Tuesday, January 5, 2021

50ish Things About Me as a Reader

Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy linked to this older post from another site and it was interesting to read about the reading lives of other people. It fascinates me how there is diversity among us bookworms.  I recently heard someone say that about all they want to read is biography and I thought "Eww."  I'm all for biographies and memoirs---but only if they are about someone I'm interested in or value.  

Did I pre-order Barack Obama's latest memoir? Yes, yes I did.

Would I ever purchase a biography about Kim Kardashian? 


We all have unique reading preferences and styles.  If you have a bookish list about yourself, please share in the comments. I'd love to read it!

50ish things about me as a reader

  1. When I was ten, I read the book "Not Without My Daughter" and getting through four hundred pages of an adult book felt like the biggest accomplishment of my life.
  2. I volunteered at our local library thirty hours a week the summer I turned twelve or thirteen.
  3. I have never read Catcher in the Rye.
  4. Did not finish: Jane Eyre. 
  5. The only books I have ever pre-ordered were Barack Obama's and Jeff Kinney's.  That mix probably says something about me on a psychological level. If you figure it out, lemme know.
    Joey Friends shrug

  6. I'm a teacher and HATE when other teachers or parents try to make a child choose a book "at their level." 
  7. If I weren't a teacher and had to pick a second career, it would be something like librarian or bookstore owner.
  8. People who fold book pages down make me cringe. But by all means, you do you.
  9. I'm a purist about folds -see above- but have dropped crumbs onto my pages plenty of times. Yes, you can read without snacking, but why would you want to?
  10. Baby-Sitters Club books were my JAM. Quite certain I read them all.  
    Look! A photo of my entire childhood!

  11. Apparently many bookish people hate book covers that have the movie tie-in.  They aren't my fave but it doesn't bother me.
  12. I used to hate e-reading and only wanted paper books. Covid changed that and I downloaded the Libby app so I could get digital books from my library. I love that as long as I have my phone-I have a book with me.  Now I read probably three fourths of my books on my phone and the other fourth as a physical book.
  13. My husband gave me a subscription to Book of the Month as a gift last Mother's Day and it has been the best gift in the world.
  14. I've only been able to finish one Stephen King book. He's a great writer, but I'm easily distracted and apparently unable to sustain attention long enough for his books.
  15. James Patterson makes me question things like: How many hours are in a day? How many hours are in James Patterson's day? How does he write so many books? Is he using a ghostwriter? A billion ghostwriters?  How much of he and Bill Clinton's book did each of them write (because I quite enjoyed it)?  
    I hope the guy who cut me off in traffic has his fav book turned into a movie
    Nothing to do with James Patterson but this
    tweet is s.a.v.a.g.e.

  16. Some schools are turning their libraries into "STEAM Rooms" and I wail and cry about it.  Can we not have both a library and a STEAM room?
  17. Starting last April, mid-pandemic-shut-down, I started keeping a list of each book I read.  It's just in a cheap little notebook but this is fun and helpful to go back through the months and see what I've accomplished with reading. Also helps me find authors that I love.
  18. Fantasy is the hardest genre for me to read.  Evidently my brain prefers realistic settings and characters and when things start flying or casting spells it's hard to keep up.
  19. Thus, I've only ever read the first Harry Potter book. 
  20. That classic children's book "Love you Forever" is stupid and I hate it.  So is The Runaway Bunny.  
    Bunny Mom is a stalker. Hard pass for me.

