Category Archives: Life Outside of School

Year in Books 2016

My goal this year was 52 books. I ended up reading…73! Wowzers! According to Goodreads, that was over 22,000 pages. Here they all are:

booksread20161 booksread20162 booksread20163

Please do not take the fact that a book is posted as a recommendation. There are quite a few stinkers on here (and about 25 others that I stopped reading). But here are some highlights and books I *would* recommend (links are to amazon page):

My favorite book of the year:

The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I’m a sucker for “look at how all these lives intertwine” stories (see: my favorite of all time, A Constellation of Vital Phenomenaand this one did it so well. I was so entranced I tore through it; now I want to go back and savor it.

My other five-star books of the year:

Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys Of all the WWII novels I read this year, this was by far my favorite. My mom and dad both read it and liked it as well. Not only did this involve “intertwining lives” but also “found family,” another one of my favorite themes. I challenge you not to be moved by this book.

Homegoing Yaa Gyasi: Each chapter tells the story of a generation of two families. Each chapter could be a stand-alone winner. Each chapter makes you sad when it ends, but then each new chapter draws you in anew. Also, holy crap, I just noticed the cover and got the meaning.

The Thing About Jellyfish Ali Benjamin: Hey, you know how every “great” middle grade book ends with someone dying? In a twist, the girl dies at the beginning! But it’s not all sad. Also winner of “Best Use of Costume” and “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying Over Best Use of Costume” awards.

All Over but the Shoutin’ Rick Bragg: I know, how have I lived in Alabama all this time and not read this book yet? This is a masters course in fine, fine writing.

Be Frank with Me Julia Claiborne Johnson (Hey, it’s currently on sale for $1.99 Kindle!) I did have this rated as 4 stars, but I had to up it since it met my five-star criteria of “Do I want to recommend this to everyone I know?” About the only thing I like more than “found family” and “intersecting lives” is “believably-precocious kid teaches us all some life lessons, especially a curmudgeonly adult.” Frank checks that box off wonderfully.

Honorable Mentions:

Lab Girl Hope Jahren: Fascinating look into what it means to be a scientist (and also plants are cool).

Good As Gone Amy Gentry (Currently Kindle is free with prime!): My favorite suspense/mystery of the year.

Scientist Greater than Einstein Billy Woodward with Joel Shurkin and Debra Gordon: I read this based on the recommendation of the creator of graphfree.com and I’m glad I did: it was FASCINATING. If you’re into science and/or medicine, this is a must-read! (Yes, I wish they would have found at least one female to put on the list, but that doesn’t take away from the amazing tales that are included!)

I’ve set another goal of 52 books for 2017, and I hope to have a bit more stars awarded next year. Here’s wishing you a happy cozy reading year!

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags: ,

Join Us for #Fitbos17!

It’s back! The second annual Fitbos challenge!

giphy

I’m sure you have a lot of questions right now.
1. WHERE CAN I GET  A COPY OF THIS POODLE EXERCISE TAPE?!?!?!?”
2. If you were to morph into a dog (but with human feet), would you still feel the need to exercise, or would you just glide by on charm alone?
3. At what point in the planning process did the suggestion “hey, what if we put poodle-bubble muscles on the human?” come into play?
4. What sort of chair exercises do they plan on doing?
5. Will they sit in the chair like a human or a dog?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to those questions. But I may have the answer to some of your other burning questions….

What is the #Fitbos17 challenge?  Set your own work out hours goal for the year, make that goal public by entering it on bit.ly/fitbos17 , and then enter in your workout times as you try to reach that goal. That’s it.

How did this start? In 2015, for some reason, I signed up for #500milesin2015. I made it (and did a 10K!) but not without some “knee awareness.” I wanted to still have a year goal but be able to vary the workouts, so I started a google spreadsheet last year. In September, I was less than halfway done and Kristin Fouss (@fouss) had just reached her goal. I said I may need to modify my goal and she called me a low-down dirty cheater. Those may have not been her exact words, but the meaning was clear: step it up and complete the goal. I found a great accountability buddy with Marissa (@viemath) and together we struggled through the rest of the year and both finished on December 31st!

