Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I asked, you answered...Jewelry Cleaning

Last month I did a little poll on the ol' blog about some household chores. I am still in the process of testing out some of the answers I got, but I'd like to do a follow up post about all my questions that you all so helpfully answered.

One of my questions was about your jewelry. I asked...

How do you clean your jewelry/wedding rings? Do you do it at home or have it done professionally?

Overwhelmingly, you all responded saying you clean it yourself. I gathered from many answers that some of you get it cleaned professionally maybe once or twice a year, but overall, you all like to clean your jewelry yourself. I decided to test out one jewelry cleaning method that several of you shared, dish soap! A lot of you said you clean your rings with warm water and dish soap.

I filled one of my prep bowls with some warm water and put my rings in there...

(my 3 everyday rings...engagement ring, wedding band, and college ring)

I put in a small drop of dish soap (yes I buy the store brand!)...

I let my rings soak in the warm water and soap mixture for about half an hour.

And then scrubbed with an old toothbrush. This guy is usually my humidifier cleaner, but turns out that he can multi-task...

And then I scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed. And you know what? After 3 minutes, I had 3 shiny rings. Good as new! I am sure a good trip to the jewelers for a steam and polish is nice, but this did the trick for an easy at home cleaning. Thanks for all of your advice!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Menu Monday

As you'll notice, we didn't do a whole lot of cooking last week. One night I enjoyed a cheeseburger happy meal from McDonald's (sometimes that's just what ya need at the end of a long day), and if I remember correctly, I had Subway last Monday evening for dinner. Thursday our good friends made dinner for us where we had Cornish hens and rabé. Sadly, no pictures were taken of the meals.

Here are the meals I did manage to photograph...

My Meal:

I found this while flipping through last month's Everyday with Rachael Ray. This was one DELICIOUS soup. The flavors were fabulous. We topped ours with some of the pesto I made last summer (pesto recipe) and had stored in the freezer. What a fabulous choice. This soup will definitely be appearing on Menu Monday again.

J's Meals:

Baked Chorizo and Kidney Beans over Brown Rice

I couldn't wait to dig in. Oops! I've already written an entire post about my love of this meal. No need to say it again!

Pioneer Woman's Beef and Broccoli
(or sugar snap peas in our case because I don't like broccoli)

We make this a lot. Have you noticed? It's just that good.

And finally...

Saturday we decided to go out to dinner. Last month Design Sponge did a great city guide for our little city (Thanks to Rachel for sending it to me!). We had visited all but one of the restaurants on their list and we decided Saturday was the night to try it out. I'd definitely call it a win. Razzo has been added to our list of very loved Norfolk restaurants.

J had tuna mignon in a red wine reduction with spinach. I had a pasta with a red cream sauce, pork sausage, and lots of basil. It was divine. We also shared a cucumber, onion, and mozzarella salad. I can't wait to recreate that one at home this summer. It was the perfect summer salad.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

is it spring break yet?

I need a vacation.

Spring Break is a little under a month away, but it's not close enough.

Summer is drawing near, but still, it feels so far.

In the meantime, I'll just reminisce about my wonderful European vacation from last summer and day dream about all the things I would do with some free time.

This period of the school year is absolutely draining and I'm envious of all the teachers out there who have an early spring break. I (and my kids) could so go for a break right now. I think you can safely say that we all need some time apart.

Anyone else know how I'm feeling? I have dreams at night about writing sub plans, only to wake up and find out that I don't have a set of sub plans written and I really have to go in to work. What does that say about me?

If I'm not dreaming about sub plans, then my dreams tend to be about mixed numbers and fractions these days. No, seriously. I DREAM ABOUT MATH. This is what my brain thinks about at night. Fractions run my life all day, so why not my dreams too? It's a sickness, people.

Here's hoping that my dreams revolve around this tonight...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Buddy Lists and Busyness

Way back in the day (2002-2007) when I was a student in college and grad school, I used to take pride in something really dorky. I used to find pride in my AOL Instant Messenger.

College Rachel's Desk circa August 2005....Clutter and Color Galore!
Also, let's take note of the old facebook on my screen...how old school.

Let me explain...

Remember back in college when AIM was where it was at and everyone compulsively checked buddy lists and made witty away message? Do you also remember how if someone on your buddy list was gone for more than 30 minutes, their name would appear light grey and show up in italics? And then you could hover your cursor over their name and you could actually see the number of minutes they were gone? Anyone else remember this???

