Here’s one for the alliteration lovers

*Nerd alert*

I’m a sucker for some good alliteration. So when I was thinking about what to post today, the idea of a “Teacher Tuesday” popped into my head and just wouldn’t go away. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to posting a teaching activity every Tuesday, but the idea sure sounds good at least for today!

As a special education teacher in a middle school, I do a lot of remediation. It’s so heartbreaking for me to see the gaps that some students have in their foundational knowledge. I’m currently working with a group of sixth graders who have somehow made it to middle school without knowing their times tables. Since sixth graders in Virginia cannot use calculators on the statewide assessments, it’s essential that my students commit the facts to long-term memory; however, many of them have a disability that hinders their ability to do this without a lot of repetition. Because of this, I am taking the last 15 minutes of my co-taught math class everyday to practice, practice, P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E!

While repetition is good, it can also be pretty darn boring to just repeat facts over and over again. Flash cards are great but over and over again, every single day? Snooze.

One way I keep my students interested is to let them practice multiplication facts on their desk. As in, I let them write on their desks. Like, ON their desks.

Multiplication Practice-Write facts on desk with expo marker!-001All you need is an expo marker, a clean desk, some dry erase board cleaner spray, and a paper towel. Before introducing this to your students though, I would TEST a tiny area to make sure it will wipe off. It has worked on every “wooden” desk I’ve tried but if you have a white-top desk, you may want to proceed with extreme caution.

Ways I use this activity include:

1- Giving students a fact family and having them write all facts 0-12 on their  desks (above I had them write all the “3’s”).

2- Clear 12 desks and number them all 1-12. Each desk is a fact family and the student needs to travel the room and write one (or two) fact for each family on that desk.

3- Call out products and have them write the problem that would go along with that product on their desk. For example, I might call out “21” and the student would write ‘7 x 3 = 21’ on his or her desk. It’s also a good way for them to think about products with many factors (i.e. “24” can be ‘2 x 12,’ ‘3 x 8,’ ‘4 x 6’ so challenge students to come up with all three problems on their own). They should write small enough to have space for several problems and then you can check them over or go over them as a class.

4- Roll dice and write a multiplication problem on the desk with the numbers rolled. (More to come on that in next week’s Teacher Tuesday!)

I occasionally have students walk around and check another student’s desk. They love being able to “grade” and give their peers 100% or stars. (I don’t do this until every student is nearing mastery of the particular fact family).

My students LOVE this activity because it is something different. They never get to write on their desks and, in fact, normally get in trouble for it. Getting to “break the rules” and write on their desks is fun and motivates them to practice. I actually had one student who hates completing worksheets tell me how much fun he was having writing his times tables. Did you catch that? Fun. Writing his times tables. I don’t know about you, but I consider that to be a major success!

***

Today’s outfit was bright and colorful–it was our first “snow” (more like a dusting) and the weather was pretty dreary so I needed to brighten it up with my wardrobe!

11-12 Outfit 3

Sweater: Target

White button down: Express

Khaki pants: Maurices

Shoes: Kohls

Necklace: Bluetique

Bangle set: Ruche (shopruche.com)

Sore butt, Happy heart

This weekend, Justin and I had visitors! One of Justin’s best friends from childhood, Caitlin, came to visit us and she brought her boyfriend Ryan. Justin and I both feel like we have been traveling a lot lately so it was nice to get to stay put for a weekend and have people come to us!

Caitlin and Ryan are both active, outdoorsy people like Justin and I so we took advantage of a beautiful (albeit chilly) Saturday to go for a bike ride!

We chose a trail that follows a local river. The river was so calm and still that the golden leaves of the trees reflected clearly off the surface. It was such a fun ride!

Justin and I had to borrow bikes from some friends since we don’t have our own.

We started out really positive and excited but by the end, our butts were HURTING. Our friends are about the same size as us but the bikes weren’t quite adjusted right for us and the seats were not padded at all. By the end of our 7+ mile ride, we were both very sore! We still had a ton of fun though.

We took a break at the halfway point of our ride for a photo shoot. There was a cute little bridge there for us to prop up our camera on and take some pics.

Ever had one of these self-timed jumping picture fails? We had several! They were all pretty hilarious to look back through though.Bike 6Success!! What a great weekend with some awesome friends!

Happy Monday!

***

We had such a busy weekend that I was exhausted last night. I got to bed early and woke up feeling refreshed! I chose bright, refreshing colors for today’s outfit.

