book · reviews

Carnegie’s Maid– book review

Carnegie's Maid: A Novel by [Benedict, Marie]So on Monday, the boys and I went to the library. I went in with a list of three books I wanted to look for while I was there. But, I didn’t leave with any of them! I found one and it didn’t appeal once it was in my hand, the other two I didn’t find.

But, what I did find in the “Lucky Day” collection was Carnegie’s Maid, by Marie Benedict. Now that we live in Pittsburgh, this book held even more interest to me. So I checked it out and began reading it when we arrived home Monday afternoon.

Clara Kelly has grown up on her parents’ tenant farm in Ireland. Her father raised all three of his daughters to be educated, a rare thing for females at this time. In 1863, Clara’s family sent her to America in hopes she is able to find a job which will then send home funds to her family in Ireland. When she arrived in America, 42 days later, she needed to figure out what her next steps would be… She had distant relatives in Pittsburgh, but didn’t know how she would get to them. When she heard someone calling for “Clara Kelly” she saw it as a sign of change. Knowing that she was not the Clara Kelly they were searching for, she still got into the carriage that would take her to a new world.

Clara Kelly became the Lady’s maid for Mrs. Carnegie. This roll required skills she did not possess and working with a mistress who was dominating over her family. Clara determined to make herself invaluable to her employer takes on the identity of the other Clara Kelly. While working for Mrs. Carnegie, Clara become acquainted learns about the family’s history from Andrew Carnegie.

Can Clara keep up her new identity? What will happen as Clara and Mr Carnegie (the older) aka Andrew Carnegie get to know each other? Can a poor girl from Ireland stand on her own with the elite of America?

Read and learn about how Clara may have played a role of the change in Andrew Carnegie from a ruthless industrialist to one of the world’s first true philanthropists.

Education · family · life

School visits

The last two days found me driving around from school to school. Yesterday we went to the middle school. We spent time walking Blake’s schedule, practicing locker combinations and just getting accumulated to the new school.

Today we went to check out Colby’s class. He already knew where it was and it is actually the same teachers Blake had last year. I really wanted to go so we could get his supply list.

While we were there, Colby discovered a few people who would be in his class this year. He has other friends in his biome (collection of 4 classes who travel together for lunch and recess). We stopped in and chatted with the librarian. The library is always a place my sons love to hang out.

Blake saw a few other 7th graders and found out that he knows a few people who will be in his class as well. This was a big relief to him. Up until that time he hadn’t found anyone who was working on the same rotation schedule never mind the same classes.

Over the years, I only had a few moments where I was concerned about the boys starting school. I was NOT the mom crying while dropping off for pre-K or kindergarten. All the grades moving forward while in FL were fine. I had moments of concern more in wondering who would be in their class and would there be someone there for each of them.

When we moved to PA, I was concerned about Blake going into 5th grade. Colby was entering 4th, which is the major transition age in our school district. There are three elementary schools that service children K-3. Then they all transition to the upper elementary school for 4th-6th. This meant that while some children would know each other, there would already be a mixing of students from different schools. Blake was entering when the mix up was already complete.

This year, Blake is entering middle school. I hope that he has a better middle school experience than I had, or Richard for that matter. These years are so tough. It is such a personal transition for all the kids. I just want him to feel comfortable in his place. To find an activity to get involved in. To have people to sit with at lunch. To feel safe in the hallways. To be confident enough to show what he knows and not too cocky that he tries to outshine. I hope he continues to have a love of learning and begins to figure out what he wants to do with this knowledge going forward.

So we went back to the middle school today and practice opening his locker again. We went under the premise of bringing in his school supplies, well his binders anyway. We will spend the first part of the week adjusting to the new sleep schedules (he will have to wake up at 5:45 to be ready for the bus).

A week from today. I will send him off on the bus to start middle school… I just hope I’m ready.

family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

Maple BBQ Sloppy Joes

Image may contain: food and indoorWhen I was looking for items to put on our weekly menu, I decided to search through Rachael Ray’s sloppy joe recipes, she has quite a few. I came across her Sloppy Maple-BBQ Turkey Joes recipe and decided it would be a good one to try. So… I did!