  21. In the Not-Stupid category: Sesame Street "Monster at the end of this book". Other people have copied the idea since, but Sesame Street is the OG.
  22. If you teleported me to the library I went to as a child, I could still walk you back to where the Berenstain Bear books were kept.
  23. As a kid, our school library had the cards you had to sign your name and date in.  
  24. I'm real bad about racking up library fines.  
  25. I go through reading spurts. Many times I read every day but sometimes there's a week where I don't read for pleasure at all.  
    the office sue me

  26. I currently have eight books on hold on my Libby app.
  27. I generally like movies based on books.  Maybe not as much as the book, but I enjoy seeing someone else take the same book and create their own vision from it.
  28. The latest I've stayed up to finish reading a book was two a.m.
  29. Our biggest bookshelf broke---because it was cheap---so until we replace it with something sturdier, I have piles of books just sitting around randomly.  Ahem. MORE piles than would normally be sitting around.
  30. I threw one of my kids a bookworm birthday party and it was adorable.
    bookworm birthday party
    Look how little he was! *sniff, sniff*

  31. "The Bad Seed" and "The Good Egg" are the BEST children's picture books and I will fight you on it.
  32. D.E.A.R, Drop Everything And Read, was my favorite part of the school day. 
  33. Greg Boyd's "Is God to Blame" and Brian Zahnd's "Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God" changed my theology and my life.  
  34. Bookstore cats are cool but can we get a trend of bookstore Golden Retrievers going?  
  35. In middle school I read all of the Janette Oke books I could get my hands on. She writes Christian western romance.  When you go to a fundie school you take what you can get, ok?
    Oh those fundie years. 
    Comic from the awesome Naked Pastor who has
    tons more to make you laugh!

  36. In high school we read The Scarlet Letter. I didn't understand ALL of the symbolism until the teacher pointed it out.  Was I dense or does no one understand it on their own in high school?  Dense probably.
  37. I hate what Amazon is doing to independent bookstores so much that we are not going to renew our Prime membership.
  38. I've never been to a book signing.
  39. I get annoyed when people talk to me when I'm reading.  I. am. clearly. busy.
  40. I use any scrap of paper nearby as a bookmark.
    You say "receipt", I say "bookmark."

  41. I have read all of Chevy Stevens books.
  42. Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey remain on my "have never read this" list.
  43. I loved the Divergent series along with Hunger Games. And their movies.
  44. Amazon functions as my "TBR" pile. I add books to the wishlist and then buy them from an indie bookstore or request them from the library.
  45. Audio books don't hold my attention.  I've only been successful with one or two. I think if my brain isn't looking AT the words on the page, it starts to wander and before I know it, the chapter is over and I've got no clue what happened.

  46. I discovered the Shopaholic series by accident...browsing the library for a Karen Kingsbury book years ago and saw Kinsella.  
  47. Even though I'm a sensitive person, books rarely make me cry.  Except that children's book about a sled dog who dies during the race. 
  48. I have a running list of independent bookstores to visit once Covid settles down.  Michigan, Kansas, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Tennessee, Hawaii...I'm coming for you!

Okay, that's close enough to 50!  Anything from the list that is true for you too?

Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 in the Rearview Mirror

2020 is coming to an end (is that a collective "Amen!" I hear?) and between the Covid and the politics it feels like this year was really 10 years smooshed into one. Let's recap, shall we?

a look back at 2020

Most popular post this year: You all really liked reading about how I DIY my own laundry detergent.

Least popular blog post: It's a tie between Daylight Savings Time and the Blog Redesign

Favorite books read this year: Probably Evvie Drake Starts Over and The Silent Patient.  I wrote a brief review about each of them back in August.

The Silent Patient book Evvie Drake Starts Over book

Things our grocery store was frequently out of besides toilet paper and cleaning supplies: Salmon, black beans (what was that about??), Christmas sprinkles, Christmas paper plates, yeast, flour, sugar, ice cream.

Biggest accomplishment: Surviving. We've had plenty of laughs and good times this year but I won't pretend like the anxiety didn't overwhelm at times.  

Biggest fail: I burned a pot of spaghetti. Yes, apparently, that's a thing that can happen. Who knew?

Things I did to help preserve democracy: Phone banked, donated to campaigns, made sure friends/family voted.

