Saturday, January 30, 2010

snow dog

We live near the beach (about 30 minutes from the ocean front), and although we get cold weather, it's very rare that we get a good snow. All week the weather men have been telling us we'd get snow, starting late Friday night. I didn't want to believe it 'til I saw it, but when I woke up this morning and looked out the window to this, I was a believer!

We're up to about 5-6 inches now, which is pretty much unheard of here! We've had a blast watching Layla act like a maniac in it. This is her first snowfall, and she seems to enjoy it!



Her craziness really had to be captured with video...it was too crazy to portray in pictures. And feel free to laugh at my rainboots, leggings, and winter coat. I'm a very stylish girl!

And the winners are....

I can't believe so many of you commented! It made me pretty happy, and my lucky winners are going to love their wristlets from Jimmy Pickles!

Here's how I picked my winners. First I put you all in a Google Spreadsheet, and I put you in twice if you're a follower...


Next I visited random.org to pick my winners. There were a total of 79 entries, and the lucky winners are....

73 was Becky from Love Everyday Life and 46 was Kristen from Wivelihood! Both of these girls also happen to be Virginia bloggers! I wonder if they're getting as much snow as we are here at the beach?

Becky and Kristen, shoot me an email - innosimplelanguage{at}gmail{dot}com - and I'll get you in touch with Cherie from Jimmy Pickles!

If you're not a winner, don't fret!


Don't forget that you can get free shipping from Jimmy Pickles if you make an order by Thursday 2/4! Use freeshipping code lilacfreeship in your order!

And some more good news...I have another favorite thing giveaway coming up at the end of this upcoming week. It's another good one, especially for my fellow dog lovers!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Song of the week...



Patty Griffin, you have taken over my iPod in the past few weeks. I just can't get enough. This song in particular ("Rain") has been on repeat. So very gorgeous.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway before tomorrow!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2 year blogiversarry + Giveaway!

I recently hit the two year mark on my blog, and I must say, I am so very grateful to have found this fun little place! I began blogging in January of '08, mainly because I admired (or you could say idolized) Ali Edwards, and I thought I could be cool like her if I had a blog. Sadly, my blog didn't make me like Ali, but that's okay. Lots of other great things have come from it!

Since that time, my blog and I have changed. I went from doing a lot of posts about scrapbooking, to a lot of posts just about me. Last winter I found this wonderful little niche of newlywed bloggers and other young women like me. Some are moms, some are teachers, some are single...but they're all incredible! I have "met" so many sweet women, women who I consider my friends! I'm lucky to have met a few of them in real life, and I hope that I get to meet others one day!

With that said, I am excited to do the first of several giveaways I have planned for the upcoming week! This is my little way of saying thank you for coming here and reading my ramblings each day! You have no idea how happy that makes me.

Today's giveaway comes from Jimmy Pickles on Etsy. Almost two years ago now, I ordered a key wristlet from her shop. I love this thing! Everyday I carry about 10 bags to my car when I'm leaving work. If I put my keys on my wrist first, it helps me from having to dig through my purse to find 'em. And even better, it's a cute way to jazz up your keys. Here's mine. It's dirty, but I don't care!


Look at these cute ones from her shop right now!


Jimmy Pickles is SO kindly giving away, not one, but 2 wristlets to my wonderful readers! If you're a lucky winner, you get to pick the wristlet of your choice from her shop. And even better, she's also offering FREE shipping on domestic orders. This way, if you aren't a lucky winner, you can still get one for just $6.50! Or you could get one of the other cute handmade things from her shop. Free shipping details are below.

So here are the rules to be a winner...you have 2 chances to get your name in the drawing.

1. Visit The Jimmy Pickles Shop, and comment here telling me which one you'd like! She has dozens of choices!
2. Receive an extra entry for being a follower. Be sure to write in your comment if you follow my blog!

Deadline is Saturday, January 30 at 12:00pm, EST. I will post a winner on Saturday evening.
Free shipping is good for one week, starting today and ending next Thursday (2/4). Please use this code to receive your free shipping: lilacfreeship

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BACON MAC!

Let's just start today by saying this, I love blue cheese. It's so tangy and delicious. One of my favorite parts of many meals!

