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ALREADY?!!!!

IT’S MY LAST DAY IN SPAIN!!!! Time flew by, just like I knew it would. I have loved every second of my time here!!!! I’m going to send some postcards and then enjoy my afternoon hanging with my family here. Cheers to 20 hours of travel tomorrow!

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Spanish!!! – My First Writing

I’ve been taking Spanish lessons for about two months now. Learning a new language is hard work, but I love it so much! My last assignment was to practice past tense by writing about my recent travels. Here is my story below! I had so much fun writing it and am pretty proud of it! My teacher and I corrected some small errors together and those mainly had to do with prepositions, which was also exciting! I can’t wait to keep getting better! 

 

Este mes pasado, he viajado a tres ciudades diferentes. Mientras estoy en España, he querido viajar un poco porque estoy cerca de mucho sitios que nunca había ido. Disfruté mi tiempo en la ciudad pequeña de Alcalá de Henares, y viajé a unas ciudades grandes también.

Primero, visité Barcelona. Solo fui por dos días, pero hice muchas cosas! Volé de Madrid a Barcelona la mañana del sábado. En mi opinión, fue una idea buena porque tuve mas tiempo para explorar. En un coche, habría tomado seis horas, pero en avión, tomó uno y media horas. En Barcelona, caminé a la playa primero. Yo ví Las Ramblas y la Marcet de la Boqueria en camino. El mercado estaba lleno de gente, pero las calles estaban vacías en la mañana. El tiempo estaba hermoso! En la tarde, ví la Sagrada Familia. Fue increíble! Después de eso, fui al tour de caminar por tres horas. Aprendí mucho! A las ocho, fui a mi hostel. Tomé una siesta antes de ir abajo a la cocina para la cena. En la cena, conocí a dos chicas de Escocia. Jugamos unos juegos hasta que salimos a los bares. Fue divertido, sin embargo, no me sentí bien al día siguiente. ¡Ups! Después de dormir en un banco la mañana del domingo, caminé al Parque Güell antes de volver al aeropuerto. Me encantó Barcelona!

El fin de semana siguiente, me embarqué en un tren a Lisboa. Estaba entusiasmada con ir a un país nuevo! El tren salió a las diez de la noche de viernes. Dormí durante el viaje a Lisboa – por las diez horas! Cuando el tren llegó, caminé diez kilómetros de la estación al centro de la ciudad. No tomé el metro porque la tarjeta de transportes público que me compré estaba en el centro de la ciudad. No quise gastar más! Finalmente, yo empecé a explorar. Mis dos partes favoritas fueron conocer amigos nuevos y ser la única persona en el elevador y en el arco. Me desperté temprano el domingo entonces pude ver todas las cosas de mi lista. Después, visité un castillo en Sintra con mi amigo y cogí un tren otra vez. Llegué a Alcalá de Henares en la mañana de lunes. Estaba muy cansada, pero muy contenta.              

Por último, pasé el fin de semana pasado en Madrid. Aunque vivo muy cerca de Madrid, aún no lo había visitado. Un amigo mio de los Estados Unidos estaba visitandome, entonces fuimos juntos a Madrid. Mis amigos que viven en Madrid me dieron muchas recomendaciones de cosas para ver. En sábado, vimos la catedral y el palacio. Miramos la puesta de sol desde una azotea. A/por la noche, fuimos a bailar con nuestros amigos nuevos de nuestro hostel. No nos acostamos hasta las ocho de la mañana! Después dormimos por dos horas, fuimos al museo del Prado. Almorzamos en la plaza mayor. Comí arroz negro y mi amigo comió paella de carne. Volvimos a Alcalá de Henares con el tiempo para ver la puesta de sol desde mi montaña favorita. Después de la cena, nos acostamos porque estábamos muy cansado.

He tenido un tiempo increíble en España. Estoy feliz de viajar a sitios nuevos. No puedo esperar para volver a Europa y continuar explorando.

