Thursday, December 18, 2008

A "Special" Holiday Party

Every year the special ed department puts on a lavish holiday party. Festivities include the induction of the "newbies," a delicious meal, the reward ceremony for the decorated item for the year (this year it was snow people), the famous white elephant game, and Sherry's coveted sugar cookies. I truly believe I work in the best department at GHS. We just have such a fun time. For me personally, I look forward to this party every year because I just laugh the entire time (we have some people in our department who could probably be stand-up comedians). Some of the highlights this year included the 365 sex position book, a lava lamp, a Shrek Chia Pet head, and Torken (a project that a student made and a teacher brought as their "gift"). In past years, I was not aware of how unrestricted the gifts were allowed to be. We have had some classics, the Dr. Moix hand painted picture was fan favorite as were the body butters from last year (oddly enough those did not make a return appearance like the Dr. Moix picture...). After 2 years of bringing nice, unoffensive gifts I threw caution to the wind and brought an incredibly tacky gift this year...a faux fur coat and a picture of a No Child Left Behind Memorial from Washington D.C. (It's a teacher joke). Here is Todd in the jacket...cute huh (it's too bad the picture came out blurry)

I was absolutely shocked that this thing got traded 3 times! Matt's Granny Barbara got it for me and while it was a very sweet idea it's just not my taste in outerwear. After sitting in my closet for a year I thought maybe it would be a perfect white elephant gift. Turns out there were some other people who actually liked the thing! At least I know it will get use now :) (Just for the record Todd did not end up getting it)
This hat was another gift to make the rounds. It started with Morag and ended up with Char! I think it's a nice look for Char!

This is Ken checking out the 365 sex positions. I will say there were some interesting ones! I love his "old man" reading stance (He was just joking, but I am glad to have caught the moment!)

Here are some of the newbies (accompanied by some others) singing the Arizona version of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" My favorite lyric is when they switch "we'll conspire" for "we'll perspire." I should get the lyrics and post them because it's a pretty funny song.

Since I didn't have a blog last year I obviously did not put up any pictures from last year's party so I figure now is as good of time as any to post them...

This is Becky (my department head) and Amos (the guys who brought his student's project as a gift). I think we have a little thing with hats! There seems to be a reoccurring theme.

Well, holiday party 2008 went off with a bang. 365 days until next years and fortunately for us we will have a new sex position to try each day to entertain us until the next one ;)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some Much Needed Venting...

Just a fair warning to my 3 blog readers: This post is a bunch of mumbo jumbo about teaching certification stuff that may not interest you in anyway, but it's my blog so I am going to write about it anyway. There will, however, be a nice little picture of our Christmas decorations at the bottom though so just fast forward through the complaining section of this post.

Ok so this little debacle of events goes all the way back to November 8th. I e-mailed my college supervisor, we'll call her "Mary," and asked her to set up our final observation (the one where I had to use technology). I waited about a week and a half and there was no response. I e-mailed her again, no response (and this one was on another e-mail address). I e-mailed her a third time another week or so later only to receive NO RESPONSE!! My intern certificate expires on 12/18 so naturally I was pretty stressed because here I am quickly running out of time (At this point it is now the end of November). I decided to pull out the big guns and go to the lady in charge of this whole "intern teacher thing" aka "Mary's" superior. I politely asked her to have "Mary" e-mail me while informing her that I had tried to contact "Mary" three times before. Another 5-7 days pass before I finally get an e-mail from "Mary." At no point in her e-mail does she address the fact that I had tried to contact her 427 times. She sets up her observation for a Monday morning (convenient huh?). I am sitting in my classroom. I'm all ready to little power point review game all set up, lesson plan written and neatly placed on the center of my spotless desk with "Mary's" name on it. The phone rings. It is Stacy (the receptionist at the front desk) telling me that "Mary" has called. She is fine, but she has been in a car accident and will not be able to attend. I was torn between utter frustration and a tiny bit of sympathy. I could only guess how long it would be before she decided to grace me with another e-mail. Meanwhile, time was ticking away. I got an e-mail from her that Wednesday to set up the observation for the next day. Thursday comes. She arrives on time and I do my lesson as planned (we played a math related version of "Holiday Squares"). We have our little debriefing where she says the same useless crap she always says. She tells me that I need to get a final evaluation from my administrator, however, in typical "Mary" fashion she forgets to bring the form. Though I should point out that she never comes out an says this. Instead she acts as if this was how it was supposed to happen. Anyway, lucky for her useless self I had previously made some copies and had some on hand. Is it just me or should I be getting some of her salary since I have been doing her job for a month? I get the form back from my administrator today and race it up to the outgoing mail as fast as I could. Then, I spent my entire lunch today and a little after school calling anyone who would tell me exactly what I needed to send to Az. Department of Ed. (a whole other can of worms in itself) since my trusty college supervisor offered me no information. Come to find out I am going to have to drive all the way out to Tempe now after working a full day tomorrow to pick up my "institutional recommend" (fancy lingo for a letter saying I took all of my classes) simply because "Mary" has put me in such a time crunch and there is not enough time to mail it. I am so frustrated!!! I have dotted every "i" crossed every "t" and I am still running around like a chicken with my head cut off at the final hour...and none of this is my fault!!! If I didn't love my job, I would definitely be rethinking my career path right about now.

