Monday, February 23, 2009

For Keeps

Dustin and I are playing another round of "keep that sweater." This entails D standing at the end of my bed with a pile of sweaters and sweatshirt, holding one up at a time and waiting for my approval or disapproval. We've done this before. There is a "keep" pile and a "Goodwill!" pile.  At the moment, he has disappeared into the other room to retrieve another pile and I am watching the "keep" pile grow taller by the second. 

This is a sensitive time in our relationship: the sorting of the clothes. When I look at my own clothes whilst sorting through them to make room or get rid of stuff I simply don't wear anymore, I feel as though I am fairly even-keeled about it: 'This doesn't fit anymore, it's time to send it on to a new life,' or 'I adore this shirt, but it's misshapen and doesn't look good on me anymore,' or 'Damn-I never could pull this gorge dress off, as much as I hate to admit it, it was wishful thinking"...etc. Don't get me wrong-I don't always relish the task of going through my enormous walk-in closet (the one I don't share with anyone, but have somehow managed to completely fill from corner to corner and top to bottom!) sorting through piles and hangers upon stacks of clothes and shoes. I especially hate it when I find an old gem-something I love, but forgot about amidst the traffic jam of newer or cleaner clothes that rest atop them. And I really hate it when I see a shirt or skirt I wore a year ago in a picture, but can't locate it now. Any of these reasons is enough to get me irate about the state of my clothes and the need to let some pass on to their next life. I just can't keep it all, no matter how well-loved it is...and, eventually, I have to admit that I probably won't ever fit back into my size 0-2 clothes and just need to stop pretending, check back in with reality, and toss 'em in the Goodwill bag.

For Dustin, though, it's more sentimental. I have seen some of the sweaters he holds up for me in pictures from his college days, some, maybe, from even earlier. He has items of clothing that are favorites, some that he inherited from his brother, some that I've given him and some-no, scratch that-many of which he earned from running in a race or attending a camp or competition or from acting in a play.

It's not just clothing that, at times, is difficult for Fi to part with, it's other things, too.  For example, we went home to Cape Girardeau this weekend to visit my future-in-laws/D's wonderful family and while we were there, D's mom did something I recognized my own mother doing years ago when I still stored much of my stuff at her house: she was giving it back, ever so gently and kindly. Each time I'd come home from college or grad school, where I had a place of my own, mom sent me back with boxes of my childhood items or asked me to go through and "get rid" of anything I "didn't need or want anymore," from my old childhood bedroom. The task was long and daunting, but when my parents moved from my childhood home to our Hilton Head home permanently, only three small boxes of mine accompanied them and the rest I had gotten rid of or moved along with me. 

When I moved from grad school to Missouri for the Ph.D. program, all my items fit into one, small trailer. Let me rephrase that: Everything I owned in the whole world fit into one, small trailer. Yeah. Telling, isn't it? I felt good about that-sort of like Jimmy Buffet's or (for my lit major readers who will be disappointed in that simile) Thoreau's protege-someone who needed few to no material objects. I wanted to live simply and carry all that I needed in the world on my back. Seriously, though, I did. This might explain the small trailer (my mom insisted I have furniture and stuff-you know how mom's are) that fit my entire life. I didn't need or really want anything else. Few of the furniture items I had were worth anything, most of them were donated by family and friends, none of them came from a store. Here is a brief inventory of what filled (I use that word loosely) my apartment in Pittsburgh:

1 couch-left in the apartment by the previous owner who could not get it out the door when she moved
1 small corner table shaped, specifically, for a corner-donate by a nurse that cared for my grandma who was in a Care Facility at the time
1 old-school, tiny and incredibly top heavy diner table with four wire chairs (the ones with the heart shape wire backs and putrid yellow plastic seats)-donated by my aunt and uncle who owned a few restaurants along the way.
1 twin sized bed-my cousin's old bed from his childhood that had previously been in storage because he'd moved on to a newer, larger, adult-sized bed. Mind you, he's three years younger than me.
1 extremely old, falling apart, broken/missing knobbed dresser in flaking white paint with cracked drawer bottoms-also donated by my aunt and uncle from my uncle's old apartment-just something they had hanging around and couldn't get rid of-it didn't last but a few months in the Pittsburgh apartment! I couldn't even open half the drawers.
an old chair-courtesy of Grandma
a cassock (square table where I placed my tv)
a TV-given to me and my sister in high school, but still in working condition
my clothes and shoes
a few boxes of my stories and essays
mismatched pots, pans, utensils and a new set of glasses, courtesy of my Mom and Dad along with a new set of dishes from them, as well.

This is a complete list of what I came to Pittsburgh with. The items that came to Missouri with me were even less: all of the above minus the bed, dresser and couch. Oh, and I purchased a nightstand over that two-year span of time, two breakfast bar chairs and a replacement dresser from Target that I got rid of (it broke), as well. The TV is gone now, too.

I still have some items, as you can tell: the nightstand, cassock...etc., but much of it had to go. Just like when I leave Columbia, certain items will not be making the next trip (my brother's futon from college that we've been practically gluing back together, for example, possibly my nightstand...etc.) It's like life, of course (you totally knew I was going there, didn't you?). The lifespan of these items in my world has either come to an end or is coming to an end. This isn't to mean they are no longer useful, but it's time we go down separate paths and continue our lives without one another. We're just growing apart. That's just how life goes. Not everyone and everything gets to stay forever.

I think that's how Dustin sees it and why it's so hard for him to get rid of stuff. As I was saying, before I rudely interrupted my own train of thought, D's mom piled him up with some of his stuff while we were there: a box of stuff I couldn't quite make out, a guitar and amp, some papers and books, an extension for the vacuum cleaner he's had for years...etc. Needless to say, the car was definitely fuller on the way back than on the journey there. Eventually, she asked him if he wanted to take the mirror that connects to the dresser he has here in Columbia. He debated this and I asked him, "Are you going to use it?" He answered, "No." "Then why take 
it?" "Because it belongs with the dresser."

I was confused. Why take something you don't plan to use? More than that, why take something that goes with an item that's not in great shape anymore that may not make the next move we make? Why keep taking things that we have to, then, find space for?

Dustin explained that the dresser was his mom's. "Your first dresser? When you were growing up, right?" He asked her as we stood in the kitchen, me trying to understand.

"Well. No. My first dresser was the small one with the three drawers on one side and the crawl space for a chair and another drawer on the other side."

Nonetheless, the sentimentality is ingrained: this was his mother's second dresser. The one she used through high school when the first dresser was no longer big enough for her items. The one she gave to Dustin because she didn't need it anymore and he was moving out. The dresser with the missing handles and wonky drawer-tracks, the nicks and scratches and discolored sections, the dresser I could not imagine lugging along with our slowly modernizing furniture collection was still, despite his mother's lack of sentimentality for it, his mother's from when she was a child.

I get this. Not only do I get it, but I totally respect that stance. Though, I have to admit that a small sense of fear crept into my mind when I thought: He might never want to get rid of it. He might want to keep it forever, even if it starts falling apart in our hands or rotting clear through. We might have this until the day we die! And I'm guessing my eyes widened at this realization because Dustin spoke up, "When we sell it or donate it someone else might want that mirror, ya know?" My fear subsided and I watched him, armed with two faded posters of various dinosaurs, march back out to the car to pack up more items.

It was then his mom said it, "There are things I get sometimes or have from-oh, who knows when or why-and they're nice when they're given to you as presents for the thought of it and that...but I wouldn't want them in my house. The office or at school in my classroom would have been fine, but not in my house. Even in my house, not too long back, I started to notice pictures on a wall or items hung up that I just didn't want there anymore so I'd just go ahead and take them down and rearrange."