What should my goal be? I’m doing 170 because it’s 2017. Some people are doing 100 hours, some people are doing 275. I try to find the line between possible and believable and that is something different for everyone.

What counts? We’re not the exercise police. If you think it counts, count it. My rule of thumb is, “Am I not sitting on my butt when I rather would be?”  Hiking? Of course. Snow-shoveling? I’ve heard that such a thing is actually quite the workout. Dance-vacuuming? Hey, if you break a sweat and have a clean house, double bonus! Walking around the school during your planning period? Great way to get in some extra minute and get re-energized! I personally do a mix of walk/jogging when the weather is nice and youtube videos and DVDs from Jessica Smith when the weather isn’t.

What do I get when I complete my goal? Your hours turn green and you get a shout-out on Twitter from me.

Anything different from last year? I’m glad you asked. Sometimes having a year goal can make it easy to slack off during the first half and then scramble to make it up the second half (or so I’ve heard. 😉 ). I’ve modified the spreadsheet so there is an entry sheet for each month, with a goal just for the month. If I did everything correctly, that goal should be modified for each new month depending if you reached or exceeded your goal the previous month(s). I hope that will keep some of us (i.e. me) on track a bit better. Enter your workout minutes in each month’s sheet and it should update the monthly and yearly hours on the first sheet.

Who completed the 2016 challenge? Congrats to:

Kristen (@fouss) 209 hours (131% of goal)
Monica (@mbrannan28) 170 hours (106%)
Pam (@pamjwilson) 165 hours (103%)
Sue (@dsrussosusan) 240 hours (120%)
Danielle (@0mod3) 226 hours (113%)
Mary Anne (@Mahiker) 224 hours (112%)
Jenn (@RilesBlue) 199 hours (110%)
Tina (@TPalmer207) 130 hours (125%)
Marissa (@viemath) 100 hours (100%)
Me! 160 hours (100%)

7fkdgc

And to answer your final question, “where do I sign up again?” bit.ly/fitbos17!

#MTBoSBlaugust Binge watching!

It’s the last days of summer for me, which means time for one last binge-watch, right? So I thought I would share some of my favorites! (What does this have to do with school you may ask? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.) I’m going to link to each show’s justwatch page (which is a great app/website that tells you where things are available streaming or for purchase)

I’m currently watching The Paradise, (netflix) set in a 1870s London department store. The first season was entertaining, the second season has gotten really soap-opera-y. I mean, this is the #1 gif:
tumblr_mn1xaqwIi01qbg9plo2_500

But it’s only 8 episodes each so going to finish it!  About the same level of enjoyment I got from Downton Abbey, with 100% less crying from Mrs Bates.

Speaking of Downton Abbey, I have no idea why it got all the awards and recognition instead of Call the Midwife (netflix). Maybe because it’s set in the austerity of post-war London instead of a castle? Because it has nuns and midwives instead of landowners and servants? Because it’s characterized as a “woman” show? As one of my favorite characters says:

tumblr_inline_mzo7l8TJrF1qg6er0

As a fellow teacher, you may have the problem of seeing the first 20 minutes of an episode and then falling asleep. So the highest praise I can give is to say that I have never fallen asleep during a Midwife episode! And unlike Downton, every character on here makes me want to be a better person.

If the 1950s is too far back for you, how about the 1980s? Halt and Catch Fire  (netflix) had an odd, yet riveting, first season. But the second season I could not stop watching! 3030972-inline-i-4-halt-and-catch-fire-showrunner-jonathan-lisco-explains-how-to-create-great-charactersComputers, start ups, the piemaker…what more could you want?

So 1980s is too recent? Well, how about the early 1800s?

tumblr_mi2ywsLuHh1qcm3rzo1_500

Mr Craig just brought Horatio Hornblower to our beach vacation and I was reminded how engaging, fast-paced, and fun that show is! Even my mom liked it, and she does not usually like historical or war stuff! My dad was ready to stay up til 1 the night before we left to finish the cliffhanger. The only issue is that it is not available streaming. But the good news is Target has all 8 episodes (it was a miniseries, so each episode is 100 minutes long!) for less than 20 bucks!

