Category Archives: married life

Throwback Thursday: Another friendcation

As much as I want to write a full blog, I will hopefully be on the road before this blog even publishes, hurtling down the highway at a speed just fast enough to shave some time off of my trip, but not fast enough to get me pulled over, on my way to visit my best friend.

Due to an unforeseen incident with my husband’s job, our fall break plans had to be put on indefinite hold. Since my kids and I have two weeks off, and I definitely need a break from this town, we are going to visit my best friend in Georgia.

I’ll have plenty of great pictures and no doubt some travel stories to share when we return. For now I am just super excited about my fourth friendcation this year. Even if my kids have to tag along on this one, I get 6 full days (and two partial days) with my best friend and that is one of my greatest joys.

So, TTFN. Look for me when I return!

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Throwback Thursday: broken bones

gross toeI am 42 years old and I have only ever broken one bone. I’ve had enough sprained ankles for a dozen or so people, but I made it just over 23 years before I broke a bone. And that was only a toe.

I was in my first year of teaching. I was in my bathroom getting ready to chaperone a middle school dance. The upstairs bathroom in my townhouse was rather oddly shaped. There were two doors–one entrance from the master bedroom and one from the hallway right at the top of the stairs. The side closest to the hallway entrance had a single sink. On the other side, just inside the door to the master bedroom was the toilet and the bathtub/shower combination. In between was a linen closet. However, unlike any sensibly built linen closet, this one stuck out just enough from the sink as to make it slightly awkward to maneuver around. I was in a hurry and when I turned to head back to the my bedroom to get dressed, I slammed my second toe right into the wall of the linen closet.

That stream of unexplained profanity you heard in Indiana nearly two decades ago around 6 pm? Yeah, that was me.

In addition to the delightful pain shooting up my entire leg, my toe instantly exploded into a deep purple. I knew it was no good. My ex, who had a bit more experience with broken bones than I did, took one look at it and pronounced it broken.

Seeing as I had a dance to chaperone that there was no way of getting out of, he grabbed the medical tape that my father (a paramedic) had so kindly given us when we’d moved into our new place, and did his best to wrap my toes in a way that, while still excruciatingly painful, at least helped stabilize them. I downed several ibuprofen, got dressed and headed to school.

I spent most of the night sitting in a chair near the door to make sure everyone paid and no one tried to leave before the dance was over. Until that moment I hadn’t realized anything could possibly make a middle school dance more uncomfortable and awkward.

I found myself reflecting on this story Thursday night when I came around the corner in my kitchen and slammed a different toe (my second to pinky) into a metal step stool that one of my kids decided to drag into the kitchen. The stool is just short enough that it was hidden behind the kitchen counter, but one of my children had left it in just the right position so that one of the legs was sticking out just a tiny bit. It was impossible to see and impossible not to run into.

I instantly got a familiar jolt of pain and a horrible shiver that went up my entire leg. This time, since my children were still awake and in the next room, I managed to hold in the curse words. My hope was that I’d just stubbed it, but as the second wave of tingles shot up my leg, I was pretty sure it was broken.

I was surprised when, over an hour later, although it still hurt like the Dickens, it was not turning colors. I figured it must just be a really nasty stub, took some ibuprofen and went to bed.

The next morning, I found the deep purple I’d been expecting. Since it was Friday, I had to hobble to school. Thankfully we have a super fantastic athletic trainer who agreed to take a look at it before school started. He poked and prodded at it, did some sort of tuning fork voodoo on it and proclaimed it not broken…YEAH!

I did, however, severely sprain it and pull the ligaments in it, which explains the pain. He taped it for me and sent me on my way with advice to ice it and re-tape it (he even supplied the tape).

Today it is a little less colorful and a little less painful, but my utter lack of grace is still showing.

Hopefully once this disaster heals it’ll be at least another couple of decades before I do this again!

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Chocolate Monday: B.Happy Peanut Butter

B.Happy PB jarI am not sure words actually exist to fully explain how much I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Alone, I find both amazing, but together…well, I think they surpass any other taste combination that exits on the planet. I have never found any food item with this simple combination that has not made me happy.

A few years ago, while shopping downtown with my best friend, we wandered into Homespun. My lovely BFF and I found out about the store thanks to a trip to the Handicraft Exchange, which is this amazing mix of artists gathered together to display and sell their art. Pretty much any type of art you can imagine is featured there, including the culinary arts. It is thanks to this amazing event that I discovered Lick Ice Cream, Just Pop In popcorn, and Nicey frozen treats, all of which are PHENOMENAL!

