Almost invisible mirrored tree house built in Sweden

July 23, 2010

My mom emailed me an article about this “Treehotel” that recently opened in Sweden. It’s so spectacular. What an amazing idea!

When I was little, my parents and Papa R. built my sister and me a tree house, which is still tucked in the woods behind their house. They attached a wooden ladder they built to the front of the house, which was only scary to climb the first couple of times. The tree house was one of my favorite places, even when the mosquitoes were eating me. It was nice to have a place that felt like all my own, nestled high up above the ground.

This article also made me think about one of my first days at Hampshire. I was waiting in line (I no longer remember for what, probably dinner). A young woman introduced herself to me and asked what I was studying. “I’m going to study literature. What about you?” “Tree houses! I’ve always been fascinated by tree houses. Did you know…”

It was a perfect introduction to Hampshire, where every day I’m so grateful I was able to spend four years. If only they had a graduate program…

blueberry lemon drop scones

July 15, 2010

A couple of days ago, I went to Parlee Farms and picked blueberries and raspberries. My mom, David, and I had picked strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries a week or two before at Brookdale Farm, but we’d run out. I picked a lot of blueberries, so I decided to make scones. I found this recipe at Allrecipes.com and made only a couple of minor adjustments.

I like this recipe because it uses lemon yogurt in place of half and half or cream, for a lighter, lower fat version.

>>Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

>> Yields ~15 scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (my lemon was fairly large, so I used a lot more, maybe 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup lemon yogurt (almost two full 6-ounce containers)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries

Glaze:

  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • ~3 tablespoons of lemon juice (I used the juice of 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon peel (I used more, maybe 1 teaspoon)

Directions

1) In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon peel).

2) Add in the yogurt, egg, and melted butter. You can use an egg beater (though be careful–it gets really sticky) or a spoon.

3) Once the ingredients are well combined, stir in the blueberries.

4) Using two spoons, scoop the dough onto a greased cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart. To make 15 scones, they should be around 2 1/2-3″, but you can really make them however large or small you want.

5) Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

6) Combine the glaze ingredients. If it’s too watery, add more confectioners sugar. If it’s not lemony enough, add more juice. While the scones are still warm, drizzle the glaze on top.

raw cookie dough balls, dipped in chocolate

July 15, 2010

These are, quite simply, amazing. Don’t worry, they are also egg & salmonella free!

I made this recipe by combining & adjusting a number of different recipes I found online.

>>Yields ~30 cookie dough balls

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup and two tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (this is what replaces the eggs and holds the dough together)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips of your choice (I used semisweet)

To coat:

  • 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, melted

Directions

1) Cream together the butter and sugar, using a mixer.

2) Beat in the yogurt and vanilla, followed by the flour.

3) Using a spoon, stir in the chocolate chips.

4) Cover and chill the dough for one hour in the refrigerator.

5) Roll the dough into balls (1-1 1/2″), placing them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. They can be close together since you aren’t baking them!

6) Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes.

7) Melt 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips using a double broiler or the microwave.

8) Jab the balls with a fork and use it as a dipping tool to coat with chocolate. You can coat the whole ball, or just half. (I preferred just half since they are so rich already.) Return the balls to the wax paper lined baking sheet.

9) Freeze until set, or another 20 minutes.

10) Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They should be good for at least a week! If you want them to last longer, you could freeze them.

Coconut Curry

July 15, 2010

I made this for the first time a couple of days ago. I don’t like it nearly as much as Chickpea Curry, and it takes longer to make, but it’s still pretty tasty. I think that next time I make it I will double the amount of the spices, since it didn’t have enough flavor.

I made minor adjustments to a recipe found in Perfect Vegetarian: a collection of over 100 essential recipes, published by Parragon Publishing.

>>Serves approximately 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped into a few chunks
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 fresh green chili/jalapeno peppers, cut in half with the seeds removed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp ground tumeric*
  • 1 tsp ground coriander*
  • 1 tsp ground cumin*
  • Approximately 2lbs of mixed vegetables cut into chunks (I used carrots, zuchinni, cauliflower, and green beans)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Cilantro, to serve
  • Rice or quinoa, to serve

*I would double this next time, using two teaspoons of each.

Directions

1) Put the onion, garlic, and peppers into a food processor. Blend until the mixture is almost completely smooth.

My beautiful food processor (thanks Bruce & Randy!).

My beautiful food processor (thanks Bruce & Randy!).

2) Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion/garlic/pepper mixture. Stir for three minutes.

3) Add the vegetables and stir until they are well coated.

4) Add the coconut milk.

5) Cover the pot and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly soft.

6) Add chopped cilantro, if desired, and serve with rice or quinoa.

Chickpea Curry

July 15, 2010

I first made this in April and have made it many times since. It’s one of David’s favorites and it’s so easy to make! I always double the recipe because it’s great reheated.

I only made very minor adjustments to this recipe, which I found in The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook published by Murdoch Books.

