September 3, 2015

Stuff and Things 9/3

Stuff, Things, etc.

+We are acid-staining the basement floor.  Okay, Scott is acid-staining the basement floor.  We tried to do laminate but didn't like it and it was too hard to keep clean so we're moving the laminate up to the guest bedroom.  The reason why we're going the acid-stain route is because it's a basement and because it's the lowest possible maintenance.  It's not super labor-intensive (not that I would know...); it's just about 4 to 5 steps over a 48 hour period and then it's done and you can just mop it with whatever to clean it and it's sealed forever and ever.  Before the stain was applied, it was just regular old concrete.  
A lot of bars and restaurants use this method and we actually saw it in a winery in Missouri and loved it.  This particular part of the basement will be the living-room/movie-theater area. We do plan on dry-walling over the cinderblock.

+The water in Colorado Springs tastes awful.  We have a well, so I'm always unpleasantly surprised when I have to drink the water at school.  I can't do it. This is me, talking to my fellow teacher friend, about my plan to take in my own water.

This may seem simple, but it's a struggle.

+Did you read this article about Anna Duggar?  My personal opinion: The absolute failure of these sects of Christianity is the way they treat their girls like less-than.  That's all I can use to describe it: less-than.  Less-than what?  I don't know. Just less-than.  Even the pioneer families didn't treat their girls like this; they had just as much value as boys, though for different reasons. Look at the Ingalls family. They sent their blind daughter to college! 

If they'd have the technological advances and knowledge of today back then, I'm guessing the girls would've been treated in a rather equal way.  Also, I'm aware that I'm in the least-feminist profession that exists. But the idea that girls can't do anything really bothers me.  For reasons like this, I think STEM programs should be in all the schools (not that these Duggar girls would ever get to go to school...that makes me really sad).  Also, I'm hoping to coach with Girls on the Run this fall because it's a program that encourages girls to be intelligent, thinking individuals. 

+When I think about how many things are on my to-do list, I realize that writing this blog post is the absolute last thing I should be doing (literally, the last).  And on Tuesday, as I was getting ready to leave the lounge and head back to the world of teaching reading comprehension, I got a picture message from Scott:

That just about pushed my fried nerves over the edge. And that is Scott's friend obviously taking a picture to share photo documentation with others. 

+But then, when I got home yesterday, I saw Scott had cleaned the entire house before he left to go hunting. That made me happier than just about anything, and there may have been happy tears. 

+And again, this blog post is the absolute last thing I should be doing right now (literally).

September 2, 2015

Why I'm trying Stitchfix again

I do have a thing sort of against Stitchfix in a weird way. And I don't like the pimping out of referral links*.  And Stitchfix is like the trademark of basic.  If there was a checklist of basic traits it would look like this:

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

I do fit the basic scale pretty well except that I don't like pumpkin so that statistic throws off my basicness and skews the data.

(This is mostly sarcasm. Don't be offended. I like fall as much as the next blogger.)

+However, I hate browsing for clothes.  I don't mind finding something I really like and buying it like I did with a couple of fantastic dresses last spring but I hate the physical act of driving to the mall/store/whatever and looking for something when I don't necessarily know what I'm looking for.  It's a waste of time.  And sometimes I feel the pressure of Well, I'm here so I might as well get this when it's something I don't love.

+And, over the summer, I took a day and tried on every single thing in my closet.  If it didn't fit the way I wanted it to or if I hadn't worn it since we'd been in Colorado (a full year), I got rid of it.  I do have a bag for clothes that are a little too big, a bag for clothes that are for the beach, and a bag of memorbilia-ish clothes.  I can't get rid of my high school soccer t-shirts or Penn State clothes.  No one would be snatching those up at a Goodwill in Colorado anyway.

+In this way, I created a partial capsule-ish wardrobe.  There was no specific number of items I was shooting for. I was just paring down to what I would actually wear.  I was pretty brutal about it too. There was no aspirational thinking. It was Do I wear this? and that was it.

+I do actually wear real clothes every day, but I have a lot of trouble justifying buying them sometimes.  I had a lot more clothes when I was in college, but now is when I need to put together outfits every day. I don't know why I keep dragging my feet.

