Thursday, June 27, 2013

a fresh dinner

My friend Alisha posted a picture on facebook of a dinner that she made.

It looked delicious.

Why hadn't I thought to make that?

It's Chicken Taco Salad. Here's the recipe I've roughly followed. Roughly, because it sounded easy enough to try without using a recipe.

So I tried.

Without the recipe.

Now if you know me at all, you know that I routinely follow recipes. Only on occasion do I branch out and try recipes with my own spin. It's not that I'm scared, or have a fear of ruining it. I am a rule follower. Plain and simple.

And it was good.

It's fresh.

It's flavorful.

It's perfect for summer.

I've made it two more times since then.

It makes a lot.

It's my go-to dish.

Here's how I make it:

I season a chicken breast with olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder. I bake it like Ree does for her Chicken Tortilla Soup, at 375 for 20 minutes. I'm guessing you could also grill it, but I haven't tried that because I'm not turning on our behemoth of a grill for one little chicken breast. I think I made the first one our our Forman grill though.

While it cools, I assemble the rest. I use romaine, because it's hearty and has nutritional value. I just made the "sauce" using plain yogurt (as opposed to Greek, I'm currently boycotting it for its byproduct), before I had just used some homemade ranch and sour cream. The yogurt/mayo combo is SO much better.

I use all fresh herbs (I need to blog about that, I need to take some pictures of my potted herb garden on our deck); cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley and thyme (those are the same herbs in my homemade ranch, in case you were wondering) plus some dry herbs and spices like garlic powder, onion powder and whatever else Bill tells me is in taco seasoning. Plus the same things I used to season the chicken.

I add two roma tomatoes, the can of black beans and however much frozen corn I feel like adding. I also shred monterey jack cheese and cheddar. The avocado is like the icing on the cake.

Or the nacho chips are.

I can't decide.

I like a crunch, so the chips add something extra. Plus they take the place of needing utensils.

I hope you try it. Again, I think it's perfect for a hot summer night. Refreshing, filling, and healthy. Until you add the cheese. And the nacho chips. But healthier than ice cream.

But it's summer, so ice cream is necessary.

So is this salad. Let me know if you try it!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

she swallowed a fly...

I don't know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she'll die.

Do you remember that song? I do. I had the book (I think it was a music book so I could play it on the piano). If you remember it, you'll recall that she swallows bigger and bigger animals until she gets to a horse.

Now, why anyone swallows a whole horse is beyond me. The song is silly and I think that is the point. And it's probably some proverb... or clever way to teach music.

At any rate, I can really relate to her swallowing a fly.

I swallowed two on my run yesterday.

And that is what I thought of, there was an old lady who swallowed a fly.

I know don't know why she swallowed the fly, but I do know why I swallowed the fly.

Because I can't run with my mouth closed (I didn't feel like trying to rhyme that, let me know if you come up with something).

I don't run with it hanging open. but I do enjoy that whole breathing thing. It's sort of necessary, especially if you're running.

If you run and you know how to do it without swallowing flies, can you let me know the trick please?


In the meantime, I'll try not to swallow anything other than a spider that will wiggle and jiggle and tickle inside me/her.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

bird funeral

I witnessed a bird funeral.

Did you know birds held funerals?

Neither did I. But now I know that they do.

I was in the kitchen, making strawberry shortcake when I heard a bird in the backyard.

I realized this bird was making a lot of racquet so I walked over to the patio door to see what was going on.

Atticus was hunched over in the grass. It was clear that he had just killed something.

I looked up in the Redbud tree and saw the robin making all the noise.

Then I realized a morning dove was on the garage. A sparrow flew onto another branch. There were more birds that I could hear, but could not see.

The robin's song changed into a mournful tune. The other birds joined in.

It lasted for a few minutes. It was not the bright, cheerful chirps that I am listening to right now. It was definitely sorrowful and full of grief.

That was the bird funeral. It was very touching and heartbreaking at the same time. I had to remind myself of the circle of life. And then I was amazed at nature and how the birds mourned.

Friday, June 21, 2013

playing around

I just finished reading a book (okay, it was actually a self-help book, but my book club chose it, so I read it) and in the end the author encourages the reader to remember to play. Since it was a self-help book, I reflected on what I do to play like a kid.

Other than youth group during the school year, I thought of a couple instances where I "play".

At least once every winter, I have thrown myself into the snow to make a snow angel. One year, someone walked through our yard to make a heart out of footprints next to my angel. I cherish that memory.

If I'm running and I come across a hopscotch game, I hop through it.

Last week, as I was running, I passed a father and son. The dad was probably my age or a little older. The son was around eight or nine. I said hi and smiled because that's what I do. The son held out his hand for a high five.

Of course I high-fived him.

It made my day.

How do you play?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Leaves, Toads, and Bugs oh my (but really none of those things are in this post)

Part 2

This post has nothing to do with leaves, toads or bugs.

I wanted to give you time to digest the last one and take it all in.

Was two and a half weeks enough time?

I thought so.

