Wednesday, February 27, 2013

His: Living in America 2/28/2013

A photo of my second grade class. Gotta love the uniforms!
          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?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Her Weigh-In (2/26/13) -- A Milestone is Reached!

It's Tuesday so that means weigh-in day for me. :) Here's what happened...

Weight: -1.6
That means I have lost another 5 pounds and hit the milestone of losing 60 total pounds!!! I am so excited to be able to say that I have lost over 60 pounds!!!
                                        Source                                               Source

What I did...
Right - I tracked everything (even when I didn't want to). ----- I drank more water during the week than usual. ----- I earned 17 Activity Points. (Thanks to a coworker on the trip this weekend who is a fellow WW. She encouraged me to take the stairs at the hotel and I earned bunches of APs for the effort.)

Wrong - I ate at Red Robin, McDonald's, Papa John's, and Wendy's (the convention I went to this weekend meant lots of fast food). ----- I drank a lot of soda this weekend (see restaurant list above).

~Eat at home more
~Drink more water and tea on the weekend (to avoid so much soda)

Recipe to share:
Baked Shells with MeatballsI love pasta - all pasta! This dish, Baked Shells with Meatballs, is my lunches for this week. I made the whole casserole and then portioned it out into Tupperware. It is delicious and it keeps me full all afternoon. It tastes a little like lasagne or stuffed shells. If you try it, let me know what you think.

*fingers crossed for a good coming week*

Monday, February 25, 2013

His and Her GBU (2/25/13)

Hello Monday - we meet again! Time to look back on the weekend's events...

Amanda - I had the pleasure to help chaperone the Junior Beta convention trip this weekend. The kids competed in some events, attended some general sessions, went to a dance, and laughed and laughed. I loved the experience and hope I get to do it again!
Sean - I ran 9.4 miles Sunday which is further than I have ever run before and in 1hr 28min which is better than I expected. What's bad about all of this? My muscles have been screaming in protest and are still sore a full day later.

Amanda - The convention I mentioned earlier was held in Virginia Beach - right on the water. But because it was so rainy and yucky, we couldn't enjoy a walk outside. I wish it had been sunny so the kids could walk around and enjoy being that close to the water.

What events would make your GBU list?

Happy Monday,

Sunday, February 24, 2013

His and Her Sunday Social (2/24/13)

Middle and high school are the topics up for discussion today on the Sunday Social. Here goes...
Sunday Social
Click Here!

Lets talk about those awkward years:

1. Biggest Middle school fashion mistake
Amanda - In middle school, I would roll the bottoms of my jeans into my scrunched socks.
Sean - We had school uniforms at our school so it made it a lot easier as we all looked the same. I can't recall any major fashion mistakes outside of school.
2. Who were your best friends in high school? Pics?
Amanda - I had an AMAZING group of friends in high school. Heather, Kim, Danielle, Sarah, Charity, and Brooke were always there for me when I needed them and gave me most of my memories from high school.
Sean - My best mates in high school would have been Simon and Paul. There were several others that were in our group but Simon and Paul were the only ones I hung out with after school.
3. What was a typical weekend like for you in high school?
Amanda - Friday nights were usually out with the girls - see above. On Saturdays, I would hang out at home or with my besties. Sunday was spent at church in the morning and then home to spend time with my family, watching football and doing homework.
Sean - I worked nights Mon-Fri so the weekends were the only time I had off. A lot of times I would be out on my bike or hanging out with my mates. A lot of the time it was doing something outside such as hockey, hiking or riding. Occasionally we would do something inside like bowling or skating.
4. Did you have any boyfriends/girlfriends? Tell us about that.
Amanda - None for me.
Sean - I had a girlfriend in 11th grade that I met at work for a few months. I showed up 10 minutes late for a date one night and the next day she dumped me. I found out later on that someone had spread some rumour about me seeing another girl which was untrue. Sad part was she never asked me about it and I had to find out from someone else.

5. Did you have any secret codes with your friends? Spill your secrets!
Amanda - It wasn't a "code" per say but we had a name for our group. We were the "Goats!" My friend Sarah is Indian and while we were at her house hanging out we saw goat meat in her freezer that her grandparents had brought with them when they came to visit. We latched onto the name and it stuck with us through all of high school.
Sean - Can't really recall any secret codes. We would all pick on each other but it was all in good fun. We all had nicknames for each other which would be as close to a secret code as we got.
6. If you could relive one day/moment/experience from middle school or high school, what would it be?
Amanda - One of my favorite memories from high school was my Senior Prom. I had a blast with all my friends. Lots of good memories!!
Sean - We had some really cool excursions/field trips. It would be a toss up between the trip I took to New Zealand on spring break in 9th grade or the 2 week trip through central Australia in 10th grade.
So what about you? Link up with Ashley and Neely and lets get Social…Sunday Social!