+I've actually kept track of how much I've spent on clothes this year.  I was tempted to do this in January because Scott mentioned once about money that "went to Target" and he assumed (not in a bad way) that I was buying clothes.  I was actually at the SuperTarget spending $60 on groceries many weekends.  So I started keeping track of how much I spent and where I spent it.  Also, there was a blog post by someone this past spring and she gave herself at least $500 to spend every season.  I was all What?!?! That's so much! 

However, I got a package from Old Navy out of the mailbox a few weeks ago when Scott and I were on our way somewhere and I opened it up and said I bought some new stuff for school and Scott's all You don't need an excuse to buy clothes.  Which is nice.

+I've noticed my spending is primarily at Target, Old Navy, J.Crew Factory, and Gap.  The stuff at Target is mostly sandals/canvas shoes and crew-neck tees.  The stuff from ON, J.C.F, and Gap is usually online and mostly skirts and dresses.  There were also two fabulous dresses I got at T.J. Maxx in May for $70 total.  Those really stand out to me. And there was an amazing tunic from Aerie. And a pair of leggings from Athleta that started out January on an expensive note, but I wore them at least once a week until May so they've paid for themselves.

+AND...drumroll...I actually haven't bought a purse since OCTOBER 2014. That's almost a year without spending $100+ on a purse.  That deserves a standing ovation.  Actually I haven't bought a purse because I haven't had my eye on a purse and I was okay with the status quo.  I do have my eye on this one, but I'll probably wait until Christmas-ish.  I'm good for now.

+If we're talking shoes, I'm not a shoe person at all.  I might get a new pair of brown boots this fall and I'd like a pair of brown booties.  My brown boots are 3 years old and my black booties are also 3 years old.  The only shoes I've bought this year were some canvas sneakers at Target and some $8 sandals that are pretty fabulous.  I get my gold star in frugality in this category.

All of this is why I attempted Stitchfix again.  This is my long-winded explanation: There are two things I got from Stitchfix back in 2013 that I still wear ALL THE TIME.  I love them.  I've always kept that in the back of my mind. Like, what exactly do I have against them? Well, they're overpriced, but I'm not spending lots of money on clothes elsewhere and, really now, time is money because I'm not going to waste time browsing for clothes.  This is easier. It nice to have someone say This is in style right now. Try it on. And it's much less overwhelming than walking into a department store.

I got a box over the weekend and you'll have to come back later this week to see what I liked and what I didn't (i.e. this post is getting to be annoyingly long).

There are two things I was so conflicted over that I had to wait for Scott to come home from his camping trip so he could offer an opinion.

*You might ask how I can sell something like Rodan+Fields and still not like it when people advertise referral links. Well, I invested in running my own business, so I like to think it's different. But the bigger reason is that I believe that Rodan+Fields has something for everyone and I don't think everyone should try Stitchfix. I'm conflicted enough over getting back to it myself! And I just wrote an entire manifesto of reasons. That's dedication toward proving a point.

September 1, 2015

Not me

Scott bought a camper last week.  I think he bought it because now he thinks I'll go camping with him.  Which is fine.  I might.  And we had that pop-up camper that he got on Craigslist in Missouri but the hail pretty much destroyed it this past spring, so it was onto the real thing I guess.

He took his dad and the dogs into western Colorado on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday and you're probably wondering why I didn't go along.  Well, I would've had to take off work and that wasn't in the cards, obviously.  And I know he just wanted to get away and relax.  To me, camping is not relaxing.  What is relaxing is the chance to catch up.  I had time to grade papers, plan stuff for school, workout, go to lunch with a friend, run errands, CLEAN, do lots of laundry, etc  Time and space to spread out and take care of everything that needs to be taken care of IS the relaxing thing to me.  Camping for the weekend would've led to more work and a stressed-out work week.  Most people enjoy getting out into the woods to "relax", but not me.

Next weekend, we've got the state fair, a concert, a cookout, and a trip to Denver. The weekend after that we have our anniversary, most likely another trip to Denver, and I've got to decorate for fall (because I used to do that in August back in Alaska...I'm fall-ing behind).

