Monday, September 3, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - August

Gosh, I feel like I spent so much of the first half of the year reading, and now I’ve totally fallen off that wagon. Between school starting again and time spent with friends, I really haven’t had much “me time” for reading. I can’t complain though, my mood has been exponentially better this last month than it’s been all year, so I’m thankful for the change. Here ya go- August’s books!

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog (and my reading habit) at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

62. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (4/5 ★)

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

This book has been on my “to read” list for ages, so when I won it in a giveaway I knew I had to read it right away! Suspense novels are my favorite, so I figured I would love it. Even though it is set in Europe, they’re on a cruise ship so there wasn’t a lot of geography to sort through like some of the previous books I’ve read this year. I did however hear from a Norwegian girl that some of the geography was off- so if you are from that area then it may make a difference!  The also gave me a lot of flashbacks to the cruise I went on earlier this year, which I had mixed feelings about. But I thing I liked about this book that is different than most is that it gives you small flashes forwards of how the story ends- just enough to keep you wanting more and keep reading to find out HOW it ended that way. There was a lot of suspense throughout, though I felt like it ended abruptly, like there should have been more detail. However, just when I was getting upset about the end, there was one last twist that left me feeling satisfied!

63. Gossamer by Lois Lowry (3.5/5 )

Where do dreams come from? What stealthy nighttime messengers are the guardians of our most deeply hidden hopes and our half-forgotten fears? Drawing on her rich imagination, two-time Newbery winner Lois Lowry confronts these questions and explores the conflicts between the gentle bits and pieces of the past that come to life in dream, and the darker horrors that find their form in nightmare. In a haunting story that tiptoes between reality and imagination, two people—a lonely, sensitive woman and a damaged, angry boy—face their own histories and discover what they can be to one another, renewed by the strength that comes from a tiny, caring creature they will never see.

I have loved Lois Lowry's stories since I was ten years old.  Gathering Blue is still one of my all-time favorite books.  I was at the bookstore picking up a copy of Gathering Blue for a student when I saw this one on the shelf and realized I hadn't read it. A little boy, a foster child, was introduced a third of the way into the story, and without saying what happened to him, I knew his background based on his behavior and responses.  It tugged my heart string hard because so many faces of kiddos I know flashed through my head because they're the reason I understood this boy's story.  That being said, though it wasn't one of my favorite's of hers, it is a really sweet little story!

64. Slam by Nick Hornby (2/5 )

For 16-year-old Sam, life is about to get extremely complicated. He and his girlfriend—make that ex-girlfriend— Alicia have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble. Sam is suddenly forced to grow up and struggle with the familiar fears and inclinations that haunt us all.

This book was in perfect, hardcover condition at the bookstore for $0.05, so I couldn’t pass it up. I had read another book by Hornby earlier this tear and enjoyed it, so I was excited to read another. I regretted that decision. It drug on and on, and it’s probably geared toward late middle/early high schoolers, but honestly I think I would have been bored with it even then. I contemplated putting it down about halfway through, but I AM NOT A QUITTER, so I persevered, but I wouldn’t recommend.

65. Orphan Train by William Morrow (5/5 )

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?
As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.
This book has also been on my “to read” list for ages! (Gretchen, why have you had so many books on your to read list for so long? Why haven’t you just read them already?? Because my “to read” list is 300 titles long, that’s why!) Again, I won this book in a giveaway, which meant it was finally time to read it. After suspense/mystery, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres- but it has to be the right point in history. This one wasn’t in my usual time period (WWII era), but I LOVED it! I loved that half the story was set in my home state of Minnesota because it gave me some insight as to what life was like there in the Great Depression era. For example, I didn’t know that Minnesota had been the biggest producer of turkeys in the country, or even that the state’s name came from the Dakota Indian word for “cloudy water.” I love fiction stories that teach you things! It was fun to recognize places like the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Fort Snelling, and St.Olaf college- places that existed in 1939 and still today. I’ve always appreciated the history in the South, it’s nice to learn about the history from home. This ended up being a book I stayed up way too late reading on many nights because I could not put it down!

