I’ve read so many inspirational tweets and blogs and facebook updates and social media’s finest to feel truly inspired to being 2012. Therefore, I thought I’d keep my New Year shout out short and leave you with two things. 1. The picture we took on New Year’s morning from our balcony that definitely felt providential for the new year, and 2. a quote from a movie that always must be played around the holidays as it continuously reminds you to be a better person day in and day out:
Ahh, New Years Eve is finally upon us, and while it seems way too daunting to attempt to flush out more of our resolutions [created here], I have been wanting to highlight the very best gift that we received this Christmas as it definitely deserves a daily pedestal and triumphant soundtrack each time that it’s used! Maybe some of you have ‘em, and we’re just late to the trend, but Oz’s sister and her husband sent us a Keurig Coffee Machine for Christmas this year and IT COULDN’T BE COOLER. I present to you:
The Curing Keurig:
Because it cures my coffee soul.
And, she actually came before Christmas [before we even left on the trip north], so we nicely placed her under the tree for the first..erm..12 hours of her life until we just couldn’t wait any longer! We needed to try her instant goodness [haha, why does that just sound wrong? I digress..]
(Oh, and I also hoped not to expose the tree like this as she looks so pitiful to me! Why do the lights miss out on her bottom half? Why can I see straight through her? Whyyy, tree gods, whyyy?]
But, as I said before, without being able to restrain ourselves, we blew through the packaging and put her in place on the kitchen counter; ensuring that we swiped clean any remnants of our oolllddd coffee machine. The fossil that we had before otherwise known as a Drip coffee maker. [Haven't I turned into a coffee snob? It's the Keurig, I swear..]
And, to our amazement and surprise, the machine also came with a sample pack of 12: SCORE.
So, after carefully choosing our poison for the day, we booted up the machine and watcher her purrrr her way to good coffee:
Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious, and definitely one of
my our very favorite gifts this year! Convenient, fast, and perfect for our mornings where we’re trying to scoot out the door! Plus, if you pick up your Keurig coffee’s at Sam’s Club [or I'm guessing Costco as well], you save yourself a pretty penny!
Put that in your Keurig and brew it:)
So, I know that I’ve been M.I.A. for nearly 10 days now, but it’s been a wild ride since then; and, I just felt like a hiatus was in need in order to deal with all the other crazy around me! Oz and I decided, as I said here, that we were going to drive home to my family for Christmas. We didn’t necessarily want to fly as it adds up to quite the cost when you factor in tickets for two, meals, other transportation, yadda, yadda, ya; so, we went with our trusty ole’ buck out in the parking lot and headed out on the open road! I like to think of it as the Tom Sawyer route [next time, we're going to purchase the raft] as we literally followed the Mississippi River directly north to its state of origin [fun little factoid if you didn't know that yes, in fact, the river originates in northern Minnesota! I'll take Lake Itasca for 500, Alex?
We ended up splitting the trip into two days so as not to entirely stress ourselves out with a 14 hour drive in less than 24 hours. Using our handy-dandy obsession with Priceline's Name Your Own Price, we choose the town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa as our destination for Day 1 as we scored a 3-star hotel for less than $50. Unfortunately, the trip started out with a blanket of doom as the rain was aboslutely chucking it down for nearly six entire hours of the trip. There were definitely some Hail Mary moments where you're relying more on the lights in front of your rather than your actual ability to see where you're going.
Nevertheless, while I was gripping the seat belt, Oz was peaceful as pickles as he fought the elements:
Luckily, we made it to Mount Pleasant, Iowa for the night; albeit finding Mount Pleasant a rather creepy, unlit town to stay in; and continued on towards Minnesota the following day without any issues! Overall, the trip was easy, and definitely something that we'd face again. Now, the time spent in Minnesota is a story in and of itself that will definitely be told in future blog posts [let's just say that we finally addressed the big elephant in the room--you know, the one that everyone's been casually trying to avoid for years], but overall the trip left on a good note and we headed back on Monday, arriving into Memphis just last night! We came down through Iowa City, and stopped for lunch in St. Louis–far and away the prettiest city to drive through!
