Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Birthday Weekend Recap

 My birthday was last week and boy do I love my birthday. I can pretty much guarantee I will wake up in a good mood and I did just that. I opened a birthday present, a few cards and soaked in a few extra minutes with my husband at home with me! He's usually headed to work by the time I'm out of bed so it was a special birthday morning to get to sip our coffee side by side and start the day together. I also treated myself to Dunkin Donuts, because birthday treats are a must. And to me a birthday treat is a fancy coffee and a sprinkle donut (or 2!). 

And then it was off to work. While I am of the belief that everyone should have the day off on their birthday, no one has put that in action yet so I spent the day with 22 of the coolest third graders and they were all on their best behavior. Which meant extra recess at the end of the day, which is both a treat for them and for a tired teacher too! And after that last bell I was outta there! We had made plans to spend the weekend in Harrisburg/Hershey for a little getaway that wasn't too far. We both needed a change of scenery and my birthday gave us an excuse to say yes! And y'all it was such a great weekend. It was laid back and relaxed and full of the best food and time with my favorite person. 

We ate the most delicious birthday dinner at The Mill in Hershey. Seriously, if you live nearby you must try it. It's a cool atmosphere with a truly stellar menu. We had cripsy brussel sprouts that were honestly food magic. As in we asked for a recipe so I could try them at home. (I'll keep you posted on that one). And I surprised myself by ordering brisket for dinner! The waitress told me it was her favorite thing on the menu and I think it earned that spot well because it was every bit as delicious as it looks in this picture. Probably more really. And no birthday dinner (or let's be honest any dinner) is complete without dessert right? Peanut butter pie is the way to my heart and this one was particularly delicious. 

And because we're no longer cool and hip in our 20's we called it a night after dinner. Being 31 is pretty wild right? Saturday was full of adventures! We ate breakfast at the hotel and then I got to see a little bit of hubby's old stomping grounds. He had lived here before moving to our current home so I got to see all his old spots. Downtown Harrisburg seems like a great spot! There are some of the most gorgeous old homes right on the river and the capital building was a sight to see! I'm definitely not above the "touristy" things when I'm somewhere new.

After a quick trip to the casino, because why not, we were a little bit richer and ready to spend our winnings on a couple of beers and a soft pretzel the size of a bicycle wheel. I mean maybe I'm exaggerating but it was pretty huge. Also, can I just take this moment to tell you one of my favorite things about living in Pennsylvania? There are soft pretzels on SO MANY menus! And I think that is how it should be everywhere. 

This brewery was so fun! It's a favorite local one of hubby's and the vibe inside was great! A fun mural on the wall, yummy snacks and delicious beer made both of us pretty happy. 

And after a few beers what is a great idea? Axe throwing of course! Have any of you done this? It's become pretty popular! I had done it one other time and I think it is so fun. It's a little tricky to get the hang of, unless you're part viking, which apparently my husband is because he's a natural. But after you get the feel for it, it's a pretty good way to let off some steam. 

We ended our day by checking out a few local restaurants downtown for some sips and snacks including a super fun piano bar. It was a little italian place and I had a tiramisu martini which was dessert in a glass. And because no day out is complete with late night pizza we grabbed some before heading back to the hotel. Does it count as late night pizza if it's 9:00 and not 2am? As I said, 31 is wild y'all. 

Sunday we were headed home but not before brunch! Did we do anything besides eat? I'm not sure. We ended the weekend at Millworks (which is different from The Mill from Friday). It was another great spot though, a former mill turned restaurant with in house art galleries. The artists are right there on sight which I found super fun! Also... who thinks I need one of these firewood walls in my home? Just me? 

and they had the tastiest brunch menu. A savory bacon jalapeno donut, and friend chicken biscuits and sausage gravy. My southern heart soars when I find somewhere that does a yummy biscuit, especially if it also has gravy. I will say, I have yet to taste a truly southern version way up north here but this was close and filled both my belly and southern soul .

