Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where Ya Been?

Yeah, yeah, I know, haven't posted for almost a week. It's writer's block, or something like that. More like summer is here and I can't get enough of it. Stein tried to burst my giddy summer bubble last night by having me think about winter, but I told him to let me be. I am living in the moment. Taking it all in. That's what summer is for, right?

We had an awesome Memorial Day weekend. The weather was gorgeous all weekend, so we were able to plant flowers, go to a Tigers game, take a hike, eat outside, have people over for a cook-out, and break in the hammock. All summer stuff. Nice.

Right now I'm waiting for Linda to come from Chicago. It was a last-minute decision for her to visit, but I'm so glad. The weather is cool and gloomy right now, but tomorrow's forecast promises sun and warmer temperatures. I see some walking and eating outside in our future. Can't wait to just hang out and laugh.

I have some blog posts in my head for future days, but right now I don't want to spend much time inside at the computer. I'll be here, but a little less than usual.

Hope you're enjoying your summer wherever you are!

Friday, May 15, 2009

On Becoming a Pretzel

A couple years ago Stein and I took yoga. We were good for about a year or two, taking session after session of Yoga I. It was a great class, and it did all the good things that yoga is supposed to do - made us more flexible, more relaxed, and able to brag that we were able to do a shoulder stand (with a wall nearby, of course). We were regulars with the teacher we had, as were about five other people who were too scared or lazy to move on to level I-II, or level II.

Fast forward to about a month ago. I took a walk with my sister-in-law Anne one morning, and she told me that I needed to join the yoga I-II class that she had been taking. "It's a really good class," she went on to say, "And occasionally we go out for a beer afterward." It wasn't the promise that it was going to be a good class, it was the promise of the beer that got me to sign up.

The first week, I was reminded of just how long it had been since my last yoga class. I was also reminded that it has been a long while since I worked out in general. But I went with it, and stretched my body in ways that I didn't think was possible. We did things in that first class that Stein and I didn't master until the end of the sessions in Yoga I. I felt the effects on my body the next day - I could barely walk down the stairs!

The second week, Anne couldn't go, so I braved the class alone. And what a class it was. The teacher continued to have us do harder poses that I remembered from Yoga I. My confidence was building as we twisted and stretched, even though she corrected me a lot. I thought, look at me, in a Yoga I-II class! I can do all of this stuff. And I haven't pulled a muscle!

About 20 minutes before the end of the class, the teacher announced that we would be doing shoulder stands. Seriously? I thought. The second class in the session and we're doing shoulder stands? I gave it a try. I started remembering how to do it. But I didn't remember everything. The teacher had to help. A lot. My legs flailed in the air like some sort of upside-down chicken, fighting for her life. The teacher wrangled my legs, and stood them upright. It didn't take long for them to start falling, and the flailing would begin again. What a rookie.

I must be a glutton for punishment, because I went again last night. Same scenario: Anne wasn't there, and 20 minutes before the end of the class, the teacher announced we were going to do shoulder stands. I was ready for it. But it had a twist (so to speak). We did them against the wall with our heads close to the wall. As if a repeat of the last class was cued, the flailing began. This time, I could barely get my legs up in the air. My teacher grabbed my legs, and tried to help me get them up onto the wall. The pressure of the wall on my head must have cut off some of my brain cells, because at one point, the teacher was saying, "Bend your legs!" and I straightened my legs like a world-class gymnast. She must have repeated, "Bend your legs!" about three more times, when something in my brain fired and I understood what she was saying. I bent my legs.

Today, I can get down the stairs, and besides a sore head, I'm pretty good. I'm hoping that as the session goes on I will become as flexible and relaxed as I had been before. Just don't ask me to do a shoulder stand.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Asparagus Recipe

You're going to make me eat my words, aren't you? Just when I told you in the last post that I liked my asparagus pretty plain, I found this recipe. Stein and I wanted something a little different than plain asparagus to go with the marinated beef skewers ( I wrote about them here) we grilled.

