Its been almost a year since my last post. Needless to say, having a baby, being a grad student, and working a job that requires 24/7 attention is exhausting. I haven't found much time to craft until recently. My son, who just turned one, is certainly keeping me on my toes. I find to craft here and there, but not very often. My biggest goal over my summer break (pft... not exactly, when you're taking a full course load of graduate courses, but that's another story) was to organize my house. We've been in our new digs for over a year and most of stuff was still unpacked and what was unpacked was everywhere. I couldn't stand it. While I have much more to share in the next few days, I'm going start with simply the things that I have taken photographs of. Hopefully (*fingers crossed*) I can get around to taking pictures of many of the remaining items/completed celebrations sometime within the next week.
My first goal over summer was to organize my kitchen. I'm not much of a cook, although I'm trying to be. However, it can be extremely difficult to cook when your kitchen is such a disorganized mess, esp. since ours is such a large kitchen. The first thing I did was start with the pantry. While the kitchen is large, the pantry is not (its kind of sad, but with the added cupboards, we make do). I found myself digging in the pantry for one item, the cupboards for another and decided that enough was enough. So I start be finding new homes for many of my items and then I made a trip to the Dollar Tree. *sigh* Now that is love.
I am absolutely in love with the Dollar Tree. Fun colorful baskets, teaching tools for dirt cheap prices and most recently, 14 sheets (that's right, 14 sheets) of felt for only a DOLLAR. Take that Hobby Lobby and JoAnn fabrics.
I started by measuring the shelves in the pantry (they came with the house) and taking an IKEA paper tape measure with me to the Dollar Tree. Yes, I sat there in the store (with my son in a stroller nonetheless) and measured cheep $1 bins that will fit in my pantry. I then created the categories for things that I wanted in my pantry and created labels in Microsoft Word, laminated them and viola:
Ever seen Extreme Couponing (on TLC)? I watched it when is first aired (yes, I coupon, no I don't Extreme Coupon. The lesson to be learned from that show is that reality stops being real the second you put a camera in front of it... and the stores change their couponing policies so they can be on TV). Anyway... one of the ladies on the show had this great idea to use a shoe organizer inside the pantry door to hang those smaller items that get lost in the pantry. LOVE IT. STOLE IT. STILL IN LOVE WITH IT.
I keep gravy packets, taco seasonings, pudding packets, and all kinds of other things neatly tucked away in my pantry. *sigh* My pantry is now complete. Well... almost. I have a few more tricks to share, but they were not readily available on my SD card, so you'll have to wait another day.
The next major problem that I had in my kitchen was my candy molds. I have too many to count. Molds for Easter, Christmas, Halloween, spring, and any other thing that I can thing of. Those Wilton's candy molds are freaking adorable, fun to make, and a pain in the butt to store. So it was off to Office Max and Hobby Lobby to pick up 3M clips and binder rings.
I put three 3M clips inside of my cupboard doors (the ones by the floor) to make for easier access. Then I grouped them into categories either my holiday, time of year, or purpose (suckers, candy canes, cookies, etc.), strung them onto binder clips, and hung the binder clips on the 3M clips. They've been hanging like that ever since June and so far seem to be holding up very well.
I love being organized! But wait! There's more!
Grocery shopping for me is a pain the rear. I hate making lists, I'm always wandering up and down the rows and columns of a grocery store, like an idiot. So I did something I should have done a long time ago and use a preprinted grocery list. I spent weeks looking for something that I liked online. Couldn't find it. So I finally bit the bullet and did what I should have done a long time ago and type up my own. It seriously only took five minutes. I highly recommend just typing up your own, rather than using somebody's elses. You know which items you buy frequently and which you don't:
My list is two pages. Page one is strictly food. Page two is everything else that I find I need to buy frequently and using do it on the same trip as groceries: pet supplies (kitty litter, food, piggie cage liners), health and beauty items, cleaning supplies, paper products ets.
To keep my life even easier and increase communication between my husband myself I put a suction cup hook on the fridge (LOVE the dollar store!), put the lists on a clipboard, and hung the clipboard on the fridge.
The last thing I did was attach a bulldog clip (large binder clip) to the side of the clipboard and hang a highlighter from it. Then, anytime we need something or are running low or short on it before I sit down to make my grocery list for the next two weeks, someone simply highlights and we call it a day!
Of course, now that my little man is eating finger foods, I need to update the list for the few items that he will eat. He is so picky...
This next project I started back in March or so. It took a while to complete, was a huge pain in my butt, but I simply adore it. Reusable paper towels.
I hate that name.
I call them Snap Towels. These were easy but a pain in the butt because of how long they took. Also, my supreme sewing skills are much better then they were in March, so when I make a second set (I so need to) it shouldn't be nearly as bad.
