A chronicle of my attempts to live a classy life as a single girl in the Nation's Capital

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quarterlife Crisis

These past few weeks, I've been feeling a little like everything is falling down around me. This past week alone, here are a few of the things I've done/thought:

1. Cried about my job for the first time ever
2. Drastically cut my hair on a whim (I needed a change! And I like it now.)
The pic I showed my stylist and new hairstyle. Though not so messy.  Unless students make me start pulling my hair out.  Again.
 3. Yelled at, then walked out on, my journalism class.
4. Researched how much it would cost me to go back to school and get a masters in Art History ( a long dream of mine, but bad job market.)  about $13,000 at George Mason
5. Did a little job search on the Smithsonian Museum website
6. Got angrier and angrier about the person who stole my debit card and spent over $300 at a Korean grocery store
7. Then got more and more frustrated about my financial situation.  How badly I want to invest and plan for my future but have absolutely NO extra money to do so.
8. Realized, yet again, that things are not actually working out for me romantically
9. Felt pressure because I keep thinking I'm running out of time to deal with all this finance, job, love stuff.  I'm supposed to have that figured out now right?!?
10. Felt bad/guilty for whining about all this in the first place.  After all, these aren't real problems right?

And as I was driving home today with my new haircut, considering shopping and getting new clothes (I didn't, wrong time of year for that!) I realized I felt like I was dealing with a midlife crisis, but minus the whole "midlife" thing.  So I did the math and decided this would be a quarterlife crisis.  Curious, I googled it and it turns out that it is a REAL THING!

There are books , a wikipedia entry and even a movie on the topic.  And of course there's www.quarterlifecrisis.com

I also found a candle. But I'm not linking to that because it's just too stupid and we shouldn't dignify it with any more views. 

So, great, there is a "reason" for the way I'm feeling.  But now what?   If you need me, I will be found in the Self Help section of Borders, surrounded by books about how to make it through the "horrible" mid-20s.

Or in the salon, getting my head shaved because I need a "change."  Suddenly Britney Spears doesn't seem so crazy.
She was about 26 when she did this... just think about it.

Brilliant Disguise

I was listening to "70s on 7" on XM radio today (I lied, I'm actually 35 not 25) and heard this song.  Somehow, I've never heard it before and it really caught my ear. 

I just think it's beautiful and I identify with the girl (that may be a little weird but whatever) he's singing about.

The video is also beautiful in its simplicity: just him in his kitchen, camera slowly moving in until it focuses on just his eyes.  And it was done in one take.

In case you also haven't heard it before, here it is--let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

I just finished this movie, Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by Banksy and I am in love.
If you don't know who Banksy is... he's a really well known British street artist--though no one knows his real identity--and you are probably familiar with some of his work and just didn't know who was behind it.

"Stop, Search"

Notice the CCTV camera (British security) right there, circled in red.  Quite a daring stunt.  But not as daring as went he painted the wall in the West Bank...

I have liked Banksy's work for awhile--it is actual artistry in my opinion (while some might call it graffiti) and he at once makes you chuckle and stop to think about our society.

Anyway... the film Exit Through the Gift Shop is a film about a man named Theirry Guetta who films a lot of well-known street artists.  One day, he happens to meet Banksy who urges him to just get on with it and complete the documentary already.  So he does.  And it's awful.  Nightmare-ish even.  So Banksy tells him to "go make some art" to get Theirry out of his hair and produces the video himself.

Meanwhile, Theirry has come up with an alter-ego, Mr. Brainwash, and creates a HUGE art show.  Thing is... he doesn't actually create anything.  He comes up with ideas, then hires a staff of graphic designers to do some "photoshop and scanning."

And the giullible L.A. public eat it up and even start buying his art for tens of thousands of dollars.

Banksy and the other street artists are annoyed.

The film really makes you question what constitutes art and what makes someone an "artist."  In addition, you begin to wonder if Mr. Brainwash (and the whole film!) is actually real or if it's just another elaborate hoax by Banksy to comment on the commercialization of the art world. And the gullible public.  Just Google "Mr. Brainwash hoax," I'm not alone in thinking this. 

The film is also quite funny, at times funny enough to make me laugh out loud.

If you like art, street art, Banksy or just good documentaries, I highly recommend watching this movie.

Even the trailer is hilarious, making fun of all the pretentious reviews stuck into a lot of trailers. (though this film did get excellent reviews and was featured at Sundance.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

News Flash

Olive Garden is now selling this:

I will be eating a lot more salad now.

That is all.

Christmas Cheer

I love decorative paper.  I have tons of it stored away in a closet and no planned use for it.  But Christmas gives me an excuse to buy new paper-- and I am obsessed with my choices this year:

This was horizontal--Blogger wants to twist it for some reason.  This is my more "manly" paper.  That's the best you'll get out of me.

This one is just so adorable, I want to wrap myself in it and make a tacky dress out of it.  50s-esque poodles playing with Christmas things.  I love it so much I'm fearful of running out--but what would I do with it besides wrap presents?  I'm considering possibilities...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Easy Sunday Pasta

Dinner time on Sunday I am usually wanting comfort food--but am also exhausted from a busy weekend and don't feel like spending hours in the kitchen.

Here are 2 of my favorite pasta dishes that take 20 minutes or less to make and very few ingredients. And, boy, are they delicious.

Remember, I don't usually follow measurements but I will do my best to figure it out for you.  Both of these recipes make about 2 servings.

Recipe One: Mushroom and Lemon Pasta
 I adapted this recipe from on of my favorite TV chefs--Nigella Lawson.  Her version used all raw ingredients (except, obviously, the pasta) mine doesn't.  I didn't exactly relish the idea of eating raw garlic. 

