Holiday Recap and New Years Stuff

I'm back after a brief holiday hiatus.
And, I have to first say, "Wow."
 How is it already the last day of 2012? I realized it was coming yesterday and was completely stunned.

The past week off has been amazing and has done nothing but FLY by! Christmas at my parents house was really nice--we spent some quality time together, cooked Xmas Eve dinner together and just enjoyed the holiday season. 

My ride up to Philly on the train went smoothly (altho, let me tell you, there are some VERY interesting people on the train when you travel on Xmas day--I wish I had been able to take pics), and I got there in time for dinner and presents. Two of MG's nieces and his nephew got me gifts which was really sweet and unexpected. MG's sisters, brothers-in-law and he and I all did a Secret Santa with one another too which was fun. Let's just say, it took us a little bit of time to load up our car with all of the presents! 

While in Philly, we saw Django Unchained. I was a little hesitant to go cuz I wasn't sure I could handle the movie and it's 2 hours and 45 minutes! But, it was REALLY good. There were parts that I had trouble watching (I'm not the person who can watch someone being beaten, etc) but the entire movie was SO good. I didn't look at my watch once the entire time! Totally recommend it.

After lots of relaxation, sleeping in, family time, presents, a massage, and fun with the kiddos, MG and I headed back to DC on Friday. But, our gift to his parents was a night at the Hay-Adams hotel in DC which overlooks the White House, and they came down on Saturday to partake. Boy, was that hotel nice!! The view was incredible and the room was stunning.
Top Left: view at night of the White House/National Monument during sunset. Top Right: the elegant bed; Bottom left: window-pane view of the White House in the afternoon; Middle Bottom: white chocolate White House left in the room at night; Bottom Right: the intricate ceiling of the hotel room

As if you couldn't tell, the hotel was insanely nice. The hallways even felt like we were in the Titanic! After reveling at how awesome the room was, we went to see the National Christmas tree and then had dinner in the city at a restaurant called 701 which was really delish, and the coffee that we had after dinner is some of the best we've ever tasted! The service there was also stellar--couldn't have asked for a better staff and overall experience.

And somehow, today, we're celebrating the end of one incredible year and the start of another one.  We'll be out to dinner with a big group of people and then over to a smaller gathering with two of our good couple friends. Can't think of a more perfect way to ring in the new year!

I can't believe how amazing 2012 has been and I can't wait to see what fun adventures 2013 has in store!
Totally in love with this picture from the weekend :)

Here's to a happy, healthy and fun-filled new year!

Oh, and....
So proud :)

Recipe: Spicy Chicken Rigatoni

Ready for something tasty this Thursday? I made you wait a couple extra days cuz of Christmas.
I think you'll forgive me once you try out this recipe I have for you! 

Remember in one of my Pinteresting posts when I pinned a yummy looking meal called Spicy Chicken Rigatoni and said I would need to try it out? Well I did. And it was amazeballs delish! (Yeah I just said that.)

This guy has a whole lotta flavor and a whole lotta kick to it. If you don't like spicy either don't make this dish, or make it with significantly less red pepper flakes. Just a warning!

This dish was made to be like a dish at Buca di Beppo and it definitely tastes like it came from a restaurant.
My version is slightly adapted from the original recipe--I used a different sauce, and more peas and chicken than the original recipe.

What You Need:
Pretend oil is in this picture
-1 lb rigatoni
-1Tbsp chopped/minced garlic
-1/4 Cup oil
-1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes (I'd say about half or quarter of that if you don't like a lot of spice)
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper
-9 oz cooked, sliced chicken
-15 oz jar of sundried tomato alfredo sauce (Classico brand)
-2 tsp butter
-1 cup peas

What You Do:
1. Start cooking the pasta according to directions in a large pot. Wait to start the rest of the meal until the water starts to boil since cooking the pasta will take about 12 minutes. When it's done, drain it and return to the pot.

2. In a large saute pan, heat up the oil, salt, pepper, red pepper, and garlic until the garlic gets warm and pungent (about 1-2 minutes).
3. Add in the chicken and toss it in the garlic mixture until it's evenly coated and starts to heat through.