Things to look forward to in 2021 (in expected order of occurrence):  The inauguration.  Graduating.  Sitting inside a coffee shop.  Browsing a book store.  Taking a vacation (destination TBD).  Visiting long distance family.  

Netflix Binges: The Mindy Project, Schitt's Creek, The Office, Tiger King (That was this year? Feels like forever ago.), The Great British Baking Show, Man With A Plan. 

What are your reflections on the year? Did you find any great new books or tv shows?  Enjoy extra family time or nearly kill each other?  Did anyone else burn spaghetti? No? Just me. Okay then.  

Monday, November 16, 2020

Gift Ideas for Teachers When You're E-Learning

 Whatever you call it: remote learning, e-learning, digital learning, etc...it is all the same.  Many students this year are e-learning due to either their parent's choice in an effort to keep them safe or the school having to go to remote learning because of rising Covid-19 cases.  

A common misconception is that teachers are doing nothing during e-learning.  The truth however, is that teachers are still working and probably harder than they had to when they were in the building!  Lesson videos have to be made, every student checked in with, paper packets made for students who don't have internet, assessments changed into digital format, classwork still needs graded, parents and students have constant questions, etc.

As we roll towards the winter holiday season, please don't forget your child's teacher.  Gift giving can be hard when you aren't going to SEE the person.  Ordinarily you could just tuck a gift in your child's backpack and send them on the bus.  But what do you do now when there's no way to get a gift to the teacher?

Here are some ideas for gifts you can give your child's teacher this Christmas that they will love and that honor the social distancing rules.

1. Target gift card. 

Is there a gift list that doesn't include a Target gift card? LOL  Everyone loves them. These can be very easily emailed to the teacher and I've always had luck with the recipients getting the email.  Bonus: There's no physical card to risk getting lost!

2. Teachers Pay Teachers gift card.  

This website allows teachers to get many things for free but there are also items that cost money.  Things are reasonably priced, many at $1-5.  Teachers can get extra games, activities, and lesson ideas from this site.  In fact, I don't know any teacher who doesn't use TpT at some point in the year.  A $5 gift card would go a long way and just like the Target cards, these are digital and simple to email.

Elearning gift ideas for teachers

3. Write a note telling them what you appreciate about them. 

Be specific: the funny video they sent your child when he was sick and they wanted to cheer him up?  How organized they have been through e-learning?  That they still found a way to honor your child's birthday while e-learning?  That they always have a smile on their face?  

Find some specifics and write them down.  Email it or write it by hand and snap a pic that you send.  This gift costs nothing but will mean the world to the teacher. Trust me.

4. Send their boss an email and CC the teacher.  

Let the principal know how much this teacher has done for the students.  It doesn't have to be long "Dear Principal Pat, I just wanted to say how much Jimmy has enjoyed being in Mrs. Great's class this year.  Even though we've had to distance learn, Mrs. Great has found ways to build a relationship with Jimmy.  He talks constantly about what book she is reading to them and is always eager to log in for his daily Zoom.  Signed, Parent."

Bonus tip: This is a nice way to acknowledge specials teachers too.  Gym, art, library, music---those teachers love your kids too!  

5. Coordinate some parents to create a book.

If you are able to contact the other parents, you could ask them to do #3 (write a little card/note about what they appreciate about the teacher) and snap a pic of their child with the card.  Parents will send you the photos and you can assemble them into a Google Slides presentation that you then share with the teacher.  The teacher will be able to print the pages and make themselves a book.  Alternatively you could make the book  yourself with an app like Shutterfly, though then you couldn't deliver the book to the teacher digitally.

Gift ideas for elearning teachers

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What to do the day you lose your job

Job loss.  Layoffs. Getting fired.  No matter the reason, losing your job is scary.  We've been through it before.  I remember being surprised at how BUSY we were even though neither of us had a full time job (I was a stay at home mom at the time)!  

If you're reading this, you've likely just found out your job has been cut.  I'm here to share with you the first things to do when you lose your job.

