July 31, 2014

Stuff and Things 7/31: Pet Peeves

I'm feeling really off this week so, warning, bitterness ahead.  These are my pet peeves…

Throwback Thursday.  Oh, I'm sorry. I meant #tbt.  I don't particularly like seeing grainy old pictures all over Facebook and Twitter every Thursday.  I've actually started avoiding a lot of social media on this day of the week.  I was going to add in a #tbt picture of me, but I couldn't figure out how to work Scott's scanner.  That's a true story.

So here's one that's already on my computer…
July 2012, one of the 2 times in my adult life that I've gone camping.
 #tbt #throwbackthursday #memories

When companies send me emails asking me to put their content together into a blog post.  I'm totally not interested.  I will not create a collage based on your images and schill it to my readers (is it even anything to buy?  usually not) if I or my readers get nothing in return.  Good Lord, throw in a giveaway or something.  And then I see the same posts on all these other blogs?  No thanks.  Please, at least make it somewhat relevant to the things I already talk about on this blog.

When people say all the "sugar" goes straight to their head and makes them sick.  I'm sorry you ate too much sugar.  Get over it.  And it's usually not a real definition of "too much".  Too much for me is usually a medium concrete mixer from Culver's and I think that's just the fact that it's a copious amount of ice cream, not necessarily the sugar. I used to eat giant boxes of Nerds in one sitting and want more.  Two cookies or a handful of M&Ms cannot, by any dictionary, be defined as too much. I truly hate when people use too much sugar (or chocolate) as an excuse for not feeling well.  I mean, man up already.

Disposing of dead mice.  I can't lie.  I have no pity for these so-called "God's creatures" and I'm not particularly fond of animals in general (save for a spaniel or two).  I don't care that the dozens of traps I've set (okay, Scott has set) are killing them.  In fact, when one wasn't quite dead the other day, Scott said, "Well, what am I supposed to do, KRISTIN?" and I said, "Just shoot it with something!" from where I was hiding in the corner.  I think he bashed its head in.  But like I said, I don't care.  If I could walk around with a small mouse-gun of some sort and get them that way, I would.  I just cannot stand seeing them in the traps.  I gag.  I scream.  It's really awful.  Yesterday, I had to get rid of one while Scott was at work and it was very traumatic.  It involved gloves, plastic bags, and an old pair of tongs.  The old-fashioned traps work the best so that's what we've been using.  I'm also terrified of one snapping on me.

When people use Comic Sans for anything.  Ever.  Going through the filing cabinets in my classroom, I can see that the teacher who occupied it last used Comic Sans as her choice of font.  I just can't.  I know that you sympathize with this.

Let's end with that.

July 29, 2014

July Books

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella  A
This is probably cheating because I've read it (several times) before.  But it's quite enjoyable and I think you should give it a go if you like sweet chick-flick love stories.  Of course, I don't actually like chick-flicks, so Sophie Kinsella is as "chicky" as I get.
To me, listening to her books is like watching a favorite movie again.  It's very comforting.

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt  B
I first read half of this book back in 2006.  My grandmother recommended it to me and I remember borrowing her copy.  Years later, I bought a copy at a used bookstore in Anchorage.  I finally finished it.  Only took 8 years… It's an interesting story and is pretty spot-on and he talks about his years as a public high school teacher in New York City.  Obviously I can't relate to all of it, but it was a good read, as far as memoirs go.  If you like non-fiction, and like to be amused by the wiley ways of high school students, you might want to give this a try.  McCourt is the Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote Angela's Ashes.

The Hatfields and McCoys by Otis K. Rice B-
This is not a Hatfield and McCoy book for beginners.  If you're a beginner, I recommend Blood Feud (it comes with a genealogy chart) and the mini-series that was on t.v. two years ago.  That will get you started.  This book dives right into things and is a good non-fiction refresher if you're familiar with the story of the two families.  It wasn't as fascinating as some other books I've read on the subject, but wasn't bad.

