January 25, 2015
Handwriting is far more useful than probably most people realize in this age of smart phones, Tablets, iPads, and school-issued computing equipment. I want to inspire you to think about what useful skill your kids or grandkids might be missing out on, unless you help them. And helping them can be easy!
Umm, handwriting. What’s that?
Before digital equipment was everywhere all the time, ordinary people had to write out homework, write out shopping lists, leave personal notes to each other, jot down phone messages, fill out job applications, write personal letters of correspondence, and many other things—all by hand. Once drafted by hand, finished business documents and letters where usually typed on a typewriter for a neat appearance, but even professionals kept daily records and accounting by hand. The smoother and faster a person could write by hand, the better their life ran and the better the impression they made on other people.
Now, almost every form of communication to oneself or anyone else is done by typing on a digital device of some kind, and everyone is constantly connected with texting, Tweeting, Pinning, Flikr-ing, emailing, occasionally cell-phoning, and there are a host of other “online” applications popping up to make sorting, storing, sharing, and using endless information supposedly easier. When does anyone write more than three words by hand? . . . And when people do write with a pen or pencil, many people don’t use cursive because they never learned the awesome advantage of cursive—SPEED.
Writing by hand is technically handwriting, but when each letter is formed individually it’s called printing (the words look like a sloppy version of machine printing). The best handwriting is called cursive—that’s the kind that flows with every letter of a word connected to the next letter.
Evidence that the usefulness of handwriting in the digital age is not widely understood.
In recent years some schools stopped teaching cursive handwriting. Whether your school has continued, stopped, or started it up again, you may want to take note of the issue and personally show your kids or grandkids the value of handwriting so that they can enjoy the benefits throughout their lives.
I’ve seen professional adults who have trouble writing by hand, but occasionally have to do it.
If you’re one who is so familiar with cursive that you use it without thinking, you may not realize that it is not guaranteed for the next generation. Imagine if the subject of math was canceled because calculators are everywhere? Ridiculous. Imagine the inconvenience of shopping or cooking if you couldn’t do simple math in your head. It’s up to us to make sure our kids are learning the skills we take for granted.
If handwriting in cursive is presented as just another thing that must be memorized, it will be unappreciated and tossed aside by the child as soon as possible. Someone must show kids not only how to write in cursive, but how fast it can be done, and also point out how much time the method can save for the child in the months and years ahead.
Why is cursive so fast?
Because it is designed so that your writing instrument seldom leaves the page—every word is made with ONE flowing line. When printing by hand, every letter is made of at least one separate mark, many require two marks, and an “E” is often done with THREE separate marks. The word “separate” takes SEVENTEEN marks to print in all caps, or TEN marks to print in individual lowercase letters, but only TWO to make in cursive!
Cursive is like rolling down a hill on a skateboard, and hand printing is like taking all the steps to walk down the hill. If you just want to get to the bottom so you can play, you’ll take the skateboard—provided someone has shown you how to use it!
BONUS: Cursive is so flowing that it does not feel tedious like printing can. Try writing an entire page by hand with lowercase print, and all those little movements will likely make you feel like throwing down your pen and shaking your hand. Once you’re practiced in cursive however, you can soar through handwriting an entire page easily and comfortably.
So why care which is the fastest way to hand write when we type everything?
Two points: we type more than we would if we knew how to write super fast; and we need to be able to cope better when batteries fail, programs crash, or devices are too expensive.
I’ve had people tell me they lost everyone’s phone numbers and addresses because their phone messed up, but that wouldn’t have happened if they kept a written address book as backup. How much time do you spend entering info into an electronic device when you could jot it on a piece of paper and stuff it into a pocket? I’ve heard things on the radio I wanted to look into, and reached for a pencil and paper to take notes faster than I ever could have opened an appropriate program on a computer or smart phone. Maybe students think they can type notes while listening to a lecture just as fast as someone could hand write notes, but what about when they show up only to find out that their laptop battery died, their word processing program froze without saving, or the operating system crashed? What about when their computer is so old that it becomes too slow, but they can’t afford a new one? Everyone should have the ability to handwrite as a backup.
If people knew how to write well and fast, they wouldn’t be so concerned with somebody paying to ensure electronic devices are everywhere!
