Saturday, March 31, 2012

Where I Come Shuffling Back to Blogging.

I feel refreshed after a week away from blogging obligations and thirteen hours of sleep last night. I needed the time away, and while I'm not 100% ready to throw myself back into the fray of blogging, tomorrow is April 1-the beginning of my month-long sprint to read Samuel Richardson's Clarissa. I had planned on staying away for another week, to finish collecting my thoughts and ideas for how to transform my little space on the internet, but because of the Clarissa event, I wanted to at least say that hey, I'm here and you're going to see posts from me again.

Like I said, there were a few reasons for my absence. Mainly, I felt (and still feel) like the book-blogging world has taken some nasty turns. I try very hard not to feed into anything that I see online-the controversies, the arguments, etc. But I do. I think there is a part of all of us that calls us to pay attention to drama. We love it.

But I have to find a way to separate what I see online to what I do here. When I began this place, I had no idea the book blogging community existed. I stumbled into it and was excited to find other people blogging about their reading. I didn't even stumble across any other classics-heavy blogs until 6 months in my project. I had no idea that my project would be appealing to anyone other than myself (and a couple members of my family who have read it from the beginning).

I have closely aligned myself with the book blogging world since I first started reading some other book blogs in those early days. But I never intended to have that label. I don't think I really write "reviews" as many book blogs do. Instead, I try to chronicle my experiences as I read. This whole things started because I wanted to become a better teacher. Some part of myself believed that if I started to really educate myself with great literature, that would somehow transfer over into the classroom. That it would allow me to be a better teacher-to help kids in more ways because I had been exposed to more facets of humanity.

Maybe I was only wishing. And maybe, I really only started this place because I was so tired of feeling unneeded and unwanted. In the 2 1/2 years since I wrote my first post, I have grown a lot. I don't think I knew where starting this place would bring me. I don't think I expected the pressure of keeping this place up, or of having the draw to host events, participate in challenges, and having a voice online in the way people see old, dusty books.

But I do feel this blog has become more than what I thought it would, and in the last six months or so, I have struggled to see how it still fits into what I intended it to be. Yes, I still focus on talking about my reading experience. Yes, I still am yearning for a permanent placement in a school, so I can finally transfer all of this knowledge to my own students (that is not to say anything against the last three placements I've had. All of those kids were "my" kids, but it wasn't my classroom if you know what I mean). I am still looking for ways to express myself and show the world what I am made of. This place was easy to start-no one knew who I was or what I wanted-and I was determined to make my own little mark on the world...much like the writers I have come to love.

I know I'm not there yet. I still have a long way to go until I am happy with myself and this place.

I'm not sure what changes I'll make in the future, but I can't go on with this feeling of pressure from outside sources. I didn't start this with the intentions of feeling obligated to others, and I don't intend to let that feeling continue. As I mull over what I want to do, however, I am going to continue posting and talking about my reading. That is why I started and why I will still continue.

As for the posts on my teaching, I am hesitant to share what I am doing. After I posted about my "Arena" Game for the teaching of The Hunger Games to my lower-level elective class, I had some nasty e-mails. And when I take that into account along with some snide comments about my discussions of what my other classes are up to...I don't know if I am willing to share that anymore. My kids are off limits. They are all wonderful, and their enthusiasm as we read, and as they adjusted to having me as their teacher, is all the positive reinforcement I need in my life in regards to my teaching. I don't post about it to feel validated, but because I want to share my passion. That was ruined for me last week.

Well, this is far longer than I wanted it to be...because I really meant to say is that I am back. It feels good to be typing this into draft form and knowing it will soon be live online. I missed you guys, and I cannot wait to share more of my thoughts on reading with you.

Please let me know if there is a post I missed this week. My reader looks scary, so I'll probably mark it as "all read." I just don't want to miss anything!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I'm not quite ready to jump back into blogging. I'm rather enjoying the freedom of being away from the internet and the heavy focus on writing and discussing literature. Don't get me wrong, I miss it, but I also love this time away. I've gotten over my anger. It has turned into a general sense of disappointment in people. I will never understand the need to put someone down instead of lifting them up. That is a lesson I stress to my students, so I am always saddened to see adults who don't know better.

I just wanted to write and say thank you, for being caring enough to understand why I needed to step back for a little bit. I have been writing about my own literary journey for going on 3 years now and sometimes I don't remember who I was before books became an even larger focus in my life. And a small part of me likes the freedom of being away-of not feeling obligated to post something. But, I won't stay away forever. I'll be back in another week or so, with lots to say, I'm sure. :)

We all just need a break every once in awhile, some time to mull things over, and to make decisions. I've been doing all of that, and I think that when I do start posting again, I will feel happy and re-energized about my project and my goals for the future.

Until then, take care.

And happy reading.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Taking a Break.

I was really trying to avoid writing this post, or thinking about this as a possibility.

But I really need a break.

I have been feeling very overwhelmed with obligations. And I have been feeling really angry about some of the behavior I have seen online in the blogging community recently. Perhaps I am entirely too sensitive about some of the things I've seen.

But it is hard to come home after working with struggling kids all day to see grown adults bickering and picking stupid fights online. On blogs. My students don't act that way. And they might have a reason to. Some of the kids I am teaching this semester need a lot of help. They've been told that they're stupid, that they're not going anywhere, and that even by trying as hard as they can, they'll never be a good student. I struggle with them every day to build up their esteem and give them encouragement to keep reading, keep trying. And for some of them, this is the first time they've had an adult cheer them on. For some of them, this is the first time they are understanding a book in an English class.

The last thing I want to see when I come home from school are adults, bloggers, nit-picking posts, judging the merits of projects and challenges, spewing filth and anger on their blogs that is directed at another group, or leaving a nasty comment on a blogger's post who is only trying to do good things for the community. I am also sick of getting judgmental e-mails in my inbox about what I choose to share here. Because really, no one has a right to judge what I do. This space is for me, and for me alone. My goal has always been to talk about why I love literature, not to cater to the needs of self-righteous individuals who need to feel validated by putting others down.

And honestly, I don't care if this post makes you want to stop reading any future posts by me. Good. Stop following my feed. I never started this place for you, and I will never bow down to make sure I fit in the box I am "supposed" to fit in.

The last thing I want to do is feel like I am giving the negativity excess attention, but I can't hold my tongue anymore.

I'm stepping away for a week or two. I'll see you when I come back.

If you need to, get in touch with me on twitter or email me (on my profile page).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book 140: A Journey to the Center of the Earth and Book Stats.

