Tuesday, March 31, 2015

20-Minute Upper Body Circuit

Happy Tuesday! I'm only briefly checking in, as I truly don't have much to report on my end. Today was spent organizing, throwing away (!!!) STAAR-related materials that I will no longer need, and allowing my students to catch up on any missing work. Because the six-weeks ends this Thursday, and we haven't had a lot of extra assignments these past couple of weeks due to STAAR prep, I'm letting them have this one day to make up or correct any missing assignments. The end of the six-weeks kind of snuck up on us, and I want to at least have given my kids an opportunity to raise their grades. Then it's on them for not taking advantage of the time I gave them.

And before I head out for a rollerblading session, here's a quick 20-minute, tops, upper body circuit I have for you guys. I completed each set three times before moving onto the next set. I've got to get more regular with this, and maybe I'll actually start to see some results!

It's a good one! And have a great rest of your Tuesday!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Let's Dance

The title of today's post has a double meaning, but we'll get to that in a minute. First of all, happy Monday! I hope your day has been ... more productive than mine. 

First of all, as of 1:30pm today, I am F-R-E-E from the STAAR. For the rest of this year, anyway. I can't tell you how much relief I feel right now. My shoulders have relaxed, and it's out of my hands now, as silly as that sounds. And while I'm not so sure I believed my students when they told me "it was so easy," I had a huge smile on my face when some of them walked in, high-fived me, and assured me that they passed. Sitting through a five-hour reading and writing test is no easy feat, and I am so incredibly proud of them. The rest of the day was utter chaos, but I didn't even have it in me to settle them down. Hey, they deserve it! And I'm proud of myself for actively monitoring like a champ. The way Bellaire does their scheduling is pretty great, as we monitor in shifts, but those three hours that I was monitoring were brutal. I walked up and down and back and forth and literally read through this entire handbook cover to cover, because I just needed something to do.

I'm monitoring again on Wednesday for the English II STAAR, but something tells me I'm not going to be having any monitoring nightmares before this one, like I did the other night. I dreamt that I had my 7th period all in one classroom (say it ain't so), and that I had to void three tests due to one student being in possession of a cell phone, and two others sharing answers. I'm very glad that I didn't have any of my students in the room that I monitored, as I am sure I would have been hovering over said student's shoulder the entire time. Just kidding, but it was best that I was not in any of their classrooms.

So, here's to two months of a little bit of fun - persuasive techniques and Romeo and Juliet, and NOT writing expository essays and short answer responses for a while. I'll raise my glass to that!

March Madness

I went to bed on Friday night having six teams out of eight left in my bracket. I could have had three of the final four. But both Notre Dame and Arizona lost on Saturday, leaving me with Duke as my saving grace. I will admit that I was feeling nervous for the Duke-Gonzaga game, because while you can never count out Duke, they've also been known to fall apart at the worst moments. Though, I've said from the beginning that they would either lose in round two, or they'd bring home another championship under Coach K. And I'm holding onto the latter part of that statement.

Because the Duke Blue Devils are going back to the Final Four for the 16th time, and what's better is that this young team is led by Houston native, Justice Winslow. And while I would have loved to be at the game, as it took place in my own backyard, I had just as much fun watching it from the comfort of my own home. Because when things started getting close, I left to go run a quick school errand, and then came home to find that they had regained the lead. And while I was more than happy to see Michigan State make the Final Four, these Spartans are going down on Saturday night.

Have a great rest of your Monday - I know I will!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lasts Survey

Okay, how is it the last Sunday of March? Where in the world has the time gone? I apologize for not checking back in with you guys yesterday after my half marathon, but I was movin' and groovin' ever since my mom and I made it home from Lost Pines. Well, not really, considering I went up to the MAC and tanned by the pool for about an hour, but after that, I was out and about running all kinds of errands. And when I got home, all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch March Madness.

So, let's back up a little bit. My mom and I arrived at Lost Pines right around 6:30pm. We checked into our room, made ourselves comfortable, and while my mom turned on basketball, I walked around the grounds a little bit. Though I have been to Lost Pines before, I wanted to check out the starting and finish line, and just spend some time outside, as it was a beautiful evening.

The race wasn't scheduled to start until 7:30am, and because I was literally three minutes away from the starting line, I didn't have to wake up until just after 6:00am. That's later than when I wake up for school! So though it was still early, it was later than I usually wake up, both on a school day and on a race day, so I can't even complain about the early hour. It was a crisp, cool morning, and while I was a little chilly at first in just shorts and a tank top, that outfit proved to be just perfect during the race.

