Monday, May 26, 2014

A Review of 'The Paris Wedding' by Kimberley Petyt

"A must-have for the best wedding inspiration and resources in Paris.

America's love affair with Paris spans generations.  For many, Paris is the epitome of sophistication, good taste, style and romance.  The Paris Wedding is a full-color, idea-packed, go-to guide for globally minded trendsetters who are in love with the style and romance of Paris..  Not just a resource of practical information for those planning a wedding IN Paris, but The Paris Wedding is also a stand-alone handbook full of stylish tips and glamorous photography to help add that Parisian je ne sais quoi to any celebration.

Kimberley Petyt is the owner of Parisian Events, a wedding and event-planning agency catering to English-speakers in Paris.  She writes the popular blog 'Parisian Party: Tales of an American Wedding Planner in Paris.'  She was also a monthly columnist for the nationally distributed The French Paper, where she wrote for more than a year about living and working as an expat in Paris.  Petyt and the business have been featured in print publications such as Real Simply Weddings, Get Married Magazine, Essence Magazine, Eco-Beautiful Weddings, Cosmopolitan China, and France Magazine.  Most recently, she was featured in the New York Times Magazine 'Summer 2011 Travel' issue, highlighting her skills as a cultural liaison for brides seeking to marry in Paris.  Ms. Petyt lives in Paris."

Sometimes I wonder what you think of me when you come visit this blog and see what I've been reading.  Books about depression, teen pregnancy, reviews of books that aren't necessarily popular and reviews of books that are REALLY popular, and now books about Parisian Weddings.  What on earth?

Parisian Weddings (at least the ones that take place in Paris) are actually a lot more complicated to organize than I thought they were.  You can't just go over there and have a traditional church wedding.  It takes a lot of paper work and a lot of convincing.  I thought that was interesting.  When I visited France, I wasn't there long enough to figure out how much they like paperwork, but this is the second or third book I've read that says how many hoops you have to jump through just to get a certain detail established or to procure a place to get married and a person to marry you.  Holy...

For those who aren't looking to get married in Paris, there are tons of decorating ideas and tips for shopping in France for different things that you might want for a wedding where you live.  It's very thorough... I didn't realize the amount of work that it takes to pull together a wedding (ceremony and reception).  Even if you're not getting married anytime soon, like me, it's still a fun read with exquisite pictures.  You learn a bit of culture from this book.

If you're looking to get married soon or are just looking for design ideas, this is a great book to start with!

I give 'The Paris Wedding':
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, May 19, 2014

A Review of 'Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem' by Rosalyn Schanzer

"In the little colonial town of Salem Village, Massachusetts, two girls began to twitch, mumble, and contort their bodies into strange shapes.  The doctor tried every remedy, but nothing cured the young Puritans.  He grimly announced the dire diagnosis: the girls were bewitched!  And then the accusations began.

The riveting, true story of the victims, accused witches, crooked officials, and mass hysteria that turned a mysterious illness affecting two children into a witch hunt that took over a dozen people's lives and ruined hundreds more unfolds in chilling detail in this young adult book by award-winning author and illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer.

With a powerful narrative, chilling primary source accounts, a design evoking the period, and stylized black-white-and-red scratchboard illustrations of young girls having wild fits in the courtroom, witches flying overhead, and the Devil and his servants terrorizing the Puritans, this book will rivet young readers with novelistic power.

Taught in middle and high schools around the U.S., the 17-century saga remains hauntingly resonant as people struggle even today with the urgent need to find someone to blame for their misfortunes."

When I worked in Barnes & Noble, I remember walking through the children's section while shelving books and this little book caught my eye.  The Salem witch trials was an incredibly interesting (and terrifying) time in history and I just love learning about it.  This is a great place to start.

It's pretty thorough as far as dates go.  It's also interesting because they go through each part of this historical event: what the society was like where the trials took place, who the people were who accused witches (witches could be anyone: men, women, animals...), and who the accused were.  I like that this book also includes an aftermath.  I didn't know what happened after the trials ended and you needed harder evidence to convict someone of witchcraft.

This is a great starter book that adults (like me) and younger readers will like, especially if they're interested in history.

I give 'Witches!'
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, May 12, 2014

A Review of 'Dear Diary, I'm Pregnant: Ten Real Life Stories' by Anrenee Englander

"Chosen by the New York Public Library's 'Books for the Teen Age' list and hailed by 'The Globe and Mail' for its '...frank, revealing and brave conversations,' this is a must-read book for young women looking for reassurance that they are not alone.

In poignant and insightful interviews, Anrenee Englander presents the voices of 10 pregnant teens as they discuss their experiences and choices around motherhood, adoption and abortion.  First published to critical acclaim in 1997, this new edition updates the original interviews and includes a new introduction and a new resources section.

Presenting different points of view, 'Dear Diary, I'm Pregnant' is a nonjudgmental source of information for all teens that provides support and guidance for those who find themselves in this difficult situation."