1/2 package (I think it's a pint...) of baby bella mushrooms, sliced 
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons 
Zest of 1 lemon 
Glug of olive oil (A glug is a measurement I think I made up.  It's probably about 1.5-2 tablespoons) 
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced 
Thyme (about 1/2 teaspoon) 
Thin Spaghetti, a little less than 1/2 package 

Cook pasta according to box directions.  Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Set pasta aside. 

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan with the garlic. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until soft.  Add lemon juice, thyme, and a little salt and pepper.  if I have a little white wine, I'll reduce the amount of lemon juice and throw in a bit of wine.   
Mushroom mixture--doesn't look the best.  But trust me.

 Put the pasta in a large bowl and stir in mushroom mixture and pasta water.  Top with lemon zest and parsley (if you have it.) 

Final result--yum!

 Recipe Two: Zucchini with Creamy Goat Cheese Linguine 
 This is an amazing recipe adapted from Real Simple magazine.  I cut most of the proportions in half (except the garlic) to make it 2 servings.

Little less than 1/2 box linguine
2 zucchini, thinly sliced into half moon shapes
1 clove garlic, minced
zest of about 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
2.5 ounces goat cheese (a little over half the usual sized package)

Cook pasta and transfer to large bowl.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil.  Add zucchini (with a little S &P) and cook, stirring often, until tender.  About 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for a minute more.  Remove from heat

Returning to the pasta, crumble most of the goat cheese in (leave a little to top the pasta with later), add pasta water and a little S&P.  Stir to a state of creamy goodness.
Before stiring.

After.  The smell is amazing!
 Top with the zucchini and lemon zest.  Enjoy!

Excellent with chardonnay!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cutest Perfume Bottle EVER

I have no idea what this perfume smells like and I don't care.  Have you ever seen a cuter bottle?  I just want it to display on my vanity.

The description says it smells like "rose gardens, high teas, and happy accidents" which sounds pretty good to me.

Love, love, love this bottle!

You can purchase this perfume here

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fire with Fire

I was 15. We had satellite with all the movie channels. I had a different opinion of what the word "romance" meant.

This movie was on, and I was sucked in. I was left swooning and breathless.

The passion! The hormones! The total lack of foresight!

I mean, for crying out loud, look at that cover!  Anyway, it showed up on Netflix instant view recently and 15-year-old me said "OMG!! Watch it! It's so steamy and hot and romantic!!!"

Not so...

As I watched it a decade later, I felt nothing other than general disbelief.  Here's the basic plot:

Cute blonde girl likes to pretend she's Ophelia and photograph herself (yeah, that's healthy)
Boy in a prison work camp for.... something (plot development is that good)
They see each other and instantly fall in love.

Because that's how it works.

So girl (who is talented and has a future) is at a private, all girls catholic school and thinks it would be good "charity" to invite the prison camp boys over for a dance.  For some unknown reason, the nuns agree.  The girls break out the Aqua Net and shoulder pads and this happens:

Holy S@!t! It's love! When he leaves, she starts crying, what is going on?! Fast forward to 1:50 to see the couple.
And also-what is in Virginia Madsen's hair??

So after this, girl and boy secretly meet up and have sex in a crypt.

Right next to the coffin.

And it's soooo romantic.

Then, the prison guard catches them. So what do they do? (after getting dressed and blowing out the 500 candles they brought)

Go on the run. Throw their lives away and spend the rest of the movie hiding out in some old cabin in the woods. Where Mrs. burns the bacon (where did they get bacon?? where will food come from? Clothes? I'm too practical for this.) In the end they are discovered and then fake their own deaths to avoid capture.

After knowing each other for 45 minutes.

Am I getting cynical in my old age? I left the movie annoyed and yelling at the characters, not hot and bothered like before.

However, this still gets me:

Another reason to love South Park

Even though I am exhausted after school (and have actually gone to bed at 8:30 this past week) I will be staying up Wednesday to watch South Park.  Why?
The finale is featuring Food Network!!  As a lover of both the network itself and its nemesis, FoodNetworkHumor.com, I cannot wait for this show. 

Here is the promo, featuring a cartoon Alton Brown:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dear Kate Spade....

I'm in love. 

I've always been aware of Kate Spade (we are, technically, sorority sisters after all) but never really paid attention to or looked at her designs.

After seeing a friends new purse with a really cute 60s style bow, I was inspired to check out her website.  And maybe that wasn't a good thing because I am not obsessed.  Also, I have had another questionable fashion moment--I can be quite attracted to quirky things and forget that I do not live an artsy NYC life.  Here are a few of her things I love, starting with the questionable one.  Am I crazy to like this purse?

It's a typewriter!  I just think it's so neat!  And there are other matching accessories....
Ahh!  A piece of "paper" to go inside the typewriter!  It's actually a leather pouch. It just cracks me up.  Am I crazy?
This one actually made me gasp--I just LOVE it.  This one I don't feel crazy for liking.  These 3 items were the only ones I saw in this "collection."
In addition to her more whimsical pieces, Kate Spade also has classic, feminine pieces.  I love all of them. 
I also love the sense of humor a lot of her pieces have.  These mittens say "place snowball here."  She also had a yellow pair that said "taxi" and a white pair that says "hi 5"
And her clothes!  I want every single thing she has--it's all so me!  If only I had money...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas Time in the City

I'm not usually a Christmas person--it's usually not until the week before (or sometimes even later) that I start to feel the Christmas spirit.  But for some reason, this year, I am feeling very spirited.  Since I had the day off of work today, I decided to put up my tree--way earlier than ever before.

