Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

Hello Friends,

  I hope you all had spectacular Tuesdays. Mine started with a jolt as the hubs set his radio alarm clock this morning (honestly? No clue why we still have one of these) and it was on static. Nothing like deafening static to get you moving and shaking at 5:30. But the morning got infinitely better as I stopped off for a “grande soy misto with 2 pumps pumpkin.” Heavenly. This is the first week in months I think that I don’t have something every evening to do or somewhere to go. Praise. We are finalizing house paperwork and are on the edge of our seats waiting to find out when we can move. Although the actually moving our stuff part? Yeah haven’t really thought of that. Maybe there was a reason I de-cluttered and everything that wasn’t nailed down was at risk for being tossed away this summer. The in-laws arrive into town on Thursday and while I wish I could take Friday off to hang with them, there’s this little thing called School costume parade and class Halloween party. Ain’t no party being thrown in my class without me there. (Well, one, it’s fun, but two, the thought of 26 1st graders having their way with glitter and glue/other party goods and that it might not get cleaned properly gives me legit hives). We are on a mission not to go out to eat at all this week (well, until the Steele fam arrivies) so we’ve planned some yummy recipes this week: pork stir fry with brown rice, southwestern quiche, and chicken on the grill. I am so beyond thankful for a chill week as next week seems to be getting busy fast. Oh. And if you need a laugh, please please please check out the stand up “War Paint” by Iliza Schlesinger on Netflix. I laughed last night till I couldn’t breathe. I’m actually still laughing about it. I’ll leave you with a clip. Peace out, peeps.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

First Light

This morning I was up before the dawn. It wasn't an abrupt wake up but more like my body whispering, "Get up, sleephyhead. This is when we usually hop up and take on the day." It was 5:30 and I glanced over at my peacefully sleeping husband. Just because my body clock is urging me out from under the covers, it doesn't mean his is too. Before you think I'm just the sweetest wife, there are many mornings where I wake him up. My reasoning? I want a pal in the morning. He is not always amused, but sometimes he is, so I keep doing it. Today, though, I let him sleep. I creep downstairs and turn on one lamp. It's early and I'm not ready for the harsh overhead lighting yet.

I toss in a load of laundry and sit. I could turn on the TV (I have 4 episodes of Oprah's "Belief" miniseries in the DVR waiting for me) or I could turn on Pandora. Jack Johnson and Norah Jones stations have been recent faves. But no, I keep it quiet. Just me, in my pjs, with my thoughts. I think about the upcoming day-we have no major plans, church, a fall drive, Sunday cleaning, and getting some things ready for the week. Typical, but beautiful. The world is still and the sun is beginning to rise. Oh how different this morning scene is than a usual week day. Hurry, alarm, snooze, drag, hot shower, hurry, eyemakeup, coffee maker, itunes playing, clock glancing, hurry, grab a granola bar, rushed goodbyes and quick kisses, don't forget your lunch. HURRY. Today I want quiet. I want peace. I want to create. I set to work making banana applesauce muffins. Usually when I bake (one of my favortite past-times) I have music blaring. Not this morning. I carefully measure, sift, stir. It's just me, the ingredients, and my thoughts.

 By the time the muffins are ready for the hot oven, I switch the laundry to the dryer. The world is still so still and quiet. I love the peaceful hum of the dryer. Turning over and over and over. I wait for the muffins. I wait patiently. No blogs to read, no books to read. Just me, with a cup of coffee, with my thoughts. Finally the muffins are done but I wait. I long to take a bite out of one but am patient, waiting for the chilly fall air to cool them enough to take a sweet bite. By this time, it is light out and the windows are open. I walk up the stairs and gently wake AJ. Time to start the day, I whisper. It's just us, our love, and our thoughts. And a whole day of joy between us.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Roundup

There is just something about fall that makes me want to get under a blanket and get through some pages. I read a few books this month and below are my thoughts. What are you reading lately?

