The three of us went to Disneyland yesterday using this past September's batch of free half-marathon volunteering passes, like we did last June. We watched the Christmas parade, rode Big Thunder Mountain and ate too many corn dogs.
I'm pretty sure I am too cynical to be at Disneyland in general, but even I was taken in by the Disney magic when everything was lit up at night.
I am a big fan of old fashioned Christmas lights...our electric bill loved them too, as it went up and up this time of year. The lights would also burn out quickly, leaving dark empty spots every few days. So, it was more than time for their retirement, much to my dismay. Even though they have been replaced by efficient LED lights, I saved all the old fashioned ones still. We re-strung a red, white and blue strand for the 4th of July and an orange, green and white strand for St. Patrick's Day. There were still plenty more, though, which I had planned to pile into a big jar at Christmas time.
Then, as we were unpacking decorations this year I decided I was tired of our engraved brass stocking holders. Way back when Sean was starting as a teacher, he was a long-term substitute and didn't get paid over the break. Therefore, he took an extra job at the engraving store at the mall. The employee discount was significant, which meant we ended up with several engraved items that Christmas. We have used the brass stocking holders for fourteen years and I wanted to try something new.
I didn't want to invest in buying new stocking holders in case I changed my mind again quickly. We also did not have much crafting time over Thanksgiving weekend. That combination of factors somehow ended up meaning I filled quart size mason jars with lights and immediately had new stocking holders. I used some painters tape on the mantle to reinforce the ribbon strung through the stocking loops and set the jars on top of it.
It cost nothing, I got to use my favorite lights and it was done quickly.
It's back...my noncommital version of a Christmas countdown. Just some little activities, snacks, games or other traditions that are just wrapped up so that they are even more fun. I would go into more specifics, but occasionally there is one blog reader around here that I don't want to blow the surprises for. This year I came up with a dozen, but you can do any amount.
In addition to making some tags and raiding every green wrapping paper I have, I made a cheat sheet again so I remember what everything is and can roughly sketch out dates.
Last year two full-fledged adults got an elf on the shelf for no reason whatsoever...."he" did things like go on a train ride on my desk and take selfies with Mac and I while we were sleeping. This year he is off to a strong start...he hopped on top of the tree in my craft room and in the Christmas village downstairs.
He was waiting for me in the car yesterday morning as I left for work...too bad we couldn't take the carpool lane.
Then he was hanging out with the cold brew coffee in the bottom of the fridge drawer this morning.
Wonder where he'll be next...
The fall semester starts to wrap up next week, but being on the lookout for new class resources never, ever ends.
An explanation of the cultural ideology sociology instructors are up against.
We just discussed yarn bombing last week and this cute story was on tonight's news.
And "No Gender December".
This past weekend included yet another edition of my to-do list creating as a form of procrastination. This time it's a holiday version made with a free printable reindeer from Cathy Zeilske's newsletter and digital patterned papers I could not resist buying.
Here's a PDF in case you need a seasonal task list too... download Holiday To Do List
Those days are long since over. Somehow I will get to wrapping soon and, when I do, I took the time to organize a cabinet of holiday wrapping supplies.
So, as you can see, I use the time I do have very wisely.
This year, I am keeping things super duper simple and making a little four inch album...I can print 4x4 photos from an app to pick up in an hour around the corner at Walgreens and start scrapping.
Can't wait for all the bits of holiday documenting...
Everything was set this afternoon with all the usual party stuff...washi-taped tealights, flowers, fabric tossed on the table and paper plates. This year includes candlesticks, hand-cut letters and wired ribbon to make super quick napkin rings.
Okay back to cooking...five side dishes down, three to go tonight.
Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Last year was the first official turkey day...not to be confused with Thanksgiving. Our nephew and nieces come over for turkey crafts and snacks, because they have learned that Thanksgiving is Auntie Nora's very favorite holiday. Tomorrow is turkey day, so their invitation was mailed last week. We are going to make turkey wooden spoons...kind of a combo between these and this. We're playing bingo with prizes and having a fruit turkey and turkey cranberry pinwheels (minus the feta). Can't wait...
This morning I made sloppy joes for dinner, but had to run to the grocery store right in the middle of it when I realized we had no barbecue sauce. Later in the morning I royally ticked my sister off. Early this afternoon I got into an argument with Mac. Therefore this evening I was super grumpy with Sean who was super patient with me. I wrote a new lecture, created a new class activity, put together a semester final and organized my three classes for tomorrow. I wrapped my niece's 5th birthday gift just in time to drop it off tonight. I had this scattered mess on my work counter at 5:39pm.
And that's all I've got for today.
I have never really liked purple. It's pretty much the only color I do not like. Well, I take that back, growing up Mr. Pine's Purple House was one of my favorite books. Other than that...no purple.
Lately though I have found myself a little drawn to it...to the point where I took a coupon and bought a purple patent leather planner...after studying all the choices for months. I am not usually a fan of patent leather either, so I really do not know myself at this point.
I have more to set up (and a lot more holes to punch), however I made a couple of items so far. I took an old Hambly transparency for a cover and took a piece of patterned paper, trimmed and sewn into a pocket.
Since I was a teenager, my mom has taught me a love of planners and Filofax has always seemed to be the ultimate. Therefore the purple planner is pretty darn exciting.
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.