Making Lasagna

In my process of learning to cook, sometimes I still need help. I can make a chili just fine…but it might be a little spicy. Sometimes, though, a recipe of food comes along that I need some help or a reminder or two on, like lasagna. It was actually much easier to make than I thought – just forgot all the assembly steps. I have decided to post the recipe:

Mom’s Lasagna

Makes 12 Servings

Ingredients

Lasagna Sauce

2 lb.     Ground Beef

2 Tb.    Garlic Salt

2          24 oz. jars or cans favorite Italian Red Sauce

1 Tb.    Italian Seasoning

Ricotta Mixture

1         15-oz. tub Ricotta Fresca

1          Egg

            Salt, to taste

Cheeses

2          Cups Mozzarella, shredded

5 oz.    Parmesan and Romano, shredded

Lasagna

16 oz.   Lasagna

Step 1: Preparing Meat Sauce

1) Brown ground beef with garlic salt

2) Add Italian Red Sauce.

3) Add Italian seasoning; simmer while doing next stage.

Step 2: Preparing Ricotta

1) Mix ricotta, egg and salt to taste. Set aside.

Step 3: Preparing Lasagna

1) Follow package instructions (you may use Oven Ready Lasagna instead).

Step 4: Assembly and Baking

1) Gather Sauce, Ricotta mixture, Cheeses, and Lasagna together to assemble.

2) In a 9″X13″ glass baking dish, spray with cooking spray.

3) Spread a thin coat of sauce on bottom of pan, careful to avoid spreading meat.

4) Layer three pieces of lasagna across sauce.

5) Layer one third of sauce on lasagna.

6) Place small dollops of one half the ricotta mixture; gently spread in area with a fork.

7) Sprinkle one third Parmesan over ricotta.

8) Layer one third Mozzarella over Parmesan.

9) Repeat from 5 to 8.

10) Layer three pieces lasagna over Mozzarella.

11) Layer sauce over lasagna.

12) Layer Parmesan and Mozzarella over sauce.

13) Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.

14) Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve into cut squares.

NAMIWalks Kickoff, 2014

Last night, I attended the NAMIWalks kickoff event at Boyd Orchards to begin fundraising for NAMI. Basically, NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. We are a national organization dedicated to wiping out the stigma associated with mental illness. We had barbecued chicken, heard bluegrass music, played around on their various equipment, then had a hayride to a bonfire where we roasted marshmallows for s’mores. We had to come in early due to lightning, but it was so much fun.

Here is a personal history as to how I came to be known with this organization:

When I was younger, I suffered a psychotic break. All the signs were there: lethargy, slipping grades, no interest in theater (I was a theater bug, one who spelled it “theatre”), and I wrote once about committing suicide. I was placed in a juvenile mental ward on suicide watch, diagnosed with clinical depression, and eventually I was prescribed Paxil. I now go to therapy and take my meds. I like to say “Take the meds, go to therapy, move along,” as how regular the routine has become for me. However, my experience with mental illness does not stop there. My own mother suffers from bipolar disorder. She takes her meds, goes to therapy, moves along as well. She, though, lost her friends, was isolated in her church, and even lost her job as a result of revealing bipolar disorder to those around her. I noticed how increasingly isolated she became. She reached out on the internet, and found a man who scammed her out of $100,000 dollars…when it was all added up. She is currently isolated from her family from talking about it, and only a few people in the family are halfway decent toward her. Most of her friends are on the internet, as are mine. There are, however, bright spots in all of this, and those are the Lord, and NAMI. NAMI has given us friends and acquaintances who are nice, faithful and just good human beings. We all suffer from the same thing, and we all have had people run when they learned of our illnesses. I mean, how many people have heard “I am getting tired of this cancer of yours” like cancer is some moral flaw? Of course, this all stems back from an ancient belief that all illnesses, even physical ones, were signs of something morally wrong, even punishments from God. Of course, there are refutes to that in every religion. The point is, we have suffered terribly from our illnesses, and NAMI has brought us the community we have hoped for and long been denied.

