Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm a Survivor

Well, the end of my first semester of teaching has come. For a while, it felt like Christmas break was eternally just out of reach. But alas, I am now experiencing the bliss that is my first Christmas break as a teacher. I will echo the sentiments I've heard already, 'I'm not sure who looks forward to Christmas break more, the teachers or the students.' My first semester of teaching has been incredibly rewarding, frustrating (at times), challenging (always), and a blast! And I've picked up on a few things over this semester.

First, it's ok to demand respect. My job is not to be my students' friend, it's to make sure they leave my classroom informed young people and with a little more knowledge than they previously possessed. While I've greatly enjoyed my first semester students, they have been very chatty. I've learned that it's ok for me to wait for them to stop talking. The lesson they learn by me waiting for them is more important than whatever aspect of history I was going to teach them.

Second, teachers have the best stories! Whether it's a demerit being ripped behind my back, a student falling asleep, or just the everyday quirks of my class - all yield some of the best and most entertaining stories ever. I think the funniest conclusion was me slamming the history textbook down on the sleeping student's desk. I seriously thought I was going to have to clean up after the student because of how fair in the air the student seemed to fly! I had the hardest time keeping a straight face, but the student hasn't fallen asleep again in my class. Mission accomplished!

Third, I truly understand that teachers have one of the most difficult jobs and are vastly underappreciated. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying teachers should have multi-million dollar contracts while professional athletes barely scrape by. Most of the time when I heard from parents this semester it was negative. The one time I got an email from a parent just thanking me for what I did, it made my week. After that every time I felt discouraged, I could go back and read the email and instantly know that I truly am making a difference. Being a teacher has made me reflect on my own educational career. I am so thankful for each and every one of my teachers that invested in my education and my ultimate success in life. Lesson here for everyone else: tell a teacher how much you appreciate them, it will make their day!

Fourth, my patience has been tested to within an inch of its life. There were days I was ready to scream, but since that is usually frowned upon, I had to keep it together. My students shouldn't be able to tell when I'm having a less than perfect day, and I must hold myself together when those days come. My whistle has been sounded numerous times when I thought I was about to lose my mind. My fellow teachers have guided me through the tricky subject of classroom management. I am not even going to claim to have a grasp on this subject, but my classroom isn't total chaos, so at least I'm not failing at it!

Fifth, I love what I do! I left college slightly unsure of where my life was headed. On one hand, I considered taking the LSAT and aspiring to law school. On the other, I considered pursuing a Master's of Education to secure a high school teaching job. And on the third, I considered finding an office job until I was sure what I wanted to do. I never could've dreamt up the job I have now. I truly enjoy teaching history, and I get excited by history being made or rediscovered. I turn into a total nerd when I get to talk about the American Revolution and the sheer guts and determination our forefathers had. I love debating whether America was an experiment and whether that experiment is a success. I love stretching my students' minds to see the connections between time periods and other knowledge in their brains. I am so blessed to be where I am right now. I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of this adventure called: first year of teaching.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gettin' in the Christmas Spirit

I love the Christmas season. I love the music, the deals, the lights, the weather and bundling up, the peppermint lattes. I get very excited when Thanksgiving rolls around because that means I can officially start listening to Christmas music. **Confession time: I listened to the Nutcracker suite way back in October this year.** I know, I know, a horrible offense. I just couldn't help myself. The music of the Nutcracker ballet is some of my favorite of all time!

This year, though, I find myself becoming a little more like this green guy...

Yes, with his heart 3 sizes too small and all, I'm identifying a little more with the Grinch. Even as I admit this it pains me a little bit to say it. So I'll attempt to explain why I might classify myself as a Grinch.

First, the holiday season is so busy. Everyone has parties, functions, gifts to buy, things to gather up, plans to make, etc. At the beginning of December, I updated Google Calendar as I do every couple weeks, and I noticed something markedly different about December. Before the month even began, most days were already full. One of the reasons I love the Christmas season is because I enjoy taking it slow and just spending time with the people that are most important to me. If I'm rushing from event to event, I can't take time to stop and appreciate the people in my life. I can't say that I'll do much to fix the busy-ness this year as the calendar is already set for the most part, but I hope by reflecting on this now, I'll remember in future years to schedule time just for sitting.

Second, the constant, "I want" attitude is really bothering me this year moreso than normal. Most kids have a wish list a mile long and it grows every time they see another commercial. I don't want it sound like I'm anti-presents. I enjoy giving gifts and I'll admit, I enjoy receiving them. However, I think it's also important to take a step back sometimes and just be thankful for what I do have. That doesn't need to just be material possessions either. On Thanksgiving, as I sat around the table with my mom, brother, grandparents, and Jon, I couldn't help but feel incredibly grateful for where I am at this point in my life. I am surrounded by wonderful people whom I love and who love me, I have an absolutely fantastic job, I have great friends, and I'm healthy (if a little accident prone sometimes).

Even as I sit here lamenting how busy the season has become, I'm making my list and checking it twice. So how do I simplify Christmas for myself? I'm not entirely sure, but I do know there are a couple things I can do to remind myself why this season is important and why I love this season. One, take a night off. My nature is to want to help people and say yes to everything. I need to remind myself it's ok to take a night off, stay in, curl up with a good book and just enjoy life. Two, treasure the time I get to spend with my friends and family. Rather than think about it as just another function to attend, I should think of it as an opportunity to spend time with great people and treasure the time! Three, put extra thought into the gifts I give. Four, take advantage of opportunities to be generous.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to get back to enjoying this season and cherishing every minute of it! I think I feel my heart growing back to normal size :) just like the Grinch's!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Christmas List...of Projects

Since my days are now filled with students, papers to grade, tests to make, and the like, I haven't had a whole lot of time for crafting. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but I am looking forward to Christmas break and having time to get a couple projects done. Christmas break is just about a month away, so I decided it was time to compile a list of some of the projects I'm hoping to get done over my break.

