Hodge Podge

Hello world.  It's about time for a new blog post! Here are some random snippets for you.....

1) I went to Charlotte for a weekend in January and had so much fun! The trip included....

 Mani/pedis at Polished, dinner at Bad Daddy's with these hotties, and a movie...
 Quality time with Rio the Great Dane & a lovely stay at Leila & Bryan's GORGEOUS house
 Brunch at Terrace Cafe, which included RED VELVET WAFFLES
 And this bangin' bacon, egg, & cheese biscuit
Time to catch up with my long lost high school BFFs
And finally....my first trip to Ikea!! 

2) Baby Braelyn is here! My good friend from high school, Tara, is my first close friend to have a baby and I AM SO EXCITED!! I even went to visit her in the hospital the day after she was born.  She has the most incredibly blonde hair!

3) We got SNOW! In fact, we got quite a lot of it on a few different occasions and missed many days of school.  It was super fun to have some surprise snow days where I could just chill at home/get some things done.  And the best news is that we can make up the days while still enjoying a full spring break! Woo hoo! (Although....as I type this, I'm wondering if spring break might get a little shorter.  We had a 3 hour early release today due to ice, and it's still coming down pretty hard.  I have a feeling the roads will be really bad tomorrow. My birthday is the first day of spring break, so I'm reallllly hoping we don't have school that day!)

Sorry for the random trash can picture, but you can really see how deep the snow was in February! 

4) For Valentine's Day this year, I finally made these adorable heart-shaped crayons for my students.  They were super easy to make and a sweet way to say "I love you!" to my babies.

For the past few years, I've had my students sort crayon bits by color at the end of the year.  Sometimes I have them peel the paper off, too! Keeps them busy for hours! (This is one of the assigned "jobs" on the last day of school.  Some kids sort books.  Others scrub tables.  And then there are the crayon sorters. :))  I have bags and bags of random leftover crayons and I've always wanted to make these.  The week of Valentine's Day, we got snowed in for daysssss so I had time to try out this project!

I read a few tutorials from Pinterest and here's what I ended up doing:
- Chop & peel paper off crayons.  (Most were already peeled, but for the rest, I used a sharp knife/cutting board & made one long slice all the way down the side of the crayon.  Worked like a charm! You could use a box cutter too.)
- Spray heart-shaped pan with cooking spray.
- Mix colors & fill the pan! They definitely melt down so don't be afraid to fill each heart to the top.  I tried to put a few dark colors & light colors in each heart but obviously each one was different.  Keep in mind that the colors you put in first ("on the bottom") will actually be the top of the hearts after you flip the pan over.  Next time, I think I'd like to do some with white/light pink/red/purple like these.
- Melt in oven at 230 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Around 10 minutes, I turned on the oven light & peeked in pretty often.
- They will be completely melted and in LIQUID FORM when finished.  Be careful!
- One tutorial said to place the pan outside in the snow to cool, and what do ya know?? I happened to have lots of snow outside! They cooled/hardened really fast.
- Turn the pan upside down and they should fall out easily!!
- Since I knew the kids would immediately destroy any cute packaging (and since I was snowed in), I just placed each crayon in a snack sized Ziploc bag with a cute tag attached.  (Tags found HERE!)

5) My in laws adopted the cutest puppy and I can't get enough of her.  We spent a few hours at their house this weekend just playing with her, cuddling her, and watching her chew on toys.  :) Her name was originally Maggie, and then changed to Mocha, and now it's Red! They think she's a doberman/lab mix, but aren't 100% sure yet.  She is really sweet and can also be really playful and silly.  I'm scheduled to "dog sit" in about a month and can't wait to have her all to myself!

6) I made these no bake peanut butter energy bites last night and they are delicious!! So easy to make! I needed a healthier substitute for my nightly dessert, and these will be perfect.  It's seriously like you're eating cookie dough!

I sort of made my own recipe based on Katie's recipe and another from Betsy Life found on Pinterest.

I used:
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use Natural Peter Pan Honey Roast Creamy - the best EVER)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup ground flaxseed (Got mine at Harris Teeter in the baking aisle - Bob's Red Mill brand)
2T sunflower seeds
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Try them! You won't be sorry!


