Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dog Days of Summer

It dawned on me this morning that 3 weeks from today I'll be back at work.....not just getting my classroom ready, but tiny humans will be there expecting me to teach them something! YIKES! It's an adjustment going back (The hubby and I slept until 10 am today! Sheesh!), but I do honestly look forward to it and enjoy teaching. I'm trying to enjoy these last few weeks of "freedom," and we've had an awesome week. I taught creative writing  Monday through Wednesday and will again for one more week. It's been a blast teaching "big kids" and it's such a joy to have the freedom and time to let their creative juices flow. I'm so glad there was a positive response to this class and that parents realize that it's good to keep those little brains working even in the summer and that there's something to be said for a relaxed, fun learning setting where tests and scores don't mean a thing.
Selfie before going to teach writing 

Hmmm, what else have we been up to? I got together with some friends for lunch this week and it was good to see them and catch up. We went and saw "Mad Max" this week at the dollar movies. It was bizarre but visually very cool to watch. Not my fave, but it held my attention (since I have perma-1st grade brain, not much does) and it was worth seeing.

photo from

AJ and I went on a beautiful hike Tuesday afternoon (he had the whole first half off the week off, yippee!) and the weather cooled down for a bit so it was a beautiful breezy hike.

Isn't this American flag hanging across the mountain tops pretty? It was a cool sight to see

I spent some time reading by the pool with my mom and sis (Libby). I'm reading a fun summery book now called "Whistlin Dixie in a Nor'Easter".....cute Southern chick lit, perfect for these dog days of summer!

This weekend I plan on some gym time (I resolved to try a bunch of new classes this summer, maybe I'll start now that summer is practically over!), more pool time, some homework for a professional development reading course I am taking, and maybe, just maybe, some initial lesson planning. Summer's not over yet and I will savor every last second! But I will confess I did order some of my beloved Bath & Body Works soaps, Wallflowers etc. and I definitely had some pumpkin action in my cart.........and some "fresh balsam" scent too. When summer ends a new season begins and I am so grateful for that!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My love for Starbucks runs deep

I pulled into the Starbucks drive through earlier this week before teaching my creative writing class for a grande iced nonfat caramel macchiato and a spinach feta wrap (am I the only one obsessed with these?) and they asked if I wanted a treat receipt. Well, yes, yes, I do! If you are unfamiliar with the treat receipt, it's a promotion that Sbux runs during the summer where if you buy a drink in the morning, you can bring your "treat receipt" back after 2:00 for a grande beverage for $2.50. It used to be $2.00 but with the success of McCafe and the like, I don't mind my extra 50 cents going to Howard Schultz's wallet. Sbux has been a big part of my life....I realize how "basic" that sounds. No, I don't wear Uggs nor did I pledge a sorority. But Starbucks (or "Sbux" or "Buckys") has been the location for dates, long homework sessions, a morning pick me up before I head to the classroom, deep talks with friends about life, a meeting place, and more.

Passion Tea Lemonade: a non-coffee fave 

The Gonzaga Starbucks was such a special place for me. It didn't matter when you stopped in, you always knew at least a handful of people and there was always a lot going on. I wrote many a paper there and if you were really dedicated to a true morning pick me up, you knew to get bagel from The Ultimate Bagel next door and then get your drink from Sbux. Now that was the breakfast of champions/hangover cure if I ever met one. Junior year our college house was a gross shack (seriously it was nasty) BUT it was right across the street from the GU Starbucks so my love affair with the green straw just grew.

A latte and lesson plans.....pretty common 7 am sight for me 

My most ultimate favorite Starbucks is the one located at 106th and Longwood Drive in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood. You can skip the Shedd Aquarium, dino bones at the Field Museum, and even Michigan Ave, but should you find yourself in The Windy City, do yourself a favor and head way south west and head to the Beverly neighborhood Starbucks. I vividly remember thinking that the new changes involved with first year teaching/grad school/away from family and friends/city life would be okay because damn it, that Starbucks a block from where I was living at the time felt like home. I would pack my tote bags up every Sunday afternoon and spend hours there planning lessons for my 1st graders. I know working in busy place like that can be distracting for some people, but for me, it energized me. I loved people watching. There were Lululemon botoxed moms heading to yoga, neighborhood kids on skateboards, business men catching the early morning Metra into the city, and every other type of person you could imagine. My last morning in Chicago I walked into that Starbucks on Longwood drive and got my grande iced coffee and nearly cried when I told my barista buddies that it'd be my last morning there. They hugged me and we laughed that my Masters degree should be framed in the store because without them there, it might not have happened.

