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!

***

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)

Advertisements

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!

***

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!

***

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.

P1040981

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.

Dice game on desk (3)-001

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.

***

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!

My Fitness Pal = new obsession

Hello hello!

First things first . . . I have seriously been slacking on the blog front. The last few days have been crazy at work and we were out of town this weekend. It was fun whirlwind but I’m so thankful to relax and catch my breath!

At first, I was really stressed about trying to fit some blogging in. As my About Me will tell you, I’m a recovering perfectionist and I don’t like not being able to do something well. However, I came to terms with the fact that the whole point of this blog is to simplify the chaos that life can become. It’s about choosing joy and not perfection. It’s about striking a balance and living a life well. So if the blog itself has to fall by the wayside because life happens, so be it! Squeezing in a blog post is not worth it if it sucks my last drops of energy or takes time away from relaxing and recharging with my family. So here I am, ready for action!

My Fitness Pal

Over the weekend, I went into Target (harmless enough) and started checking out their clothes (typically not harmless . . . on my wallet). I found the cutest pair of skinny jeans and I eagerly headed to the dressing room to try them on. Five agonizing minutes later, I left the dressing room not so eagerly. Let’s just say, the skinny jeans went on after a lot of effort, but they did not look flattering at all. Six months ago they would’ve fit like a glove. What happened?!

On my wedding day, I was in the best shape of my life. Yes, of course, I was motivated by that dress! But more than that, my lifestyle was also different. It was easy for me to make salads, work out every day after school, and still have a life. Justin was away at school, and I  lived with roommates (translation: 1/3 of the cleaning, dishes, household chores, etc) so I had more free time to make healthy decisions.

Now that I’m married, I don’t have as much free time. I have a 40 minute commute, so I get home later than before. I cook meals (mostly) every night so I’m eating a lot more. With Justin in med school, most of the household chores fall on me and I also have a puppy to take care of. It’s just busier. I have a friend I work out with a few times a week but it’s clearly not enough. I need a change!

This weekend I discovered an app called MyFitnessPal and I’m already obsessed! It is so simple and really helps keep me accountable. I have done food journals before, but they never last longer than a few weeks because I’ll forget to take the journal with me, or I won’t remember everything I ate, or I just don’t think to write it down, blah, blah, blah. I need something simple and effective, or I won’t be able to stick with it. MyFitnessPal is my solution!MyFitnessPal

This app is ridiculously awesome. It has so many food pre-programmed in to log in my daily “diary” but it also has a barcode scanner so if I have the package a food comes in (like my breakfast cereal), it will scan it and all of the nutritional info comes up! I can adjust the serving sizes based on what I actually eat to make it a little more accurate. I love that it is on my phone, so it’s always accessible, and it’s simple. I don’t have the time to stick with crazy diet plans (and frankly, I love food too much for diets!) and I don’t have the patience to add something complex to my schedule. This is a quick and easy and I can still eat my normal food.

Even though I’m not convinced the caloric count is super accurate, this app definitely makes me more aware of what I’m eating and has helped me make some better choices. I can also track my exercise and it “negates” those calories from my daily intake. Simple–just the way I like it! Learn more about it here.

Happy Monday!

***

I’ve got some outfits to catch up on!

Thursday:

11-019

Shirt: Express, Skirt: Laundry by Shelli Segal, Grey pumps: Bandolino, Necklace: Lia Sophia

(Casual) Friday:

11-020

Sweater: Anthropologie, Cami: Target, Jeggings: American Eagle, Boots: CL by Laundry, Necklace: Lia Sophia

Today:

11-021

Shirt: Old Navy, Skirt: Target, Tights: Express, Boots: Forever 21, Jewelry: bought in Africa

Macie’s Blog Debut!

I just realized that while I have talked about my puppy a few times on the blog, I haven’t properly introduced you to her.

Meet Macie!

  

Those pictures are from the first day we got her when she was eight weeks old. I know I know. Cutest puppy you’ve ever seen, right?

**Side note: When we first got Macie, we decided to announce our “new baby” on Facebook with this:

simplifythechaos.com

Everyone has a cute pregnancy announcement; why not have a cute puppy announcement? This was a simple and fun way to tell friends about our new family member!

Macie is now a 5 1/2 month old puppy and she is a constant bundle of energy. She flies around the house and is the biggest source of entertainment to Justin and I. Some of her favorite things include:

CAR RIDES. On any given day, a car ride with Macie will either look like this…

Or (more often than not) this…

For whatever reason, Macie loves to sit on top of my shoulders when we are in the car. She wants to be able to see everything and I guess she thinks that is the best viewpoint!

Macie also loves finding sticks at the park.

We’re still trying to work with her on proportions. 😉

Other hobbies include running, chewing, fetching, tug-of-war-ing (yup, I made that a word) and invading personal space. The last one is a biggie. Case in point:

   

Things Macie does NOT love: getting dressed up by Mommy and…baths.

  

Needless to say, after her first “bath,” we were both more than a little frustrated.

Since coming into our lives, Macie has cemented herself in our hearts—we adore her! She is the most lovable pup ever and I can’t imagine our family without her! I could gush about her all day (and I am known to whip out my cell phone to show anyone who seems even remotely interested at least 10 pictures of her doing cute things) but I think this was sufficient for her first spotlight on the blog. 🙂

  simplifythechaos.com

Happy “Hump” Day!

***

Who actually follows the “no white after Labor Day” rule? Not this girl! Today’s outfit was  perhaps a bit “spring-y” but I really don’t care. I need some bright colors when the weather gets dreary!

Cardigan: Old Navy

Flower tank: Old Navy

White tank underneath: Mossimo (Target)

White dress pants: New York & Co.

Shoes: Fergalicious by Fergie