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Notable Quotables from the Moleskine

I keep a bulletjournal, that’s kind of like a MASH-UP of my whole life.  I do daily to-do lists which are less overwhelming than they sound.  I write my favorite quotes from the books I’m reading, grocery lists, recipes I find on the interwebs for crockpot goodness, goal lists and project maps.  Basically, just everything.

Something I’ve done since high school is keep a collection of quotes from the things that I’ve read. In high school, most of them wound up taped to my vanity mirror, but a lot of them were hidden on little scraps of paper from my purse (mostly receipts). Some small fragments I tuck into my wallet as a reminder.  I got one tattooed on my shoulder when I just finished college.  A few I write on envelopes to my lovely pen pals, but almost all of them end up in a journal, whichever one is dominant that day.  I used to have a tiny little notebook that I hid in a sock drawer for quotes, but then I found that I needed to carry them around on my day to day missions.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a long story just to say that I find so much power in the written word that I have to copy it down and carry it around.  Some girls carry lipstick, I carry words.  Some girls collect shoes, I collect letters put together like a math equation until they’re meaningful.  So, in an effort to blog more than book reviews, I want to share a quote every week from whatever I’m reading and kind of explain it’s meaning to me and how I think it can influence the society that I live in.

Currently, I’m reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I’m not quite sure how to summarize where I am, but there are four voices (organized by chapter) and the one that is talking/thinking in this chapter is Olanna who dates Odenigbo.  Olanna is from a wealthy family in Nigeria and Odenigbo is a college professor in Africa that very much wants to support Nigerian values, but also bring Nigeria to a culturally aware world that is not dependent on British expectations and British rules.  In this part, Odenigbo’s mother comes to visit and basically gives Olanna the “what for,” and tells her that she’s no good for her son and needs to go away.

Odenigbo: “Nkem, my mother’s entire life is in Abba.  Do you know what a small bush visage that is? Of course she will feel threatened by an educated woman living with her son. Of course you have to be a with.  That is the only way she can understand it.  The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 7.13.12 PMI think this quote is beyond powerful.  It blends the idea of gender roles and gender expectations with class roles and class expectations with cultural roles and cultural expectations.  It’s a big hodgepodge of influence.  In a world where women are still supposed to be the virtuous part of a working relationship, and certain religions look down on others for the “looseness” of their women, this quote outlines a generational gap as well as a cultural gap in a time of growth on this continent.  In some countries women aren’t even allowed to leave the house without a man and must have men testify in court on their side in order to defend a rape allegation, this quote shows the bias of a mother when she’s forced to reconcile with a woman who breaks the expectations. Olanna is living with her lover without the “benefit of clergy” (as my Catholic confirmation sponsor would call it).

However, this isn’t even the most commanding part of the quote.  Odenigbo manages to wrap up my feelings on poverty, and colonialism, and culture clashing, and third world vs. first world in one quick sentence.  How can people from one culture waltz in and dominate another without giving the initial culture the resources and advantages to live in this new world.  First off, what does it mean to be “civilized?” And who’s right is it to decide that? Then, when one group of people is “civilized” a la Things Fall Apart, there’s no real way to do this without playing dirty.  If someone walked up to me tomorrow and told me my whole life was a sham and I need to live a different way, I would laugh in their face and walk in my mall jeans home.

Nonetheless, colonialism has happened in our world and once it has happened, what is the role of the “conquerer” to help the “conquered” deal with the new values, new rules, new expectations.  In poverty training at my old teaching county we were taught that all department stores are marketed and made-for middle class people.  What must these stores feel like to those that are loudly rich, or those that are severely poor? How can we make a world work where everyone feels at home navigating the waves and the issues of that world, where everyone is allowed to troubleshoot?  How do we even teach this? I’m constantly asking myself this question as a teacher and I’m constantly mulling it over in my head as a human.  That’s why I find the power of these words so successful.

