30 June 2013

Road Trip~Cincinnati

Part of the fun of summer is planning and going on a summer road trip.  With everyone so involved with so many things this year, we decided to do a short trip and combine it with the 4th of July.  As much as I loved the 4th here in New Town, I was willing to give it up in order to spend time with my daughter, Ashley and her husband, Eric.

We chose Cincinnati for two reasons:  one, it is a quick drive from Bloomington, about two and a half hours plus it has an IKEA, where we'd like to look for things for our new home!

Our trip starts after Ashley finishes her doctor's appointment at Barnes on Wednesday.  We jump into her car and our CR-V and head to Bloomington.  We will spend the night at their apartment, and get an early start towards Cincinnati on Thursday.

Thursday we drive from Bloomington to Cincinnati, check into our hotel, which is the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati.  A hotel and contemporary art museum in one space!  This will definitely be just what Ashley and Eric will love!

Image from Trip Advisor.com

We'll spend some time checking out the hotel and walking around the neighborhood.  Lunch hasn't yet been decided, but I think going to the Cock and Bull Public House would be a perfect place to celebrate our Independence Day!! Another fun reason:

Image from CandBpublichouse.com

Then it is time to get ready for a 4th of July celebration in Blue Ash, Ohio, called Red, White and Blue Ash!  We will see a small town Fourth of July celebration complete with an outdoor concert, Midnight Special and Foreigner!!  Fireworks afterwards set to music.  Food?  Fair food, of course!

I am going to beef up on my photography so I can take some better photos of the fireworks this year.  I got lucky with a couple of shots, but I want better!!!

Friday we will probably sleep in a bit!  During the day we have discussed seeing the Cincinnati Art Museum, or the Cincinnati Union Museum, the National Underground Railroad Museum, or the Botanical Gardens.  That evening we have tickets to a REDS GAME.  We love going to baseball fields all over the US so we wanted to see this one.  We would have preferred to see the Cardinals play but that wasn't the case.  There are fireworks after the game as well, which I am really excited about!!   Food wise we have discussed eating at Virgil's Cafe, featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.  They serve interesting food, such as frog legs!  We have plans to try Graeters Ice Cream, supposedly Oprah's favorite and Food and Wine Magazine's pick for Best Ice Cream in the USA.  They use a French pot process that I am very interested in AND... they have summer peach ice cream!!

On Saturday we will make the long awaited trip to IKEA's.  If you are not familiar with IKEA, I am just going to have to give you a link.  Full of building ideas, furniture, decorating... you name it.  I place to spend some quality time here!  This night we are going to have a wonderful meal by a top ranked chef but we haven't decided where.  There are plenty to choose from, though, which makes the choosing all the more exciting!

Bob has several breakfast places and bakeries to see as well.  He does a lot of research on the local eateries for us!

We will wrap up our fun on Sunday morning, where we will have brunch or breakfast with Sue Combs and her family.  Sue and I met each other first through blogging and secondly at the Lewis and Clark Restaurant here in St. Charles.  Sue and her husband lived in the St. Louis area before we knew one another.  She is a wonderful writer, photographer, wife and mother, and if you have watched my facebook page, you can see she is a wonderful friend, too.  Looking forward to meeting up with her and her family again!  We'll make the trip to Bloomington where we will say good bye to Ash and Eric and then head back to St. Charles.

Short trip but what a fun one!  Cannot wait to share my fireworks photos with you later!

23 June 2013

Pinterest Trial: Key Lime Yogurt Dip

Today I hosted our first New Town Book Club meeting at our cottage.  I miss my Jefferson City Book Clubs very much.  I have joined a PEO book club which I love.  We meet at each others' homes, bring a salad lunch and the hostess serves dessert and drinks.  After which we intensely discuss the book.  It is wonderful!!

I wanted a book club close to home, and with New Town, there are so many active people that I wanted to tap that resource!  We had a great meeting and it gave me a chance to try one of my more recent pins:  Key Lime Yogurt Dip.

