Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Punctuation Failure

I have discovered something.  My students do not know how to use punctuation.  Setting aside the fact that 90 percent of them have yet to pass their comma test with an 80 percent or above (the requirement for not having to take anymore comma tests…because, seriously (an example of a comma used with a nonessential expression), by ninth grade, you should be able to use a comma.

And,not, like, this. 

It’s not confetti.  Stop spreading it around.  We are not feeling festive all up in here.

Today is not September, 29, 2009.

Nor is your address 134, West, Street, Town Name, IN, 39593.

Also, this sentence is incorrect: We want to go to the mall but, we keep getting lost.

This too: Jill, and Diana talked, and laughed.

I’ve come to terms with comma problems.  I’ll keep teaching them until I’m blue in the face.  I can recite that section of the textbook verbatim.  It’s really quite impressive.  But today.  Today we had a new problem.  It went a little something like this:

“Hey, Mrs. Cook.  If I’m copying this directly, do I put it in these?” He points to a key on his keyboard.

“What are ‘these’, Anonymous Male Student?”

“I think it’s a parentheses.”

“No, you’re pointing at a quotation mark.”

“Oh.  Well, do I need to put the quote in parentheses?”

“No, usually we put quotes in quotation marks.”

“Oh, really?  I didn’t know that.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

A completely pointless post.

I have some very pointless things to share.  Mostly because real life is hard.  And I don’t want to deal with real life via the interwebs.  So if I know you in real life, and you know about the hardness, and are curious about why I’m avoiding it, this is why.  I can’t process it right now.  I need a few days.  Or a week.  Or six months.  I’m a slow processer.  If I was a computer, you’d throw me away.  Mom, Grandma, I’m really okay.

Now on to my pointless-ness.  I was making some connections this weekend (in my head—not physical or personal).  And I realized something kind of funny.  People think and act differently based on their choice of news sources.  And here’s my completely circumstantial evidence to barely back up that claim (why yes, I did just teach my speech class about proper evidence in a persuasive speech…you mean it didn’t look like this?  huh.)

My husband gets his primary news from countless hours of CNN, cnn.com, and The Drudge Report.  He is an angry man (at least when it comes to the news…not really in other things, he’s fairly pleasant).  But he is convinced that the world is going to crap.  And that we are going to have to leave the country or something crazy like that.  Please know I’m totally exaggerating and making things up.  It’s what I do.  This isn’t really what my husband says.  He just gets really excited and then I forget what he says and make up things like this. 

My mother-in-law gets her news from FOX News.  She watches hours of it.  And she is convinced that the swine flu is going to kill us all.  She’s trying to figure out what to do about flu shots and is certain that it is going to kill everyone.  Again, I don’t really remember what she said, I’m totally making her reaction up.  I have met people who have survived the swine flu with no issues (except, you know, for the flu-like symptoms) and we discussed this. 

I get my news from TIME magazine (which my husband does not enjoy, thankyouverymuch) cnn.com, Kiplingers (for finance) and to be honest, people.com and Chelsea Lately.  Clearly, the last two do not cover the hard-hitting news so much.  But I can tell you anything you want to know about the Kardashian sisters.  Also, I can tell you about how the poor girl from the Miss Teen USA pageant in 2007 who horribly flubbed her interview had no idea that Chelsea Handler was making fun of her through her entire interview in 2009.  And I don’t know what issues I have, because I’m not as aware of my own.  Unless it’s possibly the borderline unhealthy knowledge of the Kardashian sisters.  I didn’t really make any of that up.

I would totally fail a persuasive speech in my class.  I’d tear me apart and tell me to do some real work.

That’s all.  I’m curious.  Where do other people get their news?  Evening news?  Different websites?  Newspapers? 

Friday, September 25, 2009

An ill household

Earlier this week, sweet A was sick.  He had some stomach problems in the night, and we both ended up staying up together for a while until he was able to get some rest.

The following afternoon, I started sneezing and getting a sore throat.  It has been getting progressively worse, to the point that I needed to stay home from work today.

