Monday, October 27, 2014

The Public Radio Tote Bag

I didn't think I'd post again so soon, but then I saw this when browsing  my favorite public radio station's website (a thing plenty of people do):

This American Life Tote Bag

WNYC says, "Classic Ira Glass-the clever statement on this bag is wry, witty, pointed." 

I'm not going to lie, I'm jealous of anyone currently toting their kale bushels around Brooklyn wearing this baby. Unfortunately, I selected a different monthly gift when I gave this year, but you don't have to make the same mistake. Yours if you donate $5 a month to WNYC for a year. It'd be like wearing Ira Glass on your shoulder! 

Which is only kind of weird, right?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Back with a Vengeance

But only a metaphorical vengeance, of course. 

Now that the school year is well under way (a whole quarter down, actually!), it's time to get back to the lost art of blogging. Lost because back in August I forgot just how tough September would be, how I really should have stocked up on posts over the summer when there was time to write something other than a lesson plan, and that I have a terrible habit of avoiding projects I feel I haven't kept up properly. Usually, this results in any writing projects (also: exercising, organizing, advanced personal grooming, etc.) I've undertaken falling by the wayside.

But not this year! The stuff about writing projects, anyway. That other stuff will have it's day later this fall/winter/spring...whatever. Thanks to the prodding of a man who would like to go by Pancho on this blog (I swear he had his choice of nicknames), I'm back to report on some cooking, hostessing, and reading that will be happening this week. 

Let's begin with the week's first event, some good old fashioned poetry!

I've seen Collins once before, in Brookline, Massachusetts, and he didn't disappoint. He's one of the more accessible poets you might ever hear or read--both his work and his presence on stage are entirely inviting. Even the first poem of his newest collection, Aimless Love, has that quality.

by Billy Collins

Looker, gazer, skimmer, skipper
thumb-licking page turner, peruser,
you getting your print-fix for the day,
pencil chewer, note taker, marginalist
with your checks and X’s
first-timer or revisiter,
browser, speedster, English major,
flight-ready girl, melancholy boy,
invisible companion, thief, blind date, perfect stranger –
to see if it’s you passing under the shade trees
with a baby carriage or a dog on a leash,
me picking up the phone
to imagine your unimaginable number,
me standing by a map of the world
wondering where you are –
alone on a bench in a train station
or falling asleep, the book sliding to the floor.

That is me rushing to the window
to see if it's you passing under the shade trees
with a baby carriage or a dog or a leash,
me picking the phone
to imagine your unimaginable number,
me standing by a map of the world
wondering where you are--
alone on a bench in a train station
or falling asleep, the book sliding to the floor.

Now there's a guy who knows how to romance a bibliophile! See you Tuesday?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic...

I do anything I can to incorporate John Green, history geek and YA novelist extraordinaire, into my interactions with my students. As a middle school teacher, I can't help but appreciate the combination of his unbridled love of the intellectual and teenage-readers unbridled love for him. Once upon a time, I felt like I was really in the know when I'd give kids his books, but with the amazing success of The Fault in our Stars, the secret is out. 

This year, I'm hanging this John Green quote in  my classroom in an attempt to counteract the inherent need to stifle enthusiasm that most adolescents possess:

quotes design Home inspiration nerd amazing john green graphic design science chemistry Literature Nerdfighter psychology geek biology nerds press release physics geeks inspiring quotes nerd fighter
I found this on GeekSpeak's tumblr. Visit  for more fun posters!

Any other great quotes for a reading classroom?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Last Call for Peaches

Last night, we had a peaches emergency. Every Saturday in Fort Greene Park, our local farmers market features delicious offerings that we stock up on regularly. Last Saturday, we ended up with a double batch of peaches (lesson learned: never split up when you both have the propensity to buy the same produce!). No matter how many peaches we ate, more stared back at us from the kitchen table. By yesterday, the peaches were so ripe it was obvious they didn't have much time left. But they were way too perfect to bake or bottle in any fashion. They needed to be eaten as is, and right now.
At the fanciest bodega-grocery in the neighborhood, I picked up a carton of Liberté yogurt in French Vanilla. Thick, creamy, and way too indulgent for breakfast, I was counting on it to be a slightly healthier substitute for whip cream. 
Then, heading out the door, I saw berries on sale--two cartons for four dollars! A dessert was born. 
Not-Your-Breakfast-Yogurt and Fruit
1. Chop up some peaches, strawberries, pears--any fruit that has a bit of juice to it.
2. Pour each serving of the fruit in a bowl WITH the juices divided, and add whatever other fruits you'd like until you have about a cup's worth.
3. Pour about half the carton of yogurt onto each bowl of fruit. 
Note: This would also be amazing with a piece of pound or coffee cake underneath it for a more substantial dessert or to serve to guests. Just don't go too crazy with the yogurt. You really want the fruit  to shine through here.

P.S. Up in step one, I originally wrote "bears" instead of "pears." I'm still debating if I should have left it.              

