Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weekending, Pencil Sharpeners, and Doggy Poo

Hello folks!
     My day today (Friday) started with ordering a grande and receiving a venti for the same price so I'm pretty sure that's the universe's way of telling me to chin up, buttercup, the weekend is on the horizon! What's been going on? Sorry to bore, but the usual: teaching (aka: herding cats this year), coming home and squeezing in gym time, some house cleaning and laundry and some reading or TV before bed. Thrilling, I know. In fact, they are considering making a movie about my life. I requested Jennifer Garner to play me. But in all reality, no news is good news. Hubs is working tonight and I have no plans (praise!) so I think I'll take a bubble bath and make a dent in the Jodi Piccoult I'm reading. We are having my fam over for dinner on Sunday and then we'll be ready to start school again on Monday. Not really, but we can pretend, right? 

I like to give shout-outs occasionally to products I like. Well. Let me tell you about this pencil sharpener I am nuts about. If you are not a teacher you might think pencil sharpener? I haven't used one of those since elementary, who cares? No, really, you need this whether you teach or not. A few years ago, frustrated with pencil shavings all over my classroom floor and having busted my 3rd or 4th fancy (expensive) electric sharpener, I took to google to find the "best pencil sharpener for teachers." Behold: the best pencil sharpener in the world. I love this thing. It was designed by a teacher and I love supporting American small business owners. This bad boy is only $25 (they have great deals if you buy in multiples, too) and it is hands down, the best thing ever. I've had other teachers stop by my room just to try it out for themselves. A few people in my hall have even purchased their own. What makes it awesome? It's quiet, it's cute, it's durable, and it's so easy for kids to use because of its unique design, once the silver part hits the back, your pencil is done and sharp. No more having kids over-sharpening and breaking pencil after pencil. Here's a video about how it works Click here and get yours today. It's the best! 

In other news, I found this hilarious....Our new HOA is fairly strict and we received an email this weekend that they are tired of seeing doggy waste around the neighborhood (which begs the question: who, in this frigid weather, is out walking around whining about puppy turds? I haven't seen hardly anyone out since it gets dark early and you know, winter weather) and so they are taking drastic measures and having pet owners get their dog's poo "DNA analyzed" and if a rogue turd is found in the 'hood, it will be taken and DNA tested (apparently Making a Murderer mania has found its way to the local HOA circuit). The dog who is a match earns its owner a hefty fine. Have you ever heard of something so ridiculous?! I am in favor of cleaning up after pets but LAB TESTS to find the furry perp? Insane! I had a good chuckle out of that and AJ and I have been joking about it all day. 

Cheers to the weekend, pals! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What's Going On.....on TV!

Lest you think I don't read at all anymore and that's why I haven't done a book update in a're right! Here's what I've been watching lately. I DO have the book "Leaving Time" By Jodi Piccoult on my nightstand and once I can read more than 3 pages without passing out asleep, I will make a dent in it....probably over the weekend. Until then, pass the remote. 

The Bachelor: I'm digging this season. One, I really like Ben and appreciate ABC trying to make it up to us after Juan Pablo (shudder) and DUI-hoarding farmer Chris. Besides Olivia and sometimes Jubilee, I actually like most of the girls. I think Caila is adorable and would make a great Bachelorette. I'm calling it now, I think Lauren B (the flight attendant) and Becca will make it to the top 3. I think Leah is on her way out soon (pretty much zero camera time). I'm curious if they will play out the whole twin thing more. I was glad Ben "split them up" because they are, you know, TWO SEPARATE people. Olivia is the token psycho and I'm wondering if the girl who actually speaks up and tells Ben that she's a bunny burner will "lose their connection" and regret speaking her mind. Nothing like watching a poor ill-informed Bachelor falling prey to a witch (ahem, Ben's season). 

My Diet is Better Than Yours: I was not planning on following through with this show, but I got totally sucked in. I just cannot with The Biggest Loser this season (the "temptation" element is really demeaning....".you can eat this donut OR make a friend eat it." Hello weird food issues) so this is a great alternative. It's actually super interesting which diets are successful. I'm not so sure it's necessarily demonstrating success of a particular program as it is the willpower and excitement of certain contestants. It's TWO hours a week so I'm known to fast forward most of the physical challenges, but all in all, I'm liking this show. 

