My 2015 Summer Reading List by Krista Boivie

The cupidity of honest things is not dishonest.
— Petrarch

I stumbled upon this quote during curriculum writing this summer, and it immediately struck me.  I did, however, have to look up what the word cupidity meant--excessive greed of material things. Petrarch, the 14th century Italian humanist writer, goes on to say: 

Gold, silver, diamonds, purple mantles, marble houses, cultivated gardens, paintings, adorned steeds, and all the other things of this kind, generate a mute and superficial pleasure. On the contrary, books delight deeply, they speak to us, they console us, and remain with us in a familiarity that is alive and witty.
— Petrarch

I thought these two quotes summed up my feelings as I reveled in some great books over the past two months.  This summer has been the busiest summer break I've had since I became a teacher.  With a combination of conferences, professional development, curriculum writing and unpacking boxes to set up a new high school I've only had brief periods of time off.  I tried to be strategic with my energy this summer because it is easier for me to manage my energy than my time.  Instead of binge watching Netflix (which I have been known to do in my down time), I decided to make it a summer full of reading. For my long time readers, have no doubt, I had a list of other projects that I worked on as well...I will have another post next week covering that topic.

Here is the full list of what I read from June until today.  I know I still have three weeks before school officially begins, but the number of items on my to-do list, coupled with the meetings I still have to attend make me think I probably won't any much more free time to do any additional "fun" reading. As someone that appreciates learning, this summer has been a feast of knowledge and growth. Books marked with an asterisk I have read before, but I decided to read this summer again.


Us: A Novel
I am a fan of David Nicholls after reading One Day, and so I was excited about this book. The story is about Doug and Connie on the verge of a divorce, who take one last family vacation through Europe before their son graduates from high school. I enjoyed that the story was told through the eyes of Doug. I would have liked to have had the perspective change between the spouses because I never understood Connie and the decisions she was making.

Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park is the second book I've read from Rainbow Rowell, and she has a way of hitting an emotional nerve with me, unlike most authors.  Eleanor and Park is about two teenagers who have a very untraditional love story.  Rowell's writing is true to the voice of teenagers, and I ached for the kids every moment of this story. (Caution: adult language)

On Golden Mountain
I wasn't sure where to list this book because it is based on fact, but it reads like a novel.  I was also under the impression that there were elements of the story that were embellished.  Written by Lisa See, this story is about the history of her Chinese relatives, and their triumphs and problems as they navigated life as immigrants in the U.S.  I found the discussion of culture, perspective, and adversity of the various family members really fascinating.

The Whites: A Novel
The Whites was a book club reading selection for March that I never got around to reading.  I was not a fan of the story. Richard Price and Harry Brandt tried too hard to make this crime novel gritty and edgy. I would have liked more development of the key players in the story so that when the climax came I would have cared how the story resolved itself. (Caution: adult language)

Kristin Lavransdatter: Book One - The Wreath
This epic Norweigan trilogy by Sigrid Unset was suggested to me by my brother Steven.  I only managed to get through the first book of the trilogy.  I normally love historical fiction, but I struggled to enjoy this book.  I found the development of the story both too slow and too quick.  It spent a lot of time focusing on details I considered unimportant and then not spending enough time developing more interesting elements of the story.  I will finish the trilogy and see if my feelings remain the same with the remaining two books.


Non-Fiction

Paris in Love: A Memoir
I love Paris, and so it doesn't take much to get me to read a book about the city. Written by Eloise James, the romance author, who spent a year living in the city with her husband and kids. Unlike a traditional memoir, this was written as little insights and thoughts. A quick, fun read that just made me long to travel again.

The Gifts of Imperfection; Daring Greatly; I Thought It Was Just Me
Brene Brown wrote all three books. Brown is an academic who has spent her career researching shame and vulnerability.  Although each of the books had a different approach, they were all thematically the same. I recognized myself in the books as someone who is a "busy-a-holic." I keep myself busy with projects and activities so that I won't have to address  the issues of vulnerability and occasional loneliness.  There were many lessons I learned, but I can't share them all so I would STRONGLY recommend reading any one of the books. The Gifts of Imperfection focused on how to create a wholehearted life.  Daring Greatly challenged me to rethink what it means to be a teacher and a leader.  In I Thought It Was Just Me, I realized that I work hard to create a carefully edited version of myself for the world because I spend so much energy wanting people to like me.  Instead, I just need to be authentic, real, honest and kind and not worry about how others perceive me.

