Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Colorado Part 3: Manitou Springs

So when I wrote my post yesterday I realized that I never finished writing about our trip to Colorado.

Our final adventure in Colorado was to Manitou Springs.  We had planned to go up the cog railway to the top of the mountain, but unfortunately for us the good weather did not stay and a thick fog enveloped the mountain.  Since there would be no real way to enjoy the site at the top because of the fog and the fact that it would be really creepy to travel up the mountain in the fog we decided to just walk around the town.

Mostly the town is filled with tourist trap shops and is definitely a very hippie town. During our walk we found a couple of the towns infamous springs which were naturally bubbly water!  It was an odd thing to taste (and not a very great one at that!).  

Then we walked through a really cute park where J and my brother could not resist playing around.

As we continued our path around the town we came across a true gem that made the whole trip to the town worth-while a huge arcade!  Four separate buildings are filled with arcade games.  One with old skee ball machines and tickets to win prizes, two with more modern games (pacman, air hockey, etc) and finally an arcade room filled with pinball machines and very old (but still working) arcade games.

When I say old I mean old enough that the pinball machine J is playing above has a cigarette holder, cost $0.10 a game and had manual dials.  The game my mom and H are playing above had a screen on canvas that rotated to create the illusion of driving on a street.  They even had "Zoltar" from BIG!  J and I had our fortunes read from penny machines and we all happily played games for at least an hour (and didn't spend too much money either!).  

Up until that point I probably wouldn't have recommended Manitou Springs to visitors, but after playing in the arcade with my family and generally having a great time (oh and great food!!!), I"d recommend it for those of you going to Colorado looking to kill an afternoon somewhere!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Time

Wow.  I can't believe it has been over a month since I last wrote.  I'm happy to say that my disappearance has been for good reasons.  Right after my Spring break from work I was asked to fill in as a long term substitute teacher and I happily jumped at the opportunity to teach.  There were no plans for me to work with so I've been figuring it out as I go and I've love every second of it.

Now that school is winding down and my summer job begins I am hoping to be back on here a lot more.  I'm even hoping to throw a few teaching-related posts in here to mix things up.

Since I made a list last summer (and only accomplished half of the items on that list) of things I wanted to do over my time off, I figured I'd make a new list of things I'd like to accomplish in the next three months.

So here we go:

  • Go to a concert with the girls & one with J (already planned for these, LMFAO at the end of June and fun. in August....although I may buy Jason Mraz tickets if I have money around that time)
  • Go strawberry picking with mom then maybe learn how to make my own jam and jar some
  • Organize my recipe binders and lesson plans binders
  • Visit D in Boston
  • Make plans to visit my brother in Colorado in the Fall to see a CU game
  • Go fishing with J
  • Go camping/hiking
  • Go kayaking at a different location than our trip last summer
  • Finish knitting my remaining projects
  • Get picture frames for our Italy pictures
  • Reading some educational books
  • Read at least 5 fun books this summer
  • Go to the zoo
  • Get back in running shape
I'm sure I will think of more things to add to this list, but hopefully I will accomplish the things above this summer and use my summer vacation to its fullest extent!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Colorado: Part 2 Colorado Springs

The Monday after Beer-ster J flew out to join us on the remainder of our trip.  My parents planned for us to spend Tuesday and Wednesday in Colorado Springs and luckily my brother, M, and his girlfriend H were able to get off of work and join us!

We arrived in Colorado Springs after about a 2 hour drive.  First stop: Air Force Academy!

Could you imagine if this was your college campus?  Absolutely incredible!

Here is the Academy's Chapel, clearly inspired by aviation.  

Behind the Academy..mountains, mountains and more mountains.  Beautiful.

More of the Academy.
 The Chapel is beautiful and impressive on the outside...

 And equally amazing on the interior!  The lighting is all stained glass.

 The pews are inspired by aviation as well!

 Views of the mountains out the windows!

Checking out the statues on campus.

Football Stadium

 Beautiful scenery around Colorado Springs

 Snow on the mountains!

 Garden of the Gods

Mom and Dad had so many interesting stories about Colorado Springs.  Getting to see the Air Force Academy in person and Garden of the Gods was absolutely fantastic!  Sorry about the photo-heavy post. Next time I'll fill you in on our trip to Manitou Springs!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Colorado: Part 1, Beer-ster

So much has been going on lately its been hard to keep up with everything.  This past week was my school's spring break and right before we let out for break I was offered the opportunity to teach when we come back!  It is not a full-time gig, but I get to fill in, possibly until the end of the school year.  My nerves and excitement are through the roof!

Luckily I was able to push most of that away for our trip to Colorado!  J and I joined my parents on a trip out to see my brother who lives in Boulder.  J came out two days later than us so he missed out on the Easter celebrations at my brother's place.  My brother and his roommate have put on Beer-ster for a couple of years, a fun Easter celebration for all of their friends who couldn't go home to their families for the Holiday.  However, this celebration was a little less family-friendly event as its name would imply.  There was a mimosa bar, amazing decorations (done by my brother's roommate's girlfriend!), beer bottles decorated with Easter themes, a Easter-beer hunt and many fun games.

