Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tomato-Basil Chicken Stew

After I posted about this on Facebook, I got several requests for the recipe, so here it is:

What I used:

  • 1.5 lbs. chicken breast (from Bethel Trails Farm, thawed)
  • 1 bag of (frozen) October beans that I got from the Farmer’s Market this fall (you could use the canned bean of your choice from the grocery)
  • 2 (28 oz. Mason) jars of whole tomatoes (with their juices), which I got from the Lazy Farmer at the Farmer’s Market this fall. You could use canned from the store.
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 BIG handfuls of baby spinach (kale would work, too, I think)
  • 1 handful of chopped fresh basil
  • pinch or two of salt
  • a few shakes of black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

tomato basil soup 2What I did:
I put the tomatoes in the crock pot first, and I smashed them up with my big wooden spoon. Then, I threw everything else but the spinach in the crockpot and gave it a quick stir. I threw the spinach in on top and set that baby on low for 6 hours.  6 hours in, I checked it, and it needed a little more time.   After another hour, it was good to go, so I stirred, shredded up the chicken, stored some more, and served with some shredded parmesan cheese.


This was REALLY easy.  And it was VERY yummy.  The size would be good for a family.  Trent didn’t eat any, so I ate it for dinner and then lunch a few times during the week.  I froze the rest.  I think this is a good freeze-for-later meal.

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Eat Fresh, Buy Local

Once summer starts, I almost exclusively grocery shop downtown at the Simpsonville Farmer’s Market. There are several reasons I choose to support the farmer’s market and spend my time & money there as opposed to a chain grocery store:

  1. I get fresh, nutritious foods. Seriously, nothing tastes better than produce that has just recently been brought in from the field. It doesn’t just taste good, either—it’s good for me!
  2. Further, I know where my food comes from. At the Farmer’s Market, I meet the people who grow the food, who raise the animals. In talking to them, I learn about what (if any) pesticides they use and how they treat their animals. For example, I know that the bacon I buy comes from fat, happy pigs who lived a really nice, comfortable, happy pig life. In fact, I’ve even been over to the farm to see them—and their chicken friends who roam free, enjoying a happy chicken life without hormones and antibiotics.

    Fat Happy Pig at Bethel Trail Farm, Farm Day, 2014

    Fat, Happy Pig at Bethel Trail Farm, Farm Day, 2014

  3. The vendors share with me recipes and ideas for cooking the fresh, local foods they sell me. Honestly, half the time I don’t know what on earth I’m doing in a kitchen, but I have gotten some fabulous advice from the very people most familiar with the food.
  4. I get to connect with people from our community. I meet and get to know people as we stand in line and chat about selections. We share ideas and opinions on the produce and what to do with it. I’ve learned from fellow market-goers much in the same way I’ve learned from the vendors. And this sense of community is important—it contributes to one of the best things about Simpsonville: the small-town feel we maintain despite a population of nearly 20,000.
  5. I get to support local farmers. It’s not easy trying to make it as a farmer (or really as any small business) in today’s globalized economy. By purchasing straight from the people who grow or raise the food, I’m helping to give them a fighting chance, and that’s important because…
  6. It stimulates our local economy. When we spend our money locally, it stays local. Also, spending money at the farmer’s market spurs spending at other small, local businesses—particularly those in our downtown area.

Really, once summer starts, I can make full, healthy, tasty meals for me and my family with ingredients that come from the Farmer’s Market and from local downtown merchants.