I needed a weekend of nothing.

While I missed the dogs a lot (like an insane amount), it was nice to sleep in until 8 without Jett waking me up at the crack of dawn demanding food.  That dog does not sleep in.

It's also worth mentioning that today is our SEVEN YEAR dating anniversary.  Time flies.  We started dating in Pennsylvania in 2008 and this is our 4th state and our 4th house.  That's a lot in 7 years.

August 31, 2015

As a new week begins

I wrote several blog posts over the weekend but none ever seem quite appropriate for Monday. Does anyone else have that problem? Like, how do you begin a week with anything other than a weekend review of sorts? That was one thing I did not write.

Last night (as I made my way through an entire season of Entourage, no less) I found myself about 15 inspirational quotes and I like this one...

Perfect for a Monday.

(I just saw that I had pinned this picture too.  Made me chuckle at 5:30am, so I should probably share. Scott is very precise with his cold/cough medicine measurements.  I swig from the bottle.)

August 29, 2015

(A link to) Mexican Stuffed Shells

Recipe challenge, week thirty-four. Kind of.

I can't lie. I haven't cooked in awhile.  In fact, grocery shopping isn't even fun anymore. In fact-in fact, I stopped at Chick-fila for dinner the other day when I knew Scott wouldn't be home until late.  I really just wanted a giant unsweetened tea, but I figured a chicken wrap would hold me over as I hunkered down to two hours of paperwork on a Thursday night.  How boring, right? The dogs weren't happy about it, but someone has to work to buy all those treats....

In fact, I've taken a step back from social media in general because I like to be intentional with things and right now I'm busy being intentional with things other than blogging.  Mostly school stuff.  But I've been insisting on half an hour of Pilates (at least) every day. It takes an extreme amount of forethought to put a workout into a busy day, and I'm the first one to admit that I've been going to bed too late.  However, dinner has barely been getting made because by the time I leave school, drive 30 minutes home, and I feed/walk/play with the dogs, it's almost 6pm and I have stuff to do and I end up putting something together for Scott and I just eat whatever.  It's not a practice I recommend.  If I'm lucky, I keep up with the laundry and dishes as the week goes on. Which means not often.

However, I made these stuffed shells weeks ago and took them to my friend who'd just had a baby.  I made a double batch so we had dinner for two nights too.  I do love freezer cooking and this is a great example of something you can make, wrap up tightly, stick in the freezer, and pull out on a busy day.

 It's not my recipe;  I googled "healthy Mexican stuffed shells" and this is what came up.  So I don't know if this counts because I didn't invent it. But it IS new and I DID make it and it's not like I'm writing a cookbook or plagiarizing, right?

I'll just post the link.  Just in case.

August 27, 2015

Stuff and Things 8/27

Stuff, Things, etc.

+I kind of wanted to do a Stuff Scott Says post, but I kept forgetting to write stuff down.

+I will tell you that he laughs out loud when I watch Under the Dome.  He's the same person who used to watch Legend of the Seeker (if you've never heard of it that's because he's the only one who ever watched it). It was a sci-fi medieval kind of show.

+Scott to Scout: You are the Adam Levine of dogs.

+Scott to Jett: You are the Jack Black of dogs.

+And because I can truly think of nothing else worth explaining....

Dress: Gordman's // Sweater: Macy's (old) // Sandals: Target (brand-new and $8)

A kid tramped on my toe by accident last week.  My toenail is black and blue underneath the polish.  I wanted to scream, but I totally held it all inside.  Go me. I should stop wearing $8 sandals to school.  At least they're not flip-flops.  I draw the line somewhere.

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August 25, 2015

Teacher Stuff: My Read-Aloud Strategies

As a highly-organized and (hopefully) effective teacher, I have a book list that I choose from for my read-alouds every year.  I start every day with a read aloud.  It keeps them calm and eases them into school.  And let's face it, it's a much more enjoyable way for me to get their attention; no one likes barking orders or hearing orders barked at them.  This is the list I work from every year for 4th grade (my year in 2nd grade was different, of course) and I have grand plans to add in new books this year.  I haven't read all of these books every year; sometimes personalities don't allow certain books and/or kids don't like them. For example, the year I read Farmer Boy: I spent more time explaining things than I did reading, but the kids loved that book so it was worth it. They were a patient class and I don't think that book would work with every group of students.

