Category Archives: Rebbeca

Project Home Sanctuary – {Purge} Kitchen

The first step in creating a home sanctuary is to get rid of all of the extra stuff in the house.  We aren’t particularly “cluttery” but there are definitely plenty of things that we have that we don’t use or don’t need that would certainly make our house feel more at peace.

One afternoon, in a stroke of crazy productivity, we decided to come home and go through everything in our kitchen.  We split the work up but it basically went something like this:

  1. Scrub and clean everything.  This seriously included everything.  We emptied the fridge, got rid of any old foods, took out all of the shelves, washed and dried them.  We moved the fridge and the oven out from the wall to clean over, under and around it, we scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed the counter tops.  We wanted everything CLEAN.
  2. Go through every dish, pot, pan, utensil.  We went through everything in the cabinets and decided only to keep the things that we use.  Anything that we had double of or anything that we hadn’t remembered using in the last couple of months got thrown in the donate pile.  This included ditching the microwave in favor of clearing off the counters.
  3. Next up we organized the food pantry.  There is only two of us so we don’t have much of a need for a “pantry” but all of the dried goods, baking goods, oils and such all needed a good organizing.
  4. Scrub the floor!  After all of that work we scrubbed the floor and made sure everything was sparkling clean and organized.

I’m not usually one to be late to bed but it felt so good when my head hit the pillow WAY too late that night knowing that we had gotten rid of so many unnecessary things, that things were clean, and that everything had a place.

There are a still things I’d like to do in there to “finish” it a little bit.

  • paint the coffee cart a deep teal blue color
  • organize the dry goods/pantry a bit better – mason jars, tall canisters, cute labels
  • window treatment
  • switch out the random assortment of colored dish towels for all white
  • shelf liners to keep things cleaner for the next time I decide to do all of this craziness

I’ve always spent so much time in my kitchen.  I love food and I love to create and it feels so good to work in a place that just feels so peaceful now.


DIY Christmas Wreath

After a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend spent at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and enjoying great food with friends, I was feeling festive and wanted to create something in the spirit of the holidays for my house.  I’m not particularly crafty.  As a matter of fact I don’t think I’ve ever actually successfully made anything.  My mind is pretty creative though.  I have tons of ideas swimming around in my head for things to hang on my walls, curtains to hang over my windows, and ways to add meaning to the things in my home, I just don’t always know how to make it come to life.

For some inspiration and how-to tutorials, I went to pinterest of course!  I decided that a homemade wreath was a great place to start.  I’ve always wanted to hang a holiday wreath but I always cringe at the prices for pretty wreaths in the stores.  I figured I could find something fun and try to make it for less that $25!

These were my two inspiration wreaths:


I liked the look of the twiggy wreath on the right, but Travis didn’t like the colors of the yarn. So, I found the second wreath (left) for color/arrangement inspiration.

Off to Michael’s I went, armed with inspiration and a desire to stay under $25.  Since I’m not generally crafty, I needed to buy everything for this project.  I decided on a couple of different colors/textures of yarn, two different sized Styrofoam balls, and a medium sized twiggy wreath.  Travis is a weird guy and already had a glue gun with the little glue stick things.  That was a bonus!  I also picked up a container of bells and a couple of twigs with berries and pine cones.

First up I had to make all of those little yarn balls.  Since, again, I’m not overly crafty, this took some trial and error for me (and my awesome helper)!  We discovered that you basically just have to wrap the yarn randomly around the Styrofoam for it to “stick” to them and pull the yarn as tightly as possible around the ball as you go.

To assemble the wreath, I basically just used a hot glue gun to hot glue various yarn balls into place and then I filled in the extra space with a little bit of greenery, berries, pine cones and a few festive bells.

Here’s an in-progress (about half way done) shot:

And the finished product:

For my first attempt at craftiness I think I did a pretty good job.  I now have so many additional ideas swimming around in my head for other small ways I can make the house look festive for not a lot of money!  Speaking of money – I think I came in under budget.  My receipt at Michael’s said I spent $32.  However, I spent $5 on Christmas ornaments and technically I didn’t use all of the bells, styrofoam balls, and I didn’t come CLOSE to using up all of that yarn.  So – I think I’m under $25 AND I have some leftovers to decorate other places in the house!

