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Relaxed

Last Friday, I did a rare thing and met my friend, Cinda, for coffee.

It all started when I posted something on Facebook, and she commented and said that we needed to get together.

Cinda is absolutely precious to me.  I’ve mentioned her many, many times over the last eight years.  She started out as my teaching mentor, and a friendship grew.  She’s simply amazing.  Anyone who knows her loves her.

She also happens to be super busy, both with work and family, so the opportunity to sit with her for a spell greatly appealed to me.

I suggested Starbucks, but she had another idea – a local coffee shop in the heart of Podunk, USA.  The actual town that I live in is rather small, although it does have several traffic lights, which is more than what I had growing up.

I’d never heard of the place, so I looked it up beforehand to see what they offered besides coffee because, y’all, I’ve never grown up.  I just cannot stomach the smell or taste of it.

They had teas on their menu and something called a shrub.  A bit of research told me that a shrub is a fruit concoction that’s made by letting fruit sit in vinegar overnight.  It’s often served with club soda and, perhaps, a simple syrup.

Well, I was down for that.

I was a bit surprised by how adorable this little place was.

There were large picture windows when you walked in and a lovely area of seating.  The guy who helped us (I think it was the owner) was extremely kind and patiently explained what he used to make the shrub.  I’m very particular about sweeteners and such – nothing artificial for me!

He only had one shrub available that day – strawberry – so I ordered that.  Cinda treated me (thanks, Friend!).  She got the Almond Joy coffee, if I remember correctly.

Man, but I was really wishing I liked coffee!

Now, I’m used to places serving up drinks in disposable cups.  Not here, though.  We got real mugs for our drinks.

This redneck girl was feeling a little high class, even if I was wearing flowered shorts and a pink shirt that said “Life is good.”

Ahem.

We sat down to catch up, and y’all, I was in heaven.

That strawberry shrub was exactly what you’d picture having at the end of a summer day.  It was fresh, sweet, and light.  Oh my word – so divine!

I loved hearing what my friend had been up to and her plans for the fall.  She’s so inspiring – the way she gives of herself without reservation.  She’s a people magnet, genuine to the core.  She once spent six weeks in my classroom teaching a unit that she videoed for her national CRISS certification.  Watching her bond with my students and creating lesson plans with her taught me how to be a better educator.  I want to be a better person when I’m around her.

She asked about my family, and I brought her up to speed.

We changed topics about as many times as I change shoes on any given work morning – a lot.  We couldn’t help ourselves.

Squirrel.

Ha!

At one point in our conversation, she said, “You look the most relaxed I’ve ever seen you.” (or something to this effect)

We had just been talking about teaching and the stress involved with it.  You might remember the ungodly hours I put in my first three or four years in this profession.  It was ridiculous how hard I worked.

I don’t remember wearing a face that reflected any type of relaxation in those early years.

I laughingly told her that what she was seeing was the face of a teacher in the middle of summer break.

It always takes me a week or two to come down off of the high of the school year – to sleep off the fatigue that envelopes me ten months of the year.  Say what you will about teachers having Christmas and Spring breaks off.  That time off does little to replenish a tired teacher.

With the summer break, I am able to indulge in a bit of self care.  For me, that’s involves a lot of naps, daily workouts when I want, not when my schedule dictates, and page-turning afternoons while sitting poolside (or rather in the pool).

Hello, bicep.  Thanks for finally making an appearance.

We have less than a month until we report back for duty.  It’s always hard to go back because the workload is incredibly heavy and the stress factor is intense.

The secret, as I told Cinda last Friday, is balance.  It took me years and years to find balance in my life.  Now, I prioritize better and leave as much as I can at work.

So, with just a few weeks left of summer, I’m doing my best to not think ahead . . . too much, that is.

I’m taking all of the naps without any apologies (don’t call or text between 4 and 5pm unless you are in my brood).

I’m also going to visit that coffee shop to taste more of their shrubs.

It’s Officially Summer!

It’s been a minute, or two or three, since my last post on June 1.

What can I say except that I’ve been in recovery mode.  Teaching is seriously tiring business, y’all.

I’m going to do my best to play catch up, but it’s going to take me about a week and a half of posts to do that.

Ahem.

The last week of school, I’d worked hard to prepare my classroom for the break.  My principal has always been extremely gracious and allowed us to cut out of there when our checklists are done.

