Friday, August 31, 2007

College Football

Yes, college football started this week. Last night there was a game on TV, and tomorrow will be college football Saturday. I remember a few years ago, when I asked Stein one morning if he was excited. "For what?" he asked. "The start of college football," I said enthusiastically.

Preparations have already been going on for weeks around town. We hear and see the band practicing, witnessing the serious looks on the faces of the drum players as they practice beating their drums in unison (Amy and Colin, I don't know the technical names, sorry!). I went for a run this morning (the 2nd time in a week - I'm on a roll! ugh.) and noticed a lot of activity in and around the stadium. There were a ton more tents set up than there were a few days ago to sell food to all the hungry fans. There was a training session going on that must have been for the people who were working for the TV/video company. And there was a buzz that you could feel, the feeling of anticipation for another season.

College football is definitely a fall tradition, and a definite tradition in our house. Tomorrow morning, we will wake up and make some sort of dish to bring to Matt and Anne's house (my brother-n-law and sister-n-law's house). It will be anything from deviled eggs to cookies to football dip (a gross-looking, yummy tasting dip). We will also be packing our bloody mary cooler, the same one we've been packing for years, with the same ingredients: Sting Ray bloody mary mix, Clamato tomato juice, Absolut peppar vodka, Claussen pickles, worcestershire sauce, horseradish, hot sauce and celery salt. When we get to Matt and Anne's, we will be greeted by other family members and friends who also bring food to share. We will indulge in Anne's "orange dip", pigs in a blanket, and other tailgating goodies while we sip our bloody marys.

I like all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with college football, especially since Michigan is such a football school. And especially since I didn't have football games to go to when I was in college. (Marquette only had a football "club" not a team. Basketball was/is the sport). I'm always amazed to see the parties that are set up in the parking lots before and after games. Like clowns out of a Volkswagen, people suddenly set up tables and chairs, awnings, grills, and food that goes on for weeks. All of this in maize and blue, of course. God forbid you eat your hot dog on a plain white plate!

After being at Matt and Anne's for a while, we will walk to the stadium for the game. We always try to get there before the band comes out, because they all come out high stepping. It's quite a thing to see, especially when 107,000+ fans ("the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in America" they announce proudly) raise their fists as part of "Hail to the Victors". I get goosebumps every time. We will watch the game, barely speaking unless we comment on game specifics or high five after a touchdown. When the game is over, we may go back to Matt and Anne's or hang out and tailgate with friends in a nearby parking lot. Normally we get home relatively early, turn on the TV and watch more football.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

And Vacation Comes to an End

Yep, as you probably guessed from my lack of posts, I have started my student teaching gig. Last week was spent getting the room ready, and this week more of the same. I went to a teacher meeting on Tuesday morning where I met most of the other teachers in the school. The rest of the time I spent in the classroom getting it ready.

It's funny about the first few weeks or months on a new job, at least with me. You go in, you meet new people, you slowly get to know each person and their intricacies, and then you start to feel comfortable. I get immediately back into a routine, down to packing the same lunch at the same time, passing the same people on the street each morning, and the same people on the street each evening. Kind of like the movie Groundhog Day in a way.

The people at the school are really friendly and welcoming. As I get older, I start to put people into groups and categories based on the people I already know. Most of the teachers at the school have already been put in categories of former teachers that I had, based on the appearance of themselves and their rooms.

Luckily Linda is a minimalist, so our room, while big, isn't cluttered. I always think cluttered room, cluttered minds. And Linda's personality is a combination of my friend Karen Clark and a former boss of mine. I think we're going to work well together. When asked about how she organized her room so well, she commented about her relationship with a former co-worker whom she team-taught with. She said, "Well, I'm a global thinker and Mary is a detail person. So it worked out well." I consider myself both detail oriented and global, but tend to lean more toward the details. I think we're going to be fine.

Next week I am told to "absorb everything". I will be following the students around the whole week, including to all their "specials" (gym, art, music, computers, library). I won't be doing much teaching, except for some early spelling or reading assessments. I am anxious to get started and watch Linda in action. From chatting with her while we've been setting up the room, I have learned that she cares tremendously about her students. I'm sure that it will be a treat to teach in her room.

I'm going to try to keep up with the posts, but with this change in my regular routine, I may need some time to breathe instead of type. Bear with me and I will try to work blogging into the mix. Working out may take precedence too. But then again, it really needs to. I feel so out of shape.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pictures downloaded

Thanks to Stein and Bryan, I now have pictures on two previous posts: A Fun Day of Celebration, and Bravo Bryan! Check them out to see the accompanying pics!

Sights and Smells

I went running this morning for the first time in a few weeks. I have nothing to blame but laziness for the lag in time. I have been going to the Y almost every other day, so that's been my saving grace. I'm hoping the schedule of being back in school will help me get back into a regular workout schedule.

On my run this morning, I paid attention to the sights and smells as I went on my merry way. I put on my iPod, closed the front door of the house and ran down the steps. I was on my way. I have been running the same route for a long time, and I really need to change it up. But it's easy to know that when I'm done, it will be 3 miles. If I try another route, I have to track it all over again. (Again, the laziness factor creeps in.)

As I turned the corner onto Stadium Blvd., cars rushed past me on the street and I smelled the exhaust of a big construction truck. Up the hill of the bridge over State St., I always smell a plant that I remember from Hawaii. This instantly puts me back in Hawaii with the warm tropical breezes blowing constantly. Those thoughts quickly disappeared as my legs screamed out toward the top of the bridge. I made it, I think, as I looked down onto the soccer and field hockey fields, just waiting to be filled with players practicing or playing a game.

My legs breathed a sigh of relief, as did I, as I made my way down the other side of the bridge. The parking lot was filled with cars of commuters that then wait for the shuttle in to campus. Crisler Arena is ahead on the right where the sidewalk starts going up in a little hill. This is where I usually see other people riding their bikes or running too. Some of them will give a little wave or smile, and some will look the other way. Either way, I'm challenged to go further.

Up ahead on the right is Michigan Stadium. Today I noticed that most of the vendor tents are set-up for the opening game next week. Tents that will be selling philly cheese steak sandwiches, roasted almonds, nachos, and other football fare. As I rounded the corner onto Main Street, I smelled apples. For a minute I thought it may be the remnants in one of the tents that normally sells apple cider, but then noticed that a crab apple tree had dropped a bunch of its fruit on the ground. The smashed apples on the ground smelled just like cider. A sure sign of fall.

Down the hill and then up again along the stadium on Main St., I spotted signs that said the sidewalk was closed. I wondered why they needed to close the sidewalk, but quickly realized that they were putting in a new sidewalk and curbs. Everyone seemed so serious when I looked at the men working. I'm sure the rain last week slowed their progress and they have strict orders to have the project completed by the opening game.

As I ran past the car wash I smelled the car soap mixed with grime and dirt. I had to pass a few people walking to work or the bus stop, and tried not to startle them in the process. The smell of fresh lumber came to me as I reached the railroad tracks right next to the lumber yard. And then the smell of Murphy's Oil Soap came to me as I passed Leopold Brothers bar, getting cleaned from a late Sunday night of debauchery.