Reading Challenge: 65/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

10 Best And Worst Things About Living in the South

Even though they're in the same country, the north and the south are two totally different worlds in a lot of ways. (And by north I mean midwest and by south I mean southeast US). The following are some comparisons that have really stuck with me over the past three years since I first became a resident of the south. (How has it only been three years??)

1. There are monograms EVERYWHERE.  If you like monograms, that is a definite plus, but y'all, I can't stand monograms. They don't make sense to me.  I'm a very logical thinker, and it just does not make sense to write your initials first-last-middle.  But also it would be dumb to put them in order first-middle-last and make your middle initial the biggest. Therefore, no sense.

2. The weather, obviously. Hello, mild winters! (And also hello a week's worth of snow days when it snows >1".) Tornadoes, however, am I much less of a fan of... But I do love having a pool that I can swim in six months out of the year!

3. The drivers.  Growing up, we made fun of Wisconsin drivers, but I would take Wisconsin drivers any day.  Originally I thought it was just where I had moved to, because both places I have lived in the south have a pretty transient population, but after enough road-tripping, I've learned its definitely just a southern thing in general. It is rare that I make an hour long drive without seeing at least one small wreck. (Looking at the stats from 2016, I found the following info for Deaths per 100,000 Population- Minnesota: 7.1, Wisconsin: 10.5, Illinois: 8.5, Tennessee: 15.7, Alabama: 21.3.) It's no wonder car insurance costs so much down here!

4. This is specific to Tennessee, but NO STATE INCOME TAX. The downside- sales taxes are twice as much and there is sales tax on food.

5. Recycling is virtually non-existent. There is no roadside recycling like there is for garbage and very few public places offer recycling receptacles.  I've been here for three years now and it still makes me cringe every time I have to throw a soda can in the garbage.

6. Cracker Barrels err-where! I will pass on the over-hyped Chick-fil-a for Cracker Barrel pancakes and cornbread any day! Also add the fact that I can get a Sonic water (or slushie or popcorn chicken) 17 hours a day.

7. The sense of style. My absolute favorite fashionistas to follow are my Nashville blogger girls! On the other hand, I do not understand the southern obsession with Matilda Jane and Vera Wang.  The first time I saw a Vera Wang bag, I assumed it was a like a $5 bag from Wal-Mart.  Then I saw them EVERYWHERE and I thought it was so bizarre that people here were so obsessed with these Wal-Mart bags.  I soon found out they did not come from Wal-Mart... Cue the exact same thoughts for Matilda Jane.  And don't even get me started on adults wearing those ruffly pants... Some things I just don't understand.

8. Smoking.  First off, smoking in bars is still legal down here.  The first time I was in one it really threw me off considering it has been illegal in Minnesota for over a decade, well before I was even able to get into a bar.  Also, there are more smokers in the south in general (and I've found they typically aren't very respectful in regards to where they are smoking), which unfortunately means more interactions with secondhand smoke and the stench that comes with it. (Curious, I looked up the stats from 2016 and found that the national average of adults who smoked was roughly 16%.  In Minnesota it was 12% and Tennessee was 25%.)

9. There is so much history in the south! I am a self-declared dork (though a lot of other people have declared it to), and I love visiting the places that have helped to shape our world today.

10. Nobody in the south knows what duck, duck, grey duck is. When I showed my friend a duck, duck, grey duck t-shirt from Target (shout out to my favorite MN based corporation!) she asked me if it was a FRIENDS reference... *facepalm*

There ya have it! Though there are tons of differences, these are definitely the ones that have stood out the most to me!

Monday, August 6, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - July

July was another fun and busy month, but I tried to squeeze as much reading in (at the pool!) as I could before school started! My head was in a crazy spot this month, so reading physical books was tough to do.  The great thing about audiobooks however, is that you can listen to them while keeping busy and working on your "to do" list, so this was definitely an audiobook-heavy month. Also, all the books I read this month were awesome!

