Monday, December 31, 2012

Moment of Truth: 2012 Goals Wrap-Up

Well, here we are--mere hours away from 2013. So, to honor the passing year, I decided to do a little accountability check to see how well I did with this year's resolutions. If you want to check the original post, you can find it here. Or you cou can read how I was doing near the mid-point right here.

Goal #1: Run a marathon.

Matt and I successfully ran the Salt Lake Marathon together on April 21st (finishing hand-in-hand, as you can see) in 4:34:49. So as for my first goal, I'd say I blew it out of the water (considering that my only real goal was to actually finish). If you'd like to read more about it, check that post out here.

Goal #2: Read double of what I did last year, which translates to 38 books.

I tried hard on this one--I really did. But I lost my focus a bit in the summer (when I had the most time), and so I fell quite a bit short. I'm currently sitting at 23 books for the year, although I'm extremely close to finishing 4 more. So even though I didn't quite hit the original goal of 38, I'm still feeling pretty good about this one (especially since I read more than last year, and many of the books were dense classics).

Goal #3: Go to the temple every month.

If you do the exact calculations on this one, I think there was one (possibly two) months that we missed. But there were several months where we went multiple times (I think there was one month we went 5-6 times), so I'd say that we met this goal. However you calculate it though, we did WORLDS better than how we did the year before. (If you'd like to learn more about LDS temples, you can read more about them here.)

Goal #4: Have people over to dinner every other month.

I kind of stopped keeping track of this one halfway through since we seemed to just kind of integrate this into our lifestyle. I would say that on most months we invited people over, although sometimes it was just for dessert instead of a full dinner. But, since the purpose of this was to make friends and be more social, I'd say we definitely reached this goal too.

Goal #5: Finish typing up my mission journals.

I managed to go full-steam-ahead on the first journal, knocking it away in about three months, but then I forgot that I'd set a goal to finish typing up ALL of them . . . so I still have two to go. Oops.

Goal #6: Do the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

Um, as my students say--epic fail. I didn't even attempt this one this year. However, I do plan to incorporate writing into my resolutions for 2013, although I'm not sure if it will be this particular challenge

Summary: So even though I only fully or partially completed five out of the six resolutions, I feel like I've made HUGE strides this year--I turned into a runner, I learned how to do family history, I knocked several books off of my life's to-read list that I'd been putting off for years (like Great Expectations and the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo), I graduated from college, I landed my first teaching job, and I've formed some awesome new friendships. So 2012, I'd have to say you were a phenomenal success.

Can't wait to see what the new year brings us!

P.S. If you want to see a sneak peek at one of the (HUGE) goals I'm taking on next year, check out my guest post on this adorable blog today.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book #23: Looking for Alaska

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
# of Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
I actually finished this book awhile ago, but between all the Christmas parties and traveling, I haven't had much time for posting. I bought this book when our local Borders was going out of business, and if I'm being honest, I largely bought it because it had that prize-winning sticker on the cover. What can I say? If I know I'm going to get to cross it off one of my recommended reading lists, I'm sold. (It also helped that it was half off.)
Looking for Alaska is the story of Miles "Pudge" Halter, a sixteen-year-old who feels his life has been one great ball of nothing-ness. Concerned by his lack of social life, Miles's parents send him off to a private boarding school in Alabama, where Miles hopes to experience "The Great Perhaps" spoken of by Rabelais. While at the school, he meets the brilliant and breathtaking Alaska Young, who is destined to change him forever. Unfortunately for Miles, he doesn't realize just how much she's going to change everything he ever knew . . . or believed.
While Looking for Alaska could hardly be categorized as a feel-good novel, it did have a poignant message of friendship, adventure, and growing up that was further developed by Miles's obsession with people's last words, which added a surprising depth to a novel that was often riddled with more shallow topics. But I will say this--although I rather liked the concept of the story (and thought the themes in it quite beautiful and heart-stirring), I absolutely despised all the crude language I had to muddle through to get to it. I was embarrassed to think that this book was written for teenagers because a lot of the language and the events really bothered me as an adult, even though I'm well past my teenage naivety. Therefore, even though the basic plotline was lovely, I could hardly recommend this in good faith to anyone due to the rest of its content.
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Announcement: The 50 Weeks to Organized Project

Happy New Year, everyone! Well, almost.

With 2013 just hours away, my biggest New Year's resolution ever is looming over my head:

The goal to become organized.

Last year, my goal was to run my first marathon. Even though that was probably the hardest thing I've ever done up to this point, I'm pretty sure that this whole getting-organized business is going to be about 10 times harder.

You see, it's not in my nature to be organized--it's in my nature to deposit various bits of clutter in every corner of the house and sweep it off into stacks in some remote corner whenever company comes.

