Thursday, December 29, 2011


A new camera+new compuer (RIP to my previous blogging tools) and an insane week leading up to Christmas resulted in minimal posting. Time to remedy. I took hardly any photos but want to recap our fun week.

Out of work Friday afternoon, December 16, and my student teacher presented me with this gingerbread house she made of our school. I keep finding more details! After a nap at home I headed to our staff party, and then topped the night off with a late night visit to Target - the last before the holiday.

The next day was lots of fun - we headed to Livermore for our family hair cut and style outing, shopped for stocking stuffers, lunched at Fuddruckers, and hit the jackpot at Old Navy - I think we made money. Then it was off to my aunt and uncle's party where we celebrated with my dad and other relatives. We stayed with my mom and stepdad and went sledding the next day and then I had the yummiest Pasta Carbonara ever at Wine and Roses.

We hightailed it home with just enough time to unpack before we met up with two of my awesome girlfriends and their kiddos. We took the pack of all boys + Paige to a trampoline place and then over to my gf's house for a yummy potluck (who am I kidding - she did everything.) I do not see these girls enough, so this get-together was a huge treat!

Then Miss P had her girlfriend time. I had promised her a baking playdate with a small group of friends, but with everything going on we compromised on one friend and her little brother. It was such a cozy day, baking cut-out sugar cookies and doing crafts. Paige's bf's mom stayed =ing more girlfriend time for me!

The girlfriend bonding continued with a night out at another bestie's house celebrating friendship, good cheer, and her brand new kitchen! We ended up putting the kids to bed, watching a movie and sleeping over. The girls were so stoked. Here they are (with Paige in her dress from the night before).

In between all of this craziness I made about five ('this is the final') trips to Target, wrapped all of the gifts, readied the guests quarters, and then the 23rd was upon us! We visited with some other longtime friends at an eggnog party and came home in time to welcome my brother/sister in-law and their clan.

Christmas Eve was morning was spent getting the whole family together at Ed's dad's house, then the younger troops moved on to our house. Football, crafts, movie watching and cookie decorating ensued.

After more eating, drinking, gift opening, etc., most of the gang went home, and it was time to prep for the big guy! Paige never went to sleep so fast!

Here she is Christmas morning!

She loves her new leappad, playmobile pool set, and Cookie dog. We had a great Christmas day and bid our last guests adieu in the afternoon.

This week has been all about cleaning up, and catching up. I have even been into work twice to ready Room 2 for 2012. Resolution/goals post upcoming!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paige's favorite Christmas movie

Never fails to make us laugh!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Husband gift

Guess I'm doing a bit of a gift theme. Ed's big gift this year was fitting both of our cars in the garage last weekend - 'a Christmas miracle!' This morning Paige and I were brainstorming something else for him - he is sooo hard to buy for. We had the same idea at the same time - Giants tickets! However, her guess was that they would be $6 a piece. Late this afternoon I entered my classroom after meeting briefly with someone to find the little miss on my computer skimming the Giants website! She crowed when she found out that there were some games with ticket prices starting at $8. However we did a little better than that. : ) Club level, baby!

colleague gift

The last week of school before holiday break, I figured all the staff would be stretched thin like me! So this year I baked muffins for a quick and easy breakfast on the go. No pictures of the actual muffins : ( (use your imagination), but they rose up to perfect cones on top. Tupperware from Target (they have a parking space their for me now.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011


On Friday we had an awards assembly at school. Paige earned an award for reading! Here she is with some of her good gal pals and their awards.

She won an award at this exact same time last year for reading also, along with one of the same friends, pictured below. Happy reading, girls!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fun Little Neighbor Gift

I love coming up with fun, inexpensive, and useful gifts for colleagues (we do a lot of gift exchanging at school) and neighbors. Recently, I found a to die for treat on Pinterest - chocolate peanut butter pretzels - and I gave them a holiday spin with these red and green M&Ms.

Popped in a festive red take-out food container ($1 at Micheal's) and a little play on words gift tag, and you have yourself a happy holiday gift!

