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


I logged onto 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.


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.


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!



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!



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!



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!




Family, Food, Thoughts

Second Whole30

This Whole30 has been completely different than my last one.

Last time, in March 2015, I don’t remember complaining about it at all, I don’t remember being extra hungry, and I don’t remember having cravings. I talked it up so much to everyone I know, sharing how I was satisfied without all my snacking, how I had lost 9 pounds, and how it was a great reset for my body. Even though I didn’t end up having any HUGE health changes, I basically just confirmed that I don’t have any food intolerances. I didn’t notice a change in energy levels, skin clarity, sleep, or anything else. Going into the Whole30, I didn’t particularly have any issues in any of these areas either. I just thought it would be neat to try it, and I love giving myself challenges.

Fast forward to October 2016. I convince my roommate to do the Whole30 with me, and we start it with no problems at all. Then, the whole slicing my foot open thing happens. My coworkers at school SO generously started a food sign-up sheet where they provided meals for us after my surgery. This was amazingly thoughtful and it was so nice to not have to cook while on my crutches. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to pipe up that I was on the Whole30 and all the food needed to meet those guidelines. I happily thanked everyone for the soups, corned beef, pastas, stuffed peppers, desserts, and more. And that was my first Whole7.

Fast forward once again to March 2017. I started getting the idea in my head that I wanted to do another Whole30, starting on April 1. The main reason this was popping in my head was because I had been snacking a LOT more than normal at the time. It became a joke with my students that I was always eating candy….yeah, I soon realized this wasn’t a great joke and it wasn’t sending a great message to my students either. I figured a Whole30 would be a great reset. Whenever I explained what I was doing to anyone, I would simply explain that I already knew I didn’t have any intolerances, but that I was just doing this as a way to reset my body back to a healthier baseline. I got my sister on board, and I even convinced my mom and dad to try it out, too. Honestly, this has been the BEST part about my Whole30 this time around!! I have always wanted my parents to try the Whole30 as a way to see how their bodies feel without added sugar, gluten, wheat, etc. and to find out if my dad is intolerant to one of these things. He has been having stomach issues for a few years now. I thought there was no way that my dad would ever do a Whole30, but he proved me wrong by being right on board with my mom. My mom was pretty excited to try it out, and she and my sister have been ROCKING it up in PA. They both say that it’s really helpful that they’re doing it together in the same house. They’re all eating the same so they make great meals and enjoy encouraging each other.

Then there’s me..down here in Virginia. This time around, my Whole30 is full of complaining (most of it in my head), cravings, and too much snacking (although at least the snacks are Whole30 compliant). I know that it’s strongly suggested not to snack, and just to eat three big enough meals, but that’s just not really how it’s been working out for me this time around. Of course, I’ve stuck to the Whole30 as I knew I would, even going out in D.C. till 3am one night and then having a Girls Night another night where everyone was drinking drinks that I couldn’t have, eating pizza that I couldn’t have, and eating all kinds of other deliciousness..that I couldn’t have. In all honesty though, those days weren’t even challenging. I knew exactly what I could and couldn’t have and I brought my own snacks. Alicia and I even did a 4-day thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, carrying all Whole30 compliant food! To an outsider looking in, I’ve been kicking this Whole30’s butt. Even my meals throughout this Whole30 have been pretty yummy. There’s been a few super delicious ones, and lots of ones that were just fine. I haven’t been as motivated in the kitchen overall, so I think maybe that’s part of what’s making me feel not as successful. It’s going..fine, but I’m definitely excited for it to be over. This is super different than how I felt last time around. I feel pretty guilty for feeling this way…but also, it’s life. Sometimes you’ll have a good Whole30 and sometimes you won’t haha.

There’s only 5 days to go, and I really am looking forward to eating some yummy things I haven’t eaten in a month!


Two noteworthy additions from this Whole30:

-Whole30 Easter! As a family, we had a Whole30 approved Easter dinner. We were surrounded by donuts and candy at church (and of course in stores leading up to Easter), but we had a great dinner of pork chops, applesauce, and some delicious side dishes.

-My parents have been doing AMAZINGLY with the Whole30. My mom has talked about even continuing it in some capacity forever! She said she feels so much better with this way of eating that it’s worth it. She has been super inspiring to me during these 25 days so far. It’s funny that I was the inspiration for her to start in the first place, but now she has become my inspiration with how well she’s doing with it!


I’ll be excited to share another health update in a few weeks. Half marathon training just started, and I’m motivated to get back to a nice healthy balance with my eating.





Life Update: April 2017

I don’t know where I’ll be next fall, but I know I’ll be somewhere new! I officially checked the “No” box on my letter of intent for next school year. Most people think I’m crazy to close this door before another one opens, but I just KNOW it’s my time to move on. I love everything about my area and my job, and honestly could see myself staying here forever. That’s exactly the problem though – with nothing to kick my butt in gear, I could easily just stay here. And as much as I do love it, I have always wanted to travel the world.

Right now, with nothing to tie me down, I figure I better take advantage of this freedom and travel. Of course, I’ll miss my friends here and I’ll miss being only 2 hours from my family. I’ll miss the school I’ve worked at for the past three years and the community I’ve become a part of. I’ll miss getting to have past students stop in to say hi and I’ll miss living in Northern Virginia. I’ll miss my proximity to D.C. and all the fun times my friends will keep having here. BUT. Life is a collection of missed and taken experiences. There’s nothing I’d rather do right now than attempt to create my next adventure, and to see what kind of experiences I can fill this next phase of my life with.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just like posts better when they have pictures…and this was the only picture saved on my here you go.