They're kind floppy on the roll because I was too lazy to roll them up correctly. I discovered these one day on pintreast (oh, how I hate and love thee). Many people sell these on etsy, usually starting at about $45. I saw the price and went pft. I can make those for a fraction of cost. Turns out I couldn't...
The materials were pricey, but that was more or less "my bad." I was anxious to start this project that I didn't have coupons, I didn't wait for a sale, and the only thing I had on hand was the thread, snaps, and snap press. Oh well. Still love them. One side is flannel and the other is "diaper cloth" (seriously, that's the name) that I found at JoAnns.
I sewed elastic and snaps to an old paper towel roll (some people use plastic canvas instead, so doing that next time...). Stuck it on the roll and called it a day. The reason I intially started this project was to cut back costs, and in doing so have cut back on the amount of trash we produce. They're machine washable and I just throw them in with the regular towel loads that I do. Lately, I've been lazy and have just been throwing them in a drawer, instead of putting them back on the roll.
Another reason that I just love my snap towels (esp. this particular set) is because they match our Fiesta wear dishes (yes that was on purpose!)
Moving on... out of the kitchen... and into Christmas?
Last Christmas, I found this great tutorial/idea somewhere out there in on the world wide web (do we still call it that?). This idea basically took red and green ornaments and stuck the bird's and piggie's faces on them from the game Angry Birds. My husband is a big Angry Birds fan (going so far as to buy our 12 month old an Angry Birds shirt!)
The concept is simply enough. Find some Angry Birds photos out on the internet (ones that have good clear shots of the faces), print them, and hot glue them to mini ornaments (I got mine at the Dollar Tree after Christmas last year for about 50 cents a package).
Ever heard of the The Dating Divas? If so, you know what an awesome site this is. If not, and you are married (or in a long term relationship), you def. need to pay them a visit. The site is filled with great Dating Ideas for you and your spouse (or partner) to spice things up, without going broke, and esp. if you have kids.
My husband and I have very little time together with our two schedules and with a little one at home (and living so far away from family) the majortiy of our date nights are spent at home. On the couch. Watching The Walking Dead. This was getting old. So I visited The Dating Divas and got some ideas together. The first is the date night spinner:
They have one available for download on their website, but I needed mine to be strictly filled with stay at home options. So using my scrapbooking software and Microsoft Word (who knew this program would release creativity?) I created my own. I printed everything out on cardstock, laminated it, and then attached the arrow and the tags come on and off with sticky velcro.
The extra tags get stored in a clear container, so that this completely creative awesome spinner can be used again and again without getting repetitive.
The second idea that I stole from The Dating Divas (is it stealing if I give them credit?) is the Date Can. Again, they have downloadable templates that you can use and are actually much cuter than mine, but again, I needed something specific to the things that we have here in the house (xbox, pool, etc.)
This one was simple enough. I took an old formula can (any mother that's used formula will have tons of these laying around), covered it with scrapbooking paper (watch that hot glue, it burns!), and then stuck some stickers on it. Nothing fancy. A quick and dirty project. My favorite part of this project was using an old formula can. There are actually two diaper boxes (two!) out in my garage that are full of old formula cans that I can't bring myself to throw away. The environmentalist in me keeps saying 'find a use. find a use.'
I then cut strips of construction paper, and cut date ideas (stay at home of course) on the paper. The thing that I like best about the can over the spinner is that you can add date ideas at any time that you think of them. Some of the things in our can are:
1. Star Wars marathon
2. Mario Brothers 2
3. Mario Kart
4. Dip in the pool
The possiblities are endless and keep them specific. When I say card game, then it comes, which one? These are specific and are meant to eliminated those "well what do we do?" questions.
Making things for my little man probably my new favorite hobby. Pintreast and etsy don't help much either. I'm always finding awesome ideas and my list of children's craft ideas is up to over 400 pins (!). Too much awesome crafting to do and note enough time.
One thing that was an absolute must was a grocery cart cover. At the store they generally start at about $45 for the fluffy ones (my husband's words not mine). I knew that I could make one for cheaper (and I did, unlike the Snap Towel mathematical error). I used a McCall's pattern and I will never make another one of these again. If we have a little girl after this, she's riding around the store with rockets, I don't care.
This was worse then my wedding dress (honestly) to sew. It was large and trying to stick a yards worth of elastic it through it took HOURS. I finally ending up cutting slits in the sides to feed the elastic through and sewing it back up. This is why I hate using patterns, the instructions generally stick. I much prefer to free hand everything.
Here's the cover in its folded up glory (it folds up like a bag). I'll have to get another picture of it when its all spread out.
