October 3, 2015

Tote Debate

I've spent most of the evening researching leather totes.

Which should I seriously consider?

Madewell Transport Tote

Cuyana Classic Leather Tote

What I really want is a new purse.  As I texted my friend the other day at lunchtime: "I want a new purse and I'm in the mood for something expensive"  because once I start thinking about a purse, I can't stop. It was on my mind all day. Though it doesn't have to be expensive, because I don't believe that expensive makes for a better purse.  My favorite bag, maybe ever, is this Halogen brand one that I got from Nordstrom's for $33 back in 2013.  I used it for 2 1/2 years and it started to wear a bit.  I'd buy another one in a heartbeat but they were discontinued and I got the last one in the store on that particular day.  So sad.


I got this Hershel bag in July and intended to use it for school, but it's not as big as I'd prefer and, if we're being honest, a highlighter exploded on the inside and I didn't discover it until a week later. I do use the bag but I'm afraid to try to wash the highlighter out because it might make it worse. Problems.

But, along the lines of wanting a new purse, I'm kind of sick of carrying two bags.  I usually carry a purse; a work bag for clipboards, papers, binders, my planner, and everything else that won't fit in my purse; a lunchbox; and a gym clothes bag if I have Girls on the Run after school.  That's FOUR bags. Plus, I'm usually trying to maneuver the quarter mile walk into my building without spilling my water bottle or my tea.  It's a struggle.

I was thinking that if I could consolidate a bit, life might be easier.  In this regard at least.  

Recommend a bag please!  

October 1, 2015

Your Fall Television Line-up (S&T 10/1)

Stuff, Things, etc.

If you know me by now, you know that I'm a T.V. snob.  This is what I'm excited for in October.

+Once Upon a Time.  I've discovered that OUAT is a show I have to binge-watch, not watch week by week.  I gave up on season 4 by last December and finally caught up on Netflix this week.  My intelligence can be questioned because, admittedly, I get distracted with my multi-tasking while watching and I seriously thought the season was over at episode 20 and then a new episode started and I thought it was looping back to the beginning of the season and then I thought "oh, I don't remember this" and assumed I'd been doing something else of the multitasking variety when I'd "watched" it the first time.  Well, no.  There were two more episodes.  Which I was delighted with.  What a nice surprise for someone who wasn't paying attention.
Anyway, the new season, season 5, began on Sunday on ABC.

+The Leftovers.  Did you watch this last summer?  We really enjoyed it.  I love Justin Theroux and I think it will constantly keep you guessing.  Season 2 starts this Sunday on HBO.

+The Walking Dead. I have a prevailing theory that if you don't watch TWD by now, you probably don't have an interest in such things and probably never will.  Season 1 is still my favorite (long live Shane), but I do like to see where the characters and the story go with each season. Fear the Walking Dead is something Scott has been watching (it's a spin-off) and I'm not caught up on that as of now.
Season 6 starts on Sunday, October 11th on AMC.

+The Affair. On Showtime.  We became enthralled with this saga last summer.  I'm glad they moved it to fall.  If you're interested in a stellar cast, telling stories from multiple POVs, check it out.

+Homeland. This show is why we still have DirecTV. No DirecTV = No Showtime = No Homeland.
We love Homeland. Season 5 premieres Sunday.

+Grimm.  I'm currently watching season 4 on Amazon Prime so I can be ready for season 5 on NBC on October 30th.  Exciting times..

Anyway, yes, if you haven't watched Grimm yet, give it a try.  And make yourself stick with it for at least 6 episodes.  That's how long it took for me to like it.  It's addictive.  Scott doesn't like it and that's because he didn't follow my 6-episode-theory.

What are YOU watching this fall?  Excited for any shows to come back?

September 30, 2015

Jett Goes to Obedience School

Jett is an odd bird. We've had him for a year and a half now and I still feel like I know nothing about him.

He's Scout's complete opposite.  Like, you would find pictures of Jett and Scout next to the word antonym in the dictionary.

For example, Jett does not bring me toys.  He doesn't prefer for me to play with him.  Scout prefers me to play.

Jett prefers to have all the toys to himself and perceives me as a threat.

Jett is stubborn.  He's relentless. An alpha-male. He's Dwight Schrute, basically.

