I didn’t mean to take a six year hiatus from writing

20200321_130501496988473177982354.jpg

I didn’t mean to take a six year hiatus from writing, I really didn’t. But as you know, life gets in the way of living sometimes. In reality I haven’t written fiction in six years. I have been writing lesson plans for my enrichment classes, which have been really fun. But it isn’t quite the same.

I’m not going to bore you with how it happened or the why. What’s important is what I’m doing about it. I have a new editor and all of my published books are getting an update, both fiction and non-fiction. I will also be publishing new lesson plans later this year.

All of this takes time. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It’s a marathon not a sprint. But I want to get all of them updated, right now! But that isn’t a reasonable thing to expect from myself.

What I do know is I am working on revisions. I have a schedule for getting the revisions done and to my editor.

What I don’t know is the release schedules yet for the updates. But when I know, you’ll know.

To keep up with my day to day please follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Until next time.

 

 

 

Life Continues During Social Distancing

Today should have been the beginning of Spring Break, which technically it still is.We had plans to go to the Zoo, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), the library and get things done around the house.

Our plans are a little different now but I don’t feel it’s a down grade. Yes, were not going out to some fun places but those places will be there when our social distancing is over. If you’ve been following me on Instagram then you’re up to date on what we’ve been doing during this first week of social distancing. We’ve cleaned the lofts in our garage, cleaned the gutters, done yard clean up in the front yard and doing some work in the back yard.

The weather this week isn’t looking as good as it was last week. It was sunny all week but this weeks forecast is rain. And it has been raining most of the day here. We were hoping to get mulch this week for the grass in the back yard but with all the rain we may not be able to do that. Also picking up mulch isn’t an essential item so venturing out to pick that up isn’t wise.

To insure we are all staying on somewhat of schedule during this time we sat down as a family and created one. Our kids have access to learning materials online from our school district to help keep their minds active. I wasn’t as concerned over materials for them as I was over getting a schedule for them. Both the boys are smart and they have always been a head of the game with their academics. So we have plenty of materials. But they are going to be out of school at least until April 28th. As an instructor for the school district I have to be ready to return to work on March 30th. What I’ll need to do isn’t 100% clear but I’ll be ready to do what needs to be done.

If you’re trying to establish a schedule for your children during this break I offer ours as an example. My boys are 13 and 15 for reference.

When they get up to 10am – Reading and Chores

10-12pm – School related work and Activities

12-1pm – Walk the dog and lunch

1-3pm – Family activities/ analog games/ reading

3- dinner – Electronics (computer/TV/video games)

7:30 – 9pm – Clean up dinner, showers, Computer or TV

9pm – Walk dog and get ready for bed

This schedule is for Monday – Friday. On Saturday and Sunday we have a much more relaxed schedule with yard work, cleaning and other family activities around the house. It’s the weekend we all like some time to chill out.

I hope this schedule helps you create your own.

Stay safe and healthy out there. This will pass and we will be stronger.

If your not already, follow me on instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Aiden working on science.
Parker working on a puzzle
Puzzle finished

Meal Planning Made Easy

20200204_1711013446437151933602511.jpg
Menu Planning recipes, grocery list and meal calendar

Are you haunted by the eternal question, “What’s for dinner?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. But there are a few simple things you can do to make your dinner planning effortless or at least as close to effortless as it can get.

The first thing that you’ll want to do is take an inventory of what you currently have in your kitchen, food wise. This doesn’t need to be fancy, but you do want to take a little bit of time doing this. Once you’ve done this once or twice it won’t take long at all. This actually accomplishes a few things. You’ll find out what has been hiding in the cupboards, throw out old or expired foods and gets what’s left organized. With an inventory list you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you have on hand that you can use. Why spend more money buying food if you don’t have to.

Now that you have your inventory in hand you’re ready to write down your family’s favorite meals. Once you have those family go to favorites, then add some that you would like to try out. This is your opportunity to introduce your family to new foods and flavors. This also gives you a chance to try something new in the kitchen. We all fall into the rut of making the same thing on the same nights because it’s easy. So let’s shake it up and go a little wild. I like to throw in a new meal every week that we’ve never had before. That way you’re introducing something new without your family feeling like test subjects. Making dinner doesn’t have to be a painful experience.

