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An open letter: An education formerly formidable, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School

I once held this institution on a pedestal. I no longer do. I once had an innate pride in TMP. I no longer do.

To whom this may concern:

Since the minute I was notified of Mr. Hertel’s release from Thomas More Prep-Marian High School (TMP), his contracts not being renewed, I have been trying to muster up the courage to put my feelings into words.

I would, however, like to preface my thoughts with this: Nothing I aim to impart on those reading this is meant to discredit my education nor the many educators who gave me the wonderful four years I experienced while at TMP.

After graduating in 2014 not many people know my name anymore. I know that I am the only Ernsting to grace the halls of TMP, once considered hallowed and full of tradition. I am not one of many students who experienced the same teachers as their siblings and even their parents. I am a first generation student at TMP, and I will be the last.

When I walked out of those doors and down the many stairs four years ago, I walked away profoundly impacted, strengthened in both my education and faith. I had always been proud to say I was a graduate of TMP, regardless of the flack I received about going to a private Catholic school.

Unfortunately, a lot can change in four years. As a student pursuing a college degree, I have grown and changed, as I expect many around me to do. What I didn’t expect, however, was for TMP to change. The tradition instilled in us as freshmen was something I held close to heart, helping me to appreciate not only my education but the reverence towards faith and tradition – two items that go hand in hand.

In the years following my graduation I have heard rumblings of disconcerted voices from peers and educators about the status of TMP. However, because of the upstanding education I received, full of faith and tradition, I brushed what I had heard to the side. I cited changes in administration and time, as everyone tends to get unsettled with change. I was wrong.

Not even three years had passed and walking the halls had brought an almost entirely new set of faces to the faculty. For a school that hasn’t changed much in the last decade or two, it sure seemed to have changed a lot in a short period of time. With the release of other faculty and now Mr. Hertel, I am positive that TMP is no longer the school it was when I graduated. I have lost faith in the claims that TMP has to faith and tradition.

TMP provided me with an exceptional education, and I am indebted to my educators for making me the woman I am today. However, that was a TMP of the past, educators of the past.

“Give us four years and we’ll give you a lifetime.” You gave me a wonderful four years, TMP, but you have given me a lifetime of disappointment.

I once held this institution on a pedestal. I no longer do. I once had an innate pride in TMP. I no longer do.

I don’t care who gives you the money. I don’t care who gives you guidance.  What I do care about is how you treat people, how you treat others with faith and tradition. And for that, I am extremely disappointed.

 

Delicious Zucchini Bread

Today I took the opportunity to grate zucchini and bake some zucchini bread. I adapted this recipe and have included my twist on it below.

And if you want to see me make it in real time, check it out here.

Zucchini Bread
Yield: 2 loaves…which means you need to loaf pans

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4(ish) cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together dry ingredients except for chocolate chips
  3. Mix together wet ingredients
  4. Combine all ingredients
  5. Add in chocolate chips
  6. Divide evenly into two greased loaf pans (I used normal size loaf pans)
  7. Bake for one hour
  8. Cool bread in pans on a rack for 20 minutes
  9. Remove bread from pans to cool completely

 

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Relationships from the Outside

If there is something I have noticed lately, it’s that nothing is what it looks like. We look at so many relationships around us and see only the picture perfect side, the side that is posted to Instagram or Facebook. We’re too focused on what makes other’s relationships look so perfect that we forget those people are normal and have the same relationship struggles we do.

Log onto Facebook in your 20s and you’re bound to see someone flashing their engagement ring. Check LinkedIn and you can’t escape noticing your old colleague just got promoted…But we’re only seeing a carefully crafted slice of someone’s life — which they’ve probably slapped a filter on — and it can make us feel like we’re falling short when the fact is, we’re not seeing the whole picture.

Newsflash: you define your own success and happiness. And more importantly, the success and happiness of others that you think you’re witnessing on social channels isn’t necessarily a reflection of their reality.

-Rebecca Strong, Social Media, FOMO and the Perfect Storm for the Quarter-Life Crisis

I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for a little more than a year (or a year and a half if we don’t count the few months we broke up and remained friends). We’ve also known each other for a couple years, during which we’ve had a fair share of arguments.

Like many relationships, we argue and a lot of the time it’s about the same things.

  • I’m cranky for no apparent reason (probably because he’s not talented in the area of cleaning up after himself).
  • He’s cranky for no apparent reason (probably because I don’t like deciding where we eat out).
  • We argue about:
    • cleaning
    • who will make the bed
    • who didn’t make the bed
    • what we should set the thermostat at
    • that I should water my plants
    • that he should take shorter showers
    • who didn’t replace the toilet paper
    • I don’t want to bore you with any more

But upon listening to my friends and family and, of course for good measure, an extensive google search, I learned that couples fight. Couples argue. Couples love. Couples persevere.

