Self-Care For Teachers When There Is No Time

Self-Care For Teachers When There Is No Time

Self-Care For Teachers

2020 is the year the world turned upside down. Probably more-so for teachers than any other profession. In a matter of weeks, teachers were asked to work from home with an unfamiliar set of tools with which to perform a job that differed significantly from the one they trained for.

Even during the best of times teaching is a high stress profession.

Under today’s unprecedented conditions, its no wonder not only teachers but society in general is experiencing anxiety.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic self-care had already become a media buzz word and despite the hype, research supported real physical and emotional benefits.

Information on the advantages of self care, and tons of recommendations, routines, and how-to’s are widely available.

Then why aren’t more teachers following this advice?

Mini Self-Care Quiz

Question: Do you have a self-care routine?

 

  1. Yes of course, doesn’t everybody?
  2. Umm kinda
  3. Aint nobody got time for that
If you chose B or C, you are not alone! Limited time is the number one reason cited for not employing a self care routine.

 

 

In addition to lack of time, many people equate self care with selfishness and self indulgence.

But like the proverbial oxygen masks on planes, you cant help others without first helping yourself.

In order to be that balanced, consistent loving person in the lives of others, you have to first take care of yourself.

Easier said than done, right? Wrong! Self care doesn’t have to be time consuming or guilt inducing to produce huge results.

I am about to show you a few easy ways to incorporate self care into your hectic daily life!

Start Here: Self-Care Mini’s

Forget the complicated checklists and routine builders (at least for now) associated with self-care practices. Instead take out a piece of paper or open a new document. Yes, I mean right now! If you wait until later, it won’t happen. (You can also print out the worksheets in the Free Starter Kit below)  

Set a timer for 5 minutes and begin making a list of as many things you can think of that make you happy and bring you joy or pleasure.

When the timer rings, you are done for now, or you can continue.

 

 

On another piece of paper make three columns and label them 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes.

Put items from your list in each column with the time they take to do. Some items like reading, can go in all three columns.

Each day try to fit in a total of an hour of activities spread throughout the day. It’s the same concept as exercise, an hour of sustained activity may be ideal, but an hour broken up throughout the day is better than none – and you may find you can fit in even more!

Even if you only have time for one ten-minute block at the start, that is okay. Don’t stress about it, do what you can, but make it a priority to do at least one!

Combine  Activities

Download some podcasts. There are thousands of them on every subject imaginable.

Pick some in your field, your hobby, humor, stories, or something brand new. Then listen while walking the dog, commuting, or cleaning the bathroom.

Share Activities

Self-care and “me time” are not the same. Self-care can be shared with your children, partner, or friend. Now is a wonderful time to introduce kids to self-care.

Celebrate a made up holiday, plant a garden, or have movie night complete with buttery popcorn!

 

Adult coloring has become popular as a self-care activity. It is fun and relaxing and an excellent activity to share with kids of any age (your own or students!).
I have created a FREE SELF-CARE STARTER KIT for you, which includes your self-care planning worksheets, beautiful mandala coloring cards with and without positive sayings and 4 mandala posters.
To get this awesome kit fill out the form below. You will receive an email which will give you instant access to my growing resource library of freebies!

3 Insanely Easy Dinners Teachers Need to Try Now!

3 Insanely Easy Dinners Teachers Need to Try Now!

Try These 3 Insanely Easy Dinners Tonight!

Teachers work hard, especially at the beginning of the school year and especially now.

Those first few weeks back are always chaotic and currently there is the added stress and uncertainty brought about by the Corona Virus.

No matter if you are teaching in person or remotely, at the end of a long day, someone is bound to ask “What’s for dinner?”

What’s for dinner?

Props to the more organized among us with meals planned, but you still have to cook and clean up. Those of us with less forethought will open and close the fridge a few times before deciding on grilled cheese and tomato soup.

No judgement – I have been in both those kitchens at one time or another.

Where is Nana when you need her?

 

Hello!

Have we met?

I’m Nana!

Although I can’t come to your house and cook, and I don’t live in Florida, I can Help.

But first, I have two important things to tell you.

 

Two Important Things

 

  1. These are NOT recipes, they are more like magic formulas. They are very flexible and there is little to no measuring and little to no clean up.
  1. You need a slow cooker. Yes, I have heard of Instant Pots, I even have one and love it, but not for these dinners. You must use a tried and true old fashioned slow cooker, also known as a crock pot.

Nana’s Almost Famous Chicken

Ingredients

4 – 8 chicken breasts (depending on the size of your family and the size of your crockpot.

1 – 2 Packages of Good Seasonings Italian Dressing Mix , Zesty Italian Dressing Mix or Garlic and Herb Dressing Mix

Paprika

1. Make small loose balls from aluminum foil approximately 1”. Layer on bottom of slow cooker.
2. Coat both sides of chicken breasts with dry salad dressing mix and paprika.
3. Lay on top of aluminum foil balls. You can put a few pieces on top of the others but don’t pack tight.
4. Turn on slow cooker and let cook 6-8 hours.
5. Carefully remove cooked chicken from slow cooker. It usually begins to fall apart.
6. Remove chicken from bones.