1. Life is Short: I mentioned this book on my fall book list and really enjoyed it. It's a fluffy read (I think I read it in 3 days) but it's a fun read about overcoming obstacles and triumphing over your situation. The last half of the book is pretty much a recap of the show, so if you are a fan of "The Little Couple" you might like it or you might be bored.

2. Paper Towns: Loved this one. Another speedy read, it was interesting and caught my attention. I want to read more of John Green, his voice is candid and relatable.

3. The Real Thing: I mentioned this book last week. Such a fun read about true love, relationships, advice, and wedding anecdotes. I may have pulled out our wedding pics a few times while reading and remembering our special day. A must read for anyone who loves love....so all of us!

4. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry: Ok, this book. I must admit I grabbed it at the library as a joke because AJ asked me to pick up a book for him and hello? How hard is it to choose a book for someone else? That's a personal decision like what your Starbucks order is.....it's hard to order it up for someone else. I brought the book home and said, I picked this one for you, because it has your name in it! He rolled his eyes but got to reading. He finished it quickly and urged me to read it myself. You know what? One of the best books I read all year. It's about a grumpy old bookshop owner and the quirky characters in their small New England town. Something dramatic happens that shakes up his predictable world. I laughed, I cried. This one was a great find. And bonus, tons of fun literary references throughout.

5. Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: I can't say much here because I began this book last night. I have heard great things. This is actually a text book of AJ's for a diversity in education class he is taking. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here's wishing you a chunk of "you" time for a good read. Leave the technology behind and get acquainted with a book. I sound like a '90's Scholastic poster in an elementary school library, but you get the idea.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Weekending: Fall Break Edition

Well, sweet Fall Break, we are in the home stretch and you have been good. So good and much needed. Here's a recap:
Thursday: We slept in and made pancakes. There is just something about eating pancakes in your pjs watching daytime television on a weekday that is just one of life's sweetest things. We had some paperwork to drop off for our home loan to go into processing. I have never signed my name more in my entire life. But it was an e-signature so I couldn't practice fun new cursive styles but AJ reminded me this is a good thing because important home loan documents where big time mortgage people have your checkbook for the next 30 years is not the place to practice chalkboard lettering. He's a smart one, my man. I got my Target trip in that I'd been wanting and I may have also done some Christmas shopping. I know. That night I made a new recipe in the crockpot (October goals, what what!) and it was amazing. Lasagna Soup will definitely be made again. SO great.
Friday: We both lounged all morning and got some school work done. I put my students' stories and the matching rubrics right under my nose Wednesday night so I would for sure get to them. We then went on a long walk on the Jordan River Parkway....we went further than we've ever gone on it and that was our mission! That afternoon we went and saw the new horror flick "Crimson Peak." I am not usually one for spooky stuff but Tis the season, right? It was delightfully gory and corny and I'd actually recommend it if you're looking for a creepy flick. Friday night we met my family for dinner and cake and presents because it was my mom's birthday! Happy Birthday, Mom! We ended up staying late and chatting. Have I mentioned how awesome it is that AJ blends in so well with our family?
Saturday: The day of cleaning and groceries. Sigh. I made Rookie Wife Mistake of the year and washed AJ's wallet in his jean pockets. Whoops. We went back and forth and concluded it was basically his fault. Can I get an amen, ladies? I babysat Saturday night and AJ also worked too so nothing too exciting there.

We had a great weekend of a whole lotta nothing and it felt nice. We have a BUSY week ahead but I think we are both looking forward to diving into the rest of October. The Steele fam comes for a visit in a few weeks and we will know soon our official moving date. Good things indeed. Here's some pics:

It's a tradition I have to teach "Pumpkin Day" before Fall Break. It was so much fun. 

student work calling out to me "grade me, grade me" 

Ok, I need to confess: I haven't used these since middle school but my sister had them a few weeks ago and reignited my love for the Biore strip. I'm on the bandwagon again. 

Just a car selfie on the way to mom's birthday celebration 

Tulie Bakery is the 6th love language and I'm pretty sure it's mine. Funny story: when I was still in Chicago and in the process of moving back to Utah, I was trying to decide a cool area to live in. I googled and found this bakery and really wanted to live in its vicinity. I ended up not living by it and live even further now, but my initial excitement was totally warranted. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

testing 1 2 3

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Take a breather....