Of course I can’t let a recommendation post go by without mentioning Friday Night Lights, but it’s more of a formality since I’m sure you’re already watched this, RIGHT?!?!

images (1)

Right!

Ok, one last one! If you want a quick comedy series that will remind you of all you have to look forward to in the workplace…try Better Off Ted.(netflix) The fact that it only lasted two seasons is a travesty!! I couldn’t limit myself to just one gif, so here are three to end the post!

images (2)

images (3)

tumblr_m8k8yp7W5Z1rd1s27o1_250

What are some of your favorite shows to spend the summer watching?

2016 Resolutions #MTBoS12Days

But to expand that a little more…

Goal #1: To become more efficient at school. I worked too many long days this semester and a few weeks it became sleep, eat, school, repeat. I need to streamline some tasks and remember that perfection is the enemy of good!

Goal #2: To keep trying to stay fit. The #500in2015 challenge really pushed me, but since I’m a slow trotter, I didn’t have time to do any other type of exercise. This year, to keep myself accountable and have a challenge to work towards, I started the #160in2016 challenge: Exercise in any form (walking, running, biking, yoga, ballet, strength training, unicycling) for 160 hours during the year. If you want to join in for accountability and motivation, sign up at bit.ly/fitbos16. You can set your own goal–we have goals ranging from 104 to 200.  (I got 160 by 30 minutes x 5 days x 50 weeks = 125, so 150 would be a stretch goal, and then 160in2016 just sounded nicer.)

Goal #3: 100 Hours of Creativity. In the past, I loved making handmade cards and I hate to brag, but I was pretty good at it! Then we moved to new house with a view and all I want to do is sit on the porch bedswing and read. But I fear as though my creative side is turning to mush, so I’d like to get back to creating something.

Goal #4: Read 52 books and participate in modernmrsdarcy’s book challenge (thanks for the link, Pam!)

Maybe I’ll find the next ICPBy award winner from the challenge!

Goal #5: Take time to enjoy my husband, my dog, and my family.

Wishing you all a wonderful, healthy, goal-achieving 2016!

More Books, Books, Books #MTBoS12Days

So this is an extended version of the “books read” prompt: the annual Insert Clever Pun Here Book Awards (also known in the industry as the “ICPBies”).

I had to hunker down this past week to finish my goal of 52 books, but I did! Here are the books I read:

books1

books2

And some stats:

Books read: 52
Pages read: 17,235*
Shortest book: 79 pages
Longest book: 599 pages
Average length: 331 pages
Average rating: 3.41/5 stars
Non-fiction:Fiction::13:39
E-Book:”Real” Book::30:22

*My actual page count was higher, as there were at least 20 books that I abandoned before finishing them. I am a firm believer in Rule #3 of The Rights of The Reader.

(pdf available here, book available here!)

And now it’s time for the ICPBies! (Click on any book’s picture to be taken to the Amazon page for it. And no, I’m not an amazon affiliate, but I did use my smile.amazon.com link. 🙂 )

Best Non-Fiction

If you’re a nerd (you’re reading a math blog that’s writing about books…YOU ARE A NERD), then you’ll love to geek out over this book. Warning: you will annoy all your friends and relatives with odd little facts about everyday material after reading this. Also: chocolate is amazing.

Best Education Book

In fact, my brochure that I handed out to my students with excerpts from this book was one of my more popular posts! Go read the post to learn more about the book.

Best Use of Typography and “Found Documents”

PLEASE spend $10 today and buy the hardbound copy of this book. And then read it. It is such a fun, creative, suspenseful page-turner. I think you’ll be disappointed if you get the e-book version; there is a reason it won this specific award!

Best Graphic Novel

If you are a nerd (which has already been established), then this book will warm your heart. It is a steam-punk-ish graphic novel about an alternate timeline where Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage get to be awesome together, with lots of long footnotes. I know, you’re sold, right? But really, I enjoyed every page of this book.

