Friday, November 27, 2009

When they named it Black Friday . . .

They must have been talking about the circles under my eyes. Black, dark circles. When my alarm went off this morning, at 2:45 a.m., I momentarily lost touch with reality. I was a tad bit angry that something was daring to disturb the peaceful slumber to which my body had succumbed. For that brief moment I forgot. Then, realization struck: Shopping. Day after Thanksgiving. $97 GPS. I was awake.

I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to make myself presentable before Lauren came to pick me up. A glance in the mirror told me there wasn't much that fifteen minutes could fix: I looked like Quasimodo. My eyes were all puffy, which gave my face a sort of warped, deformed quality. A quick face wash and mascara application later, and my French-hunchback self was off to Greenville.

What is it about Black Friday, dear readers? Why is it that I simply can't resist it? On the outside it's nothing but disaster. Black Friday is mobs of people waiting in lines outside in the cold, who then start waiting in lines for a dressing room, who then move to waiting in lines to pay, and finally finish waiting in lines to get out of the parking lot, so they can drive to the next store and start again. Nothing about that sounds fun, but it IS.

When I sprinted through Target in my BYU hoodie, weaving through a sea of red shopping carts and agitated shoppers, I felt nothing but excitement. When I clutched that precious TomTom in my hand and knew that I had, indeed, won, I felt nothing but extreme satisfaction. And when I walked into Shoe Carnival thirty minutes later, and they handed me a $10 gift card just for walking into the store, I knew the day would be glorious. Glorious it was.

Eleven stores and eight hours later, I thought I might be dying.

I wonder how I will possibly walk tomorrow. I am exhausted.

At least I will die knowing I found some killer deals.

The good thing is I have 365 days to forget about how tiring Black Friday is, so I can savor it again next year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

6 of These

Are headed to my classroom. I wrote a grant with another teacher and we got it! $1,000 to buy these digital, miniature camcorders with video editing software for our department. Think of all the cool project possibilities with these little babies in tow. I am so excited!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

When Your Job Gives You Lemons

Forget about your job and remember other things that have nothing to do with it.

Sometimes, I lay in bed at night and dream about finding a nice secretarial job. You know the kind. Something low key, with a higher salary than teaching (somehow I doubt that's hard to find), with benefits, and a boss who gives me a nice Christmas bonus and an occasional, "Thanks, Katie, you're really good at your job." Maybe even a raise when he sees how fabulous I am. A nice secretarial position where I work from 8 to 5. When I go home at night, I'll be done with work. I won't have to think about it until the next morning. No papers to grade. No lazy teenagers. No homecoming ballots to copy, and stuff, and count. Let's face it: I'd make a killer secretary.

Instead, I work in a job where being good at it means I get added responsibilities with no additional compensation. And, while I work on my additional responsibilities, the stacks of papers I'm supposed to be grading just keep piling. The piles keep getting larger. And larger. And today, around the time that I agreed to be an emergency sub for someone's Spanish class during my prep period, while struggling to repair the technology that I needed for a lesson I was giving after lunch (which I wouldn't be eating because I had lunch duty), I almost cried. Almost is huge for me. I'm surprised I didn't lose it.

A lot of days I love my job. It makes me feel all warm fuzzy inside. A lot of days, in fact most days, an email from a parent thanking me for what I do for her child is enough. Having a student write, "I love you, Mrs. R!" on my whiteboard is enough. Watching a kid really GET something, and knowing I made that happen is enough. Today is not one of those days. Today I am tired. I am tired of feeling so physically exhausted. Tired of hearing, "This is boring." Tired of watching kids sleep through class. Tired of an honors class that didn't even bother to read The Great Gatsby and massacred what could have been an enlightening discussion. Tired of working twelve hour days and not getting paid for it. Today is a day I contemplate searching help wanted ads for a new profession.

Now, here I sit at home, and it's time for me to prove to myself that my life is not completely and utterly crappy. Here it goes.

