Saturday, September 7, 2019

Hawaiian Ice Box Cake

Last week I made my first ice box cake (strawberry banana) and ummm..... why in the world have I not been making these for years? Basically an ice box cake is a "cake" made entirely in the fridge (so no baking) using graham cracker layers. It's almost Fall which means lots of cozy pumpkin, and warm cinnamon-y treats, but I couldn't resist making a fruity delicious ice box cake while it's still warm out. AJ and I head to Maui (Hawaii first timer here!) next month, so I decided to use pineapple for this Hawaiian inspired easy peasy dessert. And bonus, using sugar free pudding mix and cool whip makes this treat not as unhealthy as other dessert options (I'm looking at you, Crumbl).

Cast of Characters:
-1 box sugar free vanilla pudding mix
-1 cup milk
-1 can crushed pineapple (20 oz)
-2 cans mandarin oranges drained
-sugar free Cool Whip (8 oz)
-3 bananas
-graham crackers (I used 3 "sleeves")
-Coconut (but I forgot to get it at the store so sadly my version is sans coconut)

1. Thaw the Cool Whip in the fridge for about 3-4 hours
2. Mix the pudding mix with the cup of milk and let sit for 5 minutes. It will be very thick. Add the can of crushed pineapple and fold in the cool whip.
3. Spread a thin layer of the mixture in the bottom of a 13x9 pan and then top with a layer of graham crackers.
4. Top the crackers with another layer of the pudding mixture. Arrange half of the banana slices and mandarin oranges on top.
5. Layer graham crackers on top, then the remaining pudding mix and fruit.
6. Add crushed graham crackers to the top and toasted coconut.
7. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and enjoy.

This was so delicious! Now....I need to brainstorm some more versions of this yumminess. Dark chocolate? Nuts? Pumpkin? Berries? Caramel? The possibilities are endless!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Monday, September 2, 2019


 Hi There,
    Can I get an AMEN for a bonus day off?! Thank you, labor day! I've got lots of life lately photos to share and I'm doing this post in caption form. Here we go!
We love the aquarium 

This face SLAYS me. 

So we got a pet. Sort of. If a beta counts. This little lady is named Barbara. We got the fish food pellets that last a whole week (because #lazy) and all in, animal plus habitat, we were looking at around $10 so no one tell Hank that other families have dogs and cats and things, mmmkay? 
The County Library was hosting a chalk art festival and the talent was amazing

This one was my fave

I mean. Look at those colors. With sidewalk chalk. Mind blown

Saturday evening we went to a local Greek place where I got these green bean fries that I'm currently obsessed with 

My dudes
Just sitting in the front yard with a Starbucks iced water. As one does. 

Today we hit up the pool for the last time this season! Until 2020...

We are fitting in as much park/outside time as we possibly can. 
Aunt Libby, Hank, and Joe. We had the fam over Sunday evening for spaghetti and meatballs
Hank and Joe are pals

Libby had a rare weekend evening off of work! Yay! 

September 1st arrived and I just felt compelled to put out fall decos. Sue me

One of these days we will have a legit mantle. In the meantime, I will seasonally attack this tiny one. 

The new pumpkin cream cold brew from Starbucks is a legit game changer. I've had three this week.
I'm really enjoying my class this year but going back to work for the fall is always a bit jarring in a family of two teachers. Our days are busy and there's plenty of juggling, but we're enjoying this season of life that we are in. We have plenty of fun things, family visits, and vacation to look forward to this fall. 
Thanks for reading!
Savor Your Sparkle,
PS) Never want to miss a post of This Sunday Kinda Love? Add your email to the box on the right (in web view version) and all new posts will drop right into your inbox. Yay! 

Friday, August 30, 2019

August Reads

Well.....Back to School time is here which means my reading time has taken a serious hit. Booooooo!! I am not exaggerating when I say I have ten books on the floor by my nightstand ready to go for when this teacher mama has some time. That said, I did read 4 books this month. Here we go!