It is also because of our trip to this event we learned Homespun carried products by several of our favorite local artists. It was during my first trip to Homespun in search of some amazing headbands I’d fallen in love with that I found another true love of my life: B.Happy Peanut Butter.

I want to describe the pure joy I experience when eating B.Happy Peanut Butter, but words utterly fail me. Now, I have to be clear…despite buying multiple jars of their peanut butter, I have never actually eaten it as part of a sandwich. That would be simply ridiculous! When the jar tells you to eat the peanut butter with a spoon, listen to the jar. It knows what it is talking about. Granted, I have never had their KeeP Smunchy, which is their plain peanut butter, but I have a feeling that even that variety would not end up on a sandwich in my household.

I’ve tried 5 of their 9 different flavors of peanut butter and I have not been disappointed with any of them. I actually love them all so much it is hard to pick a favorite. If I absolutely had to, it would probably be Count Your Blessings, which is a chocolate cherry version. The crunchy peanut butter is mixed with plump tart cherries and the perfect amount of milk chocolate chunks. It is seriously heaven on a spoon. If I had only one pre-made dessert to eat for the rest of my life, this might be it. It’s that kind of good.

B.Happy close upSadly, when my family visited the state fair a week or so ago, the building that sells Indiana made products, did not allow me to count my blessings as they did not have that flavor on sale. Thankfully, my second favorite flavor: Go Lucky, was.

Now, I know the picture of the open jar may not look that appealing…I blame the Rice Crispies in it, but the flavor is incredible. This divine mix is crunchy peanut butter, Rice Crispies, milk chocolate and toffee. It is the absolute perfect blend of sweet and crunchy and, well, bliss. I am always a huge fan of toffee, especially when it is paired with milk chocolate (an almost equally amazing pairing to PB&C). It turns out that to make milk chocolate toffee even better, all I was missing was some peanut butter. I eat this straight out of the jar just like I would ice cream. Heck, this would probably be amazing on ice cream.

I love it so much that I have, on more than one occasion, made myself sick from eating too much of it. It is addictive and therefore, not exactly conducive to my current plan of healthy eating. I have only had two tablespoons of this jar so far and it’s kind of killing me!

The other noteworthy (and super tasty) flavors I’ve tried are Joy to the World, which comes in third simply because of the fact that while the cranberries, peanut butter and white chocolate are fantastic, I am not a huge fan of dark chocolate and sometimes I get tired of it. Still, this one is great–even my third favorite here is amazing. Fourth on my list is Don’t Worry, which is chocolate and coconut, another flavor favorite of mine. Again, this one has dark chocolate without anything tart or sweet to balance it, which is why it is lower on my list. The last one I’ve tried (and still like, despite it being last on my list–last on a list of things I think are amazing is still amazing after all), is Happy Trials, which is basically a peanut butter version of trail mix. This one is actually my husband’s favorite as I am pretty sure he could eat his body weight in trail mix every day. He was actually just accusing me of cracking into his jar of peanut butter (I did NOT!) because he’d eaten way more of it than he thought and was sad it was almost gone.

B.Happy would never be my go-to for a peanut butter sandwich, but for anyone looking for an amazing dessert option, I highly suggest them. This stuff blows Nutella completely out of the water. And, they ship all over the country.

If you love peanut butter and chocolate, do yourself a favor and try one of these. You won’t regret it.

Overall:

Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 8/10 (the actual peanut butter can look a little gross)
Value: 10/10 (at $7.50 a jar, it may seem like a steep price tag, but a little of it goes a long way and it is worth every bite).

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Throwback Thursday: The State Fair

poopThe sun is beating down mercilessly. The smell of fried dough and cow manure lingers in the air. The air is filled with the cacophony of thousands of voices and calliope music.

Yes, it is state fair time again!

My dad took me to my first fair when I was about 8 years old. Although we probably had state and even county fairs in Southern California, I’d never heard anyone talk about them and my mom definitely did not take us. Granted, we had two pretty impressive amusement parks practically in our back yard (Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm), and we spent a considerable amount of time there instead. I have always been a HUGE fan of rides and games of chance, so finding out that NW Indiana had rides, even on a small scale was amazing to me.

Every year my grandpa would save up all the aluminum cans he could (my family drank a LOT of soda). When my plane touched down for my annual summer visit with my dad, one of our first stops would be to visit my grandparents. We’d pile in my grandpa’s truck and take the cans to the recycling place. I got to keep every penny so I could spend it on games at the fair. My folks always paid for the rides and the food, but the games were all on me. Well, until I ran out of money anyway. Then, just the right smile could usually get me a few extra dollars.

