What’s Up?! [March]

Hi, friends! It’s the second day back to school post-Spring Break and everyone is feelin’ it. What’s up with you this Wednesday?

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What I’m eating this week:

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I’m soooo excited to be eating these Red Pepper Hummus wraps this week! 12g protein, 9g carbs?! I’m always one to check the label for protein (because hello, it fills me up!) and as a former calorie counter, carbs scared the hell out of me for many years. So yes, I am looking forward to my wraps for lunch every day this week. With leftover Honeybaked Ham from Easter. 🙂

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I’m trying to become a tea drinker. Coffee is better. And that trail mix is to DIE for (and also already all gone).

 

What I’m reminiscing about:

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Watching Jake play volleyball! I got to see one scrimmage and one tournament while I was home and it was so much fun. He loves to play and we love to watch! That’s the face of a boy who finally won a game. 😉 He usually plays up front (technically “middle”???) but he served at the tournament and that was awesome, too!

What I’m loving:

 

Doing Easter-y things with my family…

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Climbing cherry blossom trees…

And obsessing about every tree with flowers, cherry blossoms or not.

What I’m dreading:

This semester won’t last forever. I think I can, I think I can.

What I’m working on:

I need to get organized. This is no longer an item on my to do list…it’s a need. Which is why you’ll find me at work on a Monday when I could have worked from home, yet you’ll find makeup all over my bedroom and dishes in the sink in my kitchen. I am still making my bed every day, and I’m caught up on laundry this week, so it’s the little things…

What I’m excited about:

At the beginning of August I will officially be done with ALL of my classes. I will no longer be a student and I am SO, SO EXCITED! I am the very first person to tell you that I love school, but I’m ready to be doooooone (for now;)!

What I’m watching/reading:

I got so many new books at Half Price Books while I was home! And I also got a book in my Easter basket, which is the one I’ve started reading. “For The Love” by Jen Hatmaker. I am sooo excited about it!

And as for what I’m watching…

Fixer Upper #canibejoannagaines
Dancing With The Stars #teamantonio #gosteelers
Grey’s Anatomy #meredithsnewboyfriendishot
Scandal #jakeiscreepy

What I’m listening to:

Bang My Head – David Guetta feat. Sia & Fetty Wap –> MY JAM
No – Meghan Trainor
Drink You Away – Justin Timberlake
Don’t Let Me Down – The Chainsmokers
Ophelia – The Lumineers

What I’m wearing:
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Skinny jeans and running shoes. JK. 😉 I was going for a 30 minute walk with my dogs and didn’t feel like changing. #fashiondont

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More slouchy pants! Don’t mind my face. This was after work and I was being ridiculous ha! This style made it into my February WUW post, but as I mentioned, those pants were on their last leg, so I picked up this pair at Steinmart this weekend. I like a loud pattern, what can I say? I’m known for wearing loud leggings at running group, so I might as well wear loud pants to work, too. 🙂

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And as long as we’re talking about loud patterns…high-waisted snakeskin dress pants on clearance, you da real MVP.

 

What I’m doing this weekend:

The Cherry Blossom 10-miler is this weekend and I’m spectating! My friends and I entered the lottery as a group, but we weren’t chosen. There’s a huge bib swap, but people were selling their bibs for literally two and three times the original entry price. No way!

What I’m looking forward to next month:

Currently, I’m not all that jazzed about April except for the fact that it will be warm and sunny all month…thank the dear Lord for that whole “spring forward” thing with the clocks. I’ll go on my first field trip as a teacher, attend a baby shower, and start working with kids who are coming to the summer reading program at UMD.

What else is new:

Bonus: What is your favorite Spring Cleaning tip?

This is what you will find me doing this weekend –> Pick up garbage bag. Fill garbage bag. Repeat. But really, try it! I plan on going through everything…my desk, my closet, the bench at the end of the bed…seriously, if I haven’t looked at an “important” piece of paper in 6 months or worn something recently, it’s going in the garbage bag and getting donated or tossed. Have no mercy, friends! It’s time to freshen up our lives!

5 Things I’m Loving Lately

Alright Spring Break, I see you coming to an end. Slow down just a little, please! We have a solid three months of school left (June 23rd oy vey), so I’m enjoying this down time a little too much. 🙂 Linking up with Andrea, Erika, and Narci this Friday to talk favorites!

-Warm Weather-

No night class, a 65 degree day in March, and running distance from the National Mall means one thing and one thing only. You must go for a run. 😉 I will never ever tire of running to the Lincoln and sitting on his steps. It’s my second favorite monument (Jefferson is first).

– My Friends –

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On the topic of running…aren’t race expos the best? Everyone in the room loves running and there are so many goodies to collect! We had the best time in all of the photo booths, and this picture is one of my favorites. The Rock N Roll DC Expo seemed to understand just how picture obsessed our generation is. 😉 I am so glad I’ve connected with running friends in DC. If your local Lululemon has a running group and you’re a runner, you should GO!

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I went to see The Sound of Music last night with my mom, her friend, and one of my best friends in Pittsburgh and it was an AMAZING performance! We ate at Peter Allen’s, an Italian restaurant near the venue, and then headed over to the Benedum Center for the show. There were people of all ages there and I found myself singing along during the show! The Von Trapp children were SO cute.