The last "big" hill was ahead of me, and I heard my legs moan their usual moan as I ran up. The evergreen bushes on my right gave off a pine scent and helped to keep my mind off of the pain. I made my way down Packard and was thankful when the road took its downward slope. I passed Cottage Inn Pizza already cooking some pizza, the smells making me want to stop and have breakfast right there. Jimmy John's was next and I could smell their bread being baked for a day of sandwich making.

I turned the corner at State St. and noticed the usual signs of a good weekend in the student section of the neighborhood. Tables with cups still set-up for beer pong, couches and chairs on porches and front lawns, grills for barbecuing abandoned after the last hot dog was eaten. Some students staggering to work or home. Some who were sleep deprived, some who had too much fun the night before. The smell of garbage was there too, it was garbage day today. All of the houses along State St. had their garbage cans at the curb waiting to be emptied by the garbage trucks. Inevitably a critter or garbage picker would get into a garbage can and leave remnants of the contents strewn on the lawn or in the street.

Rose St. I was finally near home. My momentum picked up a little from the sight of that street sign. I ran past the park where someone was cutting the grass. I took in that smell and held it because that is a true summer smell. As I rounded the corner to our house, I smelled exhaustion and triumph. I was home.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I Sat There Like a Dummy

When I was little, my grandpa got a haircut that apparently my grandma didn't like. She said, "He just sat there like a dummy in the chair and didn't tell them they were doing it wrong." I don't remember the haircut, nor do I think it could be that bad, since he was bald with a comb over hairdo. Regardless, after that incident, my family would inevitably use that line.

Well, on Friday when I got my haircut, I sat there like a dummy. I have been going to the same woman for about 5 years now. When she asks me what I want done each time, I usually say I just need a trim. The past 3 times I've gone, she's given me a really nice cut. So this time, I said, "I really like what you've been doing, so we can still go with that. But I still need to be able to put it in a ponytail." She started telling me what she was going to do and asked if it was okay. It sounded like the same cut I've been getting, so I said fine.

Halfway through the haircut, I looked down on the floor and saw hair clippings that were 4-5 inches long! I thought, this is not the same haircut. Then she dried my hair like usual. But she didn't use the brush as usual while drying. Out came the hair straightener. As she turned the chair toward the mirror, I looked up and saw it. It was a short bob. Yep. The hair hits my jawline. I can't put it in a ponytail. Totally different haircut.

She asked me if I owned a hair straightener and I said no. Then she went on to tell me where I can buy one and what kind I should get. She also sold me on some hair product that will work well on this haircut. So not only did I get a totally different haircut, I now needed accessories for the haircut. I sat there like a dummy.

I did get a "It looks good!" from the owner of the salon, which was nice. I'm sure I'll get used to it, and I don't know if I'm going to buy the hair straightener. It's only hair, after all. It grows back. And no, I'm not going to post any pictures.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

David Steinhowever

My friend Amy just commented that she finds it funny that I call my husband "Stein". She said it sounds like a name that his college buddies would call him while playing poker. It is sort of funny, I think. Most of you know the story, but I'll tell it here in case you never heard it.

Stein and I met through mutual friends while we were both living in Chicago. At the time, Stein was living with Shark, a friend that he has known since grammar school. (Yes, I say grammar school. Is it a Chicago thing?) Anyway, Shark had always called Stein, Stein, so anyone that was introduced to him came to call him Stein. So when I was introduced to him, I called him Stein.

A few weeks after we first met I had to call him at his office (he was wooing me at the time and left me a message to call him back). I assumed his last name was Stein, since everyone called him Stein. So when his message said, "Hello, this is David Steinhauer, I'm not at my desk so please leave a message after the beep," I thought he was saying, "Hello, this is David Stein. However, I'm not at my desk so please leave a message after the beep." A few nights later, while talking with friends, his "real" last name came up in conversation. I blurted out, "You're last name is Steinhauer? No it's Stein." I didn't believe him and actually had him take out his license to prove it.

Then it came time for him to meet my family. I introduced him as "Dave" since I thought David sounded too formal. Why I thought it too formal, I don't know. He actually introduces himself as David. To this day, my family calls him Dave, with the exception of my brothers who call him Stein. So when I'm talking to people about him, I have to switch names depending if it's a friend or family member that I'm talking to.

It doesn't get confusing, until we're around his brother's friends who also refer to his brothers as Stein. Sometimes at parties, if all the brothers are there, you say Stein and it's guaranteed that at least two of them will turn around.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Fun Day of Celebration

Last night we celebrated our anniversary by going out to dinner. We are always leery of going to new places on special nights, because if the place is bad, we don't want to have that as our memory. But we go back to our standard places on a regular basis, and we really wanted to try something new. At school, I asked Linda for suggestions on where to go. She listed off a bunch of places we've already been to, but then said that Logan On Washington was supposed to be great according to her friend. When I mentioned it to Stein, he agreed that we should try it.

Before we went to the restaurant, Stein came home from work carrying a big bouquet of beautiful flowers. He knows exactly what I like, and the bouquet shows it. There are lilies, a couple roses, and some other non-standard flowers that are purple, white, yellow and orange (I'm not good with flower names). A very colorful and cheerful gathering. So pretty. Here's a picture of it:

I had already bought some Gladiolus, since they were on sale at the grocery store that morning. I had gone to the store to buy ingredients to make Stein a chocolate cake (my grandma's "secret" recipe) and the red gladiolus caught my eye. As did the price tag, $3.99 a bunch! So when Stein came home with my bouquet and I put it out in a vase, we had a house full of flowers. They make me smile.

Back to dinner at Logan. What a great place. And what great food! When we got to the restaurant, I noticed that a table for two in the window had opened up. Perfect! And apparently we got there just in time before a regular missed her "favorite spot". Oh well!

We started with an appetizer of truffle gnocchi. It was a lot bigger and different shaped than traditional gnocchi and had a cheese sauce with shaved truffles on the top. Delicious. Then our entrees came. Stein ordered a Cowboy Steak that came with asparagus. It just melted in your mouth. In fact, the waitress told us that the chef stands by the steak while it cooks for ten minutes, continually drizzling butter over it. What's better than steak? Steak with butter, of course! I had a beef roulade, which came with an Indian-inspired sauce. Very tasty. And the potatoes on the side were smashed potatoes with cashews. I would never put the two tastes together, but it was really good. The creaminess of the cashews added to the taste of the potatoes. We each had a glass of wine (hand-picked by the sommelier to accompany our meals).

We kept talking about how we weren't going to have dessert because we had chocolate cake at home. But close to the end of our entrees, the sky grew dark and the lightning started. The sky opened up and started pouring. It was coming down in sheets. We joked with our waitress that it was a great tactic for anyone who was just thinking about dessert. The rain would make up their mind to stay a little longer. So out she came with the dessert tray. Goat cheese cheesecake, flourless chocolate cake, creme brulee, poached peaches, and cookies and milk.

