Friday, April 29, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Gifts and Ideas - Round Up

Hello all!!  Next week is my favorite week of the school year...Teacher Appreciation Week!!!!!  I now say this as a parent, and not a teacher....and it's STILL my favorite week :)  When I was in the classroom, I loved it just as much.   I loved when the kids would come in carrying their little handwritten letters, notes, and thank you cards.  They were always so excited to watch me read them and then hang them up in the classroom...just BEAMING with pride!!!!  Of course, I didn't mind the unexpected treats either, but it was always the handwritten notes and letters that made me most excited...I mean, you can't put a price on sincerity!!! 

All that to be said, now that I'm on the other side of things, I love Teacher Appreciation week for totally different reasons.  I try to give back all year, but this is the one week of the school year where I'm really intentional about it.  I love to be able to tangibly show our teachers how much I truly appreciate the love and time they give to my kids...all our kids...and I think it's so important to let them know how much they are valued.  I know the sacrifices they make....I know the work and time they put in...and I am so beyond grateful for what they do.  While gifts are never expected, I like to send little things throughout the week just to say "thanks".  I thought it would be fun to talk about some things and round-up some of my favorite ideas today.

Parents, just remember that it doesn't take money to show your teachers you appreciate them, so by no means am I suggesting you go out and buy, buy, buy! 

 Here are some ideas that don't cost a thing....

* Email a letter of appreciation to the principal of your child's school and CC your child's teacher.  Use the email as a way to "brag" on your child's teacher ...let his/her principal know how much you value the teacher.  You can't imagine how much this means to teachers!!!  

* Send a handwritten note of appreciation to your child's teacher.  Y'all...I have hung onto these handwritten notes from parents since my first year of teaching 13 years ago!!!!  They are GOLD!!!

* Spend a day volunteering in your child's extra set of hands is ALWAYS appreciated.

* If you aren't able to physically volunteer at school, offer your time to volunteer at home...cutting, sorting, etc.  I loved when parents offered to do this for me!!!  

* Offer to cover your teacher's lunch duty for a day so that he/she can have a duty-free lunch!  I know this isn't something parents can do at every campus, but I do know it's possible at some!!!  It's worth a shot to check it out just in case :)  

* Pray for them.  Pray for them.  And pray for them some more.

Here are a few ideas that cost a little, but are guaranteed to put a smile on your teacher's face :)

* Provide lunch for your child's teacher for a day.  Make it yourself or pick something up from your teacher's favorite restaurant or fast food establishment.  Grab their order the day before you plan on bringing it to them so that they don't come with a lunch the following day.  There's nothing more glorious than knowing you don't have to pack a lunch in the morning :)

* Make dinner for your teacher and his/her family.  Pack it up and drop it off at school so that he/she can take it home that night.  More often than not, teachers work late and having a dinner already prepared is nothing short of amazing.

* Bring your child's teacher his/her favorite Sonic or Starbuck's drink...such a special treat!  Always puts a little pep in their step :)

* Bake a batch of your teacher's favorite cookies for him/her....this was always my personal favorite!

* Donate to a charity in their name.

* Pay it forward with random acts of kindness in their honor.

Last year I had my teachers fill out THIS QUESTIONNAIRE
 ...and then used the info to pack a little baggie filled with some of their favorite things (snacks, drinks, candy, magazines).  I printed the message on the baggies myself, but you could easily print out the gift tag below and attach it to a baggie instead.

And, of course, I've used a TON of  "pinspired" ideas to gift not just during teacher appreciation week, but  other times during the year as well.  Here's a round-up of some of my favorites!!!!

Hand soap and printable gift tag from the ladies at Eighteen25.  Teachers ALWAYS need hand soap or "hanitizer", LOL.

This Target gift card printable from Landeelu is, well, on target.  Ha.  Teachers love Target!

Teachers haul A LOT of stuff back and forth from school to home and back again.  They can never have too many tote bags!  This tote tag from Delightfully Noted is adorable!

Love the idea of a basket of sunshine from Nothing But Country!!!  Although this is listed as an end-of-year gift, this would be great for Teacher Appreciation Week as well!!!  