I knew she understood what I didn't know how to articulate at that moment or many moments following that when Dustin accused me of being unsentimental (then apologized) or when he said he needed to get rid of things on his own terms or even when he told me he asked his mom not to send stuff home with him anymore. No one wants the leftover stuff, the stuff that gets left behind, including the owner who left it, because no one wants to deal with how to send it off into the world when there are only two options for a pair of dinosaur posters that used to hang, beloved, in the room of a little boy or an old, yet functioning, dresser that just doesn't quite fit into the new life that's being made: Goodwill or garbage. And, the core of this problem, the heart of it all is that no one, and I do mean no one, wants to throw away their memories.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Food, Injuries and Pre-Canaa

Last night, I pulled out my trusty Veganomicon and whipped up some tasty chickpea cutlets. That's right, friends, you read that correctly! This means I FINALLY found some vital wheat gluten. I was about to bite the bullet and order it off a website Danie D. sent my way a little while back. Perhaps you've heard of it? Amazon? ;P Anyhow, I found the elusive substance and followed the directions to a satisfying, chewy meal. D-bones dug it, though as I always say, he's pretty easy to cook for, and I really liked em, too. Verdict: worth the search for vwg. 

I vowed to wake up early and make some amazing scones (also from the Post Punk Kitchen trove of recipes, with some additions of my own: vanilla and cinnamon), but woke up at 7am not remembering why I set my alarm for so early. My love ended up eating cereal and not waking me to make good on my promise. He's such a sweetheart! I wish I'd remembered, though! I like to be a woman of my word.

In other news, there may be a doctor visit in my in, perhaps, tomorrow morning. I think I mentioned this a while back, but I'm not certain now. Back in November I ran an extreme off-track race. This went through the woods and huge puddles and ditches, over obstacles both manmade and natural...where, on my return, I tripped while leaping across one such manmade obstacle only to land 100% unnaturally on my right knee. I don't know how I managed this, but I landed smack dead on the outside part of my knee while my entire right leg buckled under me. When my friends Liz and Beth and I neared the finish (which was near where I fell), Dustin was shocked to see me stop and walk up the last hill rather than run. I have a tendency of running way faster on the last leg, especially when I know the finish line is that near. In his words he, "knew something was really wrong" when he saw me drag myself up the hill and, literally, roll back down to the finish line. (This photo is a pic of that race BEFORE I fell and hurt my knee.) 

The first few days after the race, I could barely walk. It was incredibly painful. My body was sore in a variety of places, but the right knee was, by far, the worst of it all. I worked through it and, before too long, I was running again. I've done a few 5ks and continued my normal running regime of 3-4 miles. However, lately, sharp pains in my knee have been waking me up in the middle of the night out of nowhere. I find that going up or down stairs sends shooting pain through my knee and, sometimes, it hurts for no reason out of nowhere. It never hurt when I ran, but this week the pain has been so acute, I decided not to run and, instead, to ask my father what to do (he's a doctor). He suggested heat pads and advil. That's all well and good at night when I go to bed, but the knee is still a hinderance when I'm awake and carrying out my daily rituals of stair climbing and long stretches of walking from one building to another. So tomorrow I'm calling the health center bright and early because I haven't been able to go running more than ONE time this week and that was for just over a mile. There are at least two races coming up that I want to run in and, in all honesty, I really want to be able to do things without worrying that my knee won't be able to hack it. For example, my friend Lexi takes a few ballet classes a week and I'm dying to jump in on that, but know my knee won't hack it for that long. Ugh! Frustrating.

In other news, Fi and I had our first pre-canaa class tonight. Muy interesante. Karen and Alex from school are both in the class, too. They gave us nametags and talked about, well, I think their goal was marriage and keeping our religious faith, but the structure of their talks were sort of lacking (do you see the teacher in full effect?). At any rate, we decided not to discuss pre-canaa on the blog until it's all over and we've passed (if it's a pass/fail thing, that is!).

Instead, here is a pic of D after pre-canaa today:
He was pretty excited about his nametag. Note the church in the background: Sacred Heart. Columbia, MO! Pre-Canaa every Tuesday night for the next five weeks. Wooohooooo! Look forward to a follow-up blog when it ends.

Oh, and, also, D brought home this Craft Studio brochure for me today. The Craft Studio at Mizzou offers free "crafternoons" and really reasonably priced classes, which I knew nothing about but will now be taking FULL advantage of. For example: tomorrow-Tin Can Flower day between 12-4. A class on recycling tin cans by making them into flowers! Pretty inventive, eh? Perhaps I'll go and make one for our office to spice it up a little bit. 

Will keep you updated on our Craft Studio endeavors and visit to the doctor, if I can get one!

Hope you're all well!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day Recap

Most people know that I am the absolute worst at keeping a secret or not ruining a surprise and, thankfully, this Valentine's Day I kept my surprises under wraps until Dustin came home Friday night with an awesome ice cream cake and some cute V-day clothes gifts. He's such a sweetie and it was the perfect opportunity to give him my gift! Or, at least, part of it. Here's a hint: 

Yes. A bald eagle. Dustin loves birds and I thought it would be awesome if I could give him one, sort of, that's endangered. So I adopted a bald eagle at the STL zoo for him. D's a "Zoo Parent" now so he and I will get invited to the Parents' Picnic and he got a bunch of cute stuff, including a picture I framed and wrapped for him. D calls him "Dustin Jr." and says he thinks about the eagle all the time. I chose this particular bird because D's grandpa, who practically raised him, used to take him to see bald eagles when he was little. I thought he'd maybe like it, but his reaction exceeded my expectations. I'm so happy!

Saturday morning we woke up early and had a Valentine's Day couples massage at 9am for an hour. It was awesome! We relaxed and watched House in the afternoon, then went to dinner at Hemingway's which is on the south end of town. It has a super awesome atmosphere, but isn't run all that well. We ended up waiting for about forty minutes for dinner, which was fine, except we never saw our waiter after he took our order. However, Dustin gave me a super awesome camera for Valentine's Day and we experimented with it until dinner came. Here's an example of how we spent our time waiting:

Cool atmosphere, right?

Then came dinner!
D had the salmon, which is ordinarily what I'd get...
But I went for a porkchop, instead. The sweet potato mash was a huge selling point for me :)

After waiting another fifteen minutes for our waiter to finally come back...we got our check and had one of the two hostesses take this picture while we waited for the other hostess to get our coats. Problem with that was, they lost our coats. Literally, they brought two different sets of coats to us before I finally offered to just go back and check their coat closet myself.

When we got out of there, we decided to take our own little pub crawl and headed downtown to a few of our most favorite places! Here's a recap of our night... Us finishing dinner and deciding on where to go afterwards.
Dustin in The Wine Cellar on their plush, cozy red couch. Stop number one!

Heading to the next place...

Forge and Vine for mojitos...when a group of guys dressed like the band Panic at the Disco came, we jetted. Weird scene.

Addison's-our second to last stop of the night on our way to Flatbranch...
Flatbranch, then home...thanks to Stripes. Yeah, it was that kind of night!

Hope you all had a glorious Valentine's day!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Running in the rain!?!

I know "thou dost protest too much!" But I can't seem to force myself out in the rain for a run...even though I'm kind of aching to go running. The weather was just so lovely the last few days, I've been spoiled. Seriously. Now all I see is dark, dreariness and just KNOW that when I head out it's going to start pouring on my head. Ugh...the trials and tribulations of the ever-fluctuating Missouri weather.