The problem is that social media leads us to believe everyone else’s relationship is perfect because we don’t see other couples arguing, we don’t see other couples in unhappy moments in their relationships, which makes us think that our relationships are wrong. 

“…it is important to keep in mind that conflict and arguing can be very beneficial to the health of friendships ad romantic relationships.  In particular, facing the need to argue with a close other can be energizing and motivating—the topics that bring about arguments remind us of what is important to us-from our core values to our goals for a given day. Arguments also give us the opportunity to think about and voice how we feel about our relationships and “who we are” as friends or dating partners.”

-Jennifer A. Stamp Ph.D., The Benefits of Arguing

 

Arguing is good, it helps me remember that I have a voice, that I am an individual outside and inside of my relationship, someone who has her own values and beliefs. I don’t always like when I am challenged by my boyfriend, but it helps me grow.

Here are your takeaways: Relationships are not picture perfect, and if you see one just remember it isn’t always pictures on the beach, it’s also stinky socks and arguing about the thermostat settings. Arguing is healthy — it challenges you and your relationship in the best of ways…just make sure your arguing habits are healthy.

 

I Moved

The obvious has occurred…I moved! No longer am I a resident of Manhattan, Kansas. Hello Gothenburg, Nebraska! The boxes have been packed, moved and unpacked, which means the settling in has began.

What makes this move exciting? There are a few reasons.

The first is that I had never been to Nebraska! We don’t know how it happened, but hey, I guess there is a first time for everything.  Second, Gothenburg is a little further away from my many homes, thus making the “adulting” a little more real. And the last reason I will list is that this move was a completely bind move. I had not visited Gothenburg, I had not even seen a picture of my house before I moved, nor did I know one person here. All those reasons made the move a bit more daunting than anticipated.

I have been asked a lot of questions about this move, so here are some answers.

Commonly asked questions:

Why did you move? 
My boyfriend accepted a job in the area, and I didn’t have any concrete plans to move anywhere specific, which has allowed me to move there with him.

Did you graduate?
No, I did not graduate from K-State this spring. After getting fed up with a cycle of reoccurring health issues, I have decided to take a step back from in-person classes to reduce stress.

Will you graduate/what are you going to do now?
Yes, I plan to finish up my K-State classes once I feel like it is something I can do successfully. To keep my brain sharp and continue my education in an area I am passionate about, I began taking classes online this summer through Fort Hays State University in Elementary Education. I expect to finish this program in about two years and then finish up at K-State.

Do you have a job?
YES! I HAVE A JOB! YAY! I had been applying everywhere in Gothenburg and the surrounding communities. Fortunately, I was hired as a paraeducator for the upcoming school year. I will be employed at an elementary school that only has kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, and I will be working in a special education classroom.

The last couple of weeks through the end of June, I have been working at the high school for their summer school program in an algebra classroom. It has been a great change of scenery and opportunity to stretch my brain muscles, but I look forward to getting back to the little kids once the school year begins.

Will you live in Gothenburg forever?
No, for now, Gothenburg is just a pit stop, and I look forward to moving to many more places and different little towns and cities as life progresses.

Ummm…what have you been doing?
After deciding to step back from in-person classes in February, I also stepped away from my job at the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, where I had worked since fall of 2014.

In order to make an educated decision regarding my pending major change to Elementary Education, I decided to seek out a job as a paraeducator to gain some in-classroom experience. Right before spring break, I was hired at an elementary school in Manhattan, where I worked with kindergarten, fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade. Little to say, I loved it and am so excited to one day have my own classroom!

In the meantime, I have done some freelance design work, edited a lot of papers for friends and worked on designing some baby shower invitations (see them here) and bridal shower invitations.

I would like to continue doing freelance design and writing, as well as find more opportunities to design. I am currently working on adding to an Etsy shop I recently started. Visit JenaErnstingDesigns on Etsy here to order your custom invitation, postcard or design today (seriously though, I can design you whatever your heart desires)!

Quick & Easy: 5 Ingredient Pasta Dinner

Healthy, quick, easy & budget friendly. This pasta dish is filling. Perfect to spice up your dinner table.

Light up the sky.Lately, I have not been in the mood to cook. My bank account is not thanking me for the takeout I’ve been ordering this past month and a half (it’s partly due to a concussion, so I don’t feel too bad being lazy).

To rectify my bad habits, I’m trying to cook more, taking these three four words into consideration: quick, easy & budget friendly.

I had a lot of these item’s on hand, which made my trip to the store almost unnecessary. Most of the time I cook dairy free, gluten free and red meat free. This pasta hit all those marks!

What I had in my cupboard/freezer:

  • 1/2 box Banza Penne (chickpea) pasta
  • 1 lb turkey burger
  • Pre-chopped (frozen) sweet onions*
  • Pre-chopped (frozen) red & green bell pepper mix**

What I picked up at the store:

DIRECTIONS

I simply cooked 1/2 of the Banza pasta; however, I did brown all the turkey burger and use the entire can of pasta sauce. After I had browned my turkey burger I threw in maybe 1/4 cup of the pre-chopped onion and maybe 1/2 cup of the red & green bell peppers. After the peppers and onion had heated up, I added the pasta sauce and stirred until simmer.

