Read-a-thon: Introductory Post

It’s the start of the Read-a-thon! Woo hoo! The timing is perfect for me because I have a dog who had a lump removed yesterday and is still woozy from the sedative. So, a quiet day of reading works out well for us.

1)Where are you reading from today?

I’ll be alternating between my chair and couch in my cozy living room in Vermont. I’m sure my chocolate labs will curl up on my lap throughout the day.

2)Three random facts about me…

  • My favorite colors are green and black.
  • I made a yummy soup yesterday – I will be snacking on it off and on all day today!
  • I’m the team captain of my family’s American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life team.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

I took 2 books out of the library yesterday, but I also have a couple on my NOOK I haven’t gotten to yet and a few other real books on my nightstand waiting to be read. So… I guess the pile keeps getting bigger.
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
My goals are to enjoy the day reading and for the first time I am also cheerleading.

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

Have fun!

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Dewey’s Read-a-Thon October 2011

My first post since school began back at the end of August! Woo hoo! I’m finally keeping my head above water and I’m hoping to post more regularly.

Next weekend is Dewey’s Read-a-Thon. I’m looking forward to a weekend of curling up with good books on the couch. I’ve only finished one book since school began. I’m hoping the read-a-thon will give me a good block of time to read an additional book or two. Soon I’ll be heading over to the library to get a pile of books to choose from. I know I want to grab  a couple of graphic novels, a young adult book or two, and a novel. I have a book on my NOOK I’ve also been wanting to read… but digital library books keep coming in so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. What books do you have planned for the read-a-thon?

One Thousand Words (almost) on the Character of Marinades

Do your marinades, condiments, and sauces have character? I’m not talking in terms of flavor, I mean are they an actual character?

I was riding in my friend’s car last week on our way home from a movie when we started talking about our favorite marinades and grilling sauces. She loves Original State Fair Spiedie Sauce. We never knew how to pronounce it, so we just called it “Speedy.”  We both loved it. As soon as summer would roll around, we would get our grills ready and start stocking up on good old Speedy. Then, one day we discovered State Fair Lemon Garlicious, a different marinade made by the same company, a lemon garlic one! We started calling that sauce, “Speedy’s Friend.” This marinade became my favorite one. Another time we discovered a third sauce, State Fair Chicken Bar-B-Que Sauce. This sauce was quickly dubbed, “Speedy’s Friend of a Friend.” (For the record, neither of us liked this one.)

Now that I’ve introduced you to the three sauces, let’s get back to last week’s car ride. We were hungry, talking about what each of were going to make for dinner that night. This food discussion led to talking about Speedy, Speedy’s Friend, and Speedy’s Friend of a Friend. During one of my comments, I referred to Speedy as a “he.” My friend wondered out loud if other people refer to their marinades as he or she. We both agreed that Speedy is a guy. I was surprised that I also had a very clear view of what I  thought Speedy looks like. I view him as a short, stocky man, maybe with a mustache, looking a bit like Luigi from Super Mario Brothers. My friend viewed him as a tall, athletic guy. We both had very vivid images of what he looks like. But we could accept the other person’s visualization.

We didn’t agree on anything with Speedy’s Friend. I feel Speedy’s Friend is also a guy. He is tall, wears a baseball cap (either blue or yellow) and he is  younger than Speedy. They are friends. He walks with long strides, while Speedy has more of a quick waddle, with his arms pumping as he moves. My friend feels Speedy’s Friend is a female. Very quickly, we both started talking at the same time, trying to convince the other about the gender of Speedy’s Friend. My friend feels that  Speedy’s Friend is a female because it is so lemony and lemons can be delicate. But I feel the flavor isn’t so much lemony as it is LEMONY! I mean, this marinade is full of flavor. It’s bold. It’s strong. I think it can be lemony as well as being male. My friend was just as sure in her choice of Speedy’s Friend being female. This discussion went on for several miles, with no compromise in sight.

Today I saw my friend again and she brought up the Speedy discussion. She said she had shared our conversation with her next door neighbor. This neighbor also uses the marinades, so she is familiar with them. She agreed that Speedy is a male and she also felt he was short and stocky. Woo hoo!

Next came the moment of truth. How did the neighbor view Speedy’s Friend? She agreed with me! Yep, she also felt Speedy’s Friend is a male, a tall, younger male. Yippee!