First I made hoagie rolls. This is a recipe that I’ve used before, and that we enjoy. There is something great about the smell of fresh baked bread in the house. I don’t make it often enough, but I do love it when I do bake bread.


Maple BBQ Sloppy Joes

  • EVOO
  • 1 pound ground turkey Image may contain: food
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1  red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1  onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • About 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • About 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • About 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • About 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  1. put EVOO on a large skillet
  2. add ground turkey with S&P
  3. Once turkey browns, add peppers, onions and garlic– cook about 5 min
  4. in a small bowl whisk together tomato sauce, maple syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and mustard.
  5. Add to the meat and veggies, mix in and let simmer for 5-10 min

Image may contain: food

We really enjoyed this recipe. I had mine just on the plate, but tried a bite of Richard’s sandwich. Blake and Colby both enjoyed it too, but found it very filling. There was a good balance of sweet and tang in this recipe. I added more vinegar than RR suggested, I had originally found the recipe VERY sweet.

Richard suggested adding hot sauce to the mix next time which would be a sweet heat item. Also, the original recipe calls for poultry seasoning, which I purchased to use and then totally forgot to add to the recipe… oops!

I know that we will make this recipe again!


blog hop · life

blank screen

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to write. I could write about the boys getting their schedules/teachers, but why? I could write about the bread I’m making to go with dinner tonight. I could write about the fact that today is a do nothing but rest and read kind of day here. But, none of these sound like worthwhile topics.

It’s funny, there are times when I have a lot to write. Richard has often said to me “that sounds like your next blog post” when I make a comment or we are doing something. Then other times I sit here and stare at the screen and wonder, what would my readers like to read about?

I often feel like my day to day life is not exciting enough to garner daily posts about what I do or do not do on a regular basis. Typically we have other things going on that are blog worthy, but then there are times like now where it’s just status quo here.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished today:

  • worked out
  • got the mail/mailed off my class’ postcards
  • showered (of course!)
  • vacuumed the main floor and upstairs
  • fought with the website to the boys’ school district to get their class info
  • read blog posts
  • read my book
  • had lunch
  • started the bread dough for the rolls I’m making
  • chatted with Colby about the bird book he got from the library and the birds in our backyard
  • sat and stared at my computer to figure out what to type….

While this is a lot of bullets, I have been up since 5:30am and spent most of that time reading. Now I’m not complaining as spending time reading is a summer perk, but still it doesn’t make for a great blog post. Anyway…

Something that I’ve been toying with in my brain is doing some type of back to school blog hop. I was originally thinking doing something with the letters of the alphabet, but that is a LONG blog hop as there are 26 of them. Now I’m thinking something based on school items. A weekly/twice weekly topic that people could write about, photograph, or post however they wished. Anyone think they’d be interested in something like this? I would start it in Sept. Just curious to see if anyone would play along or not.

Education · family · life · PreK class

back to school

It’s that time of year. Back to school! Today I stopped in a work to get the postcards to mail off to my students and then we headed to the library. This will be our last library day for the summer, other than dropping off the books we checked out this time. Tomorrow the boys get their class information. On Wednesday, we will go to both schools so they know where their classes are and Blake can try out his locker.

Yep, it is the start of the new year. This summer has been a good one for our family. In addition to our cruise and visit back in Orlando, we spent a lot of time together. The boys enjoyed three different weeks of camps. They spent time at home and lots of time out and about with friends. The addition of the fire pit has been great for our family too. Most weekends we have one if not two fires and just spend the evenings hanging out together. Some times we experiment with cooking. Some times we get out the football. Most of the time we just put on music and sit around singing, laughing and just being together.

I typically look at the start of the school year as the start of the new year. I live my life on the school year calendar. So it’s time to look at what I can and will change this year. There are some major changes in that Blake is going to middle school and the boys will not be in the same school for the first time in forever. They will not ride the same bus either.

I am staying at the same school and working with the same age group. This means that I will be home before both the boys. This will help with that transition, I think!

My goal is to continue to eat healthy and workout on a regular basis. I want to continue to see myself and my body in a healthy light. I want to continue to work on creating new items to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. I want to relax and enjoy the chaos of the school year and all that it brings.

