Monday, December 31, 2007

The celebratory New Year's Eve post

Here in the A&R household, we've resolved to see in the new year with risotto, mead (the champagne of beers, though it really isn't a beer at all), and video games. I was going to make baked oysters, but one look at the supermarket convinced us to put it off until later in the week. Shopping madness. I was gone all week! What's their excuse?

Being the last day of the year, it's time to look back on the goals I set for myself at its beginning. To recap:

The Goals:

1. Continue exercising several times a week, and don't slack off when school gets busy. Just think of all the complements you got this Christmas, and also keep in mind Grandma's quip about how she hopes they can also expand the ring when you told her about how you had to get it re-sized smaller. Grr.

2. Continue doing the readings for class on time. It really paid off last quarter, so don't get lazy.

3. Get a firm figure on how much money Dad will be contributing to the wedding. We don't want a repeat of what happened when we went of to college, now do we?

4. Reserve a ceremony and reception location and a caterer this summer for next summer's wedding, so that these tasks don't have to be done during the school year.

5. Post, on average, every other day. I think I'll be shooting for every day, but life just gets in the way sometimes.

6. Send people cards on their birthdays.

How I fared:

1. I've actually been quite successful in this endeavor. I slacked off a bit after moving to the new house, but have since recovered since becoming the owner of a nice new treadmill. Our continuing passion for mountain biking, snorkeling, and other outdoor activities has also helped. I haven't really lost any more weight, but have changed shape a bit. I'm just prone to adding muscle, which masks any changes in fat mass.

2. I did my best for the first half of the year, but have since given up. I almost didn't buy the books for my classes this past quarter and somewhat regret doing so (or at least buying all of them). However, most of my classmates have similarly given up, as the books, while containing useful information, have little to do with what we are doing in class and take up valuable time that could be spent planning or sleeping.

3. Not only did I get a figure from my dad, but the money has been sitting in my bank account for the last six months collecting interest. Score! I'm really relieved to have it conveniently accessible for when I actually start making reservations and the like. Oh, February, you can't come fast enough for my taste!

4. I've done the best I can at this one, but unfortunately the place we've picked doesn't finalize its booking schedule until February. We're on the top of the list, but could get bumped by a summer camp or some other big event, however the lady handling the whole affair says that August is normally a calm time so it shouldn't be a problem. The place requires us to use their caterers, so that will be two birds with one stone. We just have to wait a little longer (can you tell I'm slightly antsy for this all to be put in writing already?).

5. Success! I've got a total of 259 entries for the year--more than meeting my goal. Even breaking it down month-by-month, I've still posted (on average) at least every other day. Go me!

6. Medium. I did better than last year, but I still think I could be better at this.

Temperature shock

Home again, safe and sound and mostly healthy. Feeling a lot better than I was, in any case. We're undergoing a bit of a shock, going from Montana (around freezing) to San Diego (mid-70's today). On our shopping excursion today we were all wishing it was a little cooler, as the car was very hot and stuffy.

Isn't this the oddest photo? This was written on the floor the garage when we moved into the place.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


The sounds of Christmas

[tink] [tink] [tink]
[twang] [twang]
[tink] [twang]
"Agh! It's vibrating my face."

(We got everyone mouth harps as stocking stuffers.)

New firsts

1st white Christmas (within memory). I may have had one when I was three, but all I can remember is the airport and my grandparents' awesome patchwork carpet.

1st game of Settlers of Catan. I can totally see why my high school friends are all obsessed with the game, as it's really fun.

1st case of strep throat. Yay!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Greetings from the road

Salutations from Provo, Utah, home of BYU and a supermarket that goes by the name of Ream's. Slightly incongruous, but there you go. Here are the tales and highlights of the trip so far:

I finally managed to see the famed chocolate fountain at the Bellagio. Last time we were there, R and I searched high and low with no luck. Fortunately for us, R's sister had been there previously, so she served as our guide to moderate marvel that was the fountain. R and I felt slightly silly upon discovering that the fountain was really easy to find. We had passed within 50 yards of the thing while originally searching for it.

