Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another great day

An absolutely amazing day today. I'm still unpacking from the move (where did I get all of this junk??), but took the day to head to the farmers' market (of course), and stopped by the shop owned by my friend, Tenzin. Also had the pleasure of catching up with another friend of mine who formerly owned a coffee company but has switched over to hibiscus-based drinks. I tried one, and it was pretty tasty, I have to say.

I still haven't been able to do any yoga, climbing, or cycling, but considering that there is no room in my living room for yoga, my bikes are buried somewhere in the garage, and I've had no time for climbing, I guess that's not really surprising. Soon... soon.

I've been eating more vegetarian meals lately. Don't worry, I still like MEAT. In fact, I made some bison burgers this week that made me really happy, but tonight I experimented with tofu a bit. I sauteed some tofu in coconut oil, then baked it in a chipotle-citrus barbecue sauce, and topped it with a pineapple-mango salsa that Blake (Kyle's friend) and I made from scratch and off the top of our heads. It turned out pretty great, really. Oh... and yes, it was all organic. :-D Much of it was even local, compliments of the farmers' market.

I've also had no time for reading, which really bums me out. I'm thinking of doing some tonight, provided that I can find the book I want to read. :-p Oh yeah... moving is great, let me tell you. My goal is to be completely settled in before next week's farmers' market. Craigslist is going to love me pretty soon... I've been finding a lot of stuff and wondering why I still have it, so it's time to get rid of it... an ice cream maker that I've never used, and in fact I now have two, so it's time to get rid of one of them, a LARGE cast iron frying pan, a wok (again... I have two [why?]), a windsurfing board (was a cool gift at the time, but....)... all things that I have no idea why I still have them, and I know there will be more to come once I get to really sorting through boxes. Time to purge those things I no longer need... I even found a decoration I'd saved from my high school senior prom, for Pete's sake... what have I been thinking?? Time to purge. As Henry David Thoreau said, "Simplify, simplify." I thought about having a garage sale, but that's too much hassle, so I'm probably going to give most of it away, with the exception maybe of the extra washer and dryer I now have.

I like the new place except that the dishwasher doesn't work that well. bleah. I'll deal with it, or perhaps discuss it with the landlord; we'll see how bad it gets.

More unpacking tomorrow, then I can start on the garage and get my bikes out!! Woohoo!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Busy, busy weekend!

Crazy busy this weekend. First was the farmers' market, of course, but along with it today was the Boulder Creek Festival. We met up with my friend, Waylon, who asked us to dog-sit Redford the Wonder-Ele-Dog, so off we went.

The place was PACKED. It was totally insane. Fun, but way too busy. The market was actually about half the normal size since the rest of the space, including the next street, was taken up by carnival rides and vendors. We hung out for a while and I did my shopping, then we got lunch and hung out at the festival for a while.

I was going to get more pictures of the festival, but I was so impressed by the flowers and how green it was just outside the Dushanbe Tea House, that I got a picture of that instead, then got distracted by the festival itself. Kashi was even there with some booths set up where they had samples of their cookies, granola bars and cereals... and a free yoga class!!! So I got to munch on some free Kashi food and do some free yoga in the Boulder Creek Park. Yay!

For the record, moving is not a lot of fun. My family and I are moving to a smaller townhouse this weekend, and it's really not anywhere near as much fun as you might think. We started on Friday, and I've barely moved any books. You can see my small bookshelf in the background about half empty... those books are in the new house, but I still have the rest of that bookcase, a much bigger one that's not in this picture, and another bookshelf in my basement.

It's going to be a LONG weekend! :-p

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First batch done... and new books!

Whew! The first batch of post-school meetings is over. I actually get a few days off until I have my next batch of meetings on June 3rd. So this weekend is farmers' market weekend AND it's the Boulder Creek Festival, so that should be pretty cool. I'll be sure to get some pictures and put them up. The other upside of having some time off is that I'll be able to get some reading done... yay!