Shirt: Express

Pencil skirt: Express

Shoes: Maurices

Necklace: Premier Designs

Bracelet: Gift from South Africa 

Casual Friday Lovin’

I have a new fall obsession. Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider! Oh. My. Goodness.

Trader Joe's Cider

Normally I am not a warm drink person. I like my drinks to be cold. I don’t drink coffee or tea and when I do have “hot” chocolate, I actually prefer for it to be room temperature. I put tons of ice in all my drinks to make sure they stay cold. I know, I know. I’m weird.

Every fall I look forward to a big glass of apple cider but I always drink it cold. However, the last time I was in Trader Joe’s they had this out for samples and it was served hot. I decided to ignore my freaky-weird cold drink obsession and try it anyways. So thankful I did! It is the perfect blend of delicious spices and one sip warms my whole body! Fabulous! We served it warm at our Halloween party and it was a huge hit. Luckily, I bought enough from TJ’s that we still had a gallon left for Justin and I to enjoy. Perfect warm drink for this chilly evening!

***

This week at school seemed extra long but Casual Friday finally came! Am I the only person who looks forward to wearing jeans at work?    There’s something about it that just makes me happy!

    

Shirt: Express

Black skinny jeans: Maurices

Flats: Fergalicious by Fergie

Necklace: Bluetique

Bangle set: shopruche.com

It’s beginning to look a lot like . . .

Today I opened my mailbox and instantly felt my mood lift!!

 My first holiday magazine arrived!

I love all holidays but I have to admit that I have a special place in my heart for Christmas. It’s just so gosh darn jolly! I love the decorations, the lights, the merriment, the food, the festivities . . . I could go on forever! Justin actually told me at the dinner table last night that he is ready to consider putting up decorations! I was shocked. Normally he is not so big on decorating but I think I have rubbed off on him a bit. 🙂 I am still going to wait for decorations but I may start some Christmas music soon!

***

I adore maxi dresses and love finding ways to transition them from summer to fall. Today I added boots, a bright scarf, and long sweater to make the look appropriate for cooler weather.

11-07 Bracelets

Maxi dress: Modcloth

Sweater: Express

Scarf: Bought in India

Belt: Bluetique

Bangles: shopruche.com

Operation Stress-Free Christmas Card: Step #2

Last week, I wrote a blog post about my attempt to have a stress-free Christmas card this year. I can officially say that I am getting closer!

I wanted a simple, but cute set-up for our card. Justin and I are fun-loving people so I wanted the picture to reflect that part of our personalities as well.

First, I set the scene. I found an old lace curtain in storage in our basement (we are renting and the crawl space has a ridiculous amount of stuff left over from previous tenants. Sometimes it’s annoying, but in this case, it was very helpful!)

I hung the curtain against a cream colored wall with small push pins. The tacks left very little trace and since the curtain was light, they were strong enough to hold it up. Then I strung two strands of white lights in columns across the lace background. The tacks came in very handy because they also held the light strands up.

Tacks up close

I then put our teeny pre-strung fake Christmas tree (I got it for $7 at a yard sale in college!) by the edge of the lace for a little extra festivity. I put a green comforter on the ground and voila! (Pardon the dim picture . . . these were taken on my camera phone which does not adjust to light well)

Christmas Card Background Lights up close

Our Christmas photo-shoot was set up! It took 15 minutes tops and cost me nothing. I count that as a very successful stress-free step!

The lights in the basement are not super bright, so we kept them on while taking the picture. It kept our faces well illuminated but still showed the lights on the tree and background well. We set up the timer, put our camera on a chair at our eye level, and got into position!

P1040963What do you think? I personally love how it turned out! I bought Macie’s puppy hat here and already had the elf hat and antlers from previous years. I think they added a touch of fun, which was perfect for us!

Not gonna lie, taking a picture with a puppy was far from stress-free. She was not a big fan of her hat and it took about 30 takes to get her to pose. In the end, we had about 3 good ones  to choose from (most were blurry fails) but the rest were pretty funny to see. We ended up having a lot of fun!

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Please mom, are we done now??

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Ahhhhhh I can’t even handle her cuteness sometimes!! She did a good job for a puppy. Proud of my girl!

Step #3 will involve actually putting together a card, but for now, I’m happy with my progress!

***

Today’s outfit was simple with a touch of flair in the jewelry. I love pops of color!

11-06 necklace 11-06 Outfit

Drape-neck sweater: Express

Lace cami: Express

Casual khaki pants: Maurices

Brown flats: SO* (they are old…possibly bought at Kohl’s?)

