Teacher Report Week

Last week was my first week back to school from summer vacation, and I’m feeling very “unrested” still. I’m not ready for school to start again – there still so much summer left and I still have things on my bucket list! I haven’t yet climbed my 14ers for the year, and I only made it to one (out of 4) Colorado National Park. These two months have flown by, and I bet the next ten months will crawl by. Some people live for the weekends, turns out I live for the summer vacations. B, on the other hand, is happy I’m going back to work. He works from home and says I’m a distraction. *shrug*

This week I’ve been sticking to jeans and t-shirts. I’m just not ready to start wearing “work” clothes yet. My legs are pretty scarred up from getting mauled by mosquitos so shorter skirts and dresses are staying in the closet for the rest of the summer for the most part. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m kind of ready for winter clothes again. Cue the chugging air conditioning in my new classroom! A light sweatshirt has been very handy lately, so it’s a good thing I picked up two new ones recently!

The first one I bought during my trip to New York in early August. I had received a catalog randomly one day in the mail from United by Blue, and thought the brand looked interesting. They make their clothes from sustainable materials, and run community cleanups where trash is removed from waterways and beaches. They only have stores in NYC and Philadelphia, so I made a mental note to check them out during my few days in Brooklyn. I lucked out and went on the last day they were having a big sale, so I picked up this super soft perfect-for-the-Colorado-aesthetic pullover and a pair of board shorts (which at this rate won’t be needed till next summer).

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THLT united by blue evergreen pullover

THLT addidas gazelle

sweatshirt: united by blue – tshirt and belt: urban outfitters – jeans: mother denim – shoes: adiddas

This next sweatshirt was a birthday gift from B. I had pinned it sometime a while ago, and I guess he went Pinterest stalking to get ideas. He really is the best. Heaps of other teachers said they loved my sweatshirt when I wore it during one of our millions of various staff meetings. I mean, we all do our best, daily. I think this is the best teacher sweatshirt ever, and I plan on wearing it all through the fall and winter. I just hope it doesn’t shrink in the wash, and it doesn’t feel like it’s made from the best quality material. Also, the inside fuzzies shed all over everything since it’s still new. Fingers crossed! The color is listed as an “ivory”, but it’s really a very light peachy pink color which is different from what I normally wear. Underneath I wore a new-in-this-summer tank from Madewell that is made out of a ribbed sweater material that gives me serious 70’s vibes. Come next week though, they will be stored away for the weekends since students come back on Tuesday!

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THLT mother denim

THLT madewell ribbed sweater tank

sweatshirt: bando – tank: madewell – belt: urban outfitters – jeans: mother denim – shoes: birkenstock

The Summer Reset – 11 Mile Canyon

I picked up fly fishing this year with a hand me down rod from B, and some learner’s camaraderie from Rachael. I’ve been out fishing about 10 times now, and I have yet to catch a single fish. Obviously I still have a lot to learn – maybe my knots are too big, maybe my line is too short, maybe my cast is too rough, or just maybe, fish are too damn smart to be fooled by my tricks. Regardless of my luck/lack of skill, it’s darn lovely to be out in the middle of a river, relatively alone, and listening to the sound of water. Even more exciting are the small little adrenaline rushes you get when you see fish smell your fly only to promptly ignore it and eat a bug mere inches away from your fly. One day, fishies, one day.

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A couple weeks ago, Rachael and I took a quick little one nighter camping trip to 11 Mile Canyon with the intent to catch heaps of fish to cook over the camp fire. But then, there was a fire ban in effect. And then, it rained on us almost all evening and night. At one point, huddled under a tree in our raincoats, we debated giving up and driving the 2 hours back to Denver. Thankfully the rain let up long enough for us to cook a meal, drink some beers, and play a few rounds of Bananagrams. Lastly, neither of us caught a fish. Rachael got 2 hits though, so there’s that. It was still an enjoyable 2 days, and we got some lovely views even at the crowded campground.

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IMG_6117Until next time, fishies….

The Summer Reset – The Fjällräven Classic

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About a month ago, B and I went on an beautiful, memorable, challenging, and downright epic 42 mile backpacking trip here in Colorado. About a week after we got back from Europe, we set out to start our trip on the Fjällräven Classic.  The Classic in the USA is a 3 day trek through the mountains with about 200 like minded people from all over the world organized and facilitated by the Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven. Here is more info on the story behind the Classic, and info on the USA Classic.

The Fjällräven Classic concept is simple: to encourage and enable more people to get out and enjoy trekking.

You can read more about B and I on the trek here on B’s Blog.

