Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Day of Sunshine

It seemed as though spring would never come this year. It's been a particularly long, harsh, cold Maine winter. Slowly but surely the weather is becoming tolerable. I've just started April vacation and could think of nothing better than to spend a day by the sea, face raised up toward the sun, laughing and catching up with one of my best friends. We packed a picnic, dressed warmly (it was a windy 58 degrees), and listened to the waves crash onto the shores of Crescent Beach.

Maine poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow couldn't have said it better in his poem A Day of Sunshine:

O gift of God! O perfect day:
Whereon shall no man work, but play;
Whereon it is enough for me,
Not to be doing, but to be! 

Through every fibre of my brain,
Through every nerve, through every vein,
I feel the electric thrill, the touch
Of life, that seems almost too much.

I hear the wind among the trees
Playing celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.  

And over me unrolls on high
The splendid scenery of the sky,
Where though a sapphire sea the sun
Sails like a golden galleon,

Towards yonder cloud-land in the West,
Towards yonder Islands of the Blest,
Whose steep sierra far uplifts
Its craggy summits white with drifts.  

Blow, winds! and waft through all the rooms
The snow-flakes of the cherry-blooms!
Blow, winds! and bend within my reach
The fiery blossoms of the peach!

O Life and Love! O happy throng
Of thoughts, whose only speech is song!
O heart of man! canst thou not be
Blithe as the air is, and as free? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Goodwill Hunting

I love browsing through my local Goodwill Industries store looking for bargains! If there's one thing I've learned from thrift shopping it's that you have to have time and patience to find the good stuff amongst racks and racks of less-than-stellar items. I usually go through the racks of items twice, in case I've missed something good the first time around.

On my most recent trip, I was looking for some books to style my TV console table in an effort to help the DVD player blend in a bit. Specifically, I was looking for books in the blue/green color family and was able to find three great books that fit the bill for a total of $8!

After perusing the books and home goods sections of the store, I usually hit up the women's clothing section. I really only look for tops, dresses, and skirts and avoid the pant section since pants are really difficult to find in my length (I'm short). Again, my strategy is to slowly go through each section, usually twice, trying to find items that are in good shape and possibly some great brands, too!
 Here are some of my great clothing finds from this trip:

 Find #1: Ann Taylor Loft black lace dress for $7.99
I realllllly wanted this dress to fit but it was 4 sizes too big! I even called one of my friends asking what size she wears so I could justify purchasing this darling dress for somebody, anybody! I thought about trying to alter it at home, which I probably could have done, but alas! She didn't come home with me!

Find #2: Ann Taylor Loft Olive Green Tweed Blazer for $4.99
I love the color, look, and fit of this jacket! It's even a 'petite' size so the length of the sleeves are just right on my 'petite' frame! This definitely came home with me!

Find #3: Cotton Printed Tank from H&M for $2.50

 How cute is this little cotton tank?? I really liked the pattern and it seems to have been barely worn so at $2.50, how can you go wrong? Now we just need some warm weather & sunshine!

Find #4: Striped fold-over skirt for $4.99
This isn't a 'brand name skirt' but again, it seems to have been hardly, if ever, worn and will be perfect for lazy summer days, paired with a tank and sandals! Love the stripes, too!

Find #5: Linen Ruffle Dress from Old Navy for $4.99
OK, so the picture isn't the greatest and the dress is wrinkled, BUT, can you see how cute this summer dress is? If it wasn't too big for me, I would have definitely taken it home since it's so cute and in such great shape!

Find #6: Plaid Sheath Dress for $4.99
This print makes the dress perfect to wear to a winter holiday party or to work paired with black tights and a cardi! Unfortunately, the fit wasn't quite right on me so I didn't buy it! Bummer!

So those are my latest Goodwill finds! In total I purchased three books, a skirt, a tank, and a blazer for just under $25! Bargain hunting at it's best!

Linking up my finds with Lindsay at The Pleated Poppy!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fun Review Strategies & Games

One of the best parts of teaching high school students is how funny, clever, and witty they can be sometimes! While browsing Pinterest, I came across a review strategy that piqued my interest and I decided to try it out this week with one of my Honors US History classes. Rather than asking the students a question and having them come up with the answer, this strategy involves giving the kids the answer and having them come up with the question. Before we started to review historical content, I told them we would do one 'off topic' round for them to practice the strategy.  The answer I gave them was 'Justin Bieber'...