Apparently snow makes me want ice cream. We pulled off at a gas station while in Utah and I was thrilled to see a Dairy Queen. I ran inside to get one of those chocolate dipped soft-serve ice cream cones. Delicious! I think there might be something wrong with my family, as during a trip up Alaska's inland passage with my mother and sister we spent the entire time looking for ice cream. My sister had to have some cherry ice cream, so at every stop we would hop off the ferry and race around the tiny towns searching. We finally found some at the far end of our route, in Skagway. Perhaps it was all the searching, but it really did taste like the world's best ice cream.

While ordering at Burger King in Provo (R's family is strangely obsessed with eating there while traveling. Of course, R and I ate at nearly every Arby's between San Diego and Missoula, so I probably shouldn't be talking), I committed the most horrible and memorable slip of the tongue. I wanted to order a Firecracker TenderCrisp chicken sandwich, but when I opened my mouth what, to my dismay, came out? "Firecrapper." I almost died laughing. This is why I like those machines that take your order--no taking required!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And we're off

My very last pair of shoes will be serving my not-falling-on-my-ass needs in icy Montana. As my access to computers will be sporadic, I probably won't be posting much for the next week or so. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Feliz Kwanzaa! I'll see you New Year's eve... probably. We'll see how the driving goes. Wish up luck!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The all-shoe post

Given that I've been neglecting LaBloShoeMo for a few days, the only way to make it up to you is in a glut of shoe pictures.

These here are my lab shoes. I originally bought them because I was longing for a pair of red sneakers, but almost immediately after buying them I tried to put them on without unlacing them, irreparably crushing the soft, puffy backs of the shoes. As they were somewhat uncomfortable, I abandoned them for years in the back of the closet, unwilling to wear them yet unwilling to throw them away. During my time at the Health & Safety department at my university, I had to occasionally walk inside of labs during the course of making their emergency exit maps. As my preferred footwear is the sandal, that lead to a bit of conflict with my boss. In order to be able to wear sandals the rest of the day, I had to provide a pair of work shoes, something I wouldn't miss from my wardrobe. My red Vans wound up spending several years living under my desk at the university, and have seen many of the nooks and crannies of that fine institution. Exactly what I will do with them now that I no longer work there, I don't yet know.

Here are some more shoes I don't really wear that often. The white sandals I purchased for R's brother's wedding last summer. I've worn them a couple of times since, but they seem to have an agenda against my little toes, so I can't wear them for long.

The natural cotton China flats were originally part of my step-sister's renaissance fair costume, which she gave to me when she went back to Washington DC to live with her father. Unfortunately, I wound up giving away the costume when I moved down to San Diego (which I regret) and the shoes are the only part of it remaining in my possession. They are freakishly narrow (although it could also have something to do with the abnormal width of the front of my foot, as pointed out by the snowboard boot salesman), so I don't tend to wear them as they make one of the nerves in my foot twinge in pain.

The black flats I probably wear the most out of this group of shoes. Although you really can't see it in this picture, the front is gathered and there is a little bow. So cute! Still, a little narrow at the toe, so I get that twinging pain if I walk too much in them.

The brown kitten-heeled mules are really cute on their own, but look really odd when worn for some reason. I've never been able to understand it, but since they are rather impractical for walking up hills or stairs they've never been favored anyway.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The reason for the season

As R and I will be leaving Wednesday for Montana, today was spent finishing up last minute errands. Cards were sent, mail-order clothes that were nothing like they looked in the catalog were returned, and the tribute to be sent up North for she who produced me was purchased.

The request this year was for a nice new bathrobe. I scoured the mall, searching for something huge, luxuriant, and made of terrycloth. I finally found the perfect one--$138. Umm... no. Even though my sister and I are splitting the cost, I decided that I don't like the lady $70 worth. I wound up purchasing something acceptable, though not ideal, at Sears--originally $60, on sale for half price. Much more like it.

