Monday, December 7, 2009

Flower wreath

Here's my fun project this past week:

I went to the Nutcracker Market a few weekends ago which is a giant vendor sale to fund raise for the Houston Ballet. It's a BIG deal in Houston. In fact, our district said the Friday that it opened, they had record requests for subs and they traced it back to the Nutcracker Market. Crazy. I've never seen so many people or so many cute things in one room. I saw this GORGEOUS red flower wreath that was calling my name. The prices there varied from "aweome!!!" to "who would pay that?!" so I didn't know what to expect when I looked at the price. To my dismay it was $60. Sad day.

But then my wheels started turning. I'm super into crafts right now thanks to...drumroll...Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts. For my sister's birthday, I beaded a floral headband thanks to our Martha. So, fresh off of hours and hours of making a 30 petal flower out of seed beads, I thought "how could this be harder?"

So I set out to Hobby Lobby. I took a 40% off coupon and bought a styrofoam ring (not the floral foam type, just plain old white styrofoam). I ended up having to take a knife and shave off the sharp angles. I also bought about $18 worth of cheap red hydrangea stems (18 at $2 a piece, half off) and a roll of half price deep green ribbon. Here are the results:
I ended up roughly painting the ring with red acrylic paint. I also had to pull out the hot glue gun as I stuck the flowers in to make sure they stay in place.
Here's my lovely addition to my Christmas decor. I'm trying to figure out a way that I can make a friend for it that is more versitile year round.
So fun! Right now I am working on one in white with a deep red ribbon. For about $24 dollars (still a little high), I made a $60 wreath! And I think Martha was smiling down on me this week...I even saw an identical one at Crate and Barrell for OVER $60! Booyah!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Nichols Update

Wow...has it really been two months since I last posted?? Yes...yes, it has.

Here's what we've been up to:

We blinked and October was over and blinked again and it was almost Thanksgiving! During November, we babysat one evening for our friends Amos and Rachel. They have quite possibly the cutest kid ever named Levi. Levi maybe the first baby to turn my husband towards having kiddos of our own. Check out this precious pic...
Now if we can only teach him how to properly hold a baby and change a diaper, we'd be in good shape. As for the "when are you planning on babies?" interrogation, we are hoping to start that process near this time next year. And wow...putting that in real words is frightening and exciting. Of course, that's God willing we are able/ready at that time...and God willing one doesn't come sooner! I really want to work for a few more years before I take my time off for baby makin'.

We went to a Switchfoot concert in November that was incredible. It makes me sad that they are a cliche Christian "youth group" type band...because they really are pretty incredible. Their heart and their lyrics are amazing. Plus they put on an amazing show. Check out their new album, Hello, Hurricane. It's reminiscent of the earliest Switchfoot albums and makes me smile.

We gladly took a few days off at Thanksgiving and relaxed like crazy. We went to Justin's house on Wednesday to spend time with his family and after we ate with them on Thursday, we drove to College Station for tailgating Thanksgiving. It was incredible! We had 5 fried turkeys...yes, fried. They get a bad rep (and probably deservedly so), but they are, by far, the tastiest type of turkey I have ever eaten. Ever. Most people hear fried and think Kentucky Fried, but there is no batter. Just greatness. We loved spending time with our LJ family. We watched the game on Peter's ridiculously huge high def TV and were pleased that we weren't completely embarrassed. That's (sadly) all you can ask as an Aggie...please, footbal team, don't embarrass the school! On Friday, we drove to the Art and Ola Smith's house, the parents of our family friends, the Pickerings. They live on a great farm and we just enjoyed drinking hot chocolate and sitting by a fire. It really was a fantastic break.

During our travels that weekend, my little Focus hit a milestone. We never thought the day would come when this mess on wheels would hit 100,000 miles, but it has stuck around long enough to drive us BANANAS. It's a constant headache. Since I've had it (it's only an '03), the transmission has been replaced, the alternator replaced, severe alignment problems caused us to replace year old tires on the whole dang thing, an important tube thing (yeah, I know what I'm talking about) busted and the whole car convulsed like it was going to its grave, the engine mounts busted and made the car, again, convulse like crazy, the windshield is currently cracked in two huge places, a hubcap went missing, and now the trunk can't be opened. Well, it can, but if you open it, you can't close it. Sorry for the run-on...but I feel a run-on sentence was appropriate to express our exaspiration with this vehicle. We are definitely ready to get a new one, but she needs to last us at least another year. If nothing else, at least it still starts and moves!Since then, we've gotten out our Christmas decorations and went and picked out a tree. We knew it was time for Christmas when our students started going nuts...you know you are getting close to a break when they act like looney tunes. While I love decorating for Christmas, this year it just made me anxious for buying our house this spring. But that will come in time, I suppose! Justin was so precious when we went to get out the decorations from the garage...he had bought the Christmas plates I have been DROOLING over for the past two years, wrapped them, and hid them on top of our decorations in the garage. How smooth is that?? Here's our cute little tree.
I have always LOVED when people have a color coordinated tree. Ornaments that match ribbons and garland used. Those are beautiful! We don't have the funds to do that (the majority of our ornaments are from my Meemaw over the years/hand-me-downs from our parents!) and a perfect tree doesn't feel like it suits us. Regardless, I love the smell of our tree (I am a real tree person...sue me) and coziness it provides.

