What’s in My Travel Bag

As I was editing and fixing my archives last week I realized I never did a “what’s in my bag” post. To be honest I’m not always a fan of those posts unless there’s something in the blogger’s bag that I want to buy. But I’ve decided to give it a shot myself and in honor of being in Austin this week I decided to make it a “what’s in my travel bag” post. Way to spice it up, right? Without further ado, check out my bag:

What's in My Travel Bag

What's in My Travel Bag

Let’s start with my bag: I wish you were here so you could touch the buttery softness of this leather. Also to appreciate the fact that this bag is still standing despite the abuse I’ve put it through. My mom got this bag for me when I was starting my graduate program about 3 years ago and I’ve definitely put it through the ringer. There are a few stains here in there and there are few stray threads around the seams but otherwise this bag has held up amazingly well. It is also deep enough to stash a ton of stuff without ever feeling too heavy and it has this handy dandy clasp that will pull the sides in and make it smaller in case I don’t want to put a million things in there (which honestly never happens).

Now for my travel bag essentials:

1. A cute wallet. Obviously I am shopping a lot right now in Austin so I have to bring a wallet. I used to have a much smaller one but this one is great for carrying all my cash, cards, quarters for parking meters in cities, and for collecting little travel mementos here and there. When I get home from a trip I love to open it up and find pretty business cards from shops we visited or ticket stubs from things we did.

2. Magazines. I’m a big book reader but I must have a magazine for a trip. There are lots of little moments of downtime when travelling and rather than open up a book and get immersed in a story, magazines are great for reading easy-to-digest, quick articles and for pretty pictures.

3. Cell phone. How can we go anywhere and not Instagram? Instagram is fast becoming my favorite social networking site (I know, late to the party as always) and I try to post a picture or two a day that way I can remember what I’ve been up to by scrolling through my profile. Curious as to what I’m up to in Austin right now? Find out!

4. Lip balm. One time when I was travelling to the Dominican Republic their security tried to take away my lip balm. I argued with them, me in English, them in Spanish, until they finally got tired and let me go through to my gate with my lip balm. Planes are drying and so are most climates in the summer so lip balm is a travel essential.

5. My Nook. Until I got my Nook I used to save half of my suitcase for books and packing my clothes was a nightmare. Now that I have my Nook I can easily bring along half a dozen books and take up less space than my favorite printed paperback. Downloaded and ready on my Nook are Where She Went (since I breezed through If I Stay and need to know what happens), All the Summer Girls, and Insurgent.

6. Hairties. While I usually wear my hair down, after a rough day of travel and getting up early I absolutely must put my hair up. I love these soft stretchy elastics because they don’t leave a hair bump and they are such cute colors.

7. Notebook and pen. There’s something I love about writing while travelling. I get so much inspiration from being in a new place, seeing new sights and sounds and I need to write it all down, not record it on my phone.

8. Travel guide. Of course most of my inspiration and recommendations for this trip came from Austin blogs and recommendations I found online. That being said I always find it really helpful to have a travel guide. If there’s a moment of downtime and we need something to do, I can always reference a guide to see something we might have missed. I guess I’m just a paper kind of girl.

9. Phone charger. Well, of course.

10. Sunglasses. On any given day I have at least two pairs of sunglasses in my bag and travelling is no different. Cute sunglasses should be a requirement for life.

*Also to be included but not picture is my DSLR. I can’t wait to take pictures!

 

What do you include in your bag, when you travel or every day?

#100HappyDays

#100happydays projectIf you’re like me and like to spend your time on Instagram more than Twitter or Facebook (ugh), then you’ve probably noticed the hashtag 100happydays. When I noticed it showing up more and more often I did what I always do when there seems to be something that I am not hip enough to know about: I googled it. This what I found. What a great (and easy) idea, right?

I discovered #100happydays back in April but didn’t decide to do it until now. Why? Because I wanted to really commit to doing it. I know, I kind of take Instagram photo challenges a little seriously but I often start one of these internet things and then let it fizzle out. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you can probably name a few things. This time I wanted to stay on top of my game.