Key Lime Yogurt Dip
As usual, I modified the recipe before even making the original, due to the ingredients I had on hand and the ones I could find.

Key Lime Yogurt Dip

2 c vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
1/2 c whipped cream cheese
juice of 1 key lime
zest of one key lime

Put all ingredients into a mixer.  Beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.  Spoon into serving bowl, chill until ready to serve.

That's it!  I served this with fresh fruit and vanilla wafers.  Yum.

My attendees didn't eat or drink anything but that's ok, I will be able to snack on this delicious dip instead of ice cream.  The dip is light and refreshing, and the tang of the yogurt compliments the lime perfectly.  

If you try it, let me know if you liked it!

21 June 2013

My Summer Reading List

This is the first summer since 2009 where I have had a summer to read things besides textbooks!  I have had a blast remembering how much I love reading!  Titles in RED are finished!!

My favorite reading spot at 3299 North Canal Way.  Big comfy leather recliner, two different throws, great lighting, my iPad and holder, with a basket of writing materials close by. 

My Summer Reading List includes:

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebowitz

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

The Sharper Your Knife by Kathleen Flinn

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Issac's Storm by Erik Larson

A Road Trip into America's Heartland by  John Drake Robinson

The Girl in the Italian Bakery by Kenneth Tingle

Happiness for Two by Alexandra Stoddard

There doesn't seem to be a theme this year, just getting my hands on any book that looks good to read.  At the rate I am going, I will need to add books to the list.  My daughter, Ashley, is checking books out from her library and I believe that is what I will need to do, too.

Any recommendations out there?

18 June 2013

We're Building a House!

When Bob and I made the decision to move to the St. Louis area last year, we knew we didn't want to buy a house while we still owned one nor did we want to commit to an area we weren't sure about.  I went online to find apartments.  There are hundreds of apartment complexes in the area and when I got the job I wanted at Wright City and Bob found out he was to be stationed at the Saint Louis campus for Columbia College, we started focusing our search somewhere midway for both.  I found Mills Apartments in St. Charles and they had an apartment opening just at the right time. The apartment happened to be in New Town.  When we drove up to it, we were so excited by its charm.  The quaint buildings, the business area, the things to do...

It didn't take us long to fall in love with the New Urban viewpoint.  Bob loves walking all over New Town with the dogs, smoking his cigar.  I am pretty sure he is a familiar site around NT. 

We decided around October, 2012 that when we sold our house, we would be buying/building in New Town.  Our house in JC took forever to sell, but in April 2013 we did close on our JC home and have been working with the McBride architects to design a house for us in New Town.

Today, June 18th, we close the deal!  We are meeting with the builders and contractors on June 18th, our wedding anniversary, putting a deposit down and hopefully soon they will break ground!

The house is called Pawtucket.  It is a craftsman style house, with a side wrap-around porch.  The dormer window above completes the craftsman style.  We have chosen James Hardie Boothbay Blue for the exterior (a medium gray) with Arctic White trim and a Woodland Cream front door. 

On the first floor there is a open concept living room/kitchen/dining room.  There's a fireplace in the living room, an island in the kitchen, with the stairs going up to the second level.  The master bedroom is on the main level, with a large walk in closet and private master bath with a main floor laundry room.  There is a powder room on the the main floor, too.

The upstairs has two bedrooms and a loft.  The loft will be our den.  One bedroom will be Ashley and Eric's.  It has a private bath and a large closet.  The guest room will serve as a study and craft room.  There is an hall bathroom and a washer/dryer closet located upstairs, too.

The basement will remain unfinished.  We will use it for storage mostly, but we may also set up some craft areas or exercise areas downstairs.

There is a three car garage, unattached, in the back of the house.  Yards in New Town are exceptionally small, more like courtyards.  We are having a plan made for our courtyard to utilize the space to the max.

We loved living by the water, so when we went to look for a lot, we found this one that will be a part of the Beach District.  It is not completed yet, but we thought it would be fun to sit on our front porch and watch it develop in front of us!

