Little Happies

Little Happies brighten up your day or week. They pop out when you are least expecting them and remind you that life is good. They come from the strangest of things–sometimes people, inanimate objects or a thought that crosses your mind. Here is my rundown of Little Happies this week:

1.) A Bible verse popping out at me that perfectly describes what I’m feeling at that exact moment: The verse was James 1:5, which reads- “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.” On the particular day this week that I found this verse, I was struggling with a challenging kid I see for therapy. I kept asking myself, “What else can I do for him?” and “I really don’t even know what to try next.” I was frustrated. Then I realized that I didn’t stop and pray on it or ask God for guidance. Once I did, it gave me a sense of peace. I looked up a few new things to try, talked to the child’s mom and I now feel like we are at least TRYING to make progress again.

2.) Beef Veggie soup from a neighbor: Pictured below and that picture doesn’t do it justice! My “neighbor lady” as I like to call her lives two townhouses away from me. I haven’t seen her in months! She had a baby awhile back and went from sitting on the porch every night to never being outside. This week I happened to run into her 3 separate times and then one night she brought me this soup. So delicious.

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3.) My left wrist: A strange thing to be happy about indeed. My left wrist is adorned with a few of my favorite things by a few lovely people. When I happen to glance there at some points during the day, it’s an instant happy. First, my watch, which actually was my Pap-Paw’s watch. It’s engraved with his name on the back and was given to me by my Grandma last year when he passed. It keeps me on time and it makes me smile to think of my Pap-Paw having worn it everyday. Second, my Alex and Ani charm bangles. Two of these (the fleur de lis and T) were given to me by my good friend and roommate while overseas in Italy. The third one (daughter) was sent to me by my mom just last week for Valentines Day. Last, my chain, which one of my best friend’s from high school gave me as a graduation present (Gasp!), almost 7 years ago! It’s a good feeling to look down and feel the love on your wrist.

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4.) Pirates, Argh and Eye patches: It was Pirates theme in my therapy room this week and the kids loved it. We made eye patches, used treasure maps and played “Pop up Pirate.” One little guy almost had a heart attack when the pirate popped out of the top! The real happiness here is that kids usually find the stuff that I spend the LEAST time on to be the most entertaining. I try to think of these awesome games and activities and then they really just get a kick out of the really simple stuff like being able to wear an eye patch during their session. One of the many things I love about working with kids!

5.) Warmer weather: Not much needs said here. We reached a balmy 60 degrees here yesterday and it felt amazing to run outside without gloves, under armor and frostbitten cheeks. All of the snow has melted, too! Bring on spring.

6.) My plant: Another very strange happy. The week that I moved to Missouri was a big adventure. I was really excited but obviously anxious too. While my parents spent the week helping me to get moved and settled, I realized that for the first time in my life I would be living alone. My townhouse does not allow pets which is a major bummer, but that week my parents tried to substitute for that by buying me a PLANT! A plant??? How could this be a substitute? But no, really, this plant makes me happy. It has gone from having 4 leaves in a little paper cup to thriving in a pot with long vines! It wilted away when I was back in PA for 3 weeks over the holidays but since then I have given in lots of love.

plant7.) “The Fault in Our Stars”: This story by John Green is my latest read on my Kindle. I’ve been in bed by 9 pm every night this week to read this book. It’s about two teens who meet at a Cancer Support group. It talks about love, life and death. I’ve been near tears at parts of it. I’ll probably be in bed shortly to finish it tonight and that makes me happy.

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“Valentimes” Day

Only one snow day this past week which left 4 actual days of work. And on Thursday, it reached 51 degrees, while back in PA my family and friends were getting pounded with 12+ inches of snow, rain and sleet. It was a fun week to work in an early childhood center, with Valentine’s day coming up. We usually give the kids a “party day” and it’s chaotic and hilarious to see how excited the kids get. We talked about who we love in therapy and superheroes ranked pretty high for my kids. In my  sessions this week, we made “Valentimes” for moms and dads (pretty common for my kids to pronounce it this way) and made our own “Love Monster” after reading the adorable children’s book by Rachel Bright. Check them out below.

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After all of my car troubles, Nick decided to drive to my place this weekend. I told him that I would make us a 3 course Valentine’s meal. I go to his place most weekends, so I really enjoy cooking in my own kitchen when I have the chance. I borrowed a few of the recipes below from Pinterest and will share the links. Prep started Thursday night when I headed to Aldi’s and stacked my cart with ingredients. If you know me, you know that I love dessert so let’s start there. The first thing I made, Oreo Bomb Cake from “The View from 510” blog, needed to be in the frig for 8 hours so I decided to make it the night before. Here is a before shot on the left showing the layers that make up this tasty dessert. On the right is the finished shot, with a huge chunk taken out because I had already served it to Nick. (He gave two thumbs up but requested a smaller piece next time!)