So, as I get ready to mail off the postcards to my new students… I will enjoy these last few days before school starts, and the new year begins.

family · food · through my camera lens

Beef Skewers– Colby’s recipe

Colby cooked dinner last night. He originally pulled out a recipe for Philly Cheesesteak Kebobs, but he decided to Colby-ize them… yep he’s my son!

On Friday, Colby created his own marinade for the meat and put it over the meats to give it a chance to do it’s magic!

Image may contain: 1 person, drink and indoor

Then yesterday, he helped prep the veggies and put the meat and veggies on skewers.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, kitchen and indoorImage may contain: one or more people, people eating, table, outdoor, indoor and foodImage may contain: 1 person, eating, food and indoor

Beef Kebobs from Colby

  • 2lb beef stew
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • dried parsley
  • dried garlic flakes
  • dried onion flakes
  • Mr Dash- garlic
  • EVOO
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • steak sauce
  • S & P
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 large onion
  1. The night before create marinade and put over beef. Image may contain: food
  2. Marinade: combine all the spices (including S&P), EVOO, Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce
  3. Mix marinade well and pour over meats. Mix together to make sure all pieces are coated.
  4. Next day– take out beef and let come to room temp before cooking
  5. Chop onions and peppers into chunks
  6. Season onions and peppers with S&P and EVOO
  7. Put beef on skewers, put veggies on skewers
  8. Cook on the grill
  9. Enjoy! (we made rice and had provolone cheese with it, but that is optional)

Image may contain: food

These tasted really good. I was impressed that Colby was comfortable enough to create his marinade without needing me to give him the exact measurements for the spices. I just pulled out a bunch of spices and he picked and choose what he wanted and went from there. The only one I had any suggestion in was the amount of salt. So often people do not put enough salt on beef to get the taste that works best.

Blake said it was the best beef he’d had in a while. Colby enjoyed it too and was proud of what he created. I felt the veggies needed more seasoning and a bit more cook, but I like my veggies on the soft size. Richard felt the beef needed a bit more seasoning, but he likes his beef highly seasoned.



Grocery Shopping Day

My grocery shopping has been so off schedule lately. We have had this that and the other things going on in our lives and I feel like I haven’t done a normal menu prep and/or shop in a while. Well I know this isn’t going to be a regular shop since I went earlier in the week, but I did menu plan.

Here’s the menu:

I have been trying to restock the freezer with meals too. I love having a full freezer at the beginning of the school year. This tends to be a busy time for me, and being able to pull things out of the freezer and just having to heat the meal is always a good thing.

ok… I’m off to the store!

family · life

What day it is?

This has been one of those weeks where I feel like I’m constantly trying to figure out what day it is, some days feel earlier in the week than they are and others later. It has just been a strange week.

We had a busy morning here. The boys both had their physicals this morning. Then we decided that since we were out and about, we might as well continue on and check more off the to do list. So we went to Famous Footware and got Blake school shoes (Colby already bought his) and they were having a BOGO sale, so I just had to pick up a pair for myself too… right? Then we headed to Target to check out back to school supplies. With Blake going into middle school, this was a bit crazy… he needed 6 binders with dividers and 5 two pocket folders and a calculator and then all the rest of the typical pens, pencils, glue, colored pencils etc… So we got everything on the list!

After, we headed to JoAnn Fabrics. I am finishing up a book series that is set around quilters and now I want to try. So, I picked up a simple quilt kit to try because you know I don’t start work in a few weeks… nope I have all the time in the world to try out a new hobby!

After that, we went to Blaze pizza for lunch. I figured that was a treat for not driving me too crazy doing all those chores.

We drove in the garage and the boys’ friend came to collect them to go to the park. I love that they are off and hanging out with the other kids in the neighborhood so much this summer. They have been very responsible about asking what time to come home and arriving within a reasonable window of that time. Today they will need to be home around 4pm to eat dinner and get ready for biking.