He's also lazy though.  He understands "too much work".  When fetching things, he lets Scout do the work and then takes the thing fetched from him when he gets back.  He knows.

Because I still don't know what makes Jett tick (aside from food), we took a trip to Obedience School for the last two weekends.

I can't really put into words how embarrassing it was to sign up my 1.5 year old dog for basic training classes.  Thank goodness that part was all online.

Before you get on me about not taking care of this a year ago...Jett is a (supposedly) well-bred hunting dog.  He has a job and a purpose. Usually, you train hunting dogs yourself because they are to be your partner. Or you send them off to camp-like programs to have them professionally trained. That costs thousands and takes months.  Eventually though, in the last few weeks, I told Scott I was taking Jett to obedience school and we made a deal that that was fine as long as it was $50 or less per class.  It was a how-much-are-we-willing-to-pay-for kind of situation.  For me, I'm willing to pay a lot.  Luckily, the Karma Dog Training School is very reasonably priced.

The thing is that Jett "generally" does what I want him to do. He "generally" listens to me.  "Generally", I feel that I have a handle on him.  I also "generally" don't trust him.

He likes to jump on people.  While Scott and I don't care, I find that people "generally" do care.  We always just blamed it on him "being a puppy".  Well, Scout outgrew this puppy stuff by 9 months old and Jett is twice that age now. I was insistent on that when I told Scott we needed to do something.  He's younger than Scout but he's not that young. There's a difference. While Jett is probably smarter than some humans, his stubbornness is getting in the way of intellectual growth.  If he was a kid, for example, he'd be the kid on Ridelin and probably with an individualized education plan of sorts. He'd be the kid who drove the teacher crazy.

I was skeptical that the Obedience School people could actually help us and it's pretty telling that Scott and I both laughed out loud when we read "will graduate after 8 weeks!" Let's not count our chickens before they're hatched.  If these people can really qualify Jett as a graduate after 8 weeks, I would gladly pay them double.

September 29, 2015

The Manitou Incline and It's Not Fall Yet

I wrote this post on Sunday and on Sunday the forecast looked slightly less fall-ish for Colorado Springs.  It's looking more fall-ish right now, but that does not excuse the jeans/sweaters/boots combo I saw many people wearing when it was 85 degrees on Saturday.

On Saturday, we tackled the Manitou Incline.  I don't have a ton of pictures because I was worried about falling to my death and this is one of those places where they should be banning selfies.  I saw several selfies being taken mid-climb and one guy with a selfie-stick.  This is natural selection at work.

A random person finishing a few minutes after I did. People liked to take pictures and I had to get in line to take a picture from the top.

Anyway, the Incline is famous in Colorado Springs and it's almost a mile of steps going nearly vertical and taking you up 2000 feet in elevation.  Scott has done it for PT in the past and he said the in-shape people can do it in about 40 minutes.  We did it in 54 minutes and that's because I stopped for several breaks.  HOWEVER, I do believe I could've pushed myself harder and faster but I kept waiting for it to break me. Or for it to get so bad that I couldn't continue.  I rarely push myself to my outer limits and there's a few reasons for that but I won't bore you. I had plenty of time to delve into the psychological inner-workings of Kristin as I made my way up that mountain.  Second HOWEVER, everyone was moaning and groaning and panting and huffing and puffing and it tricked my mind into believing it was worse than it actually was.  Therefore I'd like to try again this fall and hopefully improve on my time.  Now that I know what it's actually like, I can probably address the Incline with more vigor.  If that makes any sense.

The best option down from the top is to walk 4 miles down the Barr Trail. This took over an hour and it was quite pleasant.  You're supposed to run down but I didn't and I probably should have because the mesh on my sneakers tore from the pressure of my toes and my toes hurt from said pressure.

The leaves are already starting to turn and it was about 85 degrees and an all-around gorgeous day.  Third HOWEVER...