I'm not sure what possessed me to pick up this book in the first place, but I did and I'm glad that I read it.  While I don't have to face such a big challenge as being pregnant and having to make this decision so young in life, I can recognize that this could be an incredible resource for young people in the world (well, at least in the United States and Canada, since that's where the resources section directs you).  I want to have this book in my classroom someday.  I'm planning to teach at the middle or high school level, where teen pregnancy is not super common (you don't see every girl walking around campus pregnant, for sure), but it's definitely a thing.  Sexuality is being worked out, experimentation occurs, and sometimes accidents happen.  This book is great because it not only lays out your choices, but you're reading the stories of girls/women who were pregnant as teenagers.  You can read about what their experiences were and why they made the decision they made.  You can also learn how they felt afterwards-- if they'd wished they'd kept the baby instead of getting an abortion or if they'd gotten an abortion or put the baby up for adoption instead of keeping it (although I don't think there are any stories where the mother decided to keep the baby and then changed their mind after).

Even if these experiences aren't your own, I think it's still good to read for understanding.  There are too many misconceptions about teen pregnancy and girls who do get pregnant get a lot of crap for being pregnant.  Most of the time, it's an accident and the girl in question has to make a huge decision that will change the rest of her life.  I feel like I realized that before reading this book, but these personal accounts just reinforces what I only thought I knew before.

When I'm a teacher, I'm going to create a resources shelf that isn't related to school at all and this book is going to be on that shelf.

I give 'Dear Diary, I'm Pregnant':
Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Minnesota History Museum

I went on another field trip with my fifth graders at Northrop.  This time, we spent the day at the Minnesota History Museum.  When I was in elementary school, I remember going to this museum.  The fun thing was, a lot of the exhibits that were there when I had visited with school were still there.  So I was able to walk into different places with the fifth graders and say, "Hey, I really liked this one!  Let's go see this exhibit!"  But before we went and explored the museum, we had an hour or so of class time where they learned about the fur trade:

This was a really neat lesson that was put together.  It was very interactive and the kids loved it.  They got to line up, put on the beaver skin hat, hold the other animal skins that were sometimes used for trading (beaver skins were the most coveted-- everyone in Europe wanted a beaver skin something until silk became the popular material.  They got to hold some things that people who lived back then would have wanted: a trap, some food, tools, and yes, even a musket.  They gave a kid a gun (unloaded, but it was enough to give me a little bit of a heart attack.  People, don't hand ten-year-olds guns).

With these things that were traded, they played a game similar to Deal or No Deal.  They "had" a total of 15 beaver skins and they had to bargain with the owner of the trading post (the museum volunteer) with their beaver skins.  At the end of the game, they got to see how many beaver skins their object actually would have cost them.  Such a neat way to show that.

 A couple of the kids got to dress up as Voyageurs (see upper left).  They were taught that every piece of clothing that the Voyageurs wore had a special purpose for all seasons.  They learned about the Voyageur lifestyle and it was really neat to see them get into what the Museum representative was talking about.

After their lesson was done, the adults took their small groups and we went and explored the whole museum for the rest of the time that we were there.  I lucked out and got my favorite group of girls-- they read with me on Thursdays when I come and they get really into talking about the books they're reading.  So here are some of the places that we visited around the museum:
As soon as we got our instructions from the Museum Volunteers, my group asked excitedly if we could be the first at the tornado basement exhibit.  We ran out of the classroom, bounded up the stairs, and swung into the "basement" before any other group could even think about getting to the basement.  I love this exhibit.  It's about the tornadoes that were in Fridley, MN and how that affected the lives of those who lived there at the time.  You watched the TV, listened to the radio to figure out what was going on, and all the while, you could feel the ground shake beneath you and watch the window change as the storm came and went.  It was like experiencing a mini tornado.  It's awesome and the kids loved it.
 There was a small exhibit about living in a sod house.  Outside the house, there was a plow that you could run either as the person pushing the plow, or as the cattle pulling the plow along the rows that would later be used for planting.

This was a neat activity.  A big part of Minnesota history is the various groups of Native Americans.  A big part of some of their cultures is the buffalo.  There was a "dead" buffalo on the ground and nearby was a scanner.  You could take apart the buffalo, removing organs, bones, skin... everything.  You'd take those parts over to the scanner, scan it, and see what the Native American groups used that part for.  It was really cool.  They liked holding the different parts and "discovering" what was done with the different parts of the buffalo.  Super cool.

