Before and Afters

(moved from another blog)

Before and After: Kitchen Cart

This is that other Before and After I promised in my last post.

I’ve had this unfinished Ikea cart for a while:

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So I painted it to match my lower cabinets (Behr Silver Hill), and stained the top:

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Much more cohesive now!

If you missed my kitchen re-do post, check it out!

Before and After: Coffee Table

I love Before and Afters so much, don’t you??

This is the coffee table on my porch in my last post. I bought it at an occasional store, and it was the right size and shape, just not the right colors for me.041Here’s the frame before I had spray painted it that charcoal color:032So I used an electric sander on the top to get rid of most of the paint. I didn’t use a paint stripper because I wanted kind of a mottled, weathered look, so I wanted to encourage an uneven color. And because paint stripper scares me.047Then I used a water-and-paint mixture to “blue-wash” it. And there we go!048I’ve got another Before and After coming up soon!

Backyard Update and Planning

I’ve posted about spiffing up my backyard before, so I just thought I’d give a little update on my progress, and what I’d like to do with it in the future. I’ve been meaning to show a before and after of my back porch too, so here we go!

Here’s what the porch looked like when I bought the house:

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Let me explain what you’re seeing here. A previous owner apparently wanted a three-season porch, and must have found a great deal on sliding glass doors, so instead of installing glass paneling, they just installed four sliding glass doors to wall in the porch. 3 problems with this:

1. It looked like a cheap approximation of something else. Because that’s what it was.

2. The doors were probably on sale for a reason: they were dirty ON THE INSIDE OF THE PANES. Glass doors (or at least these ones) have two panes with a little bit of space in between them. Like a glass and air sandwich. I don’t know how, but these doors appeared to have dirt, dust, or just a general fogginess between the panes, making them look forever dirty with no way to get them clean.

3. While it was nice for insulation in the winter, the glass turned the porch into an oven, which (combined with the dirty glass) is not what you want when you’d like to enjoy a nice summer day on the porch.

So my dad and I ripped those suckers out of there, and I added some reed curtains, an outdoor rug, and some furniture and plants:Attachment-1 (4)Attachment-1 (3)

(The coffee table is a little re-fashion that I’ll show in an upcoming post.)

And here’s the yard before:Backyard Before #2 (2)Backyard Before #1And now, after adding some plants (hydrangeas, lilacs, a cherry tree, etc.), cleaning it up a bit, and moving things around a little:Attachment-1 (5)Attachment-1 - Copy

I like it for now, but my long-term goal for my back (and front) yard is to replace almost all of the grass with plants and other landscaping. You guys, I hate mowing!!! And it’s just pointless. Why do we all have these useless grass plots that we have to constantly cut back (and if you’re not me, you also water and fertilize)? Why not fill our land with plants, flowers, gardens, etc. that we can use for something?

I’ve been envying this woman’s backyard for a while (I also love her blog):rosielittlethingsbackyard

But she lives in the pacific northwest, so there are things about her yard that wouldn’t work well in mine (she gets no temperature extremes, less direct sun, more rain, etc.). I just really like how it looks casually coordinated, with different areas for different activities (eating, lounging, chatting, playing), it all blends in really well with nature (neutral colors, natural materials), and I especially like that it’s sheltered from neighbors and direct sun.

Anyway, for now, I’ll just be focusing on landscaping. If you have any suggestions for good, low maintenance plants and ground cover that would look nice and grow well in Minnesota, let me know!

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Book Report!

(moved from another blog)

I use my Kindle for almost all book buying now, and I had been neglecting my shelf of hard-copy books that I had collected pre-Kindle, so I decided to try to make it through all of them over summer break (I work in a school). Most of the books in this post are from my hard-copy pile. I haven’t read them all yet, but I’m close!

Please Stop Helping Us

I work in a school with a majority of black students, so I’m always interested in learning more about how to best serve them. I’ve been frustrated at times with the way my school “helps” our students so much that we end up doing a lot of things for them that they can and should be doing for themselves, especially considering that we are a high school and our students need to be preparing for their imminent entrance into “the real world.”

So I was intrigued by the title of this book, and wanted to see if it would validate my perspective. And it does, I suppose, but it’s written by a conservative Republican (black) man, who was a little too quick to use the word “liberal” as a slur for my taste. I am skeptical about the author’s perspective and motivation, and would very much like to read something that responds to his specific claims. He uses a lot of data to support his arguments, which I appreciated very much, but data can be found that supports anything, so I’m not swallowing it blindly. Overall, I thought it made decent arguments, but I’d like to hear others’ responses to it.Love Saves The DayI read this author’s previous book, Homer’s Odyssey, which was a true story about a blind cat’s experience living in New York City when 9/11 occurred just a few blocks from his apartment. It was very interesting, and the author clearly knows a lot about cats. This book was about a cat who tries to settle into a new life when her previous owner passes away, and the cat is transferred to a new home. It was sweet, funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I know it sounds silly because it’s about a cat, but I don’t care! Hangman's Daughter

