Archive for October, 2012

Hello everyone!

I listened to enough Florence and the Machine to rock me through the weekend. I am feeling much better and actually woke up to wonderful news. I recently submitted a poem to Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU)’s literary and visual arts journal called .:Seeds:., and I found out that it was accepted and will be published in this fall’s issue! I don’t know what liberties I have to post it here, but I would also love if you all checked it out in its publication (among friends and fellow writers of mine) which is due out on November 30th. I will follow up with details once I get more. Right now my poem is in the copy-editing stage along with everyone else who submitted and had pieces accepted.

This is only the second time I have sent in something this personal to me for others to review. Another blogger, Liana, who writes for The Hour of Soft Light nailed it when she said the review process is like surviving an autopsy: http://thehourofsoftlight.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/surviving-an-autopsy/

I generally feel an excruciating discomfort about letting others read my writing. Sometimes I am protective of word choice and theme. Sometimes I think my piece is damn good, and don’t want to be told otherwise, and so lastly, sometimes I am just scared of having my words combed through, discussed, and debated over only to find that it wasn’t what ‘they’ were looking for. But, we all do this, all the time.

I think blogging these past couple of months has shown me what ideas I already have baring it for all of you, and being privileged to read your work, too! I think we become sensitive and conscious when reading other’s work, and I suppose that makes me feel a little braver about sharing.

Well that took some guts. But, onto something a little less excruciating, but equally as scary and full of guts (and promised), I did get around to carving pumpkins and making a pie. As promised, I have listed my pumpkin pie recipe and will add some photos.


dry ingredients

1 t. Cinnamon
1. t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1 t. ground cloves
(For all of these you can also use a pumpkin spice mix)
1 t. cream of tartar
1 C. sugar

wet ingredients

one whole pie pumpkin (They are smaller and generally sweeter)
3 eggs
12 oz. of evaporated milk (or your choice — I used vanilla soy milk and it worked fine)
(Optional) 1 t. vanilla


1 package of graham crackers
2-3 T. of melted butter (it should be a liquid, not just soft)
1 T. of brown sugar to help the butter stick to the graham crackers

Pre-heat oven to 425; you will bake for most of the time at 350, though.

First, you need to cut your pumpkin in half, de-seed (and save if you like a fall snack!). Cut the pumpkin into quarters if you think it will help to fit it in the pot. put about 2-3 inches of water in the bottom of the pot (or as much as it takes to fill it without the water touch the vegetable steamer where the pumpkins will be). Place the pumpkin pieces in, cover, and let steam for about 20-30 minutes. Use a fork to test (be careful though as the steam can be dangerous. Use a longer fork.)

You’ll need to let the pumpkin cool, and let any remaining water drain. It doesn’t really matter if you do or don’t, but it does add extra water to your mix. I’d rather it didn’t that’s all. It take about 30 minutes or so to do this (and works better, I’ve heard, in the refrigerator). While it’s cooling, take a food processor or blender (or grandma’s way with a ziplock and a rolling pin), and blend your graham crackers with the brown sugar. Melt the butter in the microwave (or however you do it), and slowly add it to the crumb/sugar mixture while the blender or food processor is spinning. By hand, stir well. When it is done, it will not be a ball. It should be lightly oily, and you should be able to press it between your fingers while the crumbs hold a shape. Place it into your pie plate. press firmly from center to the edges. This takes a little patience as the crust isn’t so firm. Just make sure that the crust is mostly uniform across the bottom, and that there aren’t any cracks in your crust. Set aside.

Take your pumpkin (that has had time to sit), place it in your (clean) food processor (or blender…or whisk well! a potato masher or better, a hand mixer if you have it.) Blend until smooth. It will still probably be a bit grainer than the canned stuff, but that’s homemade. I think it’s a nice touch.

Add the sugar, spices, cream of tartar, and blend. Add your milk and fully incorporate. Lastly add your eggs. Add them one by one, and blend them in. A hand mixer is really great for this because it adds air and texture into the eggs which will help firm up your pie but give it a “fluffy” taste. This should be the last thing you do so that the eggs don’t “fall” while adding in other ingredients or waiting for you to complete the crust, etc. etc. (I learned this through trial and error). Carefully fill your crust. Easy does it so that you don’t “harm” your lovely crust or overspill with the impact.