This race, y'all, was one of my favorites. I know, I say that after every race, but I couldn't have picked a better day for a 13.1 mile run. Though I'd venture to say the hills are even more prevalent than they are in Austin, something was so different about this race. I didn't start questioning my thought process until mile 11, but at this point I was weaving through the golf course, feeling as though I was at my grandfather's old house in Indian Wells, California. Somehow I made it to the finish line. And while it wasn't my fastest half marathon, finishing a very hilly course in under two hours, after taking almost three weeks off from running, is not something to scoff at. And, I finished 3rd in my age group! I give all the credit to KT Tape for getting me through this one!

Zooma truly puts on a great race, and I am so glad that I got to be a part of it. I love running the huge, popular races, but I also really enjoyed running this smaller, more intimate race. It never felt crowded, and I ran with some of the same women throughout the entire race. Zooma, you did your Texas race well, and I am already checking out the other Zooma race destinations. And Lost Pines, you hosted wonderfully, and I am already itching for a return trip. You exude "Texas" with your very real longhorns and abundance of bluebonnets, and I thoroughly enjoyed my 13 hilly miles.

Last food you ate:
A couple of cuties. I go through those things like crazy these days!

Last beverage you drank:
Water, of course! I don’t like soft drinks, or juice, really, so if it’s not a glass of wine or a fruity cocktail, it’s surely just water.

Last workout you did:
Yesterday’s half marathon. Does that count as a workout? And I’ll probably find the time today to squeeze in a short swim, as it will not only stretch out my sore muscles, but it will also get my mind off of tomorrow. Which we won’t even go into right now.

Last thing you pinned:
Ha, I feel like I’m being called out on this one, because, whoops, I probably spend too much time on Pinterest, but the last thing I pinned was a picture of the cherry blossoms in Bonn, Germany. Wanderlust.


Last blog you visited:
I actually hadn't consciously visited a blog recently, but this question inspired me to pay a visit to Julie's blog, Peanut Butter Fingers

Last tweet you sent: 
I retweeted this photo of Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Kevin McHale laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. I have been to this tomb, and it is extremely moving. So, to see some of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen paying this tribute to the soldiers who have fought for our country.

Last place you visited:
Bastrop? Is that even considered a vacation? I kind of feel like it is because we stayed at Lost Pines Resort, which, if you haven’t been, rocks. But in less than two weeks I’ll be exploring San Francisco like a local with four of my best friends. And I cannot waiiiiiit!

Last time you did ab work:
I actually can’t remember the last time I did concentrated ab work, but I have incorporated core exercises into both this circuit workout and this circuit workout.

Last show you watched:
Does March Madness count as a show? Because that’s what was on TV all of yesterday. And I don't hate it.

Unfortunately, I had Arizona in my Final Four (Source)
Last thing you baked:
I baked some chewy chocolate chunk cookies last Sunday evening, just because I was in complete denial about the fact that I had to go back to school after a week of total relaxation. My parents enjoyed that procrastination strategy!

Last thing you Instagrammed:
A picture of me crossing the finish line of yesterday's half marathon. Shout out to my mom's iPhone 3 for capturing this gem.

Last item on your to-do list today:
Watch Duke make it to the Final Four. Go Blue Devils!

Have a great Sunday! I'll see you guys once I am F-R-E-E from the wrath of the STAAR test. Say an extra prayer for my kiddos, because Lord knows they need it!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Things I'm Loving Friday XXVII

It is Friday of my only five-day week for the next three weeks. So I think I can get through today with a smile on my face. And it's going to be a very relaxed day at school today. As I am sure you guys are well-aware, the STAAR test takes place on Monday (yeah, great choice, TEA), and while I could have used today to cram and get in some last-minute prep, I don't want my students going into the test with that stressed out mindset. I want them to feel relaxed and confident, and a day full of reviewing what the test will look like, answering any last-minute questions about what Monday will hold, and completing a fun EOC-related word search is just what my kiddos need.

And today after school my mom and I are heading out to Lost Pines Resort, where we are staying tonight before I run my eighth half marathon tomorrow morning. I have kept this one kind of hush-hush, mainly because I wasn't entirely sure I was going to be able to run it. But I did my time, and I came back slow, and I think tomorrow's race should be a good one. Not only is the weather going to be pretty darn near perfect, but the scenery is going to absolutely scream Texas. Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes and cattle and (ugh) rolling hills. And a stay at Lost Pines, which resembles San Antonio's Hyatt Hill Country, is a pretty sweet perk.

But before I take a chill day at school, and before I head out to Bastrop, and before I get started on March's last (how did that happen?) rendition of Things I'm Loving Friday, I have to take a minute and send all my love to my Hills YoungLife family. Tonight is placement night, in which newly trained college students are placed on their new YoungLife teams. I've written posts about it before, but basically it's one big PARTY celebrating these students who are saying yes to loving middle school and high school kids in the Greater Austin area. And the old leaders get to wear crazy costumes and perform embarrassing skits. It rocks. And though I won't physically be there tonight, my heart is with you guys as the family grows, because what could be better than that?

