Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Happy Wednesday! Leave your link in the comments!

1. This weekend should be lovely: Saturday early afternoon I'm driving solo to Huntington Beach, picking up my race bib, doing some damage at Anthro with gift cards, carbing it up, spending the night in a hotel (alone!!!), and then racing the Surf City Half Marathon Sunday morning. I plan on doing  a post on running soon, since I have lots to say.

2. Please notice that I did not mention the head cold I am currently battling in the above "this weekend should be lovely" declaration. I have to taper anyway, so I'm resting lots, slamming vitamin C, and trying to be positive. I've trained for six months and while I don't plan on a PR, I would like to be happy with my run. 

3. I can't decide if I want the new JoJoy Moyes book. The publisher sent me the last two, but apparently doesn't need the press anymore, so I'd have to buy it myself. I'm kind of a completionist, so the fact that I have two of the three (or will there be more?) bothers me. I thought the first one was endearing, but the second one not nearly as good. Anyone?

4. I just finished The Awakening for probably the fifth time, since my students are currently reading it, and I love it so much. There is definitely some Edna in me (future post, I think). 

5. Saturday was National Chocolate Cake Day, which I naturally had to partake in, so after making the cake, I made this delicious peanut butter frosting. My husband loathes frosting and he even liked it!

6. I thought of the best idea to string together some short story ideas that have been churning around in my head the other night in the shower. How cliche is that?

7. I was disappointed RBG wasn't at the SotU last night. Her disgruntled looks and inevitable nap would have made the whole thing easier.

8. I finished Fire and Fury the other day- post to come.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Happy Wednesday! Leave your link in the comments!

1. I have nothing scheduled this weekend. It's a miracle. I'm one part scared, one part excited.

2. Pro tip: If you're making risotto just drive around to all the grocery stores to find arborio rice. I am currently attempting it with short grain brown, and it's taking days. Ugh. 

3. I am waiting until next week to use my monthly Audible credit, so I've been listening to Pod Saves America and Launch, which is about a screenwriter working on his first book.  I feel like I'm still looking for the Podcast that makes me get super excited and ready to name drop it to all my friends, but this will get me through until then.

4. Like seriously. Maybe this risotto will be ready for breakfast. If we were texting I'd include several crying emojis.

5. I want a hard-boiled egg cooker. I am trying to incorporate more protein into my diet, and I like hard-boiled eggs but hate making them. This seems like the appropriately lazy compromise.

6. I finished a few quick cross stitch projects in the last week, a cute little gnome and then a Stitch People design that I made of my mom and her husband at their wedding. I have decided that my love-language is weird little cross stitch projects for loved ones. 

7. I finished Confessions of an Unlikely Runner the other day and thought it was  a fun, quick read that I could definitely relate to (can I get a "what what" for middle-of-the-pack runners?). 

8. I'm too mad at the risotto. I gotta go. 

Women's March, Los Angeles

[the girl's HP sign behind me was pretty great]

A few weeks in the copy room at school I saw the flyer for the Women's March in LA and the reminder quickly set a plan in motion. I texted a friend, we made childcare arrangements (aka making sure our husbands were free), researched the train schedule, and just like that we found ourselves marching with 600,000 others through the streets of Los Angeles yesterday. Everything went perfectly- they added extra trains, there was plenty of personnel to assist, the weather was beautiful, and everything stayed peaceful and positive. After the end of the march we found ourselves in front of City Hall listening to speeches from Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria, and various other local activists. There was also widespread support for the Dreamers and a clean DACA, which wasn't surprising but was still awesome. It was a really important, fun, event to be a part of and I am definitely going to try to go back next year! Here are some pictures from the day: 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up in the comments if you choose to play!

1. A student and I spent some of his outside reading conference comparing Pip from Great Expectations and Wade from Ready Player One- there are many similarities. I told him that I had more time I'd write an essay for fun, and he looked at me like I was crazy. #Englishmajorproblems

2. Why do vet visits always turn into "maybe we should run three extra tests for several hundred dollars more and if you say no I will look at you with so much judgement and scorn"?

3. I made my first pair of curtains last week and they were a few inches too short and have been bugging me so much. So, I went back to the fabric store, bought some of the patterned fabric I used (I did 1/3 pattern and 2/3 solid) and made an extra strip for the bottom. Now I actually really, really like them. It's fun to have something new and fun in our kitchen.

4. My Year in Review Mixbook came last weekend I am in love. The matte cover is beautiful and it was so much fun to sit down with Sawyer and look at everything that happened last year.

5. I made this breakfast pizza last night and it was delicious. I used pancetta instead of bacon and next time might cook the eggs a little differently, since we like them more runny, but all-in-all the flavor was excellent and it was easy.

6. I just finished The Sympathizers for book club tomorrow and I really, really ended up loving it. How we're going to discuss this book in just ninety minutes is beyond me. It really needs a few lunches, as far as I'm concerned.