Pretty Little Liars: Oh, PLL. I was completely hooked on this show last season when I was on the edge of my seat dying to know who the real "A" was. I really liked the suspense and scary elements and I think the show should have gone out with a bang after the reveal. Seeing the girls shockingly well adjusted after their time in captivity by a psycho (and with killer wardrobes) 5 years in the future is a little hard to buy. But will I stop watching? No, no I will not. 

American Crime: AJ was way into this show last season and I never really got into it. This season is about a school incident and there's intrigue, sex, class, and race issues. It's good! It's nice to have an actual drama show that's NOT reality TV. I also love the concept of the same cast of actors each season but playing totally different parts each season. Interesting and it keeps 1 storyline from dragging on. 

What shows have you been into lately? 

Friday, January 22, 2016


I've been a blog slacker. I fully admit it. But, life, yo. What's been going on? We enjoyed a fun weekend last week with AJ's fam in town. He kept pestering me to make plans (which I'm usually like hell yes), but I was holding off committing to anything because hello house guests (which was a surprise for him!). We browsed around at the mall, went and saw "The Big Short" (all I kept thinking during it was "what would Dave Ramsey do?" Made me want to take all my money out of the bank and keep it in an empty moisturizer jar). It was nice having fam in town and we were both sad to see them go on Tuesday. This week at school has been....well I won't really go into it (don't want to get all rage-y on this sweet blog of mine), but I will say, dang, I have good people around me to support me. At school and at home. I feel like people have my back and that makes all the difference. A simple "want me to take this kid for 20 minutes?" makes my heart fill with joy and gives my soul some breathing room. 
what else warms my soul.....grilled cheese and tomato soup #bliss

I've been kicking it at the gym lately (and by" kicking it", I mean dragging myself to the gym to walk 40 minutes with my tunes blasting) 

On Thursday we celebrated AJ's 30th birthday! My gift to him was the party, but we still went out to a nice dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse and came home and opened family gifts.

my cute birthday man 
 This weekend I have a big ol' "to do" list, but mixed among "wash sheets" and "return library books" and "mop kitchen," I also have things like "go to movies" and "finish stack of magazines" and "make new gym playlist" so it's all good. Hubs and I have a date night planned for Saturday and I'm really looking forward to it. In the meantime, please enjoy this video, it's had me laughing for days. That is some truth right there. Happy weekend, friends! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Surprise Party!

During the summer I started brainstorming for AJ's birthday in January (what can I say? I like to think ahead) and decided I wanted to do something special, he was turning 30 after all! I browsed around on Pinterest and found loads of cute golf party ideas. The word puns were killing me...."thir-tee"/"par-tee"/"thanks for swinging by" and I knew I'd love to throw my man a fabulous golf themed "par-tee." The party was this Saturday and it turned out great! My one regret: I didn't take one single picture when the guests were there! Lame! Thinking of throwing a surprise party? Maybe these tips can help you! I had never even been to a surprise party before so this was all new to me!

The Surprise Element: I began getting $20 cash back each week when I grocery shopped. Using this method, I was able to get close to $300 cash out without AJ even noticing! I sent out e-vites instead of paper invites so AJ wouldn't have a clue. My awesome mom helped out a TON with party planning, so all the decorations and supplies hung out at my parent's house. I ordered the food via phone when AJ was gone one day. In addition, I subtly asked AJ lots of questions about who exactly was in his "lunch crew" at work so I would know who to invite. Most guests were a no-brainer but there were a handful of people he hangs with at work that I don't know. I used his school website to get the email addresses for invites. Once I told the Steele fam about the party, they decided to come visit and surprise AJ! That was just the icing on the cake and made the surprise even more awesome and special.

The Lies: I told AJ the gym was being painted all day Saturday so he wouldn't try and workout and see the decorations in progress. I told him we were going to a special early birthday at my parents house. I offered to drive there (which I never do!) and pulled right into the clubhouse and said "Come on! Let's look at the paint!" AJ was confused and a little irritated, but I opened the door before he could protest and next thing you know.....SURPRISE!

