Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[good job, Christine, now shut up about the damn cake]

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1. I actually watched two movies this weekend- a miracle! We took Sawyer to see LEGO Batman in the theater (fun) and then Scott and I watched The Edge of Seventeen (so great- I kept comparing myself to the teacher... at least in some ways) at home. I've met my quota for the month.

2. Cake update (because I am sure you're all dying to know)! I made the Milk Bar Birthday Cake and followed the recipe to the letter and it turned out perfectly (ifIdosaysomyself). The baking part was easy enough, but the assembly got a little tricky with the acetate sheets. Once I figured out how to make a sort of column of plastic it went really well. 

3. I'm reading Ready Player One so that I can give it an honest recommendation to my students and I can definitely say that I am not the target demographic. I am starting to get into it, though! You can't help but to root for Wade. 

4. I realized something recently: I have to give myself my own pep talks. Everyone in my life is so used to me being "fine, good, ready for the weekend!" or has their own issues. The problem with self-sufficiency? You get used to not asking for help and the people around you get used to not helping. Anyway, I had some coffee and said "self, get it together" and was better. Just a super fun observation. 

5. Hey! I am going to Vegas this weekend! FINALLY! I am taking my mom to see Cher and we're staying at the fancy Cosmopolitan for the night and having dinner at Caesar's, so I think it will be super fun.

6. I've been suffering from some hip pain after sitting for stretches of time that exceed twenty or so minutes for years, but lately it's gotten worse (probably because of the running). I stretch it out daily, but no dice. I want to go to the doctor, but I am guessing the resulting treatment will be time with a physical therapist, which I literally cannot work into my schedule (I have to pick my son up right after work and there is no way I can take a toddler to PT). It's frustrating and I'll just continue to hobble around and complain (and maybe figure out foam rolling-?). 

7. Last weekend the three of us went up to UCLA for a women's basketball game (only $8 a ticket!?!) and then wandered around the UCLA/Westwood area for a little bit. Because of the holiday weekend we lucked out with ZERO traffic- we made it through 132 miles round trip of So Cal freeways without getting stuck at all. A miracle.

Making Life (Slightly) Easier

My mission in life is to be as productive as possible. I mean sure, more than anything I want to raise a good kid, stay married, keep my job, and be relatively healthy, but aside from that I have to be honest. I want to do all the stuff in an efficient manner so that I can have time to do things I really love. So, over the past few months I've been really trying to assess how I can be... better. September-December of last year had some really stressful moments, many of which were brought about by that "having too much to do" feeling. So, here are some things, some little and some big, that have helped me at work and at home (caution: this is a little bit... Good Housekeeping-ish at points... sorry if you'e twenty and not into laundry):

Grading Calendar- I have talked about this before, but it has been the biggest lifesaver of them all. Every 4-6 weeks I print out a blank grid with boxes Monday-Friday and one for the weekend. As I collect assignments I realistically assign myself slots to grade everything, being mindful of busy weekends, time I can work in class (like if my students are writing), etc... I am incredibly list-oriented, so I love being able to mark off finished assignments and the competitive part of me (which is a really, really big part...) gets excited to *gasp* cross things off for the next day. This has also made me more mindful of my assigning, too.  

White Socks and Two Loads/Day- I do a shit-ton of laundry, which is probably surprising considering there are only three of us. I am part of the problem- every single day I have my work clothes and either lounge/work out clothes when I get home. Plus all the other house-related stuff. One thing I did to make things easy was get Sawyer all white socks when he was ready to move up a size. I'm not kidding when I say this makes things so much easier. I also make myself do two loads a day- gone are my laundry marathons on weekend (who wants to spend hours doing laundry on a Sunday? Not I). 

Two-a-Days: There is a lot of mixed feelings about doubling up on workouts and I sort of hesitated before sharing. I just started this last week and I only plan on doing it maybe twice a week, running a few miles after work when Sawyer is up and a few after he goes to bed, that way I can get in some more mileage. It's not like I plan on running ten and then ten more... more like 2.5 and 2.5. It's just so hard on weekdays to get in substantial runs, so I'm going to try this until my 10k a least.

