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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Last Fridays

There are only 2 (two) more Fridays left in the school year. Final exams start tomorrow, and end by this Friday. I’m giving up on wearing anything more than jeans and t shirts from here on out. This is what I wore to school last Friday, because it snowed that day, and I was still cold. Harrumph.

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pullover: patagonia – tshirt: upper playground – jeans: mother denim – shoes: vans – watch: fitbit blaze – belt: urban outfitters

Cusp of Spring

It’s warming up here in Denver, but it’s been a rocky spring.  Our garden was first pummeled by a late spring snow storm, only to get ripped to shreds by a hail storm a couple of weeks later! This set of photos are from the start of the month, in the thick of the weather see-saw that is spring in Colorado.

This shirt dress is from COS, picked up during my spring break trip to Toronto. It’s roomy, edgy, fun, and it HAS POCKETS! I wore it out to a girl’s night dinner, and I was asked exactly 4 times if I was headed to Denver Fashion Week after dinner by servers and strangers. That MUST mean something cool – right? The leggings are from Costco (they have heaps more than just food!), and they are the softest, warmest, leggings ever. More to come from Costco in the future. None of it is particularly fashionable, or glamorous, but very, very, practical.

On a side, note, B and I got engaged! more to come on that later.

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sweater and dress:cos – leggings: costco – boots: blundstone – bracelet: julia szendrei

If You Must, Do it Directly (guest post!)

Hey guys, Erika asked if I (one of her friends/ colleagues) would want to write a guest-post in her blog.  Sounded fun, so I agreed.  You’ve seen me here before!  Erika and I have been teaching at the same school for 3 years strong.  We have also bonded over the challenge of fly-fishing – I’m sure you’ll read about some fishing this summer.  We will be teaching partners next year, which I am very much looking forward to (<- ignore the prepositional stranding throughout!).

People who get along tend to share values in common.  Turns out I get along with people who share my love for being outdoors – my closest friends are women who don’t paint their nails compulsively, but rather hike, bike, run, climb, and compete in their free time.  All my other friends are men with whom I play sports.  I love people who can yell at each other [or more accurately, when I can give them a hard time on the sports field], and then 2 minutes later we’re over it.  Environments where there are so many emotions/too much sensitivity can be a struggle to manage for me. I find that when people handle disagreements with the right balance of sensitivity and reason (emphasis on reason), they are easier to get along with.

I think that’s one reason Erika and I will crush the co-planning gig for Chemistry next year.  Erika is a direct communicator, just like I am.  My prediction is that we will be VERY efficient in meetings, but have the right amount of socializing in the mix.  Due to this predicted efficiency, I think I will finally hit my stride in accomplishing all the things teachers have to do in the 12 minutes of plan time that aren’t consumed by meetings about meetings, more meetings, emails, phone calls, data trackers, and more data trackers.

I am looking forward to what it might be like if my life were NOT consumed by my job – hopefully round three of Chemistry will be less of a struggle than the previous two years.  Also, wish me luck as I try to convince Erika to give up some hours over the summer to plan out Chemistry content so we can save time in the fall!

As an aside on the note of direct communication, if you haven’t watched the full monologue of Hasan Minhaj at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, you should really get on that. In my opinion, comedy is one of the most engaging forms of entertainment.  When you couple it with direct communication,  there isn’t anything more complex or a more astute presentation of information.  Hasan’s monologue was so good that I have watched it three (3) times – worth every minute.  Finally, and most importantly, I wish I could teach class like this monologue EVERY DAY.

“Do you want to know what he’s not doing while he’s golfing? Being president. Let the man putt-putt…  apocalypse delayed; take the W.”  – Hasan Minhaj

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Day of Silence

Last week the Gay-Straight Alliance at my school organized a Day of Silence, to represent the marginalization of LGBTQQ youth and the silencing of their voices. As part of the day of silence we wore black as a symbol of our support for our LGBTQQ students. I’m not too crazy about this outfit, and there isn’t really much to say about it, except for the fact that this new sweater of mine from COS has extra long sleeves, and thumb holes.

Instead, I’ll tell you about my nightmare of a morning, and how glad I am for not flipping out. As a teacher, there are a lot of things worse than technology not working.  A fight could happen, a kid could lose it and cuss you out, you could lose your shit and cry in front of a class. Today though, it really felt like one of the worst mornings, ever. In retrospect, it wasn’t even close to being the worst, but it sure felt that way by the time I got a breather from students.

So…there is this cool new documentary called Before the Flood out about climate change. The 9th grade bio teacher who told me about it said her kids really got into it, and she even had a worksheet ready to go!  I was all set for a chill day of watching a documentary and discussing the juicy bits. I bought the movie on iTunes, and watched it myself last night to prep. Come 1st period this morning, I was hit with a High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) error when I tried to play the darn movie.

