Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Herb Biscuits

Asked to bring rolls to a potluck?  Make these.  So simple, so cheap, and so delicious.

Pull-Apart Herb Biscuits

- 1 tube of refrigerated biscuits
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 2 tbl parmesan cheese
- 1 tbl sesame seeds
- 1 tsp or so of: garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme  (just season to your tastes)

  • Preheat to 450
  • Separate the biscuits and cut into fourths
  • In an ungreased round pie pan, mix everything up, making sure to coat all of the biscuit pieces with the butter and herb mix
  • Arrange evenly into the pan, cook for 10 minutes or so at 450, or until golden brown
  • Invert onto a serving platter and let guests pull apart

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

  • School doesn't start until May 9, so I have a little time on my hands.  It. is. glorious.  I slept til 8!
  • It's totally weird being officially unemployed.  I keep expecting this little vacation to end and head back to the office - but that ain't happening.
  • Also - weird to think I won't be contributing financially to this marriage until (hopefully!) August of next year (go ahead and start crossing your fingers now for a job for me, will you??)
  • Books are freaking expensive.  Forgot about that.  Also - when in the world am I supposed to have time to read all 19 of them before the end of July????
  • OMG homework.  I'm not ready for you.
  • Are backpacks still cool??  
  • I am imagining my Maymester Geography 1101 will consist entirely of 17 year olds.  I feel old already.
  • Why are the 3 closets in our house so very tiny?  I play musical closets every few months, thinking I have found a better way to fit it all in, but alas, it's never ideal.  I've donated so much to Goodwill - but we still have no room.
  • Our laundry multiplies itself when I'm not looking.  Please make it stop.
  • Not that I didn't already feel this way before, but I have sooo much respect for moms, and definitely for moms of twins.  I spent a few fabulous hours with Kacy, Parks, and Marlee yesterday, and I don't know how she manages it.  But she does - and she does it so well!!  Such a strong woman and an amazing mom.  Those babies melt my heart.
  • I'm supposed to be working on my tan - but it's rainy.  Not fair.
  • I have nightly dreams (nightmares) about middle school classrooms where something is grossly out of place or extremely wrong.  Great.  Glad they are starting now.  Only 14 more months of those to go!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

From our door, to yours.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Simple Pleasures

From my going away happy hour after work:

And the "Children of the World" vest and books scarf my friends got me... that they forced me to wear in public! 

Friday, April 22, 2011


Recall, if you will, your last day of high school.  If you were like me, the day was filled with happiness, anxiety, and almost-giddy optimism.  You have nothing real to do, but you have to come and make an appearance anyway.  Your last few weeks were filled with work, but you knew you had already been accepted to college and nothing really counted - if you were a nerd like me, you still did the work anyway.  A little nostalgia passed in and out, but mostly you couldn't wait for the next chapter of your life to begin.

[tangent: did anyone else have this tradition at their high school?  on the last day of classes, the seniors all got in their cars and drove laps around the school, honking and yelling.  and as newish drivers of 18, we all thought that was the coolest. thing. ever.  fun factoid:  during this demonstration, my friends and I were literally kicked off campus and told to never come back  :)  we didn't do anything bad, we were just all piled in one car without seatbelts (we were only going 5 mph on non-real roads!) - and the on-campus officer didn't take too kindly to that]

I have Senioritis today - my last day at work.  My actual work is dwindling down and being passed on, and there's no point in starting on new projects.  The timing is about right too - a warm spring day filled with change and promise.  I've been accepted to college (again!)  and I just can't wait for the next chapter to unfold.  I didn't sleep last night.  I'm a ball of nerves and anxiety about the changes awaiting me - but at the same time, I'm so very, very excited.  I cannot wait to start on the path towards my new career, and ultimately, a new life.

I'll try not to get kicked off campus today ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fun with Applique

I just had my first experience into the world of applique, and I have to say - I'm hooked!  I've seen so many cute examples online (Pinterest, duh!), and was eager to try it myself (ambitious, I know, welcome to the world Claire).  Turns out, super easy and totally cute!  I went the no-sew route, of course.

I made these for Lyla's birthday:

Forgive the terrible color - I was ironing this at like, 6 in the morning the day before we went to Knoxville, procrastinator that I am.  My parents have two mini dachshunds, and Lyla is a die-hard UT fan, so the images were a natural fit.  Time will tell if they actually stick, but not bad for a few bucks!

