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!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Seattle in Pictures

A road trip in THE Cube had to lead somewhere. The first destination on ours was Seattle, Washington. The best part of this trip was definitely having the chance to visit with family we seldom get a chance to see. In my case, it had been four years since seeing most of these people--and a few were completely new to me. Case in point, this little firecracker was a couple months from being born the last time I saw my Uncle Mark and Aunt Jaime:

Luckily, McKenna seems to have little to no stranger fear and instantly made me feel welcome by giving me a tour of her room, trying on all of her princess dresses for me, and of course shielding me from "shadows" by turning into Word Girl and chasing them away. (And while we're on the subject, why did a super hero called Word Girl not exist when I was a child? She sounds right up my alley, and really every English teacher's dream.)

Similarly, little Lilah was an absolute doll. She wasn't even a twinkle in her parents' eyes the last time I saw her family. I am so happy I finally got a chance to meet her, too. How can you not love a face as precious as this?

She's a bit more shy than her sister, but warmed right up to us. I wish they were closer, so we could play more often.

I also got to visit my great aunt, Maryann, and she took Grandma and me to breakfast the next day. My Aunt Maryann has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I was so happy to know she still remembered me, and she still seems very much like the Aunt I remember. Her short term memory is fading very fast, but her long term memory is still great. It was fun to see her.

Of course, no family gathering would be complete without some Rock Band (and by some, I really mean excessive amounts. . . I am surprised we haven't been signed to an actual record label):

Did I mention that Seattle was scorching hot while we were there? What's that, you say? Seattle doesn't get hot? You are seriously misinformed. There was a record-breaking heat streak the entire time we were in Washington. To the tune of over 100 degrees every day. We spent a few evenings in the pool (sunset was about the only time cool enough to even swim!)
This is Mom and I breaking out our synchronized swimming moves. My mom is so awesome.
One day, my mom, aunt Karen, Jared, and I decided to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and watch this:

The sun rising in Deception Pass National Park. We'd planned on exploring the tide pools, but sadly didn't find a lot of those. We did see some killer views, though, and had a lot of fun.

I love this one, because it shows how different the beaches in Washington are from the ones in North Carolina:

I know people always tell Jared and I that we look just alike, but I don't think anything puts that into perspective more than this picture:

You can't tell where his profile stops and mine begins. Wow. We are twinners.

This is me being a mermaid. And Jared . . . being . . . something?

I like this, because it looks like maybe I'm a real photographer. Also, notice the shoes I'm wearing. Sigh . . . this was the last time I wore those shoes. They were the perfect pair of slip on tennis shoes. No socks required. I bought them before we went to Italy, and I loved them. Despite my undying love, I accidentally left them in the rental car when we returned it in Utah. Stupid Enterprise Rent-A-Car. They totally stole my shoes, or threw them away, or something. Ugh!

We also went with Grandma, Uncle Shawn, and Skyler to Experience Music Project (EMP) in downtown Seattle. This is Sky in the sound lab, experimenting with different kinds of drum sounds:

Grandma Joy (proving she is not a typical Grandmother):

All of us reflected in the EMP ceiling:

Mom on bongos:
Jared testing out a guitar:

This was us on an escalator, when Grandma was scared and making us laugh:

After EMP, we did what every Seattle tourist must. Paid a visit to Pike's Market:

Jared in an alleyway:

The gum wall. So. Gross.

Another day, Mom, Jared and I explored Gasworks Park. It's an old, Industrial area that they've converted to a park, complete with views of the Space Needle and multiple grassy knolls.

And, we also paid a visit to the troll under the bridge. No, really, there is a troll under a bridge. Here he is, taking out his wrath on a Volkswagen Beetle:

It was a great trip. It reminded me how much I miss my family and how cool it would be to live in a big city. (Not that I don't love Kinston, I do, but last time I checked we don't have trolls lurking under bridges, which I think is pretty darn cool!) Thanks for hosting us, Shawn and Karen. And thanks, Grandma, for letting us stay in your suite!
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