Best Barbeque Chicken

Ingredients

4 – 8  skinless boneless chicken breasts (depending on the size of your family and the size of your crockpot.

1 – 2 Bottles of good barbeque sauce like Sweet Baby Ray’s or Jack Daniels.

¼ – ½ cup brown sugar

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

 

1. Mix together barbecue sauce, brown sugar and vinegar.
2. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker
3. Pour sauce mixture over chicken breasts
4. Cook 5-8 hours
5. Shred chicken breasts. The sauce may look watery but the shredded chicken will absorb it.
Serve over rice or on buns.

Beefy Stewish

Ingredients

2 – 4 lbs. beef stew cubes

Garlic powder

Ketchup

Bag of baby carrots

Bag of tiny potatos (or cut large potatoes into quarters.

  1. Sprinkle meat with garlic powder. Pour ketchup over meat until covered. (This can be done the night before)
  2. Put meat and vegetables in a bowl. Add a little more ketchup and mix.
  3. Put in slow cooker and cook 6-8 hours.

Optional –

Add a jar of Au juis, brown or beef gravy during the last half hour.

If you try these non-recipes, or have some of your own, let me know in the comments below. 

First Day of School Photos – What Will Yours Look Like

First Day of School 2020

What Will Your Photos Look Like?

First day of school photos are legendary. There are 100’s of ideas online to inspire teachers and parents to create adorable photo shoots. From quick and easy printable signs to elaborate photo booths, Pinterest usually has you covered.

 BACK TO SCHOOL 2020

 

But this year school openings are different, so what will first day of school photos look like?

 

Pondering this question, brought back memories of my own kids first days of school many years ago.

 

                                                                                                  BACK TO SCHOOL 1992

I grabbed a scrapbook (don’t laugh it was the 90’s! ) from the shelf, and flipped to my son’s kindergarten photos, his toothless grin staring back at me from the over-decorated pages.

I vividly recalled taking those first day of school pictures in front of our fireplace, on our front steps and boarding the bus so (by request), I was sure to get a picture of his new backpack!

As a teacher-mom, there was little time for(my) tears as I raced to drop my 2 year old at the babysitters and get to work. It was the first day of school for me too. 

At the end of the day, we all returned home tired and sweaty and I just couldn’t face cooking.

 

So the Chinese Restaurant it was!

We enjoyed a leisurely and delicious dinner with no prep and no cleanup! We talked  day and fortune cookies ended the meal. One last photo of the whole stuffed and happy family in front of the restaurant and it was home to bed for the kids,

 

 FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL 1992

That is how “First Day of School fireplace, porch and backpack photos followed by Chinese Restaurant dinner” became a tradition in our family  and continued for both my children for the next 15 years.

 

                                                                                           FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL 2020

This year, my granddaughter enters kindergarten. My  daughter looked forward to continuing our photo traditions with her daughter.

But, my granddaughter  will be starting school remotely. There will be no new backpack on the bus photo and no Chinese restaurant dinner for her this year.

 

School will be different in 2020 and so will our first day of school traditions and photos! My girls are excited to add some new variations to Back to School. Perhaps you will try them too!

TRY THIS!

THE BACKPACK FAIRY

Have you heard of the backpack fairy? I hadn’t  until recently. She is a magical being, a distant cousin to the tooth fairy, who comes on School Year’s Eve and leaves special crayons or markers, a treat and maybe a new book in your child’s new backpack! I will  she will definitely visit my granddaughter!

Add a bit of glitter and you will have the makings of great memories and photos!

TRY THIS!

 

DINNER

Although they can’t go to the Chinese Restaurant, deliver works!

TRY THIS!

MEMORY BOOKS

 

After dinner they will begin another new tradition – completing the first pages in my “A Year of Memories and Monthly All About Me Pages”.

 

This is an ongoing project with monthly pages for recording how she writes her name, how she goes to school, a favorite book, something she is proud of and something she learned.

 

 

 

There are also over 40 pages for holidays and special days. The pages are designed so students can attach photos, write and or draw picture.

 

The pages are easy to complete and can be used for in person or distance learning by parents or teachers.

 

By the last day of school, they will have a treasured keepsake.

 

If you would like to try this new approach to Memory Books you can get a copy from my TpT  Store by clicking the picture below.


You can also try a free sample if you would like! Click below.

So what will your First Day of School Photos look like?  Will your children be sporting a brand new mask along with their new backpack? Or will all or part of their learning be from home? Whatever it is, remember we are making history and making memories so be sure to snap some photos to document Back to School 2020.

I would love to hear about your experience, so leave a comment below!

 

How To Set Up Your Clip Chart System for Amazing Success!

How To Set Up Your Clip Chart System For Amazing Success

So glad to see you here for the  2nd installment of the clip chart system challenge. If you haven’t signed up, it is not too late. Just click here or scroll to the bottom and be sure to read Part One here.

