Wednesday, October 28, 2009

American Idol Update-November

As you all know, I am a huge American Idol fan. I just love it. I can't wait for it to come back on in January. I'm really into music and love ALL TYPES except most country and obvious things like polka, jazz, etc. Blake and I have kept up with American Idol really well the past 4 years. A lot of my favorite American Idol alums are coming out with new CDs so I thought it would be fun to post some of their videos/songs.

Of course, my all-time favorite, and 2nd place in last year's competition, Adam Lambert will get to go first. His debut album comes out November 23, and one of his songs was picked for the theme song of the new disaster movie, 2012. Here is his new song, Time For Miracles . And of course a few of my favorite performances from his this year: Whole Lotta Love, Feeling Good, and Mad World, Ring Of Fire, and Tracks Of My Tears to name a few.

Onto one of my next favorites from last season, Allison Iraheta. Her debut album comes out December 1. Here is one of my favorite new songs from the album. So girly and catchy. Blake hates it for obvious reasons(the same reasons he doesn't like any Britney Spears songs that I do)

And next we have one of my favorites from 2 seasons ago, Jason Castro. As we all know, he is an Aggie, so that makes him even cooler. On a side-note, I do hate his hair. Here is his new music video for his song "Let's Just Fall In Love Again" His debut album comes out early 2010. This song is just a great feel good-song. GIG EM JASON!!!

And of course Carrie Underwood. She is as "country" as I'll ever like!

And probably one of the most famous American Idol Alums ever besides Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and all them, is Chris Daughtry. Here is one of his new songs I like, No Surprise. Blake HATES Daughtry, but I don't mind. Just seeing that some of his videos have over 8,000,000 views says a lot of people like them lol. And he was only a 4th place Finalist on American Idol. Not too shabby. I also like that Kidd Kraddick refers to them as "Lumberjack Rock" Whatever, I still like them!

And then, even though he did beat my favorite contestant (Adam Lambert), and even though Blake and I like to make fun of him because he looks a lot like Brett, is Kris Allen, winner of this year's American Idol. Here is one of his cool performances, singing Apologize by One Republic. And here is his version of Kayne West's Heartless. And of course, "Falling Slowly" Allen's CD comes out November 17.

And of course a quick look at David Cook, another one of my favorites and the winner of Season 7 of American Idol. Here is his music video for Come Back To Me

YAY! I love American Ido! Can't wait for it to come back on!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oh the joys of first grade

I am having a blast teaching first grade. The kids in my class this year are really smart, adorable, and not to mention hilarious. Today one of my students waddled up to me and informed me that "His left shoelace got tied to his right one. He REALLY didn't know how it happened. He was just walking down the hallway and suddenly his right shoelaces became double knotted to his left one."
Riiight HAHAHA.

So anyways, our school uses the book and methods of "Teaching with Love and Logic" which is not only an eductional discipline book but is also used for parenting. The book and system are AMAZING. I love everything about it. It teaches kids responsibility for their own actions as well as how to deliver consequences with empathy. And a ton of other stuff. I think I will definitely use it for when Blake and I have kids one day.

So back to the story, when the student came to me to try to untie his shoelaces for him, I responded with "Wow. It seems you have a tough problem that you're going to need to work through. I hope you can come up with a solution. Good luck, let me know how it goes." Then I walked off. He was pretty floored. It was really funny to watch from the corner of my eye. Love and Logic is new to me, so I'm just starting to get the hang of it.

The student sat there for a couple of second, clearly in deep thought. He probably wasn't used to not having an adult immediately fix his mistakes. A few minutes later he came up to me and said "Mrs. Hilliard, I thought about it and I think I'll just take the shoelaces out of my shoes and put them in my backpack for the rest of the day. I can try to work on untying them when I get home." I was very pleased.

Love and Logic teaches kids to take responsibility for their actions and problems, and I guarantee he won't be doing that again now that he knows I won't sit there for a long time and try to untie it for him. And I know he wouldn't want to waddle around all the rest of the day either.

