Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hiding an Ugly Closet

I have a very ugly closet, well if you can call it that.  When I moved into my rental house, the men had attempted to make a closet at the front door.  Made of paneling, it had a shelf above the rod which was placed higher than the top of the cut for the door, making one shelf unusable.  The other main problem was that the width of the "doorway" was so narrow, you couldn't actually put any shelving units in there...

As I don't have a proper closet in my bedroom, I decided to put my pants and skirts in there, and well, the bottom of the closet kind of got used as a dumping ground, which you'll see from this picture...

Yup, I know this closet needs to be organized....most of it is shoes, but there are some pillows, and one dog bowl....

So I decided a while ago that I wanted to make a fabric curtain to disguise it.  With Christmas money, I purchased a curtain rod for around $16 and although I had been planning to buy a bed sheet, the fabric cost as much as the bedsheet, coming in at $17 from Fabricland.  It took maybe an hour to make the curtain and then another 45 minutes or so to get up the curtain rod, but this is what it looked like:

Now I did underestimate the length, so I think the next time I can get to the fabric store, I'll pick up some fabric or trim to make a border at the bottom...I loved the fabric so much and here's a close up of the fabric so you can really appreciate it!!

So all in all, the project cost about $40, and I'm really happy with it.  I definitely need some art above the curtain rod, but that will come in time.  I'm on the way to a more polished living room!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Melted Snowman Cookies

So I found an adorable picture that I fell in love with on Pinterest.  The picture connected to the blog, Crazy Domestic Blog.

Cute eh?  Well, I decided to tackle this project for a fundraiser my class was doing to raise money to have the Little People of Manitoba out at our school.  I didn't find the tutorial very helpful though as it used all premade store bought ingredients.  I like homemade and wanted to do it in a way that was most cost effective.

Initially I tried one recipe that was deemed to be one of the best on the web.  It wasn't a cheap recipe either-it had a whole pound of butter and although I cubed it and left it out overnight, the recipe was hard to manipulate.  Even after refrigerating, in order to make a cookie, I had to massage each individual ball in my hands.  I wasn't impressed.  I made it work as I didn't like to waste money or time, but I decided to try a different recipe to hopefully get better results...and it was way better!!

First recipe:
(sorry for the quality of pictures as I am still without a camera so I have to use my cell)

Second recipe:  look at how much puffier they are!

First of all,  you need time to make these cookies...expect to spend a whole afternoon and then some with refrigerating, baking, and decorating.

Melted Snowman Cookie Batter

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup softened margarine
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract

In a large bowl, cream sugar and margarine until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, and almond extract. 

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients until mixed.  Gradually spoon the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition.  

Chill dough about 3 hours.  

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Form balls somewhere around 2 inches.  Flatten in hand so cookie is about the size of your palm (don't do this on your baking sheet as I found it really stuck to the cookie sheet).  Place on stoneware pan.  

Bake until edges are slightly golden brown; for me with my stoneware, I probably baked them for around 17 minutes and got six cookies on one sheet.  Let cool.

15 Cookies

Melted Snowmen Decorations Needed

  • Icing ( I had bought packages after trying to make a runny icing that looked similar to the original picture that didn't turn out.  I ended up having to make some of my own and I think I had a couple cups of icing sugar to 1/8 of a cup of margarine and 1 tbsp of hot water.  You need to plan on making lots of icing!
  • Marshmallows
  • Non stick cooking spray
  • Small tip decorating tubes of various colors (you definitely need black, orange, red, and green)
    • Just some additional information about this; I used three different types based on what I had and what I know I needed.  The brands I used were the Cake Mate Scribblers (usually sold in any grocery store in a pack of green, red, blue, and yellow), Wilton Sparkle Gel in orange (bought from Michaels), and Duff Matte Candy Writer in black and red (bought from Michaels).  I thought the Wilton was easiest to write with, the Duff tubes needed the most preparation (needed to be kept in hot water to get them pliable), while the Cake Mate Scribblers had the best small tip.  However in the end, I actually liked the Duff Candy Writer better because it dried so quickly-no chance of smearing!
Best Tips!