16 Things You Can Do While Actively Monitoring During Standardized Testing
The writer of the blog Love, Teach came up with this list last year during standardized testing season, which is most definitely upon us. He came up with a new list this year, but I think I like last year's list better. You may think monitoring a test is an easy task, and is much preferred to actually teaching. W R O N G. I'm honestly dreading walking up and down the aisles and doing literally nothing (that is actually my worst nightmare) for FIVE hours, but some of the items on this list might make it a tad more enjoyable. My favorites? Honestly, I like all of them, but numbers two, three, five, and six really caught my eye. Monday, here I come!

Me on Monday (Source)
Hooray for Diffendoofer Day
Going along with the standardized testing theme, today I'm reading my students Dr. Seuss's Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. The teachers of Diffendoofer do things a little bit differently. Instead of teaching to the test, they teach students how to think. And while the principal is worried that his school is going to receive the lowest scores, resulting in his students being sent to dreary Flobbertown. His school ends up receiving the highest test scores, and more than anything, I hope this book serves as a source of encouragement for my students as they take on the dreaded STAAR exam. Maybe they're feeling nervous, but they have worked so incredibly hard this year, and I hope they know that I've got all the confidence in the world in them.

The Girl on the Train
I mentioned this book a couple of weeks ago on the blog, and I finally got around to starting it last Thursday while still on spring break. And, instead of doing absolutely anything school-related, I finished it this past Monday. And while I was a little bit confused at first as to who the narrator was - Spoiler alert! There's three of them - this is one thriller of a book. It's been compared to Gone Girl, which you guys know I absolutely could not put down. This book turned out to be much of the same. The three narrators are positively psychotic, each in their own way, and their hidden secrets and bizarre motives completely draw you into the novel. Toward the end it became more clear to me what was happening and who was the *most* guilty, but this book is a must-read for any of you who enjoy a good mystery and suspense novel.

Nike Dri-Fit Touch Breeze
As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow I will be running my eighth half marathon. And I will not be making the same mistake that I did when I ran the Austin Half Marathon. There is absolutely no way I will be running that race in anything but a tank top and shorts. And while I love Lululemon just as much as the next girl, their tank tops just don't do it for me. I much prefer loose-fitting clothing, as I, and I have mentioned this before, am a sweater. So, it was my spring break goal to find a loose-fitting tank top that I could wear as I ran through the Texas Hill Country. And this tank top absolutely fit the bill. It's loose, it's comfortable, it's a little bit see-through, but you can wear a fun-colored sports bra underneath, and even better than that, it's on sale online. I ordered it in pink, just to see if I would like it, but I am absolutely ordering it in other colors. Good or bad quality of mine? You decide.

Harry Potter Uptown Funk
Someone shared this video on Facebook, and I was laughing throughout the entire thing. I already like the song Uptown Funk - it's catchy, and you can't help but sing along. And you guys know I'm a huge Harry Potter nerd, so this was bound to be a match made in heaven. This video isn't what you first think of when you think Harry Potter, in fact, it features the biggest enemy - Voldemort - and his fellow Death Eaters. If you don't know what I am talking about, stop reading this blog and pick up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. You'll fly through it, promise. Anyway, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you're sure to enjoy this video. My favorite line is "Fill my goblet, put some fire in it," but really, the makers of this video are extremely clever!

Adios, mis amigos, and I will talk to y'all after I run a casual 13.1 miles. Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Student Quotes IV

Happy Thursday! Phew, we've (almost) made it. I was talking with another teacher today about how both this week and the week before spring break have been the L-O-N-G-E-S-T weeks of this entire school year. The week before spring break speaks for itself, but this week is due to the fact that the STAAR test is now ONE school day away. One. I was feeling relaxed this week until the middle of 7th period, when I was explaining something about the test to my students and I felt my chest tighten. It suddenly occurred to me that my students are going to be taking this test all by themselves, with no hints or tips from me. They won't even have my presence. I feel like they're my little chickadees, and I'm sending them out into the world on their own, to fend for themselves. Of course, they are more than capable, but shoot, who's motivation and energy wouldn't decrease during the course of a five-hour exam? I realize that we, as adults, often sit through exams of that length, or exams that are even longer. However, these are 14- and 15-year-olds. Enough said. Anyway, I thought today would be the perfect time for another rendition of student quotes. I've got some good ones, so please enjoy!

