Sunday, November 30, 2008

Three Weeks 'Til Christmas Break (Woohoo!!)

...and what a three weeks they will be!

First, there's this week. I have to buy a bunch of packing stuff at Target (for eBay sales), some Christmas gifts, and I will be spending my free time decorating my apartment. I started getting everything out tonight. If I find it in me, I might put the tree up before I go to's only 6:45, after all.

For Chorale, there is normal rehearsal tomorrow night, a dress rehearsal on Thursday, and a concert on Friday.

I also need to drop some stuff off at Goodwill, find a good used book store (Miz Minka? Suggestions?), and take some old CDs to Rasputin music.

...And in there somewhere, there's work and gym time!

Next week, there will be no rest for the weary, as I have another two dress rehearsals, a regular Chorale rehearsals, and our final concert of this "semester." I also want to try to see two old friends, Jana and Jeff, who are visiting California from Louisiana. I haven't seen them in ages, and I'd love to meet their two children (the youngest was born on my birthday this year!).

On the 12th, my brother and his wife will be bringing their four kids to California from Idaho. I don't know what their plans are but I do hope to see them, at least briefly. Last time I saw them was back in January, at Grandma Cooper's funeral. If I see them, I can give them their Christmas presents in person, otherwise, it's off to the post office.

Speaking of the post office...if everything goes as I hope, I should be selling lots of stuff on eBay, which means plenty of post office trips. Last year I had a lot of business during the holidays--people are always looking for a good deal, and I have some good stuff, like brand-new posters from a poster club I got myself into (and now out of, as I was getting two posters every few weeks--way too many!), books, a few Snoopy gee-gaws (I'm streamlining my collection), Beanie Babies, and other random stuff.

Fortunately, I can buy the postage online, through PayPal. It saves so much time--all I have to do is drop the packages in the big bin--no lines!

There is also holiday baking. Colleagues are getting small loaves of bread in darling little oven-safe ceramic bread pans I found for $1 each at Michael's. There is also one pound of See's to pick up. A couple months ago, I got a gift certificate from a former student in Antioch in the mail. DV had forwarded it to me. I was tickled that he and his mom thought highly enough of me to send a gift. He was in my Concert Choir--my intermediate group and favorite group for their senses of humor and willingness to work with me.

The chocolate is going to the staff room at work--one pound of chocolate would be about 15 pounds on my hips!

So I should be bustling and busy. When I am at home, I'll be baking, decorating, and singing along with the holiday playlist on my iTunes. I have grand plans to watch some of my seasonal favorites, like Love Actually and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Be on the lookout for several holiday-related blog posts, and don't be surprised if I spontaneously break into song.

And if all goes as I hope it will, I might even have a mini-reunion of some old high school friends I haven't seen in a long time. Megan! Leah! Join Katie, Leslie, Lisa and I for dinner sometime! The four of us had a marvelous night out last night, talking for ages over a good dinner at Chili's, and laughing up a storm (they loved my kindergarten pants-wetting story).

This coming Sunday, Summer is coming for some scrapbooking, which is always a fun prospect. We inspire each other, and get a lot done.

So yes, it's busy time, but I love it. Bring it on! I can rest on Christmas Eve. In the mean time, I've got things to do.


When Consumerism Goes Over the Top

A few years ago, I was in need of a new stereo, but I was also strapped for cash. I was working on my teaching credential, subbing and teaching private music lessons to stay afloat, and living with my parents. When I saw that WalMart would be charging only $50 for a five-CD changer stereo system, I knew I had to get one. Only problem? I had to get up before the crack of dawn on Black Friday, and brave the local WalMart.

Mom agreed to go with me, so we were up way too early that Friday morning. We did not wait in line, naively thinking we'd be fine. I was lucky--I got the very last stereo in stock by running ahead while Mom got a shopping cart. We spent about 15 minutes just trying to find each other in the mess, and finally got out of dodge and back home for a nice breakfast and to celebrate our victorious shopping.

I still have that CD player. After two years of non-use in my Antioch apartment (it's all about iTunes these days), I took it to my new classroom in Stockton. And there it gets good use.

That was my one and only foray into Black Friday madness as a consumer (I have worked it as a retail employee, and seen it from that unflattering angle, as well)--and I mean only. I will never willingly put myself through that kind of hell again. Crowds in general bug me, and the greed and the pushiness of bargain-hunters at a WalMart the day after Thanksgiving was enough to put me off of Black Friday forever.

