Saturday, September 23, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad

AJ and I are still trying to do Sunday meal prep for our lunches and sometimes dinner ingredients too. We've found lots of ways to make the process go faster: microwave rice packs, shredded chicken from the deli instead of grilling our own, and sometimes we even splurge on the pre-cut veggies. We've also been trying to incorporate more leftovers into lunches so packing for the two of us for the week is a snap. We made a delicious pasta salad last week that we had for a few lunches during the week. I took some inspiration from the internet, added my own twists, and made this Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad.

You Will Need:

-1 box whole wheat rotini
-3 large chicken breasts
-1 bottle Franks Buffalo Sauce
-5 celery stalks cut in bite sized pieces
-1 bag shredded carrots
-half a bunch of green onion finely chopped
-1/2 cup ranch dressing 
-1/2 cup mayo
-1/2 pack of ranch dressing mix 
-Shredded Cheddar (optional) 

I put the chicken breasts and 1/2 the bottle of buffalo sauce in the crockpot on low for about 4 hours. I then shredded it up inside the crockpot. Cook the pasta, add the veggies and shredded up buffalo chicken. Then make your sauce with the ranch, the mayo, the seasoning, and another few dashes of buffalo sauce (your choice how hot you want it!). Stir it all together and top with additional green onion and/or shredded cheddar. Pack it up and enjoy for lunches! I broke a cardinal rule of blogging and took no pics of this recipe! You'll just have to take my word for it that it was delish. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Recent Reads

I realized it's been a while since I shared a book update with you all! I recently finished book 44 of the year and I have my final six books for the year picked out. It feels like I just barely made my 2017 reading goal and now we're in the final chunk of the year!


A Fireproof Home for the Bride: I enjoyed this book, it took me a while to get into it but once I did I really liked it. It covers a lot of ground (women's issues, racism, anti-semitism, sexual abuse, politics), so I wouldn't say it was necessarily a "light" read, but I really liked the protagonist, a young woman growing up in the 1950's small town Midwest and her struggles to find herself and her voice during radically changing times. 


More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting: I picked this book up purely out of curiosity and based on how much I enjoyed Bringing Up Bebe (all about French parenting). I took many lessons from this book, many of which I think can apply nicely to teaching. The key takeaways: Amish kids are needed, they have jobs to do and feel like valuable members of their communities and families. The Amish don't overthink their parenting decisions, they believe strongly in parenting "instinct" and do what comes naturally. The Amish are slow to speak and slow to anger. They value family time and working together to prepare and enjoy meals together. There is wide net of community and support for families. This book was really interesting, I highly recommend it. 


Next on my nightstand: When Breath Becomes Air, and The Identicals. Here is my 2017 Book List so far.

1. Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
2. Ruthless by Ron Miscavige
3. Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
4. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
5. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
6. Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson
7. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
8. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
9. Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
10. Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
11. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
12. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
13. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
14. What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan
15. Room by Emma Donoghue
16. The Nest by Cynthina D'Aprix Sweeney
17. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
18. Happily Ever After by Trista Sutter
19. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
20. The Clasp by Sloane Crosley
21. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend
22. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
23. One Less Problem Without You by Beth Harbison
24. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
25. An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker
26. This is Not Over by Holly Brown
27. By The Numbers by Jen Lancaster
28. House Rules by Jodi Picoult 
29. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
30. Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler
31. Save Me by Lisa Scottoline
32. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
33. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
34. The Girls by Emma Cline
35. How To Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
36. Stories I'd Tell in Bars by Jen Lancaster
37. Into The Water by Paula Hawkins
38. If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
39. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
40. The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott
41. Class Mom by Laurie Gelman
42. The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright
43. More Than Happy by Serena Miller
44. A Fireproof Home For The Bride by Amy Scheibe 

 What good reads have you read lately? Happy reading, friends! 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fall Things & Hadley's Special Day


    My favorite time of year is basically here: FALL! I know people make a joke out of how silly all the Pumpkin Spice thing are and how loving fall is so "basic." I get it, I get it, I even wrote about it a few years ago  but needless to say, I am one such fall lover. After the long hot summer, I so welcome cooler days, new fashions, seasonal flavors, and the beauty of the leaves changing. I've got some chicken in the crockpot for the week and cool weather is perfect for a homebody like me. Here's a peek at some of the fall goodies I've been FALLING in love with!
I bought these stuffed pumpkins last year at Quilted Bear and I love them! 