Easiest tube to Squeeze!

Quickest to dry and set!


Personally, I like to do things in step and work on the same detail rather than skipping all over the place.  This is your choice though.

Generously place icing on top of cookie.  You want it thick and don't worry if it's not perfect looking cause it's a melted snowman.  Weirder shape the better!

Next, spray a plate generously with non stick cooking spray.  Place marshmallows on plate and microwave up to 30 seconds.  Watch these.  You simply want them to warm and melt slightly, not double in size. Time varies based on how many you're microwaving at a time.  Place on cookie, pressing down slightly.

Add noses, eyes, mouth, buttons, and hands if desired using decorating tubes.  

My finished product looked like this:

They were a huge hit the school...the kids loved them and the adults were impressed...I was happy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grey Cup Winner

Okay, so this weekend is the big one....my Blue Bombers are going against someone else...don't know who, but I know it's a big weekend for lots...I love football live, but not so much on tv...however, I happened to score big time for this year's Grey Cup....I won a hamper!

Our Coop often has draws for various things.  I don't really pay attention, I just sign the slip and put my phone number on it.  Yesterday though, I happened to go in as I needed to use up the last of my money for breakfast program and I saw my name on the wall.  It announced that I had won the Grey Cup hamper!!  Well, I am not usually a winner, so I was shocked.  I didn't get to pick it up until tonight, and honestly, I hit the jackpot.  The amount of things I got probably totalled over $100 from my coop...

So here's what I got:

  • 1 case Diet Pepsi
  • 1 case Pepsi
  • 1 case 7-Up
  • 24 pack Crush Soda
  • 6 bags of chips
  • 1-50 pack styrofoam plates
  • 3-1 L orange juice
  • 1 box of oranges
  • 1 bag of peanuts
  • 1 mixed container of nuts and chocolate
  • 1 pack of forks
  • 40 plastic cups
  • 1-250 pack of napkins
  • 2 boxes of wings
  • 22 pizza pops
  • 2 boxes of crackers
  • 2 bottles tomato clam juice
  • 1 container hot chocolate mix
  • 1 jar of pickles
  • 2 ham sausage rings
  • 1 roll pepperoni
  • 1 roll salami
  • 1 huge block cheese
  • 1 onion soup mix
  • 1 sour cream container
I feel extremely blessed to have won but in all honesty, I don't need this much food.  I already gave away the case of Diet Pepsi as I gave up diet drinks altogether, and honestly, a lot of it I plan on taking to school and using for the kids Christmas party and as part of the kids breakfast program that I run.  Here's a few pictures of a bit of the stuff....

Back From a Hiatus

So I had a break but now I'm back!  While things have been crazy on my end, I think maybe I've finally gotten used to the craziness...not sure how, but I feel like I'm handling things better...

One thing on my mind lately has been Christmas, as I'm sure it's been on yours...watch for things to come!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Candy-Cheap or Not?

So I don't know about you, but I find the price of candy is dramatically going up.  It's expensive!  For me, on one hand, I want the good stuff, but I'm just about choking when I have to go and pay for it.

My biggest struggle came in not knowing how much I needed to buy as I was in a new town.  I found out on Halloween day that I should expect anywhere from 150-175.  I was shocked!  I'd only ever had like 50 kids at the most!

