The Pregnant Science Teacher

Well, it’s been quite the school year. After two years of being out of the classroom, I returned and immediately found out I was expecting. My pregnancy is uncannily in line with the school year — about 40 weeks long, from August through the end of May. Including a couple weeks of time off before my due date, I’m only going to miss three weeks of school.

Teaching science to elementary school kids has been such a blast — definitely my favorite job thus far. The staff I work with are fabulous, my principal is super supportive, and science experiments are inherently exciting (and therefore kids are engaged without too much effort on my part!).

The kids are obsessed with my pregnancy. I have the apps The Bump, Nurture, and Ovia, all of which give me weekly updates on the size of the baby. The Bump and Nurture tell me a fruit or vegetable (for instance, at week 32, the baby is either the size of a large bok choy or summer squash); and Ovia lets me choose among a fruit or veggie, a weird-but-cute animal, a toy, or an item in a French bakery. This week, the baby is a naked-tail armadillo! Anyway, the kids get a real kick out of this.

In between 3rd-graders designing and testing parachutes, 4th-graders growing mold in plastic bags, and 1st-graders discovering that rainbows can happen even without water, I’ve been able to fit in a lot of fun stuff for myself and my husband too.

Since our New Year’s trip to Yosemite, Sean and I hosted my 15-year-old niece, Melody, for a weekend in February. We took her to San Francisco to see the Ferry Building, ride a cable car, browse the shelves at historic City Lights Bookstore, and eat gelato in North Beach. We also got to see a jazz singer perform in Oakland with Sean’s cousin and his wife and have Sunday brunch with my mom and aunt in Walnut Creek. It was a memorable weekend!

In March, my family threw me a beautiful baby shower and my little sister a beautiful bridal shower…all in the same weekend! We also fit in birthday celebrations for both my mom and mother-in-law. It was both exhausting and wonderful! Baby Bourne has everything he/she could ever need; now we just wait his/her arrival. Seven weeks to go!

The following weekend, Sean and I returned to Yosemite Valley; this time with Sean’s cousin, Steven, and Steven’s wife, Katelyn. At 31 weeks pregnant, I wasn’t quite as sprightly as I was for our New Year’s trip, but I was still able to hike to Mirror Lake and do part of the Valley Loop Trail. Sean, Steven, and Katelyn hiked to Clark Point, just beyond Vernal Falls (8 miles round-trip). The icing on the cake was Sunday brunch in the grand dining room of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (forever known as The Ahwahnee). We’ve now seen Yosemite in winter and spring this year; the goal is to go in summer and fall too. The only difference will be that we’ll have a baby in tow!

Last weekend we went on a very speedy trip down to LA to have lunch with my dad in Santa Monica (we ate at True Food Kitchen, which was fantastic), do a 20-minute tour of UCLA (now Sean and I have seen each other’s alma maters; he attended gorgeous UBC in Vancouver), and hang out with our dear friends, Nick and Hitomi in Glendale…all on Saturday. We spent the night with Nick and Hitomi (and watched Michael Bolton’s Valentine’s Day special on Netflix…highly recommended), and then on Sunday we drove the scenic route (highway 101) back home. We stopped in San Luis Obispo for brunch at a restaurant Nick and Hitomi told us about, The Gardens of Avila. Great food in a gorgeous setting!

Dad & me

Sean in SLO

Now that we’re in the final stretch of both the school year and my pregnancy, we’re hunkering down. The only mini-trip we have planned is to Petaluma to visit Aunt Becky and dog-sit for her one weekend in May. Otherwise my weeks are full of school events like the Science Fair and Open House; and our weekends are full of childbirth classes, building baby furniture, and installing car seats, and prenatal yoga…with some socializing with friends in between. Life is good.

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Irish Road Trip – Part 2

Orla, the owner of the lovely Cill Bhreac Bed & Breakfast on the Dingle Peninsula, advised us on how to plan the rest of our road trip. We looked at our map and decided to take the ferry from County Kerry over to County Clare, before heading back to Kerry and staying the night in Tralee.

So Sean and I got back into our Nissan Micra and back on to the Wild Atlantic Way, the beautiful roadways that line the rugged west coast of Ireland, and then took the ferry to County Clare.

