Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Midnight Circus 2015

Is two consecutive years too quick to declare an event a tradition? Because after our second time at Midnight Circus in the Parks, I'm ready to say Jesus and I are looking forward to keeping up this summer-to-fall ritual for a while.

It helps that this year we live close enough to walk to one of the parks that Midnight Circus travels to, so attending the circus was as simple as lacing up our boots and going for a post-dinner Sunday stroll.

Plus, proceeds from all performances go towards improving our city's many wonderful parks.

And then there's the whole watching daring and graceful feats of artistry in an almost intimate setting (as intimate as a circus tent can be).

Yeah, that about launches Midnight Circus right into tradition territory.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall Eats

Goodbye watermelon and freeze-pops, hello butternut squash and all things apple. While the weather might warm up again before we're truly on our way to winter, it seems like we went from t-shirts to layers of fleece in just a few days.

In the kitchen, I'm finally hitting a baking/cooking rhythm and trying out a few new things mixed in with old favorites:

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

One of the easiest, cheapest, and longest-lasting meals I've made - all you need is several pounds of pork shoulder/butt (I used about 9 pounds) and a marinade (easily googled). Let it cook low and slow for 8-10 hours, shred it, and you're done. You can put sauce on it or leave it as is, and you've got lunch and dinner for a week (or freeze it and have pulled pork all winter)!

BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza

At a loss for what to do with all the pork? Throw it on a pizza! Once you have your dough rolled out, use your favorite bbq sauce as a base, then add the pork plus cheese, pineapples, and sliced peppers and onions. Bake at 450 until golden brown and top with cilantro before serving.

Squash and Barley Risotto

I found this recipe while I was deciding what to do with the squash we just bought. Coincidentally, I had also just started making barley to have as a grain for lunch. I quickly chopped up the squash and added it in to the barley and broth, along with some caramelized onions, more vegetable broth, and some milk. It was surprisingly easy and, above all, tasty.

Apple Crisp Muffins

After all these savory foods, I need something sweet. In October, that means baking apples into everything. I used this recipe (omitting the applesauce since I didn't have any) and satiated my sweet tooth. Other options include: Apple Crisp, Apple Cake, Apple Pie or Baked Apples.

My appetite is ready for colder weather - bring it on, fall!

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Unfair: The New Science of Criminal InjusticeUnfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Adam Benforado uses psychology and neuroscience to examine each part of our criminal justice system - investigation, adjudication, and punishment - from the vantage point of all the major players (victim, suspect, detective, lawyer, jury, eyewitness, expert, judge, public, and prisoner). He shows us the challenges we face in creating a more just system and also presents a few new ways of thinking.

First thoughts: While nothing in Benforado's text was inherently shocking to me (I have way too many friends in social work to not be aware of most of our country's shortcomings when it comes to "criminal" justice and rehabilitation), I still had to shake my head at a lot of it. We've got issues. And it was at times difficult to read knowing how much has to change. I slowed my pace in the middle section, but I was happy that Benforado does present solutions, reforms that some states are already putting in place to ensure that we achieve our true goals: less crime, less people hurt, and a safer world.

Favorite quotes & how they made me feel:

"...when confronted with an example of a seemingly "good" person...suffering a terrible outcome, we experience a strong dissonance. And we eliminate that discomfort - and maintain our perception of justice - by finding fault with the victim." p17 (I think we're ALL guilty of this. It helps us keep the illusion that bad things won't happen to us, because we lock our doors/never go out after dark/never drive distracted/always remember to floss/etc/etc.)

"...having a gun at your fingertips can make the world seem a far more threatening place..." p 61 (The conclusion from a telling study - people holding guns think other people are also holding guns at a much higher rate than people holding, say, a ball or a toy of some sort. Guns don't make you feel safer, at least when you have them in your hand. They make everyone else seem more threatening. Interesting when you think of the people we regularly arm, the people whose job it is to...wait for it...make us feel safe.)

"If those convicted of crimes will walk among us again, we must begin preparing them today." p277 (Why do we cut people off from the exact ties that keep them/us/all of humanity from committing crime - in the name of justice?)

