Quick & Easy Summer Cocktails

Happy weekend, everyone! It has been one HOT summer, and I've been trying everything imaginable to stay cool. Spending time with friends has certainly helped get my mind off the heat. And this summer more than any other, I've discovered a plethora of delicious cocktails. Many of them are very easy to make, and are so refreshing on a hot day. Here are a few that will help you forget about the weather... at least temporarily.

{Click on any of the photos below to be taken to the drink recipes}

Mango Margaritas
Mango Margaritas from foodiecrush

Raspberry Lemoncello Prosecco
Raspberry Lemoncello Prosecco from Damn Delicious

Maple Whiskey Sour
Maple Whiskey Sour from Gimme Some Oven

Blue Lagoon Shots
Blue Lagoon Shots from Hairspray & Highheels

Pineapple Coolers
Pineapple Coolers from Pizzazzerie

Peach Sangria
Peach Sangria from MyRecipes.com

You can also find more of my favorites on my Pinterest board HERE.

What about you? How have you been staying cool this summer? Do you have any favorite cocktails to share? :)

Maintaining Balance

Today I'm going to share some ideas for maintaining balance during the school year. I'm trying not to think ahead TOO much, but once the school year begins, it feels like such a race to keep up. So it's good to plan for some balance before those days in August!

Leave Work By 4pm Every Day. 
This might be the most difficult one, but also the most important. We can always find more to do... more to organize, more to plan, more to prep, more to assess. It's important for me to do as much as I can from 3:15 (when students leave) to 4:00. Whatever isn't done will have to wait. I have promised myself not to take work home, with the exception of report cards during those times of year. 

Exercise At Least 3 Times Per Week.
Especially when I'm exhausted, I force myself to go to the gym. Because I know the less I exercise, the more tired I feel. I found a gym that offers a variety of classes, from spinning to TRX to yoga, so the variety really helps. The classes really encourage me make the most of my membership. Left to my own devices, I would probably get on the stairmaster for about 20 minutes, consider it good enough, and go home for a glass of wine. But you can't cheat like that with an instructor in front of you and a class full of people toughing it out.

Limit After-Work Communication.
This one is also very difficult, especially since we are potentially connected to work email 24/7. However, I feel that it's very important not to answer emails after work, and so I don't check work email after I leave. I also make sure not to receive notifications of new emails (otherwise that's not disconnecting completely, right?). I do, however, check my email as I get ready for work in the morning so I can address anything pertinent before the school day begins. 

Plan Meals for the Week.
Since I work in San Francisco, I have tons of lunch options just outside the doors of my school. It's very tempting to eat out often, if not every day. It's convenient, but SO expensive. Last year was the first year I started planning my meals on Sundays, then shopping for the products I would need for the week. Thanks to Pinterest (you can find my boards here), I even created my own little menu listing ingredients needed and the link to the recipe. That way I can just click on it each night when I'm ready to prepare dinner. I always make enough for leftovers the following school day. Meal planning has drastically decreased the stress revolving around what I'm going to eat every day. 

Enjoy Weekend Life.
Sometimes it's tempting to stay in and catch up on Netflix. But I always plan at least one outing (dinner, brunch, whatever) with friends every weekend. It's also nice to plan something by myself...as long as it means I have to get out of the house!

What about you? What do you do to maintain balance during the school year?

Sunday Letters

I thought it would be fun to write some Sunday letters and link up with Big Time Literacy today!

