Thursday, January 31, 2013

(One of) Her Favorite Authors

I have been remiss in talking about my favorite hobby here on the blog. I've talked about knitting and the obstacles to my weight loss, but not of what I have been reading recently. Let me correct that right now.

One of the reasons I decided to try knitting is because I stumbled upon a new-to-me author by the name of Debbie Macomber. The book I randomly selected, thanks to Barnes and Noble's "Customers Who Bought This Also Bought" section, was The Shop on Blossom Street. It follows four women whose lives are taking a variety of twists and turns. Each one has a twist or turn that brings them to a yarn shop on Blossom Street where they learn to knit. I fell in love with each of the women and with the idea of knitting bringing people together and making life a little less stressful. 

The "Blossom Street" series has 10 novels (the 11th is due out in May of this year). You can see the list and a brief summary of each here. I am on book 6 and still loving it! Old characters are visited, new characters are introduced - I am enthralled!

A few reasons why I love Debbie Macomber:
~She has flawless character development. Each woman (and man) feels like a real person who does real-person things. I would be friends with these women, I would join their knitting groups, and I would turn to them when I was down or needed advice. I am sorry that I don't live near Blossom Street!
~Her interweaving of the different women's plots is impeccable. Each book has at least two women as the focus (most so far have been 3 or 4). Their stories flow together perfectly and their interactions are not forced so they will work with the plot of the story. She is also able to bring back characters from previous books without that seeming unrealistic.
~Her plot lines are a little predictable, but I find that I don't mind that. It isn't a problem for me because I am rooting for the characters to have great things happen and if I have predicted those great things then that's fine by me.

I cannot wait to read the rest of the series, to meet new people and catch up with those I met in previous books. If you decide to join me on Blossom Street, I would love to know what you think of the books.

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Her Photo-a-Day (Week 4)

I am loving my photo-a-day project! Here's what I snapped this week...

1.24 Stripes
I decided to start a new knitting project using some yarn that I got from one of my yarn-group-ladies. I love that it is making purple, white, and pink stripes as I knit.

1.25 Landscape
Love the connection - this day was a landscape photo and it snowed the first big snow in two years in our area. Yay for snow and Yay for an easy photo!

1.26 Together
I meant to take a photo of a friend and I while we were at the movies, but it slipped my mind as we chatted and enjoyed popcorn before the movie started. I decided to take a photo of Sean and my dessert for the evening since together they made the best bread pudding ever!!! Click here for the recipe - Chocolate Bread Pudding by SkinnyTaste

1.27 Sun
I went looking to see where the sun was when I saw the photo topic for the day. It seemed perfectly positioned between the limbs of a tree so I snapped and loved!

1.28 Through
I could not come up with any ideas for this one. I realized after the sun had gone down that I should have taken a photo of the backyard through the sliding glass door. *sigh*

1.29 Grow
Since it's winter, nothing is really growing here. I tried to get creative and think about other things that grow but my mind wasn't with it.

1.30 Down
Another excuse :( -- School is so hectic busy that I forgot all about this photo. I promise to pick back up tomorrow.

Another week of photos. Click below to see February's list and to join in the fun.

February Photo A Day Challenge - Are you ready for some photo-taking fun?

Happy Snapping,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Her Weigh-In (1/29/13)

Here we go again. It's Tuesday which means Weight Watchers Weigh-In Day. I was so not excited for this one after the gain last week. 


Weigh-In:  -2.2
**Disclaimer: I switched from weighing in at night to weighing in first thing in the morning. That accounts for some of the loss. Some is an actual loss that I am very happy about!**


What I feel I did...
Right: I did not go completely crazy on Friday and Saturday (as I have in weeks past). --- I went to the gym 5 times. --- I earned 16 Activity Points (so proud of myself for this one!!). --- I participated in Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K. --- I did not buy sodas for the house, and I did not miss having them.

Wrong: I ate over my points by 10. --- I ate a medium popcorn at the movie theater...all by myself. ---  I am still not eating as many fruits and veges as I should. --- I did a lot of "picking" on Saturday and Sunday (meaningless eating where I pick up a handful of something in the kitchen when I am not hungry).