Necklace & earrings: Lia Sophia

Candy Corn Overload

I am on candy overload.

We had absolutely NO trick-or-treaters come to our house on Halloween and therefore have an abundance of candy leftover. I took a ton to school today because as you can imagine, it is not a good idea to leave that stuff lying around our house. Too tempting!

I also had a TON of candy corn left over. I didn’t want to bring that to school but I also didn’t want to have it all around the house. Here’s what I came up with.

candles

I have to confess that I saw something similar on Pinterest using votive candles but I tweaked it to use mason jars. We can a lot of food so we have a seemingly endless supply of mason jars. I picked three different sizes (decor looks best in odd numbers), threw some cream candles in the center, and surrounded them with a few handfuls of candy corn. I also had some thin orange ribbon stashed away and I used a few pieces to tie bows for a nice finishing touch. (Don’t judge the bows…I am notoriously bad at tying bows  and this is about as good as it gets for me.)

Simple? Check.

Easy? Check.

Budget-friendly? Check

My kind of decoration! And I figure candy corn is”fall” enough that I can leave it up through Thanksgiving. Yes!

I clustered these three together but I still have a ton of candy corn left so I may put a few solo candle jars around the house for a more festive feel.

***

Today’s outfit was based on my energy level. I think I finally caught that extra hour of sleep that we got with Daylight Savings and I woke up feeling energized and ready to go! I wanted a nice bold color to match that energy level and it doesn’t get much more bold than cherry red! However, I was so energized that I left for school early and forgot to take a picture so you’re stuck with a lovely selfie from the teacher bathroom. Classy, huh?

11-05 Outfit

Cardigan: Express

Lace cami: Old Navy

Grey dress pants: Maurices

Shoes: Fergalicious by Fergie

Necklace: Premier Jewelry

Bracelet set: Express

Time to get fancy!

This weekend Justin and I got to attend a formal gala for his medical school. We are so not fancy people and prefer to lounge around the house in our sweatpants (which we may or may not be doing right now as I type this . . .) but it was fun to get dressed up and have a special night out!

Before taking off to the gala, we met up with some friends to take pictures.

P1040869 My handsome date and I. (Side note: I got my dress from a store called D.E.B. in the spring during prom dress season. As soon as I saw it on the rack, I knew it would be perfect for this evening!)

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Aren’t my friends absolutely gorgeous!? The color-coordinating was totally unplanned by the way. Black and red seemed to be the popular colors at this event!

The event took place at a breathtakingly beautiful luxury resort. After sitting down to a delicious meal (various types of pasta, shrimp, roast turkey, vegetables, fruit, and tons of delicate macaroons and tarts for dessert!), we danced for a while and then took off to explore the resort. The rooms seemed never ending and they were all just so grand! There were luxurious bars, cozy seating areas, marble floors, huge windows, and elegant ballrooms. I felt like a princess roaming her castle. And the place was already decorated for Christmas which just made it even more stunning.

 

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I love this picture of my friends! They got tired and sat down in these chairs in a hallway and I snapped a picture quick. How cool is the lighting? So warm and cozy!

We also hit up the casino in the basement. Justin and I are not gamblers at all, but we decided to have some fun with it and agreed to spend $20 and just see what happened.

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We split it and each took $10. Justin lost everything on one bid in roulette, and I decided to try out a slot machine. I ended up winning $82!  Technically I only got $62 because we spent $20 but it was so much fun!

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We had a GREAT night! Now off to cozy up next to my love (in our comfy sweatpants) and watch The Voice. The gala was fun, but I can’t get enough of special time at home with my hubby–no fancy dress needed!

***

For today’s outfit, I wanted to keep it classic. Black is hard to mess up and I just love the texture of this jacket!

11-04 Outfit

Jacket: Maurices

Cami: Express

Black Dress Pants: Express

Wedge shoes: Target

Necklace: Premier Jewelry

Halloween Party Time!

I have always loved Halloween, and this year was no different!

Justin and I hosted a Halloween party Thursday night and it was so much fun!

I had high hopes of creating some type of “family” costume theme for us, but when we saw a cute bumblebee costume for dogs at a thrift store ($2!!), we just had to get it. So Macie was a bee, I was Little Bo Peep, and Justin was my “lost” sheep. I have to give Justin credit; while I was working on the food preparation, he was slaving away gluing all those cotton balls on his t-shirt. That’s commitment to a costume!

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For the party decorations, I wanted to keep it fun and festive without causing too much work. I tend to like more classic, simple decorations and don’t often go for the loud, somewhat cheesy decor.  I made a few simple pennant banners to hang around the house.