So that is enough of my complaining. I am going to focus on something a little more positive now such as Christmas. This is hands down my favorite holiday! I am totally ready, we have done almost all of our Christmas shopping (and we did it online so we avoided being trampled by hedonistic holiday shoppers!) Our lights and tree are up (they actually have been for a couple weeks now, but I am just getting around to mentioning it now) and the weather is getting just about right :) Bring it on Santa! I am really excited because my winter break starts the 20th this year. I get 5 whole days before Christmas to cook, bake, wrap presents, do last minute errands, you name it! Despite my previous ranting, I seriously love my job (and not just because I get time off)! Here is the casa all dressed up for the holidays.

She cleans up well (I think anyway). Well, I should probably go watch the Suns' game with my husband. From the sound of his yelling in the other room I would imagine they are off to a pretty good start! (It's about time!!!) Go Suns :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Socialite City!

Matt and I have had quite a busy weekend. The festivities started on Friday shortly after we got home from work. Some friends from work were having a "happy hour" and Matt and I were invited so we stopped in for a little while. The boys pretty much just went out on the patio and watched the Suns' game (which we won by 1 point :) and the girls stayed in the kitchen and talked about typical "girly" things. With that said, we had a really fun time with this group. Unfortunately I completely forgot to get any pictures :(
After this little "pit stop" we were off to the next event...The Tempe Improv to see Alonzo Boden with my parents. SO MUCH FUN!! I laughed until I cried. I was only able to get one picture from the night because a certain group of people would not cooperate with my over-enthusiasm to take pictures (I guess they do not have the blogger mentality in life that makes you think everything is a blogging opportunity and thus requires a picture). So here I am with my good friend Alonzo (totally kidding...were not actually friends, but he was the only one willing to take a picture).
Anyway, we had such a good time. I highly recommend this comedian. We have seen him 3 times now and each time he has a had a different act and each time has been equally funny as the one before it. He is not crude at all. His act consists of jokes that make you say, "that is so true!" (Always my favorite kind of humor). We didn't get home until after midnight which for anyone who knows us knows that this is WAY past our (my) bed time!
The next night we were out on the town again. My friend Char and her husband Mr. Fujino (my old math teacher and now colleague) had a party at their house. Again, I am a loser and forgot to get a single picture :( It was a another fun evening! They made a very nice dinner, Matt was able to catch up with his old basketball coach (Loutz), and I got to play with Jack (Char and Mr. Fujino's son) who is absolutely adorable! The evening consisted mostly of chatting, eating, and a heated game of Uno (It was not actually heated. I am going for the dramatic effect).
Overall we had a fun, eventful weekend, but I am not going to lie it is now 5:30 p.m. on Sunday and I have yet to muster up the energy to shower (Don't judge me). We must be getting old...Until next weekend when we have another 2 parties planned...Man, being popular is hard work :)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Turkey Day! (Crooke side)