This weekend was filling in so many ways. Not only did we leave the weekend with full bellies but also my heart felt so full of joy and rest and ease from a weekend spent with the person who makes me the happiest and who knows how to make me smile and laugh like no one else. Cheers to 31, can't wait to see what this year holds!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Birthday Week Hodgepodging

 From this Side of the Pond

It's Hodgepodge time! Head on over to my mom's blog to join in the fun! 

1. Something you've done recently that required you giving 110% ?

I would say setting up my classroom. I have always tried to put a good amount of effort into getting my room set up but this year I really had a blank canvas to work with and I gave it a bit more umph than I have the past few years when I've been operating out of the same room. I tried to find new things to display, more ways to be organized, more books, more labels and more joy. And that last one- the joy in the hard- really takes me the whole 110% effort some days :) 

2. What task-sport-chore-hobby-activity have you participated in or completed, that if judged, would land you a perfect 10?  

Being on time. I am perpetually early and pride myself on not being late. I truly hate being late, even if the thing I'm late to is casual and no one cares. I care. I've always operated under the motto that "early is on time and on time is late". So I think if there was a competition for arriving early/promptly I'd definitely be awarded a 10/10. 

3. What are ten of your favorite things right now? 

1. Cooler evenings to spend on the porch.

2. My students' excitement for the end of our chapter book. 

3. New sneakers.

4. Upcoming weekend plans.

5. My nephews...they get to be on any and all favorite lists I make.

6. My new team at school, they're the best! 

7.  Lunch dates with my hubby.

8. Group texts with our favorite couple friends. 

9. Pumpkins...they're out people and I am here for it!

10. The Bible daily bible reading podcast.

4. Nine times out of ten I _________________________.

Snooze my alarm. I mean honestly it's probably more like 9.75 times out of 10. I've been trying to do better and have gotten myself down to just one snooze (as opposed to like 3) but it's definitely still a frequent occurrence! 

5. Where were you when the world stopped turning, twenty years ago this week? 

I was in my 6th grade English class with Mrs. Smalley. I had just turned 11 the day before. I can remember that day so clearly and the days after as well. And even at 11 I felt the shock, the pain, the  fear of our country and then the pride and unity. And still when I reflect on that day, I can feel the shock and the pain as clear as ever but the sense of pride and patriotism always overcomes it. 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

It's my birthday this weekend so I'm celebrating all week...which if you know my family you just know it's how we roll. But "treating myself" sure looks a little different a few days from 31 than it did when I was a few days from 13. Now it looks more like, splurging on Starbucks before work and eating ice cream from the tub on the couch, and going to bed early to watch Netflix in bed. Don't worry there are also some more exciting birthday plans for the weekend but for now, on a Tuesday evening as I write this, I'm pretty happy with the way birthday week is going so far! 

Monday, September 6, 2021

What's New?

 Me getting back to my blog after a brief hiatus? Well no that's not new at all. In fact it just seems to be the norm. I don't want to let my blog fall off completely though so I put it on my list for the weekend to get some words down about what's been going on in the last month or so. There's been ups and downs and a lot of traveling from my home, to my family's home and back again, and work and new beginnings and exhaustion. So it wont' be organized and it will probably be too wordy but here we go! 

Many of you probably know from either my blog or my mom's that my sweet Gemma had not been doing very well from late spring onwards. Unfortunately in July she took a turn for the worse when I was down at my parents. I was down their with the intention of enjoying the 4th of July on the lake and then bringing Gemma back up north with me. She'd been staying at my parents for a bit since we'd been out of town so much. However, life had some other plans and we had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to our fur baby. There were a lot of mixed emotions with this because I definitely didn't want my angel to be uncomfortable but she has been such a huge part of my life the last 7 years. She was with me through arguably the most challenging season of my life as well as the most joyful. And saying goodbye was not easy for me or my husband or my parents who have loved her as much as I have over the years. 