The responses of these two kids had me in hysterics!! They are so witty and, oddly, both had to do with Canada (I'm half Canadian, FYI)! The kids were laughing, too, which was a great way to get them interested in continuing with the review activity! Posing the question rather than the answer requires them to think in a different way and really tests their knowledge on a subject.

Below are a few other fun ways to review content with students...

Guess Who?: A twist on the board game using pictures of important people, events, etc. Order your own game and rig up your own cards!

Classic Bingo: Create and print your own Bingo cards using your own key terms & content! After 10 years of teaching, this is still a favorite game amongst high school students!

Individual Dry Erase Boards: I ordered some individual mini-white boards from W.B. Mason which are really great to use for review, however, an inexpensive version would be using shiny plastic plates! So clever!

Graffiti Board: Write vocabulary on the board and have students erase a word/concept that they know and explain/give it's definition. Repeat until all the content has been explained & reviewed.

Trivia Egg Hunt: Some time each spring, I fill plastic eggs with trivia questions from content we've learned throughout the year. Then I hide the eggs around the classroom and tell the students to 'hunt' for them! When they've all found one, they open their egg and have to answer the trivia question before they can have the treat inside (usually erasers, small pencil sharpeners, etc.).

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Placemat Turned Toss Pillow

I am sort of in a design funk when it comes to my living room so I decided to head to Target to see what was new for spring hoping to find some inspiration. Well, Tarjay, you didn't disappoint! I found some amazing fabric in the form of table linens! I will write a separate post about the tablecloth I've turned into toss pillows (you can see it peeking out from behind in the picture below) but today is all about this sweet little placemat transformation...

placemat turned toss pillow

The awesome lime green and cream geometric print placemat is only $3.99 as part of the 'Threshold' line at Target.  When I saw it, I looked closely at the contruction and realized that since it was lined on the back, too, I could easily use a seam ripper to open up one edge, which is exactly what I did!

Then I used some polyfill stuffing to fill the placemat-turned-pillow and machine stitched the side closed...this didn't look weird since the placemat already had top stitching all the way around the perimeter.  I think it took me no more than 15 minutes since it really only involved opening one edge, stuffing, and stitching the same edge shut!

Run to your nearest Target and pick up this placemat...or two, or four! Sew easy!! I'll be back to share how I turned a tablecloth into toss pillows! Very affordable way to cut down on fabric costs!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Faux Frosted Glass Privacy Window

Today I'm sharing a project that has been on my 'to do' list since moving into my house 2 1/2 years ago. My conundrum involved what to do to add some privacy to the front entryway door. I didn't want to cover the window with curtains as it would block too much light yet I did want to establish some privacy when looking into the house from the street.

Luckily, I came across the perfect solution when reading a blog post at Seventh House on the Left where transparent contact paper was used as 'window film' to add privacy! I LOVE this idea because it's a non-permanent way to add privacy as well as some visual interest to the entryway!

fauc frosted glass door

The process is pretty easy, but time consuming. Essentially you trace the shape you want onto contact paper, cut out lots and lots of shapes (I used 45+), then apply your design to the window. I downloaded my shape from Seventh House on the Left and then used my Silhouette Portrait cutting machine to do the work for me. This saved me a lot of time and ensured that my shapes were all cut the same. You can used good old fashioned scissors, however!

The transparent contact paper looks like frosted glass when applied to the window. You can pick up a roll of contact paper at places like WalMart, Target, and craft stores. When applying the design to the window, I measured to find the exact middle of the window and placed my first shape in the center then worked out from there.

The design isn't perfect but when the entire window is covered, it's really difficult to notice any imperfections. I did have to make sure I smoothed each piece down really firmly to avoid air bubbles. I cut out some extra shapes so that I could replace any that did develop bubbles that I couldn't smooth. Around the edges I used an X-Acto knife to trim an overlapping pieces.

This project is a really low cost, high impact way to add privacy, design, and interest to any space. A bonus feature is that when the sun hits the door at just the right time of day, a pretty pattern is cast onto the walls of the entryway! LOVE!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sew Cute!

I'm SUPER excited to share this project today as I've been slowly working toward stretching my sewing skills! This past week was school vacation here in Maine so I had time to spend on some craft projects. While browsing Pinterest, I found a sewing pattern for a women's top from Made by Rae that I thought looked really cute and didn't seem to be above my abilities. It's called the 'Josephine' and here's how it turned out...

