Sunday, February 23, 2014


I know, it's been almost a week since I've last posted. But this past week has been a pretty crazy one in terms of teaching and class assignments and other little random things. So, instead of taking you through a boring day-by-day replay of the past week, I'm going to do something a little bit different.

It's not like I haven't done something like this before, in terms of writing out and sharing what I am thankful for, but there's no rhyme or reason to this one (ie, Thanksgiving), except that my heart is feeling overwhelmingly grateful for so many things this week.

So, I'm thankful for professors and English classes that challenged me and taught me something, and prepared me for my English certification exam, because I passed with flying colors, and I can now officially become a high school English teacher. I'm thankful for sweet catch-up with the small group I've been walking with since the very start of freshman year.

I'm thankful for sweet surprises whilst on my crazy Thursday bike ride to campus that instantly elevate my mood. I'm thankful for sunshine and laughter and swimming laps in February (I'm even thankful for my ever-present one-piece tan).

I'm thankful for date nights, food made dairy-free especially for me, and someone who doesn't let me skip dessert.

I'm thankful for cheesy chick-flicks, late night conversations, Wednesday phone calls with Gram, and handwritten notes.

I'm thankful for birthday cards, a roommate who makes my bed for me, swing dancing, sunsets and Mt. Bonnell, Austin Stone Community Church, and most of all, tetelestai.

I'm thankful for Westwood sophomores, Anderson freshman girls, seeing high school best friends, if even only for a minute, exciting opportunities, sharing my story, speaking truth, real conversations, and breaking down walls.

I'm thankful for how well other people love me, and how they inspire me to love other people. This weekend has been full of wonderful food, people, weather, and conversations, and I'm exponentially thankful for it as I begin what will likely be another crazy week. I hope your weekend has been just as joyful, and that you finish it off on the best note possible. Until next time!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Shrimp Fajita Vegetable Dish

Happy Monday, party people! I was really on a roll with these blog posts, so I apologize for my lack of a post yesterday. This post will be short and sweet, or more so savory, but it's a new post nonetheless.

This weekend I created a semi-new recipe, that substituted a few new ingredients in my common pineapple chicken and vegetable dish. Shrimp is the star of this dish, and it has a bit of a Tex-Mex flair to it.

  • 1 lb shrimp (I bought ready-to-cook shrimp)
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 squash
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 pineapple
  • Lemon pepper
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder
  • Olive oil
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Line baking pan with foil and grease with cooking spray
  • Slice bell peppers, zucchini, and squash, and place in a large bowl
  • Top with olive oil and lemon pepper and mix well
  • Spread vegetables into foil-lined baking pan
  • Slice onion and sprinkle throughout vegetables
  • Spread shrimp on top of vegetables
  • Sprinkle lemon pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder throughout mixture
  • Slice pineapple into rings or cut into chunks; top shrimp with pineapple
  • Cook for 28-30 minutes
  • Enjoy!

The beauty of this dish is that you can eat it bowl-style, or you can grab your favorite tortillas and add-ins (guacamole, shredded lettuce, sour cream, black beans, salsa), and enjoy some delicious shrimp tacos. I, of course, plan on topping this dish with salsa, but I do have some tortillas that are calling my name. Healthy and full of flavor - it doesn't get much better than that! Have a fabulous Monday!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chez Zee Valentine

Happy Saturday! I feel like I am walking on sunshine here on this beautiful Austin Saturday, and I could not be happier about the weather we are currently experiencing. Fingers crossed that we don't get any more of that bitter cold weather!

Anyway, I left off at school yesterday, so let's pick up where we left off. Well first, let's back track to the usual workout and breakfast part of my post. 


I can't tell you the relief I felt when I woke up naturally at around 5:40am, knowing that it was Friday and that my next two days would allow me to sleep in a little bit. That thought alone was enough to get me out of bed and over to the gym, where I completed this 5.4-mile treadmill workoutTo me, no other form of exercise beats a good run, and I certainly left yesterday feeling like I got in a good one.


I got to school a little bit earlier than usual yesterday, as my teacher was going to be gone, and there was a student organization meeting taking place in my teacher's classroom. I brought my breakfast with me, and I ate my usual scrambled egg whites and spinach, along with some sliced strawberries, a mini honeycrisp apple, and two cuties. I guess that run really built my up appetite!