*Please note that it’s fairly spicy*

>>Serves approximately four

Ingredients

  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 14oz cans chickpeas
  • 2 14oz cans diced tomatoes (I get “no salt added”)
  • 1 teaspoon garam marsala (can be purchased at any Indian grocery store)

Directions

1) Slice the onions and dice the garlic.

2) Heat the oil in a medium/large pot. Add the onion and garlic, cooking until the onions become soft.

3) Add the chili powder, tumeric, paprika, cumin, and coriander. There will be a lot of spices–more than will cover the onions. Stir the spices in until the onions are coated.

4) Add the chickpeas and the tomatoes (undrained). Stir until everything is mixed together.

5) Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

6) Stir in garam marsala, then simmer (covered), for another 10 minutes.

it’s been a long time…

July 15, 2010

It’s been a long time since I last updated — a month and a half! I feel like so much has happened.

My friend Ryan and I had a blast on Endersession. I learned so much over the course of the week, especially during the time we spent at The Farm Institute. While there, we took care of the animals, planted and harvested food, made our meals, wrangled a bull… !

I'm milking a goat.

Every year, after Endersession is over and we only have a couple of days of school left, I wonder why we didn’t do something similar earlier in the year. The positive school culture that is created and the relationships that are formed amongst students and between students and teachers are so incredible. Students (and teachers!) also learn a lot! I’m hoping to really push for a mini-Endersession (”Wintercession”) between semesters next year.

Speaking of next year… There have been so many plans…

I got into The New School’s MFA in creative writing program, focusing on writing literature for children and young adults. I was excited; I had doubted whether I would get in because at the open house I attended they said they only accept 10% of creative writing applicants. The plan was to move to NYC so I could attend grad school. David mostly works from home, so his company was okay with this. Ultimately, however, I decided not to attend. It was extremely expensive (even with a modest merit scholarship), and while I really want to go to grad school, I still don’t know exactly what I want to study. I love writing (and it would have undoubtedly been a fun, challenging, and exciting two years), but I’m also interested in getting my Masters in Library Science, pursuing a degree in literature, possibly getting an MAT (Master’s in the art of teaching — part of your coursework is related to education, part to your subject area), and possibly exploring the social work field. I need to spend some time figuring out what I really want to pursue.

The second plan was for us to spend six months traveling around the world. Because of David’s job, we’re going to have to hold off on that dream for at least another year. I still feel a bit disheartened and disappointed to not pursue this immediately, since dreams like this always seem to get put on hold…

The next plan was to move to NYC, even if I wouldn’t be attending grad school. I had a cool job opportunity, my sister and a bunch of our college friends live there… It’s NYC; it would be awesome! I told my principal and all of my students that I was leaving. On the last day of school, we said our farewells. The reaction from students was overwhelming and only partially anticipated. Lots of tears were shed…

A week or so ago, I made the decision to return to the school where I teach. There were a lot of factors contributing to this, but I think that ultimately I realized what my priorities are and what’s most important to me. I believe so strongly in our school’s vision and approach to education. I love my students–so much that sometimes I feel like my heart is going to explode–and I work with some of the most inspiring, dedicated people on the planet. My coworkers have become my friends.

My principal and the director of our school offered me an amazing position teaching just three days a week next year. I’ll be teaching one 9th grade English class and one 11th/12th grade elective English class. I’ll also be running the newspaper, and I’ve been put in charge of developing and implementing Senior Projects.

David and I are moving to Cambridge, since I’ll only have to commute three days. I’m going to have so much more time to write, read, and pursue my own interests. I’m especially hoping to focus on writing next year. I’m also thinking about taking some grad school courses starting in January. I’ve also begun looking into ceramics/pottery classes, something I’ve been interested in for years but never followed through on. I really think that working three days a week will enable me to be a better, happier teacher. I will feel more successful and more fulfilled.

I’m excited to see this vision that we started with three years ago in the Old Town Hall through. Next spring, our first senior class graduates. I’m thrilled I get to continue being a part of all this.

It’s been pretty awesome this past week telling students that I am coming back. I went to breakfast with three students who I’m close with so I could tell them in person. One of them knocked my smoothie onto the ground in her flurry of excitement. I’ve been greeted with emails in all capital letters, “IS IT TRUE?!?!?!?!” It feels good. It feels really good.

I realized today that it’s almost the halfway mark… summer is almost half over! I need to read more books, spend more time at the ocean, make more food, visit NYC, and hopefully get to spend more summer evenings with friends. (Oh, and we need to pack up and move. But I’m trying to forget about that.) The first two weeks in August David and I are heading to CA. I’m excited. There’s so much to be excited about!

Endersession

June 8, 2010

Our high school has a program called Endersession that focuses on getting students out of the classrooms for experiential, hands-on learning during the last full week of the school year. It’s an exciting time that both students and teachers look forward to all year. Teachers get to design a course around an interest or passion that they may not normally get to explore with students; students get to go out into the world to learn about topics they want to learn more about. It helps avoid burnout at the end of the year, and helps us end on an incredibly positive note.

