Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

In my last real blog post, I mentioned that I was going to Washington D.C. Since I wrote that, I have been there THREE times, and it was always great. It's a fantastic city for touring on a budget. Since all of the monuments and most of the museums are government owned they are free of charge. (Free until you get to the cafeteria and bookstore -- then they gouge you.)

Among all the free things I did in the nations capitol, the following are a few of the more memorable.
  • Read the Gettysburg address in the Lincoln Memorial while Maddie colored nearby.
  • Saw both the Star Spangled Banner and the Ruby Slippers in less than an hour.
  • Fed the pigeons at the base of the Washington Monument.
  • Saw the collection of books that Thomas Jefferson donated to the Library of Congress -- he was quite a reader! ;)
  • Walked past the protester who has been camped outside the White House for 29 years -- years!
  • Met Santa Clause near the National Christmas tree.
  • Saw over fifty-seven Norman Rockwell paintings and drawings -- on loan from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. How nice.
  • Got out of the way while a group of veterans had their picture taken at the WWII memorial.
  • Stood on the spot where John Quincey Adams had his desk in Statuary Hall. I've told many classes about it, and now I can say that I was there!
  • Saw an honest-to-goodness pair of NASA adult diapers at the National Air and Space Museum. (They're used during launch and space walks. Yikes!)

It really is a great city. Can't wait to go back and see the rest.

Total Cost: $20 for lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Will Do One Thing Today

Today (and tomorrow) I am finishing up grading all of my exams. Then I'll be ready for Monday with the new semester and new blog entries. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm Back

I'm back to blogging. What would you like to hear about?

Total Cost: $0 ... talk is cheap.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Contest: Name My Ride

I'm going on a road trip! I've decided to visit my sister in DC over Spring break. Since the trip is now less than a week away, I am busy making preparations. The first thing on the do-list is simple -- name the car.
Have you ever read Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck? It's a really great book about an extended tour of America that Steinbeck took with his dog Charley. The other major character in the book is the vehicle, who Steinbeck christens Rocinante (after Don Quixote's horse). Anyway, I think it would be fun to have a name for my car, but I'm not clever enough to come up with one. So, I'm asking for your help.
Please tell me what name you think I should use and why. I'll pick my favorite, and announce the winner on Wednesday morning. The winner will recieve a US Great Seal Keychain like the one shown below.

I can't wait to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Let Him Eat Cake

Last week was Eliot's first birthday and we had a huge celebration. Everything went off without a hitch, but I think the best part was watching Eliot enjoy his cake.

A chocolate eclair cake is about the best thing in the world for someone who is new to solid foods. It's made with vanilla pudding, cool whip, graham crackers and chocolate frosting. All the chocolate eclair goodness while still being easy to eat. Eliot certainly seemed to approve.

Total Cost: $10 for all the ingredients. Happy birthday Mister Mister!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Irish Beef Stew

At school, I am fortunate enough to share space with the computer people. Fortunate in many ways. First, they're funny people. Second, there is always someone to help me when I have a computer question. Third, the computer guy (Jeff) is a great cook and often shares his culinary creations. Last week, for St. Patrick's Day, Irish beef stew was on the menu.
Have you ever had something that was so delicious it made you pause? Well, that's what happened to me. I had quickly taken a plate and run back to my desk to eat it -- eager to multitask my lunch away. Then I took a bite and it was so good that I had to close my eyes, take a breath and savor the "clean toasted taste."

Later, upon reading the recipe, I found out what made it so delicious -- Guinness Draught and bittersweet CHOCOLATE! Brilliant!

Total Cost: I don't know what he spent, but it was well worth the money. Kind of like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (Recipe found here.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Price of Beauty

The other day I got a free makeover at Macy's and it cost me a fortune.

As I've mentioned earlier, I went on a field trip with the school choir last week. After the concert and a quick dinner, the students were free to go shopping for about an hour. I was hanging out with the moms and we voted to walk around in Macy's because it was too cold outside. As we sauntered past the cosmetics section, we were beset by makeup artists offering "free" make overs.

Now, I know how this works. You get a "free" make over, and possibly a "free" gift as long as you buy a certain amount of product. ... I decided to go for it. It would be worth the money to get a new foundation and give my students a good laugh. And how much could it cost? Maybe $20? No problem.

So I got powdered and puffed, shaded and glossed, bronzed and blushed and the final result was ... interesting. I chose my products and headed over to the register. The cashier made cheerful small talk while she scanned my items and wrapped them in tissue paper. Then she smiled and said, "Your total is $ &*!%#."

Total Cost: I'm too ashamed to tell you. But on the bright side, I look REALLY good.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring's Door Bell

Spring is almost here, and there are several unmistakable signs of it's impending arrival. The snow is melting and leaving hundreds of muddy lawns all around the city, I can ride with the windows slightly down and the "door-bell bird" has started singing again.

For years I wondered what kind of bird made that whistle-y call that sounded like a doorbell. Seriously. YEARS. And then last fall, I finally figured it out. I was at the Garden Room on the East side, and they had the complete line of Audubon Stuffed Birds. This is a collection of plush birds which, when you squeeze them, make their authentic sound. I tried all of them, in hopes of identifying the elusive "door-bell" bird.

Northern Cardinal? no.
Bald Eagle? no.
Swamp Sparrow? no.
Eastern Bluebird? no.
Snowy Owl? no.
Black Capped Chickadee? YES!

Finally, I had a name and a face to put with that most unique call. So, now that spring is coming and my little neighbors have returned, I feel like I know them -- and whenever I hear them whistle, I whistle back.