Two things came together to make this the perfect time for an Instagram project. First, it’s the summer time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times more: summer time is the best time when you’re a teacher. I’ll be teaching summer school starting on Monday but it’s only the morning and I have every Friday off. There are more times for adventures and good pictures when you’re not stuck inside a classroom. Plus a lot of my 100 happy days would have been pictures of my students because they are what happiness is (sometimes) made of during the school year and that’s a big no-no. So summer time is happy days time. Second, in case you didn’t know, Nick and I just got engaged. The first week was pure bliss: I am going to marry the man I love! Congratulations all around! Then one week later it hit me: I have to plan an event for over 100 people using mostly my own money. I am excited to plan a wedding but it is also overwhelming. I didn’t want to excitement of being engaged getting lost in all the plans for the future. The 100happydays project is the perfect way to capture the first exciting 100 days of being engaged.

There’s something about a good Instagram tag that can really get your creative juices flowing. The best part of this challenge is that I am looking for the parts of my day that really make it happy or special. Whether it’s a cup of tea and lemon cookies before bed or the first time trying on wedding dresses, there are so many small and large happy moments in my life. If you love Instagram as much as I do and are looking for something to spice up your photography, join me with #100happydays.

 

My Summer Reading List

 

 

Summer Reads 2014

Today is the first day of summer break. Finally. It felt like this day would never come, especially those days when every single child had some sort of “special” issue. Besides my plans for soaking up some sun, getting my workout on, and catching up on all my favorite blogs, I’ve been waiting for this day to really dig into my summer reading list.

Am I the only person who misses those summer reading lists teachers would hand out the last day of school? Probably. Now I get to make them for my students so I’m a summer reading list expert. Therefore it was no big deal for me to compile a short list of books that I hope to devour while I’m sitting on the beach while sitting on the beach.

1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: I’ve been a big Donna Tartt fan ever since I read The Secret History and The Little Friend. I was very excited when she published The Goldfinch and have been waiting until school is over so I can give her work the attention it deserves.

“Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.”

2. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan: One of my favorite evening past times is to stroll through Barnes and Noble looking for new reads. I saw this book and was intrigued. I knew I had to read it after reading the inspiring story of the author Marina Keegan, a Yale graduate who died in a car accident whose essays and stories made her an internet sensation.

“Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. As her family, friends, and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord.”

3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth: Yes, I read Divergent in a day or two and yes, I saw the movie when it came out. But this dystopian series did not draw me in the way The Hunger Games did so I’ve put off reading the second book in Roth’s Divergent series. However I can see Insurgent being the perfect beach read and I’ll probably tack on Allegiant before the summer is over.

” One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.”

4. All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue: This book has been sitting on my Nook for some time now. It hooked me with the fact that it’s about a group of girls who spent their summers down the Jersey Shore. Reading about a summer down the Shore while sitting on the beach down the Shore? Sounds like a no brainer to me.

“Kate Harrington finds out she’s pregnant minutes after her fiancé dumps her. Vanessa Warren loves being a stay-at-home mom, but she can’t stop thinking about her college ex. Dani Lowenstein might be living the writer’s life in San Francisco, but she can’t hold down a job, and her taste for drugs and alcohol is becoming more pressing than fun. The three women, childhood friends who have drifted from their Philadelphia private-school roots, decide to reunite for Fourth of July weekend at Dani’s father’s beach house in Avalon, New Jersey, like they did as girls. Vanessa and Dani want to support Kate with a fun, forget-about-him girls’ weekend, but none of the women can escape the growing tension in the friendship or the specter of Kate’s twin brother, Colin, who died eight years before on a similar Avalon summer weekend.”

5. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan: J. Courtney Sullivan is another author who captured my attention and whose books I love reading. I picked up a copy of Maine at a rummage sale and have saved it on the self until summer time. There’s something about reading a book about summer during the summer that puts a smile on my face.

“Three generations of women converge on the family beach house in this wickedly funny, emotionally resonant story of love and dysfunction from the author of Commencement. By turns uproarious and achingly sad, Maine reveals the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to the family house and to each other.”

 

After writing this post I’m ready to pack my bag full of books and head to the beach! Of course I hope to read more than five books this summer so I’m looking for suggestions. What are you reading this summer?

Black and White and Art All Over

A Day at the Art Museum

ModCloth notified me of a very cool opportunity: create a Polyvore collage using one of their clothing items as inspirations for their Uniquely You campaign. Since I am a Polyvore junkie and love dreaming up outfits I couldn’t wait to find out what would be the first piece. But really, just browsing ModCloth’s site is enough to get the gears going in the fashion department so I knew I could come up with something. Fortunately it was insanely easy as soon as I saw that I had to style ModCloth’s adorable black and cream Twirl Next Door dress.