You will never find me camped out in front of Best Buy or Toys 'R' Us. If I should ever have children, I don't care what the toy du jour is. If I find it, fine. If not, my children will learn to make do and count their blessings, because blessings--many of them--is what they'll have. I will not raise little consumer-monsters-in-training.

My rant this morning stems from the news we've all heard by now about the death of a 34-year-old WalMart employee in New York, who was trampled to death by an impatient crowd of 2,000 while he opened the doors for them.

In the worst display of shopping greed I have yet to read about, shoppers stepped over his body while his co-workers tried desperately to get to him to offer help. The shoppers themselves were too focused on visions of flat screens to notice that a fellow human being was on the ground, dying.

This is bad enough, but nothing could prepare me for reading this morning, that people were angry at police when the store was shut down for further investigations.

Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like "savages."

"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling `I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."

More than my dislike of crowds, more than my distaste for people who think the meaning of the Christmas season is stampeding like buffalo to get a good deal on a flat-screen DVD or an Incredible Hulk DVD, this comment is the reason I will never again participate in Black Friday. Nothing is worth a human life.

I will continue enjoying a laid-back Thanksgiving at home each year. You won't find me camped out, waiting for a store to open. Black Friday will find me sleeping in, full of good food and thankful for the family I shared it with. My parents and I might continue our annual San Francisco excursions, but Retail Hell will not be on our list of things to do.

As for the flat screens and the stereo systems, let other people have them. I'll use my 19-inch TV (not a flat screen) with it's built-in VHS/DVD players until the day it decides it's had enough. I'll merrily play my iTunes on the computer, and not have to constantly dust a stereo. I'll order cheap DVDs on Amazon. I will remember the true meaning of the Christmas season--it's not uncontrolled consumerism, but LOVE. Isn't that what it all comes down to? I'm not the most religious girl, but even I understand that at His very core, Jesus--the reason for the season--means love. Family. Doing good things for others.

Not stampeding over the lifeless body of a 34-year-old man--a man who probably wasn't all that thrilled to be working that morning anyway--just to get a discount on a television.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Fuzzy

Poor Duchess.

She is, of course, gorgeous, but one does have to suffer, sometimes, to be beautiful.

For starters, bathing is a lengthy process. Watching Duchess clean herself is hysterically funny--she has such long hair that she has to stretch to get it all. We joke that by the time she finishes cleaning, it's time to start over.

More embarassing is her tendency to develop dingleberries. Duchess gives "Baby Got Back" new meaning, with all the fuzz she's got clinging to her buns. It's inevitable that every so often, a little bit of poo will cling to her fur, and so, our beautiful girl starts to smell a bit off.

When this happens, it's time for Mom to fill up the sink with warm water and give Duchess a rear-end bath (never a full bath--just the hindquarters). This, of course, is not fun for poor Duckie, but it is a necessary part of having long fur.

So this morning, armed with a big towel, a rag, and a sinkful of warm water, Mom, Dad and I bathed our little royal furbaby. Mom got the fun part of washing out the dingleberries while Dad hovered with scissors to clip out a couple of big knots in her fur (she recently developed knots and we hope to get them under control soon). I stayed at the "good" end, rubbing her ears and crooning softly in her ear that everything would be okay. Bella hovered in the doorway, meowing inquisitively and keeping an eye on her beloved sister.

After the indignity of her "bum bath," Duchess retreated under the bed. She finally came out a few minutes ago, her tail still damp, to sit in the Sweet Spot--which is her favorite rocking chair under a hot lamp. She seems mostly recovered from her ordeal, but still has a slightly embarassed expression on her face. I'm sure, once she's dry, she'll realize that she smells and looks fabulous again, and will regain her normal pride in her fabulous looks.

Like I said, it's not easy being fuzzy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baa Baa Baby

Over the last couple of months, the Sun City Neighborhood Association (the 55-and-older community my parents live in) has been hiring out to combat fire risk in the protected areas of the neighborhood.

Large groups of sheep and goats have been herded in to eat the grass--and eat they do! They make short work of it, and using animals to cut down the grass is an eco-friendly solution that eliminates noise and air pollution.

Turns out it's a hit with residents, too. On this weekend, when families are visiting, there were many groups of grandparents bringing their young grandchildren to see the goats and sheep--especially because right now, there are a ton of babies.

