Sunday, July 9, 2017

2017 Reads! and top 5

2017 Reads? We're only half way through the year! I know, I know, but I made it my goal this year to read 30 books this year (same number as my age). I just finished my 30th book and am excited to share the complete list with you along with my top 5. I am so glad I decided to really commit myself to reading this year. I have enjoyed every book and reading just makes me better. It makes me think deeper, connect more, improves my writing, and is just plain fun too. I decided to continue keeping track of my books for the year via instagram, just for fun!

Without Further Ado, here are my 30 books:

1. Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
2. Ruthless by Ron Miscavige
3. Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
4. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
5. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
6. Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson
7. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
8. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
9. Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
10. Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
11. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
12. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
13. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
14. What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan
15. Room by Emma Donoghue
16. The Nest by Cynthina D'Aprix Sweeney
17. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
18. Happily Ever After by Trista Sutter
19. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
20. The Clasp by Sloane Crosley
21. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend
22. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
23. One Less Problem Without You by Beth Harbison
24. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
25. An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker
26. This is Not Over by Holly Brown
27. By The Numbers by Jen Lancaster
28. House Rules by Jodi Picoult 
29. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
30. Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler

Here are my Top 5 (in no particular order)

1. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams: I loved this book about friends set in the 1940's at a summery beach town. It is a perfect mix between a beach read, a romance, drama, and historical fiction. This book had everything and it wrapped up with a perfect ending. This was a long one, but I highly recommend it. 

2. Room by Emma Donoghue: I read this book in two days and loved it! The idea of the narrator as a child was brilliant and this book was fascinating. I knew right when I finished it that it would easily be in my top 5. One of the things I loved most about it was how it described life after captivity. The young boy is experiencing so many things for the first time and it's a delight reading about it from his childish mindset. 

3. This is Not Over by Holly Brown: This book was not even on my radar, I was just browsing through Nook books and saw it was on sale and took a chance on it. The story is told through back and forth viewpoints of two very different women and how their lives become intertwined. It was creepy, intriguing, and such an interesting premise. 

4. House Rules by Jodi Picoult: This book was a great family drama that spiraled into a courtroom drama involving an autistic boy and a suspicious murder in the community. I love how Picoult's stories are always told through many points of view. It shed some wonderful insight into Asperger's and really allows the reader to understand a little bit of what it must be like for those who have it. 

5. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance: This book. So good! I got this one from the library and wished I had bought it so I could take notes in the margins and underline things. Beyond just an underdog story about how Vance emerges from his hillbilly roots to become a Yale educated lawyer, it is a stunning portrait of life for poor white communities in Appalachia. Do you ever wonder how Trump managed to win the election? Read this book. These are the lives of so many Americans clinging to a desire that their country will rescue them. 

Happy Reading, friends! 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Life Lately

Hi Everyone! Happy JULY! We are in the dog days of summer over here! I'm working on this post at Starbucks with an iced caramel machiato, a baseball hat, no makeup, freshly pedicured toes, and a little bit burnt from our afternoon swim today. That's pretty much summer life, huh?!

What's new over here?

My Classroom: AJ and I loaded up both our cars and brought a big haul to my new classroom. We got most of the heavy stuff, although I think we'll need to do another 2 car haul to totally clear out our house of my classroom stuff. I am absolutely ITCHING to start arranging desks and hanging things but I'll get to that after our trip this month. I popped into the teacher store this week and came out with a new theme: Up, up and away! So many cute things (and puns!) I can do with that theme. I've had chevron stripes for 2 years now and I'm ready to mix it up.
I saw this on facebook and I cracked up. Do not mess with elementary teachers when it comes to cute school supplies. 

Speaking of school starting, what did I spot at Hobby Lobby but all sorts of fall things! Ahh! I was like, what? It's the first week of July!! But then I wandered down the aisles and that attitude quickly faded away. So fun and festive! We bought a football yard decoration to bring to Hadley when football season begins. She is a Steele after all.

