Monday, February 28, 2011

Portfolio Playlists

Portfolio is due Friday. For those of you unfamiliar with this monster task, portfolio is a collection of reflections on the writer's year as an educator. In my district, we're asked to reflect on a number of experiences like how we were resourceful to a particular student, two instructional tools used in our curriculum we thought were particularly effective, and other topics that are supposed to be telling of our abilities as new teachers. Come into my English class at 7:30 AM and watch me get twelfth graders to read Hamlet if you want to see what I can really do.
The beast that is portfolio poses a number of problems for me. First of all, I'm old school when it comes to writing. It's very challenging for me to to compose anything on the computer without writing it on paper first. So portfolio means double duty, I write all my responses on an old lady legal pad and then I type them up. The second problem portfolio presents is distraction. I am an easily distracted individual. Fortunately, my distraction doesn't lie in sparkly objects, they are much more task oriented. You can call it putzing around, I'll call it task oriented...putzing.  For example, I'll walk by a kitchen cabinet and feel compelled to reorganize it.
Lucky for me, I solved my distraction dilemma with portfolio playlists.
A portfolio playlist is a collection of music that is about an hour and twenty minutes long. For the duration of the playlist, I make myself respond to these prompts. When the playlist finishes, I'll give the left half of my brain a break and do something fun like bake a broccoli-cheddar quiche for lunchbunch or post on the p&p blog about portfolio playlists. For those of you wondering about the quiche, it looks and smells wonderful. For those of you wondering what I'm listening to on my portfolio playlist, take a peek:

Back to work, begrudgingly to slay the beast that is portfolio,

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boutique Treasures and The Tomato Obsession Continues

As you know, I am an avid thrift store shopper. Much of my home decor comes from second hand stores and I'm not embarassed to admit this. There are some things where I'll draw the line; however, I really have no problems with it. My lovable Betty, on the other hand, she washes her hands if I mention I got something at Red White Blue during a phone conversation. "Oh Lauren, you know I don't like when you buy things from there." She's too funny. I'm thinking of really getting her by starting our next phone chat with, "I got the best bra at Red White and Blue..." (For those of you that need clarification, ew, that is gross and I would never do that. Ew ew ew.)

I wanted to post some pictures of recent thrift store treasures that have stolen my heart. Enjoy:

No, Red White and Blue hasn't added a slightly used baked goods section. I made this coffee cake from the March issue of Martha Stewart Living. That dashing brown plate underneath Martha's mag is from RW&B. By the way, when Martha says to bake your cake in a tube pan with a removal botton, she does not mean a Bundt pan. It will still work, but you can't dump the cake out of the Bundt pan, especially if you put all the struesel topping on what was supposed to be the botton of said cake. 
 Vintage Pyrex from Normie's house. Kneep deep to a tall indian in love with vintage pyrex. It would be silly to eat cereal out of this. I contemplated it, but I decided a bowl this size would encourage me to eat a sasquatch serving size of cereal. Whilst I would enjoy this immensely because I love cereal, I would not enjoy shopping for pants in the sasquatch store. The fitting rooms are probabaly disgusting.

More vintage Pyrex treasures. You can't see in the photo, but each of the white pieces are sectioned in two in the middle. I have taken to eating snacks of apples and cheese off of these Pyrex just because I want to use them as much as possible.

 I don't have a real spice rack, so I hung up a picture of one. This is one of my favorite "boutique" treasures. The design is screenprinted on canvas. Each herb and spice jar has an explanation of the spice or herb's origin and what to use it in. Cute and kind of useful!

This treasure is not from RW&B, it's not even from New Jersey. This well traveled treasure is from my new favorite store, Corning Stitch Works in Corning, NY. Note the real Bermuda customs sticker on the side.  I'm using this minute Samsonite case to house my new camera. The case even locks!

