Sunday, November 29, 2015

Best : October 2015.

My privileged and luxurious five-day Thanksgiving break comes to a close tonight, and while I've gotten some errands done and spent good time with good people, the majority of it has been a festival of lazy. I'm not always good at being lazy, a term which for me usually involves reading, eating, and watching depressing documentaries. Party animaaaaaaaal ovah here! And all those super awesome things are what I absolutely in my head wish I could be doing all the time. And for the first day or first few hours of doing these things, I am always SO HAPPY. And then it's like after that honeymoon period of Jill Alone Time Bliss, less oxygen begins to be pumped to my brain and heart and I almost start to be annoyed at all the books I need to read, all the media I need to consume, all the self-reflection I need to revel in and I'm like oh yeah, this is why having a job where I'm required to leave the house is so much better for me. At this point, on Sunday night, the oxygen has almost cut off completely, and I want to murder that last sentence I just wrote on account of its annoyingness.

One good thing has come out of this current stint of laziness, though, and it's thinking about, as the year winds down, how I'm going to be better next year at this. Work right now for me is very good. Personal life, very good. But there are the two things that I've always done Just For Me, that make my brain and heart actually tick and expand, and those two things are words and pictures. I still don't quite know how to fit them in to my current life, but I know I need to. This Best of the Month thing on my blog this year has been fun to work on, I think, and good for me in terms of recording and remembering things, but I think in the future it will be more meaningful (and perhaps more interesting to other people? not that that really matters) if I complete them, in fact, at the end of each month in real time. And I need to do more than JUST these lists. But ah, the end-of-the-year resolutions about writing more and taking more pictures, what is new here? Nothing, but it always feels new; it always feels important, and so it is.

Thanks for that space to think out loud, Blogger. You're a real peach. More soon.

For my birthday this month, I requested a dinner at Montage, whose technical name is Le Bistro Montage but how snooty is that, a restaurant I was obsessed with during our first few years of living in Portland but which we hadn't returned in a long-ass time. And guess what. I'M STILL OBSESSED WITH IT.

Montage is a Cajun/Creole restaurant in this shabby building that is literally UNDER A BRIDGE (the Morrison Bridge, just as an FYI) with long communal tables and they have all kinds of gross seafood like oysters and alligator--okay, I guess alligator isn't exactly seafood? right?--but the reason I love it is for their macaroni. Their macaroni is worthy of all the best emojis in the world, from the shiny hearts to the black leotard clad twins kicking their legs in joy. There's always the difficult option between their Spold Mac, a blend of their spicy mac and their "old" (read: heavy cream and garlic) mac, and their new(ish) addition of a Buffalo Mac, which is notable because of the 20,000 pounds of blue cheese that comes with it. (I went with that one this time.)

Okay, I just checked to see if I'd already written about the Montage mac on this blog before, and as suspected, I was all over it in 2011. In a blog post that made me cringe glancing through it but which somehow had SIX enthusiastic comments on it. Gosh, people really liked me back then.

Anyhoo, I have no foto of the Montage mac from anytime I've eaten there, apparently, probably because I scarf it down so quickly, and the lighting is so dim in that joint it'd probably be a horrible foto, anyway. But here's an Instagram of the front stoop of Montage that I took a long time ago. Here is what Google Translate reports that it says:

Come to me, you who labor the stomach, and I will restaurebo you.

Seems legit, Google Translate. Seems legit.

There wasn't a single 5++++ star book standout for me in October, but these are two really solid 4 - 4.5 star ones that I really enjoyed. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is realistic YA about a group of kids who meet in an OCD therapy group who take on pseudo superhero identities to help cope. They also sometimes visit a Catholic church, whose somber rituals soothe their OCD tendencies, and sometimes they fall in love. There was a lot of sweet romance here but there was also a lot of fascinating stuff about mental health. I only read this because it's a nominee for the Young Readers' Choice Award, an award I promote at school. I love this award for a lot of reasons, but an unexpected one so far has been that since students from British Columbia and Alberta also participate in the award, there's always at least one stellar Canadian title in there that I wouldn't have previously heard of because apparently stellar Canadian titles can run under the radar in the US because the US is stupid. Anyway, each one I've read so far, like Toten's, is eloquent, sensitive, and interesting.

The Name of the Star is pure fun--a modern-day Jack the Ripper tale in London--but I was pleasantly surprised by it because I was less-than-enthusiastic about the only other Maureen Johnson book I've read, 13 Blue Envelopes. Envelopes was also very fun, but also sort of meandering and pointless and I felt there were so many character elements that weren't fleshed out. This was sad to me because I looove Maureen so much on Twitter. But in terms of plot and character and tension, The Name of the Star felt so much more solid. It is also the PERFECT book recommendation for middle and high school kiddos in October (spooky, but not TOO scary), so A+ timing for me!

