Sunday, February 28, 2010

Viva Italia and the amazing dishes your country has inspired.

On our most recent Costco run I saw spinach and ricotta cannelloni for sale in the prepackaged Italian food section.

Cannelloni is one of my most favorite foods and I am just not coordinated or inspired enough to make it myself. I do however always order it off the Olive Garden menu.

I had some sausage (hot & sweet) in the freezer left over from our Italian Christmas dinner party so I tossed that in the crock pot with Classico's tomato & basil marinara.
The sausages simmered on low this morning while we were at church and the dog park.

To cook cannelloni you add a layer of red sauce to a casserole dish, top with cannelloni, and then layer more red sauce with your sausage. (I opted to not add the sausage and serve it on the side).

Bake for 20 minutes in your 350 degree oven.
Tonight we will be eating this with a green salad, rosemary olive oil bread (also from Costco), and a large glass of vino. I will also be pretending I am sitting in a little cafe in Florence watching the sunset over the piazza.

Dad is great... he gives us chocolate cake.

Tonight Mr. R and I caught the PBS special honoring Bill Cosby. On November 4th 2009 he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

I love Bill Cosby. In fact one of my most favorite memories from childhood includes Bill Cosby. It takes place in my grandparents TV room (when they still lived in their big house in Cedarville, NJ) with my parents, my cousin Robby, and my grandfather. We had just eaten a holiday dinner and Robby and I were searching for something to watch on the ancient TV. My grandfather suggested we watch a VHS tape of Bill Cosby. I didn't understand what made this black man so funny, but I can clearly see my parent and grandparents laughing so hard that they had tears in their eyes.

Fast forward a few years and the Bill Cosby show is the highlight of my Thursday evening. I watched the Cosby show religiously even in the later years when Sandra married Elvin and had the twins. I also loved a different world. (another Cosby creation).

When I was in college Bill Cosby came to Philadelphia and I saved to buy my mom and Jeff parents tickets to go see him. He did his joke about going to the dentist (the one from the infamous VHS tape that my grandparents still own 20 years later) and my mom said she laughed so hard she couldn't breathe.

We even chose Ray Charles song Night & Day to be on our Wedding CD (actually our Save the Date) because of Bill Cosby. Remember this clip?
It still cracks me up.
And to be completely honest that clip was my first introduction to Ray Charles and the blues.

Four years later Mr. R took me to see Bill Cosby at Wolf Trap in Fairfax, Va. Bill Cosby was wonderful. It is one of my favorite memories from living in Virginia. And he did the joke about the going to the dentist. And I laughed so hard my belly hurt and tears poured out of my eyes.

So congratulations Mr. Cosby! I cannot think of anyone who deserves this award more. Thank you for making me laugh for 24 years, teaching me life lessons, giving me wonderful memories to look back on, and always reminding me that I never want to be "regular people".

Puppy Park

The pups and I have always been lucky enough to live near a dog park. When we lived in DC in an apartment with no backyard the puppy park was vital. We would be there at least 4 to 5 times a week. It was in walking distance from our place and located in the cutest little neighborhood. we would drive or walk over stopping for coffee on the way and let the dogs run for a hour while we read books or chatted with the other owners. Before we made our way home we would walk through the neighborhood streets and stare at the cute 1920s homes and wonder when we would be able to buy our own place.
Fast forward 3 years and now we live in Florida, still in driving distance of a dog park. In fact is was part of my requirements when I was renting and then buying our
house. No more than 10 minutes from the beach, the dog park, or a grocery store. (Yes, those are my priorities).
I am still amazed that we were able to buy a place at 26 years old. There is no way this would have happened if we were still in DC. While I miss the weekly happenings and my favorite places in DC I know we are where we are supposed to be.
And the pups love Treaty Park way more than the Clarendon dog park.

Goodbye February, where did you go?

Let's check in on those February goals shall we?