This morning, Mom, Dad and I stopped by to have a look. There was already a small crowd of people when we arrived, listening to the shepherd on duty.

There were three solitary ewes on their own across the way. Turns out they had brand-new babies and wouldn't move with the rest of the herd, so they were left alone until their babies were up and moving.

As we approached, the little babies were frolicking and making us laugh.

I took a video to capture the sounds of the animals, and ended up catching the most adorable Mama/Baby reunion. You can hear the delighted laughter of Mom, me, and many others in the area.

There are two trusty herding dogs on hand, Luna and Jack. Jack was out watching sheep, while Luna stayed close to the shepherd.

The shepherd picked up a little goat (a girl) to let us pet her. She has a twin brother.

The babies were delightful to watch--so cute! We stayed for about 10 to 15 minutes before going back to the car. Before we left, I got a picture of a hard-working dog.

I guess I'd need a nap, too, if I'd be up all night guarding sheep!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving With the Cali Coopers

A year ago, I spent Thanksgiving on the couch, recovering from a nasty bug that had me throwing up all day the day before. This year, I was able to help Mom with dinner, and in keeping the kitchen clean as we worked.

The first thing Mom did was get the pumpkin pie in the oven.

We did a lot of food prep early, so that later it would just be a matter of getting everything cooked on time.

Mom has a lot of fall decorations out. Pretty soon she'll replace it all with Christmas stuff.

Because there are only three of us, Mom bought a small turkey.

Once the pie was out of the oven, we were ready for a little break. I had a nice nap. When I woke up, Millie was curled up by my feet.

Finally, at about 4:30, dinner was ready. We didn't do anything fancy this year, deciding to just eat off of trays in the living room. We set the food out buffet-style and served ourselves.

Everything was delicious. We had turkey, mom's stuffing made from scratch, mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce (made by yours truly), yams with melted marshmallows, green beans with slivered almonds, and rolls.

After dinner, we made short work of the cleanup process, thanks to the fact that Mom and I kept up with it all day. In a little while, we'll have pie. Tomorrow I think we might drive to San Francisco--a sort of Black Friday tradition for us. Who needs malls? Not me.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. As of tomorrow, I'm officially in the Christmas spirit.


Silly Kids...

Thanksgiving Advice

In honor of my second-favorite holiday (the first being Christmas), I give you helpful advice for being with family and/or friends on Thanksgiving, and making the day as enjoyable as possible.

1. Remember the History

I know that the history of the Pilgrims and the Indians is not as sugar-coated as we learned in elementary school...but still, I love the sentiment behind Thanksgiving--giving thanks for the good, and taking time to think of peace and loving thy neighbor.

The fact that it's evolved into a four-day weekend doesn't hurt, either.

2. It's Not About How Fancy the Table Is...

...but how dear the people around it are. Sure, Aunt Rita drives you nutsm or you have your very own pervy Uncle Geoffrey (a la Bridget Jones). Cousin Fred has been trying to get you in on some "fool-proof" business proposition and must be avoided at all costs. Your siblings bailed to have dinner with the in-laws in Winnemucca, and it's falling on you to keep the peace.

Yes, family can be awkward. But it's only one day, and, if you're having a really hard time staying sane, repeat the following in your head: "Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie. Gravy. Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie. Gravy."

(I'm lucky--it's just Mom, Dad, Millie, Bella and Duchess and I for Thanksgiving, and we are more than satisfied with that.)

3. Football Isn't the Only Diversion

My entertainment of choice is the Macy's Parade. I get a big kick out of those big balloons, and all the lip-synching goodness. Who doesn't smile at the huge Snoopy balloon, or the Sesame Street float?

The Grinch, that's who.

4. Don't Overdo

Leftovers are really, really good, but remember, as we're only a few weeks from Christmas, the calories will be piling up from every corner. Why not simplify the size of your Thanksgiving meal and not have two months worth of mashed potatoes in the fridge after?

5. Say Grace--But Keep It Simple

You don't need to thank God for every last blessing in your life individually. There just isn't enough time, and stomachs are growling. Keep it simple, heartfelt, and best of all, concise!

If you're not the one saying grace, be quiet, respectful, and don't sneak bites of turkey in when no one is looking. That's cheating!

6. Compliment the Chef

Even if you're not crazy about Auntie Ethel's Famous Strawberry Jello Mold with Pretzels and Cheez Whiz, don't be rude! Take a tiny spoonful, push it under some mashed potatoes when no one is looking, and proclaim how stuffed you are whe she offers you some more.

