Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why I Love Mortar Board.

I am in Chicago for the Mortar Board mid-year meeting. It's just a gathering for the national leadership including the National Council, Foundation Trustees and Section Coordinators. I am a Section Coordinator, working with the Mortar Board chapters in Kansas and Missouri. I love my "job" with Mortar Board because I get to work with really fun college seniors. Meeting them in July and helping them plan for the year is always a highlight of my summer.

A lot of people still don't know what Moartar Board is even though I disappear away to meetings on a regular basis. MB is a National Senior Honor Society for college seniors. I've stayed involved because I believe that our three ideals of scholarship, leadership and service are worthy and just causes for all functioning members of society.

And also because I've made some stinkin' great friends, most of whom are nerds like me.

My friend Marty is a K-State Alpha Chi who was in MB with my advisor and dear friend Jan. Sarra and I have been Mortar Board besties since the first time we were roommates. We're planning trips this spring to visit each other.

It's a good combination of great friends and a great cause - Mortar Board!

The Games They Play

Between now and March, Thursdays after school are devoted to preparing students for the writing assessment with "boot camp." We're working on all of the steps of the writing process and preparing for multiple choice questions about writing too. I choose to have small boot camps with only five students so we can really get focused to make improvements.

Here's some of the practicing we did last Thursday.

Okay. They are clearly off task. I try really hard to keep them in line but sometimes the after school silliness wins out, and we get off task. These two boys are taking turns flicking the top of the pop can until it falls off. Try it. It hurts.

Eventually we refocused (I had to take a couple pictures first). Then we brainstormed about expository and persuasive texts. Eventually we even outlined essays. The hardest part is convincing them that they have enough information stored in their brains to create five paragraphs.

Because they clearly have enough creative energy to come up with games like the one pictured above. It's all about harnessing their genius for good and not, well, stupidity.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Octagon of Doom.

I packed one of my favorite shirts to wear in Chicago this weekend. It says, "Partnership for a Jayhawk free America."

Today's a big game for the Wildcats. We don't get a lot of respect from KU fans, and I'm tired of it. For some reason, KU fans like to pretend that we don't count and that the only rivalry that matters is MU. But this weekend winning in Manhattan matters to KU. If they can beat us at home, they will probably move back up to #1. If the Wildcats win, we will be back safely into the Top 10.

I've been reading a lot of the coverage this week leading up to the game, and I'm downright jealous of the people who get to be in the Octagon of Doom for College Game Day (take 1 and 2!) and the game. That new-ish nickname for Bramlage is my favie. I also love that this dark arena still features 6,000 students yelling, screaming and wearing fake beards. That's 2,000 more students than Allen Field House. And no one puts baby in the corner at K-State. Our students sit right by the court, not behind the baskets. When Frank gets mad, we get mad. We've got plenty of tradition, but we've got a lot of spunk too right now.

So welcome to Manhattan, KU. We hope you don't enjoy your stay.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Travel Fail.

I told Mom at Christmas time that I was pretty sure my travel luck was going to run out soon. I had such great luck at Thanksgiving and Christmas getting everywhere on time (or early!) that I was pretty sure I was about to run out of luck.

If only I knew then what I know now.

Rachel dropped me off at 1:40 at the Metro by our school. At 1:47, the Metro pulled away. Exactly 30 minutes later at 2:17, I was already in Reagan National Airport, through security and approaching my gate. As I walked through the terminal, I heard one girl rudely say to another, “I don’t like that stuff. Too matchy- matchy.” I looked up. She was pointing at my luggage.

I should add that this is the inaugural trip of this luggage. And I LOVE this stuff. She doesn’t even now how matchy it really is. I have five more bags inside that match too. And I LIKE that it matches.

I continued on to the gate. Boarded my flight bound for Chicago. Pulled away from the gate at 3:05. I promptly fell asleep because I can’t handle the rumbling. Puts me to sleep like baby Finn. At 3:45 I woke up and realized we were still on the plane. And still on the ground. Took us back to the gate and told us to get off. “Should only be 30 minutes,” they said.