This post goes back to band. I thought it would be nice to mention that Mrs. Noble, our band director, retired after 33 years working in the Hamilton Heights schools.

Back in May, Mrs. Noble directed her last spring concert. Let me back up to before that.

In 1997 students asked if they went on a band trip, did they have to participate in Contest? (The full concert band prepared a few pieces to play in front of judges and were scored against themselves, it wasn't a competition against other bands.) Mrs. Noble decided that if the students didn't want to go to Contest, she wouldn't make them. They would still play a spring concert; they would call it Pops Fest. It included the middle school bands. A spaghetti dinner was added as a fundraiser.

It was so popular the first year, that they continued Pops Fest every year since.

After 9/11 they began the tradition of playing the Star Spangled Banner as their first piece.

They have played different arrangements over the years. Mostly from movie/Broadway scores. Everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to Phantom of the Opera.

Last year, Mrs. Noble's father passed away. She has since been taking care of her mother and found it to be more work than she anticipated with her full time teaching job. In early 2013, Mrs. Noble (I still can't call her Chris, she is and always will be Mrs. Noble to me) made the decision to retire so that she could care for her mom. That is honorable and I'm sure was not an easy decision.

Mrs. Noble actually left the band program, right before I entered, to become the Assistant Principal at our elementary school. The band program suffered for three years (under two different directors) before Mrs. Noble felt called back when the position opened up in 1991.

I had seen the work and dedication that Mrs. Noble gave to the band when Cyndi was in high school (and in band).

It was all I wanted to do, was to be in band under the direction of Mrs. Noble.

We worked hard in marching band. We never competed in that category, but performed for home football games with Husky Pride.

You can call me a band geek and I'm proud of it.

I have many fond memories of band and the friends I had. Including this one.

I don't have a clue why Aaron was wearing a dress. I don't know where the dress came from, and I'm sure he was supposed to be in uniform like I was. I seem to recall this was before a parade. But it could have been before a football game.

Aaron deserves his own post. He was my best friend in high school and I owe him so much. He listened, he cared, he always gave me a shoulder to cry on and good advice. I guess I should write that post...

Back to Mrs. Noble's last concert.

A former student, Brian, started a group on Facebook for a farewell at this concert. We would surprise her and play the last piece with the high school band.

We didn't have the music until a week before the concert. Mrs. Noble always waited to put the concert order together based on how well the band performed each piece.

This time it was the Lion King.

The alumni would arrive while the jazz band and guard were performing in the gym. The alumni would meet in a classroom on the other end of the school. From there we would enter the stage behind the curtain and wait.

It all went according to plan. We actually had to wait in the back hallway before entering the stage. There were forty alumni who were going to play and another ten or so who were there for support, to surprise Mrs. Noble or because they no longer had instruments to play (I ended up not taking my flute because I didn't think I was going to stay to play, I had to drive back to Grand Rapids that night so I could be at Sunday school the next morning because it was the last one of the school year and it was Teacher Appreciation Sunday).

During the second to last piece, a tribute to Lionel Richie, we quietly filed in behind the curtain. Before the high school began playing the last piece, my dad went up on stage to present Mrs. Noble with an official proclamation claiming that May 19th was Christina Noble Day in Cicero. This is what he said,

"My family moved to the Hamilton Heights area in November of 1985 and I first met Mrs. Noble at the Christmas concert that year. We really got to know her when my wife and I became active in the Booster organization in 1986. We witnessed her dedication to her students and the instrumental music program at Hamilton Heights.
     In 1988 Mrs. Noble had an opportunity to become an administrator and moved to the elementary school as the Assistant Principal. After three years in that position and watching the band program go downhill, Mrs. Noble returned as Director when the position came open in 1991. When we went to Tipton Pork Festival Parade that year we took the entire high school band and guard on one school bus and the equipment went in a parent's mini-van. Now, we take four buses and an equipment bus!
In 1994 the high school band and guard took their first spring trip to Washington DC and also the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Parade. Two years later, we took the first Disney trip. These trips were dreams that Mrs. Noble had for the program and they were finally coming true. Along with Mr. Bill House, I have been privileged to have made all of the band trips to date and to share in those dreams. Pops Fest is the result of a dream that Mrs. Noble had, to have all of the bands come together for an evening of music.
     Mrs. Noble's love of music, love of her students, and dedication to the band program is very evident in the classroom, during performances and on these trips. No one sits on the bench in band. Everyone must contribute what he or she can to produce the music that is before them. She expects the best from each musician and will settle for nothing less. Mrs. Noble has made our band program inclusive, not exclusive. If you play sports at Hamilton Heights, you can still be in the band program. I dare say that Mrs. Noble has touched more students for more years than any other teacher within the system. Our daughters, Cyndi and Emily, are just two of her many students who hold the highest respect and admiration for Mrs. Noble and what they learned under her direction - not only about music, but about teamwork and about life in general.
     I know you are probably saying to yourself, when will this guy shut up and let us get on with the final piece and I will do that in just a minute. During a temporary lapse of memory six years ago, I was elected to the Cicero Town Council. I am here this evening representing the Council and to make this presentation:"

He then presented her the award.

