February 28, 2011

Bikram Zumba

Bikram Zumba - (noun) a cross between Bikram Yoga and Zumba Fitness.  Latin-based aerobics in a room of sweltering temperature. 

Sounds dangerous, yes?  Maybe that's why it's not an actual fitness class.  But I'm still saying we did it after yesterday's Pre-Oscar Black-Light Zumba Class.

I have to admit that I wasn't feeling the best as we headed to this event - blame it on a successful game night on Saturday that kept me up far past my normal bedtime and may have included a tad more adult beverage consumption than normal!  (Which led to another impromptu dance party and sing-along in Jessica's living room... I love my friends!)

By the third song, the mirrors on the walls were starting to fog.  This is a good thing for my brain because I can't stand watching myself workout.  In fact, I wish to take this opportunity to apologize to all my Zumba friends who are subjected to that sight time after time (and love me anyway, God bless them!). 

So, the sauna-like room was a great remedy for my self-consciousness but made my cardio workout quite challenging.  When one takes a Bikram Yoga class, the first thing they tell you is that you might feel dizzy due to the heat.  Such a warning does not come with a typical Zumba class.  But it definitely should have yesterday!

To say we were sweaty would be the biggest understatement of the year!  I mean, I'm normally a sweaty beast when I workout, but this took it to a whole new level.  I felt like I took a shower with my clothes on.  I swear, even my ankles were sweating, and I didn't know that was possible!

I will say, though, that all that sweating really must have rid my body of all those toxins because I felt immensely better after 90 minutes of pouring sweat from every orifice in my body.  And I would totally do it again! (Especially if we can go out for Mexican after... mmmmm guacamole!)   

February 24, 2011

I Found This While Reading Magazines at Work Today

This morning, my seventh graders were creating "Tuff Collages," a project we do each year while reading The Outsiders.  Any of my students can tell you that despite sounding the same, tuff has a very different meaning than tough.  Tuff means cool or impressive, and my students have a great time scouring magazines for the perfect images that represent this new vocabulary word. 

Not my collage... just one I found on the internet.
Because I was raised by a mother who taught me to never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn't do yourself, I am creating my own tuff collage with my students.  One of the things I really like about participating in this activity with my students is that I really get to see how well they know me.  Several times each period, students have torn out pictures and enthusiastically handed them to me saying, "Here, Miss (This is what they call me.), I know how much you love _______!"  And the best part is that they are usually right!  My current collection of photos from students includes fancy cupcakes, high heels, adorable animals, and some of my favorite celebrities.  (I only wish they paid so much attention to our grammar lessons!)

As I flipped through several magazines myself, I came across a quick blurb in a Working Mother magazine from August/September 2010 and thought it was hilarious... and so true! In my opinion, David Letterman's Daily Top 10 has nothing on this list!

Top 10 Things Only Women Understand
  1. Why it's necessary to have five pairs of black shoes.
  2. The difference between cream, ivory and off-white.
  3. A salad, a Diet Coke and a hot fudge sundae make a balanced lunch.
  4. Finding a designer dress on sale is a peak life experience.
  5. The inaccuracy of every bathroom scale ever made.
  6. A good man is hard to find; a good hairdresser is next to impossible.
  7. Why a phone call between two women never lasts under ten minutes.
  8. Crying can be fun.
  9. Fat clothes.
  10. Other women! 

February 23, 2011

Hilarity with Tom

So, after Zumba tonight, a few of us decided to dine at my favorite establishment: Chipotle (don't judge!).  Yes, I realize this was probably not the best option after an hour of working out, but I always get extra lettuce on my burrito bowl, so it's essentially a salad... right?

Anyway, on the way back to the park district to drop off Tom at his car, we started talking about the best excuses to get out of speeding tickets. 

"I'll just pretend I'm in labor," Tom said.

"Yeah!" I exclaimed, "Because surely every officer saw that one pregnant guy on Oprah.  It's totally possible now, you know!"

"Yeah, I saw that!  But wasn't he a woman first?" Tom asked with complete sincerity.

Commence laughter... nearly to the point of tears. 

