Friday, December 31, 2010

MMX.

It's the last day of 2010, so everywhere you look people are writing "wrap-up" and "best of" posts and articles. I hate being left out. So I'm going to join in today before we celebrate the beginning of 2011 tonight. Here are a few things I loved about 2010.

Writing
I wrote 291 posts this year about life. It was clarifying, sometimes funny, and mostly true. I think I'll do it again next year because the records kept here beat anything I could scrapbook because it's so current and my grandmothers read it. I'd keep blogging if only my family read it.

My Family
My little sister quit her job, started a blog and law school. We're all so proud. I traveled lots of places to see my family, and my mom came to Virginia twice for super fun visits. I think family is a neat thing, especially when you live far away and you learn to love and be loved long distance.

Friendship
I have the best friends in the whole world. If you would like to have a competition with your BFFs, bring it on. My friends could take yours in a second. And my friends babies? Finn and James? They're ready too.

Traveling
While my trips were fewer this fall, I logged some serious mileage during 2010. I flew to Europe and all over the country, and I drove a lot of places in the Pilot including to Kansas in August. I could have saved more money and traveled less, but I don't think I'd trade the traveling. How many years will you be young, single and have the time? I'm gearing up for 2011 - trips already planned to Florida, Boston, NYC, and KC twice before June is over. I'm sure I'll find somewhere else to go too.

Belle
Sometimes having a dog is a lot of work and expensive. But having Belle home for Christmas has been a huge blessing and a daily reminder of how sweet and energetic my pup is. We're switching her food to a high energy, protein packed food, and she seems happy about the switch.

Teaching
I really do love my job. I work in a great school and with terrific teachers. My kids make me excited to be in the classroom, and over Christmas break, I've almost missed them. I am also loving my graduate program at George Mason because I feel like I'm really getting something out of my degree. I'm already a better teacher because of it, and I'm excited to finish up this spring.

Photography
According to iphoto, I took approximately 5100 photos this year. No joke. I purchased a new camera in June before my summer travels, and that was one of the best decisions I made this year. Looking forward to many thousand more photos this year!

I wrote all this down and then found last year's post that is oh-so-similar. And yet I feel older, wiser and ready for more adventures in 2011. I'll see you next year, right here.

My five-year-old brother took this photo. He's a natural photographer, don't you think?


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roe Family Christmas.

Did you see the cover of Martha Stewart this month? We recreated it for Christmas dinner.



Bringing roasted chicken back. This is the crispy roasted chicken with potatoes. Delicious. Fresh rosemary is always a good idea, especially in the middle of winter.



Before our dinner of chicken, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and three jello salads, we had bacon wrapped dates stuffed with parmesan. It's true, everything is better with bacon.



And after dinner, I suggested we take a few pictures with the tripod. The last picture of the eight of us was from Sasha's graduation, so we updated with pictures from Christmas day.



Meeting Baby James.

It's not a surprise that the first baby born to my friends in KC is a fast favorite. He's adorable.



We sat in the sun room for a couple hours taking turns holding the sweet baby boy. He slept the entire time we were there. I think in the photo on the left he may be worried about law school.



Kate says he really is pretty sweet, and she is a natural mom. Baby James is a lucky little guy.



He opened his eyes just barely once when I was snapping photos inches from his face as if to say, "HEY. I'm trying to sleep. Can you please give me some peace and quiet?" Wrong-o, James. Your life comes with your mom's good girlfriends. And we're rarely quiet.

Holding baby James made me even more excited for the new little boy that arrives in my Virginia house in April!



Bella, Kate and Adam's beloved hound, was also present. She's not that much older than my Belle but surprisingly calmer. And probably a little jealous of her new little housemate.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Before You Say Anything...

Here are some facts that you should know.

When I was five-years-old, I was 47" tall (3 feet, 11 inches) and weighed 48 pounds.
My little sister's statistics were pretty similar.

So my little brother, while he may seem bigger than some of the five-year-olds you know, is perfectly normal to us.



And we loooove him, with his sometimes silly hair, larger than life dimples and hilarious antics.

(He's also 47 inches tall, but little guy's got a few more pounds than Lauren or I did. He's solid.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Tradition.

