Not-so-free Italian Ice #sol14

I’ve spent the past four days dreaming of my free Rita’s Italian Ice on the first day of spring.  It’s a tradition for Rita’s to offer free ices on the first day of spring and I’ve been going since college.  When I was at Douglass my girlfriends and I piled into a car for the short drive down Ryder’s Lane.  We’d wait on the line and shoot the breeze, enjoying the beautiful weather.  Then we’d sit at the picnic tables overlooking Ryders Lane and eat our Italian ice, sampling the flavors everyone got.

After that, Chris and I used to go after he got out of work.  We’d head to the closest Rita’s when he lived in his apartment after graduation and there was rarely a line.  It was glorious!

Then when I started working in Manalapan my friends and I would head to Rita’s immediately after school on the first day of spring.  We’d wait on line, usually behind some of our current or former students, and we’d eat our ices in the parking lot.  We’d decompress from the day at school and start counting down the days until summer vacation.

Now we all work at different schools.  Chris and I are on opposite sides of the state during the day and while there is a Rita’s near his office there isn’t one within 15 miles of my school.  Chris sent me a picture of the Key Lime Italian ice he enjoyed during his lunch and I waited patiently to get mine after school.  What flavor would I get?  Lemon? Mango?  Maybe pay a dollar for the dollop of soft serve on top?

I came home from school and took the dogs for a quick walk.  Then I got them into the car, figuring the outing would be good for them, and headed to the nearest Rita’s.  The parking lot was a bit of mess but from my vantage point the line didn’t look bad.  I’d probably have to wait a few minutes but I had time.

Then I walked around the other side of the building and saw the real line.  It looked something like this:

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It had to be an hour long.  And I didn’t have the patience for that.  Neither did the dogs that I had foolishly brought with me for the supposedly short trip.

I went home sad and still craving Italian ice.  Dinner came and went and couldn’t stop thinking about the water ice I missed out on.  I’d been waiting for it all week.

That’s when I decided I was going to get that water ice and I wasn’t going to wait on any lines.  Chris and I hopped in the car and made our way to Ralph’s Italian Ice, a local staple that I prefer over Rita’s.  Sure, it cost me $3 for my chocolate mousse creme ice but that was a lot cheaper than my time!

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Dublin is in the background, hoping he can have my Italian ice. I don’t think so, buddy!

Saying Goodbye #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hMy brain is shot, so this will be a short slice of life.

In between the myriad of things I have to do this week, I also wrote a goodbye letter to my seniors.  It will be published in the yearbook so it’s due tonight.

It’s the hardest piece I’ve ever written.

This is “my” class.  I started teaching at HTHS when they arrived as freshmen.  When I signed on as the Class of 2014 advisor it seemed like 2014 was light years away.  Suddenly, it’s here.

The kids are in the middle of planning prom and graduation.  Some of them have senioritis.  There are days when I can’t wait for graduation.  But those days are few and far between.

Who will quote Mean Girls with me next year?  Who will send me frantic emails about baked goods in the middle of the night?  Who will make me laugh?  These seniors are amazing and I can’t imagine the school without them.  But I’m so proud of them and I know they are going to accomplish great things in the years to come.  I just wish it didn’t mean saying goodbye to them.

 

My name is Sarah and I’m a Caffeine Addict #sol14

 

 

 

 

Some days, I feel like I need caffeine in order to survive.  I spent years eschewing coffee because I only saw my grandmother drinking it black.  It smelled bitter and looked unappetizing.  But in the last year or so, I’ve picked up a habit of drinking frappucinos.  I refer to them as milkshakes with caffeine because they aren’t “real” coffee, but they do the trick.

I don’t drink frappucinos everyday.  Usually once a week or so, if I’m really tired.  It’s a nice treat and Starbucks sends me coupons so it’s not that expensive.  I figure I deserve the treat every so often.

But I do rely on them.  And they do cost money.

So I gave up drinking coffee for Lent.

No s’mores coffee from Wawa in the morning.  No mocha cookie crumble frappucinos to get me through the week.  No iced salted caramel lattes.

So far, it hasn’t been that bad.  I cheated last Sunday and had a grande mocha frap from Starbucks but that’s ok.  I subscribe to the belief that you are allowed to cheat on your Lenten focus on Sundays.  I went to Catholic school, so it’s totally legit.

But guys, this week is killing me.  I have a full week at work, two middle school enrichment classes on the other side of the county on Monday and Wednesday night, a dance to chaperone on Friday night, a conference in North Jersey on Saturday, and tutoring for three hours on Sunday.  It’s only Tuesday and I’m already exhausted.

All I can think about is this:

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I think I might crack.  I can’t imagine making it through the rest of the week without a good, healthy dose of caffeine.  Tea, soda, and other drinks just don’t do it for me.

I can feel the wall starting to crack already.  And it’s only Tuesday night…..

 

Slainte! #sol14

A few years ago, my entire family traveled to Ireland for a week during the summer.  That’s two adults, six kids ranging in age from preteen to adult, and one husband.  It was the first family vacation we had been on together in years and it was precipitated by some genealogy my dad I did.