Place on a baking sheet (to avoid spills on your way to the oven), and bake for 15 minutes at 425. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 30-45 minutes. Use the fork in the center method. If the fork comes out free of pumpkin, it’s time for the pie to come out. If not, leave it in the oven and keep and eye on it. Let me know how it turns out, or if you have any questions.

Here’s my weekend full of pumpkin guts!

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I don’t want to spew how crumby I feel. But sometimes it happens. That said, I know that this gal has been around for awhile, but Florence and the Machine has been a wonderful boost as of late, and I’m hoping this will help. 🙂 Happy Sunday.

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We ate the last of the pie I made (I probably ate more of it than my boyfriend). I can’t help it, it’s my favorite kind. So, before there were protests, I set out to buy more pie pumpkins. Because friends, I make mine from scratch. I just learned how to make them last year, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I actually prefer it now and I can’t imagine eating pumpkin pie any other way. I will post my recipe with pictures as soon as I get to making it. It has been too hot these past few days to get the oven up and going. Actually, it has been unseasonable warm in Chicago…like 80 degrees! I can’t say that I don’t appreciate the silver lining to global warming, or in the words of Tina Fey, “God hugging us a little closer” — LOL! I have been able to sit outside on my porch in the middle of October, have the windows open, and dry a load of laundry on the wash line. This just make turning the oven on seem like a chore. That makes baking not fun like I’d prefer it to be.

Yesterday was also a perfect day to go outside and enjoy the weather. Prior to yesterday, the weather was miserably wet with rain. Plus all clouds — all day. Boo. I’ll take sunshine when I can get it, and I’m like night and day when I do or don’t. Being fall, and unseasonably warm, everything was like a dying ember  — from all the oranges in pumpkins and the deep reds in some of the bushes (I wish I knew what the name of it was but there is a shrub that has BRIGHT red leaves) —  to the warmth of the day glowing with the afternoon sunshine, and then slowly dying out as the sun set. Freaking amazing. I’m in love with fall.












Creepy mummy — halloween is in the air!












I decided to give you a little tour of my day since I made it a point to go to the pumpkin patch. I actually went to a place that is in the city — it has been there for awhile, and for the life of me, I never knew the name of it. Until yesterday. Apparently it is a small piece of land rented (or owned — I’m not sure) by a guy named George. I love it because I didn’t have to go out of the city, and because it is also a kitsch Chicago experience. Imagine, big city, tons of building everywhere, people living on top of each other, cars driving within 50 feet of you on a busy main road, very urban — “Pumpkin patch” isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind, but there are some in the city, and they take on spaces in the middle of city blocks between condos, or in front of a trailer that is about 100 yards from the lake. Yes, imagination is needed for this, and I’m glad that someone else decided that this was a good idea.

George’s patch is on the North side and is the one in front of a trailer about 100 yards in front of the lake. Don’t believe me about the trailer? Here. 🙂 I did try to get a picture of it, but I felt shy about asking, and didn’t want to take it without asking. He seemed like a pretty straight shooter when it came to buying a pumpkin from him. I was in and out of there in 10 minutes max. But, he’s local, and I’d rather see him there than a new building or some other “new” restaurant. Some things should just be left alone. Maybe that’s why I didn’t take a picture. Maybe I felt like George is a pumpkin man — a business man who doesn’t need tons of social media to rep his product. Taking the picture seemed to be making an alluring commodity out of something that doesn’t need it. The proof is in the pie on this place. (And actually — last year I bought 5 pie pumpkins and each pie turned out.) But that said, it is worth mentioning and encouraging you to go and check him out — especially if you live on the North side of the city.

George’s Pumpkin Patch is located at: 7313-7315 N. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL 60626

Gourds, in front of the trailer, and George off to the left. Not a great picture — but there is proof! 🙂











Some things to consider:

  • Prices run a bit higher than they would at a patch out of the city (but imagine the money you’re saving on gas! 🙂
  • The place is small, so it doesn’t have a million silly halloween things, BUT you can find pie pumpkins, jack-o-lantern type pumpkins, and an assortment of gourds. Think basics.
  • The patch is on Sheridan Road, so watch the children if you bring them along to pick the perfect pumpkin as traffic is a probable risk factor.
  • You can generally find parking, but getting closer to Halloween weekend, it might be harder.
  • George’s is right around the corner from a few public beaches, so if the weather is still warm, go take a relaxing walk or soak in the view of beautiful Lake Michigan. It might change your world. It changes mine every time I go. 🙂
  • Sheridan Road is your major connection to East Evanston which has lots of restaurants to get acquainted with…or you could go South on Sheridan and take in a movie at the New 400 Theater, or grab something warm to drink at any number of local cafes (I like the Growling Rabbit), stroll around Loyola’s campus, etc. etc.