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

52. Choose Wonder over Worry by Amber Rae (5/5 ★)

WONDER is what we’re born with.
WORRY is what we learn.
Why do we hold back from pursuing what matters most? Why do we listen to the voice inside our head that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough? How can we move beyond the fear and doubt that prevents us from creating a life that reflects who we truly are?
CHOOSE WONDER OVER WORRY is your official invitation to face your fears, navigate your discomfort, and rewrite the "worry myths” in your mind that keep you from being your best and truest self.
Journey with inspirational speaker and artist AMBER RAE as she connects you with your voice of worry and wonder, teaches you to listen to your emotions rather than silence them, and encourages you to seize your dreams. Through a thoughtful blend of vulnerability, soulfulness, and science, Amber Rae guides you in expressing the fullness of who you are and the gifts you’re here to give.
You don’t have to be held back by Worry when Wonder awaits you every moment of every day.
Worry or Wonder: which will you choose?

I had received this book months ago from Goodreads, but only just now got around to reading it. It's funny how things work out like this.  Had I read this book when I first received it in the mail, I don't think I would have cared a whole lot for it, but because I read it when I did, it hit me pretty hard.  I loved how this book really made you think about life, and the things and the people around you.  It helped me to acknowledge a lot of things that I knew, but haven't quite been ready to accept. Also, though I haven't utilized them yet, I really liked that it included journal prompts throughout.

53. Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale (4/5 ★)

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.
Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.
As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

I really enjoyed this story! It was mainly mystery with a bit of romance mixed in, but not so much that I didn't want to read it.  There was plenty of suspense and a lot of twists and turns and I definitely continued to wonder and guess about the details until the very end. I recommend this book if you love suspense stories!

54. Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Tracy Crosswhite returns in the second book in the page-turning series by New York Timesbestselling author Robert Dugoni.
Homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite has returned to the police force after the sensational retrial of her sister’s killer. Still scarred from that ordeal, Tracy is pulled into an investigation that threatens to end her career, if not her life.
A serial killer known as the Cowboy is killing young women in cheap motels in North Seattle. Even after a stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally, she is charged with bringing the murderer to justice. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Tracy realizes the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her captain, Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. With the Cowboy on the hunt, can Tracy find the evidence to stop him, or will she become his next victim?

(review of this book after  #58)

55. In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Detective Tracy Crosswhite has a skill, and a soft spot, for tackling unsolved crimes. Having lost her own sister to murder at a young age, Tracy has dedicated her career to bringing justice and closure to the families and friends of victims of crime.
So when Jenny, a former police academy classmate and protégé, asks Tracy to help solve a cold case that involves the suspicious suicide of a Native American high school girl forty years earlier, Tracy agrees. Following up on evidence Jenny’s detective father collected when he was the investigating deputy, Tracy probes one small town’s memory and finds dark, well-concealed secrets hidden within the community’s fabric. Can Tracy uphold the promise she’s made to the dead girl’s family and deliver the truth of what happened to their daughter? Or will she become the next victim?

(review of this book after  #58)

56. The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?
After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight. Once again, New York Timesbestselling author Robert Dugoni delivers a taut, riveting thriller in the fourth installment of his acclaimed Tracy Crosswhite series.

(review of this book after  #58)

57. Close to Home by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

While investigating the hit-and-run death of a young boy, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite makes a startling discovery: the suspect is an active-duty serviceman at a local naval base. After a key piece of case evidence goes missing, he is cleared of charges in a military court. But Tracy knows she can’t turn her back on this kind of injustice.
When she uncovers the driver’s ties to a rash of recent heroin overdoses in the city, she realizes that this isn’t just a case of the military protecting its own. It runs much deeper than that, and the accused wasn’t acting alone. For Tracy, it’s all hitting very close to home.
As Tracy moves closer to uncovering the truth behind this insidious conspiracy, she’s putting herself in harm’s way. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

(review of this book after  #58)

58. A Steep Price by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Called in to consult after a young woman disappears, Tracy Crosswhite has the uneasy feeling that this is no ordinary missing-persons case. When the body turns up in an abandoned well, Tracy’s suspicions are confirmed. Estranged from her family, the victim had balked at an arranged marriage and had planned to attend graduate school. But someone cut her dreams short.
Solving the mystery behind the murder isn’t Tracy’s only challenge. The detective is keeping a secret of her own: she’s pregnant. And now her biggest fear seems to be coming true when a new detective arrives to replace her. Meanwhile, Tracy’s colleague Vic Fazzio is about to take a fall after his investigation into the murder of a local community activist turns violent and leaves an invaluable witness dead.
Two careers are on the line. And when more deadly secrets emerge, jobs might not be the only things at risk.

