Saturday, December 27, 2014

Packing for a Cold-Weather Trip

Packing always excites/terrifies me. It excites me because usually it means I am going on a fun trip, but terrifies me because I know I am going to agonize over what I want to pack versus what I actually need (and should) pack.

I find it EXTREMELY difficult to pack for cold weather. Everything is so bulky! This year, my family and I are spending New Years in North Carolina at the Outer Banks (where we spend a couple of weeks every summer).

Throwback to OBX summer '14: 

I have been compulsively checking the weather to see what clothes to pack. We have been to the beach during this time of year in the past. Some years, it is gorgeous, with sunny weather in the upper 50's. Other years, it has been freezing cold! This year it appears that it will be in the low-mid 50's, and mostly rainy :( If it were summer, I would be terribly upset by the rain, but since there's no beach-lounging in late-December/early-January, I am perfectly happy to relax in the house and read, bake, cook, play games, and go to or watch movies.

That being said, I think I have a handle of what I need to pack, keeping in mind that there will be tons of lounging around. There is also a washer/dryer at the house, so of course, I can wear something more than once (a crazy idea, I know!)

Surprisingly, all of this stuff (minus the boots) fit inside my duffel (similar style here)! 

My main focus in packing for the trip was making sure I had plenty of items I can mix and match together. Plus, the beach is such a casual place, so there's really no need to bring any fancy dresses or high heels. Any of our favorite restaurants down there are totally cool with jeans!

My parents are spending the weekend in NYC, so they're going to be nice and pick up me and my husband in Philly on their way back to DC on Sunday. On Monday, we're on the road again for OBX. The car ride from DC to OBX can last anywhere from 4.5-8+ hours (eek!) I typically have a hard time sleeping in the car, so I stuff my tote with lots of things to keep me occupied! Everyone has been talking about the podcast Serial, which I have yet to listen to, so that is definitely my first form of entertainment for the ride. I've also downloaded the audiobook version of Z: A Novel, which is a fictionalized story about Zelda Fitzgerald. I loved the novel Gatsby's Girl, which I read a few years ago, and am curious to see how the stories differ! 

I can't wait for a quiet, food-filled week with my loved ones! What are y'all doing for NYE?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Holidays!

It's officially WINTER BREAK! Hooray!

Today we had our winter assembly, where my class performed a wonderful skit retelling the Indian legend of the Six Blind Men. I love this story, because it shows that everyone has different experiences and perspectives, and often each experience and perspective is valid and correct. A great lesson for everyone at this time of year!

This year, I really enjoyed sharing read aloud picture books to my group about different holidays and holiday traditions. Some of my favorites for this time of year include:


What I like about all of these stories is that they all speak to the importance of love, magic, friends and family. The kids in my class all enjoyed hearing the stories and talking about our different holiday and family traditions. 

Speaking of holiday traditions, my husband and I are celebrating our first Chanukah as a married couple! I really wanted to make it special for us, so I decided to get a little festive! I've been seeing a lot of cute DIY Chanukah decorations on Pinterest. I really like the mix of metallics and blues, especially on hanging banners. Being a teacher, I fortunately have access to lots of arts and crafts materials, so I got to work and made one of my own:
You will need:
- sturdy tag board
- paint (silver, gold, blue--or holiday colors of your liking!)
- glitter
- glue
- hole punch
- string

First, I cut out circles of tag-board and painted them silver, gold and blue.

Then, I decorated each circle with either a glittery design or one of the letters that spell out "Happy Chanukah", using plain old school glue. After the paint and glitter dried, I punched a couple of holes in each circle to thread the string through.

Begin threading the circles through the string (making sure that the string goes on the back of the circle). I did two banners, one for "Happy" and another for "Chanukah".

After you have strung your circles through, use hooks to hang up your beautiful banner! We put ours up behind our kitchen table, which is where we light our beautiful Menorah (given to us as a wedding gift) each night.

Of course, I also made Latkes (I used the boxed mix this time--hey, it was a school night! I don't have time to peel and grate all those potatoes!) Now that I am on break, I might just go ahead and try one of these recipes!

I hope everyone gets a chance to relax a little bit this holiday season! Peace and Love!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fall Conferences Happened Already?

It's a miracle! Fall conferences are done!

excited animated GIF
They creeped up pretty quickly, and seemed to pass by pretty quickly too :)

For those readers new to my blog, at my school the lead teachers do not come to school the whole week so we can focus on writing up notes and preparing for conferences with parents in the evenings (and then everyone gets Friday off! Yay!)

 I structured my conferences a bit differently this year. In the past, I kept literally every paper that my students completed to show parents.

alec baldwin bored alec baldwin gif 

I realized that showing them worksheets isn't really demonstrating what we do in my classroom every day, as I typically teach in a very hands-on way.

Yes, I had a few spelling and math assessments to show each child's progress, but what I really wanted to share with parents was how their child responded to the different activities we do to teach subjects like spelling, math, writing,  and reading.

I set up different materials (pattern blocks and geo-boards for math, vowel-sound sorting games for spelling, several of our read alouds) on the table.

