I recently received a wonderful spring gift from one of my precious students. He brought me some beautiful pink tulips in a Ball jar. He didn’t even realize how sentimental his gift was to me! Our wedding anniversary in in April, and our centerpieces at our wedding were Ball jars filled with spring flowers.
Ball Jar Wedding Centerpiece
(And for the record – I have seen wedding centerpieces like this on Pinterest recently, but I came up with the idea on my own 9 years ago, looooong before I was on Pinterest!) So getting the tulips in the Ball jar from my little student just a few days before our 9th anniversary was extra special!
Since using them at our wedding, Ball jars have become one of my favorite things for decorating – in fact I am planning to use them a lot in our new kitchen in our new house. They are so versatile and look nice plain or filled with lots of different things – especially spring flowers! Just take the round disk out of the top of the jar. Replace it with some wire mesh that has big openings (about one fourth to one half inch squares) to keep the flowers arranged as you want them and screw the metal ring on top to hold the mesh in place. Then get an assortment of spring flowers and put them in the jar. Finish it off with a ribbon if you like. Each jar is always unique, but they are always so lovely and springy.
Ball Jar Wedding Flowers
So I had originally thought that this week it would be fun to share some of the neat college basketball themed treats we would be enjoying while cheering on my teams in the Sweet 16. IU shaped brownies for Indiana, blue and white cookies for Butler… Alas, after the results of the weekend’s games, it looks like that post will need to wait until next year. Hopefully next year, at least! So instead, I will be sharing one of my favorite (and most absurd and embarrassing) traditions: My March Madness Menagerie.
With the NCAA tournament always falling around Easter time, we proudly display a collection of stuffed chicks, ducks, and bunnies that are all named after college basketball personalities. It started simply enough years ago with a funny looking duck we named Gonzaga (because it was a funny word to say and went perfectly with the funny looking duck) and a cute little rabbit we named Bunny Battier. Each year we added more and more because, let’s be honest, there are lots of college basketball names that are just plain fun to say. (For example, Izzo… Tubby… Duany Duany… Scoonie Penn… just to name a few.) Now we have so many characters in our menagerie, we have to keep a list so that we remember all the names, and if you sit in the wrong spot on the couch, an avalanche of stuffed ducks may fall and bury you. Some of my favorites include Matt Howard the Duck, Pat (Knight) the Bunny, Duckitch (for Dan Dakich), and, of course, Duck Vitale. It’s a very unique (ok, weird) tradition, and it makes me so very happy to see my furry basketball friends every year.
Nothing makes me feel more like spring has finally spring than Selection Sunday – truly one of my favorite evenings of the year. While my husband has yet to embrace the importance of this day, after almost 9 years of marriage he definitely understands that it is important to me and happily (?) and kindly goes along with my Selection Sunday ritual.
We start with an early supper of mini pigs in blankets – the official food of college basketball in our family. We need to be done eating early because dinner must be finished by the time the pairings are aired on TV. It’s too hard to fill in brackets while munching mini pigs in blankets. I always make sure I have my blank bracket, a pencil, and a lap desk ready in front the TV. I scribble down the pairings as they are announced live. Sure, I could just wait 15 minutes and just print them out when they become available online, but there us something thrilling about furiously trying to write down all the teams in the correct spots as they are read from the TV (as in the olden days – like 5 years ago – before brackets were instantly available on the internet) while simultaneously yelling and/or cheering at the TV accordingly.
After that, I do print out 2 other brackets from the CBS website. I make one of the teams I want to win and one of the teams I think will win, and I use both throughout the tournament. (For the record, this year my “want” champion is Butler and my “think” champion is Duke. Although I have had no time this year for following or studying up on college basketball as I usually do, so my “think” bracket is a real shot in the dark.) The whole process is such fun, and I can’t wait until the games begin. Oh, and Go Big Red, Go Dawgs, and Go Anyone Playing Against Kentucky!
In my opinion, Groundhog Day is one of the most absurd holidays out there. However, it is also one of the most fun holidays to celebrate with children. And it’s coming up soon! This craft my mom invented years ago is my favorite Groundhog Day activity. Kids can act out Groundhog Day by sticking the groundhog puppet up out of the hole. On one side, if the puppet sees its shadow, it can scurry back underground. On the other side, if it doesn’t see its shadow, the puppet can dance around enjoying spring weather. It’s actually very simple to make too!
Groundhog Day Craft – Puppet
First, make your groundhog puppet. Cut out a groundhog shape from brown construction paper. Draw a face on it and glue it to a popsicle stick.
