Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Carseat Belt Covers

I really hate those rough edges on the seat belts in my daughter's carseat. Every time I tighten down the straps, I feel like they are going to rub her little neck raw. I know I can buy these covers, but I also suspected I could make them pretty easily. Turns out I was right about that. :) This is a fast project, and great for using up scraps.

*Don't have the time or inclination to make these yourself? Check out Apples to Applique on Etsy and have me make them for you!*

All you need is four 6" square pieces of fleece and some hook and loop tape.

I like to use two different colors to make the covers reversible, but you can make it all out of one fabric if that's what you have.
Sandwich two of the squares together; if you're making it with two fabrics, use one piece of each color.
Sew around the edges using a quarter-inch seam allowance. Leave about two inches open on one side to turn.

Clip corners.

Turn through opening, making sure to turn corners completely out.

Topstitch around entire outside edge, closing opening in the process.

Cut a 4 1/2" strip of hook and loop tape. Sew hook side to one edge and loop side to opposite edge on opposite side of square. For example, on mine, I had the hook side on the sage green side and the loop side on the brown side.

Ta-da! Reversible covers!

Put these on your child's carseat straps and keep those little necks comfy!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chicken Sour Cream Enchiladas

If you ask my husband what his favorite meal is (that I make, anyway), he will tell you it is these enchiladas every time. They aren't very healthy, so we save them for semi-special occasions, like his return from a business trip the other day. We celebrate the small things around here. :) I do make it slightly healthier by using reduced fat sour cream and cheese, but it's still not the healthiest thing in the world, which is probably why they're so tasty. We can all indulge a little sometimes, right?

These enchiladas are in no way authentic Mexican food, but they are delicious, and they mix up quickly--especially if you have some chicken that is already cooked and shredded. I like to precook both chicken and beef and keep it in my freezer, ready for recipes. It saves so much time to just cook a bunch up at once!

Chicken Sour Cream Enchiladas

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked
1 16 oz. container sour cream
3 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 24 oz. jar of your favorite salsa
8 burrito-size tortillas

Preheat oven to 350.
Shred chicken. I like to shred it in my mixer using the paddle attachment; it gets it so much finer than when I just use a fork. Plus, it's way easier! Thank you, Pinterest!

Spread a few tablespoons of salsa on the bottom of a 9x13 pan--just enough to lightly cover the bottom and keep the enchiladas from sticking.

Add the sour cream, 2 C of cheese, and about 3/4 of the jar of salsa to the chicken. It doesn't have to be exact, but you want to save enough salsa to cover the enchiladas before baking.

Give it all a good stir. It will be a little sloppy, but shouldn't be runny. Add more cheese or salsa if you want to change the consistency a little, or to better suite your tastes. This recipe is very forgiving!

Spoon about 1/2 C of the mixture into the middle of a tortilla.

Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish.

Continue with remaining tortillas.

Cover tops of enchiladas with remaining salsa.

Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. (If you are making them ahead of time, go ahead and put them in the fridge at this point. When you are ready to bake them, increase cooking time to about 45 minutes).
Remove from oven and top with remaining 1 C of cheese.

Return, uncovered, to the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some cilantro, if desired.

Enjoy! I hope your family likes this recipe as much as mine does!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sweet Potato Frittata

Today was one of those days when I was looking around my kitchen trying to figure out what to make and realized I really need to go to the grocery store. Ugh. I didn't feel like getting out, especially since I wore the baby out with a shopping trip yesterday, so I tried to come up with something using ingredients I had on hand.

Enter sweet potatoes and green onions. I also had a few eggs and some cheese, so I decided to make a frittata. Okay, for all you foodies out there, I did not cook it the way a frittata is technically supposed to be cooked; I baked it like a quiche. However, I did not add milk or cream to it, so it's not really a quiche, either. I decided the ingredients made more of a difference than the cooking method and that, therefore, it is closer to a frittata. (I do think adding some milk to it would make a delicious quiche, though.) Whatever you call it, the results were pretty tasty.
I also made it crustless, because I'm trying to eat fewer white carbs, but you could use a crust.

Sweet Potato Frittata/Quiche
3 sweet potatoes, baked, cooled, and peeled (I baked them in the microwave)
5-6 green onions, chopped
4 eggs
3/4 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Grease the bottom of a pie plate or casserole dish (or put in your crust).
Cut the sweet potatoes in half and squoosh them out of their peels, then cut them in cubes. Toss the sweet potatoes and onions in the bottom of your pie plate.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the cheese, a couple dashes of salt, and some pepper to taste. Pour over sweet potatoes.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

I love the simplicity of this recipe! It's tasty as it is, but I want to try it again, adding in some more spices or maybe some bacon. I would love to hear your additions!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spoiling the Hospital Staff

About a week before Baby Girl was born, Hubby and I got the idea to bake some goodies to treat the hospital staff that would be taking care of us. After all, being a doctor or nurse is hard work, and patients can be a little demanding. As a teacher, I know how little tokens of appreciation can go a long way to brighten someone's day.

