Friday, January 29, 2016

Impromptu Photo Shoot

I thought I'd repost a post I just published on my photog blog over here to, cause, #adorablepicsofPatrick.  Yeah, sorry not sorry.

It's been a bit of a lull here at Pics & Paws Photography, seeing that it is winter and cold and icky out (however!  I do have some mini session slots still available for early/mid April if you'd like to sign up here for them)...however, it got into the 50s today, so when I got home from school I scooped up my camera, tossed Rosie on my back in the Tula, and headed out to our lovely backyard for an impromptu photo session with my 2 favorite boys.



Anyways, I wanted to shared some of my favorite snaps from our little impromptu shoot over here on my photog blog to show everyone that 1. I'm still alive 2. I'm still snappin' 3. I cannot wait for more warm days like this to snap some more--especially of you all! :)












Baked Potato Soup

I am on a new recipe makin' roll peeps!  And you know what, I'm loving it!  I've yet to be disappointed with a new recipe I've tried, and I've actually been going back to my Save These Recipes Alex Facebook page over and over checking out the cookeries I've saved to make.  A month into 2016 and I'm keepin' up with my New Years resolution.  WOOT!

Okay!  Onto the point of this post: baked potato soup recipe!  This recipe I snagged from here and modified it a smidgen to make it my own.  I am happy to say it turned out delicious and I even brought some for lunch today.



What you'll need:
  • Crockpot
  • 1 bag (32oz) frozen hash browns
  • 32oz container chicken broth
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 brick (8oz) of softened cream cheese 
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup bacon bits
  • 1 cup milk (or heavy cream, whatever you prefer)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • OPTIONAL: red pepper flakes (if you want to make this spicyyyyy)

How to make this scrumdiddlyumptiousness:
  1. Turn the crockpot on high, and combine the hash browns, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, cream cheese (dice it up), 1.5 cups of shredded cheddar, bacon bits, and milk in the crockpot (add red pepper flakes if you want to make it spicier)
  2. Once combined, add some salt and pepper...don't go overboard, you can always add more later
  3. Sit back and let it cook! (it took a good 5-6 hours for the frozen potatoes to be fully cooked and delicious-quality when I made it)
  4. You know it's done when: potatoes are soft and not grainy and your concoction is thickened and bubbling
  5. Garnish with more salt and pepper (if needed) and top with more shredded cheddar.
  6. ENJOY!

This will most definitely become a go-to dish (especially when it's chilly out!) because it's stupidly easy and requires minimal prep work.  It does need to cook for a good 5+ hours (or at least did when I made it!), so plan accordingly for that.  If you make this wonderfulness, let me know how you like it! :)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"That Class is Easy."

*Note: I published this exact same post over on my teaching blog, but felt it was a good post to have over here as well.

I felt compelled to write this post today for so many reasons, but the main one finally pushing me to do it happened yesterday.  You see, it's course selection week here at the high school I teach at, and all of the freshman, sophomores, and juniors are carefully plotting out the classes they will take in 2016-2017.  In talking with another teacher yesterday, she was telling me about a conversation she was having with one of her students about what courses to take next year.  The student told her she was going to sign up for Computer Apps (one of the classes I teach) because, "That class is easy."  Immediately my defenses went up and I felt the need to justify and defend my course to my fellow teacher.  How dare they say my class is easy!  It most certainly is not...wait, is it really actually easy?!

That conversation stuck with me, because obviously students at my school think my class is easy.  And you know what?!  It is.  It truly is an "easy" class, but I loathe, no I HATE that it is referred to as that.  Why?!  Because even though the content we are covering may be being labeled "easy" by it's takers, it most is more than just an easy class: it's a practical one.  It's one that the content learned in here can be transferred and applied into every.single.one. of their other courses, and even into their lives outside of school.  It prepares them for the tasks they'll have to complete in their future schoolings and even college!  So yes, it may be easy, but it most certainly is not JUST that.  It is applicable.  It is practical.  It teaches skills that will be used in countless other areas of their education and lives.

Generally my students do very well in my classes, and I always get the comments that, "If everyone has an A, then you must not be challenging them enough" --translation: your class is too easy.  Again, this irks me the wrong way.  And I actually secretly wish my classes were pass/fail because of this.  Anyways, again, when people make these comments, I immediately go defensive teacher and feel the need to justify to them that that is NOT the case at all, that they are learning practical application skills.  You blow your tire and get a mechanic to fix it.  They fix it = you're good to go.  They don't fix it (or don't fix it right) = they failed and you're still stuck...until they make it right.  Thus is the jam for my class: students do the work = they pass.  Students don't do the work (or do it incorrectly) = they don't pass...until they make it right.  My classes are "tech" classes after all.

The next time someone tells me my classes are easy or that I'm not challenging my students enough, I'm pointing them to this blog post.  I teach 3 different classes: video production, computer graphics, and computer applications, and what I've said here applies to all of them.  Yes, they may be labeled "easy", but the are so much more than that.  They are...