Here's the oh-so-easy recipe. One of the best parts - Kids can help!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites


1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp softened butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar


1 bag chocolate chips

red and green M&Ms (you could do blue and white for Hannukah)


Combine peanut butter and softened butter in a large bowl. Add the sugars and mix. Next, roll the butter/sugar mixture into little balls and sandwich between two pretzles on a cookie sheet. Stick the tray into the freezer for about half an hour.

Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 30 second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted. Remove the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip each halfway into the melted chocolate. When all are dipped, return to freezer to set up completely. Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Advent

I have been leading a dual life lately. Hardworking teacher juggling 3-D shapes and reading strategies during the week, and Santa's elf on Saturday and Sunday. My big project last weekend was getting my take on Paige's advent calendar ready.

I had been setting aside cute little holiday things for awile (long sleeved tees from Old Navy, holiday books) and just wrapped them in this red and rustic color scheme I'm liking and added these white numbers.

She loves it!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Is Santa real?

Paige (age 7) has been asking me the age old question, 'Is Santa real?' I had been replying with variations of 'yes,' 'tell me why you are wondering?', and 'do you think he is real?' Finally, about a week ago, I told her: 'OK, daddy and I are the ones doing the presents. But it is Santa that represents the idea of giving and caring.' We talked about St. Nicholas and how he, Jesus, and God are what inspires the acts of Christmas. I just came across this letter on the site from Martha Brockenbrough of Marthabee that does a beautiful job of explaining this in a letter, much more eloquently (than I did on the fly in the car). Martha and her daughter regularly exchange letters - what a great idea! Here it is:

Dear Lucy,
Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”
I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.
I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.
So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.
I love you and I always will.

Advent Calendar Love

The Christmas spirit is alive and well here at the Riley household! Immediately following Thanksgiving I was actually dreading some of the work involved (bah, humbug!) It may have been the ridiculous amout of hours I spent creating our cards, or the inordinate amount of time I mulled over co-worker gifts, (move on, sister.)

Last night I atteneded my first seasonal shindig, with girlfriends no less, and had a ball. I now have a burst of energy and with music playing and BHG as my inspiration, I'm ready to deck the halls. One of my big to-do's this weekend - figuring out an advent calendar/gift display. Here are some of my favorites!

Finally! An advent calendar that might work for me! I've been giving Miss P gifts one by one, as I've tried to come up with a homemade display. If I can get it right, I'll post my results.

Books for advent!

Do you know how 'me' this is???

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kid-Made Holiday Gift for Parents

I have THE hardest time each year coming up with a gift for all of my students (28 now) to make for their parents. It needs to fit these requirements:

1) Be cute.

2) Be somewhat useful/functional

3) Not be too Christmas-y as not everyone celebrates the holiday.

4) Be very inexpensive to make. (Remember, I have 28 of these that need to be created, even $5 a piece is too much).

5) Be doable for kinders (with some help) and not overly time consuming!

See what I mean? I'm considering these calendars....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Programming!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I had such a restful break, then returned to the classroom to a snowfall of new challenges. Luckily, our Christmas cards got ordered the weekend (after 4 hours of work - what is wrong with me?) However, my pumpkins and scarecrows are still gracing the doorstep! I think I can get away with my Fall decor until December 1st. Hopefully tomorrow afternoon I can 'winterize' a bit.

Another holiday project I took on in my spare time last weekend was organizing my holiday programming. I don't watch a ton of TV usually, but love to indulge in Christmas movies and specials. I have a big fondness for Hallmark movies. Here are some of my favorites - mark your calendars!

Trading Christmas - new movie based on book by Debbie Macomber. Just saw it last weekend, and very cute. Similar to 'The Holiday.' Friday, Dec 2 at 8:00 p.m.

The most wonderful time of the year - another rom com worth watching. Next showing, Dec 2 at 10:00 p.m.

The Christmas card - my favorite! I'm telling you, this one is high quality. December 8th at 7:00 p.m.