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Me To City Council: on the Farmer’s Market

What follows is the statement I read at city council tonight about the Simpsonville Farmer’s Market.  I love the Farmer’s Market. It is one of my favorite things about living in Simpsonville.  And I was not exaggerating when I said that Simpsonville wasn’t my first choice when I work an hour away.  I tried subtly hinting that (especially after Trent started working in Pendleton, too!) we should move closer to work.  Getting married and moving to Simpsonville more than doubled my commute.  Pendleton, I’d tell him, is a great little town.  And we know several people who live there! And our commute would be  substantially less. Oh, think of the time we would save! The things we could do with an extra hour and a half a day! I was pretty sure this was temporary.  Surely, we’d be moving somewhere else sometime soon.  I kept all my doctors, dentists, hairdresser, dog groomer and boarder, etc in Anderson. After all, they’d been my people for almost ten years. I wasn’t ready to let them go–especially since we might be moving back that way in the not-too-distant future. But then a funny thing happened.  I read about a Farmer’s Market in Simpsonville. I love a good Farmer’s Market.  How awesome–local, fresh food! I’m in.  So I said to Trent, “let’s go!” And he said, “Where is that?” And I said, “City Park, apparently.”  And he said, “Where is that?” We Google mapped it eventually. That’s how not Simpsonville we were–we didn’t even know there was a city park or where it was. But we found it. And I fell in love. With the market, its people, their fruits, vegetables, jellies, jams, soaps, eggs, meat–everything. I went back the next week and the next.  I met people, talked to them.  They gave me not just food but also tips on how to cook it.  I learned recipes. I also learned more about my community. And I ventured out into Downtown Simpsonville, where I found more wonderful people and small, local businesses. And now I love Simpsonville, and when we talk about moving closer to work, it’s me who says, “Oh, but I love Simpsonville. This is such a nice place.” And that all started with a visit to the Farmer’s Market. So when I heard that the city was planning to fee & tax the vendors in a way that would discourage their continued participation (particularly when a nearby city has offered them a new home without any of the red tape), I was incredibly disappointed in this city I’ve come to love. Luckily, a man who has come to be one of my favorite councilman, Matthew Gooch, got the issue put on the agenda for tonight’s council meeting. And I knew I had to speak. You can sign up at the door to speak, and you only get two minutes.  I drafted, revised, revised some more, practiced, and got myself a two minute speech for the meeting. This was it:

I work an hour away. Simpsonville wasn’t exactly my first choice to live. But the Farmer’s Market and its people were the first to make me feel like Simpsonville is my home and not just a place I live because I got married. The Farmer’s Market was also my introduction to Downtown Simpsonville. Without it, I don’t know if I’d have started doing so much of my shopping with the small businesses there. Now, I do–and spend my tax dollars right here in the city with brick and mortar businesses that do pay taxes and fees for business licenses. Because Simpsonville began to feel like my home, I not only started doing retail shopping and dining here, but I also started obtaining my regular services here. I switched to a local dentist, local doctors, a local hair dresser, a dog groomer (amongst other service providers). My money now stays in Simpsonville, and it all started at the Farmer’s Market. This is one small example of one of the market’s major benefits, which is borne out in national and regional research: farmer’s markets stimulate local economies. If you need another example, you need look only to Exchange Co., a brick & mortar business that got its start at the market.

Not only does the market stimulate our economy, it also provides two other major benefits to our community:

  1. Increases access to fresh, nutritious foods, and
  2. Supports healthy communities.

Research supports this, too, but it should be common sense. People are more likely to choose healthy options if those options are made readily accessible as they are at a farmer’s market. With market leadership working on being able to accept SNAP, WIC, and Seniors Nutrition Program benefits, this is ever-more important. The farmers market can make fresh fruits and vegetables the first choice for our most vulnerable and cash-strapped citizens. This is always good for our community.

Thus, Simpsonville should be doing everything in its power to encourage and support—not discourage—the Farmers’ Market’s growth.  Asking each vendor to obtain a license and charging hospitality taxes will discourage vendor participation and limit options.  It’s in your power to make an exception to a rule that shouldn’t apply equally to those vendors as to others.  And I implore you to make that exception, allowing the market to run as it always has.  It’s good for the city and it’s good for its citizens.

