Thursday, April 26, 2012

This Just Might Change Everything

There are a lot of questions lurking in the recesses of my brain these days.  Things feel very up in the air.  I'm waiting to hear a decision that has the potential to dramatically change my life.  Forever.  I'm excited.  I'm hopeful.  I'm anxious.  And I've been thinking a lot about change.  In all aspects of my life - especially if the decision turns out against my grander wishes.  

Relationships.  Lifestyles.  Reads.  Eats.  All of it.  Even this little space.  I feel like I've been searching for something for a while... I'm not really sure what it is yet, but I feel like I'm getting closer.   And that is very exciting.  I feel genuinely inspired.  Like the possibilities are truly endless.  And don't we all need more days like that?  

Reading:   The Maze Runner and anything by Walt Whitman or Henry David Thoreau

Listening:    Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal, Head & the Heart - Cats and Dogs & Coeur D'Alene

Watching:  Forks Over Knives and kitten slumbers.  

Inspired by:    Linden + Rosemary.  Quite altering.  Everything I want in life is here. 

Craving:    Farmer's markets and a grand market tote.  (and more crostini!)

Dreaming of:   Camping!  I've never been.  I feel some quality time under the stars will change me in the best of ways.   

Smelling:    Fresh spring air through open, breezy windows.  

Gobbling:  White Bean & Rosemary Crostini.  yummm.  This is quite possibly the most amazing meal I've had in a long, long time.  At first I was a bit oogy at the thought of eating beans on bread as a meal - but if you're sharing the sentiment, let me tell you... GET OVER IT.  It is delish and all things wonderful.  Try it.  It will make you happy.  

White Bean & Rosemary Crostini
via Lindsey at Linden + Rosemary

1-14oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 T. olive oil + more for bread
1 large clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 t. fresh rosemary, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
s + p to taste
baby arugula
1 baguette, sliced or halved (sliced = appetizer, halved = entree)

In a medium bowl, combine beans, oil, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary and pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.  
Preheat oven to 375F and arrange baguette on baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil.  Toast in oven until crusty and slightly golden on top.  If serving as appetizer, toss a handful of arugula into bean mixture and pile a small scoop on each baguette slice and drizzle remaining marinade equally among crostini.  If serving as a meal, spoon mixture onto baguette and drizzle remaining marinade.  Toss arugula with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and serve on the side.  

It is... so good.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Best Person

"Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth" - Walt Whitman

Monday, April 23, 2012

For Your Information... 11 things

1.  I truly believe that Diet Coke has magical powers.   Like a magic wand.  Or crack.

2.  I have grand, albeit soggy, fantasies of being proposed to in the rain.  I have no idea where this comes from, but it is the most romantic thing I can imagine.

3.  Sometimes I wonder about the ramifications of modern medicine... if you are a fertility baby like me, are we somehow genetically stunted?  If we wouldn't have existed at all without such strong help... what kind of social-emotional ramifications are lurking for us (read: me)?  It is my own special existential crisis in waiting, I guess.  Oh... first world problems.

4. When I was about three, I had an incredibly graphic and memorable dream that single handedly initiated my deep and lifelong fear of tornadoes.  I remember so many details of that dream, but more upsetting, I remember trying desperately trying to tell my parents why I was so upset and they just didn't understand.  It was a very sad day.

5.  I don't really understand social media.  I like the idea of twitter and facebook and tumblr and whatnot... but who has the time?  I can't even get to the gym on the regular - let alone fill my day with witty commentary in 140 characters or less.  ...Thus proving I am getting old. 

6.  If I don't love a book enough to miss it after the last page is turned, I cannot deem it worthwhile.  Any book I claim to be a favorite has been read at least 3 times.  At least.

7.  My next international adventure will be to Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It has been on the top of my list for a long time and was a huge fave of my traveling friends while in the Peace Corps.  I feel it will be a slightly craggy and off-the-beaten-path tonic for my raging wanderlust.  Either that or it will make it rage all the more... but I'm pretty good with that.

