Monday, June 28, 2010

Flashback Menu Monday

No new menu this week or next since we're not in town.

We're probably busy eating delicious cheeses and wine and gelato over in Europe. Try not to be too jealous...

In the mean time I'll leave you with links to past Menu Mondays so you have your weekly dose of Rachel's favorite recipes!

Menu 1, Menu 2, Menu 3, Menu 4, Menu 5, Menu 6, Menu 7, and Menu 8

And then, a few recipes I've seen on some blogs lately that just look so delicious. I am anxious to try these meals out!

Happy cooking this week!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Goodbye America!

...and hello Europe!

Before we leave, I thought I'd fill you all in on where we're going. I've hinted at a few places on here, but our itinerary wasn't officially finalized until just the other day.

Berne, Switzerland
I hope to see the bear pit here along with Einstein's house and the Rosegarten. We're not spending a lot of time here, but enough time to see and explore!

Florence, Italy
There is so much I want to see here...The Duomo, The Boboli Gardens, The Ufizi...I could go on and on! My list for Florence is never ending!

Genoa, Italy
From here we plan to take a day trip to Cinque Terre...several people have told me that they think this is the most beautiful place on earth. Now I get to be the judge myself!

Nice, France
A friend of mine who was a French major and has been to France on several occasions has told me that this is, hands down, her favorite place to visit in France. We're hoping to do some relaxing here, as I gather that it's more of a beach town/vacation area than a lot of our other stops. We're excited to enjoy the beaches here along with visits to some other nearby towns (Cannes, Monaco, St. Raphael) and the local market, Cours Saleya.

Geneva, Switzerland
This is one part of the trip where I actually have done very little research. Good thing I have my guide books to read through on our travels before we get there! We're thinking a boat tour on the lake, but that's about it for now. Any recommendations?

So there ya have it. If you have any last minute recommendations of things to do/see/eat! while we're there, please share!

*PS...all links are to WikiTavel...SUCH a helpful and free resource for trip planning!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

how does your garden grow...

Now that spring is gone and we are in the heat of summer, our garden is thriving in our little yard. It really seems like everything has come to life in the past two weeks. We have harvested several cucumbers. Our snap peas are almost done, and tomatoes and zucchinis are off to a great start! And then the basil and cilantro is out of control. I'm looking for takers at this point. There's no way we're gonna be able to use it all.

So, whose coming over for a vegetable/herb feast? We have plenty to share!

Also, I am proud to say all 5 of these photos were shot manually. Remember my summer goals? #2 was learn to shoot in manual. I have really read through Understanding Exposure, and I am kicking myself for not reading this book before now. It has totally changed my outlook on taking pictures. And it has made learning the basics easy as pie. If you have a DSLR and you never change it to manual, buy yourself this book!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 1 of Summer Vacation

This how an elementary teacher spends her first day of summer vacation:

A beach bag with water, magazines, and sunscreen...

...a great read with a great view

...and making a new friend!

Living by the beach can be so nice when you want a quiet morning out of the house. It's so convenient!

Monday, June 21, 2010


This past Friday we celebrated our last day of school with a delicious breakfast party in my class. Thanks to some wonderful parent volunteers, we had boxes of hot, melt in your mouth, Krispy Kreme donuts. Good gracious these were delicious.

After eating many a donuts and fruit in our cool KK hats (I took so many adorable pictures of my kids stuffing their little faces with donuts while wearing those goofy hats and I wish I could post 'em, but I know that it would be a better idea to leave them off, so just imagine adorable, messy 10 year olds in silly hats here), we watched a movie (Monsters Inc, one of my favs!), and then the kids helped me with a few housekeeping things and then they were out the door! Which means that I am officially on summer vacation. I am finished with my third year of teaching!

Here's my room, all cleaned and packed. I attempted to make it look as much like prison as I could. I think my photo editing did a nice job with that!

I am moving up to 5th grade next year (biiiig change!) which means I had to pack this room up so the custodians can move my stuff over the summer. Moving to 5th grade is going to challenge me for sure, but I am kind of looking forward to it. I'll be working with a new group of teachers. A new group that is incredible and inspiring. I feel lucky to be in their team. I'll have most of my students from this year. It'll be so nice going back in September and already knowing three fourths of my class. So, lots of big changes in store for next year, but change is a good thing.

But, for now, I shall enjoy the luxury of having two whole months off! I think I shall begin with a breakfast of bacon and eggs on an everything bagel!

Teeny Tiny Menu Monday

This week is short one for us as we have millions of leftovers to eat out of the fridge, and we're not going to be here for a full week. Two meals is all we need!

