Monday, January 23, 2012

requests

Today is a good day. A few issues at work from last week are getting resolved. I have actually been productive since I got home at 4:15; I am finally on top of things, master's-wise. (For now. I'd better not get too cocky.) Supper is in the crock pot. 

And because of those last two things, I have a couple of requests.

1. What are your favorite crock pot meals? We need some suggestions because 1) we're getting stuck in a rut, meal-wise, and 2) I don't use the thing nearly enough.
Disclaimer: we like meals with meat in them and not a whole lot of unusual ingredients (and, yes, I know it's not that healthy to eat meat all the time... Brad has come a looooong way in the pickiness arena since we got married, but there's a limit to how far I can push things).

2. There may not be many of you who can answer this question, but I know at least a couple can (Hi, Jody and Jill!). I'm taking a children's literature class this semester. Well, technically it's "Information Resources & Programs for Children." Part of the class is a children's literature update, which is basically an annotated bibliography of books published since 2007. I need suggestions. The public library catalog is not very helpful in dialing down by genre, date, and age group. I have specific categories, so... yeah. If you have any ideas for what to read (the categories are: Picture Books & Poetry, Folklore & Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Info/Non-fiction & Biography, Multicultural & Graphic Novels), please comment. The targeted age group is 12 and under. I know lots of great books in the young adult category, but not really much below. So if you have suggestions of books or authors, please, please, please let me know!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

26

Facebook tells me that "today is your birthday." Thank goodness. I might have forgotten otherwise. (This is funny because I actually love my birthday wholeheartedly and would never forget it or want to skip celebrating.)

In celebration of my 26th birthday, I am sharing 26 random things about myself, in no particular order other than that in which they occur to me. It seems like a conceited thing to do, but, hey, you read this blog about me. Right?! I did this last spring with 25 random facts. I'll try not to duplicate any, but that might be tough.

1. I love crime shows. Love them. So far, I've watched every season of Law & Order: SVU on Hulu Plus. (Season 13 is now airing.) Now I've started watching Body of Proof and Prime Suspect. Unfortunately, both these shows are in their first season.
2. I never really saw myself as a "crafty" person until this fall. Then, suddenly, I started to find things that "I can make for less." And then it kind of got out of control.
3. My latest pinterest project was this:


I was originally going to make a dry erase calendar, but then I realized that I don't really need a dry erase calendar. I have about 5 calendars. So I made a "creativity/project board" instead. I love it... now I need to put the hanger on it and put it up on the wall.
4. I'm pretty sure I want a Kindle Fire. I hesitate because I don't want to buy all my books, and I don't want to contribute to the death of the physical book and libraries. (Not that I truly believe that's coming anytime soon. It's just a little thought that makes me hesitate.) Right now I really want it to replace the many calendars and notebooks of lists in my life. Streamline...
5. I have a thing for Sharpies. I have a whole bunch, but I wasn't really using them. I've started grading with them - and, even though they bleed through every paper, it makes me happy to be using them.
6. I love being a (high school girls) basketball coach's wife. I think a lot of people don't understand why I go to every game, but I do it because I love it. I love how excited he gets, how completely involved he becomes during the game, how intensely he coaches. (Also... what else am I going to do on a Friday night? Sit at home with the dog? No, thanks.)
I also really love the girls, and the fun relationship I have with them. They are wonderful, sweet, and funny (intentionally and unintentionally).
7. I didn't want a dog. I gave in because Brad really, really wanted one. But I love Jazzy. She's crazy, out of control, and basically a complete mess. And she's affectionate, cute as can be, and loving - the sweetest little mutt you ever did know. She definitely has the "puppy dog eyes" look down.

8. I don't really like to cook. I love to bake, and I don't mind cleaning up the kitchen. But I don't like cooking. Brad does most of the cooking around here, which is great because he's really good at it. 
9. I am "abnormally ticklish," in Brad's words. It's terrible.
10. Peanut butter M&M's are my favorite.
11. My favorite children's author is Patricia Polacco.
12.I have too many hobbies. I don't have time to work on any one of them enough. I'm average at a lot of things, but not really good at anything. Regardless, I have no desire to give up any of these hobbies. I like them all. A lot.

