What's Been Cookin'


No matter how busy I am, I pretty much always stick to my cooking to take out ratio of five days in and two days out. I loathe most fast food (exceptions: bean burritos, chicken nuggets, fried zucchini) and it's simply not healthy (not that everything thing that I make is, at all, but it's still better than all the grease) or economical. While reading will always be my favorite hobby, cooking and baking are definitely up there. So I thought I'd share a few things we've been eating lately here, since I don't have the time or recipe-invention skills to start a food blog:

Crockpot Lime and Cilantro Chicken was incredibly easy and very delicious. I used this burrito recipe as sort of inspiration to use the shredded chicken in. The chicken would be great alone, in tacos, on tostadas, or even nachos. 

This Loaded Baked Potato Dip was excellent (and I love the blog title of its source... The Crepes of Wrath), but more so second and third day on bagels. My husband was gone that week, working late nearly every night, so I ate up almost all of it. So good.

I'm not especially passionate about chili, but sometimes when the weather is right a bowl hits the spot (especially with Fritos and cheese amirightoramiright?). This Slow Cooker Chili was easy on a Sunday.

In a pinch and not wanting to deal much with clean up? One Pan Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies is tasty and so easy. 

My go to for lunch for almost three weeks straight? Quinoa and tabbouleh from Trader Joe's. It was at the point where I was going in during the week to grab another tub my addiction was so strong. Combined with an apple and a Diet Coke and I was a happy woman. 

I made this Maple Tart recently, but it didn't get eaten up... due to the arrival of Girl Scout Cookies. It was good, but the timing was bad (not like the Pie Hole, sadly).

These are the best and softest chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. Occasionally I'll try a new recipe, for fun, and I'm always disappointed (as is my husband). 

We admittedly eat more chicken then any other protein, since I eat red meat maybe twice a year. So, yes, another chicken recipe! You don't really need one to make French Bread Pizza, but if you do here's the link. The only problem with this is that I'll only eat fresh French Bread, which means a stop to the store on the way home. And by the way, I have never gone wrong with How Sweet It Is

I made this Texas Trash Bean Dip for the Super Bowl and between my husband, his friend, and fresh off the half-marathon course me, we put away the entire pan. One part impressive, one part gross. Sawyer loves it, too. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[it's Chomsky's birthday!]

Link up, link back, say hi! 

1. I got some really great news last week- our daycare provider has agreed to take Sawyer on for one more school year, so I don't have to find somewhere new to put him in the fall. He'd be not quite two and a half and I knew that he would be too young for a lot of preschools, but I didn't want to put him in another home daycare and then pull him out the following year when he was old enough to go. Problem solved. It's been weighing on me heavily, so this has definitely been a relief. 

2. Last Friday I noticed a growth the size of a marble on the outside of our Golden's bottom gumline and knew that we should take her in to have it checked out. They had an appointment for Saturday afternoon, so I loaded up the neurotic dog and the energetic toddler to go to the vet. They confirmed that it needed to be biopsied, so we dropped her off on Monday for a dental cleaning and to have it removed. So now we wait for the results... a few days... a few weeks... They were pretty noncommittal but we're of course hoping for something benign.

3. Last Saturday was sort of a mess, in general, actually. We had to get our taxes done in Orange County and when we got back my husband had to head back into the office for the rest of the day and evening (that's why I had vet/kid/dog duty). I was extremely tired and really stressed about being so behind at life, so by the time dinner rolled around I was DONE. Sawyer and I ran to Chick-fil-a and when I got the window to pay the young lady started complimenting my physical appearance. She got some of her coworkers involved, just to make it even more awkward, plus completely untrue, as I looked like a total disaster. And as I was driving away it dawned on me- she knew that I felt like crap, that I was a tired, stressed wreck, and she was just trying to be a sincerely nice person. I could care less about what fast food employees think about my looks, but that the fact that she was making an effort to be legitimately sweet to a stranger made my chicken sandwich a little more enjoyable. Now if only her parent company didn't hate homosexuals and make me feel like a douchebag for giving them money (fun fact- I just went back again a few weeks ago after resisting for years). 