I was able to get all my candy on sale, so that definitely helped.  My first box was a bunch of mini chocolate bars (92 count for $10, regular $17 at Canadian Tire), but then I ate some.  So when I went to the city, I knew that I should have more just in case (where I live is near the reserve I work at and I expected a lot of kids from there). This was where I got a good deal at.....Winners!  All their Halloween supplies were 70% off.  I got 2 bags of gummies (88 count each for less than $3 each).  Not bad eh?  Gummies aren't my favorite thing to hand out, but it did the trick.  I already have my next store picked out for when I need to buy my Halloween candy-the grocery store on the reserve.  They were selling boxes of 63 count brand name chips for only 10 bucks (and no taxes of course).  Everything in the city was like 30 bags for $10.  That's definitely a deal that I am taking up next year!

(pictures to come later-gotta figure out how to hook up my old camera to this new laptop-it doesn't have a spot for my card to automatically go in....)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Breakfast Program on 15 Cents a Day, Per Kid!

So I've just taken over the breakfast program for my grade.  Our school received the funding not to long ago.  We are approved for 15 cents a day per child, which works out to $3 for 20 students (about).  $3!  I couldn't believe it!  I had a hard time pondering how anyone could see that 15 cents per child per day was enough.  Because we started later and we will probably end it in May, my principal gave me permission for $4 a day (for each class).  It is still quite the challenge!

I started by scouring the flyers-both here in Rossburn and Brandon.  I needed to go to the city and as my time was limited, chose the grocery store that had the best deals for breakfast ideas.  My choice was Sobey's.  I needed to buy two weeks of food for 40 kids.  In my head, I knew that everything that I needed to buy had to be on sale for me to make my goal.  The total I had to work with was $80.

What I bought:

  • 8 loaves of whole wheat bread at .99 cents each
  • 10-4 pack pudding at $1.25 each
  • 6-5 pound boxes of mandarin oranges at $2.99 each
  • 1 box of plastic knives at .99 cents each
  • 2 boxes of plastic spoons at .99 cents each
  • 1-6 pack of paper towel for $6.49
  • 4 muffin mixes for $3.50 each
  • 2 pineapples for $3.49 each
  • 2 large jars of Kraft peanut butter at $2.99 each
  • 1 tub of margarine at $2.99
Grand Total:  $80.01 and I'm positive I'll have extra food left over!

Aside from the food, I also went in menu planning, I planned each day as I  shopped and stopped many times to keep totaling up the food to make sure I was within my budget.

So my menu plan is as such (both classes get the same kind of food):

Week 1
Monday-Christmas oranges
Tuesday-toast and pineapple
Thursday-Christmas oranges
Friday-leftovers (choice of Christmas oranges, muffin, or toast)

Week 2
Monday-Christmas oranges
Thursday-Christmas oranges
Friday-leftovers (choice of Christmas oranges, pudding, muffin, or toast)

When I told the girls in the checkout line what the food was for (as I had the school's food and then my own food on two separate transactions), they gave a lot of encouragement and one amazing tip which I need to follow up.  Apparently, Sobie's is a supporter of breakfast programs and once the approval has been given for the particular club, you are automatically given 10% off (usually only given on Tuesdays).  I need to phone and speak to the manager, but as I'm not able to get in for the Tuesday special, even 10% off would be awesome.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Freaking Fantastic Dog Furniture

So if you're like me, you love pet stuff.

Over at Better After, a reader sent in one of her pictures of an old T.V. set that she turned into a dog bed.  How cute is this?  The only thing that I think could have been done better is making the mattress deeper for the dog...puppies need comfort too!

Over at Home Frosting, Lesa made this adorable but chic crate look dog bed out of scrap wood.  While instructions are not given, it's looks pretty easy to duplicate!

Another neat idea is from Houzz is this suitcase turned dog bed.  Not only is it cute, but the designer gives full directions on how to make this...I swear I need to make one!

Over at Lowe's, they share how to make a royal four poster bed for your pooch.  With great diagrams, this is an easy one to follow!

So, what are your ideas?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vacuums....Searching for "The One"

So I don't know about you, but when I plan on making a bigger purchase, I believe in doing my research.  I'll ask friends, search for reviews, and always compare the item to other products.  What I've been needing for almost a year is a vacuum.  Try living without a year when you have two pugs...not easy.  My allergies and asthma have taken a beating.