I made three servings of pasta, one (probably oversized) serving to eat after I made it and two servings that went into microwavable containers for the rest of the week. The remainder of the meat sauce went into the freezer, which will provide 2-3 meals once I cook more pasta.

The Organic Arrabiata Pasta Sauce was amazing. The reason I chose it was because the front of the jar said “made with a spicy blend of tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil & spices. I am a sucker for spicy food-the pasta was chunky, hardy and filling.

*I like to cook pre-chopped onions in my freezer, you can buy them in the freezer section, but I find it just as easy to chop up leftover onion after I cook something that requires a fresh onion. I simply chuck it up, throw it in my food processor and put the chopped onion in a freezer zip-lock bag. 

**After making a few gluten-free pizzas from scratch (which I then cut into servings and froze), I had leftover red and green bell peppers, like my onions I chopped them up and threw them in a freezer bag. Note: I keep these chunks a bit bigger (I don’t put them in the food processor).

Fall Essentials

Fall is back and amazing! I am so happy and have found some wonderful fall must haves!

Hello, Fall! Welcome back, I have sure missed you!

I don’t believe I am the only person who has missed this glorious season! I spent last Sunday cleaning out my closet, replacing all my summer items with fall and winter clothes and shoes. It sure feels good to look in my closet and see long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and jackets filling the racks.

In addition to preparing my closet for fall, I am also the kind of person who enjoys seasonal cleaning. My apartment also received an overhaul a few weeks ago as well.

So, without further wordiness here are my fall must-haves (for the moment)!

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Flannel Sheets 
I recently picked up some cozy flannel sheets similar to these! Although they make it harder to crawl out of bed, they are definitely a must-have for me! Bonus, they are on sale!

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Patagonia Better Sweater Jacket

I bought this jacket when it was on sale a couple years ago along with this Patagonia pullover. It is probably my most worn jacket. I am never cold when walking between classes because the sweater material on the outside and the fleece-like inside does amazingly at keeping the wind out.

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Leaves Candle from Bath & Body Works

There is no candle that compares to “Leaves.” Growing up, my mother would burn this candle at the start of fall into winter. The fragrance, which I just found out is Crisp Red Apple, Golden Nectar and Warm Clove Spice, just sings cozy evenings curled up with a good book.

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Hot Apple Cider Tea

Because I am so clearly obsessed with smells, this hot apple cider tea is perfect to warm you up and create a beautiful aroma. It tastes just like apple cider and is naturally caffeinated, a win-win in my book!

 

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Gluten-Free Donuts

I am a total sucker for donuts, which does not settle well with my gluten intolerance. However, I recently found these Kinnikinnick Gluten-Free Donuts! Win, Score & Holla! Although not the most inexpensive gluten-free dessert, they taste exactly like normal donuts! I found them in the freezer in health food section of my local Dillons Kroger store. But the Kinnikinnick website has some more flavors like Pumpkin Spice, Cinnamon Sugar and Maple Glazed!

 

Instagram Crushes

Spruce up your Instagram feed with a few new follows! Here are a few accounts that have caught my eye and attention.

Growing up we hear about crushes starting in first or second grade. Well, I have some Instagram crushes! Who doesn’t though?

I have enjoyed stepping up my Instagram game a little bit since last fall, part of which is following more people. One feature I am really enjoying is Instagram Stories, although it is similar to Snapchat; I feel like Instagram Stories is a great way to connect with more people since Snapchat is a more friend-to-friend social media platform.

Here are my current Instagram crushes:

@thehayleycakes

…is utter perfection! Just look at that lettering. Mixed into the slew of cute cookies are videos of the “decorating process.” The videos are an addiction, and you get sucked into watching a bunch of them. These cookies just make me so happy when they find their way onto my feed. Check out their website here! They also have an Etsy shop, which is dangerous. Did I mention they also make gluten free goodies, too?

@caraloren

…is the ultimate fitness guru and mom to two! I don’t keep up with her blog, but I sure do enjoy her posts and stories. Between her unboxing, traveling and super cute, adorable boys, her stories give me my kid fix! Check out her blog here!

@hallmark

…is my daily inspiration. Feeling down and blue? Not after looking at an adorable Hallmark post! I often get so caught up in social media and the instant gratification of emails, that I forget how easy it is to jot down a note and stick it in the mail. Seeing Hallmark’s Instagram posts remind me to send that long overdue thank you note or just a “Hi. Hello, Friend” card to someone that I’ve neglected to reach out to. I will definitely be looking for this card the next time I’m around Hallmark cards!

Who are your current Instagram crushes? I’d love to know!