Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I Read Wednesday: Trying to Get Back

Back to school is always a rough and crazy time and now that I am not working on Boards anymore, I was hoping the insanity would die down.

Thankfully, I was able to finish two books in the last couple days...but only because one of them was for my book club with the girls this past weekend AND the other I raced through so I could get back to blogging this little post here and join up with Juice Boxes and Crayolas linky finally!

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult | This was my first Jodi Picoult read, believe it or not.  Not sure why I was refusing to read any books by her.  But let's just pretend I wasn't.  My book club girls and I read this for the month of August and had an awesome and insightful conversation about it around a table full of homemade baked goodies (a la the treats in the book itself).  I've read many a Holocaust inspired and nonfiction books, including The Reader (which I didn't like), a couple years back.  The Storyteller is similar to it in that a war criminal is living amongst everyday people and hiding his secret background.  But this story is done in a way that involves several different points of view from those who survived the Holocaust, were a part of it, or knew someone who survived.  I truly appreciated the storytelling nature of it on behalf of the main character's much so that I got lost in her story that I mixed up what was real and what wasn't.  Jodi takes you on an up and down journey as well as one that makes you question yourself over and over.  As you read, you meet the war criminal before anyone knows he is such (well, sort of...except for the synopsis tells you so) and you come to like him and enjoy him.  But just like the main character, Sage, you are taken aback and for the rest of the story can't decide what you would do in Sage's situation.  I look down upon war criminals for many obvious reasons, but I kept finding myself trying to decide if this man should be looked past.  Darn you Jodi for making me feel that way more than once!!!  Definitely pick this one up and give it a good read...especially if you are interested in the Holocaust and/or Jodi Picoult literature.

From Goodreads:  What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars ||  Goodreads average:  4.24 stars

Infamous by Lauren Conrad | Let me preface this by saying I'm a huuuuuge fan of Lauren Conrad and have quite the girl crush on her.  If you must know more, take a look at this little blog post.  Sure, these books are for teenaged girls, but that's fine...because a good mindless book is good for the soul sometimes.  While this was my least favorite in The Fame Game series (her 2nd), I still had some fun reading it and trying to guess all about who she was ragging on from The Hills within these pages.  Jay was definitely supposed to be Justin Bobby...."crude lewd jokes, combat boots, cutoff shorts, Harley?"  Hmmmmmm...I think yes!  I can't help but wonder if Gaby and her obsession with Hollywood and becoming a Botox queen with too much plastic surgery represents Heidi as well. I'm fairly certain that only The Hills fans will ever really enjoy these books...that and 14-16 year old girls.  But if it suits your fancy to pick one of these up, then go for it!  Aside from my girl crush fandom, I do like reading about the little quirky spots in Hollywood and around L.A.  To me, Hollywood life always sounds like it could be fun for a little while, until you read all about the crazy things they do to keep up with the Joneses when they clearly aren't even remotely close to being the Joneses.  Heidi and Spencer much?!

From Goodreads:  Kate and Carmen are about to become big stars, but they’re going to have to survive some backstage drama first. Madison is learning hard lessons about fame as she deals with backstabbing “friends” and family, out-of-control paparazzi, and a scandal reported in every tabloid.

My rating:  3 out of 5 stars || Goodread's average:  3.54 stars

Please feel free to add me on Goodreads or follow my reviews there.  I absolutely love discovering new and interesting books that I may not have found otherwise.  

What have you read lately?  Do you have any book recommendations?  Or better up to Juice Boxes and Crayolas with your own What I Read (Am Reading) Wednesday post!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Teacher Story and My First Linky Party!!!

Welcome to my first linky party!   To my teacher followers...I'd absolutely love to hear your story/journey too, so please please link up by copying and pasting my fancy little button below.  At the bottom of the post is the spot for you to put in your link.   I'm talking to you especially The Pace of It AllJuice Boxes and CrayolasSprinkle Teaching Magic, and Once Upon A Classroom.  I'm always curious to hear how other people got to where they are today!