Women's Sewing Pattern Cotton Tunic

I'd consider myself to be in the 'advanced beginner' category in terms of my sewing abilities, steadily working into the solid 'intermediate' category. This pattern required me to really work on many skills including pleats, darts, gathering fabric (on both the top and bottom of the sleeves), adding an elastic casing, and creating my own bias tape. Some of these skills I had done before but needed to practice and others I've never done until now! From start to finish, including printing out and assembling the pattern, it took me the better part of 10 hours. Naturally, the first time always takes longer because you have to spend time figuring things out!

What I really like about this particular pattern is that there are several options that allow for a great fit! At only 5' tall, I have a 'petite' but curvy body shape...this means I usually need a size 'small' in tops but my 'ladies' and my hips are on the larger size so I need some room in these two areas! This pattern works for sizes XS-XXL but also has an A/B cup bodice option and a C/D cup bodice option for the top. This allowed for the perfect fit because I have a larger bust on a smaller frame!

The back has an option for an elastic band to further allow for a better fit. This cinches in the waist so the top is a bit more fitted. I also ended up shortening the sleeves and taking up the bottom hem because, again, I'm a 'shorty' so the shirt and sleeves would've have been way too long if I didn't! That's another great part of sewing your own can customize the fit!

I chose a lightweight cotton fabric in a yellow lattice print that I picked up on sale for 50% off at Jo-Ann Fabrics so I only spent about $12. I think the color pairs nicely with dark wash jeans, tan boots/shoes, and gold accessories! The pattern also has a tunic length option with a fabric belt instead of an elastic which is probably the next sewing project I'll work on! 

What about you? Have you ventured into the world of sewing with some success?

I'm linking up with...
pleated poppy

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Upholstered Nailhead Trim Headboard

I moved into my new house over two and a half years ago and I FINALLY have a headboard! I was originally planning on making my own upholstered headboard since I've seen lots of tutorials on how to do so (I even purchased the fabric already) but I just never got around to it. I was doing some online window shopping a couple weeks ago and came across the perfect was gray, it was sophisticated, it was upholstered, it had nail head trim, and it was affordable!

Palermo Wingback Headboard Target

It's the Palermo Wingback Headboard from Target! They also sell the entire bed with upholstered side and foot boards but I want room for under bed storage so I just ordered the headboard (which was on sale)!

Upholstered nailhead trim headboard

 Once it arrived, I had it out of the box, assembled, and in place all by myself in a matter of 20 minutes! I was worried that the headboard would be too short because my bed frame is 14 inches off the floor and then I have both a box spring and a mattress on top. However, it turned out to be the perfect height!

 I really love the nailhead trim detail and the fact that it has 'wings'...
these details make the headboard look far more expensive than it is! 

nailhead trim upholstered headboard
After propping pillows on the wall for two years, it amazing how much more finished the room looks with an actual headboard. I really love it!! Tax return funds were put to good use!

For more information about the wall color in the room as well as the silver metallic stencil, I wrote a post all about it here!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I Wore Wednesday

Today I'm sharing a couple of my latest outfits for 'What I Wore Wednesday' and linking up over at the Pleated Poppy!  Lately I've been really into mixing pattern and adding pops of color to my work outfits! This first outfit is one of my favorites because it's cute, affordable, and REALLY comfortable!

The mustard colored stretch skinny jeans were only $13 (now on sale for $9) from Walmart! I actually purchased them a couple months ago in three other colors because they fit my curvy body so well and are super affordable! The ruffled flower print top is from Target from a few years back. The royal colored cardi is from Banana Republic outlet last summer. The boots have become my 'go to' footwear of choice as I can run around all day at school and my feet don't hurt...they're from Kohls purchased in the fall.

The dress code for staff/teachers at my school isn't super strict...we can wear jeans, for instance, any day of the week as long as we still look professional and put together. Here you can see I've paired dark denim jeans from American Eagle with a classic black blazer from Walmart (another totally awesome find from Wally World).  I added a striped black and white tee (can't remember where it's from) and a hot pink bauble necklace from Kohls for a pop of print and color!

I'll be busting out some more hot pink this Friday for Valentine's Day! Unless of course we don't have school (again) due to an impending snow storm (again)! Alas, such is the life of a Mainer!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beach Inspired Paint Colors

I've been meaning to write a post about the paint colors in my home for some time and today is the day! The living room is actually on its third paint color in the two and a half years since my home was first constructed and the kitchen/dining area will be on its third color soon, too! I think it's only natural to live with the colors for a while, watching the light in the rooms throughout the day, and then decide whether a color 'works'. Here are the colors on my walls currently...

