JUNE 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
These two things are funny:

One: There is an area next to our driveway where someone, at some point, planted some perennial bulbs. It's kind of nice, because there are irises and lilies and a few other flowers that I don't know the names of, and they just come up. I noticed a few weeks ago that there were some leaves sprouting up, and I didn't know what they were, but I figured something would grow and come of it. Then last week, Paul pointed it out to me, and you know what it is? Corn. We have one, umm, stalk of corn growing among our perennials. I'm not sure how it happened, since there's no corn growing within probably five miles of where we live, but it's corn alright. My best guess is that one of our neighbors had one of those dried-out corn decoration things hanging on their door in the fall, and some squirrels go to it and nibbled off all the kernels, and so either a kernel landed there and actually sprouted, or a squirrel, umm, pooped it there and it sprouted. (Haw haw, poop corn.) It's probably field corn, and it probably won't taste very good, but we have corn. Nice.

Two: We have this new cable network called Ion, I think, and they show reruns of The Wonder Years every night at 10. Our friends told us that they watch it every night, and later Paul told me that he hates that show. But every night for the past few nights, as soon as it's 10, I can hear Joe Cocker singing the theme song, and it's sure as hell not me watching it. Haw haw. Paul likes The Wonder Years.

This is not funny, but still: We are leaving tomorrow for a big fun long weekend in Cleveland! I hear it's quite the awesome Midwest town, and that it's no longer the Mistake by the Lake, so we are heading out in the morning and meeting my friends Amy and David for fun fun fun. Possible activities include a visit to the Rocknroll Hall of Fame, a visit to the art museum, maybe an Indians game, eating well, and sampling beer. Both Paul and Amy drink beer amazingly fast, so I've been wanting to get those two together for a bit of a contest for a long time now. Fun times. Hello, Cleveland!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
So I started my education classes today. Yeah, I have to take education classes so I can get my teacher certification so I can keep my job as a teacher, because of fucking No Child Left Behind. Highly qualified, my ass. Who the hell is George Bush to tell me how to do my job? Anyway, it's up in Grand Rapids, and it's a lot of driving, and I'm pretty zonked right now. Fortunately, I don't have to do it again until Thursday. Ugh.

Saturday, June 23, 2007
Woooo. After running after 12-year-olds all week and then meeting all their parents on Friday afternoon and showing all of the work they've made during the week and making sure the parents were pleased that they had spent all that money to send their kids to me for the week, I needed a day off. The kids were great, but also exhausting! But today was good, especially shoe-wise. Yeah, shoe-wise. I had a $10 voucher at DSW that had to be spent (by November 25, but why wait?), so I went there this morning and picked up a pair on ultra-clearance that, when the discount was applied, cost me a penny. A penny! For a pair of shoes that costs like $70 at Macy's. And then I went to the upscale shoe store and treated myself to the pair of pricey Earth sandals that I've been wanting. They paid me well to do the video camp, so I felt like I had a little to spend, but then when I got to the shoe store, they were 30 bucks off. So they were still expensive, but not think-about-it-for-two-months expensive. And then this afternoon, I found a good pair of shoes to wear with my wedding dress. They're kind of, umm, fancy flip flops. But they're nice, and they have a little heel (I don't like high-high heels, despite my natural lack of height), and they're all beaded, and it's one more thing off the list. And really, my dress is so damn long that no one's going to see my shoes anyway. I could have Chuck Taylors on for all anyone knows. So. A good day for shoes! Yay for shoes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I'm teaching this video camp for 12-year-olds this week. It's all week, every day, from nine in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon. I have eight kids, and while yes, it is exhausting, thank you for asking, it's also amazing to see these kids work. I don't know where they're getting their energy, motivation, and inspiration from, but they're blazing through projects and they're all good. These kids are kind of putting my high school students to shame; I don't know if these camp kids are especially good, or if my high school students are especially lazy. Probably a little of both. So while yeah, I came home exhausted today and yesterday, I'm also a little in awe of how much they're getting done. Two of them are rotoscoping! And when I tried to explain how time-consuming that process was, he just looked at me with a straight face and said, "If George Lucas can do it, then so can I." He was right. So it's been a pretty cool week so far.

Sunday, June 17, 2007
We biked about 25 miles today. It was our first time out this season, and I'm a little worn out, but overall I feel pretty okay! And I finally broke down a few months ago and bought myself a new comfy bike seat, so while my butt is a little sore right now, it's not nearly as sore as it would have been with my old bike seat.