 Parents had the opportunity to interact in learning the same way as my students, as I shared my observations and notes about how their child was doing with the different concepts. Parents seemed to really enjoy this structure, and I plan on doing it again in the spring!

A perk of conference week is that all of us teachers get spoiled with dinners prepared by the administration and office staff every evening during our hour long break. I had delicious meals like hearty split pea soup, pulled pork tacos, mushroom risotto and pumpkin bisque all week.


My husband is always super jealous of this, so I had to make sure he had some yummy dinners to eat while I was at conferences! For my wedding shower, my grandmother got me a slow cooker from my registry. It has quickly become one of my favorite things to use in the kitchen!

Since I was home during the day preparing my notes, all I had to do was find some simple "set-it and forget-it" dinners that hubs could just heap onto his plate when he got home from work (some sides required reheating in the microwave, but really, who can't handle pushing "2" and "start" after a long day?). The best part is that these recipes make a lot, so he could reheat the leftovers the next night (or I could eat them for lunch the next day, which is kind of what happened...)

Conference week menu (for hungry husbands):

BBQ Ribs with roasted potatoes and a leafy green salad
Healthy orange chicken with brown rice and peas
Italian chicken sausage and whole wheat linguine in pesto sauce (Okay, so this one isn't a slow-cooker recipe, but super quick and easy! Just brown up some chicken sausage, boil some pasta, and add some jarred pesto sauce--I also like to dash on some red pepper flakes and some oregano for extra flavor)

Bon appetit!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Painting Pumpkins

If you've been following my blog this past year, you might know that my school makes a BIG deal about Halloween.

In preparation, we decided to paint some pumpkins with our 5th and 6th grade buddies.

We got these little pumpkins for about $1.50/each from the local produce shop.

Then, we gave the kids paint and let their imaginations go wild! It was great to see how differently each child painted their pumpkin. We had some scary faces, cool graphic designs, and even some landscape scenes! We ended up keeping the pumpkins inside of our classroom for some fun Halloween decor.

After the kids were done painting, we gave them a special "seasonal" snack. Who doesn't love some spiced cider and ginger-snap cookies on a crisp fall day?

I wanted to decorate the classroom for Halloween, but not go crazy, so I decided the easiest thing to do would be to make a candy corn banner!

I simply took some paper plates and painted a circle of orange and yellow on each one, like so:

Then, I cut each paper plate in half, and then cut each half into three wedges (looks like candy corn, no?):

After that, I punched holes in each "candy corn" and threaded string through for hanging. Viola!

Of course, I had to wear some fun Halloween attire! I love candy corn (if you couldn't already tell from my classroom decorations), so these socks were the perfect fit!

I hope everyone has a super and safe Halloween! Tonight, I am looking forward to snuggling up with some popcorn and watching Halloween (with a blanket to cover my eyes at the scary parts!). What are your Halloween plans?  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Back to School Night

First of all, let me just apologize for being very MIA for the past couple of weeks!

The school year really has been go-go-go since the very first day, I've barely had any time to update everyone on what's been going on in my classroom! Plus, with the fall Jewish holidays, my husband and I have hardly spent any down-time at home as we have been driving to visit family almost every weekend!

I have to say, I am SO loving my new group. 2nd/3rd mixed age is where it's at! Developmentally, it just works a whole lot better than a 3rd/4th mixed age.

A couple of weeks ago, we had Back to School night. I am always a little anxious before the evening begins, but this year I felt very confident. The other 2/3 teacher and I have been collaborating all summer, and we got the OK from our principal to conduct BTSN together. It was fabulous! We had all of the parents from both groups in the gym for our presentation on curriculum, and then invited families to come to their child's classroom for the last 20 minutes of the night to see what their kids have been up to!

We gave families a packet of information about our curriculum, including an outline of our reading/language arts program, the NCTM standards that is the basis for our math program, and a print-out of my curriculum report from last year. Even though last year I taught a different grade level, I feel that allowing parents to see my curriculum report gives them a better idea of what I like to teach and how I like to teach it!

We started out playing this game with the whole group to show the parents how we have started to get to know each other in our class communities. Each segment of the beach ball has a question written on it. Whatever section your right thumb is touching when the ball is passed to you is the question you respond to! Questions included:

- What are you most looking forward to this year?
- Tell us something fun you did during the summer.
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What is your favorite animal? Why?
- What is your favorite food?

When parents came into our classroom at the end of the night, they were so impressed with our self-portraits. This year, we are starting math with geometry (more on that soon!), so children created self-portraits using only geometric shapes. In connection with understanding shapes and patterns, children also only used 3 colors. The results were amazing! I loved hanging them up for the families to see!

In Back to School night tradition, I had my students write notes to their parents about all of the things they would like their families to see when they came into the classroom. Some highlights that many kids included in the letters were their portraits, our loft, and our library area!

By the way, how do you like the new furniture? Snazzy, right? 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's That Time Again....


This summer was so amazing, and I admit, it was definitely hard for me to come back to reality.

It was especially hard for me to come back to reality because as soon as I came into my classroom the week before school began to get organized, I ran into a MAJOR problem!