The Food: We used Cafe Rio catering and it was wonderful! Great customer service, affordable, and we are loving the leftovers! My mom made over 60 Funfetti cupcakes for dessert and even those had a cute golf theme to them.

The Decor: I had gathered a bunch of baby pictures from AJ's mom and was racking my brain thinking of a good way to display them. I remembered the jumbo clothespins we used for our wedding and decided to upcycle them into a golf themed display. Easy peasy and a great way to use wedding leftovers. Paper goods were white and green. We also had balloons. I ordered water bottle labels from Chickabug Designs and they turned out so cute!

Entertainment and Take Away: My mom is the party game queen so her and my dad designed a "1986 Trivia" quiz and I wrote an "AJ's favortite" game. Prizes were gift cards to AJ's fave spots: Cafe Rio, Chick fila A, and In and Out! I found on Pinterest a cute "guess how many golf tees" game and we played that too. The takeways were totally all my mom's idea and they turned out great: white chocolate golf balls with a tee and tag attached "Thanks for swinging by..."

Location: We hosted the party at the clubhouse of our condo community. Only $25 to rent, no mess or fuss at our own house, and it was a nice space. I'd totally host another gathering there.

All in all, I am so thankful to everyone who came out to help us celebrate (especially Mom and Dad Steele who traveled all the way from Oregon), and to my family for helping with all the fun details. It was a birthday for the books!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quick and Easy Applesauce Banana Muffins

    I have been in a major baking mood lately. There's just something about putting on good tunes and warming up the house with delicious smells and getting some flour on your face (just me? I'm a messy baker). I mixed up a couple of recipes I found online and created these delicious muffins. I hope you enjoy! And here's a fun tip: freeze 6 for when you're wanting some baked goods in a few weeks...keeps AJ and I from eating all 12 in a week!

You'll need:

2 mushed bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar (or splenda!)
1 egg
3/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour (if you aren't into the texture of ww flour, you can use half white and half ww)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
You can add craisins or nuts too! I like raisins but hubs won't touch anything that involves a raisin.

Combine all ingredients and bake for 20 minutes at 350. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What I'm Loving Lately

Time for the first W.I.L.L. of 2016! 

1) Getting back into "real" music after Christmas. Basically from November on, my car radio was set on XM station 13: Holly. It was Bing and Mariah pretty much nonstop. However, now that the holidays are over, I've been listening to other tunes. Some current favorites are "Dibs" by Kelsea Ballerini, "Same Old Love" by Selena Gomez, and also anything Adele because, obviously. 

2) Married at First Sight: I know, I know. This show proves that gay people should be allowed to get married because if strangers can meet and marry on TV that day then the sanctity of marriage in pop culture is ummm nonexistent? This show is such a guilty pleasure. I have a theory that the "doctors" might actually put opposites together because then hello conflict and conflict is the basis for most reality TV. Nonetheless, this show fascinates me and I can't wait to see which couples decide to stay together (my guess: only Veronica and Tres).

3) Quesadillas. I haven't been in much of a cooking mood lately and these bad boys are my new go-to. AJ is the best quesadilla maker I know. Pre-marriage Leslie would toss a kraft single on a tortilla and pop it in the microwave. I've since expanded into better cheeses, higher quality tortillas, some yummy toppings, and using the stovetop. Ooey, gooey cheesy bliss. These chicken fajita ones are my radar for a dinner this month. 

4) Books! I haven't done a book update post in a while, but over the break I read Lena Dunham's "Not That Kind of Girl" and have only about 50 pages left in "The Man Called Ove." I liked the Dunham book and am also enjoying this new's a really sweet book, reminscent of "The Storied Life of AJ Fikry." So many books, so little time. 

5) Clinique's Sonic Facial Brush: I've been wanting one of these for ages and the in-laws gifted me one this Christmas. Not only is it cute, but it really does a great job cleansing and makes me feel like I just got a facial on a typical weekday night. 

6) The Abide App: Guys. This FREE app is wonderful. It's basically a huge list of topics and 1-4 minute prayers read aloud with peaceful music. I didn't make any "official" new years resoultions this year, but one might be opening this app before I pop into instagram or facebook. Being read to is delightful (the YouVersion Bible app can also read to you!) and this is just a great little app. 