Here’s the Twirl Next Door dress to me: a young but sophisticated art student’s day off in the city. She laces up her beautiful but sensible heels, grabs her sketchpad and leaves her cramped New York apartment. In the hustle and bustle of the city she only sees the beauty: the towering skyscrapers with their lines stretching towards infinity, the wrinkles on the face of the Plaza hotel bellman who loves his job, the great expanse of Central Park. She arrives at her destination: the Guggenheim. The modern lines of this corkscrew building match the twirl of her dress. She’ll wander among the paintings and tourists and know one day her work will hang alongside the greats.

I do love a good story to go with my outfits and I had fun dreaming up this one. I hope you can see the hustle and bustle of the city as this dress swings its way from museum to museum. Pair it with pop art earrings and the most darling cloche and you’re ready to go. Make sure you check out ModCloth’s Polyvore page for more inspiration on how to wear their fabulous dresses!

In Ink

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You might have thought I was dead for all the junk that was being posted, or not posted, here but I am not. Nope, just had to survive two weeks of torture before I could have a week off for Spring Break. If I had known teaching would be almost 50/50 between teaching and annoying paperwork I might have considered a less awesome career choice like accountant or something. I have done more (meaningless) paperwork in my life for school instead of actually helping my students learn and be the awesome little people they are. Okay, end of teaching rant. Also, did you see how I said accountant there? Nobody would want me to be their accountant. I would tell them to spend their money on cute home decor and they would go broke.

While I wasn’t online, I was actually living and writing off line. It’s funny to think that probably about ten years ago all my living and writing was done offline. My parents annoyingly relegated our family computer to the basement and the computer that lived in the cutest little nook in my room was an old Gateway that could barely get its act together for word processing. So I had notebooks, lots of notebooks, and I wrote and wrote and wrote in them. I wrote with pen and paper, in cursive no less, all the way through college. Then I kind of stopped writing about everything when I graduated because there was less time. Or I made less time and I spent it all on the internet. Now I’m back to writing in a bright yellow journal in ink and cursive and it’s been so so good.

The weird thing is that it’s been hard to journal again. Well it’s just grabbing a pen and writing, duh, you might say (or I imagine you saying). Well, I’ve become so accustomed to writing online which means attempting to be witty and interesting and censoring some of the way-too-true bits so I don’t embarrass myself down the line. Also writing those two little paragraphs under an outfit post don’t make me a real writer. I’ve had to say to myself, hey, you can in fact write whatever you want. Don’t hold back. Dump your mind here on these awkwardly spaced black lines (thanks Michael’s dollar section notebook).

I also had to make time for it. When I blog I have about a million tabs open and I’m flipping between fooling with the post layout and Pinterest and Twitter. But with a notebook in my hand I find I can’t have too many distractions. There has to be a comfortable spot where I can prop the book on my knees or place it on a table. There’s no tv on in the background and sometimes music is okay. Also stay out of my way when I’m journaling because then I get really self-conscious.

When it’s all said and done, I’m so glad I got back into the practice of getting off the internet and back on paper. I’m able to write a post like this, unencumbered by those random thoughts racing through my brain. The words are flowing, people, stand back and hold onto your hats.

What I’ve Been Reading and Adventures in Book Club Land

Being in a book club was something I always thought I’d do. Of course I painted the perfect picture in my mind: we’d meet in some really cozy living room with snacks that had a theme matching the book we’re reading. Think cute hamburger sliders when we read Divergent (if haven’t read Divergent and/or don’t get my thinking, get on it because it’s a great book and I think I’m pretty clever). I mean, I love to read and when you love to read, you love sharing what you read, right? But it wasn’t until last month that I joined my first book club. I was a bit hesitant too: would I like reading the book and would I like talking about it? I mostly worried about being a total goof when it comes to talking to other people about a book. None of my friends are big readers so I never shared my reading experiences with others. But when a work e-mail came around saying that some other teachers were starting a book club I thought, why not?

I’ve always been an introvert but I have this part of me that loves to get out and try new things. Even if it means that I have to socialize and make small talk and worry that I’m going to sound like a goof. The book club meeting was rescheduled a bunch of times due to snow days and scheduling conflicts but the day finally came and it was going to be in the upstairs wing of our school. Here’s the thing about our school: we have a very small upstairs wing or hallway and the only teachers that have rooms up there are fourth and fifth grade teachers and some literacy and math coaches have their offices up there. I don’t really know these teachers and I don’t know who’s rooms are whose. So add the anxiety of trying to figure out where to go to my many irrational worries. I only turned back once when I casually paused by the door and noticed that I was going to be the first person there. So I kind of mumbled to myself that I needed something from my room, ran downstairs, fiddled around in my room for about five minutes and went back upstairs with my water bottle in hand. I thought I was pretty smooth. This whole story is a little melodramatic because in reality, it was a great time after school talking about a book I actually enjoyed.