An interesting book very loosely based on the author’s ancestor, an executioner in a small town in Germany in the 1660s. It’s written as a mystery: we’re trying to figure out who’s killing the town’s children and why. It was good, I enjoyed it.For White Folks

This was required reading for my job, and it seemed like it might be a decent complement to  “Stop Helping Us”, and it kind of was, but the two books aren’t really in the same conversation. This book is more like a curriculum guide for teachers, with specific ideas for how to engage black students and how to leverage the strengths of black culture and youth culture for use in the classroom. I was trained as a counselor, not a teacher, so I felt like I need more information/training in order to actually implement these suggestions successfully, but it stirred up some good ideas and thoughts.
As You Wish

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, and this book, written by the actor who played Westley, is a look behind the scenes of the making of the movie. It was really charming, and funny, and had the same spirit as the movie itself.

Lies My Teacher Told MeI’ve been wanting to study history for a while, since I don’t know much of it, and I feel like I didn’t learn it at all in school. It’s hard to know where or how to begin, though! But this book was meant as a start. It intends to present many aspects of American history that K-12 history classes misrepresent, omit, or just totally lie about. I found especially interesting its indictment of text books and the text book industry, which are essentially corrupt and awful. Who knew! Very interesting book.

Funny Girl

My dad gave me this book because, apparently, he read it himself solely because he likes Hornby, and he was done with it, and figured I might as well take it off his hands. 🙂 It was okay. It’s about a woman trying to make it as a movie star in London in the 1960s.

Wolf Hall

Ugh, so boooooorrrrrrring. I had heard great things about this book, which follows Thomas Cromwell’s experiences with the Tudor family, as Henry VIII was trying to divorce Catherine so that he could finally bed wed Anne Boleyn. I’ve seen the show The Tudors, so I already knew all of the plot. Maybe if I hadn’t, this would have been more interesting. Maybe. Possibly not. It’s an interesting story, but this book did not do it justice. But a lot of people apparently like it, so what do I know.Food

Jim Gaffigan is a comedian who has a lot of jokes about how much he loves food, and this book is kind of a compilation of all of those jokes. I had already heard the jokes, so it wasn’t that entertaining, but whatevs, it was okay.

Augie March

Oof, no. Again, I had heard good things about this book, but it was really really boring. The Adventures of Augie March? More like the boring, every day nothingness of this wet noodle. Augie March is a guy growing up in Chicago during the Depression, and he gets various part-time jobs, lives in various places with different people, goes out with various girls, and that’s pretty much it. There was a mildly interesting part toward the end where he tries to train an eagle in Mexico, but for the most part, it was a waste of time.

Recipe: Everything Cookies

Everything Cookies 2

Attachment-1 (6)Attachment-1 (1) - CopyThis is the third batch of these that I’ve made this summer because they were such a hit. I originally made them because I needed a gift for Father’s Day, and my dad had been talking about these “ranger cookies” he got somewhere that would have been perfect if not for the butterscotch chips. So I did some research, and then basically made cowboy cookies with raisins.Attachment-1 (7)My family went nuts (ha) for them, and my parents commissioned another batch a couple weeks later. My mom’s birthday was Saturday, so I decided to make them again.Attachment-1 (8)

Here’s the recipe!

I just used this recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, and then added some other stuff.

Ingredients
-1 cup butter, softened
-1 cup packed light brown sugar
-1/2 cup white sugar
-2 eggs
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/4 cup flour
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-3 cups quick cooking oats
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
-1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
-1 cup raisins/craisins (I use both)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the oats, pecans, coconut, raisins/craisins, and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Bonus: They keep for a surprisingly long time (if you can stop yourself from eating them at once). Usually homemade cookies get crumbly or hard after a day or two, but these stay soft and chewy for a couple of weeks (kept in a sealed container)!

(I’m moving posts from another blog to this one. These are from 2016-2017)

Weekly Things

Something I Learned: A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest. Heart attack = circulation is blocked. Cardiac arrest = heart fails to beat.

Something I’m Into: I started an Instagram account for my outfits back in September, and I’ve had fun following a bunch of other gals who do “Outfit of the Day” accounts. It makes getting dressed in the morning more fun. Then, a few weeks ago I figured out that I could follow other fun types of accounts like cute interior decor, illustration, miniatures, kittens, and goats (GOOOOAAATSSSSS!!!). It’s so great! I know everyone else figured this out a long time ago, but I just thought of Instagram as the place where my facebook friends post their breakfasts and kids. Which is good too, but…ya know.