I'll spare you the bit that goes all the way back to those days when I was a wee one forcing my little brother to sit on the other side of a little table doing math problems I came up with and corrected for him when he was finished.  Instead, I'll just dive into the parts I remember most.

Oh and I'll gift you with some random pictures from a mini-scrapbook from student teaching that I took with me to interviews.

After attending college in Northern California (10 hours away from home in San Diego) and being part of an extremely famous (to the area) teaching program I returned home to Southern California.  But in San Diego, no one knew about the program I had been in and I did not have any connections the way so many others did.

Top:  4th favorite! Bottom:  Making green eggs and ham with Kindergarteners
I filled out applications like a mad woman and even went to two career fairs hoping to get an off-the cuff interview or at least to get my face remembered by a nearby district.  In fact, I waited in a line for a mini-interview with the Poway district (a gigantic and very well-known district in the area).  It was painful!  I was horrible, too nervous to put complete thoughts together, and I was sweating from every orifice.  Did I say the interview was done at the front of the line, so everyone in line behind me was basically watching and starting at me?!  Needless to say, it went no where.  Eventually, I landed an interview at a year-old school in Oceanside and I was one out of about 8 people they were going to interview for one teaching position.  So, I drove out to the school to check out the area, researched the district online, did all I could to prepare.  My nerves were so bad that I had to ask for a cup of water as I was being walked into the conference room by the principal of that school.  There were about 8 people in there and they were all staring at me.  I was only slightly better at this interview than the other one I had went through.  A few days later, I found out that they had only interviewed me and the others as a "backup" to hire back a teacher of theirs that they had pink-slipped.  Sigh.  I was devastated.

I dressed up as Athena to introduce my Ancient Greece unit to 6th graders.
At that point, I started to apply in districts an hour away from where I lived, desperate to get my first teaching job.  Looking back, I can't believe I went to those extremes.  But the teaching job market in San Diego was horrendous.  I thankfully scored an interview about 70 minutes from my apartment and did much much better in this one, yet I wasn't hired.  It was then, I decided to apply for a smaller district nearby to be a substitute teacher.  At least that way I'd be able to get my face seen around the schools, make a name for myself as one of the best subs possible, and go from there.  After subbing for about 6 months, I was offered a part-time position in that district in which I was a Title I tutor for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and had to share a tiny temporary building with a Spanish tutor who was really loud.

Kinders doing a puppet play created by me and read by me.  It is so weird to look back and see myself teaching such little ones, but I loved it at the time.
I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it either.  Near the end of that school year my husband and I decided to move to Arizona where my husband had relatives (and my older brother had just moved there as well).  The housing market was on the up and up and we were tired of moving from apartment to apartment because of rent hikes.  Our hometown was a tricky place to live because of how expensive the cost of living was.

4th Grade Rocks!!  Doing a geology unit on sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks using 3 different colored Playdoh that I made at home.  Those were the days when I had time to do that kind of stuff all the time.
I drove out to Arizona by myself (a 5.5 hour drive each way) two or three different times to scout out districts and drop off applications.  On the the last trip I made, my life changed forever!

My brother's realtor happened to be married to a teacher who worked in the district I have now taught in for almost 9 years.  It turned out the district was the exact type I was looking for and dreaming about for that is an at-risk urban area with a diverse population.  Not to mention, it happens to be one of a couple of the highest paying districts in the city of Phoenix.  At that point, I felt like it was meant to be.  The next day, I drove out to the district office to turn in my application and drove back to San Diego the next day...hoping beyond hope that I would hear back from them.

A week or so later, I got the call that they wanted to interview me!  They set up a phone interview so I didn't have to drive out there.  I studied and prepared like a mad woman by researching the living daylights out of their website and schools.  I looked into the curriculum they use, the student population, their report card status (state assessment scores), and anything else I could get my hands on from a whole state away.

