Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homemade Scarf Hanger


Are you ready for Fall? I am ready for the weather to change. I am also ready for jeans, sweatshirts, apple cider, pumpkins, weekend football games, and wearing scarves. I absolutely love scarves. Scarves are the one thing that I always had trouble trying to find inside my closet. They are hard to organize if you don't have the right system in place. For a while, my scarf pile was in the need for some serious organization.


This is what my scarf mess looked like before:
Just a basket full of scarves.. where is the one that I wanted to wear today? Somewhere in this mess. 


In order to declutter and try and make space and sense of my closet, I decided to make a scarf hanger using a hanger or two, depending on the amount of scarves, shower curtain hooks, and some hot glue or super glue. We happened to buy some extra shower curtain hooks when we moved here so I already had them on hand. 


Hot glue or super glue the shower curtain rings into place. Then, put some scarves on there and you end up with this!



Much better organization! How do you organize your scarves?


Chicken Enchiladas

At our house, we have Mexican at least once a week. Both of us just love it and it's so easy to make. Last week, we had two of our friends over for dinner and I decided to make these chicken enchiladas. Apparently I was feeling confident in the kitchen that night, as I crafted my own chicken enchilada recipe for guests. Luckily, it turned out great and I will be sure to make it again! 

2 cans Enchiladas Sauce (Mild)
¼ cup chopped onion
1 lb chicken breasts
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon cumin 
1/4 cup sour cream 
8 tortilla shells
1 cup Mexican shredded cheese 
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 

        1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onions and 1 can of Enchiladas sauce until bubbly. Add chicken, top with remaining can of enchiladas sauce, cumin and oregano. Cover. Cook 10 minutes, flip chicken, cook an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.  Let chicken and sauce cool. 

      2. Grease 9 by 13 pan with cooking spray; set aside. Remove chicken from sauce and shred chicken using a fork.
      
      3. Add sour cream to cooled enchilada sauce. In a mixing bowl, combine chicken,  1/2 cup Mexican cheese, 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of the enchiladas sauce.

      4. Place tortilla shells on microwaveable plate. Microwave on high for 30 seconds.

      5. Fill tortillas with chicken mixture, around 1/3 of a cup per shell. Roll; place shells in greased baking pan, with the seam facing down. Cover with enchilada sauce. Bake for 15 minutes.

      6. Remove from oven and cover with remaining cheese. Bake for an additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through.

      7. Enjoy!


Recipe from Emily's Kitchen


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Class Bank Accounts

My husband did some training with the Air Force for a few months and during that time I worked at an elementary school tutoring students in math. One of my favorite teachers to help was a 4th grade teacher who just loved her job. One of my favorite things that she did was she used money for a class incentive/behavior management. There are hundreds of different ways to do this but I liked how she incorporated it into her daily routine.

1. Find a money template and print your picture (the teacher's) on the money. With some quick googling I found this website where you can download money and add a picture. Scroll all the way to the bottom.
http://www.printablekidsplaymoneytemplates.com/

2. Give students a folder or envelope that they can use as their "bank".

3. Reward students with $1 rewards for things like giving a good answer, helping another student, walking well in the hall, turning in HW all week, getting a 100% etc.

4. Charge students for things like not having their name on their paper, talking during instruction, missing HW, using the bathroom etc.

5. At the end of the week have students trade in their dollars for bigger bills: $10, $20 etc. This way you can reuse the $1.

6. Students use the money earned to buy prizes or the whole class can earn a reward when they reach a certain class total like $500.

There are tons of ways to use this in the classroom. The teacher I saw use it would charge everyone in the class a dollar if they had issues in Music, PE etc or if they misbehaved when they had a substitute. At the end of the year the teacher holds an auction of prizes she has collected all year so that the students can use the money they have earned. As she collects good prizes she shows the students so they know what they are saving for. This incentive system would probably work best with upper elementary students.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Asian Chicken Skewers with Spicy Marmalade Sauce

Marmalade triumphs as a spicy-sweet compliment in this Asian-inspired recipe. If weather permits, try grilling your skewers outdoors for a tasty summer meal.

Chicken:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders 
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Sauce:
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped and seeded
1 ½ tsp. butter
1 tsp. fresh ginger root, grated
¾ cup marmalade
1 Tbs. lime juice
1 Tbs. orange juice concentrate
¼ tsp. salt

In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine oil, soy sauce, garlic, and red pepper flakes; add chicken tenders. Seal bag and shake gently to coat. Refrigerate 24 hours (or at least 4 hours).