Don't get me wrong, I normally like my asparagus cooked just right with a litle olive oil and minimal seasoning, but this was so good. The combination of the salty bacon with the creamy goat cheese was outstanding. I could've ate that part on its own, with a spoon.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Asparagus is in season. At least in season in the grocery store, so that's good enough for me. Another sign of spring. Another green thing that has come to us. Spring is definitely in full bloom around here, with everything green and flowery and lush.

Stein and I love asparagus. I think our love for the vegetable deepened when we were in Spain five years ago. We went in late April, and everyone we talked to before our trip talked about asparagus. I kept thinking, in a country of wine and olives and tapas, what's the big deal about asparagus? It didn't take long before I learned about asparagus, Spanish style. And oh mama, was it good.

I can't even tell you how they cook it. (I'm sure if I scoured the internet about it, I could find out, but I'm not doing that right now). It was a combination of frying and grilling, with olive oil and garlic. After tasting it for the first time, Stein and I craved it at every meal.

One meal we had will stand out to us forever, I think. It was about five days into our trip, and we were accustomed to the local way of doing things. We ate a small breakfast, and then a big late lunch, took a siesta (my favorite part), and then ate tapas for dinner, at what would be my normal bedtime. The weather was cool in the morning, but by late afternoon, the squares around the city would be full of people sitting at outdoor cafes sipping wines and eating olives.

On this particular day, we sat at a cafe in Madrid's largest square and ordered some paella. The waiter explained to us through a conversation in my broken Spanish and his broken English, that it would be a while until the paella was ready. No problem, we said, just bring us some wine and some asparagus. One taste of that asparagus, and we didn't even care about the paella. We could've made a meal of just asparagus (and wine, of course). We lingered at that cafe for hours. We even had sunburn on one side of our faces to prove it. Nothing like being in a foreign country, sitting in a cafe, watching the people and day go by. And eating Spanish style asparagus. Man, was that good.

Now when we make it, we usually don't get too fancy with it. Sometimes we steam it, but mostly we rub it with a lot of olive oil and grill it or cook it in a big pan. The picture above is from last week when Stein cooked it on the stove in the cast iron pan. He also sprinkled a little garlic salt on it for a little flavor.

Welcome asparagus, we're glad you're here with us again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reading Against Time

I'm in a dilemma right now. I think I told you that I've had a little A.D.D. when it comes to reading lately (well, the past year or so)? I mean, I don't have an attention span to read more than a magazine article at one sitting. Not a good thing to say when you're trying to get kids to read on a regular basis!

You remember that I cruised through Twilight, just like everyone else who read it did, and even got through the second one. But I'm still in the first couple chapters of the third book with the fourth one waiting after that. (And it doesn't help that there's a fifth-grade Twilight maniac at school who bugs me about this fact about every other day.)

I did manage to read a book last week that was recommended to me by another teacher. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (author of Because of Winn Dixie and Tale of Desperaux) is a great book. It was nice because it's a kid's book and a light read, but had a powerful message. The style in which it's written is pretty unique too. It was short enough to hold my straying attention, but long enough to make me feel good about reading a complete book.

In the meantime, I am running out of time on two other books that I've started but have yet to finish. I've told you before that I ran out of steam after getting through the first five Harry Potter books. Well, the steam hasn't come back, and now the movie based on the sixth book is due out in July. Will I be able to get through this book before then?

Not before I read Angels and Demons. For that book, I only have about a week until the movie comes to theatres. Stein read the book years ago and is chomping at the bit to see the movie when it comes out. Oh, the pressure.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Working Around One Ingredient Part 2

So remember the avocados that weren't quite ripe last week? Yeah, you guessed it, I had to find a recipe to use them (and I also had some cilantro left). With the weather being warmer lately, I thought a salad would make a nice dinner. I found this recipe for a crab salad with avocado, which was pretty good. I may take the advice of some of the reviewers and make it with less lime, and possibly substitute celery or green onion for the red onion. I'm not a big onion fan anyway, but it seemed like a little too much.