 This crewel embroidery treasure almost didn't make it home. I was so close to walking out of the boutique without it because the price was a little more than I would have liked to pay. As I made my way to the register, I saw a few people go over to the framed art section and I felt a french knot forming in my stomach thinking about someone else having my picture. (Puns!) I knew the art had to come back to the 'boro. It is lovely and its image has made it onto the list of future tattoo design ideas. Love love love this, can't say it enough.

The Tomato Obsession Continues..
Lately, I have been obsessed with any kind of tomato mozarella combination. It's all Tricia Gail's fault. She made a phenomenal chicken bruschetta mozarella spinach salad for lunchbunch a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to get over it. I'm pretty sure I've made the tomato mozarella duo for myself or ordered some form of it out at least every week since I had the salad. I've put it on bagels, ordered it as an appetizer, and scolded myself for not answering the SBHS new-faculty question, What can always be found in your fridge? with"Tomatoes and mozarella!" Anyway, the obsession continues. For lunch today, I made a tomato, mozzarella, and garlic-basil polenta dish. So delicious and you can eat so much of it for under 300 calories! One whole quarter of the polenta tube is only 100 calories. Tomatoes don't count and if you close your eyes while you eat the part-skim mozzarella, it's like it never happened. I don't like to talk calories here, but needless to say, it was super easy to make, I didn't feel terrible about eating it, and I will be making it for lunch bunch this week.

Hope your weekends were as lovely as mine,

Tricia Gail, you've been called out blog style. I want a post. Also, your dog left her biscuit on my welcome mat. Next time, I'll be prepared to please her finicky palette with cheezits. Maya loves cheezits.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Does this work? If it does, awesome!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Bless this Mess and Crafternoons

The sign says it all. Today on my adventures in blogland, I read the post Noted: Famous Workspaces, on the Etsy Blog.

It was sort of the perfect article because I've been thinking about redoing my "home office" in the 'boro. Jokes aside, very little office related functions go on in this space. The room serves mostly as a catch all for clutter and other things I'd like out of sight out of mind, like laundry and the vacuum.

If you don't already know, though most of you do because I only have two readers, I'm not head over heels in love with my 'boro apartment. It's a great place: clean, quiet, two bathrooms, all the fixin's for a great place to live. It's the 'boro itself that's borin'. The area is mostly families and residential developments. There's no downtown, nothing is walkable or bikable lazy (I'm bikable lazy). Needless to say , I'm shopping around for a place that's less suburban.

Back to Famous Workspaces! This post was very cool because it featured photgraphs of famous artists and writers like Mark Twain, Woody Allen, Roald Dahl, and Jane Austen. Currently, I would say the 'boro home office most closely resembles Tina Fey's workspace, baby excluded. Although, there are times I feel like hiding under my desk.

My future vision for the home office is a studio of sorts. I'd like a place to keep my growing collection of supplies and craft away my afternoons.

Speaking of Crafternoons, how cool is this?

Let's attend one or plan our own soon, dear readers :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jackerz, Fermented Grape Juice, Vintage Pyrex, and Tea Time with Normie

Julie Andrews, I think your favorite things are adorable; however, my weekend in Elmira with Lydia and the rest of the Harkness gang brought me back to some of my old favorites and a few new loves.

New Love: Meet Jackerz
Can you fall in love over a weekend? I did. Jack (or Jackerz as he is affectionately known) is Lydia's furry son. He is one of the sweetest, most well behaved puppy's I've ever met. He doesn't even demolition kitchen wall's with his rump like my own giantess. More on this another time. Jackerz was my inspiration for re-enrolling said giantess into a refresher course of puppy school and trying out doggie day care. Lydia and Shawn swear by it! Again, love love love this pup.

