Gearing up for the fair


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The Oregon State Fair is less than a month away and it’s time to get cracking on my submissions. This year I’m taking a plunge and submitting three different entries: marshmallows, vegan bread, and dollhouse furniture. 

Last year, I tried my hand at marshmallows and later realized mine were far too small compared to the competition, so this year is a do-over of sorts. Next, I am unearthing a pretty bomb recipe for vegan banana bread (perfected when my husband, Thor, was actually vegan). And last, I’ve always wanted to try to make my own dollhouse furniture, and submitting an entry for the fair gives me an actual deadline to do so.

Over the last two days, I’ve been poring over articles and pictures online about making dollhouse items. I’m not a fancy wood worker or metalsmith, and 98% of my crafting tools are sitting in the cabinets of my classroom – but I bought some polymer clay and have just been experimenting at my dining room table. Yesterday, I enlisted my friend, Courtney, to come play with the clay and give me some feedback. Here’s what I’ve made so far.

IMG_2625 IMG_2631


Making this crap is time consuming, and mentally exhausting, but it’s a good start. Also, another friend told me last night that I can experiment with clear nail polish to make them shiny and I hope to try that tonight. I’m hoping to make a couple chairs and a table by next week. It’s a process…

If you like baking or crafting, I highly recommend submitting something to the state fair. It really doesn’t matter how amateur you are – everything gets displayed. All you have to do is go to the fair website, fill out the submission form, and then drop your stuff off on the designated date. It doesn’t cost anything to submit, just the fair admission to go see it on display.

Of course, I have a lot of free time in the summer to mess around with recipes and make crafty stuff, but as someone who likes to go to the fair anyway, it makes the experience even more fun. 

Halfway to the Burpee Mile


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Are there any specific rules to the burpee mile? I’m not even sure where I first heard about it. Youtube has a slew Crossfit groups recording their “mile” on video but they all do it a little bit differently. I also found some “rules” on a Crossfit site – here they are:

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 9.45.32 AM

And while I had trouble finding a universal set of rules, I did find this nice graphic:


I’m not doing my burpee mile for anything but me, thus I think I should establish my own rules. Also, after blowing out my knee (almost 3 years ago!), I’ve learned to really listen to my body. It’s NOT worth hurting myself (or having a miserable case of DOMS). This is why I have slotted “Do a Burpee Mile” into the BONUS GOALS category. It may or may not be possible.

That being said, yesterday I completed a solid burpee half-mile and I feel no tinge of soreness or injury (though I did take one hell of a nap afterwards). I had slow one mile jog to the track, did 1/4 burpee mile, ran a little more to loosen up my legs, and did the other 1/4, with a jog/walk cool down. Yeah, my legs were a little jello-y at the end.



Many people have asked, “How many burpees are IN the burpee mile?” So yesterday I counted about 230 in a quarter mile. Multiply that by two and I did almost 500 burpees. Holy crap! However, my strategy is very different than any Crossfit site I’ve seen. I chunk my burpees in tens and take a quick rest in between each set, whether I think I need it or not. I also don’t add a push-up because I just don’t wanna.

Gloves are imperative.

Water is imperative.

Proper shoes are imperative.

Patience is imperative.

I was really, REALLY bored by the end of the first 1/4. I’m wondering how these Crossfit people manage that part of it. Maybe because they are together in a group? Even running on a treadmill is more interesting because at least you have television to watch. I think that will be the toughest part, should I complete an entire mile.

I would appreciate creative suggestions on how to breakup the boredom!


5 Bands I’m Looking Forward to Seeing at FFFfest


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Last year, one of my goals was to see a live show once a month, and I failed pretty miserably. This pretty much illustrates my pain at shows.

Instead, we ended up going to Austin for FUNFUNFUNFEST and I packed in seeing a whole bunch of bands all in one very exhausting weekend (read about it here). As we were getting back to Portland, I had a very intense “The Best Part is Coming Home” moment, and was pretty sure I wouldn’t be returning to FFFFest.

Yet, when tickets went on sale last month, Thor and I ended up sealing the deal on another shot at the fest…this time with VIP wristbands (with hopes I will be able to see more and get less beer spilled on me from the VIP stage). We also picked a hotel with a better location, and we are also planning to fly first class on a direct flight. Theoretically, this whole trip will be a classier, less exhausting do-over.