And I just really want to share with you how much I appreciate my sweetie husband.  He took my temperature, brought me water and medicine, made sure my pillows were okay, and helped me change into comfy clothes because I couldn’t unbutton my own shirt.

That’s a sweet husband, and I love him dearly.

Now I need to go back to bed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sneak Peek

I have decided not to unveil the living room until the curtains arrive and I finish up a small project.  In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of what is making me super dee duper happy right now :)

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

An Ideal Week

In an ideal week, I would start Monday with:

-my breakfast for the week portioned and bagged

-groceries purchased

-produce prepped for the week ahead

-papers graded, lesson plans ready to go

-a clean house, organized, dusted and ready to go

-laundry washed, folded, and put away

This week is not going to be an ideal week

I do have the groceries ready, and breakfast and the veggies prepped.

My lesson plans are about 83% ready.

I have less than 30 minutes of grading.

But the rest is not going to happen.  I don’t really know why I didn’t do the laundry.  There’s no real reason.  But the whole clean house thing isn’t going to happen.

In about 15 minutes, we are going to clear out the last few things from our living room.  Then my husband is going to rip out the monstrous red carpet.  Tomorrow at 10:30, our pretty new carpet is going to be installed.  Then later in the afternoon, our new sofas will be delivered.  And when I get home from school, we are going to put our living room back together again.

I will reclaim my office.  The piles will go back to where they belong.  We will no longer have a living room that looks like this (actually…that picture is from 2007 right after we moved in…it hasn’t looked totally like that in awhile)

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The green is gone.  In its place is a color that had better not be pink when the new carpet comes in or there may be weeping and gnashing of teeth tomorrow night.  The burgundy will be gone.  In its place will be pretty carpet. 

And I will be able to put my house back together again.

Until we demolish the kitchen next month and start the whole thing over again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Numbers: I don’t even remember anymore

I think I up to about 45 books this year.  At least I was the last time I saw my notebook.  The contents of our living room are currently stacked precariously in my office, so I don’t know when the notebook will resurface. 

I can tell you about a few of my favorites, though.

The Boleyn Inheritance—Philippa Gregory

I am pretty sure I am going to end up reading everything she has written.  This was in the same vein as “The Other Boleyn Girl” and talked about the lives of the 4th and 5th wives of Henry VIII.  I very seriously ignored everything else while reading this book.  So good.

Mixed Signals—Liz Curtis Higgs

This book wasn’t particularly good or special, but I just thought it was so sweet.  It felt like autumn to me..cozy, sweet.  Like a blanket and cup of coffee.  I ended up ordering my own copy, because it’s the type of book I can grab when I need a pick me up and reread.

And right now I am reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.  I think if I were able to devote an appropriate amount of time and thought to it, I would enjoy it more than I am.  But it was not the best choice for a “back to school” book.  It’s very good…it’s just taking me a while to get through it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A happy ending to a rough day

Today was not my favorite day.  But the part since I got home 40 minutes ago has been fabulous.  I came home to a sweet husband, a fully cooked dinner (I put it in the crock pot this morning)…and things instantly perked up.  Then I found out that a cd that I have wanted since my freshman year of college is available on iTunes.  And I’m thrilled.

This particular cd is by the David Crowder Band.  Truly, Crowder is probably my hands down favorite musician.  I always turn back to David Crowder.  The cd I found is their very first album, All I Can Say, and I have wanted it for a very long time.  And it was not available anywhere.  ANYWHERE.  So many of the songs on that album were songs we sang during worship my freshman year at Purdue…a time when I was just discovering that a relationship with God was possible.  That Christianity wasn’t being a good person and doing the right thing the way I had been taught up to then.  That the Word of God was living, breathing, and active, not a set of rules and regulations.  And this cd contained a whole lot of songs that meant a whole lot to me during that time.