Let’s get a calendar. I print off a blank calendar from the internet and make several copies. I put the meal calendar on the refrigerator so the family can see what’s planned for dinner. And to be honest so I can remember what I planned to make. With your inventory list and family favorites in hand write down what you would like to make for each day. Remember to include the entree and sides. As you are deciding each days menu items start your grocery list. This will insure you don’t forget anything and it will save you money at the same time.

When deciding what to make for dinner each night there are a few things to keep in mind.
How much time do you have to prepare the meal?
What time will you be getting home?
What activities do you or your family have scheduled for that night?

You can have a perfectly planned out menu but you only have thirty minutes to prepare your meal and a recipe that takes an hour, that won’t help at all.

One thing I have found that makes my dinner preparation easier is making meals that freeze well. I’ll make a double batch, one for tonight, one for another. I have a few go to recipes but I’m always on the lookout for more.

Another great time saver is at night before going to bed is to pull out the next days meal ingredients. For example take the ground meat or chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw.

Below you’ll find one of my favorite make one for tonight and freeze one for another recipe. Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells.

Every Friday starting February 7th I will post a five day meal plan for the entirety of February. This will give you complete meals, with recipes, to get you on your way to planning your family meals.

Until next time.

Remember to follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

20200204_1711013446437151933602511.jpg
Menu Planning recipes, grocery list and meal calendar

Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Prep Time 20 minutes Bake Time 40 minutes
Makes 2 8-inch baking pans

16 Jumbo dried pasta shells, prepared according to package
1 pound ground beef
1 package or (1.25 oz) taco seasoning
1 cup water
1 can (16oz) refried beans
1 cup (8 oz) shredded cheese
1 jar (16 oz) salsa divided
Sour Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Cook beef in large skillet until brown, drain. Add seasoning mix and water. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until thickened.

Add beans and ¾ cup cheese to meat, mix well.

Spread ¼ cup salsa over bottom of both baking pans.

Fill pasta shells with beef mixture, place eight shells in each pan, filled side up

Spoon remaining salsa over the shells.

To bake unfrozen shells – Cover baking pan with foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. (My family likes cheese so I add extra cheese)

Serve with rice, salad, or chips and guacamole.

If Freezing – allow shells to cool in the refrigerator before covering the pan with plastic wrap, then over wrap with foil. Label and freeze for up to two months.

To bake frozen shells – Place baking pan in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Preheat the oven to 375. Remove plastic wrap and foil. Recover with fresh foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

It’s Vegas Baby!

Coke Museum and Store, Vegas Baby! With my husband

It had been twenty years since I had last been in Vegas and my husband was experiencing it for the first time this last October. We both were wowing at the sights for very different reasons. I was amazed at how much it had changed but some aspects had stayed the same. My husband couldn’t believe all that was going on.

The great thing about Vegas is that it’s ever changing. New improvements to the guest experience. Need a new hotel and casino, build one. If there isn’t space, implode an old one. I was amazed at how many more things had been crammed into the stripe. In the 90’s the casinos had grand sweeping pieces of real-estate that guests had to travel through to get to the casino. It was all part of the experience. Now that real-estate has other small hotels on it, or retail shops and drink carts to get your adult beverage as you walk the strip.

Jason’s first pull on a slot machine

Walking the strip has become a lot easier. I love the pedestrian bridges that are at almost every intersection.Now you don’t have to worry, as much, by getting hit by a car when crossing the street. You just take a bridge over. Even on street level there is a barrier between the side walks and the street. Depending on the time of day there are still a ton of people walking and that makes it a challenge to walk around but over all a lot easier to explore.

My husband and I had a great time walking the strip. We wondered in and out of casinos, played the slots, ate and drank. It was a fun experience. Every once and a while we would get behind some one who was smoking pot, which is legal in Nevada. That wasn’t a pleasant experience but there was always room to get around them or just pop into a casino.

If you haven’t been to Vegas in a while, or have never been, take a trip and experience it. It’s like no other place. It’s Vegas Baby.

Until next time.