– Jake’s 17th Birthday and Promposal –

It’s been an exciting week in the life of Jake. First…

I filled Jake’s car with 120 balloons while he was sleeping the night before his birthday. On Monday night it suddenly occurred to me that I just needed to decorate his bedroom door, so I stopped for supplies on my way home from the gym. I came home to decorations galore courtesy of my mom so I had to redirect my thoughts…and that went to filling up his car. 🙂 It was SO fun and he was SO surprised! His cookie cake was also my favorite AND I put the 10 candles we could find in the shape of a ‘1’ and ‘7’ on the cake, so I was quite proud of myself. #thelittlethings

Then, it was time for the cutest promposal ever. (Sidenote: I was asked two years in a row via text message. So special. Hahaha)

Jake HAD to ask his girlfriend to prom in a cute way because apparently that’s how it works these days. Ha! If you can see it, she wrote “yes” next to the question mark! He brought her home after school on Thursday, they walked down the little heart path, he gave her roses, it was adorable and they were both so happy!

– Life As A Teacher –

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The week before Spring Break was Science Week at school. I had to exert serious self-control as I let my students design their tri-fold boards. I was trying to micromanage every pair’s poster and it was not working. #duh Once I forced them to design their title and had them research/write facts, I decided they could just have the boards and create whatever they wanted to their heart’s content. Then everyone was much happier. 😉 It was my favorite to see how excited they were to present their posters to the sixth graders. There were some really awesome posters and presentations!

– My Little Sidekick –

Meet Amigo, the velcro dog. He has not left my side since I arrived home on Monday. Gotta love him. 😉 I was on the floor with free weights, modifying the exercise because I don’t have a bench, and he laid down and put his head on my stomach. Velcro!!! As you can see, I had to watch my step as I worked out because I never knew when I might trip over him. Hahaha

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And a little humor for your Easter weekend. 😉 Reese’s eggs really are my favorite, although I don’t know that I’ve ever had a white chocolate one. I might have to remedy that problem ASAP.

Happy weekending to you! And happy Easter!

Friday FiveFriday Favorites

Awkward and Awesome [2/5/16]

You’ve been warned: the part of my brain that thinks about being a teacher was behind most of this post. 😉 If you haven’t read any of Morgan’s posts yet, you must go to her blog! Her Awkward and Awesome posts are hilarious and she is the one who gave me the idea, after all. Happy Friday!

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-Being assigned a project in night class on Monday night…being told to work independently or work with a group…and being that weird girl who goes and lays on the pillows in the corner of the library to work alone. #sorrynotsorry #idomyownwork

-My bed broke while I was laying in it. That was fun. It was me and my mom and my two dogs, but still! That thing should hold some weight haha! I was in Pittsburgh last week because we had 23432980 snow days here in DC, so at least it’s not the bed I sleep in every night but…books had to hold me up. The wood rail was starting to split because it was missing a screw. Apparently, the furniture people put it together with 7 of its 8 screws five years ago when we moved and I got new furniture…and we found out that fun fact when I COLLAPSED last weekend. #slightlydramatic #butreally Props to my uncle and his toolbox for coming to fix it on Sunday morning! My mom, my brother, and I all had NO luck trying to be handy. Hence the books. 😉

-When the brother who doesn’t mind taking pictures with you suddenly gets too cool at his volleyball tournament. BRO, I BOUGHT YOU A BREAKFAST BURRITO. YOU OWE ME A SMILE! I look terrible anyway, so it wasn’t a total loss. 😉IMG_4823

-Getting to work on Tuesday and crying 20 minutes after I arrived to my mentor because I have so little time, so much to do. Anyone remember the Mary Kate and Ashley show with that theme song?!

-A student asked if I was a Democrat or a Republican. I told him I vote for the person who makes the best choices, because I’m obviously not going to put my political views on the table for a 7 year old. He told me he’s a Democrat, his parents are Republicans, and I’m not allowed to vote for Donald Trump because he will kick people out of our country. #outofthemouthsofbabes

-That moment when you feel like your mother. My mom really likes containers. She’s a teacher and she has approximately 27 cups for pens, pencils, and markers on her desk. We also have lots of containers in our house for all the random objects like mail, dog toys, magazines, papers in the office…you know, all that normal stuff. But can you blame the woman? HomeGoods and The Container Store make buying cute little boxes a breeze. Long story short, my students finished the container of animal crackers that I had in my classroom for snack and instead of tossing the plastic container, I put it in the closet for future use. Then I got home and saw these baskets on top of the trash can…and I almost took them. They’re kind of pretty, aren’t they? I could use them for stuff, right?! After the crazy thoughts occurred, I walked inside and left the baskets behind. 😉

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-“Your pet’s #2 is our #1!” A real company here in northern Virginia. Moving on…

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-Awesome-

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-My mom’s homemade soup for lunch every day this week AND I still have enough to last me through the weekend. #hallelujah

-A teacher workday today to catch up on all the things I cried about. 😉 But honestly, praise the Lord for 8 hours to get organized all day long today. #gradingisfun #saidnoteacherever

-This conversation:
Me: “So if you have a capital letter at the beginning of this sentence, what do you need at the end?”
Student: *thinks of a period* “Oh, lawl.”
Me: “What did you say?”
Student: “Lawl, Miss McGraw. Like LOL.”

-7 year olds don’t know what the pound key is, or what a number sign is for that matter. I abbreviated the word “number” the other day when I was writing on the easel and put this –> # instead. They wanted to know why I wrote a hashtag. Sigh. There is also a handshake these days called Hashtag. They take their pointer finger and middle finger together and like swipe the other person’s same two fingers?!?! It’s weird. They say, “Hashtag, yeah hashtag.” I guess their four fingers together MAKE the hashtag?! I have no idea. I’m old. Apparently.

-$160 running shoes on sale for $90 because they were an online return. Which I totally don’t understand why that means the price is so much less BUT I LOVE IT. They had a size 10 in the store and they fit, but I prefer an 11 to run in and luckily they had some in the warehouse which they shipped to me FOR FREE! So awesome.