After a tough week at home, it was back up north for some down time with hubby and some interviewing for the upcoming school year in my local district. The role I had filled previously had been more of a long term sub so was not available for me to continue this year but there were several openings throughout the district. And I was thrilled to be offered a job teaching third grade at the same school I had been working at this past year. It's wonderful to be in the community I had become familiar with, and in a grade level that I have some experience in. I taught 3rd grade when I first started teaching so it was fun to see things come back around as I head into my 9th year. 

Photo Credit: Google Images- Reddit 

But before I could get too far into planning for the upcoming year I trekked back down to South Carolina one more time for the summer. Because I definitely could not miss the momentous occasion of my sister and her family coming home from South Korea where they've been stationed the last 2 years. They are moving back stateside and all of us were over the moon for them to be back in driving distance with a much less complicated time difference. 

If you've read here much, you know my nephews are my two favorite boys on the planet and it was so exciting to squeeze them in person after so long! I hadn't seen them since December 2019 and the littlest had only just been born a few weeks prior. They've both grown and changed so much in that time but are just as precious as ever. We celebrated T's birthday with a little family party, swam in the lake, went to the pool, played with all the toys, read 1,000 stories and snuggled as much as they'd let me. Little boys are awfully busy and can be tough to nail down for a snuggle. 

And having my sister home? The absolute best! We haven't actually lived anywhere near each other in about 10 years but the time difference made this distance particularly challenging and I am so happy to have her closer. To feel like we can live a bit more life together. She is my best friend and the absolute best sister :) 

The week at home ended with a beautiful bridal shower for my cousin who is getting married this fall. She is easy to celebrate and it was a joy to have all three of us under one roof...I'm honestly not sure the last time that had happened. It had been at least 2 years. And! Our Mema even managed to make it down for the shower, and it was so special to see her in person. The craziness of the last year and half really put into perspective how special and precious real life quality time is with the people you love. 

Unfortunately I had to get up and get going bright and early the next morning so there were some sad goodbyes at bedtime that night with the boys but it sure is nice to know it won't be another year and half until I see them again! Once I was back up north, hubby and I had a lovely visit with his folks who came up to spend a few days with us. I took zero pictures...except for this one of a charcuterie  board we had for dinner one night. 

Clearly I need to evaluate my priorities. But we did have a lovely week with them showing them around and spending time together. They hadn't seen any of the updates we've made to the house so that was fun and we got to show them all of our favorite spots in town- most of which involve food. Again, priorities right?

I spent the next week working in my classroom to get it ready for a new group of 3rd graders. I am really pleased with how it turned out and the spaces I created in a short amount of time. The room was totally empty and bare and it had been a while since I'd had such blank canvas to work with, which was both fun and a bit overwhelming. But we're a couple weeks into school now and things are going smoothly so it seems I did alright. I've snapped a few pictures that will give you a little tour of the room. 

This bulletin board, on top of our whiteboard was the first thing I did in my room after unloading what felt like a million boxes from my car. I love it! It's not always visible if I have the projector down but it makes me so happy when it is. 

This is the view looking in from the door. 

The front right of the room holds a spot for writing anchor charts, and some space to support our math work. You can also catch our cursive alphabet up top.
The front left of the room has our library, as well as space to support our reading instruction. 

The back of the room has a spot for kids' work to be displayed, their birthdays and this really awesome affirmation poster to remind them all how wonderful and valued they are in our classroom. Ignore the two random letters handing there- that was a first day activity. 

The sweetest of friend got me these little prayer cards. There is one for each week of the school year with a different verse or prayer for the week. I keep the one for the week on my desk where it's easy for me to see each morning or throughout the day and I love it! 

The first week or 2-3 weeks of teaching are the most exhausting. I always seem to forget it until I'm in the midst of it but those days of figuring out the routine and getting to know the kids and sorting out a hundred different logistics and introducing new curriculum wear me down. But things have gone really smoothly and I'm loving this year so far! 

This is my first day of school's hard to tell but under that mask I am smiling and ready to go! 

