present not perfect · through my camera lens

January 19- stop and look

Life got busy the last few days. And, while I’ve taken time to slow down a bit each day, I haven’t taken time to share on here. Last week I managed to workout twice. I’m doing PiYo right now. The instructor calls it active yoga, I think of it more as pilates, but who cares?

Friday night into Saturday morning it snowed. Granted, it wasn’t the crazy snow they forecasted, but it snowed. Then it turned to rain and rained all day long. This morning when I woke it, there was snow. It is snowing again. According to my weather last night, we were not supposed to get snow, but we did and now they are saying snow until noon.

The snow more blowing than sticking, but hey it looks pretty.

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and natureI feel like this photo doesn’t do it justice, but it works for my daily activity from Present not Perfect.

Give yourself time today to stare out the closest window at something beautiful. Imagine that your brain is getting off a highway to go on a more scenic side road.

One of the things I love about my house and where we live is the back of my property is woods. When I look out most of my back windows I look into nature. I see trees, blue sky, birds. We have chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits and deer.

I love being able to look out and not see cars, asphalt and day to day clutter of life.

I always feel that being able to see nature. The parts of the world that are not controlled by man, is one of the best ways to relax and appreciate life. I have almost always lived on a lot with conservation land behind me. I have always enjoyed being outside. Going on hikes in the woods. Feeding the birds. Seeing the wild animals. This is beauty to me.

So this morning I stood there and watched the woodpeckers fly to the suet feeder. I watched cardinals, blue jays and wrens fly to eat sunflower seeds. I watched the snow blow and swirl. I see the trees sway in the breezes.

Image result for beauty of nature quote snow

book · food · life · present not perfect · through my camera lens

January 14- sensory rich foods

No photo description available.

Good morning (or afternoon or evening depending on when you are reading this). Yesterday I began writing my blog post in the morning and it seemed to make life a bit less crazy in the afternoon, so I’m jumping onto this again this morning. (I posted that photo on I/G this morning, do you follow me on there? @lorif_my_life)

Today’s topic in Present not perfect is sensory foods. I guess the fact that I’m typing this while drinking coffee makes sense. But, let me tell you a bit of a back story. I didn’t drink coffee for a long time. I drank it a bit when I was in grad school and right after, but then stopped. I gave up all caffeine for a long time and only used it to help with migraines. When we moved up to PA I needed something to drink that was warm. I tried hot chocolate and herbal/flavored tea, both of which I like it didn’t do it for me on a regular basis. I already had a Keurig for visitors, so I decided on a whim to pick up some flavored coffee and creamer and now I drink 1-2 cups a day. OH well… I know I was better off without the coffee, but now it is part of my morning and afternoon routines, well at least during the cold months.

What are your favorite sensory rich foods? Use them to help you push pause in a crazy day.

Circle (underline) your favorites from the list and then add some of your ownImage may contain: dessert and food

  • hard candy
  • breath mint
  • chocolate
  • hot tea

For me, many of my sensory rich foods aren’t instant things: fresh baked cookies, pizza hot out of the oven, and homemade soups/stews. These are things that make my mouth water. The smells, the textures, the tastes… it hits more than just taste.

For the I need it now sensory foods-

chocolate! (but it has to be good chocolate not a Hershey bar, but something on the line of ghiradelli dark chocolate or a Lindt truffle)

coke– the flavor, the fizz, the caffeine

Image may contain: foodcoffee- I’ve always loved the scent, now with a bit of flavoring I like the taste too

peppermint- true peppermint is the best. I love these soft peppermints, but eat way too many of them. The container is almost gone, this is a good thing!

What are your favorite sensory rich foods? Do you gravitate towards them when times are stressful?



life · present not perfect · through my camera lens

January 13th- quiet your mind

Ok, yep I might seem like I’m slacking on posting lately, but I’m being present because I’m not perfect. I would rather not post then post out of the feeling of have to or need to.