Group Short Answer Response practice
10. The students have become accustomed to completing a grammar warm-up each week. Each day we focus on a different grammar rule, and the students do a mini check for understanding. One of my students was standing just outside the door, long after the bell had rung.
Me: "Student, please get inside the room and get started on your warm-up."
Student: "I'm too cute to do the warm-up."
Oh, okay. If that's the case, I shouldn't have had to do any of my work, huh? I'm kidding, of course!
9. I was asking my students what they did over spring break, and a lot of them told me they went to the carnival. They were referring to the rodeo carnival, so I asked them if they had attended any of the concerts. A couple said that they had, and at one point Luke Bryan came up. A student so kindly reminded me that, "Everyone basic went to Luke Bryan." I didn't see him perform, so I guess I escaped that title. For now, anyway.
8. One of my students, whom I have the pleasure of having in class twice a day, and who sleeps much of both classes, walked tall and proud into seventh period, announcing that "[he was] going to do his work today because education is important." I was a bit taken aback, and a lot proud, but then 25 minutes later that same student was playing a game on his cell phone. Hey, at least I had him for half the class!
7. One of my students was absent one day, and the next day I asked him where he had been. He told me, "If it's cold and rainy, I don't go to school." I see your reasoning, kid, and I wish I could follow suit.
6. I gave my students an assignment with about 15 minutes left in class, and when I gave this student a look for having nothing written on her paper when the bell rang, she said, "Oh, I was about to start writing, but then my pencil ran out of lead." And you just now noticed. Right.
5. It was the beginning of March when a student walked into my class and said, "Miss, it's my first time to see my textbooks." Well, that explains a lot.
4. Going off of that, another student walks into the room and said, "You know what's funny, Miss? I carry more make-up than books in my backpack." Again, that explains a lot.
3. Monday is the English department exam day at Bellaire. One of my students had her phone on her desk and I could tell that she wasn't looking up any of the answers or anything of that nature (besides, it was an open-book test), but I still wanted her to put the phone away and focus on her test. When I asked her to put the phone away she said, "Sorry, I was looking at pictures of food." Well when you put it that way ....
2. I was forced to write two students up one day when they were yelling profanities at one another and "hitting" one another and just acting very childish despite my repeated attempts to get them to sit down. Here's how a conversation with one of my students went the next day:
Student: "I know you wrote me up, and that was very childish."
Me (feeling proud that she was owning up to what she did): "What you did?"
Student: "No, writing me up."
Pride revoked.
1. In the expository essay, students are required to provide an example or two to support their thesis statement. We advise them to use examples from history, (personal) experience, literature, or pop culture - HELP (and trust me, they need it). However, in reading through their mock STAAR essays, I saw that many students were confusing some of their facts. Today I advised them not to use an example if they don't know the facts, because that won't prove to the readers that they're educated and deserving of a passing score. The example I gave was, "Barack Obama is NOT our 51st president. We have not had 51 presidents." One student said, "Yeah, he's our 54th!" I wasn't even sure how to respond.

And one more for good measure. Because I had some good ones to choose from this round. Going off of what student quote number one, I was also giving them some other pitfalls to avoid in their essays. A lot of students tend to use slang, or text language - gonna, wanna, cuz, tho, YOLO (seriously), and so on. I told them that "ain't" isn't a word, and it's one they should absolutely avoid using in their essays. I received quite a bit of pushback on that one, and one student even tried to argue that maybe the STAAR graders would be okay with them using ain't in their essays because we live in Texas. Try it, and let me know how it goes, y'all.

Just please do good. (Source)
And have a great rest of your Thursday! I know I'm going to get my belongings together for Lost Pines, and then settle in on the couch and watch March Madness. Sounds like a good night to me!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Houston Food Blogger Collective

I am absolutely loving the weather we have been experiencing this week. I know tomorrow the rain is supposed to return, but for now, I'm soaking up the sunshine. Literally. Both Monday and today I went to the MAC to not only get in a workout by swimming laps, but I also laid by the pool reading. Now that it's officially springtime, I'm really going to make the extra effort to sit in the sun and get that base tan going. I have darker features that just pop a little bit more with tanned skin. And I have a little extra motivation to be tan - I'll be in California in just two(ish) short weeks, and I have to blend in with all the locals, of course.

It's no Gregory, but it'll do
Houston Food Blogger Collective

I have a little bit of excitement to share with you guys today - I am officially a member of the Houston Food Blogger Collective, connecting Houston's food bloggers and social media sharers. Seeing as I like to do both of things - I do apologize to my Instagram followers, who probably get tired of seeing yet another food picture. Though they do never seem to get tired of cookies and baked goods. Anyway, it's basically a network for people who like food, who like to write, and who like to write about food. Various events are held, and I look at it as a way of not only getting a little bit of blog promotion, but as a way of checking out the Houston restaurant scene, and maybe meeting some new people along the way. I realized I'm way into my comfort zone, with so many of my high school and college friends living in and coming back to Houston, that it's good to put myself out there every once in a while.

