It’s Christmas in Gaston…

Nothing better on a Thursday night in December than putting up a Christmas tree…

Here’s how it turned out 🙂


Overall the size is perfect.  When I first bought this tree (actually the Christmas I last lived in this house) I debated for a while between a full size tree or a smaller one (which would obviously fit better in my tiny house).  Ultimately I decided that eventually I’ll have a bigger house so rather than have to buy a new tree I’d just go with the big one now.

Good call at the time, especially when I had a large apartment the last two years.  However, here we are again in my tiny house with different (larger) furniture…

So I made an executive decision to half the tree.

Yup, we put up half of it, and pushed it flush against the wall.

BRILLIANT.  That’s all I can say.  Absolutely brilliant.

However, that sparse middle section?  You can thank Andrew for that one.  Shortly after he sat down and watched Elf while I made the magic happen.  Part of me feels like I should take a point off for it, but part of me think it gives the tree character.  Along with the halfness of the tree…

SO, I give it a 9 🙂  Sadly I don’t have any ornament hangers so some sweet ornaments got left off the tree.  -1

But the rest, including the company and Elf playing in the background, couldn’t possibly get any better 🙂

Until next time friends, just living for the tens.


Turkey Day 2010


If there were two, and they were Murphy and Dakota, or even Maggie and Dakota, this rating would be several points higher.  However, when you’ve got these three all together in one house, it’s CRAZY.

First, you’ve got Murphy and Maggie chasing each other around, with Maggie’s high pitched puppy yelping, literally one yelp per step (so imagine her sprinting, taking about 3 steps a second).

Then, add food in the mix and you’ve got two puggles, with killer instincts when it comes to food, about to draw blood.

Luckily Maggie and Dakota continue their love affair, which is both adorable and convenient.  Except when Maggie insists on following Dakota around everywhere and humping his legs.  Nice one Maggie.

However, the rating is still above a five, as I love dogs, I love my dogs even more, and I LOVE the motivator to walk 6 miles every day (yes, my parents are insane- one 3 mile walk, or even 2 1.5 mile walks are just not enough.  We took TWO 3 mile walks every day I was home).



Another reason I love holidays is the free time to actually read a book or two.  While I headed home with Manhunt in tow, a recommendation of a student as it follows the entire story of John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln assassination, I ended up reading a new book I recently discovered called Scratch Beginnings.  The concept is interesting, and I must admit I went into the read with mixed feelings, yet open minded to what I would find.

The author, Adam Shepard, decides to take off from Raleigh NC and head to Charleston SC with $25, a train ticket and a sleeping bag.  His goal is to prove that the American dream is still alive and well by making $2,500, furnishing an apartment and buying a car by the end of a year.

The book is mostly spent telling the stories of those he encounters along the way, and how he ended up making it happen within 8 months.  The epilogue talks a bit about the bigger issues of poverty in America, and what this social experiment means for the American dream and how we begin to address the problems that are preventing some from getting there and causing others to stand still where they are.

While I’m not sure I agree (yet) with all issues and opinions presented, it was a pretty great instigator for Thanksgiving conversation among my family, and has given me a much needed reason to reflect on my own thoughts.  I find I spend so much time thinking about day-to-day survival in the world of teaching that I forget about the things that brought me here (and back) in the first place.  I’m going back to reread Nickel and Dimed now, which was part of the inspiration for Scratch Beginnings, and I think I’ll have a more solid grasp of my thoughts at the end.  In the meantime, it comes as a highly recommended read 🙂


I’m pretty lucky to have a mom who supports whatever my eating habits are (as they’ve grown progressively more restrictive over time).  This year she had the added challenge of creating a vegan Thanksgiving dinner.  I will note that this is a challenge created by her, as I insisted that PB & J was good enough for this vegan.

Despite that, I must admit I’m grateful for the effort as I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner as much as everyone else 🙂  Mashed potatoes (with fake butter and soy milk), corn, pumpkin rolls and stuffing not actually stuffed inside the turkey… A. MA. ZING.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that a point must be subtracted for the sickness I caused by eating too much.  Not unusual, not unfamiliar, but nonetheless pretty miserable.

This year was a small Thanksgiving, as it was just the immediate family and Ned, a blind man my mom met through the Blind Association and has now become a family friend over the past 7 (?) years.


Posing with 3 dogs is not easy.  Why we insist on including all three, I’m not quite sure.  It does, however, provide some entertainment.

So considering the fact that we had to get all three dogs to look at the camera, while also catching all of us with our eyes open, I’d say we did pretty good 🙂

-2 for my decision (or lack of awareness really) to wear a shirt with reflective tape on it.  Oops… turns out it’s nothing a little iPhoto editing can’t fix 🙂


While a 5 hour drive is definitely not bad, and I actually really appreciate the alone time to listen to incredible music, sing along, and brainstorm brilliant ideas for the classroom (or atleast ideas I think are brilliant :)), it’s also nice to use the time to catch up with people I don’t talk to nearly enough.  And people I already spend too much time talking to.  Either way, the “company” is great, and without a headset I’d be way more of a hazard on the road.