Total Cost: The stuffed birds cost $9 a piece, but I didn't buy one. The satisfaction of finally knowing was good enough for me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rachmaninov Plays Rachmaninov

I mentioned earlier about the field trip to the CSO. I forgot to mention what they played. It was Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto 2, and it was amazing. At the very beginning, the piano starts out with several bell like chords which break into a series of rolling notes that are finally accompanied by the violins -- I had chills. So beautiful! (Listen and watch here.)

During the tour of the stage we learned that the first person to play that piece in Symphony Hall was Rachmaninov himself. What would that have been like?! The day we were there, the pianist was Kirill Gerstein, and I'm sure he was just as good.

Total Cost: $0 for the live concert, $10 to download the entire piece from iTunes.

I Stood Where They Stood

One of the great things about being a teacher is that you occasionally get to go on a field trip -- or at least chaperon one. Last Friday I got to go with the school choir to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (at no cost to me). It was a great trip, and there were several highlights, one of which being the tour of Symphony Hall.

Shifra, our guide, showed us all the interesting nooks and crannies of the the building. We saw the room where all the pianos are kept and met a piano tuner who was too busy hammering and tightening to talk with us. We saw the dressing rooms and quiet rooms where performers can go to collect their thoughts and shake off the butterflies before a performance. We saw the back staircase that the orchestra members use to access the stage, all the railings being covered with thick padding in case someone accidentally bumps their 300-year old Stradivarius. Finally, we saw the stage.

Not only did we see the stage, but we stood on the stage and walked around a little bit. It's unbelievable the array of people that have stood right there. Some notables include Rachmaninov, Ravel, John Williams, Aaron Copland, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King jr., Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, Bertrand Russell, Orson Welles, Harry Houdini and Barack Obama. Pretty cool.

Total Cost: $0 for everybody. The tour was free.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Report: No Heat Challenge

Well, I did it ... sort of. Instead of doing the NO heat challenge, I opted for the LOW heat challenge instead. I would turn up the temperature in the early morning and right when I got home from work (just to take the edge off). Other than that, the heat stayed down, and never got above 58 degrees (which is still pretty low).

So how did I do it? How did I live in a refrigerator? How did I feel comfortable in a chilly apartment? How did I "live large" with low heat? A typical day went like this --
  • Wake up warm in my bed which was made up with a down comforter and two hot water bottles. (I was always impressed by how cold my nose was.)
  • Take a HOT shower.
  • Dress warmly and usually in layers -- long sleeve shirt, vest and scarf.
  • Turn up the heat two degrees.
  • Eat breakfast in front of the heating vent. (The heating vent is the closest thing I have to a crackling fire.)
  • Turn down the heat.
  • Leave for work.
  • Enjoy all the heated places I go to during the day.
  • Come home from work.
  • Turn up the heat two degrees.
  • Put on a sweater and a pair of fuzzy socks
  • Eat a hot dinner -- no salad.
  • Have a cup of warm herb tea.
  • Turn down the heat.
  • Put a blanket over my lap while I watch TV.
  • Boil the water for the hot water bottles and put them in the bed to warm up the sheets.
  • Put on my long-johns.
  • Read a book in bed.
  • Go to sleep.
So that's pretty much it, and it went so well the first week that I kept it up for the whole month of February. What do you think? Did I pass or fail?

Monday, March 8, 2010

I've Been Grading Papers

I know. It's been a while. I've been so busy making a living that I've hardly had time to live large, let alone write about it! But now I'm back with stories to tell and tips to dole out. Are you still with me?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Low Can You Go?

This is a picture of me (and Jay) sitting in front of the heating vent in my apartment. It's one of my very favorite spots. I can sit there for hours -- reading books, watching TV, talking on the phone or hanging with friends. But, in spite of all that, I have decided to turn off the heat for a week.

Today I read about the no heat challenge and I am inspired to try it for one week. I already keep the temperature pretty low, but this week I'll go cold turkey (literally.) Here are the conditions of this expeiment.
* The temperature must remain set at 40 degrees. (No frozen pipes.)
* All other ways of staying warm are fair game.

I know. You're all worried that I'll turn into a block of ice, but that is not the point of the challenge. The point is to stay warm and fairly comfortable without spending the money to turn up the heat.

So that's it. One week without heat, starting ... tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Eat or Not To Eat

Has this ever happened to you?

You're eating something really delicious and have only one bite left. As you raise that last delectable piece to your salivating mouth your arm suddenly spasms and you watch helplessly as that most delicious piece of food plummets to the floor. So ... do you eat it or not? In the moment that you are deciding, this flow chart might help (found here).

Total Cost: $0 ... waste not want not!

Friday, January 22, 2010

This weekend ...

... I will be snow shoeing in Madison.

Total cost: About $3 for the gas.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Preview: The Food Stamp Dinner Party

I'm on my way home to make dinner for friends -- all on my food stamp budget. Hope they like cabbage!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Preview: The Food Stamp Project

Could you eat healthy, delicious, beautiful food on a "food stamp budget"? I think it is possible. Details to come.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This year I resolved not to make any resolutions ... until I saw this inspiring list on another blog. What great ideas! -- finish books I start, eat good food, write letters, listen.
So, I amended my no-resolution resolution. I have decided that I will set goals for 2010, but I am going to break it up into manageable pieces. I will set two reasonable goals each month of the year. By the end of the year I will be amazing!!
So what should it be for January?
* Go walking every day
* Finish afghan for Janet
Total Cost: $0. I'll let you know how it goes.

I Was Too Busy Eating

No blogging last night because I was too busy eating. Beth hosted dinner and made the most amazing pork tenderloin. I would give you the recipe, but I can't ... she made it up using culinary creativity and whatever she had in her fridge. Amazing.

If you want to try something similar, click on the picture above for a Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Orange Marmalade Glaze recipe. I'm sure it's just as good.