Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Blast From the Past: August 2005

My August 2005 reads weren't large in number, but there were some fantastic books. I would love to re-read The World Is Flat by Thomas  Friedman to see how different my perspective is a decade later and how much of what Friedman says in his book is even more relevant now.

Have any of you read these other books I read ten years ago? What were you reading ten years ago? Five?  

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Gratitude Diaries

My mom has been keeping a gratitude journal for years now - long before it became popular.  It is always something I think I should try as well, although my attempts have been short lived since in a busy schedule that seems to be one of the first things I forget.

Janice Kaplan's latest book, The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Transformed My Life is a bit memoir a bit self-help, giving details about Kaplan's own journey with developing an attitude of gratitude.  

Within this book, there are sections focusing on marriage, love, and family, material possessions, health, and friendship.  In each portion Kaplan gives her own personal experiences with being grateful and ways she was able to apply this new outlook to her life.  

While most of what Kaplan is saying is very common sense, it isn't always easy to have the attitude of gratitude.  Practical ways to develop this in yourself (and your children) are shared.  

I appreciated every word of this book.  Although I already know that material possessions do not equal happiness, it was nice to read it again.  Kaplan has done her research and can also provide some justification for her suggestions.

This is a book I will be recommending to many people.  And, even though you may feel happy and grateful without reading The Gratitude Diaries, I believe this is a book for everyone, and everyone will be able to find something in it to take away and apply to their own lives.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Salon: My Last Day of Freedom

Right now I am attempting to cobble together some lesson plans, getting ready for the first day of summer school tomorrow.

I am excited to see the kids and get into the swing of things. But, man!  School?! I feel out of practice.

Add to this the fact that my internet is down today and instead of writing lesson plans from my own home, I am at my mom's house, working as quickly as possible so that I can dig through my books to find the ones I need and then do a little bit of preparation after that at home where my supplies are.

It's hot this weekend.  I love it!  I ran nine miles on the treadmill yesterday, which is the furthest I've run in over a year.  I must be getting older or am more out of shape than I thought because I am definitely sore today.

Last week I finally got around to taking Big Sister to our local mom and pop cycling store, Europa Cycles, where we found this great Trek bike.  Now if I would get my bike fixed, we could hit the trails around our house.  I'm working on it.

Last night Middle Sister and Little Sister were surprised when my friend Robin's husband offered to take them up for a plane ride in his airplane.  Long ago my uncle would take me and my siblings up for plane rides.  When they landed they were gushing about how amazing it was to fly over our house and all the other landmarks they know.  They're already talking about when they can go again. Big Sister was a little more cautious and turned down the offer of a plane ride - for now.  I think after she saw how much fun her sisters had, she was a bit more intrigued.

In order to be ready for tomorrow, I still need to get to the grocery store and get things laid out and ready to go. 

Big Sister has cross country camp this week. And Middle Sister has volleyball camp.  Thank goodness for my mother and mother-in-law who can help out with transportation.

I'm hoping my computer is back up and running tomorrow.  This no technology thing is a hassle! 

Enjoy what's left of your weekend, everyone!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Taste Test and a Cautionary Tale

It is a rare thing that I find a potato chip I don't like.  I love love love salt.  Now I try not to purchase chips very often, or if I do have them at home, find a kind that I'm only half way interested in.

This summer Lay's has four new flavors of potato chips to test:

1.  Greektown Gyro
2. New York Reuben
3. Southern Biscuits and Gravy
4. West Coast Truffle Fries

And we couldn't pass any of them up.  Last weekend when we grilled one night we decided to give these chips a taste test.

With the five of us trying them (and my mom, her friend Julie, and our dog Sam), we still didn't have any clear-cut winner.  My husband and I liked The New York Reuben the best.  And they did taste like reubens.  The girls liked biscuits and gravy, and west coast truffle fries were enjoyed, too.  The dog, who eats everything, didn't eat biscuits and gravy.  But even though I'm not mentioning Greektown gyros, they were good as well.

So....which ones should you buy and try?  Honestly, if you like a chip, none were too bad.  And we had a fun time trying them all.  Now my girls are thinking up flavors of their own to recommend to Lay's for next year's four new flavors.

The next part of my post is a cautionary tale.  It is something for you to remember the next time your child (or you) want to do a little baking and you don't read the directions in their entirety on the box. 

Middle Sister and her friend decided to bake an angel food cake yesterday for breakfast (yes, I said they could.  It's summer.  Why worry about nutrition?).  Things were going along just fine and I helped them by putting the cake in the oven.  

Only no one told me the part about needing the bottom rack.  And I didn't know that the cake would rise so much.  

Or spill out of the pan onto the oven bottom.

Or bake itself onto the heating coils at the top of the oven.

Or that our house would smell like burnt marshmallow all day.

Or that I would get to attempt to pick it off the heating coils with my fingers.

