Well, it’s the end of summer, which means I’ve been busy checking off all the great end of summer traditions.
Going to the State Fair. Didn’t happen. Too hot. Too stormy. Maybe next year.
Seeing the first school supplies in the store and feeling my heart start to race in a combination of excitement for a new school year and dread that summer is ending. Check.
Shopping for fall clothes. Almost check. Seems like they arrive in the stores later and later. Note to stores – the summer stuff on clearance still hasn’t sold. Give up. The stuff left is left because no one wants it. It won’t ever sell. We are tired of it. Bring on the sweaters!
Neglecting to water the flowers I lovingly cared for all summer and secretly hoping they just go ahead and die already because I’m antsy to put out fall mums. Check.
Waking up in a cold sweat after the first back to school stress dream of the season. (If you aren’t a teacher, you may not be familiar with the phenomenon of these dreams that generally start like clockwork for teachers in late July. They usually involve some sort of disaster like a missing class list or an undecorated bulletin board or realizing you have no lesson plans 5 minutes before the kids come rushing in on the first day of school.) Check. Although in all honesty this year, for the first time in my life, my back to school dream was a happy dream instead of a nightmare! That may be due to the fact that I get to work with fabulous co-teachers this year as I embark on new adventures in new classrooms. Or perhaps it’s due to the fact that I had a really wonderful summer.
Which brings me to the last great end of summer tradition: the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” story. This summer I was able to do lots of stuff I haven’t gotten to do for years. I went out to lunch with several friends. I got to read several books. I got to do lots of baking projects from Pinterest, mostly involving lemon and s’mores related recipes because those scream summer to me. I got to see “Bad Moms,” my first actual movie in an actual theater since “The Lego Movie,” because much like Kristen Bell’s character in the movie, I don’t get out much. (By the way, did anyone else find it ironic that Kristen Bell’s stay at home mom character in the movie most likely spends a good deal of her time watching “Frozen,” starring none other than… Kristen Bell over and over again? Well I did. But then perhaps I related a little TOO much to her character in “Bad Mom’s” and was reading too much into it!) And best of all, I got to spend lots and lots of time with our precious daughter this summer. Even though playing her version of “Cinderella” (in which the stepsisters give Cinderella chores and Cinderella says, “No, I’m taking a nap instead.”) got a bit tiring day after day after day, I know I’ll miss having all the free time available just for playing. Goodbye summer 2016. Here’s hoping this fall is as wonderful as this summer was!
When I was little, the last hurrah of summer was always a trip to the State Fair. My dad had an exhibit there, so we HAD to go so he could take his turn to clean the exhibit. Such a burden. It was always one of my favorite events of the year. Even though I have always hated getting dirty, there was something very satisfying about spending a hot, sticky evening at the fair walking around looking at (and unfortunately smelling) hot, sticky animals and eating hot, sticky food like cotton candy and elephant ears then coming home to take the most refreshing bath of the entire year and going to bed feeling refreshed and ready to say farewell to summer and start a new school year on a high note.
I have not actually been to the fair for years, partly because school starts sooo early now – before the fair even starts – and partly because it turns out it’s actually really expensive to go to the fair when you’re a grown up and have to pay for your own hot, sticky food and don’t get free tickets anymore. But still every year when August rolls around, this city girl can’t help but think of the one time of year I feel like a country girl at heart hanging out at the State Fair with all the smelly farm animals.
All that inspires me to make pig cupcakes this time of year. I found the idea on Pinterest and added some of my own touches. I used a strawberry cake mix to make pink cupcakes. I frosted them with strawberry frosting. The ears were pieces of strawberry wafer cookies, the noses were slices of marshmallows, and the eyes were chocolate chips. To make them more “State Fair-ish” I added Rice Krispies Treats bales of hay and wrapped them with Twizzlers Pull and Peel strips. I placed everything on a bed of Rice Krispies to look like hay.
They are fun and tasty and just right for August. I even made these last year to take to a friend’s pig roast. They are perfect for reminiscing about the State Fair without the hot, sticky parts – and they are not nearly as smelly as the real pigs there!
