Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

As part of our working towards eating healthier, we've been searching for new recipes to try that are outside of our comfort zone.  Enter butternut squash soup.

I read quite a few before deciding to sort of take a little bit from each one in order to come up with my own.

My husband cleaned his bowl.  I cleaned my bowl.  Our son (16 months) cleaned his bowl plus another half!

I will note what I'll likely change for next time below the recipe/pictures.

**You'll need:
2 large butternut squash
2 T butter
Oil (we used veg oil)
2 Granny Smith apples (peeled and cored)
1 pint Half & Half
2 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth

We chose organic because we only give baby J organic stuff.  You can use whatever, but we figured this might make it a smidge even healthier for us to keep it to more natural products.

First- you'll need to roast the squash.  There are NUMEROUS opinions on this, so we just went with cutting them in half, placing them on a baking sheet cut side up, and then brushing the tops with oil and sprinkling on salt/pepper.  We did almost an hour in the oven on 350.  The flesh scraped out pretty easily.

We love our Ninja!
Once it was roasted, we scraped the flesh out and put about half a squash in the blender at a time.  I poured some of the stock and cream in as well as apple slices each time.  I'd empty each batch of that into a soup pot.  Be sure to keep enough of your liquid ingredients so that you can have some for all 4 halves of squash!

Once it's all completely blended, put the pot on a burner on medium heat.  Use a separate small pan to brown your butter (best I can tell that means melt it and simmer for a second).  Pour that into the soup and mix thoroughly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (*My husband added way more salt and pepper and some other seasonings to his once it was done.)

Cook through for a few minutes.  We served with bacon crumbles on top, but I'm really interested in trying feta or something next time as a garnish.  I also read that creme fraiche is a yummy finishing touch.  Up to you!

 Tada!  The finished product!  It was quite yummy and there was a TOOOOON of soup!  We'll have this for a few meals to come!  We're going to have some organic French bread with it next time.

*We used a peeled carrot in there and I could tell and didn't care for it.  The bacon crumbles were good, but I felt they took away from the soup rather than adding to it.  That's why I think a cheese type garnish would be better.

Please let me know what you think if you try it!  I'd love to hear back!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas...the morning after

Remember how I said that I was going to paint one of those play things?  Lemme tell ya about it....

So first of all, "we" were supposed to get paint for the last month.  "We" should have just gone and bought it but instead "we" got it two days before Christmas.  I ended up painting off and on for a few hours on Christmas Eve night (while the other half was working and little bit was sleeping).
So- a couple of things the blog I went off of didn't tell or couldn't have known.
1. Lowe's doesn't sell Krylon, so we asked about what sorts of paint we should use.  We were told three different kinds would all work for plastics.  They did "work" as in they painted the plastic.  However, it's not the finish we were really hoping for.
2. With this sort of thing, you have to shove pieces together to lock them safely into place.  Shoving = paint being smudged/scratched.  Major irritation when I spent hours painting and have a pretty sore spray finger.
3. The paint we used (which was indoor/outdoor for plastics) did NOT dry as fast as the blog said they would and were tacky even the next day, so more paint peeled/popped/whatever'd off when we touched it for too long.  MAJOR boo.
4. The painting of the slide makes it less slide-y.  He doesn't really slip down it like he should.  Not the worst thing, but not the best.
5. The thing still smells after drying in the garage (slightly open garage door; had fans pointed at it) for 24 hours.  It's not bad, but I can definitely smell paint.

The price of my son's happiness... I still have blue paint on the underside of my upper arm and it's been just over two days.  Awesome.  

Now for the good stuff. 

 He friggin' loves it.  We had to even let him open some presents in there because he wouldn't come out.  He's played with almost everything up on it or under it in the dark part.

Personally- this is my favorite part of it... when his legs are all flail-y while he tries to climb in the side.  (Yes- I help him, but it's hilarious.)  He is working so hard and is going to have fantastic muscles from climbing all over this thing!!

 Heaven forbid we put the flashlight down long enough to go down the slide... it must come with.

Gotta admit- it does look cool when he uses it underneath because it lights up all over the place.
 He loves his personal clubhouse. It's so funny to watch! 

All in all- it was totally worth it for him to love it so much.  HOWEVER--- I do not recommend you undertake this when you have any sort of approaching deadline nor do I recommend thinking it's gonna look perfect when you're done. Just be aware that it's going to look ok and they will love it and won't care one bit what colors it is.