I did use the self cleaning option on the oven which worked well, but it still isn't quite back to normal.

And we didn't even get an angel food cake to eat out of the whole deal since we had to abort the whole baking project.

So think about this the next time you decide to make an angel food cake.  Apparently it's a lot trickier than I ever thought.

In the future, I hope to share some baking successes.  I do have some of those, too, but this was not one of them.

While you're waiting for one of those posts, head on over to Beth Fish Reads, where she hosts her weekly weekend cooking meme.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Five And a Couple Extras

There are some weeks I can find too many great things to tell people about. This is one of those weeks.  So, instead of saving things for next Friday when I'm exhausted from my first week of being back at work, I'm adding on a few extra items today.  There's lots of great stuff I'm seeing online. Sigh.  It's too bad that there's always a price tag attached.

I feel like I own a dozen denim shirts, but they are the traditional blue denim.  This shirt is a bit different, but still looks as though it has that western feel to it.  I can think of lots of different ways to wear it already.

2. Women's Serendipity Cotton Ruffled Tank from Sahalie

A while ago I had seen a dress on Sahalie that looks much like this top, only longer.  That dress is still available, which means I might need to go back and look at it again, but as I was checking on it, I saw this cute tank.  A little dressier than most of what I have for summer, which would be nice when I do actually have somewhere to go.

I ordered myself a pair of white jeans a week ago and when I saw this top on the Gap website thought it would make the perfect thing to go with it.  It still says 'summer' to me, and since we can't wear anything sleeveless to work, I could get away with this top.

4.  Podcast Happier at Home with Gretchen Rubin

I'm still practicing my listening skills and audio books are hard for me, but I think I've got this podcast thing figured out.  Happier with Gretchen Rubin (and her sister Elizabeth) has been a great way to start my morning drive home from exercise class.  I've loved her books and these podcasts are just an extension of those and give some great ideas for making your life happy.

I'll admit that these aren't on my "want list" anymore since I bought myself a pair the other day. Along with the "no sleeveless shirt" rule at work, we also have the "no open toed shoe" rule.  As you can see, the toe is covered.  I might be pushing the envelope a bit on this one, but these sandals to abide by the rules and still let me feel like it's summer - which it officially is. The good part was that I got them off of the clearance rack at a local shoe store.

6.  Cinnamon Chex

I'm enjoying podcast listening - as are my girls now.  I introduced them to Big Mama and Boo Mama's podcast, The Big Boo Cast, which we have been listening to on our trips to and from the pool.  Big and Boo were discussing how great Cinnamon Chex cereal was on a past podcast, which caused us to veer off track and stop at Hy-Vee on our way home from Target just to pick up a box.  I'll agree that it's good, but Cinnamon Toast Crunch is still my favorite.

7.  Q B A Maze

And, as we are back to school shopping, I'm thinking ahead to Christmas.  The girls saw this yesterday and asked if it was possible to get this as a family gift - the price tag is $125, so too pricey for any one child if they are still hoping to get other things.  I love that they pick out toys that make you use your brain.

So that's it.....another Friday Five.  What's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Late Summer Thoughts

Next week Monday I begin teaching summer school to ELL students for three weeks.  And after that, the school year begins. So for me, this week is my last true week of summer.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I do better with a schedule.  My kids do better with a schedule.  But......I'm going to miss sleeping late, going to the pool whenever we want, taking an afternoon nap just because I can, and finding extra time for leisure reading.

These past few weeks my reading is really slowing down.  I've found myself turning to Netflix more often than normal.  

As someone whose always been in school - as a student or teacher- August, which is right around the corner, is all about going back to school.  I love getting new markers and notebooks and my girls have been back to school shopping in small bits and pieces for the past few weeks.  

Today I'm heading off to work in my classroom, trying to prepare for the next few weeks.

Tonight I'll try to get ahead with getting blog posts ready for the next few weeks, think about planning out transportation to activities for the girls, and enjoy some summer evening relaxation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that showcases books that will soon be published and is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick:  The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas
Due out:  September 29, 2015

Product Information taken from Goodreads:

It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn't imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides.

But everything changes when a baby is found dead...and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer.

She didn't commit the crime, but clearing her name isn't so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that's dangerous. Invited into her neighbors' homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can't help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart.

With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it's worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now...especially since she's been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own.

With Sandra Dallas's incomparable gift for creating a sense of time and place and characters that capture your heart, The Last Midwife tells the story of family, community, and the secrets that can destroy and unite them.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Make Your Home Among Strangers

Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet is a fantastic debut novel that chronicles the immigrant experience.  

Lizet is Cuban American. She grew up in Miami among many other Cuban Americans, but secretly applies to a prestigious liberal arts college far from home.  When she arrives at college she is one of a handful of Cuban students and must learn to assimilate into the white culture.