Learning how to relax seems simple, right? Turn on Netflix, visit with a friend, take a walk, enjoy a hot bubble bath....but believe it or not teaching myself to relax was (and is) a big challenge for me. It's no surprise I'm a type A person. I structure my days around lists, can tell you off the top of my head what I've got going on for the next month or so, use a whiteboard calendar, a lesson plan book, Iphone reminders, and a purse sized day planner to stay on top of it all. There is nothing wrong with any of this. It's who I am and I like it that way. It's how I was able to manage teaching a multi-grade class in Chicago while drowning in grad school tasks. It's how I organize our household financially and plan what to pay and save when. It's how I try to fill my life and days with meaningful stuff so I never miss a minute of things that are important to me. BUT (oh, yes, there's always a but isn't there) a few years ago I hit a wall. I just couldn't keep doing it all. Here's the thing: in my quest to be wonder woman, fitness champion, teacher of the year, friend to all, relationship guru, decorator extraordinaire, sunday school teacher, unstoppable volunteer, maker of healthy and delicious meals, I become so exhausted and overwhelmed that I didn't take joy in any of those things. I remember one November Saturday 3 years ago when AJ and I had been dating about 8 months. He came to pick me up to see a movie and halfway there in his little red truck, I burst in to tears. My response to his concern about what was wrong: "I am just so tired." Boom. Trying to do it all and be it all had landed me crying and exhausted on a beautiful Saturday with my best friend beside me. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

 Cue to now, 3 years later, and while I am not "cured" of my perfectionism and relentless tenacity, I have learned how to relax. I know that it's ok to leave work with piles of grading on my desk. I know it's ok to toss a Lean Cuisine in my tote bag because a pinterest-worthy lunch just ain't happening sometimes. I know that it's ok to listen to my body when it's craving sleep even though it's only 9 pm. I know that it's ok to skip a gym day and that I'm not doomed to be on "My 600 Lb. Life" if I eat a brownie in the staff room. I know that it's ok to say one of the most powerful words I had to train myself to say: No. No, I cannot help you that day. No, I have plans and can't make it to two things in one evening. No, I don't think that's something I can do right now. Saying no to negativity powerfully reshaped my life and made me a better, more genuine person. Life is too short to do things out of excessive obligation. Especially when you're feeling obligated only to yourself. 

This school year has challenged me to re-up my efforts of learning to relax. My bunch of kids this year is hard, man. HARD. It's difficult to explain to those not in the teaching world, but let's just say there's a whole lotta special ed issues, students with emotional issues, behavior issues, etc. It's like my brain needs to be 110% engaged each day to maintain my sanity and for my classroom to be in positive working order. That's a tough pill to swallow after a few years in a row of wonderful classroom dynamics. Add to the craziness of my kiddos being a mentor teacher, team lead, and communicating with the other team lead at our school's new campus and you've got yourself a recipe for "Leslie crying in the truck on the way to do something fun." But no, I will say that powerful little word again: NO. I won't let this year break me. I will be strong. I will see the positive in my students and in myself. I will grant myself grace to acknowledge all the good stuff I am doing and the grace to know when to stop all that good stuff and take some time for me. I will still use my planners in all their forms, I will still strive and perfect, I will still be my best self. But my best me is one who is filled with the knowledge that NO, I cannot and will not do it all. But fortunately I don't have to. I have heaps of grace that I dole out to myself on a daily basis. The grace doesn't come from me, it comes from the Big Guy upstairs, but it's a grace I can dip into each day and breathe in and out, "I am enough." 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hello random

I wanted to write deep this week. Soulful, thought provoking, insightful stuff. But you want to know what? It's 9:46 and I'm exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open and I just noticed one of my Jamberry nails has fallen off and my feet hurt (which, why? I didn't make it to the gym today), and I'm equal parts excited/nervous for 1st grade pumpkin day tomorrow. Knives. Pumpkin Guts. Bajillion seeds. I know there will be parents there, but there will also be mess and chaos. But it'll be ok. Right? RIGHT? So here's a slew of random, for ya'll cause that's how I'm doing this Tuesday, mmmkay?