The rain continued, so we ordered dessert. The chocolate cake at home could be eaten tomorrow, we decided. Stein ordered the cheesecake and I ordered the cookies and milk. There were 2 each of chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snickerdoodle cookies, baked fresh and gooey. And in the middle of the plate was a glass of cold, whole milk (we only drink skim, so whole milk is like cream to me). Stein's cheesecake was an individual cake that had a sour cream sauce on the top. Good, but I think the cookies and milk were better. It was perfect to eat and drink and watch the people passing by on the sidewalk or the rain pouring down. About halfway through dessert, the rain stopped and the sky turned blue and grey.

It was a perfect night of good food for a great occasion. Chocolate cake, anyone?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cheers to 5 Years!

I can't believe that it was 5 years ago today that Stein and I were at Salvatore's in Chicago, exchanging vows in front of our family and friends. What a fun night that was.
By the way, the picture above is not from our wedding (I wore a white dress, not black), it's actually from our friends Sarah and Scott's wedding in May (photo courtesy of Chris).

I thought about all the events that have happened since we were married. Milestones like starting new careers, buying a house and welcoming new nieces into our families have all occurred. Great trips have been taken like Hawaii for our honeymoon in Nov. of 2002, and then again in 2006, Spain in 2004, and trips to Phoenix and Naples to see our moms.

My mom said it best at the breakfast the day after our wedding. She said in our family, there are three F's that we live by (don't get any ideas...). Family, food, and fun. I think that the past 5 years can be summed up the same way for Stein and me. We are lucky to have a lot of family (we're both 1 of 5 kids) close to us geographically or in our hearts. We enjoy having people over to share food, going out to eat great food with family and friends, and cherishing the company of family and friends at their houses for meals. And fun? Well, I think we have it down. If we can't make each other laugh or crack up at ourselves, then I think, what's the point? It's humor and happiness that keeps you young and positive. Without that, again, what's the point?
So here's to you, Stein. Cheers to many more years of family, food and fun. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why was I so Worried?

It went fine today. So fine, that I actually had fun, got to sort books for the classroom library, and listen to Dave Matthews while doing it. Not bad, huh?

My cooperating teacher Linda is great. She's very sociable, so I was introduced to a lot of other teachers this morning. Each one came in to chit chat about school stuff, personal stuff, whatever. Each time someone came in and left, I learned something new. That's what teaching and being part of a team is all about - bouncing ideas off each other, offering suggestions, being there for others. I was in my element. I was learning while I listened.

We are extremely lucky to have a large classroom, and a small class size (18 kids). When I showed excitement with this small number, Linda said that it's not always a good thing. She said sometimes it can be too small where everyone can't find a friend. She continued to say that one of her worst years was with one of her smallest classes. But I'm being optimistic - I see a small class as a better teacher to student ratio. A win-win.

I'll go back tomorrow and hopefully do some planning with her. She did a great job cleaning the room and closets at the end of last year, so there's not as much cleaning/setting-up as I thought there would be.

Of course there will be the first day jitters when the kids arrive, or when I have to teach my first lesson, or eventually when I'm teaching solo, but all in all, it's going to be fine. I just need to keep telling myself that!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thrown Into the Fire

Well, my summer is coming to a close. More abruptly than I anticipated, but it's all good. I emailed my cooperating teacher yesterday of the class where I'll be student teaching. I told her that the email system at EMU is down and asked if she had tried to email me at that address. She sent back an email this morning saying that she did email me. She wants me to come into school to help get things ready... Tomorrow! No easing into it. One minute I think that I have the rest of the week free, the next minute I have visions of lesson plans dancing in my head.

Roll with it, Kelly, is what I keep telling myself. After all, that's what teaching is all about. Something isn't working? Think of something else. On the spot. Someone isn't getting it? Think of another way of explaining it. Right then. I know about many of the possible scenarios that could go awry when it comes to teaching. I'm prepared. But am I? Does this change in schedule throwing me off tell me something?

I think I'll be fine. At least I have admitted that it bothered me. But now I have to concentrate on starting tomorrow, going in again on Thursday, and then Tuesday next week (and probably more days).

I've been there before. Having a mom that was a teacher got me prepared for getting ready. We were always recruited in some way to help out with all her "to-dos". Everything from writing kids' names on crayons, to scrubbing down tables and chairs. We were on it. And I know I can be on it tomorrow.

I think what this feeling of panic may be attributed to is just a shift in schedule where I didn't think there would be one. I was all ready to have lunch poolside at a friend's house tomorrow, get things organized around the house on Thursday. Instead, the lunch was cancelled and I spent most of today organizing. For those Gilmore Girls fans out there (another one of my obsessions if you didn't know), it's like the feeling that Rory and Lorelai had when they realized that they had a day instead of a week before Rory went to Yale. Hurried and harried.

I'll be fine. Really. Change is good, right? Right.

Old Friends, Dear Friends

Yesterday I met my friend Shelly for breakfast in Royal Oak. Shelly is my friend from college. Unfortunately, even though she lives in Michigan, we haven't seen each other in years. Through no fault of our own, the time just passed before our eyes. Life happened. Although it had been a long time since we've seen each other, it didn't matter. We were right back into comfortable conversation like we had in college.

Shelly lived on my floor freshman year in college. The first day we moved into the dorm, she was on crutches (following a knee injury). Our friend Justin was also with her. Looking back, all three of us remained friends, and I was lucky enough to be with them the day we graduated.

We survived crazy roommates together, studied together (or at least went to the library), cried with each other over the latest drama, and ate some great (and not so great) food together. But mostly, we laughed and had fun hanging out together.

Shelly was one of four roommates that I lived with senior year (yes, five women in a 4-bedroom apartment with one bathroom!). I still consider all of those women dear friends. Though geographic distance has separated us (1 in France, 2 in DC, and Shelly and me in Michigan), the minute we're together or talk on the phone, we're back where we were in the apartment in Milwaukee.

I'm so thankful for these women in my life. They are all such strong women, and have each taught me something that still remains with me today.

Shelly and I told each other as we left the restaurant that we need to see each other again soon (sooner than a couple years). And we will. That's the beauty of good friends.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What is it About Delis?

Another one of my obsessions is delis. Not as much as my obsession with say, Trader Joe's, but I love a good deli. It may go back to my childhood when a big outing for my friends and I was to walk to Meyer's Delicatessen in Lincoln Square. We weren't that interested in the salamis or other meats hanging overhead or the cheeses scattered around the place on wooden barrels and tables. We were most interested in the imported chocolates that were there, specifically the gold-foil wrapped coins in little net bags. They were right in the price-point geared toward our allowance money that was burning holes in our pockets. So we would buy a bag (or two if we were splurging) and eat most of the contents before getting home. I remember the smell inside that deli. The smoked meats mixed with the stinky cheeses was memorable to me. And it was definitely a gathering place. Older German women would gather there and talk while they waited for their kielbasa. Kids like us would run to the candy and dream about having a taste of it all, maybe when we grew up.