And just before I left school, I got a little surprise: I had won something in the faculty prize drawing! I found that hysterical because one, I never win prize drawings (unless you count my grand prize carnival win in Pre-K - 4 tickets to Astroworld), and two, I'm not even really a part of the faculty, so I had to laugh when I saw that I won a book titled, "The Essential Kitchen Gardener," which is right up my alley, and will be very helpful should I ever try to grow my own garden.

The last block of the day went pretty smoothly, as we just finished up any remaining college presentations, and the students continued working on their benchmarks while I graded some late research papers and read a little bit more of East of Eden. I think I got the good end of that bargain! After school I ran a couple of errands, baked a couple of batches of my oatmeal-banana-almond butter muffins, and got ready for my Valentine's Day dinner date. I am going to go ahead and break the news to you now and say that while I absolutely took photos of our meal last night, I deleted the appetizer and both of our main dishes before they were safely on my computer. I honestly almost cried when I realized what I had done, and I had to take a step back from my computer and wait for my blogging motivation to return. True story.

Anyway, just because I lost the food pictures doesn't mean the night wasn't fabulous. I think Dylan and I both had a wonderful evening, and it started just about 8:00pm when Dylan came over with a beautiful bouquet of roses and some (dairy-free!) chocolate. What a star.

We had dinner reservations at 8:30pm, so we left my house right about 8:10, because although the restaurant was close to my house (though I didn't know where we were going), we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time time to get there, park, and get into the restaurant by 8:30. We timed it pretty perfectly, and we were seated immediately upon getting through the line at the hostess stand at Chez Zee.

The restaurant was decorated beautifully, and I just loved the overall atmosphere of the place. There was live music happening, and our table was sort of tucked away in a back room to where we could hear it, but so that we could also hear one another at the same time. The perfect combo!

We each started with a glass of Graham Beck Brut Rose champagne, and I have to say, I am a huge fan of champagne. It's a drink that often indicates celebration, and though I couldn't tell you what exactly it tastes like, I really do enjoy the taste. And this one was especially great - I almost finished the entire glass, and for me, that's pretty good!

Appetizer & Meal

I am still saddened over my lack of pictures of the food, because every single bite of food I had was incredible. I guess you'll just have to go there and experience for yourself how great it is. Anyway, we were originally going to go with the Chicken Beignets for our appetizer, but the Grilled Brown Sugar Beef Kabobs at the bottom of the appetizer list caught our eye at the last second, and while I am sure the Chicken Beignets would have been delicious, I am so glad we opted for the beef kabobs. They were perfectly seasoned and especially tender, and they certainly didn't last very long.

Immediately upon opening the menu, my eye fell upon the Pecan Crusted Salmon, served with sauteed spinach and mushrooms. I knew that was what I was going to order, so I didn't even bother looking at the rest of the menu. I tend to be really bad at making decisions, and I didn't want to be caught in a web of indecision. Dylan was originally going to order the New York Strip, but then decided on the Jalepeno Cornbread Stuffed Chicken, but was forced to reevaluate when we learned there was no more jalapeno cornbread. He ended up ordering the New Orleans Pecan Chicken, and we got a side of both steamed vegetables and sweet potato pudding.

Everything tasted incredible, and we both (as per usual) cleared our plates. I know you're surprised to hear that one. And though Chez Zee is famous for its dessert, nothing sounded especially appealing to us, so we decided to call it a night and head back to Dylan's house to exchange presents and just hang out for a while, but not before saying hi to Dylan's brother and his girlfriend, who happened to have dinner reservations at the exact same restaurant!

As I said earlier, I think Dylan and I would consider this first Valentine's Day to be a success, even though it is the world's cheesiest holiday!

Today has been spent doing a little bit of school work, a little bit of cooking (keep an eye out for a new-ish recipe coming soon!), and a lot of time outside. The weather has been perfect, so I took my workout to the great outdoors and went for a walk around Town Lake this morning, and followed that up with an early afternoon swim at Gregory. I certainly can't complain about working on my one-piece tan in the middle of February!

And on that note, I'm off to continue working on a little bit of school work watch the Olympics and call it an early night! These crazy school weeks do me in! I hope you have had an enjoyable Saturday!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Things I'm Loving Friday

Happy Valentine's Day to my favorite readers! I love an excuse to show extra love and appreciation to all of those around me, and of course, I'm always happy for an excuse to wear a little pink! Things I'm Loving Friday is something that my blogging inspiration, Peanut Butter Fingers, does almost every Friday, so I decided to follow her lead and share a few of my current favorites with you guys.

