Saturday, December 31, 2011

Things Part 1

I do this every year, whether publicly or privately, to reflect on what I've accomplished in the past year and set goals for myself for the next one. I feel like this year is a bit different for me, although I'm having trouble pinning down exactly why. Perhaps it's because I'm happy to see 2011 go and so excited for what 2012 holds. Perhaps, for the first time in a few years, 2011 didn't mean any big, life-changing event for me. Perhaps because 2012 will be the FIRST year of my life that will not spend as a student (I say that now...).

In any case, I am pleased with how 2011 went. I did a lot of pretty awesome things, but I am so looking forward to 2012 and all the amazing things it will bring. Here's to ya!

10 Things I/We Did in 2011:

1. The first three months went by in a blur. I had my nose in my planbook and Art was busy moving from Check Flight back to Dragons on the flight line. In April, Art and a couple of fellow IPs competed in the Adventure Race out by the lake. They decided that having me on the team would be too much of an athletic advantage, unfair to the other teams really, so they finished the race as a three-man team. They still let me have a t-shirt.

2. Later that month, Lily Marie Sanford was welcomed into the world and we officially became Uncle Art and Aunt Amy. I met Lily for the first time over Christmas, and although she's not this itty bitty anymore, she is all kinds of adorable. Emily and Kirby are moving to Italy in a few months, but I will most certainly continue to spoil her rotten via UPS.

3. Being in our mid-20s brings weddings, weddings, and more weddings. We were more than grateful that so many people wanted to include us in such a special day, but unfortunately couldn't make it to all of them. We did make it to a few, starting with Clay and Lacey's in Austin:
 Then Brian and Lauren's in Mackinac, Island:
And finally Brandon and Erin's in Lexington, KY:
(PS - 2012 will see the first 108 BABY, as Jill and Aaron are expecting a baby boy in April!!)

4. One of our dreams since I can remember was to buy a boat. Art grew up on lakes, and even though I didn't and can't really swim, there are few things more relaxing and freeing than a day on the lake. In early 2011 (can you tell I'm not going in any order whatsoever here?), we bought a Malibu speed boat off of Paul and Maria who were PCSing. Best purchase ever?

 5. Brian and Lauren got married on Mackinac Island (see above), where motor vehicles are allowed. We could have taken a ferry, like normal people, from mainland Michigan, but as soon as Art discovered that he could rent an airplane in Columbus and fly us up there himself, there was no reasoning with him. So into this mini Cooper on wings we went, all the way to Northern Michigan. And now Art wants a plane. And I just want to sit on solid ground for a minute. A really, really long minute.

6. Our travels also took us to Ft. Myers, Florida for my mom's 60th birthday. It was a real treat to be around my whole family, which doesn't happen very often since all of us kids have scattered across the country. There are few things I love more than hanging out with my brothers, and I'm so glad their girlfriends Dawn and Jamie were able to make it out there with us. It was a great way to end the summer!

7. I made my second Thanksgiving dinner this year, with lots and lots of help from the many visitors we had. This year my mom, Mikey, Aunt Cathy, Grandma Jean, Jeff, Mary, and Charlie all DROVE down from Dayton to celebrate my favorite holiday with us. We made all the regular fixins, including brined turkey, cranberry sauce, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie and apple pie. I was happy to put somebody else in charge of the gravy, something I always ruin! I also vowed never to wear this white top again.

8. We got a NEW ASSIGNMENT, which was definitely the highlight of 2011. First, it was the B2 bomber to Dyess AFB, Abilene, TX, which we were stoked about, but it was by far our 2nd choice. Art was then picked up for an interview for the U2 Dragon Lady, landed it, and now we are headed here:
(Technically we won't be living here, but this will be our new Lake Amistad. It's Folsom Lake near where we will be living in Cali Cali!!)

9. I was awarded a grant from the state of Texas to teach math and participated in the Regional Math Collaborative out of Region XV. Even though I won't finish the school year, I loved being a part of the grant! I have no picture of math camp, sorry.

10. Last, but certainly not least, I finally graduated with my Masters degree from UD in education. That wasn't even the highlight of the day though... the real treat was meeting Roosevelt Chapman, famed UD alum, basketball great, and middle school teacher. :)

Peace out 2011!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A pilot, an astronaut, and a spy.

I PRAYED for this day.

Today is the day Art became a future U2 pilot!!!

That's right friends, Art's two-week interview ended EARLY, with an offer to hire!!!


As if THAT wasn't big enough news... we are moving to California in MARCH!!

I officially put my notice into work that my last day will be March 9th, the day we release for spring break. It's only been a few hours, but already I have very mixed feelings about it. Most of the time, I don't like my job, for a lot of reasons. Of course, I better not say that out loud, because the second I do, I'll have a great day and love my job. I have several students who I really, truly would adopt into my home if they needed me to. I love them that much. (I don't know a teacher who hasn't felt that way about some of her students!) I have a lot of struggles every day, but I really do love what I do some of the time. I will be happy to start a new journey but leaving my kids in the middle of the year... I'm already feeling guilty about it.