Title: A Journey to the Center of the Earth
Author: Jules Verne (1828-1905)

First Published: 1864
My Edition: Signet Classic (seen at left. This is a super boring cover)
Pages: 300

Other Works Include: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, The Mysterious Island, From the Earth to the Moon, Paris in the Twentieth Century, In Search of the Castaways, The Green Ray

I really enjoyed Verne with my read of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea this past summer, so I am looking forward to this next encounter. I always had this image of Verne being a stuffy old guy, but after reading one of his novels, I know that isn't true.

I have to really admire Verne and what he accomplished in his lifetime. I mean, this book was published in 1864...did they think he was crazy based on all this science-fiction? I might have, if I lived back then. I was blown away by how modern Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was, so I hope that the same feeling comes through in his older title.

This is the last Verne title on my original 250 list, but I tacked a few more onto my Classics Club list for the future. :) I know I am going to want more by him!

If you want to see my post on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, you can find my post by clicking here.

How do you all feel about Verne? Has anyone seen the film adaptations of his novels (I seem to remember hearing they were horrid, which breaks my heart!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR List.

It's Tuesday! And that means it is Top Ten Tuesday, a lovely meme hosted by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish where bloggers count down their top ten in the week's given category.

I have been excited about this topic since January, since I have some wonderful books planned for this Spring. You might laugh at that, but my reading for the first three months of the year has been planned out! I can't wait to dive into some of these titles!

Without further adieu, here are the ten titles I am most looking forward to this Spring. They are in no particular order, except for the first one. :)

  1. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson: I am starting this one in April with a few other bloggers. I think we have been planning our little readalong since October or November. We're going to try and tackle this one in a month, and since it is one of the longest novels in the English language (almost 1 million words), this will be a huge challenge. I think it is perfectly doable since I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand at 650,000 words in one week last year. What's 400,000 more? ;) You are more than welcome to join in! (Here is the sign-up post)
  2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: This is a book I have been avoiding for quite some time, but I am excited to finally read it. I pulled it off the shelf and put it on my nightstand a few nights ago, so hopefully I get to this one sooner rather than later.
  3. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: The 3rd book I read for my project was by Forster, and I absolutely adored it (A Room with a View). I actually had a hard time finding a copy of this one, but finally grabbed one last fall. Like Heller's book, this one has been added to the nightstand.
  4. Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy: I have read two books by Hardy for my project so far, and I have loved both of them (The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure). Amanda has claimed this one to be her favorite by Hardy, so I can't wait to see what I think of it. I think Hardy has potential to be a new favorite author!
  5. Beloved by Toni Morrison: I'm going to be reading this one to fulfill a challenge, but I'm excited for it. I have had a mixed experience with Morrison-I loved The Bluest Eye, but didn't really care for Sula. I can't wait to read more of her work, and this one is definitely going to be coming up soon.
  6. Native Son by Richard Wright: I have picked this one up numerous times in the last 2 and a half years, but it always goes back on the shelf unread. My interest is peaked, so I am going to give it a try in the near future. I've heard only good things.
  7. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair: Now, this is a book I have REALLY been avoiding...mainly because I like food, and I am worried I won't eat while reading this. But I also think this is a really important title for me to read, especially because it started a food revolution here in the U.S. Has anyone read this?
  8. Common Sense by Thomas Paine: I read this one back in college for a history course, but that was so long ago that it has grown a little fuzzy. But I am excited to pick this one up again and relive all the grievances the early colonists had against the King. :) It's also short, so maybe I will pick it up during the month of Clarissa??
  9. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe: I am curious about this one, especially since I was impressed by Robinson Crusoe, a book I expected to hate. I don't know much more about it-which will hopefully be a good thing!
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: Since I am huge fan of Faulkner, it always surprises people to hear that I haven't read this one. It has also been some time since I've read one of his books and I have 3 left on the list! Better get cracking!
What are you looking forward to reading this spring? Do we have any in common?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book 139: Finished.

“When a man cannot chose, he ceases to be a man.”

This might be one of the first times I've finished a book off my list and don't think I will read it again (at least not for a long time). Sometimes when I read, I know that I will have to read a book again for various reasons. It might be that some passages were unclear, or that I loved it and want to revisit it, or that I feel pulled to it in some way. There are other reasons, of course, and while I was certainly blown away by what was in A Clockwork Orange, I think one read was enough for least for now.

I talked a little bit about it when I wrote about my initial impressions last week, but this novel is insane. On top of the slang, there is also the violence. And while most of it takes place in the first few chapters, there are sentences and other passages later on that bring it back to the forefront of the novel. Usually I can handle violence and gore. On the few occasions that someone has been seriously injured at the park, I can completely handle whatever is in front of me. I can stand watching it in movies. I'm not okay with it, but I can see it and understand.

For some reason, the violence in A Clockwork Orange was a but much for me. I mentioned in my first post that Alex, the narrator, and his friends beat up and gang rape a young woman early on in the novel. That was a difficult scene to read, but Burgess mentions Alex leering at other women and thinking about raping them as well. It turned my stomach quite a few times.

I think the violence is so powerful because of the slang. I mentioned this in both of my earlier posts on the book, but Alex and his friends talk in nadsat, a crazy slang that dominates the novel. The words even sound harsh, so when Alex talks about raping a woman, or beating another person, it comes across even more violent, if possible. It is hard to explain exactly what I mean, but if you have read the novel, I hope you understand.

But, even with all the violence, Burgess has an interesting story, and one that I really some kind of weird way. Alex is finally imprisoned after being held responsible for killing an older woman. While in prison, Alex doesn't seem to change. Instead, the government decides to use a new technique on him to help him avoid violence. Forcing him to sit in a chair, his eyelids pried open, they show him super violent and horrifying movies, accompanied by music. Slowly, he begins to feel sick when seeing the videos and even when he has the tiniest thought of violence. The idea is to force him into making good decisions and making him a positive edition to society. He cannot choose to react by thinking violently without sickness crippling him. He is no longer free to choose his own response.

This is the part of the novel I truly loved, as it focused so much on those kinds of moral dilemmas. If we could reform violent criminals so that they could never have another violent thought, should we? Is it right to manipulate their brains and thought processes so they no longer have that kind of freedom? I like that Burgess brought that kind idea forward as we continued to read about Alex's adjustment to being unable to make decisions as he reentered the world as a free man.

