Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Break

Greetings faithful blog readers!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend with family and friends. Ours was packed with so much fun, and I wanted to share a recap.

We had Friday off, and we got up early to straighten the house up for the house keepers and then headed to breakfast at Mulberry Cafe. Sadly, Lori's closed leaving Midlanders with frightfully few breakfast options. Mulberry was a good bet though; the prices are reasonable, and the food is good. Afterwards, we headed to the nursery to pick out some plants before heading home. We met up with friends at the beer garden for "after work" drinks. We also shared dinner at the beer garden (our first time eating there), and were pleased with the food. We ended the night by watching Louis CK and Lilo and Stitch on the couch.

These boots weren't made for walking

On Saturday, I made avocado toast with eggs for both of us (thanks for the idea, California) before heading to a special 90s R&B yoga class. After class, I came home and put on Sunscreen, and Brendan and I spent the next four hours outside working in the yard and planting our new plants (Brendan was already at work while I was at class).

I love these "ponytails" and planted a couple between the evergreens in the side-yard.

I totally forget what these are called, but they are supposed to be popular with butterflies, and my goal is to make our yard a butterfly/hummingbird haven, so I bought and planted two. My friend Jesse (Graham's best friend from growing up) passed away in November 2010 and butterflies always remind me of him.

New "ice plant" succulent in the cactus garden (to replace the barrel cactus that did not survive the winter). 

Our big news is that we planted this desert willow in the side-yard in the middle of where the grass will one day be. When I say "we," please note that I mean Brendan dug the hole and I helped with smaller tasks :) 

Side-yard progress picture (we have a long way to go!): 

After all the planting, we cleared, swept, and sprayed our patio, and then opened it for the season (yay!) We had to take an evening trip to Pier One for new cushions (not sure I told you guys, but a bunny moved into our storage bin in October and destroyed the other cushions). After Pier One, we satisfied our sweet tooth with our first visit to Fountainville Creamery. The ice cream was good, but honestly working at Amy's in Austin gave me an extremely high bar for ice cream that is hard to meet!

Saturday night, we started watching The Magicians on Netflix, and we're both fans (think Harry Potter for adults). I've read the books, but it was a long time ago, so I'm not sure I can compare the two accurately. 

On Easter Sunday, I woke up wanting to make Mimi's waffles, so I texted my cousin Amanda for the fiftieth time saying I lost the recipe; luckily, Amanda reminds me how I actually have the recipe and where it is.

For dinner, I made this black bean and chickpea chili from the insulin resistance cookbook. It was a win with both of us, and we polished off the leftovers tonight. 

I also made my favorite Grapefruit Olive Oil Poundcake from Smitten Kitchen. I've made this several times, and I'm so proud of myself for mastering this one! 

I enjoyed seeing everyone's dressed up cute Easter photos, but in all honestly, I stayed in my PJs all day and loved it. I read an article in The New Yorker I've been meaning to get to, and I took an amazing candlelight bath while it was thundering and lightening outside. It was a relaxing day and just what I needed.

Today, we were still off, so we started the day at Home Depot. Brendan built us a new front yard flower bed, and I need another lantana for the matching bed (since only one came back from last year).

Not sure you can see the triangle beds on either side of the driveway, but they're there. The best sighting today was our hummingbird (spotted twice). We hope she builds her nest in our maple again!

Then, I met up with my friend Allison for manicures and pedicures and lunch. I'm addicted to the margarita pedicure. 

Here's a pic of our new succulent and my newly painted toes: 

I went to barre class tonight, and we ate leftovers on our patio. We also got great news today that Brendan was accepted to present at SCMLA (I got my acceptance last week), so we're both ready for Tulsa in October! He's presenting on Race and Gender in 20th Century Literature, and I'm presenting on Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. I'm looking forward to my paper SO MUCH (hint: it involves Margaret Atwood). 

We'll end today with another episode of The Magicians. I'm sad the break is over, but I'm ready to knock out the last month of the semester. Tomorrow, I'm subbing for a co-worker and tutoring until 10:30pm with Brendan...wish us luck! 

Hope your Easter, Passover, or weekend was fantastic. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spring Has Sprung!

 Greetings faithful blog readers,

Did you think I was disappearing? I didn't; I just got sucked into the busiest part of the semester. Since I last posted, a lot has happened! We inducted 51 students into the English honor society on March 31st (our largest class yet). Those students did 237 hours of documented community service hours all related to forwarding reading, writing, and literature. They passed out books and read to children at the hospital, recorded readings for the visually impaired, tutored on campus and in local schools, worked with an adult literacy organization, and helped the public library and our campus library among other projects. We could not be prouder of the people they are. If you need hope that the world is still a good place, you need not look far.

Outside of work, we managed to fit in a lot of fun these past two weekends: we saw Beauty and the Beast (which I'm sure everyone has seen by now!) and Get Out. I highly recommend Get Out: it was fun, scary, thought-provoking and just what I love in a horror movie. Last weekend, I finally got a chance to take Brendan to the beer garden, so he could discover all he was missing! He loved it, and I returned the next day with my friend Kristen because pineapple cider is something I don't want to live without.