Image may contain: people sitting, screen, table and indoorThe end of January is parent/teacher conferences for me. I have a 50 topic form that I need to complete on each child on top of assessing letters, sounds, numbers, shapes, color and more. While most of it can be done just from knowledge of the children I to take my time and reflect on each child while filling them out. This has taken time both after school and on the weekends on top of the actual assessment time during the school day. Also, I try to complete my work before the boys get home and/or while they are doing homework. So, blogging took a backseat.

Today I decided to look at the book in my 30 minutes of alone time before work. My mornings look like this:

  • 5:30- Blake gets up- showers, dresses etc…
  • 5:50- Richard gets up- showers, dresses etc…
  • 6:05- I get up- brush my teeth, toss on a sweatshirt and check on the boys and head downstairs to keep the wheels moving
  • 6:10- Colby gets up- – showers, dresses etc…
  • 6:15- Blake should be heading downstairs for breakfast, packing etc.
  • 6:35- Colby heads downstairs
  • 6:40 -Richard come downstairs
  • 6:45- Richard and Blake leave
  • 6:46-I take my shower and get ready
  • 7:25- Colby leaves for the bus
  • 8:00 I leave for work.

Normally I eat breakfast after Colby leaves. Today I ate breakfast before he left leaving me a bit of time to get on here.

Today’s activity:

Close your eyes and try to quiet your mind for one full minute, imagine the static of your thoughts getting quieter and quieter

What thoughts did you have a hard time quieting?

Even though I just rambled off about work and my morning schedule, when I closed my eyes and was just still I stopped all the noise. I could hear the white noises around me, but I didn’t distract my thoughts.

I figured I’d be thinking about work and what I need to do to get ready for today. Monday mornings tend to be busy because I need to set up for the week. But, I was able to shut out work.

I figured I’d be thinking of dinner, the boys, Richard and all of our normal day to day life stress. But, I didn’t.

I was able to shut it out. Shut it down. Put it aside for a minute. I guess that means that none of those stresses are that stressful. That nothing is that important that I can’t put it aside. And that, my friend, is what I wanted to learn how to do. To realize that even the things that feel stressful at the time, aren’t… or don’t have to be. That life isn’t about moving from one stressor  to the next… it’s moving from one moment, one experience, one day, one whatever to the next and living! It is living in the here and now.

So, I’m going to head off to work and plug through more assessments. Then come home and plow through my life here… and realize it’s all good (even when it doesn’t feel that way)





family · life · present not perfect · through my camera lens

January 8- photo of me

Hello blogging world! I hope your Wednesday is going well. Today is COLD here. We actually got alerts during the morning telling of a snow squall that was coming through. It was crazy snowing for a short time and then it was done. But, the wind is whipping and the temps are dropping all day. But, we will survive.

Today, I found myself working on assessments, chatting with a parent who had some questions/concerns and an on-line friend who is getting ready to go on a cruise. All these things were done from the time I got home from school until Blake walked through the door. So, again I didn’t carve out a bit of time to be quiet and reflect, soooo I jumped ahead again and found a page that I don’t need to be introspective to write about.

This page had you find a photo of you that you like and then write about why you like it. So here you go….

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If you have been following my blog for any length of time you probably have noticed that photos of me are few and far between. I truly dislike having my picture taken. I have tried over the years to make sure that I’m not totally missing from all the family moments, actually to be honest Richard makes sure of this.

This photo was taken when we were on our vacation in Erie PA in August. Yes, first of all that was in August and I’m wearing a sweatshirt, ok a light weight sweatshirt, but it was actually a bit chilly at the time.

While I could look at this picture and tell you everything I hate about the picture, I am not going to look for negatives. This photo is the one on my I/G account. I love that it is me taking a picture of something. I believe I was actually taking a landscape photo at the time, but it doesn’t matter. It is me looking at our lives and capturing the moment.

Going on vacations is always a fun moment. I try to balance capturing these moments and living these moments. While I want to have photos to help us remember our trips, I also want to put down my camera/phone and just enjoy the trip. I believe that over the years I have found this balance.