I decided to make a double batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies, the original Nestle Toll House recipe (except I omitted the nuts, in case of allergies). I had the time; I was off work, school having ended the week before, and the nursery was completed, so I was just waiting for Baby to make her appearance.

A hundred cookies later, I was ready to make them into individual little packages. I put two cookies each into sandwich baggies (the fold-top kind) and tied them with pink curling ribbon, attaching these tags I made on the computer:

I also printed up the following little sign to set with the cookies:

I stopped by my local Dollar Tree to buy a couple of baskets and hand towels to make a pretty little display.

It looks cute, and was inexpensive. So much so, in fact, that I didn't have to try to remember to bring the basket or towel home, because I didn't care about either one.

I made up two baskets, and then put them both in the freezer--towel, sign, and all. The cookies stayed fresh, and when it was time to go to the hospital, they were already arranged in the basket. I just grabbed the baskets along with my hospital bag and walked waddled out the door. At the hospital, my husband put one basket at the nurse's station, and the other on the counter in our room.

Let me tell you: this was a big hit! We immediately became "the people with the cookies", which certainly didn't hurt our relationship with the hospital staff. Everyone we interacted with was excellent (before they knew there were cookies involved, ha!) and I truly wish we could have done more for them than just give them a little treat. However, they were very grateful, and we felt good getting to add a little pleasantness to their day.

Several people were surprised that I, at nine months pregnant, was able to bake cookies and put a little basket together. Even though I was off work at the time, I think more moms-to-be could do this pretty easily. The cookies don't have to be homemade; you could do this with any kind of candy or treat. Plus, as I mentioned above, (and this is the big one): I did it ahead of time. I picked a day I had time, put the baskets together, and then put them in the freezer. Done. If you didn't use homemade goodies, non-perishable items could be put together ahead of time and just set with the hospital bag. I guess the thing I'm trying to get across is that it really wasn't that much of a time commitment, and the little bit of effort was worth it.

We were blessed with an easy labor and delivery, and our stay at the hospital was as enjoyable as a hospital stay can be. The doctors, nurses, custodians, technicians, etc., were all wonderful, and it was nice to have a little something to say "thank you". I think it's important to show gratitude and kindness to people, especially those who are often taken for granted. What better way to spread God's love?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gender Reveal Party

I have been absent from the blogging world for a while, having taken a break after the birth of my beautiful baby girl.

I just love her so much. <3
(By the way, you can get adorable headbands like hers from Rich in Blessings).
I've also been working on compiling my graduate portfolio for my Masters of Education degree--talk about a huge project! It's finally almost done; I just submitted the last part of my rough draft, and the final project is due in a week, and then I am FINISHED with school!

You know, I have been working full time while being a full-time student for years now. This past year I was a full-time graduate student, a full-time teacher with a self-contained classroom (meaning I taught all subjects, which takes a lot of planning and grading), and I was pregnant the entire school year--literally; I got pregnant in September and had Baby Girl in June. So after wading through this past year with that crazy schedule, plus the morning sickness and fatigue and all, and still somehow managing to also make everything for Baby's nursery, I thought surely this one course I had left to take this summer wouldn't be a big deal.
Yes, I knew when I enrolled that I would have a newborn, but it was my last course to get my Master's degree, and surely if I could handle all that other stuff I could handle one little course and a baby......ha! Yeah, right!
Well, okay, I obviously handled it, because I'm here at the finish line, but let's just say I don't recommend it. I mean, I'm so glad that I will finally have the degree, and that I didn't put it off, but this summer has not exactly been easy. I've had time for very little else, let alone crafting and blogging. Thank goodness for my amazing husband who has picked up so much of my slack around here lately.

Anyway, my schoolwork is finally drawing to a close, and now that Lil Girl is 6 weeks old I feel like I'm getting a much better grasp on this whole motherhood thing. She's on a really consistent schedule now, and is sleeping 6+ hours at night, so I'm starting to get some semblance of "normal" back--my new "normal", anyhow. :)

This post is to share with you about our awesome gender reveal party, thrown by my brother-in-law and his fiance'. Yes, this was a while ago. I have wanted to blog about it for a while; refer back to the above for reasons why this didn't happen. ;)

When we had our 20 week sonogram appointment, we had the doctor call my brother-in-law and tell him the baby's gender while we waited in the other room. Then we had to wait for the longest week and a half of my life until we were able to travel back to our hometown for the party. But it was really fun and well worth it!

They rented out the local community center for the party and decorated it so cutely!

 Refreshment table--everything pink and blue!

Everyone received a coin when they arrived, and put it in one of the buckets to place their vote for girl or boy.