I'm definitely loving my job. It is a laugh a minute. I have an especially funny group of kids. The situations they get themselves just couldn't make this stuff up. I've given up trying to keep a straight face when they say something funny. I think they know that I'm crazy about them and they seem equally crazy about me from all the sweet parent letters I've gotten so far haha.

The workload is pretty incredible though. We actually have each day sectioned off into 12 separate categories where we teach 12 seperate lessons a day in various subjects. Back in Richardson we simply had a Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies block lol. And the lessons now are extremely in depth and each require a ton of manipulatives and materials that you have to prepare ahead of time. But it's good, because first grade kiddos definitely need that hands-on, interactive learning. That paired with having to learn a brand new curriculum, as well as getting probably over 100 e-mails a day about all various things, tons of meetings all the time, allllll the grading, and about 500 other things I don't have time to even get into, it's just a lot lol.

That is why me, along with a lot of the other first grade teachers, are there from 7:00-7:00 pretty much every day. It's kind of weird though, because the school day FLYS by. I mean it's 7:00 and the next thing I know, I turn around and it's time for them to go. All the while I'm running 90 miles a minute lol. For example, a typical lunch for me is I start walking the kids down at 11:30, then have to get their lunch cards for them and get them pointed in the right direction. That puts me back to about 11:40. Then I will either have a parent call or some other task I need to handle immediately. And that puts me to about 11:50. And 5 minutes to eat since I have to head down at 11:55 to get the kids.

I've learned to hold my bladder so well haha. It's like, well I need to pee, but I'll need to wait about 3 hours until my planning period if I have time to swing by the restroom. I think only super high energy, multi-taskers, and people with a huge heart for kids can be teachers. I mean its seriously hard work. My goodness. But I love every minute of it.

My deal is trying to set SOME time aside for myself as well as for me and Blake. We've been doing pretty good about that, making sure we eat together, and if I'm home working on school stuff, we still are hanging out. During the school year, it's just hard for me to get my mind off teaching. I told myself that I would ABSOLUTELY NOT do ANYTHING for school tomorrow, and just save it for Sunday when we have our school's dedication at 2:00 and after that I'll get all my work done. But I can just visualize all those papers in my take home bag and they are just waiting to be graded. Not to mention the lesson tweaking and Center ideas and prep I still want to do. But I'll try to not do it until Sunday. We'll see how it goes.

Somehow I haven't really gotten stressed about anything this year yet! I think I'm just so thankful to be able to teach at such a wonderful school. A lot of teachers teach a long time before they are able to get into a school like this. I have a great team to work with and all the teachers at the whole school are so nice. And don't get me started on how much I love my kids. And there are definitely perks, all my awesome parent volunteers who take care of all my copies, any cutting, laminating, and any other tasks I need done. And not to metion that one of my kid's parents who buys and brings me lunch every Friday hehe :) I did offer money repeatedly, but they refused. They rock!

I am just loving life right now. And Blake and I are celebrating our anniversary tomorrow! 2 years on Tuesday! Look for a blog post about that soon....Maybe...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our next vacation

We decided that the next vacation we want to go on in about a month or so is to swim....with...manatees. We really like snorkeling and what could be better than snorkeling with a bunch of manatees. We loved snorkeling in Maui and swimming with dolphins was pretty much the most fun we've ever had in our lives. Manatees are so playful and docile I think it would be a really neat experience. It's also cool that the river water is so clear, like swimming in the ocean.

Blake came across this article tonight and it has inspired our destination choosing. This was from a list on of the "10 best spots to snorkel in the world"

The info from the article...
Crystal River, Florida

The best place in the country to experience the gentle West Indian manatee is in the springs and protected estuary of this coastal hamlet. Guides will gladly help you with manatee etiquette; for instance, gentle contact is allowed, but only if initiated by the manatee.
On-site secret: Swim slowly and stay calm and you may enjoy a manatee encounter for 15 minutes or more. Keep an eye out for: a whiskery face nuzzle, a flipper hug and a full-body rub. Though the manatee defines your interaction, they can be very sociable.