Yep… everything in life comes back to balance.


family · life · through my camera lens


While I’m not starting new blog project until Jan, I wanted to post about the year. With one day left in 2019 it is a time to sit back and reflect.

This year we traveled on two Disney Cruises, traveled to Erie, PA  then Niagara, NY and spent Thanksgiving in DC. I love these trips. While it means lots of planning and some frustration with travel and changes, it is a time of family. I love when the four of us can unplug and do something different together. These vacations were very different in style, but they were chances for us to reconnect.

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Colby with Albert Einstein. Colby has always wanted to become a scientist and Einstein has always been someone he admired.Image may contain: 1 person, tree and outdoor

Blake reflecting on the stars of the WWII memorial. Blake enjoys history, especially American history. The fact that his shadow was cast on the word freedom and how solemn his face was at the time captured him perfectly.

The boys performed in High School Musical, Camp Rock, Peter Pan and Matilda. They have each seemed to find their space in the theater.  Blake is also now working on the TV crew at the middle school and Colby is singing in the chorus and all-star chorus in his school. I love that they have found places where they feel at ease. They love to sign, act and even work behind the scenes.

This year found Richard and I celebrating our 15th Anniversary. It is hard to believe we have been together over 16 years, I can’t imagine a day without being by his side. We just celebrated our 3rd Christmas here in PA.

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While this year found some drama in the fact that the boys learned that Santa is the Christmas spirit and not some magical man who brings you gifts (we told them at Easter actually), it brought about new traditions and experiences this holiday season. It was hard at times, but we each needed this year to adjust to the new magic of the holidays.

So now we wrap up the year. This was a year of unexpected. There were both positive and negative unexpected moments. Things that went right, and things that could have gone smoother. But none of these moments matter unless we realize that what matters most is who stands by our side in the good, the bad and the ugly moments of life. I always know that Richard will be at my side, and I his. But, now that the boys are getting older not only will we always be there for them, but now they are seeing that it is important to be there for each other and for us.

I hope that this next year and decade continues to bring about change. I hope we grow and thrive. I hope each of us learns to get up and dust ourselves off when things go wrong, and celebrate when things go well. Search… and you will find.

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Education · PreK class · through my camera lens

PreK color week

This year I am going to add more education to my blog. Yes, I know that not everyone who reads my blog is a teacher, or mom or into kid things, but at the same time it is a part of who I am. I’m not saying I’ll post things weekly, but I will share more the things I do in my classroom.

The month of September’s theme is Changes. This is the first full week and we are learning about colors. Our work stations this week were:

art table– Mix It Up Art project. We watched the story Mix it Up on YouTube on Monday. In the story they do magic to make a hand appear on a page that is covered in finger prints. I told the children they could either put their fingerprints inside or outside the outline of their hand. We gave each child a paint pallet with red, yellow, blue, white and black and let them use however they wished. I like this concept because they can mix it without upsetting other children or making it so another child couldn’t use the paint too.

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Theme table- The children each took a coffee filter and drew a design on one half of the filter with markers. They then folded the filter twice and then sprayed the filter with water to let the colors spread and mix. No photo description available.

Writing table– I wrote each child’s name out on a long sheet of paper. The children used bingo daubers to cover the letters of their name to practice spelling their name. We are focusing on writing their names so it starts with a capital and the rest are lowercase letters.

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Math area- I put out a bin of mini erasers and had the children sort the erasers by color. They had to grab a handful of the erasers. They put the erasers into brown paper bags that are labeled with color words.

We also did a few whole group activities:

Melting ice cubes. I colored water red, blue and yellow and froze them into ice cubes. We observed the cubes melting in cups that we set up as red+ yellow, red + blue, blue + yellow and red+blue+yellow.

We did a STEAM experiment where the children again used coffee filters. They only used one color this time. We used secondary and tertiary colors. With this project, you color around the circle that is formed at the edge of the ridges of the filter (not on the flat part). You want to make it a thick line. Then fold the filter three times to make it a small cone shape. dip the tip of the cone into water and let it wick up to the color line. The colors will separate to show the colors that mix up to make the secondary and tertiary colors.

