Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Brie and Fig Jam Toast

Sometimes you need a savory, sweet, and simple snack. Here's one of my favorites.

You will need:

A slice of your favorite whole grain bread
Fig and Orange Spread
Brie (room temperature)

First, toast your bread. While it's in the toaster, cut the rind off your brie. I use about two cuts of brie, but you can use as little or as much as you like.

Once the bread is toasted, spread a little fig jam on the bread. Because figs are so sweet I don't recommend spreading the jam in a thick layer. Next, place your brie on the bread. And just like that you're finished and you have yourself a satisfying snack! Enjoy!

Tell us what you think. What are your favorite toast combinations?

Book Review: Zero Waste Home

A few years ago, through the media I heard about a family who threw away only a quart of garbage per year. I had forgotten all about the story until I saw Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home at the bookstore. I thought I might find a few tips on how to live a more environmentally friendly or green lifestyle, but the book turned out to be even better than I had expected.

Johnson reminds readers that having stuff does not equal happiness. She stresses that simplicity creates a "fuller and more meaningful life." She refutes the notion that the zero waste lifestyle is expensive by stating that her family spent 40% less on annual household costs during the first year that they made changes. In addition to the personal benefits of reducing consumption and waste, Johnson points out that the actions each person takes every day affect the world. In places like the United States, we may not see firsthand the effect that our junk has, but that doesn't mean someone else isn't having to deal with the problems.

I recommend this book specifically for the following reasons:
  • Johnson focuses on the 5 Rs - Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, and Rotting (composting) as a way to prevent waste from reaching landfills.
  • She gives specific examples of changes to make rather than general tips. For example, instead of simply telling readers to use reusable bags at the grocery store, Johnson describes specifically what she takes and how she limits waste when grocery shopping.
  • The resources mentioned throughout the book and at the end are more than enough for anyone who is interested in finding ways to reduce their impact on the environment. Instead of spending hours looking for these resources, you can find them in one place.
  • Johnson categorizes areas and specific items that most people can eliminate from their lives. While individual needs may differ, her suggestions help the readers think about what they truly need rather than racing to fill their homes with stuff just because everyone else has it.
I'd recommend this book for anyone who is interested in making a change to a simpler lifestyle. While you may not be able to throw away only a quart of garbage per year, even smaller changes can be beneficial.  There are plenty of ideas for simple changes that save money, reduce stress, and improve your health. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Souvenir Coaster DIY

For those of you who missed my DIY guest post at Sweet Pea Sylvia's a while back, I'll be sharing it with you today. Here's how to make souvenir coasters out of all those postcards you buy while traveling.

Postcard Coaster Finished Text

Postcard Coaster Supplies
For supplies you'll need: Modpodge, postcards, old coasters, a pencil, a paintbrush, scissors and a clear enamel spray (not pictured)

Postcard Coaster Trace
Step One: Trace the outline of your coasters on the front of the postcard.

Postcard Coaster Cut
Step Two: Cut the postcard along the lines you traced.

Postcard Coaster First Coat
Step Three: Apply a layer of modpodge directly on the coaster.  Then place the postcard cut-out over the coaster.

Postcard Coaster Second Coat
Step Four:  Apply a topcoat of modpodge over the coaster.  Don't worry, it will dry clear.

Postcard Coaster Dry
Step Five:  Allow the coasters to dry, and then, seal with a clear enamel topcoat.  Once dry, your coasters are ready to use.

Monday, June 23, 2014

5 Gift Ideas for New Teachers

While it might be the middle of the summer, chances are you probably know some recent college graduates (or others) who are going to be new teachers in the fall. Mixed in with relaxing and enjoying the summer, these new teachers are busy getting ready for their classes. Teaching is challenging, but the first year is especially challenging because there are so many things happening at once.

I finished my first year of teaching a few weeks ago, and I've put together a list of suggestions for gift ideas for new teachers based my experience. If you are looking for a gift to give to a friend who's a first year teacher, keep reading.

1. Pencils/Pens - Teachers can never have enough pencils and pens. These things disappear like crazy. Every teacher needs a back up stash of pencils for students. As far as pens go, it's probably best not to buy fancy pens for a teacher because pens walk off too often. These Paper Mate pens are my favorite inexpensive pens. Another great idea is making DIY flower pens. They're pretty, but also practical because the teacher can easily see where all the borrowed pens are.

2. Personalized Clipboard - Clipboards are perfect for taking notes during meetings. Some days last year, it seemed like I spent more time in meetings than anything else. Meeting with departments, grade-level teams, administration, parents, textbook suppliers, and so on. I always kept a clipboard so that I had paper to write on without having to search. There are lots of DIY clipboards like this teacher's clipboard from A Diamond in the Stuff. You can search pinterest for more ideas or take a look at etsy if you're not so crafty.

3. Stamp Set - A challenge that teachers face is finding a way to provide positive feedback on work. In younger grades, stickers are a fun way to do this, but as the kids gets older, they don't like to admit that they like things like stickers (even though they still do). When I saw these stamps from the etsy shop fishcakesohboy, I realized that they would be perfect. Stamps with monsters that say "super duper!" are fun, but seem less childish to those middle schoolers who are just too cool for everything. And for English teachers, a monster throwing its hands in the air and saying "proofread" explains the way most English teachers feel all the time. I haven't gotten any of these for myself yet, but I will buy several before the summer ends.

