Monday, November 28, 2011

Invasion of the English Teachers

If you happened to be in Chicago the week before Thanksgiving... I'm sorry.  If you were, you may have seen throngs of middle-aged women wearing seasonal sweater vests and wooden jewelry while dragging rolling crates full of books and correcting people's grammar.  No, you weren't in the midst of a mom convention.  You were in the midst of an English teachers convention!!!   If you have ever been knocked down by a zealous teacher carrying a 100 pound book bag, I apologize on the behalf of our profession.  Moving on.

Last week, thousands of English teachers descended upon Chicago for the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Convention.  Nerd alert!!  Nothing like four days full of learning and fighting crowds of educators!  This was my fourth convention, and I attended with my best buddies Emily Shisler and Jessica Cook.  Emily is my better half.  She manages high school English across YES Prep, and I manage middle school English.  High schoolers intimidate me.  Little kids terrify her.  So, we're a match made in heaven.  She and I are equally nerdy and love to learn about English, so she makes a good convention partner.  Jess teaches high school English at NC, and she completes the group with her similar nerdy desire to learn and her dry humor that keeps us laughing.  I had the BEST time with both of them.  As an added bonus, Emily grew up in Chicago and went to college at Northwestern.  Neither Jess nor I had ever been to the city, so Emily acted as our tour guide and made sure that in between sessions we ate the best food Chicago had to offer and saw all of the sights.

We stayed at the Palmer House which was pretty ordinary in terms of hotel rooms, but the lobby was impressive.  The beautiful hand-painted ceiling and ornate furnishings made it a really cool place to hang out...  except for the fact that there were approximately one thousand teachers there every night drinking after a long day of learning.  Yikes!
Of course we walked through Millennium Park and took pictures at the bean.  Here is Emily acting as our tour guide and telling us the notable features of many Chicago buildings.
I just wanted to show off my new hat complete with a pom-pom and mittens complete with tassels.  Thanks, H&M.
We went to the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower, the Signature Lounge, at exactly the right moment.  The sun was setting, there was a free table by the window, and they served excellent cosmos.  Yes, please.  We hadn't been to a single convention session yet, but we still needed a cosmo.  Obviously.
There's the tour guide again, getting in the way of my beautiful picture (just kidding!)

Looking down the lake shore towards Northwestern, Emily's alma mater.
I think this looks like a honeymoon in Hawaii picture with the sunset.  Don't you? 
Here's my honeymoon pic with Emily.
After drinks, we headed to eat (what else?) deep dish pizza.  It didn't disappoint.  We ate half of the pizza before thinking to take a picture if that tells you anything.
The next day we had a 45 minute break for lunch in between sessions, so we hopped in a cab per Emily's suggestion and headed towards Portillo's for some Italian beef and/or Chicago hot dogs.  We all opted for the Italian beef, and we weren't sorry.  Until about an hour later when we wanted to nap instead of learn.  But that's beside the point.
The second night we got to have dinner with my very bestest long-lost YES Prep friend Lora Knapp.  She was my team teacher back in the day (good times), and now she lives a high powered life in Chicago recruiting for TFA and living in a chic high rise.  We had a great time catching up! 
I PROMISE that we really did go to sessions, and I really did learn a lot about teaching and supporting teachers and ideas for PD and all that jazz.  Promise.  It's just not really exciting to post pictures of a ballroom full of teachers watching a power point.  If you're interested, email me and we'll chat.  :-)  Heads up.... next year NCTE is in VEGAS!!!!  Clear the way for rolling crates in the casinos, 'cause we're comin' with thousands of our best teacher friends!  Teachers in Vegas.... wow.  That should be incentive enough to follow my blog for another year so you can see what happens....  I'll report it faithfully.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving for Two