I actually went to high school with one of the founders, Claire Siegel, writer over at The Petite Professional, who graduated from Stratford just one year ahead of me. I know her just in passing, but it will be fun to take on the Houston food scene with a fellow Stratford American. Spartan pride never dies, you know? Anyway, the first event I will be attending is a happy hour at The Corner Table next Wednesday, April 1st. That restaurant has actually been on my to-visit list, so I am very excited to meet, greet, and eat ... some tasty food. You never know what this could one day lead to, but for now, I think I'll just enjoy the ride. And if YOU are a foodie social media sharer or blogger, please apply to become a part of the Houston Food Blogger Collective. The more the merrier, right?

I'll catch you guys later, and congrats on officially making it over the hump! I'd say that I was more than ready for this day to end, as I started the day in my red Dorothy heels, and I ended the day in my Chacos. Reasons why I can't consider myself a real adult.

Adios, and Go Rockets!

Monday, March 23, 2015

30-Minute Circuit Workout

Just popping in to share a quick workout with you guys, but before I get going on that, happy MONDAY! I'm trying to stay positive here, as the Monday after spring break isn't always my favorite day. Especially when the sun is expected to be out nearly all week this week. Go figure. But it's a happy Monday indeed, as this is our last week before the STAAR. And while it will be fast-paced and maybe a little bit high-stress, it's not as though I'm teaching my kids any new material, rather just reviewing some of the most important concepts. We're almost there!

And though I did not complete this workout today, I gave it a shot over the weekend, and I was at the gym hoping I wouldn't run into anyone that I know. Which, of course, I did, but I was one sweaty mess. Because not only did I complete each round for six minutes, I also completed three minutes on the treadmill in between each round. Shuffling right for one minute, walking on an incline for one minute, and shuffling left for the final minute. Note to self: don't wear a colored shirt to the gym when completing this workout.

The burpees, as usual, were killer, but so were the tuck jumps and speed skaters. I was really losing steam by round five, but I'd say that's the sign of a good workout. And I think most of these exercises are pretty self-explanatory, but I will take a minute to talk about the sit down jumping bench squats and the three-way lunge.

They may have a more proper name, but I stole this exercise from a bootcamp class that I attended at 24 Hour Fitness a couple of weeks ago. I built a step bench, like so,

and got myself set up with a 12-lb dumbbell. Holding the dumbbell at my chest with both hands, I squatted down until I was sitting on the bench, picked my feet up off the ground and brought my knees toward my chest, placed them gently back on the floor and jumped upward while holding the weight. It adds a little bit of variety to a regular old squat. Because while I tend to shy away from doing squats, I actually enjoy doing these. Go figure.

As for the three-way lunge, it's really pretty easy, in terms of executing it. You lunge forward, come back to your starting position, but without putting your foot back on the floor. Then you lunge backward, come back to your starting position, again, without putting your foot back on the floor, and then lunge as if you are curtsying, bringing your leg back and across the other leg. 

You could certainly make this more challenging by adding weights, but I found it challenging enough as is.

That's all I've got for you today, and before I sign off, let me just give you all a little piece of advice. If you don't care for a college, don't pick said college to do well throughout March Madness. No hard feelings or anything, UVA, but I should have known that you were going to let me down again. But as long as I've still got my Blue Devils, I'll be as happy as a clam. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Last Day of Spring Break Survey Sunday

And a week of freedom and bliss has nearly come to an end. And it has been a pretty perfect little week. I ended on a great note last night, starting off with a delicious dinner at CRISP with Hayley, Amira, and Taylor, after which we moved on over to Sonoma Wine Bar in the Heights, and I finished off the night at Cottonwood, a bar in the Heights, for my room-roomies 23rd birthday celebration. Cottonwood has been on my to-do list for quite some time, and I was glad I was finally able to make it out there. Cottonwood has a really cool vibe, and though it was a flood zone out there and the outdoor patio was closed off, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself - meeting Sarah and Natalie's medical school friends, catching up with some of my middle school friends, playing foosball with Sarah's brother, and spending time with the birthday girl herself. Monday is her GOLDEN birthday, and she is certainly one golden girl!

On a wall at Cottonwood - reminds me of the iconic 'i love you so much' wall in Austin
1. What does your ideal cup of FROYO look like?
I love this question, obviously. My ideal cup of fro-yo is a combination of sweet and tangy - so maybe something like chocolate and raspberry pomegranate, for example. Or blueberry and cookies and cream. Topped with fruit of all kind - blackberries, raspberries, mango, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi - as well as a sprinkle of coconut, and maybe some mini (dairy-free, of course) chocolate chips or granola for that added crunch. Perfection.