Remember that new furniture I was getting? Well, I was mistakenly shipped the wrong furniture! The tables and chairs were WAY too small for my second and third graders! I had to call the company and request all new tables and chairs four days (FOUR DAYS!) before the year started. Fortunately, all the wonderful people at my school helped me scrounge up some temporary tables and chairs for the kiddos. It obviously didn't look as sleek and uniform I wanted it to in the classroom on the first day, but fortunately the new tables arrived this afternoon and will be ready for Day 2!

Even with the furniture fiasco, I have enjoyed creating a new set-up in my old room. I scored some extra bookshelves and created a cozy, leveled library.

I was lucky enough to get a whole set of blocks donated, so in the old library area, I now have an extra-large block building area. It can also be used for project displays that we share with families throughout the year.

I am loving my new teacher area! Last year, it was tucked behind a huge bookshelf and I found it difficult to conference with kids and still have my "teacher eyes" on the rest of the room. I snagged an old display table that our librarian was giving away and set it up against the back wall for my assistant and me to use as our desk. The best part is, since it is very long, we can conference with students there as well.

I am constantly trying to think of ways for my students to keep track of their things and be efficient. I decided to take the bins I ordered for books last year and create bins for each kid to keep their notebooks, folders and sketchbooks. Something else I am trying is giving each student a small pouch with a couple of pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener and a flair pen in their bin. Perhaps it will alleviate the "I don't have a pencil!" issue, but I fear that might never happen....

I separated regularly used materials (like markers, colored pencils, and crayons) into individual buckets from the dollar store. Each table has a specific colored tray that holds the buckets. When kids want to draw in their sketchbooks, or need those materials for work at their tables, they can grab the tray and bring it over!

Each student also has a mailbox with a home folder for notices, homework, etc. I positioned these right next to the cubby area so they can grab their folder on their way to pack up!

Check back in soon to see the new and improved furniture, and some more about first week activities!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Twists and Turns

Oh my goodness, these past few weeks have been CA-RAY-ZAY.

My husband and I had some tough decisions to make about where to live. There was a chance we had to move to New Jersey for his job, where I would have an hour-plus commute, but then we were fortunate enough to stay put...or so we thought...

 I unpacked all of our stuff that I thought was headed to NJ.

Then, our current landlord calls...we can't stay where we are, as she had us believe, as new tenants had already signed a lease. What to do? (And can I dumpster dive to get all of our boxes back?)

We scrambled and finally found an apartment across town. It is actually a bit bigger than our old place, and shaves 15 minutes off of my morning commute to school! And to my delight, it has a washer/dryer!

So, we got movers and headed across the city. Check out my moving day outfit on Polyvore!

It has been an extremely frustrating and stressful few weeks, but we are glad to be in our new place. Plus, now we have all of these wonderful wedding gifts to fill up the cabinets :) I have spent the last few days since we moved making our new place somewhere that is organized and cozy.

I decided to introduce a "command-center" of sorts right by the front door. Each bin has a label. One for bills/notices, one for cards/letters, and one for magazines/catalogs. I also hung up this mosaic mirror right above it for those last-minute lip-gloss checks before heading out the door!

In the bathroom, I decided to use those old jam/pasta sauce jars as containers for make-up brushes, Q-tips, etc. Since I didn't take the time to peel off the labels appropriately (check out how to do it successfully here), I opted to use some sparkly duct-tape to cover up what remained of the offending labels. I think it looks cute!

I finally invested in a "grown-up" nightstand. For years, I was using the same make-shift nightstand that got me through college: plastic storage containers stacked on top of each other. Obviously, a married lady in her late 20's should try some real furniture!

We are unpacking the last of the boxes, and still have pictures to hang. But at least we are settled in enough to start to relax and not worry about move out dates, moving trucks, etc. at my happy place, the Outer Banks :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

City Teacher....Married Teacher!


That's right, folks! We got hitched! 
I can't believe how quickly the weekend passed, but it was without a doubt the most amazing time of my life :)

We got married in my home state of Maryland, overlooking Baltimore's Inner Harbor. It was beautiful!
Our gorgeous floral chuppah (a traditional Jewish wedding canopy)

An early evening view from the hotel pool of the iconic Domino Sugar sign
 The ceremony was wonderful, and the party was a blast! Everyone loved the food, especially our delicious (and beautiful!) wedding cake made by one of my closest girlfriends.

To close out the weekend, our new joined families spent the day at Camden Yards taking in a baseball game! It was the perfect, casual way to wrap up the festivities.

It's the O's, hon! Gotta love that bird :)
On Monday morning, my husband and I (ahhh!) flew to gorgeous Turks and Caicos and enjoyed a week of sun, sand, and snorkeling. 
The crystal clear waters of the Caribbean!

Diving for conch on our snorkeling trip!
Husband and Wife! On a boat!

Although it was a bit sad to leave paradise, the hubs and I are very excited to start our "normal" life together at home! We still had some celebrating to do, as our birthdays were this past week (him on the 9th, me on the 10th). No gifts, just dinner with friends, and it was totally great!

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