Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reasons to Smile

It has been a really busy week. While things feel mostly normal, stories like this (about a former teacher's/friend's current campus) still have me on edge. I'm doing my best to deal with anxiety, and I'm finding reasons to smile this week.

On Monday, I found out that Brendan and I won a $3,190.00 grant for the English Honor Society that we advise together. We are both so thrilled and happy for what this will mean for our students.

Monday night, I accidentally picked up six pound weights in barre class, thinking they were five pounders. While I'm aware that these both sound like ridiculously low amounts, anyone that has ever done a barre class knows that six pounds (the highest weight my studio has) is no joke! I made it through the arms section, and I was so proud of myself. I even repeated it on Tuesday and plan to give it a go tonight as well. 

Yesterday was an extremely busy day at work. I taught for three hours and then arrived at the lab to a wait list of students. A morning tutor was sick, so our waitlist had built up. I tutored for two hours without any breaks between students, and I was able to help seven students. By the time I left, the waitlist for the next tutor was four students long. I love helping students and really enjoyed it, but by the time my afternoon hair appointment came around, I was quite literally falling asleep in the chair. 

I snapped this photo to send to Brendan who was still at work (poor guy, he worked 8:00am-after 8:00pm yesterday). I can definitely tell how sleepy I was in this photo; I could barely keep my eyes open! I love my new haircut and color, which was done again at Maximus Salon here in Midland. I got my eyebrows waxed yesterday, so now I feel officially bridesmaid ready. As I'm sure readers could predict, my cousin's upcoming wedding this Saturday is my #1 reason to smile! 

After taking this photo, I took a nap. When I woke up 45 minutes later, there was a text from my yoga teacher canceling class for the evening. While normally I would have been sad, yesterday I was relieved, since I really didn't have hardly any energy. We had dinner plans with my friend Kristen and her boyfriend, Alex, so Kristen just came over early and we drank wine on the patio (this was much more my speed!) 

This morning, I woke up early to check us in for tomorrow's flight (we got the A group, the only acceptable group in my opinion!) Luckily, I was able to go right back to sleep, and I slept in until 9:30AM, which felt AMAZING. 

Today brings much to do and some rainstorms to Midland. Brendan thought Lola looked cold, so he did this: 

This photo definitely makes my "reasons to smile" list. I'm off to get my day started. Dear readers, I hope you find many reasons of your own to smile. 


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Spirits Lifting

I have been having a difficult time feeling normal since the news of Thursday's tragedy at Umpqua Community College. I can't stop thinking about it--the teacher and students that lost their lives, the young man who felt so isolated and angry that he felt hurting others was the answer, and all the families reeling from the events.

I was in seventh grade when Columbine made national news. In eighth grade, a student brought a gun to my middle school; police were brought in, and the weapon was never fired. Still, I keep thinking: how long has it been since I felt "totally safe" at school?

I love teaching. There is a joy in it that I feel like is a part of me. My mom fondly tells stories about how I would play school as a child, always assigning myself the role of teacher and forcing my brother, my cat, and my stuffed animals to participate as my "students." Teaching brings me a happiness that I know that no other job could; however, I long to live in a country where we can all be totally safe at school. Things seem to only be moving further from fixing the problems (and YES, I did call my representatives and voice my strong opposition to this bill before it passed). So, I do feel a heightened anxiety lately. My husband, mother, father in-law, cousins, and too many friends to count work at or attend schools. I refuse to believe that there is nothing we can do to improve the situation, and I hope we start making changes (for instance, prioritizing school security just as much as we prioritize airport security) soon. Until then, you can find me in the classroom showing my students that they matter to me and helping them become empathetic, creative, and critical thinkers. If we can't solve the problems, I have no doubts that, one day, they will.

All of this said, I've done a lot of things since Thursday's bad news that have lifted my spirits.

On Thursday night, the college hosted Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on an outdoor stage. The weather was perfect, and the music was amazing. We had amazing seats, right up close. We were laughing about how if the concert had been in Central Park, we wouldn't have even been able to see. It was such a nice event. I hope Jazz Under the Stars becomes a regular thing for us.

Friday morning, this little cutie was born. He is the son of my cousin Stephen and his wife Casey. Welcome Callen...the first boy in the Austin family since my brother was born over 26 years ago! I can't wait to meet this little one in person...how could my spirits not be lifted by a new baby joining the family?