... And then I think about living 2 hours away from Tahoe, the ocean, and wine country... and I don't feel that guilty anymore. :) :) :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving mealplanning!

When I was a little girl, I used to dream about making Thanksgiving dinner for my whole family. Not the potluck kind, the kind where I do everything myself and wow everyone with my culinary skills and my ability to keep it all together.

Most little girls dream of fairy tales and weddings. I dreamed of stemware and poultry.

Last year, I did a pre-Thanksgiving dinner for my parents, who were in town the weekend prior. Emily and Kirby were still living in Del Rio, and Emily's friend Ann was in town as well. 

Last year's spread: Brined fresh turkey, sage and apple stuffing, gravy, cranberry orange sauce, sweet potato casserole, whiskey glazed carrots, mixed mashed potatoes

Emily was just starting to show with Lily in this photo. On actual Thanksgiving, it was just the four of us, and we had a much smaller turkey dinner. It was nice, and I had a blast arranging all the recipes. But it wasn't the same, since most of our family wasn't there.

But THIS year, we've convinced my mom and Mikey, Art's parents, Charlie, my Aunt Cathy and my Grandma Jean to all come down for the actual turkey day! And, believe it or not, they're all DRIVING the 24 hours from Dayton to Del Rio. Better them than me!

My brothers and their respective girlfriends, Dawn and Jamie, are currently on sibling probation for their absence. I will forgive them on Christmas. I think.

Anyway, here's what I've got on docket for this week, Thanksgiving recipes included. Links up where available!

  • dinner out at one of the two non-chain restaurants in Del Rio (there's a third, but it's inedible)
  • Thanksgiving prep:
    • Brine the turkey. I am extremely picky about my turkeys. I refuse to buy a frozen one, which means I can't get my turkey in Del Rio. The past two years we have ordered a free-range turkey from Whole Foods and driven the 6 hours round-trip to San Antonio to get it. Worth it!
    • Make mashed potatoes and refrigerate (recipe: potatoes, cream cheese, salt, pepper.)
    • Make stuffed mushroom stuffing and refrigerate separate from reserved mushroom caps for tomorrow's appetizer
    • Make Roasted butternut squash soup and refrigerate
  • Breakfast: Pumpkin Pie Smoothies
  • Dinner: Braised chicken (Side note: This is from my old blog, and I wrote it just a few days after Art proposed. Ah, memories.)
 I hope you all have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview dates!

Last week, Art got an email from Beale inviting him out for his U-2 interview! Originally they had said December-February, but instead he will be leaving much earlier! He will be out in California from November 27th-December 9th! :) He will find out at the interview if he gets hired or not, so in a few short weeks we will know if we are moving to Abilene as planned or out to Sacramento!

This is great news because Art hasn't gotten dates for his B-1 class yet. If he had, it would make things a lot more complicated and more inconvenient for everyone. So we are very happy he will be going out as soon as he is!

But he will be missing my birthday. :( And my birthday's on a Monday! :( :( But our family will have just left, so I'm sure I will enjoy the time to decompress after what will be a very busy holiday weekend!

Just wanted to share our super exciting news! Say some prayers for us!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Air Force news!! :)

I know I have some readers who were linked here because of the Air Force connection, and admittedly I blog very little about our life in the Air Force.

Why, you ask?

Because, every time Art gets a set of orders, they say Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. It's happened three times now.

 Casual status... Laughlin. 

UPT... Laughlin. 

PIT... Randolph (a whopping 3 hours from Laughlin). 

FAIP... Laughlin.

Acronym check: UPT, undergraduate pilot training. PIT, pilot instructor training. FAIP, first assignment instructor pilot.

In short, it hasn't been that exciting, or that Air-Force-esque. Art goes to work in the morning and comes home for dinner every night, except for a few weekends when he's cross country. When I think of military life, that's not really the situation I think of.

It's got me pretty spoiled, actually. But since we now have our B-1 assignment, a set of orders that DOESN'T say Laughlin, that's all about to change.

When I posted about our B-1 assignment, I mentioned that we were still waiting on word from the U-2 squadron to see if Art could fly that airplane instead. Since the U-2 guys came to an air show here in Del Rio about a year ago, it's all the man has talked about. The B-1 news was exciting, overwhelmingly exciting, but I knew a little part of Art (and a big part of me) was still holding out hope that an email would show up asking Art to interview for the U-2.

Well... IT DID!!!!!!!

Last week Art received word that they were interested in interviewing him sometime in the next few months. Several people from Laughlin have been hired recently, so we are hoping that his reputation and superior flying skills (my words, of course) will speak for themselves.

He has not gotten the job yet and would kill me if I started talking about how awesome California is and how it's always been a dream of mine to live there and how PERFECT of an assignment it would be for both of us. So I won't.