I surveyed my options. Dunkin’ Donuts was out of all the good flavors (plus I promised Rach I wouldn’t eat any donuts). Settled for a Luna Bar and Diet Coke. Boarded my flight again for Chicago at 4:30.

Backed away from the gate. Stop. Not good. Pulled back into the gate. The pilot thought it was still broken. Deplane again.

6:30 has come and gone. I’m confirmed on the flight at 8 pm, but hoping to get out earlier because I really want to get to Chicago. I really want to see my friends and go to dinner with them and not have to ride the El in the frigid weather by myself. And I’m really tired of this airport.

But for now, me and my luggage are sitting here waiting. And matching.

Driving with Grandpa.

Today is Kansas Day, and last weekend was my grandpa's birthday. Most of you know by now that I am a 7th generation Kansan. The first six generations lived at least part of their life in Harrison township in Jewell County. My mom was generation six, and my grandpa was generation five.

My grandpa has less words than he did two years ago. But he has the same heart. And I would argue that it has gotten bigger since the stroke, if that is even possible.

I have a lot of memories of driving around Jewell County with my grandpa. When I was little, I would ride in the tractor on the arm of his chair while we fed the cattle or harvested wheat. Then when I was eleven, Grandpa Lauren taught me how to drive. It was either teach me how to drive or how to open the barbed wire fences, and we both decided that driving the pickup into the field was the easier job.

When I was sixteen, I was in a bad accident in Jewell County. The crash I don't want to revisit. But the thing that has remained one of the most significant details on that terrible night is that Grandpa was the first one there. I don't know how he got to us so quickly, but he is the first thing I remember clearly after the crash. All of a sudden there he was in his cowboy hat and cowboy boots and calm strength that made all the difference in the world.

And pretty much in my life. Happy birthday Grandpa and happy birthday Kansas.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vic and Lindsay, "Meet My Millionaires!"

Lindsay and I have a special place in our hearts for Patti Stanger. She's the brain and the sass behind Bravo's reality show, The Millionaire Matchmaker. Patti is just awesome at life and even better at love. She recently got engaged, so clearly she knows what she is talking about in the love department. Plus, she is a third generation Jewish matchmaker. It's in her blood.

Dear reader, don't let me lead you astray. This is not quality television. But it is entertaining television. Linds and I used to watch together in Kansas City, and we do the next best thing now by texting and chatting during the show. We do not get to be sassy or snarky during our day jobs because we work with middle schoolers. But we really let loose during Millionaire Matchmaker.

Bring on the snark. A date in a junk removal truck? Oh please. An angry hobbit with little hands and an Emmy he won for being part of an ensemble of Picket Fences? Fail. Girls who talk like Elmo and have too many cocktails at the mixer? Yep, we've got something to say about you too.

Patti keeps it real for millionaires and their potential mates. She is brutally honest during the entire process. Lindsay and I have discussed what she would say to us. It might not be pretty, even though we are pretty.

Here's what we would look like if we got chosen for a mixer.

Hey. It could happen. A girl from my high school was on the last week's episode. I am pretty sure that Patti would tell me that I am too tall or too nice or too good, but I could take the wrath. I'd love to stand there at a cocktail mixer in LA, just to hear Patti say,

"Ladies! Meet my millionaires!"

As long as she doesn't invite Justin Shenkarow again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Have Camera, Will Travel.

This romantic lighting matches how I feel about my camera and accompanying 50 mm lens perfectly. I heart them both.

I got my Canon Digital SLR in December 2005. The flash no longer works, and it has logged some serious miles. It's been handled by middle schoolers and dropped a few times. It is well loved - see the side of the camera? The eye piece is also missing on the back.

The camera and I are about to hit the road. I'm going to keep my full time job teaching 8th graders, but my weekends are about to get b-u-s-y. Here's what the upcoming weeks bring...

January 29 - February 1: Chicago
February 6-8: Indianapolis
February 12-15: New York City
February 20-21: Wilmington, DE

Maybe I'll see you there. If not, I'll see you right back here for photos, highlights and probably something ridiculous. I'm guaranteed to do something dumb at least once on these trips.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sent Mail.

Rach and I were sitting next to each other on the couch Sunday afternoon when she noticed something exciting about my "sent" folder.

