Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Seth & Jaclyn's 2014 Cooking Adventures

Last year on New Year's Eve, Seth and I were pouring over cookbooks and randomly started making a list of thing we'd like to make. When the list started it was barely a page and a half long. It had everything from breads to desserts, and we had grand plans of making everything on our list. And perhaps if the list had stayed a page and a half long, we would have. But you see, the list was on Google docs, and we could update it anytime a recipe sounded good, and now a year later our list is five pages long and includes restaurants we'd like to try. The great thing is that we, in no way, feel defeated. We ate delicious food this year and had a wonderful time making it. And if you follow my instagram, you've had to look at it or if you hang out with me, you've had to hear about it. Sometimes I can't help it. Despite setting off the fire alarm in Tahoe, making insane messes, burning a few things, and breaking a few dishes, it has been my most delectable year yet, in and out of the kitchen. Can't wait to see what 2015 holds. Happy New Year!
ps. Two guesses what Seth and I are doing first thing this New Year's Eve. 
pps. If you want to be included on our Google doc list and the recipes we're working on, let me know. So many yummy things we'd love to share with you. :)


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am reluctant to admit how little I have read this year. It's a combination of shifting priorities, decreasing attention span, and perhaps less-than-ideal book choices. As this year was closing out, I finally delved into Unbroken and found everything I need and want in a book. It is, without question, the best book I read in 2014 and a book that I would recommend to anyone (a rarity with my usual choices). It is compelling and a story that focuses in on the triumph of the human soul - it is honest, unflinching, and careful. Hillenbrand is one of the best chroniclers of her time - she captures things so vividly that even pictures or film cannot overshadow the narrative she tells.

Louie is a new hero - not because he was extraordinarily good or even because he was an Olympic athlete. I admire him because he endured to the end and he enabled others to do the same. I love people who are not content to accept the status quo. They make me want to aspire for more. Hillenbrand does the same for me. She is a woman with difficult challenges in her personal life, but she still works so hard at her craft. After reading this book, how can I not try to be at least a little bit better?!

Happy 2015 and happy reading!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yes, Please

On Sunday, Seth and I were sitting down to dinner and getting ready to start a movie when he turned to me and said, "Would you like to send out a Christmas card together?" Yes, Seth. Yes, I would. How cute is he?
Oh, how I love the start of holiday season. Happy November!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Time Keeper

The Time KeeperThe Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know people think that Mitch Albom is cheesy or cliche, but I love him. Part of my inspiration for finally telling my parents that I was indeed going to be a teacher came from "Tuesdays with Morrie". "The Time Keeper" is probably just a three star book, but the discussion of time and how we measure it, obsess over it, and freak out over the lack of it, etc really spoke to me and made me evaluate my own obsession with time. And maybe I loved this book extra because Seth and I spent a Saturday afternoon at Apple Hill reading together and sneaking bites of apple donuts between chapters.

Albom's books are perfect short reads. They require little effort, always give you something to think about, and make you feel better about the world. Sometimes I need a break from how dark typical fiction can be, and instead spend time thinking about something uplifting and inspirational.

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Hallow's Eve & Us

Seth and I have a Halloween tradition of doing dinner and a movie to escape the madness of trick-or-treaters and having to dress up. Don't get me wrong. I love the fall, and I love Halloween candy. But my perfect Halloween includes yummy food with my handsome Mr. Mann, previews (oftentimes the best part of the movie), a movie with that candy we didn't share with those cute kids in costumes.
Last night was not our best of our Halloween outings because the movie choice ended up being so dark and horrifying (not a horror movie, by the way - we chose a World War II epic that ended up showing only the worst of humanity), but I do love this tradition. Seth joked that we won't be able to keep this up once there are little people involved. Maybe when that is the case, we'll move our date to Dia de los Muertos.  Happy (belated) Halloween!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grand Plans

Remember that idea of writing once a month. Oh yeah - not quite. Crazy days, good days, all sorts of days - either way. I've hardly written. I've thought about it and haven't done it. I'll work on it. There are so many good things happening that I'd love to another type of record to document life.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began

Maus, II: And Here My Troubles Began (Maus, #2)Maus, II: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished this book and just wanted there to be more. I love that even though it's told in an unconventional format, that it manages to be so genuine. It doesn't trivialize or glamorize the Holocaust. It doesn't make out the men and women that lived through it to be heroes. Maus II just tells their story. Incredibly written and drawn.


