So today was my third driving lesson -- since I hadn't met with my instructor as of last Wednesday, my instructor decided to take me driving for two hours (!). I was nervous at first and a little shaky, but he took me around my neighborhood for a few minutes to allow me to warm up and then I was fine.

He took me to the parking lot where the driving school does their license exam and ran me through the different steps of the exam -- parking, making left and right turns, and making a three-point turn. I did well on all of these. Next he took me to a nearby grocery store with a much larger parking lot and had me practice parking in different parking spaces, some of them quite narrow. I was able to park well in all of them, no problem. I think I amazed myself more than him!

Near the end of the exam, he had me drive to a local Cuban restaurant called La Carreta where we stopped for an impromptu coffee break. He chatted about his life -- his past relationships and the jobs he's had, and what he's learned from all of these experiences. He is an older Cuban man, someone who works as a nurse during the day and a driving instructor in the afternoon/evening. He has a very calm demeanor and very kind, wise eyes. His patience has been instrumental in allowing me to get over my insecurities as a driver.

After we left La Carreta, he took me to a nearby residential street where I spent the last hour practicing left and right turns and three-point turns again. He ran me through the paces over and over until I was performing them seamlessly, without much instruction or guidance on his part.

When the lesson was over and I was back home again, I asked him how I did, and this was his response -- I did perfectly and I'll be fine to drive by the end of the week. I couldn't believe it. I left the car feeling like I was walking on air.

I'm so happy -- what once seemed so insurmountable, this phobia of mine of driving, has become instead an inner confidence. This experience has shown me that there is nothing I can't accomplish, so long as I put my whole heart and mind to the task.




So today is my 33rd birthday. Strange -- I don't feel 33. Not exactly. The older I get, the more I realize how relative age is. There are some days I'll feel 16, caught in the throes of adolescent rage or longing. Other days I'll feel 5, and I'll want to crawl back into the safety of my mother's arms. And then there are the days I'll feel 95, like an ancient tree that's been twisted by the winds of recriminations and regrets.

But it's not all bad. I honestly think I'm young at heart. Teaching high school kids helps with that, and the other part comes from my determination to remain optimistic no matter what, although my optimism was sorely tested these past two months. I'm sure you've noticed I haven't been blogging or tweeting that much. It hasn't just been because of the beginning of a new school year, although that's certainly to blame as well. It's because my boyfriend and I broke up after being together nearly 12 years. I won't pretend it hasn't been awful, but what has helped is the fact that it was in truth an amicable break-up. Despite the unbelieving reaction of our friends, we have remained in contact. The way I see it, he and I began as good friends, so there's no reason why we shouldn't end that way.

The irony of it all is that one of my last blog posts, the last blog post I wrote while he and I were still together, has a title that has an all too eery meaning for me today: "Beginnings are endings are beginnings." Little did I know I would be learning the truth of this statement mere days after writing it.

But that's in my past and right now I'm focusing on the future. I've found solace in my work, in my family, and in my friends, and I have made some adjustments in these areas that have helped my relationships on both a personal and professional level. I'm getting over my fear of driving and have scheduled myself for driving lessons, the first of which I'm taking tomorrow (!). I'm even starting to date again, which is a scary new adventure in its own right.

I was speaking to some friends at work today about how 33 seems to be a turning point for a lot of women, for some reason. I feel (I hope) in my heart that it might be that way for me, too. But no matter what this year brings, I know one thing's for sure -- I'll be walking forward with my eyes clear and open and my head held high.


I can't believe it's been over a month since I last blogged. Life just got in the way, I guess. It's true that there are things going on in my life right now that have contributed to my abandonment of my blog, but that's a blog post for another day.

Right now I want to talk about Halloween costumes. That's right -- I'm talking about Halloween even though we're only on the second day of October. But you've got to understand, October is my very favorite month. Not only because my birthday is on October 10th, or because the weather finally starts to cool off during this month, or simply because of Halloween (and the candy!), but really because of all of these things. Let's face it, October is just an awesome month.

So costumes. I haven't seriously considered getting all gussied up for Halloween in yeaaaars. Sure, I have scrambled together the last-minute costume in recent years, like the witch I was last year (all I had to do was put on a black dress, black heels, and a black witch hat, and tada! you've got witch), but it's been a while since I've seriously put some thought into a costume. Mind you, there's no definite Halloween party on my horizon, but I'm all about thinking ahead.