First up, is this adorable wreath! Seriously, go look, you won't be sorry. But in case you don't have time to look now, here's a sneak peak of the finished product.

Second up, a re-creation of a fabulous piece from Anthropologie! I love the look and the idea, but I don't love the price tag. So I'm going to hunt for pieces with a similar feel and create my own. I'll be sure to blog about the process and show the final product!

I just can't get over how adorable it is!

Third up is less of a craft project and more of a baking endeavor. Upside-down Cranberry Cake! Ummm, can you say "yum-O!"? I'm thinking I might have to make this one soon, since I just bought a 3 lb. bag of cranberries at Sam's Club today.

And last, but certainly not least, I'm going to attempt to make my own gingerbread house...again. Yes, again. I tried this last year, and the gingerbread came out way too heavy and impossible to put together. So, I'm going to make a few modifications, count on trusty Martha for the recipe, and give it another go.

I think two weeks is plenty of time to get all this done! Thinking about these projects makes me look forward to Christmas break just a little bit more. :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Woman and Her Fantasy (Football, that is)

It's officially football season! Which means it's also officially fantasy football season. How to explain fantasy football? Hmmm, well it will drive you crazy. It will change how you watch the wonderful game of football. It will make you second guess yourself and your team's composition. Basically, you build a team from all NFL players, hense the fantasy part and football collide!

I had heard of Fantasy Football and hype surrounding it before, but until this fateful year I had never decided to embark on the journey myself. I am dating a guy who was playing in 3 different fantasy football leagues (now 4, but more on that later). When I found that out, I responded with "Well, you play enough fantasy football for both of us!" About a week later, I was approached at work and asked about my football knowledge and invited to play in their fantasy football league. I very reluctantly agreed to consider it. After receiving the email invitation to play, I officially signed up and became part of the league. I was playing fantasy football! It took about two seconds of looking at the ESPN Fantasy page to realize I was going to need some serious help. So, I swallowed my pride and asked Jon for help understanding fantasy football...

Very kindly, Jon agreed to give me some helpful hints and walk me through the process of fantasy football. I made a list of all my newfound knowledge and was more than ready to tackle (no pun intended) the draft! As the draft date neared, it became apparent tat we didn't have enough players to fill our league up. So Jon was invited to play in our league as well (so now he is in 4 fantasy football leagues, in case you lost count). So draft day came and I had my list and was all ready to scoop up some amazing NFL players! Being first and foremost a Cowboys fan, I was pleased that Tony Romo was ranked as a Top 5 Quarterback. I was fearful of his constant inconsistency, but how could I resist?!

Seriously, look at those dimples! I will spare you a description and picture of every player I drafted, but I was pretty pleased with my team! I didn't realize how pleased until the season started. Three weeks in, and I am 3-0! I even played Jon this last week and somehow pulled off the win, and I scored over 200 points!

I must admit, I am kind of hooked. I already loved football, but I love it even more now. Don't expect me to be playing in 4 leagues next year, but I might be able to get my family into a little healthy competition...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Testing and review

Life is full of tests. Some are more formal, like the one I will give my students tomorrow. And some are informal, like the one my students gave me today.

Before tests, I like to give my students a study guide and an opportunity to review the material. This usually results in a review game. Yesterday during peer tutoring I asked a few of my students what game we should play and they overwhelmingly chose Jeopardy. My concern with Jeopardy had been students who aren't engaged, so being the on-my-toes teacher I strive to be, I came up with a brilliant solution. At least, I thought it was brilliant.

I made my Jeopardy and Double Jeopardy powerpoints and hooked my computer up to the now-mounted projector (isn't technology great?) and proceeded to divide my students into three teams. I directed them to place their backpacks on one side of the room and move the desks so they could sit in a group with their team to encourage participation. It worked for a while, until I realized every time there was a pause every student began their own conversation. After multiple warnings and whistle-blowings, I ended the game. Students ended the day studying silently at their own desks.

Most of my attempts at review games have ended in frustration and a headache for me. I want to help my students succeed, but they make it so difficult. So now I wonder, what review games are actually helpful? As a student (or teacher, if that is your profession) what review games helped you to grasp material? How do I get my students to focus and be respectful without losing my voice or bursting their ear drums?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back in the Classroom

It's been a while since I was last in a high school classroom, 4 years, 2 months, 1 week and 3 days to be exact...until last Tuesday that is. A week ago Friday, I got a call about an open teaching position at Leading Edge Academy, and sent my resume that evening. Saturday evening, I got a call from the principal to schedule the interview for Monday, August 2. Since I had decided teaching was what I really wanted to do, I was a nervous wreck. Yet through the whole thing I remained calm knowing that what was supposed to happen would happen. After my interview I went home to bake cookies (which turned out great by the way!) and wait. Around 4pm, I got a call from the principal that they wanted to hire me and I should be at school the next morning at 8:45 for meetings.

