Tuesday, January 31, 2012

beautiful detroit

I do admit, I'm unabashed in my love and loyalty toward the Mitten and all of its charms. But, since starting my faculty position in Detroit, I have felt my allegiance to the city deepen and grow.

Which is why I was stoked to see the D featured in a couple of un-hyperbolic, yet refreshingly positive blog posts today. Meghan from Design Tripper has recently opened a super-cool-looking boutique hotel/B&B, and her guests this weekend were particularly interested in checking out the Belle Isle Conservatory.

The visit is exquisitely captured and captioned at roam & home. Check both blogs out for some poignant and lovely inspiration; they made me so proud of my Mitten and this sprawling city at the base of the "thumb."

book talk: accessing my inner french woman


I've attempted it before. This time, it seems different, somehow. In the past, it's been abandoned due to to distraction, crushing food-guilt or just plain non-French-ness. But now, reading Mireille Guiliano's now-classic opus of French eating "tricks" and pleasure-willpower balance, I feel like I'm sitting at the feet of a wise oracle. 

Have you read it? If you have, what do you think? On this, my third attempt, I think I'm finally in the right head space to embrace my French heritage and cultivate my own je ne sais quoi.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meatless Monday: prep work and Punjabi food

So, over the weekend, I decided to try the method outlined in this article for what promises to be a week's worth of healthy dinners. I went shopping, got everything set, and now look forward to "easy" and "delicious" meals that aren't too much of a hassle to put together (thanks to the plan-ahead stuff).

Luckily for my meatless initiative, there are two meatless options in the plan. I'm actually pretty excited for the english muffin pizzas. I'd forgotten about the "muffin-pizza" as a culinary genre. Weirdly, though, I couldn't find eggplant at the store, so I'll be subbing in zucchini instead, which I think will be just as yummy.

The other option on the program for this week is a vegetable curry. Which is great, since I'm pretty comfortable with curries as a general rule. I used to work as a home-health-care aid for an adorable elderly couple who happened to be from Punjab. Savitri usually wanted me to help her make meals, and so I absorbed a lot from her about spice-ratios and the building blocks of curries, dahl and sarson da saag. One of her daughters even let me in on one of the key tenets of "the curry way": constant stirring of the spices, tomato, onion and herbs to make the paste. Every time I make Indian food, smelling the roasting spices in the pan and the sharp coriander leaves, I think of Savitri and her family and my time working for them.

What about you? Do you have a dish or a type of food you make that has a story behind it? Do you always make brownies, or spaghetti the same way because of how your grandmother made it? Do tell.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

saturday snapshot

Strawberry muffins with hot coffee and maybe a dab of maple-almond butter, just to keep things interesting. Planning a trip to the library and maybe a dinner involving the crock pot. TGI-Saturday! 

How 'bout you? What are you up to today?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

old lady tricks~bedtime routine

Good evening. I'd like to share with you another old lady trick that garners plenty of teasing in our small household: my bedtime routine.

I suppose this trick could either be considered "old lady" or "small child." I choose old lady, if only because I am usually much more crotchety than any of the small children I know. Especially in the morning. I will confess to you, friends, that mornings and I do not like each other. Maybe that's why I feel so intent on getting things ready the night before...

My bedtime routine is mainly conducted in the bathroom. I brush my teeth, wash my face (or swipe with one of these puppies), apply nighttime lotion (this organic stuff is currently my fave), floss, brush my hair, etc. All pretty standard. 

I also have to set out all my "stuff" for the following day--outfit, workout clothes, jewelry choices, and so forth. Have my lunch packed and in the fridge, ready to go. The mail stacked by the door--which almost didn't happen tonight! As I typed this, I realized I'd thrown away the Netflix movies with the rest of the junk mail and had to go dig 'em out of the garbage can. Sheesh. 

Once everything is set out and ready for the morning, it is time for the hands and feet. Especially in the winter, I try to keep my hands, which are chalk-covered for most of the day, moisturized. I really like using this stuff on my feet, too. As a teacher, I'm on my feet all day, most days. I try to be kind to my feet by shopping for not-too-torturous shoes and giving them a minty rubdown before bed--my way of expressing gratitude to them for holding me up and carrying me wherever I needed to go. 

Last but not least, I sip a cup of hot water with lemon and slick on some moisturizing lip balm. 

At this point, Jake is usually chuckling at me, trying to cajole me into bed, already. And let's face it, sometimes the routine does have to get chucked out the window. But as a general rule, it soothes my old lady soul. It helps me relax. It helps me feel ready for that ominous event called, "morning."

What about you? Any interesting routines--bedtime or otherwise--you like to follow? Do tell. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

book talk: books about writing

I can't get enough books about writing. I have to try to regulate my addiction to them; writing books are a lot like good wine, or chocolate, or cheese. Purchasing and consuming these books can be delightful, enjoyable, healthy, even--in moderation. In excess, it can lead to depression, sickness and a pernicious sense of vacancy.