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I’ve been backpacking before, so between B and I, we already have the necessary gear. With everything I needed, my pack rang in at just around 30 pounds, give or take a few with/without water. I use B’s hand-me-down pack, an Osprey Aether 70 which fits me really well even though (or because) it’s a men’s pack. For sleeping, I have an REI bag that is rated down to 20˚F and a air pad that frankly is not thick enough. I can never sleep well camping. I wake up ever 20 min or so with aching hips, so I end up tossing and turning all night, every night, no matter how exhausted I am. B and I share a Big Agnes tent, and a Jet Boil stove, and the rest is pretty standard. I have old Keen hiking boots that have never once given me a blister, and I wore light weight Arcteryx hiking pants with sweat wicking t-shirts from Costco. The one and only new thing for me on this trip was trekking poles. They helped propel me up steep grades, tempered steep downslopes, and I’m very, very glad I had them for this type long distance climb. My poles came off of a snowshoeing kit I bought at Costco over the winter, so they’re are not fancy at all, but definitely useful.

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We bought tickets back in April, and I quickly realized that I would very seriously need to start training. The route description even gave B pause, so I took a brutally honest evaluation of my fitness level and started planning out my training routine.  To ease me into exercising, I started yoga once or twice a week at my neighborhood studio, The Yoga Mat. Prior to this, my exercise came strictly from sporadic 7 minute workouts at home, snowboarding, and walks. To prep my weak and injury prone low back for the weight of a backpack, I started pilates once a week at my neighborhood pilates studio, Manna Pilates and signed up for 3 private lessons spaced out over 3 months. Gradually, I added in running (a mile at a time – I loathe running) once or twice a week, and supplementing my yoga and pilates classes with the Nike Fit App workouts at home. In May, my friend Melissa introduced me to spinning classes at Endorphin. We both bought a 3 month unlimited package, and I started going to their classes 2-3 times a week to work on my cardio endurance, which has always been non-existent. To train for the elevation and just the realities of the trek, B and I went on training hikes every weekend with fully loaded packs in the mountains close to Denver. By the time the classic came around, I felt ready. My cardio endurance was 5 times better than it was, I had stronger core strength, and I knew I could make at least 10 mile hikes with no problems.

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B and I are planning to do this same trip again next summer, and we will probably rope some of our friends and family in to join us. The price is a bit steep – as is essentially everything Fjällräven branded –  but I really think you get your money’s worth and more.If you’re curious for more, check out the tag #fjallravenclassicusa on Instagram, and Fjällräven’s Facebook page.

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All the photos here were taken by B and I, with the exception of the very last one, which was taken by Ali Vagnini.

The Summer Reset – Paris

Paris…la Ville Lumière.  I don’t speak any French past “Bonjour madame!” and “un café s’il vous plaît!” Thankfully, I got a quick little primer on French manners from our Australian-Parisian friends Daniel and Libby the first couple of days of our Paris trip. Parisians are extremely polite, so if you travel there and stick to the usual American manners, you’d be considered rude. Greetings, please, and thanks are very important and expected. For example, when you enter a store, cafe, anything really, Parisians always say “Bonjour madame/monsieur!”, and same when they leave. I certainly don’t do that normally here in the states (though maybe I’m just rude all the time), but I definitely was conscious to greet everyone right away everywhere I went in Paris.  I also didn’t experience much of the famed Parisian snottiness/irreverence during my time there.  Maybe those two things go hand in hand? I knew I would be out exploring solo for half our time there, with B at his conference WordCamp Europe (the reason for his travels in the first place). So it was really helpful to have a local break things down for me before venturing off on my own!IMG_3834.jpg

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The best way to get around Paris is by bicycle, and paris has the best ride-share bicycle system, the Velib. So simple, so accessible, and so affordable. For almost the same price as a one way Metro ticket (€1.90) you could rent a Velib for 24 hours, 30 min at a time (€2). Bike lanes are everywhere, and Parisian drivers are very aware and careful of cyclists. The Metro is great for longer distances, but for the most part, I rented a Velib for  everything within the main ring of Paris. Compare that system to Denver, where #1 there is no metro at all, and #2 the bike share program costs $9/day. Who would opt to ride a bike when it’s cheaper to just drive or take the bus? #doingitwrong! I loved these bikes so much that I immediately started researching Dutch step-though style bikes the day we got home (I ended up buying a Linus, by the way).IMG_5735

Day 1: arrival via Eurostar, Montparnasse Cemetery, Luxembourg Gardens, macarons from Gerard Mulot, rosé on the terrasse of Café de la Mairie, a stroll through St. Germain, and dinner at Le Bistrot d’Henri.