As we talked about last time, used alone clip charts don’t remain effective for very long, but as part of a system they have the potential to be a powerful behavior management tool.

We are going to get to the nitty-gritty of setting up your system for success and dispel some myths and misconceptions as we go.

Ready? Oh wait!

Apple Clip Chart

Do you have your clip chart printed and laminated? If not, you can get this one free when you sign up for the challenge.

You can use any clip chart if it is editable or has the recommended wording.

See A Word About Wording below.  

Also, although the colors don’t matter to the system itself, they should be purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red to synchronize with the free printables.

 

 

 

A Word About Wording

(Misconception – Clip charts are degrading)

Clip charts themselves aren’t degrading but sometimes the wording used on them can be. 

Avoid clip charts that have cutesy phrases such as “flight cancelled”, “head in the clouds” or “lost in the jungle”. I have seen all of these! Not only might some children (and parents) find it degrading, but the reverse also can be true! Some of your challenging kids may find “walk the plank” funny and motivating. It’s best to use descriptive words you would feel comfortable writing on a student’s work or report card. Imagine writing “shark bait” on a student’s paper?

Okay so now we are ready to hang up that colorful, appropriately worded clip chart, right?

Almost 

Another issue that has come up, is the publicly displayed element of a hanging clip chart with students’ names on it.

We will talk a lot more about reward and punishment later, but keep in mind that this system is intended to be predominately positive and motivating.

It is a tool for teaching and reinforcing appropriate behavior, with the last two levels reserved for truly unacceptable conduct, not minor infractions.

If children engage in behaviors that are intolerable they must learn there are consequences for those behaviors.

If part of the outcome is embarrassment, hopefully they have learned a valuable lesson about socially unacceptable behavior and consequences.

The point is not humiliation, rather learning about cause and effect of behavior and accepting responsibility for their actions.

Relationship building involves trust and respect so it is important for all students to see that you, the adult, will not allow aggression, offensive language or bullying.

Step 1 – The Rules

(Misconception – Kids Don’t Care About the Clip Charts)

Of course, they don’t! Not at first anyway.

A clip chart is just 6 pieces of paper hanging on the wall! Your job is to provide kids with reasons to care about it!

Become a car salesman. Emphasize all the positive benefits the clip chart can produce, both individually and as a class.

Now turn into a cheerleader and really sell it! Sell it from the heart and before you know it, you will hear your students talking about the awesome clip chart their teacher uses.

Step 2 – The Rules

The rules are the second piece of a positive behavior management plan.

Almost every teacher I have ever known, starts the school year with some version of rules.

The rules are a crucial part of any classroom and while there may be similarities they can differ from teacher to teacher and from year to year.

As you create your rules, think carefully about what is important for you to be able to teach effectively.

Classroom rules define what is and what isn’t allowed. Effective rules use short, clear, positive statements. (i.e. instead of no calling out, say raise your hand) and don’t go overboard with the number of rules you have.

Be sure to include some positive version of “use appropriate language” and “keep hands to self”.  Classroom rules reflect the climate of the classroom you wish to create.

So far, I may not have told you anything new about rules.

While all of these things are important for rule development there is one significant difference for incorporating them into a positive behavior management system.

The way the rules will be introduced to your class varies a great deal from the traditional way and may take a bit of a mind shift for you.

The rules should be viewed more like goals instead of a list of things that are prohibited with consequences for infractions.

By viewing rules as goals, they become a set of skills to be learned and maintained throughout the year and will help create an encouraging and affirmative classroom structure instead of one of fear.

Students and parents will be pleased to know you are a teacher who manages his/her classroom with a positive system, not a teacher who looks for opportunities to catch students disobeying.

Time spent now discussing the rules with your class, will be time well spent. Give rationales for why specific rules (goals) are important and present lots of examples.  Revisit and reinforce when necessary. You might even want to link them with your character education traits.

Now hang up your clip chart and rules, give yourself a pat on the back!

 

Before You Throw Those Clip Charts Away…

Before You Throw That Clip Chart Away...

Read This!

Clip Charts. Those rainbow-colored charts with clothespins bearing students names or numbers clipped to the sides. If you are a teacher you have seen them, probably used them, and have an opinion on them one way or another.

Lately the clip chart has gotten some really bad press. I have read articles urging teachers to outlaw them, burn them, throw them away. Beside that, they have been called demeaning, ineffective and evil.

So, what is wrong with clip charts? Nothing. What IS wrong, can be the way they are implemented.  Many well-meaning teachers have inadvertently been using them incorrectly.

Have you ever had a Pinterest Fail?  You see a beautiful picture and it has thousands of likes, and although you carefully followed instructions it came out looking ugly and tasting terrible?

What mostly likely happens is someone posts a delicious recipe, someone else tweaks it a little and re-posts it. Tweaks and re-posts continue.

Before long the recipe no longer resembles the original. The same thing has happened with clip charts.

