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,

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Her Summer Goals 2014 Recap

Goodbye Summer 2014!!

It has been a great summer of lounging, reading, relaxing, and some working, but it is back to school for me today. I thought I would recap my goals from this summer and see how I was able to do with all I wanted to accomplish.

My to-do list was a mile long and, I will be honest, I did not get everything done.

I have quite a few picture books and I forget about them each year. I want to organize them and make a list of what I have, along with lessons I think I can do with them. Hopefully this means I will actually use them in class.
Done! I put them into the same Lexile Leveler app as my other classroom library books. 

My county requires that I do D.O.L.s with  my students each day. I like them and I think they teach the students about editing other people's work (which is 1/2 of their state writing test), but the way they are presented is not exactly like the test. I started changing up the basic routine and found a way to make it work for my class and match the test. *Bonus!!* Now, I just have to modify all the week's of sentences and paragraphs.
Not done! It's going to make more work for me throughout the year, but it will be OK (I hope!!).

Last year, my principal decided to put the Civics and Science classes on an A/B schedule (students would have one class on an A day and the other on B day). They had each for the entire year.  This is the schedule I made for this past year that has to be tweaked for this year.
Done! I have the whole year mapped (though I know it will need to be flexible, it's nice to have a basic plan done).

I love these posters I found to help my students with reading strategies. They were just printed on a color printer so they are small. I want to recreate them so they are larger and can be seen throughout the room. Hopefully, this will help remind the students of what they should be doing as they read.
Not Done! Rather than recreate them, I am planning to take them to Office Max and have them blown up. 

I have spent a lot of time (and let's face it - money) building up my classroom library. Now I need to get it organized. I want to use my Lexile Leveler app to find the Lexile level of each book and put a colored sticker on them so I can remember. Then I am going to organize the books by genre so the students can more easily find things they want to read. My students this past year read a lot more partially because of all these books I had in the room and I hope that trend can continue once they are more organized.
Done! This is probably the project I am most excited about. I took photos throughout of the process and I will be blogging about it soon.

The last week of school my Civics students helped me come up with vocabulary terms for Civics. We ended up with 173 words/phrases/terms. *phew* I'm thinking Word Wall!
Not done! I did not get this one finished, because I rethought the idea. I'm not sure how I am going to help the students with vocabulary, but I don't think this is it.

These are a hit each year and I love giving the kids something to recognize their birthday. I put the balloon on the front of the birthday pencil and a coupon for something fun on the back. I will blog more about this once I get them done. 
Partially done! I am enlisting help on this one. I have all the items printed and ready to go. I have some former students who are coming to help me set up my classroom and I'm going to ask them to work on it.

In addition to the school stuff, I had some fun stuff I wanted to do for me.

I want to finish reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I started last summer but didn't finish before we headed across the pond to Australia.
I also want to read Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. It is the follow up to The Book Whisperer and I have heard great things. 
In addition to those two school books, I want to read 10 novels.
I read the 10 novels, but did not read Donalyn Miller's two books. Maybe during the school year.

I plan to log my eating each day into MyFitnessPal. (I started again today so if you also use the program I would love for us to be "Friends". My user name is Manders0808.)
I also want to go to the gym at least four days a week. 
I did well with logging the food that I ate, but the gym was more sporadic. I did manage to lose a few pounds so that's a good start.

I want to finish my first pair of socks, finish my first cabled scarf, and start (and maybe finish) a baby project.
I am over half finished with the socks. I haven't worked on the scarf the entire summer. I started my first garment project instead of a baby project. 

I want to clean out and reclaim one of the bedrooms we don't use that has become a catch-all.
I want to find a way to stop the ants that are attempting to take over my kitchen.
We have a bunch of items that we set aside to take to GoodWill and I want to actually take that final step and get them out of the house.
The first one is half done, and the other two are done. We also found time to decorate some and that's a great feeling!

I want to bake a loaf of bread from scratch. I have no idea why but I have had a hankering to do this for a while now. I've done it before and I want to do it again. Anyone have a good recipe?
I sort of cheated this one. I made banana bread, but not a full loaf of yeast bread. Maybe one weekend when we don't have any plans - ha! - I can tackle this. I'm thinking Cinnamon Raisin Bread sounds tasty.

I didn't get everything done, but I am happy with the time I spent relaxing and reading. I also spent some time with family and friends which always feels good. What didn't get done can always be done later. It's been a great summer and I am hoping it leads into a great school year.

How did you do with your summer to-do list? 

Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

His and Her Home Repair Saga, Day 7 + a Giveaway!

Home Repair Saga, Day 1
Home Repair Saga, Day 2
Home Repair Saga, Day 3
Home Repair Saga, Day 4
Home Repair Saga, Days 5 and 6

Progress!! If you read yesterday's post, it probably seemed like the project had stalled a little over the weekend. And it had. But yesterday things got moving again, which is great news! 