Disposable Table Cloths: I love that Sawyer loves paint, markers, and Playdoh, but I hate the mess. I've been buying super cheap plastic table cloths and cutting them in fourths and taping them down to the table when he gets crafts. Clean up is a total breeze and the $2 a mont is worth it.

Throwing Out Leftovers: While I am admitting to wasteful (but so helpful) habits, here's another: if I know that I'm not taking it for lunch or it's something my husband doesn't love I throw out leftovers. I try not to cook in excess to begin with, but sometimes we have extra. And let's be honest- some things are gross second (or third) day. And cleaning up said things after a week of inevitably sitting in the fridge is even worse.  

No More AM Multi-Tasking: There is a twenty-five minute period of time in the morning where I am usually alone (from 5:55-6:20,before I wake up Sawyer and after hair/makeup). During this time I have to get my coffee ready, eat breakfast, assemble my lunch (my little bag and ice packs don't go in the fridge the night before), and get Sawyer's breakfast set. I used to try to do everything at once and was left rushed. Now I do one thing at a time, get it all done, and am much happier.

Productivity App- I love this app I shared a month or so ago. I have several habits I need to improve on (vacuuming every-other-day, yoga more often, etc...) set in the app with a schedule in terms of how often I want to do them, and I click when things are complete. I can see how I am doing collectively or by habit. You can also set your phone to send you reminders, but my battery hates things like that. 

The Furminator- If you have a hairy dog that sheds a lot you have to pony up the $40 and get this brush. It's awesome.

The Pomodoro Technique- I love this idea and have used it for years but have really been putting it into use when it comes to working and cleaning. Basically, you set a timer and work for however long and when the times goes off you can take a break for however long you decide (I use a loose variation of it). If you get distracted during the work portion you have to set your timer over and try again. The structure works well because you know that you are going to get a break soon. If I find myself getting too distracted by my phone or whatever else I will even use this idea when reading or running. 

It's the little things... 

Some Books for the Kiddos

A few months ago I did a lengthy post on some books I bought Sawyer related to diversity, acceptance, and general social awareness. Since then he's gotten some other books that I thought I'd pass along, some with a message, and some just plain fun. 

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Ada Twist, Scientist
Iggy Peck, Architect
The only new one from this bunch, actually, is the top title, but these three by Andrea Beaty are absolutely wonderful. These three little kids, all from the same class but with different backgrounds, each follow their STEM-centric dreams, persevere, and work to combine creativity and intellect. They come up with many obstacles and often think about quitting, but instead problem solve and in turn experience at least a little success. The illustrations are fantastically quirky, the writing witty, and the stories endearing.

XO, OX: A Love Story 
This was one of the books we got Sawyer for Valentine's Day and by far the best of the three. Adam Rex writes the story of an ox who is is love with a gazelle, and Scott Campbell illustrates it. Gazelle is obviously a super-busy famous star and doesn't have time for lowly ox- the two go back in forth in a series of letters that had me cracking up. At the heart of the book is a great lesson on appearance vs heart.

I Don't Like Koala 
Sean Ferrell's adorable little story about a boy who changes his mind about a stuff koala is sweet, funny, and fairly short (if you have a squirmy listener that may be important). The story can illicit good conversations about giving people and situations a chance before passing judgement.

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups 
This book by Tadgh Bentley is just plain fun- it's about a little penguin who needs the reader to help scare him to get rid of his hiccups. There's counting, yelling, and a surprise visit by a whale- would could be better for a toddler?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[my drugged-out pup]
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1. I am obsessed with Ritz crackers and putting whatever I can on them. Today for lunch I had a few with vegetable cream cheese, peanut butter, cheese, and tabouleh (not all at the same time). I have been running quite a bit, so I think my body wants salt. 

