Let’s Cook Spring Rolls!

(photos taken by Ashleigh Longtine; doodles by me)

(photos taken by Ashleigh Longtine; doodles by me)

Ah, yes.  The spring roll.  My family loves these delicious fried wonders.  We don’t go out to eat much, so if we want them, we usually have to make them ourselves.  I’m in no way a professional, but this is my favorite thing to make/eat, so I thought I’d share it! I’ve adapted this recipe from here.


Here's what you need

Here’s what you need:

4 ounces ground pork

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Everything Else:
1 medium carrot
4 water chestnuts, fresh or canned
1 green onion
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sherry
2 tablespoons chicken stock
a few drops sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Oil for deep-frying and stir-frying (have one 48 oz. bottle just to be safe)
9-12 egg roll wrappers (spring roll wrappers work too, but grocery stores in the area never seem to have them)

I did two batches of this recipe for my family, which yielded 19 spring rolls.  (The five of us devoured all of them in one night.)  All the ingredients were things we either had laying around the house, or got in local grocery store.  If you can’t find the napa cabbage, or just want to speed up the process, you can replace the cabbage and carrot with coleslaw mix.

First, put together the marinade for the pork so we can get that soaking while we chop veggies.  Put soy sauce and cornstarch in a plastic bag and mix. Then put the pork in.  I squeeze it around a bit to get the marinade mixed in with the meat.  Then stick it in the fridge.  We’ll leave it there until we need it again.

So now we’ll take care of the vegetables.  Peel and grate the carrot, and cut up your green onion.  Finely chop up the cabbage and water chestnuts.  Mince ginger.  (Quick note on ginger: you only use a little for this recipe, but you  can save the rest of the ginger by freezing it.  It keeps for months!)  You’ll also want to rinse out and drain your bean sprouts.

A quick note on water chestnuts:

A quick note on water chestnuts:

It’s okay if you don’t buy whole water chestnuts.  I just stack slices up until it looks like it might be the size of one water chestnut and then chop them up.  It’s usually somewhere between three to five slices that I’ll count as one water chestnut.

Here's all my veggies together, except the bean sprouts

Here’s all my veggies together, except the bean sprouts

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Now get out a small bowl and mix together the oyster sauce (the stuff smells nasty, but it adds good flavor, I promise!), sherry (the alcohol cooks out), and sesame oil.  After that’s all mixed up, whisk the cornstarch in.  Now set this aside.  We’ll need it later.


Take out a large sauté pan (a wok works too) and put about two tablespoons of oil in it.  Once the oil is hot, remove the pork from the marinade and place it in the pan.  Sauté it until it’s cooked through and no longer pink.  Take it out, set it aside, and wash out the pan.

Yay cooked pork!

Yay cooked pork!


Add about a couple tablespoons of oil.  Now put the ginger in and sauté until it smells yummy.  This goes pretty quick, so have the rest of your veggies on deck.  Once it smells like yummy ginger, put the rest of the vegetables in the pan and sauté.

Don't forget your bean sprouts in the sink.  I did that once.  It was sad.

Don’t forget your bean sprouts in the sink. I did that once. It was sad.

Sauté all the vegetables together and until they all smell  good and have all wilted a little bit.  Now push them to the sides of the pan.

One veggie ring to rule them all.

One veggie ring to rule them all.

Go get that small bowl of sauce and pour its contents into the center of your newly made ring of veggie-wonderfulness.  Stir the sauce until it thickens, and then mix it in until it coats the veggies.

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Now mix in the pork.

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Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool a little before you get around to filling the wrappers.

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In the meantime, get the stuff you need to fill the wrappers.  A clean surface, the wrappers themselves, a tablespoon, and a small cup of water.

