April 24, 2015

The Smartest Kids in the World (kind of a book review)

I wrote this post like a week ago.  I am up at 5am today and getting ready for Friday which, though Friday, is always a tough day to muscle through because students usually shut down on Thursday around 1pm.  I don't want to give the wrong impression here:  I did not write this post last night or just now. The only thing I used my computer for on Thursday night was a Pilates workout.  I would have used it for Netflix, but Netflix pops up on the t.v. thankyouverymuch.  

I have very mixed feelings on this book because it's written by a non-educator and someone who believes she has nothing to say about the field of education so she's not sure how she came to be writing the book in the first place.  I find this troubling just because we have enough educators who seem to believe they do have things to say about the field of education...and they still don't know what they're talking about.

This book covers a wide variety of potential problems with the American education system and I do have a vested interest in the topics.  If I were to continue on in the field of education, my goal would be to eventually work with curriculum, designing it or training teachers on it.  Our problem isn't curriculum.  We say that curriculum is our issue as textbook companies pander to schools claiming their product will raise test scores...but that's not the issue (none of that is in the book...it's just a fact).

Some information that IS in the book:

+American parents are seen as cheerleaders and not coaches.  Kids need coaches when it comes to education, not just cheerleaders.

+Along the same lines, there is no correlation between involved/volunteer-oriented parents and high-performing students.

+Sports are not a part of school in other parts of the world.  They are completely extra and not affiliated with the schools.  School is for school.

+Kids in Korea go to school all day and all night.  It is their job.  They don't go home at 4pm to play video games or football.

+Teachers are chosen based on their test scores.  The highest performing students in school become the future teachers. The students who graduate at the top of their classes will be the teachers.  That just makes sense if you think about it.

+Other countries don't have a greater respect for teachers necessarily (a long-held argument in the education community).  They have a greater respect for learning, which leads to very qualified teachers.

+The highest performing countries don't separate their students into leveled groups.  There's no low, middle, high.  Research has shown that the younger kids are when they are separated, the worse it is.  If you keep kids together, being taught the same material at the same level, they have a higher rate of success.  The example in the book was that the exchange student was "tracked" in 3rd grade in Gettysburg School District in Pennsylvania.  Now?  Kids are separated into groups in kindergarten.

As I was reading this book, I tried to think back. My parents never asked about homework, unless I didn't know how to do it and then there were painful hours at the kitchen table.  They never asked specifics; they just assumed I was learning.  And I was because I had a tendency to do well.  They probably met each of my teachers once, if that.  There were no conferences.

However, when it comes to the smartest people being teachers...there's an example in this book about a math teacher from Oklahoma.  He never took calculus or any higher level math, yet he became a math teacher.  He became a math teacher specifically because the school needed a coach and he wanted to be a coach and this was two-birds-with-one-stone.  That would never happen in other countries.

This example hits close to home because I decided in 11th grade that I was going to be an elementary teacher.  It'd always been on the table for me, but I knew that I wasn't good at higher-level math and I wanted to be successful in college, so I went the teaching route.  I knew that I wouldn't have to take calculus in college this way.  It was pure strategy.  In high school, I barely made it through trigonometry (I had a football coach for a teacher and he wasn't much of a teacher), and I was failing calculus my senior year.  In January of my senior year, I begged the counselor to let me drop calculus.  I was failing it, it would hurt my GPA, and I didn't need it.  I'd already been accepted to Penn State for elementary education.  It was a waste of my time and the teacher's time and there were only like 6 kids in the class to begin with.  It's interesting that I don't even remember what my parents thought factoring into my decision.  It was totally mine. I probably explained it away somehow, but the moral here is that because my guidance counselor was an idiot, she let me drop it. There should have been a study group or I should've sought extra help.  But because calculus was completely optional at my high school, those structures weren't put into place.  No one cared.  I ended up with an extra study hall for my last year of high school.  The only classes required of seniors at my school were English and Economics.  I also took a bonehead version of psychology/sociology and then band.  It was a horribly boring year.

Actually, junior-high and high school was really just a place that I went to sit from 7:30 to 2:30 every day so I could go to soccer practice or band practice or drama club at the end of the day.  Having a long list of extra curricular activities was my only real goal because the kids with the longest list were considered the most successful in my community.