Stay tuned for a fun holiday decor piece that is easy and cheap!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My back hurts...

..because I have been steam cleaning all day. Something about days off makes me have this desire to fill that time. With Monday off, my eager beaver attitude kicked in. The couches we have in our living room are fantastic hand-me-downs from my Aunt Melinda and Uncle Mark, but they have definitely seen their better days. They are a lovely cream color...in most places. Other places are dingy cream...or worse. But for traveling all the way from Arkansas last year, they are in pretty darn good shape. The back cushions are essentially just over-sized pillows and they have lost most of their "oomph". On Saturday I got the idea to cut the inner pillow open and re-stuff them. I tore the old padding out and fluffed it and put that back in to the pillows with some extra stuffing we got at a fabric store. I am proud to say that they are now as supportive as they were in their days of youth.

After hand sewing the pillows back together, I decided that my beautiful dingy cream colored spots needed to see their days of youth, as well. I went out and rented a carpet cleaner with an upholstery attachment. I'm a little frustrated with the lady at Lowe's, though...she didn't tell me how bad it sucks to use a carpet cleaner. What seemed like 1,000 hours later, my couches were finally all cleaned and now my living room is a maze of damp, but clean, cushions that are trying their hardest to dry. Tomorrow I will be so excited that my couches are clean...especially when I remember the disgusting water that I emptied after I finished cleaning...but tonight I'm exhausted.

In other news, school is great for both of us. Most days/periods we love what we do...which is all you can ask of any job that doesn't involve setting your own hours or working on the beach. Church is fantastic as is our small group. We have been really challenged lately spiritually and are grateful for every minute of it!

A couple weeks ago, we went to a wedding of one of Justin's high school friends and sat at a table with several of his friends, as well. We had a BLAST. Lisa (the bride) was randomly friends with one of my friends from junior high/freshman year in Texas and she was at the wedding, as well. I LOVED getting to talk to her, but the whole night got me thinking about my life. I spent junior high and my freshman year here in Texas and then moved to WV my sophomore year. My parents then moved back to Texas after my freshman year at A&M...which has left me in a very weird position. I haven't seen (much less talked to outside of facebook) high school friends in five years. Five years. I don't see them when I visit my parents or come home from Christmas. They all live on the other side of the country. For some reason, the wedding we went to reminded me how lonely my situation is. I don't really have old friends here in Texas...I missed so much of their lives when I lived in WV. Granted, I have a few very good, old friends here in Texas that are such a blessing. But I only have a few. And my high school friends in WV live different lives than I do way on the other side of the country. When I think about my time in WV, I wonder how many people even really remember me. I was barely a blip on their radar--most of them had lived their for their entire lives and I essentially spent only 3 years there.

I am not saying any of this to be pitied...I have a fantastic husband, great family, and perfect friends. But I feel like I'm missing this huge part of life that everyone else has. I'm not sure if I will ever even have the opportunity to go back to Charleston...and if I did, who would I see? I'm not sure if I will ever go to a reunion...how would I fit in with these people I haven't seen since high school?

All of this has led to my insecurity. In church on Saturday the focus was on the passage where Paul says to "immitate me as I immitate Christ." They had members of the staff film and talk about their most difficult issues that they are still working through and explained what they were doing to overcome them. There were stories about dealing with spousal infidelity, wild children, poor life decisions before Christ, and many others. It was VERY encouraging. Their were a few that resonated with me, but one in particular was insecurity. I feel like having these odd relationships alllllll over my past has made me very insecure about relationships in general. Am I good enough? Will people want to hang out with me? I have let my past dictate to me that the answers to those questions are a resounding "no". During the service, I just prayed for the Lord to wash his grace and mercy all over my insecurities. I know he had a plan for my life in taking me to WV and away again and it was NOT for me to feel as if I am not good enough for friendships because I don't have many long-term ones. PRAISE THE LORD that He has given me sweet college friends, sweet family friends, growing friendships here in Cypress, and a fantastic best friend in my husband. I still ache for my memories...but I know he has plans for my life beyond this moment regarding those memories and experiences.

Wow...I didn't intend on going into so much detail on that...but I think I needed to work through it myself.

