Author Archives: Sally

“One Last Time”

I’ve been very lucky to have had the time to do a lot of craft projects lately – I would say I’ve done more crafts in the last three months than I’ve been able to do in the last five years!  While I’ve been doing those crafts I’ve also had time to listen to music – again, I’ve listened to more music in the last three months than I’ve been able to listen to in the last five years.  A good chunk of that music has been the Hamilton soundtrack.  Over and over and over again.  Yes, I’m in a rut, but it’s such good music!  One of my favorite songs from Hamilton is “One Last Time,” in which (spoiler alert?) George Washington surprises Alexander Hamilton by telling him he is not going to run for President again.  While it’s not nearly as monumental as George Washington deciding to return to Mount Vernon to live as a private citizen, all the time I’ve had to do crafts and listen to music has made me decide the time has come to write for my blog “one last time.”

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I must say that after years of more stress than I ever imagined working as an elementary and preschool teacher, I’m so happy now.  I’m loving all of my daily activities so much – subbing and volunteering at school, being a room mother, leading a Daisy Scout troop… I have plenty to keep me busy!  I even have a bit of free time every now and then!  I first started this blog when I left my job teaching at an elementary school.  I was worried that without writing daily lesson plans that I would stagnate and lose my creativity, so my goal for this blog was to give me a weekly task to challenge myself and be creative… and, of course, to become the next Martha Stewart and make millions of dollars in the process.  Well, it’s been a lot of fun, but the millions of dollars never happened.  And, unexpectedly, my job designing a curriculum and teaching Jr. Kindergarteners with the best co-teacher anyone could ever imagine ended up being the most challenging (in a good way), creative, and rewarding experience of my professional life.  So it turns out I didn’t need to worry about having the blog for a creative outlet.  Now that I have the actual free time for which I’ve always longed, it turns out that actually doing the craft projects I love so much is more exciting than writing about them.  My blog will still be around until April, and I will still be putting items on our Zazzle Store, so you can check out what I’m up to there if you’re curious.

However, now that I’ve entered this wonderful new chapter in my life, I’m going to take time to be myself and relax just in time for Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful I have gotten to share this blog with you for the last several years, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it and gotten some fun ideas.  Thanks for indulging me and reading it.  I’m also thankful that I’m finally so content and ready to enjoy all the “The Most Wonderful Times of the Year” with my family.

Gobble!

Happy November!  I don’t know about you, but our November is off to a perfect, November-y start.  While I always prefer sunny weather, there’s something wonderful about a gloomy, rainy November day.  That’s just what we’ve had today – a lovely cozy Sunday cooped up indoors away from the soggy weather outside.  It’s been wonderful and relaxing, and now I feel totally ready for Thanksgiving!  I’ve been learning to love Thanksgiving more and more over the past few years, and I feel kind of bad for it as the overlooked holiday of the year.  It’s always a bit frustrating to me that it’s very hard to find clothes and decorations for Thanksgiving, so I decided to make some of my own.  I had so much fun making my Trick or Treat merchandise on Zazzle, so I made some Thanksgiving items as well.  These designs all feature my drawing of the word “Gobble,” complete with a turkey for the o.

Gobble Pillow

There are shirts, mugs, paper plates, pillows… Go check them out at our online store!  I (along with the neglected holiday of Thanksgiving) appreciate it!

Crayon Halloween Costume

Our daughter has a long history of strong opinions about her Halloween costumes.  When she was a baby, she was a farmer.  Easy enough.  The next year I made a Trick-or-Treat bag costume for her that I absolutely loved and she tolerated.  She has always loved to dance, so the year after that we planned for her to be a ballerina thinking that she could play with the costume after Halloween.  We got ballerina dolls as gifts for her that year and everything.  And then on the way out the door to Trunk-or-Treat she totally vetoed the ballerina costume and opted to wear a too small IU cheerleader outfit she had in the back of her closet instead.  We learned our lesson.  From then on, we let her pick the costumes.  It’s made Halloween much easier and more fun.  She loves ancient Egypt, so last year she dressed as Nefertiti and carried a mummy pumpkin.  And, oh my goodness, have we gotten our money’s worth out of that costume – it’s been worn countless times since Halloween 2016.  This year she has chosen to be a puppy, and seems very enthusiastic about the idea, so fingers crossed that this year will go well again.

Her most creative Halloween costume request to date though was the year she declared, “I want to be a white crayon that draws on black paper.”  At first I panicked – how in the world was I going to make that costume??  But after a few searches on Amazon, it turned out to be the easiest costume ever.  We found her this white crayon shirt on Amazon.

