Shakespeare and Greeks!

This past weekend was a busy one – so busy I didn’t take many pictures of our adventures!

Saturday we continued our summer tradition of volunteering with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. It’s a pretty good deal – act as an usher to support the staff, and you get to see the performance for free! Of course, that does mean being there an hour ahead of time, and staying for almost an hour afterward to clean up, but it’s worth it! Despite being held on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, this is not an average college production. There are professional actors from across the country who take part in the festival, giving some of the best performances I’ve ever seen. One thing in particular that I enjoy about the CSF is when they give the play a different setting. In this case, we were seeing “The Taming of the Shrew” set in 1940s Little Italy! It gives a different perspective on a classic text. Thankfully after a hot summer day, it cooled down by the evening for the outdoor performance. And the threatening rain held off!

We got home really late that night, and the next day was another packed day!

Sunday started off with church in Boulder, then a trip to downtown Denver for the Greek Festival! It’s hosted by The Assumption of Theotokos Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and as we discovered last year, it’s a blast! There’s dancing, music, shopping and best of all – FOOD! So much Greek food!! We used a Groupon this year, which limited our choices of what to eat (but it was such a good deal, I’m not complaining). We enjoyed Greek fries, gyros and loukoumathes! I was also pretty excited to find bags of Greek coffee on sale – we’ve run out at home, and sometimes the options of drip coffee, French press, and espresso just aren’t enough. And despite the fact that the last thing I needed to purchase was another cookbook….I splurged and got another cookbook. (For the record, this brings my total of Greek-themed cookbooks to two. We won’t talk about the 29 other ones, three family recipe collections, or the fact that there are still cookbooks of mine back in NY.) I really do love community collection cookbooks, because you get a peek into the traditions of other families.

This past week, Peter informed me that he has every weekend from now until the start of the school year planned out. Time for me to clean my camera and get ready to write more entries!

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Throwback: Garden of the Gods!

I was really excited leading into this past weekend. Peter would finally be recovered from jet lag, I would finally be over my 2 and a half week allergy/cold battle, and we could go outside and do some fun things!

Then I saw that the forecast was going to be in the mid-90s all weekend.

Cancel those outdoor plans.

I fully recognize that I am one of those annoying hypocrites who complains all winter about being too cold, only to get to summer and complain about it being too hot. In my defense, we live in a third floor apartment with only one air conditioner that’s tucked away in a corner, far away from all centers of activity. I actually went to Panera the other day and got the bagel to go, just to sit in my car and enjoy the air conditioning for 10 minutes. (Side note: it’s my free bagel every day month from Panera, and if you haven’t had their asiago cheese bagel, you haven’t truly lived. also, if you aren’t a Panera member, you need to join ASAP so you can get your own free month of bagels!)

We decided to “beat the heat” by heading out to the movies to see “Wonder Woman” (fantastic film!), eating ice cream, grilling (since I refuse to cook), and swimming! All wonderful summer activities.

So for this week’s entry, I’m going to share pictures from back in January when we stopped by the Garden of the Gods! I went to the Colorado Music Educator Association’s conference in Colorado Springs, and the final day of the conference Peter went down with me and worked out of a coffee shop, then we met up and drove through the Garden! It was my first time ever being there, and we didn’t do too much since it was a little chilly, but I can’t wait to go back!

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Denver Botanical Gardens – Spring Visit

I’ve been to the Botanical Gardens a few times, but it’s always been in the early fall. So while Peter was out of town for work, I decided to treat myself to a visit during the springtime! It ended up being much more adventurous than I expected a visit to look at pretty flowers would be.

First of all, I decided to go on the Sunday of Memorial Weekend. I didn’t expect attendance at the Gardens to be overwhelming, because who would be there?

Turns out everyone. And their cousins. And grandparents. And small children.

Parking was an absolute nightmare. I finally managed to snag a spot in the parking garage, felt myself getting grumpy and hungry, and immediately headed to the Offshoots cafe.

I got about 2 yards away from my car when I realized – I locked my keys in there.

At this point, I’m frustrated, hungry, and incredibly grateful to have a AAA membership. I decide that there’s no point wasting time, waiting for them to unlock it now, so I head in to get a bite to eat, calm down, and enjoy the afternoon.

It was so interesting to see the changes in the different flower beds! The two biggest differences from the fall: the vast array of irises that stand out everywhere, and the utter lack of water lilies.