Doesn't it look straight out a Martha Stewart project?

Homemade pinwheels
Yes that is a pony!
Playing cornhole
I will fill you in on the rest of our Colorado trip next time!

Monday, April 16, 2012

DIY: Fun Holiday Crayons

With the Easter boxes sent to some really special little ones, I'm ready to share some fun DIY gifts that we sent their way.

The first of which is DIY crayons.  I'm pretty sure these are meant to be made with your leftover crayons that have broken into nibs, but with no crayons in the apart and a desire to make these I bought a brand new bow just for this project.  I first saw this idea on this blog, and thought it was such a cute idea to do one day with kids. Since J and I know some little ones who are just starting to use crayons and decided they would be fun to send in our Easter boxes to them.

I went off searching for the perfect mold to use to make the crayons.  I went to one of our local craft stores and found only hearts and stars.  I had decided on the stars until I couldn't fin many of the other items I was looking for other projects.  I put down the mold and headed to another craft store where I found these awesome egg molds!  While not very cost effective at $9.99 and being for a specific time of year, they were too adorable to pass up.  Plus, since the little ones are still so little I can make them for years to come.

What you'll need:

  • A silicon mold
  • Box of crayons (Mine allowed me to fill the mold twice) or leftover crayons
  • Knife
  • Bowl or trash can (for the crayon wrappers)
What you need to do:
  • Preheat your oven to 200.

  • Unwrap all of the crayons that you plan on using. Cutting down the edge of the crayon with a knife will help make it easier to remove the wrappers.
  • Break the crayons into pieces and disperse them among the different parts of the silicon mold.  (Try to avoid putting too many dark colors together because your egg with come out almost black).
  • Put the mold on top of a cookie sheet and put into the oven.  Leave in the oven until it looks like all of the crayons have melted 10-15minutes.

  • Remove the silicon mold from the oven and place somewhere to cool such as the stovetop or cooling rack.  For a quicker set you can put the mold in the fridge or freezer, but it doesn't take too long for the crayons to set outside of the fridge. (about an hour)
  • Once the crayons are cooled pop them out of the mold.

  • Repeat until you have used all of the crayons that you want to use.
This is such an easy little project.  J and I had fun making them and waiting to see what the crayons would look like when they cooled down.

The possibility of crayon combinations is endless!  Have fun making your own creations!

Friday, March 30, 2012

New Recipe: Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Avocado and Chicken

I forgot to mention a few weeks ago that I tried out a new recipe and a new food!  Sadly, it will probably never be made again when J is home because he wasn’t a fan, but I actually enjoyed this dish.

Brussel Sprouts.

I think for most people this food brings unpleasant flavors to the mind.  It did for me too, but when I sat down and thought about it I couldn’t think of when I had actually tried them.  Now, I know I have eaten them before , but I think that it happened when I was younger and I never went near them again.

I found this recipe that made them look delicious.  I thought that since I’ve been having such a change in my palate these days (a newfound love of chili WITH beans and what’s this, cooked mushrooms actually taste good?) that I’d give them a try.

When I told J this is what we’d be having for dinner initially he gave me a face like he smelled something terrible, but when I told him that you mix bacon and avocado into the brussel sprouts he said to me “So basically you’re masking the taste of the brussel sprouts,” and he agreed to at least try it.

  (Probably the best smelling part of the cooking process)

 (Cooked bacon, sliced avocado, and diced brussel sprouts with seasonings)

(Cook everything but the avocado)

(Add the avocado towards the end of the cooking process to warm it up)

We were only having chicken on the side, but after having J doing a taste test of our brussel sprouts I decided to dice up the chicken and toss it in with the whole pan.  We had this dish, which really could be all you cook for dinner, with a side of pierogis.

I was pleasantly surprised with the dish and would definitely make it again for myself.  It was a savory dish with just a hint of bitterness from the sprouts.  While J ate all of his, he told me he’d rather not have the dish again.  Oh well, at least we tried something new and I found out that I don’t hate brussel sprouts!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Busy Busy Bee

I would apologize for my lack of posts recently, but I'm not really sorry.  J and I have been really busy in the past few weeks with jobs, adventures and enjoying the nice weather that we were having (unfortunately it turned a bit chilly-aka reality check of what March weather is supposed to be like in NJ). Between applying to whatever teaching positions I can, work, keeping on top of general chores and going for long strolls in the beautiful weather, I haven't had much time for projects or new recipes to share with you.

However, here and there I have made some advancements on some tiny projects I'm hoping to share with you in the next week.  Soon after we're heading out to Colorado to visit my brother, and my parents are going to show me around the area in which I was born.  I can't tell you how excited I am for that!  Hopefully I will have lots of pictures and stories to share with you.

