Friday, July 18, 2014

Teacher Summer Camp

I just returned from a week-long professional development AP Summer Institute at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont! It...was...AMAZING!! I was in the US History seminar and learned so much about the newly revised APUSH exam as well as many quality social studies instructional strategies and lesson ideas. I met and connected with educators in a variety of disciplines from all over the country.

Each day the seminars ran from 8am-3pm during which the focus was on how best to teach an AP course as well as how best to prepare students for the AP exam. In the case of APUSH (AP US History), the exam format changed pretty significantly so there were many teachers in my seminar who have already taught APUSH but were there to learn about the new exam.

The institute was hosted by St. Johnsbury Academy, which is a small private prep school. The campus is adorable and the facilities are top-notch. We were housed in the dorms which were nice and brought back memories from college! I snapped this picture of one of the charming buildings on campus (I really loved the colors and architectural features)...

St. Johnsbury is a small, quaint little town in the mountains of Vermont...the surroundings are breathtaking!

(Main Street, St. cute are those buildings?)

After each day's work, we were offered a variety of afternoon and evening activities in which to participate that highlighted the region's geography and culture. The first activity I participated in was skeet shooting! I'm not really a 'gun person' or a hunter but I think it's important to try new activities and get out of your comfort zone every now and then! It was actually pretty fun and most of the people who participated in this outing were first-timers, too!

On Tuesday we went to the nearby Milarepa Tibetan Buddhist retreat center and had a lesson and Q & A session about Buddhism from a gentlemen who has been practicing the faith for over 30 years. It was informative and made me realize I need to practice more of 'quieting my mind'!

On Wednesday the weather cleared up, thankfully, and we went on a hike up to an old fire tower on the top of Burke Mountain. It was pretty steep but the views at the top were spectacular!

On the last afternoon I went on the excursion to Dunc's Mill, a local man's distillery, where he uses Vermont products, like maple, to infuse and produce rum. He gave us a tour and a run down of the basic distilling process, which the chemistry teachers in the group loved!! And the whole group loved the fact that he gave us samples of each kind of rum! Delicious!!

After we left the distillery we headed to a farmer's market where the rum and a variety of other local Vermont products were being sold. Fresh baked breads, cheeses, ice cream, and produce were among the goodies. I was able to pick up a beautiful bunch of sunflowers, which are brightening up my kitchen counter since my arrival back home!

On Thursday night there was a 'farewell' cookout complete with a DJ, dancing, and a bocce ball tournament. The cuisine being offered all week for every single meal was incredible. Steak tips, crab legs, omelets made to order, and dessert...dessert...dessert, among other culinary delights! I'm sure I've gained at least 5 lbs despite being pretty active all week!

Our APUSH seminar teacher, Jerry (with the baseball hat), was not only able to provide us with first-rate instruction all week during our sessions but is also apparently an expert balloon artist! He busted out the creations above during the farewell bash!

I just can't speak highly enough about this experience and the first rate facilities, cultural experiences, and instruction! It's really important for teachers to be able to participate in professional development opportunities to not only connect with other educators but to be able to take new instructional strategies and lessons back to their classrooms. I was really able to look at my current curriculum, and not just the honors/AP course but all of my courses, and find ways to introduce more analytical thinking skills and historical documents, both primary and secondary. I always feel refreshed and excited to get back into the classroom and practice what I've learned whenever I come back from a professional development conference! I HIGHLY recommend this particular AP institute as it was an incredible experience...teacher summer camp is awesome!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ruffled Nautical Tank Top Tutorial

Today I'm sharing a tutorial on how to turn a basic $5 tank into a nautical-inspired top by adding a simple ruffle detail! This is a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to add some fun to a basic tank!

ruffled tank top tutorial diy

nautical ruffled tank top tutorial diy

All you'll need for this top is a basic tank (mine was actually marked down to $3 at Walmart) and 1/3 of a yard of 44" wide fabric (I used a striped seersucker fabric). Here's how you make the tank:

Step 1:
Lay out your fabric (folded in half) and cut two strips that are each 5 1/2" wide (44" in length after you unfold each piece).

Step 2:
Open up each strip and sew them together, wrong sides facing, at one side of the short ends. Your are doing this in order to make a strip long enough to ruffle around the neckline of your tank as only one strip isn't long enough.

Step 3:
Take your long conjoined strip, lay it out flat and fold it in half, 'hog dog style', right sides facing in. You are going to sew down the length of the strip using a 1/4" inseam. Leave a small opening half way down the strip so that you can turn the strip right side out later on.

Step 4:
One each end of the strip, create a point by sewing two angled seams...this isn't a science...I just found the center of each end each sewed down from each side meeting the point. Cut the excess fabric around the angles, then turn your entire strip right side out (which is why you left a small section of the seam open). 

Step 5:
Now that your strip is right side out, you need to iron your strip flat...the seam should be in the middle of your strip as you iron, not to one side. The picture below shows where your seam should be but isn't entirely accurate because your raw edges should be inside your strip, FYI (but it was the only picture taken while I was ironing, ha!).