White Crayon Shirt

We added white jeans (that was the hardest part of the costume actually – trying to find white pants in the stores leftover from summer in October – thank you Target!!) and a white winter hat with a pompom on top.  Voila!  A white crayon.  For the drawing on black paper part, we got my husband a black t-shirt and we all painted white designs on it to make it look like a white crayon had been coloring on it.

Black Paper Shirt

And then for the the icing on the cake, a couple days before Halloween I remembered that I had a very old crayon sweater tucked away in a drawer.

Crayon Sweater

I got it in the 90s when they were making all these sweaters with name brands on it.  I loved it at the time, and then thought that as a future teacher I should save it forever because I might have a need for a crayon sweater someday.  I just never thought it would be to coordinate with my daughter’s Halloween costume!

So it turned out that our daughter’s funny idea for a Halloween costume ended up being a fun and easy idea for a whole set of family costumes!

Trick or Treat Merchandise!

Back in the day when I had more free time, I used to paint sweatshirts.  I made shirts for every holiday – shocking, I know!  My favorite one by far was the shirt I made for Halloween.  It said “Trick or Treat” in candy and other Halloween themed letters.  My mom loved it, so I made one for her too.  I can’t remember exactly how long ago I made these shirts, but it was when I was in either high school or college.  I just celebrated my 40th birthday, so suffice it to say regardless of the exact timing, it was a very loooooooong time ago.

Original Trick or Treat Sweatshirt

So for the last 500 years, I’ve carefully pulled this very old sweatshirt out of the closet once a year to wear it on Halloween.  It’s on its last legs after all these years of use.  The paint has started to crack, the sweatshirt is stretched out and looking a bit worse for the wear.  Each year on November 1st when I carefully hang it back up in my closet I wonder if it will last until the next Halloween or not… my mom’s shirt bit the dust several years ago.  I kept thinking that I should just make a new one.  The only problem with that plan is that I just don’t enjoy redoing designs I’ve already made.  For some reason it’s tedious and just not fun for me.

Luckily, my husband had a brilliant idea to save the day – and my beloved “Trick or Treat” sweatshirt.  He told me about a website called Zazzle.com.  You can create your own designs, add them to the site, and have them printed on shirts and a plethora of other items.  So I decided to draw a new version of my “Trick or Treat” design and color it with colored pencils.  Since I was drawing it rather than painting the same exact thing again, it wasn’t an annoying project for me.  (In fact, I enjoyed it so much I decided to make little signs like it for each holiday and season… stay tuned for more!)

Trick or Treat Colored Pencil Drawing

My husband scanned my drawing and with the magic of technology and his brilliant computer skills, he turned it into an image to post on Zazzle.  I put my “Trick or Treat” image on a shirt and ordered one for me, our daughter, and my mom (to replace her old one, of course).  I was so excited and nervous to see how they would turn out, but I was thrilled when they arrived.  They totally preserved the hand drawn look of my original drawing without the tediousness of creating each item individually.  I love them as much as my original shirt from so long ago.  I was so excited that I started exploring the Zazzle site some more and found that I could put my design on lots of different items… pillows, mugs, stickers, greeting cards, treat bags, totes… and on and on.  Our house is going to be full of “Trick or Treat” items this Halloween!

Zazzle Trick or Treat Stuff

 I always got lots of compliments whenever I wore my original “Trick or Treat” sweatshirt – people often said they wished they could get one for themselves.  So at the risk of sounding like Yogurt from the movie Spaceballs (“Merchandising!”), I thought, “Why not?” and posted my “Trick or Treat” items for sale on Zazzle.  Please check out my new little Zazzle shop at https://www.zazzle.com/most_wonderful_time if you think you might want some of my “Trick or Treat” items to brighten your Halloween this year!

End of Summer S’mores

It’s been a very busy few weeks.  I meant to share these fun s’mores ideas earlier as a late summer idea, but I’m just now getting around to it a few days before fall starts.  Just under the wire!  S’mores are fun in the fall too though, right?

A couple of weeks ago we had a s’more themed party for our family.  I loved how the decorations came together so quickly and easily – and they looked so cute!  First I made a chalkboard sign for our kitchen featuring s’mores for late summer.  (Please note – I’m still working on my sign making skills.  In fact we just took a class about hand lettering last weekend.  It was very fun, and I’m getting better!  Practice makes perfect.)