So I’m sitting here, hearing the very words, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth….the flowers of the field are crying to be heard, the trees of the forest are singing…”  Words that first made the Lord real to me.  And I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t crying.  It’s such a small thing, but having the iTunes version of this cd touches my very soul, and brings me more happiness than you can know.  Best 9.99 I ever spent :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tale of Two Painters

There are two people in a house somewhere who decided to paint together for the first time.  One has done all of the painting since purchasing said house…the other has conveniently been at work any time painting has gone on.

The one with the paint experience knew how she liked to paint: many, many hours of The Rachel Zoe Project, Project Runway, The Soup, and the occasional Keeping Up with the Kardashians needed to be on in the background. 

The interloper with no experience thought that listening to techno music was the better option.

We’ll just say they didn’t necessarily agree.  But after teaching a Sunday School lesson that dealt with compromise, they reached one.  They listened to one techno cd all the way through, then switched to The Soup on DVR, because it was agreeable to both.  Rachel Zoe and the Kardashians will have to wait for another day.

But their living room is finally all painted. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

This is going to be one of those things we’re going to laugh about later

So…I wholeheartedly suspect that Andy and I have entered into a phase of our marriage that is going to become something that we will look back on and say, “Why did we think that was a good idea?”

Just don’t tell him I said it.

Our carpet has arrived, and should install sometime late next week.  (We think).  Our installer didn’t call yet, but he said he can usually do it about a week after it gets in.

Our furniture is being picked up this weekend, and going to it’s new home.  That should be pretty nice for painting and ripping out the current carpet.  Unfortunately, our new furniture isn’t even guaranteed to be built until the 21st.  They said it usually takes 21 days to build, but I don’t know how much to add on for delivery. 

So we shall be without furniture in the living room for at least a week and probably more.  We will be watching the season premiere of The Biggest Loser and The Office without furniture. 

This weekend, we need to paint the entire living room and hallway.  It’s a pretty big job, especially considering the other things going on.  Andy coaches his first soccer game…we have plans to watch some college football late Saturday afternoon and probably won’t be home terribly early….and then, you know, I’m a teacher…weekends are how I catch up from everything I didn’t do during the week.  I think Andy’s going to tape the walls tonight, and I’m going to prime while he’s at soccer.  Then, hopefully, we can do the first coat of paint Saturday afternoon, and a second after church Sunday.

Then, on the 25th (whether we have furniture or not), our new wood is arriving.  We will need to see if Andy’s parents can come down for a weekend, because we think we need their help with this one.  So we will be demolishing MANY layers of flooring in our kitchen, knocking out a poorly placed closet that cuts into our space, then cleaning out our crawl space, installing a new subfloor, adding the hardwood (it sounds so easy typed…), fixing the trim (because there are MANY layers of floor that may be going away), painting the walls, changing the countertop, and building an open shelving system on the wall where the closet is being knocked out.  And somehow in all of this, we still haven’t figured out where to put a dishwasher in our kitchen.

And then it’s time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An ode to Lowe’s

Oh Lowe’s, how I love thee.

You are a delightful home improvement store.

One of the few places in town with friendly and competent service.

And you have all sorts of things that make me want to spend all of my money.

And sometimes I do.

And Lowe’s, you wanted to further our relationship.

It was sweet, you know, pre-approving us for a credit card like that.

I’m sorry we had to say no.

But we’ll be back.

You know we will.

We’ll run out of paint, or need some mums.

We’ll need nails for the nail gun.

Or something I don’t even know about now.

If we tear down that wall in the kitchen, who knows what we’ll need.

If we build those shelves I am longing for, I know that we’ll be back.

Of course, now that we’ve purchased the carpet and the hardwood, I don’t know what we’ll do on dates.

Not you and me, Lowes.  We can’t date.  I’m married.

And, well, you’re a home improvement superstore.

I meant my husband and I. 

We like to hang out within your huge, gray walls.

I guess we’ll have to find a new project.

Or wait until something to break.  Our house does that, you know.

Or maybe we’ll just take a break after October’s home improvement sprint, and keep some of our money.