My Beloved Longwood Drive Starbucks 
Since then, I've certainly laid off on my caffeine consumption. In fact, just to see if I could do it, I was coffee free for 20 whole months a few years ago. It was an effort to up my water intake and really? Coffee jitters weren't too appealing. I've reintroduced coffee into my life and have about 4 coffee beverages a week (grande skinny vanilla latte, you are beautiful). I get jazzed for pumpkin spice season (See above re: "basic") and still have a pep in my step on the days that begin with a green straw but I no longer get caffeine headaches and certainly don't NEED it like I once used to.

A cute walk-up Starbucks on Chicago's North side.

According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (yes, I've read his Starbucks), Starbucks aims to provide a "third place" for people between work and home. We all need a landing place where we can be in casual, comfortable community. I'll take mine with a latte and Norah Jones in the background. And a cranberry bliss bar in December because sweet Jesus, that is some heaven right there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reality Show Round Up: Bachelorette!

"Tonight is the SUPER BOWL of the reality TV world!" I said to AJ in order to gain full access to the TV all night last night. It was the finale of the Bachelorette! I love pretty much all forms of reality TV (well, except Botched, I do not need to see a doctor make Sharpie lines of where the incision will go for a porn star's third set of her "crowning glories", ahem) but I've followed the Bachelor franchise since college. I can mark my life by the seasons--watching the Jillian/Ed thing go down on a futon in our college house, watching Ally melt down over leaving pilot Jake while in grad school over the summer in the Midwest, watching Ashley choose hunky JP while melting from the Chicago humidity during my summer leading summer camp, cracking up via text with faraway friends in my first apartment in SLC over how Ben resembled a character from Arthur. So you can say I'm a fan of the show. Ridiculous? Yes. Predictable? Usually. But I can't help it....I love the show and ABC ropes me in every season.

image from 

This season was a snoozer for me because it was so OBVI that Shaun was the "the one" early on. And she, uhhh, TOLD him. Anyone else shocked ABC let that part come out? It was like all the mystery of who she would choose was gone right off the bat. I love watching the contestants fall in love and go on all sorts of nutty dates (a slow dance on some sort of platform being serenaded by a b-list band, drinking in an old wine cellar, going to a small village in some remote part of the world where I'm SURE all the locals love being gawked at by the beautiful white people being followed by cameras, or having the men compete in some weird challenge). This season, though, seemed like a drag for Kaitlyn as she tried balancing reassuring jealous Shaun that she was "confident in what they had" while also making out with every guy there and throwing her head back and laughing (err, "cackling")  during every one-on-one interview.

And I won't even get into the sexist talk surrounding Kaitlyn and Nick getting intimate. I'm not gonna judge her or him, but for the love of Chris Harrison, could she have yanked off her mic and told the cameras to get lost before getting down to business? I'm a fan of Nick. I think he's charming, cute, and while he was sorta a tool at the "After the Final Rose" on Andi's season, I really wanted him to find love this time around. I want to know how much of him coming on the show mid-season was legit and how much was put together by the producers. I don't want him to become the next Bachelor, though, because sweet Nick, the format of a reality show miiiiiight not be your ticket to wedded bliss, but what do I know? I've got my money on Ben H or Ben Z for the next Bachelor and would be happy either way! I hope Shaun and Kaitlyn make it, but the track record of former contestants leaves much to be desired. Until then, I will proudly skip "Bachelor in Paradise" (I have some respect for myself), and will anxiously await the next season. Oh yes, I will accept that rose......time and time again. And there better be more helicopters next time.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Quinoa Salad

I'm a big fan of those quinoa/brown rice packets from Costco that you can just microwave. I've delved lately into the world of "real" quinoa and after some trial and error (crunchy mini seeds, anyone?) I think I've got it. I put together this salad the other night as a side dish for rotisserie chicken. It was easy and yummy. It's adapted from a variety of recipes I've seen around Pinterest. This would be a great to make Sunday and pack in lunches for the week. Enjoy! What do you like to do with your quinoa? (hippiest sentence I've ever written)

1. Make your quinoa. I bought a mini mesh strainer to make mine and it makes the rinsing process easier. I've used some kinds that you don't have to rinse, but the ones I've found like that are gluten free and I prefer not to spend $75 on a side dish for dinner (and I'm a fan of the gluten).

