Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Like a kid at Christmas!

My teacher planner arrived this past Saturday. I waited very patiently for a little over two weeks. It was WELL worth it. When the Fedex truck arrived I sang, "IT'SSSS HEERE!!!" Mountain Man just stared and shook his head as I frolicked to the front door. I then proceeded to unwrap the planner with all its contents.
A couple things to be aware of about this beautiful piece of planning material. There is NO detail overlooked, everything down to the way the planner is packaged in the box has been thought about and presented to me, the customer, with care. Coming from a former event planner who is a little obsessed about every detail, I was incredibly impressed.  The planner starts at $50.00, it's important to know that in advance. In my opinion it's worth the front-end investment, especially since two hefty coupons for future purchases came with the planner. Also being a small business, and 'green' conscious, the planners are made to order. So, you place your order and then they design your planner, they print the basic amount of pages plus add any special requests you may have made. So, when you consider the small business you're supporting, the fact that the carbon footprint is lower because they are made to order plus it's an online storefront, the personalization, care of ALL details, and the coupons...$50.00 (for me) is doable and worth a shot.

Let the obscene amount of pictures begin!

See what I mean?   DETAILS!

It was even somewhat gift wrapped 

All the goodies!
My order included, the planner, two attachable bookmarks, an adhesive pen holder, and pens. Imagine my surprise when they included a few freebies!!! A sample pack of adhesive labels with my name...

Here it is! The cover is a very thick laminated material that appears to be incredibly durable and will last the year without any problem. I know it's covered here but I especially love the personalization on the cover, it looks really sharp!

Here you can get an idea of how thick the planner is. It's about the thickness of a 4 subject notebook, very manageable.


The student absence log. 

The grade book section. I added pages, for a small fee, to this section. 

Formatted graph pages to draw out your schematic for desk/seating arrangements

Here is the month at a glance section. The dates on the months are not pre-printed, which is good and bad. The planner can be purchased very far in advance and saved to be used until the appropriate time, because it's not date specific. On the other hand having to hand write the dates in the calendar creates a lot of room for human error. So I recommend you write the dates in pencil first then go back over them with your choice of marker or pen, and notice I'm not showing your February :(.

This is the attachable bookmark, you can place it in any part of the planner. It was something I purchased additionally, in fact I bought two.

Here is a very close up shot of the bookmark. I like that it can be removed and placed in any needed location throughout the planner. I will probably buy a couple more to place in other parts of the planner.

Here is the actual lesson planning section. The planning pages are a week-at-a-glance and are divided into 7 subject columns and 5 day rows. There are plenty of weeks and in fact I will have a few extra. 

A great place to take notes during meetings, and In-services

In addition to these pages there are a couple year-at-a-glance pages to record breaks, holidays, conferences and things of that nature. Additionally, there is a birthday page where you can list all your student birthdays. There is a substitute page too and a helpful information page for you the teacher.

Now for the rest of the planner...

There are two pages of stickers with common events already labeled on them! As you can see here I've already started getting things placed in my planner for the year. Additionally, there are two more pages of blank stickers in case you need to 'make' your own labels.

I really like this two-sided folder, toward the back of the planner. It's great for papers you get at meetings and other papers you want to actually store within the planner.

This is just inside the back cover and it is perfect to hold small items like business cards, notes from parents, adhesive labels...

The pen holder adhesive that I placed on the back cover. 
Here are the pens I ordered. Yes I'm the planning type that likes to color code:).

So far I am incredibly thrilled with the planner. My goal is to have one primary place where I keep my grades, logs, and plans. In the past I've had separate notebooks and binders. My teaching situation is somewhat unique in that I teach part time but I teach two different elementary grade levels in different classrooms. So to combat the confusion that can in-evitabely happen if I'm not organized I'm really hopeful that this planner will do the trick. I'll keep you posted.

Here are links to the website, although you can see the website address on several of the pictures.:)
Teacher Lesson Planners
Regular daily planner (which you KNOW I have my eye on)- Life Planner

Til next time, remember to find beauty in your midst!

Friday, July 20, 2012


I've spent quite a bit of time refreshing my heart and mind for the upcoming school year and the classes of little ones I will be given.  One of the most surprising ways I've done this has been through pinterest. I've spent so much time being inspired by the 'education' boards and I've sifted through pin after pin.  In doing so I've stumbled upon a couple gems and have gained some WONDERFUL ideas and free printables to freshen up my classroom walls and my lesson planning. 