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And as a teacher, here are some essential questions I find relevant to this topic:

  1. How do individuals reconcile competing belief systems within a given society (e.g., moral beliefs conflicting with legal codes)?
  2. What are the politics and consequences of war, and how do these vary based on an individual or cultural perspective?
  3. How does literature reveal the values of a given culture or time period?
  4. What does it mean to be an insider or an outsider?
  5. How do decisions, actions, and consequences vary depending on the different perspectives of the people involved?

BYON: Build Your Own Nook (on a budget).

The door knob to my book nook glowing in books.

The door knob to my book nook glowing in books.

I have a shed in my backyard that hasn’t been gifted with my whimsy yet, but this weekend, my Mom and I added whimsy to a seemingly useless closet in my library.  AND IT WAS RELATIVELY EASY.  Unlike Wiki-how, I don’t have a set rule of instructions, but my Mom got everything we bought on sale except for a cute coffee mug shelf ($9 at Lowes) and the shelves that we used as the seating area (Target).

So, here’s a (po’ man’s) instruction manual on turning a closet into a reading nook.  Good for any age of imagination.

lampFirst, we painted the closet one solid color because it was dirty, and smelled of old coats.  And we get enough smell from used books that we don’t need someone’s pocket lint looming over our experience.  I had this creamy beige that I had left over from painting my living room so we used that.  And since there’s no light in a closet, it brought out the natural light in the room.  I painted above the shelf and the entire top of the closet, Irish Green because we got a $3 can of it at Lowes that someone had returned.  My dad found this eccectic, antique globe lantern at the thrift store.


Chevron wallpaper and painted door

After that, my Mom bought $14 chevron wallpaper at Target and we wallpapered the back wall for a statement as well as the bottom of the shelf that was already in the closet.   It was a sticky process, but it was a stick and re-peel, so every time we messed up we just tried, tried again.  My Mom and I don’t have passed-down patience genes so it was pretty funny to watch, I’m sur.   I recommend not getting wallpaper that’s geometric.  I would love to make another one of these in my future that has like vintage stationary/vintage parisian wallpaper.   I also painted the door using blue tape with a purple can of Valspar that was on sale for $1 and a can of pink that was on sale for $3.  I wanted to make the door really funky fresh so it felt like you were walking into a different world when you went in.  I think I was successful in that although we have like nine patterns going on.

My Mom had already picked out a cushion from Pier One ($19.98) to sit on.  We tried to design around the pillow when we were thinking of what to do.  Obviously, she let me just go insane with the door.


Cheery Blossom Wall Decal ($9 @ Target)

I had the feather pillows already and we just liked the way they fit.  My Mom also picked up a pretty wall decal at Target and we put it on the wall that I would look at while I’m reading.

We put a few final touches on it, and overall it was a really awesome project to do together.  There’s a corner shelf where I can put coffee and the bookshelves (2) we bought to sit on, we turned sideways so they would fit “stuff” aka “more books.” I’ve stacked my TBR pile in there and one of my favorite elephants from my Dad.  Here is the “almost” final reading nook.

This also is an exclamation that there’s no limit to your bookishness folks.  There are no caves too damp, or clouds too light for your bookish flavor.  It can always grow.

Fro REALLY likes the nook.

Fro REALLY likes the nook.


A full view of the (almost) finished product.


Back To School // Make You Drool

I’ve done a lot of Bookish Gift Guides over the years, but I’m going to mix it up today.  I keep getting a million Labor Day sale emails.  I can’t resist when they ask for your email for coupons, even though a few days ago I went through and unsubscribed from everything that never gets opened.  I decided that a lot of my students were graduating and learning how to function in a cubicle/closet of a dorm.  Plus, isn’t it just fun to buy school supplies? Or home office supples? Or just organization cubbies because they usually have all kinds of funky patterns and matchy-matchy themes?

So, here it is: THE BACK TO SCHOOL // MAKE YOU DROOL Gift Guide


Dorm rooms, home offices, and students should be surrounded by inspiration.  Inspiration these days comes from quotes, and signs on Pinterest, Etsy, and Tumblr.  When I was in high school, I printed Tumblr quotes and taped them to my mirror so I could be surrounded by goodness (or what I thought were deep quotes about people not understanding who I am). Now, scotch tape isn’t needed, nails and hammers are.