Dear Madrid,
It feels like only yesterday that I left you, even though it's been almost two years. Although summer isn't the best time for us to reunite (you're SO hot!), I love that I can relax and enjoy being here in ways I couldn't when I lived & worked here.
Thanks for your sunshine and laid-back attitude,
A Former Expat

Dear Madrid Friends,
It has been so much fun catching up with you these past few days! I wish we didn't live so far away from each other so we could do this more often. I don't want our visits to end!
Your Long Distance Friend

Dear Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream,
We've been spending a lot of time together this summer, and you've really helped me stay cool in this heat. Thank you for being the perfect flavor combination. I look forward to seeing you again very soon. Especially since calories don't count during the summer.
Ice Cream Lover

Dear Summer,
You have been so good to me this year. You've shared your sunshine, warm days, and have given many opportunities for long naps, reading, netflix binging, and catching up with friends and family. And I haven't felt the least bit guilty about tossing my planner aside. I love keeping these days as unscheduled as possible. 
With gratitude,
A Relaxed Teacher

Summer Read: Me Talk Pretty One Day

I realize this book has been out for many years, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I just read it. That said, I should have read it years ago, because it is one of the funniest books ever written. That is a high compliment coming from me, since I rarely read books in the "Humor and Entertainment" category. (Or else it's not a compliment, since I rarely read books in the "Humor and Entertainment" category.)

I was hooked from the beginning, when Sedaris details his childhood experience with speech therapy and the elaborate lengths he went to while avoiding the letter s... including anything in the plural form, or reading about the adventures of seals or settlers named Sassy or Samuel.

Actually, my real motivation for reading Me Talk Pretty One Day is because I knew Sedaris had written about his move to France, and I wanted to hear those stories most. Even if you've never lived as an expat, I think you will find this section of the book hilarious. As someone who has experienced the pains of living abroad and learning a second language, I was laughing out loud continuously for several chapters. (Don't you love to laugh out loud while reading?!) I also love that Sedaris moves to France and chooses to learn the least helpful words and phrases possible, simply because he likes the sound of them. I completely empathize with sounding like an angry child due to lack of vocabulary, and admire the way he persisted despite his French teacher making fun of him at every opportunity. I think I would've just given up, gone to the café, and eaten a dozen pastries.

If you haven't read this book yet, you should do so immediately!

Rethinking Reading Logs


This year I taught all four classes of second grade English at my school. I saw each group of students for a half day of reading and a half day of writing every week. One of the things that really struck me was the EXTREME difficulty of implementing a (consistent) system of reading accountability for my students... especially for at-home reading. I've always used reading logs in previous years (sometimes as simple logs, other times as reading response sheets), but this year had me pulling out my hair. 

Initial Goal(s) for Reading Logs
My inability to discuss home reading with students' until the following week made reading logs essential to help keep track of the kinds of books they were reading and how long they were reading each night. I wanted students to understand that reading volume is so crucial to becoming better readers, while also helping them see patterns in their reading habits (genres they tend to read, which nights they're able to read for longer periods of time, etc.). I also wanted the reading log to serve as a reminder for one of the most important things they could do to become better students: Read at home as often as possible!

The Problem with Reading Logs
The main problem with reading logs stemmed from the infrequency of my classes. Seeing students only once each week for Reading made follow-up and feedback very difficult. Seven days would pass between one lesson and the next. Seven days is a LOT of time to a seven-year-old! Building and maintaining a consistent routine took about three months for some students, and other students never latched onto the reading log as a helpful tool. And although I communicated with parents, I received a lot of, "Yes, we're reading at home, but we just don't have time to fill out the reading log." Even though I was asking students to write only the title of the book and pages or minutes read, I kept getting excuse after excuse about how they didn't have time to fill out the log. "But I'm reading!" so many of them would say to me. They didn't see the reading log as helpful or necessary, and it didn't add to their love of reading in any way.

My Revised Plan and Goal
Needless to say, reading logs were not working for my kiddos. I was spending too much time checking them and practically begging students to fill them out, while wasting valuable time that could've been spent teaching, reading, or doing anything else to nurture a classroom full of readers.

Near the end of the year, instead of checking reading logs, we began to do Book Talks each week. The whole point of the reading log had been to encourage reading and help students develop some awareness about what they were reading and enjoying. Since that hadn't worked for most students, I thought Book Talks during our morning meeting might be an alternative. I chose three students at the beginning of the week to share their thoughts about their reading during our following class together. I posted a few ideas for things they might talk about, and we discussed as a class the importance of hearing from each other for book recommendations and inspiration. After all, it's one of the things I value as a grownup reader! Even though I started this near the end of the year, students became hooked. They loved Book Talks and even my reluctant readers begged to have a chance at one. 