Thanks for hanging in there for this small novel of my life lately! Hopefully it isn't another month before I'm back here again. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

What's in a Name?

What's in a name? I'll tell you... its paperwork. 

I am knee deep in the process of changing my name. Or to put it more appropriately, up to my eyeballs in various forms, websites with instructions, phone numbers to call, and certified copies of everything. Why, oh why do they make it so complex? I feel that somewhere along the line there should have been an invention where when I make the first official change via the federal government, ya know that big group of people that is over all the other places I need to change my name- that change should just be passed on down the line to all of the other things. 

But no...apparently no one has come up with that yet. Apparently, they aren't even working on it as an option. So I've mailed things to social security, I've made two- I repeat TWO trips to the DMV and various other trips to the post office in order to get things sorted. Why two trips to the DMV you ask? Didn't you look online ahead of time for what you would need? 

Of course I did! I came so prepared with all the things, in the order I knew she would ask for them. And right before she told me something was wrong, the gatekeeper of the DMV had just commented on how prepared I was. But due to some very unclear language on their site, what I had brought with me did not meet appropriate requirements for proof of address. Here is where it should be noted that I was not changing my address. I live at the same location I lived at before I changed my name. And both names are on my marriage certificate. And the paper I went home to get had the same address as the one I'd already been holding. Mrs. Gatekeeper did not seem to grasp the ridiculousness of what they were requesting from me. How does one have mail in their new name delivered without changing their name first? 

So I was sent home to collect something else and return. Good thing the DMV is just around the corner from my house right? Oh's not. It's 20 minutes away. But I returned, and I smiled as I went back up to Mrs. Gatekeeper because I imagine people fuss and roll their eyes at her a lot- so I did that in my car instead of to her face because I feel pretty confident she didn't make these rules she has to enforce. 

Fast forward to that afternoon, feeling so accomplished to have 2 major pieces of identification with my new name complete, I looked up a list of things you need to make sure you change once married, not wanting to miss anything. I discovered that those major legal pieces that you need to change right away are only a fraction of all the things that need doing. Why is our name in so many places?! And I ask again...why is there not some magical database where now that I'm legally this new name, everyone just knows it?

So if you need me between now and December, that's what I'll be doing and even then I'm pretty sure I'll still be finding odds and ends that are not up to date. 

This was a word heavy...picture lacking post. Because there aren't many fun pictures to take when at the DMV and post office. So I will leave you with one more tidbit about life these days. 

Hubby and I spent Sunday evening with a friend at a small live music event. It's in someone's backyard and is free to anyone and everyone through word of mouth. The couple that sets it up does it out of the goodness of their hearts just so people can come together and enjoy some summer live shows which is so hospitable and lovely. It was warm but not hot, the band was excellent and company even better. 

This is the man who's name I am running all over town to have. And it makes me the most proud to be his wife and have his last name. It's weird giving up your own last name, or in my case moving it to the middle. It can feel a little bittersweer as you're writing it down on all those many forms. But looking at my new name on my new license- our name, the name for our family and future children, the name that represents our live together fills me with nothing but joy. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Back At It...With the Hodgepodge

Breaking my blogging silence with a hodgepodge...I will be back to regular blogging soon I am sure of it. I feel like I have a bunch of things to blog about but then the more time I leave it the trickier it gets to get back to it. But I'm doing the manageable thing for now and hodgepodging. You can link up too over at my mom's blog

From this Side of the Pond
1. Tell us about one small blessing you have counted in the past week? 

Summer break! It's not really even a small blessing, it's a big one but this summer has been a necessary refresh I'm so thankful for that time to rest, recharge and time with family. 

2. Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14th...have you ever been to France? Any desire to visit or re-visit, and if so what site or city would you most want to see? (pretend for a minute international travel isn't an issue) 

I have been to France..more than once lucky for me! I blogged about some of my travel experiences during my month long A-Z writing challenge. I have been fortunate enough to have been to Paris, Normandy and Chamonix. All trips were very different and each part is special in a different way. Paris feels like a very traditional or typical experience that you're expecting from France complete with all the cafes, crepes and the Eifel Tower. Normandy is steeped in history and Chamonix was filled with snow and skiing. If I were to return, I'd go back to any of the above places I mentioned, but would love to see parts that I've missed- areas in the south probably such as Cannes.

3. A food associated with France that you love? 

Cheese. I love cheese and the french do it well. And bread. I mean, who doesn't love cheese and bread? Not to mention you can get crepes all over the place! 

4. Something you recently purchased where a coupon was involved? Do you regularly shop with coupons? 

Hm, I feel confident it was at CVS but I'm not sure what. That's just really the only place I use coupons. I shop sales for sure and sometimes get digital coupon codes from companies I've subscribed too but it's not a regular occurrence. Did anyone ever watch that show "Extreme Couponing" ? I used to find that fascinating...they'd go into a store and shop the sales and deals then shell out a whole bunch of coupons and pay NOTHING for groceries! Or I even saw some where the store owed them money back. 

5. You have to give something away this week...what will it be? 

Shoes. I've decided I have too many shoes for someone who wears like 3 pairs on a regular basis. I've been trying to find ways to downsize our belongings so I've been on the lookout working through different areas and while I've trimmed down my closet pretty well clothes wise...the shoes are an issue. 

6. Insert your own random thought here.

As I said earlier, I'm going to be working to get back into blogging so stay tuned for more from me. But for now, I will leave you with a wedding picture because we are celebrating 6 months of married bliss this week. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Honeymoonin' (Part 2)

Where does the time go during summer vacation? I had every intention of writing this post last week but alas, I was busy with who knows what that it got away from me. When we left off last week, we had finally arrived in Grenada after a bit of a stressful travel day and a few too many nose swabs in my opinion but we were there! 

We had a lovely dinner at one of the 10 restaurants on the property that first night after getting settled into our room. Particularly given some of the travel restraints still in place, it was so wonderful to be at such a fabulous resort. Where we still got to enjoy dinner at a new restaurant each night and over indulge in all the deliciousness. Our first official full day was spent at the beach. We got up early the next day (husband is an early bird and he's working on getting me to become one too) and headed down to the beach where our chairs were already set up for us, under the umbrella with a cooler of drinks and towels ready to go. While the butler service is definitely not a must, and a bit over the top, it was super fun to be pampered on our special trip. 

The beach at this particular sandals isn't huge but its beautiful. They have two areas jettied off to allow for some calm shores and the chairs are spread out a bit so you're not right on top of your beach neighbors. And it never felt overly crowded or anything less than relaxing. Our butler had also set up a snorkel trip for us for that afternoon so after some relaxation, dipping our feet in the ocean and a walk down the beach we headed over to watersports and loaded up for some snorkeling.

As you can see, we ended up with gorgeous weather for the trip. We arrived on a Saturday and didn't see any rain until Wednesday. And even then, it was a quick downpour and then done, never ruining the day. 

It was after our snorkel trip that we wandered to a separate area of the resort that we hadn't explored yet and found ourselves at the swim up pool bar. So fun!

We toasted our first full day with some yummy frozen drinks (a must when you're on vacation) and decided that this is where we'd camp out tomorrow. At what our butlers fondly call the "party pool". The resort has a couple of pools, including 2 main large pools. One is right off the beach and the other is towards the other side of the property, complete with a swim up bar and some games and entertainment each day. I was a big fan of the trivia! I've decided that trivia, which I love anyways, is even better when you're standing in the pool sipping on a daiquiri. 

And so this is where we spent the next couple of afternoons. Hanging out in our personal lounge chairs, or in the water. We made friends with a few other couple that were vacationing there as well which filled our days with even more laughter and fun. Hubs even played a few games of pool volleyball. And after a day of sunshine, we would head back to our room, maybe take a final dip in our swim-up pool before getting cleaned up for dinner. 