I may or may not eat little pieces straight from the container as mini snacks while cooking...


Now that all of that is out of my system, let me share one of my favorite recipes with you...Bacon Mac 'n Cheese. Yes. That's right...two of your favorite foods combined together in one of the yummiest dishes you'll ever eat!

I need to thank Iowa Girl Eats for sharing this recipe with me. A lot of my favorite recipes have come from her. If you don't read her blog, you should start!

This meal is so simple, very tasty, IT HAS BACON AND CHEESE, and it is, surprisingly, not too high in calories. It's actually a Cooking Light recipe and 1/6 of the dish only has 399 calories. Not terrible! Here is the recipe source and the nutrition facts.

I made a few teeny tiny changes. I added in some blue cheese (are you surprised after my little announcement above?). I also threw in a few shakes of ground mustard seed and some onion powder. That's all though.

Here's what it looked like before going in the broiler. It was hard to not just want to eat it here, but trust me, the broiling is worth while!


See? Once it comes out of the broiler it's super crunchy and the perfect amount of brown on top.


Serve in your favorite bowl and enjoy! A blood orange is a nice little addition, just in case you're wondering!

There ya have it. If you are one of the crazy people eating mac and cheese from a box, PLEASE stop and try this. It's much easier than you'd expect, and again, it has bacon! How can that be bad?

(GIVEAWAY TOMORROW! Come back !)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The big 5-0!

Happy 50th Birthday, Mom!

To make you feel better about your old age, I am posting this picture from our trip to Disneyland in 1991. You know you'd be lying if you said you wanted to look like this again:


See? Being 50 isn't such a bad thing!

And yes, there are about 100 hilarious things going on in this photo, however, I'll just point out one. The man on the back left gives me a good chuckle! Those pants are incredible! Feel free to point out your favorite early 90's style that's going on here!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Meet my friend...

I have very little to blog about from my own life today. Other than the fact that I stayed after school for about 2 extra hours making phone calls home. Mrs. W flipped on the mean switch today. These kids better get their acts together or I may just lose my mind. There's not enough Excedrin to make this day better. BUT there was enough cookie dough in my freezer to turn things around!

Since my life isn't too thrilling, today I want to highlight a blogger who I have come to love. Meet Sara and her cute family:


Sara's blog, Football and Fried Rice, has been a daily read of mine for about 2 years. She is the sweetest, and always leaves me the kindest and most uplifting comments. She's a blog friend who always leaves comments that tell me just what I need to hear. Seriously, it never fails! I could go on and on about all the reasons I love her, but I'll let you find out for yourself. Go visit her, and tell her hi for me!

Happy Monday to each of you! Come back later this week for a giveaway!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

my hair is on fire

Some thoughts....

1. My head looks like it's on fire in this photo
2. I don't know anyone who went to Cal, I've never visited Cal, but I bought that sweatshirt for about $3 at a thrift store, and it's still one of my favorite items in my wardrobe.
3. In addition to having a burning ponytail, I also look a little giant-ish in this picture.

College, October 2005...was this really 5 years ago?

In February, I am going to visit LES, the lovely girl pictured above who was my college roommate and is still one of my dearest friends.

On Saturday I began to think about how much I'd like to visit her out in Illinois where she's attending grad school for urban planning. After very little thinking and a few google chats with her, I booked a flight for the weekend of February 20. I am not what I'd call spontaneous, therefore, this is a big deal! Also, I've flown many times, but never alone, so this will be a little adventure for me. He hasn't said it, but I'm pretty sure J thinks I'm gonna get myself stuck in an airport and miss my flight home. He might just be right...

Even if I am afraid of getting stuck in Ohio (or wherever I have to switch planes), It's so nice to have something fun like this to look forward to! A weekend away with one of my favorite people.

Friday, January 22, 2010

my magic snack

I feel that it's part of my blogging duties to share my new favorite snack with you all...

Please disregard the reversed images from photobooth. Oops.

My sweet friends, do try this. It will make your Thursday night feel like it's a Friday night. Which is great 'til you wake up Friday and realize you still have another day of work. It will make you forget that you took a class for two hours after a long day of work, followed by an hour long drive home in the rain. This snack will even give you magical powers that let you forget that you have about 100 papers to grade in your tote bag. It's just that good.