4. Guess what? Only two more days until Fuller House. If I had the time, and my friends and I were all available and childless, I'd have a watch party. Can you imagine the drinking games that will soon be in existence? How many times will Stephanie say "how rude!" Or Joey "cut it out"? It's going to be horrible wonderful and I cannot wait to see this trainwreck. I asked Scott if he cared if I watched it when I got home without him and the look I got from him made me think that maybe he doesn't care as much as I do...?

5. I must have parties on the brain, because we are talking about having some sort of gathering this summer. A few years ago we had one that was really, really fun, but now most of our friends have kids, so this one would be a bit more family-friendly (last time I flat-out told people that they couldn't bring their children, haha). I love having people over and it's nice with the pool, so hopefully we can coordinate something for a few months away.

6.  I've been listening to Stephen King's On Writing and it's been motivating me to at least think about some of the projects that I have floating around in my head. His perspective is different from mine, but it's definitely thought-provoking. He's mentioned Misery a few times, and, coincidentally, so has my husband recently, so I decided to order it. A writer, a stalker, and a farm? It sounds like a quick read that I might possibly get a kick out of for various reasons.

7. Freshly washed skinny jeans are quite possibly the most demoralizing thing ever.

8. To counter that, though, American Apparel's leggings are quite the opposite. I'm resisting the urge to buy five more pairs.

9. Sawyer has been quite the little artist lately and I'm loving it. He was into coloring last week, and then we moved on to sidewalk chalk this weekend (he was outside with it for an hour! Amazing!) and right now he's using one of those water paintbrushes to make pictures appear. I think he's going through some sort of developmental motor-skill sort of spurt (or whatever you want to call it) because he's been doing a lot better with building block towers, getting Duplo pieces to stick together, and trying to put clothes on. It's a lot of fun to watch and I love being able to introduce new things that he enjoys doing.

10. I'm still plugging away at Notorious RGB and still find it fascinating (I hated her for a minute when they mentioned her ability to get by on only a couple of hours of sleep a night, though). I've been trying to get a lot of grading done this week, though, since this weekend is starting to fill up, so my reading is suffering a little. Getting papers out of the way is a good feeling, though, and the grading period is up soon, so it's about damn time. 

Weekend Update

This weekend was was one of those weekends where you finally sit down on Sunday night and completely baffled by where the past forty-eight hours have gone. It was very... full. 

There was a tax appointment and a vet appointment. A husband that had to go into work for an extra seven hours on a Saturday. Laundry to wash and fold. Dresses to be hand washed (stop buying those ones, Christine!). A house to be cleaned. A toddler that slept through the night... but a poor teacher-mom that was up late grading papers and didn't reap the benefits. And the papers? Hundreds were graded and hundreds remain. The dent is negligible. There were meals planned, groceries bought, alarm batteries changed out. Prescriptions picked up, mail mailed, and food cooked. Cliffs Notes version: adulting aplenty. 

And coffee? There was coffee consumed. In excess.

But, there was fun to be had. Sidewalk chalk used of the first time ever. The park visited, walks walked, block towers constructed. There was a solid cardio-interval work out and there were sun salutations. Friends were consulted about up-coming weekend plans,  a donut run was made, and the bookstore was visited. There was a two-hour stretch of time where father and son were out of the house (so quiet!) and a favorite pair of running shoes found on sale. Cliff's Notes version: I am fortunate. 

Have a good week, all. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. Kare Goucher, the runner, continues to break my heart. That woman is a beast and trains so very hard, but it seems like every time she feels ready she misses her goal by seconds. She ran the Olympic Trials for the marathon in Los Angeles last weekend and missed qualifying by so little! And she cried, which made me sad for her. 

2. While on the topic of running, while I've decisively sidelined half marathon plans indefinitely (I was considering doing the Disney in September before Surf City), I think I'm going to really focus on improving my 5k of 10k times (so 3.1 or 6.2 miles). I think my feet can handle that and the training is much  more doable with my life. It'll also allow me to do more cross training, which I'm excited about. I got on the bike yesterday and have been doing more yoga, so I'm pleased with that. 

3. This is my new favorite shirt:

4. I read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian last weekend and really enjoyed it. I don't read YA, but I am an Alexie fan, so I gave it a try. More than anything, it made me want to read more of his adult fiction.


