Thursday, March 31, 2011

Random Dinner

Going along with the theme of random for this week, here's a random dinner I thought up at the the last minute (sorry for the poor photo quality - taken with my phone in poor lighting).

Stein hasn't been feeling well, so all he wanted was soup. I was in the mood for something a little more hearty. I remembered we had some frozen pot stickers in the freezer, but knew that a meal out of pot stickers probably wasn't the most healthy option. I decided to have a salad, but knew that I would need a dressing that went with the pot stickers and the salad. Peanut sauce! But then I needed a recipe for a peanut sauce that wouldn't be too thick, like most satay sauces are. This one did the job.

I didn't have sesame oil or ginger on hand, but it still tasted great. I also used sriracha sauce instead of the "chipotle pepper puree" that it calls for. It was just what I wanted. A little bit of sweet, a little kick. I also found some leftover brown rice in the fridge so I threw that on, along with some frozen edamame to put on the side. From start to finish, I think it took me 10-15 minutes. Perfect.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Random Bits of Randomness

~Despite the low temperatures, I am very excited that spring is here in all its long-houred, newly-budded, Dairy Queen-opened glory. I am also looking forward to spring break next week. I'm trying to keep my expectations low and unplanned for the break. There may be some books read, or not, there may be some organizing, or not, and there may be some lunches with friends, or not. I love that it's just brimming with possibilities for whatever.

~Today is the birthday of the girl whose father draws little pictures in her planner. When she opened her planner so I could check it, there was a note from her dad that said, "Happy Birthday! Today is one of the best days of my life! I love you." How wonderfully sweet.

~The kids in my class continue to make me laugh with some of the things they say. For example, one of my boys was talking to another boy, and when he one-upped the other one in a joking way, he said, "You wanna eat those apples?" Instead of "How 'bout them apples?"

~We had a wonderful time in Chicago this past weekend. We were in for our friend Linda's birthday party (Hi, Linda!). We ate at four new restaurants (2 dinners and 2 breakfasts) while we were there. All of the places were delicious in their own way. I always go back to this when I reminisce about a trip, but my favorite parts were just hanging with the people I love to be with. Whether it was around a table at a restaurant, sitting around the living room, or walking around the neighborhood, it just felt easy and comfortable.

~I checked out 5 Italy guidebooks from the library. Yes, 5. I'm trying to narrow down the areas we want to see. Definitely Rome. Definitely Florence. Definitely the Cinque Terre. Amalfi Coast? Milan? So exciting to just dream.

~Did I tell you how excited I am to be on break next week?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Generosity Strikes Again. Big Time.

I've been wanting to write this post for almost a week now. I've been struggling with how to get it out without boasting, and trying to convey just how excited I am at the same time. I know y'all will forgive me for going overboard on the former idea, and being less than I should be on the latter idea.

We're going to Italy this summer.

(I guess I can't just end it there, can I? Don't worry, I won't. Of course I have a few stories to tell.)

I'm going to take you back a few years, to Stein's 40th birthday party. I surprised him with a trip to Las Vegas. Once we got there, the surprises didn't stop. There were friends who met us there that he didn't know about, a surprise helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, a surprise appearance of his great friend from his childhood, t-shirts, CDs. It was a great trip. Great fun was had by all, and Stein's friends still compare their 40th birthdays with his. As the main planner, I felt successful.

Fast forward to this year. It's been a while since Stein and I had a vacation. Granted, we've been up north a handful of times, went to visit friends last summer in Maryland, and I was lucky enough to go skiing out west and then to New York for my birthday last year. But a real vacation somewhere that wasn't tied to friends or family? It's been a while. So when I saw some great deals to go skiing in Colorado, I jumped at the chance to try to get us to go. Stein wasn't really into it. He kept skirting the issue. I did start to get frustrated when I kept presenting ideas and he didn't really listen. Or so I thought he wasn't listening.

