how-to, life, teacher, tips

8 Tips for Decorating Your Classroom

July 27, 2015

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While your brain may still be in summer mode with the whole month of August still ahead, the new school year is just around the corner. I welcome my students back into the classroom exactly one month from today. So, that means it’s already time to start preparing before everything catches up with you at once. Whether this is your first year as a teacher or your thirtieth, you’re probably looking forward to the first day when you get to welcome your students to an exciting new year. Finding some creative ways to prepare your classroom can be a great way to get your brain in school mode. Plus, a nicely decorated classroom is a great first sight for a nervous group of new students. But if you’re like many teachers, your decorations for your classroom come out of your own pocket, so it’s important to find ways to do so on a budget.

8 Tips for Decorating Your Classroom

  1. Start by picking out a few colors or a theme for the classroom. Choosing something in advance to keep the room cohesive is a good way to ensure your room looks great without forcing you to spend a lot on fancy supplies. Color combinations could be blue and white, or red, blue, and yellow, or green and yellow. Some themes might include Dr. Seuss, under the sea, reading, different cultures, famous landmarks or national parks, natural environments, outer space, ancient Egypt, or old-fashioned school motifs (books with belts, rulers, and apples). As you buy and collect items to use, keep your themes or colors in mind to make sure the end result is pleasing to the eye and consistent.
  2. Reuse and repurpose old supplies from last year. Got some chalkboard borders that are showing their age? Cut out the worn parts and use what’s left over to border the front of your desk, to decorate storage boxes, or to outline your calendar.
  3. Shop discount bins at a craft store or supply shop. Look for items that are not specifically targeted towards teachers to avoid the pre-school year price hike. Think about items like craft paper, patterned duct tape, scrapbook supplies, and ribbon to use as low cost decorations. Make paper pom-poms to hang from the ceiling, border your desks and cabinets with the decorative tape, and use different colored ribbons to make garlands and tassels to hang from door frames or desks.
  4. You can save a lot of money by printing out lots of nice tools and decorations at home. Design and print out name tags, keywords for the board, signs and labels for student folders and cubbies, etc. One fun idea: have each of the kids choose their own little icon on the first day of school. Provide your own printed out images or stickers of things like an apple, a star, a piano, a dog, etc. Have students choose out an icon and use this as their personal icon for the rest of the year so you can hand out binders, workbooks, and cubbies with their name and symbol. Or personalize each item with an actual picture of each student.
  5. If you want to get decorations for the wall that look a little cleaner and more professional, print out your own. You can also design your own educational tools as posters and decorations and then look into low-cost online signs that you can customize and have delivered.
  6. Get foam letters, Velcro letters, or letter decals to use around the room. Use them to spell out key concepts or to label items related to your subject. For example, if you teach Spanish, order some fun foamy stick-on letters to label the chalkboard as “pizarra” and the front of your desk as “escritorio.”
  7. Shop thrift stores, yard sales, and free giveaway events to find some unique items to use as decorations. For example, collect old dolls, actions figures, and other toys, glue them to a ribbon or piece of foamy board that you can hang over the chalkboard to act like a fun banner. Or get old books and frame the dust jackets to use as wall hangings or string them over a piece of ribbon to act like a garland. If you have a slightly higher budget, get some interesting vintage or antique toys or school items and use these as decorations. Make sure to put them up high if you don’t want them to get lost in the mix of toys and books. Fun ideas might include vintage lunch boxes, old textbooks and workbooks, vintage chalkboards, and wax apples.
  8. Find creative ways to make your storage solution part of your decoration scheme. Frame game boards and hang them up as decorations. Use sturdy cloth bags to hold the game pieces and attach these to the back of the frame so nothing gets lost. Use some of your shelving space to have some books facing forward so that their covers can act as decorations. And as your students start to produce their own art and projects, dedicate plenty of space to display these. This will liven up your classroom while encouraging your students to succeed.

If you’re the type to love decorating and DIY projects, then you’ll have no trouble making your classroom look great. But even if you’re not so skilled with scissors and glue, you can find lots of creative and low-cost ways to make your classroom feel welcoming and personalized.

daily outfit, dress

Blue and White Summer Dress

July 24, 2015
I received this Karina Dress to give my honest opinion and create a review post on it. All thoughts are my own. #frockstar

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Are you getting tired of seeing me outfitted in Karina Dresses? Well, just in case you are I conned my youngest sister into modeling my latest Karina Dresses acquisition. She’s wearing a blue and white patterned Peggy dress. This is the same style as the blue, red and off-white dress I wore a couple months back. And I have to say I think this style is quickly becoming my favorite over the tried-and-true Ruby. (Stay tuned next month for a review of my latest Ruby dress!)

