31 May 2012


I keep a short list of items I need to get and dress shoes (both brown and black) have been on there for quite a while.  Buying dress shoes is not something I enjoy, despite my love of shoe shopping.  For dress blacks, I have a pair of Kenneth Cole shoes that I got from Goodwill when I was living in Chicago.  They've been great but are looking their age now and need to be replaced.  The situation for brown dress shoes is much more bleak.  I've gone without an actual pair of brown dress shoes for at least a year now.  I can be thankful for a job that allows me to wear all brown adidas skate shoes and all black adidas superstars as my footwear.  But when you have to actually dress up...wedding, interview, formal event, etc...that just doesn't cut it.  Neither do the brown TOMS that I wear to work when it gets hot out.  And those guys are three years old now.
So last week I bit the bullet and bought a new pair of black (slate, actually) shoes.  TOMS!  Oops...so not really dress shoes but I know I'll be wearing them lots.
If anyone has great tips on quality dress shoes at decent prices, lemme know.  I'll probably suck it up and buy a couple pairs this summer.

29 May 2012

Memorial Weekend Recap

What a completely wonderful weekend!
Any day that starts with breakfast at La Mie is a good one.  Catching up with a former student was fabulous and I picked up some almond bars to drop off at one of my favorite schools also.  (They were DELIC).  I had selected a couple of books on tape from the library earlier in the week and one of them made my drive to Lake City go very fast.   A nice reception dinner for Les & Greg's wedding, and followed up with a drink at her parents house was a great, relaxing night among friends.
Saturday I had a good bit of time to kill since the wedding wasn't until 3:30, so I headed out to Swan Lake State Park outside of Carroll and did some birding.  The location had been suggestion from someone on the Iowa Birding listserv when I had inquired about good spots in that area.  And it turned out to be a great one.  Several Baltimore Orioles, Indigo buntings, Rose-breasted grosbeaks, Great blue heron.   All very fun to watch.  And I got my first real chance to check out some shorebirds.  Spotted sandpiper, semipalmated sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and two Green herons!  Throw in a few Common Yellowthroats and I came away with six new birds on my life list.
The wedding and reception were very nice and enjoyable.  It was great to see such a wonderful person and friend so happy.  The decorations were so cool, very unique and warm; vintage wood boxes with baby's breath, mason jars with flowers, jars with candles, tree branch discs as picture holders for wedding photos of parents and grandparents, fabric scrap garland.  Definitely worthy of a wedding magazine spread. 
Sunday was a sunny, windy day spent back home.  I went over to the cemetery with homebase to put flowers on graves and walk around a bit.  stoppable and his family all came down for a great meal, ping-pong games, book chatting, magazine reading and just a great afternoon.
Monday I cleaned, did laundry, did dishes, prepped some food and then went to the beach with caboose and Nic.  Luckily we got there before it got too packed and there was a nice breeze that kept it from getting too hot.  Relaxing with a book and some sunscreen was a soothing reward after getting my chores done.  A late lunch at Chipotle, eating on the patio and lounging afterward, no one needing to rush anywhere was very nice also.  In the evening we had a little grill out, hot dogs, chicken breast, burgers with red onion and blue cheese, veggies & hummus, and a great fruit salad.  Eager to bask in as much of the great weather we ate under the pine trees at our picnic table.  Pretty ideal overall!

Euro2012: Players to watch

Just over a week until the first games begin and for those of you not sure who to root for or what jersey names/numbers to watch, Soccernet has been counting down the top 40 players that will be taking part in the fun in Poland & the Ukraine this summer.  They are down to the top 10 so check them out, pick your favorites and get ready!  My faves so far are Wesley Sneijder (NED), Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas (SPA).

23 May 2012

College Football Fan Base Map

College football!  Maps!  How great is this?!
I came across this slightly altered version of it yesterday when it was tweeted out by a guy in Notre Dame's sports information office.  Which, according to this NY Times article, is somewhat true, "Notre Dame has a highly nationalized fan base."  (if interested there are some interesting stats in that article, including "Most popular college football teams in the Omaha TV market".
Anyways, the ND map made me want to go find the original and here it is.  Blow it up and you can see all the smaller teams.  I'm sure it isn't perfect, but it is a very fun infographic.  (Sorry about your small territorial representation, Cyclones.  It is the Hawkeye State, after all.)