It's not fall yet.  I don't understand people.  When I say people, I mean 20-something females.  We had to park in Manitou on our way to the Incline and it was a 2 mile walk just to the trailhead and then we had to walk back to the car after.  Through the town, I noticed many females wearing jeans, boots, SWEATERS, and scarves.  It was 85 degrees.  I get that it's the last week of September, but you all have to stop with this.  I mean, I like 65 degree days as much as the next person (I relish them, really, in this desert climate), but you cannot be comfortable in such garb.  You just can't.  Especially because a lot of places here don't have air conditioning.  Sure I'm annoyed that I'm just wearing the same 4 pairs of sandals over and over again to school because it's hot out.  And I do kinda wish I could pull out the leggings.  And not getting a sunburn standing out on recess duty would be great.  But until you've lived in a climate where winter starts October 1st (not fall, winter), you can't truly appreciate a perfect 85 degree September day.  So thank you, Alaska.  I appreciate sweating and sunburn and not getting to wear my new boots at the end of September now.

For the all the complaining people (20-something ladies) do about winter, they sure are eager for the clothing.  I, for one, will be wearing shorts and sandals on the weekends until at least mid-October.

Oh, speaking of fall...The Great Pumpkin Swap is in full swing.  Visit yesterday's post to sign-up!

September 28, 2015


I had to count on my fingers to figure out how long I've been doing this Great Pumpkin Swap.


I'll spare you the basic blogger talk about fall and boots and scarves and all that. The point is that we generally, as a blogging population, enjoy this season and we, as a population, enjoy getting pretty stuff in the mail.  If YOU are interested in participating, here's this year's timeline.

(As always, if no one wants to join in, Becky and I will send each a package and call it a day :):) This is my annual disclaimer so I won't feel bad if no one shows up to the party.)

The procedure is the same as previous years. We're just pushing it later into the season because, I don't know about your location, it's barely fall here in Colorado.

1. Fill out the form to sign up for the swap! Sign-ups end on Friday, October 9th at 11:59pm.
2. By Monday, October 12th, you will get an e-mail from one of us with your swap partner.
3. Once you know your partner, please make contact within 48 hours (by Wednesday, October 14th) to get to know a bit more about each other.
4. Spend $15-$20 (excluding shipping) to put together a fun package for your partner.
5. Mail your package on or before Tuesday, October 27th.
6. Link up with us on Friday, November 6th to share your swap goodies!

September 27, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recipe challenge, week thirty-eight.

This is nothing new because I feel like I talk about these muffins every fall.

Do you, like me, fear running out of pumpkin?  Our first year in Alaska, there was a pumpkin shortage and that was slightly terrifying.  I don't remember it affecting me directly but I remember people talking about it.  To this day, I keep several cans in the pantry during the fall months.  Just in case.

Our first year in Alaska was also the year I started making these muffins at least twice a fall season.  It's Scott's mom's recipe and I don't actually know where she got it, but we love these muffins.  I've done them as mini-muffins too.

I'm cheating (again) this week and sharing a tried-and-true recipe simply because I made them for a cake walk at the school carnival this past week and I'm making them again, as I type, because I just seriously love them.  I would update with a picture but they're not done yet so maybe later.

Other things I could've put on Instagram this weekend but didn't: ice cream twice in one day, a hike up the Manitou Incline, and Jett goes to obedience school.  All will be discussed on the blog this week.  Eh, maybe not the ice cream thing. That's self-explanatory.

Cheers to Sunday night.  Kind of.  Go make these muffins. I like to eat them for breakfast with peanut butter.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Dry ingredients:

3 1/3 c. flour 
2 T. pumpkin pie spice
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
Mix together and set aside

Wet ingredients:

2 eggs
1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
1/2 c. oil
1 1/2 c. sugar

Blend the wet ingredients with a mixer and add the dry ingredients in 3 batches. You can use up to 1/2 c. of milk to thin the batter if necessary. It should be thick when it's all mixed together.

Add 1 c. of mini chocolate chips. Stir and spoon into a muffin pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

September 24, 2015

Is it really Thursday?

Hmmm...I really don't have anything to share.  Isn't that odd?

Stuff, Things, etc.

I'll leave you with a recommendation today.

I've been listening to every episode I can find of the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. Being part of a podcast like that would probably be my dream job. (Hey, hire me! If Class Dojo itself commented on my Class Dojo post yesterday, I could probably at least try to get the attention of missedinhistory.com)

I really wish I had more to say.  I'm sick at the moment (congestion, etc), it's still 90 degrees in Colorado (which is almost more than I can handle here at the end of September), and Scott leaves for the field this weekend (yay...no).

Therefore, I'm going to bed before 9:30 and hoping for a productive day tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

September 23, 2015

Teacher Stuff: Class Dojo

Let's talk about classroom behavior systems.