Last night, I shared this discussion with my sister. She also uses both of these grilling sauces and very quickly came up with her interpretation of each marinade’s gender. She felt Speedy was a male because this marinade separates and looks all disheveled when it sits in your refrigerator. This is in contrast to Speedy’s Friend, who doesn’t separate. Kelly, my sister, felt that Speedy’s Friend always looks “put together.” It doesn’t separate as much and always looks presentable. In Kelly’s opinion this makes Speedy’s Friend a girl. She did not have physical descriptions of them, maybe she will come up with that later. I promise I will share Kelly’s interpretation with my friend.

Have you ever thought about the character of your favorite marinades, grilling sauces, or foods? When I found the Rob Salamidia website (the company that makes Speedy, Speedy’s Friend, and Speedy’s Friend of a Friend) as I wrote this post, I saw all the other sauces, rubs, and spices that they have. Now I want to try more and see what other characters they have! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

If you haven’t tried these sauces and marinades I highly recommend it. Invite Speedy’s Friend over for a yummy chicken or pork dinner. You won’t be disappointed! If you have tried these before, let me know what your interpretation is of their character.

disclaimer:  No marinades, seasonings, or grilling sauces were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

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This post isn’t 1000 words long, it’s short by about 200 words. Bummer!

 

One Thousand Words on One Degree

My family and I went on vacation last week. My parents took my sister’s family and me to Foxwoods in CT. My sister and I spent quite a bit of time before the trip planning out the stuff we would do while we were there.

A couple of months ago, I was searching the Foxwoods website when I discovered The Bacon Brothers would be in concert there. This concert was free for Dream Card members (cards you can get when you visit the casino). I immediately called Kelly, my sister, and we made plans to go. We set a goal to meet Kevin Bacon and get a picture with him to prove our one degree of separation.

Finally, the week of our vacation came and it was the night of the concert. We wanted to go down and line up early because our tickets did not give you assigned seats. We couldn’t believe how long the line was at 5:45 already! (The concert started at 7:00.) We got in line and waited patiently.

Finally, the doors opened. We couldn’t wait to see if we could get some really close seats… we just had to meet Kevin Bacon! Ahead of us, we watched this elderly lady with two-toned colored hair and her husband who walked with a cane. They handed their tickets to the ticket lady and then Two-Tone took off like a bat out of hell, leaving her husband behind. Later we saw her up in the first row. Luckily her husband eventually caught up with her.

When we got into the theater, we scoped out the seats. First we chose some in the center, about 10 rows from the front. Then we saw 2 seats in the second row on the left hand side of the stage. Second row… that’s pretty close to Kevin Bacon! We grabbed those seats. In front of us, was a man with his daughter. We started chatting with them since we had an hour to kill before the concert started.

It turns out this guy is a reporter for a local paper. He has been following the band for years. He knew a lot of interesting facts and trivia about the band and Kevin Bacon. Can you name five Oscar winning films that Kevin Bacon has been in? He then had his daughter pull out her cell phone and show us her gallery of Kevin Bacon photos. They had photos of her from about age 9 to present with Kevin Bacon. Reporter guy then continued to talk about his time spent with Kevin Bacon while continually sharing more and more trivia about Kevin. Instead of a reporter, this guy started to sound more like a Kevin Bacon stalker. Reporter Stalker Guy said there was a chance he could get my sister and me back stage to meet Kevin. We thanked him and said that would be great (refer back to our main goal of the night) but we both knew that it probably wouldn’t happen.

Stalker Guy then pointed to someone over in the second row dead center. He said, “Doesn’t that guy look a lot like Kevin Bacon.” We looked over and there was a guy that did look so much like Kevin! He had Kevin’s nose and a short hair cut like in some of his movies. It was eerie. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for Kevin up on stage, looking out into the audience and seeing his doppelganger right in front of him. How freaky!

Finally the concert started. There we were… so close to Kevin Bacon! Stalker guy, Two-Tone, and Kevin Bacon Double seemed to all be enjoying the show. Actually, Kevin Bacon Double just sat there, staring at Kevin, with his chin on his hands. Kelly and I had a blast, singing along with the songs. The show ended and Stalker Guy said he didn’t think he could get us in. My sister and I headed off to get some dinner. We didn’t meet Kevin, but we were very close to him. It was a good night.

The next morning, we got up and headed to the opposite end of the resort to get our morning coffee and breakfast. It’s mile from one end to the other, so we decided to get my brother-in-law’s coffee closer to our room after we got our breakfast at Panera’s. On our way back, my sister noticed one of the band members sitting outside the gelato place. We decided to keep our eyes opened for Kevin… maybe the band was getting an early start on the road.