Goals for the coming week:
~Continue going to the gym and earning those APs
~Incorporate more fruits and veges as snacks during the day
~Cut back on the morning cups of coffee so I will drink more water during the day
~Complete another 5K this weekend on the treadmill (on my own, for "fun" --> haha, that's funny...5Ks are not fun, but they are good exercise)
~Sign up for the Color Me Rad 5K in April

Recipe to share:
I love chocolate! It is my absolute favorite snack and dessert food. It is rare to find anything chocolatey that I do not like. When I saw Skinnytaste had a Chocolate Chunk Bread Pudding, I knew I would love it and I was so right!!! The serving size is 2, perfect for Sean and I, but the comments show that people doubled and tripled the recipe and it wasn't a problem. I definitely recommend this chocolately, gooey, and scrumptious dessert!!

*fingers crossed for a good week coming up*

Monday, January 28, 2013

His and Her GBU (1/28/13)

It's Monday - blah! But it does mean that we get to link up with Kate and Kati to look back at the Good, Bad, and Ugly of our weekend.

Poster art for "Silver Linings Playbook."
Good: (Amanda)
It snowed on Friday! I love the snow!! Even today we have some covering the grass in the backyard. 
I went to the movies with a friend Saturday and saw Silver Linings Playbook. OMG!!! Such a great, great movie. All the Oscar nominations make total sense. I loved it!!!
We both participated in the Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K. Sean finished with a time of 29:21 and mine was 66:44.
I pretty much decided that I am going to do the Color Me Rad 5K in Richmond in April. Has anyone out there done this race? Is it as fun as it sounds??

Bad: (Sean) 
Amanda and I had both signed up to do the Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K. My plan was to run the 5K outside near the house once I got home from work on Friday. I was able to leave early and hoped that I could finish the run before the snow started. Sadly the snow started right as I got home but I was determined to do the run so I bundled up and headed out. The snow was in my face the entire way, no matter which direction I headed. It was like the wind knew which way I was going to turn next and changed so I would have a challenging time. To make matters worse the snow was falling a lot faster than I anticipated. I thought I would be able to get back home well before the snow accumulated but by the time I got the 2 mile mark, and the furthest point from the house, I quickly realized that the road was starting to get covered and a little slick. I had to tread carefully so I didn't slip and fall on my butt, but hurry so I could get back home before I froze to death. For the last mile or so I could see my footprints in the snow behind me which was pretty cool. It was an experience running in a snow storm, but not one I hope to repeat anytime soon.


Ugly: (Amanda)
Each Sunday, we make our menu for the coming week. Then Sean goes shopping and I start school work. Well, this process has been getting longer and longer - sometimes it takes us over an hour to plan the menu. #exhausting This Sunday we both got so frustrated with the process that I threw my hands up in the air and declared that I was done planning and didn't care anymore about what we ate. Not one of my finer moments! Sean picked the rest of the dinners and went shopping. We promised each other that this week we would think through how to simplify the process so we can stop getting so frustrated with one another.

We hope you had a great weekend!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

His and Her Sunday Social (1/27/13)

It's Sunday so it's time to get social. Linking up with Neely and Ashley, we are answering some pretty deep questions about the two of us. Here goes...
Sunday Social
What is your ideal way to relax?
Amanda - The best way for me to relax is to read. Any kind of chick lit is preferred when I am looking to escape.
Sean - Somewhere quiet works best with no distractions. I like to watch movies or tv shows on Netflix or on DVD or play a computer game.
Where is your favorite place to be?
Amanda - At home with my husband and fur-baby...if a few friends or family drop by, that's totally fine with me! :)
Sean - At the race course for a event I am competing in. It always is a good feeling to be part of the action and being able to beat personal records on the course makes it even better.
Who do you consider your biggest role model?
Amanda - I don't know that I have one. I have several people who I look to for different reasons. I like the way they carry themselves or handle a crisis. No one person though.
Sean - I'm like Amanda in that I don't have one specific role model. Many people in my life have influenced the way I am today and I am thankful for each of them but no one person stands out.
What does your life look like in 3 years?
Amanda - I hope that our life is as happy as it is today. I also hope that I will be better able to handle the stress at school and be at my goal weight!
Sean - I'm pretty sure things will be pretty similar but I am hopeful that I can cross a few events off my list like my first marathon, half ironman and so forth.
If you could go back and change one decision what would it be?
**Both of us struggled with this question because we don't necessarily believe in regret. We believe in life lessons that teach you something and make you a better person.**
Amanda - I don't have a lot of decisions that I want to change but, looking back, I wish I had made the decision to get healthier when I was younger.
Sean - I stopped doing a lot of training for running and triathlon events over the last 8 months or so and wish I hadn't since it is making if far more difficult now to post competitive times.

Our favorite question was the first one, so we ask you all - what is your ideal way to relax?