So this is a Big Deal for me.

The breakdown of my goal is going to look like this:

Each week, I'm going to focus on a small checklist of things centered around one particular area of our home (such as the kitchen or bathroom). I'll post the checklist that I intend to complete each week, and then I'll follow up the next week with my report.

I'm calling it "50 Weeks to  Organized," and I hope you'll follow along.

Each week, I'll post pictures of my progress [and failures], as well as the tally of items I managed to toss that week (since part of my goal in this whole thing is to simplify, simplify, simplify).

My sub-goal in all this is to toss 500 things before Dec. 31 of next year.

So, if you're like me and need a big kick in the you-know-where to get going on the organization/simplification of your own home, make sure to follow along.

And a very happy new year to you, too!

New Christmas Tradition - Friend Party

You know that group of friends that you've had forever: the ones you can go months--even years-- without seeing, and still have lots to talk about? That group that you know you'll be friends with forever, even when life throws you curve balls and takes you separate ways?

Well, my friend group like that is always saying that we should get together more often (and not just at each other's weddings)--we're always talking about meeting up and grabbing lunch, or having a little party to check out each other's new digs. Up til this year, that was mostly just a lot of talk and not a lot of action.

Life has a funny way of getting in the way of our good intentions.

But despite life's funny ways, this year we actually decided to do something about it.

Mara and hubby Jae were nice enough to open their new home to the craziness that would be a friend reunion.

All us girls brought different breakfast items to share, including the makings for a full crepe bar and lots of sausage and bacon for us meat lovers.

Everyone (hubbies included) brought white elephant gifts to trade.

I don't think white elephant gift exchanges ever get old--I mean, check out Sam (above) decked out in all his "bling."

Priceless, really.

I'm so thankful to have grown up with these good people for most of my life.

I'm also thankful that they're better at planning things than I am.

Already looking forward to next year, guys!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Accidental Christmas Traditions

I don't know how other newlyweds handle their first couple of Christmases, but I'll tell you how we did: we meticulously planned out every tiny little detail of how we would spend our Christmases together so that we could start many fabulous traditions that we would enjoy for years and years to come.


What really happened was this: last year, we seemed to stumble upon some Christmas-y things (by a fluke, mind you) that were actually so lovely that we ended up solidifying them into "traditions" by doing them again this year.

For example, my boss last year gave me a smoked turkey as a Christmas bonus, and we ended up making a feast out of it and having our own little fancy Christmas dinner.

This year, we didn't get any turkey, but we did buy a pot roast, light up some candles, and invite over the neighbors for a little Christmas feast. We would usually follow up the dinner with a Christmas movie, but this year, we decided to spend it playing games with those same neighbors instead.

Only two years in, and I already adore the fancy feast tradition.

Another accidental tradition is that Matt and I, due to the fact that we live about 90 minutes away from our folks and didn't want to open our personal gifts to each other in front of our whole family, have had our own little Christmas celebration early (in our own little apartment), just the two of us, a few days before Christmas day.

Even though people are always incredulous that we open up all our gifts before Christmas day, I love the quiet time spent together in our own home, where we're free to fully enjoy playing Santa to each other.

I wouldn't change it for the world.

Lastly, you see that little red book up there in Matt's hand? This is a semi-accidental tradition; you see, for Christmas last year, I had written a letter to Matt every other day or so for about 3 months, and then I gave him the book last Christmas. Since I wanted to do something special for him this year too, I decided to just add a letter and photos to the book (which I hadn't quite filled up). I plan to add a letter to it each year.

What accidental Christmas traditions do you celebrate?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twas The Day After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house,
Not a Torrie was stirring, not even her spouse.
The presents, unwrapped, were strewn all around,
The laundry and garbage were all in a mound.
And Torrie, all wiped from a long Christmas day,
Rejoiced in her innards as she heard an elf say,
"I've come here to grant you some wishes--say three--
Like 'mopping the floor' or 'packing the tree,'"
Then Torrie laughed and clapped her dry little hands,
"I must sit here and write my list of demands!"
Then the wee elf--named Matt--said to her with a snap,
Just kidding--I'm taking a long winter's nap.

Okay, enough rhyming.

The real end of the story?

We put in our new seasons of Seinfeld, popped a bag of popcorn in our new microwave (which, miraculously, actually popped all the kernels), and decided to do nothing until we absolutely have to.

But, just to leave you for a few things to look forward to, I have a TON of posts scheduled for these next several days to come (including a complete coverage of all Christmas festivities as well as my upcoming New Year's resolutions).

But for now, I'm going to do nothing.

And enjoy it most heartily.