Found this cute little guy at Walmart of all places 



These are SO good! I love regular and peanut butter Puffins but these are extra amazing. 

I made cinnamon play doh for my class last weekend. They love using it for math games and my classroom smells so good when they use it. 

AJ is a big fan of bread pudding so when he was working last weekend I surprised him and made this yumminess. So good! 

This quote=me

Last year I decided to start a fun tradition with Hadley and have my first Pumpkin Spice Latte with her. I've wanted to get one everyday last week but I waited until Sunday so we could have some special time together. I got a tall this year because I didn't want Baby boy on a sugar/caffeine kick all day, haha, but it was so delicious and I savored every sip with my best girl.
I bought her a mini hay bale and some scarecrows to "fallify" her spot 

She is a Steele after all so football of course is a major part of fall in our lives 




I love embracing the change of seasons and pulled out some of my very favorite fall teaching ideas on Friday. Give me all the chilly days, scarves, PUMPKIN everything, and the clean slate of a new season.
PS) One of my FAVE fall recipes is this Pumpkin coffee cake. I haven't made it yet this year, but wanted to share the goodness of this recipe

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bumpdate: 23 Weeks

Ohmygoodness, what is with pregnancy (and I hear parenthood too) and how it distorts your sense of time? I feel like I've been pregnant for just a minute but then also like a whole decade too. Weird. I'm 23 weeks pregnant tomorrow and it's time I do some updating on the blog for memory's sake!
Baby: Baby BOY is growing a lot and doctors predict him to be about a pound and a quarter in weight and about 13 inches long. He's very active and loves moving around from dinner time to bedtime the most. If I don't feel him much during the day I tend to worry and give my belly a little poke or rub and he usually gets going. Sorry to be a bug, little guy, mama just wants to make sure you're ok in there! We got some awesome pictures at our last visit of his little cheeks, nose, and mouth. We were fortunate to get another great long ultrasound at 22 weeks because his heart was hard to make out at the original anatomy scan. So we basically had two separate anatomy scans so doctors could get in there and see clearly everything they needed to.  We read to him every night and it's one of my favorite parts of the day.  I am loving looking at boy clothes and we have purchased most all his nursery decor. This weekend we are hoping to settle on a paint color. After each doctor visit (every other week or so), we buy something small for baby. Last week's "present" was new socks. Our next item to get is a waterproof crib mattress cover because #reallife.

Mama: I still get sick most days and 9 times out of 10 I wake up with the urge to puke (and I usually do). Luckily, from 20 weeks on, the sickness stuck to just the morning. In the first trimester, I vomited multiple times a day, lost about 5 pounds, and struggled with staying hydrated. I am much much better now. I crave sweet carbs (who doesn't really?) like muffins, toast with honey, cereal, bagels, and anything cinnamon-y.
    I am really enjoying my teaching job this year and my class is a delight. However, teaching the full day really takes it out of me. I try really hard to hit the gym at least 3 times a week for a brisk walk and some light weights. The other days, I am in my jammies by 5:00 and usually in bed reading or watching TV by 9. As soon as the weather cools down a bit, I am excited for evening walks outside.

Precautions: I'm going to be totally real with ya'll: I worry often and have been having nightmares even that baby comes too early. It's to be expected after the trauma we went through and I know it's normal, but most of the time, I straddle the line between over the moon on one hand and terrified and vulnerable on the other hand. I can honestly say I never realized how fragile and precious life is until I met Hadley. I have given myself milestones and really do celebrate when I hit them (biggies: 12 weeks, 20 weeks, 24 weeks, 30 weeks, 34 weeks, and I pray and hope I make it to 38 weeks). AJ gives me progesterone shots once a week. These can potentially reduce the chance for pre-term labor. AJ is such a champ giving me these shots. He took careful notes on how to administer them, sets up his "shot area" each week, orders medicine refills, and he's even asked me for a copay, lol, ummm, I don't think so, buddy!  They don't hurt too bad when he gives them to me but they can be sore and painful the day after. It hurts to sit sometimes! Yikes! He always makes me laugh and plays the song "Shots" by LMFAO (look it up if you haven't heard it) on "shot nights." In addition, each visit from 16 weeks on the doctors also check my cervical length.