East of Eden

This was never a book I was made to read in school, but I really like John Steinbeck, so I recently made the decision to tackle what Steinbeck regards as his greatest novel. It's a long one, and I am not very deep into it, but I am already enjoying it (and trying to keep all of the characters straight).

Manicures and Pedicures

Yesterday, because my usual Thursday evening class was not taking place, and I got home a bit earlier than usual due to an early-afternoon substitute teacher orientation/training, I decided to make good on my promise to myself and treat myself to a relaxing manicure and pedicure. I've been saying that I was going to do this for weeks now, and because Sarah so generously gave me a gift card to a nail salon in Austin for my birthday, I decided that yesterday was as good a day as any to put it to good use. It was just what I needed to relax and pamper myself a bit before I hit the ground running for these final six weeks of student teaching. 

I know, I've got some abnormally long fingers
Running the Show

My cooperating teacher is out of town both today and Monday, so although I cannot be considered an "official substitute" quite yet, I am still able to fully run the show while my teacher is out of town. I love my cooperating teacher, and I love it when she is in the classroom with me, but I feel just a little bit more confident when I'm the only "teacher" in the classroom. I had such a great time today taking attendance, administering the exams, writing the agenda, and even just getting everything organized, set up, and ready to go. Though I simply watched the remainder of the college presentations and administered benchmarks and outside reading exams, I am feeling both important and accomplished as I round out day one of being fully in charge.

Sabra Individual Hummus Packs

I am a big-time hummus lover. I was at Randall's one day buying my usual container of hummus, when a 4-pack of individual hummus containers caught my eye. I knew these would be perfect to take to school with me to eat for lunch alongside a serving of carrots and celery. It might be a little bit more expensive than buying a bigger container of hummus and spooning it into individual Tupperware containers, but one, it makes cleaning up a whole lot easier, and this allows me to control the portion size. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the cost (basic economics, am I right?). 

Surprise Treats

Last night our doorbell rang long about 9:40pm. None of us were expecting anyone, though we thought maybe it was a delivery from Tiff's Treats that one of our parents had sent for Valentine's Day. So, you can imagine our surprise when it was one of our friends delivering a fresh-baked loaf of banana bread. She is selling banana bread to raise money to buy a new camera that recently broke, as well as help raise money to send high school kids to Wilderness Ranch in Colorado. We hadn't ordered any ourselves, but I was told that it was a gift from the sweetest guy I know, and it was very much appreciated!

You know that saying about how teachers learn just as much from their students as students learn from their teachers? Well, I took a page out of their books and bought this EOS Lip Balm after seeing many of them use it during class. It intrigued me because of its spherical shape and the fun colors it comes in. I am a big-time chapstick user, and though I usually swear by Burt's Bees, I think this Evolution of Smooth lip balm has taken over first place. I have tried the blueberry acai, sweet mint, and strawberry sorbet, and they have all kept my lips feeling happy and smooth. You can find this lip balm at Target or Walgreen's, so do your lips a favor in this constantly-changing Texas weather and treat yourself to your favorite flavor.


And that's all I have for you guys today. I'm finishing up my lunch period at school, and after one and a half more block periods, I'll be headed home to get ready for what is sure to be a delicious Valentine's Day dinner with Dylan. Have a great evening, and I hope you are experiencing as beautiful of a day where you are as we are having in Austin.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crazy Week

Happy Thursday! My mood is exponentially better than it has been in about a week, and that is because the sun has finally shown its face. Though it is still fairly chilly outside, the fact that the sun is out makes it so much more bearable.

Anyway, it's been a while since I've checked in with you guys, so let's hit the highlights of this past week.


We left off on my birthday, so let's start there, as we know that's a highlight for me. Dylan told me that we had 8:30pm dinner reservations, though he didn't tell me where, only that the restaurant is known for its bar. I honestly couldn't guess where it was that we were going (though I admittedly didn't try very hard, because I like surprises), and I was certainly surprised when we pulled up to North by Northwest with most of my roommates and some of my YoungLife teammates waiting inside. I had absolutely NO idea that Dylan had been planning all of this, and it was so much fun for me to ring in my 22nd year with so many of my very favorite people. I guess you're never too old to have that surprise party you always wanted as a kid!

Not much has changed since turning 22, as I still took a picture of my delicious Pan Seared Salmon over Silver Lake Spinach salad, of which I ate every last bite. I was a bit unsure about the mustard vinaigrette dressing, but it ended up being the perfect combination of flavors.