Fast forward to this past February when I was in Chicago to celebrate Christmas with my family (yes, we celebrated in February - long story). My brother Rick and my sister-n-law Monik were hosting it, and they decided to go with a finger-food type menu. They also wanted to have some Polish food too. (If you didn't know, Monik is from Poland, and that's where she and Rick met). Rick asked me to go with him to the Polish deli the morning of the party. In the middle of a block on Milwaukee Ave., in the midst of other Polish stores and restaurants, there sits the deli. I could smell the good-deli smell before we walked in. When we got inside, Rick immediately took a basket and a number. It was Saturday and the place was packed! And no one in the place was speaking English. Rick told me what number to listen for because they would call it in Polish. We went back to the freezer to get packages of pierogi (all different kinds), gathered all of Monik's favorite candies, and then our number was called.

Rick made his way through all the older Polish women gathered by the deli case to give the employee his number and place his order - in Polish. The woman asked him some questions and then turned to get what he ordered. This happened about three more times as he asked for different items. Each time I would ask him, "What did you say? And what did she ask you?" And each time it would be, "I asked for ham (or kielbasa, or turkey) and she asked me what kind." The deli case was humongous. It had all kinds of deli meats, prepared foods, cheeses and sausages. Then on the wall behind the deli, there were hundreds of different kinds of sausages hanging. Salamis, kielbasa and things that I've never seen before. It was amazing.

Fast forward again to this past Friday when I went to an Alcamo's Italian deli in Dearborn, MI with my brother Bryan and his family. You wouldn't expect an Italian deli to be in a town that has one of the largest Arab populations. You can tell, though, that this place has seen a lot of change in the neighborhood around it. Yet when you step inside, you also see that not much has changed.

Before walking in, I turned to my sister-n-law and told her that it must be a good place. I could smell the familiar good-deli smell already. I immediately heard Dean Martin playing over the speakers. This is a good place, I thought. On the left side was a deli case that went down the entire length of the place. As we went through the aisles, some familiar things were mixed with unfamiliar things, but everything was Italian. There were Italian wines, shelves full of olive oils in different shaped bottles and cans, an entire aisle (both sides) of dry pastas, and then different sauces, tapenades, and crackers. And the bread! Oh the bread! Shelves of baguettes, rounds of bread cut in slices, some in plastic bags, some in paper bags, all baked that morning.

The deli case was full of fresh meats, cheeses and salads. Sausages, lunch meats, chicken, steak, fish. Bowls and bowls of olives - olives stuffed with prosciutto and provolone, olives with crushed peppers, olives stuffed with garlic. A definite sensory overload. I saw a grandpa-looking man who was talking with one of the locals. His Italian accent was thick, like he recently moved here. This was a gathering place too, as regular customers would place their orders and the employees would finish their sentences. Everyone knew to take a ticket with a number on it and just listen for their number to be called. In the meantime, they would gather the other groceries that they needed.

We ordered Italian sub sandwiches and then took them to the park next door. They were made on Italian rolls which were crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. The meat was piled high - salami, mortadella, prosciutto, ham, and thick slices of provolone cheese. We also got some olives - an assortment, and some with crushed pepper. The pickled peppers were good too, with some sun dried tomatoes thrown in for taste and color. I would recommend it to anyone in the greater Detroit area. I mean, I'm a big fan of Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, but I also love the ethnic-specific delis. And I especially love the (cheaper) prices!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bravo, Bryan!

(from left: Alexander, Pat, Bryan and Kyle)

My brother Bryan was in town last week for the UA Instructor Training week. This is the program that his union has that trains men and women to be instructors of their apprentices. They come to Ann Arbor for a week every August (it takes 5 years to receive their certificates) . All the stores in downtown Ann Arbor and surrounding communities have signs in their windows that say "Welcome UA Members".

Bryan is already certified in the program and is also one of the teachers for the program in Ann Arbor. This year he surprised my sister-n-law and 2 nephews, when he received his Associates degree in Applied Science in Industrial Instruction (correct me if I'm wrong, Bryan). So Thursday afternoon, I picked up my sister-n-law Pat and my nephews Alexander and Kyle from the train station in Ann Arbor and we headed over to EMU's Convocation Center.

It ended up being a long ceremony. The candidates walked in to a band playing Pomp and Circumstance. The candidates receiving Associates or BAs were wearing cap and gowns. (Bryan also wore gold ropes for honors.) There were a few long-winded speeches (one that sounded like a campaign speech) and then 269 people received their instruction certificates. And then after that were the people who received Associate degrees. (I thought it should go in order of "ranking", but apparently I had no say in the matter).

It wouldn't have been that bad, but the man announcing the names took his sweet time in-between to call the next name. He would wait until the person walked up a ramp, received the diploma, turned around to face the camera and then for the camera person to snap the picture. Ugh. Pat and I were sighing the whole time, thinking it was going to be a long time. And it was. Over three hours! But then again, I can't recall any graduation ceremony where I didn't want it to end. I think part of the process is to have the participants and their families waiting for a brutally long time to get to the end. As if getting through the school part wasn't enough, they want you to wait even longer. To build character, or something like that.

When Bryan received his degree, Pat, the boys and I cheered loudly. As did a lot of other people who somehow knew Bryan. A lot of people had air horns that they would sound when their friend or family member was announced. Each time one went off, I would jump, as did my heart as it would skip a beat. If it was any contest, Bryan received a lot of air horn "cheers". After he received his degree, Pat, the boys and I went outside. Enough is enough! There were still other people to receive awards and certificates, but we needed to get out.

Bryan came out smiling widely. We all gave him hugs and words of congratulations. We took pictures with him and then headed to the car. We celebrated that night with a yummy dinner (more on that in another post). All in all, a good afternoon of well-deserved accolades. Congratulations, Bryan!

Pat and Bryan

Bryan and me

Bryan and Alexander

Kyle and Bryan

Friday, August 17, 2007

It Can't Be That Time Yet

This morning Stein and I watched our niece Mia because her mom and dad were out of town. Stein got up early to go over there and let me sleep in a bit (such a nice boy, that Stein). When the alarm went off for me, I realized that I was deep under the covers, including the quilt. The recent nights have been very cool, such good sleeping weather in my opinion. I turned on the TV where the weather guy said that it was going to be in the 80's, but it was still cool in the morning. Great, I thought, shorts and sweatshirt weather. My favorite weather. But while I love this kind of weather, it always means one of two things: spring is coming or fall is coming. In the case of the latter, I have to say that it doesn't make me happy. I mean, I like fall and all it brings - college football Saturdays, trips to the cider mill, new school supplies, a change in wardrobe, etc. But with all these good things comes the inevitable next season - winter. I hate winter. Loathe it. Despise it.

To make matters a little more depressing today, as I got in the car to take Mia to school, there was a red leaf on the ground. I said to Mia, "You won't believe it, but there's a red leaf on the ground. Do you want to see it?" "Yes!" she shouted. So I picked up the leaf and handed it to her. As I watched her twirl it in her hands, I said, "It can't be time for fall yet, can it?" and shook my head in disbelief. "Summer's not over yet, is it?" "No!" she shouted. For Mia the end of summer means no more swimming in the lake, no more tubing, no more weekend nights spent at the cottage. For her it's the end of something - summer. For me it's the beginning of something - winter. Either way, it stinks.