It soon becomes obvious that her high school experience was different from many of her college classmates and she is starting at a disadvantage.  Yet, Lizet doesn't give up.

Even when things back home in Miami are in the news.  A young boy named Ariel Hernandez has come to Miami, leaving Cuba with his mother on a life raft.  She dies on the trip and when the Coast Guard picks him up he is taken to his  mother's family in Miami.  Although Lizet and her family have no connection to this child, her mother develops a bit of an obsession with him and spends much of her time and energy on the news surrounding Ariel and whether he will stay in the United States or be returned to Cuba.

Lizet and her family are at the center of this novel and Crucet has done a great job depicting the culture of Cuban Americans, first by developing these characters and then by having Lizet attend a white college where her education, relationship with her family and boyfriend are all held up and compared to those of her white classmates.

One interesting thing to note is that dialogue is not written in the traditional way, with the use of quotation marks.  Instead a small dash begins each bit of dialogue.  I have found this difficult to read in some instances, but became accustomed to it fairly quickly while reading.

Make Your Home Among Strangers is receiving quite a bit of well deserved buzz.  I'm anxiously awaiting it's August release to discuss it with other readers.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Salon

Yesterday totally got away from me and I never posted anything even though I had cooked a ton this past week.

I even whipped up a pasta recipe that Kristen at Iowa Girl Eats had on her blog.  Everyone - including two friends of my girls' - liked it. 


This past week I found myself without my usual sidekicks on a few occasions. My mom is back from vacation so the girls have been excited to go with her a few times.  It was so quiet without them, I hardly knew what to do with myself.

But I did manage. One item on my summer bucket list was getting a pedicure.  I'll spare you the nasty details, but I am appalled that I have a fungus on my one toenail.  I've tried tea tree oil and Vick's Salve without any noticeable change.  At this point I'm not inclined to go on an anti-fungal medication which is extremely hard on your kidneys and necessitates monitoring of kidney function.  
So my solution was to have it covered up with nail polish - at least for the summer months.  The nice gentleman who gave me a pedicure offered to remove my toenail for me, which I turned down.

Taking advantage of our hot, sticky weather, I took the girls and their friends to the pool - and stayed there for five hours.  Since we don't live in the same town where we have our pool membership, just dropping them off and coming back for them doesn't ever happen. And with Little Sister just being eight I don't think she's ready for that yet.  Part of me wishes we lived closer so that was an option, but lying in a chair and reading a book isn't really all that bad a way to spend your day.

We also had a bonfire with our neighbors last night and managed to get to bed just before midnight.

Tonight I've got chicken and veggie kabobs planned for supper and since I've just come back from the store, have our meals for the week pretty well planned out.

I am officially in a reading slump.  I've read so many books this summer that I knew it was bound to happen eventually.  I'm just hoping it passes quickly since the TBR stacks don't look any smaller than they did when summer started.

Since summer school starts on August 3, this coming week is really my last free week.  I'll admit that although I'm not entirely ready to be back at school,  I've started to think about it, and get excited for different things I want to teach.

I've got a dental and hair appointment for myself this week as well as a list of errands to run.  

I plan on making the most of this last week of total freedom.  How about you? What's your plan for the upcoming week?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Five

Apparently I did not do a lot of internet browsing this past week.  The Friday Five was a little hard to come by, although in writing this post and seriously looking at my favorite online stores, I found many more than five things that I'm interested in.

1.  Mango Ice Tea at Starbucks

This isn't anything I had to find online.  Last week we were at the pool when it was nearly 100 degrees and after a few hours of that I was dying for a drink.  (The water bottle I packed in my bag was not overly refreshing since it had been in the 100 degree heat with me).  The girls always want to get something at Starbucks but I've seen how many calories those drinks have and always pass it up. However, their tea had very few calories, so I took the recommendation of the gal working the drive-thru.  What a treat!  It could have been simply because I was sooooo thirsty, but in my memory it was absolutely wonderful.  And it was gone even before the girls had their drinks.

2.  Boho Embroidered Top

Boden's new catalog arrived in my mailbox the other day and I wouldn't allow myself to look at it since I can always find something I think I must have. However, I just delayed the inevitable and had a nice time looking at their new fall things online.  

3.  Vintage Broken In T

This T from the Loft and looks soft and broken in.  It comes in a variety of colors, although I love this one, and although I have a lot of old Ts to wear around and hang out in, this one seems a little dressier. 

4.  Gap Fit GsPrint Shorts

I used to have several different running short options but over the years they have dwindled.  I own quite a few pairs of running capris, but would like to find a few pairs of shorts that I could exercise in - and just wear around to hang out at home.  I like the print on these.

5.  Diminuendo Draped Top

I saw this one this morning on The Big Mama Blog where she features ten things each Friday (she is such an overachiever!).  And I fell in love.   It's on sale right now, too. 

So, that's it for this week.  What's caught your eye?