Three of the council members expressed what their vote would have been: leave the farmer’s market alone to do as it has always done. Officially, the taxing and licensing of vendors will go back to committee.  For now, the market lives on.  In the future, I’ll be stalking the Recreation Committee, chaired by Mr. Gooch. We cannot allow another city to reap the many benefits of our farmer’s market. Also, I don’t want to drive to Mauldin for all my Saturday rituals and business, but I will. I’d just rather the city I live in, the city I love, the city to whom I pay taxes, embrace the farmer’s market and all the good it does. And so the fight goes on.

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2015: Here I Come!

I’ve given a lot of thought to how I want to approach this new year. Resolutions aren’t my favorite things–although last year’s green smoothie resolution went pretty well. One of my FB friends is beginning the year (as she did last year) by choosing a word to guide her throughout the year.  I tried that on for size–gave lots of words consideration, but what I’ve ultimately decided on is not just one word to guide but words (plural) to guide me through the year:
IMG_0195.PNGIt’s sort of an extension of the daily mantra I used to get through the end of the year. It’s my 2015 mantra. I’m not entirely comfortable with it–but that’s kind of the point.

This mantra is somewhat reminiscent of the life philosophy I adopted in 2010 (which I referred to as The Year of Jenn). It was a year in which I refocused my energy on me. And it was a year in which I said “yes” to things I normally would not have (within reason–without violating my personal morals/values or the law and without endangering my life). It was a pretty good year.  I learned a lot.  It’s ultimately how I met my husband.

So this year, I’m going to intentionally try new things–things that normally don’t appeal to me.  I’m starting with a Zumba class next Friday.  That’s definitely outside my comfort zone. I am not graceful. Or coordinated. And I’m just a little (ha) out of shape currently.  Oh, and group activities? Definitely not my favorite–especially group exercising activities. Thus, I’ve said no to Zumba since people started raving about it. So now I’m saying yes.  My friend Angela is going with me–she’s actually a Zumba instructor.  And she remembers from our sorority days how uncoordinated I can be. I can’t really say I’m excited about it. It really makes me feel anxious. But who knows? Maybe I’ll love Zumba (I suspect not, but maybe).

I think I’ll also try a beginner’s yoga class.  And maybe one of those painting classes.  Who knows what else? (Please feel free to share possibilities!) But I know that when I start to feel uncomfortable with a possibility, I’ll come back to this mantra: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  Here goes nothing…



January 2, 2015 · 6:04 pm

The Plight of the Adjuncts (Part 3): Can You Hear Me Now?

If you’re not familiar with my disclaimer, now’s the time to read it. Just saying.

Additionally, (just to reiterate) I put out a call on social media for adjuncts to share, so it should not be assumed that any quotes/stories come from adjuncts who work for me or at my institution.

If you work a job where someone provides you with regular access to a telephone and pays the service for that phone, you might NOT be an adjunct instructor. In fact, I’m 99.99% sure you aren’t. And if you are, you must be really, really lucky, and you should take the opportunity to thank the Powers That Be at your institution for this luxury. Because that’s what it is for most adjunct instructors: a luxury–and one not afforded to them.

Allow me to use one adjunct instructor’s story to help illustrate my point here:

I couldn’t afford to continue to pay for my cell phone (my personal phone, mind you…) at the beginning of this year, and it was cut off for a while until I could pay the bill.  Thus, I didn’t give my spring semester students a phone number to contact me.  When I let one of my supervisors know, I was pretty much told that this is completely unacceptable.  I said the students could call and leave messages with the division office, but I would not be able to access messages from there except when I was on campus (Mon/Wed at that time).  That’s not good enough.  I am supposed to get back to them sooner than that. So, what is an adjunct to do?  They don’t provide me with a phone…or an office.  I could use the phone in the part time office, but it doesn’t call long distance, and it is shared by ALL the adjuncts on campus.  ALL OF THEM.  How on earth would anyone be able to reliably and securely leave a message?