Signage from Etsy

Signage from Etsy

My favorite use of signage is this photo from Birch & Bird Vintage Home Interiors.  It’s bright and a tad Southern with the monogram M flower wheel.  And it includes my next must have – Inspiration Boards.

Birch & Bird Home Interiors


Inspiration boards are like tangible versions of Pinterest.  Anything you find that inspires you in a magazine, a book (I’ve been known to rip pages, I know, I’m awful), postcards, receipts from movies or dinner where deep conversations were had, or just trinkets.  My inspiration board in my childhood bedroom used to have a Nazar (to ward off evil) just because I thought it was a good totem.  It can truly be anything that breathes inspiration into you.

Some of these inspiration board options are pretty expensive.  My advice is to find a flea market, a shop of stalls filled with wood pieces, a store of vintage finds, a Habitat for Humanity Resource Center, and just find something to DIY.

Inspiration Boards on Etsy

Inspiration Boards on Etsy

I have a few favorite offices with inspiration boards.  The first is from Tumblr (La-Belle-Vie).  I wish I could give credit to the actual person who owns this quaint office space, but here’s the beautiful image. This office is ALL about the inspiration board.  It makes the room, and shows that inspiration boards done right, don’t need to have expensive, luxury furniture.

Tumblr Image @ La-Belle-Vie

The next one is all about color.  It actually looks like a kitchen to me. Maybe it was a kitchen, or those spices just have something going on.  I have a shed in my backyard that I inherited from the last owner.  I would LOVE to make it into a home office, but my fear of snakes and my disgust at scratching mosquito bites until they bleed keeps me out of there.  A girl can dream though.   I think this one is all about organization and paint.

Decobiz Inspiration Office

Then, there’s “decorative clutter” on Pinterest. Wish I knew who had that adorable bench, but again, Pinterest doesn’t really cater to copyright.

“Decorative Clutter” (If this is your image, email me)

I mean, come on, guys, there’s a J.Crew bag up there. Inspiration can come from anything, anywhere, anytime.


I believe desks are where writers, readers, and business professionals can really be themselves.  My creative writing teacher in high school had a taxidermy crocodile head on his desk and we never got the story behind it, but I remember that head being a reason why I really liked him as a teacher.  My dad has clay-wrinkled sculptures that I made in elementary school art and expensive pen holders from his time in management.  My desk at school has two plants: Laverne (philodendron) and Shirley (cactus wearing red flower bow).  It also has a draw-it-yourself frame so my students can let of steam by drawing when they need to.  Desks are for momentos, trinkets, and thingamabobs (thanks, Little Mermaid). If you need a little inspiration, here’s some fun.

Desk Accessories

Desk Accessories

My favorites around the internet are as follows:

This is from OCM BLOG

I just really like the hour glass (PINK HOUR GLASS YES) and the mason jar of paperclips, and the adorable white frames.  It’s just an eclectic mix of colors and pictures.

This is from DIY Enthusiasts

A lamp goes a LONG way and so do fresh flowers.  Who needs a significant other to buy them flowers, Walmart has a bin right by the door – GET YOU SOME, GIRL.

This is from Lovable Lockets

Sometimes the best place to be “girly” isn’t your closet, it’s your desk.  I love this desk design from Lovable Lockets.  It makes me feel feminine, fresh, and modern.

Now I have to go off and stare at my “study” and try to figure out how I can new & improve it into an eclectic, whimsy, genius center.  I’ll take pictures and share when I think I’ve got it where I want it.

Bringing the World to My Classroom

In Medias Res:

Last year, I covered a whole wall in salmon roll paper. And then I took white roll paper and crumpled it up as a trim.  It was cute for approximately 9 days.  (And then someone told me it looked like toilet paper).


Cassie in various seasons of salmon.

Cassie in various seasons of salmon.

It just didn’t feel right.

