Thursday, December 22, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 32

Goal:  Read Ron Clark’s The Essential 55 in its entirety and incorporate the ideas into my classroom/Goal:  Keep adding books/reviews to GoodReads each time I finish a book

            I finished reading The Essential 55 today, so I can check off this goal on my official list!  I was excited that one of Clark’s rules is the following: “Carpe diem.  You only live today once, so don’t waste it.  Life is made up of special moments, many of which happen when caution is thrown to the wind and people take action and seize the day” (156).  This fits in perfectly with what I try to convey via the Carpe Diem Unit and how I strive to live my life.  The 100 Goals assignment and this blog are prime examples.  Reading this section of the book reminded me that we should revisit this philosophy as a class when I return.
            Overall, I enjoyed Clark’s handbook.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I found many commonalities between his ideas and principles and my own, which was refreshing.  Additionally, he brought the idea of reinforcing basic manners into the forefront of my mind.  I will be marking this book as “Read” on GoodReads and writing up a little something soon.
Goal:  Make time to watch more movies
            Last night, my dad and I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is based on Stieg Larsson’s novel of the same name.  I read the novel on the beach and poolside while my wife and I were on our honeymoon, and I really enjoyed it because it is fast-paced and full of intrigue.  When I finished the book, I gave it to my dad to read, and he zipped right through it as well.  Since then, he and I have read the other books in Larsson’s Millenium series and have been waiting for the movie to come out.
            I will say here that the movie did not disappoint.  I had forgotten some of the plot, but once the movie got going, I fell right back into it.  Like the book, the movie is pretty brutal in spots, but in order to accurately depict the unique character that is Lisbeth Salander, the brutality is necessary.  The actress who plays Salander, Rooney Mara, did an outstanding job—look for her name when the Golden Globes airs on January 15, 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 30

Goal:  Raise my children to be intelligent, compassionate, responsible, successful, and unique by offering them a multitude of experiences
As you can see, Caleb spent some time this morning composing music on his five-key before his nap.  After his nap, he engaged in "tummy time" without any complaints:

Goal:  Have children and become a successful father

            As I went through the day-to-day “stuff” today, I played Mr. Observant and took note of everything that Caleb needs throughout the course of a day (e.g., sleepsack, pajamas, diapers, bottles…the list goes on and on).  I plan to then organize this list and begin packing for the holidays (after my wife checks over the list, of course!).


            I hope this blows your mind as much as it did mine and my wife’s!  The topic: orangeness of baby food.
            Immediately below, you’ll find a picture of homemade sweet potatoes.  By all accounts, this is some pretty orange stuff.  I remember thinking this is crazy orange! the first time we made it:

            Then, we made carrots.  And our lives changed forever.  Check it out:

            Ridiculous, right?  Look at the carrots next to the sweet potatoes and a Clementine:

            I guess what I’m getting at here is this: you may think you know the color orange.  But really, you don’t—not until you’ve pureed some carrots.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 29

Goal:  Read Ron Clark’s The Essential 55 in its entirety and incorporate the ideas into my classroom

            This morning was interesting.  I had a service appointment for one of our vehicles, so Caleb and I were out of the house by 9:30 AM.  After waiting at the cafĂ© in the shop for about an hour, I was told by the guy at the desk that they had to order a part from a nearby shop, so we were looking at at least another hour.  He wanted to check with me about waiting because I had Caleb with me—I thought that was nice of him.  Caleb was holding up okay—overtired and fighting off a nap, but not fussy and mostly content with “people-watching”—so I thanked the guy and told him we would be okay.  While Caleb attempted to settle in for a nap in his stroller that the guy brought out for us from the back of our vehicle (again, quite nice of him!), I took some time to read some Ron Clark.  I got through about 25 more pages.
            After about another half an hour, the guy came back out and said that they found a leak in the steering column.  For the sake of convenience, he wanted to set me up with a rental car (covered under warranty, so I wouldn’t have to pay anything) so that Caleb and I could get out of there.  Fair enough, I thought.  I’d never rented a car before, so I figured I’d chalk it up to another interesting life experience.  In fact, I was kind of thinking to myself too bad this isn’t on my 100 Goals List. 
            Unfortunately, I jarred Caleb’s leg a skosh taking him out of his stroller, so his first few minutes in the Buick Regal were a little rocky.  I fed him a bottle in the backseat while parked in the parking lot, and that and some soothing words had him back to his sweet self in minutes.
            Despite the delay, Caleb and I were able to get some last minute X-mas shopping done, which has been a long time coming.  Caleb nodded off, so I dropped a few items in the cart for him while his eyes were closed (though he woke up and started peeking—he takes after his mom). 
This was not the way I envisioned our morning playing out, but I have no complaints—the course of events gave me something to write about.  Also, I appreciated both “the guy” (I feel bad calling him that, but I’m not 100% sure of his name—Jeff?!) at the shop and the rental car lady (again, I apologize here for my informality) for taking pride in doing their jobs well.  I find that refreshing wherever I go.  Ron Clark would respect them, too (tieback, tieback!).

