Monday, December 26, 2016

Letter of the Week

Obviously, I have been absent from blogging for the past few months. I was definitely focused on transitioning to Kindergarten life! Between setting up classroom procedures, organizing math and literacy centers, planning with my #kindersquad for the Halloween parade, Thanksgiving international feast and Winter concert, and of course, bonding with all of my Kinder Kiddos, I haven't had a whole ton of time for blogging.

Now, I have a glorious two-week vacation and finally have a chance to sit down and BLOG, yo!

What I've really enjoyed in Kindergarten this year is Letter of the Week. I love going on Pinterest to find fun read-alouds and projects to do with my class each week. Check out my Letter of the Week board to see some project and book ideas!

Here is the short-list of my favorite Letter of the Week books and crafts that I've done in my classroom this year:

M is for Mobiles of the Moon

Who doesn't have a zillion wire hangers lying around? I put mine (and some parents') to good use by creating moon mobiles with the kids. I made crescent moon and star templates on yellow paper. The Kinders practiced their cutting skills by using the templates to cut out the shapes. I then punched holes in each shape and the kids helped me thread string through each shape. I simply tied each piece of string to the hangers and viola! Beautiful moon mobiles!

P is for Panda Bear

All kids love Eric Carle's Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? The repetitive phrasing allows students to join in and say the names of the animals as you read. The kids loved making cute panda bear faces to go along with the book. We used mini paper plates, and again I allowed the children to practice cutting skills by using templates so they could cut out the ears and eyes. By the way, since moving down to Kindergarten I will tell you now: GLUE SPONGES ARE AH-MAH-ZING. No more messy glue clean-up or dried out glue sticks to deal with. The Kinders love using them for all their projects. It is what the used to glue the ears and eyes onto their little pandas!

R is for Roads

The children in my class love playing with matchbox cars, so it only made sense that we make road maps! They had so much fun playing with their cars on their roads before we hung them up in the classroom. One of my favorite books to read in connection with the letter R and the theme of roads is One Hole in the Road . It is a fun counting book with very cool illustrations.

U is for Umbrella

I knew when we got to the letter U, I would of course read Umbrella by Taro Yashima. It is a great story about patience and responsibility. We don't get a whole lot of rain in Southern California, but this past week we actually had two straight days of rain! WHAT THE WHAT?! Anyway, the kids used watercolor to paint a template of the top of an umbrella and a lower-case u that would eventually become the handle of their umbrellas. Once the watercolor paint dried, the kids cut out the shapes and glued them on to blue backgrounds. I love all the color combinations and mixtures that the Kinders used with the paint!

V is for Volcano

I was not about to have a room full of Kindergarteners and an exploding baking-soda volcano. I know my group now, and that would be a mess! So instead, we read a fun book called Volcano! and used extra scraps of red, yellow and orange construction paper to create a collage of an exploding volcano. It was great to see a lot of the Kinders add details like lava rocks and magma that they learned about from the book into their collages!

B is for Blueberries

As a kid, I always enjoyed hearing the story Blueberries for Sal. It was so fun reading it to my class and hearing them laugh when the baby bear and Sal "switch places" and follow the wrong Mamas! The children created blueberry baskets by gluing a template of a fruit basket onto white paper. They then used blue finger-paint to create fingerprint blueberries coming out of the basket. Good enough to eat!

Well, those are some of my faves so far. I will probably do another Letter of the Week post later in the year with some of my new projects! What are your best letter of the week ideas? I'd love to hear form you!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back to Kindergarten

Hello friends! I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing summer. I know I did! I turned the big 3-0 (eek!). To celebrate, my friends and I went to a super fun brunch in Costa Mesa at Plums CafĂ©. I highly recommend the coconut French toast, and some bellinis, of course!

I spent three weeks back east with my family, where I babysat for my little nephew in DC and got to spend two weeks at my ultimate happy place, the Outer Banks!

My husband finally got to meet his little nephew!

This summer was all the sweeter because I went into my vacation knowing that I had an amazing new opportunity coming my way in the fall! After a year in a quasi-limbo state of teaching (part-time homeschool extension program, part-time Kindergarten), I finally secured a full-time teaching job at a fantastic progressive school after interviewing for a position this past spring.