The problem isn't really that the weather is crappy. The problem literally is that it wasn't crappy the other day when I ran my six miles. Does that make sense? If the weather had just stayed crappy all this time instead of gracing us with unseasonably, teasingly, gorgeous weather, I would've been fine running in the cold until it heated up and stayed spring, then summery. No's the changing that screws me up and makes me pout.

Last night, when I went to bed, I was (as I already stated) famished, but I also really wanted to run. A lot. Problem was, of course, that it was dark and late and clearly a bad idea. Now I complain about the weather. In the past, before I read this month's "Runner's World" I convinced myself that running in the rain would make me sick so I shouldn't do it. Unfortunately, this month's edition told me-point blank-that running in the rain for a half hour won't affect my health at all.

One less excuse.

I am going to do my best to suck it up and just go for a run...sans dogs. (If I take one and not the other, the one left behind freaks out. Byz tears shit up and Bogey will, most likely, pee on something.) Sans Fi-he's in class...sans warm weather.

I know I'm supposed to hate global warming and I do, in all practical forms of theory and application and future-repercussions of it-but I do love how it makes the winter comfortable, even if just for a few days.

When I return: stuffed peppers for dinner. YUM!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Class Update and Babbling

Good evening, friends! It's nearing eleven and I'm famished. Seriously. Still. I swear it's from my six mile run yesterday. I wanted to run again today, but just never made it out the door. 

However, I enjoyed my day. Not like I usually do on Tuesdays when I get super-excited to see my students and am sadly disappointed when they're not so excited to see me back, but a good day, nonetheless. Today was one of those days where a class doesn't really need me. In other words: workshop in fiction and peer review/editing in comp. These are days that force me to look around at my students and know that what I've taught them and how I've directed their ability to critique is coming into play. I suppose it should make me nervous when I put it that way, but it doesn't. Above right is half of my class quietly, carefully and respectfully critiquing one another's papers. 

Now that I mention it, let's talk about the right side of the class: 

One of the girls on the right in the black and white sitting at the end of the table reminds me of Dustin's cousin Rachel. Something about the way she looks makes me think of Rachel so I immediately liked her. Not to mention I like her name (it's not Rachel, but it's a good name). 

The two boys in the very back are friends left, from what I can tell (they wear similar jeans and seem to enjoy each other's conversation). One of them is from the same town Dustin lives in, but I don't think he's within the age-range of D and his family so I doubt he'd know any of them and the other put his headphones in today (correction-one of his headphones) and I think he didn't think I noticed. It's amazing to me what students do. I didn't point it out-I mean, he was done and I didn't need his attention for anything, but I know my ass would never have done that in school. 

The right side is a good side, really. My Cape Girardeau student is pretty thoughtful as is his friend and the boy that sits on the other side of him (he reminds me of my Carrie's husband and shares his name so I keep thinking he should go into law, cus her husband is a lawyer-Oh, and yes, I did tell him that one day in class).

So, Carrie's husband's doppelganger is a smart kid with conviction. I dig that. The whole back row is bursting with thought and respectful opinion. Good qualities.

Just barely in our line of sight is another boy with his back to us-he's in the back row group for this project. I like this kid, too. He has a face that looks like he's been in the sun all day and he's terribly honest. He told me the other day that he didn't do his homework because of some frat thing (he's pledging or possibly being bid or something...I don't know how the Greek system works exactly), but at any rate...part of the rule for that week was that he wasn't allowed to talk to anyone that wasn't in his pledge class (weird rule for a frat that wants their members to uphold a certain GPA, don't you think?) so he was breaking the rule to tell me that he didn't do his homework and was sorry because he was just really tired from all the frat stuff but promised he wouldn't forget to do it again and would continue to talk in class and break that rule (cus he had participated, btw) because none of his possible brothers were in the class so it was ok. I couldn't help but laugh at that. He probably could've gotten away with not participating that week and I might not have noticed since the whole class is pretty good with talking, but instead, he explained and I liked that characteristic. It's a good one. Then he fell asleep the other day, but since he's been doing his homework and he participates a lot, I let it go, though we, as a class, did discuss his slumber and tried not to disturb him too much.

The rest of the right side is sort of quiet-one student has super blue eyes, another always makes faces that make me think she's in pain, the last remaining male student is a good little participator, too, and the last girl is starting to come out of her shell. Way to go, right side!

We can't talk about the right without talking about the left:

I have to admit and, not to play favorites, but the left side of the room sort of pales in comparison. The girl to the severe left in the front is great-a real thinker and talker. She's not afraid to participate and I love that. The boy beside her reminds me of my friend Kees. He has a name that's not terrible common (like Kees), he has a laid back look to him-(Kees, too, always wore his sleeves rolled up like that), a slight and I mean slight accent, the adventurer's get what I mean. Plus, he's smart. All the time. Even when he hasn't done the work. The row behind that is all girls who are still finding solid ground-very good natured (I asked them to please do their homework at home and not in class and they just took it in stride, laughed and knew they were busted...I appreciated that reaction-especially after they started doing their homework at home from then on) then the jumble behind them is made up of students I don't hear from all too often. The blonde girl is, really, a right-sider but on the left for the purpose of balance. She is bright, too. The back row barely breathes, I think.

Overall, I should say, I think I'm pretty lucky this semester. This is a class I can work with and they're willing to do the work and be there and talk and indulge my whims...and I think that's pretty essential. They're workers and they come...thank you GOD, they actually ATTEND class! It's sad that it really is the most basic little things that keep me so happy.

If any of my comp students stumble across this blog-thank you. So far you are great and I'm glad I've got you in my class this semester. I hope it's fruitful for all of us.

In other news...I made the "jelly donut muffins" from Veganomicon which D loved and ate a few of (I tried one, too, though they suggest waiting a day before trying them so they get "crispier" on top like donuts?). We are down to only TWO scones, which means I'm going to have to make more because I'm addicted to them (those were from the Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook). And tonight, for Dustin's dining pleasure, we had sausage and peppers (Healthy Ones Sausage) because the poor boy can't be stuck eating vegetarian and vegan food all the time. It's only fair to make him something he loves, too.

We're getting rain that I hope will clear up before tomorrow so I can run (I'm itching to run now that it's dark and raining, of course!). I have conferences with my little buggers ALL WEEK, which is exhausting to just THINK about...and I think I'll have to make a tasty lunch for tomorrow since it's going to be a loooooong one.

Oh, really quickly, though-our Pre-Canaa classes start next week AND we ordered the limos a bit ago, the tux styles are all sent in, all the girls ordered their dresses, got my shoes for the wedding and are working on a few other major things that will HOPEFULLY work out, as well. Details, details, details!


I hope your days were fab and that you have colleagues, students, co-workers...etc that make your job feel fulfilling, too!


(Next time-a Fiction class recap...think this class is great? Wait til I tell you about them!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekend Recap

This was one of the most friend-filled, road trip weekends ever. You could call me "Highway 70-Girl" and I'm not sure much more would be accurate after this weekend.

Friday, D and I met up with one of our favorite Bens for a send-off lunch at the Heidelberg. I dig this place because it's a self-proclaimed "campus tradition" (how can you proclaim yourself a "campus tradition"? Doesn't that need to be voted on or something?) with a super-ugly shield of armor. (See inset on right-who, in their right mind, makes
this color faux-pas? Yellow and brown? No freaken way
should those to ever go together. Just look for yourselves!) Apparently, the Heidelberg opened its doors in 1963 and was only forced to close down in 2003 when it burned almost unrecognizably! However, this little-restaurant-that-could managed to pull itself together and rebuild, despite its original uncertainty in having the funds to do so. (I'm a sucker for an underdog!) 