Last Saturday I picked him up from the airport (he was coming back from a family-related trip, not a vacation) and he told me we had to go to his office to pick something up. When we got there, he told me I needed to open the trunk and not look. I did as I was told, and then we were on our way. Once we got home, he told me to go upstairs for a while. When I came downstairs, there was a birthday cake, card, and gift bag on the dining room table. "It's not my birthday," I said. I read the card, and then he pushed the gift bag toward me. When I reached inside, there was a guidebook to Italy. "I've been scrimping and saving for four years," he said. Later, when we started making tentative plans and started talking about the cost, he told me that he had enough money for everything. "How did you save all that money?" I asked. He turned to me and said, "I haven't gone on a vacation in four years."

He wins.

As I've said before in a recent post, we're not about one-upping each other. But comparing the two birthday trips, he wins. When I think back to the awesome birthday trip I planned for him, I did it on the cheap. There really wasn't any sacrifice on my end. I used hotel points that I earned from years of business travel. Our friend Shark (hi, Shark!) was generous enough to give us airline vouchers. And the rest of the planning? It just took some emails and phone calls and we were set.

This is different. This is planning. This is vision. This is determination, sacrifice, and kindness. This is how one man, whom I married for these and thousands of other reasons, humbled me to no end.

Lucky. Blessed. Fortunate. However you want to say it, I am. Truly, I am.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Great Expectations

It's funny how this whole blog world works. Usually one of the handful of blogs that I read on a regular basis seems to line up with what I'm thinking at the moment. When the light started to shift sometime in February and I thought about writing about that, someone else wrote about it. When I was out snowshoeing and my friend Wendy pointed at the buds that were coming out on the trees, I thought about writing about that too. The next day I read someone's take on the same thing.

It doesn't surprise me. I read blogs that are similar to mine. Blogs that are about cooking, crafting (I don't really craft, but I like to read about it), gardening, and travel. So when someone writes about something I've already noticed, I nod my head in agreement.

It just happened this week. I had been feeling in a funk and I couldn't figure out why. School is busy, as always, report cards are done and ready to be handed out, and I was able to get 2 last unexpected snowshoe adventures in before the rains came and washed all the snow away. What was making me feel this way?


It was on the tip of my tongue at the beginning of the week, and then I read one of the blogs and the author hit the nail on the head. I expect too much. I expect too much of my time. I do it to myself. No one is to blame but me.

If I'm given some free time, I fill my head with all kinds of lists of things that need to be done. I tell myself that they need to be done. The list is then made memorable by me counting the things I need do and storing that number in my brain. At the end of the free time, if the number of things done does not match my initial number, I think I have failed. Or, if something I have planned doesn't go almost exactly like I had envisioned it, I feel bad.

This happened over winter break. Chris flew in from Chicago and we headed up north the next day with a car full of winter gear. We drove through a snowstorm to get up there, only to find that there was no snow. Like none. Like you could see the leaves that were left on the ground in the fall.

What flew out the window were my hopes of snowshoeing everyday. And possibly skiing. And maybe playing in the snow. What flew into the window was some funk. I instantly tried to change gears to make myself feel better, but I didn't know how to do it. To quote the U2 song, I was "stuck in a moment and I couldn't get out of it." I couldn't just be fine with the time I had to spend with friends. And I couldn't stop my mind racing to try to make things right.

People who know me think of me as a really calm, laid-back person. And I am, for the most part. But have me envision something and then completely change it will throw me into fits like a two-year-old with a temper. Of course I don't kick and scream (as far as you know), but my mind races like it's in some sort of NASCAR event. I become someone else. Someone who I don't necessarily like.

I need to let go.

The blog that I read this week talked about doing just that. The author was saying that she is trying hard to go into situations without expectations in mind. Without an agenda. This is easier said than done, of course, and hard for someone like me who likes to be in control. Who likes things just so.

I'm trying. I'm trying to let go. Trying to see the big picture. Trying to realize what's important. Trying to weed through the garbage. Trying to just be.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Latest Obsession

Besides snowshoeing (which I do have another post to write about it), my latest obsession has been the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. You may have seen them both on the Grammys. They each performed and then played together with Bob Dylan.

I love their lyrics. For some reason, both of these bands have lyrics that are really pertinent to the moods and themes of my life right now. The Avett Brothers have a song called I and Love and You, which has the line, "That Woman she has eyes that shine. Like a pair of stolen polished dimes." It's one of my favorites.

I love this song. Especially the line, "Remember that nothing is worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name."

And I love this song. I think of my friend Karen when I hear it.