Happy Sunday,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Her February Birchbox

I am so glad that I signed up for the monthly Birchbox subscription. It is so much fun to get mail anyway - but to get a monthly package with samples of make-up, hair care, and perfume is so...well, cool! I love it. Here's what my February Birchbox contained:

Disclaimer: I usually take photos with my smaller, very easy to use camera. That one, however, was throwing a fit this morning and refusing to work. I used my husband's camera which is huge and complex. I struggled with the photos and they aren't that great. Sorry!

 Click on the photo to go to their website to sign up for your own monthly box of goodies.

This month the Birchbox theme was Red Carpet Ready. That makes sense considering we are in the middle of awards show season.

A little treat to enjoy as I scoped out what other goodies were in this month's box. I love these little squares!!

 Color Club: Nail Polish in Wild Cactus
Birchbox says: Shoo away winter blues with this on-trend emerald polish
Full-size: $8
My review: I don't normally wear colors this bold and don't think I am daring enough to wear this as fingernail polish. I would, however, use this as a toenail polish and think it would be very pretty and something different.

 Beauty Protector: Protect and Detangle Leave-In Conditioner
Birchbox says: Great for all hair types, this nourishing elixir performs seven hair-healing functions. Among them: locking in color, adding shine, and instantly detangling.
Full-size: $21.95
My review: I am picky about my conditioners because my hair can go from smooth to haystack in under a minute. This conditioner made my hair so smooth and silky soft without weighing it down or looking like I had too much product. I could almost see myself buying a full-size bottle.

 Dr. Jart+: Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm
Birchbox says: From the brand that brought BB cream to the U.S., this gold-standard formulation has mineral SPF 25 and a satiny, matte finish.
Full-size: $36
My review: This product replaces any foundation or tinted moisturizer that I would normally use. Instantly that made me nervous because I have a splotchy natural texture to my skin and I need a good covering foundation to smooth everything out. I'm going to wait until the weekend to try this one in case it doesn't match my skin tone or just isn't good for me.

Juicy Couture: Couture La La
Birchbox says: Roll out the red carpet for this new scent, a stunning mix of mandarin, red currant, lily, and orange blossom.
Full-size:$19-90 (wow - that is a huge range!)
My review: I know some people hate the perfume samples that come with the box, but I have really liked most of them. With this one I could smell the lily and currant the most which I liked. I have several of my samples from previous months lined up on my vanity and I like having the options available in the morning. What do I want to smell like today? It's fun!

Overall I rate this Birchbox five stars. I am excited about each product I received.

What did you think of your Birchbox this month?

Happy Sampling,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

His: Living in America 2/20/2013

           As regular followers of the blog may know already, I grew up in Australia and moved to America a little over 11 years ago. During this time I have gotten used to the American way of life but have noticed a multitude of differences along the way. A lot of times I don't notice certain things are different until I am presented with a certain situation and I realize that this particular thing is done quite differently in Australia. I have toyed with the idea of writing about these topics and thought this blog would be the perfect place to do so.

         This past Monday was President's Day. Since I didn't study U.S History in high school (regretting that decision now) I didn't know a whole lot about the holiday so I did a little research prior to writing this post. It was first established in 1885 in honor of George Washington's birthday and interestingly enough is officially known as "Washington's Birthday" by the federal government. Outside of the federal government it is known as President's Day and is a day to celebrate all U.S presidents, past and present. Most government workers and schools get the day off (unless they have to make up days for snow) and it's a good day to sleep in and enjoy a long weekend. The only other thing that I noticed about President's Day is that the furniture and car dealerships use it to advertise President's Day sales and tout the greatest prices of the year.

      Australia does not have a president so they do not have President's day. The head of the federal government is the Prime Minister but this person is not directly voted by the Australian people (that is a topic for another post). Rather than having a "Prime Minister's Day", Australians celebrate the birthday of the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. This is observed on the second Monday in June. There are no special parades or even Queen's Birthday car sales that I remember. It's just a low key long weekend where you get to spend some time with family or get away for a couple of days.

   As you can see these two holidays are somewhat similar but unique in their own way. There are several other holidays like July 4th and Thanksgiving that are not celebrated in Australia at all. Then there are others like Easter and Christmas that are celebrated on the same day in both countries. To make things even more interesting there is Father's Day which is celebrated in June in America but not until September in Australia (which means if I want to send my dad a father's day card I have to buy it in June and not lose it before I send it sometime in September. As my Dad will tell you I have not been very successful at this so far.) Thankfully Mother's Day is the same in both countries or else I would be eternally confused.

