Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Randoms and a Funny

After what has been a long, emotional week for a lot of reasons, I thought today I'd just recap some random stuff and leave you with a funny.

1)  My son starts a kindergarten orientation camp this coming Monday.  I swear I thought we had an extra week between now and when he starts.  I am in denial that tomorrow is August.

2)  I think the second reason I'm upset that he starts on Monday is because that means I need to get in gear with my own school stuff.  I have to go into my building, start setting up, prepare lesson plans... and I have a feeling August will fly by as fast as July!

3)  I have spent entirely too much money lately on various things (some were necessities, though!), so I am putting myself on a spending strike.  Stay tuned.  This should be good.

4)  I have been really bad lately at keeping up with my blog reading.  I think the last time I checked I had over 200 new posts in Bloglovin' to read.  How does that happen so fast?  I. CAN'T. KEEP. UP. And I know I'll definitely get behind once school starts!

5)  I really have not been in the mood to cook lately, but I have to get back in the habit... fast.  Any good, easy recipes you can share?  I'm all ears!

* * * * *

And for your weekly dose of funny, check out this clip of Tom Cruise and Jimmy Fallon in a lip sync battle.  It's a bit long, so I recommend skipping ahead to the last song.  It gave me a good chuckle.

(source: YouTube)

Hope you have a great weekend!  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Remembering Leslie Sisti

Last night before bed, I checked out a few of the blogs I read and saw the tragic news that one of my blogger friends, Leslie Sisti of the blog "A Blonde Ambition," passed away earlier this week.

She was 30 years old and has two very young daughters.  My heart sank.  I cannot even imagine the devastation that her family and friends must feel, especially her husband.

(Click to read Leslie's obituary)

She had been having some heart-related problems after giving birth to her second daughter and was in and out of the hospital, but her positivity and optimism about her treatment was incredible.  I was and still am so very sad about this. Even though we were only virtual friends, her kind heart and giving nature was evident, and it was obvious that she was always meant to be a mother.

Today I am thankful for so much in the wake of Leslie's passing.  I hate that it takes something so tragic, though, to remind me of how much I have to be grateful for.  I am making a promise to be more mindful of this moving forward.

Please keep Leslie's family and friends in your thoughts and prayers as they cope with this unimaginable loss.  My heart hurts for them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's Up Wednesday - July Edition

Today I'm participating in a link-up called "What's Up Wednesday" with Shay, Mel, and Sheaffer!

What we're eating this week...
As you probably already know from my post on Monday, we're eating a slew of different stuff.  Last night we had lasagna, a green salad, and bread.  Tonight... who knows?!  I'll decide as the day goes on, I guess!  I sort of feel like just ordering pizza.

What I'm reminiscing about...
This past year being home with my son.  I came upon a bunch of pictures of us from last fall, and I can't believe our time at home together is almost over.  I'll be heading back to school when he does, and that will be our life for the next 15+ years.  Crazy.

What I'm loving...
The summer days of no routines, no schedules, no hard-core commitments.  I love that freedom.

What we've been up to...
Lots of swimming!  Lots of Lego-playing!  Lots of laundry!

What I'm dreading...
Going back to work in a couple of weeks.  Sending my son off to kindergarten.

What I'm working on...
School work -- already.  I hate it, but I've gotta prepare.

What I'm excited about...
An upcoming trip we have scheduled in September!  More to come on that later.
Networking with new blogger friends.

What I'm watching/reading...
Watching -- QVC, Real Housewives (Orange County & NY), Dateline, 48 Hours, reruns of King of Queens, The Big Bang Theory, Rules of Engagement, Seinfeld
Reading -- Lots of blogs, magazines, nothing too heavy.  Up next is Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  Can't wait!

What I'm listening to...
Soundtrack from the broadway show Finding Neverland.  I'm obsessed.

What I'm wearing...
Comfy stuff since I'll be back to dress clothes all too soon.  Anything with an elastic waistband is okay by me!!  I still believe all pants should be made like maternity pants.  They are the most comfortable things ever.

What I'm doing this weekend...
Going to a graduation party for a former student and heading to a family reunion on my husband's side of the family.

What I'm looking forward to next month...
Back-to-school shopping.  That's the only good thing about returning to school!

