Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving and Things

Hello There,
   I am emerging from under 5 blankets with a cup of coffee and the credits rolling on the "Fall" episode of Gilmore Girls. I won't give spoilers, but overall I enjoyed it. It was a little weird, but highly entertaining for this holiday weekend. I honestly got so into this long weekend that I feel like I haven't been to work in about a year. That's the sign of a good vaycay/break, right?! I was re-reading my Thanksgiving Post from last year and can't believe how much is different and how much is still the same, too.
our FIFTH Thanksgiving together! Thankful for AJ! 
This break I managed to: workout a few times (Thanksgiving morning boot camp was full of energy and so much fun!), finish my Christmas wrapping, finish up Jodi Piccoult's new novel (love), started reading "Grit," got some good Black Friday deals at Ulta, Old Navy, and Bath and Body Works, ate way too much pie, enjoyed spending time with AJ's parents who stayed with us through Saturday morning, went to a dinner party with friends, saw "Allied" (enjoyed it!), had Thanksgiving dinner with both sets of families and my sister, Libby, who was home from college, and deep cleaned the house. Whew!
My mother in law made this gorgeous apple pie. She also made 2 pumpkins and I made a peanut butter cream pie. It was a very sweet holiday! 

I was on the hunt for a new wreath and found this cute one. 

I am absolutely in love with these boot socks. I found them a few weeks ago and am sort of obsessed. 

Photo bombed by mom!

Bath and Body was CRAY on Friday (lines just to get in the door). But I stocked up on Wallflowers and discovered this scent, Snowflakes and Cashmere, it's my new fave

I was a little worried about how the first major holiday without Hadley would go. All in all, it went okay. Of course the actual day of Thanksgiving was a little sad, and I had already practically planned her outfits for all the major holidays. There's a hole and it's Hadley-sized and there's no denying that. BUT....this time last year I was only like a week pregnant (and wouldn't know until early December) and the thought of meeting my baby girl was not even on my radar. We had miracles this year. We had heaps of heartache, too, but we choose to try and focus on our miracles. There was no searching for what I was thankful for this year. I am thankful for her. Every second of every day.
One of the happiest moments of my life and my highlight of 2016 (tied with when I got to hold Hads for the first time)

We wrapped up the weekend with this yummy turkey pinwheel recipe and I predict a facial mask, a glass of pinot, Sister Wives premiere and an early bedtime for this girl. I hope your Thanksgiving was delicious, delightful, and most of all, full of love. I am thankful for YOU, sweet readers, who put up with my randomness and ramblings. Knowing you read, you care, you connect, and relate, keeps me writing. Thank you!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Some stuff

If you think you're getting a deep/spiritual/thought provoking post, please refer to the title of this post and see that this lady is tired and wanted to share some random stuff. Feel free to click away, but if you are in the mood for "some stuff" I am your girl!

1. We decorated our house for Christmas! I turned on the "Mariah Carey Holiday" pandora station and just couldn't wait any longer. We will get a tree in a few weeks (this year we are doing a real one, but a small-ish one) but other than that, we are festive and ready for the egg nog and candy canes! We had just moved into our place this time last year (only 29 more years until it's ours....nervous laugh) and we decided to get it all set up the way we wanted it to look normally so we didn't really decorate last year. It was so fun decorating this year. I love how all of our ornaments tell a story.

Found these seasonal light wood cut outs (we got a reindeer and a snowman) at Spoons and Spice. I love them so much AND they fold up for easy storage. Also, yes, that is a portrait of my husband on the shelf. A gift from a student he taught. He found it in a drawer a few weeks ago and insisted it be displayed. I pick my battles and this was not one worth getting into. Haha. The portrait stays. Somehow I think Chip and Joanna might actually approve of it?! 

the tree stump from our first tree as a married couple. 

2. We went to a Jazz game with some friends on Monday night and had a great time. Even though the Jazz lost, it's always a fun time and primo people watching. I am still picking out popcorn from my purse because that rascal Jazz Bear dumped a bucket of popcorn on us! He was cute until he was naughty. (That also describes most of the boys in my class this year). 
3. This weekend I finished up Christmas shopping (praise hands emoji here), took a long nap, read more of the new Jodi Piccoult (Loving it, no surprise there), attended a friend's wedding reception, had a late night Target run, and went to see "The Edge of Seventeen." It was a really great movie, highly recommend! Woody Harrelson plays one of my favorite teacher roles ever. 