Speaking of which, I'm up to about 75 books to have read by the end of summer. Yeah, I know... you would THINK the goal is to decrease the number by reading them, but Mr. Hansen gave me a $20 gift card to the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, and there is almost no place my will is so weak as in a bookstore. I mean... I had $20 to spend and of course, it was in a BOOKSTORE! I mean.... what else was I supposed to do? ;-)

So I picked up a couple more books and added them to the summer reading stack. I'd like to have Plan B 3.0 done by the end of next week. Not sure what I'll read next.... I'd only have 74 to choose from! ;-)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Graduation party

Aaron's graduation party was today. It was fun... a few friends, lots of general mayhem, and a good time had by all. His best friend, Mike, had his birthday today, so we celebrated both... it was Aaron's idea to put the Happy Birthday, Michael on the cake... it was really nice of him to do that, I thought.

I'm still not quite on summer break yet. I have four days of meetings this week, then a week off, then three days of meetings during the first week of June. Maybe this is payback for all the homework I gave my students over the past two years... NOT! ha ha ha!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Global Learners and a final thought of the day

Found out yesterday that I'm going to be a part of the Global Learners program, which is SUPER sweet and I'm extraordinarily stoked about. It means that I'll be getting all sorts of technology for use in my classroom, including my own laptop, projector, smartboard... all the cool tools. I can't wait! It does mean giving up some days of my summer for training, but it's SO totally worth it... I've been working really hard to bring my classroom into the 21st century and this will really help me continue down that path.

And for my students, here's a final thought for the day (just in case you don't make it to the last day of classes tomorrow):
I wish you sunshine on your path and storms to season your journey. I wish you peace in the world in which you live... More I cannot wish you except perhaps love to make all the rest worthwhile. (Robert A. Ward)
And now... back to grading final essays!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Living mindfully is not convenient

I read a friend of mine’s blog last night in which she talked about the difficulties she’s having trying to live a more healthy and mindful lifestyle. The entry was laced with no small amount of irony considering that she lives in Boston, where you would think things like organic food, farmers’ markets and the like would be easily accessible. Not so.

Interestingly, I had a similar discussion with Aaron over the weekend. Choosing to live mindfully is one thing… actually DOING it takes a certain amount of commitment, particularly if it pervades every aspect of your life. Take water bottles, for example. With the recent admission that BP-A is actually not good for a person combined with the REI gift card I received for Christmas (go, Mom!), I decided to make the change to BP-A free bottles, and because they are more eco-friendly, I opted for metal as my first choice. Sounds easy, right? Not so, young Padawan!

First, there is Nalgene. The ever ubiquitous bottles seen attached to nearly every backpack in Colorado, now in a BP-A free version, made in the good ol’ USA, and a bargain at only $9.50 for a one liter bottle. Problem? Nalgene also manufactures equipment used in animal testing, so if you are against animal testing, then supporting Nalgene isn’t an option.

Camelbak? BP-A free, but $15 and if you are trying to avoid things made in China, then this bottle isn’t for you.

On to the metal bottles, which can be recycled so are more eco-friendly than both Nalgene and Camelbak, so there’s a definite bonus, but you can’t three-quarters fill them and pop them in the freezer for cold water all the next day like you can a Nalgene (or similar plastic bottle), and ice cubes don’t fit into their narrow tops, so you have to buy an “ice tube” maker or deal with lukewarm to warm water. The two that seem to be the most readily available are by Klean Kanteen and Sigg. A 27-ounce stainless steel Klean Kanteen will run you about $19 while a 40-ounce bottle will set you back a good $26. “Responsibly made in China.” What does THAT mean???

Finally, there is Sigg. Ceramic lined aluminum for about $22 and comes with a 20 year warranty. Manufactured in Switzerland… and China. *sigh* Ultimately I decided on the Sigg. All of the bottles had “Swiss made” on them, so one can only hope that indeed mine were made in Switzerland and not in China.

And yes, these were all thoughts that I had and went through before purchasing my new water bottles.

And don’t even get me started on food. Going out to eat is quite the challenge, especially if trying to avoid GMO’s in food. With the U.S. actively resisting labeling foods containing GMO’s both locally and internationally, it is quite difficult to know exactly what you are eating unless you choose to eat organically. Let’s take a look at the bigger fast food chains. McDonald’s? Ew. Not an option. Burger King? No better. Nor is Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Arby’s… all crap, in my opinion, and none of them known for mindful practices. Pizza Hut, with its new, all natural pizza is trying, at least. Better options? Good Times, with its Coleman Beef, is a step in the right direction. Local, grass fed, not frozen beef. Noodles & Company is a good option, and their ingredients tend to be good quality. Best bet for the budget? V.G. Burgers in Boulder. All organic, fresh food. It’s vegan, but so what? It’s still super tasty and good for you. It’s pricey (a full meal deal of a burger, fries and a drink is $9), but you get what you pay for. Added bonus: everything is compostable… the food and the containers it comes in, including the cup and straw for your drink.

