Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Homemade Strawberry Pie

In our fast paced lives filled with fast food, it is easy to forget the pleasures of a homemade dish.  We also tend to forget how easy some foods are to make.

Once upon a time, my brother, my sister and I cooked and baked just about every day.  We liked food and we liked trying new recipes.  There were many failures.  No matter what we put on the table, my father ate some of it.  If it was bad, he didn't say anything but after leaving the table he went to the cupboard to retrieve his favorite blue bowl.  He filled it with saltines and milk.  He quietly went to the living room and ate.

Actually, I do remember one time Dad reacted to my cooking.  I made chili and accidentally used paprika instead of chili powder.  That was bad.

Now I have three boys, a husband, and a job.  Cooking and baking every night has lost its appeal.  Pies are the only exception.  I love making pies.  Blueberry, apple, pumpkin, peach, and, of course, strawberry.  Sometimes, I just make the crust and top it with butter & cinnamon sugar.

My grandmother taught me how to make a good pie crust.  It is not a secret recipe or complicated one.  It is actually the one usually printed on a rolling sheet.  The trick is to respect the dough and not overwork it.  Grandma said, "If you need to re-roll it, toss it and make new."  This coming from a frugal woman who only let us use half a napkin left a lasting impression.  I don't toss it.  Instead I make the cinnamon sugar crusts.

I have increased the crust recipe because I like even numbers and lots of crust.  I also have given very detailed directions.  So many people say that pie crusts are difficult.  Not really.  They just take patience and practice.  The results are well worth the effort.  I have never had a strawberry pie in a restaurant or from a store that even came close in taste to my grandmother's recipe.

3 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt

Combine these with a pastry blender or fork until it is evenly crumbly.

Slowly add about 8 Tablespoons cold water. Mix with the pastry blender until mixed.  Don't over mix.  The exact amount of water needed can vary depending on humidity.  I usually add 2/3 of it and then slowly add more until it is the right consistency.

Rolling it out takes a little practice.  Flour the sheet and the rolling pin.  Divide the dough in half and pat them into flat patties.  Turn it in the flour. Start rolling.  Flip the dough and change rolling direction frequently.  Roll larger than pan will be.  When ready, carefully roll it on the pin and unroll in the pan.  Cut any excess that touches the table.  Fold over and pinch the edges.

Since this will be baked unfilled, pierce the crust's bottom with a fork in several places.
Bake at 425 degrees (F) for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.

Strawberry Glaze

1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup water

Simmer for 5 minutes.

1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch, heaping
Mix well.

Sprinkle the sugar mix into the simmering strawberries and stir.  Do this slowly or lumps will for.  Stir constantly until it boils, thickened and becomes clear.  Let it cool for 15 to 20 minutes before pouring over strawberries.

Fill the crust with strawberries (sliced or whole depending on preferences).  Cover with glaze.  Refrigerate.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Epilepsy and Intellectual Disabilities

Yesterday morning on Twitter, I saw a question about epilepsy and intellectual disabilities.  Are they one condition or separate?  I worked closely with a student with epilepsy and saw the effects it had on him.  I commented that the epilepsy can be the cause of intellectual disabilities.  Another person asked if anything can be done to help them.  I replied with what I thought was a very basic and common sense suggestion.

"Helping them understand what is happening reduces anger & blaming self. Love & accept them."

Given the very low character limits of a tweet, I thought it was a decent suggestion. I angered the original tweeter.

"It isn't that simple, most parents love & accept children, cold parents theories are not valid." was his reply.

I honestly don't understand how he took my simple suggestion of helping the kids through a difficult situation as condemnation of parents and parenting styles. Helping people understand scary situations is a very basic idea. Fear of the unknown can be debilitating. When the unknown involves epilepsy and the person experiencing it is a young child, the fear can turn to anger and self-blame easily.

Loving and accepting them is also very basic- I thought. I was picturing the child in the midst of a seizure. The mild ones can look like he is just not paying attention. The more severe ones are terrifying. Their unpredictability adds another level of fear.

With mild "absence seizures" people do mistake them for the child just daydreaming. A young child won't know what is happening anymore than an observer. He can start to blame himself and think he is just lazy. Frustration and anger follow.

I have no idea how my comment was interpreted as any sort of cure-all or a suggestion that parents are cold. Once upon a time autism was blamed on the mothers being cold and unfeeling. These despicable women were dubbed "Refrigerator Mothers". I thank God that we have moved beyond that theory and no one blamed me for Gabe's autism. Besides, he was my little cuddle bug. He just didn't like anyone else holding him.

Back to the Tweeting....

I said that I was commenting as a teach, not a parent.  

To this he replied " I am sorry in that case. You are not the right person to comment. No offence meant."

Why am I not allowed to comment on this? I worked closely with the family and the child for several years. Even as a substitute teacher, I think of the students as my children. Now that I no longer sub, I still think of them that way. Their health and well-being concern me. If there is anything I can do to help them I will. I watch for signs of a problems. Same as my own kids.

When the original tweeter thought I was a parent, he thought I was condemning other parents for bad parenting. When he found out I was not the parent, he dismissed me as not qualified to comment.  

Damned if I am. Damned if I'm not.

I stand by my original statement but would change "anger" to "fear"

Helping them understand what is happening reduces fear & 

blaming self. Love & accept them. Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store

Monday, March 10, 2014

A New Chapter Begins

My life can be neatly divided into chapters.  Childhood, High School, College, Research Tech, Grad Student, Motherhood, Autism/Special Needs, Subbing & Crafting.  And today I get to start a new chapter.  Maybe it will be titled "My Career".  Maybe "My Job".  

I am starting to work in an insurance agency office.  How well I like it and it likes me will determine the eventual title.  I am hoping for the career.  I have been searching for almost a decade for a job that is suitable.  Local, some flexibility in hours, respected profession and people who respect me.  

You will notice that money and benefits are not on that list.  I have gone so long with extremely low pay and no benefits that I hardly dare to dream of them.  Forget six figure salary.  I am hoping I will finally get a five figure salary.  Maybe even one that doesn't start with "1".  

Yes, I am or was the working poor.  Highly educated and extremely under employed.  Soon, I hope to just be "the employed".