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For the summer, I really like this simple blue and white color combination. It is simple but pretty enough to wear by itself but can also be layered with a number of different colors. The shoes options are also pretty vast, which isn’t always the case when you are dealing with patterned items. This really is the perfect blue and white summer dress.

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And can we just take a moment to rave about the backdrop of these photos? I took the new Karina Dresses to camp with me and we had fun taking pictures at the abandoned barn and ‘ghost’ house on the camp grounds. So fun.

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As per usual, a new Karina Dresses review means a new giveaway is starting soon! Stay tuned for the launch of the next giveaway at the start of August, and for now don’t miss the chance to enter this month’s giveaway.

 

family, giveaways

Saving and Creating RealTime Memories

July 23, 2015
This is a Fashionista Event and a promotional item was provided to me. Hosts for this event are Still Blonde after all these Years and ModlyChic.

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Admittedly, I am one of those photo taking fiends. Yes, I take a lot of pictures for my blog, but I also take a lot to share with family and friends. I’m always photographing beautiful scenery, chronicling family events and vacations, capturing life moments, and immortalizing the greatness of every day things (like cotton candy icecream). Some of these photos I won’t want to look back on in 10 years, but some I know I will crave in 10 years time. But with all the different devices that store my pictures I’m afraid that I’m not going to have them all in some central location and therefore some major life event will be lost. Enter RealNetworks which has a cloud-based photo sharing service called RealTime!

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The cloud-based service is pretty amazing, considering it does more than just store your pictures. It also easily and even automatically turns similar photos (based on location or time taken) into simple video montages to be shared with others. You can make your own as well as use the ones the service automatically creates. Sweet, right!? Talk about a time-saver.

There are a variety of pricing plans based on your needs. You can get up to 7GB free just by signing up and agreeing to auto-upload. Plans go up from there, with the largest plan giving you unlimited storage and a whole bunch of other amazing features for $99.99 per year. Subscribers can also get 30-days of the PREMIUM RealTimes plan for free with code COUPONSCOM15, plus you can check out Look for RealTimes coupons  on Coupons.com.

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To go along with this awesome deal, the Fashionistas have a great Giveaway from Coupons.com and RealNetworks. Use the rafflecopter below to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

crafts, DIY, family, life

Meant To Bee Bridal Shower Theme

July 22, 2015

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I know I promised this post about a month ago. But then I got to traveling and the Internet access is not always plentiful and hey when it comes down to a little time at the beach or one more blog post I have to admit I opted for the beach. But since the wedding hasn’t happened yet, I feel like I can still post about this bridal shower we hosted at the beginning of June. Plus this Bridal Shower Theme of bees is too great to ignore; after all they are Meant to Bee.

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My mom is really the creative genius behind all of this. I researched and tested drinks for the event and helped create the honey jar party favors, but beyond that my mom pulled the rest of it together and what a crazy thing it was that she managed to create! Our cousin, who is getting married next month, has always been called B, so as the engagement was announced my mom was already dreaming up a Bee-themed bridal shower. (The last one she threw was Georgia peach-themed. This woman does not do mediocre.)

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To work the Bee theme we went ahead and made everything yellow and black, even the hostesses for the day donned yellow and black clothing. Mom made large wreaths using wire-lined ribbons in, of course, yellow and black, as well as white and tan. Want to learn how to make your own? This is the video she used to get inspired.

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As mentioned before, the party favors were little bottles of honey with yellow and black material tied on top with a honey dipper attached using thick twine. We attached a little Meant to Bee tag to each bottle to further create the theme.

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The tables were decorated with bee-hive looking floral arrangements as well as upside down wine glasses with flowers and bees under the glass. We used black table cloths and yellow napkins, and, of course, the fine china.

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The food was your usual summer fare – lots of fresh salads and a chicken salad pie that guests loved. The drinks, my specialty, was a buzzed lemonade that included tart lemonade and two different kinds of alcohol, as well as classic lemonade for the few under 21 gals that came. (Stay tuned for the recipe post on for the Buzzed Lemonade one!)

how-to, travel, vacation

How To Pack for a Weekend Away

July 21, 2015

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I’ve written a post on how to pack for a long trip, but what about the short little getaways? What about the weekend warrior? What do you pack for a weekend away? I do a lot of these little three-day weekends throughout the year and I have gotten good at taking only the bare essentials because to me, the less clutter you take along with you the more you can really enjoy that time away. After all, as we keep saying life is about the experiences not the possessions.

