Monday, December 26, 2011

decluttering and rambling

I am in a decluttering mode – every unnecessary thing is being slipped into the proper drawer or chucked into the recycling bin. This also includes random scraps of paper or post-its on my desktop that comprise my random musings over the last six months. Here’s a hodge-podge of thoughts so I can free up that much more space.

*I love watching clips of my favorite TV show and movie scenes. They never get old.
*I love the youtube video of Anderson Cooper laughing. As a sidenote, I think Anderson Cooper is a great reporter.
*I love all the guest stars on Grey’s Anatomy (not to mention the fact that I LOVE Grey’s Anatomy). A few of the highlights in guest stars include two actors from the 90s version of Little Women (Meg’s Mr. Brooks and grown-up Amy), Kostos from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Mrs. Kim (sans Korean accent), Max Medina, Francie, and Grandma Lorelai all from Gilmore Girls, and Mandy Moore. I also love the episode that had Victorian romance scenes – Grey’s Jane Austen style was pure brilliance.

*I do not love that I agreed to be interviewed for a newspaper article on recent graduates who move home. I still believe that my decision to move home was a good one, but the article itself was humiliation in its purest form.

*I found a voodoo doll that I made years ago for a roommate of mine. She was hating life and one of her coaches, so my solution – voodoo doll. I know – I’m a strange soul. Don’t judge.

*I kept track of random quotes from Grey’s – the obsession this summer was raging. Plus I was unemployed…so I had lots of time.
Isn’t it easier to be single in pairs?  ~Callie
I’m not going anywhere without you.  ~Owen
Blondes are either badass or fun and you’re…you’re a brunette.  ~Mark
If you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention.  ~Miranda
I can’t breathe without you.  ~Christina
The person that invented the phrase happily ever after should have their ass kicked…so hard.     ~Meredith

*I decided (along with NPR) this summer that facebook killed the ten year reunion. I did not attend mine. Instead I went to Louisiana to hang out with Jewels and Mae. Best decision ever.

*Realization: my snark often equals my truth.
*Toni Morrison asked the following question and made the following statement:
         When a kid walks into a room, does your face light up?
         When you know better, you do better.
         When people show who they are, believe them.
*I don’t know where I got the notation, “four boxes – you have the rest of your life ahead of you.” But I remember thinking about the concept over and over again – if you packed up your life and moved on from where you are now, it wouldn’t be the end. It would just be a new beginning.

tech funk

I have not been in a techie mood in months. I avoid facebook whenever possible. I only check two blogs regularly. I certainly don't write on my blog with the exception of posting my book reviews that I do for goodreads. My online book club with Anna and Megan is going offline. All this is to say is I kinda wish it was 1995 when I still didn't have an email account or really know what the internet was.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life, on the Line

Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We EatLife, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was heavy - like, literally heavy, and surprisingly, I loved it. I'm not saying I'm surprised that I liked a heavy book, but I'm surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed a book about one of the most creative and successful chefs in America today. Grant Achatz has wowed critics and diners alike since first joining the famed French Laundry at the young age of 22. Achatz is remarkable because he has a vision unlike any other. His food sounds like the stuff of dreams. Throw in a brilliant businessman (Achatz's partner in opening Alinea in Chicago), 24 course meals, and you have a book that makes you hungry. Achatz's struggle with cancer only makes his success more remarkable.

My only complaint about this book is how quickly it wraps up. It's almost as if Grant and Nick (the brilliant businessman) realized the book had to go to print and cut one hundred books down to forty. I'd still recommend it. It makes me want to eat more adventurously, live more passionately, and travel to Chicago for dinner. Happy reading and happy eating!!


RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was so scary. I still feel queasy thinking about it. I don't want to give details because part of the brilliance of this book is its mystery, but this story is not for the faint of heart. I still can't decide if I'm glad I read it. I still can't decide if I'd recommend it. All that said, Donoghue is a masterful writer. The story is perspective-shattering. Read it. Don't read it. I can't decide.

You Have Seven Messages

You Have Seven MessagesYou Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dramatic teenage girls would love this book. And since I am no longer a teenager, I am not in love. There were clever ideas in this book, but I don't think Lewis creates a compelling narrator or a brilliant plot. Long story short, this is a book for my freshmen girls. The end.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Future of Us

The Future of UsThe Future of Us by Jay Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up The Future of Us Sunday morning and finished it before I went to bed.  While the overall exposition of the story didn’t stay as strong as it began, I loved the premise from beginning to end. I found myself lost in thought all day yesterday and today over what it would be like for my sixteen-year-old self to see my current Facebook profile. What would I have changed then so that I could change my now?

