S is for September and Setting Goals

spetember goals

 

As I write this post, I’ve got to wonder if anyone really cares about my personal goals for this month (?). Oh well. It’s about time I set some real, measurable ones– none of the abstract, “be more organized” kind of goals I set for myself work-wise this semester. I mean some real, pass or fail kind of goals, the kind that I normally wouldn’t advertise to the world because part of me knows there’s a good chance I won’t accomplish them. Well guess what: I’m putting them out there for everyone to judge if I fail.

So in September, I will:

  • Take the 30 Day Yoga challenge. I’ve been wanting to add more yoga into my life, but I always feel like, ehh, if it isn’t at least 40 minutes of yoga, there’s no point. But 10 minutes of yoga is better than no minutes of yoga.
  • Lose 5 pounds. So I had not weighed myself in over a year, and it turns out I have gained about 10 pounds since last year. I want to say that some of it is muscle (and maybe a few pounds are!) but my tight jeans tell me it’s real. And last year I wanted to lose 10 pounds, so that brings the ultimate goal to 20 pounds. I’m in no big rush– 5 pounds a month might not be a lot to most people, but I don’t lose weight without putting in a real fight. Don’t worry; there won’t be cringe-worthy before/after bikini shots. Just healthy recipes I share along the way.
  • Get around to finishing The Arabian Nights. I’ll be honest, I got bored with it. But damn it, I will finish you, book! (I’ll also be reading a lot of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, since I assigned many of the stories to my students.
  • Be consistent with Khaleesi’s training. She has her first puppy class coming up on Sunday, and she needs me to be consistent.
  • And not cry when she gets spayed later this month. (my poor baby….!)

All do-able, right?

(Linked with Weekly Wishes)

Harassment: Don’t Do It.

I’ll admit it: I’m a big ol’ raging feminist. And sometimes, the internet can be a sucky place for anyone who cares at all about the plight of women. But other times, it can be downright awesome.

So today I am going to let others do the talking for me and share some of the most rational, thoughtful, and accurate offerings I’ve seen on the internet lately:

Like this one is from Playboy:

Or this awesome explanation from Robot Hugs:

Because remember: men can be feminists too.

Surviving My First Cauldron

You might recall that a few months ago, I wrote about how I began training in Krav Maga, and what a game changer it has been for me. Well, very recently I reached an important milestone: my first belt test.

My testing partner and me.

My testing partner and me.

Yes, most martial arts have belt tests, and yes, they are often difficult, but then there are Krav Maga belt tests, and they are on a different level. You have to understand that my group’s testing was actually easier than most because we were pretty on point, which meant fewer punishments, which meant the test was only 4 hours long.

Let me explain more: one thing that makes Krav Maga different from most other fighting/ defense systems is that it focuses on training you to perform even in undesirable conditions. Sure, an MMA fighter can get all amped and kick some ass during a scheduled fight in a cage with referees, but real fights, the ones where your life depends on it, don’t happen when there is a referee around. They don’t happen when you’re limbered up and mentally ready to fight. They happen when it’s late at night and you’re alone in a parking lot. Because of this, Krav Maga testing means that you are pushed to your physical limits and made to defend yourself when you’re utterly exhausted.

A typical test consists of what they call “the cauldron,” which means that for much of the test time you are made to drop and do burpees, get up and sprint around the parking lot, punch bags at flurry speed, kick non-stop for several minutes, and whatever other exercises and drills an instructor shouts at you until you are ready to drop.  If you slow down in getting up, the group is punished with more push ups. Then you have to perform exercises where you defend yourself; our yellow belt test consisted of us having to defend from chokes and bear hugs, for example.

After the test, there was almost a full week before the belt ceremony, when testers know that they could always receive a phone call letting them know they did not pass. Everyone in my testing group anxiously cringed any time the phone rang that week. But as you can guess from the picture above, I passed and earned my yellow belt. I passed with bloody knuckles and a bruised cheekbone, and I only threw up one and a half times (The half time was a close call, but nothing really came up).

And now it only gets harder. Orange belt, I’m coming after you!

New Year, New…Me?