8.  I have a brownish-green thumb.  But I so want a garden.  Flowers, veg... the works.  I love fresh food and even though I kind of hate summer heat and humidity - it so doesn't jive with my uber pale/sensitive skin - I love digging around in the dirt and having something tangible to show for your hard work.

9.  When I was little, I wanted glasses so much I tried to lie on my vision tests to trick the school nurse into thinking I needed glasses.  Totally didn't work.  Now that I have them for realsies and can't see my own face without them... I still love them.  Hands down my favorite accessory and the excitement of getting new ones is just more than I can bear.

10.  Ever since I was a little kiddo hanging out with my grandma on the farm, I've kind of secretly wanted to become a housewife.  I'm also secretly kind of horrified that I would find it incredibly boring and that I just might make the literal worst stay at home mom ever.  So there's that.
{so many horrifyingly amazing old advertisements found here}

11.  My favorite thing in life is to listen to someone you love's heartbeat through their chest.  There is nothing better.  Nothing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Weekend in an Instagram Life: Lazy Rainy

Springtime window dressing...

Panera and planning... 

new kicks... so bouncy! 

forgive the product placement.... best cup EVER.  Really, really. 

Perfect snuggle weather...

Have to's and (way more) wanna instead's....

Careful, It's Contagious

It's rainy and gloomy outside.  This kinda weather makes me want to snuggle up and watch movies all day in a big comforter.  But no such luck.  I've got a mad case of the I don't wannas...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekend Mixtape 6: Out of My Hands

As much as I really hate being out of control,  that is exactly where I am.  I've been pondering making some big changes - jobs, locals, lifestyles, the works.  I've done what I can do and am now at the point where nothing is solid - everything feels up in the air.  Out of my hands.  And it's driving me craazy! 

I really just want to know one way or the other.  I want to make plans.  Either way.  But no such luck today.  So instead... we jam.  

Thanks Be

This morning was gorgeous.  A perfect Saturday morning.  Before heading off to the gym, I stopped by a Panera to enjoy a tasty breakfast and soak up some sun while doing a little planning and note-taking.  It was a perfect start to a Saturday morning.  

But for the couple sitting at the table next to me... perfection was not in the cards.  I couldn't help but overhear their conversation - a very tense, emotional one.  Their relationship has clearly reached an impass and their discussion involved a few too many uses of the phrase "deal breaker" for there to be much confusion regarding the nature of the conversation.  
And yet... I couldn't help becoming completely engrossed in their words.  What I initially thought was more of a state of the union type discussion on whether their relationship was going to survive the day or not, I was horrified when it took a turn I didn't expect.  

The basis of her argument turned out to be a stern admonishment of his friends.  More specifically... the fact that his friendship base is diverse.  Religiously, racially, economically...  She actually said the words.  Clearly and loud enough for anyone on the patio to hear: 

"I just don't think those people deserve to be your friends.  My friends are just like me.  Your friends need to be just like you.   They're not Christian.  They're not white.  If you're willing to accept them, I just don't think I can get over that." 

I couldn't get those words out of my head.  I just couldn't believe it.  But for every moment of disbelief and frustration at the stupidity of it, I found myself walking away from that moment feeling nothing but thanks. 

I am so thankful that I was raised in a family who believed in treating others with respect and dignity.  I'm thankful that I grew up in a Christian church that celebrated diversity instead of shunning it.  I am thankful that I have been supported and loved by friends of so many different ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic statuses, nationalities, sexual orientations, religions, interests, and personalities.  I am unbelievably thankful that I've worked for these past five years in a school where I am the minority in every possible way.  

I can't pretend to understand or appreciate her sentiments.  But it has colored my day differently than I could have imagined.  And for that, too -  despite my gut level horror -  I am thankful.  

On The Bright Side... Good things

Happiness is...

1.  Inexplicably amazing television:  If I could only watch one television show from this moment on, it would undoubtably be Deadliest Catch. I have no explanation for this, but I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  It is so intense and there is just something about it that I find fantastically compelling.  It is the one show I will actually rearrange my schedule to catch and have on more than one occasion wasted away entire weekends watching the same marathon I've seen 5 times already.  It is love. 