Once it’s cool enough to work with, position a wrapper in front of you so it looks like a diamond.  Spoon about two tablespoons of filling straight the center of the diamond (don’t worry, the animation below will help clear this up a bit).  Dip a finger in the water and get it a little wet.  Run it along the top two edges of the diamond.  Take the bottom and wrap it up over the filling.  Fold in one side and then the other.  Roll that sucker up, the water on the edge should seal it.  Set it aside, and repeat this until you’ve used all the filling.

How to roll a spring roll.

How to roll a spring roll. (My style.  Because again, I’m no pro.)

Don’t let the filled spring rolls touch each other, as they have the annoying habit of sticking to each other, and then rip open when you try to pick them up again.

This was my first one I filled.

This was my first one I filled.


Now for the fun part.  Clean out your pan once more, and pour in oil until it’s about half an inch to three quarters deep.  Keep in mind that oil gets super-hot and is also flammable, so keep an eye on it.  I also keep a candy thermometer in so I can have an idea of when it might be a good idea to turn down the heat a bit (once it starts nearing 400 degrees I tend to try to get it to calm down).  Once the oil’s hit 200 degrees, I start putting the spring rolls in.  This is mostly because I get impatient.  It should be hotter than this, but I start at 200 because at this point I am starved.

Space them out so they don’t touch each other.  

Space them out so they don’t touch each other.  They like their personal space.

I also recommend using tongs to lower them in.

“I wonder why you don’t use tongs,” my dad muttered.

“Because I am really stupid, that’s why,” I declared as I continued to plop spring rolls into the crackling oil using only my fingers.

“Well, that makes sense,” he responded, resigned to whatever fate I might have brought upon myself.  So basically, don’t be stupid like me.

Keep your spring rolls frying until they are a delectable golden-brown.  They’re probably not completely submerged in oil, so be sure to turn them over so the other side can fry too.  Pull them out with metal tongs when they’re done (believe me, I didn’t use my fingers for that, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this now) and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels.  Repeat until you’ve finished all the spring rolls, turn off the heat, and let the oil cool down.

Et voila!  You have yourself some amazingly yummy spring rolls that are practically ambrosia.  You may want to let them cool down a minute or two before eating them.  It’s a good bit of work, but I think you’ll find it’s worth it.


(photos taken by Ashleigh Longtine; doodles by me)

Here is a sweet and sour sauce recipe that is extremely easy that you could throw together while frying up the rolls, if you’d like something to dip them in.  (Just don’t lean over the pot when it’s super hot and get vinegar fumes in your eyes and jerk back, coughing.  “Wow, that was entertaining,” my dad laughed as I blinked away the pain, “like slapstick.”)


“Staycationing” in Central Ohio: Battelle Darby Metro Park

Summer is finally here!  Whether you’re planning on taking a vacation out of the state or not, there are some fun things that you and your family can do right in our Ohio backyard.  My family took a more extravagant vacation to Colorado last year, so this year we’re not going anywhere.  Instead, we’re “staycationing,” which means we find fun things to do in the area that are fairly inexpensive.  We love to hike, so when our parents announced we were going to Darby Park to hike and picnic, we were excited.

Battelle Darby Creek is the largest Columbus Metro Park at 7,000 acres.  It is about thirty miles from Ostrander and thirty five from Delaware.  The park has several activities that you can do, including hiking, fishing, canoeing, picnicking and a few others.

This was a trail down to the river for fishing.

This was a trail down to the creek for fishing.


It was absolutely gorgeous the day we went, and there were a few parties going on in the picnic shelters, but the park wasn’t too populated.  When we pulled up, I noted a couple of playgrounds that would be good for small kids to play on.

But since the youngest in my family is ten, we headed straight for the trails.  There were some nice views from an overlook we passed.

My photography really doesn't do this view justice.

My photography skill doesn’t do this view justice.


We also saw a “streamside study area,” which made me wish that there was something similar near the college I’m going to in the fall.  There were a nice variety of trails, ranging in difficulty and length.  So it’s pretty easy to control your hike.  If you have little ones, you can make it shorter, or if you want a more vigorous hike you can go on longer or more difficult trails.  There’s a complete list of trails and their difficulty level on the park site.  I do have one caveat: there was poison ivy alongside the trails.  The trails themselves were clear of it, but it did line the sides.

