Monday, September 1, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD

We went to Baltimore a couple of years ago to see the Orioles play the White Sox. The game wasn't until 7pm so we decided to spend the day seeing some of the sites around Baltimore. We used to Water Taxi service to get to different sites around the harbour including Fort McHenry. 

I didn't know anything about the Fort before arriving but it is well known to many Americans. This is the location where the words to America's National Anthem "The Star Spangled Banner" were inspired. We spent about an hour walking around the fort and going inside the visitor's centre. We watched a short film that explained the significance of the battle that occurred near the fort and how it inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. It was very interesting to see the history behind the song in person and would recommend it to anyone who is spending a day or two in Baltimore.

I'll be honest, as a history major and lover of the colonial American time period, I hadn't been to Baltimore or seen Fort McHenry prior to 2010. When I saw the HUGE American flag flying over the Fort as the taxi approached, I got a little choked up. It was an impressive sight and the lyrics to our national anthem played in my head. "...the flag was still there..." I was a proud American to see this historic sight. The fort is beautiful and it is far enough from the city that you feel like you have left the hustle and bustle behind. If you are near Baltimore, I highly recommend a visit to Fort McHenry.

 View of the fort from the Harbor

 The reenactors were taking a break while we were there because it was so hot. I don't blame them one bit! 
This cannon looks menacing even when I know it is not loaded. 

It was amazing to stand and know that on that site all those years ago men fought and died to save our new country.

 A model of the Fort and the surrounding harbor.

There was a small parade while we were there. They played period instruments and it was pretty cool.

Have you ever been to Fort McHenry or any other fort? 

Happy trails!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

His and Her TBT: Amanda's Bakery

Angela at The Teacher's Desk 6 is hosting a Throwback Thursday linky party. The rules are simple - choose a previous blog post and re-post it.

For this week's throwback, I went ALLLLLLL the way back. This is the third post ever on the blog. It's really the first post with content, because the first two introduced Sean and I to our readers. In this post I talked about some of the recipes I made in one day. They are still favorites around here. Enjoy!


"Amanda's Bakery" was definitely open for business today! That is what Sean calls it when I bake up a storm in the kitchen.

It is a dreary, over-cast, rainy at times Sunday here in VA. I finagled myself a work-free weekend which NEVER happens (I'm always grading papers or lesson planning on Sunday afternoons), so, other than laundry, I had several open hours looming ahead. I decided to fill them with baking. *fingers crossed they all turn out delicious*

Rum Raisin Rice Pudding - Click here for recipe (from Ina Garten on FoodNetwork)
Ingredients for Rice Pudding
     Last summer, Sean and I went on a Princess Cruise through New England and Canada. Sean discovered on our first morning that they had rice pudding cups on the breakfast buffet and ate at least two a day each day of our cruise (9 mornings of rice pudding!). It was then that I realized the deep love my husband has for the dessert. He told me the story of how it all got started with a happy smile as he ate.When he was growing up, his grandmother made rice pudding when she knew he was coming over for a visit. She would have a huge pot of it cooking away on the stove when he arrived and he would dive right in. Sean did not have the best of relationships with his grandmother towards the end of her life, but I am grateful that he has this happy memory of her to hold on to.
Raisins softening in the rum
     Now usually when I bake, Sean will eat one serving of whatever it is, maybe two, and then he's done. (I have been blessed with the sweet tooth in our family apparently. See below for proof.) I discovered the Rice Pudding recipe on FoodNetwork and surprised him with it as a way of remembering our cruise. He loved it! He devoured it in a few days and asked me to make more. I was so happy that I found a dessert he liked and wanted. Now he asks for it every few months; it's nice to have something special to make him that I know he enjoys.
Still pipping hot...Sean dove in :)
*Notes about the recipe: Sean likes a thicker rice pudding consistency so I only use three cups of milk. Oh, and I use milk and not half-and-half...not for any reason other than we never have half-and-half in the house and milk is cheaper. Finally, I usually add a little extra rum to the raisins because I know Sean likes the extra flavor.

Snickers Brownies (recipe from the brain of my sister)
A piece of Snickers for each brownie
     My sister, who lives in South Carolina, also likes to bake. She was home a year or so ago and was making brownies. I watched her add pieces of fun-sized candy bars to the batter and thought, "What an amazing way to spruce up plain, ordinary brownies!". This time I decided to use Snickers Bars because I thought my students would like them.
     Each week, my English students get the possibility of a reward on Friday. I have discovered recently that my students will do homework and monitor their own behavior if food is the potential reward, so two weeks ago I offered chocolate. Apparently that was too vague because too many students did not do their work and the class did not get the reward. This week I was more specific and offered a special, homemade (by me!) chocolate reward and they were scrambling to make sure every student had their homework so they could be fed. These Snickers brownies are for them!
Yum! Yum!
     The only pan I use to make brownies anymore is the Amazing Brownie Pan my mom gave me a few years ago. I love it and the fact that it cuts the brownies as they bake. Easy portion control and perfect for a recipe like this one. Just drop 1/4 of a fun sized candy bar into each square, bake according to package instructions and --- viola! Perfect brownies every time! I hope my students enjoy them!!