Step 6:
Now you are going to create a pleated ruffle around your tank. Lay the tank flat with the back side up. Start by matching the middle of your strip to the middle of the top of the tank, seam side down. You are going to fold the strip and create pleats that are about 1" wide (this is just approximate...the key is simply keeping whatever pleat size you use consistent all the way around) pinning each pleat as you go around. Work your way around and down to the front on one side of the tank only, then stop. Then start at the back again and work your way down to the front on the other side of the tank and stop when you reach the front (but make sure you pleats are all facing the same direction). You will leave space to tie the ends into a knot.

If you find that the ends are too long once you're done with the pleats, you can always adjust the size of your pleats to make the ends shorter (or vice versa). Just play around until you are happy with the placement.

Step 7:
Now it's time to sew! Start at the front bottom of one side of your ruffle and top stitch through the center of your ruffle, all the way around the neckline. Go slow and be VERY mindful of your pleats so that they remain flat and don't get caught as you sew. Back stitch at both ends of your stitching. Once you're done securing the ruffle, tie the ends into a knot and rock it!

 I paired my tank with some red skinnies...which is now my outfit for the 4th of July!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer...So Close!

It's the end of the school year (8 days left!) which means it's crazy around these parts, thus my little blog has been neglected! I promise I'll be back soon with some new posts...maybe a 'What I wore Wednesday' graduation outfit post? For now, I'll leave you with this gem ('cause it's sooo true):

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Deceptively Simple Ice Cream Cake Recipe

We had a cookout for Mother's Day last weekend and I was tasked with bringing the dessert. I decided to use my mom's recipe for homemade ice cream cake using ice cream sandwiches layered with lots of gooey deliciousness! The best part of this recipe is that it's very simple while giving the illusion that it's more complicated. It also easily modified to fit the tastes of whomever it making it!

Prep Time: 
This will only take about 15 minutes to put together (faster if you have a helper to unwrap the ice cream sandwiches) but should be made a day in advance and frozen over night. If you don't give it enough time to firm up, it will come out sort of 'soupy', especially if it's a warm day!

-Two boxes of ice cream sandwiches (24)
-16 oz of whipped topping, thawed 
-12 oz of hot fudge sauce, warmed
-12 oz of caramel sauce
-1 8oz bag of toffee bits
-Chopped nuts of your choice (I used peanuts)

1) Layer the bottom of a 9x13 pan with ice cream sandwiches
2) Spread a layer of whipped topping
3) Sprinkle toffee bits then drizzle a layer of hot fudge and caramel sauce
4) Add a second layer of ice cream sandwiches
5) Spread another layer of whipped topping, followed by toffee bits, hot fudge, and caramel sauce
6) Top with a final layer of whipped topping and sprinkle on chopped nuts (if desired). 
7) Cover with foil and place in the freezer over night or until completely firm/frozen!

This is seriously simple and delicious...people go 'nuts' whenever it's served! The crunchiness of the toffee bits paired with the gooey goodness of the hot fudge/caramel layers is divine! 

I'd love to hear other variations of this recipe so leave me a comment and let me know your ideas!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

If I Knew Then: A Letter to Me on My First Day of Teaching

Dear Kelly-Anne,

Buckle up, kid! It's going to be a bumpy ride! Your students will test you to see what you're made of. It will feel awkward and even scary at first because you don't know them and they don't know you. But, with time, you'll learn each others personalities and you can start to enjoy your time with them. 

Don't be afraid to be strict.  Set the ground rules early and stick to your guns. A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect. At the same time, be fair and flexible. If a rule or policy isn't working, discuss it with your students, change it, and move on (or don't discuss it, just change's your class and you can do what you want)!

Show interest in your students lives so they know you care and so you can get to know one another. Ask them about their weekend and go to their games, plays, and art shows...they notice! Be so enthusiastic about what you do that they can't help but be engrossed in whatever it is you have to give them that day. And be prepared to laugh hysterically until your stomach hurts, even when you are trying so hard to be stone-faced, because some of those kids are so damn funny! 

Try not to take it personally when kids complain, or fall asleep in class, or try to text for 45 minutes rather than listening to your amazing lesson on the Articles of's not you, it's them! And some kids are just pains in the a**, and will try your patience like you can't even imagine, but you'll realize they are there to teach you just how patient and clever you can be! Others will be so smart, and creative, and kind that you'll be reminded to try just a little bit harder.

Give yourself a the end they won't remember how long it took you to grade their essays or that you gave them a piece of historical information that wasn't entirely factual (they probably won't even know).  You're learning, too, and can only do, and know, so much! What they will remember is the time you dressed up in a powdered wig and recited the words to the Declaration of Independence or how hard you made them work to earn that 'A'.

They will roll their eyes and feign disgust when you play them the rap video you made, but in the end, they will secretly download the song to their iTunes account and will play it till they know every word! Just when you think you haven't made a difference, you'll get a letter or a card with a 'thank you' that you never even expected and it will be AMAZING and just the little bit of reassurance you need to keep doing what you do.