How are you spending the day after Christmas?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Card

Between all the parties we'll be attending, the hot cocoa we'll be sipping, and the naps we'll [hopefully] be taking, there won't be too much time for the blog until after Christmas. But, to send you off on a happy holiday note, here is the Christmas card we would have sent, had I actually taken the time to print it out.

We hope you make this Christmas the merriest ever---may the joy of this season fill you and yours with love during this special time and all year round.

The Meidells

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book #22: Life of Pi

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
# of Pages: 336
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Survival

Okay, so the fact that this book has recently been made into a movie may have been a large part of the reason why I decided that now was the perfect time to finally read it. I'm telling ya, I think I have a seriously problem--it's like I just can't stand to be out of the loop on anything. (That must stem back from my days as an awkward, unpopular middle schooler. Or maybe I'll just permanently be in that mindset now that I'm teaching at one). The fact is, I picked this book up years ago when it first started flickering onto my "popular books radar," but I had never even read the back of it to find out what it was about.

So imagine my surprise when I discover that it's a book about a lone shipwreck survivor who is now waiting out his time on a lifeboat--along with a Bengal tiger, orangutan, hyena, and zebra. Pretty bizarre premise, right? When I first started reading the story, it took a little while for me to get into it. I liked how the book started out by saying, "I have a story that will make you believe in God"--I'm a sucker for a good spiritual twist--and I was intrigued by the fact that the main character followed the precepts of the Islam, Hindu, and Christian faiths. But when the book really started taking off for me, though, was the part when he was left stranded on the lifeboat.

I've never been a huge survival book junkie (although I won't say that I've ever disliked the genre, either), but I will say, Life of Pi is no run-of-the-mill survival story. It is packed with rich layers of meaning (not to mention eerily bizarre events), and the ending made my head spin. For anyone who has already read it, you'll understand what I mean when I say I couldn't stop thinking, "Well is it? Or isn't it?"
But here's a more straightforward summary:

Pi Patel, a teenage boy growing up in India, is the son of a zookeeper whose fortunes are going the wrong way. Just as Pi is discovering himself in the various religions of the world, his family announces that they are all uprooting and moving to Canada. While Pi feels torn about the matter, he doesn't have much choice either way, so he boards the Japanese ship that will carry them (along with a bunch of his father's zoo animals) to their new home. When disaster strikes and the ship sinks, Pi suddenly finds himself clinging to life on a small lifeboat. But he is not alone, for on the other side of the boat, hiding under the benches, he sees it---a 450-pound Bengal tiger.What follows is his miraculous tale of survival, a story that will indeed "make you believe in God."

Intrigued? You should be. This book is unlike anything I've ever read before, and even though the premise is so crazy it's almost laughable, somehow Martel makes it all seem as real as your eyes reading this screen right now. And even though all the religions play a more subtle role in this book than I thought they would, it is still clear from the beginning until the end--this tale of survival is nothing short of a divinely-wraught miracle. And actually, unless I misunderstood the endnote, it seems that this book was based on a real story.


Go read it---you won't regret it!

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5). The only thing I'm marking it down for was that some parts were a little icky for my taste. But apparently, if you watch shows like Animal Planet (like my husband), you'll get through them just fine.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Double Surprise

So I came home yesterday to these lovely beauts (that's pronounced b-yoots for you people who aren't familiar with slang abbreviations I make up on the spot).

This is exactly (well, more or less) how the conversation went down as I walked in the door:

Matt: "Honey, these are for you" [whipping out the flowers from behind his back and looking particularly handsome]
Me: "Oh, sweetheart! They're so beautiful! I can't believe you actually remembered that today is the two-year anniversary from when you first proposed!"
Matt: "Uh, no. Is that today? That would have been a really nice move on my part."
Me: "So then why the flowers?"
Matt: "I just wanted to get you flowers for Christmas to show you how wonderful I think you are."


He gets serious man points for that.

Even if he did forget what day it was.

P.S. The only reason I actually even remembered the significance of the day was because another blogger happened to also be celebrating her "two-year engagement-versary." And while I was reading through her post, I thought to myself, "Wait . . .what day is it? What day did we engaged? Hmmm . . ."

True story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All

*Today marks two years exactly from the day when Matt and I got engaged. He proposed to me after the MoTab Christmas concert, in the parking lot of our favorite Leatherby's. It was a rainy and romantic night, and I don't think I've stopped smiling since. Love you, honey!

*For any girl who has been engaged, remember how you can't stop looking down at your ring every two seconds and admiring it? Well, I still find myself doing that a lot. Especially when I'm zoning out in class while my kids are silently working on something. I actually still get quite a few comments from people about how much they like it, which makes me happy. All I know is that I wanted something small and that didn't stick out too far or cost a lot of money, and we ended up finding the perfect ring. (In case you're curious, there's a picture of my ring here).