Burgess actually made me sympathize with Alex as he struggles to find his place. Since the movies he watched were full of classical music, he can't listen to anything by Mozart, or Beethoven, or any of the others without feeling sick. Because in addition to suppressing his violent urges, they took away one of the only things that made him truly happy-listening to music and feeling it. I actually had to explain the whole thing to Matt so I wouldn't feel guilty about feeling bad for Alex.

At the end, the government who was responsible for the changes made in Alex is challenged, and he is healed-finally giving him back the power of choice in his own life. I was moved by it, and confused about how I felt. Like I said, I hated Alex at the beginning because of the things he did, but by the end...I felt for him.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to read this again. It was so violent and powerful I don't think it requires a second read. There are passages and bits that I don't think I'll forget, and others I would like to.

“That's what it's going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale. You have been everywhere with your little droog Alex, suffering with him, and you have viddied some of the most grahzny bratchnies old Bog ever made, all on to your old droog Alex. And all it was was that I was young. But now as I end this story, brothers, I am not young, not no longer, oh no. Alex like groweth up, oh yes.

But where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers and the turning young earth and the stars and the old Luna up there and your old droog Alex all on his oddy knocky seeking like a mate. And all that cal. A terrible grahzny vonny world, really, O my brothers. And so farewell from your little droog. And to all others in this story profound shooms of lipmusic brrrrrr. And they can kiss my sharries. But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen. And all that call.”

*Finishing this one means one book down for the Magical March Reading Event!*

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up for March 18, 2012.

I am surrounded by piles of essays on Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (96 to be exact), so I know I will need to cut my blogging time down this morning. While it isn't possible to finish all those essays today, I do need to get through a full class set by Tuesday morning. But after just a few, my mind wanders in a million directions and I see images of Lennie and George everywhere.

School is finally starting to settle into a routine. My body is still adjusting to the sleeping schedule, as well as being a little more intense in my actions each day. After being off work for 3 1/2 months, it is a little tough to be mentally "with" it. I know it is just a phase and once I am used to everything, it'll be fine. I'm sure that transition will be this week. It also didn't help that in my first two weeks we had conferences twice, as well as all the state testing. Another teacher said that the weather is throwing everyone off. We've had a week of 60 and 70 degree weather, making it feel like May. It has made the teachers and students anxious...even though we have months of school left. :)

In my classes, I did a project all week with my junior English class on Night. It was a preparatory step for their essay they are starting tomorrow, so I hope it helped them think about theme. My sophomores spent the first three days of the week revising their essays. THAT was a fun experience. I met with each of them for a few minutes to talk about some of their issues, so I HOPE that this pile of essays are improved from what I saw.

And my elective class started the unit on The Hunger Games. We read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" as a way to get into the idea of utopia vs. dystopia. They really liked the creepiness of the story, so that was good. We also spent a day discussing the background of the novel-setting, main characters, etc. as a way to get them used to some of the ides. We started it on Monday and they have to have part 1 finished by tomorrow's class, as they have a quiz. They're enjoying it so far. I have a few who are hesitant about it, but I think my own excitement about teaching it is inspiring them at least a little. We also started the game I created on Friday, so I will make sure to share a bit more about it later this week.

So, with all that school stuff going on, I haven't had much time for reading OR blogging. I think I logged into blogspot twice all week because I simply didn't have time. Now that things are calming down, I'm going to reinforce the idea of having balance to get back into blogging and reading on my own on a regular basis. That being said, if you have an awesome post from this past week, please link it for me below so I make sure to go visit. My reader is a little insane with the number of posts to read!

I did manage to finish A Clockwork Orange on Friday night (my thoughts will be up tomorrow), and I started Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth yesterday morning. I'm really liking it, but I figured I would since I loved 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea so darn much. I've set aside Nicholas Nickleby for a couple months. I don't have the focus to get back into it, so I think picking it back up in May or June is a better idea.

Lastly, I announced two big events taking place. One, the Clarissa readalong, it coming up rather soon. If you missed the post, you can read it here. Basically, Jillian, Adam, and myself are going to try reading the entire novel in the month of April (thus why I am putting off the Dickens title). We have a few other people who might be joining in as well.

The other big event is "A Victorian Celebration," taking place in June and July. I know it was early to announce, but I was a bit excited about it, so I wanted to spring it on everyone early. :) I have great plans for stuff during the event, as well as some prizes, etc. There is no minimum number of books to read for it, so if you are thinking of tackling a Bronte, or Trollope, or Collins, that is the time to do it!

I am also joining in on an event hosted by O at Delaisse. We e-mailed a bit over the last week or so, and she announced this week a readathon of Joyce's Ulysses this Bloomsday (June 16). She is far more eloquent than I could hope to be in her explanation of the event, so traipse over to her blog if you are curious about the event. Basically we will be attempting to read all of Ulysses that day in celebration of Joyce.

This week my plans are merely to finish the Verne title, as well as starting one of the other novels I had selected for Adam's Magical March Event. I'm leaning towards the Wells, simply because I haven't read something by him in a long time, but I might change my mind. ;)

Happy reading everyone!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Victorian Celebration Sign-up Post!

Welcome to the sign-up post for A Victorian Celebration, an event taking place this June and July! I'm really excited about this event, especially because I have been planning it for months. The Victorians are very near and dear to my heart. Some of my very favorite writers come from the era, and I still have many others to discover. During the months of June and July, I'm only going to be reading titles from this time period. I hope you'll decide to join me for a text or two.

The Victorian era in literature refers to the time that Queen Victoria was ruling in Britain (1837-1901). It was a time period of great peace and prosperity for Britain and allowed for a lot of artistic and literary expression. Generally speaking, Victorians are only the British authors who published during this time period. However, some like to group American writers and others into the mix since their work can be closely tied together.

To give you an idea of what writers I am talking about, some of the most well-known Victorian writers include: Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, and the Bronte sisters. Others include Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Anna Sewell, and the Brownings. There are countless more, but these are the big hitters and those most commonly referred to as Victorians.

For this event, the goal is to read as many Victorian pieces as you wish during the months of June and July. I will have posts going up throughout the event on different authors, as well as my own reviews on Victorian pieces and biographies of writers. There will also be prizes (lots of them) that will go up throughout the two month event. If you are going to participate, you can read a novel from the era, a biography on a writer or Queen Victoria herself, or anything else pertaining to the era. All posts will help you qualify for prizes, which I'll explain as we get closer to the event's starting line!

(Important: I will allow you to read books by non-British writers if they were written during the time period of the Victorians, but for certain prizes those books won't count-more on that as the starting date appears).

