Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Desk Organization

Desks can be a dumping ground for bills, receipts, and other random papers. But, a work space should be inviting and ready for you to sit down and start working whenever you need to. Although it might seem impossible, it is very possible to keep this area clean. Lately, I have been browsing Lauren Conrad's website and I came across a simple article to keep your desk organized. Operation Organize: 6 Tips for a Chic & Tidy Desk is worth a minute of your time and could be just what you need to transform a disaster into a destination for productivity!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Emotional Resilience

I have been reading a lot about resilience lately, specifically how to raise kids who have emotional resilience. Over the past few years, I have encountered way too many parents and students flipping out over one bad grade and wanting to drop out of a class or spewing their negativity at me because they "can't handle the truth!" (I couldn't resist). This leads me to think there is a lack of resilience within our society. Maybe it's because we are all about building up self-esteem in ways that don't relate to reality. You know, giving out ribbons to kids for showing up to a sporting event. It doesn't matter if you win; you still get a prize for trying. Since I am a teacher, the one I get quite often is thinking you deserve an A because you put in some effort. It doesn't matter if you actually followed what was expected; you tried so therefore, you deserve the highest praise.

But what about when something doesn't go your way? Do we really want kids to learn they should give up after the first disappointment? Obviously not. So, then we must teach them differently and I believe it is the responsibility of parents, guardians, family members, coaches, and teachers of all kinds to help children learn this valuable skill. (And that means we, as adults, have to possess it, too.)

An article found in The New York Times titled "The Stories that Bind Us" by Bruce Feiler brings up an interesting idea about resilience. Storytelling, connections to our family's past, and creating a family identity are ways to help children learn how to deal with the future. Feiler writes: "Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn't mean simply "talking through problems," as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence."

And, it works for other groups as well. The military has recognized the effectiveness as have companies. Building a sense of community, an identity, brings people together and helps them build a positive future. Maybe this is just the place to start.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book Review: Unwind

Unwind by Neal Shusterman was the TLC's latest read. I have never read a book quite like this one. It definitely questions the value of life, who has the power to make choices about life, and what happens to your soul after you die or after parts of you are taken away. But it does so in a round-about way which is appropriate for teens to read but is enough to get you thinking about the issues which are really at the core of Shusterman's plot.

The story takes place in a future America after an amendment was added that lets parents choose to "unwind" their children once they reach 13. This is the result of a destructive war over pro-life, pro-choice which wasn't ending. A compromise had to be made. Abortions (although that word is never actually used in the novel) are not allowed but "storking" your unwanted baby is as long as you don't get caught. This is exactly what it sounds like: dropping off your baby at someone's door and now it is legally their responsibility to take care of it. Of course, there are still unwanted babies who are wards of the state; lots of them, including one of the main characters, Risa. Once her talent seems to reach its peak and her age is appropriate to be unwound, she is sent to a harvest camp. Obviously, she doesn't get there so easily or we wouldn't have much of story. Connor is another main character who is sent to be unwound since he causes too much trouble. Luckily he discovers this is about to happen before it does so he formulates a plan. Lev is our other main character who has known from birth he would be tithed for God. But, that doesn't mean he isn't struggling with the idea. All of these kids come together to rebel against the system in one way or another.

What I liked most was the juxtaposition of morals and logic. It is legal to send your child to be unwound but isn't that just like abortion after the fact? Does it make you a murderer if you send your child to be unwound? Or, if part of your body is still alive, does that mean your soul is still a part of it? Does this process actually reduce the amount of underground abortions and unwanted children? Is it really better to let someone live a life and then take it from them? Do you value life if you are willing to take it from someone else in order to make yours better?

A good book should leave you wanting more. This one left me wondering about all of those questions and whether or not something like this is in our near or far future. What was extremely disturbing is the real stories at the beginning of each section. They are meant to give some "history" that leads up to this point but they are in fact real history, things that have actually happened.