BUT this is fantastic news for our little family and I totally believe he will kill this interview. I certainly will post if and when that happens! :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Teaching causes bipolar disorder. I'm certain of it.

Yesterday, I was looking at jobs in Abilene in just about everything BUT teaching. This is for several reasons, not the least of which is that sometimes I feel burned out. I'm sure every teacher has felt this way, especially the first few years, but sometimes I can't help but think that I do NOT get paid enough for all the garbage I go through during the day. Not to mention all the work I bring home, whether it's actual papers or emotional work. It takes a lot away from my ability to fulfill my obligations to my family, and I hate that. And I can't imagine what it would be like if my husband wasn't so independent (HE packs MY lunch every day, for goodness sake) and we had mini Bulls. Sometimes I dream about a job where I get to work from home. People make money sewing, quilting, crafting, and blogging... so why can't I? I dream of that life.

And then days like today happen. Today, my district gave me the day out of my classroom to observe other teachers with my mentor, Brenda. Because I'm certified 4th through 12th grade, we went to the Freshman campus for first period. (Yes, our school has a totally separate building just for 9th grade!) I consider myself a smart person, but for some reason it didn't dawn on me that the students currently in 9th grade were in 8th grade last year, and, therefore, my former students.

I saw them. A LOT of them. For those of you that don't remember my first year as clearly as I do, I went home crying a lot. My kids were bad. Disrespectful, sleepy, truant, lazy, insubordinate... you name it. I wasn't that great either, and that was probably part of the problem. But anyway, I would not have ever imagined that so many of them would run up to me with mile-wide smiles on their faces, telling me that they miss me and they are so excited to see me. Even the student that my mom lovingly referred to has "The Boy with the Hippo" gave me a hug. Last year I never would have believed that could ever happen.

After that emotional roller coaster, I got to see a lot of classrooms that are different from mine and get some good ideas for how to better manage my class. It is so nice, every once in a while, to get a break from teaching and do some of the other stuff, like planning, that we are required to do but not really given any time to do it. Brenda watched me teach my toughest class and had some good feedback for me as well. All in all, it was a very good day, and a good way to break up the monotony.

Then, from 5-7 we had Open House, and I got to meet some of my kids' families, which is always so awesome. I wish more of my parents had shown up, but it was so nice getting to tell my parents how much I love their kids, because of course the only parents to come to open house are the ones with great kids.

So, I guess, there are good days and bad days, just like everything else. I'm not sure if I'll teach forever or not, but in the midst of all the craziness and the stress, it was so nice to have a day to recharge. And see my kiddos from last year. :)

In the words of my philosopher husband: "Would you just decide already if you like your job or not?!"

Yes. No. Yes. No. Yesno. Yesnoyesnoyesnoyesnoyesno.

Is that so hard to understand??

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I really wanted to post about our Dodge Journey adventure before this, but it seems crazy to me that I've waited this long to post about our next assignment! We have been waiting for this news for... count them... FOUR AND A HALF YEARS now, and last weekend, while we were in Lexington for my dear friend Erin's wedding, we got the call.

Ready, people?

Art will be flying the B-1 (pictured above), and we are moving to Dyess AFB in Abilene, Texas!! This may not seem like exciting news, especially for those of you who don't know much about the drop process, but it IS! Yes, I'm going to be a Texan for another (unknown) amount of time. BUT, Abilene, is a much bigger town, about the size of Dayton, and the B-1 was our first choice on the dream sheet. So, this was incredible news and we are so blessed.

So, what does the B-1 do, exactly? It does two really really cool things:

1. It breaks the sound barrier. (Confession: I can't really grasp what that even means. Looks neat!)

2. It rains hate. Serious. Hate.

I'm so proud of my husband. It truly feels like finally, finally, he is getting something he really deserves for all of his tireless work. I am so glad that he's being recognized for being amazing at his job and I feel so blessed and lucky to be by his side.

And... I'm gonna say it... I feel so blessed and lucky to be MOVING. Bring on the Starbucks and the Targets and the highways and the Michael's and the diversity and the sushi and the non-Walmart grocery and everything else that's in Abilene that isn't in Del Rio. I'm EXCITED!! We don't know any dates yet, but April-May timeframe is the best guess at this point. Unless something crazy happens and we leave way earlier than that, I'll still be finishing the school year with my kiddos. And I'm definitely going to sob uncontrollably on the last day of school. So I have that to look forward to.

We are still waiting to hear back from the U-2 squadron. The U-2 is a special request assignment that Art is still eligible for. It's truly the plane he's dying to fly, but since it's not on the dream sheet, we put B-1s first. The U-2 squadron is just outside of Sacramento, California, so there is still a chance (we are really really hoping!) that we will go there instead.

But lemme tell ya, if we don't get the U-2, we already have our second choice, and it's a pretty splendid place to be. I am loving life!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Peanut Post

I have a post coming about our Dodge Journey adventures last weekend, and another about the NEW ASSIGNMENT we just got, but my little furry friend just walked across the room and inspired me to write about him. Here's a list of things that I hope I never forget about this dog:

- At night, he gets grumpy and just wants to go to bed. Sometimes, if he decides we are staying up too late, he puts himself to bed.