Hubby and I stopped at Pops and got some pink and blue pop for the occasion.

You can also get vintage soda pop from Amazon.

Everyone dressed in pink or blue, for Team Girl or Team Boy. Hubby and I also bought these ridiculous hats just for the heck of it.

We played a game based on old wives tales, in which I was asked questions about my pregnancy, and a tally was added to either the boy column or the girl column depending on my answer.

Finally, just when I thought I couldn't stand it any longer, we arrived at the actual reveal. Everyone was handed a Hershey's chocolate bar wrapped in plain paper and asked to decorate it for us.

After everyone had decorated the wrappers, my soon-to-be sister-in-law announced that one of the candy bars had the answer inside it. She told everyone to unwrap their candy bars at once, and that whoever had *the* candy bar needed to shout it out.

Hubby and I unwrapped our bar to find this:

It was a really special moment as we were able to find this out with all of our family and friends.

Now, they rigged it so that we would be the ones to open the candy bar, but it would also be fun to let a random guest open it and shout it out, which was my sister-in-law's original plan. Unfortunately in our family, we just couldn't trust that to happen. As it was, we had people quickly coloring in just the "HE" on their bars and shouting out that theirs said "HE" and there was a discrepancy. Lol--you gotta love family!

All in all, this was a very memorable day. I am thankful to my brother- and sister-in-law for all the work they put into planning, and that we got to celebrate our news with friends and family. To anyone who is considering having a reveal party, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Favorite Behavior Management System

I have tried several types of classroom behavior management systems, and heard of many more, but this one is hands-down my favorite.

Of course, by the time I decided to take a picture of it we were six weeks away from the end of the school year, so it's pretty beat up.

The concept is very simple. You need 1 piece of cardstock in each of these colors: purple, blue, green, white, yellow, orange, and red. You also need 1 clothespin per student, labeled with their names.

Each color has a corresponding behavior, as seen in the picture above. Write (or print) the behavior on the corresponding behavior. Laminate if you want. (Let's be serious--we're teachers, of course we want to laminate everything!)

Purple: Praiseworthy
Blue: Bravo
Green: Great
White: Wonderful
Yellow: Yikes
Orange: Oh No
Red: Rough Day

Layer and staple to the wall so that each color slightly overlaps the one below it, as seen in the picture.

Attach the clothespins at the bottom and you're done!

It's even easier to use than to make. Every day, all of the students start on "Wonderful". When they make good choices, have them move a clip up a color. When they make not-so-good choices, have them move a clip down a color.

What I love about this system:

It enables students to be rewarded for good behavior, rather than just being punished for bad behavior. I've tried the having-students-pull-a-colored-card thing, which works, but then one bad choice can ruin their whole day with no chance of redemption. This system fixes that.

It is incredibly easy to use, and can tell you at a glance who is having what kind of day.

It encourages positive reinforcement.

It can be customized with rewards/consequences. For example, if my students finish up 3 or more days on Bravo or Praiseworthy and do not go home on Yikes or below any day of the week, they get Treasure Box on Fridays. If they are on Yikes, Oh No, or Rough Day, they owe me a certain amount of recess time (10 minutes for Yikes, 20 for Oh No, and all of recess for Rough Day). You can make this your own depending on your students and grade level.

It makes it easy to communicate behavior with parents and record behavior for report cards. I use a communication sheet like this:

Teachers, please feel free to download the above image of the behavior sheet for use in your classroom if you find it helpful. We're all in this together!

Each Monday, I put one of these sheets in each student's take-home folder. At the end of the day, I circle their behavior and write any comments needed. It's not as tedious as it sounds; my kids and I have the whole process down to about five minutes for the entire class. I call them one by one to my desk, ask them what color they are on, circle it, exchange a few brief comments about their day, and then call the next student. You could circle the behavior for them while they are packing up, but I like the students to tell me themselves what color they are on. I also like that it gives me that one-on-one time with each kid, so we can discuss (briefly) why they are on that color. The parent initials in the box each night, and adds their own comments.

For report cards, every Friday I record their overall behavior for the week. The way I do it is if they were on Bravo or Praiseworthy 3 or more days, with no days below Wonderful, they receive an E for that week. Receiving mostly Wonderful and Great, with maybe one Yikes or one Bravo or Praiseworthy earns them an S. A couple of Yikes in one week, or an Oh No, earns an N. Finally, multiple days on colors below white, or even one Rough Day, earns a U for the week. At the end of the nine weeks, I look at their average weekly behavior and use that for their report card. No more deliberating on how to classify a student's behavior--I have the data in front of me! This is also helpful for when parents question why their child received an N or U in behavior--they initialed the paper, and it has all been documented. It's all quick, easy, and consistent. Love it!

I hope some of you find this helpful in your classrooms. I would love to hear how you've adapted this system for your own classroom and grade level, or about behavior management systems that you've found successful!