Posted in Life, Lists, Teaching

How to Escape for Spring Break Without Leaving Home

Last year during spring break, I took my dog and ran away from home. (We came back.) This year, I decided not to go anywhere during my week off, but I still craved that feeling of escape. I wondered, Is it possible to have a low-key, stay-at-home spring break AND get away at the same time? The answer is yes. Here’s how to do it.

1. Indulge in Good Food

You don’t have to go on vacation to eat like you’re on vacation. Give in to your sweet tooth or make that favorite recipe you don’t have time to prepare when you’re working. Splurge on your taste buds.

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On the first morning of spring break, I made this giant pile of pancakes, and we ate every last morsel of them.

2. Try a New Restaurant

Splurging on your taste buds doesn’t have to include cooking and clean-up. Find a few dining spot to check out. In Austin, there’s never a shortage of good places to eat.

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I visited Hillside Farmacy for the first time this week. Their fried egg sandwich has fried green tomatoes on it. Need I say more?

3. Sleep Somewhere New

You don’t have to check in to a hotel to check out of the daily grind. Make a pallet on the couch and have a movie night. Build a blanket fort. Camp out in the backyard.

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This is what I call an open-airbnb.

4. Be a Tourist in Your Own City

Take a walk through a neighborhood you’ve never been in, or finally take the time to do that thing that everyone does when they come to your town, or visit a museum. (Note: Museums are free in Austin on Thursdays.)

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I went to the Blanton for the “Words/Matter Latin American Art and Language” exhibit. I recommend it.

5. Buy a Souvenir

There’s a difference between regular shopping and souvenir shopping. You can go buy a new pair of jeans at Old Navy over spring break, and that’s fine, but it probably won’t feel like an escape. A souvenir is a strange or specific object that you wouldn’t have purchased if you hadn’t been in that place at that time. So get into get-away mode and search for a trinket to commemorate your staycation.

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To each her own, of course, but I bought an evil eye talisman from Tesoros Trading Company on South Congress.

6. Send Postcards

You don’t have to travel to write a note to a loved one about your experience. Buy some postcards of your city or some random cards or pick up freebies where you can, and send notes far and wide. Describe your pancakes, your blanket fort, your trip to the vegan ice cream shop. People will love to hear from you regardless of where you are when you write to them.

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This weekend, I sent ten eclectic postcards to friends and family members, but I forgot to take a photo of them before I dropped them in the mail, so here’s a picture of the cards that currently hang above my desk instead.

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At this point, you may be thinking, These are great ideas (thanks) but I’m broke and lacking transportation and don’t have a backyard or postage stamps. Fair point. These next four tips for escape are for you.

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7. Escape into a Book

If you don’t have the means to travel or the courage for daring feats or the stomach for adventurous eating, read about someone who does. Pick up a novel set in a foreign land or a book of essays by someone who’s been around the world or any good book with a good story. Immerse yourself in it. Read for hours, and ignore the laundry.

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This week, I read The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. It’s like a mix between the movie Clue and the movie Happy Death Day except the narrator wakes up every day in a different character’s body. It was a wild ride for sure, definitely “escape” material.

8. Call a Faraway Friend

If you’re like me, you don’t pick up the phone often enough. I mean, yes, you pick up your mobile computer and your map and your texting device and your camera all the time, but the actual phone part of that thing? You probably don’t spend a lot of time with it. Spring break is a great time to reconnect with an old friend. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, who lives in a different city. Then close your eyes and let their voice shrink the miles between you.

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I called an old friend this week. Well, not that old. She’s the same age I am. I won’t reveal her name here and embarrass her, but we’ve known each other since we were in the first grade, and it was really good talking to her.

9. Keep Work Out of Sight and Out of Mind

I brought home a lot of grading over spring break. I know, I know, boo me all you want. Sometimes it’s inevitable. But even though I brought those essays home, I didn’t leave them laying around, staring at me and judging me all week. I took my time off first and saved the work for the last couple of days, making sure that I was managing the grading, and not the other way around. Do your best to compartmentalize work and play. Don’t check work emails at the museum and discuss work talk over your stack of pancakes. Enjoy yourself without guilt.

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You can’t tempt me, essays! No! No! Stay back!

10. Say No

When you don’t go anywhere for spring break, that makes some people think you are free the whole week. You are, but that’s the point. You’re free, free on your own terms. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to every favor or invitation. There’s only so much fun you can fit into a week. Unfortunately, you may have to pick and choose where to spend your time and with whom. Escape sometimes means escaping from stress or exhaustion or obligation. Protect your time. Keep it free by saying no to some things.

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To all the friends I hung out with this week, THANK YOU! I had a fabulous time! To all the friends I didn’t get to hang out with, I’M SORRY! Summer is coming! (Note: I didn’t take a single photo with any of my friends this week, so here’s a picture of my dog. Today is his birthday. My parents sent him a card.)