5. I'm also reading The Scarlet Letter for my senior IB class and I'm liking it way more than I ever have before (I think this is the fourth time I've read it?). The language is still very tedious, though, and it's really heard to read when I can't completely focus. We will be comparing it to Kate Chopin's The Awakening, which should be interesting (well, for me, anyway). I wish there was a prequel, though. What the heck went down between Hester and Dimmesdale? They were praying together one day and BAM! crazy baby Pearl was made? 

6. I also just started Notorious RBG, since it seemed like the timely thing to do.

7. Four years ago I jumped out of a plane. How stupid. 

8. I've been thinking about looking into taking some sort of creative writing or literature class through the UCLA Extension program, just for fun. Mostly because I'm always like, "hey, I'm so bored, I need more things to do and items to put on my to-do list."

9. My child's new love is to sit in cardboard boxes and color in them. This keeps him busy for chunks of like twenty-five minutes, which is impressive in toddler time. I'm going to have to keep ordering things online to make sure he has the necessary supplies.

10. Holy shit, this churro cake.

Top Ten Tuesday- Songs as Books

I don't have a ton of time to write today, but I had to play along, as this week's prompt from The Broke and the Bookish asks us for ten songs that should be books. I mentioned this idea a few weeks ago before I knew it was a prompt, so I thought it was bit serendipitous. It would be such a great creative writing prompt or activity to break out of writer's block, so I need to keep this one in my back pocket. 

Here are some songs that I think could make interesting stories-

Jack and Diane- John Mellencamp I like this song in a cheesy, nostalgic sort of way, but I think the fact that there's already a story there ready to be expanded on is promising. 

We Didn't Start the Fire- Billy Joel The idea of such a broad scope of time is what epic (and lengthy) novels are built on. 

Hello- Adele Who is she talking about? I've heard an ex and I've heard her father. Go!

Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie- Honestly, one of the main reasons I put this on here is that one episode of Parenthood... if they and can do that with this song during a TV show, I can imagine the potential for a novel.

Maps- The Yeah Yeah Yeahs I envisioned a tortured love affair possibly near the end. 

Tiny Dancer- Elton John There's just so much you can do with this song, even considering the time period.

One Headlight- The Wallflowers Let's learn more about your only friend that died of broken heart disease.

Eleanor Rigby- The Beatles She seems like a strange lady. And I know that Douglas Coupland has a book with the same title, but I have no idea what it's about, so maybe he ran with this. Or not. 

Rhiannon- Fleetwood Mac She's just so mysterious. 

What 'Us' Made Me Ponder

I finished David Nicholls' Us this morning and must say that I really enjoyed it. The story is about an English, middle-aged couple, Douglas and Connie, who are on the brink of both separation and an empty nest. The novel starts off with Connie waking Douglas up in the early morning and telling him she thinks she wants to leave him, despite the family's preparations to embark on a massive European tour in order to commemorate their only son's impending adulthood. The couple decides to go anyway, and the book chronicles their present and their past, and what bridges the two. 

It's one of those books that makes you reflect quite a bit, on many different levels. Here are a few of the lasting impressions Us had on me:

Raising a Teenage Son
There are over a hundred teenagers in my life, nearly half male. I've generally found the guys easier to deal with than the girls at this age, but Albie, Connie and Douglas' son, is quite a handful. But with reason; he feels a great deal of pressure from his successful, scientific father and a constant need to fill the shoes of his older sister, who died a day after she was born (it's hard to be a failure when you never have the opportunity to, well, fail). Nonetheless, Albie and his relationship with his parents made me cognizant of my own parenting style. I do know that I will never take Sawyer to Amsterdam.  

Your Marriage Shouldn't Revolve Around Your Child
This is a tough one for a lot of couples, I think. Connie fears being alone with Douglas when Albie leaves for school, seeing that they've grown apart and don't share many interests anymore. I've thought about this many times before, both in the context of marriage and individuality; eventually your child (or children) will leave your for their own life and you still need to live a fulfilling existence despite their absence. It's important to still do with things with your spouse and to not include your kid in every conversation, on every outing, and every vacation. It's admittedly really hard when they're little, and I'm no expert, but a little bit of effort can go a long way. 