I had a salad with a seared tuna steak over top since it'd been a long while since I'd last come into close contact with tuna steak (such a fave!). The boys were knee-high in mashed potatoes and 'whiches and we were all thoroughly stuffed afterwards.

Ben is a friend we made during Dustin's first stint in community theatre (which was just a few months back, really). Certainly he's not the only awesome friend we made (Lynn and Co + Jim!), but we somehow get to see a lot more of Ben, which we are thrilled about! Friday was special because Ben is going away for a week long cruise to a few islands (names have now eluded me). Dustin fears he might contract chlamydia, which Ben assured us he'd do his best to steer clear of, and I just hadn't really gotten to see Ben in a while and wanted to wish him a wonderful relaxing cruise. He works for Netflix and has these ridiculously early hours. Hours I don't even consider to be real hours in a day because they're so useless to know the ones I'm talking about. It was 
bittersweet. We don't know if we'll ever see Ben again because, let's face it, would you come back from an exotic, gorgeous warm-climated island if you could steal away somehow? I can see Ben now...relaxing on the beach, some white suntan lotion securing the safety of the tip of his nose...pina coladas with baby umbrellas and ladies that might give him chlamydia all around...of course, the chlamydia part is Dustin's fear, not mine, just threw it in for good measure since it is OUR blog and all.

Anyhow, we hope we gave him a great send-off and hope, even more, that he has an awesome time, but thinks of us the entire six days he's gone cus we, of course, will be thinking of him!

Fi and I also took the dogs for a run through the park near our house after lunch. D took Bogey (small white one) and I took Byz. Lemme just say-these two are not the world's best canine running partners. They're working on it, yes, but Byz's metabolism goes on super-speed the second we hit half a mile and Bogey gets angry if he's separated visually from me. All characteristics D and I are still working out. For example, Byz took a pooh on the sidewalk about five minutes into our run and Bogey, when Dustin and he turned back for home while Byz and I kept running forward, started to angrily bark at every dog they saw and, eventually, lifted his leg and peed on poor Dustin. That Bogey is a Mama's Boy-always has been. And he has an acute habit of peeing on people if he's angry at them-i.e.-Dustin for not running with us longer.

When all was said and done, dogs drank a gallon of water each upon arriving home then proceeded to lay on the cool tile floor for the rest of the day trying to regain their energy. Moral is-we need to run them around more often!

Saturday I picked up my lovely friends Stephanie and Lexi and we headed east on 70 to St. Louis. For those of you who live in Columbia, you know why this trip is necessary when the seasons begin to change and the new issues of Lucky start showing up in your mailbox with photos of snakeskin ballet flats, lush and liberating fashion wear, and the all important boxy tops and trousers that are "in" this season...not to mention the floral scheme most of it should have if not graphic-ish. (I told a boy student in my fiction class the other day who was wearing a graphic-tee that "graphic tees are really in right now" and he looked at me like I was crazy. However, because he's so polite, soft spoken and attentive he said "Oh, really? I've had this shirt for about a year." I told him he was a trendsetter and I think it was the last thing he expected to hear in fiction class that day.) So we headed to STL and did up the city and all it had to offer, stopping to have a super delish lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (I had the can't-go-wrong-with-me-Cobb-salad) and envied the ladies french fries the whole time. 

Meanwhile, Dustin and Beth's boy Eli went to Chuck-E-Cheese and played games for hours, or so it sounded when he relayed the story. They won enough tickets to get six Tootsie Roll suckers, two blow-up microphones and a near-brush with an angry mom who insisted they cut the line and kept calling her huge boyfriend, Jim, to come beat them up. D says Eli tried to reason with her to no avail. No fight ensued and the boys did, in fact, get their suckers and microphones.

When we got back from STL, poor Lexi was sick (and I kept praying it wasn't my driving and really was just cus she had solid food for the first time in about a week-she had a tooth removed...what a trooper!) and I dropped my ladies off, scooped up my ever-patient Fi, and headed back into town to catch up with my bridesmaid Liz!
Spending any time with Liz, even if it's five minutes, is ALWAYS a treat. She's one of my favorite people and not just in Columbia. We've been friends since the end of my first year in Columbia when we took both Spanish AND German in back-to-back summer-sessions all in one summer (brilliant, right?). We'd take smoke breaks together and talk about our hot/super weird German professor...make jokes about how our awesome Spanish teacher was conjugating "to give" of all the verbs he could've possibly chosen ("he gave it to her," "she gave it to him and he gave it to her" wouldn't you have laughed?)...etc. We've been meeting up at the Blue Fugue as often as our schedules permit since then and have shared tons, and I mean TONS, of stories and crazy moments (think-actual crazy people that we've had to deal with...right).

Fi ran into a few ex-students and drove us home and we all had a good laugh at a past colleague's expense on the way by recounting some humorous tales. Good times!

Sunday we met up with our favorite couple, Lance and Emily! These two are awesome. We try to catch up and have a game night with L and E once a week, but some weeks are too busy (we were sick one week, D had a play thing another week). Sunday, we got a full day with them and headed the opposite direction on 70 to Kansas City in Lance's car, Olga!

First stop-an insanely delish BBQ joint with the most enormous portions I've ever seen. It was impossible to think of calories on a day like Sunday when, clearly, the only thing that mattered was the company and our spectacularly planned adventure! So D and I shared a few things (including a ginormous brownie dessert) and we all had some fried mushrooms that, honestly, were each about the size of my fist. 

Once we sufficiently stuffed ourselves, we headed to the Boulevard Brewing Company for a free tour and beer tasting! 

As usual, when the tour-guide finished showing us a campy little flick (yet funny) about the company, complete with illustrations of "oxygen," "time," "temperature," and "light" (aka-the four enemies of beer), I had about a dozen-million questions. Since no one asked any but me, I kept them to myself and we enjoyed our walk through the brewery instead. Here is a semi-guided, photographic tour:
Outside the Brewing Company right before the tour began!
Lance and Emily heading to the "new" part of the brewery that is FULL of natural light (they're being as environmentally friendly as they can!)
Dustin surveying the "employee bar" where they gather on Fridays and hang out, have a few beers and enjoy the "fruits of their labor."
Me basking in all the glorious natural light!
The boys, loving the Brewery Tour and the beer we are about to taste-test at the end of it!

When it ended, they let us sample TONS of their beer...though they don't make THAT many flavors. Here is an idea of how that went:
The boys thoroughly enjoying their first, second, third and fourth beer tastings.
Me, finally finding one out of the four beers that I tasted to enjoy! What can I say! I'm picky about my beers!
Lance and Em as happy as always...see why we like spending so much time with them!?!

We finished our superb day up (thanks to Emily's spectacular planning abilities!) by ice-skating for two hours. I should mention that Lance is like a superhero. Yes, I know it sounds like I'm exaggerating here, but bear with me. He can do anything and he can do it better than most human beings. 

When I first met Lance, it was while Dustin helped prep him for his black belt in taekwan do test. Dustin was an instructor for a while (also a black belt) and was teaching me a little bit of the martial art, as well. Lance wanted to know how to do a back flip (completely unrelated to what would be on his black belt test), which Dustin couldn't help him with, and Dustin brought me in to help teach him No problem (I think I learned it in gymnastics when I was a little one). After two days of teaching him how to backflip-form and spotting...etc...he had it. Not long after he also passed his black belt test with flying colors. He places in just about every race I've been in with him (running). He bikes distances it takes us twenty minutes or more to drive to (we only know this because his bike broke and he couldn't fix it once...all in the middle of nowhere. This is MO...there are PLENTY of places you can refer to as the "middle of nowhere" and he was in one!). 

