Squeaky shoes and new adventures!

As hard as it is for me to believe, it’s back-to-school time where we live.

It seems earlier than ever this year. Even the dogwood leaves are still green.

The streets in our neighborhood have been full of school bus drivers, practicing their skills at the essential art of blocking traffic.

The football stadium up the road is sporting a new coat of paint on the bleachers while last year’s crop of artificial turf waits expectantly and crows bob energetically in a fountain at Kudzu.

I’ll even bet that guy is skipping around the office supply place on TV, singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

I used to think it really was the most wonderful time of the year. I loved going back to school.

And, even though I’m letting my hair grow at the moment and I wear shoes as rarely as possible, especially squeaky, slippery ones, there’s still part of my non-conscious calendar that has required a bit of reassurance that skipping those particular rituals will be okay.

(I had considerably less trouble talking myself out of the three little plaid dresses from Sears!)

I did, however, invest in some updated make-up, which actually has to do with the prospect of being out of school (again!) in the forseeable future and the need for some photographs.

And, frankly, I’ve kind of solved the whole back-to-school thing by just deciding to stay there and not really contemplating being “done,” at least in a big picture sort of way.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend about learning.

Well, it started out having to do with covering chair cushions and moved on from there to the science of learning which, as it happens, I know a bit more about than actual upholstery.

I was reminded of my studies in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, also known as the psychology of excellence. It is, in many ways, learning about learning and it’s a really big subject.

A subject which involved a bit of book shelf excavation. I found what I was hunting for in a little volume called Principles of NLP. (Mine is the old, tattered, yellowed edition from 1996 but the link, above, is for a shiny, new, updated version in case you’re interested.)

In a section titled Behavior to Capability, authors Joseph O’Connor and Ian McDermott explore the question of how behaviors become skills.

The short answer is practice!!!

The slightly longer answer involves the four stages of learning a skill. I’m going to let our talented teachers take over in their own voices for a bit:

Learning a skill goes through four stages. Think of some intentional skill that you have acquired in the course of your life — driving, riding a bicycle or reading — and see how it fits into this scheme. You start from unconscious incompetence. In this state, not only can you not do it, you have never tried. You don’t even know that you don’t know.

Then you start to do it. At first, although it is part of your behaviour, you are not very skilled. This is the stage of conscious incompetence. You know enough to know you are not very good and it takes a lot of your conscious attention. This stage is uncomfortable, but it is also when you are learning the most.

Next you reach the stage of conscious competence. You can do it, you have reached the capability level, but it still takes a lot of your attention.

Lastly, if you persevere, you reach the stage of unconscious competence, when you do it easily without thinking. It has become streamlined and habitual, and is taken over by the unconscious part of your mind. Beyond this stage is mastery — but that is another book!

Here’s the big message for this moment in time… There are a lot of things I don’t know much about yet. My new Instant Pot. Adding darks and lights to faces! My new cell phone. Upholstery. Most of what Bill does at work, all day, every day.

I do know a lot about learning.

And knowing that — knowing what it looks like and feels like and what helps it to happen — is a big part of the reason that my friend has four chairs in her house that she’s excited about, even though we needed to do still more learning along the way.

It’s also what we should be teaching our kids. And all the folks around us.

Not the answers to the standardized tests but how to tap into the part of them that already knows how to learn.

How to have confidence in their ability to keep learning.

Once upon a time Sally, Dick & Jane was hard. There are moments when getting my paint brushes to cooperate is hard. I’m still trying to figure out the rosary thing. Let’s don’t even talk about head shots.

Except to say that learning is familiar even when what I’m learning is totally new.

If you have a story like this, tell it. The future is counting on you!

And one more word on new adventures from my friends at The West Wing.

Oh, and the crows… symbolic in some traditions of life magic and mysteries. Also intelligence, flexibility, and destiny!




Next??? Cable TV!

If Food Network and HGTV started a joint new show, it would kind of be my life this week!

A very jiggly batch of local, sustainably raised beef bone broth, courtesy of the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, delivered to an ailing dog buddy yesterday, on the way to Michael’s for more paintbrushes.

Several requests for the scoop on last week’s dinner party which — Ooops! — I forgot to take pictures of. Fortunately, I needed lunch today so will include details, below.

A very vivid — read that painful — reminder of one of our old family stories on Sunday.

And a welcome hour or so in the company of the late Tony Bourdain while I waited for paint to dry last night.

First, the reason I won’t laugh at an old Dave story anymore.