Something I Appreciate:  I’ve recently noticed that my cat, Jane, tends to listen when I tell her to stop doing something. It’s rare that a cat actually cares about what you do and don’t want them to do, so as simple as this sounds, it’s surprising to me. If she’s playing with something that’s not okay for her, I’ll forcefully tell her to stop. With most cats, I have to go and do some sort of physical intervention, but Jane usually moves on just from being yelled at. It’s so strange! She’s also recently started walking me to the front door when I leave for work in the mornings. 🙂


The last few days have been really nice. I didn’t have a great Winter Break, and I never felt like I was back on track from it until this weekend. I know it sounds silly to say that a 2-week paid vacation wasn’t “great”, and there wasn’t any real reason for it, just for some reason I always felt exhausted and like I wasn’t getting anything done, and like everyday was just slipping through my fingers and passing me by, and by the time I went back to work, I felt like I was still struggling to catch up.

But over the last few days, there have been a lot of really nice things, and having the day off yesterday (MLK day) to get a bunch of things done was just what I needed to feel like I was refreshed and on top of things.

Here is a list of good things from the last week:

  1. Ever have those moments at work where you kind of step back from yourself, and watch yourself, and think, “Wow, I really sound like I know what I’m talking about!”? I’ve had a few of those lately. It’s just like, “Hey! Look at me go! Just bein’ all knowledgeable and useful and everything!”
  2. I saw Hidden Figures. Such a great movie. I cried so many times (from happiness, not sadness). So inspiring. Wish there were more movies like this.
  3. Over the weekend, I had a good mixture of downtime, friend time, and gettin’ stuff done time. As an introvert, I have a hard time with weekends that are packed with activity, but as a “doer” I feel icky when I don’t do anything, so my favorite weekends are those that are balanced on both ends.
  4. I felt good about my aerial practice. The previous week, I struggled with a few new things, and I always feel badly when I don’t catch onto things quickly. But this week, I got a few new tricks, and my coaches were pleased with my progress.
  5. Yesterday was just “get it done” central, and I was really energized by completing all of the tasks on my To Do list. I felt especially refreshed by clearing out, reorganizing, and cleaning my room. Getting my surroundings in order has a big impact on my mood.

IMG_1249^ This is what has to happen when the to-do lists in my planner aren’t motivating me, and I need to make sure I get everything with no dilly dallying. THE NIGHTSTAND WILL NOT BE IGNORED!!!

IMG_1210Holding hands.

New Year, New Planner

YOU. GUYS. I am so into my new planner. I’ve always been into planners (I’ve even kept all of the planners I’ve ever used!!), and I’m really picky about them, and sometimes I have a hard time finding one that I like. But this year! Love this thing.

I had been searching since August for a new one because I kind of like the idea of starting a new one with the school year (working in a school and all). Couldn’t find anything perfect until last month, when I found one I liked online, and then found the same exact thing for a 1/3 of the price at Home Goods!!!! I was so excited.

OKAY! LET’S TAKE A TOUR OF IT!!! (And if this isn’t your cup of tea, and you’re like why would anyone care about this, TOO BAD! I’M EXCITED!!)

planner-and-stuffLook at it!!! It’s cute, which is one of my top requirements. It’s also the perfect size; it has to be about 7″x 5″: small enough to fit in my purse and large enough so that I don’t have to write like an ant. It has a ribbon to hold my page, which my last planner didn’t have, so that’s nice. The planner I used last year had some elements I liked (I chose it after all), but a few things that really bugged me. This new planner is more like ones I’ve used in the past that I really liked, so it feels better. And omigosh, so cute. Did I mention that?planner-pouchesI got the pouch on the left from Michaels, in their new “Happy Planner” section. I was going to keep my pens in it, but it’s really too small for that, so I just keep a few rolls of washi tape in it for now. The pouch on the right is from Target, and HOW PERFECTLY DOES IT MATCH THE PLANNER?? I keep my pens in it.planner-pageHere’s the layout. I have to do a Weekly layout (not monthly or daily), and my last planner had one week on each page, which is madness!! Each day was half this size, so it was a bit cramped. And some planners make Sat/Sun share a space, which is ridiculous. I do things on weekends too, duh.
planner-pocketI usually keep bits of paper (coupons, stamps, etc.) in the back of my planner, so I’ve added this little pocket, using cardstock, washi tape, spray adhesive, and packing tape.planner-stickiesI also always keep a pad of sticky notes in the front, and have a running To Do list, and a running To Get list. Then when I go to the store, I can just peel off my list and take it with me.

I got this pad of planner stickers that will really jazz up my pages. There are like a billion stickers, and they’re really cute and they cover almost everything I do. Though, they don’t have any cookie stickers, which is like , Alex 101, so I’m a little disappointed about that. I’ll try to get over it.

YAY PLANNER!!!

Ramping Up to Christmas

Weekly Things

Something I Learned: I was talking with a guy who works in sustainable energy and construction, and I asked him what he thought about Elon Musk’s new solar panel roof shingles. I don’t think he had heard about them (??), but he ended up talking about how different solar power products have varying levels of power. This had never occurred to me before!