Delicious!  by Ruth Reichl  A+
This is possibly my favorite book so far this year.  I found it on the shelf of "new" audiobooks at the Ft. Carson Library and with 11 discs, it kept me busy for awhile.  I'd never heard of it before, but the blurb on the back seemed interesting enough so I figured I didn't have anything to lose.  It was wonderful.  If you like food, if you liked Julie and Julia, if you consider yourself a cook or baker at all, you will like this book.  It made me hungry and the characters were very well-written.  There's some twists involved and they don't explain everything all at once, which is a good thing!  Highly recommend!  Seriously.  Read this book. I was originally thinking this would make a fabulous movie, but it's too involved to be done justice in 2 hours.  I think it could easily be made into a t.v. show.

Five Days in November by Clint Hill A+
Clint Hill was Jackie Kennedy's secret service agent.  He told the story of JFK's assassination from his point of view.  It was FANTASTIC.  If you are interested in the Mad Men-era of history, or a Kennedy fan, this is a must-read This was a spectacular memoir and now I want to read his other book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me.  Probably the best non-fiction book I've read this year (Have I said that yet about a different book?  I can't remember…)

Yeah, Maybe by Joey Hodges A-
One of my best blog friends wrote a book!  Yeah, Maybe was just released two weeks ago and since I knew how long Joey had been working on it, I was pretty excited to read it.  It's about girls entering their freshman year of high school and the highs and pitfalls of having a best friend and losing a best friend.  It definitely made me cringe at the memory of my high school days. I was impressed with the level of character development and it was really easy to empathize with Annie, the main character.  The only downside was that Annie was a 14 year old girl, so while it's easy to look back (and, again, cringe), this is definitely a book for teens.  I'd call it "Judy Blume-esque", if you're looking or my professional opinion.  It was one of those easy reads that you just stay up super late to finish because you just-want-to-know-how-it-all-turns-out-already.  I read 3 chapters one night and the rest of it in a few hours a couple of nights later.  What was fun was that I could see elements of Joey in the book:  She loves coffee, the characters drink coffee.  She loves The Avett Brothers, so does the main character.  If you're looking for an easy end of summer read, it's $7.99 on Kindle.

French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano B+
I've been wanting to read this book for years.  It wasn't so much a diet book as it was an informative book about the French lifestyle.  I feel like I learned a lot from it.  Again, not necessarily diet tips, but it described, quite in-depthly, how the French people live, what they eat (it will make you hungry!), and how they raise their children to be lovers of food.  It's worth a read (or a listen) if you haven't already.

Since we're over halfway through the year, let's review.  I initially set a goal of 3 books a month.  I re-read some old favorites (or listened to them for fun), so I've only included new-to-me books on this list. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Altogether Dead by Charlaine Harris
From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
Birthmarked by Carmagh O'Brien
Si-cology 101 by Si Robinson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris
Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Prized by Carmagh O'Brien
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly
Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay
The Legend of Diamond Lil by Doreen Cronin
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff…and it's all Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
The Hatfields and McCoys by Otis K. Rice
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
Five Days in November by Clint Hill
Yeah, Maybe by Joey Hodges

33 new books by the end of July?  I'll take it.  I think I'll try to hit 50 by the end of 2014.  I can do 17 books in 5 months…right?

July 28, 2014

A teacher's plight

On Friday I was at Target looking to buy 30 plastic folders for my classroom.  I overheard the conversation another customer was having on the phone.  She said that the kids don't need the stuff on the school supply list. "Why THREE packs of pencils?  All we're doing is buying supplies for poor people who don't send stuff in!"  Because her child will likely only go through 12 or so pencils this year, right?  Then it got even better…"They might as well just put 'Blouse size 12' on the list because I'm surprised the teachers don't want the parents to buy them new clothes too."
It took every ounce of self-control I had to not say anything.  What stopped me was thinking, "God, her kid's probably in my class" because I was only about 3 miles from my school building.  After a hellacious year in 2012-2013, I do not (please God) want difficult parents.  I can't deal with that again.

Let's add in the fact that this particular mom didn't have kids with her, but many of the other parents in the school supply aisles did.  There was kicking, screaming, and fit-throwing.  Mothers looking haggard this far into the summer.  Please, summer, be over soon, I could practically hear them pleading.  I could feel the exasperation in the air.  Soon, teachers would be taking over the daylight hours and these parents could peruse Target school-age-kid-free.