- After a long day of napping inside, his favorite thing to do is go onto the back porch and lay in the sun. After a good dose of vitamin D, he comes back in.

- His favorite favorite thing, of all time, ever, is string cheese. The dog will arise from a dead sleep if he hears the cheese drawer in the refrigerator open.

- When I put on sweatpants, he likes to prance around in the legs before I put them on.

- He always wants to cuddle with the last person to sit down.

- He is happiest when all three of us are at home sitting as close together as possible.

- He likes to sleep under the covers, but just in between the two quilts, not under the sheet.

- He catches flies in midair. Often.

- The tazer is the worst thing to ever happen to him. (The sound, I don't actually let anyone taze my dog)

- He has a freckle on his left ear.

- Because the sewing room gets the most sun in the house, sometimes I find him hiding in there.

- Aside from me and Art, his favorite person is Gloria, our cleaning lady. She calls him "Peanuts," and sometimes we do too.

That is all. More about the Journey and OUR journey... later. :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Confession: I love Jewish food. Forever and ever.

I'm Catholic. Like, super Catholic. I don't go to Mass every week (although we talk about going to Mass every week!), but I've been fortunate enough to never have doubted my faith. Not once in my life have I ever doubted it... that's a big deal to me! I credit my mom, my godparents, my grade school, and my second family, the Colemans, for instilling this faith in me. I'm lucky. I would never denounce Jesus Christ and I believe in the New Testament with my whole heart.

That said, I'm pretty sure I have a Jewish grandmother alter ego, or at least an alter stomach, because I love Jewish food. Love. Love. Love.

My stepmom is Jewish, and she was the first one to introduce me to my first traditional Jewish dish/ingredient... matzo. Or matzah. Whatever you like. It's basically unleavened bread, although it's not the same texture/flavor as the unleavened bread we Catholics take at Mass as the Eucharist.

 As an aside, my dad's father was part of the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany and my dad ended up marrying a Jewish woman. There's all kinds of restitution happening on the Tiedge side.

As a second aside, that also makes my Chinese sister half Jewish. I'm excited for her to apply for colleges (in three years?!!!) and get every scholarship available just because she can check, like, every ethnicity.

Anyway, matzo comes in many forms... matzo meal (which is about the consistency of bread crumbs), matzo crackers (like you see in the photo above), matzo balls (like dumplings... but better), matzo brei (Jewish French toast of sorts)... and I'm sure there are more. I love matzo. And I'm making matzo ball soup for dinner tonight, so I thought I'd dedicate an entire post to a genre of food that I'm just crazy about. I hope you try some Jewish food soon, even if you aren't Jewish... you life will be better. I promise!

Blintzes, which are sort of like crepes. I love blintzes because, for the most part, they are savory. I don't really do sweets, so I loooooove these when they are just alone in their carbohydrate goodness. I can't do the sour cream of course, but with a little salt and herbs... to die for.

Knishes... they're kind of like calzones, but with more of an Eastern European flair. I like these best with just sausage, onions, and herbs. You can add cheese to them, but it's not Kosher if you do. I actually like mine better without the cheese, and it's not just because cheese and my intestines hate each other. :)

Kugel. There are so many recipes for kugel out there. I've only had the sweet kind, which kind of reminded me of cinnamon Yorkshire pudding with noodles. I am dying to have some savory kugel, but haven't found a recipe I loved yet.

Jewish apple cake. Please don't buy Jewish apple cake. Ever. Google for a recipe and make it yourself. This has been a public service announcement.

Lox and cream cheese on an everything bagel. Lox is smoked salmon... regular cream cheese... capers... everything bagel. I don't like red onions on mine, but I know a lot of people do. I could eat this for breakfast every day. And I would, if they made dairy-free cream cheese and sold it at Wallyworld. But they don't.

Challah bread. Or Hallah bread. Or Halla bread. Or Challa bread. I don't know why it has so many different spellings, but no matter how you spell it, it's the best bread. Ever. It's also incredibly easy to make (please use honey and not sugar!) and doesn't need anything but a little bit of salt to taste incredible. This is the first bread I ever made from scratch!

Latkes. Think hash brown cakes... but better. These can be eaten at any meal, and they are soooooo good with a little bit of salt and applesauce. And they're easy to make! I really like Emeril's latke recipe, but without the caviar. Honestly, if I had to buy caviar, I wouldn't even know where to go. I'm just not classy enough for cavier I guess.

Matzo ball soup. Without a doubt my favorite Jewish recipe... I'm eating it as I type this. I never have fresh dill, but I know dill is delicious in it, as is just a teeeeeny squirt of lemon juice before serving. I used Manischewitz's matzo ball mix that my mom sent me (there's what, 6 Jewish people in the entire city of Del Rio? Not much matzo running around), but I have made them myself before. I love these as much (if not more) as I love regular dumplings... these are so much lighter and airier. There is NOTHING else like matzo ball soup when you're sick. It's better than chicken soup for sure. Once you have it, you'll never want chicken soup again!