     My hope is to make this Living in America posting a weekly occurrence until I run out of ideas (which should take a while). If you have any ideas or feedback I would love to hear it. On the subject of holidays, which is your favourite holiday?


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Her Weigh-In (2/19/13)

It's Tuesday, aka Weigh-In Day. Here's what happened this week...

Weight: -0.4

What I did...
Right - I earned 10 Activity Points (not as many as I wanted but it's still a good amount). --- I tracked everything 6/7 days this week. 

Wrong - I did not track on Saturday. --- I drank way too much soda over the weekend. --- I only went to the gym once during the week. --- My food choices were not always great.

Goals for the coming week:
~Earn 15 APs
~Track 7/7 days
~Make better food choices 7/7 days

Recipe to share:
Sean and I did not make any new recipes this week. We went back to some of our oldies but goodies. We have had this as a staple of our menu for a few months now. It is a cross between Chicken Parmesan and meatloaf, called, not surprisingly, Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf. Try it - I am certain you will love it. You can find the recipe here.

*fingers crossed for a good coming week*

Monday, February 18, 2013

His and Her GBU (2/18/13)

What a great weekend!! Here's our recap...

Incorporating Color

Sean - I completed my first 10k race on Saturday. I did a few training runs at this distance but this was when it counted as I needed to post a time of under an hour so I could use it to qualify for the race in Sydney later this year. The course was a lot of fun and to top it off I was able to get a finish time of 59:31 which I was very happy with.
Amanda took photos of me finishing the race (I'm in the mustard-yellow rain coat).

Amanda - I was supposed to spend this weekend in the mountains area of Virginia with my very good friend. I was driving there when she called that her son was very sick. Poor baby!! :( I was close to Richmond so rather than turn back towards home, I went to see Sean run his race. I was happy I got to be there, spend time with my Dad (who had gone up with Sean), and cheer on my hubbie. I was sad that I didn't get to see my friend  but we are going to try again in a few weekends. 

Sean - The race on Saturday was in Richmond, VA which is about 2 hours from home. The weather was forecast to be potentially ugly but I wanted to run anyway. It stayed dry for most of the run but the last 15 minutes it started to rain and then turned to a wintry mix with snow as well. Thankfully, I had a raincoat so I didn't get chilled to death. The drive home was through a wintry mix which was not fun either but we made it home safely.

All our GBU moments were from Saturday - that's never happened before. If we branch out to Friday and Sunday, here are a few more events from our weekend...

Amanda - Friday night, the club I sponsor (with three other amazing teachers) sponsored the school dance as a fundraiser. I was expecting a couple of hundred dollars but was blown away when I saw that preliminary counts were showing that we made almost $700. The students in the Drama Club are working hard on their plays and I cannot wait to start spending that money on amazing props and costumes!

Sean - Sunday was a true day of rest in our household. We lazed around, Amanda watched a lot of DVR shows, and I watched some shows on Netflix. It was very low-key and very needed.
Amanda - Sunday wasn't all boring and low-key though. I found out that my latest Donors Choose project - two collections of high-interest novels - was funded. This one was especially sweet because my parents and cousin are the donors. I cannot wait to tell my students that their books, which they are excited about (I love that I have kids who want to read!!), are on the way.
So, that was our weekend. What did you do this past weekend?

Happy President's Day,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

His and Her Sunday Social (2/17/13)

Sunday Social

Lets get to the Valentine's Day Sunday Social questions:
1. Best Valentines Day you’ve ever had: 
Amanda - I cannot remember a "best" Valentine's Day because we don't usually do anything special for the holiday.
Sean -  It would be the first Valentine's Day that we spent together. We had just gotten engaged a week or so prior and it was great just to be together rather than in different cities.
(Amanda - I feel bad because my answer was "blah" and Sean's was so sweet. This is normal. He is such a great husband!!! I am so, so lucky!)

2. Worst Valentines Day you’ve ever had:
Amanda - Same answer as above.
Sean - Can't really think of one. Prior to meeting Amanda I was single on Valentine's Day each year so they were all pretty much the same.

