Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hey Thanks

At church last night (LOVE Saturday evening church), we were charged with writing a thank you note to God. The beautiful message was all about how we can bless the Lord by thanking Him for his goodness and faithfulness. Gratitude is powerful. My girl Oprah puts it this way, "I learned from experience that if you pull the lever of gratitude everyday you'll be amazed at the results." Life is pretty darn amazing and in the middle of it all, I can forget. No, it's not Thanksgiving time but thanking God for all we have shouldn't just be reduced to November.
image from 

Here's my thank you list, in no particular order. Well, it's a small snapshot of my thankful list because as we sang in worship last night, there are "10,000 reasons for my heart to sing."

1. My Husband: Obviously this is number 1. AJ is my best friend, my personal comedian, my shoulder to cry on, my partner in crime, and my best pal. He's my better half and I never want to take him or our relationship for granted. I hoped and prayed for a good man to be part of my life and God exceeded my expectations a thousand fold with my man.

2. My family: I lucked out in this department, I have an incredible family. AJ and I always comment on how blessed we are that we both have parents who are still living and still married. It's a rarity and we know how special it is. I love them for who they are and how they shaped me and are always there for me.

3. A great church community: This December marks 3 years that I walked into church alone having googled "Christian churches in SLC" and reading about this particular one. I wrote the address and service times on a post-it note and was super nervous. The message that first chilly morning I was there was titled "God is with you." I know that now and am thankful for the community of believers I get to be a part of.

4. Teaching: Gah! Of course this is on the list. Teaching young people is a true privilege. It might not always feel like it, but I am lucky I get to do this everyday. It makes me a better human. Plus it's fun.

5. My pals: My core group of girlfriends are ones I found primarily at Gonzaga. They are my soul sisters and we have been through very high highs and very low lows together. We laugh, cry, and goof off. It's a comfort and a joy to be reminded "you are not alone." They are my girls and I'd be lost without them.

6. Our townhouse: It's easy to get on pinterest or as of late, real estate websites and wish for bigger and cuter. But we love our place. It's our home and we've made it our own. I breathe a sigh of relief each I time I walk in the door. It's a place of peace and joy. And sometimes it features the smell of banana bread or popcorn popping before a movie night. It's where life happens and I am thankful for it.

7. My Health: You don't appreciate it fully until it's gone, right? I don't have ailments or diseases and that's a blessing. I need to heed this call and use my health to do great things in life. I want to appreciate and enjoy my body despite imperfections. It's my vessel on this earth and I'm blessed to have it.

8. The Library: free books? Yes, it's pretty awesome. I appreciate the desire to learn more. I appreciate authors who put their words out into the world for us to savor, enjoy, and think about. That's an act of love and I benefit greatly from it.

9. My phone: don't judge. I am thankful for my handy little tool to keep in touch with people, stay connected, write notes to myself, google a nagging question, or best of all, send out or receive a quick text to and from loved ones.

10. The DVR:  like to relax and catch up on my shows. Like a good book, those who create so we can be entertained are heroes. Thanks for creating art (well, this is a generous term for reality TV, bear with me) so we can all enjoy.

11. Seasons: Just when I think I will die from sweat, the fall comes and rescues us with colorful leaves and a cool bite to the air. Then comes the clean fresh snow and cozy times indoors. Next spring bursts forth reminding us new life will always bloom again. Then summer arrives again and hello to pool days, long nights when it's still light out, and steak sizzling on the grill. God you knew what you were doing with all these seasons and they are all beautiful.