Thank you for humoring me while I gush about Jewish food. I hope you go out and try one of these things immediately, for the sake of bettering your life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

First Week of Year Two

I'm going to blow your mind right now with a statement I know you've never pondered: Teaching is hard.

Like, really hard.

Maybe it's because I've grown accustomed in the last two months to quiet and reflection and creativity, but being 100% ON all the time while 160 13 to 16-year-olds stare at you and anxiously wait for you to make the tiniest mistake is exhausting.

And, apparently, bad for your body, because as I write this, I'm taking my first sick day from school. Five days in. It's not the flu or a cold or anything like that, so I'm pretty sure I didn't catch it from the kids. I'm pretty sure I was just born with an extraordinarily sensitive digestive tract on the verge of revolt at any moment. I've never had to go home sick from work before, but there was no way I was going to be able to teach and hurl at the same time in the same room.

All that being said, I had an awesome first week of school. Actually, I can't believe how awesome it's been. After last year and my explosive first day, followed by weeks of tears and exhaustion and frantically trying to figure out what I would do with my life now that teaching is obviously out, I was terrified for the first day of school. Terrified.

Over the summer, I read Harry and Rosemary Wong's book The First Days of School. I know I shouldn't buy into one book as my teaching Bible, but since last year's first day was so terrible, I figured I had to do something different to not repeat that experience. So I followed the book's advice and my first day went exactly as the book said it would.

A little bit about my assignment this year. My new administration created a new math class and gave that class to me. I feel very fortunate about this, because they didn't have to do it. I'm an employee of the district who is certified in language arts 4-8 and math 4-12, so they could honestly put me in any position they wanted. For a while there, it wasn't looking good that I would get to switch to math. The week before school started, my new principal told me that I would be teaching a class called Math II, which was exclusively for the 8th graders who had been retained because of their math scores, and the incoming 8th graders who failed their math TAKS last year.

Say that again? I'm a G/T certified teacher who taught advanced English last year... and you think I'm qualified to not only switch content areas but teach the kiddos that, by definition, don't get it?

But I love it. I love it so much. I love it more the first week than I ever loved my best day of teaching advanced kids. I've discovered an amazing level of patience with these kids I never knew I had. Yesterday I had them taking a pretest that covered topics that they absolutely have to know before they can advance to Algebra 1... things like graphing inequalities, linear equation tables, fractions and decimals, and ratios. This was all taught to them in 7th grade and they should, by state standards, have mastered it then. But I have the kids that didn't, and so I anticipated them not doing very well. But I got questions like... "How do you make a negative on the calculator?" "What does that dot between the two numbers mean?" "What does inequality mean?" "What if you don't know any of the answers?"

They are really struggling. But instead of being aghast that they came to 8th grade not knowing where the negative sign was on a calculator or what a multiplication sign was, I got excited because they had identified for me what they need to learn. And I can't wait to teach them. I realize I probably won't bring all of them up to Algebra 1 level by the time they leave, but the idea that they will leave my class knowing more than what they came in with excites me. I don't know if this happened last year. I made my advanced kids read Charles Dickens, who I adore. I'm pretty sure they left hating Dickens and are probably scarred for life. This year, every kid will know about negatives and positives and what signs are what. I can say that for sure.

Aside: If you had told me a decade ago that I would be a math teacher, an 8th grade math teacher of all things, I would have laughed. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and am like... what am I doing?!?

The absolute coolest thing about this assignment is that it's the students' second math class, so I get to design my own lessons and classroom and I get to move at whatever pace the kids need me to move at. This is a totally foreign concept to them because they are so used to being left behind. I could see the exhaustion in their faces when they took the pretest... "Welp, here's another 50 questions I can't do." Their behavior, which had been pretty perfect the three days leading up to yesterday, was dramatically worse during the test.

Hello... obviously! If someone asked me to color, I would have full attention on the coloring and enjoy making a pretty picture. If someone told me to build an airplane, I would last about 10 seconds before I daydreamed or doodled or did something else to avoid building that airplane, because I have no idea HOW to build an airplane... so why try if I know I'm only going to fail? That's what my kids are thinking every day they come to school. No wonder they act out and skip school. They're searching for something they're good at and can find success at, and math ain't it.

That is, until they met me. :) I'll start them off coloring, and then drawing their own picture and coloring it, and then creating their own 3D model and coloring it. They may not have an airplane built by the end of the year, but they will at least have the feeling that they could if they continue to work at it. This of course is a very simplified analogy, but I have a lot of faith in these kiddos. I LOVE teaching the struggling learners. I love the look on their faces when they ask a "dumb" question and are met with kindness and an answer rather than sarcasm and something like, "You should already know that."