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Franks, Dim Sum, and Bran

Living in New York City allows for a variety of cuisine that I never could have imagined growing up in the suburbs. While my mother was an adventurous cook, my family wasn’t always helpful in fostering creativity. My sister didn’t like any protein that hadn’t clucked in a previous life, and my brother was always trying to get french fries—baked, fried, frozen, you name it—onto the table. My dad was slightly better, although he refused to try any kind of Mexican or South Western fare until about ten years ago, despite law school in Southern California and children that ate tacos regularly.

Flash forward 10 years and I can spend my weekend ricocheting between Russian fruit carts in Brighton Beach and sipping bubble tea in the winding alleys of Chinatown like it’s no big deal. I don't know if I'll ever get sick of the sheer amount of culture, activity, and cuisines New York City's accumulated in its small corner of the world. And you know what makes all of this even better? The appearance of a convertible on a sunny Saturday afternoon that wants to drive you someplace awesome.

Thus, with a sweet ride and the wind in my hair,  I found myself looking out at the Ocean Parkway storefronts and wondering what it took for a plumber to qualify as kosher. (When I googled the question later, I was largely thwarted by people using the term figuratively, i.e. “Do these tiles seem kosher, bro?”, but it seems that the issue presents itself around where you clean your dishes.) Eventually, we arrived at Coney Island, an iconic summertime destination. We appreciated the Cyclone and beach-bathers from a safe distance, and headed over to Nathan’s. Just like that, we left Little Russia behind and were back in America.
Sunday it was off to Chinatown for Dim Sum, which meant Manhattan and a subway line recently fumigated by the MTA, two obstacles that would typically keep me borough-based all weekend. Still, this brunch would mean I could claim visits to (Little) Russia and China(town) all in one weekend, and wouldn’t that be nice to write about.

After some wandering of the un-gridded streets of lower Manhattan, the  four of us found our way to Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a small restaurant tucked away on Doyers Street. I would highly recommend you visit if you’re in town, but be smart about it:

-Try to stick to four people or less if you’re going at a peak time of the week/day. Anything more and you’ll be waiting forever in a crowd of people holding raffle tickets with arbitrary numbers on them that may or may not be called.
-Order more dumplings than you think you need. They’re soup-filled moments of joy.
-Go ahead and share everything. The menu is huge and sampling  things you can’t even imagine the taste of will make you feel adventurous.
-Relax! According to my friends who have visited multiple times, you can order until you’re stuffed and the bill will still always manage to hover around ten dollars.

Hot dogs and dim sum were both hugely successful, but at this point the weekend and it was time to think about the work week. At this point, all my meals had felt really representative of the time they’d been consumed. Saturday: Nathan’s! Sunday: Tea Parlor. It was time to think work week. There was only one thing left to do for Monday.

Bran muffins. (Trust me, they’re healthy and delicious. Not to mention movers and shakers, if you catch my drift.) This recipe that Deb Perelman of the Smitten Kitchen posted recently is from one of my favorite bakeries in New York, Blue Sky Bakery in Park Slope. Quick tip: I recommend tightly packing the brown sugar as opposed to loosely, and using at least a cup of fruit, if not more.

And with the replacement of ketchup and mustard for bran, it's the end of fine New York City weekend

Monday, August 4, 2014

The First Post

Before I welcome you, a little disclaimer:

You know the elephant graveyard in Disney's The Lion King? If not, here's a refresher: its barren, nobody lives there except for some ill-tempered hyenas, and you really shouldn't try and visit, no matter what your uncle or anyone else says about it. I mention it because it shares some similarities with my experiences trying to keep a journal. The pages remain unfilled, the book itself grows dusty in a lonely corner on the shelf, and I make promises not to go back to the thing no matter how many people tell me if I try it again I'll like it.*

But I'm still going to start writing this blog. After all, things have changed! I'm older and wiser now. I've been training for years months to start this thing! I've regularly tweeted. Mastered the filters of Instagram. Dabbled in and renounced Snapchat all in the course of a week.

Here's the big takeaway: I learned chronicling your experiences is more fun when you can share it. And there's a lot to share, thanks to all that my little corner of New York City has to offer. Adventures are plentiful, and there's plenty to write about.

But what to name this blog? After some really terrible brainstorming sessions, I tried to think of something that captured my day-to-day life and was more whimsical than "Read All the Books" or "Oops, Forgot to Drop off Laundry Again." Finally, it occurred to me that I'm almost always accompanied by one of the many canvas tote bags I've collected over the years, and that many of the people I see meandering around my neighborhood do the same. I guess Brooklyn considers these bags acceptable substitutes for purses. They express our allegiance to Public Radio, Trader Joe's, and the local arts organizations. They are ubiquitous and unique at the same time. How cool is that? Hence, Tote Bag Diaries.

See the picture below for evidence of some spontaneous fun I had while wearing a tote bag this spring.

This is an awesome mural in Clinton Hill.
Featured tote is my WNYC membership gift, making it
either free or the most expensive piece of canvas I own.

So now, welcome! I appreciate you reading to the bottom despite that whole "elephant graveyard" thing. Should you visit again, I will try and make up for it!


*If you can think of a way to incorporate the hyenas into that metaphor, you're more creative than I am.