Pray for the Buerkle family

I start out today with a heavy heart.

Since I didn’t have school, I was taking it easy this morning and browsing a few of my favorite blogs. I came across this post from Julie’s blog Peanut Butter Fingers and it broke my heart. In it, she shared that her future brother-in-law’s cousin passed away on Friday. The man, James, was only 27 years old and he died unexpectedly in his sleep. He and his wife had only been married for five months and she is pregnant and due in June.

This story hit me so close to home. James and his wife, Christina, got married only one week before Justin and I did. He was a chiropractic student (not exactly the same as a medical student like Justin but close enough to take my breath away). Their marriage seems to be very similar to ours (minus the pregnancy) and reading it, I just broke down in tears. It hit so close to home! I truly cannot imagine losing Justin, and I definitely can’t imagine losing him and then having to go through a pregnancy without him.

I ask you to keep this family in your thoughts and prayers. You can also make a monetary contribution to help support Christina and the baby throughout the pregnancy and birth by visiting the Baby Buerkle website. With the holidays upon us, they truly will need all the love and support they can get.

I also ask for thoughts and prayers for all those traveling today. If, like me, you live in the Eastern US, you know they are calling for a lot of bad weather today. My family is spread out over three different states and everyone is driving in today to celebrate Thanksgiving at our house. I know millions of other people will be traveling as well. Please keep all travelers in your thoughts and prayers; I want everyone to be safe and be able to celebrate with their families!

Praying that everyone has a safe and happy holiday!

Teacher Tuesday: Desk Decorating!

Teacher Tuesday is here once more!

My enthusiasm for Christmas has officially trickled over into my workplace. Today we had a two-hour delay, and since it’s the last day before Thanksgiving break,  I decided to use the extra time to decorate my desk!

Come winter, I look forward to snow days a lot so I decided to incorporate that into my decor. I took snowman wrapping paper (which I got on clearance in an after-Christmas sale last year!), taped one edge to the corner of my desk, and unrolled the paper as I walked around the desk. Once 3/4 of the sides were covered, I cut the paper and taped the edge to the desk.  SUPER easy. The wrapping paper was the same height as my desk so I didn’t even have to cut it for height! I only used four small pieces of tape, so when Christmas is over, I’ll un-tape it and roll it back up to use again.

For the sign, I cut out some pennants using light blue construction paper, glued on some die-cut letters and snowflakes, and taped the pennants to the wrapping paper. Simple!

11-26 Desk Decorating

I took some red and gold ribbon and taped it around my whiteboard, drew a quick “Countdown to Christmas” sign, and added a sleigh, Christmas tree, and stocking around my desk area for extra festivity. Again, all those items came from after-Christmas sales 🙂

Now when we come back from break, I’ll be ready to go! I just LOVE the holiday season!

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Today’s Outfit:

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Jacket: Maurices

Black cami: Express

Skinny jeans: Mossimo @ Target

Boots: Forever 21

Necklace & Earrings: Lia Sophia

Ornament Overload

When I walked into the kitchen this morning, my husband already had the curtains open to our back deck and I stopped dead in my tracks. The sunrise was absolutely mind blowing! Here’s an (unedited) picture I took:

How can your day not be good when you see this first thing? Such a beautiful beginning!

Christmas Ornaments

Ho ho ho! Our halls are decked! The tree is lit! And most importantly, the mistletoe is hung 🙂

I spent nearly all day Saturday packing up most of my fall decorations (I left a few out for our Thanksgiving meal) and pulled out my three huge tubs full of Christmas decorations. I blasted some Christmas music and got to work!

Since Justin and I are going to be traveling during our entire Christmas break, our tree is pathetically small. We just have a 3′ fake tree that I got for $7 from a yard sale. Needless to say, we didn’t hang many ornaments before the tree was full. I get ornaments on sale after Christmas and I had a ton left that didn’t fit on the tree. I still wanted to use them so I got creative with places to hang them!

First up was the banister by our staircase. Since we have a split level, the top banister is actually a “wall” in our living room. I wrapped it in fake garland (which I got for $2 from a thrift store!) and used fishing line to hang the ornaments in between each post. I hung them at different heights and alternated different patterns/textures. It was simple and I really like the way it turned out!

  

Next up was a decorative window that I have hung over a couch. The window is plain white so I used my neon-bright ornaments to pops of color. Again, I hung them with fishing line and lightly taped the fishing line to the top of the window so it was out of sight. Took about 15 minutes and was super easy. I love the result!

Lastly, I took silver and dark bluish-grey ornaments and hung them in a “pyramid” in my bathroom using fishing line. We just have a simple paper shade covering that window so the ornaments dressed it up nicely. The ornaments matched my color scheme perfectly so it was a subtle Christmas touch. I added a strand of the $2 fake garland to complete the look.

All three ideas were very easy and extremely inexpensive. It took about an hour total and cost under $20 (I cannot stress enough the importance of planning ahead and buying Christmas stuff after Christmas! Saves you SO much money!) I love the simplicity of each decoration but they come together to give the house a nice festive feel. Yay!

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Today I rolled out of bed tired and groggy but I decided to “dress for success” to wake me up and get me in the work mindset. Only one more workday until break!

Jacket: Frenchi

Tank: Express

Skirt: New York & Co.

Tights: Express

Pumps: Maurices

Bracelet set: Express

Earrings: Lia Sophia

Belt: Outlooks (came attached to a pair of capris)

Simple [last-minute] Thanksgiving Decoration

Finally Friday!!

Even though I have officially brought out my boxes of Christmas decorations (YES!), I still need to have a few Thanksgiving decorations around. My entire family is coming into town next week and we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

I decided to keep the Thanksgiving decor simple since I want to be able to easily take it down and transition to Christmas ASAP! And since I waited until the last minute, I needed simple, easy ideas!

Here’s one idea I came up with:

Justin and I had a couple small chalkboards that we used at our wedding, and my mother-in-law grew a bunch of tiny pumpkins and gourds in her garden this year. I drew a quick pennant, chose a cute little pumpkin out of our gourd stash, and set it on a bookshelf over a small leaf table runner from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Simple? Check. Quick? Check. Festive? Check. Happy? CHECK!

Hosting a holiday is stressful enough without stressing out over the small details. No need to spend a ton  of money or time. Keep it simple and spend time enjoying family and yummy food!

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Today’s outfit was simple, casual and bright! Keeping it fun on Friday!

Shirt: TopShop

Pants: Target

Wedges: Target

Necklace: Lia Sophia

Clean Eating Chicken & Spinach Penne

Today was one of those days where I hit the ground running from the moment I woke up and didn’t stop until I got home after work. Lots of meetings and paperwork to fill out today and it seemed like it was just one thing after another. Whew!

When I got home, I wanted something quick, easy, and yummy for dinner so that I would have some time to relax this evening. I found a recipe on Cassie’s Back to Her Roots blog and I easily adapted it to be more “clean” and to accommodate the things I had in my pantry.

You can find the original recipe here. Cassie’s recipe calls for shrimp, but I’m not a big seafood fan and I had chicken on hand so that’s what I used. I also did not add mushrooms, salt, or pepper. I can’t say I used her recipe too closely with cook time/measurements, but it served as a wonderful guide for this meal.

First up, I boiled some water and put in a box of 100% whole wheat penne. While that was cooking, I diced up some tomatoes and threw them in a large skillet with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, some minced garlic, and a few dashes of crushed red pepper flakes. I did not use much oil because the tomatoes produced a lot of natural juices.

I sauteed them for a minute or two and then added some chicken (I diced the chicken up nice and small). Once the chicken was cooked, I added finely chopped spinach. (Mmmm! I LOVE spinach!)

Once everything was cooked, I added a 6 oz container of plain Greek Yogurt and about half a jar of my mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce. Her sauce has a bit of a spicy kick, which complimented the red pepper flakes perfectly! I also love using her spaghetti sauce because I know exactly what goes into it (hint: no preservatives or added salt).

Lastly, I added the cooked penne back in and stirred it all around. The whole thing took 15 minutes and it was deee-licious!! Simple, quick, and easy! Also nice and clean. 🙂 Definite success!

And now, off to relax with the hubster and pup. No better way to relax than that!

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I don’t know about you, but I think fall is going by entirely too fast. I’m not ready for dreary winter weather! I needed some fall colors in today’s outfit!