When a teacher tells me that they have a behavior system, whether it's a clip chart, card system, etc, and say that it works, I always side-eye them.  I don't believe that.  I tried a card system my first year and it was a disaster.  I remember my principal asking me So what do you do when they end up on black every day? Call parents? Send them to the office?  Every day?

Well, no.  I wasn't going to do that.  What a waste of time for everyone involved.  But as soon as you stop doing things to respond to behavior problems, the kids walk all over you.  And I refuse to I refuse to yell in the first place. I don't even like to yell for the dogs.  It's demeaning to me and to the object of the yelling. When it comes to kids, I usually ask "What is wrong with you you/why are you doing that?"....which might be the same thing I ask the dogs and I like to pretend they understand.

I'm not trying to brag and I could very well be eating my words soon because I have a chatty class this year, but a few principals have called my room the "neatest" and "calmest" in the entire school.  I think the number one reason for this is because I read aloud in the morning, but the more obvious reason is probably because I use Class Dojo.  I'm a Class Dojo mentor actually, and I have a shirt with a big green dojo on it.

You need a few necessary things in a good behavior system.
You need accountability.
You need the students to invest in it.
You need the parents to invest in it.
You need it to be a continuum.  Up and down, highs and lows, rewards and consequences. No dead ends.
You need data and numbers that have meaning.

Class Dojo has all of this.

When a teacher tells me they're not going to use Class Dojo because they "have something" that "works", I don't believe them.  I DO believe that they go home with a sore throat and physically exhausted at the end of the day. Student-behavior issues are not worth my sanity and my health so that's why I use Class Dojo.

Here's how it works:

You create your class (these are pictures of the demo class the website uses...can't show you my actual class because of names and all).

You give students and parents their codes to access the website and the app.

Students design their avatar.

Parents get push notifications on their phone with their child does something good or something not so good.

These are the behaviors I give point feedback on.

Persevering is a big one, so it's weighted to two points. 

I try to be pretty specific to the things I won't allow because that gives parents and kids clear expectations and helps me focus my own expectations. I'm not going to make a big deal about a kid doing xyz, but I will take a point away if they are wandering around while they're supposed to be working. 

You project the avatars onto your whiteboard or Smartboard and the kids see, in real time, who's getting points and losing points.

I use the app on my iPad at school to give and take points and, at the same time, what I'm doing pops up on the board (being projected from my laptop) and 27 students snap to attention.

At the end of the day, we look at our percentages and pie charts to see where we were successful and where our behavior could use some tweaking.

The student(s) with the highest percentage (i.e. beating the class average) gets a prize at the end of the day.

Depending on the class, I use this system more or less.  When I taught 2nd grade, we lived and died by the Class Dojo.  It was a BIG deal.  Last year, my class was really good, so I weaned them off of it and only checked percentages maybe once a week.

This year, I'm taking it pretty seriously because the parents are loving it.  I get messages constantly with questions, concerns, etc.

Truthfully, that's my favorite part of Class Dojo.  Parent communication, admittedly, is always what I try to work on the most because I don't like talking on the phone. This way, I can talk to parents in a format that is more convenient than the phone and way easier than email.  You can craft out a text-like message and send it off.  You get it on your phone as a notification and, really now, I don't think there could be a simpler way for me to communicate with parents.  I can send out a broadcast to all the parents who are connected and get information and reminders across very quickly. When parents contact me, the app makes a certain sound on the iPad and the kids all look up because they know it's one of their parents.

In addition, this feature was just added:

That's a sample picture, not one I took.

I can update parents on what's going on by sending pictures of their kids learning (or hopefully learning).


All in all, I do not consider myself a technology saavy person and sometimes, in the classroom, it just makes life more difficult.  However, I've been using this for 3 years now and I don't think I could not recommend it.  It would work with preschool through middle school or maybe even high school. If you want to know more, let me know!

You don't need an iPad. I've been known to use the app on my phone in class if my iPad isn't working right and I didn't have an iPad for the first few months I used it in 2013-2014. If that isn't an option, you can just use a computer.  As long as you have the internet, you can use Class Dojo.

This is a fun Youtube introduction I showed to the kids this year because they'd never seen Class Dojo before.

