Thursday, June 30, 2011

Europe day 5: Rome!

We are loving our hotel! We are currently taking a siesta/rest time in our air conditioned room after a big day of touring Rome! And we did it all before 3 pm! :)

Rome is really amazing. I've been here before, but experiencing it in a completely new way with my husband. A few of the main differences are getting out very early, mapping out our route as we go, and bringing our water!

Here's what we saw today: colosseum, roman forum, pantheon, Trevi fountain, and piazza navona.

We stopped at McDonald's again. :) not as good as the ones in Germany but really nice! They moved the one from the pantheon area to the Trevi fountain area, which was a good move since the new one has 3 levels!

Other random things that happened... There was a Libyan rally going on in the piazza navona... Kinda kills the whole mood that the Italians make money from... We enjoyed quoting back to the future on that one. And we dodged a tourist trap by figuring out that sitting and ordering Tre Scalini gelato was €13 MORE than walking up to the stand and taking it to go. Tourist traps: 0, pb&j: 1

Loving Rome!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Europe day 4: Florence to Rome

We got up early and went to the museum where Michelangelo's David is located. Really amazing. All that work and dedication with limited tools.

Then we explored Florence a bit--vivoli, ponte vecchio... But we got out as soon as we could! It was SWARMING with tour groups and tourists. I don't think I've ever seen it so bad.

The highlight was definitely Montepulciano. It wasn't something we planned and our stop was less than 2 hours, but we had such a memorable time. We saw a bit of real Tuscan life and got to slow down and enjoy it! The views from that hilltop town were unbelievable. We will have to go back there some day.

After getting lost and not understanding Rome airport norms... We returned the car. From the airport we took a train to the central terminal which was less than .2 miles away from our hotel. The hotel is really amazing (considering our budget). Most importantly, it has air conditioning!

Tonight we walked down to the colosseum and roman forum area.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Europe day 3: the longest drive & Florence

We had an incredible dinner tonight! It was a gift, truly incredible! We dined at villa San Michelle in fiesole which overlooks Florence. My favorite parts of the meal were the peach Bellini, florentine steak, wine, cappuccino dessert with cinnamon gelato. Oh and a doppio espresso to counteract the wine because everything before that point was utterly exhausting!

We woke up early and launched out of Salzburg to a salt mine in hallein. It was a really cool tour! It kind of felt like being at Disneyland. We rode a train into the mine then barreled down wood slides until we were 210 meters below the ground! We took the tour with a group of 9 year old Austrian kids on a field trip. We were very intriguing to them--they kept sneaking peeks at us and staring when the guide spoke English to us. So funny! Makes me wonder what assumptions they have about Americans.

Then we started our 720 km drive to Florence. Driving through the alps was unbelievable, but once we encountered the Italian way of driving... We were anxious to be done! :) The drive took 8.5 hours. Then Brandon was rudely introduced to Florence driving. Wow. His take: " it's complete anarchy. There's no rules so make up your own." Especially the scooters...

Thankfully we are safe in our very humid room at the hostel. :)

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Europe day 3... First pic

Monday, June 27, 2011

Europe Day 2: Rothenburg ob der tauber & Salzburg

Rothenburg was lovely! Tourist filled of course, but lots of great walking and bakeries filled with our favorite: Bavarian pretzels! Word to the wise when perusing the bakeries, don't eat the dry balls.

Looong drive to Salzburg. McDonald's was delish. Salzburg old town is fabulous but our walk was harrowing from our hostel in the boonies! Which included Brandon finding a syringe in what he thought was a toilet pay station. And my [Jenny] confident wandering didn't help.... Mom and dad, remember Paris? :-o anyway, the night finished beautifully with cappuccinos and the best apple streudel!

Tomorrow is the longest drive to Florence.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Europe day 1: Heidelberg

Europe day 1

Crazy day of travel to get to our first stop, but we made it!

Favorite moment so far: walking around the town square of Heidelberg at night with locals milling around and seeing the castle lit up Disney style. :)

Favorite quote: Brandon said at dinner last night on feeling anxious, "I'm just remembering everything you and your parents told me... I'm expecting some thief or gypsy to jump through that window and take the camera or your purse."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The News

The past two weeks feel like a whirlwind! It was mostly good things though. But I feel so exhausted. I came home today, put my pj's on, heated up leftovers, and watched some Bachelorette. What is with that show anyway? You really signed up for a national TV show and competed with 24 other guys to find a wife? What?!