I sat around and read for pleasure most of my senior year, yet I still graduated 6th in my class. I never took Chemistry II, physics, or calculus.  I did take AP Biology, but it was shockingly easy and we spent a lot of time doing word searches.  How could that even be allowed to happen?  Ridiculous.  There was no rigor or hard work involved.  It was too easy.  This is probably why I'm so hard on my students.  They need to be held accountable for more.

When I got to college, I worked much, much harder than I ever had in high school.  I had the natural tendency to do so though, so I was successful.  I was a planner and a scheduler and a participator.  It worked out for me.  I graduated with a 3.94 GPA.  Others from my high school didn't always fare so well though because my high school was not known for preparing students for college.

Some people have a natural tendency to do well and work hard.  Some don't.  The difference between our educational system and that in other countries seems to be that we don't enforce rigor and hard work as much.  If we increase the value of education and learning, we might get more life-long learners.  That's what the other countries are doing.

A question on a recent test and the kid who answered it in a way that blew me away. I told him I was going to frame it.

April 23, 2015

Hair stuff (Stuff and Things 4/23)

I got my hair cut in February of 2014 in Missouri.  Then again in October of 2014 in Colorado.  Then again in January 2015.  Then, I swore that I was going to get like 4-5 inches chopped off as soon as Scott deployed because I immediately regretted not getting more cut off in January.  Plus, Scott likes my long hair.  Now, Scott actually shaves his head, so he can't really make a case about hair. Plus, I know he doesn't really care.  But my grand plan was to get a bunch chopped off, enjoy the ease of shorter hair care (shorter drying time, etc) while he was gone and then it'd be longer when he got back.  Again, not that he REALLY cares.  But I try to be all considerate and everything because all I ever wear are gym shorts or sweatpants and spend all my time reading stuff online and sometimes I feel like I duped him when it comes to the getting dressed up and going out often thing (Sometimes "going out" means putting on a clean sweatshirt, you know?)

Then we had a snowstorm every weekend for like 3 weeks in February/March so I never made it to the salon.  Then I started thinking...I like long hair in the summer.  Because my hair has a natural wave, it's more pronounced the longer it is.  And if it's wavy, I can slap some pomade in when it's wet and just go on an 85 degree day and I don't even have to glance in the direction of the blow dryer.  So I want it to be long for summer for this reason and it's almost summer.  Then I had this quirky thought that I want to get my hair cut before I turn 30 so I can prove to myself that I don't always need to have long hair as some sort of youthful cushion (my hair has been longer at 26 through 29 than it ever was when I was 19 or 20) and then I can let it grow again and all will be well and I will have proven to myself that I don't NEED long hair.

This is why I thought about putting off a haircut for the next 6 months.

Also, I bought this sticky stuff to put on tree trunks to trap moths and I was spreading it on our trees last week and I got some in my hair.

The next day on Skype, me with wet hair:

Scott: Why did you wash your hair if you're going to the gym?
Me: I wasn't going to but I got Tanglefoot in it and figured I'd better get it out before it destroys my hair.
Scott:....are you serious?

So there was almost an emergency trip to the salon anyway.  Or at least Fantastic Sam's to repair damage.  Don't worry.  It all came out.

Then, last week,  I got annoyed by the perceived scraggliness.  Doesn't it always happen that as soon as you start thinking about a haircut, you notice how badly you NEED a haircut?  That was me all last week.

This is shorter...and kinda flat. I'm not sure if I like the way they blow dry it straight.

So I got a haircut.  I pretty much just said, "What should I do with it?" because I have a specific person that I go to at a real salon now.  At the end, my hair looked FABULOUS (Thanks April!), but she said I seemed disappointed.  I wasn't disappointed in my hair, I was disappointed in myself for being such a chicken.  Though, I was waffling over the idea of cutting off 4 inches instead of 2 and she persuaded me to keep it longer (You're welcome, Scott).

Also, the whole salon thing: I didn't plan it that way.  I was given $200 in Veda salon gift cards last fall, so I started going there and...now I can't stop.  There might have been at least one massage mixed in with the 3 haircuts I've gotten there...

April 21, 2015

Morning Rituals (with coffee, of course!)

Last summer, I wrote about my coffee habits.  They're still pretty much the same.  I have decided that I'm an Americano drinker and that lattes are fewer and farther between because sometimes they're just too sweet.  When Wayfair asked if I'd share my morning coffee ritual for their #CoffeeMyWay campaign, I was happy to revisit the topic. 