2. What do you miss the most about the time period you grew up in?
This sounds hypocritical, as I am very dependent on my cell phone, but I miss the time when none of us even had cell phones, or when we literally used them to call our parents and tell them where we were going. I loved playing outside, biking from house to house, going inside only when the sun had set. I think a lot of kids today miss out on that, and it's no wonder, given all of the distractions out there. I must also say that I miss the quality television shows - Boy Meets World, Full House, and all of those Disney Channel classics. There's just nothing quite like those shows these days.

3. What is your most embarrassing habit?
I hate questions like this because on the spot, I can never think of anything. But hours later, when the moment has long passed, I'll think of the perfect answer. So, just hang on a couple of hours, and I'll come up with a really embarrassing habit to share with you guys.

4. What is the worst food you have ever tried?
I'm not sure what the very worst food I've ever tried is, mainly because if I don't think I'll like it, I won't even try it. So that eliminates a lot of bad food experiences for me. One food that I just can't fathom eating, though, is applesauce. It's something about the texture that just grosses me out a little bit, and I won't even bake with it, I dislike it that much.

5. If you could be a super hero (that YOU make up) what would your name be and what would your super power be?
What a fun question! I wish I were more creative, and I'd have a better answer to this question, but as it stands, I googled "Superhero Name Generator," and this is what I got -
The Gold Gladiator. My skill is "Muscle Mimic," in that I have the ability to instantly learn any skilled physical activity simply by seeing it performed. I'll take it. 

6. What meal could you eat every day?
I pretty much do eat it every day, but a salad, filled to the brim with colorful vegetables, topped with grilled-to-perfection chicken, and doused in either a light balsamic vinaigrette, or a refreshing sun-dried tomato dressing. It's healthy, delicious, and it still hasn't gotten old.

7. Who was your favorite teacher? What grade was it and why do they stand out to you?
Man, I've loved so many of my teachers. I really only have a handful of teachers that I didn't care for for one reason or another, but the teacher who really lit the fire in me to become a teacher was my third-grade teacher, Miss Rosso (who is now Mrs. McGee, but I know her at Miss Rosso). She was the teacher that everyone wanted, including me, and I was so excited when my card came in the mail telling me that I would be in her class, I was ecstatic. She was young, fun, and most of all, she truly and deeply cared about each one of her students. I keep up with her still today, and I am truly grateful for the way she inspired me to do what I do today. So, when the days get tough, I remember how much of an impact Miss Rosso, and so many of my other teachers, had on me.

8. If you were able to do anything (fitness related) what would it be?
I would love to run a full marathon. I know that I can do it. It takes diligent training and recovery days, and a lot of dedication, but that is something I would really love to do. And I would probably be a one and done kind of marathoner, because let's be real, 26.2 miles is a long way to drive, but stay tuned, because 2016 may feature fitnessandfroyo's first full marathon. It's still in the works, but I may just take the plunge. 

9. If you could write a letter to your daughter what three things would you want her to know?
Dear (my nonexistent) Daughters - it's funny, because one of the blogs that I enjoy reading has a feature just like this, except her daughters do actually exist -
  • You are deeply and genuinely loved, not only be me and your father, but by the creator and King of this universe.
  • You are right where you are supposed to be. So much of our lives are spent looking back on the past, or running toward the future, which are good places to be every once in a while, but know that you are in this season for a reason, even if it's hard and challenging and frustrating. Good will come out of it in time.
  • No dream is too big. Don't ever give up on a dream because you're told that it's out of your reach. Keep doing what you love and feel passionate about, and I'll be behind you every step of the way.
10. Who is your favorite blogger and why?
Peanut Butter Fingers. I started reading her blog years and years ago, and though I am not a daily reader these days, just because the day sometimes gets away from me, I absolutely love her blog because one, it's fitness and food based, and I just really love her outlook on life. Of course, a blog that starts off being one thing, often times transforms into a story of the blogger's life, and she and her husband (who are expecting a baby!!!) live such a fun, balanced, and fulfilling life, and I just really look up to that.

And they have a really cute dog (Source)
11. What is your favorite app?
Honestly, I'm going to have to go with Instagram. I tell myself that I'll just quickly scroll through before going to bed, and then before I know it, I'm looking at my friend's sister's boyfriend's cousin's best friend's pictures from Barcelona three summers ago. I mean, how does that even happen? But I enjoy looking at the pictures other people post, as they often give me ideas of restaurants to try, recipes to recreate, quotes to jot down, and places to visit. Can't hate that!

