Saturday, May 14, 2016

Planning a DIY Circus Party

It's May and that means PROM time! I'm advisor for the Class of 2017 and it was our turn to plan this year's prom. I've been thinking about this event for over a year and even started a Pinterest board to gather lots of ideas. We decided on a circus/carnival theme and had lots of fun crafting and getting creative with a tight budget! Below are some ideas and resources to create your own 'Night Under the Big Top' event!

DIY Carnival Party Ideas

We hold our prom each year in a spacious waterfront venue with gorgeous views. The room has sloped cathedral ceilings and is pretty much a blank canvas, which can be a bit overwhelming to try and fill. My initial thought was to try and create a circus tent of sorts on one end of the room under which would be the DJ and dance floor. After doing some research to find something affordable, I purchased several red and white plastic tablecloth rolls from Oriental Trading Company. These long rolls of tablecloth, along with some rope and duct tape, became the basis of our tent! It really defined the space and added that 'wow' factor as kids walked into the room! They had a blast dancing under the big top!

Thinking about our limited budget, we got creative and crafty with our centerpieces. For the larger tables, we purchased some striped fabric from WalMart to drape over our rented white linens. We looked all over for affordable 'cake dummies' as they are called to create tiered centerpieces, but they were all far to expensive. So, one day over February vacation I played around with some poster board sheets and was able to create my own by cutting long strips for the sides and using some kitchen mixing bowls to trace three different sized circles for the tops! The circles were taped to the strips with clear packing tape (but any tape will work) with a little overlapping to help stabilize each layer.

The prom committee students decorated the cakes by using gold spray paint and painters tape to add stripes to the poster board. Then they glued on strips of tickets and ribbon to add some color. We used wooden skewers and scrapbook paper to create the flags for the cake tops. I found lion and elephant toys at WalMart for $1 each and spray painted them gold for a playful nod to our circus theme!

For the smaller tables, we decorated large mason jars with ribbon and paper rosettes then added cotton candy bouquets (we rented a cotton candy machine and a popcorn machine and had a table with food, too). Large gold stars were cut out of wrapping paper and fabric pennants were made by cutting out several triangles then sewing them together with a simple straight stitch! We used sewing pins to secure the flag banners to the table cloths. The candles were purchased in bulk from Amazon.

In addition to the cotton candy & popcorn tables, we rented a photo booth, had a caricature artist, and built a kissing booth, mostly just for fun pictures and to add to our carnival theme (no making out allowed...ha ha)! We filled a large jar with Hersey's kisses and had attendees guess how many chocolates were in the jar...the winning guess took home the jar!

We also built a large ticket booth for the entryway into the event. Both booths were built out of inexpensive wood paneling and 2x3 boards from Home Depot (I actually found the wood paneling 75% off in the 'damaged' section). We used red and white spray paint to fancy up the booths!

 (Me...hanging out in my backyard with the unpainted kissing booth)

To create the lettering for both the booths, we used our projector at school to trace the letters onto foam board from the Dollar Store and cut out them out with an Exacto knife. Then the letters were spray painted and stuck to the booths using Velco (Command strips or duct tape would work, too)!

Our kids eat dinner before they come to prom, however, we did have a table with some finger foods and drinks. We created a fun vignette using several plastic table cloths ($1 each at WalMart), some more fabric pennant banners (I sewed these at home), and some paper fans. The red striped tablecloth and the paper fans shown here were all purchased from Oriental Trading Company. We used Command strips and painters tape to secure everything in place without damaging the walls.

The paper rosettes in the image below were actually handmade using a combination of scrapbook and wrapping papers. Here are some tutorials to make your own if you don't want to buy them!

Instead of paying to have tickets to the event printed, I actually found an inexpensive digital design via Etsy and printed out the tickets onto card stock at school. The Etsy shop owner was really easy to work with and customized the design for our event. We used the same design and turned it into a giant poster to put on the wall at the event using an Adobe program which takes the design and prints it out onto several pieces of regular sized printer paper. Then you cut and glue each piece of paper together like a puzzle to create a giant poster. You can also use this free site to create posters using the same process.