My mornings start inhumanely early.

First, we could talk about how a certain ginger-dog will wake me up at any time between 2am and 5am because he "needs" to go outside.  He just likes to go out and sniff around because he's bored in the middle of the night.

Second, my alarm goes off at 5am.  You see, I have to leave for work at 7am.  Half an hour of my morning time is usually eaten up by playing with the dogs and feeding them.  I feel bad for locking them up all day so I try to amuse them a bit in the mornings.
Another half hour would be me getting ready.

The hour portion of that 2 hour window would be me sipping coffee, eating breakfast, watching the news, and just relaxing before a busy day ahead.

I know it's strange, but I can't just get up and go in the morning.  I used to back when I was in high school and college, and even my first year of teaching.  But now I know that my days aren't really my own because I'm held to a pretty rigid schedule from 7am when I leave the house to 4:30pm when I get home from work.  I don't get a chance to relax or run errands or just be, so I've adapted to becoming a lark (a term from Gretchen Rubin's book) and getting up early so I can fit that time in.

We bought our Keurig in November of 2011 and I love it.  I couldn't see us ever going another way.  In fact, I'm not even sure how to use a regular coffee pot.  I never measure it out correctly. I don't pre-set the Keurig, but I fire it up as soon as I get out of bed.

My favorite mug is this Penn State one that I got around the time we bought the Keurig.  We had two but one broke in the dishwasher.  I care more about the structure of the mug (big, heavy ones are best) than what's actually on the mug. I own prettier ones, but this has been my favorite so far. Odd, right?

My preferred coffee these days is Dunkin Donuts K-cups. To be honest, the first thing I do after I add a tablespoon of Coldstone Sweet Cream creamer to my coffee is sit down at my laptop to see if there's an email from Scott.  Isn't that kind of sad?  But 'tis the life we live I guess.  Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't.  Regardless, I browse through this or that online or maybe read a chapter of a book while the local news plays in the background.  Checking the weather is a must for me. Then a certain ginger-pup starts whining and that means I need to feed the dogs and start getting ready.

Sometimes I think it's really odd that I've turned into a morning person because this is a recent development, just within the last 3 years.  Before that, I was a get-up-with-just-enough-time-to-get-out-the-door person.  However, I've realized it's now the most relaxing part of the day...here's a day in the life post from last fall.  It's pretty much the same now.

What's your morning ritual?  Where do you drink your coffee or tea?  ASAP in the a.m.?  Or do you wait until you get to work or school? At least once a week, I stop for another drink at Starbucks on the way to school.  

April 20, 2015

Italian Couscous and Weekend Scenes

Recipe challenge, week sixteen.

What a close call.

I almost didn't have a recipe for today.  I made this yesterday and packaged it up to take for lunch this week.

I first discovered Israeli (Pearl) Couscous at Trader Joe's in Los Angeles a few years ago.  I stuffed my TJ's dry goods into my suitcase and made it once I was back in Alaska.  I did this with it back then.  Adding the pesto makes it extra rich.

I really just love the texture of the pearl couscous.  Sometimes I buy it in the bulk bins (I used to get it at Fred Meyer, now I'll get it at Whole Foods), and this time I just bought a box at Trader Joe's.  It's less than $2 and is the great base for a vegetarian dinner.  Onion, zucchini, or peppers could all be sauteed and added in. A meatless Monday, perhaps?  Also, this is the perfect use for that pesto you made last week.  I mean, I made last week.  I hope you made it too.

Italian Couscous
serves 4-6 as a side dish

1 box pearl couscous (or 2 cups, dry)
1 3/4 cups water or chicken stock
12-15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
Olive oil
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1/2 cup shredded parmesan or mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs for garnish (optional)

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with oil.  Add the sliced garlic and tomatoes.  Cook until the garlic just starts to brown.  Remove to a plate. Add in the dry couscous.  Coat it with olive oil and toast until it's lightly browned. Add in the water or chicken stock.  Cook and stir over medium heat until all the water is absorbed.  It takes about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and garlic back in and then stir in the pesto.  Top with cheese and herbs.  Add salt/pepper if needed.