California Christmas 2013

This year was the first time in many many years that Matt and I spent Christmas together.  Usually, he stays at home and works while I go out of town with my family.  This year, we were invited to spend Christmas in Los Altos, California with Matt's parents, his stepbrother & family, and his stepsister & family.  There were 8 adults, 5 rowdy boys, and 2 big dogs all in one house for a week.  It was busy & loud but lots and lots of fun.  Since it was my first time to California, we did a lot of typical touristy things, but we also did a little relaxing too.

Day 1 (Christmas Day): Jet lag like whoa.  I attempted to stay awake while Matthew passed out on the couch in the middle of all the chaos.  Watched the kids open presents & opened a few of our own, too.  Lasagna for dinner & a super early bedtime.

Day 2: Tourist day! Lombard Street (a famous crooked street).  Matt drove down! Lots of pictures.  Then we walked through the shops at Pier 39.  Delicious mini cinnamon sugar donuts.  Musical stairs! I bought a trolley Christmas ornament.  Candy shop.  Gorgeous views of sail boats, Golden Gate Bridge, & Alcatraz.  Noisy (and smelly) sea lions! Then we went to an old school arcade with vintage games (Musee Mecanique).  Super fun! Delicious fancy lunch at Alioto's in Fisherman's Wharf.  Trolley ride! Union Square (lots of swanky stores, a HUGE Macy's, giant Christmas tree, ice skating rink).  A search for ice cream.  A peek at China Town.  Tired feet.  3 taxis.  Ice cream & a great view of the water.  Chinese for dinner.

Day 3: Half Moon Bay & Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at low tide.  Anemones, coral, pretty shells & rocks, seals.  Brief hike up a trail & incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.  Little small town shops.  Mexican for dinner.  I think we finally did our adult white elephant gift exchange that night, too.  Hil-ar-ious.  Each person was supposed to bring a gift worth up to $40 or something they already had at home.  Matt's stepbrother-in-law Tom ended up opening the gift that he brought, but he didn't realize it because his wife bought & wrapped it.  He picked the box because he thought there might be liquor inside.  It was actually a girly set of scented Yankee candles.  We laughed for days.

Day 4: Kids went to a technology museum in San Jose and we went to Alamo Square & Steiner Street to visit The Painted Ladies (where they filmed the intro to Full House).  Steeeeeeeep hills and lots of stairs! Then we went to an awesome mall downtown called Westfield Centre.  It was like a traditional 5 story mall, but there were also tons of HUGE stores outside on the street, too.  Forever 21, Old Navy, Gap, Crate & Barrel, J Crew, H&M, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Banana Republic, etc.  Apparently you have to pay 10 cents for a bag in stores there because of a new tax law....!!  That night, we had gumbo for dinner & the adults played an old board game called Acquire.  It was fun once we figured out what we were doing.

Day 5: We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge! We also took a scenic route up into the cliffs and had some amazing views of the bridge & the water.  Grilled chicken for dinner.  Got to see Apple Headquarters.  Matt drove a Porsche! Our nephew Will and I squeezed ourselves into the backseat.  Quite an experience!

A Christmas to remember, for sure!! I will miss you, California! 


Books I've Read in 2013 Part II

Click HERE for Part 1! 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - This one was mesmerizing! It's about two magicians named Marco & Celia who are destined to compete with each other and end up falling in love.  It's completely magical and wonderful.  It's one of those books where you're not quite sure what's happening and you can't wait to read the next chapter to learn more.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo - So good.  So hilarious at times.  So very depressing at other times.  This one reminded me a lot of Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  It's about a 10 year old girl named Darling who grows up in the slums of Zimbabwe but eventually moves to America.  Her perspective is so refreshing.  Just prepare yourselves though....the ending is pretty sad.

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks - Nicholas Sparks can do no wrong in my opinion.  This one is the love story of an elderly couple intertwined with the love story of a college-aged couple.  A sweet, easy read with a cool surprise near the end.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen - I picked this one up on a whim at the used bookstore.  I had heard of Sarah Dessen but had never read her books.  I was surprised to find out that she actually lives in Chapel Hill, NC (40 minutes down the road from where I live/where I went to college).  Anyway, I enjoyed this book! It's a typical young adult novel about two best friends in high school - one of whom has a new love interest and another that finds herself unexpectedly pregnant.  I definitely want to read more of Sarah Dessen's books!

Allegiant by Veronica Roth - This was the final book in the Divergent (dystopic) series.  As it goes with most trilogies, the first book was the best and the amazingness sort of diminished from there.  HOWEVER, I still enjoyed this book and got really into it, and I was very sad when it was over.  It had a pretty depressing ending, but I guess it can't be rainbows & sunshine all the time, right? It took me forever to remember what happened in the first two books because I read them quite a while ago, but now that I've finished the third, I'm definitely ready for the Divergent movie to come out next spring (just in time for my birthday)!

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight - I wasn't too sure about this one in the beginning but I definitely enjoyed it.  I can't give away too many details because the whole point of the book is for you to discover little details along the way, but I will say that it's about a young girl who attends a private high school in New York and seems to have committed suicide at school.  Her single mom attempts to put the pieces together and "reconstruct" the last few days of her daughter's life in order to make sense of the tragedy.

The Selection (Book 1) & The Elite (Book 2) by Kiera Cass - Oh how I loved this series! Can't wait for the third book to come out in May.  This is a young adult dystopic series in which the society is based upon a caste system.  Those in the lower castes (6, 7, 8) are the poorest and those in the higher castes (1, 2, 3) are the most privileged.  When it becomes time for Prince Maxon to find his wife, the royal family mails an invitation to all eligible girls regardless of their caste.  The main character, America Singer (Caste 5), is encouraged by her family to apply and is surprised to find that she is actually one of the 35 girls ("The Selected") who move to the palace to get to know the prince.  The characters are so lovable and the storyline really draws you in.  This series reminds me of: The Bachelor (one handsome bachelor dating so many girls at once!), The Hunger Games (which guy will she choose?), the Matched series (society trying to control who you love), the Delirium series (again, society trying to control who you love), the Divergent series (the caste system is slightly different than the factions, but similar).  If you liked any or all of those, READ THESE BOOKS!!

Defending Jacob by William Landay - Another good one.  This was a courtroom drama....or a crime thriller.....or something like that.  The main character/narrator's son is accused of murdering a classmate & the novel follows the family through the whole experience.  You'll go back & forth trying to figure out whether he's guilty or not.  There are lots of little twists and surprises along the way, and the ending is a jaw dropper for sure!

2013 Highlights

Wow.....so many wonderful things happened in 2013 that I can hardly remember them all!!

January: Matthew turned 26!

February: I rocked the Reading Specialist Praxis exam.

March: I turned 26! I led my first "professional development session" for the staff at my school.  My mom, sister, aunt, and I went to Wilmington for the weekend to celebrate my mom's birthday.

April: Last grad school class ever! My dad got remarried in a lovely outdoor ceremony & I got a sweet stepmom & 3 stepsisters.

May: I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a master's degree in K-12 Literacy!  We celebrated our 3 year wedding anniversary.  I filmed an episode of Tarheel Talk at WRAL studios!

June: Lots of babysitting, tutoring, reading, & relaxing by the pool.  I also applied for National Boards.  We visited Matt's granny (and aunt & uncle) in Maryland.

July: We made it to Michigan for yet another year.  Found out my friend Tara from high school was pregnant!

August: Annual girls trip to Charleston.  Started my 5th year of teaching kindergarten.  Went to Las Vegas over Labor Day weekend to celebrate my sister's 21st birthday! My work BFF LaTasha got engaged! My sis accepted a fabulous job offer with Frito Lay!

September: Leila & Bryan got married! Found out my good friend Holley from college was pregnant!

October: Water damage issue at the house, but thankfully it all worked out and it's finally over!

November: Tara's baby shower! Thanksgiving with my fam & Matt's fam.  I was voted Teacher of the Year at my school.

December: Went to my sister's ring ceremony at NCSU.  Celebrated Christmas with my family.  Went to Los Altos & San Francisco, California to celebrate Christmas with Matt's family.

Top that, 2014!