As we were getting ready to start at the trailhead, we were talking about how far we might go. An older couple was nearby, and the man suggested that we ride the whole thing! That's 34 miles (the trail ends at Lake Michigan), and while I guess I could have done it, we would have had to ride the 34 miles back, and I wasn't really up for that. So I asked if he would pick us up at the lake, and his reaction sort of suggested that he wouldn't. He was nice about it, though. So we took off, and as usually happens, Paul and I got a little separated. (He has longer legs and bigger lungs. He can go faster.) And a few miles into the trail, the man who said we should ride the whole trail passed me. I didn't see his wife. I guess they got separated too. (He also had longer legs and, presumably, bigger lungs than his wife.)

About eight miles down, Paul was at a bridge waiting for me. He took a wallet out of his pocket and said it belonged to the guy who suggested we ride the whole trail. Apparently, it fell out of his bike bag and he never noticed. I said we could just call him later and give it back to him, but the guy's address was about 150 miles away. They were obviously on vacation, and we'd never get him by phone before he cancelled all his credit cards and mentally wrote off whatever cash was in there. So we kind of made it a casual, unofficial mission to catch up or find him or something.

We kept on biking, and again we got separated. Then, about a mile from where we agreed to meet and turn around, Paul was there with the guy, who had no idea he had even dropped his wallet! We said we were heading about a mile down to the next town and then turning around, and it sounded like he was too. So Paul and I took off, and he waited for his wife. When we got to the next town, we decided that we needed some ice cream, and as we were getting off our bikes in front of the ice cream shop, the man and his wife rode up and offered to buy us cones or milkshakes or whatever as a thank you for returning his wallet. Sweet! Especially for me, since I'm not the one who found it.

I think we'll go out biking again next weekend. Maybe we'll find someone's keys, and they'll buy us beer!

Thursday, June 14, 2007
Jiminy crickets, where did the week go? Well, I'll tell you where: on Saturday morning we drove out to Detroit to pick up my mom and dad at the airport. Then we went to the Tigers-Mets game, where we were awesomely hooked up with passes to the Tiger Club, the VIP-ish restaurant and lounge inside Comerica Park, where we filled up on delicious upscale buffet food before the game. (Yeah, pricey, but when you figure what we normally spend at a ballgame between snacks and beers, it was about the same and maybe even a bit less.) After a very exciting game with lots of scoring and big plays, we drove back to Kalamazoo and slept. And then on Sunday we had a big brunch party-like gathering, and then we took my mom and dad around town in the afternoon. And then on Monday we went to the beach and got some sun, and on the way there I got pulled over for maybe going a bit too fast in a construction zone, which is super embarrassing with one's parents in the car. But the cop was nice, and my driving record is clean (like my conscience, as Deniro said in Taxi Driver, but I didn't tell the cop that), so I got off with just a warning instead of a $360 ticket. Whew! And then on Tuesday I drove my mom and dad back to Detroit to catch a flight that never left due to stormy weather up and down the east coast; they finally got out of Detroit yesterday, but by the time I found out that their flight was cancelled, I was all the way back in Kalamazoo. Then yesterday and today I had meetings and spent time catching up on all the things I was supposed to do earlier in the week. That's where the week went.

Friday, June 8, 2007
I have so much to learn: I was buying envelopes in Office Depot the other day, and as I walked from the back of the store (where the envelopes are) to the front of the store (where the registers are), I passed by the computer section, and in the peripherals aisle was a Menonite couple buying a photo printer. So I guess my questions, not necessarily in order, are:

  • How did they get there? I don't think they drive cars, and I didn't see any horses in the parking lot.
  • They have a computer?
  • They take pictures? I didn't think they like to have their pictures taken, but that might be just the Amish. (Wow, a second Amish reference this week!)
  • They want to print their pictures?

It's all very jarring to me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007
I had planned on getting some work done on Sunday after dinner, but then VH1 started showing 40 Most Softsational Soft Rock Songs, and there went my night. I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, but somehow my brain has no power of reason over VH1's programming. My brain tells my body, no, you do not need to watch another mindless episode of Celebrity Fit Club, and no, you don't need to watch the season wrap-up of I Love New York because it is hysterical and stupid, and no, you don't need to watch I Love the '90s, 1993 Part Deux because you've already seen it three times, and you know what guys Jay and Silent Bob would go gay for, but there I am, on the couch breathing shallowly and not blinking much. Damn you, VH1!

