Sunday, September 25, 2011

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