Very Easy Chili...

Very Easy Chili...

The title of this post is a little misleading... as in, it suggests that I'm capable of making "hard" chili (aka, a complicated recipe) which, as everyone knows, I am certainly not. Perhaps a good subtitle would be "because that is the only type of chili that I can make." Now that we've wasted an entire paragraph talking about the title, I guess now would be a good time to move on to the actual recipe. 

I looove this stuff... again, it's my mom's recipe (shouldn't she just start her own blog?) and it is seriously so good. I made it Saturday night and we ate it for lunch on Sunday and will eat it again for lunch this week. (You know how lazy economical I am.) With cheese sprinkled on top and LOTS of crackers, this is the perfect cold weather meal. (Or warm weather, since it's still a balmy 76 degrees around these parts.)

Easy Yummy Chili (I should write a book of recipe titles, no?)

1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, finely chopped (maybe more if you really like onions)
4 cans chili ready tomatoes 
4 cans chili beans
3-4 teaspoons chili powder

First, brown the ground beef with the onions. Drain the grease (this part grosses me out), then add the chili powder to this mixture, along with some salt. This way, the meat actually gets seasoned well. (My mom told me that... Don't feel like I'm bossing you around!)

Set your kitchen help to work by handing over the can opener and ginormous stack of cans. While the meat is cooking, add JUST the tomatoes to your big pot and let them get nice and bubbly. Then, add the beans and meat.

I added a little more chili powder just so there would be plenty of it throughout the pot. I also added some more salt and a couple of generous shakes of garlic salt. It's up to you.

"Stir it up and let it stew; let it bubble, let it brew." Sorry... had a Stone Soup moment. (That's a children's book, for you uncultured readers out there.)

Sprinkle cheese on top and EAT IT.

Fritos for Jonathan, crackers for me. Nom nom nom. Also, cheese toast (not pictured =).

That's it, everybody! This couldn't be easier (or yummier) If you want to be make it hotter, add some Texas Pete or something. I'm not big on spicy stuff, so I think it's perfect as is. Yes, I know there are many varied and adventurous chili recipes out there, but this one is perfect. It frees up my time for much more important things... like blogging about my saved time. =) Pretend it's cold outside and enjoy!


P.S. I'm linking up with Janssen, Merrick, and Landen, who are all featuring their favorite fall recipes!

Top Ten...

Top Ten...

"It is a truth universally acknowledge..." I don't know if those words by Jane Austen can actually apply to this post, but the following is just a little list I've been compiling (when I remember) over the past few days... some lessons I've made note of that I've learned (by experience... which I'm told is the best teacher- second to me, of course. =)

1. Teenagers can be convinced to accomplish any task as long as candy is involved.

2. No man's mood (bad or otherwise) has ever been  improved by a trip to Target.

3. Urgent Care centers are very inappropriately named (or, at the very least, the employees are not familiar with the definition of "urgent.")

4. Taking an English class outside to "boost creativity" doesn't exactly fulfill any creative purposes. (Oops.)

5. Eleven-year-olds take a game of "Around the World" very seriously.

6. One of the most satisfying feelings in the WORLD is that moment when you have searched the entire store and finally find "it" in your size. SUCCESS, my friends.

7. Striking up a conversation with a fellow shopper? Easy. Trying to slowly walk away when they begin sharing personal life details/speaking profanity? Awkward (and more difficult than you'd think!)

8. Doing something that makes you totally and completely a nervous wreck does NOT get easier the longer you do it. Week five of playing for chapel: just as hard as week one.

9. Trying to FaceTime with a four-year-old is like trying to watch a movie while riding a roller coaster. Two words- motion sickness.

10. If bladder control were an Olympic sport, teachers everywhere would be gold medalists.

That's all folks... my profound observations/lessons this week. Maybe over time I'll share more of these nuggets of truth. I'm off to the Teachers' Convention tomorrow so I'm sure I'll have LOTS more wisdom to impart by Friday. Adios!

Ash (Oh, and I have sent so many emails this week that I just started typing "Mrs. McNeese" at the end of this post. I'd say the next two days off are needed, eh?)

My Classroom This Fall...

My Classroom This Fall...

You guys... I have never been more ready to change out my classroom. I guess it has something to do with the fact that even though we've only been in school for a month, I had most of decorations up at least two weeks before we started, so I've been staring at these walls for a looong time. That, combined with the fact that quite a bit of my decor this first month was made by me (making it crummy, to be honest), made me very ready to see it go. I liked it, but I don't miss it. I had the whole "adventure" theme going and it was cute, but fall was calling my name.