It's not exactly a Charlie Brown tree--but it is small and a little crooked. I love my tree though; the ornaments all coordinate with the decor of my apartment.  If I may say so, it is a very classy tree. 

I also got to bring out my Nutcracker Suite music box that I look forward to every year. It's not your average music box--it has four rotating scenes and 8 different music pieces from the ballet. 

Here are some pictures of my tree and music box--excuse the poor photography, the tree lights and motion in the music box made pictures a little difficult. 

The first scene--including the rat king in the background.

This is what it looks like when off--it takes up most of the space on my side table!

Silver bird ornament with white feathers

The whole tree.  It always leans to the right a bit... I try not to let it bother me too much

I found these bulbs at a craft store--the pink color was perfect!  They're not pictured but I also have hand-blown blue glass ornaments.  They match all the blue accents in my place.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Love and Other Drugs

Here is another movie that I really want to see--it also has a very similar title to another movie I love, Love and Other Disasters.

I love almost every part of this trailer but it has me wondering--is this one of those movies where all the good/funny moments are stuck in the trailer and the rest of the movie is a letdown?

I also think the trailer has a perfect mixture of heart and humor, but I worry that they could take the "she's sick" thing too far.  In this case it would go from a touching, real, humorous love story to a more grown up Walk to Remember.  No thanks.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why I Stopped Facebooking

Can Facebook even be used as a verb like that?  Whatever, I am an English teacher.   I am allowed to make stuff up like that--just go with it.

About 6 months ago I took the plunge and canceled my facebook account.  Completely deleted it.  As far as Mark Zuckerberg is concerned I do not exist.
I was one of the original people to sign up--back when it was only available to a few colleges and Farmville didn't exist. But over the years, I began using it less and less and when I did use it, it was unhealthy.  When I tell people I am no longer on the site they are shocked and say things like "don't you miss it?" (no) or "how do you stay in contact?"  Contact with who exactly?  My real friends know how to contact me and I don't need to be friends with Liam from 2nd grade so we can reminisce about elementary school and how I used to have a crush on him (and then get disappointed because he is no longer that attractive.) 

So I bring you the reasons/benefits of the non-facebooking lifestyle:

1. Students can't "friend" me 
I don't care how "cool" they think it is--they are not and will never be my friends.  I am their teacher.  I also don't need to read about them getting "OMG so totally wasted" instead of writing that paper I assigned.  And they don't need to see my pictures from that weekend (where I was doing something besides grading those papers I assignned). 
This is how my students think I spend the weekend.  I'm okay with that.

2. Co-Workers don't bother me off hours 
True story: a coworker I had never actually talked to screwed up and didn't send me some papers in time.  Then he needed them RIGHT NOW.  Well it was Friday afternoon and I said "screw that, I'll get them to you on Monday morning."  So guess who facebook stalked me and sent several messages begging me to turn them in ASAP.  He got them Monday. 

3. I can actually not care what exes are up to
I said I didn't care... but then I'd be looking at their pages.  It was an unhealthy waste of my time and in truth I really didn't care, but I'd still be curious.  And that curiosity led to upset feelings and occasional bursts of superiority when I decided I was way prettier than all the random girls in his photos.  They all also happened to be blond--coincidence?    

4. I can remain mysterious
Someone actually said to me today that not having a facebook was intriguing.  And I would agree--because I don't see theirs either. In today's dating world, we obsessively cyber stalk potential and future dates.  I find it happens to a point where you ruin the excitement of getting to know someone and nitpick little things on their pages and decide that person isn't right before even giving  him a chance (That's his favorite movie.  Well clearly we have nothing in common.) 
It also leads to first dates like this: 
Boy: "So I really enjoy reading." 
Girl: "Yeah, I saw you had a lot of books listed on facebook..." (maybe shouldn't have admited that) 
Or this: 
Boy: "So The Great Gatsby is my favorite book." 
Girl: *yawn* (Yeah, I know already.)    

facebook: a conversation killer.   Has anyone else considered shutting down their facebook? 

Here's a video I found years ago and still think is hilarious

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Things I Inherited from My Parents

Fall has always been my favorite season.  As a child it meant new beginnings and a fresh start.  As the end of humid August approached, I could somehow feel the relief of crisp September air creeping around the corner, and I would always announce to my family--as I whipped open the back door and let the precious AC out--that it was beginning to "smell like fall."
As an adult, I still get butterflies in my stomach when I start to smell the fall air and I can't help but smile and feel like something new is approaching. It's also a season that leaves me feeling very introspective and the longer I teach and the older I become the more I find myself asking "what made me into the person I am?"
Undoubtedly, genes have something to do with it.  I have my father's fine, blond hair, and my figure reminds me of my mother's when she was my age. But more and more I am beginning to see all of the little things I have inherited from my family--conscious or not--that made me into the person I am today. And many of these little, but extremely important, things are habits I hope to one day pass on to someone else. It's a heavy inheritance and I sometimes doubt that I will be capable of carrying it on to another generation, but it's an inheritance that I will never be able to fully thank my family for and am so grateful to have.     

1. Always be on time and honor your commitments:
My parents are the most reliable people I know.  When they say they will do something, they do it.  And they show up 5 minutes early with the appropriate hostess gift. I grew up thinking everyone was like this (and wouldn't it be a wonderful world if they were?) but discovered in high school and college that this was, sadly, not the case. People would say "Let's hang out this weekend!" and I would naively think it actually meant we would. I would spend Saturday moping around the house like a scorned lover waiting for Danielle or some other girl friend to call.  I remember my mom telling me that while "people like us" only said things like that when we truly meant it, most people just say it and consider hanging out with me one of many options of things to do that weekend.  This concept still seems foreign to me but I've learned to accept it.  Still, some people may think I am rude or stand-offish because I don't say things like "Let's do lunch!" but when I do say it, I actually mean it.

