s workforce culture and the resistance to part-time work. However, it’s a step in the right direction! I tip my cap to Ripken and his willingness to seek ways to balance his personal and professional lives.

Have you Wise Women seen any other signs (promising or otherwise) of a shift in attitude toward part-time work?

According to the Associated Press report on ESPN:

BALTIMORE — Cal Ripken Jr. is exploring the possibility of joining the Baltimore Orioles as a part-time adviser, which would ease his transition into a permanent position after his son graduates high school in 2012.

Ripken, who turns 50 next month, has been meeting on a regular basis with Orioles owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. The conversations have centered on finding the Hall of Fame infielder a position in the front office on the team he played for throughout his 21-year career.

Should they come up with a plan that would allow Ripken to remain dedicated to his family while serving the Orioles, he would be willing to get back in the game before his son, Ryan, graduates from Gilman School.

“If something does take shape, then I’ll start to consider it. And I’ll be honest enough to say this is the amount of time I have and these are the commitments that I have elsewhere,” Ripken said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“Tell Me Your Story”

Tell-StoryI had dinner this week with a colleague who described a diversity training conference she attended recently. Mimi regaled me with a few stories of the hokey and somewhat invasive group activities which she was subjected to. The rhetorical, preaching-to-the-choir discussion did little to advance participants’ thinking about diversity; it just made them feel REALLY uncomfortable.

But, then Mimi shared an exercise they went through that contained a five-carat gem of wisdom.

When someone voices an opinion that is counter to yours – even if you find that position offensive and indefensible – ask that person to tell you his or her story. “Tell me what’s happened in your life that’s made you reach that conclusion.”

Ask with genuine curiosity. Seek the personal story behind the belief. Understand and respect the person, if not the opinion. Identify any common ground you share.

Gosh, can it be that easy? I always tense up when I run up against opposing viewpoints (particularly political stances). Then I do a good job of avoiding the opinionated elephant in the room and scramble to find something we can both agree upon. (Am I a people-pleaser or what?) And then I make a mental note to avoid this topic/person in the future.

So, I love this “Tell me your story” approach. I’ll let you know when I have the chance to use it.

How do you handle conflicting viewpoints?

Let the Super Bowl Ads Begin!

Florida St Florida FootballI never send ‘em.

I rarely receive ‘em.

I infrequently read ‘em.

What are “they”? Those emails forwarded by friends and family ranting about the political hot potato of the day.

For the few I do open up (sometimes inadvertently), I have yet to read a cogent argument that’s convinced me to change my position on that particular issue.

Last week I received a forwarded email about the upcoming pro-life Super Bowl ad featuring football star Tim Tebow and his mother. Reportedly, the spot tells the story of how Mrs. Tebow, pregnant with Tim, came down with a tropical ailment while living in the Philippines; the doctors then told her the pregnancy had become life-threatening. Obviously, Mrs. Tebow chose to still have the baby, her son Tim; the ad celebrates that choice.

The ad (and the fact that CBS entered uncharted ground by agreeing to ad an “issue” ad during the Super Bowl) have generated a passionate response, eclipsing interest in the actual game. (Go, Saints!) The email I received last week is case in point. Here’s an excerpt:

“I found out that CBS has cleared the way to subject nearly 100 million people to Focus on the Family’s extrema agenda by agreeing to air its new pro-life ad during the Super Bowl.

Focus on the Family has an unmistakable anti-choice, anti-birth control, anti-sex-education, anti-gay agenda. If that isn’t bad enough, its views on women are just plain insulting and dangerous. For example, its web site urges women facing unintended pregnancy to seek “wise advice” because “the hormones and extreme emotions of pregnancy make reasonable decisions more difficult.” Yeah, there is no way you can make this up.”

This dire email from NARAL was forwarded to me by my cousin, a bright guy with a big heart and a wicked sense or humor. I scrolled to the end of the message expecting a wry comment from him about the hyperbolic language in the email. Nope. Just a quick disclaimer: “I don’t usually send this type of stuff, and my apologies if this is not something you want to receive.” (Which is true, he doesn’t.)

The form email went on to urge me to not “sit by while CBS lets Focus on the Family place a political ad during the Super Bowl” and sign an online petition in protest.