Have I mentioned how much I love my Zumba friends?! 

February 21, 2011

I Want a Cupcake!!!

Hello.  My name is Erin, and I am a cupcake addict. 

This probably isn't news to anyone who knows me or has read my blog in the past.  I've been known to publicly declare my love for all things cupcake, especially my favorite one that come from Sweet Mandy B's scrumdiddlyumptious (Thank you Roald Dahl and The Big Friendly Giant for introducing us to the only word that could possibly describe this deliciousness) bakery. 

Being the cupcake connoisseur that I am, people often think of me when they come across these marvelous little treats. 

"Hey, Erin, did you know there's a new show coming out called Cupcake Wars on the Food Network?" a good-hearted friend once asked.  Of course, it was already set to record on my DVR.  BTW, I should totally be a guest judge on this show.  I know a good cupcake when I taste one!  People could trust my opinions.   

Within the last hour, my loving sister sent me a cupcake link, and now I can't stop thinking about them!  This is why advertising works, people.  It is the power of suggestion.  And the force is strong with this one! 

Why, oh, why can't sugar be a necessary nutritional component in one's diet?!?!  If God wanted me to eat vegetables, He should have made them taste like cupcakes!!

Luckily for my waistline, I am far too lazy smart to drive all the way downtown just for a cupcake.  And there's a nearly-entire healthy cake upstairs waiting to be eaten.

What's that you say?  You've never heard of a healthy (cup)cake?

Well, friends, just stick with me and I will share a secret that will change your life: add one can of diet pop (yes, I said pop.  I'm from Chicago... this is what we say.) to any boxed cake mix in place of oil and eggs, and it turns out just as yummy (if not better).  It's true!  Don't believe me?  Try it for yourself! 

Making a white or yellow cake?  Mix it with Diet Sprite or Diet 7-Up.  Prefer a spice cake?  Use a can of Diet Dr. Pepper.  Got a craving for a chocolate cake?  Add some Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi.  Or, maybe you want to get fancy and use a flavored pop instead.  People will be impressed.

And the best part: no one will know it's "healthy" but you.  It tastes the same!  And you can top it off with a sugar free frosting or even Cool Whip. 

It's really that easy, folks.  This is the kind of baking that even frat boys can do.  Give it a try!  You know you want a cupcake now!

February 20, 2011

What Teachers Are Really Worth

With everything that's happening in Wisconsin right now with education reform, Illinios (and the rest of the country) remains on close watch.  I was just sent this from a friend on facebook and thought it was too good not to share:

Are you sick of high paid teachers? Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - baby sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan — that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children.

Now how many do they teach in day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.
LET’S SEE…. That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 peryear. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6.5 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)

February 18, 2011

My Heart is Full

During my first set of parent conferences back in November, I mentioned my heartbreak at watching these parents break down in tears as they came to terms with the fact that their son needed a dramatic intervention.  Not only was his behavior a concern, but he was failing all of his classes due to his inability to focus and follow directions.

Last night was our spring conference night, and we met with this family once again.  This time, however, the news was much different.  After our last meeting, the parents took their son to be evaluated by a medical professional who agreed that he needed to begin medications for ADHD.  They started him on his new regimen just before winter break, and we were all anxious to see if there would be any progress.

When we returned to school in January, ladies and gentlemen, we had a new child on our hands.  One that was capable of staying in his seat to listen to verbal directions, read independently without fidgeting or complaining, write a journal (or essay) without finding every excuse in the book to get out of his seat or talking to a neighbor, and incredibly, one that no longer stutters (something for which he has been in speech therapy for years). 

This boy is not simply meeting our expectations of a typical sixth grader, he has become a positive role model in the classroom, often speaking up to get his peers back on task or re-routing a conversation that has gone off on a tangent.  Oh... and he has all A's and one B right now.  I'm telling you, I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes. 

My heart was bursting with excitement to share this news with his parents last night, and the look of relief and gratitude on their faces was priceless.  I am so excited that this is a new beginning for this little guy, and that he is going to amaze everyone as he continues to surpass their expectations and reach his potential.  It's only going to get better from here!

