Itz o-FISH-al

I’ve spent this past week preparing my classroom for the upcoming school year (and, as always, planning and making time for my workouts!).  As many of you know, this summer I taught a healthy living class for summer school.  During that time, I taught them about healthy eating, yoga, and getting active.  The students seemed to truly enjoy it, and I loved teaching them about the topics I’m so passionate about.

While this school year will be jam-packed with curriculum (3rd grade is a BIG year!), I still hope to be able to incorporate many little lessons regarding healthy living.  Last year, we were fortunate enough to receive exercise balls for all of our students to replace the chairs.  This year, we will continue to use them.  Here’s a glimpse into my classroom before Meet The Teacher last night.

Parents and children alike were ecstatic to see the green balls.  Some parents are very curious as to if the balls really “work,” or if they’re more distracting.  During the few months we used them, they were incredible effective.  It is crucial to set the ground rules during the first few days of school to ensure the students’ safety.  Some of my rules I implement:

  • Bottoms on the balls, both feet on the floor
  • Small bounces (again: bottoms on the balls)
  • Balls stay on the floor (no throwing)
  • Bottoms, hands, desks, and floor are the only things that touch the balls (no pencils, scissors, markers, etc.)

If a child has trouble abiding by these rules, then they simply get a stool or chair for the remainder of the day.  The following day, they have the option to try a ball again.  We also discuss the importance of respecting property and maintaining safety (all of the rules stem from respect and safety which we talk about a lot).  Last year, I think I only had a couple of instances where kids needed to put their ball away for the day.  It works and is an easy way for kids to develop their their core strength, and work on their stability and balance throughout the day.

(Note: Kids don’t spend an extraordinary time at their desks.  Large group lessons are taught on the carpet, and independent work is completed in a variety of places including the floor, their desk, or a larger table.)

I’ve used the fish theme every year I’ve taught.  I love it, and each year I add new things whenever a fresh idea presents itself.  Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve had several new ideas this year.  The students completed a short scavenger hunt in the room last night, and when they finished, they brought me their paper for a “3rd grade only!” treat.

Fruit snacks certainly are not a nutritional superstar (or nutritional whatsoever), but every so often a sweet treat is just fine.  (Plus, how perfect is Nemo for my classroom?  And I use goldfish during my Open House with a “Your child is quite a catch!” note attached, so I didn’t want to overuse the goldfish idea.)

Switching gears, let’s talk High Five Friday with A Dash of Meg.

This week’s high five goes to my younger brother, Justin.  Justin recently accepted a new job in Phoenix, Arizona.  While I’m sad he’ll be leaving San Diego (it was SUCH a fun place to visit!), I know he’ll totally rock his new job (like everything else he does in his life).  Plus, Arizona is not too shabby, and makes for a great vacation spot.  And Jonny’s brother lives there, so we’ll get to visit both of our brothers at the same time!

Dana & Justin in Cancun – Photo by Stephanie Cotta Photography

Congrats, Boy!  You know I’m always so proud of you.

I’m off to finish up my classroom, then enjoy my last weekend before school o-FISH-ally begins on Tuesday.

What are some other fish-themed snack ideas?  Who does your high five go to today?  Weekend plans?


Yesterday was SUCH a busy day which was exactly what I needed after my Crazy Week Crazy Night!  Busy and so incredibly productive.  I got a lot done that I had not had time for since getting back from San Diego.  I went to 3 different grocery stores {Whole Foods, Schnucks, and Trader Joe’s}, I completed 4 full loads of laundry, I ran errands, I unpacked our other bag, and I cooked a delicious dinner that gave us plenty of leftovers for another meal.

My day began with sleeping in until 7:00 which was considered a success since it was after five.  I had a quick 30-minute cardio session at the gym and then met my sister in her studio for a 6-day-old newborn photo shoot.  There is a lot that goes into photographing a teeny, tiny little baby.  I got to help out which was so fun.  My sister is amazing.  The baby’s parents actually referred to her as the “Baby Whisperer” during their session.  Take a peak from today:

One of the 45098342 reasons why I love the weekend is that I have the time to cook meals that may take me longer than I would like to do during the workweek.  It’s also a great time to make new recipes since they usually take longer the first time around anyway.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I knew we would be having a lot of food during Superbowl, so I wanted to make a nutrient-dense, light dinner.

During my trip to Trader Joe’s, I noticed a bag of Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks in the checkout aisle for 99 cents.  I had heard of seaweed snacks, but had never tasted them; and I do like wasabi, so I figured it was worth a try.  Especially for a buck.

The wasabi was HOT!  My nose and eyes were burning after I ate a few in a row.  My husband loves them.  He also loves wasabi.  I liked them, but could only tolerate them in small portions.  May be good to add to something else for a strong wasabi taste.  I was also surprised to see how thin they were.  Paper thin.

When I went to Whole Foods, I stumbled upon some Flax Milk.  Katie had posted about it last week, and I wanted to try it, so when I found it, I was pumped!

Even better, an employee at Whole Food’s was talking to me about it after I had picked up a carton and I told him how excited I was to try it since I’d never had it before.  He put a “Give it a TRY!” sticker over the barcode and told me it would be part of a program they have that allows customers to try new products, so it was free!  Talk about a good day at Whole Foods!

About a month ago, Chelsey shared a recipe and raved about Roasted Green Cabbage.  It sounded very doable to me, so I bought a whole head of green cabbage for the first time in my life.  I’ve eaten cabbage, but I’ve never cooked with it.  While I was cutting the cabbage I kept munching on the pieces that fell off.  I was surprised how much I liked it, even raw!

I thought the cabbage was good when it was raw, and when it came out of the oven it was even better!  This will definitely be made again.  Julie recently posted a Healthy Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe.  It sounded so delicious and the perfect thing for crappy weather all day (cold, rainy, dreary).  The ingredients were all things I normally buy and the process didn’t look that intimidating.  The only intimidating thing was that it required an immersion blender.  I don’t have one, but crossed my fingers that a regular blender would do the trick.

This recipe wasn’t hard, it was just a lot of work.  And by a lot I mean chopping up a few different vegetables.  Onions, celery, carrots, and broccoli.  It was seriously SO GOOD and totally worth it!  At first, I was wishing we had invited friends or family over to enjoy this unbelievable dish.  Then I was glad that we didn’t because then we had more left over. 🙂

After Jonny and I licked our bowls clean and I finished another load of laundry, we were in the mood for something sweet.  I must have been feeling adventurous last night because I attempted another new-to-me recipe: Cookie Dough Oatmeal Cakes!

Banana, chocolate, peanut butter warm deliciousness!  I followed Katie’s recipe and had success #3 for cooking of the day!  I doubled the quantities, added flax meal, chia seeds, and bran flakes and used both a banana and apple sauce.  (The recipe suggests choosing one or the other.)  This definitely required more work and more patience than a typical evening treat, but it was well worth the wait.  Even though the 20 minutes it baked in the oven felt like forever.  Jonny said, “Whoever made this should be famous.”  It was that good!

I made and loved three new recipes all in one day: all healthy, all will be made again, and all absolutely delicious!  Roll that in with the productivity I had and it made for a pretty darn good Saturday!  And Mizzou won.  Ooooh baby!  Superbowl fun today!

PS:  Happy Quarter-Century Birthday To Boy!

What is new-to-you recently?

Chef Boy Not Boyardee

Are you sick and tired of reading 8 straight posts from my recent San Diego Anniversary vacation?  If so… sorry I’m not sorry!  There is just so much good stuff to share and I’d like to tell you this will be my last San Diego post, but it won’t.  I already have a post scheduled for next Wednesday to wrap up Itz WIAW San Diego Style!

Ever since I can remember, our family nickname for Justin was “Boy.”  I’m not sure where it came from or how it began.  It could have something to do with the fact that he is the youngest of the four of us, or that my parents occasionally had trouble spitting out our correct name.  Stephanie!  I mean Lindsay!  Jason.  Justin.  Samson.  Wait, who are you?  [Samson was our family dog growing up.]  Regardless, it stuck throughout Justin’s college years and now he insists we lose it.  At least in public.  I’m not allowed to address him on Facebook as “Boy.”  He never said anything about the blog though…! 🙂

The Family in 1993 – look at the little man!