I love Christmas cards. At our house in Virginia, I get the mail for the house and sort it. During the Christmas season, I usually stand by while Rachel opens hers so that I can see who sent her cards and admire them all. After I've looked at Rachel's, I go back downstairs and make sure mine get hung lovingly on the window frame downstairs. I almost ran out of room this year.



One afternoon as I was pondering my fascination with Rachel's cards as well as my own, I realized I was turning into my mother (and grandmother). It hit me - this was their tradition.

I am well aware I'm turning into my mother.

Sometimes it just sneaks up on me and BAM! I'm reminded in a new way.



Every Christmas my mom takes all of the cards she receives, puts them in a gallon ziplock and they go over the river and through the woods to my grandmother's house. While we're there for Christmas, my mom will read all of grandma's cards and grandma will read all of Mom's cards.

It's a nice tradition because we get to read updates and see photos from family and friends. Cards are prettier than ever these days, and it's so nice to see updated pictures of everybody once a year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hi from Imperial, NE.

Just hanging out in Nebraska with my dad, brother, sister, stepmom and grandma. Flew out today from my grandparents' farm in North Central Kansas.

I love Christmas + family + cookies. I also really love when the Chiefs and the Colts win.

Good day people. And merry Christmas.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Morning.



We opened presents this morning with the Luhrs Ladies and Mark, Lu's boyfriend. They are off this afternoon with his family doing real American things like shooting guns and decorating Christmas cookies. (Actually, I have no idea about the guns, but they have done both of those things before with Mark's family, so they could be...)

Mark arrived this morning with a carrier full of diet cokes from McDonalds and some bakery sweets from Panera. He brought a diet coke for each of us because he is awesome and knows us so well. Mine quickly got marked with a "V" because no one wants mono. You can tell which one is Mark's because he doesn't use a lid. This makes the rest of us nervous.



The presents were wonderful and thoughtfully chosen, but it was also nice to spend the time eating a Christmas brunch and laughing at the kitchen table. With just four of us, we sit around the table opening presents. We take turns getting up and passing out gifts from under the tree and opening slowly. I'm very excited to have a new camera strap I didn't know I was getting, a bed skirt that matches my headboard, and other miscellaneous goodies.

Mom's making cookies, and I'm going to take a nap. It feels like Christmas eve, and it will feel even more that way tonight when we go to the church for service at 10 pm. The only thing that could make it better is snow instead of rain, but it's easier to travel without the snow.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Thursdays at the Blue Moose.

Home. So very safe and sound. Belle bounded out of her kennel when we retrieved her at KCI, ready to go. I was afraid she might be in shock and need to be comforted while we drove home. Nope, she was totally fine. She's was pretty tired - I think it's hard to sleep in cargo, but she seems just great. This was totally worth it to have my pup for Christmas.

Today I was slow getting around town, but had a great lunch at Spin with Anne, did a little shopping and watched four episodes of the Closer. I was tired from all the activity at the beginning of the week, but I rallied to meet up with friends at the Blue Moose.

One of my favorite neighborhood spots in Kansas City is the Blue Moose. I first discovered the "Moose" when I interned at the church back in 2003. I was not 21, so I ate the food. Finally at the end of my second summer as a youth ministry intern, I could have a beer at the Moose. This was big stuff as I was usually one of the younger members of the staff.

After college I lived in KC, and we made the Blue Moose a regular spot for food and fun. Especially on Thursdays when beers are $1.50 each.

It's impossible to drink beer that cheap in Virginia. Except maybe at your home, and even then just barely because gas is $3.00 a gallon and you can't buy beer at the liquor store so you have to go all the way to a grocery store. I'm just giving you a comparison - $1.50 for a pint is cheap.



Tara and newish-mom Kate were both there, sans James. I'm going to meet him so very soon! Can't wait to see the new little guy.



Ashley came, which was lovely, because it's been a long time. The internet is good at bringing people back together - I met Ashley in high school, and we both went to K-State. You should read her blog. She's a hoot and honest, a trait I love in a blogger.



As a side note, tonight my mother asked me if I dyed my hair. This is troubling. My hair is getting very dark the older I get. I have to get used to it. It's the darkest of the Luhrs ladies, and I'm concerned.