*I have the most wicked sore throat today. I guess that's what happens when you find yourself singing for almost an hour straight on Sunday, and then you follow it up with the continuous reading aloud of A Christmas Carol in your classes. Basically I'm in crunch mode--I'm supposed to finish the book by this Friday, but we're just about two-thirds through (and it's taken us a month to get to this point). So basically I'm just straight up reading to my kids for the entire hour every day this week. Luckily, most of them seem to really like it. Or at least tolerate it without complaint.

*So I'm teaching a study skills class, and you know what I've figured out? I'm not a good pusher. By that, I mean I'm not good at forcing people to do stuff they really don't want to do. I'll try to help the students to see the importance of it and all, and I try to maintain the most efficient workplace I can, but in the end, if they're just going to sit there and only work when I walk by and remind them to, I don't push it. Not my style. So, if you're a pusher, you should give me some tips.

*I've desperately wanted to go out running for a couple weeks now, but it seems that every time I'm generally  motivated to do so, I get sick. What is up with that?

*Speaking of being kind of sick, I had a kid in my 5th hour who asked me yesterday, "Why did you change your voice? It sounds funny." Everybody else in the class got a kick out of it. I just growled at him like a man-beast. Just kidding.

*Even though I've been trying semi-valiantly to eat more vegetables and fruits (a minimum of 35 a week, a goal I've been gloriously failing at), I think I might have to hold off on keeping myself accountable for that particular goal until January. I mean really---every single day, I have a faculty room loaded with fudges and cheese balls and cookies and things filled with cream. What's a girl to do?

*Reason #1393 for why it's awesome to be a teacher: apparently, a lot of your students will bring in Christmas gifts for you. Not a day has gone by this week that I haven't received stuff. It's pretty  much amazing, and it makes me feel like I should be on my best behavior all the time.

*Speaking of gifts from students, one girl wrote me a little note thanking me for everything I've taught her, and then she writes, "And P.S. thank you for giving me a four on my book project." Bless her heart--saying it like that makes it seem like I only give 4's to my favorites or something.

*Which I don't. Just to clarify.

*Speaking of favorites, all the 7th grade math classes made waffles with the students today to teach them about fractions. I read aloud to my students for almost 55 minutes straight. Yeah, math definitely won out as the favorite class for the day.

*And I didn't even get a waffle. Sad deal.

*I finished Life of Pi the other night, and I'm super excited to post about it. Has anyone gone to see that movie yet? Is it any good?

*Truth: I have only done half of my Christmas shopping. And most of that shopping was done on Black Friday. I've avoided most stores like the plague ever since. Are you finished with yours? Please say no, so I can feel less like a slacker. Procrastinators love company, you know--it helps us in our rationalization process.

*Okay, I'm heading outta here (I'm at the school, currently). Hope you have a stellar Tuesday filled with lots of ridiculously exciting happenings.

Peace out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Empty Desks in Connecticut

This morning, all of us teachers were instructed to teach  our students the drill for what to do if an active shooter should start going through the school.

As I saw the frightened, unsure looks on their 12- and 13-year-old faces, I could hardly bear it.

Being a teacher makes you part of the larger world of education, so everything having to do with schools hits home a little more, you could say.

Like so many, my heartfelt prayers are going out to all those families and community members in Connecticut who were affected by this terrible event. This whole tragedy shed a lot of light on one of my main responsibilities as an educator: to protect my students.

I thank my Heavenly Father for teachers and administrators such as those in Connecticut, who truly show by their love and example what it means to be a hero.

May the Lord be with their families during this difficult time.

Christmas Music Traditions

In years past, I will admit to having been a big of a Scroogette when it came to some things about Christmas, such as Walmart playing Christmas music soon after Halloween or hearing the song "Holly Jolly Christmas" over and over again on the radio. And while I'll admit that I still don't particularly love Holly Jolly Christmas, I have changed my attitude about Christmas in a lot of other respects.

Last Saturday, Matt and I were able to go to the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas concert again (this has become a favorite tradition of ours for awhile now--in fact, two years ago, Matt proposed to me after the MoTab Christmas concert in the parking lot of our favorite eatery--Leatherby's--which we also eat at after this event every year).

