1. Late Monday, after teaching my night class, I decided to watch an episode of the Good Wife instead of returning emails, grading anything or blogging.
2. We only have about 20 hours of recorded television to catch up on now.
3. Today it was barely 70 degrees and now there are a few branches of red leaves.
4. Since this is as close to fall as we seem to get I made a crock-pot full of soup for dinner.
5. Mac's high school football team miraculously made it into playoffs with a 3-7 record, so we'll get a little more cheering this Friday.
It's a four day weekend for Sean which (thankfully) means there is a little project time. This Craigslist dresser has been waiting in the garage for it's makeover since September and I could not be more excited about the finished product.
Granted today I already found the next project idea.
He must REALLY love me or something.
My mom's best friend told me about this recipe years ago and I have rarely made grilled cheese any other way. I made these for a cheer team dinner a few weeks ago, along with a big bacon ranch salad, and decided to take the recipe one step further and saute a few cloves of garlic in some melting butter.
After working on the school bond measure for three months, spending night after night at the phone bank and precinct walking each weekend, I have my fingers crossed for good news tomorrow night.
Over the years, Mac has always walked with us to vote at the fire station around the corner...and he will again tomorrow. However, this time he is a registered voter too.
I have always loved the opportunity to cast my ballot...but have never been this excited.
Happy election day...go vote!
College Gameday...for at least a few minutes. A quick trip to the farmer's market for hummus. Sean ran around in the rain. I made lunch for friends so we could plan our camping trip in a couple weekends. Sean went precinct walking by himself since I had some place I needed to be for a friend from grad school...he went to 115 houses dropping off materials to our supporters reminding them to vote. Sunday was Mac's cousin's (his Dad's sister's youngest daughter) birthday party which meant a super pink wrapped gift, football in the park, watching Mac play games with all the little kids, and too much lumpia. Then a car wash late this afternoon to get all the dirt off from the this weekend's rain.
Halloween...barely. I graded tests while watching the Today Show. I ran some errands and looked longingly at the pile of pumpkins for a minute. I did make some mulled cider to have when we got home from the football game. I stopped by my mom's to see my nephew and nieces...we reminisced about a tiny baby Mac (only around five pounds) taking his first Halloween photos on Grandma's stairs. And the game...it was chilly and even poured down rain for a few minutes...so it ended up being a fun day after all.
Breakfast at my desk...an english muffin and iced coffee. The cheerleaders were going to be in costumes for the football game on Halloween...Mac was going to be a hot dog...then the cheerleaders decided they didn't want to...sadly Mac's hot dog costume went back to Target. Getting mail out of our crooked mailbox with a completely rotted-out base, but we haven't had time yet to fix it and it probably means taking the plant I love around it out. My intro to Sociology students had to develop their own cultures this week...and they made flags to wave in the class as they explained what each group came up with. Mac went to dinner with my mom, so Sean and I had leftovers in front of a little college football. We managed to squeeze in another walk tonight and the sunset was amazing...then we were off to our second to last night of phone banking.
Every morning one of the first things I look at is my Timehop app. This morning it showed that three years ago today we were working on the Mac & Cheese costume. I snuck a photo while my students were taking a test. It's spirit week at Sean's school. Since today was jersey day the high school soccer jersey came out of the closet. I packed myself a little bento lunch...and after teaching for four hours straight and talking to students for an additional hour and a half straight I finally got to eat it. I forgot to make dinner so it was a $5.99 pizza. Today I wore olive green and navy stripes with the comfiest silver shoes. Sean got to see the first inning or so of the World Series before we were off to phone banking and school bond committee meeting.
At 6:48am Sean drops off Mac for a zero period art class at 6:55am. I get to sleep in a little on Tuesdays...and stay in bed for a few minutes watching the Today Show while crocheting. I sent Sean a text about a big idea I had today. Tis the season for letters of recommendation...weird that I am the one writing them. Before class I brush my teeth, scribble in a little extra eyebrow color and tame it all with clear mascara, put on chap-stick and coconut nectar perfume. A quick, blurry shot from the faculty parking lot outside the brand new building I get to teach in this semester. While I was in class Mac and Sean were at the orthodontist for a six month check-up. Sean and I managed to get a walk in after dinner before we both had to be somewhere for the night. Sean took Mac to tumbling...that's him blurry and flipping through the air. I went to work the school bond phone bank...I made eighty-four calls in a little over an hour.