I am continuing on in Kindergarten (something I never thought I would be doing). So far, I have loved getting to know my new "K-Squad" of teachers, along with the other teachers and admin at the school.

My new classroom is kind of a funny shape  (almost hexagonal), so it was definitely a challenge setting it up. I also had a lot of things that needed to be purged/given away from the classroom's previous teacher. And of course, I had to find places to put all of my fantastic #dollarspot finds :) I think I did a pretty good job!

How much do you love the stained glass window on the door?

I bought some cute banners, like the felt "Welcome" one that I hung over the door, along with some polka dot felt letters that I used to decorate the pencil and notebook paper banners with "Hola" and "Write". My school is bilingual, so I get to use my Spanish regularly! I collected some plastic containers to use as book bins. I downloaded these Spanish book bin labels to help organize books by topic.

Speaking of books, I absolutely LOVE my reading corner. I had recently bought new bedding for our bedroom at home, so I took the throw pillows from our old bedding set and brought them into my classroom to make reading time extra cozy!

I also repurposed this pedestal sink storage unit as a cart (of sorts) to hold all of our pencils, markers, and crayons. I tried to put similar color families in each container for the markers and colored pencils...we'll see how long that lasts :-P

I'm looking forward to sharing more about some of the fun things I have planned for the first month of school with all of you! Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer Hair Care

When it comes to my hair, I tend to keep it pretty simple. I rarely blow-dry or style my hair any specific way. Usually it is in a messy bun, or if it is a date-night or special event, I typically wear it down.

The one indulgence I do treat myself to in terms of my hair is getting highlights every four-six months. I was a blonde child, but that blonde got darker as I got older. By college, I was basically a brunette, but I always thought of myself as a blonde, so I went for the highlights and never looked back. Fortunately, I found a great hair stylist when I was 15 and she does an amazing job with highlights. As a bonus, her highlights are very natural looking and do not look strange as they grow out, so I can usually wait the few months until I am back home visiting my parents to get my hair cut and highlighted because I honestly don't trust anyone else with my hair!!!!

I usually only wash my hair every other day (or so), but in the summer I wash it more frequently. I am at the pool or beach most days, which leads to exposure to hair-damaging chlorine and lots of sand hiding in my hair! Before I dunk my head underwater (especially in the pool), I make sure to wet my hair with (clean) water. This prevents the chlorine from immediately soaking into your hair, and sort of acts like a barrier between your hair and the chemicals. Post-swim, there are a few products that I have used for years that keep my hair healthy throughout the summer:

1. Pantene Damage Detox Daily Revitalizing Shampoo and Conditioner

Remember when you were a kid and you would wash your hair with UltraSwim after a day of swimming at camp? I remember hating the smell! Anyway, this Pantene shampoo and conditioner smells WAY better and still removes many of the impurities like copper that are found in chlorine, while still preventing your hair from drying out. It is also gentle on color-treated hair.

2. Fekkai After-Sun Daily Mask and Conair Wide Tooth Comb

A few summers ago I discovered Fekkai's after-sun daily mask, and it has changed my life! I use it in the shower after rinsing out my shampoo and conditioner. It is great after a day in the sun, when your scalp and hair is hot, hot, hot! The oceanic cooling complex in the mask is like an immediate sigh of relief for your head. It feels amazing! I use a wide-tooth comb for wet to spread it evenly through my strands, which allows it to rinse out easily.

3. Juice Organics Color Protect Leave-In Spray and Wet Brush Paddle Hair Brush

After towel-drying my hair, I use this leave-in conditioning spray that provides UV protection for the next day's sun-ventures and keeps my color fresh! I brush it through with a Wet Brush, which is gentle on hair and gets all the tangles out! 

I've been using this fantastic-smelling texturizing spray for many years. I have always had naturally straight hair, and have found myself jealous of those gals who have beach-perfect waves. I tried lots of different products to try and achieve those tousled waves, but this one is by far the best one! It is light on my strands--there is no heavy build up that keeps my hair from feeling touchable. It is super-easy for a cute summer hairstyle-- just spray and scrunch and you're good to go!

How do you handle summer hair? Any other styling or maintenance tips?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Scholastic Warehouse Sale

Happy summer everyone!