Here's a funny story: We were numbering the pages in our notebooks. It's a 200-page composition notebook, so it's going to take awhile. I let them get started and was walking around the room to make sure everyone was doing it correctly. Then, something struck my mind and I said, "I'm assuming everyone knows how to count to 200, but if you have a question about what number comes next, be sure to ask." A little girl reached over the aisle to (lightly) punch a little boy's shoulder and said, "See, I told you you could ask her that." Some of them have probably never been in a classroom before where they could ask such low-level questions and get an actual answer rather than a nasty remark. I know I was guilty of that last year. This year, I've made a promise to myself and my kids that whatever they need to know, whether it's counting or two-step equations, they shouldn't feel ashamed to not know it.

It's going to be a great year. A lot of work and a lot of planning time on my part, but a great year. And if this is my last year in Del Rio (and we still don't know if it is or not), it will be a great way to go out.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mealplanning for cheapstakes

The Bulls are on a budget.

A really, really tight budget.

Like, living off of less than one salary budget.

Without going into too much detail, the real estate market and the stock market have not been especially kind to us. And neither does getting invited to 23485834758924 weddings, showers, etc. with air fare at $500 a ticket or more.

Anyway, in short, our grocery budget just got cut in half. Or, I should say, my grocery budget just got cut in half. I refuse to compromise nutrition for cost, so I'm having to find ways to really stretch a buck while still eating healthy meals.

When I cook, here are things I keep in mind:
- MUST be high in protein and fiber
- MUST be delicious
- MUST not contain eggs or dairy other than cheese
- SHOULD be low in calories, fat, and carbs (side note: I'm never getting rid of my Oxford comma.)
- SHOULD be able to be brought for leftovers without reheating

I don't always stick to these guidelines, but most of the time I do. We eat a lot of chicken and vegetables, and only eat pasta once in a blue moon. I find almost all my recipes online, at either Gina's Skinny or The Foot Network. Sometimes, when I really want to splurge, I go to one of my cookbooks (The Kitchen Bible is my favorite!), Rachael Ray, or Pioneer Woman. I try to plan meals on Sunday and do my shopping the same day. I buy everything I'll need for the entire week so I don't have to go after school. I post the meals on a white board on our fridge, along with appointments and times Art will be home (if I know in advance, which I rarely do!) so I know when to have dinner ready. I don't include breakfast because we never really sit down to breakfast. I don't really love breakfast food and I can't eat eggs, so I usually just have some oatmeal or a protein shake and Art fends for himself.

Here's what we're eating on my FIRST week back to work! (No kids yet - they'll get there next Monday! Yikes!)

  • Dinner: Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken over salad greens (Caveat: This is the first time I will ever use a slowcooker. Will blog, for sure.)





  • Lunch: deli sandwiches or leftovers
  • Dinner: 1/2 frozen pizza (just for me)

  • Lunch: leftovers (just for me)
  • Dinner: Lean Cuisine (just for me)

And for my sweet toothed husband... Black and White Chocolate Chip Clouds

What are YOU making this week?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

The rest of math deployment

I am still waiting to see if I will actually teach math next year. Long story, but I am hoping that all I learned at math camp will be put to good use! Cross your fingers for me.
The best way to describe my math deployment is through the ups and downs of Job the Jeep. Job is old, he's tired, he's been through a lot (hence the name!). Job was supposed to be a weekend car, a feet-on-the-dashboard kind of car. Job was never supposed to be a 70,000+ mile workhorse, and he gets mad at me when I treat him like one.

Last year, Job thought he would show me who's boss by quitting with the A/C just as I moved to a climate where it's over a hundred degrees 5 months out of the year. I actually hate A/C, so this wasn't a big deal and we've never gotten it fixed. Yes friends, I drive all around Borderland in the sweltering heat with no A/C. I like hot.

Anyway, the drive up to San Angelo was just fine, as I blogged about previously. I took the top down and had a blast listening to my book on tape and trying not to hit any deer.

By the way, it's actually a book on iPhone. CDs went mainstream when I was in, oh, 5th grade, and mp3s got cool when I was in high school. I don't know why I say book on tape, but I ain't changin'.

I digress.

That Friday, I drove up to Austin from San Angelo. It was windy. Job turned on his check engine light. He sometimes does that just to spite me, like when I don't put the gas cap on correctly. I'm supposed to turn the car off, and then on, off, then on, for a few times and it's supposed to go away. I vowed to get it checked out in Austin, along with an oil change.

This is Austin. Pretty, right?

We met our friends Tony and Betsy there. Tony is a T-6 FAIP too, at a different base. They are super fun and it was so nice to hang out with old friends.

Austin is weird. Awesome, but weird. Case in point: walking down 6th street, window shopping and people watching, we stumble upon this sign blocking the sidewalk:

Well then. Like normal, rational people, we stop and decide to take up this bartender on his Casey Anthony special. I'm pretty sure it wasn't before noon, but I won't swear to it.

Cheers! (PS - Why do people insist on calling a drink that size a "shot?" It took me a good 3 minutes to finish it, and only under extreme peer pressure. I'm old and boring.)