It turns out that we are SO good at celebrating holidays that sometimes we even celebrate them by accident! Earlier this spring I bought an ice cream ball from Crate and Barrel. It’s a ball that you fill with ice cream ingredients on one side and ice and salt on the other side. Then you kick it and roll it and shake it for about 20 minutes until you get ice cream. I first used it at school back in May. It was hard work to shake it enough to make the ice cream (It rained that day so we couldn’t kick it around outside, so the kids got tired of rolling it inside after a few minutes and I had to finish the job myself – boy were my arms tired!), but it was still a lot of fun and MUCH better than using the always leaky double baggie method to make ice cream in the classroom. After having fun with it at school, I couldn’t wait to try it at home with my own family. Last week, I decided that today would be the day to try it – it was supposed to be nice out, and we had some free time today before an insanely busy week coming up so why not? Our daughter loved pouring in the ingredients (a pint of cream, sugar, and some vanilla)
Ice Cream Ball Ingredients
and kicking it around the yard. Sure enough, we got ice cream! Now for the funny part though – after we had put it in the freezer and cleaned up from making the ice cream, my husband looked and Twitter and announced that he saw that today just happened to be National Ice Cream Day. We had no idea, and yet we celebrated in grand style by kicking our ice cream ball around and making our very own ice cream in honor of the day. Are we good or what???
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing this blog for 3 years now! A lot has happened in that 3 years: I left public school and started my dream job teaching preschoolers, moved twice, watched our baby grow from a baby to a toddler to a self proclaimed “big kid,” and am about to embark on an exciting new adventure in a new preschool classroom. Phew! That’s a lot for 3 years! In my never ending quest for the elusive thing I’ve been told is called “free time,” I have scaled back the blog a bit – writing entries less often (when I feel like it or have something fun to share rather than every single week) – but I still enjoy getting the chance to write and be creative and share fun seasonal activities with the world. Besides, even if some of these holiday traditions and activities seem trivial, I think the world needs a little happiness right about now and some reminders that it CAN always be the most wonderful time of the year if we try to look for ways to have fun together – no matter how trivial they may be. So I plan to keep going with my little blog again this year. Thanks for reading!
Hydrangeas are the flowers that I think of in the early summer, so I like to decorate with them around this time of year.
Hydrangeas are really fun and quite simple to make. Just get a styrofoam ball and lots of pins with pearl heads. Then get several shades of papers to use for your hydrangea. (It’s hard to see, but he hydrangea in the picture below has light purple and light blue paper.) If you are making a blue hydrangea, get several shades of blue. If you are making a pink hydrangea, get several shades of pink. You get the idea! I think a variety of shades looks much better than just one, although you could certainly use just one color if you prefer. Punch lots of small flowers using a punch. I actually have a hydrangea punch from Martha Stewart that I got years ago at Michael’s, but I’m sure any small flower shape would work. Then punch a tiny hole in the center of each flower. Pin each paper flower to the styrofoam ball with the pins. Be sure to mix up the different shades of paper as you fill in the ball. Add leaves or ribbon, and you’re all done!
My mom recently redid her bathroom with hydrangea towels and accessories, and I loved making some hydrangea pictures for her.
For the pictures, I had my dad cut the styrofoam balls so that they would be flat on the backs and still fit inside the frames.
These hydrangeas are a fun and easy project that look great everywhere. And they are perfect for summer!
April’s poem of the month is a poem about signs of spring that uses one of my favorite poem formats because it’s fun and fairly simple for all children. First, have kids write their phone numbers down the side of a page. Then have them think of a sign of spring to go with each number. For example, 1 bunny, 2 flower buds, etc. Finally have them insert adjectives to describe each thing. 1 cute bunny, 2 tiny flower buds, etc. Here is a poem by one of my former third graders (don’t worry – I changed the numbers in the phone number!).
Signs of Spring
3 Little insects
7 Pretty flowers
2 Cold days
8 Big bikes
5 Good friends
7 Colorful butterflies
6 Tiny leaves
After editing, have the children copy their final copies on bright springy paper and decorate with spring flower stickers. There you have it – easy and quick for this busy time of year!