A shower is the only thing that has a chance of waking me up at 6:18am. Leaving for work right before the sun rises. A yogurt snack at my desk in between my three classes all right in a row. Coming home at 1:22pm with my overstuffed work bag, lunch bag, pile of mail and Starbucks. Cutting a million pieces of paper...treats for my students and holdiay progressive dinner invitations for my neighbors. Mac's pile on the floor when he gets home from school. Cheesy chicken and rice for dinner. Sitting on the couch for a minute while dinner cooks. My outfit today...I change into pajamas when I get home in the afternoon, but get right back into work clothes to teach my night class.
Way back on our honeymoon in August 1999 I bought a little Halloween decoration for the front table in our apartment...super excited about all the holidays ahead in our family's future. Fifteen years later the little welcome witch still makes it way out of the storage box this time of year. This time it's on our mantle with a few other decorations and the pumpkin lights that are usually on our front porch.
For the first time ever we won't be home to host a pizza party and go trick-or-treating. Mac has his last home game on Halloween, so I have been hesitant to decorate the front porch because I hate the idea of it being all cute & glowing without us being there to hand out candy and drink lots of apple cider.
At least we can enjoy a cute, glowing mantle...and maybe still sip some hot apple cider when we get home from the game.
Tuesday and Thursday mornings I am home in the mornings before teaching a class at the community college in the afternoons. Often this means I am scrubbing down the kitchen sink, cleaning the counters, and wiping down the fridge (our new-ish stainless steel fridge is my cleaning nemesis). I used to always microwave the sponges we have to keep them clean, but the boiling hot water coming out of them was tricky and if you waited for it to cool, it kind of defeated the purpose of cleaning it.
This summer I came up with a super fancy sponge cleaner. Vinegar in a squeeze bottle from Target. I squeeze out the sponges really well, fill them with vinegar and let them sit for awhile...done.
This is the stuff...one of the best recipes I've got. A friend gave it to me back in 2006 and I have made it for about 254 parties since then...give or take a couple.
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Mix all ingredients together, by hand, in a large mixing bowl. Pour dip into a shallow, uncovered, glass baking dish, Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbling hot and slightly browned on top.
I mentioned freedom. And I took advantage of a little of it this past weekend. We sat down on the new couch on Saturday night and watched football. I flipped through magazines in my favorite app...it is my absolute favorite to see the Thanksgiving issues popping up.
We went for a walk and I even completed the blanket I started earlier this year. After working a good portion of every day, seven days a week for almost two months straight, I forgot how good it feels to sit down and relax.
To start the second half of Thursday night's Homecoming game, the helium balloons floated out of the run-through and drifted off into the night sky.
I turned to the cheer mom next to me and asked, "Ah, do you know what that looks like?"
"No" she answered, understandably puzzled.
With a smile, I simply explained "Freedom".
This signals the end of the frantic pace of cheer team work...now there are actual little breaks. Until try-outs in the spring...
I said at the beginning of the month we had a little too many plans...and the next two days are the height of it. Over the next 72 hours the house will be filled with almost 70 people...and a heck of a lot of cooking. I took a quick break from the stove to answer some late night emails. We have a little more to do and we're hoping to be in bed when the clock strikes midnight.
I cannot wait for my head to hit that pillow...
The schools I work at have online platforms to share class announcements, content like the syllabus or articles to read, and keeping a gradebook accesible for my students. I am pretty used to using them after four semesters, but next semester I will be teaching an online class that will have me using the platform for everything.
The community college mandates we take a three month course to be qualified to teach online and I am officially halfway through...thankfully. I realized, as I have been completing 10 hours worth of assignments a week, that having a blog all these years has been preparing me to teach online. I am used to making categories, new pages of information, and sharing all kinds of files. Most importantly, I am very used to trying to make things cute. This is far from the most important aspect of higher education...but, boy, is it important to me.
