Monday, April 30, 2012

Oh to be 21...

Today is a day that I never saw coming... my little brother is turning 21!?! 

Happy Birthday JCM!
Cheers to the best little brother that a big sister could ask for!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Ultimate Brain Drain

Please forgive my previous venting about the upcoming doom of testing. Sometimes you just need to get a few things off of your chest and everything seems to be so much better. And things have become much better now that I have received a card from a new vendor near my house for 30 days of free coffee drinks (yes you heard me correctly... FREE... and 30 DAYS!) I always tell my students that "a happy teacher is a caffeine filled teacher." With my coffee in hand, I'm set to hit the ground running at 7:50 on the dot when announcements end and we are going head strong until that dismissal bell rings. With new found hope and energy, I've come back to my senses and begun to push my students to their educational limit before their testing begins.

This week we started memorizing our math "Brain Drain" (this nifty little sheet lost it's old name, "cheat sheet," after realizing that maybe cheating didn't sound so good when it comes to testing... ha!) Each student has their own copy of the brain drain to study at their own will and then I challenge them in different ways every day... and yes, these challenges result in prizes!

**I've taught my students in the past to begin copying their brain drain from memory onto their scrap paper as soon as I tell them that "testing may now begin." This way, the students are able to gather everything that they've learned onto one sheet before beginning the test.**

1. Speed Drill- Each student races to rewrite their brain drain on a blank sheet of paper and the first student to hand me a perfectly correct brain drain wins a prize (usually candy)
2. Relay Race- I divide the class into two teams and line them up on opposite sides of the room. Each team has one sheet of blank paper and one pencil. Each member of the team has exactly one minute to write everything they possible can on the brain drain and then they move to the back of the line and it is the next person's turn to write for 1 minute. This continues until the team thinks that their brain drain is perfect and they all sit down to have their brain drain checked. (I use the stop watch on my iPhone to time the students for the 1 works perfectly)
3. Pop Quiz-ical- This challenge was renamed for the pure fact that it does not count for a grade. During the week, I will randomly stop teaching (no matter the subject) and say "BRAIN DRAIN." This is the students' cue to whip out a sheet of paper and begin writing their brain drain as quickly as possible. I set my timer for 10 minutes the first day, 8 minutes the second day and so on. After the timer goes off, students are to put their pencil inside their desk and I check each student's sheet. Every student that has a correct brain drain gets a prize (homework pass, candy, pencil, etc.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In the Midst of EOG Madness

Being a fifth grade teacher and preparing my students for the upcoming EOGs has got me in a funk... and when I get in a "funk" I resort to a bottle of wine, hours of Bethenny Ever After, Gossip Girl and Grey's Anatomy, and unended Pinteresting. I sometimes get beyond frustrated at the fact that I spend the entire school year teaching my students content that I want to help them for the rest of their lives and then I spend 5 weeks cramming every bit of information possible into their brains so that they can take a state mandated test that supposedly tells how well I taught them.
I've come to the conclusion that time well spent is better than answers memorized. I've started spending more time with my students on a one on one basis to help them with curriculum that they feel that they are struggling with. I've given up my lunch time, planning and mornings to spend an hour with one student to give them that attention that I know they deserve.
Are you getting consumed in the EOG blues? If so, take a moment and step back to look at how far your students have come this year and praise them for the progress they've made. Oh and enjoy a glass of wine every once in a while!

With Happy Moments in the EOG Madness
The Penny Pinching Teacher

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Products I'm Loving

1.New Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo

(My new life saver. It is sulfate free, smells great, a little goes a long way and it's panthenol free! I recently realized after a lot of research and self-testing of products that I have allergic reactions to products with panthenol.)

2.Nimbus Microfine Toothbrush
(I've been using these toothbrushes for years now only because they are the toothbrush that my dentist gives you at each visit, but I swear by them now! I went to the dentist a month ago to get two cavities filled and come to find out that brushing with this toothbrush and flossing made them go away... yes I said my cavities went away. They healed fully and that meant no fillings for me!)