Just so you know that I'm not treating her too poorly, I will also be sending her a jar of huckleberry jam that I lovingly transported back from Montana last winter.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Recipe Review: Peppermint Bark Fudge

Another recipe from a blog I'm rather fond of, peppermint bark fudge is delicious and incredibly easy to make. I made a batch as a Christmas present for my grandparents, the little I ate of it was delicious, and also made a peppermint-free batch for the mint hater I live with. I couldn't believe how rich and chocolaty it was, considering how little time it took to make.

My only recommendation would be to line the pan that you use to chill the fudge, as even when chilled overnight the stuff is rather sticky. After prying the fudge out of the pan, I wound up dusting the bottom with powdered sugar so that the pieces in the box I was giving as a gift wouldn't stick together.

My latest realization

I have two biology classes. I teach them the same curriculum. Now that I have finalized the grades, one of the classes has two F's (one from a student who hasn't been there in two months, the other from a student who gave up very early in the class and has turned in almost nothing). My other class has sixteen F's--fully half the class is failing.

Now, earlier in the year, when both classes were struggling, I figured it was just because I was a new and inexperienced teacher. However, as the semester progressed and one class recovered while the other class continued to flounder, I began to suspect that there might be other factors at play in that classroom. Last night, I looked at the grades of my sixteen failing students. With only one or two exceptions, these students were also getting D's and F's in several of their other classes. Most of these students are not new to the school, so the administration knew that these kids were not the best students, and yet they put them all in the same class. Considering that I only have eight tables in the classroom, that is an average of two failing students per table.

I'd like to take a moment right here to clarify what I am trying to say. These students are not unteachable--they simply need more attention, an environment free of distractions, and a teacher who is experienced in devising stratagems to entice reluctant students into doing their work. Why the hell are they all in the same class? Why do they have me teaching them? This is not serving the best interests of the students!

Tip of the day

Don't get Italian salad dressing in your eye. It really burns, probably due to the vinegar, though I doubt the spices help the matter any.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unpleasant business

As I was trying to give my students every opportunity to bring their grades up, I missed the deadline to have letters sent home informing the parents about intersession (where students with high F's due to missed work can raise their grades to D's and avoid summer school), and therefore have to personally call the parents. I think it is rather hard on some of the sixth grade parents, as for many I'm the harbinger of the ill news that their child is not handling the transition from elementary to middle school gracefully. They ask why, but receive no consolation when answered that they child won't even do their work when I'm standing there prompting them. The bright spot in all this is that most of my failing ninth graders failed in a rather impressive way (meaning they did absolutely nothing and don't have a prayer of raising their grade to passing level), so I won't have to call their parents.


What you are witnessing here is the first time I have worn these shoes since I purchased them. Perhaps I'll wear them tomorrow, now that this fact has been brought to my attention.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

t = (V - 2)

Where V = vacation, of course.

For a week of short days, it has been a rather exhausting several days. I've been scrambling about, trying to get things finished and graded, constantly being interrupted by classes that I need to teach. Once you're used to a block schedule, regular periods just seem so short. It doesn't help that my afternoons have been taken up with student presentations. After 3 hours of them, I am hardly fit to think, let alone grade. Plus, the students! You would hardly believe it (although, I suppose, it is all too typical). They're clamoring to bring their grades up, though not seeming to understand that they need to do work in order for that to happen. I've been spending this whole week trying to get my sixth graders to make up all the work they're missing, with mixed results. I've settled for combing through their binders in order to find all the work they could be turning in, however it just isn't enough for most of them. Currently, there are two A-'s in the class and all the other grades are D's or F's. I even made them little packets of all the handouts they were missing, only to have them show up during advisory and ask what they needed to do to raise their grades. Argh! I've been telling them what to do all week!

Looking at the positives, though, I saw my problem class for the last time today. On Friday, (nearly) all the ninth graders will be going to see The Nutcracker, so the few students I may have remaining I can apparently just drop off in a specified classroom and I therefore get to take the period off. What joy!