So... I answered. In a big way. I am pretty sure I have some kind of stupid disease that causes teachers to go way overboard with bulletin boards/room decor. Whatever it is, I have a severe case of it. Not that I mind, really. For some reason, I actually enjoy bulletin boards. Grading, lesson plans, etc. all stress me out a little bit, but decorating my room is kind of therapeutic, because I'm actually working but I'm making things pretty and being creative instead of checking homework. Win-win.

I am pretty proud of myself this time around, because I had saved a lot of things from last year and only had to make a few minimal purchases for "filler" material (thank you, Target dollar section!) Seriously, if you're a teacher, head to Target. A bunch of my little things came from there, as well as some background paper. 

This little banner cost a whopping $1.

I have this pumpkin basket from last year (no idea where it's from) but the owl is a recent dollar section find. I bought the cardboard M in July and painted the chevron stripes myself.

New gift wrap to cover my poor abused desk. I love polka dots!

Another Target find... perfect for the skinny little space between my board and the door.

I never really decorated my door last year (I had a welcome poster that stayed up all year) but I actually like it. However, I doubt the poor border is going to last much longer. It's already been kicked around after a whole two days. (Thank you, children!)

Gotta teach the kids how this process works...

This is a little young for my older kids, but the 6th grade is about to start punctuation and I figure they can all use a reminder of comma and period rules. Plus it's cute! =)

This isn't the best photo (and not the best board, either)... it was the one that I actually "made" this time. That background paper is wrapping paper from Target ($1) and looks like newspaper. The quote was supposed to be pretty and script-y, and kind of fell a little flat to me. But it's okay, I guess!

Don't you love using Patch songs as bulletin board captions? =) As Thanksgiving gets closer, the students will have the chance to write things they're thankful for on the banner.

Very typical saying, but I like it nonetheless.

I got this set of scrapbook paper from Target and loved it all together as a kind of patchwork background. And the letters were a hodge-podge of leftover sayings from last year. I really like it, especially since it's a little more "middle school."

This was my favorite board last year, and I still love... especially that border! The scarecrow is from a local teacher supply store, and the leaves are from Target.

Okay, I saved this for last because I am proud of the first classroom item I actually used a transparency to draw and color myself. The picture looks nicer than it does in person, which I am totally okay with. =) I love my cute little squirrel!

There you have it! I am really loving all these new boards... now I just hope I don't get tired of orange over the next couple of months. =) Maybe if you're a teacher, you got a few ideas (even if it's what not to do... it's the thought that counts! =)

I love a new look for my classroom... now if only I had a bulletin board that would grade my papers and make me coffee. THAT would be awesome... until then, I have Jonathan. Thank goodness! =)


A Birthday Post...

A Birthday Post...

Tomorrow, my brother-in-law Steven will be turning 30. Crazy, considering that when I met him he was younger than I am now. We are all getting old around here! Tonight at home, everyone got to help celebrate and honor Steven, with pictures and cards and gifts and cake. I'm pretty bummed about not being there (especially because of the cake.) So, since I am not able to join in the revelry down in Georgia, I thought I'd dedicate a post to Steven, who happens to be one of my favorite people in the world and also one of my heroes. (Warning... gushing may ensue.)

I first met Steven when I was thirteen. He came to the Bible college where my parents worked, and within a few weeks, I was convinced that he should marry my sister. (The fact that she had a massive crush on him probably had something to do with that little epiphany.) Anyway, Amanda's obsession interest, combined with the fact that he was the best basketball player I had ever seen (far more important to me than any other quality at the time), made him perfect brother-in-law material as far as I was concerned. Well, within a few months he actually had the nerve to date OTHER girls (can you imagine? obviously the Lord had not yet divulged to him my plan). Of course, I hated all of those girls and just knew that one day he would get a clue decide to date Amanda, who was clearly the right choice. 

After a few months of waaaiting, he finally asked out my sister and then they dated and got married and had beautiful children who are now the reason I call them at all. Oops... did I skip a few details? Oh, I meant to say, they did get married, and Steven became more than my brother-in-law; he was my youth pastor. Of course, there were a few perks to this setup (what, you think I won Berean Teen of the Month for 13 months straight by actually earning points?? hahaha... not really.) There were also a couple of cons (being humiliated in front of your boyfriend at 17... something I've never recovered from. =) 

Overall, I have to say that God could not have picked a better person to complete our family as Amanda's husband. Let me share just a few reasons why I think Steven is pretty awesome:

-He was nice to an extremely awkward, stuck-in-the-middle-of-an-ugly-stage junior high version of me, playing basketball with me and making me feel semi-cool (something guys my own age were somehow not very good at... imagine that!)  