2.  Simple food:  breakfast  - oatmeal with blackberries and walnuts; simple cabbage salad with broiled chicken and roasted naan; homemade chicken soup and toasty cheesy bread.  Simple.  Satisfying.  Delish. 

3. Kitten cuddles: The weather has been weird lately.  Very schizophrenically springtime.  This week's temps have bounced around from 40 - 90 degrees and back again.  And as a result, the kitten has been surprisingly cuddly.  For the first time in years, Melo actually crawled inside the covers and snuggled with me as I read in bed.  This used to be our m.o.  In my chilly apartment in the depths of the Ukrainian mid-winter, every evening was marked with an under-the-sheets snuggle-fest.  As she's gotten older, she's gotten moodier and decidedly less snuggly.  It makes me sad sometimes, but when it does happen... ahhh....  those moments are golden.   It was the quietest, calmest, happiest hour of my week.  

4.  Def Poetry Jam:  One of my favorite lessons of the year is the day I introduce my students to slam poetry.  It is one of my most favorite things and for as long as I was able, Def Poetry Jam was my late-night Friday HBO obsession.  I adore the hodge-podge of inspirations, styles and creative personalities gathered there every week and it makes me so sad that the show is no longer on air.  

5.  Reconnecting with friends:  Loads of my friends are out of reach.  We live so far away that reconnecting is difficult.  But the friends that are right around the corner have been feeling far away too lately.  It's a busy time and schedules just haven't meshed lately.   But I've missed them.   For the past few years we'd had a standing Monday and Friday night gig - dinner at their house on Monday, dinner and nonsense after work on Friday.  And this week, we finally were able to come back to this after just too long away.  We spent hours talking and eating and laughing until our faces hurt.  Just what the doctor ordered.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Louboutin Lesson

Today, I saw my first pair of Louboutins in real life.  And I have to say, it was a bit surreal.  I'm not a big label whore, but I have to say - one little glimpse of those glorious red soles was enough to render me instantly impressed.  They're iconic,  and by extension, so become their owners.  

But... the owner of these fabulous shoes is a pretty normal gal.  She's just a normal gal with some amazing taste and a wardrobe full of high budget items.  I know this woman.  She's not independently wealthy.  She's got 5 kids and a husband and loads of real world stress.  She just handles her business... well... dramatically differently than I do.  

And that is a cryin shame.  

I've gotten into this kind of crap habit of accumulating for accumulation's sake.  Especially when it comes to clothes.  I spend a lot of money on cheap items.  And it shows.  Not only do they not look amazing, they don't hold up well at. all.  

My one of my work friends recently had an interview before we met for lunch.  She rolled in looking nothing short of amazing in her suit and heels - very professional, but very much still herself.  
It made me think of my last interview outfit - that skirt I've had for years - bought on a super sale and worn so much the lining on the inside is literally in shreds.  The blouse - I love it, but let's get real.  It is loved to the point of misery - and even at it's best... it was from the Target clearance rack for a whopping $4.  

There's no shame in a bargain, for sure.  But isn't fashion supposed to make you feel confident?  I want to be excited by what I see in my closet.  I want to be proud of what I'm wearing and I certainly don't want to have the conscious thought of "I wonder if this looks as homeless as I currently feel?"  Which, sadly, has happened on more than one occasion in the last month.  I'm certainly not one to demand fancy brands or labels or anything currently popularized by fashion mags and the celebrity types.  I spent the vast majority of my life wearing vintage odds and ends and loving every bit of it.  But somehow, I've grown out of that.  And it's time for that to change. 

It seems I'm really good at being a cheapskate - on the things that are worth spending money on.  I've been working out with shoes that were killed dead at least 2 years ago.  I haven't gotten a haircut in months and my highlights are in desperate need of touchups.  And let's not even begin to discuss my shoddy jeans situation.  My infallible logic?  Well, all of these items are pricy.  Obviously.   So clearly, to add to the logic, I simply buy cheap versions that have to be replaced 4 or 5 times within the lifespan of the real deal.  And from a smart girl, that's really dumb.  I'm just too darn old and, dare I say it, successful to walk around looking or feeling like I look homeless.  