7. "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips came on this morning and I spent the day really wanting to watch Bridesmaids while sitting on the couch eating cereal. Unfortunately, this did not happen. 

8. I'm going to the Women's March on Saturday in LA with my good friend and I am sooooooo excited. Luckily, the excitement is overpowering the slight anxiety I have over logistics.

Reorganized Bookshelves

[reorganized fiction shelves]

Two months ago I made the trek to Ikea for a few new Billy bookshelves for our dining room, since our regular shelves were overflowing (I was just stacking new books on the tops of books in the general area where they should be). I was super on-top of the assembly part, but not so much the reorganizing part. This was partially intentional, though, since I knew Christmas would bring even more books and I wanted to wait until I knew what I was working with. 

Last weekend I finally got my stuff together and completely overhauled everything (this doesn't include my husband's huge collection of graphic novels, which he keeps somewhere else). I have plenty of room now, so I was able to do some fun stacking arrangements and include framed pictures. I am definitely pleased with the outcome, but always lurking in my mind is "what happens when I run out of room the next time?" Luckily we have one child, a good-sized house, and plenty of wall space. But still. It's not like I'm ever going to quit buying books. 

[new ikea shelves in dining room]

[new shelves filled with non-fiction]
[another view of the fiction in our great room]

[the rest of the fiction]

[some space for some special artwork]

[I stacked some of the authors we had lots of books by]

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

If you missed it last week, no more linky widget, but please leave a link to your blog in the comments!

1. This has been one of the toughest "go back to work" experiences I've had in my twelve years of teaching. I think it's because they changed our calendar and we don't have finals until next week, as opposed to before Christmas as in the past. It just feel strange and a lot of things I'm used to having done are not. So nothing bad is happening, I just feel really "blah." 

2. I'm trying to stay positive, though! I have SO SO SO many awesome things in the next month or two to look forward to. I am going to the LA Women's March a week from Saturday in LA and I just learned that a work trip to Seattle next month was approved by the board. Plus what is panning out to be a fun weekend in Orange County for my half marathon and a few other things. Moral of the story: this too shall pass.

3. I'm almost done with the Dirty John podcast and while it's no Serial (season 1), it is interesting and creepy. 

4. I'm reading The Sympathizer for book club next week and while I really like it, it's taking me a while to get through it. I always like book club book to be the last thing I've read, but that means I usually cut it too close on time and am scrambling the last day or two. It looks like this will happen yet again.

5. Teacher hack: put the car vent air fresheners on your vents in your classroom (I actually do that at home too). Works like a charm!

6. I made Sally's Baking Addiction bread bowls the other night and it was so much easier (and faster) than I thought. Get on while it's still winter and soup weather!

7. Last Friday I got some serious, ridiculous book FOMO over Fire and Fury, the new book by Michael Wolff and ended up downloading it on iBooks, making it my first ebook purchased and read ever. So far it paints a pretty grim, ridiculous picture of the current administration, but it's not that surprising at this point. But perhaps I'm just jaded, at this point. 

8. Sawyer is into The Lion King right now and I've had to try to explain death to him, since he's super, super confused about what happens to Mufasa. I don't want to lie or skirt around the issue, but it is definitely outside of the scope of his cognitive abilities right now. 

7 Tips for Making a Year-in-Review Book

[past books]

For the last few years I have been making year-in-review books for myself and my little family. It's so much easier than printing photos and shoving them into plastic sleeves, like I did once-upon-a-time. In the past I have also made ones for big trips or special events, as well. Being a yearbook adviser for five years has helped exponentially, since I've developed an appreciation for white space, consistency in fonts, and relatively simple layouts. I just finished by 189 pages 2017 book, so I thought I'd share my top five tips for making a beautiful end-of-the-year book with as less stress as possible:

1. Determine Structure and Themes- Are you going to organize my month? Event? Person? I prefer month, since it's just an easy way to group everything and stay organized. Also, decide if you want to use a specific color scheme or theme throughout. I don't do a lot of extra colors and graphics, but I do add some here and there. The one I just finished had gold undertones throughout.

2. Work Gradually- In a perfect world I'd work on my book gradually throughout the year, completing each month as it has passed. I actually did this, for the most part, through August this year, and it made finishing it so much easier. I have done the opposite as well, rushing to complete it in a few days before the awesome New Year's coupon codes expired. I am really going to try to stay on top of it this year- the slower you work the better it will look.

3. Find a Company that Fits Your Needs- I like a lot of control when it comes to formats, fonts, colors, backgrounds, covers, and adding pages, so for me Mixbook has been a perfect fit. They are more expensive than other companies, but it's worth it for me to have an ending product that I'm really happy with. There are tons of different options out there, you just have to see what has the interface, pricing, and controllability that works with you.

