Holiday break looms right around the corner! It’s starting within hours or days for most of us. If you’re in a panic because you haven’t yet figured out what to give a special teacher in your life, I’m here to tell you to calm on down. It’s okay.
Here’s what you need to do.
Go get yourself a pretty notecard or piece of paper.
Include details as to what makes this teacher special and why you value his or her role in your child’s life. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be genuine and specific.
Awhile back it occurred to me that, while it might be convenient if all five of us had the same exact taste preferences, that’s just not realistic. I also realized that, while I am fully capable of insisting my children eat what I fix, I’m also a big fan of offering options that give them at least a little choice in the matter.
So the Personalized Stir-Fry was born.
I honestly don’t know why I didn’t come up with this earlier. It could be that I’m the only person on earth who hadn’t. For whatever reason though, this was a new method for me and it has been totally life-changing. My kids absolutely LOVE this meal and there is no arguing and no hassle. I call that a win!
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (I usually use leftovers from a roasted chicken.)
1 bag "California blend" veggies (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower) or other frozen blend
2 cups rice (uncooked)-- prepared according to package directions
a variety of sauces, such as soy, duck, teriyaki, barbecue, ranch, salsa, you name it
Mix chicen and veggies in large bowl or pan and heat.
Pile over rice on plates.
Serve alongside a variety of sauces to allow each family member to customize.
These were the sauces I chose last time:
Every last one got used by someone. Worcestershire, tabasco, and salad dressings are also popular around here. The sky’s the limit! Kids absolutely LOVE choices and they’re far more apt to eat it if they had a hand in choosing it.
Easy? Check. Balanced? Check. Grief-free? Check.
And THAT’S why this shows up on the menu plan at least once a month.
Oh, it is just SUCH a busy time of year for everyone. This much I know to be true. Whether you work in the home, outside the home, or some combination thereof, you’re all super busy and the schedules are packed. I know this is the case because it’s that way for every single person I know! I am no exception and, as I juggle mothering, housekeeping, cooking, writing, prepping for Christmas (and a Christmas Eve birthday), and substitute teaching, I know that the key to not going nuts is to be brutally organized. Lists, calendars, plans, pre-cooked ingredients, lunch items packed and at the ready– these are all what keeps me sane.
The menu plan is no exception– with a firm plan in place, I can be sure to have all the necessary ingredients on-hand and to do as much prep as possible ahead of time. Doing some extra work early in the week pays off big-time down the road.
So, here’s the meal plan for the week!
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Bacon, Egg, & Fried Potato Skillets, Juice
D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s (Crescent Roll Lasagna, Salad, Fruit, Peas)
This time of year, I scroll through my social media feeds and get all twitchy and awkward feeling. You see, I’m just so TIRED of the same ol’ Santa debates and number of gift discussions and yes/no Christmas card hooplah and all that. It kind of rains on my parade, if I’m honest. And, yes, I get the concept of just scrolling past. I just need to get better at it. Could be I take things too personally.
Anyhow, one thing I NEVER get sick of is reading about Christmas carols. I absolutely love to see which ones people adore and which ones drive you all batty. It amazes me how abhorred some songs are that were never even on my radar as offensive, while some that are clearly well-loved make me want to run for the hills. It is a true testament to the uniqueness of our tastes and perceptions!
So let’s start with some songs that apparently offend a lot of people, but don’t rattle me one bit:
“Feliz Navidad”– Really? This one bugs people? I honestly find it kind of fun and catchy and I like singing it because my mouth really loves forming foreign words, even if they’re repetitive as all get out. The more I “research” this, it appears this song is particularly disliked in the Southwest and I wonder if it gets really, really overplayed there. I don’t feel like I hear it more than once a week, so that might be part of why I’m unbothered.
“Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime”– I have no feelings about this one whatsoever. I don’t really notice it. But, apparently, it sounds like rubber bands to some people and drives them wacky. Good to know.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”– Let me level with you people– I didn’t even realize people had their knickers in a twist over this one up until a couple of years ago. In fact, I may or may not have suggested that my family do a duet of it for our annual Christmas performance at a local nursing home. (<– True story.) If my willingness to sing the song with my NEPHEW isn’t proof that I’m not bothered by it, I don’t know what is. But, anyway, here’s the thing– I understand some of you feel it’s kind of “date rape-y.” And, I don’t know… maybe? But I really don’t think so. It seems to be that whole “Say, what’s in this drink?” line that really gets folks riled up. Doesn’t bother me. Maybe that’s because I think I’ve said that exact line at least a dozen times to my best friend’s husband and never– not even once– was he attempting to coerce me into anything. But maybe I’m just naive. Who knows.