Then I had some crab leftover (we buy ours at Trader Joe's and it comes in a 1 lb. tin). I remembered this quiche recipe I made a few weeks back, and it was really good. Besides, we not only had the crab, but also had the cilantro and parsley on hand. I love when that happens! The only thing I did differently was I cheated and used a pre-made pie shell, and also added mushrooms and garlic to the filling. Yum.

Tomorrow for Cinco de Mayo Stein is going to make his enchiladas. We'll have his parents over to partake in the feast and maybe a margarita or two. Happy Cinco de Mayo to you!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Morning

We couldn't help but open the shades and let the sun in this morning. The sun was shining in a blue sky, and I couldn't get enough of the sight of it streaming though the windows. We had a lazy morning, watching Sunday Morning on CBS, and then eating a yummy breakfast. Before long it was time to get going. Stein went to the Red Wings' game and I had lunch with my friend Linda. I hope you're having a good weekend, whatever you're doing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's a Big, Big World

As I stood in front of the computer in the library looking up books on gardening (I'm getting serious about it this year), I could hear someone in one of the cubicles behind me reading aloud. The reading was slow, and deliberate, not unlike any of the kindergarten or first grade children at my school. However, the voice was much deeper, very unlike the voice of a kindergarten or first grade child. I continued to look up things on the computer, but my concentration was interrupted occasionally by the reading behind me. "P-p-p-a-d-d-d-i-n-n-g, p-p-a-d-ing, padding," I heard the voice sound out slowly. "Yes, that's right, padding. Like the padding that is under carpet, like an extra layer," I heard a woman confirm. I extended my time at the computer out of curiosity. Throughout the four or so minutes that I spent there, I heard the familiar coaching phrases that I learned in my teaching program. "Well, it does look like it would sound like that, doesn't it? But actually, it sounds like this." Or, "Yes, when we see the word bone, the o sounds like itself. Remember the silent e rule?" She then went on to explain that bony is a variation of that word.

I realized it was time for me to look for my books, so as I turned around I stole a glance at the pair at the table. The tutor was a middle-aged woman who looked like she could be a retired teacher. The man was a 30? 40? year-old man who towered over the woman. Even though they were sitting at a table, this man was taller by a good foot or so. The expression on his face was one of eagerness and concentration. He was there because he wanted to learn, wanted to unlock this mystery that everyone around him already had.

I thought about this man for the next few days. What was it that motivated to learn to read this difficult language? Was it a job application that he wanted to read himself? Was it the program at his child's school performance? And why didn't he learn to read when he was at a younger age? Did he attend school? Was he tired of flubbing his way through the literate world?

Just the night before I saw this man at the library, I had attended a workshop on literacy. A children's book author talked about literacy, motivation, and keeping kids interested in reading. Her book, called Dream, also talks about cultivating dreams, and the importance of dreaming in people's lives. I couldn't help but tie everything together: the book, the dream, and the man at the library. One phrase stuck out particularly to me during the workshop. As she was talking about literacy, the author said, "Your world is as big as your words."

Think about this. Your world is as big as your words. It struck a note with me. Big time. When I learned to read at a young age, my world got bigger instantly. I traveled to places in this big world, too, just by reading. I already had an idea of what New York City was like before I went there, thanks to Judy Blume. I traveled to Ireland even before I got on a plane, thanks to Frank McCourt. As I have read more and more, and have been in school reading to learn, my world has grown exponentially bigger. At anytime, if I want my world to be bigger, I can pick up a book on anything and just read.

This man at the library has chosen to make his world bigger. At an older age than most, but he is motivated to make it bigger. I'm sure he dreams of the day when his world is going to get bigger. I wish I could be there when he travels to far-flung places just by reading words. He's going places, that's for sure.