After going to the Smith side festivities we headed over to my side of the family for dinner number 2. It was nice and small this year (the group not the meal. My mom never ceases to cook way more than we can eat). It was just immediate family, but that has never stopped us from being the loud group that we are. My sisters and I got into a very distracted game of Yahtzee. We never actually finished. And we did the whole name drawing thing. I think it's funny because every year my mom says, "No one tell who you picked." Within 10 minutes everyone knows who picked them. Matt and I got easy picks this year, my two sisters who are incredibly easy to shop for. I say this because there is a certain member of my family (I will not say any names) who is near impossible to buy presents for. You know the episode of Friends where they pick on Rachel for returning every gift...yeah, that's this person. And, my mom and Scott picked Matt and I which is good because that means my brother didn't. It has been a running joke that no one wants my brother to pick them because we can expect to get a hug for Christmas... We had a nice time visiting. In keeping with tradition Matt, Scott and Johnny go into the other room and watch football and the girls hang out in the kitchen (though none of us actually do the cooking. We let Scott take care of that). Here are some pictures from the day.

The family picture that I worked very hard to get (no one wanted to take it)

Austin was doing a little dance on the bar to entertain his "audience."

My sisters

Brother and Sister

Courtney and Austin

Austin getting into trouble

Scott working on the turkey

Surprise! I got a tattoo. What do you think?

Happy Turkey Day! (Smith side)

Our second annual Thanksgiving has come and gone. I think I am finally getting the whole multiple houses thing down. We started the morning at the Smith side. There were quite a few people there so that was fun. As usual, they made the traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year. I'm weird and not a fan of Thanksgiving food so I brought some non-traditional meals to add to the mix (and so I would have something to eat...being a picky eater is a chore. Let me tell you). I will post my recipes separately.

This is almost everyone at the dinner table. Matt's parents set up a nice little table on the patio. It was such a pretty day out that it was nice to eat outside.

I caught Mike giving Katie a little sample of Turkey. She approved.

Then, I caught Granny Barbara feeding Katie from the table. Granny has made it her personal mission to make Katie like her. She thought a little human food would do the job, but Katie being the snob that she is simply took the food and ran away. I've tried explaining to Granny that it is not personal. Katie has a very select list of people she will let pet her and she just doesn't know her well enough yet. I swear, dogs these days :)

Granny finally wore her down.

This is Matt's cousin's son (they are second cousin's I think?). Is he not the cutest thing you have ever seen?

We hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!

Katie's First Trip to PetSmart!

We had been making several trips to PetSmart for Jack's leg (they have an animal hospital inside PetSmart's...who knew?). One day we decided to bring Katie. I remember watching the Dog Whisperer one time (love that show!!) and he said it was a good idea to bring pets to the vet when they don't have to get anything done...especially when they are fearful and neurotic like Katie. So we brought her with us. I was blown away at how good she was! That place is like Disneyland for dogs.

I think the birds were her favorite. She was so intrigued with these disgusting little creatures...Maybe she wanted to eat them. Who knows?

I had to have my fun too. I was teasing her with the toys. She jumped up and tried to grab it though so I decided maybe it wasn't such a good idea.

Finally, they called us when Jack was ready so we had to end our little excursion, but I think Katie had a really good time! (We are going to make excellent parents, Katie bites Jack, and we take her to the pet store while he has to get staples in his leg...). As far as Jack goes, his leg is completely healed, we are allowed to take his cone off (he practically did a back flip), and we may have found him another home (relief!).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rob and Big (Part 2)

Ben came over to hang out this weekend. Matt and Ben are such the odd couple (just like Rob and Bid), but they are the best of friends. Ben is your quintessential bachelor-artist-video game designer. Meanwhile, Matt is every bit the "regular Joe," and somehow it just works. We went out to dinner to grab some pizza and then we came back and the guys did this...
They pulled the love seat right in front of the TV to play X-Box. (They were laughing because I was taking a picture). I think Katie wants to be part of their group really bad! She gets very jealous.

Here they are with their "video game playing faces."

I just thought this was a funny picture because you can see things from their perspective...such dorks ;)

Anyway I went in the other room and watched a movie while they played their bloody video games. I am glad they got to have their "guy" time.