Well now I at least know it is Thursday and hopefully tomorrow will actually feel like Friday. Hope you are having a great Friday Eve… See you on Friday



book · reviews

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe– book review

I haven’t done a book review in a while. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading or haven’t been reading good books, it just means I haven’t taken the time to stop and do a book review. I also have been reading a few books that are part of book series. I don’t like to review a book in the middle of a series.

Last Friday, we went to Costco. For some reason I stopped while walking past the books. I think I was looking to see if the new JD Robb book was there, it wasn’t so I just ordered it on Amazon! But, I did see a book that caught my attention, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe. I took a picture of the front cover and had planned to look and see if I could get it Kindle Unlimited.

The boys do not have any kind of camp this week, so we decided to take a trip to the library on Monday. I pulled up the picture on my phone and searched for the book on the computer… they had it! So, I picked it up. I was in the middle of another book, but decided to take a break and read this instead. I started it late Monday afternoon and finished it this morning. I would have finished it sooner if life didn’t get in the way of me reading.  Why must I be responsible?

Ellen Bradford’s life was lining up perfectly. She was a real estate attorney, engaged to Hayden Croft who has ambitions to become a politician. When her grandmother passes away, Ellen is drawn to fulfilling her grandmother’s last wish, delivering a letter to a boy she loved as a child.

Ellen, against the wishes of both Hayden and her mother, drops everything and travels from Manhattan to Beacon, Maine. Ellen expects this to be a day or two trip, but after almost drowning shortly after arriving…. everything else takes a weird and wild twist and turns. Ellen learns more about her Grandmother’s past and a bit about herself as well.


I did enjoy this easy summer read book. It was rather predictable, but that’s this type of book. Girl goes away, girl meets guy, girl falls in love, but shouldn’t, girl gets the new guy in the end…. shocked? Nope I don’t think so. But, its more than that. It about stopping and slowing down in life. It’s about seeing that there is more to life than linear lines and exceptions. That even when you know someone there is a whole other part of their lives that you may know nothing about.

I encourage you to check out this book. If you do, let me know what you think.


family · life

What to say, how do you cope

It saddens me, that yet again I’ve had to talk to my sons about the crazy injustice of mass shootings. I’ve spoken about this multiple times here on my blog (here, here  here and here).

Yesterday, the boys were listening to The Daily, a podcast they listen to all the time. On the podcast, they were talking about the latest two mass shootings. It saddens me how many times we have had to talk about this in their short lives. No person should grow up knowing/feeling that there is a good possibility that they could be part of a mass shooting. While we know logically that this possibility is slim, it exists.


That is the question that doesn’t have a good answer. Why do they do this? Why can’t we stop this? Why does this continue to happen? What can we do about it?

I often have people ask me about schools and what schools are doing. More importantly what can they do to help their child while at school.

Here are a few things my sons and I talk about whenever these conversations come up.

  • Don’t live in fear
  • Keep your head on a swivel and be aware of your environment
  • Stay calm
  • Listen

One situation that I often tell parents to talk to their child about is what do you do if you are not in a classroom during a lock down. Often times parents get upset when they hear that teachers will not open the door of the classroom if they hear a child knock on it. But, I ask you this… how do you know it is a child? We are trained to protect our students. Hide the students. If we open the door, we aren’t hiding or protecting the students inside the room. Yes, it could be a child outside the door, or it could be the threat. So, what should a child do?

First, as soon as you hear there is a lock down, head to a classroom… the teachers are told to check the hallways while locking down and bring any child into the room with them.

Next, look around, where can you hide? Trash can? Closet? Stairwell? Go to rooms with multiple doors, they take longer to lock down. Can you get outside? If you can, do not leave campus, but get away and hide. Hide under a car, in a storage shed, in the bushes far away from the building.

What can we do for our children…. listen to them. Be honest. Let them know your concerns. Do not shelter them… truth from you is better than misinformation from a peer. Answer their questions.

We have many conversations about this sadness. We have talk about the fact that it is isolated even thought it feels like such a big issue. We do not place blame.

As a parent, it is hard. But, if we give into this fear, they win. If we change our daily lives, they win. If we place blame, we do not deal with the reality of life. So we hug our children a bit harder. We listen a bit more. We continue to be open and honest. We hope, we pray, and we go on with life…. then we win.