2. Saturday Morning is Cleaning Time
When I would go to friends' houses in elementary and high school I was always secretly shocked at the condition of their houses. Not in a snobby way, I certainly enjoyed my times at friends' homes, but more in a "oh...most people don't have pristine counter tops at all times" way. I would go home and my mom and I would giggle about things I saw--because only she would understand and laugh too.  I distinctly remember one friend's house: we were eating dinner at the table and they had one of those lazy suzans in the middle.  As I spun it around to get pepper, a stick of Secret deodorant whizzed by. Our house was always very neat and clean--even in my younger years when I would insist on getting out every Little People playset at once.  How was it always so clean? There were probably many reasons, but one thing we always did was Cleaning Day.  I hated it.  Saturday morning I would get up and my sister and I would grumble about how this was supposed to be our "day off."  We'd go downstairs and sometimes my mom would have lists ready for us:
Lindsy: Windex all the glass and polish the wood, clean the upstairs bathroom.  Clean your room 
Laura: Clean the walls and baseboards, clean the hall bathroom. Clean your room
My dad was always the vacuum master (leaving perfect V swipes of the vacuum on the carpet) and my mom did a little of everything.
But my sister and I diligently cleaned, because it was Saturday morning and that's what you did. I even came to like certain tasks (scrubbing a particularly dusty baseboard with a toothbrush to reveal the gleaming white underneath).
So when I moved out and got my own apartment, you would think I would no longer feel the pressure of Saturday Morning Cleaning.  Wrong.  Without fail, the first thing I do every Saturday is clean my whole apartment.  And just like my mom had one, I also have a system. Though I have never been able to vacuum as perfectly as my dad.
As I type this I have chipped nail polish, a trophy of all the scrubbing, dusting, and polishing I did this morning.

3. "School is your job"
Both my parents would say this as I grew up.  I never had a job during the school year because "school was my job."  From kindergarten, my mom wold have me sit down when I came home from school and do any homework or talk about the school day.  When I was boggled by math concepts, my dad sat with me every day and helped me learn them--much to both of our frustration.  We collected bottle caps from milk or juice bottles (soda was rare in my house) and my dad would spread them out on the kitchen table. "Now Laura, there are 3 bottle caps here.  I take 2 away.  Three minus two.  How many do I have?"  I would squirm in my chair, looking at the one bottle cap but somehow still confused. "umm... 2?  no... 1?"
This is why I teach English.
This  habit continued into high school, my mom no longer had to tell me to do anything (my dad did still help me with math though...).  I came home, had a snack and started my homework. Homework was finished by dinner time and then I could relax.  When I had projects, I knew how to budget my time in order to get them done.  This was because my parents would sit with me when I had projects in elementary school--and got angry when I claimed I had to do some huge thing in one night.  "Now, when did the teacher give you this assignment?" was always the first thing they said. 
School was easy for me because of this and college wasn't a struggle.  My parents taught me an invaluable lesson about responsibility, organization and budgeting my time wisely that sticks with me today.  When it comes time to turn grades in at school, I am the obnoxious teacher who skips into the workroom saying "well, I'm done.  Anyone want to do lunch?" While the other teachers glare at me over foot tall stacks of ungraded papers. School is now, quite literally, my job.

4. A love of books and art
I don't know if this still happens, but when I was in elementary school, Mondays were half days. Instead of going home and paying video games (the first console I owned was when I was 16 years old.) my mom put me and my sister in the car and we headed off to the local library.  I loved Mondays.  I still remember the layout of the shelves and if I were to be dropped off in that library today, I could still find the craft section, the young adult novels, the Nancy Drew series, RL Stein's books... My mom would set us loose and we would all separately wander the aisles for hours.  When I was time to leave, all three of us had an armful of books on varying topics. We'd throw them into the (very large) trunk of the Buick Park Avenue and head home. Once home, I would pour over the books for hours, so excited to read what was inside.
We had another tradition that came less frequently but was always thrilling to me.  Every year, the day before Christmas Eve, we would all pile into the Buick and drive into D.C.  My dad would bravely parallel park that enormous car along 11th street (or where ever he could find a spot) and we'd head up the steps into the National Gallery of Art. I fell in love with that place the first time I set eyes on it, and it's a love affair that continues today.  Like all great loves, it's near impossible for me to say exactly what it is about art and museums that I love so much but it is a love created by my parents that will last until I die.
I jokingly tell people sometimes that the NGA is my church.  But, secretly, it's not a joke. When I walk into an art museum a sense of calm takes over and problems seem to melt away.
When I moved away from D.C. and lived in Philadelphia for a year, one of the first things I did (within a week of moving there) was go to the art museum and purchase a student membership so I could return over and over without paying admission. When I was devastated after the ending of a 3 1/2 year relationship, the first thing I did was hop into a cab and go to that museum. I was a peace there and the crying (finally) stopped.

