Trip: Atlantic City

Atlantic City BeachEvery year in August, my mom’s side of the family gathers in Atlantic City to reunite and enjoy the beach. (Technically, we go to Margate, which is right next to Atlantic City.)

Packing

Don’t you always have trouble figuring out what you’ll ACTUALLY wear on a trip? I feel like I’m getting better at it, and this trip I brought almost exactly what I ended up needing.

It was really hot there, but I’m a chillbaby, and I always have to have a bunch of layers with me to keep warm in air conditioning, shade, late evening breezes, etc. It makes packing a special challenge for me, but I have my strategies.

Atlantic City Trip Outfits

Lots of layers and items I could mix and match. I considered packing a light, casual dress for really hot days, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to layer it well. In hindsight, it would have been helpful, but oh well. Next time. I also forgot a hat for the sun. Boo!

Notes on my favorite clothing items from this trip:

-My swimsuit is Modcloth’s Bathing Beauty Swimsuit in Cherry Pie, and it’s seriously the cutest dang thing. Buy it!

-The blue tube dress is so versatile, I wear it constantly, and I love it. I can wear it as pajamas, for getting ready in the morning/at night, as a beach cover-up, etc. I got it from Target a few years ago, but similar ones can be found all over the place.

-The pink long-sleeve shirt is THE GREATEST SHIRT EVER MADE. It’s from Alloy, and it’s really soft, has a nice neckline, a lovely ruching-cinch on one side, and thumb-holes! They’re available online (in various colors), though they’re currently sold out (I understand why!). Get it in their tall size, and it’s like a tunic!

-I had been searching for shoes that I could wear with casual skirts/dresses, but that I could also walk in for a while, but everything was either too casual for a dress, or uncomfortable, or just plain ugly.

Then these Roxy Rory Lace-Ups came into my life and the heavens opened up and the angels sang. They’re comfortable and cute, and they’re slip-ons! My mom had to listen to me gush about them for a little too long. They’re the best.

Trip Recap 

On our first full day, we visited Cape May, which is a quaint touristy town about an hour away. The town is a National Historic City, and all new construction has to meet aesthetic standards that match the charming antique look of the original buildings. So the whole town is like a dollhouse village.Cape May HousesOne interesting tidbit: Cape May is where Harriet Tubman lived, worked, and started the Underground Railroad.

We spent the next two days on the beach.

Atlantic City OceanAtlantic City DockFeet in OceanI found some great shells, including a conch. It has some holes, but I actually think that makes it look cooler.Sea ShellsWe took a walk along the beach to visit Lucy the Elephant, an elephant-shaped building that was originally built in 1881..for…reasons…?Lucy the ElephantWhile on the walk, I had a mini heart-attack when I stepped on something jellified. You know when you step on something you’re not expecting and your body just flips out?Moon JellyApparently it was a moon jelly, which is like a dying jellyfish. Myeah, with all due respect to this presumably lovely creature, I’m just not into that. But it was interesting. Coming from a land of lakes and no oceans, I don’t know much about the ocean, so it’s interesting learning things like this.

As a side note, I had 3 count ’em 3 cones of cherry ice cream during the trip. These east-coasters know how to do ice cream. YUUUUMMMMCherry Ice CreamIt was a really fun trip of family and sun, but it’s nice to be back home.Jane and Me

Recipe: Everything Cookies

Everything Cookies 2Attachment-1 (6)These are now my go-to cookie. They are so easy and freakin delicious, there’s nothing not to like! I’m calling them “Everything Cookies” because basically everything people like is in them (chocolate, coconut, nuts, oatmeal, raisins), and because once you bite into them, you will say, “These cookies are everything!”Attachment-1 (1) - CopyThis is the third batch of these that I’ve made this summer because they were such a hit. I originally made them because I needed a gift for Father’s Day, and my dad had been talking about these “ranger cookies” he got somewhere that would have been perfect if not for the butterscotch chips. So I did some research, and then basically made cowboy cookies with raisins.