Asher’s ingenuity in young adult fiction is fantastic. I trust his judgment implicitly when he recommends other authors, and I trust his own creative work. Read it. The concept alone is worth your time.

November's Flying Days

November’s days flew by, and I chose to fill my time with all sorts of things unrelated to blogging despite my promise to Jenessa (sorry J3)….

I got back into reading again. I journaled more often than I normally do. I pinned a few too many things on Pinterest. Family was in town. I went with some of my best friends to Tahoe. I graded, planned, and graded some more. I curled up on friends’ couches and in restaurant booths and talked for hours. I went to Lorraine’s final wedding dress fitting with Courtney and sat in awe at the chance to watch one of my oldest friends find the love of her life.  I wrote letters. I watched Greys. I practiced the piano. I played games. And now we’re two days from December.

I may not have blogged, but I had a chance to revel in the many blessings God has given me. I get to choose how I spend my time. I have a job I love. I am blessed with great family and friends.  Mine is truly a wonderful life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeEncyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I usually am anti- people in their 30s writing memoirs, but I cannot stop talking about this book. I’ve read portions to all my classes and to anyone I can get to listen. The format and construction of this book is brilliant. So while all passages may not resonate, the overall tone and style do.

I love that Rosenthal takes the profound and packages it next to the mundane. I love that she hones in on aspects of our lives where we could stand to aspire for more and pokes fun at her own idiosyncrasies. Is the book perfect? No. Did I care about every inclusion in her encyclopedia? Of course not. Am I still mildly obsessed? Yes, very much so.

Read it. I think you’ll love it.

have a little faith

Have a Little Faith: The Story of a Last RequestHave a Little Faith: The Story of a Last Request by Mitch Albom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading a Mitch Albom book is akin to the feeling you get curled up on a couch in front of a fire. You just feel better after you’re finished. His writing isn’t the most eloquent, but it’s relatable and engaging. Albom doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. He simply offers aphorisms that make me want to be better.

Having read all of Albom’s books now, I find that I like his non-fiction more than his fiction. The only real downside to this book was that it made me tear up in a public place. Otherwise, it was a good read. Were there half stars, this would be a 3.5. Because I’ve thought about it so much since I finished, I’m giving it the 4.

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Plain and simple, I love John Steinbeck. I love the way he gives voice to men and women who are flawed and who are honest. He should be read and read often. I’m glad for the opportunity to delve into his works each school year.

The Crucible (again)

The CrucibleThe Crucible by Arthur Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know it’s strange to review books I teach in school, but I get lost in these books for weeks at a time. During this read through, I gained a new appreciation for Reverend Hale. He is Javert from Les Miserables when he arrives in Salem. He believes he is on God’s errand and is there to eradicate any sign of witchcraft. But Rev. Hale turns out to be a better man than Javert. He is willing to believe a flawed man and willing to believe that man’s construction of religion is not the same as following God.

That may not make any sense, but the short version is that I love The Crucible. I think Arthur Miller is a masterful writer, which makes it much easier to return to the same play multiple times a year. (November 2011)

Paper Towns

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished Paper Towns six weeks ago which means, of course, that the specific thoughts I had formulated about this book have disappeared into thoughts about Christmas and the stack of papers I have yet to grade.

The long and short of it is that while I didn’t love the plot line of Paper Towns, I did love Green’s writing. There were parts that I wanted to read aloud to someone right as I was reading it. It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of high schoolers I’ve read, which actually may be a deterrent for some readers for how inappropriate the content can be. The concepts in the book are powerful and led to great discussion.

The idea that keeps coming to me weeks after finishing comes from a character named Radar talking to the protagonist. He says, “You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves.” I love how simply profound that is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I am completely baffled as to how it is November already. Perhaps I've inhaled too many dry erase markers or spent too much time pretending to grade, but I have lost at least three weeks. Now the grading stacks are GINORMOUS (which by the way shows up as a word in my Mac dictionary even though it sounds totally made up), my red pens are almost dead, and I think my neck may actually stay permanently bent over like I'm looking at a desk or computer keyboard. Oh life--

Good news is that the end of the quarter is this Friday and grades are due by next Tuesday, so like it or not, my grading will be DONE by Monday night.