13. I like ice cream cake. On my birthday. Every year. This year it's from Coldstone. Amazing...
14. I like not having cable. I don't have any specific reasons for this. I just like it. I still watch more TV than I should, though.
15. I've been working really hard for the past few months to distinguish between "want" and "need," especially when I'm talking about stuff. I am blessed to have the life that I do, and a lot of it has to do with my parents, grandparents, and so on down the line. I am working to focus on gratitude and to remember that, although sometimes there is a lot that I would like, there are not many things that I need... and I pretty much have them all. And to say that I "need" things that are really wants isn't appropriate when there are many people who do need.
16. The longer I'm taking library classes, the more I want to become a librarian.

17. I enter sweepstakes on the Better Homes & Gardens website. I never win. Today I also entered on at Maurice's. I don't win stuff like that, so I never hold my breath.
18. I really want to be the person who remembers friends' birthdays with cards in the mail, but I can't quite get my act together. Maybe this year?
19. I've been thinking about giving up facebook. I'm afraid to lose touch with some friends... but I'm kind of over it. I much prefer blogs and pinterest, and I waste too much time on facebook, anyway. Any thoughts?
20. Even though I sometimes roll my eyes about it, I'm glad that Brad's taken up fishing again. People should have hobbies. It's good for you. (See #12.)
21. I like to browse craigslist for random things. Things I don't need but someday hope to find a great deal on, like a file cabinet, a dining room table and chairs that seats more than four people, a really big rug....
22. It's been my goal to go to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for at least six months, but I still haven't made it. Someday. There, I will also browse for random things.
23. I think it's hilarious when Brad gets technicals. He can get really worked up and do a lot of yelling at officials, but usually the T's come when he makes snarky little comments, like "I'm not arguing every call. Just the ones you miss." It's so funny.
24. I (secretly) feel a little disappointed when I feel like I've written a really good blog post and nobody comments. But that is a product of my insecurities and my jealousy issues.
25. I might overuse parentheses and ellipses in my writing.
26. Hmm... this last fact should be a great one. My favorite decorating thing we've done in the house so far is the picture collage wall.

 Or maybe the dining room. I like that, too. (It's changed a bit since this picture was taken.)


Or maybe... no, just kidding.

I can't believe I came up with 26. This might have to the last year for this tradition. Happy my birthday to you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

another answer

I have one, if it's not too late. If you were suddenly appointed the head of the United States Department of Education, what would you change about the education system here in America (I know it's too broad, what would be the FIRST thing you'd change)?

This is a great question. Oh, there's so much that could be improved. There are so many ways we could grow. And it's tough because, technically, education is a function of the states (since it's not explicitly given to the federal government). Hmm... not that it's stopped anyone before.

Hands down, though, the first thing I would do is begin work to replace the No Child Left Behind law. There was a great article in Time that matter-of-factly explains the issues that schools are facing.

NCLB has such a negative connotation in schools that it might be best to completely leave it behind. Just about any reform would be a step in the right direction, though. Maybe.

Basically, it boils down to...

1. Schools who have fantastic test scores are being labeled as "failing" because they are no longer increasing their scores enough each year. The school average may be 99%, but if that score does not rise over time, they are a failure. Failure can result in the firing of all staff, hiring an outside organization to come in to reform the school, closing the school, pulling funding from the school...

2.  The emphasis of NCLB is on one, count it, one, measure of accountability. The test. The single state assessment. In Kansas, for reading, this means three days of multiple-choice testing. That's it. This, most definitely, encourages teaching "to the test" in order to ensure that students do well on these three days of testing. And, honestly, my students are pretty darn good at playing the testing game - eliminating answers, looking for key words. Most teachers will admit that kids don't have to be reading at grade level in order to pass the state assessment (and Kansas has relatively high standards, nationally), if you drill and kill enough and teach test-taking strategies. It's the ugly truth. (And you truly cannot blame teachers for this. If we fail the assessment, we stand to lose a lot - see the Time article linked above.) I will not go on about the test and how it doesn't measure higher-level thinking, problem solving, etc... I will not go on about the test. I will not... Today.

