Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Week!

It is Teacher Week over at Blog Hoppin' and as my girl Babbling Abby would say, I am 12 kinds of hooked! I was up embarassingly late last night reading teacher blog after teacher blog and all was right in my world. Let's just say.. I ended up starting my own teaching blog and Jeff was waking up when I was going to bed. Oops! It's that time of year, folks! :) 

You're probably thinking.. she started a teaching blog?? She can't even update her regular blog!! True. However, the teacher blog world is seriously exploding and I NEED to be a part of it. I've been linking up to posts with literally hundreds of teachers around the country, sharing best practices, funny stories, and starting legitimate friendships with these girls. Add that to the SERIOUS loot that ended up in my car today from Target, Walmart, and Staples, and you've got yourself a teacher that is R-E-A-D-Y to go to back to school. Well, except for the fact that I found out this morning (which was already super late to begin working on my class) that my room is off limits because the hallway isn't finished. I'm sorry, what??? School starts in one week and I don't get paid to go in early. So instead, I shopped til I dropped with a serious plan and a serious budget. I will post over on my new teaching blog, which is Diary of a Fifth Grade Teacher, in case you are wondering, with the details of my shopping trip because I think that only another teacher could appreciate the wholesome goodness that is taking over the trunk of my car.

This also may be the first and last time I link the two blogs because I'm not sure how I feel about the two overlapping. However, my classroom makeover WILL be making an appearance on this blog because I'm pretty sure I will have THE coolest classroom of all this year. I have a total overhaul planned and I have less than 12 hours to get 'er done. Yikes!

Teachers everywhere would cringe at that last sentence because anyone with a classroom, and perhaps those without, knows that you can't unstick 30 desks off a waxed floor (with your hips because nothing else works!), climb a pile 25 chairs deep, move said chairs, desks and tables back to where I left them when school got out, go through three cabinets of locked supplies hidden from summer school people, take down four bulletin boards, rehang four bulletin boards, create a math & science word wall, update state standards with the Common Core standards, oh yeah, and write complete lesson plans with activities for the first three days of school, in 12 hours. I need a nap just thinking about it! But oh. my. word. I am so excited about the changes that will be taking place in my classroom this year. Teacher Week got the spark ignited and it is a beautiful thing.

I would also like to take a moment to make the following announcement:

Even though I have lotsa goodies lined up to be automatically scheduled, I would like to officially declare this Wedding Week here at Life, Love, Dinner! This is the best time because I figure, I am so crazy occupied with Teacher Week that Wedding Week is the only thing that will make me want to leave!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to our regularly scheduled program

Summer is winding down and I have been SO busy y'all! I have just discovered that I can schedule my posts to publish at a later date and boy, do I have some great posts lined up! They include day trips, a bachelorette weekend & a co-ed vacation, the first of many DIY wedding projects, (hopefully) a classroom makeover, WEDDING WEEK!, and more. The bff's wedding pics are FINALLY up and I plan on having myself a grand old time highlighting all of the gorgeous details that she included on her special day. So while I'm soaking up the last days of summer, bloggy here should be catching everyone up on my whereabouts over the past few weeks. LOVE it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Late Bloomer

Somebody's thumb is turning green! It's about time, too, because a couple of weeks ago, my thumbs actually turned brown. No kidding. Too much time in the sun one week and I had spotty brown thumbs. Not cool.

It is probably true that our hydrangeas have acid reflux from the abundance of lime I poured in the soil, as indicated by the brown spots on the leaves. (Maybe I have acid reflux, too?) The lime is supposed to bring out the rich shades of blue and I NEEDED those baby blues. But.. my hydrangeas are still alive! Not only are they still alive but we have our first gorgeous bloom! A singleton! Our neighbors probably think there is something wrong with us because I keep going outside to look at it and then yell for Jeff to come look at it, while grabbing my camera. I then fight the urge to cut the thing and throw it in a mason jar. I almost wish I were kidding about all this, but it's 100% true.

I really need to figure out the chipmunk situation we are having because if one of those devilish cuties kill my only flower, I may need to take out the entire population. I keep finding holes close to the root of the plant and in the mulch. They have even mustered the courage to dig up my school plants that are temporarily living on the front porch and we all know how I am with repotting plants The only solution that I've found includes a ramp and a bucket of water. We all know I would never be so cruel but they need to get a life.

While my solitary bloom is impressive, here's the real whopper of green thumb proof. Last year, we received a beautiful potted calla lily plant as a housewarming gift. I'm not sure why I receive so many plants as gifts. When the plant started dying, which was to be expected under my care, I began pulling the dead leaves off but the whole stem kept coming with. After I nearly ripped the whole thing out, I finally hit up Google. I discovered that apparently these are bulbs and I was to cut the stems and put the plant in a dry dark place and then pull it back out in the spring. Off to the garage it went until I discovered it when I took out the recycling, sometime in July. Um, happy spring! Well, there was a little green sprout in there even thought there was no sunlight or water.

I put it out on the counter and watered it and lo and behold, it grew. Then it grew some more. It won't stop.