What else is new...
Nada.  And I like it that way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Trip to NYC for BlogHer '15 - Part 3

Okay, so I'm finally getting around to documenting the last part of my BlogHer trip to New York City.   The second full day of the conference was last Saturday, and it already feels light years away.

I got there early again -- this time with a grande iced mocha from Starbucks in hand because, well, why not?  (After all, my motto for the trip was "When in Rome...")

I grabbed some breakfast and entered the conference hall, purposely sitting with a new group of women to mingle with over eggs and bacon and hash browns.  They fed us well there!

Up first, we heard from Ayinde Howell.

I hadn't heard of him before, but he's a lifelong vegan turned well-known chef who has opened his own vegan restaurant in NYC.  He's also acted in a bunch of things I hadn't heard of that I found after Googling him.  I thought he was a really captivating speaker.  He was funny, witty, and informative.  He definitely got our day started on the right foot with his optimism and positivity.

Next was something called "The Pitch" where several women entrepreneurs presented their "inventions" - which ranged from literal inventions to organizations to non-profits.  Each woman had a short time period in which to give her "pitch," explaining the importance behind her creation.   Up for grabs was a marketing package worth something like $100,000 plus backing by the "She Knows Media" company.  Oh, and an Apple watch.

Here was the panel of judges who could ask questions of the women.
The winner was chosen by a mix of the judges' votes and ours.  Here are the presenters waiting to hear who won the grand prize!

I forget the name of the woman who won (I should have written it down!), but it's the woman who is the 5th from the left in the picture above (she's kind of looking down).

Then I headed to another breakout session.  I chose "You as a Brand: Brands & Bloggers."  This was, by far, the best session.  We learned about how to work with sponsors and become part of affiliate programs.

We returned to the grand ballroom for lunch and a keynote from supermodel Christy Turlington Burns (and wife to Ed Burns!).  She came to speak about the organization she founded called "Every Mother Counts" that aims to increase awareness about maternal health, especially for women who don't have easy access to that information.

Afterwards, we had one more breakout session scheduled.  For this last one, I chose "Social Media Bootcamp: Lightening Lessons on the Latest - Facebook and Pinterest."  I have yet to jump on these bandwagons, mostly because

a)  I'm a teacher and just think Facebook can be a bad idea, even if it is private

b)  I'll get addicted and these are time eaters (keeping up with my blog and the others that I read is time-consuming enough!).

I know I need to join the world of social media to increase my readership, blah blah blah, but going back to work soon in a new building in a new position with new people is stressful enough right now! One step at a time...

Before the closing keynote, we had a break to visit the Expo Hall again.  Fashion expert Carson Kressley was there as well as country singer Billy Currington!  In fact, I got an autographed CD:

And I'd like to give it away if you're a Billy Currington fan.  Leave a comment below letting me know if you're interested.

The closing keynote speaker was Ava Duvernay, director of the movie Selma.  She was interesting to listen to, and hearing what she had to say about breaking into the world of male directors in Hollywood was intriguing (sorry for the awful pictures... all I had to work with was my phone!).

From there, we were bussed to Pier 42 (or 43 or 44?  I can't remember...) for the closing party sponsored by McDonalds.

Upon arrival, I headed to grab a drink because the humidity was ridiculous!  A whole drink station was set up and I got a pink lemonade.  Apparently SVEDKA vodka was a sponsor, which I was unaware of until I ordered.  A nice man asked if I'd like my lemonade "spiked."  Um, yes.  Yes, please.
Here was the stage set up with a DJ so we had some music while enjoying Happy Meals, salads, fries, and beverages.  I actually didn't eat anything because I was saving my appetite for a dinner with my friend afterwards!
Soon after, Boyz II Men arrived (the 3 of them who are left in the band -- I still don't know where the 4th one is).  The ladies went cray cray.

And then went even more cray cray when the guys handed out roses, which, I'm assuming, were given them by BlogHer.  Good PR work.

I left after Boyz II Men performed because Nick Cannon wasn't supposed to get there for at least another hour.  Plus, I didn't really care if I saw him or not.  Oh, and I was hungry.  There was that.