If you have a Nothing Bundt Cakes nearby, this would be perfect!  Of course, a homemade bundt cake would be just as amazing.  Just attach his sweet gift tag from Eighteen 25 to top it off!!

I absolutely LOVED getting potted plants from my parents.  They all knew about my "black thumb" condition, so I would typically get plants that didn't require a lot of sunlight, water, or care, hahaha.  I loved keeping plants in the classroom and some of them even came home with me to plant in our flower beds.  I have one that keeps blooming every summer!!!  

Of course, those are only a FEW ideas and some of my most favorite.  You can find TONS more on Pinterest.  SO many'll kind of make your head hurt.  

All this to be said, just remember that teachers aren't waiting with bated breath to get gifts next week.  It's nothing we ever expect.  The best gifts are those that come from the heart.  Words of appreciation go a long, LONG way!!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What I Wore Wednesday: The One with The Rompers and Dresses

It's been a while since I've linked up with The Pleated Poppy for What I Wore Wednesday.   That's large in part because of my inability to actually get dressed during the week.  My norm is yoga pants and forgiving tees. that's a lie.  Ripped jeans and forgiving tees is my uniform.  I need  a new pair of yoga pants before I can claim that as part of my daily attire. 

Anywho, I've been out and about these last few weeks and actually documented a few of my outfits so I thought I'd share here. As you can see, my go-to these days are dresses and rompers.  Can you see the theme?!  Comfortable and FORGIVING.  Bless.  

Running errands calls for comfy, casual dresses and my favorite pair of Converse.  I'm laughing at how white they look in this pic because ohmiword...they are anything but white IRL.  They need a good wash.  Or maybe just abandon ship and go for a new pair!?  SCARY.  And let me just tell y'all one little thing. That necklace?!  A "push present" from my husband. It holds a couple of charms with the boys names as well as a Waxing Poetic charm with Mr. Spouse's initial.  As you can see...trendy isn't always priority.  I like sentimental...A LOT.

Dress:  Target 3-4 years ago (SIMILAR HERE,  AND HERE , AND HERE)

One of my favorite local boutiques had this precious romper marked down to $20 during winter and I had to snag it before it sold out.  I am in LOVE. The color and fit are perfect!  I like that the shorts are a little on the longer side because no one needs me walking around in anything much shorter.  Lawd.  I will definitely get my $20 worth out of this one!!!  And I love that it can be dressed up or down.  Great impulse buy if I do say so myself ;)

Sandals: Sam Edelman Genette Sandal (all sold out)
Purse: bought it at a boutique last year...but THIS ONE is ADORABLE and very similar!!!!

Forever 21 for the win.  Y'all..I know I'm thirty-something, but I don't care.  I still love Forever 21.  I typically buy my staple, classic pieces at places like Nordstrom or Dillard's...but everything else is inexpensive because my taste changes like the trends :)   I can alway count on Forever XXI...even if it shrinks after the first wash ;)

Dress:  Forever 21, but it's sold out. EXACT SAME DRESS, minus the stripes, HERE
Shoes:  Steve Madden Comma Sandals, Black (several years old...this is the only link I could find)
Necklace:  Sam Moon (several months ago)

And here's what I'm pretty sure is my favorite romper of the far, anyway.  Good gracious, I love it!  Love the length of the shorts and the "give" of the blouse.  And it hits my short torso in just the right spot.  PLUS, it's comfy as all get out.  Always a bonus!

Romper:  Old Navy
Shoes:  4 years old, Steve Madden (KIND of  similar; KIND OF similar as well

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Strawberry Shortcake

Have I ever told y'all that story about the time I ate a stranger's strawberry shortcake?
Well...he wasn't a total stranger.  He was my neighbor.  He lived in an apartment three floors below mine.  I didn't really know him...didn't really know his name I don't think...and he kind of creeped me out.   At the time my husband was my fiancee.  The guy creeped him out, too.

One night....right before our wedding...I was cleaning up and packing my apartment.  I left my door unlocked because my husband was going to stop by and help and he didn't have a key.  I was in my closet...biggest disaster ever...and I heard my door beep (you know that alarm sound that goes beep, beep, beep when a door opens).  SO I got up to say hello to my husband and lo and behold, it wasn't him.  It was the creepy neighbor from three floors down!!!!!!!!!


