Sunday, July 31, 2016

Last Sunday

And somehow, it's the last Sunday of the month. Tomorrow is the first day of August. The first day of volleyball two-a-days. School starts in 22 days. This year is absolutely flying by and it's kind of blowing my mind. How am I about to start my third year of teaching? I swear, I was just a freshman in high school, freaking out about the fact that I was going to have to dissect a pig in Biology class. And now I'm nearly 10 years removed from my own freshman year of high school. Time flies, and so has this summer. Another volleyball season is almost upon us. But first, a survey.
Freshman year of high school
1. If you had to give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do things that bring you happiness and fulfillment. Quit down things that bring you down, and quit doing things because you think doing them will make other people happy. If you don't love traveling, don't spend your time and money doing that simply because everybody else is.  If you despise running with every fiber of your being, find another form of exercise that you enjoy. It's not always going to be rainbows and butterflies, but do your part in finding joy in every day.

2. What are you most proud of in your life (past or present)?
Honestly, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I, the most directionally challenged human being I know, rocked three weeks traveling solo through Argentina. I was forced to plan my days and my routes and ask for help when I needed it and do the things that my parents usually do when we go on vacation. And then when the things I planned didn't work, I had to work through it and go with the flow. I was forced outside of my comfort zone, and made to stay fully aware of my surroundings. I got to experience a truly new-to-me culture and meet some of the coolest people. I learned how to be comfortable eating alone (well, I have never been too uncomfortable with that), handle obstacles (read: breaking out in hives) without panicking, and I learned to appreciate the beauty in each and every day.

3. Who is your style icon?
I honestly don't think I have one, seeing as my favorite attire is athletic attire. I like to dress up and look nice (sometimes), and it's no secret that I love a good Anthropologie trip, but there's no one that immediately comes to mind when I think of who it is that inspires my daily style. It's very simple, classic, and maybe even a little bit trendy if I'm feeling sassy.

4. What is something your readers don't know about you?
What don't you guys know about me? Probably not a whole lot, as I'm pretty open around here. Did you know that during a game of What Are the Odds (before you read on, keep in mind that this was during finals time, so our minds weren't necessarily normal, if you will) I went streaking down the back alley of the 311 Clubhouse? It was probably close to midnight, and no one was ever seen back there, so it's not anywhere near the equivalent of streaking the lawn at UVA. But now you know. College. No parents. No rules.

5. How would you describe your personality?
I'm motivated, I'm focused, I'm driven, I'm obedient, I'm enthusiastic, I'm introverted, I'm hard-working, I'm thoughtful, I'm reliable, I'm compassionate, I'm a little bit stubborn and I am my own worst critic. 50% sweet, 50% sassy.

6. Favorite gift you've ever given?
I L O V E giving gifts. Love it. When my Granny turned 90, I gave her a homemade book titled, "90 Reasons I Love You," and when Dylan and I were together, I remember doing something similar for one of his birthdays or Valentine's Day. And while the only cost of a present like this is the time it takes to make it, I like to think that they mean more than any store-bought gift ever could. I love affirming people with encouraging words, pointing out unique qualities that make them such great human beings. 

7. What is your biggest struggle with blogging?
Time. And not making enough of a commitment to my blog. When life gets busy - and when is life ever not busy - it's easy for me to push my blog to the side, and I justify this by saying there are other things that are more important than furthering fitnessandfroyo. But it's not even about furthering the blog, getting more followers, reaching more people, etc., rather, it's something that I truly enjoy doing, and it gives me time to reflect and put my thoughts down on paper (or Word document, but you know what I mean). And while it might not be as important as planning a kick-butt lesson, doing my weekly speed workout, going grocery shopping, doing laundry, or spending time with my family and friends, it's still important to me. And I can give it an hour a week.