4. How to be Alone
I just purchased a book by Jonathan Franzen with this exact title. (At the used book sale my father introduced me to--I keep buying books even though I have absolutely no room left for them).  Both of my parents are quiet people, and so am I.  Perhaps that's why we all like books and art so much. I struggled with the idea of being quiet for so long and often hated myself for being so quiet.  I longed to be loud and funny and let the voice in my head, the ongoing dialogue I had about the world around me, be heard. I would always think "if only people really knew me, they'd love me!" I'd have tons of friends. And a date to senior Prom.  
Only recently did I realize that there's a huge difference between being introverted (which I very much am) and being shy (which I am not).  The problem is that our society, for some reason, sees introverts as lacking something. There's something wrong with us because we want to be alone sometimes. I actually see it the opposite way now, though it took years for me to get there.  I am confident enough to sometimes eat out by myself and shop by myself.  I like myself enough to stand my own company. My parents taught me the value in spending time alone and I am so grateful for that. 
I am a happy, outgoing introvert.  And there isn't anything wrong with that.

5. Sweatpants are not to be worn in public.
Do I own sweatpants?  Yes.  Do they ever go outside my apartment?  No.  Excluding a brief period of insanity in college, I never wear sweatpants or PJs in public.  Just as my mom has never worn them in public.  My mom has always had a classic, no nonsense approach to fashion and in many ways I have adopted that.  But she also always believed you should put your best face forward and never let anyone (my dad included) leave the house looking shabby.  I believe it's important to look put together and it is just as easy to throw on a pair of jeans, a cardigan and black flats before heading out as it is to put on sweatpants and sneakers. 

I could go on with this list, and this certainly isn't everything nor is it in any order of importance. But I feel like this post is getting long and I have to get ready for dinner tonight (which involves styling my impossibly straight and fine hair).  So I leave you with these until (maybe) another time.  What unconventional things have you inherited from your family?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Foray into the DC Singles Scene

Apparently I didn't get enough of the wonderful male species the last time I went out , and so I found myself out again this weekend.  Ladies and Gentlemen---the following story is 100% true and unexagerrated. It's just what us single gals in D.C. have to put up with...

The venue this time: Liberty Tavern. Clarendon, VA

If you know Liberty Tavern, you might be asking "why would you go there?"  Well, for one there is no cover. And really, that's the only reason I need.  But also everyone and their mom was out in Clarendon that night and this was also the only bar without a line (though it was still so packed, you couldn't move at all).  And I do literally mean everyone and their mom was out.

My friend and I squeezed our way to the bar to get a drink.  Now the place is crowded and if you chose to sit at the bar in this situation, what do you think is going to happen?  People will squeeze in to get an order. So I find a "free" spot which happens to be right in between 2 guys.  They think this means that I am interested in chatting them up--rather than vodka-- and actually high five each other over my head. 


My friend and I turn around (smack into someone else--it's that crowded) and awkwardly shuffle away.  We eventually find a free-ish spot near a guy who will  be known as "BOO."  He sees my friend and yells "woah! you look scared! Why are you scared? Are you scared? You're totally scared!"
My friend says no once and just looks at him with an eyebrow raised. "Well if I scare you...hahaha.  You're scared!" Me: "She's not scared."  This went on for way longer than it should have-- leaving me thinking "What the..." 

He kept popping up at random times throughout the night, getting in my friend's face and yelling "boo!" whilst spraying her with Bud Light and saliva.


But the best one of the night:
As we turn away from "boo" and attempt to enjoy ourselves I spot a sweaty older (I'd guess about 45) man who clearly had a bad case of acne in his younger years.  This man is grabbing every woman who goes by and attempts to dance with her (no one else is dancing).  He sees me and my friend and approaches.
His first question : how old are you guys? (I thought this was an impolite thing to ask...) "You guys are really pretty. Seriously, really pretty."
(to my friend) "You must be older.  You know how I know? Because you look mean.  And Unfriendly."
(to me): "Hello Michelle Pfeiffer's little sister. You look younger (actually I'm the older one) because you're humoring me" (I have a smile frozen on my face, still shocked by this assault)  
Me: ... 
Him: "You know who she is?" 
Me: "Yeah..." 
(Back to my friend) "I mean you're not being polite and you're unapproachable.  I don't mean it in a bad way, but you just don't look very friendly."  (This goes on for a bit, my friend and I stare in disbelief) Eventually that Cupid Shuffle song comes on and he backs off--but also tries to get us to dance with him. Wasn't gonna happen.  But he wasn't done yet.
We escape (which in these close quarters means we turn the other way.)
And then.... I feel a poke in my side. I turn and see him grinning.

That's right, he poked me like I was a @#%!@$# Pillsbury Doughboy.  And then said:

"No fat there!"


At this point I was done and went home.

and you thought skits like this were mere comedy... I wish:


Friday, October 8, 2010

Notes from the Chalkboard 2 (and beyond!)

It's Friday and I am needing this 3 day weekend more than anything. The best way to describe today would be simply hellish.

My temper is a little short, I'll admit. And I recognize that I am being a little short with some of the students. But there is only so much disrespect that one person can take. But that's what happens when you force teens into an honors course that they don't want to take and don't really need. Not to mention the teachers...

Anyway, here are a few more things found on my chalkboard recently and one hallway poster.

The text reads: "Not a very tasty Oreo" This comes from a lesson on how to incorporate quotes into an essay using an Oreo analogy.  The bottom cookie is the analysis, I made it big to show them that analysis should make up the bulk of the essay. 

Sometimes I get weird and make things "talk."  But... this works better to get the kids to take their stuff than just writing "Whose is this?" above it.

And my favorite...

It's a new dance: Homeomin'  I was having a stressful afternoon and when the teacher appeared in the doorway holding this, I just cracked up.  The really hilarious/sad thing about it is how much care clearly went into making the poster.
And this is why I love English Teachers...