We started to pass the door to our elevators to go to the nearby coffee place, when Kelly saw Kevin turn into the elevators. I grabbed Kelly, told her we weren’t getting the coffee, and we went right to the elevators. We got into the elevator with Kevin, a woman, and a guy. The door closed and I look over at Kevin and told him how much I enjoyed the concert. He was only on the elevator for 2 floors but we chatted while he was on the elevator. When he got off the woman asked me who that was and then she was so surprised and angry at herself for not knowing it was him.

Kelly and I were so excited! We ran down to our rooms and told the rest of the family. We met our goal… we were one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon! I bet Stalker Guy, Two-tone, and Kevin Bacon Double would be so jealous. We didn’t get a picture with him, but we ended up with a great story of our adventure. My poor brother-in-law ended up without a coffee.

So now Kelly and I are wondering what our goal will be for next summer. Who should we try to meet? Maybe next year we will get a picture.

Oh, the answer to Stalker Guy’s trivia question:
JFK, Mystic River, Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon, A Few Good Men

One Thousand Words on Summer

This topic was inspired by Heather’s post on vacation. I’m a teacher so I get the summers off. I do usually teach summer school and tutor, but it’s not the same as the hectic work schedule of the school year. This change of pace gives summer a completely different feel to it. This change is so abrupt! One day is a work day filled with nonstop moving, and the next day… vacation – a blank page before me. I love summer! Here are some of the reasons why.

  •     No winter jackets – I love being able to just walk out the door without a bulky, winter coat. No need to but on boots, mittens, hat, or a scarf. I love the lightness of summer clothing! I love my shorts and tank tops. I love my sandals and the feeling of the sun on my skin. It’s so nice to not have the extra bulk of all that winter gear on my body.
  •     Reading on the deck – The very first nice day of summer (or spring) I carry my lounge chair up from the basement and out of its winter hibernation. The chair and I settle back out into the world. I grab my sunglasses, my current book, my iPod, and my dog. Tessa will play fetch for hours while I read. If I get too hot, and ice water doesn’t do the job, I grab a frozen Flavor Ice Pop from  the freezer. Reading on the deck is one of my all time favorite summer activities.
  •     Beach – I live very close to a wonderful beach on the lake. I love going there with my friend or even by myself. I grab a book, a cooler with fruit and water, and an inflatable lounger so we can float on the lake. It is so relaxing! I truly feel like I’m on summer vacation when I’m at the beach. The breeze coming off the lake helps to keep me cooler than on my deck and of course the lake itself is a great way to cool off!
  •     Walks – I have much more time to go for my walks. I love being able to go first thing in the morning, and then even getting in a second walk later in the day! Walking around my neighborhood is so relaxing. I put on my favorite tunes or podcasts and off I go! Sometimes one of the dogs goes with me but often times in the summer it is just too hot for them. They would love to come… but you can see the heat really getting to them.
  •     My own schedule – This is one of my favorite things! During the school year, my day is so scheduled. I love being able to do things when I want to do them. I can have a snack when I want to, eat meals when I want to. It’s also very nice to be able to go to the bathroom when I want to; I don’t have to wait for another adult to come in and stay in the classroom while I go! That is pure freedom! I normally am a person that gets up early, I like to enjoy the quiet, morning hours. But during the summer I also enjoy staying up a little later at night, still getting up early in the morning, but being able to sneak in a little down time during the afternoon.  Ahhh, summer.
  •     Summer food – I love grilled corn on the cob. Yum! There is also nothing like locally grown tomatoes. I have a great recipe for “no cook spaghetti sauce” made with fresh tomatoes. I just love it! Another summer time meal that I enjoy is gazpacho, a cold tomato based soup. I do enjoy summer time meals. Besides meals, the super fresh produce of summer is just so good. I don’t have a garden anymore, but just being able to buy locally grown produce at the grocery is
  •     Summer beverages – I am hooked on ice coffees! (Is it ice coffee of iced coffee?)My mom has one of those Keurig machines which makes ice coffee whenever you want it. I go through so many ice coffees when I’m down there – it’s embarrassing! Another favorite summer time drink is lemonade. This is another beverage that I can just sit and drink all day. It’s so refreshing and tastes like summer.
  •     Going to the movies – I don’t often have time during the school year to go to the movies, but I can fit it in during the summer. I love going to  the movies. I love movie popcorn, even though it is so bad for you, it tastes so good! I’m not even up on what movies are coming out this summer, but I know I will be going to see a couple of them.
  •     Time with family and friends – I like that when I get together with family and friends it is during  more relaxed times in the summer. During the rest of the year, it seems like all the big family gatherings are around the holidays. We have a great time during those get togethers, but they are not as relaxing as during the summer when we get together with each other just to be together. We can play horseshoes, bocce, or corn hole. We can stay up late playing poker or just hang out chatting.