Now, not to say that others have not brought us community, but  NAMI has worked among the hardest to bring us out. They are among the kindest, most interesting people I have ever known.

Can We Really Call Them “Disabilities”?

I remember watching an episode of the Oprah show, and I learned of this young man of sixteen with blindness…who developed a system of “clicks” to figure out his surroundings. This intrigued me greatly, because I never heard of such a thing in the human world. It also made me remember a time when I did a blindness exercise in theater arts. We would blindfold ourselves and people outside the blindfold would lead us around to experience the world. My personal partner in the exercise led me into a parked Volkswagen Beetle with a broken light, but I did not get hurt. (No sharp edges, you see.) We even tested to see if we could identify objects we brought from home through our other senses. Guess what? Even if we were not pop cultured, we guessed right every time. The strange thing was, our other senses took over as much as they could to give us a picture of the world. The hard metal feel and smell of keys, the yard that made a doll’s hair, the slightly nubby surface of a basketball – it led us to a good picture of the world, even without sight. Thinking about these things just now reminded me of something: I have been able to get around in the dark somewhat better than other members of my family, due to autism’s inability to filter out unimportant sensations. I have knocked over my share of trays, but I have yet to find a coffee table with my shin. I can also The autistic experience of their environs is usually cluttered with sound, cluttered with sights, cluttered with feelings. Here is an example: Jimmy Fallon on the television talking with his guest, the feel of the keys, the sounds of the tapping on the keyboard-I could go on about this environ if I did not shut out most of it by only typing by laptop light. I digress a bit, but some disability can be turned into an extra ability with practice and coordination. Sign language is very fast for my eyes; I do not know how someone who speaks it can fly their hands around like that. Watching sign language scenes from “Switched at Birth” leaves me depending on the subtitles-a LOT. So, who is up for a comment or two? How do those with “disabilities” in your life surprise you? So many people surprise me every day. Maybe that’s why they try to call it different ability.

 

Living with “disability” is more like Daredevil than a sad sack story. Sure, they cannot do this, but they have really sharp that in order to make up for it.

Thank You, Robin WIlliams and Lauren Bacall

It has taken me a couple of days to process the information of the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall. On Mr. Williams: I was getting my dog back from his evening walk when my mother got the news from my aunt. At first I thought it was a Twitter joke, to be honest. Twitter wants to kill everybody. But I looked at the news from more reputable sites, and sadly it was true. The method by which he chose to exit this world, not knowing for absolute certain what was on the other side, was even more tragic. Of course, depression, as a real medical condition, was what really took his life.  Now, before you say that is not logical, that he had the American Dream, keep in mind that disease is certainly not logical. I should know. Depression once had me in its grip, literally taking everything away, even the color out of my eyes. (Yes, there is research proving that.) Of course, as you think I am musing about depression, we need to also look at Robin Williams’ achievements. The many films, stand up specials and television work is much too storied to even forget. You can look at the Facebook feeds of just about everyone to see an influential man at work.

Of course, now people are remembering the work of another screen legend, Ms. Lauren Bacall. A lovely lady from the Bronx…I wish I knew her. From what I gather, she had style, grace and a demure sexiness you do not get to see from the stars and starlets of today. She was a maven of style, grace and could dress wonderfully. It was also sad to see her go. Of course, will anyone’s death be a thing of joy?

Of the tributes that poured in from these two, I think Jimmy Fallon’s tribute to Robin Williams is the best so far. I’ll update you, if one for Lauren Bacall even comes close.

Ugly Betty, Part 2

I have mused upon my beauty insecurities before, but I did not do enough. I did not exactly say what my insecurities were. Ill be blunt: I’m fat. I’m 4’11” and weigh 250 lbs.. That is enough weight to get people to say “you’ve got a pretty face” (meaning: “your body doesn’t match. Lose weight!”). There is a lot to be hateful to myself for – I don’t exercise enough, I got the wrong size, there is society looking toward me saying “Lose weight! You’re ugly!” (Well, not directly saying it-saying it through magazines, ads, games, the fact that all the girls on television are skinny except the clown who is the size of a Dodge Caravan….) How do you beat all that? Sometimes, the only way is to look within.