I designed the small 'circus' signs in Photoshop then printed them on 11x17 regular printer paper (two signs per sheet). The students glued the paper to foam board to make them sturdy then we taped them to a wooden coat rack I keep in my classroom (the spokes to hang coats can be unscrewed leaving just the stand). You could probably design your own signs using Powerpoint since that program allows you to layer images on top of one another. I used free digital scrapbook papers for the patterned backdrops found on Pinterest.

No prom would be complete without a little treat and reminder for the students to take with them as they leave! These were designed in Word and glued to Dum-Dums lollipops! The kids got a kick out of it anda little reminder to make safe choices! These could easily be made with any variety of sayings to correspond with your own event and make fun favors for party guests!

(For more daily pics of my crazy teacher life, find me on Instagram)!

Organizing an event like this for 450 students was no easy task while also juggling my normal teacher work load, but having students come up to me during and after prom to tell me 'thank you' and that this was 'the best prom EVER' certainly made all the hours spent planning and creating and emailing and decorating and cleaning up TOTALLY worth it!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

DIY Rustic Wood Sign Tutorial

Slowly but surely I've been adding a little character to my dining room, which includes hanging some drapes. Although I love the look of the curtains, I was left with an awkward space above the sliders. So, I decided to try my hand at creating a rustic 'barn wood' hand painted sign to fill that space and I am sharing the tutorial here today!

DIY Rustic Wood Sign

Although the finished product looks weathered and old, it's deceptively simple to make! I do own a Silhouette cutting machine that can create stencils in vinyl, which can also be used as a template for creating a sign, however, I prefer the simplicity of a hand-painted sign and wanted to offer an alternative for those who don't own a fancy machine!

Supplies Needed
-Pine board: You can use whatever size you want...the kind folks at Home Depot/Lowes will cut a longer board down to the size you want which allows you to get a couple signs out of one board. I purchased an 8'x5.5" board and had them cut it in half to make two 4' signs.
-Sand paper/sanding block
-1 large paint brush
-1 small art paint brush
-Rag from old tee shirt
-Ball point pen
-Painter's tape
-1 or 2 saw tooth hangers
-Tape measure or ruler
-Stain (I used Minwax 'Classic Gray' stain for the aged barn wood look)
-Acrylic paint or flat white paint
-Paper template: Use any word processing program to print out whatever phrase you'd like to paint on your sign. Depending on the size, you may have to print out your phrase on more than one sheet of paper and tape it together.

Step 1:
Prep your board by sanding down the edges and the corners. You can choose to skip this step, however you may find that some of the board edges are rough where they were cut. I like to round my corners for a more 'worn' look.

Step 2:
Use the larger paint brush to apply a thin layer of stain. Make sure to stain all four edges and check for drip marks. The longer you leave the stain on the board, the darker the color will be. I used the cloth (just a cut up old cotton t-shirt) to wipe off the stain almost immediately after applying.
*You may want to wear gloves and old clothes and should definitely use a drop cloth as the stain tends to make a mess!

Step 3:
After the stain has had time to dry (usually about 20-30 minutes) you are ready to trace your template. I like to leave about 1" border on all sides of the template and take my time to ensure that my template is evenly spaced on my board. Use painter's tape to secure your paper template onto your board.

Step 4:
It's time to trace your lettering! For both templates featured in this tutorial (Hello Sunshine & Welcome) I've used this free font. Using a ball point pen, trace each letter on your template using a fair amount of pressure. The objective is that you are essentially etching your letters into your wood since the pine board is soft enough to make an impression.

