What I am Loving this Summer

For today, this beautiful Friday, I have compiled a list of things I am LOVING so far this summer. Some are not surprising at all and some are shocking even me.

1) Black coffee

Who am I? I never thought this day would come, but this morning, one of the boys I nanny polished off the milk before I had a chance to use it for my coffee. At first I was sad, but after trying the hazelnut on its own, I was pleased. Don’t think I will be giving up cream or milk in my coffee from now on, but at least I know I don’t have to deprive myself of caffeine if neither is available.

2) The pool

In the past two weeks, I have been to the pool four times already. While I know I should wear sunscreen to avoid wrinkles later in life, there is still that eighth grader in me who wants to lather myself with oil and get as tan as possible. Yesterday I sunscreened everything but my face and stomach; I felt guilty afterwards but luckily did not burn.

3) Cherries

I cannot get enough of these! I probably have eaten at least two servings each day for the last five days. Fellow Wisconsinite and blogger, Sarah, has also been pining over these sweet rubies of deliciousness. I hope they stay on sale for the whole summer!

4) Rest
Here I thought I was going to go crazy not running. Turns out I loved the rest! I gave my body an entire week of no physical activity besides walking. It took until Saturday, six days after the marathon, for my legs, especially the ligaments behind my knees, to feel normal again. In the past I think I depended on working out to feel “good” about myself, and this week has shown me that I can be more gentle to my body and life won’t go to hell in a hand basket.

5) Reading
I plowed through The Forest of Hands and Teeth in two days and Sarah’s Key in four, enjoying them both immensely. As you saw from the cherry picture, I am reading Midwives, which is very interesting. I would like to read or re-read a couple classics this summer, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Slaughterhouse Five.

6) Eating less carbs
I don’t really love this but it hasn’t been that hard to cut out some carbs. I haven’t gone as hardcore as Ridgey but I have greatly reduced them by avoiding bread (except for last night for BLTs), pasta, crackers, and granola bars. It has forced me to be a little more creative with my food choices, and that’s never a bad thing. For example, today for lunch was spaghetti sauce with ground turkey over a bed of spinach (which wilted eventually).

7) Patterned shorts

These shorts in particular are what I am loving. The blue and white pattern is fun and they have a draw string waist without looking too casual. Plaid shirts similar to these are also in my summer wardrobe.

What are you LOVING this summer?

Friday Favorites in Fives

Happy Friday folks! We made it though another week, and now it’s time to relax, lie on the couch, make tacos for dinner, and be in bed by 10pm. That is my plan and it sounds glorious. I have to physically and mentally prepare for running eighteen miles tomorrow morning, which means doing as little as possible in both senses.

Before I totally zone out, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite things. As an English teacher, I just can’t help myself; I have to use alliteration whenever possible.

Friday Favorites in Fives (in no particular order)

1) Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns ice cream
2) Any kind of frozen yogurt
3) My mom’s sugar cookies
4) Pecan Caramel torte from The Tornado Room
5) Dark chocolate anything

1) Real Simple
2) Shape
3) Fitness
4) Women’s Health
5) Runner’s World

Books (adult)
1) East of Eden by John Steinbeck
2) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
3) Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson
4) The Help by Kathleen Stockett
5) Kindred by Octavia Butler

Books (young adult)
1) The Hunger Games series
2) 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
3) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
4) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (not exactly young adult but taught to that age)
5) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Books (nonfiction)
1) The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
2) Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
3) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
4) Columbine by David Cullen
5) The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

1) Brody’s eggs with bacon and onions
2) French toast (as obvious from my WIAW this week)
3) Omelet with goat cheese and vegetables
4) Overnight oats
5) Power bagel with honey butter (Einstein’s or Breugger’s)

TV Shows
1) Modern Family
2) The Voice
3) Best Thing I Ever Ate
4) Happy Endings
5) Basically anything on HGTV

1) Goat cheese
2) Blue cheddar
3) Wisconsin cheddar (Bucky Badger brand)
4) Cottage cheese
5) Gruyere

1) Ale Asylum Hopalicious
2) Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout
3) Guinness
4) Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
5) Vintage red ale

Now it is your turn! Share one of your favorites fives.

Have a nice evening!

Thankful Thursday

Welcome to the third installment of Thankful Thursday! In no particular order, here is what I appreciated today.


That is Frankie there next to my hand holding the Strawberry Serenity Kombucha by Synergy. He wanted to be in the picture. Hyvee had these on sale – two for $6! I like the way they taste (except for the green one – yuck!) and they just make me feel better. The grocery store closest to me carries two flavors, but they sell for $4.50 each! This is probably one of the few items that is actually cheaper at Whole Foods than Copps. If these things were cheaper, I would drink one daily. I know I could start brewing my own, but I tried fermenting a food (kefir) for a while and I eventually gave up. Well, that is kind of a lie. I tried using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and it got all funky. Moving on…

Skinny Taste
Seriously LOVE this blog! Great healthy, practical recipes. I have been starting here when I want to plan out a few meals for the week. Tonight I made the sloppy joes.