4. When I was in the hospital before I had Hadley, I watched an ungodly amount of television and remember seeing Grace Vanderwaal perform on "America's Got Talent." Her single is finally out and I am obsessed with her voice. It's not my typical gym jam, but I may have listened to it on repeat on the treadmill today. 

5. Anyone out there watching Westworld?? I am about 4 episodes in and I kind of love it. It is, however, the weirdest thing I've ever seen in my life.

6. I am a tad worried about our health and diet over the holidays. Where is the balance between splurging and staying fit? I'd like to know and then live there. In the meantime, here is my new fave thing: a cup of Greek yogurt, plus berries, nuts, and honey. YUM! It's all in one cup which is especially handy considering our dishwasher broke 13 days ago (but who's counting really?? who????) and it won't dirty but a spoon. Please send good vibes that the part ordered for the dishwasher arrives Monday or Tuesday.

7. There's only 2 days of school this week and then AJ's fam arrives and we will spend the holiday at my parent's house. My sis is coming home from college and I can't wait to spend some quality time being thankful. 
Cheers to a short week, banning the word "Trump" from holiday dinners, more turkey than you know what to do with, and giving thanks, because life is pretty darn sweet. Also, this:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Shrimp Pasta Stir Fry

I have one of my new favorite recipes to share with you. I made a batch of this on Sunday and we will have it for dinner twice this week. It's delicious, easy, healthy, and there are lots of possibilities to mix it up. This is a variation of a recipe from Dr. Phil's 20/20 Diet.

Shrimp Pasta Stir Fry
The Cast of Characters:

-1 box whole wheat linguine
-shrimp (I use frozen/pre-cooked)...about 6 shrimp per person
-4 tbs. peanut butter softened in the microwave for 90 seconds
-1 package mushrooms
-1 tbs. garlic
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (can adjust according to heat preference)
3 cups baby spinach
1 cup veggie broth
1 diced red pepper
1 diced yellow pepper
1 bag frozen broccoli
1 dash soy sauce

Make linguine. Set aside. I keep mine hanging out in the strainer and then use the same pot to make the stir fry. Cook up the baby spinach, veggie broth, diced peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli (I microwave it first for about 5 minutes. Try the steamer bag kind to make it even easier. Or you could even use fresh broccoli). In a bowl make your sauce. Mix the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, red pepper, dash of soy sauce. Pour over cooked stir fry veggies. Toss in linguine. When ready to serve, mix in shrimp. If you are using fresh shrimp (not pre-cooked) you can cook them with your veggies. This is yummy with crushed peanuts on top. How easy and simple is that?!

Variations: no meat, chicken, bean sprouts, edamame, peas, baby corn. And if you think peanut butter in pasta is weird (don't knock it till you try it!), you can omit the peanut butter and add some sesame oil for more of a pasta salad vibe. You have tons of possibilities!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

And Yet....

I've been a journaling fiend lately, and wanting to share some of my thoughts with you on the blog. Early November was one of the most difficult times I have had since Hadley passed. Physically I am all healed and feeling good, this month marks FIVE months since her birth and it would seem life has resumed back to business as usual. But yet it's so not usual, it's weird, new, and raw. But on the outside it looks the same. It even feels the same sometimes. But I am not the same, I am so radically different and changed (in some ways for better and some ways for worse). 

  Hadley's grave marker arrived and was installed last week. That hit me like a ton of bricks. It was physical evidence of the gaping hole in my heart. If you've lost someone close to you (I never had until Hadley), you know the feeling. The heart wrenching pain as your eyes spill out the tears caused from your broken spirit. Your hands feel and touch every inch of the stone and you think trying to "read" it like braille will somehow make it make sense. There's no sense to be made from it. I've struggled with teaching this year. It's hard to love other people's children when yours is in the ground. It's difficult to smile through gritted teeth when people tell you with an exaggerated eyeroll that "life's crazy, parenting is hard." Believe me, I know. But yet, I cling to the knowledge that "everyone is just doing their best." I'm in this weird space of refusal to be a victim (I flat out refuse. I am lucky and grateful and life doles out crap to everyone) but also being comfortable being like, yeah, this is totally unfair, unjust, and it sucks. It just really does. 