1. Don't beat yourself up.  

Layoffs happen. People get fired for reasons that are stupid.  Hold your head high and march forward.

2. Find out how to continue your health insurance.  

It's unfortunate in our country that our health care is tied to our employment but it's how things are for now.  You may be eligible for COBRA insurance.  Try your very best to not go without health insurance even when you are unemployed.

3. Look up the hours for your unemployment office.

If they are still open, call them.  Find out what you need to do to file.  This process takes awhile so you want to start filing for unemployment benefits ASAP. 
What to do the day you lose your job

4. Call the local WIC office

If you or your spouse have children under the age of 5 or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be eligible for WIC (Women Infants Children).  The eligibility is less strict than food stamps and you would have a good chance at being eligible. 

WIC doesn't provide all your food for the month but they do give things like milk, cheese, carrots, cereal, bread, some baby formula if you formula  feed, etc.  It can be a huge help to your finances.  Click here to see the eligibility requirements for WIC.

5. Visit your SNAP office

SNAP is the food stamp office.  You can find eligibility information on the USDA website here.  Like unemployment, filing for SNAP benefits is a process that requires you to gather various pieces of paperwork and submit an application.  Start by visiting or giving them a call to find out how to proceed.

6. Stop all non-necessary monthly bills

If you're paying monthly for HBO, a cleaning service, subscription boxes like ipsy, or any other kind of monthly bill that's not necessary...cancel it TODAY.  We don't have cable or satellite any more but when we did we preferred Dish Network because you were able to quit at any time without a penalty. 
You will need to keep internet and cell phone service if at all possible. It's extremely hard to job hunt without home internet.  Your local library is an option but for now I'd try to keep your home internet.  
Many people don't have a home phone and just have cell phones now.  Perhaps you can move to a cheaper plan or have one with less data.  Call and see if you can lower the monthly bill.

7. Sell stuff online

When my husband lost his job I immediately listed 3 or 4 things for sale in one of those Facebook sales groups.  I had photos taken and posted before he even got home that night.  It was just a few Longaberger baskets worth $75 or less but it was something.  If you've got a few things laying around that you know you don't need, go ahead and list them online for sale.

8. Organize your contacts

So you've lost your job and now you need a new one.  Make a list of some contacts you know who may work for competitors or at jobs in a similar field.  Plan on calling them today or tomorrow and letting them know you're in the market for something new and do they have any leads.

9. Update your resume

Some advice I got years ago was to keep your resume updated regularly.  Hopefully your resume is fairly up to date but regardless, pull that bad boy out and update it so that you can start attaching it to applications and applying for jobs.  There are free templates online if you need to start from scratch and I've also had success with the basic Microsoft Word resume templates available.  

Keep your resume to 1 page unless you have very technical job certifications and experiences.  As a general rule, those of us under 45 years old shouldn't have more than a 1 page resume.  Employers aren't going to read every little thing on there.  You just want them to look at it and think "YES, we need to interview this person!"  
- - - - - - - - - -
I hope doing these 9 things immediately after you lose your job will help you make it through and find your next opportunity!  Remember, keep your head high and don't take rejection personally.  When I was job searching, I read that it takes an average of 100 "no"s before you get a yes.  

Good luck!

Lost your job? Do these 9 things ASAP!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The #1 Trick That Gets People to RSVP!

You've spent money buying invitations or spent time hand making them yourself.  All the perfect party details are ready. You wait to hear back. *crickets*.  

When no one sends an RSVP, it puts the party host in a lurch. Do you plan goody bags for 5 kids or 25?!  Without an RSVP you can't be sure whether to tell the caterer 30 people or 100 people for the retirement party.

A few years ago I stumbled upon one trick that gets guaranteed RSVPs.  It's simple and effective.  I first tried it for one of my children's birthday parties and got RSVPs the day after mailing invitations and had nearly 100% of people reply, even the ones who couldn't come!