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That’s our little Micra!

We stopped in the little town of Kilbaha for some lunch at Keating’s Bar & Restaurant. The talkative owner told us to not waste our time in Tralee and to instead continue driving north to the Cliffs of Moher, which we figured we’d see on our next trip to Ireland…one day. A couple of friendly eavesdroppers nodded their heads in agreement and seconded the owner’s assessment of Tralee – fine if you have to go, but not really worth seeing. We already had accommodations booked in Tralee, but the bar owner was so convincing that it was worth bailing on our reservation to see the cliffs, that we went for it!

On our way farther up the coast, we stopped to see the lighthouse at Loophead and the naturally formed Bridges of Ross (though only one remains).

Sean the Navigator used some of our precious cell phone data to locate a few hotel options close to the Cliffs of Moher. We decided on a little hotel in the surf town of Lahinch. Lahinch has a gorgeous white sand beach (with true surfing waves), a quaint main street, and is a short drive to the cliffs.

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The next morning we drove up to the town of Liscannor, where we parked at the Cliffs of Moher visitor center. We then walked for over an hour to reach this awesome Napoleonic War-era fort.

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The cliffs truly are dramatic and were absolutely worth skipping Tralee for!

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Just as we started back toward the visitor center, the fog started rolling in, and by the time we were back, the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see the cliffs! We could not have timed that any better!

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Satisfied with our lucky sunny cliff walk, we got back in our little car and wound our way through The Burren and back onto the highway to take us back to the Dublin area.

 

Irish Road Trip – Part 1

We read in Rick Steves’ tour book that 10% of all auto accidents in Ireland involve foreigners, and this became frighteningly understandable immediately upon exiting the rental car parking lot.

We rented from Dan Dooley at the Dublin Airport, and we were very happy with them…especially since they didn’t mind that we returned our little Nissan Micra with a banged up front left hubcap. Sean was the first to drive, and he did a great job getting us out of the city and into the countryside. He drove us to the Rock of Cashel, and then on to Kinsale. Because I am a control freak, I drove basically for the remainder of our trip (I was just too nervous as a passenger). While I did hit a curb, I felt better being the one in the driver’s seat. Sean was a fabulous, patient navigator (and husband, obviously).

The Rock of Cashel has too many components for me to remember, so I’ll let DiscoverIreland.ie explain it:
“A collection of medieval ecclesiastical buildings set on an outcrop of limestone in the Golden Vale. The 12th-century round tower is of the oldest surviving building on the Rock, also include a high cross, and the ruins [of a] Romanesque chapel – Cormac’s Chapel is one of the earliest,and finest churches built in the Romanesque style. The 13th-century Gothic cathedral is a large cruciform Gothic church without aisles built between 1230 and 1270. Also a 15th-century castle and the Hall of the Vicars is the entry point to the ecclesiastical enclosure. The Hall houses the museum where the original Cross of St. Patrick can be found.”

It was a very cool site to see, and I’m so happy that my history-buff husband put it on our must-see list. [Some photos below are a bit small; you can click each one to enlarge it if you want!]

It took us a little over two hours to get to Cashel, and then after our hour-long stop, we continued on for around 90 minutes to arrive in the ridiculously cute seaside town of Kinsale, in County Cork. Those 90 minutes were pretty stressful. The streets got super narrow, and the speed limit was 100KPH (62MPH) in areas where we felt more comfortable going 20MPH, much to the irritation of those behind us.

We made it, and we were very relieved to park our car and get settled in to our little room at Tierney’s Guesthouse. We loved the staff there – very friendly and helpful. After strolling around a bit, we ate dinner at Finns’ Table, which was magnificent! Truly a meal to remember. Julie Finn, a co-owner, was there to seat us and make sure we were well taken care of. The restaurant has only about 20 spots and specializes in fresh, local ingredients. The seafood and vegetables were fantastic, and my dessert was so decadent — chocolate-espresso mousse with Irish whisky whipped cream on top!

Stuffed and happy, we walked out to Charles Fort, and walked back as the sun was setting (at 1oPM). Being so far north was awesome because our days were gloriously long.


Before leaving town the next day, we drove as close as we could to James Fort and then walked the rest of the way.