Happy Sunday,

Friday, January 25, 2013

His and Her Top 5 for Friday

TGIF!! Here are the top events from our week...

1. (Amanda) It's snowing!!!!! I absolutely love the snow and it did not snow one flake last winter. I am so excited!!!
Our back porch and front porch

2. (Sean) I ran a 5K in the snow. I had been feeling pretty crappy the last few days with a cold that I picked up, so I wasn't able to run. I got off work early today and thought I could get a 5K in before the snow started. It started snowing right as I got home but I was so determined to run. I got bundled up and ran my 5K in the snowy conditions anyway!

3. (Amanda) I have actually been motivated to go to the gym this week. :O) I went five times total (Sunday - Thursday). I took today off so I could be home before the snow got crazy, but I will go tomorrow so I can participate in Runs for Cookies' Virtual 5K.

4. (Sean) The City2Surf is a 14K/9 Mile race in Sydney, Australia. I am planning to run in that race this year and want to start in one of the front groups which requires me to post qualifying times from running races. I have come up with a plan to train and compete in a few different races in Virginia and North Carolina so I can get my qualifying times in.

5. (Sean) I was planning to play in a disc golf tournament this weekend so last Saturday I went up to the course (which is an hour from home) to get some practice in. It was a nice mild winter's day and I had the course pretty much to myself. I had a great time and to top it off I got lunch at my favourite place to eat (Zaxby's). I had a great day!

Well, that is the high points from our week. How was yours?

Happy Friday,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Her Photo-a-Day (Week 3, January)

It's another week of photos. Here's what was captured this week...

1/17: Ready
I purchased a Weight Watchers ActiveLink a few weeks ago and my assessment phase is complete. I am excited to get my first challenge - 2 Activity Points a day, going to start slow which is great - and get started!

1/18: Shadow
It snowed a very small amount here on Thursday night. I love that, for the morning hours, my backyard is in shadows so the snow stuck around a little while longer.

1/19: Delicious
We had to get up early on Saturday morning so our "reward" was breakfast at our favorite brekkie restaurant, The Broken Egg Bistro. Sean ordered a Monte Cristo sandwich (which he loved) and I ordered the Cinnamon French Toast with turkey sausage and hash browns. It was delicious as always!

1/20: Something You Saw
I was proud of myself that I got off my booty and went to the gym in the morning. I wasn't sure how I would do since it had been a while since I rode the bike at the gym. I was pleased when I saw that I had "ridden" almost 5 miles in 35 minutes.

1/21: What You Do
Since this was a holiday (Martin Luther King Day), I couldn't take an actual photo of my classroom or of me teaching. I saw this quote on a friend's Facebook page and thought it was fitting for the day and for what I do.

1/22: Corner
We finally unpacked some of the house "decorations". It feels good to have these things unpacked and displayed. All of these are from my college days - GO SQUIRRELS!

1/23: Electric
I LOVE to read and I I like reading on my Nook. It's nice carrying something that is smaller than a regular book and when I finish, the next book is right there. 

January 2013 - photo a day challenge

Happy Snapping,

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Her Weigh-In (1/22/13)

It's Weight Watchers Weigh-In Day for me. I was not looking forward to this one - but I never am lately because I have been stuck and stalled for so long. Here are my results...

Weigh-in Results:+1.3 :'(

What I feel like I did right/wrong:
Right - I stayed within my points - barely. --- I drank more water. --- There are no more sodas in the house and I am not buying any more (I hope I can keep this up!). I will drink a soda if we are out at a restaurant, but I would like to keep them as a sometimes drink rather than a daily drink. --- I went to the gym three times (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday).

Wrong - I ate way too many points on Friday and Saturday (again, that's two weeks in a row). --- I didn't eat as many fruits and veges as I should - especially when choosing snacks.  
*Honestly, I can't think of many other things that I feel I did "wrong". The fact that I had such a huge gain this week is disheartening and depressing. The old, beat-up-self feelings are coming back and they are packing a wallop.*
Goals for the coming week:
~Go to the gym! I've gotta earn those APs.
~Drink more water; Keep up with the whole "No Sodas in the House" idea
~Stop going so over my daily points on the weekends
~Complete Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K (It's best if she explains it to you - click on the race name for more details)

My goal (set by the ActiveLink) is 2 Activity Points a day. Seems doable but there is one hiccup with this ActiveLink that I do not like. It will not count APs until I hit my "baseline" (which is what it was calculating during my Assessment phase). This is so confusing because I cannot simply go to the gym and get APs; I have to go to the gym and make sure my baseline is reached and then I earn APs. I know they did this so I will work out more and exercise harder but it's a big pain in the butt! I wish it just gave me APs as I do an activity and be simple!!