When I got to my room on the 4th (Monday), all I had to do was put a few things in my car.  Unfortunately, I’d left my car keys in my classroom and had to walk all the way across campus to retrieve them.  I decided to leave my chair beside my car.  It’s a really comfortable chair that I was afraid would get “borrowed” by someone else, so it needed to go home with me.

We had a quick faculty meeting for some parting words from our principal.  I didn’t eat the cake, but it was a lovely gesture.

Afterwards, I went back to my room for one last walk-through.

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Then, it was time to lock the door, turn in my keys, and hightail it out of there.

My face as I got into my car says everything.

I ran home, worked out, and then ran back out to meet a few teachers for lunch . . . the sit down kind where you don’t have to inhale your food.  We went to a new-to-me Thai restaurant.  Tofu Masaman is my jam, y’all.

Then, I headed home and spent time at the pool . . . something I’d been looking forward to for weeks.

I had already decided that I wasn’t going to be a slug and sleep in too late each day.  I’m desperate to maintain my schedule of walking early, before the heat and humidity make it impossible.

Gambit was a little confused when I got back, sat in my chair, and didn’t get up to shower and dress for work.

It didn’t take him too long to adjust, though, and I persisted with my routine.

I love seeing little critters like the one above while I’m out and about.

I packed in a few things the first week of vacation.  Lunch with Jane, the friend I made my first year of teaching, was a priority.

I love her.  So very much.

Check out this sunrise from the 7th . . .

I’m still doing the 80 Day Obsession Beach Body program.  I have been working out after my walks.  Doing things this way (as opposed to doing my workouts in the afternoons, which work forces me to do) has allowed me to have fun the rest of the day.

A must that first week was a trip to the beach with a good friend.

It had been raining every day, so the sunny sky was a treat!

I was a little drained when I got home, as the sun and sand are prone to do, but I got up early and put in my miles the next morning.

I also spent a few hours back at the pool.

It was blissfully quiet – a rare thing that week as all of the kids had been enjoying their free time out there.

Of course, they showed up a couple of hours later.

The first weekend of my break found me here . . . dealing with my front yard, which had been neglected.

But first, my pre-dawn walk . . .

Then, the yard . . .

I’d been walking past that sight during my walks each day and had been despising the eye sore that was my house.  Ugh.

I had not edged in months (sorry, neighbors); I had a hard time finding the edge of the sidewalk.  The grass was so thick that it took several passes with the edger to cut through the overgrown outcroppings.

Sweeping that up was a bear.  I burned MAJOR calories.

Look at all of those clippings!!!

It was worth the effort.  I think my neighbors might start speaking to me again.  😀

I definitely earned my pool time reward.

Thus ended the first week of my break.  To be sure, I did some grocery shopping and cooked. I think I recall doing other housework, but I didn’t take pictures of that stuff.

I tried to pace myself better than I have in the past, when I’ve jumped in and done way too much those first few days and worn myself out.

Can we say yay to summer and self-care?!

Weekend of Fun

My first weekend of summer break was a blast!  I’m sure you understand how relaxing it is when you know that you have more than two days off in a row.

I spent about four hours at my neighborhood pool on Friday.  Talking to my sweet friend, Megan, who lives in the subdivision across the street (which shares my neighborhood pool) was a rare treat.  We teach at the same school, in the same department, but we rarely have time to chill together.  She taught me something new:  how to read while sitting in the pool.  Novel idea, eh?  I read a lot poolside as well!

I managed to finish the book later that evening.  I’ve got to say that this is one of my students’ favorite authors.  This book, in particular, ranks as her top three on my scale of favorites.

Friday night, I queued up the movie “Before I Fall” on Amazon Prime.  I’d just finished reading the book, which had hooked me from the opening chapter.

The movie pretty much stuck with the book.  It was your typical teenage movie . . . not bad.  Sad, though.

I turned off my alarm and slept in on Saturday.  It was my rest day from my workout program.  Just as I was getting up, M texted me to see if I wanted to go to the store with her.  I had different plans in mind and invited her over.  You see, it was the day I had set aside to do the “We Run Free Because of the Brave 4-Miler,” a virtual race hosted by Gone for a Run.

M went with me on my walk, and we had a lot of fun chatting.  Four miles seemed to fly by . . . except for the humidity and my sore ankle.  We were wiped out when we finished.

Check out my tank top.  It’s one of my favorite race shirts; the medium fit perfectly!  Sizing is sometimes tricky with these race shirts.

I was loving the calorie burn too!

After M left, I got cleaned up, and the Mr. and I went to see the movie, The Mummy.