I, as I rarely do, took to Facebook because over half of my Facebook friends are teachers.  I do wish there was a way to publicly shame this woman though because she deserved it.  For the record, she was white, blonde, middle class, and had a cart full of goodies. Scott said he would have shaken her hand and said, "Hi, my wife is your kid's teacher and she wears a small, thanks".

This wasn't an issue of "I can't afford to buy my kid's school supplies".  That's another teacher plight entirely.

But, I'm not here to complain about buying stuff for my classroom.  In fact, NO teacher goes into a school year without spending some serious money.  And here's the thing:  WE DON'T CARE THAT IT COSTS US MONEY.  We enjoy it!  I don't know the policy in my new district well, but I think I get reimbursed for everything that stays with the school.  So if I buy myself a planner or fancy pens, that's my own money.  If I buy folders for the kids or decorations that will stay when I leave, I'll be paid back for them.  I don't even know what I've spent so far because I'm bad at keeping track of my receipts. I think I have $80 worth of receipts right now that I'm hoping to be reimbursed for.  Some decorations, lots of art supplies, a calendar set.  I don't really remember.  I'd buy the stuff even if I WASN'T hoping to be reimbursed.  That's how being a teacher works.

At my first school in Alaska, I was given $125 a year to do whatever I wanted with.  And it went quickly.  $30 always went to homework folders.  I always spent about $30-$40 on crayons/markers because they're super cheap this time of year and I like to give out art supplies as special prizes.  The rest went to decorations or books from the used bookstore or book order.  It probably cost me $500 to get started my first year, and that was just before the month of September.  Holidays cost money, birthdays cost money, etc.

In Missouri, I spent $200 in one weekend on just decorations. I'd left a lot of my stuff in Alaska because I didn't know if I'd be teaching again, and I had 4 days to set up a classroom.  Decorations aren't cheap.  I never saw a cent of that back.  And I spent more as the year went on…they didn't reimburse for anything at my school there.  You could order from the catalogs and it could be approved and ordered and you might see it eventually…but teachers don't have that kind of time.  Usually teachers put in orders in the spring so supplies are delivered in August.  I didn't have that luxury.  In fact, I remember asking for black Sharpie markers and they didn't have any.  They put them on the list for the next time someone went "on a run".  I saw TWO Sharpies show up in my mailbox about 6 weeks later.  By that time, I'd already bought my own markers.  Last year was an expensive one because I couldn't plan ahead, I just had to buy what I needed.  But the thing was:  I didn't care.  It didn't bother me that I had to spend that money…I had a classroom again and I was eager to design it to my liking.  I just look at it as part of the job.

I am not saying that being a teacher is the most difficult job.  It's not an easy job by any stretch, but I can name many people who work harder than me.  For example, I would never claim that I work harder than Scott.  I just don't.  I never have and probably never will (unless he decides to become a professional hunter).  I work differently.  It takes a special kind of work ethic to entertain, manage, and funnel knowledge into 30 children at the same time.  And to keep your sense of humor, your health, and your energy level while doing it isn't easy, but it's not that hard.  Some people are just better built for it. It's not easy, but it's not back-breaking labor.  And I'd rather manage kids that adults.  I chose this. And there's a reason why I keep going back to it, year after year.  Especially because, state after state and move after move, I've had to put effort into finding new positions.  I haven't just rolled from one year to the next.

Anyway, school starts in a couple of weeks, my classroom is already half put-together, and I've spent (I'm guessing) close to $200 on stuff.  Maybe more.  I truly haven't kept very good records because it's all necessary stuff….why add up the damage, right?

I mentioned that I wanted to make a display wall like this one, but I couldn't find the kind of 12x18 construction paper I wanted.  I special-ordered it on Amazon.  $6 for 50 sheets and now I will make a special trip to the school supplies store across town where I will pay 25 cents a foot to laminate it myself.  It wasn't eligible for Amazon Prime's free shipping, so I paid $6 in shipping, but it did get here in 2 days (time is of the essence).

That's what I was thinking about as I listened to that mom complain:  My special-order of construction paper that was hopefully already waiting for me on my porch.

July 25, 2014

Tequila Smoothie

That up above obviously isn't a tequila smoothie.  It's white wine.  But I made the tequila smoothie on Wednesday night at 9pm and it was too dark to take a picture.  For you visual learners, it was a purple smoothie.