These are the moments that make it all worth it!  All of the frustration we felt in the fall was totally worth it because it led us to where we are now. 

I couldn't have asked for a better meeting!

(Let me be clear that I am not endorsing ADHD medications for every student with a little extra energy.  But clearly, this is an example of a one who needed this intervention.  Students like this are the reason these meds exist, and I am so thankful they do!)

Sexualization of Young Girls

I came across an article from Redbook titled, "Little Girls Gone Wild: Why Daughters Are Acting Too Sexy Too Soon" and knew I had to read it.  It's a lengthy article, but one I found super interesting.  I highly recommend you check it out for yourself, especially if you have young girls in your home.

The article actually inspired me to have a conversation with some of my students this week during resource about this topic.  I was interested to hear their opinions about sex and role models in today's media as well as their suggestions for parents.

We talked about Disney movies and the messages they send, but none of my students seemed to pick up on the messages mentioned in the article.  They seemed pretty immune to any message that women, per Ariel in The Little Mermaid, have to give up their greatest "gifts" to gain a man.  And as someone who grew up on Disney, I have to say that I was far less sexual than today's youth.  I see this first-hand every day when my 11-13 year-old students are caked in makeup, exposing the (sometimes non-existent) cleavage, and doing everything in their power to gain the attention of their male peers.  I have a hard time swallowing the notion that Pocahontas or Snow White might have anything to do with the "downfall" of our young girls today.   

My students did have a lot to say about today's celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato (they are too young to know about the great rise and fall (and comeback) of Britney Spears) who are all over the media today.  They expressed a lot of concern for the fact that little girls look up to these people because they play characters on children's shows, and they want to be just like them.

"And then they do stupid stuff like make movies of them doing drugs and go to rehab, and that's bad because the little girls want to do it too," one of my students lamented.

As we talked about little girls trying to act like older, negative role models, I couldn't help but think of that scene from Mean Girls when Regina's little sister is gyrating to the song "Milkshake" just like she sees in the music video.  Obviously, the screen writers were poking fun at this notion of little girls acting too adult, but the sad truth is that this isn't too far off from reality.  Anyone who's witnessed a junior high dance can tell you that students are performing moves today that certainly weren't around when we were that age!

So, the question is: What can we do about it?  How do we help our little girls hold on to their innocence? 

My students talked a lot about parents who won't allow their children to watch certain TV shows (Jersey Shore was the most common example) or listen to certain music for fear of negative influence.

"But they're just stupid to do that," laughed one of my students, "because you can't hide it from them forever."

"Exactly," agreed another, "Even if you don't let your kid watch Jersey Shore, they still will know what happens because everyone talks about it on the bus or in lunch."

"Or they just watch it at a friend's house!" added a third student.  (Not that any of my students would ever disobey their parents... they are perfect angels!)

"So, what do you suggest?" I prodded, "What should parents do?"

"Maybe watch the shows with them so you know what's happening too," suggested the first student, "That way, you can talk to them about it if it's bad."

I think my students may be on to something here.  Rather than censoring our children from things that are so pervasive in our culture (obviously, there need to be some limitations, but you get my point), maybe it's best that we allow them to experience these things with our guidance.  What I particularly like about this idea is that it gives us opportunity to talk about issues that are too often ignored or swept under the rug.  It's family bonding time... with a purpose! 

I thought about the novels we read in my classes, which touch on a lot of "adult" subjects: alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking, eating disorders, bullying, gangs, mental illness, child abuse.  Parents (and administrators) approve these texts because students read them with my guidance.  I, for one, find it far more preferable that my students be exposed to these topics with the direction from a positive adult role model than on their own.  If they can read about these things in school with proper guidance, isn't it possible to extend that same discernment to television and music?

I'm interested to know your thoughts on this?  Are our girls growing up too quickly?  What's to blame?  How do we stop this insanity??

February 15, 2011

Easy as Pie

If you're anything like me, you will appreciate the need for a little sweet indulgence now and again.  