I used to take pride in being gone for hours at a time, only to come home and beg my roommate to tell me how many hours it had been since I last touched my computer. Is that weird? I used to love leaving early in the day, having plans on campus all day long, only to return home at 8 or 9 at night. I lived for a jam packed planner. I loved for my days to have zero free time in them. I loved rushing across the quad for meetings or lunch dates or bible study. I used to be happy when my hours away were in the double digits. A 13 hour day was something to take pride in.

...those were the days. I was so young and able.

And now I am an old woman who longs to do nothing more but crash the minute my work day ends. Extra meetings or conferences or appointments totally screw me up these days. I just want to work my normal hours, then come home and put pajamas on and be with and the dogs and my husband. 21 year old college Rachel would be ashamed at the woman I've become.

But you know what? I've reached a point in life now where I think it's okay that I want to be at home. I'm not a hermit, I just work hard 9 hours (or more) a day, and if I want to just rest in my evenings, well then there's nothing wrong with that. A little bit of rest, some dog cuddling, some cooking, and maybe some wine are good for the soul. I get that now. I don't feel a need to be out all day and all night, only to overextend myself and feel stressed. And I like that. I am glad I've found a place where I'm content in feeling that way.

College Rachel may have been busy, but she certainly didn't understand the beauty of rest and a little peacefulness. Nothing like figuring out what makes you happy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Monday

My Meals Last Week:

Burrito Bowls are nothing new around here, but I switched it up some this week. Instead of using IGE's chicken, I went with a slow cooked pork, and MMMMM MMMM! It was a good call. Very tasty. We also threw in some avocados for fun. That's the best part about burrito bowls. You can pretty much throw in anything and they're delicious.

I'll admit, I was a little nervous about this meal. Sometimes my Asian cooking is too powerfully flavored, or it just turns out being kind of blah. Not this! My favorite thing to order when we do Thai take-out is spring rolls. This was like one big spring roll in a salad. The sauce was perfect. I couldn't find the big noodles like the recipe calls for, but the thin ones worked great. And instead of chicken, I subbed in shrimp. I sauteed my shrimp in olive oil and sesame oil for a few minutes till pink, and tossed a little teriyaki sauce on top. Perfection.

J's Meals Last Week:

Not only are they pretty in presentation, this is one solid meal. J found this recipe about 2.5 years ago when he and I began our adventure in cooking and found it to be an easy recipe. If cooking is slightly intimidating to you, try these. They're simple and yummy!

French Toast and Bacon

Be prepared to see more breakfasts for dinner in our meal plans! With gas being as expensive as it is these days, we're making some tweaks in our budget to allow for that new cost. Breakfast for dinner is cheap and a VERY easy way to cut back on the grocery bill. And best of all...it's still one of my favorite nights of the week. I love french toast morning, noon, and night!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Teacher Technology Talk

This is a post for all my teacher readers out there. Especially if you're a technology guru like I am. Or a "digital native" like my older coworkers like to call me.

Yesterday I attended part 1 of a 2 day technology workshop in my school division. The purpose of our workshop was to incorporate technology into our performance tasks (we use a lot of UbD {understanding by design} if you're familiar with that). I learned about some very cool tools to use in the classroom, and as always, I believe in the power of sharing. If you enjoy incorporating technology into your lessons, these websites are all fabulous (and totally free!).


The idea behind this website is you create a private chat room for your kids and you can use it to discuss anything. There are SO many uses for a site like this. Once you're done with the room, you can pull up a transcript of the whole conversation and print it off. This would allow for you keep all student responses for assessment (either summative or formative). Before I throw out all my ideas, I want to also say that TodaysMeet requires NO sign up or account. You just type in your name and go. I love when websites are simple.

Some ideas I had for it in the classroom:
  • Responding to literature (I can't even write down all the things you could discuss here)
  • Responding to essential questions (especially in science and social studies)
  • Receive input on something. For instance, we just finished a science unit on light, I could have asked my students which light investigation was there favorite and why.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Museum Box

Museum Box is a site the basically allows kids to build museums on any topic. You could pick one broad topic (such as the Civil War), and then make boxes for different parts of your topic (such as different battles or famous people from the Civil War). You can include images, videos, and text in your boxes. This is from the "About" page on Museum Box:

Museum Box provides the tools for you to do just this. It allows you to build up an argument or description of an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box. You can display anything from a text file to a movie. You can also view the museum boxes submitted by other people and comment on the contents.

How fun is that? Your school has to set up an account, but then you can create individual student accounts.