Tuesday morning, the gravity of the whole situation hit and I realized the huge-ness of getting a teaching position straight out of college with limited experience. I felt blessed and challenged to perform at the same time. After 3 hours of meetings and introductions and filling out paperwork, my head was spinning. I went home to collect my thoughts and look over my curriculum. At 6:00, I headed back to school for "Back to School" night. Parents were very nice and I started to feel a little more acclimated to the idea that I'd be teaching in 2 days.

Wednesday morning held more meetings, this time with the whole district of LEAD Charter Schools. Following the morning meetings, everyone headed to lunch as a campus. So the Gilbert campus (the one I work at) headed to Joe's Real BBQ for lunch. It was a great opportunity to sit down with the staff in a no stress environment, get some food in my system and laugh. The people I work with are great and funny! Wednesday afternoon, I frantically set up my gradebooks, finished syllabi, and planned for the first two days of school. As the clock approached 5:00pm, I headed home, with still more work to do and about as nervous as I could be.

Thursday, school started and the whirlwind began. It has been a crazy adventure, but I have already learned so much about myself and my students. I've learned that no matter what, I will get the job done. Even if I stay up until 2:30am, like I did last night, my students will leave my classroom and understand history. I've learned that students respond well to positive feedback. At my school, we have merits and demerits. Merits = you did something good, let me recognize you for it. Demerits = you were disrespectful, please watch it. I gave out a few merits in my World History class and it instantly changed how those kids acted toward me. They have been kinder, more appreciative, and very focused.

I've also learned that some things take students a lot less than I anticipate, and some things take a lot longer than I anticipate. The first day of school, I ended up letting my World History students ask questions to get to know me because we finished everything super fast. Today, we ran out of time to watch Schoolhouse Rock because they were so chatty during notes. I've also learned I can't take their scores personally. Last night after grading a take home quiz, I started crying because so many students had missed a question I had gone over in class. Someone told me, the first year of teaching will hands down be the hardest, but it will also be the most rewarding. So far, I've only really cried twice (once was before students even came), and have only pulled a near all-nighter. Tuesday morning, one of my students brought me a piece of her birthday cake from over the weekend. It instantly brightened my morning and put me in a better mood. Small things really do mean a lot.

So, as I continue to plan lessons, I find I am grateful for the opportunity to be back in the classroom and am looking forward to one adventure of a year (and more!).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

10 Ways I Know I'm Turning Into My Mother

I suppose the real title of this post should be "10 Ways I Know I'm Turning into My Mother, and how I'm really ok with that." I love my mom and in light of her birthday and me realizing some of my behaviors mirror hers, I thought it fitting to honor her and humor us all with this list.

10. I really dislike talking on the phone unless absolutely necessary. I would much rather send an email or text and have it done that much quicker - or get together in person if it's a long discussion. Plus I really hate having the phone pressed up against my ear for long periods of time.

9. I take a sweater into the doctor's office in the middle of summer because I'm afraid I might get cold. True story, I did it just last week.

8. I run back to check the door multiple times because I'm afraid I haven't locked it. I have made countless trips back to my mom's office with her at all hours of the night "just so she can check the door."

7. I walk up the stairs to get something...and I can't remember what it was by the time I get to the top of the stairs.

6. I love adventures. Especially those that involve deciding to randomly go thrifting in Sun City!

5. I laugh...a lot...and at random things. My mom and I both love to laugh...put us together and we may not get anything done because we laugh so much when we are together.

4. Per number 9, I know it won't be long before I start taking a pair of socks to the movie theater. Sometimes being comfortable really does win out.

3. "I'm going to read" means "I'm going to read for a few minutes before taking a nap."

2. I love the drill...make that any power tool.

1. I celebrate my birthday for an entire month, which works out perfect because my birthday month ends, just as my mom's begins!

Happy Birthday, Mom! I am so proud and blessed to call you my mom!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Field of Flowers

I couldn't blog about this project until it had been given to it's intended recipient, but now that it has, I can't wait to show this one off! I made a dress out of an adorable pillow case! I loved the pattern and bought the pillow case with the intention of who knows what. In my spur of recent productivity and desire to get things done, I set out to use up some of the fabric stash I've accumulated!

I knew I wanted to make a dress for a certain little girl and I knew the style I wanted it to have, so I started cutting. I basically cut the pillow case in half, set aside the opening half and ripped out all the seams in the second half. I cut 2 matching rectangles and sewed them together up the sides, leaving 5 inches for arm holes. Then I hemmed the bottom and finished the sides and turned down the front and back leaving enough space to get a cord through (I think I left about an inch). I wasn't totally sure whether I wanted to smock the waist or put pockets on (I thought both might be a little much for the dress). After I put the cord through the top and saw it, I decided pockets was the way to go!

So I fashioned my own little pocket pattern, cut the pockets and positioned them, sewed them one and got one totally adorable dress!
And of course, I have to thank my loveable sewing partner, Precious...actually she was in one of those moods where she didn't want my attention going to anything or anyone but her. So we had to take a little play break with the extra cord!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The bathroom update

I'm not sure how my redo the bathroom kick got started...but it did. I decided my first project was to frame the bathroom mirror. I found a perfect frame at Goodwill for $5.
My favorite part was the detail in the corners. I think it gives it that perfect vintage feel.
I painted it white and sanded it a little to give it a shabby chic look.