Goal:  Continue working hard in the kitchen (splitting dinner duty with Amanda, trying new recipes, experimenting with pairings, etc.)

          Speaking of my wife being a “peeker”, she and I decided to exchange one gift tonight.  Long story short, my wife needed a certain kitchen utensil, and I hinted that she may or may not have exactly what she needed out in her stocking.  All it took was that intimation, and she was ready to dump out the whole stocking and go to town (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but still…).  Since she got a gift, I thought it was only fair that I get one, too.  She agreed and presented me with a wrapped gift that was clearly a book.  An English teacher knows a book when he feels one, wrapped or not.  It was indeed a book—Food & Wine Annual Cookbook, to be exact.  According to the cover, I have “over 600 amazing recipes” to choose from.  That should keep me busy for almost two years if I’m doing the math correctly.  I mention this because one thing I love about my wife is that she knows how passionate I am about going after my goals, and she often has them in mind when she gets me gifts.  And for the record, I love that she peeks, too!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 28

Goal:  Continue working hard in the kitchen (splitting dinner duty with Amanda, trying new recipes, experimenting with pairings, etc.)

            Today, I’m throwing together a good ol’ fashioned chili.  It’s Sunday, which means football, which means “man-food” day, which means chili is on the menu.  I love making chili because it’s an adventure every time.  I never make chili the exact same way as I did the previous time, and I like to throw in new ingredients to see what happens.  The new ingredients I have today that I’m excited about are hot garlic powder, Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce, and white corn and black bean salsa.  I’m also pulling out an old standby that I don’t always include in my chili—pan-fried sliced potatoes.  It’s gonna be a money batch!
            What I love about making chili is that it lends itself to the experimental nature I’ve mentioned above.  Basically, you need meat, some veggies to provide flavor, tomato-based wet ingredients for juiciness, and spices.  The manner in which these basics manifest themselves is entirely up to the cook.
            Meat-wise, I’m going with ground sirloin and chicken today.  Here’s the rationale: I wanted to go with ground turkey, but for ease-of-shopping, I had to go to Save-a-Lot (which I did—hey-yo!), and the store was ground turkey-less.  Therefore, I got a package of ground sirloin (always good—just less healthy) and found a can of chicken chili with beans.  I figure this can will get us another meat in there and provide the chili with a flavor base.  I will brown up the ground sirloin with my veggies early on in the process, and the chili can will get dumped into the CrockPot when the time comes.
            As for veggies, I’m going with my go-to ingredients of green peppers, onions, and garlic.  These will provide the chili with some essential chili-like flavor.  After diced up, the veggies are browned with olive oil and the meat.  I also like to introduce some of the spices during this stage so that the meat and veggies take on some additional flavor.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m also throwing in some fried potatoes.  These get dumped from the can into the meat/veggie pan after those ingredients are done and added to the CrockPot.
            In order to provide the juiciness, I will use what we had in the cupboard: whole tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Because whole tomatoes are not ideal, I’m planning on mashing them up with a potato masher.  This point in the process is also where I’ll throw in the salsa (from Save-a-Lot), Frank’s RedHot (had on hand) and chili sauce (from Save-a-Lot), and tomato paste (from Save-a-Lot), which gives the chili some nice concentrated tomato sweetness.  After the chili simmers for a little while, I check the flavor by tasting a spoonful.  Spices are added accordingly, including chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and hot garlic powder.  I continuously taste the chili as it slow-cooks, adding Frank’s, chili powder, etc. as necessary.
            All of these ingredients will sit in the CrockPot on high until we feel like eating.  The longer the ingredients sit, the more flavorful the chili becomes.  Again, this is a promising batch, and I patiently await the outcome.  I’ll check in later with the verdict… 