I'm dreaming of making more - any adults out there want some appliquéd shirts???  If you have babies (I'm talkin' to you Kacy!), prepare for a pile of appliquéd goodness.

Wow, applique is a weird word to type repeatedly...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Lyla-Loo!

I know what you're thinking - just hurry up and have a kid already, I'm sick of seeing your nieces.  Ok well, you probably aren't thinking that - because my nieces are freaking adorable.  

Anyway, this weekend was Lyla's first birthday party!  I can't believe that this little baby...

...Turned into this big girl.  

I could wax poetic about the world turning too fast and time slipping through my fingers, but instead, I will give you these pictures of a not-so-little girl who loves to clap and walk with you and give big wet sloppy kisses.  Enjoy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Dogs havin' fun in the sun

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our New Yard

I love a good before and after - especially when the results are instantaneous!  Friday I posted the old state of our yard - (refresher)

A nice shade of dead...

Tilled up
Behold, lovely strips of new grass!  Immediate results - can't beat that! 

Even better, Tony managed to do 100% of it himself while I was at work!  My kind of chore!  Not that it was easy for him - he ended up looking like a hot mess...

We put sod down in the back yard too!

He at least got to play with a machete. 

Isn't it lovely?

We also took out that old ugly holly that was blocking most of the end window.  It was growing funny, too close to the house, and blocked all of the sunlight.   Three new baby azaleas took it's place.

As if that wasn't proof enough, check out this comparison:

And even better - this look back from day one to today - 4 years in the making.

Yay curb appeal!

ps - it's pretty much inevitable that I always talk about grass on this blog.  First - it's in my header.  Second - one of my very first posts was about the green stuff.  I love grass, what can I say??

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Decide What to Be - And Go Be It"

Do you all listen to The Avett Brothers?  My friend JoBeth got me hooked last summer when we saw them in concert here in Atlanta, and I've been in love ever since.  They have one particular song that always spoke to me, especially as I got closer to deciding what to be when I grow up... 

No clue what it's about, but the chorus was always super-inspirational to me - take a listen:

If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejectedDecide what to be and go be it
There was a dream and one day I could see itLike a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free itAnd there was a kid with a head full of doubtSo I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

So I was excited when I heard they were playing a post-game concert after today's Braves game.  JoBeth and I went - got some sun, watched a little baseball, and enjoyed the daytime concert!

They sang my song, and I loved every minute!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Surprise tulips, in a lovely shade of pink.

Last year, surprise irises showed up.  This year, it's tulips.  I love bulbs - thank you past owners!

Friday, April 8, 2011

From the Ground Up

As of late, our yard looks like this:

Pretty sexy, huh??  It's like one big veggie garden - except our whole front yard...

We spent the entire last weekend tilling and shoveling and raking to get it nice and smooth and dirty.  You see, we have planted grass seed for the past few years in our yard (remember this first post and this other post?).  Georgia summers aren't kind to, well, anything - especially grass that's new.  We ended up with a dead yard:

Not a pretty sight.  I'm all about finding ways to be greener, and I know grassy lawns aren't exactly the eco-friendliest option (what with the maintenance, pesticides, etc).  But when your house is small and long like ours is, we need a little grass to help us out.  Our curb appeal is non-existent.  Sod it is.

The prep work was brutal - I felt like an anatomy drawing afterwards - with key muscles clearly defined by bright pain each time I moved a certain way.  But it was worth it.  Luckily, when we got all of our ivy/trees taken out a few years ago, the fill dirt they brought in was from a lake shore - and thus quite fertile underneath our dead grass.  

The best thing about sod is the before and after only takes a day!  Not weeks of praying and finger crossing that seeds will sprout....
Check out all of those pines.  It's no wonder I freak out during storms....
Oh, and I did manage to plant this too last weekend- a nice dose of color.

Stay tuned for the after! 

ps - I know I just rambled about why we're saving money and how things are going to be tight -but part of the savings were for some key spring/summer projects - yard, deck, vacation.  So we aren't being frivolous, I promise!! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Thank You - And Details

First and foremost, thank  you ALL from the very bottom of my heart for the sweet comments you all took the time to leave on my last post.  Each one put a huge smile on my face, lifting up my courage and confidence.  I have to admit - I was a little shocked each time one of you used the word "brave."  I honestly never thought of it that way!  I don't feel very brave - it's a pretty scary thing for me to do, and I almost feel obliged to do it - to follow my heart in this way - and I never imagined you all would be kind enough to call me brave.  Thank You.