Old Love: Fermented Grape Juice
What a whiney weekend! (Would it be a pepper&poppy post without puns?) Lydia, Shawn, and my ever lovable PA mama Betty Lou went wine tasting at over seven wineries and one whiskey distillery on Saturday. We started our day at Chef's for a french toast breakfast and continued onto lake country in the Bou-mobile. We braved the snow and tasted Finger Lakes' finest "fermented grape juice". We even stopped in Watkins' Glen for post wine lattes and moccasins. Okay, not everyone got moccasins, only me. How fun would a group moccasin purchase have been?

List of Wineries (Not necessarily in order, it was a long day...)
Liedenfrost (Log Cabin White for my Betty Jean and Gewurztraminer for me)
J.R. Dill (Home of Jabber Waulkie wine and a sea glass bar top! So cool!)
Finger Lakes Distillery (No purchases, just warm, squinty faces. Maple Jack whiskey was rough.)
Rasta Ranch (Home of Piece of My Heart and Arlo's Apple, think liquid apple pie!)
Penguin Bay (15.00 three tier turquoise and yellow wine rack! A bottle of Tuxedo Red for Tricia Gail, a close cousin to The Deadliest Red)
Lakewood Wineries (Got the award for the best bartender, he talked to me "real slow like" because Betty Lou told him I was from NJ. I got something in a pretty frosted bottle?)
Pompous Ass Winery (I am not making this up. I got a bottle of Pretentious Port for brother Brian. He loves port and he is oh so pretentious.)
Fulkersons (Free fondue! Also a very cool gumball machine, did I buy anything here? I know I debated purchasing cupcake measuring spoons but resisted.)

New Love: Vintage Pyrex
This weekend, I discovered I love vintage pyrex. This weekend alone, I collected four pieces from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Lydia gave me a tan bowl with a hibiscus-like print and a white plate with a bright green border (methinks a cake stand is in the future of this piece) I also picked up two casserole dishes at "the boutique" with Stephanie. They are all lovely and I'm already making up excuses to use them like, wouldn't a sliced up apple and cheedar cheese snack look great on this pyrex plate?

Old Love: Tea Time with Normie
This is a little harder to write than I thought it would be. One of the best parts of becoming friends with Lydia at KU was getting to know her wonderful family. My favorite part of going home with Lyd to PA was visiting her grandpa, Normie. Each time I visited, Normie had us over for tea and cookies. Once, he even cooked us a pot roast! Lovely Normie passed away around Christmas time this year. It was pretty sad to think we wouldn't get to have tea or cookies with him anymore, however, after this weekend, I learned that this was only half true.
Lydia arranged for a trip to the Elmira salvation army when I told her I would like to go thrifting during my visit. When I told Betty Lou about my cakestands, she suggested Lydia take me down to Normie's house to go through some of the old plates and things that they were going to auction off. The trip to the Salvo was deemed unnecessary after we browsed around Normie's old store.
My favorite find in the store was a set of teacups and an orange tea pot because it reminded me of when the three of us would get together for tea. This teapot and teacups are now proudly displayed in the apartment of Laurie from NJ. I miss Normie Harkness more than "knee deep to a tall indian", one of his favorite expressions.

Last words:
Discovering new loves is almost as wonderful as revisiting old ones, driving home on Rt 80 is not wonderful at all.
I now have a crush on a store in Corning, NY called Corning Stitch Works. My bank account was safe until I found out the owner has a shop on etsy.
Is it spring yet?


P.S. This unruly pup's rump is available for hire if you're thinking of doing a kitchen wall remodel.
Contact Info: 1-800-DEMODANE, just say the word, and she will wreck whatever your heart desires, with the whack of a hipbone.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Elmira Bound

Off to Elmira for a weekend of wine tasting, thrifting, and good ol' fashioned fun with Lydia!