My weekend passed uneventfully.  Honestly, most are uneventful right now.  But that's okay.  I have a job that requires me to talk and be "on" all day long, so I welcome the break to just be.

I got a haircut.  This is a whole long story thing.  I'll probably explain later in the week because this was indeed the only exciting part of my weekend. 

Except for the hailstorm.  Scout, in the aftermath.  

The cloud that dropped the hail, moving onto Colorado Springs.

I'm reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  It is fantastic and I'm moving slowly through it because I'm marking pages and highlighting passages.  Highly recommend. 

Things I didn't do include grade papers or clean the bathrooms. 

April 17, 2015

How to budget...without a budget

Earlier this week when it was 70 degrees.  It's snowing today.
(All these clothes are old.)

Regarding budgeting...No budget.  I don't have one.  We have jobs.  We live within our means.  I don't even have a credit card actually.  Scott has one and since he makes most of the major purchases, like for the remodeling materials, he uses that and gets rewards points.  Aside from groceries, gas, etc, I honestly try to just watch what I'm spending and once in awhile I'll keep track of receipts just to see if I can find any trends.  Because, let's face it, we all go through periods where we buyallthestuff.  Sometimes it's nice to just take a step back.

1.  I'm really bad at pre-planning things I want/need to buy.  I can't say "$50 of fun money" and be done with it.  I know a couple who gives themselves each $50 of fun money a week (doesn't that seem like a lot?). I just generally wait until I really want something in order to buy it.  Plus, if an opportunity arises, sometimes you don't want to pass it up.  Plus, sometimes we need things.   If I can't stop thinking about it, I know I should buy it. I'm not an impulse buyer, really, so I generally don't budget things out.  I just justify them based on the idea that Hey, I didn't buy x, y, and z because I didn't really need those things anyway.  I do feel that I need this purse, and I haven't bought one in at least 6 months, so...

2. I set regulations for myself anyway (personal rules). For example, a few weeks ago, I had a coupon for the Athleta store in Lone Tree.  I like Athleta but they are expensive.  I figured I'd amuse myself on a Sunday afternoon by driving to Denver and maybe get a spring jacket or pair of tights or something.  However, on that Friday, Jett had an "accident" (or I did, depending on how you look at it) and I had to take him to the emergency vet.  That was $91.  I figured my karma-related punishment for being careless was now not getting to spend that $91 at Athleta.  Does that make sense?  I mean, we have to have rules we live by right?  Personal rules are important. How else could society function if we don't hold ourselves accountable (oh wait...)?  So I don't believe in pre-budgeting for shopping trips, but I do believe in balancing out what I'm spending.  Tit for tat.

3.  I don't eat out by myself.  Like, ever.  Scott and I eat out together once every week or two, but I never eat out by myself.  And I don't pick food up either.  I mean, once in a great while I'll grab Panera or something, but not often.  I have this thing where I think I have food at home that's already been paid for. 
I go to Starbucks.  That's my vice.

4. I rarely impulse-buy.  Or if I do, it's something I need or have immediate use for.  I think that moving every couple of years has kept me pretty honest in the regard of how much stuff we own.  I don't like packing up my stuff and moving it.  Less stuff equals less work.  But I do buy things that aren't on my list.  I'm terrible at sticking to a list. I always have a purpose for what I buy though.  I was at Target last week and saw a bottle of the Bona Hardwood floor cleaner I use for $9.99.  A nice big refill bottle.  It wasn't on my list, but I'd made a mental note that I would need to stock up again soon.  So I bought it.  Total impulse buy, but necessary too. The last thing I impulse-bought and now regret was a table runner at Target for $5 last summer.  It was on clearance and was yellow and gray and so pretty...and it goes with nothing else in our kitchen, living room, or either bedroom.  Talk about $5 wasted.  In my defense, I bought it with the idea that it would match the new kitchen when it was finished and the colors don't quite go now that it is finished.
I suppose my point here is that I'm not worried about breaking the bank over a pair of $150 shoes I find on a whim and just have to have.  Because that would never happen.  I'm too much of a control freak.

So that's my strategy that's not really a strategy.

Do you have any budgeting tricks or tips?  

April 16, 2015

Pre-blog Stuff and Things: The St. Louis City Museum

Sometimes making a list of Stuff and Things is more taxing than actually writing about something.

Ha ha.  "Taxing".  Get it?