I decided to take the plunge and make that commitment to myself.  Because I deserve to spend money on myself in a way that's going to make me feel good about me.  And as much as I love me some Target - well, it seems that just may not be the way.  It's all about taking the little steps - not wasting time and energy looking for fillers, but looking and saving for the quality items that I love and that will last.  

First on the list... new running shoes.  
Next month...  new haircut?  I think so!

It's all about baby steps.  After all, whilst rocking 5" Louboutins, I imagine long strides are pretty much out of the question.  

Weekend Adventures: Adventures in Cheerleading

After 3 years, thousands of hours, sweat, blood, injuries, frustrations, anger, stress and love beyond expectations... today is one of those days where everything - every infuriating and joyous moment -  feels worthwhile.

First place.  And it feels sooo good.  For my 8th graders who have sweat blood for three years, for my co-coach who never failed to see the big picture through all my flailings, and for the parents of these lovelies - there are just not enough words.

Because if only for today... there ain't nothin' better than a Lady Bobcat.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

For Simplicity's Sake

Sometimes I get wrapped up in nonsense.  In my head, the response is so easy.  The answer is clear.  But in action... hmmm, not so much.  Simplifying your life is sometimes a lot harder than it should be.  Maybe that's because I have this strange impulse to wipe the slate clean and redo all aspects of my life when times get tough.  On a conscious level, of course this is ridiculous, but that doesn't mean the imagination doesn't stop.  Attacking the simplification process in a more stable, long-lasting approach is WAAAY more difficult.  But nonsense entanglement is no fun.  So we try.  

Bit by bit, we try.  

I kind of hate feeling out of control.  And there are a lot of things out of my control these days.  That's not to say they aren't potentially good things, but try though I may, I am my mother's daughter.  And this girl wants a handle on things - if not direct control of the situation.  (direct control preferred).  Nothing ever comes to be in the way you anticipate.  I am surprised every time (every time) when my expectations pop up and surprise me when they aren't met... I feel like I'm perpetually restarting myself in naive mode, ignoring, or at least not paying particular attention to the expectations in my head.  Like if I don't recognize them, there will be no let down.  I'll spare you the suspense...  That works never.  Sigh.  

So... control over the big stuff is not the cards today.  It's time to focus on the small stuff.  It's chicken soup time. 

Chicken soup is one of those foods that is consistently comforting.  Be it sick of body, sick of soul, or just so flipping mentally stuck it drives you insane... chicken soup is always the correct prescription.  
It's wholesome.  It's satisfying.  It's slow.  And slow is good in this case.  Sometimes I'm tempted into the canned variety, but I always regret it.  It just doesn't quite....  you know?  There is just something about making a meal from scratch that is so much more satisfying. 

Chicken Soup for the Control Freak's Soul

1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
bay leaves (1-4, to your taste)
salt and pepper
olive oil (enough to coat your pan)
 ~2 T.butter
2-3 large chicken breasts, diced
1 c. chicken broth
vegeta seasoning (if you don't have this, get it!  So worth it)
celery salt

In a medium sized skillet, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil and butter together until butter is melted.  (It seems a bit superfluous, but don't skimp on one or the other.. you need both to build a strong flavor base).  Saute onion, carrots, celery and bay leaves until the veg is soft and onions become translucent.  (I adore the taste of bay leaf, so I always use ~4 leaves, but for the purist, I suppose one would do.)  Remove from skillet and pour into soup pot.  In the existing oily/buttery goodness, saute chicken breasts until slightly caramelized and cooked through. (If you must add more melty non-stick goodness, add butter to avoid potentially stain-ful and painful oil splatter)  Remove from skillet and add to veg.  Add chicken broth and fill with water to desired amount.  Season lightly and bring to a slow boil.  Simmer for ~25 mins.  Add a small handful of vegeta seasoning (found at global food markets and the occasional international aisle) and a light sprinkle of celery salt; simmer for a final 5 mins.  
Delicious served with fresh cheesy bread.  


