Category Archives: New Zealand

Intuitive Exercise: Restorative Yoga

Last night, Dominique and I were talking about intuitive exercise: responding to what workout your body really wants to do.  Forget about what you think it needs, forget about what you had planned to do, but really tune in and respond to how you are feeling.  Do your muscles feel eager to prove how much they can lift?  Do you legs want to go for a wild spin?  Do you feel like you are about to break through a running threshold?  Do you want to torch some calories so you can indulge in some ice cream?  Or do you just want to cultivate a bit of energy to power through the day.  Rather than forcing it to do something it’s just not in the mood for, your body will send you signals as to what type of activity will benefit it most.

This morning, I woke up feeling really sore from being hunched over the computer all day.  So instead of going to Body Pump, I attended a hatha/restorative yoga class.  I promised myself that I would stay for pilates if I felt the need for some more strengthening.

That yoga class was pure bliss.  We took everything really slow, which is exactly what my body needed.  My muscles were so tight and tense that the best thing for them was a slow, gentle stretching.  Plus, we held poses for so long, so I was really able to melt open.  After yoga, when it was time for pilates, I just felt so loose and limber (not to mention calm and serene!), I didn’t want to risk tightening myself back up.  So, I didn’t 🙂  And I feel great today!  I didn’t get the awesome burn that Body Pump gives me, but I felt like I was really taking care of and honoring my body.

After Sam and I did a grueling errand (the DMV – I shall say no more) we went to Tabora Farm Market for a treat!  They have the best baked goods around, but apparently, they also have the largest chickens….

check out those chick’s legs!

HE WAS A BEAST and as tall as the seat of the chair!

While we chose a cookie, we looked around the store and I was so surprised to find some meat pies, just like in New Zealand!  They were even called “down under pies”!

Yes, Australia is pictures, but many people also refer to New Zealand as “down under”  🙂

But not only that, we found New Zealand Sea Salt.  Unbelievable!

I wonder if it is really special?  Maybe it gives you dreams that you are at a beautiful NZ beach or something.  I should have gotten some.  I think I need to go back!

What I did get what an espresso chocolate chip cookie with almond slivers.  Sammy and I enjoyed our cookies while walking around Lake Galena in Peace Valley Park.

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place.  This lake is just 5 minutes from our house (when the covered bridge isn’t closed lol) and I wish I’d spent more time there this summer!

My plan for tomorrow is an outdoor run, but only if my body says it’s ok!

Do you practice intuitive exercise?



Leave a comment

Filed under Fitness, Life, New Zealand, Yoga

Starting Fresh: Setting Goals

I knew my life would never be the same when I went to New Zealand; I was going to gain new experiences and further develop my perspective on the world.  And don’t get me wrong, all of that happened, but I never realized how far I would stray from my mental and emotional norms.

Though my life was insanely busy and hectic, it never really changed when I was at UVM.  I was always busy, and I loved it: I pretty much embodied the common collegiate advice, “work hard, play hard.”  But, as soon as that fall 2010 semester was over, all of my usual responsibilities and activities–class, FeelGood, work, campus life, friends, Ashtanga–literally vanished.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime break (where I got to explore new hobbies, like blogging!) from the stresses of reality, but I felt a bit depressed since the things that had occupied all my time, and everything that I defined myself by, were thousands of miles away.

I learned how to “cope” and slowed down a lot, but I was always secretly pining for that exhilarating lifestyle and somehow fretting over taking so much “time off”… and I never completely felt like myself.  When I got home for the summer, I was eager to begin transitioning back to normal, but I’ve felt as though I am struggling to climb out of a hole – except I don’t remember which way is up.  I have felt completely overwhelmed by jumping right back into it all, and absolutely blind to any sensible starting point.

Yoga has always been the cure to all my problems, but since what I need is mental clarity and I have fallen so far behind on my meditation, that only perpetuates my confusion.  With the idea of yoga in the back of my mind (isn’t it always) I asked myself what I used to rely on the most to help me manage it all.

My planner!!!!  I need to plan!  While trying to think of a good blueprint, lululemon came to mind.  I remembered discussing goals and visions with an employee there once, and receiving a great layout for goal-setting.  For me, the best way to get a hold on my life is to clarify what I want, and develop manageable steps to get there: starting today until I get what I want.  By creating a plan of action, I feel less stressed about getting things accomplished because I know that I am doing my best to get there.  Most importantly, I will have already decided where to start 🙂

I began to set goals for my classes, my job, FeelGood, my apartment, my health, my finances, and my personal life.  I only managed a rough draft for each, plus some brainstorming, but now I’ve got a game plan for life in the works.  Bring. It. On.

Are you a planner?  Do you set goals?  cuz you should.  it helps.



Filed under Life, New Zealand, School, Yoga

Tree Pose: Root your toesies!

Yesterday afternoon, I enjoyed this beautiful, juicy nectarine while watching Ellen.

They are definitely underrated!  One of my favorite fruits of the summer 🙂

I was in charge of making dinner, but while I was cooking I got a bit snacky.  So I had some sunflower seeds to satisfy that salty snacky feeling

and some semisweet chocolate chips to satisfy that sweet snacky feeling!

Then I got hard to work making garlic sauteed shrimp to go with pasta and marina sauce.  My mom and sister were running late, so my Dad and I had some Cabot cheddar cheese while we waited…

Sam and Mom finally arrived (they were waiting at the doctor’s office for over 1.5 hours!) with Italian bread it tow!  I had a HUGE plate and ended up being waaaaay full!  Gotta love that Italian comfort food 🙂

There are shrimp on that plate somewhere!

Last night, Dominique called me asking if I would come over to keep me company while she packed for her weekend trip to NYC.  When I showed up, she offered me a dark chocolate Ghiardelli square, which is one of my favorite chocolates, as a reward.  Good company and good chocolate!!! xoxo

When I got back home, I finished a fantastic book I have been reading this week, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

I really enjoyed this memoir about a group of young women who read and discuss banned books in Iran.  This book has so many resonant insights into both classic literature and revolutionary Iran.  It was frequently deep and intense, and I really loved how true it was; I learned so much.  I wish that I had read more of the books they studied, like Lolita, but I absolutely gobbled up the portions where they discussed Jane Austen!  “‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Muslim man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a nine-year-old virgin wife.'”  Though that was my favorite bit, the book is full of fascinating parallels between their veiled existence and the lives of so many literary heroines.

Today, I woke up a bit early and scarfed a quick brekkie:

  • coffee with almond milk
  • water
  • sunbutter-stuffed date
  • 1/2 banana
  • strawberry 0% fat chobani greek yogurt

before going to yoga followed by a BodyPump class.  Today I added some more weight onto my bar for each track, so I was really feeling the burn!  But the whole weight system confuses me a bit.  The BodyPump bars measure in kilograms, and 1kg is a lot more than 1lb!  I’m having trouble conceptualizing how much I am increasing my weight by, but either way, I know the more I give, the more I get!  It’s funny though, even after I added on weight, I’m still the wimpiest one in the class!

At lunchtime, I realized I hadn’t had oatmeal in, like, 2 WEEKS!! Who am I?  So I quickly got a nectarine and the rest of my breakfast banana chopped up and in the pot.

Followed by oats, water, almond milk, cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla extract.

Full to the brim!

GOD I missed that stuff!  So delicious and filling.

My brother believes that bagel places spread too much cream cheese on toasted bagels, so when he brought one home for lunch, he scraped the excess cream cheese and set it aside for me!  lol!  So, when my tummy was raging in the mid-afternoon, I toasted myself half of an everything bagel and schlepped it on top.

The cream cheese was FANTASTIC!  It was some kind of tomato and herb blend.  Holy yummykins.

I really missed bagels while I was in New Zealand.  You couldn’t get an authentic one anywhere!

My mom and I made some vegetable stir fry for dinner with tons of different veggies, and some jasmin rice on the side.  To make things more exciting, I made a peanut sauce for on top!  I started with 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, and 1/4 of a lemon (juiced), but then I adjusted it a bit to taste.  It was the perfect light but satisfying meal that we needed the night before we leave for vacation!

Tomorrow, we are leaving for our yearly week-long family trip to the beach.  We are headed to Emerald Isle, North Carolina for a week of relaxing on the beach.  I’M SO EXCITED!  Though I admit, I won’t be doing anything different down there than I have been doing at home.  Reading, running, cooking, eating, doing yoga, and spending time with my family.  We’ll just be doing it all on the beach!  And with more family members and more BOARD GAMES!

I love doing yoga on the beach.  It’s one of Earth’s best natural yoga studios.  The warmth, the ambiance…you couldn’t ask for anything more perfect!  I’ll be sure to post more about it later…  But for now, I would like to share my favorite pose to do on the beach….tree pose!

Balance poses are extra tricky on the beach.  Sand is hard to balance on!  Heck, a perfectly level studio floor is tricky to balance on!  I always starts by spreading all of my toes apart and rooting them into the ground.  God gave us 5 toes on each foot — use them all to balance!  I bring my foot to the highest point possible on the inside of my thigh, but I always have to guide it there with my hands. Some day I will have the strength and flexibility to just float it into place!  Once I feel grounded, I grow my upper half out of my hips into perfect posture, and I always extend my prayer hands above my head.

It is really challenging to stay balanced while gazing towards your hands, but they say that if you gaze at the floor, that’s where your pose goes.  AKA you fall down lol.  So I always try to bring my gaze as high as possible.  Balance poses are great for the mind and also great for your concentration.  I can always tell if something is distracting me in life because I can never hold my balance poses that day!  Balance poses are great for strengthening your core, but more than anything they teach you to focus.  Having trouble focusing on some task?  Stand on one foot and gaze straight ahead for 30 seconds.  That’ll help ya 😉

PS – for a midnight snack in the middle of a packing frenzy, I had some p’nut m&ms and this chocolate bar that Mrs. Benzio brought for me from Scotland.

It was melted when Dominique delivered it to me, so I’ve been letting it sit the freezer, waiting for the right moment to enjoy it!  Such a great treat.  I need chocolate.  And Cadbury is THE BEST.  It beats gross old m&ms any day 😉

Do you find balance poses more challenging than other yoga poses?



Filed under Fitness, Food, Life, New Zealand, Yoga

Recovering from Time Travel

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether or not I will continue to blog now that I am back in the USA.  The answer is YES!  Admittedly, from now on most of my posts will be themed around wellness rather than life in NZ.  They also might need to be less frequent, especially when school starts again, and they will definitely be less personal.  Now that my life is back to “normal” I don’t feel the need to share every detail anymore.  But I will still share anything influential in my life, because wellness is about so much more than just health and fitness. (And I can promise a new little daily feature of the blog I have a-brewing.  Be on the lookout for that :))

Today I want to chat about recovering my wellness from a 24+ hour journey of time-travel around the world.  The aftermath that has caused me to feel quite out of sorts.


Proof of my restless nights...

I have been waking up in the middle of the night (3:30am), which has caused me to suffer from sleepiness so severe that it resembles narcolepsy!  (I fell asleep in the waiting room before a doctor’s appointment.)  I have imposed strict bedtime rules for the past few nights.  I have to be in bed between 10:30pm and 8:30am whether or not I actually sleep during that time.  No napping!  A few sleepy days are inevitable, and this has helped me quickly get used to this time zone.  Last night marks the first night this week that I slept through the night!


Mom-bought favorites of mine: dates and almond milk!

I am finally eating well consistently, but it’s not sitting well.  My digestive track has been all in a tizzy, which is definitely a result of lack of sleep and the erratic, excessive diet of fat and sugar I’ve been eating for more than 2 weeks straight!  I feel better eating clean, and my digestive system will regulate in time…as long as I stick to eating well!


Reunited with both my Klean Kanteen and yoga mat!

It’s all I have to cling to right now!  I have jumped right back into my religious exercise habits with at least an hour of activity every day.  I’ve been running and spinning, doing pilates and yoga, and I have even done a smidgen of strength training!  It feels really good and feel really right, but it’s been really tiring!  I fell out of shape pretty significantly because of travel and my hip injury, so I’ve been pretty sore. That means lots of yoga for me, and not to wimp out on my cardio!

Mental Functioning

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit psycho lately!  Once again, my life has done a complete 180 and I’m trying to readjust.  For example, I almost had a nervous breakdown in the produce section at Wegmans…it was so overwhelming!  Also, I keep almost driving on the wrong side of the road.  And EVERYTHING reminds me of something NZ-related.


Logged 3 loads already

My time not spent eating, exercising, or sleeping has been spent organizing my life: responding to emails, doing laundry, unpacking, and organizing my room.  Getting my life back to normal has felt very strange, but each little thing I accomplish makes me feel more and more at ease.

Nearly organized!

I have learned that there is not that much you can do to feel healthy again right after something like that.  Just honor your body and things will get better in time.  As per my mother’s advice, I’m actually RELAXING!!!!  Though I’ve been feeling icky and sad to have left New Zealand, the comforts of home make feel better, better, better.

There is just one thing I desperately need to feel all better

Dominique!  (Did you know she has a blog, too???)  Typical to the history of our friendship, when I’m home she’s not!  She’s on vacation with her family this week.

And, as she is my best friend, I REALLY NEED TO SEE HER!!!!

How have you dealt with jetlag?



Filed under Fitness, Food, Life, New Zealand, Running, Travel, Yoga

My last day of school…Bluebird Vegetarian Cafe

What a day.  Basically the moment I walked in the door, I was bombarded by little cards with various pictures and messages that said things like, “thank you” and “good luck” and “we will miss you” and “you are a great teacher.”

I also received this crown.   I know you’re jealous:

My class is honestly the most lovely bunch ever.  As I called the role, they said things like, “please try and keep in touch” or “have a nice trip” or “we will miss you” instead of just “good morning.”  My special time for the class was in the morning.  My gift to them was a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

I simply had to, it’s simply the best message I could leave for them.  My voice cracked as I read it, reflecting on all the places I’ve gone in the past 5 months…

They loved the book, but really loved my message:

Thank you so much for welcoming me into your class with open arms, hearts, and minds.  You have helped me learn so much about being a teacher – especially the magic that happens when can all be friends.

You each have a special place in my heart, and I will never forget my class of Kiwi children as long as I live.  Thank you so much for the memories that I will certainly treasure forever.

Remember to always be excited to learn.  Remember to be creative and curious.  Remember to love those around you and treat them with respect.  Remember to smile.  Remember that soon you will grow up to be the leaders of our world, and if you work hard, you can do anything you dream of.

Next, the real fun began…I taught them a thing or two about Vermont!  I made a slideshow of Vermont-y pictures: UVM, foliage, maple syrup, sugar-on-snow, Shelburne Farms, Cheddar Cheese, FeelGood, Lake Champlain, apple picking, The Giant Pumpkin Regatta, skiing, Stowe, and apple cider.  Oh, and me in Ghia, thrown in there because I couldn’t think how to end it 😉  They were fascinated!

They actually spent most of the day writing about what they learned.  A lot, apparently!  I have all the write-ups and can’t wait to read through them when I get a chance.  I got a little preview and they are certainly making me smile: “Vermont has lots of trees, but not just ANY trees!”

And I got more than Vermont write-ups!  Each child decorated a Takahe bird (their team name, also a native NZ bird) and wrote a message on it for me.   I love this because I sometimes refer to my class as my “flock.”

On the more serious side, I also did a lot of Maths testing today.  It was just a simple interview where I tested them at each stage to see their level. It was actually really interesting to see everything that I learned about “maths strategy stages” through my Uni class in real life!  I guess I have been learning a lot, and it’s all pretty legit!

During lunch break, I enjoyed a little bit of the leftover chili from the potluck, plus a good piece of bread I snagged from it, too!

After lunch, I led some choral reading (so much better than Round Robin, let me tell YOU!) but the best part was that I got to use the fancy pointer.  I seriously need one of those sparkly rainbow wands when I grow up!

The entire afternoon was dedicated as a special “Miss Jenkins Farewell” time.  I got several special performances.  First up: a play!  Based off a Skippyjon Jones story that I read to them a few weeks ago.

Some girls acted it out the story while another girl narrated.  Here was my program:

It was adorable!  Then, one of my favorite students (wait, teachers don’t have favorites!!!) sang me a Foo Fighter’s song.  As if my heart hadn’t already become a puddle on the floor.  Then, each child performed their body rhythm pattern they have been working on all week.  Some were very precise, others catchy, others creative!  Those kids have got the beat!

Then, they sang for me my favorite song in their repertoire: “Just One Earth.”  And the tears begin!!!  But apparently that wasn’t enough of a gift 😉 ….

My mentor class gave me the most thoughtful present.  First, a lovely cushion-case with Pukekos (a Takahe relative) on it.   I can’t wait to see this pillow on the (hot pink!) couch in my apartment!

Second, a beautiful paua shell necklace and card.  The tears continued.  Are you getting this image?

Thirdly, a little Takahe shelf decoration.  Isn’t he cute???!

It was all too much 🙂  I was overwhelmed.

We did stick to some of the Thursday afternoon routine: certificates.  Guess who won “Student of the Week?”


But then, the bell rang.  The school day was officially over.  Shirley asked who wanted to formally say a word of thank-you to me on behalf of the entire class, which is a customary practice in New Zealand.  About half the class frantically volunteered, so Shirley let a handful of kids speak.  It was so touching.  One of the most precious moments of my life.  Here, I was given my farewell card. With glitter, no less!

Of course, I couldn’t let them go empty-handed, so I let each child choose a funky pencil.

Hugs goodbye, all around.

But the fun doesn’t stop there!!!  Shirley and I had a date to go to Bluebird Vegetarian Cafe, a cute place I’ve passed on Dominion Rd each day going to and fro school.

Of course anything with “vegetarian” in the name makes my ears perk up, but I was even more excited to go when a woman I met at yoga told me how much she liked it.  Shirley, being the sweetest woman on the planet that she is, insisted that Hannah come, too! When we arrived, we felt completely serene and calm, relaxed and energized despite the crazy we’d just had.

Even though I miss brewed coffee like a Cullen misses blood, I REALLY appreciate that all the good cafes in New Zealand give you a complimentary sweet with your latte.  On the sid eof our mini berry coffee cake ;), we got chai lattes (made with homemade blended tea).  I didn’t even have to ask for soymilk–she asked our milk preference right away.

It was very flavorful and spicy, just the way I like it.

While we waited for Hannah, I was happy to finally express my undying gratitude to Shirley and give her the gifts I picked out for her.  It pales in comparison to everything she’s done for me, but luckily, I have a way with words.

I cannot thank you enough for being my NZ mentor; I was so lucky to have you and it was simply destiny that we were matched.  You taught me so many valuable things about what it means to be a good teacher.  You taught me so much about the value of spontaneous learning experiences and how to integrate them smoothly into your day: flexibility.  You taught me the importance of a good sense of humor: joy.  Most importantly, you taught me so much about how important it is to know your students as individuals: love.  Thank you for teaching me that if I can be flexible, joyful, and love each one of my students, then I can do this, and do it well.  Thank you for every opportunity, small and great.  Thank you for your generosity, compassion, and insights.  And please, keep in touch!

Then, my small gifts:

Simply a pretty mug and some dark chocolates.  She gushed and gushed over my humble gesture, because that’s just the kind of woman she is ❤

Now, onto the food…  When Shirley asked for recommendations, the waitress said, “Well, it depends on what you eat.  Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free?”  SWOON!  I told her I had no restrictions but I preferred vegan.  Shirley basically ordered everything that I mentioned sounded good.  We all shared a bit of everything:

Cashew, Potato, Broccoli Cake with Chutney

Vegetable "Rice Cake"

Legume "Neatloaf" with Mushroom Gravy

Roasted Root Veggie & Green Salad

Good food and good conversation?  Shirley and I should have gone every week!  It was the perfect way to end the internship.

And as if all THAT wasn’t enough, look what Shirley got for us on the way out:

She asked, “do you like chocolate cake?”  Well, I couldn’t lie to a woman I respect so much!

…did you think that was it?

Her question about those were, “would you eat those?”  Ummm, yes!  She certainly knows how to ask leading questions 😉

Apparently she hadn’t quite done enough for us, because she insisted on driving us home, and pulled right up in front of our door, asking if we were safe :).  There is no other way to say it: I love Shirley.  I will miss her so much!  I had such an amazing experience in her class, and it was truly all because of her.

When I got home, I had these three messages in my inbox:

HA!  Sounds like my brother’s journey is off to a memorable start.  He is in the air somewhere over the Pacific Ocean right now.  Please send him positive energy!  He lands around 6am, New Zealand time.

Even though I’m about to study my bum off for my Maori Culture final tomorrow until I fall asleep, I am feeling positively incandescent with happiness.  I’ve just had an incredible end to an incredible NZ practicum, and my brother arrives in a matter of hours to kick off our week of traveling.

Yay, life!!!   😀


Filed under Food, Life, New Zealand, Student Teaching, Travel

Bronze Trivia Medalist & International Potluck Kai

I am thrilled to announce that last night at Father Ted’s trivia, Hannah and I came in 3rd place!!!!  That’s much better than second-to-last and it a heck of a lot better than DFL!!!  I thought it was pretty easy this week, but it was also helpful that our knowledgeable Mexican friend was there playing pool for a bit and kept popping over to give us answers he knew.  Regardless, it’s pretty impressive just the two of us were able to snag 3rd place.  We got a massive 40 points (we usually get about 22, lol) and here is just some of the stuff we knew:

  1. What TV shows takes place in the hospital Sacred Heart?  (becca ;))
  2. Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her role in which 2010 movie?
  3. What is the family’s last name in the Home Alone movies?
  4. In golf, what is it called when you score 2 under par?
  5. Who originally sang the song “Hotel California” (this was the luckiest guess of my life)
  6. In which decade was the electric hairdryer first seen?  20s, 40s, or 60s?
  7. Who did a 2003 cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi?”
  8. Who’s song “I’m Yours” is rapidly becoming one of the best-selling song on iTunes?
  9. In what year did Green Day’s album “American Idiot” release?
  10. What is a traditional song played by trumpet or brass instruments?
  11. In what century was Abraham Lincoln born?
  12. Who was the lead singer of No Doubt?

But the big picture round really put us to the over the top.  We were able to identify teenaged pictures of:

  1. Julia Roberts
  2. Kathy Bates
  3. Jamie Foxx
  4. Anne Hathaway
  5. Taylor Swift
  6. Jessica Alba
  7. Queen Latifa
  8. Bradley Cooper
  9. Ashton Kutcher
  10. Patrick Dempsey
  11. Jennifer Garner

and we also guessed the common link between them all.

We squealed with pleasure after each one of our correct answers was called and we felt SHOCKED to get third place.  We are essentially Bronze Medalists of Pub Quiz now!  Not only did we come in third, but we were served my favorite complimentary snack to share between the two of us:

POTATO WEDGES!!! They were great brain fuel; I can probably attribute 75% of my victory to these bad boys.   The red wine helped to.  And I do owe the Mexican some credit.

My super fun night was followed by an uuber busy day.  All before 11:30, I made flashcards for my Maori final, cooked a pot of chili, and wrote 4 heart-felt thank you notes in preparation for my last day of school tomorrow.  Whew!

At noon I was rewarded with a yoga class!  I went to a Beginner’s Ashtanga class at Auckland Yoga Academy and used up the last class on my 10-pass card.  😦  It was with my favorite teacher, who isn’t very warm and fuzzy, but she gives the BEST adjustments ever.  Seriously, they are heavenly.  I can’t believe that it was my last class in NZ.  That means, the next class I go to will not only be in Doylestown, but it will be on June 26th!!!!  That time’s gonna fly.

I had class for the rest of the afternoon, which was really quite fun.  We had a lecture on Maori education by an ex-Maori Primary school teacher (who also reminded me a lot of my Nanny), so obviously I was wrapped with attention.  It really sounded just like education in the US in those times (what with corporal punishment and such) except they rode horses to school and being forced to assimilate to European, or Pakeha, culture.  It’s amazing how resiliently they held onto their culture and customs.  Auckland positively shines with Maori culture, and I’m really gonna miss it.

After our lecture, we were given a mock final exam to study from (can you guess what I’ve been doing all evening????) and then we had an international potluck kai.  (“Kai” basically means a celebratory meal.)  Everyone (most of us are international students) brought in a dish that is traditional to our home culture.  I made chili (which came out spicier than I’d planned) and Hannah made brownies.  Check out my plate, Round 1, without touching anything “American!”

The most delicious potato salad, fruity pasta salad, spinach quiche, feijoa muffins, clam cakes, fried dough, jam flatbread, dressed mussels, Dutch breakfast loaf, some kind of meat with a German name, and some kind of tasty-cake-like Korean cookie.  I ate waaaaay too much, but when else am I going to have access to all of this home-cooked, authentic, international food at once?

In addition, everyone has to prepare a song from their home culture.  Hannah and I performed “The 5 Little Pumpkins.”  We explained about Halloween at this season back in the states, and how we are teachers and often sing this song to our class.  We got lots of smiles, which is all I care about.

The Maori students performed a wonderful Maori song.  It’s so cool how nonchalantly they pulled out a guitar and sang in perfect harmony, with so much soul.  They were raised that way, and it’s a beautiful thang.  Another notable performance was by two New Zealanders who sang the NZ national anthem (which is SO PRETTY) first in Maori, then in English, and doing the NZ Sign Language signs both times, too.  Too cool.  Other Americans did “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” and “I’m Gonna Let it Shine.”  The Germans did their national anthem–very bashfully, I might add!  Another New Zealand guy said he didn’t have anything prepared, but he is in a reggae band and he gave us his CD.  Sweeeet, bra!!  There is lots of reggae in NZ (with all the surfer dudes, you know), so I’m excited to have some authentic jams in my iTunes!

Then, my professor sang for us and I cried.  The traditional Maori music is so beautiful, and it really hit me how much I have grown to love the Maori culture.  I have been sung to in Maori countless times, and that was probably the last time I’ll get a personal performance.  Good thing I’ve learned a few songs to take back 🙂

At the end of class, they put out tupperware so that we could each fill one up with whatever leftovers we wanted and take it home!

But for now, back to studying…

Know any of the trivia answers?



  1. Scrubs
  2. Black Swan
  3. McCallister
  4. Eagle
  5. The Eagles
  6. 20s
  7. Counting Crows
  8. Jason Mraz
  9. 2004
  10. Fanfare
  11. 19th
  12. Gwen Stefani
  13. Celebrity link: roles in the 2010 movie “Valentine’s Day”


Filed under Fitness, Food, Life, New Zealand, School, Student Teaching, Travel, Yoga

Tomato Carrot Risotto

I woke up bright and early this morning to run, and guess what??? Run, I did! I was gone for about 40 minutes and though I had to walk a lot (it’s amazing how quickly I fall out-of-shape) I think I ran for at least 15 minutes of it.  My muscles were tired, but there was absolutely no joint pain.  I’ll take it!  I would also like to share that I was very hot and sweaty.

