Thursday, July 26, 2012

balance. harumph.


It was yesterday afternoon, in the middle of a conversation with my mom, when I realized: I am failing at balance. Epically. 

We were walking and chatting, and I found myself telling her that I hadn't been writing at all lately--not a blog post, a journal say nothing of short stories or chapters. Since writing is such a big (well, ideally big) part of my life, to not be practicing it at all--and to say that out loud--gave me pause.

In the midst of a busy summer semester, I feel like my hair is on fire (a slow burn, but still there's smoke). And yet, I persist in avoiding the word "no." I don't say it to others. I don't say it to myself.  Not just not agreeing to things...but not inventing extra things for myself to do, at the expense of all that I want to do, the stuff that feeds my soul, that I usually "leave 'till last" or "get to when all my 'work' is done." These days, it seems like it's never done, because I like to fill needs. I "see" a need, I want to fill it. A good thing, I think, usually--the Sunday School needs a Christmas program organizer. A friend needs some company. A student needs extra help on a paper. A food bank needs donations. A mentee needs to talk.


As a very wise woman--a pioneer missionary in the Amazon jungle--once advised me: "the world is full of need, and if you try to meet it all, you'll go crazy!"

And, probably, feel defeated all the time. Or frustrated. Or thwarted. My plans always look so lovely and clear. (except for when I make them, forgetting OTHER plans that conflict, or not anticipating the something that will pop up and scramble things...) If my plans could ever actually be executed, I am convinced I could meet the needs of THE WORLD!!!

Or, maybe not. Maybe not much more than those I actually struggle to meet right now. I am really so, so small, and the universe is wide and wondrous. So, where can we find balance?

Well, I don't think there is a "magic formula" that I can recite, write or practice. I've already tried several--time "diets," new journaling schemes, new planners and ways to write in them.

Another wise woman I know--a colleague and friend in the office next door to mine--said to me once, "it's all about the little choices." And I feel the truth of that, more than I've ever felt truth in any one of my ten-step-balance-plans.

The older I get, the better I come to know myself. I know, for example, that I'm effusive and encouraging, ambitious and determined. I can be stoic, self-sacrificing, social, and very goal-oriented. I think that is why I expect to decide to be more balanced, and then look for a general "balanced" feeling to be swathed around my life like a soft blanket. Balance is a big word, one that I've obviously not mastered yet. And contrary to my expectations, it doesn't blanket my life. But "self" and "care" are littler words. So is "rest." So is "tea."

"Let" and "go."

It was a little choice to leave work a bit early yesterday, so I could work out with my mom. It was a little choice to let her take a commitment off my schedule for me. It was a little choice to hold my tongue when my pride wanted me to argue. To put away my planner. To make myself a cup of tea.

I do not think I will ever master this whole balance thing. Honestly, I'm too tired to try to "work on it" or "start a plan" to boost it any time soon. One thing I will say, though, is that I'm ready to make some little choices, to take small steps. I'm going to try to focus on the little words for now.

What about you? Do you feel balanced? How do you maintain balance in your life?

Monday, July 2, 2012

happy july!

image source
Hello, friends and happy July! I am back after an extended early-summer break:) Sorry to have left you hanging...we embarked our trip in a whirlwind, and right when we got back promptly got really sick. Twice.

But, now we are well and getting back into the swing of things. I just started teaching a couple summer classes, and Jake is clearing out his school studio, and we're both psyched to enjoy a slower summer pace. As I ease back into my little blog space, you might want to check out these fun links:

--Em from hiphipgingin posted this perfect list. (what do you think? I agree with everything on it!)

--Alli over at hooray posted about this sweet date night.

--I'm excited for these July Events.

...and wouldn't you love to throw (or attend) a backyard movie party? With the heat climbing in the daytime, it would be the perfect temperature for lounging at night!

What about you? Do you have any fun July plans?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

book talk: style parisian

So, what with our trip coming up soon, I've been mildly totally obsessed with planning (and of course, packing)! My mom lent me this book to help me with inspiration:

It has been so much fun to flip through, and I feel as if I've gleaned so much wisdom from Ines (yes, we're on a first-name basis now). Since it's been in my possession I've been trying to gather/buy/find The Magnificent Seven pieces Ines lists in the book for my travel wardrobe:

1. A Man’s Blazer
2. The Trench
3. The Navy (cashmere) Sweater
4. The Tank
5. The Little Black Dress
6. The Perfect Jeans
7. The Leather Jacket

 So far, I've got the Trench, the Tank, and the Blazer (of sorts).

Still on the lookout for the Navy Sweater, and I'm perpetually on the quest for the Perfect Jeans.