Now, here are some HGTV specials!

Sarah's Holiday Party - Could not confirm time on this, however, the episode is available on the site.

HGTV Holiday Block Party - 12/24, it premiered last weekend and I can't believe they aren't going to show it again until Christmas eve!

If you are a fan of Design on a Dime and the Hi-Lo Project, they have special episodes too. Set your Tivo's!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stationery card

Classic Initials Christmas Card
Browse Shutterfly's unique Christmas card designs.
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Apple Dumplings!

A few years ago in my days as a fledgeling cook. (Oh who am I kidding, I still am a fledgeling cook.) Anyway, super-fledgeling cook me was paging through Rachael Ray's magazine and decided to give Angela Kinsey's Grandma's Apple Dumplings a try. They looked just easy enough for me.

Once again, they will be my contribution this year. I may know a few more recipes, but sometimes you've got to hold on to tradition! Get your fledgeling (or not) hands ready to try this quick dessert.

Apple Dumplings

4 servings


Flour, for dusting

one 8-0z can crescent rolls

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges

1 stick (4 0z) butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinamon

3/4 cup mountain dew

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a surface dusted with flour, unfold the rolls. Place an apple wedge on the wide edge of each piece of dough and roll up; place the dumplings in an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. In a saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar and cinnamon over medium heat. Stir in the Mountain Dew. Pour the mixture over the dumplings. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remvoe the foil and bake for 15 more minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Farewell, Pirahnas - may you always be 'on the attack!'

Saturdays just won't be the same
Without a 10 or 2 o'clock soccer game
Families yelling, 'yea, pirahnas,' or 'go pink!'
The season went by in a blink
The girls passed, blocked, and scored
There was never time to be bored
The season ended, it's time to celebrate
The Pink Pirahnas Team, Under 8!

Proud players!

Proud dad!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Baked Pumpkin Risotto

I have pumpkin fever! I'm guessing we'll be doing pumkin for the next week, right on through Thanksgiving. Tonight it's pumkin ravioli, earlier this week it was pumkin risotto. I love risotto! I combined a couple of different recipes and was pretty happy with the results. Ed liked it too.

Needed - 2 casserole baking dishes, one with a lid


olive oil
1 3/4 cups arborio rice
4 cups of chicken stock
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 can of pumpkin
1/2 sliced onion
1 chopped garlic clove

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat casserole dish with olive oil. Pour rice into dish and cover with chicken stock. Add some salt, stir, and cover.

Empty a can of pumkin into another baking dish. Add onion, garlic and salt.

Place covered rice dish in oven for 45 minutes or until rice is tender and most of the stock has been absorbed. Pumpkin mixture should cook in the oven for same amount of time on the shelf underneath the risotto.

Five or so minutes before items are finished baking, melt the butter on the stove in a small sauce pan, until it browns. Take out risotto and pumkin, and add the pumpkin into the risotto dish. Top with parmesan cheese, and finally the burnt butter. Voila!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AG Fashion Show

Last Friday morning, Paige got an unexpected call inviting her to model in an American Girl fashion show! Just like in the movies, someone got sick, and fortunately, we were in the right place at the right time. (And we had a connection, her cousin Caitlyn -- pictured above).

We weren't allowed to take pictures during the show (lest the models be blinded by all the flashing ), so I had to settle for these shots 'out back.' Paige modeled Bitty Baby sleepwear with her new friend above. They bonded over a little potty talk.

The fact that Paige hadn't rehearsed and didn't know what direction to go didn't dampen the cuteness. Nor did the fact that she and her friend ended their runway walk by laying on the floor in a sleeping pose. This appeared not to be part of the planned act and the girls were prompted by the emcees to 'wake up.'

We haven't received any offers to do any catalouge shoots yet. But, the fashion show folks (Palo Alto Auxiliary) did say they'd invite us back next year!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What is your favorite time of day?
I love the morning, when I can sip my hot cup of coffee and catch up on the news (um, blogs). However, my favorite time of the day lately has been night. (When I can eat chocolate and catch up on blogs.) After a day of teaching, meetings, parenting, commuting, more parenting, cooking, cleaning, playing and bedtiming, I love having an hour or two just to do whatever I want.