Attachment-1 (7)My family went nuts (ha) for them, and my parents commissioned another batch a couple weeks later. My mom’s birthday was Saturday, so I decided to make them again.

Attachment-1 (8)Here’s the recipe!

I just used this recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, and then added some other stuff.

Ingredients
-1 cup butter, softened
-1 cup packed light brown sugar
-1/2 cup white sugar
-2 eggs
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/4 flour
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-3 cups quick cooking oats
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
-1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
-1 cup raisins/craisins (I use both)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the oats, pecans, coconut, raisins/craisins, and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Bonus: They keep for a surprisingly long time (if you can stop yourself from eating them at once). Usually homemade cookies get crumbly or hard after a day or two, but these stay soft and chewy for a couple of weeks (kept in a sealed container)!

Book Report!

I use my Kindle for almost all book buying now, and I had been neglecting my shelf of hard-copy books that I had collected pre-Kindle, so I decided to try to make it through all of them over summer break (I work in a school). Most of the books in this post are from my hard-copy pile. I haven’t read them all yet, but I’m close!

Please Stop Helping Us

I work in a school with a majority of black students, so I’m always interested in learning more about how to best serve them. I’ve been frustrated at times with the way my school “helps” our students so much that we end up doing a lot of things for them that they can and should be doing for themselves, especially considering that we are a high school and our students need to be preparing for their imminent entrance into “the real world.”

So I was intrigued by the title of this book, and wanted to see if it would validate my perspective. And it does, I suppose, but it’s written by a conservative Republican (black) man, who was a little too quick to use the word “liberal” as a slur for my taste. I am skeptical about the author’s perspective and motivation, and would very much like to read something that responds to his specific claims. He uses a lot of data to support his arguments, which I appreciated very much, but data can be found that supports anything, so I’m not swallowing it blindly. Overall, I thought it made decent arguments, but I’d like to hear others’ responses to it.Love Saves The DayI read this author’s previous book, Homer’s Odyssey, which was a true story about a blind cat’s experience living in New York City when 9/11 occurred just a few blocks from his apartment. It was very interesting, and the author clearly knows a lot about cats. This book was about a cat who tries to settle into a new life when her previous owner passes away, and the cat is transferred to a new home. It was sweet, funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I know it sounds silly because it’s about a cat, but I don’t care! Hangman's DaughterAn interesting book very loosely based on the author’s ancestor, an executioner in a small town in Germany in the 1660s. It’s written as a mystery: we’re trying to figure out who’s killing the town’s children and why. It was good, I enjoyed it.For White FolksThis was required reading for my job, and it seemed like it might be a decent complement to  “Stop Helping Us”, and it kind of was, but the two books aren’t really in the same conversation. This book is more like a curriculum guide for teachers, with specific ideas for how to engage black students and how to leverage the strengths of black culture and youth culture for use in the classroom. I was trained as a counselor, not a teacher, so I felt like I need more information/training in order to actually implement these suggestions successfully, but it stirred up some good ideas and thoughts.
As You WishThe Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, and this book, written by the actor who played Westley, is a look behind the scenes of the making of the movie. It was really charming, and funny, and had the same spirit as the movie itself.

Lies My Teacher Told MeI’ve been wanting to study history for a while, since I don’t know much of it, and I feel like I didn’t learn it at all in school. It’s hard to know where or how to begin, though! But this book was meant as a start. It intends to present many aspects of American history that K-12 history classes misrepresent, omit, or just totally lie about. I found especially interesting its indictment of text books and the text book industry, which are essentially corrupt and awful. Who knew! Very interesting book.

Funny GirlMy dad gave me this book because, apparently, he read it himself solely because he likes Hornby, and he was done with it, and figured I might as well take it off his hands. 🙂 It was okay. It’s about a woman trying to make it as a movie star in London in the 1960s.