22 May 2012

Good Monday (addendum)

As I was laying in bed last night, doing my best Bing Crosby, "you'll fall asleep, counting your blessings" I realized just what a good day it had been.  So I had to add this on to the free chai that started it all off:
  • Ran into a former student that had just graduated from college and talked with her about jobs, moving to Chicago, etc.
  • The upstairs neighbor brought by a ziplock full of mulberries that she had picked from one of our trees in the backyard.  
  • At the YMCA, ran into another former student, one that I had had in my homeroom, who is just finishing her first year at Simpson.  Got a hug, met her bf, talked about school, studying, basketball/ACL rehab and her choice of education as a major.
  • The neighbor from the house next door flagged me down after I had parked and offered, practically begged me to take a few heirloom tomato plants off her hands.  She had ran out of room, had several extra, and had seen my tomatoes last year so was hoping I had room for a couple more.  I am very excited to see how they do.  They are from Coyote Run Farms and should be interesting!

21 May 2012

Free Sbux drink!

I was chatting up the barista this morning and she asked if I'd ever ordered my chai, "no water."  I wasn't really sure what that would be like and the uncertainty must've showed on my face because she quickly added that if I didn't like it, she would make me a regular one.  "Why not?" I decided and she then said that this one was on her.  Woo hoo!  Not a bad way to start off the week.
When the drink came, I wasn't really sure I could taste a big difference from normal, but it probably tasted a bit better since it was free. :)

18 May 2012

Subversing the Subverser

"When Graffiti Strikes Back"...a great article by the guys at Freakonomics on Marc Jacob's witty reply to the actions of a vandal/graffiti artist, Kidult.  After painting "ART" across the front of the Marc Jacobs shop in SoHo (he's also vandalized Louis Vuitton, Hermes, etc), Marc Jacobs released a $680 t shirt with a picture of it on it.  As the article points out, it is reminiscent of "Exit through the Gift Shop."
The similar stories they link to regarding Dick Gregory and the n-word as well as the pledge-a-picketter and the Westboro nutjobs are both worth reading.

Champions League Final

It is that time of the year again!  The long long road to the final has whittled it down to Bayern Munich and Chelsea.  It's on FOX this year so tune in this Saturday.  Both teams are adidas sponsored so they have been celebrating.  Here's a little briefing on the match if you want to get polished up before the weekend.  ESPN's Soccernet and NYTimes Goal blog.


"Happy 8th anniversary to the LIVESTRONG wristband. Here's to 8 years of inspiring and empowering people affected by cancer.  Nike introduced the idea of a wristband to raise money for the foundation during Lance’s attempt at an unprecedented sixth Tour de France win. Using LIVESTRONG as the theme and yellow to honor the winner’s jersey, Nike produced 5 million wristbands and pledges $6 million. Thanks to our partners at Nike who have helped us distribute more than 80 million worldwide to date."
[sidenote: while looking for an image to go with this post, I came across this smart alternate use for these rubber bracelets.  I will use this idea this summer!]

17 May 2012

Starbucks Nutrition

I like Starbucks.  I am not afraid to say that.  I am not a coffee drinker, in fact I have never had a cup of it in my life, so maybe that why I don't get caught up in the "you have to support your local coffee shop" argument.  I've probably tried three or four sips at different times when people urge me "just try it," thinking that the way they make it will make the light bulb go off for me and I'll instantly say "Oh, Wow!  THAT'S what I've been missing!"  It hasn't happened yet.  I don't like it, I don't like the coffee flavored-anything, I don't like the smell of it. 
What I do like is chai.  I think the first time I had it was in Iowa City at the Java House when I tried my aunt's and, that time, I did instantly know that I had a new favorite hot drink.  There is good chai (Java House, Starbucks, Mars Cafe, Ritual Cafe) but there is also bad chai (Grounds for Celebration, Smokey Row).  And there is chai from home, organic 500 Mile chai from Gong Fu, which I've written about before
I'm definitely not a daily Starbucks person, but I probably end up the once or twice a week in the morning to do some work before heading to my schools.  Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts (no sugar) and a grande chai is my standard order.  I switched to non-fat a couple weeks ago, thinking it might be an easy way to trim some calories. I thought it would be much thinner but I haven't even noticed.  Curious about the fat/calorie info, I went to their website this morning and compared a grande chai made with 2% (240 cal, 4.5g fat) and one made with no-fat (210 cal, 0g fat). And the oatmeal comes in at 140 cal, 2.5 g fat, the nuts are 100 cal, 9g fat and the fruit is 100 cal, 0g fat.  Yikes, those nuts are fatty!  Hopefully those are "healthy" fats.