I didn't want to tarnish the spirit of the last post with concrete details.  But, I did want to share some of the behind the scenes details of how we are making this whole career change thing work.

Let me tell you, it's not an easy decision to come to, to decide to do something that will not only reduce you to one income, but put you in debt too.  

So, you might have noticed my endless posts on our plight to save money and reduce our spending.  Last summer, I posted about our savings plan.  Last May, we began the cash system.  What I didn't share at the time was that all this planning was for my big change.  

At first, when I reached the decision that I was definitely going to do this, and that full-time school was really the best way to do it, we were prepared for the worst.  We seriously thought we were going to need to sell our house (and probably have to pay money at closing, given the market), move into an inexpensive apartment, and somehow manage to scrape by.

I count my blessings every day for the amazing people we have in our lives.  Tony's dad sat down with us, notepad in hand, and helped us go through every.single.detail of our budget.  We cataloged every expense and every penny we had saved up.  Through his calm guidance and outside perspective, he helped us realize that we could indeed make it work - stay in our house - with just some editing down of expenses.  He had already written up about 30 things we could do to save money.  We moved forward with a fair amount of them - we cut our cable down to nearly nothing, we cancelled our gym membership, we went to the cash system, we stopped going to Target... Tony's parents even gave us one of their cars, reducing theirs down to just one, so that we could sell Tony's truck and not have that car payment!  [Luckily, just a few months after that, Tony got a work car and phone, so we were able to give their car back and my guilt was somewhat assuaged!]  Blessings, I tell you.

When we saw it on paper, saw that it really could work - that was an amazing feeling.  We moved forward with zeal, slowly bumping up the amount we were saving each month.  Cut $50 from the Entertainment fund so we can save more? Sure!   Soon we were saving my ENTIRE paycheck, living only off Tony's (something we will be doing for real here soon!).

Again, I cannot stress more the amount that the support (financial, emotional, etc) from friends and family have helped make this happen.  It never seems to fail that things fall into place when we need them to.  This is no accident.

So we have saved a ton of money.  The savings were supposed to be so we would have a fund to help pay our bills while I wasn't working, since we didn't think we could live off of Tony's salary alone.  We would take out student loans for tuition itself.  Turns out, we've whittled our budget down so much, that we ARE living off his salary - so we will be able to probably break even each month, pending no disasters.  We are even going to try to pay for school with our savings in an attempt to avoid loans.  It's all coming together beautifully.

So back to the school part - beyond just the logistics of making this all work, I couldn't help but be so absolutely excited about the prospect of the new life I will lead as first a student, then a teacher.  While my decision to become a teacher was rooted in the desire to do something meaningful with my life, once I really thought about it, the more day-to-day perks can't hurt.  First, I will have more time for the important things in life - blogging, duh!  I know I will have busy days as a student, and certainly busy days/weeks/years as a teacher, but the home/work balance will inevitably be better than what I'm doing now.  Even if I'm doing homework, or grading student projects, I will have the flexibility to be doing this at home, with my family.  When we have children, I will be able to spend time with them - maybe even be able to help them learn better as they grow up! :)  I will have the chance to be creative each and every day.  With the field I'm currently in, long hours and big cities are pretty much required. I will now have the flexibility to live anywhere, given that there are actually open jobs!  Now, I realize that there are PLENTY of other jobs out there that offer the same benefits, even advertising ones.  And I'm not knocking those who do choose that sort of life.  However, it just wasn't the right fit for me.  I'm so excited about the potential and possibilities of my new life.

I must, too, thank the most important person in this whole deal [am I giving an Oscar speech here, or what???].  Tony.  He was absolutely 100% supportive from day 1.  He pushed me to do this, knowing better than even I did what was best for me.  We've sacrificed many things over the past year to make this work - but he's sacrificing all so I can be happy.  He lost his sports channels!  He gave up vacations!  He gave up house projects!  He was the one to really sort out the budget, call all sorts of companies to try to get cheaper rates, stays on top of our savings, etc. 

All for me.  We reorganized our lives so I could be happy.  I hope to be able to return the favor one day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Life Changing

Remember my infamous List from New Years?  You know, the one I've made very little progress on??  Oh yes, that one.

Well, you might have noticed, tucked in between mundane things like vacations and papercrafts, #18.  Little old #18 - "Do something totally life-changing."

Well, when I made this list, #18 wasn't just some idealistic, unrealistic, gratuitous use of words.  I had something very specific in mind.  And last week, I put #18 in motion.

I quit my job.