Something I’m Into: EGGNOG EGGNOG EGGNOG

Something I Appreciate: Yes, we got a really annoying dump of snow, and yes the high on Sunday was 6 below, but we’ve been given some relief with a little warm-up (high in the low 30s today and tomorrow). AND I am on Winter Break for 2 weeks, hooray!


This blog is becoming a biweekly occurrence, apparently. I’ve just been chugging along, doing my regular stuff, except for the things I’ve had to miss due to a stupid cold.

Like I said, I’m now on a two-week break from work, but as always, I still feel super busy. Today was Christmas shopping…I’m almost done. Although I thought I was almost done yesterday too. Who knows.

I’ve never been a big Christmas person, and some years I’m more Grinch-y than others. First off, I’m not a christian, so there’s that whole aspect out the window. And I like giving people gifts, but I don’t like being REQUIRED to give people gifts. I like selecting things that I think people would like, but when you have to give a gift to everyone you know all at one time, you’re just looking for things that will be “good enough.” That’s dumb. And everyone is doing it all at once and being annoying and hassled and irritated. And it’s just so consumerist and shallow. And everything must be green and red and Santa and Rudolph and tinsel and blergh! It’s just….a lot.

But I try to find the good parts, and just move through the whole season focusing on the things that mean something to me: connecting with family and friends, enjoying seasonal flavors (eggnog, cinnamon, gingerbread, peppermint), the comfort of routine and tradition (seeing the same ornaments and decorations at my parents’ house, hearing the same carols).img_1164Went to a Christmas show with the fam.
img_1165The post-show line to meet Santa was long, so my nephew got caught up on all the duck gossip.img_1167I had heard that the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train was going to make a stop in my city, and I happened upon it while out running errands. The only time I’m not completely annoyed to be stopped for a train.img_1150Had a little Irish dance performance at a local senior living center. St. Patrick’s Day always seems to come up really fast after the holidays, so it’s good to get warmed up!img_1166There is something so comforting to me about this view from my bathroom window. All of the rooftops clustered together, symbolizing neighborhood, normalcy, routine, quiet.

img_1168This little thing…always trying to hold my hand.img_1169img_1158I’ve been dealing with a cold that I got last week. Ugh I just hate how disruptive it is. I’m through the worst part (Thursday), but I’m still that person at the store who is constantly blowing their nose, and stuffing used kleenex in their coat pocket. Argh


Weekly Things

Something I Learned: Alpha Gal is the name of an allergy to mammalian meat. It’s fairly newly discovered, and is induced by a tick bite.

Something I’m Into: I just got a new planner for 2017 and I CAN’T WAIT TO USE IT!!! I will show it to you sooooon.

Something I Appreciate: My freedom. I’m able to decide what I want to do and when, and I don’t have to check with anyone or fit my plans into anyone else’s schedule. As much as I think I would like to have a family of my own, I do appreciate that as a single non-parent I am beholden to no one. What a wonderful thing.


img_1102We got our first snowfall of the season this week. I’m not one of those “THE FIRST SNOWFALL YAY!!” people, I’m more of a “It’s the beginning of the end…” person, but I try to appreciate it as much as I can.img_1101

img_1089Little girl staying cozy with me.img_1099

Backstage at my aerial showcase yesterday.img_1100

My pre-performance “I’m scared” face.

Here are some photos from the show:20161120_182511

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20161120_182528And now I am ready for a little break and some Thanksgiving yummies!


Grappling with the Election

Weekly Things

Something I Learned: I learned about the “14 Day Rule” which outlaws any research on embryos after 14 days past fertilization (or when the “primitive streak ” develops…which is a whole other thing that is very difficult to define concisely, but that I’d recommend googling).

Something I’m Into:  Chobani go-gurts. I have a hard time eating an entire yogurt cup (especially when they’re as filling as Greek yogurt), and I tried Yoplait go-gurt in the past, but it seemed like the yogurt they used wasn’t as healthy (higher sugar etc.). I didn’t realize Chobani makes them now until I saw them at Target the other day! They’re great!

Something I Appreciate: My students and my job. While struggling with the results of the election, I’ve appreciated the wisdom and strength of my students, the conscientiousness and passion of my colleagues in helping our students understand and grapple with the outcome, and the ability to focus on the here and now everyday needs of my students, as opposed to ruminating in anxiety about the future.


Last week was tough. While you wouldn’t call me an optimist (I’m a realist), I don’t generally get too “doom and gloom” about politics. I certainly have my opinions, but I rarely fear for the future of our country. I recognize that bad stuff has happened in the past, and bad stuff will happen again, and that’s life, and you just have to take it in stride.