Read-alouds are great because they give you teachable moments and a chance to discuss books with kids. Number the Stars, for instance, was my favorite to do that particular year because it was then that I developed my WWII for Kids lesson.  The absolute outrage the kids expressed at the Nazi slapping Mama across the face was priceless.  I still remember the cries of injustice.  It was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.

I've learned that if you don't expose kids to new books, they'll never pick those books up themselves. We all tend to stick to what we know so, even if they don't love it at first, give it a few chapters.

My Read-Aloud Strategies

1.  Let them work while they listen.  The ultimate in multi-tasking.  If you force them to sit on the floor in a circle, they're going to do stuff they're not supposed to: poking, pinching, making faces, etc.  Someone will have a toy. Someone will start arguing over a "spot" on the floor.  Give them something to do while they listen. Most districts don't really encourage the old-fashioned read-aloud anymore because it takes away from instructional time, so I do it while they're working on Morning Work for the first 10 minutes of the day.

2.  Don't force them to sit still.  If someone needs to go to the restroom or get a drink, they just go. If someone wants to read their own book, let them.  You're not quizzing them on your read aloud (unless you are).  Your job is to expose them to a new book.  You'd be surprised how much they listen when you think they're not paying attention.

3.  Don't let them talk.  It's disrespectful to you and everyone else.  I also don't let them sharpen pencils.

4.  Don't let them interrupt you.  I have a standing agreement with the class: they can go to the restroom or get a drink (one at a time) while I'm reading, but anything else can wait.  They can try to stand in front of me and start asking questions, they can try to raise their hand forever, etc, but I won't stop reading (unless there's blood or serious injury, obviously).  This takes a certain amount of tolerance on the teacher's part, but it's a habit worth adopting.  So many kids are used to running up to the teacher and just talking and most (not all) teachers will acknowledge it, answer them, indulge them, hug them, etc.  I don't because it's disruptive and they need to learn patience. I actually have a "sit" symbol and a "put your hand down" symbol so I don't have to stop what I'm saying and redirect them verbally.

5. Walk around while you read.  Proximity is the best way to squelch behaviors.

5.  Leave off at a cliffhanger.  I do this on purpose.  Nothing is sweeter to a teacher's ears than the chorus of "Noooo!" she hears when she closes the book for the day.

August 22, 2015

3-Ingredient Mango Salsa

Recipe challenge, week thirty-three.

I posted mango salsa two years ago and I've made it several times since.  However, I always felt the need to get uber-creative and got away from the original inspiration for the recipe.  My friend made this very basic salsa for a get-together back in Missouri and I couldn't stop eating it.  I'd really never had mango-anything before that because I'd spent four years in Alaska and I don't think you can even buy mangos there and, if you can, they're probably $8 each.  But this time of year they're about a dollar in Colorado, so it's worth it.  

I did this salsa last weekend with just on-the-vine tomatoes, one mango, and a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro.  You can add salt, but check the saltiness of your tortilla chips first.  Different brands equal a different level of saltiness and all. (I once went out with a guy who was completely irritated over the fact that, on one occasion, the tortilla chips at Chili's were too salty. First of all, no such thing. Second of all, I've never been able to forget this.  I have a photographic memory I suppose. Every single time I go to Chili's and every single time I think about tortilla-chip-salt-content, there it is.)


3-Ingredient Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled and diced (make sure it's ripe)
3-4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 heaping tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

Mix it all up and it will store in the fridge for up to 3 days.  I'd make it 12 hours or so before you need it.

August 21, 2015

Unnecessary weather update

Sandals: Famous Footwear, Shirt: Gap, Pants: JCPenney

I'm not sure about this place and its weather.  Wednesday was about 64 degrees and I was pretty cold in that picture seen above.  I wore a jacket to school with that heavy shirt and recess duty, though sunny, was chilly.  I considered boots for a brief second when I got dressed that morning. 

