Back to School- Tips and Tricks

Monday, August 3, 2015

With well over a month left before I officially meet my new batch of kinders, I am practically in full-on school mode!  Welllll, that's probably partially because I am immersed in the incredible Writing Institute professional development at Teachers College this week.  Seriously, one day in and I am HOOKED.  Lucy Calkins is like the human embodiment of teacher wine, chocolate, and pizza all rolled into one.  She is a spellbinding speaker.  I took 7 (!) pages of anecdotal notes today so, fret not, I will be sharing more on that next week!

ANYWAY, back to BACK TO SCHOOL!  I wanted to share a little bit of my Back to School FUN and organizational tips.  Here goes...

A small little something for your colleagues and administrative assistants or administrator!  Fill a mini glass jar (or baby food jar if you have those handy!) with some sweet treats (M&Ms for the Marvelous and Magical tag, Lifesavers for the lifesaver tag, and your favorite candy for the 'sweet' tag) then print these gift tags and attach with a ribbon! 

 I always like to give something a little practical and "teacher-y" to my new Assistant Teacher.  Last year I gave a super cute mini clipboard to my new AT.  I am SO psyched about the girl I am working with this year, I will have to find her something special! 
Now for the kiddos! 
About a week before school starts I send out the beloved jitter glitter! So the glitters doesn't make a huge mess on the floor where the letter is opened (great way to kick off the year with the moms- NOT!) I put the glitter in a little baggie.  
Here is a version I sent out a few years ago... 

Here is the template that you can purchase as part of my Back to School/End of Year Organization + FUN!
In addition to the jitter glitter, I also send my welcome letter.  You can snatch it up for grades K-5 here

  For our Orientation Day, I like to give the kiddos a little treat to enjoy after their first day.  Here was last year's snickety snack.  

This year I am going to give the kinders some bubbles to take out to recess the first day.  I don't have these prepped yet (I still have a month to go!) but here is the template I am using for the tag!

I don't like to leave the parents out, so I put these adorable little poems on a wire or plastic picture frame holder and give it to them as a little memento of our upcoming year. 

 I make sure to leave these poems right next to my super important parent contact sheet.  Yes, the office gives me a copy of all this info but I like to have it all right there in each parent's handwriting at my fingertips for when I need it quickly! 

At the end of the year I send my kiddos and parents home with these tear-jerkers, also included in the pack! 

 A little more organizational helper.... my teal, pink and green themed classroom labels. So I, or anyone else who may enter my room, knows exactly where everything is!

 All of these goodies are available for kindergarten through fifth grade in my TPT Store.  There is so much more goodness for back to school/end of year in there- be sure to check it out and HURRY! it's on sale through tomorrow.  All this for only $5.20!

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Mealtime Monday Roasted Onion, Tomato, and Garlic Dipping Sauce + leftovers!

Awl-riiiight, this one isn't exactly speedy, but it's so delicious I had to forgo the "speedy" factor for the taste factor.  Once you get some minimal prep out of the way, you get 120 minutes of FREEEEE time while the veggies roast.  Woo hoo.  Grab a magazine, check parent emails, orrrr write another blog post to link up below!

Okay, for starters, preheat the oven to a low 275 degrees. {Alternatively, you could roast these on 375 for much, much less time (30-45 minutes) but  I just love the slow and low roasting!}

Chop, chop, chop a tomato (1 large or 3 small) and red onion into large chunks.  Throw them in a bowl and toss with a generous pour of olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Spread the veggies out on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Throw a few cloves of unpeeled garlic on the sheet for a little garlicky goodness.  
Throw these babies in the oven for 90 minutes- 2 hours. 

Take them out and let them cool for a few minutes before putting them in your food processor. 

Pulse these up to you desired "doneness."  

Sometimes I like it a little chunkier if I know I will be using these as a savory dipping sauce or topping for some delicious bread toasts, or I make it super blended and pour it over chicken cutlets or ladle it generously into pasta.  Yummy leftovers! 

Monday Night!

Tuesday Night!

