Friday, August 29, 2014

The Excitement of Your Very Own Classroom

35 years ago this month, I began my first teaching job.  I was straight out of college, 21 years old.  My advisor at the college set me up with a brand new private school in a nearby city.  I was thrilled.  I had a job!!  Because it was new, the number of students was very small, but that didn't matter.  I was going to have my own classroom!!

I went in and started decorating.  I proudly took these poloroids in 1979.

That job only lasted a week.  I had one student in my first grade classroom - the owner's son.  When I was released, I was given a check for a month's pay.  I got another job within a week and I remember my father telling me that it would be only time in my career that I got paid twice for working one month!

Those days are long behind me and now I'm on the other side of that spectrum.  My daughter is now where I was oh so long ago.

It hasn't been as easy for her as it was for me.  In 1979 there was a shortage of teachers.  Now, not so much.  After 3 years of subbing in three different districts as well as holding down a second part-time job at Disneyland that consumed every weekend and evening, she now is getting her first classroom.  Seeing her excitement brings back memories.

She's a crafty kid and has been spending the last couple of weeks making her new classroom a very cool place to hang out.

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Let's see.... canning jars... twine.... oh, and some origami flowers she made!

A banner made of card stock with black letters strung together with, yes, some more of that pink twine!

A job chart with clothespins.  She is great at writing in cool fonts!

She shares the classroom with another teacher and they are both Harry Potter fans!  She provided the sign (which was a gift to her from her middle school principal).  Her colleague provided some Harry Potter quotes from Etsy.

And, of course, every teacher's favorite part of the room - the desk.  Don't we all just love the organizers, post-its, notebooks, pushpins, magnets.... I could go on and on.  Oh, and just as a reminder of how far she's come, her Disneyland pins reside in a shadow box on the bookcase.  

Good luck Em!  It's going to be a great year!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Hot Little Gift

In preparation for an administrative meeting in lovely La Quinta, I was given the task of making little take-aways for all the attendees.  Found an idea online - a Tapatio party favor!  Perfect for La Quinta!!

My husband, bless his heart, hit several hispanic markets in our neighborhood and bought about 70 bottles of Tapatio.  With some scrapbook paper, twine, my handy dandy paper punch and a few wooden beads, it was a snap to put together the little gifts.

Here they are "in action"!

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Start with a MS Word document and create a circle.  If you're using a paper punch, measure the diameter of the punch and then enlarge your circle to the same measurement.  Put a text box in the center of the circle and add your text.  Cut the circles by hand, use your punch, or whatever other tool you have to cut circles.  I did the white text, a red circle that was slightly larger and then a green circle that was still larger.

Glue everything together and punch a hole in the top.  Cut a length of twine that is a couple of feet long.  Fold it in half, push the fold through the hole and draw the ends through the loop.  Secure the circle to the bottle by wrapping the twine twice around the neck of the bottle.  Tie in a bow and add wooden beads to both of the ends.

I had a few of the bottles left over after the event, so I did some new labels celebrating the hard work of our amazing custodians and gave them a little thank you as well.  Easy, useful, and HOT!! 

Gifty Jars


My daughter put together some thank you gifts for her colleagues at the school where she teaches.  She wrote a personal message to each one and added that to the jar.  She put in items such as tea bags, pens and candy.  They were very touched by the thoughtful gift!  She used scrapbook paper for the lids and the notes.

During the summer, as the counselors and admin tried to prepare for the beginning of school, there were lots of changes that made it a bit stressful.  The 13 or so administrative changes within the district created a domino effect that rippled through most of the schools.  We had a few admin changes at my high school, but also some teacher changes as well.

Change is usually pretty benign - we all go through it pretty much unscathed, but this year was a bit different.  I likened it to being hit by a wave - just as you get your head above water, another one rolls through.  We all pulled together and finished everything we needed to get done and were ready for those kids to arrive on the first day.  But it wasn't easy - a lot of extra time was spent by many people behind the scenes to make everything fit together.  But that's the ultimate goal - to make it look like it was no sweat!

I was looking for a way to say thank you to those folks.  Cupcakes came to mind, but we've all been (stress) eating way too much lately!  So, a browse through Pinterest gave me the idea for a canning jar thank you.

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I started out with quart size jars.  These are big enough to hold pretty much anything.  The one on Pinterest held some markers and other office supplies.  A dozen of these are about $10 at Walmart.  At Michael's, they're a lot more expensive.

I bought little packages of Oreos and York Peppermint Patties.  I bought some silk flowers and found some cute pens and some little labels at Michael's.

I used MS Word to draw a 2 1/2" circle.  I "filled" it with black and used a chalkboard font in white to do the lettering inside the circle.  When cut out, these fit perfectly in the top of the lid (no glue necessary).  I also used a stencil to cut out two hearts for each jar.  These would go on the ends of the twine bow.