I would like to throw in that this marks the very first year Scott and I have gotten anything back regarding a tax return.  In the past we've owed money.  This is where my having a job comes back to bite us.  Sure, we have my salary, but since tax laws vary from state to state, we usually have had to pay back what I owe and then that nullifies any return he would get.  This return might be splurged on a vacation.


This week, the reading textbook at school has a non-fiction article on The City Museum in St. Louis.  This prompted me to dig through my pictures to show the students that I'd been there.  Since this was part of my pre-blog life, I don't believe they ever appeared here.

At the end of May 2009, Scott and I got married in a quick ceremony in Pennsylvania and he immediately flew out to Missouri to begin training at Ft. Leonard-Wood.  Since we knew we were moving to Alaska in the fall, I needed to file all the paperwork to become an army dependent.  In reality, this was also my introduction to the army and I could write an entire book on the experience.  Of course, we found ourselves moving back to Ft. Leonard-Wood exactly 4 years later, but you already know all of that.

For the 4th of July weekend in 2009, we went to St. Louis.  We did Six Flags, the zoo, Steak and Shake (twice), and The City Museum.  We agreed that it was perfect for kids, adults, or anyone interested in just about anything.  It was packed on July 4th, but was only $12/person to get in (we were quite poor at the time so that was important) and it was an all-day activity.  I HIGHLY recommend a trip to The City Museum if you are anywhere near St. Louis.

Brown hair and a tan.  Different, right?

A delightfully rainy, humid Missouri day.

It's interesting how things come full-circle, right? Almost 6 years later, reading about the place in a textbook and all. 

April 13, 2015

Basil-Oregano Pesto

We have a random Monday off of school today, so you'll hear no complaints from me.  I need to finish my midterm grades and take the dogs somewhere.  I was thinking one of the nicer dog parks in town since it shouldn't be crowded on a Monday.  Also, I got to sleep in. And I'm still trying to decide what I want to order from Minted.  Something for the dining room wall, maybe?

Recipe challenge, week fifteen.

I have this theory that heaven smells like fresh basil.  I mean, it has to, right?  It wouldn't make sense if it didn't.  The smell of fresh basil is sweet and earthy and absolutely intoxicating.  I've never succeeded at growing my own basil but I've tried 4 years in a row.  That's the no green thumb issue I guess.

I'm fortunate that we live near a Trader Joe's because they have fantastic prices on tubs of fresh basil.  It's like $3 for a tub.  A tub!  Also, at the farmer's market in Old Colorado City in the summer: giant bunches of it for just a couple of dollars.  Perfect for bruschetta and pizza.

Also fortunately, I'm never at a loss for what to do with extra fresh basil.  It'd be a shame to let it go bad, so I make it into pesto.

This is my pesto recipe.  I've combined ideas from other recipes and just kind of figured out what works for me.  This is cheaper than pure basil and pine nut pesto, and it has the extra bonus of the nutrients you get from spinach.  On this day, I had some fresh oregano in the crisper from making this marinara sauce so I added that to the food processor.  Very tasty.

Here's the ingredients:

Of note:
This basil isn't from TJ's. It was more than $3 and was from Safeway but that's what I had. 
You need citrus.  I had no lemon, so I used lime and I couldn't tell a difference.
I use pecans or walnuts, depending on what I have on hand.  Pine nuts are too expensive for my taste.
I use shredded parmesan because blocks of parmesan are also too expensive for my taste. 
I did use that whole bag of spinach.

Basil-Oregano Pesto
makes about 3 cups

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
2-3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1 10 oz. bag fresh spinach
1 clove garlic
1 handful pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 T. fresh lemon or lime juice
Olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

In a food processor, put in the basil, oregano, garlic, citrus juice, and half the spinach.  Pulse until blended.  

Add the nuts.  Blend again.

Add the cheese.  Blend again.  Then add the rest of the spinach and stream in the olive oil while blending until it comes together.  

I also freeze this in containers or freezer bags, but I serve it with noodles (or on pizza) with extra cheese.

April 12, 2015

Minted Art

I know that most of you are familiar with Minted.  It's a great site for ordering cards, announcements, and invitations.  However, now Minted is offering a wider variety of products, including art!

Since we've still got plenty of blank walls in this house we're remodeling, I'm always looking for inspiration for home decor.