We also did a favorite color graph.

No photo description available.

We are finishing the week tomorrow by baking sugar cookies. We have three cans of vanilla frosting that we will color yellow, red and blue. The children will get a little of each color and be able to mix them and frost their cookies in the frosting color(s) they choose to use/create.

family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

Alton Brown’s Chicken Parm

If you follow me on I/G, you may have noticed that I’ve started playing “What am I making for dinner” as my I/G story from time to time.

This recipe was shared on there, and yes there were a LOT more pictures on my I/G story, but I took a few to share on here too.

Richard and I are HUGE Alton Brown fans. We have seen him live twice, watch him on YouTube and his tv shows. I also follow him in I/G and Facebook, oh and have one of his cookbooks that I use all the time. When he announced that he was re-launching Good Eats, we knew we’d be watching and making more of his recipes.

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The first episode was Chicken Parm. Who doesn’t love a GOOD chicken parm? Don’t get me wrong there are some really bad or just ok chicken parms out there, but I love a good chicken parm. So we decided this would be a good one to try… so we did!

Chicken ParmImage may contain: food and indoor

  • 2  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded to 1/8-inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 120 grams (1 cup) plain breadcrumbs
  • 20 grams salt and vinegar potato chips, not kettle cooked or thick cut
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 70 grams (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour (I needed more)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup red sauce, divided, recipe follows
  • 2 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, shredded
  • 2 ounces Italian fontina, shredded
  • 2 ounces of Parmesan, shredded
  1. Cut the flattened chicken into 6-8 pieces per breast.
  2. Salt and place on a rack on top of a cookie sheet
  3. Cover and refrigerate 30 min
  4. This is when I made the red sauce, see below for steps and heated the oven to broil
  5. Combine the breadcrumbs, potato chips, oregano, parsley and garlic powder in a gallon zip-top bag and crush into a course meal.
  6. set up a breading station (flour, egg, crumbs from step 5).
  7. Dry off chicken then put through the breading process. place on another rack over a cookie sheet to collect any excess coating
  8. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add half the breaded chicken to the pan, but don’t overcrowd. Cook, undisturbed, until crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the clean rack, wipe out the pan and repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken
  9. Spread 3/4 cup of the red sauce into the bottom of a a 9-by-13-inch broiler-safe baking dish and broil about 2 minutes.
  10. Remove the dish from the oven and arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer. Dot the chicken with the remaining red sauce,  Scatter the cheeses over the sauce.
  11. put back under the broiler until the cheese begins to brown
  12. enjoy!

Red Sauce

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  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 anchovy filets
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Two 28-ounce cans peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
  • One 2-inch Parmesan rind
  1. grate garlic on micoplane to form a paste
  2. mix with 1/4 cup EVOO and salt
  3. cook in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until it begins to brown
  4. add the anchovies and break down with a wooden spatula
  5. add strained tomatoes and break up with wooden spatula
  6. submerge the Parmesan rind
  7. reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 1 hour or until the sauce looks “dry”
  8. discard the rind and use the rest for the chicken parm


This was sooooooo good. We really enjoyed this chicken parm. I used 3 breasts since that was what was in the pack we purchased. Since it didn’t all fit into the pan we had some that did not have sauce on it. This was a really good breaded chicken patty.

So here is what I’d do different… I enjoyed the sauce that was in the bottom of the pan that had been broiled, but I didn’t like having the chicken on top of it as it started to get soggy. So next time I will put one pan in the oven with just sauce, and another one with the chicken and cheese and make my own chicken parms tableside!


family · life · through my camera lens

weekend update

Well I enjoyed posting my blog hop. If you didn’t play along yet, it isn’t too late. Grab the information here and reflect on the back to school topics on your blog.

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This weekend we were busy. Friday night we went to Pour at the Park. This is an annual fund raiser for Allegheny Parks. This was our third year attending. It is a great way to give back to the park we use so much. They have food and alcohol company from around the area come and distribute their products. We purchased a drink pass for Richard and a designated driver pass for me. In the years past, most of the alcohol based companies only gave away beer which I do not drink. This year I would have drank more as they had a few cider companies, one with vodka and another with rum… oh well!

