Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The One With Oprah and the Great Barrier Reef #slice2013


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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Last night, when I woke up at 1:00 in the morning with a burst of energy to start really mapping out plans for my short term and long term goals (I know it's crazy, but this is fun to me!), I pulled out a list of life accomplishments I wrote out when I was in college. I distinctly remember sitting at the front desk of the university library where I worked and choosing 30 items to put on this list...mostly because Oprah said I should do it...but also because I felt like I had so much of my life in front of me and it was fun to dream of all the things I hoped to experience. 

A lot of them I have crossed off, like running a marathon, volunteering for Special Olympics and owning a new car (I was still in college...this was a big deal at the time!). But I also realized that many I haven't even thought about in a long time. Some of these are going on a hot air balloon ride, backpacking through Europe, seeing the aurora borealis and hiking a volcano. 

It struck me that so many of the things on my list were places to go and things to see and less things for me to accomplish personally. Lately, I've been thinking so much about what I really want to do with my life. I'm still not entirely sure but I definitely have different ideas from when I was in college. I'm more focused on a vision of what I would love my life to be and all the baby steps to get me there. Being able to really narrow and focus on this vision has definitely come from everything I have experienced since I first wrote my list. I can also see a balance between goals I have set for myself and the fun challenges I have outlined in my Un-Boring List. Obviously, I'm a different person from who I was 13-14 years ago. It's pretty amazing to see how I have evolved and how that manifests in my goals and dreams. 

One thing that has definitely stayed the same is that I want to live life to the fullest. When I remember my 21-year-old self writing down her life's dreams, I can still feel the sense of hope and excitement for what was yet to come. I remember writing down crazy things like scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia because, why not? Why not write something big and crazy down? What was there to lose in truly dreaming? Oprah helped me feel like there wasn't anything too wild to dream about. As I mapped out plans for 2014 and 2015 and put together my 2014 Bookish Un-Boring List, I have the same sense of hope and excitement. 

I feel strongly now that it doesn't matter what dreams I have - whether they change or stay the same - whether they are big and adventurous or small and satisfying - all that matters is that my dreams are my own. This is my life to live and being true to myself is so important. That said, I wish you a very wonderful New Year's Eve and I hope you find yourself thinking of all the wonderful things in store for you in 2014 and beyond. I hope you find dreams that are perfectly your own to hold onto and make into a reality! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/30/13

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Jen Says: Happy end of 2013! It's been another amazing year. Every year, I look back and feel like it's gone fast and it makes me sad but when I remember all that fun I've had, it's all okay because I know I made the most of every moment. I'm so thankful for everyone who has come into my life this year here at Teach Mentor Texts and/or in real life! I'm looking forward to another year of reading and writing and sharing with all of you.
     This week I listened to more of Fangirl but since I haven't been commuting to work, I haven't finished it yet. I do absolutely love it though! I did reread Dash and Lily's Book of Dares and I love it more every time. I've also done some research for a non-fiction picture book I'm working on. It's pretty exciting!  

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: So this week is the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014! I need to review my challenges from 2013, decide on challenges for 2014, share my awesome Bookish Un-Boring List for 2014, celebrate the Cybils Book Apps finalists...there's a lot to do! I'm going to squeeze in one review but will be back to sharing more reviews next week. I'm still going to listen to Fangirl and read The Summer of Letting Go and I have a couple other books I might try to sneak in. Happy reading everyone!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Let's Celebrate My 2013 Bookish Un-Boring List!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating my 2013 Bookish Un-Boring List!

*throws confetti*


As an optimist, I'm all about celebrating! While 2013 is ending, it was an awesome year and there's so much to look forward to in 2014. I've been reviewing my 2013 list and brainstorming ideas for my 2014 Bookish Un-Boring List! (In case you missed it...an Un-Boring list is a list of fun things to do for the year. In my mind, it's the better way to do New Year's resolutions! You can read more about the history of Un-Boring lists here.)

Jen's 2013 Bookish Un-Boring List Recap:

Consider these DONE!

Host a book and a bookmark swap with Kellee
here at Teach Mentor Texts
DONE! 3/14/2013 and 5/23/2013

Have a taco party to celebrate 
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
DONE! 3/3/2013

Reread Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer series 
DONE! 11/16/2013
My sister, my friend Jennifer and I had a great time on our tour!

Release books into the wild 
through Book Crossing to celebrate 
  Donalyn Miller's new book Reading in the Wild 
out in November of 2013
DONE! 11/19/2013
I used Book Crossing to release books!
My review of Reading in the Wild from the book tour!

