Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Snapshots: The Australian countryside

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

Today's photos are from the Lithgow area in Australia. Lithgow is a few hours drive west of Sydney and sits nestled up against the Blue Mountains. My dad grew up here and some of my Dad's family still live there. On one of our visits there we went to a few areas where I could get some great photos of the Australian countryside. Below are some of my favourites.

This is part of the Capertee Valley. It is like seeing a smaller version of the Grand Canyon but is covered with trees.

Some trees that were burned by a recent bushfire. Even though the fire occurred just a few months before this photo was taken the area has already started to grow back.

View from the top of one of the hills near Lithgow. The view from up here was stunning as you could see for miles in each direction.

This is one of my favourite photos from the trip. It's amazing how the plants can grow on the side of the rock and not fall off.

Do you have any lookouts or viewing platforms near where you live?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

His and Her What's for Dinner? Wednesday

This is our 400th post! That's a pretty cool milestone.

Our dinners this week are all ones we have blogged about recently. Rather than repeat those same links, I thought I would go back through the blog archives and find a recipe that Sean shared that I love! 

When I know I am going to have a long day, full of meetings or stress, I always ask Sean to make his enchiladas. They are delicious and they hit the spot each and every time. Back in February, he shared the recipe and the how-tos of the dish. They are much easier than you would think.

I am a huge fan of Mexican food (you can read about it and my other favourite foods here in America here). Although it may look difficult, Mexican food can be pretty easy to make from scratch. I used to buy the El Paso Chicken Enchilada Kit, but figured out it would be just as easy and a lot cheaper to make it from scratch. Here's how I make enchiladas:

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and cook about 1-2 minutes on each side until just brown. It's ok that the chicken will still be pink in the middle.
One of the times I made Enchiladas, I realized I forgot to buy the taco seasoning packet. Amanda found the recipe online (link below) and we have been using it ever since. I wrote it on the bag so I would always know where it is. You need 2-3 tbsp for this recipe.

Cook the chicken in the taco seasoning and a little water until the seasoning coats the chicken and you cook out a little of the water.
 Put a small amount of cheese on each of the tortillas.

Place about 4-6 pieces of chicken on each tortilla and then roll up.

Place the enchiladas into a pan. Drizzle the enchilada sauce on top and then sprinkle with cheese. Cover with aluminum foil. Place into a 425F / 220C oven for 24 minutes.

 After they cool a little bit, remove the aluminum foil and enjoy!

Here is the full recipe:

1- 1 1/2 LBS / 450-700gm of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
1 packet or 2-3 TBSP Taco seasoning (or use this recipe to make your own)
6 flour tortillas
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (I normally use a Mexican blend)
1/2 cup Enchilada sauce (or you can use the dry powder mix or make your own

To keep things simple you can use the taco seasoning packets and enchilada sauces from your local supermarket, but I recommend making your own. It's pretty easy and a lot cheaper (with a lot less sodium) than the supermarket brands. Plus you can adjust the spiciness of the seasoning and sauce to suit your taste. I have provided links to the recipes I use from, but you can use any recipe that appeals to you.

1: Preheat the oven to 425F / 220C.
2: Cut up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place into a skillet. Cook the chicken, on each side, for just a minute or two until the outside is just white. This will keep the chicken nice and juicy. The insides of the chicken should still be pink.
3: Put the water into the skillet along with the taco seasoning. Mix until the seasoning is well mixed over the chicken and then remove from heat.
4: Place a small amount of cheese on each tortilla. 
5: Place about 4-6 pieces of chicken onto each tortilla and roll up. Place them in a greased 9x13 inch / 22x33cm pan, seam side down. Place any excess chicken on the side of the pan, next to the enchiladas. 
6: Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place into oven.
7: Bake for approx 24 minutes or until chicken is 165F / 74C

That's it for a delicious and easy chicken enchilada dinner. Ditch the kit and make your own chicken enchiladas tonight!

See what I mean? Easy and delicious. Let me know if you try them, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Eating,

Monday, June 23, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Lombard Street, San Francisco

We saw a lot of San Francisco on our first trip in 2005 but we were disappointed that we did not get to see Lombard Street. It is one of the more well known streets in San Francisco and is often referred to as "The Crookest Little Street in San Francisco". When we returned a little over a year later on our way to Australia, we included Lombard Street in our itinerary. 

Sean: Lombard Street was pretty easy to get to which is not always the case with some of the landmarks in San Francisco. The top of Lombard Street is directly next to one of the Cable Car lines so we were able to ride right to it. From the street it looked just like any other street but as soon as you looked down the hill you could see just how steep it was. We spent about 15 minutes taking photos and heading to the bottom. It was a pretty steep hill but for some reason it wasn't as steep as I thought it would be. Once you wander down the hill and get a few photos, there really isn't much else to do so budgeting about 15 minutes for this stop is plenty. I was glad that I was able to cross this off my list of places to see in San Francisco but its one of those places that you really only need to see once in person. 

Amanda: It seems like every time people talk about San Francisco, they mention Lombard Street. So naturally I wanted to see it for myself when we went. We walked from the Cable Car to the top of the street and looked down. The view was spectacular (as are most in San Fran) and the street itself has beautiful landscaping. I was surprised to see For Sale signs; I didn't realize that homes were actually on the street itself. I think it would be pretty cool to say "I live on Lombard Street". We took the traditional photos and then we were done. I'm not sorry that we went to visit "The Crookedest Street in the U.S.", but I don't think I would go back.

There were a few people that took on the challenge of driving down Lombard Street.