2. Make your dressing. You probably have most of this in your pantry. And yes, I use the squeezey garlic. I honestly did just a squirt of each, it was probably around 3 tbsp. each and a dash of salt. Garlic, Red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt.

3. Chop up some baby spinach. I used about half of one of the small containers. Don't you love how precise this recipe is?

4. Cut up 2-3 avocados and sneak some bites.

5. Cut up some cherry tomatoes.

6. When the quinoa is done, add it directly into the bowl with your chopped spinach to help wilt it a bit. Add the avocado, tomatoes, and dressing. Voila! The possibilities are endless here. I was wishing I had some feta. YUM!

Friday, July 24, 2015


When I married AJ, we combined our furniture and took a good long look at both our collections and realized we had some decisions to make. After a few Craig's List ads, Target trips, and trips to the dumpster (to get rid of stuff, not GET stuff, who do you think I am?!), we created a hodge podge of furniture and decor that was officially The Steeles', not Leslie's, not Aj's but ours. We kept most of my Ikea furniture from my first apartment, ditched his southwest style couch I deemed "Old Apache" and made a list of "like to have" items for the future (King sized Sleep number mattress, I'm looking at you). A few of these pieces I inherited were nightstands that AJ got from his former job at a golf resort. They were revamping the guest rooms and he got them for a steal. Plain sturdy wood, they were usable. They weren't cute, but in the 24 months of moving in together, getting married, starting a new job (me), I just honestly could not be bothered. And then my first summer where I wasn't moving, in grad school, or getting engaged/married happened and I took to the Google....
     There was NO need to replace these old wooden things for something new and fresh when I could REDO THEM MYSELF (errrr, we could redo them OURselves, AJ was helping me here). So I grabbed some paint samples at Lowe's and after tilting my head and looking at them in different lights (and having my family vote on their faves) we chose a a color and went off in search of how to do this thing. 

Well, here's the project in numbers for you:
2 packs of sandpaper
4 visits to Lowe's
1 plastic paint tarp
1 nosy neighbor who kept stopping by and giving us tips
5 Face time calls to my father in law since he needed to not only hear my questions, but SEE the project as we progressed
5 hours of labor
2 coats of paint
10 you tube videos of "how to sand without a sander" watched
1 returned bottle of antiquing glaze (we were so proud of our finished job, we were NOT about to antique the mint off those things!)
15 references to "I feel like we're on Trading Spaces! Put us on HGTV!"
1 tested marriage (haha, jk)
and in the end....
2 cute new dressers with new hardware that are just begging for cute new lamps on them, wouldn't you agree?! Pretty proud that we did this ourselves and we had fun doing it. It might not be huge project, but in the end, it's our creation and AJ admits he thinks they look great. Why would he ever doubt me? After all, wasn't I right about Old Apache? 

In case you're wondering about the process: We sanded them down with sandpaper blocks. Then, after dusting them, we painted 1 coat of paint. The next day, we added a second coat. The day after that, we did a coat of polyurethane ("shiny stuff" if you think like me). One more coat the next day, screwed in new hardware, and all done!

I have to brag on my sweet hubby for a sec: when we were in Lake Tahoe this summer I saw this sign above our bed in a shop and loved it but didn't buy it. When I was at the spa the next day, I came back to our hotel room to see the sign on the bed. He walked back and bought it for us. AWWWWWW! Mama Steele raised him right! 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

God-Shaped Hole

I came across this song the other day on the radio (XM 63: The Message) and I found myself thinking of it all day. Listen to it and then read on.....I'll wait......GREAT song, huh? It's called "God-Shaped Hole" by a girl (or group?) named Plumb.

