Friday, September 30, 2011

DIA Day!

Friends, I'm having a great day. Today was DIA day for my writing classes!

My students are working on collecting readings in various genres that can inform their research proposals. We learned about how to evaluate websites, then we surfed the web. We learned about searching databases with keywords, broadening and narrowing our searches, and then we practiced in the library. Then, we learned about analyzing and evaluating visual texts, and our practice took place in the "library of visual art", the DIA.

A couple of my students were really interested in the Diego Rivera murals in Rivera Court. I was so geeked to talk to them about this massive, strange and beautiful work. Even cooler was when a museum staff member came up to us and offered us an ipad with all sorts of info in the pre-loaded apps about the painting process, the symbols...tons of stuff!

An any time I'm at the DIA, I make sure to visit the Rothko--Orange and Brown.  I try to stare at it from different angles and let my mind drain. I try to just pause and feel, as I imagine Rothko intended me to do. Today I thought to myself: wow, these colors are so warm (it is frigid and windy in the D today!), it's probably the perfect one of his paintings for Michigan...The coolest thing was that I got to introduce this piece to a student who'd never seen it, who wasn't even familiar with Rothko. We talked about the painting and you know what she said? "It's great that it's warm colors. It warms me up on a cold day."

No kidding. 

I could probably go on and on. The day was just packed with moments that made my teacher-heart sing--students asking docents for advice, asking me questions about pieces, taking notes, telling me they're planning to stay all day, exploring, smiling, absorbed in art! Man, what a great day.

How is your day going?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

book talk: book clubs

Let's talk book clubs.

Last year, some friends and I started a book club around this book.

We met at my house. I bought cheese and wine, and everyone else brought whatever they felt like noshing on. We ate, chatted, and then settled down in the living room to discuss. I tell you what, though, sometimes it was intense, the conversations we had. But, it was also deeply personal, bonding, and uplifting. Always, it was lovely!

Now, I'm getting the itch to start again. But, since the last book was so, sort of personal and non-fiction, I was thinking about a novel this time. I'm halfway through this one and it's blowing my mind!

I'd love to be able to talk about it with some fabulous women.

What do you think about book clubs? Are you in one? Any great recommendations for mine?

Monday, September 26, 2011

meatless monday: the first of fall

For meatless monday today, I am excited to share with you my dinner plans for tonight: spaghetti squash with tomato sauce!

To my husband's chagrin, I have fallen head-over-heels for this fun-to-prepare squash as a pasta substitute. Check out more yummy-looking recipes here and here

With the onset of fall, I've been thinking of all the wonderful culinary delights that are, in my Mitten-born head, quintessentially autumnal. Apple cider, for instance. Cider donuts. And all things pumpkin...

Now, I love a good pumpkin-spiced latte as much as the next girl...but it's not exactly in my budget these days to pick up a professionally made one just whenever I feel like it. So, this morning, in my pre-caffinated semi-genius, I figured out this homemade substitute:




[so, that's 1 cup dark roast coffee (I use this French Roast), plus 1-2 tbs. Natural Bliss Creamer in Caramel, plus Pumpkin Pie Spice to taste, equals Faux-Pumpkin-Pie-Spice-Latte]

What about you? Do you have any clever, DIY recipes that taste just like "store bought"? Do tell!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Five Gratitudes

Happy, Happy Friday! Whew. Does it seem like this week took forever~yet went at a frenetic pace~or is it just me?

Here's what I'm grateful for today:

image source

1. Today marks the Autumnal Equinox, and I'm so grateful that my favorite season officially here! I'm also grateful to Adam Frank for posting a thought-provoking blog about The Tyranny of Modern Time on NPR's website that fits in with the occasion perfectly.

2. I'm grateful to my uncle for posting this mesmerizing video shot from the International Space Station.  Can we say jaw-dropping? Look at all those cities!

3. I'm grateful to Alli for posting about one of my favorite books ever, Pride and Prejudice. On a rainy day like today, thoughts of curling up with a classic comfort read make me smile.

4. I'm grateful that tonight, Jake and I have the chance to try out this new restaurant that just opened in our town. Looks like it will be a delicious dinner!