 1. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson: I read about this book in a magazine and immediately placed myself on the hold list at the library. This is a historical fiction piece about a woman from rural Appalachia who comes from a line of people who have BLUE SKIN. Yes, this is a real genetic condition that affected a group of people in Kentucky. I did plenty of googling about that, let me tell you. This story features that element as a plot point, obviously, but this book is mainly about how the young protagonist becomes a traveling librarian as part of Roosevelt's plan to get more Americans working. This novel really is a celebration of books and how they can transform the lives of those who are yearning for something different than their harsh reality. I liked this book but didn't love it. It's interesting, for sure, but I don't typically gravitate toward historical fiction. I love a book that compels me to do some research while reading (ahem, googling in bed after I finish a chapter), and this one, remarkably, had me more interested in the amazing stories of horseback rural librarians than the blue skin condition. I'm not sure my description here makes anyone want to grab this book right away, but know it was good, but not one I'll be raving about to friends.
 2. Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Without a doubt my favorite book of the month! This novel about a fictional 70's rock band is brilliant in its format. Basically the entire book is one long interview (it looks like a script on the page, with a characters name and then a colon with what they have to say) like a documentary. Here's the thing---it seemed so real, like reading a true account, but none of it is! That super unique premise alone makes me give major props to Reid. Reading this book is honestly like watching a movie. The dramatic yet subtle tension between the main characters is really remarkable and I love how it all wrapped up. A fun bonus at the end is the lyrics to all the songs the book mentions. This book is a delight and I highly recommend it.
 3. How Do You Tuck In A Superhero by Rachel Balducci: This book is a series of vignettes about life with boys. I only have one son, and this author, at the time of publication, was expecting her SIXTH son, but I still found myself relating and laughing. As a teacher some of the antics of the boys sounded very familiar. This is a fast fun read of short stories that would make an awesome gift for the boy mom in your life. This was a really sweet read.
4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: I had VERY high hopes for this book because (like almost everyone), I loved Eat Pray Love and had read that this book was the perfect summer read. Don't get me wrong, I liked this book, but I don't think it was worth all of the hype. This is a coming of age story about a young woman named Vivian who leaves her conservative family, drops out of college, and moves to New York City to live at her Aunt's theater in the '40's. She meets all sorts of unique characters, goes wild (this book is rated R for sure), and seeks to discover who she is and her purpose in a turbulent time in the city as the U.S. is on the brink of war. So while this was an entertaining fun read, I didn't find myself super eager to keep reading at night. And to me, there are too many books I can't put down to read much of anything that's just pretty good...if that makes sense. I'm curious what others think about this one. It felt like two books sort of smushed together: the first half was about the dazzling show girl life and the second half fast forwards 60 plus years and features a story line about a soldier's PTSD. Both parts were good but I felt a definite split and that it didn't really fit together.

We are almost at that big blanket, hot latte, sweatpants, candle, and book season and I, for one, cannot wait!
Savor Your Sparkle,

And now here are all the books I've read in 2019....with stars by my faves!
1. An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
2. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
3. The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
4. *Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
5. Happy Teachers Change The World by Thich Nhat Hanh and Katherine Weare
6. The Day I Went Missing by Jennifer Miller
7. *Glow Kids by Kardaras Nicholas
8. Final Girls by Riley Sager
9. *Becoming by Michelle Obama
10. As Long As We Both Shall Live by Joann Chaney
11. *The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
12. If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey
13. *The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
14. Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanne Elden
15. *Regrets Only by Erin Duffy
16. *Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
17. I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
18. *The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
19. *Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
20. When Did I Get Like This? by Amy Wilson
21. *Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman
22. Maid by Stephanie Land
23. Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson
24. Sh*tty Mom by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo, MaryAnn Zoellner
25. Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
26. Dietland by Sarai Walker
27. The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth
28. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
29. *Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler
30. *Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand
31. Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty
32. *The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
33.  Roar by Cecelia Ahern
34. A Love Letter Life by Jeremy and Audrey Roloff
35. The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Frances
36. *Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
37. *Can I Get An Amen? by Sarah Healy
38. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
39. *Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
40. How Do You Tuck In a Superhero? by Rachel Balducci
41. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Letter To My Students

It's Back to School week around here and so in honor of that, I have compiled some posts I've written about teaching, school, and the classroom. My very favorite teacher post I've written is called Letter to 1st Grader. I am copying it here for you and including some other posts I've written about this wacky, wild, and wonderful profession after the letter. To all my teacher friends, Godspeed on the 2019-2020 school year!

Dear 1st Grader (Well, let's be real, I should call you "pretty much kindergartner"),
  Did you eat breakfast this morning? I hope so. I hope you ate something healthy and hearty and that your mom and dad woke you up with excitement and joy for you on this big day. And it is a big day! You're in the big time now, baby! School all day. Big playground. Lunch at school. Homework. New friends. Your own desk. Right now I'm pretty sure the big playground and the idea of THREE recesses has you jazzed. And that's ok, those things are pretty cool.

 I can't blame you for not knowing yet all the other awesome stuff that will happen this year. You will learn to read. Yes, you. You will start off reading cautiously, sounding out letters and looking to me for acknowledgement that yes, you did it correctly. But just you wait. Soon, probably much sooner than your mom and dad realize, you will be reading sentences and paragraphs effortlessly and smoothly. You will laugh at Captain Underpants and your heart will break for Wilbur when Charlotte dies. You will discover a joy in books that I hope never dwindles. Your pictures that you use to express yourself will morph over time into words and then sentences and then stories. There is power in this. Reach inside you and decide what it is you want to share. Then write it, and read it, and admire it. You are a writer. 

Right now you'll ask me at 9:10, 9:25, 10:04, 10:33, and 10:56 if it's lunch time yet. And around January you'll get a watch and know that you can get those Oreos when the little hand is on the 11 and the big hand is on the 12. It seems to arrive sooner each day. You might not know who you're sitting by. They look different and some are even missing their front teeth (don't be scared, that'll be you in November). These scary unfamiliar kids will become your friends. Some, though, might call you mean names. Don't call them mean names back. Some you might giggle with and I might have to move your seat. You'll go home and tell your family that Mrs. Steele moved your desk and they will give you a stern look and say "good." 