I decided to go look at Lowe's for paint just for the heck of it this week. And of course, I found a 5 gallon bucket of the perfect color...for the bathroom. Yes, it's a bit of overkill. But then I decided that when I move out I'll want the color for my own house (I love it that much!). So I walked out of Lowe's with my 5 gallon bucket of paint feeling rather pleased with myself. I got home that night to discover it's flat paint. (Silent groan) My grandma used to work at a paint store, so we called her to see if there was a way we could convert it to semi-gloss or put a gloss coat over it. She wasn't sure it would work, but since I'm not one to be discouraged I decided to give it a go anyway. My reasoning was, "you put a top coat on your nails, why can't you put one on your walls?"

Saturday morning, my mom and I decided to go to Sun City to go thrifting. But we thought we should get something done before we headed out there, so we got the mirror ready to take off the bathroom wall. We carried it downstairs and attempted to cut it down to size ourselves. We had all the proper equipment, but it was a little to thick or my line wasn't exactly straight. Long story short, we ended up breaking off more of the mirror than we intended. Oops! It just gave us another thing to scout in Sun City. We finally found a mirror big enough (once we were back on this side of town and stopped by Goodwill). We decided to leave this cutting to the professionals, so we called the helpful, friendly people at Ace Hardware. We came home and I used epoxy putty to put the mirror in the frame. I loved it, but it wasn't quite right. I really wished the frame had a little gloss to it.

I decided yesterday was the perfect day to start painting the bathroom. I taped off three walls (still waiting for plumber to finish the repair on the last wall). And got to work. As soon as we had two coats on the walls, I knew it was the perfect color. I was totally in love! My mom and I decided to go to Lowe's to see if we could get any type of a glaze to mix with some paint or something similar. What we found was even better! We found a clear protective paint with a gloss finish. I used it first on the mirror frame and I just finished putting the gloss on the bathroom walls. I am so pleased with how this is turning out! I will post more updates as I get more done.

I'm hoping to decopauge the cabinet I had in the bathroom before and stencil on it, find a chandelier to replace the light fixture currently in there, sew a new shower curtain, and if I'm adventurous do the drywall repair myself then finish the painting!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Like Martha

I want to be like Martha. No, not the whole insider trading and ankle accessory thing.

No, I aspire to be the homemaker, cook, crafter, businesswoman and creator Martha Stewart is. Martha represents both a challenge and a goal for me. Sometimes she seems so gosh darn perfect, I just want to say, "Whatever Martha." (Oh wait, someone already has!)

The first thing I look at when I open a fresh issue of Martha Stewart Living is Martha's Calendar. I love the organization and simplicity of Martha's daily to do list. And yet there is an amazing ambitious quality to her to do lists. For example, harvesting new potatoes, planning when to plant her basil so it's ready in time for her tomato crop, inspecting beehives and harvesting her own honey. It inspires me, that although as of yet every plant I've attempted to garden has died a slow painful death, I too might one day be planning my basil crops with my tomato crops. I know what you're thinking....Martha Stewart probably doesn't do these things herself, she hires them to be done. But I choose to believe Martha not only can do all of these task, but that she does.

I admire the way Martha has turned her name and her humble beginnings into a multi-billion dollar corporation. She has expanded her line to include linens and cookware at Macy's; she publishes Whole Living Magazine (formerly Body + Soul), Everyday Food, and I'm sure others that I don't know of. She has a TV show, which is being expanded on Lifetime (I think that's what I heard). She manages a farm. And yet she still takes the time to make her bread from scratch. Amazing! What I want to know early does she get up in the morning to get all of this done? And I suppose it helps her cause that she doesn't have to deal with 110 degree heat for 4 months ouf of the year.

Today is a perfect example of my aspirations to be like Martha. I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (more like drug my sleepy self out of bed) at 6:00am ready to take on the day. I had a whole laundry list of things I wanted to get done: clean up the kitchen, write thank you notes, take mail to the post office, exchange movie at Blockbuster, paint a frame for my bathroom mirror, organize my file cabinet, hose off the back porch, water the flowers and deadhead them, and make a dress (if there is time). If I'm honest with myself, I probably won't get everything checked off my list since my day is already more than half over. But I had the ambition part down, and I'd like to think that makes me a little like Martha. ;)

So tomorrow, I'll wake up and again attempt to execute the secrets of a good housekeeper, cook, creator, and businesswoman.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Playing Catch up!

I have embarked on quite a few projects the last couple weeks….this comes after I have accumulated the supplies for lots of projects and got too busy to do them. I am now out of school, so I am getting down to business and working on the projects. First up, the bejeweled mirror!
I mixed a little purple and silver paint and brushed it on with a foam brush. Once it had dried I hot glued on the jewels that I picked up from SAS for $0.99/bag! When I bought the frame, it was just a plain wood frame…nothing inside. So I went on the hunt for mirror tiles. After checking Lowe's and Home Depot, I decided to hit up Goodwill. Oh how I love Goodwill! I found a box of 6 tiles for $4.99, but WAIT, they were 50% off! So I bought a glass cutter, covered my work space, got gloves, measured the mirror and cut the mirror down to size. Then I just used epoxy to glue it into the frame. I screwed in a couple eye hooks, attached some wire, and it's done!

Next up, the jewelry organization courtesy of Real Simple. I found the frame at Savers on Memorial Day and I wish I would have taken a picture of the whole thing before because the picture in it was, in the nicest way possible, tacky. So I went to work deconstructing the picture, peeling off the paper backing, taking out all the staples, removing the picture and glass. I got lucky and the cardboard in the picture was still usable, so I cut cork board to fit. I actually did two layers of cork which I think worked best. Then I covered it with velvet and used the glue gun to affix it to the back. I put the velvet covered cork in the frame and one of my all-time favorite tools (the staple gun) finished the job!