As for all the things that I have not blogged about - c'est le vie. Yes, I went to Alabama for my cousin Eric's wedding to the beautiful Whitney. Yes, I went to Apple Hill with Tracy, David, and Seth and had a marvelous time (and ate way too much). Yes, Ryan visited the Bay Area and was funnier than he's ever been. And yes, I discovered that my bad hair MONTHS have been almost entirely fixable - my part was in the wrong place. (You'd think I would have more seriously considered this possibility and messed around more but no. I kept thinking it was the Brazilian Blowout.) (I promise I'm not an idiot.) But you know what, I'm not going backwards - just forwards. So it's been a great (slightly insane) October. I'm ready for November, for turkey, for Jenessa to come home, for a girls' weekend in Tahoe, for crisp night air, for an extra hour of sleep courtesy of Daylight Savings, and for an excuse to talk about all the things I'm thankful for-- including you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dear J-3:

Dear J-3:

I know book reviews are not what you meant when you chided me on having no new blog posts. However, my to do list is long and my snark level is at dangerous levels this week. When the list is shorter and the snark level has gone back to normal, I will post a more worthy entry.

Yours faithfully,

ps. To compensate for your disappointment, here are a couple quick anecdotes--
1) A student asked me to marry him in "Will you marry me Miss Hutchins?" I smiled and called him a creeper.
2) A student submitted a research paper topic proposal about online communities dedicated to "My Little Ponies" - No, I'm not making that up. I wish with every fiber of my being that I was.


OpheliaOphelia by Lisa M. Klein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am usually wary of books that borrow from another story’s brilliance to drive their own plot. I finally gave in though to Lisa Klein’s Ophelia because, simply said, I love Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Perhaps it’s because I first encountered Ophelia when I was a melodramatic teenager, but I ‘ve always been intrigued by Ophelia in all her tragic beauty. The chance to read a well-researched book that gives Ophelia back her truncated life was worth my time and surprisingly engaging once I got past Klein’s attempts at Old English references. If you are a Shakespeare lover, read it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

ps. I don't think I've rated lately about lame it is that we can't give half stars. This is a 3.5 for all the research and care Klein had to have put into creating this plot....

Year of Wonders

Year of WondersYear of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I honestly had no desire to read about the plague, but just like I will watch a movie just because Matt Damon is in it, I read “Year of Wonders” because Geraldine Brooks wrote it. Brooks is a masterful writer and a brilliant storyteller. The story is devastating and an interesting discussion of faith and fear amidst deadly uncertainty.

I can’t say I’d recommend it to everyone since the topic matter is so sad, but it’s artfully written, so I guess the choice is entirely yours on this one. Either way, I am such a fan of Brooks. She is, without a doubt, one of my favorite writers.

all these things i've done

All These Things I've Done (Birthright, #1)All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book purely because Gabrielle Zevin wrote it, and let’s be honest, because it’s a story set during a futuristic time with chocolate is contraband and caffeine is illegal. Throw in the mob, a decaying New York, illegal imprisonment, and forbidden love, and you’ve got quite the plot. The exposition and conclusion are a little unfulfilling, but I devoured the book just the same. It helped that I was in a “please remain seated until the captain has turned off the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign” kind of place.

I’d recommend it, but I wouldn’t run out and buy it. It’s a library or borrow book for sure. Just the same happy reading and most definitely happy chocolate eating and caffeine drinking--

Star Island

Star IslandStar Island by Carl Hiaasen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Star Island is like that odd candy you see near the register at gas stations on road trips. At first glance, it sounds delicious and you think that maybe it will help break up the monotony. Fast forward to two hours later after you’ve eaten the whole bag that you only meant to have a handful of. That’s what Star Island feels like. In theory, it sounds scandalously delicious. In reality, it’s trashy and over-the-top. To be fair, there were some brilliant one-liners and deft plot twists. It just wasn’t worth the gut ache after I finished.

{Ps. Not sure if it was intentional but Hiaasen’s Cherry was uncannily familiar to Lindsay Lohan and her potential demise courtesy of drugs and loser parents.}

Friday, September 30, 2011

Alarmingly Late

6:36am - Look at clock from every possible angle without glasses trying to ascertain the time.
6:38am - Shower, brush teeth, dwell on the general panic of the moment
6:48am - Start insane application of makeup without contacts
6:55am - Blow dry hair into a wild mangy mess
7:00am - Get dressed while listening to Chandra Wilson belt out "Wait" (an attempt to calm the jitters)
7:05am - Pin up the mangy mess acknowledging this is as good as it is going to get
7:11am - Pull out of driveway blaring LMFAO "Party Rock Anthem"
7:32am - Turn off car while chewing the last of my Breakfast-On-the-Go

That was my morning. Pure insanity. And yet marvelously, I made it to school. I may be a bit out of it today, but I made it. Thankfully my day was planned, and the kids are working independently most of the day. TGIF!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Track Mind

For the last month, I have had a one track mind.
I have been eating, breathing, sleeping Freshmen and Junior English.
(Okay - maybe two tracks because baseball rules all in the fall.)