Project Runway is just the best, you guys. I've already made my love for this show apparent on this blog, but goshdarnit, I love it. Other shows will languish on my DVR queue for months but this fall Kathy and I would watch each episode every Thursday night in practical real time. [collective gasp from the audience] I feel like some fans were real grumps about this season, but I loved Ashley's final runway show SO EFFING MUCH. Is the overall quality of design as high as it was in the early seasons? Probably not. Are all the designers still more talented than I could ever be with some cloth and a needle? Absolutely. Plus, other than Candice most the time, and that one horrible Bitchfest episode, a lot of folks on this season were just genuinely nice people. And when it seems like the world is full of not-so-nice people more and more lately, sometimes it's stress relieving to just watch nice people make cool stuff on TV.

Okay, now for the Best Stuff. I dragged Kathy and Manda to the middle of nowhere, Washington State, to go on a hike for my birthday. And I mean real middle of nowhere. Probably the most middle of nowhere I've dragged other people to for a hike, ever. Lower Lewis Falls is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on the outskirts of Mt. St. Helens land, and even with its middle of nowhere-ness, this was a real nice day. The weather was nice, I got to play all my favorite music in the car, the hike was interesting and cool but not TOO strenuous, there was fall color, JP got to come with us, we had a really cool viewpoint of Mt. St. Helens on the way back, it was just nice.

So. Let me tell you. We saw Hanson this month, but I really wasn't THAT enthused about it beforehand. First of all, Hanson are all kind of assholes now. Second of all, I haven't listened to any of their new music in years (and yes, they ARE still coming out with new music--like, all the time--like, probably too much--for those people out there who are somehow NOT in tune with the Hanson universe). Third of all, this was a weird ass tour where they came to each city for two nights in a row and you HAD TO BUY TICKETS FOR BOTH NIGHTS. It was their "Roots of Rock and Roll" tour lololol and one night would be mostly cover songs and another would be "classic Hanson hits" lololol. And the combined ticket price was pretty pricey, way more than I'd normally pay for a concert these days.

BUT, because it is our legacy, we went. And oh man. Oh man oh man was I SO FUCKING HAPPY for the duration of a few hours for both of those nights. CURSE YOU HANSON, YOUR MAGIC STILL WORKS. I'm such a loser for even trying to be sarcastic about this because for instance, I just mocked their pretentious title of this tour, but it comes from an actual line in one of their songs, "Been There Before," and when I screamed along with it on one of those nights: "Does it fill your heart and soul with the roots of rock and roll?"  all I felt was YES! YES IT DOES!

On the second night, while dancing and drinking and singing along, I spent a lot of time writing a letter inside my head to my current favorite high school students, a letter that I was firmly planning on writing as soon as I got home but never sending, to the ones who love One Direction and Twenty One Pilots so fiercely. I was going to tell them--never be ashamed of your fandom, because I know what it feels like, and that feeling is so necessary when you're young. And one day, when you're in your 30s, maybe you'll still be going to One Direction shows, and you'll remember that feeling, of freedom and joy and being alive, and it will be just the same, and you will be so, so grateful for it, because for so many 30 year olds--for you, most of the time--it is a feeling that is almost entirely forgotten. I never wrote the letter, of course, which is a shame because I know I said it all so much better in my head when I was there, when it was all right there. But now I'm back to being a normal grown up, and the forgetting happens so quickly these days.

I feel like I don't normally include so many selfies in these Best Of posts, but I had a lot of really happy selfie times this month. Apparently my go-to happy selfie pose is to open my mouth really wide. Which I'm okay with. Because why not?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Best: September 2015.

On this day when the world seems scary and awful (which is the way the world looks most days depending on who you are), I am going to selfishly focus on the good stuff. Good stuff from September, which already seems ages ago. I've been labeling the date as "2016" for like a month. As far as I'm concerned, after Daylight Savings hits, the world has shifted and we are MOVING ON, FOLKS. But September was really good so I'm happy to make this slight timey wimey exception and go back to it.

This lemon pepper chicken orzo from my fave, BB, just SLAYED it for me this month. Instead of using whole chicken thighs as Beth did, I just used biggish chunks of chicken breast because HELL-O that is my white girl initiative. I also was able to use up the last of my fancy lemon pepper blend that my mom sent me for Christmas a long time ago, and I used a LOT of it, and I used a LOT of feta, DUH. My orzo turned out PERFECTLY which soothed my Orzo Anxiety, born after making a recipe earlier in the summer with Fancy Organic Orzo From the Organic Bins Aisle, which turned out slimy and mushy and gross. But this recipe proved that it wasn't me! Just get the mass produced shit in the box and everything will be fine!