This year Thanksgiving was a little different.  Between crazy travel, school, and work schedules, we weren't able to make it back to Texas.  We saw my family last week, and we'll see Brent's in early December, but for Thanksgiving, it just worked out for us to stay in Durham.  Although we really missed our families, it was nice to spend a relaxing day at home.  We started the day watching the Macy's parade with a few cups of coffee.  Then we took a brisk 3 mile walk on the Wa-Duke trail.  We had a leisurely lunch of just appetizers - that's right - everyone loves appetizers, so we made a meal of them.  We lounged around all afternoon and then ate a late Thanksgiving dinner around 8 pm.  To finish off our night, we watched Home Alone, a holiday tradition.  I am pretty proud that I made a whole Thanksgiving dinner by myself.  It was probably best for this first time to be a "practice run" with just us because if it didn't turn out... oh well!  But it did turn out, and everything was delicious.  I feel confident that I can roast a turkey now (though I just made the breast for us), and now I have some "go to" recipes I could replicate.  We had enough for a great dinner and a few leftover meals.  Here's what I made, just in case you need some inspiration for Christmas!
Thanksgiving Lunch:
1:  Roasted Shrimp Cocktail from Ina Garten
2:  Risotto Stuffed Mushrooms (I improvised this recipe - I made the risotto from this post and then stuffed it in baby bella mushroom caps, topped with Parmesan cheese, and roasted in the oven.)
3:  Caramelized Onion, Bacon, & Gruyere Spread on a baguette from Cooking Light
4:  Cold Duck (my family's Thanksgiving tradition)

Thanksgiving Dinner:
1:  Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes from Ina Garten
2:  Sausage and Herb Stuffing from Ina Garten
3:  Perfect Cranberry Sauce from Food Network Kitchens
5:  Roasted Asparagus from Cooking Light (Not pictured)

Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake with homemade whipped cream from Cooking Light (A new all-time Brent favorite!  This stuff is crazy-good and made with low fat ingredients!)

We hope you had a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving!  It's officially Christmastime in our house since all of our decorations went up today.  It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dr. Halterman, I Presume?

My sister is officially a DOCTOR!!  Last week, she defended her dissertation and got her PhD in Pharmacology from UVA.  Just in case you can't read the title of her dissertation, I'll type it here for you, though I can't pronounce it or explain it, mind you:  "NFAT5-Dependent Regulation of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Phenotypic Modulation and Atherosclerosis".  YEP.  She's smart.  She defended her dissertation in the Rotunda at the University of Virginia where she's been for the last 5 years.  To celebrate the occasion, the whole fam came to town!  Julia and I now live less than 4 hours away from each other, so we all started out in Durham for the weekend and then drove to Charlottesville to see Julia's presentation on Monday.  We had a GREAT time! 

We started with a tour of the Duke campus and the Fuqua School of Business so the fam could see where Brent spends all of his time.  We were laughing and having a great time, and my mom even requested to see Brent's locker at business school.  ...Kind of like showing your mom your desk at elementary school open house.  Brent, being the wonderful son-in-law he is, obliged.  Julia snapped my pic in front of the "Fuqua Partners" board since that's pretty much my only connection to Fuqua.  Thankfully, the fall leaves held on until my parents visited, and campus was beautiful.  We walked through the Duke Chapel and the Duke Gardens.

Back at home, Aunt Julia played with her nephew Blazer, who was SUPER hyped to have everyone here.  Lots of people to play with!  We spent some quality time by the fire pit.  (I like to wear snow boots by the fire pit.) 

On Sunday, we headed to Charlottesville to enjoy a nice evening at Julia's house.  Then Monday was the big day!  Here is Julia with her husband, Darrell, prior to her presentation, a shot of the room she presented in, and a family pic.
I understood about 20 - 30% of Julia's presentation, and that's probably being generous.  Research science is a WHOLE other world from middle school English!  But I was glad to be there and proud of how hard my sister has worked to become a PhD at the age of 27.  I mean... really... who does that??

Congrats, Dr. Halterman!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chirping Copycat

In New York City, the Upper West Side is my neighborhood of choice.  That's where I usually stay and frequent.  Ever since I started going to NYC, I would always see this little place called "Chirping Chicken" on the corner of Amsterdam & 77th.  Their specialty is charcoal broiled chicken amongst other delicious things.   The place is always packed, and there are always about 25 delivery bikes parked outside, ready to whisk off a chicken dinner to the next lucky caller.  For some reason, I waited until last summer to try it.  WOW now I know why people are lined up in there.  That stuff is amazing!!!  I ordered the souvlaki which was a feast consisting of char-grilled chicken, Greek salad, warm pita bread, tzatziki sauce, and french fries.  It was DELICIOUS.  I went back like three more times after that before my time in NYC was up.  Ever since then, I have been CRAVING that chicken, and if they delivered to Durham, I would be willing to pay a hefty delivery charge!  But, since they don't deliver to Durham, I went on a mission to create a meal similar to the one I get there.  I made chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce, french fries, and Greek salad.  I would have added warm pita, but I forgot it at the grocery.  Feel free to add pita when you make it!  It was really easy with a lot of store-bought ingredients, and this "chirping copycat" is now one of our weekday faves. 
Chicken Souvlaki (serves 2 - easy doubles for 4)
2 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 garlic cloves, minced