As I look to this new year and a whole new class (World Literature), I thought I would spice it up (literally, my students should be introduced to both Mexican food and Asian fusion, maybe even sushi).  Which is why I was compiling pictures from Instagram’s around the world at 2 am. I scrolled through @humansofny and their current 10-country trip through most of the Middle East and parts of THE CONTINENT of Africa.  There are so many people, ya’ll.  There are “humans of” in a lot of countries, cities, and places of interest.  I found quotes from people that mapped worlds in their ideas.  With world literature on the horizon, a grade level up, and a first-time EOC (not a common exam), I needed a way to immediately introduce the world to my students. And that’s what this classroom is.  It’s the world into focus:

My desk area.

My desk area.

Party in the front AND the back.

The class motto this year is, “A tiger does not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.” My students are always worried about the haters, but in this class, AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. The only plant I’ve ever been able to grow indoors is on that desk.  As you can see, she’s Rapunzeling.  Her name is Laverne.  Shirley is the cactus with the flower bow in her hair.

Guys…I made these bulletin boards with dollar tablecloths from Walmart and Duct tape.  Because no one ever said you had to spend a million dollars to make your classroom cute.  Use what you have, and believe it can be pretty.

Good People

Good People

On my desk, I keep an assortment of unwashed mugs, dried out dry erase markers, a math standards lesson manual (because I like the way she puts emphasis on standards), a recommendation mug from my coworker, a hand-colored mug from said coworker’s child, and there are probably at least four dried-yogurt-remnant spoons in my desk that I still need to bring home.  Pictures of my parents are on my filing cabinet, not taped to my desk folder holder.

Weekly Jotter

Weekly Jotter

Because I get really overwhelmed, really quickly, I only jot things down by the week.  If I do anything more than that I will be the train, the tracks, and the person trying to be smashed at the station.

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My favorite thing about my classroom update is my HUMANS OF THE WORLD WALL. I stole this idea straight from @humansony and found pictures of real people from all over the world and real things that they said.  I want my students to know that other people are struggling, or other people are shining and just because you’re in a place, doesn’t mean you have to be that place.

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My mom made the HUMANS OF THE WORLD wall. She’s quite blurry, but my Mom has told me from diapers that the most important thing a person can carry is kindness.

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A bit of a detailed look at the mapping and the taping, and the pinning.



Anne Frank made the wall along with a few other famous people, Mark Twain, Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, and Nelson Mandela.  I still need a few people from South America if anyone can point me in the direction of a wonderful story/quote/phrase and the person behind that profoundness.

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This used to be the poetry corner, until it became the corner where my students stuck all their notes to me. And what can I say, I love them and I love the love. It also has a great poem by Dorianne Laux called “Savages.”  I got that chair at Habitat for Humanity and it has always been a winner, winner, chicken dinner in my classroom.

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Bookshelf Number 1 (Other not pictured, but huge).

I hoard all the tissue paper quotes that I could possibly find.  This one says, “Look closely at the present you are constructing.  It should look like the future you are dreaming.” Alice Walker said that because she’s a child of hard work.  The map next to the tissue paper poster is the literary map of North Carolina.

That is my classroom this year.  I hope it breeds an understanding of the world, and in it breathes children who try to understand and try to cultivate a personhood where they don’t look down on other people for their cultures, their belongings, or their patch of land. I know, officially, that I will be reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (YES YES YES) and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  Send good vibes our way.

Project 365 | Week 36

Day 251:

(This is the day that I didn’t take a picture, oops)

Day 252:

It’s so tiring being this handsome.

My ego was tired today so I just didn’t do my hair.

Day 253:

Strawberry White Chocolate Bread

When you have to fend for yourself, pinterest is your best friend.  It’s been taste test approved.

Extended Cut.

Taste tested, cat approved. (Unfortunately).

Day 254:

Oh, you wanted Mermaid nails?

Mermaid Nails = Complete

In first grade I learned that mixing pink and blue makes purple.  Thus, we have mermaid nails.

Day 255:

Kitten Kisses

I thought I’d never love another furry thing as much as I love Jasper, but now two hairballs have my heart.