Thanks for listening...:)

Go clean a couch...you'd be AMAZED at the filth you are sitting on!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ramblings

I know I haven't updated you on the life of the Nichols in a minute...(stealing that phrase from one of my students)

Here's what we are doing:

School


i.e.-grading poor work where students misspell water ("warter"...really?) or give me answers like "my hypothesis is the more fertilizer, the better" (what the heck was an honors student thinking when they actually put that on a test...gag me, please...that got marked incorrect for sooo many reasons), telling kids to pull up pants, packing our lunch, arriving at work long before the sun comes up, and loving every minute of it.


It's been a fantastic year so far. Little to report because we are loving life. There has only been one day (today...we had a pep rally and that makes the kids squirrley) that I wanted to tell my kids "go away, I'm going home."

And for the first three weeks of school, that's pretty darn good.

I have awesome kids, an awesome administration, and an awesome room.

Other than that, we have been enjoying any rest we can get (even though I am having to stay at school MUCH later than I did last year due to changes in our scope and sequence and totally stinkin fantastic awesome new way our team is teaching) and enjoying our (sadly) more limited time together.

Last weekend we went to one of the most enjoyable Aggie season openers that I can remember. It was overcast all day (read: we only sweated a little...and for Texas in September, that's INCREDIBLE) and we actually played real football. I have felt that for the past few years that I have been watching a glorified high school team try to play in the NCAA...I feel like this year maybe, just maybe we may actually deserve all of the hooplah that Aggie fans give football. Seriously...we won 4 national championships last year but I bet any given graduate couldn't list the sports they were in. And beyond that, our women's athletics (basketball, swimming, track, soccer, etc.) are consistently top in the Big 12 and top 10 in the nation. But does anyone care? Nope...but hey, that's Texas! :)

We got to see my brother and see his awesome college boy's house (or disgusting...whichever way you want to look at it). They have actually done a fantastic job to make the junk house really comfortable. I liked two things about it: the fact 4 Aggies and Texans all have snowboards and they are all mounted in their living room and their fancy motorized Easy Shopper (the wheelchair shopping cart things) that they ride up and down their hall on.

I have also been thinking about several very random things:

It makes me really happy to show know-it-alls the things they didn't know...probably because I have an inate desire to be the ultimate know-it-all. That is one of my MANY personality flaws (that I love to point out to myself...praise God for endess grace! If only I could get myself on board with that whole system...).

Why do people with doctorates insist on being called Dr.?? Seriously...sometimes it drives me nuts...especially when you introduce yourself to peers (i.e. other teachers) as Dr. SuchandSuch. Really? I don't say "I'm Mrs. Nichols" to my peers...maybe it's because my dad NEVER EVER EVER went by Dr. Erskine. But I guess if I went to school for half of my life, I'd be proud, too.

I think my maternal clock is blowing up....like crazy blowing up.

How can I seriously be 23 and have skin that is wayyyy worse than my 15 year old students?? And the sad thing...I think I will ALWAYS be that way. YAAAAAY genetics.

We have a seriously hilarious Community Group. It's probably got to be the best mix of people...like ever.

I really like it when AP's and principals actually discipline. And stand in the hallways and yell at kids. Mine are fan-freakin-tastic.

Why is it that when you wear a new deoderant you don't smell "like yourself" for days?

I can't wake up on time...like never. And I especially can't wake up feeling rested no matter what time I went to bed if you make me get up before 5:15. Like for real, people...that's not right. Who starts high school at 7:25??? Lame.

I am going to get a class pet (a frog or a fish) and name it T-Pain. This has been my desire for a long time. I think it would be hilarious...my kids don't get it. Probably because I think T-Pain is absolutely ridiculous and he's their hero. Oh well...they don't get my jelly fish names, either. "Grizz and DotCom?? Anyone???" *crickets* "30 rock?" *crickets* I'm just wayyy cooler than my students and they don't realize it quite yet.

Again...a complete post of ramblings. There are so many times throughout the day that I think "man, I'm going to blog about that" and I even go so far as to think through how I would write it. But for some reason, it's my follow-through that gets me.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Why I Love My Husband (and money tips)

  • I don't have to do dishes unless I am being sweet. He does them for me...always.
  • He likes almost everything I cook and lies when he doesn't.
  • He cleans out closets.
  • I am never at a loss for laughs.
  • I know our money is being used wisely, with the Lord and our future in mind.
He decided to make a general version of his hardcore budget spreadsheet to give out to people. It's pretty incredible. In this spreadsheet, there is a blank budget for every month and a sheet that explains how the budget works. It's set up to do all of the calculations for you--subtracting, adding, figuring how much you have to save each month to reach your goals by your deadlines. It's pretty incredible and has been a year in the making!

Just click on the link below and use as you would like!