Boy is the type of boy (ha) that is a hit with everyone.  Especially my mom, my sister, and me.  When he comes in town, he brings an entire laundry basket and you better believe my momma has those clothes washed, folded, and ironed within 24 hours!  Also, whenever he would come home from college the house was fully stocked with his favorite food.  The rest of us never got that treatment.  (We were so deprived, I tell ya!)  It must be that he is the baby of the family because this is how it has been forever.  My curfew was midnight; Justin’s was…. whenever he felt like it.  I got in trouble for cursing; …it was funny when Justin did it.  My room was a disaster and I got yelled at for it; Justin’s room miraculously got cleaned when he wasn’t even there.  Exaggeration?  Nah.  Just my momma’s favorite.  And I’m only ok with it because I’m my dad’s. True story.

Justin & Dana by Stephanie Cotta Photography

Anyway, now that Boy is all grown up (and a mere 18 months younger than me), my sister and I still oooh and aaah over everything he does.  That picture above is of Justin and his girlfriend, Dana.  Is that not seriously the best picture ever?  Our last night in San Diego, he invited us over for dinner when he was cooking ribs.  We were in for a treat!  I had no idea he could cook like that!  I was very impressed.

When we went over to Justin and Dana’s condo, Justin had already begun the process.  He had his hand-mixer going to prepare his twice baked potatoes.  And somehow I think that is so cute of him… his little hand-mixer and his little green bowl!  Haha.  Check out the feast:

Twice Baked Potatoes

And now the masterpiece:


I’m easy to please, but even Jonny was impressed with the ribs!  Boy’s secret?  He boils the ribs first, then puts them on the grill!  The meat literally fell off the bone and left us all licking our fingers!  Also [not pictured] was roasted vegetables and a salad.

Julian & Astrid

We got to meet and dine with Dana’s older brother and sister-in-law, Julian and Astrid.  Astrid has the cutest blog ever, My Daily Doodle.  She is incredibly talented and I think one of her “doodles” would make an awesome gift.  You can customize and order the individual doodles, so it’s a very fun and different idea to give as a personalized present!

Rib Faces

All in all, Chef Boy [not Boyardee!] impressed me once again with just another one of his bazillion talents!  I know I’ve said it before, but Jonny and I had the best time with Justin and Dana in San Diego and we are anxiously awaiting their next trip to St. Louis or ours back to Cali… whichever comes first!  That pretty much wraps up our San Diego trip.  For now anyway… 🙂

Dana & Justin at the Farmer’s Insurance Open

What is your specialty item in the kitchen?  Boy’s is ribs, but he is pretty much a grill master!

San Diego Spin

Can this place get anymore beautiful?  I think not.  Everywhere we look, turn, and go is absolutely gorgeous!  I’m trying to recruit the rest of my family to move out here, but apparently relocating is not on anyone’s top agenda.  I guess we’ll have to save this gem for vacationing and visiting the little brother!

Sweaty San Diego Spin

Saturday morning, we headed to the gym with Justin and his girlfriend, Dana.  Jonny hit the ‘mill while us three attended a spin class.  The class was long and hard and just what I needed for a cardio-only day!

San Diego Spin

  • 10 minute warm-up
  • 4 x 4-minute intervals 15 seconds EZ
  • 4 x 3-minute intervals 30 seconds EZ
  • 4 x 2-minute intervals 45 seconds EZ
  • 4 x 1-minute intervals 60 seconds EZ

Saying I don’t like golf would be an understatement.  I think it is boring, tedius, and no fun at all.  Watching golf?  Even worse.  Well, actually I have never watched golf before, but Justin got us tickets to the PGA’s Farmers Insurance Open, so we went.  And then my thoughts were confirmed.  We accepted the tickets and the offer because I knew the sites would be [as always] gorgeous, Justin loves golf, and it was a beautiful day out.

Torrey Pines, where the Open was held, was pristine!  Not a blade out of place!  (I guess?)  However, the personnel working left little to be desired.  Dana and I were snapping pictures, this way and that, of the course, golfers, and each other.  One time, someone told us to put our cameras away, but I thought that was just because a golfer was teeing off.

Nope.  Later we found out that photography of any sort, as well as using a cellular device, was strictly prohibited.  Now, when I say strictly prohibited, I mean it.  There were no signs (that we saw), but a worker man came up to us after Dana and I had our cameras and phone high up in the air trying to catch a glimpse over the crowd and he informed us of this rule.  He also told us that we had two options: 1) We could give him our devices and get them back on our way out.  (Um no.)  Or 2) We could delete the photos.  We opted for option two, faked deleted a couple, and hoped he wouldn’t check.  He didn’t and so we kept the few pictures we had gotten and didn’t pull them out again.  So sneaky.

Whenever there was a really good golfer up, the crowds were massive.  There were so many people crowded around that unless you were in the front you couldn’t see any action!  And what fun is “action” when a guy swings and half a second later you don’t know where the ball went?  Plus, you can’t take pictures.  You can’t talk.  You can’t even play on your phone.  And you had to have your ticket displayed at all times (like attached to you).  Or you got yelled at.  Again.  This really made no sense to me because you had to show your ticket or you couldn’t get in to the event!  Ah the insanity!  Wherever we had room, I parked my tush on the grass and basked in the sun.  I’m not a fan of golf.  I am a fan of San Diego.

The ones who like golf.

The ones who don't.

Are you a golf fan?  Do you play or watch?  Or both?  Or neither?  You know which one I am!  (Justin, we wouldn’t have changed anything at all about today!  Well, except the people who kept yelling at us about taking pictures.  We love spending time with you guys no matter what it is… especially in this weather!!!)

Pseudo Tofu Recipe

Today is Thursday and I am SOOOOO HAPPY!  Do you know why?  Because directly from school, I am heading to the airport with Jonny to visit this little booger:

Ok, ok that is when he was like four years old, but how cute is he?  Now he is 24 (soon to be 25 on February 5th!) and lives in San Diego, California.  I am sad he lives so far away, but it does make for a fabulous destination to visit!  Actually, for Jonny and my one year wedding anniversary, I booked us a trip to sunny San Diego during the dead of winter in St. Louis.  We are really looking forward to this trip!  I miss my baby bro and the warm sunshine will feel nice.  Plus, I’ve never been to California!  Lots of firsts here!

LiveFit Update:

I love working out my legs because they are a strong part of my body.  I grew up playing soccer, and my legs are here to prove it!  My legs can endure a lot more than my upper body can.  Have you seen my 100’s workout?

Day 3: Legs & Calves

  • Leg Press: 3 sets of 15 reps (90 pounds)
  • Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 15 reps (45 pounds)
  • Sumo Barbell Squats: 3 sets of 20 reps (30 pounds)
  • Kneeling Leg Curls (alternating legs): 3 sets of 12 reps (15 pounds/leg)
  • Standing Calf Raises: 3 sets of 20 reps (40 pounds)
  • Seated Calf Raises: 3 sets of 20 reps (75 pounds)
  • Walking Alternate Lunges: 3 sets of 20 reps (10 pound dumbbells)

The original LiveFit workout can be found here, as well as a demonstration of any and all of the exercises listed above.  For the standing calf raises, I put a 40 pound barbell on my back and raised up to my tippy toes instead of using the machines.  And for the seated calf raises, I sat on the leg press and pushed out and then put just my toes on the machine and flexed for each rep.  (My old trainer taught me that.)  The lunges at the end were my own touch. 🙂

In the food world, I needed to use up some food in the house since we are leaving town for a few days.  I will share my cooking with you, but you’ll have to understand that I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “recipe” as I threw stuff in here and there and don’t have exact measurements.  Truth be told, I wasn’t quite sure how this would turn out, but I was actually quite impressed!

Pseudo Tofu Recipe


  • 1 package extra-firm tofu
  • olive oil
  • broccoli
  • corn
  • 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • garlic
  • pineapple chunks or slices in 100% pineapple juice
  • soy sauce
  • sweet chili sauce
  • curry powder
  • chili flakes and powder


  • 1.  Drain and press tofu using Mama Pea’s technique.
  • 2.  Cut tofu into small bite-size pieces, spray with olive oil, and bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 for 35 minutes.
  • 3.  Steam broccoli and corn and drain.
  • 4.  Cook couscous using 1/2 cup pineapple juice and 1/2 cup of water.
  • 5.  Add garlic, dash of olive oil, curry powder, chili flakes and powder, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce to vegetables.
  • 6.  Give it a mish and a mash.
  • 7.  Add baked tofu.
  • 8.  Add couscous at the end.
  • 9.  Mish.  Mash.  Serve.  Eat.

Even Jonny said it was good!  I would have preferred to use brown rice or quinoa, but couscous was all we had in the pantry.  I also would have added more vegetables, but we didn’t have many of those either.  And this dish covered pretty much every food group no matter how you look at it: protein, carb, healthy fat, veggies, fruit.  Need I say more?

What’s the best recipe that you have thrown together?