It's a lot of time in the doctor's office (the same hospital where Hadley spent her whole life) so there's a lot of feelings there, but overall, I feel comforted knowing the medical professionals have a watchful eye on baby and I. We've seen nearly every doctor and nurse with the Maternal-Fetal Medicine team and while we have "our" doctor, we know that whatever happens, whenever it happens, we are in careful and caring hands.

I am looking forward to my maternity leave and we just can't wait to meet our little man. Our love for him is so big!
This was back at 13 weeks, but I love how is hands are behind his head. He's just lounging! 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Workin' It Wednesday: Summer to Fall Fashion

Hey there! I'm back from my mini blogging break with another installment of Workin' It Wednesday! I'm linking up with Erika and Shay  for this fun blogging series. Today's topic is a good one: Transitioning the wardrobe from summer to fall.

Now I feel about silly writing this post seeing as my car said it was 90 degrees on my way home this week. I also lamented this past weekend, "I can't wait until my Saturday uniform of Nike sweats or yoga pants and a sweatshirt is acceptable again!" That said, fall fashions are my fave! First of all, you don't have to worry too much about warmth factor like you do in the winter. Also after a long summer of shorts (leg shaving, ugh, amirite?), tees, and sandals, you can do the layer thing and bring back my ultimate faves: scarves and boots! 

Here are some tips I have for transitioning your wardrobe to fall plus some fun looks I found floating around Pinterest.

1. Don't feel like you need to "seasonally overhaul" your closet. I used to switch out my stuff in the fall and spring and put the looks for the season that just ended in the back of the closet or in Rubbermaid containers. No more! I keep it all in my closet at all times now (It helps that AJ and I have separate closets....a little tip for those cohabitating. Separate closets if you can spare it is ammmmazing!) and that way I can pull a winter-y cardigan in the early spring if I need to our make a summery look more apt for fall. 

2. Dresses and skirts can still work in the fall or winter. Add some leggings or tights, a cardi, and flats or booties and that summer dress is now a cute fall look! 


3. Infinity scarves are perfect when you don't want to commit to a full on winter scarf (like is necessary for outdoor recess duty in the winter. Brrrr!), but you like the additional flair or pop of color.


4. Light jackets/a puffy vest/a long duster sweater are perfect for those days when the morning is chilly but it heats up again my the afternoon. 


5. I am loving the fabric jewelry trend and can't wait to add some items like that to my fall look. 



6. Cuff your jeans when you aren't ready to give up summer crops quite yet. 

. You can never go wrong when you top off your look with a pretty mani in a darker color, a warm beverage from Starbucks, and a pep in your step just right for Back to School season. 

Happy dressing, shopping, and browsing!

Savor Your Sparkle,
Leslie 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Life Lately

Hi There,
   It's been a whirlwind of busy around here with the start of the school year, beginning to prepare our boy's nursery, evening activities and more. We took some much needed time this long weekend to relax and rest!

We're two weeks into the new school year and I'm really enjoying my new school. I have an awesome team (I've always had amazing teammates! #thankful) and my class is pretty cute. We begin an hour later than my old school and go an hour later so that's been an adjustment, but I know sleeping in a little bit is helping me with keeping my energy up!
Errand treats 
Baby Steele is doing well. Just like with big sister, I'm super pumped about creating a fun space for him! We are continuing our every other week appointments (yes it's a pain going there so much, but it gives me comfort being so carefully monitored). I've given myself little milestones to help myself through this pregnancy and reaching 12 weeks was the first one, then 20 weeks, now I'm awaiting the next milestone: 24 weeks. He's very active (his activity level is similar to Hadley's at 25 plus weeks. I'm not sure if it's because he is more active or that I am simply more aware of what baby movements feel like this time around). Everyday I wake up pregnant and go to bed pregnant is a good day. Keep growing in there, little man!
21 weeks

Saturday we ran errands truly all day long. Is this adulthood? We got a lot accomplished and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend doing some school work, tidying the house and chilling.
Dinner date with hubby 

Saturday night football, I feel like this scene will be replayed lots in the next few weeks/months

On the book front, I am on book 43 of the year. I've always been a reader, but really committing myself to daily reading time has been such a gift for me this year. I still love my TV time, but cracking open a book each day is something I've really looked forward to.
I really liked this book! Highly recommend if you want a sweeping/feel good novel. 