3. Right now, we are comparing apples and oranges. "Growth" of my students, in terms of test results, is shown by comparing sixth grade scores from the past several years, meaning that it will compare this year's class to last year's class to the class from the year before. This doesn't quite make sense to me. If you want to know whether or not an individual student is learning, you need to compare his or her results from this year to those of previous years. Right?! That's what makes sense to me.

The good news is that we (at least the state of Kansas) are moving in the right direction, toward assessments with performance tasks that measure individual student growth. You can look up Common Core Standards and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium for a little more info. 

The second thing I would do is declare a ban on teacher-bashing. Yes, there are bad teachers. But, mostly, we're a pretty darn good (and passionate, dare I say?) lot. Not that this would work. I'll keep dreaming.

The third thing I would do is work toward funding pre-K programs for all children in all 50 states.

But those are topics for another day.

And now I will step off my soapbox. Good night. 

(Isn't this questions thing fun?!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

answers

What's your absolute favorite meal?

This is a tough one. I love food. I mean, I LOVE it. And I'm not a picky eater. Right now, I would really love broccoli cheddar soup in a bread bowl. That sounds good. Or, a Chipotle burrito bowl with chicken and pretty much every topping.

Given one week of vacation and unlimited funds, where would you go? And to sort of tag off of that, where in the United States would you most like to live? (Kansas not included.)

I think I would go to Northern Ireland in the spring. I was there once, in January, and it was beautiful. I can only imagine how green it would be in a different season. We didn't get to do much sightseeing, so I would love to just be able to drive around the countryside and stop to enjoy the scenery... and take millions of pictures.

When I was younger I really wanted to live in Oregon. I'm not sure why; I think it just sounded cool because it was on the coast but not trendy like California. Now I know that the Pacific NW is a little too dreary for me.

Ideally, I'd live in a place where the elected officials value public education and social services. Anyone know where that might be?!

Um... or maybe, my non-facetious and completely politically-unrelated answer... would most likely be Texas. It's warm. And I'd like to have an excuse to say "y'all." Great reasons, I know.

And for good measure - a "Would you rather...?" Would you rather, be constricted to playing/listening to only one music group for the rest of your life and read as many books as you want or only read books by one author and have complete music freedom?

Now this is an easy one. Definitely one music group and as many books as I want. Definitely. I am not a huge music person. I really only listen when I run or in the car. I don't need variety, just a few good tracks.

But books. Take my books away? Oh, no.

True story... Once, I think it was Christmas 2010, we were doing a gift exchange with my Loganbill family (you know, the kind of gift exchange where you can steal or open gifts?). Anyway, I had finally gotten my hands on my book - the one I brought, of course. Then my cousin stole it from me. I pouted. Yep, I was 24, and I pouted because my cousin took a book away from me.

I ended up with it, though. And it was good. So good.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jazzy

Well, I got a few questions... I'll answer them all, since none were too crazy or personal. :)

We'll start with the dog.

Katy asked: What sort of training (attempts at training) do you do with your dog?


So far, she's learned to sit, lie down, stay (most of the time), not chew on Mary and Joseph's heads, and catch treats and sometimes toys in her mouth. We are still working on not chewing up printer ink.



I don't train her. Brad does. He watches YouTube videos to learn what to do. We have a clicker and cheese. After she obeys/performs the desired action, he clicks and gives her the cheese. Eventually, he weans her off the cheese and just clicks. After a while, she learns to do it without any reward, other than praise.

We want her to learn not to jump on people and to stay in the backyard but aren't really sure how to teach that. She just gets soooo excited. Brad's also tried "shake," but it's not going anywhere. He read that, because it's not a natural motion for a dog, it's really difficult to teach.


Recently, Jazzy has started to sometimes bring her nylon bone, blanket, and squeaky bear out to the rug to snuggle. It's cute. She does it mostly when she's waiting for Brad to come home. It's quite clear that she loves Brad best, which is just how it should be, since she's really his dog.