Grease broiler pan and preheat broiler. Thread chicken onto metal skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak in water) and place on broiler pan, about an inch apart. Discard remaining marinade. Broil chicken skewers 6 inches from heat, for about 2-4 minutes per side, until chicken is no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, sauté jalapeno in butter until tender. Add ginger and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat; stir in marmalade, lime juice, orange juice concentrate, and salt. Serve chicken with sauce atop fried or steamed rice.

*Original recipe from Simple & Delicious Magazine


Taco Soup

If it were up to my husband, we would have “Taco Tuesday” every week. If it were up to me, we’d never eat the same meal twice in one month. Therefore, we compromise. I give him taco flavor most every week, without actually repeating the dish. This soup is an easy fix for the stovetop or crockpot and is great served with warm tortillas or cornbread.

1-1   ½ lbs. lean ground beef 
1 package taco seasoning
1 T. ranch dressing seasoning
1 cup beef broth
1 can (28 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (14 oz.) Rotel tomatoes
1 can (15 oz.) whole-kernel corn, drained
1 can (15 oz.) chili beans

In a large pot, brown beef until cooked through. (If using a crockpot, brown meat in a pan before adding to the crockpot.) Add taco seasoning and ranch mix; stir well. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream for serving.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

I love making sweets! A few weeks ago, a friend of mine had a bunch of girls over for a tea gathering and I thought this was a great time to try out this new recipe. Most of the time when I take a dessert somewhere, it's the first time that I have tried it. It's a little bit risky but usually turns out just great. These cupcakes will taste just like the cookies and will leave you wanting more! 

 2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tarter
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 and 1/4 cup sour cream
2 and 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar 
2 tablespoons cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until completely combined. Add in vanilla. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing between. 
2. In a different mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking power, cream of tarter, nutmeg and cinnamon. 

3. Add the flour mixture and sour cream to egg mixture, rotating between; starting with flour and ending with flour. 

4. Drop tablespoons of cupcake batter into cinnamon sugar mixture. I used an ice cream scoop to help. Cover the cupcake batter completely and then place in greased muffin pan. 

5. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to sit in muffin tin for a few minutes before removing and placing on wire rack.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Broccoli and Spinach Bites

This recipe is really quick and easy to make. It is great as an appetizer for a party or for a different kind of side dish for dinner.



1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped (I used minced onion)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 10-ounces packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 10 ounce package of broccoli thawed
8-ounces stuffing mix
4 large eggs (If the mixture is too dry use a 5th egg)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter over medium heat in a pan, add the onion and cook til translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Make sure all of the water is removed from the broccoli and spinach. Combine the stuffing mix, spinach, broccoli, eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and onion/garlic mixture. Combine well. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mixture into individual 1-inch balls. Place each one on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.

Recipe adapted from The Curvy Carrot

Fall Printable

Since I am originally from MD, where the temperature actually changes four times a year, I have grown to really love Fall. The weather is perfect, the colors are pretty, the food is yummy and there are so many activities to do. Now that I live in South Texas, I fear that Fall is just not going to be the same. I am pretty sure the average temperature in South Texas is still in the 80's for October. Hopefully I will be able to get in some jeans and boots days before then!

I came across a tutorial from Centsational Girl on how to create word art in Picnik and Picasa.  The tutorial is simple and very easy to follow.  All I did was find a photo image of the background I wanted online and then I edited the background with Picnik.  There are hundreds of possibilities on what you can do but for my first attempt I was pretty pleased. 


You should just be able to click the image to open it into a new window and then print an 8x10.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mini Fruit Pizzas

Fruit pizza has always been one of my family’s favorite desserts. Recently, I went to a dessert party and wanted to bring something fun and fresh, but something that didn’t require a fork. Thus, I miniaturized the fruit pizza! There are many variations of this recipe and it can be adapted for the fruits that are in season, but this version is one of my favorites.

Two tubes refrigerated sugar cookie dough 
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. orange marmalade or peach preserves per cookie
Strawberries, thinly sliced
Blueberries
Mandarin oranges

Prepare sugar cookies per package directions; let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer, until smooth. Spread each cooled cookie with cream cheese mixture. Gently spread marmalade or preserves onto cream cheese layer. Spread prepared fruit onto cookies as toppings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Crockpot Shredded Lemon Chicken

This is probably the easiest meal I’ve ever made. In fact, I almost feel guilty it was so easy – but not too guilty because it was absolutely delicious. 4 ingredients, 1 crockpot, and you’re done. Easy.