12. The fact that this list could be 12091032830293 more pages long. Lord, help me to see you in everything in every moment of every day. And thank you. For being You.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Beyonce you just get me

The title of this blog post refers to the JOY I felt as Bey blasted on my computer this morning (specifically "Halo"). Nothing like a little diva to set your purpose for the day. What's been going on here? Teaching. For the first time in a few years I need to modify my program to meet the needs of my kiddos. Not necessarily academic, just other stuff and issues that my kiddies need more social skills. I know good teachers go back to the drawing board and make adjustments for each batch of kids each year so that's what I'll do, but it doesn't mean it's not exhausting and maybe also a little bit discouraging. I can't forget that just as they are learning SO AM I. So the beginning of the year has been good, not as smooth or effortless as years past and that's ok. My saving grace is my support network: special ed teachers and aides, supportive administrators and school leaders, my 1st grade team, teacher friends and family, and certainly my peach of a husband. He honestly probably knows the names of most of my "kids" simply from my bragging on them/venting about them/brainstorming about them. This job is so much more than a job. I know it's a cliche, but it's a piece of my heart and that's why I'm so hard on myself when I don't waltz in on day one and it's like I'm Miss Honey, Miss Bliss, Mr. Dewey Finn, Mr. Feeney, Miss Frizzle, Miss Norbury. (Major points to those who picked up on all those references. How many do you know? Hehe). In the meantime, I've got this pinterest quote as my daily mantra/motto:

In other non-school news, I finished the novel I started about two weeks ago, took a week off of books to dive into a new Marie Claire, and now I'm back at it reading "Orange is the New Black." Considering my adoration of the show, I can't believe I'm just now reading the book. It's awesome. I'm hoping for some long book worm time this weekend. I bought tics to my 10 year high school reunion this week. YIKES! In some ways it seems like yesterday, but then again SO much life happens in the first ten years our of high school it's kind of remarkable. I was on a major gym kick toward the end of the summer and took 3 days of this week and I kinda miss it. I'm excited to get back at it again and kick some bootay on the elliptical. It helps that the TVs in the gym are fixed because what's better to watch when you're busting your ass than "Carnival Eats?" I just finished watching the "Little People Big World" wedding special. Ever since I got married wedding stuff just reduces me to a puddle. Maybe because I know what a rollercoaster the wedding prep process as and how damn good it feels to just walk down that aisle or how fun it is to be married to your best friend. Either way, weddings got me all pass the kleenix. Speaking of weddings, one of my darlings had her hand raised in that frantic "I might pee my pants/I need to tell you this NOW" way that all elementary teachers get. Her question: What day of the week did you get married on? Because yes, that has everything to do with our conversation about not playing tag in the bathroom stalls. Ladies and gentlemen, my life. Here's to a weekend of snuggles, multiple cups of coffee, and some adventure thrown in for good measure. Some pics of life lately:
This sunrise in the school parking lot at 6:50 Monday morning. I wait in my car until 7:00 so the people who actually listen during staff meetings can disarm the school alarm for the day. Know thyself, and I know I'd get confused and the police would come and there'd be a whole scene. So I refrain. 

My adorable fam got AJ and I a basket of our fave treats (Gardettos and funfetti anyone?) to kick off the school year. 

I'm not a mom blogger but I had to take this shot. It's for memories, ok?! 

Picture day. Wished Lifetouch offered instagram filters. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Hilarious" "Recipes"

I was meal planning the other evening (I try and plan 5-6 meals and then shop for them all at the same time. My mom plans like a month in advance, but she is legendary so anyway) and I wanted to find some yummy crockpot recipes that will be perfect for busy school nights. I ended up finding some great ones on this blog that I like. However, before I went to the handy internets, I dug through some of my cookbooks, and let's just say, it was a full blown laugh attack. This is why Pinterest exists. So women don't have to wade through recipe titles like these. Check out some of these gems:

why the quotes?! It just makes it sound sketchy and not at all "appetizing" 

everything? really? We'll see about that 

This one might be my favorite. The recipe gives no description of what it is, just that it is "the stuff." I feel like it's said in the tone I use when I take off my hurting shoes at the end of the day .I  typically don't use that tone when describing recipes with frozen green peas but someone was obviously pumped about this recipe. 

like so good. 

The title for this one isn't so bad, but look closer. It includes "jar of roasted garlic-parmesan cheese creation." Class went right out the window, girlfriend. 

don't even try and make it in the summer. 

The best part of this one is the tagline. "There is a lot of delicious sauce." Why do I feel like this was written by a caveman? Grunt, lot, of grunt, sauce. Is delicious. And grunt scrumptious." 

not on the floor, fool! The table! 