Sample Budget


I am sure you have an awesome system yourself, but if you don't or don't have it all written out, we would love for you to use this! It really is set up and ready to go. Play around with it, change it to fit you and your savings goals, pass it on, whatever!

He's pretty awesome...:)


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jellyfish and wedding showers

*Warning- Nicole Packman- don't read until AFTER your shower! *

Tons of people have asked us if we're bored this summer.

Seriously? Would YOU be bored if you got paid to go on a 2 month vacation?

That's what I thought.

We have had a blast filling our time with vacations, family, and projects. I have recently filled mine and Justin's time with crafting. My first project is for my brand, spankin' new classroom. I am a biology teacher and I wanted something fun and cute. When we were in Florida, we went to some precious boutiques in Apalachicola. In one, I saw a jellyfish that hung from the ceiling (and gasped at the $70 price tag...I love my kids, but not THAT much) and I was inspired. I decided I could do it myself.

So I did. I took two big plastic bowls and covered them in plastic wrap. I then spent 3 days paper mache-ing (a word??) them...and almost gave up. It stinks to have glue all over you! I ended up doing about 5 layers of paper mache. And they ended up looking like goofy, pathetic army hats.
And yet I kept going. I painted them a light blue with just the cheap acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby (speaking of which, what random, instrumental Christian songs have you heard in there? I've got Our God is an Awesome God and today, Love Song for a Savior. I love that song...but instrumental???).I bought some iridescent cellophane and spray adhesive to cover them. All I did was start at the top and glue to the bottom. I wrapped the extra underneath. The effect is pretty cool in person.Then, I cut long wavy strips into a very thin, blue/purple, iridescent fabric and hot glued them inside my Cnidarian (that's nerd for jellyfish) friend. They turned out so fun! The tentacles blow with the slightest breeze which will be good in the highly air-conditioned rooms at school. I'll just have to take them down when the Fire Marshall comes. :) Breakin' rules all over!Like em? When I get over my nightmares of having my fingers covered in glue and bits of newspaper, I may make some mini versions so these two can have some friends.

My NEXT project is way way fun and also and inspiration from precious stores in Apalachicola, Florida. It's going to be my new wedding shower staple. I don't have in-progress pictures on this one, though.
So cute, right? You know when you are having a party or having people over and you are making that signature dish? Everyone wants to know the recipe. If you WANT to give up your secrets, this is a fun way! Here's a close up:We bought a simple piece of very thin birch plywood at Lowe's. It cost about $3 and I can probably get 5 or so more of these recipe holders out of it. So basically, a steal. Justin used his muscles to cut out a 7"x10" (approximately) rectangle and sanded it down for me. I used, again, cheap acrylic paint and painted the whole thing a teal blue. We then drilled a hole about an inch from the bottom that was 1/4" and used a 1/4" x 4" carriage bolt and nut. I covered the head of the bolt with a bit of the scrapbooking paper I used on the bottom.Because the hole was drilled an inch up from the bottom, the whole thing leans back slightly like a picture frame. I then used simple scrapbooking paper, ribbon, rubber cement, and hot glue to beautify it. I have the junkiest hand-writing on the face of the planet. It's true. So I got some yellow cardstock and downloaded my friend's handwriting as a font (check it out...it's so much fun and there are tons to choose from. Thanks Beth!). I printed "From the Carrillo Kitchen" and glued that on there, too. I finished it by attaching a painted clothespin at the top to hold the recipe. Fun? Yes. Get married...I'll make you one. But you have to invite me to the wedding. You'll get two if I'm in the wedding...:) Just kidding.This is for my cousin-in-love, Nicole Packman (soon to be Carrillo). For her shower gift, I got her spring form pans and a pretty pie server. So, using Beth's precious hand-writing font again, I typed up my favorite cheesecake recipe and put it in the clothespin. I love it because the possibilities are endless...cookie sheets and your favorite oatmeal raisin recipe, a trifle bowl and your favorite banana pudding recipe, muffin tins and your best blueberry muffin recipe. And the recipient can use it to display their best recipes, too! Such a fun gift. But I guess I'm biased. What do you think?

And you would think my husband wouldn't like all this girly crafting...but he does. He helped me on both projects (and commented me on the recipe thing...he apparently thought it would be slightly ghetto and was amazed that it wasn't. Uh, thanks??) and spent the time that I paper mached by painting me some more beautiful pictures for our apartment! Love him.

In the time I'm not covered in glue and paint, I'm completely sucked into Twilight. A bit late (in all senses...they've been out forever...and I'm 23...so what??), but I'm loving them. I've read the first two in 4 days.

You will find me in the world of vampires and werewolves. Peace.

Monday, July 20, 2009

mmm...summer

So I thought I would just update and update with all my free time this summer...

...but then I realized "hey, I'm going to go play a lot this summer" and blogger took a back seat.