We found some poison ivy that decided to rear its ugly head by the observation deck.

We found some poison ivy that decided to rear its ugly head by the observation deck.

After about two hours we returned to the picnic area for lunch.  There were several nice picnic tables in the shade, and there were quite a few charcoal grills.  We brought our own because we didn’t know if there would be grills there.  While we waited for our chicken to cook, Dad threw a football around with my sister, and the rest of us chatted, enjoying the trees and the sun.

This was the point where my dad took the camera from me out of pity and took a picture with actual artistic quality.

This was the point where my dad took the camera from me out of pity and took a picture with actual artistic quality.

Overall, it was a very pleasant experience.  We did wish we had the time to go canoeing, and that we saw the bison (yes, bison!), but we had a very fun time as a family.  If you’re trying to think of places to take the kids, or just need a small vacation from life, this is a good place to go that’s fairly close by.  If you’re interested, here’s their website.  Happy staycationing!

Buckeye Valley says “Au Revoir” to long time teacher Deborah Fowler

Eiffel Tower

“Bonjour.  Je m’appelle Madame.  J’aime jardiner.”  These were the first French words I learned three years ago.  It’s amazing how one can start with a vocabulary of eight words, and then three years later have a vocabulary of a few hundred.  My high school French class has been instrumental in finding my love of language, and understanding how fun it is to learn another language.    I never thought I could do it before.  I owe it all to BV’s French teacher, Deborah Fowler (known to us students as “Madame”).  Madame is
[Read more…]

Allergy Stricken in Delaware County

(Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Longtine)

(photo courtesy Ashleigh Longtine)

I love this fine, fine, weather.  The sun shines down and warms your face , the grass is green, all the trees are budding.  Everything is beautiful, and after this long harsh winter, it’s like a breath of fresh air.  But for me, and some others, I’m sure, this beautiful weather has a down side.  Beautiful weather means pollen, and pollen means we feel sick all day every day.

Ah, yes.  Seasonal allergies.  Which for some can last nine months out of the year.  Your eyes itch and water and your head becomes a cream puff except there’s no cream.  Only mucus.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology seems to most support the use of drugs and immunotherapy for the treatment of allergies.[1]  If you’re not willing to endure allergy testing, and just drugs aren’t doing it, what can you do?  Here are some additional tips and tricks I scoured the internet to find.

(photo courtesy Ashleigh Longtine)

(photo courtesy Ashleigh Longtine)

First off, check the pollen count regularly. www.pollen.com has been my BFF for the past year and a half when it comes to checking pollen levels.  It even tells you what pollens are most prominent in the area (for example, if tree pollen levels are high, but you’re not sensitive to tree pollen, you might be okay).  If the count is too high, try to avoid going outside if you can, and if you drive, don’t roll your windows down.  My doctor also recommended not opening your bedroom windows.  It stinks, I know, especially since the weather is great, but you don’t want to sleep rolling around in the stuff that’s going to make you more miserable.

When you come home, make sure you take a shower and get yourself clean so that any pollen that might be on you will wash off.  Your pets can also drag pollen in the house from when you let them out.  It’s unrealistic to wash your pet every time you let them out, but you might just want to keep this in mind before you snuggle with them for an extended period of time.


(photo courtesy Ashleigh Longtine)

It seems that one of the first things that pops up when you research seasonal allergy relief is neti pots.  It’s a tea-pot shaped apparatus that you would use to pour a salt water mixture in one nostril so it comes out the other, hypothetically flushing your nose and sinuses of all the nastiness that keeps them clogged.  It seems a lot of people swear by it, but if washing salt water in one nostril and out the other sounds unappealing to you, maybe a nasal spray would be more up your alley.