A family trip to Disneyland... 2004? I'm not sure why we were pointing to the Producer's Building. Must have been an inside joke at the time. =)

- He is probably the most consistent person I know. I've seen him upset, but I have honestly never seen him lose his cool or really even be unkind. I have known this guy for almost 10 years and he is as real as they come. He is genuinely kind and funny and godly, ALL the time. Sometimes it's annoying... like, come on Steven. Just be mean one time! (Can you tell we are a very loving family?) He is always calm amid the drama (rare at Baines gatherings, but still... ha!) His attitude, walk with God, all of it has been so consistent since I've known him.

-He is ridiculously charming when he wants to be and can get everything from discounts to refills or whatever with his, "If I were best friend, what kind of deal could you give me?" routine. Then the poor little lady at the counter just starts giggling and he walks away with a large order of fries or something. It's quite entertaining, actually.

- He has been privy to the depths of crazy in our family for many years now and still loves us all. 

- He takes care of my seester and my babies (I mean their babies, oops.) Really though, he works SO hard to provide for his family and is such a good daddy and husband. 

- He was (and is) such an awesome youth pastor. It was always completely evident, from the lessons in Sunday school to "Teen Excite Night" to youth activities, that he loved us teens and wanted to equip with the tools we needed to live for God... even when he was ripping our faces off. =)

- He is one of the funniest people EVER... the best at skits, games, and just acting like an idiot in front children. ha!

- He'll kill me for this... but he can do the moonwalk and the robot like you wouldn't believe. Unfortunately, I do not have photographic evidence to prove this. Just take my word for it! =)

- He has always, always been there for me... for counsel, for advice, for a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh at my jokes, someone to make me think about my walk with God, and just being the first "big brother" God finally decided to give me. (Then came Jake, and I love him too! =)

Making me laugh and look like a moron...

Youth activity... 2007

Still looking up to him... even all grown up. =)

If you know Steven, you know how awesome he is. God definitely knew what he was doing when He gave such a wonderful gift to our family. Happy 30th, Bruther! Love you!


May We Never Forget...

May We Never Forget...

Today, eleven years have passed since the terrorist attacks on our country. It's something that never fails to make me emotional, sad, and, even over a decade later, angry that something so unspeakable happened to innocent people. I was in seventh grade, out of town on a family trip, and we turned on the tv in our hotel room right before the second plane hit. I watched the towers fall, live. I was twelve years old and terrified. I will never forget the feeling that someone had taken our safety and security away. That fear, combined with the overwhelming grief for the victims' families, combines even now to make 9-11 something that I will never forget. I've spent quite a bit of time looking for videos to show my history class, and I'm a little bit in disbelief to think that many of them were just babies, or not even born yet. Even my oldest students are too young to remember that day. That's why it's so important that we teach them what happened, and most importantly, how our President and country responded. I wrote this poem last year to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the attacks, and it was printed in our church bulletin. I didn't intend to post it on here, but I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed with emotion regarding today's anniversary, so I thought I'd share it since it kind of sums it all up for me.

I recall like it was yesterday,
The way I felt on that Tuesday.
Our families watched in shocked dismay
As normal changed to disarray.

The crushing blow that we were dealt
By thousands the effects were felt,
And differences were forced to melt
As Americans together knelt.

A nation that for many years
Had looked at God with scoffing sneers,
Now from places dark with fears
Humbly bowed, eyes filled with tears.

We asked for grace in time of need
And wisdom for the ones who’d lead;
And o’er those who’d done this awful deed,
We asked for justice to succeed.

Around the world we prayed as one
To find the ones who’d evil done;
We prayed for every mother’s son
Who’d fight to see the vict’ry won.

The stars and stripes we all displayed
Showed the sacrifices made
By those that freedom’s price had paid;
As patriots, they were not swayed.

I watched the towers as they fell,
And violence’s blow rang freedom’s bell.
A sleeping giant woke to tell
That she’d not rest ‘til all was well.

Our people’s innocence erased;
As shock died down, it was replaced
By fire as our nation faced
A foe regarded with distaste.

To our defense the soldiers raced;
Not a moment did they waste.
The enemy would now be chased
By the strength on which our freedom’s based.

As we gather to commemorate
That infamous September date,
The unexpected twist of fate
That proved again what makes us great,

Let’s take a moment to recall
The Tuesday that we one and all
Rose forward as a mighty wall
To bravely answer duty’s call;

A moment to remember when
Heroes were found in common men.
They could not have known it then,
Their lives would never be the same again.

The men and women of heart and soul,
For whom the bells of valor toll,
Who strove toward a common goal:
Their collective battle cry, “Let’s roll.”

