Monday, August 31, 2009

Cavatappi Amatriciana ala Carraba's

As the previous post said, we tried out a recipe I found from Recipe Zaar for a pasta I like from Carraba's. It is a side dish there and is one of the main things I crave from them.

While it is a side dish, tonight it was our main dish. And what a dish it was - it was delicious and very filling. I thought since it was so easy, I'd share our version. We didn't follow the linked recipe above exactly so here's our version:

- Cook Cavatappi pasta (boil)
- cook diced panchetta in a small skillet, set on napkin to de-grease aside
- in pan, heat EVOO. As soon as it is heated, add 1 cup onions (chopped), 1 teaspoon, and 3 cloves garlic (minced). Heat until onions are translucent. Add 1 larger can diced or crushed tomatoes (with juice). Let heat. Taste and add salt/pepper as desired. Add panchetta in, wait about a minute, stir in a decent amount of shredded cheese (we used Romano) and the pasta.

We used 1 tablespoon of the red pepper flakes instead of 1 teaspoon... I thought it would be a good idea but it was way too hot. Still tasty, just so hot I had to drink milk. The red pepper flakes are where it is at though, as they give the flavor I love. This recipe was so close to the Carraba's one - the taste was very similar. Plus, most people have everything but the panchetta in their kitchen already (you can use any type of pasta) so it is a cheap and easy meal!

Lessons learned in married life

There are things that go on around a house that you don't realize until you are in charge of the house.

When you're living with your parents as a youngster, the fridge miraculously always stays clean. This could be for a number of reasons - for me it was a combination of dad's cleaning, our frugal mother who didn't buy things to stock the fridge, and a brother who inhaled everything in sight. But yet there was never any outdated food - better known as science experiments.

Tonight we're cooking a pasta dish modeled after one I love at Carraba's - it takes cavatappi, panchetta, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, and red pepper flakes and makes a master piece. We had everything but the panchetta in our kitchen and seeing as we're going for cheap these days, it seemed like a grand idea.

Jake said we had onion in the bottom left drawer. Now, I'm handy in the kitchen but in our house the kitchen is his domain. It is small, he is more gifted and ... patient than I and so he does most of the cooking. Trusting his word, I went for the elusive onion in the drawer. As soon as I opened the drawer I knew something was awry. The smell gave it away. One trash bag later, the drawer was emptied of all the moldy green beans, asparagus, onion, and tomato. The smell alone made me lose my appetite.

No one tells you when you move away from home that you should make sure you clean the fridge weekly. You'd think we would have known..

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Young Adults Ministry

In the back of the Trott's truck after floating down the river the first day - quote of the day = "I'm from Mississippi, I KNOW how to ride in the back of a truck"

About to canoe down the river - the whole Young Adults group

Hanging out on the patio with our gracious hosts and Robyn, enjoying each other and the nice weather.

A while back I mentioned that I spent a weekend in Hardy, Arkansas on a canoe trip with church. I finally have some time to reflect on the trip and realize just how necessary and uplifting it was.

First, I have to explain who the "Young Adults Ministry" or YAMs are. Jake and I participate in a group at church for young adults (roughly 35 and under) and have gotten very active in it. We have made some great friends and have found that this group is really helping us transition into being viable adults in the church. Going to the same church you grew up in is wonderful mostly but there is a downside in that many people still see you as the young person you were and in addition, you still feel young there. Instead of going to church because mom says so, now it is completely up to you whether you'll go to church. It has to be a priority because you want it to be, not because anyone else does. Having a group to navigate this time has been a blessing.

The canoe trip is just one example of the fun things we do together. Some of our activities are worship based and some are just for good ole fun. The canoe trip started on Friday - we made our way to the Spring River where the Peeples family was letting us use their family cabin for the weekend. We got there and decided to take a float trip down the river while waiting for the second shift of travellers. The float trip was my favorite part of the trip. The company was great, the water was cold but refreshing, and it was just the escape I needed.

