Friday Favorites 10/16/2015

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Friday Favorites post!  And I’ll tell you why–it’s because I’m going back to school!  Eek!  I know, what was I thinking?!  I was thinking that the window of time for me to volunteer at Grace’s school will inevitably close soon.  Once she reaches middle school, there will be very few, if any, opportunities to volunteer.  And let’s face it, volunteering is what keeps me sane during those long lonely winter months.  It gets me out of the house so that I don’t lose my mind.  So, if I’m not volunteering at a school, I might as well be working in one, right?

At this point, you may be wondering what I’m going back to school for.  Currently, my plan is to take two classes so that I can renew my teaching license.  Then, after renewing my license, I will be able to apply to grad school so that I can pursue my masters in library sciences with a focus on school librarianship.

Evidence Based Reading Instruction

The first class that I am taking is only 6 weeks long.  It on the foundations of beginning literacy.  It is a lot of information to cram into 6 short weeks.  There has been a bit of a learning curve since the class is online.  I prefer to sit in a classroom, soak up lectures, and participate in live discussions.  Instead, I spend hours reading textbooks and online articles, then formulating long detailed responses summarizing what I’ve read and posting them on discussion forums.  What is interesting is that the majority of my classmates are from outside the U.S, so this has created a lot of great interactions.  I am planning on taking my second class starting in January through the same professional development company. I’ve not yet decided what I’m going to take, but I have a few classes to choose from.

What’s happening

Last week was a crazy busy week with my class starting, volunteer obligations, doctor appointments, family visits, and a quick overnight trip out of town.  Doug and I went to Cleveland for a day.  We saw Chris Cornell in concert and visited The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Chris Cornell

And of course, it wouldn’t be a great date without a trip to the grocery store!  We made an impromptu stop at Trader’s Joes to load up on all things pumpkin spiced after drooling over this list.  I can say with certainty that the pumpkin seed brittle earns its title as one of the best pumpkin spiced products!  Though only after tasting it did we discover it may contain wheat.  What a bummer!  It was delicious, but probably not something we needed to eat much of anyway.  It was super decadent!

This week has been another crazy week, with me feeling like every second of everyday has been scheduled.  It’s actually kind of nice to be busy.  School is definitely keeping me on my toes and, so far, I am staying ahead of the game!  Between loads of reading for school, I managed to volunteer at Grace’s school book fair 3 times, go to two optometrist appointments, have a parent teacher conference, and help Grace’s teacher and the art teacher in the school work room, all in four days!  It’s gone quickly!  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a few quiet weeks ahead.

What I’m reading

After I finish typing this, I’m going to finish my latest book After You by Jo Jo Moyes.  Because it is a new release, it was on a 7 day loan at the library.  I’ve no idea what possessed me to pick it up, considering my hectic schedule, but it has been a nice distraction this week.

So, what’s new with you?  What are you reading?  Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook!

Friday Favorites 9/11/2015

Hello again and thanks for joining me today for Friday Favorites!  I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend and a short week to follow!  We spent our Labor Day as a family enjoying a hot, but exciting day at the ballpark watching the Tin Caps win their last  baseball game of the regular season.

Grace at the ballpark

Yesterday, I went into Grace’s school and helped out in the library for a few hours, as I do every Thursday.  I grabbed some lunch afterwards and headed over to the hospital to donate blood.  It’s not something I like to talk about.  I have donated twice in the last three months.  I’d like to say that it was for some admirable cause or that I am donating out of the goodness of my heart, but I was ordered to do it by my doctor to help reduce my iron levels.  That being said, I should be doing it out of the goodness of my heart.  We all should if we are able.  There is such a vital need for blood and platelet donations.  Donating blood takes less than an hour of your time, with the actual collection process being less than 15 minutes.  You can go to the American Red Cross website to learn more about donating in your area.

It wasn’t something that I thought about too much until I received an email after my first donation.  My blood was used to save a person’s life in a nearby town in Ohio.  That was impactful.  It doesn’t matter whose life it was; what mattered is that my blood was available to make that happen.  Now, I will warn you, the Red Cross provides follow up and reminder phone calls on a regular basis.  Screening your calls only adds you back into the calling rotation.  This was a nuisance to me so I’ve asked to be taken off the calling list and yesterday the nurse removed my phone number from my profile so that will no longer receive reminder calls.  As long as I am able, I will continue to give blood.  I’ll get off my soap box now, but I urge you to donate if you are healthy enough to do so.  We should all be fortunate enough to have blood available should we or a family member need it.

I am a blood donor

Links to love:

A Harry Potter themed bar themed bar is opening in Toronto and it looks spectacular!

Today is 9/11.  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t shed a few tears looking through Facebook posts about the tragic events that cast a shadow over our dear country 14 years ago today.  Bretagne’s Best Day is a video about the last known living search and rescue dog from 9/11.  She is 16 years old and very much a hero!

And finally, a few books about 9/11.  I haven’t read any of them, so I can’t personally recommend any of them.  However, there looks to be some very intriguing stories here.  A quick check of Goodreads has me thinking that these books are probably being judged a little harshly due to their subject matter.  Check them out for yourself and see if there is anything you want to add to your TBR list.

What I’m reading this week:

I just finished the YA novel Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider.  Look for a review coming soon!  Now I am smack dab in the middle of Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli.  I don’t usually read back to back young adult books, but both of these were library downloads.  When I download from the library, I always try to blow through them as quickly as possible for fear that I won’t get through them before they expire!  And be sure to click on over to my latest book review about The Rosie Project!    What have you been reading lately?

What I’m watching:

Doug and I have been watching the new series Narcos on Netflix.  It follows two DEA agents in Columbia during Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror.  I really like it, but it isn’t one for multi-tasking.  Because much of it is subtitled, you really have to pay attention to what’s going on.  It is a fascinating series.  Have you seen anything good lately?

Each year, it seems like we watch less and less TV.  But I always enjoy taking a sneak peek at the new fall lineup.  Here’s the ultimate guide to the new fall shows.    I like to view it on one page rather than in the slideshow.  Anything new catch your eye?  I’m looking forward to The Muppets and will set the DVR so that we can all watch together as a family!

I think that’s a wrap for this week!  Thanks for joining me here, friends!

 

Friday Favorites and Foo Fighters Recap: 8/28/2015

Well, this week has flown by!  It has left us all exhausted and in need of a restful weekend!  We are all overly tired because we just took Grace to her first real concert last night.  She’s seen plenty of live musical performances in the past, but nothing could quite prepare her for her first rock concert!  After Grace got off the bus yesterday, we loaded up the family truckster and made our way back to our old stomping grounds to see Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters.

Ready for Foo Fighters

It was a first for all of us.  While Doug and I are well-seasoned Pearl Jammers, we have never seen Foo Fighters live.  It was a great show and Grace said this morning and I quote, “I LOVED IT!”  It was a memorable show given that lead singer Dave Grohl performed from his throne while recovering from a broken leg sustained earlier in the summer at a European concert.  Even without leaving his throne, Grohl commands the stage and brings serious energy to the crowd.

Grohl on his throne

You may be curious to know why seemingly good, upstanding parents would take their nine year old to a Foo Fighters concert.  Since Grace was very little, she has always listened to and enjoyed our music.  Of course, we had our fair share of kids music around, too.  I can recall a time, perhaps not so fondly, when Grace was about 18 months old that we spent listening to a Fisher Price Little People’s version of “If you’re happy and you know it” on repeat whenever we got into the car.  This went on for at least 6 weeks and included a 14 hour round trip car ride to Tennessee and back.  I feel we paid our musical dues as parents a long time ago.

We started listening to Foo Fighters around the time Grace was 4 or 5 and she loved them, even more so than her mommy and daddy’s beloved Pearl Jam.  So when we realized the Foos were making a stop near us, we felt like it was an opportunity that we couldn’t miss.  After all, our favorite bands of our youth aren’t getting any younger (heck, neither are we) and you never know if this could be their last tour.  That’s why Doug and I take every opportunity we can to see Pearl Jam when they are touring within driving distance of us.

So how exactly does one prepare to take their nine year old to a rock concert?  When we initially asked Grace if she wanted to go, we prefaced it with several warnings.  It’s on a school night and you WILL be going to school the next day.  We will be up late and we will NOT be leaving the concert early because we are tired.  And lastly, it WILL be loud.  After lots of questions that we attempted to answer the best we could, she eagerly agreed to go with us.  If she hadn’t wanted to, we likely would have gone without her and asked one of the grandparents to stay the night with her at home.

As a mom, it is my duty to predict and to be prepared for every possible scenario, so I came armed with a purse that resembled a suitcase by the end of the night.  I packed both earplugs AND a noise canceling headset since neither alone seemed to provide enough ear protection.  I packed her rarely used inhaler, just in case it got smokey.  And finally, I smuggled in a snack for my ever hungry child who seems to have a bottomless pit for a stomach.  I know the way to heart and her stomach apparently.

Be prepared!

She wore both the earplugs and headset through the entire show.  Doug and I each donned our own set of earplugs, as well.  You will note her new swag, which resulted in taking off the shirt she was wearing and tossing it into my saddle bag purse. Isn’t she the best?

The best!

I was lucky enough to be able to capture one of the many sweet moments that I saw her share with her daddy during the concert.  Even though it is dark and grainy, you can feel their love for each other and see how much they are enjoying the show.  She stood on her seat for much of the concert and took breaks when she was tired.  I feel lucky to have shared this memory together as a family.  Hopefully, it is an experience that she will remember for a lifetime!

They have my heart

New on the blog this week:

I reviewed two books this weeks.  Code Name Verity is the beautiful and profound story young two friends working for the Woman’s Airforce Auxiliary during WWII.  Indiana author Sarah Layden writes a sad tale of a young twenty-something attempting to crawl her way out of a pit of despair in Trip Through Your Wires.

What I’m reading this week:  

We did a lot of tidying up over the weekend, which left me free to do some reading this week!  I just finished up And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, which was a library ebook that had come up on a hold.  Then I breezed through The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion in about a day.  Now I’m reading one of Grace’s middle reader books The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke.

What’s cooking in the kitchen:

I made up a batch of Grace’s favorite ham salad to pack in lunches this week.  I had never made, nor had Grace ever tried ham salad up until this past spring.  When we were sent home with loads of ham leftover from Easter, I decided to give it a try.  I loosely followed this recipe by Paula Deen.  I use my own homemade mayo and a combo of both dill and sweet pickles that I chop into a relish.  It was a surprise to me that Grace would love it so much, but she is thrilled when I make it for her lunch!  Do your kids like ham salad?  Have they ever tried it?  It seems like such a throwback!  At least there’s no jello involved in this recipe

Links to Love: 

I just watched this beautiful and poignant video from CBC Radio’s Wiretap.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me tear up just a little.  WireTap: How to Age Gracefully

Well, I think that’s all for this Friday’s Favorites.  Hope you have a great weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

Friday Favorites 8/14/15

I’m going to try to keep today’s Friday Favorites short and sweet.  Grace started 4th grade on Wednesday, so we tried to squeeze in every last bit of fun we could on Monday and Tuesday.  With Back to School Night and helping out with the kindergarten parent breakfast, it made for a busy week.  I feel like I’m still playing catch up from vacation.

Green BEAN Delivery saved the day yet again!  I had a bin full of fresh produce and some local meat from the Smoking Goose  delivered right to my front door, helping make lunch packing a little easier.  I don’t order from Green BEAN every week.  In fact, I often cancel my bins because my fridge is too stocked up from grocery runs, but it is always there when I need it.  I started with Green BEAN when we were living in Fishers and have been a customer since shortly after they opened.  I love the convenience of shopping from my computer and believe it or not, I think it probably saves me money, not to mention time.  If I were to go to an actual grocery store, I’d be tempted to pick up things that we don’t need and end up with a good $30 more in my cart.  This is especially true if Grace or Doug are shopping with me.  I’m sure you can relate!

I also made up a quick batch of crispy chicken that we devoured two nights this week.  I originally started out making Nom Nom Paleo’s Cracklin’ Chicken.  It’s a fantastic recipe that turns your chicken into something reminiscent of fried chicken.  It’s so good.  But it didn’t earn the term cracklin’ for nothing.  It sizzles and crackles and splatters oil all over my stove, making clean up kind of a pain.  And if you cook in only one pan, you have to cook it in batches.  She also removes the chicken from the bone, which is not an easy task. Instead, I leave the chicken on the bone.  It kind of makes for a nice handle to just pick it up and eat off your plate.  No fork necessary!

To make the cooking process easier, I drizzle oil all over the bone-in thighs, and generously salt and pepper.  I then pop them into the oven, skin side up, at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  I finish them off under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the skin is nice and crispy.  Be sure to keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn!  When they are ready the skin will be golden and crisp.  This method is still delicious, but requires far less babysitting and very little clean up.  This is a recipe that we all love and it really does satisfy a good fried chicken craving!

What I’m reading now

I downloaded and started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo on my Kindle earlier this week.

the life-changing magic

It’s a short book, but I have to admit that it hasn’t been all that quick of a read for me.  I think it is because I’m finding this method of organization to be so daunting.  It isn’t just a room-by-room solution.  It is a whole house overhaul, that she all but guarantees will forever change your life.  So, I’ve been reading it in snippets here and there because I’m not sure that I’m up for a whole house commitment right now.  I’d really just love to organize my pantry, fridge, freezers, and see to it that my ever-growing donation pile actually makes its way to Goodwill.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress!  I’d love to know if you’ve read this book and implemented the KonMarie method of purging and organizing.  If so, leave me a note in the comments to let me know how it has changed your life!

Thanks for joining me here for Friday Favorites!  I hope you have a great weekend!

 

Friday Favorites 8/7/15

It has been a super busy week around here!  We left for Pittsburgh on Friday and spent 4 fun-filled days there.  We got home on my birthday and I spent the next few days catching up on laundry and groceries.

We had a great time in Pittsburgh.  I hope to write up another post about what we did but, in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview…

Pittsburgh

I also read a few books while we were away.  I’ll get around to reviewing them soon!

Books I read on vacation

When Doug and I were on a date in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, we stumbled into Urban Styles Furniture and Gypsy Market.  If you ever get a chance to stop in, I would highly recommend it.  This store has the most unique and eclectic home furnishings.  It is so much fun to stroll through.  While I was there, I saw these awesome book letters and fell in love with them!  At more than $25 apiece, they were a little out of my thrifty budget.  Well, my sweet guy surprised me bought some from Etsy for my birthday!  He had to open his own Etsy account and everything.  He’s the best!  And don’t you just love my book letters?

Book letters

Does anyone else have a garden this year?  I have to admit, I really neglected mine earlier this summer.  With all of the rain, it kind of just got put to the back of my mind, so my herbs and lettuces suffered.  But I am finally getting some cucumbers!  And I might get lucky and get a few zucchinis.

Garden cucumbers

Grace mentioned that she would like to make pickles, so I knew exactly what I was going to do with all of those cucumbers.   She also mentioned that her great-grandma used to make pickles, so I asked my mother-in-law for the recipe.  While I waited for the recipe to come in the mail, I found another quick and easy recipe for microwave bread and butter pickles.  The ingredients are very similar to my husband’s grandma’s recipe.    I didn’t have mustard seed or celery seed, but instead used ground mustard and celery salt.  I also used less than half the sugar, because one cup is a whole lotta sugar for what ended up being just about a pint of pickles.  They were really tasty and again, very simple to make!

Microwave bread and butter pickles

School starts next Wednesday and we have packed our schedule full until then.  And I already have a “to-do” list for myself!  It’s getting pretty long and mainly consists of cleaning.  So, tell me, do you have a list of tasks you want to accomplish once school starts?

 

Friday Favorites 7/31/15

On Fridays, I will be featuring some of my favorite things from my life and around the interwebs.  Today’s post will be the first of my Friday Favorites!

Back to school is quickly approaching around here!  Grace starts 4th grade on August 12th, but many of our friends start on Monday.  So, we have been all about the back to school shopping.  A friend shared that The Children’s Place was having an huge online sale, so we shopped from our kitchen!  It was fabulous!  On top of their already great discounts, if you search the web for coupons, you can save an additional 20%.  We got all of this for around $80!

Back to school clothes

Back to school shopping also means shoe shopping!  I usually let Grace get a few pairs of shoes–tennis shoes, something casual, and often a pair of fashion boots a little later in the season.  She already had a pair of Tom’s that I had set aside from a great Zulily sale earlier in the year and we took care of the boots at Target.  The only thing left was tennis shoes.  But, we needed two pairs!  One for everyday wear and the other to be left at school for gym shoes.  This is what she decided on for her everyday pair of shoes.

Grace's new kicks

Aren’t they fun?  She is WAY cooler than I was in 4th grade.  Lucky girl!  We bought these Brooks Adrenaline from a local shoe store where they measured her for exact size.  My growing girl shot up one and a half shoe sizes since the beginning of the last school year!  It won’t be long before she is shopping in the women’s shoes alongside her mama.

Thank goodness for online shopping and back to school kits!  All of Grace’s school supplies will show up in her classroom ready for her on back to school night.  It makes this mama’s life a lot easier!

Another thing that makes my life easy?  The barbecue grill.  After a very mild and rainy start, it is finally beginning to feel like summer around here, which means it is getting HOT!  I hate turning on my oven and heating up our whole main living area, so the barbecue grill is a great alternative.  And if we use the grill, that usually means that I get a little help with the cooking.  My husband is the designated griller and smoker around here, and I love him for it!  Earlier in the week, I had set out a chicken to thaw and it needed to be used.  I’d seen recipes for spatchcocked chicken, in which you remove the backbone from the chicken so that it lays flat and cooks more evenly.  I’ve never spatchcocked a chicken and I’m not sure that we’ve ever grilled a whole chicken, so I thought we’d give it a shot.  We used this recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple.  Grace loved the spice blend so much that she was trying to sneak tastes of it while I was preparing it!  Here’s what our chicken looked like on the grill.  The wires are from our remote thermometer:

Spatchcocked Chicken

To go along with our chicken, I wanted a nice summer salad.  I had been craving one of those crunchy Asian noodle slaws, so I picked up a pack of gluten free ramen noodles and went about finding a recipe.  I decided on The Kitchn’s crunchy cabbage and ramen noodle salad.  It exceeded all my expectations and was just as tasty as I remembered!  The one exception being that I used rice ramen noodles.  They were a bit too crunchy for us and pretty flavorless, so I decided it wasn’t even necessary to include them.  This salad will definitely be going into my lineup and will probably be the next thing I take to a pitch-in.

Lastly, I love Goodreads!  I know that many of you already follow me there, but if you don’t, I’d love for you to join me there.  It is such a great way to keep track of all of your books.  I have a never ending list of books that I want to read thanks to Goodreads!  You can find my profile by clicking here.  I’d love to have some new friends to follow!