After a quick but lovely stay in Kinsale, we headed northwest to the Dingle Peninsula. I’ve already written about Dingle. You can read about that part of our adventure here!

 

Saturday Snow Day

Sean and I babysat our nephews in Brooklyn last night, and as we were leaving, the snow started to fall. When I woke up at eight this morning, I went straight to the window and saw a good few inches on the ground as snow continued to come down. I jumped on Sean, who was still sleeping, got him out of bed, and then we went downstairs to hang out with the guys who work at the Italian restaurant below our building. Carmine and Nicky are about as New York as humans can get — brilliant Italian-American accents, stories from growing up on the mean streets of the Lower East Side in the 50s and 60s, and a kind of toughness that I find endearing, but only because I’m on their good sides. We drank coffee and chatted with the monsignor of the basilica down the street, who advised us to have children as soon as possible.

When we finished our coffees and a fabulous muffin, Sean and I trekked around the neighborhood to see familiar streets, which are usually jam-packed with pedestrians, cyclists, cars, taxis, trucks…completely calm and whited out. People who passed said hello to one another; there was a general sense of fun and camaraderie. Kids were making snow angels, dogs were curiously leaping in the drifts, and extremely hardworking superintendents and city workers tirelessly shovelled the snow away from door entrances.

We decided to do a bit of shopping while some stores were still open. We grabbed some chocolate chips at our local grocery store so I could make cookies, and then we went to our home away from home, REI. My parents got us gift cards for Christmas, and I used them both up today by buying an awesome backpack for a trip Sean and I are planning in the spring. TRAVEL ANNOUNCEMENT! We’re going to Ireland! And the most exciting part is that we plan to do a day or two of true backpacking….hence my need for this sweet Deuter that we have affectionately named Sinead O’Connor. (Sean already has a backpack, which is currently nameless; we’ll work on that).

I spent most of the remainder of the day baking and cooking. Sean watched a lot of hockey. For breakfast I made us scrambled eggs on toast, in the afternoon I made these really tasty chocolate chip cookies, and then after another tromp through the snow, I made honey-roasted carrots with tahini-yogurt sauce (recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s amazing book, Plenty More) and these potato latkes. Deliciousness all around.

Now the snow has slowed. I’m blogging and dreaming of Ireland. Sean is switching between hockey games and consumer report-type YouTube videos about cars he might want to own one day. And we’re both enjoying the warmth of our “fire” (along with sound effects from an app). An overall great snow day.

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Happy on Prince Street

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Cafe Gitane (still open at this point)

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St. Patrick’s

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“Dramatic Tone” setting on my camera; view out our kitchen window

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Elizabeth Street

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lumps of bikes and cars

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Sculpture Garden in Nolita

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Mulberry Street

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Mott Street

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fire, maps, & Sinead

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Recipe #2: Magical Spice Store and Jerk Sloppy Joes

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By March 25, I will have prepared 14 different recipes from various sources — cookbooks, Pinterest, my recipe binder, and The Splendid Table newsletter. Last night was the night for Recipe #2, a fantastic dish from an awesome vegan cookbook that my aunt gave me for my birthday last year. The book is called Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, written by Post Punk Kitchen’s founder, Isa Chandra Moscowitz. The recipe I chose was Jerk Sloppy Joes, and while the recipe was indeed simple, it had a lot of ingredients, including many spices that I have not yet purchased after moving. Good thing I love to go grocery shopping. Unfortunately, the Whole Foods in my neighborhood does not have bulk or bagged spices (everything is in glass or plastic containers, and I have my own that I want to fill up), so I did a little research on cool places to buy spices in New York. I stumbled upon a Serious Eats article entitled “The Best Spice Shops in NYC”, chose the one closest to me, and went for a nice walk up to Midtown.

The store: Kalustyan’s. The location: 123 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan
This place is spice Mecca. I have not been this thrilled by a market since my friend Casey and I pursued the spice section of Pasar Beringharjo in Yogyakarta, Java. OK, it wasn’t quite as exotic, but it brought back some great memories! The second I entered the store, my nose was met by scents from around the world — curries, peppers, spices from India, Asia, Latin America, Europe, oh my! I ended up purchasing star anise pods, sweet Hungarian paprika, and allspice for my recipe, plus two types of Harissa (Tunisian and Moroccan), Chinese chilli garlic sauce, Greek oregano, and Moroccan rosemary just for fun!