After floating, we hung out and munched. The others got there, we ate dinner, and then had a compline service (one of my favorite services - it always reminds me of camp). I took the spare time after the service to start a book I'd been wanting to read but hadn't found the time to start. After a well rested night, we got up the next morning, had a Eucharist, and canoed the Spring River (or a small part that feeds into it). I was in the canoe with Clayton (pictured with his wife, Ebet, in the last picture) and Ragna. Not being an expert canoer, I was grateful for Clayton's guidance.

The canoeing was fine - I've gone a few times and while it isn't my favorite thing to do on the water, the trip was enjoyable. We called across to each other's boats, stopped for swimming, ate lunch on the falls, and had a generally good time. Somewhere between beginning and lunch we got some light rain, which normally would have been great because it keeps the heat off but in my case it was bad because I had fully lathered up in sunscreen which then was dripping into my eye. My eye swole shut and burned like no other. I had sunscreen on my hands so I couldn't get my eye cleared up. Luckily, Ragna is an optometry student and had eye drops with her - at lunch she flushed my eye out and I was brand new again.

That night we had dinner (award winning ribs), did Evening Prayer, and played some competitive rounds of board games. The next morning we had breakfast and then I left to come back to Memphis - school started the next day and I needed to mentally prepare myself.

I think my favorite part of the trip was being around people who were genuine and who helped me relax and just enjoy being in the moment - sharing the weekend with them. From the board games to the float trip to the Eucharist, this was a group of people who came together because of a common belief and religion but we've become more than that. We've become friends, a support system. This past weekend I got to have another outing with the YAMs as most of the canoe trippers went to Molly and Ryan's for a pool party. I am very grateful for all of these people who unexpectedly came into my life at a very important time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

All sorts of things running through my head

With the start of school, I feel like I've lost my mind, my will, my sanity, my friends, and my personality. Teaching is great many days but the first weeks of school are outright stressful. I work from 6:45 until 3:30 (or later, it was 5 yesterday) and come home unable to carry on an intelligent conversation. I know soon things will die down but until then I just carry on and do the best I can.

We've got a new superintendent (this is his 2nd year) and he is instituting some major changes (you've read about some in previous blogs, if you're a faithful reader). It has come down to the most minuscule things that are not a big deal but add up - certain things that have to be displayed in the room, for instance. I've been working on making all the changes, as well as updating my rosters (since I am constantly getting new kids and losing others), making lesson plans, etc. Today was especially stressful simply because I felt overwhelmed.

And yet these kids have a way of reminding me why I'm there. Reading over "Warrior Pledges" I had the kids write, one boy said the most mature thing ever for his pledge. He pledged to "overcome the obstacles in his life and grow into a mature man who would succeed to his fullest capability." I wanted to hug him right then - no one told him to put that. He just did. And my honors class who led me astray for 30 minutes while we had an intense discussion on terrorism and the United States' role in global politics - those kids are amazing.

In addition to school, a few other things are on my mind:
- Beth is getting a ridiculously cute basset hound she is naming Toby. She is picking him up Friday. I can't WAIT to hear how awesome he is... I remember when Beams was getting picked up from his farm.

- My brothers are enjoying UT but Jacob is sick. It sure is hard to be sick away from home.

- I started back at bell choir tonight at church. It was harder than I remembered.

- The jury announced sentencing for a trial I've been watching closely since the actual crime. Everyone had been hoping for death penalty and he got life without parole. I didn't even have time to watch the proceedings but just hearing about the testimonies was hard. It doesn't get any easier every time I hear about it.

- We're looking forward to this weekend (hopefully cleaning a little bit) and definitely next weekend (Labor Day, 3 day weekend!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spicy Green Beans

Another food related post for you.

