Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our Bags Are Packed

By the time you read this, we'll be Up North. We are going on a much-needed vacation. Yes, I know we've been relaxing and enjoying the weather at home, but we need to get away. See different scenery. Without a schedule, without an agenda. It's been kind of a crazy summer, with all kinds of life stuff happening around us. It will be good to let go, and let be. Play a few games, eat, read a few magazines, drink, look at water, and be merry.

Have a great week!

P.S. Happy Anniversary Stein! Lucky number seven. I'm the lucky one. Cheers to many, many more!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You Say Tom(A)to, I Say Tom(ah)to

Our tomatoes are going a bit crazy this year. This year we also grew some yellow tomatoes, which I really like. Very sweet, but in a tomato kind of way.

It's that time of the year, when people all over are scrambling to pick their tomatoes so they don't get rotten or they're not eaten by critters. You may be getting some from neighbors who simply can't keep up with the harvest in the backyard. Or maybe you have too many yourself and you're the one giving them away. Regardless, I'm in my glory. I tomatoes. Well, let me rephrase that. I love homegrown tomatoes. Ones that don't always look perfect next to those waxy ones at the grocery store. Ones that have character, with sweetness and juiciness to back up that character.

I like to slice into a tomato, sprinkle some salt onto the slice and eat it like that. But if I have to share, it's usually with a tomato salad. At this time of the year, we eat a lot of tomato salads around here. And salsas too. We like our salads with sliced tomatoes, basil, and some goat cheese sprinkled on top (this picture makes it look like powdered sugar - it was the end of the container). Add a couple glugs of olive oil swirled around the plate, some salt and pepper, and you're good to go.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's Black and White and "Red" All Over?

Well, the newspaper, of course, silly.

Unfortunately, our newspaper is gone. The Ann Arbor News closed its doors a couple weeks ago, and we already miss it. I know this is the way that a lot of newspapers are going, but I don't like it.

I remember starting out college in the journalism program, and listening to one professor tell us what the future of journalism was going to be like. In print journalism, everything would be on the computer, including the daily newspaper. Not to date myself, but back in my college days we didn't have the internet yet. Cell phones weren't even a thought. So when he said that everything would be on the computer, I wondered, how is all the information going to get to my computer? On a floppy disk? Would this floppy disk be delivered to houses everyday? But I mostly thought about reading the paper on a computer. Would it be on a computer similar to the computer in the crowded labs that I spent countless days in front of, writing the required paper for every class, and waiting in line to pick up my dot-matrix print-out? I couldn't imagine spending my "free time" as an adult reading things on the computer. It was enough torture during my college days.

To me, and apparently to other people who protested the closing of the newspaper here, the newspaper needs to be held, and smelled, and heard. Holding the thin sheets of newsprint, smelling the fresh ink on the pages, and hearing the crinkling of the pages is all part of the ritual for me. I grew up with this ritual, and I miss it when it's not part of my Sunday.

As kids, we would grab the money needed and run over to the man selling the papers in the vestibule of our church. We would always buy both The Chicago Tribune, as well as The Chicago Sun-Times. The comics were different in both papers, so it was a bonus for us kids. I never understood just what my mom and dad were reading about. I thought it looked so boring, all of those words crammed into columns with few pictures on the pages. But the comics were a different story - I could laugh at Charlie Brown's latest antics, and try to do the puzzles. (I never understood the detective comics like Brenda Starr, but they were cool to look at). My dad would sometimes read the comics to us, and use different voices for the characters. It was a different medium, but it was the idea of listening to the story that I loved (and still love).

Fast forward to after college, when I lived with Chris and we would have the Sunday paper delivered. On Sunday mornings, most often we would just step over the paper on our way out to breakfast with friends. And then once we got back, we would pick up the paper on our way back inside, split up the sections and read for a couple hours.

When I moved to Ann Arbor, we had the Ann Arbor News delivered. Although the paper wasn't as thick as the Tribune or Sun-Times and had a lot of AP articles rather than ones written by reporters here, I still enjoyed the comfortable ritual of reading it on Sundays.

