Friday, October 31, 2008

Wrapping Things Up

It's that time of the year again. A time that I loathe. It's the putting away of all things summer, which makes the yard look so bare and lonely. Here is our hammock, ready to be put away in the garage for its winter hibernation. I took these pictures on a sunny fall day, one that made me miss summer already. And to think this is only the beginning of the cold.

I'm not the only one who is clinging to the idea of summer. Here are our last tomatoes of the year:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fried Rice

Last week I found myself wandering around Trader Joe's wondering what to have for dinner that night. I saw shrimp and chorizo quesadillas on the menu at a restaurant up north, and wanted to try making that. But after only seeing soy chorizo at TJ's, I walked out of the store with only shrimp.

On the way home, I thought of shrimp stir fry. But stir fry is a go-to recipe in our house. We have it for dinner almost every week. Then I thought of fried rice. I used this recipe. We had all the ingredients we needed, so that was great. I doctored it up with the following: I used brown rice instead of white rice, added a bit of fresh ginger and added peas. It turned out great.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some More Fall Foliage

This is the tree that is outside of Linda's classroom at school. When school first started, it blended in with all of the other green colors outside. But in the last few weeks it screamed out with its beautiful color.
Seeing it in its glory reminds me of where I was last year when I first saw this tree. A student teacher, just getting my feet wet in this teaching thing. Although I'm far from being a master teacher, I feel like I've come a really long way in just the past year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Psychology of Buying Jeans

I went to the store the other day to buy a new pair of jeans. I'm normally a Levi's gal, and have been buying Levi's since college. The style I wear has changed, but regardless they always seem to fit me just right, and wear out in just the right way. The last 2 pairs I actually bought at Sam's Club, and I love them. I bought the first pair, and then a few months later, I went in, picked up the same size, and I was on my way. It was the closest thing to buying clothes for a man. I am always jealous of Stein when he can go into a store, pick up a pair of size whatever pants or shirt and know that they will fit when he gets home. I was so happy when this happened with my Levi's.

The other day I went into another store that sells Levi's and tried to do the same. No dice. I knew that I would have to go up a size, due to my previous pairs being stretched over the years and the gluttonous year that I've had. But I didn't think that I would have to go up 2 sizes! Especially since they are supposed to be the same jeans. So not only was I subjected to seeing myself in the awful fluorescent lighting that they have in dressing rooms, but I also had to come to grips with the idea of wearing 2 sizes bigger than my current jeans.

After trying on various styles of Levi's in various lengths and styles, I ended up buying another brand. I think I'm happy with them. Maybe I should take this as a sign to get a grip on this gluttonous year.

Maybe after Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Armed and Dangerous

I think we have enough magazines with recipes and ideas for about 20 Thanksgivings. But it's better to be safe than sorry, I always say.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Last Day Up North

Just in case you didn't get enough of the pictures that I posted before, here are some more from our last day. We went to Charlevoix for breakfast at our favorite place Juilerette's. I had their pumpkin french toast (can't get enough of the pumpkin stuff!) and Stein had their delicious cinnamon french toast.

After breakfast, we drove around a bit to look at some of our favorite houses there. They were all designed by the same architect, and we call them "Hobbit Houses". They amaze us every time we see them, looking at all of the stones that were carried and placed just right to achieve the final product.
We also walked around the downtown a bit, and it was a gorgeous day to be by the water. Here are a few pictures of the harbor.

I love this sign on a restaurant there. Ernest Hemingway did spend some time up north and a lot of the places there have signs that say things like, "Hemingway sat in this chair" or "Hemingway wrote a draft of one of his novels here". But I like this one the best:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Surprise and Other Family Gatherings

Stein surprised me this morning with an early birthday present. I'm going to join my Mom, Mickey, and my niece Breanne in North Carolina this coming weekend to visit my sister Andy and her family. I was thinking about going, but the prices of airfares prevented me from booking a flight. I figured I would have to wait until the spring or summer to see my Mom and wait until summer to see my sister Andy. But now I'm going, and I'm really excited.

We are also having my family (the Chicago and NW Indiana family) for Thanksgiving this year. Everyone is making the trek over to see us. Because we are the out-of-towners, we have never hosted a holiday. We thought we would ask if people were interested, and it turns out everyone is! I'm glad that I'm off the day before Thanksgiving. I plan on getting a lot of the food cooked that day so all we will have to do is reheat things on the day.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Local Joints

Saturday Stein and I headed out to see more colors. We couldn't get enough of the beautiful trees. I think we must have said the word "pretty" about 5 times in an hour, while pointing to groups of trees with vibrant colors.