I hope you get the picture. Anyhow, Lance had NEVER been on ice skates before, which means he'd never actually ice skated before, of course. Dustin used to skate on a pond near his house. My parents used to take us to Central Park once or twice a year when we were growing up to go ice skating on Woolman Rink and Emily had skated before, as well. It's not that we expected Lance to fall, we just didn't expect him to be doing one-skated turns by the end of our two-hour extravaganza. When all was said and done, we each fell once, but Dustin. D was the only one of us that could skate backwards. Lance and I learned how to spin and Emily must've circled the ice seventy dozen times. 

We were feeling pretty good about our skating up until these two mini-girls were unleashed on the ice, complete with their Olympic Gold-Winning Costumes. They settled into the very middle of the rink and began practicing what looked like a variety of choreographed routines that had half the people on the ice so intimidated they skated off and a few others so intimidated they fell on the ice-constantly (esp. this one guy in a yellow shirt. Every time we looked at him, he was on the ground and we had to contain our laughter)! (Side note: I did wonder where the little ones' parents were and hoped they didn't turn out to be all screwed up because their entire lives were geared toward being Olympic champions. These two were TINY and had clearly been skating for ages. I just hope, in the future, they make the choice to skate or not skate if they desire and aren't forced into it...think "stage parents!" AAAAAaah!)

We skated for hours under the canopy with twinkling white Christmas lights in the background and a choreographed water fountain show that played periodically outside the rink. We skated in doubles and singles, in the middle and on the sidelines. We tied and retied our laces, fell and got back up, helped strangers get back up when they fell and even posed for pictures. There was something about the ice skating rink that encapsulated the cheer of Christmas. Everyone there was so happy and kind to one another. Even the people that worked there seemed inherently happy. I didn't want to leave, though I'm not sure any of us did. Had it not been for the two hour drive home and the soreness of our ankles where our socks had fallen down, I think we might've stayed til closing. We know there's a rink in Jeff City, thirty minutes away, and I really want to go again now that we had this successful adventure...I just hope they keep it open until we get one more time on the ice in before spring is officially here!

On that note, I leave you with our ice-skating montage and hope they inspire you to get out and try something new or something old that will feel new all over again! It's completely worth it! And when you do-remember that little kids fall so much more than adults because they take more chances...and are closer to the ground. But there's no reason why we can't take some chances, made the experience a even more exciting!
Lance and Em, just after Lance perfected his ice-skating abilities to no one's surprise.

Remember the movie "The Cutting Edge"? (I totally own it. I'm such a dork!) "Toe-pick!"

I swear I'd been posing with my leg up in an arabesque for a while before I actually fell...this picture is just more fun than the one where I'm not falling.

My wonderful, non-falling, talented, backward-skating Fiance and Me! Aka-the luckiest girl in the world!

Watching the fountain/orchestra choreographed show from just off the skating rink. Note the Christmas lights in the background!

To make up for all the crap-food-eating...I ran six miles today. I hope that helps :)

Thanks for planning a fab day, Em! And for driving, Lance! And for coming with my to STL, Lex and Steph! And for meeting me for drinks even though I kept pushing it back, Liz! And don't come back with chlamydia, Ben! We miss ya! And D, you are the greatest and I love the hell out of you!

Seven miles tomorrow? ;)


Thursday, February 5, 2009


In the old days Megan, Dustin and I had office hours at the same time. This meant, lots and lots of youtube. Lately, we don't see each other in the office, only outside of it when we have dates with one another. This is totally beat and doesn't happen a few times a week, like office hours used to. I hate it!
However, we still try to do the youtube thing. SNL's skits were faves, as well. Just because I am in the mood to keep this skit going (we-Dustin and I-get into kicks where we'll get stuck quoting one skit for a few days and we're on one full day of this, so it's still fairly new) I'm posting it here for you all to enjoy, you hot trannie messes! Perhaps I will write a future blog in this voice, as well (alla-gossip girl news on A Parker lately to share, sorry lovelies! More GG to come soon, though. Promise!)...hope you laugh!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Clean Dogs and a Happy Fi

Everyone is home, now, and by "everyone," I mean Dustin has arrived and well-groomed dogs have come home. I wonder if today resembled the life of a domestic who stays home while the fam is away for the day: the husband at work, the kids (dogs, in my case) at school. Now all hell has broken loose. Dustin incited them by howling like a coyote (though we've taken to pronouncing it "kai-oat") because he thinks Byz is part coyote and that Bogey is a "polar squirrel." What is a polar squirrel, you ask? Well, we have the answer to that...just skip to the next post entitled "What is a polar squirrel, you ask?" for more information from our polar squirrel expert. It's like a footnote, only in its own post :) Anyhow, here is a picture of my beautiful, clean, wonderfully smelling fur-babies. Both D and I were impressed and happy with what a wonderful job they did with the babies! AND they sent home a report card telling me how great the dogs were, how well-kept they were before I dropped them off. Overall, everyone was great, but she suggested that, perhaps, Bogey might need to be muzzled for grooming in the future. He's great for me and my mom, so I never expected he'd be nippy, but otherwise, it went off without a hitch! Yay for our awesome dogs. The house was super quiet and lonely without them all day. I'm so glad they're back. Here is a pic of them in all their clean glory!

Last night I made egg salad with tofu. I know, sounds weird, right? I'm kind of just experimenting to see exactly how necessary things like eggs, milk...etc. really are. I really love eggs so being entirely vegan would be a huge stretch for me (mind you, we're not vegan, we're merely dipping our toes in-me more than D; he's just kind of along for the ride because he loves me and eats whatever I make. You're the best, honey!). Whenever I'm hungover, I always want scrambled eggs. I started doing the egg-white thing cus it's loads better for you--most of my family has a problem with high cholesterol and I've managed to avoid it so far, but don't want to take any chances--and two of my family members are allergic to eggs (mom and sis). Generally, I'm told it's the yolk that causes allergy problems-which is all the more reason to stick to the whites (my reactions are anaphylactic, friends, or I'd probably be more risky with things like that which seem to run in my fam).So here was my attempt at tofu "egg salad." I found it on a website and was pretty impressed by the reviews, but needed to see for myself. I liked and so did the Fi. Mine is the above photo-on a Flatout Wrap with kale, mushrooms and 'maters. I love my veggies! If you're interested in the recipe, you can find it here: Post Punk Kitchen.

And because Fi is being such a good sport, I decided to bake some delish chocolate cookies from Veganomicon, and to cut them into Heart-Shapes, since I'm already in the Valentine's Day spirit with all the mental planning and the reservations to Hemingway's being made (we tried for Les Bourgeois Winery like last year, but they only took six reservations this year for large tables! What??? So this place seemed like a fab second try since we've never been for dinner but it had a super cool atmosphere when we went for drinks).

Below is a pic of the awesome, tasty, filling and, probably, super fatty cookies I made for D. He enjoyed them and I'm going to make some vegetarian Indian food for him tonight that I know he loves. He deserves it.
Hope you all had a super fantastic, warmer day than we did. It's been cold and I've been lazy about running in it...back to the grind tomorrow. Perhaps more later.


*What is a Polar Squirrel, you ask?