Sunday we got up and went to church. It was Matt's Granny Barbara's 78th birthday so we went out to lunch at a place called the 4th Floor Grill in Scottsdale for lunch. It was really good! I hope she had a nice birthday.

Brenda (one of Matt's cousins) took some family pictures for us. She is an excellent photographer! I plan to post the pictures once we get them from her. Thanks a ton Brenda!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good News and Kind of Bad News

Bad news first. I made a bet with Matt a few years back. When gas prices started increasing about 3 years ago and we crossed the whopping $2 mark I said to Matt, "I bet we never see gas below $2 for the rest of our lives." This past summer I thought that I had won for sure! (For those of you who have forgotten we reached over $4 a gallon). Don't get me wrong; I was not happy that I was winning because it was costing a fortune, but a win is a win. I should probably mention one stupid thing on my end though before I keep gloating about my now shot confidence. I realized after making this bet that I would never actually be able to win. You see, I made the timeline until the end of our lives. What good is a bet if you win when you die? I know. Stupid. Well, either way, I officially lost yesterday...

It's too bad that neither one of us remember the conditions...This was on the corner of Lindsay and Baseline. It's a beautiful sight isn't it. Anyway, that is why it's only kind of bad news.

Now onto the good news...I am done with my Rio Salado certification program! WAHOO!!! :) I took my last final last weekend and it feels amazing! I am so ready to have my life back. All the countless, mind-numbing hours in front of the computer doing useless homework assignments are over. I will now have time to work on some projects that I have been putting off: learning how to tile and putting up a back splash in the kitchen, putting up wainscoting and painting in our bathroom, helping Char set up a blog, reuniting with friends that I have neglected the past 2 years (Saturday morning phone conversations are back on Meghan!), you name it. Watch out world Nikki is back :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

What an Insane Week

Let's start with last Saturday. I was in our room talking to my mom and I hear a cat shriek (you know they kind they make if you were to step on their tail). Turns out Katie and Jack got into a little fight. Except when I say little I mean an all out brawl. Katie did this to Jack (I apologize in advance for the graphic nature. Rest assure, that after a $400 vet bill later he will recover...I will not be showing the pictures post surgery because they are about 100 times worse than this one.)

And now he gets to wear one of these nifty devices...He loves it cant you tell?
Just for the record. I blame my last post. Here I am showing how much they "love" each other and then BAM! I realize that a lot of people do not read my blog, but seriously, if you know anyone who wants a cat and will give him a good home please let me know. We cannot keep him for much longer.

Moving on...(that same night) Our friend Ben was having a housewarming party and he invited us so we decided to go. We had a really good time! Ben's house is really nice and he has some very interesting roommates (in a good way). We ended up bringing my sister and Kenney (an old friend from high school) along with us. Kenny and I have stayed in touch, but we probably haven't actually hung out since high school. It was so nice to reminisce on our million memories. Kenney and I have known each other since 8th grade (when I moved to AZ). I will never forget how much he used to drive me NUTS! (I'm talking blowing his nasty Corn Nut breath on me and asking if it smelled)...Well not much has changed. He is still annoying, but I guess you could say he is that lovable annoying friend who you want to have around. Freshman year we used to walk to school together every day and he would pick on me incessantly. Some people actually thought we were brother and sister because we would fight so much yet we were always together. As much as he made me insane, I have really missed hanging out with him.
Ben and Courtney, as always, it was a pleasure. I am really looking forward to our Lakeside trip(whenever it happens)!

Kenney, Courtney, Benyamin, Me, Matt this picture. I have been dealing with this crap since high school! I used to try and fight it but I have just given up. As I was walking into the room to get Matt one of the girls said to me, "there is some serious man on man action going on in here. I said, "I of them is my husband!" I'm telling you what a proud moment...I guess I just don't get it :) Oh, by the way neither of them were sleeping.

Then Sunday, we had a torrential downpour then ended up with this.

Yeah, those are hail balls! I asked my students on Monday if it rained in Gilbert and they said that it didn't really even rain yet we had a hurricane followed by an avalanche of hail. Arizona is so weird! Please excuse our dying grass. I just don't have it in me this year to deal with re-seeding.