I liked it, although the story line was a bit confusing at first.

Before the movie started, I saw promos for the USA show, Queen of the South.  It seemed like something I might like, so I looked for it on Netflix when we got home.

It tells the story of a female drug cartel leader.  I watched four episodes that night.  I finished with Season 1 and the first episode of Season 2 (this episode was On Demand) on Sunday.  It was that good.

Sunday wound up being a chill day.  The Mr. and I attended church.  There weren’t a lot of people there.  We suspect that the reason was because the bottom dropped out of the sky shortly before the service began.  The rain put the kibosh on my hopes for going to the pool . . .

Plan B:  Knitting while I watched TV on Sunday.  It wound up being a great day of rest!

I managed to get in a bit of baking (if you’d call it that).  Here’s a picture of the Peanut Butter and Honey Chewy Granola Bars I made.  The recipe can be found here.  They are chock full of peanut butter flavor and are simply divine!

Yeah, I can’t complain at all.  Summer break has started off well.  I’m getting much-needed rest and am still being productive in the process.

Monday

Because I’m trying really hard not to fall off the blogging train, I’m going to post something quick before the clock strikes midnight.

Today was a good day.

I had plans.

For an introverted teacher who spends ten months surrounded by lots and lots of people and two months shut away from the world, this is huge.

I got up early…for a summer day…and did my workout.

I started my second round of Hammer and Chisel last week.  I really need to blog about round 1.  I’ll get to that as soon as the Mr. takes my measurements.

Anyhoo, this morning, I added in an ab workout that’s not part of this program but one that I saw that Beachbody had tweeted out about.

Y’all…the first move.  Oh my golly.  It was brutal.  The bug move was fun, and the last move…totally had me smiling, in an ab torture kind of way.

Then, I jumped in the shower and got ready to head out.

I was on my way to meet a new-to-my-school reading teacher.  Along the way, I stopped at Fresh Market to hunt for brown rice syrup, an ingredient I need for a recipe I want to try.  I didn’t find it, so I moseyed on over to Ulta and catered to my inner diva with the purchase of a few bottles of nail polish.

Ahem.

Then, I met my now-new friend, J, at one of my favorite places to eat.

I asked for a certain seat, and here was my view…

Go ahead and be jealous.

J is just adorable, and I quickly took a liking to her.  We are going to have a lot of fun this year, and I know I’m going to learn a lot from her.

After we finished, I met her at our school and walked her around.  She got to see her new classroom, which she ogled over, and I gave her the low-down on teacher attire (no uniform for us!) and other things.  Then, we parted ways with her hugging me before she left!  Total sweetheart.  I can say this because I’m almost twice her age.  😛

I ran a few other errands, met up with Rooster’s girl, who came to the house to get some paperwork and then run more errands with me, and finished out my day with a bit of Food Network Star on the DVR and my current book, The Testing.

I am loving my lazy summer days.  They make up for the harried pace I run the rest of the year.

Summer Fun

Oy vey, but my blog stats really stink!  I am enjoying summer a little too much, if that’s possible.  I have so much to write about too.

One of these days I’ll get caught up.

For now, let’s begin with a brief post about some fun I’ve been having.

First of all, my brain is working again.  That’s probably because I’m actually sleeping more than eight hours each night.  My alarm clock is feeling neglected.

I’ve maintained my workout routine, albeit I’m not exercising at the butt crack of dawn.  I am completely in love with Beachbody.  For someone who was a skeptic for a couple of years and actually avoided conversations about it, I am hooked.  The structure has been good for me because I am a person who craves organization.  As a teacher, I’m burned out on keeping others organized, so the workout schedules that come with the programs remove the planning and thinking.  All I have to do is show up in front of my TV with a good attitude.

Something fun I’m doing right now is working out, virtually, with my friend, Rebecca.  She’s a way better blogger than I am…blogs real regularly and everything.  I really need to follow her example.

She and I decided to do Hammer and Chisel together.  I was ahead of her by a couple of days because she changed her rest day, but then I got behind her a few days when I went out of town for almost a week.  We post near-daily pictures on Instagram and even have a clever hashtag #chiseledknitters (because we are aiming to get chiseled, and we are both knitters).  Go ahead and marvel at our smartness.

We’ve decided to do a second round of Hammer and Chisel when we finish this one and then move into a new program together.  Today, I started Week 7.  There are eight weeks total.  I love, love, love this program because I’m lifting weights again.  The payoff has been amazing!!!

I bought a heart rate monitor to go with my Garmin Vivoactive fitness watch.  The strap goes around my chest and helps me monitor the number of calories I’m burning during non-running exercises (something I couldn’t do before).

Ignore the yard in the next collage. That’s a story for another day.

Another fun thing I got to do was eat lunch with my sweet friend, Jane.

I met her six years ago when I started teaching.  We were first-year teachers together at a small private school.  I’ve talked about her before.  She’s my friend and mama-figure all in one.  Our lunches stretch for hours…usually into dinner time…because we always have a lot to catch up on.  She retired at the end of the school year and moved to another part of the state for the summer.  I already miss her terribly.  Despite the age difference (only a year or two), we have so many things in common.

Of course, summer just wouldn’t be summer without cooking.  Now that I have time to look at recipes and grocery shop, I’m having fun trying new things.

Rooster’s girl’s father gave me three cookbooks.  This one has quickly become my favorite…

I’ve only had one recipe not turn out that great (taste-wise, it wasn’t my preference…not that it was bad or anything).  The recipes are extremely easy to make and only require a short list of ingredients.

This afternoon, I made the Creamy Mushroom Tomato Soup.  Oh my goodness…it was so easy!  It’s got a fresh flavor (I roasted the tomatoes myself), and each serving doesn’t have a lot of calories.

I’ve also been prowling for dessert recipes.  The Mr. likes having something sweet to munch on.  I hope he likes this Cracker Candy I quickly whipped up today after watching a video that’s been making the rounds on Facebook.

It is seriously the easiest recipe ever!  You wind up freezing it and then breaking it into pieces.  The center has something akin to caramel (it’s melted butter and brown sugar).  I veganized the recipe, of course.  I envision breaking up candy canes and sprinkling them over the top during the holidays.  Yum!

On Sunday, I made this No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie, from Detoxinista.  Surprisingly, it’s not overly sweet, but it is addictive once you have a slice…or two…or three.

So, that’s just a small glimpse into what I’ve been up to.  It certainly isn’t everything, but maybe, if I feel up to it, I’ll post more sooner rather than later.

I do want to share about the big trip to Texas that I made three weeks ago.  That will actually have to be a series of posts because the awesomeness of it is just too much for one reading.

Summer’s Waning Days

My summer vacation is ebbing away.

As always, this transitional time is difficult for me.

I’m caught between two worlds…my precious home life and a demanding work schedule.

It is around the beginning of August that my dining room table begins to look like this…

…caught in the cross hairs of my personal hobbies and work paraphernalia.

It’s not pretty, let me tell you.  You don’t even want to see my car right now.  I can’t take anything to my classroom because my floors are being waxed.  I’m not sure that I really want to go in yet, truth be told.  That would be like the clock striking midnight, and I’m still dancing with my prince, aptly named  Summer Vacation.

Even though I have an endless list of things to do before I step inside my classroom, I’m choosing to focus more of my last free moments doing what I love…

Eating lunch with friends…

On my way to meet Ms. L, Rooster’s former 9th and 10th grade English teacher…a fellow professional whom I adore.

The day after meeting Ms. L, I met Jane, my first teaching buddy. Four hours with this lady over lunch, and it wasn’t near enough time to say all that was on our hearts. I love her so much.

Squeezing in as many morning workouts as possible…

Knitting nearly every night…until my eyes can barely stay open…

Early Morning Rain Shawl

I’m mastering the art of knitting with beads!!!

Summer’s waning days…they always make me just a little sad and wistful.  I remain, however, grateful for the fun memories recently created and the time of rest.

Summer Requiem

Oh Summer, where did you go?  It seems like only yesterday when you arrived on my doorstep.

I greeted you with open arms and the ginormous enthusiasm that only teachers can properly express.

We spent many lovely days together…

“Oh, Vaughn…let’s go live happily ever after now that we’ve saved the world.”

Yes, I realize that most of my photos reveal that I spent our days together in my PJs, but you never seemed to mind.

Now you’ve decided to up and leave me and will rudely push me out the door at o’dark thirty…

Gee…thanks a lot.  I thought I meant more to you than that, but alas, ours was a temporary fling.

Now, my days must consist of plotting to make young minds smart enough to take over the world with their intellectual prowess…

I only ask one thing of you.

Please return quickly.  I’ll be eagerly awaiting your appearance and will be plotting more adventures for us.

Until then, I’ll relive our fun through my memories.

Love,

AuburnChick

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