1 large or 3 small tomatoes 
1 large red onion
3-4 unpeeled garlic cloves
Italian seasoning (are you sensing a trend here with my recipes?!)
olive oil
salt and black pepper

What have you been whippin' up in the kitchen these days?!  Link up below!


    An InLinkz Link-up

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Mealtime Monday: Arugula, Proscuitto, Fig and Cheese Flatbread

Monday, July 27, 2015

Oh boy!  Even writing this post is making me want to go back and bake a second, okay, third  flatbread.  This is my all-time favorite quick, easy and DELICIOUS meal.  The whole thing takes 20 minutes from start to savoring the very last bite.  Perfect for that 'Let's-Get-into-the-Friday-Vibe-Crack-Open-Your-White-Wine' Thursday night meal.  Let's get cookin'!

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Take a bag of pre-made store-bought dough and cut it into the correct portion then flour and stretch/roll it out.
{HINT: When I am devouring this solo, I usually cut the dough into quarters.  If my husband and I are eating this, I use thirds or half of the dough depending on our starvation level.}
Use a generous portion of olive oil on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spread the dough out as thin as possible on the sheet.

 Drizzle a little olive oil on the top of the dough so it doesn't dry out.  For an extra flavor kick, sprinkle some Italian seasoning and cracked pepper on top of the uncooked dough.

Into the oven for 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of your dough.  You want to take it out when the bottom of the dough is nice and golden brown.

Allow the cooked flatbread to cool momentarily before spreading fig preserves/jam over  the top.

Tear pieces of proscuitto and your favorite cheese spread out on top of the flatbread and fig.  I loooove me some goat cheese crumbles, my husband prefers shaved parmesan.  If neither goat cheese nor shaved parmesan are available blue or gorgonzola cheese crumbles work as well.  Also, if there is no proscuitto or it's not your thing, use some good ol', beloved BACON!

Lastly, lightly dress a few handfuls of delicious, peppery arugula with balsamic dressing.  I love, love, LOVE TesseMae's balsamic vinaigrette but any balsamic dressing will do.  Generously spread the arugula over the finished flatbread and VOILA!  Buon Appetite!

store bough pizza dough
fig preserves (alternatively you can use peach jam)
your favorite cheese (goat/blue/gorgonzola crumbles or shaved parmesan) 
proscuitto (or BACON!)
optional: Italian seasoning or cracked black pepper

What's  cookin' with you?!  Link up below!


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MEALTIME MONDAY - Pesto Ravioli with Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Asparagus

Monday, July 13, 2015

A robust repertoire of recipes that are simple, speedy and delicious! 

Another blissful week of summer has whizzed on by,  I don't start to freak about going back until the beginning of August so I still have some time.  This week's MEALTIME MONDAY Linky Party is a super quick, great summer meal.  I usually start making this in March to get us in the summer-mood.  

Pesto Ravioli with Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Asparagus 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Chop off the bottom ends of a handful of asparagus (one small handful per person).  If the stalks are super thick, take a vegetable peeler and strip off some of the outer skin.  

Arrange the asparagus and grape tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil (easy cleanup!).  Keep them separate so that if the tomatoes burst, they don't leak on the asparagus.  Drizzle olive oil (to lightly coat) and then sprinkle on a generous helping of salt and pepper.  

I like to sprinkle some Italian seasoning on the tomatoes for an extra dose of flavor.  Put the baking sheet in the oven for 25-30 minutes, make sure the tomatoes don't burst! 

Next, boil a pot of salted water with a dash of olive oil (to prevent sticking!).  After about 15 minutes, carefully place the ravioli (or other stuffed pasta of your choice) into the pot.  These cook quickly, so make sure to reduce the heat and keep an eye on them! The ravioli should be finished in less than 10 minutes.  

{For the sake of time, I used store-bought pesto.  I will post on my homemade pesto recipe soon!  It doesn't take long at all and is even more delicious than this scrumptious paste}

When the ravioli have finished, delicately drain them and place them in your serving bowl.  Spread about 2 tablespoons of pesto into the bowl and mix.  

By now the tomatoes and asparagus should be finished.  Remove from oven and carefully spoon the tomatoes into the pesto ravioli bowl.  Continue to mix until thoroughly combined.  Place the asparagus spears on your plate and - VOILA! Dinner is served! 