S’mores Chalkboard

I also had our daughter make a picture for our fridge using brown rectangles, her handprint and glitter glue to make a campfire; chalk lines for smoke; a brown pipe cleaner for a stick; and a cotton ball for a marshmallow.  She smudged brown paint on the cotton ball so that the marshmallow would look toasted.

S’mores Handprint Picture

The centerpiece for the s’mores party was my favorite.  I found a s’more tote on Amazon and filled it with marshmallows on sticks.  I also filled Ball Jars with all of the things you need for s’mores – graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars, and of course a campfire.  The campfire jar was filled with orange and yellow tissue paper.

S’mores Centerpiece

For an extra special effect, I put a battery operated tea light inside the tissue in the “campfire” jar to make it look like it was actually glowing!

S’mores Table with Light

I used brown and white plates and napkins for the party.  I absolutely loved how the table looked!  In fact, I loved it so much I saved the centerpiece and used it a second time at our daughter’s Girl Scout meeting.  This time I made it more of a picnic theme with red and white checkered plates.  To make easy s’mores, we served graham crackers that the kids could dip in chocolate frosting and marshmallow fluff.  It was a bit sticky but very easy, and the kids loved it.

S’mores Girl Scout Snack

So there you go – fun and easy s’mores party ideas you can use to try and prolong summer for a few “s’more” days!

Back to School with “The Kissing Hand”

I have always loved the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  It is the story of a little raccoon and his mom on the night before school starts (well, technically the day before school starts since they are nocturnal of course).  The little raccoon is a bit nervous to go to school, so his mommy gives him a kiss on his hand and tells him to touch his hand to his cheek whenever he feels scared or lonely so that he can get a kiss from her whenever he needs one.  Spoiler alert- the sweetest part of the story is when he heads off to school and then runs back suddenly to give his mommy a kiss on her hand from him.  I can’t even type this without getting teary!  Such a sweet, touching story.

Our daughter recently started school.  In my perfect world I had always planned that I would read this story to her the night before school started and it would be beautiful and touching and special.  But then suddenly it was a week before school started and I wasn’t so sure if I should read it to her after all.  She was nervous about school.  I was nervous about her going to school.  Perhaps this tearjerker of a book would just be too much for us both.  Perhaps it would remind her to feel lonely rather than give her confidence to get through the day.  Perhaps I should start considering home schooling…

In the end, I did send her to school and I did read her the book but in the most low key way possible while she was watching a show and eating a snack before bed   Not exactly the perfect Kodak moment I had envisioned for years.  I wasn’t sure she was even paying attention to the story until I noticed that her little fist was clenched tight with a death grip around the kiss I had given her hand during the story.  She kissed my hand as well and we both kept our kisses safe until bedtime.

Fistfuls of Kisses

The next morning we gave each other fresh fistfuls of kisses and off she went to for the first day of school.  She thrived and I survived.  Each subsequent day she got out of the car a bit more confidently than the day before until she was bouncing out of the car like she owned the place.   On about the 5th day though she ran back to the car; and I thought, “Uh-oh.  Here we go,” and braced myself for a meltdown   Instead though she opened my car door, grabbed my hand, and gave it a big kiss before skipping off with a smile to get in line with her class.  What more could a mommy want?  I know it will always be one of my most special memories.

So if you ever wonder if “The Kissing Hand” is s good back to school book or not, the answer is yes, a thousand times yes.  Thank you, Audrey Penn, for this book that helps kids so much and helps mommies even more!

 

 

 

Mourning August

Almost two years ago to the day I wrote a blog post singing the praises of August, a newly discovered month for me.  I talked about how in my past life as an elementary teacher August was so stressful and hectic with the start of school but that in the world of preschool where school doesn’t start until after Labor Day, August seemed like a whole new undiscovered month of free time. And now as soon as I had found and grown to love the lost month of August deeply, it’s gone again, just like that.  My family is leaving the world of preschool and reentering the world of elementary school this month.  As excited as I am for all of the adventures that await us, I am also very sad to lose this wonderful bonus summer month.  Before I had written about August being the month of nothing, as in there was nothing pressing to do or get done except for enjoying the last bits of summer.  Now it’s suddenly back to feeling like limbo between the sunny summer relaxation of July and fall apple picking activities of September.  So I guess August is still the month of nothing, but just because it’s kind of in no man’s land.  It’s the start of school without all the warm fuzzy feelings about going back to school that naturally come with the month of September.  Poor August.  And poor me!  Even though my love affair with August was fleeting, I’ll miss it terribly.    R.I.P. August.  I barely knew you!

