Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, friends! Join me as I link up with some of my favorite bloggers, Erika, Narci, and Andrea!

This week, I did a lot of things that are out of my comfort zone to appease my kids. Working on becoming a sometimes yes mom! Don't worry, none of the upcoming recipe shares will include nightcrawlers! 

I just love when Andrea over at Momfessionals posts her party pics and decorating ideas! Her back to school set-ups have always been a favorite of mine- check them out in her post here!

I'm loving a new blog that I discovered, Her Dailey Style! She has super cute work outfit inspirations!

Though the pool lounging days are now limited, this St. Ives Renew & Purify scrub is one of my favorites for helping to scrub off the day's sunscreen.

We got to visit one of our favorite restaurants while we were traveling this week, Steak 'n Shake! And good news to my locals, the manager said our neighborhood location is set to re-open this year after some franchise owner issues! Hurrah!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, friends! See you back here on Monday!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Try It Thursday: Mint Chocolate Balls

Hi friends! I've spent the past few weeks trying to be a bit more conscientious in my eating habits, and it's definitely paid off. That being said, chocolate will always be my weakness. Trip and I both love mint chocolate anything, so when I found Robust Recipe's Chocolate Mint Energy Balls, I knew we had to try them. These are great to have as an afternoon pick me up or on the side of your breakfast.

The recipe will make about 2 dozen tablespoon size treats.

Here's what you're going to need: 
1/2 cup ground flax seed
2/3 cup shredded coconut (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup oats (I like using quick oats for this recipe)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1/3 cup honey 
1/2 cup almond butter

* Toss all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together. I start out with forks but sometimes get in there with my hands to make sure everything is coated.
* With these measurements, I find that the mix is a little dry. Feel free to add in extra almond butter and/or honey. Emily at Robust Recipes says you can use whatever nut butter you like, so that may change the consistency of your mix.
* Put the mix in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let everything chill and settle.
* After 30 minutes, I use a tablespoon to help me start forming the balls.
* Store the treats in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Emily says these can be frozen for 3 months as well.
* The past few times that I've made these, I have a little extra of the dry ingredients left in the bowl. I store it in a small container and then use it to top my overnight oats at breakfast- delish!
* Enjoy!

Let me know how you like these! See you back here tomorrow for Friday Favorites!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Up Wednesday

I'm linking up for the last Wednesday of the month with 3 of my favorite bloggers, Mel, Shay, and Sheaffer! You should join us!

What we're eating this week...
We tried out a new beef recipe- beef skewers with chimichurri sauce. They were delicious - I'll make sure to share the recipe with you soon!

What I'm reminiscing about...
We didn't do a big trip this summer, but my kids get excited by any walk past an aquarium or fish tank. Last year, we went to the Dallas World Aquarium. If you're planning a visit to the Big D, you HAVE to take your kids. It's pricey, but it is well worth it!

What I'm loving...
Now that summer school is over, I've had time to exercise and then walk the dog twice a day. We've enjoyed hitting up the various playgrounds around our neighborhood and both the dog and I have shed a few pounds - win-win!

What we've been up to...
We've been running back to school errands, enjoying the pool with friends, and reading lots of animal fact books. My kids could not stop laughing while reading this book:

What I'm dreading...
Not dreading, but it's back to the daily grind in less than 2 weeks. It's been nice to sleep in (until 6:30 instead of 4:30!) and have a more relaxed schedule.

What I'm working on...
I like to get a head-start on my year, so I'm planning out my school calendars, so I have more time to work in my classroom when we go back to work. This is my 4th year of teaching the same subject and grade level, so it makes it easier to write lessons when you've been doing it a while.

What I'm excited about...
I saw this a while back online, but it finally premiered on television the other night. It's always been my favorite Disney film and came out just before my 6th birthday. The new one will come out just after Ari's 5th birthday! Watch the trailer for the side by side comparison of Beauty and the Beast!

What I'm watching/reading...
I just finished reading Dead Wake by Erik Larson. It's about the sinking of the Lusitania in World War I. I read it for a social studies book club in my district, and I'm so glad that I did. This is not a fictionalized account, but the details read like a novel. If you're into history and a little bit of mystery, you should definitely check this book out.

What I'm listening to...
So a few weekends ago, Robert and I stopped off at Half Price Books to look for a KISS cd for Ari. She LOVES KISS, and I think we found the perfect first album for her. (Starchild is her favorite!)

What I'm wearing...
Robert and I've been really good about following a workout program in the mornings, so I've been wearing a lot of workout gear from Academy. I love their BCG training line! These shorts make me feel like I'm going to be joining Usain Bolt on the track next month in Rio!

What I'm doing this weekend...
Hopefully we'll just hang around the pool and try out some new recipes. I have a lot of shows to catch up on, so I may just make some time for that, too! Speaking of, when is the Gilmore Girls revival coming out on Netflix? Team Logan, BTW!

What I'm looking forward to next month...
I LOVE the summer Olympics! I'm pumped and ready for some track, swimming, gymnastics, and diving events! Go Team USA and Go Bolt!
What else is new...
On Sunday, we went to Crocodile Encounter, just south of Pearland. It was so much fun! You can bring your own lettuce or purchase some there to feed the African Sulcata tortoises. They were my absolute favorite part. You can purchase little bags of pellets to feed the young alligators. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and did an awesome job letting the kids all get a turn and get in on the action. I did not for one minute feel unsafe or uncomfortable (other than the fact that it was over 100 degrees at 10 a.m.!) The tour took about an hour so wear comfortable shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and bring a water bottle and your camera for tons of cool photo opportunities!

The guide fed gators and crocs in multiple habitats. They've also taken in the famous white croc from the Houston Zoo to live out his retirement in a bigger, calmer environment. There were also lemurs, pigs, bongos, and kangaroos!
At the end of the tour, the guide showed the kids some reptiles up-close. 
And of course, my favorite were the tortoises! 

Question of the month: What was your favorite part about summer?
This summer has gone by so quickly. Summer school, swim team, art and science camps, doctors appointments, and dance lessons sucked up a lot of our time, but being able to spend more uninterrupted time with my kids and have a couple of date nights with Robert were very enjoyable!

Have a great Wednesday, and I'll see you back here tomorrow when I share a new recipe for chocolate mint balls!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Teacher Tip: Classroom Set-Up

In less than a month, we'll be back to school! While I love my summers off, I really enjoy my job, and it's so much better for me to be busy with work than sitting on the couch watching Bravo reality shows on a loop.

I am currently a 6th grade social studies teacher, and I'm always up for learning some new tricks from my fellow teachers, so please feel free to leave me suggestions, questions, or comments below! I'd love your input!

One way that my classroom is unique from many other classrooms is the arrangement.

This is from my first year at my current campus for the first day in  homeroom. The front tables are for 2 students and then myself. It doesn't usually have all of those materials!

This will be the 5th year of me using this double horseshoe seating arrangement. I was first inspired to seat my students in horseshoes when I attended a conference with the Texas Law Related Education Organization. If you teach any level of social studies in any state, click over to their site as soon as you're done here- the LRE has AMAZING resources, games, lessons, and more!

I teach about 22 - 30 students per class period, and I feel like this double horseshoe has worked well with my middle grade students. I know a lot of teachers love tables, but I'm a pretty strict teacher (The kids lovingly refer to me as "Supreme Dictator Lee!"), and I feel like tables just invite issues with tweens. The horseshoes help with passing out supplies, collecting papers, and allow for students to turn and talk with neighbors to the left, right, front, or back of them. This set-up also helps me to maneuver the classroom and get to students easily.

Here's an example of my seating chart. These are fictionalized names.  

I keep my seating charts on a PowerPoint chart so I can type in names and move them around easily for the next nine weeks. It also is easy to print out to have on hand for my sub folder.

The first thing I do each school year is review all of my special education paperwork. Students with paperwork will be placed appropriately on my chart first. Then, as I fill in the chart, I try to keep the kids grouped by girls and boys, as I feel middle schoolers usually feel a bit more comfortable with same-sex peers. (This is not true for EVERY student, but it's a good starting point in my particular classes.) 