The day came when I hoped my life would change.  I remember having notepads at the ready and questions I wanted to ask them all written out and ready.  When the phone rang, I locked myself in our extra bedroom and turned into someone I never knew I was.  All I remember from the 30 minute phone call was that the HR woman told me she was going to ask me about 40 questions back-to-back (with no think time in between).  Thinking back, I can't remember any of the questions she asked...all I remember is that I was able to answer every single one of them confidently and eloquently.  It was like an out-of-body experience.  At the end of the phone call, she told me that they would like to hire me and that she would mail a letter of intent that I would need to sign to officially accept the position. Once I did that, principals would begin calling me to interview me for spots at their school.

I went from being desperate to having multiple principals calling me from different schools.  Finally, I felt valued as a teacher...because a district had taken notice and wanted me to be a part of them!  After interviews for Kindergarten and 6th grade positions, I accepted a 4th grade position at a fine arts elementary school ( was totally meant to be)!

My very own first class of 4th graders...all mine.  They are now 12th graders and I can't wait to see them graduate!!!
The principal that changed my life!  Oh and a little baby teacher so many years ago.
About a month later, I packed up and moved to Arizona...and had to leave the hubby behind while he wrapped up his job for another month.  Visiting my school and meeting my principal for the first time was absolutely surreal.  When she walked me to my classroom and gave me my was even more of an indescribable feeling.  The rest is history!

My first  classroom is always a reminder of how far I have come.  What was I doing?!  Ugh. (the top picture is what it looked like when my principal showed it to me for the first time)
So...teachers out there reading this.  I love hearing all about how teachers got to where they are today. Please share your story and link up below in my first linky party. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Whatcha Wearin' | Linky Party

The new school year is never the same without a new outfit!  Yes...teachers love to have a sparkly, fresh, brand new outfit too!  So when I saw that Marie over at The Hands on Teacher in First was hosting a linky party...I jumped at the chance and my first day of school finally rolled around yesterday!

I may not be able to buy new school supplies and a new backpack, but I can certainly roll with the big kids instead.

In fact, my bestie and I have gone shopping for our first day of school outfit together the weekend before school starts every year for the last 4 years or so.  It is something we look forward to aaaaaaaall summer long!

This year I decided I really wanted a nice dress instead of separates.  Here is what I scored and wore the first day of school yesterday (two different views).

I looooooooove this dress!

Close up of the lace, belt, and necklace detail

Do you love it as much as I do?!  I can't tell you how many compliments I got from people at work...even both of my administrators stopped to tell me how much they loved it.  Score!

My shopping list included going to The Limited, Dillard's, and Nordstrom Rack.  I didn't want to go to Forever 21, since their dresses are usually too short to wear to work.  Our first stop was JCPenney' of our absolutely favorite places to go for work clothing.  I did find a nice dress there, but it wasn't speaking to me for my first day.  I plan to go back and get it soon though.

After trying on dresses at The Limited (I hit up the clearance section), I only found one possibility...and again, it still didn't speak to me.  Then, I hit up the clearance section in the Calvin Klein department at Dillards.  Listen up...these dresses go on clearance for $40 and regularly cost upwards of $100!  You should check it out.  To pay that much for a dress that I know will last for a long time, that is constructed very well, and will fit well?...Hellooooooo!!

We finally made our way to Nordstorm Rack where I found a whole shopping cart full of dresses.  I was starting to freak that I had not found THE ONE and was hopeful that MY DRESS was in this pile I made.  Beileve it or not?  This dress was the last one I tried on!!!!  It was love at first try-on!  Oh and even better?  It was an $118 dress that I was able to walk out with for $40.

It is a Max Studio designer dress that is insanely soft and incredibly comfortable.  The style is a skater dress that comes to just above my knees.  While it looks orange in the picture, it is coral.  The 2nd picture is truer to the color in real life.  I paired it with a turquoise skinny belt that I got at Target and a gold necklace (has some awesome spikes hanging down at the end) from Icing.