5. Last but not least, I'm grateful to ProfHacker for this blog on thinking about ways to make writing fun. For myself, for my students, I want to think more about ways to inspire a desire (heh, that rhymes!) for writing...and I am still musing on this quote: 

"I wonder what it is that tells us that only difficult tasks are worthwhile, that fun tasks are frivolous and unnecessary."


What about you, friends? What are you grateful for today?


I love baseball. I love both of these actors. Now they are combined, and I am happy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

book talk: detroit books

Today I'd like to talk about books that center around a city--and not just any city--a city that I've grown up around, and now work in: the D.

Detroit is not just the largest city in the Mitten, it is also the city that has captured my imagination and loomed in my consciousness all growing up. And this morning, I found out that one of my fellow profs has just published a book about it:

Here's an excerpt from the press release:
"Detroitland contains the stories behind familiar names like Frank Murphy, the infamous Purple Gang, the Lone Ranger, “Potato Patch” Pingree, and Charles Lindbergh. Yet Bak also reveals lesser-known episodes in Detroit’s history, like the ambitious International Exposition & Fair of 1889; the killer heat wave of 1936, with five straight days of hundred-degree temperatures; and the attempted around-the-world flight of Ed Schlee and Billy Brock in the Pride of Detroit in 1927." 

Sounds fun, huh? I can't wait to read it!

But, one of my favorite books about Detroit has to be Middlesex:

More than a novel, Jeffrey  Eugenides' epic coming-of-age tale is so complex, you want to savor it as you read like you savor a bit of delicious, savory food in your mouth. It covers a lot of fascinating history of Detroit in the midst of it's braided tale of three generations in a family of immigrants. Highly engaging, highly worth the read.

What about you? Do you have a favorite book (or two or three?) that is set in your hometown?

Monday, September 19, 2011

meatless monday: lunch

Hello, and happy meatless monday to you!

Ever since school started, I've been pretty obsessed with lunch. This is most likely because I like to plan my life around food.

When it comes to "going meatless" one day a week, I've been trying to make that an all-day thing (so, not just dinner. But probably "just dinner" is better than nothing at all...). Today, I'm enthralled with these tasty-looking, lunch-possiblities:

Apparently, it is the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse, and man, did they throw a delectable shin-dig! These little bites would be perfect in my lunch box...

Or, how 'bout an open-faced sammy with brie, apples and arugula?

But seriously. Can I ever turn away from anything with avocado in it? No. So, obviously, this one from Real Simple is calling my name. 

What about you? Do you have a favorite meatless sandwich combo?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

mod musings

The other day, my sister-in-law and I were talking about our fashion styles, such as they are. We tried to condense our philosophies down into a couple of words: hers became "preppy-bohemian" and mine was "tomboy-librarian-ballerina".  I have been thinking about adding to it, adjusting maybe. I've been thinking about becoming more mod these days. This wonderful clip from BBC series, The Mighty Boosh, is my inspiration.

Doesn't it just make you want to be king/queen of the mods? (I may be obsessed...just a little.)

What about you? What's your fashion philosophy? Can you sum it up in a couple of words?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

book talk: spiritual/philosophical memoirs

In the midst of all the other books I'm reading (or, ahem, am supposed to be reading...I'm looking at you, Guide to College Writing Assessment!), I have begun yet another. It is what I would call a spiritual/philosophical memoir. I guess. Jake and I are reading this new book together:

So far, it is a very engaging read. The author's style is thoughtful, in a rambling-sort-of-way, and he avoids getting too deep about ontological ideas by throwing only glancing blows at them. And then, a seemingly absurd mention of hamburgers. Or beetles. It turns out, it's a cheeky journey through philosophy and spirituality that lands strategically-placed declarations woven together with witty banter between the author and imagined college philosophy professors. So far, pretty good. 

I can't talk about spiritual memoirs, though, without giving a shout out to my favorites--books that have taken me on a journey, with their writers, through unknowing and finding, through encounters with mystery, through sacred personal experiences.

 Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott is honest, irreverent and hilarious. Her un-religious experience with Jesus feels refreshing and, well, real. I can't ever recommend this book enough. 

Another funny, smart and interesting journey is Elizabeth Gilbert's in Eat, Pray, Love. I use excerpts from this whenever I teach a unit on memoir, because it's broken into highly digestible chunks, and because it's so darn good. 

I've never liked the title of Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God. In fact, I pretty much cringe every time I say it. Not like it's a necessarily bad title, but because I don't think it encapsulates--or even gives an idea as to--the depth of honesty and intellectual complexity of Winner's journey from agnostic to Orthodox Jew to Protestant Christian. Also, contrary to what the title might imply, it's not written for an only-female audience. Everyone can, and should, read this book. 

I could probably go on and on (Thomas Merton! Sara Miles!, Dorothy Sayers!), but I'll end with another brilliant writing-mind: Annie Dillard. Holy the Firm made me cry, smirk, ponder, and smile. It is poetry and memoir and spiritual journey all in one. I recommend this one to anyone who isn't sure if they like poetry, or to anyone who wants fodder for contemplation.

What about you? Do you have any favorite spiritual/philosophical memoirs? Lay 'em on me!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meatless Monday: sneaky meatless

I have to confess: I have been having a lot of fun trying meatless dishes! (especially since I've decided that desserts totally count;) Last week I made these lentil fritters, and man, let me tell you...they were so satisfying, I forgot they were meatless! Thus, the lentil has become one of my "sneaky meatless wonders"--if I want to feel full, I cook with them.

Another sneaky meatless wonder is the beautiful and aptly named graffiti eggplant:

I use 'em in eggplant parmesan, which is a lovely comfort-food, which also happens to be meatless. 

What about you? Do you have any meat-substitutes that satiate? What are they?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Five Gratitudes

Happy Friday, everyone! Here's what I am grateful for today...

1. I'm grateful for morning coffee and conversation with my hubs.

2. I'm grateful that it is scarf-and-sweater weather at last! (my favorite)

3. I'm grateful for weeknight hang-out time with friends involving olives. And maybe sangria, too. But definitely olives. 

4. I'm grateful for stretching.

5. And I'm grateful for breathing. (seems like they should go hand-in-hand, but I have to remember that makes me like this cool sign all the more!)

What about you? What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

book talk: date night inspiration

For one of our recent date nights, Jake and I watched a fascinating documentary about reclusive "outsider artist," Henry Darger.

His work is so delicate and vividly imaginative, I almost couldn't tear my eyes away from the film for one instant.

At one point, the narrator mentions that Darger had a habit of collecting images from the newspaper, flyers, even the trash, and pasting them into phonebooks. He turned phonebook after phonebook into fantastic collage volumes. This got me thinking about my own love of collage and sketching/doodling--something I do, "when I have time..." So, like, never these days.

One of my favorite journals to use when I find the time, and just need a shot of mindless creativity, is Wreck This Journal, by Kerri Smith.

I also love Lynda Barry's work--it's so cool! One of these days, I'm going to figure out how to use What It Is as a required text in my writing classes. 

What about you? Do you have any favorite guided journals, or just fun, creative books that inspire you? Do tell!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Five Gratitudes

Well, the week is pretty much done. So much has happened, been accomplished, and flown by at lightning speed, it's time to pause. Time to reflect a little bit on what I am grateful for. Time to breathe deep breaths. (I've sucked at breathing all week...)

And, since I usually assign a list of five gratitudes to my students, I have compiled a list of five as well. :)

  1. As exciting and great as this week has been--first classes! meeting students! new campus!--I am so, so grateful for the weekend.

  1. I'm grateful for my lovely new (to me, anyway) campus.

  1. I'm grateful for my friendships with my mom and sister, and I'm grateful that they both came over for a wine-down (winding down with wine, of course) the other night!

  1. I'm grateful for my incredibly generous mother-in-law, who is gifting us with a beautiful new bed (and for my equally generous father-in-law, who is delivering it tonight!). 

  1. I'm grateful for a cozy, Friday-night-in with my hubs. 

What are you grateful for today?

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