I've had cabin fever for awhile, since before Sawyer I was fortunate enough to go on a trip every year or so. In Us the characters start their "Grand Tour," which includes places such as Paris and Amsterdam. Once the family separates they visit various cities in Italy and Spain, as well. I love hotels and airports and itineraries. Staying in one place gets so boring... We have a few little excursions tentatively planned for this year, so that's enough to appease me... for now. Not to get too far off topic, but I've decided that once Sawyer is a bit older I'm going on a large vacation every other year, whether with family, friends, or alone (possible destinations: Vancouver, Fiji, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, Maine, or, the most far-fetched, Patagonia in Chile). 

A huge part of their "Grand Tour" was exposing themselves to classical European experiences, many of which were housed in museums. When I was in Italy many years ago we went to several in each city and while some became a little boring, I still relish the feel of the culture and academia. I've been to most of the big ones here in Southern California, but reading Us made me want to make the rotation again.

The Past's Influence 
I loved the narrative structure of the text and can't say that I had a preference to the past or present sections, since both were equally as interesting. It was fascinating to see the integration of the two and the product of the family's cumulative experiences. It's a bit unsettling how small familial transgressions accumulate and eventually the damage seems unsurmountable. It's important as a parent and spouse to simply be nice; it's easy to snap and act in the moment, but people remember what you say. 

Needless to say, I thought this book was excellent. It was like taking a trip through Europe with a dysfunctional family that you just can't help but to grow to love. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hi! 

1. I got my 2015 photo book in the mail yesterday and was so pleased with how well it turned out. Worth every penny! And it was a good reminder to start this year's now, instead of waiting until next January.

[made through mixbook]

2. Almost all the soreness from last weekend's half marathon is gone, but unfortunately my normal motivation to be active hasn't quite returned yet. Between the running and Sawyer not sleeping great this week (please let this be the last tooth for awhile...) I'm really tired. I finally got the energy to walk this afternoon and maybe I'll squeeze in a little yoga or time on the trainer later tonight. Tomorrow will be spent walking around the zoo, so at least I'll get in some steps there. Speaking of the race, Matt Damon ran it! I don't really get star struck, but I think the idea of watching a celebrity hoof it around like the rest of us peons is amusing. 

3. Sawyer and I have gotten to spend some time with two of my friends and their kids this week and it's so funny to see him interact with other kids. Both friends have babies and he talks in the high-pitched voice he uses with animals to them, and makes a big deal out of being super hesitant to touch them. It's a crack up (I'm very thankful he isn't aggressive or unkind to them... you never know with toddlers).


5. I know a lot of people aren't in love with this new season of Serial, but I am actually really enjoying it. It's something different from my normal interests, and I think Sarah, per the norm, is fascinating. I hadn't followed the case at all before this, so it's all new to me (is it just me or are there some similarities with the first season of Homeland?). I am enjoying her updates regarding last season, too.

6. I have a confession: I've ordered four new books lately. I grabbed Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because I saw a student reading it and have always meant to. I got Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton because I loved her other two novels, and then I've seen such great things about Anthony Marra's The Tsar of Love and Techno, so I grabbed that too. I had preordered Jhumpa Lahiri's In Other Words awhile ago so I didn't forget, and that arrived a few days ago. I should feel bad, but I don't. I can't even promise that I'll stop (I'm burning through Christmas gift cards). 

7. A few years ago Scott and I went to a place called The Pie Hole in LA and I got this delicious maple custard pie and have always wanted to replicate it. I found a recipe for a similar tart, which is just as good. Making it asap.

8. The week before we get our taxes get done I historically get greedy. While 90% of what we get will go into savings or will go towards home improvement-type expenditures, I think I will splurge on this bag and this chaise lounge for reading by the pool. Or, if we're being truly accurate, I'll say I will and then end up feeling bad and putting my fun money towards a student loan. 

9. Fuller House is going to be terrible. I CANNOT WAIT TO WATCH IT.

10. My kid is blowing bubbles in the dog water, so I better go. 

Your Own Friend?

[this has nothing to do with anything, I just needed a picture]

A few weeks ago a student and I were talking and she said something that resulted in me commenting, “Now I’m tying to decide if I’d want to be friends with myself…” And so I started writing a little blurb on Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts not long ago and it ended up being the basis for a stand-alone post. So, here we are. And I know that there are many parties, close and far, young and old, who might take this personally (as we all do when things are posted by people we know on the internet!), but it’s really the simple musings that resulted from a casual conversation.