March always makes me think of St. Patrick’s Day and shamrocks. It also makes me think of rainbows – as in the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. So, rainbows are the inspiration for the March poem of the month: a color poem. I always love to read Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill to introduce this activity. Then we practice writing similes. I have kids choose an item of any color they like and write similes about the items. These similes become the color poems. They start out with the line “A ________ is as ________ as” followed by a list of items the same color as the first item. Then comes the line “A ________ is ________ like” followed by a list of more items of that color. The last line of the poem is “A ______ is ______!” This way children get to practice writing similes using both like and as based on just what they see around them – no one needs to get writer’s block because the kids simply need to look around to get their ideas. Here is a poem about the color blue written by a third grader:
A button is as blue as
A button is blue like
A button is blue!
After the poems are written, I have kids recopy them in the colors about which they are written, mount them on those colors, and decorate them with rainbow stickers. I like to display them on a board with a big rainbow – a nice way to brighten up the classroom and welcome spring!
We decorated for Valentine’s Day this weekend. As much as I love my January/winter decorations, I must say that I am really over winter this year (even though this winter so far has been a walk in the park compared to the last 2 winters), so switching to Valentine’s Day decorations felt like a breath of fresh (and not frigid, shiver inducing) air.
As a result, I was motivated to put out more Valentine’s Day decorations than usual. These Ball jars were one of my new additions this year. I saw the idea for these cute jars on Pinterest. All I did was get a white doily for each jar and attached them with glue dots. I punched hearts out of red card stock and used glue dots again to stick a heart on top of each doily. Then I took red and white bakers’ twine and wrapped it around each jar a few times and tied it in a bow on top of the each heart. I finished the jars off by filling them with conversation hearts and tulips – my favorite flower for Valentine’s Day. I even made a mini version with a heart on the lid to complete my collection. I love them – they make me feel happy and warm like spring is just around the corner… Come on Groundhog! Don’t let me down!
January’s card of the month is a birthday card. As I have mentioned before, I like to make several cards at a time assembly line style, and January is a good time to make sure I have a good chink of the birthday cards I will need throughout the year ready to go. Besides, making cards is a good inside activity, and I have been too cold lately to want to leave the house at all. Building up my birthday card inventory inside where it is cozy and where there is college basketball on the tv is a much more desirable option than venturing outside in the bitter cold for even just a few minutes and then spending the next 6 or more hours trying to stop shivering.
I rediscovered this balloon birthday card while looking through my card files. The colors on it reminded me of January so I decided to use it for the January card of the month. (Although any color scheme would work of course!)
January Card of the Month: Balloon Birthday Card
I cut out 3 balloon shapes using my Cricut. I used some fun papers I had in my paper scraps bin. One was a green velum and one was a pearlized pale green – both perfect for balloons! The third was a coordinating green and blue stripe. For the background I chose a light blue card stock that matched the striped balloon. I cut it to 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ and folded it in half. I attached strings to the backs of the balloons using glue dots. Then I attached the balloons to the front of the card with adhesive. After the balloons were positioned and attached the way I wanted them, I tied the 3 strings together in a knot at the bottom of the card.
Balloon Birthday Card Inside
For the inside I stamped some Happy Birthday balloons with light blue on white using a very old Stampin’ Up stamp and matted it with the green vellum and pearlized green from the front of the card. I finished it off with photo corners punched out of the green and blue striped paper.
A cute card and a fun way to use up extra bits of paper and experiment with different color and pattern combinations.
I found the cutest snowman cheeseball on Pinterest. I simplified it a bit (even though it was already really simple) and made it for a New Year’s Day lunch with my family. It was so cute I just had to share.
I used 2 boxes of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. I rolled each block of cheese into a ball. Then I rolled both of the balls in shredded mozzarella. I put a few toothpicks sticking out of the top of the bottom ball for extra support and then placed the other ball on top. I added a tiny carrot for the nose and peppercorns for the eyes, mouth, and buttons. So easy and super cute! Perfect for any type of January or winter party – or just to make an ordinary dinner more fun!