8. What is your biggest accomplishment?
There are a lot of accomplishments that I would consider to be big. Graduating from UT with high honors, running a marathon, surviving two years teaching in a huge high school. 
Granted, many others would probably consider those to be "big" accomplishments as well.
However, I think one of my biggest accomplishments is my ability to listen to others. I'm not sure what it is about me, but people feel comfortable telling me things, and I love that. I love that people feel as though I'm someone they can trust and be open and vulnerable with. I may not have all the right words to say back, but sometimes all a person needs is to get it off their chests and out in the open.

9. If you had the resources and time, what country would you live in for a year?
Okay, a year is a long time. I thought three weeks in Argentina was a long time, though I'm sure if I were go live somewhere for a year, I would have a pretty routine day-to-day, as opposed to having the entire day to do as I please. I haven't been to all of these places, but I would likely choose a country in Europe or the continent of Australia, as those are the countries that would feel most like home. I'm all about getting outside of my comfort zone, but maybe not for an entire year. I haven't been to Italy or Switzerland, but in addition to England and France, I could probably handle spending an entire year in any one of those countries.

10. If you could go back in time and tell yourself something when you were at school, what would it be?
What a cool question! I often find myself reflecting on this question, mainly because I'm constantly around high school students, and I strive to not only teach them reading and writing skills they can carry with them to college and beyond, but life skills and lessons they can carry with them forever. I can't stop at just one, so I'll share a couple of things:
  • Hang tight to your high school friends, because they're the people who saw you through it all. Seriously. High school - while they are some great years, are also some of your most embarrassing years - and five years later you'll be laughing with them on the beach in San Francisco watching the sunset while drinking way too much wine. 
  • The things you're worrying about right now are not at all a big deal in the grand scheme of things. RELAX! That's a huge one for me. I lived my high school years in a constant ball of stress - between club and school volleyball and taking the most advanced classes and getting my volunteer hours and having the best dress for prom and trying to be friends with everyone, which is obviously not realistic. I wish I could go back and tell myself to truly enjoy every moment, because I won't get too many moments like that again. 
  • Stick to what it is that YOU believe in, and don't let the need for approval from others change that. 
  • Failure is okay. In fact, it's a good thing from time to time. These experiences are shaping the person you are, and the person you are continuing to become.

And on that note, I'm off to school. This is our one last chance to fix up "The Nest" before Cardinal volleyball players officially take over. Adios!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Things I'm Loving Friday XLVIII

Happy Friday! Today is my last real Friday of freedom, if you will, as volleyball starts Monday, and inservice the following Monday. So what will I be doing on my last Friday of freedom, you ask? Well, I'll likely be driving circles around Houston as I try and cross every last thing off of my to-do list. Once volleyball and inservice come around, I don't have a whole lot of time for extracurricular activities. After all, I've got practice and meetings and classroom set-up. Last year I was consistently the last car in the parking lot. And while that will probably be the case this year as well, at least I can go home and pass out on the couch.

But first, a workout. And before that, a blog post. Here are some things I'm loving lately, with a little bit of a twist. 

for taste: 18 Nutrient-Rich Power Foods
Calling all athletes! If you're not sure what foods you should be eating, this article is the one for you. From endurance training to illness prevention, many of these foods are easy to incorporate into your weekly recipes. And though I probably won't be making sardines a part of my daily diet, you already know dark chocolate is something I eat on the daily. Along with honey and flax seeds, and I'm obviously a sucker for sweet potato fries. 
Chocolate + cinnamon
for inspiration: Simone Biles
Don't feel like working out? Take one look at Simone Biles and maybe you'll think again. This girl is the real deal, and I could not be more excited to watch her bring home (literally, she's from Spring!) the gold at the Olympics. But she hasn't met such success by simply sitting on her couch and watching episode after episode of The Middle. She has found success by putting in hours upon hours of work at the gym. And okay, we might not be able to flip and tumble quite like she does, and seeing as I can't even do one pull-up, I'm definitely not going to be climbing ropes legless anytime soon. But this is all the motivation I need to complete my dreaded tempo run.
for a laugh: Bored Teachers: A Year in the Life of a Teacher
I'll let this video speak for itself. Teachers in August are wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, and by May, I consider a day that I've taken attendance to be a good day. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But the reason teachers get summer vacation? We need it in order to keep our sanity and recharge for the year ahead. Teaching is a job that requires you to be "on" at all times, so we need a few days where we're allowed to be "off." And if that means drinking wine out of a glass the size of a horse, so be it.