Best Book for Dog Lovers

People, this is a STEAL for the current price of $12 for the hardcover. First of all, it is a gorgeous book, with a wonderfully textured cover. Second of all, inside the book are gorgeous (watercolor?) pictures of Plumdog, our hero, throughout England and Scotland. Third of all, it’s written by Plumdog! Buy it for yourself and every dog lover you know. It will be their favorite gift!

Best Book, First Runner-up

A book that made me happy. And the dog is just there to be a dog and DOESN’T DIE. And it’s on sale for $3.99. I’m not sure what else I can do to get you to read this book.

Best Book of The Year

If you need to restore your faith in humanity, read this book.  If you need a good laugh, read this book. If you need a good cry, read this book. If you need to read, read this book.

Thanks for indulging me in my annual ICPBies! What books did you love this year? What books do you want to read next year? Do you secretly want to quit teaching and open a bookstore, only because then you could (a) get books to read for free and (b) tell other people what to read?

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags:

My Favorites: Recipes #MTBoS12Days

Did you see @pamwilson and @druinok have started a “Yule Blog Challenge“? 12 days of blog prompts!  And only some of them actually involve thinking about teaching, which is a nice break for the holidays. In fact, it starts with favorites, including recipes!

(Also, guys, did you know that if you copy a link, and then highlight the words you want to be a hyperlink in your post, then ctrl + v, it automatically changes it to a hyperlink? Why am I just finding out about this now?)

If you like recipes and nice people, you should follow Sally’s Baking Addiction. I have two of her recipes that I actually get requests for:

Nutella-Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Muffins (I usually make them the morning I have off for my prep period final, but this year I decided to sleep in instead. I think there were almost tears when I didn’t show up with them… 😉 )

Peanut Butter Monster Cookies. Confession: I tried making these with the peanut butter cup surprise and it went horribly. The cookies spread out way too much, so it was like this flat pancake with a bump in the middle (they still tasted good, though). So now I make them just as normal-size cookies, without the peanut butter cup. Super easy-no mixer or chilling!

My most recent find was the Ovenly Chocolate Chip Cookies. Warning: These are labeled as “vegan” and contain no butter. Or eggs (hence, “vegan”) Right now you’re thinking, “I don’t want some sad tree-bark cookie, Meg. This makes me question all of your recipe recommendations.” But you’ll just have to trust me. If you know me at all, you’ll know I don’t mess around with my desserts (e.g. having 3 people tweet me locations of cupcake bakeries within 1 hour of TMC16 location announcement). Mix ’em up today and bake them tomorrow and then you can shower me with gifts and accolades. Because I have tested a bajillion chocolate chip recipes and they always turn out somewhere from “ok” to “edible” to “WTF.”  I have made these probably 5 times since I tried out the recipe a couple months ago and every time they’ve turned out beautifully. Mr Craig says it’s his favorite chocolate chip EVER!

But now you’re asking, what is his FAVORITE cookie?  Well, that would be good ol’ Chocolate Crinkles. You know, the brownie-like cookie rolled in powdered sugar? Here’s the recipe I use:

Chocolate Crinkles

Beat together:
1/4 c oil
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (melted)
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla

Add 2 eggs 1 at a time

Beat in:
1 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Refrigerate 3+ hours. Spoon out dough, roll into balls, roll in powdered sugar
Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Somehow they get better the next day? (If they last that long)

My next one comes with a warning: DO NOT MAKE THESE WHEN YOU WILL BE LEFT UNSUPERVISED IN THE HOUSE. For real, you’ll take a handful now, ooh, just one more, and all of a sudden, there’s nothing left. And you’re in a sugar coma.

Candied Pecans
Whisk 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons water.

In a separate bowl, stir together:
1 c sugar
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon

Pour the egg white mixture over 1 pound of pecans (in yet another bowl) and stir to coat. Then pour the sugar mix over the pecans and stir to coat. Spread out onto cookie sheet (greased or silpat-ed or non-stick foiled) and bake at 225 for 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Eat at least 3 when they are nice and hot from the oven. After cooling, store the rest in an air-tight container, on a high shelf, behind a padlock that only your dog knows the combination to.