Teddy Grahams and Marshmallow Fluff will change your life. Give it a try!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mac Snack Wrap

I think I might throw up a little bit. For reals.

While watching Modern Family last night (which, by the way, just so happens to be one of my new favorite shows...it's hilarious) a commercial for this tasty treat came on the television...

If you haven't seen it, this would be a McDonald's Mac Snack Wrap aka a Big Mac in a wrap.

Now, I am not health nut foody. We eat fairly healthy in our home, but I love a good quarter pounder with cheese and fries from time to time, but something about THIS just doesn't seem right.

However, I'm sure it is better than the classic McRibb...

Anyone else weary about this snack? Or better yet, has anyone tried this? Please share your thoughts!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Boxtops...again!!

Remember last summer when I begged you all for your help with saving Boxtops for Education? I'm gonna do it again!


Look at all that my kids and YOU all have helped us to collect since October!
(Also, I do use Mrs., not Ms. The PTA made this bag and assumed I wasn't married. Very uncool.)

I posted HERE back in August asking for help with this project and I must say a BIG thank you to my fabulous Cousin (in law) Lauren, Newlywed Nextdoor, Lacey Bean from Perks of Being a JAP, and Sara who all sent me tons of boxtops in the past few months. Thank you a thousand times from my students and me!

Our next collection is February 11, and if you have just one boxtop, I'd love for you to send it to me if you don't mind wasting a stamp. You'd be surprised how many items have boxtops...here's a list. If you don't have a place to donate your boxtops, I will happily take them. Each one gives ten cents to my school!

If you have any boxtops that you'd like to mail me, please email me at innosimplelanguage(at)gamil(dot)com

And that concludes my begging for the day. Thank you all!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

cookies and tea

What a day. Three day weekends are a beautiful thing, but going back isn't so nice. It wasn't necessarily a bad day, it just wasn't a great day.

But a hot cup of chamomile tea and a cookie or two is enough to make my day better.


Layla is hoping I'll share with her. Nice try, pup. Maybe a little rawhide will be in the picture tonight...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let's Go Fly A Kite!

Over the weekend, my dad took my mom to Las Vegas (this was her Christmas present), and my fourteen year old brother and one of my parent's dogs came to stay with us. We had a fun weekend together. I bought Mario Brothers for our Wii on Friday, which made for a nice way to spend a weekend! I used to love Mario on my old Nintendo when I was younger, so I knew I'd enjoy the new version. We played for more hours than I'd care to admit.

On Saturday we went to a local park for a walk with the dogs, and J wanted to try out a kite he got for free from someone at his office. I thought it would be a big failure, but it turns out that he knew what he was doing.




I'm home from work today in honor of MLK Jr. Day. I plan on getting a lot done. I've already made a trip to the gym, but I plan on meeting J for lunch (at Five Guys, where every calorie I burned at the gym will return....and then some), several loads of laundry, a week's worth of lesson plans, and some serious cleaning around the house. There's always sweeping and vacuuming to be done with a dog who sheds as much as Layla!

Oh, and one last thing...I was thrilled to see Michael C. Hall win for Dexter last night at the Golden Globes. That's one of our favorite shows! And I'm sure no one is surprised to learn that I was just as excited to see Glee win best comedy. I have totally turned into a "Gleek" over this show! Don't you love it when a show you love gets recognized?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

5 things I love: January 2010 Edition

1. I can't get enough of these delicious cookies. The perfect compliment to a hot tea or cup of coffee. What in the world did I do before a Trader Joe's came to our city?


2. Currently reading Same Kind of Different As Me, and I'm truly enjoying it. Thanks to Blue Eyed Bride for the recommendation!


3. Excedrin. Yes this may sound crazy, but it's been a life saver in the past two weeks since we've gone back to school. I've come home many a days with some horrendous headaches, and two of these pills crush it. Seriously. It's my miracle drug right now.