Now onto the book: the book club’s first selection was Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. It’s the story of a busy lawyer who’s world is rocked by the sudden unexpected death of her daughter in a tragic accident at her daughter’s elite private school. She refuses to believe that her daughter’s death was a suicide as the police labelled it and goes to great lengths to discover the truth while unveiling things about her daughter and herself that she never expected. It has the feel of Gone Girl with a touch of that elusive and exclusive lifestyle found in books like Gossip Girl.

 

Reconstructing AmeliaI procrastinated reading it but once I started I just couldn’t put it down. The author does a great job interspersing thrilling narrative with Amelia’s online chats, Facebook statuses and blog posts from the unsanctioned school gossip blog. Did I mention there’s also a secret society? The author offers plenty of twists and turns in the plot that are completely unexpected. It gets a lot of comparisons to Gone Girl and, while I have to admit I liked Gone Girl more, I definitely think Reconstructing Amelia is the perfect read for anyone who likes a thrilling and exhilarating read. I only wished I could have talked about it more at book club! Go figure.

Our next book club book is The Language of Flowers, which has been on my book list and Pinterest “Books to Read” board for awhile. I decided to be more proactive about this book and started reading it over the weekend. In some ways it is heartbreakingly sad, especially since I tend to connect the main character to some of the children I’ve seen in my short teaching career. But it is also beautiful in many ways. It delves deeply into the messages behind flowers from the Victorian Age which really grabbed my attention. I can’t wait to share my thoughts on this new read and possibly more book club adventures to come!

Filo Love, or How I Take Organization to Another Level

filofax personal pens

Mrs. F., my beloved fourth grade teacher, is part of the reason I love learning and chose to become a teacher. She is also the reason I have an affinity for organization. You see, when I first started at the Catholic all-girls school that I went to from fourth grade until graduating from high school, I was kind of a mess in the responsibility area of school. I had gone to a really small private school which was much more laid back than the rigorous Catholic education I was about to receive. If something didn’t get handed in one day, bring it in the next. If I didn’t keep track of my homework, my teacher would just have me do it at school.

This was not acceptable to Mrs. F. (and definitely isn’t acceptable to me now as a teacher in my own right). She called my mom right up and demanded that I get a planner to keep track of my homework or my report card would reflect my laissez-faire attitude about homework. I was annoyed and upset by this “stringent” homework policy. My policy about life up until that moment was relaxed. But Mom was not about to argue with Mrs. F. So she took me to pick out a planner. I chose a hot pink Peanuts planner and dutifully copied down my homework. After a few weeks, my world was revolutionized.

When that pink planner and fourth grade year expired, I was officially hooked on being organized. Picking out my planner for school was my favorite part of every year, even into college. Then I started to ramp it up as the years passed: list-making became a regular activity, someone gifted me an address book that I dutifully used, polka-dotted accordion folders became a portfolio of my greatest accomplishments. I love the tools of organization and couldn’t wait to use those in my post-college life. As soon as I graduated, I knew that I needed something grown-up, sophisticated, ready to tackle the world (regardless of the fact that I didn’t have a job and not a whole lot to plan). That was when I knew I needed a Filofax.

Oh my Filofax, the love of my organized heart. A Filofax, if you really want to be blunt, is basically a fancy leatherbound mini binder that comes with its own calendar and notebook pages for keeping track of appointments and ideas, dividers, and other helpful inserts of your choosing. But it’s really so much more to those of us who love them.

Just like the wildly popular Project Life makes scrapbooking chic and sophisticated, a Filofax is the sophisticated, chic ultimate planner. Every November I purchase my “diary”pages where I’ll record my appointments and To Do Lists for each day. I keep important business cards in the card holder insert and I invested in multi-colored notebook pages to add in my own flair.

This year I have jazzed it up even more by introducing colored pens and trying to be a little more creative as inspired by the surprisingly numerous blog posts and Pinterest boards dedicated to the ultimate planner. I picked out some of my favorites below.

filoFax

While this is an extremely long and nerdy post about being organized, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So thank you, Mrs. F., for making me the put-together young lady I am today.