family · life

Where are you???

I did not fall of the face of the earth… sorry I’ve been MIA

Friday I was sick. I was dizzy, nauseous and had a severe headache. I have no clue what was wrong, but I slept almost all day!

Saturday, I still didn’t feel quite myself. I took the day easy for the most part. We ran some errands and then we went down to our neighborhood park. Our neighborhood organized a get together with bounce houses, food trucks and other activities. Richard and I came home and sat by the fire, but the boys stayed until after 9pm.

Sunday we did a few more errands and then had a quieter day.

Today… I went back to work! Now I’m trying to get back in the groove of working life. So, I might not check your posts for a bit. I may not post as many posts myself, but I will find my groove and get back into the swing of life again…. I promise!

Education · family · life · through my camera lens

First day of school

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Yesterday was a tough day for the boys. They are not ready to start school. They asked me if I felt like summer went fast or slow. My answer? I said I felt like it’s been forever since the end of the year, but it seems like the start of school came too fast. This is very true. I can’t believe the school year is here. We had a great summer. Our vacations were good, but more important than that, the boys had fun. They were always off on their bikes going and doing things with friends.

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This is the first time the boys will be in different schools since Blake was in kindergarten and Colby was in preK. Colby asked to set his alarm early enough to say good-bye to Blake.

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This morning they were both in good spirits and found their independence and were ready to go. Richard drove Blake to the bus on his way to work, Colby set off walking to the bus. Dixie wasn’t sure what to think about everyone leaving. I wonder what she will think on Monday when I have to go to work too?

So here are my thoughts: I wish for them both a year of learning, growth and discovery. I hope they find their voice, confidence and sense of self. I hope they remember they are loved, they have a space and a purpose, and that the world is theirs to grab. I hope they are kind and understanding and yet strong and independent.



family · life · through my camera lens

Niagara Falls part 2– final vacation post!

It seems crazy to me that a two day vacation took 4 blog posts, but hey I wanted to break it up into manageable bites for you.  (I tend to skim read when posts are really long)

So after we changed our shoes, and Colby changed his pants, from getting wet at the Cave of the Winds, we hopped on the trolley. The discovery passes we purchased included trolley passes for a day. We rode over to the other side of the falls and got in line for the Maid of the Mist. If you go to Niagara be prepared to wait in lines for a lot of the day…. oh and to walk a lot of stairs.

When you go to the Maid of the Mist you get a blue poncho and then board the boat.

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We were on the bottom floor (or first floor) of the boat. We decided this would be better since we could get a spot on the rail instead of being a few people deep up on the top level. It is crazy to see the people pushing and forcing their way closer to the rail.

On this ride, you get to go past the American and Horseshoe falls. We got SOAKED when we were close to the Horseshoe Falls. I wasn’t paying attention to the falls at one point because I was trying to prevent a man taking a selfie from backing into the boys more as he was already pushing against Colby. Then Blake bent down to do something and next thing I know… SPLASH a wave or some other kind of mass of water dumped all over us. Guess we should have brought our raincoats and other shoes for this part of the trip too. Richard took some photos with his cell phone (see yesterday’s story as to why we didn’t use the waterproof camera). The rainbows were really cool to see.

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After we were done with the Maid of the Mist… we were Done! It was already 5:30. We never did eat lunch. So, we decided to head to the hotel and go find somewhere to eat dinner.

We ended up in some dive bar that had decent reviews, but then we realized it was because it was on Buffalo’s wing trail… umm we didn’t order wings there. Oh well. After we drove to SUNY Buffalo (UB) which is where I went to grad school. I pointed out the building that I worked in, found the playground to the child care center that I worked at (yes that was two different jobs) and then drove by the dorm I stayed in. Blake kept asking questions about this and that and half of them I couldn’t answer. Granted I was only there for a year AND I did my full masters degree in a year while working 2 jobs on campus (and one at home) so I was a bit busy. They were shocked to hear I’d never been the football stadium.

The next day we got up and headed home.  Thanks for reading about our busy, fun and crazy weekend.

family · life · through my camera lens

Vacation part 3– Niagara Falls- part 1

The last two days I have shared our trip to Erie PA and now I’m sharing the Niagara Falls portion of the trip.

We got up slowly Saturday morning and headed out to Niagara Falls. This was another two hours on the road. We drove to Niagara Falls State Park. We parked on Goat Island and headed to get our tickets. We had purchased tickets on-line that got us into the Cave of the Winds, on the Maid of the Mist, trolley rides, into the Aquarium and more. These passes are good until October.

We went and got our time to go to the Cave of the Winds. Then while we waited for this, we went and checked out the American falls from the top. Image may contain: sky, bridge, outdoor, water and natureImage may contain: one or more people, sky, cloud, tree, child, outdoor, water and natureImage may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, child, bridge, outdoor and water

We decided to have ice creams since we had only snacked through lunch. While eating our ice creams we noticed a black squirrel. (no I did not take a photo of this, even thought LOTS of people were).