If you don’t get a pumpkin this weekend for halloween (This weekend is supposed to be miserable.) remember that Thanksgiving is still around the corner. I’ll try to post my recipe soon so that you can have bragging rights, too. (It really is pretty easy.)

As I mentioned, with the storm coming off of Cuba this week, we’re due for a wet, miserable two days. It’s the kind of  curl up with a movie weekend. I think that sounds perfect, and better for making pie, carving pumpkins, and toasting seeds. I’m sure I’ll have pictures, but until then, here’s what they looks like pre-festivities:











Mmmm, pie.










What are your halloween weekend plans?


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My guy and I have been getting caught up in sitting in front of our computers, eating in front of the T.V., and letting football lead our lives for the entire day. Sunday is our day, and while I did agree that we “needed” to watch the Packer’s game, I also felt like we hadn’t really done anything together that gave us a chance to talk.

In addition, while I’ve been unemployed, I’ve had some time to myself which has allowed me to figure out a lot of my stressors, find meditative strategies, and essentially figure a few things out about myself — I’ve realized that my boyfriend has been super stressed with school, work, and just life in general.

I told him that after the game we should go for a hike…and I thought maybe we could go somewhere out of the city — a preserve or something (Chicago and the Chicago area have a ton). But, well, football ruled for a bit, and we had tried to be productive (laundry, garbage, etc.) so as it got a little too late to drive further out of the city, I settled for one of my favorite places. I actually went there shortly after I was laid off, and is one of the places I can go to get out of the city quickly without having to go too far.

Evanston, IL is home to Northwestern University. It is on the lakefront and has prime shore location, as well as a park that houses lots of shrubbery, pines, a man-made lake/pond, a soccer field, and beautiful ivy covered buildings to name a few.

It was so good to go, because while the weather was nice, the sounds were relaxing and we stood and talked by the lake for a good thirty minutes. We talked about nothing and everything — and we would have continued if I didn’t suggest that we keep on walking in order to see the rest of this beautiful place.

What I like about Northwestern (the actual physicality of it), is the old architecture. Some of the buildings are very old and nature has definitely started to take over. It is a subtle revolution in that way, I think — and I like that. What’s nicer, is that its presence appears to be accepted as no one seems to want to cut down the leaves growing over stained glass windows, into concrete crevices, or around lamp poles.

Evanston is also FULL of tree-lined streets with tons of houses with yards (also full of trees), and they are all so diverse and still bright and lovely. In addition to their colors, the sheer light of a cloudless day was utterly satisfying. I flirted with the sun as it slowly brushed over buildings and winked in enormous windows. I chased it in-between the trees and caught it on my boyfriend’s smile. We walked around a bit more and found a place to have a cup of coffee before leaving to come home just in time for dinner. Perfect!

Today’s warm fall day, mixed with sunlight, bright colors, coffee, chatting about our lives  (in addition to being just enough productive through a Packer’s win), really was a great alternatives to our usual routine. I really can’t complain. It was a wonderful Sunday. You?

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Hey everyone!

So…I was trying really hard (too hard I think) to see if I had any pictures that matched the weekly photo challenge. Turns out I have WAY more than I thought. What I didn’t realize before going through my collection is how much I like the idea of a silhouette. Sometimes it is about shadow and lighting, but it’s also about how those things or people who aren’t catching the light play a role in the picture. It comes across as almost secondary. I will share my gallery with you momentarily, but for instance, there is a photo of me in Acapulco. I am taking a picture with my boyfriend’s family against the sun set. If it was simply a bad choice on the part of the photographer, then we didn’t show so well, but the sunset was amazing. The sunset became the main focus…and really, I think subconsciously  that’s what we really wanted to capture. Not our bodies, but our bodies in this amazing shot! The shadows created are also deeply amazing. I have another photo of just the sunset. The waves on the ocean are stunning. The clouds are magnified and dynamic.