7. Have Fun!

8. Make a Wish!

9. Don't Forget To Have A...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

...But One More Thing...

Who doesn't love LOLCats?

Who needs TV?

When you've got YouTube?

Just a sample of what I'm watching tonight...starting with a little bit of cuteness to get you in the Christmas spirit (and to get stuck in your head until you're beating it against the wall).

Next, my latest (British, obvs.) celebrity crush. It's obvious he is completely unprepared for the attention he's getting from Twilight.

Mmmmmm...nothing like an adorable British guy on a cold night.

That said, I should get off of YouTube (and the LPB) and finish packing for Thanksgiving weekend. As soon as I can get off campus tomorrow, I'm driving straight to Mom and Dad's, only stopping for gas along the way. I left the Millikins there on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to a cuddle with my Shweetie Patoot. I'm also looking forward Mom's homemade lima bean soup, which she plans to simmer in the crock pot all day. By the time I roll in, tired from a full day of hyper children and driving in holiday traffic on Interstates 5 and 80, there should be a steaming hot bowl of soup with my name on it, a pouting calico, and a comfy couch to sit on with a book. There's a reason I'm packing my pajamas at the top of the suitcase!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Give Up. Officially.

I love my holiday list in iTunes. I have some great songs in there, songs I love and adore. I love listening to them while decking the halls, and while wrapping presents. I'm not really into the "commercial crappy" side of Christmas, but I do so love my Christmas songs and carols.

That said, I usually keep a very strict leash on myself. I don't get the Christmas decorations out until after Thanksgiving, and the same goes for the music. I forgot to delete the Christmas songs from my iPod last year, so all year, when driving and listening to the iPod, I've had to click forward to the next song whenever something Christmassy comes on.

But this year, I'm giving up early. As I type this, I've got Merry Christmas Darling by the Carpenters going. A few minutes ago, it was The Man With All the Toys by the Beach Boys. It all started thirty or so minutes ago when I double-clicked on a song I bought last night--Let It Be Christmas by Alan Jackson.

So that's it. I Officially Give Up on waiting patiently. The radio stations gave in on the weekend, and now I am. I've had my middle school kids making Christmas cards for the soldiers I'm sending stockings to. (They're getting 10 stockings and about a gazillion cards.) It was only a matter of time before I either succumbed to my holiday playlist or a chocolate Santa.

I figure the playlist is less fattening.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Picture of the Week

Robert Pattinson, who plays vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight, receives a custom pair of Ellen underwear.

These Boots Are Made For Walkin'...

Can I just have a shoe moment? One of my more recent splurges--a pair of Steve Madden cowboy boots. I love them. I really love them.

They were perfect for the Alan Jackson concert. I can't wait 'til I have them completely broken in, 'cause I'll wear them everywhere. I'm working on it!

Pop A Top...It's Five O'Clock Somewhere

My parents and I went to the Trace Adkins/Alan Jackson concert at Arco Arena last night.

When we arrived, we had to wait outside for about thirty minutes. I thought about counting cowboy hats as we waited, but I didn't get that bored. Before long, we were allowed inside, and we started the trek to find our seats.

I got Mom and Dad settled in, then went out to check out the souvenir merchandise and food. We'd just had a big dinner at Crepe Danielle, a long-time favorite of Mom and Dad's. I had a delicious spinach and mushroom crepe with plenty of Swiss cheese and cream sauce. We all chared a lemon, sugar and butter crepe for dessert.

Anyway, I wasn't hungry once we got to Arco, but I bought a couple of bottles of water, anticipating a long show. I also bought a souvenir picture of Alan Jackson for my scrapbook, and a hat.

Mom and Dad chuckled when I got back to our seats, because my hat has the name of an Alan Jackson song on it.

It's 5 O'clock Somwhere!

We had a pleasant surprise when we found that James Otto would also be performing. I became a fan of "Just Got Started Lovin' You" over the summer, and he sang it.

Then Trace Adkins came out. He is a great performer, but we were really annoyed by a large group of kids in front of us. It's one thing to stand during a concert, but they were climbing over the seats into other rows, drinking, and in general being really obnoxious. We couldn't see, and their stupidity was interfering with our enjoyment of the concert. We werent' the only ones--a lady behind us told them to sit down a couple of times. The first time, they complied...and after that, they ignored. Nice. One of them told the lady, "Well, stand up, then!" I wanted to snarl at him. It's not like my dad--with his bad knee and his cane--could stand the whole concert.