I chose these books from Kindle Unlimited because I had listened to the first book in the series a couple months back and really enjoyed it.  There is one more book but the audio version wasn't available and I wasn't in the mood to read the physical copy via kindle. The narrator is awesome and does a great job distinguishing characters with her voice.  There is continuous suspense and mystery that build throughout the stories. I also like that the novels are fairly current, so they're able to bring in current events (to an extent, not in detail, but enough to make the stories more relatable).  I highly, highly, recommend this series to any reader who likes mystery and suspense.  The only thing I didn't like about these stories was that there is a tinge of romance throughout them with some of the characters which I can absolutely do without.  It wasn't overwhelmingly much however, so it didn't distract from the overall story line.

59. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish (4/5 ★)

The ultimate “parenting bible” (The Boston Globe) with a new foreword—and available as an ebook for the first time—a timeless, beloved book on how to effectively communicate with your child from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors.
Internationally acclaimed experts on communication between parents and children, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish “are doing for parenting today what Dr. Spock did for our generation” (Parent Magazine).  Now, this bestselling classic includes fresh insights and suggestions as well as the author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships, including innovative ways to: ·Cope with your child's negative feelings, such as frustration, anger, and disappointment·Express your strong feelings without being hurtful·Engage your child's willing cooperation·Set firm limits and maintain goodwill·Use alternatives to punishment that promote self-discipline·Understand the difference between helpful and unhelpful praise·      Resolve family conflicts peacefully
Enthusiastically praised by parents and professionals around the world, the down-to-earth, respectful approach of Faber and Mazlish makes relationships with children of all ages less stressful and more rewarding. 

Though this book is technically a parenting book, I bought it after my first year teaching because I wanted to know how to more effectively communicate with my students, and only just finally got around to reading it.  It definitely hit a lot of points that I learned and knew about prior, but that are so easy to forget when you're not consistently trying to use them.  I'm not a parent, so I know I'm in no position to tell those who are how to do their job, but I loved how this book shared how to interact with your child based on their developmental age and how to effectively get your point across. It also had mini workbook parts where you could respond to a (real life) situation. I didn’t use this part yet, but it’s definitely something I may go back to once school starts and I am dealing with kids again. I highly recommend this for any teacher or parent who wants to build a relationship of respect with their child/student.

60. Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou (3/5 ★)

Sisters, like secrets, are best kept close.

Penny and Hattie, orphaned sisters in a small town, are best friends, bound together to the point of knots. But Penny, at the mercy of her brutal husband, is desperate for a fresh start. Willing to do anything for her older sister, Hattie agrees to help. A match is struck and a fire burns Penny’s marriage to the ground. With her husband gone, Penny is free, and the sisters, it seems, get away with murder. But freedom comes at a cost. 

More than a year after the fire, a charming young man comes to town. Hattie and Penny quickly bring him into the fold and into their hearts but their love for him threatens the delicate balance. Soon long-held resentments, sibling rivalry, and debts unpaid boil over, and the bonds of sisterhood begin to snap. As one little lie grows into the next, the sisters’ secrets will unravel, eroding their lives until only a single, horrible truth remains: You owe me. 

A compelling novel of suspense from a talented new voice, Sister of Mine asks us to consider the bonds of family, what it takes to commit the unthinkable, and how far you’ll go to protect the ones you love.

I received this book as an early release copy, but it is released on August 7th. I'm really torn on how I feel about it.  The story didn't seem to have a huge plot line, but at the same time there was suspense and I was drawn into the story and found myself slurping it up as fast as I could because I wanted to know what happened.. I really, truly can't decide if I enjoyed this book or if I thought it was dumb. It's just bizarre.

61. The Exes' Revenge by Jo Jakeman (4/5 ★)

A wickedly dark debut thriller about three women who've all been involved with the same man and realize the one thing they have in common is that they all want revenge against him...