But I am now very concerned about not just the division and hatred among our own citizens, and the deterioration of the gains we have made or were attempting to make in our social and economic systems, but also about the safety of our nation as a whole. I do not trust this creature with anything foreign policy, and I have never been so concerned about that before. Also, the Supreme Court. /politics

Other than that, it’s been a normal week for me: work, aerial, drawing, strength training, yard work, Irish dance, friends, family, cat, naps.

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Aerial bruises!

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Some pictures from our dress rehearsal. We have a showcase this Sunday. (I’m on the left.)

img_1073Jane doing her version.

img_1059From an activity our students had done a few weeks ago. It was comforting to see it the morning after the election.

 

img_1077I asked my new student what kind of candy she wants for a reward. She requested pickles.

img_1074A friend and I went to a Holiday Boutique show, and I was just expecting to go for the ambiance, but I actually got quite a few gifts!

img_1076We then tried out a new restaurant, and I ordered a chocolate malt and poutine! #imnotonadiet #notaplateofworms


Livin’ Life

Weekly Things

Something I Learned: Hibernation is very different from sleep, and is in fact exhausting. So, often when animals come out of hibernation, they fall dead asleep in order to recharge.

Something I’m Into:  Fleece-lined leggings. I mean, never before in history has there been a more comfortable article of clothing. How lucky are we that we live in this amazing time??

Something I Appreciate: My city. I live in St. Louis Park, MN, and it’s just a very-well run city. My mom and I took a walk around one of our parks this week, and noted all of the nice amenities within it. I often joke that it’s the best place on earth. I’m like 90% serious.


Last week started off with Halloween, which was fun but a little too busy for my taste. On Friday, I attended my monthly discussion group (the word this month was “Gratitude”), and on Saturday, I saw a play called “The Parchman Hour” about the Freedom Riders of the 1960s. It was very well done, and really brought home just how far we haven’t come in race relations since then.

img_1054This is from my walk to lunch. I usually get lunch from a hospital cafeteria about a block away from my school. It’s a nice way to get myself moving and grab some fresh air and sunshine.

img_1053Jane has been especially clingy recently. Probably just a reaction to the chillier temperatures.

img_1052I just love it when she tries to sleep with her head resting in my hand.

arabesque

^ A special sneak peek of me doing aerial.

img_1051I tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather this week, and spent as much time outside as possible.

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img_1048With Daylight Savings Time ending, I’ve enjoyed some lovely sunrises while getting ready in the morning.


End of October

Last Monday, a student got arrested at school, on Tuesday we had two fights (2 separate groups of students), on Thursday, we had conferences and then I went to a neighborhood discussion group so I didn’t get home until like 9:30 pm, and then the weekend was packed. It was quite the week!


Weekly Things

Something I Learned: There are about 650 Stradivarius instruments around, and they’re named after the musicians who play them.

Something I’m Into:  Westworld!!!! It’s a new show on HBO that’s similar to Lost and Game of Thrones.

Something I Appreciate: Having the time, health, money, and general ability to do fitness classes. I do aerial on Mondays, a strength training class on Wednesdays, and Irish dancing on Sundays, and I’m really glad that I can do all of them. They not only keep my body healthy, but they also keep my mind fresh and always working.attachment-1-44A few weeks ago, I did something to a tendon in my leg while doing aerial, and it was whining at me after aerial on Monday, so I iced it, and Jane thought I was conveniently not moving just so that she could cuddle. Look at her being all, “Don’t you just love me so much???”attachment-1-43Neighborhood discussion about racial issues. A few months ago, a bunch of neighbors put up “Thank You Local Police” signs, and didn’t realize that, considering the timing, it would be interpreted as a threat to our black neighbors. Duh. So we gathered to discuss it and learn.attachment-1-46

^This right here is an open window. It was 72 degrees on Friday, and I got to nap with my window open. AMAZING

attachment-1-47My Saturday night was more leg-icing (frozen peas) and Netflix. It was the best.

attachment-1-45Jane helping me make the apron for my Halloween costume. Super helpful.


belle-from-beauty-and-the-beast“Tale as old as time…true as it can be…” I was Belle for Halloween! Gotta love a good Disney character.
grumpy-belle

Not into that Gaston dude.

I don’t like buying a pre-made costume, so I usually assemble costumes from things I already have and thrift store purchases.

For this costume, I got the blue shirt and skirt from Goodwill, the rose and fabric for my apron from Joann’s, and everything else from things I already had.

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Making the apron.

Most people can’t figure out who I am. They’ll guess Dorothy most of the time, or Alice, or I’ve gotten Little Debbie and Heidi. Pshh c’mon people, I’ve got Belle down pat! belle-armsbelles


Fall Break Happenings

Last week, I had Thursday and Friday off due to education conferences, and my family was planning some activities for the weekend, so I spent my break with family and trying to get some stuff done.