Some ideas for use in the classroom:
  • Famous People
  • Events in History
  • Time Capsule
  • Science (ideas that I could use with my curriculum: parts of a cell, rocks and minerals, kingdoms, types of weather, simple machines....I could go on and on!)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Fodey is another simple site that requires no sign up. It's just a website that allows students to write a newspaper article and then it generates an actual newspaper clipping for them. If you visit the site you'll see a picture of a clipping immediately. The student can come up with an article, and headline, a newspaper title, and the date. When finished the image can be saved as a jpg. This means you could end up using that image anywhere...in a power point, in a museum box, in a pixie project...so many places you could use it.

As for ideas on when you might want to use this in the classroom:
  • Current Event
  • Past event from history
  • Weather
  • Write about an event in a book
TONS of ways this could be used. That's what I love about technology in the classroom, you can use it over and over, but find new uses for it all the time.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One last fun thing I picked up from my workshop...Minute to Win It. I'm sure you know of the show on NBC. Well, turns out NBC posts little "blue print" videos on their website that give directions for all the games. This would be a neat Friday activity to do with the kids. It would be a fun way to get the kids moving and a good excuse for a brain break in between subjects (I always like to do a mini break between my math and science lessons). These activities are a cheap and fun way to give your kids a quick break in the day.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Say Cheese

Know what's not easy? Trying to get a nice picture of my husband plus BOTH dogs. It's always been difficult to get a good picture of just Layla, but with two dogs, it's almost impossible.

Oh well....we tried! And even if everyone isn't looking at the camera, they're still pretty cute!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Delayed Menu Monday

Life just can't slow down. Every day this week just seems to be jam packed. I wish I could say I'd have more of a break next week, but sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm starting to count down the days to my spring break. It cannot be here soon enough.

But enough of my complaining...I'm blessed to have a teaching job right now in this economy, and I shouldn't whine about all that the job entails.

Let's talk about food! Here are last week's meals:

My Meals:

Spicy and Cheesy Grits with Deep South Shrimp and Sausage

It was gone in no time...

This is, hands down, my favorite Cooking Light recipe. It even beats out Bacon Mac. And y'all know I love that recipe.

We made the grits recipe again on Sunday morning for breakfast!
Isn't it crazy what a difference what natural light makes in my photos??

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

This was really yummy! I used a pint of half and half (not a quart) and upped my chicken stock up to 4 cups. It was still plenty creamy. I did not use rotisserie chicken. Instead I baked some chicken for 40 minutes with light seasoning, then pulled it with a fork. It was simple and had plenty of flavor.

Baked Sweet Potatoes, Corn Filled Mini Muffins, and Smothered Green Chile Pepper Chicken

This was mediocre. Nothing amazing. The chicken just didn't have enough flavor for me and the corn muffins were way too dry and salty. I like my corn bread to be a tad sweet.

J's Meals:

Pioneer Woman's Cajun Chicken Pasta

This is always a pleaser. J tried subbing heavy cream with plain yogurt...yeah, it didn't work out so well. I wouldn't try it again!

Pioneer Woman's Beef Stew with Beer and Paprika

What a solid beef stew. The broth was so tasty. We'll definitely be eating this again. It also made plenty so we were able to freeze some.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Menuless Monday

There is no Menu Monday today because my camera and SD card are trapped at school because my yearbook deadline is next Monday and I'm feeling a bit like a frazzled person as I try to make finishing touches on my pages.

There is no Menu Monday because poor Rosie (the new dog) has had a stomach bug and she's been throwing up for 24+ hours. It finally stopped this afternoon and she saw our vet. Cleaning up puppy puke has kept me busy.

There is no Menu Monday because today at work I felt like a crappy teacher because I had a crappy attitude. That's got me feeling...well, crappy tonight.

There is no Menu Monday because I'd rather read a few more chapters of Lonesome Dove before I ditch it for a few weeks for the new book club read.

There is no Menu Monday because I have more laundry to put away than I'm embarrassed to admit. And the dishes in my sink won't wash themselves. Oh and all that dog hair on the floor? Yep...I'll be vacuuming too.

Come back tomorrow and
hopefully I'll have my act together enough to do a Menu Tuesday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beach Weekend

This past weekend my friend Tyler invited me down to her family's beach house in Duck, NC. There were 4 of us and we spent our time wisely. Very wisely. Here's how we spent our time at the beach house:

Eating Ginger Snaps
Watching five and half hours of a Top Model marathon on Oxygen
Eating cheetos
Being sucked in to 2 hours of Jersey Shore (my first time watching it)
Eating brownies
Dinner out
Sleeping in

Could my weekend have been any better? I don't think so.
Sometimes a weekend of sluggishness is just what you need.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Minimal Menu Monday

Thanks for all your sweet messages about Rosie. We're pretty much in love.

Due to the fact that we got a new dog and a few other factors, we did very little cooking last week. Here are the three meals we made...

My Meals:

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Butter and Sage with Lemon Green Beans

This gnocchi from Trader Joe's has probably sky rocketed it's way to my #1 pick at TJ's. It is DELICIOUS. Thanks to Iowa Girl Eats for her post that introduced me to it!

J's Meals:

This was pretty tasty. A little dry, but nothing that a little more chicken stock can't solve. YUM!

Be prepared to see this monthly. It's a fan favorite.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

big changes...

If you follow me on twitter, none of this is a big surprise...I've shared the big news over there already.

But for all my non twitter blog readers...here's our big news.

Our little family of 3...

Is now a family of 4!

No, there is no baby in the picture...instead we've adopted a 3 year old shepherd mix named Rosie. And she might just be the sweetest, most gentle dog I've ever met.

Did I also mention that she's giant? Layla is 65 pounds, but not so tall or long, mostly just fat! Rosie is probably 75 pounds, but doesn't seem to have any fat on her body. She's just BIG! But despite her big appearance, she's really just a giant ball of love.

We adopted Rosie through an animal rescue group in Richmond called HAPPE. A very good friend of my family volunteers through this organization, and we've also been passionate about rescue dogs. When we saw Rosie's picture on their facebook page two weeks ago, we were both smitten. It took some convincing with J, but by last Sunday, we had made some phone calls and we were ready to try to be the owners of 2 dogs.

On Thursday evening we drove up to Richmond to meet Rosie, and while we loved Rosie, Layla wasn't all too fond of her. Layla is an ONLY dog, and she sure behaves like it. Some might even call her spoiled. After talking to the foster mom and meeting Rosie, we decided to take Rosie on a "trial" run. We're 4 days in and we're in love. Even alpha dog Layla is slowly coming around and learning to accept her. They finally wrestled this afternoon and it made me so happy to see them play.

We're making sure to give Layla lots of attention so she doesn't feel like we've abandoned her...

These next 2 pictures cracks me up. Rosie wants to just love on Layla and kiss her and be near her. Can you tell?

It also makes me laugh because Rosie's giant snout kind of mimics an alligator...no?

I promise that she's a lot nicer than an alligator!! So far, we're so happy with how things are going. We're pretty sure she's here to stay!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weekend "Hike"

This past Sunday, we were having one of those perfect late winter days. Virginia's weather is usually quite mild, but it's also known to be a little bit wacky. When we get a 65 degree afternoon and it's still February, nothing can get me down. We decided to take full advantage of it and go for a little day hike*.

*I use the word "hike" loosely. Everything is completely flat here. When you hike 5 miles, it feels like nothing since we have zero hills or elevation.

Anyhow...we did early church Sunday morning and were out at the park by 10:30 AM. Layla was anxious and ready to go!

Things started off rough because our trail map had us following a path that took us over a bridge. We kept walking and walking expecting to find this bridge, but we eventually learned that said bridge was gone. This meant a little bit of detouring through the woods, but everyone survived (and we found no ticks!).

We eventually made it to the river which was at the bottom of the park where I took a picture of this handsome bearded man. Yes, that's my husband with his new red beard. His wife has very mixed feelings on it.

Even though it was really only 65 degrees, Layla found the need to cool off in the river. Now she stinks like a river dog. I suppose someone should give her a bath...

After a good swimming session, we found a trail back to the car, this trail was a tad more successful than our trail down to the river. There were still issues with that nonexistent bridge, but at least we had a path this time.

Me and my hiking companion

I am so happy that spring is in the air! I am hoping for more weekend adventures...and I have a feeling Layla is too!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

welcome march

We're two days into March and BIG things are happening in our home. Some big changes are in the works. It's a little bit scary and crazy, but equally exciting. I'm hoping to share some more on Friday.

Other great things going on in March:

A beach weekend with friends.

My baby brother turns 16 (WHAT?!?!?!).

#1 of 5 state tests at school.

Trying new foods.

Possibly trying a new sport due to the persistence of my husband.

Seeing a musical here.

Round two of dental work on my very messed up tooth.

Playing in the annual student vs. staff basketball game (I hate this event, but I like getting a new t-shirt to wear to school on Fridays!).

It's only day 2, and this month is already overwhelming!