About 3 weeks after Hadley's death, AJ and I went back to church. Oh friends, it was so hard. One of the songs has a repeated verse that says, "You are good." In July when we sang that song that day in church, I couldn't. I grabbed AJ's hands as my eyes filled with tears. "I can't sing that because I don't believe that." I whispered to AJ. He nodded, he couldn't sing it either. I could not, would not believe that God was good. No good God would take my baby away. Sometimes it's hard to tell that AJ and I are progressing, that life is in fact moving forward. A few weeks ago in church we sang that song again. And this time I sang along. In fact, I bought the song on Itunes that same day and have probably listened to it no less than ten times a day since. It's such a paradox: life can kick you so hard and yet...and yet.....He is good. I don't understand why this happened to us. I will never understand. But one of the things that makes Him good is that I don't need to. He sees my pain, He hears my cry, and I like to think He wonders why I sob at her grave because He holds her now and while it SUCKS, we are trying to rest in that three word mantra: He is good. In spite of all the junk. That is something to sing about. Don't stop singing, even if it's through tears. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Stranded: Outerwear!

Today I am linking up with Shay at Mix and Match Mama and Erica at Little Bit of Everything  for their monthly Stranded series!!

Last month was all about that it's getting cooler, this month is all about outerwear.....Here are my 3 essentials!

1. Classic Peacoat. I love a good peacoat. They can be dressed up or down and are just the perfect pop of prep. I have a white one this year that I really like, but I also love fun brightly colored ones.

2. Black Northface Fleece. I of course of had to jump on the black Northface bandwagon after going to college in the Northwest. I distinctly remember telling my parents, "But really, evvvvveryone has one and I really need one" at Christmas time 2009. I am on my third Northface black fleece since then and love and it as much as the day I got it. They make itty bitty baby ones and yes, future Baby Steele will be rocking one, too.
3. Puffer Vest. Confession: I used to think puffer vests weren't cute. Then I found one in a cute print I liked and I want to get a hundred more. They are warm and look cute with dark washed jeans. Both these looks pictured here need to get in my closet immediately!

Those are my top 3 outerwear choices!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

They Listen

Today I had my students vote for Trump or Clinton (I didn't dare introduce write ins or third parties....if you teach then you know there would be 997984794 more questions so we just kept it simple). They had to write the candidate they wanted on their "ballot" (index card), draw a picture, and write a sentence why they chose that candidate. I didn't have them share with anyone, but I did tally the votes and Clinton won by a two person margin. It was intense, guys. I stuck the "ballots" in my bag along with other grading and tonight, while watching the real election results unfold on TV, I read my students' ballots and was blown away at their candor and sincerity.
photo cred: NYTimes 

 I won't post pictures because I don't really have their permission to, but their drawings were SPOT. ON.. Here are some of the responses I received:
Note: I corrected 1st grade spelling because I speak fluent 6 year oldese but you might not. 

"I like Trump because that's a cool name."
"I like Hillary because she's better than Trump."
"Hillary because my mom loves her."
"That Donald guy is rude." 
"Donald Trump will keep us safe."
"Hilary won't put walls around us." 
"I pick Donald Trump because he is not a Democrat." (This student spelled "democrat" correctly, too. Dang) 
"I pick Hillary because she's a girl and we need a girl president." (got this response three times) 
"I will pick Donald Trump because Hillary says she will kill babies." 
"I want Hillary because Trump will build big walls."
"I pick Hillary Clinton because she is nice.Donald Trump is mean."

These little ears listen. Their eyes watch. And their mouths speak what they hear. Their hearts and minds take it all in and they wrestle with it and try and make sense of it all just like us grown ups do.  Let's make them proud. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Recipes, Goals, and Pinterest Finds

Oh weekends, even WITH the extra hour this weekend, they just go by so fast, don't they?!

This weekend was delightfully lazy: a little gymmin', tried this recipe for crockpot ribs (loved it), this recipe for pumpkin coffee cake (one of my fave recipes all year), went to dinner with my man, did some Christmas shopping (I was wondering since Halloween was on Monday if Christmas stuff would be out. It was out. So out. I respect the turkey, but I kind of love the Christmas cheer in November too), went for a loooong walk around Daybreak Lake, meal prepped, started Jodi Piccoult's new book, caught up on laundry (two people live here...why is there always so much?!), got my hair cut and colored, took a nap, and overall just chilled. 