I jetted back to Amanda's apartment and we went to Uva, a great little Italian place on the Upper East Side.  We shared a bottle of wine and the waitress brought out bowls with it.  She said you drink the wine from the bowls.  We were a bit confused, and Amanda asked for a wine glass, but -- remember my motto?  Yup.  When in Rome...
So I drank from the bowl.  And the wine was just as good!  (Sorry for the dark photos.  All of the restaurants we visited had dim lighting, which - if we're being honest - we all look better in anyway!)

After we split two (yes, two - they were small) appetizers, I opted for a type of pasta primavera dish with chicken.  It was delicious!  Amanda got pasta with a duck ragout sauce that was also good.

We headed back to her apartment after another long day, watched a little TV, and had some girl talk.

The next morning, before I headed back home, we grabbed brunch at a place called "The Barking Dog."  I got eggs, home fries, and bacon -- my standard -- but Amanda got a yummy brunch salad that I was jealous of once it arrived.  It had some lettuce and was topped with bacon, ham, cheese, chopped tomatoes, hard boiled egg, pieces of french toast...

Then I set off to Port Authority to catch a bus home.  Although I had such a wonderful time in NYC, I couldn't wait to see my family again!

Oh, and I have to mention this.  I was a little (okay, a lot) worried about what the state of our house would look like when I returned after the boys were home together for a few days.  My husband actually did a GREAT job of keeping things in order... better than I expected!  That just proves to me that he can clean up; he just chooses not to most of the time.

I still have so much paperwork to get through from the conference, but - all in all - I'm glad I went.  I met a lot of awesome women and discovered some avenues I plan on exploring in the future!

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you have a good Tuesday.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Meal Monday - Our "No Meal Plan" Summer

I am the worst at meal planning, but I'm even worse in the summer.  You'd think that someone like me -- a planner, Type A personality, the works -- would have it down to a science.  But no.  I definitely fall short in this area, and summer doesn't help because our schedule is all over the place.  In fact, I don't even think I should call it a schedule.  Our days are go-with-the-flow, and every day is different.

In terms of meals, we do a lot of grilling and "throw together at the last minute" stuff, like various types of salads.  It works for us, though.  I tried buying a week's worth of groceries to prepare nightly meals, but unfortunately we ended up not using all of the meat and I had to throw it away because it went bad.  I HATE wasting food, so since we're able to do quick grocery store runs, we just sort of decide the day of and go to the store to grab a few items.

We've also been grabbing food when we're out a lot, too.  I love eating out.  Eating out = no grocery shopping + no preparing + no cleaning up.  LOVE.  The only downside to this, obviously, is that it can get expensive -- fast.  I'm all about coupons and deals so we can enjoy meals out together without spending too much.

My son and I went to Wegmans the other night to grab a quick dinner and do some grocery shopping.  He loves sitting up above the store and people-watching with me.

He had pizza and I got a lemon-garlic marinated chicken sandwich.  I was too hungry to take a picture of mine, but it was GOOD.

My husband and I took D. to the movies earlier this week and we enjoyed some Mexican food afterwards at a place called "The Green Pepper."  It was right across from the movie theater and the food was really tasty.  Mexican food is some of my favorite!  We also sat outside because it (surprisingly) wasn't too hot.  I love eating outside!

My son had cheese quesadillas with chips and salsa.  He LOVES chips and salsa -- just like his mama.

My husband got a chicken burrito and it was HUGE!  His came with chips and salsa, too.
I opted for beef tacos because I've been in the mood for some tacos lately.  You just can't go wrong with a good taco, you know what I mean?
We had so many chips and so much salsa leftover that I put it all in a box and brought it home, and then I proceeded to finish it off myself.

We hit up Carrabba's a while ago (my son loves the bread and olive oil dip -- again, just like his mom) and I forgot to show you this.  THIS DESSERT IS LIKE HEAVEN ON A PLATE.  If you like chocolate, you should already be at Carrabba's eating this.  It's called the "Chocolate Dream," but I would have named it "The Best Dessert You'll Ever Eat in Your Entire Life."  It's that good.

The dessert is layered brownies, chocolate mousse (one of my weaknesses), whipped cream, and chocolate sauce.  The only bad part about ordering this is that my son and I eat it so fast because we fight over it, and then we don't get to fully enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed.