We hung the sign in our workroom.  The next day, this post-it appeared.  It cracked me up yet again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dancing Etiquette

Okay, I know I said I was going to post my week of Real Simple dinners several days ago.  I have all the pictures ready and the post half finished--it's coming, I promise!  I'm feeling a little lazy though and have something else I'd rather discuss: Dancing Etiquette.

I went out to Georgetown this weekend, which wasn't my first choice because I generally don't like hanging out at bars full of college students and wasted people.  I prefer the cute lounges on U Street, but I do enjoy dancing and Georgetown does have plenty of that.

Now I know some guys who will adamantly disagree with me on this.  But I'm right.  Because I'm a girl and I know.  Just because I am present in a club where dancing is happening and I choose to partake in said dancing does NOT mean I am a) necessarily wanting to dance with your sweaty self  or b) trying to hook up for the night.  I might just genuinely want to dance with my friends. Which is what I am trying to do...

Call me old fashioned, but what ever happened to guys asking permission to dance before getting all up in my space.  I just find it so unbearably rude! And to top it off, if I try to escape from this random guy who has quite literally attached himself to my hip, I am subjected to being called a bitch.  Yes.  It's happened.

And considering that dancing in clubs does not look like this (but I wish more of the "men" there did):

Than the guys really should ask first. It's just polite. This past weekend, I actually found myself thinking "God, guys are disgusting." Of course this was while trying to get rid of one particularly irritating guy who was sweatier than average, was grunting, and kept making this face:

"O" Hell NO!

It's not that I'm snobby or uppity while out. My group ended up moving to a less crowded area where I spent the night dancing (a bit foolishly at times) with male and female friends of mine--but they were polite! And I had a great night--my night isn't ruined by this but I do find it mildly annoying. All I would like is for boys out there to behave with a bit more decorum--and not think they have the right to yell at me if I don't respond favorably to their uninvited moves.

This video kinda explains it--that's me this Saturday at 20 seconds in--until we changed locations. Although the video gets a little strange towards the end--it is a funny parody of the SNL video.

What do you all think? When this happens to you (girls) do you feel the same way or am I being too prissy? And guys.... seriously?!

Monday, September 27, 2010

October Dinners

Every October, Real Simple magazine creates a month of meals for its readers--complete with weekly shopping lists. I have been telling myself for weeks to start eating better. I got into some really bad habits this summer--I blame restaurant week and Taco Bell cravings.

So I decided that this monthly plan gave me the perfect opportunity to shape up and make some healthier dinners while also trying new recipes. 

I will be posting my pictures of the meals (next to Real Simple's photos) and commenting on the recipes weekly. 

Look for the first post tomorrow as I am almost done with the first week (I started early--paitence is not my forte)

Until then, check out the site they've created with all of the recipes.  After week one, I can tell you there's some yummy stuff here!

Four Week Dinner Plan

The problem with teachers...

I have mentioned in a previous post  how annoyed I get with all of the non-teachers of the world mouthing off about what teaching should be or what should be done to fix our failing schools.  Today, I finaly read an article that had me cheering in agreement--then I saw it was from Socialist Worker which kind of made me stop for a second-- but whatever, this guy knows what he's talking about.  And, surprise, surprise, he is an actual public school teacher

I am pasting the article below for your perusal--but I am glad that I am not the only one feeling attacked lately.  I am a good teacher (my students and my administrative reviews all attest to that) and I work extremely hard but I am so sick of hearing people say that teachers are the problem with our schools.  Sure, some teachers are problematic. But the majority of us are hard working and have the students' best interests in mind.  So as Mr. Jones says why don't we "stop scapegoating teachers" and get to the real issues at hand? 

And that Waiting for Superman monstrosity... I don't curse often but it is total bulls@!t.  I worry about the fallout from this poorly researched and extremely biased movie...

The (long) article is below and I hope at least a few of you take the time to read it.  I've highlighted a few parts I particularly agree with.

Answer No. 1: Stop scapegoating teachers

Columnist: Brian Jones
Brian Jones Brian Jones is a teacher, actor and activist in New York City. His commentary and writing have been featured on GritTV, SleptOn.com and the International Socialist Review. Jones has also lent his voice to several audiobooks, including Howard Zinn's one-man play Marx in Soho, Wallace Shawn's Essays and Noam Chomsky's Hopes and Prospects: Globalization and Imperialism (forthcoming from Haymarket Books).
As part of its "Education Nation" summit, NBC invited New York City teacher Brian Jones to participate in a panel discussion on the future of the teaching profession. Joining him on the panel are Michelle Rhee, the Schools Chancellor of Washington, D.C.; Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone Project, a network of charter schools; Allan Golston, president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association; and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
The title of the panel is "Good Apples: How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones and put a new shine on the profession?" The discussion will stream live at MSNBC.com today at 4:45 p.m. (Eastern time).
First, though, Brian has a few thoughts to share before the bell rings.
I DON'T know how much time I'll actually have to say what I need to say. So what follows is what I would like to say--if I get the chance--this afternoon.

Cue fireworks.
How do we keep the good teachers?
The first thing we need to do is to stop vilifying teachers. Much of what passes for "reform" nowadays is really just a way to attack teachers. Even the blurb I received about the discussion on NBC begins with the following claims:
Research and school-based evidence around the country now confirms that the most important variable affecting the success of the student is the effectiveness of the teacher, and the second most important variable is the effectiveness of the principal. Those two factors far outweigh the socioeconomic status, the impact of parental involvement or class size.
Really? Teacher effectiveness outweighs socioeconomic status? Behind words that sound like they praise teachers and extol our importance lies a line of argument that essentially scapegoats teachers.
Hunger and homelessness are less important than the quality of the teacher? We're living in a moment of mass immiseration. Millions are unemployed. Millions are facing foreclosure. Whole blocks and neighborhoods and communities are being destroyed.