4. Words: It's Like Goldilocks- When working on your spreads you want to add some text so you can remember places and memories, but I think for the most part you should stay away from excessive writing. When I look at my past books and see others go through them it's really the pictures that everyone is focusing on.

5. Edit! Edit! Edit!- There is nothing more annoying than having your labor-of-love (mine probably take me about 30 hours each year to do) come back with errors. Edit as you go, but also go back a few more times on different days to catch other mistakes. I don't ask anyone else to look at mine, but that might be an option if you want it.

6. Picture Organization- I am horrible at organizing my pictures, but I recently started paying $2.99 a month to backup my entire phone on the iCloud, which means I can just logon, download the pictures I want onto my computer, and then use whatever I end up needing in my photo book. On the Cloud they're organized by month, which makes it even easier! Make sure you take lots of pictures, too! You want plenty of material to work with. 

7. Keep it Simple- I know that people tend to get super excited when they see the array of stickers, color options, fonts, etc... but don't go overboard or it will end up looking like Lisa Frank threw up all over your book. These sorts of things detract from your pictures and make your pages look cluttered. And if you do get a little crazy, balance out the page next to it with a more minimalist approach. 

Good luck! It's incredibly time consuming, but I cherish the end results so much. Sometimes Sawyer and I will just sit down for an hour and look through old pictures. It's worth the effort! 

Unbridled Optimism: The Failing of a Resolution

A year ago I wrote on this blog that my resolution for 2017 was to write a novel.

Yup. I did that. 

Despite working all day, grading all the time, having a small child, taking care of our house, being married, having a social life, maintaing an adequate level of fitness, and pursuing multiple hobbies, I thought I could totally make it happen. For sure. If you dream it you can achieve it. Go team, go team! Hip-hip-hooray! 

Progress check: zilch (unless we count fantasizing about getting an amazing book deal, ugly-crying as I resigned from my job, and spending a ridiculous amount of money at Boden and Anthro for new outfits for my massive book tour).

Maybe I wrote a few pages or scribbled some notes on a long-forgotten notebook? Clearly it wasn't very inspiring or memorable if I did. 

But here's the thing: I still think I'm going to do it. Despite barely having time to sit on the couch alone to take a few soul-cleansing deep breaths every night, I really and truly think that one day, probably, like, soon, I'm going to write an amazing novel that may or may not end up published (seriously, though, it probably will).

I am not an optimistic person- I fancy myself quite reasonable, skewing a tiny bit to the pessimistic side, in fact. I know I will never finish with the top of the pack in a race. I will never have thousands of blog followers, I will never be a size 2, and I will never be mom/wife/pet-owner/friend of the year. My house will never be spotless. I will never give up refined sugar, Diet Coke, Spaghetti O's, listening to Taylor Swift, crying during Grey's Anatomy, or judging people for what they read. I know my limitations.

But having this hope that one day I will be a successful novelist is a gift I'm giving myself. It's a daydream I rely on to help me get to sleep sometimes (literally) and when things get rough at work it's something I remember for comfort. I see it as an option. A security blanket. And on really bad life days, a light at the end of the tunnel.

Will it happen in 2018? It might. Will it happen by the time I'm 40? I'm going to go with yes. Will I become rich and famous and become besties with Zadie Smith, Marisha Pessl, and Ann Patchett (she will actually probably be more like a mentor, considering the age difference)? Mayyyyybe. But will I die wondering whether I had a novel in me? Hell-to-the-no.*

*Unless I die in the next month by unforeseen circumstances. I really, really hope that doesn't happen. But --hello!-- see above about being realistic. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[from our Rose Parade float viewing on Tuesday]

Happy New Year!

1. There will be a change starting, well, today, with this weekly feature- the widget that allows you to link up will be no longer be with us. I know, I'm sorry. But, it's time to renew and I didn't want to pay the fee or look for a new free option. I also haven't been able to schedule posts and have the widget show up, which is annoying (I'm not sure if it's a me, Mr. Linky, or Blogger issue). Nonetheless, still participate! I will still be writing them, you'll just have to leave your link in the comments. And while I don't always comment back, I love seeing what everyone is up to.

2. So, super duper long story short, I recently learned that our older neighbor is racist and very nosey and has even left racially charged hate mail for people (police were involved). This all started when a rude note was left on my husband's friend's car over the weekend and I posted on our Neighborhood Watch Facebook page- I learned lots, let's just say. I am so disappointed.

3. I am trying to finish up my 2017 Year-In-Review book so I can take advantage of the 50% + 10% discount Mixbook is offering. Considering my book will probably be 200 pages I need this coupon baaaaaaaaaadly. 