It’s another first day of school. I’ll admit; even at age 33, I still get a nervous excitement with the first day of school. I mean, I hope they like me! (But not really. I’ve stopped caring too much about whether students like me or not, and started caring more about, you know, being good at what I do.)

blue stitch fix dress

This pic is a few months old, but also what I am wearing today, so there’s that.

Even though I’d rather have a few more weeks of lounging around in pajamas and binge watching tv, I often think of the beginning of the fall semester as the beginning of the new year, and even make my own new school resolutions. Here’s what I plan to focus on this year:

  • Being more organized. I am going to be the spreadsheet queen this time, instead of keeping scribbles in an old school grade book until the last minute. I’m going to actually have a system for filing handouts, too!
  • Keeping class discussions rolling longer. I’ve never really liked calling on random students when no one is speaking up in class, but I plan to try it occasionally just to keep students on their toes. I still respect that students may be shy or taking time to formulate ideas so I don’t plan to be too pushy, but pushy enough to keep students engaged (and off their phones).
  • Managing my time better so that I can be more available as a mentor to writing center tutors.
  • Managing my time better means planning blog posts in advance so that I am not using grading time to write posts or take pictures.
  • Which also means keeping up with regular training for Krav Maga– I want to get that next belt in November (I’ll explain more about this soon, I promise!)
  • Keeping paper clips in a pencil case. I know that sounds silly, but paper clips take over my teaching bag like whoa. It goes back to the organization thing, but I want to keep my bag clean and organized, and paper clips accessible, because I use so. many. paperclips. Just think: 85 students, 4 essays each. Each essay is a paperclipped packet. I end up with piles of loose clips in my bag every semester, but damn it, this year they are going in their own little pouch.

What about you– any career new-ish year resolutions? How do you get excited for a new school year?

Under the Table and Dreaming

You know how the music you liked as a teenager was just better than the music today? There’s actually some science behind that; this article from Salon is a really interesting explanation of why that is.

For me, I always have a soft spot for Dave Matthews Band. I was obsessed, obsessed I tell you, with them in high school. I even got to go to see Dave perform for a couple dozen people at a local radio station when I was 17, and it was at that time the best day of my life. I still smile any time I hear a DMB song.

SO. Imagine my excitement when I discovered Dreaming Tree Wines. DMB fans, you might already see where this is going: a collaboration between Dave Matthews and wine maker Steve Reeder for some soulful, joyful wines that make you want to dance and sing.

dreaming tree wine

 

I’ll admit I was a little nervous about trying their wine; I can be a bit of a wine snob, and if I didn’t like it I would be so, so disappointed. More disappointed than  when their Irvine concert selling out when I was 18, even.

Spoiler alert: it’s good. Quite good, actually. If it was just okay I’d probably still be excited because of the nostalgia factor, but I say without hesitation that I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Cabernets from the Alexander Valley are some of my favorites since they tend to not be as tannic as the big Napa cabs, and this one had a nice cocoa finish that I really liked. It was an easy drinking wine, but it has enough body to it that it could easily be paired up to a hearty steak. I personally would pair it with lamb– looking at their website, I see I hit the mark since that is what they suggested too.

(Dreaming Tree Wines’ website offers some great recipes for pairing with their wines too, so you can easily impress your date or your friends.)

I was already jazzed about this wine, and then I discovered that they also take sustainability seriously. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have noticed that sustainability is something I take seriously. When I read about their recycled materials and lighter bottles, well, let’s just say it was like being at a concert when DMB busts out a 12 minute jam session during one of your favorite songs.

(Dislosure: I was gifted a bottle from Dreaming Tree Wines to try it out. We drank it last night, and I am stopping by Ralph’s to pick up a few more bottles today because I really mean what I said above.)

Confessions

A friend of mine has a video compilation of her one and a half year old bouncing and grooving to Usher’s “Confessions,” on many occasions. Apparently that’s the kid’s jam, and so now that I am writing a post about confessions, I’m imagining a toddler doing a little butt bounce and clapping his hands to These are my confessions. You just have to take my word for it that it’s pretty epic.

Anyway, it has been a minute since I linked up with Kathy’s Humpday Confessions, so here goes…

confessions

Classes begin next week, and I still haven’t gotten around to reading all of what I am assigning my students to read this semester. Oops.