How To Pack for a Weekend Away

Consider Where You Are Going and Why. Obviously, this is pretty apparent when packing. A weekend to explore a new city is going to be different than a family wedding, which will be different from a white-water-rafting trip or lounging in a cabin in the woods. Plan accordingly.

Take Only Essentials. Don’t go overboard packing a dozen outfits for the three day you will be away. The same goes for shoes and accessories. Since you are gone for such a short time you should have a pretty good idea of what you need. Take those things. Don’t take more.

Pick Items That Can Be Coordinated. You might only need to pack 5 pieces of clothing, but ones that could give you a dozen different outfit combinations. This way you are prepared if something unexpected comes up or if you wake up and don’t ‘feel’ like wearing the one and only outfit you pre-selected for the day. I NEVER fully plan an outfit for a specific day, but that’s just me.

Go Easy On the Extras. You are only gone a few days, no need to bring your entire jewelry and makeup collection. Grab a couple small zipper-closed bags and take only what you really need to complete an outfit. Free yourself and leave the rest behind.

Use Sample Sized Toiletries. I like to save those little samples my stylist gives me or the ones you might get in the mail or as you stroll through the mall. I pack a couple of those and then don’t need to worry about them leaking and I don’t feel guilty leaving them behind at the end of the weekend.

Remove At Least Two Things. I place everything out on my bed and consider it before rolling it up and packing it away. Usually as I am looking at everything I pulled from my closet and debating the finer points of bringing another shirt or two, I remind myself that less is more and that I need to put two things back, maybe more.

Use a Small, Easy-to-Carry Bag. Utilizing the classic ‘weekender’ sized bag to pack will force you to stay within those parameters. It’s also usually a good indicator of whether you are taking too much. If you can’t zip the bag closed, you need to remove more than a few items.

Packing List (this is based on what I take on the usual weekend away.)

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 basic skirt – usually in a solid color like blue, black, red
  • 1 patterned dress
  • 2 tops that can be worn with both the jeans and the skirt.
  • 1 jacket or sweater that can be layered over both skirts and the dress
  • 3 pairs of earrings
  • 3 necklaces
  • 2 bracelets
  • 2 pairs of shoes, both of which could be worn with everything you packed
  • And then of course your other essentials – pajamas, undergarments, toiletries
beauty, hair, how-to

How To Protect Your Hair When You Style with Heat

July 20, 2015

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You know from my Curly Girl Method posts that I am pretty against the use of heat on my own hair. I’ll use a flat iron or diffuser from time to time, but mostly I let my hair air dry in order to keep it healthy and whole. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to protect your hair when you style with heat. From years of straightening my hair when it was cut short and when I hated my curls, I’ve got a few suggestions on how to protect your hair when you straighten it or blow dry it frequently…

How To Protect Your Hair When You Style with Heat

Use heat sparingly. Flat ironing your hair, even blow drying it every day will quickly dry out your hair and create brittle strands and slip ends. You’ll end up with straw-like hair. UGH! I’ve been there, don’t that. It’s not pretty. Think of your schedule. When do you really need your hair to be on point? Apply heat that day and then come up with other ways to style your hair on the other days. (braids, twists, pony tails, etc…)

Use a high-quality products. I know, I know. It can feel like a waste of money to spend a lot on a hair dryer, flat iron or curling iron. BUT it isn’t and here’s why – a good quality styling tool is usually made with the latest technology. It is made with the best materials. Those things aren’t just to sound good, they are to protect your hair. Do the research. Find out what tools are rated best for what you need. (In separate posts, I’ve reviewed a great hair dryer, and the only flat iron I will use on my hair.)

Don’t use the hottest setting. We tend to think that the hottest setting will get the job done quicker and better. But all that heat is bad from your hair, and especially for your ends. Turn it down a notch or two. On lower heat, it’s okay if it takes a couple more swipes to get your hair flat, in fact it’s better.

Always use a heat protecting spray. There are dozens of these on the market right now. Do the research and figure out what will be best for your hair. It might take a little experimentation to figure out the one that works best for you and your hair type, but it’s worth it. Or ask your stylist to suggest something!