Speaking of things shaped like tea-pots, tea itself can be good in at least helping you feel better while you’re all stuffed up.  Even just the steam from a nice piping hot cup of tea can help your sinuses.  Drinking it may even help loosen mucus that has decided to make its home in your chest.  Apparently, some green teas have antioxidant properties that are supposed to help with allergies.[2] However, those with sensitivities to ragweed are advised to avoid chamomile tea, as it could agitate the very allergies you’re trying to beat.[3]

(photo courtesy of Ashleigh Longtine)

(photo courtesy Ashleigh Longtine)

It also seems there are several “home remedies” that people will swear by, but scientifically have little or nothing to back these claims.  Examples include the ingestion of nettle, or local honey.  But research shows little support for these methods.


What are your allergy tips and tricks?  Let us know in the comments!

[1] American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.  “Rhinitis Treatment & Management.” Rhinits. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/rhinitis.aspx

[2] American Chemical Society. “Green Tea May Fight Allergies.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020919071413.htm

[3] Web MD. “Seasonal Allergies: 4 Routes to Relief.” Allergies Health Center. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/seasonal-allergies-4-routes-to-relief?page=2

Starting College while in High School

So you’re in high school, and you’re scheduling for next year, and you’re having trouble filling your schedule because you’ve already taken most of the classes you need or want to take.

 (Doodle courtesy me.)

(Doodles courtesy of me.)

Maybe this is you in two years.  Maybe this is you in ten years.  Or maybe, this is your child.  They’re going to get to high school eventually.  So here’s something to chew on.

What if you could take college courses for free your junior or senior year of high school?

Sounds too good to be true, right?  Well it isn’t because this is a reality.  The state of Ohio offers a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEOP) for high school students who have completed the curriculum at their high schools.  PSEOP has two options.  There’s option A, where you pay for tuition and books, but the college credit does not count towards the student’s high school GPA.  And then there is option B, where tuition and books are paid for you, and the credit counts toward both high school and college GPA.  This said, colleges may put a cap on how many courses you can take.

I’ve experienced the wonders of option B this year, and I’m here to explain to you this wonderful program that a lot of people don’t seem to know about until it’s too late.  I’ve compiled some lists of things that you need to know when considering the program with the help of my friends Kendall Markley and Jessica Silber, who have also participated in PSEOP.  We’ve all attended OSU Marion within our high school careers.


Why should you do it?

  • You arrange your schedule.  I’m not a morning person, so I arranged my classes so I can wake up somewhere between seven and eight every day.  Since you have to coordinate a high school and college schedule, your guidance office will probably be very flexible with you.  As a result, this year I’m taking classes that I like, and classes that challenge me.

    Your guidance councilor will help you out!

    Your guidance counselor will help you out!

  • It’s exploratory!  Jessica said, “I am still undecided in what I want to major in when I am in college but I have used my classes to help me figure out what things I like and which ones I don’t.”  For me, personally, it was an Intro to Fiction class I took last semester that helped me realize I wanted to go into English.  Without PSEO I would still be back at the drawing board when it comes to careers.
  • It’ll give you a good idea of what college classes are like.  Former PSEOP student Kendall explained how PSEO helped her feel comfortable at college, “When I came to Ohio University in fall 2013 I hardly felt like a fish out of water. It was a new experience, but the PSEOP program showed me what classes were like and how it was structured.”

    You might find yourself taking more notes than you previously had thought was humanly possible.

    You might find yourself taking more notes than you previously had thought was humanly possible.

  • You can get part of your freshman year out of the way.  “I had about 9 credit hours already before I had even started classes, and it took care of many of my general education requirements,” Kendall said, “having those extra hours is amazing!”
  • It’s free.  Kendall’s 9 credit hours have a $2,677.50 value.  I have 18 credit hours from this year, a $3,570.00  value.  Need I say more?  I think not.


Things to Consider before Jumping in:

  • Juggling Schedules.  Be prepared to juggle extracurricular activities with your classes and work.