To sign up, all you need to do is comment below with your intentions. :) Then, feel free to grab a button, spread the word, and help me get bloggers signed up. Events like this are more fun with more participants!

If you sign up by May 1, 2012, you will be entered to win YOUR CHOICE of the following (Victorian) Penguin Clothbound books:
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  •  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
You can still sign up after May 1, but you won't be entered to win one of those titles (don't worry, plenty more prizes during the event!). The book will be shipped via The Book Depository, so as long as they deliver to your country, you will qualify to win the sign-up prize!

I hope you'll consider joining, and I look forward to lots of reading come June and July!

*I am looking for bloggers interested in writing guest posts or hosting a giveaway related to the event. If you are interested, please e-mail me at aliteraryodyssey (at) so I can talk it over with you!*

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book 139: On First Impressions and Imagery.

I finally began to sit down with A Clockwork Orange after mulling over your comments on my book stats post. I was a little frightened when some of you suggested printing a glossary or familiarizing myself with "nadsat," the slang of the characters within the novel.

I decided against it, after thinking about how often I have to rely on context clues when I read high fantasy. I figured one or two words wouldn't throw me completely off.

Are you laughing at me yet?

I had to reread the first chapter a couple of times to get into the flow of the novel, and I find myself concentrating very hard on what I am reading. But as I am moving forward in the novel, I find that the slang gets easier to understand as my mind begins to make connections between the words Burgess uses and my own English word to replace it. And my idea about using context clues? Hehe. When a sentence is comprised of mainly slang, context clues are essentially no good.

Let me show you what I mean. Here is the first portion of the novel taken from chapter 1:

"'What's it going to be then, eh?'
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither," (3).

See what I mean?

But once you get into the flow of how young Alex talks, it becomes easier and easier to understand. It is just getting over that hump of understanding what the heck is trying to say.

The beginning of the book transitions from beautiful descriptions and detail, to horrible violence and pain. I get what Burgess is trying to show me-that youth can be insane and violent and misunderstood-but that it has consequences, and I know those consequences are coming for Alex.

Very early on in the novel, Alex and his droogs are out on the town and commit multiple acts of violence towards the people they come across. They rip up a professor's books and break into a couple's home-beating them both and gang raping the wife. It is violent and angry and gives the reader the impression that these boys cannot be human to do these things to others. I had to set the book down for a moment after the rape scene. It was disturbing and something I wanted to avoid thinking about.

But what drew me back to the book was the writing. Because as crazy and as insane as the boys are, they're people.

There is a passage that I absolutely loved. I actually posted it on my Facebook Sunday afternoon because I was blown away by the power of the imagery and the words....

“Oh it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of like platinum, into the thick thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers," (37).

In that passage, I could almost be Alex. As someone who plays an instrument (trumpet), I know how it feels to be in the midst of classical music. There is something so powerful and wondrous about music written centuries before. It captures the same sense of human emotion that we feel today-love, power, loss, and yes, violence. And I love that Burgess shows that while Alex has a crazy yearning for violence, he can feel that power in things other than himself, like music.

I can't wait to keep reading-to see where Burgess takes Alex-and whether Alex will redeem himself and grow up.

I think I'm going to love this when I finish.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Announcing Clarissa in April: A Readalong and Sign-ups.

I'm happy to finally announce "Clarissa in April," a group readalong hosted by myself, Jillian, and Adam for the month of April.

Jillian and I have been talking about Clarissa by Samuel Richardson for months, so I am glad we're finally nearing the month we decided to read it. I think we made our plans last October! We recruited Adam in our evil plan a couple months ago, so the three of us are set and primed to dive into one of the English language's longest books.

At close to a million words, nothing else really comes that close to this chunky brick of a book. And what better challenge for ourselves than to dive in and read it in 30 days?

You know that I'm always game for a challenge!

All three of us have the Penguin paperback edition (Seen at left). Our graphic for the event, above, was taken from the cover as inspiration (the image is the 1740 painted called "Sir Edward and Lady Turner"). The book is massive at 1499 pages (1533 with notes) and pretty tiny print. When my book was shipped to me, my packing slip told me it was over 5 pounds.

This is going to be fun. :)

We want to extend an invitation to anyone who wants to join in on the fun. We're going to approach this in a very low-key manner. After talking about it, we don't want to have a posting or reading schedule, which will give us the freedom to go at our own pace and post as we wish to (If you do want a strict schedule, it works out to reading 50 pages a day, or 350 pages a week).

If you feel like joining in, feel free to grab the graphic and post about it. The more the merrier! :)

And if 30 days is a bit too much for you, there is a year-long group read of the book taking place with Lakeside Musing and Tip of the Iceberg.

See you in April!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up for March 11, 2012: Big Breath.

I have a million and a half things to do today, so I am probably going to cut this short. This week has been crazy busy, and this is really the first time I feel like I can take a big breath and relax!

I successfully finished my first week back at school, and considered everything, it went really well. The juniors had ACT and MME testing for three days, so I was proctoring the exam two mornings. We also had conferences on Thursday night, so that was a fun time. They were actually the easiest conferences I've ever had since I had only seen the kids a couple of days!

I've been working hard trying to get everything set up and ready. I'm starting The Hunger Games this week with one of my classes, so I had to plan and prep the whole unit last week. I only have a couple of things left to do for it, but I'm confident the unit is going to be awesome. :)

I got in a little bit of reading. Since I was prepping for the unit, I read through The Hunger Games real quick. It was my third read of the novel, but I was still addicted. :) I also got through a bit of A Clockwork Orange yesterday, and I am going to finish it today (I'm only allowing myself to do a few necessary items for school so that I can actually relax a bit). It is an interesting read, and I had to read the first two chapters a couple of time to get into the flow and vibe of the novel, but now I am hooked. :)

The only other big news for the week is The Classics Club, started by Jillian. It seems to have blown up, which makes my classics-loving heart so happy. :) You can see my own list on the designated page on my blog, or by clicking here. I had a hard time trying to decide how many books to list for it, so I decided to combine the remaining 114 titles from my original list to any that came to mind. Altogether, I have 450 classics on the new list. I'm going to keep adding to it as I stumble across more titles I want to get to. If you haven't joined in on the fun, you should!

Anyway, I'm going to go do a few hours of school work while Matt is gone (he's working this morning), then I am settling in with A Clockwork Orange before doing some cleaning.

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Cooking-March 10, 2012: Easy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip "Muffins."