Next, is the fun part.  Fill the jar and put on the lid!  Take twine and wrap it twice around the lid, tie a bow.  Punch small holes in the hearts, slip each end of the twine through the holes and make a knot. Done!  Wouldn't these make cute Halloween gifts?  Christmas gifts?    What fun!!

P.S.  If you haven't done this yet, go to the 99 cent store and buy a sugar jar.  Put your twine in the jar and run the end out the hole in the lid.  Makes using twine so much easier!

BIG Chalkboards!

We recently hosted our all-district beginning of the school year meeting at my high school.  It was a tremendous amount of work to get the site ready - our custodians and IT guys were AMAZING!  My principal wanted to have everyone feel welcome when they first walked on campus.  In addition to the 90 flags that our district guys put up, the ASB kids cheering each group of people walking in, an amazing array of baked goodies from our Food Services folks, we had two 3' x 4' chalkboards.  My principal threw out the idea of making a couple, and of course, with chalkboards being my latest obsession, I jumped on it!

My husband had some leftover MDF boards and some 2 x 4's stacked in the garage, so we were ready to go!

The drawings were freehand - I just used a yardstick to draw chalk lines to guide the lettering and tried to imitate some cool fonts I found on the internet.  It was really relaxing to do the chalk part.  I know this fad will disappear at some point in the future, but I sure am enjoying it while it's "cool"!!

There are versions of these that are framed and two sided.  I think that if you need something inexpensive and simple and if it doesn't matter that the back side isn't "pretty", this style would work fine.

Scroll down for directions and an UPDATE!

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Start with whatever size board you want.  Paint with chalkboard paint.  I used the brush on kind rather than the spray paint and did three coats.

Cut a 2x4 about 3/4ths of the height of the piece of plywood.  Lean the board on the 2x4 and on the back, mark where you want the hinge to be.

Attach the hinge.  Make sure you use screws that are shorter than the depth of the board, otherwise they will pop through.

Coat (prime) the board with chalk.  I started with sidewalk chalk thinking it would go faster, but it was a FAIL.  It is not as smooth as the regular chalk and it made scratches on the paint. I did another coat of paint to cover them up.

Rub the entire surface with a soft cloth.  I used a microfiber (clean) dusting cloth.

Now it's ready to write on!  Because we are going to use these over and over, I wrote with chalk rather than paint.  Either one would work fine however.

Here are the boards in action!

A colleague asked to use the board for her wedding.  It was the first time that I used a chalkboard pen (I highly recommend it!).  Here is the result:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake Cookies

Trolling through Pinterest last week I found this great recipe from  Wow, perfect combination of ingredients for that chocolate craving!  Soft, chewy, chocolately.... who could ask for more??

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You can find the recipe on the Recipe page and I've added a couple of notes to it.  There was a missing direction and I ended up checking off ingredients just to make sure I didn't goof up.  So, I'll share it all!  The pictures on lemonsforlulu are much prettier than mine - please go visit - it's a cool site!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Heath Bar Brownie Dessert Pizza

It doesn't feel like Southern California today.  It feels more like the weather I experienced when my brother, daughter and I visited my Uncle and Aunt years ago in Nashville, Tennessee.  Hot.  Humid.  Intermittently rainy.  Too icky to be outside.

So what's a girl to do??

Make a chocolate treat of course!

One of my favorite blogs, i am baker, posted a recipe for a Heath Brownie Dessert Pizza.  Couldn't resist!

This recipe has several parts just as the Heath Bar Cake does, but it's a bit simpler.

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You can find the original post and recipe here.

Start with her from-scratch brownie mix.  I baked it in a 12" deep dish pizza pan.  I cut a circle of parchment paper for the bottom.  I love parchment paper and use it with all my cakes now.

I was trying to figure out how to manage this thin brownie without breaking it so I put a large platter on top and flipped it over.  It, of course, slid out of the pizza pan.  I then turned the pan over and flipped the brownie back on to the bottom of the pan to create a level surface.  The parchment paper was still attached to the bottom of the brownie, which was fine.

Next step, make 1/2 recipe of the buttercream frosting.  Mine was pretty thick - next time I think I'll add a bit more of the heavy cream.  (Only use heavy cream - don't use whipping cream!  That was a mistake I won't do again!)

After the frosting was on, I chopped up the Heath Bars.  I made a bunch of sprinkles and then halved a bunch of the small bars to put on the top.

Next, make the ganache.  This recipe is for a microwave version.  Easy!  So easy I forgot to take a picture of it!  Then, add your Heath bar stuff.

I went and got a pizza box from a local pizza place, put parchment in the bottom and then added a doily.

Because it was going to be shared with my son-in-law's work peeps, I pre-cut it so it was easier to serve and then put the pieces into the box.  Cutting this was a snap because it was still on the bottom of the pizza pan.  

(Here's a picture of the upside down pan with parchment after all pieces were transferred to the box.)

The Heath Bar Cake from i am baker that I featured in this post was eaten in a record amount of time.  We'll see if this beats it!

Delicious, yummy, addicting.... need I say more?