Allegiant (Divergent, #3)Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Simply put, I am not a fan. I really liked Divergent. I mostly liked Insurgent. But I cannot endorse this one. I told my students this week that I would suggest reading the first one and stopping there. I still think Tris and Tobias are great characters. I just did not like the choppy narration and the convoluted plot lines that Allegiant seemed to serve up in every chapter. And the ending...I don't dare start that rant, so I'll stop here and save it for an in-person conversation where you can remember that I am actually a positive human being.

Happy reading!

Friday, August 29, 2014


It's 4:25 on Friday afternoon. Everyone is excited and relieved when Friday rolls around, but there's extra relief this Friday. The first week of school is over. We did it. One week down. Thirty-five to go. It's a privilege to work at Dougherty Valley High School. Is it perfect? No. Were there moments of near meltdown? Of course. But there were moments of delight and peace. School starts, the freshmen appear, and I am home.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Delicious Plans

Seth and I were walking through Yountville in Napa Valley this past Saturday and were talking about how delicious our lunch from Ad Hoc had just been. We realized that the past three weekends, we have eaten wonderful meals out. 

July 5 - Sunnyside Grill in Tahoe City. Best bite: Hula Pie
July 12 - Mundaka in Carmel. Best bite: Pan Tomate (bread lightly covered in pureed tomatoes, salt, and olive oil)
(also pictured are Chef Miller's "Ugly Tomatoes" - heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella in a saffron gastrique)
July 19 - Ad Hoc's Addendum in Yountville. Best bite: buttermilk fried chicken. 
This is not an all inclusive list of our delicious dining forays, but it is the food we've traveled for. Can't wait for the next couple weekends. We have more deliciousness in mind....hence the eight miles on the trail this morning. Need to earn all the delectable food. Happy eating and happy exercising!

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Shining Girls

The Shining Girls: A NovelThe Shining Girls: A Novel by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't normally seek out books that center around violent characters.  I read Bohjalian's "Light in the Ruins" because a good friend gave it to me as a gift. I read Flynn's "Gone Girl" for a book club. Yet again, I decided to read a book with a friend, hence "The Shining Girls" - a book that is about a time-traveling serial killer. It's horrifying. It's graphic. And yet it's so well constructed. Beukes is smart and deftly tells a story with an antagonist that is beyond feeling to the point that you get chills every time he fixates on his next victim.

The reason I like this book has everything to do with Beukes' characterization of Harper's victims. Those women, who buck against the status-quo, who work tirelessly to achieve their goals, who are flawed but genuine, compel the reader forward. I hated Harper from the beginning and thought that maybe I wouldn't read this story - how could I? He disembowels his victims, and Beukes tells us exactly how he does that. But I was slowly getting caught up in Kirby and Zora and the architect from the 50s and the social worker and....

I can't tell you to read this book. It's unsettling and profane, but it's crafted in a way that you're left thinking about it after you're done. Beukes commentary in the reader's guide in the final pages convinced me why this was a story that needed to be told. And for better or worse, I'm glad that I stuck it through to the very end.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Thin Mint Milkshakes

Seth and I sometimes eat like we're kids whose parents have left for the evening and we now have full reign of the kitchen. We abandon all responsible choices aka anything that resembles a well-balanced meal, and we settle in for French fries and shakes. The combination is too delicious not to just enjoy those two things. I wanted to let you in on a little secret - the thing that makes our shakes better than any homemade shakes I've had before.