I’ve always been fascinated by genealogy, and I must have inherited that fascination from my dad.  Since I was in high school we have spent hours scouring ancestry and genealogy websites looking for clues.  As any good Irishman knows, whenever you get to a certain point in Irish records you inevitably get told, “Sorry.  Those records and everything prior to them burned in a church fire”.  It’s the way of the Irish genealogy world.  But we soldiered on, looking for relatives in America and abroad.

For years we hit walls and dead ends.  My great-grandmother was a favorite subject of the searches because we knew she left behind a rather large family when she fled to America as a teenager.  But we never made any headway.

Until one fateful day when my dad called me.  “Check ancestry.com!  Go see the message we got!”

I was briefly confused as I tried to remember what I had posted that might garner a reply.  But a look at our history showed that we had just received a response to a message board posting that I had written almost 3 years earlier.  A message that hadn’t brought us any luck or information in those three years.  Suddenly, a new world opened up as I read the latest reply to a dormant thread.

Re  John Hickey  Born in Cork  Lived in Kildare    Hickey   Family History   Genealogy Message Board   Ancestry.com

 

The message left us stunned.  We did not know that my great-grandmother’s father had another child during his second marriage.  And we soon learned that Ronnie, my great-grandmother’s half-brother, was still living in Ireland!  We were planning a trip there and when the family found out they demanded that we make plans to meet.  We willingly did so.

A few months later, we were in Ireland.  We made plans to meet with my uncle Ronnie, who took the train cross country to see us.  We spent a day driving around the Irish countryside as he showed us where he and my great-grandmother grew up.  We visited the house they lived in, the town they grew up in, and the cemeteries where most of the family is buried.  It was an amazing day and one I will not forget.

Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, I wished my Irish cousins well via Facebook.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, I am now “friends” with family members who never left Ireland.  We chat and stay in touch with each other and share stories.  When I re-shared a photo from that trip to Ireland, my cousin commented and asked when we will be back.  Without ancestry.com and Facebook we would not have forged these connections (and may not have found each other!).

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday but it’s also deeply rooted in my heritage.  I’m proud to be Irish (and Scottish!) and wear my claddaugh necklace with pride.  I own more green than more normal people and you can find Irish blessings and proverbs throughout my house.  But the close-knit family is what makes me truly Irish, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

My Sunday Funday Routine #sol14

Every Sunday I spend about 45 minutes preparing Kongs for the week ahead.

Yes, you read that right.  For those of you who don’t have dogs, Kongs are food toys that require dogs to work for their dinner and expend mental energy in order to eat.  As the owner of two smart and high-energy herding dogs, I feed all meals in puzzles.  But frozen Kongs are my lifesavers.  They go in the refrigerator on Sunday night and they get distributed throughout the week.  When I’m exhausted at 8pm and the dogs want to play?  Give them a Kong!  They are happy and settled and I get to relax without throwing a frisbee constantly.

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This was my counter earlier this afternoon.  It’s what my counter looks like on most Sunday nights.  The basket is a new purchase, but I needed somewhere to keep the Kongs once the dogs empty them.  Now I won’t have to search all over the house on Sunday night.  (Theoretically.  We’ll see how it works!).

The delicious frozen Kong recipe changes every week, but the basics stay the same.  I pour some kibble into the designated dog tupperware.  (No amount of washing will convince me to use it for any other purpose!).  I mix in some freeze-dried raw food, a few treats, and sometimes some canned food.  Pour in a little liquid and let sit until the kibble sucks up all the moisture.  (Who said I’d never care about osmosis again after high school science?).

Then, spend 20 minutes wrestling with the spoon and the Kongs to try and get them packed without making a huge mess.  While this is happening, be sure to avoid stepping on the dogs who are surely underfoot, convinced that they will get all of the dog food immediately, and that you definitely won’t be putting the Kongs in the freezer.

After filling the Kongs, freeze them for at least 24 hours and then enjoy.  Divvy them up throughout the week and enjoy some peace and quiet.

Out of Ireland #sol14

20140315-225308.jpgI’m a little bit Irish.  If “a little bit” means almost 100%. And the part of me that isn’t Irish is Scottish.  And those Scots moved to Glasgow from Ireland.  So as you can imagine, I love St. Patrick’s Day.

Chris and I have been to Ireland twice; once to Dublin for a week and once to the Boyne Valley for a week with my entire family.  (If anyone ever needs a place to stay in Ireland we highly recommend Abhainn Lodge.)

We’ve struggled to find our own local Irish pub here in NJ for years.  We’ve tried and enjoyed many places, but nothing managed to capture the ambiance and taste of an authentic Irish pub.  We didn’t have high hopes when we decided to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early this weekend but I did some research anyway.  We made the decision to try someplace new, a bit out of the way for us in Bordentown.  We ran some errands on the way and ended up at Dubh Linn Square Pub around 3pm.  Figuring we would grab an early dinner before the crowds showed up we were a little surprised to be directed to overflow parking.