Stay away from the ends. Whether you are flattening or straightening your hair, you want to stay as far away from the ends as possible. The more you slides over them with heat the more they will break and split. For the most part you can entirely avoid those pieces of your hair without any adverse effects to the hairstyle you are trying to create. If anything avoid the ends, and then at the very end give them a shirt quick swipe.

Moisturize. From the Curly Girl posts you know this is my mantra lately. But it’s especially needed when you are going to be drying your hair out with a blow dryer or straightener. For the most part, you can apply more conditioner than you think you need and still see no negative effects in terms of greasy hair. Stay away from your scalp area, but always apply a leave-in conditioner to the ends of your hair at the end of your shower before any styling begins.

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Interested in the products I swear by? Here’s my post on the Curly Girl Method Approved Products I’ve tried and loved.

Have curly hair and want to know how to protect it? Here’s a post on 6 ways we ruin our curls.

Last week I got this multiple-paragraph text from a cousin asking about the best flat irons and how to protect her hair from all the heat. As I responded back in another long text, I realized this was the perfect post. So kudos to Maggie for the text that prompted this post.

how-to, tourism, travel, vacation

How To Pack for a Long Trip

July 18, 2015

This summer I am traveling more than usual – ahh, the perks of being a teacher and having three whole months off! I already spent three weeks out in the Boston/Cape Cod area. I’m currently in the midst of the Heartland helping out with two weeks of a girl’s leadership camp, then I spend two weeks in Milwaukee and 5 days in Atlanta, GA! I was home for a couple days between Boston and camp, but needed to pack everything for the next month when I got home because I won’t be back until the middle of August. Whew.

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The key to packing for a long trip is figuring out how to get the biggest bang for your buck, or better said, the most outfits with the least amount of clothing. I’ve written about packing lightly for vacation before, but that post is 4 years old, so it’s time to update.

How To Pack for a Long Trip

Make A List of the Activities You Will Be Doing; Pack Accordingly. Vacations vary, as do the activities that take place while you are away. Maybe you are hiking and spending one night in a city you plan to explore. Maybe you are touring Europe and plan to eat out every night at fancy places. Those two vacation require really different clothing choices. Know your general plan before you pull a single item out of your closet.

Only Take Items You Absolutely LOVE. If you are going to be carting around a suitcase, trudging through airports and basically living out of the same rectangle container for a week or two or three, you only want things you absolutely love to wear.

Pack Basics. By this I mean, things like your little black dress that is perfect for every occasion, and the pair of jeans that work for a range of different activities. Take a couple basic t-shirts, or the equivalent of that in your closet.

Take Things That Can Easily Mix and Match. Everything in your suitcase should be in the same color family, that way you can easily exchange one shirt for another, create a new look and new outfit and not worry about whether they match. If you pack things in a wide range of color families you are limiting the number of different outfits you can create.

Lay Everything Out and Count Outfits. I spread each bottom our on my bed and then stack potential tops above them. That way I can count, saying this black skirt can go with 7 different tops and that pair of jeans can got with 6 of those same tops – that way with 9 pieces of clothing I have 13 outfits already.

Consider Accessories To Create a New Look. The addition of a scarf or statement necklace, heck even a change of shoes can create a completely different look and give you a new outfit without packing more clothing. At the same time, jewelry has the tendency to add weight, even if it isn’t a lot of bulk. When you only have 50 lbs to check in your luggage be selective of the pieces you take.

Take ONLY the essential shoes (okay, and maybe one fun pair). By essential, again I mean shoes that can be worn with multiple outfits. If you are taking this stellar pair of heels that can only be worn with your LBD, you are limiting the space in your suitcase without creating more options.

If you are wondering what kind of suitcase I use on these trips… lately I have been opting for the hardshell medium-sized suitcases. It forces me to pack less because of the size, but it also protects the things I take better than those softer suitcases.
This post is in response to a reader asking me to write a couple posts on packing for vacation – short and long trips, etc… Thanks for the request Kit, it gave me a lot to think about as I packed for this month away!

dress, giveaways

July Karina Dresses Giveaway – Part II

July 16, 2015

Did you see this time I went with a skirt instead of a dress from Karina Dresses? Yup! I really stepped away from the usual. And you can too. Or you can update your closet with 6 new Karina Dresses. Either way, it’s your choice. That’s the greatness of the Karina Dresses giveaway.