4. Dove Intense Frizz Control, the reason for my good hair days. Well, this helps if I drag my lazy butt out of bed in time to shower and dry my hair before work. If all those things happen, then this little potion helps my hair look pretty all day. My roommate got me hooked on it and college, and I haven't looked back. And for $2.49, you can't beat this stuff.


5. Cribbage. My mother in law taught me to play over the holidays. While I find this game to be silly, absurd, and mostly made up, I secretly like it. I like it so much that J and I bought our own cribbage board at Target a few weeks ago. If you're up for a wild night of cribbage, I'm your girl.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dirty Risotto

Are you all sick of me blogging about food? It's okay, feel free to admit it! But tonight's dinner was so good that I have to share it with you all.

Tonight we had Giada's Dirty Risotto. I've heard of Dirty Rice before, which according to Wikipedia is described as "a traditional Cajun dish made from white rice cooked with small pieces of chicken liver or giblets, which give it a dark ("dirty") color and a mild but distinctive flavor". Dirty Risotto is an Italian take off of that dish. And sooooo much better! And for the record, no chicken giblets or livers. Just Italian sausage and pancetta (or bacon if you can't find panetta, like me!)

If you've never cooked with risotto, you need to try it. It will make you feel like a chef. It takes a little while, but it's so simple. And most importantly, it's so delicious!

Seriously friends...make this meal! Recipe found here.

Risotto right after I added it to the sausage.

The risotto again, right before the meal was done. It was so creamy!

Do yourself a favor and make this meal!

Oh, and small little note to the recipe. I subbed bacon for pancetta since our local grocery store was majorly failing the other night. Along with NO CHICKEN BREASTS (seriously, how does this even happen?!), they had no pancetta. Bacon was an acceptable substitute. And I omitted the mushrooms. If there's one thing I will NOT eat, it's mushrooms. You really can't pay me to eat them. Yuck, yuck, yuck!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Whack and Unwrap


Thank you to the boy in my class who brought me this awesome "Whack and Unwrap" orange flavored chocolate. It tasted extra gross. But it's the thought that counts, right?

I should also mention, that said student brought me this "orange" for rolling his eyes at me the day before. When I threatened him with a phone call home, he came to school the next day bearing gifts. Oh the power of a phone call home!

Monday, January 11, 2010

We love to cook...here are our secrets and sources

After last week's meal planning post, a few people asked what we like to cook, where we get our recipes, what kind of food do we make most, etc....

So here ya go...all of my kitchen secrets!

Let's start with the internet. I get probably two thirds of our recipes from the web. I follow a lot of food blogs in my Google Readers, as does J. When I see a recipe I like in Google Reader, I star it (the little star in the top left hand corner of the post). Once it's starred, It is saved in my starred categories. When J finds recipes he likes, he saves the links in a Google Document* that he constantly updates.

*Google Documents: Fabulous tool. We share so many things with each other using them: recipes, budgets, Christmas lists, to-do lists...we seriously love G-Docs!

Some food blogs/sites I love to use:

Food Gawker FULL of good stuff...and weird stuff. If you subscribe to this one, you'll get about 100 updates a day. Some are excellent, some are crazy, bizarre, very complicated dishes. I often hit "Mark All As Read" with this site, but I've also found many of my favorite meals from here. It's also full of great food photography!
Use Real Butter
For the love of cooking...
Iowa Girl Eats
Food Network...Giada's recipes are always a hit around here.
Kraft Foods...not the best recipes, however they calculate calories and fat for their recipes which I love.
Real Simple which is one of my favorite magazines as well! They also calculate the nutrition facts for you.
Tasty Kitchen which is run by The Pioneer Woman (whom we all know and love)


Some food blogs/sites J loves to use (written by J himself):

http://www.amateurgourmet.com/ - The source of your absolute favorite dish, Kidney Beans and Chorizo. He posts a lot of frou-frou stuff, but some good stuff, too.
http://www.seriouseats.com/ - A lot of stuff that takes me outside of my comfort zone, in a good way; this is where I got my Shawarma recipe. Also, they have a knack for recipes that are simple - few ingredients and little prep - without being bland, like the Shrimp Pasta w/ Lemon that I make. I've got a lot of recipes from this one on my "To-Make" list that I haven't had occasion to make yet. And from left field:
http://dinnersforayear.blogspot.com/ - She's, well, she's eclectic; you really have to eye her dishes critically. This is the source of the infamous BBQ-Chicken-Pasta-BleuCheese disaster, but also of the Mongolian pork recipe (she used steak) and Salisbury Chicken, both of which have made repeat appearances.