Goal 1: Cut back on eating out. We ate out about once a week in February which is an increase of 25% from last month. I think we did do a better job of choosing our meals/places this month. Instead of eating out for convenience we choose to pick places that were special to us or we had been wanting to try for date nights. In doing this we were able to eliminate the need for fast food in our diet. I will say that I do still eat Chipotle, it always makes its way into our life every month. I do not count Chipotle as fast food, nor will I stop eating it.

Goal 2: Serve more home-cooked, filling, and organic meals. We are continuing on our path to be healthy eaters. This has always been important to me and now with thinking about our future family, I want to make sure that we have good eating habits in place before we bring kids into the picture. I am super excited to say I am getting 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables in daily. (This hasn't happened since I stopped being a vegetarian). I also have increased my cooking Rolodex. I still love Ms. Ray with all my heart, but I am expanding to include meals that can be made easily in the crock pot (thank you Sandra Lee & Stephanie O'Dea) and more weight watchers recipes.

Goal 3: Increase my running mileage to 20 miles a week. This goal I did not meet. In fact I didn't even come close. I am averaging about 10 miles during the week and between 3 and 10 miles on weekends. This means that some weeks I hot the magic number of 20, while others I was only at 13. I am choosing not to beat myself up over this. In place of running I have started spinning, doing pilates, and taking an ab class. I am still going to the gym and burning those calories, so I while I didn't meet my goal I still call this a win.

Goal 4: Save more money! (This is always a hard one for me). Mr. R and I are successfully putting away $600 a month. We came up with a new monthly budget that cuts down on some of our miscellaneous expenses and enables us to save a bit more. We did however dip into that savings to buy the new mac book, so I think we are back where we started.

With the end of one month comes the promise of another... I love March, mostly because it is my birthday month, but also because it is the start of spring and the start of warmer weather. Time to breakout those sundresses!

March Goals:

1. Continue working out and and trying new classes. My goals is to workout 6 days a week trying at least one new workout or class each week. My biggest fear is becoming bored with my workouts.

2. Learn how to use the grill. I have almost mastered most of the kitchen appliances, but I am scared of our BBQ grill. I realize how ridiculous this sounds. But nonetheless, I will be a grill master by the end of March.

3. Finish the media room. I need to finish stenciling the walls, buy & hang art work, as well as paint the end tables and find lamps. (I see a trip to IKEA in my future).

4. Continue saving money for our big trip this summer. I am hoping to increase the saving to $800 this month.

What are your goals for March?

"That Pink Girl" is inspiring me.

These are my new flats.
Gotta love Target!

Oh bread machine...

how I have missed you.

I used to use the bread machine almost weekly or twice a week last year. But as you know schedules change, eating habits change, and sometimes its just easier to buy my bread from the nice ladies at Publix.

When I cleaned the kitchen yesterday I discovered three OVERRIPE bananas. Normally, I would toss those mushy brown guys, but we are trying not to be wasteful so I knew I needed to use. Enter the bread machine! is my resource for all baking recipes. This is the one I used for the banana bread.

What I love about the bread machine is that you just dump in the ingredients and let it go!

One hour later the house smells like baked goods and we have breakfast in the morning.

I am totally a carb girl! There is nothing better than homemade bread.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Comfort Food

I got my new Rachael Ray magazine last week and the main feature for this month is comfort. Those home cooked, stick to your ribs meals, that use easy to find ingredients are on every page.

For our February date, Mr. R and I dined at the Murray Brother's Caddy Shack and I ordered the pot roast. Oh my was it good! The vegetables were so tender and the broth was delicious. I am not a huge meat eater, but it was tasty as well. With the weather turning cold AGAIN, its in the 40s tonight. I was craving pot roast, mashed potatoes, and some mulled wine.

I had a 3lb chuck roast in my fridge from a previous Costco trip and to it I added 1/3 of a bag of baby carrots, a container of mushroom, and one red onion.