In the above example, you'll notice the whole back row is girls. This is just the way that class period turned out in terms of boys vs. girls. I try to move kids to different sides of the room and mix up who is closer each nine weeks (or as various needs arise). 

The front table seats two students. This is NOT a punishment table. In fact, many of my kids fight, beg, and plead to sit at the table. I guess they feel like they're closer to the action as I like to pass out papers from the front table, and I'll sit there from time to time if we're reading aloud. 

I keep a table to the left of the door with class period buckets to turn in assignments and another table to the right of the door to keep our class set of textbooks. We keep notebooks on bookshelves in the back left corner of the room, and then my students' (and my) favorite part of the classroom is the library table that I keep for the kids over on the right side of the room. I'll tell you more about that another time!

So tell me- how is your classroom set-up? What works best for you and your students? Enjoy your last few weeks of summer, teachers! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Life With the Lees: Weekend Recap 7.25.16

I hope you had a wonderful weekend! This past weekend, we obviously hung out in the pool.

And then we had some fun in the sun with our pup, Jagger.

We're fortunate to have 7 different playgrounds within walking distance of our home, so we've hit up each one this week.

Robert and I have been marveling at how Trip is starting to look like a tweenager instead of a little kid. The new go-to is black boot socks with sneakers!? (And if you see the same outfit on repeat, that's because it is. Once the Circo shorts come out of the laundry, they immediately get put back on!)

We finally got around to making a dreamcatcher for Ari's room. She believes in its magical powers, but only time will tell if it really is magic! We did our own thing but got ideas from this video.

I made some of our new favorite snacks, Mint Chocolate Balls (Come back Thursday for the recipe!)

We went shopping for new shoes for the kids, and I ended up buying myself multiple pairs instead. If you're looking for cushioned and comfy work shoes, check out Famous Footwear. They had some of the same shoes that I found at DSW earlier this week but for half the price. You can also do the BOGO on clearance shoes at Famous. I decided this was the year I needed to spend more than $15 on a pair of shoes since I'm on my feet 8+ hours/day at work. Old lady shoes for the win!

Easy Spirit flats (Mine were on clearance)

And yesterday, we decided to move up our trip to Crocodile Encounter a day early due to impending storms this week. We had SO much fun! It was definitely a great belated birthday present for the Doodle!

I hope you have a wonderful week! If you're a teacher, stop by tomorrow for a glimpse into my classroom set-up. See you soon!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! I'm linking up for the first time with a few of my favorite bloggers, Erika, Narci, and Andrea - you should join us!

One of my favorite recent purchases is this brush set from EcoTools. I love the quality, but I love that the whole set costs less than $10! The brushes pair really nicely with the Real Techniques sponge, too.

There have been several favorite moments surrounding my Roo this week. I was watching my shows Monday morning when Ari came downstairs after waking up. I had to do a double-take because she was completely dressed in an outfit that completely coordinated AND that I had not set out! She has been working so hard on her writing and math lately. I'm so excited to watch her grow as she starts preschool with one of the greatest teachers we've ever known!

One of my favorite bloggers is Shay over at Mix and Match Mama. I found this post so interesting and helpful for planning our next family trip. If you're planning on traveling as a family, especially via airplane, check out Shay's tips for packing ASAP!

Speaking of planning trips, Robert and I officially started looking into our trip to Disney with the kids in 2 years. I haven't been since I was 9, and I know there have been tons of changes since. If you've been to DW, will you please, please, please share your tips, tricks, favorite posts, etc. in the comments below? I'd so appreciate your help!

I'm planning on doing one of my favorite things this weekend- soaking up the sun with my loves! I hope you have a fun and restful weekend. See you back here on Monday! 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Try It Thursday: Homemade Salsa

My mom taught me this salsa recipe over 12 years ago. I've played with it and made it my own over the years to get it just the way I like it, and I hope that you'll enjoy it just as much as my friends and family do!

Here's what you're going to need:
Lemon juice 
Jalapeños (I buy 2-3 peppers just in case the first one I chop is too mild. You can use canned jalapeños, but I think fresh is best.)
Garlic cloves (4-5)
1/3 bunch of fresh cilantro (Smell it in the store- it should smell a little spicy- not sweet and definitely not bland.)
28 oz. can of Hunt's tomatoes (They can be diced or whole, but I would stay away from the crushed. Also, always double check that you don't accidentally pick up the tomatoes that are pre-seasoned with Italian seasonings. Trust me when I say that I've never made that mistake a second time!)
1/4 chopped white onion

* Start out by slicing a jalapeño, and throw about 3-5 slices into the blender. 
* Add 1/4 of a chopped white onion.
* Smash and peel 4-5 garlic cloves, and add them into the blender.
* Wash and tear 1/3 of a cilantro bunch to add in.
* Squeeze the lemon juice bottle about 2 times into the blender.
* Add a dash of salt to the mix.
* Pour in the tomatoes.
* Blend until your peppers, garlic, and cilantro are chopped in.
* Taste the salsa with a chip. If it's not spicy enough, you can start adding in more pepper slices or start a different jalapeño to see if that one is spicier. If it's too spicy, you can add more lemon juice, cilantro, and/or onion.
* Once you have everything just the way you like it, refrigerate the salsa for at least a few hours before serving, preferably over night. 
* Enjoy! 

If you're in Texas, try this salsa with HEB's Central Market Blue Corn Tortilla Chips- they're delicious!

Kid-tested, mother approved!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Life With the Lees: Weekend Recap 7.18.16

Hi! Welcome to my blog, A Gal Named Al! This blog was originally set up back when I was pregnant with Trip for professional development purposes (7 years ago!). I've spent the past few years following a lot of lifestyle, family, and food bloggers, and after some coaxing from Robert, I've finally decided to start up my own little piece of the internet. It's nothing fancy, but I hope that you'll visit often, comment, ask questions, and enjoy! Thank you for visiting!


On Mondays, I plan to hop on the bandwagon of other bloggers and do a weekend recap for my family...

Earlier in the week, Robert indulged me and said yes to a lot of my Amazon Prime Day requests. By Friday, my front hallway looked like this:

And while they may not be the most attractive pieces of furniture, we finally bit the bullet and ordered some Big Joe chairs for the kids to use when we watch movies downstairs. We don't have a huge area rug downstairs just yet (I know, but we've been SO busy the past 2.5 years!), so the chairs give everyone a little more space to spread out when we want to watch Netflix or the Roku. Can you guess which chair belongs to which kid?

Trip had his first official sleepover at our house on Friday night, and we tried out the White Crispy Thin Crust pizza from CPK. It was absolutely delicious (and reheated nicely the next day, too!) You should totally serve this as an appetizer at your next party, or sit and eat the whole thing by yourself- it's that good!

During the sleepover, I texted my friend something COMPLETELY embarrassing but laughable that Ari said to her son. I found it odd that she hadn't responded when I went to bed that night, only to find out that I had texted the mortifying message to a teacher from work! Yea, that was fun explaining. I need a meme with that Dos Equis guy: I don't always text the wrong person, but when I do, it's something completely humiliating.

I spent a good part of this past week enjoying back issues of Food Network Magazine, Cooking Light, Paula Deen, and Rachael Ray from my mom's friend. I feel like I've gotten into a Pinterest recipe rut lately, so I enjoyed tearing out close to 100 new recipes to try from the magazines. I'll experiment with them first and then share with you. Any recipes you're really interested in? Let me know in the comments!

We've been taking advantage of the warm and DRY weather this week with lots of swimming in our pool. I know so many people talk about living in their dream home one day, but I feel really fortunate to say that I feel like I'm already living in mine!

The kids enjoyed a night at the circus and a sleepover with their Sue-Sue and Grandpa while Robert and I enjoyed a date night at Ninfa's, Kroger, and Home Depot.

We spent the rest of the weekend partying 2nd grader-style by hosting an Olympic themed 7th birthday party for Trip. I live to plan parties and showers, but after so many years of going big instead of going home, I decided to keep this year simple. Let's just say the best laid plans of mice and men... More to come on that another time! 

I hope that you have a wonderful week! Come back on Thursday when I'm sharing my tried and true salsa recipe. Thanks for stopping by!