There are sequels to Unwind. UnWholly is a second book in the trilogy(?) and UnStrung (out in October 2013) is an expansion to Lev's story from Unwind. I don't believe sequels or a trilogy was the plan when the book was first written in 2007 but this is now the way with adolescent literature. (If it keeps kids reading, I guess I shouldn't complain!) Also, like all other good adolescent novels, this one will also be made into a movie yet it seems it is only at the beginning stages. So that gives you plenty of time to read it first! I highly recommend this one.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

100 DIY Ideas

 Apartment Therapy posted a list of 100 DIY Ideas for Memorial Day weekend. But really, these could be used any weekend or anytime you have some time. I might try out the The Floor Cushion and Centerpieces. Evoke your creativity! Try a few ideas to spice up your living area.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Summer Reading List

This will be a busy summer for me so I keeping my reading list to a manageable five books, especially with the possibility of some monthly reads from my book club, TLC. Diversifying my reading styles is key this summer as is reading some books I have talked about diving into but have yet to do so! Here is what I am thinking:

  • The British Classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    • I can't believe I have never read this book, but I haven't and I really don't know why. One would think I have read it because I teach high school English. I love the movie and I vaguely know Mr. Darcy and the Bennet Family. But it is about time I become more acquainted with these timeless characters which have been sitting on my bookshelf, unopened for far too long. It is about time I get this ultimate classic checked off my must-read list.

  • The Pulitzer Prize Winner: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
    • This book has also been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. Its length is daunting at 480 pages and that could just possibly be the reason I haven't read it. But I have recently made it a mission to read books I have bought or received as gifts in the past before getting new ones. Therefore, it is time to read the book which won a Pulitzer Prize more than 10 years ago and focuses on a blue-collar town in Maine. This seems to have more mature themes or perspectives than the book choices below so I am really hoping I don't whisk this to the side since it is summer, it has been a rough year, and I might not feel like reading serious, thoughtful commentary on middle-lower class America. Or, maybe it will provide some inspiration!

  • The Series Closer: Reached by Ally Condie
    • This book was released in November. I can't wait to read it and finish up the Matched Trilogy but I just haven't had the time. The other two books were decent adolescent literature yet what I liked most was the strong female protagonist. Although she is mostly chasing love, she is also chasing a new life. It took her a bit to realize it was okay to be who she wanted rather than who society forced her to be. But she got out and I am definitely ready to see what this new world has in store for her.

  •  The Series Continuer: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
    • The Luner Series started off with Cinder, a modern take on the classic "Cinderella". It involved cyborgs and androids living in a futuristic world yet the universal themes of acceptance, wanting for love, and family issues were still there. Now we have the next book which takes on another classic fairy tale, "Little Red Riding Hood". I am looking forward to the mix of old and new again as well as the mixing of two fairy tales since Cinder's story will no doubt be incorporated. This idea of 'fairy tales made new' is quite popular now and I love it.

  • A Fan Favorite: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    • I keep hearing how great this book is and I have even recommended it to some of my students because of all the rave reviews, but I haven't actually read it myself. Leaving clues in the forms of tapes as to why a girl killed herself is the premise for this novel. I have a funny feeling this will eventually be made into a movie with all the teenage love it has received. So I better get a move on it or I will be rushing to finish before seeing the movie.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Home Improvement: Framing a Mirror

We decided to take on a "small" home improvement project this weekend. Taking a regular, builder's grade mirror and transforming it into a pretty framed mirror sounded easy. But as with all projects around the home, it wasn't as easy as we thought and it took more time than we planned. It spanned over two days instead of one. We love how it turned out so I am going to share the steps we took and if you ever want to upgrade a mirror, feel free to use our steps as a guide. Here are a few sites we used to guide us which you might also find helpful: Blue Cricket Design, Southern Hospitality, Sabby in Suburbia

Before and After:

Steps (grouped into multi-steps because we aren't kindergarteners):
1. Measure the mirror, make a visual plan, make a list of materials, and then buy them. 

We were lucky to not have to deal with mirror clips which protruded from the mirror. The pieces could be placed right over the clips. However, if you run into this issue, visit the Southern Hospitality Website as she explains how to deal with it.

Measure twice and draw it out!

At Home Depot, you can cut your own lengths of composite molding. I would suggest getting a few more inches than needed and cutting it to size with the miter saw at home. We ended up not using the caulk but if you have some spaces between pieces, you will need it. Be sure to get clear. We also got Primer just because we weren't sure how the spray paint would hold on the molding. We had to buy everything except the level, measuring tape, and caulking gun and our total was $44. 

2. Measure carefully and use a miter saw for a clean cut.

A work bench would have been helpful but this coffee table worked out. Again, be sure to measure twice before cutting. I wouldn't say the saw cut like butter, but it wasn't a challenge either.