As the unearthly beauty of the music washed over me in the Conference Center, I felt a deep gratitude for the rich musical heritage my parents have given me--so many of my students make fun of the arts or just don't participate in them, and I'm so grateful that I grew up going to choir concerts and musicals and ballets. Truly, my Christmas would not be complete without a generous sampling of stunning choir numbers and some good old fashioned Christmas caroling. It made me think of all the Christmas musical traditions I've participated in over the years: the midnight organ show at a Salt Lake church on Christmas Eve, a family from Bountiful who put on a bell show every December, singing in show choirs all around town, going to the Nutcracker with my mom and sisters . . . and each day, but especially today, I find myself especially grateful for the gift of hearing and the gift of sound.

We were happy to be joined this year by our friends Mike and Ashtin, who just got married last summer (see that post here). We all went out to eat at Leatherby's, where we were also joined by friends Kayla and Sam (who also got married this summer, incidentally).

I'm so grateful too that I have always had friends who appreciate the arts as well.

Side note: when guest artist Alfie Boe sang "Bring Him Home," I totally teared up.

It was seriously that amazing.

And it made me over-the-top excited for the Les Miserables movie coming out on Christmas Day.

What a happy season this is already shaping up to be :)

What Christmas music traditions did you have growing up? Or which do you currently have?

Friday, December 14, 2012

This Being the Reason I Need a Break

Have you been on a middle school bus lately?

It's LOUD. And HOT.

And it smells slightly like corn chips and wet snow boots.

Trust me, I know--I had to spend over an hour on one today, just me and 68 kids.

The entire way back to the school, they were yelling (I won't even say singing) Christmas carols at the top of their precious little lungs.

Thank goodness it's Friday.

Did you have to ride the bus in middle school? Was it always this bad?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What's Your Reading Comfort Zone?

In trying to keep up on my professional skills, I've started reading Nancie Atwell's In the Middle, which is basically a how-to guide for teaching middle schoolers. Something she talks about in that book is your "reading territories," which is nothing more or less than those genres or types of books or authors that you find yourself coming back to over and over again--your reading comfort zone, if you will.

The more I stopped to think about this, the more I realized how much these comfort zones can define us as readers (and as people).

Take my husband, for example--his reading comfort zone is fantasy. And lots of it. I've tried and tried to get him to "branch out" and read other stuff (aka, my stuff), and although he's semi-willingly obliged me a few times, he still returns over and over again to his fantasy favorites. I attribute this to the fact that he's much more imaginative than me (and to the fact that he has somehow held onto his childlike wonder, whereas my dad has been telling me since I was six that I was a middle-aged soul stuck in a child's body).

So I decided to sit down and figure out what my own reading territories are--those genres and authors and subjects I keep coming back to again and again.

Here we go--my reading comfort zones:

*Any book on a recommended reading list, especially classics. This is my most obvious comfort zone--if somebody semi-reliable has recommended it, I am willing to read it. Sadly, the opposite also holds true--if a book is not on any one of my lists, I hesitate to read it because it means I won't get the satisfaction at the end of getting to check that book off of one of the pages and pages of reading lists that I keep in my filing cabinet. Plus I've found that generally, books that have been recommended really are worth reading.

*Popular fiction (aka, the "tight-knit reading club of America" that I talk about here). Basically, if everyone's talking about a book, I can't bear to be left out of the loop. Except The Da Vinci Code. Somehow I just never jumped on that train.

*MAGAZINES. It should be no secret to any regular reader of my blog that I have a major magazine addiction. Although, even with magazines, I still have my preferred territories, such as fashion, style, cooking, gardening, home decor, entertaining, and women's interest/lifestyle. My current can't-wait-until-it-comes obsession? Country Living.

*Self-help books, especially those having to do with money, relationships, or goal-setting (like Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover or Stephen Covey's 7 Habits books).

*Cookbooks. Here's another area where I have a major problem (I have too many cookbooks and no space to put them). I adore getting new cookbooks, and I will often spend hours "reading" cookbooks. I know--weird.

*Books on writing--how to improve it, why we do it, ways to get started, etc.etc.

*Young adult fiction. This is about the only fiction genre that I regularly read books from where the books don't have to be on a recommended list. I have whole shelves that are dedicated to just young adult fiction (some favorites authors: Markus Zusak, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Joan Bauer).

*LDS non-fiction books (with some C.S. Lewis mixed in there for good measure).

*Poetry. I have SCADS of poetry anthologies all over the house, and whenever I'm in a particularly pensive mood, nothing makes me more content than snuggling up to a good poem (except maybe a fresh roll or a piece of good chocolate).

I'm sure there are more, but these are my main staples.

What are your reading territories? Do you share any of mine?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Here's What's Cooking . . . Pepperoni Pan Pizza

Despite my best intentions, Matt and I don't *always* eat super healthy. My very favorite non-healthy thing to make is this amazing recipe for pepperoni pizza that I got from Taste of Home's Prize-Winning Recipes 2007 (pretty much the greatest cookbook of all time). What I particularly like about it is that it includes a recipe for a divinely delicious homemade sauce that takes the pizza from ordinary to extraordinary.