Tracy's side-note...After researching more, I just found out that there are alligators in Crystal River.... not surprising in Florida that may be a deal breaker for me. Should it be? What are your thoughts? Would you go?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Starbucks vs McDonalds

We keep hearing that a lot of people now prefer McDonald's over Starbucks for coffee. Since we go to Starbucks all the time, tonight we decided to give McDonald's a chance. We normally steer clear of any fast food, and especially McDonald's, but we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.


When ordering, the guy had a lot of trouble getting our order right and was really thrown for a curve since Tracy wanted sugar-free syrup. He eventually decided that they were out of sugar-free syrup after a long wait. He also was definitely not fluent in English.

Then when we got our drinks, Tracy's was a medium instead of a large. When we corrected them, they said "That drink only comes in medium" That seems like the kind of thing they should tell you when ordering. Not to mention that their website and menu says they have that in a large. When we had our first sip while driving away, all we could do was laugh at how inferior it tasted. Even the whipped cream tasted off. Needless to say, we'll stick with Starbucks.

FYI: We didn't order straight coffee; maybe that's not as bad?


My review:that was awful.

I tried getting a Nonfat Vanilla Latte with sugar free syrup, which, in a large, was only 50 calories. Since they didn't wind up having the right ingredients, it went from a nice 50 calorie drink to over 300 calories. Definitely not something that a health food nut wants to eat. Needless to say, I took one sip and gave the rest to Blake. Who still hasn't drank it. The drink itself tasted kind of like burnt coffee beans mixed with a lot of water and a ton of sugar. EWE. But really, what were we expecting from such a high quality establishment such as McDonald's!! Now I remember why I haven't gone there since I was a kid. Soooooo, my review is this...I'll stick with Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Lattes!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fish rights,grilling, and personal space

This blog entry will be pretty random, as they mostly are when I(Tracy) write them. First topic of the day is over the question "Is fishing cruel???" Blake and I and some friends went to the lake house last weekend and had a blast. I discovered a new interest of mine and that's fishing. I wound up catching 9 fish in a span of probably 4 hours or so, not counting the 4 or 5 that I "caught" but just couldn't get out of the water. Feeling the bobber go down when I had a catch was an incredible rush for me, no matter how lame that sounds. It made me so excited!

So everything was great and fun until we were driving home and I started wondering what happened to all the fish I caught and threw back. Did they die? Are they swimming around crying little fish tears from the pain? Are they going to suffer a slow and painful death because of me? Before and while I was fishing, Blake told me their brains are so small that they don't feel pain....but now he tells me he wasn't serious. So I'm not really sure what to believe. I did some research into it over the internet and found results everywhere from telling me that fish are worthless, basically like moving plants, to others telling me that fish can be trained to tell time. Everyone I've talked to at work and everywhere else thinks I'm being stupid for even considering fishing being cruel. I mean, I eat hamburgers and chicken all the time so what's the difference right? I guess the difference is I wasn't the one to PERSONALLY MUDER THE ANIMAL....So this new hobby will go one of two ways, I'll either decide it's cruel, never fish again, and say a little fish prayer that all the fish I caught at doing okay....or I'll decide it's not and go fishing all the time. Dad has already told me that he has a bunch of fishing gear I could use if I wanted to and my friend Ashleigh at work likes to fish too so she's invited me out. I guess only time will tell what I decide!!!

In another completely unrelated topic, Blake and I went to this really great local Austrian restaurant in Plano tonight called Jorg's. I will say I wasn't a fan the first time I went there with him, but this time I got something completely different and it was AMAZING. I think it was chickensnitzel or something, who knows. Quick background info, we were eating at a table that was actually two small tables pushed together. When the host sat us down, we didn't think anything of it.