2 months ago I purchased a mini vacuum, the Bissell FeatherWeight Vacuum.  A friend had told me that she had gotten it for like $20 and that it was awesome.  So I headed out to Wal-mart, and bought mine.  I paid $25, and it was good, but it wasn't great.  I found it just wasn't meant to handle heavy dog hair.  I also found it did better without the flat head (or whatever it's called).

A couple days ago, I ended up taking it into the classroom to help with the guinea pigs.  Well, it didn't do great with the dog hair, but it's awesome at sucking up guinea pig poop!  The kids love it...they are much more apt to clean the guinea pig cage as they barely even have to bend over.  I don't consider it a wasted purchase, but it definitely wasn't the right one for my home.

Now my dream vacuum for a long time has been the Dyson canister vacuum.  It's a dream other than a short cord.  Now it is amazing on pet hair!  It is shocking what it pulls up.  I was able to try a friend's Dyson a couple times and swoon....The bad news?  It retails for over $600.  At this point in my life of rebuilding my home to look like a home, I can't justify spending the money and I don't have that kind of money lying around.  It would need months of savings.

So what am I looking at getting?  The Bissell Pet Canister Vacuum.  It's on sale right now at Canadian Tire for only $99.99 (regular $179.99).  I don't know anyone who has ever owned this model before and so I did my research by starting to look for reviews.  Usually there are reviews on the actual Canadian Tire site, but no one had added them.  So I looked further.  Best reviews actually came from Amazon.com, which has way more than just books.  Some of the comments said,

  • "I have owned many vacuums - most of them too heavy or too difficult to change from carpet to tile. The attachments of this vacuum are easy to use and it is light weight. The canister doesn't hold a lot but I would rather empty a small one more often to have the super suction and convenience of a canister. It takes care of the pet hair on furniture and floors. If you have a large home or don't like to empty the container often, try something else. This little guy is great for smaller homes & apartments & those who don't like to work hard at vacuuming."
  • "We have mostly wood floors with some area rugs as well as carpet in the bedrooms. This is the one vacuum that I an use throughout the entire house. Prior to owning this, I was using 3 different vacuums- one for each floor type basically. This bissell does great with the pet hair. It does pretty well on the area rugs. It is fantastic on the wood floors. It's great in the bathroom. It works well in the cars and on the furniture and dog bed.

    I am so happy that I ignored most of the reviews here. This vacuum may not be as great as a $500 canister, yes, I get that. But I have never owned a $500 canister, nor will I ever. I don't need a vacuum to last 20 years. I just want something affordable, that I can use in every room of our house. It's been great at picking up the kid's crumbs under the table and on the rug. The suction power is good. It's a pretty quiet vacuum. I love it and am very happy."
  • "I love, love, love my Bissell Pet Eraser Canister Vac! And, it does vacuum up pet hair and I should know I have 6 cats and 3 Samoyeds (long white-haired dogs).I have never had a problem with the hair not being sucked up or the pet hair attachment getting clogged (yes, you have to clean it and remove the long hairs that wind around the brushes, but this is true of all vacs with this type of attachment). Yes, the vac is cheap compared to another vac I have which is a Dyson Pet Hair Vac which cost me well over $800.00 and I hate it. It tips over when you use the extensions, it is heavy and very hard to get under and around furniture. I have all hardwood floors in my house and I don't need a beater bar--in fact I hate them as they scratch up hardwood floors. I do have area rugs, and the vac does a great job on the rugs and upholstered furniture. Yes, the dirt/hair container is small, but that is so much better than having a large container which smells if not emptied often and then becomes clogged if you pack all that much dirt and hair into the large container and then try to empty it---what a mess. I have a 3500 square foot house with two stories and it doesn't take me long to vacuum. It works great on the stairs. Its lightweight and with the extension I can do all 14 steps. I have owned many vacs in my 45 years of marriage and I rate this as the best vacuum I have ever purchased. Thanks Bissell for a great product."