There are big kids around a lot more than last year. They are taller and louder than you but want to know a secret? I think you are smarter. Don't be nervous, the big kids think you are pretty cute and secretly wish they were back in 1st grade. You'll discover why pretty soon. Right now, you don't know me. And besides writing your name on your coat hook, homework folder, work folder, clothespin, lunch ticket, parent email list, notebooks, door decorations, filing folder tabs, math book, and job chart (whew!), I don't know who you are. You are a name on my attendance list. For now. 

I've been thinking about you for a long time and I am so glad you are in my class (even those of you who illicit a laugh from your previous teacher when I ask about you...then they mutter "good luck." Please go easy on me). You will, with sticky fingers, giggles, naughty playground behavior, broken pencils, and spelling "they" as "thay," push your way into my heart and you will make our classroom family complete. 

I hope that you were able to eat that good breakfast I mentioned and that you weren't too nervous. I also hope you got some sleep last night because I sure didn't. I was too excited/scared/nervous all at the same time. Maybe you were too. You have no idea what you'll be able to do in June and I think it's best that way. Let's surprise ourselves as the days pass. Remember to be nice, treat supplies and others with care, and most of all, if it's a bathroom emergency, don't try and hold it in. I am here for you this year and beyond. 
Love, Mrs. Steele

You Might Be an Elementary Teacher If....

Happy Teacher

Dear Teacher, Take a cue from Elsa

A Teachers Tale of the Stuffed Animal That Melted My Heart

12 Days of Christmas (Teacher Version)

Little Hearts, Big Burdens

Savor Your Sparkle,

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Life Lately

Hi There!
   It's been a while since I've blogged so I'm here with a giant life lately post for you! It's been a busy few weeks gearing up for school to begin. I meet my students Tuesday and school begins Wednesday. Honestly, I'm ready. There's always more you could do to prep, but there's a point where you've just gotta dive in....I'm at that point!

We spent the last little bit of summer enjoying the pool, splash pad, parks, and just chilling at home. Hank is at such a fun age (21 months!) and he just cracks us up.
Reading with Grandpa

Hank thinks it's hilarious to take the picture out of this frame and put his face in there instead. My little comedian. 

feeding goats!

No shame here, we love ourselves a happy meal lunch. Cheeseburger or nuggs, this kid is here for it. 

My parents have this cute "Hadley angel" statue in their backyard and Hank posed with it. #presh 

We have cucumbers!! Our little veggie patch burst to life this past week. 

That park life

We went to check out the Train Shop 

Hank began childcare two days a week at the beginning of August. He's enjoying it and despite some tears at drop off, I know he loves being social, independent, and going to "school." We listen to the song "High Hopes" by Panic at he Disco on the short car ride over and he loves dancing. We also chant "Toys and Friends, Yeah!" to get him pumped up. Haha. I, on the other hand, sobbed after the first drop off and worry (unnecessarily I know) about leaving him. He can't be with mom and dad 24/7 and it's working well for our family, but man, I miss my little sidekick. My mom will continue to watch him 3 days a week which is so wonderful. Hank looks forward to "Grandma Days."

 My sister, Libby, and I tried out Goat Yoga a few weeks ago! The goats were so cute and it was hilarious having them just jump up, but it's not something I'll be clamoring to do again. I counted it as my workout for the day, and that was a bit of a cheat because I probably only did actual yoga for about two minutes flat during the class. Baby goats are distracting! Speaking of fitness, a friend introduced me to this great podcast called "Balance 365 Life" It's all about fitness, nutrition, and living a balanced life. I need this message! I'm trying to lose some weight (what's new) but do it thoughtfully and in a way that lasts. This podcast is awesome.

Nachos are a love language of mine so we re-did them with sweet potatoes and they were AMAZING! 

AJ and I happened to have two date nights this week for two events we have very much been looking forward to. We saw Mumford and Sons Tuesday evening and I think it was my favorite concert ever. I listen to Mumford A LOT but have been listening non-stop since the show. Amazing. We also saw The Book of Mormon with some friends and enjoyed it!

This year I did a nautical theme in classroom and thanks to Donor's Choose, I got lots of great materials and supplies. I love decorating my classroom every year....but I also forget how exhausting it is! 
a teacher leaving our school gave me this plain stool so all summer long I collected candy wrappers and made it into a "sweet seat" as a fun reward seat for my classroom. 

Can't wait to have kids curl up with a good book here soon

Homework goes better with coffee 

I know it's August, and I know it's 95 degrees out, but my Pumpkin-lovin' heart is gearing up for FALL. I've been adding some pumpkin flavoring to my coffee lately and have been loving all the fall deco out at Hobby Lobby and Kirklands. Give me all the pumpkin paraphernalia. And how much easier will it be getting dressed in the morning when I can bust out my fall uniform of leggings, an oversized sweater, an infinity scarf, and boots?! 

These next couple weeks are sort of crazy with Back to School nights, the return of my math endorsement classes, the start of Hank's music classes with some friends, and plenty of fun thrown in too. August is usually almost always my least favorite month (ever heard August refered to as "One long Sunday Night"? Truth) but this August was pretty darn awesome. No matter how busy our days get, I love coming home to my two dudes. 

Savor Your Sparkle,