Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Yes, You May

With May came a little bit of everything - sunshine and rain, walking, biking, and driving, work and play. Here's half a minute of this past month:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like the title states, this is a book about a graveyard. And the boy who lives there, raised by a few folks who don't live there...or at least, aren't alive there.

First thoughts: Why haven't I read more Gaiman before this year? His writing is fascinating. It tells a story, yes, but it also gets at the heart of what it means to be human.

Favorite quotes:
"Bod was thrilled. He imagined a future in which he could read everything, in which all stories could be opened and discovered." -p46

"You're always you, and that don't change, and you're always changing, and there's nothing you can do about it." -p298

Who is Bod?: He is Nobody. He is who the Owens family and Silas raise him to be. He is himself, nothing more, nothing less.

Recommended for: students, teenagers, parents, lovers of October/Halloween and anything spooky (but also happy endings)

Final thoughts: A book about the living, and the dead. About living while you're alive, being yourself, allowing for mistakes, taking every path, and growing up.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Night Links 30

A random sample of what I'm reading/viewing/consuming this week:

Clever hints for even the most casual of photographers.

As I think about my memory-keeping and happiness-documenting: Reasons to be cheerful.

Plant + Giraffe = Made for Me.

Am I hungry, or am I already planning next week's lunches?

I just started reading something to food about by Questlove and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (soon to be on HBO!)...something tells my my Memorial Day Weekend is gonna be tasty & intense.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Marriage, a History

Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered MarriageMarriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like the title states, this book tells the history of marriage, both chronologically and categorically. It's also a story of women and their treatment in legal relationships.

First thoughts: This is a lot of history. A lot of talk about the difference between a house (someone's lineage) and a home (someone's family) and how the focus of marriage has drifted from one to the other. A reminder that the more a marriage is based on joy and love, the more fragile and optional (and uniquely meaningful) it becomes.

Favorite quotes:
"Since the dawn of civilization, getting in-laws has been one of marriage's most important functions." -p33 (Everything else - childbearing, partner careers, business mergers, economic/political ties, finances, adulthood, emotional needs - that marriage has traditionally encompassed could be served through other means.)

"If men and women were true soulmates, why should they not be equal partners in society?" -p176 (I would add that while I don't believe in soulmates per se, any two people entering into a legal union (marriage) should be equal partners in that union. Marriage equality has helped usher in the sentiment of person and person as opposed to gendered/unequal roles.)

Women: In the history of marriage, women generally fall into one of two categories: virtuous, pure, needing protection OR sexual deviants, temptresses, needing limits. Getting married either rescued women from others or from themselves.

Recommended for: sociologists, historians, married people and unmarried people wanted to be informed on the specifics of an ancient legal practice, women, students.

Final thoughts: Coontz is good at not drawing too many personal conclusions and keeping things focused on data, though she lacks foresight in thinking about all the changes that would come with the switch from the Bush to Obama administration (namely, legalized same-sex marriage).

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We Couldn't Believe It Wasn't Gardetto's

With so many awesome recipes online, it's sometimes silly to think about buying cookbooks if you're not a tried and true foodie or professional chef. And yet, there's one cookbook that I would recommend having a physical copy of: Cravings by Chrissy Teigen. Yep, you heard it here: buy it, borrow it, or peek over someone else's shoulder - not only for the amazing selection of recipes to try out, but for Teigen's dead pan humor and relatable narration. (Like, shockingly relatable, considering she is a model + married to John Legend.)
During our recent family reunion, we tried two selections - Dump & Done Ramen Salad (quick, easy, tasty - look for a post soon!) and I Can't Believe It's Not Gardetto's. Like the title states, we were pretty sure what we were shoveling into our mouths (along with the epic cheese tasting cheeses) could have been Gardetto's, that ubiquitous road trip snack that was basically my diet in middle school. (Teigen admits she also noshed on Gardetto's in middle school - SO RELATABLE.) This party dish would go great at a Memorial Day gathering, as weekday office treats, or just because you have some snack cravings.

I Can't Believe It's Not Gardetto's (adapted from Chrissy Teigen)

2 bagels sliced into thin rounds (she suggests pumpernickel; we used everything)
3 cups Chex cereal (any variety - we used both rice and corn)
1 cup broken grissini breadsticks
1 cup broken pretzel sticks
1 stick unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place bagel rounds on a baking sheet in one layer and bake 10-12 minutes, or until crisp (but not brown!).
  3. Combine Chex, breadsticks, and pretzels in a large bowl and add crisped bagel rounds.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine butter, garlic, and onion. Simmer over medium heat until garlic begins browning, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain, discarding solids. Whisk in Worcestershire, hot sauce, and pepper.
  5. Add butter to dry ingredients, stir until coated, and pour back onto baking sheet in one layer.
  6. Bake until crisp, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
These are great straight from the oven, but your fingers would rather you wait until they cool. Store in an airtight container (if you have any left to store).

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tasteful Nudes...

Tasteful Nudes and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and ValidationTasteful Nudes and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation by Dave  Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dave Hill's tell-some (vs tell-all) collection of essays both delights and disappoints.

First thoughts: as a follower of Hill on Twitter, I was looking forward to his dry, self-effacing humor. I didn't necessarily dislike any of the essays, but I wasn't super pumped about them either. All together solid yet forgettable.

Favorite quote: "Sometimes you have to write your own story to really understand your own story."