So based on those reviews, the awesome price, and the need to go into the city tomorrow anyway, I think I shall try to get one.  My allergies and my asthma will definitely be thanking me!  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Love Straight, LOVE Curly!

So for the last little while I was thinking of something crazy.  After a haircut that left a bitter taste in my mouth, I ended up thinking that maybe it was all for the better.  I had gone in to get a lot of hair chopped off (and lightened) and not much was removed.  Turns out that maybe it was for the best, as I did something crazy...I got a perm!

Now I hadn't had a perm since maybe '91 and all I knew about perms was how scary they were.  I remember how much they burned the scalp and the horrible scenario afterwards:  frizzy and damaged hair.  But I love curls and my hair is so flat well, you get the point.  I started thinking about perms as I had heard that they have changed over the years, that they're not as damaging and there are different kinds out there to prevent the granny look.

So here's the new look...

This picture is with my great grandmother (she's currently not doing well)

This photo is a little corny....my mother wouldn't take the picture until she was happy with the smile...

Coming next....how to care for curly hair!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Decor for the Door-Mine That Is!

So in advance, I apologize for the quality of pictures.  My regular camera broke some time ago, and I had ordered one through one school plan, but that fell through.  Right now, I'm left with my iPhone, so pictures are so-so....

So, I don't know about you, but I love having something on the door.  There are so many beautiful wreaths and decorations out there, though my issue is that they usually cost an arm and a leg.  Even a lot of the homemade things, well by the time you get all your supplies, you're still looking at $20 or more to make something!  It wouldn't be so bad if you could afford it, but right now, well, an expensive wreath isn't the necessity when I still have sheets hanging up for my curtains!

What I did find though that I liked (and you'll see a picture below) is of sticks of willow that had leaves, flowers, and other little decorations with them.  One alone looked quite silly, but three together looked great!

Straight view looking in Seen Above

Side view

I found these at Dollarama for $2 each...they did have some additional flowers on the bottoms, which I removed as I thought they looked quite cheesy.  To link them together, I simply took a piece of twine and made one big loop at the back, so it could hang together from my wreath hanger.  For around $6 plus tax, no one is the wiser that this was the biggest fall steal for me....I say it looks just as good as something you might find at HomeSense.  Not bad eh?

Monday, October 3, 2011

New Cake

So we celebrated my September students' birthdays-6 of them to be exact.  For the cake, I decided on an owl idea, which gave pretty easy directions over at FamilyFun.  It turned out pretty okay, though didn't look as cute as theirs of course.  I forgot about the feet, so I just used more wafers cut into triangles for the feet.  I don't know if my kids loved it more than the pool cake though...

Here's FamilyFun's picture:

Yup, and then here's mine....when you compare the two...well, it looks pretty silly....mine obviously doesn't win the award....

However, it tasted amazing...I'll be sharing that recipe with you soon....wow....I was impressed!  So, we had

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shufflin'...and not the LMFAO version....

Okay...so I am going to admit to something I do that I'm sure you've all been guilty of doing.  I shuffle money from my savings to my chequing quite often....like a couple times a month.  I initially set up my savings to start trying to put money away.  Yes part of it has been that I needed it, but the other part of it is that it's way too easy for me to access.

Technically, I can't withdraw any of my savings money via a teller machine.  I either have to do it in person or transfer over the net.  Well, in this day of age, transferring over the net is way easier to do than even if I were allowed to take it out of a teller machine.  Honestly, it's a little too easy for me to get it.  I wish I could say that I could stick to the plan, but that's definitely not worked.