I really do believe it's true: that there's a God-shaped hole in all of us. It's natural for people to want to fill the void within us with all sorts of things-- other people, money, things, food, busyness, vanity, just to name a few. It's ironic because while these things must satisfy us for a time, they are never ever lasting. This is a lesson I've learned over and over again and will keep learning it every day of my life because God's goodness and truth are constant even when I forget or put my trust in other things.

For me, that God shaped hole is all about thinking I can do it all myself. I'm a go-getter kinda girl, I like to get things done and make things happen. No harm in that, right? Well, to a degree. Nothing I can do can ever come close to filling that God-shaped hole. It's like trying to fill a bucket with a fork: so futile, so frustrating (I've never actually tried doing that but I can imagine it's not fun).

 I'm still learning and it's a good thing God loves me through the process. I figure it's my life's work to try filling that God-shaped hole with the only thing that fits: God. Not those Frye boots I want. Not a pinterest-worthy kitchen. Not friends who laugh and cry with me and never let me down. Not that brownie (even that corner piece) that my sweet tooth craves. Not a packed schedule and full days. Not my precious 1st graders. Not even "me" time. Or, gasp! my husband. All of those elements (well, maybe except the brownie) fill my soul and make my heart soar and giving meaning and purpose to my life but news flash: but they will never. ever. complete. me. I simply cannot make God's blessings into my God. Those things aren't worship-worthy. It's hard, ya'll. But luckily He doesn't give us a fork to fill our God-sized hole, he gives us buckets upon buckets upon buckets of grace, peace, joy, and blessings. And that is one hole that when full? Makes me WHOLE.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Crazy for Bubble Bakes

I love casseroles. Maybe it's because they remind me of church potlucks and get togethers. Or maybe because it's an easy one dish meal. But I think maybe the real reason is cheese. If you're working a casserole that doesn't have cheese, well then, we might not see eye to eye.

About a year ago I made a casserole called "Bubble Up Enchilada Bake." It was labeled as a Weight Watchers recipe, but see above re: cheese. AJ LOVED it and so did I. It's become a staple around here. The "Bubble Up" part refers to the cut up Pillsbury biscuits you throw in the mix that well, "bubble up" adding a yummy doughy element to the dish. Here's the link if you want to try. It's yum, I promise. Bubble Up Enchiladas

NOW.....I was pinning the other day (typical) and I come across a Bubble Up PIZZA Casserole. Hold the phone. I added it to our weekly meal plan and it was a WINNER. It's basically like the one above but substitute Italian sausage for ground beef, pizza sauce for enchilada sauce, mushrooms for black beans and mozzarella for cheddar. I just know you could add veggies and make it even better. I'm thinking spinach/artichoke. We have a new recipe for the meal rotation and all in one pan? Winning. It's perfect for next day lunch, too. Bubble Up Pizza.

Bubble Up Pizza pre-cheese (you add cheese for last 10 mins of baking) 

Both of these recipes come from the site Emily Bites. Thanks, Emily, these rock!

PS) There's also a Bubble Up Breakfast Bake! I plan on getting some eggs and things and whipping that baby up, too.

Let me know if you make these or something similar in the comments. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Whatcha Reading?

Hey everyone!
Me, reading poolside. Photo cred: Libby Allnatt 
     Let's talk books! I've been trying to read a book a week this summer. It hasn't exactly worked out but I've given my bookmark a workout this summer and here's what I've been digging in to:

I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster
Hilarious, perfect, but I expect nothing less from my literary/real life hero. It's a quick, fun read. Throw it in your pool bag.

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
Melanie Shankle, also known as Big Mama is a gem. She's funny, real, and heartfelt. This book is about motherhood and while I am not a mother myself, I found it sweet and charming. I read this a few years ago on a plane and decided to pick it up again this summer when I could absorb it a little more. Glad I did. 

Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle
Another Big Mama book, this memoir was a delight. It's a celebration of female friends and will make you laugh, cry, and send texts of inside jokes to your right hand ladies. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I am currently reading this now and almost finished. While a beach read it is not, this sweeping WWII story is beautiful and written in gorgeous language. I can't wait to find out what happens. Please tell me it has a happy ending, actually don't....not finished yet! 

The Dinner by Herman Koch
This is a book I never would have picked up on my own, but hubby came home with it from Barnes and Noble, read it in a week (and for AJ, that's HUGE) and raved about it. It was....interesting. I need people to read this book so we can discuss it. This is one that needs to be talked about. Eeerie, clever, and takes place during the course of one hella awkward meal. Short and quick read but it'll have you thinking about it for days. 