3. Prime, paint, and paint again, and again.

Primer and paint.

No primer needed on these wood pieces. Make sure you paint the back of each piece because you will be able to see some of it in the reflection of the mirror.

4. Wait until the pieces are dry.

We used spray paint and we had to use multiple coats in order for the pieces to look fully covered. This was the most time consuming part but it is definitely important to wait until everything is fully dry. We waited 10-12 hours but we probably could have waited longer.

5. Use Liquid Nails to attach the pieces. Apply pressure to each piece for a few minutes. Then, use painter's tape to hold the pieces in place. 
*If using end pieces, measure and mark where to place the end pieces and where to place the frame pieces.

Don't get Liquid Nails close to the edges. But if it does happen, the glue doesn't stain and is easy to get off of the mirror and the composite molding. It is also easy to get off of your hands.

The great thing about Liquid Nails is that it doesn't bond immediately so you can move or even remove a piece if needed. But the downside to that is that it doesn't immediately bond when you want it to. I would highly suggest holding each piece in place for a few minutes while applying pressure. We saw some pieces sliding slightly when we didn't do this.

6. Wait 24 hours, carefully remove the tape, and enjoy your "new" mirror.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chinese Recipe

Last night I tried out a new recipe: P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps and they were a delightful taste of China. The recipe is posted on the website Iowa Girl Eats. I did have to purchase quite a few ingredients but they weren't expensive. Not being able to find ginger, I skipped that one and also lightened up on the water chestnuts. But it was still tasty! The whole meal took about 15 minutes to make and there is still some left over (there were two of us eating it). I will definitely be making this again sometime soon! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Brain Pickings

I have a true interest for learning about a variety of topics and just came across a place which seems to fit that interest: Brain Pickings. Creator Maria Popova explains, "Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are."

Each Sunday you can be enlightened by a newsletter - check out an example here. You can also look through the Bookshelf to find something new to read. Or, you can follow (or just listen) to bits of interviews and unique pairs of readers and readings in Brainpicker's stream on SoundCloud. For example, Richard Burton reading John Donne, or Sylvia Plath reading her haunting poem, "A Birthday Present", or an interview with an artist or graphic designer on his or her design matters. You can also experience a daily pairing of song and literature in the Literary Jukebox. I am always looking for new music and the fact that it is paired with a quote from literature is a match made in heaven. Of course, you can follow on Twitter and like on Facebook, too.

If you are wanting more, take a look at the post that pulled me in: Big Questions from Little People. My favorite would be author Jeanette Winterson's answer to the question "How do we fall in love?" Go forth, lovers of learning, to Brain Pickings!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Never thought I would say this, but I actually love making wreaths. There is something about creating a piece of art and hanging it up that is so much better than buying it. Apparently I like putting everything on the left side. I will have to venture out of that with my next wreath.
Thanks to my mom for helping me pick out all the flowers and frills with most of these!

White and Black Burlap Wreath Directions:
Here is a link to the directions I followed for the Burlap Wreath. I would suggest using pins with a ball pin head as is shown in the instructions so the burlap stays in place better. Also, I added some burlap to the sides of the wreath (rather than just on the front) so you can't see any of the foam circle. Here is a link to the flower directions I followed. There was no glue gun used. I just pinned the flowers into place and pinned the decorative pieces as well.

My first wreath - Fall
Spring and Summer for my parent's door.
Spring and Summer for my door.
Another one for Summer.
Burlap Wreath

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weights for Women

You can buy this shirt at
Weight-lifting is an essential part of working out, especially as we age. The article "9 Reasons Women Should Lift Weights" by Jenna Bergen from breaks down the reasons this is necessary for all women. Cardio and flexibility are great but they aren't enough; strength training is a must.