My in-laws have a little garden behind their house, and so far this year the cucumbers have been growing like crazy and are HUGE!  Have a look at the veggie drawer in my refrigerator:

So basically we'll be eating a lot of cucumbers this week.

Another thing I've been doing is making up little snack trays to pick on before or during dinner, like this one:

I just throw together whatever I have on hand.  This one has grapes, pumpernickel pretzel sticks, bread, Manchego cheese, salted almonds, and hummus.  I like to do this at night, too, when I'm hankering for a midnight snack.

Over the weekend, I made a big ol' salad with leftover grilled chicken.  I loaded that sucker up.

I started with spring mix and added peppers, hard boiled eggs, apples, sharp cheese and bleu cheese, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and - of course - the grilled chicken.  We topped it all off with a yummy bleu cheese dressing and I sliced a loaf of fresh bread to go along with it.  Oh, and of course we had whipped butter with it because, let's face it: life just isn't as good without whipped butter.  (I probably could have just eaten the bread and whipped butter.  Okay, maybe just spoonfuls of the butter.)  I will say, though... the salad was a lot more filling than I expected it to be!

One of the things I always try to do is make sure I have leftovers and that I use them.  So, for instance, if I'm going to clean and trim chicken (a job I absolutely HATE), then I do it in bulk and have my husband grill it all at once.  Then I have the leftovers for sandwiches or salads.

I'm definitely going to need to step up my game in the meal plan department once we're all back in school towards the end of August, especially because we'll all need packed lunches and quick breakfasts.  Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated!

Are you a meal planner, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?  Just curious!

Okay - hope you have a great week!

PS - I'm hoping to do a giveaway at some point this week when I recap the last part of my BlogHer experience.  Stay tuned!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Funny Friday - This Week Recapped & Autocorrected Texts

What a week!  Coming down from the high of BlogHer was exhausting.  I still have papers and business cards to sift through from all of the awesome people I met, and I'm trying to catch up on laundry and sleep and all that jazz.

Yesterday, when we took a break after swimming in the afternoon, I must have dozed off for a little because I woke up and had no idea what happened.  Surprisingly, my son just laid next to me watching a show while my husband was downstairs watching ESPN.  That hour definitely got away from me.  I just feel like my sleep schedule has been so off for the past two weeks or so and I can't seem to get back on any sort of routine!  I'm working on it, though.  (Any suggestions?)

By the way, where the heck did July go?  How come it's almost August?  I swear... July always FLIES by.

I'll recap the last part of my BlogHer experience next week, but today I've got to include a Friday funny.  You all know how much I love Ellen, and she does these little segments called "Clumsy Thumbsy" where she features text messages where autocorrect takes over.  It's hysterical because I think it's happened to all of us at some point.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  TGIF!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thankful Thursday - Survivors

There are survivors all around us.  Perhaps I passed some last night in the aisles at the grocery store.  Maybe the woman in her car next to me at the light has a story to tell.  The guy at the gas station.  The older lady sitting alone having dinner in a restaurant.  The couple strolling through the parking lot at Target.

I read and see stories every day about struggles and survival.  They're all over the news, and every single one I hear touches me in some way.  These stories stick with me.  I think about the people -- people I don't even know most times -- and I pray for them.

A story ran on in the beginning of July that I can't stop thinking about.  It's about a woman who's pregnant and living with an inoperable brain tumor.

You can find the article here.

This woman -- Jessica -- isn't letting this tumor just take her.  As soon as she delivers her third child, she will start radiation and chemotherapy in an effort to shrink it.  She is taking advantage of every day she has on this earth and isn't just "accepting."  I encourage you to read her story.

So today I'm thankful that we have people like Jessica who choose to fight... who choose to survive... who choose to live.

I know today's post is a bit deeper than usual, but I feel like it's important to remember that we are surrounded by people who could be dealing with so much.  And, in many cases, if we don't know those people, then we are those people.

I'll be back soon with the last part of my BlogHer adventure, but, for today, I hope you can remember what you're thankful for as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Trip to NYC for BlogHer '15 - Part 2

I woke up bright and early Friday morning to get dolled up for Day 1 of the BlogHer conference.  I wanted to get there for registration and breakfast (okay, for the coffee).