Welcome to this week's Weekend Cooking post. Weekend Cooking is held by Beth Fish Reads and serves as a place for bloggers to talk about anything food related.

Today I'm sharing a super easy recipe. Last fall when I was working at a high school, I was in charge of the student government class for about 8 weeks. We held a bake sale to help our canned food drive, and these muffins were brought in by a student. I demanded the recipe and was in a bit of disbelief when he told me what was in them.

Anyway, they are really delicious and so simple.

Here is what you need to get started:

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin (you can use pureed fresh pumpkin as well)
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

That's it! Insane, right?

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, add the cake mix and the can of pumpkin:

It takes a little while to stir together. For awhile, it will just look like this and you'll be thinking, "how does this combine?":

Just keep stirring. I also kind of "squish" the pumpkin down so that it spreads and collects the cake mix. Add in 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips and mix those in as well. It'll eventually come together and look like this:

Line a cupcake pan or muffin tin with liners, and drop the batter in by the tablespoon full until they are about 2/3 full. The batter is really thick, so clean fingers are helpful:

Pop them into the over for about 15 minutes. They are done when they are firm on top and slightly golden. Matt and I have decided that slightly under-baking them is the way to go, but you do want to make sure they are set and firm.

And that's it! The recipe usually makes about 18 of these muffin-cakes. They're really easy and the pumpkin flavor isn't overpowering (very subtle), so even pumpkin haters will like them! And while you might not think that they are moist because of the ingredients, these are just so good!

Next week I'm going to share the Berry Cobbler I made, so look forward to that! ;)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Classics Club.

I'm excited to announce my participation in The Classics Club.

You might think I'm crazy-that this is another challenge. And while I might be crazy, and yes, this is another challenge of sorts, it fits in perfectly with my current and long-term goals.

The basic premise of the club is to bring together Classics Bloggers-as well as inspiring others to add a few classics to their book diet.

Each blogger can create their own goal for reading, as well as a timeline for accomplishing the goal.

Since switching over to reading primarily classics in September 2009, I have come to love this new focus in reading. I am always inspired by what I am reading, and I am curious to see what else is out there I haven't read yet. Because of that, I will always be reading the classics. While I do think I will allow myself to read more things outside of my classics focus once I finish my 250 list, I always want to be pursuing literature.

With that in mind, I created a Classics Club Page for my blog to explain my goal and list the books I want to get to. I am not setting a timeline for myself because that's just too much pressure. Rather, I am seeing my involvement in this project as a lifetime desire and commitment. So, on the page, you'll see a very, very long list of books. 450 of them to be exact. They include the 114 titles I have yet to finish from my own 250 project, as well as many new titles and rereads. And before anyone asks, I will be working on those 114 before I tackle the rest.

Anyway, I hope you'll visit the new page and see what books I'm going to be reading in my future. I also hope you'll consider signing up. You can decide to read 10 classics in 5 years! You can do it! :)

Let me know if you're participating!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thoughts on The Girl Who Was on Fire edited by Leah Wilson.

*If you haven't read The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, please don't read this post, as there will be spoilers*

I feel a lot of pressure to make my unit on The Hunger Games the best unit ever. There is so much that I can discuss with this book that I feel like I have to do it all! Last week, I asked you for some suggestions for the unit, and your comments were amazing. I am definitely mulling them all over as I plan out my unit. A couple of you suggested I read The Girl Who Was On Fire as a place to gather some ideas about the novel. I actually bought a copy at a Border's sale over the summer, so my copy was already on my nightstand as a resource.

I wasn't sure what to think going into this book. Basically, the book is a collection of essays by various authors on different aspects of the series. I was hoping to walk away with one or two essays to share with my class, but I ended up with a LOT of information about the series in general!

The essays were diverse enough to keep my attention the whole way through the collection. I thought I would be bored of reading about the series by the third essay, but I was surprised to find myself interested in each one. In particular, I thought I would hate the essays on the reality and fashion aspects of the series, since I started to dislike those sections so much in Mockingjay, but I was surprised that I really loved those two essays! Considering the fact that I am teaching The Hunger Games to high school juniors and seniors, I think those aspects of the book will really appeal to them. I already have a discussion planned around the ideas of reality, reality TV, and false appearances. I hope we can have great discussions about how Katniss and Peeta chose to act while "live" on camera. The essay "Smoke and Mirrors" really focused on those ideas, and since the first chunk of the essay stays true to just the first book, I am going to use that section in class.

One of my other favorite essays in the collection was the third, titled "Your Heart is a Weapon the Size of your Fist" by Mary Borsellino. This essay focused on the weapons in the series-those of the Capitol and District 13. But I also liked the idea that Katniss and a few others fight with emotion-with love. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter in that love can conquer evil, you know? The author brings up what happens with Rue in The Hunger Games as a prime example:

"The effect of this tiny, humanizing act-singing to a dying child-has immediate and far reaching consequences," (34).

When I read that statement, I had to stop for a moment and think about that word choice-"child." While I obviously know that all of the tributes in the Games are children, there was something different about Rue, right? And the fact that Katniss holds on to her humanity and honors her death as a child, well, that IS powerful. Her choice to share her love has a profound impact on what happens afterward in the novel-Rue's district sending her bread, gaining other supplies from other districts and sponsors, and the choice she makes at the end of the novel with Peeta. Because rather than always resorting to violence, Katniss chooses another route. And it works. Because without that symbol of love towards Rue, would the districts have banded together to fight back? Who knows.

The one essay I wish I could share with my class but can't is "Bent, Shattered, and Mended" by Blythe Woolston. The essay focuses on the mental side effects of what happened to Katniss, Peeta, and others throughout the three books (since I don't want to spoil the second and third books, I can't use this one in class, but I will talk about the mental effects of the Games in general terms). I know that there are some who weren't happy with the ending in Mockingjay-that Katniss seemed to have lost her mind and that the ending was unsatisfying. As I said in my review,

"There is no way a young girl of 17 can handle the amount of death and destruction she sees..."

Woolston expands on this a great deal in her own essay, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. The fact is, Katniss is a battered and bruised war veteran by the time Mockingjay comes to an end. And she is younger than those we allow to enlist in the U.S. Military! That should say something about her psyche! Because as tough and as strong as you think you are, I don't think anyone is prepared to kill another human being-especially in the circumstances Katniss was subjected to.