Sweater: Maurices

Cami: Maurices

Khakis: Maurices (Hmm…I may be obsessed with that store)

Ballet Flats: Kohls

Necklace: Express

Bow belt: Honestly, I got this at a Plato’s closet and it has no tag. But I love it!

Friends + Thanksgiving = Friendsgiving

“Friendsgiving” is finally here!

Tonight we got together with a bunch of friends from the medical school for a Thanksgiving feast.  This event is awesome for three major reasons:

1- We have pretty awesome friends and it’s always fun to hang out as a group.

2- There was a lot of delicious food.

3- Tomorrow, I am allowed to decorate for Christmas! (Waiting until after the actual Thanksgiving day is just too long for a Christmas lover like myself so Justin and I agreed Friendsgiving is technically close enough to count)

I told the host of our Thanksgiving meal, Kara, that I’d be willing to bring green bean casserole, apple pie, and rolls. I wanted to bring traditional dishes using healthy recipes (same taste, better for you!) Lately, I have been trying to incorporate more clean eating into Justin and my diets. We don’t often eat out and we rarely have junk food, but I cook a lot and I find myself using a lot of processed ingredients/foods in our meals. I’ve been researching a lot about eating clean (I’ll save my findings for another blog post) and have been trying to use recipes that are clean.

I was lucky enough to find some yummy (and SIMPLE) clean recipes on The Gracious Pantry blog. I woke up early to get the rolls done this morning, and got the others got done after school. It really helped that the casserole and pie bake for almost the same amount of time at the same temperature so they could be in the oven together.

Green bean casserole recipe here. I used my mom’s home-grown, canned beans for an extra amount of deliciousness!

Rolls recipe here. I didn’t have pastry flour, so I used whole wheat flour and they turned out a bit harder/dense than I would’ve liked,  but they were yummy when softened! I warmed them in the oven for a few minutes right before dinner.

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Apple pie recipe here. I did make my own crust using this recipe! I actually really enjoy baking and this recipe was a fun one to try. The actual recipe calls for a second crust covering the whole pie, but I didn’t have quite enough crust so I just cut the remaining dough in strips and criss-crossed it.

The thing I like most about these recipes is that they are simple and do not call for a ton of unusual ingredients. Sometimes healthy recipes call for things I’ve never even heard of, but these were all made with staples in my kitchen!  I have a feeling I will be using The Gracious Pantry a lot in the future!

Now that I’m stuffed to the max, I’m going to go relax with my hubby and plan out where I’m going to hang all my Christmas decorations tomorrow. Happy Hump Day/Friendsgiving Day!

***

Because I was up early preparing the rolls for Friendsgiving, I did not have much time to throw together an outfit. I chose some simple, solid layers and a colorful necklace as my statement piece.

Shirt: Express

Sweater: Express

Pants: Maurices

Shoes: Fegalicious by Fergie

Necklace: Premier Jewelry

Teacher Tuesday: Dice Edition

Another Teacher Tuesday is here!

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I do a lot of remediation with my students, particularly in math. While I am a special education teacher, I do a lot with the whole class because there are many students without disabilities who still struggle with retaining math facts.

I’ve come up with several games and activities to play to practice the facts in new ways so they get exposure to the facts and practice them while staying engaged the whole time.  All the activities I’m sharing today are done with dice. I have found that while many multiplication games feel “baby-ish” to my middle schoolers, they love to roll the dice for these games. It allows them to take some ownership in their math facts since they’re the ones “creating” the facts  and it’s a nice break from yet another worksheet.

Easy ways to practice multiplication with dice

1. Simple roll and multiply. First up is extremely simple. The students get two die (di? dice? I’m never sure with this one.) Because I had green and white available, students got one of each but you can use the same color. They roll both and multiply the two numbers together. They then have to write the multiplication problem down and roll again to create a new problem. I like this too because it is self-paced. If a student has to think for five minutes to remember what 3 x 6 is, no problem! The rest of the class isn’t held up.

Variation #1 of simple roll and multiply. Students get three dice. Here I gave them two green and one white. They roll the white to get the first number in the multiplication problem. Then they roll BOTH green dice together and find the sum of the numbers rolled. This gives them the second number in the multiplication problem. This involves a little more higher-level thinking but my students caught on quick!

Dice game on desk (2)-001

And yes, I let the students write on their desk! They use an Expo dry erase marker and it wipes right off with a paper towel and a small amount of dry erase board cleaner. No damage to the desks and the students LOVE it!

Variation #2 of simple roll and multiply. Same as above but students get four dice. Here I gave them two green and two white. They roll both white together and find the sum to get the first number in the multiplication problem. Then they roll both green dice together and find the sum of the numbers rolled to get the second number in the problem. I like this because it asks them to do two operations, which is a skill they will need to use a lot as they move forward in math! I would not do this variation until they are solid with the simple roll and multiply.

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Multiplication Chart Fill-In. Here I gave the students blank multiplication charts and dice. I gave them four but you could make it work with two.

Multiplication practice with dice (1)-001

The goal of this activity was to fill in as much of the chart as they could in a certain amount of time. They couldn’t just fill it in though, they had to roll the multiples!

I gave them one minute with rolling just TWO die. The rules were the same as the “simple roll and multiply” above. I did let them fill in both squares for each problem (2 x 3 = 6 and 3 x 2 = 6) because it was a good opportunity to expose them to the commutative property of multiplication.

Multiplication with dice (2)-001

After one minute was up, I had them roll three die. Same as the variation of the simple roll and multiply above: the single di was the first number and the sum of the next two di was the second number in the multiplication problem. My students were so used to all the variations of the simple roll and multiply that they could easily transition to this without getting confused. Then I gave them one minute with rolling all four dice (sum of first two = first number, sum of second two = second number).

Multiplication with dice (3)-001 Multiplication with dice (4)-001

Variations: 

1. Continue 3 minute cycles for however much time you have (last 15 minutes of class? Do five one-minute cycles of each. Just a few minutes? Do one or two cycles of each)

2. With one or two minutes left at the end of this activity, tell the students to put down the die and now fill in as many as they can on their own.

3. Turn it into a competition

a. First student to get thirty boxes filled in gets a prize.

b. First student to fill the whole chart gets a prize.

c. All students get a prize as they get thirty/whole chart/etc.

4. If your students are just beginners, give them only a 6 x 6 multiplication chart and have them fill in using the simple roll and multiply.

Whole Class Activity: Multiplication Dice “Bingo.” I’ll admit, this isn’t truly Bingo; however, my students still had fun with it. Each student gets a Bingo chart with products in it. I got simple charts here but you could make your own to reflect the specific fact families you want to work on.

Students would come up one at a time to roll two giant foam di in the front of the room (this was fun for them because I allowed them to gently bounce it off the wall if they wanted.) The student would roll the di, following the simple roll and multiply rule, and tell us the product. For example, if he rolled a 2 and a 5, he would say “2 x 5 = 10.”

I would have 2-3 students come up and repeat the same process, then I would switch and have the next 2-3 students do the first variation of the simple roll and multiply (first dice rolled = first number, second roll uses two di and the sum = the second number). For example, the student may now roll a 3 on the first roll and a 4 and a 5 (4 + 5 = 9) on the second roll so she would call out “3 x 9 = 27.”

The next 2-3 students would do the second variation of the roll and multiply (first roll uses two di, sum = first number; second roll uses two di, sum = second number). This student may roll the two di and get a 1 and 4 (1 + 4 = 5) on the first roll and a 3 and 5 (3 + 5 = 8) on the second roll so he would call out “5 x 8 = 40.”

This activity sounds rather complex, but even my lowest students understood the concept once I demonstrated each type of roll (keep in mind they are sixth graders). They all enjoyed it! The standard rules of Bingo apply: once you get five across or down, call out “Bingo” and tell us all the multiplication facts you got.

You may be thinking “why are we even bothering with dice?” You make a valid point. These activities can all be done without dice. However, I have found that the students stay engaged and practice their facts more if they are actively involved. They really seem to enjoy rolling the dice and it is a new, fun way to practice the same facts over and over.

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Today I had a doctor’s appointment, so no school outfit to share. I have to admit it was nice to spend an entire day in sweats! Whoo hoo!