Don't get me wrong, baby will not be tech-free, but I was thinking this might be an interesting read for classroom teaching as well. Teaching my students to be grateful/content is high on my priority list every year. 
AJ and I have a new meal prep lunch favorite I wanted to share with you. It's a mish mash of various recipes on Pinterest, and we've called it Lunch Taco Bowls. It's so easy to prep. It's just: brown rice, a scoop of beans, a spoonful of cheese, some shredded chicken, a scoop of pico, a scoop of corn, and if we have an avocado around, we add some of that too. We've had it on it's own or with a side of a whole wheat tortilla. It's no Cafe Rio, but it's been our favorite lunch this season.

That's pretty much it in our neck of the woods. I'm looking forward to September weekends filled with pumpkin everything, football, fall baking, and cooler temps. Have a great Labor Day!

I laughed so hard at this 


Savor Your Sparkle,
Leslie

PS) If you follow me on Insta, you saw this pic I discovered just recently. I am in love with Hadley's wittle hands gripping mine. I think this one might be a framer.

Monday, August 28, 2017

You Might Be an Elementary Teacher If.....

In honor of back to school season, I set out to write a Top 10 List of how you know you might be an elementary teacher (or a teacher of any grade, or a teacher at heart), and the ideas just kept flowing. Cheers to you, teachers! May your kids be excellent, your teams be supportive, your classroom parents willing, and may you always end the day knowing you make a difference.


You might be an elementary teacher if:

-You're usually up and at 'em before typical morning traffic begins
-Target has a great selection of "teacher clothes"
-You can eat at healthy lunch, pee, fill up your water bottle, file some papers, and chat with a colleague in 20 minutes flat
-You always forget how immature your students are at the beginning of the year
-It's so fun seeing former students around the school all grown up
-A kind word from a parent in your class can keep you going some days

-You know a lot about your students' families: from the silly things their parents say, to whose dad is sleeping on the couch, to what they had for dinner
-You watch Rita Pierson's Ted Talk, "Every Kid Needs a Champion" a few times a year to get fired up
-Parent volunteers are a lifesaver. You can always find something for a volunteer to help you with
-Freshly sharpened pencils bring you joy
-You know the underlying cause for "Can I go to the bathroom?" is either "I want to go to the bathroom just to leave the class for a minute" or "I needed to go to the bathroom about 5 minutes ago and I'm currently doing the potty dance."

-You've ran across the room to a dry heaver with a trash can in hand
-You know it pays to be extra kind to maintenance people and secretaries
-You know your mailbox (email and the one in the faculty room) will almost always have something inside
-A 2:00 Hershey Kiss can be a lifesaver
-You've rearranged big cute patterned lunch boxes in the faculty room fridge to fit yours in
-You know using glitter in a project is an amateur move
-Data can be helpful but you know you don't need mounds of it to know who's getting it and who's not: you know your kids
-You could really use your own secretary
-A new month means switching up the room: the class calendar and seasonal decorations
-You have tied wet shoelaces before (ewwww!)

-You get notes and pictures from your students all the time (you save the really meaningful ones)
-You sometimes throw things away in the staff room so a student doesn't see you pitching the 14959th drawing they made for you that week
-If it's not laminated, you might as well throw it out now
-Caffeine and chocolate get you through Parent-Teacher Conference week
-You could never survive without your teammates' support
-Seeing Back to School store displays in July is both really terrifying and really exciting


-You succumb to the less cute but comfy shoe
-You don't want to terrify next year's teachers but sometimes you really feel you need to warn them (as a friend)
-You have an "island" desk away from all others for those moments when it's best for that kiddo to be alone for a bit

-You countdown to all breaks, especially summer break
-You own dozens of tumbler cups and mugs and your desk usually has at least 3 cups of some sort on it
-Some of your best lesson ideas occur in bed right as you're drifting off to sleep
-Post its, post its everywhere
-You usually wake before the sun
-You know the Common Core Standards and which biggies are essential
-You have bags and bags going into school many Monday mornings

-You know there's more curriculum, resources and content than you could ever touch in a year. Pick the "big rocks" and feel okay about it
-You can appreciate the joy of a Teachers Pay Teachers freebie that matches exactly what you're teaching
-You have hundreds and hundreds of "your kids"

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Baby Boy, Books, Bring on the School Year.....