I'm also troubled because Rachel and our hairdresser Dominique found a gray hair last week. I think it stood out a lot because my hair is now so much darker. I blame it on the 8th graders.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snoopy's Sister.

Erica told me on the phone yesterday that Snoopy has a sister. Named BELLE from Kansas City. She's black and white just like my Belle.

So I looked into it. Here's the scoop from Wikipedia.

Belle
is Snoopy's sister. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her unnamed teenage son who Snoopy noted as resembling the Pink Panther. Belle herself resembles her brother, but with longer eyelashes. In addition she wears a lace collar.

Belle only made a few appearances in the strip, but is well-remembered because of the Belle stuffed animal toys sold in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many people who were not regular readers of the comic strip mistakenly thought that she was Snoopy's girlfriend, rather than his sister. In Snoopy's World War I fantasies, Belle is a nurse, not a soldier.

Snoopy's sister made her first appearance in the comic strip on June 28, 1976, though she was mentioned by Snoopy earlier on June 22, 1976. Belle also appeared briefly in the opening sequence of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. While she was mentioned in the lyrics to the opening theme song, Belle never made an appearance in the cartoon series.

Similar to Spike, Belle also plays the violin.

In 1984, Snoopy and Belle inspired fashion designers around the world, including Lagerfeld, Armani and de la Renta to create one-of-a-kind outfits in their honor. Both beagles modeled for the "Snoopy in Fashion" exhibition held that year in Japan.


My Belle and I are headed to Kansas City this afternoon. She's flying too (oh dear) in cargo. But it's worth it because Kansas City is the place where we belong. Cross your fingers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Windsor Castle.

Thursday was by far our coldest day in London. We bundled up and headed to Clapham Junction to meet Kenneth and Melinda for breakfast. They have a little neighborhood place that they love, so we piled around the little cafe tables for good warm food. There were only six little tables inside, so the restaurant expanded seating capacity by putting four more tables, heaters and blankets outside. I was thankful to be inside eating my porridge.

I have no idea why there are so few pictures of food from this trip. It is totally unlike me.



To get to the queen's residence in Windsor, we had to take a train from Clapham. Even though we made our best effort (we ran), we missed the train and waited a very cold 30 minutes for the next one. The train ride was about 40 minutes, and it was neat to get to see the outskirts of London a little bit.


Windsor Castle is tremendous. The Royal Family knows how to do it up right. Sitting on a tall hill, it's well protected and beautiful. There's an audio tour that gives plenty of details about the whole castle - inside and out. It took us about 2 hours to get through all the stories. It was probably the quietest we were the entire vacation.



This is St. George's Chapel where the Royal Family worships. If Kate and William had wanted a quieter wedding, they could have chosen to have it here. But they are going to do it up right at Westminster Abbey.

This may have been one of my favorite parts of the castle because, as Dereck pointed out, it's a fascinating example of why Americans get all excited about the separation of church and state. The entire place is serves as a reminder to England that God chose the Royal Family to rule. It's the same with Westminster Abbey. So the Founding Fathers tried to make it clear from the beginning that we were going to do it differently. (I had just finished my unit on fundamental principles of government, so I was overly excited to discuss the differences.)

Ironically, I am still slightly obsessed with the Royal Family. I'm sad that I didn't buy the poster that diagrams the family lineage. Especially Henry VIII's wives.



Even though it was bitterly cold and overcast, being a tourist in November had some definite perks. As we were listening to our audio guide, the narrator would often say "If you must wait in the queue, enjoy the view overlooking the town of Windsor before entering the State Apartments." We never waited. EVER. The rooms were easy to navigate and sometimes it felt like a private tour.

After we finished the tour and hit the gift shop, we wandered down to Windsor looking for food. We were suspicious that we could find anything that wasn't a total tourist trap close to the castle, but we were really hungry so we hopped in the first warm place that we found serving pub food.

It exceed our expectations in every possible way. Not just because we were hungry. It was cozy, the service was friendly, there was bread, and mulled wine. It was also historic. The Horse and Groom has been around serving pints since the early 1700s.



We were sleepy on the ride back to London, full from our warm lunch and glad to be out of the cold. Taking an afternoon to go to Windsor was totally worth it, and I would go back even if I had to wait in the queue.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.

