Saturday, December 21, 2013

How a Cookie Scoop and a Plastic Zipper Bag Changed My Life

It all started back in high school when I would go over to my best friends house.  Her mom made the most wonderful cookies.  I mean what were these things?  They didn't taste at all like the cookies you cut off the roll that I made.  They weren't like the burnt things my older sisters used to make and let me have.  These were cinnamony deliciousness like no other.  The were called "Snickerdoodles."  I don't know if my friend and her mom were tired of me coming over and eating all their cookies or what but, they gave me the recipe.  Every year since then, at Christmas I make a batch of Snickerdoodles.

Yummy Snickerdoodles fresh from the oven.

Why just at Christmas, you ask?  Well, they are just too much darn work.  They rate right up there with ginger people and sugar cookie cutouts.  First, you mix up the ingredients, then you roll the dough up in a ball, then you roll the ball in a bowl of cinnamon-sugar to coat, then bake.  This dough is VERY sticky.  When you try to roll it up, it gets all over your hands and you become a big sticky mess.  Then, you take the ball in your sticky hand and dip it in your cinnamon-sugar bowl and roll it around.  I would eat probably a 1/4 cup of batter that got stuck to my hands between every cookie sheet full.  Yes, I would wash my hands after all that licking but it was a major pain.

Last year, I discovered the COOKIE SCOOP!  One of the best inventions ever!  Now, to make my balls of dough, I just scooped, and squeezed the handle; voila!  Last year was so nice.  A few months ago, I was playing on Pinterest and read through instructions for Easy Monkey Bread.  Do you know what they did?  They dropped balls of monkey bread dough into a plastic zipper bag of cinnamon-sugar and shook the bag to coat the bread. all the balls at the same time!  Wow, if you could do this with monkey bread, I had to try it with my snickerdoodles.  Alas, I can't put the whole batch of dough balls in because they are way too sticky but I can do about 6 at a time.  Now I scoop, squeeze, shake, and put the coated balls on my cookie stone.  It's quite remarkable really.  I might even make more than one batch this Christmas.  Or, I might make some snickerdoodles at another time of the year.  I know this is crazy talk, but this is how a cookie scoop and a plastic zipper bag have changed my life.
Just drop the balls of dough into the bag.
Shake the bag.

Place cinnamon-sugar coated balls on cookie stone or sheet.
For those of you who have known these secrets and didn't tell me, shame on you.  Oh, what?  You want the snickerdoodle recipe now?  Hmmm... I don't know.  I mean it's not my original recipe.  It belongs to Mrs. Cunningham.  I'll tell you what.  If I get 10 new followers (follow by email or join this site) to my blog and 15 people who comment on this page.  I'll give you the recipe.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Party Decorations (Eagle Court of Honor) on the Cheap

These will be centerpieces on the tables at my Son's Eagle Court of Honor
*Update:  See how I re-used these same cans for a patriotic luncheon.  

The other night I was surfing around on the t.v. and ended up watching "Extreme Cheapskates."  I found myself thinking, "Ohhh... what amateurs!"  But, I couldn't tell anyone.  I mean I didn't want anyone to know how "cheap" I actually am.

I really think they set some people up on that show.  I mean seriously?!?  You share a toothbrush to save money?  Buy 2 toothbrushes and each will last twice as long, same with the deodorant.  Yuck!

Anyway, there was this lady only wanting to spend $50 on her 10 year old son's birthday.  Since I'm always looking for inexpensive ways to celebrate, I kept watching.  What?!?!  She had his birthday party at a retirement home for $30?!?!  What about having it at your house or the park for free, hello people?  Instead of the Elvis entertainer (who I'm sure the 10 year olds had no idea who he was) you can play games like tag, relay races, etc.  By the way, games are FREE!  And then, she went to the bakery and bought all the end pieces of cake that were trash and had them ice it into a cake for $16.  You know a box of cake mix at the store cost about $1.25.

Anyway, watching that show gave me inspiration to show my current project.  My oldest son has earned his Eagle Scout rank with the Boy Scouts (very proud Mama here) and we are having a ceremony and reception.  The tables need centerpieces so I am planning to put about 3 signs on 4 different tables.  The signs are the 12 parts to the Scout Law.  This could easily be adapted for different occasions (wedding, birthday, holidays) by changing what the signs say.  You could also use just one per table. 

Notice Scout, the dog, photo bombing
First you need a tin can; reduce, reuse, recycle.  I personally liked the slightly larger than regular size (about 32 oz.) the best.  But, I also like having a variety of sizes.  You will have to plan in advance or eat a lot of food that comes out of cans or recruit your friends for this.  (Thanks Connie & Jennifer.)  Oh, by the way, that makes the can FREE!