I'm finally in a place where savings is now a possibility.  I haven't had that in years, and it's important to me.  So this is my action plan (which I'm sharing with you all, which maybe will inspire you to get honest about your savings account):

  • Keep my initial savings account as I do keep my money for my truck payments in it
  • Keep the $2 transfer of money into my savings every time I use my debit card-it does add up, which goes directly into the amount needed for my truck
  • Open a new savings account here in my new town.  A savings account is free and doesn't cost you a cent.  Don't set up internet banking so that I can easily access my cash!  I also like the idea that if I need emergency money that I can get to the bank easily (my closest TD bank is 45 minutes away)
So, that's the goal and the plan.  I'm hoping that with this upcoming paycheck on Friday that I can open up the new account, and start my savings to maybe some Masters' courses, better healthcare, or maybe a vacation...who knows?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Loving Fall and Looking to the Future

So I am a huge lover of fall.  I love the start of school, the crisp breezes, and the trees slowly turning into shades of amber and ruby tones.  It also is one of the craziest times for me and this fall is turning out to be crazier than most.

It's crazier because my schedule in school is quite demanding.  Between managing a very challenging classroom, I'm also starting up an after school art club (actually two of them, for different age categories), focusing on my organization way more, and really looking at how I teach by shifting into the theory of Universal Design...my head is full, but I'm happy.

Unlike others, I tend to see the fall as the new year, the new time to start things, and my brain's buzzing.  It's important for me to truly start a savings account, take better care of myself, make my home feel like a home (in a budget that is extra uber affordable), and start getting out and meeting new people in my new region of the province.  So, stay tuned....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gearing Up for Fall, Pumpkin Style!

So the air is slowly getting cooler and soon before we know it, we will have the first misting of frost.  Fall is my favorite time of year-not only the start of school, but the leaves turning into brilliant colors against brilliant skies.  Oh, and then we can't forget the opportunity to decorate for the season.  Such fun!  Here are some brilliant ideas out there for you to check out!

A Diamond in the Stuff did this really cute project using 2 x 4s with Martha Stewart glitter paint.

 Over at Martha Stewart, her people came up with these adorable vampire pumpkins using dollar store fangs!  So easy...

The next project is fromBetter Homes and Gardens which spray painted pumpkins and added cardstock to make the cat and bat accessories.  Now one warning with painting your pumpkins, I found from my experience that once you get it situated, you don't want to move it around.  I'm not sure if it's our climate here in Manitoba, but I did have problems with flaking (huge parts)...I did have to retouch.

So, what are some of your projects that you've done with pumpkins??

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aspiring to Greatness...and it Doesn't Work....

So I don't know if any of you have come across or heard about pinterest, but I am hooked.  It's like a visual favorites bar.  Any picture that you see on the web, you "pin" it and it's linked to your boards on pinterest.  As a teacher, I find it's amazing.  When you click on your picture, you are instantly taken to its url site.  I am able to get so many ideas that are fresh, cute, and creative.

I loved this one that I found.  I thought it would look amazing outside my room.  The only problem was whoever pinned it had gotten it from google.ca, so I had no idea of the actual url to get tips.  I should have gotten tips.

I made my letters initially which was the, "Welcome to Miss Phillips and Mrs. McKee's Classroom" (Mrs. McKee is my E.A.).  Yeah, when I got those letters on, there was almost no room for the kids names!  It took 4 of us to raise the background made of construction paper up so I could add another panel.  We struggled with a bit of bubbling after moving it, but we decided it still looked okay.  I decided to make the kids names half the size and we managed to fit everyone-just.  What I didn't like was that there was an empty space on the left side, but I didn't have time to make anything for it.  As well, because it ended up being so huge, I also couldn't get a very good picture of it.  

Here's a close-up of the kids names-they did like seeing all their names outside the classroom.  Would I do this again?  Yeah, probably not next year as I have a grade four classroom right across from me (they've seen it already), but I definitely would make the squares a lot smaller.  Initially, my squares were probably a 4 1/2 inch square.  When I reduced them, they were probably about 2 inches.  I wouldn't go over 2 inches. I would also play around with the crossword more to try to distribute it better.