The only problem is, I can't say for sure what I want to be. I've always been drawn to the idea of geishas, but I worry that would be too elaborate. For sure I can tell you I'm not into the sexy-time Halloween costumes -- I blush just looking at them. I guess I just want something fun yet pretty, nothing too trashy or done-up.

But enough about me. What are you going to be for Halloween? Give me some ideas in the comments! :-)



Beginnings are endings are beginnings.

So the school year officially begins on Monday, which means that my summer vacation has officially ended. Truthfully? I'm not as sad about it as you might think. Part of it has to do with the fact that it is fun to redecorate your classroom every year (after you get over the initial mumbling and grumbling stage, aka, the unpacking and cleaning). Here's what my classroom looks like this year -- pardon the blur, they were taken with my iPhone:

I still want to add a few more things to my classroom before I can consider it done -- namely a small fridge and a Harry Potter poster -- but it can wait until things settle down a bit.

Another reason why I'm not feeling so bad about starting the new school year is that I get to end my summer vacation on a high note -- while I was going quietly crazy at work today, bouncing from meeting to meeting, my boyfriend called to suggest we go to Islands of Adventure tomorrow until Sunday because our annual passes are about to expire. For a nanosecond, I thought, Are you insane? But then I decided, Oh what the heck. I'll just stress myself out if I stay home and wind up spending all weekend creating color-coded seating charts and whatnot. Better to go to Orlando and have butterbeer and ride the Dragon Challenge, especially since I've been on such a Harry Potter kick this summer. I'll probably start the school year more relaxed that way!

The biggest reason why I'm happy to begin the new school year? It's simply because I'm excited to meet my new students. It is both the blessing and the curse of the teacher that we play but a transient role in the lives of our students. When you think about it, we truly spend so little time with them and ultimately have that blink-and-you'll-miss-it chance to make a difference in their lives. I become newly aware of this fact every August. Even though I'm going into my ninth (!!!) year teaching this school year, I still get butterflies in my stomach every time school starts up again. If I'm blessed enough to still be teaching when I'm old and gray, something tells me I will still continue to get those butterflies. I hope they never fly away.


These are a few of my (current) favorite things...

1. poppin.
I first learned about this awesome company thanks to Cupcakes and Cashmere. What is poppin? Only the best office supply site ever. Seriously -- you can even buy office supplies in different colors, everything from your standard black to bright pink. I am actually looking forward to starting the new school year because I bought all new desktop supplies in pink. Okay, maybe the words "looking forward to" are a bit much, but never underestimate the power of cute office supplies. You can color-coordinate your own office here.


2. foursquare.
This app has been one of my recent favorites. At first, I didn't get what all the fuss was about. Log into places so your friends could see where you are? Sounds like co-stalking. Unlock special badges? Yawn. But then I decided to give it a try, and I discovered it's actually pretty addicting. What's best about this app is the fact that you get many specials just for logging into certain places, like free appetizers and other discounts. And yes, darn it, unlocking the badges is pretty cool after all. Download this app to your device here.


3. crystalline.
I know I already blogged about this song (well, technically the video), but I can't stop listening to it. Yes, the album cover for this single is a bit bizarre (see below), but the song is a ton of awesome. Listen to a sample/download it here.


4. e.l.f. cuticle pen.
As I wrote in last week's Beauty Rituals post, e.l.f. is a great company to buy beauty supplies on the cheap, whether you're ordering online or buying it in person. One of my current favorite products of theirs is the cuticle pen. It keeps my normally gnarly cuticles in check, which is awesome, because that means I can push my manicure appointment back by another week (or two). Best of all, it's only one buck -- seriously! Buy it along with more low-priced goodies here.


5. skinny caramel macchiato.
Ever since I began my diet/exercise regime, I've been trying to cut back on my nemesis: sweets. What this means is that I suddenly found myself avoiding Starbucks, somewhere I used to go on an almost daily basis. Yes, I knew that they offered lower calorie and lower fat versions of many of their drinks, but to be honest, I used to scoff at them, thinking they probably tasted like crap. Until I tried their Skinny Caramel Macchiato. It's actually not that different from the original version, which is amazing when you consider the "Skinny" version has 100 less calories. I recommend getting it cold -- it's especially yummy.