My friend Ashley just posted about how she would rather cook because you can do a little of this and add a dash of that. As for me, I like baking better because I like precision. I originally tore this recipe out of Cooking Light because they put it in their Enlightened Cook section, and they listed the flour by weight.

I prefer to measure flour by weight. Precision.

Do you own a kitchen scale yet? Please get one. You'd be surprised how often you would use it. I have this version in silver. It's an excellent chef's tool, and you could still order it to give someone this Christmas. It's precisely the right gift for a chef who likes to be precise.



I love this recipe because it's actually pretty good for you, the blend of dried cherries and fancy bittersweet chocolate is powerful, and because it is one of the cookies I make that people ask me to make again. My coworker Lindsay about died when I brought them to school last Friday. That's a good cookie.

The only thing I dislike? Cooking Light said that I could make 30 tablespoon size cookies, and I can only get it to make 26 cookies. I only ate one spoonful of the dough too.



Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
from Cooking Light

1.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup)
1.5 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup - I used King Arthur's white whole wheat. You should buy this and keep it in your freezer for baking projects that call for whole wheat flour.)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (do not use quick cooking)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark because it was open, hence the darker appearance of my cookies above)
1 cup dried cherries (totally fine whole, don't chop)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped. (Do not skimp here - I used Ghiradelli. And don't worry if the chopping is uneven. All the little pieces of chocolate make it like heaven.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into measuring cups. Combine flours, oatmeal, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, stir with a whisk.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat, add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.

Add cherries vanilla and egg; beat until combined. Fold in chocolate and drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets covered with parchment.

Bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes. Cool on pans for a few minutes until they are firm, then move them to wire racks.

You should get about 26-30 cookies. They should last precisely one day before they are all gone.

(If you need more gift ideas for bakers in your life, you could give cookie scoops and parchment paper. And new spatulas for taking cookies off the tray. If you are lucky enough to have an ipad, buy this cookie app from Martha. Or give your loved one a KitchenAid mixer. That's the gift that will give back to you. Cookie love forever.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Macy's and Harrod's at Christmastime.

I'm not really a great department store shopper. I like the shoes section, I'm comfortable enough in cosmetics, the accessories are lovely, and occasionally (like yesterday), I find a pretty dress in the dresses section. Oh, and I also like that Macy's has a lot Martha Stewart home goods.

But I'm more of an admirer of department stores. Especially at Christmastime. There's just too much stuff to see to do any shopping.

Two years ago in December of 2008, my dad and Tracy took Lauren and me to New York City for Christmastime. We saw the Rockettes and and went to Macy's at Herald's Square!



We wandered through the various departments, and I loved the basement full of home goods. It was the Saturday before Christmas, and the whole place was packed with shoppers. But it was definitely an experience, and I cook wearing my Macy's Christmas apron all the time.

This year, while in London for the first time, I did some more department store sightseeing. The British are famous for their department stores with beautiful exquisite store windows. Our trip was the week of Thanksgiving, but thankfully the British don't have to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the decorations. We saw SO many pretty windows and displays.



At the end of the day Wednesday in London, we did some shopping at Harrods. Even though it was a month until Christmas, the store was packed with shoppers. Erica and I split off from the boys to make the most of our time, but pretty much everything but some souvenirs was out of our price range. We did look longingly in the handbags section for a while.

Later in the week we did some shopping at Fortnum & Mason, another exquisite department store that was a little less touristy. I bought Rachel an overpriced chocolate bar that she loved, and I wish I had bought five more. I could spend a whole day just looking at their food options.

These stores are enough to get you totally in the Christmas spirit. They're also a big city experience, which is why I think they border on touristy. No matter, I love 'em anyways.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wednesday in London, Part 2.

I understood the plan for the first part of Wednesday in London very well. The plans for after lunch I completely misunderstood. I didn't do a ton of reading about London before the trip, so when Erica said we should go to the Tower of London next to the London Bridge, I agreed.

I had no idea what either thing really looked like or why they mattered. As far as I knew, the Tower of London was a really tall tower with only the crown jewels. And London Bridge was falling down.

By the end of the afternoon, I was smarter and in love. The Tower of London was my favorite historical stop on the trip. Worth every pound and pence.



