Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Salon

It is a beautiful day outside today (unlike the past two days which were windy, rainy and cold), but I seem to have caught the head cold that everyone else had a few weeks ago.  I'll admit to being a bit unsympathetic to their suffering.  This cold is a doozy!  So I'm sitting around inside going from reading to resting to surfing the net. I did manage to make lunch and help Big Sister with a batch of cookies.  

The most disappointing thing about not feeling well is the fact that I was all set to try out my new pair of running shoes.  I have been wanting a new pair for a while, and for me even though I want them to fit well, I also want to like how they look.  (This is much less important to my husband).  So, his constant checking of Sierra Trading Post's website totally paid off.  I got this pair of Brooks for just over $50 - regularly over $100.  The drawback to them is they are last year's color.  I can totally live with that.

Little Sister and my oldest niece are at a painting party for the afternoon. This is the first time either of them has done something like this, and they both get a little nervous about new things. But they seemed fine when I dropped them off and should have a great time.

Here's what the picture they are working on looks like:

Earlier this week we had the K-12 Art Show at the girls' school.  It was a nice representation of a lot of great art work.

And on Wednesday this week I was honored with the Global Thinking award for our school district for the month of April.  I was very surprised and despite the fact that I don't really like having attention focused on me, was honored.

This coming week we have more track meets and soccer practice.  I am loving the forecast for the next seven days - mostly sunny in the upper 60s and lower 70s.  

And, even though my calendar is full, I'm hopeful I'll get a few more books read.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Picture Book Palooza Take Two: A Lot of Cuteness

There are a bunch of picture books I've been happily reading at bedtime to my youngest daughter. There's no denying that the books she generally enjoys are a little girly and cute.  She loves animals, too.  These eight have been the ones she's most enjoyed.

The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose was an instant hit with my eight year old who loved the fact that the illustrations were real photographs of a squirrel doing very human things: mailing letters, making his bed, doing laundry, and  vacuuming.  The story is cute, but truly the illustrations gave us a lot to marvel over and discuss.  This is a definite must purchase for my school library.

Winnie and Waldorf by Kati Hites- Winnie's best friend just happens to be her very cute dog, Waldorf.  Although Winnie loves him, her sister Sara is less in love with him -especially after Waldorf broke her violin.  

Naptime with Theo and Beau by Jessica Shyba- kids (and adults) can't resist a cute picture of a young child with his dog, so it's no wonder that this book, filled with pictures of a young boy and his dog sleeping together, is a hit.  I don't always take the time to appreciate the illustrations in books, but Little Sister made sure we spent out time looking at each page and marveling at small details in the photographs. I am predicting this book will be checked out often.

Me, Too! by Annika Dunklee and Lori Joy Smith - Annie and Lillemor have a lot in common despite hailing from different countries. When Lilianne, a new girl, arrives from France, Annie feels left out since Lillemor and Lilianne have so much in common.  This picture book deals with the problems of friendship triangles which happen often.  Cute illustrations to go with this story, this was another bedtime favorite at my house this week.  I also love Dunklee's previous picture book, My Name is Elizabeth.

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs by Davide Cali- Cali's rendition of Snow White made me giggle.  Instead of seven dwarves, this Snow White has seventy seven of the little guys running around- and she has to remember all their names.  (One of the highlights of reading this aloud is having a chance to read the names of all seventy seven dwarves).  Is it any surprise that Snow White is in no hurry to wake up after she is forced to take care of all these little guys? 

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise by Jean Taylor- Hoot Owl has it all figured out.  As a master of disguise he will camouflage himself so he can catch his prey. Except he isn't really very good at this.  Despite his creative costumes every animal he attempts to catch manages to get away.  Except pizza.  Cute little story with a bit of humor in it that adults will appreciate, too.  

Florabelle by Sasha Quinton - Florabelle has a great imagination despite the fact that her family is more serious and doesn't always appreciate this.  Florabelle enjoys imagining herself as a mermaid, or a rodeo queen  and her family is frequently asking her to come back to earth.  The illustrations by Brigitte Barrager are accompanied by photography by Michel Tcherevkoff and are absolutely fun.  I loved the illustrations to this story!  This is a great book for Fancy Nancy fans and any reader who is looking for a girly book.

Gwendolyn Grace by Katherine Hannigan - I love Gwendolyn Grace and I loved reading it aloud to an audience since they were able to participate in telling the story with me.  Gwendolyn Grace needs to be quiet so she doesn't wake the baby. As she receives directions, every noise Gwendolyn Grace needs to stop making is made. What child doesn't like making noises?!  