I took my Master's in Special Education Comprehensive Exam today. 15 pages and 4 hours later, it was all done. The capstone on my grad work. I'm pretty sure I passed. An 18 out of 30 is passing and I remembered all the sources I needed to remember and probably had more cohesive essays than what I had written for practice.

Rewind to that morning... I was rushing around the house repeating research study authors and publication dates to myself. Brandon was tossing coffee into travel mugs and juggling little Buhner as we were pushing ourselves out the door. I was anxious and a bit snippy about getting out the door, but stopped myself and asked Brandon to pray with me.--That happens more and more often these days, stopping in the middle of something and sometimes not in our best moments to pray--We prayed for my exam then I prayed "God I pray that I DO get that job and that I would find out today"... That felt pretty bold and pretty crazy to basically say to God, "Yeah, I want that job. Can I have it?"

So as I turned in my classroom key and finish filing some last minute paperwork, my phone rings. It was the high school principal I interviewed with offering me the position. So incredible.

I told the office staff and the principal said something to the effect of "Wow, you just turn in your key and you get a job? You're moving near your family, your husband has a job... Everything's falling in place, something must be right."

So true, but not a complete picture. It's not just dumb luck that I found a teaching job in a horrible job market for teachers or that Brandon gets to start doing what he has wanted to do for several years... God is totally in on it. And the beautiful orchestration of timing? God is just such a wonderfully creative writer.

I was talking with my lovely friend yesterday. She called to tell me about amazing things God did in her life. Complete healing and transformation. Then God told her to share what he had done.

So, in light of that conversation, I share all this not to boast, but because God wants us to share the stories of how he's blessed us! They're not just our stories to hold onto. They're part of his larger love story.

What an adventure we're on!

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Closing out year 3

If you are a student, a teacher, or have kids in school, you understand the cyclical nature of education.

I feel like a gypsy teacher. For the past 3 years I have roamed and taught where God led. Each year, I invested all I could into the students and brought my wares into a bare canvas... the classroom. That classroom became my classroom.

The beginning of the year always starts the same. There's a rush to get ready. You're not quite sure what you're doing (even if you've done it before). The students are nervous and you're anxious to build a rapport with them. You focus a lot of energy on decorating the classroom and trying to get organized. (Note: photos are from my first year)
By the middle of the year, you've hit a stride. You have a system that works. The honeymoon period is over, you know which students need some extra positive support and which ones you can trust with their work (and your desk supplies). Making sure the classroom is decorated is an afterthought, if you think of it at all. Your initial organization techniques have fallen by a wayside for whatever works. For me: if it's piled on my desk and not filed away, it's on the to-do list.

At the end of the year, you're beginning to close things out with assessments and evaluations. Student and staff emotions run high. You see the fruit of all your work and care as you reflect on how the year started. He used to... Now he... At the beginning of the year, she... Now she... You say goodbye to the students, some are sad and some are just anxious for summer!
Then in a few months, it repeats itself.

Teachers don't do this to become financial moguls, we do it because we love it. We love teaching, learning, impacting students, seeing progress, thinking creatively, and seeing students become more of who they are.

Yesterday, I completed another year. I said goodbye to my students and coworkers, packed up everything, and felt a strong sense of deja vu as I saw the room return to its original state. I was thankful that my husband came to help me pack up.

I don't feel like I have words to describe what it all felt like... Those final moments when everything had been loaded into my car and I looked at the darkened classroom. My desk that had previously been covered with papers was bare. Everything was quiet and Brandon held my hand. Change is so hard, but having worked in 5 different schools and moving 7 times in the past 5 years, it feels refreshing and almost comfortable.

This post feels mostly incoherent, but that's where I'm at right now.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Last week of school quotes

Heard in the classroom this week:

"I found you on google!"

"WHAT?!?! You won't be here next year?"

"You don't love us!!!"

"I'm going to come down to California and burn it down!"

"You know what they say... Curiosity killed the... notebook."

"I'm going to stalk you with your email and look up your geotags on facebook."

And my favorite: "Mrs. Prior, I'll remember you forever."