4. Freezable Lunch Bag - I didn't know that these existed until the beginning of the summer, but I wish that I had had one last year. Most teachers I know prefer to bring their lunch with them, so most of us have lunch bags. Because there were so many lunch bags, there wasn't always room in the fridge in the teachers' lounge. Other days, I didn't have time to grab my food before lunch. Having a freezable lunch bag that I could have had in my room would have been a better solution. Jennifer got this freezable lunch bagfor herself. A similar lunch bag would make a great gift that a new teacher could use for years.

5. Books - Of course, you know that books are an important part of any classroom. For new teachers who haven't had years to build their classroom libraries, getting books can be pricy and time consuming. If you know the subject and grade-level for new teachers, you can gift a book to help get them started. Some of my favorites are Library Lion for an elementary librarian, The Lorax for science, some of The Magic School Bus Books for science, A Wrinkle in Time for Language Arts/English, and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!for elementary in general. I'd love to hear more suggestions about books in the comments!

All of these gifts would be helpful for a teacher who's just getting started, and more experienced teachers would always appreciate these as well. Feel free to share suggestions in the comments especially if you are a teacher yourself. I'd love to know what makes teaching just a little bit easier for you.

Hope that this has helped for all of you searching for a gift for a teacher!

Friday, January 24, 2014

DIY Doctor Who Sweatshirt

The DIY we're sharing with you today will probably only make sense if you're a Doctor Who fan or if you know someone who is.  If you're not familiar with Doctor Who, it's easiest just to say that it's a sci-fi show on BBC.  Actually describing the show would be almost impossible.

Although our love of the show isn't as full-fledged as some (we're still behind on the season and have yet to see the 50th anniversary special), we catch it whenever we can.

This DIY sweatshirt is great as a subtle, fun piece for Doctor Who fans.  It's a cute sweatshirt that's easy to make and involves little time.  This DIY is almost too simple to need instructions.

For this DIY, you'll need:
- a sweatshirt (we used a Hanes sweatshirt)
- iron-on letters
- two heart patches

Step One:  Following the instructions on the iron-on letters, remove your letters from the package and arrange on the sweatshirt.  Make sure to leave space for the two hearts.  Once you are satisfied with the placement, follow the instructions with your iron-on letters to adhere them to the sweatshirt.

Step Two:  Decide how you would like to attach the two hearts to the sweatshirt.  You'll either want to sew the hearts on or iron them on depending on what type of patch you are using.

Step Three:  Enjoy your sweatshirt while catching up on the 50th Anniversary episode.

This sweatshirt would also make a great gift for someone who likes Doctor Who.

Monday, December 30, 2013

5 Tips for More Restful Sleep

    This time of year, we all make resolutions for the New Year.  One of the most popular good habits to form is getting enough sleep.  As a college student and new middle school teacher, Elizabeth and I have picked up a few tricks for making falling asleep easier.  We hope these tips will help you keep your New Year's Resolution of getting more sleep!

One of my favorite bedtime rituals is drinking Sleepy Time Tea before bed. It has calming chamomile and mildly sedative tilia flowers. My favorite is the vanilla version. It smells like a cupcake! 

There’s nothing better than a hot bath before bed. Adding lavender scented epsom salt to this bath will not only calm you with the soothing smell but possibly help with any aches or pains you may have. You can buy an expensive version of epsom salts, but inexpensive versions work just as well. Just look for the ingredient magnesium sulfate.

A relaxing scent is another way to create a sleep inducing atmosphere. I’ve become addicted to Yankee Candle’s Tarts wax melts. They’re little disks of wax that you put into the bowl of your wax warmer. They’re like candles but without the flame or commitment. I love candles, but I like the ease of changing scents without paying a lot of money for a new candle. For bedtime I would suggest scents like Lavender Vanilla or Cozy Sweater. 

4.  Sleep Mask
Once you’re actually in bed using a sleeping mask is an effective way to block out any light that may keep you from falling asleep or disrupt your sleep cycle. If you’ve never used a sleep mask before you’ll be surprised in the difference in the quality of your sleep. Plus who doesn’t want to pretend that they’re Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

5.  Ear Plugs
Ear plugs can also improve the quality of your sleep. At first they may feel a little funny, but once you get used to wearing them they are wonderful. If you live in a noisy area or if everyone in your house doesn’t go to bed when you do, ear plugs will help you fall asleep more easily. I find that ear plugs do not block all the sound, so sometimes I like to wear earplugs and use a sound app that plays soothing sounds like rain. There is a free app called Relax and Sleep that will play your desired sound on a timer.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

No Scrub Bathtub Cleaning

No Scrub Bathtub Cleaning

                  Graphic courtesy of polyvore.com

I came across this time saving trick when I bought the book All-New Hints from Heloise Updated at a library book sale. While it's not the 90's anymore, Heloise's hints are still very effective and simple, so if you come across a cheap copy, I'd highly recommend it. Here's what you'll need for her easy tub cleaner.

1/4 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar
1 cup clear ammonia
1 gallon warm water
a sponge mop

Simply mix the ingredients in a bucket. Dip your sponge mop in into the mixture and run it over the tub. Then, when you're done, rinse the tub with water. You should find that whatever residue is on your tub just runs off without scrubbing. You might also want to make sure that you leave the bathroom door open for ventilation. When I've used it, the smell has not been overpowering like with other cleaners, but it's always good to be on the safe side. Do you have any bathroom cleaning tips and tricks? Let us know! 


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