Fast forward to Tuesday... Matt's parents came out to Queen Creek to go to lunch with us. We went to Cravings (the Mexican food version of Gecko Grill). It was really yummy, but I think we all would agree that we ate too much! After lunch we went out to a development called Encanterra that is right down the street from us. Matt and I love to go look at model homes and this community has a ton of them so we took Mike and Donna so we could go walk off our lunch. We had a nice time with them. Thanks guys for lunch!

Fast forward again to Friday...Chet ("Mr. C") the paraprofessional in my classroom 1st hour was retiring and it was his last day. My kids wanted to throw him a party (which is code for they didn't want to take the regularly scheduled quiz). Since they are such an awesome class I let them have their party. Chet has always had this ongoing "joke" with me about how I should bring in peanut butter balls. So, for his last day I had to do it. I spent 4 hours Thursday night making over 100 peanut butter balls (I had to make them for my other colleagues as well or they would get mad at me). A little side story, one of the teachers called them little drops of Heaven. Anyone who watches Friends would understand how I had a total Monica moment when he said that. Anyway, back to the story at hand. Chet had a had a very nice last day. A lot of people brought him in goodies and presents which he loved. I had a lot of fun working with Chet even if I only got about 50% of his jokes. (He thinks that I don't get them because "I'm too young." I don't have the heart to tell him that sometimes they are just not that funny...I can say that on here because I know he will never read this). Either way, he was a very nice man and I am glad I was able to work with him.
Now...since I have made a habit of posting my most favorite recipes. I guess I have to post the recipe for peanut butter balls. First, I have to be honest about 2 things: 1: This recipe is my mother-in-laws (not mine). Matt loves them so one year I made them for Valentine's Day and I have just been making them ever since. 2: I don't really like them. In my opinion they are too sweet, but I think this is just me because whenever I (or Donna for that matter) make them people go crazy.

And the recipe is:

Mix together:
1C Creamy peanut butter
1/2 C (1 stick) butter (melted)
1 tsp vanilla
1 box powdered sugar (I never measure mine. I go by texture and taste. You want them to be firm enough to stay in the ball shape, but taste it as you to make sure they aren't too sweet).

Roll dough into balls.--you can put them in the fridge to make them easier to handle when dipping, but its not necessary.

Dip into microwaveable chocolate with a toothpick (I have used CandiQuick, Kroger and Almond Bark and they have all worked fine) . When you microwave the chocolate be sure to mix it REALLY well or it will get clumpy.

Let the excess chocolate drip off then drop them off the toothpick onto tin foil or wax paper. Use a butter knife dipped in the chocolate to fill the toothpick hole and create the swirly on top.

And there it is.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween...Now Cool Down Already!

We had a nice Halloween this year. We pretty much just handed out candy, but its fun to see the kids in all their costumes. Some people are really creative! I think my favorite costume was a girl dressed up as the Morton girl from the salt container. Something I noticed this year though was parents trick-or-treating? I am sorry, but no! This holiday is a kids holiday. If you want candy, go buy some. Well aside from that Halloween was good. Hopefully it will start cooling down here pretty soon now that the holidays are around the corner. Since we don't have kids, here is Katie "dressed" for Halloween.
Isn't she cute? (Don't worry Matt has shorts on, you just cant see them:)

Aww, they love each other!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Welcome Back Suns!!!

Matt can finally breathe easy the Suns are back and with a vengeance I might add. They came out looking really good! We were a little unsure how they were going to look with our new (and improved) bench, a new coach, and Amare's new goggles and all. Turns out we didn't need to worry because the Suns rule! We won our first game by 5 the Spur's of all teams (anyone who follows Suns basketball knows that this team has caused some problems for us in the past). The Spurs even used their classic play, the hack-a-Shaq, a bazillion times and we still beat them! Take that Popovich you slimy little man :)

Matt truly believes that every little thing we do effects the playing ability of the Suns. For instance, if I say, "Wow, Nash has made his last 5 shots" Matt will get really mad at me because apparently I have "jinxed it." One new thing we have added this year is this:
Matt seems to think this is the thing we have been missing all these years. So, look out everyone thanks to Katie and her Suns jersey we are going to get a title this year. Go Suns! We look forward to another exciting season!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some more Recipes