Final thoughts: the final stories were the most enjoyable. I'll most likely stick to his Twitter in the future.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

5.12.2016 & 5.13.2016

A few words to explain this photo: the balloon drop at last night's WOW!, our culminating event after 10ish weeks of after school Apprenticeship classes. The kiddos went wild & I let out the breath I'd been holding since the event started. We (they) did it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

As the Chicagoans Do

I've reviewed many a Chicago restaurant, park, museum, and event on this blog, but those were one-time or time-sensitive activities that often appealed to Chicagoans themselves, not tourists. Today I'm sharing a several-day plan for both locals and visitors alike - anyone hoping to see a bit of mainstream Chicago attractions while also getting off the beaten path to explore some local flavor.

These activities happened over the course of 5ish days in late April, and moderate weather helped with transportation (lots of walking!) and overall moods (let's linger outside and gaze at this view!). The activities are also geared towards the 21+ crowd, people who mostly enjoy eating, talking, people watching, and chillaxing, and the activities assume there's at least one local in the group to problem solve in the moment and provide a home-away-from-home in the city as base camp.

Day 1: Eat & Laugh & Drink
As a way to ease into Chicago sightseeing, start with a hearty meal and hearty laughs.

Good For: BBQ! And big family get-togethers.
Ambiance: busy, boisterous, organized chaos.
Notes: it's all good here.
CIC Theater/Bar
Good For: low maintenance laughter.
Ambiance: a little grungy, but a lot of fun.
Notes: visit the bar before taking your seat in the theater - Mike is great!

Day 2: Drink & Play
Check out a few Chicago favorites and entertain yourselves with campfire games.

Revolution Brewery:
Notes: Revolution was closed when we tried going, but our original plan was to take a tour, sample some beer, then head somewhere for a relaxed dinner (Kuma's Corner or Honey Butter Fried Chicken). These things are now on our "Next Time" list!

Good For: a change of plans, drinks al fresco, laughing so loud the other tables all stare.
Ambiance: open and relaxed.
Notes: there's no food service on the rooftop, so plan accordingly. (We had a few drinks, then Ubered home for an epic cheese tasting.)

Day 3: Walk & Explore & Eat
Hit up the classic spots in a daylong walking tour.

Blue Line: it doesn't matter which line you choose, but if you're traveling to Chicago, plan to take the L at some point. Travel like you live here!
Field Museum: Jesus and I make it a point to stop at this huge natural history museum whenever free days come around, and off all the museums on Museum Campus, you'll get the biggest bang for your buck here. Our motivation for going in April was to see the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit - visit before January 8 to check them out!
Giordano's: it's near the Field Museum, and a great option for Chicago deep dish. (See other pizza options here and here.)
Michigan Ave: if it's nice out, take a walk! If it's raining, stop in the many shops that line the street all the way up to Oak Street Beach.
Grant Park: there's plenty to explore within these 319 acres - Millennium Park with the Bean, the Crown Fountain, and Pritzker Pavilion, Buckingham Fountain, and Maggie Daley Park could keep you occupied for several days.

Day 4: Shop til you Drop
Spend some moola.

HIP: Harlem Irving Plaza is just one of the places to go if you have some shopping to do while in Chicago - depending on where you stay you might prefer another mall or shopping center. The HIP features ample parking, prime people watching, and slightly less sales tax than the city proper.

Day 5: Chicago Underground
Avoid the weather (and the crowds) by traveling underground.

Block 37: another shopping option, and also a convenient link from the Blue to the Red Line and/or to Macy's.
Macy's: even if you have nothing to buy, a trip to Macy's includes a view of the Walnut Room, a peek in the Narcissus Room, and unlimited escalator rides.
Chicago Pedway: continue on your underground tour by leaving Macy's through the underground tunnel just past the Starbucks. Word to the wise: parts of this aren't open on the weekends, so plan your underground tour for a weekday.
Cultural Center: bonus freebie! The Cultural Center has rotating art exhibits, so check online to see what's what.

Whew! If you survive all this, congratulations. I hope any visitors enjoy their time in Chicago - check out my other posts for information on other restaurants, museums, and activities!

Extra: Traveling to PhiladelphiaBaltimoreSan Francisco, or Denver/Boulder? I have a few more suggestions for you!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Book of Joe

The Book of JoeThe Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jonathan Tropper does what he does best: tell the story of a man, his past, and how it made him who he is today. This time it's Joe, a writer returning to the hometown he put on blast in his first novel to visit his ailing father and come to terms with why he left in the first place.

First thoughts: TBOJ reminded me some of small-town living, thought I make it back to Colby more than once every 17 years.

Favorite quote: "She was terribly concerned with the general transience of things and the imperfect random nature of memory." -p131

Recommended for: lovers of "slice of life" lit, fans of Tropper, people needing a book for a bus, train, or plane.

Final thoughts: It was okay. Not Tropper's best (it is early Tropper, so admittedly he gets better). Some parts felt contrived yet predictable. Sweet, sad, interesting characters.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Night Links 29

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! And what a week it was - CPS went from potentially ending the school year next week and back to the original plan of ending mid-June. Thanks politics!

Since I've joined a Teaching Fellowship, different sorts of websites and articles appeal to me. I've been calling this new adventure my test period for teaching, since I don't necessarily want to dive in without knowing if I a) enjoy it and/or b) want to work to be good at it. While I don't have a definitive answer to those questions yet, reading a few of these posts has helped me think about them in different ways.

What is it like working in a cash-strapped public school system? How much time do you have? (I agree with some of these things, others not as much.)

Reminder: intelligence is not fixed. Instead of telling students they are "smart," motivate them to put in the hard work.

Thoughts I've had as an introvert. Because burnout is real.

Finally: teaching middle school is the best and the worst.

Now go hug a teacher. :)