Your turn!  What did you wear on your first day of school this year?  Link up and join the party!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Drugstore Gems

Makeup is one of those things that make me feel good and are part of my daily routine.  I feel naked without it and only a very very select few have seen me without it.  That being said, I am a creature of habit and routine, so I'm pretty attached to certain brands.  But!...I am not a snob when it comes to drugstore makeup at all.  Drugstore makeup is like generic brands of food at the grocery store.  Most of the time, these drugstore gems I'm going to show off are even better than many of the expensive items I have tried...because let's get real, my other love is Sephora!  I wanted to take pictures of swatches of these products...but time got away from me today and it was dark out before I even thought to do so. (I'll try to come back later and post them).

One of my top 3 favorite YouTube beauty gurus, MakeupbyTiffanyD, did a video (see below) and blog post about her drugstore gems a couple weeks ago and I wanted to share out mine in case someone else doesn't know about them.

Revlon Colorstay Foundation:

I have melasma and so I prefer a full coverage foundation.  This one is my holy grail because it is drugstore and covers my skin imperfections better than any expensive foundation I've tried (Clinique and Makeup For Ever).  I prefer the dry to normal skin version even though I have oily skin because it doesn't dry out the way their normal to oily version does.  There are so many shades in this line as well. At the moment, I am using two shades and mixing them together since the summer has darkened my skin slightly.  I apply this with my Beauty Blender and it lasts all day long, even in the humid and scorching hot weather here in the desert.
$9.99 at Target

Oily skin?  This stuff is seriously your dream for setting powder!  When I was  hunting for something that wasn't as expensive as the awesome setting powders that Makeup For Ever makes, I found out about Milk of Magnesia and how it helps control oil.  But then I read up on how bad it is to put on your skin.  So, I was desperate to find something that would do the trick...safely.  I did some research (yes, I did...I'm not going to buy new makeup if I don't know how well it works) and rice powder actually absorbs oil.  That is why it was used in Japan by Geishas.  So I quickly did a search for brands that make rice powder and stumbled upon Palladio's product.  Wait until you see the price!!  I've had it for months and months now and it's not even half empty.  (the lid doesn't stay on well, so I use a rubber band when traveling and just toss the included sponge)

$5.49 at Sally's Beauty (or Ulta)

I've tried several of these products from Sephora and paid nice amounts of being Benefit's Erase Paste, which creased like crazy and didn't last throughout the day either.  Finally, I found this product after seeing so many of my favorite YT gurus using it and recommending it.  Maybelline makes several versions of this, so make sure you buy the right one (they have a brightener, which I'll be trying when mine runs out and one in a white bottle that doesn't work the same).  It has a thin consistency, yet works like a charm!  It lasts all day and I only notice very very slight creasing, which is easily fixable by tapping my finger under my eye.  Then, it's gone like that.  The sponge tip makes it super easy to apply and I recently began using a Sonia Kashuk brush to tap it into my undereye area (I'll post it soon in my July favorites).

$7.99 at Target

Jordana FabuBrow Eyebrow Pencil:

I can't tell you how many eyebrow pencils I have tried from the drugstore!  They just go too fast to pay for a nicer brand at Sephora.  Some I have tried from the drugstore have been too waxy, too dark, not pigmented enough, etc.  But I finally found my holy grail!  Jordana is a sister brand to Milani and can only be found at Walgreens or online.  It is perfect in every way and very fact, you'll find several of my drugstore gems are from Jordana and there is a reason why.

$2.99 at Walgreens

Wet 'n' Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Pallettes:

There is no other drugstore eyeshadow like Wet 'n' Wild!!  Not only are they inexpensive, but they are also buttery (so similar to the expensive Urban Decay my Naked palette) and are extremely pigmented.  They have a fantastic selection as well.  I have a hard time choosing between some of the 3-pan and 8-pan palettes that I own.  But I can say my favorite 8-pan is Petal Pusher (all purple shades, seen below) and my favorite 3-pan is Silent Treatment.  You cannot go wrong with any of the Color Icon shadows and even if they do go wrong, since you didn't break the bank to buy them, it's not a big deal!  Quite a few of their eyeshadows are perfect dupes for many MAC and Urban Decay shades as well.