I pulled together a few exercise routines to use, some of which I do and some of which I want to try out. Mix them in with what you already do or if working out isn't your thing, maybe these are an easy way to start.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

As we usher in a new year, getting your house in order could be a beneficial goal (I prefer making goals, not resolutions). How to go about this? Apartment Therapy is here to help! Titled The January Cure 2013, Apartment Therapy will instruct you on what task to complete each day so by February, your house is clean, organized, and fresh! You can subscribe to receive emails each day or check out A.T.'s website. An A.T. contributor named Tara will be liveblogging to keep you motivated as she lists what she did for each day. To see the month at a glance, click here. Happy 2013!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: Sarah's Key

The TLC book for December was Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. It is a historical fiction novel that spent more than two years on the New York Times Bestseller List and is definitely a must-read! The novel begins with two perspectives: one is a little girl who lives in Paris during the Jewish round-up of 1942 and is taken (along with her parents) by the French police. The second is an American woman and journalist who resides in Paris with her French husband and daughter during 2002. The two stories come together when Julia, the American, must cover the 60th anniversary of the much-forgotten round-up for an article. She discovers a strong connection between her husband's family and the little girl which eventually leads to a strong connection for her.

I was engaged in this book from the first few pages. Both perspectives were equally interesting and kept me wanting to know more. The unsuspecting connections as well as the stories of the lives both females lived were captivating. I also had no idea that Jewish families living in Paris were arrested by their own police and sent to concentration camps. To see how others in the community responded was a saddening observation on human nature. From the novel, it is clear that many French civilians are not aware of the round-up or those who lived through it may have pushed it from their minds.

While this novel is historical, it is also current. The relationship between Julia and her husband are relevant and complex just as the story of Sarah (the young Jewish girl) is sad but honest. Normally, I am not interested in Holocaust literature as I feel I read quite a few in school or through teaching (Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank, Night) but this was a different perspective from which I appreciated learning. Additionally, I am fascinated by French culture, more-so now that I am planning a honeymoon there, so the mentioning of streets, French ways, and traditions were appealing. I would absolutely recommend this novel to teens and adults. There is also a movie version I have yet to watch. Let's hope it lives up to the book!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tasty Treat

From Baked Perfection's Blog
Awhile back I re-pinned the recipe, Peanut Butter Cup Brownies, and the time finally came to try out this delicious-sounding treat. Chocolate and peanut butter is already a great combination but adding the brownies makes it even better. They turned out to be just as delicious as they sounded so I would recommend it if you want to mix up a traditional brownie. However, there are a few changes I would suggest.

The original poster of the recipe used mini-cupcake pans but since I didn't have those, I used the regular size ones. It made about 20 brownies when each spot was filled about 3/4 of the way to the top. This worked out fine, just as the mini pans would work, yet next time, I might just put the brownie mix in a square/rectangle pan and cut squares like normal instead of making them into circles. While they look cute as circle brownies, it was time consuming to pour the mix into each slot. Whichever shape you go for, the taste will be sweet and sugary!

Monday, November 12, 2012


With Christmas just a little over a month away (ahhh!), it is time to think snow, Christmas carols, cookies, beautiful, sparkly decorations, and gift wrapping - the worst part of the holidays for me. No matter how many Christmas movies I put on to summon the happy holiday spirit, I just don't seem to enjoy wrapping. If you feel the same, I encourage you to take a look at "5 Great Kraft Paper Wrapping Ideas" posted on Apartment Therapy. These ideas will add a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of originality to your gifts. The idea pictured at the right will also help you get rid of crafting scraps. Maybe if I approach wrapping from an artistic point of view rather than an "I have to wrap so many gifts" point of view, it will help with the doldrum I experience each year in mid-December. Happy wrapping!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Conversation

I finally sat down and watched an episode of a new(er) show on Lifetime produced by Demi Moore and Amanda de Cadenet called The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet. It has been waiting for me to watch it for quite a few months and I thought it was about time to check it out. The show is a series of candid interviews with famous women on a variety of topics - love, divorce, children, confidence, balance, and the media, just to name a few. Originally, a friend and co-worker told me to DVR it because the discussion topics related to our 10th Grade Media Literacy Unit. Not sure why I waited so long to tune in, but I am glad I finally did.

