Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brent's Bistro

Tonight is my last night in NYC. It has been a wonderful three weeks. I have learned a lot, had some fun, and proved to myself that I can indeed be a student again, live by myself again, and navigate the big city on my own. In all seriousness, these three weeks have been a dream come true, and I have often praised God for blessing me so abundantly and for giving me this life that I love. I have been reminded over and over that everything I have is from the Lord. He gives me more than enough, and my cup continually runs over. However, I am SO READY TO COME HOME!!!!! I can not WAIT to get home to the life God has for me in Houston. I want to have my husband with me all the time, be able to squeeze Blazer with all my might, sleep on a non-plastic mattress, and use my own kitchen! Oh.... the joy. I just.can't.wait.

I've been updating you on the goings-on here in NY, but I wanted to take a minute to update you on what was going on back on the home front. Since I cook every night for Brent, we were both a little worried about what he would eat while I was gone for three weeks. Brent can do about a million things better than me, but cooking isn't one of them. In order to make sure he didn't starve or survive on only Tombstone pizzas, I left him instructions and food for three weeks of "Brent's Bistro".

The "Brent's Bistro" menu included 12 entree choices complete with instructions for each. The pantry was stocked with copious amounts of canned soup, microwave rice, beans, cereal, pasta, and pasta sauce.
The top drawer of the freezer was stocked with 10 different kinds of frozen veggies.
The bottom drawer of the freezer was stocked with chicken, turkey, beef, hamburger buns, and (of course) Tombstone pizzas.
There have been a few mishaps along the way (apparently the directions on the taco seasoning packet are really confusing), but I think in general Brent has done a great job. Although, every time he calls and tells me he ate a baked potato because it was too hard to make something else, I feel so bad! I know that I am slacking on my duties as wife and keeper of the home, and that is hard for me. I really can't wait to make all your favorites once I get home, Brent! Just a little over 24 hours till I'm back in my beloved Texas. Yay!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Show A Little Love, Part II

Hey friends! It's time for two more shameless requests for blog love!

Request #1: I published another post on the YES Prep blog. This time it's about your favorite topic: BOOKS! Head on over to read and comment. Just click HERE. I'm definitely in the running for "post with the most comments" with my last post, but I haven't won yet. Let's show 'em how it's done!

Request#2: I finally got up the courage to add a "Followers" gadget to my blog. I was ecstatic to find that I have a grand total of...... wait for it......ten readers! I know there are more of you out there, and I know that deep down, you want to be a follower, right? I'll know I've hit the big time when I reach, say, twenty :-) So go ahead... click the little button.

Thanks for your support! I promise I'll leave you alone for a while after that! :-)


Saturday, July 24, 2010

New York Love

Did you know that I have the best husband in the world? Well I do. He makes everything more fun. Although I've been having a great time here in NYC, I've been missing my Brent (and my Blazer, but I'll have to wait 'till I get home to see him!). Being the wonderful husband that he is, Brent planned to come visit me for four nights right in the middle of my stay here. It has been so, so fun to have him here! We have been remiss at taking good pictures, but hopefully what we have will suffice. I'll start with a quick recap of last week: I went to see South Pacific at Lincoln Center with some friends from class. It was fantastic!! I love me a good musical, and this one is so deliciously old fashioned with wonderful songs and a classic Rogers & Hammerstein plot and score. I highly enjoyed myself.This week was also a somewhat difficult week school-wise. We had to write a unit of study for a novel we read together. The project itself was not hard since I write units all the time, but we had to work in a group of four and we had about one day to do it. Luckily, I got a really good group, so we got it knocked out quickly. The final product was no less than forty pages long. If you want it, let me know and I'll be glad to send it to you :-)