At my institution, most of the adjuncts I know end up sharing their personal cell phone numbers with students. There are so many problems with this, I feel like I cannot even successfully enumerate them for you without unintentionally leaving one (or several) out, but here are some:

  1. They have to pay for those calls!
  2. Students call them at any and all hours of the day/night.
  3. It is an intrusion into the personal lives of the instructors.
  4. It may also be an intrusion into their professional lives (many adjuncts, remember, work more than one job).
  5. Students may otherwise abuse the knowledge of the number.

As one adjunct told me, “Using a personal phone gets tricky because then students have constant access to you. And they don’t operate on the same schedules.”

Another share: “I’ve gotten a couple of middle-of-the-night drunk phone calls, too. Or I had one ask me for help to bail his dad out of jail!”

Another anecdote: “ I got a phone call from a student at 8 pm on Valentines Day while I was out with my husband. I’d get calls at 1 am.”

This is not ok. As one person on Twitter put it so well, “We should always have the right to keep our phone numbers private. We’re not 24-7 operators.” And despite the fact that it is just wrong that adjuncts are expected to use their personal phones to communicate with students outside of class, most adjuncts I know do it because 1) it’s what’s right for students, who should have the ability to call and speak to or leave a message for their instructors when they have a question or concern; and/or 2) it’s what the institutions/divisions/departments/supervisors for whom they work expect. Notably, I tell my adjuncts never to give out their personal numbers, but I also know an adjunct whose number was given to students by the head of his Department.

At our institution, there’s an unwritten (as yet anyway–though I expect this to change with the new emphasis on Service Excellence–a phrase that makes me personally cringe because it points to further corporatization of community colleges, but I digress) rule that faculty and staff should respond to communications from students within 2 business days. That’s all good and well if you have a phone and voicemail.  It’s fair if that phone/voicemail is provided by those making the rules–written or unwritten. But it’s not if you’re an adjunct instructor–working part-time (perhaps only two days/week as in the example above) with NO PHONE or reliable access to messages.

Now–I know it’s the digital age, so many people might just say, “Well, what about e-mail??” So let me address this. First of all, I know this is hard to believe, but not all of our students have regular and reliable access to e-mail.  My institution serves a large rural population. We have students who live in areas where there is little-to-no reliable internet service.  Further, we serve such a wide variety of students, from such a wide variety of backgrounds that–and I know, this is hard to believe again–some of them aren’t comfortable using email as a primary method of communication. Heck, we have a student this semester who simply refuses to use the computer unless one of our instructors is sitting right there walking him step-by-step through it. Finally, most adjuncts I know are on the run most of the time–running between classes, campuses, colleges, other jobs. Remember all those “mobile offices” I showed you? So guess how they need to be checking that e-mail in order to deal with it effectively? ON THEIR PERSONAL CELL PHONES! And guess who’s paying for that data usage? Ahem. And in some cases, the institutions for which they work actually deny them access to email on their personal phones. As one adjunct said,

“I had to fight to get a “real” email address as an adjunct too.  And I am not allowed to have it come to my phone (but I played around with it until I figured out how to do it!  Shhh!). I used my personal email for students for years.”

So e-mail does not solve the no phone problem.

As you may know, I’m just a tad put out with the New York Times Editorial Board just now for their unwarranted (and largely inaccurate) assertion that adjuncts don’t work as hard for student success as full-timers. That assertion is wrong, and is a fairly liberal interpretation of the latest CCCSE report on contingent faculty. I’ve been reading said report, and if I had to boil it down to one point, it’s this: We need to better support our adjunct instructors because doing so is better for students. This isn’t to say that our adjuncts don’t do a FABULOUS job with the limited resources they do have.

We know that faculty-student interaction is a key to student success. We know from research that students who have and take the opportunity to connect with instructors outside of class time have increased academic performance, increased critical thinking skills, and are more likely to complete their degrees. So if student success is so important, if (*shudders*) service excellence is one of our goals, if degree completion (as the government insists) is so important, then why don’t we start focusing on removing obstacles to the interactions that are so important to achieving those goals? If adjuncts are teaching 50% or more of our students, why don’t we make it easier for them to have those important interactions–why don’t we give them access to space and resources to help them do that effectively?