Ok, last one! If you are not making your own whipped cream, you are missing out, my friend. And if you are not making your own whipped cream with a little “adult addition” then you are really missing out. It is super easy! I PROMISE! Use it to top anything (I may have been known to dip the above Chocolate Crinkles in it)

Amaretto Whipped Cream
Whisk 1 c of heavy cream until soft peaks form (Note: on my kitchenaide, that is 30 seconds at Level 7)  (Note: some people say you should chill the bowl and whisk in the freezer before making it, but I’ve done it both with and without and don’t a difference)

Add 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons Amaretto, and 1/2 t vanilla and beat. I won’t judge you if you need to “sample” it more than once. You just want to make sure it’s perfect, right?  Enjoy the oohs and aahs from friends and family when you tell them it’s homemade whipped cream.

Please join in on the Yule Blog fun!  I love reading other people’s favorite recipes. 🙂

Best Books of 2014

Ok, it’s been about a month since I’ve blogged (do I sense a New Year’s Resolution about that?), but I’m not here to talk about math.  Let’s talk books instead.  Namely the best of the 61 books I read in 2014:   booksread2014 2booksread2014 1booksread2014 3

And now my personal favorites:

Best Laugh:

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

I stayed up way too late finishing this one yesterday (note: it was also released yesterday if that tells you how much fun it is). Make sure you read The Rosie Project first!

Best Tearjerker (tie):

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay.  If you like YA, you’ll LOVE this one.
City of Thieves by David Benioff Set in Russia, so you know it’ll be full of rainbows and unicorns.

Best Celebrity Memoir (tie):

Neil Patrick Harris Choose Your Own Autobiography
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Surprisingly, both involve large castles/homes owned by Englishmen.  I might have given the slight edge to Princess Bride, but NPH’s also had 3 magic tricks, so it ended up being too close to call.

Best Book about Being Trapped (tie):

Thirteen: The Apollo Flight that Failed by Henry S.F. Cooper Jr
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Trapped in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that set them free by Hector Tobar

Yes, you know the endings to both of these stories, but these are well-written, captivating, behind-the-scenes accounts that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Best Smartypants Book (tie):

How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
What If? by Randall Munroe

My husband got to “enjoy” most of these books as well, since I could not stop reading parts aloud to him.  Maybe a slight edge to Munroe due to awesome use of footnotes.  And footnotes to footnotes.

Best Testing Tip:

The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Stier

In a timed test, set your (analog) watch to 12:00 when the timing starts. That way you can easily see how much time you have left instead of dealing with “25 minutes from 9:42.”  (Although I think I would set it so that it would hit 12:00 when time was up, but I still like the tip.)

Best Not-Pictured-Above Picture Book (Children’s Category)

I’ll just quote my tweet: Girl Engineer?  Check.  Dog Assistant? Check.  Adorable drawings? Check.  Growth Mindset? Check. LOVE IT.

Seriously, the small children in your life need this book.  And probably some adults, too.

Best Not-Pictured-Above Picture Book (Adult Category)

This is on sale for $20 at B&N  (or Amazon) right now. Go pick it up. Turn the pages. Be amazed.

Best Fiction

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

As good as it was, I think Eleven was slightly overhyped (not as much as The Goldfinch, though, which I gave up on with 100 pages to go because SERIOUSLY PAY FOR AN EDITOR).  As good as it was, I think Fikry was underhyped as I haven’t heard anything about it and it’s an adorable story for anyone that likes books.

And finally…..

The moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The Best Book of 2014

You need this book in your life just for the Nutella-stuffed muffins.  Or the peanut butter cookies.  Or gingersnaps!  I’m not sure what is the best compliment I can give: (a) this has turned me into a baker or (b) none of my pants fit me anymore. You could always check out Sally’s blog if you want to just dip your toe in the waters.

Do you have a favorite book of the year?  Did we read any of the same books?  Are you craving some cookies right now?  Let me know in the comments!

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags: ,