for the body: Five-Minute Expert Guide to Running in Humid Weather
It's hot and humid here in Houston, and I know we're not the only ones experiencing that combination. But that doesn't mean you have to call it quits on the outdoor workouts. You just have to be smart about it. That means not running the heat of the afternoon, staying hydrated before, during, and after the run, and don't stress too much about your time. The higher the temp, the higher your minute per mile. And that's okay. And most importantly, know when to take your workout inside. Or else you'll end up begging the valet guys at Hungry's for a water bottle. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.

for the ears: Rise Up by Andra Day
This isn't a brand new song, but I just recently became obsessed. If this isn't the ultimate feel-better anthem, I don't know what is. Maybe you've had one of those days - kind of like me yesterday - or you're fed up with all the bad news you hear on the news day after day after day, and you need a pick-me-up. This is my new go-to. I know I'll need it many a time as I attempt to tackle the most hardcore running schedule I've ever been given. But I'll rise up over any tough training days.
for the mind: 31 Life Lessons They Didn't Teach You in School
You guys know I'm a teacher. And it's in my job description to teach the cardinal rules of reading and writing. But it's also my unofficial job to make sure that my students leave my classroom with lessons they can carry with them for years and years to come. And though the title of this article deals with things you don't learn in school, I think each and every one of the items on this list is something I can teach my kids using literature as my pipeline. My favorite? Never underestimate the value of a handwritten note. Especially in this age of technology.

And with that, I'm off. I've got another jam-packed day today, and I'm hoping to crawl into bed at a somewhat decent hour tonight. Ciao! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Buenos Aires: My Experience

Hola hola! Remember that time I went to Spain for almost two months and I blogged religiously about my experience? And that time four years later I went to Argentina and I didn't even touch my computer? Major regrets lugging that thing around. But the point here is, my blog posts are going to look a little bit different this time around. Instead of going back day-by-day and recounting what I did, I'm going to hit the high notes. Focus on the things that you MUST DO should you ever get the chance to visit this incredible city. And I hope you do. Because it's one full of culture and history and fashion and nightlife and food and wine and a whole lot of beauty and unique experiences. I absolutely loved my time in Buenos Aires - probably eight days in total - and I would jump at the chance to return. Buenos Aires became a kind of home base to me, and by the end of my time there, I was a pro at navigating those streets. It had such a European feel to it, yet there was something different about it as well. And while there are so many incredible things to do and see and eat in Buenos Aires, I'll stick with just my very favorites. Otherwise, this post could go on forever.