4. Add in the sundried tomato alfredo sauce. Bring it to a simmer and let the sauce thicken up (so there's not as much excess oil)

5. Once the sauce looks thickened up, turn down the flame really low and add in the butter and peas. Do this until you're ready to add it to the drained pasta in the pot.
Mix the pasta and the sauce mixture until it's coated evenly throughout.

6. Serve up the pasta in bowls and garnish with a few extra red pepper flakes if you want (I'd recommend not, though. It was plenty hot and spicy without the extra "garnish)


This recipe made us dinner for two and 3 helpings for leftovers. Budget-friendly and delish!

Let me know if you try it and how you like it!

Merry Xmas!

Here's hoping you were good and Santa brought you what you wanted this year! :)

Merry Christmas!

Pre-Xmas Stuff & Merry Christmas!

Hey friends!

I'm back with a recap of what I was up to before Xmas this past weekend.

Friday was a night out to celebrate a friends' promotion. Tons of fun and unhealthy eating.

Saturday was running last minute errands. And hitting the gym.

Sunday MG and I decided to go to Mt. Vernon, George Washington's home. In the 4 years that I've worked down the road from this "monument" I had never been to visit it. The day was slightly chilly, but there were clear skies and not too much wind so it was perfect to put on some Uggs and go exploring :)
Part of the front of the grounds
The back of the house that faces the Potomac

MG humoring me and taking a pic in front of one of the bazillion Xmas trees on
the property
It was really cool to see a piece of history and walk through the house that GW lived and died in. The grounds are MASSIVE so we did a fair amount of walking around which was good for feeling like we did something active.

Afterwards we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a little cafe on the way home. It was small, the waitress was incredibly friendly, and the food was light and delicious. A perfect way to top off our afternoon.

Later that night was, what has now become, our Christmas Date Night tradition of going to DC for dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, and then going to see the National Xmas tree and all of the little trees. (There is a tree for every state that is decorated with things that commemorate each state).
Not a bad view for the drive into the city
After a delicious array of oysters, our main courses and pumpkin creme brule for dessert
at Old Ebbitt
Bundled up to see the National Xmas tree
It was nice spending the day doing touristy things, having dinner at the same place we had our Xmas dinner date at a year before, and reminiscing about things from the last year. We will definitely be continuing this tradition next year and in the years to come.

Today, MG drove home and I'm at home spending time with my parents today and part of tomorrow. Then I'll be making the journey up to Philly via train to see my guy, his family, and exchange presents.

I feel incredibly blessed to have such loving parents, a caring boyfriend, and his overwhelmingly kind family to celebrate this season with.

A special thanks goes out to my buddy Trish for stopping by with my hand-made bag and scarf! You're the best :)

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Friday Friday Friday!

It's FINALLY Friday! Know what that means? This girl is on winter break until the new year (after school today, that is)! Whooop! Today at work we're having a luncheon with my special education team which should be fun, and all of the classroom holiday parties are going on. Should be an easy day!

Time for some letters.

Dear Winter Break, at times it felt like you got here super fast, and other times it felt like you took your sweet time getting here. Either way, I'm glad that you're here now so I can get a much needed break from work, some quality time with my family, MG and his family, and just enjoy the holiday season. Dear Best Buy commercial,  thanks for giving me a GREAT idea for what to get my parents for Xmas. I was seriously in panic mode but I think I got a good one! Dear Xmas Present from MG, you're now in the condo somewhere instead of in MG's trunk. Where are you, and more importantly WHAT are you?? Dear Christmas Cards, all of these flat Xmas cards are making it very difficult for me to display my cards without getting or making a card holder to clip them to. I keep finding friends and family face-down on my wine cabinet. Wait. That sounded funny. :) Dear Book Club book, I really need to get crackin' on you. Only 25% done with you and need to be finished shortly after the New Year. Hopefully I'll get in some good reading time over break. Dear Christmas Date, I'm so glad that MG and I are making going out to dinner in DC and seeing the National Christmas tree, and all of the baby trees for each state, a tradition for Christmas.

Dear Sandy Hook Elementary School, know that we are all behind you, supporting you, praying for you, and hoping for you. I hope that you can feel the massive amount of love and concern being sent your way. Sending you nothing by love, peace and all the joy you can hold.

I want to take a moment to remember those little angels (and adult angels) who left us one week ago. You will be missed, forever.

At 9:38 AM, take a moment to honor these sweet, brave souls. I know I will be.