Also, I'm on the hunt for basically this entire outfit! I love the dress/sweater combo...but that BAG. I'm determined to find a cross-body-strap-with-handle camel-colored satchel (for, of course, a budget-friendly price!). Think it can't be done? Challenge accepted.

Told you I was obsessed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spain and France or bust!!

Friends, I am bursting with excitement--we're going to Europe in May!!! I mentioned this in a passing gratitude the other day, but I wanted to fill you in on the whole, lovely story.

As you know, I turned the big 3-0 this year, and was wracking my brains on how to celebrate. Well, on the day of my birthday, I had to drive four and a half hours back from a conference (meh). Once I got home, however, I was ready to settle in for an evening of birthday bliss.

My mom had dropped off dinner and goodies...

...and Jake cleaned and heated up dinner while I sipped champagne (and frantically finished a last-minute project for work!) 

After dinner: birthday cheese, more champagne and gifts! Jake got me Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and surprised me with a proposal...

...let's go! (and of course, I said "yes")

We will be leaving in May, after my semester ends and Jake's thesis and the undergraduate class he's teaching wrap up. We're planning to visit Madrid, Granada, Tarifa, Tangier, Seville, Barcelona, Provence and--of course--Paris. I'm over the moon! Any suggestions for us??

Monday, April 9, 2012

Meatless Monday: keep it simple

Hey friends! Happy Monday!

Just look at this gorgeous salad. It's got it all: fresh veggies, lentils, barley, and my fav--goat cheese! Definitely making this, this week:)

What about you? Any fun meatless recipes you're trying this week?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Five Gratitudes

Ah, what a week. Getting back into the swing of things after my brain-lapse last week! My pile of projects-to-grade is down by two thirds. Today is sunny, and fully, freshly spring. Trees are blooming all over the place, and wind is brisk, but not bone-chilling. And I'm smiling. (I hope you are, too!)

Here's what I'm grateful for today:

1. This song has been my jam all day--perfect for a sunny day in the city--and I'm grateful for that.

2. I'm grateful for poetry. Most especially (today) the poetry of this sweet-hipster-looking-dude, Ezra Pound. For example:

Love thou thy dream 
All base love scorning, 
Love thou the wind 
And here take warning 
That dreams alone can truly be, 
For 'tis in dream I come to thee.

3. I'm grateful that I get to hang out with my friend, Jamica, tonight! (and we're going here, which looks like a really cool pub with delicious sounding food-yay!)

4. I'm grateful for this dancing polar bear, that brought an instant smile to my face:)(and this amazing article, which made me laugh out loud!)

5. And, last but certainly not least, I'm grateful for napping. Since it is the weekend (and a holiday at that), I am looking forward to doing some major napping--before, and hopefully after, a lovely family dinner.

I do hope you can get a nap in, too!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What to Wear to Work

Hey all! Check out my guest post for Whitney over at her teacher-fashion blog Between the Lines. She has a really refreshing, honest voice and posts lots of creative "real-life" outfits that she puts together. I was excited and really flattered that she asked me to participate in her weekly feature, "Women who Work." I got to share some pics of outfits I've put together for teaching, as well as answer some interesting questions about fashion and my job. So check out my answers and outfits, and give Whitney some love!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

book talk: adaptations of a favorite

When I think of film adaptations of books, there are a lot of miserable examples. Few--very few--succeed in capturing the essence of a book well--even if they are fabulous films in their own right. One of my favorite book adaptations ever has to be Emma Thompson's version of the Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility. I just love it--love the humor and warmth that Thompson brought to the screenplay, love the gorgeous direction of Ang Lee.

Which is why, as you can imagine, I almost didn't even give the Masterpiece Classic version by Andrew Davies a fighting chance.

I may have been mistaken. I can't believe I waited so long!

This newest version is fantastic--with much of what made the Thompson/Lee version so dear to me, but with it's own twists. For instance, there is a deeper development of the Edward-and-Elinor romance, which was lovely.

talk about the weather
I also just loved the fact that there was a darker, sort of "raw" quality to the setting. Since Great Britain's weather is roughly on-par with what we get here in the Mitten, I sometimes roll my eyes at period pieces that are all sunshine and teacups. But the un-varnished, and sometimes pretty bleak-looking weather in this film only gave it more depth.

Not that I could ever forget the classic (at least in my mind) version! In fact, when I stumbled across this excerpt from Emma Thompson's diaries from when she was filming, it made me remember all over again how smart and witty she--and her version of the film--is. Don't you just want to be friends with her? I do!