For those who don’t know me, I’m also a bit impatient.  “If the wait is long, we’ll just leave,” I told Chris as we walked across the parking lot.  There was a patio area quickly filling up with folks in green, green, and more green.  A band was setting up and kids were getting their faces painted.  But we were pleasantly surprised when we were immediately seated in the upstairs bar.  And the TVs were all tuned to RTE, the Irish television channel!

Chris and I had checked out the menu online beforehand so we were surprised to receive a paper menu.  It turns out the restaurant was serving a streamlined St. Patricks Day Weekend menu.  We later learned they were also using plastic utensils and plates in order to save time.  As we watched the restaurant fill up over the next hour I began to understand why they were using paper/plastic.  That place was going to be rockin’ all night!

The streamlined menu was simple but did include a lot of Irish fare.  I went with the Guinness beef stew and Chris decided to try the chicken boxty, which I remembered seeing in a few pubs in Ireland.  When they brought out our dinners they were on foam plates and it was a little strange.  But all my questions disappeared the moment I tasted the food.

It.was.perfect.

Chris and I practically inhaled our food and decided it was the most authentic Irish fare we’ve found in New Jersey.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chris eat as enthusiastically as he did tonight.  As he ate his chicken boxty with whiskey cream sauce he kept telling me that we need to find a recipe immediately so we can make it at home.

As we ate dinner we watched Ireland win the RBS Six Nations Cup (a rugby tournament) and listened to the band downstairs play.  There were bagpipes, Irish step dancers, and lots of folks in green.  It was a fabulous way to kick off the weekend and we can’t wait to go back!

Looking for Opportunities #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’m really, really excited.  Why?  Because we are going to (hopefully) get a butterfly garden at school!

This year, my colleague Mr. Roche and I are focusing on finding opportunities for our freshmen.  We want them to explore their interests and figure out what they are passionate about, rather than spreading themselves too thin with dozens of activities.  My passion is obviously citizen science and monarch butterflies.  When I saw that MonarchWatch was running a milkweed grant program I shared it with Mr. Roche.  We decided to present the info to the class to see if anyone was interested.

I was thrilled with the response.

Lots of students emailed us to let us know they were interested in the possibilities and would like to help with the grant-writing.  So today we stayed after school and got organized.  A googledoc was started and the students will be brainstorming this weekend.  The goal is to get the grant written and submitted before spring break so that the students can plant before summer (if we get the grant).  I’m excited to help with the monarch habitat and even more excited to see my students starting to explore new interests.  Who knows? One of those students might be the person who discovers how monarchs find their overwintering grounds or another use for milkweed.  That makes me smile!

To sleep…… #sol14

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All week I’ve been crashing.  I’m not a big sleeper (as evidenced by my Fitbit stats above) and sometimes that catches up to me. Typically, I sleep five hours or so each weeknight and then catch up a bit on Saturday.  But somehow, this month has been kicking my butt.  I thought March was an easy month but I’ve had a lot of school commitments and outside work commitments. As a result, I’m just exhausted.

So tonight I plan to head to bed a bit earlier than usual.  Maybe I can get six hours of sleep before the morning and feel a bit more rested. I have a really busy week coming up, so the next two days are my last chance to rest for at least a week.  Thus, tonight’s slice is short.  Short, sweet, and sleepy.

Good night and sweet dreams!

“No Winter Lasts Forever” #sol14

It was 65° when I left school this afternoon. I did a quick rundown in my head of what I had to do today before saying, “Forget it!”

Forty five minutes later I had made it home, changed, and picked up the dogs. By 2:45pm this was my view:

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It was quiet, except for the sounds of birds chirping and leaves crunching underfoot. Every so often, my feet would squelch in the mud. The dogs sniffed everything, running from one side of the path to the other, sometimes avoiding the mud and sometimes playing it it. The sky was blue, the path was golden, the breeze was warm: it was the perfect spring day.

I know. It’s technically not spring for another week. But today was the first warm day of the year and it’s easy to see that spring is on it’s way. We got back into our warm weather routine, hiking 4.1 miles on the trails in our local park. It was just what I needed during a stressful week.

An hour and a half in the woods.  The perfect medicine.  An antidote to stress.  And a habit that I’m glad to start up again.

 

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Senior Dinner #sol14

Tonight was the 100 Nights dinner, a new event for our senior class.  In celebration of 100 nights left until graduation, the junior class threw a dinner for the seniors.  What makes our school a little different is the fact that the seniors don’t want to count down to graduation.

There were tears tonight and there will be more in June.  I know I will have a difficult time speaking at graduation because these are my kids.  They started HTHS the same year I returned as a teacher.  I’ve watched them grow into the men and women they are today and I’m so proud of them.  I’m not sure what it will be like to go through the school days next year without their smiling faces, silly comments, and inside jokes.

But tonight, while full of tears, was also about family.  Spending time together, laughing at memories, and getting excited about the next step in the journey.  Giggling over silly movies.  Taking selfies.  As one of their own reminded them, there are only 100 nights left until graduation, but that’s a chance to cherish 100 more nights (and days) together.

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