Always We Begin Again

Time is our ultimate currency, we must be careful how we spend it.” John McQuiston II

After an insanely busy month of July that I wished I had slowed down enough during to write and reflect and an extremely slow and relaxed month of August spent on the road visiting friends, family and getting rejuvenated for the upcoming year, the time came to prepare for the coming students and school year.

Hello! My name is... Poster for students

Color & Creativity

After six weeks of observing a coaching new teachers, I came away with a few specific goals for the school year:

1. Create a more visually inviting space!  In order to achieve this I spent several nights in front of the TV getting caught up on all the latest episodes of Sons of Anarchy and creating colorful posters for my classroom.  Some of them are instructional posters that are helping my students recall equations and key words and some of them are fun inspirational quotes!

2. Work/Life Balance & Integration.  For 3 years I’ve struggled with simply being too busy!  In reality, I’m doing just as much work, if not more, this year BUT I’m really working hard to find the balance between work and life and also to find the way that my everyday life and my school life fit and work together.  While I do believe that there’s an obvious line between working (and especially working/teaching children) and my personal life I found in previous years that too often I wasn’t finding the connection between what I was spending my out of school time on with what I was doing in school every day.  In short – what’s the connection between the sacred and the secular?  And is there a difference?

3. Family & Community Support.  I’m convinced that partnering with the families and communities of my students is of paramount importance to their success.  I have not done a great job in the past staying in touch with my students’ parents, coaches, friends, brothers, aunts, etc.  This year I have developed a plan to change that and create a different learning environment for my students.

This summer was a learning experience for me.  A lesson in working hard (and not being great at it) and in how to rest a relax.  I was reminded tonight as I stumbled across an old book that, “Always We Begin Again”.  Whether it be after the eight weeks of summer to greet classes of new students, the new goals set for a new year based on lessons learned, or the three times I deliberately stop throughout my day to be thankful for these moments that I have, slow my mind and body down and begin again.  Here’s to a new and exciting year!

August Adventure Days 3 – 5: Duluth and Sandstone, MN

Wednesday AM: Obligatory stop to the Sunshine Cafe. We had a great time and as usual the lady remembered us, where we lived and what we wanted to order! After breakfast we headed to the encounter for the annual pool/push ups extravaganza. After hanging out with John, Hank, and Amy for a bit we had a bit of time to kill before having lunch.

Wednesday afternoon we stopped at the Brewhouse for a beer and then went to lunch at Va Bene with Grant and Danielle! Fun! After lunch it was off to a much needed pedicure and eyebrow wax! Finally!

Post waxing we headed to Papa Murphy’s, ordered some pizza’s and headed to the Blake’s to meet little Alden! Yay! After some pizza, root beer, and s’more pizza we said goodbye and headed to Inline Station with Tony for a couple of games of bowling. It was fin, and good to hang out with Tony but I am definitely OUT of bowling shape!

Brewhouse Beers Beget Bosom Buddies

Thursday morning was a nice slow morning. The only plans we had were at 1:30 to have lunch with my dad. So we watched a movie, drank a pot of coffee and had bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast. Tony suggested we go to the new hibachi and sushi restaurant in Duluth for lunch. We did and it was fantastic. The five of us had a great lunch. I’m bummed that all of the good food options didn’t come to town until after I left.

After lunch we headed to Sandstone to visit the campground/farm. We headed to the campground first and went straight to the pool with Sarah, Brian and the kids. We went on a quick tour of the farmhouse and land, enjoyed a beer out on the patio and then headed back to the campground for dinner and a campfire. We had hotdogs, beans chips and roasted GIANT marshmallows to make s’mores. Everyone headed out for the night and we “camped” for the night in the trailer.

Next day we woke up LATE and feeling like we’d slept the day away. We put ourselves together we headed to the farm for the morning. Around lunchtime we brought everyone back to the campground and grilled steaks for lunch! Kids went swimming and then we headed back to the farm for the night. We rode the four wheeler and hung out with the kids until after dinner when it was back to the campground for us for an early night to bed!