Although neither my dad nor my step-mom usually rode the rides with me, they never complained when they spent hours waiting at the bottom of rides for me to get off the ride and get right back in line. The Gravitron was a personal favorite, but it made my step-mom absolutely sick. I also really liked The Flying Bobs and the fun houses. If there was a ride, I pretty much went on it. And the games…don’t even get me started with the games.

I cannot even count the number of completely worthless “prizes” I won playing carnival games. Aside from the countless low quality, knock-off stuffed animals that were never comfortable to actually snuggle with, I won several goldfish, plastic blow up toys, small square mirrors with band names and unicorns on them and so many really cool hair clips. Or at least I thought they were hair clips. I could not understand why my mom threw such a fit when I came home with these absolutely beautiful feathered hair clips. While she didn’t make me throw them away, she refused to let me wear them to school and I was ANGRY! It wasn’t until I was a grown adult going to the fair with my friends that someone told me my elegant “hair clips” were really roach clips…which I still didn’t understand as I had no idea that the tiny bit of a joint that was hard to hold by hand was called a roach. In hindsight, I get why my mom was not thrilled with her 10-year-old bringing them home.

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to take our kids to the state fair. We hadn’t taken them since my daughter was still in a stroller, mostly due to the outrageous cost of everything at the fair and the unbearable temperatures in early August. This year, however, we had an absolutely lovely Saturday and I fooled myself into believing that it probably wouldn’t be that expensive.

Boy was I wrong!

This year we managed to snag some free parking, so I was pretty proud of us. And, on our way to buy tickets at the gate, two different groups of people gave us free tickets, so we only had to pay for our kids. Unfortunately, anyone over the age of 5 is $12 a ticket, which meant we dropped $24 before we even entered the fair.

Although I still love rides at amusement parks, there is something about the temporary nature of fair rides and my growing understanding of my own mortality, that makes me steer clear of the rides now. I haven’t been on a ride at a fair since I was a teenager. I also stay away from the games now as I have no need for the chinzy prizes. I prefer to spend my time at the fair looking at the exhibits in the buildings, petting cute animals and tasting yummy, although horribly unhealthy food.

I tried to steer my kids away from the midway, which was not easy. While neither of them were really excited about the rides (my son is kind of chicken), they both really wanted to play the games. My husband and I managed to persuade them that most of the games were rigged and it was next to impossible to win. We almost succeeded, until they saw the duck game in the special kiddie section of the fair and heard the barker cry out “everyone wins!” I forked over $10, my kids reached in, pulled up 3 ducks and *surprise*–each one a prize. I figured my daughter would go for one of the knock off big-eyed Beanie Babies. I don’t know why I was such a fool. My daughter could not possibly want a practical toy like another stuffed animal for her bed. No, both she and my son wanted giant, blow up poop emojis. Yes, that’s right, just like their mother, they won totally useless, rather disgusting prizes. Not only did they carry them around the rest of the fair (which got us all kinds of looks), but they ate their dinners holding on to them AND they made so many poop jokes that I thought I might lose their minds.

One our drive home they even started squabbling about their poops. They’d gotten tossed into the back of the SUV and my son was very worried that my daughter might get his poop instead of her own. This meant that when we got home, he convinced my daughter to let him draw glasses and teeth on her piece of poop so there would be no question about whose poop was whose.

Even though we had a pretty good time at the fair, as a grown up, I now have a very different view of the fair. We ended up spending over $100 for about 3 hours–and considering I only had part of a bison burger, part of a slushie, part of a fried cheese stick and two bites of a grilled cheese sandwich, I feel I might have gotten cheated (although I did stay on my diet).

 

 

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Chocolate Monday: World Market Dark Chocolate with Fig Pistachio Filling

fig and pistachio whole barOne of the many reasons I love when my best friend comes to town is that she gives me a good excuse to go to stores that I love, but don’t often go to. World Market is a perfect example. Although there is a store located about 20 minutes from my house, it’s in another town and about the only time I go up there is when my kids have swimming. Since swimming nights are always such a rush, we really don’t have time to just pop into World Market to browse. Especially not when my kids love it and always ask for, well, just about everything. Trying to convince my daughter that she does not, in fact, need a bottle opener, even if it is shaped like a monkey, can be difficult.

But when my best friend wanted to go, it was the perfect chance to get out of the house and visit a favorite store.

Although I love the fun furniture and housewares at WM, my favorite part of going is always checking out the food aisles. I love all the international offerings as well as the funky, fun snacks they always have.