Wolf HallUgh, so boooooorrrrrrring. I had heard great things about this book, which follows Thomas Cromwell’s experiences with the Tudor family, as Henry VIII was trying to divorce Catherine so that he could finally bed wed Anne Boleyn. I’ve seen the show The Tudors, so I already knew all of the plot. Maybe if I hadn’t, this would have been more interesting. Maybe. Possibly not. It’s an interesting story, but this book did not do it justice. But a lot of people apparently like it, so what do I know.FoodJim Gaffigan is a comedian who has a lot of jokes about how much he loves food, and this book is kind of a compilation of all of those jokes. I had already heard the jokes, so it wasn’t that entertaining, but whatevs, it was okay.

Augie MarchOof, no. Again, I had heard good things about this book, but it was really really boring. The Adventures of Augie March? More like the boring, every day nothingness of this wet noodle. Augie March is a guy growing up in Chicago during the Depression, and he gets various part-time jobs, lives in various places with different people, goes out with various girls, and that’s pretty much it. There was a mildly interesting part toward the end where he tries to train an eagle in Mexico, but for the most part, it was a waste of time.

Before and After: Coffee Table

I love Before and Afters so much, don’t you??

This is the coffee table on my porch in my last post. I bought it at an occasional store, and it was the right size and shape, just not the right colors for me.

041

Here’s the frame before I had spray painted it that charcoal color:

032So I used an electric sander on the top to get rid of most of the paint. I didn’t use a paint stripper because I wanted kind of a mottled, weathered look, so I wanted to encourage an uneven color. And because paint stripper scares me.

047Then I used a water-and-paint mixture to “blue-wash” it. And there we go!

048I’ve got another Before and After coming up soon!

 

 

 

Backyard Update and Planning

I’ve posted about spiffing up my backyard before, so I just thought I’d give a little update on my progress, and what I’d like to do with it in the future. I’ve been meaning to show a before and after of my back porch too, so here we go!

Here’s what the porch looked like when I bought the house:020 (2)Let me explain what you’re seeing here. A previous owner apparently wanted a three-season porch, and must have found a great deal on sliding glass doors, so instead of installing glass paneling, they just installed four sliding glass doors to wall in the porch. 3 problems with this:

1. It looked like a cheap approximation of something else. Because that’s what it was.

2. The doors were probably on sale for a reason: they were dirty ON THE INSIDE OF THE PANES. Glass doors (or at least these ones) have two panes with a little bit of space in between them. Like a glass and air sandwich. I don’t know how, but these doors appeared to have dirt, dust, or just a general fogginess between the panes, making them look forever dirty with no way to get them clean.

3. While it was nice for insulation in the winter, the glass turned the porch into an oven, which (combined with the dirty glass) is not what you want when you’d like to enjoy a nice summer day on the porch.

So my dad and I ripped those suckers out of there, and I added some reed curtains, an outdoor rug, and some furniture and plants:

Attachment-1 (4)

Attachment-1 (3)(The coffee table is a little re-fashion that I’ll show in an upcoming post.)

And here’s the yard before:

Backyard Before #2 (2)

Backyard Before #1And now, after adding some plants (hydrangeas, lilacs, a cherry tree, etc.), cleaning it up a bit, and moving things around a little:

Attachment-1 (5)

Attachment-1 - CopyI like it for now, but my long-term goal for my back (and front) yard is to replace almost all of the grass with plants and other landscaping. You guys, I hate mowing!!! And it’s just pointless. Why do we all have these useless grass plots that we have to constantly cut back (and if you’re not me, you also water and fertilize)? Why not fill our land with plants, flowers, gardens, etc. that we can use for something?

I’ve been envying this woman’s backyard for a while (I also love her blog):

rosielittlethingsbackyardBut she lives in the pacific northwest, so there are things about her yard that wouldn’t work well in mine (she gets no temperature extremes, less direct sun, more rain, etc.). I just really like how it looks casually coordinated, with different areas for different activities (eating, lounging, chatting, playing), it all blends in really well with nature (neutral colors, natural materials), and I especially like that it’s sheltered from neighbors and direct sun.