The secret: we don't add milk to the shakes. Most of my life I have been putting ice cream in a blender, pouring in the amount of milk that will give me the texture I want, and calling it a yummy day. I'd like to say that Seth and I consciously decided that milk dilutes our ice creamy goodness, but genius is typically born of not having what you this case, milk. Our solution that night many moons ago - put a little ice cream in the microwave and then add that as our liquid to the ice cream in the blender. I promise, once you do it, you'll never go back. The shakes really are that much better.

As for the Thin Mints for a Thin Mint milkshake (versus the vanilla ones we almost always have), just add Girl Scout Thin Mints until you reach the level of minty wonderfulness that you were hoping for. I keep a box of Thin Mints in the freezer just for this purpose.

Happy summer!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Counting the Seconds - Part Two

I always think it's worth noting how different reality can be from what we envision. Don't get me wrong, I had a delightful Friday night with Seth, but it was a little different from what I wrote would happen yesterday. We did make macaroni salad. We did watch Friends, but we didn't quite make it to shakes and a movie. Don't think we got up to anything too saucy or dramatic. Somewhere in the third episode when Phoebe was choosing between the fireman and the teacher, the week took its toll, and Seth fell asleep. He was out - I, at first, was just curled next to him thinking he'd wake up soon. No, no. He was dead asleep. So I reached the other remote with my foot and turned on Top Chef courtesy of Huluplus. Two episodes later, Seth came back to life. There was laughing and silliness, and then we both fell asleep. That is a hot Friday night. ;)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Counting the Seconds

I've never really thought of myself as one of those girls who waits around for a boy, but here it's late Friday afternoon and I am counting down to when Seth gets here and Friday night begins. We have typical Friday night plans - we'll make dinner (macaroni salad out of his mom's Betty Crocker cookbook that seems to be straight out of the Arnold family kitchen in The Wonder Years) and a delicious snack (tonight it's thin mint milkshakes). We'll watch a movie and maybe a couple Friends episodes. No need to go out when it's been a tiring week, and tomorrow night's date is dinner in Carmel at the wonder that is Mundaka. Better go pretend to read or keep adding to the list of what I want to cook this year....Happy Friday!!
For the record, Mrs. Norma Arnold aka Alley Mills also played Majorie Quinn on Dr. Quinn. Can't say that everything in life is a Dr. Quinn reference the way it's a Friends or Gilmore Girls reference, but you'd be surprised how I often I can come up with one. Don't judge...too much.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

To Continue or Not To Continue

I used to love signing into blogger and writing whatever randomness came to mind. And truth be told, I still love to write, but I don't make time for it any more. Instead I scan instagram far too often and look for any excuse to text Seth. I also hardly read blogs anymore despite actually wanting to read the musings of some really fantastic people. The decision then becomes, to keep writing here or just let it go (that phrase ps and by the way has been taken hostage by Disney characters and I haven't found a substitute yet).

I am actually journaling daily now - as in I, the person who always had an excuse about my journal, write at least a couple sentences each day. It's not overly profound or even a perfect chronicle of day-to-day events, but it is a record that I can look back on. And yet, it's not the same as sitting down and typing here. So maybe, just maybe, I am going to give this another go. I'll attempt to write once a week for the second half of 2014 and see if I can rekindle the blogging love affair that was going so strong a few years ago.

Bear with me as I ramble and perhaps repost what appears elsewhere. Now it's time to give my full attention back to the U.S. - Belgium soccer game. I'm supposed to say I believe the U.S. can win, but at minute 70, I just don't know. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Happier at Home

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday LifeHappier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started this book ages ago, but in approaching my summer decided it was time to finally finish. Rubin's ideas speak to me. I know some of them aren't relatable to my day-to-day life, but the idea of setting themes and goals for a month matches my style of wanting to be more but often having a short attention span or so many goals I can't just pick one. The first Happiness Project probably deserved a 4.5 star rating from me and then one a 3.5, but Goodreads doesn't do half stars and this book's ideas stay with me. I love that. I love that at random moments I think about who I want to be and get inspired by Rubin's writing even when I haven't picked up the actual book. Her main idea is simple - we can be happier. We just have to actively seek that happiness. There's no pill or magic bullet to get us there. Happiness often takes work or doing things that are unsettling, but in the end, we feel more satisfied, more at peace, and ultimately more happy.