I used straight pins and hung some of my necklaces and bracelets and it's good to go!

I also found a towel holder at Goodwill on Memorial Day. A coat of paint and it has been repurposed into a jewelry holder as well!

It works for now, but I'm still on the hunt for a vintage looking bust that I could stack on some old books to hold a few special necklaces. I've been searching and Craigslist as well as searching in store at Goodwill and Savers. But for now, this does the job and is rather cute if I do say so myself.

There are quite a few other projects that have been accumulating that I hope to get to over the summer. Next up, framing the bathroom mirror (hopefully)!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Senior Photo Shoot

Two weeks ago, my mom and I headed out for a fabulous photo shoot with the amazingly talented Stacy Kokes! It was so much fun, and Stacy has such a passion for photography and capturing memories that is so evident in her work. She truly is wonderful! Stacy was so high energy and did whatever it took to get the shot she envisioned, she even climbed on a piller. Here are a few of my favorites from the day!

I felt so weird getting into this pose, but I'm so glad I trusted Stacy! It's my mom's favorite!

I really love the angle and the setting of this one!

This is the shot Stacy saw when she climbed on a wall

Gotta love a great pair of shoes!

I love the contrast here between the industrial, natural, and the crispness of my white shirt!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This I Believe...

Baked goods hold a mysterious power that can't quite be explained. Perhaps some of their beauty is in their mystery. Whatever that power is, I believe in the power of baked goods. Not the power to make round what was once flat when too many cookies are consumed. Nor the power to provide turmoil to an otherwise normal and calm stomach if eaten in excess. I mean the power that comes from creating something delicious and homemade from just a few kitchen staples.

An old saying declares, "The fastest way to a man's heart is through his stomach." I must say that I agree with the statement. Although, I prefer Rachael Ray's version, "The fastest way to anybody's anything is through their stomach." I believe, like Rachael Ray, that baked goods can open all sorts of doors. Baking something is a small gesture that demonstrates a big heart. To smell the banana and molasses (grandma's not-so-secret, secret ingredient) combining to make perfectly tempting whiffs of banana bread is a simple pleasure.

Baking for me is a therapy of sorts. When I find myself stressed or overwhelmed with life, I turn to my trusty recipes. Most often I turn to a family recipe; my favorites include banana bread and oatmeal raisin cookies. Being in the kitchen makes me feel like everything is not falling apart. When I stand in the kitchen and manipulate ingredients (mixing, stirring, and molding) I am able to see my labors start to finish. When I put a batch of oatmeal cookies in the oven, I know that 14 minutes later, they will emerge crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside - the perfect cookie if you ask me!

Being in the kitchen helps me feel connected to relatives that have passed on. I feel like somehow my great-grandma can see me making her recipes and smiles thinking of the legacy she left. For Christmas, all that my grandpa asked for was a batch of great-grandma's oatmeal raisin cookies (his mother). As he opened his present Christmas morning, I could see the sheer joy on his face. As we sat around after all the presents had been opened, my grandpa started to share stories of his childhood. He reminisced about coming home from school smelling the fresh baked cookies. He remembered, with a smile, shoving as many cookies as he could into his pockets as he left to go do his chores on the farm. I enjoyed hearing him remember the happy memories associated with the cookies from his childhood.

Baked goods hold the power to elicit memories of times passed, the power to open doors, and for me, the power to calm my mind in my hectic day. Now, if you'll excuse me the timer on my cookies just went off.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How I’m Learning to Live with my Dad…

I got a "Happy Easter" email yesterday morning from my dad, and it caused me to reflect on my relationship with him. Over the years, my relationship with my dad has been rocky. I have only a couple good memories with my dad. Once I remember a weekend my mom was away, and my dad made fried shrimp for dinner. We got out the pot and actually fried the shrimp; it was fun and my only memory of my dad cooking. I also remember "Daddy-Daughter Dates;" well more specifically, I remember one. By the way, the fact that this is one of the memories that survives proves that it can be a wonderful time for a father and daughter to share.

Ten years ago, my dad was in an accident. He was rear-ended by a semi on his way to El Paso, TX. The thing that probably saved his life was pulling a trailer, and giving the force an extra 35 feet to travel before reaching his truck. After the accident, a lot changed in my life. My dad couldn't work anymore (while he had no visible injuries, a lot of nerve damage was done) and he basically withdrew from the family. Over the next 4 years, I watched a slow but steady progression. My dad withdrew from the family and slowly became a stranger in our home. I watched my parent's marriage disintegrate right in front of my eyes. And I watched myself become more and more angry that I didn't have a father I could count on.

I've gone through the gamut of emotions in regards to my father, but I have also learned some helpful lessons along the way. This isn't a laundry list of lessons or ways to get over having an absent father. Rather, this is my working through how I've arrived at being the woman I am today.

