Teacher Lady #sol14

I opened the refrigerator and pondered its contents. Chris would be home in an hour so I should probably start thinking about dinner. As I surveyed the shelves I kept a mental tally of the ingredients we had.

Leftover pizza. Nah, Friday will be pizza or fish because it’s Lent.
Chicken Tenders

The list went on and on.

I’m tired when I get home from work. Then I walk the dogs, then I relax if there is time, and then I cook. There are days when I can’t stand the thought of making a meal, so we order out. But most days, cooking lets me relax.

I’m far from organized in my daily life, but cooking gives me an outlet for organization with some room for my own ideas. It’s relaxing and soothing; follow the recipe, adjust to taste, eat a delicious meal. So even when I’m frustrated or in a bad mood, cooking can turn my day around.

I’m not a great cook by any means. But I like the focus involved, the step-by-step instructions. I like experimenting with new dishes and tastes. I like making dinner.

That’s how we ended up having chicken fried steak for dinner. We had the ingredients and I’ve never made it before. After dredging, frying, flipping, mashing, and steaming the meal, this was the result:


A delicious comfort meal made by yours truly. And an hour of relaxation while I made it. Well worth it.

I may not be Ree Drummond, but this Teacher Lady was certainly pleased.

“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:


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.



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.


Today We Outran Fire! #sol14



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!


Broadway, Baby! #sol14

20140308-222522.jpgToday was awesome.  It’s been way too long since I saw a Broadway show and today that was remedied.  Two friends and I headed into the city to see Bridges of Madison County.  We hit a few snags when the show was almost sold out (seriously?!), but three tickets were eventually procured, though not all together.

We spent a little while walking around the city and grabbed lunch at Cosi, a personal favorite for a quick, healthy lunch.  We passed by a few other shows and let me tell you, you could not get near If/Then.  I’ve been an Idina Menzel fan since her Rent days, but I’ve never seen lines like I saw today.  I think she owes John Travolta a bit!

I’ve never read the book or seen the movie, so I went into the show without any expectations.  I actually expected it to be hokey and melodramatic (not “rapturous”, as the ads say), but there aren’t many musicals I pass on seeing so I expected a fun day out.  When we walked into the theater I was a bit worried, seeing as we were the youngest people there.  No lie, everyone else was retired.  I’m pretty sure a good number of them retired before the movie was released….

There were some uncomfortable conversations with the audience members around us, especially the women who told us we needed to read the “juicy” book, which was “the 50 Shades of thirty years ago!”.  Oh boy…

The musical, though?  Absolutely stunning.  It’s intimate, passionate, lush, and beautiful.  I loved Steven Pasquale on Rescue Me but had no idea he has such a great voice! And as expected, Kelli O’Hara was just perfection.  This is her show, through and through, and she is on-stage almost the entire length of the musical.

It’s not a traditional musical; there’s no dancing, very little action, and the cast is small.  But it’s character-driven and the music is some of the best I’ve heard in years.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when it ended and I know I will be buying the cast recording when it comes out.  At one point I leaned over and said to my friend, “I’m way more invested in this than I ever expected to be!”  Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale make sure that you fall in love with their characters and they break your heart in the process.

When the show ended, we were wiped out.  Emotionally, it’s completely draining.  Needless to say, we needed milkshakes from Shake Shack to recover!  But now I can’t stop listening to the demos (here) on repeat.  So gorgeous!

Ready for the show!

Ready for the show!

A Lenten Dilemma #sol14


This morning I woke up and drove to Livingston, about an hour and a half north of me (with traffic) for an amazing workshop offered by the lovely folks at Heinemann.  I spent the entire day leaning from Smokey Daniels and it was, without a doubt, one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended.

The only issue came when they released us for lunch.

I’m not a North Jersey gal.  It’s too crowded for me, with the negative parts of living in the suburbs and the negative parts of living in the city.  It’s too crowded and there’s too much traffic.  As a result, I wasn’t familiar with the area when it came time for lunch.

I hopped in the car and figured that I would stay on the highway for a few minutes until I found someplace that offered lunch.  Then I remembered that it’s Friday. And it’s Lent.  For those of you who aren’t Catholic, that means I can’t eat meat today.

Suddenly, finding lunch became a bit more difficult.  I drove for about 15 minutes and I swear I’ve never seen so many burger joints on a short stretch of road!  Smashburger, 5 Guys, McDonalds, Wendy’s, and a few others littered the shopping malls that lined the side of the highway.  And I’ve never felt the urge to grab a burger as strongly as I did today.

But I held on.

I stopped at Marshalls, thinking I could hold off on lunch until I got home if I spent a bit of time shopping.  Nope.  Fifteen minutes later I was still hungry and I didn’t find anything interesting at the store.

Back in the car.  More driving.  More traffic.  More burger joints.

Then I saw it. A glimmer of hope.  A restaurant that might have a vegetarian or non-meat based meal.

Baja Fresh.

I’m not a huge Baja Fresh fan, but I pulled in and crossed my fingers.  They must have a salad, right?  And their list of ingredients would certainly include avocado, which would fill me up.  But as I scanned the menu I saw a lot of meat.  And the salads were all bean-based, which is a problem, seeing as I don’t like beans.

So I decided to experiment.

Yup.  I had my first fish taco today.  And it was delicious.


I decided to try the wahoo taco.  Made with ono (a Hawaiian fish, I learned, courtesy of Wikipedia), avocado, pico de gallo, and shredded cabbage, I was hoping it would fill me up.  And just in case it didn’t I added a side of chips and salsa.

I admit, I was a little leery of eating a fish taco from a fast food giant.  I’m very careful when it comes to fish.  But when my taco came out, I was pleasantly surprised.  I unrolled the aluminum foil and was struck by how delicious my lunch looked!

The avocados were fresh and smooth and the pico de gallo was just right.  But the best part was the wahoo.  Never having had that particular type of fish before, I was thrilled with how delicious it was.

Disaster averted.  Lenten dilemma solved.  And I wasn’t even hungry afterwards!

Sharing the Couch #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hThis is how I spend many nights. After everything is done for the day (including our last walk), I sit on one side of the couch, Chris gets comfortable on the other side, and the dogs fill in around us while we watch TV.  Last night we finished season 2 of House of Cards so tonight we’re catching up on some DVRed shows from earlier in the week.  Bailey was laying near my feet and eventually ended up putting her head on my ankles and falling asleep.

But Dublin?

He likes to curl up as close to me as possible.  That usually means standing in front of the couch and whining until I realize what he is asking for.  At that point I squish myself into the couch so he can jump up and curl up on the edge of the couch.  The nice thing is that during this cold weather he keeps me warm.  But he is not good at sharing!  He takes up way more space than you would think he would and he frequently readjusts his position.

It’s a good thing I like him. :)



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