Teacher Appreciation

It was Teacher Appreciation Week last week and, when I was in the classroom, it was one of my favorite things to have students fill out teacher appreciation cards for a teacher.  (And also getting a few of those myself.)  Teaching is an incredibly intense job and also very solitary.  You are pretty much on your own with kids all day.  There's very little overseeing, reviewing, mentoring or coaching that happens.  And, as a result, there's also very little recognition that happens.
I was helping an elementary teacher today and she showed me what their principal had put in each teacher's mailbox...a stress ball, and a "tackle" box to tackle any problem, stocked with 2 TUMS, w Lifesavers, 4 Advil, some chocolate and exact change to buy a pop.  Pretty thoughtful in my book.  Tip of the hat to that administrator.  So, even though it was last week, if you encounter any teachers, don't be afraid to show them a bit of gratitude!

10 May 2012

Captial Pub & Hot Dog Co.

It's been a long hiatus since my last south side restaurant review.  But I had was over by McKinley Elementary last week and it was getting late (which means past noon) and it popped into my head to check out Capital Pub & Hot Dog Co.  I've driven by it dozens of times and I'd read SH's review of it back in November. 
I had the Chicago dog.  In retrospect, that might not be the best way to judge a hot dog place.  I obviously ate my share of them while living there so I have some high standards.  But, I will point out that SH also said that it failed to compare to something you'd get in the Loop.  There was only 1 pepper on my guy (but I see that SH's photo shows THREE!).  At $5, the Chicago was one of the lower to mid-priced dogs and I added on waffle fries for another $2.  Not a bad price, although once to tack on tax & tip, it probably isn't going to make its way into my usual lunch rotation.  It's a nice option to change things up if you are on the SE side of downtown, riding/running the MLK trail, taking a tour of the Capital or getting ready for an I-Cubs game. 

09 May 2012

Irish Squad Analysis

The Boys in Green lead the way, being the first team to announce their 23-man roster for the Euro2012 tournament that starts in less than a month. (Stay tuned for the fantasy bracket challenge!)  Soccernet has a nice breakdown of the players included and omitted as well as how the players will fit into Trapattoni's scheme.  Ireland was drawn into Pool C, with Spain, Italy and Croatia, a quality group of teams for sure.  But, as Trap says in the article, "I think my colleagues respect us. In Italy and also Croatia the managers there say Ireland is a strong team with a strong mentality. I don’t think any of my colleagues would be arrogant enough to think they are superior.”  There were a few interesting omissions, but I am exciting to see what Aiden McGeady can do and Robbie Keane is always a relentless worker and goal poacher.

Keepers: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall)
Defenders: John O'Shea (Sunderland), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Stephen Ward (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Sean St Ledger (Leicester), Darren O'Dea (Leeds), Kevin Foley (Wolves)
Midfielders: Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Keith Andrews (West Brom), Keith Fahey (Birmingham), Darron Gibson (Everton), Damien Duff (Fulham), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Stephen Hunt (Wolves), James McClean (Sunderland)
Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Shane Long, Simon Cox (both West Brom), Jon Walters (Stoke).
Stand-by: Darren Randolph (Motherwell), Paul McShane (Crystal Palace), Paul Green (Unattached), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Andy Keogh (Millwall).

08 May 2012

Mincer's Strawberry Patch

Berry on the Stem (#0249)Patch is Muddy Today (#0260)Strawberries (#0251)Strawberries (#0253)Quality Assurance (#0255)At Work in the Fields (#0257)
Fruits of Labor (#0258)Strawberry Jam (#0262)

Mincer's Strawberry Patch, a set on Flickr.
homebase and I took a break from an incredible morning of birdwatching (more to come on that) to pick strawberries at Mincer's Orchard. The day couldn't have been nicer. Incredibly sunny, warm but not hot and a nice breeze. Although the sign warned of muddy conditions, there were none to worry about. You can sample as many as you like while picking and I think we both maximized that offer. These berries were SO good. So much softer than supermarket berries. Warm, ripe, fully red, no tough green ends. And to top it off, homebase whipped up a batch of strawberry jam before I left to drive back to DSM so I can't wait to put a little (or a lot) of that on toast this week. A great and memorable experience. Thanks Madre!