My meals:

And then just for fun, a picture of some snap peas from our garden! Who knew having a garden would be this fun?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

my dad

{Photo by Jennifer Colina}

Happy Father's Day AND birthday to an amazing dad is one of my heroes. He is kind and patient, he loves unconditionally, he has silly names for all three of his kids, he tells the corniest jokes, he put up with more than he should have had to from my sister and me in high school (dramatic would be a good word to describe us), he's a great storyteller, and he's the best mandolin player I've ever heard. He is a wonderful man who I admire and love for so many reasons.

Sadly, I am not with him today, but I plan to celebrate with him when I'll see him on Thursday.

I love you, Dad. I hope your big day is a great one!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Goals

Let's begin by stating that today is the second to last day of school. Can I get an amen from all my teacher friends? Tomorrow at 12:20 I will be FREE!

One of the best perks of my job is the fact that I have off two beautiful months each summer.

My first year of teaching, I didn't really feel like I had much of a break, as my wedding was right in the middle of my summer. I spent my first half of the summer planning and prepping and the second half adjusting to life as a newlywed and living with my husband and writing bunches of thank you notes to dear friends and family. I also switched school districts and grade levels this summer, so I had to do some extra orientation stuff and attend more meetings than normal.

After my second year of teaching, I spent the summer basically being a big bum. Sure, I did some scrapbooking, watched a lot of movies, tried a lot of new recipes, but there isn't one big "thing" that I accomplished. I spent a lot of time sleeping in and messing up my sleep schedule, and a lot of time watching dumb day time tv (why oh why do I find myself watching The View every single day? I don't even like those women! And most the time it's reruns!).

The other day J mentioned to me that if he had his summers off, he'd have lots of goals to keep from getting bored and lazy. At first I responded by saying that there's no way I'd do that! I want my summers to be lazy and full of relaxing. But I've let this marinate in my head for the past few days, and the more I think about it, the more I think I'd like to have a few small goals for the summer. Little things that I want to accomplish. Does this mean I won't be lazy this summer? Heck no! I'll still find time to go to the beach with a book and plenty of time for Netflix (I want get started on Damages!). No worries there. But accomplishing a few things never hurt anyone...right?

Goal #1: Picture Frames! We have a little hallway in our home that leads from our living room to our bedrooms. Since moving in back in December I've said that I'd like to have a picture wall there. There have been some beautiful ones I've seen on some of my favorite blogs. Here are two I love...

domino via Centsational Girl

pottery barn via Centsational Girl

Goal #2: LEARN TO BETTER USE MY CAMERA! I love my Nikon D40, but I must admit that I do a lot of shooting in automatic. I want to become better with shooting in manual because I know that my photos will become better if I can master this. My new friend Becca from The Stanley Clan is quite the photographer and she has really inspired me. This post of hers is what has really fueled my fire. I ordered the book she recommended, Understanding Exposure, and I hope to study it and practice all summer. Photography is a hobby I love, and I think it'd be fun to even find a way to make money from this hobby one day. Teaching myself how to better use my camera is the first step.

Goal #3: Visit the gym at least three times a week. You'd think that having all the time in the world would make going to the gym easier, but I find myself even lazier in the summer months. I'm hoping by putting this on the blog for the world to see, I will feel a little more motivated to get myself to the gym this summer.

Goal #4: Plant a flower bed beside our driveway. I've been thinking about doing this all spring and just having taken the time to do it. We have a perfect sunny spot that's sort of a big ugly mess right now due to a pile of bricks left by the previous tenants. I'd love to pitch all of the mess and put in flowers. When we get back from Europe and we have a day that's below 90 degrees, I plan to visit our local garden store and get started on this.

So there ya have it. Four goals, all easily achievable in one summer. If you have any experience with any of these areas (home decor, photography, motivating lazy people to get their butt to the gym, and planting a flower garden) I would be delighted to hear your tips!

Cheers to a happy, relaxing, and successful summer!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Last Friday, I came into work running late (as usual), grumpy (pretty typical for 7:30 AM), and hungry because I forgot to grab breakfast before leaving the house. This was not a good combo for a day of me + 22 rowdy ten year olds.

I walked into my classroom and walked to my desk to find this waiting for me...

My very dear friend and co-teacher must have known that it was going to be "one of those days" and she was able to turn it all around with a chicken biscuit from Chick-Fil-A. Two years ago I was working at a school where I didn't have a single colleague I could call a friend. I felt like a loner, and overall I was pretty miserable. I am so glad that that's not the case anymore!

It's the little things like this that make so happy. I am so thankful to work with people who brighten my day with simple gestures like this one!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Menu Monday

Another Monday means another menu! This is going to be a beautiful week in our home, as it marks the last week of school! 5 more days and than it is summer time. It's going to be a good one!