Act One: Assemble your ingredients and follow the 3 packet pot roast recipe from the lovely Stephanie O'Dea. (If you haven't checked out her blog yet, it is life changing!) FYI: I added 1 cup of red wine & 1 cup of water for my cooking broth.

Act 2: Combine the three seasoning packets and pour over meat. Flip the meat over to coat every side.

Act 3: Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 -5 hours. (I started out on low and switched to high as dinner time drew nearer).

Curtain call: Serve pot roast on top of a bed of mashed potatoes and a side of green salad.

You know you are getting sick when...

the most wonderful place to be in your bed, wrapped up in a cocoon of blankets and flannelPJs.

Here's to hoping I can ward this off with Zycam, halls, and lots of orange juice.

Friday Night In

There is nothing better in this world than brick oven pizza,
fresh salad with homemade Caesar dressing,
and a large glass of wine.
Well maybe some couch time with Mr. R and the new Psych comes a close second.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Totally Terrific Thursday!

Did you have a great Thursday? Go on tell me, I am ALL EARS!

I know, I know corny joke, but it does segue into a talk about my teaching week. I started my new unit on sound waves on Monday. My students came up with a TON of questions about hearing and sound on Tuesday. Our media specialist, who is deaf, offered to talk to my classes on Wednesday and today we skyped with an audiologist in Gainesville. She was AWESOME. She answered all the students questions so patiently and she kept them completely engaged and focused for 45 minutes. (Which is amazing considering they are 7th graders).

I also found a really awesome web-quest on the ear and hearing. And my honors kids created quizzes using the FREE word clouds created on

Wordle: All aout ears!

I had about 20 minutes to spare after the kids left so I am lesson planned out until Tuesday of next week. I feel super productive even though I spent much of today running down the halls, dogging kids, and carrying everything I needed for my lessons in my hands. (I was out of my room for all but one period).

And one last thing... I made it to the gym today. I came home exhausted, but after much convincing from Mr. R I made it to the gym for a 40 minute workout. I posted before that I really think working out keeps me sane and I will testify to that statement tonight. After my quick gym trip I came home, finished a lesson for my online class, and made dinner. (None of that would have happened had I not spent a little quality time with the stairmaster).

Mr. R and I have a date night planned tomorrow so it looks like a great weekend on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What do you want?

I think its easy when we are babies... we want four things, food, sleep, a fresh change of clothes, and love.

In our pre-teens years we want parental approval, new toys, things that are covered in sugar, and a few friends to invite to a birthday party.

During my teens and early 20s I wanted peer approval, a boyfriend, a college scholarship, and more money in my sad little checking account.

After meeting Mr. R, I wanted an engagement ring, a wedding ceremony, a home to grow in, and a job that made a difference.

Right now I want a baby. I want to be healthy. And I want to run another marathon. I also want to go to Paris, finish fixing up our house, and these new boots. (Pioneer Woman wears them).

I am in the middle of taking this crazy online class (Reading certification junk) and my instructor says the best way to get through it is to take it one assignment at a time.

When I look at my 2010 wishlist, my wants seem a bit over the top, but with that same idea in mind I am taking my goals one desire at a time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dinner Alfresco

I think it has been stated multiple times on the blog how I cherish the time I get to spend with Mr. R. Most weeks we seem to go in opposite direction only having two or three nights to spend together. And most nights we just let the time pass us by as we watch TV or check our friend's facebook status. We do have dinner together, but once again usually with the TV on in the background or books in front of our faces.

One of my favorite blogs, Love Actually, has me inspired to make the most of my marriage and not just settle for romance on weekends and thoughtfulness on holidays. In the past two months I have been striving for one date night a week without cellphones and the television. And one dinner a week that is eaten at the table with proper silverware, a centerpiece, and some ambience either in the form of candles or music.

If you are like me you are wondering if the outcome is worth all of the effort. And the answer is a RESOUNDING YES! Mr. R and I are sharing more about our days and goals than ever. Even though we have been together for 6 years we are still sharing new stories and finding out more about each other. We are laughing more and its making it a lot easier to little the little stuff roll off my back. (i.e. It's easier to forgive leaving the toilet seat up when we have just had a great dinner together).