The Joy of a New Planner

I know I have shared about my love of school supplies in the past.  This year was the first year our daughter had a substantial school supply list, and I was so excited to share my love of school supply shopping with her (and to be honest simultaneously get my school supply fix for myself).  And then we got the school supply kit order form from the school.  Apparently now teachers now get to select supplies they want in a kit and parents can order it.  It’s faster, more convenient, easier, less expensive, better for the teachers because they are guaranteed to get exactly the specific supplies they need… and utterly depressing for school supply lovers like me.  There was one item, some dot stickers, not included in the kit.  Believe me – I made an event out of buying those dot stickers.  There was a special outing and a photo op and everything.  But it just wasn’t the same.

So I came home and drowned my sorrows in my shiny new planner I had gotten a few weeks earlier.  Of course I know that phones have calendars on them now.  However, I just use my phone’s calendar as a backup to my written planner.  I have always done this – ever since high school when one of the school supplies I was always excited to get was my brand new assignment notebook for the year.  For several years, calendar books and planners were hard to find or quite boring when I was able to find one I assume because of the calendars on the phones.  Just about five years ago, I was afraid they were going to stop making calendar books and planners entirely because they were so hard to find.  I finally found a student planner reminiscent of my old high school assignment notebooks at Vera Bradley a few years ago.  I really liked it even though it was meant for high school or college kids.  And I must not be alone in my love affair with planners and calendar books because then suddenly they have apparently become cool again.  There started to be more and more cute options.  This year when I went to Paper Source to find a calendar book, there were so many choices!  (I, of course, went with the pink and sparkly option.)

My Planner

And there are so many stickers and accessories to go with the planners now!  I’ve heard that there are entire Etsy stores that sell nothing but stickers for calendars.  I have yet to check out these sites, but I am intrigued by the possibilities.  I had a lovely time filling in important dates, holiday traditions, reminders, and notes in my beautiful new planner.  In fact my new planner is so complete that I was able to transfer several ongoing lists of projects I want to do into it.  So instead of 3 notebooks plus my calendar book, I now have just one planner full of everything.  I don’t know why I find this to be so satisfying, but I do.  Perhaps it’s because it combines holidays and organizing – 2 of my favorite things.  So even if my new planner was my only opportunity to play with shiny new school supplies this year, at least I enjoyed it completely!  In a world where school supplies now come in convenient yet depressing kits, I hope that the fancy planner trend is one that lasts for years to come.

Shopkins Birthday Party

I have so loved planning our daughter’s birthday parties over the years.  The teacher in me relished in creating party themes based on some of my favorite children’s books.  And while I still hold out hope to get to throw a Mo Willem’s Pigeon themed party someday, I had figured that this year our daughter would have her own strong opinions about choosing a theme for her birthday party.  I was right.  About 6 months before her birthday, out of the blue as we were leaving the grocery store (one of her favorite places to go), she announced that she wanted to have a birthday party with a shopping cart and a ball pit.  Hmmmm.  Not much to work with, right?  I thought this was just a whim and that surely she would forget and pick another better theme for her birthday party as the date got closer.  Nope.  She stuck with the shopping cart and ball pit idea and began telling every random person that she was having a shopping cart and ball pit birthday.  What to do, what to do?  After 4 years of perfectly planned classic children’s book themes this was almost more than I handle.  And then it hit me – Shopkins!  Thanks to the Shopkins (which our daughter also loves anyway) I was able to plan a party with a nice theme that naturally revolved around shopping carts.  As far as the ball pit went, I figured we could always add a ball pit to any type of party!

So I started hunting for everything and anything that might have to do with Shopkins, grocery shopping, and, of course, shopping carts.  I found ideas on Pinterest; darling Shopkins birthday supplies at Party City and Target; shopping carts (big and mini), toy food, and balls for the ball pit on Amazon; Shopkins ribbon at JoAnn Fabrics; and berry baskets, brown paper bags, Shopkins themselves, Shopkins games, stuffed Shopkins, and a neon sign that you might find in a grocery store that says “FUN” at Michaels.  Even though I had pooh-poohed the idea at first, I have to say it ended up being the most fun party to plan and throw.

I put a brown shopping bag on the front of the invitations.  I figured “born to shop” seemed appropriate for our daughter’s birthday party.  The insides of the invitations had pictures of Shopkins along with the party information.

Shopkins Party Invitation

I also used the little brown shopping bag idea for food labels and table decorations.