Here's what we've been up to:

A week after school got out, we flew to NYC for 4 days. We figured, if we can't use our awesomely large tax return on ourselves now, when can we?? We had an absolute blast. Justin had never been and I had never stayed in the city. Our hotel was 3 blocks from time square on a little cozy side street.

The day we arrived, we went to Time Square, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, and ate at the most AMAZING pizza restaurant in Brooklyn. It was complete with an Italian man that seemed like he was straight out of the movie Remember Me. We waited in line for two hours and ate with a couple from the UK, one couple from NYC, and another from an Asian nation...they couldn't speak much English.

Day two consisted of a Yankees/Mets game complete with classic New York guys behind us and super trashy New York girls in front of us. You know, the kind that have nails that are too long with designs on them and rhinestones. They cussed too much and drank to much and even the New York guys were making funny comments about how nasty they were. It was great. It was also the highlight of Justin's trip. After the game, we went to Carmine's, an awesome Italian restaurant near Times Square.

Day three was New York Tourism day. We went to the UN, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall Street, China Town, and Serendipity 3. Our feet died that night. It was sooo worth it.

Day four was our fun day. We went to breakfast on the upper east side at this amazing local place. We then walked through Central Park and made our way to 5th Avenue and the shopping around it. We sho' enough hit up some H&M and I cried because we don't have one. Come on, H&M, H-town is cool enough for you. Okay, maybe not, but plllllease?! After shopping, we went to an amazing outdoor restaurant in a park near the Flatiron building. (did I fail to mention we left Texas in record breaking, triple-digit temperatures for NYC that was in 60s and 70s? Jealous???) We sat at a table amongst locals getting off work and had quite possibly the best burgers ever.

Then we went back to the hotel to get ready for our broadway show...The Little Mermaid! Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a let down, but we got cheap tickets. We would have loved to see something else, but it was way more affordable to see that (and my 5 year old self jumped for joy). PLUS, the guy who played Eric was the lead guy in Another Cinderella Story, or so the millions of teenage girls around us said. And at intermission there was crazy excitement because Selena Gomez was there watching him perform. The teenage girls and their crazy moms were going berzerk. Literally. They even proceeded to tell Justin all about her as if he would care. It was extremely entertaining.

We had a fantastic, tiring time. And we rode the Subway in the wrong way a few times. But who hasn't? Oh...and we lost count of the number of weave stores we saw in Harlem on the bus to and from the Airport. It was phenomenal.

After that, I went to Arkansas with my family while Justin (wisely) opted out and went camping with friends. We went to my grandparents in Bentonville, Lake Ouachita with my aunt and uncle, and then Fancy Town (AKA Pine Bluff). It was, as it always is, interesting. Love those grandparents!

Last week, we got to go to my FAVORITE place in the world, Saint George Island. It's been three years since we have gone, so it was incredible. We celebrated our 1st anniversary before AND during the trip. I can't believe we've gotten there already! And I can't believe that the next step is buying a house and having babies...woohoo! Our friends, the Pickerings, came with us as well. It was simply incredible.

Now we are doing nothing. Not literally...we are playing scrabble, cooking fun things, and going to open houses for fun. School starts in a month and we have a lot of In-Service stuff starting next week so our summer is coming to a close. It's a bit bitter sweet, but I think we are both excited to do what we love. The first time we have a discipline problem, we might regret saying that, but we love teaching and our kiddos.

This summer has shown me how incredibly blessed I am. I have a husband who is HILARIOUS and precious. He takes care of me and worries when I jay-walk in New York. He takes care of our budget and is always looking towards the future. I am more attracted to him and he is so much more a part of me than the day I married him. I love that. I have a fantastic job that gives me a fantastic schedule. I have an incredible family (born into and in-law). I can't wait to take each step in life with my cute husband and our families.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

aaannnnnddddd....

...done.

ahhhhhh, saying that just makes me crave a giant glass of lemonade, a swim suit, and a book.


:)

New York in a weeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yipee!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Photo Update

It's the end of the year...we're tired...but so excited for summer! On our horizon we have a trip to NYC in June and a trip to my beloved Saint George Island in July. We are SO excited for summer and vacation, but we are going to miss our kiddos!!

Here's what we've been up to lately.



