Friday, August 31, 2012

TGIF: Dream Weekend

TGIF! I feel like I can say that and really mean it today. I have offically started my school year with the Eau Claire Area School District. Next Tuesday I'll meet my students for the first time at their open house and the first normal school day is Wednesday. 

Before school starts, Greg and I are off to celebrate our 5th Anniversary at Woodland Trails Bed and Breakfast.

"Bed and Breakfast?" you ask. 
Yes, Bed and Breakfast.
"I've never been to one, aren't they for old people?"
 No they are not! In fact, we went to Woodland Trails on our honeymoon and again for our first anniversary. "Oh... maybe I'd like to check one out." 
You totally should!

Woodland Trails!

Driving around the trails at Woodland Trials. Yes, they have golf carts and miles of trails!

Traveling somewhere for the weekend? Consider a B &B. Want a weekend away without traveling far? Look for one close to your house. We've been to two B&B's. Woodland Trails. LOVED IT. The River Nest. LOVED IT.

At Woodland Trails there is an English Billards table.  We'll need to learn the rules again, but I know we'll spend plenty of time playing it. It's right outside the room we'll stay in again for the third time.
Enjoying the deck at The River Nest. Right next to the Mississippi River and the train tracks. With the windows shut, we didn't even hear the trains at night!

Our friends Jen and Dave have stayed at The Inn at Sacred Clay Farms near Lanesburo, MN. Right on the bike trail, it looks like one Greg and I could stay at and love! No frilly curtains nor lace and doilies.

Look at the scenery! The mid-western US is sure a beautiful place!

Another B&B that we haven't been to, but I think we'd like is Little House on the Farm near Postville, IA. It's owned by one of our friends parents. It looks so cute and inviting. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom

In schools across Wisconsin this week teachers are preparing for the first day of school next week. I think this quote sums up all teachers' goals. I know it's mine. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Menu Monday: 8/27-8/31

Menu Monday

Monday: Left over Avocado Mandarin Orange Salad with left over homemade pizza

Tuesday:  Out with friends

Wednesday: Chicken Red Curry

Thursday:  French Onion Soup

Friday: Head to Woodland Trails B&B and grill out steak with potatoes

I hope you had a great weekend! We had a fabulous weekend getting to know Casandra. She arrived from Malaysia (via Abu Dhabi, Dublin, and Chicago) 11pm Friday night. 

We kept her busy trying to fight through the jet lag. Although somehow I was yawning last night before she was....

You name it we tried to give her that experience: Farmer's market, touring around town, disc golfing, making homemade pizza, Wii playing, church, trying to figure out a cell phone, returning something at customer service, people watching at Wal-Mart, Boccee ball, tipping at a restaurant, foggy mornings, and cool weather! 

Lastly, this morning Greg and I had our first like parent moments when we dropped her off at her dorm on the UW Campus to begin her international student orientation. We are so proud!

Three suitcases and a backpack! Pretty easy moving in  compared to US students!

Moving Casandra in made Greg and I reminisce about moving into our dorms. Such an overwhelming experience! Think of doing this on your third day in a new country. 

It will be cozy! Her roommate, Paris, moves in on Thursday. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Apple Chips

Are you at home for a weekend and want to make a yummy snack? You should make apple chips. So delicious and healthy. So easy. 

You'll find yourself saying, "Hey, I just ate a whole bag of apples!" It makes you feel a lot less guilty than saying, "Hey, I just ate a whole bag of potato chips!"

Apple Chips
*I've tried this with granny smith and gala apples. I bet any variety would be great.
*You can bake them for less time, they are just more chewy. 

  • Apples (how many your little heart desires, I usually use a bag)
  • Cinnamon
1) Cut apples, discard any seeds
2) On parchment covered baking sheets, lay out apples
3) Sprinkle both sides of the apple with cinnamon
4) Put in oven at 275° for two hours. Flip apples half way through.
5) Cool on rack or paper towel. Store in a tight container.