Day 256:

Two tweets from yesterday

Two things you should know: I’m fascinated by cheetah print slugs (I typed sluts there the first time accidentally, har har), and I must own the cat poetry collection.  Look for a review in a few weeks.

Day 257:

Raise your hand if….

you do laundry on Sunday’s.  Isn’t it just the best day to smell fresh, hot clothes while you watch NFL football and hope you stomp in fantasy.

Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • ulysses moore book map: Earlier this week I read an awesome blog about introductions.  The way that Hazel introduces herself by saying, “I don’t read books with maps.” One: I totally want to be her friend and two: I don’t read books with family trees in the beginning.  Oh, how I wish that were true.  I tend to loathe books with family tree lines, but I still pick them up and hope for the best.  Why do we torture ourselves so? And do you have an absolute NO for certain things in books?  Awkward font.  Bad script.  No author bio at the end that talks about their inevitable two kids.  What’s your anti-obsession.
  • yard ornaments to make: I recommend papier-mache flamingos and play-doh gnome couples or just search pinterest because I guarentee three-hundred and seven other women have wondered this same thing.
  • one gleaming image to tell the truth of what is hunting us: I decided against googling this because I didn’t want to find out it was a chunk of a quote, or part of a poem because that would ruin the beauty of this line.
  • harry potter wedding invitations: SEND EVERYONE WANDS BY OWL.
  • beauty and the beast library:
  • pregnancy blog week 22: You know that commercial for EPT where the woman says, “I want to be a mother, just not yet,” and EPT comes up and it says “erase panic today.”  I thought that’s actually what EPT stood for, for a whole day.  If that shows you anything about how close this blog is to a pregnancy blog, there you go.

Book News:

Project 365 | Week 22

Day 148 | Monday

Built in 1888. Part of the National Seashore

Here’s what the blurb at the national seashore said: “Can you believe the building in front of you is the one in this photo?  It has had many lives.  Built as a Life-Saving station in 1888 it was absorbed into the newly created US Coast Guard in 1915.  The next year the Coast Guard moved it 70 feet to make room for a new station.  From 1919 through World War II it served as a barracks for naval radio navigation operators.  Finally, in 1957 it was sold as surplus and moved here, where it became a residence.  After years of service as a lifesaving station it seems only fitting that the building’s life has been saved too, preserved as part of the national seashore.” (Thanks Amy for taking some of these photos too).

When I was away for Memorial Day we visited an old town on an island near Cape Lookout.  Years ago it was evacuated due to Hurricanes.  The only problem with making the residence leave, and later move was that their hundred year lease was not up yet.

Day 149 | A Tuesday

Kindergarten Report Card

In rummaging boxes for paperwork about my life (ah, bank companies) my dad found my kindergarten report card.  It seems my love of reading started at an early age.

Day 150 | A Wednesday

He isn’t always a poser.

Sars got me a cat lady shirt on impulse.  The only way to wear a cat lady shirt is to hair it up with cat mane, thus, this happened.

Day 151 | A Thursday

Doing my first pinterest DIY

Yep, I’m one of the 1% that is actually creating something off of pinterest.  I’m also planning my wedding, my floral arrangements, tomorrow’s outfit and breakfast, my future bathroom design, and how to do a “summer bun.”

Earlier this week, I had to teach my teens what “it’s” meant, rather than “its.”  I also had to teach them how to spot a fragment and a run-on.  It was two hours of one-on-one tutoring using a 2009 EOC test.

I’m angry with my teens for being rowdy and not paying attention in class.  I’m angry with those stupid grammar workbooks that teach students NOTHING.  (I know because I had to use a few throughout high school and then teach myself grammar basics in college just to be able to write a functioning paper).  And, I’m angry with educators who haven’t engrained the differences between there, their, and they’re to these students.  (Please ignore my use of “and” as a sentence starter, I like to write like I speak).

One of my teens writes poetry in his free time; he loves English.  Why does he have an F?