We didn't plan for it, but we arrived just in time for the last guided tour by a Beefeater (the guy on the right). It was fantastic. He lives with his wife in the Tower of London (think a castle with a moat and lots of towers), and he gave the tour a lot of personality.

Also, no one knows for sure why they are called Beefeaters. So that's cool.

And I'm not sure this was a great tour for children. He talked a LOT about beheadings and adultery. The royal history is scandalous. I liked it.



These soldiers are delivering the password. They do it every afternoon. You have to know the password in case you go out at night. Otherwise they won't let you back in. Soldiers with bayonets don't mess around.



Besides the crown jewels, we saw lots of armor, climbed all around the White Tour, tried to scare the famous ravens, and toured the chapel. Even though we were really cold for a lot of the tour, it was a lot of fun. It was the kind of history that everyone can enjoy.

Except for maybe children. All that scandalous stuff I mentioned earlier.



Also, this is London Bridge. It isn't falling down. And just as I don't understand the name for the Beefeaters, I still have no idea why anyone thought that it was falling down.

Update: Abbey says this i Tower Bridge. I thought about going back through and fixing all the references to London Bridge, but we can learn a more important lesson about Americans getting easily confused. And we can't even blame it on the language barrier.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ten Before 10.



Isn't this a beautiful sparkly chart? It's hanging on the wall of my classroom with four more exactly like it. Over 110 students on the wall, charting their progress towards the sixteen required hours for eighth graders. I had them write their own names, and even though it was messy, it got them to pay attention to the purple and white charts in the back corner of the room.

Requiring students to do service hours wasn't my idea. It's a district requirement, and something my students will do until they graduate. Eighth grade is the first year it's required individually, and it is a huge adjustment for many of my kids. We break it down for them, requiring four hours each quarter and providing countless ways for them to do it at school. There are after school service clubs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and a lot of teachers will allow students to stay with them and help in their classroom. Our after-school coordinator does a great job connecting our kids to the community around us too.

At first it was hard for me to wrap my brain around my students doing service learning AT our school. That doesn't really seem to be in our community - I was picturing soup kitchens, homeless shelters, small children. But logistically, that's the best some of them can do. They don't drive. Their parents work. Helping around school IS service, and it's hopefully a skill they learn and can use other places.

It hurts my brain to think about the sheer math behind this many service hours. 110 students doing the minimal four hours a quarter is 440 hours that I document and track with stickers, in excel and in the gradebook. Some kids will do more and some will do less. One of my little guys figures he's done upwards of 50 hours since July, truthfully. Another girl has finished her 16 hours and so sweetly asked if it was "okay" if she kept working (I love honors students).

Sometimes I get really cranky about hounding kids down to do service. I'm already chasing them around to get them to come in for extra help, remediation and make-up work. I was feeling particularly fussy about the extra work load on civics teachers two weeks ago when I decided I needed to come up with an idea to keep us all excited about hours and push ahead.

Thus "Ten Before 10" was born. I'm asking my kids to get ahead with ten hours of service - finishing their hours early for second quarter and completing hours for third quarter - before 2010 is over. The count at the end of the day Wednesday was 16 students. My goal was 30, but if I can get over 25 students to complete the challenge, I'll be really excited too!

It's helped a ton as we build up to winter break to have a rallying cry. Even little Erin who had ZERO hours thought about completing the challenge. I don't think I'm that fun, so I'm a little confused on why they are SO excited to join a celebration. Or maybe it's just bragging rights. I wonder if it's too late to get buttons made that say "Ten Before 10!"

Now I need ideas for our one hour celebration next Wednesday morning. It's during school, the last day before break. It needs to be awesome, not too expensive, involve food and probably music. It should not involve me embarrassing myself more than normal or glitter. Too messy. Hit the comments if you've got something that might be worthy of "Ten Before 10!"

P.S. I hope you are doing something to serve this year. Find one little way somewhere. If my 8th graders can do it, we ALL should do it. And if you are already serving somewhere, thanks for being role models for 8th graders.
P.S.S. Happy birthday Jill D. So glad we're school neighbors and friends.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wednesday in London, Part 1.