That said, I'll be straight with you and let you know that I'm in the market for a new book about writing...a good one. I recently picked up this book again (I'd set it aside because of school starting, or something):

The first chapter, "Writing as an Act of Courage," is so great. I've been scheming for awhile about how I can incorporate it into my writing classes. The opening anecdote about E.B. White is one of those stories-about-famous-writers that gives students, and myself, a giant sigh of relief. If E.B. White, a famous, published author, got scared about writing...then maybe it's not so bad that I get a little scared, too.

I'm thinking about this a lot today, because I just had a full day of one-on-one conferences with students about their upcoming self-analysis essay, where they are asked to analyze themselves as readers and writers. We also just got through reading/discussing Anne Lamott's stellar chapter, "Shitty First Drafts," from Bird by Bird. Let me tell you, that this chapter (this book!) never stops speaking to me--and my writing students! I am amazed at how Lamott's hysterical honest look at just. getting. something. down. on. paper. keeps encouraging students. I assign it every semester. And every semester, students respond with relief and a little bit of joy to know they're not the only ones.

There is always this Strunk and White classic. I'd love to get my hands on this smartly illustrated version!

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for good books about writing? (or does the mere thought of that utterly bore you?) Do tell.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meatless Monday: zucchini

Hey all! Happy Monday. I feel like I've been going one-hundred-miles-an-hour today. How 'bout you?
I'm ready to unwind in my little kitchen, making some meatless grub for the hubs and myself.

What do you say to some zucchini pancakes? (or fritters, some people call them fritters.)

I'd almost forgotten about these yummy and quick-to-whip up little guys. I first fell for their charms when we first got married, and I discovered Ina's recipe for them. They were so delicious, and surprisingly comfort-food-esque for being made mostly of vegetables. I rediscovered them this weekend, flipping through my trusty new Moosewood cookbook.

Deb has a lovely (of course) post about them, and I think I'll definitely steal her ideas for condiments--especially the pinches of salt, the plain yogurt and the bit of minced garlic!

Hope you are warm and dry this Monday afternoon! (anyone making any yummy meatless meals this week?)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

old lady tricks~hot chocolate

Hey all! I hope that you're having a splendid day so far. Today, it is bitter cold in the Mitten. BIT-TER.I mean, I've been sitting in my office, hunched over my desk, with my stocking hat on all afternoon. (still chilled through.) I guess walking around to all of my classes today didn't help. I think I got the cold down in my bones, somewhere between teaching my first class, and walking back to my office for lunch.

All this cold makes me feel like an old lady. [doesn't help that there's a certain old lady birthday approaching.] Seems like as good a time as any to kick off my presentation of "old lady tricks"...or the little things that I love or do that make me smirk and feel like a crotchety old lady.

And today, this old lady wants to hunch over a steaming mug of hot cocoa.

You might have thought to yourself, "hmm, doesn't sound very 'old ladyish' to me." But, wait for it. My hot chocolate of choice, these days, is this glamorous powerhouse:

That's right. Ovaltine. I mean, if I'm going to have a chocolatey, delicious beverage, I certainly want it to contain 12 vitamins and minerals. It's like drinking a treat, that is also a multi-vitamin. 

(I know, I know. Jake mocks me endlessly for this! Old. Lady.)

However, here are some hot chocolate factoids that I was previously unaware of. For instance, did you know there was such a thing as a hot chocolate 5K? Also, Miss B. posted about these delicious-sounding scones that are also very much on theme.

Here's hoping you are keeping warm and toasty today!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

book talk: appropriateness???

So, in further full-nerd disclosure, I have to update you on this series that Jake and I are reading together. We are half-way through the third book, and thoroughly sucked in, loving every minute of it.The series combines really well-developed characters with the kind of adventure/fantasy that makes me love The Lord of the Rings series.

However, as we were reading the other night, I started to wonder...how appropriate are these books for kids? Jake and I sometimes talk about our hypothetical children (a term my friend, Crys, thinks is hilarious!), things we want to share with "them" from our childhood, and among the stuff I want to share is more than a few books. Maybe even these books.

But when? 

When is it ok, for example, for a kid to read a sex scene? Or a really violent battle scene? Or swear words?

I ask these questions, because it is something my parents thought about with me--precocious twelve-year-old that I was, I picked up the Odyssey along with this book about Greek mythology--and had to have some interesting conversations with mom and dad as a result.

What about you? Were you ever not allowed to read certain books because of their content? Would you allow/not allow your kids (real or hypothetical) to read certain books?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meatless Monday: tostadas

For Christmas, my sister-in-law got me this cookbook:

It is apparently a seminal vegetarian tome. One of the best things about it, I think, is the fact that each recipe is handwritten, with cheerful illustrations to boot. Thanks, Rach!