For the ground, get a big piece of white construction paper and fold it in half. Cut a curved slit large enough for the puppet to fit through on the fold. On one side draw grass or flowers to show signs of spring peeking through the snow.
Groundhog Day Craft – Spring
On the other side make a groundhog shadow for winter. Trace the groundhog puppet on black construction paper. Glue it down so it is touching the curved slit on the fold. Trim it to match the edge of the curved slit.
Groundhog Day Craft – Shadow
The best part of this project is that kids can act out Groundhog Day again and again with the little puppet.
April showers bring… more May showers! Wedding and baby showers that is. Spring seems to be prime time for throwing showers. It’s a fun time of year to get to celebrate special events.
One thing I don’t like about showers though is the games. They often seem contrived and tend to be embarrassing and uncomfortable in my opinion. So I like to do some sort of craft project instead. Craft projects at showers are unique, and everyone seems to enjoy them – it’s as if regardless of age guests are instantly transported back to the arts and crafts time everyone loved in elementary school. The only problem is it can be hard to get people to stop doing the project in order for the guest of honor to open gifts!
For wedding showers, I have given guests paper dolls of the bride and let them use a variety of stickers, lace, jewels, ribbons, etc. to design wedding dresses. Very fun!
We recently had a baby shower for a friend expecting a little girl. It was a “fashion” themed shower, so I thought about doing a craft project decorating onesies. However, it seems that that has been done a lot lately. Instead I decided to have each guest make a page for a picture album. Everyone got a sheet of scrapbook paper and photo mats along with stickers, punch outs, etc.
Baby Shower Picture Album Supplies
They decorated their pages then we put them into sleeves in an album.
Baby Shower Picture Album Page
The mommy to be got to take home a completed album ready for pictures of her baby in all her new fashions. It turned out well, and I think everyone enjoyed the activity!
Mother’s Day is coming up, so here are some thoughts in case you need ideas for what to get your mother. What I want most for Mother’s Day is… to be a mommy! I know lots of moms want to get an escape from the kids and the daily grind and have alone time at a spa to be pampered on Mother’s Day, but that just isn’t me. I just want to be with the person who made me a mommy. It may sound strange, but to me Mother’s Day is every bit as much about celebrating our daughter as it is about celebrating being her mommy. Honestly, all I want to do on Mother’s Day, all I ever dreamed about doing on Mother’s Day during our long wait to become parents, and all I will ever want to do on Mother’s Day is to spend the day basking in the wonder that is our precious daughter and the amazing gift that I am lucky enough to be her mommy. Being together as a family is the best present I could ever ask for.
Ok, and brunch. And cupcakes. And throw in some flowers for good measure. As long as we get to spend time together with all of those other things added in, I’m happy!
Our newly minted Mother’s Day traditions start with brunch after church for my mom as we have done for many years. To add my own spin on the celebration when I became a mommy, I decided I wanted to go pick out our annual flowers after our brunch each year. It works out really well – around here, Mother’s Day is traditionally the day that it’s safe to plant annuals after the threat of frost has passed (although who knows this year after the winter of 2014 that won’t seem to end!). So going on a flower shopping spree is timed perfectly. Going home with a trunk full of flowers makes me happy. It’s the prettiest the trunk looks all year!
Trunk Full of Flowers!
I ask for a special new flower pot as a gift each year in which to put some of the flowers. My hope is that in future years our daughter can decorate a flower pot for me herself.
Mother’s Day Flower Pot
Then we end the day with cupcakes from my favorite cupcake bakery.
So that’s it – my simple Mother’s Day wish: brunch, flowers, cupcakes, and family time. It’s the best celebration of mommyhood I can imagine!
Every Easter for as long as I can remember my family has a made an annual bunny cake. It’s a fun tradition I’m excited to continue with our own little girl.
It’s so simple to make. Start by making your favorite cake batter. (We always use chocolate.) Pour it into two round cake pans and bake. After the cakes have cooled, leave one cake round and cut the other into two ears and a bow tie. The ears come from the edges and the bow tie is the space left in the middle. This sketch I made for a friend shows how.
Bunny Cake Pieces Sketch
Then put the pieces on a cookie sheet in the shape of a bunny with a bow tie.
Then comes the fun part – decorate the bunny! Frost the cake and add eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Frost the inside of the ears with pink. We always like to decorate the bow tie with m&ms, but you could use any candy of your choice. It’s sure to be a special part of your Easter celebration!
Another Bunny Cake
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
I have bins for upcoming projects, and I have other bins and drawers of craft supplies organized by holiday and season.
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!
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.
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
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.
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!