Monday, June 27, 2016

Mini Cheese Balls

I've been meaning to try this for awhile.  I've seen it around a time a two, but had never given it a go.  I really do like cheese balls, and I have a recipe for my very favorite.  I decided to try out the individual serving portions-which also solves my problem-I like each bite with a bit of pecan and when you get to the center that's not possible.  I really didn't need a lot more pecan than the original recipe, I just chopped it up a little finer.  I followed all the steps, but when it came down to creating the ball-I created 24 little balls instead and rolled them in the pecans.  I let them chill and then poked a pretzel stick in the top right before serving so you can lift each one up individually.  I still served these with wheat thins next to them (my favorite).
Hawaiian Cheese Ball 
Ingredients:  2 blocks of cream cheese (softened), 2 t. Lawry's seasoning salt, 1 small can of crushed pineapple (drained well), 1/2 green bell pepper (diced small), 2 c. of pecans (chopped fine).  Serve with wheat thins.
Instructions:  Mix all but the nuts.  Roll into ball shape.  Roll in nuts.  Chill for a few hours.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pocket Letter

You Tube sucked me in, and I discovered something called a 'pocket letter.'  Maybe I'm late to the game, but....how fun?  This is a beginners pocket guide.  I put this together quickly for my goddaughter before I was heading out of town, so I'm looking forward to digging into this in more depth soon.  The point is to share some of your fun supplies with others.
Basically, you use baseball card pocket pages, you fill each one with some little cute paper/design and then add some supplies for the receiver to use to create their own project.  In this case, I just added my supplies to the front, but you can slip them in the back.  I've also seen them where people decorate the sides/holes etc.  It folds into thirds and fits perfectly into a letter size envelope.  I'm going to definitely hit up some scrapbook supply stores and try to find some fun ones for the different holidays and include some little flat erasers/candies/gift cards/ribbon etc in the future.  I 'sealed' the top with a little slice of washi as well
This time around I included some cute paper clips, puffy puppy stickers, gems, sequins, and washi (wrapped around some plastic)

.  My goddaughter is the age where when I send her a card she pulls it all apart anyway to play with the gummy pieces etc, so....what better thing than something that's made for that purpose.  I also printed off some thumbnail size pictures (tutorial here) from my recent trip to see her, and I figured she can make her own collage of our time together.  Or not.  Regardless, I think I've met her little interest level now-unicorns, fairies, bright colors, and bling.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Easy Halloween Card

 Anyone that has known me for longer than a day knows that I do everything I can in advance.  The last thing I want to do is to be stressed around a holiday, or....I'll start dreading holidays.  I start my Christmas list for the next year on December 26th....not even kidding.  So, needless to say, when I decided to embark on trying to make more homemade cards....I make those cards all year long.  A lot of my friends have little ones now, and I TRY to send a card for most major holidays.  I also rotate sending a little package.  I used to send packages every holiday too, but then I remember I was a teacher, and I was po' and postage ain't cheap....AND people kept having babies, so....I do what I can, and try to be random so it's a fun surprise and not just an expectation.  So Christmas and birthdays are for everyone, other holidays at random.   Fortunately, they are all still young enough that if it's their holiday for 'just' a card, they like that too.
   Anyway, I digress.  I recently found some cute little ribbons at Hobby Lobby and these fun little tags for 50 percent off.  I also found the (above) pumpkin bling and used some scraps and blank cards (also from Hobby Lobby) to put together this card.  Easy, and one thing off my to do list.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Uncle Sam Moustache

 The true story is I made these last fall for some of my political friends before one of the debates.  We love debates...and elections....and America....oh yeah, and chocolate.
 I got three different colors of white chocolate (if you only have white, you can use food dye, but....this was easier for me).  I melted them in a ziplock in the microwave.  I melt them in 30 second intervals, squish them around.  Repeat until they are liquidy.  I cut the corner and then put a line of each colors down a moustache chocolate mold.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mini Seattle Album


I recently blogged about a mini album I put together in advance of a weekend trip.  Having it ready meant that when I got home all I had to do was print the pictures.
Since it was a mini album, I needed to print some thumbnail size pictures.
Here is a video on how to do that in case you want to put together a mini album of your own.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Seattle

 Over Memorial Day, I flew out to Seattle to visit my goddaughter.  I had airline miles and I knew just how to use them.  I've visited this little nugget in four states now.  Dad is a sgt major in the army. Mom is my lifelong partner in crime.
This post is more personal than informative, but...it's my blog, and ultimately where my memories live.
This little gal, Micah, is the world's friendliest tour guide.  She stood behind her Mom's car in her pjs late Friday when Regan was heading out to the airport, she was not getting left behind to do something silly like sleep.   She was there in pjs to greet me, and then she proceeded to tell EVERY sales clerk, base guard (they live on post), and tourist she passed that I was her Mom's best friend, and her Aunt Christy.  Then she'd usually ask said person for a high five, or...on special occasions "high five/knuckles."
After a very extensive home tour when we arrived at her house (I was introduced to every room, and pipe cleaner, toy, and pet present in her house).  She introduced me to her dad and let him know I was her Mom's best friend.  I'm sure, after more than ten years of knowing me, he was grateful for the clarification.
 Saturday morning we went shopping for some room decor (more on this later) and a few last items for her fairy garden, and then we went to some gardens near by.
She wore her dress, polka dot tights, rain boots, and boa.  She collected all the flowers she could hold along the path.  It was a gorgeous walk they take often through the Lakewold Gardens full of mossy stones, ferns, and flowers.  
 She offered me half of her findings.  I asked her to pause so I could take a picture of her flower in her cute little hand.  She wanted to take a silly picture, I told her OK, I'll take two, or serious, one funny.  For the remainder of the weekend whenever we stopped for a photo she'd say, "Take five pictures of this, Aunt Christy."
 After our garden tour, we went home and got to work on the fairy garden.  She painted up the fence and bird house (now fairy house) I brought-I posted about that separately.
 The fairies move at night, and she was super excited to see their new positions the next morning.
 This is her work in progress room.  Once upon a time, I was there for her baby shower (pre-birth) and her Mom, another friend, Liz, and I decorated her nursery.  Now, Regan and I have begun decorating her room.  Here is a small corner.  I'm going to work on some banners etc and send it up, but there is definitely going to be a dress up corner.  Though....by dress up I mean, her daily outfit.  She added a tutu to her pjs on Saturday and came to say good morning Sunday, still wearing that tutu the next morning.
 One thing Regan and I have in common-a love of dogs.  I have shed many tears over the loss of one of her gals a few years back.  I still teared up looking at old photos, but in her place is Diesel, a humongous, goofy, German Shepard.  I'm in love.  And faithful little Odie-Regan, Odie, and I have quite a few memories together.
 On Sunday, Micah, Regan and I headed to Mount Rainier National Park.  It was about an hour and 45 minutes from where she lives up very winding, beautiful roads.  Note to self-bring Dramamine next time).  The wild flowers weren't out yet, and the snow still sat in upper elevations, but we did get some beautiful peaks at the volcano.
 We made all the stops we could on the roads and park offices that were open.  We spent some time at Christine Falls.
 We ended up at Paradise where we discovered there was snow.  Micah was excited about that.  She couldn't wait to play.  She was super disappointed there was no lave (she kept telling me about the fact that we were going to a volcano to see lava), but....she seemed OK with the alternative (snow).  She threw snowballs, mad snow angels, and ate some questionable snow piles before anyone could stop her.
I kept telling her I was excited she got to go on a girl's trip with Regan and I.  We got a package of Twizzlers (which Micah calls Snappys....who knows why, but it's cute, and Regan and I have shared many a package of Twizzlers on a drive).  I see many more girl's trips in our future.
Last up, I forced the family to pose for a picture.  And then I left a huge piece of my heart in Seattle until next time.  Too little time, but too much time had already passed, I'll take anything I can get. Now....to plan the next trip!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Uncle Sam Yard Sign

 Just a quick little blog post to share some signs I made for the 4th of July.  I cut out the shape of the hat/beard, and then another rectangle piece to nail/glue (wood glue) on top  I also found a start that was already cut at a craft store.  I don't have the right equipment to easily cut out shapes as small as the star.  I started with a base of house paint to help protect the wood from warping in the rain.
I painted up a simple face, and used the handle of a foam brush to dot the eyes on using regular ol' craft paint. I flicked black and white paint over the whole thing with a toothbrush.  I'm telling you, this is probably the most critical step for me, it just really makes everything look so much nicer.   After it all dried and I had nailed it to a stake (from Home Depot) I added a coat of polycrylic paint to help protect it from the weather.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fairy Garden

 In May, I flew out to see my goddaughter, Micah, in Seattle.  She is four and really into unicorns and fairies right now.  I've seen the idea for making fairy gardens around, and recently had a coworker make one with her daughter, so....I was ready.  Before heading out I went to JoAnne and Michael's and stocked up on bridges, fairies, fence post, bird house (both of which we painted) mushrooms, arbors, benches etc etc, and...of course, fairies.
 She painted and bejeweled the fairy house.  I also brought some gold beads b/c when I asked her what she thought fairies wanted in her garden she said gold and pink.  She proceeded to put the gold INISDE the bird house (now the fairy house), but...it's not like there was a lot of room for it anyway.  I also bought some different colored moss they sell in packs (I used a coupon).  We grabbed a pot and a few flowers when I got there.  I've seen a lot of succulents etc in gardens (less watering), but....I don't even think the flowers die the garden will be missing much.
 I let her choose the placement for each item.
 We hid two fairies in the garden.
 We told her the fairies love to come out and play at night.
 It's her job to check every morning to see if the fairies move (because they have been playing).
It's now her mama's job to make sure they 'play' at night.  She was excited the next morning when she discovered they had been playing.  ;o)  