We got this lovely shot while talking to a local expat from Cuba. He was so interesting, especially when he was talking about local Cuban food. Yes, I asked a stranger about foreign food. I like learning. Art likes bananas.

That's not as random of a comment as you might think. Every time my Cuban friend talked about plantains, Art said something along the lines of, "I love bananas!" "Plantains? You mean bananas." "They sell plantains in Del Rio. But they call them bananas."

Oh, my husband.

After the four hour drive to Austin, Job was super mad. Every time I hit the brakes, the whole car shook like it was going to stall and Job was going to quit at life. So on Sunday, Art and I went to get the oil changed and while we were there, ask the guy if he knew what was wrong. He didn't. He knew how to change oil. Strike.

I swore to Art I would take the car right to a mechanic as soon as I got to San Angelo, but I didn't want to take it someplace in Austin. If it was something that had to be done overnight, I couldn't wait because I had to be back at math camp the next day. So off we went, Tony and Betsy back to Wichita Falls, Art to Del Rio, me to San Angelo. I sweet talked Job into starting and told him everything would be all right.


I may have been ten miles outside the city limits of Austin when THIS HAPPENED:

When it rains for Job, it pours. Within two months in high school, Job got rear ended by a drunk driver and broken into in Welcome Stadium's parking lot. That night, however, turned out great, because that was the night Art and I had our first conversation. This night, however, not so much.

The sad thing is that I JUST got the windshield fixed right before we got married because of the same problem. Ugh.

I did what any normal girl would do. I pulled over and got some ribs. They were delicious ribs. From Opie's in Spicewood, Texas.

I didn't have much choice but to press on. Job was going to make it to San Angelo if I had to Fred Flinstone it there. And we did! By Sunday evening, I was back in my hotel, happy as a clam.

Until 8:50 am the next morning, when Job would not start. He tried, he made some gurgling noises, but then noises that sounded like metal on metal and I decided not to push him anymore. Leslie, the woman in charge of math camp, gave me the number of a good mechanic, and I called a tow truck to take Job to the hospital.

This is the tow truck guy moving Job with his bare hands. Say again?

The mechanic was nice enough to give me a ride to the Service Center, so I didn't miss too much math camp. I got a ride back with Leslie to the mechanic, who assured me that all was well with Job. $250 later, he had a brand spankin' new... something. Throttle something.

The car wouldn't start in the parking lot of the mechanic's. I should have taken this as a sign, but one of the guys working there started it up and promised me it would be just fine. And it was!

Until 8:50 am the next morning, when Job would not start. This time, he wouldn't even make a noise. No lights, no nothing. Dead. Luckily, I kept the mechanic's number in my phone, since I had been there 12 hours prior. He said he'd be right there to pick me up and try to jump the car.

So I sat there waiting for him. And then I heard a beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Job is talking to me. In beeps. Exorcist style.

And then this happened:

Now, apparently, this is normal. Jeeps do this sometimes when alternators or batteries are going awry. Ok dude, whatever you say, but it not normal when, at 9am in July in San Angelo, Texas, my car starts beeping and dash panel dials go haywire.

The mechanic was able to jump the car and diagnose Job with a dead battery. This is even more bizarre to me. If the battery is dead, how is it talking? The mechanic didn't take my queries too seriously.

$150 later, the mechanic told me that if he saw me again tomorrow, he'd buy me a new car. Job behaved after that. Under threat of retirement, it seems my little car is quite capable.

I was supposed to drive up to Fort Worth for Math Camp Part 2, but after all that horseplay, decided against it. But before I left, I still had a windshield to worry about.

This is the after picture. The guy swore to me that this was "fixed," but it looks exactly the same to me.

Right? Whatever. I'm done with Job and his neediness.

That's pretty much all we've been up to, outside of spending as much time on the lake as possible. The life of the Bulls. Pretty rough!

Here's Art and his beloved new Swamp People t-shirt. It had sleeves, but they just didn't seem right. Swoon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Essential find.

So this morning at 9 a.m. I was on Pinterest, as I often am at 9 a.m., and I discovered this blog.

Stop. Are you on Pinterest? You should be. My name is amyellebull. Go find me.

Ok. Resume.

Anyway, I found Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby and, although the blog seemed like it would be of no use to me, she has about 7 million recipes for freezer meals! HEALTHY freezer meals with LITTLE OR NO sodium!! She spends about 3 hours one day a month just cooking and prepping for freezer meals for the entire month. I can't tell you how useful this is going to be for Art and I once the school year starts. I've shied away from learning how to use a crock pot because the only recipes I ever saw consisted of pouring a can of salsa or some kind of soup over chicken and letting it cook. I mean no offense if you cook this way, but that kind of thing just isn't my style. I'm perfectly content to spend 2 hours roasting a whole chicken and making everything from scratch if that's the healthiest, tastiest option.