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-You can’t deny Colby’s cuteness.IMG_4809

-Traffic might be a nightmare to and from grad school since I moved, but I do love that place. #derpimaterp

 

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Bloggers, looking for a link-up? Click over to any one of these amazing blogs to join us for Friday Favorites!

MIMM: Pittsburgh Edition

What’s marvelous in my Monday? Well, after several much appreciated snow days, we are headed back to school today with a two hour delay. I was able to go home to Pittsburgh for a long weekend and so many wonderful things happened!

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First and most important, my dogs never left my side. We napped together, studied together, walked together, and worked out together. Except Amigo wasn’t really feeling the workout on this particular day. He was more concerned with his favorite toy, the penguin. Colby, on the other hand, was all about the resistance band. In retrospect, it looks exactly like his leash, so it’s no wonder he wouldn’t leave me alone. Hahaha!

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Cuddle buddies for life. #hesnotafanofmornings

I spent most of Friday with my aunt getting pampered all day long. We chatted, relaxed, and just had the best day. In between all the fun stuff, I was able to get some school work done for my night class that starts this week, so I also felt accomplished! My mom joined us for manicures and pedicures to end the night.

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On Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early to go see this guy play in a volleyball tournament. My youngest brother’s team is playing other local teams in tournaments during their preseason, so even though the winner and loser didn’t really matter, of course we were all paying attention to the score! They played a lot of teams that have been playing together since middle school, and that gives them a bit of an advantage because Jake’s team has only played together in high school. They did win two games, though! And Jake is the one serving the ball in the above picture. 🙂

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My Dad and I headed to our favorite restaurant for brunch. Eat ‘N Park is a Pittsburgh classic, and I love eating there every time I go home. There isn’t a bad thing on the menu and their smiley face cookies are always delicious for dessert! We ordered breakfast food (our favorite) and then my Dad humored me and let me take him shoe shopping. Of course all at the same time, my running shoes, rain boots, and black boots bit the dust and so I need to replace each of those pairs of shoes. I was on a mission! I found my favorite pair of running shoes on sale for $90. That’s quite the markdown from $160! My mom and I shopped a bit before meeting up with my brothers for dinner. Then I took a nap and headed out for a night with some friends from college!

I had quite the clothes catastrophe because I literally threw yoga pants in a duffel bag and jumped in my car when I heard we would be off school for the rest of the week, so getting dressed to go hang out with real people was a bit of a challenge haha! Props to my mom for letting me borrow her shirt and not killing me for throwing clothes all over her bedroom and the family room. #shesthebest We met at a place on Pittsburgh’s North Shore called McFadden’s and the DJ played the best music. Julie and Felicia (the two pictured above) arrived early enough to snag a table and it was nice to have a “home base” once it got crowded. Just a place to sit and talk! We had the best time. And then I realized half way home I forgot my debit card… #oops

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Randi and I went to breakfast in Oakmont on Sunday morning at a place called What’s Cookin’ At Casey’s. I had only ever been once before for dinner, so I was excited to try their breakfast menu! We had the best time talking about life and eating all the food. Two older women sitting in the booth behind us told us we needed to stay all day because “we can just tell you are having so much fun!” Ha! Randi and I went to the same elementary school and even took gymnastics together for a short time but as we got older, we had different friends since we were in different grades! We reconnected through blog land, and it is so fun to have a friend who knows exactly what you are talking about when you talk about high school!

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I spotted this pay phone outside the restaurant as I walked in and I thought it was so random! Do people even use pay phones anymore?! Photo credit goes to my Dad 🙂 He lives in Oakmont and took this picture when he was walking around town one day. Apparently it strikes everyone as odd! Ha! He claims that it works and he will be calling me from it today. So I shall be waiting for a call from an unknown number. Any guesses on how many quarters he will need to use?!

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60 degrees in January, windows down, sunroof open, loud music…no explanation needed. #perfection

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When I was writing my year in review post, I came across pictures from the run pictured above and remembered that was the first time my friend Kristen and I met up to run in DC. When I told her, she decided we HAD to go running on this day because it is like our one year friend-aversary ha! Well, that day was yesterday, and we were busy driving back to DC from Pittsburgh, so how were we supposed to fit a run in?

Um…we stopped driving every hour and ran one mile. Hahaha! This was at the rest stop in Somerset, PA and we had to take pictures at this exact spot because the well-known huge windmills are in the background. No one really noticed us running here…we just did a loop of the perimeter of the parking lot and hit a mile in 8:27.

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Then we got in the car and ate a donut, because we deserved it, right?! Ha! I’m one of those annoying people who takes two bites of a sweet treat and puts it back in the box. Salty treats are my weakness! These donuts are from Peace, Love, and Little Donuts, which is a small shop in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. They really are little donuts, in case you were curious 🙂 Bite size, if you will! Flavors included vanilla, honey, apple pie, s’mores, cinnamon sugar, and mocha.

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An hour later, we were at our halfway point and stopped at our usual place to put gas in the car and get a salad at Subway. But while we were there, we had to get our mile in…so we ran around the perimeter of THAT parking lot. This one wasn’t quite as fun because we had to lap it 6 times;) I am pretty sure the big group of students we saw coming home from a ski trip thought we were weird. I didn’t ask them questions about their clothing, so they shouldn’t ask me questions about my running. 😉 #logic

Purple skies led us to our third stop at the Hagerstown outlets. Now THIS was a fun mile! It was our slowest yet at just over 9 minutes, but we got to “window shop”, we heard music playing through the outdoor speakers, and there were so many sidewalks/directions to run in! Do I sound crazy? I am aware this sounds really crazy and you are reading this wondering WHY I think this was fun. But I promise it was. And at this point of the drive, I am usually pretty unpleasant because I just want to be home…but we kept having a run to look forward to and that kept our spirits up!