And I simply adore their chocolate selection. No visit to World Market is complete unless my basket has at least half a dozen different types of chocolate in it. On this particular trip I found a few tasty looking new treats to try.

fig and pistachio wrapperThe first one I grabbed was a World Market brand dark chocolate bar with fig pistachio filling. Although I am not a huge dark chocolate fan, I am trying to expand my horizons and find more dark chocolate I enjoy. Buying dark chocolate is always a risk for me. If it is paired with something super tart, like raspberry or lemon, I generally enjoy it. However, when it is paired with merely sweet or nutty flavors, I am often not a huge fan. Although neither figs nor pistachios are particularly tart, I love them both, so I figured this might be a risk worth taking.

The chocolate itself has the usual bitterness of dark chocolate. It is not so dark that I cannot eat it, but it is dark enough that I wouldn’t want to eat more than a small square of it on its own. The filling, which is supposed to be a mix of figs and pistachio has a very slight sweetness to it, which does offset the dark chocolate, but only very mildly. The filling has the grittiness of figs, but I had real trouble tasting any pistachio in it. There is a very slight creaminess to it that reminds me a teeny tiny bit of pistachios, but I’m not sure if that’s really there or if I’m trying to make some sort of connection.

fig and pistachio close upI gave my husband a square of the bar as well. He is the biggest pistachio fan I’ve ever met (he once even owned a pet chameleon named Pistachio). Without even a word from me, he commented, “Well, I can kind of taste the fig, but I don’t taste any pistachio.” My husband is not really a chocoholic, but he does like dark chocolate more than I do. He liked the piece but said he couldn’t eat an entire bar. Neither could I.

My kids both really liked it, but they also go gaga over plain ol’ Hershey bars and those cheap gold coins Santa leaves them in their stockings each year. My son has also eaten chocolate covered insects, so I’m not sure his love of it is quite the ringing endorsement it may initially seem.

Overall:

Taste: 4/10 (the flavors were too subtle for me)
Appearance: 6/10 (the packaging was very pretty and the bar was appetizing)
Value: 4/10 (the bar is about $4 for two servings, but I know I won’t eat any more of it)

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Teaching Tuesday: Back to School

It’s official, we are back to school. While I was completely ready for my children to go back–they were extremely argumentative that last week–I was not ready to go back.

Ok, technically I was ready. My lesson plans were done. My courses were set up in Canvas, our classroom management system. My room was clean, in order and even had new posters and bulletin boards up. I had student books ready for distribution and class lists printed. My new grade book was sitting on my desk (although I can’t put names in it until the end of the second week as students are still dropping and adding classes now).

Anyone looking into my room on Monday morning at 8:00 am, would have seen a very prepared teacher.

Except, of course, I wasn’t. Not mentally anyway. My daughter woke up in the early hours of Monday morning. At 3:45 am to be exact. She had a nightmare about a zombie apocalypse. Despite not watching any shows/movies with zombies or playing any games with zombies, she has seen her older brother’s Plants vs. Zombies books and so bad dreams ensued. Even as I tried to console her and tell her zombies were not real, all she could do was cry, “but what if they are?!?!?!” There was no reasoning with her. So, I made the mistake of letting her spread her sleeping bag on our bedroom floor to finish out the night.

Not that either of us slept. I dozed off for just long enough to have not one, not two, but three dreams about sending her back to her room to sleep. Each one was interrupted by her making lots of noise. First she was “whispering” to the cat to come down and play with her. Then, she woke me up to tell me she heard some kind of buzzing noise in my room. Next, she woke me up again to tell me about the mysterious buzzing noise. She had a string of coughs that sounded decidedly fake. There was also general tossing and turning…all of which my husband slept through.

Finally, five minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off, she shouted out “YES!” so loud I almost fell out of bed. It seems it was close enough to wake up time, so she thought we should all just get up and get ready for our first day of school.

I did, but boy was I unhappy about it.

It doesn’t help that I don’t drink coffee and all my school teas are herbal, so there was not even an artificial pick me up for me.

I made it through the day though. My students all seemed fairly alert and as I looked out over my classroom to gauge how well they were handing the first day back, I got several enthusiastic head nods, a ton of smiles and even some laughter.

Although I was exhausted by the end of the day, I made it. And, when I picked my daughter up after school, even though we still had to get through some pretty major traffic and swim lessons, I liked her a lot more that afternoon than I had in the morning. At 4:00 her enthusiasm about her good day was endearing.

Despite a rocky start, I think it may be a good year.