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Friday after work, I hustled into the kitchen to get started on the appetizer and meal portions. First up, a spinach salad with chopped almonds and pecans and freshly sliced strawberries. I made an Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Vinaigrette Dressing with a few spare ingredients that I found in my kitchen. When grocery shopping, a salad dressing didn’t really cross my mind. Thank God for the internet!  Below is the dressing in the works. I used my heart shaped measuring spoons that were party favors from my good friend Theresa’s bridal shower last year. Perfect for this Valentine’s day creation!

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The main course was my favorite part by far. Paired with a little Pinot Grigio, it was filling and flavorful. I made Crock Pot Sausage and Cheese Tortellini from the “Ice Cream with a Fork” blog. The sausage needed to be browned ahead of time but otherwise it was an easy meal, with all ingredients in the crockpot for 4 hours with a lid and the final half hour without the lid. This allowed the sauce to thicken up at the end. The recipe made plenty and we will be eating the rest later this weekend. The before picture shows the spoonfuls of cream cheese. The after picture was taken after we had actually eaten. I almost forgot to catch a shot of the meal!

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All in all, I’d say the “Valentimes” meal was a success. It was really nice to enjoy a meal over a long stretch of time (Nick insists it was too long of a stretch). A meal also tastes really good when you know the prep that went into it. Given that it’a three day weekend, I am glad to have two more days to relax. We are currently watching the movie, “I Love You, Man,” on TV and Nick is doing his best impersonations of “Slappin’ da bass mon.” Happy Weekend Everyone!

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Proof

PROOF: The evidence or argument that compels the mind to accept an assertion as true. Thanks Wikipedia for the definition. I had a three day weekend thanks to an impromptu snow day today (#10 in case you were counting with me). A lot of things happened this weekend. Fun things and very stressful things. But all of these things proved something.

1. Proof that a brother is a built-in best friend. My brother and sister-in-law traveled 5 hours from Chicago to St. Louis this weekend to be with Nick and I. The drive really stinks especially after a full work week but they did it. After years of arguments and torturing one another as kids, Aaron and I get along really well at this point in life. He makes things fun. He goes after what he wants and works hard to get it. He is a built-in best friend that I am glad to have.

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2. Proof that fun can be had without spending money. Nick and I had a rough plan set for this weekend when my brother and sister-in-law arrived. Go to the city! Do a brewery tour! Go to a rooftop bar! When we were thinking about heading out, Nick said that it was tradition for us to play a card game called “Oh Hell,” that we always play when we are together. This card game turned into 7+ hours of games at Nick’s apartment. We turned the afternoon into our own mini-Olympics, while watching the 2014 Winter Olympics in the background. It was free and it was a ton of fun. Putt-Putt, Darts, Flip Cup, Corn hole, Oh Hell, Spoons, Dizzy bat…what a fun and free afternoon. I play games a lot at work with my kids but sometimes forget that games are a lot of fun for 20 and 30 year-olds, too. Here are some shots captured during those 7 hours.

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3. Proof that things are going to go wrong, but sometimes those wrong things can turn out semi-OK. Friday when driving to Nick’s for the weekend, my car had a breakdown. Three different lights came on the dash and I had trouble accelerating. When I got off his exit and had to sit at 10 different red lights, my car almost shut off at each one, sending me into a panic. I called my parents and then I allowed tears to streak down my face as numerous cars beeped and then passed me. After a weekend of self-diagnosing with Nick and Aaron, and trying to figure out the best course of action, I decided to take it to a Chevy dealership in Nick’s town. I was going to drive the hour back to my place Sunday night to start the work week and then drive back to Nick’s town some night after work when hopefully my car would be fixed. I rented a car and I was prepared to do this, as much as it pained me. Come 4 pm on Sunday it started to snow! Something told Nick and I that a snow day might be in order. A few short hours later, my district called off and I was able to stay at Nick’s for the night and the remainder of today. My car was fixed after a day in the shop and a hefty labor bill, but I didn’t have to drive all the way back and forth and I barely needed the rental car. Car problems happen to everyone, Nick reminded me. This its true and at the end of the day, God caused things to work out. I am thankful for this and for a brother, parents and boyfriend who helped me through the whole situation.

4. Proof that a coffee and some time spent in a bookstore can make any day, a good day. The snow day also gave me some quality time to browse around in Barnes and Noble with a hazelnut macchiato in hand. I found a few cute books to use in therapy, finished “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion on my Kindle (highly recommend it!) and did some people watching. I also spent a large amount of time in the greeting card section. I found a simple card that read “We make a living by what we get…We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill is given credit for this saying that reminds me this week to give my all. Give my all at work and give my all in relationships. I am happy to be moving forward into the week!