After Trace left the stage, I found the nearest usher and complained. He allowed Mom, Dad and I to move to other seats, and we watched the whole of Alan Jackson's stage time with a clear view.

James Otto and Trace Adkins were good performers...but Alan Jackson was the highlight of the evening. My parents and I love his music and he did not disappoint live. He is one of those recording artists who can actually sing, and he brings such a down-home, country-loving, aww-shucks, nice-guy persona to the stage, it's impossible not to like him. He was very gracious to the audience, and very energetic in his performance. People were singing along, and he really seemed to appreciate that people know his music so well, and enjoy it so much.

The highlight of the evening was, of course, when he sang "Remember When." This is Mom and Dad's song--for Christmas last year, Dad gave Mom a framed wall hanging with the lyrics to the song. Everytime we listen to the song in the car, they both get very quiet. Aside from being a sweet song, it is also beautifully orchestrated. Alan didn't let us down last night--he sung it beautifully. Midway through, I looked to my right and saw Mom and Dad holding hands...and dabbing at their eyes!

We chose to leave during the encore--we would have loved to stay to hear some more, but we also wanted to avoid the worst of the crowds leaving. It was good to get Dad's bad knee out to the car before the lobby became a madhouse.

We were home by about midnight, exhausted but exhilerated. It was a really fun show (despite the boozy kids in front of us for the first two acts) and we were very impressed by all three performers. Needless to say, we all slept in this morning!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cheesy? Yeah, A Little...BUT

I liked it anyway. : )

I do think, though, that if you haven't read the books, the movie won't make sense to you.

I'd give a more coherent review, but my head is swimming in images of Robert Pattinson. He's a hottie. The goal for the rest of the weekend is to enjoy the Alan Jackson concert tomorrow night, and try to find a new literary obsession now that I've read the whole Twilight series once, and the first book a second time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas

I went to the Dollar Tree today for a few things, and found myself humming along to Christmas songs. I guess it's no surprise. I know Y92 will soon be playing their endless run of holiday music. They start the day after Thanksgiving, and by the time Christmas rolls around, I'm not listening to them in the car anymore...because they play the same songs over and over and over. There's only so much radio air-time you can get out of Christmas music.

At home, however, it's a different story. I love my "holiday" list on iTunes, and tonight, I'm adding to it. The plan is to burn some CDs to send with the soldier stockings. So far, plans are in the works for A Very Jazzy Christmas, A Very Country Christmas, and A Very Pop/Rock Christmas. Will probably also be making some sort of instrumental CD.

My newest additions to my personal holiday cheer are O Holy Night by Nat King Cole, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, I Wanna Be Santa Claus by Ringo Starr, and Santa Loves to Boogie by Asleep at the Wheel.

Add these to old favorites like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the Beach Boys Christmas album, and Manhattan Transfer's incredible Christmas album, and I've got one awesome playlist. It's almost time to fire them all up...but first, we've got Thanksgiving to celebrate.

Dear Target,

I know I must look utterly ridiculous in my new pajamas. After all, most 30-year-old women go for something a little more mature than a red- and green-striped union suit. However, I am always in the market for comfy, warm pajamas, as I cannot abide having the heater on at night, and therefore rely on my sleepwear and my thick comforter (also bought at Target!) to keep me warm. And I can tell, already, that this union suit is going to do the job.

First off, the cuffs on the legs will keep them from riding up to my knees, ensuring that my calves will stay nice and toasty. And secondly, as I toss and turn (as I inevitably do), my top won't ride up under my back, but stay firmly connected to my bottoms. Awesome!

I bought this wonderful garment this afternoon, and let me tell ya, I'm ready to go back and buy a couple more. I might look like a plump Santa's elf, but I am a toasty, comfy, happy elf!


Meg of the Little Pink Blog

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


So today, I was escorting two first grade classes from my room to meet their teachers, when I heard from the kindergarten playground a high-pitched, "Hi, Miss Cooper!!!"

I looked up to see three kindergarten classes, all lined up for the end of their lunch recess, surrounded by yard supervisors who had just achieved their goal of getting three kindergarten classes to stand quietly in a straight line. I smiled and waved, then put a finger to my lips to let them know they needed to be quiet.

It didn't work.