Day 152 | A Friday

Inspector Gadget

We went to the new wing of the NC Museum of Natural Science and it was probably the coolest (and I use that word lightly because it makes me want to put my thumb in the air and yell, “rad!”) museum I’ve ever been in. I saw an actual dinosaur bone, and an actual chip of Mars.  We studied enlarged germs while Jack asked what they all did (most of them ate things…).

Sludge Scientist

Magnifying the tubes of sludge.

First genetically modified pet in the US.

These are glowfish.  Scientists took the glow gene from certain corals, and certain jellyfish and injected it into these tiny finned creatures.  If anyone ever asks you what the US has given the world, announce with pride, “THE GLOWFISH.”

Day 153 | A Saturday

Stanky Leg

My cat with half-kangaroo feet.

Day 154 | A Sunday

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

I bought a new mirror at the flea market yesterday.  This doesn’t show it off at all, but rather my evil queen face.  I saw Snow White and the Huntsman yesterday and you should see it.  Every girl can relate to an evil queen who has been “ruined by men.”  Are we all not unhinged at one point?

Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

I just love this question because it’s a good one.  We all keep books on our nightstand (or in my case the poor-girls book basket by the bed) or on our bookshelves in our rooms, but where else?  Do you like to read meta-fiction by the toilet, or magical realism in the kitchen?

(I’m just really hoping Miss Bolden ended on “bud.”)

Favorite Search Terms:

  • mona lisa with cat: I just love that you came to my blog with this.  It seems I am discussing the right things.
  • books that have food contests: You’re looking for the State Fair.  Look for the red and white checked picnic table cloth.
  • the cat lady book by roald dahl: How is it that I had never heard of this before this search term came up?  Disappointed in myself.
  • how to decorate a love poem: You do this with gushy sentimentalities.
  • what is a catchy title for a science fair project about recycling paper?: I got nothin’.  Anyone have anything?
  • ninja takes out the trash: is he wearing all black? did he have to judu-chop the lid?

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • library bingo card: I’d like to come to this church’s bingo night.  Hoo-ha!
  • spinster chotskies: I just love that someone came to my blog with this.  It almost defines me as a cat lady.
  • how to talk to your mother notes: I love talking to my mother.  In fact this morning, I cried as soon as I woke up over something ridiculous and she was like “why are you crying?” and I said, “it’s too early for this, wah.”
  • picture of 2 girls in petticoats and a boy reading a book with footstool with basket of daisies on it?: this sounds adorable.  You should decorate your child’s room with this.

Book News:

Project 365 | Week 9

This week is once again about my cat.

Day 56 | Rabbit Foot

Remember when you were in seventh grade and you carried that purple rabbit foot key chain on the bottom strap of your backpack.  And you thought you had all the luck in the world; you practically bathed in fortune cookies and your horoscopes were always aligned in the stars.  Then,  a women in your memoir class writes a piece about stunning rabbits with her fist, skinning each alive and slipping the fur off like pajamas.  Rabbit feet are not cool anymore, but my cat has no choice but to be part rabbit, part beast.

Day 57 | Pinterest Recipes

One of my goals for this year was to actually create things that I find on pinterest instead of just planning my make-believe life.  Pinterest recipe trial #1: Mexican Pizza.

Day 58 | Spring Sidewalk

March 1st: Spring had already come, and drooped.  Petals in puddles on my run.

Day 59 | Cave Men

On Wednesday, my dad and boy had an epic battle over steak sizes, over text messages.  Let me rephrase that, on Wednesday, I was sent back to the time of the cave.  This is the picture that came of it.


It was the last “Cooking with Cass” this week at the teen center.  We made nachos. Of course when I say “No Guns” in pictures, boys get their finger ammunition ready.

Day 61 | Creek Bed

Once I tried to pee behind a bush back here and out of nowhere appeared a snake.  Don’t worry, I didn’t have a chance to show it any moons.

Day 62 | Auto Zone: Where Men Go to Hang Out.

My dad has announced I’m officially an adult because I can go into Auto Zone by myself for my oil change supplies.  Now if I could just perform that oil change.