I have sent 10,000 emails. That's a lot more than Rachel. This confirms her theory that I communicate a lot more than the average human being.

For kicks, I went to check out what my very first email was about. I teared up when I found it because it was an email to Rach. Almost exactly five years ago, I sent her this gem.

Who would have thought five years and 9,997 emails later we would be sitting here on the couch working on start a business designing blogs? We knew she would be married, but we didn't know about Finley or Belle or Copper or Northern Virginia.

I've got to stop. I'm getting too sentimental.

Oh gmail. What a journey we have been on together.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Confession About Beets.

My grandma Virginia is from the plains of eastern Colorado. Her high school in Brush has one of the most unique mascots that I know of - the Beetdiggers. My mom and grandma love beets. Each year the bright purple vegetable appears and is prepared and pickled, and I always pass. The smell is so strong, and I'm suspicious that anything is that color and not a fruit.

One summer Lauren, Sasha and I were sitting in the kitchen on the farm eating dinner. For some reason, we were eating in there alone. We must have still been little girls still. Each of us was given one large pickled purple beet. I'm sure I complained, positive Lauren made a face, and pretty positive Sasha joined in. We were a threesome united against beets.

And then the adults went into the other room to eat. Left to our own devices, we pushed the beets around our plates until it looked like we had cut it up and eaten them. Then we each took our beet and wrapped it in a paper towel. It bled through! Each of us used three or four more paper towels to wrap up the beet before burying it in the trash can. No one guessed that we had thrown them away. Our secret was safe...until now.

I feel like it's only fair that my family know what we did with the beets.

It makes me feel better about telling you this next fact. Yesterday at Café Atlántico I ordered the beet salad. And I liked it. Pretty, crisp and balanced with tender and bitter flavors.

It was another stop during Restaurant Week (month) for me, and it was delicious. I had a great quesadilla with roasted vegetables and homemade mango sorbet.

And beets.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why We Come Home.

Rach and I usually hurry home from school. Besides those two crazy dogs, Amy's there with her baby Calvin watching baby Finley. Calvin is not always excited to see us. He's about three and a half months old and sometimes life is a little overwhelming.

Finn is always excited when we get home, and he comes scooting across the floor to us as soon as we walk in the door. He giggles and shakes his head at us before he gets hugs from his mom and a kiss from me. Then he's ready to scoot away again to his toys.

You would hurry home to these two baby boys too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Go to Bed Victoria.

Oh gosh. I laughed a LOT today. I'm pretty wound up and will have a hard time quieting down to get to sleep. This happens to me sometimes if I talk to people for too long. I'm such an extrovert and people give me so much energy and my friends are so fun and there is so much to do! If you have ever been my roommate, you know I'm in a dangerous state right now. I get just so excited about life that I want to plan and write things down and research plane tickets to London or Sydney or the Netherlands. Or plan parties. I'm just so stinkin' excited. I love 2010 already!

I'm going to try and calm down and tell you one of the highlights from school today. I laughed so hard I almost cried. For serious.

At writing boot camp, Johnny wrote a fictional interview with his friend Nixon. Here it is without any edits.

J: do you like karina ?
N: yes i do.

J: do you like when she weras skinny jeans?
N: hell yeah man i think she looks like a angel when she use them.

J: have you ever make her cry?
N: no im not that tipe of guy.

J: will you kiss her in front of everyone?
N: yes i will i think that will be so romantic

J: have you ever dedicated a song to her?
N: ummm yeah this song called te amo tanto by aventura

Ah. 8th Grade LOVE.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Belle's Biography.

This morning I didn't get anything done during my planning period because I was stuck in my book, The Art of Racing in the Rain. I finished it during advisory and just love loved it. There were some tears I had to quickly wipe away before third period. If you have a dog or love a dog or want a dog, please read this book.

One of the great things that makes this book different is that it is told by the dog. While I was walking Belle this afternoon, I tried to imagine what Belle would write if she wrote a book about me.

She'd probably give the predictable and customary biography of how I found her in the rain. She would talk about living happily with Erica and me in the little apartment, and how much she loves Copper and digging in her new backyard. Belle would describe the joy of dog food, and her eternal optimism that today is the day she will catch that squirrel.