Until the spring, of course, because you know we love you in the spring.

To Lowe’s.  My sweet friend….the one we visit the most and spend the most time with.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Week’s Meals

I have been slacking something miserable in a lot of departments.  Andy ran out of clean shorts this week.  Last week he had no socks.  And dinner has been pretty grab whatever and eat it.  So this week, in honor of an extra day, I am going to try to officially get my act together.  Starting with grocery shopping and laundry today.  And sweeping the kitchen floor (I have determined I will not bother mopping it…since it will be GONE soon).

So here’s my meal plan for this week (all of my links go to Cooking Light recipes—we’re working on cutting calories and being healthier around here….and frankly, I’d like to weight what I weighed when we got married two years ago):

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs or oatmeal, fruit

Lunch Andy: Chicken pot pie, mini sausage pizza, roast beef sandwiches

Lunch Ashley: Whole grain pita with hummus, Laughing Cow Light Cheese wedges, and cucumber; Chicken with Wild Rice Soup and salad

Snacks: popcorn, cut vegetables, apples, grapes, low fat cottage cheese and applesauce


Monday: Border Style Shrimp, Broccoli

Tuesday: Smothered Pork Chops with Thyme, salad

Wednesday: Chicken with Southwestern Salsa, garden salad

Thursday: Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

Friday: Bacon and Baked Potato Soup, salad

Saturday: Leftovers

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Two years later…

Two years ago, this very Labor Day weekend, Andy and I were beginning to move into our first house.  We knew there were some serious issues, some things that made us crazy, but we knew that our little one income family couldn’t afford to do a whole lot at the time…at least without going into debt, which we are completely committed to NOT doing.

So we made do.

For the past two years, we’ve made do.  We had a carpet that we hated.  So we made do by painting the living room a bold color that complemented (though a few who have entered this house have disagreed) the burgundy monstrosity.  And it worked.  We had a kitchen tile that was atrocious.  It is pale pink bathroom tile with grout a mile wide, so it never looks clean.  We had the sofa that Andy’s parents gave us….it came with their house when they moved in 14ish years ago.  We had the loveseat my parents gave us….they bought it when I was in about kindergarten.  It’s worked.  It’s been our sweet little eclectic first house.

We have worked hard.  We paid off all our debt (my student loans).  We built an emergency savings.  And we are paying off our mortgage and saving for retirement. 

So now we’re having some fun.

Our house is going to be changing in the coming weeks.  The burgundy carpet will soon be gone.  It will be replaced with a lovely frieze carpet in a nice neutral color.  The walls are changing too.  I still love the green, but the paint was cheap, and it looks bad.  They will be a light neutral tan color as well.  Andy’s parents gave us a tv stand, so we won’t be using a secondhand coffee table for our television.  And we have replaced our sofas.  They will arrive shortly after the carpet.  And we have a beautiful 90 year old library table that was built by Andy’s great-grandpa—Andy Cook—that my husband has carefully refinished over the past three weeks.

We had intended to stop with the living room now, and wait a few months for the kitchen.  But we were met with an offer that was to good to turn down this afternoon.  Sometime this week we will be heading to pick up the hardwood flooring that will go in our kitchen.  We (Andy) plan to install that ourselves, so the only cost will be in the supplies.  We will paint the kitchen to match the living room, replace the countertop, put in the new faucet we bought on clearance last winter, and paint the table and chairs we were given by friends.  And our two biggest house projects will be complete.  I’m so excited for all of the changes coming in the next few weeks.  It’s such an exciting time. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A long day that ends with a personal goal

Today made me tired.  The kind of tired that can only be satisfied with comfort food.  So I popped a Schwan’s chicken pot pie in the microwave, and tasted a small bit of comfort.