4 T. butter 
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 packet Italian dressing mix
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons

Place butter in the bottom of crockpot and turn on low. Add seasoning packet and chicken to a large, resealable plastic bag; shake to coat. Place chicken on top of butter; top with lemon zest and juice. Cover and cook 5-6 hours on low. Before serving, shred chicken with two forks; add back into juices and stir. Serve over steamed rice.

*Modified from The Queen Bee’s Hive


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Everyone loves eating the cookie dough out of the bowl before it's been baked! This cookie dough dip tastes just like uncooked cookie dough; it's egg free and totally safe to eat. Enjoy it on cookies, with a spoon, or with ice cream! 

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add sugar and whisk until dissolves. Set aside to cool. Add in vanilla.

2. In a mixing bowl, cream cream cheese and powdered sugar for 1 minute. Using low power, add in sugar/butter mixture until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

3. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with Cookies.


Recipe from How Sweet it is

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Growing up, I was never much of a chocolate person and am still not. I would much rather have gummy candy (Swedish Fish) than a candy bar. I do however, love Reese Peanut Butter Cups! I used to love watching the commercials (during the 90's) for peanut butter cups and trying to eat them all different ways because "There's no wrong way to eat a Reese!" When I saw this recipe for homemade peanut butter cups, I just had to try them. I wasn't sure how close they were going to taste to Reese but I was pleasantly surprised at their flavor and how much they taste like the real thing. If you are a Reese Peanut Butter Cup lover, you have got to make these!

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups (Makes 24)
1 cup peanut butter 
1/2 cup powered sugar 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Pinch of salt 
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 bag milk chocolate chips

1. Line 24 mini muffin tins with liners. Set aside. 

2. In a mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, powered sugar, vanilla and salt in bowl until combined. Chill in refrigerator.

3.  In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips until smooth and shiny. Drop teaspoons of melted chocolate into paper liners. Using a teaspoon, push the melted chocolate onto the sides of the paper liners, until covered. Chill until firm.

4. Remove from refrigerator. Top firm chocolate with peanut butter, smoothly down with finger to make flat. Top with remaining chocolate. Chill until set.


Recipe from Handle the Heat


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Measurements Printable

Let's all close our eyes and think back to 5th/6th grade math! How many cups are in a gallon? How many pints in a quart? How many ounces are in a cup? Many of you may know the answers to these questions if you do a lot of cooking and baking but it never hurts to have a little cheat sheet.  The following printables are very basic references. 

Here are some suggestions on how to display the chart:

1. Print out the picture and back it with a magnet. Brush a layer of Mod Podge on the front to protect the magnet and give it a nice shine.

2. Cut and paste the chart into your most used recipe book(s).

3. Simply tape it on the inside of a cabinet door or in the drawer where you keep your measuring items.

4. Mod Podge it to a tile and display it in the kitchen.


 

Cheese Burger Mac and Cheese

I am not usually a huge red meat eater but when my husband and I moved to South Texas I tried Whataburger. You may ask what is Whataburger??? It is just a fast food restaurant but for some reason I love their burgers! I do not eat fast food a lot and usually I feed my Whataburger craving with a turkey burger made at home but the other night I decided to make Cheese Burger Mac and Cheese. It was really good!!


At first glance this looks gross but it tastes wonderful!! I combined a few recipes and this was the result!

For the burger:
1lb ground beef or ground turkey
1 small onion chopped OR 1 Tbsp minced onion
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard (I used one big squirt)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

For the Mac and Cheese:
8 oz pasta (bow tie, elbow, etc)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
8 oz. shredded cheese
3 cups milk or less if you want cheese thicker

1. Cook ground beef in a skilled with the onion. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

2. Boil pasta according to the package directions while the beef is cooking.

3. When beef is browned through, drain in excess grease. Mix in the Ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and set aside.

4. After pasta has been cooked and drained, melt the butter in a sauce pan and then add the flour.
When the butter/flour is golden in  color add the milk. Stir until the milk is bubbly and thick. This should take 5-10 minutes.

