High Five for Friday...

High Five for Friday...

Okay, I realize I haven't done a H54F in a looong time, but I'm jumping back on (mainly because it's easier than writing 5 different posts about stuff I like. Does that make me lazy? I'll call it efficiency.) As usual, I'm linking up with Miss Lauren over at From My Grey Desk. Anywho, as I've whined about mentioned a time or two here recently, things have been cra-zy since school started back. I'm still adjusting to the schedule (bye-bye sleeping in!) and the VAST differences between teaching third grade and teaching middle/high school. Overall, though, it's going really well. So, five of the things from this week that were worthy of a high five are....

1. If you recall, I posted a while back about how extremely nervous I get when performing in front of people.  Well, a few weeks ago Preacher asked me to sing a solo with the choir. It isn't the first time I've done that, but the song was waaay out of my comfort zone. So, after trying to pawn it off on other people (and almost puking at the very thought several times) I channeled my inner Lauryn Hill (ha!) and made it through without passing out or forgetting the words this past Sunday. It was nothing to write home about, but at least I didn't completely botch it up (yes, I know that's debatable. =)

2. We had this amazing baked ziti for lunch on Sunday and it was sooo good and ridiculously easy. Which, as you know, are my two primary criteria for any recipe. So, win-win. Make it! 

3. We started writing units in my 7th-9th grade English classes this week, and let me just tell you... this teacher is excited. Those poor kids are going to get so tired of hearing me talk about editing and proofreading and summaries and details and paragraph transitions... but the writer in me just can't help it! It just bubbles out of me. I LOVE writing and I really love teaching about it, turns out. I'm excited to see what "material" I get out of these kids. (Do I exploit my students for humorous anecdotes? No way... =)

4. While I should have been cleaning last night (and I did get around to it eventually), I ended up "shopping" in my closet for about an hour and putting together new outfits. I do this occasionally as the mood strikes (it strikes more often than I do it, since I don't really have the time to tear my closet apart every week.) Anyway, this chambray and lace combo is one I put together and I loved it so much I decided to wear it right away! I usually have a propensity to "save" outfits but I went ahead pulled it out! (And thanks to my fellow instagrammers for your feedback and pretending like you aren't weary of my frequent outfit posts.) 

5. This past Tuesday marked six months since my very first blog post! Crazy, right? It kind of feels like longer than that, actually. I mean, what did I do prior to blogging when I didn't have a reason to make mental notes of every one of life's mundane details to share with cyber-readers? Anyway, I've very much enjoyed this whole process of writing in "my voice", which is a whole lot more fun than I ever thought it would be. Up until my blog I had only written boring, collegiate-type stuff (which I'd love to share sometime, because I'm sure my papers about the laws of thermodynamics or various education psychology theories would absolutely thrill you.) But getting the opportunity to write like I talk (which apparently involved an excessive use of strikethroughs and parentheses) has been so very enjoyable. I love hearing people say "reading your blog is just like talking to you" or "I can hear you saying this stuff while I'm reading it." That's what I'm going for, here, peeps. So if I'm pulling it off, yay. 


That just about wraps it up, guys. I'm TRIPLE-DIPPED EXCITED that Monday is a holiday and that I do not have to awaken early if I so choose and that my lesson plans were shortened by one day next week. Boo-yah. That said, everyone enjoy this lovely long weekend. I apologize for the length of this post. Perhaps five separates would have been a wiser choice. We'll never know.

Happy Friday!


Ash

Chicken Italiano (My Favorite)...

Chicken Italiano (My Favorite)...

Remember the other day when I listed the reasons I'm ready for fall? Well, I got started on that list tonight by making this soup. I remember the first time I made this... it was two years ago, a few months after we got married. As it came together and I got a good whiff of the Italian seasoning, it felt like being instantly transported back to my childhood and rainy Washington. Don't you love when that happens? (The memory thing, not the rainy Washington thing... unless you grew up there too.)

Anyway, this soup is sooo good and the best part about it is that it only gets better as leftovers. There aren't a ton of recipes I make that I actually get excited about reheating for lunch the next day, but this one is awesome. So, here it is.

First, round up your ingredients. You need:
- 3-4 chicken breasts (if they're small... 2 big ones should be enough.)
- One large onion, chopped
- 4 cans of italian style stewed tomatoes (You can find these at Walmart, but if for some reason your grocery store doesn't have them, regular stewed tomatoes are fine. Just add a little extra italian seasoning.)
 - One can of corn
 - One cup of uncooked rice
 - 2 tablespoons paprika
 - 2 tablespoons italian seasoning (or more if needed =)
 - Salt to taste

First, cover the chicken with water and boil until cooked through. Then remove from the water, shred, and return to water. Add all canned vegetables (undrained), onion, rice, and seasonings. Heat until heated through and rice is tender (letting it come to a boil is the easiest way to make sure it's done... takes about 30 minutes.)