Ah, here are another two pairs of shoes that I don't wear. Back in high school I used to wear China flats all the time, however once I got to college I found myself having to walk such great hilly distances across campus that this type of shoe no longer served my needs. They're so cute that I can't bring myself to give them away, but since they're very thin and take up little storage space I don't mind keeping them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I've made a new enemy

I dumped a nearly full Monster down the sink today, further alienating an already alienated student. My school, like many others, has a no food policy inside the buildings. Water is allowed, but nothing else. The kids know that, but, much like the no hat policy, they are always trying to see what they can get away with. This one decided to pop open a beverage, in hopes that I wouldn't notice or wouldn't take it away from him if I did. Umm... Wrong. Especially since the guy sits at one of my noisiest tables.


These are my witchy shoes. I purchased them used for the sole purpose of looking evil for a witch costume. I've only worn them once, and never plan on wearing them again, but for some reason I can't bring myself to get rid of them. The idea that someone bought these with the intention of wearing them in a everyday situation still cracks me up, though.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

To think I made it this long

Today I learned that the song lyric is "secret agent man," not "secret Asian man."


Above is the reason I didn't post yesterday: I was busy picking out my Christmas present. New boots! Beautiful boots. Comfortable boots. Boots with a lining that has been heat-molded to the shape of my foot. Boots a half-size larger than my old pair; a half-size larger than the guy at the store recommended.

I swear, there is some sort of sports store conspiracy to get everyone to buy snowboarding boots that are slightly too small for their feet. The first store we went to didn't have a very large selection, but while R and I were looking we overheard a customer commenting that the boots she was trying on felt to small and heard the sales associate launch into a tirade about how they were supposed to fit that way and you want your toes to be touching the front of the boot and it is better to get them small than too large.

I will tell you all now, having had boots slightly too small for my feet for the last four years, the sales people are lying to you. Yes, when crouching while wearing the boot it is fine for your toe to brush the front of the boot, but they should not always be touching. If they do, your foot will wind up hurting. You will wind up buying the thinnest socks you can find, at which point in time your toes will start becoming numb. Just resist the salesperson's pressure! They should be snug, but anything mildly uncomfortable will only get worse.

These are the boots that have served me faithfully for the last four years. If it wasn't for the fact that they make my toes go numb and I can only wear the thinnest of socks with them they could last me another five or ten years. If you can't tell from the picture, their laces are thinner than those of my new boots, making them much harder to lace. Even with all their issues, I still feel a little bad about replacing them before their time. They were my first boots. We've got a history.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Three in one

Recipe Review: Macaroni and Three Cheeses

If you're looking for a quick recipe, this isn't it. However, if you're looking for something tasty and a step up from mac in a box with orange stuff, you might want to try this out. I think it may have been even better the next day, which is a mark of superior craftsmanship.

You can find the recipe here, so I'll not bother typing it up. I didn't put the bread crumb garnish on top, as I don't think bread crumbs add anything to pasta, but otherwise made it as stated in the recipe. Reviews were positive, so I think I'll keep this recipe. I will, however, be making a few modifications in the future. The dish could use a little more bite and personality, so I'll probably put in a little chili powder. Additionally, I may sprinkle some cheese on top so that the dish can have the crunchy top layer that it was supposed to have.

Fridge Friday VI: The top

Ah, yes. The top of the fridge. Home to whatever fruit I need to ripen (in this case, an avocado destined for grated carrot salad with avocado) and, only recently, the cat. He only figured out how to get up there this week and is still slightly unsure of whether or not he is supposed to be up there. Often times when one of us pass by we'll startle the cat, who then proceeds to try to hop up into the crevice between the cabinets and the ceiling, a space that is much too small for him to fit into. It's pretty funny to watch.


These dusty, filthy, slightly urine-splattered shoes are my mountain biking shoes. R and I fell in love with Solomon brand shoes after his brother gave him a pair of boots. They're really comfortable and have huge tread on the bottom, meaning they're perfect for keeping one attached to the pedals of their bike. Sure, I could get clip-in shoes, but you have to be sure you're not going to fall, because it's hard to detach yourself midway through the air. I'm just not ready to take that leap of faith yet.