This may not seem like such a big deal to some of you, but let me tell you why it is for me.  

Have you ever felt you were at a point in your life when you weren't happy with where you were, didn't feel like you were really yourself anymore, didn't feel like you were going in the direction you intended, or living a life full of purpose?  I found myself at that very point a few years ago.  I wasn't satisfied with my job, didn't feel like I was doing what I was meant to do.  Sure, the day-to-day was fine, it just wasn't inspiring.  I felt like I was slowly losing the pieces of myself that I loved the most.  The feelings built.

I remember sitting on the edge of the pool on our family vacation, talking with my dad, tears spilling out from underneath my sunglasses, me trying to hide exactly how upset I was at the prospect that I just wasn't getting it right.  When my dad noticed, he exclaimed in the most loving and incredulous way "Claire!  You're crying over this - you have to make a change!"  The scene would repeat in various ways for the next few months, Tony usually a victim of the tears and the one to push me to change.

You see, I don't do change well.  It's not that I'm resistant to it - quite the opposite - but I just have so much trouble getting over the anxiety and fear and self doubt to actually make changes.  This was no easy change.  Sure, I'd been at the same company since the week after I graduated college - I could just get a different job at a different agency and try to find happiness.  But it wasn't that simple - sure, with another job, the hours might be better, the commute might be a little shorter, the work load a little lighter... but that was beside the point.  I didn't feel like I was doing what I was meant to do.

You might be thinking - why was it such a big deal, it's just a job?  You see, I don't think that way. Tony does, and as much as he tried to convince me, I couldn't just isolate the job from the "real" me and not worry about it.  I was my job - I am my job.  And when the job isn't right - that meant I wasn't right.  I don't know how to put it into words or even to justify it - but I see myself as what I do.  I have always been this way, and perhaps it is because I was always a good student growing up - I tried very hard, earned good grades, and was defined by how well I did in school.  I didn't play sports and I didn't have any specific hobbies, so school it was.  Take away the school, stick in a job, and there you go - new definition.  It could also be due to the fact that I have working long hours, compounded with a 3 hour daily commute - my job was my life - with little room for "me" around it.

Don't get me wrong - my company is a good place to work and many people are happy there.  I have coworkers who I am proud to call my friends.  I didn't choose to change careers out of negativity.  I wasn't looking for an easy out.  But I just didn't feel like I was living the way I was meant to live.  I didn't feel like I was living at all.

All of this compounded to the day that Tony sat me down and said now is the time to change - now or never.  I knew this to be true in my heart, but just needed that little extra push.  This was about a year and a half ago.

So as we went through the options of total career shifts, teaching kept surfacing.  It was something that had been in the back of my mind when I was choosing college careers at the ripe age of 17, but I had dismissed it, thinking I instead wanted the ladder-climbing, suit-wearing, power-filled business world.  Advertising it was.  But I was always drawn to working with kids.  All of my volunteer activities have always centered around tutoring programs or mentoring work.  

So we worked out the pros and cons.  Teaching would mean a pay cut, and would pretty much require I go back to school.  It would require a lot of changes.  BUT - Teaching would mean I would have the chance to help make a difference in the community around me, as idealistic as that sounds.  I would still be working long hours and dealing with plenty of stress, but at the end of the day, I would be rewarded with the knowledge that I had, at the very least, helped one child learn one thing - and the pleasure of imagining that was enough to make my decision.  That, and a whole bunch of research in between! :)

In May, I am going back to school full-time to get my MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching).  I'm focusing on Middle Grades, Language Arts and Social Studies (which means I will be certified to teach 4th-8th grade).  This has been over two years in the making, and I am beyond excited that it's finally here.  I felt like I had been living a double life, the one at work where no one knew what I was planning, and the one at home where all of my effort was centered around the endless  planning of making this work.   Last week I was finally able to let work know, and I can move forward with 100% of my energy on my new career.

I know it's going to be tough, and that teaching won't always feel like the most amazing thing ever.  I realize there are going to be all new things to stress about, and I won't always be able to get through to the kids.  There will be parents that don't care (or care too much!), kids that don't apply themselves, and omnipresent Test Scores that will need to be appeased.  But for the first time in a very long time, I know I am ready to make a change.  I know where my life is headed. 

Does any of that help explain why this is totally life-changing?  I hope so.  I feel like the moment I walk out of the door on my last day at work, I will be a new person, ready to tackle this new challenge in life.  I feel like I am finally going in the direction I was meant to go.  Life change, here I come.
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