It's OK

It's Thursday which means only today and tomorrow and then I'm on break until 2013!!!!

Can you tell I'm excited? Cuz I am!!!

I'm linking up for It's OK today for funzies!
Its Ok Thursdays

It's OK that....

....MG knows what he's getting for Xmas already. He told me what he wanted, and only ONE thing (since he has everything else he could want or need....that's within my budget anyway haha), so I'm getting him that. And he knows it. And yet, I have NO idea what he's getting me. Darn me for having LOTS of things that I could want! haha

....I refused to open two emails from LOFT the last two days because I kept getting suckered into their deals, almost on a daily basis, and continued to pay $8.95 for shipping for each of the orders I made (and, let's be honest for a minute, I made enough that you could count them on one hand....maybe two. Oops!) I'm glad I resisted the urge to splurge (again)!

.....I'm wearing a necklace that was one of my purchases to work today. And I. Love. It. :)
Ironically enough, the shirt is also from LOFT, but that was a previous purchase....
like a month ago haha
....I hate that tv shows go on hiatus this time of year. It's the time of year that I actually have TIME to watch when they air (not just on DVR)....and it's all re-runs. Guess I'll just have to rely on my Bravo stations to keep me entertained. Oh. Darn. :)

....I found an awesome Speech Pathologist who has a blog online and makes a TON of materials and puts them on Teachers Pay Teachers. Last week there was a 50% off sale so I got about 10 activities (in depth activities with materials and everything) for about $15. Heck YES! this time of year, especially, I miss all of my friends even more than normal, who don't live close by and who I don't get to see as often as I'd like. It also makes me miss those who aren't a part of my life at all anymore. I really need to invent that teleportation device so I can get all of you in one room all at once! :)

.....MG's dad texted me yesterday that when we're up in Philly next week visiting, that he arranged for MG's mom and I to get massages one day. Uh....AWESOME! Part of the family? I think yes :)

....MG and I are making a tradition of going out to dinner in DC at one particular restaurant our tradition (since this is the 2nd year in a row that we're doing it) every year before Christmas. We have plans to go see the National Xmas tree afterwards (last year it rained after dinner so we didn't get to). I like that we have a little "tradition" brewing :)

Hope you have an awesome, quick-moving Thursday!

WILW and Oh How Pinteresting

Even though the past few days have been filled with heavy hearts, I think it's also important to not get so far down into the sadness that we can't get out. We need to focus on some positives, while still grieving the loss of life. And what better way to do that than to think about some things you're loving?

Linking up with Jamie and Michelle for WILW and Oh How Pinteresting

I'm loving that so many people are sending out support for teachers across the country. A friend of mine posted this status on Monday morning and it made my heart smile, and also made it a little easier to go back to work that morning:
Much love goes out to all our teachers today! Good luck, we are here for you and we have your back. Thanks for all you do!
So nice.

I'm loving the meal I made last night. Spicy Chicken Rigatoni (conveniently something I posted in my Pinteresting post last week). SO good! Stay tuned for my version of the recipe, but for now, here's a sneak peak!

I'm loving our new wine cabinet that we got from Bed Bath and Beyond. It was $199 and we got 20% off, plus free shipping which meant it was only $165 with tax. It's sturdy and provides some cabinets to hide some other junk if we need. 
It's currently displaying the Christmas cards we've been getting in the mail. Totally in love with this piece!

I'm loving cuddle time with my pup, Cooper. During sad times (and happy times), he's the perfect little cuddle bug for me!

I'm loving that Christmas is less than a week away now. Can't wait to celebrate with the ones I love and hold dear!

And as always, I'm loving Pinterest!

This week I've been pinning:
Love this outfit! Could see making it Christmas-y with a red cardi, too.

Cranberry infused vodka as a gift! Such a cute (and pretty) idea!

Great idea for maximizing that under-sink space!

Shrimp Quinoa Rolls with a spicy peanut sauce.
These look delicious (and pretty healthy!) Might need to add this to the list of recipes to try!
Lord knows I need it!
Follow Me on Pinterest Check out some of the other things I've been pinning!

Hope your week is filled with happy, uplifting moments.

Recipe: Pasta Fagioli in the Crock Pot

Holy Moly. That's all I can say about this recipe I have for you today.
I know many of you were waiting for this yummy post, so let me get right into it!