On Friday, Lauren and I went shopping in Goldsboro. My mission: finds for the house. I love doing anything with Lauren, but shopping with her is especially fun. We are very thorough shoppers. We are bargain hunters. We start in one corner of a store and leave no stone unturned. We fondle every fabric, and we smell every candle. It took us about five hours to circulate three stores. Shopping is hard work, I tell you, and I'm hoping three hard core hours of it will compensate for the weeks I've neglected to go to the gym. I found some great stuff for the house at amazing prices (gotta love Ross and TJ Max). Some of my finds helped contribute to the completion of the sun room (well. . . somewhat completion) after we repainted the wicker furniture Joy and Bruce gave us. The finished product, for now, looks something like this:

Here's the wicker furniture pre-paint job and during paint job:

And the finished product:

On Saturday, Chad and I joined Cameron, Lacey, and Cassie for the U2 and Muse concert in Raleigh. U2 has long been on my list of bands to see in concert before I die. Considering this is the first time they've toured in the United States in twelve years, I'd say I kind of lucked out getting to see them. I have started to refer to this show as the highlight of my life, but since that seems to hurt Chad's feelings (something about our wedding day maybe needing to fill that spot in my memory), I'll just say this concert will forever be a close second. Muse sounds as amazing live as they do on CD; I would definitely pay to see them in concert as the headliner. And U2? I don't care if they're old. Any group that wrote songs two years after my birth and is still rocking out is just cool. Period. It was a fabulous concert. Feast your eyes and ears on the highlights:

First, here are the photos of us being amazed by the stage and excited for the concert to start. We got there VERY early, which was a super good thing. Apparently, a lot of folks were stupid and got stuck in traffic. These losers missed Muse, and in some terrifying cases, even part of U2's set. Another good reason for arriving early was getting free parking in a bank parking lot a mile away, instead of paying $20 to park at the stadium. Plus, when the security guards told us we couldn't have backpacks, it gave Lacey and I time to walk all the way back to the car. The security guard also told us we could bring treats but no water bottles. Funny how when we got back from the car, a different security guard said there was no food allowed. Don't you worry, we got to bring in our Almond Joys and Sour Patch Kids! We held the first guy to his word.

Chad and me:
Cameron's first concert. I'm pretty sure every show afterward is going to savor of anticlimax:

The whole crew, ready for the show to start (you can tell how early we were by all the empty seats in the stadium):
Lacey and me being our typical, solemn selves:

Lacey and Cassie (I loved listening to these two sisters bicker. It took me back to my Moses Lake years. I love these girls!):
Just before Muse performed:

A short clip of the concert, for any of you Muse fans out there:

During a few key moments the stage lit up enough to get some decent photos. Here's are a couple of shots of U2:

And video footage for your enjoyment:

My one regret is not getting any footage of the drunken Brazilian lady doing the samba during every song. Man, she had some energy.

Then, when we got home Sunday morning, I had this surprise waiting for me in my dining room:

Merry Christmas to me! This corner, china cabinet belonged to Chad's great grandmother. She recently passed away, and this is a Christmas present from Joy and Bruce, who bought it for us from her estate sale. Thank you so much! It's beautiful, sentimental, and I love it!

Yup, I'd say my life is pretty far from being crappy after all. That was therapeutic. Thanks for indulging me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September Happenings

A couple Fridays ago, a friend called me to ask what I was up to. She wanted to invite me to go to our high school's football game with her. My response was, "Sorry, I'm on my way to my in laws to make grape juice." She laughed. "Is this how you spend your Friday nights?" she asked. She's often giggled about my weekend festivities. Hers usually involve local bars, and she finds my Mormon ways sans alcohol humorous and interesting. I love that Chad and my idea of a good time involves food and family. Here are some photos of our recent food-fabulous activities:

Personal Pizza Night--

On this occasion, each of us created our own personal pizza from quite the assortment of toppings. It was a lot of fun and very tasty.

Homemade Grape Juice--
Our sweet neighbors have grape vines, and when we asked if we could use some to make grape juice with they generously shared.

As you can see, we only got four jars, but it was a lot of fun, and extremely yummy.

Last night, we went to the Lenoir County Fair (it's got nothing on the Grant County variety of my childhood. . . sorry, Kinston) and feasted on a greasy funnel cake, then went to Joy and Bruce's for more food. Bruce grilled a couple quick steaks, we threw some frozen pizza things in the oven, and I made Brazilian lemonade (recipe from Our Best Bites, of course). It was all quite delicious, although I'm pretty sure Cameron's date thought that between our eclectic food choices and strange card playing we were all insane.