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If you need some inspiration to enter this giveaway, the above collage is a smattering of recent dresses I’ve donned. The top, large picture is the Peggy, then from left to right, the Meghan, three Rubys and mom is in the Nora.

Need more incentive? Here are the dresses and skirt I’ve tried so far and the outfits I created using these great dresses as the starting point:

The TRUDY – blue and white polka dots. (A retro-style dress I wore at the start of the month.)

The RUBY – blue and pink flowers, black and pink flowers, navy and brown leaves, blue and orange paisley, bold red and vibrant blue patterned, (The style I LOVE the most – can you tell?!)

The MEGAN – floral, blue and red flowers.

The GALA – teal wrap dress.

The NORA – blue and white patterned.

The PEGGY – red, white and blue, black and pink polka dots.

The CAROLYN – bold green pattern.

The RITA – black and white wrap.

The PATTY – navy and orange flowers. (A personal favorite look.)

The FLIRTY SKIRT – red and white polka dot (This is the most recent style I’ve tried.)

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Use the Giveaway Tool to enter for your chance to win 6 of your own Karina Dresses! We do two of these giveaways every month, so your chances to win increase every time. Keep entering. You’re going to love these dresses. (I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love them.)

 

 

Karina Dresses has a newsletter you will want to get in your inbox. Each weekly newsletter has a winner of a new dress selected from the email subscribers. You have to open the email to see if it is you! In addition to giveaways, The Karina Dresses newsletter also has flash sales with the hottest prints at almost 50% off! To make this newsletter even more desirable to join, if you sign up and confirm your subscription (or are already a subscriber and enter this giveaway) you will be entered into the sweepstakes for $1000 in Karina Dresses! Are you ready to join the Karina Nation? Subscribe here!

If you are a blogger and you would like to do a review of a Karina Dress, they choose their reviewers from their affiliates! You can sign up to be an affiliate here.

daily outfit, dress, summer

Cream-Colored Feminine Floral Dress

July 16, 2015

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Dress: eBay (must be sold out now because the listing is gone.)
Shoes: Diane Von Furstenberg
Earrings: Charming Charlies
Bracelet: Claire’s

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I will be the first to admit that I get a little nervous when ordering clothes online, especially if I am ordering for the first time from a company – or, scarier still, ordering via eBay from a company in China. But this summer I was on a mission to find an adorable, feminine floral dress with sleeves. There are SO many dresses out there without sleeves, but this is the coldest summer in years, and in the Midwest sleeveless dresses are really not practical nor are they really that comfortable. So sleeves it is.

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When I stumbled upon this dress on eBay, I fell in love with it immediately. But, I’ve had some bad China clothing experiences. You know, the type of moments other bloggers have talked about with the clothing seeming more appropriate for a child than an adult and the sizes being completely unrealistic. But I liked this dress and it was inexpensive, so I gave it a try and figured what was the worst – I was out less than $25 and my niece would have a great dress-up gown.

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But then I got this little number in the mail and immediately knew upon pulling it out of the tiny little package it arrived in, that it would fit! The length was perfect, the sleeves adorable. It is super feminine, and while not really my personal style, it got a ton of compliments the very first time I wore it. I like the cream color and the way the floral patterns come together in the middle. (The dress also comes in a white background with more of a green tint to the floral pattern. I honestly couldn’t decide between the two of them!)

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daily outfit, red, skirt

Swirly Flirty Skirt from Karina Dresses

July 14, 2015


I’m in the midst of camp this week. More on the greatness of summer camp later, but I found this Flirty Skirt from Karina Dresses a perfect one to pack for camp. Sure there aren’t many opportunities to dress up at a camp in the middle of the woods, but we do one dress-up meal in the middle of the week. The swirly skirt worked perfectly for the occasion because it packs well and easily stayed in my suitcase all week without getting wrinkled. Plus, the ease of wear makes this really easy to wear while running around and looking after a bunch of little campers.


If you have been following along, you know this is the first skirt by Karina Dresses that I have tried. Usually I opt for the dresses, but as I have been trying to do this summer I decided to branch out and try this new style. I will say, the undergarments worn with this style skirt is crucial because of the way it lays. But a slip takes care of any or all issues you might have.

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And, as always, stay tuned for a new Karina Dresses giveaway post, which will go live later this week!

Of course, I received this skirt to review and share my honest opinion about the product.