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Travel

How I Got to Spain (Figuratively and Literally) – AuPairWorld.com Review

Last winter/spring, I made the decision to not sign my contract for the following year. I have LOVED everything about my teaching job for the past three years, but it was time to move on to my next life adventures and go traveling! While I knew I would be doing SOMETHING different this year, I took a longggg time to decide what that “something” would be. I had so many different ideas and options. I considered flipping houses, teaching abroad, finding an online job and just traveling, getting a van and driving around the country…you see how undecided I was haha. After letting months go by, and letting everyone around me get super stressed about the fact that I had no idea what I was doing come August, I finally made my decision.

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I logged onto aupairworld.com and created a free account. (Because I had such a good experience using the site, I wanted to share some details about it in case others were wondering about the process.) Creating an account is super easy. I would definitely recommend adding a lot of pictures, because that helps people get to know you better and see what your interests are. I tried to add a picture that matched up with each interest I listed in my profile. Many people commented on my pictures when they reached out to me, so I think doing that was a good idea. You can narrow down your search results to find families in the area you would like to live. I started out by reaching out to some families on that first day of making my account, and that worked fine, but I was quickly inundated with tons of messages from families who had found my account, so either way works fine. The site itself is easy to use. I was a bit skeptical because the site doesn’t do much other than let you see families and let them see you, which really, is all you need. But some people thought it provided assistance in helping you get to your country or added security measures or something, but really there was none of that. While it might be alarming to some people to fly across the world and move in with a random family from the internet, I really had no concerns haha. After emailing back and forth with a few families, I ended up skyping with two of them. They were both great, but I made a choice based on which family felt like the best fit for me. Over the next few weeks, we emailed back and forth about logistics. I ended up deciding to only stay for 90 days so that I wouldn’t need to worry about getting a visa. Like I said, this was a slightly last minute decision and I really just wanted to make everything as simple/smooth as possible. Even so, my host family and I had to do some paperwork for me to get there. I needed to get travel insurance and my flight details, and my host family needed to get me an invitation letter from the local police department, an au pair contract (this would cover the finances part of the 90 day ‘visa’ requirements), and a letter showing that I would be taking Spanish classes during my time there. Technically, with a different family this may have been my responsibility to find Spanish classes, but in my case my host mom teaches lessons, so she enrolled me in her class and sent me the paperwork.

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Soon, it was time to get on the plane! I had my new birkenstocks on, my new stainless steel water bottle in hand, and my new purse swung across my body. Hey, maybe not everybody feels best when they have the appropriate accessories, but I certainly do. Although I will say I packed much better this time around than I did for Australia a few years ago. I remember my dad saying how I had overpacked by sooo much back then, while I explained that I needed 4 pairs of different colored pairs of jeans because having them all would make my trip that much better. While I don’t necessarily disagree with myself, and I don’t regret bringing all those pants…I did WAY overpack back then haha. This time I think I did an amazing job! And I also knew that I could buy anything I needed here in Spain, so I wasn’t worried about forgetting anything. My flights and layover were all perfectly uneventful (although very long), and the highlight of my trip was the dinner and then breakfast we got on my international flight. Although I did almost sleep through both of them because my dramamine pills really do their job well. Upon deplaning in Spain, I was nervous to get to immigration because I worried that I would be missing something I needed. When I did get there though, I walked up to the counter with my passport and all my paperwork, the agent opened my passport and then handed it back to me and sent me on my way. He literally did not say one word to me and did not look at my paperwork or anything haha! After I had been worrying that something wouldn’t check out with all the paperwork we had spent time working on, no one even looked at it. Obviously you should still have it all just in case, but definitely don’t worry too much haha.

Before I left, people had been asking if I confirmed that someone was picking me up at the airport, but I was like eh it’ll be fine. And it was! Haha. I could have gotten a taxi/public transportation if needed, but as soon as I walked out of the arrivals gate, my host dad ran up to me, kissed me on both cheeks, and brought me right out to the car. It was just him and I for the first few days since they were just moving to the area, and it was a great low-key way to sleep off my jet lag and get used to the area.

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Since then, everyday life here has just been flying by! I am loving every second.

Overall, my experience using aupairworld was perfect. I honestly could not have chosen a better family and I am so thankful every day that I just decided to sign up and get going to be an au pair. Obviously, trust your instincts and be smart about the process, but I highly recommend being an au pair as a way to see a new country. In most situations, you’re provided with food, accommodation, and pocket money. In return, you provide childcare and speak with the child/children to help them learn English. In my experience, you really just become a part of the family. I help out around the house the same way I would with my own family, and I enjoy cooking dinner for my host family, too. You have the chance to learn the native language of the country you are in, while also being immersed in the culture and daily life of living in that country. I can’t say enough good things about being an au pair, and about the amazing experience it has given me to live in another country!

 

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It’s official…

…I’m a crazy dog mom! I never thought this would happen to me. And while some people might say I’ve been one for a while, I can officially recognize myself as one now. I am so obsessed with my little guy lately! His four-year-old self is just too cute. His off-leash behavior, his on-leash behavior, his relaxed personality (whenever he’s with me!), his up-for-anything attitude, his eagerness to please – it’s just all adorable.

We hiked yesterday and I let him off his leash for a while. He walked ahead calmly, staying on the trail and looking back every once in a while to make sure I was back there – I couldn’t stop smiling!

Here’s a list of the commands/words he knows up to this point: sit, stay, lay down, off, leave it, walk, eat, leash, wait, okay, place, shake, other paw, crouch, twirl, roll over, through, come, heel, and fix it. I can’t think of any more at the moment, but he’s SO good at learning new tricks. He can learn a new command in just a few minutes! It’s really funny when we practice all of them though, because as soon as he sees the training treats, he starts crazily doing all his tricks. It’s hilarious, but kind of sad because I don’t give him anything unless he does it after I say it. So he’ll run over and place beside me, lay down and roll over, get up and twirl, then do a crazy jump, come back and place beside me and then look up at me with the most proud expression on his face, all without me saying a word! I have to hold back my laughter and calmly give him a command so that he can follow it and get his treat!

 

Teaching

VIP Students

I often find that the most useful and engaging activities in my classroom are also the most simple!

A few days ago, I saw a great idea on Instagram from Brittney Briggs aka Miss5th. She does an end of the year countdown with balloons. Each student’s name is inside a balloon, and the day that the balloon is popped, that student is the VIP. I absolutely LOVED this idea (as with all of her ideas!! – go check her out!), and I hinted at it last Thursday when talking to my students. Of course, as all my inspirations and fun ideas do, it got railroaded by the 75 other things I was trying to do. Then, Friday rolls around and I still don’t have balloons. No problem – I just tell my students we’re starting fresh on Monday with our VIP student countdown. Monday morning rolls around and…you guessed it, I frantically realize right before my students arrive that I STILL don’t have balloons! As much as I love doing fun ideas like this, it can also be overwhelming and lead to disappointment when it doesn’t turn out as beautifully as what I envisioned. But never fear – I am the queen of backup plans and making boring things seem fun. 🙂

I had an extra bag of about 10 Tootsie Pops and I had some white labels. Five minutes later, I had student names wrapped around the Tootsie Pop sticks. Of course, with only 10 pops, I had to write “Buy more lollipops!” on my shopping list and then I had to hide the list of names that weren’t on lollipops yet. (Don’t worry – I stopped after school today and got the rest of the lollipops!) Delicately dropping the Tootsie Pops into the beautifully created hand-woven basket that I made just for this occasion (okay fine, I dropped them unceremoniously into a brown paper lunch bag that I haphazardly wrote “Summer Countdown! on), I was ready for the kids to get back from specials and for the first VIP student to be drawn.