Ok, so I'll probably just need to be content with reading her reflections instead. Still fun, probably:)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Meatless Monday, halfway

Hey friends! I hope that wherever you are, you're having as gorgeous a Monday as we are here in the Mitten. It has been cheerfully sunny all day, and I'm happy about it. Also, I may be in denial about the stack of to-be-graded papers that is really not shrinking as fast as it needs to. Ok, maybe not at all.

But of course, we are in denial, and so we will turn our attention to far more entrancing matters, like dinner.

Doesn't this meatless pasta dish look incredible? Penne, cauliflour and cheesy, mustard-y goodness. I'm totally sold on this one.

Ok, so I know that this lovely-looking salad isn't completely "meatless" (there's tuna in it), but it just is so pretty. Also, I'm sure that you could sub out the tuna and add in more greens, or maybe a different type of bean, to round it out. This is a dinner that just screams spring, don't you think?

What about you? What are you planning for dinner this week?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Five Gratitudes

Man-o-man, am I grateful it is Friday! Still working on finding my mind...and totally glad that now I have two days of weekend to seriously try and locate it:)

Here's what I'm grateful for today:

1. It's been raining here in the city all afternoon. And, while this has made for some pretty adventurous dashes to and from classes, I am grateful for the soft, meditative sound of rain.

2. I'm grateful for laughter. (I'm also grateful to Jo for her tip on this hilarious tumblr, a definite source of out-loud laughter for me today!)

3. I'm grateful for this beautiful look at the grace and precision of ballet.

4. I'm grateful for the da Vinci glow.

5. Last but not least, I'm grateful that my sister is hosting a little girls' night tonight--an excuse to try out this fresh, easy-seeming appetizer.

What about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

go find yo mind!


Hey all! Sorry for the long silence...I've been trying to get a handle on things. So much to share with you! Last week, I was in St. Louis for this professional conference, which was fun and interesting. However, I feel like my life/schedule/brain has been thrown off-kilter by that chunk of traveling. As I slowly attack the pile of projects I have to grade, I'm also trying to get back in the swing of my own personal writing and blogging--so, I hope to see more of you all here, soon:). Hope this post finds you all well, and with at least some idea of where your brain is!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

book talk: mongolian feminism

So, I am almost finished with this book, which I picked up at the library partially for it's cool cover image, and partially for its intriguing title. I am always interested in powerful women, and this book seemed to promise an encouraging tale of women in power, doing great things, rescuing an empire.

Of course, history is never as neat and tidy as we'd like to imagine, and this book offered less "women-as-heroes" moments than I'd expected. Also, it really highlights the deeply engrained patriarchal tendencies of men, even in a society established to be so egalitarian as Genghis Khan's empire seemed to be. (Genghis Khan: Mongolia's first feminist? Pretty cool.)

The overarching story is less about one generation of women (as the title might imply) and more about important women rising to power, holding power, staging revolutions and just being general bad-asses over the course of several generations. That kind of consistency has a lasting effect, and this book is ultimately encouraging in a wholly un-glamorous, un-hollywood, but totally real way.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meatless Monday: St. Pat's treats for St. Pat's date night

Hello! Hello! Well, I am back from a head-spinningly-fast Spring Break--fairly rested, and ready to tackle the rest of this semester. I hope that you had a great week last week, enjoyed some spring weather, and got (maybe a little?) rest, too.

Even though this weekend was a frantic shuck-and-dive routine, trying to get all my last minute to-dos taken care of before crashing back into the swing of things, Jake and I did have a fun little date night on Saturday. We sat on our little deck, sipping Irish cocktails, nibbling on Irish cheddar and chatting a bit with our neighbors. Then, we took a long walk around the park to soak in the beautiful, mild spring evening. 

I thought I'd share with you a couple of the treats I made for our St. Patrick's day date night. Neither have meat...but I have to confess that I definitely made a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner (in my crock pot, no less!), so there was meat hanging around...

But not in these beauties:

These vegan dark chocolate stout brownies have really made the rounds on blogs and pinboards, and they look so great in the photo that I just had to try them. Plus, let's face it, I was buying Guinness anyway... The blackbeans were surprisingly silent partners in this recipe--I don't taste them in the brownies at all. I do, however, notice them in the texture. This recipe makes for a cakey, really substantial-feeling brownie. You're really getting your protein with these puppies. I'm so glad I added the optional chocolate chips--they really make the brownies (as in, I think it is what moves your brain from the "I'm eating a vegan bread" train of thought to the "I'm eating a brownie" train).