And here we are.

Would I want to be friends with myself? The short answer is yes, yes I would. And the simple reason is because I don’t expect things from others that are more than I am able, or willing, to give to them of myself. I also don’t expect my friends to give more than what is realistic for their lives.  For example, one person may be able to meet for breakfast once a month, while someone else has life obligations that make getting together more than a few times a year tough. And I get that, and it’s cool. I love both people. 

I don’t expect friends to respond to my texts within minutes, make a big deal about my birthday, ask me how Sawyer’s well-baby check up went, know exactly what my husband does for a living, or be able to tell me how old each of my siblings are and what they’re up to. I do expect friends to let me know if they’re running late, not sell my secrets on the internet, refrain from harming my loved ones, return my books back in the condition they were lent, and answer important texts within a week or so. I’d prefer they’d tell me if I have something stuck in my teeth and not be intellectually, culturally, or emotionally stunted (perhaps one of the three is permissible).  I’d hope that if I had a true problem I needed help with they’d listen and that if someone super  important to me died they’d go to the funeral or at least meet me later for a drink or huge bowl of ice cream. I know it sounds like the bar is not set high, but, frankly, my friends are my friends because of who they are. Maybe it’s because of similar interests, shared experiences, personality connections, or because we are a damn fun time together (well, maybe before we had kids).  And it’s not to say that my friends don’t go above and beyond, because many of them have and do, it’s just that I don’t expect them to and don’t hold it against them if they don’t. We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re distracted. I get it. It’s okay.

But am I the Universal Best Friend? Definitely not. I’m not going to offer to help you move, paint, or drive you to LAX for you six am flight (but if you ask I’ll be there after I’ve sufficiently caffeinated... just don't expect great conversation). I can be deeply private, I am prone to playing the devil’s advocate,  and I frequently have to coordinate around childcare. I’m going to probably decline going to your Pampered Chef Party and will refuse to wander around antique stores with your boring out-of-town aunt.  I don’t use emojiis, Snapchat, or go to those wine drinking while painting parties, either. I might notice a Facebook status that I should respond with some sort of emotion to, but forget to do so until so much time has gone by it’s obvious that I’ve dropped the ball. I sometimes forget to ask people how their weekends, their vacations, or their family gatherings went. So, yes, the deficiencies are aplenty. I'm aware. 

But here’s something else to ponder- I think it’s important to have friends that are different than I am. Just like when you select a significant other, opposites attract, at least a little, anyway. But I think this idea, of  wanting to be your own friend, can extend into other important questions. Would you want to be your own daughter? Would you want your child to have a teacher like you (or whatever the professional equivalent is in your field)? Whatever hats you wear, would you like to be on the other end of the equation and have to deal with yourself? It’s an interesting way to reflect, that’s for sure.  

So, yes, while admittedly flawed, the answer is yes, I would like to be my own friend. Even if I wouldn’t help myself move. 

Surf City Half Marathon- Race Recap

It's over! Thank goodness. 

And, realistically and responsibly speaking, it will probably be my last until I at least have my toe fixed. My feet just aren't cut out of for that kind of distance, structurally, considering their sad issues (they're flat, I have an extra bone in my right ankle, and a slightly deformed toe on my left foot). The toe was really the issue yesterday, since it started swelling and hence caused blisters on itself and the toe next to it (this was never an issue in the past; I didn't start having trouble with it until last summer where one day I was out walking and felt like I was being stung my bees on my toe). Anyway, my sad, but long, recap:

The Good:
The night before I met one of my best friends for dinner at The Great Maple in Fashion Island and it was nice to catch up over good food. I returned to my hotel room, where I had a king-sized bed to myself and was able to get nearly eight straight hours of sleep, which was maybe the second or third time since Sawyer was born. The next morning I didn't have to wake up until 5:45, since the race didn't start until 7:45, which is a really late start compared to other halves. The hotel shuttle took us down, meaning I didn't have to deal with parking, which was a godsend. I met up with my cousin and her family and visited for awhile before we lined up in our corrals. Like always, Surf City is impeccably organized and at least appears to run incredibly smoothly (I've now run it three times and volunteered once). 

The first five miles were decent, for me. I was coming in 15-30 seconds faster each mile than I had planned, but was feeling really good. I had two slight negative splits, but was pretty consistent in my pacing. 