This year, the courses being offered are:

  • Shape the Universe (a blacksmithing course)
  • Coastal Ecosystems of New England (they are camping on Martha’s Vineyard)
  • Exploring Colleges throughout New England
  • Habitat for Humanity in Portland, ME
  • Transcendentalism (including trips to Walden Pond, etc.)
  • Muse in the Museum and Gallery Hunting (heading to art museums around MA)
  • Tour of Massachusetts (exploring Boston, Salem, Lexington & Concord, etc.)
  • Hiking the Long Trail (backpacking in VT!)
  • Costa Rica Experience (was originally Guatemala, but they changed their destination last week due to natural disasters in the country)*
  • Writing, Recording, and Producing a Hip-Hop Album
  • Sports Week
  • Where Does Our Food Come From? (my colleague and friend Ryan and I are running this… more details below)

*To read the blog/site that our students in Costa Rica are keeping, head here: http://web.me.com/courtneykcronin/RisingMindsExpeditions/Daily_Overview.html

Here are bios of students on the trip: http://web.me.com/courtneykcronin/RisingMindsExpeditions/Student_Bios.html

Where does our food come from?

Monday: We headed to Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry, NH and learned about yogurt, the company’s efforts to protect the environment, and their commitment to sustainable agriculture. We also got lots and lots of samples. We then headed back to school and watched the documentary Food, Inc.

Tuesday: Today we volunteered all day at the New Entry Sustainable Food Project in Dracut, MA. We helped plant flowers, clean up, and get ready for their season!

Wednesday-Friday: Tomorrow morning we are heading to the FARM Institute on Martha’s Vineyard. Students will be feeding/caring for animals, milking cows, planting/harvesting vegetables, cooking food, and more! (Students even have the option to participate in chicken processing tomorrow.) We return late Friday afternoon.

I love Endersession!

Emily the carpenter?

April 23, 2010

I started making a bookshelf tonight! I’m pretty excited about it. It feels really good to create things.

When it’s finished, it will be 5 feet tall and there will be three more shelf sections. I had to stop hammering for the night because I don’t want to be that neighbor.

Marbled caramel chocolate bars

April 12, 2010

Adapted from Cookies: Over 300 Step-by-Step Recipes for Home Baking.

THESE ARE SOOOOOO GOOD! Very, very rich! These were a huge hit on Easter, at my parents’ house.

Ingredients

The Base

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 3/4 unsalted butter, softened

The Filling

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • Two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk

The Topping

  • 3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used a bit more)
  • 3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate (I used a bit more)
  • 2 ounces white chocolate (I used a bit more)

Directions

>>Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

1) Put the flour and superfine sugar in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture is crumbly, like breadcrumbs. Continue to squeeze the dough with your hands until it forms a dough.

2) Put the dough into the bottom of a lightly greased 13×9″ pan. Press it out evenly with your hand so it covers the bottom. Use the bottom of a spoon to smooth it out.

3) Prick the dough all over with a fork.

4) Bake for about 20 minutes or until firm and a very light brown color. Leave it aside until it’s completely cool.

5) For the filling, place the butter, brown sugar, and condensed milk in a pan, stirring over medium heat until the sugar and butter have dissolved.

6) Stir the mixture constantly, bring to a boil.

7) Reduce the heat and simmer, while constantly stirring, for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Don’t let it burn!

8) Pour the hot filling over the now cool base. Spread it out evenly. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until it’s cold.

9) For the topping, melt each type of chocolate separately. You will make alternating 1 1/2 - 2″ wide stripes of milk and semisweet chocolate, and will then add spoonfuls of white chocolate on top. Using a skewer, you will swirl the white chocolate, forming a marbled effect.*

10) After the chocolate completely hardens, cut into thin bars. I prefer to refrigerate these (I like the way they taste when cool), but you don’t have to.

*This was challenging because the base and middle layers are so cold that the chocolate hardens very quickly. I’d recommend making part of a strip, then adding the white chocolate and creating the marbled effect, then finishing the strip, adding more white chocolate, etc. This will enable you to create the marbled effect as you go (and the chocolate is still melted), rather than after the stripes are hardened.

Peanut butter cookies

April 12, 2010

Adapted from Cookies: Over 300 Step-by-Step Recipes for Home Baking.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup crunchy or smooth peanut butter (up to you!)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

>>Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

>>Yields ~24 cookies

1) Beat together the butter and sugar with mixer.

2) Beat in the egg and vanilla.

3) Add the peanut butter, continue to beat batter with electric mixer.

4) Add the flour and baking soda, continue to beat.

5) Roll 1″ balls of dough. Place on two lightly greased cookies sheets.

6) Press the balls flat with a fork into round shapes, making a cross cross pattern (first press the fork in one direction, flattening the ball, then place the fork in the opposite direction to make the pattern).

7) Bake the cookies for around 12 minutes, or until lightly colored.