Wednesday morning in London we tried to eat a really cheap breakfast. And we were sorry. I ordered an egg and cheddar bagel, but I wasn't expecting it to be chopped hard boiled egg and cheddar. Ick. Dereck suplimented with hash browns from McDonalds. And I didn't blame him.

Jon was a whiz at the bus routes, and he and Erica mapped out how we could take a classic double decker bus to the London Eye. The buses in London are my favorite public buses. Ever. We made them work for us for several times without the trip. It was a fantastic way to see London, very efficient, and we felt really really smart every time.



The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel that gives you a sky high view of London. It was sort of hazy but a neat way to see London. It is a little over priced, so it's a one time thing sort of a thing. Also, you have to/get to watch a really cheesy 4-D movie before you go on the Eye, and I only need to see it once.



I am sure it is beginning to seem that we are wearing the exact same outfit every day of this extended vacation. It was cold the entire time, and most of our photos are outside. When we were inside, we were either eating or touring somewhere photos weren't allowed.



Also, there are a lot of pictures of Erica and Jon from this trip because we were trying to get a good one for their Christmas card. I think we got a few!


Looking out from the Eye across London to St. Paul's and the financial district. We'll get there later on Wednesday. All day long, crossing things off our London list.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cinnamon Chili.

You probably don't need this recipe for chili. My experience with chili has been that people pretty much have loyalty to a recipe already. Chili cook-offs at work or church tend to be uber competitive because it's not just chili that's at stake - it's a family legacy.

I understand because that's how I feel about my mom's cinnamon chili. I love the recipe so much that I kept the recipe as she gave it to me, even though it was written in comic sans.



It's from the 1986 Kansas Beef Cook Off which makes it a winner by default. I usually make it almost exactly like it is written on the card, but I double the spices, add fresh garlic and add one more can of beans to make it last a little longer.



The other really weird thing about the recipe is it calls for a can of WHOLE tomatoes. I usually chop them up very roughly and add them with all their glorious juice to the pot. Rachel likes it that they are big chunks - easier to avoid. She has a thing about tomatoes.



I also think that cornbread should be served with chili. Is this a Kansas thing? I never want soda crackers with chili, just cornbread. If I'm lucky, I have a box of cornbread. But it's also really easy to make from scratch, and I've done it a couple a times this fall. I follow the recipe on the bag of cornmeal.

Cinnamon Chili
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilis, drained
1 14.5-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 15-oz. can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

Combine it all in a crock pot and simmer all day. Enjoy with cheese and cornbread!

(Cut the spices in half if you like. My momma Barbara likes it that way.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Prince William and Kate Middleton!

Making the transition from Dublin to London was pretty easy. Bus ride, quick plane ride and the tube to our chic hotel. We dropped off our bags and got started crossing things off our London list. Yeah, we made a list. There was lots we wanted to see.

Day one: Westminster Abbey (the place where Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married), Big Ben and Parliament buildings, Buckingham Palace, and Billy Elliot.



It is really easy to get Westminster Abbey confused as a legendary architectural landmark, home to many royal events, including coronations and weddings, and the burial place of many famous English. No, no, dear friends. This is the place where Kate and William are getting married.



We did the official tour, and it was totally worth it. Because while we were listening to the audio guide and absorbing history, news reporters were filming the announcement: "Kate and William announced their wedding at Westminster on April 29th." We were probably in the background of a BBC news story.



Hysteria over the prince getting married isn't something the boys understood. But it's totally normal. Even back in Kansas, a girl has gotta dream that she has a chance with the prince. It's a little bit sad that he's not marrying one of us, but super exciting there will be a wedding.

The sun sets at 4 during the winter in London. They need a wedding to look forward to in the spring. We jumped on board the hysteria. Erica and I grabbed the evening London Evening Standard to commemorate that we were at Westminster the day they announced the location.

It was cool to us anyways.



Eventually we made our way to Buckingham Palace and a pre-show dinner with Kenneth and Melinda. Our final destination in a long day of travel, the tube and pretending we're cool enough to get invited to the Prince's wedding, was BILLY ELLIOT.



I loved it for the dancing, music by Billy Joel, history and because it was at the Victoria Palace Theatre. You should see the show in NYC or in Chicago OR when it goes on tour. You'll like it - the boys (2 out of 3 anyways) thought it was fine too!