Have bags or dark circles under your eyes due to lack of sleep... here's your solution. I've been using this magic mix for years now and it does wonders. Just put a dab under your eyes before bed or if you're getting stressed about signs of wrinkles or sagging skin, then apply it to your whole face before bed. And NO I'm not a MK rep... just fell in love with this product!
**Don't let the price scare you... $30 for one bottle but the bottle lasts me for a year!**

4. Esse Boat House
No better way to celebrate spring time than a new Esse polish. I'm loving Esse Boat House with its perfect shade of coral. Bright enough for spring but subtle enough to keep on for a while. What color are you wearing?

5. Curel Fragrance Free Lotion
I'm in love with the perfume that I use and I hate for my lotion's smell to interfere with that. Curel's lotion is beyond fabulous and eliminates the small eczema patches on my arms.

What products are you loving?

With new and old loves to share,
The Penny Pinching Teacher 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Target Dollar Delights

Yesterday, I was once again captivated by new things in the dollar section at Target. As you saw in an earlier post, I've begun collecting Thank You cards because of course every southern belle knows that no deed goes un-thank-you-ed. You cannot beat these prices. $1 for an 8 pack of thank-you cards... and their gorgeous with an array of spring colors.
I also picked up a few must haves. A new notepad in what might be my new favorite color combo... grey and yellow. Also I got a small notebook to keep my quick on the go to-do lists in my purse and an adorable luggage tag (which will come in handy with my traveling to weddings this summer.)
However I did pass up on some other amazing dollar finds today... which might find their way into my cart on my next visit. Target Dollar Spot also had packets of napkins with single initials, beautiful Mother's Day cards, gift bags (small 2 pack, large and wine), Happy Birthday and Congratulations cards.

With Colorful Dollar Finds for Spring,
The Penny Pinching Teacher

Monday, April 16, 2012

Timeless Piece on a Dime

For Easter, my mom bought me a gorgeous new watch which I've been flaunting every day since... even with my tshirt and Nike gym shorts. I've been talking about wanting a Michael Kors watch for months now but I could never bring myself to pay more than $200 for a watch when there are bills to be paid. So when my mom and I were shopping the week before Easter, my jaw dropped to the floor when I spotted what looked like a gold Michael Kors watch in... wait for it.... New York & Co.
Now I've seen many MK knock offs but this one was too good to be true. This knock-off-perfection was proven true when a good friend of mine complemented my new "Michael Kors" the next day at which point I flaunted my new watch and the amount I paid for it.
The next case of mistaken identity happened when I was shopping in boutiques on our mountain day trip. I was gawking at a case display of Michael Kors watches when a sales clerk informed me that all of the watches were indeed Michael Kors. Upon seeing my new watch glistening on my wrist, she said, "Oh, but you already know that by looking at your Michael Kors." HA! If only she knew!
Finally, today I was paying for my Monday bottle of wine at Harris Teeter and the young girl checking me out said, "I love your Michael Kors!" I smiled so big, you would've thought my wine was 50% off. I proceeded to tell the clerk that my watch was actually from New York & Co. and only cost me $13! I'm more than sure her first stop after work will be the mall.

New York & Co.

Michael Kors $250

Vernier $34

Michael Kors $275

New York & Co. $26.95

Michael Kors $225

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm definitely not cut out for manual labor!

Needless to say... this weekend I learned the hard way that just because something looks easy does not mean that it is. I happen to be one of those people who Googles everything from medical diagnosis, home improvement crafts and book/movie reviews.
Since spring has graced us with her presence, I started to notice how horrific awful my walkway was starting to look. It dawned on me that this will be my first spring in my new house and new little friends called weeds are meeting me for the first time. I decided last weekend that I would use my Spring Break week to tackle the easy task of demolishing, relining, edging and filling my walkway.
After tearing my back apart and getting more than frustrated with home improvement stores, I finally finished the project and beyond proud of my hard work. Enjoy the before, middle, and after pictures above.
What home improvement projects have you taken on lately?
**Sidebar: I realized this weekend that I need a boyfriend for two reasons: to mow my yard and lift heavy objects.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

WHOLE new look on life... and eating

We welcomed Whole Foods to Greensboro, NC today! I have to admit that until today I hadn't been in Whole Foods. I'm an avid lover of Trader Joe's (even though the closest one is at least an hour away... so sad) but I've never had an opportunity to venture into Whole Foods. Beyond the fact that we had to park a mile away and the store was packed like a can of sardines, I was quite impressed. From the gorgeous variety of fresh flowers to the expanse of organic fresh fruits, veggies... I was in awe.