I am sure that this will be something we'll talk about in class-how Katniss must feel. There is that section in The Hunger Games where she talks about her first human kill, and I am sure that my class will have questions about it. I'm also hoping we'll talk a bit about Haymitch, since he is another example of the PTSD that all Hunger Games Champions seem to suffer from.

In all, I would say that this is a great collection of essays on the series. I was interested in all of them in some way, and I found a lot of interesting tidbits to use as discussion starters in my class. I am also looking forward to my own reading of the book with these ideas in mind. My only wish is that there was one essay without spoilers for the last two books, since I would love to expose these kids to a bit of criticism on a modern book. I will certainly let you all know how they feel about it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A List of Great American Authors: I Need your Help Again!

The sophomore English class I am teaching focuses on American literature. The ending project for the course is a mini-research presentation. Last year, we had the kids research current event topics, which jarred the focus away from the rest of the course. This year, another teacher wanted to try focusing the research on American writers we don't cover in the course. I thought it was a great idea, so we're going to be planning the new unit together.

One of the things we are trying to do is develop a BIG list of American authors for the students to choose from. Ideally, we'd like to have 100 writers for the students to choose from (I have 93 sophomores, and I don't want any doubles between classes). For each author, we'd like to have a number of shorter pieces for the students to choose from. This could be a short novella, a play, a couple of short stories, or a whole slew of poems. The main goal is to get the kids to explore a new author and become relatively knowledgeable about that author's life and works.

Here is where I am hoping you can help me. Below is my starting list (she is creating one as well and we are going to compare when we start planning). We decided to go through the textbook to pull those authors we don't get to during our planned units as viable options for students (you'll see those titles listed sometimes as excerpts). After plowing through the textbook, we are now trying to branch out into other authors so the kids will have a broad range of ethnicities, time periods, etc.

I have already started to list authors off the top of my head, as well as other stories/pieces I think might work for this age group. If there is an author I forgot, or a story I should add to an author, please let me know! Any help you can give me will be MUCH appreciated!
  • Henry W. Longfellow: "Cross of Snow," "Ropewalk"
  • Ralph W. Emerson: "Nature and Self Reliancy"
  • Henry D. Thoreau: Excerpt from "Walden" and "Civil Disobedience"
  • Herman Melville: Excerpt from "Moby Dick" and Piazza Tales?
  • Walt Whitman: "Song of Myself," "Sight at Camp," and "O Captain, My Captain"
  • Emily Dickinson: poems
  • Kate Chopin: "Pair of Silk Stockings" and The Awakening (maybe too difficult?)
  • Mark Twain: "Life on the Mississippi"
  • Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun
  • Jack London: "To Build a Fire"
  • Robert Frost: poetry...
  • Edgar Lee Masters: "Spoon River" Anthology
  • William Faulkner: "A Rose for Emily"
  • Allen Ginsberg: "Homework"
  • John Updike:
  • Alice Walker: "Everyday Use"
  • Amy Tan: Except from Joy Luck Club
  • Sylvia Plath: Poems...maybe The Bell Jar
  • Sandra Cisneros: House on Mango Street
  • Ray Bradbury: short stories (not "Sound of Thunder" since I teach that one)
  • Truman Capote:
  • Kurt Vonnegut: short stories (not "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" since I teach that one too!)
  • Jack Kerouac:
  • Stephen King: short stories
  • Maya Angelou: poetry?
  • Edith Wharton: "Roman Fever," other stories
  • Henry James: "Turn of the Screw"
  • Stephen Crane:
  • Benjamin Franklin: excerpts from autobiography
  • Thomas Paine: Common Sense
  • Edgar Allen Poe: short stories and poetry (have to make sure they don't double up)
  • Frederick Douglass: Narrative of a Slave
  • Harriet Tubman: speeches-"Ain't I a Woman?"
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne:
  • T.S. Eliot: "The Waste Land"
  • Langston Hughes:
  • Ezra Pound:
  • e e cummings:
  • Ernest Hemingway:
  • Tennessee Williams: (not allowed to do Streetcar)
  • J.D. Salinger: short stories (No "Catcher in the Rye")
  • Flannery O'Connor: short stories (might be a more difficult choice)
  • Jhumpa Lahari: stories?
  • Martin Luther King Jr: speeches (not "I have a Dream"), maybe Letter from a Birmingham Jail?

What/Who else do I need to add?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book 139: A Clockwork Orange and Book Stats.

Title: A Clockwork Orange
Author: Anthony Burgess (1917-1993)

First Published: 1962
My Edition: Norton Paperback (seen at left)
Pages: 212

Other Works Include: Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958), Beds in the East (1959), The Worm and the Ring (1960), Honey for the Bears (1963), A Vision of Battlements (1965), Abba Abba (1977), Earthly Powers (1980)

I decided that while I am chugging slowly along in Nicholas Nickleby I should start something a little smaller for Adam's Magical March Event. After looking at the titles I had on my list, this one seemed to jump out at me as being one that would suck me in.

I don't know too much about this one, beyond that fact that it is a dystopian and that it is on the weird side. I remember a friend in high school reading this for AP English, and he said it was crazy! I think I've also heard that there is some crazy slang and such. That's about it. But since I like dystopia and weird, I'm sure I'll find something to like in this one. :)

Anyone read this one before? Any advice for me as I tackle it?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weekend Cooking-March 4, 2012: My Recipe Binder.

I'm really excited to be participating in Weekend Cooking this week. :) It is a weekly event held at Beth Fish Reads that focuses on food-related posts. I've been eying the event with a bit of apprehension for the last year, and I finally decided to join in on the fun.

As many of you know, one of my goals this year is to work on my cooking skills. Matt and me were in a bit of a rut when it came to meals, so I have been working hard to find new recipes to work into our meal rotation. The last couple of months have been a blast!

One of the things that I wanted to do was organize the binder Matt's mom gave me for Christmas this past year. Since there are 4 of us girls on that side (Matt's two sisters, our sister-in-law, and myself), she bought us all a binder and wrote out family recipes for us each to have. I was really excited about it-since some of the recipes are family secrets-and I've slowly been trying them out. I also had a big recipe card box filled with recipes from my wedding shower. I wasn't sure how I was going to combine the two until Matt knocked the box off the counter and it broke. With recipe cards flying everywhere, and the cats batting them around on the floor and under the fridge, I decided to reorganize the binder and add in everything. After purchasing page protectors and going crazy from categorizing, I finally got it all set.