$4.99 at Target

Jordana FabuLiner Liquid Liner:

I told you I was a HUGE Jordana fan!  This by far is my favorite product by them and it works as well if not better than many of those liquid liners (felt tip marker style) found at Sephora or other drugstore brands.  The price is extremely right and it is insanely easy to use.  One thing you will find with this eyeliner is it is pigmented and very black.  I also have it in brown, but it comes out as a dark brown almost black.  I tend to pull that one out in the fall and winter when I wear more gold or bronze eye looks.  You will notice it seems to start drying out a little, but if you buy a 2nd liner and use that one while you put the old one away...when you come back to the old one, it comes back to life.  I have had this drying out issue with other liquid liners I have used as well, so this isn't a cheap Jordana issue. I am OBSESSED with FabuLiner and I think you should be too.

$1.99 at Walgreens

Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara:

Mascara is another makeup item I have tried repeatedly with different brands, types, hypes, etc.  For awhile, I was one of those Covergirl Lash Blast fans and still like my Covergirl Lash Perfection (gray tube) for my bottom lashes.  I even used Benefit's They're Real and Laura Mercier Full Blown Lash...all for a painful $20+ pricetag.  After going through tests of some other drugstore brands and hypes, I stumbled upon this one by Jordana, on a whim.  I will NEVER NEVER NEVER turn back from this one!  It is not as well made, so it lacks that bit that wipes off the excess formula as you pull the brush out.  You just have to be careful when you are applying and be light-handed or it will be extremely clumpy and create spider lashes.  I hate that!  But I also found after about a month, the formula thickened and I do not have to be as careful.  I am willing to look past this, since I paid such a small price for it.  The stuff adds crazy volume and even length to my lashes in a natural way.  This is my holy grail!!

$2.99 at Walgreens

Wet 'n' Wild Color Icon Blush:

Alongside Jordana, Wet 'n' Wild definitely holds my drugstore makeup heart.  Their blushes are just as fantastic as their eyeshadows  They are very pigmented, long-lasting, and inexpensive!  My favorite out of the 3 they make is most definitely Pearlescent Pink.  I do own all of them though. Not only is it a subtle color that adds a lovely flush to my cheeks, but it is an exact dupe of the famous and well-loved NARS Orgasm blush. Unfortunately, I've never been able to splurge for that blush because I don't want to...especially since I have a blush that is just as great with that same pink with gold shimmer!  Um...heller!!

$2.99 at Target

Wet 'n' Wild Bronzer in Ticket to Brazil:

After using the popular NYC Sunny bronzer for over a year, I switched because it wasn't pigmented enough for me.  I am so glad I switched to Wet 'n' Wild's Ticket to Brazil!  It is way more pigmented and goes on smoother as well.  I have to be careful and not get too heavy-handed with it.  The compact is gigantic and will last me a long time.  It does have a slight shimmer to it, which I never like in bronzers, but it is subtle and I don't even notice it when I have it on.

$3.99 at Walgreens or Target

Maybelline Vivid Lipsticks:

OMG, these are my all-time favorite lipsticks and I own 6 shades!  When these first came out, I was a little afraid to rock them out in public.  But they are so fun to wear and flattering, that I could care less if people stare or judge me.  After buying one shade at first...Shocking Coral, I immediately bought two more...Vibrant Mandarin and On Fire Red.  When I couldn't get enough of wearing those three, I grabbed up Vivid Rose...a shade I NEVER thought I'd wear.  Next thing you know, I bought Hot Plum and Brazen Berry...both are purple shades.  Me?  Wear purple lipstick?  Whaaaaaa?!  Yes!  I love every single tube of my Vivid lipsticks.  They are buttery, long-wearing, smell yummy, and are oh so pigmented.  Even when I scrub my lips with makeup remover, I sometimes wake up with lips that are tinted.  Who also couldn't love the vivid orange lipstick tubes?

$5.54 at Target
So...those are my many drugstore gems that I love and covet.  I do have many high end products I use as well (and I'll do a gems post for them too), but for the most part, I am a drugstore makeup user all the way.