My collection of digital kits and free fonts helped me design a banner for the entry page of the class and I used my stack of books image for the PDF of my welcome letter. Of course then I needed to coordinate the color codes of my "Start Here" page titles with the colors in stack of books. I wish I could also use numerous colors in my navigation menu, but it only allowed one. It was a big decision.
Then I decided I needed to find cute images to upload with assignment links. The light-bulb is for a sample quiz we needed to set up for colleagues in the class to take. Mine included multiple choice questions like, Sociology is: A) The very best subject B) Super cool C) Lots of fun D) All of the above.
Guess what the answer is?
I put together this collage on the big wall in our living room over three years ago and have only futzed with it a little bit since then. At the end of the summer I switched it around a little more, adding a yard sale painting of nuns on the beach with red balloons and and old muffin tin full of patterned paper.
The painting was from a fundraising sale at Mac's grade school. One of the parents pointed it out as a joke, I loved the frame it was in and bought it for that...and then I ended up kind of loving the total randomness of the entire thing. The painting has ended up on our mantle occasionally, but was waiting in a closet for its debut in the living room.
The muffin tin has also been in and out of the closet...it was first filled with patterned paper a few years ago and has had several combinations since. A two and half inch circle punch worked perfectly with some foam tape.
This isn't my first super quirky idea for the this wall... remember the humongous red rectangle?
Sending off my niece's birthday gift last week gave me an excuse to be crafty for a minute. My sister-in-law told me her favorite color was blue. As you can see, I took that seriously.
Between phone banking and precinct walking the biggest accomplishment is when someone cares enough that they are willing to put a sign in their yard. I snapped a photo from the car window of one of our lawn sign victories from this weekend's walk.
We will be feeding 52 mini cheerleaders and 47 regular cheerleaders all day Saturday at Mini Cheer Camp. I was washing 13 pounds of apples this morning for one of the snacks. We will be precinct walking again for the bond school bond measure. And I will be working my you-know-what off on assignments for the on-line class I have to take so the community college will let me teach on-line classes.
It seems like a house decorating cliche to purchase big furniture at IKEA, but I first noticed this couch three years ago and have wanted it since. I might have mentioned a time or two that we host some parties around here and having a family room that only sat a few people comfortably wasn't that practical. This is a huge sectional that, thankfully, doesn't seem to overwhelm the room too much.
We measured the heck out of this room so we knew exactly how much we could cram in here and headed to the store with an entirely different configuration in my head...that turned out not be an option, so we contemplated not getting a chaise added on since it doesn't directly face the television. However, I could not resist that cozy place to put our feet up, so we got it anyway and I am really glad we did.
Sean got everything built and I combined some throw pillows from around the house with a couple new ones. I want to keep a throw on the end of the chaise so we can plop down and not worry about getting it dirty, so for now I put the first blanket I ever crocheted on there.
We are hosting two parties on the 16th and 17th and I am excited to see the couch be used...then one day we will actually get an hour or two to sit around together on all this new comfy cozy space.
Over the weekend I was stressed and trying crank through all of the stuff that needed to be done for this week. I was prepping for my classes and digging into the haphazard pile of boxes all my supplies are stuffed into.
Despite having no time for such an undertaking, I spent a half hour consolidating and clearing three drawers in a dresser in our guest room so that I can get all my class supplies organized and easily accessible. Made perfect sense to me...take time you don't have and complete an unnecessary re-organizational project. The results made me a little too happy.
Looking at all this together seems pretty crazy. I have a gender neutral doll for when we discuss raising a genderless child. I have large dice to play a game about social inequalities. I have a coloring book to contrast to students making a their own feminist coloring book. I have prisms. I have supplies for when I pack my "Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege". And I have lots and lots of crayons.
This couch is pretty much the reason Sean and I are married. I shared the story years ago on the tenth anniversary of our engagement. We have had it since college. It has had a slipcover on it ever since it was paired with my Grandma's chartreuse couch...until it was kicked out of the living room altogether a couple of years ago. Underneath, it is plaid circa 1998 and it's a couch bed as you can see from this college football camp out.
This weekend was officially the end for the couch we've had for sixteen years. We really needed more seating and something a little more modern. Before I share the photos of the new couch, I was super sentimental and wanted to document the retirement of this special one.
Get home from class at 5:00pm.