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Day 2: coffee around the corner from Daniel and Libby’s, Blé Sucré for the most amazing croissant I’ve ever had in my life, a stroll through the farmers market near the Puces d’Aligre, rosé at Le Baron Rouge, strolling through Le Marais, lunch at L’As du Fallafel, Le Palais Royal, a walk through the grounds of the Louvre, Palace de la Concorde, rosé at Café du Rendez Vous, Catacombs of Paris, and dinner at Le Temps des Cerises.

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Day 3: Arc de Triomphe, stroll all the way down Ave. de Champs-Elysées to Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame, picnic along the Canal de la Villette, and dinner at Le Bancs Publics.

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Day 4: the Louvre, shopping in St. Germain at Monoprix and City Pharma, picnic dinner back at hotel of baguette, camembert, salami, and wine. First day completely on my own.

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Day 5: Musee de Rodin at the Hôtel Biron, Sainte-Chapelle, Pantheon, stroll down down Rue Mouffetard (the Latin Quarter) with more croissants, stroll around the Pierre and Marie Curie University, more shopping at Monoprix and City Pharma and street crepes for dinner.

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Day 6: The Pompidou Center, shopping at HEMA and other shops in the Le Halles area

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That’s it for Paris, but more (domestic) summer travels to come!

The Summer Reset – London

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Many months ago, in the dead of winter, B mentioned to me that during June, he would have to take a work trip to Paris for WordCamp Europe. B travels quite a bit for work, and I always stay home with the dog. Teacher vacations are pretty much set in stone and our schedules aren’t exactly flexible. But this time…it was during summer vacation.

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Paris and London have been at the top of my travel list for some time now. In high school (the 90’s) I would listen obsessively to Brit pop bands like Blur, Pulp, and Elastica, and dream of how cool it would be to be British. I would picture drinking at pubs, cute boys with accents, running into Damon Albarn casually, and wearing DocMartins every day. Teenage daydreams, right? So, when B told me about Paris, I immediately invited myself along, and stuck on a London trip for both of us – boom, summer vacation trip!

B and I have a system that works well for us when we travel to large cities like London and Paris. We do a bit of research on things to see, do, and eat, then make a large list. Then we divvy the list up into days depending on the location. We usually end up checking off 3-4 items off each day, which makes for long days and lots of steps on the Fitbit since we always stick to walking first and public transport second. Our system is simple, and probably the same thing everyone does, but it works really well for us and keeps the arguing contained to how early we are waking up in the morning (I love sleep too much).

Day 1: Arrival in the morning, Big Ben, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, St. James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, dinner at Dishoom in Covent Garden for great Indian food.

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Day 2: London bridge, Borough Market (closed from the terror attacks still, so we ended up stopping into a random pub for a full English Breakfast), Tower Bridge, Tower of London, pub stops, and dinner in Chinatown for Sichuan Food (nothing to call home about).

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Day 3: Westminster Abbey (Charles Darwin’s grave!), Afternoon Tea at the Covent Garden Hotel, The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, and dinner at Mahdi for Persian food

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Day 4: Shopping at Oliver Bonas for clothes, Full English Breakfast (again) at Kensington Square Kitchen, Kensington Palace Gardens, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, shopping at Superdrug for British beauty brands, and dinner near our hotel at The George IV with sticky toffee pudding.

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Day 5: Portobello Markets, neighborhood strolling through Bayswater, Paddington, Mayfair, Belgravia, back to Kensington for Sunday Roast at The Scarsdale Tavern, then all the way to Chiswick – Pub crawling the whole time. It was a very long day on the feet.

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We ended up staying at the Clayton Hotel in Chiswick, which is a few underground stops outside of central London (which meant that is was relatively cheap). In hindsight, we should have forked over the extra money to be closer to the center of town, and for a better hotel. It was an average of a 30 min tube ride one to and from London, so the money we saved went directly towards public transport costs. Also, our hotel had plumbing issues and a smell that I couldn’t get out of my nose for days afterwards. In the grand scheme of things through, these were minor issues. Mind the gap!

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Next up is Paris!

We’re Doing a Thing!

We are doing a thing – B and I are getting married! This post is a long time coming, since the news is over a month old, and I already have a tan line on my finger. It’s still kind of exciting to think about though. After 6 years we’re going to do the thing I (we) knew we would do eventually – that is, make it so that I can get on B’s incredible health insurance (kidding, but not kidding – DPS offers us the worst health care coverage plans I’ve ever seen). Jokes aside, I’m pretty excited about his next thing we’re doing!

Our engagement story: we don’t have one. Like any self-respecting social media addict, I Instagramed the good news to friends (I at least face-timed family). The next day at school, I told my classes the cool news and they all wanted to know “the story” of how it happened. So after being built up with 15 years worth of prom-posals and Taylor Swift videos, I think my non-story ruined a few storybook expectations of real life marriage proposals. So instead, our story is the whole story – we met, we meshed well, we did things, now we’re doing another thing. This clip sums it up pretty well, I think.