A perfect afternoon snack, or breakfast!

Making apple chips make your house smell like fall! Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2012

TGIF: Dream Weekend

TGIF! Wait!? It's Friday?! Where has the week gone? I have so much to do!!! With the first day of school approaching quickly, it seems a bit overwhelming. I don't even know what kids I'm working with yet! At one of my schools I have a huge classroom, at the other no space at all. It will work out. It WILL work out.

One reason I am super-duper excited it is indeed Friday is because today we meet our "Host Student" from Malaysia. The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire has the awesome "Host Friend" program that pairs new international students with people (friends) in the community. Casandra will stay with us this weekend before moving into the dorms. Throughout the year, we'll be a community resource for her as needed... Dinner at our house here, maybe a trip down to the Mississippi there....We hope that we help her get a good idea of what the USA is all about! We pick her up at 11pm tonight from the airport just minutes from our house. It will be a her first time in the US. We even get to hold a sign with her name on it! Greg is excited for that part!

If we could take Casandra anywhere this weekend, maybe we would take here... Acadia National Park, Maine. Greg and I have never been. Isn't it beautiful?

On Monday we will take her here: Oak Ridge Dormitory on UWEC's campus. This will be Casandra's home this next year. Isn't it beautiful?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom

This week has been overwhelming. Between learning about new health insurance options, retirement planning, filling out forms, and the new Eau Claire Area School District's teacher handbook I've also been trying to get ready for the kids that I will be teaching and prepare the space in which that will happen. YIKES. Much easier said than done, I need to remember this verse.... Right now I'm not sure how all the pieces will fall into place, but I have faith that they will. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Menu Monday

Monday: Chicken, Potato, Leek Pot Pie

Wednesday:  Rice Noodle Stir-Fry with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Thursday:  Northwoods Elementary Potluck! Applesauce/Fruit Jello Salad

Friday: Grill Out!

Saturday:  Being a Host Friend to Cassandra from Malaysia which means something vegetarian!

Do you ever feel like you deserve to pat yourself on the back? Well on Saturday I did and I'll tell you why. I love going to the EC's Downtown Farmer's Market, but we usually go before we plan our menu for the week. That means we pick up a few things here and there, but pass by so many beautiful looking veggies because we don't want to buy things we won't use.  After menu planning later that day or Sunday, then heading to store on Sunday or Monday, I feel bad about buying the same veggies from the produce department that I could have got from local farmers. Have you been there too?  This week though I sat down, decided on the above menu, looked at the recipes, then went to the market with list in hand. Look at what I got. I encourage you to do it for yourself! When you do, pat yourself on the back! Or buy yourself flowers...

$5 Bouquet of Flowers? Don't mind if I do!

My Loot (L to R): 2 Pints Blueberries (farmer said it was the last Saturday they were going to be there, so I got 2 instead of 1), Leeks, Cilantro, green beans, carrots, green peppers, green onions, salsa, red onions and broccoli. 

Here's my plan to have to use it all!
Blueberries: For snacking, Blueberry Bran Muffins for breakfasts this week and to freeze! 
Salsa: Snacking, Cook-Out on Friday

Carrots: Pot Pie and Noodle Stir-fry, tops for salad mix
Red Onion: Pot Pie, Salads, Stir-fry
Broccoli: Stir-fry
Leeks: Pot Pie
Green Onion: Pot Pie, Stir-Fry (tops for garnish, onion for stir-fry)

Green Beans: Pot Pie, Stir-Fry and Snacking!