3 Things From The Week

Something I Learned: Meat is “red/dark” or “light/white” depending on how much the animal used the muscle! Muscles that are used more contain more myoglobin (because myoglobin carries oxygen, and oxygen is necessary for a muscle to function), and myoglobin contains pigments that affect the muscle’s color. e.g. Chickens don’t fly much, so they don’t use their chest muscles much —> chicken breasts = white meat.

Something I’m Into: I’ve been binge-listening to the podcast “Stuff You Should Know”, which basically just takes any topic (Black Holes, The Great Depression, Chewing Gum) and spends an hour talking all about it. It’s where I’ve been getting a lot of my Something I Learneds from (yes I made that phrase plural and yes I ended the sentence with a preposition. You’re not the boss of me).

Something I Appreciate: I spent a lot of time with family this weekend, and I’m lucky to have a really great family.attachment-1-33Children’s book illustrating.attachment-1-34Dollhouse in an antique store.attachment-1-24Family get together. It was 45 degrees outside, and we gathered at 10 am for lunch…? I don’t plan these things.attachment-1-259 Mile Creek, where my dad and his siblings played as kids.attachment-1-26attachment-1-27Tiptoeing across this thin, rickety log became the activity of the day. No one fell in!attachment-1-28Those crazy Moen boys (my dad and uncle) trying to get a small toy boat out of the creek (see the little blue thing). Wasn’t our boat. Was there when we got there. Everything is a game. Yes, that’s my dad lying on his back, propping up the branch with his leg. He is 70 years old. #problemsolving #whateverittakes. …….They didn’t succeed. #goodtry img_0882My sweet girl.


Recipe: Chocolate Bundt Cake

bundt-cake-recipeIt was my dad’s birthday the other day, and I often make him desserts for his birthday gift because he loves dessert, and because parents are impossible to buy for (am I right????)! So my mom gave me a recipe for a bundt cake she knew he had recently tried and really liked. The original recipe is HERE.


Ingredients

Cake:
  • 1 (15.25-oz) box Devil’s Food cake mix
  • 1 (5.9-oz) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ cup canola oil (or vegetable)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Glaze:
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Step 1:
Preheat oven to 350. Put all of the cake ingredients in a bowl, and mix.attachment-1-23Step 2:
Spoon that pile of heaven into a (pre-sprayed)  bundt cake pan. The batter will be thick; notice I said “spoon”, I didn’t say “pour”.attachment-1-19Step 3:
Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.attachment-1-18Step 4:
Put a plate upside-down on top of the bundt pan and carefully flip everything over. If your pan was nicely greased like mine, the cake will ka-chunk out of there neatly onto the plate.attachment-1-21Step 5:
Let cool and prepare the glaze by putting glaze ingredients in microwave-safe bowl and microwaving for 2 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir.attachment-1-22Step 6:
Glaze will be runny straight out of the microwave, so give it a couple of minutes to thicken up. When cake is fully cooled, pour glaze over it. I poured extra glaze into the center so that people could add more to their piece if they liked. Why else would we make cake with a hole in the center?attachment-1-20Step 7:
You can add chocolate shavings, raspberries, or whatever toppings you’d like. I used raspberries from my backyard (and I put extra raspberries in the center on top of the extra glaze…like a pool of deliciousness). Now add whipped cream, ice cream, whatever, and enjoy!attachment-1-17


Chilly Mornings, Warm Afternoons

I’ve still been enjoying our weather over the last week. It’s been very mild for us, and I’m trying to soak it all up while it lasts. This week is a shortened week, so I’m hoping to have some time during the break to work on my Halloween costume, get some things done around the house, sleep in, do nothin’ much, and have some festive fun with family.

3 Things From The Week

Something I Learned: Cats have “free-floating” collar bones (unlike our attached clavicles), which allows them to fit into spaces the same width as their head.

Something I’m Into: I decided to try to cut back on my paper towel usage (#itsnoteasytryingtobegreen), so I bought six small cloth napkins, and for the last couple of weeks I’ve used them anytime I wanted to reach for a paper towel. I’ve been doing a great job! I’ve only used paper towels a couple of times for removing nail polish (because cotton balls are the devil). Lifestyle change!

Something I Appreciate: I tend to resist enjoying fall because I know it’s the beginning of the end: winter. But this year, I’ve been trying to appreciate it more. The leaves have started to really turn their pretty colors now, and the other night there was a giant, low yellow harvest moon with wispy clouds rolling over it. Very Halloween-y.attachment-1-16img_0894Smushing her face against my arm while I draw.attachment-1-14img_0895All-day conference on Saturday.attachment-1-15


Busy Bee

The last month or so has been busy, always something to do. I hate being busy, but I like all of the things I’m doing (aside from stupid stuff like mowing the lawn and fixing house stuff).