THIS.

& THIS.









& THIS.

& THIS.

...and so much more.  We learn the ins and outs of all things Google.  We learn how to build a website from scratch, learn how to create an interactive timeline and story map, and learn how to use social media to organize and prep for projects.  We do lessons on how to take good pictures with your cell phone called iPhoneography, we learn what mobile journalism is and how it applies to the daily lives of high schoolers, we learn how to shoot, record, edit, and finalize movies in a complex editor, and we learn how to manipulate images and create new ones using Photoshop.  Every.single.one. of these skills and content we do in my class are used elsewhere in our school--and then even outside of it.  They are applying and transferring the knowledge they learn and acquire in my class to others.  Call my class fun, exciting, enjoyable, creative, hands-on, time-consuming, challenging, frustrating, engaging--but don't call it easy.  It's so much more than that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mom Van!


You nailed it Amy Poehler!  Because I'm pretty sure my new ride constitutes the fact that I am indeed a cool mom now, cause #MomVanStatus.


YEPPPPPP!  That's right!  You guessed it!  I finally got my minivan that I've been DYINGGGG to have pretty much the past 2 years!  Since we officially sold our house last week, I've been van shopping (online!) ever since because we finally have the $$ to buy one.  I wanted to go van looking last week immediately, but I was good and patient and tabled any browsing until after my mom's surprise 60th birthday party.

Well, Monday comes, party is over, and I am itching to go van shopping.  I text Mike Monday morning and ask him if we can go shopping after work--he says yes.  I get excited!

Mike was a smidgen late getting off work Monday (what's new), but by 5pm we were out the door and heading to one of the Honda dealerships...Mike had a coupon for a super discounted oil change and we thought we'd get his car's oil changed while we browsed for vans.  We brought both kids, and we figured we'd just toss them each in a Tula and be good to go.  This decision had the potential to backfire on us, but (spoiler!!) it did not--they actually were really good.

Once we got there, about 5:30, they told us it'd be a good hour for Mike's car to get its oil changed.  Stupid us, this was right at dinner time, but we decided to press on, cause I soooooo wanted to look at vans and they had free popcorn and apple juice for Patrick in the waiting room.  Done.

We had a lovely salesman named Josh come help us, and I told him what I wanted on the van we were looking for: DVD entertainment system in the back, sunroom, heated seats, power everything, and so on. Yeah, basically I wanted the loaded pimped out van.  We looked at one and I really liked it--I honestly didn't want to even look at any of the other makes (Toyota, Nissan, or Chrysler) we were going to--I found the one I wanted.

Well, apparently Mike had been doing a TON of (behind my back!!) research about vans, and he knew that the Honda was the best one out there hands down--so his mind was made up too (but I didn't know this!  Sneaky sneaky!).  Anyways, when Josh left to get us a quote, Mike asked, "So, which color combo do you like?!  And is this the one you really want?!"  Duh, of course it was!  And I said I wanted either the dark blue outside/gray interior or the black outside/dark gray interior.  He liked both of those as well.

When Josh came back with the quote (which was a few thousand less than we thought it was going to be--score!) he stepped away for a minute to check something and Mike asked, "Okay, you wanna just do this?!"  Me: {{MOUTH HITS THE FLOOR}}  --once I pulled my jaw up I was like, "Um YES!  Let's do this!!!"


I snapped this lovely selfie right after we told Josh we wanted the black Odyssey that they had in stock.  He shook our hands and went and got it -- it only had 11 miles on it!  WHAT??!!!  I've never ever had a brand new car, so this was exciting in so many ways.  EEKKKK!




After we got the paperwork signed, check written, temp plate installed, iPhone synced up, I drove my brand new baby off the lot and couldn't be happier!

I've officially joined the mom van club and it's the best feeling in the world for soooo many reasons, a few being:

  1. So.much.room.
  2. Rear doors that slide instead of swing open
  3. Easy access to carseats
  4. 8 (!!!) seatbelts, 6 carseat latch hooks
  5. Rear fold-flat seats
  6. Deep cargo floor
  7. Automatic sliding doors and trunk hatch
  8. SPACE SPACE SPACE!!
I'm sure there's a zillion other things I love (or will come to discover and love!), but I can't think of them right now.  Another awesome feature is that we actually can take people somewhere--we can fit our family of 4 PLUS 3 other people (or 4, if we put back in the middle seat in between the 2 captain seats) comfortably.  We've never been able to do that, so yay for carpooling and not having to take a billion cars everywhere!