Here are some pictures from the cooking session:


            The chili was darn good, and its goodness was accentuated by the crusty dinner rolls we dipped into it.  I would define the chili as spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.  Mixing in sour cream cut the heat down to just the right level.  Admittedly, it was hard to pinpoint tastes from the new ingredients I tried, though the corn from the salsa added a noticeable pop of sweetness in some bites.  About the chili, my wife said, “It’s like a ‘garbage plate’ chili.  There’s so much stuff in it!”  Even Tim Tebow seemed to be eying our bowls from inside the TV screen.  Another positive: lots of leftovers to freeze for the future!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 25

Goal:  Have children and become a successful father

            A few days back, I wrote the words “zucchini.  Yum, yum…”  It turns out Caleb begs to differ, which I find surprising.  I LOVE zucchini.  In the summer, we sautĂ© up zucchini, summer squash, and onion at least once a week.  Plus, the Baby Bullet User Manual and Cookbook describes zucchini puree as follows: “A mild and tasty puree that’s chock full of Vitamin C and B6 which support your baby’s developing heart and eyes” (54).  A family favorite AND “mild and tasty”?!  I didn’t think I could go wrong here.
            After slowly introducing zucchini the past couple of days via small spoonfuls here and there, which Caleb definitely disliked as evidenced by his facial expressions and fake coughs, I thought that I could “sneak attack” him this morning by mixing in a whole lot of zucchini with his cereal and milk.  The verdict?  He took twice as long as usual to eat due to the following: opening his mouth hesitantly and rarely, growling, fluttering his eyelids, scrunching up his nose so that it had at least four wrinkles in it (which I didn’t even know he could do), biting down hard on his spoon, and leaning further and further back in his highchair throughout the course of the feeding.
            When it was all said and done, he ate about ¾ of the bowl.  Based on reflection, I think that we will slip him little bits of zucchini until it’s all gone and then maybe never make it again or at least wait for a while before reintroducing it.  This half hour sequence this morning was not exactly a success, but I feel that reflecting on a daily basis is important.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 24

            It’s been a rough couple of days here at the Martin home.  My wife and I both have colds, and Caleb is starting to get stuffed up himself.  We’re all fighting through, though!

Goal:  Read Ron Clark’s The Essential 55 in its entirety and incorporate the ideas into my classroom

            Today, I started rereading Ron Clark’s The Essential 55.  I say rereading because I read the first third of the book about six years ago when I heard about it in a graduate school course.  However, I never finished the book for whatever reason, and I’ve been meaning to read it in full and jot down notes, hence the goal.  This goal, I should mention, has been on my list ever since I crafted the first draft in 2006, the same year that the television film The Ron Clark Story starring Matthew Perry of Friends fame aired.  This morning seemed like as good a time as any to get started on the pursuit of this goal.
            For those of you unfamiliar with this book, here’s the blurb from the back cover verbatim:

“With this runaway New York Times bestseller, Ron Clark lit a fire under parents and teachers everywhere to raise their standards and expect the best from their students.  Read this book and find out why so many people nationwide have found these rules to be just what they were looking for to help their kids succeed in school.”