And, if you were the kid who complained that the book didn't have enough pictures...

 
That's a looot of onions. But only part of the chicken.
 
 
Since there are a multitude of cans to open, I enlist the help of Mr. McNeese.
 
 
He does good work.
 
 
There it is, just stirred together.
 
 
And the finished product. Yum.

Guys, I promise you want to try this. It's good with crackers, and even though I've never tried it, maybe with cheese sprinkled in, chili-style? Who knows? Anyway, It's my mom's recipe, so you know it's good. Plus, it makes a ton and tastes even better then second (or third) day. What, you don't make a meal that lasts half a week so you don't have to cook for 3 days? Yeah, me neither.

Enjoy this first taste of fall! =)


Ash

Ready for Fall...

Ready for Fall...


I don't know about the rest of you sweet people, but I am sooo beyond tired of summer. (Although, since school has started my summer has kinda ended anyway.) Really, I'm talking about summer weather, summer clothes, and this blasted humidity. Growing up on the west coast, I never realized how good we had it when it came to the lack of ridiculously heavy moisture in the air. Seriously... it's like stepping into a shower! But... I digress. This post is supposed to be positive!

I love fall. Really, really love it. Winter is too cold (its only redeeming feature is Christmas), spring is too indecisive (sweaters one day, t-shirts the next... it drives the obsessive planning side of me crazy) and summer, well... see the opening paragraph. Fall is just perfection, from the weather to the clothes to the food to the colors outside and the decorations. So without any more blabbering to introduce my list of reasons I'm ready for fall, here it is.

I'm ready for apple cider and hot chocolate. Few things make me happier than both of these. (A close second is coffee with peppermint mocha creamer.)

I'm ready for sweaters. And scarves. And returning to my school-year uniform of an embellished/printed shirt, solid cardigan, and pencil skirt. (It sounds boring, but I have an almost limitless supply of cardigans. It's an addiction.)

I'm ready to pull out my (very limited) collection of fall decor. Most of it is just little stuff from Target's dollar section (we are very fancy over here in the McNeese house) but due to the deluge of autumn craftiness found on Pinterest (where else?), I have been inspired to branch out and at least try to make a few cute little things for the house. If I get lazy (which is likely) I might just go with these super cute free printables. 

I'm ready to layer unapologetically. Sweaters (obviously), tights, jackets. By late August, I'm sooo tired of flip flops. And frizzy hair.


I love this sweater!


I'm ready for pumpkins, and candy corn, and caramel apples.


I'm ready for homemade soup. This is pretty much what I cook 75% of the time when it's cold. Chicken Italiano, Potato Cheese, and Chicken Noodle are our favorites. Good thing, since those are the three kinds I know how to make.

I'm ready for Psych. (I realize this isn't necessarily specific to the fall season, but new episodes start in October so it just adds to my excitement.)

Seriously... funniest show ever.


I'm ready for colored leaves (and crunchy leaves.) When we lived in Washington, the tree across the street turned THE most beautiful colors I've ever seen. I've yet to find one that beat it, but I still love seeing the trees turn.

I'm ready for boots. I (stupidly) talked myself out of a perfectly awesome pair last December (I had a gift card and everything... it's one of the great regrets of my adult life.) I reaallly want a pair like this : 
We shall see. I'll have to talk to the family treasurer (unfortunately, that's not me.)

I'm ready for cooler weather. As I have previously ranted, summer weather is charming for all of one week, and then I'm tired of it. When your choices are "sweating profusely" outside or "freezing your butt off" inside, there's pretty much no comfort the entire summer. Unless you have a pool. If you do, I hate you. =) Anyway, I'm totally ready for the temperature to drop... not too cold, just enough for a little briskness in the air and an excuse to wear a jacket. (Do I sound fussy yet?)

Finally... I'm ready to enjoy fall quickly, because, let's face it... it's just a cute little pumpkin-shaped car that ushers in what's really important. And that would be Christmas, folks. Don't you know I'll pop in the Carpenters by September 1st?

Happy fall, y'all!


Ash


Lately...

Lately...


This is how I've felt lately.

My humblest apologies for my lack of blogging. I know it has left a gaping, ragged hole in your daily dose of sarcastic, leisurely reading material. (Not...) Anyway, I have not been intentionally neglecting my 3-8 (depending on the content) faithful followers. I have been insanely and terribly busy. School starts Monday, so last week (and part of the week before) was spent feverishly hanging clever sayings and inspirational quotes around my classroom and this week (in-service) has been spent in daily sessions regarding discipline, lesson plans, and other "teacher talk" that would bore the average person to death but that we educators (such a lofty title) find absolutely riveting. (Most of the time...)