6. ebates.
Lately I've been doing all my shopping online -- especially for my back-to-school supplies. It's simply more convenient, plus there are usually good sales and deals for such stores like Old Navy or Sephora. Another reason why I like shopping online is because I have an Ebates account, which gets me cash back on many of my online purchases. No, you don't need to pay -- it's completely free -- and the rebates, or "ebates," really start to add up the more you shop online. For example, I've been a member since 2006 and to date, I've received $271.07 total in cash back. This may not be a huge amount, but to a penny-pinching teacher like me, it's great. You can learn more about Ebates here and get your own Ebates account here.

What are your favorites this month?

Beauty Ritual: Bargain Beauty

While I love splurging on that got-to-have beauty item every now and then, I try to stock up my makeup with as many bargain priced products as I can. Believe it or not, you can actually find some great, low-priced products in the makeup aisle of your local drugstore -- many of them even rival their more expensive counterparts. The following items are tried and true, and best of all, they are all under $10.

bargain beauty

1. Revlon PhotoReady Concealer Makeup  - Good for concealing unsightly blemishes or under eye circles. 

2. Rimmel London Exaggerate Liquid Eyeliner - A recent favorite of mine. This eyeliner is fool-proof and has great staying power.

3. Maybelline Volum' Express One by One Mascara - This mascara gives my skimpy lashes a much needed boost. I love how it both separates and thickens my lashes.

4. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss - This lipgloss has great shine, perfect for wearing alone or layering over your lipstick.

5. CoverGirl Instant Cheekbones Contouring Blush - I'm still learning how to use this contouring blush, but I love how it defines my cheekbones and gives my face a healthy glow.

6. essie nail color - My manicurist turned me on to essie's polishes. I love them all, most especially their collection of pinks and beiges.

7. L'Oreal True Match Foundation - This is a truly great foundation for the price. You can easily find a shade that blends in perfectly and it has even, smooth coverage.

8. L'Oreal True Match Powder - This is a good finishing powder, whether it's applied over your foundation or worn alone.

9. Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick  - I've been a fan of Revlon's lipsticks since my high school days, and I'm still wearing many of their shades today. This recent line from Revlon has some awesome shades.

10. L'Oreal Wear Infinite Single Eye Shadow - I love L'Oreal's eye shadows for their variety of colors. Plus this eye shadow has a great sheen to it that really makes your eyes "pop."

11. e.l.f. Essential Wet Gloss Lash & Brow Clear Mascara - This is a nice alternative to wearing mascara PLUS it brings an extra wand to help keep your brows in place. And for only $1, what's not to love?

What are your favorite bargain beauty items? Let me know in the comments!

Back to School.

It's true that I've been dreading my return to school all summer. I prayed for June and July to be as slow as molasses, but as usual, they flew by like nothing.

And now it is August. And now I have to report back to school in a little over a week to start readying my classroom. *sob*

However -- if there is one thing I like about the whole Back to School business it is this: the ritualistic buying of school supplies. The pencils, the notebooks, the crayons, the erasers, the college-ruled paper... I love it all.


So I guess this means I'm Magical.

I'm magical, witches! ;)
I'm magical! Thank you times a bazillion to the lovely @CaramelPhotos (aka Vanessa) who helped me find the pesky Magical Quill and basically kept me sane in my moment of insanity. I couldn't have done it without her. The username I chose from the selection (which wasn't stellar) is MidnightWillow127, but I'm slowly learning to like it. I can't wait to see what else Pottermore has in store...

Wishlist Wednesday!

What I'm wishing for this Wednesday...

It's all @Cleolinda's fault that I'm craving this cupcake. She tweeted about going to the bakery Gigi's Cupcake today and it turns out the closest one to me is in Tampa. *sob*

This headband is perfect for work OR play. I love it. {via}

I have a slightly unhealthy addiction to messenger bags. I'm working on it, but this beauty makes me want to fall off the wagon. Allllllll the way off. {via}

I have been unable to register for Pottermore, unlike seemingly everyone else. What's a girl gotta do to get in?! (Other than park myself in front of the computer and forgo sleep and any vestige of a social existence.)


Ready, Set, Fall!

I don't know about you, but I am so ready for Fall. Never mind that we don't really have seasons here in South Florida -- well, unless you count our year-round balmy weather as an eternal summer. But October, which just happens to be my birthday month, usually ushers in cooler temps and shorter days. Which means I can bring my beloved cardigans and jackets (and boots!) out of retirement. Plus I just happen to like the clothing styles more in autumn. They have a more structured, elegant look, in my opinion.