Print seven sheets of car wash tickets and cut them apart.
Write a "script" for the game announcer about the car wash on Sunday and Mini cheer camp registration.
Grab the gifts I made for our girls to give to the away team cheer squad (just clothes pins with washi tape in the visiting team's school colors).
Stop at the grocery store on the way to rushing to the field because we need $20 in change to sell car wash tickets with.
Buy two Snickers bars, so Sean and I have something for dinner.
Hang up a dozen sponsorship banners on the fence (actually Sean did that alone).
Meet the game announcer and give him the script.
Have four girls from the freshman squad sell car wash tickets and hand out mini cheer camp flyers.
Answer questions about mini cheer camp for parents.
Kindly remind those four cheerleaders less talking to their friends, more talking to people who might register someone for Mini Cheer Camp.
Talk to the treasurer about losing our contact at a local florist, who made our fresh flower head wreaths for homecoming, because she no longer works there.
Brainstorm what the heck we are going to do now because we barely have money in the budget for it.
Recruit a mom to host a Mini Cheer Camp bow making and Homecoming hair accessory making night at her house next week.
Take down sponsorship banners with Sean.
Stop at my mom's house to pick up old towels she is donating to the cheer team for Sunday's car wash. And sell her a car wash ticket.
Head home and spend an hour sending emails for the cheer squad.
Switched my calendar at work this morning and took a moment to reflect upon the fact that now life will get even more busy. In addition to school bond phone banking there will be weekend precinct walking. The cheer team has it's biggest fundraiser and Homecoming in the same week. We are hosting dinner for 46 cheerleaders one night and the next night we have the sleepover I host every semester for the new members of my college sorority. And then there is just the usual work for school...for instance on this first day of October I have a 175 papers to grade...and actually 49 more are being turned in tomorrow.
So, October...it's going to be a challenge, but a good challenge. As you can see in the picture the calendar is right next to the "Do what you love" print...and I do love it all. Okay maybe not cheer parents who do not volunteer to help the team...or people who do not answer an email asking them about phone bank recruiting. I love the rest of it though.
And I am looking forward to November already...when much of this stuff will be all done.
It's October and I am so excited for all things pumpkin...we had our first batch of pumpkin chocolate chip mini muffins tonight, there are pumpkin scented candles to burn and pumpkin decorations.
I joined in on Eighteen25's Spooktacular September again this year and stitched up a messy fabric pumpkin. I actually made a smaller one at first to make sure the idea worked enough before making the one I shared on their blog.
I have had our mantle a little fall-ish for about a month now, but hopefully this weekend I'll get a chance to dig into the fall decorations box and gather together a lot more pumpkins.
I mentioned yesterday that life is a little fast-paced lately and that is the case too for my friends who are also on the cheer booster board and the committee for the school bond. One of them had a birthday last week and I decided to get her everything she needed to take a fifteen minute break.
Then I used this idea again to quickly wrap it up.
The weeks are rushing by in a haze of teaching, meeting, grading, emailing, phone banking, hosting, organizing, and cleaning.
So little moments really matter right now. Starting braised short ribs in the oven on a late Tuesday morning. Getting the car washed. Hanging out at a Friday football game. Lighting a couple of fall candles as we spend Sunday getting ready for the week ahead.
Honestly, I am a little overwhelmed, but taking a moment to stop, document, and appreciate these bits of life helps make everything a lot better.
Earlier this summer, when I shared the "before" photos, I was honest about the fact that there is no where near enough crafting in the craft room anymore. Regardless, I still spend an inordinate amount of time in here, so it was easy to come up with new ideas on how to make this space even better.
There is a now an extra tall, glass topped counter that is a perfect space for the occasional craft project or more likely for organizing endless piles of student work. I draped a strand of cafe lights in the window to have an additional option from the ceiling fan lights and you can see them hanging in the window from downstairs.
There are new floors...since we were having the entire downstairs flooring replaced, I decided to keep going just a little more. I always needed a chair mat before on the carpet, so I am extra happy to have fresh new flooring in here.