Top 5 Bands I’m Looking Forward to Seeing at FUNFUNFUNFEST

1. Dinosaur JR – Flashback to the grunge 90s, right? Also, the early 90s indie film Gas, Food, Lodging (directed by Allison Anders) not only has a soundtrack almost completely done by J. Mascis, but he also appears as a total weirdo in the last scene. I selected this film as my main focus back in film school, so if you ever want to hear a diatribe on the hegemony of the male patriarch, let me know (LOL).


2. The Blood Brothers – I used to listen to these dudes all the time and then somehow they just fell off my playlist. When I saw them on the lineup, I put them back in and remembered how much I like them. I hope their live show is as frenetic as their music.


3. 2 Chainz – When I saw Lady Gaga’s newest album had a song with 2 Chainz, I was pretty excited. Unfortunately it’s like my least favorite song on the album, but regardless I think he’s pretty hilarious. I love how he drawls, “2 Chainzzzzzz” in like every song. If I ever have a band, I’ll make sure to give myself a shoutout in every song.


4. SZA – Trust me, you’re going to be hearing about about SZA pretty soon. She’s new, but she has some key people collaborating and producing her.


5. Metz – Is it just me, or do they sound a lot like a Fugazi spin-off? (in a good way).

Books of June/July…and a claim to literary fame


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Last month, I didn’t post the three books I had read because I was actually in the middle of two (real big ones!), and figured maybe I could merge June and July. Thus is this the first installment of my monthly posts about the books I’ve read. Clearly, I’ve got an “End of the World” theme happening here…

the_dark_tower_1_the_gunslingerThe Gunslinger by Stephen King* – Back when I was in elementary school, I couldn’t get enough Stephen King. It was sometimes awkward that other kids were reading Judy Blume and I was reading Misery, but now you know I’ve been morbid all my life. I remember being really fascinated with this book when I was in 4th or 5th grade because it actually had some color illustrations but I remember very little of the story, and after reading a couple years ago that HBO had picked up the series, I wanted to reread them in anticipation of that. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything about this since then.

Anyway, back to the book: as an adult reader, I wasn’t exactly hooked. Basically, you’ve got rogue “gunslinger” crossing an apocalyptic world on the hunt for “the man in black.” I like that Stephen King makes books that appeal to the masses, but they aren’t simplistic. (ok, well a few are pretty simple, i.e. Christine or Cujo). The relationships and internal monologues of characters are often very sophisticated, and he presents a unique way of developing the geographies and landscapes that characters exist in. That being said, I didn’t immediately go to pick up the next book when I put this one down so I’m a little lukewarm.


The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta – Speaking of HBO series, I am someone who really insists on reading a book before seeing the show or movie. I’m a total purist about it, meaning I’m that super annoying person who’s like, “Yeah but in the book this is what happened…” Now I like to see how a book can be interpreted, but I don’t like when they flat out change the story. It drives me insane (GOT, I’m talking to you).

The idea behind The Leftovers is that one day, 2% of the world’s population just disappear. Some say it was the rapture, but most disagree because many who would be considered “good christians” weren’t taken, and others who clearly didn’t live christian lives were. The story centers on several characters (who are all connected in some way) and how they grapple with being “left behind.” On one hand, I have to give it to Tom Perrotta that he spends very little time with the actual moment of “the rapture.” All of the apocalyptic stories, shows, movies focus on that moment the shit hits the fan – it’s what we all wait for. He doesn’t. For some, we never even find out where they were; it’s not important. But I also didn’t connect with a single character – something about them felt empty. (And maybe that was the point! Right?!) Regardless, I still felt myself thinking about the story when the book wasn’t in my hand – it really explores a lot of issues about self, identity, and relationships. Thus I’m still going to recommend it.

SO – have you started watching the HBO show but not read the book? I have to say, they AREN’T EVEN CLOSE. For once in my life, I’m going to say that you probably don’t need to read the book to watch the show. From what I’ve seen so far, HBO has completely rewritten and retooled EVERYTHING. They added gratuitous sex and violence; changed characters’ jobs and relationships; added deep emotional reactions where there none. If I were Tom Perrotta, I’d be pissed.

UnknownAfterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa – I had recently read the big hubaloo about iconic Archie being killed off in the Life With Archie series, and thought that maybe it was the end of an era. I’m not a diehard Archie fan, but I did read the comics quite a lot growing up (I’m a total Betty). So when I saw this on the rack at the bookstore, I picked up it with irony, thinking it would probably be silly and stupid.