It's another one from the crock pot lady over at A Year of Slow Cooking and it's a great one!

Pasta fagioli in the crock pot--this recipe has a slight kick to it (nothing too spicy, just a little hint of something) that soaks in the longer this soup sits.

This isn't a recipe you'd make before leaving for work because the prep takes a bit more than dumping everything together. It's perfect for making on a Sunday afternoon so you have dinner ready for that night, and quite a bit of leftovers for the next day (or days).

What You Need:
-6 qt crock pot
-1 lb lean ground beef
Imagine salt, pepper and oregano are in the picture
-2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (we did no salt added cans to take away some of the sodium)
-4 cups (32 oz) beef broth
-about 1 cup of dry pasta
-26 oz pasta sauce
-1 can kidney beans
-1 can small white beans
-about 1 cup of carrots (or slightly more if you like)
-about 2-3 stalks of celery (or more if you like)
-1/2 large red onion
-1 Tablespoon of Tabasco sauce
-2 teaspoons oregano
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1/2 tsp salt

What You Do:
1. Brown the meat and then drain it well. Set it aside to cool.

 2. Chop up the carrots, celery and onion. Add it to the bottom of the crock pot.

3. Drain and rinse the cans of beans. Add them to the crock pot.

4. Add in the tomatoes, with the juices.
Im not sure why these look like neon tomatoes in the picture.
 I swear, they were totally not radioactive.
5. Add in the pasta sauce, beef broth, oregano, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

6. Finally, add in the ground beef and stir everything to combine it.

7. Set the crockpot to LOW for 8 hours, or HIGH for 4 hours. About an hour before it's done, add in the dry pasta (I used more than one cup of dry pasta in mine--closer to 1 1/2 cups). Cook for another hour until the pasta is tender.
Serve with Parmesan cheese if you have it.
(Try it with the grated parmesan--like what you'd put on spaghetti-- instead of the shredded like
 I have in this picture. It gets pretty stringy with this kind of cheese.)
This made two meals for dinner for us, and 5 servings worth of leftovers. Possibly more if you don't go back for seconds *cough cough...MG!*

It's good. Pinky promise. 
Would I lie to you??? :)


I didn't feel like writing a re-cap of my weekend today. Instead, I wanted to take today to mourn the loss of so many wonderful people, big and small, who were taken far too early last Friday.

I have had an ache in my heart since hearing about the shooting on Friday that took so many innocent lives. I think it was brought even closer to home for me since I work at an elementary school, full of bright and smiley faces. I can't even imagine what these families are going through.

I posted this status on Saturday morning on Facebook:
I think I'm finding tragedies like this so much harder to deal with than other things like Hurricane Sandy, which was horrible in its own right. It's in our human nature to want to help during a tragedy. Those of us not directly affected by the hurricane were able to do something to try and help, whether it was donating money, items, time/labor, etc. But in a situation like this, there's no way to
 do some physical action to "help," to try to make a dent in an overwhelming situation. One that is made harder by the fact that children were involved, who had the realities of a scary world all too quickly brought to the forefront of their lives. I'm having trouble feeling anything but helpless, in how to help those affected by this, in how to go back to work on Monday and not let this affect ourselves and our kids. I want to DO something, but it's hard to know what that "thing" is....
Continuing to send my thoughts, prayers, and hope to those affected 
by this horrific tragedy.

I want to be able to physically do something to help alleviate the pain these families are going through, but I can't. Feeling helpless is the worst kind of feeling. And my feelings of helplessness are insignificant when compared to those dealing with this directly.

As I got ready for work this morning, I had the thought that so many other teachers last Friday morning were going through their normal routine, and had no idea it would be for the last time.

I'm thankful for all of those brave individuals who did everything in their power to protect the children who are in their presence on a daily basis. I know, as teachers, we all would have done the same things, to try and increase the safety for our kiddos.

I can only continue to send hope and healing prayers to the families of the victims, and to our country as a whole.

Today continues to be a day of mourning for me.

Friday's Letters

It's Friday!!!! 

Can I get a "Woop woop!!"
To commemorate this Friday, I have another bunch of letters for ya!

