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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Today We Outran Fire! #sol14

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My day, in a few frames.  Yes, those are flames and smoke.

This afternoon Chris and I decided to head to the local state park to walk the dogs.  It was breezy and cool, but the snow was almost all melted and it seemed like a great day to get outside.  The park was a bit crowded when we pulled in, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I set up the hiking app to keep track of our mileage, and we set off.

Monmouth Battlefield State Park is a protected archeology dig and a beautiful park all in one.  As we made our way past the visitor’s center and down the hill I pointed out to Chris that the water was high under the bridge and reminded him we couldn’t take anything we found.  (There are signs all over and I always laugh at these reminders).  As we were talking, I thought I saw something orange through the trees to our right.  But I kept talking, assuming it was just a dog in a hunter orange vest, a fairly common sight around here during hunting season.  In fact, we have a few for our dogs.

But then we got across the footbridge and saw the state park fire trucks.  On the other side of the park we could see flames and smoke.

“Ohh, they must be doing their controlled burn,” I said to Chris.

“Kind of weird to do it on such a windy day.”

We agreed on this and decided to head in the opposite direction.  Nothing was blocked off and there was not sign of any trouble, so we figured we would just stay out of the way.

About a quarter of a mile later we heard a noise behind us and realized one of the fire trucks was headed down the trail behind us.  Wanting to avoid the dogs barking their heads off at the strange trucks, we moved off the trail.  The truck followed.

“You folks goin’ far?” the fireman yelled out the driver’s side window.

“Nah, just heading this way.  Do you need us to move?” we asked him.

“Well, it might be a good idea.  We’re doing a controlled burn see, and it’s probably safer to stick to the area back up the hill, near the visitor’s center.”

“No problem.  We’ll head back right now”.  With a wave, we turned around.  It made sense, though I did point out to Chris that it was a little strange that they didn’t have caution tape up blocking the path, or any sort of warning.

No lie, as we crossed the footbridge flames lit up behind us.  When the firemen said that they were doing a controlled burn and we might be safer up the hill, they neglected to say they were lighting the flames RIGHT THERE, as we spoke.  Seriously?!

The good news is, we did not end up trapped in the controlled burn.  But really?  No warning?  What if no one had seen us walking?

We did get some nice pictures, at least!

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