Step 5:
Now that your template has been traced into the wood, use your small craft/art brush and acrylic craft paint (I used a tester sample of flat white Behr paint from Home Depot and it worked great) to carefully start filling in your letters. When it comes to this detail work, less paint is better. Take your time and be careful not to smudge any areas that you've already painted as your hand moves across your board. It's OK if the lettering doesn't look perfect as we are going for the 'rustic' look and anything hand painted isn't going to be perfect. Also keep in mind that from farther away, slight imperfections won't be noticed! I only painted one coat, but that's really personal preference! It took me about an hour to trace and paint my smaller 'Welcome' sign. The larger 'Hello Sunshine' sign took me almost 2 hours (but it was the first sign I did and I'm a bit faster now)!

hand painted sign tutorial

Step 6:
Once your letters are finished drying, secure your saw-tooth hangers to the back for hanging. For my 2' sign, I only used one hanger in the center, but for my 4' sign, I used two, one on either end. I really like Ook brand hangers (not sponsored, just think they are well designed)! 

Step 7:
Sit back and admire your work! I've since made several of these signs, both for personal home decor and as gifts for family and friends! An optional last step would be to take some sand paper and rough up the surface of your board to give your lettering an even more worn/rustic look! I'd love to see your finished products! Find me on Instagram and on Facebook and let me know what you've been up to!

hand painted wood rustic sign

Monday, November 16, 2015

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 difference in people's lives, every single day

Friday, October 16, 2015

Teacher Friendly Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays as it combines my love of creativity and fashion! Each year I try to make at least part of my costume and often times make two different costumes- one to wear to school and one to wear out and about with friends. Here's a round-up of some of my favorite school appropriate costumes, some of which I've worn during Homecoming Spirit Week in addition to Halloween...

Teacher Costumes

Snow White
DIY Snow White Costume
 This is a costume I keep recycling because I love it so much! I took a yellow skirt that I already owned and paired it with a white collared shirt and red cardigan. For the bodice, I purchased a royal blue tank top from WalMart and hot glued some gold cording onto the tank. I also used red satin ribbon to make the head band and bow.  Read more about how to make this costume here!

 My teacher friend Kelly found an awesome red dress at our local Salvation Army and paired it with a wig and some knee high socks to transform into Annie! Love it!

Cat Lady
This was actually what I wore this year on 'Wacky Wednesday' during Homecoming Spirit Week but it would also make an awesome Halloween costume! I found the cat sweatshirt and elastic waist jeans at Salvation Army then used hot glue and velco strips to add a bunch of stuffed cats that I found at Goodwill. The wig and glasses were on clearance at WalMart after Halloween last year. I purchased a plain white tote bag for $3 at Walmart then used a Sharpie to add the cat motif! Check 'Meowt'!

Elliot & ET
ET and Elliot Costume
One of my FAVORITE costumes!! I wore a red hooded sweatshirt for the 'Elliot' portion of the costume. To create ET, I printed out his face onto cardstock then taped it to a ruler. His 'body' is just a white towel wrapped around a pillow. Everyone at school LOVED this costume!!

Abraham Lincoln
Abe Lincoln Costume Ideas
Pretty self-explanatory! Black jacket, black pants, a stove-pipe hat, and a beard! 
Beard and hat purchased at the Halloween store!

Harry Potter
Harry Potter Costume
Oh man, I had so much fun wearing this costume! I used my faculty graduation gown as my wizard robe and taped a printed out version of the Griffindor logo to the gown. The tie, glasses, and wand came in a kit at the Halloween store and I purchased the wig separately. Add a scar to your forehead and you're ready to make some magic! 

This is another really easy costume! I paired a long skirt (purchased at Goodwill) with a ruffled white shirt (that I already owned) and added a homemade 'Votes for Women' sash! Details on how to make the sash can be found here

Statue of Liberty
This one goes way back to my early years of teaching! I made this costume out of green fabric, some foam (for the headpiece), and a styrofoam cone for the torch! 