Although it wasn't my intention, I actually ended up using paint colors that all have names related to the beach! It fits because the beach is my 'calm, happy place' so why not have that at home, too?

Here are my colors:
#1 Cumulus Cloud by Martha Stewart...this color is a very, very light blue/gray. I've used it in my bedroom paired with a metallic silver paint for the stenciled wall.

#2 Driftwood Gray by Martha Stewart...this is such a lovely gray. Although it reads a bit taupe in the color above, it's really more of a true gray. I used this color in my office.

#3 Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams...I LOOOOVE this color! It's also in the gray family but it really reads more of a green-gray. I've used it in my bathroom and it coordinates nicely with the glass tile back splash.

#4 Horizon by Benjamin Moore...I painted my living room this color over the summer. It is a very light, light gray. It really brightened up the space and looks great when contrasted with the crisp white crown molding!

#5 Salt Glaze by Martha Stewart...this will be the color of my kitchen when I get around to painting again! I've also used it to paint stripes on my living room curtains. It's a light blue and is really fresh without being too 'baby blue'.

Because colors on a computer monitor can be so misleading, 
here's a picture of each of the colors in my actual home...
of course, lighting changes colors a bit but I think they are a bit more true to life:

Here are some tips I find helpful when choosing paint colors:

1) Choose colors toward which you naturally gravitate. Blues and grays make me calm and happy...for you, maybe vibrant reds, oranges and greens make you happy...choose what makes you feel good!

 2) Go with neutrals on the walls and add color through accessories. Painting is a very tedious task but adding new toss pillows, art, or lampshades is simple and inexpensive and can be changed up very easily.

 3) Choose colors that coordinate so as to have a cohesive feel throughout your home. Although my home is small, the rooms flow easily into one another because each is painted in a different yet compatible wall color.

4) Conduct a web search to see colors painted in rooms that already exist. You can never tell the real color of paint on a wall unless you actually see it in person. However, if I find a color I like on a paint chip, I always Google the paint name/brand to see if there are any images of the color in an actual room. Although computer monitors and lighting can change the color, I find this strategy very useful! 

5) If you're stuck, derive inspiration from a favorite pattern or image. If you have a favorite outfit, fabric sample, photograph, or painting, try pulling colors out of the object for inspiration. When in doubt, head on over to Pinterest and check out loads of design eye candy!

Tips on choosing paint colors

I thinking I might use some of my tax refund to hire a painter to come tackle my kitchen...I could probably just suck it up and do it myself during my school vacation in February but every time I look at all the kitchen cabinets, I just think of all the tedious 'cutting in' and 'taping off' I'll have to do! Ugh! Stay tuned for kitchen painting pics! :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Classroom Organization: Proven Strategies for Workflow Management

I recently had a fellow teacher/blog reader email me asking for any tips and strategies I have for managing the wide array of papers coming and in out of my possession. With over 100 students at one time, the amount of papers coming in and going out can be overwhelming! In my 10 years of teaching at the high school level, I've learned that managing my workflow is key for two really important reasons:

1) It keeps me sane...the classroom can be a chaotic place so keeping my materials organized helps give me a sense of calm and control!

2) It keeps my students honest...if they know I've never lost a paper and I diligently keep track of what comes in and when, they don't try to pull the 'well I passed that in but you must have lost it' routine!

Although I've tried various strategies throughout the years, the ideas I'll share here I've used with great success and am proud to say that I have NEVER lost a student paper yet! So, let's get started...

Classroom Organization Managing Paperwork

The Daily Box
On one corner of my desk I have a 'daily box' which is a set of three stackable black trays. This is the place that sees the most 'daily action' in terms of papers coming and going. It's also an 'interactive' box that my students know to go to when turning in ANY paper.

-The top tray is where papers are passed in during class. If a homework assignment is due and I ask kids to turn it in they place it here. If we are taking a quiz or exam, students are instructed to turn it in here when they are done. I find it helps to have just one place that students are consistently asked to submit work so that a routine is established early on. At the end of class, I collect whatever has been submitted, clip the pile, and place it into my 'In/Out Box' (more on that below).