This thing has kind of turned into a little cook book. What can I say? Cooking is becoming a little bit of a hobby. I have some more recipes that I would like to add. One is a pretty healthy recipe and one is not at all. Let me start with the shredded chicken since it is in both recipes that I will be sharing with all my 1 reader :)

Shredded Chicken: I simply put chicken breasts in the crock pot, fill it about halfway up (the height of chicken, if that makes sense). Sprinkle cumin, salsa and chili peppers. Sometimes I will put in green chiles if I have them. This recipe is very flexible. Just put in whatever spices you like. Turn heat on high and let cook for about 5 hours. Shred with 2 forks.

Ok so I will start with the recipe I got from a friend at work. I made it for Meghan's shower and it was a hit! Unfortunately I do not have a picture, but I will add one when I make it next.

Pollo Con Queso

1 pound Velveta cheese
1 jar (medium) salsa-LaVictoria with cilantro (Sherry suggests anything without vinegar)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Cream Of Mushroom Soup
1 can diced green chilies
1 can sliced olives (optional)
2 shredded chicken breasts (see above recipe)

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan or crock pot and heat and stir until cheese is melted and everything is combined. Serve with chips. Leave in the crock pot on warm setting to keep warm. Stir often to avoid the "Velveeta skin."

Chicken Chilaquiles: This one is from the Cooking Light magazine. I made it Sunday and it was really good. Even Matt liked it and he is generally not a fan of "light" food.

2 C Shredded chicken breast (see above recipe)
1/2 C chopped green onions
1/2 C pepper jack cheese
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 t chili powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
3/4 C 1% milk
1/4 C fresh cilantro
1 (11 oz ) can tomatillos, drained
1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chiles, drained
12 (6 in) corn tortillas

Yield: it says 4 servings, but we got a little more
Preheat oven 375 degrees
Combine chicken, green onions, 1/4 C pepper jack and Parmesan cheese, chili powder, salt and pepper. (You can add some chili peppers if you like it really spicy).
Mix milk and next three ingredients (through chiles) in a food processor or blender; process until smooth
Pour 1/3 C tomatillo mixture into bottom of 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Arrange 4 tortillas in dish and top with chicken mixture. Repeat. Finish with a layer of tortillas on top.
Pour remaining tomatillo mixture over tortillas (I did not use it all); sprinkle with remaining 1/4 C pepper jack cheese. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
Nutrition Information:
Calories: 347
Fat: 10.9g
Protein: 30.9g
Carb: 33.3g
Fiber: 5.9g
...not too bad for how good it tastes. The fat and carbs are a little high, but the calories are low and the protein is high which are the 2 main things I look for.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Megside's Wedding

Ok. So I got the pictures from Meghan and James' wedding. She is not too keen on this whole blog thing so I wont post too many pictures (She is convinced creepy predators are going to see pictures of her). I will say that it was a beautiful wedding with a beautiful bride.

Here is a picture of the engagement. Matt and I drove up to Vegas where James took Meghan for Valentine's Day, her birthday and their anniversary (all are within a couple days of each other). While they were out at a Cirque de Soleil show Matt and I went up to their room and did this. When they got back he popped the question. I must say we did a pretty good job. I was glad to be a part of it.

And here is the wedding...

Here is how many kids Meghan wants...just kidding. These are their nieces and nephew on James' side. I thought it was a cute picture.

Here's me giving my speech. I was so stinkin' nervous!

For journaling purposes. My speech was:
I met Meghan in Dance class. I was the annoying freshman who was in the row next to her doing crunches. She thought she was so cool because she was a sophomore, but as you can see I wore her down. For those of you who know Meghan I am sure you can see why we became such good friends. She is a free spirit who is loyal to those she loves. I truly couldn't ask for a better friend. In the time that I have known Meghan I can honestly say that I have never seen her as happy as she is when she is with James. James you are a great person and there is no one who is better suited for my best friend. It was in helping James plan their engagement that I got to really see how much James loves and adores Meghan. I am so happy for the two of you and I am sure that I speak for everyone when I say that we love you guys and congratulations.
We had a fun night. Congratulations Meghan and James. I wish you endless happiness in your marriage together.