Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Dessert Alert!

You need to go make this - NOW!

My mom made this last time we were in town, and I happened to be browsing through my pictures recently and realized I never blogged about it.  The world needs to know.  Unless you already know... then, well, none for you.

I should have taken more pictures... but I was busy stuffing my face.

It's light!  It's cold!  It's insanely easy!

Here's how it's done:

  • Layer the bottom of a baking dish with ice cream sandwiches.  Cut them up to fit if you need to.
  • Pour liquid caramel sauce (the kind you use for ice cream) over the sammies.
  • Spread on a thick layer of cool whip.
  • Drizzle with chocolate and adorn with crunched up candy (heath worked well).
  • Freeze for 30 minutes or more before you cut it into squares.
  • Eat entire dish.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Checking Elevation with a Garden Hose: MacGyver Edition

I've bragged on my dad a little here before, but I cannot stress enough how handy the man is.  There are only a rare few home improvement projects he cannot do, and he's always eager to help us with any project we decide to take on.  Not to mention, he always makes Tony do the work (with guided instruction!) so he learns how.  I supervise, of course.

Our current project - the deck I keep yapping about but that doesn't actually exist yet - requires some Tom-help, so he came to visit for the day a few weeks ago to help us get started.

Luckily, he designs machinery for a living, so designing a deck was a piece of cake.  He whipped out his AutoCAD software and had the specs drawn up in no time.  The tricky part, however, is determining elevation, since our yard slopes slightly away from the house.

Here's where he turns all MacGyver on us.  Using just a garden hose, tape measure, and a water pitcher, we were able to determine elevation/slope (ugh, sounds like algebra.)  

{disclaimer: Since I was busy taking photos during this time and actively choosing to not listen fully, I am not an expert on this.  I suggest Googlin' it if you decide to do this yourself!  Or get yourself a Tom.  I just thought the process was fascinating and wanted to share.}

First you take a hose and get it nice and full of water - plug the free end with your finger and turn on your faucet until the hose is filled.  Next, disconnect the hose from the faucet, plugging that end as well so none of the water escapes.  It won't be totally full - but close.

Find your deck end point (in this case, our door where the deck will start), and curve the hose up to the correct height level (in our case, only a few inches).

Have another person walk down to where the other end of your deck will be (in our case, the end where it will be the highest elevation), carrying the other end of the hose (it's ok if it is not taut).

Have a third person (me!) ready with a bucket of water.  My job was to pour water in Tony's end of the hose until it reached the top.  My dad was at the other end, raising and lowering his end of the hose.  I would fill our end, but then it would disappear as dad raised his end - it took a while of pouring and waiting, pouring and waiting.  When our end was filled to the top with water, and his end was too - then we knew we had the elevation right (somehow...).  My dad then measured how far his hose was off the ground (11 inches, in our case), and we knew how tall the deck would be on that end, in order to be level.

Clear as mud, right?  My non-scientific brain was more than slightly confused by the whole thing, but the results made sense and my dad was able to use those measurements to further draw out the deck.

Now it's just a waiting game to find a weekend where we all have time to put this sucker together.

And yes, our yard does look like this:

Work in progress, people.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Sunset on the lake (from last time we ventured to Knoxville...)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

To my favorite Dad out there :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Year of Simple Pleasures

I didn't even realize until today, but it has been over a year since I started doing the weekly Simple Pleasures posts - starting with this post about a mystery iris last May.  And if I can remember correctly, I haven't missed a week since!  Perhaps they are boring to you readers, but I do enjoy them.  There's always something small that's caught my eye during the week that doesn't deserve a full post, but can certainly be a simple pleasure.  As always, this tab will take you to all of them :)

I see a common theme of nature, dogs, and babies! 

ps - I stole the idea of using one of Blogger's new view modes for showing the year of SP's from Torrie - such a great idea! :)

Simple Pleasures

This week's simple pleasure is a follow up to last week's - we have babies.  Birds, that is.

Aren't those eyes totally creepy???

Also, now that you're all born and everything, can you please get the heck out of my plant so I can water it?  Kthx!