People have put their own spin on clip charts until they no longer look or function as intended. I have heard many classroom stories about clip chart implementation that could potentially have damaging results.

Yet, when used the way they were originally intended they can be a fun, effective and stress-free tool for classroom behavior management.

The original form of the clip chart was a positive system designed for teaching and reinforcing appropriate behavior.

One of my pet peeves is when certain colors are assigned labels of “good” and “bad”. Colors are just colors.

They are not inherently good or bad and this vocabulary should not be used or allowed by teachers and parents.

In theory, a clip chart could be on plain white paper, although it would be a lot less engaging and fun!

 

As a result of all the tweaks and changes I  often hear clip charts “don’t work”.                  

Used alone, I mostly agree.  At least they probably won’t work for long!

But as part of an easily implemented, behavior management system you would be amazed at the outcome!

I have taught this method to many, many teachers with terrific results.

On October 11, 2016, Juliette said:  I am SO excited to use these. My class saw the chart and was already chattering about how they would get to purple before I even explained the concept. Thanks!!

On January 20, 2016, Ashley D. said: LOVE it. The charts are life savers.

On August 17, 2016, Carmen J. said: I love that kids can move up, instead of only down!!!

 

 

 

What Do April Fools’ Day and Autism Awareness Month Have in Common?

What Do April Fools' Day and Autism Awareness Month Have in Common?

What do April Fools’ Day and Autism Awareness Month have in common?

If you guessed they are both in March you would be right.

April Fool!

Was that lame?

I don’t like April Fools’ Day!

On April 1, when I was in fourth grade, Mr. Martin asked my class “who knows what spontaneous combustion is?” 30 clueless ten year olds turned towards the projector hoping for a movie.

I’m pretty sure Mary Ellen McNutly knew the answer, but for once she was silent. Glancing in her direction I saw she had the newest Nancy Drew mystery in her lap.  Mr. Martin pulled out a pack of matches, carefully extracted one match and fell to the floor.

That got our attention and we burst into laughter. As Mr. Martin writhed on the floor we laughed and hooted, waiting for him to sit up and shout “THAT students, is spontaneous combustion!”

But he didn’t.

As the laughter subsided we realized something was wrong.  Mary Ellen ran to get the nurse.  Poor Mr. Martin had a seizure while trying to teach his fourth grade class about spontaneous combustion – on April Fool’s Day.

Mr. Martin was okay and returned to school the next week and we finally learned what spontaneous combustion was, but I have often wondered if Mr. Martin’s collapse predisposed me to not like April Fools’ Day.

April FoolI usually have a good sense of humor, but I don’t understand what is funny about toast in the shower or fake pregnancy announcements on Facebook.

I don’t Laugh Out Loud when my Oreos are filled with toothpaste and exploding   anything is not amusing.

Years after Mr. Martin’s collapse, I discovered many of my students with autism didn’t like April Fools’ Day either.  Kids with autism tend to be very literal and jokes and pranks require a level of language sophistication that is not natural for them.

AutismSo, it boggles my mind why Autism Awareness Month is in April. The origin of April Fools’ Day is unclear. We do know it has been around for centuries and is observed in many countries.

Autism Awareness Month on the other hand, was established in 1984. It would seem with 11 other months to choose from the founders might have chosen a month that didn’t begin with April Fools’ Day.

April Fool and AutismRegardless of in which month Autism Awareness is observed, April Fools’ Day can be confusing and upsetting to many children on the spectrum.

Here are some easy to implement tips and ideas to make April Fools’ Day more fun and                                                      less stressful for our autism students.

SAFETY

First and foremost is physical and emotional safety. Be sure all students, not just those with autism, understand if it hurts someone, it is not funny or a joke. Even if it is followed by “April Fool” it is not okay to be mean. “Your dog is dead – April Fool” is not humorous”.

UNDERSTANDING

The more kids with autism know about what is going to occur, the more they can cope and react appropriately.

  • Place a visual reminder a few days before on your calendar. During Circle Time or Morning Meeting refer to it with excitement and practice a joke or two.
  • Read an April Fools’ Day story. April Foolishness by Teresa Bateman is a cute story about two children trying to play an April Fool trick on grandpa. Grandpa isn’t falling for it, but Grandma has the last laugh when she tricks grandpa.
  • If you are planning a party, be very careful with “joke food” such as pound cake fries (I have seen some very realistic looking ones) or carrots wrapped in Toostie Roll paper. Many children with Autism have food issues and can be confused and upset by these.
PRACTICE – PRACTICE – PRACTICE

Kids with autism tend to be rule followers. Once they learn a rule they expect everyone to follow it, all the time. Things are black and white, with no room for exception. When something will be different, it is important for us to prepare them as much as possible. I had a “Something is Different” sign I used in my classroom and on daily visual schedules.

  • Play “I Know or April Fool”. Make a statement to the students and have them respond with either “I Know!” or “April Fool!”

You: There is snow on the carpet.
Student: April Fool!
You: My shirt is blue
Student: I know!