Since the binder was a set and meant for recipes only, I followed the categories that it came with on the dividers. The dividers included:
  • Appetizers
  • Soups/Salads
  • Breads
  • Main Dishes
  • Seafood
  • Pastas
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts
  • Beverages
I think putting all the recipes in categories was the hardest part. Some of you on twitter were a huge help! I mean really, where does pasta salad go? :)

But now that the binder is all organized, I like flipping through it to decide if a recipe is going to be our next dinner. I also love that the cards come from multiple people. There is something about seeing old recipes written in others' handwriting that makes me smile. There are old family favorites, new recipes I've discovered on my own, and some clipped from magazines. Let me show you bits and pieces from the binder.

One of the best parts of putting this together was looking at recipes I got from my wedding shower. A blank card was included in with the invitations. This was a great way to get a lot of recipes for my newly wed self, and get a lot of variety! The one at right comes from my friend Kyla. I've made this one a couple of times and it is uber-delicious.

There are also a lot of recipes and things I've pulled from other places. While I'm not a huge magazine reader, I do flip through on occasion and pull out things I think might be useful in the future.

I'm starting to look for things to challenge myself with when I'm cooking. Little ideas like the marinades and toppings on this page are helpful. The casserole clipping is actually from Matt's mom. :)

Another thing I really loved about the binder from Matt's mom were the family recipes she included. I've been with Matt for almost ten years, so I've come to love quite a few of these as well!

This corn casserole dish comes from one of Matt's mom's relatives, and I've had it every holiday with them. :) It is definitely a good comfort food recipe!

 She also included the names of family members who loved some of the recipes. It was kind of neat to flip through to see everyone's favorites. I haven't made the Confetti Meatloaf yet, but knowing it is Sarah's favorite (Matt's younger sister), makes me anxious to give it a try.

One of the last things she included in the binder were recipes from her time as a profession pastry chef. She met Matt's step-dad while working at a restaurant (he was the head chef), so some of the recipes they created while working there have become some other family favorites.

In addition to some crazy dessert recipes I have to master some day, she also included some basics. I've never made bread from scratch, but it sounds like a fun experiment. :) This one, from her days of working at the restaurant, doesn't seem so bad for a rookie.

I also spent a day at my mom's plowing through her recipe cards so I could steal some family recipes from our side. My mom makes a bazillion kinds of Christmas cookies around the holidays, so I definitely needed to copy those down.

I was excited that she had some doubles in her recipe cards, so I just took the extra of a few. :) Seeing her handwriting will make the actual cookies even better. These, the Apricot Brandy Cookies, are hands down my favorite cookie. Ugh, SO GOOD. Believe me, these are addicting.

 The other cookie recipe I was happy to snatch are another favorite from my family: Belgian Waffle Cookies. These are wafer thin cookies you cook in a press over a stove. They have lots of fatty goodness in them, but egads, these are AMAZING. I can't wait to try them on my own.

There is something really comforting about having all of these family recipes together in one place. I'm one of those people who likes to hold on to memories. And knowing that I have all these in one place means that I can build on them and pass them down to my own kids. Cheesy? Heck yes! :)

I also love that I can continue to add to my binder as I learn new recipes. Already, Matt and I have tried new things found online and recommended by others. I'm sure those items will also become family favorites.

How do you organize your recipes?

Weekly Wrap-up for March 4, 2012: Thoughts on School.

I'm feeling very tired this morning. I think part of it is because I stayed up a little too late last night. That threw off my plans to try and get get into a decent sleeping schedule before going back to school. With working only a couple days a week for the last three and a half months, my whole schedule got messed up. I would stay up way too late and sleep in. Not good. I'm sure I am going to be tired tomorrow, but hopefully my body will straighten itself out.

Today I'm going to be working on a few things for the placement. This week at the school is odd, since the juniors are going to be testing in the morning 3 days, and the other kids coming in just for the afternoon. Tuesday is just a testing day, so I won't even see my classes. Hopefully I can get back into it and get to know my kids relatively quick, since I also have conferences Thursday afternoon. Odd, right? It should be interesting.

Anyway, lots of planning to do today. I did want to say thank you to everyone who commented with ideas for The Hunger Games. I've been brainstorming all week, and I think I finally have some solid ideas. I'm going to be outlining and starting the plan today, so we'll see how it goes. I also have a few other things to get ready for tomorrow and such, so hopefully I can get everything ready so tomorrow will go smoothly.

I was a bit of a reading machine this past week. Knowing that I was going to be finishing up the very end of two units, I decided to read the books again. I flew through both Night and Kindred. I won't be doing too much with the kids on either of them except reviewing before a test, but I feel better with having them fresh in my memory. I also pulled The Girl who was on Fire off my shelf to read, even before you all suggested it. :) For those who don't know, it's a collection of essays on The Hunger Games. I was considering using one in class and reading it with the kids, but since all of them talk about the entire series, I can't do that (don't want to spoil the other two). I did find a lot of interesting passages I might use, as well as some quotes I think we're going to discuss in class.

So even though I didn't even touch Nicholas Nickleby or any of the books I am planning on getting to this month, I still think I had a good reading week.

I am going to cut this short, since I just seem to be rambling anyway. There will be another post going up later for Weekend Cooking. I tried to get it up yesterday, but I got sidetracked. And I'm sure it'll be much more interesting than this was. :)

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thoughts on Kindred by Octavia Butler.

“...I realized that I knew less about loneliness than I had thought - and much less than I would know when he went away.”

I'm trying to get myself as prepared as possible for my new teaching assignment, and since I am jumping into the middle of a couple units on books I haven't read in ages. I managed to read all of Night by Elie Wiesel on Monday, and I spent Tuesday reading Kindred. It has been a busy week, so if my thoughts are a little scrambled, that's why. :)

I've read Kindred once before-in high school! When I was a student, this book was taught in a different class, so I was a little surprised, and excited to get the opportunity to teach it (I should note that I am teaching in the same district I graduated from).

Kindred is a novel that is hard to classify. I think it is often labeled as science-fiction, but I don't consider it under that genre. There is time travel in the novel, but since that isn't based on science, you technically can't classify it as such. :) But, it does have that other-wordly vibe and that one element takes the power of the story to another level.

The main character, Dana, lives in the 1970s with her new husband Kevin. It is important to the story to keep in mind that Dana is a black woman and Kevin is white. On her 26th birthday, she is suddenly overcome with dizziness and finds herself on a riverbank watching a young boy drown. Instincts kicking in, she pulls him out, administers CPR, and finds a gun pointed directly on her head. Again, she is overcome by dizziness and she finds herself back with her husband...but on the other side of the room.