Oh, and my playlist was awesome. Between what I had, some suggestions from a student, and scouring the internet, I at last came out with some good music.

The Bad:
Miles five to nine were on PCH (the highway that runs along the beach) and things started to heat up- it was only in the sixties, but when you're running on asphalt without cloud cover, humidity, or a breeze, it gets hot fast. There are also a lot of slight but slow inclines on this stretch. My feet were starting to get sore, but it wan't anything I couldn't work through. I slowed down some and took a few walking breaks, but all in all I was maintaining my goal pace (which was a realistic time based on my severe lack of training).

The Ugly:
Somewhere around mile nine or ten I fell apart. Well, my feet did. After seeing my toe situation afterwards this was obviously where my toe blisters started to get bad and my ankle swolen. I was also really hot, which isn't something I tolerate well. I walked a lot during this section and was in a lot of pain. A lot of people in general, were walking, though, which I attribute to the heat. My time nosedived.  

The worst moment, which seems silly now, was when I saw a mile marker in the distance and assumed in my delirium it was for mile thirteen, which would mean once I reached it I would only have 0.1 miles left. Doable. I had forgotten the marathoners had reentered our route and it was actually their 26 mile marker, meaning I actually had 0.2 miles left, which seemed like eternity. I almost cried, but then I focused all my energy on thinking mean things about pedestrians running on the course, race photographers, and women who wear tutus to run (sorry, but no). 

My time was about eight minutes slower than what I had wanted, but still fast enough to make the shuttle time back to the hotel that I was aiming for, at least. I am prone to feeling faint, so once I stopped running that of course kicked in. I had to walk to the shuttle stop and called my mom to distract me, but she just wanted to talk about how miserable I was feeling so I yelled at her, I think. But come on, mom. I had to take several breaks to sit down on the way to the bus, but once I got there I was fine. Nothing an apple juice and huge bag of peanut butter M&Ms couldn't fix (which collectively cost me over $7). 

So, that's it. I went home, ate my body weight in bean dip and pizza and went to bed at 9:30. I'm a normal amount of sore today, minus the trashed feet. But I can honestly say that I won't be signing up for anymore halves until I see some sort of change in my feet. I might do some 5 or 10ks just to stay in shape and have something to train for, but longer distances are out. 

The end. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Happy Wednesday! Link up, link back, say hi!

1. In twenty-four hours I'll be on an eleven-day President's Day Break and pretty much the happiest woman around. It technically doesn't begin until Friday afternoon, but I'm calling a sub so that I can take care of some business. We just had winter break five weeks ago, so I know I'm sort of a jerk for celebrating another vacation, but I've been working hard at home and work and I'm TIRED. Plus I get to spend all week with my favorite little guy, which I definitely am looking forward to.

2. Next week I'm going to take Sawyer to the San Diego Zoo (tangent: I have mixed feelings about zoos, but I have an annual pass in my name as a result of needing to qualify for a credit union membership that was necessary to finance our solar panels; long story semi-short: I'm going to make a donation to some sort of save the elephant fund to make myself feel a little less hypocritical. But circuses or Sea World- over my dead body). I've had a few people surprised that I'm going "alone." Because I can't drive two hours and handle the same toddler I handle every day? Come onnnnnnnn. He's super excited to meow at the koalas that we watched videos of the other day. 

3. Toddlers in backpacks are pretty darn cute:

4. I'm making these as we speak. I've been eating like total crap lately since I've been so active, and I know after the half Sunday I'm going to either have to maintain my current level of activity so I can keep eating ridiculous amounts of carbs (like absurd), or scale everything back. Or, I guess I could keep eating ridiculously and stop exercising and just let nature take it's course, but considering it'll be bathing suit weather in about five minutes that's not happening.

5. I'm slightly obsessed with changing up my sparsely decorated mantle and came across this wood wall art thingamajig on Etsy. I'm going to email the guy for a quote on a special order asap (this one is too big for what I have in mind), but the colors are perfect for my living room and my husband actually likes it too.

[A+ cropping job]

6. Speaking of things that are aesthetically pleasing and highly necessary:

[I better decide soon, since they're so low on inventory...]