I've been keeping up with my workouts and enjoying the warm sunny weather these past few weeks. We've also had a good deal of rain this spring, and last night was so peaceful falling asleep to the sounds of a storm. Perhaps that is why our yard is looking so lush! Poor Brendan has spent HOURS weeding in the gravel areas of our yard. Remember when we planted grass plugs last year? Look how awesome our grass looks now! 

Almost all plants and herbs from last year came back with the exception of basil, parsley, and dill, which we replanted a couple of weekends ago. 

Herb Garden
Cactus Garden 

Right side raised bed

All of our trees have their leaves back except the Chinese Pistache in the back...they're coming though. We hope the hummingbird takes up residence in our maple again, but we haven't spotted her yet. 

We love our desert oasis of a backyard. The Ocotillo is getting leaves, the cactus is getting new pads, and a lot of the succulents are sending up flowers. 

The project for this spring will be the side yard, and you can see what a project that will be. There's a surprisingly large amount of space back there! 

The roses in the front bed all came back beautifully. 

We always have a LOT going on in the spring, but it's nice that it's such a lovely time of year. Being out in nature is a sure way to lift our spirits. And another thing that lifts my spirits is Easter break. I won't be returning to work until Tuesday, and I plan to enjoy the heck out of the next few days. 

Happy Spring Friends! 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eating for Insulin Resistance

Greetings faithful blog readers and hello from week 10 of our semester,

We're happy to finally be in the double digits! The past two weeks have been extremely busy for us, but we don't expect things to slow down until graduation.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that I have insulin resistance. It's not the same as diabetes; here is an article that explains more. Symptoms can vary, but I think the most noticeable one was that I used to always get hungry (like ever three hours) and be extremely cranky if I didn't get food. I also thought I had a small bladder, but, it turns out, that was related to insulin resistance too. I've been on medication for about a month now, and since we returned from California, I've been making an effort to eat better for insulin resistance.

In my research, I've learned that I need to be careful about added sugars and carbohydrates (it's better to eat high protein meals with some carbohydrates like fruits and veggies and some healthy fats). I also need to reduce alcohol and caffeine (I'm not giving up my morning coffee, but I'm cutting back other caffeine sources and on alcohol) as well as limit full fat dairy (don't worry, I'm not giving up cheese). I need to focus on eating plenty of fiber and avoid juice. It's good that I already eat vegetarian because those with insulin resistance should also avoid red meat.

Overall, one thing I learned from my research is that my diet is already highly conducive to helping with insulin resistance. This is good news because it means none of the changes I have to make are drastic; still, I was in search of more information and recipes. Tara Spencer has two cookbooks that have already helped me immensely: The Insulin Resistance Diet Plan and Cookbook is a great place to start, and Spencer's Insulin Resistance sequel for those with PCOS has great recipes as well.

Even if you aren't insulin resistant, I would highly recommend giving eating as if you were a try!

I made this lentils with curry recipe on Saturday night and served it over brown rice. It was delicious and kept us both full.

I also enjoyed the tomato and herb omelet (finally, a good excuse to use our herb garden again!) and the spinach and eggs skillet this past weekend.

I'm going to make one of Spencer's muffin recipes (hint, she uses things like almond flour to replace regular flour) to have for quick on-the-go breakfasts. Also, a spicy vegetable soup recipe is calling my name for dinner soon!

Right now, our fridge is full, and I'm thankful for recipe inspiration.

Happy Wednesday friends!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring Break: San Francisco, Napa, and Sonoma

Greetings faithful blog readers,

We are home from a whirlwind week in California! I can't believe what a wonderful trip it was. The trip to San Francisco came about in January when I found out I was going to attend the League of Innovations at the Community College conference. We flew in on Saturday, so we could be there for the start of the conference on Sunday. In addition to attending receptions and an awards ceremony, I was able to go to several panels focused on teaching and learning and student success. To fit everything in, I would leave Brendan asleep in the mornings and hit up early sessions and then come back for an afternoon session. I made some great connections with community college teachers from around the nation, and I picked up some exciting ideas that I am eager to test out.

Day one, Brendan and I started the day with brunch at The Grove (highly recommended) and checking out the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts between morning/afternoon sessions. It's funny because I was seeing art that related to my Comp II's students' papers and taking notes for them.

After the first day at the conference, our friends the Shewmakers drove in from Stanford, and we got drinks at the Press Room before heading to dinner at Kin Khao, a delicious Thai food restaurant, where Graham met up with us. Graham flew here from LA to see us and have a last adventure in San Francisco (he and Erynn recently relocated to Los Angeles).

The next day, Graham took us on a tour of the mission area. We ate at a cute diner, picked up goodies at lots of cute little shops, found a used bookstore, and spent time reading outside. One thing we lucked out on the entire trip was beautiful warm spring weather. There wasn't a bad day while we were there! 

That day, Brendan and I found out about a professional success (more on that later), so the three of us went to celebrate with sushi (obviously). 

Thankfully, Graham was there to help us navigate public transportation. We also used Uber and Lyft quite a bit. 