When we moved from JC one of the things Bob and I were certain of was that we wanted to downsize.  This house is about 1,000 square feet less and the yard is not even 1/4 of what we had in Jefferson City.  So even though we have a bigger garage, we did downsize!!

I am looking forward to recording the details of the house here on my blog!  I hope you will enjoy the ride as well!

I marked where we live now and where the new house will be!!

Our 36th Wedding Anniversary

June 18, 1977 I married Robert Joseph Steffes, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health.  We have managed through all of those things but it was with a lot of hard work, forgiveness and dedication.

Anniversary circa 1982, wearing my pearls and the gold watch my Grandmother Holt gave me for my 16th birthday.

When I say "thirty-six years" it sounds like a lifetime, but I can attest that the time went ever so quickly.  We did so many wonderful things:  raised a daughter, earned three doctorates between us, traveled all over the United States and Europe, developed hobbies, gave our lives to public education, and so much more.  Keeping track of our blessings is difficult because we have been very blessed.

This isn't to say that our marriage wasn't challenged.  It was, over and over again.  Every day we wake up dedicated to working on and making our marriage work.  We have plans, you see, to travel together, get in shape, build a house and raise a grandchild or two!

So, thank you, Bob, for thirty-six years of marriage.  I love you, cannot imagine spending my life without you, and am looking forward to the next chapters of our married life. 

13 June 2013

Leadership Academy Day 3

The thing about the DESE's professional development is that they do it up right.  Today we were the recipients of the wisdom of Kim Marshall, the author of Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation. Our leadership team at Wright City read this book as part of a book study and to prepare us for the new teacher evaluation system the state is in the process of changing to by 2015.  The book is great, discussing the merit of face-to-face dialogue following a teacher observation, not the dog and pony show that teachers put on for their admin, but after a short visit.  These short visits, many over a period the of the school year, give a better view of the classroom than does an annual review.  As a teacher I never enjoyed the annual visit, but felt that when my principal came in a few times over the quarter, she had a much better idea of what I was accomplishing in my teaching.

What I like the most about his proposal of eliminating the annual visit and concentrating on the multiple visits is that as a principal I have more opportunities to see what is going on, offer more praise and/or suggestions for improvement, and being able to tell parents that I am in the classroom often and know the quality of work that is going on there.

You can see by the tweets (here are a small sample) that were flying around that we were hearing a lot of good things!!

Summing up the meeting, I learned how much a principal can see in 5-10 minutes, what impact the follow up conversation with the teacher can have, the importance of being with the team while unit planning and what that tells me about a teacher, and how merging the snapshots taken throughout the year can make a much more effective evaluation than just doing the annual visit.

Our district does do walk-throughs, and the annual visit, but Kim Marshall was showing us the value of just the walk through, with more structure, more impact and better evaluations.  Thank you DESE, the RPDCs and the Leadership Academy for all the work you did putting together this wonderful start to our year.  Next post will be in October, after our Outdoor Leadership Event.  Me, camping?  Should be quite interesting!

12 June 2013

Leadership Academy Day 2

Today our agenda was intense.  We heard an hour of Common Core, now called the Missouri Learning Standards.  These are under great scrutiny but some of the misconceptions are downright amazing.  I suggest people really look closely at the timeline of the Common Core, and make some common sense judgments on how, when and why the Common Core was written.  We learned about MSIP 5, the score sheets and how to find them.  I really like the format and the information that teachers can find to look at their scores.  I am very interested in the 90% attendance from 90% of the students as a goal.  Attendance is so important to getting a good education.  Our third clinic of the day was on the new Educator Evaluation that is being worked on.  We looked carefully at the components and talked about how to share the information with the teachers.  This was our morning work.

We had lunch and then got to meet up with our region for an hour.  We talked about powerful moments of the morning and then did an activity called The Identity Poster.  We were to give some information about ourselves using the materials given to us, with no limitations of how we chose to present.  Here's my poster, but I have to say, I didn't feel on my mark.  I had a hard time determining the content and then the organization of it before time slipped away.

