Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On College...for Jonathan

If given the chance to go back to high school, I would pass. Not because it was not a good experience for me; for the most part, it was. (Ask Jill.) But as a high school teacher I observe daily the self-consciousness and anxiety and that particular mix of emotions characteristic of teenagers that I am happy to have outgrown and wish never to experience again.

College, on the other hand, I would go back to in an instant. (Ask Deanna.) In fact, I sometimes dream about it. Unfortunately, the dream never works out, because I am my forty-something self in the dream and have difficulty adjusting to life without a car and with a roommate of traditional college age. Still, it is difficult not to long for (every once in a while) an opportunity to go back to that magical time, when anything is possible. Once your parents pull away from your dorm, you’re on your own in the ways that matter. You can reinvent yourself if you wish, or just be a more anonymous version of yourself.

No one knows if you’re the kid from the two-family house with all the used cars in front, or the girl whose father comes to all her games half in the wrapper and argues with the ref. It doesn’t matter as much anymore that you earned three varsity letters in three different sports, or that you made high honors every quarter. It won’t matter that you didn’t get asked to the prom, or that you ran for class officer and lost.

College comes with a clean slate; it provides a safe haven and creates numerous opportunities to meet new people and try new things— without parents and classmates and neighbors watching. And that makes it infinitely easier to sometimes fail. In college you won’t carry around the stigma of losing the election or not making the team for what seems like forever. So eventually you start doing things that matter to you for exactly those reasons. There you are in college: just you and your desire to try new things, to learn about things that matter to you, and to meet new people--many of whom will be different from yourself and the kids you grew up with, all while trying to become someone of your own making.

When we sent my nephew Jonathan off to college last week after a proper Polish breakfast at my parents’, I wanted him to know these things (if he didn’t already) but was too emotional to say much. Instead, while we hugged, through my tears, I managed to say to him only this:

You will have the time of your life. Have fun. Be safe. Do well. Make us proud.

I hope that was enough.

Snow Days--no shovels required

Let me begin by saying that I did not take Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene lightly. I was prepared but unharmed. My heart goes out to anyone affected and consider myself fortunate that I was not. Let me also add that I am not one of those people whining that it was over-hyped. Really? Have you seen footage of the deluge in Vermont? The wreckage in East Haven, Connecticut? More than 40 people are dead all along the east coast; I dare say Irene was not given any undue credit.

Yet this post is more about the school cancellations than the hurricane. Sort of.

I can't help but think that back when the expectations of education were realistic and before school districts were run as corporations, when summer vacation didn't end Labor Day weekend, there would be no cancellations to begin with and, therefore, no exasperated messages from superintendents barely able to spit out the news that there would be no school.

In the aftermath of this--which could have been soooo much worse (anyone remember Katrina?)--and the grand scheme of things, we should be grateful, not put out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fate and Tomatoes

I recently had my nieces over for a couple of nights. In preparation for their stay I bought some things at the supermarket that I normally don't keep around: namely, white bread and chocolate milk. Most of the chocolate milk is gone but we never even opened the white bread, and I forgot to send it home with Meredith for Charlie, who happens to to be on a strict, self-imposed diet, and subsists on the butter he licks off white bread and chocolate milk--save for the occasional french fry or bite of pizza.

So here I am with a loaf of "the whiter your bread, the quicker you're dead" bread. And a platter of tomatoes from my mother's garden. And, as fate would have it, my new sleek toaster that was delivered just today.

What's a girl to do?


There may be grilled cheese and tomato in my future.
Who knows? Maybe even peanut butter and fluff.

Photo Journal: Newport Recaptured

a family must: Brick Alley Pub

Jill's favorite meal

Meredith's favorite dish at Puerini's

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Photo Journal: What August Looks Like

summer dinner:
lemon rosemary chicken skewers and Greek salad over mixed greens

Hyndrangea from my mother's garden

after pool snack: Caprese with my mom's tomatoes and basil

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Photo Journal: What Not to Wear...or Note to a Stranger

Dear Girl in front of me in Starbucks in Newport,

Those polka dot espadrilles are adorable!The bandages on your blisters? Not so much.

You're young. Eventually you'll figure out that cute shoes needn't torture, especially if they fit right. For now, keep in mind that it's always smart to pack an extra pair of shoes, something not so dressy--and definitely more comfortable--for the morning after your date when you're getting your latte on.

Good luck to you...oh, and be careful, the left one is about to come off!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Re-Cap: Chicago

As you can imagine, Deanna and I had a great time in Chicago. How could we not? Two old friends escaping reality for a few days? Two foodies in a restaurant town like Chicago? Two shoppers stationed on the Magnificent Mile? Exactly.

I'll spare you my Marc Jacobs bag and new pendant from Bloomingdales, or the bag Deanna dreamed about for two days before going back to buy it, but I will share some of our dining adventures, which began with dinner at Cafe Spiaggia.

Gnocchi with wild boar ragu and polopetti

Also from Cafe Spiaggia:

walleye and summer vegetables

While in Chicago we had to go to Table 52, of course, and we planned to be there on one of the two nights he serves fried chicken. (It made not seeing Oprah not so heartbreaking.)

Famous Art Smith's famous Table 52

and his mouth watering fried chicken
But our favorite dinner was at The Purple Pig, where we shared several delectable small plates. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera, so my only pictures are cell phone photos...

pork liver pate

salt roasted beets with goat cheese mousse and pistachio vinaigrette
and missing from these mediocre photos is one of the milk braised pork shoulder we shared, which is the most tender and tasty pork I think I have ever had in my life.

Lunches were less eventful, but we had one remarkable one, our best, when happened upon Feast in Bucktown.
Greek lunch plate with rosemary chicken and hummus
And my daily morning coffee and cinnamon muffin top from King Cafe didn't suck.

cinnamon muffin top

It certainly was a formula for success: 4 days to shop , 3 nights away for an equal amount of exceptional dinners (that we planned and made reservations for in advance)(try getting a reservation at any of Rick Bayless's restaurants...go ahead, I dare you), for 2 old friends.

Oh, and the highlight, the 1 thing that put me over the edge? A visit to the Mother Ship, the original Crate and Barrel which, truth be told, brought tears to my eyes.

The Mother Ship

N. Michigan Ave entrance to C&B
Now, I've lived.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I [heart] Chicago

from the 95th floor
More details to follow...
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