Today We Outran Fire! #sol14

20140309-233015.jpg

 

My day, in a few frames.  Yes, those are flames and smoke.

This afternoon Chris and I decided to head to the local state park to walk the dogs.  It was breezy and cool, but the snow was almost all melted and it seemed like a great day to get outside.  The park was a bit crowded when we pulled in, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I set up the hiking app to keep track of our mileage, and we set off.

Monmouth Battlefield State Park is a protected archeology dig and a beautiful park all in one.  As we made our way past the visitor’s center and down the hill I pointed out to Chris that the water was high under the bridge and reminded him we couldn’t take anything we found.  (There are signs all over and I always laugh at these reminders).  As we were talking, I thought I saw something orange through the trees to our right.  But I kept talking, assuming it was just a dog in a hunter orange vest, a fairly common sight around here during hunting season.  In fact, we have a few for our dogs.

But then we got across the footbridge and saw the state park fire trucks.  On the other side of the park we could see flames and smoke.

“Ohh, they must be doing their controlled burn,” I said to Chris.

“Kind of weird to do it on such a windy day.”

We agreed on this and decided to head in the opposite direction.  Nothing was blocked off and there was not sign of any trouble, so we figured we would just stay out of the way.

About a quarter of a mile later we heard a noise behind us and realized one of the fire trucks was headed down the trail behind us.  Wanting to avoid the dogs barking their heads off at the strange trucks, we moved off the trail.  The truck followed.

“You folks goin’ far?” the fireman yelled out the driver’s side window.

“Nah, just heading this way.  Do you need us to move?” we asked him.

“Well, it might be a good idea.  We’re doing a controlled burn see, and it’s probably safer to stick to the area back up the hill, near the visitor’s center.”

“No problem.  We’ll head back right now”.  With a wave, we turned around.  It made sense, though I did point out to Chris that it was a little strange that they didn’t have caution tape up blocking the path, or any sort of warning.

No lie, as we crossed the footbridge flames lit up behind us.  When the firemen said that they were doing a controlled burn and we might be safer up the hill, they neglected to say they were lighting the flames RIGHT THERE, as we spoke.  Seriously?!

The good news is, we did not end up trapped in the controlled burn.  But really?  No warning?  What if no one had seen us walking?

We did get some nice pictures, at least!

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

Broadway, Baby! #sol14

20140308-222522.jpgToday was awesome.  It’s been way too long since I saw a Broadway show and today that was remedied.  Two friends and I headed into the city to see Bridges of Madison County.  We hit a few snags when the show was almost sold out (seriously?!), but three tickets were eventually procured, though not all together.

We spent a little while walking around the city and grabbed lunch at Cosi, a personal favorite for a quick, healthy lunch.  We passed by a few other shows and let me tell you, you could not get near If/Then.  I’ve been an Idina Menzel fan since her Rent days, but I’ve never seen lines like I saw today.  I think she owes John Travolta a bit!

I’ve never read the book or seen the movie, so I went into the show without any expectations.  I actually expected it to be hokey and melodramatic (not “rapturous”, as the ads say), but there aren’t many musicals I pass on seeing so I expected a fun day out.  When we walked into the theater I was a bit worried, seeing as we were the youngest people there.  No lie, everyone else was retired.  I’m pretty sure a good number of them retired before the movie was released….

There were some uncomfortable conversations with the audience members around us, especially the women who told us we needed to read the “juicy” book, which was “the 50 Shades of thirty years ago!”.  Oh boy…

The musical, though?  Absolutely stunning.  It’s intimate, passionate, lush, and beautiful.  I loved Steven Pasquale on Rescue Me but had no idea he has such a great voice! And as expected, Kelli O’Hara was just perfection.  This is her show, through and through, and she is on-stage almost the entire length of the musical.

It’s not a traditional musical; there’s no dancing, very little action, and the cast is small.  But it’s character-driven and the music is some of the best I’ve heard in years.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when it ended and I know I will be buying the cast recording when it comes out.  At one point I leaned over and said to my friend, “I’m way more invested in this than I ever expected to be!”  Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale make sure that you fall in love with their characters and they break your heart in the process.