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately and came across this quote on Pinterest and just love love love it. Some of the things I am trying to change this month: 1) getting more sleep, 2) not being on my phone as much, 3) speaking up when something is wrong or unfair and 4) pushing myself to physical limits and not giving up when I feel like it.  I used to do a whole monthly goals things on the blog, but right now, these are the four I am focusing on this month....and I get the feeling these ones might be on my radar for longer than that. 

Speaking of monthly goals, I also came across this on Pinterest and had to laugh. I am working out of my 2016 and 2017 planner these days and it's just so "Leslie" (Steele and Knope). 
That's all I've got, folks. Oh and ......

It seems in the current political climate (I pray the world keeps spinning after Tuesday), we should at least agree on colors on cups. Whatevs, ya'll. I think the green cups are adorbs (I love how it's drawn with all one line....we're all connected. Sob!) and I will gladly sip my grande nonfat light whip caramel brulee latte in any cup, thank you very, much. Cheers (with any color cup you'd like) to a new week ahead! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What I'm Loving Lately

Hey there! It's been a minute since I've posted a here it is! November edition: where is time going??

1. Movie Afternoons with my Man. We've spent a few Sundays over the past few months going to movies and it's been really fun. Of course the experience is not complete without a tub of popcorn. But it's the perfect way to spend a weekend afternoon (especially when it's gloomy out!) We saw "Girl on the Train" last week and enjoyed it. I read the book and the movie sticks very closely to it.

2. Halloween: Can we just take a second to wonder why the calendar gods had Halloween fall on a MONDAY? Truth be told, I was sort of dreading it and it wasn't that bad. I wanted a Halloween costume that was a character that my kids knew this year so I was Pete the Cat! The Halloween party was cute, chill, and clean (my 3 party necessities) and all in all, it wasn't too bad. It was such a beautiful evening that AJ and I sat in the driveway and handed out candy there. Of course it was one of the major holidays without our girl so I was sort of bummed. I had a fun family costume planned (of course I did) and I'm tucking it away for future use. I hope my Hadley was an angel this year. After all, it's a simple costume for her, really.

3. The Voice: I need to fill The Bachelor reality TV void in my life and I have turned to this show. I am loving it! Team Alicia is my fave (because Alicia is like a soulful goddess) but there are lots of great contestants on all the teams. Brenden and Darby are my most faves. I love hearing new songs and rediscovering old ones. I'm hooked on this one.

4. Boot Camp: I am going strong and have set a goal to get my "50 workouts" star on the wall before 2016 is up. I am working hard, dripping sweat, pushing myself, and really enjoying it. I joined for weight loss but I am discovering the benefits of increased energy, feeling stronger, and those good ol' endorphins. I am so glad I made this step for myself.

5. Tunics and Leggings: I pretty much was seriously lacking on my spring/summer wardrobe (see: pregnant, then too sad to shop). Now that it's fall I'm trying out some fun new looks and I am crazy about long tunic + leggings + boots. Throw on an infinity scarf and you have my uniform. Here's some style inspiration I found on Pinterest and am loving:

6. Coffee: So I went decaf/half caff when I was pregnant and boy, did I miss a rich full caff latte. They are back in my life in a big way and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas season at Starbucks (I legit CRIED when I walked in and saw my Chicago location decked out for the holidays one year. It was quite literally the place where I planned all my lessons my first two years teaching and it just felt cozy/homey/holiday cute and I loved it so much. I know, I'm a nerd. Coffee and Christmas forever!) Also, can some coffee lover give me any and all info on the "Flat White?" It only comes in one size and I'm apt not to trust things that come in one size only. #butreallythough
My new coffee traveler: "Love you a latte"  

7. Magazines: I have a STACK of books I want to read this fall, but I am loving the light reads of People, Glamour,  Oprah, Food Network magazine, and even Family Circle (yes, I subscribe to that). Perfect reads when I'm tired, want to take a bubble bath, or whenever. Magazines are my jam lately.
8. Amy Schumer: So yes, I do have the stack of books to read beside my nightstand, but I have been on the waitlist for Amy's book for weeks so when it came in over Fall Break, I knew I had to press pause on all other books and read this one. I devoured it. It's funny, cute (warning: raunchy), and has just enough heart to make it touching to boot. Read this one if you're a woman in your 20's. Just kidding, read this, everyone! She's awesome.