And so now as I sit here zoning out to the new X Factor, I realize that September ends tomorrow, and I am bone tired.
That said, the past few weeks have been like rediscovering a part of me that has been clamoring for my attention since I left San Ramon two years ago.
Miss Hutchins is back.

October's quest is make sure the Jaclyn I spent grad school discovering doesn't disappear.
The great balancing act of life continues.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's a good day to be a Bronco

Every time our principal talks, he ends his comments with "It's a good day to be a Bronco." It's entirely too reminiscent of my middle school VP who used to say, "Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours." Either way, it's now been a few weeks since I became a Bronco. Besides a few fun distractions, I have been completely immersed in all things Northgate. I can't complain though. My latest batch of kiddies is great. Sure my 5th period gets distracted by air, and my 2nd period could stand to be (a lot) more kind. But all in all, it's a really good bunch. My 3rd period is so darling, I've nearly cried twice in class (this may also mean that sleep deprivation is getting to me).

In short, I may seem MIA, but I'm just living the life of a teacher. And let's be honest, it really is good to be Bronco.
{ps. Yes, the Bronco on the mural is a bit scary. It's not just you.}

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

an teaching actual job!

After what felt like forever, I got a job. I am teaching English 9 and 11 at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. I'd write more, but I am way behind since I got hired so late. As exhausting and overwhelming as the last week has been, it's been great. So glad to be back in a classroom!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One Day

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People have such different reactions to this book. Some think it’s completely over-hyped while others think it’s a love story for the ages. I fall somewhere in the middle. I decided to read the book because there was a movie coming out and also because I was intrigued by the idea. Twenty years broken down into chapters told about one day each year. We as readers have to fill in the blanks about what is not said or explained.

The premise alone is brilliant. Yes, the characters are occasionally oversimplified or the connections are too serendipitous, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book just the same. I did not have high expectations, and so over and over again, my expectations were exceeded. This is one of those books that I saw myself in. The characters are often lost trying to grapple with life decisions and missing that one person who helped them make sense of the chaos around them.

I think it’s a worthwhile read. It’s not a classic. It’s not a romance. It’s a beach read. It’s a curl up on a couch read, but not something you have justify. It just lands somewhere in between. And for reading it you will enjoy some great one-liners, a chance to use your imagination, and a chance to cheer for one of those couples you can’t help but root for.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Paris Wife

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew very little of the premise of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife when I started reading it. I thought it was just about the writers and artists living in Paris in the 1920s. Not quite a “Midnight in Paris” storyline in book form, but I thought it was more of a nostalgia piece. Probably should have read the book jacket – and yet, would I have read on so voluntarily? Don’t get me wrong, stories of failed marriages and disappointed dreams make for great literature (can we say Gatsby?), but McLain’s novel is not a work of pure fiction.

The Paris Wife is based heavily on the lives Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. So almost against my will I fell in love with their love and felt Hadley’s starry-eyed excitement over the tempestuous, young writer who was destined to become one of America’s most distinct voices. But I knew from the beginning that Ernie had fallen in love with a beautiful nurse during World War I, that she had broken his heart, and that as the boy had grown into a man, he turned to drinking in failed attempts to mend what had been broken. Hadley came next, and it was she who was there as Ernest went from being merely in the shadows of Gertrude Stein and Scott Fitzgerald and the other brilliant writers who made Paris their home in the 1920s to being a reputable and sought-after writer. Everyone in Hadley and Ernest’s circle drank too much, wanted too much, and in the end, had to run from the scene or be drowned in it.

McLain’s portrayal of Hemingway is uncanny. His voice that we have come to know in writing rings so clear that it adds an air of reality to what might have felt just like another overly-romanticized piece of historical fiction. And so while I knew from the beginning that Hadley was destined to be the first of four wives, I was drawn in to the carefully crafted details, to the authenticity of the characters, and to the hope that as Ernest said, “No one you ever love is truly lost.”