I particularly enjoy this funny little picture, with a weird mouth demonstrating how to eat a tostada:

Which inspired me to add this delectable-looking recipe to our week's meal plan.

Happy Monday, all!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

the joy of books

Oh my lord, this short stop-motion film is so spell-binding! It makes my little book-loving heart swell with joy. Of COURSE books have a secret life when we're not in the room with them!

"But before we walk in and catch them, they return to their place as quick as lightning!" ~Capt. Crewe, A Little Princess

Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Gratitudes

 Happy Friday!!!

1. I'm so very grateful it's Friday

2. I'm grateful Dowton Abbey is back on. (soooooo glad!)

3. I'm grateful that Anne Lamott is writing another book! (sounds so interesting)

4. I'm grateful that my friend decided on a fondue-themed birthday soiree for tonight!


5. I'm grateful for the upcoming holiday, to recognize Dr. King (and I'm grateful for the brave men and women of the Civil Rights movement who stood with him!)

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

book talk: adaptations

I am a lover of book adaptations on film. I don't know about you, but I tend to feel like they're a different species than the book, so I'm interested, rather than horrified (um, usually) at the differences between my interpretation and the production company's.

So, when I got  the mini-series adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorritt for Christmas, I was excited to see what it would be like. 

Screenwrite Andrew Davies did not disappoint. (I mean, since he is the genius behind this classic, this one and this one, it is hard to imagine he'd "miss"...) As dishy as it was Dickensian, this mini-series kept me on the edge of my seat. The characters which Dickens wrote with such cheek become real in their quirky, complicated ways, and you truly root for them. Even, and maybe especially, the ones who have more obvious flaws. 

Another thing I really like about this story is the fact that money plays a much more complicated role than usual. It is a story about debt vs. financial freedom, but not in the same way as you'd see/read in say, Jane Austen. Money is not the "solver of all problems," and I really appreciated that. 

Mystery, romance, colorful characters, and a fantastic cast, this mini-series is worth a watch. Just be prepared to get sucked in, and maybe plan for a few marathons, because you'll want to know what happens next! (at least I did)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meatless Monday: back into the swing

Hello, folks! I am happy to be back, mobile and in the swing of things:) Today was the first day of the Winter 2012 semester at my university, and so I duly donned my blazer and made the rounds of "syllabus day."

Can I just say? I really like all of my students! They seem great and fun and willing to hang with me, even if I am one of those instructors who gives homework on the first day!!! This is going to be a great semester, I just know it.

I am excited to get back into a real cooking rhythm again, too. No that I didn't l-o-v-e having my mom and grandmother and aunts and uncles and in-laws cook for me for several weeks! The holidays are always fun and kind of decadent like that. But now, I am ready to get back in the saddle.

In keeping with my soup commitment, I'll be making a pot of this yummy-sounding red lentil soup with turnip and parsley this week.

And since I just bought a passel of avocados yesterday...I'll be adding their "good-fat" lusciousness to black beans and rice, and this:

I know, I know, it isn't exactly meatless...but doesn't it look delectable? I'm excited to make it none-the-less:)

What about you? Are you excited that the holidays are over, or just exhausted? What are you going to be making at the beginning of this year?

Monday, January 2, 2012

happy new year!

Hey friends, I hope your new year is off to a glorious beginning! May you have lots of adventure, love and things to be grateful for in 2012. I'm looking forward to new challenges and bits of fun this year--to continuing Meatless Mondays and our Book Talks. I'm also keen to talk more about my teaching, and other fun things, too, like some fashion-y stuff and thoughts about life. I always love your feedback and participation in our discussions--can't wait to continue "hanging out" with you, here!

For now, though, don't be jealous: this is the view from where I'm sitting. My parents treated Jake and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, to a Smoky Mountains getaway for New Year's weekend. We met up with family friends in Tennessee, which is mid-way between our family in the Mitten, and theirs in Florida. We've had a really nice, restorative time, gazing at the mountains, eating great food and playing games like charades and the  "Olympics" that my sis and her hubs made up for us--pool, air hockey and Wii bowling. It was really fun!

I am especially grateful to be up and at 'em these days. I had a gnarly back injury the Thursday before Christmas (perrrrrfect timing), which made me basically immobile for two weeks. Still sore, but way more normal-feeling, I'm grateful that I can sit in these rocking chairs without wanting to cry. 

Tomorrow, though, we pile in the car and head back to reality. Back to all the things I said I'd get done over break, and then didn't touch 'cause I was (literally) laid out on my back. Sigh. Trying not to get too overwhelmed by it all. Still, I'm so grateful to be able to share the good, the bad and the ugly with you, friends! Thank you so much for visiting here, for your comments and emails and general encouragement.   Here's to a wonderful, productive and grace-filled new year!!
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