It was like dead air on the radio station as I scrambled to troubleshoot the Promethian Board and my laptop display settings. No luck. I could feel my blood pressure rising as the kids stared at me blankly. One kid decided it was cool to yell “just play it already!” or something to that effect. I told the kids to work on their homework while I tried to figure it out, the stress constriction forming in my chest and throat. For the rest of the period, I tried to trouble shoot. As the bell rang, I found the same movie, the full version, online for free. OMFG. As I’m recounting my morning story, my stress levels are going up again. So I’m going to stop here and go be one with my couch. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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glasses: warby parker – sweater: cos – belt: banana republic (old) – jeans: f21 (old) – shoes: target

Spring Sprung

These photos are from last week.  I broke my shopping ban in Toronto over spring break and picked up a second pair of Blundies.  Seriously, I need another pair of Blundstones like I need a hole in my head.  But these are black, and the pair I already have are brown. That is my thought process here, I’m not even kidding. But ALSO, they were cheaper because I was in Canada, another Commonwealth country, and I have more buying power with the current exchange rate. Justification of a ridiculous purchase! All jokes aside though, these boots will last me literally forever. One woman I know has had her Blundies since college, and I’m pretty sure she’s at least a little bit older than me.  This means my Blundies will last untill I’m dead. Just like this dress from 2012, this sweater from 2015, and this scarf from 2013.

On the school front, there are only 4 (or 5, depending on the positivity of the person) weeks till school is out!  Our kids have been testing these past 2 weeks, and the teachers have been feeling the testing fatigue. Testing at our school means 100 min blocks, all day every day for 2 weeks. I love my kids, but these blocks have felt extra long these days. I have also been planning these class blocks packed with super relaxing and chill activities such as annotating scientific texts, structured discussions/debates, argumentative writing, and synthesis.

It’s funny – every year I think I’m sooooo done, I’m just going to show movies for the rest of the year! But then a super interesting topic comes around and bam, I spend heaps of time really working to develop their thinking skills.  This year, they will be studying the potential future US/Mexico border wall, but through the lens of the ecological impacts a large physical barrier would create. These past 2 weeks I’ve been busy working on the build up – not even the juicy part! We’re still just working on learning ecological relationships (trophic levels, disruptions in food webs, etc), and I got evaluated this past Tuesday.  Ugh.  My lesson was pretty good – I had spent hours working on it myself and elicited the eyes of no less than 4 other people, which means it was “effective”. Evaluations really have a way of feeling punitive as opposed to a learning experience. It’s to the point where I have been trained to just be thankful that I’m “effective”. SAD!

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glasses: warby parker – scarf: topman – cardigan: madewell – dress: gap – leggings: target – boots: blundstone 510

Favorite Things – March

I have a secret . . .  I’m somewhat really obsessed with watching makeup and style YouTube videos in the evenings before I fall asleep. It’s my guilty pleasure. Some people watch the Bachelor, some watch 16 and Pregnant, and then there are others who watch Primitive Technology (I’m looking at you, B). I watch people put makeup on and talk about skin care products they like. One feature I really enjoy is watching Monthly Favorites type videos where people talk about what they really enjoyed in the last month. I’m stealing the idea, because I’m tired of just writing about school, and there are some really cool things I want to share!

First:

Girl’s night out to Hop Alley here in Denver. I love this place, mainly because it is actually a really good Chinese American restaurant. Bonus points, they mix up drinks to share, Scorpion Bowl style! My mom is one of the best chefs ever, and I grew up in California – the mecca of good Chinese (and all other Asian) food in the states. Needless to say, the bar is set pretty high for me in terms of Asian cuisine, and I can be extremely critical. Just ask B – he HATES going to Asian “themed” or “inspired” restaurants with me because all I will do is criticize their terrible food, their cultural appropriation, and casually racist drink names. Take note, Cholon Denver.

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Second:

Toronto!  My BFF Abraham and I went to visit our friend Edgar in Toronto over Spring Break. Edgar used to teach with us here in Denver, but moved up to Canada last fall. We missed him, and what better excuse to do some quick traveling? My favorite bits included taking a day trip to Niagara Falls, getting drinks at the Lockhart (the best Harry Potter themed bar ever, complete with magic tricks!), and breaking my shopping ban at COS.

 

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Third:

B and I are ramping up with the gardening thing. We have been spending every weekend working in the garden. We built new garden beds in the front yard, planted a new grafted 4-fruit tree, and sowed a bunch of seeds in the vegetable garden. Waiting patiently for the summer harvest and for the peonies I planted to bloom!  Check out some of our work on B’s blog, beau.blog, and my Instagram (mostly stories though).

Fourth:

Our new lemon tree. Impulse purchase at the garden center – but it smells absolutely AMAZING. I will happily sit by this little mini tree and stick my nose in the flowers all afternoon. I really hope it does well in our living room, I love it so much!

Side note: more often than not, when I look at this little plant, I am transported back to 1996 when I spent the summer in Taipei, Taiwan, and the song craze of the summer was called Lemon Tree.  It’s amazing, check it out.

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Fifth: Material Things

I bought this NARS blush palette near the end of 2016, and I’ve been using it every single day since. I love Nars blushes, and I already own a few singles as well as the Danmari blush palette. The shades are very pigmented, and the colors very bold and strong. Even for a blush lover like me, anything more than a tiny tap of the brush verges into painted clown territory. Blended out well, these blush shades are perfect for my medium skin tone and can look very natural. It can make my cheeks look as if I just ran down the hall to the copier and back during 1st period with my fingers crossed I don’t come back to a hot mess.

Aesop…so darn “artisanal”, but so darn heavenly, I can’t even resist. I went on a ridiculous Aesop splurge whilst in Melbourne this past summer (cheaper due to the exchange rate, and country of origin!), and I’m still savoring these two: Resolute Hydrating Body Balm and Marrakech Intense Perfume. B isn’t a fan of the smell of the perfume, but I don’t care, I love it. Both scents are unconventional, intoxicating, more spicy than sweet, and slightly hippy-ish (a term I wouldn’t usually use to describe myself).

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