2. Over the weekend I took Sawyer to a model train show at the local fairgrounds and he LOVED it. He was content doing laps and laps around the place, following trains around the tables. Hobby trains aren't quite my thing, but I do enjoy seeing people who are so incredibly passionate about their interests. 

3. Milk Bar Birthday Cake update: I am waiting for a larger quarter sheet pan, which should arrive tomorrow. This is my last missing item and if everything goes as planned, I will make it TOMORROW NIGHT. Unfortunately, it has to freeze for twelve hours and then thaw about for three more, so I won't be able to eat it until Friday. But still. We're getting there and I am clearly all kinds of excited.

4. Something else I am probably too excited about? Going to see LEGO Batman on Friday. We're taking Sawyer, which I know some might say he's too young for, but whatever.

5. I found Sawyer a daycare that has a kindergarten too, and I could not be more relieved. There are a surprisingly small number of satisfactory secular preschools in our area (no offense to those who do the God thing, but we have concerns), so the whole thing has caused me a great deal of anxiety. We visited the other day and Sawyer loved it, as did I. I am going to put down our deposit and application fee tomorrow so that we are guaranteed a spot for next school year. 

6. Cordie went in for yet another gum growth removal yesterday and per the usual it cost a lot and was really stressful on her. It's a necessary evil, but man I hope she doesn't get anymore. 

A Valentine's Morning at the Beach

Valentine's Day has always been sort of a non-event in our house, but with Sawyer the past few years I am trying to bring it back. I've been wanting to take him to have lunch on the Huntington Beach Pier, at the endearing tourist trap Ruby's, for awhile, so we went today. I am off this week and the weather was perfect, so we lucked out. The lighting was fantastic, between the clouds and winter sun, so I got a few great pictures that I thought I'd share.

Eight Glasses of Lemonade

[... unless the lemon rhymes with Schmonald; source]
If you are tired of hearing about politics or you don't care to be interested, I congratulate you on your privilege (and would like to remind you that shit does roll down hill). If you don't agree with my viewpoints, I shrug my shoulders. If you are from abroad and are having a good laugh over America, I apologize. 

How's that for a preface?

But really, this is a more positive post, I promise. I have lamented on the state of our country on a weekly basis here, but what I have failed to discuss is the good that has come out of the bad. The lemonade people are desperately trying to make out of these horribly sour lemons. So here are some things I am earnestly trying to keep in mind:

1. The judicial system is working hard (well, at least some courts are) to maintain checks and balances.

2. More money than ever is being poured into groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. In fact, during the last weekend in January, the ACLU reported $24 million in online donations, which is more than six time their normal annual support levels. People are putting their money where their mouths are and it's incredible.

3. Two Republicans turned their back on their party to vote against Betsy DeVos- they listened to their constituents. Maybe it will be contagious. 

4. The marches! The protests! All peaceful, public signs of protest that show the administration that things are not okay are positive.

5. People who were uninterested and uniformed prior to the election are now making an effort to better understand and are even become involved. 

6. While there is so much hate and negativity, there's also this background echo of kindness being heard. People are pledging to help those who are underrepresented or without a voice, on small levels and big. 

7. The system is being questioned on many levels- our archaic electoral college, the way the cabinet is chosen, etc...

8. While I knew where most people in my life stand on the Big Issues there were a few that surprised me... for worse. That knowledge is important and I am glad to now have it. 

As always, just a friendly reminder to ACT not just post. I know it's cathartic, venting online or to friends, lord knows I do it, but at the end of the day, it's useless. Even a $5 donation or a letter to a senator can help. 