Now let’s talk about home cooking. My goal is not just organic or at least all natural food, but local as much as possible. In Colorado, we’re fairly blessed. The Boulder Farmers’ Market runs from April through November, and so for most of the year I am able to eat locally grown, fresh, organic produce. This year I am going to try my hand at canning and preserving my own food so this winter I will be able to open up a jar of local produce and continue to follow the 100-mile diet, more or less (I admit, I cheat a little… can’t get coffee or bananas that are grown locally in Colorado). Thanks to the Farmers’ Market, my shopping at traditional food outlets (Whole Foods, King Soopers, Costco, etc.) has decreased by leaps and bounds. My milk gets delivered from the local dairy, my beef comes from a local ranch where the cattle are grass fed, and raised and slaughtered humanely; most of my produce is local. I’m working on the switch for my chicken and pork. Fish, particularly salmon, is problematic, as is some produce like oranges and bananas. I still read the food labels for everything I buy, even if I’ve bought it before, just in case ingredients get changed; in a few cases that’s happened, so it’s worth the continued reading. The vast majority of “convenience foods” are gone from my diet now, with the exception of things like rice pilaf, and I tend to buy pasta from the store instead of making my own, even though that will likely change soon also (the pasta, I mean).

Yeah… it takes me forever to buy things.

To some extent, there has been an increased financial cost, but in many ways it balances it with the increased health of everyone in my family, and with the decision to buy not only organic and/or local but also fair trade, the karmic cost is also worth it. Everything is connected to everything else, and to think that there are no costs beyond the wallet is simply erroneous. This goes for not just foodstuffs but any item in general, really.

In some ways I guess I’ve informally joined the Slow Food movement… meals take longer to prepare, especially dinner, but the quality of the food is higher and tastes much better than it used to. Actually, most things take longer now… multitasking, a skill that so many others prize, is simply a way to keep us distracted; to keep us from really paying attention. I find myself doing less and less of it these days and find that I’m noticing life and being present more and more.

But as I’ve said, all of this… it takes commitment. And I can’t say that there aren't times when I’m tempted to take the easy way. To ignore that can on the street instead of picking it up and carrying it until I find a recycle bin; to stop in and pay a buck for that double McCheeseburger. Yet I find that when temptation sets in, I can’t bring myself to follow through on it. I know too much about what goes on with my food and with so many other items that I buy, and I just can’t bring myself to go back to where I was. Yeah, it would be easier sometimes, but just because something is easy doesn’t mean that it’s right. And if I’m really going to live up to all that I say and talk about to others, then it’s a commitment I have to make and take seriously, and follow through with every minute of every day. And you know what? In so many ways, it’s totally worth it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Graduation day!

Super busy and intense day. Graduation was today, which meant that Aaron graduated today. I'm incredibly proud of my son. He worked so hard to achieve all that he did, and it was so great to see the culmination of his efforts today.

I woke up at 6:00 (yes, in the morning), showered, shaved and started breakfast. I fired up the grill so I could roast some peppers, then shredded some potatoes for frying. After that I shredded some cheese and started cooking the beef chorizo that I got from the ranch where I get my beef. After the peppers were roasted and cooled a bit, I chopped them and added them to some eggs I'd scrambled up, then added that mixture to the chorizo. Then I woke everyone up, and we had breakfast burritos with the egg/pepper/chorizo mix with the hashbrowns and cheese, covered in green chile and salsa. YUMMY! :-D Oh yeah... we had coffee, too. It was pretty tasty, and Aaron definitely appreciated that the whole thing was in his honor.