Also, Friday was the first day that felt like FALL, and this trend continued all weekend (it drizzled all day today). I spent Friday night curled up with a book, which always is a good use of time in my opinion. I'm so happy to see the temperatures in the 90s go! HELLOOOOO OCTOBER.

Saturday morning, I went to barre class, and I came home to Brendan's home-cooked migas. That man, he's some husband, and I swear, these were the best ever migas!

We had pesto for dinner on Saturday night that my cousin Amanda made and froze over her labor day visit.

Looking at our basil plants, I think we might need to make a few more batches soon:

On Saturday night, we went to our happy place, the drive in.

We saw The Martian, which you've probably heard by now is excellent and The Maze Runner sequel, which was not so good. Still, the trip was worth it for the first movie!

Also on Saturday, we hung some constellation prints in our dining room, so the walls are no longer completely bare. It took us awhile to get the spacing just right, but it was worth it.

For tonight's dining room dinner, I made stuffed butternut squash from my cookbook Takes One Pot. The recipe is great, but the cookbook isn't exactly honest. More like, Takes One Pot, One Bowl, A Cutting Board, A Knife, A Spoon, and a Baking Pan. 

While dinner was in the oven, I made the Asian Salad recipe from the cookbook, so I'd have a quick grab and go meal for lunch this week. Yum; I can't wait to try the dressing, which used lemongrass and mint from my own backyard. 

Lola was shocked that she wasn't invited to dinner: 

We're both a little annoyed with her because she woke us up all throughout the night last night. She was good during the week, but obviously, she did not want us to enjoy our one day for sleeping in. I loved on her LOTS today, so let's hope she lets us get some rest tonight. It's just now 9:30, and I can barely keep my eyes open! 

I hope that everyone had an uplifting weekend and is prepared for a good week. Let this be a reminder to find happiness where you can and when you can. 


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lessons Learned From 50 Barre Classes

Woo to the hoo! I completed my 50th barre class today. I forgot to take a photo, so here's a previous "after barre class pic."

Before I took my first class, I had no idea what barre would be like, and now, I cannot get enough! The hour passes by in a flash, and every workout is challenging. I swear, I'm actually having fun still! My current routine is barre every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (with yoga on Wednesdays). I love this workout, and I've learned a few things in my 50 classes.

Here's "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger"--barre version:

1.) You have to keep increasing the challenge
Just like any workout, your body will eventually adjust more and more to barre classes. It's up to you to challenge yourself. Increase your weights; I often have my goal weights and current weights next to my mat. I'll start with the heavier set, but if I need to drop weight to finish the moves, I can easily do so. Push ups can be down on your knees, but lately, I challenge myself to do as many as possible on my toes. I hope one day that I can do every single one of them that way.

2.) Form matters 
Here are the basics...you need to learn how to correctly tuck your hips. I feel like the word "tuck" comes up about 100 times per barre class. It's important. When standing at the barre, your support leg should always have a slight bend in it, but often the working leg should be completely straight. Once you learn what the moves should feel like, it is easy to remind yourself constantly of form. Often, my leg isn't really truly straight, or I need to relax my shoulders, square off my hips, or tuck. If you feel glute work in your back, you probably aren't squaring off your hips. Remember that pulses should be small tiny, tiny movements. This blog post about 10 common form mistakes was super helpful to me. I also like to place my mat near the mirror, so I can keep an eye on my form. PS--shaking muscles are common and a good sign (it means you are exhausting your muscles). I swear they are also contagious! If I see someone else shake, I will start shaking!

3.) Beat matters...sort of
If you are like me and don't have much in the way of rhythm, don't be afraid to try barre. Yes, you are supposed to be "on beat," but the teachers will count it out for you, making it easy to follow along.

4.) There is a lot of variety
I thought maybe after 50 classes, I would have every single move memorized, but no. There is a surprising amount of variety. In class last night, we did glute work from the water-ski position. That was new (and really hard!) Never underestimate the barre!

5.) Barre has an inaccurate reputation 
According to the internet, every woman in barre class is wealthy, looks like a model, and shows up wearing Lululemon...obviously, that isn't true. My studio has women of all ages and body types (and the same was true of the studio I visited in Austin). Sure, some people do wear Lululemon, but you can wear whatever brand of clothes you want. I don't own a single pair of $10 grippy socks, and it's fine. There is no need to overly focus on what others look like or are wearing anyway; when I show up to class, I'm there to focus on me.