Divorces are often messy, and Imogen's is no exception. Phillip Rochester is controlling, abusive, and determined to make things as difficult as possible. When he shows up without warning demanding that Imogen move out of their house by the end of the month or he'll sue for sole custody of their young son, Imogen is ready to snap. 

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable--something that puts her in control for the first time in years. She's desperate to protect her son and to claim authority over her own life.

But she wasn't expecting both Phillip's ex-wife and new girlfriend to get tangled up in her plans. These three very different women--and unlikely allies--reluctantly team up to take revenge against a man who has wronged them all.

Apparently the theme this month was suspense, which is fine by me because that is one of my favorite genres.  This was another early release book, and it will be published and available for sale on September 11th.  It was set in England, which usually makes it harder for me to follow because I'm not super familiar with the area/culture there, but it wasn't extreme and didn't include too much geographical information, so it didn't distract from the story. There were some plot twists, and I finished reading this with my window open at 2AM which wasn't the smartest (I'm a scaredy cat), but I definitely enjoyed the story!

Reading Challenge: 61/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

14 Teacher Hacks (+ Other Helpful Ideas)

As I took time after my first two years teaching to figure out some health issues, I decided to substitute teach. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would (most days). I was still able to work with my passion of teaching, while taking the time off that I needed for doctors appointments, neurologist appointments, and other sick days. One thing I loved about subbing, was that I got to be in many different classrooms and see the various ways teachers ran their space.  I took pictures of some awesome ideas that I would have loved when I taught full time, because I wanted to share them with my teacher friends. This post is for you, my fellow teachers!

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

1. Straw dispenser as a pencil dispenser

I've always used shared pencil bins (sharp and to-be-sharpened) because there is nothing worse than a child sharpening a pencil in the middle of the lesson. That being said, it seemed like kids were spend forever at the pencil pail picking out the perfect pencil, the sharpest one with the biggest eraser. Using a straw dispenser for pencils eliminates all of that! You get whichever pencil comes out so there is no reason to play around with the pencils in the back of the room. You can find one here!

2. Tupperware containers for crayons

Every teacher knows that crayon boxes barely last the first month of school without falling apart and keeping crayons in a pencil box just opens kids up to a full box of tools to play with when they're supposed to be pulling out a green crayon. I've seen some teachers use soap boxes to store crayons, but I love how easily these little Tupperware containers stacked together.

3. Re-purposed Coffee Can or Paint Can

This is probably the most genius idea I've seen so far. One problem I always had was desks shifting everywhere! It seemed like I would straighten the desks when my kids were at specials (because I'm super anal like that) and they would be spread about the room not 10 minutes after they returned.  Putting the feet of neighboring desks in a shared coffee can keeps them from moving away from their spot. If you don't have spares, you can order them here!

4. Coin Incentive

This was from a first grade classroom, but it could be modified to use in any elementary classroom. The students earned coins for different things (1 penny for getting 100% on an AR quiz, 3 pennies for clipping to the top of the chart, etc.). Amounts and coins could easily be adjusted depending on grade level.  They then get to buy things from a treasure box.  This is a great incentive and also helps children learn their coin values and practice adding coins.  Plus, it gives them the real world experience of buying things with money and saving to buy something you want.


5. Teacher Bathroom

Okay, so this isn't exactly a teacher hack, but it's a genius idea.  This school had shelves with a basket for each teacher than they could store tampons, deodorant and other toiletries. I can't count how many times I went to the bathroom and forgot to bring something with when I needed it. Since teachers are lucky to have time to use the restroom once in a day, it's nice they can store anything they need right there.

6. Door stops

All of the classroom in the district I subbed in had these and I think it's genius.  Some of them go into the wall and others go into the floor, but they're effective either way. The purpose of these door stop things is to push them into the wall/floor during an emergency situation such as a lockdown.  Again, not really a teacher hack, but something I felt I should share.  On the topic of lockdowns, the schools also require two different people to announce over the intercom that the lockdown is over before it actually is. This I assume is to keep everyone safe in the event that the original announcer is forced to give an all clear.