Then, Mr. Perkins came up on stage. Mr. Perkins is retired from teaching 5th grade and he directed every musical the 5th grade performed as well as musicals performed by the high school. My 5th grade musical was "The Wizard of Oz". In high school, I played in the pit for, "Mame", "Music Man" and, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat".

Mr. Perkins was basically just delaying and was the cue for the surprise. He told Mrs. Noble he found a rose from when they performed "Beauty and the Beast" and gave her a lovely, red rose. Then he said, since it was her last performance that we should do something different. What would happen if we opened the back curtain and saw what was behind it...

The curtain was drawn and there were fifty alumni standing there with instruments. Her mouth made an "O" and she was shocked to see all these people. Then she started recognizing people. That was when the tears really started to flow. (As you will see in my shaky video, hopefully it won't make you seasick.)

Mr. Perkins (or maybe it was Brian, it's all a blur now) said that not only were we here to send her off, but that we were going to play with the band in the final piece (this still chokes me up).

She went into "Mrs. Noble" mode and got down to business. It was mass chaos for a minute while the high school band moved around to make room for those alumni with instruments. (Yes, the high school band knew about this, they had been told only a few days beforehand.)

At one point, Mr. Perkins (or someone) asked if anyone in the audience, who had been a part of the band/guard program, to please stand. From what I could see, there were easily thirty or so more people who were there!

Then it was time, the band was ready. Mrs. Noble lifted her wand for the last time (okay, the last time for a spring concert, the band still had to play at graduation) and directed the Lion King. Like my dad said, the band has grown. With the alumni on stage there was barely room for everyone.

The sound filled the auditorium. It was the best performance I have ever heard. Everyone played from their heart. After the standing ovation, Mrs. Noble started making her way through the sea of musician to hug and thank each of us for coming.

I'm so glad I stayed. Even if it meant driving home late. Mrs. Noble was, and still is, an inspiration, a leader, a positive role model, an amazing teacher, a patient director and the best teacher I had in all of my school history.

Even after all that is said, I still feel like I'm not giving her enough kudos or praise for all that she gave me. But I'm going to stop now, otherwise I'm going to run out of tissue.

This is dedicated to Mrs. Noble, for all her years of teaching us the magic of music. Thank you Mrs. Noble!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Leaves, toads and bugs oh my!

Part 1

The summer between 5th and 6th grades was (and still is) beginning band. It was/is when students in my school picked the instrument they wanted to play.

I had the correct embouchure for the flute and thus began my tooting.

hehe, I said tooting. Have I mentioned that I work with Jr. High students?

 Anyway, back to the post; this one's gonna be a two-parter so I should try to stay focused.

I continued playing the flute through Jr. High and on into high school. The summer before my freshman year we had marching band practice. Our school was small enough that if you were in band you were in marching band, pep band and concert band. No separation or segregation. We were all one band.

Not long after we began marching, I quickly realized that wearing glasses and marching did not go together. It probably didn't help that I had large, circa 1980's, glasses (yes, the frames were red). I had to change this dilemma of my glasses sliding down my nose when I was supposed to be standing at attention in 80-90 degree weather.

The problem was my sister. Being completely fair and diplomatic, my parents gave me the same rights/privileges that they gave to my sister, when I reached the same age when she had received them. For instance, she got her ears pierced when she was twelve. Therefore, I had to wait until I was twelve to get my ears pierced.

Cyndi had gotten contacts when she was 16. Apparently driving meant responsibility and being responsible meant wearing contacts. (That sounds a little trite, it really isn't meant to be, I'm not a fan of 16 year olds driving cars, especially in todays distracted world.) That meant I had two years of marching band in glasses.

That would not do.

I went to my parents and proceeded to explain to them why I couldn't wait, why I was responsible, how  much contacts now would improve my marching, etc. I won them over with my wit and smarts and at some point that fall, I was wearing contacts. (Not before school pictures, I might add, but that's okay.)

I still wear contacts, usually I just wear my glasses at night. However, when I started working from home, and stared at a computer screen for eight hours a day, I stopped putting in my contacts everyday. If I wasn't going anywhere, I didn't see the point. I thought I'd be saving my eyes from bifocals and, maybe that worked?

Even now, when I'm home and don't plan on going anywhere, I don't wear my contacts. But I don't necessarily wear my glasses either.

Many times, when I go run I don't take the time to put in my contacts. I can see, things are just blurry. Which leads me to see things on the sidewalk that aren't really what I think they are.

Leaves take on different shapes. I see toads, animal poo (no one wants to step in that), bugs, dead birds, giant bugs, dead toads, odd shaped poo, and on and on.

It doesn't help that I have an active imagination.

All of those things I listed actually turn out to be leaves or sticks. Except the poo. I have seen that, but most of the time what I think is poo is just a pile of leaves or a leaf on a stick.

I bet I look pretty silly jumping over leaves and avoiding sticks. But I wouldn't know because I can't see myself...