Never again will I sew one of these.
In addition to the "must haves" for my little man, there are the fun things in life. Like this monster.
That looks like a 5 year old sewed it. Made of felt and a combination of hot glue and sewing machine, its a hot mess. Oh well. He seems to like it just fine.
Speaking of felt... I've become obcessed. I've been working on a quiet book for my little man for almost a year (only a few more pages...) and I never realized how amazing felt could be! Along with the felt obcession has come a finger puppet obcession.
Homemade by Jill created this awesome template and pattern for finger puppets. It's free, it's easy, and it is freaking adorable!
Here's out mine turned out:
Cute, easy, and highly entertaining for my little one.
Another item on my pintreast item were alphabet bean bags. I saw this adorable tutorial on how to stencil them using freezer paper, but lets face it. I don't have the time. So I cheated. I bought fusible letters. Cut squares that are about 4.5", ironed on the letters, and BAM. Done. Easy. Took forever.
The whole alphabet. Minus 'J'. Apparently 'J' thought it would be cool to hide out on my sewing machine for a few days.
I also have a set of numbers that sitting in my craft room, waiting to be sewed and stuffed. However, I spent several hours on these suckers and thus far my son has no intreast in them. Therefore, they will probably sit there for a while longer.
Onto less exciting stuff...
I teach 8th grade. It is like herding cats. Seriously. Honestly? I do enjoy it. Most days. Just like any other job... the best part of a new yaer though, is always setting up the classroom. I like my classroom to reflect me, my teaching styles, and my attitudes. I spend more time there then I do at home (*sniff*) therefore, I want it to be a place that I like to look at.
In my classroom, my students have jobs. Best idea ever. Makes my life easier. I just drop in the popsicle sticks into the slots (which have the job title written on it) and viola, easy peasy.
I teach all subjects (phew) which is exhausting (esp. at the middle school level) and this generally leads to a LOT of materials. Workbooks, printables, etc. To make my life easier, I have four file crates (Language Arts, math, social studies, and science). I organize everything I need into these four crates using hanging file folders.
On the back counter behind my desk is where I keep various other odds, ends, and requirements. I use a tools drawer to organize my thumb tacks, staples, paper clips, etc. Next to that is my copy bin, there's a drawer for each day of the week, plus one extra. Next to that is a file box. I have four of these (one for each quarter). In each file box is a weekly folder. As things get copied, they get dropped into the file box. When the week comes up, copies it get moved from the file box to the daily organizer. No more misplaced copies!
Our instruction is supposed to be driven by our data and we are required to post said data. I used "Tiger Tracking" for my title, as the school mascot is the tiger.
I use Mountain Math in my Algebra 1-2 Honors class and this is our designated spot for it.
In another added way to try to make my life easier, I have an attendance board. Each student has their name attached to the board with a thumb tack, a paperclip, and an index card. The paperclip makes for easy removal, so I know who is present and who is not. The students come in the room, take down their name, drop it in the bucket, and attendance has never been easier!
Anyone that knows me, knows that my love of Star Wars knows no bounds. On the door that the students use to exit I have two small posters I created that have quotes realted to how we walk in line (single file and quiet).
On the bordering wall is the student mailboxes (love pocket folders). There are also extra pocket folders where students can grab forms that they need (behavior forms, homework excuse slips, absent folders and forms, etc.)
Underneath those is a white bucket where I place papers to be filed away into the mailboxes (its a student job - usually a two person job), a bucket for their lunch boxes, and a bucket for their sports equipment (nothing drives me more nuts then a basketball rolling around my classroom.
On my other door is my "classroom store". A school wide behavior plan designates that we give out tickets for good behavior. Students can purchase things with these tickets.
My behavior chart (Star Wars themed). Students start at green (ready to learn) and move up or down according to their beavhiors. Sith Apprentice (warning), Sith Lord (time out), Sith Master (buddy room) or Jedi Apprentice (one good deed), Jedi Knight (two good deeds), Jedi Master (three good deeds).
It works really well with my 8th graders. They love moving up the ranks.
Underneath that is where we keep track of row/table points. I found Star Wars planteary posters online and I printed them on cardstock framed them in dollar store picture frames. You can use dry erase markers on the picture frames to tally points.
And of course, in education today, no classroom is complete without posted objectives, essential questions, and a schedule.
And finally, hanging on my desk (magnetic hooks, again thank you dollar tree!) are clipboards that keep track of student time on the computer, supplies that have been checked out, and classroom library books.
And this concludes the longest blog post I've ever written and probably the one with the most tags/labels too! I have much more to post (I've done more work in my kitchen, my master closet is organized, fabric books, ispy bags, the list goes on.) For today, however, I am done.