5. Once the sauce has thickened, add the cheese.

6. Combine the cheese sauce and pasta.

7. Serve the Mac and Cheese with the hamburger mixture on top of the pasta or you can mix it all together.

Adapted from BHG and The Pampered Chef.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Blueberry-Banana Oat Bars

With the school season back in gear, I’m on the lookout for healthy, energizing after-school snacks for my daughter. These bars are low in sugar, high in fiber, and so delicious you might be tempted to snack before the kids get home!

1 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats 
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup mashed banana (about 2 medium)
¼ cup skim milk
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup Craisins (blueberry flavored)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray (try 9x9 square dish for thicker bars). In a medium bowl, mix together oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. In a large bowl, mix together banana, milk, egg whites, and vanilla. Slowly add in dry ingredients, blending until well combined; stir in Craisins. Bake 35 minutes until golden and cooked through. Cool and cut into bars.

*Modified from Allrecipes

Be sure to check out Kim's next exciting post tomorrow!

Creole Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

There is nothing like spice to warm you up on a cool, autumn day. This zesty gumbo is flavorful, yet doesn’t take hours to make and won’t break the bank. Serve it up with thick slices of bread to sop up the spicy juices.

2 cups and 1 cup chicken broth, divided 
1 cup uncooked rice
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 pkg. kielbasa or turkey kielbasa, sliced
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Creole seasoning (Such as Zatarain’s)
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, roughly chopped
¼ cup cold water
3 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. lemon juice

In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups of broth to a boil. Stir in rice, celery, and garlic. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat a large pot with olive oil. Add chicken and brown for about 2 minutes. Add kielbasa, tomatoes, remaining broth, and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add onion and green pepper. Stir in lemon juice. Combine water and flour until smooth, then stir into the gumbo. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until thickened.

Remove rice from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Serve gumbo over rice and sprinkle with additional Creole seasoning for extra heat.

*Modified from “New Orleans Gumbo” in Simple & Delicious Magazine


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes w/ Lime Frosting

Lately, I have been finding all sorts of great dessert and sweet recipes to try out. This is one of the recipes that I tried out this weekend on our friends, who came over for a wine & dessert party. I made 7 different sweet treats & literally spent all day Friday and some of the day yesterday in the kitchen. I didn't mind though, as I love to cook and bake. 

This recipe has been adapted from Real Mom Kitchen. I decided to give the pink lemonade cupcakes a lime frosting but you could also adapt this recipe and give your cupcakes a lemon frosting which would work great with the pink lemonade flavor of the cupcake.


Cake:
1 package white cake mix
1 package instant vanilla pudding (small size)
3 Tablespoons Country Time Pink Lemonade
1 cup light sour cream
2 tsp. lemon zest
¾ cup water
¾ cup oil
4 egg whites
Pink food coloring

Frosting:
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup shortening
½ cup frozen lime concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla, clear
1-2 teaspoons lime juice
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 drop green food coloring
3 drops yellow food coloring

Directions:

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, vanilla pudding and drink mix. Add sour cream, lemon zest, water, oil and egg whites. Beat using an electric mixer until combined.

2. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack, allowing cupcakes to completely cool before frosting.

3. To make frosting: Cream butter & shortening. Add lime concentrate, milk, vanilla and lime juice. Beat with mixer until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar until fluffy. Add food coloring.

4. To pipe frosting onto cupcakes, use a Wilton 1M tip. Start from the outer edge of the cupcake and swirl to the inside. 



 This recipe has been adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

Don't forget to check back tomorrow as there will be a post from Juli!

Home is Where...

I’ve been a true Air Force wife for just over a year, the moment that we landed here at our first base. Throughout my life, I had always lived in Michigan. I grew up there. I went to college there. I got married there. And my husband and I lived there for a year before our big move to where we are located now. Before meeting my husband, I never thought I would move out of Michigan and if I did, I would be moving to Colorado or Montana. But life doesn’t always go the way as planned and sometimes we end up in locations we never thought we would live in.  

To me, my true home with always be Michigan. When someone asks me where I am from, no matter how long we have been in the Air Force, I will always say Michigan.  But through every move and in every state, we have to make that place “our home".  Home is Where the Air Force sends us. 

Throughout my blog stalking/pinterest love, I have seen plaques that say Home is Where the Air Force sends us and underneath lists the different bases where at some point, you have called home.  Being the crafty person that I am, I decided to make my own sign for our house. To make, I picked up a piece of craft wood from Hobby Lobby. There are all different sizes so I just found the one that I liked and made it work. Then, I got the same shape in a little bit smaller size for the base/location, to hang underneath. 