Also, I need to go pants shopping.  Those are navy "skinny pants" and the fit is not really that skinny.  I appreciate that, because I hate tight pants, but I need more than 3 pairs of pants in my arsenal.  I have no idea where to go with this issue. 

Dress: Gap, Sweater: JCPenney 2012, Sandals: Some Alaska brand but I think they're still kind of stylish (?)

Today (meaning yesterday...I'm writing this in advance like a good little blogger), it was 90 degrees again and Friday and Saturday are going to be just as hot.  I don't understand.  We went from August to October for one day and now back again.  

Like you've never heard a blogger talk about the weather.


I'm figuring out that just posting outfit pictures is easy blog material and takes little to no thought.  I don't remember being this busy last August.  I would place a bet on lots of outfit posts and no real content for the next few weeks.  

August 20, 2015

Teaching Stuff and Things 8/20

Stuff, Things, etc.

I could talk about teaching all day.  I never really tire of the subject, though I may tire of the process.  I'm pretty lucky and blessed (not hashtag blessed, real blessed) to be able to pursue a career I actually love, because many don't get to do that.  Here's some tips and tricks that are from an ever-expanding list I'm compiling on the subject (i.e. an ebook).

+Hook labels.
I never labeled hooks in Alaska and this was the exact same set-up I had there.  In Missouri, I had cubbies, so those were labeled and then last year I labeled hooks because I was in the habit from Missouri.  Use numbers, not names, so they can last more than one year.  I covered these in packing tape to keep them on the wall.  Last year I stapled them because it was a different kind of wall material.

+Supply boxes/bags.
(see above) My hack for meet-the-teacher night.  Give kids a place to put their stuff and your life will automatically be made easier. It worked REALLY well. I put a detailed instruction list on each desk too, and parents and kids followed it.

+"I'm Done" sticks.
I've never tried these before, so we'll see how it goes.  I don't know if I'll push them or if the kids will want to use them or if they'll get stuffed away so like many of those grand ideas we have in August/September.  They took about 3 minutes to make and were essentially free, so they can take up space for awhile.  I have way too much shelf space this year.

+Borrowing pencils.
I'm really weird about pencils.  Specifically, pencil-sharpening.  The only way, I've found, to combat the issue of kids wanting to sharpen pencils all day is to come down with an iron fist from day one.  I got lucky this year and have a great hand-crank sharpener on the wall.  Electric ones are unreliable anyway.  And it's better if you take away the novelty of electricity.
These are my pencil rules.

I decided I'd give them the option of mini-pencil sharpeners until someone sets an example and the inevitable (a pencil shaving explosion) occurs.  That way, I'm not mean; I'm reacting to what they've done in a constructive way.

As for the borrowing of pencils...I don't lend pencils, ever.  I constructed this little set-up and then I thought, "Eh, now they can't use the erasers..." because of the popsicle stick. But the point is that this pencil should not be something they're comfortable with.  They shouldn't get to use it. They shouldn't have access to that eraser because then they'll want to keep the pencil.  They all have separate, bigger erasers anyway.

The most pencil issues I've ever had came the year I taught 2nd grade and it was a daily struggle because they were pretty young.  In Alaska, I started the rule of "no pencil sharpening" because we had an electric sharpener and they'd try to do that when I was teaching.  I've stuck with my pencil philosophy ever since.  My response to a kid with a pencil conundrum is always "Find a friend" because kids are usually willing to let others borrow a pencil.  Then the lender will smile at me, because they assume it puts them in my good graces.  It's cute.

+Routine slides.
I have found that it's easiest to lay out my expectations in the clearest way possible.  That way, there's no confusion and I have a go-to copy of "this is what we do during...{insert specific time of day}". I wrote up the rules/procedures and put them on Google slides so I can project them during the day.  I also printed a copy to put in the sub binder.

Sometimes just getting your ideas out and into word form will make things so much simpler.  It's also much simpler when the kids can refer to a slide on the board in front of them when they forget a procedure.


If I had more time, or if it wasn't 11pm and I just now wasn't finishing the stuff I needed to get done for tomorrow, I'd find some pictures to insert.  You all will just have to make do.  Hopefully I'll get my act together next week.  No promises.