  • If you are looking for a social skills resource that focuses on vocabulary and concept development resource, you can find “What is April Fools’ Day?” in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

You can use “What Is April Fools’ Day” one-on-one or in small groups for multiple practice sessions.

CLICK ON PICTURE ABOVE TO FIND THIS PRODUCT IN MY TPT STORE

These are sample pages. Click on each one to see larger images.

Your students might also enjoy this project pack to celebrate
April Fools Day!

Click on the picture above to see it in my TPT Store!
Click the pictures below to see what’s included!

34 Prompts for Reluctant Writers

34 Awesome, Splendid, Marvelous, Imaginative, Structured Writing Prompts For Your Reluctant Writers

He slowly slid his paper across the table to me, attempting to hide the little rip from erasing too hard.

Do you know why I like dolphins? I like them cause they are fun.
They are fun to watch. They do good tricks.
They have good herring (hearing) and they can see good.
Some books have good pictures of dolphins. They are fun to look at.
They live in water but are not fish but mamals.
Someday maybe I would get to swim with dolphins and would be good.

 

                                                                                        Jon Grade 3

I was horrified and tried to hide it by concentrating on the fact that he at least spelled dolphin correctly.

“Well” I said a little too loudly. I tried again. “Well, you certainly made the point that you like dolphins”. He just stood there. I took a deep breath. “Maybe we can think of some other words besides “good” I asked. Again, he just stood there. After the longest time he finally said in all sincerity “very good”?

The prompt – Write about your favorite animal and why
The writer – My son
A teacher’s child
A child who attended the same school where his mom taught
The teacher – A well-respected colleague and good friend of mine

Three years later, my daughter would blossom as a writer with this same teacher and to this day, as an adult she still loves to write.

My son was what we call a reluctant writer. As teachers and parents, we have all had them. Some years it seems as if the whole class are reluctant writers. Writing is painful for them and painful for the reader.

Luckily for Jon his teacher figured out he needed prompts with more structure, not less. His writing improved slowly and he learned to use some adjectives.

Fun Fact – He graduated college and now does technical writing for a living.

While changing the type of writing prompts won’t necessarily be enough to make competent writers out of your reluctant writers, it is a step in the right direction.

Below you will find a list of 34 good awesome, splendid, marvelous, imaginative, structured writing prompts for your reluctant writers.

March 1 – National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day
Crunchy or Creamy? Which is your favorite and why? What do you like to eat it on, or with?

March 2 – Read Across America
Design a bookmark highlighting your favorite Dr. Seuss book.

March 3 – National I Want You to be Happy Day
Pick someone you think needs cheering up and make a list of things you could do to make them happy.

March 4 – International Scrapbooking Day
Years ago, before everyone had cameras people kept scrapbooks filled with memorabilia like ticket stubs, recipes and letters. They also drew pictures and wrote notes about places they went and everyday events. Pick a historical figure and make a scrapbook with drawings and words to tell their story.

March 5 – Clean Up Australia Day
Every year groups of Australians go out and clean up parks, beaches and streets. Think of a place in your community you would like to clean up. Write about why and how you would convince friends and family to help you.

March 6 – Oreo Cookie’s Birthday
Did you know there are more than 25 flavors of Oreo cookies. Write about how you like to eat Oreos. What do you like to drink with them? What would be a good flavor for a new filling?

March 7 – National Cereal Day
Invent your own cereal. Will it be hot or cold? What ingredients will you put in it? Write a recipe and share it with your friends or make a class book.

March 8 – International Women’s Day
This year the theme is Be Bold for Change. Design a poster to celebrate women’s achievements using this theme and a woman from history or your life.

March 9 – Barbie’s Birthday
Make a birthday card for Barbie. Barbie is actually 58 years old, but you can pretend she is any age when you make her card.

March 10 – Middle Name Pride Day
Do you have a middle name? If you don’t have one chose your own for the day. Find out why your parents gave you that name or why they didn’t give you one. Make a badge with your middle name and wear it proudly.

March 11 – International Fannie Pack Day
Chose a T.V. or movie character and write about what they might keep in their fanny pack.

March 12 – Girl Scout Day
Think of something you would like to teach to a friend and design a merit badge for it. Write  directions for how someone could earn the badge.

March 13 – Good Samaritan Day
Write about a time you were a good Samaritan.

March 14 – Pi Day
Write about something you would like to go on and on and on forever.

March 15 – Incredible Kid Day
Write a story about an Incredible Kid Contest and why you should be the winner.

March 16 – Panda Day
Make a zoo brochure about the panda exhibit.

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day
Many Irish families like to eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Have you ever tasted it? Do you think it is made with corn? Write a recipe for how you think this traditional meal is cooked.

March 18 – Quilting Day
Many years ago, women made quilts to tell a story about their family. Design a quilt to tell the story of your family.

March 19 – International Read to Me Day
Pick a real or fictional character and write about why you would like that character to read to you. What story would you ask them to read and why?

March 20 – International Day of Happiness
Make a coupon book for someone you care about. Give them coupons for things that will make them happy.