3. What did you do for Valentines this year? 
Amanda - I went to work and ended up staying late because there was much to be done (as usual). When I got home, we had to run an errand and Sean drove me to Sweet Frogs so I could have a treat. It was very sweet! :)
Sean - Amanda explained what we did this year. We didn't do a whole lot as we like to do something a little more special for our wedding anniversary in March.
4. Best Valentines Idea if you’re single: 
Amanda - I think the best thing to do is be your own Valentine. Maybe buy something for yourself that you have been wanting. You could cook up an amazing dinner that you normally wouldn't spend time making and curl up with a good book or your favorite TV show. Being single on Valentine's Day is hard but it is important to remember that the most important relationship you have is the one you have with yourself. 
Sean - Stay away from the restaurants and cook something at home as even take out on that evening can be crazy. What Amanda said was really good and I couldn't improve on it so I thought I would add something practical. I agree that you should spoil yourself in some way.
5. Favorite Valentines Candy?

Amanda - I love Sweet Tarts.
Sean - I am a fan of most candy but if someone is buying I would love a block of Cadbury chocolate. Failing that Whitman's samplers are always tasty too.
6. Favorite Valentines Memory from your childhood:

Amanda - I honestly cannot remember any special Valentine's Days from when I was a kid. It just wasn't a big deal in my family.
Sean - It wasn't a big deal growing up. My best mate's dad owned a florist shop so I took the day off school in 12th grade and helped deliver flowers. It was a good way to share the love and make some cash whilst doing so.

We feel like our answers are kind of boring this week because we don't usually make a big deal out of Valentine's Day. Sorry if we bored anyone! :) We didn't have a favorite question this week but we would love to hear what you all did on your Valentine's Day this year. 

Happy Sunday,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day - Ironmonger Style

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
It feels funny to even say that because Sean and I rarely do anything on Valentine's Day. Some years we have gotten take-out dinner from a restaurant to bring home (less crowds). A few years he got me some chocolate dipped strawberries from Edible Arrangements because he knows they are my fave. That is usually it though. He tells me not to buy him anything and he is serious - he doesn't want me to do anything. I appreciate the strawberries, but have encouraged him not to buy me anything because I know how expensive V-Day related items can be. We aren't into Valentine's Day that much.

Here's what I find interesting though - several people have asked about our celebrations and have been told all that I just told you. This is what I usually hear...

"Valentine's Day is a day of love. You are supposed to do something for each other so the other person knows you love them."

Maybe, but, personally, I would rather express love through little hugs or notes on a random Monday or a special treat given "just because" on a Wednesday.

How about cutting someone's meatloaf into the shape of a heart? (Sean has done this for me.)
How about buying a favorite childhood movie on DVD because you saw it at Target? (I've done this for him.)

Why settle for one "love" day  a year when you can have 365?? 

Yes, today is Valentine's Day and I will tell Sean I love him and leave him a note on the chalkboard in our hallway. But I will also do that tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day. I say we start making every day Valentine's Day and letting our love for our significant others shine through 365/24/7. Who's with me!?!?

However you spent your day today, I hope it was filled with love...and I hope that is true for each and every day for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

His and Her: Giving up for lent

         Today is the start of Lent and it been a tradition of ours to give something up for the duration - given the sacrifice Jesus made for us, this is something small we can do at this very special time of year. We try to pick items that we enjoy and would be hard to give up so it is a challenge. In years past we have given up items such as Twizzlers (me) and chocolate (Amanda). One of the most memorable ones was a few years ago when we gave up soda/fizzy drink. It was really hard at the start but by the time it was over, we didn't miss it as much. Since then we have not drunk as much soda. I have not had soda on a regular basis since and only drink it mixed with some sort of adult beverage.


         This week while we discussed what we would give up for Lent we had ideas from giving up cursing, ice cream/froyo, and candy. We ultimately decided to give up Chinese food as it is something we both love, order way too much of, and is a easy excuse not to cook. I am sure the local Chinese restaurant will wonder what happened to us but it will be a good challenge for us both. I am sure we will survive the challenge and look forward to having Chinese right after Lent ends. Or perhaps it will be like the soda and it will become a less frequent addition to our menu.

Do you plan to give anything up for Lent?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Her Weigh-In (2/12/13)

It's Tuesday so that means it is Weigh-In day. Here's what happened...

Weigh-In: +/- 0.0

What I did...
Right - I tracked my food. --- I went to the gym/worked out three times. --- I earned 16 Activity Points (one more than my goal for myself). --- I drank more water, cutting back on my soda and coffee (another goal achieved). --- I controlled my eating on Friday and Saturday (another goal checked off). --- I did some training for my Color Me Rad 5K.

Wrong - I skipped three workouts this week. --- I am drinking more water than I used to, but I know I am not getting as much as I should. 