-1 for the difficulty it can sometimes cause hearing, or making me sound like I’m in a wind tunnel.

-1 for the hazard of attempting to plug in the headset, and get each ear piece in the right ear, during the 15 seconds I have while my phone is ringing.  Why don’t I just leave it plugged in, you wonder?  Sadly my phone doesn’t actually ring if I leave it in, meaning I have to unplug and replug each time.  Not cool…


This rating is not an indication of my love of my kids, or my love for teaching, but instead my extroverted self sad at leaving people again.  Sometimes I love living alone, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always an adjustment for me to leave a house full of people and animals for my house in Gaston where it’s just me and the pups.  Thank goodness for the pups 🙂

The GREAT news is that these next three weeks may possibly be my favorite three weeks of the year.  I love holiday season more than anything, and tonight I’m planning to put on Elf and put up the tree… followed by three weeks of good friends, great holiday parties (including the first ever hosted at my Gaston house!) and Secret Santa wonderfulness at school.  I CANNOT WAIT!  I’m even thinking of attempting Christmas lights on my house (and/or fence) this year…

Until next time, just living for the tens 🙂

Merry Christmas!

If there’s one thing that Christmas is good for, it’s catching up on my blog!  I’ve decided to put aside all work for the day, which actually gives me time to catch up on the holiday happenings.

First, and most entertaining, is definitely Maggie’s first Christmas gift.  To see the rating check with the last post, but here’s the video to accompany it:

Nothing says Christmas quite like…


Hands down one of my favorite Christmas treats.  You can find all kinds of different versions depending where you buy it, but I must say the best around is William and Sonoma’s ‘Original Peppermint Bark’.  The downside is it’s pretty expensive and it comes in large quantities (neither is something I can afford).  However, when it comes free as a family Christmas gift, and there’s four of you to share it, it’s INCREDIBLE.  I knew Christmas had officially arrived when I saw this yesterday.


Santa must be real, because per my request here it is!!!  Ironic that the picture below is of poor quality because I had to take it with my iPhone…

It has a ton of different modes so I should be able to get good shots, a flash (seems obvious, but a big step up from my iPhone camera), self-timer, and even has a setting for food 🙂

Also included in the pile of gifts was a SWISS ARMY camera case!  My parents know my history with digital cameras, and I now feel fully protected.  Now just to make sure I put it in there…

You know you’re an adult when you’re this excited about…


Seriously never thought I would be this content (and genuinely excited) with:

  • a 36-piece tupperware set
  • a rooftop carrier (for road trips with more than just two people)
  • a tarp (to protect the rooftop carrier, and serve as a footprint for my tent)
  • bungee cords
  • homemade towels for my kitchen

And more 🙂  I LOVE IT.


Before putting out all the presents we decided to hand out rawhides to keep the dogs occupied, and out of any food/treats that may be found.  This seemed to be a good idea…

Dakota loved his (my mom got him an extra large one).

Murphy got one that was a bit smaller, and spent the entire time staring pathetically at Dakota because he wanted the big one.

Eventually it broke out into the first legit puggle fight as they duked it out for the big pieces.

Maggie got flipped over, went on punishment (she started it) and only after we removed all traces of bones did it end.

Won’t make that mistake again…


While it will only last for about a month every year, that’s the case with every Christmas sweater, so I don’t feel justified taking points off for that.  But this one is fabulously tacky, fits her perfectly, AND keeps the little pup warm (she seems to shiver a lot when she goes outside… I think she just needs to put on a little weight like Murph).

Even though my dad resists dog clothing, I think we’re warming him up.  It might take several months before he lets her wear the pink t-shirt I gave her that proudly says ‘Spoiled Princess’ on the back…

Just in case you’re starting to think Maggie’s too cute, a couple pictures of the cutest dogs ever…


Yet again I’ve come home with a pretty bad cold, and spent most of the Christmas Eve service blowing my nose loudly.  It gets especially bad when your nose is so stuffed it’s difficult to eat, because your mouth is the only source of oxygen.  Luckily last night my dad produced the most incredible solution ever- German nose spray!  Left over from their two year stay in Munich, this stuff completely unblocked my nose in a matter of minutes.  Only lasts about 2 hours before I need to spray again, and creates more runniness, but I’m totally willing to take it for a clear nose that I can breathe through.



There aren’t a ton of people in Harrisburg I still keep in touch with, but the ones I do I LOVE seeing when I come home.  Sarah is one at the top of the list.  A good friend from high school, she went on to do Teach For America after college as well, teaching high school English in Hawaii (charter corps!).  After finishing her two years she continued to work for TFA, as did I, so it’s great to catch up with someone who literally understands pretty much everything you’ve done post-college.  And on top of that, she’s just good people 🙂

-1 because as I’ve mentioned before, it sometimes makes me sad to think of all the good people I know all over the country who I only get to hang out with once a year 😦

That being said, excited to see Jess on Saturday!!!

