Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review of the IKEA Ektorp Sofa Series

I recently took a little road trip down IKEA (the nearest being 2 hours away) to pick up a second EKTORP sofa! I purchased my first Ektorp two years ago and really love it. In that time I've been asked about the sofa by lots of friends, both online and in real life, so I'm here to give a comprehensive review of my experiences.

IKEA Ektorp Sofa Review

Here's the lowdown on why I love this sofa series:

1) Affordable price
2) Nicely tailored slipcovers (that don't look like slipcovers) in a variety of colors
3) Slipcovers can be removed & laundered
4) Easy to assemble
5) Good quality that stands the test of time

 The EKTORP series offers a full size sofa, loveseat, arm chair, footstool, and sectional options. I've owned the sofa, footstool, and until recently, two armchairs (which I sold in order to make room for another full size sofa). Each piece of furniture is purchased separately from the slipcovers, allowing you to easily change out the look as well as remove the slipcovers to wash when needed. I haven't had to wash mine yet but I've read lots of other reviews from people who have and say it's quite easy. The slipcovers vary in price depending on the color and material you choose. For the combination I chose I paid $499 for each sofa (without tax).

I chose 'Nordvalla Gray' for my slipcovers because it's dark enough to hide everyday stains and I just really love the color gray! My second choice is the basic white, which I've read is really easily laundered, and this is the least expensive of the slipcover options. What I really like about the slipcovers in addition to their washability, is that they don't look like your typical slipcovers. They are tailored very nicely with a piping detail so they fit the couch frames perfectly. In fact, most people don't even realize they are slipcovers when viewing the set in person. The Nordvalla gray cover is a very thick material, almost denim like, not as soft as the white slipcovers but very durable.

Let's talk assembly...they are SUPER easy to assemble. I put mine together by myself in about 20 minutes (including putting on the cushion covers). The frame comes as one piece, with the back folded down, and the arms and feet are unattached. First you pop up the back of the frame, then attach the arms, then the feet, then add the slipcover to the frame...

Finally, you add the slipcovers to each individual cushion and then you're done! What I like about these covers and cushions, is that they are reversible so you can easily rotate the cushions for even use and wear. Every so often I rotate my cushions so that I don't have a 'dent' in the spots that are sat on most often. I think this has helped keep the life in my cushions. Because I bought my first Ektorp sofa two years ago, I have a side by side comparison of the 2-year old sofa set next to the brand new sofa. The cushions on the new sofa definitely have more 'fluffiness' to them but I'm really pleased with how well the older sofa has held up over time...

The arms of my older sofa don't have any pilling yet, but I would imagine over a longer period of time they might. Also, it's important to note that I don't have any kids or pets jumping on my sofas (other than the occasional visit from friends) every day so my furniture is gently used. However, in all of my research on this series before purchasing, I read countless reviews of people with kids and pets who raved about the durability/washability.

IKEA Ektorp Nordvalla Gray
For further comparison purposes, in the photo above, the sofa on the left is the older one and the one on the right is the brand new sofa. I combined two of the Ektorp sofas in addition to an Ektorp footstool to form my own 'sectional'! I get compliments on the sofas very often from guests visiting my home and many are surprised to learn they are from IKEA! They are comfortable to sit on, not too firm, not too soft. Overall, I highly recommend this affordable, durable, and good-looking furniture set!

Room Source List
Photo frames: IKEA
Teal Pillow Covers: IKEA
Tan pillows: Home Goods
Curtains: IKEA (but I painted on the blue stripes)
Coffee Table: vintage from Goodwill and painted white
Trellis Rug: Rugs USA
Paint Color on Walls: Horizon by Benjamin Moore

Monday, February 16, 2015

Homemade Sugar Lip Scrub

Ever since getting Invisalign I've been suffering from a mild case of chapped lips. After a fruitless attempt at purchasing an inexpensive exfoliant at the drug store, I decided to make my own! I adapted the recipe from this source.

Here's what you'll need to make your own Sugar Lip Scrub:

-3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
-1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-3 drops peppermint extract
-2-3 drops of red food coloring
-Small container for storage

Mix everything together in a small bowl. You can play around with the type of oil and the type of extract you use but I chose olive oil and peppermint because they were readily available and relatively inexpensive compared to some of the other choices. I found the small plastic containers in the travel toiletry section at WalMart (2 for $1) batch of the scrub will fill two of these small containers. The scrub leaves my lips so soft and tastes yummy, too!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Craft Club: Valentine Paper Crafts

Today I hosted the second meeting of the Craft Club I started at school! We had a great turnout of students and even a couple teachers came to join the fun! I put together several different paper crafts for us to make! Below is a list of the crafts we made and links to the sources for each so you can make your own! Check out my Pinterest boards for additional craft ideas...