If you look to your right you'll see three new blogs added to my reader:
1)The nesting effect- a blog written by a teacher primarily about home life organization. She has written quite a bit about teaching and her classroom as well.

2) The learning effect- a blog by the same author as "The nesting effect" and is strictly dedicated to her classroom life

3) Pink Pistachio- This is just a fun lifestyle blog. I love the authors transparency, style and lifestyle tips.  I'm especially appreciating her hair suggestions and tutorials as I am determined to grow out and have long hair.

I can't believe the summer is almost over! Somehow my family has managed to keep things really low-key this year. Sadly, we haven't camped in the glorious mountains at all this summer. At first, we just simply wanted to lay low but then wild fires ravaged the area right outside our city late last month, and they continue to blaze all over CO, we are thankful for the simplicity of togetherness at home.

However, we are currently gearing up for a little travel to see family. R's big birthday milestone continues as he, Mountain Man and Grandpa (Mountain Man's Dad) head up to the north woods for some male bonding. MM bought R his first pocket knife which he will present to him on night one in the woods. The three of them will spend several days backpacking and canoeing in the beautiful Northern part of our country. I'm so excited for our little wilderness, animal loving, boy and I'm even a little jealous wishing I could go too. H and I bought him a special journal to draw pictures and write about all his adventures. 

In the meantime H and I will be spending some quality time with Grandma, Aunt, and Cousins . We will bake "Pinkalicious" cupcakes, scrapbook, garden, playing in the sandbox, sprinkler run, shop, go see butterflies, have a teddy bear tea party and watch plenty of princess movies. 

Overall Mountain Man and I are so looking forward to quality family time and a little change of pace.

Once we return it'll be full speed ahead with school countdowns and school supply shopping.

Additionally I'm unbelievably excited about a little something I 'splurged' on.  Its a real treat for someone with my temperament and wanting to have everything 'just so' in my teacher brain. 
That's right it's a teacher planner. But this sucker has EVERYTHING. I teach two grade levels in two different classrooms and am forever carting multiple planning binders, as well as a separate calendar for appointments and meetings. My hope is that with the beefiness of this planner I can leave the binders in my perspective classrooms and just transport this. As many people have reviewed and said in other blogs, this planner is pricey (it starts at $50) but in my situation I feel it will really help keep me on track. Plus the personalization on the cover as well as the 152 pages inside make it worth a shot this year.
I am really anxious to get it in the mail and start digging in. I promise to take photos as the website lacks thorough detail shots and when I image search this planner I only get a handful. 

Thanks for re-capping the past few weeks with me. My present is catching up though and that means laundry and dusting off suitcases. 

Til next time, remember to find beauty in your midst!

Monday, July 9, 2012

R's 8th Birthday

About a month ago Mountain Man and I decided to put together R's first really big birthday party, with friends, party favors, decorations, games and an elaborate cake. We typically keep holidays pretty low key. We tend to not have many people over (just family and close friends who are family) and we keep the the gift wish list small. With it being his 8th birthday this year and little H's 5th we decided that this year we'd go a little 'bigger' on birthday parties.   Since R is now 8, the years of at home simple-themed birthdays are probably starting to fade.

While scrolling through pinterest I saw this tablescape and was given some inspiration.

So with the brilliant minds of my mom and sister to help brainstorm we put our own spin on the theme for our fun-loving son's birthday!

As you can see primary colors were still the plan. I wanted something relatively in-expensive to decorate and also something festive and fun. To the right you can see some old fashioned lollipops. My mom got them for us at the  Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Each child selected one when they left, and to display them I placed crumbled up tissue paper in a vase and stuffed the lollipops amongst the paper. The effect was a bouquet of candy.

Here is the cake table with R's favorite candy bar to the left. At other strategic places around the living room and kitchen we placed some of R's favorite snacks. Things like, pretzels, watermelon, grapes, carrots, kid sized cans of sprite and cheese puffs.

I found these free printable labels here. Instead of buying a bunch of cheap toys that are either lost or broken within a day I bought all the kids gum balls for their party favors. Also, as I already said, they each picked out a lollipop when they left too.

My sister is a cake genius and duplicated a cake that I found online. As you can see we used the lollipops and the gum balls to tie it all together.

For hanging decorations I bought different patterned scrap paper that coordinated with the colors. I simply cut the paper into pennant triangles and hung it with twine. 

Additionally, right in the middle of the pennant I bought three beach balls from the Dollar Store and hung them together like a mini chandllier. Sorry I didn't catch a picture but this is what it looked like essentially.