Meanwhile, tjhe following songs drive me more than a little bonkers:
“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”– I just don’t really get who thought this was a good song. I don’t really find it funny. And the guy’s not a good singer, either.
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”– Now, maybe if you don’t “do” Santa, this doesn’t bug you. But, if you ever DID believe in Santa or if your kids ever have, you’ll see that it’s a horrifying thing to try to process. Knowing that “Santa” and “Daddy” are interchangeable? Well, that changes things. But that song creeped me out something fierce as a child.
Anything by the Chipmunks– I can’t quite convey to you how much I hate the Chipmunks, but I will try. Here a few things I’ve truly done to make it stop: run down two flights of stairs, stop in the middle of kneading dough to hit thumbs down, and beg/bribe/cajole a child to change a station. There is no better word to describe how the Chipmunks make me feel other than STABBY.
Bonus: I also can’t handle the Celine Dion version of “Oh Holy Night” that everyone else loves. Most of it’s fine, but that “noel” there at the end? Man, I haven’t heard as cringy a note since Mariah Carey went all crazy on that “Emotions” song back in 1990 or something.
So there you go! Clearly, I’m a weird one.
If you’re wondering what kind of Christmas music I LOVE, I’ll tell you. I love the old crooners. I love Andy Williams singing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and Nat King Cole doing “The Christmas Song.” I love Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” and Dean Martin’s “Rudolph.” I am an old, old soul. I also enjoy some Josh Groban and Pentatonix thrown in there, but, 90% of the time, you’ll find me listening to Pandora’s “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Station. It’s a goodie.
Let me be real about something here– I am a SUCKER for personality-type quizzes/surveys. No, no, not so much those Facebook ones like, “If you were on a pirate ship, who would you be?” or “Who is your 1920s soulmate?” or any of that nonsense. No, no, I just love those inventories you can take that help you nail down your dominant traits and talents.
This is why I have taken the Myers Briggs multiple times. I always wind up an ESFJ, in case you were curious. This is absolutely zero surprise for this rule-following care-taker here, but I still retake the silly thing just to see if anything changes. (I DID see a shift from T to F as I moved from my teen years to adulthood, so I do think some things are fluid with maturity but, since then? ESFJ all the way.) Anyway, I digress. See? I can get excited about these things!
I also took that whole “Love Language” assessment awhile back. (Okay, and multiple times since.) Are you familiar with that one? Basically, it helps you determine what your particular “love language” is– what speaks the loudest and means the most to you. For some, that might be gifts. For others, physical touch. Still others just really crave acts of service. Me? I am all about the words of affirmation. I mean– it’s not even close. I honestly think I’d be perfectly content doing all the work and not receiving gifts so long as someone kept on constantly telling me how awesome and amazing I am. Yep. It’s the truth.
And you know what?
This is likely part of why substitute teaching has been a great fit for me. I mean, I love teaching, to be honest, so that part’s a no-brainer. I really enjoy all the ages and phases of kiddos, too. The fact that I can work on the days that work with MY schedule at the school that fits with MY routine is also pretty great.
But honestly? Well– here:
And that? Is truly what I hear and receive all the livelong day. “Mrs. S.– your hair is beautiful!” “Mrs. S.– I love your boots!” “Mrs. S– are your nails real? They’re so nice!” “Mrs. S.– you’re so pretty!” (and this gem from yesterday) “You’re the first tall teacher we’ve ever had, Mrs. S.– you look like a model!”
Seriously. All. Day. Long.
And, at the end of each day? It’s the staff– “Thank you SO much for coming in.” “We really, really appreciate you.” “You’re a gift.” “We are so grafeful for your flexibility– thank you.”
And on and on.
And, well, me? I confess I eat it up.
Because the truth of the matter is that, while my children and husband do, indeed, love and appreciate me, they’re not gonna shower me in compiments like that incessantly.
And I have to admit it’s super fun to have a job where they do.
Were it just a touch colder out there, we’d be getting buried in snow. As it is, a cold, heavy, ugly rain is falling. That’s okay, though. Rain is a part of life, after all! Still, I’m just not one of those people who loves a “good, rainy day.” I don’t mind the blankets, soup, and reading that often go with it, but I can’t handle the darkness. Let there be light!!!!!
I can hardly believe that Christmas is only a couple of weeks away. It amazes me how time really does fly and I also always feel like such an old lady whenever I say that. Ha!
In the meantime, here’s the meal plan for the week!