7. I don't get too political on here, but I think it's safe to say most know where my allegiance lies. The caucus results the other night were fascinating and encouraging. That's all I'll say.

8. We watched Everest last weekend and all I knew was that it was about people climbing the mountain (that's all I needed to be on board). I had no idea that it was about the trip that John Krakauer was a part of! It made me want to reread Into Thin Air, despite the fact that Krakauer apparently wasn't exactly a fan of the movie.

9. I need to sit down and make a really, really long, carefully thought out playlist for Sunday. I recently acquired quite a bit of new music, so now it's time to sit and think things like "at one point am I going to hit a wall and need something fun like Ke$ha?" and "how many times should I include "Party Rock" on this list?" and also "am I still into starting every race with 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'?" [insert judgmental comments about my taste in music here.] I'm actually really, really excited about Sunday, but that may be in part because I can't wait to get a solid night sleep in a hotel room all by myself the night before. I have this nagging feeling that I'm setting myself up for failure, though, since a little part of my thinks it could be a really solid race after my successful long run last week. Nonetheless, it'll be some good exercise by the ocean and a nice chance to spend some time alone (minus the twenty thousand people I'm hanging out with).

10. I just started Us by David Nicholls and so far, so good. I have to admit that part of the short chapters are part of the appeal right now, since it makes it easy to pick up in spurts (it is pretty long, though).

January Reviews

January allowed me five books, probably because I was off for a few days and the semester has only just begun. I appreciated the variety- short stories, letters, a graphic novel, contemporary fiction, and a classic.  

Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker 
225 pages
This is a collection of letters told to various men in Parker's life, from her grandfather, to abusive significant others, to cab drivers. The names are never divulged, but she provides enough context to where the reader is able to determine time periods, emotional states, and where she is at in her career. It's an interesting concept and there's obviously a great deal of catharsis in letter writing. 

Verdict: I enjoyed this book, for the most part. It was an easy book to read in spurts, and like I just said, I appreciated the concept. Supposedly she wrote this herself, which means she has some chops (although slightly overdone ones at times). I do have to admit to thinking the theme, only writing to men who have had meaning, bothers me a little bit, but that's probably just me being defensive.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
390 pages
This is the story of a married couple that views their decades-long relationship form both Lotto and Mathilde's perspectives. We see them grow, stumble, keep secrets, and suffer over and over again. The reader is sucked into the world of theater and given a unique glimpse at the torturous mind of a creative- and the woman standing his shadows.

Verdict: I hate using the word "epic" to describe things, but this was an epic work of literary fiction. The writing was perfect, the characters deep and complex, the plot riveting. It was long, as all epics are, but totally worth it in the end.

American Housewife by Helen Ellis
185 pages
I saw this collection of short stories pop up here and there and thought it would be a nice companion piece to The Awakening. The stories are centered around women who are housewives, to varying degrees. There's a story that is comprised of an email exchange between two apartment neighbors at war over how to decorate the shared hallway. There's the story of a struggling writer who wants to win a reality show. Another novelist who's tasked with writing a book sponsored by Tampax (come to think of it, I think three of the stories are centered around stay-at-home-writers).

Verdict: This was definitely the weakest of the bunch this month; the stories were really inconsistent. There were a few that were really witty and satirical, but some that drug on (like the reality show one, which was also way too long). It's not a bad book by any means, but it seemed a bit sloppy.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
116 pages
I think this is the fourth time I've read this book, but the first time as a mom (I may write about this perspective later). For those unfamiliar, it's about Edna, a woman at the turn of the century who decides she's not content being only someone's wife and mother. She goes through a premature midlife crisis and becomes increasingly flirtatious and eventually moves out of the family home. Scandalous. 

Verdict: I love this book, and I especially love teaching it. The students are always pretty divided in how they view the issues and we have some interesting discussions on feminism, identity, and whether Edna is a feminist or entitled brat.

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
296 pages
I finally read a graphic novel! I'm pretty sure most are familiar with the story, but it's Spiegelman's retelling of his father's time leading up to, and after, Auschwitz. The narrative flips back and forth between the past and the author's present, which allows the reader to see the impact being a Jewish prisoner had on Vladek, as well as his family. 