I know, family, that I just warned you about how cold and rainy it would be when you arrive. I guess just be prepared for the unexpected!

Since my run was successful and I was feeling pretty on-to-of-the-world, I cracked down and chugged out my final reflection paper on my practicum.  I’ve copied it below, in case you are interested 😉   Then, continuing the productive-ness, I went to the library to print out my Maths assignment, which occurred without a hitch (well, on my part.  Hannah had some difficulties.  There’s always something at that place!)  Now I am that much closer to being on summer vacation!  I just need to study for and take my Maori culture final on Friday….

It’s 10:30am at this point and it hits me: I had not had my coffee OR oatmeal yet!!! I guess my early AM dates gave me all the nourishment and power I needed…up until then lol.  Not one to skip I meal, I whipped up a simple bowl of apple oatmeal…without peanut butter!!! Shocking, I know.  Our tub is dwindling and frankly, I didn’t need it.  It was deliciously simple.  I might even try oatmeal without any fruit soon!  But that seems just a little too carb-y.  I feel like I’ll need fruity nutrients?  Rambling.  Sorry.

Very soon after my fundamentalist bowl of oatmeal, I had lunch because, well, it was lunchtime!  And I was hungry!  Running makes me hungry 🙂  I quickly sauteed some of the leftover chopped veggies (mushrooms, peppers, and onions) from last night, which I plopped on top of a piece of toast with sundried tomato hummus.

That hummus is to DIE for.  Seriously, the taste is out-of-this-world.  I can’t right now, but I’ll snap a photo of the package tomorrow so y’all can go buy it.  Of course, and of it was all on top of some lettuce!

Scrumptious!  After lunch, I had my last education class, during which we talked about Montessori schools (a type of schooling system that, at least for maths, uses solely tactile materials to teach concepts).  Several unbelievable things happened during class today.

  1. We had a guest speaker talking to us about the Montessori schools, and at times she would ask us to gather around a table to watch a demonstration.  Well, some of the NZ biddies just stayed in their seats, chatting and dicking (language–sorry but I am disgruntled) around on their laptops.
  2. I was watching a demonstration from my chair, and one of them stood DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF ME.  Literally, his ass (again, pardon my French) was in my face.
  3. We had to read a handout and then discuss with out groupmates what we thought were the most important things.  Well, as my group started discussing, one of the biddiest of the NZ biddies shushed me!!!!

Unbelievable on so many levels.  What did I do?  Continued to be the good student and respectful classmate that I am.  And felt very righteous for it.

On the bus home, my friends Rose and Becca told Hannah and I about this awesome pancake place they discovered, right by the bus stop.  I didn’t need much convincing to tag along for a post-class snack 😉

For just nz$3 a pancake, Hannah and I decided to split a chocolate one.

There they are, sliding about in the oil!

Rose, Me, Hannah, and Becca

Hot + ready = excited girls! 😉

Imma eat-chooo!!!

Two words: yum and wow.  It sort of tasted like funnel cake-meet-chocolate chip pancake.  I can only pray that this doesn’t become a habit.  Thanks for introducing me, Rose and Becca!

When I got home, I did some logistical work on my computer, then promptly started cooking.  Dreading another night of stir-fry, I convinced my self that I could make tomato risotto with brown rice and the (ghastly) tomato paste still in the fridge.  I started by sauteeing two cloves of garlic with as much of the Italian Herb Paste as I could squeeze out (running on empty!).  Then, I added the tomato paste and some soymilk.  There was WAY too much garlic!  I never thought I’d see the day.  Hannah had the great idea of adding some veggies, so she shredded half a carrot as I added more and more soymilk.  We just kept adding and tasting until finally, we nailed it!

With the rice, it made an nearly perfect combination!  For a few minutes there, I thought the meal was a destined failure, but with a little teamwork, we made it happen!

What was your latest triumphant kitchen experiment?


Here is my final reflection on my NZ school placement, in case you are interested.  It’s a sorta formal write-up for my professor back at UVM, so it focuses mostly on the technical teacher stuff. 

I have learned a lot from my placement here in New Zealand, but there are two things that will leave a lasting impression: grouping by ability and Guided Reading.  The entire numeracy and literacy programs in my class have essentially been set up with ability groups and small-group instruction.  There are rarely mixed-ability groups, which at first I thought would create a stigma of the “lowest” or “best” group, but the instructional benefits outweigh those issues.  It is much easier to create lessons that are geared toward individuals, it is easier to track progress, and it provides developmentally appropriate instruction.  All of which benefits their learning.  In literacy, the teacher-guided small ability-group lessons are called “Guided Reading” sessions.  Guided reading is a great way to teach literacy by ability because you can read a book together at the students’ level and take the time to go over the bits you want to focus on.  Plus, in the small group, students will feel secure enough to take risks and ask questions.

Dominion Road Primary school had a very effective and well-developed behavior management system that I learned a lot from.  The vice principal, Brenda, taught me everything in our interview.  They use antecedent strategies to prevent behaviors, which I think is key to preventing bad behaviors from happening.  By making the behavior expectations clear and setting up a positive, supportive environment, then students won’t need to act out.  Behavior problems will always occur, and I have learned two strategies for dealing with them.  For menial misbehavior, it is good to ask the students if they are making a good choice.  This gives them the power to change their own behavior and show you that they know what is good behavior.  A major conflict can be solved by debriefing the situation with the student(s) involved.  A fair, supportive conversation about a management issue is the most diplomatic way to address problems and it gives students tools to use those same strategies to solve their own problems in the future.  In addition, I learned the importance of balancing the lesson and school day with individual work, group work, whole-class instruction, and free time so that students stay on-task.  Even better, I did not find any discrepancies in my research and Responsive Classroom readings about American styles of behavior management.  Kids are kids, anywhere in the world.

Though my mentor teacher has given me a lot of praise, I still would like to work on a few things before student teaching.  For example, I want to make sure that I am continually planning what my next steps will be.  It is not only important to assess how the students did with a certain lesson, but it’s even more important to know what to do next to help them move on or get more instruction on something they don’t understand.  I also think that I can always be working on understanding the standards and keeping my lessons aligned.  It is so difficult with a diverse class, but it’s important to stick to the objectives and make sure that you are teaching the students the appropriate skills and/or content.

Pre-planning my lessons has really helped me feel more confident as a teacher.  It helps me to keep the learning objectives in mind as I am teaching, and it gives me an opportunity to plan for my behavior management.  When I have prepared the strategies I want to use, it prevents behavior disruptions from getting in the way of my class’s learning.  I also think that I need to do a lot of background research when I am planning a lesson.  I need to be prepared for the types of questions that my class might ask me about a certain topic we are reading about.  I want to make sure that I have enough background knowledge to contribute to their learning and inspire their curiosity.  I would also like to work on planning what to do if a lesson takes a completely different turn.  For example, if the students are completely lost or over-confident during the warm up, I would want to plan some alternative activities to do in case I feel like the lesson would not be worthwhile.

It has been really exciting to notice my role as a teacher change throughout the beginning of this semester.  I am doing more full-block teaching than I ever thought I would be allowed to do at this stage.  At first, I just lead parts of a lesson or a transition into a break.  Now I am doing all of that and more!  Its been really helpful to feel that independence, and the corresponding responsibility, because now I have much more of an idea of what it will be like to have the class for the entire day.  I have also become much more of a legitimate assessor.  I used to think that I could just observe assessment because I wasn’t qualified enough to actually conduct them and have the results count for something; but now, after the TGMI and all of my running records, I feel like I am equipped with the knowledge to make comprehensive assessments on students.

When I think about the past semester, I feel really good about my overall style of teaching.  I think that my priorities really shined through.  My number one goal to being a good teacher is to get to know each of my students as a person, and I feel like I really did that with my class.  It certainly helped my instruction to be more individualized since I knew their interests, weaknesses, and gifts.  My teacher gave me a lot of feedback about how my caring, compassionate nature and positivity created a non-threatening environment where students felt comfortable and even excited to learn.  That was my main goal, so I’m glad that I accomplished it!

My next steps in my process of becoming a teacher is to really look at inquiry learning and how to integrate it into my numeracy and literacy programs.  I want to do more research about science and social studies that I can easily incorporate into my literacy programs (with things such as magazines) and my numeracy program (with things such as science experiments).  My school in New Zealand focused a lot on fitness, music, and art, but the core curriculum was rarely tied into it.  I’m excited to discover ways to make for more wholesome, realistic learning experiences.  I also think it would be helpful to get to know the US standards like the back of my hand, since, compared to the New Zealand standards, they are really logical and essential for driving instruction.

Honestly, the most important thing that I will take away from this experience is my class.  I will never forget my little class full of Kiwi children.  I will never forget their little accents and how they “corrected” my pronunciation and spelling.  I will never forget about how eager they were to learn more about America and to teach me about New Zealand.  I will never forget how sweetly nurturing they were when they learned that I lost my grandmother.  I will never forget the relationships I made with them, and it makes me sad that in a few weeks, I will be half a world away from them.  But, as they remind me with song, we all live on “Just One Earth” and we will always be connected.


Filed under Fitness, Food, Life, New Zealand, Recipes, Running, School, Student Teaching, Travel