March 21 – Children’s Poetry Day
Write a poem about one of your favorite things i.e. favorite animal, favorite food, favorite sport etc.

March 22 – International Day of the Seal

March 23 – Puppy Day
Write about what it would be like to adopt a new puppy. What would it look like? What would you name it? What things would you need to get before bringing it home.

March 24 – Harry Houdini’s Birthday
Pretend you are a famous magician with a magical wand. Write about what magic you would perform with this amazing wand.

March 25 – Waffle Day
Do you like waffles? Make a list of things you would like as toppings on your waffle.

March 26 – Make Up Your Own Holiday Day
Create your own holiday. Write about when it would be and how you would celebrate.

March 27 – National Joe Day
Make a list of all the Joes you know. They can be friends and relatives as well as famous people. Then choose one and write an acrostic poem.

March 28 – Something on a Stick Day
There is a restaurant in Amsterdam and everything is served on a stick. What would it be like to eat or work there? What if you could eat all your meals today on a stick? What would be on your stick for breakfast, lunch, dinner?

March 29 – Coca Cola’s Birthday
Design a new look for a coke bottle or customize a can, then write an advertisement for it.

March 30 – Mom and Pop Business Owners Day
Imagine your mom and dad want to open a store. What kind of store would it be? What things would you sell? Where would it be located?

March 31 – Crayon Day
If you were a crayon what color would you be? How do you like living in a box with other crayons?      Write a conversation between two different colored crayons in a messy desk.

Bonus Prompts

American Chocolate Week (March 19-25)

Write a letter to Mr. Wonka and convince him he should give you a ticket to his chocolate factory.

Design a candy bar and special ticket for a contest. Make a list of the contest rules. Describe the kind of candy inside the wrapper and the prize the winner of the ticket will receive.

What if you could have your own chocolate room in your house? What would it look like? Would you tell people about it? Why or why not? Who would you invite in?

Planner Love

Do You Still Love Your Planner?

HOW I FINALLY GOT THE PERFECT PLANNER AND YOU CAN TOO!

Last week I broke up with my planner. It was beautiful in the beginning, but after just a few weeks I knew something was wrong. Something was missing and wasn’t working for me. I had to admit the relationship just wasn’t all that I had hoped and dreamed it would be. Sadly I closed the cover one last time whispering “It was me, not you”.

Have you ever had this experience?

You purchase a new planner and fall in love. You get that amazing feeling that you are on the brink of lifelong organization. Just like a new high school bf with each new planner you are sure this is the one.  You will get up early, do your hair, reach your goals, be on time and never miss another deadline. It works for a while but not long and the search resumes.

plannerLike me, you may have tried all sorts of systems; large, small, expensive, very expensive, paper, electronic, bound, rings and discs,  but none have the Goldilocks factor we are looking for. None are “just right”.

The size may be wrong, or they are missing sections we need or have too many sections we don’t need. Whatever the reason, no matter how pretty or expensive, we become disenchanted and experience planner envy.

I can help!

Even if your planner is still the love of your life, you will probably find some things below to help sustain your affection. No matter what your current relationship with your planner is, I have found a ton of resources to make it better!

Choosing A Planner – My Story

Right after my break-up, determined to have planner success, I made a list of things I wanted and needed and began my search. First, I knew I wanted a paper planner. There are some amazing apps but I find paper planners faster and more fun. I love the ability to decorate the pages with markers, stickers and washi tape.

I also knew I wanted more than a calendar, a comprehensive “life organizer”. I did a lot of research and found 2 excellent posts comparing planners that you can read here and here. I can’t lie, the Erin Conderan is wonderful and I was seriously tempted by several  others, but hesitant to spend that much money with my track record.

my planner

The Happy Planner Create 365 with a 40% off coupon at Michaels fit my budget and I love the flexibility of the disk system.

Coupon in hand I went shopping and lo and behold they were on clearance!  I couldn’t decide between the large and classic size and since the prices were so great, I got both.

Size Does Matter

I have learned from past experiences, that a 12 X 12 planner is too large for me. I find using it anywhere but on my desk cumbersome, yet the 8×10 can be too small. Size is one of the only planner features I haven’t found a way around, so chose carefully.

Finding The Best Free Printables

This is where the magic and fun begin!  From printable pages to stickers, dividers and dashboards, you will find everything you need here to stay in love with your planner for a long time. They are all free and oh my goodness there are so many options! To save you time, I have collected the best of the best.

*Special Note for Erin Conderan and other spiral planner people. If you want to turn your planner into a disc system for more functionality, this is a great how-to video

Large Coordinated Sets

The Supermom Planner by A Spark of Creativity includes Cleaning Charts & Checklists,
Blank Weekly Menus, Grocery Lists, Today & Weekly To Do Lists, Monthly Budget Log, Medication List, Password Tracker, Online Bill Pay Checklist, Daily Expense Log, Debt & Savings Tracker, Donations Log, Babysitter Information, School Information, Insurance Information, Family Medical Information, Birthdays & Anniversaries List, Chore Charts for kids and plenty more!