I thought I would share a sample of an at home date night with you.

Dinner: With the help of Gordon's Fisherman I made shrimp scampi (in the microwave 7 mins), couscous (Neareast Brand 6 mins), steamed green peas (7 mins) and a green salad.

Music: I am loving Carla Bruni's French Pop music right now. (Her voice is beautiful and I just love a French accent).

Table: Mr. R was in charge of the candles.

Dinner was made and on the table in 15 minutes, which was a necessaiety considering we were both starving from the gym.

I will be honest though and tell you we ate this in our pajamas with two daschhounds begging at our feet.

A lesson in slinkys & a lesson from God.

As you can see from today's pictures, my students participated in a slinky lab. We are currently learning about wave shapes and how to measure them so the lab was a perfect fit. (It's really fun too!)

However, one group of students chose not to follow directions, they ended up damaging the slinky, (it was so tangled that fixing it actually caused it to brake), and missing out on part of the lab experience.

I got so angry I made them stop the lab, sit down, and I think I might have raised my voice a decibel or two. I gave them a lecture about paying attention, responsibility, and how I pay for lab supplies out of MY OWN MONEY! I told them how disappointed I was in their decision to goof off and how I almost didn’t trust them to participate in subsequent labs.

They were extremely apologetic, one was actually teary eyed. They asked if they could replace the slinky and promised (signed contract and all) that this behavior would not happen again.

As I was trying to fix the broken slinky I started to think about my relationship God. ( I just started a new Bible study and have been really digging into the word this week). I, like my students, do not always heed God’s warnings. And more often than not you can find me not following his direction. Each night in my prayers before bed, I find myself before God asking for forgiveness for the same things; white lies, snarky comments to my husband, and a few curse words that slipped out. Same as my rowdy students I am holding a broken slinky (or bundle of sins in my case) knowing I did wrong and waiting for the consequences.

But God, unlike me, does not raise his voice, does pull me from my life experiences, nor does he lecture me about misbehavior. He forgives my sins and sends me back out to try again. I can’t help but think about the parable of the money lender in Luke. (Luke 7: 36-47)

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

Today my students had a slinky and tried to learn with it. Yes, they damaged the slinky, yes they were off task; and yes, they indeed made me angry. But what is important is that they apologized and I must forgive them. God, who gave his only son to pay for my debts, is willing to forgive me time and again. How could I possibly hold a grudge against my students for a $1.00 slinky.

My point here is that, Christ died for all of my sins, the ones I have committed and the ones will soon commit. He never tires of welcoming me back to his flock or providing for me even when I have wronged him.

I think they reason God forgives us and keeps forgiving us is that Christianity just like school is a learning experience. We won’t know how to react to sin and temptation if we have never fallen for it and had to repent and try again.

The reason I cannot suspend my students from labs infinitely (although there are a few I would love to extend that mandate to) is because I have to let them learn, grow, make mistakes, and hopefully prosper.

When I look at the many years I have been a Christian (going on 20 now), you would think I would have learned how to avoid sin and temptation, but for me it’s an everyday battle marked many times in failure. God continues to forgive me, love me, and accept me as part of the family. If only I could learn to be as patient, loving, and nurturing to my 7th graders!

I guess I need to keep practicing those fruits of the spirit…

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Night F...

A few months ago the F would have totally stood for football. Mr. R is a cowboys fan after all. But today the F is for fancy!
Mr. R and I were invited to the annual Lincoln Reagan Republican dinner for our county. What this means is a free meal at a fancy place with a few key note speeches about the upcoming elections in November 2010.