I have a couple fun ideas for my costumes this year but you'll have to wait to find out what I'll be! Follow along on my daily adventures in teaching via Instagram

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Critical Thinking Skills Posters

Hello everyone out there in blog-land! It's been a super crazy busy start to this school year so I've been a bit MIA on the blog (but you can find me on Instagram more often)! I have a student teacher this year, I am Junior Class Advisor (and this week is Homecoming week), and I have my normal course load to attend to so my plate has been full! However, I'm here with another set of FREE POSTER PRINTABLES for your classroom!

classroom posters

As a social studies teacher, I'm always seeking ways to work on my students' critical thinking skills. Discussions within my academic department at school lead to the realization that many students lack a basic understanding of what some of this critical thinking terminology means. We ask them to analyze, infer, evaluate, and interpret information and sometimes assume they know what these words mean. Thus, I decided to create a set of four 'CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS' posters to put up front and center in my classroom. This way we can all reference these definitions and examples when working on various tasks during daily lessons!

The posters come in two sizes...a basic 8.5"x11" standard paper size that can be printed on any printer at home or school and a larger 11"x17" which I had printed onto thick photo stock at Staples for a total cost of $8! One of these days I'm going to open up a 'Teachers Pay Teachers' shop but for now, these are FREE, FREE, FREE for you so grab them while you can! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Free Classroom Poster Printable

It's 'back to school' time which means it's also time for another FREE CLASSROOM POSTER PRINTABLE! One of my favorite shows of all time is Friday Night Lights and my favorite school counselor is Tami Taylor (a lead character in the show)! In one scene she's giving Tim Riggins (a student) the riot act about why she cares so much about his future...

Friday Night Lights quotes

This inspired me to make a new poster for my classroom that I'm happy to share with all my fellow educators as we head back to fight the good fight every day this school year!

Free Classroom Poster Printables

The 8x10 version of the free printable can be downloaded here.
The 11x17 version can be downloaded here.

I usually have my posters printed inexpensively at Staples on cardstock or a thicker photostock but they can easily be printed right at home or at school on regular paper!

You can find my previous free poster printables here and here! Thank you to all the teachers, counselors, coaches, and support staff out their who make a difference in the lives of kids every day!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Invisalign Experience

If you've been a reader of the blog for a little while, you may remember that I wrote a post about my decision to get Invisalign braces back in January. Well, I'm approaching the end of my treatment plan and I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences with Invisalign as well as some helpful tips. Please keep in mind that this post is from a patient's perspective...please consult an orthodontist for medical advice and information!
Invisalign Braces

The Process
Essentially Invisalign straightens teeth through a series of clear plastic trays, each worn for two weeks at a time. Each set of trays is slightly different from the previous set, which slowly shifts your teeth. It is recommended that the trays are worn 20-22 hours a day. Basically they should only be taken out when eating.  I initially went in for a consultation, then another appointment to discuss my treatment plan (they make a digital slideshow of how your teeth will change over the course of treatment). My third visit is where they poured this goopy material into molding trays and had me bite down so they could cast the molds for the trays.

invisalign traysAt my fourth appointment I received my first four sets of trays. This is also the appointment where they may attach 'buttons' to your actual teeth. These are little pieces (not sure of the material but they are the color of my teeth) that are bonded to certain teeth (not all teeth, just the ones that may need to move a bit more) which help the trays have something to grip. I don't have any buttons on my bottom teeth but do have several on my top. The Invisalign trays would be virtually invisible if it weren't for these buttons...I definitely look like I have clear braces because of the buttons. I wish the models in the Invisalign ads had buttons because it would more accurately reflect what many Invisalign users look like!

The Treatment Length
My overall treatment plan will be about a year, seven months of wearing the trays that are moving my teeth, and then four months wearing trays that don't move my teeth but rather set them in place so they don't shift back. Then, I will wear a setting tray at night only (I'm not sure how long, however). I have 17 trays total, which is a relatively short treatment length. I go to see my orthodontist every 8 weeks where he checks progress quickly then gives me my next four sets of trays. After my 17th tray at the end of August, I will have an appointment with my orthodontist where we will discuss whether or not I will need refinements. This essentially means that if either of us are not happy with the movement that my teeth made, a few more sets of trays can be made to further 'tweak' my teeth. I'm hoping I won't need refinements but it seems they are fairly common. Again, you need to wear your trays 20-22 hours per day...the more you wear your trays, the better your results!!