A few more high-pitched voices called out. "Hi Miss Cooper!" Again, I smiled and waved, then put a finger to my lips...but by now, the greetings were quickly growing in volume to the level of...well, a cacophony of high-pitched voices, each trying to get my attention.

I was silently laughing, and guiding my first graders back to their teachers, when I heard the individual calls stop. Seems the yard supervisors had restored order...and then, sixty kindergarten students all called out at once:


Again, I smiled and waved, calling out a quick "hello."

I've been working on the concept of a silent greeting with my teenies. It's not sticking. I'd be lying if I said I don't get a kick out of my "celebrity." It makes me smile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Little Pieces of News...

What's up in my world...

A Very Big Shout-Out

A big, heartfelt "thank you" to Miz Minka, my fellow Chorale singer and blogger extraordinaire. She read this post about my Stockings for Soldiers project, and last night at rehearsal, she gave me a shopping bag with some goodies for me to put in the stockings. Every little bit helps! It looks like I'll be sending 10 stockings, and a bunch of cards that my middle school kids are going to make.

"Are You Going to a Funeral?"

I had four--yes, four--different middle school students ask me this today. I wore a black dress to school, with black tights and black shoes. I had a black sweater on, and big faux-pearls around my neck.

Apparently, all black is not a fashion statement around here, it's a statement of grief.

I knew I should have worn the purple sweater!

I'm Allowed to Drool--He's Legal!

As Cedric Diggory, Robert Pattinson was a cute kid who could fight dragons.

I was more concerned about how Ralph Fiennes was going to pull of Voldemort.

As Edward Cullen, however...

Yeesh! I was having some major cradle-robbing-hot-flash feelings of guilt, until I realized that he's 22. Young, yes, but legal.

Besides, who can resist a "vegetarian" vampire in love with a mortal?

Concert Coolness

I'm going to Arco on Saturday, with Mom and Dad. We've got tickets to see Alan Jackson (opening act: Trace Adkins). I'm excited. We all really like Alan Jackson, and I think he should put on a really great show.

Over the summer, I started to develop a big love for country music. Alan Jackson, George Strait, Brad Paisley are some favorites. Not all country music is great, but some of it is just plain fun. Especially when driving down the highway, singing along at the top of my lungs.

One of his best songs is "Remember When." This video shows scenes from "The Notebook."

...And That's All, Folks!

I'm off soon to read some more (second time through Twilight) and get a good night's sleep.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good Grief

"Obsession" hardly seems the word for it. Last night I stayed up 'til 3:30 reading the end of Eclipse (the third book of the Twilight series) and starting Breaking Dawn.

I just can't put these books down! I hardly know how I'll be able to read anything else when I finish Breaking Dawn (possibly tonight, or definitely tomorrow). Tonight, I bought a ticket to see the movie on Friday night. I'd go on Saturday, but Mom, Dad and I are going to see Alan Jackson at Arco Arena, so I figure Friday night is the best time, after I put in some time at a fundraising spaghetti dinner at my school.

Not since Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum has a series of books caught my imagination like these ones. I've got them ready to loan to Mom, though part of me wants to re-read Twilight (the first book) before I give it to her on Saturday.

With as fast as I read it the first time, that shouldn't be an issue.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lovely Day

What a nice day out! The weather was glorious, the Saint Laurent exhibit was awesome, and I got an ocean fix.

Now I'm home, in my jammies, with a tummy full of Panda Express (I found one here in Stockton that has a drive-thru!!!). As soon as I've got my pictures online, I'll be curling up with Eclipse. : )

Pictures will be up in a little bit on The Anxious Traveler.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Falling For Fall

I am coming up for occasional breaks from the Twilight series. I've just finished book 2 (New Moon) and I'm now 71 pages into book 3 (Eclipse). I'm having some serious swooning issues when it comes to Edward Cullen.

There is nothing better than a quiet Friday night at home (unlike others in my age group, I'm not a Friday Night = Par-tay! kind of gal. I'm much too tired from a week of teaching, and prefer to do any and all partying on Saturday night instead). I've spent the last few hours wrapped up in an afghan (made with love by Mom!), munching on popcorn and enjoying the companionship of a warm putty tat while reading about vampires, werewolves, and the Puget Sound.