After dinner each night we typically would head over the "living room" which is a communal bar space where there was nightly entertainment. We'd play pool, or enjoy the live music or show for the night. 

Our "couple friends" from the week! And unexpected bonus for the trip was new friends!

Unfortunately due to island restrictions, they weren't offering their usual off property excursions. Initially I was worried, we would end up feeling like we didn't have enough to do but honestly I loved getting to stay on property the whole time and relax by the beach and pool. But even without excursions they still have their usual watersports and activities. So like I said earlier, we were able to snorkel early in the trip. And a couple of days later we took an island boat tour where they take you around the coast to give you a feel of the island outside of the resort. 

The island is beautiful and if we come back, I'd definitely love to explore it more. But we were able to see some of the downtown of St. Georges's, the vet school, and Oprah's house! 

And during this trip we were able to talk with another couple who talked my husband into signing us up for Snuba!  

What is snuba you ask? It is a snorkel/scuba combo of sorts. You have a regulator attached to an oxygen tank like in scuba. But unlike scuba that tank is actually sitting on a float, not your back, and you are connected via a long hose. It allows you more freedom than snorkeling, and you can go to about 20 ft. They have you practice with the regulator in the pool the day before you take your trip so your comfortable. Although I still needed some warmup time in the ocean before feeling comfortable to go under all the way, with the weight belt. Hubby was a rockstar and loved it! I enjoyed it, but was definitely a bit more hesitant. I'm going to share a bit more about our snuba trip hopefully in a later post once we get our underwater photos developed. Apparently, disposable cameras are so rare these days, it takes weeks to develop... So stay tuned on that one! 

That was Thursday, only a couple days before leaving and so that last full day we had, was spent enjoying every second of sunshine we could at the pool and a special last dinner at their french restaurant. 
We were able to snag these pictures before dinner I love them! The evening sky behind us, the palm trees, the sunkissed faces and relaxed smiles after a week of paradise.

It was the perfect celebration of our marriage and all the joy that's to come! 

Here's to many, many more! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Honeymoonin' (Part 1)

Well multiple loads of laundry are done. Groceries are shopped for. And my weather app tells me that it's only 60 degrees outside. So I guess that means, we're back from our honeymoon. Hubs and I scooted off to paradise last week for our delayed honeymoon. We got married in January, but due to a bunch of travel restrictions opted to wait until now to actually take off. And let me just tell you that even waiting almost 5 months, there were still a whole bunch of hoops to jump through. Travel verification forms, and authorizations from the Grenada government, and several covid tests but we were finally ready to go! 

We have two sweet dogs, and one of them is pretty medically fragile these days so we wanted to leave them with family. So Friday, we loaded up the car and headed down to meet up with our families, enjoy dinner together and leave the dogs. Can I just pause here for a moment to share  how awesome it is that our parents get along so well? I love that my parents and in-laws are friends- it is just the best! Moving right along, we were up bright and early to head to the airport. We arrived at the airport with what we thought was PLENTY of time- 3 hours. But as we walked in the airport we realized that may not have calculated that correctly. Because apparently, the entire state of North Carolina decided that was the day to travel internationally. After waiting in the longest line of my life and running through the airport (an experience I would like to never repeat), we skidded into the gate as they were boarding the plane. Whew! 

But 4ish hours later. We landed in Grenada and headed straight for customs. We were going to be staying at the Sandals resort, which meant we could forgo the covid test at the airport (since Sandals does them on site for you) and after the quick little shuttle we were greeted by the world's friendliest staff with cool towels to beat the heat and our butlers for the week. Yep, butlers- you only honeymoon once right?  After our quick nose swab and negative results we were given a short tour of the resort and escorted to our room where a bottle of champagne and hors d'oeuvres were waiting for us. 

And we toasted to our marriage, paradise and the rest our lives.

This post was a bit more long winded than I had anticipated so you'll have to stay tuned for the rest of our trip until later this week...