And with that, I'm off to, oh, I don't know, maybe do something to get myself ready for school tomorrow. But more than likely, I'm going to soak up a little bit of this rare sunshine we're experiencing. Have a great one!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Upper Body Circuit

Happy Saturday! It's rainy, rainy, rainy here in Houston, and while I would love to see the sun because I would love to work on getting a tan, I'm strangely okay with the rain. I'm in the middle of a great book, I'm working on a little project for my students, and of course, I'm engrossed in March Madness. Though I had picked Baylor to win, and one more after that, I think my favorite moment has to be when the Georgia State coach fell out of his chair when his son shot the winning three-pointer to give his team the unexpected victory. If Georgia State went all the way, though it would absolutely bust my bracket, I wouldn't hate to see more celebrations like that!

Anyway, I'm just popping in to share a quick upper body circuit with you guys. I learned the hard way that neglecting cross training and strength training can quickly lead to injury. For the first part of the year all I was doing really was running, and we see how that turned out for me. Though I am doing much, much better on the shin front. Anyway, strength training is beneficial in more ways than one, and I'm slowly but surely re-integrating it into my regular workout routine. I completed the following upper body workout, but let me explain it a little bit. I completed three sets of round one, resting one minute in between each set, before doing the same thing with round two.

I was in and out of the gym in about 20 minutes, meaning there's no excuse for not squeezing in some upper body strength training. And I think most of these exercises are either self-explanatory, or they have appeared on the blog before, let's talk about thrusters. Typically a Crossfit exercise, meant to combine both the front squat and the push press, they can certainly be modified a bit for those who aren't comfortable lifting that much weight (or who struggle with front squats - I'll be the first to raise my hand). My thrusters looked like this, and I still felt like I was getting a total-body workout.

And with that, I'm off to get done some of the things that I neglected to do all week. Happens every year, doesn't it?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Things I'm Loving Friday XXVI

I'm not sure how it's already Friday, but here we are again! Time for another rendition of Things I'm Loving Friday. I apologize for my absence these past couple of days, but I have just loved being lazy and doing things that I want to do and seeing friends that I want to see and not being glued to my computer. Or if I am on my computer, I am doing things like scrolling through Pinterest and catching up on all the BuzzFeed quizzes I've missed over the weeks. Productive and quality things, you see. Anyway, I've had one dynamite spring break, and I don't think this time off could have come at a better time. So, without further ado, continue on for Things I'm Loving Friday.

No, it's not Throwback Thursday. When my volleyball girls told me that scrunchies were back in style, I was elated. I was the scrunchie (and bow and ribbon) queen in elementary school (okay, in middle and high school, too), and they told me that American Apparel is the place to go for scrunchies. And they were right. I drove down to the Montrose location one afternoon and I'm not kidding when I say they had every color and pattern under the sun. It was so hard to choose, but I knew I'd be back. I wear (practical) hair accessories - if scrunchies can be considered practical - hair accessories like a champ.

Brown Bag Deli
This place has been on my to-eat list for a long time. I love sandwiches, and I've heard nothing but good things about this sandwich shop. So, when Lindsay suggested meeting for lunch at the Brown Bag Deli downtown, I was all in. This place is much like Which Wich, in that you get to build your own sandwich, marking what kind of bread, meat, and toppings you want on a brown bag (hence the name), but I am going to have to give the edge to Brown Bag Deli. Why? For one, the bread. Oh, the bread is so fresh and full. And they are far from skimpy on the meat and vegetables. I ate every last bite and was left feeling full for hours. I'll certainly be making a return trip very soon.

March Madness
You can see my full bracket here. One reason why I love having a spring break is that I don't feel bad about sitting on my couch watching basketball game after basketball game after basketball game, cheering when the teams I picked win, and groaning when the inevitable upset happens. Especially when a team that I don't-really-like-but-picked-to-win loses. When will I learn to always trust my gut? Anyway, I love the excitement and chaos of March Madness, and though the big guys will win a seven-game series nearly every time, you just never know what will happen in those 40 minutes of play.

I mentioned that one of the items on my Spring Break To-Do List was playing volleyball. And on Tuesday night, just after a walk at Hermann Park with Sarah, I headed over to Spike Sport Volleyball Club for their Tuesday night open gym. I was right to be intimidated, because at first, I wasn't sure about my decision in going there alone and joining a random team. While many of the people I met were competitive, but still in good spirits, there were a few people who were a little bit too into it for their skill level, if you catch my drift. These people mellowed out toward the end of the evening, and I eventually found my groove, with a few people coming up to me and complimenting me on my sets. It's like riding a bike, isn't it? And though I was absolutely exhausted at the end of it, I had the best time getting out there and playing my favorite game.

I'll admit that I had a harder time really getting into this book than I did Scary Close. The book didn't immediately captivate me, until I got about halfway in. After that, I absolutely flew through the book. All I can say is that Donal Miller just gets it. This one basically talks about living a great story, and how the best stories include conflict. And though conflict is inevitable, "there is no conflict a man can endure that will not produce a blessing." I have a whole page full of quotes from this book, and I highly, highly recommend giving Don Miller a read.