After I dropped Mia off at school, I went to Kroger to pick up some groceries. As I walked to the door of the store, I looked over where they have the plants and flowers of the season kept outside. And what are the flowers "of the season"? Mums. Mums? Yes, the traditional flowers of fall. The flowers that sit next to pumpkins and hay bales on porches in the fall. I thought, no, it is not fall yet. It is still summer. It's going to be 80 degrees today. So what did I do to show my solidarity with summer? I went in the store and bought a cantaloupe.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Power of Reading

When I decided to go back to school to get my teaching certificate, I knew I wanted to major in Reading. I don't remember when I learned to read, but my mom said that it was "early". Age 4? 5? I don't know. I guess it's kind of inevitable when you have 4 older siblings reading to you and encouraging you to read. Reading was always my favorite subject in school (actually Language Arts in general).

While I was taking my reading classes for my program, my decision was affirmed. I was fascinated by all the research that has been done in the area of reading. And I was lucky enough to have some great professors, some that are very well-known in their areas of specialty. As I learned everything from phonics to motivation to spotting reading issues in kids, I became more and more excited to be in the "world" of reading. I listened to a talk that one of my professors did for parents at a elementary school in a neighboring town, and witnessed the courage of one mother who stood up and admitted that she couldn't read. I attended the Michigan Reading Association's Conference and was fascinated to listen to all the big names in reading research - Harvey Daniels, Richard Allington, etc. I was also starstruck at the sight of children's book authors. (Yes, I am quite a nerd. But at least I know it.) I realize more and more that reading is powerful.

In the last few days I have seen the power of reading in action. I told you in a previous post about one of my classes that was in cooperation with the reading clinic at my school. I was extremely lucky to get paired with the little girl I worked with. She is nine years old and going into 4th grade. We worked on her fluency and her comprehension throughout the 4 weeks we worked together. It was a pleasure to work with her. Not once in the 8 two-hour sessions that we had did she say that something was boring or that she needed the break (it was me who needed the breaks most times!). One of the main challenges I faced was bringing in the snacks that she liked. Once I managed that, she would save her treat to take home to her sisters. Yes, I know, she's an exception to the rule, but I sure learned a lot from her.

During our time together, reading took us to places far from our little room. Reading took us to New York, where we played in Central Park and rode the elevator in a high-rise apartment building. It took us to the ocean where we saw dogs on surfboards, or squirrels on water skis. It took us to castles where a princess with insomnia complained about a pea, or another let down her hair for the prince. Wherever we went, we felt like we were really there. This is what I remember as a kid, being completely consumed by a book to the point where I had a hard time differentiating between the book and "reality". That is pretty powerful, if you ask me.

I have also been tutoring a little girl this summer. She is going into 1st grade and needs some work in the basics of reading. I worked with her during the school year as part of another class I had, and her parents asked me if I would like to continue during the summer. I agreed, and we have been working together 2 days every week at the library. Most of what we do together is surround ourselves in print. I read to her, we take apart sentences, we talk about how different letters look and sound, and we do some writing. It is very different than working with a 4th grader, that's for sure! I need to keep my activities short and to the point, in order to keep her attention. I find that when all else fails and her attention span can't be pushed just one more minute on an activity, she will sit and listen to a story being read. I pack my bag with a lot of books knowing that this will do the trick.

The last time we were together, I pulled out The Cat in the Hat, and instantly we were in the house, watching the mother leave, and watching the cat come in. We saw that the fish was very upset by all the activity, and knew that the mother was going to be very angry if she came home to the mess. As I read the story, she was mesmerized. As was another little girl who was following her mom around the library. She stopped in her tracks and crept closer to us to hear the story. When her mom called for her, she stepped into the mom's view, but still close enough to us to listen. It brought me back to those times when I was little and chose a story for my mom to read. I would climb up on her lap where she sat on the cushion of the wicker rocker waiting. As I leaned my head against her chest, I would listen to the words she read from the pages and look at the pictures on the pages. It was a magical time. Everyone loves to be read to. It's a powerful thing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's for Dinner?

If you're lucky enough to have a large ethnic section in your grocery store, or have an Asian market near you, then you've probably seen the hot sauces pictured above. It's called Sriracha, and I think it's originally from Vietnam. We normally buy the one with the green cap. We use it when we stir fry, on our pizza, or with scrambled eggs or omelettes. I came across it first when I worked for Einstein's and we used it on a buffalo chicken sandwich. "You gotta get the rooster," I would tell the managers of the various locations. I meant that they needed to get the asian chili sauce, not just some random chili sauce found at the grocery store. Sriracha has a picture of a rooster (or flying duck, or other fowl) on the front of it. It has a thicker consistency than ketchup, but squeezes easily out of the bottle.
But back to the title of my post. We found a new way to use the garlic Sriracha (brown cap) this summer and have been eating this a lot. We smear it on pork chops (both sides), seal them up, and stick them in the fridge for a few hours. Then we grill them. The sauce gives just the right amount of kick while keeping the pork chops juicy. Usually pork chops have little taste if you don't doctor them up a bit. This does the job perfectly.
And for a side tonight? Well, we had a lot of corn leftover from Monday and a few more of our tomatoes ripened in the past couple days. I found this recipe for Grilled Corn and Tomato Salad on and it turned out great.
Simple and yummy. Just how summer should be.

A Day at the Lake

Thanks to Matt and Anne who let us use their cottage, we were able to enjoy a day at the lake on Monday. Our friend Eric was in from California with his son Michael. Eric is a friend of Stein's from growing up, and we only get to see him about once a year. (We were lucky to see him twice this year, when he came to Vegas to join in Stein's birthday activities). Eric's sister Jill, her husband Jim, and their three kids were also there. And since Eric grew up with all of our other friends that live here, they were all there too. All in all, there were close to 30 people there, including kids.

The weather was gorgeous. Hot enough where swimming felt good, but cool enough to enjoy sitting and talking. The kids had a blast swimming and tubing. We cooked out and had the usual summer fare: hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, cole slaw, pasta salad, corn on the cob, potato salad. For dessert the kids had ice cream sandwiches and popsicles. Perfect for a warm summer night. We watched a pretty sunset to top it off. We're hoping to see Eric again before he leaves for California. But he has a lot of things planned between now and then, so we don't know. It was great seeing him for at least one day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

That Chris

Last night when we got home from Matt and Anne's cottage (more about that in another post), we had a card sticking out of the mailbox. It had a big orange flower on it, and it said that I had received a package from "Cookies by Design". Since we weren't home, it said that the package was dropped off with our neighbors across the street. I asked Stein what he thought it might be. "Maybe for someone who just finished classes today?" he said smugly. Hmmm, I thought. But who sent it?