Luckily, Brent arrived on Wednesday night, and everything was suddenly OK! Because he is such a nice husband, he got us a hotel room at my favorite NY hotel: On the Ave. It is SO NICE to sleep on a non-plastic mattress!! And to have a TV! Yippee! The first night, we went to my favorite restaurant, La Vela. Yep - I went there last week too. It's the kind of place where you want to be a regular. It is so sweet and quaint and cozy. We shared a bottle of wine, ate delicious pasta, and reconnected. After dinner we walked to our other old standby, Magnolia Bakery. Yum!
The next day, Brent explored on his own and ate lunch at one of Bobby Flay's favorite restaurants, J.G. Melon. He loved it. I met him after school and we went to our OTHER fave restaurant: China Grill. Oh, this place is SO GOOD. We first ate at a China Grill in Vegas. Then, last year, Brent surprised me by meeting me at China Grill in NYC when I thought he was still in Houston and I was meeting a friend. So it is a special place for us. We had lobster pancakes, tuna tartare, and schezuan beef. And I had a mango martini. All in all, it was the absolute perfect date night. Did I mention how much I love Brent?
After China Grill, we walked all the way home by way of the park. We passed Columbus Circle and checked out the beautiful high end mall there. The whole front is glass - this is the view from the third floor.
On Friday I got out of school early because we were just presenting our unit plans to the class. I was exhausted, so we chilled in the hotel room for a bit. So nice. We considered making a trek to the other side of the city for dinner but decided against it. Have I mentioned we're homebodies? Even on vacation! We'd much rather chill in a neighborhood place than fight the tourists in Times Square. We found another super cute, La Vela-esque Italian place called Arte Cafe. It seemed like a very intimate, local place. Quiet, good food, good drinks...yes please.
Today has been HOT and I mean HOT. Like 100 degrees hot. I know - I'm a Texan, I should be able to handle it. But in Texas, we have a little something called AIR CONDITIONING. And cars. But in NY, when you're walking everywhere and on the subway with no A/C far underground with thousands of other sweaty people, well... you get the idea. We ventured out with the intention of exploring SoHo and Greenwich Village. It was fun, but it was like in-danger-of-passing-out hot. Also, it wasn't quite as quaint as we were hoping. Maybe we were in the wrong place? But we had fun walking around, seeing some of NYU, and eating lunch at a place we saw on "Best Thing I Ever Ate" called Five Points.

Side Note: We are obsessed with "Best Thing I Ever Ate". (Brent more so than me.) It's a show on Food Network where all the stars tell you (you guessed it) the BEST thing they ever ate. And they tell you where to get it. So my lovely husband made a spreadsheet of all the NY restaurants that have appeared on the show. So far he has eaten at 3 of them since he's been here :-) We love our food.

In keeping with the "Best Thing I Ever Ate" theme, Brent found this awesome little bakery that was on the show: Levain Bakery. They apparently make the best cookie in the world. After eating one, I heartily concur. WOW they were good.
Thick, chewy, and just a little bit raw in the middle... and they serve them to you fresh out of the oven. I will be back.
So that's the update on my adventures. I'm loving having my best friend here to share it and just to hang out with me. Even though he has to leave tomorrow, I feel like I now have the energy to make it through my last five days of class and come home to my puppy, my house, and (a little less exciting) my first day of school WITH KIDS on Monday August 2nd. yikes... I may need a few more cookies and/or bottles of wine.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Date With Myself

It's a good thing that I am so cool, nice, and fun because I spent the entire day hanging out with myself! It's also a good thing that I wore my Nike comfort footbed flip-flops because I can not even begin to estimate the number of miles I walked. It was... a lot.

I slept in until almost 9:00 which is something I haven't done in a while. I guess this first week wore me right out. Once I rallied myself to get dressed for the day, I walked around the Columbia and Teachers College campuses to snap some pictures and give you an idea of my surroundings. Teachers College is across the street from the main Columbia campus. The Teachers College buildings have been in use since 1886. They are very old fashioned and it sometimes feels like going back in time! Here is a picture of the outside of Teachers College on 120th street.
Teachers College is right across the street from Riverside Church, a BEAUTIFUL structure. Here they are together.
Here are a couple of shots of the main quad (I guess you'd call it?) of Columbia University.

After walking around campus, I took the subway to 79th street to the American Museum of Natural History. I was pretty excited about it, but it turned out to be a bust. I quickly discovered that everything fun and cool at the museum cost extra. You had to have a separate ticket for the planetarium, IMAX, and all special exhibits. So my general admission ticket got me... pretty much nothing. I got to see a bunch of stuffed animals. I really wanted to see the cool stuff, but I would have racked up a bill of like $60, so that was a no-go. But, it was a nice cool place to spend a morning.