First, I painted the craft wood white so that when I adhered the letters and painted over it black, the words would be white. Then, using my Cricut, I cut out the letters using George & Basic Shapes on plain contact paper. I aligned the letters where I wanted them on the wood and adhered them, making sure that they were stuck down as good as possible. You don't want paint to seep through and get on the white. Once the letters were adhered, I painted over with black acrylic paint, allowing the paint to dry between coats. I probably did around 3 coats to give it the total black look that I wanted. After the paint was completely dry, I pulled off the letters. 




 Happy Sunday!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Using Key Words to Increase Comprehension

A reading strategy that I often used with my lower readers was using key words from the reading selection to make predictions, increase comprehension, and to help students summarize what they read. The process is simple. (This is best used for short reading selections or for single chapters of a novel.)

Step One: The teacher reads the selection before the lesson and chooses 3-5 key words from the story that focus on the main idea/events of the selection.

Step Two: Before reading the selection with the students the teacher should present the words to the students, practice saying the words and discuss their meaning. These words DO NOT have to be vocabulary terms for the story.

Step Three: Tell the students the title of the reading selection and/or the cover of the novel if applicable and have them complete the following sentence: "I think/predict the story will be about ___________" and the students must use all of the key words in their predictions.

Step Four: Have students share their predictions and then read the story.

Step Five: Have students write a summary of what they read on the same paper as their predictions. They must use all of the key words in their summary.

This process helps build predicting skills, fluency, comprehension and summarizing.

Baby Taggie

One of the reasons that I wanted to learn how to sew was so that someday when I have kids, I will be able to make clothes for them. When I was growing up, my mom always made us our Halloween costumes as well as numerous dresses and outfits. To this day, she still makes me dresses and is currently making me one for my husbands graduation from pilot training.

Once I got my sewing machine from my mom for my birthday, I began to blog "stalk" many different blogs to find ideas for projects. I also have started to pay closer attention to people around me that have kids, to see what I can make for my future kids or for gifts for my friends with babies.

The project that I want to share with you today are baby taggie blankets. Baby taggie blankets are small in size and are great for babies to feel and touch. For this project, I cut one piece of light pink minky 12 1/2 inches by 12 1/2 inches and one piece of white silk material the same size. Then I cut 6 different  (different texture s and widths) ribbons, 5 inches a piece, 4 times. In the end, you will have 24 ribbons, although you can use more or less if you like. Pin the ribbons onto the minky using quilting pins. You will want to make sure that when you sew, you won't run over the pins. The ribbons can be placed wherever you like. I placed mine around 1 1/2 inch apart.( I like things to match! ) Once all the ribbons are attached, place the silk right side facing the right side of the minky and pin in place.


Now off to the sewing machine. Sew 1/2 inch from the edge on all four sides leaving around a 3 inch gap for turning. You will want to make sure that all your ribbons are catching in the stitching. When you have stitched all the way around, flip taggie. At this point, if all the ribbons aren't in, you will want to go back and rip out and sew in the ribbons. Then, you can top stitch around the edge around 1/4 inch closing up the opening.





Utopian Literature

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, utopia is defined as “a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions” (Merriam-Webster, Inc.). Utopian literature offers an ideal opportunity for teachers and parents to encourage good reading habits while having important conversations about perfectionism, society, morality, and many other topics.

Questions for discussion:

  • Is perfection attainable?
  • Is “perfect” the same for everyone?
  • Which is more important: safety or freedom?
  • Who makes laws? Who enforces them?
  • Is it okay for people to be different? Should everyone be the same?
  • Is it possible to create a perfect place? What would it be like?
  • Is the utopia in this book really ideal? What are the flaws?


Recommended utopian literature:
The Giver* by Lois Lowry (11+)
                Click here for a reading guide
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (9+)
To ask questions about the book
Messenger by Lois Lowry (9+)
The Hunger Games* by Suzanne Collins (12+)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (12+)
The Supernaturalist by Eion Colfer (10+)
Uglies* by Scott Westerfeld (11+)
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer (12+)
The White Mountains* by John Christopher (12+)
The Secret Under my Skin by Janet McNaughton (12+)
Among the Hidden* by Margaret Peterson Haddix (9+)
Watch the book trailer
First Light by Rebecca Stead (9+)
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman (12+)
The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle (11+)
City of Ember* by Jean DuPrau (8+)
Watch the movie trailer

*First in a series
(Barnes and Noble, LLC)