This was an exhibit that I had never been in before.  It must be relatively new.  You pick a helmet, walk into the "elevator," and walk through this mine and learn about what miners did and how they lived.  You could try everything from drilling into a wall of coal, drop dynamite and blow a wall apart, and look around (note: everything that sounds dangerous to try out was just pretend.  Just so you know...).  It was really loud and equal parts dark and bright, but this was a really neat place to visit.
This is sort of what a classroom looked like at the Native American boarding schools.  This is where many Native Americans were forced to part with the culture they had grown up with.  They had to cut their hair and were forbidden to speak their native language.  They were told that their culture was wrong and they had to conform to this new and "better" one.  I don't think these girls had learned about this in school yet.  They'll get more information about this when they head to middle school.
This soda fountain counter was part of an exhibit called "The Greatest Generation."  The kids liked playing with the pretend food and pushing the buttons on the old cash register.
This part of "The Greatest Generation" exhibit was similar to the tornado basement exhibit.  You walked into this plane, sat down in the seats and faced a blank wall.  Once the show started, you listened to audio bytes of some of the surviving paratroopers of World War II.  At one point, you could feel the plane take off under you and later you could see bullet holes go through the side of the plane.  This was an experience in and of itself.  Well-worth the wait, I think.
After about an hour, we were asked to stop roaming the museum and meet up with the full class to learn about the path of a single piece of grain.  You learned about how it was processed, where it went, and eventually what it was made into.  Then they got to go and play for a little while before loading up on the bus to go home.  I think the kids had a good day.  I certainly had a good day.

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, May 5, 2014

A Review of 'Love's Labour's Lost' by William Shakespeare

"Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s for a performance at the Inns of Court before Queen Elizabeth.  It follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they attempt to foreswear the company of women for three years of study and fasting, and their subsequent infatuation with the Princess of Aquitaine and her ladies.  In an untraditional ending for a comedy, the play crosses with the death of the Princess's father, and all weddings are delayed for a year.  The play draws on themes of masculine love and desire, reckoning and rationalization, and reality versus fantasy."

I had to laugh when I started reading the introduction to the Kittredge edition of this play.  It said something along the lines of "This play is known for having no plot and too many puns."  Oh boy... I knew I was in trouble.

I had a hard time getting through this book.  Part of it was how some of the characters spoke and part of it was due to having virtually no plot.  Sure, I laughed at a few puns.  The characters would play off something that the other said and it would be amusing, but in the end I thought, "What are they doing?  What did that accomplish?"

I don't have a lot to say other than I understand why I was never taught this play in school or ever heard of this play being taught.  As a teacher in training, I'd definitely skip over this one.

I give 'Love's Labour's Lost':
Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

On Snow-Shoeing And Fighting Fear

 In January of this year, I started volunteering at Northrop school again, just like I did the Spring semester before.  It worked out again where I could keep volunteering once my classes started in February.  One of the things that I get to help out with (usually) when I volunteer is field trips.
Northrop is an Environmental Elementary School (K-5), so they have a lot of field trips related to the environment.  One of those field trips is to the Wildlife Refuge Center.  It's a place for animals to thrive and for classes to come and learn about animals and nature without having to drive hours and hours away.  It's in the middle of the city, not too far from Mall of America, if you can believe it.

The fifth graders that I work with went in search of animal prints and also to learn how to snow-shoe.  They had practiced identifying some signs of animal life (prints, fur, scat, holes in the snow) but now they had to learn how to put on their shoes and move around.  So we staged the first snow-shoe Olympics.  They learned the basic skills they'd need to maneuver through the snow with extra big feet.

 I also didn't know how to snow-shoe, so I wasn't any better than the fifth graders.  If anything, I was worse because I get so nervous.  I hate falling.  More than the average person does, I think.  Other people are normal and they don't let the prospect of falling stop them.  I do.

I took one set of ice-skating lessons when I was younger.  I remember that there was this girl named Bridget who noticed that I was absolutely terrified to do even the most basic ice-skating move-- skating.  She held my hand every time we had to skate across the rink.  I still can't skate confidently.

This fear translates to just about any activity where I'm not on my own two feet-- roller skating (I can't roller blade), ice skating, and snow-shoeing.  I was nervous, especially going down hills.  I was terrified that I'd fall, but more terrified that I'd fall in front of my fifth graders like a doof.  But when one of my fifth graders, Vanessa turned around and asked me if I was okay (since I was really falling behind), I decided to suck it up.  If I fell, I fell.  The fifth graders knew that this was new to me.  They'd already fallen a billion times between everyone in the class, what was one more fall made by an adult?  So I sped up a little bit.  Then we stopped, realizing that having a group of about thirty kids piled together looking for animal tracks just wasn't working.  So the student teacher and I were the leaders of one group of kids.  That's when I was forced to take up the front.  That required that I move at a good pace, making me let go of any fears that I had.

I think I let go of fear under pressure.

This was a great opportunity for the fifth graders and me.  Snow-shoeing was so much fun.  I'm now an expert at putting snow-shoes on (so many kept popping off, it was ridiculous).  I can't wait to go snow-shoeing again, although hopefully that won't be for many, many months.  It's time to let spring have a chance!

Thanks for Reading!