Valentine Craft Ideas

Paper Fortune Cookies

Pop-Up Love Cards

Origami Candy Hearts

Popsicle Stick Puzzles

We used these free printables for our puzzles...

Craft Club has turned out greater than I could have hoped! We sit and chat and interact with one another in a casual and creative atmosphere. It feels great to be able to share my love of crafting with my students!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Valentine's Day Printables For Teachers

Valentine's Day is coming right up (and so is school vacation...woo hoo) and I usually put a little something together to give to my students and coworkers. Below are some of my favorite simple and inexpensive Valentine ideas I've used in years past to spread a little love and kindness at school!

Starburst Printable
Free Valentine Printables
 'You're a Star' printable was originally found here but this source doesn't seem to be working so you can download the free printable here. Just add some Starburst candy and you're set!

Baggie Topper Printable
teacher valentines
Fill a snack bag with Goldfish crackers or Swedish Fish candy, attach this topper I designed, and give to some happy students! I've created a large version of the printable to attach to the long side of a snack baggie here and a smaller version that can be secured to the short end of a snack baggie here!

Applesauce & Pencil Printables
I'll be giving these little 'Awesome-Sauce' cups to my homeroom students this year! 
And last year I gave them something similar to this:

Because what student doesn't need a new pencil? Printable found here!

Humorous Historical Cards
 If you have a wicked sense of humor and an affinity for all things historical, you might consider giving out these Puritan Valentine cards or these Historical Figure cards...

I gave them out to members of my department at school last year!

Felt Fortune Cookies
 If you're feeling ambitious, you could make these adorable felt fortune cookies...I used pipe cleaners instead of floral wire filled them with Dove chocolates! I'll be making these with my craft club at school this week along with several other Valentine crafts! 

Come follow my Pinterest board for holiday craft ideas!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I'm a 34-Year-Old with Braces

I finally got braces!!! This has been a decision a decade in the making and today it finally happened and I couldn't be happier! My teeth are certainly not horrible by any stretch of the imagination but I've been self-conscious about my narrow smile, crooked teeth, and prominent canines for most of my adult life. I told a few friends about my decision to get braces and most reactions were to tell me my teeth looked 'fine to them'...I'm sure some were just being kind and others really genuinely didn't see the need.

(Miranda from Sex and the City...another 34-year-old with braces)

I had a consult with my orthodontist over five years ago but in the end I decided it would be too expensive and that braces were a really superficial thing on which to spend my hard-earned money (my dental insurance doesn't cover any part of the cost). But, as time went on, I was still unhappy with what I saw in the mirror and in pictures when I smiled. And so it was this internal struggle with wanting to correct my smile and not wanting to be superficial/financially irresponsible that kept me from the braces. I'm sure none of the 16-year-olds with braces have this same struggle as they are not paying for their braces and it's culturally normal to fix one's smile when you are a teen without seeming superficial.

(My Invisalign trays that I change every two weeks)

Fast forward to a few months ago when I decided life was too short to put off the things you really, really want to do so I finally made the appointment to start the process (again). I had my consult, my appointment to cast my molds, and today I received my first set of Invisalign trays. I chose to go with Invisalign because it was basically the same cost as regular braces, is less noticeable, and the trays can be taken out when eating so no foods are off limits.

Invisalign braces

The trays just pop right in and out with relative ease. What the ads for Invisalign don't show is that most people have to have these little 'buttons' bonded to their teeth in order for the trays to have something to grab on to when trying to move certain teeth. I had to have several buttons put on my top teeth and they protrude pretty far...not a pretty sight but better than metal braces! The other downside to the trays is that my speech is somewhat impeded. My doctor said I would get used to speaking and the lisp should go away within a couple days! I sure hope so because I talk...a lot...every day... #teacherproblems!!

Invisalign braces

I took this picture this afternoon as soon as I arrived home from the orthodontist. You can't really see the braces, however, it is nearly impossible to smile without opening my mouth a bit or to smile with my mouth closed as the trays prevent me from doing either. I guess I will just always look super happy in my pics (and will have to use awesome filters to mask the braces) for the next year! I'll be sure to post updates as I continue this journey to a better smile!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Club Christmas

Friday was the last day of school before heading into our two week Christmas break so my book club ladies (who all teach with me) decided we'd have a little gathering at my place to celebrate the holidays & our friendship before heading our separate ways for vacation! I hosted the gathering because I live only 4 minutes from school which seemed like a convenient place to meet up!