My Meals:
  • BBQ on bun with coleslaw and corn on the mom hosted a barbecue luncheon for the PTA at my brother's school and she had trays of leftover BBQ. J and I were happy to take some off her hands!
  • Marinated Pork Chops with Pasta Salad...marinade recipe below, it's a good one!
  • Shrimp Creole...thanks to Tale of a GRITS for sharing the link for this recipe!
J's Meals:
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Delicious Homemade Steak Marinade (from


  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style prepared mustard
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, ground black pepper, mustard, onion, and garlic. Mix together well, and use to marinate your favorite meat.
I typically marinate my meat for 12-24 hours. This is great for pork, chicken and steak!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Saturday with my Grandparents

This weekend J and I traveled to Northern Virginia to visit my grandparents who live up there. After a nice lunch and some chatting at their home, we headed to see The National Museum of the Marine Corps. My grandfather was a Marine who fought in Vietnam and served in Iran. I felt very proud to be there with him.

If you're ever in the DC area, make the trip to this museum. It was an amazing experience. The museum runs strictly on private funds. It's amazing to see the way they have displayed the history of the Marine Corps.

And I'll say it again...incredible museum! We visited for about 3 hours, but I could have stayed for 3 more. There was just so much to see and read.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

the latest fashion trend...

To those of you without children, this may be new to you; however I'm sure those of you who have kids or work with them will know exactly what I'm talking about....


About a month ago a girl in my class had about 30 jelly bracelets up and down her arms. They weren't normal jelly bracelets though. They were bumpy and rigid on the edges. A few days later another kid came to class wearing them, and by the end of the week, all twenty two of my kids had these all over their arms. These things have caught on like wildfire, and apparently it's not just at my school, it's all over. Several schools have banned them, as they can be major distraction to kids. I don't mind them, as long as they aren't being played with or traded when the kids are supposed to be working or listening. They know the rules, and they know that they become mine when I see this happening...which means that I am now up to 10 silly bandz of my own!

It's sort of a joke now though. They want to trade with me and some have even given me their duplicates they don't want. I am competing with a another teacher to have the most by the last day of school. In other words, I have totally fallen into the silly bandz craziness!

Have you seen kids in your area wearing these silly things? I only wish I had invented them! I'm sure the manufacturer is making millions right now!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Europe Footwear Follow Up

Remember last month when I came to you all with my questions and concerns about having comfortable, supportive shoes for our trip to Europe?

Well, I am happy to report back that I have found the perfect shoes and your help was SO, very appreciated!

My good friend over at Newlyweds Next Door was also preparing for a big Europe trip and she mentioned that she ordered a bunch of shoes offline and then mailed back the ones she didn't like. I loved this idea and decided to place a big order with Zappos. Here are the 6 pairs I decided to try, based on recommendations from you all and reviews on their website...

My big box of shoes!

After trying them all on, I had to admit, that I was pretty much pleased with every pair. There were some I loved more than others, but there was nothing I really disliked. I decided right away that I was going to keep the Tevas.

I wanted good pair of sandals that I could walk miles in. These are a great pair! I was tempted to order a pair of Chacos (so many of you recommended these!), but I just liked the look of these. I wore them on our field trip to Jamestown last week, and they definitely made a great pair of walking shoes.

When it came to picking a pair of "flats" (my non sandal), I had a much harder choice. After initially trying them all on I narrowed it down to the Merrel Marina and the Clarks. I can't even begin to tell you how comfortable these shoes were! Both pairs had great arch support and were super comfy.



I kept the shoes for a week, tried them on every day, even took them home to my parents for a weekend to get my mom's opinion. It was a tough decisions people! I really loved the look of the Merrels. They looked like boat shoes, but I found them to be much more comfortable than the Sperrys. I'd highly recommend them. The Clarks were equally comfortable, maybe even more. Can you see the little raised dots in the sole? Those are like little massagers for your feet. Incredible!

In the end I went with the Clarks. I felt like they were a little "snugger" and when I'm doing a lot of walking, this is what I wanted. It killed me to ship back the Merrels (seriously, I loved them!), but I have a feeling I may be ordering them in the future. I just couldn't justify spending all the money at one time.

Also, just a little shout out to Zappos. BEST SHOE BUYING EXPERIENCE EVER! They made the process so easy. The shipping was fast, the return and refund process was simple, and I would buy more shoes from them in a heartbeat. In fact, 3 of my pairs were a half size too big, so I reordered them on a Wednesday and had them by Friday thanks to a free upgrade for my UPS shipping. This made me never want to visit a shoe store again! My only complaint is we didn't have enough room in our living room for all the shoes (J ordered 7 pairs too!). 16 pairs of shoes + boxes in one living room was a bit much, but well worth it to have it all delivered to your front door!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Menu Monday & bagels!

Not much going on in our home this week. Recipes for the week are some old favorites and a few new ones!

My Meals:
J's Meals:

PLUS....bagels, lots and lots of bagels! Yesterday morning I took a trip to our local bageldashery and stocked up on bagels. I love getting a variety of bagels, then keeping them in my freezer for an easy but filling early morning breakfast.