-The middle tray is where I put all late work from the day. Any 'rogue' papers that are submitted either as late or from a student who was absent goes into this box. At the end of the school day, I go through all the papers and mark 'absent' or 'late' with the date. Then the papers get filed with the assignment pile they belong with that are waiting to be graded in the 'In/Out Box'. It's important to empty this basket at the end of every day so I don't forget how many late points need to be taken off, if any!

-The bottom tray is where I keep my lesson planner/plans for the day and other random items. I use large binder clips with paper labels taped to the top of each to clip onto each box. This is a really easy way to clearly identify the purpose of each box and the clips can easily be moved when necessary.

The In & Out Box
 On the other corner of my desk I keep a black plastic storage box that has several color coded hanging files, each labeled with one of my 5 classes.

-The red folders are for any work that has been passed in and needs to be graded for each class (red means ' must grade' ha ha!). I always take the work from the 'Daily Box' and put it into the appropriate red folder at the end of every class. Each folder is labeled with the class period and the word 'INBOX'.

-After the work has been graded, it gets moved into the green folders and can be passed back (green means 'go'!). Each folder is labeled with the class period and the word 'OUTBOX'.

-I have yellow folders at the back of the basket for quizzes and assessments that absent students need to come in and take and any handouts that need to go out to my homeroom students.

Absent Work Bin
In the picture above, I have blue 'absent student' folders in the bin. These folders have since been moved into their own separate box, located on a table in the back of the room.  Students know that when they've been absent, they are to look in the bin for the folder with their class name, in which they will find any work they missed.

-At the end of every class (or sometimes at the end of the day) I go through my list of students who were absent that day and put any handouts and directions they missed into the absent work bin. This makes it so much easier to keep track of who missed what and avoids the mad rush to speak to me about everything they missed at the start of class. It puts some responsibility on the students' shoulders, too!

With over 100 students and 3 different courses to prep for, having a place to keep the papers that I hand out is essential! I took the covers from WB Mason paper boxes, spray painted them a fun green color, and placed them on a table in the back of the room to hold all my handouts. The handouts are placed in the box after I've copied them and stay until I give them out to the kids. Then, any extras left over are placed back in the box, too. I have a box top for each of the classes I prep for...this semester I'll be teaching three different courses so I'll have three box tops on the back table.

Items to File
I brought in a cubby type shelf from home to place behind my desk since my classroom doesn't have any open shelving. Here is where I keep another set of black file trays...the top tray is my 'to do' tray...any papers that need to be copied or filled out in the immediate future go there. Then, I have trays to place the papers for each course I teach that need to be filed into curriculum binders. These are usually the master copies of the notes and handouts I use to make copies for my students. I don't often have the time to file everything immediately after I've used them, so after I've copied the papers, I place them in the tray to await filing.

Curriculum Binders
For each course I teach, I have a separate curriculum binder. I take the papers from the 'to file' trays and file them by unit into the appropriate binder. These are the originals I use throughout my units to make copies or to simply remind myself of the lessons and activities I use for each unit. I also have binders for general professional development items, for my attendance rosters (which I'll share in another post), and for the Class of 2017, for whom I am the advisor.

It's tough to keep up with managing the thousands of papers that come through my hands within any given school year but using these organizational strategies on a consistent basis has really brought me a sense of sanity. Ten years into the profession has brought me the knowledge of what works and what is good in theory but just doesn't jive with day to day operations!

Classroom Organization Ideas Managing Workflow

I would love to hear what other organizational strategies work for teachers out there! 
Leave a comment and let me know!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Exam Week Treats Free Printable

The first semester is almost over...all we have left is exam week which starts Tuesday! I LOOOOVE our exam week schedule because we have two exams in the morning and then the students go home at 11am, which leaves the rest of the day to grade, organize, and plan for the start of second semester. It's a really great time to 'reset'!

I wanted to make a little treat for my students to get them through the week and as farewell gift since they'll all be changing classes next semester. I happen to teach all semester-long classes so I'll be getting a whole new crew of kids next week!

dum dum lollipop gift idea

Dum Dum lollipop exam week treat free printable

I bought a couple bags of 'Dum Dums' and designed a little flag with a cute saying to glue on each lollipop. I've created a sheet of 6 flags and have made them available for you to print at home (or school) so you, too, can give your students a little treat! Simply print the sheet, cut out the flags, fold around the lollipop stick, and use a glue stick to secure!

Happy Exam Week!

Linking this project up with:
Skip To My Lou