6.) It is expensive...but 
There is no real way around this one: barre is an expensive workout. I find the best way to get my monies worth is to sign up for unlimited monthly packages (as opposed to paying by the class). I also have had luck with buying specials and taking advantage of opportunities to earn discounts. By doing all this, I have spent 24% less on my months than what my studio would normally charge. I also do not hold a gym membership, which makes the cost easier to handle. Finally, I believe that the workout you will actually commit to and enjoy is the workout that is worth paying for. I understand why my studio charges the amount they do. The teachers are well trained and create the class content themselves, so it is different every time. The classes are small and personal. The studio provides all the equipment and little extras (deodorant, tampons, bobby pins, etc.) to make your workout space truly comfortable. In the end, I see it as an investment in my health that I'm happy to make.

7.) You still need other forms of exercise 
I would never give up my beloved yoga, which allows me to stretch, strengthen, and challenge my body in amazing ways (also, I have the best yoga teacher ever). I know cardio is still important. I try to work it in on Fridays while Brendan plays basketball with friends after work.

8.) What you eat still matters
I know, it's so annoying. If I'm going to workout six times a week, shouldn't I be able to have all the margaritas and french fries? Well, it turns out, no. Barre is effective, but not magic. You still have to be conscious of what you put into your body. That's why I put spinach in my smoothie this morning and vowed to be a little more careful this weekend than last with what I eat and drink.

9.) It's a workout for your mind too
Barre has made me more aware of my body. It doesn't require deep and crazy concentrated focus like yoga, but it does require 100% of your attention, since the moves will change rapidly, and you have to keep an eye on your form. I feel like I've finally gotten the hang of all those flex/point changes. I think this workout would keep anyone mentally sharp.

10.) It really does work
Yes, I have definitely seen results. I've lost a little weight. My arms look more toned. I have more energy. I'm happier on a daily basis. If I took measurements, I'm sure I'd see a slight difference in those. Barre isn't a quick fix or a miracle, but if you go consistently, you will get stronger.

I hope you enjoyed my musings about barre class. I'm so happy that I discovered another workout passion.

In other news, I made this tonight, and it was AMAZING:

Louisiana Stuffed Mirletons 

I just had to share it. This Louisiana dish got me in the mood for New Orleans...just 10 more days until I head there.

Brendan's grandma Nancy broke her pelvis today, but she should be able to return home tomorrow (hopefully). Please keep her in your thoughts. We are wishing her a speedy recovery and wishing that we could be there to give her a hug!

Get some rest everyone; tomorrow is a new day!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Working Through Monday Blues

Greetings world!

It's Monday again. Last night, I was having some serious "the weekend is over" blues. We had a good weekend. We said our goodbyes to one friend at a going away party on Friday, went to another friend's birthday party on Saturday, and got dinner and drinks with another friend on Sunday. I worked out on both Saturday (barre) and Sunday (yoga), bringing my grand total of workouts to six for last week (at the same time, I ate french fries and drank margaritas this weekend, just to be honest!) Anyway, the weekend really went too fast, and I was sad.

Instead of being sad, I should have combated my Monday blues with some tried and true tricks to make myself happier. Here are my suggestions if the end of the weekend is tough for you as well!

End the Weekend Happily 

Anytime I spend my time mourning the end of the weekend, I always regret it. Instead, I find it better to make the most of Sunday evening. Do something special for dinner (we typically make dinner at home, but going out could be a nice treat too), play a game with the family, or watch something funny on Netflix--Arrested Development always seems to improve my mood. Take some time to appreciate all the great things that happened rather than focus on the fact that your weekend is almost over.

Prep for the Week 
A messy kitchen, unkempt house, and nothing to eat are all things that will create bad Monday morning mojo for me. Straightening up before bed and thinking about what I will make for breakfast and lunch is a good use of Sunday night time.

I usually make Brendan and I both egg sandwiches on Monday morning. The process is frightfully easy. In the toaster oven, I toast two English muffins. In a shallow bowl, I microwave one egg for 30 seconds, top it with a little bit of shredded cheese, and microwave it for another 15 seconds. I remove the egg from a bowl with a fork and place it on the muffin. I repeat the process for the second egg sandwich. I have almost NO time to eat on Monday, so a filling breakfast is a must.