Next was the file cabinets...not exactly a genius decorating move, but a total necessity to store all the student work and cheer team related papers I amass. I had one legal size, two-drawer cabinet from my mom and purchased the four-drawer one from Craigslist. The original plan was to ask Sean to spray paint each of the cabinets a fun color, like he sprayed the green one awhile ago, but I ended up kind of liking the neutrals with a pop of kelly green. On the other side of the file cabinets are shelves with printers and other computer equipment.
The closet is now a little couch nook. Sean used the wood from the standing desk that was in there and added 4x4 legs. I had a cushion custom-made for the spot and went pillow shopping. One of my favorite details of the room is the back wall of the nook, with wood panels that Sean cut boards in all different lengths for (he actually drew a diagram to scale for me and had me mark lines where I wanted the boards pieced together) then he nailed each piece in.
My big tanker desk stayed put...especially with the double screens mounted in front of it (that was not an easy project a few years ago). Yet, everything around it changed...the white walls, floors, new work spaces and a cozy spot just like I envisioned. I have always loved this room and felt very lucky to have it...but I now I am really extra, super duper lucky.
I concocted this sandwich idea over the summer for one of our picnic dinners at a concert in the park. They have a sweet and tangy mustard dressing, lots of apple and cheese. I am totally craving them again this fall.
Apple and Gruyere Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Take eight pieces of bread, spread with butter, sprinkle with garlic powder and toast lightly. Set aside to cool. Mix together dressing of mayonnaise, dijon mustard, sugar, white wine vinegar, and onion powder. In a large mixing bowl combine the shredded chicken, celery, green onion, apple, and gruyere cheese. Pour dressing over the mixture and stir well, incorporating all the ingredients. Pile the chicken salad onto bread to make four sandwiches.
In tomorrow's Social Order and Change class we are talking about social interaction.
A large part of interaction is social norms, the "usual", "typical", "normal" standards for a group of people. Norms are the unspoken rules we follow to fit in...to try not to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
When I teach social interaction, I end with this video a student told me about last year...
These individuals did not follow social norms in this video and it's a good reminder that sometimes amazing interaction can occur when we go outside our comfort zone.
This weekend the weather reminded us that fall might actually arrive one day...it felt extra amazing considering last Monday it was 103 degrees and humid.
Then tonight, as Sean and I headed out on a walk, I spotted them...just a slightly changing leaf or two.
Our next door neighbor, Mr. Kelly, has two liquid amber trees that have grown much higher than our houses and stand almost alone in a world of palm trees.
And those leaves are one of the very best parts of the fall season.
This cake was inspired by one in a Cake Doctor cookbook that I have had for so many years that it's falling apart. I had ripe bananas and needed a treat for a cheer board meeting, so I used the Cake Doctor recipe as a guide and put this together. As most people know, Sean is usually the baker around here...but he may have some competition with this cake.
Banana Hot Fudge Cake
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan well with cooking spray. Place cake mix, pudding mix, buttermilk, mashed bananas, brown butter, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer until the batter looks well incorporated, Slightly warm half the hot fudge sauce in a separate bowl so it is easy to stir and set aside. Pour half of the mixed cake batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the slightly warm fudge onto the batter and sprinkle with half of the chopped walnuts. Top with remaining batter and place into oven for 42-47 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool. Heat the remaining hot fudge sauce so it is slightly warm and easier to spread. Carefully spread on the top of the cake and sprinkle with remaining walnuts. Store cake, covered tightly, in the refrigerator.
I love to check the Timehop app for a few seconds in the morning to see what happened on this date in years past. It just reminded me about this washi tape discovery from back in 2012. Coincidentally it was just a couple of days ago that I tried my next new favorite use of washi tape...file folder labels. I got the idea from IHeart Organizing...along with the need for my first new label maker in over a dozen years (the cute font choices sucked me in).
Looking back through the archives, it was almost five years ago that I discovered washi tape and I am still majorly in love.
This weekend a good friend from college was in town visiting and she and I tried a paper flower making class. As you can see, the tables were lined with vases of the most beautiful bouquets.
Unlike the calligraphy class I tried a few months ago, this medium I might have a future with. Although it requires a fair amount of skill, I think you can still get away with being a little messy and haphazard...that's my kind of craft.
Here's my attempt at flower making...it's wonky and filled with minuscule stringy remnants of glue gun usage...but it sure was fun.