It's actually a little out of control and experiencing some serious phototropism. (The adaptation that plants make when their stems bend towards the sunlight. I only know this because I am a science teacher, obviously not because of what a stellar gardener I am.) Like the rest of my plants that are supposed to flower, there's not a single bloom. Still, I am so impressed that I may buy another plant. Fall is coming and mums sounds nice to me. Perhaps I should get the pot that has been sitting in the garage since November. Maybe that is blooming, too! :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summertime and the chili's simmering..

I am fully aware that there is still technically well over a month of summer left. The central air is on, the hydrangeas are (finally) starting to bloom, and we have a freezer full of italian ice. However, I made chili twice in the past week and there is not a leftover in sight.

Chili is a big hit in our house and I'm proud to say that the reason is not because I don't know how to cook anything else, although it used to be. We have both been itching for the first signs of fall and this was it. If you could see the look on Jeff's face when I tell him that I'm making chili, you would know that all is right in the world.

I usually make it on the stovetop but since I've fallen in love with my Crockpot (and stopped being afraid to leave it on while I wasn't home) I've discovered a whole new world. This the easiest recipe to begin with but when you throw the Crock in the mix, it's not even fair. I know that I'm a bit late to the party but I'm not sure how I lived so long without owning one of these badboys. My dear Crock was inherited from my future mother in law and I'm hoping we'll get another when we get married because there's no telling what I could do with two Crockpots going on the counter. I digress..

Before Jeff was diagnosed with Celiac, I used the chili seasoning packet from Ortega or McCormick. Since this was pre-diagnosis, I wasn't checking labels but after buying a life time supply at BJ's, I realized that one of the first ingredients was wheat. On a quest to bring normalcy back to our kitchen, I decided to make my own seasoning. WHAT. A. DIFFERENCE. Jeff said that my chili is not only my best meal but his all-time favorite meal. This is a great compliment, even from a man who will eat anything you put in front of him without coming up for air.

Chili Seasoning

Adapted from All Recipes


4 tsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper or 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. white sugar
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix all seasonings well. Add 2 tbsp. for every pound of ground meat.

This will make enough for two batches, but double, triple, as necessary. I make a huge batch and put it in a jar so that I can just scoop out what I need. I also tweak the salt and sugar when I'm making larger batches. I just dip my finger in the seasoning to see if it is too sweet or salty and modify as necessary.



1 pound ground turkey
32 oz. can crushed tomatoes
16 oz. can tomato sauce (plain)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 medium sized tomato, chopped
16 oz. can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
16 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup salsa
Frank's Red Hot sauce (optional)

1. Brown turkey on stovetop until fully cooked and drain the fat.

2. Move the turkey to a large pot on stovetop or the crock pot. Add canned tomatoes, kidney beans, salsa, onion, tomato, and seasoning. Stir well.

3. Simmer on low for at least 30 minutes on stovetop or 4-5 hours in Crock pot. Add Frank's Red Hot to taste after it has simmered a bit. Too much too soon and it will be really spicy!

To make this kid-friendly, adjust the spices.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oh, so random.

We have been busy around here! I thought that by not working in July, I would be able to enjoy August with no stress and no checklist. Nope! Luckily though, when I'm not at appointments, exercising (because I've seriously done a lot of that this summer), or running errands, I've been hanging with this crazy little girl

and snuggling with my sweet kitty

Last week, my sweet baby Princess, went in for surgery to have a mammary tumor removed and get some teeth pulled. To say that I was a nervous wreck, is an understatement. She is recovering well and although she is usually a big snuggler, she has been looking for lots of extra loving, and I am eating it right up!

I was able to knock a couple of big items off of my wedding to-do list, which is a HUGE relief! A couple of more things to do before I head back to school and we are right on track! 8 months! :)

Speaking of school... we start up in three weeks and as usual, I have mixed emotions. I love the beginning of the school year, the new kids, the new supplies, oh, how I love the supplies! I also love the fall. If the Fall in New England was a drug, I would not be able to get enough. It is almost embarassing how many fall scented Yankee Candles I am about ready to bust out of the cabinet. At this point, I'm just about ready to kiss summer goodbye. As much as I really needed this time away from working with kids, the free time can be a killer. What is there to do when everybody else is working? Endless errands, cleaning, and eating, that's what. This is the first summer that I didn't work, so it is going to be difficult to get used to waking up at the crack of dawn again, grading and planning in my free time, and only having a couple of hours to get anything done.

I already knew that I was being a terrible blogger due to my lack of entries, but I was also informed of it this weekend. (I'm looking at you, Donna :) My biggest fan!) It's just so hard sometimes! I am currently addicted to teaching blogs and have been spending more time reading than writing. I am so busy that I have two episodes of Teen Mom AND two episodes of New Jersey Housewives on the DVR to catch up on. It's that serious.

You know what else is serious? The Hunger Games. Um, it's out of control. Usually the blood and violence is too much for me, but I can't get enough of Katniss and her badass self. If you haven't read it, I would go pick it up. Right now. Also on my "to read" list that I never really got to this summer.. The Help, The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, and Jodi's new one.. Sing you Home. Love me some Jodi Picoult.

I'll tell you one thing that wasn't on my summer reading list that was just put there. Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners. I'm off to read Chapters 5 & 6 for class tomorrow. I may even do some highlighting and mark up the text and such. What a rockstar.