What is a polar squirrel, you ask? Luckily, we asked our expert environmentalist, Dr. Phinnaeas "Frosty" Freisenbern, to chime in on the matter and, perhaps illuminate on this little known creature that is invading our society.

Q: Dr. Freezer, um, burn, can you explain to us what precisely a, um, "polar squirrel" is?

A: Freisenbern. It's all about danger, really. A polar squirrel is a denison of the frozen wastes of the arctic. Often mistaken for a dog, polar squirrels are large rodents of the sciurus frostnipicus family. It is believed that the sciurus frostnipicus is a leftover from the second ice age whose range once included large portions of North America and Europe, but is now relegated to the most barren reaches of the frozen north.

Q: The second Ice Age? Now, is that the movie you're referring to?

A: Um, no, but an example of the sciurus frostnipicus can be seen in both versions of the cartoon you refer to. 

Q: Oh. I see. I'm sorry. Please continue.

A: This creature can be recognized by its squirrel face, black mouth, bushy tail, crazy googly eyes, puffy white fur and psychotic twitch--which scientists believe to be a defense mechanism meant to shake predators from their hides. 

Q: (Interrupting) Did you say..."black mouth?"

A: Yes. Like sin. Black.

Q: Ok. Well, um, where can these creatures be found? Are they dangerous? What do they eat?

A: Ho, ho, ho...slow down, my dear. When in their natural habitat, polar squirrels subsist on a diet of eskimos, seals, polar nuts and snow. Polar squirrels, when isolated and kept for extended periods in captivity, may exhibit quasi-domesticated behaviors, including docility, and what sometimes passes as loyalty (it is not uncommon for the polar squirrel who is treated as a dog to respond by becoming aggressively protective of it's master/mistress). However, when in a pack--which came sometimes number in the thousands--the wild polar squirrel represents the Arctic's deadliest predator and the its biggest threat to humans. As many an unfortunate hiker has stepped into safety from a blizzard only to find 7-8 polar squirrels attached to each ankle. 

Q: Really? That many on one ankle? Sounds absolutely terrifying.

A: It is. It is. In fact, Inuit legend tells of the dreaded 'Bogeynactum' or "night of one thousand black mouths" when a young warrior crested a snowdrift to behold only a field of snow white and a multitude of snarling black mouths that researchers believe to have belonged to a pack of polar squirrels. Their white fur makes them almost indistinguishable against the snowy landscape, but an incessant, high-pitched yap is a sure-fire giveaway that a polar squirrel attack is imminent. 

Q: So, if I'm getting this right, I should be prepared if hiking or exploring the Arctic to, possibly, come across polar squirrels? In the event that a civilian is attacked, what precautions or steps can he or she take?

A: I'm glad you asked! Some resourceful hikers advise that, if confronted by a pack of polar squirrels, a useful defense is to lure them away with alcohol from your pack. The very scent of alcohol and the polar squirrel can be distracted. However, new studies show that alcohol, while distracting to the polar squirrel, stimulates the urinary impulse, which brings rise to the question: Which is worse--to be devoured by a pack of polar squirrels or to die, slowly of hypothermia due to exposure to polar squirrel urine?"

Q: Thank you Dr. Frozenbrows. Please join us again next time for expert info with our expert scientists.

Dr. Freisenbern and a domesticated, yet deadly, polar squirrel

It's 7am...Do you Know Where Your Fur Babies Are?

I know where mine are and it starts with a: G-R-O-O-M-E-R-S! But more on that in a minute...

It's been a long morning at this menagerie as I rose to NPR discussing some President Obama setbacks in choices he made for two different positions he filled. No big. I appreciate that he apologized by not knowing certain things about his choices and I hope, in the future, he continues to do so when he makes a mistake. I really dig people being able to see when they've messed up  and take responsibility for it-accidents happen, yo! 

After the stories moved on, then circled back to the headlines about Obama, I decided that it was time to get out of bed-5:15am, on the dot. At this point, I didn't have much of a precise plan, I just knew I was awake and it could, theoretically, be breakfast time so I whipped up some "Fronch Toast" from Vegan with a Vengeance and added some vanilla extract, nutmeg and a few shakes of cinnamon for a slight kick. D thoroughly enjoyed it-despite it being a bit on the soggy side-and I did, too. Lately when I go to bed at night, I start to get super hungry out of nowhere. It's awful. My belly will growl on occasion, though I refuse to get out of bed and eat something, and I end up falling asleep thinking of all the wonderful foods I will make and eat the next day.

(Note D's work and keys scattered on the kitchen table with his breakfast...this boy is waay to busy this semester!)

Since I have yet to locate "vital wheat gluten," which I need for a number of items I would like to make from my new cookbooks, I am venturing forth and experimenting with recipes that don't call for it. Last night, for example, we had a delish herbed potato and greens (kale, in this case) soup from Veganomicon, which I finished prepping in the slow-cooker while I took a nap and D went to the rec (still's an unshakable cold, I tell you!). It was oh-so-tasty and full of healthiness. Yum! We both enjoyed it before hitting the books again!

I should mention that we don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or anything nationally chained in our town, unless Clover's counts, but I've never heard of it before moving here (this is not to say it doesn't exist as a chain, just that if it is, I never heard of it so I'm skeptical about believing that it is). Anyhow, this limits my resources for making things from scratch (which I am starting to prefer, really, so I can tailor the food to our taste and healthiness level). Certain products, like the vital wheat gluten (vwg), are tough to least for me. There are about ten different grocery stores in town, none of which are close to where we live, and none of which are particularly close to one another. Therefore, if one doesn't have something, I can drive around from store to store all afternoon looking for it or give up on the recipe I'm attempting and try a different store a different day. I wanted to make chickpea cutlets (also from Veganomicon) but the vwg was absent and I didn't think to check Clover's the other day, but will have to check again. Any other ideas as to where I might be able to locate this essential, "vital" if you will, wheat gluten? Maybe it's a simple element to find and I'm just looking in the wrong place. Advice?

Once coffee and breakfast were complete, I threw on some warmer clothes since the temp has dropped back down to teen-age-digits and leashed up the puppers, but not before snapping these photos of them for a "before" reference:

They're cute little buggers and look strikingly well-behaved (and bored in the top one which demonstrates Bogey-my oldest on the right-yawning at me as if to say "Mom, this sitting game is tired. Give us the damn treat already!" He's hilarious.) in this phot with Bizzy sitting very pretty for the camera, as well. It took years for her to hone that ability. Trust me, for Byz, it was no small feat.

Cute, yes, but you can't smell them from the pictures. Boge is ok, really. He just smells like a dog, but not strongly. Byz, however, lounges around in the backyard in the dirt and debris they leave when they play out there. It's fenced in and she completely loves lazing around out there. As a result, she's a stanky foolish puppy. I love her, but she's not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree and definitely not the prettiest smelling potpourri in the bowl, if you get my drift.

I loaded these two happy clams into the car and dropped them off at, what is supposed to be, one of the better groomers in town. I say this with a little skepticism, as well, because I used to take dogs to a "respectable" place until a year ago when Bogey came home with nicks, gashes and a cold. Seriously. He was at the groomers for, maybe, five hours and he got a cold? They kept him in a cage that was way too small and they nicked him so badly he was bleeding in one spot. I chewed those bastards out and never took my babes back there again. This place seems great so far...very inviting and excited to get to know the doggies. The groomer is going to call me personally when she gets in so we can discuss the fur-babies and what they're like, what they need, if they're sensitive about anything (i.e.: Bogey hates his tail being brushed, but neither wouldn't even dream of biting a human-they'd rather die!)...etc. And dogs seemed cozy when I walked them in and handed them off to the super sweet woman who greeted us (yes-"us," not just me) rather than intimidated or shy or clingy. This is a good sign. These two know a good place when they come to it. It took me a while to find a vet here in CoMo, too. Bogey was clearly unhappy and uncomfortable with the first one-the Vet hospital, actually, which I find is good for emergencies, but wouldn't take my fur-babies to regularly-while they mostly knew what they were doing, they handled my dogs strangely, as if unsure as to what they were looking at. They weren't always confident (I think they were in their last year of vet school, some of them, and were being observed frequently). Boges just wasn't comfortable and it was evident the moment we walked into the waiting room.