The pot pie and I have an interesting relationship.  I never really had them as a child, because my family never ate chicken (my dad can’t eat it)(also, as a result, I cook with chicken like 4 times a week….I think I am still just so excited to get to eat it).  I think I may have tried one at the baby-sitter’s once, but I wasn’t a fan.  Then I lived on my own at Purdue.  And I didn’t have very much money.  So I ate the Great Value or Banquet pot pies with some regularity because I could get an entire meal for 54 cents.  (It was fifty, but inflation crept in my senior year).  Then I eventually graduated to the Swanson chicken pot pies (because they tasted so much better).  Now we buy the Schwan’s every so often, because frankly, I forget to go down the freezer aisle and the Schwan’s man comes to my door.

With all that said, I am a firm believer that none of those pot pies comes close to be as good as a homemade chicken pot pie.  And so today, I vow to try to find my favorite pot pie recipe.  I’ll do some research, and choose several recipes.  Then I’ll report back and give my overall findings.  I’ll give it the Ashley Cook Seal of Approval.  So…if you know of a fabulous pot pie recipe that I HAVE to try, let me know :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My new favorite pot roast

I had a pot roast in the freezer that needed to be used.  I got it on sale and with a coupon at Kroger a few weeks ago, and it was just waiting to be cooked.  After reaching a new low last night, and serving canned chicken noodle soup and a reheated sourdough roll from the Wal-Mart bakery, I knew I needed to make something for dinner.  But I knew I would be plum tuckered out when I got home (can you say yucky cold thing at the start of the school year).  So I made dinner this morning in the crock pot.  It went like this:

Dump some water in the crock pot.

Toss in a packet of Mushroom Gravy seasoning stuff

Toss in a packet of dry Italian seasoning

Toss in a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dry dressing

Stir it all up.

Drop in the roast.

Cook on low.

I just tasted a little bite when I got home, and MERCY!  It is danged good!  I want to spoon out the broth and drink it straight.  I’ve never had that sort of feeling about a meat broth.  In fact, six years ago I told my mother I hated the taste of red meat.  And I’m still pretty fussy about my cow meat.  Now, I cannot wait until dinner tonight (or until pot roast is on sale again).  Holy Cow is it good.

A Series of Electronic Mails

Every day at work, my sweet husband and I exchange a set of emails back and forth.  Most are quick (I only have quick seconds in my day), but they bring me great joy.  Here is a series that was sent back and forth today:

From Ashley to Andy:

Dear Magee,
On Saturday, can we please try to locate a Starbucks as we go to Cincinnati?  Pumpkin Spice lattes are out again, and I might not survive if I don't get one soon.  I spend my whole year in anticipation of the months of seasonal flavored coffees and creamers. And I'm so excited the time is here!
I love you,
Your mildly melodramatic wife.



From Andy to Ashley



From Ashley to Andy

This is me sticking my tongue out at you.


And that’s how I stay sane at work :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dear September

Welcome back, September!  I’m so excited to see you.  You know you’re my favorite, right?  Because, September, when you’re here, things start to get beautiful.  August is nice.  What with all the tomatoes and peaches and the excitement of a new school year.  But August is hot.  And dry.  Okay, not as much this year, but still. 

In August, things start to turn a little bit brown.  But you, September, you bring the oranges, the yellows, the purples and the dark reds.  Mums start to come in.  Leaves start to change.  The air gets that nice little crisp feeling.  I get to dig out the sweaters (the light ones) and continue my search for the perfect riding boot (this will be the year!).  I pull out my Harvest candle from Yankee Candle, and the apple cider and pumpkin candles from Wal-Mart.  My whole house smells so delightful. 

Football season truly begins.  The apples arrive at the orchard (the cider too).  The leaves in the park start to change (though I know it’s really October who gets the glory here).  Mr. Magee and I take longs walks in the park, and hopefully down the Heritage Trail.  And it’s all so glorious. 

This September I get to go home for a weekend.  I don’t know that I’ve been home in September since I was at Purdue.  That makes this September so much cooler than the last few.  Andy will spend his Saturday mornings coaching soccer, and I intend to spend mine doing fun things—maybe checking out the farmers market, or going to the library, or starting some meals for the work week, or just catching up on sleep. 

Oh September, welcome back!