Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Summer 2012: Read More

School’s out for the summer and I’m trying hard to plan ahead for plenty of things to do so that I don’t find myself sitting in front of the TV being lazy for weeks at a time.  I’ve got 8-weeks of summer.  I’m not sure how many books I can actually read and my list keeps getting longer, but I’m going to do my best!

Open books: The summer reading list

Photo credit to opensourceway


Faith & Family

For the Teacher in Me

So – I realize that is quite the list, but I’m excited to read as many as I can!  Now it’s your turn: what are you reading this summer?


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.

Tasty Tuesday: NYE Appetizer

We rang in the new year with a group of great friends and with a great friends gathering always comes great food!  We were tasked with bringing a six pack of beer and something “appetizer” ish.  At some point during my week off I saw a segment of some Rachael Ray show all about appetizers and this great recipe for spinach artichoke dip was one of the things she made.  I was intrigued by this dip because my husband LOVES anything with artichokes but this had a bit of a twist.  First, there wasn’t the usual high fat cream cheese as a base.  The simple butter/flour roux was enough to make it creamy with chicken stock and milk.  For an additional twist, Gorgonzola cheese made this a fresh new flavor of spinach-artichoke dip. For my dip I basically followed her recipe.  The only changes I made: I don’t have a microwave so I defrosted on the counter; I cut everything in half and it was plenty to feed our large crowd since we had such a variety of appetizers; I didn’t buy the recommended Stacy’s brand pita chips – use whatever veggies/chips you have on hand!  Enjoy!

Gorgonzola Spinach Artichoke Dip


Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray, 2008


  • 2 (10-ounce) boxes chopped frozen spinach
  • 1 box frozen artichoke hearts
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch ground nutmeg, or to taste
  • 1 cup Gorgonzola crumbles
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded (a little larger than grated, available in tubs) Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Thick sesame bread sticks, for dipping
  • Celery hearts, trimmed for dipping
  • Pita crisps with Parmesan and herbs (recommended: Stacy’s)

Stuff used.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Defrost spinach 10 minutes on defrost setting in microwave then drain well by wringing out in dish towel. Defrost artichokes as well, 6 minutes on defrost in microwave then wring out and finely chop.

Heat a sauce pot with butter over medium to medium-high heat. Add garlic to melted butter and stir 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle in flour and combine 1 minute more. Whisk in stock and milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Thicken 2 minutes then remove from heat and melt in Gorgonzola. Stir in spinach and artichokes and half the shredded cheese then transfer to a small casserole and top with remaining cheese. Brown and bubble in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with bread sticks, celery hearts and pita crisps for dipping.

Project Home Sanctuary

I don’t know if I believe in resolutions or not.  I believe in new beginnings, fresh starts, an opportunity to try something new.  I know, for me, resolutions are made to be broken – like a bad habit.  Project Home Sanctuary is about creating a healthy new habit: making my home a sanctuary.  For too long I’ve lived with too much clutter, hanging onto things and “save-it-for-laters”‘ that are grieving my freedom to live, love, create.  I’m creating a home sanctuary not for outer image or to learn my new crafty decorating skills (thought that’s a bonus since I do enjoy it) but rather to feel peace, joy and hope in my earthly dwelling place.

“Build for me a sanctuary and I will dwell among you.” (Exodus 25:8-9)

Also, if I build it, He will come.  And what I want more than anything on this Earth is for my physical life and being to be a dwelling place for Him and His full love.

NYE in Pictures

Welcome to a new year and new beginnings.  It’s 2012!

A Birthday Wish: Another dream checked off of my list

This week I celebrated my 27th birthday.  My golden birthday I think is what they call it – 27 on the 27th.  The only thing I asked for this year was NO GIFTS!  I wanted to go and DO something on my birthday.  I’m all for giving a great and thoughtful gift but for me memories are made when I do things and share life together with others.  I think Travis’ original plan was to do something involving the cold, the snow, and my favorite winter sport: skiing.  However, we didn’t travel back to CO this year and therefore have NO SNOW!  :(  Plan B was to help me check off one of the few remaining things on my “To-Do While Living Near NYC” List: Go out to a fancy dinner and to a Broadway show!

We had 7pm tickets to see Sister Act at the Broadway Theater on 53rd and 7th Ave to plan the rest of our evening around.

Getting Dressed Up!

We're ready to go!

It was so fun to get all dressed up and ready to go.  Thanks to all of the boldly colored walls in my apartment, we had a great backdrop for a quick photo before we left.  Of course I couldn’t help but get in on the planning and my anxious self decided we needed to leave early due to the impending rain storm that was coming!


I’d decided early on that I wanted to have a great Italian meal for dinner so to my urbanspoon app I went in search of a place near our theater.  After nearly four years of living here I was honestly completely unaware of the theater district and restaurant row (W 46th St. between 8th & 9th Aves).  I really thought all those bright lights and signs were just that.  I had no idea that those were all actually theaters!  And – there are SO many restaurants tucked into every street!  The original restaurant was a bit too far to walk for a rainy day so we settled on a 5:15pm reservation at Lattanzi.

First stop on our walk: Starbucks of course!  I’m still pretty caffeine free so this is a decaf skim hazelnut latte.  I’m clearly still working on cutting out all of the sugar in my diet.  But – it was my birthday so I indulged!

:Starbuck Stop!

About 4ish we started walking toward 46th St. via 8th Ave through the rain and the wind.  Knowing that we had some time to kill I was eyeing the happy hour signs as we walked and found a great happy hour – half price drinks and some cheap food.  Pigalle had a great atmosphere, friendly bartender, good AND cheap drinks.  If I’m ever looking to meet friends in midtown for a happy hour again I’ll definitely go back!

Happy Hour!