In other news, we finally finished our sun room TODAY! My favorite room in the house is now use able, and I couldn't be more happy about it. I finished the last coat of paint on the trim this morning, and my wonderful father-in-law came over this afternoon to help install the ceiling fan. I've got to give the built-in about a week of drying time before I can stack it with books, but for now, this is what it looks like:

Chad and I have managed to steal yet some more furniture from our very generous in-laws, so we'll have some wicker stuff in here for awhile until we can afford to buy furniture of our own. I'm going to paint it this week, so I'll post pictures of the room again once it's furnished.

That reminds me. I don't think I ever posted pictures of our front rooms with furniture, so here are some (the pictures aren't the best, but at least you can get an idea):

This is the sofa that we bought pretty soon after moving into our house. It's one of the only pieces of furniture we've actually bought. It's very comfy and looks a lot nicer than our previous 1980's sofas. The first sofa of our marriage was provided by The Branbury Apartments, and the second one was inherited from Meredith and Adam's apartment complex--they were apartment managers and their complex was throwing away furniture, so we got a sofa and love seat for free. Yes, we inherited furniture that was deemed garbage by a PROVO apartment complex. That should tell you what it looked like. One arm was completely collapsed, so I stuffed it with pillows underneath our slip cover. It was a gem, let me tell you. Anyway, I love this little leather number much more.

We're going to recover these wing backs eventually, but for now they're in Chad's grandparents' original baby blue. I love a good wing back, and I've already found a really fun striped fabric I'd love to use. The drop leaf end tables were theirs, too, and they are absolutely beautiful. I love them.

Super comfy recliner that we also inherited from Chad's grandparents, and the rug I bought at Ollie's (oh how I love giant Big Lots-esque stores):

The dining room furniture that we inherited from Chad's parents. (Are we sensing a trend here? Man, our house would be so empty without family finds. Thanks so much, EVERYONE!)

I love our little house. It's getting closer and closer to being finished. We worked on finishing off the counter tops in the kitchen today, and once we get a couple of drawers built, that room will be done, too. Progress is so beautiful. I love it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to Ensure Use of Your Entire Wardrobe

1. Don't do laundry for two weeks.

We usually do laundry once a week, and usually Saturday becomes laundry day. Last Saturday, Joy's washing machine broke down while she was mid-load, so she came over and used our washer and dryer to finish up. I figured we'd do our laundry on Monday or Tuesday, but instead it sat in the hamper and accumulated more dirty camisoles, polos, and pajama bottoms as friends. We finally did laundry THIS Saturday, but that meant two weeks of getting really creative when it came to wardrobe selection. Friday I wore a pair of jeans that had previously been put in the "work wear" section of the dresser. It was time.

2. Refuse to iron for a few months.
I hate ironing. I detest it. Nay, I utterly loathe it. If I could, I would hire a maid whose sole job was to iron my clothing. The thing is, as much as I hate ironing, I adore tops and bottoms that seem to require it. You know, tops with ruffles and pleats, made out of fabric that looks gorgeous when it's crisply pressed, but looks disastrous if you just pull it out of the dryer. I have not had a real "ironing session" for a very long time. After we do laundry, we hang everything up that is supposed to be ironed in the guest room closet. The idea is,we'll iron it and it will be put away in the right place. This hasn't happened since summer vacation started (Joy, if you are reading this, I hope you haven't had a heart attack). It is now September, if you don't have a calendar right handy. Now, I have been forced to iron a couple of pieces between then and now, but for the most part, I've adjusted my outfits and just haven't worn anything that requires my least favorite chore.

I have been wearing clothes I forgot I had! This probably means I own too many clothes, and that it's time to clean out my closet, but whatever. Seriously, this is a terrible thing to confess, because now you will all know how incredibly lazy I am. Honestly though, it has been amazing how many different outfits you can come up with when you're forced to really analyze the only things left in your closet.

I finally had to suck it up and iron a few things last night-I was running out of wrinkle-free options. I make no promises as to when the ironing will resume. As Lauren would say, "Don't judge me."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Things that Make Me Happy

1) Norah Jones mixed with Billie Holiday and John Legend on Pandora radio.
Seriously. I don't think radio gets much better than this. At least not when I've had a long day and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and go to bed at 6:30. There is something about the first week back to school that makes me feel exhausted. (My students are still wonderful, by the way, so I'm not complaining! I'm in love with them all, and I'm excited for this semester. It's just my feet hurt. My voice is tired. My mind can't possible think because it's been going a mile a minute all day. I'm just in that adjustment period, that's all.) Anyhow, if you want the perfect music to listen to while you make dinner, or pitter-patter around the house because you're too lazy to go to the gym, this is it. There is something so soothing about Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and an occasional Jack Johnson song that makes my entire body feel relaxed. I'm in love.