Sitting in bed with a stack of magazines is one of my favorite ways to spend this time. Tonight it will be the December issue of BH & G. On Monday nights, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills join me for the event. How do you like to spend your precious hour of downtime?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Crowd Pleaser Fall/Winter Dinner!

I have this fabulous friend. (OK, I have a lot of fabulous friends.) This friend is so busy working as a teacher and being supermom to her three kids that she doesn't have time to peruse the Internet (gasp!) and last year wasn't even quite sure what a blog was. About a year ago, she was catching up on her overflowing email, and came across a link I had sent her ('send me your blog info, I'd love to check it out,' she had asked. Remember she is a fabulous friend.) Anyway, my latest post had been about having a hot chocolate tasting. My friend had been trying to come up with a festive December breakfast idea for staff at her school. She was sold at hot chocolate! 'Now, I understand the purpose of blogs,' she told me.

I think I've done it again! This time the a-ha is a 'Please Everyone Fall/Winter Dinner.' Last night we had over two families for supper club and I was distracted with P's last soccer game and festivities. It was chilly and rain was threatening. Let's do grilled cheese and tomato soup! Our diners were aged 3 to 4oish, and have a variety of preferences when it comes to food. No problem! I whipped up some tomato soup and had all the fixings on hand for grilled cheese bar.

The kiddos all opted for cheddar on french bread. A few were daring and requested some bacon on their sandwiches. They had apple slices, edaname, and carrots on the side. The grown-up favorite was gruyere cheese with bacon and apple slices on sourdough - yum!

This was just so easy. We had french and sourdough bread, a platter of different cheeses, apple slices, and bacon. You could also do guacoamole, tomatoes, grilled onions, pancetta, the list is endless. Kids can have their sandwiches cut into shapes. Or you can cut all sandwiches into appetizer size triangles and people can try different varieties. The host can make all the sandwiches, or guests can make their own.

Speaking of fabulous friends and grilled cheese, I just remembered that One Fabulous Mom had a similar menu at her Trick or Treat Party. Maybe this idea will inspire another fabulous friend, who knows?

Friday, November 11, 2011

lessons and suprises

Lessons learned this week...

blogging is fun.

lunch is fun.

blogging about making school lunches....not so fun (or interesting).

muffins are yummy!

Mama Pea's blueberry streusel muffins are extra yummy! (OK, I already knew this.)

You never know when a surprise around the corner is coming.....

surprise #1: Yesterday after sending my kidlings (students) home with their report cards, and reading miss p's, I just felt so done. Ed was at school picking up Paige to take her on a playdate. I looked around the classroom. Everything was ready for Monday. However, there was a pile or two or three that really needed sorting/organizing/putting away. What to do? Nose to the grindstone? Or spontaneous afternoon date?

Well, I threw caution to the wind and after dropping Miss P at her soccer pal's house, Ed and I poked around downtown Sunnyvle and I caffeinated. (Not that it helped - I was asleep at 8:30. Fell asleep during our family viewing of this week's Biggest Loser. Unheard of.) Ed was very excited about the spontaneous date today. The piles will wait, I guess.

Surpise #2 - today as we were lounging around before attending an American Girl Fashion Show including my niece, I got a call from my mil. A model is sick. Can Paige be in the show too? Can she? We are very excited and primping as I speak (type). Ed is too. He can't wait for us to leave for hours.

Do surprises come in #3's? I hope so.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Goin' Someplace Special

There's a sweet book called Goin' Someplace Special. It is set in a 1950's southern town. A little African American girl is heading to the one place that allows people of all colors -- the public library. Like Tricia Ann, the library is a special place for me too (for clearly different reasons.) It is such a thrill to be able to get an armful of books -- for free!