Second, I took a piece of burlap ribbon and hot glued it around the can.  I bought the ribbon with my 40% off coupon at the craft store.  I cut out the fleur de lis on my cutter using paper already in my stock.

For the signs, I had a bunch of leftover pieces of dowel rods from making "God Rods" for my students.  ("God Rods" are a really cool way to illustrate a song using pantomime.  I'll have to blog about that later.)  I cut the rods to size.  (For me the rods were FREE!)  I bought a package of shims from the home improvement store for about $1.50.  I looked on Pinterest and discovered that you can make your own stain using vinegar and old metal.  Here's the link.  So, I made my own stain for FREE and stained the shims and dowel rods.  I cut the words on the signs out of vinyl that my local sign shop gave me for FREE!  (Just ask for their end pieces that are too small for their big machines.)  Then I hot glued it all together.

I put the signs in the cans and filled the cans with rocks to hold it up.  Now, I could have dug the rocks out of my yard but I was feeling lazy and bought them at my home improvement store for about $3.75 for a very large and heavy bag.

For just a few dollars, I made 12 very classy looking centerpieces for my son's Eagle Court of Honor.  I have a feeling my Scout Mom Friends will be asking to borrow them when it's time for their sons to get their Eagles.  By the way, the ceremony is this coming Saturday.  I'll add more pictures of them on the tables afterwards.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Homecoming Mum

I started researching mums and realized that they are a Texas tradition.  I always thought everyone did them.  Oh, well... the rest of the world's loss.  Back when I was in high school there were not craft stores like there are now.  Your mum was bought from a florist by your date or your parents or by your best friend.  Making them yourself was unheard of.  One year while teaching, I made myself a little mum but I so wanted to make another mum.  I love creating new things and now that I have boys in high school and one has a girlfriend, I have a chance to create a homecoming mum.

In my research, I realized that you can pay more than $300 for a homecoming mum.  I'm sorry, but that is absolutely ridiculous.  I found a few websites that helped me out but now I would like to share with you how I made mine and how I saved on costs.

First lets start with the ribbons.  Homecoming mums are made with cheap floral ribbon.  Unfortunately, it's hard to find if you're not buying it right at homecoming.  Whenever, I see it at a cheap price, I pick it up.  The craft stores are selling it for about $1/yard.  Look for the rolls where you can buy it for $1/roll of 9-40 yards.  Specialty ribbon is the same.  Check the sales racks, find Christmas ribbon at the after Christmas sales (red, green, silver, gold, white, purple, aqua).  Or, find the holiday with your school colors.  

For the special ribbon chains, make them yourself.  I've seen stores selling the 4 strand chain and the loop chain for $6.  It's super easy to make. Check out this girls vintage scrapping blog. One of my favorite chains is one I learned to make in elementary school.  I'll try to post instructions soon.

4 strand military chain
2 strand chain
loop chain
I found the boa at the dollar store for $1.  I cut it in half, so it cost just $0.50.  You would spend about $10.00 anywhere else to add a boa.  Now, if your school colors aren't purple or pink it might be a little harder to find one but you could easily substitute Christmas garland or something.

Feather boa from the dollar store and curling ribbon add that something extra.
You could spend $0.50 per letter to buy stickers for your names to personalize your mum.  Instead, use glitter glue.  However, I first used gold glitter on the purple ribbon and it came right off.  I had bought my purple ribbon at Walmart when I saw it on sale and it has a different fabric content.  The purple glitter worked just fine on the white ribbon.

Next there is the trinkets, you might need to purchase a bag but while I was making my mum I realized I didn't need very many.  Look in other sections of the store.  Instead of paying $1 for a cowbell in the mum section, find the section that sells jingle bells, etc.  I found a bag of "church bells" for about $1.
A bag of church bells were much more economical than buying cow bells from the mum section.

Use your trinkets strategically.
The round area behind the flower is super easy.  Cut a circle of cardboard, staple on ribbons.  My cardboard was from the back cover of some old spiral notebooks.  For the loops behind the flower, use 6 inch ribbons.  Decide if you want to fold them like awareness ribbons or just loop them.  They can be one color or 2 colors of ribbon.  I added gold garland from the party store.  I've seen these backs at the craft store for "easy do it yourself" for $16.  I swear mine only cost about  a dollar.  
I alternated 2 color "awareness" ribbons with loop ribbons for a custom look.  Then, I added wire garland from the party store.
Then, hot glue (high temp) your flower to your cardboard.  I cut out our school mascot out of scrapbooking paper and glued it to the center of the flower.  (Way cheaper than buying a brand new teddy bear to glue there.)  Of course, you could use a stuffed animal you already have or look at Goodwill to see if they have any.