Happy Eating!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Soup, Bread, and TGIF: Dream Weekend

Have you ever been to a meeting and you leave with your head spinning? You have questions and you’re confused, but at the same time you have so many ideas and everything seems so clear… After 1 day of handwriting training, and 2 days of English/Language Arts training with my new school district I’m feeling it. I have a list questions to email my mentor today, but until I know the exact students I’m working with and their educational needs I can’t worry about too much. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Tomorrow is Greg and I's 5th Anniversary. We are going to a B & B over Labor Day to celebrate and this weekend we are doing something real special… staying home.  It has been over a month since it has been just us at home for a weekend. It may include some salsa making, seeing a movie, eating out, sleeping in, or taking a bike ride… I know, we’re wild!

Two years ago we celebrated our anniversary by eating our first western  style meal in Bangkok (spaghetti!) and going to Bangkok's highest point: The Bayoke Tower. (click for link back to The MacLeod Thaimes)
Last night we were talking if we could hop on a plane and go anywhere this weekend, we’d go to a beach and get a ridiculous cheap massage. Oh how I miss getting $7/hour massages. While in Thailand we never made it down to many of the well known islands. These are the ones that you see on National Geographic’s Best Beaches and travel shows of best places to snorkel.  Koh Phi Phi is one of them… AMAZING!

Source: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Well, I’m not in Thailand anymore. I’m here in Wisconsin soaking up this cool weather. Yesterday I decided to ramp up dinner. I planned to whip up some knock off Olive Garden zuppa toscana soup and the cool weather called for baking bread too. The smells that enter your kitchen while this meal cooks should be made into a candle!

First I got the bread going. It’s a recipe from Greg’s mom. While it’s a little time consuming, it’s easy, and it’s well worth it!  While the bread is rising, you can start the soup. (I didn’t do this, but I think most everything for this recipe can be found at the farmer’s market right now. So, this is a very in-season friendly soup)  Enjoy this weather and maybe enjoy this meal too!

Worth all the effort!

Greg’s Mom’s Homemade Braided Bread

*Source: Greg’s mom
* This is very freezer friendly!

  • 3 ½-4 C flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast ( 1 T)
  • 1 C water
  • 1/8 C sugar
  • 1/8 C butter
  • ½ t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ T water

1) Combine 1 ½ C flour and yeast
2) Heat water, sugar, butter and salt until warm
3) Add liquid and 1 egg and 1 egg white to mixture (reserve extra yolk for later)
4) Stir until well blended and stir in rest of flour (until not sticky)
5) Knead for 5 minutes, then place in greased bowl.
6) Let rise for 45 min in warm place
7) Divide dough into 3 pieces and let rest for 10 min.
8)Roll out 3 pieces and braid together
9) Mix 1 egg yolk and water together and put on top of braid. Cover braid with seasonings of your choice.
9) Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes or until brown on top (we bake it on our pizza stone for a crispy crust!)

Top Row: Add water/sugar/salt/butter mix to the flour with yeast and eggs, mix in as much flour as you can
Bottom Row: Move to a floured counter to kneed in rest of flour. Make into ball to go into greased bowl.

Top Row: Cover bowl and move to warm area. For me that's under a lamp on Greg's desk where he works on his model trains, set the time for 45 minutes
Bottom Row: Awake your dough, then divide into three balls. Let it rest for 10 more minutes.

Roll out the 3 balls of dough to braid, add water to yolk to put over braided bread. Top your bread with seasonings of your liking! Basil, Oregano, Parmesan cheese, garlic, really anything can make this yummy! It's ready for the oven!

Yummy in my tummy!

 Sausage-Kale-Potato Soup

(Knock-Off Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana)

**Source: This recipe was included in one of our weekly newsletters from our Community Supported Agriculture Farm August Earth in Hutchinson, Mn in the summer of 2007 or 2008

* *This is very freezer friendly!

·        1 T olive oil
·        1 diced red-onion
·        2 minced garlic cloves
·        ¼ t crushed red pepper flakes (or 2-3 Thai chilies)
·        5 potatoes, cubed
·        3 cans broth
·        1 bunch kale, stemmed and shredded
·        12 oz spicy pork sausage(Jimmy Deans HOT is what we use)

1) In large pot, heat oil and add onion until soft
2) Add garlic, red pepper, cook 1 minutes
3) Add pork and cook through.
Transfer meat mixture to soup pot.
1) Add potatoes and broth. Bring to boil.
2) Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes
3) In blender, puree half soup and return to pot.
4) Add kale and heat to taste!