As we finished unpacking our cars, I heard our neighbor Jim announcing himself as he approached us in the dark. He said something about a package and how they looked so good. When I turned around, I saw a big bouquet of cookie flowers under cellophane. How fun! How thoughtful! Stein asked if he could read the card. It was a sweet, thoughtful message from Chris that said congrats for finishing classes. After I took this picture, we had to try one. We split the yellow one on the right. Oh mama. It was so good. I am doing everything in my power to ration them. Having one for breakfast was too tempting. And having one after I post this is again too tempting. Maybe I'll freeze them? Nah.

Why I Love Summer

Actually one of the many reasons that I love summer. Basil! This picture is the basil that we had growing last week. Our basil grows in a planting container that sits on stilts. Our tomatoes grow from the bottom of the container through 4 holes. This way, the tomatoes don't have to be staked to keep them from falling down. They mostly curl up toward the sun, so they never drag on the ground, either. Stein got this nifty thing after seeing one at Shark and Jane's house. Gotta keep up with the Joneses, or the Sharks, I guess.

After watching the basil grow for weeks, I decided it was time to gather it. And this was our second "harvest"! So, now I have 7 stuffed gallon ziploc bags of basil in my freezer waiting for me to grind it into pesto. I was sure not to take all the leaves, since we love basil and tomato salads. Here's a picture of our tomatoes that were ripening last week:

And what is this, in a shroud of white? Well, last year we were invaded by swarms of Japanese beetles, and our basil (and impatiens) took a beating. I went to the garden center at Home Depot to inquire about some sort of protection for the basil. After getting many crazy looks from the employees there, I went across the street to Babies R Us to buy a stroller net. A couple of dowel rods keep it held up, and the elastic on the bottom doesn't let any critters in. Eureka! Our basil was saved. I guess necessity is the mother of invention. (don't tell too many people about this, though. I just may have to get it patented!)

Here's some of the basil once it was picked and put in the colander (oh, the smell of fresh basil...):

...And the mounds of basil drying on the counter before freezing. Can you tell that I'm a little obsessed with it? How could you not be when you have such a bounty?!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Done as Dinner

In April, when we were finishing up the winter semester, I asked a classmate of mine if she was done. "Done as dinner," she said. And now I'm done as dinner. Yesterday I finished making changes to my papers and also submitted a final project via email. Aside from some papers to be printed out and going to class on Monday, I am done with the classroom portion of my program.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I was immersed in finishing up the final project for my curriculum class. Ten-one hour lessons about the National Parks. Stein reminds me that I went overboard, and maybe I did. But all I know is this weekend last year I spent Thursday through Sunday in front of the computer, for 12 or more hours each day (good thing that Stein had his golf outing). I remember finally emerging from the house 10 minutes before class started on Monday. I raced to campus, ran to class, and arrived in the classroom panting and sweating. As I plopped down my 4 inch binder I looked around. Everyone else was staring at me while holding their 2 or 3 inch binders. Did I go overboard? I think I did. Yet at the end of that class, I knew that I still had more classes to take. There was fall, winter, spring and summer semesters ahead of me.

But now I don't have more classes ahead of me, I have student teaching. I will be busy again, probably busier than I was for that curriculum class. But this time it's the real deal. The unit I wrote for curriculum was planned using a hypothetical class. When I'm student teaching, I'll have 25-30 4th grade faces looking at me everyday, each with their own interests and learning needs. This is the exciting part for me. The potential of it all.

While I'll miss being a student in the classroom (most of you know that I've become a nerd and kind of a brown-noser since my undergrad days), I know that it's time. It's time to take everything I learned and apply it in the classroom. And it's also time to learn the things I never learned in class. Teachable moments are when topics pop up without warning and suddenly it's something to learn about. I anticipate a fair share of moments for the students and for myself.

So now I have almost 2 weeks off. What am I going to do? Well, there's some stuff around the house that I've neglected the past couple weeks. So a couple days spent getting that done. And then I plan on reading. It's a toss up though, between the 6th and 7th Harry Potter books or the Michigan 4th grade standards and benchmarks or Fountas and Pinnell's Guided Reading Manual. Hmmm. I think I need a nap just thinking about it...

Welcome to the World Dylan McGrath Koenig!

Our friends Sara and Joe had their third baby on Wednesday. Dylan joins big sister Maddie and big brother Joey. Congrats Joe and Sara! We can't wait to meet him!

Another Yummy Recipe

Ever since our friend Doug caught some salmon in Lake Michigan and shared it with us, I've been wanting more. Normally I don't like to make fish at home because it stinks up the house. But we grilled this using our cedar plank. It turned out great! We did have a side dish of broccoli with a peanut vinegar sauce, but that didn't turn out well enough to offer the recipe. Oh, and if you're looking for cedar planks? Just go to the lumber yard and get them. Much cheaper than Williams Sonoma and the like. But ask for them unfinished, of course.,,FOOD_9936_37150,00.html?rsrc=search

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Word on Writing

Writing has been on my mind lately. Between writing this blog, reading other blogs, and writing papers for school, I have been immersed in the world of writing. I like writing. Obviously I wouldn't have started this blog if I didn't like writing. And obviously I wouldn't have initially majored in journalism as an undergrad if I didn't like writing. But a recent comment from a teacher on a paper got me questioning my writing abilities.

Normally, I can take criticism pretty well. I take most writing "suggestions" made by teachers with a grain of salt, thinking that most comments are fairly subjective. Everyone has their own style of writing, right? Well, this teacher didn't seem to think so. At least judging from her comments. I'll give you a couple as an example:

I wrote:
"To work on fluency, we read from the books..."
She crossed out "work on" and wrote "improve". If you're going to get technical, I guess improve would be a better choice, but is it that much of a difference?

Another one:
"In listening to the student read, her fluency..."
She added "orally" after read. (Of course she's reading orally. Didn't I say I was listening to her? Would I be listening to her read silently?)

Sorry for the sarcasm. But I just wanted to point out some examples of what I'm dealing with. I could also go on and on about the fact that I handed in a draft of a paper which came back clean, yet the final draft, which was basically the same paper, came back hacked up in red ink. (I could also go on about the use of red ink, but I won't).

Here's the comment that really pushed me over the edge. It was at the bottom of the first page of the paper:
"Note: Grammatically, you should try to avoid beginning sentences with a preposition."
Hmmm, I thought. Really? Is that a rule that my 5th grade teacher neglected to teach me? (By the way, my 5th grade teacher does get blamed with many things, especially when it comes to grammar. I'll write in another post about that teacher and how I learned what NOT to do as a teacher someday.) I really didn't know the answer, but realized that I start a lot of my sentences with prepositions. I've been doing that for a long time, throughout my time as an undergrad, and all the time I've been back in school. Now, during the last class that I have to take in the program, she's telling me that my writing has been wrong all this time?

So what did I do? What I do every time I have a writing or grammar question. I called Rick. (I used to call Rick from Marquette when I needed "help" on Philosophy papers. I mean, why do research when you can call a Philosophy grad student to just give you the info.?!) Anyway, Rick said that it wasn't a rule. Whew. Okay, then why do you think she said that? Rick didn't know for sure, but he speculated that like a lot of things in recent years, the teacher is "dumbing it down" for the students. Meaning, cut out the creativity, cut out the variety, make it mainstream so every person in this country can achieve the same things as his/her peers. Hmmm.