If you've got Kate and William fever, check out their official engagement photo here or buy a replica of the engagement ring here.

And if you were waiting for an update on me and mono, here you go. Still sick. Still not wanting to get out of bed. Hoping to supervise 8th grade graders identify their future careers tomorrow with minimal effort. Eight days until winter break - and not a chance of a snow day in sight.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Totally Didn't See That Coming.



I was having a tough time getting in the holiday spirit which is WEIRD because I love the holidays. I like to do my holiday shopping way in advance, decorate, bake and do it up right. But after London, I couldn't find the energy to get the decorations up. The closest I got to Christmas spirit was eating copious amounts of spice drops that my dad taught me to l-o-v-e.

Monday morning my sore throat was back and that persistent fatigue was back again. I made a doctor's appointment. My mom reminded me that it's something that has been going on since she was here back in October. Always a dull sore throat and just tired. So the sweet staff at the doctor's office gave me a strep test and mono spot, both negative. Blood work was ordered.

And tonight at 6:30 pm, I got the results. MONO. Sometimes it doesn't show up in the spot tests.

Seriously?!? This is a teenagers disease. College kids. My sister asked where I got it. I haven't the foggiest idea, but I certainly did not get it from kissing. According to the kind nurse practitioner, I'm pretty far along in the stages. I've had it for a while. Probably since October.

There's some good news here. I'm not lame, which was one of my biggest concerns. I was so worried that all fall I couldn't keep up my normal schedule, needing to sleep ridiculous amounts, not making trips to the gym because I was lame. I'm glad to know there was a reason I've been dragging since October.

As I looked back at my blog, I've documented this exhaustion throughout the fall. Tired after the rally, tired in November. Erica was impressed I made it through European vacation. I think it was the sheer fact that I am an extrovert with some of my favorite friends 24 hours a day. By the end of the week I was complaining about my throat again, but I thought it was just lack of sleep.

It's not all a relief. I'm worried I got others sick, which we might not know for a while. I still need to teach my kids and writing sub plans for someone else to teach them is exhausting. The nurse said she could write me a note to excuse me from work or to go part-time. I can't even imagine missing that much school. But there is so little that can be done for mono but sleep and rest.

Tomorrow I'm staying home. Rach and I got nasty colds on top of my mono. Cross your fingers that no one organizes a mutiny in my classroom and that I feel a little bit better soonish.

How I Will Remember Dublin.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Malahide Castle and Town.

This is a story about our day trip to Malahide. It's also a story about how the Irish are terrible at giving directions.



Monday morning followed a late Sunday night in Temple Bar, so we weren't moving very quickly. Eventually we drug ourselves to the bus station to buy our tickets. And we got terrible directions that resulted in us running back and forth across the River Liffey looking for Bus 42.

We found it just before it left, but we were very wet from all that running in the rain. We took our seats on the top deck and proceeded to debate economic policy until we arrived in Malahide.



The castle was a fifteen to twenty minute walk through a park and the woods. Pleasant enough except that it was raining. We found Malahide Castle in a beautiful opening, and we went on a short tour of the castle. No photos allowed inside, but you can imagine what it looked like. Old.

Then we needed some more directions. We asked how to walk to the town. You would think that a local who worked in the gift shop would know how to get into town, but her directions were terrible. We got confused, lost and walked fifteen minutes in the wrong direction before a lovely dog walker wearing wellies fixed our wanderings. Thirty minutes later we past the castle again and made our way to the town of Malahide.

The dog walker restored our belief in Irish direction giving a little bit.



At this point we were really, really hungry. It also looked like it was going to pour again. So we checked the menu at a couple of places and settled on pub fare. (Our other option was a French restaurant serving pub food. Seriously.) We had great food and warmed up over fish and chips, stuffed potato skins, and sandwiches. It was nice to be indoors and stuffing our faces.



We poked in a couple of stores after lunch and walked down to the water. I made everyone take a lot of photos using the camera's self timer with mixed success. It was really cold at this point...



but beautiful. The sun sets so early that we got to see this gorgeous view of the water. We made our way back to the bus and mostly napped on our way back to downtown Dublin. And we didn't ask any more Irish people for directions.