1. I am reading the delightful book called "The Real Thing." It caught my eye at the library and I knew I had to read it. It's part anecdote, part advice, a little Carrie Bradshaw meets Dr. Phil. And it's a fast read. Highly recommend. 

2. We had BLT's for dinner tonight and for some reason they hit the spot. Easy, delicious, and fast. Winning. 

3. Soooo....this is a post in and of itself but I'll just say this: we bought a house. Yeahhhhhhh. I'm trying not to get too excited/in planner mode until we have officially closed, but the inspection is next week and I promise more deets once more is official! 

4. FALL BREAK begins tomorrow at 4:00 and I am ready. AJ and I were brainstorming some fun adventures we could and have and things we could do. He turned to me this morning after our alarms went off and said, "Why do I pretend like we're adventure people? I kind of want to bring all our pillows downstairs and watch Netflix." To which I replied, "Sounds great. I think I want to visit Target too." Watch out, world! 

5. In between naps and Target, I really do want to get some quality writing time in this week. There's lots of ideas marinating in my head I want to type through. 

6. The air has been crisp and cool and this little guy joined us on our porch this week.

7. May your Wednesday be happy and also include a PSL because well, you deserve it. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

What I'm Loving Lately

It's time for another addition of WILL (short for What I'm Loving Lately)! Enjoy!

1. Maybelline Blushed Nudes: I've had my eyes on this awesome eye palette for a while and heard great things about it. I went for it and bought it last weekend and love it. A palette that large can be a little overwhelming so the back has great color guides for duos, trios, and quads.  

2. My Big Fat Fabulous Life: This show got me hooked last season and now I just love it. Whitney is hilarious and the show follows her daily life as she tries to launch her No Body Shame campaign. Her mom Babs is my favorite part. Check it out if you're looking for a new fun show.

3. Spelling Test Scores: I have been stressing lately over my students' low scores on their spelling tests. This week's scores were awesome....so much higher than before! Yippee! I tried some new methods but I also think the students are getting into the groove of 1st grade.

4. Cinnamon Roasted Almonds: You know that smell of hot cinnamon in the mall around Christmas? THESE are the culprit and they are delicious. These are my new favorite snack and adds some pizazz to normal snacking almonds. Put these babies in your cart asap.

5. AAA: On Monday afternoon I came out to my car after school and I had my first ever flat tire. I thought I ran over a rock or something that morning and I guess it punctured the tire. Triple A to the rescue. They got my dinky spare put on until I could make it to the tire place for a new one. Peace of mind for a non-handy gal like myself!

first flat and tire replacement in almost 5 years, not bad I guess 

6. Paper Towns: I found this book on a "used" rack at the Phoenix airport for only $5! (I guess you can "rent" books at the airport now, who knew?). I'm almost done and really enjoying it. I want to see the movie when I'm finished.

7. A weekend at home with my better half and some fun stuff planned but also pretty mellow:  no explanation needed, just perfection.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Easy Yummy Dinners

AJ and I are always on the hunt for quick, delicious,easy, and (somewhat) healthy dinner ideas. I came across these 3 last year and they are some of our favorites.What are you go-to dinners?

Creamy Avocado Pasta :This one is amazing because while it sounds strange, it’s the perfect combo of guacamole and pesto. Sound weird? Well it’s delicious and oh so flavorful! Besides fresh basil I usually have all the ingredients on hand. This one is super quick because you make the sauce in the blender.

image from damn delicious

Sausage/Veggie Skillet: This one is a winner dinner. It’s perfect for cozy fall evenings and it’s really healthy too. Honestly, it's not really a recipe, you just throw all the fresh ingredients (we use onion, green apple, sweet potatoes, seasonings, sausage rounds) in a skillet and voila! We like chicken apple sausage but you could really use any kind. Any the veggie potential is huge too…..squash and zucchini would be a great addition.
image from Betty Crocker 