Your Future Self, 10 years down the road

 PS- Stop buying so much crap from don't need any more coupon books, cookie dough, wrapping paper, or tickets to pancake breakfasts!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What I Wore Wednesday: Field Trip Edition

I recently went on a field trip with some students to the Portland Museum of Art. The goal with dressing for any field trip is to be comfortable and practical yet still a bit stylish. Even though it is May, the day of our trip was drizzly and cold so comfy boots paired with a raincoat were in order! By the time I got home from the trip, the sun had come out, just in time to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and snap some pics...

I was thrilled to find this super cute navy polka dot rain jacket at Target a couple months ago. It's lightweight and has a hood and pockets. I also like that you can cinch it in at the waist, too.

I just picked up the cute citrine beaded necklace at Forever 21 for $7! I think it pairs well against the navy and white striped shirt from Old Navy. 

The skinny jeans are the 'Diva' from Old Navy. They fit well on my curvy body and have a little stretch, too! My boots are from Kohls, purchased last fall.

Of course no photo session or outfit post would be complete without a picture from Instagram! You can follow my exploits in teaching, crafting, and decorating @CraftyTeacherLady

I'm linking up this week with Lindsay at The Pleated Poppy for What I Wore Wednesday and with Because Shanna Said So!

Friday, May 2, 2014

10 Inexpensive Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas

Teacher Appreciation Week 2014 starts Monday, May 5th! As a high school teacher I can say that this week is usually pretty lackluster. I'm shocked if anyone at school, particularly my students, even knows this week is happening! Since most high school kids have multiple teachers, purchasing several gifts could really add up! Below are 10 inexpensive (and unisex) ways to show the high school teachers in your students' lives some love and appreciation!

Inexpensive Teacher Appreciation Week Gift Ideas

I can honestly say that the BEST gift I've received as a teacher is a heartfelt thank you note. Each May I have my students fill out these note cards to give to their other teachers and it makes my heart happy to know how happy these notes make my colleagues!

I'm always looking for colorful ways to decorate my classroom and this print is so cute! Having a few prints made up would be relatively inexpensive, particularly if you give just the print, unframed. Check out the two free classroom poster printables I created, too!

The good thing about gift cards is that they are practical and flexible for both the giver and the receiver! Purchase a couple cards from Target and add this cute printable!

 Swing by your local bakery and pick up a dozen donuts! Print the logo on some white paper bags and you've got an adorable gift that any teacher would love first thing in the morning (and donuts are my personal favorite)!!

Bake up a batch of your favorite cookies, place them in a baggie, and add this cute printable topper to show your teachers that they're 'smart cookies'!

#6: Fruit Themed Gift
Download the gift tag that says 'I Couldn't Have Picked a Better Teacher!' to give with an apple or any 'berry' scented item (like hand sanitizer, lotion, or a candle). 

#7: Eraser 'Candies'
 How cute is this dish full of eraser 'candies'? I know I'd love this since it's cute AND practical as erasers seem to be hard to come by in my classroom! You can buy the erasers in bulk here.

Download the gift tag and attach it to a few highlighters

#9 Ruler
Create a tag that says 'Teacher, You Rule' and attach it to an inexpensive ruler! Clever and practical!

#10 Mason Jar & Pencils
Paint some Mason jars or leave them clear and fill with pencils or other writing utensils. I'd love to receive a jar filled with my favorite correcting pens!

 Even if you don't have time or money to give a gift, a simple 'hey, I appreciate the work you do' goes a really, really, long way! What are some of your favorite Teacher Appreciation Week ideas?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Geography Inspired Decor Ideas

I'm not sure if it's my love for traveling or that fact that I'm a social studies teacher, but I have a thing for geography-inspired decor! I spent the better part of last Monday (last week was April vacation, woo hoo!) putting together a gallery wall in my living room. Travel and geography have definitely provided inspiration for the space...

I just ordered a print to go in that large empty frame and may change out one or two of the other photos but what's definitely staying is the scrap book map of the USA that I created a few years ago:

The globe was purchased at an antique store and I coated the handle with white semi-gloss spray paint to give it a modern vibe. It now resides on my TV console table and is a fun accent piece! A favorite picture of me in front of the Eiffel Tower sits above the globe as does a framed image I took of a door knocker I saw while traveling in Ireland. 

I've come across quite a selection of 'geography-inspired' decor on my hunt for more ideas from various real-estate and home d├ęcor websites...

The space above (from ComFree) has an antiqued map framed above the fireplace and ties in nicely with the neutral decor. Below is more bold take on the same idea (from Censational Girl):

Another great way to frame a map is by using painted molding/trim (from Design Sponge)...

I may order some inexpensive inflatable globes from a party supply place and hang them in my classroom as a fun yet topical way to add some dimension and color to the space, sort of like this...
(Land of Nod via Apartment Therapy)

In the image below, color and whimsy have been added to the kitchen with a collection of globes and vintage suitcases on top of the cabinets (from The Pleated Poppy)...

I love looking at my travel pictures and decor and thinking of all the wonderful adventures I've taken and imagining the travels that are in my future! Oh, and being able to sit in my pajamas while daydreaming isn't a bad way to spend a vacation day, either!