There's also a 50% chance that Belle's biography of me would be an exposé. She knows all the secrets that I try to keep from the outside world. She is probably the only creature on earth who knows the actual number of hours of TV I watch. She's seen some of the men I sort of dated in the last two and a half years...obviously no keepers there. Belle knows about how much diet coke I drink and how much time I can waste doing nothing on my little macbook.

On second thought, I am am exceedingly glad that Belle does not have opposable thumbs, and that she cannot write my biography. I'll keep her to myself, snuggled away for the winter, and try to write a better chapter for my autobiography tomorrow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lunch with Dr. Weeks.

Did you know that our friend Emily is a vet? True story. She is the only friend that I have that you can call "doc." When I was a new puppy mom, I would call and text Em with questions about what to do for Belle. She works at a clinic in Maryland, and her schedule matched ours this week. We gladly took her up on her invitation for lunch and headed up to Silver Springs to see her.

Finley was a darling little boy on the whole trip. He was pretty interested in Emily's cat, Pi. The kitty was pretty apprehensive about Finley. Both creatures played around our feet while we chowed on delicious barley & lentil soup and cherry cake.

The whole meal was comfortable. We've known Em since we were little babies at K-State in 2001, and it was so good to see her and enjoy her company at a meal together.

As a note to our Alpha Chi sisters, you really should come visit during 2010. Three AXs living in a city that is NOT in Kansas is pretty incredible. If you come visit, we'll have enough Alpha Chis to take a "reunion" photo and get published in the Lyre.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rainy Sunday.

It's a rainy Sunday, and I was pretty productive for the first part of the day with church, the gym, and lunch. I should be tackling my to-do list. Much to do between now and Tuesday morning to get ahead for school and grad class work.

Instead, I keep finding myself here.

Cozy. Curled up with Belle under a quilt my mom made, reading a book. The book is the February book club book and told by a dog. I love it already because I love doggies. My mom made the quilt with all of my favorite Alpha Chi t-shirts, and it is Victoria-long enough for snuggling with a book and Belle.

I'm proud to say this is my third book already for the month of January. Abbey loaned me a lovely book, Day After Night, when I was home at break. It's the story of Jewish women after the Holocaust and their new lives in Israel. They were actually forced to live for awhile in an internment camp, and it is a neat piece of historical fiction. It was fun to read while I have been teaching the Diary of Anne Frank because my students were actually sort of interested in the book their teacher was reading. Normally they could care less about the books I read. Sigh.

This morning I finished Pearl S. Buck's classic, The Good Earth. In 2008, I had it checked out from the Johnson County public library for about 5 months. Sometime during 2009 I picked it up at my favorite used bookstore on the whole planet, Capitol Hill Books. (I'll take you there if we go to Eastern Market because it is marvelous.) I really did enjoy The Good Earth, but I still haven't decided why. It wasn't scandalous like the Chinese fiction written today by Lisa See or Anchee Min. But it was sort of epic and the words were well placed.

I might will myself to make soup now. Or these chocolate & cherry cookies I've been eying. Then head back to the quilt, my book, and hopefully Belle.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Night Waffles.

I will not ever be a famous food blogger. Never ever. I make some good dishes, chronicle them occasionally on my humble little blog. But I have far too many disasters to make the food blogger thing work for me in the long run.

Today my stomach started clamoring for waffles. Specifically these beautiful cornmeal waffles posted over at The Kitchen Sink. I already had cornmeal waiting in my cupboard, and I set to making them when I got home with the buttermilk.

All I can say was my first time making waffles. And I followed all the directions except for the vegetable oil. Could. not. use. six. tablespoons. The rest of the rules I followed. I sifted. I shook the buttermilk. I barely stirred the mixtures.

Fail #1 can be blamed on the waffle maker. It was not hot enough so the waffles looked like big beautiful puffs of dough. I gave Belle waffle fail #1.

Fail #2 was more my fault. I forgot to spray the waffle maker and it got s-t-u-c-k. I scraped it out and ate every bite because the flavor was so good. They were crunch waffle scraps.