I've never been much of a "health nut"... which is extremely clear after I ate a Cook Out tray for lunch with sides of onion rings, fries and to top it off a Cheerwine!?! But lately I've become more conscious of my health. I dream of the day when I can actually, with all honesty, say that I'm a organic junkie vegetarian, but living on a teacher's salary doesn't make that so easy.
As mom and I walked up and down the aisles filled with organic foods today, I just gawked at some of the prices. But after looking past the $5 cereal and $7 bowl of fruit, I stumbled upon some tasty treats to fit my budget.

Popcorn? Nope... PEANUT BUTTER!

Highlights of the trip were definitely the array of dairy free ice cream... HEAVEN! I ended up with a huge tub of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. (I don't think you know how amazing this is... the one thing I've been craving is ice cream and not daggum vanilla coconut milk ice cream. I want the real stuff people.) Second highlight was grinding my own organic peanut butter. The consensus is still out on this one but we shall see how good it is tomorrow with some delicious apples.
All in all, I will not be leaving my beloved Harris Teeter but I will no doubt be visiting Whole Foods on a weekly basis to scoop up some guilty pleasure ice cream!

Have you been to Whole Foods? If so what items do you recommend?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Whereabouts

Day trip with mom to Blowing Rock and Boone, NC.

1. We spent hours shopping in little boutiques and visiting art galleries along with sweet shops.

2. I fell in love with this boutique's aesthetic! I'm dying to put a mantle in my living room and this was fabulous inspiration.
3. Ate lunch at Storie Street Grille and had the most amazing sandwich...Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimiento Cheese and Bacon!
I intended to take a picture of my lunch but was too eager to try this delicious "Southern Pride" sandwich.
4. Overall it was a perfect mother-daughter day trip and much needed on this spring break week.

**Hope you're enjoying this week and keeping warm today**

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wine and Window Treatments

Yesterday seemed to have a theme of its own... and it was sadly not rest and relaxation. I started in on crafts bright and early but didn't finish my list of things to do until around 9:00pm. Needless to say I resorted to a bottle of wine and Bethenny Ever After to wind down from this non-stop crafting marathon... hot glue burns and mess galore were put aside for the night. But I am beyond proud of my revamped kitchen. Here are just a few things I accomplished today:
1. Framed lemon dish towels
2. Hung chalk board clock
($4.25 from Target... a steal!)
3. Made roman shades
(Pinterest craft found here)

*please forgive the coloring in the photos...
you've got to love the iPhone with a mind of its own

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dressing Up My Windows for Less

Happy Monday! If every Monday were like today, I'd never have a case of the Mondays again. Spring Break has officially set in and I've hit the ground running. Determined not to waste a minute of this valuable free time, I managed to tackle several crafts around the house today. I'll be posting several of these Pinterest inspire crafts throughout the week.

This weekend, I went looking for curtains for my bedroom at Target. To say that I'm in love with Target would be a major understatement, but when it came to buying curtains, I was more than disappointed with Target's prices. My biggest pet peeve with window treatments is that they are being sold in single panels now. At prices ranging from $19.99-29.99, that means that it would take at least $40 for me to treat 1 window... much less 2 windows!!

Luckily mom and I noticed that Target had a table cloth that matched the throw pillow currently on my bed. I remembered that I'd pinned a picture of "no sew curtains" on Pinterest last week and knew that this was the perfect time to put my pinning to good use. Each tablecloth was only $15.99. I was able to create 4 window panels for less than $35 instead of buying 4 window panels for a total or $120. Here's the story line of how this craft turned out with before and after. Enjoy!
Target has some fabulous patterned tablecloths right now... this one happened to match my pillow.
My throw pillow is the opposite of the fabric with a purple background and tan flowers.