And I'll be danged if he didn't close the door behind him.

I panicked for a second because I was all, "Ummmm...why are you in my apartment?  With the door closed???"   I watched one too many Forensic Files episodes and watched way too many episodes of Oprah to be calm.  So...I pretended to be calm and walked right on over to the door while engaging him in conversation, and opened it up wide saying something like "I really need some air!  It gets so stuffy in here!"  I didn't want him to think I was nervous and make some crazy kind of move.  Then I proceeded to tell him my husband should be there any minute.  He wasn't expecting that.  

So he started to leave, but not before giving me a bowl of homemade strawberry shortcake.  I remembered telling him once in passing that it was my favorite dessert as I was carrying a take out box full of it on the way to my apartment.   I thanked him and took the bowl, then walked inside and dead-bolted the door locked.  Then I proceeded to eat the dang thing while I waited for my husband to get there!  He was SO mad at me for eating it!!!!  What if it was poisoned?!?!

  Y'all...that strawberry shortcake looked so good that the thought of contamination didn't even cross my mind.  I was SO unbelievably naive!!!  I was also 14 years younger.  I'd like to think I'm a lot less trusting and way more guarded and aware these days :)

All that to be said, everytime I make strawberry shortcake, it makes me think of that weird incident.  Needless to say, when I made this version a few weeks ago my husband and I had to reminisce.  
That bowl of shortcake I shouldn't have eaten all those years ago doesn't even begin to hold a candle to this delightful version.  

This dessert is light and fluffy and won't leave you feeling stuffed.  A perfect treat to indulge in after you're all done with dinner...or when you just want a little taste of sweet :)  This is, by far, one of my most favorite versions of my favorite dessert.

1 pre-baked angel food cake , cubed
1 pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) french vanilla instant pudding (prepared)
2 (8 oz.) tubs of whipped topping

I absolutely love Kroger's pre-baked angel food cakes from the bakery section.  You can either buy one or make one yourself, but I'm all about #easy, so you can guess what I did.  

Cut or tear apart the angel food cake into small chunks/cubes and set aside.

Wash and slice your strawberries and set aside.

Prepare the pudding according to package directions and set aside in the fridge to set for about 5-10 minutes.  

Remove pudding from fridge and mix with 1 (80z.) tub of whipped topping and set aside.  I used Cool Whip.

Now let's layer.

Place half of the angel food cake cubes/chunks in the bottom of a trifle dish.  Top with half of the sliced strawberries and top that with half of the pudding/whipped topping mixture.  

Repeat the layering process.  Cake...strawberries...pudding/whipped topping.  

Top it all off with a generous helping of whipped topping.


Seriously.  One of my favorite ways to have strawberry shortcake!  

A few things....

You could sub the angel food cake for pound cake or white cake, but both would change the flavor profile.  That to be said, I'm sure it would be great with both and plan on trying it soon!!!

Instead of the french vanilla pudding, consider adding lemon instead.   I LOVE the lemon/strawberry combo SO MUCH!!!!  

Any other ideas?!  

The best thing about a trifle is that they're SO easy to make...and they look pretty, too!  You can do pretty much anything with a trifle and the slightest of changes will give you a whole new dessert!!!  


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Oh, Oh, Oreo

I have an Oreo addiction.  Thin...double stuf...regular...flavored.  I don't discriminate.  I love them ALL.  However, my favorite is just a regular ol' Oreo.  Preferably with a huge glass of cold milk.  I'm a dunker.  I wish I could indulge in these little bites of heaven on a daily basis, but sadly I can't satiate my cravings like I want.  It's so much fun getting older! ( did you read that with sarcasm?!)

Considering my love of America's favorite twistable cookie, it only stands to reason that I HAD to make this happen when I saw this video on Facebook.  HELLO!  All of my favorite not-healthy-for-me-at-all things in one pie dish....SOLD.  