"Research shows that the more humane approach of problem-solving courts - based not on hurting offenders in proportion to their wrongdoing, but on helping them according to their needs - is more effective than highly punitive alternatives." p281 (It's good to know that reforms have started in a few progressive states. This also made me think of the punitive punishments some schools give, and how as a teacher I could instead focus on making sure student rule-breakers are getting what they need.)

Recommended for: sociologists, key players in our criminal justice system, lawmakers, teachers, politicians, voters, and concerned citizens.

Final thoughts: This is an important book, and in the hands of the right people, our injustices might bend towards justice. Benforado tells a gripping story, one that's true and happening in our country daily. His research backs up his timely points. We've made extreme changes before (we don't charge animals with crimes anymore, for example), and we can make them again.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

As the Baltimoreans Do

I spent this past weekend on a (super quick) trip to Baltimore and coastal Maryland to celebrate a friend's wedding. I was also able to spend some time with friends in Baltimore itself, eating crab at every meal and learning as much about the city's history and culture as I could in several hours.

For example, did you know that the Baltimore Ravens are named after the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name? How literary! I'm almost convinced I should become a fan (at least for October, you know, spooky month). There was a Book Festival in Baltimore this weekend, which only served to solidify my high opinion of the city (which is also sometimes known as The City That Reads).

Weekend Recommendations:

Miss Shirley's (Annapolis) - the perfect boozy brunch to start the weekend off. Get the grits!

Blue Moon Cafe (Baltimore) - serves breakfast 24 hours a day! This cute little cafe in the Fells Point neighborhood was a hit all around. Sweet or savory, they know breakfast.

A few pics from the weekend:
The view from our hotel!
Baltimore: the City that Reads
That funky building is Baltimore's Aquarium.
Words with Strangers!
Al Bumbry and Baltimore Bill, the weather-predicting crab
U.S.S. Constellation - the last ship built with only sails (no mechanical engine)
Fells Point

Thursday, September 24, 2015

An Abundance of Victories

If the beginning of this week was about searching for little victories to keep my spirits up, the end is about storing up multiple victories to recount later when I need a boost.

Waking up at 6:30 this morning so that I could be at school for homeroom this morning (knowing that I would be staying until about 6 tonight) wasn't awesome, but coffee from my Campus Director helped my mood a lot.

Hearing my students cheer and pump their fists after they got their Thursday Apprenticeship assignments basically made my morning, but having several students remember how to pronounce my name and ask thoughtful questions during class sealed the deal.

In the afternoon, I taught several kids how percentages work and had them teach back to me. Then I supported my own Thursday Apprenticeship, the Teen Dream Zine. Our kids are writing articles and stories and drawing pictures for a self-published zine that they'll share with their families and friends (and their school library) at the end of the semester.

Maybe it's the subject matter, or because I had five volunteer teachers co-leading the class, or maybe it's this certain group of kids, but I can say that today is officially the day I enjoyed teaching, felt comfortable doing it, and understood why people make this their full-time career.

It's amazing what a difference a few days can make.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Little Victories

This week is already challenging me. Lesson plans, short attention spans, and a flu bug (which I refuse to catch) are giving me a run for my money. What's a teaching fellow to do but be grateful for something she's doing right (ie keeping her plant alive)?

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Spin (Spin, #1)Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Spin narrates the aftermath of the "Big Blackout" - the night the stars disappeared - following the lives of three friends, Tyler Dupree and siblings Jason and Diane Lawton.

First Thoughts: Spin gripped me right away, then loosened its hold just over halfway thought, but it grabbed me again at the end. I liked being sucked into a book and its world, and having it be a treat instead of a chore. This was also a rare treat in that I don't read many sci-fi thrillers (but I always seem to enjoy them on some level).

Favorite quotes:

"Everybody falls, and we all land somewhere." -p1

"The world is full of surprises. We're all born strangers to ourselves and each other, and we're seldom formally introduced." -Carol Lawton, p438

Favorite characters: the great mother team of Carol Lawton and Belinda Dupree - I love them separately and together. Jason Lawton was an interestingly flawed character, and I think anyone who reads Spin would love Ina Ibu.

Where it lost me: the discussion of the replicators. By that time I just wanted to see the two timelines of the book meet, so that middle part with the technical language stretched a little long.

Final Thoughts: Once the action picked back up, I was right back into the story. The ending was solid and worth sticking it out.

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