It sure would be better than, as the NYT opinion piece does, maligning our hard-working, dedicated, overworked, and under appreciated adjunct instructors.

If you haven’t already read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on the plight of adjuncts. Please do. It’s important to get a complete and clear picture of the life of an adjunct:

“I had a student pretty disappointed in me a few weeks ago because I said I couldn’t really help him outside of class other than right before, right after, or via email.  1. I don’t have anywhere to go with the student. We can’t take students in the adjunct office.  2. I’m working 2 (occasionally 3) jobs and in grad school.  I don’t have time because I’m struggling to make ends meet.  That’s the life of an adjunct.  And it has gotten so much worse in the past 3-4 years.” –Adjunct Instructor



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Don’t Call Me Jenny & My Head Will Not Fall Off!

So this morning after I finished reading The Silver Linings Playbook (excellent, btw) and was enjoying the beautiful morning with a hot cup of Vanilla Mint (loose leaf) tea by Amanzi (also excellent, btw), I came across this article called”14 Books That Traumatized You As  A Kid.

I was traumatized by pretty much everything in the “teach kids a lesson by making them cry” category. I mean, I don’t even want to hear someone say “Old Yeller” (vaccinate your pets, people!). And I know I’m not alone there.

But I had really come to believe that I was the only person really traumatized by “The Green Ribbon” from In A Dark, Dark Room. In fact, I would mention this story to people years later, and no one else even seemed to remember it. I think it really got me because the woman in the story is named Jenny, and my name is Jennifer (“don’t call me Jenny because my grandfather had an aunt named Jenny and she was an old maid”).  So naturally (because kids are terrible!), I had to endure all sorts of taunts once the teacher was done reading this story: “Ooohhh…Jenny! Your head’s gonna fall off!” This really upset me; it was 1st or 2nd grade (thanks, teacher-whose-name-I cannot-remember at C.J. Prescott Elementary School in Norwood, Massachusetts), and I had never worn a green ribbon around my neck and also my name is not Jenny, and I didn’t like the idea that my head might just fall off one day.

I found this nearly as upsetting as the idea that I was going to be banished straight to hell if I were to die in a tragic accident without a picture of Bleeding Heart Jesus (aka Sacred Heart) strung around my neck (thanks, teacher-whose-name-I cannot-remember at Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes).

With that said, where is Stephen King’s It on this list? Was I the only reading that around the same time as Flowers in the Attic and before Lord of the Flies and The Giver?


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Accepted: My Presentation for the SC Assoc. for Dev. Ed.

My proposal was accepted, and I am officially on the schedule for the 2013 Conference of the South Carolina Association for SCADEDevelopmental Education (SCADE). The theme of the conference is “Reaching for the Stars: Achieving New Heights in Developmental Education.” The focus is, of course, on community college students, and on helping students in transition succeed. If it goes well, I intend to submit a similar presentation to the National Association 2015 Conference. This is the summary and abstract of the presentation:

Title: Creating a More Successful Maiden Voyage: Applying Principles of Student Success to Developmental Classes


Only about 32% of the Titanic’s passengers reached their destination. Community college students don’t fare much better on their maiden voyages: only about 33% of beginning full-time community college students obtain an Associate’s Degree. This session focuses on what we can do to help improve our students’ odds of survival.


If we want to help students “reach for the stars” and “achieve new heights,” we have to help them navigate the voyage there. At 2-year colleges, only 54.1% of students persist from the first year to 2nd, and the drop-out rate at public 2-year colleges is 47.7%. Only 1/3 of beginning full-time community college students obtain an Associate’s Degree; only 39% seeking a bachelor’s degree actually transfer to a 4-year college, and only 8% actually obtain the BA or BS within 5 years. As developmental educators, we know that our students are particularly at-risk of “sinking” in the sometimes rough waters they experience on their maiden voyage into post-secondary education. We can help increase their likelihood of success by encouraging them to embrace the four most powerful research-based principles of college success:
1. Active involvement

2. Use of campus resources

3. Interpersonal interaction and collaboration

4. Personal reflection and self-awareness

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to identify the four most powerful research-based principles of college success; will understand the importance of purposefully creating activities and assignments to encourage students to embrace those principles; and will have specific examples that illustrate how to create such activities/assignments.