We did not run a mile upon our arrival in DC, because important things like unpacking and grocery shopping and watching Grease Live needed to take place. 🙂 It literally made my whole Sunday to add a little bit of running to our drive and that is how I know I am a crazy runner person because no one else I know would do this. Haha! I cannot take credit for the idea because I saw someone I follow on Instagram (I can’t remember the name!!!) do this during a road trip a few weeks ago, but I’m very glad we stole the idea yesterday!

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Things that aren’t marvelous? Forgetting to bring back some of my mom’s delicious biscotti. WAH! #thelittlethings

What’s marvelous in your Monday today? Share something below! 🙂

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Christmas Vacation: Part II

We did lots of classic “New York” things while we were in the city, but we also indulged in some tourist spots like Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Today I’m going to share two classic New York things you must do if you ever visit!

Brooklyn Bridge

 I mentioned yesterday that we shopped in Chinatown and dined in Little Italy, but then I convinced everyone that we should go see the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, really, I put everyone on the subway in that direction. 😉 My mom wanted to go too, but my brothers were getting tired at this point!

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We walked up the stairs of the subway and saw this cute little park area. This is one of the reasons I love being in a city…tall, historic buildings with some hidden peaceful greens in the middle.

There were SO many people headed across the bridge. One lane for pedestrians, one lane for bikers…and everyone going across and back. There were also little stands of NYC souvenirs, but the funniest item for sale were selfie sticks. Everyone needs one, apparently!

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We made good use of ours…

…and the views were spectacular! Check out that light post with all the locks on it. Just like the Lock Bridge in Europe! #kinda

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If you ever visit the Brooklyn Bridge, I definitely recommend just going for it and really walking all the way across into Brooklyn! There’s a subway stop not too far away from the other end, plus when you get towards the middle, the crowds thin and you can really appreciate the bridge and the scenery. I know it sounds crazy to appreciate a bridge, but if my brothers found enjoyment in this, you definitely will too. 🙂

Bryant Park

Okay, so I’ve been to the city at least once a year for the past few years, but I have never made it to Bryant Park! With its close proximity to Times Square, I just don’t know how that is possible, but when you are riding the subway and being driven around in taxis, it’s possible to miss some hidden gems. 🙂

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My favorite part of Bryant Park were all of the holiday shops! Each one was so unique, selling a variety of items from handmade jewelry to makeup bags to kids games to chocolate. In the above picture, you can see the green and white awning that tops the carousel. My mom and I just had to go watch the little ones riding around. Such fun!

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See…my favorite view. Little shops, a little bit of nature, and the beautiful tall buildings in the background.

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Perhaps the most fun thing I saw were the ping pong tables, all occupied with excited players! Apparently, there is also putting, chess, pétanque (a French ball game I believe is similar to the Italian game Bocce), and an art cart. You simply cannot get bored on this little stretch of land in Midtown. 🙂

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Visiting right after the holidays allows you to see all the beautiful decorations. How awesome is that Christmas tree?! The ornaments were as big as my head…truly.

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And if I could’ve convinced my brothers (and Jake would’ve been an easy sell), we would’ve stood in the lengthy line to ice skate. It was only $15 and the line really wasn’t too bad! At this point, the boys had taken our shopping bags and headed back to the hotel with visions of comfy hotel beds dancing in their heads. Ha! Listen, we walked A LOT on this trip.  Plus our hotel served a complimentary dinner and happy hour each evening, so you can’t really blame them. And don’t worry, my mom and I made it back to relax and have dinner, too!

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Linking up with Stephanie!

Christmas Vacation

Well last Monday at this time, I was driving to New York City. Since I am going back to work today after a nice long break, let’s review all the fun. 🙂

The day after Christmas, my mom, my brothers and I packed up for a few days in Hershey, PA and New York City. Hershey is perfectly halfway in between Pittsburgh and NYC and it is such a fun little town! Since we were only there for one night, we visited Chocolate World and drove through the Sweet Lights display of Christmas lights.

Do you see the castle on the left?! It is made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate! The “bricks” are made out of the cookies and creme Hershey’s bar. You can totally tell now that I told you that, right?! 🙂

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The next day, we woke up bright and early to drive to NYC. I annoyed Jake and took selfies of us in the car. I was also the one in the driver’s seat on the way into NYC and as we were going through the toll on the highway before the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw the gas light in my mom’s car was on. And it didn’t say 30 miles until empty…instead, the GPS popped up with a warning that said “nearby gas stations”. Hahaha! It was a close one. 😉

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Can we all take a moment to make fun of my brothers and their excessive number of shoes?! I packed one pair of black over-the-knee boots and my running shoes…they brought three different colored pairs of Timberlands plus other shoes. Ha!

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We stayed in South Times Square in the Garment District. After we unpacked, we went to eat a late lunch at Heartland Brewery which is also right across the street from my future place of employment. Aka The New York Times. #inmydreams

Lunch is when we also started messing around with the selfie stick! Jake got one for my mom for Christmas, knowing that we would be going on a trip right away. We had so much fun with it all weekend!

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We started walking up towards Times Square and kind of walked right through it until we saw Bryant Park! This is one of my favorite pictures that I took while we were there. I’ve actually never seen or known where Bryant Park was located before, even though we always stay near Times Square. It’s funny how you can discover “new” places every time you visit!