Around 1:00 I ventured to the nearby famed "Shake Shack". I swear I've heard about this place like every few days on Facebook. Apparently, it's super popular and people wait in line for hours to get these burgers. I had all the time in the world today, so I decided to try it. I NEVER eat burgers, so I was probably due for one. I had to wait about 25 minutes to get my burger and fries. It wasn't so bad - maybe because I was expecting to wait longer. I have to say it was pretty delicious. Here's a picture before I devoured it. It was a great Saturday afternoon lunch, and I got lucky and got a cute little table right next to the window, so I quite enjoyed myself.

With energy restored and fortified by a burger and fries, I walked across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Good thing I was wearing a strapless cotton dress and had a large bottle of water. However, it was a lovely walk. I captured a few picturesque scenes including a view across the turtle pond and Belvedere Castle.

I made it successfully to the other end of the park and took on the Met. I got a little taste the other day with my class, but I was glad to go back for a whole afternoon. It was kind of nice to be there by myself. I went to the exhibits I wanted to go to, and I didn't have to ask anyone else what exhibit they wanted to see. I sat down when I was tired, and I didn't get back up until I wanted to! I saw a lot of unhappy families while I was there - they were so stressed! My favorite was a mom and dad trying to pose their two young children next to a mummy in the Egyptian exhibit. The conversation went something like this:

Mom (yelling angrily to kids): SIT DOWN RIGHT THIS MINUTE! SIT STILL and SMILE!!!!
Dad: Carter, if you don't sit still right this minute we're going to take you right out of this museum.
Kid (crying): I don't wanna smile!!!!!!!!
Dad (taking picture): Fine. I just took the picture. Let's go.
Mom (to dad): NO! You didn't get their shirts in the picture! Without the shirts, the whole picture is POINTLESS!!!

Please, Lord, don't let me be a crazy parent. Amen.

I, on the other hand, had a lovely time. I saw the Egyptian collection, the European masters, a Picasso special exhibit, Asian art, and the American Wing.

There is this beautiful atrium where they have reconstructed an entire Egyptian temple complete with a little reflecting pool. When I came across it, all I could think of was that scene in From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler where the kids take a bath in the fountain and gather up the coins! Have you read that book? Oh, you should. It's about these kids who run away from their parents and secretly go live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's a classic. But I digress...
Just when I was feeling really weary and about to go, I discovered that in the American Wing, they have a "Period Room Tour". Basically, the museum has re-created 15 rooms, each representing a different period in American history all the way from the 1600s to the early 1900s. In most cases, the museum actually purchased the buildings and transported the rooms beam by beam and stone by stone to the museum where they re-created them on site. The furnishings are either original to the room or typical of that period. It was fascinating to me for some reason! I always love seeing what other people's homes look like, especially from the past, so this was like the ultimate tour of homes!

It was also great because hardly anyone was in the exhibit. Every room had a large Apple touch screen computer where you could learn about the original house, the people who lived there, and the story behind all the furnishings. Below, you can see the room with the touch screen - it was so innovative and I think all museums should do that! It made it really fun to learn about the room. (Side note: I'm ashamed that I took these types of pictures in a museum. I think it is SO ANNOYING when people take pictures - or better yet, videos - of every work of art in a museum. I mean, what are you doing? Are you really going to go back and look at that Egyptian pottery you insitsted on photographing? I think it's really weird. However, I wanted you to see these cool rooms and the computers in them. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.)

Here are two parlors from actual New York homes in the 1800s. Luxe fans.... can't you just see Penelope, Elizabeth, and Diana in these rooms???
I finally left the museum around 6:00 and walked back across the park again, fully intending to pick up the subway to go back "home". However, I started contemplating the hamburger and fries I had for lunch and I was like, "I bet I can walk." So I did. I'm like a crazy person - I guess I just really love to walk. I walked all the way from 79th to 121st. On the way, I picked up some most delicious Thai food and ate it in my room. And that's a wrap.

All in all, I'm a pretty good date. I'd ask myself out again.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NY Survivor and The Met

This week has been going wonderfully! I'm learning a lot and really enjoying the things our professors have planned for us. Today was like a dream - we had class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and discussed art all day. Yes, please! I'll update you on the day below, but first... a public service rambling by me about what I've learned about life in NYC so far.