I probably won't get to post until Monday; but, Come Monday, I promise a post with a plethora of pictures!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Make it Strappy

I should be doing work; however, every time I go on the computer at school my mouse wanders to the land of etsy. After I've found something on etsy that I adore, I then have to stop myself from buying it by going over to the land of DIY blogs.
I saw this camera strap cover in the etsy shop, The Sweet Strap. Creator, Liz Stillman, makes really adorable camera straps and covers. If I wasn't so strapped for cash (puns!), I would definitely buy the Red Poppy Field one pictured above.What my new canon's camera strap lacks in style, it certainly makes up for in safety and durability. In other words, safe and sturdy strap, very plain and boring. 

To solve my problem, I headed over to and searched "camera straps". Tipnut gave me sixteen different tutorials for making my own camera strap cover! So exciting! Thanks tipnut, the name of your site silly, but you are ever so useful.  I think the camera strap slipcover may be a project for next weekend.

If you want to make your own camera strap slipcover or a plethora of other crafty DIY projects, check out Tipnut: The Online Guide to the Crafty and Clever.

One hour into my prep later...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Matters of the Heart

This morning, I was wished a "Happy Wall-entine's Day!" from a cheery gas station attendant. Hard V's, in more ways than one, are tough, I understand. I used to get pretty pumped about this holiday of hearts when I was part of a duo. Singledom just doesn't bring the same enthusiasm St. Valentine used to get from me; but, I don't hate it. I still think it's pretty darn adorable.Whether you love it or you hate it, it's Valentine's Day. Below are some matters of the heart you won't want to miss.

Listen to It: First Love Soundtrack
One of my favorite music sites, eMusic posted an article called, "First Love Soundtrack". Read all about the songs that "broke (your favorite artists') heart(s)" or "got (them) kissed". Something Corporate: Konstantine. 9 minutes and 37 seconds of true love.

Read It: Never Offer your Heart to Someone who Eats Hearts 
This is one of the juiciest love poems of all time, it's literally sopping

Learn It: The Dark Origins of Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day wasn't always a "festival of candy and cupids", it has some pretty morbid origins. 

Bake It: Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies
Mmmm, I love red velvet anything, unless it's crushed and wearable, that is. Check out this super easy red velvet sandwich cookie recipe from Bakerella. (Is that a run-on?)It uses box mix! If you don't have the time to make cream-cheese icing from scratch, use the store bought kind from Duncan Hines. If you're feelin' fancy and want to pipe the frosting, add a little extra confectioner's sugar to make it more firm.

Map It: Map Your Valentine
"Because, sometime what means the most isn't something, it's somewhere." Like expressing my love for Tricia through a map to Taco Bell in East Brunswick.

Change It: A Change of Heart
In today's Hungry Girl e-mail, I was informed of a free goodie from University of Kansas' A Change of Heart Campaign. This campaign was designed to increase awareness for women's risk for heart disease. There's a link for a free advocacy kit that comes "complete with a heart-shaped pedometer, healthy-living tips, and cards for sharing the message of heart health."

So whether you're smitten with the idea of Valentine's Day or less than amused, remember:

"Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold." - Zelda Fitzgerald (And her Valentine, F. Scott, was rumored to have taken her on drunken wheelbarrow rides.)

Happy Wall-entine's,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Crafty beginnings

This weekend was full of crafty beginnings. Friday and Saturday were the starts to a variety of projects:

Three new cupcake/dessert stands
A new skirt for South Beach

What was the inspiration for all of these projects? Red White & Blue in Hamilton, of course! After a long awaited gym session with Stephanie, she took me to the nearby thrifter's mecca. It had been at least six years since I last scoured through the previously loved treasures of this store. Not much had changed. We began our junket (yes, that was an intentional pun) in glassware. My friend Tricia referred me to a DIY cakestand project on a few monthes before. I immediately thought of the stands when I spotted two cute flower pattern plates. A few shelves over, a lovely shade of pink caught my eye. It turned out to be a really beautiful plate made in Portugal. For the stands, I picked out two bud vases and a candlestick.