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An Ode to Mustard

Ok…so not really an “ode.” That would require more brain power and creativity than I currently have. Nonetheless, I clearly have a crush on (or obsession with) mustard. I love mustard. Of all kinds. And there are SO many kinds. Seriously, check out the mouth-watering selection at the National Mustard Museum’s (yeah, it’s a thing) store.


Mustard: I’m pretty sure it’s the best condiment. Don’t try to argue with me here…it would be futile.

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Good Luck, Chuck

I’m calling this submission “Chuck” (mostly because it rhymes with “luck”).

So, good luck, Chuck! Hope the editorial board likes you, but even if it doesn’t, please know I still think you’re pretty special. And so does Trent (although that may be because, as my husband, he has to).

Hope to hear about you in 3-6 months. Kisses!


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Rolling our windows down…

The other day, I heard the Florida-Georgia Line (ft. Nelly) song Cruise for probably the 80th time. And every time I heard it, I would think to myself, “This song really reminds me of high school.” But I couldn’t figure out why. I finally zeroed in on these lines in the chorus:

In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit

Would look a hella lot better with you up in it

So baby you a song

You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.

 It’s something about these lines, I thought. Then, later in the day, I remembered that this song was actually written by a guy I went to high school with, Jesse Rice (Don’t judge me–I remembered him posting about it, but I don’t listen to country, so I never heard it until it was redone with Nelly. Yes, I listen to Nelly.). So it sort of makes sense that his lyrics would remind me of that time period.

 So here’s the thing: small town kids don’t always have much in the way of entertainment. We actually did a lot of “cruising.” I was trying to explain this to my husband, which earned me a lot of “Why?” and the occasional “In a circle?”

This was before everybody had a cell phone. As teenagers, we couldn’t just ring one another up and say, “Hey! Where you at?” If we wanted to see where people were and what they were doing, we cruised around local hot spots. Now, in small town South Carolina, “hot spots” include the (mostly defunct strip) mall, church parking lots, and abandoned lots. On a Friday or Saturday night, local teenagers would drive around and pass these “hot spots” and occasionally stop to chat. If you parked for ten minutes or so and no one else stopped (or if the police came by and told you to leave), you just started driving around again. The goal was that you’d see someone you knew at one of the spots, stop, and discuss “what’s going on tonight?”. Eventually, some sort of plan for fun would be devised—or we’d hit curfew and go home.

Now, there’s a town near ours that’s far more rural, and they had their own version of cruising, known as “cruising the grass patch.” This meant going out to an empty lot (of grass) and driving around in two concentric circles going in opposite directions. This way, you’d pass people, and as you did, you could slow and stop and chat with them.

I only “cruised the grass patch” once—purely for sociological purposes (i.e. curiosity and pure boredom). This brings me back to the “brand-new Chevy with a lift kit.” Most of the “discussion” at the grass patch was about trucks. Now, trucks, where we lived were a big deal. Having a lift kit = big deal. Glass packs = way cool. You catch my drift? And that’s basically how the discussions went: whose truck had what and whose didn’t and whose was better (this occasionally led to fights). There was a lot of posturing.

At least in our town, we were trying to find an activity (not that we always found one). In that town, that was the activity. I know, you may not see the difference: the line is thin. But rest assured, cruising the mall (sad though it may be) is très sophistiqué in comparison to driving in circles in a grass lot. For hours. And hours. On end. In their defense, there was absolutely nothing to do in that town (we had to drive 20-30 minutes to a movie theater. They had to add another 20-30 minutes on top of that). Also, everybody knew it was way better than “cruising the Boulevard” in Myrtle Beach, which only lame tourists did.


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