Thursday, December 31, 2009


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Out with the old... except these are some of what I will keep from 2009:
  • every laugh and smile from my 8 year old daughter and my students
  • every learning moment for me, my daughter, and my students
  • my little unfinished 6000 word novel for NaNoWriMo
  • every moment of our family vacations - Toronto weekend for Chinese New Year, Taiwan extravaganza in July (including our 10 year wedding anniversary)
 May you dream big, and may your dreams come true!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

yes I really read a book during vacation

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This doesn't happen often, being so productive during a short vacation, but I'm on a mission to save money to buy something ridiculously expensive, so reading, cooking, and compulsively calculating how much I've not spent and how much I've actually saved (two distinct ideas but very blurry in reality) help me reach this goal.

I read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson who has written and published many young adult novels.  This book has been on my "probably interesting to my students due to mature content" radar for some time, and I really enjoyed her historical fiction Fever 1793 (much to my own surprise because I'm a history dunce), so I finally borrowed a copy from my public library on Monday.  Yes, I actually went to the library instead of straight to the mall on my first "real" vacation day of this winter break.  See very long sentence in paragraph above for explanation.

The story in Speak is very engaging though sad to follow.  I think I would introduce this book to 8th grade students as an independent reading choice, and just let them decide if they want to read it.  Have you seen the movie based on the novel?  I don't want to see it, but Kristen Stewart of Twilight movie fame played the main character Melinda, so I'm curious if the movie was good.

Anderson's writing was truly engaging, and perhaps that partly explains why I enjoyed reading her historical fiction.  I want to read another book of hers, maybe Catalyst.  She is really talented in capturing the voices of teenagers!

In the cooking department, I tried a new recipe today - potato leek soup.  Leeks are foreign to me.  I never heard of them until my mid-20s when a friend Liz raved about the spinach and leek wrap sandwiches at a local eatery called Natalie's in Amherst, NY.  I liked them, too, but Liz maintained her devotion to these sandwiches for the next 15 years and requested that I bring one to her when I visited her and her newborn son in the hospital 16 months ago.  Of course I complied and the nice folks who work there were happy to hear about my mission.

ANYWAY.  Leeks are fascinating because they are so foreign to me and yet seem so ordinary to other people.  When I saw Giada make potato leek soup on the Food Network a few weeks ago, I felt ready to try my own modified version of her recipe (that is actually creamy artichoke soup, creamy referring to some cheese that starts with the letters "m" and spoken in Giada's Italian accent, like how she says mozzarella, except that's not the m-cheese in her recipe).  The endeavor involved my trying one new ingredient PLUS one new cooking technique - using a hand-held blender.  In the cooking department, I like adding new elements one (or 2) at a time, once in a while, for fun.  I borrowed the blender from my sister-in-law a few weeks ago, bought the ingredients yesterday, and today used Emeril's recipe on the Food Network web site for potato leek soup that I could mostly duplicate using the ingredients I had.  The photos above indicate my efforts, and the soup was really yummy!

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I'm glad I had some peace and relaxation Christmas Eve, because Christmas was full of stress.  Family.  My mother-in-law's Alzheimer's completely wipes us out.  On the flip side, today was more peace and less stress.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

more books

Just chillaxin'....... ahhhhh......

I finished Brisingr a few weeks ago (that's why I start 19 Schuyler) - sooooo good - waiting for the fourth and final book in series.  I should try to re-read the first 3 again.  Seriously!

I can't WAIT for the Percy Jackson movie - here's an awesome trailer!  Gotta re-read THAT series before the movie hits theaters on President's Day!

Another recent favorite book The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman, full of pictures from his blog of the same name.  Both book and blog contain some of the best fashion and style eye candy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

let the festivities begin!

Here's a local Western New York landmark, the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, NY where I met two lovely English teacher friends for lunch last Saturday.  The history of the inn includes the Roycroft Arts and Crafts Community founded in East Aurora by Elbert Hubbard in 1895.

Yes, I started winter break at about 3:15 pm today.  Monday and Tuesday this week weren't really difficult for me - my classes were running smoothly, students were OK in class.  Today was just zany.  But that's how it goes!

Hm... what should I say to sum up the last... 3 weeks?  NaNoWriMo wrapped up nicely, thanks much!  I will definitely repeat that writing unit next year and bump up my word count total expectations for students.  (Maybe 5000?)  I read The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E. L. Konigsburg and it was OK, not stellar.  My main struggle with that book is ... who's the audience?  I can't think of any student (that I know) who would be interested in the story or themes or setting or characters...  It's a grown-up book with young characters that incorporates a decent history of urban decline and gentrification from post-World War II era to the present time (approximately).  My second struggle with this book is the pace - my students (and I) like action, and this one is slow.  It's a perfectly good book, but I don't think 7th or 8th graders will GET it.

I started teaching nonfiction/informational texts and writing.  My 7th graders have been reading and writing about online news articles.  After winter break, they start a nutrition research project that incorporates action research (whereby they make an action plan to implement over a period of one month) and surveys.

Right now, REST!!!!!!  Until tomorrow, when my daughter and I have to procure carrots for the reindeer and cookies for Santa.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

happy december!

So I'm a bit late in the wishing and blogging, but isn't that a sweet picture from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade?! We were in NYC during that holiday weekend, and that was our 2nd time watching the parade in person. (Last year was the first.) I highly recommend it for anyone! That picture was taken from across Columbus Circle, facing the southwest end of Central Park, just as the parade turned east from Central Park West.

We had the most fabulous NYC visit, mainly due to staying at our friend A's mid-town apartment. We walked a LOT and rode the subway everywhere! Highlights: Macy's parade, ice skating at The Pond at Bryant Park (not me, but my husband and daughter), Friday morning Today Show (watched Lester and Natalie et al in person, but did not get on TV), Metropolitan Museum of Art, South Street Seaport tree lighting, plus awesome EATS!!! (East Japanese Restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, 2nd Ave Deli, Alice's Tea Cup, Max Brenner chocolate restaurant, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory)

NaNoWriMo wrapped up - yay! We've moved on to the next (but related) writing project, what I call the Select Scene. Students choose a favorite scene (about 3 pages long) from their novel to perfect (character and imagery descriptions, grammar, spelling, usage) for a test grade. We finish that this coming week, and Friday will be our official Wrap-up Party!