Maurice Sendak

Author of 'Where the Wild Things Are' and 'Chicken Soup with Rice', died at age 83.  NY Times article and his interview with Stephen Colbert, pretty great stuff.

Charlie Trotter's to Close

I heard a short interview with Charlie Trotter this morning on NPR and, despite the interviewers intent to focus on "the end of the road" and "throwing in the towel" as he is closing his eponymous Chicago landmark restaurant in August, but Mr. Trotter spoke about how there were other things he was interested in and that, after 25 years, he wanted to pursue them.  He is going back to school (despite suffering from dyslexia) to get his Masters in philosophy.  Good for him for not being deterred from chasing another of his dreams.  His restaurant has at times been voted the best in the country.
Last night at the James Beard awards, he was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work making culinary school possible for urban kids in need.  This great article gives a little insight to the man, the restaurant experience and the future. I love the bit about the wine cellars. 
Obviously I never ate there during my Chicago stint, but I did bike by its distinguished facade regularly as I made my way down Armitage to referee sand volleyball on North Ave beach.
"All of us in this room that are interested in hospitality and gastronomy and service and cuisine, but what's the point if you're not going to give something away? You can make a difference. That's the fun part."

07 May 2012

Garden Work

Friday afternoon, I was off a little early since I'd worked late the night before and I used that extra time well.  Roosevelt Barbershop got me cleaned up for the weekend, then I swung by Miller Hardware on Carpenter & MLK.  As I was sitting getting my hair cut, I was just thinking, there's no reason to go all the way out to Menard's or Home Depot if I don't need to.  I drive by Miller pretty much everyday and I've never been in.  That is unfortunate.  The guy who helped me out was probably in his 60's or 70's, and he led around the store, weaving in and out of its maze of aisles.  They know how to maximize their floorspace in there!  Checking one area, not happy with the results, leading me into the back area, finding exactly what I needed (a roll of chicken wire) and actually saving me some money since he assured me that the rabbits can't jump very high so I only needed a 1 foot fence.  Some fastener steeples and a $10 bill and I was out of there and spent the next hour or so putting the thing up.
The finished product didn't look half bad, especially considering the beds run slightly downhill. 
On Saturday afternoon, I headed out to Piney Ridge and made my selections for this year's garden.  Three different tomato plants (a Roma, a container cherry (Lizzano) and another cherry (Sweet Baby Girl), a pepper plant (Sweet Heat), Genovese Basil plants, spinach, Spanish yellow onions, some marigolds and a container cucumber plant.  I added some jalapenos and cilantro that I've sprouted from seed.  So in the diagram, don't fret over the 11 jalapeno plants that are shown.  I plan on thinning them out, I just wasn't sure how they would transplant and wanted to hedge my bets a little.  If anyone would like a potted basil plant, let me know!

04 May 2012

Lunch Birding

I've been trying to get to Gray's Lake on a Wednesday lunch for several weeks now to check out their 'Birding Basics' group.  This week I finally was able to squeeze it in.  And it was so nice to be able to leave work behind, grab my binocs and enjoy the fresh air for 40 minutes.  The guy leading it, John Bissell, is super knowledgeable and even though we hardly covered any ground at all, we saw lots of fun things.  Of particular note, to me, were the following since I had not crossed them off my life list yet.  (clockwise from top left) Warbling Vireo, Tree Swallow, Grey Catbird, Baltimore Oriole.  I hope to make it again before it ends at the end of the month!

01 May 2012

Easy livin'...

Such a good day!
3rd annual STARS event at Hoover, so I took a group of kids to the DMARC Food Pantry for an afternoon of service work.  Then home for a 5 mile run...and it was HOT!  Showered up and took to the hammock to cool off and relax with a book.  Read outside for an hour, listening to the birds, smelling the fresh cut grass as the neighbors on both sides were mowing their lawns, and pretty much just gave a little thanks for all my blessings.