While I'm on the subject of glassware, I need to bring up a beautiful pair of lilac colored glass candlesticks that I doubt anyone will buy. Why? Because whoever brought them to RW&B wrote a "suggested price" on the bottoms in black permanent marker. Outrageous. These candlesticks were gorgeous, too. If you ever have a yard sale or a garage sale, please don't write on your wares with anything, especially permanent marker. Scratch and scrub as you may, this will not come off.

After glassware, we perused the racks of women's clothing. Flower patterns were catching my eye all throughout the store. I found a pink, floral, short-sleeve, women's camp shirt. It's way too big, but I'm going to attempt to take it in, make it sleeveless, and use the extra fabric for a bow collar.

We gave the store a thorough shakedown. My purchase manifest at the conclusion of the trip read:
3 plates
1 candlestick
2 bud vases
1 shirt
3 silk scarves
2 pairs of earrings
1 mystery bag of floral upholstery fabric (This is a clear bag you may not open until you purchase it. In other words, you don't know how much of the material you are getting or if there is more material hidden inside. I lucked out, I got at least a yard and a half )

My total? Under 25.00. Because Stephanie was such a gracious RW&B tour guide and she loved the cake plate idea, one of the dessert stands will be for her. One of the scarves is also for Keally, the colors in it were really pretty and I think it will go with a lot of her outfits.

I spent my Saturday with Betty. She agreed to go to the fabric store and help me start my skirt for South Beach. We picked out a pattern, a fabric, and two spools of thread. She also spotted two adorable buttons in the notions aisle. (After this trip, notions has made it onto my list of favorite words.) If I don't use said notions on the skirt, they are going on a fabric flower pin. It was a slushy Saturday, and my navy Keds suffered on Mom and my walk over to Starbucks. More on Keds later.

That evening, I pinned the skirt pattern and cut out the pieces. I also marked the dots with red thread. I still need to pin and cut the lining and, of course, sew the skirt together. That's a project for the next few weekends.

Sunday was a day of more sweat and thrifting. Keally and I took group kick at WOW. This was more enjoyable for me than step. It's a lot easier to fake kick than step. After kick, we headed into Princeton for lunch at Whole Earth. Wow, so good. Whole Earth is a small, organic grocery story. A few years ago they added an eat-in area to the store where you can get an assortment of yummy vegetarian fare. Keally got a vegetarian quesadilla and sweet potato apple soup. Yes, this soup was as amazing as it sounds. I got a vegetarian colby cheese melt and vegan split soup. No, I don't know why I didn't get the sweet potato apple soup. I'm still confounded by this choice and I feel like I need to make it up to my stomach as soon as possible. We then took a long, slushy walk to Greene Street Consignment on Nassau St. This store is very different from RW&B. Everything is very organized and, in my opinion, overpriced. There's no thrill of the hunt, so to speak, at this thrift store. Surprisingly, I found a really cute pair of leather t-strap heels for 16.00. They might have been the highlight of my weekend. If I hadn't found these shoes, Greene Street might have been crossed off my list for thrifting. Before we headed back into the slush, I made amends to my palette with a trip to Twist. Red Velvet and Eurotart. 'Nuff said.

This is a big week for pepper&poppy. Stay tuned.

Wait, I promised more on Keds. On Friday, I wore my navy Keds, a blue oxford, and dark skinny jeans. One of my favorite students of all time said to me, "Miss M, you look like a female Ellen DeGeneres." I gave him a look, to which he apologized and said, "I'm sorry. You look like a female Ellen DeGeneres that likes men." I really don't think the hilarity of these comments needs to be explained; however, if you didn't "get it":
1. Ellen DeGeneres is already a female.
2. My outfit sort of did look like something she would wear. No, I don't dance into my classroom.
3. I think adding in the "who likes men" was his sincere attempt at making amends to both myself and Ellen.

This kid has grown on me since September. He's always saying something ridiculous. This particular moment is just another one of his many witticisms to store in the ol' treasure box. (That was for you, Trish.)