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They moved the location from the lake to the lodge. While it was nice to have real bathrooms and the food places were able to use the kitchen facilities a bit, I didn’t like it as much. In the past, Richard and I spent a lot of time just chilling out looking at the lake. Also there was no additional lighting so the tents that were not right near the lodge were in total darkness once the sun went down. The event didn’t end until 8:30pm.

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It was still nice to just slow down and enjoy a bit of time as a family.

Saturday we got up and went to Target to get a gift for a birthday party Blake was going to Saturday night. Then headed over to Costco. When we got home Richard decided to try out his new chainsaw. We now have more firewood. Now we just need another day to have a fire in the fire pit.Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

After we dropped Blake off at the party, we headed into the city for dinner. Then came home to watch the UCF football game.

Sunday we had a lazy morning and then went to pick up Colby’s new bike. We got both boys got new bikes on Labor day. They got bigger frames bikes with more mountain biking features such as disk breaks and separate shifters and break leavers. They only had one bike in store, so we ordered Colby one since Blake liked the color in the store.

The boys and I went out do dinner. I swear the slider Colby was having was almost as big as his head. Image may contain: 1 person, eating, sitting, child, drink, food and indoor

Today everyone was back to school!


Education · life · PreK class · through my camera lens

First day of school… for me!

I’m taking a break from my blog hop for the day. You can go back and read my posts here, here, here, here AND here. Also go check out AJ at A Petite Slice of Life and Alley Bean at Spectacle Bean to see their posts on my blog hop. Are you ready to join in the fun? Please join in and post on my blog hop topics… it’s fun to go on a trip down memory lane… or talk about your children starting school…. or even you teaching or going to college now!

But I wanted to take a break from the actual blog hop topics to tell you about my actual first day of school! I went back last week for teacher prep week and then this week we had our meet the teacher nights… today we started school!

I revamped my whole room, I almost always do this… I guess I don’t like things being the same? So here you go… a peek into my room. Oh and the day went better than I expected. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

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food · reviews · through my camera lens

Pub Cookies

Richard and some of his co-workers were having a craft beer exchange at work on Thursday. I decided that was the perfect reason to bake! I wasn’t sure what I wanted to bake. I started by searching through my pile of recipes we cut out the of the food network magazines. There I found a brownie recipe that used beer in it. I didn’t have everything to make this specific recipe, but I thought it was a good jumping off point to search for a new recipe.

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I sent Richard 3 different ideas (two different types of cookies and a different brownie recipe). He decided on Pub Cookies. So… that’s what I made!

Pub Cookies

  • 12 ounces stout beer
  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup bread flour (this will make them chewy)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 bag dark chocolate chips (I didn’t measure these I just dumped the bag)
  • 1 cup pretzel twists, broken into pieces
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  1. Put the beer in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook down the beer until you have about 1 Tbsp of beer “extract” (watch the pan, I got distracted and my beer boiled over… oops!)
  2. Cream butter and sugars
  3. Add egg and yolk
  4. Add vanilla and beer extracts
  5. In a separate bowl whisk together flours, cornstarch, baking soda and salt
  6. Add dry to wet ingredients until just combined
  7. Stir in chips and pretzels
  8. Dish cookies onto a cookie sheet and put into the fridge for at least 3 hours
  9. Heat oven to 350
  10. Bake 12-20 min (start checking around 12 min, my batches both took about 14 min)
  11. enjoy!
  12. Image may contain: food

These cookies do NOT taste like beer. Yes this is a strong beer and it was concentrated by cooking out the water, but it still didn’t taste like beer in a chocolate chip cookie. There is slight bitter taste that brings out those notes in the chocolate chips. The cookies are very chewy and have a great chocolate chip cookie flavor. The hit of pretzel adds an additional salty feature. (The original recipe calls for honey roasted peanuts. I would add peanuts, but not honey roasted)