So anyway, on Sunday night they showed this new program called 40 Most Softsational Soft Rock Songs, and I caught it while I was folding laundry upstairs, and there was no way I could not watch it and find out what was number one. So I did. And at one commercial break I went downstairs to see what Paul was up to, and it turned out that he had been sucked in too! What is it about VH1's programming? They seem to have found the perfect balance between stupidity and intelligence, and it just draws me (and Paul too, apparently) in like a magnet. So I stayed downstairs and we watched it together because neither one of us could turn it off.

So about the show: there weren't too many surprises on there, and I don't know how official the actual countdown is, since they seem to pick songs that their panel can make the most snarky comments about, but I was buying it. I do have to say that I am surprised that "Wonderful Tonight" was not on there. I was also disappointed by their Air Supply choice; they chose "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," whereas I absolutely would have picked "Lost in Love," a song with a repetitive prechorus-chorus pattern that I catch myself singing sometimes when I am sitting in traffic. Actually, both "Wonderful Tonight" and "Lost in Love" remind me of senior year of high school, not because of any great teenage romance (oh please), but because Amy Ginsberg (yes, we were all Jewish back home) used to drive me to school every day in her reliable maroon Oldsmobile, and she was like the queen of the midtempo hits of the '70s, and she had mixtapes full of sappy 1970s love songs that she'd play every day on the way to school. It maybe wasn't my first choice of music to listen to, but Amy had offered to drive me to school, so I didn't want to be rude or contrary or anything like that by offering to make her a tape of my Ned's Atomic Dustbin CD. So I kept my mouth shut. Amy was always nice, even though we maybe weren't the closest of friends (or even the second closest), and even though we never discussed it, my impression was that her two favorite songs in the whole world were "Wonderful Tonight" and "Lost in Love." On some days, she'd play one of those, and when the song was over, she'd hit the rewind and we'd listen to it again. Sometimes we even got a third listen in. I never got into Eric Clapton, but I guess that Air Supply song stuck with me, because when there's a silent moment in my car and I am alone, I sometimes start singing it. Sorry, but I kind of like it, and I'll bet deep down, a lot of people do too. Seriously, find me a person who can deny the catchiness of "Lost in Love." Can you? No, you cannot, because no man or woman can resist it.

But still, 40 Most Softsational Soft Rock Songs was awesome, and while I didn't learn much beyond realizing just how amazingly homoerotic the Orleans album cover really was (can you believe it?), it was completely entertaining. I'm sure they'll re-run it soon. You should watch it! If I happen to catch it while I'm flipping channels, I'm sure I will put down the remote and watch it again. And if Amy Ginsberg happens to see that it's on, I know she will be watching it too. I wouldn't be surprised if she saw it on Sunday night. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if she were somehow involved with the production. She has all those songs on mixtapes. Somewhere.

Monday, June 4, 2007
We have some really nice neighbors a few doors down, and lots of times when I bake something, or they bake something, we share. I've brought them brownies, among other things, and they've brought us sticky toffee pudding, among other things. So about two weeks ago, my neighbor came over with two pieces of brown-ish sugary cake. It smelled like cinnamon, and as I quickly started eating a piece, she told me that it was Amish Friendship Bread. I had never heard of it, so she explained that it's bread, or cake really, made from a yeast starter. You get a Zip-lock baggie of starter from a friend (hence the friendship part), let it ferment for a few days, feed it some sugar and flour, let it ferment a few more days, and then you add a bunch of standard baking ingredients and bake it. At the end of the whole ordeal, you get this very moist cinnamon-y cake/bread thing, which was what I was wolfing down. And, every time you make it, you end up with four more bags of starter, three of which you are supposed to give away (also hence the friendship part) and one of which you keep to make more.

I was intrigued by the whole formality and folklore-ish-ness of the process. (You probably don't know this, but back when I was in grad school and thinking I was going to be an English professor, folkways and urban legends and pass-on stories and practices just like this one were a keen interest of mine. Oh god, writing that now sounds so stupid, but back then, it seemed like the most compelling thing in the world to me. Anyway.) I wasn't sure what was Amish about it, but there's a decent-sized Amish population in Michigan and also just south in Indiana, so it seemed like it could be authentic. Really, all I know about the Amish is that they don't use buttons, they don't drive cars, you can't photograph them, their teenagers are encouraged to be rebellious, and that there are a lot of them in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, a town in which you can buy shirts with the slogan, "Intercourse is for lovers." As a 12-year-old, I thought that was both the funniest thing in the world and the most ironic, since it didn't sound very Amish. Anyway, the whole friendship bread thing sounded interesting, and I like to bake, and I like to eat baked goods, so I said I'd take a baggie of starter the next time she had one to give away. Sure enough, ten days ago, she came over with a Zip-lock full of this nasty looking goo and a printed sheet of instructions on how to deal with it. It was grosser than I'd imagined it would be, but I figured, what the heck?