My dad was always very exacting and demanded perfection. If I cleaned my room, he would walk in, find something out of place, and I would spend another hour cleaning. I wanted it to be spic and span. I never spoke out if this upset me, rather I internalized those feelings. I thought it was inappropriate that I would ever be mad at my dad; after all, I was supposed to honor him. I also earned straight A's in school (the first time I got a B was after my parents separated). I didn't want to tell him if I had ever messed up in school, and this pattern continues today. If he asks about my grades and I haven't gotten all A's, his first question is "Well, what happened?" As I grew up, I started to demand perfection from myself, in everything. If everything was not exactly right, I blamed myself and have on occasion made myself sick, trying to achieve the impossible standards I've held myself to. I even brought this to my relationship with God. I don't want to give the impression that this battle is behind me; it is definitely something that still affects me and something I still struggle with. However, my pastor said something in a sermon a few years back that really stuck with me. He said, "Jesus doesn't want you to have life figured out before you come to him. You come to Jesus and he transforms your heart." That wasn't an exact quote, but as close as I can remember. This hasn't been a way for me to dodge responsibility when I do mess up, rather it serves as a comfort that I don't have to have everything figured out. If I did, I wouldn't need Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life; no one ever did before, and no one has since. I certainly am not going to be the exception to this rule, and I should stop making myself suffer because of it.

Growing up in the church, I knew the commandment, "Honor thy father and mother." This is a tricky one, and I'm not going to attempt to explain the history or theological musings behind it. But this has been a lesson I've struggled to learn. Honor as a verb means, "to hold in honor or high respect; revere." I always struggled with how to do this if my father wasn't acting as a man of honor ("honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions"). I have come to respect my father for giving life to me, and I have come to respect his position as my father. I have realized I don't have to like everything he does (or has done). I am my own person and that's not only ok, it's good for me to be me!

The past 21 years have been a struggle at times, and I don't have it all figured out now. But I do know that I am blessed with amazing people in my life who offer guidance and wisdom in working through these challenges. I am amazed by the grace of God each and every day, and I am in awe of him making me into the woman I am.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

As the countdown begins...a look at the last four years

There are officially, nine weeks until I graduate. First thought: Yikes! Second thought: shout Hallelujah! It seems like the past four years have gone by in a whirlwind, and yet I definitely feel like a different person than I was four years ago. Not totally different, but I do feel like I've changed.

My first impression of ASU four years ago (Fall 2006) was walking into PGS 101 (Intro to psychology) and a massive lecture hall full of people. Scared? Yes, that could describe how I was feeling. It was incredibly overwhelming and there were people everywhere. People I was sure could tell that I was freshman who had know idea what she was doing. In reality, I was pretty confident in what I was doing at ASU. I was pursuing a degree in political science, and afterwards, I'd pursue a career in politics. My other classes first semester included: Intro to Asian Pacific American Studies (at 7:40am), Women and Society, Religious of the World, and Women in Western European Democracies. Suddenly, I was surrounded by so many people who knew so much! I was immersed in classes with professors who were experts in their fields. It was amazing! I've always enjoyed learning and going to school, but this was beyond cool even for me.

By the time Fall 2008 rolled around, I was finishing up the requirements for my political science degree. But I still had 3 semesters left...not being one to waste time, I decided to pursue a minor. About this time, I decided I would like to teach after graduation, so I added a minor in English Literature. I really do have a passion for education, and I believe a solid English education is a great foundation. Communication skills are needed so badly by so many, that I thought I could make a difference in that way.

After I registered for Fall 2009 semester, it became apparent that I only had one more English class I needed in Spring 2010 (this semester). Being on scholarship, I have to remain full time to maintain my scholarship (among other requirements). So I decided to add another minor. I looked over my Degree Audit Report (DARS) and saw I already had two classes towards a Women and Gender Studies minor. Off to my advisor I went! After meetings with my political science advisor and the women and gender studies advisor, I was all set to get the second minor. I had enjoyed the women's studies classes I'd taken before, and thought the minor would be interesting. It definitely has been!

College has opened my eyes to different experiences and different types of people around every corner. I remember walking on campus one day and hearing people around me speaking in different languages, and I thought "This is what college is supposed to be." A meshing together of different cultures and backgrounds all in the name of education. But it's been so much more. My degree plans have changed from a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science to a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, an English minor and a Women and Gender Studies minor. I've greatly enjoyed getting a well-rounded education, but also all of the real world learning that has occurred for me.

So, where do I go from here? I've decided to study for the LSAT, take it in October, see how I do, and apply to Law School. Back in high school, I was convinced I wanted to be a lawyer, and now I've come full circle. It will be an adventure for sure, but one that I am excited about and feel ready for. And anyone that wants to volunteer to help me study is gladly welcomed!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Apple Crisp

A couple weeks ago, I set out to make an apple pie for my mom to take to work. I follow the recipe in the New Cookbook published by Better Homes and Gardens. Well at least the first time I made an apple pie at Christmas I did. After that, I started to modify it and change it, and now I don't even look at the recipe any more. So I've pretty much come up with a new recipe for apple crisp, which I will share with you because it is, in a word, AMAZING.

Apple Crisp
Apple mixture
4 medium sized Granny Smith apples
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
Approx. 1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves (trust me, you're tastebuds will thank you, even if you aren't sure it's in there)
1 Tbsp. flour

Crumb/Crispy part
Handful of oats (1/2 cup)
Half a handful of brown sugar (1/3 cup)
A couple throws of flour (1/4 cup)
A shake of cinammon (1/2 tsp)
4-5 Tbsp. butter (my favorite ingredient!)

Peel, core, slice your apples. It doesn't really matter how you slice them, but make sure they are approximately the same size. I find it easiest to quarter them, then remove the core. Then cut each quarter in half and peel it. Then slice each eighth into four slices. It sounds complicated, but it goes really fast.