I originally borrowed this book from my friend Megan, and just couldn't bring myself to send it back. I want to reread it and Rubin's first book whenever I need reminding that it is up to me to create the life I want for myself. And let's be honest, how can I resist encouragement to kiss more, to aside time for the things I'm passionate about, and to be more organized?!

Happy reading and happy living!

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book partially because a friend who doesn't often recommend books to me suggested it, because it has a great title, and because the narrator was Asian-American - perhaps that seems like an odd distinction, but so few protagonists in teen fiction are minorities and my student body is mostly made up of minorities. Unfortunately the drama was too contrived and a couple of the "twists" were so obvious from the beginning that the seemingly intelligent Lara Jean would have figured them out much sooner. Perhaps I'm less in love too with this book because I liked a different boy for this infamous Song girl, but I am proud of a book for portraying culture in an authentic way - not calling out and saying "hey I have Korean pride", but instead including those little details that would make up the day-to-day life of Korean-American teenager.

I can't say I would recommend this book to my peers, but I would consider recommending it to my quieter freshmen and sophomore girls. I think they would identify with the unrequited love story lines and the simple wish to be seen.

As always, happy reading!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (Maus, #1)Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every once in a while a book comes along and does something no book has done before. Maus is like that for me. Perhaps it's because it's only my second graphic novel. Or perhaps it's because I had low expectations because I didn't expect a book told in graphic form could illicit the type of emotion that comes from prose. Either way, Spielgman's Maus tells a story of the Holocaust in a way that is relatable and poignant. The choice to make the Jews mice and the Nazis cats while also choosing to have story be delivered in a narrative from a father to a son made it eerily like a horrifying bedtime story - the type where you are hoping there is a happy ending that is coming rather than a perpetual unfolding of despair and tragedy. Alas, there are no happy endings when millions were killed simply for clinging to faith or for being born with characteristics they had no control over. This is storytelling at its finest.

Style & Simplicity: An A to Z Guide to Living a More Beautiful Life

Simple Decor, Extravagant Living: The Watson Kennedy A to Z Guide to a More Beautiful LifeSimple Decor, Extravagant Living: The Watson Kennedy A to Z Guide to a More Beautiful Life by Ted Kennedy Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four years ago I walked into Watson Kennedy in Seattle and fell in love - it was everything a store should be. Vintage sheet music, gorgeously bound books, delicate trinkets, letter pressed stationary, etc. Jewels and I were so enamored that we went to both locations of the store every day that we were in town on that trip. I did the same a year later with Katie. And just a couple months ago I revisited Seattle and there was Watson Kennedy in book form - something that I could take home and pour over. I could be inspired by the store owner's vision of what a home could be. It is not a "how to" book, but rather an A to Z collection of things that Ted Watson Kennedy views as details that can make life that much more beautiful. From fresh flowers to ephemera to lit candles, Ted takes us through a world that seems to glow with that perfect light of dusk on a summer night - where you can hear laughter from a dinner party and smell faintly the barbecue coals or bonfire that is being set up for roasting s'mores and telling stories.

I am sure that part of my love for this book has to do with nostalgia and visiting this store with the type of relish that most would say is a bit odd when directed at a store, but I am so happy to have this have talked to Ted Watson Kennedy about it as my parents and I shopped in the Pike Place Watson Kennedy. Either way this book is a perfect addition to my new apartment as I aim to make life that much more beautiful and worth remembering.

Happy reading and happy living!


Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book that I should have reviewed closer to when I actually finished it, so that I could more accurately articulate my initial reactions. The short version if that I am conflicted by these books. On some level I am so fascinated by the world that Roth has created. I like that Tris is another one of those bad-ass females who refuses to do things just because someone tells her too. I like Four - he's everything a love interest in young adult fiction should be. But there's just something missing. Lack of cohesion in the plot? Not enough depth to justify character actions/decisions? I don't know. What I do know is that I voluntarily read this and was hurrying through it to see what happened next. What I also know though is that I will gladly put this book in my classroom, a sign that I never intend to pick this up again. Either way, I'll be reading Allegiant and eagerly awaiting the film version of Insurgent - whatever that's supposed to mean?! :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Nesting Place

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be BeautifulThe Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Nesting Place" is a first for me. I've never sat down and read an entire book devoted to decorating and making your space your own. I thoroughly enjoyed this book for it's honesty and for it's suggestions that I could implement right away. I read a chapter that talked about being happy with what you have now and not waiting to hang pictures until you had the perfect wall set up or whatever holds us back - I decided not to be afraid of nail holes, to abandon the illusion of perfection, and to do things that made sense to me even if they wouldn't necessarily make sense to someone else. This book was a perfect housewarming gift from Katie as I moved into my first apartment that was just mine.

I would highly recommend this to you if you are trying to figure out how to decorate your space or how to feel more comfortable in the home you have - whether you own it or are renting. Smith has spent most of her married life in rentals and offers great suggestions to those of us who have less autonomy with the space we're living in.

Happy reading and happy nesting!

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Round 6, 7, & 8

A Midsummer Night's DreamA Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Teaching Midsummer this year was so much fun. Three more times through the play and I was left entranced by whether it matters that the lovers do not know if they were dreaming. I also thought a lot about why "Dead Poets Society" choose Midsummer as the play that Neil acts in. They only show us two sets of Midsummer lines - one where Puck, played by Neil, identifies himself as the mischief maker, the sprite that everyone talks about and the final speech delivered to the audience where Puck says that he will amends for anyone who might be offended. I never appreciated before how well chosen those lines are for both Midsummer and for Neil's character. I love the way that art compliments art. Shakespeare seems to apply everywhere.

Mary Coin

Mary CoinMary Coin by Marisa Silver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction books are always tricky. Choose an era that you're really fascinated by and hope that the book does justice to the time that they are trying to describe. Silver does justice to the 1930s Depression era in Mary Coin - I appreciate the lives of migrant workers in a way that I did not before reading this book. That said, I did not love Silver's story. Her characters were missing key pieces in their development and the way Silver wove the characters together seemed too convenient. Perhaps I wasn't willing to suspend reality since this book was said to fill in the gaps behind the famous migrant mother photo taken by Dorthea Lange. For all my dissatisfaction, I have to admit that there were beautiful lines about the scars, both literal and figurative, that we carry as well as the questions we fail to ask when trying to ascertain this thing called life.

I would actually give this book 2.5 stars, but because I genuinely learned new things while reading it, it gets the ever elusive bump that my students crave on their grades. If you read a great deal then I would recommend this book. If you do not, I would still choose Steinbeck as the voice of the Depression. Nothing is better than East of Eden.

Happy reading!

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of KatherinesAn Abundance of Katherines by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought An Abundance of Katherines simply because John Green wrote it. I would gladly read anything John Green has to write simply because he describes the world in a way that my linear brain simply cannot do on its own. Green also manages still to capture teenagers as the complicated, dramatic, intelligent, hilarious, petty, etc. creatures that they are. They are not stock characters in Green's novels - they are seem to be living, breathing kids that could populate any one of my classes.

Katherines is not my favorite of Green's books, but I would still recommend it as a good summer read. The one liners are classic, and the subtle details fantastic. The main character, Colin, seems to me like he's on the spectrum, so he can get frustrating, but his best friend, Hassan, makes it all worthwhile and the girl they meet along their road trip is the one I most identified with.  I'm glad to have read another one of Green's stories - he always manages to take me somewhere I haven't been before.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Winter's Tale

Winter's TaleWinter's Tale by Mark Helprin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I start and stop books all the time, but I very rarely declare books as unfinished reads - a book so frustrating or flawed that I will not use my reading time to get to the end. This is my first "unfinished" review. I made it through 115+ pages of Helprin's "Winter's Tale". I confess that I chose to read the book in part because of a glossy, romantic movie preview that had Downton Abbey's Lady Sybil Crawley and in part because I voted for it at book club. Neither reason sustained how much I disliked this in disliked it from page one. It's too wordy and too mystical and convoluted without any sort of plot saliency. I know people LOVE this book, but I just am not one of them and life is too short to read a bad book. Here's hoping next month's book club book redeems this one.