I was all set to wear my Vera to the dinner, but Mr. R said it had gotten lots of play recently (Roter-Act, REC, Teacher of the Year). So I switched things up and went with my new Target purchase. It's a little bohemian for this buttoned-up crowd so I added a black cardigan (thanks Mom!) with some understated jewels.
And I have not yet found a pair of comfortable black heels or wedges yet, so the mary-janes it is.
I also have to show you Mr. R's duds for the evening. We totally match, and while it wasn't planned I am a little excited that we do. I promise we won't turn into the Alex & Simon (Real Housewives NYC) and be weirdly matchy though.
It's almost 5 and I have to go...I see yummy appetizers and free martinis in my future!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The way to Mr. R's heart is paved in brown sugar and chocolate.

I am making blondies. Because I am an awesome wife and my husband loves them. And because I get to mix stuff in my kitchenaid. Don't you find it funny that every girl who has gotten married in the past 6 years has asked for a kitchen aid in her bridal registry? Are mixers the new status symbol of the domesticated? Does the color of your kitchenaid symbolize how cool you are? My friend Kim's is red, cause she is red hot! Mine is white...what does that say about me? Wow, am I off track!
Anyway, I am mixing stuff in my kitchenaid while watching the USA kick Canada's arse and baking my way into Mr. R's cold Republican heart...

Doesn't this look like an awesome bowl of brown-sugary goodness!

Do you lick the spoon? I totally do! Salmonella be damned!

And the pre-bake picture....

Best taken with a glass of ice cold skim milk.

LOVE & BUTTER make the world go round!
Recipe below courtesy of

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels


  1. PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 15x10-inch jelly-roll pan.
  2. COMBINE flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Spread into prepared pan.
  3. BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Sometimes you just need a little junkfood.

I grew up very close to the Jersey shore. (And yes, its the shore. The calling it the beach simply will not do. The shore is more than sand attached to a shoreline. It's a boardwalk with carnival rides, the best pizza in the world, and frozen custard topped with jimmies).
If you tune into MTV you find out that my Jersey is sometimes called the land of "sunnin' and funnin". Yes, we are classy with a "k".
I think my favorite part of the Jersey shore besides the beach, pizza, and custard... is the jersey hotdog with all the toppings. I didn't actually discover this dog until college with the little help of a town called Seaside Heights, (we lovingly refer to it as sleaze-side).
My jersey dog contains, mustard, jalapenos, cheese, caramelized onions, sauerkraut and at the very bottom a heavily grilled (almost all black) hot-dog.
I would like to say that the reason my hotdogs look so big is because I am using a salad plate, not a dinner plate...but in truth the hotdogs are giant and I ATE BOTH!
If you are missing dirty jersey go fix yourself a dog or too...and if that doesn't help MTV might just be playing a episode. You know you can't get enough of the gyming, tanning, and fist pumping!


I love blogging. I love that I can write my thoughts and store them to look back on. I love that I can share part of my life with you and that likewise you let me peak into your daily routines, your homes, and your traditions. And while that is wonderful it sometimes causes a little bit of blogger envy.

I recently have been stalking home blogs and staring in awe, wonder, and jealousy at the beauty of your homes and how talented you all are at decorating, renovating and interior design. I look at your travel pages and see the wonderful trips you are planning or have taken. And at the same time I am envious of your exotic visits and memories. Sometimes blogging makes it very hard to be content.

Today Mr.R and I hosted my grandparents for lunch, and in doing so we needed to clean house. We scrubbed the kitchen, waxed the floors, tidied the closets and bathrooms, and cleaned our sun porch.

As I was setting the dining room table I looked around at the beauty of our home. I saw the stenciling that took me hours, the framed photos of our travels, the mementos we have picked up from various dates, and the furniture we painstakingly saved for and finally purchased. And I realized that my home, still very much a work in progress, is just as beautiful and just as comforting as yours.

I think it is very hard to be content today. TV commercials tell us to buy more. Everyone is always having a sale. And if you can't pay now, there is always credit. And I think it is just in my nature to want more. But really, how much stuff does one girl need?