Fortypreneur has a big set of pretty pink and gray planner printables. You can download the whole set or pick and choose the ones you want.

The Free Planner 2017 by Shining Mom is a pastel set divided into three major categories: Life Planner, Kid Binder and Home Binder. I especially love the Kid Binder!

The Ultimate Customizable Personal Planner by Green Child Magazine has 81 customizable printables in 2 different colorful designs.

Ultimate Life Planning System by DIY Home Sweet Home is another comprehensive set of printables for organizing your life.

The Project Girl has a complete list of all of her printables. I really like her short and long term goals sheets (link below) and she also has some unusual ones like Blog Brainstormer and Room Design Form.

Ala Carte Printables

Daily Dockets

Since I work from home now, I wanted a daily docket without time blocks. I also needed a lot of space for “to-dos”. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t get done.

I like this customizable one by Money Saving Mom and this one from Andrea Dekker. I might also test drive Let’s Get Things Done Today from Team Confetti and Daily To Do’s from Scattered Squirell.  For more options you can check out this post 10 MORE Free Printable Daily Planners From Contented at Home.

Budget

The Harmonized House – This Home Finance collection includes multipurpose labels, binder labels and tags, annual budget, debt worksheet, monthly budgets, bank accounts, tax deductions and more. They are editable and ready to print …. and FREE!

Frugal Fanatic also has fantastic free budget binder pages here.

Still need another choice? Check out Just A Girl and Her Blog’s Budget Binder.

Goal Setting

Goal Setting is not just for January! Many experts recommend setting 90 day goals. If you need help, Mary Shore has an excellent workbook that you can sign up for here.

Living Well Spending Less has a Goal Setting Workbook “that will help you create a straightforward action plan for achieving your biggest goals and reaching your dreams this year”.

Clever Little Mouse has a nice set of Goal Setting Printables in both personal and half page size.

Meal Planning

Dear Chrissy has a recipe organizer is loaded with over 30 pages to help you plan meals, track food and shop for ingredients.

Blissfull Intent has a Meal Planning Kit with a grocery list I love. It has a section to indicate items you are totally out of as well as a place to put coupons.

Household Cleaning

Scrimpalicious has a nice concise one page cleaning list.

DIY Home Sweet Home has a daily blank checklist for you to fill in with the chores you want to do each day.

And if you need something not too structured but not too open ended, Smead.com has the perfect House Cleaning Checklist,.

Now that you have your pages set up, you are ready for the next step!
      Next week: Free Stickers, Dividers and Dashboards!

 

Need more free printables? Follow my Pinterest Board Free Planner Printable Pages!

Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

What Is The Ugly Christmas Sweater Craze?

 

The Ugly Christmas Sweater, has in recent years amassed so much attention, it has become a “thing”.

In the unlikely event that you haven’t heard of it, the concept requires participants to compete by wearing the gaudiest, most atrocious Christmas sweater they can find.

This new twist on an old tradition has inspired ugly Christmas Sweater parties, contests, and prizes, and led to Facebook pages, websites and hashtags.

Amazon has dozens of coloring and how-to Ugly Christmas Sweater books and there is even an official count down to Ugly Sweater Day, which has been declared a National Holiday (Third Friday in December).

How Did The Ugly Christmas Sweater Craze Start?

When I was growing up, the ugly Christmas sweater was a very different “thing”. Each year great Aunt Ruth would lovingly hand craft her custom interpretation of snazzy Christmas apparel.

 

Presumably Aunt Ruth’s masterpiece was intended to be admired. The word ugly was never, ever spoken aloud.

A few days after Thanksgiving a box would arrive smelling strongly of moth balls and slightly like cats.

Inside the box was a monstrosity of epic proportion. Your mom would make you wear it and you would “JUST DIE!

I mean honestly, there was a crooked snowman crocheted on itchy thick wool, sequins sewn on randomly and one sleeve was considerably longer than the other.

The only consolation was on any given day in the weeks before Christmas, several other kids would be wearing equally ugly sweaters. Luckily this punishing tradition faded away.

Come-Back of The Ugly Christmas Sweater

Ugly Christmas sweaters had a brief come-back (complete with shoulder pads) in the 90’s, thanks in part to their prominent place on the popular Bill Cosby Show TV show and Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Movie.

The current craze points back to two Canadian students having the first ever Ugly Christmas Sweater party.

The Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Speaking as an Ugly Christmas Sweater pioneer, (albeit a reluctant one) I am here to present you with the The Unofficial Ugly Christmas Sweater Guide.

An Ugly Christmas Sweater is any garment such as a vest, sweatshirt, or sweater that is covered with a combination of felt figures and symbols, glitter, gemstones, sparkles, tinsel and fake snow. Bonus points are given working lights and talking characters.

DIY People

If you are the DIY type you are now ready to uglify your own Christmas sweater. This can be done in three easy steps.

For added inspiration watch the video below!