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness. Marinate in a Ziploc bag with next 5 ingredients (lemon juice through garlic).  Let marinate for about 30 minutes to an hour - not too much longer because the lemon juice starts to break down the chicken.  Then, "grill" on a grill pan or large skillet (or a grill if you actually have one!!) until crispy on both sides and cooked through.  Remove to cutting board to rest for a few minutes and then slice.

Tzatziki Sauce:  This is an amazing sauce made with Greek yogurt, garlic, and cucumber.  You can make your own, but I did not make my sauce.  The fine people at "Cedars" made my sauce and Whole Foods kindly sold it to me.  
French Fries:  I bought the Ore Ida Shoestring Fries - super easy - and taste like restaurant fries but from the oven!  Halfway through cooking, I took them out of the oven and tossed them with Cajun seasoning before returning to oven.  This made the fries seasoned and delicious!

Greek Salad:  In a bowl, toss together chopped romaine lettuce, halved grape tomatoes, sliced Kalamata olives, sliced baby cucumber, and low fat crumbled feta.  Toss with a balsamic vinaigrette or Greek salad dressing.

Pretty similar to "chirping" without the 7 hour drive!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Everyday Friends

Life is funny sometimes in the sense that sometimes the best things come in places where you least expect them.  When Brent & I moved to Durham, I was worried about making friends.  We did not know one single person here, and it seemed overwhelming.  Also, being here for just two years, I thought it would be difficult to form deep friendships since everyone would be looking ahead and scattering in two years - moving again!  But I was wrong.  God has blessed me more than I could ask or imagine with friends here. 

The kind of friend I desire most is an "everyday friend" - a friend who you want to see everyday - a friend who you can hang out with to go for a walk, go shopping, get your nails done, or have lunch.  To be honest, it was hard to find those kinds of friends in Houston.  I had tons of friends at work. YES Prep is a super fun place!  But we saw each other for 10+ hours every day, and I was so exhausted when I got home, I didn't really want to hang out outside of school.  Also, living way out in the suburbs precluded us from being "everyday friends" with people in our church or people who lived in central Houston.  I just found myself longing for what I had in college - living in the same house with "everyday friends" and never being without a bestie for more than 5 minutes. 

Fast forward to April 2011.  New Duke students and their families descended on campus for "Blue Devil Weekend" - kind of a new student orientation.  While Brent went to sessions for students, I went to sessions for "partners" (wives, husbands, fiancees of students).  In the first session I attended, I sat next to Maggie, a girl who seemed pretty nice!  Oh, I'm so grateful to God that he orchestrated our seating that day and had us meet.  I friended her on Facebook and kept up with her that way last Spring.   When we moved to Durham in July, I asked her if she wanted to have lunch.  I assured her I wasn't a stalker, and I hoped she remembered me from Blue Devil weekend. 

Fast forward to today.  I feel like I've known Maggie forever!  She is a true woman of God and a wonderful friend - a true "everyday friend"!  While I would be grateful to just have Maggie as a friend, God has blessed me with SO MANY everyday friends here - I'm so grateful for Kristi, Lindsay, Lindsay, Lindsay (Yes, three Lindsays), Mary Elizabeth, and Patty.  So grateful!

Miss Maggie is having her first baby in January, and I can't wait to meet sweet Campbell.  You can read about Maggie and her family on her cute blog:  Supermom With Southern Charm.  You'll notice her adorable "banner" design.  I was inspired by her blog to create a theme for a baby shower I'm hosting for her.  The theme is going to be "banners", and I won't tell you the details, but I have a ton of fun ideas ready to go for her shower.  I'll do a post on it later!  For now I'll give you a sneak peek of the invitations I made this week.  I can't think of a better way to honor my first "everyday friend" here in Durham.  Love ya Maggie!

Site Design by Designer Blogs