But, before I go, I must serenade you once again with the most glorious part of our trip. Not only was it excellent to see signs for Memphis after leaving St. Louis
The drive pulling into Memphis, as a city, is just unbelievably gorgeous. I think it plays me like a xylophone, hitting every note of *Ah, we made it!*, *Beautiful Skyline*, *Mississippi River*, *Memphis, Memphis, Memphis!* [I'm guessing that you get the visual..], but luckily Oz documented it while I was driving so that you can play the musical instrument of your own ahh-ing, and ooo-ing
I have an absolute love for spontaneity, and with our newfound free time, Oz and I decided–on a whim–to frolic down to the banks of the Mississippi for our hike; and then, clearly not finished with our day of whim, we drove out to Graceland and soaked up the free sights of Elvis’ estate that spans nearly three blocks in every direction. Here’s how it all went down:
1. Mud Island Riverside Walk:
Alright, so up until this point, things were truckin’ along rather normally; while, little did Oz know, that something was starting to brew inside my head–thoughts of smsh-smashing and photoshopped words:
(Ha, I think that if he knew I was going to do this, he’d have opted out of the shot entirely; but, sneaky sneaky Claire wins the day again!)
2. Graceland: The Estate of The King
After the park, we really kicked our spontaneous day into gear by deciding to take a last minute trip out to Graceland. (I’ve lived in this city for three years now and have never been!) And, while we decided against the $37 tour, we did get out and happen to steal some awesome photos of the Gates of Graceland and the walls surrounding his home!
I just loved the ‘C U in Heaven!’–absolutely timeless messages sprawled across the walls, making it the neatest stop on our spontaneous day in Memphis. It’s crazy how you can live in a city for so long and still leave so many stones unturned and places undiscovered. Ahhh, this Christmas break is definitely shaping up nicely
Recently, we’ve been having a slue of visitors come through Memphis, and we always try to do two things: eat as much BBQ and fried chicken as humanly possible during a visit, and show them some of the more unique, less spotlighted items of Memphis’s glorious culture. Yet, amidst our hipster tour of Memphis and best attempt to show how rich the underbelly of our great city is, we always give in and end up seeing the most famous 10 minutes that the city has to offer: The Peabody Hotel’s Duck March.
There’s a hotel at the epicenter of our city entitled The Peabody, and while its beauty and history are to be marveled at, it includes a unique tradition of ‘The March of The Ducks’. Ducks are held on the roof of the hotel and marched through the lobby on a red carpet at 11 and 5 everyday wherein they swim around the marble fountain and show off their duckiness for the world to see! It’s entirely too adorable to pass up, and visitors love the show; so, alas, we’ve always included it on our city tour. And, with a good friend just recently visiting, her tour was no exception. To our awesome surprise, the hotel was also marvelously decorated for Christmas and was definitely a sight to see!
It’s always pretty crowded, so scoring a balcony seat gave us such a better view! First, they march the carpet:
Then, they take to their synchronized swimming routine for the day:
Stopping only to perch:
Overall, if you’re ever in the Memphis area, it’s a fun, short event that isn’t to be missed! Plus, Blue Plate Cafe, an awesomely delicious brunch place in town with biscuits and gravy worth losing an arm for, is just riiiight around the corner and a perfect destination post-duck-madness!
While I’m giving finals to the students [thus explaining my absence from the cyber world for this week as it's been entirely nutty around here!], I was flipping through a Redbook magazine that we used for one of our recent Spanish projects, and stumbled upon the article, “Why Can’t We Celebrate Everything?” in which author Diane Farr writes about an experience her son had recently when he was explicitly not invited to a classmates Hanukkah party because he wasn’t Jewish. In a humorous account, she goes on to explain the absurdity of these boundaries that we create for each other. and how detrimental it is to our kids when they see, at such a young age, lines drawn between their peers.
And of course, as I read the article, I nod in agreement with all of the absurdity that surrounds the fear of mixing traditions had by most, and how to successfully battle these fears instead of promoting their growth. I then come to find that Ms. Farr has written a badass book about the very complexities that she faces by raising mixed-race children, and how interreligious, interracial, and intercultural relationships are becoming the new face of America; yet, are simultaneously rejected by most of the older generations. Not only am I nodding at this point, and purchasing her book of course, I”m nearly bouncing out of my seat at the chance to read more about how people have navigated the waters of old and new generational thought; especially when the largest opposition is coming not from the nameless woman at the grocery store who can’t stop staring, but from those that know you best–you’re family.
As our week comes to an end, and Christmas Break officially begins for the lives of students and teachers alike, it’d be incorrect to say that both Oz and I are expecting full relaxation come Friday. Talking on the way home from work yesterday revealed that both of us are experiencing silent freak-outs about the upcoming weeks, considering that we are traveling home to spend the holidays with my family amidst much opposition and chilly reactions to our recent engagement. It’s not doubt going to be extremely difficult, but as Farr shows in her comical dealings with Jewish mothers in her son’s class, it’s more important to confront the issue rather than allow it to lie dormant; and, it is most important to protect your own and settle for nothing less than what you think is right.