My sweet tooth beckons more than I'd like to admit, and I try... oh, how I try... to curb those cravings with healthier options.  I really do.  Sometimes, though, yogurt and fruit just don't do the trick.  Sometimes, I need to have a real dessert.

You understand, right?
Of course, now that I'm on this healthy eating plan, I simply cannot justify many of the things I really want.  I mean, I'm not doing all this shaking and sweating for nothing.  I needed to find something to satisfy my sweet tooth and still not completely throw my healthy eating plan off track.

Enter: Frozen Butterfinger Pie.

This, my friends, is the world's easiest pie and a certain crowd pleaser.  Bonus?  It's only 3 Weight Watcher points, but tastes much more sinful.  Pretty much anything with chocolate and peanut butter is good in my book, so this is my new go-to dessert.

Frozen Butterfinger Pie
  • 1 large container of non-fat Cool Whip
  • 1 Butterfinger bar, crushed
  • 1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust
  • 1/4 cup light chocolate syrup
  • 1/4 cup of sugar-free caramel topping
Fold crushed Butterfinger into Cool Whip and pour contents into pie crust.
Drizzle with chocolate and/or caramel sauce as desired.
Freeze pie for at least 3 hours.
Slice and serve immediately!

February 14, 2011

Love in Unexpected Places

I spent all weekend reading facebook and blog updates about how all my friends were celebrating Valentine's Day with their significant others. I will not lie; I am jealous. It's hard to be separated from the one you love on a day like this. Like... even harder than being single.

Still, I didn't want to be a Debbie Downer today. I picked out my cutest pink top and put together a work-appropriate Valentine's ensemble. Fake it till you make it, right?

Soon after walking into my classroom, two student council students arrived with a bouquet of carnations for me to pass out to my first period students. As I opened the envelope containing the accompanying cards, I was pleasantly surprised to see one for me, from one of my newcomer students.

The message was simple and heartfelt. "You are the best teacher I ever had. I love you."

I almost cried right on the spot. Thank you, dear student, for reminding me that I am surrounded by love every day.

At her insistence, I currently have a delicate, peach-colored carnation tucked behind my ear. A constant reminder that what I do here matters. Possibly more than I will ever know.

February 11, 2011

How to Enjoy Your Veggies

I really like a good salad... as long as I make it myself.  It's next to impossible for me to find a suitable salad at any restaurant because I have to ask for so many modifications (have I mentioned I'm a picky eater?)- or basically eat lettuce with ranch dressing.  And that's not exactly healthy. 

The problem with making a salad is that it's just much more work than I'm usually willing to do to just eat some vegetables.  I won't lie.  Convenience is a huge factor for me when it comes to eating.  I fully admit that I am much more willing to eat my fruits and veggies if I buy them pre-cut so they're ready to grab when hunger strikes.  Yes, it costs more, but it's better than grabbing a number of other convenience foods (chips, cookies, granola bars... all the good stuff I'm trying not to eat).

In an effort to eat more vegetables, I decided to try making my very own tzatziki sauce.  You know, that creamy, cucumber sauce that comes on a gyro.  For some reason (okay... I'm not dumb, I know the reason is financial), restaurants in the U.S. always seem to make it with a sour cream base, but I know that the traditional recipes call for greek yogurt (yay for another use for my beloved Chobani), so I gave it a whirl.     

I didn't really follow a recipe, but I and an idea of what to do because I've looked it up in the past.  My measurements aren't exact, as this sauce is really about preference, but mine turned out really yummy.  It's really yummy as a veggie dip or with pita chips, and I would even recommend a scoop on top of some grilled chicken.  Yum! 

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1 large cucumber
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of dill
1 splash of lemon juice (Isn't that technical?)

Drain extra liquid from your yogurt. (Does anyone know why this always happens? It really bothers me!)
Peel your cucumber and take out the seeds.  (Don't ask me the real way to do this, I just cut it into quarters and sliced out the middle part.) 

Mince your cucumber into a small bowl.  I think this is the right word.  If you want to be technical, I grated it with a cheese grater because I am no good with a kitchen knife.  It worked.