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We were also trying to get a taxi or an Uber at this point because we were headed to Brooklyn for the New York Islanders hockey game. Unfortunately, Uber was taking forever and the one taxi driver we talked to (who was off duty) told us there was so much traffic that taking a taxi would be way too expensive. So that meant taking the subway for the low, low cost of $2.75 a person…and praying we didn’t get lost. I was terrified because of my experiences with Kristen in October, but we actually didn’t get lost once! I will say that one time when the train announced where we were I yelled and made my family run off because I thought we were going the wrong way. No fear, we were actually going the right way. They loved standing in the station and waiting for the next train. 😉 That experience let us see the world’s largest rat climbing all over the tracks. Yikes!

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My brothers have both gotten really into hockey this past year and Alex got tickets to see the Pittsburgh Penguins for Christmas! Still, we thought it would be fun to see a game while we were in the city. Ironically, the Islanders were the opposing team when Alex went to the Pens game this past weekend! So it was like he was checking out the competition a week early. Ha! They lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs terribly, but we had a lot of fun!

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I really wanted to go to Serendipity for hot chocolate after the game, so we took the subway a few extra stops to the neighborhood where that restaurant is located. Travel tip #1: we didn’t make reservations (because I honestly didn’t even think of that) and when we got there at 10 PM, the wait was two and a half hours! Luckily, there is a Dylan’s Candy Store on the corner of that block, so we decided to go there to satisfy our sweet tooth instead. Travel tip #2: Dylan’s Candy Store closes at 9 PM on Sunday evenings. Ha!

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We decided to walk back to Times Square (think 42nd street) from our failed Serendipity and Dylan’s attempt (think 59th street). My brothers were all about this walk for approximately five blocks and then they were OVER it. Somehow, I became official direction giver and no one liked my directions plus Siri was getting on my nerves so this was a very interesting walk. 😉

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I tried to appreciate the scenery as much as possible! How pretty are those lights on the trees?!

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The next morning, we discovered the 22nd floor of our hotel was the roof, complete with outdoor seating and Bose speakers hidden in the plants. I kid you not. But it was freezing up here so I snapped this picture and ran back inside!

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Our mission on Monday morning was to shop on Canal Street in Chinatown. I remember going here in high school when I visited with the chorus and band, but I have never been back to shop there with my family. My brothers LOVED bargaining with the workers there. And you couldn’t walk ten feet without someone asking you, “Hand bags? Michael Kors? Louis Vuitton? We have it all! I’ll show you!” I bought a pair of sunglasses from a suitcase on the sidewalk…I will let you decide if they are real Ray Bans or not. 😉 I swear the worker said they were $25 so I said $20 because I was walking around with a $20 bill in my pocket anyway. He agreed, I paid, and my brother and I walked away. Alex later told me that the worker initially said $35!!! I kind of felt bad because I didn’t mean to jump all the way down to $20, but I really thought I was just saving $5, not $15!

We ate lunch in Little Italy and picked up two cannoli’s from a street stand! I got hazelnut and my mom got chocolate, but we weren’t huge fans of either. They were SO sweet! We intended to eat lunch at Sofia’s, but they weren’t open for lunch, so we chose a restaurant across the street because the owner was standing on the sidewalk and he was very convincing! I wish I could tell you the name, but I honestly don’t remember…I just know it was across from Sofia’s. It was delicious though! There was a 45 minute wait for a table by the time we left (and we went in and sat right down!) so either the owner got a lot of business by talking to tourists on the sidewalk or it’s a really popular place. 😉

Monday was a marathon day…I will tell you all about the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping at Macy’s and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in another post!

Happy Monday!

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2015: A Year In Review

If you had told me last New Years Eve that THIS New Years Eve I would be on Christmas Break from my first year of teaching, I don’t know that I would have believed you. My life last year was so very different than it is now, but there have only been good changes!

I moved to College Park, MD in August of 2014 to start my Master’s in Reading. I took on three part time jobs at UMD: a research assistant in the Education Department, a writing consultant at The Writing Center, and a fitness instructor at the gym. That’s how last year began…a new semester of grad school plus my three jobs.

This is for my own memory. You will likely be tempted to skim or scroll past some stuff. Ha!

JANUARY

Right after Winter Break, I drove back to Maryland for a work trip to Boston. My research team worked with another team out of Boston College that we communicated with via Skype and phone calls. We went up to see them for 2 days in January to get LOTS of work done in person! It was also -4 the entire time we were in Boston, so thank goodness we were only there for 36 hours. 😉 This was a typical work trip in that I truly have no idea what the city of Boston looks like because I was at the airport, in a taxi to Boston College, at Boston College, at our hotel, and then all of that in reverse. This month, I also started teaching PiYo and I took myself on an adventure to Annapolis because I had never been and that’s what you do when you have few friends in a new place! I ran to the MLK Jr. monument on MLK Jr. Day and I met up with Kristen for the first time to run the National Mall!

FEBRUARY

I taught PiYo once before teaching it on a stage. At the beginning of the semester, the gym has a sort of “opening night” for its classes so everyone can see what’s available. That was a little bit out of my comfort zone! I started training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler (you’re welcome for the selfie) and spent a lot of time on the indoor track because it snowed a LOT this month and I was a big baby! I went to running group with my church almost every Wednesday and found lots of new-to-me routes in DC. My mom and Jake came to visit for Valentine’s Day and my best friend Stef visited a few weekends later. I also worked at and attended a Fitness Expo at UMD’s gym that brought fitness instructors from up and down the east coast!

MARCH

I remember watching a lot of Grey’s Anatomy this month. Ha! I was obsessed and school kept getting delayed, cancelled, or closed early because of cold weather and snow. I made it outside when I could to keep training for the 10-miler, I took lots of selfies at The Writing Center (omg long hair), and I kept teaching PiYo every Monday morning and Tuesday night! My running group did a special run for those we knew going on a mission trip to the West Bank and I spotted the National Cathedral for the first time since moving here. And of course, my baby brother turned 16 and got his permit!