1 package of ravioli of your choice (I like four cheese and my husband likes spinach!) 
2-4 tablespoons of pesto (depending on how intense you like the flavor)
10-15 grape tomatoes 
15-20 asparagus spears
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil 
Italian seasoning (optional) 

What's your go-to meal? 


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Monday, July 6, 2015

HAPPY SUMMER, friends!  I don't know about you, but I have been soaking up every single lazy, relaxing, rejuvenating moment of summer.  Seriously, I am so "in the summer zone" I haven't even put in my orders yet (shh! don't tell, I swear my Really Good Stuff cart has  1,000 items in it, I just need to put them on purchase order form!).  Anyway, as much as I would loooove to be working on TPT items right now, I just can't.  I know in a few weeks I will motivate myself to revamp some oldies or create some new products (maybe I'll get around to that K-3rd STEAM product I've been meaning to make for the past 18 months...) but for now, I am all about the beach, reading chic lit, attempting to exercise and .... COOKING!

Okay, so here is the deal.... I am starting a weekly link party all about cooking! You guys, who is loving cooking now that we aren't exhausted and just wanting to order take-away after a looooong day or faculty meeting/parent teacher conference!?  Cooking has once again become enjoyable.  My aim for this linky is to share simple, easy, and QUICK meals for teachers (or anyone!) to utilize after a long day. Simple steps, ingredients that won't break the bank, and most importantly- speedy!

Two years ago I couldn't even cook a piece of chicken on a George Foreman grill.  No, seriously, I was helpless.  Right around the time we got married, I got a ton of gorgeous cooking gifts off of my wedding registry.  I mean, if people were going to spend the money to buy me such nice presents, I figured I might as well have learned how to boil a pot of water.  Yikes!  Two years later, I still have my fair share of kitchen disasters and my super, super picky palate isn't helping (TRUE STORY: I didn't eat anything that wasn't white until I was 12) but, I have made a concerted effort to master some quick meals for the week nights.  Join in this linky and share your favorite simple and speedy meals.  Let's start a nice repertoire of recipes for heading (ahhh! I can't even say it...) Back To SchooL!

Here goes nothing...

ps- please be patient as I practice working on my recipe steps.  I feel like that Writers' Workshop lesson where you have the kids tell you how to make peanut butter and jelly and you follow their directions exactly and it is a disaster.  #teachernerd

Sausage Pasta

Super simple and delicious dinner, ready in less than 15 minutes!  Okay... Wish we luck with my directional skills!

I had some leftover spicy Italian sausage from grilling kebabs over the weekend and my husband loooves this sausage pasta dish so I figured, "why not?"

First, put a pot of salted water on the stove and wait for it to boil. 

While the water is heating up, I removed the sausage casing (cut down the center with a scissor or knife then pull off) and cut these little guys into about 3 pieces each (about 1/2 an inch thick).  Then throw them in a skillet on medium high heat with  a tablespoon of butter or olive oil.  Cook them until browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside, about 8 minutes.  

I always add some minced garlic (1/2 teaspoon) and white wine (1/2 cup) into the pan during the last 3 minutes of cooking just to infuse a little extra flavor. 

While the sausages are cooking on the stove top, I throw in my FAVORITE ingredient EVER- STEAMFRESH veggies!  These are a GODSEND 3-5 minutes in the microwave and VOILA- fully cooked vegetables.  These are a staple in many, many of my meals.  
I use the Premium Selects broccoli florets for this recipe because the stalks just don't taste as good with the pasta and sausage.  
Throw these in the microwave for 5 minutes (check your time/wattage depending on your microwave).

Now, the water should be boiling and add in your favorite pasta.  I usually use orecchiette but those are super are to find at my local Stop and Shop. Tonight I just used penne.  Any pasta will do.  
Once the pasta and broccoli have finished place them into the pan with the sausages.  This helps them to really absorb the flavor of the white wine and garlic.  Mix it around a little then spoon the ingredients into your serving bowl.  

As you will learn, I put cheese on EVERYTHING.  I sprinkle a little a lot of pecorino romano (parmesan will do, too!) onto the pasta dish and my husband likes to add a little red pepper flakes for some extra heat.