Eventually, though, a gal does need the loo, and while I was up from my nest on the sofa, I thought I'd upload a few pictures I took this week of Fall in Meg's Flat. It's not as spectacular as Christmas will be--what with an entire tree full of Snoopy ornaments--but it's pretty and festive in its own way:

Of course, fall wouldn't be fall without those crisp days and cold evenings. With the triple-digit days of summer behind me for the next few months, it is time for my most favorite form of sustenance on the planet:

Homemade potato-leek soup. I christened my new hand blender (purchased in August with 30th birthday money from Mom and Dad) to puree the potatoes and leek. I like my potato soup to be thick and creamy, with minimal chunks. I use instant mashed potatoes to thicken it after blending. I've got my recipe just as I like it, so it turned out very yummy.

Next week, French Onion soup!

How I love this time of year!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A New Literary Obsession

...with movie rights.

A few weeks ago, out of curiosity, I picked up Twilight (first book in the Twilight series) at the grocery store. I was deeply immersed in re-reading the Harry Potter series, but figured that once it was done, I'd give this new book a try. A friend on Facebook had raved about them, and I'd seen other people I know referring to the series.

I finished Harry Potter late last week and read a couple of quick romances before picking up Twilight on Tuesday night...and then staying up far too late for a lady that had to get up at 6:30 the next morning. I just couldn't put it down!

Like Harry Potter, the books were written for young adults, and like Harry Potter, they've been eagerly embraced by adults as well. That's where the similarities end, however.

I finished the book this morning after reading quite late again, and after school, proceeded immediately to Target. I needed cat litter and contact solution, so the book wasn't my primary reason for going, but I was determined to get it so I could immediately get back to that dishy vampire, Edward Cullen.

The movie opens next weekend. I think I'll make an effort to see it in the theaters. In another small parallel to the Harry Potter series, the movie stars Robert Pattinson, who played the small but important role of Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. If he didn't have the teen girls falling all over him before, he certainly will now.

Tears and Bloody Noses

It's all in a day's work.

After school today, I was standing out front, helping the supervision process, when two little girls approached. One was crying and holding her hand to her nose. My immediate thought was, "Uh-oh..."

I hustled them into the office, calling out, "We've got a bloody nose!" as I ushered her back to the nurses' office. Our attendance clerk followed on our heels and guided the girl to a sink to wash, before showing her how to stop the bleeding.

Needless to say, the girl was pretty shaken. I guess she's never had a bloody nose before, and all that blood was upsetting. Her friend told us that someone had run by, accidentally hitting her in the nose. Typical after-school chaos.

She was absolutely fine after a few minutes. I went back to check on her and she had calmed down, and the bleeding had stopped. The attendance clerk had called her mom to let her know.

Earlier in the day, I was baffled to find one of my young charges, T, a first grade boy who I tutor in reading each day, crying in music class. He asked to go to the office, and since I've never seen him cry, I immediately got another boy to walk him there.

When the first-graders left my room, I walked up to the office, and found that T had never made it. I asked the first grade teachers and found that his teacher had seen him and taken him back to the classroom to talk. Turns out, he had seen his father dropping his little sister off at our preschool, and was upset that he couldn't go over and see him.

I admit, I have a soft spot for this little guy. He is in his 2nd year as a first grader. A year ago, he could not read, and he barely spoke in class. He was never a behavior problem, he just didn't understand. Also, he had a speech problem. The decision was made to retain him, with full support from his parents, who work with him at home. This year, he is reading with confidence, and his teacher told me he raises his hand more in class and is more outgoing. I've seen it before, where a child struggles and then--boom! Suddenly something clicks and they hit the ground running. His speech has improved, and this year he's in speech therapy to help with a few leftover issues (his "r" sounds are very Bostonian--it's cute, but it does need to be corrected). Oh, and he can't make the "th" sound--but that's because all of his front teeth are missing!

Needless to say, his crying today was cause for concern, and I'm glad his teacher found him and gave him some attention.

I've barely scratched the surface of the typical daily drama at a K-8 school. The ladies in the office see much more than any individual teacher does. I love my job, so the tears and bloody noses don't worry me too much--I'm just glad I can give these children something, even if it's only a kind word and a rushed entrance to the nurses' office.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Middle School Dance

Is there anything more hysterically awkward than a middle school dance?

I doubt it.

Monday night found me hanging out with my colleagues and several 7th and 8th graders in the school cafeteria, chaperoning the school dance.