An interesting addendum to our Wednesday night adventures at the diner…


You all know who they are.  The people you’re ‘friends’ with on facebook, and at some point were friends with in real life.  But if you ever run into them in real life, it’s actually kind of weird.  Weird because 1) you never know whether to say hi, because you’re not actually real friends anymore and 2) if either of you do say hello, you often know a little bit too much about their current lives (thanks to facebook lurking) without actually having spoken to them in years.  What’s there left to talk about when you read their 10 status updates every day, know where they live, what they do, who they’re friends with, and what they think about everything?

It’s still nice to see old friends, and the facebook connection actually makes you feel like you’re more of friends than you might actually be, leading to conversation.  Just curious if anyone else has observed how facebook changes the whole experience of going home once a year…

A Day Full of Excitement

After a productive morning of work with Lauren, from my grad program, I headed over to campus to meet up with the Pride of 2016 from KIPP: Gaston College Preparatory, the school I used to teach at.  A big part of the school is preparing the students for college (hence the name), and that involves a lot of college visits.  One of the 6th grade trips is to NC State, so I was more than excited to hop along and help with a ‘tour’ (in quotations solely because of my insane lack of knowledge of my campus.  Case in point.)


While Lauren (a climbing friend who went to State for undergrad, and agreed to help out with the tours as well) and I were waiting for parking on campus, I discovered a brilliant system for pay-as-you-go parking garages.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Once the garage is full, it actually refuses to open the gate at the entrance until it registers that a car has left the other side.  That way, once you enter, you’re guaranteed a spot.  It’s just a matter of finding it.  I love this use of technology and think it makes a ton of sense.

-2 for the long lines created at the entrance when the gates aren’t opening.  Once you’re in, it’s impossible to get out, so if you’re running late there’s no way out to find a better solution.

Luckily we eventually found parking and quickly met up with our group of students.


I have to say, it’s always super exciting to be around kids again.  It’s not that I forget how much I love being around them, but I’m still reminded every time I get to spend some time with them.  My group was incredible, well-behaved, excited by what we were seeing, and inquisitive.  Plus, incredibly photogenic (see below).

-1 because we were running late at the end and missed one of the photos on the scavenger hunt list 😦  And then, after getting back on time, we waited on the wrong side of the building so ended up late anyways.


Afterwards, before heading to the library to knock out some more work, Wu gave me the best thank-you gift EVER.  A GCP soccer t-shirt!

Let me explain.  During my second year a good friend of mine, and the 8th grade science teacher and soccer coach, created a new soccer shirt with an awesome/clever quote (?) on the back.  Everyone wanted one, but he kept them very exclusive.  You had to earn them either by playing on the team, coaching the team, or showing up as a fan for at least three games (I think that was the magic number).  I never managed to earn one during my time there, but was surprised with one today after the tour!

As you can imagine, I wore it proudly the rest of the day and received many compliments.  Heck yeah!

Murph's a bit upset it doesn't fit him...

Following the tour I diligently hit up the library to knock out one of my two final papers this semester, and then decided to take a study break at the local mall.  It’s Christmas time, and in my opinion, nothing beats malls at Christmas.  While there I discovered several fabulous things.


I never realized until I saw this sign that while Cookies & Cream flavor is called ‘cookies’ & cream, it always comes with the same kind of cookies (Oreos).  What if I like cookies, but not Oreos?  I no longer get to enjoy the cookies & cream flavor?  Not anymore!  Mrs. Fields is now making Cookies & Cream milkshakes with any of their cookies you choose.  BRILLIANT!

-2 because I didn’t actually try it so I can’t vouch for the flavor, but I’m totally digging the idea.  You can get one at the food court in the Crabtree Valley Mall (and I’m guessing other Mrs. Field’s locations).


I may be one of few, but I love how early they put up decorations.  If I’m beginning my Christmas shopping, you better believe I want to be surrounded by Santa, wreaths, lights and Christmas music.  Luckily the malls are on the same page as me.  Crabtree was looking pretty good 🙂 In fact, I’ve pretty much decided my dream part-time job would be working as one of Santa’s elves during the holiday season.  What could be better than getting to spend several hours a week at the mall, all Christmasy and decorated, spreading Christmas cheer?

-1 for the lack of Christmas music at the mall.

THIS PHOTO: 9.  It doesn’t showcase my true photographic talent when it comes to taking pictures of myself with the iPhone, but you can see the decorations in the background and it makes me laugh.

All in all I’d say today was a pretty fabulous day.  And I’m almost done with all my big projects for this semester!  Until then, just living for the tens 🙂