I was so wrong! This new series is genius! In a nutshell, Sabrina (the Teenage Witch) helps Jughead resurrect his beloved dog, who was hit by a car. Unfortunately, the dog comes back “wrong” (a la Pet Sematary) and bites Jughead, who then becomes a flesh eating zombie. He invades the prom, takes down several people, and suddenly a zombie apocalypse is unleashed in Riverdale (and the world). Archie’s gang take refuge at Veronica’s gated estate, fighting off the masses of zombiefied townsfolk.

In a time where zombies have been played out for years, this campy reinvention of Riverdale makes perfect sense. The art by Francesco Francavilla is also pretty badass (i.e. Archie having to bludgeon his own zombie parents comes to mind) and I would like to point out that it is FAR BETTER than Walking Dead (which I always thought was mediocre). It might not be for everyone, but for an Archie fan, I think it couldn’t be more perfect.


*For Christmas in 1995, I got AOL 1.0 as a gift. That’s right, I got THE INTERNET as a present. Who knew? There wasn’t much to do back then, other than the 6 chatrooms AOL offered. You could also search for a person, but the only information it would give you was their name, screen name, and location. I searched Stephens in Maine, and found a screen name “WriterKing”. I realized someone could be faking the profile (although few people had internet back then, and “catfishing” was still years away), but I took a chance and sent him a message. I asked if he was THE Stephen King, said I was a student who wrote a lot of stories. I also clarified that I was NOT into conversing with perverts who wanted to talk to children, but if it really was him, he should “Write back or die,” (I was 14, give me a break). 

Here was the response:

IMG_2597Seem legit, no? I even sent him a story and he gave me some feedback. I didn’t want to bother him anymore, but I’m pretty convinced I had a 10 day online conversation with the one and only, Stephen King. 


Classic Movie of July


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Last month I randomly chose the movie 3 Women, literally about three young women grappling with some weird shit back in the 70s; and this month, in some strange coincidence, I chose a movie about three young men also grappling with some weird shit in the 70s. Completely unplanned, yet a perfect follow-up. In fact, I recommend that these two films be sold in a DVD twin-pack.

merkel_jborte_port2BIG WEDNESDAY (1978) – In doing my best not to sound completely pretentious, this movie was freaking lyrical. I’m talking ebbs and flows of a great poem. The film follows the lives of three free-wheeling California surfers, but don’t be fooled – it’s not just an excuse for a fun beach soundtrack or epic surfing montages. While there were moments I definitely laughed out loud (Gary Busey in his element!), the story has many quiet, subdued moments. (Just like the ocean tides?? Why yes, just like that). The boys frequently engage in drunken fist fights and general mayhem (i.e. oiled up Gary Busey throwing himself into an oven), and other times slows as the guys struggle to find their place in the tumultuous times of the late 60s and early 70s. Their friends get married, have kids, get drafted, get killed, become alcoholics and lose it all…but surfing (and their epic bromance) remains constant.

Actually, let’s add Point Break and make it a TRIPLE DVD-Pack. Radical!


Clocking those burpees


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While my goal of a burpee mile was initially set for last month, the weather in Portland has been H-O-T. I generally don’t fare well in any exercise over 57 degrees, and I lost my workout gloves so until I can guarantee I won’t get heatstroke and blister my hands on the track, I’m just going to keep training for lots and lots of burpees.

I don’t know anyone else personally who has tortured themselves with a “Burpee Mile” and, admittedly, I haven’t really looked at a specific training plan for this kind of challenge. That being said, I did 80+ pushups without stopping a couple years ago and I trained for that by just doing them ALL THE TIME, with lots of variety. I’m taking the same approach.

Just doing burpees for an entire workout sounds really boring (and exhausting), so here’s a workout I did this week for an example.

My Burpee Workout #1

1. Warm-up 

2. Descending Burpee Ladder (do 10 in a row, then 9, then 8, etc…I give myself a 10-20 second break in between) = 55 burpees


3. Alternate 3 sets of Exercise Ball Jack Knife (40) and Bicycle Crunches (40)

0906-swissball-ab-pike  0502_bicycle_crunch

4. Repeat Descending Burpee Ladder

5. Alternate 3 sets of Sit Ups with Medicine Ball (40) and Mountain Climbers (80)

mens_fitness_5022  Mountain-Climber

6. Repeat Descending Burpee Ladder

7. Alternate 300 meter row (fast) and Planks (1 min)

8. Cool down and stretch

The whole thing usually takes me about an hour. And in the end, I’ve done 165 burpees (amongst other things).

If you’re into increasing your burpees (David, I’m talking to you), here’s a good reference site to challenge yourself: The Burpee Workout.