3 Things From The Week

Something I Learned: The colorful outfits that jockeys wear are called “silks”. And they’re different for every race, chosen by the horse’s owner (I thought they were owned by the jockey himself). Also, the word “character” came from the name for a tool that was used to make stamps. Stamping—>impression—>character

Something I’m Into: I’ve been on an Eggo Waffle kick. I wonder if Eggo’s sales have gone up since Stranger Things came out. I’m pretty sure my craving has nothing to do with the show, but who knows…

Something I Appreciate: I just got a new blanket for my bed, and it’s perfect. It’s soft and thick and cute. I appreciate having a safe, warm bed. So many people don’t.attachment-1-7My poor, battered tootsies from aerial.attachment-1-5Jane being super helpful while I try to work on illustrations.attachment-1-6She can sense the moment I think to myself, “Okay, time to get up now”, and she comes and sits right on top of me so I can’t move. Look at her face. She couldn’t care less about my plans.attachment-1-9Backyard raspberry picking.attachment-1-13attachment-1-8Found this plant while I was picking raspberries. Don’t know what it is. Anyone know?attachment-1-12It’s that tall, bright vine growing on my lilac bush. It has yellow flowers. Sometimes plants creep me out because they just take over, like in one of those cult horror movies. “Run for your lives!! It’s…THE VINE!!!!”


Fall Begins

3 Things From The Week

Something I Learned: Women go into labor when their metabolic limit is reached, when they can no longer produce enough energy to continue growing the fetus. Also, caffeine works by stimulating our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). Huh!

Something I’m Into: I’ve been binge watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix. I never watched it when it was airing, but everybody always talks about how great it is. Considering I couldn’t care less about football (or any sport, for that matter), I’ve been enjoying it.

Something I Appreciate: Our weather has been really nice lately, not too cold or rainy. I appreciate any day in October that I can open the windows.

In light of that, I went apple orcharding on Saturday.attachment-1-4attachment-1attachment-1-1attachment-1-2attachment-1-3


Birthday Week Festivities

Been pretty busy again, and I haven’t been in the mood to write a proper blog post, so I’ll just sum up this past week.

Here are a couple of highlights from the Renaissance Festival last weekend:attachment-1-9Belly dancing! I wish I had time to take this back up again. Someday!attachment-1-1-copyTuey! (The stage name of this performer.)20160917_135312Wall climbing!attachment-1-3-copy

GOATS! I love me some goats, but these guys were peopled out, so they did not let me give them scratchies.

Wednesday was my birthday, so I had dinner with the family, and then I took Thursday and Friday off of work to celebrate! On Thursday, I went to brunch at Al’s and got a massage and manicure. That evening, I attended a community discussion group whose topic was the Achievement Gap (it’s an important topic in education).

On Friday, I had lunch and went shopping with a friend, and then went to another friend’s house in the evening for my birthday party/board game night. We didn’t end up playing board games because we were just having so much fun chatting.

I had some much needed time on Saturday to get some things done (yard work, work work, children’s book illustration, etc.), and today I participated in a folk singing group, which meets in the basement of a local restaurant. The basement is old-timey and charming:attachment-1-10And it has these super fun enclaves!attachment-1-11So that was my week! Have a good Monday!


Back To School

 Attachment-1 (4)Whew, y’all! It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Last week was the first week back at work, but it was just Professional Development week; no students. So today was the first day back with a full school. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so here’s what I’ve been up to.

Last week, we had trainings all day, so I had to do actual work work in the evenings. I was also trying to tie up a few things that I had on my Finish-Before-Fall-To-Do List, like spray painting some lamps.Attachment-1 (2)They were just plain jane chrome lamps that I’ve had forever, and since chrome is a little passe right now, I decided to spiff them up with some gold spray paint and new shades.Attachment-1Attachment-1 (5)

My mom says the shades are too small now,  but I like them. So there.

Last week I also decided to make some sample drawings for a children’s book author who is looking for an illustrator. So I had to squeeze in time to work on those.Attachment-1 (1)

Ack! I also did some house repairs, went to my nephew’s 2nd bday party, attended a monthly discussion group, went to my weekly fitness class and Irish dance class, and did last minute prep for school. We also went to the state fair. It was the best day for the fair that I can ever remember: perfect weather, and not too crowded.

I tried to make best friends with all of the animals. Here’s me having a love affair with a goat. GOATS ARE THE BEST20160905_110206We checked all of the big stuff off the list (animals, art building, butter heads, dog show, horticulture/crop art, Int’l Bazaar), and I ate: part of a Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Sundae, some fries, a caramel apple, some cheese curds, and corn:Attachment-1 (3)It was one of those weeks where you’re like, “I vaguely remember the concept of doing laundry and getting groceries. One day, I will revisit them.” I was frazzled, to say the least.


Trip: Atlantic City

I’ve Moved!

Okay, so not me, but my blog. I’ve moved it to a new domain, so from now on, find me at wildbluealex.com!

The whole blog moved, so all previous posts are available there as well, and nothing should look any different to you other than the url.

Sorry for any inconvenience, and thanks for connecting with me!