Seriously, I could eat this recipe forever.

Oh my god, I'll Give You the Sun. This book gut punched me and I loved every second of it. Actually, this isn't true. For the first chapter or two, the artsy fartsy hyperbole of Noah's mind caused lots of eye rolling on my part. But when it drew me in, it drew. me. in. The writing, the structure, the yearning romance, it all held me in its rapture. It deserved every ounce of that Printz Medal. One of my favorites of the year thus far.

Anna and the French Kiss, on the other hand, was pure romantic fun, but such a GOOD romantic fun! Not as artsy fartsy as Jandy Nelson but I loved every second of this, too. St. Clair is the swooniest of all the swoony YA male romantic leads, but Anna is great, too--relatable and funny and interesting. I read Lola and the Boy Next Door after this, which, I should note, is the one book I received multiple complaints about last year at my library, and it was okay but just not as good as Anna. (Was it worthy of the complaints, though? My personal opinion: nah.)

September brought the return of new TV (THANK GOD) and the best season premiere of them all was Black-ish. Kathy and I started watching this at the tail end of its first season at the beginning of 2015, and quickly fell in love with it. I think I fell in love with the kids first, but now I am fully OBSESSED with the mom, played by the incandescent Tracee Ellis Ross. The first episode of this season WENT THERE by being all about the n-word, and without drawing any concrete or preachy conclusions at the end, was full of discussion that was poignant at the same time as it was HEE-LAR-IOUS. I have learned that teens at my high school have VERY strong opinions about the n-word; several classes have held Socratic Seminars about it. I can only cringe when I imagine the things that are said by all of our white students. I almost wish that instead of having to hear their peers' uneducated teen brain opinions about the word, they were just required to watch this episode in class, instead.

But really, this show is the best.

Manda's birthday is in September, and in celebration this year she wanted to go to the coast and blow some glass. Blowing glass is something I've never had a huge desire to do myself, but I was pumped about a road trip--which we spent almost the entirety of blaring P!nk and it was perfect. When we got there, though, and I watched Manda and Kathy mold their molten globs of beautiful, fiery glass [I was the documenter], I was FASCINATED and taken over by the uninhibited glee of being really awed by something you weren't expecting. It was the coolest thing ever, you guys. THE COOLEST. EVER.

Plus, we went to a burger place that wrote your name in ketchup in your fry sauce, and visited this weird geology store that had a huge animatronic dinosaur that roared and flailed its tiny T-rex arms at you. In short, it was THE PERFECT DAY.

While we missed the tulip festival this year for the first time in many, many years, we did make it to the dahlia festival in September. And while the pure scope of the tulip festival is the most impressive, the actual badassery of dahlias is far superior, and hence my favorite festival. What, you don't think flowers can be badass? I suggest you look at the fine specimens in these here photographs and think about how dumb you are.

These two lovely souls visited from SoCal this month for a friend's wedding, and it felt like we hadn't seen their faces in SO LONG. It happened to be a cold and wet weekend they were here, which was somewhat shocking to their SoCal-adjusted systems, but we went on a lovely hike anyway, because that's what Pacific Northwesterners do! Ellie and Matt are as thoughtful and genuine and kind and funny as ever and I am very glad to know them.

Brandi Carlile. ~hearts for eyes emoji~
Edgefield. ~hearts for eyes emoji~
Kathy. ~hearts for eyes emoji~

My second year at work swung into full swing in September and while it's somewhat hard for me to talk about school here because I'm trying really hard to maintain a school / personal life divide, it'd be wrong for me to summarize my September without mentioning it. The start of my second year was so much better in many ways than my first because I already knew so many of the students, and it was so lovely to see them again, and staff already trusted me. At the same time, I feel more pressure than ever because staff and students do trust me, and I know there's so much more to be done to really advance student learning via the library. I also feel a lot more exhausted working at two buildings than I did last year. Last year I was probably just running on the fumes of the excitement of having a full time library job; this year, I'm feeling more and more that to really accomplish things at both schools, I need more time than a couple days a week at each one.

I also started GSAs this year, and while at this point, I don't think the middle school one will really get off the ground, the high school one has been completely awesome and gratifying thus far.

We also started a comfy reading corner at the middle school, and I'm making progress in making the high school library my own, and I have a decent budget, and my staffs like me, and I have an awesome new principal at the middle school who really supports us and what we do, so I should just shut my trap about any complaints. 

My life is good, and I'm very happy to be alive. I'm not going to pretend to say anything in French, because I have always sucked at French and always will, but I am very, very happy to be alive.