First step is to lay out the table cloth and cut it evenly into two panels...
note: dogs are attracted to cloth of any kind... ha!

For those "sewing-challenged" people like myself...
use Heat and Bond to hem the trimmed side of the table cloth.
Then Head and Bond is the perfect size and
actually matches the hem on the tablecloth perfectly.

BEFORE: My boring old tan curtains were in desperate need of an update.
Target also has these hanger clips which were perfect for hanging my "curtains"

AFTER: I'm in love with the pattern and it add such character to the room!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

From the Land of....
White dresses, Lilly Pulitzer and sweet tea
Bow ties, seersucker and chivalry
Have a family filled gorgeous Easter day!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring Break To Does... To Don'ts.

The count-down is finally over. This afternoon at 2:30pm marks my freedom from the world of teaching for an entire week! Hello Spring Break... oh how I still love you past my tropical college getaways. Spring Break this year will not involve any big travel plans but I'm going to get plenty of rest and relaxation. That is, after I finish my to do list.

My Spring Break list of To-Do's has been getting longer and longer as the days go by. So far it entails:
  1. Finish the Hunger Games series (I'm on book 3 and yes I've already seen the movie. Love the books and have recommended them to everyone I know... including strangers at Target.)
  2. Re-bark my flower beds and backyard (My yard is in some desperate need of attention and black bark will do just the trick... by the way I hate loath yard work so this will involve quite a few other pairs of hands.)
  3.  Make roman shades for my kitchen windows (This past weekend I picked up the fabric for the curtains and will finally have time to complete this pinterest inspired craft that's been on my list since this summer. See Pinspiration.)
  4. 4. Quick trip to Blowing Rock for some shopping with mom
  5. 5. Have a lunch date with some girlfriends (The number one thing I miss from my job-less college life. The time to actually sit down in a real restaurant and eat with other adults. This lunch will most likely involve some afternoon cocktails as well... paradise.)
  6. Eye doctor appointment (I'm crossing my fingers that this little diddy will be checked off my list. I've been in need of new glasses since last year and it is getting harder by the day to read my board from across the room. eek!)
  7. Walk 5 miles (Two weeks ago, I started walking every day after work and I've mapped out a 4 mile route around the general area that I live in. I'm hoping to push my limits and walk 5 miles. My Nike+GPS app on my iPhone keeps me motivated by letting me know when I've reached each mile marker and even lets me know the pace that I'm walking.)
Things not to do over Spring Break:
  1. Eat out for every meal
  2. Sleep in past 9am
  3. Grade papers or any work there of
  4. Think about EOGs
  5. Sit in front of the TV (thank you DVR)
  6. Spend my whole months paycheck (at least attempt not to)
What's on your list of things to accomplish over Spring Break (yes, I capitalize this proper noun as if it's a holiday... because IT IS!)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

RueLaLa... OoooLaLa!

Right now, I'm catching up on this week's episode of Bethenny Ever After... by far my favorite show. Now I would never say that I want to be in Bethenny's shoes with her hundred mile an hour life style but I wouldn't mind the unlimited access to Skinnygirl margaritas (a topic for another day.) My favorite quote of the episode was when she asked her food blogger if "your (his) diet is your bank account?" HELLO my life!

**There was a rant about the lack of money in a teacher's salary to go here... but I deleted it so to spare you added stress and repetition of the every day conversation around the lunch table**

Living on a teacher's salary is a challenge that seems to motivate me more and more every day. Managing 10 months of paychecks to pay bills over a period of 12 months is a challenge in itself. But add on the fact that we only get paid once a month and that pay check doesn't go far. You've got a recipe for disaster unless you're a financially OCD person such as myself.