With the end of the school year being, of course, a very hectic time, I am so relieved to have some well-deserved time off. And to get back to updating everyone on what I've been up to!

Last month, I met up with some fellow SoCal teachers at a special meet-up (organized by Courtney of Ramona Recommends), which was really an excuse to go crazy at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale! I did not know what to expect, as I have never been to a Scholastic Warehouse Sale, but I fell in love the second I stepped through the doors!

The first room had a special deal where you could fill up a box with as many books as you could fit for $24.99.  I loaded it up with some books for the classroom, as well as some books to give nieces and nephews as gifts.

After filling up my book box, I ventured into the actual warehouse. Holy moly! SO. MANY. BOOKS. At the time of the sale, I wasn't sure what grade level I would be teaching this coming fall (more on that in a future post--stay tuned for some very exciting news!!!). I didn't want to stock up on too many grade-specific texts, so I opted for mostly picture books that would pair well as mentor texts for most grade levels.

Outside Your Window by Nicola Davies
Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward
A Beetle is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston (Seed is Sleepy connection)
Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Life by Lola M. Schaefer
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems
Presidential Pets by Julia Moberg

Squirrel's New Year's Resolution by Pat Miller
Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy

Happy by Pharrell Williams
The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne
Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I also picked up some fun books that just spoke to me. As a kid, I loved Steven Kellogg books. One of my favorites growing up was Best Friends. I didn't find that particular title at the Scholastic sale, but I did find Snowflakes Fall, which Steven Kellogg illustrated. I feel a little sad for these Cali kids who don't experience the excitement right before and during a snowstorm, so I definitely want to share this text with them--perhaps when teaching and modeling text-to-self connections or small moment writing.

Another book that cracked me up was Wolfie the Bunny. Maybe I'm biased because of my dog Wolfie, but it is such a sweet story. Anyone who has experience with new babies (or pet training!) can relate to the book.

I got a bit sentimental when I saw the book Let There Be Peace On Earth. Before I moved to California, all the teachers at the school where I taught in PA would sing this at the end of the winter concert. The song sends a beautiful message that everyone can do something to help make the world a better, safer, happier place. Due to the tragic events that have occurred recently, the feeling of wanting to create peace couldn't ring more true to me right now.

Once everyone had checked out (I totally went over my budget but I don't even care! I swear I need all these books!), the other teachers and I grabbed lunch and chatted about the school year, plans for next year, etc. It was so lovely to connect with fellow educators and learn more about selling on TpT and teaching in California.

Courtney had a fun grab-bag for us, and I won a great gift bag that had some TpT freebies from Laugh Eat LearnHello Literacy and Teaching With A Mountain View. The gift bag also had some super cute Fly-Guy inflatables, Diary of a Wimpy Kid pencils, and a copy of the book Grab Your Crown.

To end the lunch, Courtney had these adorable cookies made. Almost too cute to eat!

I had such a wonderful time bonding with fellow teachers over amazing books. I can't wait to introduce my students to all the great texts I picked up at the sale!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wolfie is One!

Our little boy had his first birthday on May 20th! We are unsure of how accurate his birth date is, considering he was found as a very small puppy wandering aimlessly around a swap-meet :(  All we know is, we are so lucky he was scooped up by a good samaritan and brought to safety to the rescue organization that we adopted him from!

We had a fun birthday weekend with Wolfie wandering around San Clemente. It is such a beautiful beach town with many great restaurants and cool shops (including Three Dog Bakery, where Wolfie got his very own birthday cookie!).  Wolfie especially enjoyed walking on the pier and checking out the water!

Wolfie is definitely one spoiled pup, but we couldn't let his birthday pass without a new toy! We let him pick out anything he wanted from the store! He chose this squeaky newspaper toy, which makes sense considering my husband is a news junkie. Since Wolfie got it this past weekend, he has barely left the newspaper out of his sight. He is going to be so well read!

We feel incredibly fortunate to have found such a fun, sweet little pup. Here's to many more full-filled birthdays, Wolfgang!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Summer Wish List

Who's excited about summer vacation? I know I am SO ready for (almost) zero responsibilities until late August! I will most likely do some tutoring or babysitting here and there, but my ultimate goal is to spend as much time relaxing as possible!