Dave was 10 when we moved to Tennessee. We lived in the middle of nowhere, between Fayetteville, TN and Huntsville, AL. It was a bit of a change from Atlanta.

No pizza delivery. Minimal grocery stores. A 45 minute round trip to the KFC.

And no stove for the first 4 months we lived there.

We spent a fair amount of time hanging out at TGI Fridays and Red Lobster in Huntsville.

Other than being raised by a foodie dad, this may be one of the big factors in my journey to local food fanatic.

Anyway, one night we went to Red Lobster. I can’t remember what my junior sea food conniseur ordered but he asked for horseradish with it.

Expecting the creamy horseradish sauce he was used to at Fridays, he took an enthusiastic bite.

You’ll have an accurate grasp of what happened next if you recall the old Bill Cosby routine about belly buttons and the kid that flew around the room backwards and landed on the floor, flat as a piece of paper, with “nuthin’ but his ole eyes buggin’ out!”

Straight up, grated horseradish was clearly not what Dave was expecting.

So, Sunday, when the miracle happened and we left the dogs home while we went out to lunch, I ordered sushi at Noodle (Decatur) which is one of my favorite hang outs. Knowing that Bill wouldn’t be home for dinner, I ordered with leftovers in mind.

All was well with the world. About half a Scorpion King roll (which has a lot to do with shrimp and crab and nothing to do with scorpions) with a bit of pickled ginger, plus a hard-boiled egg * and a chopped avocado tossed with capers and trout roe**  plus a pair of chopsticks from our personal stash and I was ready for a feast.

Until a bit of that lovely, organic avocado turned out to be about a pea-sized chunk of straight wasabi.

Dave and Bill Cosby had nothing on me. I literally thought the top of my head would come off. Hence my oath not to laugh about Dave again! (Well, not about the horseradish!!!)

Last night, an awesome pot of soup with beef and pork broth plus some local artisanal sausage from our friends at Pine Street Market and leftover roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and tiny potatoes. With more stashed in the fridge for feeding the Friday lunch crowd.

In the meantime, some staging help  for a friend with a charming house on the market in a great area of town. Some chair seats to recover and art to swap out. Another round of de-personalizing. And some spare linens with a relaxing, Caribbean sort of feel to them.

But, back to my favorite things from the tapas party last week.

We started with assorted French olives and some half-sour pickles from the Farmers Market. A bit of crab broth made of Florida stone crab claws, with a small scoop of rice, some asparagus and bunapi mushrooms, and a bit of trout roe**.

Little canoe shaped endive leaves stuffed with really good, Spanish, Ortiz Bonito del Norte tuna courtesy of our friends at Zingerman’s. You dress yours the way you like it. I do mine with some of the excellent olive oil it’s packed in, fresh lemon juice, finely chopped parsley stems and freshly crushed peppercorns.

And hard-boiled eggs, which I’ve finally figured out how to get right in the Instant Pot! *

Here’s how I do it, in our 8 quart Duo pot:

Add 1 c. water to the inner pot. Place one of those cool egg trivet gizmos, with 7 eggs, into the pot. We use more or less large sized, pasture raised, very fresh local eggs.

Secure the lid and set the pressure release knob to “sealing”.

Set unit to pressure cook on medium pressure for 3 minutes, with the “keep warm” feature turned off.

When it sings the little song that lets you know it’s done cooking, set the timer for 5 minutes of “natural” pressure releasing.

Prepare a bowl of ice water.

After the pressure releases for 5 minutes, switch the valve to “venting” and cover with a kitchen towel. When the little pop-up thing goes down, which will take about 3 – 5 minutes more, open the lid and transfer the eggs to the ice bath with tongs.

I’ll admit, I had to practice a while. I read lots of directions and played with the time. This is the process that leaves me with perfectly done, easy to peel eggs and time to sneak in a bit of painting between steps.

Peel eggs just before serving. I drizzled mine with garlic infused olive oil, added a tiny scoop of the trout roe** and sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes and a bit of flaky Maldon finishing salt.

Round out your feast with some local, artisanal charcuterie, in this case copa, and crackers, as desired for your guests. I used Georgia Sourdough crackers with sea salt, thanks, again, to Pine Street Market. The gluten-free crackers with seeds work, too.

As for Tony Bourdain, he was in the Dominican Republic enjoying what reminded me of the island version of Chopinno, named for the tradition of everybody chipping in what they had. In this case, somebody had some veg and somebody had some bones and so on. It’s a really good way to eat!

For now, though, back to painting the cosmos. And, probably, me!



Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach