Monday, December 17, 2012

A Beautiful Grief

I was kind of surprised by how strongly the news from Connecticut affected me. Of course it was sad, horrifying, and shattering...but I'm usually pretty good at compartmentalizing my feelings, putting school murders in a quiet kind of "sympathy and gentle sadness without much demonstration" box.


Not this time.


I openly wept for these children, these families, and this school. Perhaps it's my own connection to children and school (and the sheer reality that this could have easily happened at my own elementary school). Perhaps it's the other overwhelming griefs that attended my life over the course of this year. Perhaps it's the otherwise stressful place in which I currently find myself.


At any rate, I found myself weeping deep, heaving sobs for these small ones. Kindergarteners. The most delightfully heartwarming age, when everything is new and fascinating and bad is a Big Wolf and nothing more.


There are no easy answers for this; gun control, support for the mentally ill, school preparedness...nothing adequately covers or solves the magnitude of this situation. Religion, atheism, the innocence of children or the evil of mankind...nothing answers why this happened.


A very smart man wrote this, and I think it's the best thing I've read so far. I'm trying to keep myself away from most of the media hubbub because it does no good, but when someone as wise and humble as Jared faces the topic of the Sandy Hook murders, I read it. It's worth the time.


There is a way to make this grief beautiful, and for me, that is simply to not despair at the hopelessness of humanity, but to make a concentrated effort to be a vessel of peace, grace and love for my God.


There's no denying that this sucks. Plain and simple. And the trite answers suck, and a part of me cringes at writing that "we can make beauty out of this tragedy." The truth is, we can't really make beauty out of this. We are too far gone. But we can try, with every ounce of our being, to carry on the work of someone who can.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deep Breathing

Today I had an attack.



Panic attack, or sugar attack (low blood sugar), I couldn't tell.



So I ate some chocolate in the form of a granola bar.



And I stopped shaking and could breathe normally again.



That was the right thing to do, right?



This post is brought to you by Mrs. Henrich's first report card week experience. Thank you for your readership. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In Which I Send You to a Marvelous Blog Post

I have quite the blogroll. There's a list of probably a dozen or so blogs I read as often as I can keep up with them. They range from food blogs, parenting and lifestyle blogs, teaching blogs, and blogs about the Christian life.



This particular blog touches my heart because Sarah is just so honest. Her writing is fresh and unapologetic, and it is so refreshing.


Here she talks about Christmas.



And I love it.

Oh, Hello Christmas.

Christmas season is upon us!!



No matter what my humbug husband says, Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving. It's not my fault that Thanksgiving comes early on the calendar this year. Christmas has begun.







As such, I've started compiling my favorite things: lists.



(In case you weren't aware, I make lists for everything. Grocery shopping, meal planning, chores, party plans, gift ideas, etc etc. My day at school is not complete without at least one list.)



I have a list of Christmas presents started, to make sure I don't miss anyone and to help me brainstorm. My next step is to make a list of things to bake/cook this Christmas season. Of course, at the moment it's mostly sweets, but I'll keep you updated if I try anything fantastic.






So my list includes the following:


Oreo Balls


Giant M&M Cookies (I actually made these today and holy.cow. They're amazing!)


Cookies 'n' Creme Fudge


Snickerdoodle Bars (I'm not a huge snickerdoodle fan, but these look so soft and chewy!)


So it's not a huge, extensive list so far but never fear, I'll post about any other delights I come across.



Yay Christmas!



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Currently...

Courtesy of Curious Jac's fill-in-the-blanker.




I like...sunshine, delicious food, adventures, and my new slippers.



A life goal of mine...is to be the kind of person who is gracious, hospitable, discerning, and shows the love of Christ...without losing a sense of humor and lightness at the world.




The last thing you would ever expect me to like (even though I do) is...dressing up. For someone who usually lives for sweatpants and a ponytail, I love getting dolled up every once in a while and really feeling pretty.




Some wise words I love are..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.  He's the King, I tell you." (Chronicles of Narnia. Pretty much anything by C.S. Lewis falls into this category.)



Most mornings you can find me...at school, usually by 7:15. Before that? Stumbling around my apartment trying to get ready in the dark without waking Dan.  ;-)



Right now I'm super in to...stripes. On everything. All colors, all sizes, all the time. Also singing again in a Christmas choir!



Right now I'm super over...the fact that Christmas was already here before Halloween was over. Don't get me wrong, people, I lovelovelove Christmas and the holidays, but c'mon. People are still wearing short sleeves and fall jackets.



Have a great week, everybody!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Turkey Trot

(Yet another school post...get used to it, folks. My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and my immediate response was "teacher stuff."


Her immediate response? "Absolutely not."


This is what moms are for.)



Anyway, last week was American Education Week. Much to my (superintendent's) chagrin, I don't really know what that means. What I do know is that it means my week is crazier than usual.



Which, if you know me, is kind of saying something.



It was great for the kids. We had parent visits, a town meeting (the whole school meets to catch up on goings-on and celebrate achievements), a kindergarten play, and Friday morning, the Turkey Trot.



The Turkey Trot is really a great thing. It's a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy, (wow, it just took me three tries to type "dystrophy"), a disease that afflicts two FWES alumni. The Turkey Trot was established in their honor, and it's a school tradition.



However, in practical terms, it means giving up your Friday morning to "trot" two miles around the neighborhood.



500 children. Just imagine with me, if you will.



The whole school, staff, PTA, and other dedicated parents gathered in the gymnasium for the Hop-a-thon, a one-minute hopping spree to kick off the Turkey Trot. Then the 5th graders file out and walk the two-mile loop. Then the 4th grade, the 3rd, and onward down (really a good plan if you consider the strides and speed of fifth graders versus kindergarteners).



Each turning point or corner of the route is manned by PTA and other parent volunteers. Parents walk with their children's classes, some for the whole trot, and others for portions. One kind parent handed me a cup of coffee along the way, and everyone was very excited.



I was about to have a stroke. Coffee was entirely unnecessary, I was so wired.



Please understand, I've worked with kids my whole life. I spent four years as a paid camp counselor, and probably four more years volunteering at VBS camps. I'm no stranger to the chaos of unbounded children. I've done field trips to Dorney Park and Phillies' games.



That being said, nothing nothing NOTHING compares to the pure and utter terror of being solely responsible for the care and well-being of 19 rambunctious second-graders, and having so little control over the situation.



Pretty sure I counted those 19 noses about 14 times.



One of my room parents was there (bless her heart) and she laughed every time she watched me whirl around, frantically checking for my students.



Good news: I didn't lose anyone!!



Bad news: I'm pretty sure I'll be sprouting some gray hairs shortly. Four or five of my boys kept "trying to get lost" and scampering ahead. And of course, with parents around, you can't exactly play mean teacher.



Other news: the only terror left is for the turkeys.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There Is Always More

My best friend, a fellow elementary teacher, has said to me more times than I can remember, "there is always more you could do."



I don't think I truly understood what she meant until today.



That's her on the left. Sorry, she's taken (and not by me!).




Any teacher worth her (or his) salt knows that you're never done learning, adapting, adjusting, tweaking, and changing. It's part of being a good teacher. That lesson could always be better if, those worksheets could have been clearer if, that activity could have been more engaging if...



If, if if.



Today I realized that for all the improving I have to do as a teacher (and lemme tell you, when I come into my own and really settle into a class, I'm gonna be totally kickass. This is the greatest job in the world, and I full plan to own it) I have a million and one little and big things always plaguing me.



Completed work to be filed, updates to be emailed, new work to be sorted, posters to make, projects to arrange, centers to organize and improve, art to hang and take down and rehang, homework and tests to grade, grades to enter on paper and online, Scholastic book orders to fold and send home...







Seriously, this list could go on for pages.



But at some point, I have to realize that I'm done. My day starts at 6:15, and magically it's one of those points in my REM cycle when I can jump out of bed and start powering along. I get to school by 7:15, the kids arrive around 8:30. I work straight through my lunch, eating at my desk, and the only socialization I achieve is asking one of my grade level partners for help with something.



Kids leave around 3:45 (hallelujah) and I can clean and straighten my classroom for the next day, write out the schedule on the blackboard, morning message on the white board, and make sure all my worksheets, projects, and supplies are lined up and ready to go for the morning. I make plans and posters and copies, and I email parents and staff members. I organize paperwork, switch out completed units for new material, and try to get ahead by researching games, activities, worksheets and bulletin boards for the future.







Are you tired yet? I am.


Throughout the day, I'm constantly on my feet. I hear "Mrs. Henrich!" about eight trillion times, get thirty-four pats on the back (or hip, which never ceases to amuse me), repeat directions about ten times, hear 8456 tattles, and every time I pause to check my email because I see a parent's name pop up in my inbox, I'm interrupted by an "I don't get it."



Now please don't take this to mean that I don't absolutely love my job. For all its overwhelmingness, all its busyness and multitasking and never getting a break, I adore it. But I finally understand what my friend meant.



When 5 PM rolls around, and I've been in my classroom for more or less 10 hours straight, I look at that pile of papers to be graded, that stack of completed work that needs to be filed, that math center that isn't quite ready....



Writing center fail. Still not quite ready. 




And I go home.



There's always more to do. I could always stay another hour. It will never be finished.



AND THAT IS OK.



Hold onto your hats, people, because this may be the biggest lesson of my life.



When 5:00 shows up on my watch, and I know that when I get home I have to walk the dog, and make dinner, and fold the laundry that's been sitting in the hamper for six days, and oh, it'd be nice to spend some time with my husband....I can leave. And it doesn't make me lazy or a bad teacher, and I don't have to compare myself to the other teachers who don't leave until 8 PM.



I'm sure there will be nights when I don't leave until 8 PM. And there will be days when I leave at 4:30. And you know what? The amount of work will never really change. It will be there when I come back at 7 AM the next day.



And that's ok.

Why I Chose Not to Vote

GASP, you say.



WHAT?! you say.



Don't you know it's your right as an American, and 100 years ago you wouldn't have been allowed because you're a woman?! you say.



How could you shirk your civic duty this way?! you say.







Believe you me, there was no small amount of guilt associated with my decision. I'm a teacher, for heaven's sake, I spent last Thursday, Friday and Monday talking about the election with my students and telling them to go vote with their parents, make sure their families vote, it's sososo important and the best way we can be involved in our country...



But I chose to not let guilt drive me to the polls.



The truth is fairly simple, and can be divided into two basic parts.



First of all, this was a very definite and thoughtful choice on my part. Not laziness, not apathy, not "eh, I don't have time." I decided that since I have not had the opportunity to thoroughly educate myself on the issues, and there was not a candidate who clearly focused on issues already important to me, I would not vote for either.



I suppose if you're really looking to burn me at the stakes, you could say that it's my civic duty to educate myself. But seriously, how many people who voted were thoroughly educated and made careful, purposeful decisions about how to cast their votes?



Choosing "the lesser of two evils" was not really an option for me. I have some weird ideas about government (if you're determined to use a label, I'm probably closest to a libertarian) and I didn't really think that either Mr. Mitt Romney or President Obama would head the direction I want.







Secondly, I believe that I was still exercising my freedom as an American by not voting. Dan informed me that if I wished, there was a button at the polls that would allow me to vote for neither candidate (and yes, it was lack of time that kept me from doing that). But still, nobody dragged me to the polls, nobody threatened my life because I didn't vote. This is still America, and I am free to decide that I don't like either of these men, or what they say they want to do, and I will not be forced to choose one of them.



So there you have it. All the facebook posts, the school district meeting about how politicians are going to slash teacher pensions (as if that was really the sole reason to vote for someone), all the conversations and tweets and what have you, and I stand firm in my belief that my choice was ok. I'm allowed to not know, and I'm allowed to act according to what I do, and do not, understand.





That being said, I really hope you voted.  ;-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Perfect Storm

So I have to admit, I'm kind of looking forward to Hurricane Sandy.



I do wish my boy was safely home with me instead of in Seattle for work, but my sister is here and that's an excellent second.


But, I'm looking forward to an extra day of sleeping in and grading papers and planning for the week.


Did I mention this on here?


I'm a second-grade teacher now.




I was assigned a long-term sub position (so no contract yet, for those of you who understand such things) for the rest of the year in a second grade class at one of the other elementary schools in our district.





It's totally awesome, I love my students and I'm completely overwhelmed. So this chance to recoup for an extra day. This job is totally a matter of pacing myself and trying to accomplish as much as I can without making myself crazy. As my best gal says, "there's always more you can do." But after ten hours in my classroom (and I mean ten hours in my classroom--eating lunch in there, only leaving to take the kids to special and go to the bathroom or ask for help with something), I realize that it's time to go home. So I'm pacing myself. Last week I started guided reading; this week I'm going to tackle author's workshop. After that I'll start improving my centers.





But I can't do it all at once.


So a day off is very much appreciated, just extra time to rest and recharge, think and plan, grade and assess.


We've got plenty of snacks, all the electronics are charged up, some extra water in bottles, and nowhere to go. Gas tanks are full, jobs are closed, puppy is ready to snuggle.





Bring it on.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

Sorry for the long stretch, folks...it's been busy! In case anyone is unaware, I was assigned to a long-term sub position at Fort Washington Elementary (another elementary school in my district). This means that I'll be teaching 2nd grade for the rest of the year! I'm super excited and have been really busy. I came into an awkward sort of situation, so there's a lot of work to be done getting the classroom organized and running smoothly.


It's a great challenge, and one that I'm really looking forward to!


In the meantime, I'm going to share with you a recipe of my very own design. I love potato soup, but the recipe I've used in the past always comes out closer to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Plus, if I make a big pot of soup, I'm going to be eating it for a while, and I'd rather have some nutrients.


So, I came up with this little gem.



The picture is not particularly enticing, due to my extremely amateur photography. Trust me, it's delicious. 


Sweet potatoes are loaded with all kinds of good stuff, beta carotenes and whatnot. Add in some cauliflower puree and onions, and chicken and bacon for texture and protein. This soup was beyond my hopes, really delicious with great textures, and hearty without being super heavy. Next time I'm going to try adding some celery and carrots too, just for some more veggies.


Note: I've worked in various classrooms for over two years, if you add up all my stints, and packing lunches is the bane of my existence. I hate it. I'm terrible at coming up with delicious, healthy food that fuels my long days, and I'm lazy. Soup is the perfect answer, because it's easy to make one big pot and eat it all week, and I can pack it full of veggies and other nutritious things. Plus it's warm and soothing, and we all know I'm big on comfort food. Nothing like a steamy cup of soup on a cold winter's day.


Here's the recipe.


Sweet Potato Soup
2-3 medium sweet potatoes,
2 regular potatoes (I think I used russet?)
1/2 an onion
1/4 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 can of chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
4-6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 tbsp butter
Salt, pepper and ginger to taste


To cook the meat, I poached the chicken for 10-15 minutes, and shredded. Place the bacon on a baking sheet (I line with aluminum foil for easy cleanup) and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, flipping at least once.




Chop all your veggies! Cauliflower can be cut into bite-size pieces; potatoes should be about the same. Dice the onion.







Steam the cauliflower until very soft; puree in a blender until smooth and set aside. This will form about half the base of your soup.



In a large pot, melt the butter and add the onions. Sautee 3-4 minutes, until soft and tender. Add the potatoes, the can of broth, and about 2 cups of water. Boil for about 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or fork (if you want a smoother consistency, puree in a blender, but I like the chunky texture) and add the half-and-half and cauliflower puree. Let simmer for 10 more minutes or so, to let the flavors marry.



Stir in the chicken and bacon; add salt, pepper, and ginger (for some heat!) to taste. I just like a bit of warmth, so I didn't go crazy with the ginger, but do whatever floats your boat! You can also try some nutmeg, I'm sure that would be delicious.



Enjoy!



Thursday, September 20, 2012

The New Face of Missions?

A few weeks ago I linked up to this article (? can you call that an article?) because I thought it was a fairly accurate representation of how my generation thinks and functions.


We want real, we want truth, we want to be involved. People say we're apathetic, I disagree. I think we're biding our time until you baby boomers decide to hand over the reins.


Then you'd better hang on to your dentures.


Last Sunday I attended a barbecue hosted by Mission Projects Fellowship. This is an awesome organization that funds very practical needs of missionaries around the world. They're not affiliated with any particular missions organizations, but they connect with various missionaries and missions groups to supply specific needs.


On this particular Sunday, MPF was just trying to raise awareness and interest among a new group of people. They were also raising funds for a chicken coop for an orphanage in Kenya, but that was secondary to simply exposing themselves and their purpose.


At one point, an older gentleman (who turned out to be the President of the Board of MPF) stood up and gave a brief explanation of how funding a chicken coop was at all related to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.


And I was totally bemused.


Of course a chicken coop is spreading the gospel of Christ! Of course this is reaching out to a people in need! How on earth is this not a "missions" project?!


And therein lies a very great difference between myself and my parents (and grandparents) generations.


I checked with a couple others to verify.


This is completely obvious to me. Supplying a children's home (and thus the children) with food, nutrition, income, and a purpose is to supply a children's home with some very basic elements of life. How on earth are we supposed to "reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ" if they can't focus on anything but how hungry they are and how worried they are about where their next meal is coming from?


What about "the least of these"?


What about "giving to the needy"?


What about "feed my sheep"?


This, apparently, is not obvious to everyone, since the President of the Board felt the need to stand up and clarify.


For all the flak my generation receives, and for all our flaws and faults and problems (seriously, why can no one sit through a single meal without checking their phone at least once?!) I am proud to be a part of a generation that is willing to lay aside the glamorous role of "winning souls" and settle for feeding hungry children and giving them a chance to survive. I'm proud to be part of a generation that recognizes the importance of basic human needs, and is willing to admit that providing an orphanage with a viable, sustainable small business and food source is more important than services that make US feel important.


If you're interested, check out their website. It's pretty awesome.

Shiny Days

Remember when I linked up to this blog? Yeah, still readin', still lovin'. And one of my favorite things about the blog community (ohmygosh I just said that) is all the lovey linkin' that goes on. Through Phase Three, I found this blog.


And this post.


And today, my friends, was a shiny day.


Today, I was ON.


(I had dinner ready before I even left for school. Let's give a holler to crockpots!)


I savored the little things.


(Glorious sunshine, a hug from a kindergartener, feeling like a real teacher again.)


I said the right words at the right time.


(Doesn't matter how normal we try to make it, pushing an 8-year-old in a stroller down the hallway will always attract stares from elementary students.)


I even managed to enjoy a last few rays of sunshine without losing my mind over the imaginary chores I create for myself.


(Because seriously, nobody else gives a crap about the interior of my closet or that pile of old papers that needs to be shredded.)


Ha.


Today was a crazy day. But what makes it shiny? Instead of crying, I laughed. Instead of getting frustrated that student M hollered his head off for what felt like several hours, instead of freaking out because student T put every.single.item. in our classroom in his mouth, instead of worrying about handling two needy kindergarteners simultaneously, instead of getting all panicky because Mr C was late getting home and letting me off babysitting duty....


I laughed it off, enjoyed my time with the kids, and even got to take my dog out for a run when I got home and let myself relax.


These are the moments that remind me that, even though I'm far from who I wish to be, I'm slowly making progress. I'm growing up into a semi-reasonable human being who can prioritize, let things go, and learn to enjoy the little things.


There were a couple real gems at school today, and I really wish I had written them down. Seriously, how do kindergarteners get so darn funny? They're not even trying. Forget Dane Cook or Dimitri Martin..."Kids Say the Darndest Things" had the right idea.


I need days like today to remind me why I chose this path for my life, and why I'm so grateful to be here, and why I can face tomorrow with a smile and an ounce of hope.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lightened Up Stroganoff

It was a blustery, wet day here in the Philly suburbs. Gray and super windy, chilly but also humid. Pretty yuck.


Since it is also the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I didn't have work. I babysat instead, which was nice because I was done at 3 instead of 6.


Ergo, I had time to try a new recipe!





This is the year of quickie dinners and crockpot meals. I am working full-time in the multiple disabilities classroom, and I have an after-school babysitting gig for a family in my district. It's really convenient because the kids are on the same schedule as me, and they live literally halfway between school and home.


(Which equals about 4 minutes each way. Awesome.)


Anyway, I've been practicing lots of super fast, hands-off meals and so far it's been going alright. I have a couple Ziploc bags of crockpot-ready food in my freezer, and an arsenal of easy recipes. Since I now get home between 5:30 and 6 PM, I don't feel like spending a ton of time fixing dinner (and Dan, for all his wonderful qualities, is no help in the kitchen. Of course, I tend to reinforce the "kitchen is Becca's dominion," so I don't really blame him. Thus, if Dan is responsible for dinner, we're eating take out).


Anyway, all this to say I was delighted to have time today to try a new recipe.


Dan loves beef stroganoff, especially his mom's beef stroganoff. This is possibly the only recipe of my MIL's that I do not particularly like. Her beef stroganoff is full of "cream of" soups,  very rich and heavy. This is a lightened-up version, still chock-full of hearty flavor and creamy texture, but waaaay healthier. We devoured this, which is why there are no pictures.


If beef stroganoff can even be remotely considered healthy.


I adapted a recipe from Gina's Skinny Recipes, a website I've used for several delicious, health-concious recipes. Here is my version.


SkinnyTaste Mushroom Stroganoff

  • 1 (generous) tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 - 3/4 pound of beef, any cheap cut will do
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium broth
  • 1 tbsp A1 Steak Sauce
  • 1 tsp tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup sliced Cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced baby Bella mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Egg noodles, cooked

Heat olive oil in a medium-large pan; salt and pepper the beef before sautéing (I purchased the cheapest pack of red meat I could find in the grocery store--.73 lbs of stir-fry meat, and it turned out fine) until no longer pink. Remove and set aside. Add the butter to the pan until melted, then add the onions. Saute the onions for 2-3 minutes, until soft and fragrant, before adding the flour right to the pan. Stir well, then gradually add the broth (I used chicken because it's what I had on hand), steak sauce and tomato sauce. Simmer together until slightly reduced, and the sauce is thick and bubbly. Add the mushrooms, beef and red wine. 

This is where I really diverged from Gina's recipe; I let this concoction simmer away for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, I cleaned up the kitchen and cooked the noodles. A few minutes before the noodles were ready I added the yogurt, stirred it until thoroughly incorporated, and let it get all happy for another 5 minutes or so before serving. 

**Note: Some of my ingredient substitutions are simply because they are what was already in my kitchen. That's just how I roll. The beef, however, is due to the fact that my husband does not consider any meal (except pizza) a "real dinner" unless it contains meat.

Also, this meal would probably feed up to four people, if those people are eating before 8:30 PM and aren't totally ravenous. 

Last of all, we topped this with some grated Parmesan cheese. Because life is better when you put cheese on EVERYthing. 



Enjoy! 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Welcome, Fall

When I decided to write this post, I picked up my phone to see if I had any good pictures to add.


Then I walked around, trying to think of something to photograph to illustrate the gloriousness that is fall.



I failed.


I took this photo of my beloved little fiend:





Then I took this photo of peppers from my garden, which will become our dinner tonight:


Stuffed Peppers, anyone?


I stepped out onto my porch, where my plants are swaying in the cool breeze, and the sun has warmed the wooden planks under my feet.



And I thought, nope.



Can't do it.



Fall is beyond a shadow of a doubt my favorite time of year. Don't get me wrong, I love baking in the heat and sweating in the sunshine, green growing things and swimming and basking in the summer nights. But there is something magical about the heat seeping away, the chill in the morning, and the quietness of the earth drowsing as summer slips away.


Dan and I had breakfast outside today, at Elcy's Cafe. We sat with Lily, and our delicious sandwiches and coffee, and talked about fall.


Oktoberfest is coming up, when we go apple and pumpkin picking, eat chili and have a bonfire.


School is rolling along, and I actually need all my cardigans and long pants now.


I'm making plans to winter over my garden, and expand for next summer.


And (possibly best of all) we're headed for the season of holidays--Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


We haven't traveled very far. We've been to the Mediterranean, bits of the West coast, Missouri, Iowa, and Michigan, and up and down the East coast. There are so many places left to see, and I'm sure there is something special and awesome about each place. The way the mountains rise out of the sea in Sicily, the navy blueness of the water in the North Atlantic, the palm trees in San Diego, even the vast cornfields of the Midwest.

Savoca, Sicily. June 2011.


South Rim of the Grand Canyon, July 2012. 


Magnolia, MA (North of Boston), Summer 2008?

Fall in Pennsylvania, though, has its own kind of splendor. The changing and falling leaves, the crispness of the morning, switching out shorts and swimsuits for sweaters and corduroys...these are what make fall amazing. The anticipation of the winter coming, and the sense that the earth is sleepy after a busy summer of warmth and growing. I love being able to bake again, love apple picking and adding an extra blanket to our bed. I love the change, I love the newness.


I'm thankful for the creativity of a God who not only provides for our basic needs, but makes the world such a beautiful place to live.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Summer in Photos

In no particular order: the second half of my summer. 

My little brother, after his car accident. Yes, he's fine (the casts will be off after a couple more weeks). 


Me with my unbelievably adorable niece. 


My brother reading to his daughter. Beyond precious. 


Sister and niece.


Annual Adirondack hike with the sisters-in-law. So beautiful. 



Gorgeous flowers from Produce Junction. $3 bouquet!


I decided, for about the eighth time, that I'd learn how to crochet. This, as usual, is about as far as I got. 


Finally, my jewelry isn't sprawled across my dresser!


This face kept me company all summer. 




My friend, sister and I had an indoor picnic when our beach day got rained out. 


Our freshly painted bookshelf for our classroom. Much prettier. 


This is one of the three bulletin boards I designed for back-to-school. Yes, it's one of my favorite parts of the job. 



This summer, I had my first professional teaching position as the summer school teacher for the multiple disabilities classroom at my school, I worked with a couple kiddos as behavioral therapist part time, experienced my parents' divorce and my mother's remarriage, traveled to California where I saw the Grand Canyon, Pacific Ocean, Yosemite National Park, and Alcatraz, visited Schroon Lake, drove to the Midwest twice in three weeks (once to visit my brother after his car accident, the other for my mom's wedding) and found out that I didn't get a teaching job for the school year. 


This past Thursday I had my first full inservice day at school (I went by the school for a couple hours on Tuesday and Wednesday to help my lead teacher because she was freaking out, but that barely counted). I was so excited just to be back and be around the wonderful people who work at Jarrettown. As disappointed as I was not to get a classroom, I'm incredibly thankful to have a job, especially one in such a good district with people I truly enjoy. 


I'm excited to start another year and see what comes along. 






Saturday, August 4, 2012

Holy Moly.

In the last two weeks I have spent a grand total of two nights in my bed.


This is for both good, mediocre and not-good news.


(Like how I'm so ingrained in early childhood that I can't even bring myself to say "bad"?)


Real Update coming soon.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Currently...




Excited: We leave on Saturday for our 10-day tour of the West coast! We're flying to San Diego, CA, then hitting up the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park (complete with a 14 mile hike to Half Dome) and then San Francisco. Duuude.





Reading: About eight things. So far this summer I've gobbled up The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates, Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner, An Amateur Marriage by Ann Tyler, and The Last Symbol by Dan Brown. Still working on Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford, and then on to Maggie Now by Betty Smith (one of my favorite authors).



Wishing: To try this. Would it not be the coolest thing ever to make caprese salad with my own basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese?! Incidentally, I have several homegrown tomatoes ready for use and my basil is going crazy. Maybe it's time for bruschetta while I consider the mozzarella.


Courtesy of The Kitchn. As I said, I've not yet attempted this. 



Drinking: My new favorite smoothie--half a banana, 4-6 oz of almond milk, peanut butter and a smidge of nutella. So sweet, but low calorie and with just the right punch of protein. Yum.


Losing: Down almost 15 pounds this summer!! Super excited to look the way I did on my wedding day, and hoping that maybe I can keep up the momentum.




Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Drinkin'

You know, the tame kind.



One of these days I'm going to learn to make sangrias.



Like this kind.






Or this kind.




But for now, I'm sticking to delightful midday sippers, like this baby.




Fresh-squeezed lemonade. In all its summery deliciousness.



This happened because I went to the library (huzzah for free summer fun!) and brought home some books to read. As I drove home I pictured myself sprawled on the couch, enjoying the warm breezes through my window, reading my new books and sipping something icy cold and delightful.


And, since I don't really do cocktails and, as stated, have yet to try homemade sangria, I decided lemonade would be the perfect drink.


I stopped for some lemons at the little produce store down the street, and brought home a handful of bright yellow beauties to add to my existing collection.





You can never have too many lemons. Agreed?


Especially when posed next to empty beer bottles. 



Anyways, I hunted down a simple recipe online and adapted it to my tastes. The only way I know how.



Start with some simple syrup.


Preferably in a scratched up saucepan. 


Then, since I do not own one of those little dome-shaped juicer thingies, and was too lazy to haul the real juicer out of the attic and peel all of the lemons, I cut the lemons in half and squeezed/spooned the juice and a good deal of pulp out of the lemons. 




Juice until you have a sad pile of empty lemon peels left. 




I actually saved these, because I like to drop lemon rinds down my garbage disposal so my kitchen smells nice. 



Be careful of lemon seeds.





Mine all ended up in the bottom of the juice, so I held a spoon over the lip of the pyrex glass while I poured the juice into the pitcher, and then scooped out the seeds so I could dump the pulp into the pitcher too. 




Pour in the simple syrup to taste. I like my lemonade a little on the tart side--I like that puckery feeling in my mouth.




Enjoy, preferably on a hot summer day with a good book in hand! 



Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
adapted from Simply Recipes

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup lemon juice (I used about five and half lemons)
3-4 cups of cold water

Boil the water and sugar together until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it cool while juicing the lemons. Stir the simple syrup into the lemon juice (I only used about 3/4 of the simple syrup, because, as I said, I prefer tart lemonade to sweet). Add water, again to taste, to dilute and completely cool the lemonade. Serve over ice! 


Happy summer!