Now the majority of the paper has been moved online (I guess my prof wasn't so crazy) and there is a paper that is delivered to our house twice a week. And that paper? It's like a neighborhood paper, with human-interest stories. If you want to know who was in the park this weekend flying kites while walking their dog, this paper is for you. How about the latest festival pictures? You got it. The sports section yesterday had an article about the Rec League's baseball program.

We don't even read it anymore. It has gone from our driveway to our recycling bin without being opened. There is always the Detroit Free Press, which we will probably subscribe to eventually. And there are always articles we can read online. I guess this will just add to my computer reading time. At least I can do that at home on the couch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blueberry Muffins!

I have another post that has been swimming in my head and has been a draft for many days now. It will eventually get to the point I want it to be at, but for now it will sit.

In the meantime, I baked blueberry muffins! We had some blueberries from the farmer's market that needed to be used up soon. I had never made blueberry muffins before, but figured they would be pretty easy. They definitely were easy to make.

I used this recipe by Paula Deen. I figured, you can't go wrong with Paula Deen, the queen of sweet and buttery recipes. Yet, while I was waiting for the muffins to bake, I decided to look at the reviews that people submitted about the recipe. Every other one I read was a negative one. "These are the worst muffins we've ever tasted," wrote one reviewer. "We had to throw the whole batch out," wrote another one. I thought about all the time and ingredients that I had just wasted. And also thought about all the times I forgot to read the whole recipe through, or tried out a new recipe for the first time with company. Oy.

Yet, once one of them cooled down enough for me to taste it, I loved it! They're not a too-sweet muffin that would send you to the dentist immediately. They're perfect to have with coffee, or milk (in Stein's case). I'm not a big fan of those overly sweet muffins anyway. They remind me of those cellophane-wrapped ones you can buy at the nearest convenience store along with a lottery ticket. No, these ones remind me of summer. Short, but sweet, and even better shared with friends. (Awww).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peer Pressured Into Back to School

I'm in denial right now. I've been turning my head from every back to school ad in the paper and all of the big displays at every store. I get like this every August. I try to hold onto summer so hard, because I hate the inevitable. You know, that season that starts with "W" and ends in "inter"? I don't need to remind you how much I love summer. And August always brings with it a blast of all things summer. The farmer's market is packed with produce. So much so, that I am once again overwhelmed. The days seem to linger, even though the sun is setting earlier and earlier every night.

But yet, September is knocking, like that grim reaper character. Luckily here in Michigan, there's a state law that schools can't start back until after Labor Day. I like that law. But I feel the back to school thing earlier because everyone around me (in other places) is feeling it already. Namely Mickey, who started back to school today for meetings. The kids come tomorrow. Already.

Because Mickey is back to school, I am feeling back to school. Mostly because during the summer, we talk on the phone nearly every day, for an hour on average. Once the school year starts, we usually talk on Saturdays, with an occasional weeknight. It's more scheduled, less summer like. I don't really like it.

So even though I have about 3 weeks until our school starts, I am still feeling like summer is ending. We do have our trip up north, which will be so fun, and will probably distract me from the inevitable. But in the meantime, I am feeling similar to how I did in high school. Back then, I didn't have a curfew (Stein thinks that is insane). But I think my mom was ingenious in doing so. She was giving us our freedom, yet probably knew that a.) we were good kids (most of us - ahem) and we wouldn't do anything crazy and b.) we would be out with friends who had curfews and we wouldn't stay out late if our friends weren't there.

Now that Mickey's back at school, I feel like I need to be back at school. Whoa, wait a minute, what am I talking about? Has this sudden blast of heat gone to my head? I mean, I feel like I need to squeeze out every last drop of summer in the next few weeks.