Black Bean Brownies - Click here for recipe (from
The only two ingredients you need
     When I joined Weight Watchers last August, I thought my days of brownies and desserts were all but over. I am so glad to be wrong! At one of the first meetings I attended, I heard about "Black Bean Brownies" and dismissed them completely because I hate black beans. I tried Diet Coke brownies but didn't like the crumbly texture and I tried pumpkin brownies but didn't like the chewy texture. Then a friend made the black bean brownies and brought me one. I was hooked! You don't taste beans at all, just yummy chocolate with an awesome brownie texture. If you haven't tried them and want to eat some less-guilty brownies, you should try these!!


Which recipe is your favorite?

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Her Cleanliness ID and an App to Help

I was on Facebook a few weeks ago and saw an ad for a Huffington Post Article titled "There are 4 Types of Organized People - Which One Are You?". 

organized 2
Click here to read the article.

I read the article and instantly knew which was me. I was the second one that the article called "Organized and messy". The bullets were what really sold me. They said...
For example, a person in this category might find themselves...
  • Ignoring the laundry that's been piling up on the floor because laundry day isn't until tomorrow.
  • Having their lunch made the night before, but skipping the whole making-the-bed thing in the morning.
  • Filing away important papers in a binder that then acts as a coaster for the next week.
OMG!!! It's like they know me! haha

I always make my lunch the night before, but I do not always make the bed. Everything has a place in the house, and eventually we will put it there. I'm not fussed if everything isn't pristine and perfect. Things will get done when they get done.

And that has become infinitely easier since a friend introduced me to a new app - Tody

I absolutely love that, thanks to the app, I no longer have to remember when I last cleaned the microwave or washed the windows. Tody does all that for me! Here's how it works...

You start by choosing a room in your home (they have a premade list) or you can click General for rooms/areas they don't have built into the app. 

For each area of your home, you add tasks that need to be done and how often you want/need to do them. This is all customizable based on your home and what the app calls your "attitude towards cleaning".  
That's it! Once you have items programmed in, the app will remind you when those items need to be done. It shows up in a list that you can see organized by cleanliness or by room. You simply tell the app when the task has been completed and it will reset the clock for that item. If you complete the task early or late, the app just adjusts the schedule accordingly.

I love Tody! It helps me stay organized, our house is cleaner, and I no longer have to remember when I last cleaned the stove hood or garbage disposal.

If you buy the Tody app, I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you think this is something you would use/need? What do you think?

Happy Cleaning,

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

His Living in America: Where's the Butcher?

America has just about every type of store imaginable. However there are some types of stores that are very common in Australia but are seldom seen in America. Below are just a few examples.

Butcher Shop: In Australia a butcher shop is pretty much a certainty in even the smallest of towns. You can buy meat at the supermarket but there is a much better selection at the local butcher shop. Butcher shops are either located in the main part of town or sometimes in a shopping center, but is almost always a independent small business. Their hours are a little more limited but they tend to have a bigger selection and can make custom cuts as well. In America butcher shops do exist but they are not very common in many areas. Most people in America head to the local grocery store for their meat as most grocery stores have a fairly wide selection.

 Australians do not have to travel far to get their favourite magazine, newspaper or lottery tickets. Newsagents sell magazines, newspapers and other items that can include lottery tickets, office supplies and gift wrapping. They are often located either in a shopping center, mall or in the main street of town. In America they are often referred to as Newsstands. Most Americans will go to the grocery store for these items as newsstands are not common. The only place I have ever seen a store similar to a Newsagent here in America is at the airport.

Chemist/Drug Store:
In Australia you will head to the Chemist store to get your prescription filled. They are usually fairly small stores that sell items like medications and cosmetics. They are usually only open from around 7am - 7pm so if you need a bottle of cough syrup at 3am you are out of luck. In America they are referred to as Drug stores and many of them are open 24 hours a day. A typical drug store is much larger than a chemist store in Australia and sells other items in addition to medications. Often there is a large cosmetics department, food, wine and beer and cleaning and paper products among other things. If you need basic household items or medicine at 3am and there is no Super Walmart nearby, the drug store will probably have it.

These are just a few of the stores that are common in Australia but not so much in America. Is there a type of store that you have noticed isn't as common when you travel?


Monday, August 25, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Infinity Attraction, Gold Coast, Australia

Shellie and Tim told suggested that we try out this place called Infinity when we were at the Gold Coast in Australia last year. They couldn't really explain to us what it was except it was really fun and that we would enjoy it. Since we were just around the corner from it we decided to go and see what all of the hype was about.