The next vet we found, though: Pet Ctr Lmtd. is pretty great, too. They know Byz and Bogey well. I like the way they talk to them and know them and me by name when I call. When I board them there (which I hate to do!) it gives me such a peace of mind to know that they're being watched by people that know them and their medical histories and can check them out and update shots...etc...if necessary.

I think "All Creatures" (the grooming place I've taken them to today) has an even better rep (and I'd be lying if I said I didn't find their name aesthetically pleasing and symbolic, of course!). If what they charge is comparable, I might be switching my dogs to them for vet-services, too. Reason being: although I've checked out the boarding area before and it was quite clean at our current vet's, pups are starting to come home smelly from their stay and usually with a cold or hoarse voice of some kind...Also, they're gaining weight while on their boarding retreat. I haven't boarded them in a while (really, I hate, hate, HATE to do it unless absolutely forced to) and they're totally up-to-date on their shots and vaccines, but we'll see how things go here. Plus, I think I had forgotten (up until about two minutes ago) that I could get them groomed at their current vet. What? What do you guys think? How do you choose a vet/groomer/boarder for your pets?

But so it goes lately...too much to do and too little time. You have no idea what the lists of things to do I've been making look like! Especially wedding stuff! We ordered favors last night, which was exciting. I got the adorable flower girl baskets in the mail (handmade from etsy), as well as part of the BM gifts. Working on Valentine's Day surprises that I can't share incase Fi reads this blog entry...ugh! Just lots to do before the day is through and the 7am hour is, seriously, the most useless: nothing is open yet! Not here and not on the east businesses usually open until around 9, so I'm SOL for, at least, another ten minutes...but writing this blog helped me kill about twenty, so-thank you for reading! What hour do YOU think is the most useless?

129 days til the wedding! Aaah!!!!!!! I'm starting to feel the pressure.

More later...have a fab day...will have "After" photos of the fur-baby lineup later today!


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Problems in Teaching

I was completely excited to go teach my two classes today. When I finally forced myself out of bed and pushed past the piercing pain in my right shoulder (one student suggested it is the rotator cuff that's ailing me?) and after my first two cups of coffee, I thought about my fresh, shiny-faced students, the possibility their minds possess and the creativity just dying to be harvested and felt motivated to get my act together (namely, to shower) and get to school. I was so excited to see them and teach their eager minds that I arrived at school over an hour before my first class.

I'm slightly sad to report, however, that I don't think they were nearly as excited to see me. My first class, fiction, is full of older students-just one freshman-and they are all ready to roll, even when feeling a bit lethargic. They make me happy, even though they probably don't know it. They're quick-witted, go-with-the-flow (or my whims, I should say) and able to keep up. They recognize what's important and what's not. They trust me and that is what I have learned really does make a difference in a classroom, but they're not afraid to ask questions or for clarification. So rare, so wonderful! Today, at the last minute, I asked them to please write a short scene or paragraph using the word "gank" defined as "steal" example: "Dude, you ganked my last pair of socks!" They did it and they did it well. This is, of course, kind of a random activity, but I wanted to see if they could create a character based on the character's language. Some of them expressed concern that they were too involved with their individual characters (the ones they were using in their first stories), so I wanted to throw a literary wrench at them by giving them a random assignment having to do with NONE of their characters. They did well, but, truly, they always do.

My second class, full of youngsters, is really quite good, too, for a required class. They don't sit and stare at me until I get paranoid and they really do read the homework and participate. I did this class differently than usual and am starting off with the topic "Problems in American Education" (which I've never done before, but suddenly felt the need to be able to discuss intelligently...gee, I wonder why!) and they've been pretty awesome about that, too. Over the last few weeks, this class has discussed what makes education and where we (the U.S.) rank in it internationally important, why our education system is lacking, various scholars' suggestions as to what's wrong with our education system and how we can fix it...etc. I asked them to come up with their own reasons for what is wrong with our education system based on their experience for class today and they came up with some good ones and had quite an enthralling convo kicking about "cheating," "lack of discipline"...etc. I was impressed by their ability to be honest. Most of my students admitted to cheating on a test. Most of them admitted that they didn't care if they got in trouble in high school. Most of my students told me, this one was painful for me to hear, "I'd rather take an easy class in the subject I like most than take a class in the same subject that will challenge or stimulate me." What!?! I nearly fell off the desk.

For me, a lot of what got me through school was a sense of competition. Mind you, not all my teachers instilled this feeling in me and, certainly, not all subjects. Today, I wondered whether competition is individual and inborn or instilled by teachers/classroom atmosphere...or what. I have had the privilege of teaching at least two courses at Mizzou in the last four years where my students were competitive with one another. I never pit them against one another, I just made the material harder and harder based on their ability, forcing them to work harder. To their credit, they were all really into the subject material and, many of them, even went so far as to change majors to English when the semester ended (makes my literary heart flutter!). They were motivated and invested in the class. I felt lucky to have them.

Since then, it's sort of been my goal to have students as engaged and hardworking. I want them to feel that sense of satisfaction when they've worked really hard and earned a good grade, like I want them to work harder if they don't get the grade they wanted and NOT because it wasn't an "A" but because they know they can do better. This is how they learn and this is what I love about teaching.

It broke my heart a little that my students weren't as excited to see me today as I was to see them, but it killed me, at least a small piece, to hear that they didn't care, (even about their most favorite subject and what they could learn in it), about anything but the grade. Like they pointed out: teacher's shouldn't teach to the test. What I think they didn't recognize, and what I left them to ponder as they headed out of my classroom for the day was that "students shouldn't work toward just the grade."

Peace out, my loves. I have some potato and kale soup on the stove (I love the cookbook "Veganomicon" and will post a blog about it soon) and a Fi that just got back from the rec. Does life get much better than a Fi that will try my every whim? I'm a lucky, lucky girl and I hope you are all just as lucky...


Monday, February 2, 2009

Save-the-Dates are GO!

Dustin here.  Today was a big day, ladies and gents. Save-the-date cards are in the mail!

That's right. After hours of addressing, stuffing, stamping, and licking, those winsome little magnets with the photo of our adorable faces are winging their way to mailboxes near you . . . or, more likely, your mailbox! Make room on your fridge!

Seriously. Go. Do it!

Also, Neesh is trying her hand at vegan pizza. I think it's ready! Expect pictures!

I missed you guys,


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ladies of Hazzard aka Cody's Saloon

Happy Sunday, friends! And not just any Sunday, but Superbowl Sunday! I'm a Steelers hopeful-I lived there for two years, plus my brothers, for whatever reason, always loved the Steelers. However, this is not to say I actually care much about the game or football, for that matter, because I'm not really into that sport. Or basketball. I love every other sport, just something about those two that bore me to death. This is all well and good, considering we may have a snazzy little t.v. but we don't have cable or any stations, for that matter, so we're not missing out.