Justin got his cap, gown, and hood...and we had NO idea how they worked!! In fact, the day of his graduation, we stood in the parking lot arguing about the dang hood. He was telling me to fix it like the picture...and I had NO idea what the "right" way was based on the picture they gave him! This was his best guess.
Proud of my little Masters husband. Isn't he cute? And he's pretty smart.
It IS a hood, right?! He's throwing up the big Cy-Woods sign for his kiddos.
We got to go to an Astros game Memorial Day weekend...and we lost...of course. But I still love baseball. There's something about watching it that is comforting. I love love love the relaxed atmosphere and the conversation that the sport allows!And this is why my decision to leave Cy-Fair was SOOO hard. My 5th period planned a party for me complete with these balloons, a "We'll Miss You" cookie cake, brownies, and the sweetest card ever. They are ridiculously awesome. They have DEFINITELY boosted my self-esteem. You have no idea how it feels to have kids say that they will move to my new school just so that they can come see me. Seriously...when I told my kids, they said exactly what I would have wanted them to say. Things like "no, you're too awesome!!" and "you can't leave, Mrs. Nichols, you're the best teacher I've ever had." Seriously kids...A+ for those comments! I am going to miss them more than I could ever express. If I type any more...I may start to cry...so I'll stop.

More updates once summer hits...4 days and counting!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Straight from the Nichols Kitchen

We had the best Asian dinner tonight! I thought I would share the recipe with you. I marinated the steak in teriyaki ginger marinade, only used 2 cloves of garlic instead of 4, and used half an onion instead of a whole one. It was delicious!!!

I'm changing the way I grocery shop by making a monthly menu. I sat down on Saturday and collected fun new recipes and used some of our staples to fill up this month. I never cook on Fridays because that is date night (or at least "go out to eat" night) and we have that in our budget, so I skipped that on our monthly menu. Saturday night is always a light meal because we go to church that evening, so I have built in during the week times when I'll brown extra ground turkey or cook up extra chicken breasts to make a new creation quickly on those nights. It revolutionized my trip to Walmart today and I'm super excited to see what it does for us budget wise! If you do that and have good tips, let me know. I love some good frugal tips for the kitchen!

Anyways, here's the recipe. Let me know if you use it and change it! It's definitely going to be a regular on our monthly menu here at the Nichols house!

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon chili paste with garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups cooked egg noodles or whole wheat spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked)
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups frozen broccoli florets
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 flank steak (1 pound), trimmed and cut across the grain into long, thin strips
Thinly sliced green onions, to garnish
Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce, chili paste and crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Combine pasta and sesame oil, tossing well to coat.
  3. While pasta cooks, heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, broccoli and onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the steak and sauté for 5 minutes or until done. Add pasta mixture and soy sauce mixture and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly.
  4. Serve garnished with thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.

And yes...I know that there were grammar mistakes in this...I just refuse to say the Nicholses or the Nichols's...it looks dumb! :)

-L

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Big news!

...and no, I'm not pregnant. Once you get that second ring on your finger, that's all anybody cares about any more. Seriously, I really hate when your husband's grandma asks if you are "trying". Gross...

My big news is that I am changing schools next year!! I know that my last post was extremely cryptic but I have had enough of pettiness and child-like, unprofessional behavior from people who are older than my parents. So, I'm done! (I could go on and on and on about the situation...it mainly had to do with the fact that our pedagogical theories didn't match up..at all.)

I put in a transfer request in March after a couple rough weeks. I prayed that the Lord would show me where to walk and he brought to my attention the passage where Peter walks on water to the Lord and wavers. I couldn't figure out whether or not He wanted me to take a step out on the water by accepting the interview at my new school OR He wanted me to continue to trust Him on the water and quit drowning. I decided that I would put all of my faith in Him and say yes to the interview. I simply trusted that what happened would be God's plan.

...then I got the job. I panicked for a day wondering if I should accept or not. Justin really got to lead me that day because he felt strongly that the Lord was leading me to Cy-Ranch HS. I followed my amazing husband's lead and took the job!

And I haven't even told you the best part yet...I GET A ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!! Cy-Ranch is brand new and next year they will only have Freshmen - Juniors. My room will be new and all-stinkin-mine! You have no idea how much strain floating has put on me this year...and I am done!! The principal, DC, and team leader seem awesome and I couldn't be more excited to be there. The school is actually composed of lots people from Cy-Fair, so my department chair was able to really brag on me, which was definitely a blessing.

So I am now a Mustang. That news may not be that big of a deal to you, but for me, it means that stress and pressure are off of me and I don't have to come home in tears any more. There were weeks that I would come home every night either furious because of ridiculous things said or in tears because of hurtful things said. That's just not an acceptable work environment and I am so thankful that the Lord has taken me out of this trial. Blessings.

So yeah, things are good :)

In the meantime, I turned 23. Shh..don't tell my kids...the have no idea how old I am and would FREAK if they knew I was that young.