Anyway, I won't continue to whine lament my lack of onesectositdownandbreathewithoutaddingtomytodolist way of life these days. (Especially since I'm afraid that anyone reading who has children will be tempted to slap me, considering I do get to  sleep through the night and all that jazz.) However, I will just leave you with these soon-coming topics (and teaser pics, just to create that cliff-hanger feeling.) If I don't get around to posting about all this, at least you'll know (to satisfy your insatiable curiosity) what's been going on in my life recently. (You're welcome.)


Our two-year anniversary trip to D.C. was a lovely, lovely time. (The whole trip was great, but my first visit to Maggiano's made it totally worth it.)


This is one "bulletin board" in my classroom... the theme is "Adventure is Out There" (because Up is one of the cutest movies ever and because I love Disney/Pixar and because I will never grow up.) Anyway, nothing inspires learning like a little Dr. Seuss wisdom and hand-made mountains/waterfalls. 


Finally, the cat has been let out of the bag and I can announce (for the two people who don't know yet) that my beautiful seester April is pregnant with Baby #2! Yay! (This one better be a boy!)

Even though she and Jakey did a stand-out job with Baby #1.
Cutest. picture. ever.




My other seester Amanda, along with Stevo and her ah-dorable children, came to visit this past weekend. We squeezed quite a lot of fun and frivolity and snort-worthy laughter into a short time. 


More on these events coming soon, promise! Until then, pray I don't kill myself fall asleep at the computer as I enter 43,286 hours of lesson plans. =) 


See... I don't always exaggerate!

Ash

Be Ye Kind.. And Then Just Shut Up!

Be Ye Kind.. And Then Just Shut Up!

Over the past 5 days, I have read a multitude of comments online about a recent event that occurred in one of our fellow churches. I've been extremely hesitant to talk about it... definitely haven't on FB/Twitter, and really didn't want to here. But, after everything that's gone on I felt like I needed to address it, if only for my own sake. (And I'll try to be nice.)While I have no desire to spell out or rehash the details, this news has evoked a myriad of emotions within me- ranging from shock to pity to disgust to overwhelming sadness. I know that others have experienced a similar spectrum of reactions, and while some people feel that Facebook and other forums are appropriate places to sort out their feelings, I don't believe that they are. 

When a church or family (in this case, both) faces a difficult situation, the one thing that can always be called appropriate is prayer. Public comments on the whys, whens, and whats of the situation are not changing the situation. Public comments on the handling of the situation are not changing the situation. Should certain questions be asked and changes be made? Absolutely, but rushing off to your social media account and offering up your opinion (whether positive or negative) is not helpful. I could fill this post with negative comments about the situation, because it's a negative situation. But what would that accomplish, exactly?

If you're not part of the problem, or the solution, then back off.

That eliminates about 99% of us. Which is a funny thing, because since Wednesday my news feed has been flooded with comments regarding this, written almost entirely by people who are not part of the problem or solution. The bottom line is this... offer your prayers, your sympathy, and your concern, but then back off. All the "what if's" in the world are not making those who are hurting feel better. Whether you consider a problem (and not just this one, but any similar issue), remember that there are people in pain... not just those who have done wrong (and brought the pain on themselves), but those who have been wronged. Take a moment and think about how you would feel if someone you had admired, loved, and respected (or better yet, was your family member!) had let you down in a huge way. Wouldn't you rather delete your facebook account than log on and read yet another status written by someone who has nothing to do with the situation? We all have opinions, but one misfortune of the world today is that people can share them, even anonymously, with very little thought as to whom they impact.

While many people have responded in what I feel is a Christ-like way, I have read more biting, mean-spirited comments this week than I would care to in a lifetime. Sadly, the worst of these comments were written by those who consider themselves ministers of God. I am in no way condoning or agreeing with wrong-doing, and I wholeheartedly believe that we should legitimately "cry wolf" when these things are brought to light.  I'm certainly not suggesting that we overlook the wrong, downplay the wrong, or try to somehow justify the wrong. HOWEVER, jumping in on a grieving family, congregation, and wagging your finger in condemnation while they are experiencing great hurt is WRONG.


BE KIND! I cannot stress this enough. Where is our compassion for those in pain? When did the vulnerability of others become the appropriate time to pounce and offer up every type of hurtful criticism? When did your life become so perfect or you become so very wise that you became the authority on matters that absolutely do not concern you? Criticism, if offered in the right spirit, should always produce a positive action. If your criticism cannot and does not intend to offer help, but rather to offer your opinion, then it probably has no place in conversation. BE KIND! Why can't we put ourselves in others' shoes for two seconds? When other people are reeling from a blow that, like it or not, has truly shaken their faith, why swoop down in your condescending glory and throw in your two cents? Hurting people need constant prayer, not critical probing. Assess the situation and make personal decisions as to how this will affect or change things in your life... but don't think for a minute that you should be making those decisions for others.

Let's be kind. Let's pray, let's lift up the hurting, let's allow them to heal, and let's go on bringing glory to God in every way possible. Other than that... let's just shut up.


Ash