You know you wanna try it.

Don't worry--I won't tell on you :)

Pepperoni Pan Pizza

2-3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, marjoram, and thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 package (3.5 oz) sliced pepperoni
5 cups shredded part-skim mozzarrella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese (sometimes I skip out on this one)

In s mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, and salt. Add water and oil; beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine tomatoes, tomato paste, oil and seasonings.

Divide dough in half; press each portion into a 15-in. X 10-in. X 1-in. baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Prick dough generously with a fork. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-16 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Spread sauce over each crust; top with pepperoni and cheeses. Bake 8-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Cut into squares.

Yield: 2 pizzas

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All

*Good news, friends: I found the David Archuleta c.d. last night while rooting through that messy closet again. And guess what else I found? A little gem of a book (made by the American Girl company, who else?) that I had filled out in 4th grade. Check out my life aspiration (above). Pretty good, eh? Eh?

*Matt and I just got back from Texas Roadhouse, where we were celebrating him finishing up his stats final, which has been stressing him out for weeks. Hurrah for the end of the semester (almost)!

*Matt also had a job interview today for a little part-time gig at the university, and I'm really, REALLY hoping he gets it. Keep your fingers crossed for us and think positive job-offerish thoughts, k?

*I went and saw The Forgotten Carols last Friday by myself and had another "duh" moment (I've been having a lot of those lately). Apparently The Forgotten Carols is a musical--for some crazy reason, I was thinking that all the songs would just be performed by one singer as a solo vocal concert, or maybe by a whole choir. I've been familiar with a lot of the songs for years, but I just never had known about the storyline. It just goes to show that life is determined to show me that you're never too old to feel like an idiot.

*So it's been a week of crazy happenings in my classroom: yesterday, there was a big commotion in my 3rd hour when a kid sat down on his chair and it broke and another big commotion in my 5th hour when a boy somehow toppled right over his desk and chair and landed face first on the floor. Then today, a girl comes up to me with her face and arms all covered in blood and asks if she can go to the bathroom due to a heavy nosebleed. What next? A rowdy dog running into my room? A projector falling from the ceiling? A surprise visit from Mr. Archuleta himself?

*Today I was having a conversation with a coworker about how I wish I could have registered for all our wedding stuff AFTER being married for a year or two. I mean, I didn't really actually KNOW what I wanted, and I didn't have any sense of what kind of style I liked for a home. And now that I actually do have a pretty good idea of what I like, I'm way too poor to buy it. Ah, the irony.

*Here's another little gem from my ten-year-old self about all that was trendy way back when. I mean, Airwalks? I had to remind myself of what those were and look them up just now. Guess I'm just behind on my old school factoids.

*So I found this new blog I'm totally obsessed with called French Country Cottage. It's part of the reason why I'm having all these wishful thoughts about the kinds of home things I would ask for now. You should check it out.

*Apparently, when you have enough pictures on your blog, Picasa Web Albums tells you that you have to either delete some of your blog's pictures or pay a monthly fee. So now I have to pay $2.49 a month because I'm not willing to tamper with my blog. Can I get a resounding "LAAAAAME" from the crowd?

*I already know pretty much what my New Year's Resolutions are. And what's totally silly is that I basically am forcing myself to wait until January to start them. My reasoning? I'll be much more likely to stick to them once the craziness of the holiday season is past. But know this: I'm really excited to blog about some of them. Hopefully some of you will want to join me along the way so that we can progress together. Do you already know what some of your goals are going to be?

*My 7th graders have their very first dance coming up, and I think they're kinda freaking out. So, in my efforts to be the coolest teacher ever, I'm officially taking class time the day of the dance to assure that all of my students know a couple kick-butt dance moves. This should be interesting.

*At the school, there's this awesome tradition called "The 10 Days of Christmas," where different faculty members sign up on different days to bring in treats/snacks to the faculty lounge. We're only on Day 2, and I'm already in heaven: fudge, barbecued meatballs, cheese fondue . . . yes, please! Does your work have any cool Christmas traditions?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Recall of Worst Housewife of the Year Award?


a couple weekends back, I ran across this book on organizing during one of my escape trips to Barnes & Noble (you'd be surprised at how often those trips seem to happen).

I felt so inspired that I ended up ordering the book from Amazon a few days later and, in my frenzy of excitement over the matter, decided to try and get a headstart on the whole Get-Organized ordeal.