Our sister-n-law suggested that we go to a place for lunch, but when we got there, they were having a wine tasting with only cheese and crackers for food. We were hungry for lunch, so we decided to leave. As we were leaving, the host at the restaurant told us about a great place for burgers. "It's not much from the outside, but they have a great burger." When we found the place, here's what it looked like:
When we pulled up, I said to Stein, "I bet when we walk in, all heads are going to turn, and the needle will scratch across the record." Sure enough, all heads turned, and if there had been a record playing, the needle would have scratched across it. The bar was a typical small town rural bar, circa 1970. Black pleather bar stools at a linoleum bar. Locals (all men, except the bartender, who could've beat me up) all dressed in plaid (except the bartender) drinking, and playing pool. The place reeked of smoke, and Stein and I talked about how a smoking ban would affect this place greatly. The bartender eventually warmed up to us, and we ordered our food. When our burgers came, they were delicious. Handmade patties, done just right, with all the fixings on top. The guy from the other restaurant steered us in the right direction. As we were leaving, a couple families with boys who played midget football came in. Who knew that this was a family place!
With our bellies full, we set out to see more sights. We chose to take a ferry across a narrow part of Lake Charlevoix. We did this when we were with Dean and Beth last fall, and we laughed about it again. The ferry fits 4 cars, and takes about 2 minutes to cross (it's pulled by a cable). Here's a shot from inside the car before we set off across (you can see the other side pretty clearly since it's so close):

Here is a view as we got closer to the other side:Once we got across, I remembered that Boyne Mountain, a ski resort, had one of their chair lifts open. Unfortunately, it clouded up a bit while we were there, but the view was still great:

At the top, they had one of their restaurants open. We stopped in for a drink, and sat by the huge fireplace. I can imagine that this is a favorite spot for skiers on a frigid day in January or February. This was the view from the top:After all of this activity, we definitely needed a nap. That's exactly what we did when we got back to Petoskey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water and Trees

On Friday, we went to Harbor Springs and drove along the road with the Tunnel of Trees. Our friends Doug and Susan were in town too, so we got to spend the day with them. We started in Petoskey with a quick breakfast, and headed over to Harbor Springs. Harbor Springs is a town that dots the waterfront surrounding the bay, much like Petoskey. Harbor Springs has a more small-town feel to me, with quaint shops and restaurants that take full advantage of the views of the water nearby. We spent some time in Harbor Springs, then took the drive that goes through the Tunnel of Trees. I know I've talked about this drive before, and I could go on and on about it again. But I won't bore you. Suffice it to say that it was gorgeous at this time of year. This road goes right past Leggs Inn, the Polish restaurant which I've also talked about before. We stopped in for lunch, and had a great meal. We thought it would be more crowded, especially when we learned they were closing for the season on Sunday. After lunch we headed outside to their expansive lawn to check out the view:
We got back in the car and just started driving. Around every corner or curve were beautiful trees. We kept saying, "Yay, us!" because we timed our trip just right. And the weather was perfect for a drive.
I couldn't help but get these shots of a quintessential fall scene:
More posts to come. Bear with me as I relive the weekend. I don't think we realized just how much we needed to get away until we were there. And now I just want to go back...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Relaxed, Refreshed, and Rejuvenated

Just what time away can do. And it did. Our time up north was great, the weather cooperated, and now we're back. I'm so glad we decided to tack on two days instead of one to this weekend. We loved every minute of the time we were there. I have many little stories, but I'll save those for more posts during the week. Plus, there's laundry and unpacking to do. For now I'll give you some pictures to accompany my "checklist" that I talked about in the post before we left. Even though we didn't have an agenda and didn't follow a schedule, we did fit in a lot of up north fall stuff:
  • Staring at water

    • Staring at changing trees

    • Taking long, scenic drives

    • Stopping in roadside places for local foods

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's Carrying Me Through My Day?

A plan period of 2 hours, a possible shortened time with the lippy 4th graders, and dreaming about being up north this weekend.

We leave tomorrow after school for Petoskey. I can't wait. The weather forecast is sketchy, but as you recall, that doesn't really matter to us. What matters is time away, staring at water, changing trees, and having no schedule. Just meandering the streets looking in small shops, taking long, scenic drives, stopping in roadside places for local foods, and just doing whatever we want.