In the afternoon we were the audience for the class of 2013 Leadership Academy while they presented their data reports.  We had 72 different reports we could choose from.  I listened to a group talk about establishing three data points for RTI, a tardy reduction program, how to best utilize data days for teachers, a report on a school district who is not grading homework at any grade, and the use of Attendance Councils to improve attendance.  While I was watching all these action research reports, I was excited to think of the wonderful things that are happening in Missouri schools.

Tomorrow we will hear Kim Marshall talk about effective evaluation.  Cannot wait to hear his words of wisdom!

11 June 2013

Leadership Academy Day 1

Today I joined colleagues from around the state in The Leadership Academy, a professional development opportunity ran by the State of Missouri through the Regional Professional Development Centers.  According to the brochure, it is in its 29th year.  Bob went through the Leadership Academy with Doug Miller in the 90s sometime.  I remember how much he loved the experience.  He especially talked nonstop about his Outdoor Experience.  Notice that I capitalized it.  For me, this is one of the meetings I least look forward to doing.

Today we spend a lot of the day getting to know one another.  Our leaders are Ned Miller, (you might remember him from STARR teaching!), Michael Auer, (we worked together as principals at South Callaway) and David Buck (my current assistant superintendent).  We used Inside/Outside Circles, Have You Ever, and Hogsuckers (yep, that's right, Hogsuckers).  Each strategy was dissected for its potential to use in our own buildings.  Love that part.

We spent a good amount of time looking at the results of our Kolbe A Index scores.  The Kolbe A was designed by Kathy Kolbe who believed that the brain had a third factor, conation, that relies on our own instinctive nature.  A simple test of about 36 questions can determine your Kolbe A Index Result.  My results were 5-4-7-4.

There are four basic conations, behaviors driven by your instinct (not personality or IQ):
  1. Fact Finder - is how you gather and share information
  2. Follow Thru - is how you sort and store information
  3. Quick Start - is how you deal with risks and uncertainty
  4. Implementor - is how you handle space and tangibles
My red Fact Finder of 5 says that my best way of gathering and sharing information is by explaining, and getting the essential facts.  Those who know me are nodding their heads!  I love to talk and learned to talk early!  I like to use analogies, edit work, add details, and use appropriate vocabulary.

My blue Follow Thru of 4 says that my best way of arranging and designing information is by maintaining, dect discrepancies and adjust procedures.  I will coordinate a schedule, draft a guideline, review lists, record information (I was the secretary in several organizations) and monitor a policy. 

My green Quick Start of 7 says my best way of dealing with risk or uncertainty is by improvising, experiment to see what will happen!  I initiate change.  I experiment, provide lots of alternatives, ad lib, brainstorm lots of options.  This is my strongest conation.

My yellow Implementor of 4 says my best way of handling space and tangibles is by restoring, keep things working the way they should.  I utilize tools, look for body language and interpret it, test ingredients, and make creations of physical space.  When Bob and I moved, he made me little pieces of paper that allowed me to move the furniture around on a diagram of the room.  It sure saved his back from all the extra moving! 

The Index results even tell me to avoid certain stress in my life, things that I have done so much and gets me NO WHERE such as:  trying to prove my point; arguing over facts; working without a plan, trying to conform, sticking to a script, trying to avoid risks, being so literal.  All these things that have been tormenting me!!

My true nature is to race the clock! work with change! experimenting! doing things at the last minute! giving a million and one ideas!! Get things started (like book clubs!!).

No wonder Invent-A-Casserole was so cool to me!!  (the post before this one!!)

I am so looking forward to seeing how I can use my strengths to be creative during this school year.  Working with a school of blues and reds (who usually cannot stand the free-for-all-style of a green!) will present its challenges but I do believe I can learn to use everyone's strengths for the good of the school.  I am certainly eager to try!

For other greens out there, I found this very interesting article on the Kolbe A on Oprah.com.  Go and check it out to learn more!