PSEOP_article_juggling  Jessica participated in Student Council, BV’s fall play, and spring musical all while taking two college courses.  But she worked with her teachers and advisors, and she managed her schedule well.  Kendall worked a job on top of her four classes at high school and her two college courses, but she said, “It can be stressful, but in the end it’s worth it.”

  • Harder classes.  So this one goes two ways.  You’ll probably only have a couple papers a semester per class, maybe some tests and quizzes, so the quality of writing necessary to receive and A in a college class is higher than in a high school class.  And your notes are your friends in most cases.  Other than that, you probably won’t miss the absence of busywork and dumb worksheets.   Like Kendall told me, “if you are prepared and on top of things, it’s a breeze.”
  • Driving.   You will spend more time driving than usually, since you’ll be going back and forth from high school to campus to home (Unless campus is really close to you, in which case you are a real lucky duck).  Make sure you are up for the driving.  So I do not suggest getting your license the day before school starts the year you start participating in PSEO like I did…


Advice, Tips, and Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • Depending on whether or not your school weights courses you take through PSEO, you may lose your chance at become Valedictorian.  If being Valedictorian is something important to you and your high school does not weight these classes, you may want to think a bit before you jump into this program.  (I’d say do it anyway though.)
  • When you get your text books, you do have to return them at the end of the semester.  But feel free to write in them all you want!  I spent the whole first semester this year obsessively using sticky notes and looking like a lunatic for it.  Second semester, I marked up all my books, and it just makes writing reports so much easier.
  • Don’t worry about being the only high school student on campus, because you’re not.   It’s more than likely the people in your classes won’t even know you’re in high school unless you tell them.  And if you do, they’ll either think you’re crazy smart, or they’ll understand because they were also a PSEOP student.  Don’t purposefully conceal your high school identity; you are not a ninja spy.

    Ninja spies do ninja spy things, and students do student things.  And concealing your identity is not a student thing.

    Ninja spies do ninja spy things, and students do student things. And concealing your identity is not a student thing.

  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT procrastinate on writing your papers or studying for an exam or test.  This leads to staying up until three in the morning to finish your paper and then being exhausted for the next day and everything you say sounds like it came from the mouth of a four year old.  Take it from the girl who had to present in front of the class on about four hours of sleep.  So no procrastination.  Only healthy amounts of sleep.

    Ah, yes.  The pure joy of sleep.

    Ah, yes. The pure jubilation of sleep.

  • Not sure if you want to participate in PSEO?  “Just do it.  It’s easier than it sounds”—Kendall



PSEOP is something that I will never regret participating in.  I’ve found what I want to do, learned countless things I wouldn’t otherwise know, and I now know what college is going to be like.  Think about this program even if you or your child is just starting high school.  I had to purposefully plan my schedule each year to maximize the amount of requirements I got out of the way so that I could spend my senior year taking college courses.  If you’re actually considering the program, but you’re still not sure, find a PSEOP student at your high school and ask them about their experience—I’m sure they’d love to tell you.  You can also ask your school’s guidance department for information on the program.  Some rules and things may vary by school, so below are some links to information online.  Some of them contain old information, so check with your guidance office if you’re interested.

Big Walnut
Buckeye Valley
Delaware Hayes
Westerville City Schools 


List of private schools in Ohio who participated last year, but check with your school to see if they’re participating the year you want to do it.

Meet The Newest Additions to the DelawareO Writing Team!

Writers, writers, and more writers!

DelawareO prides itself on being the online resource for all of Delaware County Ohio and finding local up and coming talent. That is why it seemed like a natural fit to look for writers that are still in high school looking to define / refine their skills.

All I can say is we hit the proverbial mother load. We had applicants from all over Delaware County apply from Big Walnut, Hayes, Buckeye Valley, Olentangy Schools, and Delaware Christian. With no further adieu, please meet and congratulate the 8 newest members of our writing team. [Read more…]