Thanks to Harper Collins for supplying copies of Gwendolyn Grace by Katherine Hannigan, Florabelle by Sasha Quinton, and Winnie and Waldorf by Kati Hites. The opinions expressed are my own.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Five

A few years ago our new dress code at work went into effect. I could handle nearly everything about it, except the "no open toe shoes" rule.  Honestly, some sandals are really quite dressy.  As a bit of my own private rebellion I've put my Keen water sandals on plenty of times to wear. They do cover my toes, after all.  This has meant that I've pretty much given up buying sandals.  Now several years later, I am thinking I need a nice pair for the summer and not just the flip flops I live in at home.  This pair of Franco Sarto Gia Women's Sandals at Zappos is high on my list.  Love the shiny-ness of them!

One of my very favorite t-shirts is my state T.  Maybe I like maps and geographical things on clothing.  When I saw this on Milk and Honey Ts, I knew this was a t-shirt I'd love to wear.

Last Friday Little Sister went to my mom's to hang out. While she was spending quality time with Grandma, the two stopped by a fundraiser for the private school my nieces and nephew attend (where my mom taught for nearly thirty years, and where I taught my first year of teaching) and checked out the local vendors.  I had never heard of Origami Owl until then. But a mere seven days later I have heard talk of little else. The jewelry is cute- for kids or adults.  Little Sister has been plotting out which necklace she wants. I admit to wanting one just a tiny bit.  However, she is going to need to do a lot of work to pay for this.  The jewelry isn't exactly cheap.  So far she has spent two hours at my mom's doing yard work.  And luckily this stuff will be around to purchase whenever her fortune is finally amassed.

Full House is coming back!  I can't wait to watch this show in 2016 on Netflix, which reports that there will be a 13 episode first season of the show aptly named Fuller House.  I watched a few episodes of Full House when they first aired, but my kids are total Full House junkies. We have the entire series on DVD.  I can't help my adult addiction to this show considering all the hours I have been forced to watch it.

I've been reading a lot about capsule wardrobes this past week.  Every time I hear about someone who has gone through their closet and eliminated the clutter I am a bit jealous. When I read this blog post, I totally got what the author was saying.  Part of me really wants to do this. And part of me still can't imagine having so few choices - or getting rid of things I've spent good money on.  I think at some point in my life I would like to try this. I'm just not quite there yet.

So how about you? What's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Getting Schooled

As a teacher I can't help but find other teacher memoirs fascinating.  There is a shared language, experience and passion that I love reading about.

Garret Keizer has returned to the classroom after spending many years doing freelance writing.  He has been hired to fill in for just a year for a teacher who has taken a leave of absence.  Keizer is familiar with this school already - this is where he first taught after graduating from college.  Now he is teaching sons and daughters of former students.

Broken up by month Keizer shares the highs and lows of the academic year.  Although he may feel disenchanted and frustrated with teaching, there is no denying that Keizer takes his students seriously and cares about their success.  

As an educator myself, I felt that Keizor accurately describes the job he has taken on, providing a look at the reflections a teacher has each and every day - about their instruction but also about all the interactions with students - something it is impossible to plan for.

While Keizer doesn't paint a rosy picture of education, Getting Schooled wouldn't chase me away from this profession, either.  Instead, it does a great job of providing an inside look at what dedicated teachers do each and every day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This Week's Pick:  Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews
Due out:  May 19, 2015

Greer Hennessy is a struggling movie location scout. Her last location shoot ended in disaster when a film crew destroyed property on an avocado grove. And Greer ended up with the blame.
Now Greer has been given one more chance--a shot at finding the perfect undiscovered beach town for a big budget movie. She zeroes in on a sleepy Florida panhandle town. There's one motel, a marina, a long stretch of pristine beach and an old fishing pier with a community casino--which will be perfect for the film's climax--when the bad guys blow it up in an all-out assault on the townspeople.
Greer slips into town and is ecstatic to find the last unspoilt patch of the Florida gulf coast. She takes a room at the only motel in town, and starts working her charm. However, she finds a formidable obstacle in the town mayor, Eben Thinadeaux. Eben is a born-again environmentalist who's seen huge damage done to the town by a huge paper company. The bay has only recently been re-born, a fishing industry has sprung up, and Eben has no intention of letting anybody screw with his town again. The only problem is that he finds Greer way too attractive for his own good, and knows that her motivation is in direct conflict with his.
Will true love find a foothold in this small beach town before it's too late and disaster strikes? Told with Mary Kay Andrews inimitable wit and charm, Beach Town is this year's summer beach read!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reading Local: Me

One of my co-workers has been telling me for quite a while now that his grandmother was going to write a book about her childhood.  This past week Mr. Z was able to bring his grandmother in to speak to his students, after they had the chance to read about growing up in the very town where my students are growing up.

Getting to see what life was like for this girl in the 1950s and 1960s, growing up in the same town my students call home fascinated them. When Blanford visited their class, the students had already written questions to ask and they were able to have a good conversation.