Tonight while I was out braving Knowledge Tree to spend my well earned 100$ of classroom money the government gives me, Jake decided to make dinner. We had a great spicy italian sausage and four cheese sauce over rigatoni pasta. He came up with it on his own. With it, we had spicy green beans. I'd been saying we should do them for weeks and finally when we went to our local Lenny's last week, we remembered to get a jar of their hot pepper relish. Jake has been using it for his sandwiches in his lunch and then we used it tonight as well - so I'd say money well spent. The beans tasted fresh but with a kick - if you love spicy food like me, you'll enjoy this mindless way to make a side dish.

You'll need:
Lenny's Hot Pepper Relish (tip: if you don't want to get a whole jar, get a to go cup of it on your way out for free)
Fresh green beans, ends cut off and rinsed

Steam your green beans
Heat a moderate amount of the relish in a pan
Saute the steamed green beans in the relish, long enough to give the beans a wilted appearance
Take the green beans out and pour the heated relish over the beans, tossing to coat

And serve!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Changes at MCS

There has been a lot of buzz lately about Cash's changes for the Memphis City Schools system. Some of them, like moving teachers from 6 to 7 classes of students, I've been opposed to. Most, however, really make sense. I may be ostracized in the teaching community for saying so, but from an educational policy standpoint, they are tough but needed changes.

Take block scheduling as an example. This shift to block scheduling is actually a good policy decision. The kids get more instruction and less routine in their days - before, class changes, attendance, and so on would take up valuable instruction time with 6 class shifts. My class would actually only get about 45 minutes of instruction once the class got in, started on their bellwork, I took attendance, wrote excuse slips for those absent, dealt with those who were tardy, and so on. Less transitions = more time to teach. I also like it because the students get an opportunity to take more classes, which really benefits both those who fail a class and need that extra time as well as those who want to get more APs and honors electives under their belt. I know that as a high schooler I had to miss out on certain APs and electives because I was on the newspaper staff and that took up one of my 6 classes my senior year. In addition, schools are taking advantage of the extra classes blocked and adding in more electives so that students can get a broader area of knowledge outside the simple math/science/english deal. At our school, we're offering practical law, creative writing, and a publishing class that will create an online newsletter as electives. There have been some downfalls to block but mostly those have been in the hasty way it was adopted.

The local newspaper wrote an article this morning about one of the newest changes. I've heard about this coming for some time. The basic premise of the new change is that no student in grades PreK to 3rd grade can be failed and no student grade 4-8 can be failed more than once. While on the outset this sounds like a bad policy, if implemented effectively, it could actually be revolutionary for MCS. Many people will cry that we're simply allowing mediocrity and telling the students that they can do nothing and get away with it. And if the policy is not followed through with, that will be the case.

So how can a no fail policy actually turn into a success story for Memphis City Schools? It is complicated. First, in addition to this announcement, the board unveiled their new report card plan. It mimics the one in place at Campus School. Instead of the traditional A,B,C,D, and F in your core classes, instead it is a "standards based" report card. Meaning that the standards the student is to have met are listed and then the teacher indicates whether the student is meeting these standards, exceeding these standards, or needs intervention for these standards. It will be more complicated for teachers and parents alike to read and understand at first but I feel will actually give a better idea of what the student is and is not capable of in the classroom.

Traditional grades have flaws. For example, a student can be very bright and understand the information faster than any other student. They make 100s on the test on that material. Yet, because they don't do their classwork and homework, they get a D in that subject. Some may say that he deserves it because he didn't do the work but from an educational perspective, that student has been treated at a disadvantage - if they are meeting the standard (understanding addition, for example) they should then be accelerated to the next standard, not punished with a poor grade becuase they understood too quickly and got bored with the same material.

In addition, a traditional grade is flawed because it does not truly represently the student's performance wholely. By this I mean that the grade a student earns is just as much about the teacher as it is about the student. In a traditional grading system, each classroom teacher decides how much each section counts. Tests may be 30 percent in one class, but 50 in another. Also, unless all classroom work is aligned, one class may be easier than another. Teaching styles differ, grading styles differ. An A in my classroom is not equal to an A in the class down the hall. And to even further prove that teachers are a factor in variance of traditional grades, if a teacher does not like that student, odds are, they will not be as generous with the grade in a traditional setting. With standards based grades, it is very concrete. As a parent or teacher, you can see exactly what the student does and does not understand, where they need help, and where they are excelling.