I also realized, that when I studied literature, I loved the play of light and dark imagery. Each seems to intensify the other. Even in the brightest of days we can find the dark, we don’t realize the dark, or expect the suddenness of it sometimes. Like life, things change. We realize our mortality the way we see a tree in the fall, it’s bare banches naked in the spotlight of a setting sun. In the dark we look for light. During my trip to Acapulco, I remember looking out to the ocean. During the day is is already immensely big, but at night it is wondrously scary. To the imagination, it is an invitation for your wildest monsters to reach out with a giant hand and pull you into the abyss!

As an artist…or at least one who appreciates art, silhouette is also a collaborative bricolage of images and shadows. I am smitten. Here are some of my photos.

The pictures range from the snowstorm in Chicago (February 2nd 2011. All winter it did not snow. It was like Old Man winter was trying to hold back a sneeze, and then, out of nowhere, Chicago finds itself under 2 feet of snow) To Navy Pier in black and white.)It was a winter day — just before Christmas. The sun was bright, and then rapidly became darker because the days were shorter.) Then there are some of NYC in black and white. This time around I actually spent a bit more time walking through Central Park, as well as completely crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge. There are also some of Grand Central Station which has such lovely architecture! What I love about these photos are the way buildings creep up in shadows EVERYWHERE! Lastly (my favorite!) Acapulco. I like these because they have samples of darkness in daylight, and light in the darkness.

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I get through all seasons and what they deal out to me. Sometimes winter gives me a cold to last the whole duration of the first three months of the new year, and we have a love hate relationship, but it is beautiful. I love a winter sky — and I coo over the icy pastel pinks and blues — especially at the end of a cloudy day when the sunset tries so hard to peek through a tumultuously grey day.

Thankfully, it isn’t winter yet, and I can fall in love with fall. What I love most about seasons are the colors. I think what I love so much about fall is the array of colors. I don’t have any particular favorite — and I tend to like (or wear) what balances my panoramic and peripheral views. Fall tends to have the best of all colors. Plants are bright in their death — a last gift of their life for the year.

I am lucky to somewhat of a tree-lined street here in the city (Aaand, I live across from a park — GORGEOUS!) There is still some green in the grass. The browns and grays are deepening, the sky a different blue — lighter and not the center of attention as the sun seems to move more quickly across the sky. It is also dotted with more clouds as of late making it lighter, and the bright yellow leaves seem more ominously reaching towards their last breaths.

On my street, there is a lot of yellow. It is the most prevalent, and I like it’s color. It is like sunshine, and it is sprinkled along my block.

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Once a month on Sunday, the River East Arts Center opens itself up to an artisan, local (mostly), and yummy event called Dose Market.

I got the chance to work (yes! it was such a good feeling!) at a booth marketing a product called Fresh Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost. It’s made in Brooklyn and has recently picked up some more distribution in Chicago. That said, it wasn’t a super complicated connection in how I got to do this, but having friends in the right places made it possible to meet the product up close and personal. For that reason, I was really excited to learn about this yummy beverage and talk about it a little bit here.

Fresh Ginger Ale uses actual piece of ginger by infusing it in the carbonated goodness. This is different from other ginger ale products that use oils or flavoring. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of Seagrams! This was just different….and delicious. It’s spicy and sweet (and sometimes fruity depending on what flavor you get.) The best part about marketing this product was watching people who were “gung-ho” and skeptical about ginger ale alike seem satisfied with the taste. It is good, and if you’re interested (and in Chicago) you can purchase it at these places:

Fox and Obel
Southport Grocery
Goddess and Grocer

Of course you can check their website to see where their distribute near to you. They are on the west coast as well, and in restaurants like Wao Bao and Big Bowl.

ALSO…since I don’t want to make this just about plugging a (great) product because that was my job (and I do believe it’s good), I did walk around, and I have to report that there are many high quality booths worth checking out. Here are some of my favorites:

Knit 1  of course for my yarn obsession!
Starlounge Coffee Bar was next to us, and I couldn’t help but swoon over the smell of ground coffee, the spiced apple cider they were brewing, and the sweet carmel-y smell of steaming milk. Yum….
And finally, before I left, I had to pick up pie from The Sugar Path in Geneva,IL. I didn’t think pie could get any better, but their apple mini was an incredible treat for me and my boo after dinner last night. I usually love apple pie ala mode, or warmed up, but this was perfect just as it was: firm, flaky on the outside, and moist and delicious on the inside. Mmmmm.