The next evening was one of my favorites. After morning/afternoon sessions, Brendan and I went to the San Francisco Modern Museum of Art for a few hours. It was really a nice museum (but expensive!) Graham met up with us and took us to Pier 31 for Hog Island Oysters. They were soooooo delicious, and with a view of the water, it was one of my favorite meals of the entire trip (which is saying a lot). 

We ended the evening with drinks back at our hotel (this spot is called The View), and we took in the sunset over the gorgeous city. 

The next day, Graham came to the hotel for the closing awards ceremony. Look who took out a full page ad in the program: 

Michael and I were both honored to be awards recipients. We felt the love! After the ceremony, Graham drove Brendan and I to the airport, so we could pick up our rent car, and Graham headed back to LA in his car. 

Brendan and I headed to the Stanford campus. While we waited for friends to finish with work and workshops, we checked out the free and amazing Cantor Museum of Art. Here's Brendan in front of the "gates of hell." We have this same photo of me in Paris. 

After touring the beautiful Stanford campus, we got dinner with The Shewmakers, J, and Lauren. The choice was clear because Brendan has been wanting ramen forever, and Em promised this place, Dohatsuten, would not disappoint. 

She was right!

After spending a lovely evening at the Shewmaker's, Brendan and I returned to our hotel in the city. We found a parking garage on Mission and 5th (about a block from the Marriott Marquis) that does parking for $3.50 an hour (this was a deal compared to the $74 a night valet parking at the hotel!)

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed to Napa. We were armed with a list of recommendations from my co-worker who grew up in California. However, we quickly discovered that, due to generous pours, there is a limit to how many wineries one can visit in a day! 

We started with Silverado Vineyards, which was super romantic and lovely. Here was the view from the patio. We had the place almost to ourselves.  

Next, we ate a delicious lunch at the Rutherford Grill and went to Rutherford Ranch Winery; they had delicious wines and gave plenty of complimentary extra pours! We finished up our tasting day with champagne at Mumms (pretty patio and interesting Ansel Adams gallery) before checking into our adorable AirBnB. 

I had made dinner reservations at Glen Ellen Star around the corner, which worked out perfectly since we were quite tired. We shared beets and brussels sprouts and a delicious pasta before ordering the house made ice cream for dessert. We were watching Planet Earth II and falling asleep by 10PM. The wine really takes it out of you! 

The next morning, we were up early for a gorgeous 5 mile hike at Jack London State Park. It was so interesting to read about the author and see his property, and boy was it gorgeous. 

We hiked to the ancient redwood. This had to be our redwood experience because there was a mudslide in Big Sur, but it worked out nicely. In hindsight, I wouldn't want to do more driving than we did. The Napa and Sonoma areas are such a good choice for a couple's weekend type of trip. We brought sandwiches from Village Market and had ourselves a picnic.

After the hike it was time for, you guessed it, more wine! We went to the Bezinger Family winery simply because it was so close. The tram and caves tour was interesting, and we enjoyed the wine tasting as well. However, I think we both agree that the best part was a complimentary tasting that we were given to nearby Imagery (owned by the middle brother of the Bezinger family), which turned out to have FANTASTIC wine. I was just so excited by Imagery and highly recommend a visit. 

Vineyard tour

Brendan tasting port
A funny story: before leaving on our trip, I put us on the waitlist at The French Laundry (people talk about the nightmare phone system, but I got through on the second try). Since reservations didn't pan out, I made dinner reservations at Bouchon (another Thomas Keller restaurant). As I was getting dressed for dinner, The French Laundry called and offered us a reservation. However, we opted to stick to our original plans. The food at Bouchon was delicious, and the atmosphere didn't disappoint. I had truffles for the first time, and I think I understand what all the fuss is about. It was a spectacular meal, and we were spectacularly satisfied. 

The next day, we enjoyed Breakfast at the Sunflower Cafe in Sonoma before heading out of town. The entire drive was beautiful. I kept trying to take photos, but it was hard to get any that did it justice. 

We went over the Golden Gate Bridge.

We were surprised that our entire trip only used 3/4 tank of gas. We returned our rent car to the airport, checked in at our airport hotel, and took an Uber to meet Corley and David at the Botanical Gardens. 

This was Corley's pick, and I'm so so so glad that we didn't miss these beautiful botanical gardens. If you are heading to San Francisco, I would put this on your must do list. 

After drinks at Fireside Bar, the four of us parted ways, but it was so good to see my best friend and have even just a few hours to catch up. She even brought us these amazing chocolates from Ginger Elizabeth in Sacramento (where she lives now). Brendan and I shared an amazing dinner at Marnee Thai and the best ice cream of the trip (and that's saying something) at Hometown Creamery before catching an Uber back to the hotel. It was one of those amazing trips where you never want it to end. 

This morning, we caught a 6AM flight home, and I collapsed on the couch at 5PM. Brendan woke me up around 7PM. I hope that I can get to sleep for good very soon. Tomorrow is Monday morning, and I am not ready (yikes!) The cats are very happy to have us home. Lola is sleeping at my feet as I type. 

Thanks for a gorgeous week, California! We feel so lucky to have experienced it :) 

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