So for the next four days, I squished the goo in the bag. Since it would be cake in a week, I thought it might smell good, but when I opened the bag to take a whiff, it smelled like skunky Bud Light. Gross. But I kept squishing, and a few days later, I added sugar, flour, and milk and squished some more. And then the thing seemed to really wake up, because every few hours the bag was full of air, even though I regularly opened the bag up to let the air out. (Incidentally, the smell did not get any better, and actually got a little worse.) Still, I persisted with the squishing and the air-letting. A couple of times, after I had been away from the bag for a few hours, I'd come back to it, and it would be in a different place on the table. I'd ask Paul, Did you move the bag? He always insisted he never touched it. Whatever was in there was alive. It was breathing and moving, and it was starting to creep me out. And, you should know that I am not afraid of a little baker's yeast; I make my own pizza dough about once a week, and I like to bake bread from scratch when I have the time. I know what yeast can do, and I understand that it's alive, but this bag of goo was just plain disturbing.

Finally, yesterday was baking day. I emptied the goo into a glass bowl. (For reasons I have yet to figure out, you're explicitly instructed to not use a metal bowl or utensils while preparing the batter.) It smelled like the bottle-and-can return at the cheap local supermarket. I added more sugar and flour and milk and stirred it together. Then I got out four baggies and measured out a cup of goo into each one. I added the rest of the ingredients to what was left in the bowl. Included in this list of ingredients was a big box of instant vanilla pudding. The Amish use instant Jell-o? Well, maybe it was Amish-style.

Okay, so the batter was all mixed, and I poured it into my two prepared pans. (They were metal; for some reason, it's okay to use metal pans, but not a metal bowl or utensil. See, if I were still in grad school, I would find this infinitely fascinating. Now, it's mildly intriguing at best.) The pans were greased and then dusted with cinnamon sugar, and I dusted the tops of the two batter-filled pans with cinnamon sugar too. This gives all the edges of the bread/cake a great sugary crunch, which would make anything taste good. I put the pans in the oven, and within minutes, my whole house smelled like a cider mill baking room -- which is to say, amazingly good. I took the bread out when it was done, tapped the loaves out of the pans, and cut into one.

Now: I have never been good at chemistry, so I cannot tell you precisely why a disgusting bag full of foul-smelling sludge turns into delicious cake. But I can tell you that it works. It's super cinnamon-y, and the pudding makes it especially soft and moist, and it's kind of addicting. I gave away my bags of starter today and kept one for myself, because now I kind of want to make this on a regular basis. Really, it's very good! I don't know what exactly is Amish about it, though. And, the list of instructions I received indicated that I should not always have a starter to bake with, because if I give it all away or (whisper it!) throw it away, I will have to wait for a friend to give me a new one, because only the Amish know how to make the starter! Of course, a quick websearch squashed that myth; either the "Amish" is in the name to make it seem quaint, or the real Amish all have computers and are more than willing to share their ancient Amish secret of friendship bread with the entire connected world.

I've talked with a few people about Amish friendship bread, and while some have said that they like it a lot and try to make it often (it seems to be especially popular around the holiday season), a lot of people I talked with made faces as if to suggest that it's either gross or stupid or both. I guess I can understand that, as the starter is rather nasty, but my gosh, after ten days of creepiness, you get two fragrant loves of lovely soft cake. That's neither gross nor stupid. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, if someone gives you a disgusting bag of slime and tells you it's friendship bread, don't smile politely while thinking of how you will dispose of it later. Keep it and squish it and bake it. It's good. Really!

Friday, June 1, 2007
This week went by so quickly, but I guess that happens when it's a four-day work week. Monday brought great news, though, as my cousin Steph had a baby boy! So we are all very excited about a new cousin in the family. I won't get to meet him until I go back to New York for a few days in August, but hopefully by then he'll be more alert and ready to play with his cousin Amy.

My brother Evan was especially excited when he found out that Steph was pregnant, though he was a bit confused. He found out over the phone, and after he and Steph said goodbye, he said to his fiance, "I'm going to be an uncle!" Umm...not quite. I guess they don't teach everything in chiropractic school. But we're all really happy about the new addition to our family.

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