Education


“I’ve got a Master’s in life.” My friend laughed when she said it, but I had to agree.

I spent a lot of years worrying about how I was going to get those pretty little letters behind my name. And after 12 years of ‘on again, off again’ college and an assorted training I have to say this…

I too have a Master’s in life. I got that Master’s mainly outside of the classroom, although classes in Philosophy, Psychology, World Religion, Literature and, oddly enough, Algebra certainly helped.

Now I’m not saying to NOT get a higher education. By all means, do so if you can! I miss those hours spent drinking up knowledge and pushing my brain to understand statistics and advanced algebra as much as I do dissecting poems and contemplating the nature of humanity. And if you knew me from high school (where I railed against those hated math classes with splendid regularity) then you will see what a jump forward that was for me.

Instead what I am suggesting you do is…LIVE.

Live as if you may die tomorrow.

Learn as if the world is depending on you for your knowledge.

Love deeply and without regret.

Experience a world outside of the daily hum of existence.

Taste new foods and new cuisines.

Meet new people.

Dig your hands into the soil and grow a vegetable or fruit for the first time.

Listen to classical if you like rock, jazz if you like country, gregorian chant, and celtic and so much more.

Drive somewhere different – out of your way, into a new corner of town

Write an essay, a poem (it doesn’t matter if it rhymes or not), or heck, even a manifesto on what it means to be alive!

Make today different and do not fear change or the unknown. Put away regret for another day and turn each mistake into a learning experience. Get a Master’s in life and then nothing and no one will ever hold you back from tapping into the joy of the you inside.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 or 6 medium russet potatoes, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves
  • 3 green onions, light green and medium green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
  • Cooking Directions

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with softened butter. Combine the half-and-half and the cream in a large measuring cup.

    Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the potatoes very thinly. They’ll cook better that way. Place the potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with half of the half-and-half/cream mixture and set aside.

    In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

    Cut the bar of cream cheese in half and add the halves to the skillet, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and combined, about 3 minutes.

    Pour in the remaining half-and-half/cream mixture and stir to combine.

    Add salt and pepper and stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Do not under salt! Add the rosemary and green onions and stir to combine.

    Finally, add ½ cup of the grated parmesan and stir to combine.

    Pour the cream-soaked potatoes into the baking dish. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the top and spread it evenly over the potatoes. Scrape out the skillet to get every last drop.

    Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup grated parmesan generously over the top and bake the potatoes for at least 1 hour, or until golden brown and bubbly.

    Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the chives, then cut into squares to serve.

    Advertisements

    I am consistently amazed and impressed by the growth of the Internet.

    On New Year’s we drove to a friend’s house, just a few blocks away for a relaxed get-together. The husband walked over to me, an old Coca-Cola crate in hand and asked if I would like it. “Like it? Are you kidding me? I’d LOVE it!” It was still caked with dirt from the barn it had been living in for who knows how long. What a prize!

    This morning I saw it, propped against a cabinet in our kitchen next to the sink. I had brought it in to wash it, but the sink had been full, so it sat there until I noticed it again. As the coffee brewed I sat down at the computer and typed into the search engine “uses for coke crates” (with several changes to the words – soda, cola, etc). A host of ideas came up on re-purposing coca-cola crates, along with pictures, which I always enjoy. One woman had spent a year collecting little tiny teapots and had them displayed in a cola crate hanging on a wall. Another used coke crates to store baby-food jars filled with spices.

    I resolved to hang the crate either in the kitchen or in the basement we are currently finishing out.

    In the midst of my viewing different links and pictures, I also happened upon a completely different link. Search engines are amazing, but there are many things they pick up that don’t have anything to do with what you are looking for. And sometimes, actually quite often, these links can take you in directions you would never have thought of. One of my searches yielded the resulting link: http://www.yourdon.com/personal/fiction/doovers/index.html which led to a fictional book a published non-fiction writer had written. I read the first chapter, bookmarked it, and plan to continue reading it later.

    What did it have to do with re-purposing coca-cola crates? Absolutely nothing. But it did lead to a source of entertainment and an education about how one writer has handled rejection (if the agents & editors won’t take it, publish it yourself!).

    How often do you ask a question and find yourself typing it into a search engine? What will that answer yield? What other paths will it set you on that you have yet to discover?

    Yesterday I was writing a scene in Book 2 of “War’s End” (a TEOTWAWKI type novel) and needed to sweeten a cup of chicory (non-caffeinated substitute for coffee). Having no sugar, and having already written in sugar beets into the book earlier, I now needed to understand HOW to extract the sugar from sugar beets. So I looked it up online! It’s actually pretty easy. I think I will try making my own sugar next year (I’ve already bought the sugar beet seeds). The link explains it all – http://www.ehow.com/how_2177131_sugar-beets.html and I easily added it to the story and continued writing.

    I also bookmarked the page in case I need it later. Before I returned to writing entirely, I checked out how to raise beets (another link directly on the page) and this led to a question of how long beets take to mature. I knew by this point that I would need to start the seeds in the last week of March and had marked my calendar per the instructions on raising beets. Outlook will remind me of when to plant them now. After revising my search words to “how many days do sugar beets take to mature” I learned it will take 45 days. So I can plant them in March, say the 20th, and by Mother’s Day they’ll be ready to harvest and make into sugar. Cool!

    You don’t have to take the path I just did. I recognize that not everyone is writing a book or needing to research wild edibles or circa 1800’s style food production. Really, I do understand that!

    My point is this: Our lives should be filled with learning. Not the “Oh God, I have to study for the Biology test!” That’s memorization and regurgitation. It is somewhat necessary, since you often need those pretty little letters to follow your names. What I am talking about is the adventure, the leisurely dip into the pool of knowledge that sits there waiting for you. It waits for you to follow your passions, your interests, and indulge your curiosity.

    What are quasars and how do they work? My eyes glaze over at the thought, but my nephew will happily discuss string theory all day if given the chance.

    What can you do with old Coca-Cola crates? Well, from my travels today I would say that they have dozens of uses, including that of furniture. I think that’s pretty cool.

    I want to work from home, what legitimate jobs can I do? Between Amazon.com and, eHow, About.com, and your local library – you’ll find plenty of options, my friend.

    Take hold of this amazing resource and grow and learn and explore. Lose yourself in the possibilities and learn a new language, build a new skill, and discover your passion along the way.

    And just for fun…here is what I ended up doing with the cola crate…

    All those silly little things we hang on to…knickknacks, gifts from our children, mementos from the past. The yellow and red colors on the side of the crate matched perfectly with my kitchen paint colors!