Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Salon

With just two days of work left until Christmas vacation, I'm finding it difficult to get too excited about lesson planning today.

Instead, I am going to tackle Little Sister's bedroom, which may be the death of me.  Some kids are good about organizing themselves, but she is not one of them.  Right now it is so messy that it is overwhelming to me and to her.

Earlier today we had our church Christmas program. It went well, and it is good to x that off our to do list.

I am mostly done with Christmas shopping, which is a good thing.  I haven't had to battle the crowds at the mall this weekend, and instead the girls and I did a bit of baking yesterday.  Little Sister made homemade cinnamon rolls.  Middle Sister is still working on cut-out Christmas cookies and Big Sister has a few things she plans on baking yet this afternoon.

I have a stack of Christmas cards to send out - after I address them.  If I manage to make it out of Little Sister's room alive, that is my next project.

I have no idea what I'll end up making for supper - and in fact, we haven't even had lunch yet.  I'm hoping inspiration strikes at some point, but I would be happy with scrambled eggs.

Enjoy this last Sunday before Christmas, everyone! Hopefully you are done with rushing around and enjoying the holiday.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Five

This week's Friday Five are mostly items I've looked at a few times on the internet, and am still thinking about them.  The pictures, of Prince George, well, I don't collect things about the royal family anymore, but I am still a little bit obsessed.

As a long-time royal watcher, I'm always excited to see new pictures of Prince George.  These three photos are the latest that have been released by Prince William and Princess Kate.

And here's one of his father, Prince William when he was not quite two.  They made a big deal about all the royals having blue eyes, but I see George has brown eyes like his mother.  Very cute!

It's hard to follow up Prince George, but this JCrew Colorblock Baseball T looks super comfortable to me.  

A friend of a friend has a vintage store that I am wanting to visit over Christmas break.  This yardstick table looks super cute to me. I can think of a few places in my house I could use it.

I have a thing for USA wall art. This is my latest find on the Pottery Barn website.  I think I've pretty much used all the large wall space I have which means this one will just be something I admire online.

Love these glitter cords the Gap has right now.  Would be a great thing to add to my collection, I think!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Underground Girls of Kabul

Every year my students that participate in book club read The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis.  Parvana, the protagonist in this story, dresses like a boy after her father is arrested and someone must get water for her family and earn money for food.

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg is an interesting look at the practice of dressing girls like boys in Afghanistan.  Nordberg focuses on a few women who she talks with and whose stories she can share.

Azita is one such woman, unusual in the fact that she is the breadwinner of the family.  Encouraged by her father as a child to be educated, Azita is especially devastated that she is married off to an illiterate cousin to help protect her family.  Somehow despite many setbacks, she is able to obtain a position of prestige in the Afghan government as a representative from her home district.  After giving birth to a fourth daughter Azita decides to dress and treat her last child as a boy, giving the family a better status.  

Through conversations with women who once dressed as boys who are now adults, Nordberg collects as much data she can about this practice of bacha posh.  She manages to give a different perspective on the life of females in Afghanistan and their subcultures.

The Underground Girls of Kabul is an interesting and engaging non-fiction book that I found hard to put down as I became involved in the stories of different women.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick:  In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
Due out: June 2, 2015

Product Description taken from Amazon:

When a series of passenger airplanes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey within a three-month period in 1951–1952, Judy Blume was a teenager. “These events have lingered in my mind ever since,” says Blume. “It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.” Against this background, Blume uses her imagination to bring us the lives of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, who will be profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly. But life goes on and Blume digs deep into her characters—we see them coping not only with grief but with first love, estranged parents, difficult friendships, familial obligations, divorce, career ambitions, a grandparent’s love, a widower’s hope, and everything in between. . . . Most important, In the Unlikely Event is filled with the same warmth and authenticity that have won Blume the hearts and minds of readers of all generations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One Step Too Far

Tina Seskis' novel One Step Too Far was published in 2013, but until it appeared on Amazon Vine, I had never heard of it.

One Step Too Far reminds me a bit of Before I Go To Sleep, a rather quiet thriller based mostly on events in someone's own mind.

As the novel begins Emily Coleman awakes one morning, take a few of her things, and leaves her family behind, starting a new life for herself.

Through flashbacks and the viewpoint of various people in Emily's life bits and pieces are revealed about Emily's past: her childhood, courtship with her husband Ben, tense relationship with her troubled identical twin sister, all giving a greater view of Emily. Yet, there is still something that isn't revealed until nearer the end.

Meanwhile, Emily's new life involves renting a bedroom in a house, getting a job as a receptionist and beginning to use drugs - a far cry from the beautiful life she left.

The big question, what happened that caused Emily to leave?  

I can't say I was surprised by the novel's outcome, but I was totally sucked in to the story and wanted to know more about Emily and how her mind worked.  At the novel's beginning I had to have some uninterrupted reading time so I could really get into the story especially as the narrator changed and I was just figuring out who everyone was. However, I spent my afternoon curled up with this book, unable to put it down.

I can't wait to hear more from Seskis.  One Step Too Far is a winner.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Perfect Place

Sometimes I am discouraged by the overwhelming number of middle grade fantasy novels that are published.  As a tween, I loved realistic fiction novels, and find my oldest daughter struggling to find realistic fiction books that she can enjoy as she wades through all the fantasy books that are published to find the handful of novels that appeal to her.

The Perfect Place by Teresa Harris is a perfect realistic fiction novel for a tween reader who can handle some grown up themes and ideas.  