Next stop: Buenos Aires

  • Teatro Colon - Y'all. This place was absolutely beautiful. I love the Hobby Center, but Teatro Colon kind of puts it to shame. It opened in 1908, and is said to be one of the top five concert venues in the world. Located in the very heart of the city, this eclectic building has seen many important composers, singers, dancers, and orchestras perform on its stage. I didn't see a show during my time in Buenos Aires, but the guided tour was plenty of time for me to admire the beauty of this historic and well-known opera house. 
  • Palacio Barolo - This was hands down my favorite place in all of Buenos Aires. This probably has something to do with the fact that it pays homage to Dante's "Divine Comedy", and the English teacher in me absolutely ate it up. When the building was completed in 1923, it was the tallest building in South America, and I had the opportunity to experience Buenos Aires from 100m up - one meter for each canto in the poem. We started in Hell, moved onto Purgatory, and finally, ends in Heaven. No detail went unnoticed, and I have an entire note on my phone that explains every building-poem connection. I'll spare you guys, but I will tell you that I even learned a little Latin. There are guided tours available in the afternoon and evening, but I would recommend doing the Extraordinary Night + Tango Show tour. You get the full experience, the nighttime adds a spooky effect, and you get to enjoy a tango show with wine post-tour. Tours are in both English and Spanish.
The lighthouse
  • La Bombonera + Calle Caminito - I had the La Boca neighborhood on my list of places that I had to visit, however, everything I read about this neighborhood said something to the effect of, "Don't visit this neighborhood alone." Well, I was traveling solo, and I really wanted to see both the soccer stadium and the colorful street that you see in all the guide books. So, I compromised, and I walked as far as I felt was safe before hailing a taxi that dropped me off right in front of the soccer stadium - La Bombonera, home of La Boca Juniors. And I love the story of La Boca Juniors. These kids are taken off the streets of a rough neighborhood, and given an education while at the same time, honing their incredible soccer skills. What teacher/coach doesn't love a system like that? And Calle Caminito was everything I thought it would be. Bursting with color and tango and art, I can understand why this street is at the top of every tourist's to-do list. And let it be stated that I never once felt unsafe in this neighborhood, though I did stay on the main tourist street. I read enough horror stories to know not to wander off the beaten path, but please don't let the rumors prevent you from visiting this historic little neighborhood.
Fun fact: The stadium got its name because it was said to look like a chocolate bombon
  • Cafe Tortoni National Tango Academy - You will read in all the travel guides that Cafe Tortoni is a must-visit. And I'm sure the tango shows are out of this world. However, instead of dressing up and watching the show taking place on stage, I decided to try my hand - or my feet, rather - at the tango at this hidden tango academy. For 80 pesos, I experienced two hours of fun. There were four of us in the class, and after mastering the 8 basic steps, we moved onto some more advanced moves. I was way out of my element, but my instructor was fantastic, and I really loved experiencing such an integral part of the Argentinian culture. I highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and getting your groove on.
  • Cementerio Recoleta - I visited this place on a dreary weekday morning, and I think that added to the overall spooky feeling. Though tours are offered, I chose to wander the "city of the dead" all on my own. It's a maze of everything Buenos Aires has to offer - history and art and flowers and beautiful, loving headstone inscriptions. The architecture is incredible, and wandering through this cemetery was a very moving experience. It's magical and spooky all at once, and a quiet hideaway in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a major city.
  • Empanada Cooking Class - This was my very last Argentinian activity, and one of my very favorites. After looking around on the Internet, I stumbled upon Norma's home-based cooking class, and not only was the time right, but the price was right, too. I felt so at home in her precious apartment, and she had all of the ingredients purchased and prepared as she walked us through a lentil stew creation, delicious carne empanadas, and easy-peasy dulce de leche alfajores. This class was very hands-on, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor - accompanied by the most delectable Malbec, and we got a recipe book to take back to the States with us. Norma is warm, inviting, and full of interesting stories. It was a fabulous way to wrap up my time in Argentina.

  • El Ateneo - Calling all bookworms! You cannot miss this place. It's a theater-turned-bookstore, and I think I visited this place no less than four times. It has actually been named the second most beautiful bookstore in the world, and if this got second place, I've got to see the one that holds first place. The only words I can think to describe this place are magnificent, splendid, grand, and a place you have to experience for yourself. Of course, most of the books were in Spanish, but I had a wonderful time wandering row upon row of my favorite books. I spent a number of rainy days curled up in a theater box reading one of the six books I completed while abroad.
  • Olsen Restaurant - I stumbled upon this dreamy little restaurant while walking through Palermo one day, and I later learned that it's quite the Buenos Aires hotspot. It's in a very trendy part of town, and I was able to enjoy a sunny Sunday brunch on the most charming patio. It was a little bit pricier than the other meals I ate in Buenos Aires, but the food and atmosphere were definitely worth it. Olsen is what I would call an Instagrammable restaurant, and I certainly recommend it if you find yourself in the area.