Trips during the school year remind me of the many trips that our family took while we were growing up. A day off here and there, attached to a weekend, leaving right after school. Going places familiar and unfamiliar, eating fast food in the car, and arriving at our destination late at night. Only to be greeted in the morning by a completely different place than we saw at night.

My blogging may be spotty in the next few days, but I'm sure I'll come back with stories and pictures to share. Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Marathon Weekend

What a great, inspiring, and beautiful weekend. We started it off with a visit to Shark and Jane's on Friday night along with our friends Dean and Beth. Hanging out in Shark and Jane's kitchen, eating pizza and catching up was so relaxing and comfortable. We were also able to catch up a little more on Saturday morning before we headed into the city.

After dropping Dean and Beth at their hotel, we went up to Chris' place where we got to catch up with her too. She was taking it easy since the marathon was the next day. We went out to dinner and ate outside with Chris and my brother Rick that night. All weekend the weather was gorgeous (not so gorgeous for the runners on Sunday) so we tried to be outside most of the day.

Sunday morning Stein drove Chris down to the race and I slept in a little. We met Shark for breakfast at one of his favorite places, S&G, before starting our day of spectating at the marathon.

Our first stop after breakfast was our friend Ellen's house in Old Town. She lives on the street that was right after mile 10, so it was a great place to see some of the race. We missed seeing Dean, but saw Chris when she stopped by. Her brother Mike was jumping in with her at this point, and he ran with her the rest of the way. Here they are before starting on their way:
I especially love this picture because of the kids sitting on the wall in the background. They all had matching shirts on that were made for their friend or relative in the race. That's what I love about watching marathons. Everyone is so gung-ho about rooting for their friends or relatives. As it should be.

I got to see Chris two more times after mile 10, at mile 16 and then 20. Stein and Shark went ahead to try to catch Dean but they only saw him once. I traveled by el to different parts of the city to see Chris. Each time I would see the same people who were running just ahead of her and know that she would be by soon. For the five seconds that she ran by me, I would jump up and down and yell, "Go Chris! Alright Chris!" That's about all I could fit in in those 5 seconds.

At the end of the race, we were able to see Dean (I still need to get pictures from him) and congratulate him. This was his first marathon and he did really well, despite the heat. The day was extremely hot, in fact they were one "warning" away from cancelling the race. (Last year's marathon was on an even hotter day with terrible consequences, so they weren't taking any chances.)

Chris finished a little while later. She finished. I was so proud of her. I was lucky to also see her run the marathons in Dublin and New York, and each time I felt the same way. So proud. So impressed. So glad to see her accomplish another great feat. She felt good, a little sore, but okay. She fared much better than a lot of people who suffered from dehydration and overheating. Our friend Sarah's sisters ended up in the hospital that night. Luckily, they're fine now.

Stein and I stuck around to see Chris and her parents, and then we all took the el back north. We said our goodbyes and Stein and I were off to endure a marathon of our own: construction traffic on the way home.

So here's to you, Chris and Dean. You did it. 26.2 miles. We're all impressed and so, so proud.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall Foliage

Stein and I were out driving last Sunday and saw this tree. We both agree that this stage of color change is our favorite. When the leaves are still green in the middle of the tree, and full of red and orange on the outside. We're hoping when we go up north next weekend that we'll still be able to see some colors, but we think we may be a tad too late.
I know all the science behind why leaves change color, but it still baffles me every year when it happens.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's Been a Long Time

The other night I was on the phone with Chris when Stein came into the kitchen holding his car keys. "Where are you going?' I asked. "To the store to get butter," he answered. "For what?" I asked, since we already had dinner and it was well into the evening. "Popcorn," he said.

And so that night, he heated some oil in the big pot over the stove, poured in the kernels, and waited for the popping sound that makes you giddy with excitement. While he waited, he heated up the butter, and poured it over the popped corn that shriveled from the liquid. He sprinkled some salt on top and poured it all in the big metal bowl. I wasn't hungry before, but suddenly I found myself digging into the bowl, and stuffing huge fistfuls of popcorn into my mouth.

