Thursday, March 27, 2014

All Quiet on the Blog. . .But Not in my Life

Wrestling with decisions and stressing over others' decisions have been occupying my time lately.  Two out of three have been resolved, and the third one may be.  In addition, there are the usual life challenges of just getting up earlier than your body really wants to, teaching antsy adolescents and hoping we're all having fun while we're learning something, coming up with something relatively healthy and tasty for dinner most nights, and then heading to bed, hoping to get enough sleep to wake up in time to do it all over again the next day.  In between of course, we're still dealing with way-below normal temperatures, snow, and a winter that just won't quit.

One decision involved the business and lots of money - Yes, we will spend that money.  Another decision actually belonged to Younger Son, - yes, he will change jobs,  and third involves a huge job decision for me.  That's the one that's still a bit iffy.  I think I know what I've decided, but I'm living with it for a couple of weeks before it's irrevocable.

On top of all this has been a huge amount of turmoil around our school budget.  Neither our proposed teachers' contract nor our regular school budget passed.  That means in addition to not receiving a very minor pay raise, we will actually bring home less money (again!  third time in 3 contracts) because of a 7% increase in our portion of our health insurance.)  Plus there are teacher cuts looming. One of the teachers who is losing her full time position is an absolutely gifted music teacher.  She has infused our middle school music program with enthusiasm and energy, doubling the size of the band AND chorus, and starting a music festival and jazz band ---all in the 2 short years she's been here.  But due to our RIF policy, she's been bumped by the high school music teacher who's also a great teacher.  His position is actually the one that was cut due to low class enrollment (which is due to the block schedule which prevents many students from being able to take music classes, but that's another story.)  So because he's been here for 20+ years he will be splitting his time between both schools, leaving her with only a half time job.  It's an absolute shame, but it IS the way the system works.  And while we're devastated that "our" teacher is affected so negatively, the RIF policy IS fair.  It takes qualifications, evaluations, and seniority into consideration.  There have been two rather contentious school board meetings which have kept us out till way past our bedtimes as the community tries to process all of this. At the last meeting on Monday night, teachers scored a victory of sorts.  Apparently, despite the failed budget, all of the administrators were slated to receive 3-5% raises.  One school board member saw the injustice of having admins get more while teachers and students were getting a less, and raised the issue.  Our association president also questioned this, and lo and behold!  The board agreed and eliminated the raises for all the administrators.  It was a drop in the bucket compared to what students are loosing, but it was a victory that made us feel a bit vindicated.

So  . . Meal planning.  I haven't been keeping up with that.

Tuesday night was a pork stirfry.  I sliced some boneless pork into very thin strips, and let them bathe in some soy sauce, rice vinegar, grated garlic, grated ginger, and peanut oil for about 20 minutes.   I sliced some carrots and onions thinly, and diced some celery.  I opened a can of whole water chestnuts and sliced those too.  I stir fried the meat in some peanut oil, and when it was almost cooked through, I threw in some unsalted roasted peanuts, toasting them slightly.  I removed the meat and peanuts to a bowl, and drizzled some Szechuan sauce over it.  Keeping it warm, I stirfried the veggies.  When the were done, I added in some leftover mixed veggies from the night before as well as some leftover grilled mushrooms. I then combined everything and after tasting, tossed in some red pepper flakes and a tad more Szechuan.  We like our stirfries on the spicy side.  I served this over rice.

Last night was what I'm calling Chicken and Artichoke Noodle Bake.  I cut up 2 small chicken breasts into small pieces and I sliced a can of whole, drained artichoke hearts into quarters.  I tossed these together in a greased baking dish and poured a jar of Prego Alfredo sauce over them.  Since it looked too soupy, I also added a can of mushroom soup.   I added a good sprinkle of black pepper and about a teaspoon of thyme.   Meanwhile I cooked some egg noodles.  When they were done, I drained them and added them to the mixture in the baking dish.  I baked the concoction in the oven at 350° for about 50 minutes.  Oh, I did pull it out at about 45 minutes and sprinkled the top with grated parmesan.  The top noodles got crusty which is what my husband likes.  Me, I could live without the crusty bits, but I made him very happy.  It wasn't particularly healthy, but it did taste good!!

So, tomorrow we are finally supposed to get some spring-like temperatures.  I would dearly love to be able to put my heavy coat, scarves, and gloves away.  And next week it's APRIL!!

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