Knowing who was going to be at the party made it much easier to plan!
One trick to finally get those RSVPs

Are you ready to know the secret to getting RSVPs?

Offer a door prize for the first person to RSVP.  

That's it!  On the birthday invitation, or as a slip you include inside the envelope, let guests know "Door prize for the first person to RSVP!"  You could even offer it as "The first 2 people to RSVP will get a prize!"

What to offer as the RSVP prize?  

Anything you want!  It could be a gift card, a houseplant, locally made snacks, or a small candle for a grown-up party.  For a child's party you might give the first RSVP a pack of bubbles, or the $1 size giant box of movie candy, a gift card to a local store, playdoh play pack, etc.  

What you offer doesn't so much matter (and the guests won't even know until they show up to claim the prize) but just putting "Door prize for first person to RSVP!" on the invitations guarantees you'll hear back from most people and be able to plan your party accordingly.

I absolutely hate not getting RSVPs when I've worked hard to plan a party!  This rsvp trick has helped me be able to better plan for party day!  

Try it out and let me know if it works for you too!
One easy way to get people to rsvp to your invitation

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Feed Your Family of 4 on just $99 / week!

Meal planning and grocery budgeting.  The bane of everyone's existence. Groceries are the most flexible spending category when it comes to budgeting so it is the area we all work at being the most frugal in when trying to save money.  And yet. It seems so tedious sometimes. 

I've created a week's worth of meals that will feed your family for $99, including all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and a couple of snack items too.  Whether you're on a tight budget or just looking to tighten up the wallet a bit, hopefully this meal plan will give you a starting place!  
Budget meal plan and grocery list free printable

*Your costs may likely be lower than $99 for the week if you already have a few of the items on hand such as pancake mix and salad dressing.

*The estimated costs are based on my mid-west existence at stores like Kroger and Target.  If you live elsewhere or shop at pricier places, obviously, your expenses could vary.  

*Likewise, if you can get these items at an Aldi near you, you may spend EVEN LESS than $99 to feed your family of 4 this week!

Ready to meal plan and save money?  Here's what we have:

Inexpensive breakfast ideas

Oatmeal ($2 for a container that has 30 servings)
Banana (.25 each. $7 for the week)

Breakfast Costs: $9 total
Oatmeal- $2 for large container
Bananas- $7 (.25 each, x 28 bananas)

Inexpensive lunches

1- PBJ, celery sticks, pretzel sticks
2- PBJ, strawberries, yogurt
3- PBJ, hard boiled egg, yogurt
4- PBJ, yogurt, pretzel sticks, apple slices
5- PBJ, strawberries, yogurt pretzel sticks
6- PBJ, apple slices, celery sticks
7- PBJ, apple slices, yogurt, pretzel sticks

Lunch Costs: $23 total
Yogurt- 3 lg tubs at $2 each=$6
Pretzel sticks- $2 
2 loaves bread- $2
Jar PB- $2
Jar Jelly- $2
Bag of apples- $4
Eggs- $1 
Celery- $2
Strawberries- $2

Dinner ideas on a budget

1- Whole roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, frozen peas
2- Spaghetti with sauce, garlic bread, organic salad w/ dressing
3- Soup, grilled cheese
4- Baked potatoes, baked beans, frozen broccoli
5- Frozen pizza, green beans, baby carrots, fresh or canned peaches
6- Pancakes and scrambled eggs, fresh oranges
7- Tacos, frozen or canned corn