This one is an old friend. Good old cheesy potatoes, always kidding around. Never mind that "old" and "cheese" are words that should not be hanging out together. 

Thanks for being so polite. Glad you don't  want to give me green beans to hate. 

I'm scared 

Don't mess with this playa. 

Maybe for the 4th of July? Festive? 

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Hi everyone!
    Well it happened. I woke up at 5 am today (Sunday) ready to rock and roll. Body clock, calm yourself! There's no school today. So I ate cereal and watched TV till 7, then went to sleep again until 10. Now that's more like it! We had a fun weekend. Friday night AJ met me at the grocery store so we could power through our long shopping list together (isn't he the sweetest?). We grilled cheeseburgers and browsed Netflix and went to bed early. Are we the only couple who spends an hour plus browsing and never settle on something to watch? Saturday morning we went to go look at some model town homes around the valley. We are hoping to make the jump in the spring/summer and buy a home. Yes, it's too early to be looking now. But it's good to see what we can afford/what we like and get ideas. Model home decor always seems to be nautical in nature so obvi I'm a fan. We went to do some shopping for work clothes for AJ (and me too...I might not have needed the wardrobe refresher like he does, but when navy striped flats call, I must answer). I was amazed at how easy it was to shop for guy clothes. The dress shirts were in bags and he wrote down his size (all these numbers with boy fashions, I don't follow) and we grabbed some and some matching ties. What in the???? Ladies shopping is so much more intense. We went to a Utah Bees game with some friends Saturday evening, It was quite the adventure as we got to the game early to get the free giveaway....capes for my class prize box. But we wanted to go to The Pie for dinner so we left the game, went to the Pie by the U, but it was paaaaacked (maybe more than usual) so AJ's pal had the idea to visit The Pie to go a block away and have a picnic table dinner. Fun, easy, and delicious. Then we went back to the game. It was a fun evening. When we got home I was sad to see "The Unauthorized Full House Story" from Lifetime did not record (errr, may have been cancelled by the hubs as it interfered with his programming). I immediately spent some time seeing when it was on next so I could record because #priorities. Then I fell into bed and woke up at 5 am (see above). Here are some pics for ya, enjoy!

Isn't this the creepiest picture of a mascot ever?! Hello nightmares. Buzzzzzzzz! 

While running errands I needed to introduce AJ to the glory that is Fiiz. I'm not a huge soda fan but there is something refreshing about these fun flavors on a hot day. This one is Dr. Pepper with raspberry and vanilla. The drive thru close by might be a problem. 

It was a busy Saturday but I went to the nail salon for a mani/gel. I am all about the fall colors even though it's not fall. I went for this darker red. 

Because it's not a real blog without a food pic. These are delicious new yogurts for folks like me who like texture with their probiotics. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Direct Sales Experience

We all know THAT person.....the one begs you to host parties, promises you longer lashes/no wrinkles/can't-live-without kitchen gadgets/ a deliciously scented home etc. You know how that friend posts incessantly on social media about how they are "financially free" and get the privilege of working from home. For about 8 months last year, I was that person. I came across a facebook targeted marketing ad for a Christian home decor company called Mary & Martha. Hmmm, I had just started a new and much less stressful teaching job. I found that without the long work commute and crazy hours, I had more time available. I love home decor. I love Jesus. I love the idea of getting rich. I love the idea of working from my pajamas with TLC daytime TV in the background. I love the network opportunities and damnit, I would love to be a full-time teacher and a full-time business owner. This was only leading one way. "Sign me up!" Now, don't get me wrong, the people I was connected to via Mary & Martha were sweet and I loved the products. I still do. I mean look at some of this awesomeness:

I really connected to the message of the company: "Live in the AND." It's all about living in community with others AND God. It's beautiful message and every time I see an ampersand (the company logo) I smile.