August Adventure Day 1: North Brunswick, NJ to Sudbury, ON via Niagara Falls

The morning started bright and early – 5:45am. A little later than planned but it was great to get some rest. I got right back to my usual routine by listening to the water run while Travis took a shower. I was so pleasantly surprised when I rolled out of bed that Travis had finished unpacking all of my institute stuff, had organized and packed the camping/road trip stuff and had loaded up the car before he came to bed last night. It was a much less stressful evening and morning for me. We got ready, packed the remaining odds and ends, made our usual Starbucks stop and we on our way by 7am.

All packed up with somewhere to go!

First stop-noon. A service center on the side of some New York freeway. We filled up with gas, took a bathroom break and spent the better part of 30minutes figuring out how to boil water for our cup-a-noodles. Back on the road, we enjoyed our breakfast/snack while listening to our recently acquired audiobook Bossypants. As expected, it’s hilarious and prompts frequent bouts of laughing out loud. I took a brief nap and then a 1pm PSI conference call.

By 2:30 we were at our first official stop – Niagara Falls (the Canadian side). The skies looked ominous so we decided to head to Margaritaville for lunch first. A beergarita (yum!), a coke, and one massive plate of volcano nachos did it for us! The food was great, the waitress was nice, and just as we sat down the rains came. After making a small dent in the nachos, we were stuffed and the rain had stopped so we walked down to the falls for some photo ops. The falls were gorgeous and huge and we were getting wet from the mist just standing there looking at them!

The best pic we got of part of the falls.

We decided to drive as far as Sudbury (approximated 4.5 hours past Niagara) so we quickly googled a campsite and by 4:30 we were on our way. The rest of the drive was pretty standard-another hour or some of Bossypants, napping while listening to music, think as the beautiful Canadian scenery filled our view. There was one more stop for gas and a brief bathroom break and by 9:15pm we were at our campsite. Go Carol for staying open a few extra minutes and saving that last available campsite for us!

We’re currently kicked back in our camp chairs, getting eaten alive by mosquitos, enjoying the campfire and a s’more. We’ll head to bed shortly and then it’s off to Duluth in the morning!

TFA Alumni Movement

When I started my TFA journey three years ago, I started the precursor to this blog thinking that I’d update it (at least weekly) and document my journey as a newbie teacher. Unfortunately, I always have the best of intentions and the grandest of ideas but don’t generally follow through on them.  The same thing rings true on this blog – if you look back, very little of the writing actually comes from me.  Rather than create any grand and lofty ideas about when/what/how to write, I think I’ll just start writing more often – and see what comes of it.

This week I’m finishing my third year in the classroom and my first at my new school.  It’s been an amazing year.  I’ve been extraordinarily busy but someone less stressed out by many of the things that plagued me as a new teacher.  I taught Physics and Chemistry for second and third year this year – finally not feeling like I was reinventing the wheel.  For the most part I work with administrators and coworkers who supported my teaching and helped me rather than hinder me from getting things done.  I finished a master’s degree in December and started teaching math as an adjunct faculty member in January.

My current (next) big project is my role as CMA at this year’s NYC Institute.  This has by far been the most challenging and most rewarding job I’ve taken on (other than being in the classroom).  The months of preparation for my role have required me to really dig deep, plan more purposefully than I ever have before, and in turn I am more excited than ever to work with corps members and staff this summer.  It’s exciting for me to see how my role in the alumni movement in Teach for America is growing.  In some ways, after you leave your two years in the corps, you’re kind of on your own, but I just can’t stay away.  I’ve worked hard searching out ways to keep myself educated and stay involved in the work I started three years ago.  I am already inspired and motivated by all of the work that my fellow staff members are doing and I am looking forward to all of the incredible inspiration and strategies that I know I’ll walk away with this summer!

Here’s to another great summer!

On the food front…

So you may be wondering…how’s the food adventure going?

So far, it’s going swimmingly!  We’ve been making small, simple meals at home every day/night!

I never did make it back here on Sunday night to post the menu, so I’ll give you an update on that now.

Sunday: loaded baked potatoes

Monday: baked buffalo chicken salad

Tuesday: baked chicken parmesan

Wednesday: Pasta/Rebbeca had a veggie panini from Kean, paid for by free University money!

Thursday: Tacos

And the plan for…

Friday: Dinner w/ missional community

Saturday: picnic lunch for a day hike and a possible dinner out to celebrate Oktoberfest at the end of the hike.