When the show ended, we were wiped out.  Emotionally, it’s completely draining.  Needless to say, we needed milkshakes from Shake Shack to recover!  But now I can’t stop listening to the demos (here) on repeat.  So gorgeous!

Ready for the show!

Ready for the show!

A Lenten Dilemma #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

This morning I woke up and drove to Livingston, about an hour and a half north of me (with traffic) for an amazing workshop offered by the lovely folks at Heinemann.  I spent the entire day leaning from Smokey Daniels and it was, without a doubt, one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended.

The only issue came when they released us for lunch.

I’m not a North Jersey gal.  It’s too crowded for me, with the negative parts of living in the suburbs and the negative parts of living in the city.  It’s too crowded and there’s too much traffic.  As a result, I wasn’t familiar with the area when it came time for lunch.

I hopped in the car and figured that I would stay on the highway for a few minutes until I found someplace that offered lunch.  Then I remembered that it’s Friday. And it’s Lent.  For those of you who aren’t Catholic, that means I can’t eat meat today.

Suddenly, finding lunch became a bit more difficult.  I drove for about 15 minutes and I swear I’ve never seen so many burger joints on a short stretch of road!  Smashburger, 5 Guys, McDonalds, Wendy’s, and a few others littered the shopping malls that lined the side of the highway.  And I’ve never felt the urge to grab a burger as strongly as I did today.

But I held on.

I stopped at Marshalls, thinking I could hold off on lunch until I got home if I spent a bit of time shopping.  Nope.  Fifteen minutes later I was still hungry and I didn’t find anything interesting at the store.

Back in the car.  More driving.  More traffic.  More burger joints.

Then I saw it. A glimmer of hope.  A restaurant that might have a vegetarian or non-meat based meal.

Baja Fresh.

I’m not a huge Baja Fresh fan, but I pulled in and crossed my fingers.  They must have a salad, right?  And their list of ingredients would certainly include avocado, which would fill me up.  But as I scanned the menu I saw a lot of meat.  And the salads were all bean-based, which is a problem, seeing as I don’t like beans.

So I decided to experiment.

Yup.  I had my first fish taco today.  And it was delicious.

20140307-221515.jpg

I decided to try the wahoo taco.  Made with ono (a Hawaiian fish, I learned, courtesy of Wikipedia), avocado, pico de gallo, and shredded cabbage, I was hoping it would fill me up.  And just in case it didn’t I added a side of chips and salsa.

I admit, I was a little leery of eating a fish taco from a fast food giant.  I’m very careful when it comes to fish.  But when my taco came out, I was pleasantly surprised.  I unrolled the aluminum foil and was struck by how delicious my lunch looked!

The avocados were fresh and smooth and the pico de gallo was just right.  But the best part was the wahoo.  Never having had that particular type of fish before, I was thrilled with how delicious it was.

Disaster averted.  Lenten dilemma solved.  And I wasn’t even hungry afterwards!

Sharing the Couch #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hThis is how I spend many nights. After everything is done for the day (including our last walk), I sit on one side of the couch, Chris gets comfortable on the other side, and the dogs fill in around us while we watch TV.  Last night we finished season 2 of House of Cards so tonight we’re catching up on some DVRed shows from earlier in the week.  Bailey was laying near my feet and eventually ended up putting her head on my ankles and falling asleep.

But Dublin?

He likes to curl up as close to me as possible.  That usually means standing in front of the couch and whining until I realize what he is asking for.  At that point I squish myself into the couch so he can jump up and curl up on the edge of the couch.  The nice thing is that during this cold weather he keeps me warm.  But he is not good at sharing!  He takes up way more space than you would think he would and he frequently readjusts his position.

It’s a good thing I like him. :)

20140306-215017.jpg

Slice of Life March 31st, 2013 #slice2013

sols_6

I have been participating in the Slice of Life challenge since 2008 and it’s always one of my favorite blog-related activities.  Thank you to Ruth and Stacey for this awesome challenge!