"In the beginning,..." "Around the turn of the century...." "At the time she was born,...." "With that in mind...." "Upon examining the evidence...."

Well, I think I'll keep doing what I'm doing, without worrying about it. I've come this far without too much criticism, so I must be doing something right. Correct?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Night at the Ballpark

Last night Stein and I took our nephews Michael and Jake to the Tigers game. We wondered about the weather and consulted the Internet to prepare ourselves for the game. Yesterday was a hot and humid day, so much so that I felt like I was walking through soup on the way to class in the morning. said that it was going to be 85 degrees at 9:00 pm, with continued humidity. I thought, this is going to be a long game. It did end up being a long game, but it wasn't because of the weather. The Tigers started losing sometime in the first inning, and there really was no hope after that. It just wasn't an exciting game. (Besides seeing the yahoo father jumping onto the field trying to retrieve a ball thrown to his son by a Devil Ray player. Yes, the police got involved.)

And the weather? Beautiful. The minute we got to Woodward Ave. (the main street just outside the park) a cool breeze was blowing. And that cool breeze didn't stop blowing, so it didn't feel humid at all. I asked Stein where the breeze was coming from. In Chicago, it's so easy to say the lake. But downtown Detroit? The river? I didn't care. Whatever it was, it was welcomed. We had great seats too, so that made a big difference.

Although this isn't a food blog, I know I do talk about food a lot. So I have to make a few food comments about the game last night. So we were in the park no longer than 5 minutes last night, and we wanted to eat. How could we resist the smells coming from the ballpark? Smells of hot dogs, pizza, funnel cakes and the like were wafting through the concourse of the park. We headed over to the Hebrew National (when you can't have Best's Kosher, Hebrew National will do in a pinch) hot dog stand where we ordered a hot dog for me and 2 brats for the boys (Stein was holding out on eating). We nearly had our food eaten by the time we got to our section (only about 2 sections away). I guess we were hungry. At about the third inning, I looked at the guy in front of us shoving some sort of white thing in his mouth. At first I thought it was part of a funnel cake, but then I looked closely. It was sushi. Ah yes, of course. Sushi at the ballpark. Wha? Maybe I'm a purist, but when it comes to eating ballpark food, you can't even venture into the realm of healthy. (Not to say that all sushi is healthy, but come on.) So for all those maybe confused on the concept, here are some rules: All sausages are ballpark foods. As are all mainstream desserts (funnel cakes, lemon chills, ice cream sandwiches, licorice ropes, boxes of candy). I will even say pizza, although that's sort of stretching it. And then you have the appetizers - pretzels, nachos, popcorn, and peanuts. All okay. But sushi? Nah.

Back to the weather. (A friend of mine used to say that older people talk about 2 things repeatedly - the weather and road construction. Well, I think I may be admitting to being older by commenting on the weather repeatedly in this post...) While I sit here writing this post, it is raining. It started last night when we got home from the game, stopped during the night and then started again this morning. I am so happy. We have been lucky to have had a great summer, very mild compared to other summers, for sure. But we haven't had a lot of rain, and definitely not a lot of thunderstorms which we love. While it's not thunder storming right now, it is dark outside. It is a perfect excuse to be inside right now. I always feel guilty when it's a nice day and all you want to do is just stay inside. (I know a lot of this has to do with my mom's voice inside my head that still says, "Get outside. It's too nice to play inside.") In fact, Stein and I sometimes selfishly wish for rainy days after a slew of nice ones just so we could stay inside. Stein is going golfing this weekend, so I hope the rain doesn't last long. But just all day today would be nice...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A little chuckle

Here's one inspired by Flidstickdig's post with a joke. This still makes Stein and me laugh, even though we've told it to each other hundreds of times:

Two peanuts were walking down the street.

One was a salted.

Another Chicago Weekend

We were invited to a surprise 40th birthday party for our friend Beth from Chelsea, thrown by her husband Todd at a bar in Chicago. Even though I had just been there the weekend before, and Stein really hasn't wanted to travel since getting back from Yellowstone, we decided to go.

We got into Chicago late Friday night, after leaving Ann Arbor at about 6:30. By the time we got to Chicago after enduring some traffic, it was 9:30 local time. I was so hungry, and I'm not a particularly happy person when I need some food. (Sorry Stein for the crabbiness!) Anyway, we dropped off our stuff at Chris' place and headed out to get some food. On Chris' suggestion, we went to The Rail Bar/Grill, near the el on Damen. It was nice to sit outside, have a few beers and have some food. (Yes, we know, not really healthy eating at 10:00 pm, but what could we do?) Stein had a burger and I had a blackened chicken sandwich. And they had a special on my favorite Irish beer - Smithwick's - how could I go wrong? It was just what we needed, and good too!

Saturday we woke up and drove down to the lake. We wanted to work out, but it was too nice outside to work out inside. So we ran down by the lake. I always forget that once you get into August, the lakefront path is swarmed with runners, specifically those that are training for marathons happening in the fall. There were so many running groups either running or meeting. The path was really crowded with people running, biking and a few rollerblading.

I thought back to when Chris and I lived together and she was getting ready for the Dublin marathon. She had her longest runs on one of the hottest days of the summer. Typical of most of her training days, off she went to run a lot of miles, and home I stayed to watch cartoons and eat a leisurely breakfast. As Stein and I ran along the lake on Saturday, I knew I would be done running in 35-40 minutes. Chris would run for hours those days, and I'm still impressed by that. I don't think that I would ever be able to do that, but hey, stranger things have happened!

After running, we went back to Chris', showered and headed out to our friends Steve and Kathryn's house. They recently moved out to St. Charles, which is about an hour southwest of the city. They just built a gorgeous house there. The kitchen is AWESOME. It's in a really nice subdivision that is surrounded by horse farms. Their two boys, Ryan and Josh were up for a while before their naps. The last time we saw the boys was in January, so they looked so different this weekend. They went down for their naps and we got a chance to catch up with Steve and Kathryn. We also had sandwiches (can't forget the food!) from a local Italian place. Stein had an Italian salad with all kinds of Italian meats and cheeses, Steve had an Italian sausage sandwich, Kathryn had an eggplant parmesan sandwich and I had a chicken parmesan sandwich. (It was huge! I could only eat half of it.) And we also had dessert. Stein and I stopped at one of Steve's favorite bakeries on the way out there to pick up chocolate eclairs. I can't argue with Steve, they are some of the best eclairs I've ever tasted. The custard alone could be eaten with a spoon. It's so good.

We got back to Chris' later that afternoon and got ready to go to the party. The party was at Goose Island in Wrigleyville. It was really nice, because it was in a private room above the main bar. There was a Cubs game earlier that afternoon, so the main bar was packed, and the street was packed. But being in the party room we had the best of both worlds - a smoke-free quiet place with food and drinks and big windows to people-watch on the street below. We saw an unruly Mets fan get arrested and thrown into a paddy wagon. Great fun for the kids that were at the party. They were mesmerized.