Me is a story that my students could relate to; they could appreciate friend problems that Blanford had, her asthma that caused her to miss school frequently, her father's illness, and her need to fit in with a much wealthier crowd.

Meeting and talking to an author is an exciting event for children and in Mr. Z's classroom they were able to have that experience. It was fun to be a part of it with them and see their enthusiasm for this book.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The One That Got Away

I consider myself more of a women's fiction type of reader than a romance reader.  However, I like a good love story from time to time.  

The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase has been compared to Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner's books which was enough for me to know I wanted to read it.

Sarina is feeling good about the life she is building for herself in Austin, Texas.  She has an architecture business that is growing and is looking forward to getting engaged to and marrying her long time boyfriend, Noah.  

And then Eamon Roy shows up.  The last time Sarina saw Eamon she slept with him - the only one night stand she has ever had.  After that night she never heard from him again, but has spent a lot of time thinking about him.

When the two meet up the physical attraction is still there, and the fact that her boyfriend is away working in South America for months at a time doesn't help.  When she and Noah do see each other it seems they want different things from life, making Sarina question their relationship further.

Although this story was a little predictable, it didn't matter at all to me.  I loved the romance, the attraction between Eamon and Sarina, and the misunderstandings that added a bit of suspense about whether the two would find happiness with each other.

I will admit to a rough start with this novel, which begins with a discussion over p*n*s pops or p*n*s shot glasses.  Although it was an attention getter, I feel that there are some readers that would be instantly turned off, not giving the story a chance.  

Even with this dicey beginning, I was hooked by chapter 2, and will be anxiously waiting the next book by Chase.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Salon

This has been a weekend filled with soccer games for Middle Sister and Little Sister. The weather was beautiful yesterday and cold, windy and rainy today. I have to keep reminding myself that it is only April and doesn't need to feel summer-like every day.

I should be very ready to get back to school since on Friday I was able to attend a conference with a teaching colleague and had a little bit of a break from the regular routine.  However, this warm weather is making me feel like I need a break, too.

There's nothing like grilling out on a Friday night with friends, not needing to rush back home for anything.

I am almost thankful that the weather forecast for this coming week is cold and rainy. It is much easier to be in school when the weather isn't great.

I've had some visitors in my library for a few weeks now. They were very quiet the first three weeks, but now that my friends have hatched they are definitely not quiet. 

After beginning with nearly forty eggs, we now have nine baby chicks cheeping away.  They went home on Friday, which will make my students sad. I, however, am ready for a break.

And as another sign of spring this week, Big Sister had her first ever track meet.

She wasn't horribly excited to compete in meets, although she enjoys practice. We are just glad she is trying it and being a part of a team.

We've got track meets, soccer practices, piano lessons, some late nights of work and the elementary art show coming up this week.  

Since there are just a few hours until bed, I'm off to get things organized for tomorrow and hopefully find a few minutes to sneak in some reading.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Chance to Meet Steve Jenkins

I've always been impressed by Steve Jenkins' non-fiction books. The illustrations are amazing and there is a wealth of information on each and every page.

Yesterday I was given the chance to hear him speak at the UNI Early Literacy Conference.  A colleague and I enjoyed our day away from the students and came away with some great ideas to try in the classroom.

Jenkins has been in the book making business for a while.  His art school background has allowed him the knowledge and skill that he has utilized in making his illustrations.

I limited myself to one book that I had signed by Steve, who was interesting to listen to as he explained his path to writing for children and his interest in creating illustrations that showed things drawn to scale.

His wife, Robin Page, is a frequent partner in producing great non-fiction books for kids.  I own many of Jenkins' books already, but getting to hear him and learn about the work that goes in to making his books makes me even more impressed by the quality product he turns out.

We were treated to this amazing video during his presentation.  And, last night I spent some time looking at Steve Jenkins' website.

I can't wait to share what I learned about Steve Jenkins with my students next week!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Last Night at the Blue Angel

Sophia's mother has spent ten years performing, on the verge of becoming famous.  As Sophia sits and watches her mother perform night after night, she is used to the nightclubs and the constant stream of people that seem to come in and out of their lives.

Naomi is a mystery, both to her daughter and the reader.  Sophia knows little about her mom's past, which is slowly revealed as Naomi narrates a portion of this story.

Last Night at the Blue Angel is an interesting story about a mother and daughter, about a woman and her choices, and a way of life not accepted in 1965.  

It did take me a while to get accustomed to Rotert's style of writing, which italicizes dialogue instead of using quotation marks.  In other books that has bothered me more than it did in this one, but for some readers that may be a turn-off.

I did enjoy the time period of this novel - 1965 (with parts set in the 1950s), and the Chicago jazz scene during this time period.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of Last Night at the Blue Angel to enjoy.