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Quinoa? Key-mwhat?

snowstorm

Side Note: Today is my 8th snow day. I doubt that I would have time to post twice in the past two days otherwise. Above is my car and parking spot. I’ve shoveled out twice in the past 18 hours. 

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I have been attempting to make a new recipe each weekend. Nick usually whips up breakfast for us and I feel obliged to at least make one meal. Otherwise, we test out many of the restaurants in his Fairview Heights neighborhood (Thai, Italian, Sushi, Mexican…Yum!) and I beg for ice cream each night. Weekend meals deserve to be more special than the mundane things we eat all week when we are apart, right?

The recipe below is a southwestern variation of the stuffed peppers, Mama Anspach usually makes with rice, ground beef and Velveeta cheese. About two weekends ago, I decided to whip these up for our Saturday night dinner. These are super filling and made enough for two meals for both Nick and I. This was also my first time cooking quinoa (pronounced Key-mwah). Took us about 20 minutes of wondering around and then asking an employee to find the small, hardly discernible bag in the grocery store. It was worth it! Enjoy 🙂 stuffed pepper

This picture was taken prior to popping them in the oven and adding the cheese. It shows how much extra filling there was!

INGREDIENTS:

4 large peppers (green, red, yellow, orange..It’s up to you!)

1 pkg quinoa (In the grain section of the grocery store. I bought the kind that requires boiling in water, same as you cook rice. I also bought the kind that included red barley.)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can corn

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup Ortega mild taco sauce (This adds moisture to the mix so be generous!)

Seasoning to taste (Your preference here. I added tbspn. cumin and tbspn. chili powder for a kick!)

Shredded cheddar cheese ( Generous amounts but your preference also.)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the quinoa by the directions on the package (prep is very similar to rice boiled on stove top). Cut the tops and insides out of the 4 peppers so that they are hollow. Boil water on the stovetop and add the 4 hollowed peppers in with the open sides face down. Heat for 15 minutes or until peppers darken in color. Pull out peppers to cool and sit in pan that allows them to sit up right. (I used a loaf pan which held all 4 of my peppers upright!) In large bowl, mix quinoa, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, onion, taco sauce and seasoning. Scoop this mixture into the 4 peppers. (I used my ice cream scooper which made this very easy.) I also had lots of excess filling that I put in the pan to surround the peppers. Add shredded cheese on top of each pepper and cover with tin foil. Heat in oven at 350 for 40-45 minutes. I kept the tin foil on until the last 1o minutes and then took it off to let the cheese melt. Tastes delicious served with tortilla chips and a side of salsa.

What happens on my 7th snow day….

That’s right. Today is my 7th snow day and 6th snow day since returning from Christmas break. I’ve almost had off as many days in the past month, as I have had school! Craziness. When these snow days first started, I was getting antsy. I might be stuck in school until the end of June at this rate. A few teachers in my building promised me that we will get a few of these days forgiven if we make it to 10. So at this point, I am praying for 3 more snow days and forgiveness!

These snow days, however, have given me time to work on some of my ‘hobbies.’ I’ve read two books (for pleasure, not textbooks) in the past 3 weeks. I’ve painted a picture. I’ve tried a handful of my mom’s recipes in my own kitchen. I’ve planned for my speech and language therapy sessions by creating themed weeks (this week should be Pirates week, if we ever have school). I traveled back to PA over the weekend (more on that later). And I’ve wrestled with the idea of starting a blog. Who is going to read it? What will I even write about? These are both questions I’ve pondered, but I’ve decided to quit worrying and just do it.

I was a journalism major my freshman year in college and the desire to write still burns within me. The most writing I do these days are on greeting cards and IEP goals for my speech kids. Hopefully this blog will be a way to share funny little joys from my days as a speech-language pathologist, tasty recipes that I’ve tried and to keep my family and friends in the loop on what I’ve been up to.

For starters, I was back in PA this weekend to attend and help out at one of my dearest friend (and pseudo-big sister’s) baby shower. Sue Lebow, has been a friend since birth and has seen me in my most awkward and annoying phases. She still loves me and I am so thankful for her! In March, she will be giving birth to a baby girl–Molly Moran. I probably will not be back then to see baby Mo so I decided to fly in this weekend to shower her with love ahead of time. This little girl is SO loved. It was also amazing to see my parents, Grandma, aunts and uncles and some of my best friends over the weekend, too. The Super Bowl wasn’t a total disappointment since my mom made crab and artichoke dip and my college friends were around to play a game of Loaded Questions against.

The picture posted is Sue and I at her shower. Baby Mo is growing bigger and healthier! So excited to be an aunt.

A quote that I have been repeating in my head lately reads:

“Take it all one day at a time and enjoy the journey.” -Kristi Bartlett

This quote is going to guide my posts. I want to take it all in, one day at a time and be thankful for this beautiful life that I’ve been given. If you read this post, THANK YOU. You are one of my first blog readers. Hopefully you will return again.

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