There is a waffle missing in this photo story. I gave it to my roommate. It was as close to this perfect as I got tonight.

Here's waffle #4. It was a little on the soft side but delicious. A little bit of cherry almond butter and light syrup, and I ate every little bit on my plate.

Waffles are good. Breakfast for dinner is always good, even if my attempts at food fame are fails. I would still recommend the recipe from the Kitchen Sink, but I hope you have a super nice waffle maker. It might make all the difference in your waffle making.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Who Ya Trying to Impress?

The first visitor of the new year was Sheldon. He was here for work, and we wanted to watch the K-State basketball game somewhere around town. In the spirit of "2010 - The Virginia Year," I really wanted to find a great place to take my first guest. I asked around and checked with my school friends. I consulted the Washingtonian, my favorite food and dining site. I really wanted to impress with my knowledge of the area.

And then I met Sheldon at his hotel. It was right on Pennsylvania Avenue, about four blocks from where I lived in 2006. So I scrapped all plans to try to impress the out-of-town guest and went with the things I know and love in Georgetown.

(Photos from the web.)
We went to Clyde's to watch the game and eat some dinner. Almost every time someone visited in 2006, we ate at Clyde's because the food is always good. The game was good, the Stella on tap was great, and of course I loved the food. After dinner on to another Georgetown favorite, Mr. Smith's. This great piano bar has been around a long time - Kate and I stopped in for a drink during the fall of 2004, and I went with Truman friends in 2006 too.

Sometimes I like to try new things and go to the hip new restaurants. And sometimes I'm just excited that someone is here to visit. Sheldon thought it was fun, and I was so comfortable in the places we went. When you come to visit, just let me know what kind of experience you'd like to have. We can do all the research and eat somewhere hip and happening. Or we can eat at Clyde's because the food is always good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 - The Virginia Year.

My twelve days in Kansas over winter break made something especially clear - I belong in Kansas.

I love teaching in Virginia. Watching Finley grow up is the coolest thing. I've made some friends through grad school and my school, found a church and am pretty content with the pace of my Virginia life. I go to a lot less meetings. Rach and I are living the dream teaching at the same school. Our KSU College of Ed teachers would be proud. And I live right outside DC, my favorite east coast city!

I think if I had moved here straight out of college my Virginia experience would have been different. However, those four years that I lived in Kansas City after college were so formative and my friends are straight up lovely. I lived at home with my mom for a year and with my best friend for two and a half years. Even after living with Kenneth, I still loved living in KC.

God put in northern Virginia for a reason. It is perfectly clear that He wants me here learning and teaching. But eventually I want to teach in Kansas City, Kansas again and live in KC with my dog, family and friends. Maybe that will be in 2011 when I finish at Mason.

So here's your invitation - come visit. 2010 will be the year that I live in Virginia. For part of 2009 and probably part of 2011, I'll call Virginia AND Kansas home. So if you want my undivided attention, get out here.

Until then I'll keep up my daily routines of teaching, gym, learning, eating, blogging, and protecting my neighborhood.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow Delay.

Here in Northern Virginia it is a balmy 34 degrees. It feels more like 23 degrees, but compared to the terrible cold in Kansas, it's quite pleasant.

Yesterday we had a two hour delay because the area got some snow Thursday night into Friday morning. Total it was about 1.5 inches of fluffy snow. We didn't bother to shovel the driveway because the neighbors would have laughed at us. And we're lazy.

I have no complaints about two hour delays. We don't have to make them up, and I always love more sleep. The roads were just fine when we went to school, and the day flew by.

In Kansas, we would have gone to school.

However, the Fairfax County Public School district is huge. It covers about 395 square miles. Yesterday morning there were probably a few roads in the county that would have been difficult for buses. With 173,000 students, they have to play it safe. (That's bigger than Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission combined!) There were 197 schools to get cleaned up and ready to open.

So the two hour delay was probably reasonable.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What About Belle?

One of the most common questions I get about my Christmas vacation is, "What about Belle?" People want to know what Belle did for the twelve glorious days I was in Kansas.