After we paid for our admission we were given white gloves and shoe covers. We then waited a few minutes in line before we went in. The easiest way to explain the Infinity attraction is that it is a modern day fun house that makes great use of technology and optical illusions that make it the best fun house that you will ever visit. There were over twenty different rooms that you went into and each was a little different. My favourite one was the one that had big air pillows that you could jump and bounce on. It took about an hour to go through all of the rooms and then it was back to reality. I had a lot of fun playing in each of the rooms and it was a little bit like being a kid again. I would happily come back to Infinity when I go to the Gold Coast again.

I was hesitant at first when we talked about going to Infinity, but I am so glad that I didn't chicken out. This was a fun house for the digital age and I loved every minute. There was a room with strobe lights and exercise balls. A room with wall to wall mirrors, including the ceiling and floor, where the goal was to find the exit. My favorite room was the one that looked like you were walking in space - the walls, ceiling, and floor were full of stars. I loved every minute we were in Infinity and cannot wait to go back to the Gold Coast so we can go through again.

We weren't able to take any photos inside of the attraction but here are a few of the outside.

 A list of some of the different areas inside of Infinity

The entrance to the attraction looks very space age and futuristic

The ticket counter and store where you can buy photos or videos of your experience.

We also found a promotional video that explains the attraction in a little more detail and shows some of the different areas inside.

We had a lot of fun and would recommend it to anyone who is visiting the Gold Coast area. Have you ever been to Infinity or something like it?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

His: Saturday Snapshots: Stockton Beach

Have you liked our "His and Her Hobbies" Facebook page? If not, click here!

Today we are linking up with Melinda at West Metro Mommy for Super Saturday Snapshots.

My sister and her husband took us to Stockton Beach last year to drive on the sand dunes. There was plenty to see including this rusted out car. I thought it was a very interesting subject for a photo and is the subject for today's Saturday Snapshots.

There is probably a very interesting story behind how this car ended up on top of a sand dune and left there to rest. I probably will never know, but it would be interesting to find out how it got there and why it was left behind to rust.

Have you ever found anything interesting like this on a beach or during your travels?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

His and Her TBT Post: School Differences

Angela at The Teacher's Desk 6 is hosting a Throwback Thursday linky party. The rules are simple - choose a previous blog post and re-post it.

I went back to school yesterday to open my classroom in a brand new building. It's very exciting - and stressful at the same time. Because this week means the start of a new school year, I chose a post from February, 2013 as our throwback post. Sean explained some of the differences between Australian schools and American schools. Enjoy!


It wasn't long until I learned that school in America was very different to how I remember school growing up in Australia. The hours may have been similar but a lot of aspects of K-12 education are quite different. I thought this would be a great topic for this week's "Living in America" so here is my list of major differences:

  • School Year: The Australian school year runs from late January to December. (Sometimes the first day of school would be my birthday which I hated) In America the school year starts in September and ends in June. 
  • Summer Vacation: I was always jealous of the American kids in movies that got 2 months off for summer vacation where I only got a measly 5-6 weeks. What I didn't realize is that although American children got a nice long summer break, they got stiffed during the rest of the year. Basically you get a few days off for Thanksgiving, a week or so for Christmas and a week for Spring Break. In Australia we got around 6 weeks off for summer break but then had 2 weeks off after each 10 week term. It worked out pretty well as we got a nice break every couple of months.
  • Uniforms: Very few public schools in America wear uniforms, although a lot of private schools do require them. I remember the first time I went into an American classroom and saw all of the kids in different clothes. At first I thought it must have been an "out of uniform day" but quickly remembered that the kids did not wear uniforms. In Australia all schools including public schools require students to wear uniforms. They tended to be a little on the ugly side sometimes but we didn't have to worry about what we were going to wear each day.
  • Source
  •  School Buses: The yellow school bus is an iconic American symbol. Just about every city and county in America has a fleet of these buses and they carry millions of children to and from school each day. In Australia there is no dedicated school buses. Instead each city has a contract with a bus company to transport school children to and from school each day. Often the buses are regular public transit buses that are used for school transport in the morning and afternoon and then returned to regular public transit use for the rest of the day.
  • Recess: In American schools recess is something only elementary school students (K-5) enjoy. After that you have to wait till lunch to enjoy a bite to eat. In Australian schools all students, even the 12th graders get a 20 minute break for recess. I loved recess and looked forward to the short break to grab a bit to eat or run around outside and expend some energy.
I could easily go on about even more differences like Australian schools lack of middle school and sit down cafeterias and American schools not having cool field trips like we enjoyed in my schools but that will be saved for a future post.

Question for the week: What was your favourite thing about school and your least favourite?


Pretty cool huh? I love hearing about the differences between the two school systems. 

Happy Thursday,
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