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Pancakes (with fresh, local maple syrup A. won for taking division first place in his 5K this past Saturday) and Fruit
D–Mexican ground beef over saffron noodles, Salad
B–Whole Wheat Bagels with Almond Butter, Apple, Milk
I always hesitate to share about my spazzy baking style because of a (very nasty, accusatory) email I once received that called me arrogant for revealing I’m a haphazard, fly by the seat of my pants sort of baker. I worried that more of you felt that way about me and it made me feel just awful. Please know that I am NOT encouraging other people to adopt my madness nor do I look down on people who use recipes. Nonetheless, the pure truth is that I almost never refer to a recipe. I adore cooking and baking, but I need a lot of freedom, apparently.
So, when I was asked to bring a dessert to a Christmas party this past weekend, I truly had no idea what I was doing until about three hours before it started. I really didn’t even know what I was making when I started creaming butter and sugar, but I figured it’d probably turn out. And turn out they did! These minty, buttery cookies are a welcome treat amid all the holiday treats. They are simple, with familiar flavors, yet the colors and peppermint crunch make them an appropriate Christmas snack or dessert.
So this is a silly post topic, but it’s been floating around my brain for quite some time now, so I decided it was about time I set it free!
What follows is a list of different things that I feel like I’m SUPPOSED to love, but I really just… don’t. At all. In fact, in many cases, I don’t like them at all!
Shaving in the tub– I read over and over about how much women love to lounge back in a tub and shave their legs all silky smooth and I have to admit– I just kind of cringe and gag. I can’t shave in the tub. I just can’t do it. First of all, I just find it much easier to get that chore done in the shower, but, also, doesn’t it bother anyone else to sit around in a vat full of stubble? Am I the only who thinks about this? Because, I’ll be honest– I seriously can’t get the idea out of my head and it makes it super hard to enjoy a bath. I do enjoy a nice soak from time-to-time, but I have to be clean and shaven before I get in. Otherwise, I start overthinking all the “stuff” in the water.
Showers! My preference. White wine, optional.
Breakfast in bed– I can’t stand breakfast in bed. Seriously. I prefer tables to trays and I loathe the thought of crumbs in my clean, white sheets. If I’m totally honest, though, my real aversion to the whole experience may stem from my control-freak nature about my kitchen. I really don’t like other people cooking in my kitchen. I don’t know why that is, since I’m not particularly type-A about anything else, but there it is. Fortunately, my family is all okay with that quirk of mine and they know that mommy likes coffee, the whole coffee, and nothing but the coffee delivered to her on Mother’s Day.
Massages from anyone but my husband– I read all about how much people love getting massages and I shiver a little bit– and not in a good way. I don’t like strangers’ hands on me. I mean, I can handle a doctor or physical therapist manipulating some part of me if there’s medical need for it, but the thought of letting someone run their hands over my skin while soft music plays? AAAACCCKKKKK!!!! That’s nowhere on my wish list, thanks.
Starbucks-- Will you still like me if I tell you that I don’t really enjoy Starbucks? I mean, I’m sure there’s a thing or two there that’s fine, but, at the end of the day, I just love a good cup of black coffee and that’s not something Starbucks does well. I feel like social media is perpetually full of pics and descriptions of all sorts of Starbucks drinks and I really have nothing to say about that. Pumpkin Spice? Salted Caramel? Don’t really care. Pass me a large, black Dunkin Donuts and I’m a happy camper.
Bacon– And here’s where I lose you all. I KNOW!!!! What kind of freak doesn’t like bacon??? Okay– here’s the deal. I don’t really dislike bacon all that much. I mean, I like little bits of it in my scrambled eggs from time to time. And I absolutely love to save and use my bacon grease. But other than that? I don’t really like it all that much. The truth is that I’ll pull it off a burger or sandwich and give it to someone else in the family– they all love it in ways I just do not.
So there you go. Now you know how truly odd I am. Can we still be friends? And, also, is there anything you feel like you’re suppposed to enjoy, but just don’t?
Cranberry salsa is one of my favorite seasonal treats. Bright, tangy, and exploding with flavor, it’s such a fun twist on the more typical tomato variety.
Paired with sharp white cheddar and a crispy cracker base, the salsa is the shining star in this quick, delicious, no-cook appetizer. Make the salsa ahead and you can have a tray of pretty little appetizers ready to go in minutes.
As I type this, a very heavy snow is blanketing our yard. They called off school already yesterday evening in anticipation of the Nor’Easter set to hit us. Six to sixteen inches, the Weather Channel said, which just made me laugh because, really? That’s a crazy range!
Anyway, for now, the children and I are happy in our home and, irony of all ironies, though the snow is falling madly, we don’t even have our heat on because the past two days were SO mild, it got comfortable in here and has stayed that way. I reckon I should kick it on “just in case” in a bit here but, for now, it makes me giggle to be comfy with no heat while a “winter” storm carries on outside my window.
In the meantime, here’s the meal plan for the week!
B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)
Brunch– Ham, Egg, & Cheese skillets over fried potatoes