7. Emergency Red/Green card with class list

I've seen a lot of school use a card or something similar that has a green and a red side during emergencies (fire, evacuation, etc). If you haven't seen this, the card is used to easily show if a teacher has her whole class accounted for (green) or if she is missing a student (red). The thing I loved about this teacher's is that she put a tiny class list on her card. I always kept a class list on my clipboard that I grabbed when we left the room for a fire drill, but this would eliminate the need to remember to grab that too.


8. Calendar Time

The following two strategies were used in an inclusion kindergarten class that I spent a lot of time with.  During their morning calendar time, they counted how many girls were absent and how many boys were absent, then added them together.  It gives them daily practice with adding numbers in a real world scenario daily, even if the numbers are usually low.  They also checked the weather everyday and used a stamp to record it on a sticky note which they placed on a graph.  This also was a great way to incorporate real world skills  into daily practice.  At the end of the month they would analyze the graph and compare the varied weather.

9. Win a trip to Chuck E Cheese!

This school had entry tickets in each classroom that were put into a raffle at the end of each quarter to win a trip to Chuck E Cheese! In order to earn a ticket, the students had to make a 100 on their AR quiz.  At the end of the quarter, one student was chosen from each class/grade (not sure which) and was taken to Chuck E Cheese by the principal (I think). Great, fun way to motivate kids to work on comprehension!

10. School-Wide Behavior Plan

I really liked how one of the schools I subbed at had a school-wide plan set up for children who had troubles with their behavior.  It made it really easy as a sub to know how to discipline, and it helps all teachers when everyone is on the same page.  I also really liked how they had a section for positive comments in each class period.  It can become so difficult to see the good things a child is doing when you feel like you're always having to deal with their negative behavior.  I think this helps teachers to see the good in their most tiresome kids, and also shows the students that the teachers are there to support them and that they see the good things too.

11. Graphing Question of the Day

You could have this posted every morning; when students come in they could answer the question with their sticky note during their morning work time. Then, you can review the graph with students during calendar time. This is a great way to incorporate the graphing skill into daily practice and takes very minimal time.

12. When I Grow Up...

I loved these "career kids" that were painted all along the hallway in this school! Using the mirrors in the face to reflect each kid- such a fun idea!

13. Morning Work Tubs

When I taught second grade, I found that my students fine motor skills were terrible.  Since they were rarely allowed to cut or color during class time, they were really missing out on key fine motor skills.  This Kindergarten room and tubs filled with various things- mainly math manipulatives. Students followed a chart to see which tub they would get each morning.  This could easily be adjusted for any grade level and could incorporate independent center-type activities that correlated with the standards being worked on.

14. Substitute Contact Sheet

As a substitute, I HATED when teachers left minimal plans. I think it is so important to leave as much information as possible to insure the class will run smoothly for your sub (but more on that in another post). This teacher added a substitute contact sheet at the end of her sub binder for substitutes to leave their contact information.  This would be great to have when you know a sub did a good job with your class (or not good!) so you know who to call again (or not call) and who to recommend to your co-workers.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Taco Tuesday: 13 Places to Get Tacos in Nashville

Everyone who knows me knows that my top three favorite foods are potatoes, pizza, and TACOS.  Lucky for me, tacos have definitely become a "trend," so there are taco places EVERYWHERE, especially in the food capital of Tennessee- Nashville. (That's not an actual thing, but it should be, because there are an infinite amazing places to eat in Nash). Anyway, I still have a pretty extensive list of taco places to get to, but here are some of my favorites so far!

1. Mas Tacos Por Favor 5/5 ★

I would have to say this has been my favorite place so far.  Mas Tacos is cash only (they have an ATM, but come prepared!)  There is ALWAYS a line out the door and parking is a pain but it is totally worth it.  This is my go-to taco place every time someone new comes to town. Tacos cost $3 each and are decent sized for corn tortillas.  They have a few different side and drink options, though my goal is always to stuff my face with as many tacos as possible, so outside of the street corn, I've never tried the sides.

2. Bajo Sexto Tacos 3/5 ★

Baja Sexto is located in the Country Music Hall of Fame building (though I believe there is at least one other location in Nash).  Tacos are $5 a piece, which is spendy in my opinion, and weren't that great.  They were good (just not great), and I would eat there again if I was seriously craving tacos and was downtown, but I wouldn't choose to go if I had other options.