 The landscaping was really pretty. I thought it would make a good backdrop for my traditional Lombard Street photo.

Sean standing on Lombard Street. 

    Looking back up the street, you can see how steep it really is.

You can see the whole street from the bottom.

Have you been to Lombard Street? What were your thoughts?

Happy Travels!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday Snapshots: Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

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

Today's photos are from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel connects the Hampton Roads area to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The structure that goes over the water is over 17 miles / 27km long and has 2 tunnels along the route. It provides a easy connection to Hampton Roads for the residents of the Eastern Shore. It is also a great route from Hampton Roads for traveling north to Philadelphia, New York etc as you bypass the Washington DC area and the traffic snarls that it always seems to have. Below are a few photos from around 10 years ago when we took a day trip out to the pier and visitor centre that is just before the first tunnel.

A view from the fishing pier that is just before the first tunnel. There is also a restaurant and a gift shop here. The pier can be popular with people fishing on a good day.

View from the pier back to Virginia Beach. Even though we are only a few miles out the city is almost on the horizon. When you are in the middle section of the bridge it is very hard to see land in any direction.

The first channel. The channel is here to allow bigger ships to access the Chesapeake Bay and the ports in Norfolk and surrounding area.

A navy ship going through the first channel. The world's largest Naval Base is nearby in Norfolk so it is not uncommon to see military ships going by here.

A map of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

The entrance to the first tunnel. It is a 2 way tunnel right now but there is discussion to build another tube so there is 2 lanes in each direction.

Have you visited the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel or something like it in the past?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Her Summer 2014 Goals

Hello Summer 2014!!!
Summer Clip Art

As much as I miss my students (you can read about that here), I am happy to be a "Lady of Leisure" as Sean calls me. Summer is a time to regroup and refresh. I love my job - don't get me wrong - but summer vacation is a great perk!

Like a lot of teachers out there, I have a to-do list a mile long for my summer vacation. I'm typing it out here so I can hopefully keep myself motivated to get it all done.

This is not as long as my list usually is, but I have quite a bit I want to get done for school.

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.

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.

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 year it looks like she is going to switch us to semesters (one semester Science, one Civics). This is the schedule I made for this past year that has to be revamped for semesters.

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.

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.

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!

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.

See! That's not that bad? Right!?!?

In addition to the school stuff, I have some fun stuff I want 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 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 want to finish my first pair of socks, finish my first cabled scarf, and start (and maybe finish) 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.

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?

That's my summer to-do list. It is going to be busy, but very fun I think. What made your to-do list this summer?

Happy Vacation,

Monday, June 16, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Venetian Gondola Ride

On our way back from Australia we decided to stop somewhere before heading home. The last thing you want to do after a 14 hour flight is hop on 2 more planes to get to the East coast. Instead of staying in San Francisco we decided to take an hour's flight to Las Vegas as the hotel rates were cheap and it was a place that we had never seen before. It would also give us a chance to see if Las Vegas was somewhere we would like to visit again. We didn't have any firms plans while we were there besides wandering through the casinos, but one thing Amanda wanted to do was a gondola ride at the Venetian Casino. I had heard it was expensive, but once I learned it was $18 a person I figured we could afford it.

The outdoor ride is at the front of the Casino
 They have an outdoor and an indoor ride. We chose the indoor ride since it was 106F/41C outside. The ride seemed to be in the back of the casino, but as long as you followed the signs it was not hard to find. The ride went down a short canal, under a couple of bridges and the gondolier sang a few traditional songs. It was fun to do once but  probably wouldn't do this again. I would consider doing the outside one as it looks totally different.

Amanda's Review: I have wanted to go on the gondola ride at the Venetian for years. I heard about it a while ago and have been enamored since. When Sean asked me what I wanted to do in Vegas, this was on the top of my list. We found the ticket office after a few wrong turns (definitely ask for help on this one) and was told it was a little bit of a wait. I would recommend going early in the day and getting the time you want. When we boarded the gondola, we were introduced to our gondolier and the other two women who would travel with us (you can pay for a private gondola but that was more than we wanted to spend). We traveled through the casino and admired the beautiful scenery and decorations. Our gondolier sang songs as we traveled and cracked some pretty good jokes. When it ended, the only thing I could think is "I want to go again". Maybe next time!

 Part of the indoor Gondola Canal

I loved all the little details they thought of throughout the casino.

The two ladies that we shared the Gondola with were nice enough to take our photo during the ride.

All along the canal were shops and restaurants. I would imagine it felt like eating lunch in Venice.

The Canal was beautifully decorated and made you feel like you were in Venice.

 Our gondolier had a good voice. I was impressed!

 The canal had other boats but they were spaced out enough so it wasn't crowded.

If you are in Vegas, I would highly recommend the Gondola Ride at the Venetian Casino. It is worth the time and money. 

Have you been to Las Vegas? What is your favorite attraction there?

Happy Traveling,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

His and Her: Weekly Recap

Today we are off to spend some time with Amanda's parents and celebrate Father's Day and Amanda's Mom's birthday. Today's post is a recap of what we blogged about this week so you can catch up on anything you may have missed.

His: First Sale on Etsy:  
Sean talks about his first sale on Etsy and what he has planned for the store.

His and Her What's for Dinner? Wednesday:
See what new recipes we found for dinner this week. Perhaps you will find a new favourite too!
Her Saying Goodbye:
Amanda shares how she says "Goodbye" to her students on the last few days of school.

Saturday Snapshots: Bicentennial Park
Some shots of one of the scenic parks in Sean's home town.

That's it for this week. Which post was your favorite?

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