Genghis Khan: Making of the Modern World
The Mongols are usually my students favorite topic in World History.  They are also a favorite of mine, and that is why I am surprised it took me so long to read this book.  It was given to me by a former student back in 2009. For anyone who is a history fan, I can guarantee you will find this a riveting book.  The story details not only the rise of Genghis Khan but also how his children & grandchildren created one of the most significant empires in history. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Jack Weatherford:

In American terms, the accomplishment of Genghis Khan might be understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of personality, charisma, and determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people, created an alphabet, wrote the constitution, established universal religious freedom, invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continents

The First 20 Hours
Josh Kaufman teaches in The First 20 Hours how to work on rapid skill acquisition.  His argument is that twenty well planned and prepared hours of practice is all that is required to become proficient at anything.  As someone that likes to collect skills and knowledge, I enjoyed the book.  I now have to determine what skill I want to acquire and implement his approach.  I think the best place to start would be learning how to play my guitar.  In 2011 I hand made an electric guitar as part of a professional development workshop at my high school, so it only seems fitting I should learn how to play it.

Flow
One of my favorite genres of books is business/leadership books.  Almost all of the business/leadership books I have read over the years have referenced this book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is about how to get in a state of perfect performance where time slows down, and you are in a "zone." Csikszentmihalyi says that the more flow experiences we can create the more enjoyment we will experience over our lives.  He says the elements that must be present to experience a flow state are:

  • participating in a challenging activity that requires skill
  • the activity should have clear goals and feedback
  • we must be able to maintain concentration
  • we need to feel as though there are elements within our control

Flow was a very different book, but I enjoyed the science and studies they used to illustrate and teach the principles of how to create flow states.

How to Take Charge of Your Life: The Users Guide to NLP
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming or the study of how to change our beliefs to control our emotions and negative thinking. Written in the form of a fable by Richard Bandler--it leads the reader through one of his 3-day NLP seminars. I hated the format of the book and would have preferred just a list of his exercises and how to practice them.  I am glad it was a free download, and I hadn't spent money on the book.  There were two visualization techniques I liked, and I think I will use with my students this fall.


Religious

To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson
Thomas S. Monson is the current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and this biography details how his entire life has been about service. If you are allowed to have a favorite apostle, President Monson has been my favorite since childhood.  I have always appreciated his use of true stories to teach gospel principles. I was awed by his tireless ability to seek out the One and demonstrate on a very personal level not only his love for the people he serves but also show God's love for his children.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ*
We were encouraged as a Ward congregation to read The Book of Mormon this summer. This summer as I read it I decided to focus on two ideas: faith and obedience.  Reading the words of the prophets, helped strengthen my testimony of this book of scripture--and increased my faith.


What were some of the books you read this summer? I would love your recommendations.

2015 Summer Travel - Part 1 by Krista Boivie

With a busy summer of work and curriculum development, I wanted to make sure that my limited time off would be both relaxing and productive.  I will tackle the productive side of my summer in a later post.  To address the relaxing part, I decided to visit some of my family.  My first stop was a quick 36-hour visit to my niece’s house (Tacoma, Washington) for the 4th of July. We had fun spending the afternoon wandering around near the water, and later that night showing her little 22-month son the beauty of fireworks. (He thought they were a bit too frightening).

The following day, I took a quick flight to Redmond, Oregon to visit my brother Greg and his family.  I had not seen them in 2 ½ years, and I couldn’t get over how much all my nieces and nephews have changed. I always love visiting Greg’s family because they enjoy having adventures.  We spent the first evening taking family pictures, but the rest of the week we went spelunking, bowling and took a trip to Crater Lake National Park.  Prior to this trip I had only ever driven through Oregon, so I loved that I got to see more of this beautiful state.   Crater Lake National Park was stunning, and although I decided to be prudent and not dive into the ice-cold water—I promised myself if I ever visited again I would take the plunge. Before I knew it, my time in Oregon was up, and I returned to Washington.

Crater Lake from a variety of perspectives and elevations.

Crater Lake from a variety of perspectives and elevations.

Taking the daring plunge into the icy waters!

Taking the daring plunge into the icy waters!

For the duration of my vacation, I returned to my niece’s house where we spent our days singing along with the Phantom of the Opera, planning a short vacation (in August) to New York City and playing with her two adorable sons. In the evenings, we pulled out the board games, and the adults enjoyed some challenging trivia and strategy games. I had a hard time saying goodbye to her gorgeous little boys, but until next time there is always Facebook.

I love his dimples!

I love his dimples!

It should be a crime to have such lovely blue eyes!

It should be a crime to have such lovely blue eyes!

What have you done this summer? Did you visit any family this summer?

Why I dislike the end of the school year by Krista Boivie

You would think that as a teacher, I would look forward to the end of the school year and the thought of 2 1/2 months of blissful relaxation during the summer.  I would be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy some of the time off, but as a whole it is not my favorite time of the year.  Here are five reasons why:

  1. I like my students. It is incredibly difficult to get a room full of teenagers to trust you, and then like you, and then try to get them to WANT to learn anything from you.  Repeat this six times for each class I teach, and you can begin to see my challenge.  The first half of the year is a lot of rigid routine and cajoling, but the second half of the year is traditionally fantastic. The students know my quirks and procedures, and I know them well enough that I can relax and start to have more fun with them.  
  2. I work just as hard in the summer. This summer I have three conferences to attend, eight days of professional development training, and ten days of curriculum writing. In addition I am transitioning to a brand new school in the fall, so later this summer there will be plenty of boxes to unpack and setting up to do to be ready for the first day of school.  In total I have 14 non-school related days free to do whatever I would like this summer, and I will probably be using that time to begin writing lessons for the three new classes I am teaching in the fall.
  3. Lack of structure makes it easy to be lazy. I work better when I have a long list of things to accomplish and a firm deadline.  Summertime gives me plenty of "time", but due to the lack of structure--I find that I procrastinate my work more frequently.
  4. I hate hot weather.  I think I might love the end of the school year if it happened in October and I had 2 1/2 months of cool weather to enjoy.  Instead we get the hottest days of the year which makes spending time outside no fun.
  5. Travel is more expensive. I love to travel and if you add in #4 on my list and the fact that EVERYONE else is traveling the prices of hotels, gas, flights, etc. are at their peak.  I don't want to spend my summer standing in long lines at amusement parks, swimming pools, and museums.

For all my teacher friends, what do you think?  Do you really love your summers?  I have never taught at a year-round school, but I think I would enjoy shorter breaks over a year longer than one huge chunk of time.  

Travels to the United Arab Emirates by Krista Boivie

This post is LONG overdue. I was selected to be a teacher delegate by the Dallas Fort-Worth World Affairs Council in January to travel to the United Arab Emirates.  The trip was over spring break (March 7-15, 2015) and it was an amazing experience. We spent the first five days in Abu Dhabi and the last three days in Dubai. The UAE is a great example of a traditional culture that has rapidly embraced all things modern without losing sight of who they are and what they value. 

The UAE embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Crown Prince Court sponsored the trip and they spared no expense as we stayed in beautiful hotels and ate amazing food.  The trip was sensational and I learned so much about the culture, people, and education system.  Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip.  Heads up there are LOTS of pictures.

Our beautiful hotel, St. Regis...we actually had butler service!

Our beautiful hotel, St. Regis...we actually had butler service!

Enjoying the beach

Enjoying the beach

Delicious Thai food

Delicious Thai food

Zayed University

Zayed University

Seeing through Light, a special art exhibit at the Guggenheim

Seeing through Light, a special art exhibit at the Guggenheim

another art exhibit

another art exhibit

one of my favorite meetings of the trip. Hedayah is a think tank working on solving the problem of violent extremism.

one of my favorite meetings of the trip. Hedayah is a think tank working on solving the problem of violent extremism.

Traditional Emerati restaurant

Traditional Emerati restaurant

the very cool tech city - Masdar Institute

the very cool tech city - Masdar Institute

more from Masdar

more from Masdar

Can I go back to college and attend NYU - Abu Dhabi?

Can I go back to college and attend NYU - Abu Dhabi?

some of the fun architecture

some of the fun architecture

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Interiors of the mosque

Interiors of the mosque

Our hotel in Dubai

Our hotel in Dubai

My other favorite stop on the trip the Sheikh Mohammad Center for Cultural Understanding

My other favorite stop on the trip the Sheikh Mohammad Center for Cultural Understanding

Dubai at night

Dubai at night

view from the hotel

view from the hotel

Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world

Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world

Sunset from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Sunset from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Sunrise from my hotel room

Sunrise from my hotel room

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab

Falconry show on our desert tour

Falconry show on our desert tour

Driving through the sand dunes

Driving through the sand dunes

More fun on our desert tour

More fun on our desert tour

Final sunset in the UAE

Final sunset in the UAE

The trip was sensational and I will be posting a link to the completed travel book within the next week, so you can see even more photos and read about some of the things we did.  I can't wait to return in the future

Secret Recipe by Krista Boivie

The Frisco Stake had their annual Women's Conference today and I had the pleasure of serving on the planning committee.  The theme this year was "Walk in the Paths of Virtue." The classes that I attended were all excellent and it was a really uplifting day.  

One of my tasks on the planning committee was to serve on the lunch sub-committee.  It took a while to figure out what to serve and how to calculate food for 200 women.  Although at times it was a little daunting, I learned a lot about food calculations.  Ultimately, we decided to serve turkey wraps from Costco, fruit salad, rolls, poppy-seed spinach salad and cupcakes.

Due to the overwhelming demand for the salad, I have attached below the modified recipe we served, but if you would like to see the original posting, click here.  It really was delicious and I am definitely going to have to try out the Poppyseed dressing on more salads.

Cranberry Apple Pecan Salad with Creamy Poppyseed Dressing

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Apples, chopped
  • ½ cup crumbled Feta Cheese
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • Creamy Poppyseed Dressing:
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup 2% milk
  • 2 ½ Tablespoons Sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons poppyseeds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, toss baby spinach, pecans, apples, feta cheese, and cranberries.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, sugar, cider vinegar, and poppyseeds. Pour over the salad and toss to coat.
  3. Serve salad immediately and garnish with more feta cheese if desired.