Sometimes I just need to hear other people discuss their lives in a way that is revealing rather than superficial, making everything seem so wonderful. That is exactly what this show does. I also am a strong believer in the power of women and since The Conversation is a collection of relaxed interviews with women, it is empowering just to listen and think about the topics. Currently, Lifetime is not showing reruns of Season One but you can view the episodes online at Also, be sure to take a peek at the supplemental website, The Conversation, where guest writers contribute daily. Let's hope for a Season Two!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Top 5 Cities for Beer

While beer is not my number 1 choice in alcohol (nor number 2, or 3, or 4...), I was happy to see Cleveland get some recognition for its beer scene. GQ named Cleveland as one of the top 5 cities for beer in America specifically mentioning Market Garden, Nano Brew Cleveland, Heinen's, and Great Lakes Brewing Company. Read the article, "'GQ' Names the 5 Best Beer Cities in America" and enjoy a brewski!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

100 Days in Cleveland

While looking for places to take engagement photos, I came across this blog, 100 Days in Cleveland. Julia Kuo, the artist, drew something she liked in/about Cleveland for 100 days. Eventually the blog become a book and calendar. I guess I found a little late as this was in the works about a year ago. But I am still glad I found it! Her drawings are awesome! Each drawing has a caption of some sort to tell you about the place or her reason for liking it. I think she should make a part two to hit more places and to focus more on the West Side of the city. Take some time to check it out!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Scary Shoes

 I am a lover of shoes. All sorts of shoes tickle my fancy - stilettos, wedges, ballet flats, boots, shiny, patterned, one color, many colors - you get the point. But there is a limit to the type of shoe one can wear and the shoes within "The Scariest Shoes of All Time" by Joanna Douglas have reached that limit. Scary and ugly all in one but definitely worth a look.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Take Care of You

It's been awhile. So when I saw this pin appear on my Pinterest account, I thought - perfect read for me and perfect post for finally returning to my blog. "55 Gentle Ways to Take Care of Yourself when You're Busy" found on the blog The Freedom Experiment deserves a few minutes of your time. Or, I should say, YOU deserve the few minutes it will take for you to read this.

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we miss out on a lot of it. We know what we should do to make ourselves feel better but finding the time to take care of yourself can seem selfish. Yet, it isn't. One of my favorite aphorisms is by the amazing transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you." But making the most of you means finding a few minutes to listen to yourself and care for yourself. There is no time like the present to begin (or continue) doing this! Go on - read it.   

This New House!

A variety of slideshows:
Outside progress Some updates with the interior decor The building of the house

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Quick Updates for the Home

When household items need some spicing up but you lack the time to do it, you don't have to push the ideas aside. Maybe a small revision is more appropriate and manageable. Better Homes and Gardens shares some inspiration with 22 Weekend Home Decorating Projects - some interesting, some not - but surely worth a look. Here are some other ideas on how to update home goods without breaking the bank and devoting hours to a task.

Use Wood or Stone on top of file cabinets
Add new crystals to an old or boring chandelier
Paint closet doors:

Black and White Classy
Good for a kid's room

Match the closet to the walls and accessories.
Accent small spaces with bright colors.

Skirt to Wear and Website to View

After bothering a co-worker/friend to teach me how to make the cool skirts she wore to work, I got the opportunity to do it this summer. The Sangria and Skirts Party was most definitely a success. I am thrilled with the result and thrilled that I actually made something I can wear. For more info on the pattern we used, visit Linda's website, Linda's Other Life. While visiting, take a look at her other fabulous creations as well as her reading, teaching, dining, and traveling life!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Should I Read Next?

If you have asked this question at any point in life, there is now a database to answer it. What Should I Read Next? is a book recommendation database that lets you type in the author or title of a book you fancy to find similar authors and books. Each entry on your results list can be purchased through Amazon by clicking on the book to the right of the name. Seems like a nice little device. Give it a try!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recipes to Try

Seven-Layer Dips, strategically placed around my cactus.
A few weeks ago I was on the hunt for new recipes and found two that I tried and are worth sharing. The first is an appetizer that I served for the 4th of July, Individual Seven-Layer Dips. Basically, it is a taco scoop but I liked the ingredients together and also enjoyed that everyone got their own serving rather than sharing from a big pan. If you make this one, I would recommend getting more guacamole, refried beans, and sour cream than stated, especially if you want to make more than 8. And of course, more chips are necessary!

The second recipe I will most definitely be using again is the Creamy Avocado Chicken Salad. In fact, I made it two days in a row I liked it so much! The recipe instructs you to eat the salad over an avocado, which I did the first day, but the second day I opted for a sun-dried tomato wrap and mixed a cut-up avocado with the rest of the ingredients. Another idea is to scoop up extra salad with blue corn chips. This meal was delicious all three ways, is fantastic for summer, and is easy enough for me to want to make it again real soon!