Right now we are in the middle of TAKS testing. For those of you who aren't from public Texas schools, it's a week designed to torture all students (especially the low ones) and the teachers. We put a RIDICULOUS amount of pressure on the teachers, students, and schools based on these stupid, stupid tests. My kids take it and I am held responsible for everything they have learned last year and this year. So for the past couple weeks I have been re-teaching Physics and Chemistry to my kids and seeing how they have drastically been diserviced by high-stakes testing. It super sucks. Hard core. Like, this one test determines whether or not they graduate. Most kids are okay, but I teach two classes of students who struggle severely in school and it KILLS them. Kids who have worked and struggled to pass classes can be told that you can't graduate because you can't take tests.

Awesome. Great idea, politicians. Why don't you make MORE decisions for our education system which you have never been a part of and have absolutely no credentials to know what the heck you are talking about. That would be fan-freakin-tastic. Thank you, W and No Child Left Behind. It sounds all peachy on the surface, but down in the ditches, it doesn't really work.

But yeah, I'm bored out of my mind because when you give the test, you have to walk around the entire 3-4 hours (as in no sitting...ever). You can't read, can't have a computer on in the room, or do anything else to keep you sane. So my solution is counting...how many tennis shoes, desks, words on the posters in the room, etc. I also characterize the kids like "he's definitely a guitar player" or "she totally loves high school musical". I'll never know if I pin them right, but I just assume that I do...;)

Enough educational ranting--I'm going to sleep!

Thank you thank you thank you for your prayers. Hopefully next post will be something fun...summer is coming!

-L

Monday, April 6, 2009

insert cute title here

I have been blog-slacking of late...

Sorry.

But not really THAT sorry.

I've tried...I promise. Every time I get on here, the ONLY thing I can think to write about are work problems. I want to be professional so I am not going to put them on cyber space for God-knows-who to read....pray for me. If you care for specifics, call me. My kids and I have (most days...) settled into an acceptable routine and they really are the best part of my job. Like I said, I don't want to get specific, but pray for joy in dealing with co-workers and energy to make it through the rest of the year.

It has literally been the worst two work weeks of my life. And I'm a first year teacher...so for the worst weeks to be coming in March/April, it's definitely NOT my kiddo's fault.

So yeah, I'm at a block right now blog-wise. All I can seem to want to write about is my work issues. As I just typed that, I realize that I've let it steal focus from my sweet Lord, as well. That's pathetic...

On a lighter/less cryptic note, my husband is PRECIOUS. When I got home today, he was sitting on the couch in his Astros jersey ready for baseball opening day. LOVE him. And I love the Astros...yay for baseball season!! There's something soothing about it for me...I'm not sure what it is, but I love hearing baseball announcers and watching the game. If you have been around me for any length of time, you know that I love my Astros!!!

Please be praying for me at work...I want to glorify the Lord in all I do...pray that I do that in this situation.

I love that when there are people that will be praying for me immediately when they read this...such a blessing. Love you so much for that!

-L

Saturday, March 21, 2009

We're here!

Well, I know your life hasn't been complete without a blog update from me in a few weeks. So, to the 5 people that read this, I AM here!

We're rounding out Spring Break right now and are SO rested and relaxed. I'm pretty sure in the tough weeks leading up to SB, we said (multiple times) "I am NOT going back tomorrow!" The kids get CRAZY without a break which, in turn, makes our lives crazy. But we made it and it's still unreal that we are almost done with our first year of teaching!!

We started this week with a trip to Conroe to visit a very crowded Nichols household and to attend Justin's cousin Sarah's baby shower. She's having baby girl in April and I'm crossing my fingers that she comes a few days early on my birthday! We had a great time visiting with his grandparents and cousins and playing with babies...and now I want one. Sigh...and no...since I answered this question 15 times at the shower I'll answer it again...we are NOT trying. But if it happened, we wouldn't cry!!

We then went to the big San Antonio (and you know what? It drives me NUTS when people call it San Antone...) to visit the River Walk and Shamu. We had a BLAST. It was such an enjoyable getaway.
Since then, we have been hanging out at home and enjoying our time off. We did run back up to Conroe to get Justin's truck fixed (it's nice to have family that work for car places!) and pick up the treadmill that Justin's mom didn't want anymore. I'm totally excited about that!!! We've got it set up in the garage and even though we don't need it right now because we have a work out center at our apartments, we sure are excited about it when we move out!! We love saving money in any way, shape, or form.

Speaking of money, we feel sooo grown up because we went and set up our Roth IRAs for investment and separate investment fund for our down-payment money that we have been saving up. I'm so blessed with a husband who is diligent with our money and careful with our budget. He may be tight, but I'm so thankful he is! We are saving a ridiculous portion of our salary which will allow me to be a stay-at-home mom while we are raising young children. You should see the budget spread sheet he has perfected. I am all for saving money, but actually looking at what I am spending and budgeting totally overwhelms me. And don't even get me started on the investment side of things! I love the little matches in personality that have come out in our marriage.