Happy reading and happy (almost) spring!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Just Do It or Why Nine Posts in a Single Morning

I have split personalities. Part of me is a doer - someone who sees something that needs to be accomplished and just takes care of it. The old adage, why do tomorrow what could be done today, echoes through my mind and I race to check things off my silly to do lists. The other part of me is a procrastinator - someone who see things that are not absolutely essential to survival that can be saved for another day and leaves them, sometimes for days and sometimes for months. The past few weeks I have decided that I have decided that I am no longer split - I am either going to just do the things that I supposedly say I value (I'd like that supposedly to be taken off) and eliminate those things that are a distraction from what's most important. The cliched ideas that there's no time like the present and that having less to do's will help you sleep better at night are cliche for a reason - they're absolutely true and I don't want to waste my life thinking I should have done more. I want just want to be out there doing the things I love most and being the best possible version of myself. Life is too short for anything else.

{ps. If it's still unclear why nine posts in a single morning...I have had reviewing the books I read this fall on my to do list for MONTHS...and I finally did it. Now to the next...}

The Last Lecture

The Last LectureThe Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a teacher, we can check out library books longer than the usual three weeks. I have had The Last Lecture for months - partially because it took me a month to actually start reading it, but mostly because I just can't get myself to give it back. There are so many worthwhile quotes and ideas in this book that I want to write them all down before I give it back. I love books that make you see humanity and possibility in every moment and that make you want to be better. Such a great read.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and GraceAn Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just the title of this book is delectable - Adler's writing is exquisite. She brings tastes and smells to life as she writes about not only the art of cooking the perfect egg, but how to then use that egg (or chicken or onion or pepper) in a dozen different ways. I sat on the beach in Hawaii reading this and absolutely itching to get into a kitchen to put Adler's theories into practice. The reason this book is a four and not a five is that it's not a perfect vehicle for teaching cooking principles - meaning there are no pictures and there are some overly generalized lessons that an unskilled cook like myself will not be able to navigate very well. This book though will sit in my kitchen forever and as I have ten minutes to wait for water to boil or cookies to bake, I will read and reread it trying to find ways to be a bit more economical and a bit more graceful, in and out of the kitchen. Happy reading and happy eating!

Just One Year

Just One Year (Just One Day, #2)Just One Year by Gayle Forman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know what exactly draws me to Gayle Forman's books, but since I discovered her a few years ago, I have read her books right when they come out. I think I'm just intoxicated by the romance and the inevitable obstacles the plague her couples. It doesn't hurt that this book includes Shakespeare and Europe. It's not great fiction, but it is compelling story telling....kinda the equivalent of Halloween candy. You know it's not the best possible treat you could be eating, but sometimes you just can't help reaching for that second (or third) Butterfinger. Enjoy!


Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am such a bandwagon reader especially when it comes to young adult fiction. Lots of students and friends were reading this book, so naturally I had to too. I would actually give this book a 3.5, but because I have to choose 3 or 4 and because I read this book in only a couple days, I am going with 4. The premise of a world where we are categorized by attributes is great and the concepts of choice and whether we feel like we belong are universally applicable to readers. And when I'm allowed to buy books again (my to be read shelves are much too full right now), I will definitely be picking up Roth's next one in the series. Happy reading!