The Good News Is by Dana Perino
If you watch Fox News, you know Dana Perino from their afternoon talk show "The Five." If you don't watch Fox News, I understand. It's a little shout-y, and flashy, and makes me want to stockpile food and ammo because according to all their outrageous pundits the country is swirling.into.oblivion. Ahem, anyway, Dana is an amazing woman who worked for the Bush Administration as the chief of staff. She's graceful, classy, and you wouldn't want to mess with her. A great gift for a grad as it features wonderful advice for young women. 

Killing Monica by Candance Bushnell
This was an impulse Costco buy (tortilla chips, Kcups, toilet paper, and reads, obvi). This book was a delicious summer treat. Funny but also slightly dark it follows the story of an author and her friendship with the movie version of the character she created. HUGE twist at the end that had me reading the same paragraph 4 times going "what?!" Perfect summer read. 

There are 3 other books I read this summer (because I am keeping track of the number), but since I cannot for the life of me recall them, they probably aren't worth reading! What are YOU reading lately? Any good recommends for what to read next?! 

Sweet Summertime!

I know you've heard it before: What are the 3 best reasons to teach? June, July, and August of course!
The truth is, the summer break is a HUGE perk to the teaching gig. When I decided I wanted to teach I never really considered how sweet it would be to have 25% of the year off. Well, what do teachers do allllll summer long? Here's a list based on my experience:

1) We sleep. Long live the 2:30 nap. The end of the school year likely left us frazzled, exhausted, and in a whirl of emotions. We need to recover.

2) We read. NOVELS, where art thou from September to May?! We catch up on our reading lists and share books with one another. Our Amazon carts are full of all the reads.

3) We binge watch. It's not lost on me that season 3 of Orange is the New Black debuted in early June. Here's to clicking "more episodes" and devouring them all in a matter of days.

4) We get to together. Our teacher friends are our lifeline during the school year. We miss each other and want to catch up. We inevitably end up talking about our students.....especially if a teacher in the group is about to inherit any of your former students. Get ready for the scoop.

5) We travel! This summer by husband and I spent over 55 hours in the car visiting Oregon and Lake Tahoe. We had a blast listening to music, laughing, buying Red Vines from middle of nowhere convenience stores and more. Forgetting what day of the week it is is a beautiful thing.

6) We plan our classrooms for next year. In July we start watching the sales and stocking up. The best plastic folders are on sale where? I'm there! We browse the internet for ideas and inspiration for our new home (the classroom, duh).

7) We work. Make no mistake, MANY teachers work over the summer because we have extra time and also to supplement our incomes. My hubby is a server during the summer and I've spent a fair share of time babysitting. It's nice to have a change of pace from teaching life and make some extra cash.....that will be immediately spent at Lakeshore Learning store.

8) We pin. Oh yes, summer is the time to pin away! Not just classroom ideas (a few do sneak in there too, we can't help it. A chevron clip chart? Come on, had to!) but also recipes, DIY ideas and more. Summer might be the ideal time to actual complete some of those pins, but as you can see, we're very busy here.

9) We think about our former students with a smile and a nostalgic heart.

10) We think about and pray over our new bunch starting in August. It's no joke, summer is SWEET, but so are 25 smiling 1st graders.

Here's to a dozen more margaritas, late nights, novels, and coupons for school supplies.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

First. Post.

Hello Everyone!!
     After YEARS of reading blogs I am finally starting my own! This is the space to record our lives and document our journey. So, who are we?
AJ: teacher. oregon state fan. weekend waiter. grill master. golfer. reader.
Leslie: teacher. gonzaga alum. baker. reader. pinterest addict. reality tv lover.

We have been married exactly one year and are enjoying our lives together! Each day is an adventure and we plan on embracing it!

Why "Sunday Kinda Love?" The song by Etta James was our first dance song and to us, it perfectly captures the love that we have. A love that's deeper than Saturday fun, and more exciting than the weekday grind. We have a Sunday kinda that is comfortable, strong, faith-filled, and with the anticipation of what's to come. Welcome to our story.....