And though I am not much of a beer drinker, this restaurant does brew its own beer, so I almost had to order one. On a recommendation from the bartender, I went with the Pale Ale, and while it doesn't compare to my favorite fruity cocktails, I will admit that it tasted pretty good. The night turned out to be such a great and memorable one, and it was the perfect start to 22.


Because school was canceled on Friday due to icy road conditions, Dylan and I decided to hit the road to Houston at about 10pm on Thursday night. A stop at Whataburger and Bucees fueled us for the dark drive home, but we both agreed that we were glad to beat any bad weather that might have made driving home dangerous. And I wish I could say that I had an eventful weekend at home, but it was mainly spent hanging out with my parents (it was nice having them all to myself), watching some of the Winter Olympics (though the summer games certainly have my heart), and grading about 50 college research papers.

I also went to visit my mom at work on Friday night, and one of her co-workers gave me a piece of advice that I think will prove to be very valuable: GO HOME, because the work will still be there in the morning. Leave the work at work, and just go home. While I certainly plan to implement that policy (as much as possible) in the future, right now I have to juggle the grading along with assignments for my class at UT along with planning lessons/a unit. It's a lot, but I'm almost halfway done with my student teaching experience - and that's hard to believe! I've truly come to enjoy it, and I can honestly say that I look forward to going to school each day. When someone asks me how my day has been, it's such a relief to be able to say, "My day has been really great; I had such a good day at school." Relieves a few of my anxieties about choosing the wrong profession!

I don't have any new recipes or workouts to share with you this week, but I promise that will change after this weekend. I plan on spending part of my Saturday in the kitchen, coming up with at least one new recipe that invites a little bit of food excitement. Additionally, I hope to create a couple new workouts to test out and share with you guys next week, so be on the lookout for those! Hopefully it will hold me accountable for posting regularly (though don't count on it).

Valentine's Day

As many of you probably know (or maybe want to forget?), tomorrow is Valentine's Day. It's nice that it falls on a Friday this year, and I already have my pink sweater ready to wear to school. I'm hoping to win over my students' hearts by bringing them some sort of Valentine's Day baked good (or at least some Valentine's-themed candy), and I came out of my temporary baking retirement to quickly throw together these Valentine's Day Funfetti Cake Mix M&M Cookies.

Funfetti is almost always a win, and if you're wondering how to make them, follow these simple steps -

  • 1 box of Valentine's Funfetti Cake Mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups Valentine's M&M's (mini work best, but I did use regular sized M&M's, and they worked great too)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix ingredients together in a large bowl
  3. Place tablespoon-sized balls of dough on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet
  4. Optional: add additional M&M's to the dough balls for the sake of appearance
  5. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown
  6. Enjoy!
Have a great rest of your Thursday! I'm hoping this next week won't look as crazy as this one was, but I'm not certainly not going to count on that one!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feelin' 22

I don't know about you, I'm feelin' 22, and if you don't know where that comes from, I would go ahead and stop reading this blog post. But I will tell you that it's mystical and magical, oh yeah!

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, we'll continue with the normal schedule of events - starting with a workout! I couldn't start out my 22nd lap around the sun (shout out to Sarah for that one) without a good workout. Plus, as I was scheduled to makeup my English Language Arts certification exam at 8:30am, I knew it would be a good brain-booster. Plus, as a morning workout is part of my daily routine now, my morning wouldn't feel complete without it. So, I hit the gym nice and early so that I would have plenty of time to complete this treadmill workout, covering 5.4ish miles in 45 minutes. 

Not a bad way to start out the day!


I came home to quickly shower, get dressed (for success, meaning yoga pants and my hair piled up in a bun on top of my head), and open some of the birthday cards I had so patiently saved. As you all probably know, I absolutely LOVE cards and notes, so it was hard for me to wait to open them, but I knew it would be made all the more special if I waited for my actual birthday to open and read them.

Can you tell that I like pink?
I left my house just around 7:20am, as I had to be at the testing center by 8:00am. It took me just over 10 minutes to get there, but I had plenty of time to eat my usual breakfast of scrambled egg whites and spinach, with a side of sliced mango and sliced strawberries, all the while jamming out to Taylor Swift's '22' to get myself pumped to sit through a three-hour exam.

Once in the testing center, I ate two large cuties that would hopefully hold me over for the duration of the exam. My test proctor seated us starting with the end of the alphabet, so I was the second person to be seated, meaning I got to begin taking the exam around 8:15am. I took a little over an hour and a half for the 90 multiple choice questions, and a little under an hour and a half for the literary analysis, finishing in just about three hours. As far as the overall test is concerned, while I felt fairly confident about the multiple choice, the essay is anybody's game, so we'll see what my results say when I get them in about a month!