I was not asked or sponsored in any way to talk about Class Dojo.  I became a mentor just because I've been on board for awhile and they offer that opportunity to long-time users. However, Class Dojo, if you're hiring...

September 21, 2015

Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge {The Results}


I read an insane amount of books this summer.  And I actually did read most of them (versus listening to them) because I was home with not a lot to do.  You can read my summer book reviews for June, July, and August if you'd like.  These are the ones I chose for the Literary Ladies Book Club Challenge.

I should really insert some links, but we all have equal access to Google, am I right?  If you follow me on Goodreads, you can see these reads of mine. 

YA book: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Very good.)

Non-US Author: Three Wishes by Liane Moriarity (Pretty good. and One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (Very, very good.)

Book Recommended by a Blogger: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (Like, the best ever.)

Book on TBR list for a year: Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris (Meh.) and Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (Surprisingly okay.)

Book with a kick-ass female character: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin I couldn't find this book by Zevin anywhere and I didn't feel like buying it. It's still on my to-read list, but for the purposes of this challenge, I switched to The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (Pretty good.)

Book to movie: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky I couldn't find this book either.  One day I asked Alexa if she played podcasts and she said, "Accessing your Audible library" and all of a sudden Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand (Eh. Parts were okay.) started playing and I just started listening.  I'm not sure how/why this occurred. Or why Alexa doesn't respond to the words she's supposed to. However, Alexa is hooked up to Scott's Amazon account (oh yes, we have joint checking, but separate Amazon accounts) and that was on his Audible so that's what she played.  I listened over a period of a few weeks by asking "Alexa? Do you play podcasts?".  Technology.

Edited to add: I did end up reading Perks last week.  Look for it in my September Books post.

Memoir: Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Really good.)

Book with One-Word Title: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Superb.)

Book about Summer: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (We-Were-Over-Privileged.)

Suspenseful Book: My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith (Pretty good.)

What was the best book you read this summer?

September 20, 2015

Pizza Lasagna

Recipe challenge, week thirty-seven.

This recipe name is misleading.  This lasagna does NOT have pizza ingredients in it, but you could probably put pizza ingredients in it.  I made this on a Sunday at 7pm after a duck hunting trip to the middle of nowhere and I really only made it because Scott wanted food for dinner.  I would've been satisfied with cereal.  It was ready to eat before he had unloaded the kayak.

Not only was it delicious, but it was in the oven within 20 minutes AND it made two 8x8 pans, so I was able to freeze one for a busy night (said busy night has since come and gone and it was delicious that time too).

The secret is the oven-ready lasagna noodles.  They have a doughy texture, which is why this tasted like pizza smothered in homemade sauce, ricotta, and fresh spinach. I call it Pizza Lasagna because it tasted like and had the texture of a deep-dish pizza.

A perfect weeknight dinner.

Pizza Lasagna
makes two 8x8 pans or one 13x9 pan

1 package of oven-ready lasagna noodles
2-3 cups of marinara (1 jar)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese + more for sprinkling on the top
1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, loosely packed
1 16-oz. container ricotta cheese
2 t. dried Italian seasoning (or fresh basil and oregano minced, if you have them)
1 egg
Ground beef or turkey, if you have it (I didn't)

In a mixing bowl, mix the mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, ricotta, egg, and spinach. Stir it together until well-combined.

In your pan (or pans), spread 1/4 of the marinara into the bottom. Layer in noodles, spread a scoop (1/3 a cup) of the cheese mixture, and then another 1/4 cup of sauce. Repeat until all of the cheese/noodles/sauce are used.  (Step by step pictures would be nice, but it's just layering lasagna.)

Sprinkle extra mozzarella over the top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Check at 20 minutes, though.  Remove the foil and broil for a few minutes until the cheese on top is browned. Let cool for a few minutes to set before you cut it.

For freezing: Wrap the foil pan in plastic wrap, then wrap tightly in foil. If you're using an 8x8 pan, it will fit into a Ziploc freezer bag.  Store in the freezer for up to two months. If you're using a larger pan (they do make bigger freezer bags), wrap it very tightly in another layer of plastic wrap after the foil.  Be sure to store flat in the freezer.  When ready to bake, just unwrap all the layers, be sure to cover the top in foil and then put into a 350 degree oven while still frozen.