This whole scene was a weekly ritual in our house growing up, down to the metal bowl. My mom would make huge batches of the stuff, while we would pour some Coke from a bottle (ah, Coke in a bottle...) over ice in a glass. Then we would get our napkins ready, unfolding a corner so it made a sort of pocket to hold our popcorn. This was done on weekend nights, and we would watch TV while we crunched our popcorn. Maybe 20/20 on a Friday night, or Love Boat on a Saturday night? It didn't matter. What mattered was the warm crunchy popcorn, flavored with butter and salt. Yum.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Very Cool

Stein and I went to the Obama rally yesterday evening at EMU. Oh yeah, and Brice Springsteen was there. I heard on the news Monday morning that he was going to play at the rally. I thought about trying to get tickets, but assumed that they were all taken. Then when I got to school, Linda told me that she was going. When I asked her how she got tickets, she asked if I wanted the 2 extra she had. Of course!
We're so lucky we got to go. It was raining in the morning, so I thought maybe it would continue into the evening. But the sun popped out in the afternoon, and it turned out to be a really nice day.
He ended up playing about 7 or 8 songs. He was by himself, with his guitar and harmonica. It was awesome. And he played Thunder Road, which is one of my favorite songs.

I'm not going to get into the politics of it. I don't want to get into it here. But I do have to say that the whole thing was very uplifting and hopeful. A great place to be with some great music to boot.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sports Opposites

This weekend was a sports-o-rama weekend. We attended and watched so many different games that it was hard to keep track of where we were, who we were watching, or what the rules of each sport were. Well, maybe not that bad, but looking back, it all kinds of runs together.

Friday night, we met teachers from school out at the bowling alley to watch the bowling league. It ends up being a happy hour where bowling is being played in the background. We typically end up staying for dinner and drinks, so it turns into a night out too.

Saturday morning we went to watch Mia's soccer game. Nothing like a bunch of 5-year-old girls mobbing a soccer ball and moving around the field. Mia likes to stand in the middle of the field chatting with her friend, only to be surprised when her name is called to kick the ball. She also likes to scan the crowd after she does something well, to see who was watching. What a ham. The opposite of her game was her brother Eric's soccer game on Sunday. He is on a 9 and under traveling team. It's pretty serious, down to the matching uniforms, backpacks, and warm-up suits. They actually play offense and defense, unlike the mob mentality of the 5 year-olds. Eric rarely looks at the crowd, unless the coach or his parents cheer him on or direct him to do something.

Saturday afternoon we went to the U-M game. All I can say is that it was a really bad game and it got really cold. I won't get into the specifics of it, but they didn't look good. My friend Sarah even made sure to rub it in when I received a text message from her that said, "I-L-L-I-N-I". Thanks Sarah. The opposite of this game was the Bears game on Sunday where they won big over the Lions. They played well, and I didn't have to be in cold weather watching it. I listened to some of it on the radio, and watched some of it on TV. Not bad.

Saturday night we went to see our friend Doug play hockey. He plays in an adult league with our friends Dean and Steve. His game was at 9:30, so the group that tailgated with us just moved to the ice rink before the game. We were able to watch the game from the restaurant/bar that has windows overlooking the ice. The Cubs game and college football games were also on the 30 or so TVs that they have there. (And that's all I'm going to say about the Cubs game. Ahem.) The opposite of the adult game was Ben's (Doug's son) hockey game on Sunday. It was at 1:00 in the afternoon, and this time we sat in the stands in the rink. A lot colder than the warm restaurant/bar behind the glass, and a bit more annoying with some screaming parents in the stands.

Next weekend? No big deal. Just watching Chris and Dean run a marathon in Chicago.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Fall Favorite

When I worked for Einstein's, we always were aware of what the seasonal offerings would be well before any customer saw them in the stores. Working in the marketing department and then the training department, there were many times in the middle of the summer when I was testing and tasting items that would be in the stores in October or December. Those summers I could never get a true sense of how things like pumpkin muffins or cranberry bagels would taste. To me, the food needs to go with the season in order to truly taste it. Kind of like eating salads in the summer, or chili in the winter. It just tastes right.

Like pumpkin bagels. Tasting these in the summer never appealed to me. But when the weather starts turning cooler, I get a hankering for these. (I had to email my friend Megan at Einstein's and ask when they were coming out this year). When I worked in the stores, I would have one every day while they were available. I would grab one out of the bin, zing it through the slicer, and slide it into the toaster. Then I would spread butter on it and savor it.

Now I have to ration them. Stein brought a dozen of these beauties home a couple weeks ago. I save one for Fridays, a treat for getting through the week. And then I usually have one on Saturdays too. So I guess that means that in about 4 weeks they'll be gone. Until then, I'm savoring every bite. It tastes like fall.