The other part of this policy, the no fail part, is the more controversial. As I've said, this policy CAN be a system changing policy. I see so many kids in the high school who have been failed so many times that they are overage, ready to get out, and very much behind. Failing a student does the student no favor. In the elementary school setting, if a student fails, they are simply put back in the same grade again. Yet they may have failed because of one key area. They may have failed not because of academics, but because of immature or irresponsible behavior. That student who is a repeater does not get taught the information any differently than before, even though it is quite clear that the student needed an intervention, needed to be taught differently. Why would we try something again that didn't work the first time?

What this policy is promoting is not simply to pass students along even if they aren't ready. This policy instead will target the students who are listed as "needing intervention" on their report cards and then really give them the interventions they need - summer school, extended school hours, tutoring sessions. I could see a second grader who failed math in 1st grade (who then would have gone all the way back through first grade before) now being pulled out and sent to remedial math for extra math time, having a math tutor after school, and even doing some hours in the math computer lab over the summer. Instead of putting him back in 1st grade, causing him to develop low self esteem at a very young age, give up on the educational system, and lose ground in his academics, this child is caught up to his peers and in the 3rd grade is right where he needs to be.

So many times, failing a student is simply the easy way out. The teacher gives up on the student, puts them in someone elses class the next year, and then they are "their problem." This policy can fix that. I've repeatedly said that if we are going to fix the problems with MCS's students, we need to start with the youngest and change the culture a little bit at a time. I hope that this does that. It will be difficult, it will take people really following through with their promises, and it will take community support. There is a fine line between the "no fail policy" and a "easy pass to the next grade" policy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Man, am I lucky!

Way back in 2002, I started dating Jake. As soon as we started hanging out, I knew that he was going to be a great guy. It wasn't for a few months that I figured out that I liked him and in that time, he had become my best friend. I know this is cheesy but I just have to say how lucky I am to be with him. I am not one to express my feelings much - I am an extremely talkative person and can tell you pretty much how I feel about anything but as soon as it comes to telling a friend that they mean the world to me or telling Jake how great he is, I just get awkward.

For me, it is really in the little things that Jake does that I do realize how great I have it. For example, since school has started back I haven't really had time for anything, much less him or doing anything for myself. Jake has not complained one bit. My mornings are crazy - I get to school at 6:45 so I wake up at 6 and am out the door at 6:30. I barely have time to match my outfits, much less make a lunch so the other day, Jake made my lunch the night before and had it in the fridge for me. He knew that the day before, I had felt awful by the end of the day because I was so hungry since I didn't have a lunch. Then today, I forgot my leftovers that I had saved for lunch. He didn't have class so he willingly brought me Back Yard Burger - he didn't even have to ask what I wanted, he knew.

While both of those things sound silly, the really show how perfect he is for me. Last night, he even went to see the Sound of Music with me. We got invited by my friend Sarah, who plays a nun in the show. Jake isn't a fan of musicals and especially hates the Sound of Music but he sat through it and even broke down all the characters and commented on the show with me at intermission. I guess just like I've learned to love football, he's learning to love musicals.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Going to the chapel...

Just got back from a whirlwind weekend! As my last blog post stated, we headed to Knoxville for a double-the-fun weekend - the Wilson/Vaughan wedding extravaganza and moving my brothers in at UT.

We hit the road Friday about 3:45 and made it to Knoxville about 10:30pm their time. We stopped by the "Vaughan townhome" for a quick hello, dropped off our awesome gifts, and gave our best wishes. We then were off to our swank digs for the night, the Cumberland House Hotel. My parents are responsible for that one - couldn't have done it otherwise. Probably would have been sleeping on the floor at said 'Vaughan townhome' with other bridal guests.

