Snack Time!

My in-laws came in town for the week, so I wanted to try a couple different snacks for us to have throughout the week. I made one savory snack and one sweet snack! Both are incredible, both will be made again. Neither of them are overly healthy, but neither of them are the most unhealthy, so I consider this a win! Also, both are very easy and relatively cheap. 

 

Ranch Crackers

-1 box saltine crackers

-1 1/4 cup vegetable oil

-1 ranch packet

-2-3 tsp red pepper flake

 

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. You will want to mix for a solid 5 minutes to make sure the crackers get an even coat of the ranch and pepper flakes. Put crackers in a large baking dish (I used our 11×14 glass baking dish). Bake at 300 degrees for 14 minutes, stirring halfway through the process. Let cool and store in an air tight container.

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I’m sure you could modify this recipe to use whatever spices you have/like. I could see this being good with onion powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and worchestire sauce. I also think this may be my new chili topping when the fall hits! 

 

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels 

-I bag pretzels (16 oz)

-1 cup vegetable oil

-1 cup sugar

-1 tsp cinnamon

 

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (this one mixes a little easier than the last). Pour on a flat baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes (this step is very important! The cinnamon-sugar mixture falls through the pretzels, so you need to really scrap the bottom to get the tasty cinnamon-sugar clusters). Let cool and store in an bag (I saved the pretzel bag). 

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This is one of the tastiest things I have made in a while. I was really afraid Travis and I would eat the entire batch before the Payne’s even showed up! The funny thing is the blog that I found this recipe on described this as a “Christmas Time Treat”. Trust me-this is an anytime treat! I will be making this year around!

 

Of course, Uno was helping me every step of the way!

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And by “help”, I mean eat pretzels when I drop them on the floor. 

 

Both of these snacks are great for in-law visits, graduation parties, games, or Tuesday. Happy snacking!

Summer Reading List

As I have mentioned before, one of the reasons I really like summer is I have the opportunity to read more. I really enjoy reading and have lots of great recommendations (and some on the Do Not Read List) for anyone that would like a good book. I’m on Goodreads (follow me!) and am part of the most incredible public library I have ever seen (Mid-Continent Public Library). Here are some books that I plan on reading this summer. I’ll let you know what I think of them! I may or may not make it through all these books this summer, but it is my goal. Some of them will also be pending I get them from the library this summer (I’m wait listed for a few of the popular new releases).  

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (I’m currently about 1/3 of the way through this one)

2. How to be Black by Baratunde R. Thurston (My kindle tells me I’m also about 1/3 through this one)

3. The Fault in our Stars by John Green

4. Inferno by Dan Brown (continuation of the Robert Langdon story, only 183 on the waiting list)

5. Crushed by Sara Shepard set to release June 4th (and I’m only #7 on the waiting list! Don’t judge me for reading the Pretty Little Liars Series, I spend majority of my time with 14 and 15 year old girls)

6. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (mom from Gilmore Girls, #39 on the wait list!)

7. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (writer and actor in The Office)

8. Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

9. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

10. In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin By Erik Larson (Travis is currently reading this one and likes it a lot)

11. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

12. The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (I read the first one last summer and really liked it, but didn’t have time to read it during the school year)

13. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (always try to get one classic in each summer!)

 

This puts me about reading about a book a week during the summer, which is pretty typical. WIsh me luck! If you are looking for a good summer read, here are a couple of suggestions that I have enjoyed reading recently. 

1. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (one of my favorite authors, and this is probably one of my favorite books by her)

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (kind of a weird one, but still really good)

3. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford 

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (this is the first book of a future series, release dates have not be made yet. I would guess it would be the next fad series)

5. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin 

 

And lastly, my books that you shouldn’t waste your time with. I’m the type of person to finish a book once I’ve started it, and these are some I really STRUGGLED through finishing. 

1. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (never got the hype about it, sorry)

2. Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult (mentioned above as being one of my favorite authors, but this one really missed the mark)

3. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (I think many people might disagree with me on this one since it was on The Barnes and Noble’s shelf for popular books for a pretty long time. I really enjoy reading World War II books and this one was just not one that kept my attention)

4. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (mystery series that I just couldn’t get into)

5. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (target audience is not mid-twenties, I’ll try this one again when I’m 60)

 

Time to cuddle up with my pup and a book in the window seat!

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School’s Out for Summer! 2013!

Hallelujah, we made it another year! The last couple weeks are always crazy ones at schools with finals, clean ups, and summer excitement. We had a field day for our kids today. Overall, it was a lot of fun (I was only able to make it out for the freshmen activities). But I speak for all teachers when I say 12:40 couldn’t come soon enough. I love my job and my students, but I really like summer!

 

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I had lots of up and downs this year (mostly ups) including our Pi Day celebrations, getting my desk “rained on”, playing on a volleyball team, having an AMAZING senior CAMP, learning more from my co-workers, and having hard working students. Overall a GREAT year at Benton High School! I’m ready to relax and prepare for an incredible 2013-2014 school year! Have a great summer and see you in August Benton!

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My Amazing Volleyball Team

Last night marked the end of the recreational volleyball league in St. Joe that I played in with a few co-workers and friends. 

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We have played in both a coed league and an all women’s league (I prefer all women’s). I had a fantastic time playing with these ladies and making some new friends (we did have two others on our team who couldn’t make last night’s game). We ended up taking forth in the league. Not too bad considering we have never played before and typically only played with 5 players. Looking forward to playing more with these girls at  Volley’s (sand volleyball) this summer and starting back up in indoor in the fall!

