Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Name is Nancy, and I'm an Introvert

I am an introvert. That means that I am energized by solitude and quiet. As much as I love my friends and family, I find too much time with others tiring. I like stillness and quiet, and I'm unnerved by too much stimulation. I have an active inner life that may not be apparent to others.

I'm raising an extrovert. Sometimes, she and I don't understand each other. She recently told me that she finds quiet "creepy." Huh? I love silence. It soothes me. She prefers noise--the louder the better. She also thinks everything is more fun if she has a friend along. She wants to bring a friend to the grocery store. I prefer shopping all alone. Companions distract me.

I don't think one temperament is better than the other. We're just different, and I'm fascinated by traits that make people unique. 

What really fascinates me is how different members of one family can be. Caroline is more like me. A few years ago, Caroline's teacher told me that our daughter was "so shy." I didn't correct her, but the teacher's assessment didn't ring true to me. Caroline was quiet at school, but she didn't demonstrate social anxiety. So I asked Caroline, "Do you think you're shy."

"No," she answered.

I said, "You just don't have a lot to say."

"Right," she said.

I nodded. I get it.

If you are interested in temperament types, I urge you to read Susan Cain's excellent book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I think this ought to be required reading for the human race. You can also see her TED talk here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Black Bean Burgers

I have picky eaters in my house. It's nearly impossible to find a meal that pleases everyone, but here's one that comes close. Juliet says it's her "favorite healthy meal." Caroline and Laura don't get excited about it, but they'll eat it if they can find one with a lot of cheese. Maybe your family will enjoy this recipe, too.

Black Bean Burgers

  • 3 green onions, trimmed and minced so fine that the youngest family member can't see them
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced 
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (lemon is fine if you don't have limes)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Canola oil, I don't know how much, just guess

  • cheddar or pepper jack cheese
  • whole wheat hamburger buns

In a large bowl, coarsely mash the black beans with a potato masher. You don't want to completely pulverize them. Some of the beans should still be whole.

Mix in the green onions, bread crumbs, garlic, lime juice, chili powder, eggs, and salt. 

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. I find that these burgers hold together better if I use quite a bit of oil. I don't deep fry them, but I don't just coat the bottom of the pan either. You might have to experiment a bit to find what works for you.

I use a number 16 disher like this one to scoop three or four helpings of the bean mixture (however many will fit in your skillet) into the hot oil. Then I use a heat-resistant scraper like these to press the blobs into patties. Don't be discouraged if they try to fall apart. They do that. Just use your scraper and your spatula to nudge them back into shape. 

Cook the burgers for about three minutes. Then gently turn them and cook for another three minutes or so on the other side. Again, they will try to fall apart. Just do the best you can. 

When you think they look done, move the burgers onto a baking sheet. Collect all the little bits that broke off the burgers. They're tasty, too. 

Continue cooking the burgers until you've used all the bean mixture. You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven.

We like cheese on our burgers. I always have sharp cheddar in my kitchen, but sometimes I use pepper jack. Paul and I like that, but the kids don't. Put slices of cheese (or shredded cheese) on top of the burgers and put them in the oven to melt. Make sure the youngest child gets the cheesiest one or she will cry.

You might like to serve these burgers on buns, but I actually prefer eating them with a fork. Beans are so starchy already, I think the buns are overkill.

One more comment about their tendency to fall apart. I was once tempted to despair over a batch of burgers that completely fell apart. Eventually, I put all the bits into a baking dish, covered the mess with cheese, and called it "black bean crumbles." We ate it and we were happy.

So give this recipe a try and let me know in comments how you like it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mouse Hunt!

The heroine of the story

We had some excitement before school this morning. Laura came into the kitchen in her nightgown and said, "I saw a mouse in my room." Her eyes were full of tears. "Oh, no!" I said, as one who interprets a mouse in the house as condemnation of my housekeeping. I take it personally. "Let's put the cat in there." I carried Cupcake (her real name, by the way) upstairs and set her down in Caroline and Laura's room. I urged Caroline to get her clothes and come downstairs with us.

A few minutes later, I went back up and saw that Cupcake was seriously on the hunt. She scampered and pounced, and a gray mouse ran for its life. She caught the mouse and batted it around a bit, as cats will do. I left Cupcake alone with her prey knowing that she would soon dispatch that nasty beast. 

I went back again later to collect the remains, but Cupcake and the corpse were not there. Uh oh. That can't be good. Paul inspected the room and didn't find either the cat or the mouse. We got the kids off to school and went to work, wondering when and where we would stumble upon a dead mouse. 

I still haven't found it even after picking up the girls' room. I'm not sure if the mouse got away or if Cupcake put it somewhere. I'll let you know if we have any new developments in the case.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Coiffures and Trauma

Juliet fell apart recently over a frustrating haircut. The stylist had given her an "undercut" that has made it difficult for her to put her hair up. She always has these little hairs that won't stay where she wants them. The situation had reached an apex when she was trying to put rollers in her hair. She cried and fussed about the horrid stylist who had ruined her hair.

By this time, I was a little tired of her complaints. I thought she had a darling haircut that flattered her face. I was tempted to dismiss her grief. It just wasn't the tragedy she was making it out to be. I prepared to tell her to get over it, but I suddenly decided to go another direction. I picked up the comb and began to roll her hair for her. As I did so, I told her a story about a haircut I got when I was just a little older than she is. I told the hairstylist to cut it short, and she did just as I instructed. I hated it. The second I was outside the salon, I pulled a bucket hat over my hair and sulked home. "I was unhappy with that haircut, even though it was actually kind of cute. But it grew, and I went on to try a variety of other styles over the years." 

Sometimes, we parents don't make enough of an effort to step into our children's shoes and try to see the situation from their perspective. I like this short stand up bit from comedian Brian Regan. It's comedy, of course, but his point is a good one: adults could try harder to understand their children's feelings. 

Juliet didn't like her haircut any better after that meltdown in front of the mirror; and, yes, she was making a big deal out of nothing. Still, I made an effort to sympathize, and I think that fact that her mother understood alleviated her frustration.