Yet the very people who created this mess--the speculators, the bankers, the hedge fund managers--are the very people who, we're led to believe, are to be the saviors of education! And instead of talking about creating jobs or lifting people out of poverty, they want us to believe that teachers should accomplish those tasks. It's hardly fair. But I digress.
So: How do we keep good teachers?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
LET'S START by acknowledging that we should keep teachers. By my count, at least three of our panelists today represent the view that schools are best staffed by a perpetually rotating crop of new teachers.
From a business perspective, this makes perfect sense. After all, newer teachers are cheaper teachers. But this logic spells disaster for education.
As education historian Diane Ravitch put it to me: "Would you want to be treated at a hospital staffed entirely by interns and residents?" Of course not. Rather than make teaching into a job that you do for two or three years on the way to law school--or becoming chancellor--I think our kids are worth the expense that is necessary to retain experienced teachers, especially in schools where the need is greatest.
To develop and promote great teaching, we should look at models where great teaching is going on. I think that means, by and large, that we should not be looking at charter schools. For one thing, nationwide, charter schools have a 132 percent higher teacher turnover rate than public schools--that's according to a study performed by Columbia University's Teachers College. Charter schools, by and large, are not training master teachers.
The second reason is that the vast majority of charter schools are not outperforming public schools. I know most people would find that shocking to learn, if it would ever get reported. The most comprehensive and rigorous studies--I'm thinking here of several performed by Stanford University--show that only a small percentage of charter schools outperform public schools.
But charter schools have a hype machine that is greatly disproportionate to their actual merits. We've seen that with the new film Waiting for Superman, which portrays all public schools as failures and all charter schools as successful. The idea that's been created in the public mind is that children who couldn't get a decent education in public school are moving to charter schools, where teachers are turning their lives around.
In my experience, however, the reality is exactly the opposite. The students who are the most successful in the public schools are moving to the charter schools, and those who have the hardest time in school--either because of behavior problems or because they are just slower learners--tend to be "counseled out" of charter schools and wind up back at a public school.
My school, PS 30 in New York City, receives such children from charter schools every year. They often arrive in the middle of winter--right before it's time to take the standardized tests by which we all increasingly live and die.
I spoke to one parent who transferred her child to PS 30 after she got the feeling that her child wasn't welcome in a charter school. This lovely child is not a behavior problem, just a slow learner. "I think they were looking for a particular type of kid," she told me. "A gifted and talented type."
This parent explained that she was really excited about the charter school at first, but when there were so many new teachers--and even new administrators--year after year, she became discouraged and eventually stopped counting.
Waiting for Superman follows four students who leave the public school system and enter a lottery for charter schools. But what about the kids who win the lottery and then lose it? What about those who are encouraged to leave charter schools? Are they waiting for Batman?
No, by and large, the people who are working to turn around the lives of the kids who are having the hardest time are teachers in the public schools. Those who are seeing the most success at that work need to be sought out and studied.
We never hear the question asked: What makes great public schools great?
I have a friend who is an excellent teacher. He used to work with me in East Harlem, and now teaches in Scarsdale, which is a wealthy suburb. He really feels like he's growing as an educator, and when I ask him why, he says it's because of the support he receives.
He doesn't face merit pay schemes of any type. In case you missed it, a comprehensive study by Vanderbilt University released this week demonstrated that merit pay has no effect on student test scores.
Rather, my friend is incentivized to develop himself as an educator. He has great financial incentive to take more classes, get more education and seek out more professional development. So the school system is making a long-term investment in him. Furthermore, he has a beautiful campus, and an abundance of resources at his disposal.
I should mention that he also has tenure and is a member of a union.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
WHICH BRINGS me to the next point--how to "get rid of the bad apples."
First off, I want to say that in the current context, this question is really a red herring. Despite what Oprah might think, teachers do not have a "job for life." Tenure means we have due process. It means we can't just be fired at a whim.
And despite what you may have heard, the fact is that not everybody gets tenure. That's another myth. Getting rid of so-called "bad teachers" is hardly the problem. Consider the fact that nearly 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years. The real issue is that we're not doing enough to keep great teachers.
The whole clamor about "bad teachers" is really about attacking teachers' unions and creating a view in the public mind that these unions are themselves the source of the problem. It creates an atmosphere in which teachers feel targeted, not encouraged.
My teacher friend from Scarsdale agrees. "It should be about encouraging and inspiring people," he told me, "not trying to get rid of them. You would never do that with a child." Unless, that is, you're a charter school...
Of course, teachers aren't children. But we are human beings. That means we're greatly influenced by our environment and by the conditions in which we live and work.
And of course, there are some people who really don't belong in a classroom. But that's a very tiny number of people. And it doesn't make sense to blame the union for their presence--that's a question of administration. Who hired this person? Who gave them tenure? It wasn't the union that did either.
I think unions are duty bound to insist that every employee receive due process if there's a question of competence. Frankly, I think everyone should have such due process at every job. No one should be able to be fired at the whim of a supervisor or employer.
It's quite noticeable that we don't have the same tough talk about the people at the top of the school systems. When it was revealed recently that test scores across New York City were actually dramatically lower than originally thought, there was little discussion of even the idea that the school chancellor should be held accountable.
We can have all the high-minded talk about the importance of education all day, but the bottom line here is that people in charge of running the education system are employers. Therefore, as employers, they are going to be more enthusiastic about certain proposals for reform and less enthusiastic about others. If a reform strengthens their position as employers, then it's going to be cheered. If it strengthens the position of the employee, then it's going to be dismissed.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THIS PANEL is framed by the idea that reforms like decreasing class sizes don't matter. But that's nonsense. Of course, class size matters. At my school, we have a teacher who was temporarily assigned to our building after being "excessed" from hers. In the local lingo, she's an "ATR." For lack of another position, she wound up in my classroom.
I have eight years experience teaching, and so does she. But I also have one student who can't read. He spent last year in another country, and we suspect he didn't attend school during that time at all. He knows the alphabet, and that's it. But this excessed teacher sits with him all day, and because of her, he's learning to read. When kids are reading aloud to the class, he wants to join in.
When this teacher gets a permanent assignment and has to leave our class, I'm going to try to continue to help this student, but there's no way I can do for him what she's doing without neglecting my duty to the other students.
From a business perspective, the current setup in my classroom is very expensive. Two teachers in a general education classroom, each with eight years of experience? Unheard of. But it's very effective. It's making a huge difference, and I think we should spend the money to have that kind of setup all over the city. We really could transform kids' lives with a reform like that.
But that would mean more union members, and a stronger union, so that reform can't be considered.
Instead, New York City is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to set up merit pay schemes in just some schools. Again, these schemes are proven to have no effect on student achievement. But that doesn't matter, because merit pay is a reform that greatly strengthens the position of the employer over the employee.
Similarly, the "value-added" model, which claimed to be able to quantify the effect of a teacher on test scores, has basically been debunked as far too unsound to form the basis of any kind of policy. Yet this unproven, unscientific model for rating teachers is touted as the next great thing in education.
There's a racial dimension to these questions that can't be ignored, either. It irks me to no end to hear hedge fund managers refer to the charter school cause as the "civil rights movement of our generation." Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that Waiting for Superman is a "Rosa Parks moment."
Interestingly, Black voters in Washington, D.C. and in Harlem recently--and overwhelmingly--rejected pro-charter school candidates. That's why I think it's more appropriate to call this a Glenn Beck moment. That is, a moment when we should realize that these people are wrapping themselves in the mantle of a movement to which they bear no relation.
Dr. King once said, "The forces that are anti-Negro are by and large anti-labor." Apparently, Black voters are beginning to think that the reverse is also true.
But folks from the business world have an extremely hard time shaking off their faith in free-market principles and their hostility to unions. Evidence and research be damned.
There is more than a slight element of hypocrisy here. To hear the billionaire school reformers tell it, class size doesn't matter, resources don't matter, and experienced teachers are standing in the way of success. But when these same people spend five figures to send their kids to private schools, what do they insist on? Small classes, excellent resources and experienced teachers.
How can we make every public school a great school? Those three things--the things that the wealthy demand for their children--would be a perfect place to start.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Notes from the Chalkboard