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I found yet another Serious Eats article when looking into what in the world “jerk” really is. In Jamaica, where the spice combo and cooking technique originated, cooks use the following spices: allspice berries, thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper, scallions, and fresh ginger. In Isa’s sloppy joe recipe, she calls for ground allspice, fresh thyme, red chilli flakes, yellow onions, fresh ginger, lime juice, and cinnamon. The red mixture (with seitan and a tomato-based sauce) and the green mixture (coconut-creamed spinach) get smushed together on toasted whole wheat buns. These joes were jerk-y, sloppy, and fabulous!

Are you a gluten-free eater? This dish could be made with tofu instead of seitan and serve over rice!

Two Bridges in Two Days

Over the weekend, Sean and I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge on a sunny (but freezing) Saturday and over the Brooklyn Bridge on a snowy Sunday.

MANHATTAN –> WILLIAMSBURG (BROOKLYN) IN THE SUN

We live pretty close to the Williamsburg Bridge, which we discovered on Saturday when walking aimlessly (Sean just wanted to see the river). We found the river, and even walked over it. Pardon my lack of photos; my fingers were freezing without gloves on! We stopped and had a lovely vegan lunch at Bliss on Grand Street. Highly recommended (pictured is my Hummus Wrap with kale salad and cole slaw on the side).

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MANHATTAN –> CARROLL GARDENS (BROOKLYN) IN THE SNOW

We were inspired by our ability to walk to Brooklyn, so when Sean’s cousin and her family invited us over for dinner yesterday, we decided that we would brave the snowstorm to walk the 3.5 miles downtown, over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Brooklyn Heights, and into the quaint neighborhood of Carroll Gardens for a great evening spent with family.

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We’re looking forward for some warmer weather for more walks (though we have fun in the cold too).

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My First Blizzard…That Wasn’t

Mayor Bill De Blasio predicted earlier this week that Storm Juno would be “…a storm the likes of which we have never seen before.” Now, as a West Coaster new to New York, what he said was technically correct for me. But for everyone else in this city, the storm just produced an ordinary snowy day. Storm Juno did wreak havoc in other parts of the Northeast, but it was quite anticlimactic here.

On Monday I stocked up on Trader Joe’s essentials (chocolate, peanut-butter-filled pretzels, wine, etc.) along with enough food to make several meals. It took me longer than I care to disclose to bundle up, walk to the subway, ride the subway, wait in line to get into Trader Joe’s, wait in a line that zig-zagged through the whole store, get back on the subway, ride back, and walk home. But I was in high spirits! This was to be my first blizzard! Sean got a couple candles and I charged up phones and laptops to make sure we could still watch movies during a potential blackout.

That afternoon, we surveyed our neighborhood as the snow began to fall. That night, we impatiently checked out the window to see how bad visibility was getting (it was fine). And in the morning, we got out of bed like little kids on Christmas morning to check for a fresh blanket of snow and crazy whiteout conditions. Yes, there was snow, and yes it was snowing, but we thought a blizzard might be a little stormier than what we were witnessing.

We went out into the world to have coffee with our friends at a local Italian restaurant and to watch the news. No blizzard for New York; subway back in service; travel bans lifted. Despite the lack of a record-breaking storm, Sean didn’t have to go into the office, so he got some work done at home, and then we snuggled up and indulged in some Netflix binging.

Around 4PM, our legs atrophying, we decided we needed to move. So we ventured out into the cold and walked west toward the Hudson River, south to downtown, and then back up north to our neck of the woods. (We had our first NYC celebrity sighting: Mr. Mike Myers, strolling through Soho!)

Along the way we saw New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, and the 9/11 memorial pools. I was struck by the beauty and gravity of the pools — profound reminders of the towers that once stood and the lives lost over a decade ago. To see photos of the pools, check out this gallery on Inhabitat’s website.

All in all, it was a very pleasant first Snow Day, and I’m happy to have spent it with my love.