I don't know about you guys, but this post just made me one step closer to booking a flight back to Buenos Aires. I loved everything about this city - except for maybe the paying for water thing, and the fact that every other person I passed on the street smoked - but there was always something to do and see. I loved the walkability of this city, and that there were always so many people on bikes and rollerblades. The architecture was so unique, the food was outstanding, and the generosity and hospitality I experienced was second-to-none. Counting down the days until I get to experience this most wonderful city again.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Giant Oatmeal Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Yeah, that's a handful to say. But they're so, so good. I've already made them three times and I think I've eaten one of these giant muffins every single day. But I'm sure that comes as no surprise, as you guys probably already know that I am a huge fan of breakfast, and breakfast food. The hardest thing about being in Argentina was that their breakfast consisted of coffee and toast. And I don't even like coffee, so there went half of my morning meal. We have something called First Friday at school, which is where on the first Friday of the month (makes sense, right?), a club or team signs up to provide a most delicious homemade breakfast to the entire faculty and staff. It's wonderful, and easily my favorite day of the month. And my teammates know it, so they'll frequently forward me the email announcing the First Friday information with a "YAY"-esque comment. All of this to say that I love breakfast. Though I'm also not willing to take 10-20 minutes out of an already jam-packed morning to make breakfast. And I know many others are constrained by time as well. This is where these muffins come in. 20 minutes of prep on a Sunday, and you have a healthy and filling breakfast for the entire week. All you have to do is store them in the refrigerator, grab one as you are running out the door, and heat it up whenever you get to your destination. Well, you don't have to heat it up, but who doesn't love the taste of melted chocolate in the morning?

I can't take credit for this recipe, as it is almost identical to the one provided by Alexis over at Hummusapien, though I added a few extra ingredients, and I chose to make my muffins in a giant muffin tin. That's certainly not a requirement, but it definitely makes eating only one of them in a single sitting a whole lot easier. It's all about that self control. And if you're freaked out about zucchini being included in a muffin recipe, don't be. I promise you can't even taste it.

  • 2 tbsp flax seeds + 6 tbsp water
  • 3 medium-large ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or any other type of milk you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (or your favorite kind of nut butter)
  • 1/8 cup honey (this gives the muffins some added sweetness)
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-3.5 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup + a sprinkle extra chocolate chips
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • OPTIONAL: coconut flakes, almond slices, raisins

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and generously spray muffin tin with cooking spray
2. Combine flax seeds and water in a bowl and set aside
3. In a large bowl, mash the bananas using a fork, and stir in almond milk, almond butter, honey, zucchini, vanilla extract, and flax seed mixture until combined.
4. Stir in oats, baking powder, chia seeds, walnuts, chocolate chips, and cinnamon until combined. This would be the time to add the optional add-ins.
5. Using a spoon, fill each muffin cavity to the top and bake for 22-25 minutes.
6. Enjoy!

YIELDS: Six large muffins + a little extra (I have been baking the extra batter in a mini bread pan so that no batter gets left behind.)
Store these muffins in the refrigerator in an airtight container. If you want to enjoy them warm, put them in the microwave for about 45 seconds. You won't regret it.

I love that these muffins are free of oil, eggs, butter, and flour, and I'm able to sneak in an extra serving of vegetables without even noticing. And you can enjoy these muffins as breakfast (or as a part of breakfast if you're like me) or as an after school snack. I know I'll definitely be bringing these muffins along with me to inservice. I'll need something to snack on in between meetings and practice and setting up my classroom. Basically, starting next Monday, I'll be doing everything but sleeping up at school. Though I have been told there are cots. Anyway, these muffins will make my mornings a whole lot less stressful. And that's a happy Monday for you!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Perfect 10

Happy Sunday! These last few weeks of summer are absolutely flying by! We wrapped up our last day of freshman volleyball camp yesterday, and I'm getting really excited about this upcoming season. It's always fun to see what I'm going to have to work with, and just like my first two years, I think I'm going to have a really great group. Go Cards! I got home around 3:00 yesterday afternoon, and spent a majority of the rest of the day reading, getting a foot massage, and walking the pup until he couldn't walk anymore. A tired puppy is a happy puppy, right? So, I wasn't super productive yesterday, and I'm hoping to pick up the slack a bit today. But first, Survey Sunday!