Important ingredients for this soup!

Meat mix and potatoes in the soup pot. I never weigh my potatoes, so when  it's time to add the broth I just make sure it's covered. For this batch I think it took about 6 cups. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom

At my first teacher workshop yesterday I ended up sitting by another special education teacher who was there from another district. She's a recent grad, newly wed and just beginning her first year teaching. I shared with her my back round and we discovered that we both are the church going God Lovin type. She grew up in the church Greg and I are thinking about joining and only had encouraging things to say about the congregation, its leaders, and its ministries. I don't know if her and I will be in contact again, but it made me realize that I am really ready to make some additional friends here in Eau Claire. 
As a girl, I need a girl to do girl stuff with...  As a wife, I need more wives to contact when we crave a couples night.... As Christian, I need more Christian wives to be in check with... 
 I pray that this will happen and know that it will, because with every move I've made I've made in the past 5 years I have blessed with many friendships that have fulfilled my needs/wants and so much more...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Menu Monday: 8/13-8/17

Menu Monday

Monday: Out of this World Lasagna (Leftovers for lunch and the freezer!)
Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Salad
Wednesday: Shrimp Green Curry
Thursday: Spicy Sausage,Kale, and Potato Soup (more leftovers!)
Friday: Who knows?!!?
Saturday: Happy 5th Anniversary to us!

This week I go back to the real world. Well... sort of. I have 3 days of workshops, plus a day of planning with one of my teaching teams. Today I met with my mentor for the first time and saw one of the buildings in which I'll be teaching. I still don't know what students I'll be working with, or my schedule, but I'm beginning to get started. 

My mentor Tiffany Hall. Click here for her bio!

Tonight's dinner was all about leftovers! Greg and I really needed to make something that could be frozen for go to lunches when we run out! Tonight's lasagna made 3 lunches for this week and 7 frozen portions divided into 5 lunches and 1 dinner for two! The recipe came to us from our friend Melanie via the internet.  I did not take any pictures, but here is the amazing recipe!

Out of This World Spicy Lasagna!

*You could make this ahead of time and freeze the whole thing!
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • 4 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 3 Thai Chilles (chopped) (Optional!)
  • 2 pounds spicy sausage
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (sweet or Thai)
  • Add other fresh herbs too (sage, fennel, cilantro) if you want too!
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound whole wheat lasagna noodles (about ¾ of a box)
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1)       Heat oil, sauté onion, garlic and chille until soft.
2)     Add sausage and brown.
3)     Add tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, basil, simmer for 15-20 minutes.
4)     In Separate bowl: Mix together Ricotta, goat cheese, parmesan, parsley and eggs.
5)     In Separate bowl: Put noodles in HOT tap water until soft

To Assemble in 9x13 glass dish:  1/3 Sauce, 1/2 noodles, 1/2 mozzarella, 1/2 cheese mixture,  1/3 Sauce, 1/2 noodles, 1/2 mozzarella, 1/2 cheese mixture, 1/3 sauce, extra parmesan cheese.

Bake @ 400°:  Covered for 40 minutes, uncovered for 10, Under the broiler for 5 (if needed)


Friday, August 10, 2012

TGIF: Dream Weekend

TGIF: ....I set this to be posted today because I am far from an internet connection, curled up with my kindle, looking at this.....

Atkins Lake near Cable, Wisconsin. Source: ME!