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This spring break, I never traveled more than twenty miles from home. But I made pancakes and visited a museum and bought strange objects and slept in a hammock and read books and mailed postcards and hung out with good friends and said no to things so I could stay in my pajamas and write all day, and that gave me the escape I needed. If I have to go back to work tomorrow (and both Austin ISD and my hubby tell me that I do), at least I’m going back rested and rejuvenated. Except for my right wrist, which still hurts from grading all those essays…

Posted in Lists, Random, Reading

Because I’m Feeling Listful

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Every year at this time, I get a little listful. Not listless. Not wistful. LISTFUL. It means that I am full of lists. Overflowing with lists. Lists are bursting forth in every medium—paper, emails, sticky-notes, brain, phone, and now, inevitably, on my blog. I cannot contain them. I list the things I did last year and the things I didn’t. I list the books I read last year and the ones I didn’t. I make to-do lists and to-NOT-do lists (just as important). I make lists of resolutions and then revise them. I make lists of things to buy and then take pictures of them. I list what I need from the grocery store, who to thank for Christmas gifts, and how many pairs of socks I own with animals on them. (Just because.)

With all these lists pouring out of me, it’s only natural that I want to share some of them with you. Here goes…

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2019list

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Got any lists you’d like to share?

Posted in Lists, Reading

10 MG & YA Books I Haven’t Read But Love to Look At

I know, I know. You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But it’s really hard not to when the cover artists do such an amazing job. Here are ten middle grade & young adult novels that keep catching my eye at the bookstore. I can’t wait to find out if they’re as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.

Quick Note: It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to find the artists and illustrators behind some of these gorgeous books. Often their names don’t appear on the copyright page, which I find odd. Instead they’re on the back flap of the jacket. But that’s not something you can usually find online, so I had to make a couple of trips back to the bookstore (okay, twist my arm) to get all the info I needed for this post. These artists deserve to be known. They’re work is outstanding. So don’t just look at the book covers. Take time to check out their websites too. ]

#1:

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Title: The Night Parade
Author: Kathryn Tanquary
Cover Illustration: Alexander Jansson

I love everything about this cover: the gorgeous pink-purple tree, the swirly blues and greens, the adorably creepy creatures, the lanterns… everything. I could look at this picture all day.

#2:

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Title: Wishing Day
Author: Lauren Myracle
Jacket Art: Julie McLaughlin

Another tree and more swirly purples and greens! What can I say? I’m a tree-loving, swirly color kind of girl. I love the birds and moon and stars in this picture too. Julie McLaughlin also illustrated The Girl in the Well is Me, which is a great book inside and out.

#3:

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Title: The Firefly Code
Author: Megan Frazer Blakemore
Jacket IllustrationsManuel Sumberac

Ok, so obviously I’m into silhouettes, in addition to the colors purple and green. I love this cover because it’s so alive, full of adventure. Plus, the kids on bikes bring to mind the kids in Stranger Things, and anything that reminds me of that show is a good thing.

#4:

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Title: A Clatter of Jars
Author: Lisa Graff
Jacket Art: Fernando Juarez

I like the contrasts in this cover — the far away houses and close-up frog, the whimsical quality mixed with something just a little bit ominous, as we see below the surface of the water and notice the broken leg of the character in the background. There’s a lot to take in here. And of course, some greens and purples.

#5:

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Title: Fish in a Tree
Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Cover Design & LetteringKristin Logsdon

Sometimes the simplest covers are the ones that catch my eye. The brightly-colored, boxy letters and very literal image (a fish, in a tree) on this book have made me pick it up multiple times.

#6:

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Title: Wolf Hollow
Author: Lauren Wolk
Hand LetteringSarah J. Coleman
Silhouette & Watercolor: Tony Sahara

And… we’re back to silhouettes and trees. 🙂 Admittedly, I didn’t realize how many things these middle grade covers had in common until I started describing them. Still, I would never say they look the same. Each is unique. I love the rich golden glow of this one and the way the tree trunks are made up of words.

#7:

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Title: The Last Leaves Falling
Author: Sarah Benwell
Cover ArtistYuko Shimizu

I guess on this cover, we’re in the tree. I love the perspective of this illustration. The birds, the leaves, the transparency of the orange box around the title, the character looking up at us, and his shadow… it’s all so evocative. And a little bit heartbreaking.

#8:

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Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Nivan
Hand-Lettering & Illustrations: Sarah Watts

This one mainly appeals to me because I love sticky notes. 🙂 But there’s more to it than that. I like how it has depth (I totally want to reach out and smooth down that one yellow corner) and I love how friendly and whimsical the lettering is. (Yes, lettering can be friendly.) The colors and style of this cover just relay a sense of peace and serenity. It’s caught my eye on multiple occasions.

#9:

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Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Cover Illustration of Landscape and SkyMark Brabant
Hand-lettering and Illustrations in Sky: Sarah J. Coleman

I love the lettering and the symbols and the teal color of the sky, and of course the old red truck in the corner. Just perfect. This book has actually been on my reading list for a while now. It was the cover that first grabbed me, but hearing Benjamin Alire Sáenz give the keynote speech at this year’s Writers’ League of Texas conference definitely made me want to hear more of what he has to say. Plus, when you can’t see the whole cover for all the awards the book has won… that’s a pretty good sign.

#10:

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Title: Shutter
Author: Courtney Alameda
Cover Art: Khita Knight

Did you really think this list would be complete without at least one horror novel? Come on. I love this creepy cover. The eyes of the shadow/smoke monster bore into my soul in the best way.

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Which book covers catch YOUR eye?