2016: New Year, New Projects

As I’ve written before, I don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions”, I just like to work on things all year round. So since it’s a new year, I wanted to write about the projects I’m currently working on, and those I plan to start soon.

Aerial Dance

This is totally what I look like...
This is totally what I look like…

I’ve been wanting to try this out for the last couple of years, and I’m doing it now! I’m taking a class at a local Aerial Arts school. Fun!

Learn to Sew

tn_SewingDesk1My first step in this project was to make myself a Renaissance Festival dress, and I’ve started it!!! I’ve already learned a lot. I will post about it when I’m done. I would also like to learn how to put in a zipper, make pockets, use a dress-form, and use a real pattern (I’m using a home-made pattern for my dress).

Cut The Cord!

Coaxial_Cable1

I’ve been wanting to ditch cable for the last few years, and as online options have become better, I’ve taken steps toward cutting able until I finally took the plunge this month!! I got a basic tv antenna from Amazon for local channels, and I use Roku to watch stuff from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc. on my tv. I plan to make a blog post detailing how to do this, since I think no one should use cable anymore.

Be Healthier

I started this project this past fall, and my main goals were to reduce my sugar intake and increase my exercise.

  1. Reducing Sugar Intake.

I’m always trying to eat more vegetables and protein, but my biggest problem is that I LOVE sugar, and I eat way too much of it.

So here are the things I’ve done so far:

-I stopped drinking soda at lunch. Yes, I used to have about 4-8 oz of soda or juice almost every day with lunch. So that was the first thing to go. I’ve been doing just water since September. I’m surprised at how easy this was for me. Because I LUV soda.

-Next, I’m in the process of cutting out soda almost altogether. I used to order a cherry coke any time I would eat out (because it is yuuuumyy), and I would keep mini-sodas in my fridge for dinners at home. I’ve switched to mostly water at restaurants (once in a while I’ll treat myself; I’ve had 3 glasses of soda in the last two months), and no sugar-added juice in my fridge. At some point, the goal will be to cut back on the juice as well.

a9a384eb105821583466dc975563f9c6
^These are microwaved eggs!

-I used to eat cereal every morning for breakfast, and even “healthier” cereal can have a lot of sugar (and just also not much actual nutrition), so I’m trying to mix it up a bit. Now I’ll have maybe one bowl of cereal during the week, a couple of toast-and-peanut-butters, and I’ve started eating EGGS!!! This is insane for me since I’ve always felt like I don’t have time in the morning for eggs, but I recently discovered that you can scramble eggs in the microwave, which seems to make it faster.

-I still eat more sugar than I should, so a future goal would be to reduce the amount of “treats” I eat (cookies, ice cream, etc.). Baby steps.

2. Increasing Exercise.

-I don’t like going to the gym, so I usually get my exercise through various classes (and outdoor walks when it’s nice out). This fall, I made sure to set up my schedule with a good mix of classes.

-I do Irish Dancing once a week, as I have for the last 7 years. In October, I added a strength training class on Wednesdays (it’s not dance, which I usually prefer, but I needed something that was more muscle building than aerobic. It’s a beast.), and in November, I added Zumba on Thursdays. My aerial class is also strength-building, particularly in the upper arms/shoulders and core. So this adds up to at least 4 hours of exercise a week, which I think is pretty darn good for the Deep-Winter Lazies.

-I did a lot of yoga last year, so I’m a little yoga’d out right now, but I’ll return to it at some point in the future. I really should take up jogging some day, but at this point, running for any length of time is my personal hell. Another future goal would be to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, and/or to sit less at work. Baby steps.

That’s all the projects for now!

Before and After: Office Refresh!

When I started my new job last year, I had been placed in a shared office attached to a busy classroom. But it’s hard to do something as sensitive and confidential as counseling in a busy, public area, so as soon as an office became available, I elbowed my way in there asap!

It had been considered an ugly, tiny, closet of an office, but I saw a lot of potential. Plus! The left wall had already been painted in “my” color. Serendipity!

IMG_445382121First things first, I shoved that desk to the wall. I can’t stand putting a desk between myself and my students. I may as well just stand over them with my arms crossed.

IMG_445472089Then I got rid of any unneeded (or unliked) furniture, replaced it with furniture that better suited my tastes and needs, and jazzed it up with some wall decor. (There’s a lot of wall in this office.)

IMG_465252354 (1)Got the chairs on sale at Target this fall. The rug had been rolled up in my basement for years. The map poster is from allposters.com.

IMG_465248022I got this cute mid-century-style bookshelf off of craigslist, and the chalkboard is from Home Goods (my heaven).

IMG_465247952I love it. Some co-workers are surprised when they see that I put so much time, energy, and money into designing my office, but I’ve always done this anywhere I’ve worked. I figure if you’re going to spend most of your waking life in one place, you might as well love the way it makes you feel. It’s worth it!

Office Before and After