Strain your cucumber to remove extra liquid.  I think I read once online that you can use salt to draw out extra liquid, but I didn't do that because I'm lazy, and I was in a hurry. Make sure you push the cucumber down into the strainer like you're getting the water out of a can of tuna.  Then, you can dumb your cucumber into your yogurt. 

Mince your garlic and add to your yogurt and garlic and combine.

Add salt, pepper, and dill to taste.


February 10, 2011

Me? I'm Just a Teacher

Someone in my building cut this article out of the Chicago Tribune and posted it in our copy room, where I read it today while waiting in line to scan some documents.  Even though I've only been teaching a short time, I completely agree with the sentiments expressed here (my favorite points are highlighted for those that prefer the Cliff's Notes version).  I encourage you to take a moment to read the words of Victoria Robinson and maybe let it be a reminder of the positive things educators do as well!

Me? I'm Just a Teacher

During my 20 years as a high school social studies teacher, society conveyed countless messages to remind me that I was just a teacher.As an undergraduate, many of my non-teaching peers devalued my decision to pursue a teaching degree. Their favorite one-liner was “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I understood their message — I am just a teacher.

Adults were a little more subtle and respectful in their approach to my career plans. “Vickie, what is your major?” “I plan to teach social studies.” “Oh.” Then there would be a scratch of the head or a rub on the chin and the person would say, “I just imagined with your many talents and scholarship ability you would set higher goals.”

I understood the message: I was wasting my time and talents on kids. I am just a teacher.

The public also sent strong messages about my value as a teacher. Along with signing my first contract, I took a vow of poverty.

Five years into my career, I sat next to a John Deere personnel director at a job fair where we were both recruiting. We discussed employment opportunities at John Deere. That day, I could have been hired for a position at John Deere for three times my teaching salary. I wouldn’t have to work weekends manning the ticket booth at football games, supervise the lunch room and break up food fights, or grade papers until midnight. But I loved teaching and I didn’t take it.

The most hurtful public message was that I was to blame for just about every academic, social, economic and political problem in America. American students’ test scores are inferior to students in other countries — blame the teachers. American kids are disrespectful — blame the teachers. The American work ethic is slacking — blame the teachers. And if my student doesn’t earn all A’s, it must be the teacher’s fault. I am just a teacher.

I am just a teacher in a society where nearly 30 percent of the children eat their only hot meal of the day at school. I am just a teacher in a country where out of more than 49 million public school students, 4.5 million have special needs; more than 1 million are abused, of which half are victims of neglect; and tens of thousands of families experience homelessness each night.

Teachers think their subject is the most important in a room where each child thinks he or she is the most important, and somehow teachers make these two perspectives compatible. Teachers help students do more than answer questions — they encourage them to question the answers. Teachers create a climate where time is precious, content is challenging, the tone is serious and the lesson is inspiring.

I wondered how many lives I touched in some way during my 20 years as a high school teacher. Using my best math skills and a calculator, I taught 4,050 students — what a responsibility and privilege to be part of the growing and learning experience for these students!

I now have the responsibility for preparing current teachers who aspire to become principals. I share my passion and wisdom with them and hope they will proudly say, as I do, I am still a teacher!
Future teachers are going into a profession where they can make or break another human’s spirit. They must know this is a heavy role but also one so noble, so full of rewards, that no matter how many voices say “Just a teacher,” they will smile inwardly and think, “Those who can teach those who can’t.” I am a teacher!

February 7, 2011

Help Me Help You!

I have a student in my resource class that simply baffles me.  Despite being quite bright, he doesn't do any of his work - ever! 

Each day, at the beginning of our class, he has to report to the counselor's office where they review his assignments, and he is sent back to class with a list of things to work on. 

He never brings his homework home.  His brilliant excuse day after day?  He "forgot it" in his locker.  It is impossible for him to finish even one assignment in the 42 minutes I have him in my room.  Because unless I am sitting with him, watching his every movement, he is staring off into space or trying to sleep because he stays up all hours of the night doing who knows what.

He has no motivation to succeed academically.  None.  And nothing any of his teachers or his counselor try has worked.  I've tried being the good cop; I've tried being the bad cop.   