Back to summer, the season we are currently in. We celebrated the 4th with my parents at our town's breakfast and "town days." We all thoroughly enjoyed our $4 country breakfast served by the mayor and city council. That evening we went to a BBQ at our friends' house. We played Cards Against Humanity until we all practically died of laughter. Then we went home and tried to sleep even though it seemed like the bombs were falling. Anyone else in the Salt Lake Valley feel like the neighborhood firework situation was on another level this year? Maybe I'm just an old woman ("Get off my lawn!").

I've been reading a ton lately (hello pajama shorts and sweet sweet air conditioning) and am on book 29 of the year! I read these two last week and really enjoyed both. I couldn't put that Jodi Piccoult one down.

We've been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing at home, watching movies (we saw The Beguiled last weekend Meh), going for lots of walks, spending time at the gym, taking naps, reading, AJ's been working on our little garden (our tomatoes are out of control! AJ had to go buy more sticks to hold them up, the tomatoes are taking over the garden! My blueberries are sadly burnt to a crisp and we have 2 tiny jalapenos), I've been trying to make the blog more user friendly (if you are good at website design and want to help a sister out, let me know! I'll pay you in compliments and cookies), visiting with friends, AJ's been working a few nights a week, and we're just enjoying our days.

We think all the time what Hadley would be like if she were here. These summer months can be hard...I can't believe a year ago we were deep in the fog of grief and here we are now. There's a weird paradox with loss. As time goes on, your pain lessens and your wounds begin to heal. But with time also comes distance from when your loved one was with you. We're learning you never get through grief, you just learn to carry it with you. It makes your heart take a different shape. Being Hadley's mommy isn't just a piece of me or a chapter in my story: it's who I am. I saw this quote on Pinterest and was like yes, preach! I wouldn't wish the storm on anyone, but you're definitely not the same in the aftermath.

Enjoy your July, everyone!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bucket List

Every year in May, my class makes their summer "Bucket Lists." I encourage things like "read everyday," "play with my friends," "visit the library," and I love hearing about my students' vacations and their hopes and dreams for the 2 and a half glorious months of summer. This summer we are getting a beach house for a few days on the Oregon Coast and I remarked to a friend that doing that is "on my bucket list." I began to think of other things on my bucket list, those things accomplished and those still on my horizon. Life is short, attack that list!

My sister and I did this over the Arizona desert in 2015. So awesome! 

My friends and I did this for New Year's Eve 2011. We had a blast. 

So fun! I did this when I lived in the city in 2009

The most important one! 

I studied abroad in Italy in the summer of 2007. Awesome experience! 

Definitely a life goal! 

I always get so excited at Jazz games thinking it'll be our turn! One of these days! 

I'd love to experience this! 

Paris in general is a life goal! 

I was in this play in high school and would love to visit this place. 

I'd love to leave behind glasses and contacts forever 

We did this one! Twice! 

I'd love to go on an international service trip. The ultimate goal? Visit our sponsored child in Swaziland. One of these days!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Long Time, No Blog

I haven't blogged in over a week, yikes! But hey, it's summer and that's how I roll!
On one of our summer strolls
I am truly savoring these summer days. Having a horrific summer last year sandwiched between two tough school years sort of made me a little ragged. This summer, though, has been perfect. We've been sleeping in, going for long walks, running errands together, trying new recipes, reading, spending time with friends and family, and just enjoying these easy breezy days. We go on our Oregon trip next month and we know that after that, it'll be all about school, so we are soaking up this lazy June.

I am planning on doing a book post once I hit my 30 book goal (I'm currently reading #27). Here's some reads I've read lately:
This one was really cute and quirky (much like Where Did You Go, Bernadette?). It definitely took a direction I wasn't expecting, and didn't love, but if you're looking for a 2 day easy fun, read, grab this one. 

This one was hard to read, by a mom who lost her daughter Emilie at Sandy Hook. It offered really great perspectives on grief and loss of children. It was worth reading. 