Saturday morning we went to Zaxby's for lunch (I love it and the one here is so far away) and reminisced about our glory days in college. Jake and I both decided we'd do it all again in a heartbeat and also reflected on the fact that everyone looked so young. We aren't old so we decided that college kids just look younger these days. Of course.

I headed on down to the church where we took lots of fabulous pictures. Beth looked gorgeous - she had her hair and makeup done and her dress was hand made by her personal seamstress from her pageant days. My favorite line of the pre-wedding time was when Beth's mom said that she expected grandchildren very soon. A wary Beth replied that finishing law school and getting a job would be first on the list, then added that her younger sister would have to get married first - to which Beth's mom replied "no! we don't know WHEN that will be!"

The wedding color was cornflower blue. For a summer wedding, this was beautiful and calm and stood out well at the church. We got to pick our own style from the David's Bridal collection as long as it was the right fabric, color, and length. I liked this because everyone was shaped differently and I also thought it looked neat.

The service was great - Brad was visibly touched as Beth came down the aisle and his display of affection clearly got to us all. We were all wiping away tears. The reception was at Calhoun's on the River. The food was awesome, the dancing was fun, and the cake was delicious!

After the wedding, Jake and I went to meet up with my family. We hadn't seen them yet in Knoxville and had a car load of my brothers' things. We introduced the fam to OCI (only the best burgers ever - no lie, better than Huey's) and enjoyed hanging out and catching up with them.

Sunday morning, we helped bring the last of the things up to my brothers' rooms. We organized for them, decorated a bit, and of course made a huge Target-run list. It was so nice to be able to do this with them. It gave me a better feeling that they'd be taken care of up there. I know they both are looking forward to college and both were ready to see us go! I got one last picture with them before we went on our way. We hit the road, got back to Memphis, and celebrated Jake's grandmother's birthday with his family. I mean it when I say we had a whirlwind of a weekend!

Beth relaxing calmly before the wedding

Cutting the cake

First Dance

Bridesmaid in action

Moving my brothers in at UT

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beth's Wedding

This Saturday a very good friend of mine, Beth, is marrying her dream guy, Bradford Allen Vaughan. We'll be going to the wedding - in fact, I'm in the wedding. I am so excited to see them commit to each other and hope for the best for them.

Beth and I got to know each other as Orientation Leaders at UT in the spring of 2005. We grew close and maintained our friendship after that summer. During my senior year and Master's year, we grew especially close. I was lucky enough to have Beth as one of my bridesmaids - she trooped all the way from Knoxville for the occasion. I'm glad to repay the favor to her.

The picture above is of our little Knoxville clan at Eric's old apartment - next to me is Eric and then on the other side of me are Brad and Beth. They had just started dating at that point and this was a joint birthday party for Eric and me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adventures of Sebastian the beaglebasset.

Last week, we had new neighbors move into the other side of our duplex. They have two golden retrievers that are well behaved and sweet. And apparently they give these well behaved, sweet golden retrievers GREAT toys.

One day, Jake went outside to get the dogs and thought he saw the tip of Sebastian's tail over the fence in the neighbor's yard (we can see over our fence into their part of the yard). He looked all over the dividing fence for a hole or part where the ground was open under it but there was nothing wrong. He thought maybe he was mistaken and went on. Then Sebastian started showing up with things - a turkey leg one day, a toy the next. We couldn't figure out where he was getting these treasures from.

Finally yesterday we figured it out - the crawl space to our house was left open after some work our contractor did and Sebastian would go under the house and make his way to the other side, visit with his new friends, and then come back over as soon as he heard our back door open so we'd never know. He is smarter than we thought! Jake crawled under the deck and closed the crawl space so it looks like unsanctioned play dates are over for now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What a day.

Want to know what a day of teaching without breaks does to you? Check out the picture Jake snapped below...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My classroom

School starts on Monday - it is our first day back with kids. In between meetings about student council, meetings about block schedule, meetings about the freshman academy, meetings about social studies, meetings about learning village (notice a theme?) I also spent some time working on my classroom. Luckily the time spent was nothing like last year. Last year, I inherited a dirty, bare room and had no teacher supplies to speak of. Luckily, last year I wasn't paying rent, utilities, cable, and was eating at home so I could spare some bucks. That certainly wasn't the case this year.