The day started off slowly. The guys cleaned up the massive pile of dirt and concrete since it was going to rain last night and that would mean sludge and grossness. It took a couple of hours to clean up it all up. Then they waited for the brick mason....and they waited...and they waited.

The brick mason wasn't going to make it here yesterday, so the guys made a command decision. What decision you ask?


The door is finally in!!! 
Still a lot to do but - THE DOOR IS IN!!!

Isn't it pretty? We chose one with the blinds in the door. Love that feature.

The guys tried to clean up a little because we had some bad storms last night.

So much prettier to look at than the plywood.

Today is going to be brick work (supposedly - though I'm not holding my breath), siding, plaster work inside, and finishing touches all around. I am so glad that when I go back to school tomorrow, most of the work will be done (just one section will need to be primed on Saturday). We made it! Finally! It feels so good to be so close to the finish line.

Yay for construction being done! As part of our celebration, head over to our friend Jessy's blog, The Artsy Cajun. Today is her birthday - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! - and we are helping her celebrate. A bunch of cool bloggers donated some pretty awesome prizes. There is a lot of good stuff being given away. Check it out!
Happy Tuesday,

Monday, August 18, 2014

His and Her Home Repair Saga, Days 5 and 6

Home Repair Saga, Day 1
Home Repair Saga, Day 2
Home Repair Saga, Day 3
Home Repair Saga, Day 4

Friday morning, the guys were here before 8 to continue working. I could not see anything they were doing, but I could hear them working and talking.
I hated not being able to see and having no natural light in the room.

I could hear them mixing concrete, removing the jacks, and doing some other hammering, drilling, and sawing. There were some hiccups during the day so the door did not get put in. The new concrete foundation was laid and everything was made ready for the brick mason to come on Saturday.

This is what the back of the house looked like Friday night. It looked a little bit like a war zone.

It's like a concrete pool...

...stretching across the entire back of the house.
See what I meant - disaster area. I just want to go and start cleaning things up. I won't, but I want to.

Saturday was a slow day. Our contractor came by and got things set up for the brick mason. The brick mason came by and saw what the guys had done and was confused. Apparently, they had two different visions. He said it wasn't a problem and left to get more supplies. He didn't come back. I called our contractor later and asked what was going on. He explained that the brick mason needed more supplies than he originally thought and it was too late in the day to start.

The deal now is that they will all be here Monday to add the bricks and stairs, put in the door, replace the siding, and clean up the backyard. Tuesday they will fix the interior plaster and handle all the finishing work. But - if I have learned anything through this process it's that contractor's timelines can change at a moment's notice. We will be flexible, but hopeful that it all gets done before I go back to work on Wednesday.

Happy Monday,

Friday, August 15, 2014

His and Her Home Repair Saga, Day 4

His and Her Home Repair Saga, Day 1
His and Her Home Repair Saga, Day 2
His and Her Home Repair Saga, Day 3 

Yesterday was an intense day. I think that is going to be my word for it. As I was texting family and friends some updates during the day, I found myself using words like "scary" and "unfair" a lot. Here's a recap of day 4...

-The guys started early by removing what was left of the brick on the outside.

-They then took out the concrete where they will need to build the new footer.

-Then they started to take out the door. 

Bye, bye door!

Bye, bye frame!

-This is where it got intense. While taking out the door, they found more water damage then expected, some surface mold, and a 3/4 inch difference between the left side of the door and the right side. 

Lots of water damage on the left side.

Lots of wood rot on the right side.

The mold is on the side of the wall...the rest is water damage.

-The insulation underneath the door was not done correctly - they only put in about half the amount that they should have.

-There were rat droppings --- but no rats! Praise for that! (Our neighbor said that they found rats in her house a few years ago and put down poison. She never heard anything else about it. We think that's connected to our issues.)

Have I ever told you guys how much I hate rats?!?!

-They built a new girder, replaced the subfloor, and then did the part that had me the most terrified. The jacked the right side of the door jam (the part about 2 feet away from our brick fireplace) up so that it was level with the other side. I could hear some cracking and popping from the walls while they jacked. I was a nervous wreck! We do have some small cracks, but nothing major. Thank the Lord!

The jack was much smaller than I thought it would be.

-They reframed the opening for the new, smaller sliding glass door. Then boarded the place up until today's work begins.

We went with a 6 foot door instead of 8 feet like we had, so this is going to get dry walled and sealed shut.

All boarded up for the night. The door gets put in tomorrow.

Here's the exterior view of the work from yesterday.
This one is holding up the left side.

This is holding up the right side.

Still a lot to do but a lot of progress has been made.

Rats + water + mold = chaos! Not the workers, they were fine, but chaos for me. I paced, baked, questioned, watched, photographed, and paced some more. It was more damage than they were expecting, but it is fixed. The rotten wood has been replaced and the new door gets put in tomorrow. I am optimistically going to say that the worst is behind us.

Since this will go up while they are working on the house again, maybe you all could help distract me. What are your fun weekend plans? Tell me all about it so I can focus on you guys instead of the work.

Happy Friday,
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