But then 5 minutes after we get our food, the host comes and sits down this older couple right next to us at the other table that was pushed into ours. They were literally sitting at our table. Both Blake, I, and the other couple felt extremely awkward. I hate situations like this. I have no idea who these people are and we can hear everything they are saying and they can hear everything we are saying...because, they're sitting 2 inches from us. I think they thought it was even more awkward than we did though because the first 10 minutes or so they didn't talk to each other at all hahaha. The whole time neither us nor them looked at each other or even acknowledged each other were there, possibly to help with the awkwardness of it all. Normally I would ask for a different table, but it's a small restaurant so I could see that there were no other tables open.

One thing Blake did that I'm sure he thought was funny is he told me that he left the house without putting Penny in her crate "because she looked comfortable on the couch", which he knew would get me riled up because anytime that has ever happened, she's destroyed anything she could. She mostly will head straight for my shoes. But I think it amused him to know that I couldn't freak out or argue with him about it since, of course, we were sharing our table with guests hahaha.....And he really did put her in her crate, he just wanted to see my reaction.

I also didn't know if I was supposed to say "bye" when we were leaving hahaha. So this situation brings up the issue of personal space. We Americans sure do like it and are definitely out of our zone and uncomfortable when this is taken away from us.

And lastly, Blake and I are super excited about our new grill! Jim and Tamara got Blake one(they're ordering it-it will be delivered Tuesday) for his birthday. We already went out and got new patio furniture in preparation for it. It's a really cute circular black table with 4 chairs and I picked out cute black and white patterened seat cushions for them. We're also going tomorrow to Lowe's(Blake says thanks for the gift card Claudette!!) to look at adding a little more lighting to the backyard as well as mosquito lanters or options to keep bugs away since we are now going to have a really nice outdoor living space to enjoy! We both don't know much about grilling but are really excited to learn and will definitely be having some fun cookouts and will be grilling out dinners probably once a week! I can only imagine how good yams, asparagus, and chicken will be on the grill! And of course I'm sure Blake will love grilling out all types of sausagey things! Blake also loves the guitar pedal that my parents got him and says thank you for that too! Overall I'de say he had a great birthday!!!

P.S. Look for an update and pictures later this week of our new grill and re-decorated patio!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Extreme Backyard Renovation!

Our backyard is amazing! It's unrecognizable and now you can actually enjoy spending time outside! It now is truly an outdoor living space.

Flash back a day and a half ago. The yard consisted of weeds and dirt, the ground was covered with hundreds of rotted peaches, trees were literally growing into each other, the trees were so thick and low hung that to walk around the backyard you had to duck, there was clutter everywhere, and it basically just looked like a tornado had blown through it! Blake and I used to never go outside in the backyard because it honestly was just disgusting and not to mention anytime it would rain it was a complete and utter mud pit!

Now onto present day and time, our backyard is now....simply beautiful!

How did we do it do you ask? Step one is I have an amazing mom and dad who volunteered to help us through the whole process. They brought over all the tools we needed, spent countless hours in the 90 degree heat with us doing manual labor, and of course, brought the "know-how". Not to mention how much money they helped us save. Who knows how many thousands of dollars it would have cost to hire people to till all that soil, lay all the grass, cut down the trees, and heavily trim the remaining trees. So there you go, definitely a huge thanks to my mom and dad whom I love very much.

Here's a little play-by-play of how everything went down. Blake and I rented a high horsepower tiller from a tool rental store. My parents came over Friday night to help us get a start on the work so it wouldn't all be left for Saturday. On Friday, Blake spent most the night tilling all the grass and soil, going over the whole backyard 5 or 6 times to really get the soil prepared. Dad went at the trees with a chainsaw. And I mean went at them. There were times when Blake and I would just stop and watch because it was pretty cool to see large trees get chopped up and fall down so quickly. Dad's a pro at this and definitely efficient. Mom and I spent most the night dragging all the tree debris to the alleyway and stacking it into piles.

Saturday morning we got a 6:45 start and got to cracking on finishing tilling the soil and doing a few other jobs. The grass arrived around 8:15, thank God. They don't guarantee a time and said what time you get the grass depends on how the route is for that day. So I guess we were lucky. We spent the next 7 or 8 hours laying all the grass out. Talk about manual labor. Blake kept saying that he "didn't know it would be this much work." Haahaha.