After a few hours wandering the gardens, and downloading the AAA app, a really nice gentleman came to let me back into my car. (I cannot recommend the app enough – it’s an introvert’s dream to get roadside assistance without having to talk to anyone, not get put on hold, and get text updates while waiting).

I hope you enjoy the pictures from the Gardens!

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Teacher Appreciation at Coors Field

May can be a tough month for teachers. You are so close to the end, but all the students keep going absolutely haywire, making teaching twice as difficult. A significant upside is the change in weather – recess duty is much more bearable now than it has been for months!

Another bright spot in the midst of the chaos – teacher appreciation week! I could get on a soapbox about how as a country we should pay teachers what they’re worth instead of giving them discounts and free things periodically…but that’s for another post. Seriously though, it feels great to get acknowledged for the work that you put in all school year, and getting treats at school almost makes up for the kids driving you up the wall.

[In a related story, during morning bus duty the other day, the preschoolers were literally climbing the siding on the outside of the school. They didn’t make it very far. But they were climbing the walls.]

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the Colorado Rockies about discounted tickets for teacher appreciation week. Since moving to Colorado, I’ve become an absolute football addict. I’ve even followed the trades happening during free agency, and actually listened to the radio broadcast of the draft. It’s gotten bad, folks. But considering where I live, it’s a lot more affordable to go to a baseball game, and there was a point in time when I was much more obsessed with baseball stats, so I decided to check out the deal.

The part they sold me on?

A free Colorado Rockies tumbler that said “Teachers Rock!”

One of my only addictions worse than football – coffee mugs. I was sold. And so were the tickets after fighting with the website multiple times.

It was a Friday night game, so we rushed around after work to head downtown. We’re actually pretty comfortable driving around downtown, and even know parts of LoDo pretty well. But we weren’t totally sure about getting to Coors Field, so we listened to Google. Who betrayed us. And took us down some seriously sketchy parts of the city thanks to road construction. It was almost hilarious to watch the changes in neighborhoods – from abandoned warehouses, to warehouses that clearly were supposed to look somewhat abandoned still because that’s the chic look. There were even people doing a photo shoot outside one of them. It was the picture of gentrification.

We finally made it to the game, had better seats than we would normally get, I picked up my “free” mug, and enjoyed the whole purpose of the evening – to eat stadium food. Hot dogs, peanuts, and pretzels! Oh, and I think there was a game happening on the field too 😉 It was comical hearing a father behind us explaining the game to his kids…until I had to start asking Peter to explain to me what was/wasn’t happening. The game had an exciting close – bases loaded, all-star at bat, the possibility for the home team to come from behind and win the game at the bottom of the ninth – but they blew it and lost. Oh well!

All in all, it was a great date night, and I was grateful to have the chance to sit in seats where I could actually see what was happening on the field thanks to the teacher appreciation discount!

Teacher Appreciation Coors Field

Teacher Appreciation Coors Field

Teacher Appreciation Coors Field

Teacher Appreciation Coors Field

Teacher Appreciation Coors Field

On a semi-regular basis, Peter will make the bed and tell stories using the stuffed animals. For the day of the game, we had a baseball game going!

Closing Out the School Year

[Sorry for the multi-month silence on the blog! Between the busyness of life, and dealing with some health things, writing and sharing stories fell to the bottom of the priorities list. I’ll be working to get you all caught up on the past few months, and getting back into the writing habit!]

With the arrival of May comes the arrival of the end of the school year. I’m always torn between feelings of relief and regret – I am so excited for a break, but there is so much more I wish I could have accomplished. This week is my end of year review at work, so it felt fitting to reflect on my year with the various grade levels.

Kindergarten –  This year, I tried to follow the Kodaly method closely. I worked out of one specific book for ideas, and looking back, I can come to one conclusion – we played a ton of games. I didn’t know there were so many circle games that could be song on two notes! I will be interested to see how these students do next year, since this was my first time trying this curriculum. We also did a performance of Raffi music, and I officially can’t stand to hear Baby Beluga for the next 10 years or so.

First Grade – I had a ridiculous amount of fun with these students. Normally I don’t do well with the lower grades, but between the personalities in this group, and spending an hour with them each day at lunch and recess, class was an exhausting blast. And just to outright brag – I picked some pretty awesome program songs from the “Music K8” magazine. But these personalities are so big! I also tried using the Kodaly method, and they were such good sports! They’d even burst out singing “Bounce High” or “Hot Cross Buns” during transition times in class, which was usually cute.