Goals for the coming week:
~Train for Color Me Rad
~Earn 15 Activity Points
~Eat more fruits and veges each day

Recipe to share:
Taco Seasoning I Recipe
Sean and I love enchiladas and tacos so it is normal for us to need to buy one packet of taco seasoning a week. One week, Sean forgot to pick one up and we had to improvise with a "from scratch" taco seasoning using spices on our spice rack. I am so glad that this happened because what we made is so much more flavorful than the store-bought packet. The recipe is here and I think once you try it, the packets will be a thing of the past in your household as well. 

*fingers crossed for a good coming week*

Monday, February 11, 2013

His and Her GBU (2/11/13)

Hello Monday! This weekend feels like it flew by -  one blink and it was Monday morning. The only good thing about Monday is the GBU link-up with two of our favorite bloggers. Here goes...
Incorporating Color

Sean - I have been training for my upcoming races so I can get qualifying times for one of the front groups in the City2Surf later this year. I have only been running the 10k distance for a few weeks and have been hovering around the 61-62 minute mark. I bought new shoes since the old ones are getting pretty worn and was hoping to get under an hour on my training run Sunday. I kept a nice steady pace and finished in 57:06 which is about 4 minutes faster than my PB. Not sure what caused the sudden drop in time but I'm not complaining. I feel much more confident for my first race this coming Saturday after this result. 
Amanda - I don't mind being busy at work. I mind being so busy at work that I feel like the Tasmanian devil in a Looney Tunes cartoon. That was how the end of my week felt last week and with 15 items already on the to-do list for today, I don't foresee it getting any better. The week is also stacking up with meetings and "other duties as assigned". *sigh* I just want to get ahead and instead I feel like I am falling further and further behind.
Amanda - I went to Subway on Sunday afternoon after my work out. The two women who were working behind the counter were not communicating well. It was obvious that one of them was frustrated with the other one. Her attitude and behavior towards her coworker was ugly and I felt sorry for the customers who had to witness this blatant disrespect. 
How was your weekend?

Happy Monday,

Sunday, February 10, 2013

His and Her Sunday Social (2/10/13)

Sunday Social

Time to be social on Sunday :)

This weeks Questions: All about our Childhoods

1. What was your first car? 
Amanda - It was a 1986 Mercury Marquis. It wasn't anything fancy or stylish but I loved that car --- because I had a car!!! I was so excited to drive around on my own and not need to borrow my parents' cars.
Sean - It was an '84 Holden Gemini. It looked very similar to the picture below.
 2. Who was your favorite childhood teacher?
Amanda - I had so many great, great teachers that I have to break this down by school level. In Elementary School it was my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Harris. In Middle School, it was my 7th grade history teacher Mrs. Hogan. In high school it was my psychology teacher Mrs. (Mama) Redmond.
Sean - I had some great teachers throughout my schooling but my favourite was Mr Mead back in 3rd grade. He went above and beyond to make sure I understood the material, called my parents when I struggled, and saw talent and encouraged me to play the trumpet after he heard me playing one day.

3. Were you involved in any sports/extracurricular activities? 
Amanda - In elementary school and the first part of middle school, I played softball in the local rec league. In high school, I was very involved in the Key Club at school.
Sean - I played in the PCYC Brass band from 3rd grade on and I was on the school lawn bowls team (made it the regional finals in my senior year). I also participated in several events in the school swimming and athletics carnivals each year. 

4. What was your favorite birthday party?
Amanda - All my birthdays were incredible. Mom always went all out to throw a great kids party and a great family party. We went bowling, to the pool, to the movies. I can't remember a bad birthday.
Sean - In Tamworth there wasn't much to choose from. It was either McDonalds, the bowling alley, or the roller skating rink. Other than that it was at a mates house or the park. I liked the roller skating parties best as there was plenty to do and the food was pretty tasty.

5. Who was your teen celebrity crush? 
Amanda - Joey McIntyre from NKOTB 
Sean - When I was a teen I focused my energy into chasing girls locally that I actually had a chance with rather than fantasizing about girls I would never meet. Plus we only had a handful of channels on the telly so there wasn't much to choose from and most of them weren't that attractive.

6. What show/movie did your parents not allow you to watch? 
Amanda - Mom said no to Dirty Dancing until I was older.
Sean - My parents were pretty lax with that stuff, plus I couldn't see the point in asking to see something that they would say no to. My brother wanted to see Hamburger Hill (a military movie) when he was younger and it used to drive him nuts when dad said no. I think he ended up conning mum into renting it one day.

Our favorite question is #4 so we want to know -- what was your favorite childhood birthday party?

Happy Sunday,
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