Paige and I headed over there today. Here's what I got:

Left Neglected - Kind of a deeper version of I don't know how she does it. In this book, our protagonist -Sarah- is an uber busy career woman and mother who ends up in an accident leaving her unaware of anything on her left side. She is forced to rebuild her life.

Double Delicious - by Jessica Seinfeld, sequel to her Deceptively Delicious. I am not a big puree person, but think this book will be fun to try out, even it I leave out that puree part.

Just let me lie down - by Real Simple editor Kristin van Ogtrop. A collection of crazy stories from the working mother. Another book I wouldn't have bought, but am happy to peruse.

Paige got a collection of Nancy Drew Clue Crews.

I'm off to another special place, my couch for the weekly Modern Family viewing!

...and another lunch

The latest in this week's parade of Paige lunches....PB & Apple Sandwich, raisins, strawberry yogurt, edaname, and graham crackers.

In other news, you know that feeling of satisfaction you get after finishing a marathon project? I'm relishing that cards are done!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

hop to lunch!

Paige's bunny lunch - pasta with marinara sauce, bunny bread, carrots (of course) and grapes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Let's do Lunch!

Filled with enthusiasm after Foodbuzz on Saturday, I decided to pose myself a challenge for this week - make some fun lunches for Miss Paige and me!

I've always been a bit envious of my co-worker's lunch. She always has a hot and hearty meal to get her through an afternoon with kindergartners and the ensuing parent pickup, prep, and second shift at home. She once told me her 'secret.' When she plans dinners for the week, she always has lunch in mind. In fact, she said, dinner planning "is all about lunch, and what will make good leftovers.' Interesting way to look at it, I thought.

My lunches are pretty hit and miss. Meaning sometimes they are good, and sometimes I 'miss' them (don't make 'em) and head out to a local eatery for my food fix. Cha-ching. Worse, sometimes I throw together a blah lunch and when noon rolls around, I can't bear to eat it, and my eatie self goes searching for something more tasty. Cha-ching, Cha-ching.

Paige, on the other hand, usually has pretty good lunches, made by chef daddy. Why mess with success? Ed detests making lunch, like our friends over at DALS. I don't mind it. Ed also pretty much makes her the same thing each day, with some small variations. I say, 'lunch is what you make it. Why not make it fun?' And with that, I give you day one's offering above: zoo pasta, animal crackers, sliced carrots and grapes. Nothing fancy yet....but, it beats peanut butter and jelly, right?


mindful muffins

So. Yesterday, I made a quick stop at Trader Joe's. I'm waiting in line and practicing being mindful of my surroundings (eavesdropping), when I hear a couple of women talking about an item in the store they can't find. Suddenly one woman's face lights up in recognition as she points at an item displayed right next to the check stand. "There it is!" she squealed. She proceeded to tell me (and anyone else paying attention) that this pumpkin bread/muffin mix was like a visit from God. That was enough for me. What a perfect breakfast before Church Sunday morning!

Miss P and whipped them up last night, deciding to add some chocolate chips, (and frosting to some). They were quite yummy, and I like how versatile they are (like most muffins). They can be dressed up for dessert (pictured here) or pared down for a healthier breakfast or snack. I can't wait to try more varieties.


Coolness alert! I last minute snagged a Foodbuzz ticket!

It would have been quite the thing to stay the whole weekend and really soak in the food and atmosphere. I decided to go to the one snippet I really wanted to see -- my favorite blogger Mama Pea, on the panel - Taking Your Blog to the Next Level.

The advice from the bloggers? Be yourself in your writing, post daily (or often), focus on good pictures, and invest in a quality header/design. Everything Joy the Baker said was hilarious. Sarah (Mama Pea) was adorable, Kath (Kath Eats Real Food) was super nice, Tracy (Shutterbean) was very knowledgeable and impressive, and Jessica from How Sweet it is was so cute with an infectious laugh.
At the end of the round table, I finally got the nerve to introduce myself to Mama Pea and get a photo. I also got some dough balls!

I rode home full of ideas for my blog. The morning was a success!