This has renewed my joy for cooking. Don't know what to cook? Go to this website and it will give you a million, uncomplicated ideas, that actually look worth eating. And the thing is, they ARE. Every recipe I've tried from this website I've fallen in complete love with. I love the writing on their site, too.

3) "Man, she don't play."
Hearing that this was the reaction to me after my first day of teaching.
Translation? Wow, she means business. Do I hear a hallelujah chorus? Oh, I think I do. I can see growth in myself as a teacher this year already, and I'm proud of myself. I think this is destined to be my best school year yet.

4) The prospect of fall.
OK. So it's still hot as Hades, but it's not AS hot as it was last week. I have visions of colored leaves dancing in my head. I can't wait for the first signs of my favorite season. I want to put on a sweater and curl up with a mug full of hot chocolate. Plus, The Big Read this year at our public library is focused around Edgar Allen Poe's complete short stories and poetry. Which means one thing: A killer Poe unit right before Halloween. How can I NOT be excited by the prospect of THAT?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tummy Troubles and Back to School

I went back to work a week ago. Today was my first full-blown day with the kids actually there. It went well. I am teaching all honors classes but one this year, so life should be pretty much paradise. Also, it's amazing what a difference I feel being at the same school for two years in a row. Last year, even though I'd had a year of teaching experience in Utah, it felt like my first year all over again. I had to learn the way the school worked, the way the students worked, create entirely new lesson plans, teach entirely new texts, go through culture shock, etc. This year, even though I'm being required to revamp everything AGAIN, it shouldn't be nearly as bad. In fact, last night I got an amazingly sound night's sleep. I met all 76 of my students today and they seem great at first glance. I was telling Chad I already love them. I know I'm not going to like them all the time, and that they are going to probably going to do a bunch of stuff I will whine and complain about for the rest of this year, but I already know I love them--which is a good sign. I don't know if that makes any sense, but that's how I feel.

Anyway, in preparation for my first day, I decided to really live it up my last weekend of freedom. To a non-Mormon teacher this might mean drinking and partying. To a Mormon teacher, this means driving to Myrtle Beach with your family to eat crab legs.

That's right, on Saturday morning we all piled into Bruce and Joy's suburban and embarked on a 2 1/2 hour drive just to eat at an all you can eat seafood buffet: Captain George's. It's a favorite restaurant of the Reese family and we will do just about anything for a chance to eat there.

This is the entire family, pre-eating, outside the restaurant. Notice how happy we look? That's because we are. All empty-tummied, ready to eat to our hearts' content:

Here we are, waiting in line to get a table (a much shorter one than is typical in the busy season):

Here we are, walking to our table:

I came prepared this time. I wore a top that is normally a pregnant woman's best friend. In my case, it was an eater's best friend. It left plenty of room for stomach expansion.

Here's what the buffet looks like from the end. We like Captain George's because it feels so much classier than most of the seafood buffets at Myrtle Beach.

We stopped on the way and did a little shopping, then it was down to business: eating. Multiple plates of crab legs were consumed (for some, this meant more than their body weight in meat dipped in butter); fried shrimp were dipped in cocktail sauce; scallops, salmon, flounder, tuna, oysters and mussels were devoured; some sampled the fungus I refuse to eat--stuffed mushrooms; there were dinner rolls, macaroni and cheese, and salads nibbled; all of us indulged in the grandness that is the dessert bar.

I love this one, because it shows the boys' dedication to the eating. Look at that concentration:

Some of the aftermath:

Immediately following dessert, I ate another plate of crab legs and fried shrimp. That's when I realized I wasn't feeling so hot. By the time we made it to Broadway at the Beach and started strolling through shops, it was reconfirmed that I was going to be having stomach "issues."

A trip to Rite Aid for some anti-stomach-issues-medication was our first stop on the way home.

Then Joy started feeling sick.

We made several more stops on the way home.

We stopped in a Jehovah's Witness' church parking lot.

We stopped at Bart's BBQ.

We stopped at Arby's.

We stopped at Walmart.

It was a long drive home.

Chad started to feel sick towards the end of the drive and stayed sick most of Sunday.