These heroes did not turn away,
For freedom’s price they chose to pay.
Their very lives they chose to lay
Down midst the rubble and decay.

Those servicemen and passers-by
Rushed to find the helpless cry;
They never stopped to question why
Or whether they would live or die.

They simply faced the task ahead;
Many now lie fallen, dead.
They bravely into danger led
And now for them a tear is shed.

How quickly these ten years have passed;
We know that time moves oh-so-fast.
But to the side we’ll never cast
The memories, on and on they’ll last.

But with the memories we must keep
The urgency that through us seeped
As we watched the smoking heap
And for lost souls began to weep.

So though we may not understand,
We trust in Him and what He’s planned.
If we’ll reach to God’s unchanging hand,
He promised that He’d heal our land.

To those who keep us free today,
We express our thanks in some small way
Though it’s impossible to say
The importance of the part you play

To keep our nation safe and free
And preserve our precious liberty.
Your jobs are far from trouble-free,
Yet still you serve so willingly.

We honor you today and yet
We recognize the special set
Who that day died without regret
We never, ever will forget.

God bless America!


It's a.... BOY!!!

It's a.... BOY!!!

Well, the moment I've been waiting  for since finding out that Seester #2 (April) is pregnant has finally arrived. I knew that today was the gender reveal, but when she called me during study hall I forgot (because I'm a teacher and my brain cells are rapidly dimishing), so I didn't answer. I texted her to see what she needed, and she quickly responded with the happy news. I wish I could have heard it on the phone, but oh well. My squeal of delight momentarily aroused the 8th and 9th graders from their cocoons of teenage angst, so there's that.

For some reason, I have really wanted this baby to be a boy from the very beginning. I'm not sure why, but I guess it's because a) my first nephew has already completely wrapped me around his fat little finger and b) since I grew up with three sisters, boys are just different for our family. (And yes, my dad is sacrificing a burnt offering this afternoon to express his thanks.)

Seriously... who doesn't want another one of these guys running around?

This may come as a shock, but I can grow nostalgic/sentimental fairly easily... or at the drop of a hat. So all afternoon, I've thought about Nephew #2... what he'll be like, who he'll look like, if he'll be fearless like Leslie or sensitive like Steven or funny like Emily... if he'll be "all Joines" or "all Baines" or a combination. Watching my sisters go through a pregnancy and waiting to meet the baby and finally seeing what this little person you've tried to picture and prayed for for nine months is really the coolest thing. (Second, maybe, to having your own kids... though I have said for a long time that I might still pick my nieces/nephews over my children. Maybe I'll change my mind when the McNeese munchkins arrive.) I'm sure he will be absolutely adorable, like every other Baines grandchild thus far.

Although... we could have something to worry about based on this photographic evidence and simple biology facts.

HAHAHAHA. Adorable.

Thank goodness that Baby Boy's big sister has given us hope for him. She is simply a doll, as everyone knows.

Beautiful girl!

Anyway, I am SO excited for Jake and April and Leslie Lu and I hope February gets here really fast so I can meet Mr. Joines Baby. I can't wait for another little man in the family. Of course, if "he" turns out to be a "she" like Leslie, then this entire post will be irrelevant. Let's pray that doesn't happen. =) Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the baby section at Target!

(Auntie) Ash

Hitting the Snooze...

Hitting the Snooze...

I've always been a night owl. I love late-night movies, late-night conversations, late-night SNACKS (yum!)... you get the idea. Mornings, on the other hand, have never been my thing. I HATE getting up early. When I was a kid, my dad woke me up almost every morning, and hearing "Sissie, it's time to get up" was not something I particularly relished (although it was far superior to my mother's occasional early-morning romp through the house belting out "Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory".) 
Oh, brother.

Anyway, my aversion to getting up early only worsened as I got older, considering that the whole "hair and makeup routine" was added in, despite my late to the party attitude in that department. (I'm not completely certain that I ever HAVE fully joined that party, but that's neither here nor there.) So, actually caring about my appearance only added to the amount of time necessary to get ready in the morning, thus cutting my precious sleep time even shorter. THEN... I made the foolish decision to choose a career that forces me to be up early EVERY morning... and not just up, but perky and alert and ready to mold young minds before 10 a.m. Ha. Ha. Yes, I know. The irony is not lost on me either. 

I must be honest... I've felt this way.

So, since I now have to put effort into getting ready (rest in peace, tomboy phase) and since as a teacher I have to be up early Monday-Friday, the whole sleeping in thing is not really an option for me. So, how does a certified night owl deal with being forced into the rigors of early mornings? (Feel free to apply this unsolicited wisdom/advice to your own lives. You're welcome. Oh, and I know anyone with kids does not sympathize with my complaints, so consider yourselves excused.)