But with these recipes, I can have healthy and tasty and easy! I cook mostly every day, but sometimes I run out of time or Art comes home too late, etc., and we have to resort to frozen pizzas, breakfast for dinner (ugh! I don't even like breakfast for breakfast!), or going out. I love that I have some new options now, and I totally love the idea of spending a few Saturdays (when we can't go out to the lake anymore, of course) immersed in cooking, and the rest of the Saturdays immersed in sewing.

Anyway, just thought I'd share! :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lazy mealplanning

I have a whiteboard on our refrigerator that I use to write important things for the week: when Art's going to be on cross country, when we have special plans like going out of town, when to expect Art home for dinner, etc. I try, really, to also put up what's for dinner that day, but due to math deployment (I'm back! More on that later) it's fallen by the wayside. Let me, however, tell you the main difference between my husband and me:

When I'm out of town, Art eats grilled chicken and steamed vegetables and works out twice as much.
When Art's out of town, I eat egg drop ramen, frozen pizza, and cereal and sew twice as much.

There. Now that mystery is solved.

Anyway, in my free moments today between working on things for my classes and trying to organize the house a little, I decided what we're going to eat this week, at least until Friday when Art goes--you guessed it--cross country. But when he's gone, I'll try to eat grilled chicken and steamed vegetables and work out twice as much. I really will.

Here's what's cookin' at the Bulls' this week...

Monday: Honey Butter Baked Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes Sweet potatoes are in season in Del Rio right now and I know they are super healthy, so I bought a ton. This, combined with roast chicken, which should probably be named the Bull Family Dinner Standby, sounds delicious.

Tuesday: Venetian Shrimp and Scallops I can only buy shellfish frozen around these parts, but the frozen fish case at the commissary had some bay scallops that looked better than what I usually see at the Walmarts, so I bought them. I'm planning to serve this over basmati rice.

UPDATE: Made this last night (7/26), but, to make it healthier, served it over steamed spaghetti squash instead of rice to 86 the carbs. Have you discovered spaghetti squash yet? I live and die for pasta and actually don't miss it when I sub spaghetti squash. Try it! Oh, and I didn't add saffron. Who, pray tell, can afford saffron?! It was a killer recipe.

Wednesday: Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes To accompany something on the grill, possibly pork chops or a pork loin? Maybe chicken breasts in the oven if Art comes home late, because I'm one of those wives that can't start a gas grill without fearing for my life. Our next one will be charcoal so I can feel like a contributing member of our marriage. What's that, you say? Lighting a gas grill is twice as easy as lighting a charcoal one, and if I can light charcoal, my silly irrational mind is the only thing stopping me from lighting a gas one? Yes, I know. I do everything backward. I also don't know how to use a crock pot, make pancakes or correctly sew on a button, but I bake my own bread and taught myself how to quilt. Hi.

Thursday: I don't have a plan for this day. Sometimes we hit one of the two sports bars in town for dinner on Thursdays, and sometimes we scavenge.

Then, it's just me and Peanut for the weekend! In an interesting turn of events, I'm taking the 8-12 mathematics exam on Saturday morning, just in case I'm teaching high school this year. Many things are up in the air right now with my job (fortunately, one of those things is not whether or not I'll have a job, I just don't know where or what yet!), so I'm kind of just reaching out for some insurance. C'est la vie!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Measure in Love

It's two months past, but I feel the need to post about our first year of marriage. Because of my job, I didn't blog nearly as much as I wanted, and I let May 8th slip by without officially dedicating a post to it. And it deserves one!

So... how do you measure a year of marriage?

1 perfect day, complete with 40 mph winds.

1 really long veil.

10,000 whispered secrets.

10,000 laughs.

A million smiles.

A LOT of sunflowers.

7 incredible days in Great Exuma, The Bahamas.

3 rings, symbols of our promises and love for each other. (Er, make that 4 rings)

1 move, just for me.

1 trip across the threshhold!

52 weekends at (or wishing we were at) Lake Amistad.

A thousand sushi rolls. I don't think that's an exaggeration.
(Our standbys: Strawberry Roll, Jen Roll, and Spicy Tuna Roll from Sushi Zushi)

Less than a thousand sake bombs.

1 ridiculous, impulsive surround sound system purchase that we don't regret.

3 trips to the attic.

1 admittance to my husband of my irrational fear of ladders.

1 first job.

Many bouquets of flowers.

Two big races, the Tough Mudder and the Adventure Race.

1 baby niece!

1 amazing, adorable, lovable dog.

1 billion "You are so cute. You are so small. I love you so much. You are my best dog friend"

A handful of nights spent apart.

Many, many kisses good morning and good night.

A dozen "I'm sorrys" and "I forgive yous"

Three scorpions.

1 tarantula.

Hundreds of bottles of wine.

1 big item on our to-do list. (buying a boat!)

1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes of being grateful that I married my best friend and the only man I have ever truly loved. I feel lucky every single day that I am Mrs. Art Bull. I can't wait to see what Year #2 brings for us!