Our Irish cocktails were called Irish bucks. I found this recipe for the fizzy drinks, which turned out very festive. I wondered, though, if the drink was related in any way to the Moscow mule, a cocktail that is almost exactly the same, except sub in vodka for the Irish whiskey.

What about you? Any festive foods (with or without meat) that you tried out over the weekend?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Five Gratitudes

Ah, spring break. A magical time. A time when the frantic pace of the semester abruptly halts, and everyone gets a chance to breathe. This year, I'm especially ready.

1. I'm grateful for the chance to lay down, maybe stretch a little, and relax.

2. I'm grateful that I won't have to wake up until my body wants to.

3. I'm grateful that these books are the only things I'll have to read.

4. I'm grateful that I'll have time to shop for the ingredients and make this spicy dish.

5. I'm grateful that I can finally sit down and start planning our trip. (that's right, we're going to Spain and France this summer!!! I'll post the story soon:)

Spring Break!!!

Today is the last day of school before spring break at my university. I am thrilled that we will have this time off, since for the past couple of months I've been working through the weekends, grading papers and checking homework. I found this great reminder about how to make the most of time off, and it seemed only appropriate to post it, you know, to ring in spring break.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

book talk: a cup of exoticism

I am just about finished reading A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez. It has been a fascinating read. Ok, so not necessarily for the plot, per se, but for the saturated experience of a wholly "other" world. Set in Kabul, Afghanistan, the story centers around a coffee house run by an American woman (not unlike the author herself...). There are several female characters, western and Afghan alike, who are strong, likeable, yet still very human. The plot has some genuinely tense moments, but not enough to call this a "gripping"  story. But, Rodriguez does manage to translate the sights, sounds and smells of Kabul and the surrounding mountains with a harsh, vivid distinction that feels as clear and firm as winter wind.  Notwithstanding some of the more predictable (or maybe just chic-lit-ish?) moments, the insights into a land and culture so different, so easily misunderstood by so many, were weighty and valuable. I have to say I've enjoyed this read immensely, and have certainly learned from it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Meatless Monday: lemons and legumes

Hey all! Glad to be back posting another Meatless Monday. I confess, our diet has been pretty crazy this past week: Jake is working on thesis stuff, and I'm trying to grade my butt off so that I can truly have a real break over spring break. I'm finally starting to see the light at the end of the grading tunnel! So, in that spirit, here are the meatless meals I'm planning to try this week:

Definitely still yearning for comfort food (the grading is halfway done...but still only halfway!), and so I am excited to try these black bean, avocado and goat cheese beauties.

And because the grading still calls, I'll need to make a big batch of something that we can eat off of for a couple of days, like this Moroccan chickpea salad. It looks so fresh, yet filling.

Still, what's a springy, comfort-food-ish week without desserts? (which, we all know, make the perfect antidote for stressed people;) I'm dying to try this lemon yogurt cake from Ina Garten, it will hit just the right note, I think.

What about you? Making any cool meatless dishes this week?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Marching Forward

Hello, friends! Happy March to you:) 

Sorry that I've been a little awol lately. February just flew by--and I had barely a second to breathe, much less keep on top of my posts! I felt like I was running around in circles.

Well, after plugging away extra diligently at my large pile of papers to be graded, getting some big meetings and focus groups finished up, and hanging out with my best friend who was in town from Chicago (!) I am feeling slightly calmer. Slightly more at peace with work. I feel like I have so much to share with you all! 

Seems like it's just the perfect time to start fresh. New month, new outlook. Spring will be here soon (except that in the Mitten, "soon" means in May).

So with that, I do hope you're all feeling "straightened out," ready to march forward into what lies ahead.  Ready or not, here we go!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Meatless Monday: comfort food

Happy Monday, all! I am very perked up by the sunshine and the blue, blue sky over the D just feels like spring is on its way.

Having said that, it's still pretty freakin' cold out! So, I'm of a mind to explore lots of meatless comfort food options, if you don't mind:)

Most definitely want to try this splendid-and-easy-looking avocado pasta.

But, as I was telling my friend, Charisa, the other day: I need to get back into my soup-habit! Having a simmering pot of soup on the stove inspires such a cozy feeling! This hearty, healthy soup recipe caught my eye on the Michigan Farm Fresh Food blog.

What about you? What are you making for dinner this week?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

street art in the D

 Check out this cool shout-out to street art in our fair city! How amazing is it to think that artists come from all over the country to put their mark on the D? It kind of blows my mind, but then, I think street art is cool. I think, thanks Chaos and Harsh and Omens, way to turn winter-cold-grey-brick into a riot of color...into art:)

What do you think about street art? Legit, or a menace? Does it make you happy, or mad? Do tell.
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