Right now, Minted has a wide variety of wall art to choose from.

This handy filter lets you narrow down your choices and then each selection can be customized by letting you choose your frame color, paper, and size.  I love that you can choose what size you'd like because I like to put framed prints on tables or shelves. Sometimes you just want an accent to dress things up. 

Here's my wish list:

Gorgeous, right?  I also love that these are by artists from around the country and Minted tells you who actually created the art you're going to have in your house.  

Also, there are Photo Art gifts that can be personalized.  
I'm pretty sure I could find a use for these states on our walls.

It'd be neat to have one for each state we've lived in.

And, look, different sizes for these too.  I really like that option.

Which of these would you choose?  I'm having trouble deciding!

I've been compensated for this post by Minted but, of course, all opinions are my own :)

April 10, 2015

March Books

#14 The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff C-
This book was like one big facepalm.  That's really the only way I can describe it.  I listened to it via Audible and, if I would've had the book version, I would've skimmed a lot of it.
I think it would make a nice Hallmark movie.  I kept visualizing the setting, but parts of it were boring, other parts were causing me second-hand embarrassment, and then there were a lot of implausibilities in the story.  For example, the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939.  So, in December 1940, they would've been hanging around Poland.  Americans had not yet entered the war.  HOWEVER, I do believe that it is possible that scouting missions would have been sent and American soldiers (functioning as spies) would have been in Europe keeping an eye on things.  HOWEVER, I do not for a single second believe that they would have sent 18 year old just-out-of-basic-training soldiers.  Therefore, I don't really know what Sam would have been doing in Poland anyway.  This is like the kind of work we have Navy Seals doing these days.  A group of privates from Ft. Benning would not be sent to kill Bin Laden.  That was my main issue with the book.
I started reading reviews and spoilers online because I wanted to know the ratio of time well-spent vs. time wasted if I was going to be finishing the book.  I kept turning it off and listening to the radio instead.  Otherwise, I would've finished this thing in February.
There was something about the ending that rubbed me the wrong way.  It was a good idea for a book...it just wasn't put together well.  The first 11 hours moved v.e.r.y. slowly and then all of a sudden, it was over.

#15 The Ghost in the Little House by William Holtz D-
I bought this book on Amazon over a year ago and have been meaning to read it ever since.
It was awful.  Like reading a textbook.  First of all, my opinion is not that of the author's; I do not believe that Rose Wilder Lane was a ghost-writer of the Little House books.  I believe she edited and provided guidance.  Of course, you'd never know that the author's opinion was "Rose wrote the books" because he uses so much flowery language and beats around the bush for days.  I don't believe he ever actually states what it is that he believes.  Annoying.
I had a college professor like that once.  Talked for days on end about nothing. It doesn't surprise me that Holtz is a college professor.
Also, we all know Rose was bitter and deprived and neglected (?) in every way, shape, and form.  Or do we?  I think that she developed a complex from being an only child and had too much time to think.  She wasn't challenged in school and she just believed differently than her parents about a lot of things.  There's nothing wrong with that, except that she took every opportunity to lament about it in journals and letters (of which this biography is comprised).  Rose needed a blog.
I mentioned that I don't really like her, and I still feel that way.  I liked the first few chapters but it was impossibly hard to understand what was supposed to be going on.  Rose's own journals and letters were as tough to decipher as Holtz's writing. I read a book about Rose (directed to the 12 and under crowd) a few years back and it was done autobiography-style. She didn't write it, but it was from her point of view.  It went through her adult life from about 17 to 30.  Most of my base knowledge on Rose comes from that (do not remember the name...) and the LIW Museum in Mansfield.
I'm only giving The Ghost in the Little House a D- (instead of an F) because I like the subject matter.  Also, I was forced to skim a lot of it because it was dull.  D for dull.

#16 Leaving Time Jodi Picoult A-
Since people, as a whole, won't stop reading this author's books, I decided I'd see what the big deal was.  I got this on audiobook at the library.

I was shocked that I enjoyed it.  I could've done without the elephant-talk.  Alice's passages in the first half of the book were kind of boring.  I really liked the way it was told from 4 different points of view, by 4 different narrators. I would tell you who the narrators are but one of my biggest pet peeves is a book review that is really a summary, so you can look that up.