 3. Bartaco in 12 South 4/5 ★

I've been to Bartaco a couple of times now.  The tacos are pretty small, but they only cost $2.50 a pop. That being said, you can easily eat six of these!  There is a vast variety of taco choices, sides, and other sustenance.  I was not a fan of the margaritas.  I've only had one once, but it was not very strong, and fairly small for being $10.  The ambiance of Bartaco is incredible.  You can be seated inside or outside.  I always opt for outside, where there is cushioned seating on benches with low tables, perfect for conversation with friends.

4. Taco Mamacita 4/5 ★

Taco Mamacita is located on Edgehill Ave. I recommend ordering an appetizer of chips and the seasonal salsa.  When we went, teh seasonal salsa was pineapple and habanero, which sounds strange, but it was the perfect mix of sweet and spicy!  Taco Mamacita has an extensive menu, with many taco options.  They also have a specific gluten free/vegan menu with ample options.  Tacos come on flour tortillas, but you can ask for corn.

5. ACME Feed and Seed 1/5 ★

ACME is not a Mexican restaurant, but they do have one type of tacos. I'm going to tell you right now, if you want to eat tacos, DO NOT GO HERE.  In fact, if you want good food, DO NOT GO HERE.  ACME is gushed about all over the internet, but y'all, I've eaten here twice and both times have been a total bust.  The food wasn't bad, per se, but it wasn't good.  The second time I went, I saw tacos on the menu, so  I had to get them.  The tacos are pulled pork and are served with Mexican street corn and black beans. The meat was so dry and lacked flavor.  Adding the Texas ketchup (aka BBQ sauce) helped a lot, but I still would never order them again.

6. Music City Brisket Food Truck 5/5 ★

The Music City Brisket food truck was at CMA Fest 2017 and I went there twice because their food was SO GOOD. Despite being flour tortillas, they were delicious! Definitely not your average street taco, but it had the great flavor of southern brisket!

7. San Antonio Taco Co. 2/5 ★

SATC is a step up from Taco Bell in that it doesn't make you spend the night in the bathroom, but I wouldn't recommend eating there unless its after a night of drinking or you're desperate for queso and too broke to afford real tacos. They're pretty average for tex-mex tacos, but no substitute for the real thing.

8. Nada 4/5 ★

The price is a little steep for tacos here, but they're worth trying at least once.  I had the carne asada taco and the baja fish taco and both were delicious! They advertise as street taco size, but they are much smaller than an average corn tortilla street taco and they cost $3.75 a pop (which is why they received 4 stars instead of 5).  I did appreciate that I could get sweet chili glazed potatoes as a side and the chips and queso were mouth watering.

9. Taco Mama 3.5/5 ★

The great thing about taco mama is that they have a ton of options when it comes to tacos.  They're pretty good, but lack the overwhelming flavor that a lot of the other tacos places in Nashville have mastered.

10. Smoke Et Al 4/5 ★

I found the Smoke Et Al taco truck at CMA Fest and YUM was their noble brisket taco good!! The only downside was that for $7 you only get one taco.  It was enough to fill me up but too spendy in my opinion.

11. Chuy’s 3/5 ★

Chuy's is a chain, but I still wanted to share because the fish tacos were delicious! This one is located in the Opry Mills mall.  It's also hard to find good rice at Mexican restaurants, but I was impressed with the rice here.  Caitlin had the nachos when we went and they were not good at all, hence the three stars.

12. Taqueria del Sol 4/5 ★

Taqueria del Sol has two locations in Nashville, one in 12 South and one on Charlotte Ave.  It is a cute little restaurant with ample menu options to choose from.  I had the fish taco (YUM) and either a carnitas taco (which was a little dry but still good!)

13. Muay Thai Tacos 5/5 ★

Yall. These tacos were AMAZING! The Muay Thai Tacos food truck was at the Nashville 4th of July celebration and I just could not pass by and not order something. I am so glad I did because these were some of the best tacos I have ever eaten! I ordered the Cap N Crunch Tilapia tacos, but they also offer chicken and steak tacos as well as burritos and quesidillas.

Stay tuned for another post detailing more tacos outta Nashville coming soon!