I slice the bagels, put them in a sandwich ziplock bag, and then label the bag. In the morning, you just take it out of the freezer, toast it like you normally would, and they taste just as fresh as the day you bought 'em. They're even better when topped with some veggie cream cheese!

Friday, June 4, 2010

this week...

This week I've been....

...eating more salads with spinach and lettuce from our garden

...hitting up Sonic happy hour

....making this pie (thanks to Jennifer for the recipe!)

...reading this book

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guacamole Obsession!

Now that it's summer and the weather is constantly beautiful, I have been having some serious cravings for guacamole. It's sad how much I constantly want to eat it. It's usually around 2-3 times a day. Seriously, it's an obsession.

The good news is, I am a super guacamole maker, at least according to my fifteen year old brother.

Jason happens to be the world's pickiest eater. The boy lives off of pizza, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, and fries. A few weeks ago when I was visiting my family, I was having a craving, so I ran to the store to buy the ingredients to make my guac. Mr. Picky stuck his nose up at the nasty green slime I was mixing in a bowl, but somehow the Tastebud Gods (they're real, trust me), were shining down on me and I was able to convince Jason to try it. He now begs my mother to make my guacamole recipe for him on a semi-daily basis. I don't even know who this boy is anymore. point is, it's just THAT good. Good enough to change the food likings of the world's pickiest fifteen year old.

Here's my recipe, which has been adapted from several different variations I've seen over the years. The biggest key to good guacamole is the willingness to taste test through out making it to make sure it's got the perfect amount of everything you like!

3-4 large avocados
Minced Garlic (I use the stuff in the jar)
1 lime
big bunch of cilantro (about 1/2 cup)
2 plum tomatoes
1 tsp of garlic powder
1-2 tsp. of sea salt

1. Peel avocados, put in bowl and "mush" them up with a fork
2. Dice the plum tomatoes, add to bowl
3. Throw in a spoonful or two of salsa
4. Throw in a BIG heaping spoonful or minced garlic.
5. Add lime juice from 1 lime. (I use a juicer to get as much juice as possible).
6. Toss in garlic powder and sea salt
7. Taste your guacamole. If it's not salty enough for your liking, I recommend adding a tad more garlic. Extra salsa will add more flavor if that's what you're lacking. I find that tasting it along the way is the best way to make a good bowl of guacamole!
8. Open up a Dos Equis and a big bag chips, go sit on your front porch, and enjoy!

Guacamole on the shrimp fajitas we had this week...I highly recommend this meal!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

History Facts

Another field trip to Jamestown, and I have survived. This is a big trip for a lot of students all over Virginia, as this settlement is a huge part of state and country's history. Here's a little recap and some pictures from our trip last year. For those of you not in the know, I'll provide you with a mini history lesson on Jamestown and the Native Indians in the surrounding areas...
  • Jamestown is our country's first permanent English settlement, established in 1607 on a peninsula along the James River. Prior to Jamestown, there had been failed attempts at starting a settlement at Roanoke Island, which is located in present day NC.
  • Only 1 man died on the 144 day journey to Jamestown from England. He died around the Caribbean from heat stroke.
  • Pocahontas did not marry John Smith, as the Disney movie claims; instead she married John Rolfe, the man known for cultivating and establishing tobacco as a cash crop in the new English settlement. John Smith was a great leader in Jamestown and he is well known for exploring the Chesapeake Bay and drawing many maps of this area. If it weren't for John Smith, many historians believe the Jamestown settlement would not have prospered.
  • 104 English gentlemen left England for Jamestown in December 1607. Within a few months of settling, less than 40 men were still alive.
  • When settlers died, they buried them in mass graves so the Native Indians would only see one grave. They didn't want to appear to be struggling to their enemies.
And there you have it. 5 fun facts about Jamestown. If you're a history buff, I hope you've enjoyed this mini lesson. If you're thinking that I'm a big nerd for sharing this on my blog, you can feel free to call me a dork in the comments!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

welcome june

June...the month that feels like it will never get here. I am so happy to you my old friend!

It is June, and teacher's everywhere are rejoicing. There are 14 days left in this school year and I hear summer vacation calling my name. I am starting off my month with a full day field trip to our nation's first permanent settlement to help my kiddos learn more about Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. In addition to our trip, I'll be spending the next 14 (school) days practicing crowd control, doing reader's theaters with the kids, eating popsicles, and celebratory breakfast party on our last day (JUNE 18!).

But there's more to me than school. June also means lots of kiddie pool time for Layla the wonder dog, lunch dates with grandparents, trips to see old high school friends who have moved back to the area, and oh yes, a trip to Europe.

This might just be the best month yet.

Cheers to the next 30 days!