Friday, June 17, 2011


So here's the thing - I kinda went into this whole teaching thing a bit blindly.  Ok, well, that's not entirely true.  I did a lot of research and did classroom observation and spent lots of hours in contemplation before actually making the plunge.  But in terms of actual, tangible experience - I have close to none.  I've always enjoyed the volunteer activities that I've done that involved working with kids - but usually those were little ones in the early elementary grades, never middle schoolers.  And since I was a volunteer leader or tutor, I was rarely serving in a "teacherish" role.  When you're the teacher, kids expect a lot more out of you.  They are looking to you for guidance and support, and they know darn well when you are flailing. 

From day one of beginning this adventure, I've been plagued with self-doubt about my abilities. I don't doubt my motives or my choice - I simply worry that I won't be a good teacher.  I say this not to elicit "no! you will be!" comments, but to be honest about some of the things that are swimming through my head right now.  

I've always been a rule follower and someone who is perhaps an overachiever and perfectionist, so I'm not concerned I won't be able to learn the content or that I won't know how to behave in a way that a teacher should.  Instead, I'm simply worried I won't have that magical connection that excellent teachers seem to naturally have.  I'm afraid I won't have that spark, no matter how hard I try.

I'm naturally a shy person and not one for confrontation.  I'm more of the quiet leader type, as opposed to the take-charge personality.  I'm kind of awkward socially sometimes, and it always takes me a while to become comfortable in a new situation.  I hate going into a place or a situation where I don't know what to expect or what it will be like.  I'm not naturally confident.

I've spent too much time worrying about how I stack up to the other soon-to-be teachers in my program, who all seem to have a plethora of experience on their sides.  I feel like I'm jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim.  

However, if there's anything I've learned in the past few weeks of school, it's that nothing is going to prepare me for being a real life teacher, besides being a real life teacher.  Sure, grad school is teaching me a lot, but nothing will compare to sheer experience.  And that will be the same for everybody.

I mentioned earlier that one of my classes has us working with middle schoolers twice a week on reading.  I was so intimidated on the first day, walking in there seeing young teenagers just staring at us.  I don't know what to say to a middle schooler!  I don't know how to teach!

But the thing is, even after only a few sessions with my small group, I already feel a million times more confident. Of course I will never go into actual details on this blog about the kids I work with or even much about school and/or my eventual teaching job - but suffice it to say, my very small experience so far has been such an eye-opener.  I see now how much I truly do have to learn.  I see how much more confidence and utter fearlessness I need to achieve.  I see how much thicker my skin needs to become.

But here's the important part - I see now exactly why I'm doing this.  I truly feel this is what I was meant to do.  I know I'm doing the right thing.  I suspected so before, but now I can truly feel it.

I won't be perfect and I will learn from my mistakes.  Each minute spent with kids will make me that much better of a teacher.  I will get there.  Maybe not the first year, maybe not the second.  But eventually, I will get there.  And no matter what, I'm determined to be a GREAT teacher, magical spark or not!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bridesmaid Motivation

I have no willpower.  None.  Faced with a delicious treat, I'm not one who can just say "no thanks" and move on.  I'm more of the eat-it-now-and-regret-it-immediately type - and honestly, the regret isn't very deep. 

My sister Courtney is getting married August 1st (yay!).  It's going to be a beautiful, small beach wedding, and this is the adorable bridesmaid dress I'm wearing:
Isn't this a perfect beachy dress??  It was after-season clearance at a department store!

Who doesn't like a dress with pockets??  Perfect for camera-stashing!

The dress is so cute, but the problem lies in the fact that it barely goes over my hips.  With a sheer fabric like this, you can't exactly have that happening.  And frankly, I really don't want to have to wear spanx on a freaking hot beach in AUGUST.  I suppose I should focus on the positive fact that I can get it on my body, but still....

So Tony and I have started exercising more and more, and our new goal is to not eat desserts*.  It's way too easy to go grab some refreshing ice cream on a hot summer day.  Sweets are my downfall, so hopefully this will keep me from overindulging.  

And yes, I realize I should have done this a few months ago, not 6 weeks before the wedding....

*possible once-weekly exceptions could possibly potentially be made in extreme circumstances....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More Yard Progress

I'm sure everyone is sick of hearing about our stupid front yard, but seeing as how we've put a ton of time, energy, and money into it, I see it as our little baby.  And it truly is a amazing what a difference our work has made.  

I never took a full frontal picture of our house when we bought it (tear...), but this is from three years ago and gives you a good enough idea.

 Soooo much better today.  