One of the more memorable Sundays as of late. How about you?

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Sometimes I realize that I am luckier than I think I am. Sometimes, even though I try to see the larger picture, I don’t always understand how I fit in. Lately, I haven’t felt like I really fit in anywhere as I am suspended in a moment of transition. Then I’m given a little reminder (always) sometimes in great and small ways.

Today was Northeastern Illinois University’s annual career fair. It may be each semester, but I’ve never gone to one until now. I am entirely grateful that this was Alumni inclusive, and even more ecstatic that I could rep my own alma matter while searching for potential employers. Whether or not these were companies that the university invited or simply pulled in for the sake of a fair, they seemed to represent a pretty good diversity and reflect the aspirations of the attendees.

As I walked through Alumni Hall, I thought to myself, I know that I am capable of doing a job. I know that I can learn fast, that I will need to be challenged, and that being challenged is how I grow. What has been stifling up until going to the fair has been not being able to convey that message via my computer. It has been endless resumes, endless cover letters, and endless applications with all of my information floating in cyberspace just waiting for the wrong person to get it. *sigh*

What’s rewarding about a job fair, though, is that I got to talk to people directly. (That has been much missed!) And I highly recommend anyone looking for a job to attend a job or career fair because of the valuable insight it can give in addition to providing the proverbial “first foot in the door.” Where I was frustrated, I found, is that sometimes what is conveyed online isn’t always what is necessary to apply. For instance, I looked into some pre-school teaching jobs, and thought that I was not qualified. I talked to a woman today to see what options I might have if not a teacher, and it turns out that I am indeed qualified to be a lead teacher based on my experience (I saw her physically look at my resume!) I also was able to schedule an interview which is really exciting! The interview is an amazing “foot in the door” and a lot farther than I have been able to get so far with just online applications. I would love to have more than just a practice session like last time, but if nothing else, I’m having the opportunity to connect with people, enhance my communication skills, and at least get out of this slump I’ve been in.

Also, and I realize that this was catered to my own interests, I found out what organizations are out there to help me advance my own professional goals. I didn’t think I would like the idea of Teach For America a few years ago. But, the more I think about what I like to do, how I think I will impact the future, and what things I’m good at, I know in my heart that teaching is something I should really invest in. (How and when is still to be determined.) Anyway, I say all this to say that I found out a lot more about Teach For America that I hadn’t known before. Whatever I may have thought about it (or not at all because I didn’t really know much), is irrelevant whenI look at it in terms of my own advancement. TFA allows anyone who is willing to invest in urban school systems (from any major), and they provide training and professional development, in addition to pay, benefits, and an educational award. This sounds fantastic! I suppose I would not recommend this for anyone who thinks they cannot handle being a teacher, or who would easily get burnt out, but for someone like myself, who has worked in a school setting, who likes planning curriculum, who is passionate about youth success, this could be a precursor to some really great future planning. What is even more amazing is that once done, I would leave the program as a certified teacher. I could also have a master degree. Aaaand, with an educational award (since I don’t have any student loan debt — don’t cheer yet, it took me 11 years to finish school without loans), I could use it to further my education — maybe really develop some of that English Lit. stuff that I have been seriously considering.

There were also jobs through the U.S. government, which I haven’t really looked into much yet, but the money is right. There is another workshop on completing that application, with what  I imagine to be information as well. I plan on attending that to see what my other options are. And the more I realize my options, the more I am forever thankful that I chose to continue my education, that I am in a position at the right time to pursue a job (you have to be a college graduate within 2 years for paid government internships– lucky me that I am looking!), and that there are people willing to meet me halfway. This doesn’t have to be so hard.

I’m really looking forward to where I go from here. I’ll keep you posted.

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This week’s photo challenge is so appropriate since I’ve been trying to make this a daily reflection. The following picture is of one of the “things” that makes me happiest:

This is my cat “Flaca” — she finds my lap on cold Saturday mornings. Her purr means more to me than she’ll ever know. It is a happy recognition of our mutual need for each other.

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Here are the Chicago Botanic Gardens in the fall. Arresting beauty and color! Also, the roses (because I had to sneak a peak at the wonderfully pruned rose garden) were still blooming! Highly recommended for a visitor to the midwest, during any season. Enjoy the pictures:

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Cassandra Buchholz

Professional Educator and Youth Specialist

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