I have not had a boyfriend, or heck, even a date, in over a year at this point. I don’t think I can get that validation for being a person who exists from men. I certainly can’t get it from the television or print, or the internet, for that matter. Who is going to make the Ugly Betty’s  of the world know their worth? Do they have any worth? I grew up believing and knowing in my heart that every life has a precious worth to my God…even those who don’t do his word perfectly (which amounts to, oh… everybody). The fact is, I exist. I have something to contribute to the world, simply because I exist. The fact that I take care of my mother when none of her other children do cements my place in the family. I can also give credence to my worth simply because I help out whenever I can around the house. I do most of the cooking and cleaning (because she can’t), and many other things. But besides toot my own horn, I know that everyone has their own intrinsic value. And that is the truth about having worth. That makes me more than an Ugly Betty.

The Issues, Part I

OK, I’ve been trying to get a thing to discuss in my head, and all I get are the same issues, over and over. So, this is my final word of certain issues within the community of autism:

1) Autistic or Has Autism?

There are two arguments within this: most people with autism stress “autistic” because they think of autism as a trait, while health communities stress “people first” language to improve the conditions and identities of

It does not matter to me what way you identify yourself. I switch identities depending on my audience. I have always been more than autism. The labeling does not bother me, one way or another. It’s like the pronunciation of the words tomato or potato.

2) Asperger’s or High-functioning Autism?

Again, in my eyes, a “tomato” or “potato” issue. I guess the words “Asperger’s” has been an attempt to separate the various parts of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I believe this might be more successfully achieved in the future, barring findings suggesting otherwise. The issue arises from this fact, mostly: The latest DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual) has mulled over getting rid of the term “Asperger’s” to describe the higher-functioning end of the Spectrum. However, since a person with Autism can bounce around the spectrum from time to time, I am not in issue with what a person calls themselves this week.

3) Vaccines

Let me put it this way: “I’m sorry you got Measles and Pneumonia, honey, and had to spend time in the hospital. We thought the thing that would prevent this caused your brother’s autism. Now that we know different, since you have it…” Do you really want to give that speech to your child? The refuted, not-duplicated study is the reason, and Jenny McCarthy spread the lie even further. I am with the people that say GET THE VACCINES. Even if there was a link, which there is not, I would rather have a healthy child with autism than a sick child without.

4) People who think they know Autism better than you:

MyChild1

This gives the point exactly to the parents. Now to the kids themselves, aka me: I know you cringe when people describe autism wrong. It’s stupid, so speak up. We’re waiting to hear from you. 

These are the major issues I have for now. I would like to see your input on what I should discuss.

 

Now I’m 37…and It’s Good!

There’s a funny thing I do when a task seems daunting to me: procrastinate. I’m still guilty of it, yet I procrastinate much less these days. I used to put off cleaning, until I realized it would only take about an hour a day. Cooking is not a big chore, either-unless it’s Thanksgiving, and all your food has to be done at a certain time. (It’s still pretty easy, though.) So it was – I procrastinated age 37 until the very day I turned 37. I don’t get it. People have worshipped youth, beauty and status in this culture since its formation, yet there are some real perks nobody talks about being this age. I can’t compete with the young and skinny with men, but who wants a guy that marries way too young anyway? Most wife beaters do that. Age and heft are automatic jabroni detectors. (Yes, I said “jabroni.” I used to like wrestling a lot.) Besides, I’m not even sure there’s a guy out there for me. So who cares? I get ready for myself, exercise for myself, and eat properly for myself. And if I lose a few pounds, so be it. If not, that’s okay too. I have also learned who my real friends are, as well. Getting older does that to a person. People who regularly post on my Facebook, and people who make efforts to keep in touch with me are real treasures. Unfortunately, I am very bad with doing the same…but I’m working on it. And that is one of the benefits of age…a little more wisdom.