How to Win at Feminism

There are so many books that fall under the feminism umbrella- memoirs by celebrities, essay collections by literary greats, nonfiction theory texts by academics, and whatever else you can find in that tiny little section at the bookstore. Several months ago I started following The Reductress on Instagram and got a copy of their book How to Win at Feminism: A Definitive Guide to Having it All- And Then Some! for Christmas and enjoyed it. It's a total satire with some serious little gems thrown in, so if you're looking for a true how-to manual this really isn't it, nor is it a comprehensive look at feminism in general. I do think it captured where we are in terms of being pulled in a progressive direction but also the strings that attach many of us to what our mothers and grandmothers practiced (example: I have been answering work email while being home with my kid today, while simultaneously folding laundry and transferring money that I earned into my own savings account). 

Here are a few quotes and whatnot that stood out to me:

"Feminism is multi-factered, with women of many different backgrounds and privileges working together for equality. Although there are several types of feminists, most feminists fall into one of two camps: Beyonce or Taylor Swift" (5). 

"You know when you're sitting alone in a room and you feel a cold breeze on your neck that makes you shudder for just a second, and you ask if anybody else felt it, but nobody did? That's the patriarchy" (25). 

"If you're a white woman, you have a lot to fight for, but you also share a lot of the advantages white men have. This called privilege. Because you have more privilege than a lot of other women, you must use it for good and not evil, while also pulling off a killer outfit to show that helping others is cool" (36). 

"After all, we aren't wearing girdles and cleaning the house anymore. We're wearing Spanx and hiring a cleaning lady. That's feminism!" (88)

"Every woman should strive toward having it all. Why settle for anything less? The dream is readily available for women with courage, and half an ounce of self-respect Not having it all is not only a threat to feminism at large; it also has dangerous repercussions for your personal life as well. Studies have shown that not having it all can lead people to worry about what they'e doing with their live" (95).

"Forgiveness is like little bottles of hotel shampoo- you'll never un out!" (190)

It's definitely not perfect, at occasionally it was a little over-the-top for me and a bit annoying. But as a whole, I thought that the tone and level of distraction was perfect. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I highly recommend following Moomooi on Instagram. She is a beautiful artist that draws women and the illustrates their dresses with flowers. Eye candy at it's finest.

2. I bought this pair of star tights. I just couldn't help it, they're so dang fun. I'm sure they'll come in handy for Vegas. 

3. So, I've been mildly obsessed with making the Milk Bar Birthday Cake since seeing it on Annie's Eats a few years ago. I got the cookbook in the mail last week and am determined to make it. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of things I don't have, in terms of ingredients and tools (citric acid, gelatin, cake rings, etc...). But still, I am going to make it happen. When I get something like this stuck in my mind it doesn't budge. 

4. Last night I made a boysenberry pie for the first time ever, since I've never seen the fruit (albeit canned) in the stores until last week. It turned out delicious! I used my new favorite pie crust and the recipe on the canning company's website and it ended up tasting super similar to the pie place we usually buy it. I love pie baking but don't love the traditional apple and pumpkin ones I normally make, so this made me happy. 

5. I would just like the record to show that I organized my tupperware cupboard over two months ago and it is still perfect. Sawyer clearly has bigger fish to fry, now. 

6. Jane Mount, from the Ideal Bookshelf, designed a piece entitled "Resistance" and it arrived in my mail today. I love it! And her work! 

7. I just started The Wang's vs The World and so far I'm really liking it.

8. This morning I had an epic "Suck it Up, Buttercup" moment. Between Sawyer waking up a few times at ungodly hours lately (thankfully not the norm these days) and some other things going on at work and at home and in the world I just was extremely cranky and unmotivated. Plus, I woke up with a headache, which made me convinced I was getting sick (I am not). It's hard being the mom of a toddler and the teacher of 130+ students when you're not even feeling your own company. But I took an extra lap around campus, had some coffee, and made a list of things to do later in the day so I'd alleviate some stress there. While being a teacher is tough in these situations, it's actually a blessing, too, because in order to be effective and stay on track you just have to keep going. Plus the kids are generally amusing and distracting, which can be enough to send a bad mood packing. 