APRIL

And then it was warm. This was also the month I started tossing around the idea of applying for teaching jobs. My final decision was made while I was sitting in a Jason’s Deli. My memory, I tell ya… I was home this month for Easter and drove with Jake for the first time! I also went running on my favorite loop downtown (where I ran almost every morning in college) and I have a very vivid memory of tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and falling into a big X-shape. My leggings ripped, my hands were bleeding, I was half crying and half yelling, and then when I finally stood up…I kept running. Hahaha! I went to an event at UMD called “Grad Prom”, attended my first bonfire of the year in shorts and sandals, ran to Gravelly Point where you can see planes take off from Reagan National Airport, and ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. It was so fun to have my friends in town for that race! I’m a Beachbody coach so I went to a Super Saturday event in Baltimore and I also went to my first Nationals baseball game!

MAY

I started and successfully completed Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme program this month. I made a last minute decision to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon when an extra bib became available and I also ran to Gravelly Point for the first time. You can see the planes from Reagan National Airport taking off and landing here! My friend Sarah and I went to the Marine Barracks Evening Parade and my mom and my aunt came to visit for the weekend. We went to Atlantic City at the end of the month for Memorial Day Weekend and I rushed back to Maryland ASAP because I had my first teaching interview! My mom wanted to know what I was wearing and my dad wanted to see a picture of the Zipcar I had rented, so that’s how I ended up with that super awkward picture on the bottom right. Ha!

JUNE

First November Project workout.
First Duquesne Alumni Event at the Nationals vs. Pirates game in DC.
First adventure to Old Town, Alexandria, VA.
First time eating an apple fritter (that was the size of my head).
First time making and eating Strawberry Salsa for a Strawberry Festival Party!
Second Kenny Chesney concert.
Second Taylor Swift concert.
Second and third teaching interviews (third time was the charm!).

I also chopped all my hair off and spent a lot of time on the computer. It sounds terrible to say that in the middle of summer, but I was taking two online summer classes and apartment hunting!

JULY

My mom, Jake, and his friend came to DC for the Fourth of July. Kristen and I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon with a team of other runners from my church. I spent even more time on my computer, took my mom to see the elementary school where I was hired, started moving to my new apartment, and spent 10 much needed days on the beach!

AUGUST

I officially moved to my new apartment in Virginia. One of my friends from college also moved to the area so we spent a lot of time exploring DC together! I ate brunch with other DC area bloggers, made my first grown up purchase of porch furniture, and ran the Lincoln Memorial steps for the first time. I went home for a week to surprise my family (a conference I was supposed to attend was cancelled last minute), we celebrated Amigo’s 2nd birthday, and then I started new teacher orientation. My classroom was looking bare and empty! Kristen and I went to a Steelers bar to watch a preseason game, I went to Baltimore to celebrate my friend Shannon’s birthday, and I finally got tagged at November Project!

SEPTEMBER

A secret November Project workout that ended at a Biergarten in DC for yoga and drinks. My first day as a real teacher. 😉 The Pope came to town, I ran a 10k with my friends, I met Amanda for dinner, and I went to a 90s bar crawl in DC. I also made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for my mentors and coworkers as a thank you for helping me during my first month of teaching!

OCTOBER

My mom and my aunt visited the first weekend of October! My classroom finally started feeling like a real room. I visited the pumpkin patch and then I got sick for the first time in my adult life…not even ashamed of that selfie. I had a fever and a sinus infection and junk in my lungs and it was horrible and I had to take care of myself. Hahaha! I participated in a Blogger Scarf Exchange, spent time with my family from Indianapolis in DC, and went to New York City to see the marathon!

NOVEMBER

70 degree days meant evening runs as often as possible. I went hiking on the Billy Goat Trail, attended a Beer and Wine Festival at Nationals Park, and generally counted down the days until Thanksgiving Break. 😉 I flew home (which is unusual) for the holiday, spent time with my cousins, and helped my mom decorate for Christmas.

DECEMBER

Where did this month go?! There was a lot of Christmas cheer this month. I ran to see the Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Christmas TreeMy friends and I went to see Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. I took myself on an adventure to the National Harbor to see all of their Christmas decorations and check out the area. I went to a Christmas party and hosted a Christmas party, which I also labeled my birthday party. 😉 #decemberbirthdayproblems My mom, my aunt, and I made Christmas cookies, I met up with my college roommate for dinner, and of course, we celebrated Christmas. Then, we made a getaway to Hershey, PA and NYC for a few days!

Looking back, I was ready for this life (teaching and such) at the beginning of 2015. I loved being in school, but I wasn’t fulfilled doing a whole bunch of jobs instead of focusing on one job. The summer brought some stress as I started applying for jobs, interviewing, and apartment hunting. I also thought it would be a fabulous idea to take two online classes, so that just added to my stress. August was a wonderful month free of responsibilities, at least until I started orientation for my job. I was SO nervous to take the night class that I have with my job but after doing it for a semester, I realize it’s not ideal but it works.

In September, I remember being SO tired. I was overwhelmed, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing AT ALL, and I was just generally whiny to anyone who asked me about my life. In October and November, I feel like I started to hit my stride. I figured out that I will probably continue the rest of this year feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing…but having confidence to figure it out as I go is what is making me successful. I’m doing what I said I was always going to do…teach…and I’m doing kinda okay at it. I’m a perfectionist, so you will never hear me say I’m good. And let’s face it, as a first year teacher, I probably have some room to grow. 😉 I had a check up with my doctor last week and she was asking me about my life and just was amazed at how much has changed with me this year. She said she can’t wait to see what my life is like next year…and neither can I! Because I can’t even begin to imagine!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS! 🙂

Traveling Here and There

Good morning from me and my iPhone! I’m already bothered that this won’t be centered. Ha! Currently on an adventure with my mom and my brothers. The adventure almost didn’t occur as I practically drove into NYC with zero, literally zero gas, in my mom’s car. Hahaha! Thank the Lord for the last exit in NJ. We have yet to get lost on the NYC Subway and for that reason, the entire trip is already a success. 😉 

First stop: Hershey, PA to visit Chocolate World and see their Christmas light display!