Anyhow, I'm long-winded this afternoon. It was a crazy night with the ladies and there were a few casualties (the pole in our backyard that holds our windchime, for example-someone fell on it when she lost her balance running to the house to use the bathroom). But, at any rate, last night was declared "Cowgirl Night!" My friend Meg really digs Western-ware...etc...and mentioned a while back that she wanted to go to a country bar. This was no easy "Make a Wish Foundation" task in our town, but we located a bar called "Cody's Saloon" with linedancing and cowboy hats and a mechanical bull. When I suggested "Ladies Night" (thanks to my Fi suggesting it might be time for us to have another this weekend-I secretly think he enjoys seeing us be ridiculous almost as much as we enjoy the night itself) this weekend, cowgirl attire came into play, as well. 

The problem is, I don't have any cowgirl attire. I've got some kick ass, nearly-knee-high brown boots with a sweet buckle near the bottom, a wide brown belt (so wide no pants have loops it'll fit into!), but I lack other essential cowgirl equipment: a shirt, turquoise jewelry, a hat (preferably ten gallon)...etc. I suppose this comes from being a "city" girl, if you will. Thankfully, my fi is from the midwest where, it turns out, everyone can dig up some "Western-ware" when called upon to do so. At the last minute, before caving and heading to the local Western-ware store, I casually asked D if he had any cowboy shirts and, without hesitation or surprise, he, just as casually, responded: "Yeah. I've got a red and white checked one at know, with the two pockets and buttons..." What??? Where has this been hiding and why haven't I seen it yet?

Problem solved. Now all I needed to pull off my outfit was a hat. And, although I knew just where to find one (top of the coat closet by the front door), I had some reservations about wearing it. On foolish, really just comical, principle, I decided I disapproved of this straw, cowboy hat a while back when I saw pictures of Dustin's most recent ex-girlfriend wearing it. (Now that I think of it, she would have had TONS of Western-ware for this event.) It's not that I totally hate this chick or anything, I just don't dig her. Let's just say she wasn't super nice to me (not like I blame her) and any time we've happened to be at the same place at the same time, it's always been kind of awkward and we all avoid each other. At any rate, we had this hat, but all my thoughts of the hat had her in it...and I hated that idea. Dustin suggested we buy a new hat, but that was clearly just sill given the fact that we already had one. So I decided we could "deskankify" the hat, which he agreed to. 

Together, we FeBreezed and disinfected the hat. It took some time, but we let it dry out and, VOILA! Deskankified!

(Note the red and white check shirt...I went for the "Daisy Duke" look as much as possible last night.)

Problem solved, again!

I cooked up a Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Tofu "Meat"balls which I half made-up and half found on Post Punk Kitchen's website (a new foodie-find I am fairly in love with for their fab vegan recipes!). This was my first time working with Tofu in crumbles (I dried it out, like usual, but then crumbled it up like chopped meat, just using my hands, to make the recipe). I was pleasantly surprised by how it came out. You can find this wonderful recipe here.
For the Spaghetti Squash Casserole (or "Spaghetti Western Squash Casserole," as it were), I did this:

1 Spagh Squash
Half a jar of tasty pasta sauce (I didn't feel like making some from scratch)
1 C. vegan cottage cheese (made of tofu)
As much chopped spinach as you like, cooked (or just heated in the micro til it wilts)
Half a block of vegan Mozzarella cheese (can find in Clovers and other natural stores)
1 big clove of chopped garlic

1. Cook that spagh squash. My usual method is in the oven, but I felt pressed for time last night, so I nuked it, which worked wonderfully! To do this, take a casserole dish, put a fourth of a cup of water in it, saw open your squash (those suckers are ROUGH!) and put both sides face down in the casserole dish. I heated mine for about fifteen minutes, stopping at ten to see if it needed more time. I find this also made it super easy to get the seeds out-by just stripped them off the top.

2. While that's happening above, I mashed together the cottage cheese, spinach and garlic in a bowl (I treated this like I would've treated ricotta cheese for a lasagna filling). So you can add some other spices (basil, oregano, pepper, salt) if you so choose. I try not to cook with salt. This way people can add it as they see fit.

3. When the squash is done and cool enough to handle, I scooped out the top layer (which is the seeds) and tossed them in the garbage before using a fork to pull out the spaghetti-looking innards of the squash into a bowl. You can flavor the squash during this phase if you want, too. And, you can even make a meal of it at this point if you don't want a casserole. That's up to you. If so, you're done. If not...keep reading.
4. In a clean casserole dish, start layering it up like a lasagna. Put some sauce on the bottom of the dish followed by a thin layer of cooked spaghetti squash, clumps of the cottage cheese/spinach mixture, the tofu-balls, more sauce, then squash...etc. When finished, top it all off with the mozzarella cut into slices and placed over top.

5. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted at 400.

Tasty! My friend Niya (aka-Jolene for last night) wants to start working toward being a vegetarian. While I have had to explain this a lot lately, because I like to let people know what I'm feeding them before I expect them to just dig in (for example: "This is a spaghetti squash casserole and if you don't like it, I won't be offended. It's vegan). I find that people like to know that and can avoid it if it's not their thing. Anyhow, Niya dug this recipe and it was so nice to hear since I just toyed with the casserole part and had never made the tofu-balls before, but I can proudly say I will be making all of it again in the future.

Meg brought an oh-so-tasty lasagna; Niya brought in the all-important salad (there seriously should be one at EVERY meal), and Steph brought one of my favorite veggies: cooked spinach! YUM-O! (I should point out. I do NOT dig uncooked spinach without anything on it. It leaves this weird filmy, uncomfortable feeling in my mouth. Not cool.)

We ate and talked and took pictures and hung out...then went on a quest to find Cody's Saloon. When we got there, we payed our $5 cover and entered a giant building with wooden floors and tons of cowboys. The linedancing was incredible. So much so that Meg and I discovered they do free linedancing classes on Tuesday nights from 6-8pm  (which we will obviously be attending...certainly there will be blogs on that in the future). Here is a photo-description of the rest of our night:

Niya Tames the Bull

David Teaches Meg the Two and Three-Step

Me and Meg Fake-Linedancing

Whiskey-What Every Country Girl Drinks

Steph was the only one who could not ride the mechanical bull-for health reason. She has a bad back and we decided her chiropractor would kick our asses if we exacerbated it. So she mosied around making adorable faces like so:
And when the night was coming to a close, my incredibly fabulous Fi came and picked us up, then drove us home. Meg and I hung out on the couches and watched part of Mean Girls. I got into a fight with our DVD player and accidentally attacked the windchime near our frontdoor. D cleaned dishes so the dogs wouldn't try their hand at cleaning them for us in the middle of the night (that Byz is a sneaky one!). When Meg went home this morning, she demanded a cheeseburger from BK at 9:30am and, when told it was too early for one, she yelled (and I quote) "What do you mean you don't have cheeseburgers? I thought I could have it MY WAY here." Then said "Whatever, I'm out" and drove off. She has "no time for no cheeseburger serving places." God I love my friends.

I'm gross and need to finally take off my Western shirt from last night and try for a short, and I mean SUPER short-one-mile, that is, run before throwing in the towel and calling it a wasted day.

Hopefully, you smiled, and maybe, next time, you'll join us!

I leave you with this:

From left to right: Loretta, Rubyjane, Jolene, Patsy

(To clarify any confusion: the Confederate flag and all that it stands/stood for is NOT, by any means, something we support or encourage. It is in the photo to merely serve as a "timestamp," Dukes of Hazzard-style. Please do not take it offensively. We certainly left it at home.)