Here's a picture from the grand ballroom in the midtown Hilton once all of us had arrived and taken seats.  Every table was filled.  It was overwhelming but exciting!

Many of the leaders from BlogHer and SheKnows Media were on hand throughout the conference to introduce speakers, presenters, and award winners.

Because there were so many people at the conference, I didn't always have the best seats for picture taking, so please excuse the out-of-focus shots and all the fuzziness!

The morning keynote speaker was Soledad O'Brien, broadcast journalist and former CNN anchor.

She looked beautiful and was extremely well-spoken.  I enjoyed listening to her.

Here she is (on the far right) interviewing some of the girls involved in her StarFish foundation.  She is a huge advocate of women supporting women!

After her presentation, I attended a writing session about storytelling.  I sat in on a panel of women from all different backgrounds who spoke about how to tell a good story and about why storytelling is so important.  As a former English teacher, I found a lot of insightful information in this session.  The blogger from was especially inspiring.  I went up to her later at the conference to speak with her personally because I was so moved by her story.  Check out her blog if you have a chance.  She and her family are incredible.

The afternoon keynote speaker was none other than Gwyneth Paltrow.

We're all friends here, so I'm going to be honest.  Her outfit was horrendous.  Here's a better shot.

I mean, she's super famous, and this is what she chose to wear?  What about that outfit says, "I look good today and I'm going to speak to 3,000+ people because I look so awesome."  Does she have a mirror?  Seriously.  What went through her head when she was getting dressed?  I imagine the voice inside her head went something like this:

Black combat-like boots for the hundred degree heat in NYC?  Check.
Super short seersucker shorts that sort of look like a skirt and could be worn sailing?  Check.
White top that looks priest-like with long ties left hanging?  Check.
Black blazer that really doesn't go with this outfit?  Check.

I just don't understand.  I guess when you're a celebrity you think you can wear anything.  Well, I'm here to tell you that you can't.  

You can't, Gwyneth.

And although she seemed very endearing as she spoke, it was all just very unrelatable.  She talked about her blog - goop - but the fact that she has a whole team of people working on it with (aka for) her didn't really resonate with me.  She insists that it's like a "real job" for her, though I highly doubt that her blog work and my blog work align.  After all, I write, edit, take pictures, reply to comments, etc. for my blog.  I AM MY TEAM.  Oh, yeah, and I don't wear outfits that don't match in any which way like Ms. Gwyneth.  So really we have nothing in common.  But it was cool to see her.

I attended another session about going from blog to book, although I didn't find the information incredibly helpful.  Obviously there is no way I'm ready to write a book, but I was interested in finding out more about the overall process.  I actually learned more from the Q&A session that followed.

From there, I took a few walks around the Expo Hall, which was basically a place where many of the sponsors lined up and offered information about their brands.  I got a few product samples but nothing overly special.  I was hoping they would have more beauty sponsors, especially considering that the conference had mostly women attendees (yes, there were a few men, but not many!).

It was close to 5:30pm at this point and I was  After going to bed late the night before and being at the conference all day, I needed to decompress.  I headed back to my friend Amanda's apartment and we decided to go eat at a tapas place near her called Pil Pil.  It was incredibly delicious!  

We got an assortment of five plates and Amanda got sangria.  I couldn't do alcohol after the night before.  I had had enough and felt so dehydrated, so I went with water.

These pictures didn't turn out well at all because it was very dim in there, but these were two of my favorite plates that we shared.

This is the Coca De Serrano -- a flatbread with serrano ham, manchego cheese, and grapes topped with truffle oil.  I couldn't believe how much I liked it!

This next picture was one of the specials.  It was cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, stuck on a piece of rosemary with chunks of manchego cheese and drizzled with balsamic.  The mixture of flavors was out of this world!
We also shared a cheese platter with manchego (I mean, can you ever have enough of that stuff?), a dish of Brussels sprouts sautéed with pancetta and onions, and Spanish meatballs.  I loved it all!

That night, after we both had long days, we decided to turn in early and watch some "Real Housewives" together.  We enjoyed talking to the Housewives through the TV to tell them all of the things that were wrong with them.  

You know, because we're perfect.

Hope you'll stop back to read more about my adventures at BlogHer!  Part 3 coming soon.  Oh, and happy hump day!