Going to class and doing my homework is easy... but I've found that many other things are really hard in NYC! Any New Yorkers or previous New Yorkers out there... I doff my hat to you. You should win some type of award or be on the show "Survivor". Seriously. Maybe I'm spoiled in Texas, but I'm used to most things in life being relatively easy. Travel? Easy. Just drive your car anywhere you want to go. Eating? Easy. Just load up your car at the grocery store and make food for yourself in your home.

In New York, you can't take those things for granted. Travel? Difficult. Study subway map for 10+ minutes and walk 10 blocks, only to discover that you are walking the wrong direction. No subway stop near you? Just walk the 20 blocks to your next destination. Oh, you're hot, dirty, and your feet ache? Too bad - can't be avoided, but it'll be OK once you get on the air-conditioned subway car, right? Yes, unless the air-conditioning is broken on your train.

Food? Difficult. There is not a traditional grocery store in sight - only "delis" offering blueberries for a mere $5. OK, so you can cook for yourself, right? Wrong. How are you going to buy all the groceries you need and then get them home? You have to carry them 20 blocks home. I am incredulous at all the New Yorkers I see who make it look so easy. I finally wised up by watching the full-time residents in my dorm: they order takeout that gets delivered. This sounded like a revelation - have the food brought to YOU! So two nights ago, I ordered takeout from a neighborhood place. I got a salad and a little pizza that was actually big enough for lunch the next day. It was delicious and the whole thing (including tip) cost me $16. I was getting closer to figuring out the food puzzle. Today, though, I had to have something healthy or I was going to go crazy. I went to Whole Foods in Columbus Circle, got enough pre-made healthy food to last me a few days (that fit in one bag 'cause I had to carry it), and then took the subway all the way back uptown. I just heated up my fish & veggies in my little microwave, and they were delicious! So I think I will continue to trek to Whole Foods every few days. Here's a picture of my first delivery experience from last night, complete with hulu in the background.

Today was visual arts day. We had an artist come for the morning to teach us an art workshop. He was awesome, and he had us doing lots of activities including reading, acting, and creating art. We had to create a scene depicting something uncomfortable that happened to us, and then we had to make the scene into a sculpture made of paper. Below is a picture of me with my group members Mimi (teaches in New Jersey) and Sandra (teaches in Miami). We made a scene from my life, and I'm wondering if Brent can figure out what it is just from the pictures. We'll see!
Here is us acting out our scene in a tableaux or "freeze frame". Got it yet, Brent?
After our art workshop, we headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the afternoon. Here's me with Jamie who teaches in New Jersey.
Just a little pic of our classroom. I mean, are you kidding me?!
Our teacher took us to three separate works of art and we spent about 30 minutes analyzing each one and doing activities right there in the museum. Here is a picture of us sitting on the floor in front of the painting we were working with. At this point we were talking to our partners about what we were noticing. Passerby at the museum gave us some definite puzzled stares. We looked like little kids on the floor! However, some people actually joined us! One lady sat down on the floor with us, listened to our teacher, and participated for a while!
Here is our teacher facilitating our session in front of a Rodin sculpture we analyzed. Seriously... this was my CLASS. It made me think that school really doesn't have to be boring. Why do we think that school is only school if it's boring and hard? What if I could make school more like this for my students... where they didn't even feel like they were at school, and they loved learning so much they didn't want to stop? It's possible... they do it with us everyday. Food for thought...
At the Rodin sculpture, our teacher had us re-enact the piece by getting in groups and making a tableaux as we did earlier in the day. We were all kind of hesitant to do this in the middle of the museum. He was like, "This museum is YOURS. Let's use it like it's ours. It doesn't matter what people think of us!" So we all got up and did it, right in front of everyone! Here's one group:
Here's my group:
I completely loved the Met and want to go back as soon as I can... probably Saturday since I can get in for free! God continues to bless my time here and give me so many inspirational moments. Thank you, Lord! Miss everyone back home!


Monday, July 12, 2010

They're Going to Give Me a Masters for This?