Follow on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Our arrival at the Vegas Airport

Gingerbread Adventures

Recently the family and I visited OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) for two different exhibits taking place. The big featured exhibit was Exquisite Creatures and the second was Gingerbread Adventures. Gingerbread adventures was more than a gingerbread building contest, it was also a look at the science behind gingerbread houses and other creations. Using the current Exquisites Creatures exhibits as inspiration four local teams of expert bakers, architects, designers, and construction firms worked together to make these holiday treats. Except for the bases and structural supports, each sculpture was built with edible materials.

Let’s dive in to the competitors entries. The entrants will be reviewed in the order they were presented.

First up is Holiday on the Bayou by SFA Design and Safeway. The birds, snakes, frogs, turtles, and dragonflies are excited to share their holiday cheer. The alligator is covered in pear jellybeans. Little Beatles work to decorate their home on the Bayou. I enjoyed the detail given to the bugs and amphibians that live in the bayou.

Second up is Life in Contrast by WRK Engineers, Ankrom Moisa Architects and Zest Bakery. A veiled chameleon attempts to bring down a dragonfly for dinner. Butterflies rise from light to dark. I was drawn to the colorful chameleon covered in sweet tarts and skittles. It’s tongue is made from sour stripes. I then saw the massive dragonfly followed by the butterflies.

Third up is Jingle in the Jungle by Scott Edwards Architecture and Sugar Cubed Cakes. Gillian Gecko is throwing a party and were all invited. Detail is everywhere in this display. From the animals, bugs, lizards, and frogs, to the furniture and landscaping. There is even an Exquisite Creatures gallery in a log with mini artwork. Absolutely amazing.

Fourth and final entrant is Arborvitae by LRS Architects and New Seasons Market. The tree of life. From gingerbread sand to lofty branches this tree gives life and protection to the animals that depend on it.

After viewing all four displays we were invited to vote for our favorite. I voted for Jingle in the Jungle. There was so much to look at from every angle. While voting I opted in for an email to tell me the winner of the contest. We’ll find out the winner at the beginning of January. Good luck to all the entrants.

This exhibit runs until January 2nd, 2020.

Follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall for more of my daily adventures.

Until next time.

No New Years Resolution Here

Happy New Year

I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions in years. Nope, not a one. I instead set my yearly goals on my birthday every year.

I do all the things you need to do to set a goal. I asses the past twelve months and the goals that I set. Did I meet them, what kept me from meeting a goal, what worked well, what didn’t. I also do a six month assessment of my goals to see if I’m on track or not. Once I’ve done all that, I decide on my new goals, tweak existing goals, or take a goal to the next level.

I write all my goals down. I actually type them up. Then I hang them up in my work area. Within each goal I have a short term and a long term goal. Some times I put in a stretch goal. Then I have the nuts and bolts on how I will achieve my goal. The nuts and bolts are always expanded once I get into working the goal. They are there as a starting point.

Here is an example of one of my goals.

Goal – Write and Publish Lesson Plans on Teachers Pay Teachers

Short Term – Publish 12 quality lesson plans by Nov 26th

Long Term Goal – Have as a sustainable source of income

Stretch Goal – Publish 20 quality lesson plans by Nov 26th

Nuts and Bolts

A. Devote at least 30 minutes a day to working on lesson plan content

B. Concentrate on lesson plans already developed

My goal is clear, publish 12 lesson plans by November 26th. Also what lesson plans I need to focus on, the ones I’ve already developed. Will I spend more than 30 minutes a day working on this goal? Yes, but giving myself the minimum I need to devote to it is key. There are days when crap hits the fan and I won’t be able to devote 2 hours a day to this goal. But I can always find 30 minutes. The time you devote to your goal doesn’t have to be in one large block. You can break it up through out your day.

My todo list is separate from my goals. Todo’s are the details of what I need to do as I figure out how to achieve my goals.

I whole heartedly believe in goal setting. I don’t think you need to wait until the new year to do it or a birthday. You just need to do it and then stick with them. Believe you can do it and do it now. Don’t wait.

Have you set goals for yourself, personally or professionally?

Follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Until next time.

How All the Construction Began

We’ve been in full construction mode since July but the process started way before that.