Lately, with the end of the school year fast approaching, I have been constantly daydreaming about summer days hanging out at the pool or beach. That is much easier to accomplish this summer since moving to California! I have a pool at my apartment complex and I am only a 12 minute drive to the nearest beach!

Here are some things I am really looking forward to/want to do this summer:

1. A beach day followed by the most delicious gelato from Gelato Paradiso.

2. Lounging around in the pool on this Rocket Pop float!

3. Drying off (or bundling up on cooler beach nights) in this floaty towel.

4. Helping out my sister by nannying for a week when she goes back to work after maternity leave. I can't wait to spend more time with my new nephew!

5. Our annual OBX family trip. My parents finally bought a beach house down there after almost 30 summers of renting. I can't wait to see it!

L to R: Me, my mom and my sister at OBX circa 1993. 

6. I bought this cute suit over this past weekend and can't wait to wear it! Since I have a little more junk in the trunk, I'm a big fan of boy-shorts. Also, the color totally reminds me of a creamsicle! Yummmmm.

What are your summer dreams or plans?

Monday, May 9, 2016


I feel like while I was growing up, so many of my peers went through a phase where they were "vegetarian". I remember my sister decided she was a vegetarian when she was in middle school. I mostly think it was so she didn't have to eat some of the dinners my mom prepared so she could eat bagels and peanut-butter instead (but only she knows the truth*). It lasted a few months, but then it was chicken tenders day at our sleep-away camp, and her vegetarian streak was over. (Camp food is notoriously terrible, and the chicken tenders were definitely the only semi-decent meal that our camp served.) I had a friend in 5th grade who decided she was a vegetarian after we saw a fully cooked rabbit at an Italian restaurant. I did feel bad for the rabbit, but not enough that I wanted to end my relationship with eating meat.

For some reason, I never had the urge to make the leap into vegetarianism. I enjoy a good burger. Nothing beats a nice meat and cheese plate. And don't get me started on good BBQ--mmmmm. I never judged my friends or family for deciding not to eat meat--although I definitely know a few people who get reaalllllly annoyed by vegans/vegetarians. I always hear stories about dinner parties gone horribly because a guest was vegan or vegetarian and requested a different meal, yada yada. Rule of thumb--if you're inviting people over for a meal, just ask them what they can't or won't eat, and plan the menu accordingly. NBD.

Recently, however, I have begun to crave meat less. I don't know why or how it happened, but I just haven't felt like eating it. Maybe it's this hippie, California lifestyle that I've adjusted to! Still, there are times when we are out (for example, a great BBQ restaurant or a top-notch burger place) when I will order meat. Family events/holidays can be difficult, so I eat meat there too.

A lot people become vegans or vegetarians for conscious reasons--mainly animal rights. Don't get me wrong, I love animals. But I don't feel that bad when I occasionally have meat. When I do prepare meat dishes, I try to follow the USDA guidelines to make sure that the meat is organic, free-range and hormone-free. Still, I think my main motivation for eating less meat is because I generally just feel better when I don't eat it as much. I have more energy and don't feel as bloated as I did when I was eating more meat.

I was trying to figure out what to call myself. Because I'm not a vegetarian. I used to refer to myself as a "nocturnal carnivore". Since college, I have rarely eaten meat in the day-time. Fortunately, my husband is a quasi-adventurous eater, so I often prepare dishes with tofu or beans as the main protein at home. A couple of times a week, I will make fish or chicken for dinner at home. My husband and I typically eat dinner at home 5-6 days out of the week (hooray for saving $$$). I have made a decision that the majority of the dinners I make will be meatless. I try to have 3 days a week (at least) that are meatless.

Finally, I figured out what I am called. I am a "flexitarian"-- aka a flexible vegetarian. I am eating mostly plant-based foods, but will enjoy meat and fish occasionally. There's even a book about it!

Who knows how long this will last--it may be fleeting like my sister's middle school vegetarianism. But I do feel like this is a lifestyle I could get on board with. It isn't restrictive, and I feel healthier. Here are a few of my favorite meatless recipes that we have been enjoying at home:

1. Black Bean Burgers . I usually make a big salad and roasted potatoes on the side.

2. Tofu Tikka Masala is super easy! Saute tofu dusted with a little flour in an oiled pan for a few minutes until browned. Add store-bought tikka masala sauce, a can of drained chickpeas, and frozen chopped spinach or frozen peas. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Enjoy with basmati rice!