But still, it was a lot of fun...I'd do it again!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Decorating My First Official Cake!

So I have been M.I.A. in the last week which I am sorry for.  My head is completely full of school and already I'm exhausted.  There's so much to share, not just school stuff, but a friend's wedding, beautifully crafted by herself and her hubby, and other design tips!  But right now, I'm going to share with you a new project in our classroom:  the birthday cake program!  Each month, we will be celebrating all the birthdays that fall in that month (students, teachers, E.A.S).  On the first day of school, we were celebrating July and August together.  I put my head together and decided to do a pool themed cake for two of my girls.  With research, I put a plan together and this is how it turned out:

Not bad for a first time cake eh?

Supplies I used:

  • one professional quality square bakepan (I had picked this up probably close to a year ago at Home Sense; it was a very high 7 1/2 inch pan with removable bottom)
  • 2 Betty Crocker Cake mixes plus the needed ingredients for it:  water, oil, and eggs
  • Scribblers mini icing tubes
  • graham teddy crackers
  • gummy rings
  • 3 blue raspberry Jello packages
  • 1 large bag of icing sugar
  • 1 package of lard
  • almond flavoring
  • Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish crackers

Step 1:  Bake your cake

I had to make two cakes, which I let cool and then scooped out the "pool".  I first scored the area that I was going to scoop out with a knife.  Then, using a regular spoon I scooped out the pool being sure to only go to just above the middle of the cake.  I then placed the cake in the freezer as I was given the tip that freezing is best to ice your cake. 

Above; you can see where I am scooping out                                              Finished pool; ready to ice!

Step 2:  Get Your Icing Ready!

I have a great icing recipe that I had to doctor up as it was a holiday and in my area, there is nothing opened on a holiday.  You would have to drive 1 1/2 hours to get to the nearest opened store!

Traditional Royal Icing:

1 cup margarine
1 cup shortening
4 to 4 1/2 cups icing sugar
almond flavoring
milk, if needed

Cream margarine and shortening.  Gradually add icing sugar until nice and fluffy.  If too thick, add a bit of milk.  Add almond flavoring to your taste.

My doctored Royal Icing recipe:

2 cups lard
4 cups icing sugar
almond flavoring

Same directions

It was a little stiffer, but the recipe tasted alright.

In order to prevent the Jello from seaping through, I covered the entire cake with a layer of thin icing.  I also attached the two pieces by icing them together.  Despite freezing, I still had some crumbs come up as you can see in the picture.  Freeze.

Step 3:  Jello Jiggler Time!

Add 1 3/4 cups boiling water to 3 packages (4-Serving) of Blue Raspberry Jell-o.  Stir until dissolved.  Place in fridge until soft set.

Step 4:  Jello and Cake Together

Take iced cake out of freezer.  Pour soft set Jello into "pool" area.  Place in fridge until Jello is completely set.

Step 5:  Icing Time

Completely ice the cake.

Step 6:  Decorating Time

With the scribblers, I iced the graham teddy bears so they looked like they were wearing swim trunks, bikinis, bathing suits, and little speedos...I think they turned out adorable!  The scribblers are awesome to work with as the tips are so tiny.

Some bears I placed on gummy rings as seen as above.  To secure them to the gummy rings, I placed dabs of icing on the ring, and then placed the teddy bear on top.

I placed them on the cake and then placed chocolate goldfish all around the outside of the cake.

Here's one of my girls with her cake:

The cake was a hit.  They loved the Jello part and loved the decorations.  I kept getting told I made a great cake.  The office even said to me when I brought it in, you make cakes?  Not bad for a first time!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Classroom Library-Organization to the Max!