Second Grade – Again, another cohort with lots of energy and personality! We did rounds, we did instruments, my ideas for doing work centers totally flopped, and we did plenty of dance time because they had energy to burn! I’m trying to wrap my mind around what it will be like to teach them recorders next year. Even though I had them when my lunch slump would hit, they could still get me excited.

Third Grade – Peter has said that he thinks I just really like this age group. They are goofy, unpredictable, and admittedly, pretty exhausting. But they do give me most of my stories to share when I get home. We managed to survive doing recorders for the whole year, and I basically discovered all the different ways to not teach it in the future. They did pull it together for a great performance, and I’m looking forward to doing more instruments with them next year. At the end of this year I’ve been doing bucket drumming, and they have never been so well-behaved and attentive in class!

Fourth Grade – This group was the most challenging this year, and it’s because I had a homeroom and a half – that’s a lot of students to teach all at once! I felt like I could never connect with them as well, because there were so many to keep my eyes on! They did a fantastic job with their performance (they’re really strong in the singing department).

Fifth Grade – We did jazz! It was fun! I ended up writing my own jazz history curriculum to use with them, spent hours listening to albums and watching videos, and it was great. Students were engaged, reflecting on how the musicians mirror their own lives, and while at the start of the year most of them didn’t like jazz, I think I won a few converts! They’re the cohort that I got to know the best last year, and it was fun to see that pay off in their brutal honesty during class this year.

Highlight of the Year:  Scrambling to organize a group to sing at the Rockies game in the fall!

Biggest Regret: Not getting to do as much composition and music reading across the grades.

Plans for Next Year: Continuing to build on the work this year in 1st and Kinder to make a K-2 Kodaly curriculum, then build a 3-5 instrument-based curriculum. Also build in more listening activities, since the kids loved the times we listened to music while coloring.

Overall, not bad for my second year of full-time teaching!

Denver Zoo Lights

Happy New Year! I hope that the holiday season gave you time to connect with friends and family, eat too much good food, and enjoy the things that matter most in life!

2017 for the blog is going to start out with another throw back – the Denver Zoo Lights! Peter and I are gradually creating a mental bucket list of things we want to see in Denver/Colorado/The West, and this made its way onto the list as soon as we first learned about it. For those who aren’t familiar with it, each December the Denver Zoo opens at night with amazing light displays through most of the grounds. I like lights, and I like zoos, so it seemed like the perfect date night!

We initially tried to go on a Saturday, which turned out to be a giant mistake. Despite what I do for a living, it didn’t occur to me that on a Saturday when it was above freezing the zoo would be filled with parents and tiny children. The traffic was backed up out to the main street. So instead we went and had dinner downtown and decided to try again on Sunday.

A slightly colder night, and a school night, was the combination we needed in order to find a parking spot! Unfortunately I couldn’t find the hand warmers at home, so we would just have to be tough about the cold. And after 2 hours, we were definitely cold, but it was an amazing experience. I was basically acting like a kid who happened to have a nice camera. Most animals aren’t out at night, but we did spot a rhino, a few penguins, a polar bear and an elephant! But rather than try to describe more of the experience, I’ll show you a few of my favorite pictures from the night!

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Entering the zoo!

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The Bigfoot area included sound effects of large footsteps in grass, a series of lighted footprints, then a few lights to make it look like Bigfoot was walking!

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The middle hippo has a name on it – Bert! Must be someone at the zoo is a fan of NCIS!

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To see the ones that didn’t make the highlight reel, you can view the full album here on my Flickr page

 

Colorado Christmas

When we got back from Thanksgiving break, Peter and I were really excited to get our apartment decorated for Christmas. We both remarked that this is the first time since we’ve been out of our parents’ homes that December actually felt like Christmas time. Normally the end of the semester would be so busy, you couldn’t stop to appreciate it. But having a home to decorate with a tree and lights. and a fireplace to top it all off, made this year feel so much different. Plus, our place in Colorado feels more like a home than any other apartment has, because we’re in it together.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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Yes, we have two Christmas trees! I gave this mini one to Peter as a gift one year.

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BB-8 was the first ornament we purchased together!

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