We've learned our lesson--never over eat unless you know you have a hotel room to go home to. I don't think we'll be making a one day trip to Myrtle Beach again any time soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why I Will Never Pay $165 for a Pair of Jeans

1. That's insane.

2. I can buy them for $10 at DI in Bountiful, UT.

And you know what, I'm sure they're NOT this year's style. Heck, they might not even be last years, but you know what, at some point, some idiot paid a heck of a lot of money for their 7 for All Mankind logo, and now I'm having the last laugh--insert sound of evil, twisted laughter here. (If you, dear reader, have spent such a preposterous amount of money on denim, don't worry, I haven't lost all respect for you, but we DO need to talk.)

The Thrift Store Gods have reclaimed me as their child. I love my life. I also bought an adorable blazer and these fabulous pumps on the same day:

And speaking of fictionalized deity claiming me as their offspring, let's talk about ones of the concert variety. Chad and I attended Coldplay with Lacey and her friend Alisha (or maybe Alicia, not sure how she spells her name) a couple of days following my return to the humidity. Lots of afternoon rain made for a splendidly cool evening at the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre. It was a spectacular show, which made me fall only further in love with Chris Martin and his band mates. My crappy point and shoot camera was not capable of capturing any spectacular moments at the show, since they all took place after dark, but here are some photos of us waiting for the fun to begin:

And seeing as how I'm clearly in favor with the people upstairs when it comes to concerts, there's no disputing the fact that I am eagerly looking forward to, with all the anticipation my little heart can muster, this:

The one and only U2 on October 3rd. The ultimate selling point? Muse is their opening act.

Life's looking pretty darn good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Alissa's Wedding

The main reason we drove to Washington in the first place was for my cousin, Alissa's, wedding. It was so wonderful to see most of the Jensen side of the family. Everyone was there but my Aunt Denise and her little girl. I got to meet my little cousin, Sterling, for the first time, and Brody, Alissa's little boy. Equally fun was spending time with all of the family I already knew, all of whom I love and miss very much.

This is me holding Brody after he woke up from his nap. Anya was busy doing everyone's hair, but she'd finished mine, so I got to cuddle with him for awhile. He is so precious. He reminds me a lot of myself when I'm tired--groggy, quiet, and not in the mood to be messed with. You just have to let him wake up in his own time. I think Alissa really may have been blessed with one of the sweetest babies in the world. He is so GOOD! He was such a trooper the entire time we were busy with wedding stuff. I was amazed!

A wedding is always such a special and beautiful thing to be a part of, and this was no exception. I am so happy for Stuart and Alissa! Stuart is wonderful with Brody, and I know he is going to make an amazing Dad! Here are some of the shots I took at the wedding. (If I'm in them, then my mom took them.)

Stuart holding Brody as he and Alissa finish walking down the aisle:

Alissa and Stuart's first dance as husband and wife:

Alissa sharing a dance with her Dad:

3 Generations:
Aunt Arianne dancing with Evan:

I love this picture, because look at Evan's face. Isn't it obvious how much he loves and respects his mom? I think it's precious!

Paul, MalaRee, and Sterling sharing a dance:

With my two cousins, Anya and Alissa:

With Jared:The food. How amazing is a bowl full of Sweedish Fish? How clever!

Evan looking handsome and cool while one of Alissa's bridesmaids looks on:

Alissa with her Grandma:

Sterling, looking guilty while decorating the getaway car:

Anya, looking less guilty, but doing the same thing:

Pictures from the next night at the reception:

Alissa wore a killer pair of turquoise shoes. They were fabulous!

Will you notice my cousin's stellar arms? How gorgeous is she in this picture? Did I mention she has had a baby? Alissa, you look fabulous!

The couple from afar:
Mother and Daughters:

Me with Grandpa:
Brody with all his grandparents:

Alissa's family with the couple:

Jensen cousins, minus Bryan who is in Iraq, and Summer who didn't make it:

Alissa with all of her bridesmaids:

The wedding party, minus the little girls:

I love these shots I snapped of my Uncle Howard with Brody. I remember Howard as being a wonderful uncle to me growing up. I also know he was a wonderful father. This is proof that he is a wonderful grandfather as well:

The wedding cake:
Kissy-kissy (Stuart was not a fan of taking kissing pictures, but they happen to be some of my favorite shots at weddings, so we forced him):

Congratulations, Alissa and Stuart! Welcome to the married club! It's a pretty awesome place to be!
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