3. Mexican Quinoa . This is by far one of our favorite dinners. It’s easy, quick, and satisfies a Mexican food craving without resorting to cookie sheet nachos (which we do as well, and it’s fabulous, but healthy? No way). I doctor this one up with guac and cheddar on top and it’s delightful.

image from damn delicious 

We had all 3 of these meals this past week and enjoyed them all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Phoenix Fun

I was SO excited to visit my little sister Libby in Phoenix over the 3 day weekend! We had a great time. Warning: This post is a major photo dump. Last week was a BLUR with parent-teacher conferences. They all went well, but I started to feel like a robot by the end. You know that tired where you take a few seconds to think of your next word? Yeah, that. I tried a new format this year and really enjoyed it and all the kids and parents were great but by the 26th fifteen minute meeting I was so over it. I woke up Friday bright and early and AJ took me to the airport. I am a notoriously nervous traveler who needs to get to the airport hours and hours before my flight. But thanks to post-conference exhaustion, I got there right on time, with a quick visit for a vanilla latte before I boarded. There was NO ONE on the seat next to me going there. Everytime someone walked down the aisle I would think no, no, no, don't stop here! Keeeeeep moving. It worked! Libby met me at her campus and I was there by 9:30! We walked all around downtown (first I changed out of my scarf/yoga pants look and into shorts because hello 95 degrees). It was so fun to see her stomping grounds and cool that she gets the urban experience of being at the downtown Phoenix ASU campus but also has classes and activities at the Tempe campus too for a more traditional college vibe. We ate lunch in her dining hall and damn, I forgot how much I missed the little thing you put your dirty dishes on and they are just whisked away. Adulthood isn't like that, you fresh-faced youth! Enjoy the grocery-free experience of unlimited salad bar toppings and the gourmet omelet bar. Then we decided to take the shuttle into Tempe. We explored and walked and walked and walked until we felt like we earned a feast. We went out for Mexican food and called it an early night.

Libby's sweet view from her dorm room
we doctored up this pic and sent it to our family with the quote "We got too much sun!!" haha. 

Palm trees will always be cool to me 

pretty downtown park area 

Saturday was our hot air ballooning adventure! My parents have friends in Phoenix who they used to balloon with and they had a 2 person pass and offered it to Libby and I. Of course we said yes and were so excited to experience this neat thing together and with the expertise of friends who knew all about it. They picked us up at 5 am (which was actually super nice because it was cool out!) and we headed to the meeting place. We signed our lives away and got in the balloon company's van to head out to the launch site in the desert. Not gonna lie, we were both kinda scared. I grabbed Libby's hand as we lifted off the ground and whispered a "Jesus take the.....uhhh, basket I guess?" It was such a neat experience and felt like a ride, only it was real and nature and beautiful. What a great way to see the desert. Once we landed (ok, that part was kinda scary), they told us the story of the first hot air balloon, we said the Balloonist's prayer, and had a champagne toast and lovely breakfast right there in the middle of the desert!

 When we got back to campus I immediately took a nap while Libby worked on homework. That evening we explored some more and went to see a movie (The Martian with Matt Damon, pretty good). Of course we snuck in some movie treats from her campus convenience store because she has "M &G" bucks that she can spend on campus which are like flex dollars that go with her meal plan (College life, care to take me back? Please?). Sunday we walked to a cute coffee place in the hipster part of town and she showed me her main journalism building and where her classes are. Overall, it was so fun being a pretend college student for the weekend. It was wonderful seeing Libby in her element and I know as happy as she is to be at ASU, they are just as happy to have her. I can't wait to visit again and this time am thinking side trip to Sedona....anyone been there? Libby comes home for fall break this weekend and I am excited to see her and as she keeps teasing AJ, "unleashing all the inside jokes from the weekend!"

PS) We had donuts from this shop called The Fractured Prune. I had never heard of it before but it's this place where you can choose your own glaze and toppings. OMG, heaven. Apparently there's one in St. George, Utah too. Worth it!