Anyway, for now, I’ll just be focusing on landscaping. If you have any suggestions for good, low maintenance plants and ground cover that would look nice and grow well in Minnesota, let me know!

 

2016: New Year, New Projects

As I’ve written before, I don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions”, I just like to work on things all year round. So since it’s a new year, I wanted to write about the projects I’m currently working on, and those I plan to start soon.

Aerial Dance

This is totally what I look like...
This is totally what I look like…

I’ve been wanting to try this out for the last couple of years, and I’m doing it now! I’m taking a class at a local Aerial Arts school. Fun!

Learn to Sew

tn_SewingDesk1My first step in this project was to make myself a Renaissance Festival dress, and I’ve started it!!! I’ve already learned a lot. I will post about it when I’m done. I would also like to learn how to put in a zipper, make pockets, use a dress-form, and use a real pattern (I’m using a home-made pattern for my dress).

Cut The Cord!

Coaxial_Cable1

I’ve been wanting to ditch cable for the last few years, and as online options have become better, I’ve taken steps toward cutting able until I finally took the plunge this month!! I got a basic tv antenna from Amazon for local channels, and I use Roku to watch stuff from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc. on my tv. I plan to make a blog post detailing how to do this, since I think no one should use cable anymore.

Be Healthier

I started this project this past fall, and my main goals were to reduce my sugar intake and increase my exercise.

  1. Reducing Sugar Intake.

I’m always trying to eat more vegetables and protein, but my biggest problem is that I LOVE sugar, and I eat way too much of it.

So here are the things I’ve done so far:

-I stopped drinking soda at lunch. Yes, I used to have about 4-8 oz of soda or juice almost every day with lunch. So that was the first thing to go. I’ve been doing just water since September. I’m surprised at how easy this was for me. Because I LUV soda.

-Next, I’m in the process of cutting out soda almost altogether. I used to order a cherry coke any time I would eat out (because it is yuuuumyy), and I would keep mini-sodas in my fridge for dinners at home. I’ve switched to mostly water at restaurants (once in a while I’ll treat myself; I’ve had 3 glasses of soda in the last two months), and no sugar-added juice in my fridge. At some point, the goal will be to cut back on the juice as well.

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^These are microwaved eggs!

-I used to eat cereal every morning for breakfast, and even “healthier” cereal can have a lot of sugar (and just also not much actual nutrition), so I’m trying to mix it up a bit. Now I’ll have maybe one bowl of cereal during the week, a couple of toast-and-peanut-butters, and I’ve started eating EGGS!!! This is insane for me since I’ve always felt like I don’t have time in the morning for eggs, but I recently discovered that you can scramble eggs in the microwave, which seems to make it faster.

-I still eat more sugar than I should, so a future goal would be to reduce the amount of “treats” I eat (cookies, ice cream, etc.). Baby steps.

2. Increasing Exercise.

-I don’t like going to the gym, so I usually get my exercise through various classes (and outdoor walks when it’s nice out). This fall, I made sure to set up my schedule with a good mix of classes.

-I do Irish Dancing once a week, as I have for the last 7 years. In October, I added a strength training class on Wednesdays (it’s not dance, which I usually prefer, but I needed something that was more muscle building than aerobic. It’s a beast.), and in November, I added Zumba on Thursdays. My aerial class is also strength-building, particularly in the upper arms/shoulders and core. So this adds up to at least 4 hours of exercise a week, which I think is pretty darn good for the Deep-Winter Lazies.

-I did a lot of yoga last year, so I’m a little yoga’d out right now, but I’ll return to it at some point in the future. I really should take up jogging some day, but at this point, running for any length of time is my personal hell. Another future goal would be to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, and/or to sit less at work. Baby steps.

That’s all the projects for now!