There were a few parts that drove me nuts.  Every time Alice started her narration with "In Kenya" or "In Zambia" or "Elephants...", all I heard was "This one time at band camp..." because she never stopped talking about elephants and their behaviors.  I tuned all that out.
I will also say that Jodi Picoult loves her similes.  They never stopped.

All in all, I really did enjoy the story.  The twist at the end got me, though I slightly suspected it.  Don't worry.  No spoilers from me.

#17 The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport C+
I found this on a recommendation list after I read The Family Romanov.  If I had not read The Family Romanov before I tried to read The Romanov Sisters, I would've been completely lost instead of kinda lost.  It wasn't a terrible book, and was well-organized enough (chronologically), but I did lose interest after a certain point.  The first 1/4 of the book was pretty good.  There were so many places and names and cousins and soldiers and whatnot.  It's hard to keep everyone straight.  So if you have a deep, invested interest in the Romanov family, you should read this.  If not, and you'd just like to expand your content knowledge, try The Family Romanov.
Also, as some people pointed out on Goodreads, it completely glosses over their deaths.  If this was your introduction to the Romanovs, you'd have no idea what happened to them.  It just ends.  No epilogue.  Nothing.

#18 Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan A
Many people said this book wasn't as good as Jim's first book, Dad is Fat.  I didn't though because I didn't read Dad is Fat and I wasn't into the idea of reading an autobiography of Jim Gaffigan.  I picked up this book because it's about food and it's funny.
And really, it's funny.  I was laughing as I read it and I finished it in two days.  So many of his observations were absolutely spot-on.  A must-read for anyone who likes food.

#19 The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin B
I had heard of this book at some point and the Ft. Carson library is such a shed that anytime I see a halfway-palatable audiobook, I snatch it up.  That's how I ended up listening to this story.
It was okay.  If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you may be frustrated with the characters in this book (Cora is no Lady Mary), but you will at least understand what is going on.  For example, I knew what a "dower house" was and I knew the difference between a butler and a footman.  The second half of the book was better than the first half.

This is like Gossip Girl meets Downton and there's a bit of a Blair and Chuck thing going on there (hiding behind a story about Blair and Louis).  I recommend it for that reason, if for nothing else. And then maybe a bit of a 50 Shades thing in how the Duke treats Cora.  He's gloomy, moody, and dark.

#20 The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley B
This book was written by a non-educator and someone who brags about not wanting to write about education.  She thinks it's "boring".  Well, I kind of think she's uninformed in the way she writes about education in this book...BUT I read it specifically to find out what it was like for the 3 American exchange students who went to South Korea, Poland, and Finland.  I'm writing a separate review because I have many opinions on education.

Also, I tried to read One More Thing by B.J. Novak and I just couldn't do it. I kinda get what he was trying to do, writing a collection of short stories but it's not my kind of book.  I thought it'd be more of a memoir and it wasn't at all.  I really thought it'd be like Adam Carolla's book or Tina Fey's.  Definitely wasn't.

If I could recommend one book from this list to you, it would be Food: A Love Story.  Everyone should read it.

Linking up with Jana and Steph!

April 9, 2015

Stuff and Things 4/9

+I knew doing this map was a familiar process.  I made one back in November for this post.  The difference between the two was that I included airport layovers on the first one.  Since then, I've decided that doesn't count.  33 states is still the count.

+I found myself stress-shopping at 6am yesterday.  Online, of course.  A few things from Aerie and then I only needed to spend $23 more to get free shipping.  Pay $7 for shipping and get nothing for it?  Or add something to the cart and get it for "free"?  I had no trouble finding a few more things.  The dollar count ended at $50.44 so it's not like I went crazy.

+Fun fact:  If I'm going to online shop, it usually happens between 6 and 7am.  It's most likely related to "I have to go to work. I'm going to buy these things to make myself feel better."

+I bought this dress at Kohl's back in August, wore it once in September, and then pulled it out again this week.  Quite poofy but very comfy.  And pockets.  All dresses should have pockets.

Dress: Apt. 9 from Kohl's 

And let's be honest. This is what that picture really looked like.

+I ordered this dress from the Gap last week and it was practically identical to the one I have (in that picture), and it added like 20 pounds.  It was not as flattering as that picture makes it believe. And the zipper kept getting stuck.  Back to the Gap it went.

Happy almost Friday!

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