That is all I have for you this evening.  Good night!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Recipe: Spinach and Artichoke Bake

I don’t know how many of you are pinterest users, but from what I can tell, the population of people who use the site is increasing rapidly!  My students, colleagues, family, and friends use it.  I’m constantly hearing people saying that they are addicted to looking through the pages or even some who have to limit their use of the site otherwise they’d spend all day on it.

I’m a member of the site and see it as such a great resource.  I’m found some of my favorite new blogs, diy ideas and recipes through the links that people pin.   The recipe I’m going to share with you today is one I came across on pinterest, but it actually comes from the Budget Savvy Diva

I’m looking to spice up what J and I eat for meals.  This sounded like a good recipe to try because I recently found out that J likes artichokes and I like spinach so the mix works out.  J is not looking forward to the next recipe I want to try because the main ingredient is brussel sprouts! I don’t actually know if I like them or not so I want to try it out and I told J I’d make an extra vegetable just incase my recipe is unpleasant.

Anyway, back to this bake.  I made this dish for J and I we both LOVED it!  It was the right mixture of sweet and savory.  Unfortunately for all of you J and I were in such a hurry to eat that we didn't get a chance to take any pictures of our ingredients or the process.  Whoops!

But doesn't it look so yummy!

Spinach and Artichoke Bake (adapted from Budget Savvy Diva)
What you need:

  • 1 box Whole Grain Pasta (we used rotini)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic ( Minced)
  • 1 Cup of Sour Cream
  • 1/2 a brick of cream cheese (4 oz)
  • 3/4 Cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 squirt of lemon juice
  • 10 oz spinach (we used frozen, thawed and drained)
  • 1 Can Artichoke hearts (mine said 8-10 large artichokes) rinsed and chopped
  • 1 Cup of Mozzarella
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

What you need to do:
  • Set your oven to 425. Spray a large casserole pan.
  • Cook your pasta and put to the side.
  • Heat the olive oil in your pan(I used a large pan so I could dirty as few dishes as possible) and cook the onions until soft.  Add garlic and cook for a minute.
  • Remove onions from heat and let cool for 5 minutes before adding the sour cream, cream cheese, parmesan and lemon juice.  Mix well and then stir in the pasta.
  • Add spinach, artichokes, half of the mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste. (Here she also adds a 1/2 cup of pasta water, I did NOT do this and it turned out fine)
  • Pour the mixture into the pan and top with remaining cheese (we also added some more parmesan here).
  • Bake 10 minutes or until the cheese on top is a golden brown.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Birthday in the City

This past Sunday was J’s 26th birthday and we decided to go to NYC to celebrate.  J and I are pretty familiar with the city and I’d have to say it is one of the biggest reasons we miss living more upstate because we used to live 10 minutes from the station and could hop right on a train for a day trip.  Now it takes a 40-minute car ride just to get to the station and then about an hour and 15 minutes (if you are lucky enough to get an express!) to get to the city from our new station.

Anyway, we go into the city around 11 and made our way to the TKTS booth in Times Square.  Many people groan about how all the tourists go to Times Square, but I could care less if I’m going to pay almost half of what the normal cost is for theater tickets.  We decided to go see Blue Man Group since it was different from our normal (Last time we saw How to Succeed in Business with Daniel Radcliffe.   It was fantastic).

We had about 2.5 hours to kill until show time so we headed towards Rockefeller Plaza to walk through the NHL store.  J was hoping to find some ice hockey supplies there, but was sadden to find out it was mostly expensive NHL team jerseys and other merchandise.

Since the show was all the way down in the Village, J and I jumped on a train and headed downtown thinking we’d kill time down there.  We ended up grabbing some lunch at Soup N’ Burger: I got a turkey club and J had a bacon cheeseburger.  We still had time to kill so we walked around the area and found these crazy zip-tied stoplights and lampposts.

The show was definitely an interesting experience, especially since I had no idea what to expect.  There was a lot of music, paint splattering, audience participation and creepy blue man stares!  Overall we both liked it, but I just wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who hasn’t seen a show in the city, there are so many other really great choices for show to see.
We wandered around for a bit longer and actually had to look for another subway entrance because the train we wanted to take was not operating from the street we wanted to take it at.  Luckily in this area you really only need to walk a handful of blocks to find another subway entrance.  We went back uptown to see if we could find another hockey store that J wanted to go to, but unfortunately it was closed.

Since we couldn’t think of anything else we wanted to do, J and I checked the train schedule and were lucky enough to not only find a train leaving in twenty minutes, but also one that was an express!  We played back and forth games of Dice with Friends on J’s phone before he fell asleep.

We grabbed some Qdoba for dinner on the way home, J’s favorite East Coast Mexican food place (he loves Del Taco back in California).  Afterwards I lit up the candles on the small ice cream cake that I got him (tradition for us) and we dug into with just forks (no need to dirty any plates up!).   We spent the rest of the night relaxing (other than me preparing some meals for work this week) and groaning about eating too much food!