1. Is there a sport you'd love to try, but haven't yet? What is it and why?
TENNIS! Okay, I've tried tennis, but I've never had any formal instruction with the sport, and I would love to really learn. I feel as though it's a sport that can be played for many, many years, and I have a tennis court in the middle of my neighborhood that I would love to put to good use. Additionally, I have been so inspired by the Olympic divers that I wish I had grown up learning how to flip and twist off of a 3-meter board.

2. Where did you go on your last holiday?
Argentina. Blog posts to come - I promise! It's on my "Last Week of Freedom" To-Do List.

3. Who inspires you the most?
Oh man, I love this question. There are so many people who inspire me. My parents, and the way they have raised and endlessly supported two great (in my opinion) kids while working full-time and still finding time for the things that they enjoy. The people I work with, and the way that they never settle for anything less than the very best for their students. Athletes, and the things they sacrifice to be the very best they can be. So many "ordinary" people inspire me each and every day, and these people push me to become better than I was yesterday.

4. Why do you blog?
I believe I've answered this question a couple of times, and I feel like it changes a little bit each time. I blog for many reasons. One, because I truly love writing. I've always loved writing, ever since I was a little kid. And I have a passion for health and fitness that, after reading so many other health and fitness blogs, I wanted to share with others. And while this blog has transformed from being solely workout- and recipe-focused to being more of an online diary of my life, I love to think that what I have to say can impact just one person on any given day. I hope to bring excitement to something that people typically see as a chore, and most of all, it's my own creative outlet. I enjoy it, and apparently people enjoy reading it, so I'll keep on keepin' on!

5. What's number one on your bucket list?
I've got quite the bucket list. And I know how lucky I am to have already been able to cross so many items off of my bucket list. But a couple of the major items on my list are qualifying for the Boston Marathon and visiting every state in the United States, as well as visiting every one of the seven continents. So far, I've hit three. But running and traveling are two of my very favorite things, so I'm sure it comes as no surprise that those two categories are what top my ultimate to-do list. 

6. What's your happiest memory?
The day I brought Mack home has to be right up there as one of the happiest days of my life. This little puppy has changed my life for the better, and I cherish every single moment I get to spend with him. He makes me life exponentially more chaotic, but he is such a tangible example of unconditional love. And I wouldn't trade our three-times-a-day walks for anything in the world. He might. But I sure wouldn't.

7. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
What a question! Right now, because we are less than TWO WEEKS away from the start of the 2016 Olympics (if you haven't noticed yet, I'm obsessed with the Olympics), I would probably want to live the life of an Olympic athlete, just to experience what a day of training (and eating) looks like in their shoes. I love a challenge, and I love being pushed to the limit, and I feel as though this be extremely eye-opening. Either that, or I would love to spend a day being Mack. I so wish I knew what he does while I'm gone. 

8. Road or trail?
ROAD, 110%. Okay, this isn't really fair. I have only had one experience with a trail race, and it was 13 miles in Texas in the middle of July. And that combination just doesn't add up. But because road races are what is going to get me to Boston, and road is far more prevalent near where I live, I'll take pavement any day of the week. 

9. What's your dream job?
To be honest, and I have said this before, I've got my dream job. I love working with high school-aged students, and I truly love getting up and going to work each day. As I say this, I'm currently stressing about the fact that inservice begins in just about two weeks, but I think it's just the anticipation of everything starting up and going full speed ahead again. Once I'm in it, I love it. If I wasn't teaching, I would probably want to do something either in the fitness world, or I would love to open up my own bakery. 

10. What was your favorite race or event?
I loved the Chevron Houston Marathon, in which I participated January 2016. I loved the Aramco Houston Half Marathon as well, and I look forward to my second go around in 2017. The Austin half will forever hold a special place in my heart, as it was my first, and the one I've completed the highest number of times. And though the hills were killer, San Francisco will certainly be a race to remember. I guess I didn't do such a great job of answering this question!

Finishing my FIRST full marathon!
And that's all I've got. I've got 6 miles and lots of errands on my to-do list today, so I'm off to conquer them all. Have a fabulous and restful Sunday!