For our gathering I decided to try a recipe for Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch. Three of the ladies in the group are pregnant and I thought this would be a festive and delicious 'mocktail' to serve (I altered the recipe by using a caffeine-free mint tea).  It did not disappoint!

Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch recipe

The green of the mint and lime alongside the red the cranberries makes this so pretty and festive! Some of the other punch recipes I found seemed like they would be far too sweet so I was pleased that the sweetness of this punch can be altered by the amount of seltzer water added to the mix.

Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch recipe

In addition to the preggos, we've got vegan, gluten-free, and Paleo dietary restrictions in the group so finding foods to serve that everyone can eat can sometimes be a challenge! For snacks, I served chocolate caramel pretzel turtles (using gluten-free pretzels) along with dark chocolate-dipped strawberries!

I'm so blessed to have such great colleagues who have also become such great friends! It's nice to have people in my life who 'get' what I do professionally but are also super fun to hang out with! I have no doubt that this little gathering will become an annual tradition we will all look forward to with each passing year! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament

Christmas has arrived in the land of Crafty Teacher Lady! I spent all day Sunday (and the last two nights) decorating for the holidays!! I'm hosting four separate holiday gatherings between now and New Years and so I want to make my home really special and welcoming to my guests!

I went to my favorite local farm stand to by my tree (fourth year in a row)...they sell such nice looking trees and I like to support local when I can. I plan to do a separate post featuring a little 'holiday home tour' but today I'd like to share a really clever ornament idea that's both easy and meaningful...

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament Craft Idea

My graduation tassels (from high school and college) have sat in a storage container basically since the day I graduated as I didn't really have much use of them after the ceremonies! By taking an expensive clear plastic ornament (purchased for $1 at WalMart) and adding my tassels, I now have a meaningful way to display and preserve these mementos.

Here's how to do it:
1) Purchase your clear plastic ornament
2) Remove the top metal piece
3) Remove the metal number from the tassel (it won't fit through the opening and into the ornament)
4) Push the bottom of the tassel into the ornament
5) Punch a small hole in the top of the metal piece (I used a leather belt hole punch purchased at a hardware store but you could use a hammer and nail or drill)
6) Thread the tassel string up through the hole
7) Thread the metal numbers with the tassel string
8) Hand on your tree and let the memories of graduation day flood back into your mind!

The tassel from my high school graduation is extra special to me now since I'm back teaching at my Alma mater! I'm going to share the idea with my senior students since I'm sure their tassels will just end up in storage otherwise! This would make a really great graduation gift, too!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advice on Becoming a Teacher

 A few weeks ago I received the email below from one of my followers on Instagram:

Hi Kelly-Anne,

I am sending you a quick note asking for a little advice on becoming a social studies teacher. 

A little about me: I am a college junior majoring in secondary education with a concentration in social studies/history and I have an overwhelming passion for U.S. History and government! As I begin to think about life after graduation, I have been asking for advice and talking to several educators and administrators, including a few of my high school history teachers. The majority of responses I am getting are making me terrified of becoming a teacher. From the low pay, to new common core standards - I am being very negatively influenced on the profession. One of my favorite teachers has now quit teaching after just four years in the school system and has made me question my college major. I feel overwhelmed because people say teaching is the hardest job and you aren't rewarded and compensated like teachers should be. I understand that I won't become rich being an educator, and I am OK with that :) 

I am hoping you can share your teaching experience with me because you seem to love what you do, and you look so very happy! I admire you and I only hope to be the crafty teacher you are someday. 


It took me a little while to respond as it's sort of a daunting question...what advice can I give those looking to enter the teaching profession? Here was my response:


First, thank you for the lovely compliment at the end of your email...I am, for the most part, very happy in my life and chosen career!  I, too, majored in secondary education with a concentration in social studies (focusing on US History) and was very excited and passionate about my area of studies! I'd like to disagree with what others have said to you about the low pay, low recognition, and high stress, but I can't. Those are all very real downsides to this profession. I'd also like to say that I hadn't seriously considered leaving the teaching profession for some other career choice but I can't say that either because I have, at one point or another, thought about other career paths. 