However, I knew I wanted to share it with you because it was pretty fantastic.  There's a reason why I refer to it as a smoothie instead of a margarita, and it was really a case of necessity being the mother of invention.

And there's a story behind this invention…

I drink a spinach smoothie almost everyday and I've even started putting in celery and blueberries for added nutrients.  So, I do make healthy things in the blender.

However, when you discover the reason why you've had to set mousetraps in the basement (because your husband bought a Costco-sized box of individually wrapped crackers and put it down there), you need something stronger than spinach.  This box of crackers was sitting on the shelving with all of our extra kitchen supplies and dishes we don't use.  In other words, a lot of stuff that Kristin had to clean. Luckily, I'd already started the process of putting extra kitchen stuff into large plastic bins, so the clean dishes and appliances had a place to go.

After I huffed and puffed my way through clearing stuff out of the basement and cursing my luck and washing and re-washing things that were near the aforementioned crackers, I needed a drink.  So a tequila smoothie it was because I didn't quite have the ingredients on hand for a margarita.

The chore continued well into yesterday and when I looked at the clock I was shocked to find out it was already 4:30pm.  Any time after 4:00 is okay for wine in my book.  Since I was now out of tequila, Yellowtail would have to do.

I had a curious onlooker.  He was depressed because I had things to do and couldn't play.  Dishes don't wash themselves, Scout.

Tequila Smoothie
This is just what I added based on the ingredients I had on hand.  I started throwing things into the blender and the end result was a fruity, refreshing, smoothie-like drink.  

1 1/2 cups frozen fruit (I used chunks of pineapple, blueberries, and strawberries)
Juice of half a lime
1-2 shots tequila
1-2 shots coconut rum
Juice, about 3/4 cup (I used Simply Lemonade Mango)

Blend it up and enjoy (while sitting in bed watching something ridiculous…I chose Hart of Dixie.)

July 24, 2014

Stuff and Things 7/24

I started watching The Vampire Diaries.  It's so bad it's….bad.  I just can't get into it, but I keep watching because I need to have some kind of background noise on while I paint and sort and redecorate.  I feel bad for Scott…while we were working on things over the weekend, we made it through 10 or so episodes.  He'd stop every so often, watch the screen, and ask, "What is….oh, never mind" and go back to work.

Along the same lines:  What show should I be watching?  Please help.  I'm bored.

Months ago, when our friend Rachel was staying with us in Missouri, she introduced me to this popcorn.  Since then, I've gone through at least 1 bag a week.  It doesn't help that we don't have a microwave, so I can't even make all the regular popcorn that's hanging out in the cupboard.  I just keep buying bag after bag of pre-popped popcorn.

Hey, Popcorn Indiana, if you'd like someone to test and/or sell your products, please let me know.

Progress is being made in the unicorn room.  Here's what it looked like when we moved in…

One closet, two doors.

What nightmares are made of… (Sorry, that was mean)

Answer:  All hand-painted
Question:  Wha…?

I mean, at least it won't look any worse.

Nope, no "after pictures" yet.  Still chugging away…

I found a nail salon.  For weeks, I've looked up reviews for pedicures around the area and the only place I could find with good reviews was $50 for a pedicure.  That's kind of a lot.  Well, not kind of.  It IS a lot.  And I didn't want to pay $25-35 for a bad experience.  I had one of those bad experiences back in May-ish in St. Robert (Spa Nails…I got a gift certificate for the place at school and it was *quite* ghettoish and they weren't gentle on the feet.)
When we were eating at Pho and Grill on Saturday night, I noticed a nail place right next door.

Envy Nails and Spa on the left, Pho and Grill on the right.  

I'm a sucker for convenience and, for me, knowing how to get to the place is half the battle.  Plus it said Walk-ins Welcome.  I also hate making appointments, so I randomly showed up at 1pm on Tuesday.  I got right in!  It was clean, they had a huge selection of all the great nail polish brands, and it was surprisingly crowded for the time of day.

$25 for a basic pedicure and I added the callous removing option because, well, I needed it.  So $30 plus tip and I was there for over an hour and they were working on me the whole time.  I didn't have to sit around and wait at all.  I'm pretty thrilled that I found a nail place, even though I only go a couple of times a year. Envy Nails and Spa.  I recommend it.