I know it isn't quite March, but I think I have decided on my new goal. I am going to work on being content with what I have. I will still read your posts and stare in awe at your creativity and talent, but I will do it without my green jealous twin.

After all, green just isn't my color.

A busy Saturday with no photo documentation!

8:30 AM: running a bit late, Mr. R & I head to dunkin' doughnuts for my school's fundraiser. We served doughnuts & coffee for a couple of hours and all the proceeds went back to my middle school to be used (hopefully) on new technology supplies. I see mimio markers in my future!

I just need to state that as a non-doughnut eater I have NO IDEA how many doughnut flavors there are! Cake, glazed, chocolate glazed, maple frosted, vanilla, boston creme, chocolate filled, sugar rolled, and jelly! I also had no idea how hard it is to listen, remember, and then make coffee. I really need to cut those Starbucks baristas some slack.

10:30: Leave Dunkin' doughnuts (smelling like frosting and coffee) and head the the town center. Mr. R and I stopped for breakfast @ Panera. I love the spinach souffle and considering we don't have Panera near us I always indulge when we are in Jax.

11:00: Off to the Apple store. Mr. R and I finally don't have to share a computer! Right now I am blogging from my new Macbook. Yay!!! While out wallets are A LOT lighter, I think it will be worth it in the end.

12:00: Home to the pups and to see my grandparents who just returned from a cruise to the British virgin islands. They had a great time and seem so tan and relaxed. After my grandmother's heart surgery two months ago its great to see her back in action.

1:00: Mr. R moonlights as a plumber! The republicans just rented a new headquarters downtown to help prepare for the 2010 elections. Mr. R was recruited to fix toilets, clean bathrooms, and help drywall. Who knew he was so handy?

3:00 Exercise Day 2: Mr. R and I have a Wii that he loves and I use occasionally, but for Christmas I was given the new game Just Dance. If I dance for an hour it is just like a zumba class. I LOVE it! And considering I missed spin and boot-camp this morning, the 60 mins of Just Dance was a perfect dose of cardio right in my own living room.

5:30: Dinner @ Kristin's! Three of my good friends are running the Jacksonville half-marathon for breast cancer, also known as 26.2 with Donna. Or in their case a 13.1. Anyway, they had a pre-race pasta dinner and even though Mr. R and I aren't running we were asked to come over and feast. It was fun to be together and Kristin is an excellent Italian chef. We all were saying it had been SO long since we had eaten meatballs and sauce.

8:00: Home to the pups and to clean house for a bit. Hope you all had a great Saturday!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An evening in Rome.

Mr. R and I have a been bitten by the travel bug. We both love to travel off the beaten path and try new foods, discover new places, and take TONS of pictures. (I am a scrapbooker after all).Unfortunately our wallets aren't always on the same wavelength as our need to travel. This means I need to get creative with what we have available.

This whole week I have been craving pizza and Mr. R had been craving a night on the town... combine them together and you get an evening in Rome, without the 10 hour flight, customs check, and no need for your Italian dictionary.We left Casa de Republican @ 7 (after we made it to the gym, day 1 for you Sharon!) and headed for downtown in search for the Duomo. (It just so happens that Memorial Presbyterian has a very similar dome).We walked the cobbled streets to the Piazza de Navona where we stumbled upon the Pantheon and passed the Trevi fountain. (I forgot to throw in a few coins).For dinner, I found a little restourante and feasted on a calzone (stuffed with spinach and tomatoes for me) and veal parmigiana (for Mr. R).To end the evening we strolled along the streets eventually finding the bridges of venice, a few gondalas waiting for willing patrons, and murano glass on display.And made it to the Vatican to see the Pope's window box, the beautiful stained glass, and the attached plaza.And of course, life is not complete without gelato eaten with fresh berries (or peanutbutter cups in my case).This concludes our night on the town. I can't believe how much fun it was to pretend. And I am grateful Mr. R indulged my fantasy and played along. I am already planning next months trip. I think a trip to the UK might be in order...