Actually, what really started the whole business was the fact that I wanted to find the David Archuleta Christmas c.d. that Matt gave me two years ago, so I could stop being a Scrooge and get into the holiday music spirit already. So Saturday afternoon found me tip-toeing through the wrapping paper and food storage littering the floor in our spare bedroom until I came face to face with The Beast (aka, our closet).

Sadly, the picture above is the AFTER picture.

True story.

What I'm really trying to say is that I spent almost four hours this weekend going through zillions of boxes of who-knows-what, and I still didn't find my c.d.

But I DID find a one-dollar bill.

So I guess it was all worth it in the end, if you think about it.

Please tell me you have a spare room in your house that's as bad as ours.

Or worse.

That would for sure make me feel better about life :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Card Rejects

Even though these are the pictures that didn't make the cut to put on our Christmas card (which may or may not be a theoretical concept as of now--it all depends on how my energy levels are feeling in about a week), I still liked 'em enough to share.

Funny story: we had originally planned on going to West Bountiful pond to take the pictures (which is where we took our engagements, actually), but there were so many unexpected fun little places on the way there that we never ended up going.

Oh well. At least this way we won't get the two photo sessions confused since we pretty much look the same (except that Matt has facial hair and I've lost 10 pounds).

Stay tuned to see our online Christmas card in a couple weeks, which will be graced with the winning shot :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Procrastination Inventory

This trimester, I started teaching a Study Skills class, which is a fancy name for a class where I basically babysit all the kids who aren't doing their work. I am trying to teach them some life skills too though (in addition to just making them do their homework every day), and this week we've been talking all about procrastination.

They say that the best teachers are the ones learning right along with their students, and let me tell ya--I have learned a LOT about myself over the course of this week.

I always knew I had a problem with procrastination--I never took it quite to the extreme of these particular students (because I actually turn everything in on time), but I literally wait until almost the last possible minute to do almost everything: papers, phone calls, grading, cleaning . . . you name it, I put it off.

Or so I thought.

The survey up there is one that I filled out right alongside my kids, and it was a real eye-opener for me. Turns out, I DON'T procrastinate everything--in fact, some things I'm very good at taking care of right away (like anything to do with our finances). And some of the things that I put check marks by were things I didn't even REALIZE I was putting off--like developing my hobbies/talents or severing an unsatisfying relationship.

I figured that to help my students fix the problem, they first had to recognize that there WAS a problem.

Guess I needed to take some of my own advice.

Later on (probably next week--I'll put it off until then), I'll be posting about how I plan to actually start tackling my procrastination problem.

In the meantime, I'm curious as to how you'd answer the survey. If the one up there is too itty-bitty for you, you'll find a link to it here.

What surprised you most?

Book #21: Bless Me, Ultima

Title: Bless Me, Ultima
Author: Rudolfo Anaya
# of Pages: 290
Genre: Modern Classic (Coming-of-Age)

I feel like this has been the year of no more procastination when it comes to reading--I've owned most of the books I've read so far this year for a long time, but I just kept putting them off and putting them off because other titles seemed more immediately tantalizing. Granted, it's probably because most of them are classics, and for the most part, those are generally the hardest to get into (and the hardest to make it through).

They're also usually the most worthwhile.

Bless Me, Ultima is a modern classic about Antonio Marez, who is just six years old when a woman of healing herbs and earth magic--the curandera, Ultima--comes to live with his family. Under Ultima's gentle hand, Antonio begins to experience the joys and pains of growing up and trying to find his place in the world. Antonio has long been divided between two fates--his mother wants  him to follow her side, the Lunas, and become a priest, or a farmer. His father, a vaquero (cowboy), wants his son to become a man of the desert and raise cattle. After experiencing death, sorrow, spiritual enlightenment (and unenlightenment), Antonio ultimately learns that he is the master of his own fate, and it doesn't always mean doing what others expect of you.

For starters, I loved the rich language of this book--I usually prefer reading authors who speak another language in addition to English because their prose tends to be much more poetic and metaphorical. Bless Me, Ultima is beautifully written, full of sumptuous details and vivid dreams, and the familiar thread of a bildungsroman (coming-of-age story) definitely hit home for me--I found myself thinking of my own growing experiences as I read and worked through Antonio's.

However, this book is not for the faint of heart--Antonio sees many images--real and dreamed--that are disturbing on multiple levels. Much of the subject matter is depressing, and I spent half the book feeling sorry for the kid. But what makes this such a classic is that all readers can relate to the often difficult experience of encountering "adult" experiences for the first time and finding their niche in the world. And, through it all, Ultima's wise voice rises above all the tragedy to speak pearls of wisdom that are pertinent to all ages.

My Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All

*I'm still working on doing a post that shows some of the pics we took at our mini photo shoot with Matt's mom. I particularly loved several by this door because it looks like our clothes were color-coordinated to match it. Pretty tricky, eh? I'm hoping to choose a good one and mail it out on a holiday card of some sort, but we'll see if that happens. Do you send out holiday cards?

*As you'll notice from these pictures, Matt participated in No-Shave November. Historically, I've been a bit anti-facial-hair, but after seeing how handsomely Matt pulls off his goatee, I've grown a little attached to it. So much so that I didn't cringe in the slightest when he told me that he's not going to shave it after all now that the month is over. Who woulda thunk?

*K, little side comment on the purposely bad grammar in that last sentence: ever since becoming a Language Arts teacher, I have noticed that there has been a dramatic increase in people saying things like, "Don't judge me on my grammar, English teacher" or "I probably didn't say that right, did I?" Let me settle something once and for all, people--I don't really care if you don't speak (or write) perfectly all the time  (esp. because heaven knows I don't speak perfectly all the time). So for crying out loud, leave us English teachers alone already!

*P.S. You can stop asking me the definition of everything, too. It just makes me look bad when I don't know the answer :)

*In the spirit of defending myself, let me just clarify a couple things about the whole me-not-knowing-my-nephew's-name. You see, when everyone else was calling him Boh-dee, Matt and I just thought they were giving him a cutesy nickname. And my family, whenever Matt and I were calling him Bode, thought that WE were giving him a cutesy nickname. Plus we never actually heard anyone TELL us what the name was originally--we had only received it over text. So really, if you think about it, this is just one more sign that we all text entirely too much and that we really should pull an old-fashioned move and call each other on the phone more. Just sayin'.

*It's officially beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here (anyone else hate that Christmas song? Maybe I'm just a Scrooge). In addition to finally getting our tree up, we've cleared off the t.v. top to house our nativities, and I even made room in my magazine display rack to show off some beautiful Christmas picture books that my aunt gave us. In fact, I was feeling so very festive after all that was done that I actually took the time to string Christmas lights all up and down our banister. Call it overkill, but I think it's kind of cute.

*In the Grocery Bingo game last Saturday, Matt and I totally landed the Nutella. Now that's just awesome. Especially since the last time I ate Nutella was down in El Salvador, and it cost me about $7/jar (no joke). So free Nutella? Simply delightful.

*Saturday morning, Matt and I played a little basketball with our friends Kayla and Sam. Let's just say that it's highly amusing to watch four competitive adults who have not played basketball in a LONG time all go at each other. I'm surprised no one lost any teeth. Although we might have all lost a little bit of our pride...

*I'm reading A Christmas Carol to my students, and every day, I'm sure that I'm going to lose my voice. I mean, YOU try reading aloud for hours and hours every day--it takes a toll on ya. But the kids are liking it, and I'm reminded again and again why it's such a classic. If you haven't given it a chance yet, try it out this year--it's some of the best 120 pages you'll ever read.

*So I'm looking for some good (inexpensive) gifts that I can give to the neighbors for Christmas. Any ideas?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ms. Auntie Space Case

So, embarrassing true story: yesterday, Matt and I had the pleasure of attending the baby blessing of this sweet little guy  (my nephew). Well, when he was born two months ago, my sister sent out a mass text telling us his name, weight, and so forth. The text said that his name was Bode, so immediately in my head, I thought it was going to be pronounced like abode, but without the 'a' in front. So all this time, Matt and I have been going around telling everyone about Bode and wiggling our fingers in front of his face and saying, "Oh, Bode, you cute little thing, you!"

Until yesterday, during one of these finger-wiggling moments, when my mother finally had to correct me, "Hello! His name is Bod-EE, NOT Bode."

Therefore, I did, in fact, just learn my nephew's real name yesterday, after only two months.

Hello, space case.

In other news, we had our huge extended-family Christmas party on Saturday, and somehow, Matt seemed to always be found with all the kids. It got to the point that if I didn't know where he had disappeared to, I would just have to follow the noise of screaming and yelling and giggling children down the hall, and there he would be, right in the middle of it all.

The instigator.

Among the festivitites was a book exchange for the kids, a raucous game of Christmas Song Pictionary (too funny!), and a rousing game of Grocery Bingo.

Now, Grocery Bingo is really quite a brilliant idea. If you need a great Christmas party game, check this out:

You play Bingo like normal, but instead of prizes, you get to pick a grocery item off of the table in the middle. And, to make it more interesting, we combined it with the rules of White Elephant, which meant that items could be traded 3 times before they were "frozen."

Fun for all ages, people.

Have you gone to any holiday parties yet? Any fun group games you would recommend?
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