Spiral Slicer
Do you remember how one of my spring break goals was to try two new recipes, one of them being an actual meal? Well, I headed up the road to Sur La Table and purchased a (on-sale!) Spiral Slicer, that would make recreating this recipe so much easier. I'm not a huge pasta person. Not because I don't like the taste, but because I don't like how it makes me feel after I eat it. But pasta made out of vegetables? Sign me up! This device made slicing up a zucchini into thin spirals so incredibly easy, and I can see myself using this a couple of times a week, as the possibilities are endless. It's such a versatile machine, with three blade options - thin spirals, ribbons, or thick spirals, and the best part is probably how easy it is to use. One of my better kitchen purchases, as of late.

And that's all I've got for y'all today! I'm off to enjoy my last spring break weekday, or just sit on the couch and watch March Madness. Either way, it's sure to be a great day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Madness

And I'm back! I  had more to report on yesterday, but I felt as though my post was getting a little long, and I was getting a little tired. So, before we pick back up where we left off, let's start off with a workout, shall we?


I woke up just after 8:00am, quickly changed, taped up my shin, and headed out the door for a five mile run. I was limping a little bit to start off, but about 20 steps in, I hit my stride. I guess it's just waking itself up. And I could probably do a better job about stretching out before I go. But I wanted to get going before it got too hot and humid, which didn't work, as it was 99% humidity out there.

I won't lie and say that my run wasn't tough, but I made it through, and I have the mud splatters to show for it. My time was obviously a little bit slower than usual, but that tends to happen when the humidity is as high as it is. And for some reason, running in the summertime, when it's always hot and humid, is much easier for me. It's when we aren't supposed to have this humidity that it leaves me gasping for air.


Yesterday I got one step closer to receiving my scuba certification. Cheyney and I bit the traffic bullet and headed out to Sugar Land to sign our medical release waiver as well as pick up our study materials. Oh, and put down a deposit. My bank account is feeling a bit empty these days. Perks of living at home, I guess, as I don't feel quite as bad about treating myself to some of these *unneeded* things. 

Though we are not doing the classroom and confined water dives until the week prior to Cozumel, we wanted to get our materials as soon as possible, so we could at least pretend like we're going to get started ahead of time. Plus, signing our names on the dotted line made it all very real. Like it or not, M&D, I'm going scuba diving in Mexico! We are both very excited, and in less than three months we'll be laying on the beach, swimming with dolphins, and diving with sharks. Living the dream.

We timed it pretty perfectly, because I made it back over to the Galleria area with just enough time to meet my former Clubhouse roommates Sarah, Natalie, and Emily, as well as Sarah's friend Ashley for dinner at Yia Yia Mary's. We were driving home from the rodeo when we passed by Niko Niko's and we all commented on how good that restaurant is. Then they told me that Yia Yia Mary's is the best Greek food in all of Houston, and I pass by it all the time when I'm avoiding 610 traffic, so I felt as though this week was the perfect time to try it out. I opted for the spinach salad with salmon, but I am definitely going to go back and try other items on the menu. I felt a little inauthentic by not getting a gyro (and I finally learned that it's pronounced year-oh), but the salmon was calling my name. A great night with great food in the company of great people. A win on all fronts.

March Madness

It is the happiest time of the year, in my opinion, anyway. Not only is it rodeo season, but we have the start of NCAA's March Madness. I'll admit that I'm not the best at keeping up with college basketball during the regular season. If it's on, I'll watch it, but I don't typically seek it out on my own. Unless it's Texas basketball, of course. But March Madness is a whole other story. I love March Madness and all of the excitement that comes along with it. I love creating a bracket, even though it always gets seriously busted very early in the game. I love picking an upset, because there's always an upset, though I typically pick the wrong upset and end up looking very silly. Anything can happen, which is why they play the games. But it sure is fun to try and predict what's going to happen. Last year when I was student teaching, some of the students may have been following some of the games on their phones during class. I played dumb, mainly because I wanted to know the outcomes, too. And I think I earned some serious street cred when I told them I made a bracket. It's all about connecting with the students, right?

Anyway, I of course made another bracket this year, and my final four looks like this:
  • Notre Dame
  • Arizona
  • UVA
  • Duke
Notre Dame and Duke will play one another in the finals, with Duke emerging victorious. I pick Duke almost every year, and though they have only come through once, they will forever remain my favorite basketball team. Sorry, Texas. And I've found that you can never count out Duke. Though you can never quite count on them either, as they have been known to lose in the second round and bust my entire bracket. But no hard feelings. So, you have now seen the winning bracket. Consider yourselves lucky.

Kidding, but I'm hoping Duke will come through in the clutch this year. And if not, I'll still have fun watching it. See you guys tomorrow!