Why I always carry a bottle of water these days

As I was sitting in the traffic outside of my school this morning I got to watch my car's temperature gauge go up, and up, and up. Damn thing has a coolant leak, you see. At first I didn't have to do anything, then last spring I had to fill it up once, and then again a few months later. I've been filling it up more and more frequently since then, until this week, whereupon I filled it up Tuesday, drove it Thursday, and low coolant light came on during the drive to work today.

Lucky for me, I learned a few things about cars during all of the car trouble fraught family vacations I took as a child. As soon as I noticed the increasing engine temperature I turned on the heat full blast, which cooled down the engine a bit and allowed me to make it to school. At least it was cool out today and not 100 degrees in the middle of the desert, which is where I learned this particular trick.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Six percent

I think I finally managed to convince a large portion of my students to turn in an assignment.

First, I printed out a summary of their assignments to date and grade breakdown and gave them each a copy. After they had looked it over, I drew their attention to the total grade percentage at the bottom.

"Look at that number. Now, add six to it. This assignment," I said, "that we will be doing for the rest of class will raise your grade approximately six percentage points. It's not hard; it just requires a little thought and reflection. I know you can all do it.

"Remember. Six. That will raise a whole bunch of you up a grade. It's so easy."

You know what happened then? They all worked on the assignment! It was awesome.


I got these Tevas for a trip to Costa Rica that I took with my mom a few years back. I'm still not exactly sure why I got tan ones. They look like something my mom would wear. Still, they're quite comfortable and I have gotten a decent amount of wear out of them.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Now I know how my grandpa feels

Last period of the day, I all of the sudden had a sharp pain at the inner edge of my eyebrow. I reach up to feel a coarse bent hair that was not there this morning. I kept prodding it, wondering what the heck happened and hoping that my students wouldn't notice that I was continuously poking myself in the face. As soon as there was another teacher in the area (one of the rare benefits to having a class in a common area lacking in walls), I raced to the bathroom to pluck out the hair, which resulted in the pain immediately disappearing. A very odd occurrence.

7 more days.


These are my work-out shoes. They're actually several years old, but having been worn almost exclusively indoors they remain fairly white. My sister and I are both obsessed with Saucony running shoes. Perhaps their design is just the perfect shape for our feet. Whenever I need new shoes I do try on other brands, but I always wind up coming back.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Ah... One more class done and over with. Now I only have to finish the assignments for Monday night's class, then I will be all done with my (graduate) classes for the quarter. I feel a little lucky, seeing as some of my colleagues will still have to teach for another several weeks after our classes are over.

Eight days left of teaching.


Time to break with the black shoes! For a little while, anyway. Today's shoes are Rampage sling-back peep-toe kitten heels. I fell in love with their polka dots and had to have them, which was somewhat unusual, as I am not really a shoe person. I bought them with no real purpose in mind, but I later acquired a red dress that matches them perfectly and have since worn the ensemble to various fancy events.

Unfortunately, these shoes give me the meanest blisters if worn for any amount of time. R and I were going to a friend's wedding in Pacific Beach (a borough of San Diego notorious for it's parking problems) and wound up having to haul ass for quite a distance in order to make it to the ceremony on time. I could hardly walk back to the car! Ever since then, I pre-bandage my feet.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I've given up.

Well, perhaps that isn't the correct term. I've hit the point where the little things don't bother me quite so much, as I know that it will all be over soon. Only six out of thirty-two students bring in their rough drafts? Whatever. All of you who didn't can go work on the computers (which were conveniently empty). Should I try and cram in more new topics? Nah, lets just focus a bit more on what we've been learning, do some sort of concluding activity, and move on to an end-of-semester reflective portfolio piece. I've even planned a whole week for my sixth graders to do make-up work (to be fair, it's a week of shortened days and many other teachers are just showing movies). I'm just trying to not stress myself out too much, give myself time to finish homework (which I should probably be doing right now), and make it to December 14th.

Nine more days.

Oh, and since everyone is doing it, R's sister has elfed us.


I swear, they don't look nearly so scuffed and beat-up in person!

As you can probably tell, these black Kaya flats are well-loved. These are the only nice shoes I have that don't hurt my feet. I've worn a hole in the toe and will be very sad when it comes time to replace them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Counting the days

Two more weeks of school.