I left Belle in the caring and willing hands of Evelyne, our sweet French neighbor from down the street. Four times a day she came to walk Belle, play with her, feed her and love her in my absence. She emailed the neighborhood listserv to find a bigger crate for Belle to stay in while I was gone (for the record, Belle's crate is plenty big). And she made sure our house was safe and secure the whole time we were gone too.

Even with this sweet setup for Belle, I'm been overwhelmed this week an extra dose of Belle's attention. She is a little antsy about each time I leave the house because I could disappear again for twelve days. Belle is hating time in her crate and not eating all of her food in one big gulp (really weird for Belle). She'll eat a couple of pieces and then run back to check that I am still home.

Look at her photo. See the distrust? Those eyes have been following me around all week.


The entrance to our neighborhood is on a busy street near 495 (the Beltway). We recently got a new neighborhood sign because we are on the register of historic places.

And thanks to the never ending construction that is life in Northern Virginia, the other development is in traffic patterns on the Beltway. As a result, people try to compensate for the prohibited left turn by making u-turns in our neighborhood. Illegal u-turns - it's posted.

The neighborhood has tried to fight back. People leave their trash cans and recycling bins at the end of the driveway to prevent people from turning around. Occasionally cops try to catch people. The city added these obnoxious traffic dividers at the entrance.

But with all these deterrents, people still make the u-turns. It is dangerous, annoying, and clogs up our neighborhood.

Rachel and I have become neighborhood vigilantes. Whenever we catch someone making one of these u-turns we honk TWICE and give them thumbs down. Rachel figures that four thumbs down equals one middle finger.

Don't mess with us. We are serious about protecting our neighborhood.

Monday, January 4, 2010

NYE in PV.

My brilliant besties in Kansas City decided to have a progressive dinner party for New Year's Eve at three of their Prairie Village homes. It was a perfect way to catch up with my friends, their partners and see what everyone has done with their places while I've been in Virginia.

First, cocktails and appetizers at Tara, Tom and Tuff's. Mom came along to visit for a little bit. She was impressed with Tuff the dachshund. He's maybe the only really cute weenie dog I've ever seen. T-U-F-F. Tara's plan was to make minimal and tasty appetizers so that we would still be hungry for dinner. She played it perfectly, and the food was delicious. Just the right type of food for a glass of wine or beer.

From the DePaepes' house, we went to the Andersons. Erica and Jon were in charge of the main course, and Erica is a pork tenderloin master chef. I already knew this because I lived with her for 2.5 years. It was perfectly cooked, and we all devoured it with potatoes, salad and bread. People were still talking about her cooking the next few days. It was that good.

There is a shortage of good photos from the evening. My battery died after four years of faithful service. My friends are pretty, and I wish I had more to show from the evening.

The last stop was Kate and Adam's. At the Gaspers we enjoyed a final cocktail and dessert while we waited for midnight. Nan's fruit pizza was irrestible, and I'm really proud of the espresso cookies I made. I don't even like coffee, and I loved these cookies! I was thrilled to see their pup, Bell-A, because I was missing Bell-E terribly.

A progressive dinner party was a perfect fit for New Year's Eve. Because their houses are close and we had plenty of time, it was never rushed and always enjoyable.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thinking About 10.

After our progressive dinner party around Prairie Village, I stayed with Erica and Jon in their home. When I woke up the next morning, I could smell Jon making bacon and eggs. I drug myself out of the warm bed and headed towards the good smell. I remember standing looking in the mirror, squinting at my freckly face with shaggy bangs and thinking,

"I like this girl."

I have my faults. I worry too much and eat too many cookies. I would like to be a better teacher, sister, student, daughter, and friend. I wish there was more time in the day for my to-do lists. And I can be a little dramatic.

But I woke up in 2010 ready for another year. I like a lot of stuff about me, especially my laughable inconsistencies. They define me. I'm pretty proud I moved across the country, found a job, started grad school and still talk to mother daily and best friends weekly.

When I returned to Virginia today, Sol asked me what 2010 was going to be? What kind of a year was it going to be? He was pretty persistent, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I would be okay if 2010 looked a lot like 2009. It was a pretty good year full of adventure, travel, my terrific family and beloved friends.

So I'm ready for 2010. I think I can handle it.