What was pretty depressing was to really be trucking along good laying down squares and to look over and see that you've done about 1/30th of the yard. But we were able to finish it without dying of exhaustion from the heat and labor! The whole time we kept going back and forth on whether we would have enough squares since it's really hard to estimate how much you would need, and believe it or not, we got it almost perfect! We were only about 3 grass squares short, which is unbelievable if you think about it. Kudos to me and Blake for using our prior knowledge of high school math to calculate the square footage in our backyard correctly! 1,960.5 square feet!

Mom and I then went to Lowe's and got 15 bags of mulch to lay out around the trees as well as an area of heavy shrubs in the corner that the dogs love but that turns into mud when it rains. Problem solved! We also got a bunch of large rocks to go in 2 sections of the patio that was previously just dirt which also turned into a mud pit when it rained. Problem solved again! And we also got some really pretty flowers for the patio.

All-in-all, I would say that Blake and I are EXTREMELY happy with the results. Everything turned out so wonderful and we can't say "thank you" enough to my parents for all the help they gave us. We are really going to enjoy spending time out there. We are so proud of our backyard now and are going to make this one of our new hobbies-working in the yard! It will be fun to see what we'll do out there. Blake wants to get a grill so we can have our friends and family over for cookouts, so look for an invitation in the near future! We also think it would be cool to get a fountain with flowing water for the whole peaceful effect. But all in time! For now, we are just as happy as can be! Blake had the nice idea of having a picnic in the backyard tomorrow to celebrate, so that we will!

Check out my Facebook here for the full album of before pictures, as well as action shots.

And here for our "After" album.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bargain shopping...complete with pictures!

This may be random but I seem to get a lot of compliments from people about the clothes I wear, and it usually ends with people asking where I shop. So I thought it would be fun to let the secret out to our blogger followers too. So, here goes. I get most my clothes from....

Can you believe it? My friends always poke fun at me because I'm always buying the latest COACH bags and such, but I'll be honest...when it comes to clothes, I am a real penny pincher! I usually don't spend over $15 on shirts and $20 on pants. Are the clothes made of the absolute highest quality? Who knows, or cares! I just buy whatever I think looks cute at the time. So as I just got back from a recent shopping trip, I thought it would be fun to post a few pictures of things I got along with how much it cost me compared to what it would cost at a department store....Now, of course, they could be making up any random price to compare it to, but it's still exciting if it's true. But I do know it's cheaper than department stores because I don't think I've ever gone to Macy's and gotten a $10 shirt.

The thing that I've noticed about ROSS (and TJ Maxx for that matter) is I will either go and end up buying at least 10 items or I'll go and find nothing. It's pretty hit or miss. Also, you do have to do a little bit of digging around to find stuff that you like. Another tip is to go to one that's located in the NICE parts of town. I've been to some that weren't and there was merchandise thrown on the ground and it all seemed pretty trashy. My favorite ROSS is the one by Stonebriar mall, they always seem to have a bunch of good stuff. Same thing for the TJ Maxx there.

So, onto the pictures, complete with the "before" and "after" prices that make me so excited!

This top normally costs $32, but I snagged it for $10!

Here it is in a little better light:

My next purchase was a skirt to match. I picked this up for $7 as opposed to $35!!

And speaking of skirts, I was needing a brown one for work and got this for $10 as opposed to $40!

And I know I shouldn't, but I buy in duplicates a lot when I find something I like. I also have this type of shirt in black. This set me back only $12 as opposed to $32!!

Here's something I can wear for work. The top only cost $8 opposed to $28!

And the full outfit:

This shirt was $10 compared to $30

I also needed a new black skirt for work, and of course, I found one at ROSS. $20 normally $50:

A mere $10 opposed to $30

And finally, possible the best find....$7 white capris!

So, I hope you will start saving money by shopping at ROSS and TJ Maxx. I know a lot of people are turned off by the fact that they are a "discount" store, as I was...until I actually went there for the first time and was pretty impressed with the prices.

Until next time!