 
   
Second stop: New York City to see holiday decorations, go to an NHL game, shop, eat, and gallavant around like the tourists we are.
 

 

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If I can get decent wifi, I might post something a little more interesting while we are away! If not, keep up with my adventures on Instagram. 🙂 I hope you had a very merry Christmas!!
  

Christmas Traditions

The best way to spread Christmas cheer (besides singing loud for all to hear) is to partake in your family’s favorite traditions. These are the little things that just make the holiday meaningful for you. These are the little things that your family talks about and looks forward to all year long!

– Decorations –

As soon as Thanksgiving dinner is cleared from the table, Christmas decorations are a go in the McGraw house! Usually, we wait until Black Friday to bring out the decorations, but this year it was Thanksgiving night when my mom and I dragged the huge boxes filled with Christmas tree up the basement stairs!

We build our tree one branch at a time. When I was younger, I remember having a real Christmas tree, but I also remember how much my mom disliked vacuuming the pine needles ha! I guess that is part of the real tree charm. 🙂 When I was 10 or 11, my parents found a 9 foot tall artificial tree on major clearance after Christmas. They were sold on this huge tree when they also found a rotating base to put the tree in. So we decorate all sides of the tree because it spins!

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When we moved to our current house five years ago, we started decorating a tree in the game room, too. This tree holds all the homemade ornaments that don’t make it on the tree in the family room upstairs. 🙂

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I always have some kind of tree in my bedroom. This one was pink, if you couldn’t tell. 😉 When we were younger, we had little green trees that were about this size with M&M character ornaments. We called them our M&M trees! Now, I am actually really sad, because I don’t know what happened to the M&M trees ha!

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I spend Christmas (and the days leading up to Christmas) at my mom’s house, but I still like to decorate my apartment. This is a picture of my apartment in college! I still have that tree but it is in storage at home and since I flew home for Thanksgiving, I wasn’t able to travel with any of my decorations…so now my current roommate is talking about buying a new tree. We must!

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I also did this to my fridge a few years ago. What, you don’t have random colors of construction paper on hand? #teacherproblems

– Desserts –

Pizzelles are our FAVORITE holiday treat to bake. The first set of pizzelles always turns out like that. Stuck to the iron! I like to make a big batch and put them in cute Christmas bags as a little treat at school or work for friends or coworkers.

We also love to bake my Grandma’s Candy Cane cookie recipe and steal cookie ideas from Pinterest. That particular year, we didn’t even need an oven! We used Nutter Butters, M&M’s, pretzels, and icing to assemble our Reindeer cookies.

– Activities –

I take pictures of every Christmas tree I walk past. And if the opportunity presents itself, I will hop in the picture, too. 🙂

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Why not shop and take pictures, too? #alltheChristmasthings

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And of course I drink my coffee and tea from all the fun Christmas mugs!

I love any and all holiday attire…including these reindeer antlers. Me, 4 years ago, loving life…and then this past weekend, we had Amigo in antlers…he was embarrassed.

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Colby’s thoughts on Christmas dress up? Side eye. He did wear the Christmas socks, though. 🙂

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Amigo HATES having his paws or legs touched, so the fact that he was in Christmas socks was no easy task! And truthfully, he loves the Christmas sweater because he is always cold.

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Another one of my favorite traditions is opening my birthday presents…because they are always under the Christmas tree! My birthday is December 10 and since the tree is already up, I have to take advantage of it, right?

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We also LOVE making gingerbread houses! My mom makes the best homemade icing to hold our houses together. She has a big gingerbread house decorating event in her kindergarten class, too. We have an expert building with us!

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I’m not sure if this is a ‘me’ thing or a family thing, but I love Christmas lights! Whether it’s driving around neighborhoods or actually going to see a display, I love the lights.

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Hershey Park 2005

A huge park in the Pittsburgh area called Hartwood Acres used to have the best light display. You could tune your radio to a certain station and hear Christmas songs that sang along with the lights as you were driving!

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Hartwood Acres 2012

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Sadly, Hartwood Acres doesn’t have their huge light display anymore. Last year, I made my mom and Jake drive with me to Overly’s Country Christmas. The line of traffic to get up to the farm was LONG but it was so fun!

There are so many fun things to do during the holiday season with friends, too! I’ve run a Reindeer 5K, seen the floral and light displays at Phipps Conservatory, heard Trans-Siberan Orchestra in concert, and run the National Mall past all the big Christmas trees.

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A tradition that is pretty unique to my family is taking a little trip right after the holiday. In the week or so between Christmas and New Years, my family likes to go away for a few days. We definitely haven’t done this every year, but as we’ve gotten older, it’s easier to get away. As you can see, when we were really little, we visited Hershey Park in central Pennsylvania. They, of course, have a huge light display too! My favorite.

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Last year, we went to Disney World. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is just that…a spectacle! Somehow, they even manage to make it snow!

– True Traditions –

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Our stockings are always on the floor and they are always the first thing that we open! Our stockings are the only time that we open presents at the same time.