We debated not going at all, but in the end decided to go and be the bigger people within the situation. And, throughout it all, I’ve learned that I no longer can carry the weight of disapproval on my shoulders as I’ve strained under the burden for far too long; rather, it’s a weight that originates and ends in the person that believes it, and only they can truly change their mind on the matter. I posted the quote below as means of inspiration for this exact mental note that I decided on at the beginning of the week, and I think it rings true as I affirm my new outlook:
It isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do
Keep living, keep loving, and keep believing that by your good example, those around you have the ability to change. Well, maybe this is a long shot, but there’s no hurt in keeping your fingers crossed just in case
‘It isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do’
I’ve rarely talked about the religious side of my relationship with Oz, because it’s such a delicate topic, and requires such extensive explanation and reassurance towards those that are unfamiliar with its course; nonetheless, I’ve always wanted to blog about it, because I’ve found the topic of religion to be something that I truly love to study and appreciate. In fact, while I entered college as an English major, I realized during my Sophomore year that a required Theology class was, surprisingly, the most interesting and fulfilling thing I had done all semester; so, with a determined mind, I set out to become a Theology major. [despite the constant remarks of 'what in the heck are you doing to do with THAT!']
And, I’ll be honest, many of them were right when it came to my final semester in college and I was faced with the daunting idea of “What in the heck AM I going to do with a Theology major?” But, alas, I found an awesome program that brought me to Memphis, TN, that allowed for me to obtain a free masters degree in teaching while I simultaneously taught in an inner-city school. Double the fun of a post-college experience, but definitely double the trouble while attempting to manage teaching during the day, and graduate classes at night.
But! I digress back to my original topic–I loved studying theology in College, and have continued to seek further study of religious topics; most currently by enrolling in a few online classes on Islam in order to really understand Oz’s religion more. And, HOLY COW–what an excellent way to get to know the faith. I spoke about it here, and here, at the beginning of my blog, but the class was online lectures from professors in Jordan, and weekly, interactive classes with people from all around the world! I was transfixed and entirely hooked; plus, it illuminated the religion for me without feeling any pressure of conversion or needing to be anything than what I was.
And, as Christmas rolls around, the idea of religion has been at the cusp of many conversations had between Oz and I as I’m so curious how best to walk the line of prayer and tradition–I want to be as inclusive as possible when it comes to the traditions that I grew up with surrounding the Holidays; yet, it’s so wonderful to know that not only are so many of these traditions shared by him, they’re also wonderful ways to show how similar Islam is to the Christian faith in their pillars of belief. Plus, the message of Christmas truly is universal–recognized as a time to bring about peace, unity, and harmony to mankind, right ?
So, what does this all roll around to? Well, I want our home to reflect both faiths equally, and think that it would be so important, among all our christmas decorations (found here, here, and here) to include more traditional Islamic art / decor to our whole shebang. Therefore, in today’s mission [yes, I'm an agent, yet not secret], I”m setting out to build something from the following images that just inspire me. I can’t even name what it’ll be yet, but let’s cross our fingers that no fake roses or bad DIY mirror ideas arise from the ashes! Feeling good today
HOW awesome could a smaller version of the candle chandelier look?
These colors–and the idea of mosaic? Yum.
Ooo, I love the hexagon tiles..
Ahhh–wire frame crescent moon and star? The mind butter is churning..
Ready, set, go!
I’ve mentioned, a few times in passing, my obsession with Bikram yoga, and yet realized that I’ve never stopped to explain what makes this pastime so magically, gloriously, awesome. I discovered it by chance last year after finding one of thee best cupcake places in Memphis in the very same shopping center! I’m not typically a yoga girl–I’ve done my fair share of classes at the YMCA, but those were always free and a nice way to ‘exercise’ without needing to huff and puff on the treadmill. So, when I stumbled upon a groupon that offered 10 classes for under $50, I snagged that baby right up and headed off to the infamous ‘hot yoga’ studio.
And, from the first class, I was HOOKED. It’s an easy number of poses that passes the time [90 minutes] with such quickness that you don’t even think to look at the clock. It’s composed of the same poses each class, also, which also helps you feel like you ‘get it’–like, you’re the person in the room that knows the routine as well as the pro in the front row.
And just like that, I was a believer! You sweat it out for 90 minutes and leave feeling absolutely rejuvenated, detoxified, and like you’ve purged every bad thing from your body; plus, the weight just seems to fall off! Just last week, I was in a class where in the instructor was talking about a guy who’s been coming for only 5 months, and so far he’s lot 30 pounds and dropped his blood pressure like 7029 points. It’s shocking!
So, with it being Friday and definitely a good day to de-stress with 90 minutes of yoga, I give you Bikram–I cannot recommend it more!