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We then headed to go grab our raincoats and change of shoes. They provide ponchos as Image may contain: outdoor, water and naturewell as sandals for the Cave of the Winds, but we knew we’d want more layers …. and as I predicted Colby and Richard wore their own shoes instead of the complimentary sandals. Why do you need these layers? See all the people in the yellow ponchos? That is where you walk for the Cave of the Winds. (this photo was taken on the maid of the mist.) There are very few photos taken from us walking on the Cave of the Winds. This is because I left my camera and phone in the car. Richard had his phone, but didn’t want to exposed to the amount of water you encounter and the water proof camera was MIA (we think it was lost at Waldameer… oops)

The cave of the winds was an actual cave that you could walk in and behind Bridal Veil Falls, but today you get to walk up five series of platforms to get closer and closer to the falls. The top deck is called the Hurricane Deck. The wind and amount of water falling at this level is significant. The boys had a blast getting closer and closer to the falls at this level. Colby was drenched when we left. Good thing we packed extra clothes.

family · life · through my camera lens

Erie Vacation post 2 Waldameer Park

Yesterday I started telling you about our quick vacation to Erie PA and Niagara Falls, NY. I felt like the post was getting too long, so I decided to break up our Erie part into two posts. It didn’t feel like we did as much as we did when I went back and tried to blog about it. I guess the fact that we were having fun and just sort of relaxing and doing our own thing made it feel less hectic?

After seeing the second lighthouse, we decided it was time to go to the amusement park. One cool thing is that on your way in and out of the state park, you drive UNDER part of one of the roller coasters. Blake thought this was the coolest thing and wanted to do it again, but we never had another reason to go back into the state park. So, it didn’t happen on this trip.

Waldameer Park & Water World is the fourth oldest amusement park in the PA and the 10th in the nation.  (Ok so I had to look it up… Lake Compounce in CT is the oldest in the US). We also learned that Waldameer is/was known as a trolley park. These were parks that were built on trolley lines to motivate people to use the lines on the weekends. (Coney Island was also a trolley park). … yes I’m a dork who looks up this kind of information (and not just to fill my blog posts, I knew about this before typing today).

The way Waldameer is set up, you can buy all day passes or purchase points. You do not have to pay to enter the park or to park for that matter. We decided to purchase all day passes, but just got the amusement park side. We already know we have to go back and do the water park. The boys weren’t happy we skipped it this time. The park is open May- September AND it didn’t open until 12:00. That part we found really strange. You can also enter and exit the park as often as you’d like since there was no charge for parking or admission. So we took advantage of this feature.

We went into the park and rode quite a few rides. There were a lot of classic amusement park rides here. The boys love going on many of these including the spider, scrambler, bumper cars and Music Express (a Matterhorn style ride).

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They also rode all the roller coasters.

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And the newer style rides

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We left the park to go check into our hotel, have dinner and then came back and stayed until the park closed.

As we were getting into the car, I realized that I’d lost my phone… eek! Luckily it was turned in at lost and found. Unfortunately we realized later in the trip that Richard probably lost his camera there as well. We stopped back on our way home to Pittsburgh on Sunday, but they didn’t have that in lost and found. Oops… guess we have to buy him a new water proof camera. (the missing camera made pictures on Saturday a bit more difficult, but more on that tomorrow)



family · life · through my camera lens

I’m back! Vacation post 1- Erie, PA part 1

Well this weekend we went on a quick jaunt for our last bit of summer. When we started talking about taking a weekend trip we went and brainstormed a few different places and decided that a trip up to Niagara Falls would be fun. I was the only one in the family who had been there before. It is one of those places that you just have to go to at least once. It was going to be a 3.5 hour drive. While it was totally do able in leg, we decided to stop in Erie on our way up.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, cloud, shoes, child and outdoorErie PA is just about 2 hours straight up from where we live now. When Richard’s parents visited the last time, they took a detour and stopped in Erie. They mentioned the state park as well as an amusement park in the area. Since Hershey was also a possible location, we decided a side trip to an amusement park sounded perfect.

First we stopped off at Bicentennial tower. This was Image may contain: people standing and outdoorerected in 1996 and is 187 feet tall. On the lower level of they had a really cool mural that was visible on the upper level. I wonder if they are going to continue painting it or if it is complete? We spent  some time up here looking over the bay and reading about the area on the plaques they had located around the top of the tower. The boys were fascinated with 3 pictures/posters they had showing lakes Erie, Ontario and Michigan and the amount of ships which have sunk in each of the lakes. Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, shoes, outdoor and water

Then we headed over to Presque Isle State Park. This park is on Lake Erie. We drove around and got out whenever one of us felt the need to go check out something a bit closer. We went and saw the Perry TowerImage may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing, sky, shoes and outdoor

We found a playground that we made almost all of natural materials. The boys had a blast. I said to Richard it would be nice to see more playgrounds made in this fashion instead of all from plastic.

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We then went to see the two lighthouses they have on the island. One is a listed on the historical society (the bottom picture). We did not go inside this lighthouse because you had to pay to go in. There was a long line and we have already taken the boys into a lighthouse similar to this (but I believe taller) in Key West. So we opted to just continue on with our day. Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, ocean, sky, child, shoes, outdoor and waterImage may contain: people standing, sky, cloud, tree, plant, shoes, outdoor and nature



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

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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.