Several adults hung around for the party so I decided to not just have kiddie drinks. I made a couple flavored waters and some lemonade. It was the first time I had ever tried making flavored water and it was delicious, I highly recommend it. You can find some great flavor suggestions here.

To keep with the bright summer colors for our theme. The kids all headed out to the back yard for a massive watergun fight and sprinkler running. And then to finish things off we had a pinata waiting in the garage.

It was a really fun summer birthday party for our little man and probably the last one we'll be able to get by with at home and with such a simple theme.

Til next time, remember to find beauty in your midst!

Friday, July 6, 2012

A more thorough book review

Several months ago I gave you a list of the books I read in 2011. Well I'm re-reading one of them right now.
Don't judge me. 'Count of Monte Cristo' was good... but 1200+ pages in 3 weeks (which was when it was due back at the library)?  I got through about half of it and had to move on. I'll come back to it but I needed to switch things up.

I've told you about 'Bittersweet' before. I've told you it's a book that is WELL WORTH IT. I decided to give it a 2nd try, to verifiably see if I should purchase the book. Plus I was wanting a book with three page chapters full of things to think about and gently fill the space in my mind. I'm going to buy it.

Rather than repeat word for word what I said back in December here are a few excerpts to give you a simple taste of how stinkin' great three page chapters can be. Especially when they are sprinkled with love, reality and humor.

"Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness."

"Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul."

"When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow."

"Pray to be redeemed not rescued."

"Change is not a function of life's cruelty but instead a function of God's graciousness."

"Sometimes the most spiritual things we do are the most physical, the most tactile."

"... That's why travel is so important among other reasons: to get far enough away from our everyday lives to see those lives with new clarity."

Get thee to your library and soak some of this up. Summertime for me is a season of pausing. I need words like this to help in my reflection, they are life giving and grounded in the grace of Christ.  Perhaps you aren't a reader who likes 'mushy'. I'm not either and really do dislike books that say "Girl, wear those heels and strut your stuff!" This book has nothing like that in it anywhere. I truly feel like I'm sitting at a coffee shop with a friend sharing stories about life and what has been learned along the way. You will be surprised at how 'light' the reading is but then you will be equally surprised at how much the words challenge you to think and reflect.

Til next time, remember to find beauty in your midst!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Outside my window birds are singing and I'm up early (well for the summer anyway).

I'm listening to the bathroom fan trying to help keep my sweet little H asleep for. a. little. longer. Also, my son is WIDE awake and doing a puzzle. I'm right here on the couch sipping coffee.

I'm so grateful for family and the ability to feel connected to those that aren't physically close through the use of technology. 

I am reading The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, all 1200+ pages of it. It was translated directly from the original French to modern English in 1996 and I'm really grateful because it's excellent! The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller. Hopefully Mountain Man and I will read this pseudo together with me reading sections aloud. I just read the introduction last night and I'm excited to read more.

In the garden we are maintaining and managing what we have. It keeps me pretty busy as I break the yard into sections to either weed or prune each week. 

What we are learning:
R: It's the summer so I am content letting him review his math and continue reading. We have daily (well almost) time to work. I've been pretty relaxed with this and am really wanting him to take a break this summer and just be a kid. Yesterday afternoon he did puzzles, drew, and read books until dinner so I was pretty happy. So far this summer he's read some Magic Tree House and we work together through the Berenstain Bears, both the kids LOVE this series.
H: With this little missy entering Kindergarten in the fall we are casually reviewing concepts too. We are working on letters, uppercase and lower, as well as basic math sentences. She is also figuring out that rolling her eyes, sighing and being sassy do not fly with her mom and dad. 
MM: Patience. He tore or partially tore his hamstring about a month ago and is now receiving physical therapy. He's having to take it easy athletically which is hard during the summer. 
Me: Consistency. I have a habit of making short term changes that are really wonderful and healthy but turning them in to long term habits is and has always been a struggle for me.  Lately I've found myself desiring refinement in several areas and have made changes. Now I'm working to put them into practice for the longterm and see the fruit of my efforts.

One of my favorite things is family game night. I love when we all sit together and play a game or do a puzzle. It's such a blessing to feel the joy of the kids beaming at Mountain Man and I as they are enjoying the simple pleasure of family. 