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I just cut out black and orange triangles and created patterns on each orange pennant with an orange marker. I then taped them to a black ribbon and hung them around the house. I also had some scrapbook supplies so I used perforated letters to add a festive “boo” to this banner. The banners were f-r-e-e- since I already had all the supplies.

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I also made a “photo booth” using a black tablecloth and a super-stretchy spider web. I already had the tablecloth and the spider web cost $1.97 at Wal-Mart.  Simple, easy, and budget-friendly! And it was a huge hit for photos!

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How cool are my friends who dressed up as people from Edward Scissorhands!? Their costumes were so awesome!

For the table, I bought a cheap plastic tablecloth ($.97 at Wal-Mart). The “table runner” is actually four black placemats found at the dollar store for $1 each. The paper lanterns and skeleton were also $1 each. The black paper plates were $.97 at Wal-Mart and orange-and-black polka-dot napkins were $.97 a pack. I got two packs of each. Total spent on four placemats, decorations, plates, and napkins = $13. Not bad!

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Food was SUPER simple.  I made mummy and ghost cookies the night before, and my friend Lindsay brought adorable mummy dogs.

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I found an EASY recipe for a “pumpkin” cheeseball here. It was delicious and everyone commented on how cute it looked! It was covered in Doritos and I loved the extra crunch!

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I put the left-over Doritos from the cheeseball coating in a tiered serving bowl with orange-and-black drizzled yogurt-covered pretzels and candy corn.

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Since many of our guests were in med school, I figured I should also have a healthy snack so I threw together a quick and easy veggie jack-o-lantern. I wish the picture turned out a little better but several people told me how cute it was and it was super easy so I count it as a win.

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Overall, the party cost me around $50 and was SO much fun!! My biggest tips on throwing a successful Halloween party would be:

1-Use white plates/serveware to display food. It makes the presentation so much nicer and matching is SO easy so it all looks put together.

2-Keep decorations simple. A nicely presented table and a few key decorated locations are all you really need to make the atmosphere fun and festive!

3-Try to do as much ahead of time as possible so you can be in a calm, relaxed mood for the actual party! I loved that once people showed up, I could just enjoy hanging out and not rush around trying to finish things.

4- When it comes to food, find easy, budget-friendly recipes. Don’t feel like you need to have super extravagant dishes or decorate like a Cake Boss.

5-HAVE FUN! That’s what the Holidays are all about!!

***

Friday was a Jeans day at school and I was pretty tired from the Halloween party so I kept it casual and easy!

11-01 Ourfit

Sweater: Takeout

Cami: Maurices

Jeans: American Eagle

Flats: Fergalicious by Fergie

Necklace: Lia Sophia

Halloween Procrastination

I am way late on yesterday’s blog post! After school, I hit the ground running with preparations for the Halloween party Justin and I are throwing tonight. After several trips to the dollar store (and, I confess, I even caved and went to Wal-Mart), I had plenty of decorations and ingredients for everything I needed!

Two things I love are the holidays and hosting people at my house. Put them together and I am one happy girl; however, the night before the hosted holiday party, I’m typically one stressed-out girl. This is mostly because I tend to procrastinate. One way I tried to cut out the most stress this time was with food preparation. Our party is after dinner so I knew I just wanted finger food and treats. My requirements for the food were: quick (due to procrastination), easy, budget-friendly, and able to be made ahead of time! I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so waiting until the day before limited my options, but I’m happy with the results!

Final Treat Collage

Let’s be honest. As much as I love things to look cute and festive, I also know my limits as far as time and skill. Decorated cupcakes and cookies look so great (and relatively simple) in pictures, but I know I just do not have six hours to figure how how to decorate them and then actually do the decorating. As as for the intricate decorations, my skill level would fall embarrassingly short. The simple process with making these treats was much more my speed.

Final Oreo Collage

I started with Oreo “mummies.” If you are an Oreo freak like me, these are going to be right up your alley.

Step 1: I purchased a package of Oreos (double-stuf of course!) and vanilla candy coating.

Step 2: Follow the directions on the package to melt the candy coating. For me, this meant heating for one minute, stirring, and heating for 15 more seconds. Then I dropped an Oreo in the goo and used a spoon to cover it with the coating.

Step 3: I lifted the Oreos out with a toothpick (to let the extra coating drip off) and placed them on parchment paper to cool and harden.

Step 4: I used white cookie icing and drew it back and forth to make the “mummy” wrap. I then put mini chocolate chips on each cookie for the eyes.