Here are some of the goodies I'm wishing on for Fall...









Learning to Love the Curl.

Three years ago and some change, I had naturally wavy hair that I could coax into curls or blow dry straight, depending on my mood (and laziness level). But what I really wanted was pin-straight hair -- hair that you could wash and let air dry and still have it be perfectly straight. My hair, on the other hand, was not exactly wash-and-go hair. When left to its own devices, it had the appearance and consistency of cotton candy -- just a frizzy nimbus of puff encircling my head. Not pretty. I either had to work curling product into my hair and "scrunch" with my fingers to make it curl, or slave over a blow dryer and hair iron for 30-45 minutes to tame it straight.

So when my salon started offering the keratin treatment (also known as the Brazilian blow-out), a treatment that promised straight hair -- hair that was actually wash-and-go straight -- I jumped at the opportunity. And while it didn't make my hair so straight that I could let it air-dry, it did make a huge difference. My hair was significantly straighter and did not frizz like before, not even in Miami's notoriously humid weather. Plus it significantly cut down on my blow drying time. I was so happy with the results, I did the treatment a subsequent two times. Unfortunately, the treatment had side effects I was not expecting: my scalp became super greasy, to the point where I suddenly found myself having to wash my hair almost every day (before, I could get away with washing my hair a couple times a week). Plus my hair started thinning, something that absolutely terrified me. So I decided to stop the treatments altogether and make peace with my natural hair.

But there was a problem -- my natural hair was taking an awfully long time to return. You see, when I tried to curl my hair like before, it just wouldn't do it. At best, it would create a half-hearted wave at the top and stay straight at the bottom. All of a sudden I found myself having to resort to curling irons and rollers to recreate the curls that were so easy to come by before.

This summer is the first time in over three years that my hair feels like it's finally back to normal. Although the tips of my hair (all that's left that went through the keratin treatment) still have trouble curling, I'm happy to see thicker, wavier growth at the roots. I've been so happy to welcome back my curls that I haven't touched my blow dryer or hair iron in over a week. And my curls and me couldn't be happier for it.

Do you have something about your appearance you wish you could change?

ETA: I just realized this is my 800th post. Woo hoo! Back to your regularly scheduled programming...


Every Argument Every Couple Ever Has EVER.

  via Casey Donahue on Vimeo.

I can't help but simultaneously laugh and nod my head  in agreement as I watch this video. "What?" "What!" Ah, good times.



What happens when quirky musical artist Björk teams up with quirky director Michel Gondry? Genius happens, that's what.


These are a few of my (current) favorite things...

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.
I have a confession to make -- I didn't always like Harry Potter. When the first book came out, I was fresh out of high school and starting college. Harry Potter just seemed so juvenile. Too juvenile for cool grown-up moi. Fast forward a little over 10 years and I'm now a teacher myself. All of a sudden, I was interested in Harry Potter. So I picked up the first book and loved it so much, I ran out and bought the rest of the series. (The good thing about getting into a series kinda late? You don't have to wait for the sequels to be released!) Then I ran out and got the films -- and to my surprise, I realized I loved the films just as much as I loved the books. The same holds true for the last installment, which I was so eager to see, I braved the midnight release. It may not have been completely faithful to the book, but that's not what the films are about -- they're about being true to the integral story, to the heart and soul of the tale. And I think the last film does all that and more. I can't wait to see it again!

2. Suave dry shampoo.
Since I have naturally wavy, extremely oily hair that I usually blow dry straight -- and have to wash every other day -- I am a big fan of dry shampoo. I've bought the pricy concoctions that come in puny little bottles, I've even used baby powder in desperate moments. But my current favorite dry shampoo is by Suave. It actually comes in a sizable bottle, and at under three bucks, it's a frigging bargain. Plus it's got a nice scent, something dry shampoos don't always have.

3. True Blood.
I think this show has been on my favorites list before, but no matter -- I'm loving this new season now more than ever. Why? Because finally, finally, finally, we will see Sookie and Eric **SPOILER** get together. Nice knowing you, Bill.