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Divine Things

It's A Classic Tale...

...a girl, the family farm, and the goat who stole her heart.  

Last week, I saw this post by Lauren and I fell head over heels in love.  It know it sounds silly, but of all the animals in the world that I want to cuddle, goats are high on that list.  

The thing about a goat is that when they are young, they are not only cutie-patootie, but they genuinely love to receive and give attention.  And on a bad day, there is just something phenomenal about an unexpected snuggle bug.  Soooo great.  

So when my mom told me the other day that my cousin has decided to dive into farming by getting goats - I about jumped out of the car with excitement.  He lives on my grandparent's farm, in the house my grandfather was born in, and I'm so proud that he has taken on the family business.  It's a daunting task.  The house is old, the land is large and lush and the existing farm buildings are definitely looking a little worse for wear.  It's a lot of work, a lot of memories and history to uphold.  It's a huge job and an endless list of maintenance.  I have so much respect for him.  And the goats... oooh the goats!  

After the Easter dinner was served, the wine replenished (and replenished... and replenished), pie plates cleared and washed, the entire clan made the trek to the farm next door to meet the goats.  We even named the babies - Oatmeal Cream Pie and Sophie Two-Tone are my faves, but Shane and Kismit are pretty great too. :) 

There are not enough words to express the excitement and the love I have for these little snuggle bugs...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Weekend Adventures - Homeward Bound

It's that time of year... the birds are chirping, the sun is shining more and more, the leaves are bursting forth, bathing the world in a yellow pollen-y mess and the children have officially lost their minds.  Luckily, last week was spring break.  A much needed respite in a sea of work and stress and teenage (or worse, pre-teen) angst.  The original plan was to become one with the couch, catch up on some Netflix and generally become gelatinous.  But a few fun opportunities came up, so away went the dreams of lounging for a week and away we went to Nebraska.  The homeland.  The Good Life.  Not nearly as restful as the original plan.. but my oh my how a few days in the midwest rejuvenates my soul.  

It was a week full of opportunity, family gatherings and celebrations, time with best friends, good food, trips to the zoo, the farm, and yet another viewing of Hunger Games!  :)  Very nice.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Photo an Hour - April 5, 2012

Even the non-eventful days are full of little golden moments.  Take note of them!  Quite a few of my favorite bloggers have been rocking this idea out for a while now, and I just couldn't resist.  What a great way to capture the true spirit of your day?   A photo an hour:  Thursday, April 5.   

9am:  An empty house and a note from the madre, the self-declared "barn queen."   

10am: Basking in a sunbeam with Benji

11am: Photo editing inspired by an awesome post by My Girl Thursday

12pm: I love a lazy day!  Blog planning and yummy inspiration a la The Chew.  
How great would it be to be able to watch this every. single. day... sigh.  

1pm: Final preparations for some errand running with the madre.  With the perfect musical backdrop, of course... 

2pm: Exploring the garden and loving the gorgeous spring weather!!  Benji wants out too, but no luck, mister.  

3pm: A mother-daughter tradition - hot stone pedicures!  So relaxing.  The bright yellow paint?  maybe not so relaxing, but the hot pink trim does add a little something special... 

4pm:  New shoes!  I have a very feast or famine approach to fashion - but once I find something I love, I love it until I kill it dead.  Some of my favorite shoes a la Target 2006 have been dragging their last legs for about a year now, but I loved them too much to get rid of them.  Until today!  Replacements have been found.  Very excited.  

5pm: The madre needed new glasses, so of course I used my time well!  Take a look at these beauties!!!  And to think, some sorry hipster paid over $300 (!!) for these glorious atrocities to fashion.   

6pm: Home-grilled filet mignon?  Yes please!   It looks a bit gross, this... but man was it tasty.  

7pm: After dinner walk and backyard adventures with the Benji-face.  

8pm: Primping and prepping for a night out with my best friend, JJ. 

What did you do today?  
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