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Monkey Bread Muffins

 
We recently had a volunteer breakfast at work and I wanted to try out a new recipe.  Who better to try out a new recipe on than a bunch of people who have tirelessly volunteered at your school all year, right?  Fortunately, this turned out to be a really delicious recipe!  I keep saying I'm going to start a thread "never make this again," but I'm not sure if my blog has enough memory to house those recipe post.  BUT, if I did have a thread, this wouldn't make it because this one is a keeper.  It's monkey bread....in muffin form.  Seriously, does it get any better than that?  Incidentally, it said to 'drizzle' the icing on top, but I pooled it in the middle to make it easier to scoop up and put on a plate.  Same end result, deliciousness.  Honestly, I don't even know if the cream cheese was necessary, the muffins alone were delicious.  But....you can't really go wrong with cream cheese and powdered sugar.  It's one of my life's philosophy!  The original recipe came from mybakingaddiction.
Monkey Bread Muffins
Muffin Ingredients:  1/4 c granulated sugar, 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon, 1 can flaky refrigerated biscuits, 1/4 c. butter, 2/3 c. packed dark brown sugar, 2 t. water, 1/2 t. vanilla
Icing Ingredients:  4 oz cream cheese (at room temp), 1 c. powdered sugar (sifted), 1/2 t. vanilla extract, 3 T milk
Baking Instructions: 
1.  Heat oven to 375 and spray 8 muffin tins with cooking spray. 
2.  In a bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar.  Cut the biscuits into 8 pieces each.  Roll into small balls and roll them through the cinnamon/sugar mix and then place 9 balls into each muffin cup. 
3.  In a saucepan on med heat, melt together butter, brown sugar, and water.  Bring to a point and stir until brown sugar is dissolved (about 2 minutes).  Pull off hea and add vanilla.  Spoon caramel over muffins. 

4.  Bake 10-12 minutes. 
5.  Let the muffins cool about 20 minutes (it's hard to remove them before the caramel sets b/c they don't hold together well while everything is still piping hot).  I used a soup spoon to help pop them out of the tins/while keeping all the pieces together.
5.  Use a mixer to beat together all of the icing ingredients.  Drizzle over the top of muffins.  Serve hot. 
*makes 8 muffins

Monday, June 06, 2016

Basic Macaroni Salad

I am an expert on macaroni salad.  Trust me, I have years of experience.  I am always trying out new recipes in search of THE perfect mix.  I don't like it toooo creamy, or tooo sour.  I'm pretty much Goldilocks minus the bears and porridge, add some noodles.  This one, THIS one even meets my standards.  I think I'll eat a bowl and go find the perfect bed to take a nap...it's the green pepper, seriously, what?  It makes all the difference....and I'm not even much on fresh green pepper, but apparently I just haven't been eating it in the right dishes.  The original recipe is from 365ofbaking.
Macaroni Salad
Ingredients:  1 lb elbow macaroni, 1 green pepper (seeded and chopped-should be about 3/4 c.),, 3/4 c. chopped white onion, 1 3/4 c. mayonnaise, 3 T white vinegar, 1 T bottled yellow mustard, 1 1/2 t. kosher salt, 1/4 t black pepper
Instructions:  
1.  Prep macaroni according to directions.
2.  Drain and set aside to cool.
3.  Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl.
4.  Chill in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

Friday, June 03, 2016

15 Years of Teaching...Just a Few Thoughts

     I didn't grow up playing school.  I didn't ask my Mom for an overhead projector for Christmas (I had a friend who did).  I always liked kids.  Babysitting was my main means of money collection when I was younger.  I went to college on a different path, but after the first semester, having never really said it before, I decided to pursue teaching.  It was what fit in the end.  I went through undergrad starry eyed.  I graduated a semester early and decided to truck through and get my masters degree as well.
     I finished up my masters and subbed in the city where I lived.  I also graduated from grad school mid year, so I was applying for positions that were open in January. I knew it wouldn't necessarily be an easy transition for myself or the students.  I found a sixth grade position in early December, and I went up and worked with the teacher and the class the rest of that semester to make the transition easier.  I was fortunate because there weren't a lot of applicants for that position, and my mentor teacher, who is now one of my closest friends, picked me for the spot despite how green I was. 
     That first semester I was put through the ringer.  I learned more about parent teacher relationships, discipline, and instruction than four years of college taught me....or the next 14...I always go back to those lessons when sharing with others about how I learned.  The most important thing I learned was how cricitical it was to have teammembers who support you, encourage you, and have your back.  I had that.  We spent late nights together laughing, and crying, and laughing about crying.  It was a long drive though, 45 minutes from where I bought my first home.  I loved the school, but I was looking for a forever home, and the drive took a toll.  I stayed at that school for a year and a half and then moved to a school (in the same district) about 20 minutes closer to my house.  It's far enough that I don't see my students every day at the store, close enough that I can't work up a real good cry on the drive to or from work.  One of my two teammates made the move with  me, and the other gal (my mentor) stayed behind.  To end that part of the story, I still work with my teammate, we currently share a room as specialists.  My mentor has now retired, but now comes to our (new/old) school as a tutor through the testing season.  We get together for meals whenever the mood strikes, and go on a retreat together every summer.  I've worked with other folks through the years, but my best advice to the 'new teachers' is....if you have a team you love, don't leave.  It's so hard to find, but it makes everything so much easier when you approach life as a team. 
    I taught 6th grade, and then a few years back I moved into a reading specialist position.  I've seen programs come, and go, and come again.  I've worked through 4 superintendents, 3 principals, 4 vice principals, thousands of students, hundreds of staff members coming, leaving, having babies, getting married, losing loved ones, becoming sick.  I've watched my students grow, go off to college, enter the work force, a few of them even :gasp: as teachers.  I've waded through 3 different state test, several governors, 2 presidents, mad parents, happy parents, and too many national tragedies.  I've watched locks be added to doors, security measures be increased, and a few book adoptions come and go....along with all their supplements.
   It seems like I hear about educators a lot on TV, and it's rarely in a good way.  I see the facebook feeds of my friends.  I watch the trends online of the complaints.  Yes, there have been some bad teachers I've encountered (and quickly said goodbye to) through the years, but my norm is that I get to work with other people who are here NOT because of the pay.  They are here because they love students.  They invest far more than 40 hours a week.  40 hours are the hours they spend WITH the kids, the other 20+ is the time they spend prepping lessons, hanging decorations, buying supplies, putting together treats, calling parents. There is no overtime pay.  There is no hazard pay.  There really aren't enough feeds trending on how great these folks are holding down the fort, helping raise a child.  I don't love the state test, but I love working with people who take that lemon and squeeze that lemonade in forms of (self bought) incentives for improvement and effort (NOT just scores), gals and guys who decorate hallways, come up with theme days, and do all they can to make it fun to learn. I want the test to change, but I'm OK with some form of accountability as a teacher FOR the sake of a child's education.  Not this one.   But a test will always be stressful, and school won't be the last place we are tested.   Students get stressed about it, but students also get stressed about peer relationships, happenings at home, and just growing up in a scary world.  I can't imagine a safer place than some of these classrooms. Some of the best lessons these teachers teach is how to deal with stress.  Emphasis on, I don't like the current test, and I voice my opinion to more than just a facebook feed, and my hope is more will do the same, but I love working with people who do all they can to make lemonade.  :Stepping off soap box.:
   When I started this journey I remember hearing the retention rate for a lot of teachers was less than 5 years.  I thought-I'll never make it five years.  I made it five years.  I had a coworker who left after her ninth year, and her husband wanted her to continue one more year so she would someday be eligible for health care at retirement age.  She didn't.  I thought-I'll never make it ten years.  This year, I complete my 15th year. Today I close up my classroom for the summer.  There have been other opportunities that have come along through those years, and I might take one someday...I never say never, but at this point in my life, I DO still count down the days until Christmas Break, or summer, but I DON'T measure the days I think I'll be able to 'handle this job' because I can't imagine anywhere I could work with so many people who genuinely LIKE their job. I genuinely LIKE my job.  There are some bad apples, some bad days, but I work with some of the most amazing people on planet earth.  I'll hang out with them this summer because they are people I respect, people that serve for the sake of serving.  I looked forward to summer because those weeks get long, and sabaticals help me recharge, BUT I also look forward to a new year.  I packed up my room, but I've also written down things I want to do and try next year to be an even better teacher.  It's funny to think back to that first year or two when I thought-I can't imagine making it five years.  It's gone by quickly, and most days I can't imagine anything being more fulfilling. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Gold Clipboard

 I made this little clipboard for my classroom.  I'm a fan of gold.
 I found these clipboards at Hobby Lobby.  They have a bunch of cute designs.  They were 7.99, but I used a coupon.
I used my cricut to cut out my initials and apply them to the clipboard.  So....one new addition for the end of the year/beginning of next year.  I chose to apply it to the side with the clip facing me b/c I'm going to hang it on the wall, otherwise I'd add it to the back so it was more visible when I was using it because cute school supplies is necessary for a successful school year.