It's also March Madness here in our house! It's no secret that I am a huge sports fan. I just love watching almost anything (minus hockey and soccer...I can't handle the fact that when they make passes, it's very common to lose the ball to the other team...). In fact, my love for sports has often been an alienating factor of my personality. While I am not that obnoxious girl who gets in your face about all of the sports facts she knows, I do like sports more than most girls. It's definitely NOT a secret that my college roommates don't like sports...at all. So sometimes I felt like the outcast as I sat watching the Astros or going to Aggie sporting events (but they still love me and vis-versa). But nonetheless, I LOVE sports and I LOVE March Madness. It's so enjoyable to me to watch all of these teams from all over the country play each other. I fill out a bracket (mainly for Justin's sake), but I LOVE it when the underdog wins. I don't care if messes up my bracket...I just love for that team that no one expected to win to come out and show their stuff. I'm sitting here watching MY underdogs (the Aggies) not pull out the upset over UConn...oh well. There's always next year...or the women's team that starts their end of the tournament tomorrow!

I should probably end this marathon of a post to go fold clothes and head to church. We've been going to church on Saturday nights and are really enjoying sleeping in on Sundays.

Love to you-
L

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lucky I'm in love with my best friend...



Happy Birthday, big kid!

If you know Justin, then you know that he is the most caring and helpful man you will ever meet. He is so selfless and loves me unconditionally. He has taught me so much about how the Lord loves through the way that he loves and treats me. I am so blessed to have such a best friend and such a husband. He matches me perfectly in a good cuddle and in personality. We have been together for almost 4 years now and married for 7 months, and I have never laughed more or felt more safe than when I am with him. I am so thankful that I get him forever!!!

To celebrate his 23 birthday, I planned a pretty big weekend! On Friday night, Justin's family and mine came over to celebrate and eat fajitas. We were decked out with fajitas, queso, and homemade salsa.
To finish dinner off, I made the ULTIMATE kid cake...which if you know Justin, you know he is the ULTIMATE kid. Here's a photo of the cake (oh, and after all that planning, I forgot candles...so yes, that IS a votive candle in the middle)Looks normal, right? BUT WAIT!! Look what fun lies inside!!:) Here is the unbaked layers, if you want to see how to make the cool effect!

After we inhaled cake (oh, and the cake is magic...Jeff, Justin's little brother, made his career best time in his two mile event at his track meet today!), Justin opened all of his big boy presents. This is his new man-tool- a sander! He spent this morning playing with it and making pretend sander noises as he "sanded" everything in the house. I even got a video...but he won't let me post it!! What a let down, right?

He also got one of those things that holds two pieces of wood together for you (I can hold my own in household projects, but I don't know my way around most fancy tools!), a Wii baseball game, TOMS, and new glasses. It was a great day!

This morning (the 14th), I went and picked up shipley's for breakfast and when I got home, this is what was waiting for me!! Who cares if it is a corporate holiday? I like flowers and candy!! It's just a fun little bit of Justin's birthday that I get to enjoy.

I let Justin open the rest of his birthday present from me, which was some candy, the Brandon Heath cd, and this fun little book:

It's just a fun little way for me to remind him of all of the things that I love about my hot little husband! I have one thing for every letter of the alphabet that I love about him.

Isn't he just the cutest?? To finish off his birthday, we are going to go eat at Pappadeaux's (if you aren't from Texas, you are REALLY missing out on Pappa's restaurants. He does Mexican, seafood, bar-b-que, pizza, etc. better than almost anyone!!) and enjoy our Saturday together.

:) Enjoy those you love today...what a blessing they all are to us. They are a testament of how much our Lord loves us!!

-l

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dear ugly drawer pulls-

It's been 7 1/2 years that you and I have been together and 7 months for you and Justin. I have always loved my bedroom furniture. I picked it out to go into my new room (the first that I had to myself) when my family moved to West Virginia and I just adored it. But to be honest, I've never loved you. Granted, when you first came into my life, I didn't really have an opinion about you and just accepted your presence because of my love for my lovely furniture. But as the years have passed and you joined me and my new husband in our home, I have grown cold towards you. Justin says you look medieval and I can't help but agree. Your constant noise and ugliness made me grow cold towards my furniture, as well. You almost ruined a long relationship. It was only yesterday I realized you must go. I found new drawer pulls. They are shiny and sleek and have changed the whole face of the furniture. It is no longer drab and dull, but modern and beautiful. We're done.

Love,
Laura

:) Check out our little handy project. We changed out our drawer pulls tonight and replaced them with new shiny ones! It made a HUGE difference in our room. The pictures just don't do it justice.
Old and ugly:

Old and ugly and EVERYWHERE:Sleek and modern:
Total makeover:


It was the best $50 we've ever spent for our little home! Every time I walk into our room, I can't believe the change!!

Love to you all-
Laura and Justin