I finally got around to taking some pictures. It will look a bit different soon due to students and their stuff being everywhere but it gives you a good idea of what I'm working with. I'm proud of my classroom because 1) it is one of the biggest in the school, 2) it has a lot of windows, 3) it is colorful and bright, 4) I like my set up, 5) I have a smart board (yay!). I don't like my classroom because 1) it is on the third floor and 2) it gets VERY hot. Our air is out right now (notice the glimmer of sweat on me in the pics) and mine is not blowing at all. Across the hall? oh a nice 74 degrees (chilly in school world) but mine is hoovering about 87. That is much better than the 104 we hit last year when the heat in my room went crazy.

I hope you enjoy the pictures of where I spend most of my life.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to School Back to School (to prove to dad I'm not a fool).

This week has been exhausting and exciting, all at once. We started back on Monday at school and have been having all sorts of teacher fun ever since. When you're a kid, you think the school revolves around you - you never would think that the teachers would be at school a week before you and on scattered days during the school year. Yet it is true - although I like to this that this is the weaning process from summer break for me. I've been getting up at about oh... noon most days in July (after an exhausting June) and staying awake until about midnight or later. Now suddenly I am waking up at 7, meaning I need to go to bed at 10. Next week, I'll wake up at 6 - so a 9pm bedtie I suppose. I need my sleep, after all.

This school year is going to be interesting. We're changing to block schedule. Now, I've taught on block but it was a bit different then. We had four classes in the fall and four in the spring. I didn't like that style for AP kids but for others it was fine. Here, we're doing an "AB" block (as opposed to a 4X4). The kids have A days (MW schedule) and B days (TR schedule) with four classes each. Fridays alternate - you could have an ABABA week then an ABABB week. If you don't think that kids are going to be wandering around trying to figure out where to go for the first few weeks, you haven't been to my school! Personally for me, trying to adapt to figuring out teaching on different days should be hard enough - because, for example, I could get two days ahead with my A kids because we'd meet Wednesday, Friday, and Monday. My B kids would get the information that my A kids got Friday on Tuesday, putting them behind. They'd catch up with the next Friday but still.

Another challenge is that instead of having a 50 minute planning period every day, now we have a 90 minute one every other day. I have planning on MW2 so I'll have planning three days one week and then two the next. While the planning is longer, you're getting less time per week and you have days you don't get a break at all. I don't want to seem like I am complaining because I know that we're lucky to get what we get but I get to school at 6:45- kids start coming into the classroom at 7. I get 20 minutes for lunch and if I don't plan that day, my lunch will be my only break until 2:30 (maybe 3:30 if I am tutoring that day or having a meeting). During my "lunch" period, I'll have to go to the bathroom (always a long line) and run whatever errands have been accrued for the day. The days without planning will be stressful to say the least. I don't know any other profession where someone with a Master's degree has to hold their bladder until their lunch break. Oh and also the other interesting part is that on those days we DO have planning, odds are, we'll get asked to cover a portion of someone else's class who had to leave and couldn't get a sub. So even less time. Or our planning will be used for meetings (every monday for me). Our union rep. says that it is legal in TN though, that we're meeting the basic requirements for planning period time per week.

The highlight of my week, though, was seeing my students on Tuesday. We had registration and many of them came by to see me. They are big bad sophomores now and so many of them looked so grown up! They were all so sweet, coming in to say hi. I really am going to miss that first batch of "my kids" and am nervous about having to get to know another group all over again. Even the student that was runner up for most pain in the butt came by and made me smile.