Even though I love summer, I know I’m someone who couldn’t live where summer is the only season. I enjoy the change of seasons and I need the contrasts among all the seasons to help me appreciate the differences that each season can bring. I hope everyone gets to enjoy summer. You know what I’ll be doing: curling up with a good book on the deck, sipping an ice coffee, and enjoying some yummy food. What are some of your favorite things about summer? I hope you get to go do some this week!

One Thousand Words on Being Scared

Fear. It can freeze you in your tracks, make you cry, or can give you an edge in a tough situation. It can create an actual physiological response in your body:  sweating palms, racing heart, change in breathing. It’s such a powerful emotion. We have all felt it. But, what causes fear can vary from person to person.

I have a love/hate relationship with scary movies and books. I loved them so much when I was in high school and college, but after viewing or reading them, I would be scared for so long! I wouldn’t be able to sleep or be alone. After watching a horror movie or reading a scary book, I remember saying to myself, “Why do did you do that?!” But a few weeks later, I would do the same thing with a different book or movie. I’m a slow learner.

The unfortunate thing is that I LOVED watching scary movies. I would beg my friends or family to watch them with me (there was no way I could watch them alone). And then my friends and family would have to stay with me after because I would be scared silly! My poor friends and family. I can’t believe that they put up with me.

As a child and now as an adult, I have a fear of going to the basement. We had a finished basement (it really didn’t look scary at all) in my house growing up where we would spend most our time playing, listening to music, hanging out with friends, or watching TV. I was always terrified of going down there alone. Someone would have to go down with me or my mom would stand at the top of the stairs and talk to me the entire time I was down there getting whatever it was I had to get. If there was a reason that I had to go down there alone and couldn’t avoid it, then I would sing Jingle Bells at the top of  my lungs the whole time and get back upstairs as fast as I could!

I had the same problem going upstairs where the bedrooms were. I was afraid that I would see something that would scare me, a ghost or a scary reflection in a mirror were my two greatest fears. I’ve always been  afraid that I would see something scary as I pass a mirror. I don’t know why mirrors create such an intense fear within me? I don’t recall seeing a movie or  reading a book that would case that fear. Anyone know of a book or movie in the late 70’s or the 80’s that  would cause that fear?

After watching Jaws as a child, I would be terrified in the pool! I remember diving in, and then the scene from the movie where the shark pulls the lady under the water would flash in my brain. I could swim all the way to the shallow end faster than you could hum the theme from Jaws! The one benefit from this? I became a very good and fast swimmer!

The time I was the most scared was not even  when I was young, but as an adult. My friend Heather (from One Thousand Words Project) and  I went to see The Blair Witch Project.  That movie scared me so much, that felt sick afterwards. After the movie, we went back to my condo. Luckily, Heather was spending the weekend.  I became so scared at bedtime, that we had to move the guest bed out of the guest room, into the very small hallway and partway into my room because I was too scared to go to sleep!

The Blair Witch Project did not do anything to help my fear of basements. I continue to hate going down to the basement to get my laundry at night. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had to call my sister, brother-in-law, or mom so that I could be talking to one of them on the phone while I go down to get my laundry.

Now I’m a full fledged grownup, wearing my big girl pants, and I don’t watch as many scary movies or read as many scary books. I try to be careful so I don’t end up having lots of sleepless nights with my clean laundry stuck down in the basement. I tend to not have the desire to watch horror movies like I did when I was younger, but I do love psychological thrillers. But even those can scare me! Yesterday I decided to watch my netflix copy of Black Swan, but I thought I should watch it in the middle of the day in case it was a bit intense for me at night. After watching it, the only thing that really could scare me are the things that happens in the reflections of the mirrors. Almost every scene has a reflective surface in it…mirrors can still scare me!

