Five For Friday: Back to School Edition!

Another school year has begun! And somehow I managed to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the weekly linky... It has been a great week!

Preparing four classrooms is extremely time consuming. Luckily, I was able to use my Back to School resource that I created two summers ago so that I could focus on the other million little details of getting ready for my students. One favorite activity from the pack is the talking monsters. Some of the dialogue that students created was pretty hilarious!

Click on the product pic for more details!

There's something so therapeutic about visiting the book store before the school year begins. I found several great ones to add to my collection, and I used these two for the first day. I LOVE Scaredy Squirrel, and the students BEG me to read the other books throughout the year. A few years ago my 4th graders took it upon themselves to begin an adventure journal with Scaredy as the main character, and they took turns adding stories to it throughout the year. It was adorable. They even threw him a birthday party at some point! You just never know how much a single book might change a kid's life.

I seriously don't know what I would do without my part-time teaching assistant, especially at the beginning of the school year. She spent countless hours helping me label and organize my four classrooms. I would be sleeping at school without her. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

I know I'm the last woman in the world to discover Gossip Girl, but I did about 6 months ago. It's so addictive... Not to mention a great distraction from work stress. ;)

This week I discovered a morning treat that allows me to hold onto the summer for just a little. Bit. Longer. Check out these strawberry lemonade smoothies! They are SO delicious (and easy to make).

I'm curious, what are your guilty Netflix pleasures? (I'm looking for suggestions. ;))
Happy weekend!

Why Le Tote is Better Than Stitch Fix

Last year I discovered Stitch Fix (along with thousands of other teachers!) and in the beginning I thought it could be a great way to try some new styles I wouldn't normally attempt. I subscribed to the service and received five "fixes" over the course of many months before calling it quits. Overall, it's a great idea. But the frustrations seem to far outweigh the benefits. No matter how many times I told my Stitch Fix stylist the kinds of clothes I wanted to receive, it never really happened.

I tried creating a Pinterest board to show her what I liked, but nothing resembling that style would appear in my next shipment.

I would specifically tell her what not to send ("No neon patterns, please!"), but somehow that's exactly what I would receive the next time.

Eventually, I gave up and cancelled my subscription. That's when I stumbled upon Le Tote. It makes so much more sense to create an online closet with clothes they will actually send you! As in, you choose what you want to receive! Then you get to keep the clothes--and WEAR them!--for as long as you'd like before sending back whatever you don't want to purchase. Which means you could wear something new almost every day if you wanted to! How great is that?

Here's a handy dandy comparison sheet:

What do you think? Have you had success with Stitch Fix? Have you tried Le Tote?
If you're interested, please feel free to use this code on the Le Tote website to get started! :)

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

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 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?