2 sausages per person
1 cup of pasta per person
1 packet of Steamfresh broccoli
1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter 
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup of white wine
grated cheese to taste
red pepper flakes to taste

Dinner for two is served in less than 20 minutes!  Phew!

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EOY Writing Follow Up

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The calm AFTER the storm.... a beautiful thing!  I officially finished my FIRST year of KINDERGARTEN yesterday!  Cue both fireworks and sobs simultaneously.  Loved the kiddos,  parents, curriculum, colleagues- e v e r y t h i n g!  I just hate that its over.  I had this surreal moment while I was hugging them goodbye yesterday, like "oh, wait, you won't be in this room again next year."  I think last year's good-bye was so super emotional because I was leaving the school that this year seemed like a no-brainer until they were actually physically leaving my room and I wanted to scream "WAIIIIITTTT,  don't go! Come back!!"

(Reading. At first I couldn't do it, then but then I tried again and it worked 
and now I am reading hard words. )

Anyway, enough of the sappy- here's something that actually might be of use to you over the next few days...  You can read about my post from last year here.  Here is the updated K version of this activity :)

To tie my shoes (a common theme!). And make new friends. And to meet my teachers.

Make friends and learning math 

and my personal favorite, 
tying my shoes, reading, learning alphabet, learning math 

Sorry for the crummy pictures, my focus was more the on littles rather than taking aesthetically pleasing photos!  Snag the FREEBIE here.

ps- There is also a writing page for, " KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!"

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EOY Gifts for Retiring Colleague or Administrator

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Yoo hoo!  Remember me?! I'd love just ONCE this year to not begin a post like that.  Between starting a NEW job at a NEW school this year plus a whole lot going on in my personal life (got dad's blood work back yesterday- 3 months post chemo and so far so good! Keep up the prayers!), it's been nuts trying to maintain blogging.  I pinky promise next year I will be better ;)  Hopefully you've been keeping up with me on instagram.

ANYWAY,  I got a pretty significant response to this post on instagram and wanted to share about it in the hopes it will help some of my friends out there in the world wide web...   Our Head of LS is retiring after 15 years this year and while I've only known her a few short months, I wanted to do something special to commemorate her and leave her with lasting memories of all of us.  I know one of my favorite bachelorette activities is to stock the bride with tons of vino!  I piggy-backed off that idea to create a school-themed gift from us faculty.

Each faculty member selected a school event that our Head will either be surely missed at... or glad to be missing!  Back to School Night, Spring Concert, PT Conferences, Field Day, whatever events are "special" at your school.   My colleagues wrote down a little message to be put on the bottle and emailed it to me.  Then the fun stuff came... 4+ hours of making these customized labels (the weekend before reports were due! What was I thinking?!).  On that day, she pops open that bottle, reads the message and thinks warm and fuzzies about all of us.  ;) 

For those who can't look at this and see exactly what I did... I made these in PowerPoint using Kayla's ADORABLE  honeycomb paper and Graphics from the Pond's frames.  Presto customized wine labels.    Don't have time for all that?  Not to worry, HERE is your own EDITABLE version.  Save time! I already put in 5 hours so you don't have to.  

I then printed the PowerPoint slides onto sheet sized labels and cut them out and attached them to the back of the wine bottles.  And by me, I mean all of my colleagues (LOVE them!!) came over for a little cutting and sticking party in my room.  Too bad we couldn't drink any of the wine.... 
HINT: Use the back so that your giftee can see what kind of wine it is!  

(don't mind this one, it was my first label and I didn't have good attaching skills!) 

The tubs I used to hold the wine were from Party City and cost around $8 a tub.  As you can see, this is a relatively affordable, super cute end of year/retiring gift for someone special at school!   See more gift ideas in my last post below (eeek! it's my holiday gift idea post!) 

PS- check back next week for photos of how I wrapped these up all pretty with a bow and cellophane.  Too exhausted to take pics today after carrying them into hiding away from the kiddos! Wine+kindergartners=NO BUENO!

PPS- if you are interested in having these custom labels, here ya go!