Monthly Archives: March 2014

‘Tis the Season to Organize!

One thing I love almost as much as holidays is organizing “stuff.” And with so much holiday “stuff” in our house that needs to be stored away for the eleven months out of a year it is not in use (and very little storage space in our house in which to keep it all), organization is of the utmost importance.  So since “’tis the season” for spring cleaning, I thought I’d share some of my organization strategies that have worked well for me.

First, invest in lots of plastic boxes.  Get all of one type so that they will stack neatly.  Pack your holiday decorations in the boxes by holiday.  It is very important not to combine more than one holiday in a box.  It saves so much time and energy when you don’t have to remember which decoration is in which box.  Try to leave a little space in each box so that you have some room to add new decorations each year.  I also like to “ruthlessly” clean out the boxes each year when I open them.  Getting rid of the decorations you are tired of makes room for new ones you will love!

After your decorations are stored away, head to the Container Store (one of my favorite places!) and go nuts!!  We hung Elfa shelves in our extra bedroom and created an art room.  Some of my other favorite finds from the Container Store were great ribbon storage boxes (I keep my ribbons stored by color and by holiday) and card storage boxes (I always keep an extra sample of each of the cards I make and store them by holiday in these fantastic card file boxes). 

Art Room Bins

Art Room Bins

I have bins for upcoming projects, and I have other bins and drawers of craft supplies organized by holiday and season.

Art Room Organization

Art Room Organization

This makes it easier to know what supplies I do and don’t have and avoid getting duplicates.

I hope this gives you some ideas for your own spring cleaning.  I for one am looking forward to putting labels on my Elfa drawers and shelves over spring break this year.  Life in the fast lane, right?  Happy organizing!

Anniversary Cakes

This week I get to do one of my favorite tasks of the year – order our anniversary cake for our upcoming anniversary.  What is an anniversary cake?  Well, each year we get a cake to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  This might be an odd tradition, but it is special to us and we love it!

It started on our first anniversary when we thawed out and ate the top tier we had frozen after our wedding, as is tradition.  We loved our wedding cake, so we were really excited to have it again (and to suddenly have more freezer space available!).

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

After a year of anticipation, we found that it tasted like… stale cake that had been frozen for a year.  So, we decided to get a new one from the same bakery that would be just like our wedding cake – a layer of chocolate cake, a layer of white cake, and white icing with purple and lavender flowers.

Anniversary Cake

Anniversary Cake

It was much more delicious than the stale frozen one, and so a new tradition was born!

Since then we have done this every year.  It’s fun because each cake is a little different (we even ordered cupcakes one year!) but it is always special and helps us remember how wonderful our wedding day was.

Anniversary Cupcakes

Anniversary Cupcakes

When our daughter joined our family, we started adding pink flowers to the cake for her – after all, celebrating our wedding anniversary is all about celebrating the love in our little family!

Anniversary Cake with Pink

Anniversary Cake with Pink

We take a picture of our yearly cake and include it in our wedding anniversary picture album each year.

So if you want a new tradition for your anniversary, give cake a try!  Regardless of the time of year your anniversary occurs, it’s always nice to have an excuse to eat cake!

 

March Madness Probability Cubes

March is not only one of my favorite parts of the year because of basketball but also because of a fantastic probability lesson I get to teach.  Kids love it, and it illustrates the idea of probability very well.

First, get a NCAA bracket.  Assign a color of Unifix cubes to each team.  For example (sadly not this year though!) IU could be red and Butler could be blue.

Basketball Cubes

Basketball Cubes

Then give teams numbers of cubes based on their seeds.  High seeds get lots of cubes, and low seeds get few cubes.  So a number one seed would get 16 cubes and a number sixteen seed would get 1 cube.  Make sense?  Then for each match up, put the two teams’ cubes into a lunch bag.