Of course sloppy joes are not appealing to the eye, but I was happy with this recipe. Unfortunately our food processor died, and I had to use the blender to mince the veggies (carrots, onion, garlic, and mushrooms). Without any liquid, the mincing was not happening. Later in the recipe, you add tomato sauce, so I added it to the veggie party to get things moving. It worked but ended up pureeing everything which made for a different texture than what Gina had probably intended. Regardless, I ate them for dinner on a bagel thin and now have a satisfied, vegetable-filled tummy.

A Good Run
Two days ago, I complained about not feeling enthusiastic about my workouts. Luckily, I woke up on the right side of the bed (or not in REM sleep) and popped out of bed…after the husband woke me up. I didn’t hear my alarm but he did. Maybe that is the solution! Brody could be my 5:00am alarm clock everyday! Back to my run…I felt strong and did some intervals: .4 mile at 5.7 and .1 mile at 6.2 repeated eight times to make four miles. Even doing small intervals like that help the time go by so much quicker.

I heart books. This should be no surprise considering I teach English. After much cajoling by Brody, I read The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway. In high school, we read The Old Man and the Sea, and in an American Literature course in college, I read some of his short stories. While I can appreciate his prose and his influence on American literature, I still can say I do not enjoy his works; I will continue to appreciate them though.

I started a new book today and it is not from the canon. The Doctor’s Wife is a psychological thriller “about four people and the cataclysmic intersection of their lives” (from back of book). It has a strong beginning and seems to jump between all four characters as narrators. I am only twenty-six pages in, but maybe I will do a book review when I finish it,

Also related to books was this video I watched today. Fantastic! If you have fifteen minutes and you love books, you will enjoy this.

That is it for today. Please take a moment today to consider what you are thankful for (and put it in the comments if you’d like to share)!

The Great Gatsby and Jersey Shore

Many students avoid reading the required texts in high school English classes.  Thanks to Sparknotes, students can easily find thorough summaries and analysis of chapters of everything from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to A Wrinkle in Time.  Even before Sparknotes was available, students found various strategies to slide by without reading: talk to friends who actually did the reading, purchase the Cliffnotes pamphlets, or just listen in class and piece the book together. 

Although I cannot remember all of the books I read in middle school and high school, I’d like to think I read most of them.  One book I definitely did not read was Giants in the Earth by O. E. Rolvaag.  Anyone remember that one?  Hint: Tish-ah! Tish-ah!

Now as an English teacher, I have accepted the challenge of presenting classic novels like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye to students in way that entices them to be read.  Typically, a timeless idea, theme, or “essential question” emerges that still relates to teenagers. 

For example, my American Literature class of juniors is just about to start The Great Gatsby, so I first posed the question, Does money buy happiness? 

Pulling out the beliefs students have about money, happiness, success, and “things” puts them in a certain frame of mind.  I also draw lots of connections between the 1920s and Jersey Shore.  This also sets them up for better understanding the general feeling of carelessness and decadence of the 20s.  When I first taught this book five years ago, I compared Daisy to Paris Hilton.  I’m sure there will be some other careless female celebrity who I’ll be comparing Daisy to five years from now. 

Pop quiz: What is the definition of archetype? (see answer below)

I have no idea if this is how my teachers organized their units around texts, but this seems to work for my students.  I do recognize that no matter what I do, how well I frame a new piece of literature, or how excited I am about a book, some students will not read.  This makes me sad because the classic texts like Of Mice and Men and Romeo and Juliet unite people and provide a shared experience.  Also, consider how many allusions to classic texts are in media; The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Saturday Night Live have all frequently used books from the canon as a basis for an episode or skit.  If you ever have the chance to see the SNL spoof on Of Mice and Men with John Malkovich and Chris Farley, it is fantastic.  Sadly, SNL is amazing an taking down clips that appear on youtube.  Last year, I found it and showed it to my freshmen after we had finished the novel.  Two days later, it was gone. 😦

I’m certainly no expert on the classic pieces and admittedly have not read many of them.  The Sun Also Rises, The Grapes of Wrath, and Anna Karenina all wait patiently for me to pick them up. 

If I tried to read Giants in the Earth again now, I might actually enjoy it.  That’s the amazing thing about the classics; they are timeless and can be read again and again.  All of the stuff I have went through in the last twelve years, both good and bad, will change how I read and understand a book.  Now…if I could just find more time in the day to read….

Question: What books do you remember reading and loving in high school?  What books did you despise?

Answer to pop quiz: a “generic version of a personality”