And once we have the ability to write smoothly, quickly, and easily, we will not only find it’s nice to give and receive notes and letters that are personally written rather than digitally delivered, we’ll also find ourselves writing all sorts of little notes, signs, lists, etc.
You have to be able to do something before you discover advantageous opportunities for doing it. When someone can’t cook, they eat prepared meals and think it’s fine; but once they learn how to cook something fresh and wonderful, they realize they like it better. People who can’t read manage somehow to get through life, but those of us who know how to read also know the advantages. There are advantages to knowing cursive!
Making sure your kids or grandkids learn cursive can be fairly simple.
If you are not very fast with cursive yourself, practice a little before talking to your child about it. Once you’ve got it down, pick a few words–anything–and have the child write them. If you have a clock that shows seconds, time the child’s writing; but if not just have the child mentally notice how long it take him or her to write, compared with how fast you can write the same words. After the child writes the words, you write them first in print (individual letters) and then even faster in cursive. When you do the cursive, do it as fast as you can, legibly but without trying to be pretty—act like someone is talking and you have to write as fast as they talk. Your child should be amazed at how much faster you can write then he or she can, and that will be the key to getting cooperation. Remind them that they will spend less time writing and more time playing, if they learn such a fast writing method!
Point out to your child every time you write something. When you write a check, add to the grocery list, post a sticky note, whatever—so the child sees that there is writing to be done in real adult life.
Hopefully your child will be excited to learn, but if the child protests learning cursive handwriting, simply tell them they absolutely have to do it. Mater of fact. No arguing. You know it’s worth their time, and they will know it too once they learn it. Don’t make it a drudgery by insisting on too much practice—copying one sentence which uses all twenty six letters is enough for each session. You’re trying to convey that cursive writing is faster than the alternative, so practicing it should also be a brief chore.
Then start looking for times to have your child write one or two words in script, like having them add an item to the grocery list for you. As the child uses cursive several times per week, they will get used to it and begin to like it.
When my son was little, he endlessly whined and fussed about it being a waste of time to learn cursive when he already know how to write. But I made him practice just a sentence or so at a time, maybe a few times a week. I can’t remember how many weeks it took, but once he had the cursive form of every letter of the alphabet well memorized (including how to connect them to each other), there was no going back—he CHOSE to write EVERYTHING in cursive, because it was SO much faster for him. I even had to show him that on certain types of projects, for visual clarity, he should hand print the words rather than use cursive (like for document titles, or for when he had to write extremely small). Cursive has become my standard example when he doesn’t think he will ever need or want whatever it is that I’m telling him to learn. He even feels sorry for his young friends who, because they haven’t mastered cursive, can’t read what he’s written and also struggle with their own homework or other projects.
Give your child or grandchild the gift of knowing cursive handwriting.
© 2015 Noname Porter-Mcshirley
How To Sleep Late and STILL Cook a Large Turkey With All the Trimmings–Faster Than You Thought Possible!
December 17, 2014
(Note: This will also work with hams and other cuts of meat as well, but I’m just going to talk about turkeys.)
Using my method, a complete holiday turkey dinner can be cooked in under 3 hours–or less if you have a small bird.
You can use a thermometer to tell when it’s perfectly done, or cook it until it’s falling-off-the-bones done. Either way, it will be tender and juicy!
Since store-bought birds all come with added ingredients, meaning they have been soaked or injected with water/salt/sugar/etc., there’s NO need to brine it prior to roasting. Even freshly butchered birds will steam nicely inside a covered roasting pan and not dry out.
As the cook in your household, I’m sure you’re as ready for a holiday as your family and guests are, but do you get one?
In years past you may have stressed about preparation in the days leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, and then drug yourself out of bed before everyone else so that you could get that big turkey stuffed and slow roasting for another four or five hours, dutifully basting it every hour or so to keep it from drying out. Well you don’t have to do it that way any more!
I want to tell you how you can sleep late this holiday morning AND host a traditional dinner—without sacrificing the wonderfulness of fresh home-cooked foods.
Getting plenty of sleep and waking up fully rested is an important key to being able to enjoy the day with your family and guests. And of course you’d like to have time in the living room with those people, instead of being stuck in the kitchen.
Here are three keys to making that happen for you:
- Make sure you have the one necessary piece of equipment, in addition to a working oven: a LARGE COVERED ROASTING PAN (or a very large oven-proof pot with oven-proof lid) BIG ENOUGH TO ENCLOSE YOUR TURKEY (or other meat).