First was the decision to actually do the construction. My dad had asked us to move in with him in December 2018. My mom had passed away in July of that year. He was lonely in the house with just the dog. The dog isn’t much of a conversationalist. We discussed him moving in with us, but he didn’t like that idea. Then we looked at a few houses in his current area that may have worked. It came down to his neighborhood was a perfect place for us to be. There was already a network established with the neighbors. We practically already lived there. We were over all the time and my parents had taken care of the boys while we worked. We participated in all the street activities for holidays so it just made sense for us to move in there.

Adding on to the house was the only option. The existing house had three bedrooms and two baths. It wasn’t enough room for three adults and two teenagers. My dad and husband both wanted their own office space and we needed rooms for the boys. But how were we going to add on was a big question.

In January we met with a contractor and designer. The original idea was to go up into the attic and above the garage. That was a no go structurally. We then went through a whole range of detached, simi attached, ADU (assessors dwelling unit) how can we attach it to be seamless with the rest of the house? It was stressful.

View of the back of the house where the addition would attach.

A design was finally proposed where we would attach the addition to the back of the house where the slider door was. With that we had to enclose our master bedroom windows and relocate them to another wall. That meant losing my walk in closet, taking down a wall and creating a new closet. There were several submissions to the county for approval and reworks to make the design code compliant. But we finally got it.

My master wndows that needed to be removed.

My new master bedroom windows

This process took six and a half months. During that time we had to remove our shed, and a tree. We moved in in March. The boys moved into the formal livingroom for the short term. It ened up being long term due to construction issues.

In July the excavation began and the construction started in full force. That in a nut shell is how we came to building the addition on to the house.

Check out my Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall for more pictures of the work done on the house.

Until next time.

My husband in the excavator. He did not do the excavating.

In the hole the excavator created.

The boys in the excavator

Wild West History, Guns and Gruncles

The boys got a real treat learning about Wild West weapons, specifically handguns and riffles. My uncle, their gruncle (great uncle), is an expert on Wild West history and weapons. My husband and father were also swept up in to the learning adventure. My aunts and I were having a blast watching this group of men so excited and animated over all these guns.

The boys learned about gun safety, how to handle a gun and the history of the guns and gun maker. My uncle let them put on leather gun belts with holsters and try his array of cowboy hats. They were over the moon. My oldest, Parker, loves guns and is fascinated by how they work. He was smiling ear to ear the entire time.

My uncle has, along with his gun and riffle collection, an extensive western wear and mementos collection. The guys tried on all types of cowboy hats and vests. My dad was in on the action and found a nice hat that fit perfectly. They were all having so much fun. My dad wore the hat all day. In the evening when we were about to head out for dinner my uncle gifted the hat to my dad. My dad felt very honored by that.

The whole experience was fun to watch and experience, but more than that, the boys were able to connect with a part of our family on a much deeper level. That to me is a priceless experience that we’ll all treasure.

That’s all for our family adventure for now. Follow me on Instagram for more.

The guys looking very Wild West
Aiden with a riffle

Aiden’s ready for anything

They’re ready for action

Parker grinning ear to ear

Parker, Grandpa, and Aiden

Uncle Ron teaching them a few things

Oh This Construction Project

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom Nook

Master Bedroom Nook

Master Bedroom Closet

Master Bedroom Closet

Master Bedroom Closet

Oh this construction project. I have so many emotions, and words, for it. I love seeing the progress but we’ve had days, and some weeks, when little or nothing gets done. I can see the end coming but it’s still weeks away.

So where is the project at now? There has been a big push to get our master bedroom complete. We have been out of our room for thirteen weeks. We have gotten back in this week but it isn’t complete. There is electrical to finish, the closet rails need to be hung, and the transitions for the flooring need to be installed. You may be asking, “how can you live in a room with unfinished electrical?” Most of the electrical is done. The ceiling fan and my fancy sparkly light for the nook need to be installed.

In the addition they are reconstructing the deck and the side fence that had to come down for the excavator. The painters are painting everything. Our vanity was installed last night and is waiting for the painters to, well, paint it. There are things that need to be corrected in the addition. For example, the bathroom vanity light fixture was installed upside down, a piece of sheet rock was cut out but hasn’t been reinstalled, mudded and painted. Little things like that , which are annoying.

I’m sure I could go on and on about all the things, but I think this is good.

If you’re interested in keeping up with the construction and other things going on in my world, then pop on over to instagram @beinglaurakmarshall .

Until next time.