PS- orange and blue = GO GATORS!!!!!!! <3

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Everyone Sucks

Doctors, people with advice, the pharmacist, and everyone else in the world sucks.  None of them have figured out how to magically make my sweet boy feel better yet, and thereby are all sucky and unhelpful.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

'Tis the Season to Eat

We had a Christmas party last night and we were all supposed to bring an appetizer.  Well- when I asked what everyone planned to bring, I found that most of my stand by recipes were already being made by friends.

So- where to turn?  The mothership of all ideas... Pinterest.

These were pretty yummy!  However, I think the Sangria part was overstated.  None of us liked it.  I wish I'd used Barefoot or something sweeter.  I also think poking holes in the grapes with toothpicks would have worked better.  All in all, though, they were super easy and people really liked them.  :)  The full recipe can be found on a link on this girl's page.  I like her post best because she calls them Snozzberries and who doesn't like that?!

The other bit of yummy I want to share is a pretty healthy recipe I found (also from Pinterest... of course).  It's a quinoa Mexican dish.  It was pretty yummy!  We forgot the lime and cilantro and I liked it fine--- for his second helping, hubby added it and I didn't care for it.
Anyway, for a healthy recipe, I'd give it a 9.5.  For a recipe of any kind, I'd give it a 7.5.  (Be honest... a piece of bacon gets a 10 on the regular scale... a quinoa dish isn't gonna rank as high if bacon is in the same competition...)  It was very flavorful and even baby J liked it!  It was a smidge spicy for him though so we let him out of eating the whole helping.  I'll probably cut the jalapeno amount in half for next time.  Still- hubby and I agree it was very filling and tasty for a healthy dish.  We plan to have it once every couple of weeks. :)  **Had to come back and add the link because I forgot... here ya go! :)
DON'T skip on adding avocado to the top.  TOTALLY makes the dish!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Garcinia Cambogia

So I bought into all the hype and we tried the Garcinia Cambogia stuff Dr. Oz discussed.  We bought the Pure Green Coffee stuff to go with it because it was supposed to help with the weight loss.

I'm announcing today that I and my husband lost a grand total of...........

three pounds.


I'm pretty sure that was because he forgot to eat dinner yesterday.  I lost none myself.

You're supposed to take two of the GC pills with one of the Coffee Extract pills 30-60 minutes before breakfast and lunch.  Did it.  Then you take two GC pills 30-60 minutes before dinner.  Did it.


Ugh!  Nothing like having to constantly wait to eat behind everyone because it's not long enough for the pills to kick in and then they still don't work! :(

I think all the positive reviews are because people were way changing their diet (which isn't supposed to be necessary)... and the diet change caused the weight loss that they attributed to the pills.

Anyway- lesson learned.  Don't waste your money on this stuff.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Presents, Presents, and More Presents

Ok so I'm still buying presents.

I know, I know.  He's not even two.  He doesn't need a lot of stuff.  I know. But I'm still buying presents.

Here are a few more things I just ordered from Amazon.

 I found this bib by accident.  It already is embroidered!  It's super cute and I had to have it.  End of story.
 Our son loooooooves animals and looooooooves anything that is obnoxiously musical or noisy.  This should fit the bill on all accounts.  I'm sure I'll regret it about ten minutes after I give it to him, but he'll be happy.
I've looked for one of these puzzles for forever.  They're too expensive, in my opinion, for puzzles.  I almost broke down and tried making one but then I laughed and remembered who I am and the likely hood of that ever actually happening.
So- for $20 or so on Amazon- I broke down and bought one.  Baby J loves maneuvering locks and switches and the like, so this should be a big hit.
*He figured out how to let my parents' dog out in about five minutes before he was a year old...I'm hoping this doesn't mean I'll need bail money in the future because he's picked bigger locks...ha!

Maybe I'm finished... probably not.  I have a shopping problem and Christmas just feeds it.  I love giving presents though!!!

What are y'all giving this year?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Teachers are Tired

If you teach (or if you're a parent), you know how tiresome it is to repeat yourself or invent something awesome only to have it flop.  It sucks. That's why I have become addicted to Pinterest and TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers, for those of you who haven't found this miraculous site yet).

I find tons of resources on these two sites... now if only I could find legislation that would allow me to just teach.  Wonder what I could search on Pinterest to find that? ;)

Well, in the spirit of Julie Andrews, Oprah, and Christmas, here are a few of my favorite things.  Feel free to steal for free.