He's failing every single class.  Like with 30%... and does. not. care.  Just ask him! (but good luck getting him to talk to you.  He's also selectively mute.  Not clinically... just an observation. 

He is the fifth of six children, each a year apart.  I also have his younger brother in the same class.  They are complete opposites.  His brother always has his homework finished and doesn't hesitate to spend an entire day studying for his geography test that's a week away.  I know it's not fair of me to expect them to be the same... but I am amazed to think these two kids even come from the same family!

We even scheduled a conference with dad to discuss our concerns and come up with a plan to help him both at school and home but he never showed.  UGH!

How, oh how, do you help a student find the intrinsic motivation to work to his or her potential?

I'm currently accepting any and all suggestions!

February 6, 2011

Zumba Party in WI!

On Friday evening, I took a little road trip to Racine with my friend Jessica and our fabulous Zumba instructor, Tom, for the Third Annual Razor Sharp Zumba Fitness Event.  It was an amazing evening of laughter and dance with a super fun group of people!

This was like a master class on steroids!  We were so lucky to have two Zumba Educational Specialists (the people that train the instructors), Kelly Bullard and Barb Klontz, seven (?) Jammers (the people who teach coreoghraphy to the instructors), and more than 40 instructors at this event.  In fact, because so many instructors were attending, they formed crews and led their dances together.  It was like a mini Zumba convention in Wisconsin, and I (along with 200 participants) got to be a part of it!

Just take a look below at some of the pictures I stole from Facebook (courtesy of Mike Sharafinski).  Doesn't everyone look like they're having a blast?!  This is why they tell you to, "Ditch the workout, Join the Party!"   

Beatriz & Norma, the organizers of the event

ZESes in the House!

The Blue Crew led by Tom (AKA Shakey)

Look at all those dancers!

Jump! Jump!

The 40 & Fabulous Crew brought their flair!

Shake it!

We even had a little strip dance from the Men's Crew!

The Yellow Crew was my favorite!

Kelly Bullard - I want to look like her!

Feel the Music, Barb!

February 5, 2011

Cilantro Chicken Salad Recipe

I used to hate cilantro, but I must've aquired a taste for it recently because I've been loving everything it's in (especially Chipotle... oh, how I love thee).  I was able to taste this recipe when Beth brought it to the potluck and it was D-licious!  I even brought home some leftovers, which my parents happily gobbled up the moment I walked through the door.

One of the things I love most about this recipe is that it gives me a great way to use leftover chicken (or turkey).  I'm all for anything that makes my life easier in the kitchen!  My dad loves to buy those pre-cooked, whole chickens from the grocery store, and it would be a cinch to turn that into this delicious salad.

This recipe also happens to come from http://www.skinnytaste.com/, though I promise all the recipes I plan to share do not!!  I have to admit that I didn't use the photo from that site because she shows the chicken salad being served in a tomato.  While that's a great low-carb option, I simply cannot endorse it because I despise tomatoes (I don't even like catsup).  Yuck!  Beth served it on rye Wasa crackers, which I loved, but you could also wrap it in a wheat tortilla or even lettuce wraps (maybe with some avacodo.... yum!). 

Not only is this a great meal idea, but it would work really well as a healthy appetizer.  Perhaps for tomorrow's super bowl parties?  Not for me, though... I'm boycotting this year.  As a loyal Bears fan, I simply cannot subject myself to that kind of torture (Go Steelers!).

Cilantro Chicken Salad
  • 7 oz cooked chicken breast, shredded or diced
  • 2 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 1 small scallion, chopped
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch garlic powder
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of chile powder
  • fat free chicken broth
Combine chicken, mayonnaise, scallions, lime juice, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and chile powder. Add a little chicken broth if chicken seams too dry, 1 tbsp at a time.

February 3, 2011

Making Wishes Come True

When I was a little girl, Dad always kept the wishbone from our Thanksgiving turkey.  He'd set it on the window sill until it was completely dry, and then challenge us to the traditional wishing duel (where, of course, he would always be sure to give us the side that was sure to win).  I still remember the thrill of getting the bigger piece and knowing my wish would be granted.