As I get deeper and deeper into the world of education, the more intrigued I am about educational policymaking. I feel that there are many things wrong with our educational system, included but definitely not limited to a lack of support from the public (at least in Memphis), a barrage of reforms that are not given the time to actually make a difference before the next reform comes rolling in, the amount of paperwork and mundane tasks given to teachers, taking away from their real job - the students, a "one size fits all" outlook on education... I could go on.

One initiative I am very excited about that has come from Memphis City Schools this year is increased Pre-K opportunities for our students. Many of our students start on a much lower playing field than others coming into kindergarten simply because their home life was not conducive to intellectual growth. Research is showing that most of the brain growth for children is done in the first years of their lives - by 4, 80% of their brain will be developed. By 5, 90 % will be developed. If those connections are not utilized, they die off. So while a student with a support network at home, with parents who are educated and motivated, is being read to, is playing with building blocks, is putting the shapes in the right hole, a student with a poor home life might be sitting in a dark room with the TV as a babysitter - or worse. This isn't a race thing for us, I believe it is an economic thing. While most of the students who come into schools in Memphis underprepared are African American, if you look at the patterns, the ones who come in underprepared are impoverished. I have white kids that come just as unprepared and are just as poor. I have African American students who could read at 4. I believe it is all about the economic status.

With these Pre-K programs opening (there are new ones all over the city), students below the poverty line qualify for these free programs that will give them a chance to catch up to their peers. I feel that if we want to improve test scores and literacy rates, this is the place to start. Get them while they are young and invest in them.

I'm always glad to share the GOOD of Memphis City Schools. It is easy to get caught up in the bad, the negative, the frustrating. I've got to remember to see the bigger picture.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A trip to the gardens...

Monday was back to work for me. I am convinced that our administrators think they have to bribe us back to work because every year the first day back is at some nice place that semi makes us forget that we're technically working. It eases us into the new year.

This year, we had our meetings at the Memphis Botanical Gardens. I hadn't been since our Senior Luncheon for high school. I've always loved the gardens and think that it is one of Memphis's many assets. We had an uneventful day of meetings and all was well.

At the end of the day, I ran into my friend Mollie - she has a great job: she works at the Gardens! I've known Mollie forever it seems, going back to our days at Grahamwood. She is a bubbly, kind person and I always love catching up with her. Mollie offered to take me on a tour of their newest exhibit and so off we went!

The Gardens just opened "My Big Backyard" which is a children's exhibit. Oh my gosh it was so cute. I can tell a lot of time and money went into this. First you go in and there is a garden made out of refurbished furniture. There are actually tons of gardens throughout the exhibit but they are teaching gardens and each is a bit different. In addition to gardens, there is a bee exhibit, a worm tunnel that the kids can play in, an area where it "storms" every 30 minutes, a tree house, a club house (great for birthday parties), little houses for the kids to play in, and much more. If you look above, you'll see a map of the exhibit.

At 5$ for entry to the Memphis Botanical Gardens I feel like it is a steal - for kids, for dates, for married couples, for friends. AND Wednesdays during their Farmer's Market, it is FREE. How fun! Thanks, Mollie, for a wonderful stroll!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I go away for ONE weekend and what happens?

This weekend I went to Hardy, Arkansas for an awesome canoe trip with great friends (more about that later). While I was there, I got a text from Jake back home - "We've got a toilet problem." So, I'm thinking "ok - get the plunger and we'll be fine." I call him to find out that no plunger will fix this situation. Turns out the toilet broke in half. Right - in HALF. Jake said he leaned back on it and heard a "crack" and then "splash" as all the water in the tank spilled out onto the floor. Luckily we have great landlords (hi mom!) and they have put a call in. We should get a new toilet on Monday. Until then, we're running over to the other side of our duplex (which is empty - anyone looking to rent?) and using that fully functioning toilet.

I came home from the trip today and surveyed the damage:

This crack goes all the way around the tank, as witnessed below. It showed no signs of damage before this weekend but probably had a hairline crack somewhere.
All in all, it made for a good laugh and humorous story to tell the friends. But I did realize how much I really enjoy having an operable toilet in our house!


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