This book is structured as a list of 55 rules, and for each rule, Clark shares a personal anecdote (or two or three) from his time in the classroom.  Though Clark’s experiences come from the elementary level, I have found that much of what he shares is both engaging and helpful for me as a high school teacher.
            What I did this morning was read the first twenty-seven pages and took notes under the following heading: “Worthwhile Rules from The Essential 55/Additional Ideas”.  Basically, I am finding that the contents of the book reaffirm much of my current practice, but I’m also being reminded of some very basic “stuff” that I sometimes forget to mention, reinforce, or deliberately teach.  For example, one of my notes reads: “Show appreciation via clapping—all clap and clap well.  Oftentimes, we clap as a class when something clap-worthy occurs, but the clapping is frequently sloppy at best.  Clapping, like anything else, can and should be modeled.  I need to remember this each year so that this act of appreciation is truly appreciative, not just “going through the motions” and awkward.  Following the completion of this post, I intend to keep reading before bed!
Goal:  Raise my children to be intelligent, compassionate, responsible, successful, and unique by providing them with a variety of experiences

            Caleb and I might head out to do some X-mas shopping tomorrow—I’ll post accordingly.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 22


Musings from last Friday that I didn’t get a chance to post:

          This morning, I was flipping through the channels while Caleb played (we did the whole passing-the-block-back-and-forth thing again), and on AMC, Fight Club was playing, and it had just started.  I had to watch the whole thing.  I love this movie (and the Chuck Palahniuk novel, for that matter), and I hadn’t seen it in a long time.  As I watched, I was reminded of how ridiculously sweet the movie is.  I had forgotten that Jared Leto was in the film, and I never realized until today that Bob is played by Meat Loaf (actually, I’m quite embarrassed that I didn’t notice now that I think about it…).  Also, you can never go wrong ending a movie with Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” playing in the background.  I was also reminded while watching this movie that I flat out need to watch more movies.  People are asking me all the time, “Did you see ________________________?”  And my answer, sadly, is always, “No…”  It’s not that I don’t like movies—I just don’t create the time in my life to watch them.  I guess I’m too busy engaging in other forms of entertainment (let’s be honest—READING!).  But as I watched Fight Club, thinking about philosophy (as the movie begs the viewer to do) and recontextualizing the film based on knowing its outcome, I realized I was thoroughly enjoying myself in much the same manner I do when reading.  Why not watch movies more often?  I have a copy of Inception sitting right on my dresser that I borrowed from a coworker, and it’s been there for months now.  Why?  Many people have told me the movie is amazing—I just haven’t made the time to watch it.  The bottom line is I need to watch more movies.  In fact, I’m adding a goal to my list right now.  Here it is: “Make time to watch more movies”.  Watching Fight Club also got me wanting to read another Palahniuk novel sometime in the near future.


            Sitting here on Monday having just re-read this “stuff” from Friday, I am happy to report that I got my hands on Chuck Palahniuk’s 1999 novel Invisible Monsters.  I am currently working on finishing up some books that I’ve only partially read (for example, a book of fiction about golf called The Back Nine, by Billy Mott), but I’ll probably start up Invisible Monsters sometime soon.

Goal:  Keep adding books/reviews to GoodReads each time I finish a book

            This past Saturday, I proctored the ACT at the high school.  Despite getting up a little too early in the morning for my liking, the experience was nice because I got to see several students that I haven’t seen in weeks, and also, I was able to write up a quick review for the novel Little Brother that I just finished:

Goal:  Have children and become a successful father

            I don’t know if any of you are aware of this, but I’ve been working a side job at a place called MBFF.  Though the place has nothing to do with “best friends”, the name does have a ring to it due to the whole "BFF" letter sequence.  Now that I think about it, it is a friendly enough company I guess.  I digress...  MBFF stands for Martin Baby Food Factory, which I’ve been owning and operating for many days now.  It’s all about giving Caleb a variety of tasty options—in the near future: zucchini.  Yum, yum…:

Goal:  Raise my children to be intelligent, compassionate, responsible, successful, and unique by providing them with a variety of experiences