Visit new (to me) Indie book stores
4 new-to-me Indie book stores visited!
Plus, I visited Anderson's Bookshop, The Book Stall
Lake Forest Book Store which are longstanding favorites!
DONE!
Recycle Books in San Jose, California

The Children's Book Shop and Trident Book Shop in Boston
 

Unabridged Books in Chicago

Write another book this summer 
(the first draft at least...)
(three cheers for Teachers Write!)
DONE (kind of...not really...but close enough)!
Writing this year has been amazing even though I didn't get through another first draft. I've continued to find more and more time for writing - even though it never feels like enough - and I'm discovering more about myself and about writing as I go. It's pretty amazing. I'm well into revisions of the novel I drafted the first summer of Teachers Write, I've outlined a non-fiction picture book, I've written articles for Choice Literacy...it's exciting to think of all the writing I have done and how fulfilled I feel having done it. One of the highlights of this year was going to a Choice Literacy writing retreat. One of my absolute proudest moments was presenting with Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, Jo Knowles, and Brian Wyzlic at NCTE. It was thrilling to all be in one room and to share the true power of Teachers Write together. I'm looking forward to another summer of writing and connecting with this awesome community!

Consider these...not-so-DONE!

Traditionally, any Un-Boring List activities that aren't accomplished are carried over into the next year. Some of these will carry of but others won't.

Create paper mache book art 
like they have at Reading Reptile book store 
I planned to do this over winter break but it didn't happen - adding to the 2014 list!

Have a graphic novel read-a-thon
I love graphic novels and would still love to plan a read-a-thon - totally on the 2014 list!

Have a monster celebration with Peanut
*thinking of reading monster-themed books, 
seeing Monsters University (the sequel to Monsters Inc 2) 
and writing our own monster stories*
We read monster books, we saw the movie, we drew monsters and created a monster stuffed animal, I think we kind of wrote a story...so we came close. I think this one is done-ish.

Crochet an Extra Yarn-like case for my Nook
Hmm...I've decided I'm just not a fan of ebooks (yet). I desperately wanted to love my Nook but I don't even know where it is. I crocheted a pencil holder with Extra Yarn-style yarn and I still have a whole ball of yarn so maybe I'll come up with another project...but for now, this is done.


Three Cheers for 2013 and my Bookish Un-Boring List! Like I said, I've already started brainstorming for my 2014 Bookish Un-Boring List. Maybe you want to make one, too? *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* 

I'm always up for a bookish adventure! Got any ideas for me? Please share!

What are you celebrating this week?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Poetry Friday - Overheard at the Sled Hill

It's the last Poetry Friday of the year and yesterday when we were sledding, I was inspired to write a poem...so I did! I've loved participating in Poetry Friday (albeit sporadically) and am excited to share more poetry in 2014. You can visit the round-up over at A Year of Reading today. 
Overheard at the Sled Hill
By Jen Vincent

Will you give us a push?

I wanna go in front this time.

Where did you get the lunch trays?

Hold on!

Are you ready?

Don't let go.

See you at the bottom!

Hey, wanna race?

*giggles*

That was fun!

*more giggles*

Let's do that again!

Can you tell we had a blast sledding yesterday? It was cold in the morning but warmed up by late afternoon and was perfect sledding weather. I loved seeing my kids all bundled up and rosy cheeked with smiles on their faces. (You can totally see one of the lunch trays over my right shoulder! There were three teenaged boys who were talking about how easily they snuck them into their backpacks and out of the cafeteria. All I could think was what would Lunch Lady do?!)
Do you have any fun sledding stories, memories, or poems to share? 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

This Morning Sam Went to Mars

Title: This Morning Sam Went to Mars 
Author: Nancy Carlson 
Illustrator: Nancy Carlson  
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing 
Publication Date: April, 2013 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Eight-year-old Sam is always daydreaming about exploring space and the deepest seas, which is awesome—except when he’s supposed to be focusing on schoolwork or stuff at home. It seems like all he hears is, “Focus, Sam!” and “Pay attention!” The doctor says Sam is lucky: He has a very powerful brain! But he does need some help focusing. She gives Sam and his dad lots of strategies to try, like staying organized, eating better food, and asking for help when he needs it. Sam’s favorite strategy? Make time for imagination! A note to adults gives extra tips for helping kids with attention struggles. 
What I Think: I often think about what expectations we have of kids and what adults ask kids to do. Sometimes, things that seem simple to us just aren't easy for kids. I also think that sometimes we ask kids to follow rules or act "appropriately" and we stifle their curiosity. I really enjoyed how Nancy Carlson helps adults and kids think about what it might be like for a kiddo who has a great imagination and gets distracted whether at home or at school. The author shares how Sam is feeling and gives words for readers to use if they are feeling the same way. Then the book continues to give ideas for how to be able to concentrate more and to get things accomplished without resorting to medication. I love this message. This is a great book for helping a child cope with and understand how to think about distractibility.  
Read Together: Grades K - 3 
Read Alone: Grades 1 - 3 
Read With: Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom (and others) by Eric Wight
Snatch of Text:    
"People were always telling Sam to focus. When they did, he felt...
frustrated
sad
and dumb."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time when you were distracted, Sam was distracted a lot, but maybe you can write about one time when you were distracted and think about how Sam might feel.  
Topics Covered: Concentration, Family, Determination, Hard work, Feelings, Integration - Science 
I *heart* It:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Flight of the Honey Bee


Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. 
Every Wednesday, I'll review a non-fiction picture book. (It may not always be a picture book.) Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other non-fiction books are shared this week!