Dear Work Holiday Party, I'm so glad to be a part of a school that has a holiday party. And one that I'm looking forward to going to. I continue to be thankful, on a regular basis, for the place in which I work. Dear Wine Bar, you're supposed to be arriving in the mail today and I can't wait to build you, have you set up and looking pretty in our dining room! It took us a while to pick one and I hope you turn out to be a good choice. Dear MG, you sneaky Pete....what on Earth did you get me for Xmas! I know where you went to get it (since you let it slip by accident), but I have NO idea what it could be! My curious mind is running wild. Dear Condo Complex Holiday Party, you had some delicious food, and we met some nice people who live next to us. Thankfully there were no awkward run-ins! :) Dear Heated Seats, you are amazing on these cold morning drives into work. I just love having a warm hiney! Dear Amtrak, thanks for making it SUPER affordable for me to train up to Philly on Xmas to spend time with MG and his family. $35 is less than I would spend on gas driving up there! Dear LOFT, seriously, STOP sending me those magnificent emails with your tantalizing deals. I can't help myself. You must know this. Evil. My closet loves you. My credit card does not. Dear Cooper, you are such a sweet pup. The fact that your tail wiggled the entire time you got your shots the other day at the vet, is truly a show of just how much you enjoy being around people. I must admit, when the vet told me you were the best pet and her favorite that she'd seen that day, it made me a proud fur-baby mama!

Have a happy Friday and a fun-filled weekend!

Crazy Parents in the News

As someone who works in a school system, I've heard my fair share of stories about interesting people along the way. BUT, when I hear stories on the news about some of the absolutely stupid, messed up stuff that some people do, as parents, it boggles my mind.

Like the lady who tattoo'ed her 11 year old. She said, "She asked me to"....well let me just say there were a LOT of things that I asked my mom for. Sometimes the answer was yes and sometimes the answer was no. My mom was my friend when she could be, but she was my mom when she needed to be. Even if I didn't like her for it then, I love her for it now.

And we all remember the mom who took her 5 year old tanning? What is WRONG with people? Your job is to protect your child from things, not expose them to things that you KNOW are harmful, and frankly, totally unnecessary!

I know that no one is perfect, and I'm certainly no exception, but I DO know for a fact that when I have kids of my own, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are safe, happy and healthy. In fact, I'll probably worry about that more than anything else. How do those priorities get messed up for someone else? I just don't understand and it makes me sad for those kids....

And since we're on the "parenting" topic, I'll leave you with this quote that I saw on Pinterest when writing this post, that's general idea can be applied to parents and non-parents alike:
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in one thing, that we forget all of the blessings that are staring us right in the face. 
 Of course, none of those blessings should include a tanned and tattoo'ed little kid.
Just sayin'.

WILW and Oh How Pinteresting!

Another Wednesday means another super fun post about the things I'm loving and my awesome Pinterest finds! Do you think you can handle it??? :)

I'm loving another fabulous crock pot meal that I made this past weekend: Pasta Fagioli, and oh my word was it delicious! (MG said his coworkers asked him what it was when he heated up his leftovers, because it smelled so good). Win! I'll be posting the recipe soon, so stay tuned! But for now, here's your teaser:

I'm loving that I'm doing better on making myself work out. I'm feeling better about my body and it feels good!

I'm loving getting fun presents in the mail. Even if they are to me....from me! #SelfishXmasShopping

I'm loving that my Xmas plans are made--spending time with my parents through Xmas morning and taking the train to spend Xmas night and a few days with MG's family, too. And even better? My train ticket only cost me $35! Score!!

I'm loving science. Did you see the story about how the HIV vuris may have cured a 7 year old of leukemia?? Science seriously astounds me. And the people who randomly think "hey, maybe if we use HIV, it will cure this leukemia"....genius. My mind is blown. And amazed.

I'm loving my friends. You all are amazing and I love you to pieces!

And, as always, I'm loving Pinterest.
Here's what I've been pinning this week....

What a perfect dress for a holiday party! Love it!

Tying cinnamon sticks around a candle, making the whole house smell like cinnamon!

Spicy Chicken Rigatoni
I dunno about you, but my mouth is watering!

I absolutely adore this quote!

Doggy Bliss :)
Teehee....that is my kind of stretching! ;)

Follow Me on Pinterest Check out some of the other things I've been pinning!

Have a rockin' Wednesday!