Well, since I am not only in love with sleep but also fundamentally lazy, I cut out as many steps in my morning as possible. I make our lunches at night, set out breakfast, etc. Also, since I am the most indecisive person ever (or am I? hehe) I absolutely cannot go to sleep unless every single part of my outfit is selected, ironed, whatever. Although these days any clothing that requires ironing is not getting much air-time in the life of Ashley. (See? Lazy.) Shoes, jewelry, jacket, etc. have to be lined up for action. Also, I have recently (like, this week) begun getting up EVEN EARLIER (what is wrong with me?!) to exercise, because I apparently have lost my mind. So, my workout clothes and tennis shoes and weights are by the door, ready to go.

Another thing that helps me (and might help you, if you are wise enough to heed my counsel) is having something in the morning that perks me up. For Jonathan, it's the sports news; this, as you might guess, is not material that makes me want to jump out of bed. However, I have a rotation of Pandora stations (Michael Buble, Walt Disney Classics, and more of my "happy music") that makes me feel at least a little cheery. Because, let's face it... who can stay grumpy when listening to songs from The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, and Tangled? What's that? Exactly... NOBODY! =)

This sounds crazy, but I have given myself a bedtime. Not an actual time, but a general idea as to when I need to start winding down. (For me, this process starts around 9.) Yes, I know... I should dress up for Halloween as a yawn. But, my staying-up-late-to-watch-movies -or-study-or-act-stupid days from my teen years/college are far behind me. These days, I really cannot function without enough sleep. At the ripe old age of 23, I'm getting old! However, I'd rather turn off the tv and iPad and make myself sleep than feel like death in the morning. 

I also like to plan something (at least a couple mornings a week) to look forward to. Sometimes it's making time to stop for a biscuit at McDonald's, sometimes it's making muffins, sometimes it's just the outfit I'm wearing, but any little thing (usually FOOD) that gives me some extra incentive to get out of bed is usually worth an extra dollar or two. 

 And now I am off to my old-lady nighttime routine that involves an early bedtime and an slightly obsessive inability to sleep without knowing what I'll be wearing tomorrow. Maybe I shouldn't be giving any early morning tips? Anyway, I am sure that if you don't like getting up early in the morning that you will follow my advice and leap out of bed tomorrow just itching to start the day. Let me know how that feels, because I have yet to experience it. =)


Fall Craftiness (and a Look at My Very Fancy Decorations)...

Fall Craftiness (and a Look at My Very Fancy Decorations)...

So, I was at Target the other day spending money like a drunken sailor adding to our meager collection of fall decor, and one item in my cart was a little fall banner/garland thingie. (Just some leaves strung together, really.)  However, I walked away from it because a) I had already filled my little basket with things to spend money on and b) the leaves were covered with glitter and, in case you aren't aware, glitter is the scourge of all decorating materials and since I did not want to spend my autumn season picking little shiny pieces off the floor, I passed on the banner.

Then, the (very few) creative juices I possess starting flowing and I got to thinking that I could probably make a banner for less money. Even though I am usually an utter failure when it comes to crafting, I occasionally become delusional enough to actually make an attempt. So, I headed over to Michael's (a store that never ceases to make me feel positively inept as a human being in general) and grabbed some cute scrapbook paper and yarn. Then I convinced my dear, sweet husband to help me cut out some fall shapes (leaves, acorns, pumpkins, etc.)... we are very handy with scissors, eh? HA... yeah, right. We used a die-cut machine. Anyway, I hung it up tonight and put out our other fall stuff. Yay for fall!

The beginning of the stringing process... I am a slave to symmetry.

This is a mindless task that can be accomplished while watching DVR'd episodes of Reba (or whatever is your viewing pleasure.) Just don't be a loser and get the yarn tangled a multitude of times, causing you to become angry and feel tempted to rip apart the whole thing.

The finished product! (It turned out much longer than I thought but I didn't want to shorten it and I kinda like it.)

The middle of it!

I love it!

Coffee table

Shelf... the gourd on top, shiny pumpkin, and "Give Thanks" are all from Target... oh, and you can't really see it, but there's a cute little wooden cornucopia on the second shelf.

Some leaves scattered on the entertainment center.

I can't believe it... I did a craft that wasn't a complete wreck! (If you disagree, just pretend I'm a first grader with an art project!) Now all that's left is some candy corn or caramels to fill up my pumpkin dish! Now if only the temperature would drop about 20 degrees... Oh well. I will breathe in heavenly smell of my Spiced Cider plug-in and pretend it's cold outside.