If you ever have a chance to come up to northern Wisconsin you have to take the opportunity. It's amazing! Bring your family or just your someone special. There is something for everyone. Lakes for swimming, paddling, or floating; woods for hiking and exploring; cute towns to antique; cool weather from Lake Superior to help your relax; really it's a piece of heaven on earth. (Just like Iowa and maybe a tid-bit better for a dream weekend!) 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom


This summer we have been spoiled. We have been so blessed to see all of our immediate family and much of our extended family. We are so thankful for these opportunities. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Menu Monday: 8/6-8/12

Menu Monday

Monday: Loaded Left-Over Baked Potato
Tuesday: Out! 
Wednesday: Steak, Potatoes, melon with the in-laws
Cabin Meal 1: Grilled Pork-Chops with pineapple/mango salsa, veggie and mashed potatoes
Cabin Meal 2: Grilled Chicken Cesar Salad with bread (bruschetta?!)
Cabin Meal 3: Greg and his dad out train watching. The Girls will go out! Fish-Fry? Pizza? There is a lot of yummy food in the north woods!


Grocery List Making Tip: After you make your menu, make your grocery shopping list based of the menu with EVERYTHING that you'll need. THEN go to your cupboards to see what you have, crossing out what you don't need. I actually think this is faster and more accurate. I want to make sure I have everything for my dinners this week, who wants to run to the store... you may miss some of the Olympics if dinner time has to be pushed back... USA! USA!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dream Weekend Come True

I LOVE this picture. It's Greg and our nephew going on a bike ride around the block. H is Greg's number one fan! After seeing Greg on his bike last weekend on RAGBRAI, H finally decided to take Grandma up on her offer to get a bike of his own. 

We had a fantastic weekend! Do you think we took any pictures? Nope NOT A ONE. I hate when I let this happen! At least my brother snapped some pictures on his fancy phone.

Harrison did GREAT on his first long rides around our neighborhood (over 1/2 mile).  Greg and I realize how great of a place we are in for when we have a kiddo of our own. Someday…

The visit with my family was wonderful. Saturday consisted of visiting the Farmer’s Market, watching Eau Claire’s finest belly dancers (yes you read that correctly) , being awed at Chalkfest, and seeing the  classic cars at Summerfest. As my brother was admiring the old Corvettes, Harrison claimed "That's my favorite car," when we passed the Pepsi Truck selling hot dogs and soda. HA! I was also impressed that we could walk within 100 yards of a petting zoo and H didn't even notice. He was too busy looking that the brochure advertising downtown EC's sculpture walk. A man of the arts!

For dinner we had pizza! Harrison and I got the dough ready and he continued helping Greg as he assembled one of the best pizzas ever to come out of our oven. Did someone call delivery? Nope, just Greg!

Sauce, sweet basil, Thai basil, home-grown cherry tomatoes (roasted!), fresh mozzarella , Italian shredded cheese and a bit of pepperoni= Almost the best pizza ever. Wait... Add the smoked string cheese or jalapeno cheddar cheese curds in the the crust = The BEST pizza EV…ER.  We'll definitely re-create this pizza in the near future. I'll post more pictures of it when we do.

Amazing weekend with great family! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

TGIF: Dream Weekend

TGIF! Ok, right now I'm on summer vacation, but Friday always just feels special!  I’m super excited about this weekend because my brother and his family are coming to Eau Claire. This will be their first visit to see us since I left Iowa..5 years ago. I still love them though :-) 

Chalkfest is this weekend! It's part of Summerfest!
So, for my dream weekend this weekend…. It’s to stay right here in Eau Claire! If you’ve never been here, I encourage you to come! Here’s just a few things you can check out!
Park WITH a free zoo! Amazing!

Farmer's Market!

Just 15 minutes away....

Let the weekend begin!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom

Whether you are like Greg and busy at work with more things to do than time in the day…. or you are like me and anxious about starting a new job….or you’re a busy mom trying to juggle it all…. or an Olympic athlete who is feeling the physical and mental pressures of London 2012….. I think this verse can provide you with comfort like it does The MacLeod house.