I loved this book!! It has a really odd premise, of a Yelp-type review and is told from the owner of the property's point of view and from the reviewer's POV. Around 20 pages in, I was thinking ok, how can this concept be a whole book? But it had twists and turns and I loved how something small snowballed into major drama.
You know how I am all about meal prepping on Sundays during the school year? Well, I tried to do it during the summer but it just wasn't really working for me. I might meet a friend for lunch, want to snack all day instead of square meals, we might want to grill if we're already hanging out outside. So basically, this week I planned for 3 dinners (leftovers as lunches) and the rest we'll just figure out. I'm still a major fan of meal prepping, and it works out super well on busy weeknights and packing lunch for AJ and I, but summer is for laid back, don't you think? (I also hit up Trader Joes at Costco for some easy to prepare snacks and meals). One of my go-to's lately is: whole wheat tortilla, avocado spread on it, scrambled eggs over the top, some shredded cheddar and salsa. I've eaten that for lunch pretty often.
I made a corn and black bean quinoa salad and marinated cucumbers to have around to munch on last week. 
Let's talk TV:
Guys, I am so hooked on Southern Charm! I've watched nearly all 4 seasons since school got out. I love the drama, and am about ready to plan a vacation to visit Charleston!

The Bachelorette: I love Rachel and this is a fun season. There is one guy that has emerged as fave match for her, in my opinion------Peter!!!! 
They have obvious chemistry and if it doesn't work out? I see Bachelor promise with this one!

But I think Rachel really likes-----Bryan! Anyone else get grossed out by the close ups on their kissing scenes? Too much tongue for prime time! 

Pretty Little Liars ends tomorrow!!!! I am invested many a Tuesday night into this crazy show and am so excited to see it all tied up. Here's hoping it all makes sense in the end #doubtit

I've also been enjoying these shows lately:

That's it for the Steeles, lately! Hope you all are enjoying these warm (hot!) days and are finding some time to relax and-----savor your sparkle!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dream Classrooms

I am very particular about my classroom. After all, I spend more time there than at home! I think it's so important for the classroom to be a warm, inviting place for the students. I also believe it's important to have a tidy and organized space. It's one of the best ways to model for kids that "You matter, our classroom space matters, and I keep it tidy and respect my things, so you can keep it tidy and respect property too." That said, there will always be a glue spill, a torn paperback, pencil shavings on the floor, and kids who love to hoard things in their desks. (Do you know what I say all the time? "Nature stays outside!" If left unchecked, we'd have whole ecosystems in those desks). Life happens in the classroom and sterile and model-home perfect is totally unrealistic, but a gal can dream, right?

 I love seeing how other teachers set up their rooms and have gotten so much inspiration from Pinterest. Check out these awesome learning spaces!

I've seen this cardboard awnings at the teacher store and I'm always tempted. Making my bulletin boards look like a Parisian cafe? Yes ma'am! But I feel like it might get annoying and in the way, though too? 

I love a solid classroom theme. I've never been able to fully commit to one thing because I have a hodge podge collection of things, but this rustic/chalkboard one is just too cute! 

I feel like I'd be more on top of posting objectives for all subjects if I had this cute board. Bonus with teaching lower grades: most concepts are NOT one and your objective could stay up for a bit of time. 

I really want to do a question of the day station this year. What a fun morning task and it teaches graphing AND you get to learn more about your kids AND you could parlay this into some sweet writing tasks or a mini math lesson. 

This teacher area is just too cute. I would love to get a mini fridge! I love the adorable shelf in the background (maybe I could look for something like it on KSL?) and the bright, coordinated colors. This teacher area is truly #goals. 

This classroom looks like a lovely living room! I love the upholstered chair, fun rug, and curtains. 

I cannot stand florescent lighting so I love this cute lamp. And these crate/cushion seats? Adore! 

Yet another classroom that looks like an inviting living room! This one is truly gorgeous. I want to meet this teacher and have her show me her ways. 

Some teachers don't need one, but I NEED a teacher area. This is a fun, coordinated look. 

This reading nook is so fun! And those bins look mighty organized too. And MINI LEATHER CHAIRS?! I mean, come on! 

Ok, I'm ready to spend a million dollars on my dream classroom now! What is your dream classroom like?