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Chocolate Monday: DeBrand’s Tart Raspberry Tasting Bar

full debrandsIt gets really hard to deny that you have a chocolate addiction when you find yourself asking for chocolate for your birthday.

Who am I kidding? I’m not really trying to hide the fact. I have, in fact, asked for chocolate on several birthdays…and Christmases…and anniversaries…and Flag days…and, well, you get the picture. What can I say, I’m a simple girl. I don’t need expensive jewelry. I don’t want a closet full of shoes. I delight in school supplies and truly tasty cocoa treats.

That’s why this year for my birthday, I took out the recently arrived DeBrand’s chocolate catalog, circled several different items I’d love to have and handed it to my husband. I know to some people this might seem rude, but my husband is generally bad about picking up hints and really prefers me to just flat out tell him what I want. He enjoys getting me what I really want and I enjoy getting what I really want. He does the exact same thing for me. Anytime he sees something he really wants he sends me a link, so that when a birthday, anniversary or Christmas approaches, I go through my Facebook Messages and start ordering.

DeBrand Fine Chocolate is a fairly new find of mine. Last year, after writing a series of college and scholarship recommendation letters for one of my seniors, she got me a 14 piece box of their Classic Collection to thank me. It is a well-known fact in my classroom that I am a chocoholic. Students often bring in exotic chocolates they find for me to try. There is also an ongoing joke about how many different types of chocolate I have stashed in my classroom cabinet (the record, if you are curious, was 10 different types).

I fell in love with pretty much every piece in this collection. Even their mocha cream, which is usually my nemesis in any box of chocolate, was pretty tasty. I was equally amazed at how much I liked the gourmet PB&J piece. I have had exactly one PB&J sandwich in my life (my freshmen year of college) and did not care for it in the least. As a result, despite my love of peanut butter, I usually stay far away from anything PB&J flavored. DeBrand’s version, however, was tasty. It’s really hard for me to name a favorite in this collection as I really liked so many of them. The salted peanut butter, strawberry rhubarb caramel, raspberry and cream, caramelly coconut and vanilla buttercream are all top contenders. If you get the chance, I highly suggest you try this collection. It gets a A++++++ rating from me.

debrand's packagingFor my birthday, however, what I really wanted was to try some of their Tasting Bars. Despite circling several items in the catalog I would have been thrilled with, after all these years, my husband either really knows me or got really lucky, because he got me a nice selection of them. Knowing that I am more of a milk chocolate gal, he got me the Hazelnut Sea Salt Crisp bar, The Very Cherry bar, the Sweet Potato Pie bar, the Pina Colada bar and the Tart Red Raspberry bar.

 

Even though the Tart Red Raspberry bar is dark chocolate, I have a passion for any kind of chocolate combined with raspberries. My absolute favorite chocolate on the planet (to date) is Godiva’s raspberry cordials. I am still bitter they no longer are sold individually in the display case, especially since they are nearly impossible to find. So even though this bar did not offer the ooey-gooey promise of a cordial, I was hoping it would live up to the TART portion of its name.

Oh my goodness does it!

Debrand's up closeI LOVE this bar! I cannot stress enough how great I think it is. Even though it has the slight bitterness of dark chocolate, it is so flooded with tiny pieces of amazingly tart raspberries that I don’t even care. Just like the Godiva cordial, I can completely ignore the dark chocolate and simply love, love, love on this bar. Ok, so that’s not quite true. There is no denying the dark chocolate. And for those of you who actually prefer dark chocolate, don’t worry, the taste of the dark chocolate is not lost. Not even for a minute. However, it is so perfectly balanced by the raspberry that I, an avouched dark chocolate hater, LOVE it! Just glancing at the picture you can see how this bar is packed full of tart raspberry goodness.

As much as I loved this bar, believe it or not, it is actually not my favorite of the bars I tried. That honor goes to the Very Cherry. Since it is mixed with both dark and milk chocolate, any hint of bitterness evaporates. It is actually the perfect blend for me. However that bar was gone long before I started writing my blog again, so I decided to focus on this one instead.

If you are a chocolate fan and have not yet tried DeBrand, I highly recommend them. I was not quite as impressed with their truffles, but they are HUGE truffles. And they are definitely tasty, just not as tasty as their Tasting Bars, Classic Collection or Connoisseur Collection.

Overall:
Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 9/10 (each bar is $7.25, which is pricey, but they are delicious. And although the label says they are 3 servings a piece, they more easily break into 4 servings. When you compare that to the cost of 4 truffles, these bars are a value).

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