Actually, the urge I felt was NOT to leap into cyber action. I wanted to scream in frustration. It drives me bonkers that the original email author believes that a position framed in polarizing and demonizing language will convince me – and others – to change positions on this deeply personal issue.

The Washington Post sports writer Sally Jenkin’s article, “Tebow’s Super Bowl ad isn’t intolerant; its critics are” captured my sentiment about the brouhaha:

“CBS owns its broadcast and can run whatever advertising it wants, and Tebow has a right to express his beliefs publicly. Just as I have the right to reject or accept them after listening — or think a little more deeply about the issues.”

I didn’t reply to the forwarded email. (Add that to the list – I never respond to ‘em.) But, it definitely pushed a button for me.

Wise Women, how do you handle it when you receive a forwarded email with a viewpoint (or hyperbolic language) that you find problematic? Any reaction to the back-and-forth about this year’s Super Bowl ads? And, perhaps most pertinent to this first weekend in February, who else is joining me in rooting for the Saints?

Palin Waxing Poetry

sarah-palin-resignation-videoAfter so much political blogging last fall, I couldn’t help but to bring up Sarah Palin one more time.  Her resignation of the governorship of Alaska has intrigued me.  Her rationale for doing so has intrigued me more.  The speeches she has given since this announcement – confusing, circular, and amusing.  If you missed the Conan O’Brien show the other night, he had William Shatner (noted Thespian) come in and recite Palin’s final speech from this past weekend. As you will see from this clip, it was extremely poetic in nature (click here).  All I can think is what in the heck is going through her head?  And what must McCain be thinking?

All that aside, I know she’s had a tough road to deal with since the election.  It will be very interesting to see what becomes of her over the next couple of years.  If she’s smart, she’ll enjoy life and family, and make lots of money giving speeches and writing a book.  However, I do think she seems to enjoy the spotlight – and despite the thinking that she’s ruined her chances for higher office given her resignation – I will be amazed if she doesn’t show up on the political scene again.

What are your thoughts? Is she done with politics or not?

Jump out of your Dinner Time Slump

noname3School has just begun, and already my neighbor and I were commiserating over just what to feed the kids.  It’s easy to get stuck in a dinner slump – making a limited range of dinners that you know are safe with your kids.  I also struggle with the veggies – is it peas, broccoli or carrots tonight?  Really, what a bore.  I still feel guilty when I think of the very balanced meals my mother always prepared – at least 3 veggies a night and such a wide variety.  Of course I didn’t like a good number of them, but did I eat them?  Yes, I did.

One thing I do have going for me is that my children do like flavor and spice.  Following is a recipe that my children love – and the nice thing is, it can be the one and only on the dinner plate if you are too tired to serve anything else.  Also note, if you decide to pull some of the ingredients out – like the mushrooms or bean sprouts, it still works.  And it’s easy to prepare – not more than 10 minutes of prep and 10 minutes to cook.  So maybe this can offer up a little change of pace:

Moo-Shu Pork (4 servings)

1 T soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
5 tsp vegetable oil, divided
8 oz lean, boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4″ thick strips
1 tsp butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
1 pkg (8oz) sliced mushrooms
3 green onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 T grated ginger
2 cups of bean sprouts
1/4 cups of chicken broth
8 small flour tortillas
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1.  In medium bowl, combine soy sauce, cornstarch, 1 tsp oil, and pork strips.  Marinate 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in small nonstick skillet, heat butter over medium high heat.  Add eggs; scramble until cooked but not dry.  Transfer to large bowl and set aside.

2.  In large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp oil over high heat.  Add pork and cook, stirring, until browned about 2 minutes.  Transfer to bowl with scrambled eggs.

3.  Heat remaining oil in skillet, and add pepper, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and ginger.  Stir fry until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.  Add bean sprouts; cook 1 minute more.  Add broth; heat to boiling; stir in eggs and pork.

4.  Warm tortillas in microwave, about 30 seconds (I usually wet two paper towels and put the tortillas between them in the microwave), and brush hoisin sauce over centers.  Divide vegetable pork mixture among tortillas and roll up.

Source:  Cooking Light.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust

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