Treasure Daniels is making the best of the hand she has been dealt. Her father has abandoned their family as he searches for a new home and a new job.  Her mother leaves Treasure and her younger sister, Tiffany, with Great Aunt Grace as she attempts to find her husband.  

Although Tiffany misses her mother, she seems to be adjusting to Great Aunt Grace and her temporary home. Treasure is angry with her mother and her father and unhappy in her new circumstances.  

As the story unfolds, Treasure, Tiffany, and Great Aunt Grace learn a little about each other and come to depend on one another. It is no surprise that there is more to Grace than the tough exterior she shows initially, and her relationship with Treasure develops throughout the novel.

The Perfect Place is a great novel to hand to the tween readers at my school. My seventh and fifth grade daughters have also given it their stamp of approval.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Could I be suffering from the holiday blahs? The winter doldrums?  Maybe the flu bug took more out of me than I thought. I have consistently started books and put them down all week. I just have not been very interested in what I am reading at all. This is helpful because at least I am knocking a few books of the TBR piles without spending too much time on any one of them.  However, I would love to find a great book I can really get into.

This weekend has been very low key.  I ordered my last Christmas present today and am crossing my fingers that it will arrive for the holiday.

We need groceries, but I'm not feeling like heading to the grocery store at all and figure we have enough food around here that I should be able to come up with something for us to eat.

Although the temperatures are in the low 50s, it is very gray, overcast and foggy.  The rest of the family is watching the Packers play, and Little Sister is doing my hair while I type.  

Last night I watched the movie Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. I had never seen it before and I so rarely see movies that it was enjoyable to relax and watch a holiday movie with Middle Sister.

Little Sister aka Jingle Bell, the Reindeer

This is the last full week of school before the holidays. We don't get out until after next Tuesday which seems a little incredible, but truly the holidays are right around the corner.

What are your Sunday plans?  Are you ready for the holidays?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Picture Books: Jumping on the Bandwagon

These books most likely aren't new to you, but just in case you needed my stamp of approval, these two titles are ones I loved reading aloud to Little Sister the other night before bed. They are ones I've added to my school library order, and probably at some point they are titles I'll add to our collection at home.

Bella is taking her dog out for a walk, when as he comes near the center of the page, the book swallows him up. He just isn't there anymore.  As Bella tries to get help, everyone else also disappears into the center of the book, which can only be fixed by shaking the book sideways for the characters to come tumbling back out.

This is a great read aloud.  Ever since my students heard Press Here I have been looking for another book that will allow them to engage with the words on the page in a similar way. Although this is not another Press Here, it is a funny little story that will get kids thinking and laughing.

Louise loves art and goes about creating her piece de resistance (I secretly love reading that phrase aloud).  As Louise looks for a place to display her work, her brother, Art, uses some of Louise's work to create his own masterpiece.  
Louise isn't really paying much attention to her little brother, but it's a good thing Louise loves Art just as much as she loves art.

The illustrations are reminiscent of Olivia (by Ian Falconer) with splashes of red amidst other more subdued hues, and totally caught my eye.

This is another winner I will be adding to my collection.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Five

I've had no trouble finding five things to highlight this week.  With the holidays approaching I can find lots of stuff I'd like to buy.  

These potato chips covered in chocolate were a hit at work. I bought a bag when I ran to Target, and a few of us tried them out. I would buy them again but did note the bag was mostly air and cost $4. A bit steep for the amount of food we got.  Also, even thought we did enjoy them, the chip flavor is definitely secondary to the chocolate.  

Still needing a stocking stuffer?  This silly straw pair of glasses is something I can see boys or girls enjoying. I ordered a pair to use as a gift if needed.


A few weeks ago some co-workers and I came to school with our fur vests on.  Yes, a bit ridiculous. But we had a good time.  I've had my fur vest for six or seven years. I'm feeling rather cutting edge since I am seeing them everywhere this year. I'd happily add a second fur vest to my wardrobe. This one from Garnet Hill is lovely.

Another sweater I could add to my collection. I think this could work for the holidays especially well.

I'm pretty sure that as long as the words 'fair isle' are in the description, I'm going to love it.  This sweater is 50% off at Ann Taylor Loft right now. I'm trying to restrain myself.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Where A Man Stands

This is my latest Kindle read, and despite my really enjoying it, I could never remember the title to pass it on to friends looking for a good read.

Carter Paysinger and Steve Fenton have written this memoir-ish book together, and I found myself quickly sucked in.

Carter Paysinger grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with loving parents who instilled in him and his siblings the need for always doing their best and hard work.  He attended high school outside his neighborhood, travelling to Beverly Hills High where he rubbed elbows with the children of the rich and famous.

Paysinger had the talent and determination to do nearly anything, yet he chose to remain at Beverly where he spent his career teaching and coaching high school students.  One of those students, Steve Fenton, changed Paysinger's life.

The bond that Fenton and Paysinger shared as a coach and player was special, but after he graduated Fenton drifted away, and the two didn't meet up again until many years later.  By that time, Paysinger was contemplating a career change for himself, not sure that he wanted to spend his entire life at his high school alma mater.

The work these two men undertake cements their relationship with each other, but also changes Beverly Hills High, a school precious to both of them.

Where A Man Stands is an easy read as it traces Carter Paysinger's life from his childhood throughout his career. He shares the ups and downs in both his personal and professional life, and does a good job of exploring race and what it means to be a black man in America, giving examples of his own experiences.

An incidental side note: Steve Fenton is married to Leeza Gibbons, something I didn't realize until I came upon the photos at the end of the book.  Had I read a print version and not the kindle version, I would have discovered this much sooner.