I’m also not sure that I am going to fit into pants any time soon. Thank you for late Southern California summers, because I don’t think I can fit into anything other than skirts and dresses for a few more weeks.

That’s partly because I tasted Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Ice Cream. Just a taste I told myself. It got ugly after that.

2014-08-08 16.23.44I regret nothing.

I’m getting really sick of this ALS ice water bucket challenge. I get it, it raises money and awareness for ALS and it’s raised a lot of money, and it’s great. I’m just tired of my Facebook feed being clogged with videos of people dumping ice water over themselves. Also, in California, the drought is kind of a big problem. Just pony up the $100 and save water.

I am also nervous about the ways the drought is going to affect things; not just the obvious things like shorter showers and unflushed toilets, but the important things, like the price of wine.

(And produce, meat, pretty much everything. Haters gonna hate, but most of the things you love come from California).

Remember that cat we adopted last month, the one that we thought ran away but was just hiding? Well, she did run away. She never really gave us a chance. She ate the food we left out for her one more night, and then took off. We’re probably going to go adopt another black cat that looks just like her from the shelter, just to save face. Except that our cover is blown to anyone who reads here. I’m okay with that because I am a terrible liar. And I feel really bad for the kitty.

(Tips on introducing a rescue cat to a 5 month old puppy would be greatly appreciated. We know now to start her off in a smaller room than our living room, at the very least.)

I don’t particularly care about Taylor Swift, but all of the uproar over her video makes me feel like the SJW’s (Social Justice Warriors) have their panties in a bunch over nothing. There are plenty of social justice issues to be upset about them right now, and Taylor Swift showing how she cannot twerk is not one of them. But I don’t know, am I missing something? What do you think of the video?

(BTW, it’s catchy as hell and I hate it for that.)

Vodka and Soda

 

The Surreal Desert

One of the great things about Joshua Tree is that aside from its own natural beauty, there is a thriving community of eclectic and eccentric artists that give the place a character of its own. Probably the most famous and most interesting site to visit in Joshua Tree is the Noah Purifoy museum.

Purifoy museum 22

 

purifoy museum 12

 

Purifoy is more famously known for the Watts Towers, but if you take a series of dirt roads off of highway 62 to one of the High Desert Test Sites (Ominous sounding, I know!) you will find this one of a kind outdoor museum.

purifoy museum 17 purifoy museum Purifoy museum 21 Purifoy museum 20 purifoy museum 18 purifoy museum 16

Standing proudly among the Joshua and Cholla trees are some of his most impressive assemblage sculptures, all made from discarded materials, all weathered from the harsh desert conditions.

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As you wander through, you imagine you’ve stumbled into some sort of post apocalyptic city, or have somehow stumbled into a surrealist painting. The isolation of the location and the punishing sun make you feel as though you’ve some how crossed into a new dimension, a new world where bicycle wheels and toilet seats are worshiped.

purifoy museum 5 purifoy museum 4 purifoy museum 3 purifoy museum 2

Khaleesi especially found the museum inspiring, as she’s made plenty of her own garbage assemblages since we’ve come home.

Purifoy museum 19 khaleesi

If you find yourself in Joshua Tree, it is definitely worth venturing off the highway to go exploring. You can find directions here. 

(Linking up with Travel Tuesday)

A Desert Getaway

It’s rare for C and I to have a few days off at the same time. It’s even more rare that we have that time off (unplanned!) during the best nights for viewing the year’s best meteor shower. We took this as a sign and quickly booked a cabin through Air BnB, packed up the car, and headed out to one of our favorite places– Joshua Tree.

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Sure it’s hot as balls in the middle of the desert in the middle of August, but the beauty of Joshua Tree makes it all worth it.

joshua tree 0814

For our first night, we booked the most charming homestead cabin I have ever seen. It was a cozy, one room space with a kitchenette, bathroom, and pull out bed– really all you need. The property was huge and pretty remote; there were neighbors down the dirt road in similar cabins, but they were far enough away that it felt as though we had the desert to ourselves.