Pass the tomato salad, please.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


After yesterday's post, I'm feeling a bit like Debbie Downer (say it with me, "Waah, waah"). So to make up for that post, here's what's making me happy lately:
  • This recipe, that rivals that Paula Deen one I posted a while back. We had it with some leftover steaks, and a tomato, basil and goat cheese salad (drizzled with olive oil). A great meal to use some of the goodies we got from the farmer's market. It was so good, and perfect with a glass of red wine. Oh, and savored while sitting outside, of course.
  • Speaking of sitting outside, I am loving the weather this summer. Everyday I hear people complaining about it. Stein and I keep asking ourselves, "What's not to like about this weather?" We have eaten dinner outside almost every single night this summer. We have gone on walks without breaking a sweat from hot temperatures or too much humidity. We have slept like babies with the cooler temperatures at night. And we have not used our air conditioning since sometime in June. (Now that I just said all of this, I'm sure it's going to change.)
  • Re-discovering the library for things for me, not for my students. Things like CDs (Broadway show tunes anyone?!), magazines (to feed my obsession without the cost), and DVDs (haven't borrowed one yet, but they're there!).
  • Reading. For pleasure. I finished the 6th Harry Potter, and now I'm reading the 3rd Twilight book. "Candy for the brain" as my mom calls books like those. I love them.
  • Feeling like a kid in summer, but as an adult. The luxury of sleeping in, staying in my pajamas, catching up on TV, going wherever, whenever I want. I am grateful to have this luxury, believe me.
  • Thinking and planning for our trip up north this month. I can't wait to be in a different place, exploring, eating and drinking our way through towns up there. Again, it's the anticipation that I love just as much as the trip itself.

What's making you happy? Enjoy it! Summer will be gone before we know it.

Monday, August 3, 2009


So it's that time again. Target is telling us, Bed Bath and Beyond had a huge sign in front of their store telling us, and even Yahoo's web page mast is telling us.

It's Back to School time.

I'm not ready. I just finished summer school last Thursday, and most annoyingly, I don't have a job for fall. Sure, I can sub like I did last year, but really? I want a real job. One in a real classroom that's mine, where everyday the kids come in, hang up their coats, sit down and we learn. We read, do a little math, I read to them, do a little science, well, you get the picture. I want that.

The job market in Michigan is like everywhere else in this country, only worse. And the job market for teachers? Let's just say it's even worse than that. This May, there were 5 openings in the Ann Arbor schools, and 2,000 people applied. 2,000 people! How do you even begin to set yourself aside from anyone else when there are that many people? Back in the day, it was who you knew. I am very familiar with this system, having grown up in Chicago. But unfortunately, the system is now so objective (barring a few equal-opportunity laws) that everyone has an "equal chance". Yep, as equal and as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.

I feel like I've paid my dues. There was that crazy fifth-grade long term sub job I had nearly a year and half ago, followed by a summer school gig, and then the long-term library and computer teacher stint. A repeat of my summer school gig this summer should only build my experience, right? Well, at least I think so. And all of my friends and family think so.

I'm beginning to think that my time spent in the business world has jaded my switch into the world of education. I look at education so many times as a business and think that many aspects could be better managed and made more efficient with some system changes. But that doesn't happen overnight. If you thought the government was the only place with red tape, loopholes, and general nonsense, think again. So when I don't get a job, or even an interview, yet I have a lot of experience and glowing reviews, I'm at a loss. In the business world, I would have that job, and would be considered for a promotion already.

One person had the nerve to say to me, "So what are you going to do?" Like I would possibly go back to my job in the business world because I couldn't find a teaching job. Well, I left that job for a reason: to follow my passion, to go back to school to get my certificate, and to get a job. Even though all of those things haven't happened, I haven't lost my passion, and I still love to teach.

I will most likely be a sub again this fall, only this time it probably won't be a long-term sub position. I will be in the pool of people who stalk the computer each night, hoping that a teacher somewhere is sick, or faking sick, and needs a sub. I will be one of the people who gets phone calls at 6:00 am even though I already said I was "off" in the system, wanting to know if I could sub for a random person. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to that. My friend Matt told me that he loved subbing. "I always got great ideas when I subbed!" I'm going to sound bitter when I say this, but I have enough good ideas, and I'm ready to use them in a real classroom. Oh, and if I need more, I can search the internet.

Too many people have said to me, "Your time is going to come." Or, "There is a classroom just waiting for you." Well, that time is now. And that classroom is waiting for me to put up bulletin boards and arrange desks. Let's go. I'm ready.