I also tried packing a salad for lunch today, and I loved it. A small Tupperware container is perfect for keeping your dressing in. Since I often do not have any downtime to eat lunch on Mondays, a salad is the perfect solution, since it does not need to stay hot to be enjoyed. Mine today had spinach, granny smith apples, celery, walnuts, dried cranberries, and bleu cheese. I used Ken's Steakhouse Lite Apple Cider Vinaigrette. YUM!

Create a to-do List
Often, my feelings of Monday blues can mostly be attributed to feeling anxious about how much I need to get done. If I think about it all together, it is totally overwhelming, but if I sit down with my planner, make a to-do list for work, and pre-plan out workouts, I feel instantly more relaxed and calm about start the week ahead.

Find a Positive Monday Morning Mantra
This is cheesy, but it really helps me.
Here are some of my favorites:
"The only way out is through!"--this one is stolen from my mom.
"I've had MUCH more challenging days than this. I can do it!"
"I can be a positive part of someone's day today. I will help someone."
"It will all get done."
"I have everything I need within me." --this one from my yoga teacher, Jessica.

Indeed, it did all get done...before I knew it, everything on my to-do list was checked off. I even had some unexpected cool experiences, like helping a student with her college admission essays. Today was a reminder that I need never dread Monday again. The only thing that would make it better is if I won this getaway weekend in Napa. My parents are on a cruise right now, and I'm pretty envious!

I'm off for some much deserved Netflix watching!
Have a great Monday night everyone.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Start of Fall

Happy start of Fall! Around here, we feel the season change subtly. Our highs moved out of the 90s and into the high 80s. It still feels pretty hot, but I'll take it. We even got rain last night (it always seems to happen right after Brendan waters the yard, ha).

I have been fighting exhaustion lately (still at the end of recovering from the cold). The only remedy I've found so far is working on including protein in every snack. My snacks yesterday were: a cheese stick, greek yogurt, and a protein smoothie. I can't believe I've never included my protein smoothie recipe here before. I make it probably once a week, and it's so easy!

Protein Smoothie
In a blender, combine: 1 cup low fat milk, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup ice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter. Blend until smooth (13 grams of protein in every smoothie!). I never have bothered to take a picture of my own smoothie, but here is one from health.com, and my smoothie looks just like this:

I'm all for easy meal prep these days, especially because between work and working out, I'm tired at dinnertime. After yoga last night, Kristen came over for dinner, and here's what I made (recipe tweaked from one I found on the, now defunct, blog Peas and Thank You):

Personal Pineapple Pizzas
Top pre-made personal pizza crusts (I use the brand Mama Mary's) with 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce, 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, red onion, pineapple, and fresh rosemary. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.

Throw together a large salad to serve it with, and dinner has never been easier. 

Today is already productive. I dragged myself out of bed this morning for an early barre class. Since the college is hosting Stephen Dubner for a lecture tonight, I wanted to get my workout out of the way early, so I could actually eat dinner.

Honestly, I'm hoping to read the book Freakonomics before the lecture tonight (I have yet to purchase the book). That may sound a little ambitious, but we'll see!

I hope everyone has a great Thursday. Remember, it's ALMOST the weekend!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Rest and Recovery Weekend Style

On Friday, I was feeling pretty much like grumpy cat:

Thursday had brought me a cold, and I was pretty convinced my weekend would be spent in sickness. However, thanks to the combination of DayQuil, Vicks Vapor Rub, Sudafed, and sleep (sleeping longer hours and propped up on a pillow), I seem to be kicking this cold much faster than Brendan did. I'm still feeling a little grumpy about the fact that I have been sick with one thing or another for three weeks (I think taking antibiotics did me in), but when I start to feel sorry for myself, I remind myself that my minor health issues could be so much worse and this is really no big deal. 

Friday night, we were pretty much exceptionally boring since I wasn't feeling well. We watched Shark Tank and 20/20 on TV, Brendan cooked us curry with veggies and tofu, and we played (wait for it) a million games of Yahtzee with buddies, our new obsession (my username is Stacyakamisspriss--hit me up!). I went to bed early, and I was surprised when I woke up Saturday feeling well enough for barre class. I made it out the door and left Brendan snoozing. It was my 4th workout of the week (Brendan worked out four times as well), and I feel really proud of us. I definitely needed a Saturday afternoon nap though. Thankfully, Zoe was game to be my napping buddy. Later, we ran our two errands of the day: Michael's to buy picture frames (with our coupon) and the grocery store. We decided to shop at Market Street this week, since we wanted to try their sushi and see how it compared to HEB's. 