And yes, she's pretty much an indoor dog now. She has definite limits, though. And yes, I've learned that I really shouldn't say "never."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

any questions?

I ask this question many times a day. "Does anyone have a question?" "Any questions?" "Questions?" I usually get no response. I'm hoping today is a little better.

Amy asked her blog readers what burning questions they want her to blog about. I've tried a similar tactic before and got nothing. She got lots of great ones. Will I? Ask me your questions. I want to blog more, but I'm just not sure what to write about, what you want to read.

So.... what do you want to know?!

Monday, January 9, 2012

January favorite things

These are a few of my current favorite things...

the hearts that my Scentsy warmer makes in the wall.

my Scentsy warmer.

my blooming African violets (all three have flowers right now).

my dog... especially when she drags her blanket, bone, and squeaky bear out of the crate to snuggle with... I've learned from our experiences with Jazzy to never say never.

a working display screen on the treadmill (between the part that didn't have the correct holes and the console going out, we're collecting quite the graveyard of treadmill parts. good thing proform is generous with the replacements).

my Columbia omniheat coat. It's amazing.

the new lightbulb in my sewing machine... it's a little tough to sew without the light, but I did several "custom orders" without it before Christmas.

a printer. haven't had one since June-ish.

There's my round-up of a few of the new-to-me (and some old-to-me) things I've been enjoying lately.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Done: Homemade Laundry Detergent

Yesterday we completed the first of my 2012 goals.

We made laundry detergent.


I got the recipe from Jamie; it's found at this website. But, it's so simple I'll post it here, too.

1 c. Borax
1 c. washing soda (I had to go to three stores to find this... it's in the laundry aisle; there was only Arm & Hammer brand)
1 c. grated soap (I used Ivory)

Stir well. Use 1 tablespoon per load.



We used it on a load of towels yesterday, and, by all appearances, it works great. (I wanted to use it on something that I didn't care if it got spots or anything, just to be safe for the first load.) We have an HE machine.

I didn't do a cost breakdown (maybe I will eventually), but I spend less than $10 on all the "ingredients." We made two batches and have enough of all three for at least one more. There's enough Borax and washing soda for several more.

This one is a definite success...

Sometime soon I want to make my own all-purpose cleaner and possibly even dishwasher soap.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012

Don't you just love a good list? I sure do. 

I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm setting myself up for failure. Or maybe it's because I'm lazy. It could be, perhaps, that I am easily distracted and change my mind. I might just be content with who I am and where I am in life.

Regardless, I just haven't ever really done it, except for when I gave up facebook. For a year, until I had to have it for class discussions in college.

So this year, instead of any resolutions I decided to make a list. I'm kind of a list person, in case you hadn't noticed. This is my list of goals for 2012. I know full well that there is a large chance that I won't accomplish all of these goals. But I might as well make the list so I have some purpose. And it will give me things to blog about. 

Random story: at Zerger Christmas, the wife of one of my second cousins (complicated enough relationship for you?!) asked me how many kids I have that I blog about. Umm... none. So what do I blog about?! My house and dog and life in general. Pretty much random stuff that, some days, I can't believe anyone other than my Grandma is interested enough to read. 

But my disbelief that you would want to read it does not negate my gratitude that you take time to.

So... that was pretty irrelevant. Back to the list. I even divided it into some handy categories. And now I'll explain some of it.

The Joys of Home Ownership

*completely finish chair rail and quarter round in DR/LR - after about 2.5 years of having hardwoods, we finally got all the trim pieces up. Now we need to punch in the nails and fill the holes. That's all.

*replace carpet in bedrooms - while this depends largely on our tax refund (yep, we're those people who go for the big check), we will have lived with dog-pee-stained carpet in the bedrooms for three years. While it is not nearly as bad as the living room's carpet was (see the link above), I never knew what I could live with until we bought this house. But, for various reasons, it's time for us to invent in some nice, soft, unstained carpet. 