- Unless you are buying a fresh turkey, make sure your turkey will be thawed in time. Put it to thaw in the fridge a few days ahead (3 days for a 12 pound bird, 5 days for a 20 pounder).
- Here’s a calculator for determining how large of a turkey to buy for the number of people you are serving, and how long it will take to thaw; just ignore their cooking times, since we are going to use a faster method.
- There’s no problem if it thaws out two or three days early, but no more than that so you won’t have to worry about spoilage.
- If your fridge is especially cold, or you can’t start thawing soon enough, you may find it still frosty on baking day; in that case run hot tap water in and out of both ends of the bird. But trying to work with a completely frozen bird will NOT turn out right.
- Get your house presentable before going to bed the night before. You may even want to set the table ahead of time, if you don’t have pets which will walk all over the place settings.
If you don’t own a large COVERED roasting pan, they are fairly inexpensive at department stores or even some larger grocery stores; or you might be able to borrow one from an elderly relative who no longer uses theirs. Ideally, you want something like this:
After a lazy morning and a hot cup of tea, you’re ready to start cooking. Here’s what to do:
- Peel and chunk a heap of vegetables. Whatever kinds you want, but I recommend a mix of white or russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, and garlic.
- Large pieces are best, like cutting your potatoes into thirds or quarters, carrots into halves.
- Rinse your chunks of both varieties of potatoes in a bowl of water as you cut them, because coating the surfaces in water will prevent them from turning black before they start cooking.
- Use your own judgment as to quantity, depending on number of people being served. Leftover veggies are great in soups or turkey pot pies.
- Start your oven heating to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Yup, 500 degrees!
- Brush the inside of the bottom half of your roasting pan with oil, so the veggies don’t stick before the turkey juices start flowing. DO NOT put a rack in the pan; you want the veggies down in the turkey juices for best flavor.
- Place the potatoes in the roasting pan first, followed by other vegetables (because slender or small items like carrots will disintegrate if on the bottom). Onions and garlic go on top of the other veggies, so their flavors will seep down and make the potatoes yummy.
- Now for the turkey. Unwrap it in a clean sink, remove all extras (organs and neck), rinse inside and out, remove the plastic or wire gadget which holds the legs together, and place the bird BREAST SIDE DOWN on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. The turkey’s juices will run down through the breast, so the driest meat will not be dry at all.
- Place the cover on your roasting pan, making sure that it closes all around. If it won’t close, you may need to wiggle the bird a bit, or reach under it and push the vegetables to the corners so the bird will settle lower. The lid MUST close all around, or else steam will escape and your meat will really dry out in the extra hot oven!
- Place the closed pan in the oven. It does not matter whether the oven has gotten fully hot yet.
- Be sure to thoroughly wash your sink, faucet, and any counter contaminated by raw turkey.
- While the bird and veggies start to roast, start the “stuffing.” (This will be made on the stove top so the empty bird can cook faster, but will taste like it came from inside the bird because we’ll use turkey juices.)
- Chop or crumble some bread.
- Saute onions and garlic (optionally, add soy sauce), and add them to the bread with your favorite herbs.
- Prepare a pie that can go in the oven when everything else comes out. This can bake while you eat, and be eaten hot and fresh or later in the evening when stomachs have more room for it.
- Pull the roasting pan out and set it on your stove for a moment. Ladle out as much of the juices as you can, and return the covered roasting pan to the oven for the turkey to finish cooking.
- Divide those hot turkey juices. Mix some into your “stuffing” and put the rest into a pan for thickening into gravy.
- Lightly fry your stuffing in a skillet, stirring frequently to blend and thoroughly warm the bread. Also finish making your gravy.
- When the turkey is fully cooked, put the pie into the oven and serve everything else with a side of cranberry sauce. (You might want to set a timer to remind you to check your pie, so it doesn’t burn while you are engrossed in dinner conversations.)
The key to speed here is the covered roasting pan. It allows for a super hot oven and keeps all that super hot steam inside which causes quick roasting, without allowing the meat to dry out!
So now you know how to cook a complete holiday dinner (turkey, veggies, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pie) with most of your day left over for having fun. Enjoy!
© 2014 Noname Porter-McShirley