Attach your  long dangle ribbons to another cardboard circle by stapling.  I added some extra Christmas ribbon, some curling ribbon for wrapping packages, and half of a feather boa that I found at the dollar store.

Next, you will staple and glue both cardboard circle together.  Then I hot glued another piece of card stock to the very back to pretty it up and hide all the staples.  Also, cut the bottom of your ribbons with an upside down V by folding in half and cutting a diagonal from the outer edge up to the middle edge to finish off the ends.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hollywood and Movies Style Classroom, part 2

This is part 2 of my classroom decorations for Hollywood and Movies.  Please see Part 1 here.

We made it through our first week of school.  I'm still adding some final touches to my room but it's mostly done, finally.

I have a rectangle shaped room.  Above the window I put The Jett Pack in clapboard letters.  I actually found a free font and then cut it out on my electronic cutter.  Beside and below the window is "A Star Is Born."  I took pictures of all my students (mostly on Meet the Teacher night) wearing sunglasses and the girls got to wear a boa.  I printed the pictures in black and white with their names and birthdates like a real "headshot," mounted it on black construction paper and then laminated it.

The other side of the long wall, I hung a few little decorations and some old movie posters.

The back wall actually has my leftover bulletin board from last year.  Shhh!  Don't tell anyone.  I ran out of time and it still went with the theme....  I also found my movie posters from one of the all time greatest movies, "The Wizard of Oz" to put all over the room.

Here's the Cowardly Lion by my movie reel clock.

I have a beam going across half of my ceiling.  I found the Hollywood banner at a party supply store.

I have a little entrance area where I put another party store find.  The kids love walking through the stars.

Thanks for checking out my 2nd grade classroom.  I had fun creating it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hollywood and Movies Style Classroom, Part 1

Two years ago, I decided to try a themed classroom and I loved it.  I had so much fun with my nifty-fifties class.  But, it was time for a change.  What should I do?  I considered several options and finally decided on a Hollywood or Movies theme.

This first picture is my clock.  I took a trashcan, turned it upside down and traced it on a piece of white poster board for the large circle.  I traced a frisbee for the inside circle.  Then, I just started to free draw the gears.  I found black and silver spray paint, headed outside and gave it a light coat.  The "film" is just brown butcher paper that I added a few lines and dashes to.  I love how I was able to staple it to the wall with dimension.

Next, is my... wait stop.... don't laugh... my school doesn't have smart boards.  We have "flannel graph".  Seriously, the red is felt and I have felt cut outs that I can stick to the board.  I wanted black felt but couldn't find any at the local Walmart and wasn't ready to drive 50 miles to a fabric store when I had red felt left over from last year.  I left the space blank to hang posters on things we are studying or to use my felt animals while teaching Math, etc.  The words were cut out with my electronic cutter.

The job chart was a lot of fun to think up and make.  Each job is written on a directors chair (all cut out with my electronic cutter).  The stars with the students have velcro dots and will be moved each week.  The jobs include:  assistant director (teacher's helper), gaffer (turns on and off lights), craft services (lunch helpers), and more.  My favorite is:  Assistant to Mr. Tribble.  Tribble is our class guinea pig.

Here are the days of the week just typed up with a free font called Showtime.  The parenthesis make the lights wrap around.

These are the months of the year that I found on TeachersPayTeachers for free.  Here is the link.

I looked at a bunch of teacher's rules, borrowed a few ideas and then put them all together.  My rules are "Walking the Red Carpet"  The rules spell out STAR.  The consequences are Take 1, Take 2, Take 3, and Cut.

Here is the back of my filing cabinet with each child's name on a star and a place for them to move their star's down if they break a rule.  There are magnets on the back of the stars.  I cut out the stars on my electronic cutter and the clapboards were bought in a pack from Dollar Tree.

Here is my big window.  It's kinda hard to see but the fabric is a silky teal and has black fringe around the edges.  (Thanks to my mom for sewing on the trim while I was so busy getting everything ready.)

School starts in the morning.  I still have a few more plans for the room and a few things I've done since I took these pictures.  So, stay tuned for part 2 of my Hollywood Movies Theme Classroom.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cards for Operation Write Home

Each of these cards was made by using the sketches on Operation Write Home.  I would have a friend pick a number, I would find the corresponding sketch and create.  It was a blast.  Hopefully, I will actually send some of these cards to Operation Write Home for our military to use to send to their loved ones.  However, not all of these cards are actually eligible.  If you decide to send card to OWH, make sure you follow the guidelines including "no glitter".