Our plan had been to take a sushi picnic to the drive in movies, but about half an hour before we were supposed to leave, it started pouring rain. Lightening and thunder sent Lola and Zoe hiding under the bed. We decided to stay in instead and eat at our sushi bar (haha, get it?) and watch Netflix. 

The result is that Market Street sushi IS better than HEB. The fish is fresher. But the other result is that groceries at Market Street are much more expensive than HEB. Lesson learned! From now on, we will shop at HEB and only head to Market Street if we need some specialty items. By the way, our dinner last night was $30...considerably less expensive than going out for sushi. 

We choose the movie Nightcrawler on Netflix, and we both really liked it. It was a disturbing and fast paced thriller that kept me awake the whole time (which is saying a lot when I'm sick). 

I slept in this morning, made pancakes, and finally tackled the three loads of laundry that has been building up all week (am I the only one that is amazed at how never ending laundry is?). Brendan hung all of our art that we bought frames for yesterday. Here are the results: 

We bought this one of a kind print by our friend Dagan at the Kamiposi art show a few weeks ago. Now, it has a happy home above my printer in our office. 

Brendan took this photo in Alaska and printed it using his fancy printer. Now, it resides in our hallway.

I've wanted to frame and hang our marriage license for two years now (the Travis county licenses are beautiful), and we finally got around to it. It has a place next to the drawing of the tree we got married under that Brendan's dad drew for our wedding invitations. Needless to say, I love it.

Last, but not least, we also picked up this print at Kamiposi. We bought a red frame to match it, and it now has a perfect place in our living room (where it matches the red curtains and red rug just perfectly).

For tonight's Sunday night dinner, I made this. Not exactly healthy, but delicious nonetheless! We've taken to doing Sunday night dinners in our formal dining room. It gives us an excuse to use the room at least once a week. We've opened a bottle of my favorite wine, and I'm enjoying it now, and we're planning to watch the series premiere of Minority Report, a TV show based on the movie of the same name (on FOX). Other than that, I'll be putting away laundry and bracing myself for Monday. 

Have a great Sunday night! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Slow Down September!

The title of this post says it all! September is halfway over, and that doesn't seem believable.

We had an excellent weekend. The highlights were: SeptemberFest Preview Party on Friday night, sleeping in Saturday, then attending barre while Brendan cooked us breakfast, and the drive in on Saturday night to see The Visit and No Escape. I probably have a dozen versions of this same photo. I really love the drive-in and just think it's the neatest place. Where else can you swing on a swing set in front of the screen before your movie starts?

The Visit gets an A+ from both of us, while No Escape gets a B from me and a C from Brendan.

Anyway, enough about the weekend. I realized that I have only been blogging about weekends because that is when I have time lately, but I want to talk about weekdays too, so here is what we've been up to in the first half of our week:

  • We have been actively practicing no snooze, (here is a post I wrote on why we don't hit snooze). The cats seem to have other agendas. Here is Lola on Monday morning, sleeping in our made up bed! 
  • I've been making the bed every single day for about a month now. I really enjoy how much tidier it makes our bedroom look, and it only takes about 60 seconds. 

  • This week, work took off. There is an avalanche of assignments to grade, two grants to write, tutors to train, and OH MY. Daily naps on my couch have been occurring as of late, which gives me just enough energy for my evening barre class. 
  • Yoga class started back tonight. I haven't been since May, and it was AMAZING to be back among friends, and it was nice to mix things up from barre. All that stretching felt REALLY good.
  • My fortune cookie read: "A judgement will rule in your favor." A darn good sign for someone that is turning in two grant applications this week. 
  • FINALLY, I have photo proof from that time I was on TV at the Red Sox vs. Astros game: 

Are there any movies casting for "worried Red Sox Fan #1, because I think my face here is extremely expressive! 
  • Lastly, our predicted temperature for tomorrow is 99, and Friday's expected temperature is 100. I CANNOT TAKE THIS ANYMORE. PLEASE let it be fall already. 
Sweet dreams everyone. I am off to bed! 

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