I often write and/or draw random things on the chalkboard while teaching that make total sense in context, but later make me go "hmmm..."
My 9th graders just finished reading Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" (which can be found here).  They were a little confused about the ending.

So without further ado, I give you a pictorial representation of the shocking conclusion:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vintage Jewelry

I have mentioned before that I love to wear and collect vintage jewelry.  And so without further ado, here is my collection so far.
Note that I am not a jewelry photographer and am not going to spend the necessary money to set up a jewelry photography studio, so most of these pieces looks a lot better in person.

The piece that started it: a gold, orange and yellow piece given to me by my grandma.
It came with matching earrings.  I never wear them because the clip-ons are painful! But I will find a use for them. (buttons on a cardigan perhaps?)
The second piece I got, also given to me by my grandma.  It is much less orange in person--a beautiful coral color.
This one was so hard to photograph! Stunning clusters of pearls and colored crystals.  A real statement piece that always gets attention. A gift from my mom.
Also hard to photograph: silver with beige crystals, turquoise and seed pearls. One of the first pieces I bought myself.
One of my more recent purchases (which makes it a favorite until I buy another)
This is why I love vintage--look at the detail! 
Another newer piece--I fell in love with the color of the stones (not quite as bright in person) and the chains mixed in.
And this clasp!  I think I will wear this necklace sideways to show off these big, gorgeous stones.
Not totally vintage--a handmade piece that re-purposed the vintage bird charm. Contains small rubies and seed pearls.
Substantial .925 sterling silver earrings.  I love these--they are my go to pair.  Though they are very heavy...
An eBay find.  Neat bracelet with different Paris monuments represented.  It is a souvenir piece from the 1950s
This piece is lesser quality than some of my others, but I loved the colors. It was just such a sweet piece.
An absolute favorite of mine.  It is all handmade with LOTS of silver.  My mom got it for me at an antique show.  Since then, I have seen many factory imitations but none measure up to this.  Those are vintage typewriter keys.
An Etsy find (and another gift from my mom).  I have an obsession with vintage watch faces, so here is a bracelet of them.  People who don't "get it" often ask me if the watches work (no) and then look at me like I'm crazy.  I look at them the same way.
I also collect hand-painted vintage pins. I keep my good ones in this case. I saw it when I was 15 and made such a fit over it that my aunt bought it.  I have since learned that a case this size and shape is very rare, desirable, and expensive. Fifteen year old me had a good eye.
Inside of the case.
One of my favorites for its unique subject matter and intricacy
My other favorite. This one is newer but it is the only one I have that is 100% hand-painted.  Up close it is really impressive.
And that's it! (for now...)  Any other vintage jewelry lovers out there? What do you collect?