Not long ago, my parents bought and cooked a turkey.  And even though all of us kids are grown (not to be mistaken with old, mind you) and haven't played the wishbone game in ages, guess what I found sitting on the window sill!

How cute is my dad?!  Gosh, I love that man!

These are the little things that make him so special.  Of course he always did the big things, but it's the sweet, little moments like this that I really appreciate about my childhood with my daddy.  He always did little things to show us we were special to him; we always knew were loved!

I look forward to the day when I have my own children so I can watch him carry on these traditions with them.  He's going to be a great grandpa (just not any time soon). Haha!

Fumes Over Smokers' Rights

Today during Hot Topics, Whoopi Goldberg was outraged at the New York City Council for passing a new ordinance, beginning in 90 days, against smoking in many public, outdoor locations. 

The new ban, which passed with a vote of 36-12 will prohibit cigar, cigarette and pipe smoking in 1,700 city parks and 14 miles of public beaches. It also includes any boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas such as Times Square and Central Park, and violators will face fines up to $100.

Whoopi did not hold back in expressing her frustration with "being treated like some sort of damn criminal."  She is tired of smokers being disrespected and feels they should be given designated smoking areas to accommodate their nicotine fixes.

I personally can't stand the smell of cigarettes.  When Illinois enacted the smoking ban in all public buildings, I was super excited.  It's so nice not to go to a restaurant and have to worry about sitting too close to the smoking section, and I love being able to hang out with my friends at a bar without having to worry about my hair and clothes reeking of that awful stench. 

The only apartment I've ever lived in was in college, on a smoke-free campus.  However, I would be furious if I moved into an apartment where my neighbors were puffing away and it was seeping into my home.  Why should I have to live that way?

In my opinion, before these bans, us non-smokers were disrespected time and time again when people would choose to light up in front of us, forcing us to breathe in their toxins.  If you want to harm your body, go ahead, but you shouldn't have the right to harm mine.

If you want my whole opinion, I think cigarettes should be illegal.  Even in moderation, they are dangerous (unlike alcohol), and the only reason they are legal is because there are a bunch of wealthy white men getting even richer off them (and they bring in a lot of tax revenue).

I'm sorry Whoopi, but I say Kuddos to you, New York City Council!  I hope many other cities follow your lead.

February 2, 2011

Snow Days Past and Present

I remember having snow days as a kid.  My sister and I would bundle up in multiple layers until we were sure to still sweat in the cold.  Then, we'd sled in our backyard with all the neighborhood kids (we had the best sledding hill in the neighborhood) or build tunnels and forts out front.

I never really gave much thought to how much work it was for my dad to shovel all that snow.  I also never considered how annoying it was when the plow truck would come around, pushing the snow right back on to our freshly cleared driveway.

On my two hour commute home from work yesterday (which would've easily been 3 had I not been smart enough to take back roads after 45 minutes of near stand-still on one main street), I decided I would help my dad and brother with any shoveling.  I knew there would be enough work because Snowmageddon 2011 was in full effect, and I thought it would be the perfect replacement for Zumba since the gym was closed.

I told myself it would be fun... and a great workout.  Well, I was half right.

A photo this morning of Lake Shore Drive.  Crazy!

Fast forward to this morning when I woke up to snow drifts as high as my shoulders in some places.  After two hours of shovels with three people and a snow blower, mind you), I can say that I truly appreciate how much work it is to shovel a driveway (and sidewalks and street in front of our house so the plow truck can't push it all back).

Great workout?  Yes. 

Fun?  Not so much.  In fact, not at all.

In my house hunting, I've had a hard time justifying HOA fees on top of my would-be mortgage.  All that money just so someone can shovel my driveway and cut my grass?  Let me just say that after a snow like this, I think it's worth every penny.  I'm definitely sold on the idea of a townhouse now.

The other thing I remember quite vividly from childhood is that whenever we came inside from playing in the snow, mom was there to reward us with a steaming cup of hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows.  It was the perfect way to warm our bodies from the cold.  No such luck today. 

Snow days were way more fun when I was a kid!