The move has brought out a lot of emotions. Especially with my students... from threats of violence and terrorism to desperate emotional pleas. One of my students who tends to be inattentive and oblivious started crying when I told the class. If you knew the student, you'd understand why it's noteworthy. One more day with the kids. I can't believe it.
After absorbing numerous responses to our move and feeling more of the reality of it, I have started to feel it. We are starting to feel it. This week has been holding onto a rock in the middle of a hurricane.
It's passing, the sun is coming out, and there is so much hope ahead. Teaching interview next week, Master's comprehensive exam this Wednesday, Europe coming up, then, the move.
Moving alone is completely different from moving together. It's an incredibly bonding experience. On a hard day this week, Brandon and I were commiserating and he wrote the following in an email:

Home will always be together now.

Note: The photos are from our engagement photo session.

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Monday, June 13, 2011


"For we live by faith, not by sight." 2 Cor. 5:7

"Genuine moral fiber is developed by enduring the discipline of faith. When you have made your request to God, and the answer still has not come, what are you to do? Keep on believing His Word! Never be swayed from it by what you see or feel. Then as you stand firm, your power and experience is being developed, strengthened, and deepened." Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman

I used to completely underestimate faith and prayer. When someone told me to pray about something, I would feel so discouraged and wonder if they were just writing me off.

In recent years, I have learned that through prayer, I am participating in something so much bigger. I have been surprised at how often Brandon and I feel led to pray and then see God move. The faithfulness of God is a response to his love for us (everyone not just Brandon and I) and a response to the legacy of faith into which we are woven.

It was by faith that my parents, when they learned of J.P.'s disability, continued to walk and live with hope. By their faith, J.P. has grown into a remarkable young man who has exceeded expectations.

It was by faith that Brandon and I prayed for our spouses, despite discouraging prospects. And then at the right time, life situations and eharmony settings were open so that we could begin to pursue a relationship, unlike any other we had previously experienced. Even from 1,200 miles away.

It was by faith that J.P. prayed for my job, when I had been discouraged by spending a full year subbing and 5 fruitless interviews. By his faith, I received a job offer the next day.

It is by faith that Brandon and I are moving. Even though we have stable jobs and a stable future where we are, we have faith that God is calling us out of our safety into a daunting situation where there is little certainty but no limit to where he will take us.

Brandon is doing something completely new and unfamiliar. I have no job lined up. We don't have anywhere to live yet. We don't know what our income will be. There are things that we want that we will put off for a while.

Yet! I still hope. I still have faith that God will keep his promises.

"There may be a great work occurring in your life when things seem their darkest. You may see no evidence yet, but God is at work. " Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman

It has been in the dark nights when I have heard God's voice the clearest.

God has done it before and he will do it again. Just watch and see.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Europe Countdown

Our upcoming itinerary:
We are so excited for our trip to Europe!!! I can't believe it's finally going to be here after all this talking and planning. I've been to Europe four times before. Yeah, I know... pretty crazy. Each trip was unique and amazing. I am so grateful for those opportunities. The only thing I was missing was the love of my life. One definitely feels the gravity of singleness when you walk around Paris by yourself. The hardest was a candlelit stroll that I took solo around the grounds of the Vaux le Vicomte castle. So this trip will be unique and amazing because my husband is coming with me!!!

It is his first trip and he is so excited! He can't wait to see the Austrian Alps, the historical sights, the city of London, and the beaches of Normandy.

It will be such a great adventure for us... and a test of our ability to work together to solve problems that inevitably come up during vacations.

Here's an overview of our itinerary:
  • Arrive in Frankfurt, rent a car
  • Night in Heidelberg
  • Stop at Rothenberg ob der Tauber
  • Night in Salzburg
  • Stop at Neuschwanstein
  • Night in Florence
  • 2 Nights in Rome
  • Fly to London
  • 3 Nights in London
  • Night in Normandy region
  • 3 Nights in Paris
  • Fly home
Forgive my misspellings... I didn't feel like looking them up. :)

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recipe share: Cilantro-Lime Grilled Chicken Fajitas

We are on a search for the perfect chicken fajitas!  Somehow the northwest does not get fajitas as far as I can tell. I'm sorry but fajitas should not include soy sauce or corn syrup. Gross.