I fell in love with the products and still use them/have them in our home. It's good stuff. BUT.....(oh, there's always a but when it comes to direct sales), I just struggled with being that person. I know the products are over-priced and I pushed them on my facebook page and gave catalogs to friends. I researched expos (hundreds of dollars for a booth? Hell to the no) and even did an afternoon holiday gift expo where there were literally ZERO customers. I threw about half a dozen online parties and three in person ones. I hustled. I spent hours on it. I baked treats for my gatherings, bought door prizes, and brainstormed ways to get more exposure to my own "business." And you know what? After all the expenses (initial signup and throughout the process), I made a whopping $150. Ouch. (disclaimer: I did get a few hundred dollars worth of free stuff from the catalog so that was a nice perk). I'm glad I tried it. It was a fun adventure. I learned a little bit about marketing (I loved the Monday night phone sessions that amped up representatives to sell! sell! sell!) and hopefully the people who bought products from me are enjoying them. Shout out to my mom and mother in law for being my best customers! I hope you're enjoying your placemats and butter dishes.
Direct Sales companies are wildly popular in Utah and I get the appeal. I do. It's a human connection to a product and can't we all use a little more human connection these days? It's fun to see people excited about a product, but in the end, it just wasn't for me. I was becoming "that person" and I just didn't want to be.
Basically, I can sum up my experience by that old adage, "If it's too good to be true, it usually is." I'm still holding out for the gig where I can get rich/do minimal work/stay in my pajamas. If you know of a job like that, please, by all means, sign me up.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

   I made it! The first day of school is behind me. Only 179 more to go! Just went well. As well as first days can go. It's all so new for them (and me!) but I think it'll be a great year. Here's what's been going on lately:

I found this adorable goodbye poem/chant the end of last year and tucked it away to use this year. So fun! It was a great way to spend the last 5 minutes of the day once we were all packed up. 

Isn't this the cutest first day of school treat from a student?! It's an EOS lipbalm. Love those crafty mamas. 

This was my Starbucks drive thru selfie this morning (it was the first day, I needed a grande skinny vanilla latte. Needed. But I was running around so much today I think I took about 5 sips total). My parents got me those pearls from Saks Fifth Avenue when I graduated from Gonzaga. I wore them to my grad school graduation, my wedding, and every first day of school teaching. Not to be morbid, but I better be buried in them too. Hehe. 

Friday I was duhhh-rowwwwning in school supplies and it was even worse today. The organized type-A gal that I am was cringing BUT I've got it all put away and organized now. Whew! 

My babe and I took a nice long walk on Sunday evening. I love that we can hop on a walking trail right from our neighborhood. And I love the gym and all but there's just something about getting outside! 

I put on my mint and gold striped Jamberry nails this weekend. They've been staying on a lot longer once a friend told me about the Baggie Method. Life changing, ladies!

In other news, I'm still reading "Hello From the Gillespies." I'm hoping for a book every other week this school year. Wishful thinking but it's a goal! AJ and I grabbed a Papa Murphy's pizza for dinner tonight and it was such a gift not to cook at all tonight. Yahoo! In other bits, I just love everything the Pioneer Woman does and found myself smiling over her latest post.  I hope that's me and AJ one day. So cute. Well, I am off to bed. It's 8:00. Don't judge.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Let the waves do their work in you....

On Friday morning I was craving my daily devotional. I was wiped out from Back to School night the night before, had a million to dos swirling in my head for school, I was bummed because AJ was working all weekend (LAST one, though, yahoo!), and just blah. I am obsessed with my devotional book "Savor" by Shauna Niequist. It's just beautiful and perfect and you know what? Each day seems to be exactly what I need to hear for that certain moment in time. Friday's message was no exception. I quoted it on facebook Friday morning because it's just...well, read it yourself:

"If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits. They will hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you. But if you can, in the wildest of seasons, trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you'll find yourself drawn to a whole new place, and there's truly nothing sweeter. Unclench your fists, unlock your knees and the door to your heart, take a deep breath, and begin to swim. Begin to let the waves do their work in you."