*refinish deck - it just needs a good sanding, rinsing, and a coat or two of stain/sealer... pretty sure this hasn't been done since its 1998 construction.

*paint exterior of house - this is probably one of the top five "least likely to happen" items on the list, but we're dreaming big this year. Brad thinks gray with white trim would look really good with our maroon bricks. 

*paint master bedroom & bathroom - the day we moved in, our moms and my dad painted this room. Let's just say that I will never again paint a room without trying samples on the wall for a few days. In my bedroom beige isn't supposed to have a pink tint. The bathroom is the only room in the house that still hasn't been painted.

Creativity

*strip organ stool - After working on this off and on all last summer, I can safely say that this is the #1 "least likely to happen" item. But hey... might as well throw it on here. 

*recover rocking chair (& finish replaced rocker?) - I love the fact that I have my great-great-grandmother's rocking chair. Heck... I love the fact that it's still in one piece, regardless of who has it. But the burlap-esque seat cover just isn't my style. I found the perfect fabric to recover it... but $50/yard is a little over my budget. I'll keep looking. It has had one of the rockers replaced, so I might try to stain it to match the rest of the rocker. Or maybe not. 

*take pictures of downtown Augusta in the evening (need to re-do since they were lost in computer issues of July 2011) - I did this last year. It was fun. But then they were lost in cyberspace.

*have a booth at the church craft bazaar (November 2012) - again... top 5 "least likely to happen." I'm just not sure people want to buy what I have to sell, for profitable prices. Maybe it's worth a shot, anyway?

*handmade Christmas 2012 - I've already started a list of what to make for whom. ;) 

Organized-ness

*sort/purge what college papers are left - I probably no longer need my entire English Education portfolio. Right?!

*clear more clutter - "spring and fall cleaning" - I like getting rid of stuff. Especially if I can sell it on craigslist.

Other
*graduate - aka finish my MLS (December 2012) - This one is pretty much beyond my control. I can finish IF the classes I need to take are offered in the fall. Otherwise, it's May for me. Ugh...

*practice piano consistently: learn one song per nine weeks (during school year), one song per month (summer)

*re-read Flannery O'Connor - I don't know why this popped into my head. It just did, so I decided to honor that thought.


*make our own laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaner - the laundry detergent is actually slated for this weekend. I'll keep you posted. Ha. 

So there you have it. My long personal list of goals for 2012, complete with explanations you neither wanted nor needed. Congrats on making it through the whole post... If I had one, I'd promise a prize. Maybe next time.

What are your goals and resolutions? 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

part two: Grandma's quilt

My other Christmas project this year was for my Grandma Lu.

When they sold their old house, I tried my best to help her rid her life of fabric scraps, with one goal in mind: make Grandma a quilt. She's made so many quilts and wall hangings for others, but she doesn't make many for herself, and not many have made them for her.

So, when I saw the piles and piles and boxes of fabric, I knew that it would be perfect: a scrappy quilt made for Grandma from her own scraps. (Little did I know that I barely made a dent, and she has a whole closet full of scraps in her new house.)

I enlisted the help of my family, sending them fabric to cut into squares. Everybody who received a package sent it back, in nice, neat sections. And, I would be remiss to not mention the fact that I kind of left it, mostly pieced, at my mom's house. She pretty much finished it, including the border and binding (inbetween which she found someone to machine quilt it, so that it would be finished for Christmas 2011, not Christmas 2020). But she said it was okay because she used to do the same thing to her mom. Somehow I doubt that.



Grandma's reaction...

It's so much fun to give people things you make. My goal for 2012: a handmade Christmas. We'll see... If anyone has great gift ideas for a wide range of recipients, let me know.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

stuff I made


Jeff's Christmas present, modeled by Brad. It was sooooo easy! I don't remember where I found the directions, though.

tshirt scarf for me.... directions are here. 

No sewing was involved, just good scissors, a few tshirts, stretching, looping, and tying.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

So live

I memorized this, the last stanza of "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant, my junior year of high school. The words still come back to me at times, and it seems particularly appropriate at this time of year, when resolutions and growth and change are on the minds of most all of us.

 So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.