Whew! This summer is all wrapped up and tomorrow is the day I meet my kiddos! We do a "get to know you" day with their parents for 1st grade before a real teaching day begins and I kind of love that idea. For 1st graders, the cafeteria, being at school allllll day, and the big playground can be oh so overwhelming...it'll be nice to ease them into it. We've had a lot going on lately (hence the blog absence), but we are grateful for a beautiful summer and looking forward to fall fun ahead. Yes, my sweet cinnamon pumpkin candle has been lit (I couldn't wait until September, sue me!).
Our biggest and most exciting news is that we found out that are having a BOY! AHHHHH! We are so excited to meet our little guy (we have the name chosen, too!) and while I had no clue what the gender could be going into the ultrasound, I'm used to girl stuff, so my heart stopped for a second when the tech said, "It's a boy!" Then I cried and got excited and we just feel so fortunate. Hadley's nursery is still left as it was. I think I'll have AJ pack away the girly stuff (that might just hurt my momma heart too much) and we're going to get going here soon on the new nursery. I'll share the theme because I am so excited about it: Lumberjack! Buffalo plaid, bears, and natural wood, oh my! I'm currently 20 weeks pregnant this week and hitting the halfway point has been a big milestone. I still worry, I still get nervous, but truly, a day at a time is the way to go. I'll do a "bumpdate"  post here soon and fill you in on what's the same and what's different this time around. We are so thankful to share our journey with our family and friends. Their support, well wishes, and prayers have meant so much.
That stain on my belly is from the ultrasound goo! 

I've been getting in as much reading as I can before school begins and I fall into bed an exhausted heap at 9:30. I finished Hollywood Daughter last week (cute historical fiction about the Red Scare in Hollywood), as well as The Couple Next Door (very suspenseful, I couldn't put it down!) and am about halfway through with Class Mom. I love a story told through emails/letters and this one is no exception. It's fluffy but fun and couldn't we all use that at the end of August?




This past weekend we were on the go with errands, my Back to School mani, a BBQ with friends, and we had AJ's mom and dad in town for a bit. It was fun to see them and hang out. We are slowly but surely getting back into meal prep and getting into the groove of school life. Lunch packing! Early alarms! Unending trips to Target and Dollar Tree! I am enjoying my new school so far and am happy to say, after weeks and weeks, my classroom is officially done and yesterday I had my first early morning in the classroom plus latte plus Mumford and Sons Pandora plus time in the teacher plan book and it felt good to do that again.
new year, new lunch box

Bump and I at school 

trying something new for a reward: a VIP table with fun pencils, erasers, scented hand sanitizer. I hope it's fun for the kids


Crayon Nails thanks to the fabulous Dainty Digits
 In other news, anyone else pumped for Fall TV? Let's give that DVR a workout! I am currently watching: Teen Mom 2, Bachelor in Paradise, Scientology with Leah Remini, The Laci Peterson murder docu-series, Outdaughtered, Rattled, and as always Dateline. I'm looking forward to the return of This is Us, Superstore, Will & Grace (Fun Fact: in 8th grade I loved Will & Grace so much that I wrote to the show and they sent me back an autographed picture. It's hanging in my closet right now!). I'm hoping to add a new drama to the mix, too. I keep seeing commercials for that show The Good Doctor and it looks good.


AJ and I are participating in the Walk for Compassion in a few weeks! The Walk for Compassion is a fundraising event to raise money for children living in poverty. Want to know more? Check out our pages for more info and to donate. AJ's Compassion Page and My Compassion Page
I'll leave you with two wonderful things: This pasta dish I made last week and this worship song I cannot stop listening to. Have a beautiful week whether you're going back to school as a student, a teacher, a parent, or just embracing the inevitable change of the season coming up.
Bacon Tomato Linguine



Savor Your Sparkle,
Leslie