It’s one thing for a movie to scare us. Something can jump out at you and catch you by surprise, but I think a book can scare you even deeper. When I am reading, I become so lost in the story. When a book is scary, you are creating the fear in your mind with your own imagination. That ability to create fear, just with words, is amazing. One of my cousins had the ability to tell such vivid stories to us that you could almost see the creatures peeking out at us while he told the story.

I also find it amazing that the fears that can grip me to a point of physiological response are the fears mentioned above, not the fear that someone could break into my house. One of my friends gets very nervous walking to her car in a parking garage. That doesn’t scare me. But, in all reality, that is a much more valid fear than a shark in the backyard swimming pool!

 

One Thousand Words on the Past

Once again Heather, creator of the One Thousand Words Project, got me into another activity. During the winter, she had used the website ancestry.com and found it really interesting. We both love the television show Who Do You Think You Are and talked quite a bit about the show throughout the season and then, the ancestry.com site. One of my plans for the summer, during my vacation, was to subscribe to ancestry.com and start playing around.

Well, I started my subscription to the site last night and I don’t think I moved off of my chair for two or three hours! Once I started, I quickly called my mom because her side of the family is huge and I wanted to get as much info into the site as possible to help narrow down the searches. My grandmother’s maiden name is Esposito which is like Smith but for Italians, so there are a lot of them! And, because they are immigrants with handwritten records, the spelling of the names changes sometimes.

So far, on my mom’s side, I’ve gotten back to my great, great grandparents. Next week I’ll be calling one of my relatives, a great aunt on my mom’s side, who will be able to help me fill in some of the blanks, names, and dates. My grandmother (my great aunt’s sister) was one of 12 kids – it’s a big Italian family!

My mom also had some information from my dad’s side of the family. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) gave my mom a book of names and dates that she had written down about family members. After digging out the book, my mom was able to give me a ton of names. I was able to get back to one set of great, great grandparents on that side. I have also contacted a cousin on that side of the family, who I hope will be able to work with her mom to help me fill in some of the missing information that I have for relatives.

The ancestry.com site is full of cool documents and information. I love being able to see the census records, written in the original handwriting. These scanned in documents are like a window to the past. There are also scanned in photos that people have uploaded to the site. So when you put in a name, if there are photos with the same name, they are marked as a possible hint or link. You can then check them out to see if it is a match. It looks like you can mark your photos as private so that the whole world can’t see them or you can make them public. I have already scanned in the wedding photo of my grandmother that also has her parents and my grandfather‘s parents in it.

As I’ve been using the site, I feel like I’m a detective. I love searching through the records, seeing if anything matches up, and then discovering a connection! It is so much fun to scour the old records, look at lists of siblings and children and then realize you are looking at a relative! I can tell that this site is going to keep me up way too late at night and keep me from getting my daily chores done.

While I was poking around on the site it started me thinking about what makes researching our past so interesting? Is it creating a family tree with a list of names or is it thinking about those stories that might accompany those names? For me I really want to know the stories behind the people.

My mom’s side of the family came from Italy, her grandfather and grandmother (on both sides). I wonder what these Italian immigrants were thinking as  they rode over on the boat from Italy. Were they scared? Were they excited? Were they sad to leave family and friends? Then what did they think once they arrived? My dad’s side came from Ireland and Sweden. I don’t know  as much about that side of the family, but I’m looking forward to finding out as much as I can.

I try to put myself in their shoes and think how scared I would have been, thinking about a new life in a country where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language. In high school, I struggled learning French. Learning languages is not my strong suit. How would I have done if I had been one of my ancestors, coming  to a new country and being immersed in a new language. I think I would have struggled a lot!

I work in a school where we have many immigrants and refugees from a wide variety of countries. It is not unusual to have 7 or 8 languages spoken in my little Vermont classroom. I often think of my ancestors coming to a new country as I work with my students.

I feel like this post reads like an advertisement for ancestry.com. I don’t mean for it to sound like that, it’s just that I’ve been having so much fun with it. I have to pull myself off for a bit and get some chores down and get ready for the tutoring that I have scheduled for tomorrow. I do put the computer down for a bit, put in a load of laundry, do a few dishes… but before I know it, I’m pulled back onto the computer because I thought of something else to look up.

I highly recommend treating yourself to ancestry.com if you are at all interested in your family tree. However, if you have an addictive personality, get ready before you start. Set aside plenty of time and have a few meals prepared that you can just quickly heat up because you won’t want to stop once you start! Have fun and good luck researching your family. Heather, do not get me hooked on anything else – I don’t have time for anything else!