I find it's super easy to coat the apples in a gallon baggie. So throw all the ingredients for the apple part in a baggie, seal it and shake away! As you are cutting your apples, you can throw them in the baggie which helps release their juice I find. The baggie also makes clean up a breeze!

Put your apples in a dish. The size of your dish really depends on how deep you want your apples to go in the dish.

In a separate bowl, throw together all the crisp ingredients. Using a pastry blender, or fork and knife, mash it all up. Don't worry if all the flour or brown sugar doesn't get mixed in, your apple crisp will still be delicious! Put the crisp mixture over the top of the apples, and put it in a 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. Again, this will slightly depend on the dish you are using, but at least 25 minutes is a pretty safe bet. Do not, I repeat, Do not under any circumstances cover your apple crisp while you are baking it. The crispy part needs access to the oven elements in order to crisp up!

This is definitely not a precise dessert, and not for the compulsive measure-er. I never measure the ingredients for this recipe! Part of the fun is experimenting with different spices, amounts, etc. I think I'll try less sugar next time. Although without the bottom crust, this isn't a terrible dessert for your waistline! I find baking is extremely therapeutic for me, and this recipe in particular because it involves shaking and mashing + butter and Granny Smiths.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Diary of a College Girl

I realize the last few weeks have been quiet, once again, on the blog front. I assure you I am still alive and well, but I started my last semester of college. Wow. I'm not sure that has sunk in yet. I am taking 21 credit hours total this semester, but am rather interesting in the majority of them, so it's not terrible! I decided that there are certain things that get dropped when I go back to school, and I tend to feel guilty about them. I am choosing to air them, and hopefully acknowledge that I am not perfect and give myself a little patience.

  • I am terrible about getting back to people! I feel awful when I receive a text, email, phone call, etc. and it takes me two weeks to actually get back to them. I stress about it for the two weeks it takes me to get back to them, and then when I do make the call, I have to spend 5 minutes apologizing and justifying myself. I think it would be better to take the 5 minutes to respond initially, or to simply say, "I'm really busy with school, can I call you this weekend?" Rather than cause myself added stress, this is an easy remedy. I've gotten better about my response time, but because I am studious, this is still something I struggle with.
  • My clothes don't always get hung up and my books don't always get put back on the shelf. I've noticed that when I get busy, my room is one of the quickest things to get neglected. I start to leave things wherever they land because I am always rushing about. I've decided I need to make a conscious effort to take 15 minutes before bed to tidy up a little. I am convinced that I sleep better, that all humans do really, when they are in a more calm environment. Meaning, if things are a mess, I don't sleep that great! I need all the rest I can manage when I'm in school, so it really is a no brainer. My room doesn't need to be spotless before I go to bed, but I should take a few minutes to tidy up some.
  • I stop doing things for joy. I love to bake, sew, craft, create, knit, crochet...etc. When I am in school, I find I don't have time for these things. But I wonder if I don't have time for them, or if I'm not responsible enough with my time to create the opportunity to work on my projects. I am more organized this semester than I ever have been in school. And it only took me 21 years to figure it out (at least I figured it out now!). Because of this, I am hoping that I will have more time to continue doing the things I truly enjoy. I think it will make for a much better semester and overall life!
It's nice to take a step back and realize that I'm not perfect. As someone who constantly strives for top marks, I have to remind myself that I am human once in a while. I'm sure I could write all night, but I do have homework to do! And unfortunately, books don't read themselves. I'm looking forward to all of the wonderful things I will learn this semester and how I can disseminate that information in my life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Potato Soup

The first time I made this soup, I did not use a recipe, thus this culinary creation was born! I also sliced my knuckle while slicing potatoes. Don't worry, I was able to act quick enough to avoid getting any blood anywhere near the food! Feel free to adapt this recipe to your personal desires. I will actually be trying it with kale in it at some point! If you are going to add kale, do it as the very last thing you add to the soup.


3 Tbsp butter

3 (or so) green onions

Diced garlic, roasted or fresh, as much or as little as you like

3 rounded Tbsp flour, or however much you need to achieve the thickness you like

Milk, cream, or half&half - I used about a cup

7 potatoes, peeled and diced

Shredded cheese for on top, optional

1. Put potatoes in a large pot of water, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring them to a boil and cook for roughly 10 minutes, or until tender but not falling apart. Drain and return to the large pot (turn the heat off).

2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the green onions and garlic, and cook them for a few minutes. Add the flour, stir constantly until dissolved. It will become a thick, paste looking mixture - this is good! Add the milk, cream, or half&half while stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the flour mixture has been completely broken up and absorbed into the liquid.

3. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and stir. If you don't have the consistency you like, you can always add more milk to thin it out. Season with salt and pepper. When you dish it up, you can add cheddar cheese on top.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Bread Adventures

Let me start by saying that I love bread! It's said that man cannot live by bread alone, but let me tell you that as a woman, I sure could make a go of it! I remember when my mom used to make bread in the bread machine and this delightful smell would waft through the house. I could hardly wait for it to cool enough to get a bite. Alas, I am my mother's daughter, and there came a day when I would have to try making bread myself. Bread seems like such a complicated and scientific food endeavor. I approached this feat by pulling up my bootstraps (figuratively, as I'm not wearing boots today), doning my cutest apron (from Anthropologie of course), and pulling out the step stool to look for the Bread Machine Cookbook.

Reading through the helpful tips, I started to get a little more freaked out, so I moved on to the actual recipes. The first used dry milk, something I don't have on hand. So I frantically kept flipping....and then I found one! Italian bread.