Step 5: Let the mummies completely cool and harden before storing.

See? Quick and easy!

I also employed a similar tactic to make super simple “ghost” cookies.

Final Ghost Collage

This time I did the same thing, but with Nutter Butter cookies. I added the mini chocolate chips to make eyes and a mouth. I think this could also be easily adjusted to make snowmen cookies at Christmastime!

From start to finish, this whole project took about an hour to make tons of cookies. The candy coating cools quickly and once they were cooled, I just put them all in an airtight container so they’re ready to go for tonight! I’m so excited! And the whole thing cost under $15. Yes!

Have a happy Halloween!

***

Yesterday was so chaotic I had to just snap a quick photo at school.  It was an Express kind of day 🙂

10-30 Outfit

Sweater: Express

Ruffle Tank: Express

Cream Pencil Skirt: Express

Peep-toe Pumps: Lulu Townsend

Necklace: New York & Co.

I may as well post today’s outfit too since tonight will be party time! Since it’s Halloween, we were allowed to dress up. Comfy scrubs all day? Yes please!

Doctor

Label-less scrubs: From my husband’s closet 🙂

Cheap Fidget Tools

I don’t know about you, but I love a good deal. As a special education teacher, I especially love good educational deals!

The other day, I was at the dollar store looking for balloons. My quest took me to the party aisle, where I happened to notice all the cheap party favors they had. That’s when I saw them. Squishy balls! Three for $1.00! A lightbulb went off in my brain and I immediately knew how I was going to put them to use. I bought six packs for a total of eighteen squishy balls and took them all to school. I opened all the packs, put the balls in an empty notecard container, and voila!

Squishy Balls

A class set of fidget tools!

I teach in a middle school, and one class that I co-teach in has a lot of students who struggle with attention. While a few students do have ADHD or other types of sensory processing disorders, most just simply have to stay busy or they get bored. Boredom = lots of extra pencil tapping, talking to a neighbor, fidgeting in their seat, or (in extreme cases) falling asleep. The class was getting out of control! I had thought about using fidget tools before, but I simply didn’t have enough for everyone that needed one. I knew the students would complain about “fairness” if they didn’t all have the same thing but buying 18 similar fidget tools was going to get expensive quick! This was the perfect solution. I got enough foreveryone in the class and passed them out at the beginning of class. I’ve been amazed at how just having something small in his or her hand to play with in a non-disruptive way can really help a student focus! I collect them at the end of class and they’re ready to go for the next day. This has made a big difference in keeping noise level down and helping students stay focused. $6.00 well spent!

After this success, I rooted around in my fidget tool box and dug out a lot of other items that I’ve found over the years at dollar stores. Here’s a quick list of some of the things I have found nice and cheap:

Fidget Tools Pic

-textured pencil grips or eraser tops

-squishy balls

-firmer “porcupine” balls

-mini Slinkys

-mini rubber balls

-mini Play-Doh (or other brands of craft dough) packages

-hacky sacks (I confess I did not buy these but my husband had several from childhood. They can be found online for under $2 though!)

-rubber poppers

-string of Mardi Gras beads

-yarn (sometimes it’s as simple as having a piece of yarn to fiddle with!)

-coiled bracelets (sometimes they come as keychains)

-pipe cleaner

-rubber bands/silly bands

-mini koosh balls (the kind with the rubber-like strings)

-silly putty

The list goes on and on! I have found the most helpful aisles to be the party aisle and craft aisle. Be creative! Finding good tools to help your students concentrate does not have to be complicated and it does not have to be expensive! All of these items can be found for under $3. I also collect stress balls at every chance I get–many companies use them as promotional items so they are f-r-e-e! Doesn’t get better than that!

**A quick note: I make sure my students know my fidget tool rules before I give them one. The rules are:

1- Your fidget tool does not leave your hand unless it is sitting on your desk.

2- You may only use one hand with your fidget tool. The other must be working (writing, using a calculator, following along on the page, etc).

3- Do not throw your fidget tool.

4- If you are unable to work and/or listen to the teacher when you have your fidget tool, then you lose it for the day. It is there to help you only and it is a privilege to have one, not a right.

Enjoy a fidget-free (or at the least, reduced!) classrroom!

***

Today’s school outfit was based on neutral shades. I did add some jewelry after this but didn’t have time to take another picture. Quick and easy look for fall!

10:29 Outfit

T-shirt dress: Express

Black leggings: Express

Boots: CL by Laundry