I mean, isn't that just beautiful?!  I think sometimes we can get so entrenched in the season we are currently in that we forget it's just that, a season, a phase. I'm not saying life is not great right now, it is. I'm excited about the new school year and the awesome adventures we have planned for this fall. BUT...change is scary. It hurt my heart to see my former students at back to school night and realize they weren't mine anymore. I know I'll fall into a groove with my new students, their families, the new dynamic in the classroom, with my new teammates, and in my first year as 1st grade team lead. We will get there and it will be wonderful. But now? I am forgetting what the beginning feels like and just missing the end result. But in that quote, and in my journal, I discovered that the hard, the bad, the challenging, the crazy, the upsetting, and scary seasons carved me, formed me, and created me into who I am. I will embrace the waves and let the wave maker work in me because it's better to be looking to God while in the water than being comfortable on the shore. 
And sometimes He will call us deeper than we want to go and it's important to follow. Which led me to think of THIS worship favorite song. And I just had myself a little moment there on Friday and blasted this song. 

So, friend, put on your cutest swimsuit, sunnies, and dive in. "Let the waves do their work in you." 

Friday, August 14, 2015

A letter to my students on the first day of school

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 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, 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 of 2016 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

Sausage Egg Pie

Breakfast for dinner is my jam. Whether it's veggie omelets, french toast or pancakes, we love cooking up some morning chow for dinner. This is one of our most favorite dinner recipes. I also made it for the brunch I wrote about here  The BEST part is that once you buy most of the ingredients, you have enough to make two pies. It's loosely based on this recipe from Land O' Lakes, but after trying different ingredients and flavors, we like this version best.

Sausage Egg Pie
1 pkg. refrigerated pie crust (there's usually 2 in here)
1 pkg. mild Italian breakfast sausage
1 small can diced green chiles
1 small can olives
1 bag frozen O'Brien style hash brown potatoes
1/3 c. half & half
5 eggs
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
optional: spinach, mushrooms

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Place 2 cups of the frozen potatoes in a bowl to slightly thaw. Unroll one of the pie crusts and put on bottom of pie pan. Poke with fork a few times. Bake for 15 mins.
2. While crust bakes, brown sausage, drain. In the pan where the sausage browned, add the potatoes (it's okay if they are still frozen) and the olives, chiles, or any other veggies at this stage. Cook potatoes until soft (about 8 minutes). Add the sausage back into pan. 
3. In the meantime, combine half & half, eggs, salt and paper and whisk.
4. Turn oven down to 350. Now it's time to layer on top of your baked crust! 1/2 of sausage/potato mix, then 1/2 of egg mix, then all of the cheese, remaining sausage, remaining egg. 
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Allow to sit for 5-10 mins before cutting.

Enjoy! Here are some process pics: 

finished crust. It's not the prettiest thing (I never said I was Martha Stewart) but it'll be yummy! 

layering the ingredients 

right out of the oven 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Classroom Tour!

Here is my home away from home, my classroom! Ok, 1st graders, I'm ready for you! I think.....
I like to have pics up to make my space feel like home :) The green card says "She is quick, curious, playful, and strong" to remind me to be all those things everyday! My mom and my mother in law found out I was doing a chevron theme and got me lots of cute chevron details to have around. 

My space. I could be here 24/7 and I'm pretty sure I'd still have stuff to do. A former teammate gave me those chevron mirror decals. So fun and perfect for a post-lunch lipgloss check. 

last year I rearranged my room mid-year to give me open space in the middle. Love that for stories, centers group work, just a change of location during a lesson....

"Wow Work" clips....I used to have my word wall here but wanted a rotating display of student work. First year trying it this way 

chevron decals courtesy of the hubby! The papers under the board are for students to sign once they pass off a phonogram list. I've got my first day of school books ready to roll. 

NEW word wall! Yes, I still need to buy a ladder to get to the A-G section! 

I LOVE my rocking chair. A KSL $20 find last summer 

Last year I was a dummy and wrote the student names on my job chart with a Sharpie instead of a Vis-a-Vis wet erase marker. Lame! I got a new job chart this year and am hoping to wipe off the names and use it again. 

Lesson for the first day: Keep my books neat! Here's hoping they'll stay neat all year.....hahahahaha 

I ordered chevron stamped clips from Etsy and then hot glued tacks to the back. Thanks, Pinterest! 

That's a wrap! I can't wait to have students arrive on Tuesday. Here's to year seven teaching 1st grade!