Dinner Costs: $52.50 total
Whole chicken- $5
Bag of potatoes- $3
Frozen peas- $1
Spaghetti- $1
Spaghetti Sauce- $2
Garlic bread- $2
Organic Salad- $3
Salad dressing- $2 (you may already have)
Soup (2 cans)- $2
Bread for grilled cheese -$1
American cheese slices-$2
Baked beans- $1.50
Frozen broccoli- $2
Frozen pizza- $4
Green beans- $1
Baby carrots- $1
Peaches- $2
Pancake mix- $2 (you may already have)
Scrambled eggs- $0 (use the remaining 8 eggs from the $1 eggs you bought for lunch)
Fresh oranges-$3 (about .75 each)
Ground beef- $3
Taco Kit- $3
Sour cream- $1
Tomatoes- $2
Taco cheese- $2
Frozen corn- $1

Now that meals are planned for, there are a few extras you may want.  Sure no one needs coffee but really?  Let's try to work it into the budget.  Along with creamer. If you're able to drink your coffee black, more power to you.  But I've gotta add some vanilla creamer.  Also included are string cheese and popcorn in case someone in the family needs a snack between meals.
Grocery list for families on a budget

Grocery Extras Total: $14.50
Milk- $3
Coffee- $4.50
Creamer- $2
Popcorn- $2
String cheese- $3

Grand total of all groceries for one week for a family of 4: $99!
Feed your family for $99 this week with this free printable menu and shopping list

Honestly when I started planning this post, I was just trying to be under $110.  And it came out even less than $100 to feed our family of 4!  Humbling (we can definitely be spending less than we have been!) and encouraging (holy smokes, we can really lower our food budget and free up money for other things!).

Monday, September 14, 2020

Do this 1 thing on Sunday to make the rest of your week easier!

1 simple hack to make your work week easier

Ahhh Sunday nights.  I love my job as a teacher but I still get that back-to-work anxiety setting in on Sunday nights about the upcoming work week.  You too, eh?  After having been a stay at home mom for about 12 years, I entered the workforce full time.  With 2 adults working full time and 2 children in school, mornings can turn stressful.  Yet, stress while getting ready in the mornings is NOT what I need!

About 1 year in to working full time, I discovered that doing 1 simple thing on Sundays made the entire rest of my week (and the mornings!) go much smoother.

It sounds like the simplest trick to getting ready for the week, I almost feel silly posting it.  Yet a lot of people I talk to DON'T do this!

Here it is:

On Sunday afternoons/evenings, I choose my clothes for the entire week and hang them in the closet in order (Monday-Friday).  The kids ALSO do this. 
I sit with my kids and have them choose their outfits for each day of the week.  Theirs go into a hanging divider in the closet.  I forget where I go theirs (the picture below is a closet divider from Amazon) but you can also find them at Target, Walmart, and sometimes even Aldi sells closet organizers!
The top shelf is their Monday outfit (including socks and underwear!), next is Tuesday, and so on.  

For the kids: The benefit of planning clothes for the week ahead eliminates any morning arguments ("But I don't want to wear the green shirt!") because the kids picked the outfits themselves.  This trick also wards off laundry panic ("You have to wash this for me so I can wear it tomorrow!!")l

For me: Planning and laying out my clothes for the week helps me see what I have available and make sure I have enough nice teacher outfits for the week ahead.  Often if I plan to wear a certain necklace, bracelet, or scarf with the outfit, I go ahead and add that on the hanger too.  It stops me from standing in front of a full closet with "nothing to wear" in the mornings!
Laundry mem
From Kayden Hines

For all of us: planning the outfits for the week ahead also allows us to plan for those special days without being frantic.  Oh, the school is doing spirit wear on Tuesday? Cool. We'll throw your logo shirt in the Tuesday divider.  You have to wear crazy socks on Friday?  Alright, neon orange and green socks are in your Friday spot.

If I have a conference on Thursday and need to dress up extra, then I can make sure Thursday's outfit includes a blazer. Staff is told to wear your school themed shirt for Monday? Check.

See?  It's so simple: plan your clothes and set them aside on Sunday.  Yet it prevents morning meltdowns, laundry panic, and work worries.

As we get into the grove of getting up and ready for school every day, this is really helping us and will help you too!  

Are you going to try it out?  Let me know how it works for you!