Tiny Grocery Bags

I was able to find the perfect shopping cart of our daughter’s dreams on Amazon and filled it with stuffed Shopkins.

Shopping Cart Full of Stuffed Shopkins

I also found mini shopping carts on Amazon and filled them with Shopkins to use as table decorations for the party.  And after the party, our daughter still loves playing with them!

Mini Shopping Cart Filled With Shopkins

Since one of the Shopkins is a box of popcorn, and since our daughter loves to eat popcorn and loves balloons, I made a giant box of “popcorn” made out of yellow and white balloons.

Balloon Popcorn

The favors were so much fun to put together.  I collected all kinds of Shopkins “stuff” as well as chocolate chip cookies since there is a cookie Shopkin and put them all together in a berry basket, again something that might be found at a real grocery store.  I tied them up with some Shopkins ribbon.

Shopkins Favors Filler

Shopkins Party Favor

I also used the berry baskets for centerpieces which were honestly a quick fix.  The centerpieces kept blowing away because it was really windy, so I grabbed some rocks from our daughter’s rock collection in the backyard and stuck them into some extra berry baskets and used hot glue to attach the paper shreds and centerpieces to the tops.  Even though they were a last minute idea, I ended up loving them!

Shopkins Centerpiece

The birthday girl herself needed to be all decked out too of course.  In addition to a Shopkins shirt we found at Target, I made her hairbows from some of the Shopkins ribbon.

Shopkins Bows

The food was really fun and easy to plan since many of the Shopkins characters are food anyway!  In fact each food item was also a Shopkins character.  We had apple juice, strawberries, a giant doughnut from a local bakery, cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, Shopkins fruit snacks, and popcorn.  I also made a cake in the shape of a shopping cart per our daughter’s request.

Shopkins Food

Shopping Cart Cake

Party activities included the ball pit (obviously), the balloon popcorn, a Shopkins pinata, a really fun game of “Fastest Shopper” which was kind of like an Easter Egg hunt except with little grocery bags instead of baskets and toy food instead of eggs, and a bunch of Shopkins games.  They were all big hits!

Ball Pit

Shopkins Games

All in all, it was a great celebration.  It had everything I wanted in a party, even if it wasn’t based on a classic children’s book.

Cute decorations – check.

Fun theme – check.

Good food – check.

Fun activities – check.

And most important, happy birthday girl – check!  It also had everything our daughter wanted in a party.

Shopping cart – check.

Ball pit – check.

Thanks, Shopkins for saving the day!

4th Blogiversary

Another year, another blog.  In fact I’ve been writing this little blog for 4 years now!  Last year I said a lot had changed over the years, and this year there are more big changes.  I’m no longer working at my dream job teaching preschoolers.  Instead I will be a substitute teacher.  It is a very bittersweet change.  I was so sad to leave the preschool, but I’m so happy I will still get the opportunity to be in classrooms with children while simultaneously having a more flexible schedule now for my actual dream job – being a mommy to our precious daughter.  I also hope to have more time to relax and actually get to do and enjoy the craft projects and celebrations described in this blog.  I also hope to be able to post blog entires about them more often.

In fact I’ve already found time this summer to write more blog posts and work on some projects I’ve had waiting in the wings for years. One project is learning to do hand lettering so that I can make better seasonal signs, chalkboard designs, cards, you name it.  I’m planning on taking a class in the fall, and I’ve already been experimenting with some practice books at home like The Hand Lettering Ledger by Mary Kate McDevitt.  This book is so much fun that our daughter decided to join in and practice her letters as well…

Handwriting Practice

… and also draw some elephants.  Because every handwriting book needs an elephant or two, right?

There’s An Elephant in the Handwriting Book…

Besides learning to write fancy letters, I am also looking forward to hopefully being a room mother in our daughter’s classroom this year.  When I was growing up, my mother was room mother extraordinaire – the mother of all room mothers you could say.  On the first day of school kids were always thrilled to find out I was in their class because they knew that meant my mom would be bringing fabulous parties for even the smallest of holidays all year.  I was always so proud of her, and I’m eager to follow in her footsteps.  I’m already strategizing (and stressing) about how to make a beeline at back to school night to find the sign up sheet for room mother to make sure I make it on the list before it is all filled up.

So hopefully I’ll have lots to share on my blog this year.  Even though my blog STILL hasn’t made me my millions yet, I’m looking forward to having more time for it.  I’ll see how this year goes and decide whether or not to keep doing it in the future.  It’s fun to share ideas, and I hope you enjoy reading them.  Thanks for reading!