4. Doctor Who.
This is another show on which I'm currently hooked. I started watching season 1 (of the modern version) while Ricky was out of town last month, just to see what all the fuss was about, and before I knew it, I'd flown through all of the seasons. I'm now eagerly awaiting the second part of the current season, which resumes at the end of August. What is this show about? I'd best describe it as a British fantasy/sci-fi show with its tongue firmly in its cheek. It features the Doctor, a time-lord who travels through time and space in his spaceship, the Tardis, which looks like an old school phone booth on the outside, but is much, much bigger on the inside. Just about every season of the show features a different incarnation of the Doctor, because he's able to regenerate when his life is in danger. So that makes for an interesting show -- the same character is represented by more than one actor. It's a great show -- it's got thrills, chills, and even some romance. (And I may have a teensy crush on one of the previous Doctors, David Tennant.) If you want to check it out, they've got most of the show on Netflix.

5. 30 Day Shred.
 I bought this exercise DVD on a whim a couple of months back because I'd heard so many good things about it. The other thing that attracted me to it was the fact that the entire routine was just 20 minutes long, something I'd have no excuse incorporating into my schedule. I first tried it two weeks ago and have been using it more or less every day since then. While my weight loss has been slow and steady for the past two weeks since I've started dieting/exercising, I'm already seeing a change in my body. I'm starting to get well developed arm muscles for the first time in my entire life (sad but true). I really recommend this exercise DVD if you're someone who wants to get in shape or even maintain your shape. The instructor, Jillian Michaels, may seem overbearing and even sometimes annoying on the show she's on, "Biggest Loser," but she's actually a great motivator on 30 Day Shred -- firm but friendly. The DVD comes with three different levels of the work-out. Since I'm still getting my butt kicked by level one, I'm going to wait a while before moving on to the next one. But I have no doubt I will get there if I continue working hard.

6. Tiny Tower.
This game is my current favorite app on the iPhone. It's like a mini Sims in my phone. The object of the game is to build a tiny tower and manage the businesses and "bitizens" that inhabit it. Yes, it's incredibly silly, but it's a good way to pass the time if you're stuck in a waiting room. You can learn more about the game and download it here.

What are your favorites this month?


Clean Slate

This weekend was a CLEAN ALL THE THINGS kind of weekend. I am ashamed to admit I had let my bedroom fester into an overwhelming black hole of a mess these past two months. My dresser was a jumble of tangled jewelry and makeup pots. The piles of books and what-not in my assorted corners were threatening to reach the roof. The sad part? I'm not even exaggerating. Really.

I would show you a picture of how horrendously messy my room used to be, but I was too busy CLEANING ALL THE THINGS. So there is no before picture. And honestly, I'm too tired to take the after picture. I spent over three hours today and yesterday just going through crap, rearranging crap, and throwing out crap. I filled five garbage bags full to bursting with said crap. (Why do we accumulate so much crap?!) Now my dresser is clean and neat, my floor is swept and free of crap, and my bedroom actually looks ... bigger. Finally I'll be able to exercise without bumping into stuff.

While I'm exhausted as all heck right now, I must admit it feels nice to have a clean room again. It's like having a clean slate -- I now have new ideas about ways I'd like to redecorate my room, maybe change some furniture around. And what this experience has taught me is that I need to be less attached to things, and more organized about the things I actually keep. That way, I won't end up on a future episode of "Hoarders" or anything. *shudder*


What I'm reading now...

What I just finished reading...
I kept running into The Bride Quartet series by Nora Roberts in the book store -- picking them up, then putting them down -- until I finally decided to bite the bullet (what a strange expression, who came up with that?!) and get the ebook set. It had been a good long while since I'd read modern romance (I tend to like period pieces best), but I'd read Nora Roberts before and liked her, so I had high hopes. And the books didn't disappoint. They're about a group of four young women who used to play "the wedding game" as children and later decided to make the game into a profession and become professional wedding planners. Each book follows the perspective of one of the women as they deal with the traumas and tribulations of love and -- you guessed it -- marriage. Are they predictable? Sure. Sometimes unbelievable? You bet. But that didn't make them any less fun to read.

What I'm reading now...
I'm currently rereading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I lost count of how many times I've reread the series -- is this my fourth or fifth time? Don't know. All I know is that I catch something new every time I read the books and fall in love with Hogwarts -- and Harry -- a little more each time. I'm hoping to finish my run-through in the next couple of weeks so I can go watch The Deathly Hallows Part 2 again. (Stay tuned for my review on that -- I'm still letting it settle.)

What I want to read next...
I have absolutely no idea what I want to read next. I'd like it to be something light, since I go back to school in mid August to ready my classroom and won't have time to focus much on anything too heavy. I'd love to hear your recommendations -- have you read anything great lately? Let me know in the comments!