Verdict: I don't tend to gravitate towards WWII history, but this was a really, really great story. I went in with some trepidation, not sure if I could connect to the animals as characters (I was thinking Animal Farm prior to reading... I was amused but detached) or the black and white illustrations (again, I read maybe one graphic novel a year, so I'm still finding a comfort level in this style of reading). I will definitely be recommending this to my students. 

1,212 pages

January, Revisited, Plus February

Time! It's flying! 

For those new around here, I like to start each month with some goals to keep me focused and accountable, as well as a check-in to see if I was able to follow through with what I wanted to the month before. I'm naturally competitive, even with myself, so putting it out into the world at least motivates me a little to be productive. I'd say 70% of them are actually really, really boring and make me seem much more responsible than I really am, but... I don't care? Correction: I mostly don't care. Anyway. 

Here's how I did with January's goals:

1. Make fruit/veggie smoothies three times a week: Nope Twice. Total.  And I think one was actually from Juice It Up. I've been much better about Sawyer's veggie intake, so that's a plus. Now for my own....

2. Finish 2015 photo book: Yup! 117 pages and 700+ pictures later it's been ordered. It's not the masterpiece I would have wanted, but I had a great coupon code that knocked off half the price, so I hauled ass to finish. 

3. Take stuff to Goodwill: Yes! I actually donated to one of those companies that drive around and pick up your stuff, but same thing. And easier.  

4. 95k steps a week: Reached in excess! I ran/walked nine miles the other night and the only thing that hurt the next day was my mutant ankle. I'm cautiously optimistic I won't die when I do the half on Sunday. 

5. Computer maintenance-type stuff: Partially I backed up my phone but have yet to find the balls to update my phone and computer (I'm afraid they'll die... I need to go to first-world-problems therapy). 

6. Chart time for two weekdays and one weekend: Yes Honestly, I don't know why I did it. I'm on the go constantly, between work, taking care of Sawyer, dealing with the house, working out, and trying to see friends. I need to sleep more. 

7. Stay on top of grading: Yes? I question this because I don't feel like I'm buried, but I may be, in reality. Nonetheless, it's not stressing me out so we'll call it a win... for now. 

8. Journal more: Sporadic.

9. Write two short stories: Big fat no.

10. Get a pedicure: Yes I walked and ran hundreds of thousands of steps. It was much needed. 

And for February:

1. Think about daycare for next school year: This stresses me out unbelievably. Deciding where to put your child for nearly eight hours a day is no small task.  I just keep picturing him crying at some strange place with people he doesn't know. He's very social so this is probably more my issue, but still. I've found not thinking about it to be a successful strategy, but we're nearing six months out and I need to start preparing. This month I'm trying to get the courage to initiate the conversation with our current provider to see if she's completely sure she's done. I'll go from there.

2. Prepare tax documents: We have our appointment later this month and I don't want to wait until the last minute to get our paperwork together. My life. It's just so exciting. 

3. Cross train more: I've been all about running and walking lately. I need to do more yoga and cycling. My brother and I are also trying to figure out a Saturday to try Orange Theory together. I can't wait to be humiliated. 

4. Walk dogs more

5. Drink less Diet Coke: I don't want to, but I need to. I really, really love it. I have a "no wine on weekdays" policy, so Diet Coke is my trusty friend. And it has enough caffeine to take the edge off my exhaustion when I haven't had coffee. But it's basically liquid cancer and it costs more than a gallon of gas or milk, which are both far more useful. 

6. Schedule at least one or two posts each week: I'm generally a "write it and post it" kind of girl, but I'd like to start sitting down on the weekends and scheduling at least one or two posts for the week.

7. Clean something abnormal: Junk drawers (yes, plural), my work out room, the upstairs desk. Something that has been neglected.

8. The Closet Situation: Speaking of taking on a super fun and exciting new project, I want to look into doing some sort of huge overhaul on my closet. We are lucky enough to each have our own walk-ins, and I'm sick of using the rubbermaid drawers that I've had since college to organize everything that's not hanging. It's not a mess, but I'd like it to look more put together. 

9. Research, and book, some short getaways- We're hoping to spend some time in Yosemite later this spring as a family, and then possibly a night in Malibu in July for a wedding (we'd leave Sawyer with my mom... he's not currently wedding material).

10. Expose my kid to something new: I want to take Sawyer to do two new-to-him things this month.