At 5:00, the kids started to arrive, dolled up and ready to impress the opposite sex. The boys immediately sat down. The girls clustered in the middle of the dance floor in a tight knot, giggling and gossiping. The DJ started playing hip hop tunes, and bodies started bopping self-consciously.

Finally, Soulja Boy came on, the all the kids hopped up to do the crazy "Superman that Ho" dance (I know, I know...). Then a fun dance tune came on that gave instructions like "slide to the left" and "shuffle on back." The kids and teachers were all astounded when Mr. W., our most strict and buttoned-up teacher (but a really nice guy), got out on the dance floor.

I helped the principal sell pizza, Skittles and water, and laughed at how cute the kids were--only leaving to stand at the door for a bit (cooler air) and to dance the YMCA.

The best moment of the night was watching the last slow song of the evening. One couple consisted of a girl who was taller than her partner. His eyes were level with...her bosoms. Their stiff-armed dancing was made so much cuter by his turned head, as he steadfastly refused to look straight into her chest.

My colleagues and I laughed silently, remembering in our own minds our own experiences with middle school dances...all those years ago. Would any of us go back to that time in our lives?

Oh, hell no!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Things To Do

I love museums.

I'm one of those people who enjoys every minute of time spent in a good museum. I love history, I love art. Bring it on!

This Saturday, I'm going to the de Young to see their Yves Saint Laurent exhibition. I just bought a ticket, thinking that it should be a great exhibit, and a day out in San Francisco is never a bad thing! While I'm there I'll get an ocean fix. What can I say? The Pacific calls to me.

I'm also looking forward to going to Stockton's Haggin Museum soon--any place that has paintings by Renoir is a friend to me! I might stop by on my way home from work some time. I'm on their email list to get up-to-date information about special events.

If you, dear reader, are interested in cultural events, I've got a few Stockton Chorale concerts coming up in December. On the 5th, we will be singing Part 1 of Handel's Messiah, and, of course, the Hallelujah Chorus. On the 14th, we will join forces with the Stockton Symphony for a Holiday Pops concert. Both concerts should be great performances.

Before we know it, Christmas will be here. I'm particularly excited this year because I am free of Decembers spent supervising snotty teenagers as they sing carols at the local Wal-Mart. I don't know how many hours I spent on carol gigs in December '06 and '07, but I can tell you it was too many...especially with the general lack of gratitude I received from my charges. Even a free trip to Disneyland (the director pay for her hotel room and bus ride? Are you kidding? I didn't want to take 30+ teenagers to Anaheim in the first place, but if I'd cancelled, it would have been Mutiny in the Choir Room), it was so not worth all the hours of Christmas cheer I missed out on. Because believe me, nothing says "Bah Humbug" like babysitting some of the rudest teenagers on the planet.

But, as I said, that is over. I couldn't be happier. I have actual time to decorate, listen to my favorite Christmas songs on iTunes, and bake. I will drink copious ammounts hot tea (not worrying that in a few hours I'll be in some stranger's home with my kids, needing the loo desperately). I'm positively shaking with anticipation!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Baked and Fried

Today I helped Mom with a bake sale she was in charge of. Every year, the Lincoln Hills Needle Arts group hosts a craft fair. Vendors from the area sell everything from jewelry to baby blankets, carved wood to pottery. It's a fun event. There is also a bake sale, the proceeds of which going to local charities.

Last year, Mom was offered the leadership role for this year's bake sale. She made spreadsheets, put together kits of baggies, twisty-ties, and ribbon, and got the word out.

I came home last night to find Mom and Dad's house crammed full of baked goods.

That last picture is pastries that spell "LH 2008." LH stands for Lincoln Hills.

We started at 7:00 this morning, hauling everything out to the cars. By 8:00, we were setting up at the clubhouse, with the help of three other ladies.

We had a huge haul of cookies, brownies, cakes, breads, fudge, muffins...and many other things. One awesome lady donated several buckets of fancy sugar cookies--bears, flowers and sheep. These were a huge hit, especially with children and ladies who have grandchildren!

We also had a huge haul of people.

There were few breaks in the action--people take their baked goods seriously! At 2:30, we made everything 50% off, marvelling at how much we had sold.

By 3:30, when we closed up shop, we had one lonely box of baked goods left.

We also had almost $2,500 in profit.

Needless to say, we're all pretty fried tonight. I stopped at Papa Murphy's on the way home for some pizza, and we're all lounging around in our jammies. It was a lot of work, but also a fun day, and it's great to know that we did something really great for local charities.