When we cook using internet recipes, we often have a set up like this. Laptop on the counter amidst all the fun!


Some of our recipes come from the following cooking magazines. My mother in law went a little crazy (I mean that in a good way) and got us subscriptions t0 FOUR cooking magazines last year. We get Taste of Home, Taste of Home: Cooking for 2, Taste of Home: Healthy Cooking, and
Everyday with Rachael Ray.

And we still love our cookbooks. A few of my favorites that I have:

Our row of cookbooks on the middle shelf...there are so many more I'd like to own!

The Comfort Table by Katie Lee Joel (now just Katie Lee), a wedding shower gift

Heart of the Home: Notes from a Vineyard Kitchen by Susan Branch, another shower gift
The gift giver claimed that it's one of her favorite cookbooks.
It's quickly become one of mine, as well!

And of course my Rachael Ray books. I like her show way more than her books. They're okay, but I learn better when I see her make it on TV.
Just In Time, 365: No Repeats -- A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners , 30 Minute Meals: Get Real Meals

One of my favorite parts of cooking with cookbooks: my cookbook stand my grandmother got me for Christmas a few years ago!


The last place I find my recipes is from my mom. She often shares a lot of her old and favorite recipes with me, along with new ones she finds. I'll leave you with one recipe I've received from her that J and I both love. It has no meat, but it's so filling, very easy, fairly healthy, and super cheap if you're cooking on a budget...and if you used whole grain pasta, it'd be even healthier!

BLACK BEAN SPAGHETTI
Serves 4

1 14 1/2 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 8 1/2 oz. can black beans (do not drain)
1 Bay leaf
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
ground black pepper to taste
1 16 oz. pkg. dried spaghetti *I only use about ¾ a package.

In a saucepan over medium heat stir tomatoes, beans, bay leaf, garlic salt, oregano and black pepper. Cook until thickened, approx. 45 mins.

Cook spaghetti according to direction and drain. Remove bay leaf from sauce and either mix with sauce or serve over spaghetti.

1.86 grams fat per serving

I hope this helps some of you! I share a lot of my recipes on my blog and tag them. Click here to see all my recipe posts. If you have more questions, leave them in the comments or email me. Also, feel free to share any sites or sources you use to find great recipes. I love finding new recipes.

**PS, thanks to my wonderful husband for helping fix this post when Blogger was being dumb. He was in bed reading a book, and let me bug him for help. He's my computer genius!**

Sunday, January 10, 2010

weekend ramblings

Remember last week when I bragged about my new camera lens? I'm gonna do some more of that. Hope you don't mind. I'm just in love, though. I really can't help it.

This was our Saturday night, plus a few episodes of season two 30 Rock. I love Netflix play now!


And this is the princess dog, being whiny in her chair because we wouldn't let her play scrabble or drink a beer with us. Her life is so hard...

It's been a nice little weekend around our house. In addition to 30 Rock and Scrabble (which, btw, quick little shout out to my wonderful sister in law who bought it for us for Christmas!), J bought his new computer that I mentioned yesterday, and since he hooked it up, I haven't seen a whole lot of him. He is in the process of designing several phone apps, which if all goes well, will make us millionaires. Sounds like a plan, right?

I've spent a large portion of my weekend working on the school yearbook. That's right, in addition to teaching full time and being head of the safety patrols at school (that's another post for another time...safety patrols might just kill me this year), I am also the one and only person designing the school yearbook for 2009-2010. I signed up for this job because I wanted to do something "extra" at school this year, and the nice thing about yearbook is 1) I can do it all at home in front of the TV while wearing my pajamas and 2) It doesn't involve more time with kids. Yearbook is turning out to be way more work than I anticipated. I do enjoy putting the pages together and it hasn't been awful; however things are about to get ugly at school once I begin collecting money for these darn books.