Recipe to share: 
I did a blog post earlier this week about our dinner plans. I found some really good recipes that I pinned (on this board) and we have been trying them out. Sunday night's dinner, the Pulled Barbecue Chicken from Skinny Kitchen was delicious. If you are looking for a new take on pulled pork or for an easy dinner that can also be leftovers for lunches, I recommend this recipe.

*fingers crossed for a good coming week*

Monday, January 21, 2013

His and Her GBU (1/21/13)

Happy Monday!  I can say that because I have today off for Martin Luther King Day. :) Sean is at work so I am going to handle the GBU this week for the two of us. Here goes...

Incorporating Color

We had to get up really, really early on Saturday. I am not a morning person on any day of the week, but when my alarm went off on Saturday morning at 4:30...well, I will refrain from repeating some of the phrases I said. 
Source (Love this quote from The Gilmore Girls - it is sooo me!)
Because we got up so early on Saturday, we were able to run our errand then go to our favorite place for breakfast. Sean got a Monte Cristo sandwich (basically two slices of french toast with ham and cheese inside) and I got Cinnamon French Toast. It was incredibly delicious - as always!!!

I brought home some papers to grade and had every intention of getting that done on Sunday so I could spend Monday grading essays. However, I did not get anything school related done on Sunday so I am going to spend the rest of my day today watching the Presidential inauguration and trying not to get any paper cuts from all the papers I have to grade. I hate that I am a procrastinator! 
That's a recap of our weekend. How was yours?

Happy Monday,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

His and Her Week's Dinners

We try to not post twice in one day - too much of a good thing and a little bit of overkill. But we are so excited for the dinners that we planned for this coming week that we couldn't keep it to ourselves. Here's what is for dinner this week (click the photos to get the recipes)...

Walnut Oven-Fried Chicken from "Point-Less" Meals
We both love fried chicken, but - it is not exactly a great Weight Watchers food. Having the chicken oven fried and adding walnuts should make for a delish alternative.

Three Cheese Macaroni from Food Network
Picture of Three-Cheese Macaroni Recipe
We are going to add diced chicken when we make this. We are excited about the three cheeses - muenster, cheddar, and Parmesan - because they aren't traditional mac and cheese ingredients.

Oven Baked Skinny Shredded Chicken from Skinny Kitchen
We both love pulled pork and Sean had pulled chicken in Alabama and loved it. There will be lots of leftovers so Sean is going to have lunches for the week.

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili from Skinnytaste
We are loving our new crock pot that we got for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad!!). This should be a great dish to use the crock pot for and it's also only 5 Points for 1 1/4 cup which is incredible!

What's for dinner at your house this week?

Happy Eating,

His and Her Sunday Social (1/20/13)

We are linking up with Neely at A Complete Waste of Makeup and Ashley at Ashley Lately for their Sunday Social. This week, it's all about threes...
Sunday Social

Top 3 Favorite Kinds of Food
Amanda - Italian (pasta, cheese, and sauce - what's not to love!), Chinese (fried rice, chicken with broccoli - yummy!), American (hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue - all the great foods of a backyard cookout!)
Sean - Classic Australian foods - I have provided links to each to help explain what each item is. Meat Pies, Sausage Rolls, Rooster Rolls (I found this blog page who explains the rooster roll so well)
First 3 Things You Do in the Morning (Weekdays)

Amanda - Shower, MakeUp, Hair (I have the same routine every single morning)...all this happens with the local news in the background
Sean - Get dressed, Brush my teeth, feed the dog (It doesnt take me long to get ready so I have less things to do)
Last 3 Things You Do at Night (Weekdays)

Amanda - Pack lunch for the next day (one less thing to do in the morning), set the alarm (and dread it going off at 4:50), read (best way to relax from a long day)
Sean - Lock the doors/turn off lights etc, Brush teeth, Read (need to unwind)
3 TV Shows you NEVER Miss

Amanda - Top Chef, Project Runway, and is a great week when all these shows are running new episodes, like right now!!
Sean - I prefer to watch TV shows on DVD or Netflix so I can watch them back-to-back, rather than stretched out like the TV does. The only show I am currently watching in the current season is "The Walking Dead"
3 Places You Want to Visit