For a ranch-style house like ours, having a lawn previously filled with ivy and tall trees really hid the house and made it look small.  By clearing it, you can see the whole house, making it appear larger and less blocked.  The light in the house is so much better.  I like to think that our house looks bigger (dare I say -- better!) than other ones in our neighborhood.  Not that we can move any time soon with the market the way it is, I hope our work will at least get a buyer into our house (since that's a crucial first step!).  And, I now have fewer trees to worry about falling on my head at night....

Things like a new roof, painted shutters, and growing plants help too. :)

If you are interested (AND I KNOW YOU ARE!) - this post has a pretty neat collage of progress on our curb appeal.

Simple Pleasures

The bird nest I referenced earlier:

I forced Tony to brave it and snap a few photos.  I like birds and all, but I would really like to water my plant in peace!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cuteness Explosion

I realized I have a bunch of randomly-taken photos of adorable babies from the past few months that you really must see (don't worry, just my nieces and friends's babies... not strangers!).  What would my blog be if it didn't brag endlessly about the babies in my life????  Don't tell them tho - I don't want to inflate their egos....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

  • Did you Blogger users see that you can now change your favicon (that little picture on the tab by your blog name) without having to use some crazy code?  Details here.  Strangely, it's not showing up on Chrome, but is for Firefox.  I used the .ico converter they recommend in that article, but just make it 32x32 so it will upload correctly in Blogger.
  • My weekends start on Thursday at 11 am now (as bragged about here)   I wish this meant I had no work to do between now and Monday.
  • Today was my first official day working with middle schoolers (through a reading class/summer program setup).  Whew!  I will probably write up a post about it - it went great, it just makes me feel I have so much more to learn (and a lot more confidence to build!).
  • I have to interview a middle schooler for another class - anyone have one they want to offer up to me?  Contrary to the fact that I'm choosing middle level education as my future career, I don't actually know a middle schooler.  Sweet irony.  The interview can be via email/phone/in person and it will be totally confidential.  Questions will be made up by me and will probably just relate to the middle school experience in general.  Any takers???
  • There is a bird nesting in the hanging basket my mom gave me.  She flies out maniacally any time I try to water it.  95+ temps and no water don't mix.... True story, I got up there to take a picture and she flew out at my face and I almost had a heart attack.
  • Those peaches I referenced in my last post?  GONE.  I'm guessing it was that same stupid deer who ate my lilies last year.
  • Skorts are underrated.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oh, Hi There

Remember me?  That girl who used to blog? 

Yeah, hi.

I hate these long absences between our meetings.  And honestly, it's not because I feel obligated to post X times per week, but indeed it is because I miss doing it.  I miss participating and creating.  And truly, I have done nothing of interest to blog about recently - since I highly doubt you want to hear about world systems analysis or Maniac Magee.  :)

I miss writing (for FUN).  But Summer Semester just started today and I hope it will be slightly slower paced than May was.   Perhaps I can even throw in a thought-out blog or two in there.  In the meantime, I will be happily reading your blogs between classes on my phone (with the irritating limitation of impossible commenting).

We did do some work in our yard this weekend, so I will put that up soon.  In the meantime, check out those peaches!

Addendum:  Besides the fact that it's cutting into my blogging time, I am LOVING school. :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Simple Pleasures

These flowers: 

They are purslane and I love their bright colors and almost succulent-like leaves.  :)  They are always stretching towards the sun.

 Also my vine - which started out tiny and has now grown leaps and bounds... I probably should have thought out the trellis better than crisscrossed wire...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Smoothies

Now that I'm not cube-bound 5 days a week, I get to enjoy one of my fave summer lunches - smoothies!  Granted, Smoothie King's versions are much better, but since I'm bringing in $0/hour, I have to resort to making my own.

I usually have frozen fruit on hand, but it's always a toss up as to whether we have fresh juice and non-expired yogurt.  Enter Pinterest, with yet another super-amazing-why-didn't-I-think-of-that idea.  Basically you just freeze yogurt and juice in ice cube trays so you always have these on hand.  Simply brilliant.

Bonus points for yogurt stars.  Depending on what type you are making and how thick you like it, you might want to thaw them first, but it has worked for me to just pop them into the blender with the rest of the frozen stuff.  Yum!

Any other great smoothie tricks/recipes I should know of??
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