Wow - my life has gotten a whole lot more exciting in the last 48 hours! I used to struggle to think of things to blog about, and now I'm so tired and want to go to bed, but I feel like I need to keep up with everything that's been going on here! Things are going great and getting better all the time. My first two days of being a grad student have actually been pretty fantastic. Today I teared up twice out of sheer joy and gratitude to the Lord for giving me this opportunity. I'll be sure to note the teary-eyed moments in my recap below.

The first night I got here, I wanted to check out the neighborhood, so I walked from my dorm at 121st street all the way down to 77th street. For those of you counting, that is 44 blocks one way!! It was a little crazy. The whole time I walked, I wrote down names of restaurants in my iPhone that I wanted to come back to later. I finally got to 77th street which is the area I usually stay in NY. I came to my favorite little Italian restaurant La Vela - it's so cute and cozy, and no one notices if you sit there alone. They also have the BEST linguine with clam sauce. I get it every time. My favorite food is fajitas, but linguine with clam sauce is a close second. I had a great time at dinner, then ventured back to my dorm. I made a valiant effort to walk the whole way back, but my legs gave out around 90th street, so I took the subway the rest of the distance. My feet were throbbing and completely black when I got back to my room. Nothing like a little NYC walking and sticky subways to eliminate any cleanliness you once thought you had.
Day 1 of my program was a long and overwhelming but fun day. It started at 8:30 am with everyone having to introduce themselves in a "creative" way. Then we had a two hour orientation where they talked about credits and graduation and all that fun stuff. Directly after that we had a two hour workshop on how to write a master's thesis. Yep, day one, hour three. Master's thesis. You should have seen everyone's face! haha I just kept telling myself that it was going to be OK. The lady told us it has to be 60 - 80 pages long, not including appendices and bibliography. Oh - and you also have to research and collect data for a full year. Yikes - at least I have two years to write it. Then, we went to lunch in the neighborhood, and it was a good opportunity to get to know some of the other people a little better. In the afternoon, we had a 4 hour writing workshop where we did a lot of writing ourselves and learned some new strategies for teaching writing. Then we had (much needed) wine and cheese with the professors and a dinner on campus at Teachers College. Then (as if that was not enough for one day), a group of actors from a nearby theater came to Teachers College and performed a one act play about teaching just for us. It was actually a really, really good play, so I felt special that they came to perform just for us. At 9:00 they let us go and I collapsed into my dorm bed after skyping with Brent & Blazer for 30 minutes. I LOVE SKYPE!!! I have never used it before, strangely enough, but it was so fun to see Brent and Blazer! We kept trying to get Blazer to see me on the computer screen, and he finally did! It was so cute - he like attacked the computer and licked it all over to give me kisses. It was really sweet (Yes, Aunt Julia... he really can see things in 2D!) Here are some screen shots of our first ever Skype conversation - I especially love the one of Brent and Blazer deep in discussion about how they were going to talk to mama.

Day two began with a walk to school. Oh... here's a little something I pass on my way to class:
This morning, we got our Columbia ID cards and learned about the things we can do as students. I have to say that getting my ID was pretty cool... I'm an official Columbia student until 2013! With my Columbia student ID, I can get into any museum in NYC for free anytime for the next three years. There are lots of fun perks to being a student that I had forgotten about.

Then, we spent the morning in a theater workshop. This masters program is VERY focused on the arts. This is fine with me. Sometimes I'm not entirely sure how it's going to fit into my inner city classroom, but it is fun nonetheless. The whole morning was spent acting, watching acting, reflecting on acting, and talking about how to be a good actor. Again - connections to teaching: sketchy to say the least. But we did have fun. I'm not a big acting person, but I tried to do my best, and my group actually did a really good job. We went to lunch, had more theater workshop, then we jumped on the #1 train downtown to Lincoln Center! We walked through Julliard and saw ballerinas in the elevator and everything. I am obsessed with Julliard and Lincoln Center. I just love it. To be going to CLASS there was pretty much a dream come true. And our CLASS for the afternoon was SEEING A PLAY. I kept turning to my friends saying, "Are they really and truly going to give us a masters degree for this?" It was so incredible. The play we saw was AWESOME. It was a comedy called "Exit Stage Left". It was hilarious and the actors were incredibly talented in music, comedy, dance, acting, and magic. One of the actors/dancers was a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance seasons 5 and 6: Ryan Kasprzak - Evan's brother!!! I was totally star-struck on that one. At the end of the play was one of my teary moments. It was just so fun and cool to be in NYC at Lincoln Center seeing an awesome theatrical performance all while getting class credit for it! We may get to have a session with the actors tomorrow, so I'm going to get my picture with Ryan if at all possible and I will post it - don't you worry.