B and I met on the internets in 2011. Those were the okCupid days in San Francisco, and I was in the midst of a dating streak – about 2 dates a week for a couple months. I had a solid system down of a few email exchanges, then meet up for a drink. None of these dudes worked out, and it was feeling like a part time job. Then B messaged me one evening (while out on a work trip in Portland), and we met for drinks a week later. I told my friend Aimee about this guy I was meeting, and how he is 6’4″ and Australian. She said, “well, you might as well just throw your panties at him!”

I went into our first date apprehensive with low expectations. The moment I walked into that little wine bar though, B got up out of his seat and stretched out his arms to give me a hug. I remember thinking, “What. The. Hell. Weirdo. Who hugs on the first drink date? What do I do? Do I hug back? Do I offer a handshake instead? OMG, this is so weird!” And that’s how we met. The rest is pretty standard. We hit it off, we talked for hours, we played the internet dating game for about a week, and then went on our second date. For literally our third date, I brought him on a Russian River weekend trip with my girl friends, and on the drive home, we planned our first vacation together to New York the next month. We’ve spent almost every day together since. Needless to say, we moved a little fast at the start. Friends were skeptical – especially when we simultaneously decided to move in together and move to Brooklyn a year later. But there were no red-flags, timing was right, B is super fun, personable, smart, outgoing, and I felt like I could be 100% myself, 100% of the time. It was a no-brainer.

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Since 2011, I’ve started this blog, we’ve moved to two different cities in two different states, taken three international trips, bought a house, started a garden, and amassed a collection of 6 different and fully functional shovels. At the start of May, we went to our neighborhood brewery Spangalang, for their release of our favorite summer beer, a cucumber gose that is essentially a very, very, tasty pickle-y beer (sounds gross, but it is amaze, trust me). I don’t remember how the conversation started, but it drifted into B and I talking about what we had in mind for a “wedding” type thing, which morphed into an initial invite list, and ended with “well I guess I should get you a ring then to make it official. Didn’t you have something on your Pinterest board?” Why, yes, I do. Here’s a good website. I let him pick out the ring, and the FedEx truck dropped it off later on in the week.

That Thursday, I taught my classes, and went to Costco, and came home to a giddy B urging me to go see what was in the dining room. We toasted each other, and I put the ring on my own finger. Then we FaceTimed our moms (mums) and drank a bottle of white bubbly in our garden. I stuck the ring on a baby spinach plant, and sent the news out into the internets. The end. For now.

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Reflections on the School Year

The last day of school for teachers is finally here! It’s been a year of extremes – and I’m writing this up in my new classroom (at the same school)! After 3 years of photographing outfits in room B201, I am moving to a new science room that is properly set up with a fume hood. I’m teaching Chemistry next year, for the first time ever.  That’s right, every year is a new challenge, and every year is a different beast to slay! So goodbye, room B201, you’ve been good to me. Hello, room B241!

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sunnies: freebie swag from b – cardigan: american apparel – top: f21 – jeans: mother denim – belt: jcrew – shoes: saltwater sandals

This year was like a split personality. On one end, I had the best year I’ve ever had with students. This was the first year I’ve ever had students actually thank me on a daily basis. More than one kid did this, every day.  It seems silly, and it seems small, but holy crap! After 6 years of investing mentally, emotionally, and introspectively into my classroom with (what felt like more often than not) zero thanks for my hard work, this year’s batch of amazing young humans breathed new life into me. The letters I got at the end of the year really made my efforts totally worth it. I had kids write me that they “will never look at the world the same way again”, and “thank you for making me enjoy science”, and “you’re a really good teacher who isn’t afraid to expose their students to the real world, it is important that you do that because it sticks”. Words can’t even express how good this feels.  I just can’t even. *tears*

On the other, I had a very challenging year with the educational system. At our closing meeting this morning, our principal talked about the importance of never giving up on our students, and advocating for them, no matter what it takes.  The word advocate really stuck in my mind, because I thought about all my kids and how I will always advocate for them, and of their letters thanking me for it. But then I thought, who is advocating for me? Am I my only advocate (professionally)? Do we teachers all have to fight our own individual battles, or is that just part of the culture here at my school? Here in Denver, we have an evaluation system tied to your pay, and tied to whether or not you get to keep your job. It is not meant (or maybe used?) to actually help you grow as an educator, because there’s too much at stake professionally. In addition, there is absolutely no incentive to go above and beyond, because to be better than just an “effective” teacher is to be a unicorn. I don’t want to go down a negative rabbit hole, because that’s not where my heart is. Instead, I’ll leave you with this picture of a pin, and a picture of how rewarding teaching can feel.

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