Do you do burpees? How do you include them in your workouts? I’m always looking for something new and shareable.

Me and Martha


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Yesterday I was at a friend’s BBQ, and you wouldn’t believe how many people asked me, “So you’re off work for the summer, right?” After giving the affirmative, everyone asked the same follow-up question, “What exactly do you do all summer…?”

This is a difficult question. Should I be honest and say that I sleep in till 7:30 (that’s late for me), drink coffee with a cat on my lap, have a leisurely work out at the gym, and…..? Since it seems like bragging; I generally attempt to deflect the question. Yet at the same time, I certainly don’t just sit around.

Martha Stewart Living is one of my favorite magazines, and I always look forward to her calendar, right behind the table of contents. I imagine most people flip right past, but I zero in on Martha’s “to-do” list. Of course there are many other items that aren’t listed on this calendar, but I like to think these are her most-important items of note; things that are seasonal or a better chunk of her day.


In fact, I specifically plot out my summer calendars with Martha in mind. (BTW, yes I did officially enter the state fair crafting and baking competitions today).

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 8.15.40 PMMost people roll their eyes when I tell them Martha Stewart is one my heroes. I get even more condescending laughter when they find out I own some shares of her stock. Maybe it’s that she’s of an older generation, or she became the butt of many jokes when she went to prison. I’m not really sure why. I certainly don’t tease people when they say their heroes are cliches like Maya Angelou or John Lennon. That’s their prerogative.

However, if I’m going to put my lady, Martha, on the spot, I might as well tell you why I think she’s fucking amazing.

Top 5 Reasons Martha Stewart Rules

1. She is self-trained in cooking. And just self-made in general. When I want to learn something new in cooking or crafting, her books or website or magazine are the first place I go because at one time or another, she also had to learn how to do it.

2. While in prison, she coached and advised other prisoners on their business plans. And from what I understand, she continued to keep in touch with a couple and provided some entrepreneurial support.

3. She never stops. I read somewhere that when she takes a nap, she’s still thinking. She also banned couches on the set of her show.

4. She’s an animal lover. Yeah she has lots of her own animals, but much of her philanthropic work is dedicated to helping animals. Need I say more?

5. She used her looks as an advantage in business. Some would argue this isn’t the “right” way for a woman to succeed, but men throw their weight around all the time. Why not combat it with hot pants and a little charm?



This is where the magic happens – Part Deux

A couple months ago I wrote a post “This is where the magic happens” about taking a risk. Remember that? I was frustrated with my job, and everyone around me (even my horoscope) was like, “Dude – accept all the good stuff you do have!” 


Well, I didn’t write something else pretty important that had happened. I had also interviewed to be a “Mentor Teacher” for my school district. I had solid experience and proven success (along with passion!) for this position, and I felt like I nailed the interview. This was it – I had been patient and finally an opportunity had presented itself. So it was a total blow when I DIDN’T get the job. Not just to me either! Everyone I knew professionally was shocked, pissed off, and confused. I did some digging with multiple people “in the know” as to what went wrong, and was told that it was a political move; I wasn’t sucking up to the right people; it wasn’t about experience, but more about the district’s agenda.

I sat at my desk, while my students were across the hall in math, and stared dismally out the window. What am I doing here? I wondered. Why am I swimming upstream in a place that everyone knows is toxic and dysfunctional? 

An hour later my students came back and we were finishing resumes for a career unit, and then practicing interview skills. I felt like a fraud. “In an interview, you need to really showcase your skills and expertise without bragging…just be yourself!” I said. But what I wanted to say was, “It’s all a lie! All that matters in this world is sucking up! Climbing over each other! Vote everyone else off the island!” I held my jaded tongue.

I have this book, Do More Great Work and in one of the exercises it asks you to write down times you’ve really felt inspired and energized professionally. I realized that many of my moments came from sitting in workshops hosted by Jim Knight at the Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He transformed the way I do and think about things as an educator. After my students left that day, I shot Jim an email. I thanked him for his guidance, and I suggested that if he ever needed a professional coffeemaker he should keep me in mind. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Now two months later, I have just accepted the opportunity to become one of his workshop facilitators. You know, someone who TRAINS the people who do that Mentor Teacher job I DIDN’T get in my school district. (Oh so satisfying.)

Next week I head to Kansas to present to my esteemed colleagues, then I fly to California and back to Kansas to learn from one of my heroes. Surely, this is where the magic happens.