Amanda - I can only pick three!?!? This is going to be hard. Ireland definitely (with stops in Scotland and London because they are close by)...Egypt (to see the pyramids)...Russia (specifically Moscow and St. Petersburg)
Sean - Germany (to drink the beer), Monte Carlo (to see the Formula 1 track), and Port Macquarie, Australia in May (to participate in the IronMan triathlon)
3 People You Can Always Count On 

Amanda - Again, I can only pick three?!?! I am blessed to have many people in my life that I can count on. The top three on the list would be Sean (my hubbie is amazing!), my mom (because there are some days, regardless of how old you are, when a girl needs her mommy), and my dad (because I have no problem being 33 years old and a daddy's girl!)
                        ***Honorable Mention goes to all my amazing friends who are there for me whenever I need them
Sean - Amanda, and my two In Laws. They are family to me and they would help me in any situation.

Our favorite question to answer was the three places we want to visit, so we are asking that question of you all. Where are three places you want to visit?

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Her Donors Choose Success

How many teachers out there have ever thought, "I could really use ___ for my classroom, but I just don't have the money to buy it myself"? Well fret no more! There is a site out there where individuals and businesses are ready and willing to help you create the classroom you want, regardless of your budget or the budget of the school system you work for. Enter --- 

I will be honest - I was skeptical at first. I didn't think the site could work as well or as easy as people said. I was so wrong, so very, very wrong!

Donors Choose makes everything simple and easy. Once you set up an account, you can personalize your page however you choose. You choose a photo, connect to Facebook (if you want - you don't have to), add a link to your email signature (again, only if you want to), then you can make your first project.  

Click to see my DC page
There are ten steps - but don't let that number overwhelm you. You start by choosing the type of project - if you are just beginning you will shop at their eSchoolMall (which are stores they are connected with). Then you shop! They have everything from books to whiteboards to electronics. One of the teachers in my school system got a SMART board using Donors Choose! 

Once you have chosen what you want/need for your classroom, you write your request. They give you four prompts with character limits and you make your plea for why you and your students need the materials. At first I was nervous about this part, but the words flowed easily enough once I got started. 

Set your expiration date, proofread everything, and you are done! It is as simple as that. They provide sample emails to send to your students' parents if you would like also. The hardest part is the waiting to see if your project will be funded. It took less than a month for mine to be funded - I cried a little when I found out, I'll be honest!

When your project is funded, Donors Choose buys the materials and ships them to you. When they arrive you put together the "Thank You Package" which includes pictures of the students using the materials, a thank you letter from you, and - depending on whether the donors want them - thank you notes from the students.

The materials purchased for my classroom - well, one of each
My first project was a request for white board paddles, dry erase markers, and erasers. It was fully funded at $282. You can see the page here which gives you an idea of what a completed project looks like. My next project is already submitted - sets of books to use in my English classes. My fingers are crossed again that we will be funded. 

If you are a teacher and you are in need of supplies (and let's be honest - who isn't??), I highly recommend Donors Choose. Check it out and if you need any help or advice, I am happy to do what I can. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Her Photo-a-Day (Week 2, January)

FMS Photo-a-day, Week 2...this is what I captured...

1/10: One O'Clock
At 1:00 p.m., I am teaching an English class. At 1:00 a.m., I am snoozing so I can teach my classes. Couldn't do this one. :(

1/11: Water
I had my photo for this one chosen and forgot! I was going to take a picture of the construction zone that is the new school we are going to have next year - YAY!! - but Boo! that I forgot.

1/12: Surprise
When I started knitting, I found a group of women who meet-up once a week at different restaurants and coffee shops in the area to knit and socialize. They have welcomed me into their group and I really like knitting with them. When I went to the Saturday morning meetup at a local coffee shop (which had the best latte ever - put Starbucks to complete shame!!), one of the ladies had some "orphan" yarn that she was giving away. It was a nice surprise and now I just have to figure out what I want to knit with my new stuff!! :)

1/13: Circle
I love candles - I love how they make the house smell. I love, love Bath and Body Works three-wick candles. I love, love, love all things vanilla. Knowing all of these things, my sister gave me this candle for Christmas - Vanilla Snowflake.  

1/14: Something Yellow
My mother-in-law saw this sign years ago and decided Sean and I should have it. I smile every time I see it and think of her.

1/15: An Ordinary Moment

Sean made enchiladas - yum, yum! Alex decided he wanted some too. This is a very ordinary moment in our household. Dinner + a begging dog!!

1/16: Two Things 
There is a tea store nearby that sells every blend of tea leaves imaginable. This combo was a sample one night while we were walking by. It tastes sweet but cinnamon-y. Delish!

Happy Snapping!
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