After the play, we were finished for the day, so a group of us explored Lincoln Center, walked all the way to Times Square, then walked back uptown and ate at a great Thai place. My second teary eyed moment was at dinner with these girls. I really, really like the people in this program. They are super nice, very smart, and interesting. No one is from Texas. We've only known each other for a day, but I was really having fun eating dinner with them, and I was just amazed at that moment that I am here and it's real. I'm so grateful that God has brought me this far. Lord, I love the life you've given me! Here is a picture of me and two new friends Katherine & Johanna in front of Lincoln Center! Katherine teaches in Brooklyn and Johanna teaches in New Haven.
Now, I'm off to debrief with Brent & Blazer, then to sleep and ready for Day 3!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Dorm Room Of One's Own

According to Brent, I have now successfully survived the first three steps out of three thousand steps of in my New York adventure. (Only 2,997 to go! ha.)

My flight went well this morning with very little frustration except I had a window seat (I much prefer the aisle), and I sat next to two people who did not speak a lick of English. It was quite an ordeal for them to express to the flight attendant that they wanted a Coke. As a side note...I read an entire YA book cover to cover on the flight to keep my mind occupied: The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales. It was SO GOOD. I just absolutely loved it. I was previewing it as a potential read aloud to start the year with my kids, and it will most definitely be making an appearance in my classroom. I do love Hispanic culture, and this book depicts it with beauty, truth, and humor. It was excellent and inspirational.

The only perk of having a window seat was that I got to see our arrival into NYC. I was on the good side of the plane, so I got a view of the Statue of Liberty and all of Manhattan on our descent. It is really quite breathtaking, and I always get a little surge of excitement when I see it!

My luggage arrived in tact (Praise God) and I easily got a taxi into the city. I've been to Columbia many times, but this time my taxi driver took me a way I had never been before - straight through Harlem. It was fascinating and exactly what I would picture Harlem to look like. Everybody was out and about since it was Saturday afternoon. When we stopped at one corner, a crazy man with a white bird on his shoulder started trying to tell me something through the closed cab window. I just smiled and nodded. We drove right past the Harlem Children's Zone, which I have been reading lots about, so that was fun to see.

I was able to check-in to my dorm with no problems. The bad news: It's a dorm. The good news: It's not quite as bad as I expected. I have included pictures for your viewing pleasure at the bottom. There are certainly no frills - not a colorful throw pillow, candle, or decorative object from Z-Gallerie in sight. I did my best to make it feel homey, but a few books on a bookshelf can only go so far. Oh well. I went ahead and unpacked everything since I have a dresser and a closet and I'm here for so long. While I unpacked, I watched Design Star on (I'm relatively sure that Hulu is going to be my new best friend for the next three weeks. No TV here.)

It was 3:00 and I did not have lunch due to my traveling, so I ventured out to the local deli/supermarket to get some food. I have a mini-fridge/microwave in my room, so I thought I'd get some breakfast food so that I don't have to forage every morning. I walked down to the store and bought: cereal, milk, strawberries, Greek yogurt, honey (for the yogurt), paper bowls, plastic silverware, a roll of paper towels, and a chicken wrap. Oh, and a Renuzit air freshener. (You must be kidding if you think I'm going to smell dorm smell for three weeks) Total: $39.40. I feel like that's a lot. Oh well, I'll get a bunch of breakfasts out of it. Now I just need to find a cup of coffee every morning.

Here's my new home for 3 weeks!! haha - definitely not the Norwood Nest I'm used to. It makes me feel happy that Brent will be here to visit in 11 days. Don't worry... he is the best husband ever and is going to spring me from the dorm for 3 nights to stay in a hotel!! But I'm not counting or anything.

I'm off to explore the neighborhood. I seriously need a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine.

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