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursdate No. 1: Take a Walk, Green Tea Creme Brulee

Today marks the beginning of a new tradition: Thursdates with Keally

Keally and I have been friends since elementary school, though some of our comrades would challenge this. Our friendship was cemented after becoming a journalistic duo for our high school paper, The Viking Vibe. The paper has really never been the same since we left. I've even heard that our article, "A Day in the Life of  a Freshman" was the origin of the No More than Five Question Marks per Article rule. (Beware fellow grammarians, this is not for the faint of heart.)
Keally got married over the summer to her very awesome husband, the king of party playlists, Dan. Most new wives don't spend as much time with their pre-nuptial friends as they used to. Lucky for me, this isn't the case with the new Mrs. P. We still shop, sweat, and eat together on a regular basis. Isn't that what true friendships are made of? Price-tags, perspiration, and calories?
In the true fashion of our friendship, our first Thursdate included a step class at WOW and thai dinner at Ploy Siam. Step was intense for a few reasons:
1) I'm very uncoordinated. The straddle step was challenging to say the least. My favorite was the Take a Walk. If you are unfamiliar with this move, it is literally just that, you walk around your step.
2) This step class was not full of beginners or even novices. This was a room full of step-class-aficionados. I think a few of these women have traded in their beds or marriages for steps. One step-enthusiast surprised me with her  shrieks of glee and applause which she executed at random during the class. One day, that will be me. I'm sure of it.

Dinner was delicious. Our fare included:
Fresh rolls (or as our friend Jenny might say, Fresh As Death Rolls. This renaming doesn't fairly attest to their deliciousness.)
Thai Iced Tea (I have a feeling I will be posting about my adventures in making my own version of this.)
Chicken Pad Thai (Amazing. 'Nuff said.)

Then it was time for dessert. Deciding to get dessert was tough. The last time Keally and I went out to eat in the 'Ville, I discovered the most delicious ice cream of all time: Maggie Moo's Red Velvet. However, to be fair, we had to give Ploy Siam's dessert a chance. Unable to choose just one, we ordered Green Tea Creme Brulee and Thai Pumpkin Custard. The Green Tea Creme Brulee was very delicious, in spite of the fact that it looked like something Gerber sells. The Pumpkin Custard...not our favorite. Next time, two orders of Green Tea Creme Brulee, for sure.

I'm already looking forward to our next Thursdate. They are the best. Below, enjoy some pictures I took of my new Wellies and pencils that are too cute to have come from Target's dollar section.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cupcake Baker: Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Pie Filling

I love to make lists. Especially to-do lists. Nothing beats the exhiliration and sense of accomplishment that accompanies crossing off an item, or "doing" something. I would be lying if I said these cupcakes were on today's list. I should probabaly mention that I while I am quite adept at making these said lists, completing them is a different story. Here is what I was supposed "to-do" on my day off from school.
Clean office (Who do I think I am calling the spare bedroom in my apartment an office?)
Clean bathrooms

What did I accomplish? I "straightened up" the second bedroom that houses an assortment of junk; however, a majority of the clutter is office supply related.
I did not touch the vacuum other than to move it out of my way.
Laundry was folded. It was not put away.
The bathroom is still very untidy.

Here is the list I should have made:

Wake up at 10 AM
Straighten up the spare bedroom so it's less embarassing
Think of outfits that will go with new Wellingtons*
Make a chicken bruschetta spinach salad for lunch
Get drinks with friends at hole in the wall golf course bar
Learn of colleague's birthday tommorow
Go to grocery store and get cupcake supplies
Bake Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Pie Filling
Take pictures of said cupcakes
Post these pictures on new blog who's creation took up most of day off

List complete!

Welcome to pepper&poppy.

*As I braved the black ice in the parking lot of the hole in the wall golf course bar, I learned from a friend that the appropriate term for rubber rain boots is Wellingtons or Wellies. If you use this term with an English accent, you become just as adorable as your boots.