Caleb recently started pounding his open hand on the table while sitting in his highchair.  I thought it might be fun to copy him and essentially “take turns”, so he and I began back-and-forth drumming on the table.  Then, I started counting while hitting the table and then waiting for Caleb to do the same.  I would choose a number anywhere from two up to six with the hope that Caleb would be able to copy the same amount of hits on the table when his turn came.  Caleb got the hang of it fairly quickly and started hitting the table the exact number of times as I did previously.  It really seemed like he was understanding the whole counting concept (though I’m pretty sure he was just watching my facial expression and stopping when I seemed excited!).  It was still pretty cool, though! 
In addition to Caleb’s new math curriculum, my wife and I have both been reinforcing sign language, and we continue reading to him as often as possible.  We have also started working on two new milestones: finger foods and sippy cups.  Check out the pictures below—we’re still in the early stages!:  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 18

Goal:  Follow people’s book recommendations by reading the backs of suggested books and then the first 100 pages.  If a book is good, finish it—if not, stop reading!

Caleb’s naps have been getting ridiculously long these past few days.  He must be going through a growth spurt.  Main bullet point: I actually got a chance to do some leisurely reading while he slumbered through the morning, which was quite lovely.  By the time I got settled in, the reading session only lasted about 25 minutes, but I’ll take it!  I’m almost finished with a book called Little Brother, which was recommended to the English Department by the high school librarian.  If I finish tonight or tomorrow, I plan to put together a quick review as per my GoodReads goal.

Goal:  Continue working hard in the kitchen (splitting dinner duty with Amanda, trying new recipes, experimenting with pairings, etc.)

While making dinner tonight, I was overcome with a wave of ambition and started snapping pictures.  I made Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Onions, and Spinach, loosely following a recipe from Everyday Food (yes, I like me some Martha Stewart every now and again, and I’m not afraid to admit it).  Looking back through the pictures, I realize that I can probably walk you through the recipe, so that’s exactly what I intend to do!

            First, I chopped up some small golden potatoes so that the pieces were about ½-inch thick.  I followed that up by cutting up a red onion into ½-inch thick pieces, cutting across the onion so that I could pull the pieces apart into rings:

            Then, I unwrapped a roasting chicken and cut out the backbone (which, quite frankly, was the most difficult part of the preparation by far).  I started off using kitchen scissors to do the job, but they just weren’t cuttin’ it (hey-yo!), so I switched to a big ol’ knife to finish up.  Once the backbone was out, I was able to rinse out the chicken, pat it dry, and splay it out for roasting purposes.  Then, I rubbed the chicken down with some olive oil and then sprinkled it with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper:

            Next, I took a baking dish and covered it with tinfoil.  I poured a thin layer of olive oil over the tinfoil, which I then dropped the potato pieces into, rolling the pieces over so that they became coated with oil.  I then covered this layer of potatoes with onion rings, hit up the tubers and veggies with some salt and pepper, and finished by putting a cooling rack over the dish upon which the chicken would sit.  Note:  The recipe suggested using a broiler pan, which we do not have.  I rigged up this contraption and it worked just fine:

            While the food baked in the oven on 450 degrees for 35 minutes, I emptied a bag of baby spinach into a big salad bowl and tossed the spinach with a healthy pour of olive oil, a splash of orange juice, and more salt and pepper:

            Before too long, the food was ready.  I double-checked the cooked-ness of the chicken via the meat thermometer, and it was sitting pretty at about 170 degrees, so I then dished up some plates:

            This recipe was easy enough to throw together.  As I mentioned earlier, the most time-consuming part was hacking out the backbone, and honestly, that step was probably unnecessary.  I’m sure the chicken would have cooked just fine otherwise; it would have just taken a little bit longer.  Additionally, the leftovers situation is good in that we now have about half of a chicken whose pieces we can use to make chicken salad for lunch sandwiches.  Healthy, tasty……worth adding as a mainstay in the Chef Martin repertoire.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Operation 100 Goals--Day 17

            As you can see, we were successful in the putting-the-tree-back-up endeavor.  I would be okay with my Christmas tree never falling down ever again in the future.

Goal:  Keep adding books/reviews to GoodReads each time I finish a book

            I finally got a chance to write up a quick book review for John Hart’s Iron House, which I finished reading last Tuesday.  The review can be found here: