Three Words: Apple Cider Donuts

Today was one of those Mondays where I woke up in disbelief that my weekend was over. Okay, truthfully, this happens nearly every Monday, but today was especially so! This weekend FLEW by!

Justin had a study-free weekend and since that rarely happens, we decided to take advantage by road-tripping to Charlottesville, VA to visit some friends. We have several friends who live in the city and we don’t often get to see them so it was a treat to spend the whole weekend catching up!

Some highlights:

-Taking Macie to her very first dog park (She LOVED it! She ran the whole time and was the star of the show; the dogs all flocked to her puppy energy! And I had two people tell me and I quote: “She is the cutest puppy I have ever seen!” I was one proud mama!!)

-My first time ever inside a Trader Joe’s (I think I’m in love.)

-Made homemade pizza with friends (One of our friends is pregnant and pizza is her craving! How fun!)

-Annual trip to Carter’s Mountain Orchard!

If you are ever in the Charlottesville area in the fall, you simply must check this place out. It is a GORGEOUS orchard on top of a mountain! You can walk down the mountain into the orchard on both sides and the view is incredible.

Orchard

This picture does not even do it justice at all!

After getting our bags, we made a beeline to the Pink Lady trees (my favorite!) Unfortunately, by this late in October, many of the trees have no apples within reach anymore so Justin and I employed some married teamwork to get the yummy ones at the top of the trees!

apple 5 apple 3 apple 1 apple 2

As you can see we do not mess around. And it was worth it when we got perfectly pinkish-red apples! Yes!! We also got some Jonagolds which were also delicious! And since it was all outdoors, dogs were allowed to go in the orchard. Macie loved it!

Before leaving, we had to take our “annual” family pumpkin picture! We were actually at Carter’s over the same weekend (with the same friends!) last year. Justin and I took a picture in front of a giant pumpkin painting and we decided to make it a tradition and take a picture again this year.  Now I guess we will just have to go back next year and take another one!

Pumpkin2 Pumpkin

It was a lot colder this year, hence the winter coats! But I love seeing how our family has changed; now we’re married with the “cutest puppy ever!”

Speaking of love, Carter’s Mountain also has little stores at the top. One of them is a bakery and they sell APPLE. CIDER. DONUTS. My life is completely changed. Delicious! I forgot to take a picture of ours this year, so a picture of last year’s will have to suffice. Although it should be noted that this year we upgraded from a half dozen to a full dozen. Yum!

Donuts

And yes, my man was rocking mutton chops last year. We went to a country concert later that day so it was fitting. Love that guy!

As fun as our trip was, it went way too fast! I’m already looking forward to our next visit!

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Since today was one of those “I can’t believe it’s already Monday” days, I went for a simple, comfy look. You can’t go wrong with a classic v-neck sweater and understated jewelry! Since I didn’t have time to take a picture this morning (may have slept in a bit too long!) I had to take a mirror selfie in the gym locker room before my workout after school. Classy, huh?

Outfit #1

Sweater: Express

Layering Tank: Mossimo (Target)

Dress Pants: T.B.A.

Shoes: Maurices

Monogramed necklace: Lia Sophia

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Operation Stress-free Christmas Card Picture: Step #1

Today, a very exciting package came in the mail!

Macie Hat #2

A puppy Santa hat for Macie!

This past weekend, a few friends and I drove to a nearby city for an overnight girls’ shopping trip/weekend away. (It was SO nice to get some quality girl-time in . . . and of course, score some major deals!) As we were browsing one of the many stores, one of the girls picked out coordinating outfits for herself and her husband and casually mentioned they’d probably wear them for Christmas card pictures.

Pause. What? People are thinking about Christmas? Didn’t fall just begin?

Truth is, I’m a bit of a procrastinator and had my friend not said something, Christmas card pictures wouldn’t have even crossed my mind for about another month. Then it would have taken me a week or two to decide what to do and at least another week to get it done. I’d be lucky to get the cards out by Christmas eve! The  whole thing would be rushed and stressful, and I’d probably be dissatisfied with the results.

Not gonna happen this year! I’m inspired to “simplify the [upcoming] chaos” by planning ahead! Let Operation Stress-free Christmas Card Picture begin!

All my enthusiasm aside, I have no delusions that I’ll be able to pull off something glamourous. I see all the adorable Christmas card pictures where the couple is wrapped up cozily in Christmas lights (J & I would just look like a tangled mess) or is having a cute snowball fight and still looking picture perfect (My face gets ridiculously red in the cold so I’d look like Rudolph). Then I realized that J and I don’t need to do anything spectacular because we have a spectacularly cute puppy who can steal all the limelight and be adorable enough for us all!