Saving money is a whole new high for me. Anything from couponing, yard-selling (yes this is indeed a verb), to bargain shopping on the sale racks at Target with a digital coupon on my handy ol iPhone (skip the part where you remind me that I shouldn't have an iPhone if I'm concerned about my paycheck... it's an investment might I add.)

A newer obsession of mine... as of the past year... is a website called Ruelala. This website host daily boutiques for discounted designer products. These products range from clothing and jewelry to bedding and cookware. Designer brands such as Jack Rogers, Vineyard Vines, Missoni, Hobo, Michael Kors, and Lilly Pulitzer grace Ruelala's presence. I'm a sucker from some Lilly Pulitzer and the minute I found out that I could get a Lilly dress for less than $50 (usually upwards of $200); I was rushing to join. Different boutiques open up every day at 11am so the eye candy just keeps coming. If you want to know more, visit Ruelala and see for yourself.
**Tomorrow, the Lilly Pulitzer boutique opens at 11am... DON'T MISS OUT! If I'm lucky enough to snag a dress then I'll be sure to post my spendings.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Merci. Gratia. Gracias. Tack. Thank you!

With the end of the school year in sight, I've started to gather my farewell gifts for my students. Being a 5th grade teacher brings a whole new light to elementary school due to the fact that we are the end of the line... last spot on the map... final hurrah for students. It seems so surreal to know that I won't see my students from this year roaming through the hallways next year but I guess I've never known anything different.

Today, our grade level had our quarterly "data day" (side bar: our principal so graciously lets us use extra funding to provide substitutes for the entire grade level on a day of our choosing so that we can analyze benchmark data, enter PEP data, regroup guided reading groups among the grade, create remediation activities, meet with specialist, and most importantly gain some sanity.) During our data day today, we began to plan this year's 5th grade graduation.

I'm not sure how your school handles the transition from elementary to middle school but we make sure that our 5th graders go out with a bang. We have a Graduation DJ Dance Party (in which I do bust a move myself.) Then the following day we have a formal graduation ceremony with a march to Pop and Circumstance, handing out of diplomas, and slide show of years past. To say that this graduation ceremony out did my college graduation would be an understatement!

With graduation comes end of year teacher presents. Being brought up as southern as they come, my mother taught me well that no gift goes without a thank you card. And this weekend I happen to come across some adorable Thank You cards at Target and had to toss a few packs into my cart.

By far my favorite and so fitting for 5th graders!
$2.99- 10 count

$3.99- 10 count (love the blue)

$3.99- 10 count.
Reminds me of Kate Spade... which of course I LOVE.
Where do you tend to buy your thank you cards?

Monday, April 2, 2012

File Folder Infatuation

After 3 months away from blogging... I think it's about time that I start back to sharing my oh so boring slightly entertaining life. The beginning of a new year seems to bring more stress than the beginning of a new school year. The third quarter is always a tedious time for 5th grade teachers with middle school visits, last attempts at benchmark testing, raging hormones and bounding loads of paper work.

To my surprise, I'm actually quite happy that the fourth quarter has finally rolled around. Even though we are in EOG cramp mode, I love the predictability and uniformity of my lesson plans. We have now entered into our 4th quarter boot camp for math, reading and science.

Math is now an hour and half of station rotations (oh the joys of working in small groups!) and reading is a continual cycle of skill practice and endurance passages (with a touch of a game here or there.) I actually feel like, for the first time, I can breathe!! Finally there is enough time in one day to actually teach... due to the fact that I'm basically reteaching everything from the past 7 months... but that's besides the point.
In these first few weeks of 4th quarter, I've gotten on this kick of organizing my classroom.
Starting point: the dreaded filing cabinets
I've run into the same problem over the past few years with the fact that our filing cabinets do not have the rods to hang "hanging" files on; therefore all of my "hanging" files are falling over and making one huge mess.
Solution: Expanding files

 Office Depot- $13.49
Not just any expanding folders but bright colorful folders. I've taken on the task of putting every document in my classroom into labeled manila folders and categorizing all of them into these vibrant gems. Once I compile all of the folders into my filing cabinet, I will be sure to post a before and after picture.

How do you organize in your filling cabinet?