February, Plus January, Revisited

February, huh? Not so sure how I feel about that... Not that it matters. Not that universe is going to say, "Oh, Christine thinks things are moving too fast? We MUST slow down for her." If only that was the case- if so, I'd have some additional requests. Anyway, for those that are new or are just wondering why I do this every month it's for personal accountability. Plus, I know there might possibly be some nosey folks out there (or ones that like to see how much I end up sucking, haha) and we MUST PLEASE THE PEOPLE.

January's Goals:

1. Stay off the scale: No I was SO good about this until January 26th. This was the longest I have ever gone since I was probably about eleven not weighing myself at least three or four times a week, so while I still didn't officially accomplish this task, I still am proud. I was able to drop a few pounds to start off the year, so that made "failing" a little easier (the Christmas peanut butter balls are gone and more running!).

2. Book mini-vacations: Yes! I booked a hotel at The Cosmopolitan for a night with my mom later this month in Vegas and then three nights at The Tenaya Lodge (my favorite) in Yosemite over spring break for Sawyer and I (my husband has to work, so it's just me and the little guy). I am SO excited for both! We might head back to Vegas for a wedding in April, but I think for that trip we will stay at my in-laws' home, so no booking required.

3. House things: Yup! I have continued working on organizing some things in small chunks, added another print to our floating shelves gallery, and have started looking at rugs. I also had a second opinion out for our HVAC issues.


1. Be 10k ready- I am running a 10k the first weekend in March and should be ready to go. I ran almost four miles straight at a good-for-me pace last weekend, so I think I'm headed in the right direction.

2. Friendly thoughtfulness- There is SO much negativity in my life right now, much of it due to what is happening in the world. I am so thankful to run in circles full of people with similar beliefs, but we're all mad as hell right now and it can be a little damaging to the psyche. So, I want to take some time to send some Valentine's Day cards or little gifts or whatever to friends. 

3. 50 blog comments- This is my biggest area of weakness as a blogger, and I always feels so guilty. You guys write great stuff but because I read posts in blogger while I'm like walking from my classroom to the copy room I don't always respond. I'm trying to be better. 

4. Catch up on grading by break- I am actually in the best grading position I've been in since Sawyer was born, so I want to make sure to hold on to that so I can spend my February break relaxing (yes, that's a thing in our district; our attendance was down so severely between the two Monday holidays that they took a week of our summer and inserted in the middle of this month). A class set of essays would be permissible, but nothing more.   

5. Picture-related tasks- Back up phone, back up computer, do January in my year-in-review book, swap out some of the framed pictures around the house. That's actually four things in one, so advanced back-patting for hopefully doing them all. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[Art of the Brick]

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1. Lately I've really been craving time to read, bake, cross stitch... and run. Obviously those are some of my favorite hobbies, but I think with all the craziness (and rain) of January I've been gravitating towards things that bring me comfort. 

2. PSA: Buy Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. Slice some potatoes, zucchini, onion, and chicken sausage really, really thinly. Saute it all in olive oil and then sprinkle the above seasoning generously and toss in a few lightly scrambled eggs. Healthy and so, so good.

3. Last weekend we drove down to San Diego to see The Art of the Brick exhibit at the Fleet Science Center before it moved on and it was a huge hit with the three of us. Nathan Sawaya is a lawyer-turned-artist and there were over 100 LEGO sculptures to look at. We also spent some time walking around Balboa Park, since it was a perfect 72 degrees.

4. I just stared Roxane Gay's newest short story collection, Difficult Women. So far, so good (not that I had any doubt).

5. Saturday morning we have a sitter lined up so we can have a super hot date DOING OUR TAXES (and no, not like on Full House when Joey told Michelle that the newlyweds Jesse and Rebecca were busy upstairs "doing their taxes." We are sadly going to the accountant). We always get money back, but it's just a pain and a waste of childcare.

6.  I am listening to My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman and I love it so far! I'm a sucker for nonfiction about running, but this one is really good so far (Foreman is a journalist who takes up running with his daughter so they can train for a marathon together). I finished listening to The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher and I'm sad to say it was a little disappointing.