Macie Hat #1

Cue Santa hat! (Bonus that is was only $2.99 plus shipping!) Now I just have to get her to like wearing the hat so it will stay on long enough for a picture. So far, she’s up to keeping it on for about 1.2 seconds. Anyways, I consider this a significant success on Step #1 of Operation Stress-free Christmas Card Picture. Yes!

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Last week, I posted about re-vamping spring clothing to give it new life for the fall/winter. Even though I did score some new clothing on the shopping spree, I’m still digging out spring clothes and giving them new life. It’s actually fun to find new ways to wear things and it’s also very budget-friendly!

Here’s today’s teacher-friendly work outfit:

Outfit #1

Cardigan: Old Navy

Lace cami: Express

Grey pencil skirt: Laundry by Shelli Segal (found at Ross!)

Grey suede pumps: Bandolino

Bangles and earrings: Ruche (shopruche.com)

I LOVE mint and paired it with other pastels all spring and summer long. I paired it with grey to transition it to winter and really like the way it turned out!

On a side note, taking self-timed shots with a puppy in the room sometimes leads to this:

Outfit #1b

Hmm. We might need to work on her a bit before she’s ready for her big Christmas card debut after all . . .

Simple, Creative Flower Pot Gift

Yesterday was a pretty long day at school, and I found myself really missing my kiddos from my last teaching job. Before I got married and relocated, I taught elementary-aged students with multiple disabilities and absolutely loved it!! Those students became so dear to me and they will forever have a place in my heart. And thanks to my thoughtful and creative teaching assistant, they will also always have a place on my back deck!

flowerpot

At the end of last year, my class surprised me with the BEST gift ever! My teaching assistants chipped in and bought me a large flower pot. Then they painted the rim blue for the sky and a border of green grass at the bottom. They had each child stick their hand in green paint (great feeling for these children who love sensory activities!) and press it onto the pot for flower stems. The students all got to choose the color they wanted to paint the flower centers and petals. Since all of my students had communication needs, they indicated their color choices either by eye gaze or using gestures.

Each flower center and petal was carefully made using the child’s thumbprints. And the cutest finishing touch was the little critters! Each student made a little thumbprint critter (i.e. ladybug, butterfly, ant) next to their flower. Adorable!!

I liked that they also wrote each student’s name on their flower so I will always know whose is whose. I really really loved this idea and thought it was such a creative and thoughtful gift! I also loved that it actually involved my students, who have more limitations with fine motor skills. This was the perfect craft to get them really involved and now I always have a piece of them with me even though I moved far away!

pot2

The gift also included a Lowe’s gift card so I could purchase a pre-potted flower arrangement (my assistants know full well my complete LACK of a green thumb!) which was also a very thoughtful gesture. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with such wonderful people!

“Bye Bye Bye” to my youth

Today, I aged 15 years.

Someone once told me that a “generation” is roughly 25 years. And something happened today that made me realize that though there are only about 10 chronological years between myself and the average eighth grader, I am really in a totally separate generation.

In the last block English class I co-teach in, the other teacher passed out a sheet detailing ways to “hook” your readers using different tactics. One of the tactics was to make a pop culture reference and the example sentence talked about N’Sync. LESS THAN HALF of the class knew who that was.

WHAT!?

I could almost feel the wrinkles form instantly.

After agonizing for roughly 30 minutes about how to re-work my budget to include all the anti-age creams and serums I would now have to buy, I realized how ridiculous I was being and decided to embrace my old goat status.  So tonight, I’m going to sit back with a nice glass of wine and crank up the “classic” Backstreet Boys (on my antiquated CDs no less).

And I will also need to tell my husband that he owes me a lot of missed  birthday gifts  for all the years that have just flashed before my eyes. 🙂

Backstreet’s Back ALRIGHT!!

Week started out a little . . . wet

Oh Monday. How I didn’t miss you.

I am actually normally a very positive person who really tries to make the best of a Monday. However, all that positivity went out the window (literally) when, at 7 am, I walked out to my car in the pouring rain only to realize I left all four windows rolled down after taking Macie to the park yesterday. I had to attempt to keep my bottom dry by sitting on my stash of re-usable grocery bags in the car.

Not exactly the best way to start out a week, but at least it made me thankful to get to work and get out of my car!

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In the spirit of fall, I thought I would share a simple fall craft that I did last year with my students. My first two years of teaching, I taught students with multiple disabilities in an elementary school. My students had little to no fine motor skills, so I had to get creative in order to make sure they could all still participate in making crafts.  This simple Indian corn craft is perfect for students with developing fine motor skills! It’s also a good sensory activity; my students love the feel of dipping their fingers into the paint!

Indian Corn

You will need:

-yellow construction paper

-green construction paper

-brown, orange, and red finger paint

-small bowls or a plate for the finger paint

-glue (or you could use a gold brad if you want to make the leaves moveable)

-scissors

Instructions:

1. Cut the orange construction paper into the shape of a large oval. If the child has the fine motor skills, you can have him or her cut this paper after you draw a simple outline. I made my oval “bumpy” to look like the edge of an ear of corn.

2. Cut out two green leaves. I free-handed this step but if you are not comfortable with that, I’d suggest finding an outline online to trace and use as a template.

3. Here’s the fun part! Have the child dip their fingers into different colors of paint. (For some of my students with more limited abilities, I used a paint brush to apply paint to their fingertips.) Then they can make kernels all over their yellow ear of corn. They can do a pattern or just dot away until the ear is full of kernels!

4. Allow time for the paint to dry. After it’s dry, attach the leaves to the ear. I used glue to keep mine in place; however, I wish I had used a brad to attach the leaves so the students could have practiced pulling back the husk to reveal the corn!

This would also be a good lesson around Thanksgiving to teach about the first Thanksgiving and the help that the Native Americans gave to the Pilgrims in planting maize.

Enjoy!

Switch-Access Links

As all my teacher friends can attest, there are a lot of websites that are great as learning resources. And I mean a LOT.

Many of my students access computer games and activities by using a switch, and in my years of teaching, I have accumulated quite the collection of websites for switch use, some for academic purposes and some just for fun when a student has free time. I hate filling up my bookmark bar with a million and five (okay, slight exaggeration) of these sites, and I didn’t like having to search through my chaotic “Teacher Things” Pinterest board to find them all, so in an effort to simplify, I’ve compiled a list of sites that I have found to be useful for varying levels of abilities and needs. I categorized them so I could easily find sites that would work for each student based on need. Some of the sites are repeated below because they fit more than one category of use.

Single-Press Cause & Effect Learning. These sites are for beginning switch users or users who are still working on learning that hitting the switch will produce a result or desired effect. They give the student 100% chance of success because they cannot hit a “wrong” answer.

  • SENSwitcher Students can work their way up to multi-press as they improve their skills.
  • Priory Woods A fun way for students to activate a short video. Lots of songs and variety of popular TV shows and movies to keep students interested.
  • HelpKidzLearn This website has a TON of great cause & effect games and stories for switch use. The free subscription gets you access to a few activities under each category, but you can choose to subscribe for less than $2 monthly and gain access to all the activities.
  • KneeBouncers Unfortunately, this site requires a paid membership for almost all activities (although you can sign-up for a one-month free trial). It has lots of games and activities for cause & effect learning and is even great for young children without disabilities.
  • Dartboard Hit the switch two times  (once for horizontal coordinate and once for vertical) in order to “throw” the dart. While it is easy to participate in this game, the concept may be better suited for higher-level users.
  • Papunet First Games Simple clicks allow different pictures to pop up around the screen. There are some simply-for-fun games and some are great for practicing vocabulary of fruits, vegetables, and animals.
  • Shiny Learning Very simple games that are lots of fun! Some single hit, some press and hold, and some multi-click  activities.

Academic Learning & Stories

  • Hiyah Slideshows This website allow your student to use a switch to click through a ready-made slideshow to learn about a concept such as colors, shapes, seasons, holidays and can also be used to increase learning with dolch words and basic math.  There are also stories they can read.
  • Papunet Games This site is FULL of learning activities. Puzzles, dominoes, memory games, games of precision, sudokus, word exercises, drawing exercises, first games, and more!
  • Storyline Online Short videos of famous actors talking about and reading their favorite children’s stories. The story illustrations are “brought to life” for the viewers to watch and all stories are read in around 5-7 minutes.
  • Tar Heel Reader Users create powerpoint books that students can read through by having their switch set to left and right arrows or by having the switch “click” the left arrow like a mouse. The cool thing about this website is you can search for a topic (i.e. “Halloween,” “Dr. Seuss,” etc) and find lots of books on that topic. All the books can be set to be read aloud. You can also upload your own books!
  • Online Talking Stories The title is pretty self-explanatory. Lots and lots of stories to choose from that are animated and read aloud.

Multi-Switch/Keyboard User Games. These games are for experienced switch users who have moved past the cause & effect understanding and are ready for a challenge. Some of these are pretty high level so make sure you experiment with them first to make sure they’re right for your student.

  • BBC Games These games are fairly complex and may be best for two players.
  • Dartboard This fun game allows a student to hit the spacebar twice in order to throw darts. Could be used as a cause & effect activity with two single-presses, but the strategy and game itself is probably best suited for a higher-level user.

Enjoy these sites! And please let me know if you have found other ones to be helpful and I will gladly add them to my list.

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Disclaimer: I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for endorsing any of these websites. I had no contact with the administration of any site and am recommending them only as sites that worked well and allowed success for my students in my classroom.