I guess you probably want to know about the food at the party? Grilled pita and dips, baked pretzels with a spicy cheese dip, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken fingers, chicken wings, mini burgers, pasta salad. It was really yummy!

After the party, we decided to visit Yaksie's - the bar that we frequented most when we lived in Chicago. (It's also the place that we go before Opening Day every year.) We weren't surprised to see our friend Erik there, who lives in the neighborhood. We caught up with him a little and then it was time to call it a night.

Sunday we attempted to go to Over Easy for some Sassy Eggs, but the line outside was too long. So we drove to The Rail (where we ate on Fri. night) and had breakfast. They only have breakfast on Sundays, from 10:30 to 3:00. It was really good and just what we needed. It was pretty funny because the waitress from Friday night recognized us right away. As I thought more about it, of course she did, because we were both wearing the same shirts we had on Friday night! Oops. Anyway, on to the food. Stein had a chorizo, guacamole, cheese, sour cream and pico de gallo omelette. I wasn't feeling too adventurous and had 2 eggs scrambled with bacon, potatoes and toast. Stein also had a make-your-own bloody mary. The prices there are reasonable, and it wasn't crowded - which was good for us! We also noticed a really cool thing when we were there on Sunday. Because the bar is situated near the el, the theme is the CTA. So there are a ton of pictures in there of the el, or el related things. Like the footrest surrounding the bar? It's a train rail (looks like the deadly third rail, actually) that is bolted to the floor. Very cool.

The ride home was uneventful which was good. We were both tired and in bed by 10:00 that night. A fun, but exhausting weekend.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Still Discovering Ann Arbor

Last night we were invited to a goodbye party for our friends Meghan and Melissa. Meghan received her PhD last year here at U-M. She recently got a job at U. of New Hampshire. Sunday they will pack up their belongings along with their sheepdog Blue, and head east to start their new lives. We met them through other friends of ours at the Y. I'm going to miss their cheerful faces at the Y, especially in the middle of winter when I desperately need cheer in my life.

So while I'm happy for them, it seems like it's another chapter of life in Ann Arbor finished. And they always end the same way - they leave. Being in a college town just works that way. People come, people graduate, people leave. Don't get me wrong, we have a lot of friends that will remain here for a long time. But many of our friends have been on the train that just slowly moves through.

Alright, enough of that, and on to the subject of my post. The party for Meghan and Melissa was held last night at the Argo picnic shelter. This is on Argo pond, which is a pond that eventually leads to the Huron River (past the dam). We had never been on this side of the pond. We always see the other side when we are speeding down Main St. on our way to M14. Anyway, we were reluctant to even go to the party because the temperature outside was in the high 90's and humid. Not our idea of fun to be sitting side by side with other people at crowded picnic tables. With a hot grill nearby.

But we went anyway. And there, not more than a 10 minute drive from our house, was a picnic shelter right on the pond. There were 2 labs in the water paddling their way to tennis balls thrown in by their owners. There's a canoe livery right there that you can rent canoes and kayaks by the hour or the day. And there's a great trail that so many runners were using even in the extreme heat yesterday. And the heat and the crowded picnic tables? Nope. There was a nice breeze and the shelter blocked the hot sun. The picnic tables were full of people, but not packed with people. The grill that helped cook the brats, hot dogs and burgers was a good 30 feet away, so you didn't feel the heat at all. And besides the food on the grill, there were lots of great salads and yummy desserts. Stein was happy because they had a keg of Oberon (his favorite summertime beer).

I kept saying to my friend Sybil, "We've never been here. It's so nice here." And she went on to tell me that she sometimes runs there and it's a really great trail to use and so pretty. I thought back to my last post when I was talking about tastes that I've had of the cities I've visited. Yet there are so many tastes still to try in the city I live in. Just when I thought we had tasted most of Ann Arbor, a new one came our way. We will definitely go back to the nature area at Argo Pond. It's a lot nicer on the other side.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Kind of Town

Chicago is. Frank Sinatra, one of my favorite singers said it so well in his song titled "My Kind of Town." And really, it is my kind of town. While there this weekend, I was able to really appreciate the city yet once again.

Usually when we go to Chicago, we have an agenda. We're usually there for something, whether it be a wedding, a family function, or an event happening in the city. This weekend, I was there for Chris' party, but I had a lot of time surrounding the party to take in the city and all its glory. I was also by myself, so I had a lot of time to think. I did a lot of thinking about the idea of home. Where is home? And what does home mean?

Not to get all philosophical or anything, but I was just thinking of this notion as I went through the day. I live in Ann Arbor, and we own a home there. So when people ask where I live, I reply, "Ann Arbor." But when asked of my hometown, I reply, "Chicago." And when asked where I went to school, I reply, "Milwaukee." See a pattern here? I know this doesn't come as a shock to you, but I am a city girl. So I would call the city my home. Any city, really.

All the cities I've been to I have loved for different reasons, not unlike all the different friends I have and love them for different reasons. New York? I love the energy and the grittiness. Milwaukee? I love the small town-big city feel and all the things that are only found in Wisconsin - cheese curds, the Wisconsin accent, good bratwurst. Miami? The beautiful people and the beach. LA? The trendiness of everything there and the potential of seeing or being someone famous. Phoenix? My Mom, the sun, and spring training. Denver? Skyscrapers surrounded by mountains, sun that shines three hundred and something days a year. Boston? The chowder and the history. Salt Lake? The Temple and the mountains surrounding the city. San Diego? The beach and the fusion of foods. San Francisco? The hills, the wine, the water. Seattle? The market and the water. Dallas? The glitz, the drawl. New Orleans? The food, the jazz. DC? The monuments, the history. Barcelona? Gaudi, and the Mediterranean. Madrid? Tapas and wine, and the plazas. Dublin? The friendly people and the pubs. Krakow? The square and the sausage.

And these are just mere glimpses into what each place has to offer. I have never lived in any of these cities besides Chicago, Milwaukee and Ann Arbor, so these are just tastes I have. I will hopefully get more tastes of these places and others as I travel more and more. Traveling will be another post I write about someday. And a whole post about Chicago. I could write books about Chicago, actually. All biases aside, it truly is my kind of town.

What are those blog links?

Just a few words about the blog links to the right. These are the other blogs that I read on a regular basis, for various reasons. The flidstick one is the blog of our good friend Karen. She was my college roommate and she now lives with her husband and three kids in a small town in France. She has three of the cutest kids and has some wacky stories to tell.

Rosutabouts is a blog that my friend Amy has. She just had a daughter, Elle, who is so cute. Check out her blog to see her baby roll over. Amazing!

The gluten-free girl blog is one that my friend Regina stumbled upon when she was doing research for a possible allergy. She told me about this writer, and I checked it out. I don't have celiac's disease, but I enjoy reading about this woman's life in Seattle. She just married a chef, and her blog is just as much about her life with the Chef as it is about gluten-free recipes.

And then I have postsecret listed. I read that once a week (it's a weekly blog posted on Sundays). Some of the secrets that people post are depressing, but some are pretty funny.