For Non-DIY People

Perhaps you prefer to purchase your Ugly Christmas Sweater there are lots of options available.

Tipsy Elves has a huge variety for men women and children

Kohls and Target also have reasonably priced options. And if you are working with something other than a teacher’s budget you might be interested in Nordstrom.com’s $600 version.

In Betweeners

Those of you that fall somewhere in between complete DIY and off the rack, may like this kit you can purchase for just $7.97 at Collection Set!

And don’t bypass the bonus points Light-Up LED Ugly Christmas Sweater Ornaments from Amazon.com

Time to Party!

Now that you have your Ugly Christmas Sweater, you are ready to rock it at a party or event. What? You haven’t been invited to one yet? Well, plan your own with these easy printables.  You can have a class party with your students or a fund raiser with your school staff.

Where to Find Some Stuff

Free Invitations, banners, awards and more from Catch My Party

More invitations and party printables from The Country Chic Cottage

Need a cake?

Easy cupcake ugly sweater cake from Purple Chocolat Home

Ugly Sweater Decorating is a fun activity for young and old. You can get your Ugly Sweater Cookie Cutter at Amazon.com. They even have a Hanukkah edition for those that want an Ugly Hanukkah Cookie Sweater!

Feel free to share your Ugly Christmas Sweater finds or your thoughts on Ugly Christmas Sweaters below.

Cookie Cutter Hacks for Christmas and Beyond

Cookie Cutter Hacks for Christmas and Beyond

National Cookie Cutter Week December 1-7

Christmas cookie thoughts enter my mind almost as soon as I take my last bite of Thanksgiving pie! Don’t judge me, I like to bake (and eat dessert)! I know I am not alone on this. It is no surprise then that December 1-7 is Cookie Cutter Week and December 4th is National Cookie Day.

I have a huge collection of cookie cutters both plastic and metal, collected over the years and varying with my kid’s latest obsessions. Ninja Turtle, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Cabbage Patch Kids to name a few. And of course, the Christmas and Chanukah Collection has a place of its own.

cookie cutter

Now, I am by no means a pastry chef, but I am a fairly decent baker. Bread, brownies, cakes, you name it…I can whip it together with the right recipe and time. Somehow, using sugar cookie dough for actually cutting shapes has eluded me. Every year we would add a few new cookie cutter shapes to our massive collections and try a new “rolled sugar cookie dough” recipe. While visions of perfect edges and beautifully decorated treats danced in my head, I was the epitome of a #PinterestFail. Cookies that held together, tasted like cardboard…Cookies that tasted great would crumble or grow three sizes too big! Eventually, I tossed kid favorites in the playdough box and stashed the rest.

If this has been your experience keep reading!

 

If you have totally given up on rolled sugar cookies, try some of these crafts instead.

Press into Bread
With my granddaughter, she can be a finicky eater at times. If Minnie Mouse is on something though, she’ll eat it right up! I’ll take a Minnie Mouse cookie cutter (from Amazon) and press it lightly into bread before making a sandwich or toast. Try it with any cookie cutter! It is a simple as that! But if you really want to feel inadequate, check out how this blogging mom took this concept to the next level.
Next Level Lunches
(BONUS HACK) Ask grandma to make them! When I was a working mom I would NEVER had made these, but now as a retired grannie, I might!

Make Outdoor Bird Feeders
This project is really cool! It might not be best for tiny hands, as this is a messy project using small seeds but they will love watching the birds feed, through the window!
Cookie Cutter Bird Feeder

Make Crayons
What to do with the million broken crayons you have? I know we all have creative tricks and tips of ways to melt them down, but here’s one more! Make your own favorite shapes super easily.
Cookie Cutter Crayons

Make Gingerbread Cookies
One of the most classic uses for cookie cutters and the age old goodie, fun to make and fun to eat! They hold their shape so much better than rolled sugar cookies.
Gingerbread Cut Out Recipe

Brownie Roll Outs
This one is a little more unique but extremely yummy! Much like a sugar cookie dough, but tastes like brownies and holds its shape. Try to keep your hands off these this year!
Brownie Roll Ups

One Last Sugar Cookie Cutter Try
We have a new little one in my family now. She won’t care how they taste or look, so I am going to try one more rolled sugar cookie recipe. The best part about these is that you can “paint” on them with frosting!This recipe has tons of 5 star reviews on Allrecpes.com proclaiming “This recipe is wonderful” Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried this recipe yet, and one reviewer did say it was “Terrible”.
Best Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe

Santa won’t care how they look or taste either.  He will leave my granddaughter a delightful thank you note that she will treasure.   If you would like a free copy for yourself plus signs and tags for Santa’s cookies, just fill out the form below for instant access.

If you don’t immediately see the link, scroll back up until you find the santa-letter link. Click on that for your downloadable PDF.

Stay in touch! Let me know in the comments below, if you try any of the activities or have a no-fail sugar cookie recipe, Oh, and does anyone know where to find a Peppa Pig cookie cutter for my granddaughter?

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