This year’s challenge has certainly been different.  For the first time I had students slicing with me, and many of them sliced every day!  It’s been a pleasure reading their entries and comments this month and I am so glad I challenged them to participate (even if some of them dreaded it).

But this month has also been full of ups and downs.  Chris had surgery on March 19th, and the lead up to that was frantic.  The following week was spent in the hospital and he came home last week.  He’s been home a few days now and it’s such a relief to have him recovering here, instead of in the hospital.  The SOL challenge gave me some time to focus on each day and forced me to sit down and think of the things I am grateful for each day.  And I am grateful for the Slice of Life challenge for helping me keep my sanity this month.

I can’t wait til next year!

Slice of Life March 30th, 2013 #slice2013

sols_6

I spent a good portion of my day trying to get ahead (and caught up) before going back to school on Monday.  That means I graded a lot (trying to get caught up, to what feels like no avail), cooked a lot, and completed a lot of food shopping. Those tasks, coupled with getting Chris out of the house for a bit and watching Wreck-it Ralph resulted in a very tired Sarah.

Baked ziti

Baked ziti (Photo credit: dolescum)

Chris has a few more weeks of recovery at home so I wanted to get some meals in the freezer that he can use for lunches while I am at work.  Because he loves pasta, I decided to make my first baked ziti.  I know, I know.  What can I say?  I’m Irish, not Italian!  But I ended up making a double batch of ziti, so we have one pan in the freezer and one in the refrigerator.  I think we are set for a while!

Then, I made some baked eggs that we can use for breakfasts this week and some frozen crockpot meals.  That way, I can just toss the meals in the slow cooker before I go to work and I won’t have to waste time cooking when I get home.  As an aside, I can’t tell you how much I love Pinterest.  All those recipes I have been pinning for months have finally come in handy!

I’m not really a cook, but I can follow a recipe, so Pinterest has been a lifesaver.  And while it was tiring, I am glad that we have a bunch of meals already completed for the week.  It should make the transition back to school a little easier!

Slice of Life March 29th, 2013 #slice2013

sols_6

Yesterday it was announced that Amazon will be purchasing Goodreads next quarter.  I’m not sure how to react to this news, because I love Goodreads.  I loved its independence, the community, and the interface.  While I am an Amazon customer (no independent bookstores closer than an hour away), I don’t need Amazon taking over every website I use.  They already own all or part of Shelfari and Librarything, which is one reason I don’t use either site.

But what upsets me the most about the sale is that I encourage my students to use Goodreads.  It was independent and not tied to any major retailer, so I was comfortable recommending it.  It also allows my students to grow as they move through school and eventually graduate.  The few other book social networking communities I tried out were aimed at kids and my students would eventually age out of them.  While this may seem like a silly thing for me to worry about, it’s important that my students find a community of readers that can stay with them as long as they are willing to participate.

When I taught 6th grade, I always shared Goodreads with my students and encouraged them to join (with their parents’ permission).  Many of them did.  It’s been over 6 years since I first started recommending the site and I still hear from many of those students.  There is an ebb and flow to the site, allowing members to pick up where they left off, without any pressure or judgement.  In the last few months I have been contacted by 5 former students, ranging from 8th grade to current juniors in high school, who have become active on Goodreads again.

 One of those students told me she was looking up a book her friend was reading and the search results included Goodreads.  She remembered using the site with me, clicked on it, and soon she was adding books to her “want to read” shelf and reminiscing over the list of books she last updated in 7th grade.  I now see her adding books a few times a week and she even recommended a book to me!  The power of a reading community is stronger than most people realize and too many students (and adults) lack access to one in the flesh.  Too many of my former students tell me that they haven’t heard a booktalk since leaving my classroom, haven’t had a teacher recommend a book that wasn’t canon since being with me, and no longer remember how to find books on their own.  And how can we expect them to keep reading if no one is providing them with the opportunity to find and read books?