When they got back to the room, I excitedly shared what would be happening. Each day, a new VIP would be chosen. This VIP would get three privileges. 1. Sitting in my inflatable hammock for the day, 2. Sitting in the wheeled teacher chair, and 3. Deciding when we do RTS time that day. You should have heard the excitement in the room! They were SO excited about the fact that they could choose ANY time of day to be our “Read to Self” time. They asked, “Wait, can we really do it in the middle of math??” I explained that I have 15 minutes set aside each day for RTS anyway, so wherever they choose to have it, we can just adjust everything accordingly. There’s nothing I need to do to prepare for this at all, and the kids are loving it!

I almost feel like I’m tricking them when they share my excitement for small things like this, but then I remember that I’m really helping them have a happier future by learning to enjoy the little things. 🙂

Food, From my drafts...

Draft from 3 years ago: Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge: Review of Week 1

I’ve decided to clean out  my Drafts folder and post them here! Here’s the first one – a Buzzfeed Eating Challenge..from 3 years ago! Haha!

 

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After stumbling upon the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge online two weeks ago, I decided to give it a try last week. Before doing so, I read a few things online about it and found some mixed reviews. Some people were saying that the small calorie counts each day (ranging from 1,300-1,600 calories) were way too low, others were saying they were annoyed with the buzzwords “clean eating” and didn’t think it was fair for this to be called a clean eating challenge (more thoughts about that specific topic here), while still others were saying it was a good way to try new recipes and think about what you are eating. I’m fully in this last category – I was before I started and that’s where I still stand. However, I think the fact that I’m not the kind of person to just blindly follow something without using my own judgement helps here. I used the challenge meals more as a guideline than a strict rulebook. This may have something to do with the fact that I also started Insanity that same week, but either way, I decided to follow the meal plan while supplementing it with a protein bar or a handful of blueberries here or there if I felt hungry.

The biggest thing I’ve loved about this challenge has been eating 5 meals a day and sticking to that (99% of the time). As I’ve listened to my body this week, I’ve come to see that this is a really natural and intuitive way to eat. Before this, I would have 3 meals a day with lots of snacking in between. Without putting a name or real importance on the ‘snacking,’ it was free to become much more than it should. I had even gotten into a terrible habit of eating my dinner and then going to the pantry…to look for my second dinner? I don’t know why, but I had taught myself that I needed more snacks right after dinner, and this was certainly not the case.

A few takeaways from my first week:

-I was so surprised that I didn’t have real cravings or feelings of hunger very often (again, the only time I added something was after doing Insanity – and I only added something if I wasn’t already eating a snack or meal soon after)

-It was so much fun to try new recipes. This week, I learned that I LOVE roasted cauliflower and that I DO NOT LIKE fennel (raw or roasted haha, I really did give it a chance all days it called for it) or lentils. I also don’t love overnight oats, but I’m still willing to experiment with some different recipes.

-I thought I would most miss my ‘dessert’ after dinner (I had been having a blended banana with chocolate chips, or yogurt with chocolate chips every night before bed for a while), and while this plan does give you a night snack after dinner, it isn’t always my idea of a dessert. One night it was 2 pitted dates stuffed with an almond each…and while I can’t say that this was my favorite meal from the plan, I never ate anything additionally at night, which I thought would be my hardest time sticking to the plan. After dinner, I was always able to feel satisfied and know that in a few hours, I would eat a small snack and then be done for the night. This is probably my favorite thing I’ve taken away from this challenge so far!

-Meal prepping is fun! I really like having my meals planned out for the week! Even sometimes when I’m not in the mood for a certain thing, I still eat it and I find myself satisfied. It’s pretty fun to be excited for my “cheat meal” in two weeks as well (I’m thinking a cheeseburger and fries from this delicious restaurant downtown). A side note about cheat meals – I think this might work for me, eating well all week and saving my cravings for Saturday night. While I also like the idea of having a little bit of real dessert each day, I don’t always have the best self-control to keep it at that. With a seemingly more strict idea of having that one great cheat meal each week, I think I might get a better balance!

-All in all, I’ve loved the challenge so far and am looking forward to week 2. I’m also excited to take my favorite recipes and make my own 1-week clean eating plan when this is done for the following week!