After lunch I headed back home to the Clubhouse to drop off my belongings (and change into something a bit more presentable), before picking Dylan up from campus so that we could go to lunch. We decided on Cabo Bob's Burritos, just North of campus, which I have had a couple of times before, but I had never been to the actual restaurant. Nor had I ever had one of the burritos - which as the word 'burrito' is found in the name of the restaurant, you have to know that it's going to be pretty good. Dylan talked me into getting a burrito (though I am typically not the burrito type), and it turned out to be an excellent choice.

After much deliberation, I went with the Ancho Chili tortilla, stuffed with black beans, chicken, grilled onions, grilled squash, lettuce, cilantro, and red salsa. I was pretty hungry after sitting through that exam, so I ate every last bite. Though I can say with almost 100% certainty that I could finish off a whole burrito any day of the week.

As I am usually at Westwood during the lunch hour, it was nice to be able to have lunch with Dylan. Since I wasn't sure how long the exam was going to take me, I told my teacher that I probably wouldn't make it to school today. And since I didn't have to teach today anyway, I figured it wouldn't hurt to take the day off. So a lunch date with Dylan was certainly in the books.

The remainder of my afternoon has been spent completing a nice list of chores and trying to get caught up for the week. My sophomores just turned in their college research papers, so I have quite a bit of grading ahead of me. However, the few that I have already read have really been a lot of fun to read, so I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them. Have a GREAT rest of your Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Extreme Weight Loss - Texas Casting Call

I always love it when readers send me emails telling me they came across my blog because it promotes healthy living, and I love it even more when I get to help spread the healthy living word. Lindsay Luttrell, a casting producer for ABC's Extreme Weight Loss, emailed me about helping to get the word out about Extreme Weight Loss Season 5 casting that will be taking place in Dallas on Saturday, February 15th, and in Austin on Saturday, February 22nd. 

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this show, it is a unique, non-competitive show about weight loss that helps eight courageous participants not only undergo a transformation of their bodies, but of who they are as individuals.

If you have at least 50% of your body weight to lose, this just might be exactly what you have been looking for in order to change your life. Trainer and transformation specialist Chris Powell guides each of the participants through a 365-day journey in which participants set out to safely lose half their body weight. By assuring that each participant has the proper nourishment and exercise movement, Chris will provide a fresh perspective to individuals whose lives have become unmanageable because of their weight. Each stand-alone episode of Extreme Weight Loss chronicles one participant's journey, and you certainly won't believe what a difference a year can make.

If you're ready to make that change, and you are in the great state of Texas, you should come out to Dallas or Austin on February 15th, or February 22nd, respectively. As I am currently an Austin resident, I am specifically promoting the Austin casting call, that will take place from 10am-4pm at Dougherty Arts Center Theater, located at 1110 Barton Springs Road. Click here to view the full application process, here to learn about the process if you are unable to attend the casting call, and here to see the answers to frequently asked questions.

This is an incredible opportunity to take control of your life, and to make positive changes in a way that is more than just physical. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

40-Minute Treadmill Workout

Happy Monday, and Happy February! It's hard to believe that it's already my favorite month of the year! :) I made a goal of posting on both Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend, but I clearly failed in achieving that goal, so I am going to make up for it with a rare marathon Monday post. I can't even say that my weekend was that busy, but I did enjoy spending time with friends and roommates, and I did have a little bit of schoolwork to do, so blogging was (typical) put on the wayside. And, of course, I watched the Super Bowl last night, though I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of real excitement happening with both the game and the commercials. I did, however, enjoy the Jeep and Honda commercials,

the Budweiser "Welcome Home" commercial elicited a few tears,

but I think my favorite commercial was the Oikos Greek Yogurt commercial featuring a "Full House" dads reunion. If you have been a long-time blog reader, you probably know how much I love Full House!

Anyway, I do have a new workout for you guys, that is based off of this workout from Peanut Butter Fingers. It's perfect for a day when you're just not feeling like an all-out run, but you know that you'll feel better if you push yourself a little bit. 

P.S. I have to give a HUGE shout out to one of my sweet roommates, Natalie, who will officially be attending UT Houston Medical School next year, along with another one of my incredible roommates, Sarah. They are such rockstars, and they are the most deserving people I know, and I know that they are going to do such great things in the world of medicine. Crossing my fingers that I will be joining them in Houston next year!