1. I love teaching writing using the 4 Square method.  Yes- it can be paired with 6+1 writing traits.  It's a fantastic way to have third graders generating five paragraph essays by mid year!  I adore it!  (Downside- SC just decided that our writing test will be timed.  Students will have 30 minutes to write a cohesive essay.  That's just stupid.  I wouldn't be done in 30 minutes if I knew it was for a huge test like ACT!)
Anyway- I <3 4 Square.  You should, too. ;)

This is the super basic form of what 4 Square is.  It's a prewrite that includes a topic, 3 reasons, 3 details about each reason, a conclusion sentence, and transition words.  It's pretty thorough.

This lady's wiki gives a good overview and several resources to help you get started.

I've been using 4 Square ever since my student teaching (10 years now) and I think it's the best way to help kids organize their thoughts without having it be too formulaic.

2. Picture writing prompts

Here's what I do.  I'll post something like this gif here or a picture of something cool (I have an entire bag of 60-something magazine pictures that are backed on construction paper and laminated) and have students use this as the prompt for their writing.  Genuine writing doesn't come from a written prompt-- I don't recall having a prompt in front of my face outside of a classroom.  For students to be true writers, they have to be able to respond to things that are around them... what they see.  So- this seems to accomplish that.

If I want to be really mean, I'll wait until they've gotten about halfway through a story and then pass out another picture they have to incorporate into their writing (whether it's a setting change or new character or explosion... ).  They hate it and love it all at the same time.

Here are a couple of pictures I use regularly for writing prompts.  These are by far the most popular of the ones I post on the board!  The most popular ones from my bag are 1. the atomic bomb mushroom cloud  2. the litter ad that has a giant cat taking over a house (like the tail is coming out of the chimney... very Alice in Wonderland)   3. the inside look cross-section photo of a dinosaur egg   and 4. the girl running through the woods (they usually go scary with that one).  Most of those are from my old magazines or Nat Geos.  I don't ever use kid magazines.  Why?  They're used to those.  That's what makes my pictures cool... they're new. :)

3. Book Talks/Previews

I have several book series' that are near and dear to my heart.  I'm linking websites so you can investigate because I have neither the time nor the words to truly express how much I love them!  They're books that were truly life-touching for me and thus I try to find students who need these stories as much as I did.  (No- not because of anything bad... just because my heart loves wrapping up in stories.)

     The Dear America books are for somewhere between grades 3 and 8, depending on student levels.  My America books are more for grades 2-3.  Our America are much harder... upper middle to high school.  The ones listed on this site are just a few of the titles, but there are tons.  They're all diary format and from the point of view of a child (of various ages).  

This is one of my favorite, most helpful titles.  I use this one during our Revolutionary War unit.  It tells of this girl's experiences at the time.  The best part is she's the same age as my students so they get to hear what life was like for someone their age during such a difficult and important time in our country. 
My absolute favorite one is the Royal Diary story about Elizabeth I of England.  This book started my absolute love of British literature.  (I had an amazing Brit Lit teacher in high school, too, so that just fueled my fire.)  This story is from Elizabeth's point of view and it is just so intriguing given all that was going on at that point in England's history.
*Side note- I'm taking students to London this summer and I can't wait to walk where she walked!!!!
The Royal Diaries are fantastic ways to get your princess stories in while showing strong, fearless, and wise female characters.

Here's my TpT store, where you'll find bits of this and that.  No- they're not all cutesy like most people's posts.  They're more content-focused (IMHO).  :)  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Scgatorgirl

I'd love to hear back about some of your favorite things!  Whether you're teaching a room full of students or you're teaching a little love bug or two at home, lemme hear your ideas!  

PS - this is so totally me right now with the new writing timed stupidity.  Thanks to RDJ for keeping it real. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

My life right now....

That is all.

Warm, Yummy Goodness

Ok so today's share isn't as healthy as yesterday's, but it's super comforting in the wintery months.  Definitely visit this blog to see the full recipe for this tortilla soup!

What we do different:
-low fat milk instead (she suggests it as an option)
-use the cooked chicken once we've chopped it into smithereens with our chopper thingy
-FINELY chop the onions or they're too strong (be sure it's yellow not white... speaking from experience here)
-I actually prefer it without tortilla chips, but that's just me. :)
-top with avocado bites

Yes- it reheats well.
Yes- cheese is really good on top of it.
No- sour cream isn't really necessary on top because it's already creamy.

When she says large pot- she ain't kidding!  I nearly drowned my stove the first time I made it.  (That could have had something to do with putting too much stock in, but whatever...)  Just- use your biggest pot, ok?

Kudos, Jenna.  Your soup rocks!