From there we headed to dinner.  We both agree that, yes, the show was great, but the food and restaurant environment was the clear winner of the evening.  The caprese appetizer: AMAZING!


I forgot to take pictures of my food/drink because I was enjoying it so much!  Here’s a link to the menu!  Suffice it to say, we loved the food.  The portions were perfectly sized and it all tasted awesome!

I did remember to take pictures at dessert: the best tiramisu and a cappucino!  Sorry it’s so dark.  It was a nice dimly lit restaurant – and I hate using flash.


After dinner it was off to the theater!

Sister Act at The Broadway Theater

My First Show!

Our View of the Stage

My First Tickets & Playbill!

My Illegal Pic of the Final Number

After the show we spent some time walking around midtown admiring all of the other show lights and sounds of the city since the rain had stopped.  It was an awesome birthday – one I’ll never forget!  Here’s to another awesome year!

The show is over!

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

One of the few things left on my “to do” list while living in the northeast was to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year seemed to be the year to go: the weather this November has been unseasonably warm, we weren’t leaving town,and our turkey eating plans weren’t until later in the afternoon. Here’s how the day went:

4:00am: Wake up, get ready and head to the train station.
The best choices we made at this early hour: making egg sandwiches at the house before leaving, buying round trip tickets from New Brunswick to NYC and back.

6:45am: Head to the C/E train uptown toward 72nd and Central Park West. I had researched and read the night before that the express train runs on the local stops so when the express train came first, we hopped on and lucked out – 72nd/CPW was the third stop! The coolest thing happened on the subway and I’m bummed I didn’t get a picture of it! Our subway cars we’re FULL of parade goers but one station was PACKED with all of the brightly colored dancers that were heading to the start of the parade. There were so many of them, we had no idea how they would ever fit on a subway train full of people. Somehow they made it to the parade. See!

7:30ish:  Arrive at the corner of 71st and Central Park West.  Decide that there is a fairly open spot to stand on the corner and rather than continue to push further up Central Park West, we stay here hoping our view of the parade stays this clear!  We spend the next hour and a half chatting and eavesdropping on the conversations around us.  By the time the parade started we’d formed a little group with the people around us and we were all so excited for the parade!

9:00: The parade started!  Because we were so close to the beginning of the parade route it didn’t take long for the balloons and floats to make their way to us.  For the next two hours I was like a kid in a candy store!  It’s amazing to be in a crowd of people all so excited and the balloons are magnificent in person!  We had so much fun snapping pictures, oohing and aahing and watching the eyes of all of the kids lined up in front of us light up as they saw all of their superheroes go by!  Spiderman was definitely the big hit on my little corner.

11:00 or so: Santa Claus!  Now I’m not a believer in or a big fan of Santa Claus, but I will admit, this float was magnificent and it really was an amazing end to the parade!  All of the kids get SO excited at this point and everyone talks about how it “ushers in the holidays”.  Santa was pretty spirited too – he did a great job showing his jovial character and having a great time interacting with the spectators.  It was a fantastic finish!

11:15am: We were among the first to see the end of the parade and as soon as it ended, we booked it up to Amsterdam and 72nd to hop on the 1 train back to Penn Station.  It was great to be among the first crowd to head back and feel like we were moving away from the crowds still watching the parade.  It was a great walk up to the subway station.  I’d been in NYC on Christmas Day but it is something else to see all of the hustle and bustle on Thanksgiving Day!

Noon: Back on the NJT towards New Brunswick and a fantastic afternoon and evening with friends giving thanks and sharing a wonderful meal!

In all, the parade is one of the best things I’ve done since moving out here.  It is just a parade with floats and balloons and all but it is magical to see it in person and it’s great to see it through all of the kids that are there.  I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to go.  It was another one of those things that I was able to cross off of my life list.  I grew up watching and admiring the parade on TV and it really was a dream come true to see it in person.

August Adventure Day 7: Monticello, MN to Ames, IA

We set off pretty early, as is our customary fashion. First on the ToDo list: Caribou Coffee for the road. A large chai with soy milk for me and a medium non-fat caramel High-Rise for her. We finished these whilst perusing the Rogers, MN Cabela’s for female athletic apparel and some medium-rise scope rings with which to mount the Aimpoint 3000, that I swiped from my Dads closet before we left Duluth, to my renovated 10/22. Also some batteries and other odds and ends I decided I “needed” upon careful perusal of every aisle…twice.

As far as drives go, this one went relatively painlessly. A bit longer than the drive from Sandstone to Monticello, but about 5 or 6 hours all told. The GPS was a little limited in negotiating the apartment complex it took us too when trying to find Maggie and Spencer’s place (and Ben’s!) but we managed.

They were still out by the time we parked the car, so we walked over to a little coffee shop and hung out (you could find some pictures of this in the sidebar on the right there —>) for a little bit. This was the first time I had ever met Ben and it was quite a treat. He’s quite an agreeable little tyke. It’s nice to see that some parents can actually both work and still be fully into their kids.

My favorite part? No juice. He eats fruit like a champ, and loves it naturally, but all that goes into the sippy cup is water. He’s a future 03 after my own heart, all he needs is some sunflower seeds.

That night we slept quite well on an inflatable queen mattress.

Barrett On Tour – Day One

As with all things transitory, we had more stuff in mind than we anticipated, but then, that’s why we chose to drive. Fortunately, it all fits in the brand new RAV4. We’ve started the Bossypants iTunes file (funny!), cranked out some laptop work from the road, and discovered the electric kettle won’t be a viable option. Maybe I can barter for Jetboil…?

About to step off from a rest stop on the NY thruway to Niagara Falls eating Cup O Noodles. I used the kettle at an outlet by the bathroom, superiorily scoffing at all the dirty lookers in line for McD’s.

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!