That’s why I love Goodreads.  I love that current and former students can message me about books.  I love that our school book club can have conversations between meetings.  I love that I can model my reading life and passion for all of my students (current and former) in an unobtrusive manner.  And I love that there is no commercial tie-in.  We are surrounded by ads all day and Goodreads was a welcome respite from that.  Sure, there are banner ads and such, but they were book-related and usually lead to a publisher’s official site or an author’s blog.  They didn’t lead me to an Amazon order page.

Goodreads is about community and passionate readers.  It’s not about making a buck.  At least, it’s not about making a buck for me.  Sadly, it seems to be about money for the founders.  I can’t blame them for that, of course.  But I do wish they had offered the users of Goodreads an option.  Maybe we would have been willing to kick in money to keep the site independent!  I’d even be ok with publishers buying into the site.  But a single retailer?  That’s harder for me to digest.

We have a while before anything changes because the sale doesn’t close until next quarter.  I’m not going to stop using Goodreads and I hope I won’t have to in the future.  But I will be watching carefully.  And in the meantime, I think I will be doing what author Kate Messner suggests.  We can support other retailers, especially indie bookstores, in the reviews we post.  But my students and I will keep using Goodreads, while crossing our fingers that the community isn’t destroyed by Amazon.  Because the community is what drew me to the site and it’s why I share it with my students.  Losing that would be a shame.

Slice of Life March 28th, 2013 #slice2013

sols_6

Isn’t it amazing how certain songs can remind you of people or take you back to a part of your life?  I’ve been reminded of that twice in the past 24 hours.  Chris and I sat down to watch Les Miserables today and I kept thinking of my friend Aileen, who first introduced me to Broadway musicals way back in elementary school.  Thanks to her I fell in love with Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Annie, Cats, and pretty much every Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

I was also reminded of the power of music at last night’s Taylor Swift concert.  I was already out of college (*sob* I am old) when Taylor Swift released her first single, but her music always makes me think of my teen and college years.  She writes the soundtrack for many people’s lives, I think.

Then there are the songs that make me think of Chris and our life together.  Avril Lavigne, Ingrid Michaelson, Michael Buble, and so many others.  I can be transported to a mood, a time, a place, or a feeling when certain songs come on.

Music fascinates me because it is inherently tied to our emotions.  I’m not a musician, but I love music and the soundtrack it provides.

Slice of Life March 27th, 2013 #slice2013

sols_6

Tonight I took my little sister to see Taylor Swift.  Ok, she was a convenient excuse for me to go see Taylor Swift.

I’ve loved Taylor Swift ever since I first heard “Tim McGraw” back in 2006.  Even though she is younger than me, her songs provide a soundtrack for my teen and college years.  Her songs are like little YA novels set to music, and her albums are all awesome.  I’m partial to her more country-esque albums, but I own them all.

Tonight, I almost went deaf at her Red Tour.  I’ve never seen so many light-up signs or heard so much high-pitched screaming.  But it was awesome to watch all these young girls and teens (and twenty-somethings!) sing along to “Mean” and nod along as Taylor told them to ignore the people who try to bring them down.  They also sang along, even louder, to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and I laughed as Taylor Swift told the audience they shouldn’t get back with their evil ex-boyfriends just to be with someone.

It was a great night and a great time with my sister.  :) And now it’s after midnight and I need some sleep!

Slice of Life March 26th, 2013 #slice2013

sols_6

Today I am grateful.  Chris is home, in his own bed, and everything is as it should be.  He has a few weeks of recovery ahead of him, but it’s so good to be out of the hospital.  Tonight he can sleep without a stranger in the room, without the woman in the next room screaming, and without being woken up for vitals every 4 hours.  He doesn’t have an easy few weeks ahead of him, but every day will be an improvement on the last one.  And it’s getting better every hour.

Now if only I could convince the cat to leave him alone…….The dogs are easy- a gate stops them.  The cat, not so much!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,796 other followers