Anyways, this post has become incredibly longer than I anticipated (SORRY!), but I wanted to go ahead and write up a little one about my excitement about my sweet new ride and how I'm totally embracing the mom van/soccer mom status with open arms.  If you told me 5 years ago I'd be excited about driving a minivan, I'd have LOLed in your face.  Now I'm LOLing at that cause I freaking love my new ride...and these cuties (plus any other that come along!) will be ridin' in style. WOOT!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mom's Surprise 60th Birthday Party

Wow.  Where to even being?!!  This surprise party had been in the works since SEPTEMBER.  And honestly, I thought there was NO WAY -- ZERO CHANCE -- we'd pull it off.  Why?!  Cause my mom is the nosiest (in a good way! LOVE YOU MOM!) person EVER, and she also has some loose-lipped friends who were bound to spill the beans.  Alas, I still wanted to do it, cause you only turn 60 once, so I pressed on.

Back in September I chatted with my dad about throwing my mom a surprise party the day before her actual birthday and he was like "YES.  I'm on board."  So then I chatted with a few other of her friends who I knew could keep a secret and the planning commenced.

At the end of November, about 2 months before my mom's birthday, my dad and I were talking about location and where we wanted to have her surprise party.  I offered my house, but was worried it wouldn't be big enough...my dad suggested renting a place, but that gets expensive quick, so we tabled that...then he suggested their house, but I told him I think my mom would feel like she needed to play "host" once she got there, so we nixed that idea too.  I called my aunt Monica (my mom's sister), who's the queen bee of throwing parties, and asked her if she wanted to help.  She most definitely did, AND even offered to have it at her big house--DONE.  Don't say anymore, location solved!


We decided it'd be Mexican-themed, because my mom loves Mexican food--specifically Fuzzy Taco--and it would be a fun fiesta theme to go with!  I whipped up an oh-so-cute invite on Photoshop (that I blurred out the personal details cause, #creepersbecreepin' and I don't need them knowing my phone number or aunt's house addy.) and sent them out in mid-December.

As soon as I sent the invites out I just KNEW that one of my mom's friends would leave it on their fridge, she'd come over and see it, and our cover would be blown.  Oh well, still would be a fun party anyways, right?!  RIGHT!  So!  Onward to planning!

I was willing to tackle everything for the party--I love planning things, so didn't mind handling it all.  My aunt Monica took care of the decorations and set up, and I took care of the rest (with the help of my dad, brothers, and a few of my mom's friends!).  I handled the RSVPs on a Google Doc, which the numbers quickly grew to 90+ people, and then placed a catering order for tacos from Fuzzy Taco and McArthur's Bakery for the cake.  I had like 10 appetizers lined up and had people make, enlisted my brothers to take care of the alcohol and drinks, and all of a sudden it was January 23rd!  I was so nervous that day that I (or someone else!) was going to blow it the last minute.  I was shocked my mom had ZERO clue thus far about it, and hoped it'd stay that way until we surprised her later that night.

My mom had a jam-packed schedule (intentionally!) on the 23rd so she'd be good and gone for us to do our last minute prep work.  She was off with my dad's cousins to a swim meet in Alton (lunch first!) so she was gone all afternoon.  She thought her and her siblings were having a family meeting that evening at Monica's, so she was planning on picking up her brother Robert at 5:30 so they'd be there in time to "meet" with everyone.  Little did she know!  Hehehehe!

I dropped the kiddos off at my inlaws at 12:30pm on Saturday, raced home, took a shower, pumped, and went and picked up my mom's bestie Bridget.  We went and picked up the cake, then got to my aunt's house about 2pm to help her get set up.  HOLY COW.  We had a TON of food and decorations!  But it looked amazing and was slowly coming together.  About an hour and a half later my dad arrived with the Fuzzy Taco order and ice, then my brother came to help get the booze set up and people parked.  It was all coming together!  My mom called me just to chit chat around 4:30pm, and I went and hid in the garage shaking, assuming she'd hear the wavering in my voice that something was up.  She didn't!  We were in the clear!

About 5:40 came and I screamed to everyone to get ready, that they were about 5 minutes away (thank you Find My Friends for showing me where she was!).  I was sooooo anxious!  I had my GoPro set up to capture her reaction, and, gah, words can't describe how amazingly awesome it was to surprise her!  She didn't have a clue!  Unshowered, hat on, ratty clothes and everything!  It was priceless!





Wasn't that the best surprise ever?!  So amazing!  The rest of the party went awesome.  It was so much fun to mingle with all of my mom's friends (like 80+ of them that turned out!) and family and see my mom be so loved and showered by gifts by so many.  It was just awesome.

I (shocker!  I know!!) didn't take many pics that night...but my brother did and so did my uncle--so I grabbed their pics from their phones/cameras so I could share some with you here!



















































































Wow.  Just wow!  What a fantastic party it was!  I cannot believe how well it went and I'm still just soooooo giddy that we pulled off the surprise!  Truly magical it was.  Mama bear, I love you so!  Thanks for letting me throw you an awesome party! I hope you loved it as much as I love you!!
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