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We always celebrate with these people at my Uncle’s house on Christmas Eve. If you saw my Thanksgiving picture, you know that we try to take a picture in height order. In this picture, we were being obnoxious. There is no order! No age order, no height order, nothing. Just fun. 🙂

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We always make a fun breakfast to eat together after we open our presents! It’s just me, my parents, and my brothers for breakfast.

I always get some kind of new running gear so I have to test it out after present opening and breakfast eating. Of course Colby and Amigo love to join me. 🙂 This picture was actually Amigo’s first run with me EVER in 2013!

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We always watch and record Michael Buble’s Christmas special. Then we watch it over and over and over again. This year, we played his show from last Christmas while we made Thanksgiving dinner. Ha!

*The two movies I watch the most are Jim Carrey’s The Grinch (hilarious) and The Santa Clause with Tim Allen.

*Even if my Dad and I have all our gifts wrapped, we like to run out and shop for a few hours on Christmas Eve.

*My parents wrap our gifts in different wrapping paper instead of putting name tags on everything. We figure out which presents are ours when we see the little mini gifts wrapped in our stockings!

*I always sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to see what Santa left behind. When I was younger, I was convinced I could hear him on the roof!

So tell me…what’s your favorite part of Christmas? I obviously can’t just pick one thing!

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Northwest Native & Say Yes To Happy

Thankful Things

It’s the month of thanks and the season of giving…so why not change up those Friday Favorites to reflect that? It’s favorite things gone thankful things. 🙂

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First on the list of things I’m thankful for today…doctors who work on Thanksgiving. I went for a run yesterday and while I was running, I felt something in my eye. When I reached up to rub it away, I poked myself in the eye with my nail. It hurt in the moment, but I brushed it off pretty quickly and kept running. As the day went on, my eye got more and more red…it got more and more watery…and it got more and more painful. It felt like a burning sensation. Diagnosis: I scratched my cornea. A quick Urgent Care visit later, I had eye drops and a recommendation to take Advil to help the pain because…surprise! The eye drops don’t help the pain at all. They just keep you from getting another infection while your eye is scratched. In any case, I am super thankful for that doctor who spent their Thanksgiving at work and I am super thankful for my family who put up with my cranky mood for a few hours yesterday afternoon. 😉

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I am thankful for artists who make albums with songs that I love so much that I don’t skip any of them. A few are Florence + the Machine and Lana del Rey. I’ve always liked Adele, but she went right back to the top of my “LOVE” list when her album came out this past week. I bought the extended version at Target so I could hear the 3 extra songs (duh) and I have basically played it on a loop ever since I purchased it. On Monday, I was listening to it on my phone during my planning period at school and I forgot to turn it off before my students returned. While I was teaching, they were bouncing off the walls, but I could still hear someone whispering no matter how I redirected them. I finally got annoyed enough to say, “WHO is whispering?! PLEASE STOP!” And someone sitting on the carpet near my desk was like, “Miss McGraw…it’s not us…it’s your phone.” Hahaha #Adeleiswhispering #teacherfail

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I am thankful for the Pinterest hack of using coconut oil to remove your eye makeup. I usually use Neutrogena face wipes to take my makeup off and I really feel like I need them. Even when I wash my face, there is still makeup on my eyes. Last week, I ran out of my usual Neutrogena wipes and at first, I wasn’t bothered. After a few days of extra makeup on my eyes, I knew I had to go to the store to buy them, but I never remembered to stop on my way home from work and so it became a vicious cycle! My friend recommended that I use coconut oil and listen…at first, I was very weirded out by the whole process because I cook with coconut oil so putting it on my eyes felt very strange. Now, I am a believer. It takes the makeup off my face so much better than anything else I have ever used and I really think it’s doing a little bit of moisturizing, too! If you have coconut oil in your kitchen, you should give it a try. 🙂

I am thankful for a fun last few days of school before Thanksgiving Break! The countdown was REAL. Students and teachers alike were itching to get out for the holiday, but we created a good balance of learning and fun activities to survive. 🙂 Monday started with one of my students bringing me an apple and Tuesday was a flurry of end of the unit quizzes, but I was able to squeeze in a fun video of Kid President’s Thankful Things and time to make a Thankful Tree for the hallway! They all wrote down things they are thankful for at school. This was a struggle for some, but we brainstormed and in the end, a lot of them wrote down the names of teachers and friends in the class, so that was nice to see and read! Now let’s talk about the mandarin oranges pretending to be a pumpkin. That was my great teacher idea for Halloween. Well, the day before Halloween, we had pajama day and an early dismissal. Needless to say, I did not remember to hand out the snack. So it went home on Tuesday with a note about why I am thankful for them. 😉 Teacher win or teacher fail? I can’t decide! And Wednesday, I left the little people with a substitute teacher while I flew back to Pittsburgh.

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#enoughsaid

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Finally, I’m thankful for these three! This is our standard holiday cousin pose. I have no idea how it started, but it’s tradition! We used to line up in age order and also just happen to be in height order, but that doesn’t work anymore! The two boys on the left are my brothers Jake (16) and Alex (21) and then my cousin Nick (20) is right behind me. We were missing our fifth amigo, CJ! CJ is the same age as me but he was in Ohio having Thanksgiving with his girlfriend’s family. Luckily, those two came home for dinner, so I crashed their dinner around the time they were having wine and dessert to visit! All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving, even with a red, burning eye. 😉

Happy Thanksgiving to you! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and maybe got a few good deals today! I snuck away to the mall for an hour with my youngest brother before his volleyball practice this afternoon and though we were there for a short time, I managed to get three pairs of leggings for myself because 1) major sale and 2) priorities. Ha! Have a great weekend!

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Bloggers, looking for a link-up? Click over to any one of these amazing blogs to join us for Friday Favorites!

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Friday Favorites