Then it was off to graduation. The ceremony went really well, and I'm pretty proud of myself... I didn't cry at all... of course it helped that Adrian Martinez, one of the kids from the team who was graduating, didn't get all emotional about it. I knew that if he did, I would, and he did well. ;-) I admit that I did choke up a bit when I hugged Aaron after the ceremony, but he cracked a joke that made us both laugh, so we were able to hold back a bit.

After that, we went home and I gave Aaron his graduation present: an electric scooter (looks like a Vespa) and helmet. I watched him practice with it a bit, then he headed off to see some friends and show off his scooter a bit, and I took everyone else (except my oldest son... he had to work) out to Boulder for the Farmers' Market. We got there SO late! It was already 1:40 by the time we got there, so a lot of stuff had sold out. I did manage to grab some ground bison, mushrooms, a bag of spinach, and some more cheese, but that was about it. I wanted to get some more of that beef chorizo, but they were already sold out (harsh!). One quick stop at Great Harvest Bread Company for some brownies, then it was back to my house, drop off the groceries, and then off to a graduation party to which I'd been invited.

*WHEW!!* I can't even believe how much happened today.

It still hasn't really sunk in that Aaron has graduated. I don't think it's really hit him yet, but I know that come Monday, when I don't wake him up to go to school, it'll really hit both of us. I'll get some pictures of him and his scooter and post them up here.

As I said before, I'm incredibly proud of Aaron and his accomplishment today. But he's not the only one I was proud of today. Several of the students from the climbing team also graduated today: Zach, Adrian, Joe, Jerred, David, and Eliria, as well as several other seniors who had been on the team or had been in my classes and had become my friends.

I think that's the toughest part of being a teacher- being a part of a young person's life and then having to say goodbye to them four years after you met them. I've been through a lot with so many of them, but especially Zach, Adrian, and Joe, and now they are out on their own. I do know that I'll be staying in touch with several of the seniors that graduated, especially those three, but it's not the same as being a part of their every day life... seeing them in the hallways, having them stop by my classroom... but now we get to have our friendships move to the next level, and it really was time for it to grow. I've no complaints. I'm very proud of the class of 2008, I'm honored to have been a part of their lives, and I'm excited to see how our friendships grow over the next years of our lives.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Summer reading list

So with the arrival of American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau today, I took a count of the number of books I plan to have read by the end of summer. Including Plan B 3.0, which I am currently reading, I have 71 books set aside for reading as soon as possible. *ahem* Woops. Didn't know I'd set aside quite that many.

I don't know... I think it's pretty cool. (Professional nerd, remember?) Know what would be cooler? Actually having them all read by the time my students come back in August. Of course, that's not including any books I might buy over the summer....

Must... resist... must... not buy... books...... Yeah. That'll happen. I'm quite sure I'll end up buying a few more to read... I do know that I'm in search of Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hahn, so there's one to pick up anyway.

Speaking of books, I'm thinking of starting a book club when school starts up again this fall. Basically we'd get together once a week for a couple of hours, have some snacks, and read and talk about books. I think it'd be super sweet to get a grant to fund it as well for the snacks, the books, and maybe even a field trip or two to a local (and independent!!) bookstore. Yeah... more mega-nerdy type stuff, but I really think it could be a lot of fun, and I bet there are a fair number of students that would join it. We'll see... stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First one

Here we go. I finally decided to stop being lazy and start a blog. A few of my students have asked about things like what I do on my weekends, what I do over the summer, etc. As of today, I can just post it up here and send students to my blog if they are interested.

First thing I thought I'd talk about is the farmers' market that I attend in Boulder every Saturday. As I promised, I took some pictures, so here they are.

This is how the market looks when you first arrive. This is about an average sized crowd... it gets pretty busy! The first thing I do is walk from one end of the market to the other and check out what is there. One of the cool things about eating locally and seasonally like this is that things change from week to week, and it's pretty fun to watch for the produce arriving at the markets. It definitely keeps you aware of the passing seasons and how much we tend to take for granted!

The big challenge this weekend will be getting out to the market after graduation. In a perfect world, I will go to graduation, pop out to the market and pick up my produce for the next week, then back to Commerce City for a graduation party to which I was invited. Graduation is going to be great, but really hard for me. It means that I now have three children out of high school (how can I be that old??), and it also means that some of the students from the team that I have grown very close to will be leaving. All things change, and it helps to remember that.

More soon!