Cilantro-Lime Grilled Chicken Fajitas with Grilled Veggies


For marinade
  • 1 1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 5 T. fresh lime juice
  • 2 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 t. ancho chili powder
For the rest
  • 6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (we used 2 chicken breasts)
  • 3 large poblano chiles, seeded, cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips
  • 3 large yellow or red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips
  • 2 red onions, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 12 8-inch flour tortillas (we used corn)
  1. Puree the first 5 ingredients in processor. Season marinade with salt and pepper.
  2. Place chicken in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour 1/3 cup marinade over; turn to coat.
  3. Arrange poblanos, bell peppers, and onions on large rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup marinade over; turn to coat.
  4. Sprinkle chicken and veggies with salt and pepper. Reserve remaining marinade.
  5. Grill chicken until cooked through (about 7 mins. each side).
  6. Grill veggies until tender, turning frequently (about 15 mins. for onions and 12 mins. for poblanos and bell peppers).
  7. Grill tortillas or bake in oven under high heat (I used broil) for about 1 min. each side.
  8. Transfer chicken to work surface; slice crosswise into strips.
  9. Fill tortillas with chicken and veggies; drizzle with reserved marinade. Serve with your favorite toppings!
So delicious! Our goal is to try one new recipe per month... we'll see how that goes. I guess the bigger feat would be to try one new recipe per month that is not a Mexican dish. But why? :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

554 days in...

We've recently passed the year and a half mark of marriage! Woohoo!

That puts us at about... the pre-school level of marital knowledge and wisdom, but this has been the hardest and best year and a half of learning that I have ever encountered in my post-graduate studies. However, marriage is not the kind of thing you work to "graduate" from... which would be dying...

ANYWAY, in our meek wisdom as a young couple, here are some of the top lessons we have learned:
  1. Say "I love you" often and with eye contact
  2. Be honest! Even if it hurts
  3. JLJW (Just Let Jenny Win)--Brandon's motto whenever we play games, even though I usually win anyway!
  4. Play games/sports together
  5. Talk about the hard stuff (finances, goals, fears, hurts) early and often
  6. Cook together
  7. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more
  8. Super Mario Wii is a great communication tester ("You stole my mushroom!" "Agh, I said I jump then you jump!")
  9. Say no to anything that stands to threaten your relationship or sanity
  10. Never go to bed without resolving an argument
  11. Always remember you're on the same team, be each other's biggest fans
  12. Don't bring home a puppy, take on a full load of grad work, coach high school wrestling, and work full-time at the SAME TIME!
  13. Date each other
  14. Turn off the TV
  15. Apologize
  16. Prioritize: spiritual health, relational health, emotional health, financial health, and physical health
  17. DREAM together
We've learned so much about love, grace, service, and selflessness. But we are so far from perfect. Grace (apologies and forgiveness) is the glue that holds us together. I love the song "Dancing in the Minefields." It paints a true picture of the adventure that is marriage:

"I do" are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I've heard
Is a good place to begin

'Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it's an easy price
For the life that we have found

And we're dancing in the minefields
We're sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for

If you have a young couple in your life, encourage them, pray for them, guide them, mentor them...

That totally sounds like a PSA for Big Brothers and Sisters of America...

What are some of the most important marriage lessons you've learned?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

40 Day Fitness Challenge and RESULTS!!!

Before: December 2010
After: May 2011

We just completed a 40 Day Challenge with our awesome trainer Willie Woods of Iron Core Fit. It was nothing drastic. There were a few basic rules:
  1. Workout, Rest, or Attend Class
  2. Isn't he cute? !
  3. Eat 6 meals (include protein and good fats) per day including pre/post workout meals
  4. Take Supplements
  5. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water
We did strength training 5 times per week and really focused on increasing our protein intake, severely decreasing our consumption of sugar and excess carbohydrates.

Here's an example of one of our workouts:

Warm-up/Activation exercises
  • wall ball crunches 2 x20
  • low plank 2 x30 seconds
  • yoga abs x30 each side
  • superman x15
  • Peeing Dog: side up/down x15, kick back x20, karate kicks x20
Strength: 3 sets 45 seconds on/15 seconds rest
1a. KB swing
1b. KB pullover
1c. plank circles x5 each direction on ball

2a. clean/squat/press x3 each side
2b. KB floor chest press
2c. wall sit

3a. pulldown
3b. crabwalk
3c. side-lying tricep extension

4a. hi pull + drop squat
4b. figure 8
4c. renegade row

Finisher (to keep the metabolism revving!): 2x500 meter row

But we definitely saw some incredible results! In just 40 days we lost 18 lbs. (Brandon-11 lbs., Jenny-7 lbs.) and over 16 inches (Brandon-6", Jenny-10.25")!!!

Not only that, we improved our hand-eye coordination and overall strength in our pre and post testing. We're going to keep going though!

Want more fitness inspiration? Here's a post from one of my favorite blogs: Rage Against the Minivan

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