Summer Sloth

Staying motivated in the summer when you’re a teacher is, well, a challenge in itself. All year you’re focused on your students’ goals, and your own professional goals. Then suddenly, you have three months off and no kids (or parents or boss) that you need to account for. On one hand, it’s pretty awesome to be so free; on the other hand, it requires serious willpower to get out of bed.

People who aren’t teachers often don’t get it. I literally had to explain to a group of professional non-educators the other day that that teachers just don’t have a “slow” time. We are pedal to the metal at every moment. They kept throwing out different scenarios:

Them: What about September or October? Haven’t things calmed down once the kids are in school?
Me (stifling laughter): Um no. We are setting annual goals, having Back to School Nights, Carnivals, fundraisers for the year. There are fall sports to coach and beginning of the year reading/math/writing assessments. Not to mention Halloween…and grades.
Them: Ok, what about November or December? When all that stuff is over?
Me: Parent/teacher conferences, holiday parties, choir performances. Principals have evaluations due before Winter Break…basketball games…the occasional snow day makes it worse.
Them: But surely January! When you get back?
Me: State testing runs consistently until May, in addition to winter assessments, more grades and –
Them: Ok, ok. Spring. You have a spring break, right?
Me: Spring assessments, work samples for each kid in each subject, more evaluations due. Outdoor School, field trips, field day, Run for the Arts; some of us do spring conferences. Then there’s graduation, last day of school. Final grades. We. Don’t. Stop.

Wherein I got some blank stares. When’s our slow time? RIGHT NOW. When were aren’t getting paid (that’s right, we don’t get paid in the summer, contrary to what you’ve heard).

Most teachers I know use this time to travel or do projects at home. The money for summer school dried up years ago so that’s not much of an option. I don’t have kids, and yet sometimes taking a shower by dinner time is still challenging. (Pathetic, I know.)

What I’m saying is, I keep looking at my list, but somehow helping other people with their busy lives is easier than committing to my own goals. In the last week, I helped my dad run errands, worked with a teacher on her lesson planning, helped a friend move, and painted a different friend’s new house. I try to have a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table when Thor comes home. Then we spent the weekend meeting at my in-law’s farm for the holiday. So, like, I’m doing stuff…just not my necessarily my own stuff.

Thus I proclaim this week: MY WEEK. I’ve got my posted goals here, and a slew of other to-do’s taped to the refrigerator. Helping other people with their stuff is enjoyable because it’s a positive way to fill the long summer days, but realistically I have to remember that I have priorities, too. Important priorities. You know, like hosting a summer bonfire and learning to double dutch.


summer bonfire for a gathering

Coloring Book First Steps


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Now that it’s summer and I’ve got some time to myself, I’ve started brainstorming for my goal “Design and Publish a Coloring Book.” Right now, I’m thinking of finding a self-publishing site. I’m not looking to make big bucks (or even small bucks) or change my career to professional coloring book author (although that sounds rad). I frequently teach art to my students, and one time a kid said, “Mrs. Deacon, you should TOTALLY make a coloring book and we could color it!” Being the great teacher that I am, I replied, “What a great idea – how about the CLASS each makes a page and then we can all color them?” And we made a class coloring book instead.

But the idea stuck: I really would like to make a coloring book of my own, and then if my students are interested they can print out the pages and theoretically design their own. Although I teach art and play around with a sketchbook on a regular basis, I’m a total amateur; no delusions here.

My brainstorming process has been to jot down things I personally like to look at, and am inspired to draw when I’m stuck in a meeting or on an airplane; then sketch several pages of things that are rumbling around in my head. I’ll probably do this for a couple weeks, and start drafting rough sketches of page ideas (I’m shooting for 10 – 15?).



tiny things


foods, plates, cups



parties, decorations

mazes or hidden items


If you have any feedback on anything, I welcome it. I’m totally flying blind on this one.





I’ve also thought a lot about the coloring books I have liked throughout the years, and which ones I have bought for the classroom (typically curriculum based). Here are some great coloring books I would recommend (and my students would agree).



Life in Old Japan


Victorian Houses


Jumbo Hello Kitty 


Human Anatomy Coloring Book (by Margaret Matt)


Mexican Designs Stained Glass


The Anti-Coloring Book


The Boys Doodle Book – BUT I MUST BE CLEAR THAT I HAVE A HARD TIME RECOMMENDING THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT’S SO OBVIOUSLY SEXIST. I don’t agree at all that the cool book (with all the pirates and skeletons and mazes and spaceships) is for BOYS, and the lame book with all the shoes and cakes is for GIRLS. I have literally ripped the cover off this book. That being said, it’s always a hit.




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