Romeo & Juliet...Again

Romeo and JulietRomeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every year I begin our study of Romeo & Juliet with a discussion of what makes a good love story. Then students come up with their best examples of love stories - their answers are occasionally classic but usually shout outs to the most dominant examples of love in their young lives - Disney princess stories, Titanic (seriously -this is theirs. I didn't add it though my freshmen self would have absolutely said this), The Notebook, Up. And then I have students ask parents and adults whether they think Romeo & Juliet is romantic, and the students return with a pretty solid split of opinions.

So this year, all through the book I thought about whether I think Romeo & Juliet is romantic...because I love this play, but I realized this year that it's not the overall love story that makes me love it. It's the language, the way the characters live the passions and their days with an unbelievable "all or nothing" attitude, and yes -there is love and descriptions of love that only Shakespeare could create. But the love I have for the "greatest love story of all time" comes from adaptations of it - Baz Luhrmann's party scene and that perfect first kiss or the Romeo & Juliet performance in the final moments of Shakespeare in Love. So no, Romeo & Juliet is not a good love story - not for the reasons I think make up a good love story, but it is a great story and I am already looking forwards to teaching this unit next year.

The Book Thief - Round 3

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book stays with you just the way the smell of baking bread or the sound of the ocean crashing on the sand does. It is just so right and so comforting. The Book Thief is about words, their infinite power, and how simple, small actions can change alter a person's life in the most profound ways. I love this book more than anything I have ever read. Read it. Then watch the movie. Then read it again. You don't be disappointed. January 11, 2014 (Read again in November 2013)

The Happiness Project - Round 2

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThe Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book in 2010 as I was searching for happiness amidst the chaos of a grad school program I didn't feel entirely at home in. I couldn't have known it then, but reading this book laid the ground work for a summer and a shift in thinking that has changed my life. It's not that I have completed full happiness projects, but I did stop waiting and started doing and I am so much happier. Taking responsibility for my happiness was absolutely a game changer.

This past summer (yes, I'm four-plus months late with a review) I picked up The Happiness Project again in an attempt to redefine my goals and what makes me happiest. It was a perfect summer read because summer is my season of rejuvenation and September my time of resolutions and goals. I love the ideas in this book and am just starting Rubin's latest book "Happiness at Home". The idea of actively living instead of passively waiting for life to happen is one of the most enabling principles. If you're looking for a reset button or just something to boost what is already a pretty great life, I would definitely suggest this book.

Happy Reading!

ps. Why four versus five stars if I consider this book so life changing? Because it's a bit long-winded and occasionally, I am not in love with everything Rubin says. That said, I really do love it. It, like most of us though, just isn't perfect.

Words To Live By

I have been a quote collector for as long as I can remember. Since the beginning of the year is such a reflective time (and because I was cleaning out my email inbox), here are quotes that I have been musing on for the past few months. 

Perhaps the secret of living well is not having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company. --Rachel Naomi Remen

What's terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don't need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you're capable of better. --Doris Lessing

Funny, when you finally faced reality, it was amazing how clearly you could see things. --Mary Higgins Clark

Two is company, four is a party, three is a crowd. One is a wanderer. --James Thurber

Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal. --Lenore Hershey

Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. --George Saunders

The truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is. --Nadine Gordimer

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. --Carl Sagan

You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying in the road. --Richard Price

Charm is the ability to make someone else think that both of you are pretty wonderful. --Kathleen Winsor

None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are. --Anne Rice

Sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey, a terrible journey. But, sorrow is at least an arriving. --Alan Paton

Of all sound of all bells... most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. --Charles Lamb

And when you're done with this, check this out...It's a blog entitled "Don't Date a Girl Who Teaches". My favorite section says, "You thought PMS was bad? Try PEGPS. PEGPS stands for Pre End-of-Grading-Period Syndrome, the period of time before grades are due for report cards. Like PMS, PEGPS is characterized by extreme irritability, poor nutritional choices, and zombie-like fatigue. However, unlike PMS, PEGPS lasts for 2-3 WEEKS and happens four to six times per YEAR."  Considering it's the second week of January, I've been able to stave off the irritability, but Seth and I had French Fries and shakes for dinner last poor nutrional choices. Check....

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!!