I've heard and read that over half of all new teachers quit within the first 5 years (so it doesn't surprise me that your favorite teacher quit after only 4 years in) and I, too, personally know friends/colleagues who quit after only a few years. It's an extremely demanding career field where you will work harder than you ever imagined. There will be lots of days where you will work yourself ragged and will be so very patient but still wonder 'am I really making any difference here'? Some teenagers can be ruthless (I use the word 'some' because others are thoughtful, helpful, and kind) and can be very quick to complain.  It's hard to not take that personally but you will eventually realize that it's often times not really about you and really more about them.

I still remember my days as a student teacher where I would spend hours coming up with what I thought were such creative, fun, engaging lessons and activities only to have my bubble burst when some kids would still complain about what we were doing and wouldn't complete their classwork, homework, or any work at all! I almost gave up right then and there because I thought 'what's the point of working this hard if they're just going to complain'? But, luckily my mentor teacher told me he thought I was going to make a really good teacher and that I should stick with it.

Here I am 11 years later and I'm still in the trenches! So, here's the good side...if you can learn to tune out and/or tolerate the bureaucratic nonsense that is public education, the parents who enable their kids to be lazy and entitled, the increasing demands from administration to do more with less time, the aforementioned complainers, and every other person who thinks they can do this job better than you (because obviously having once been a student means one is an expert on teaching), there's a lot to love about this job.

It feels really, really good teach someone something they didn't know before (like really good). It feels really good to show a kid kindness and patience and to see them make progress and reach goals. It feels really good to laugh out loud almost every day (because my kids can be so funny, witty, and clever). It feels good to put in a hard day's work and know that your life is dedicated to serving your community. It feels AMAZING when, every now and then, you get a letter or an email from a former student thanking you for not only teaching them something they are now using in their life but for teaching them to be kind & hard working people, especially when it's from a kid whom you never expected to receive such a note.

I am a more patient, more tolerant, more industrious, more creative, more enthusiastic, and better-educated person because I am a teacher. Until the cons outweigh the pros, a teacher I shall remain!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gratitude Cards

A few years ago I designed a set of gratitude cards that I use with my students in the days leading up to Thanksgiving break. I ask them each to take a moment to stop and reflect on all they have for which to be grateful...

They always surprise me with how thoughtful and reflective they can be! I tell them not to sign the cards (they tend to be more genuine when the cards are anonymous) and then I create a 'gratitude wall' in the hallway outside of my classroom. Passersby can stop and read all of the lovely sentiments!
If you'd like to print your own gratitude cards, I've created a set of six on a page which can be downloaded here! Use them with your own students or at your Thanksgiving celebration!

I'm grateful for...

-The fact that I've been able to accomplish many of my life goals thus far
-My lovely little home...a dream come true
-My extremely generous family
-Parks and Recreation...laughter really is the best medicine
-Lifelong friends who know the 'real' me
-A career in which I get to make a real difference in people's lives

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Craft Club Magnetic Matchbox Advent Calendars

I'm so excited about starting a new club at school for students who share my love of crafting!! We had our first get-together this week and our craft project was making magnetic matchbox advent calendars for them to hang in their lockers and countdown to holiday vacation! A tutorial for making the advent calendar can be found here. It's a super easy, fun, and inexpensive project!

Magnetic Advent Calendar

I made some cute little signs to put up around the school advertising the club times and the project we would be making. I got a lot of positive feedback about starting the club from administration, staff, and students! 

Basic supplies are a ton of matchboxes (the people at the Dollar Store must have thought I was crazy for buying so many), scrapbook papers, magnet strips, and jingle bells for the top of the calendar. Glue sticks, rulers, and scissors are needed to put it all together.

I had 12 students and one teacher come to the first get-together, which turned out to be just the right amount of people so that I could easily walk around and assist if needed!

Because I wanted the students to be able to hang their calendars in their lockers at school, we designed the calendars with only 19 boxes as a way for them to 'countdown to holiday vacation' instead of counting down the days until Christmas.  We are a public high school, after all, so counting down to Christmas isn't exactly PC! Ha! They will fill the boxes with notes from friends, family, and teachers so each day they are greeted with a fun message!

DIY Advent Calendar Tutorial

They turned out SO CUTE!! And the kids had so much fun making them...we chatted, crafted, snacked, and listened to awesome '80s throwback jams!

The students have already asked when the next Craft Club meeting will be so my head is already turning with lots of ideas for projects we can make! My heart is also filled with happiness from spreading crafting joy!