Since I really couldn't justify making this to indulge in after a regular weeknight dinner, I waited until we were hosting company here at the house so that I wouldn't be the only one to consume all the calories & sugar.  I can't begin to tell you what a hit this pie was!  Everyone here was raving about it!!  I honestly should've made two because our guests were wanting second servings (and so was I), but I settled for an empty pie plate full of crumbs (that I later scooped up and ate) #ItDoesntCountIfNoOneSeesYou.

If you need a dessert to take to potlucks, or one to make for a crowd, let this one be it. Just be sure to make an extra, y'know, in case you want to throw all caution to the wind :)  


1 pkg. of Oreo Cookies (about 39-40 total)
1/2 stick (4 TBSP) butter, melted
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip
1/2 C. milk chocolate chips, melted
1/2 C. confectioner's powdered sugar

Do you feel like you could go into sugar shock right about now???  Me too.  But it's worth it...

First thing's first.  

Place 25 Oreos in your food processor and crush until fine.  

Add the melted butter to the crushed Oreos and mix until combined.  This will form your pie crust.  Transfer to an 8 or 9 inch pie dish and press mixture evenly into the dish using your fingertips.

In a separate bowl,  mix cream cheese, cool whip, and powdered sugar until smooth.  Transfer half of the mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.

Now crush 8 more Oreos with  your food processor until fine and mix them in with one half of the cream cheese mixture.

Melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chip morsels and mix with the other half of the cream cheese mixture until well combined. 

Spread the crushed Oreo/cream cheese mixture evenly atop the crust.

Take the remaining Oreos and place evenly atop the cream cheese mixture.

Evenly top the Oreos with the melted chocolate/cream cheese mixture.
Are you dying yet?!

Sprinkle crushed Oreos on top of the melted chocolate/cream cheese layer and place in refrigerator to set.  If at all possible, keep refrigerated overnight.  Otherwise be sure to keep it refrigerated at least two hours before serving, but in this case the longer you can keep it refrigerated before serving, the better.  

There's absolutely NOTHING healthy about this dessert which is probably why I couldn't devoured the entire thing in one sitting.  IT IS UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!  

Satisfied my Oreo craving like you wouldn't believe.  

I'm a big believer in "everything in moderation", but y'all...moderation was a struggle for me with this dessert. #thestruggleisreal

This was extremely easy and quick to prep which made it all the better.  I've already had a few of our guests request I make it for our next Sunday Funday. I will, of course, happily oblige.  Only next time I'll be sure to make an extra!!!!  


Monday, April 18, 2016

It's Monday!

It's Monday and here's what it looks like in my neck of the woods...

Dark and rainy.  We're just to the east of Houston and we haven't had it as bad as those living within the city limits.  It's flooding like crazy and most schools in the area are closed due to the bad weather.  Keep Houston in your prayers!  SO many people I know are experiencing flooded homes right now!  

The weather this past weekend was pretty idyllic for the most part.  Isn't that always how it happens?!  The calm before the storm?!  Since it was so nice, we figured it was time for a girls night out.  We've been anxious to try out Liberty Kitchen and did NOT disappoint!  The fish tacos were out of this was the mac n' cheese. #cheatmeal :)  And really, any time I can spend with these girls is time well spent!

I wore this blouse out on Saturday and absolutely LOVE it!  And it's under $15!  I love the way it fits and I'm considering getting it in another color, too.  Forever 21 for the win...always ;)

I'm hoping to make it out to the grocery store at some point today so that I can stay on track with dinners this week.  I may need a boat to get there.  If all goes well, here's what we'll be eating this week...

TUESDAY:  TACO TUESDAY!  Using that leftover chicken for one of my favorite salads...


Friday, April 15, 2016

A Quick & Easy One Skillet Meal

It's Friday!

This week has been a little off for us.  My oldest is on the downside of having the flu.  He's been home all week, bless his heart.  The book fair has been going on at school this week and he's 12 kinds of sad he didn't get to go.  So we shopped a little on Amazon and found a few books he wanted to add to his collection.  He's currently into Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Whatever keeps him reading!  

Before the flu invaded our house, we spent some QT with our Indiana family and headed to Galveston for a day.  

I pretty much love everything about Galveston, but La King's Confectionery  ice cream is the reason we made the trip in the first place.  Best ice cream around!!!  Just ask these two...