Instead of reading logs next year, I think I'll start with Book Talks instead. Whether you see students every day or even just once per week, I think it's an important consideration. What's the ultimate goal of reading logs? Are you achieving that goal?

Currently... June!

It's finally June!!! This is the BEST month to link up for Currently with Oh' Boy Fourth Grade!

I recently discovered the series Damages. I really like it... except for one thing: The constant shifts in time. There are at least 5 flashbacks per episode, shifting the viewer from what we know, to "pretend you don't already know that" frame of mind. It can be kind of annoying. Otherwise, the acting is great and the story lines leave you in suspense wondering how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. 

I've been getting back into a routine of spinning and TRX this past month, and it feels really good. I took a very long break after the holidays. I don't know what it was... maybe the lack of daylight hours or the general blah feeling that accompanies me through January and February. I slowly started to get back into my fitness routine in March, but finally started going at least 3 times per week this past month. I have so much more energy these days. 

I am SO ready to get this summer started! I'll be traveling for six weeks, mostly visiting my former home, Madrid! I have really missed it this year. It's my first year back in the US after living abroad for many years, and I am really looking forward to being back in Europe. I'll be sure to post pics throughout the summer, so be sure to follow me on bloglovin, instagram and facebook to see some amazing views and get updates from across the pond. 

Now that testing is over and I've finished writing (73!) report card comments, I really want to enjoy the last 7.5 days with my students. I have some fun things planned, and I'm looking forward to keeping things light! Click on the product pics below to see what we'll be having fun with during these last couple of weeks! :)

The day after school is out, I'm flying off to start my summer vacation by visiting my family and friends in Atlanta. I haven't seen my sister for over a year!

Summer Lovin
As I mentioned, I can't wait to catch up with the family! Also, spending a week in Crete, a week in Cyprus, and 4 weeks traveling around Spain is certainly making it difficult to get through these last 2 weeks of school! I can't wait can't wait can't wait!!! And to top it all off, I'll be spending a few days at the Reading Institute at Teachers College in August, right before school starts. I feel very lucky indeed.
What are your summer plans?

Be sure to check out more blogs by clicking on the link below! :)

Naming What We Do

As I reflect on this year of teaching, I've been thinking about the missed opportunities more than anything. It's so hard for me to celebrate the little successes (although I try to do that in front of my students at every opportunity) instead of dwelling on the things I could've done better. I always tend to focus on those things I want to do better, while not giving myself enough (any) credit for the things I do well. I believe I'm good at what I do. It's just that I'm constantly striving (expecting) to be a little better each day.

I've been thinking about all of the opportunities we have as teachers to specifically name what we're doing (as teachers, learners, thinkers) to make that same thinking and learning easier and more meaningful for our students in the present and future. For example, how often do we refer back to one piece of writing and teach something that will make it better? Guess what that's called? Revision! I have an extensive literacy background, and I have no excuse for not using the term "revision" at every appropriate moment, but I don't always use the vocabulary I want students to know and use. And by calling it different things on different days, aren't I just making more work for myself? Aren't I just making the writing process more complex instead of less? Of course, this is just one example, but others abound. Just last week, I heard myself reminding students to use the words and sentences around an unfamiliar word to help them figure out its meaning. I had JUST taught a lesson on context clues the previous day! Why didn't I say, "Use CONTEXT CLUES to help you figure out the meaning of that unknown word."? After all, if we expect students to use academic vocabulary, we have to do it ourselves.

Consistently naming the strategies I use (and therefore want students to use) is definitely something I need to work on. It's an opportunity to help students build academic vocabulary, and helps make our thinking visible.

What are your missed opportunities? I'd love to hear from you!