10 June 2013


Back in the day, when I was a young mother and wife, I was in charge of the cooking and grocery shopping.  Bob did all the outdoor maintenance, and with the two houses we owned in Columbia and the one we had in JC, required a lot of outdoor work.  Bob would grill on occasion and that was always a highlight.

My grandmothers were fabulous cooks.  My mom would say she wasn't a good cook, but my sister and I loved her fried potatoes with hamburgers, her eggnog and potato soup so much. She could make a mean grilled cheese and Campbell's tomato soup, too!  I loved to bake, and to this day, that's where I like to find myself in the kitchen.

I took a vacation day from school today and was looking through a variety of bags that have stuff in them, mostly stuff to be thrown away, but I did find one bag that held many treasures, Ashley's wedding picture disk, my Zonta application, jewelry appraisals, and a file full of tear sheets of recipes.

Do you remember making tear sheet files?  Back in the day of magazines, when you found a recipe you liked, you tore it out and filed it, to make later.  Sort of a low-tech Pinterest, if you will.

This file of tear sheets had many fun recipes that I had tried, some with good results and some, not-so-much.  One such recipe was Invent-A-Casserole that I found in an old cookbook.  I loved the idea of it so much that I used this Invent-A-Casserole idea for years.  Here's Southern Living's Invent-Your-Own-Casserole that came out much later, like 2003.

I loved them!  I love a warm, cheesy casserole with a side salad and bread so much!!  Getting to combine what ever protein, sauces, veggies, pasta, extras, I felt like a chef!  I'd proudly serve up a new combination weekly for years.  With leftovers for school for all!!   I am not exaggerating.  Years.

If you saw this on our table in the 90s, Invent-A-Casserole was in it!

Some time when Ashley hit her high school years, Invent-A-Casserole took a back seat and eventually took a natural death.  She was so busy, we were busy, and cooking at home became more and more a thing of the past.  It got to a point where we were eating out so we could eat as a family.

When Ashley was getting married, I ran across my recipe tear files again and found the Invent-A-Casserole article.  I was so excited!  I told Ashley, let's invite Eric over for an Invent-A-Casserole night!  Bob and Ashley looked at each other and said, "Let's not."   What???  It comes to light that neither of them liked, even a teeny tiny bit, Invent-A-Casserole night!  I was flabbergasted!  Heartbroken! Even a little, MAD!

Probably deep down I knew they weren't fans.  There were always a lot of left overs by the end of the week, and that is with me taking it for lunch nearly every day.  However, it was cooking survival and I did manage to survive.  Finding and sharing that file with Ashley brought back memories for both of us, with our own unique perspective.

Bob took over cooking when Ashley graduated from high school.  That was nine years ago and I have had some amazing meals since Bob became the chef in our household.  Who knows, maybe years of Invent-A-Casserole led to Bob wanting to learn to cook!  If that's the case, then we all won!

08 June 2013

Pinterest Trial: Poached Egg in the Microwave

One of the many items on my list this summer is to give some of my Pinterest pins a trial run.  I pin a lot, probably as much as the average person, but I don't seem to follow up on giving them a try.  I ran across this pin, and decided to try it as it hit two of my lists, the Pinterest list and the Find-a-Fast-but-Not-Fast-Food breakfast.

This pin says you can poach an egg in the microwave in 1 minute, 15 seconds in a cup of water.  Sounds fast, eggs are delish, and if the poached egg is hard enough, then breakfast becomes portable, also a great thing.

I started off with this mug.  I chose this mug because it is cute.  Bad decision.  This cup has a larger surface and took longer to heat, so my 1:15 breakfast turned into 2:00 minutes.  Ok, not horrible, but if you are late, you are late.

 So you crack an egg into the cup of water.  Place it in the microwave 1:15 minutes, as the original pin suggested but then I added an additional 45 seconds because the egg was still raw.  I let mine set for 15 seconds and then scooped it out with a spoon.  I put a second egg in and it cooked faster, in 1 minute.

The last step is to salt and pepper to taste.  Then, enjoy!!