Fun little fact about me: I lose lots of important stuff. Like my Social Security Card and folders full of student work. And my keys...everyday. Oh, and I've permanently lost my cell phone multiple times...

How in the world will I keep up with yearbook money from the whole school. The whole thought of collecting $25 checks from children all over the building has my heart beating faster. I have been working on an organization system, but it still needs some tweaking.

So there you have it. I have poured my heart out about all of my organizational fears. And I shared a few pretty pictures from my faaaabulous new lens. If you read this whole post, thanks for listening to my ramblings!

And come back tomorrow. Last week after my meal planning post, several of you asked where I get my recipes and what I like to cook. I can't wait to share!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

sick day + sundaes

Yesterday I woke up not feeling so well. In the middle of the night I woke up feeling awful, and when my alarm went off at 5:30, I wasn't feeling any better. I couldn't keep anything down and after a mini debate in my mind, I figured it'd be best if I stayed home. Missing an unexpected day as a teacher isn't so easy when you have nothing prepared in your classroom for a substitute. I quickly threw together sub plans for a long day of "busy work", which was rather difficult considering that reading the words on the screen was making me queasy, and I emailed them to my special ed teacher to give to the sub. I headed back to bed, got back up at 9:30, and did nothing for the rest of the day.

And by nothing, I really mean I laid on the couch and watched season 3 episodes of Big Love from Netflix. My computer just hurt my eyes too much to look at it. Finally by 8pm, I was feeling more like myself and could handle looking at a computer screen. And I was starving, so I made J go to our favorite drive in to get Sundaes.

I know. Sundaes are just what you need after several hours of throwing up. Don't judge me and my healthy choices.

Anyhow...I mentioned a few weeks ago that J got me Photoshop Elements 8 for Christmas. I'm really enjoying the challenge of learning how to use this program. It's fairly easy, but I'm still using lots of free online tutorials, and doing lots of googling when I've got questions. Here's one photo before and after (photo is from our honeymoon when we visited the Portland Rose Garden):

Before:

After:

I could have done something similar to this using the free online photo editor Picnik (which is wonderful, by the way), but I'm really trying to become proficient with PSE. Rounding corners was my big accomplishment of the day! I've also done a few digital scrapbook pages using PSE. I'll share a page or two when I start to feel like they look nice. Right now, they all look a little messy to me. If you know of any good tutorials (other than Jessica Sprague, I've already done hers), feel free to leave me a link!

So that was my sick day. I'm back to feeling like myself, a little dehydrated, but much better. Today we're planning on visiting the Apple store to get J a new computer! He's a software engineer and professional computer nerd (at one point, we had NINE computers in our apartment), but his "newest" computer is from 2003. In addition to being a nerd, he's pretty frugal, which I love about him. I think it's time that he earned a new one!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dillon Panthers

Fun little fact about me: I am so in love with this show...

If you have not watched Friday Night Lights, I just want you to know how much you're missing out. This show has so much heart. And the writing and characters? They make me want to move to small town Texas, date a good ol' boy with a truck, and wear my hair big and full of hairspray. Sadly, none of this is even close to my real life;

Over the holidays my mom went to NYC to visit my little sister who lives there and she bought me this at the NBC studio. It arrived in the mail yesterday and made my crappy day a hundred times better! Possibly the greatest shirt I've ever owned.


I will wear this proudly! And maybe one of the other fifty fans of this show will see me and smile! I don't know many people who watch this, so I'm excited when I find other fans. Any readers out there watch it? I hear season 4 will air on NBC after the Olympics. That gives all of you enough time to catch up on seasons 1-3! Seriously. You won't be dissapointed!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

brown paper packages

Exciting day in Rachel world! I got a little package in the mail...


a little package that just so happened to be the camera lens I ordered with some Christmas money:



I've been happily shooting pictures around the house all night and I'm loving it! I actually rented this lens over the summer (from here) to test it out on our vacation, and after one hour with it, I know I had to own it.

If you own a Nikon, I highly recommend this lens. It's reasonably priced and produces great, high photos. This review helped me decide which lens to get when I was looking. If you shoot with a Canon SLR, I've heard good things about this lens.

I'm just a little giddy about my new toy...can you tell?


Be on the look out for more shots like this!