The Pain & Speech
My first days wearing the trays were excruciatingly painful!! I felt as though I had razor blades in my mouth! Granted, teaching is a profession in which I need to speak all day long, so my mouth probably hurt more than it would have if I didn't have to speak so much, but it was SO painful. At day's end, I went immediately to my ortho office and asked for help. The edges of my trays were cutting my tongue and gums and I had read they may be able to file down the edges, which they did. They said I could take an emery board and file down the edges on each of my trays at home if needed in the future. Buying some orthodontic wax to use on the edges of your trays may help, too.

Early on, my mouth was very prone to getting sores on my gums and tongue. I did use Orajel some to help with this. I am happy to say that eventually my mouth became 'seasoned' and the pain in terms of mouth sores and a sensitive tongue subsided. My mouth was used to the trays after about the third set and I haven't really had any pain on my gums since then.

The other type of pain that comes along with using Invisalign is due to your teeth shifting. The first couple days after putting in a new set of trays can sometimes lead to pretty sore teeth. For me, the pain really just depends on which teeth are shifting and by how much. They feel fine when the trays are in my mouth but hurt most when the trays are taken out of my mouth. I try to only eat softer foods during the first couple days of new trays if my teeth are sensitive. Some people can suffer from headaches, too, during this time (luckily I haven't other than the first couple days with my very first set of trays).

My speech was very much impaired for the first several weeks. I had a pretty strong lisp and it was difficult to speak normally. My high school students thought it was pretty hilarious to listen to me trying to deliver serious lessons while sounding like Daffy Duck! I honestly didn't think my speech would go back to normal, but, thankfully it did! So, if you are new to Invisalign, hang in there!! Your speech with return to normal and the pain will subside!

The Maintenance
The trays need to be removed when eating and teeth should be brushed before putting them back in. At the start, I was pretty religious about brushing my teeth after every meal and snack before putting my trays back in but it became difficult with my crazy busy schedule at school and time spent out of the house... I don't always have easy access to a sink. So, I tend to brush when I can but usually just rinse out the trays and my mouth with water before putting the trays back in after eating. All colored liquids (wine, cola, juice, etc.) should be avoided while wearing the trays as they can stain. I tend to drink mostly water but if I'm out having a cocktail or other beverage, I try to order something that isn't dark to I can drink and keep my trays in!

In the evening before bed I brush both my teeth and my trays (and floss of course). I use my regular tooth brush and some tooth paste and give the trays a quick scrub. They can get pretty gross throughout the day so cleaning them is essential. It was also recommended to me to use Polident tablets to soak the trays, particularly toward the end of the two weeks when they start to get really gross. I tried it but have found that scrubbing with the tooth brush/paste is the easiest way to keep the trays clean and fresh.

The Cost
The price can vary greatly depending on provider, treatment length, insurance, etc. My insurance doesn't cover my treatment because it's considered cosmetic and they also don't cover any braces for adults. My treatment price was $5,000 which covers all my visits, the trays, and any refinements I may need at the end. Based on my research, this tends to be the average price of Invisalign treatments. Some orthodontists, including mine, offer payment plans so it's best to consult your specific orthodontist to see what they offer in terms of financing.

The Results
I'll be on my last set of trays in about a month and have seen some great results! I've taken pictures throughout my journey because it can be difficult to see the progress from week to week and it's helpful to compare. My teeth weren't considered 'horrible' by any means, but I had some crowding issues and a really narrow bite.

Invisalign has been a great choice for me as a 34-year-old. They are a little more inconspicuous than traditional braces and can be removed to eat any and all foods (maybe that's a bad thing?)! In my case, my results have been just as good as if I had traditional braces and I've been able to lead a normal life! Early on, I was fairly self concious about being an adult with a mouth full of braces but after a while I sort of forgot the trays were there & just continued to live life, smiling away!
invisalign results