4. I want to go snowshoeing. I don't know why, but it looks fun and like great exercise. 

5. I took my car in to be smogged last week and it didn't pass because I had my battery changed a month ago and apparently one of the computers didn't reset right. I had to take it to the dealer yesterday and sit for FOUR hours so they could drive it around and hit all these weird different check points so the drive cycle would reset. It was horrible. Luckily they fixed it and I was able to get it smogged and the registration today. So many hours wasted, though. 

6. I can't get on board the bell-sleeve train. I'm not cool enough.

7. I just finished listening to The Last Mrs. Parish and while there are flaws galore in the writing, it was entertaining on my drive to and from Modesto.

8. I am currently reading Salman Rushdie's newest, The Golden House and now that I'm about 50 pages in it's growing on me. It's definitely different from Midnight's Children, which I read a few years ago. 

9. The other day Sawyer and I met up with some friends and drove to Pasadena to see some of the floats from the Rose Parade. It was very crowded and a little warm, but super cool! I helped decorate one several years ago with a group from school, but it was in the beginning phase and didn't have any fresh flowers. These all looked beautiful. I think we will definitely go back next year. 

Remember to leave you link in the comments!

Good Bye 2017, Hello 2018 (Plus January Intentions)

2017 was busy and fairly typical- there were lots of great moments, there were some hiccups, mostly small with an exception of one or two. But at this moment we are all healthy, happy, employed, comfortable, and progressing through life. I'll take it.

Some of my favorite moments from the past year? Had to be these:

- Taking Sawyer to Yosemite for a few days and meeting my family up there for one of the days. I was a little wary of traveling alone with him, but we passed with flying colors

- Getting back into running. I have always had a love/hate relationship with tis form of exercise, but it's working for my life right now so I'm sticking to it. I'm on month five of a six month half-marathon training cycle right now- a month until race day!

- Sawyer acclimating to preschool. We had to change childcare providers in August and decided to enroll him in preschool a year earlier than planned. There was a minor, mostly painless, adjustment period, but since those initial weeks things have gone really well and I am so excited to see his vocabulary and skills develop.

- Connecting with friends. I have made an effort to see friends (outside of work) at least twice a month and it makes me so much happier. Sometimes it's for a walk, sometimes it's an activity with out kids, sometimes drinks or dinner. Whatever it is, it's good for my spirit.

- The Zadie Smith/Michael Chabon event I attended at UCLA. It was incredibly last minute but worth every ounce of the hassle.

- Going to two amusements parks as a family. My husband works a lot, so I end up taking Sawyer on most of our outings. We did go to Legoland for Sawyer's third birthday and then Knott's Berry Farm in October. We had a blast!

- Our quick trip to Modesto for my mom's wedding. My siblings, mom, and I haven't been together for four or five years, so it was nice to be reunited for a day or two.

- Teaching my students. I really enjoy this group of kids that I have- they're steady, bright, funny, and make going to work enjoyable (if only I didn't have to grade their papers or wake up so early).

- Our little adventures around Southern California. We did a lot of local things this year- The Getty Museum, the beach, a UCLA basketball game, hiking, a corn maze, The Living Desert, the San Diego Zoo, a few children's museums, and other places I can't think of off the top of my head.

- My day alone in LA. I took off a day over the summer and went to the MOCA, lunch, and The Last Bookstore alone and it was awesome. 

2018- Looking Ahead
I am hoping that this year is the year of travel. Right now for sure I have a trip to Yosemite this spring and Banff National Park in Alberta this summer planned, and there might also be a trip to Seattle. Locally we plan to take Sawyer to Disneyland for the first time and stay at one of the big hotels for the night to really seal the deal, and I also get to spend a night at the beach before my half marathon. Maybe I can get in a short trip somewhere new next fall? We'll see. 

I hope to run a half-marathon or two or three, depending on how this upcoming one goes. 

I'll watch my students graduate and I think I might apply to be a scorer for the IB exams, as well.

More than anything, I hope things just stay... good enough. There are always kinks to work out and bumps in the road. I just want to have fun and manage what comes my way. 

I have moved away from yearly resolutions in favor of monthly intentions instead- it's a lot more manageable for me and keeps me accountable when I blog about it. I slacked off a bit over the holiday season, but I'm back with January's today:

1. Make more deliberate food choices/track calories- I need to be better about my protein intake, choosing less carbs, and fueling better for runs. I will never say I am on a diet or am cutting out a certain type of food, since I know that doesn't work in the longterm for me. In order to make sure I stick with this I'll track all my food in my Fitbit app for a month.

2. A financial diet- This is one diet I will stick myself on. November and December have been expensive and I need to take my car into the shop this week, so I'm sure that will cost a pretty penny. For the next month I will stick to my weekly budget, which does allow some wiggle room, and curb unnecessary spending. 

3. Be ready to run Surf City Half Marathon- This is a month away, almost exactly, which means the next few weeks of training and then tapering is really important.