Here are a few of the resources I have used in classes these last couple of weeks...
A discussion about technology and social media usage, included Twenty Symptoms of Internet Addiction.
I teach all my state college classes in the morning, but on Wednesdays I am at school throughout the afternoon for my office hours. That means packing a lunch. I received this adorable lunch bag as a birthday gift last spring and love packing it up with stuff the night before. This week it was a turkey white cheddar cranberry sandwich and some chips. Last week it was a bento box with rolled turkey, salami, fresh mozzarella, two kinds of hummus, pita chips and parmesan crisps.
The only unfortunate thing is office hours have kept me very busy these past few weeks, so I have had to wait for lunch until around 2pm...but it's extra good when I can finally eat it.
A couple weeks ago I mentioned my new favorite pens (at the time) which were thick, colorful and cheap. Then last week I couldn't resist signing up for this planner class and erasable pens were on the supply list. I decided to order some this past weekend and my mind is completely blown. As much as I love pens, I don't write with them too often in case I make a mistake...
However these pens, and their seemingly magic eraser, really work. I actually graded student work with a pen for the first time tonight. I may have also ordered a second set to have one with me at school.
From now on my favorite pencils are going to be lonely.
We are so, so happy that all kitchen updating wrapped up a few weeks ago now.
Here's the before and after...
Thankfully I had help to pick a cabinet color a couple months ago now (I went with #5). Sean did a fantastic job painting and rehanging the doors. He also built a box to hide the ductwork for the hood (we painted it with #8), hung up several shelves, and spray painted the legs of our new (super cheap) kitchen table.
All I did was clean out and reorganize our cabinets, shop for jars, strung a little fabric banner for the hood cover, had a print made, tried not to cry, and decided that the numerous years I spent collecting latte bowls in all different colors meant I needed a rainbow display.
Both Sean and I love how open it feels...technically we do not have any additional counter space, but it sure feels like we do.
Our kitchen has always been a happy place for us to be, no matter how dated it may have been. Now though it really feels like us...and by us I mean my ideas and Sean's amazing efforts to actually make it all happen.
These are a few random things I used in my classes...
Learning about the pre-industrial women's economy meant each student reaching into a drawstring bag to pull a little piece of paper with a random household item on it. Then they had to make their way through the classroom setting up trades to try to get everything they would need for their household. However, since illiteracy could be common at that point in our history the student's could not write down anyone's name or what/how much they traded...they had to try to remember it all. After they were done attempting to trade for a few minutes they went back to their desks to write what they could remember...the most anyone wrote was eight trades.
The red yarn helped teach Weber's Iron Cage of Bureaucracy. We had to toss the ball around the classroom as we itemized the various steps it can take to get one task accomplished in a bureaucracy. We went through the steps a parent/student/teacher have to accomplish when there is an absence from school. It was seven different steps just to have an excused absence.
Then silly slang flash cards to analyze the socialization process in regards to language usage...how words are funny, overused, outdated, inappropriate and how they can shape our understanding of the world.
Have I mentioned I have the best job ever?
So as new laminate floor owners, I needed to start figuring out fast how I could be a good laminate floor cleaner...often. I bought a swiffer sweeper and lots of dry refills thanks to coupons and buy three get one free deals, but I haven't heard great endorsements for the wet swiffer cloths.
Instead I grabbed a stack of cheap washcloths. I just get them damp with water and wipe up dirt...and more dirt...and then some more dust and dirt. And did I mention, often?
I wanted to share in case I am not the very last person to figure this economical solution out, but if you have any other ideas I am super eager to hear them.
Last spring I started using tiny dot stickers on my monthly planner calendar.
I use one color for all the journal assignments I need to grade for my classes and another color for all the tests I need to grade. This way I can quickly glance down to see how many stacks I'll need to get through each week.
Although my first thought when typing that last sentence was, "so I can quickly see how screwed I am". Let's just say, I have yet to figure out how to develop multiple class schedules that create a well-spaced work load.
Today I started loading the dots up for this semester...and added one more color (red) to mark the days that Sean is working as an assistant coach after school.
I just roughly started adding up how much grading all these tiny dots mean...roughly 490 journals and tests. Yikes.