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?



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


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


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


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


2 – 4 lbs. beef stew cubes

Garlic powder


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.



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,



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!



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!




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




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?


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!!!




True Story – A Box, A List and Clean Up In Aisle 7

The Box, The List And Clean Up In Aisle 7

Or Why This Post Took 2 Years To Write

This is a story. It is a true story, it is my story, it is the story of how this blog came to be.

Long before computers and Xerox machines and PLC’s, I began my teaching career without the benefit of Pinterest! Can you believe that?! Over the years so much has changed, the pendulum has swung back and forth and back again.

Some changes for the better, some not so much, but that’s a totally different topic for a totally different time. Almost two years ago, with mixed feelings, I retired at what I considered a young age.

A young woman lying on her couch talking on the phone and eating


The first two months were an awesome, endless vacation. I lounged on the couch in my PJs eating fast food and Netflix bingeing.

Then…I remembered …The Box! Do we all have one of these boxes? I think we do. The Box was my treasure chest of “things I would do when I had more time” i.e. when I retired.


The Box

Excitedly, I lifted the dusty top. Counted cross stitch of a unicorn with a peace sign? What? No!  Five rolls of film with pictures to scrapbook? Well, I’d have to get them developed and …and…nope. Rusty calligraphy pens? I haven’t updated my tetanus shot, nope! 129 things you can make with zucchini?  Hmmm, zucchini is out of season, so…nope.

The List

Sigh. I put the top back on the box and I shove it back under the bed. Next came my list “THE List”. The list to end all lists. I’m famous for my lists. Honestly, look up “lists”, you’ll see my face.

1) Write a novel (Scoff)

2) Bedazzale a purse (LOL)

3) Play the lottery (I can try, right?)

4) Dye yarn with Kool-Aid in my crockpot (uh…what)

There was more but I’ve probably overshared enough already. Needless to say, this list…THE List, wasn’t turning out to be all that much of a life changer.

The Blog

That evening I admitted to my daughter that maybe, just maybe, I was getting a little bored…and maybe, just maybe, I missed teaching…a little bit.

“Start a blog, mom.” She said to me. Me? What? A blog? But I hardly even know how to use FACEBOOK! I don’t know how to do that!

“I’ll help you!” She promised, fingers already flying over the keyboard and words like “host” and “WordPress” coming from her mouth.

Within minutes, Stars On The Spectrum comes to life and so do I once again.


“We’re all set” She tells me, with a grin on her face. I’m beaming for the first time in what seems like forever. It’s getting late now, so she promises to help me write the first blog post tomorrow, after we go grocery shopping.

I can hardly sleep, my head is filled with ideas. The next morning finally comes around and we make it out of the house our feet crunching on freshly fallen snow. I feel like something about today is going to be different, I think to myself.

Clean Up In Aisle 7

My daughter is chatting away on the car ride there and once inside aisle after aisle, reading items off a list, grabbing this, grabbing that. I am barely focusing on what she’s saying, I’m so excited about what I’m going to put up on my new website when we get home! Walking down aisle 5 she stops and grabs my arm…

“Mom, I think my water just broke!”



My daughter is laughing, trying to waddle to the bathroom. I’m trying not to freak out and stay calm, because we’re literally in the middle of grocery shopping.

Oh, my goodness, is she going to give birth in the middle of Walmart?!

She wobbles out and she nods with her typical smirk. Within 24 hours, my very first granddaughter was born and my blog forgotten.



So, that is the box, the list and the clean up in aisle 5 part, but the story doesn’t end there. I opened my store on Teachers Pay Teachers and focused most of my energy there (and on my grandchild of course!)

I made a few feeble stabs at my blog but I was ill-equipped when it came to using plugins and software. I am also a perfectionist, so unless things are JUST right, they’re wrong. I took courses and watched as many YouTube videos as I could.

I’m writing this post because November 16th, 2016 is coming up. My beautiful, granddaughter will be turning TWO! And I, dear readers, am posting my very first blog post. Not because it is finally perfect, but because it is Time! I hope you like it!

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