Title: Flight of the Honey Bee 
Author: Raymond Huber  
Illustrator: Brian Lovelock 
Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Publication Date: September, 2013 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Follow the flight of a honey bee as she searches for nectar to sustain her hive and, along the way, pollinates flowers to produce seeds and fruits.

A tiny honey bee emerges from the hive for the first time. Using sunlight, landmarks, and scents to remember the path, she goes in search of pollen and nectar to share with the thousands of other bees in her hive. She uses her powerful sense of smell to locate the flowers that sustain her, avoids birds that might eat her, and returns home to share her finds with her many sisters. Nature lovers and scientists-to-be are invited to explore the fascinating life of a honey bee. 
What I Think: Yesterday, I shared one of my favorite vegan recipes, black bean brownies from Chocolate-Covered Katie's blog. I've been vegan for over three years now and it doesn't seem like it has been that long. When I read Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals, I immediately decided to be vegetarian. Soon after, I switched to almond milk or rice milk instead of cow's milk. And about six months after that, I decided to try being vegan and to see where it got me. Well, it's gotten me here! Three years later and here I am.
     I tell you my story of becoming vegan because part of being vegan is not eating honey. Most people balk at this when I tell them but collecting honey from bees can be more harmful than you might realize. And after reading this book, it's clear that it's not only harmful to the bees but the decline in healthy bees that can pollinate plants to give us apples, cherries, strawberries, nuts, and other vegetables has much larger ramifications.
     One of the key factors that really played a part in my decision to become vegan was the immense impact factory farming has on the environment. I definitely don't feel good about slaughtering animals. I definitely do feel good about eating healthier. But knowing that eating vegan also impacts the environment really made my decision crystal clear.
     This book celebrates bees in such a charming way. We follow the story of a little bee named Scout. Along with the wonderful narration of Scout's daily life, readers also learn facts about the honey bee. By the end of this book, I was more amazed by honey bees than when I started. There were some facts I knew about bees but I learned so many more. A simple plea on the very last page: "Save the bees!" really caused me to think again about honey bees and I was off to research more about them. Did you know that there has been an 80% decrease in the number of honey bees in the United States in the last three years? A great example of how reading leads to more reading and research!
Read Together: Grades K - 6  
Read Alone:  Grades K - 6
Read With: Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Snatch of Text:   
"Scout spins a story in dance,
every movement a sentence.
Scout waggles, twists, and turns,
describing the route to the blue meadow.
She pauses only to share samples
of sweet nectar.

Scout repeats her dance for many
sister bees.

The bees' dance is a complex language 
that can communicate millions
of different messages."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, $100 Words, Word Choice, Onomatopoeia, Alliteration, Personification
Writing Prompts: Choose an animal and try to describe a day in the life of that animal from the animal's perspective. You might start by first researching and learning about the animal's habits and then writing to describe the animal's day. 
Topics Covered: Integration - Science, Teamwork, Family, Determination 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The One With Brownie Edges #slice2013


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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A little less than a year ago, black bean brownies came into my life thanks to my friend Andrea and a discussion about being vegan (me) and gluten free (her). I had never heard of black bean brownies but she shared a recipe from the blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Katie has a phenomenal black bean brownie recipe. I actually have never tried any other black bean brownie recipe...but with this one being as amazing as it is, I've never had to.
I'm thinking you might be skeptical. I get it! I was totally hesitant but believe me, these are worth trying. The worst that can happen is that you try them and think, "See, I was right to have been skeptical. Blech." BUT I honestly think that best that can happen is that you'll say, "I'm eating brownies made with black beans and they are amazing!" And you'll want to make them for all of your friends.

It's Christmas Eve and whether you celebrate Christmas or another holiday(s), it's a crazy, busy time of year. You might want to tuck away this fabulous recipe into your little brain and come back to it when you're feeling daring, or when you decide your New Year's resolution is to try new things, or when you add try a vegan recipe to your Un-Boring List for 2014. I am so serious when I say that I have made this for all sorts of people and they are always a hit. (One little thing...I usually don't tell people they have black beans in them until after they eat them and like them.)

My whole reason for sharing my favorite, most-excellent brownie recipe for today's Slice of Life is to actually ask you a question! As I was baking up batches of these babies for our holiday party at work last week, I wondered...what is your favorite part of brownies? 

See, when I make these brownies for work, I cut them into 12-16 cute little bite-size squares. I always cut away the outer edge and that's my sample. If the outer edge tastes good, I know I can trust that the squares I plan to share are ready to go but I don't have to waste any of them. Suddenly, I realized I love the slightly-crustier outer edge when it comes to brownies. But, you, do you like the inside pieces? Or maybe you like the mushy middle?

Are you an outer-edge-lover like me or a mushy-middle-megafan...or something else? Maybe you don't like brownies! To which I would say, "Then you must not have had Chocolate-Covered Katie's black bean brownies..." 

I'm so curious! Please share, which part of brownies do you like best?