No dry milk.


I stopped by the grocery store this morning knowing that I was going to be making bread this afternoon. I wasn't sure whether we had bread flour on hand, so I picked a bag up. The only sized bag they had was 5 lbs. I discovered while gathering my ingredients that we, in fact, had a partially used 5 lb. bag at home. My little slip up will lead to lots of doughy, yummy goodness in the weeks to come!

Armed with my ingredients, I called my mom at work. I knew I needed to put the liquid in first, and the yeast in last. I also found out that you have to make a little well into which you put the yeast. Fascinating! I am a woman with a plan. So I boldly declared I'd put the ingredients in and call my mom back. I measured them perfectly, put them in precisely, and dialed the phone.

No answer.

Dial again.

No answer.

Dial again.

Busy signal.

AAAAAAAAHHH! And then, incoming call. Sigh of relief. I shut the lid, plugged the machine in, and turned it on. Now, the bread is rising in the machine. Soon, I will take it out forming it into clover rolls, and bake it in my own oven. And I will be a happy happy camper.

Do Something

*****I've had this post as a draft for a while. I realize it is now after Christmas, so it may not make sense why I mention Christmas gifts. However, I decided the thoughts were still good enough to publish. Here it is...

Yesterday, my mom and I were driving during our Goodwill marathon, and I declared, "I've been thinking..." Very dangerous words sometimes, but it really was something I've been thinking a lot about. I went on to describe my hesitation with Christmas gifts this year, and the struggle I am having coming up with whether to ask for actual gifts or whether to ask that volunteering be done or a donation be made to an organization in lieu of a gift. I have recently been overwhelmingly struck by the notion that I am so incredibly blessed even in my "tough" times. My mom and I discussed that we have never been without food, clean water, shelter, or sanitation. Even now, I am typing this blog from a laptop personal computer, in the comfort of my own home, with electricity.

Today, my mom came home from church and was telling me about the message on the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:13-26, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18-23). The preacher then talked about how wealthy we are in the United States. If you have a mattress on your bed, you are wealthy. If you have clean water, you are wealthy. If you have food, then you are wealthy. Please don't misunderstand me, I believe there is so much more to the story than the fact that Jesus tells the young man to sell all his belongings. In fact, I will touch on that in a minute. But, that doesn't diminish that in today's society most of us are truly blessed and we may not realize how much so. Ok, so my side note about the depth of the story beyond material possessions. Jesus realized that the young man had made his money and possessions his idols. So truly for him to follow Jesus would mean that he needed to sell everything, in order for God to be his God, rather than money. My short interpretation and attempt at explanation pales in comparison to Praxis pastor Justin Anderson's sermon from October 11, 2009.

But I digress. My main point is to illustrate the disparity felt in much of the world. I understand that poor people exist in the United States as well, but even being poor in the United States means you are light years ahead of much of the rest of the world. So tonight, I saw this quote/prayer:

Grant us grace, O Father, not to pass by suffering or joy without eyes to see; give us understanding and sumpathy; and guard us from selfishness that we may enter into the joys and sufferings of others; use us to gladden and strengthen those who are weak and suffering; that by our lives we may help others who believe and serve you, and project your light which is the light of life.

- H.R.L. Sheppard

For me this was the perfect expression of my heart. I was struck by the fact that I can do something every day that will positively impact the lives of others, specifically those who have less. So, my encouragement to all of you, is to do something. In the words of Nike, "Just Do It." It can be large or small, but everyday try to do something that reaches out. Something very simple would be visiting The Hunger Site. If you are like me and have trouble remembering to visit a specific site other than your email, make it your homepage. That way when you access the internet you will have an automatic reminder! I want to be clear that I don't believe every single one of us is called to sacrifice to the extent the rich young man was for others. But I do believe that every one of us is called to do what we can.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My New Year's Resolutions

I, like my mom, enjoy making New Year's Resolutions. You can read her take on it here. However, I am a very driven person, so I tend to be very commited to them. I'm not overwhelming myself this year with a laundry list of to-do items. Rather, I am seeking ways to improve my life and do things I enjoy.

  1. Bake more. Seriously, I realized how much I love it! And there are so many sources of great inspiration, that I have no excuses! I got a cupcake book/decorating kit for Christmas and a book entitled Cakes Galore, which will provide plenty of recipes. This week, I'm planning to make my own rolls to serve with potato soup (taking to an event), an apple pie, and a loaf of bread for at home.
  2. Finish crafting/sewing/knitting/crocheting/upholstering projects in a timely matter. I did not define a timeline on purpose. Each project is different, so it will take a different amount of focus and work. For example, finishing a knitted scarf will take far less time than figuring out how to make my vintage record/radio cabinet work again. I have plenty of materials, which need to be organized, and plenty of ideas, so now I just need to get some projects done!
  3. Use my blog to chronicle my adventures in baking and crafting. Sometimes things turn out like I intend and sometimes they don't. Either way, it will make for an entertaining read for you all. And it will be a chance for me to laugh at myself! Maybe I will have to share my potato soup recipe or my pumpkin puff mini pies one of these days!
  4. Run a 5k. My mom and I did it a couple years ago, and it felt wonderful! I bought running shoes a couple months ago, and unfortunately, I have not taken them out of the box yet. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has a favorite cause that will be hosting a 5k run.
  5. Oh, and the obvious one: graduate!

Looking forward to a year of inspiration and doing things I love, meanwhile sharing it all!