3. Potato gnocchi. I add some jarred sun-dried tomatoes (the oil in the jar adds more flavor), and saute some mushrooms and spinach to add in as well. I like great northern beans (white beans) in mine, but my husband doesn't like them so I usually just put them on the side for myself.

4. Tofu orange chicken is a favorite of my husband. Saute tofu dusted with corn starch for a few minutes until browned. Meanwhile, mix together 2/3 cup orange marmalade, 2/3 cup barbecue sauce, 4 TBSP soy sauce, and 2 TBSP ginger. Add mixture to browned tofu and stir. Add a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies and let simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with brown rice!

I hope you get a chance to try some of these recipes. They are really really yummy!

* Disclaimer: After speaking with my sister, she claims that she became a vegetarian because she felt bad for a little lamb she saw on a trip to a farm.

Friday, April 1, 2016

An Office Space in a Tiny Place

Living in a one bedroom apartment, I often find myself wishing for more space. Sometimes I am wanting an extra bathroom, other times I am salivating over having an eat-in kitchen. Recently, I have been obsessing over how I would design an office space of my own, which you may have seen on my Pinterest board.

via Glitter Inc.

via The Everygirl

via The Trendy Sparrow
Typically, when I am working/blogging at home, I can be found typing on my laptop at the dining table. Of course, this gets tricky when it is time to set the table for dinner and I have to move all of my folders, files and books out of the way! Below is definitely the pared down version of what our table usually looks like, but I'm sure you get the drift!

Since I didn't go anywhere during my spring break, I decided to take the time off to organize a mini "office" in a small section of our living room. Obviously, because I am a teacher on a budget, my first impulse was to see if I could repurpose any furniture I had into a make-shift desk (and avoid the horror of trying to put together anything from IKEA). It turns out, these TV trays I had bought several years ago, when we lived in NYC and didn't even have enough space for a table to eat at, fit the bill perfectly! Wow--I should really count my blessings! Here I am complaining about only having space for a large dining table when just a few years ago I didn't even have space for a table and we had to eat off of TV trays! Sheesh!

My next stop, duh, was Target. #Targetteachers, amirite? If you couldn't tell from my inspo pics, I was really drawn to colorful tassel banners! Hooray, Target for having them in stock :)

Pretty Party Tassel Garland by Threshold 

Once I had my color scheme (thanks to the tassels, I went with orange/red/yellow/pink), I decided to look for something to cover up the ugly TV tray. I found some cute sherbet striped placemats in the Kitchen section that matched the tassels perfectamento!

Add a few cups to hold pencils, pens and paper clips, along with some cute file folders and a cozy blanket on the back of my chair for cooler days/nights, and there we have it! An adorable little office space all my own! I am thoroughly enjoying blogging while surrounded by bright colors and looking out the window at the beautiful trees!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Took the TpT Plunge!

I'm still in the shallow end...

OK, I'm basically just standing on the VERY FIRST step into the pool. My ankles are barely covered. Hey, at least I'm in the water!

I've been using TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers) for years now. I think I discovered it through Pinterest, and let's just say, I never looked back! It saves so much time!

I typically stick to freebies, but once and a while I will pay for an item (but usually not anything over $3). I am always in awe of all of these teachers who dedicate their own time outside of the classroom to create these adorable and practical activities!

I've recently done a quasi-reboot of my blog. I finally set up a Twitter and Instagram account for City Teacher/Country Teacher. It has been amazing connecting with other educators! One of my favorite things is watching live Periscopes where I can ask veteran TpTers questions about how they create and market their products. I am learning a lot, and I hope to apply some of those tips soon as I begin adding things to my new TpT store!  Right now I am keeping it simple and playing around a little bit with pretty standard activities I had made in years past. It might take me a while to add to my store as I figure out what programs work best to create those fancy, clip-art cute products!

I have been blogging for almost three years now, and it has definitely been a learning process. Obviously, I did not (and do not) expect that I will become a sensation overnight just because I added more social media options! Although it would be nice to one day have....

Any TpTers (new and old), I'd love your advice and encouragement! I am so happy to have recently discovered a new community of fellow teachers who just want the best for their students!
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