One more week of real teaching, plus one week of shortened classes and student presentations in the afternoon. Tomorrow is mostly students doing their own thing, so that hardly counts as teaching. I'll have to do some sort of summary activity or quiz at the end of the week, so that also eats up some class time.

If you can't tell, I'm quite ready for the semester to be over. Last week, at the last minute, I found out about a two day training scheduled for Thursday and Friday of that week. I could hardly believe my luck. Two days off of teaching! One of the other teachers at the conference warned one of my professors to look after me, as I appear to be burning out. Truthfully, that woman was quite correct. I am burning out. I don't want to do this anymore, I think I have gotten all I can out of this job, but I won't let myself quit either. I have to stick it out for another semester. I'll be doing my best (or at least the best I can do in my current state) and not just phoning it in, but I'm really just trying to survive at this point.

10 more days.


Today's selection is my second most worn pair of shoes: black Vans. These ones are old, and therefore a little faded, but when new they looked very sharp. Comfortable and casual, but nice enough for a business casual environment, I wind up wearing these shoes quite frequently. One of the first times I wore these, one of my advisory students tried to tease me because her feet were bigger than mine (I guess they hadn't realized it while I was wearing flip flops). I don't really understand the sixth grade mine, but I'm sure she will understand some day that people are generally not competing to have the largest feet.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Of blogs and shoes

NaBloPoMo Wrap-Up

Although I failed in the original intent of the challenge (post every day for the month of November), I think I was fairly successful in my other goals. I posted five Fridge Friday pictures (though not all on Fridays), reviewed five recipes, and wrote on three of the topics on this list (here and here). On top of that, I made some new blog friends. All in all, a pretty successful month.

The only this I didn't do that I said I would was talk about my wedding. So, for all of you out there dying to know what is up with that, here it is. I had been thinking that October/November was when they'd be finalizing the schedule on the hall I want to rent. It turns out that I actually won't know for sure until February. I'm still at the top of the list (or, more likely, the only one on the list), but it won't be guaranteed until then. At the moment, we're planning on making the other arrangements during winter break (those two days I have off before I leave for Missoula are going to be really busy), such as finding a photographer, ordering a cake, and clothes for the guys, based on our current date. Since we will know if the date will be changing six months in advance we figure it will be fine if we have to adjust(if we're bumped, we're figuring we'll first try for another spot on campus on that day, then possibly some other date in August).

During my trip up to NorCal, I spoke with my grandmother about wedding dress plans. We both lamented the fact that, in the last few years, dress patterns have almost disappeared from stores. We both plan on searching some more, as we still have plenty of time, but I think I'm going to look for something around here as a back-up.

As for colors and bridesmaids' (well, co-maids of honor and groomsmaid) dresses, I'm thinking black, white, and dusky blue-green. Black dresses will make the whole wedding party look more coherent, while eucalyptus bouquets will look awesome (and eliminate the need for flowers). As nice as flowers are, I just don't consider myself a flow person (which I'm sure would just break my grandmother's heart, being extremely active in her local floral arrangers guild). Flowers are nice, but I really just like them best on plants. My inspiration is the picture below (I can't remember where I originally found it), which just looks awesome. I think I might go for black planters, but this is what I want my wedding to look like.


Today also happens to be the first day of LaBloShoeMo. For those of you who are confused ("Wait! NaBloShoeMo was last month!"), feel free to look at the story of its origin.

Today's shoes are classic San Diego footwear: black Reefs. Prior to moving to San Diego, I had always preferred those little J. Crew ones that always give you blisters at the beginning of every summer, however I was soon convinced of the error of my ways. These sandals are the most comfortable things I have ever worn. The soles grip, the subtly grooved foot bed ensures you won't slip out of the sandal when wet, and the cloth strap has never given me a blister. Even now, several years old with hardly any tread and emitting a noticeable odor when moistened, I can hardly bear the thought of replacing them (finding these, my second pair, was a pain in the ass. I think I'll just order online next time). The only downside to these shoes is that the kitties find them irresistibly delicious, so I have to be very careful about where I leave them.