7) The fact that Friday is a teacher work day and there's a 3 day weekend ahead. Yeeeeeeah! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Teacher's Tale of the stuffed animal that melted my heart

Sometimes you just need a sign. Earlier this week I was in need of some divine inspiration. School started back on Monday and "challenging group" doesn't really even begin to describe my bunch. I was tired, missing break and so much quality time with the hubs, and most of all, I was discouraged. I woke up multiple times Monday night wondering how to reach certain kids, why what I've done for the past few years with teaching reading isn't working so well this time, and who I can move by student such and such etc. My mind was a mess of interventions, things to try, do, buy, create, etc. that would make 2016 the best year ever in my classroom. And in my mess I begin to really doubt and question this career of mine. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to turn my back on this job that not only fills my days with joy, but also my heart. BUT it's time to get honest. This job is freaking hard. Any legislator who thinks they know what elementary school involves has obviously never had a bloody nose occur in the middle of a math lesson while another student falls off their chair, your email inbox "ping" just won't quit, all while a 6 year old tugs your sleeve and informs you that they "feel throw-upy." Teachers get the shaft, we get the blame, the weight of the responsibility on our shoulders for what's wrong with "kids today." I have a few choice words for some well-known education gurus (who trade time spent in the trenches of classrooms for pocketfuls of research and DATA, naturally), and not to mention parents, who believe my classroom should be a room of miracles, filled with nonstop aha moments and magic fixes for issues far beyond my training, expertise or pay grade. I read articles like this one and know that I am not alone in this frustration. And to top it all off, those Asian students just keep beating us in test scores and why is this my fault and how can I fix it? If you are not familiar with the concept of "worry spirals," you're welcome for that little intro above. In a nutshell: I was down on myself and my job. Tuesday morning I took my bad attitude to school with me and then......
Then a student, a quiet girl, who never gives me any trouble walked into class carrying a big beautifully wrapped box.I was surprised and asked her if I should open it then or save it for later. She nodded encouragingly and told me now would be good. Inside was a white cat stuffed animal. "Remember when you told us you liked cats? Well, I remembered that and I saw this at the store and asked my mom if we could get it for you." WELL. Take that bad attitude. I hugged that cat tight and told the student thank you. I asked her what I should name this new cutie. She told me she'd think about it. Around 10:30, she came up to me and whispered, "How about Snowball?" Snowball came home with me and I told my husband the story with tears rolling down my eyes because of the sweet and simple gesture delivered right when I needed it most. This is a job for grown ups to learn from and guide small humans. It's about connection. Numbers matter but they take a back seat to the magical connection that happens when passion, learning, light bulb moments and joy come together. Being a teacher is who I am. It's not always pretty or even close to perfect, but thank goodness for Snowballs to help cushion the fall and help us onto our feet once more. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas Break

The Sunday before school starts again. Yes, I crave routine. Yes, I'm excited to actually get dressed and put on some mascara. Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing my class again. But boy oh boy, what a great break it was! In a nutshell, there was plenty of: family time, sleeping in, treats (a cookie detox may be necessary), relaxation, movies (Sisters & Joy....both meh. We loved The Intern), fuzzy slippers, holiday joy, catching up with friends, afternoon naps, shopping, a trip to Oregon, and so much more. We had a blast and I can't wait for what 2016 will bring!! I have taken a bit of a blog hiatus and I'm excited to get back into that as well. Thanks for joining me on this bloggy journey. xoxo
Without further ado, some pics:
The best Christmas gift: AJ's brother Matt surprised us and was in town from EGYPT! We had a blast hanging out, singing 90's worship jams, and hitting it lucky at the casino. 

movies in bed. a necessary part of my winter break to do list 

holiday mani 

weekend breakfasts on weekdays! 

This was us on Christmas Eve. We did dinner out, then to Barnes and Noble to stock up on new reads for our trip, and then Church. We attended a service then worked in the nursery, it was fun! 

Christmas desert at my fams 

my mom dared us to wear these holiday noses on the plane and take a selfie....we obliged. Then took them off and gave them to the kids sitting behind us. 


We went to a lovely NYE dinner in Bend with AJ's parents 

Are these not the cutest?! Love these NYC sheets from Martha Stewart.