I can’t say you should read this book. While it’s well-written and gives fantastic insights into some of the greatest creative minds of the last century, it is a book without a happy ending. And it’s a book full of details that someone uninterested in English literature or history might find tiresome. I, as you well know, am a lover of both and am also so in love with Paris that I just couldn’t help but read on and try to find the fleeting truth that Hemingway was so desperate to find.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


.....After posting an absurd amount of posts about Europe, I haven't posted anything. And actually if you noticed, I haven't done any real posting about anything else in a couple months. Lots of reasons why, and no, I don't feel like explaining them. The short of it is that I am either hanging out with my sisters, digging through thousands of family pictures, or watching Grey's Anatomy. I am in absolute denial about reality and am trying to keep it that way for as long as possible. If you need me, a homing pigeon will probably work best. The end.....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer at the Movies

  • Over four months ago, I started this post on all the movies I was watching while working on projects. Needless to say, I spent hours and hours organizing photos, compiling my Europe scrapbook, and trying to make sense of fifteen years of saved paper. I don't remember why I was keeping a list, but for the sake of having no unposted posts as we close out 2011, here is a partial (yes, partial) collection of my summer at the movies. December 26, 2011 
  • The American President
  • Never Been Kissed
  • The Family Stone
  • Life As We Know It
  • Sabrina
  • The Illusionist
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance
  • Pleasantville
  • Sense & Sensibility (2008 BBC Version)
  • Coyote Ugly
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
  • North & South
  • Wimbledon
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Finding Neverland
  • Sense & Sensibility (Emma Thompson Version)
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
  • Hope Floats
  • The Namesake
  • Dan in Real Life
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Eclipse
  • The Accidental Husband
  • In Love and War
  • Tangled
  • New Moon
  • We Are Marshall
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • You've Got Mail
  • The Lakehouse
  • Kate & Leopold
  • The Mummy
  • Twilight
  • The Young Victoria
  • Sliding Doors
  • A Walk to Remember
  • The Wedding Planner
  • Ever After
  • Mona Lisa Smile
  • The Way We Were
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
  • Two Weeks Notice
  • Eat Pray Love
  • Penelope
  • Emma (2010 BBC Version)
  • Little Women
  • Ella Enchanted
  • Definitely, Maybe
  • A League of Their Own
  • Stepmom
  • The Princess Diaries
  • The King's Speech

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Derbyshire - Days 11 & 12

The last hours of our trip - an afternoon, evening, and early morning - felt like stolen time as we walked the streets of this charming little town where every door and rain gutter has to be painted the same shade of blue. We ate a delicious dinner in the inn pub, played cards as the sun slipped down, and went to sleep dreaming that we would never have to leave.

Haddon Hall - Day 11, Part 3

Haddon Hall is a 13th century castle situated a few miles from the Chatsworth Estate in the Derbyshire Dales. The road leading to the castle was lined by hills with deep green grass and sheep roaming as far as we could see. Walking up to the castle meant a small drawbridge and a walk up a hill. While the rooms were old and the walls were crumbling, it was still an adventure to imagine who had lived here and what they had been protecting as they stood on the wall surrounding the home.

I always used to picture myself playing on harpsichords like this one when I practiced my baroque pieces. I'm actually grateful I had a large piano to pound away on instead. I fear I might have snapped the strings on something as delicate this instrument.

Naturally, the flowers growing along the walls and in the gardens were our favorite part of visiting Haddon Hall (which was used as part of a Jane Eyre film a few years ago). Don't ask - we're not really sure what the purpose of the stairs is or what our dad is doing.

Darcy's Pemberley (Chatsworth Estate Home) - Day 11, Part 2

As we were walking through the rooms of the Chatsworth Estate, you couldn't help but wish Georgiana would be around the corner playing the piano with her brother standing close by. Despite Mr. Darcy not being there, it was an impressive home. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire's art collection is unreal. The family still stays in a portion of the house. Can you imagine calling this home?

The veiled statue from the movie - my mom was mesmerized by it.

I was mesmerized by the books, the piano, the painting of the girl below, and all the rooms in the house where Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and others had been entertained by previous Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire.

I teased Jenessa that this was her looking at her boyfriend Colten who was halfway across the world. She was not nearly as amused as I was by that joke.
The bust of Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy that was commissioned for the film can be seen in the gift shop. Ironically the gift shop is even beautiful. The walls are stone and the windows look out the greenhouse and a gorgeous hillside.

Darcy's Pemberley (Chatsworth Estate Grounds) - Day 11, Part 1

The Chatsworth Estate is the location they used for Darcy's Pemberley in the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice. I know that version makes some cringe, but it is one of my very favorite movies. The grounds were beautiful. Like every moment we spent in the Derbyshire Dales, I felt like I was in a Jane Austen novel. It was a dream come true.

Jenessa made friends with a pheasant. His name is Freddie.

There are not enough adjectives in my vocabulary to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing the English countryside. I would love to live there someday even if it is only for a few months.