From the Kitchen:
We are eating salads often these days. Usually in the summer we amp up our fresh/raw food in take, with smoothies, salads, roasted veggies... Fresh fruits and veggies are a bit pricier in the mountains as opposed to say the mid-west (where we are both from) so when things are in season we enjoy the bounty.

Til next time, remember to find beauty in your midst!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Favorite apps

I have had a smart phone for about three years. This past fall I was able to get an Iphone 4S and since then I can't tell you how much I use my phone for what seems like almost everything.
There are a few applications in particular that I really really like. I love getting direct recommendations for apps so here are my favorites in no particular order:

Shopping Lists- This app is great because I can put all my grocery and shopping lists into the app. While I'm shopping I can check them off and also input the price. As you can see it also catagorizes the items by section or type. It totals the price for me and even calculates tax. It's more than a fancy calculator because it has a built in memory so the next time I go to input groceries it'll remember the specifics I entered before. I think the app was around $2.00. It's been a lifesaver for sticking to our grocery budget and even saving a little money. Plus, it eliminates the paper list. The only downside is it takes a little time to use and I need to be relatively un-distracted at the store to use it properly. I have shopped with the kids in tow now, because I'm used to using the app, but the first few times I used Shopping Lists I had to go out solo in order to make sure I was using everything correctly.


Balance- This application is basically an electronic check register. You can input transactions as they happen and it will give you a running balance. I will actually use it similarly to my budget spreadsheet on my home computer. I will input every transaction/bill that I know we will have over a specified amount of time and then while I'm out if I need to reference anything (read want to spend extra $) I have it ready. It's password protected too which I like. Additionally, the basic app is free but you can upgrade to Balance pro for a fee. A downside is that the basic version is as the name implies, basic, it meets my needs but if you want something more like an actual spreadsheet then you should hunt around more.


Collage- This is a really fun photography app. My sister has something very similar and I got the idea from her. If you scroll down to my previous two posts you will see that I uploaded photos to the app and made a collage. My phone, with its 8mp camera, has literally replaced any point and shoot that I would ever carry. I like that you can combine themed pictures into one quickly and easily. You can add up to 4 pictures to a collage. I literally just uploaded the app a month ago so I am still learning all it can do. It's really fun to use in conjunction with pinterest! Because you can pin photos that have visual step-by-step directions in a collage and it helps the viewer understand your idea more thoroughly at first glance. It was free too so if you are wanting a fun way to combine, present and then upload some of your phone photo's I suggest it.


Instagram- It's not really all that shocking that I love this app. For the past several months I have only used Intagram as basically a photo editing software on my phone. I didn't upload/stream the pictures I took directly to facebook and I also didn't use it as a social media app either, following friends etc. Now that summer has arrived and I've had more time to use this app to its full capacity I am really enjoying it. The filters and easy editing tools are a breeze once you know what you are doing.  It's also free and I believe has consistently been the most popular app for a few years now. If you don't already have it you should definitely give it a try.

I also have a few games for my kids. I have downloaded some electronic coloring books, Angry Birds and a few princess dress up games for the littles to play when we're in a tight situation and I need them to be still and not wander. This has proved to be a lifesaver at the DMV, dentist office, school district office, and really anywhere else I need them to sit and be still for more than 5 minutes. 

Til next time, remember to find beauty in your midst!

**Note- The above apps I have found through the ITUNES app store I know Instagram is available for Android users but I am not aware of duplicates for the others.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwiches

A few years ago R asked me to make chocolate cookies. So I scanned our pantry and saw that we had all the needed ingredients, cocoa powder, flour, sugar, butter... Next, I scoured my cookbooks. Luckily I found a recipe. It was amazing! Once I made the recipe I noticed the cookies were very thin. I immediately thought they looked like the cookie pieces in a typical ice cream sandwich. I logged the idea in my head and a few months later when the weather got warmer I came back to the recipe. It worked PERFECTLY. Since making the cookies that day I've adjusted the recipe so that the cookies are thicker, and less like wafers. I made them today with the 'thicker version' and here is the result.
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The recipe as written follows (if you like thick cookies following the amounts in parentheses) 1-1/4c butter or margarine softened 2 cups sugar 2 eggs 2 t vanilla extra 2 cups all purpose flour (2-1/2c) 3/4c baking cocoa 1t baking soda (3/4t) 1/2t salt In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set and centers are puffed and cracked. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks (cookies will flatten as they cool). Yield: about 5 dozen 8Amazing with mint pieces, or peanut butter chocolate chips.

Til next time, remember to find beauty in your midst!