Sunday: Hot & Spicy shrimp lettuce wraps

Monday: Grilled Salmon, cous cous, and mixed veggies

I’m enjoying the plan.  And I’m enjoying the challenge.  Funny thing happens though when you stop spending money at restaurants: you spend a lot more at the grocery store.

Already we’re beginning to see how difficult this will be.  Take for example  our plan for Saturday; it includes the possibility for eating out.  The thing is, we’re spending all day out hiking with friends.  We’ve planned to bring a picnic lunch to eat during our hike.  These friends indicated the possibility/interest in participating in a little Oktoberfest celebration that’s happening at the mountain where we’re hiking.  It’s a bit difficult, if not impossible, to go and live in community with our friends and then say, “Sorry, we can’t be a part of that because we’re not eating out!”  In fact, I think it would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity to interact/share life with strangers who will undoubtedly be there celebrating as well.  So we’ll go.  And we’ll celebrate.  And we’ll spend money on beers and probably buy an appetizer or something to share.  BUT, we will keep track of what we spend and what we spend it on AND, we will recognize that when we do things that seem to “violate” this challenge we will make sure that it includes an opportunity to be purposeful and missional in the world that we might not otherwise have.

Adventures in Food

I still have yet to post the saga that was my summer and early fall.  I promise  it is something I want to write down, if only just so that I never forget how thankful I am to have received such blessing and provision from God.  I certainly would never be where I am, and our family would not be where we are today, without his ever steady hand in our lives throughout everything.  Truthfully, I’m still digesting and processing a lot of the changes that have happened and I’m not quite ready to let it all out.  In the meantime, there are many things that my heart has been wrestling with.  One of the major themes I’ve had on my heart lately is health.  Not just physical health but emotional/mental health, spiritual health, financial health.  As such, I’ve come up with this crazy idea/challenge for our household.  Here are the questions:

Can we walk though one year of our lives without eating out at a restaurant?*

Over the course of this year can we savethe money that we would have spent on food/drink and seek to use it for God’s purposes in our lives?

ok…I’m sure there are many of you thinking, “That’s crazy!” or “Why now?” or “How’s this going to work?”  I’ll try to address 4 major points about this challenge.

1.We believe that God is challenging us in the area of our physical heath.  Over the past year we have had seasons where we take great care of ourselves with regard to the food that we put in our bodies and other seasons where we get overwhelmed with the craziness of life and do not treat our bodies as the living sacrifices that they are.  We realize that this will be difficult.  We also believe in a God who will never leave us or forsake us.  Nothing in life that is worth doing comes without some work and sacrifice.  Because we believe that this conviction is from God, we also believe that He will walk through all of it with us.  We also know the great physical strength we feel in our bodies when we take the time to feed our bodies well.

2. We also believe that God is challenging us in the area of our finances.  I remember one day balancing our checkbook using our online account and being sickened by the amount of money that I could add up in my head of what had be wasted eating food/snacks at restaurants.  It was completely unacceptable.  We weren’t living on credit or beyond our means, but I sat there realizing that if we didn’t get this under control we’d never have the ability to save for anything that we ever needed: a house, a car, a missionary, a crisis.  There just wasn’t anything extra.

3. What we’ll try to do is post a couple of times a week the things that we’ve been eating at home.  This will hold us accountable and this will give all of you household cooks some ideas when you’ve run out.  Let’s try to set up a couple of days: how about on Sunday’s I post my menu for the week and on Thursdays I’ll check in and write a post about how we’ve been following it.

4. There will obviously be exceptions to this at times.  I do not expect to travel home to see our parents and have them not offer to take us out to dinner.  If we travel to a new east coast city I am sure that we’ll seek out recommendations for the best most affordable restaurant to visit that is a representation of that place.  What we will no longer do is just stop at a restaurant on our way home just because we are too tired lazy to make something at home.  What we will no longer do is tell ourselves that to hang out with friends means that we have to go out and spend money at a restaurant.  Why can’t we have fellowship in our own home?  Can’t we prepare a less expensive, and often better tasting, meal in our own home for our friends to come and enjoy?  This is our desire.

So…here goes.  I guess I’ll be back later tonight to post our menu for the week.  :)