Unsure of what happened to her, she tries to explain the experience to Kevin. Only a few hours later, she is again transported. This time she finds herself in a boy's bedroom as he sets his curtains on fire. It is only during this second experience that she realizes she has not only gone to a different place, but a different time. By asking the right questions, she learns that the boy she has saved this time was the same, and that he is her many times great-grandfather. She has been sent back to the antebellum south and to a plantation owned by the boy's father.

Butler does a marvelous job of developing the purpose for Dana to time travel. The boy, Rufus, needs her help to stay alive. Whenever his life is threatened, she appears to save him from danger. At different points in his life, Dana reappears just in time to save his life. She knows that to let him die before he fathers her own distant relative condemns her to an "nonexistence" of sorts (think the grandfather paradox-you can't change the past without harming your own future). So after she saves dear Rufus from whatever idiotic thing he did, she has to wait to return to her own time, and that only happens when her own life is threatened.

It is an interesting novel and one filled with so much that I'm going to discuss with the kids (I will be discussing the last portion of the novel with them, as they've read the rest with the teacher I'm replacing). Besides discussing the time travel, the relationship Dana has with Kevin, and Dana's connection to Rufus, there is also the huge issue of race-in both the 70s era of Dana and Kevin and the era of slavery. Because of the role Dana plays in Rufus' life, she is given different privileges from the other slaves. It was a stark contrast to my recent reading of Roots. Dana also has some interesting insights about how quickly people can fall into acceptance of slavery because the system works to insure that. I think that will be an enlightening discussion to have with my students.

I'm looking forward to talking about this one with the kids, and I can't wait to talk about the end of the novel. And if you've put this one off because you thought it was a science-fiction, don't be scared of it. The author once said she considered it historical fiction, so give it a try. :)

“Better to stay alive," I said. "At least while there's a chance to get free." I thought of the sleeping pills in my bag and wondered just how great a hypocrite I was. It was so easy to advise other people to live with their pain.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Goals for March 2012.

I decided at the end of January to create monthly goals in an effort to help myself be a little more organized in all aspects of my life. I wasn't sure if I was going to keep this up, but after a month of working towards my little mini-goals, I found that they worked for me. :)

The first thing I am going to do is recap what I had planned for February. My little insights will be next to the original goals in italics (and you can find the February post by clicking here). I think I did reasonably well all things considered. I neglected some things in favor of other opportunities! A little further down I have stuff outlined for March.

Grad School:
  • Revisit requirements for the three programs I am interested in. Create a timeline for due dates, etc. This is pretty much done. I am still applying to all 3!
  • Write to old professors for letters of recommendation, etc. I am working with 2 professors, but I need a third. Would it be appropriate to ask someone I am currently working with?
  • Draft personal statement Not done. I outlined some ideas, but I am struggling with this a bit.
  • Continue working on my current piece The writing I did do this month was on the same piece I started in November, so hurrah!
  • Write 20,000 new words this month  Ha! I only wrote about 2,000 words this month (I blame all the reading), so not even
  • Continue writing in my journal 3x per week  I'll give myself credit for this. I wrote about once a week, and that is a fine pace for now. I know it'll pick up once I start teaching.
Blog Related:
  • Finish the two Dickens titles I have selected for the month (David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby) in celebration of his birthday I managed to finish David Copperfield. I think I could have plowed through Nicholas Nickleby in the last few days if I hadn't stopped to read a couple of books for the new teaching job.
  • Make progress in War and Peace (Hoping to get to 120 chapters) Haven't even opened it. If I intend on rereading it by the end of June, I need to at least start it this month
  • Start Les Miserables Haven't touched this one either. I have plans to start it in a couple more days so that I can hit the first checkpoint on the 18th.
  • Read Roots for the readalong Success!
  • Read other books off my project list if time. :) After realizing I needed to read some books before starting the new job, I neglected the list for awhile. I'm okay with it and I still had a great reading month.
Crafts: I'm considering this entire section a FAIL. I ended up organizing my recipe binder instead of some of these because it was more urgent. I have pictures picked out, just need to order them. We'll just scratch this section.
  • Finish my senior scrapbook (from my senior year of high school. Seriously, I need to finish it)
  • Finish crocheting my mom's scarf (been half done for a year now)
  • Print some wedding pictures to put in our frames...we've been married for over two years. This needs to be done.
  • Continue to try one new recipe a week (I might be combining this into my weekly update posts in my continued effort to make the blog more "me" than just books). I think I averaged it out to 2.5 new recipes a week! We had a lot of yummy dinners this month and I'm getting a bit more confident in the ktichen
  • Use my crock pot more (inspired a bit by Trish and this post) Also a big success. I used the crock pot to cook a few new things, including a yummy pot roast on Sunday (it was SOOOO good).
  • Clean out our second bedroom and organize (seriously, it is our dumping room) I actually went organizing crazy and went through almost everything in the apartment. The only thing that needs a good going through is our big coat closet. Matt also has a few boxes of junk he needs to organize.
  • Continue my "ten-minute" clean-ups every night (basically I set the timer and clean up for ten minutes every night and stop when the timer goes off-very helpful in getting rid of daily clutter, etc.) This is probably the most helpful thing I have done for myself!
  • Go to the gym 3x per week I'm going to be honest and say it was probably only 1x per week. With the mild weather, I've been doing a lot of walking.
  • Work-out videos and Wii Fit 3x per week
  • Carry water with me everywhere! Matt makes fun of my water bottles, so success!
  • Continue my diet! I did better this month than last, but I still need to improve.

Grad School:
  • Finish Personal Statement 
  • Order transcripts from MSU
  • Hopefully get letters of rec back?
  • Continue progress on WIP-Add 5,000 to it?
  • Continue weekly journal writing
Blog Related:
  • Finish Nicholas Nickleby
  • Start Les Miserables-hit first checkpoint
  • Participate in Adam's Magical March event (finish the books I selected)
Crafty/Domestic Goodness:
  • One new recipe/week
  • Pack my lunches the night before (I sometimes have the habit of skipping lunch while teaching)
  • Continue to cook 1 new recipe a week 
  • Work on scrapbook since it was a fail in February
  • Put our pictures in frames!
  • In bed by 10:30 on school nights :)
  • Water, water everywhere! (I'm hoping for 3 bottles during the day at school)
  • No getting overworked with school stuff!

There you have it! I'm hoping that getting back into a normal schedule will help me as I start teaching again. Keeping regular hours and staying busy always makes me more productive!