Basketball Probability Cubes

Basketball Probability Cubes

Shake the bag up and reach into it without looking.  The team of the color cube you pull out gets a point.  Repeat this process until you can predict the winner of the whole tournament.  Then have the children compare their results to the actual results as the real games progress.

I have done this with first through fifth graders with various adaptations.  Do it as a whole class activity or assign games to small groups and have the groups report the results to the class.  Or even do it at home with your own family.  Depending on time available and attention span of the kids, pick 1, 3, or 5 cubes from the bags to determine the game winners.  Usually the team that has the most cubes wins, but there will be upsets – leading to good discussions of probable but not certain and unlikely but not impossible.  Do this all in one sitting or spread it out over several days.

Regardless of how you do it in your own classroom or home setting, kids of all ages love this.  Be warned – they get very excited (and loud), but they will also be very engaged.  And they will all understand probability in the end.

St. Patrick’s Day Treat

When I was in elementary school, my mom was room mother extraordinaire.  She was legendary around the school –  at the beginning of each school year kids would be excited if they were placed in the same class as me because that meant great holiday parties from my mom.  She brought treats for every holiday – not just the big obvious ones like Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day but the little ones like St. Patrick’s Day too.  Whenever there was a day that had the remote possibility of being a celebrate-able holiday, kids would greet me at the classroom door asking if my mom would be making an appearance.

It’s sad to me that kids can no longer have these types of memories.  Holiday parties are now often banned by principals because they are not covered on standardized tests.  Once I even had to sneak in a Valentine’s Day party during recess time so that my students could still experience it without losing class time.  Or if the parties are allowed to happen they are limited to only a few minutes and treats must be purchased from a store instead of homemade. 

So I figure, if kids today can’t have the type of class party my mom used to throw, I can at least give my own daughter the same treats and experiences at home.  For St. Patrick’s Day, my mom always made green apple juice and green cupcakes.  For the apple juice, just add green food coloring to the juice.  The kids always enjoy watching the green color spread throughout the juice.

Green Apple Juice Before

Green Apple Juice Before

Green Apple Juice After

Green Apple Juice After

For the cupcakes, add green food coloring to white cake mix batter and bake as usual.

Green Cupcake Batter

Green Cupcake Batter

Frost with white icing and decorate.

St. Patrick's Day Treat

St. Patrick’s Day Treat

And have your own little St. Patrick’s Day party at home!

 

 

March Author of the Month: Marcus Pfister

A new month means a new Author of the Month.  My pick for March is Marcus Pfister.  He is probably best know for his Rainbow Fish books, but all of his books are wonderful!

One activity I like to do with all of my Authors of the Month is have the kids write letters to them at the end of each month.  (I usually just find the addresses to the publishing companies and send the letters there.  Some authors have websites with email links as well.)  Responses to the kids’ letters usually range from nothing to a form newsletter to ads promoting the author’s next new book.  Hands down though the best response we ever received was from Marcus Pfister.  The kids got a handwritten note with a pencil drawing of the Rainbow Fish on it.  They were thrilled and it made me appreciate his books even more.

Here are some other activities for you to try with his books:

  • Rainbow Fish Books – Talk about caring and sharing.  Use the stories to spark interest in a springtime service learning project.  It’s also fun to make rainbow fish.  Just get paper plates and add fin and tail shapes.  Then cover them with scraps of blue, purple, green, and sparkly silver paper.  Enjoy!
  • Hopper Books – Perfect for discussing the change of seasons from winter to spring.  Also great for learning about animal adaptations for different environments.
  • Penguin Pete Books – Great for wrapping up winter or introducing a study of animal habitats, which we often taught in the spring anyway.  (By the way – Rainbow Fish books work well with ocean habitats and Hopper books work well with arctic or forest habitats.)

All of Marcus Pfister’s books make great inspirations for character sketches, and all have wonderful lessons about being yourself and getting along with others – important reminders for antsy kiddos in March as the school year enters the home stretch!