 

This is one of the primary reasons I love my job so much, I have amazing co-workers with whom I love spending my time with! Of course, I am there for the kids, but it really makes the job a lot easier, and much more enjoyable, to have such great co-workers!

 

How do you and your co-workers have fun? If you don’t have any kind of social interactions with your co-workers, I highly suggest it. It really does make the working environment so much more fun! 

Man’s Best Friend

I am a dog lover, always have been, always will be. 

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I grew up with little Desi (bottom left), who by the time my brother and I were around was a grouchy, old dog. But I still loved her. Then, when I was in middle school, my parents got Pandora (Pandy for short) a beautiful, fawn, retired greyhound. Pandy was a typical dog, very friendly and even won Parkville’s Most Talented Dog one year for her lovely singing voice. After Pandy passed, my parents decided to get another retired racer named Brazil (upper left). Brazil acts more like a cat than a dog. She spends a good deal of time alone in the bathroom unless there is a lawnmower outside; then she is glued to your leg in fear. 

 

Other important dogs in my life are my brother’s dog Annie (bottom right), my in-laws dachshund  Pepsi (Travis and mine’s Christmas present the year we got engaged) (upper right), and my friends dogs including Bentley, Paris, Rocky, Mopsy, Max, and Harrison. 

 

And i couldn’t forget my little ray of sunshine, Uno. He came into our lives quickly but I couldn’t be more happy to have him around. He has such a personality, he’s impossible not to love. 

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This morning, I finished reading the book Marley and Me. As I am finishing the last few chapters (and of course bailing like a baby), I wonder, “Why do humans spend so much time and resources on these things that give back so little?” We can say our dogs love us, but do they really just love the things we provide them? Almost on cue, Uno decided it would be a good time to snuggle, hopping up in my lap as I cry and finish the final pages of this wonderful book.

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John Grogan, author of Marley and Me, says it best, “Loyalty. Courage. Devotion. Simplicity. Joy. And the things that did not matter, too. A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges other not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not.”

 

I believe dogs, or other pets for that matter, bring out the best in us. Animals may not, or should not, be the most important aspect in our lives, but somehow they tend to intertwine themselves into some of our most important memories. Animals tie our families together and help knot up the strongest bonds. They make us, as humans, better. They make our relationships more meaningful. We Bought a Zoo says it best, “I like the animals. I love the people”. I would do just about anything for my little Uno, but the most important thing he does for me is make my family closer. 

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If you are looking for a good dog book, try The Art of Racing in the Rain. This is the only book that literally made me laugh out loud and cry like a baby within the same chapter. As I mentioned above, We Bought a Zoo is the movie of animal lovers. What books or movies melt your little animal loving heart?

His and Her Chairs

Since Travis and I have bought our house, I have learned one thing: I have no decorative style. I just pick things that I like and hope they all go together. 

However, Travis and I knew one thing we wanted when we first started furniture shopping, his and her chairs. Travis picked a very masculine, leather, wingback chair and I picked a sleek, geometric, blue-patterned chair. And hopefully to tie everything together, we picked out a grey, tweed couch with patterned pillows. We looked like crazies carrying color swatches and patterns to three different corners of Nebraska Furniture Mart to make sure everything would look good together. Of course, my girl chair had to be special ordered, so after a month of waiting, its finally in!

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I think my girl chair is pretty fantastic and Travis sure enjoys reading in the man chair! They may or may not “go” together, but we definitely got two chairs to match our personalities. I like to call them our Up chairs. 

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Of course, as Travis and I sit in our chairs, our little 13 pound dog gets the whole couch. 

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Any decorative tips? I would love to hear about them!

 

Chicken Tacos with Leftover Chicken Taquitos

One of the hardest adjusts when living with someone is learning to cook for two. I grew up in a family of 4, so most of my mom’s recipes serve at least 4. It took a good 1-2 years of living with Travis to learn how much food to make for dinner without having a huge amount of leftovers. 

One type of food that I have yet to master the amount: crockpot meals. Last weekend we made delicious cool ranch crockpot chicken tacos, but had so much leftover chicken! So tonight, we used that leftover chicken to make taquitos. Both of these recipes are pretty healthy (It all depends on how you serve your tacos/taquitos), and the second one used ingredients I already had at the house! 

Cool Ranch Chicken Tacos

-4 chicken breast

-1 packet taco seasoning

-1 packet ranch dressing

-14 oz chicken broth

Put all ingredients in a crockpot. Cook on low for 5 hours. Shred chicken before serving. Voila! Easiest recipe ever!

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As you can see, we put salsa and cheese on top of our tacos and served in the white corn crunchy taco shells (only 35 calories per shell) with a side of brown rice and veggies. So good but so much leftover chicken!! 4 chicken breasts shredded is way too much for two people, so I came up with this recipe (and by “coming up” with a recipe, I mean took 2 recipes and combined them). We did lighten up this recipe (I’ll make sure to make note of the healthier changes we made).

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

-2ish cups of shredded chicken

-6 slices bacon (we used turkey bacon, make sure it is CRISPY)

-1 package cream cheese (we used low fat)

-8 flour tortillas (Travis filled our taquitos nice and full and only made 7)

Chop bacon. Mix chicken, bacon, and cream cheese together. Put a few tablespoons of filling on a tortilla. Roll tortilla and place wrapped side down on a greased baking pan. Repeat until all tortillas are filled. Spray top of taquitos with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (The original recipe called to fry them in oil, but I thought baking would be healthier and much less messy). 

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Yum-o. We served ours with a copycat Chipotle guacamole recipe found here and some salsa. 

Do you have any good leftover recipes? I would love to hear them!