Once the moon rose and the stars came out to play, C and I opened a bottle of wine, set up some reclining chairs, and stretched out in the warm desert breeze, watching the sky. We saw plenty of meteors streak across the night sky, enough that me whispering “the more you know…” each time started to get old. This year’s moon was extra bright, and so by the time 12:30 rolled around, the sky was too bright to see as many meteors. We tucked into bed just as the wild coyotes in the distance yipped and howled at the glowing sky (which Khaleesi found quite distressing).

The next morning I woke with the sun, and as C slept in, I got to enjoy a couple hours of the still-cool sunny morning in solitude.

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joshua tree 0814 1

I slipped back inside as it warmed up, equally happy to enjoy the cabin. I have to tell you, I really fell in love with this place.

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"I like it here, Mom."

“I like it here, Mom.”

C and I are even considering buying property in Joshua Tree as a vacation home and putting it up on Air BnB the rest of the time. Given how slowly we’ve moved with our own home, I don’t expect that this will happen too soon, but I am so in love with the idea of having my own sweet escape in the desert.

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Until then, Joshua Tree is only a 2 hour drive away. See you soon, desert!

For the Home: How to Choose a Fireplace

As you may remember, C and I are planning to remodel this house. It’s been about a year since we’ve first put things in to motion, but we’re still nowhere near any level of completion. In fact, the back two rooms downstairs are completely sectioned off with a baby gate (for the dog) because we’ve started the demolition, but we still haven’t gotten the plans approved or looked for a contractor. Baby steps, baby steps.

Anyway, one of the exciting things about this remodel is getting the two fireplaces back in working order. One is completely covered with dry wall, the other in the back room that has been used for storage. Restoring and remodeling them is probably the project I am most excited for (after the new closet, of course).

C really wants to add one like this to the house, too. We’ll see…

So today I have Liam sharing with you some ideas for adding a fireplace to your home. I never really thought about the possibility of adding a fireplace, but you totally can. I’ll let Liam explain more:

A fireplace is both a functional and decorative feature. It can brighten up your home by creating a focal point in a living room or the entire house. Fireplaces radiate warmth and give people a sense of home. This feature was traditionally used as the sole source of heat in a home but this has changed over the years and most houses now have heating systems installed. However, you can use your fireplace as an alternative source of heat when there is no mains power especially during storms.


There are three main fireplace options that you can choose from when you want to brighten up a house including electric, gas, and wood fireplaces. The option you choose will depend on your preferences and house design.


Electric Fireplace
This is one an affordable fireplace option. Electric fireplaces are usually portable, allowing you to move them to any room in the house. This is an ideal choice if you have limited space in your home. It will still offer the aesthetic appeal and warmth you get with traditional fireplaces. You can buy one off the suppliers of modern stoves to brighten and warm up your space.



Wood Fireplace
If you prefer a traditional fireplace, wood is an ideal choice. A wood fireplace allows you to enjoy the smell and sound of wood as it burns. You have to construct a big chimney in your home to accommodate this type of fireplace. This can be an expensive option because you have to create a hole in your house to fit the fireplace and lay additional foundation to support the chimney. For a cost effective solution, you can purchased a manufactured fireplace. This kind of fireplace is made of insulated steel. The box is installed on your floor and it usually comes with chimney sections that you can easily screw together.



It is advisable to install fire resistant material in front of the fireplace to prevent fire hazards. Slate and ceramic tiles are a great choice for this area. You can also install a mantle to cover the fireplace opening. The mantle allows you to display some of your favourite pictures and art pieces. Adding a mantle is one of the best ways to make your fireplace the focal point in the room.


Gas Fireplace
If you want something modern and more convenient, a gas fireplace is ideal. It is easier to install and cheaper compared to a wood fireplace. Another advantage is that you can install this type of fireplace in any part of the house. Most of the gas fireplaces come with sealed doors and you can get one that is specifically designed for bedrooms. Gas fireplaces can be installed on any exterior wall. It is important to have an efficient vent to direct the gas outside the house.



A fireplace can add some glamour and style to your home. It can also create a warm feeling. If you intend to sell your house in future, adding a fireplace is one of the best ways to add value to your property. You can choose a gas, electric or wood fireplace to suit your preferences and room needs.

 

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