What are your drugstore gems and why?  Share away!  Or if you are a high end makeup user, what kind of drugstore items would you like to try?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Currently || Back to School Already?!

Seriously?!  It's already a new month...and of course, August means going back to work and back to school.  Teachers officially reported back yesterday in my district here in Arizona and our students start next Wednesday.  

These last 4 days have been completely full of meetings and trainings without any time to be in my classroom at all.  But I'm ready to get back in to my routine, meet my new students, and get this 2013-2014 party started.  My to-do list is still forever long even though I've crossed off so many items in this last month.  The life of a teacher...a never ending to-do list.  Never ending.

If you are not from Arizona (or even India really) or have never lived here in the summertime, you probably don't know what monsoon season is or what it is really like.  Here, when the dew point gets up to 55 degrees for 5 days straight, the monsoon season basically arrives.  That means gigantic dust storms (think The Mummy)...let me help you visualize:
courtesy of The Mummy
But the dust storms here are much worse and at least another mile higher.  They travel at super high speeds and knock down power lines, tear roofs off houses, split trees, and are horrible to get stuck in. We have to pull over if we are on the road or freeway...and forget running the air conditioner while you sit roasting in your 100 degree car, unless you want to get a lungful of dust (even if you have the outside air turned off).

The upside is we also have crazy rainstorms with microbursts.  Remember the scene in Forrest Gump when he is describing the different kinds of rain when he was in Vietnam?  Well, we tend to get the sideways rain the most.  It pounds down and causes flash floods.  We love it the most when we get to watch the electric storms and listen to the thunder pounding though.  It happens almost nightly for about 2 months.

I got an email that I had won a copy of a T.R. Ragan book...but it is the 3rd in a series.  Since I haven't read the first two books, I started reading the first one called Abducted.  It's about a woman who was abducted by a serial killer but was his only victim to actually escape.  The book takes off about 14 years or so later as she receives a mysterious note that is most likely from her abductor, who seems to have come back from the dead . It is sooooooo good!  And?  It was only $2.99 for Kindle!  Stay tuned for my next What I Read Wednesday when I put up my review and a more detailed summary of it.

Like I already said, my first day of school is next Wednesday and Meet the Teacher Night is the night before.  I'm hoping to have a fantastic turn-out as I have had in the past so I can meet as many of my 31 students as possible.  It is always a little awkward having to meet the families for the first time because everyone, including me, get a wave of shyness.  But I also love being able to meet them and get a view into what my year will be like.  This year I hope to make stronger connections with the parents to improve our communication throughout the year.

I cannot wait to do my annual first day of school outfit shopping with my bestie, Beth!!  We have done it the past 4 years or so.  It's like being a kid again.  And that's exactly what I am, a little kid at heart. This is what I bought and wore last year for my first day of school.  Here's hoping I score a super cute dress from The Limited, Dillards, or Nordstrom Rack...that is my goal!!

Skirt and top from Forever 21 and my heels are from Dillard's...all bought last summer
I have been working on my to-do list for what seems like all summer long.  No matter how many things I cross off, my list seems to stay just as full as it was at the beginning of the summer.  Sigh.

B2S Must-Haves:
It was hard to only include one TPT item for my Back-to-School must haves.
1)  But one I'm really looking forward to using, and believe me, there are quite a this awesome bundle set that I bought from Teaching in Room 6.

2)  Looking forward to using this in my classroom to better help my students master their multiplication (and eventually their division) facts.  Laura Candler is amazing and I took a free webinar a couple weeks ago.  This item makes me excited to get my kids feeling confident!

3)  Of course, I had to go into Pinterest to look for one of the pins on that looooooong to-do list I mentioned earlier.  This is an item I have seen in other classrooms and keep wanting to put in mine.  I think this new school year is the perfect time to do so.  My class and I always seem to embrace these things, but this sign puts it out there right away and lets them know what their 5th grade journey will be like from the get-go.

I'm joining up with Oh Boy Fourth Grade's monthly linky party for the first time this month.  Here's the button and a link to her Currently post in case you'd like to join up with us.

Currently Linky Party