So I don't know about you, but the one thing I can get a little anal about is how books are organized.  Maybe it came from working in a library all through school, but books are an important part of my life, and I like them to be accessible and easy to find.  I want the same to be true for my students.  Teaching in an area where there is no community library, I found that students weren't all too thrilled about being forced to read.  Latest stats show that kids need tons of selection and need access to books constantly coming in.  I do that through scouring used shops and by utilizing a public library (since I've moved though, I need to purchase a pass as I don't live in the area anymore-there's a good one 1/2 hour away so for $20 a year, it's worth it).

Because I have so many different levels of readers and readers who have only started to recognize what's a good choice for them, I had to make a plan to help them pick out books.  All books in our library are leveled either yellow, blue, or red, and have a large sticker of the color applied to the front of the book. See the picture below for an idea of what I mean by applying stickers to the front of the books.

Yellow is for the easy reading, which I consider for my group books ranging from about a K to Grade 1 Level.

Blue is about in the middle, somewhat easier, but definitely having some more difficult words.  This includes primary books, beginner chapter books, and regular chapter books (providing no more than 100 pages).  This level is about a Grade 2-3 level.

Red is the harder, more challenging level.  It consists of primarily chapter books and basically is a Grade 4 Reading level and higher.

All my fiction books are placed in buckets, based on their levels, as seen here in the picture.

I do have a couple separate boxes for popular series that we have many of, which have their own labels (The Magic Tree House, Geronimo Stilton, and graphic novels).

The labels I crafted using scrapbooking paper.  I laminated them and applied them using Velcro (you can see it on one bucket at the bottom right of the picture.  I applied the Velcro using a Shoo Glue (a brand), that will stick to nearly anything.  You get more for your buck than purchasing a special Velcro glue.  You do need to let the Velcro and glue dry before applying your labels.  You can buy a good wad of Velcro (the sew on kind) for only a couple of dollars at Walmart, and the same for a small bottle of the glue.  One major warning about the glue though is that it's quite toxic.  You don't want to apply it near children.

What's great about the Yellow, Blue, and Red System is that the kids know where to put the books back.  Yellow goes in the yellow bucket and so on.  There's no excuse for putting books in the wrong place.

With my non-fiction books, it's kinda the same and kind of different.  They are all labelled by yellow, blue, and red.  However, they are sorted by category, and at the bottom of the front cover, I have labelled all books by the name of their category.  Some of the categories include:  animals, hockey, science, and general non fiction.  As I get more books, I plan on adding more categories later on.

As you can see though, I still have a few more labels to make!

Now, just a quick note about what I used to store the books.

The bins are from Dollarama, and are just washing bins.  I believe I paid $1.25 or $1.50 each for them.  The shelving I pulled from my garage, and has worked so well, I'd like to get more of them.  The shelves can be found at Walmart usually near the bathroom and hardware parts of the store.  I believe the shelf was a 6 tier, that I just simply split apart.  They run anywhere between $35 and $45 for one, depending on the season and sale.  They are virtually indestructible though.  I have moved them across the province and they can bear a lot of weight.

I hope you've found this helpful and stay tuned to see a complete picture of how our classroom library looks in the near future!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Deals From MCC (Once Again!)

So while out visiting a good friend in Amaranth, I was able to get into Portage once.  My first stop?  My favorite thrift store in the whole world, and wow, did I do well!!  I got tons of stuff for the classroom, and even a couple of things for myself.  So, what did I get?

  • 34 kids books
  • 1 hockey net
  • 3 craft packets (to be used as prizes)
  • Operation Game
  • Cranium Game
  • Sorry Game (Disney Edition)
  • Scrabble Junior Game
  • Mousetrap Game
  • Trouble Game
  • CSI mystery puzzle
  • A picture frame (that needs to be redone)
  • 2 vintage canning jars (so vintage they're blue)
  • 1 old tin
  • 1 teaching book
  • 1 legal folder container, containing hanging legal folders

I paid just under $50, and I really think that had I bought these things new, I would have paid easily over $500.   Here are some pictures of what I got!