Their choices:  Mint Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip.  
My choice:  ESPRESSO!!!!!  YUM!

We also celebrated this one turning 7 and the whole family was here to sing him happy birthday :)

And I got some new chairs for my kitchen table!!!

We have a kitchen table and a dining room table, but unless we're hosting guests for dinner, we always eat in our little kitchen nook.  Perfect for just us four.  Just the other night we sat down and enjoyed this delicious meal at this little table.  Personally, I think you should sit down at your table and enjoy this meal, too!!!


1 lb. large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bunch of broccoli florets, cut
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 cups of baby bella mushrooms, cut into quarters
3-4 TBSP. butter OR 2 TBSP. Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. house seasoning (equal parts garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper)
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 C. cooked rice (white or brown), optional
salt & pepper, to taste

I love a meal I can cook in one pan and this recipe fits the bill perfectly!

First up, let's peel and devein the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Now add 2 TBSP. of the butter to the skillet and heat on medium. 

Add in the broccoli, onion, red pepper, and mushroom and cook for 3-5 minutes or until lightly softened, mildly crunchy.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add in the remaining butter and then the seasoned shrimp.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through (pink).  

Return the veggies back to the skillet and toss with shrimp. 

Add the house seasoning to the mix and give it a good stir to combine.  I also added in the crushed red pepper at this point, too.  We like the addition of a little heat with our milder meals.

If you're adding cooked rice to your dish like we did, go ahead and do that now as well.  Stir to combine and heat on low for about 2-3 minutes...just enough to warm everything up for serving.

How simple is that?! And delicious, too!  My favorite kind of meals!!!

This was great with the rice, but it would've been just as good without.  Mr. Spouse enjoys protein AND carbs, so I typically have to consider adding both into our dinners whether it's all combined together or served separately.  I personally love this dish not only because the flavor and consistency are outstanding, but I was able to cook in all in one skillet.


I lied.

I had to cook the rice, too.  Shoo.  Well, two pots/skillets.  
I'll take it!  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Make You Banana Pancakes, Pretend Like It's The Weekend

I don't know about y'all, but I'm a huge fan of Jack Johnson.  There's just something about his music that makes me want to live seaside and spend my life relaxing on a hammock.  I adore his voice. And just like it would be impossible to choose a favorite child, the same sentiment goes for choosing a favorite song of his...I just can't do it!  I love them all so much!  I swear this post isn't about Jack Johnson and his music, but I do want to throw this out there for your listening pleasure...

Banana Pancakes...such a great song!  

And it also happens to be one of my most favorite breakfast dishes :)  
And every time I whip up a batch of these flapjacks, this song always comes to mind.  Banana Pancakes on repeat...both the song AND the dish....on repeat ALL DAY LONG :)

recipe  slightly altered via  FIXATE cookbook, by Autumn Calabrese

1 C. almond milk (sweetened, unsweetened, or vanilla flavored...I used unsweetened)
2 eggs
1 banana
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 C. cooking oats (I use the old fashioned Quaker cooking oats)

Optional toppings:  fresh berries, banana slices, maple syrup, nut butter, fresh whipped cream, etc.

Place all ingredients into a blender and pulse until well blended and smooth.

Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray or grease with coconut oil.  

Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes and then flip and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until pancake is set.

Repeat as many times...or needed!

I personally like a lighter breakfast when I choose to eat three square meals a day, so I typically top mine with fresh fruit like raspberries and blueberries, but you can drown yours in syrup if you prefer ;)  I know that's my personal preference, but my expanding waistline begs me to resist.  

I can't begin to tell you how much I love these!!  This quickly became a favorite breakfast for me AND my family.  Shocking, I know!  But y'all...they're so good!   I typically have unsweetened almond milk on hand, but these would be AMAZING with vanilla flavored almond milk as well.  Or go crazy and add the vanilla almond/coconut milk instead.  YUM.  

The longer the batter sits, the thicker the consistency will become, so you may need to add a couple of teaspoons of almond milk to the batter if you don't plan on cooking an entire batch right away :)  

Now go make yourself some banana pancakes and don't forget to listen to Jack Johnson while you're at it.