Friday, September 30, 2011

Reading Strategies, Genre and Theme Posters

Some of you may know that I used to teach Language Arts. I am pretty sure I was born to teach it and I miss it terribly. I love going into classrooms and catching a few seconds of reading instruction. I love all of the posters in the rooms, the discussions, the adventures, the picking apart of each little element of the stories. In my travels I have found some excellent resources that I want to share with you.

Beanie Baby Strategies
This site is elementary based and uses Beanie Babies to teach word attack skills and reading comprehension skills. Posters have already been created.

This site provides genre posters, genre at a glace sheet, genre cards, genre graphs etc to use in the classroom.

This is the same site as the genre posters and it provides examples and descriptions of common literary themes. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link that says "Click Here for Old Theme Posters"

German Spaghetti

Many, many moons ago when I was an ice cream scooper at a Western theme park (that is not a lie) I had this wonderful spaghetti at an employee dinner. I had never had anything like it! I was looking in a church cookbook from my church in Maryland and wouldn't you know there was the recipe for German Spaghetti! I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I was happy with the result!


1/2 lb spaghetti noodles
1 can tomato soup
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (or more if you like cheese!)
12 pieces of bacon

Boil the noodles according to the directions on the package. At the same time, cook your bacon. I used the precooked bacon that you just have to microwave for 45 seconds or so.

When the bacon is cooled, crumble it up.

When the noodles are finished cooking, drain them and return them to the pot. Add the cheese, soup and bacon bits to the noodles and stir until the cheese is melted.
You may need to turn the burner back on low to help melt the cheese.

I like German Spaghetti to not have a lot of extra sauce but if you want more sauce just add 1 more can of soup and some more cheese.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mom's Chicken Casserole

As a Southerner, my mom knows her comfort food. Her recipe for chicken casserole has been passed to many and has known multiple incarnations. I prefer the recipe at it’s most basic, any time I’m craving a little contentment.
2 cans cream of chicken soup 
1 cup mayo
2 cups milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded chicken
4-5 cups raw egg noodles, crushed

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix soup, mayo, milk, and cheese until well blended; add chicken. Fold in crushed noodles. Add chicken mixture to greased 9x13 pan; cover and bake 25 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

**Also great to add peas and water chestnuts to the chicken mixture and top with fried onions for an extra crunch.

Basil-Lime Grilled Pork Chops

Though we are now fully ensconced in autumn, you wouldn’t know it from the weather. Around here, it is still, most definitely, grilling season. My pal, Missi, passed along this recipe, and, after a few tweaks, it made some of the best pork chops I’ve ever tasted!

4 pork chops, boneless 
Juice of 2 limes
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup finely chopped basil
½ tsp. parika
Salt & pepper to taste

Squeeze lime juice into a shallow bowl. Season pork chops with salt and pepper, then poke with a fork on both sides. Immerse pork chops in lime juice; rub on basil, garlic, and paprika until completely coated. Refrigerate and marinate for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat grill over medium heat. Grill pork chops 5-10 minutes per side, until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

*Original recipe from Allrecipes

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Freezer Paper Stencils

 I've become an avid craft blog reader. I follow way too many blogs and have trouble keeping up with everything. Now that there is Pinterest, way too much time is spent trying to find new and fresh craft ideas. I have seen many different posts using freezer paper as a way to create stencils. The stencils can be ironed onto fabric or clothing and then painted. A few months ago, one of my friends was expecting a baby girl. I decided to make her a onesie using a flower stencil and heart stencil.

There are two different way to make a stencil. One way is to use your Cricut, if you have one. Using your Cricut, you can have your Cricut cut out your design onto the freezer paper, saving you a lot of time. 

Another way that you can do this project without a Cricut is to find the picture that you want to paint on the computer. Print the picture out as big as you want it. Then, take a piece of freezer paper (making sure the glossy side is down on the picture), big enough to cover the picture. Using a pen, trace the picture onto the freezer paper. Once you are finished, lay a cutting board under the freezer paper and cut the stencil out using an exacto knife. You will want to make sure that the stencil portion stays in tack as that is what you will be using when you paint.

(Continue here for both ways) When the stencil is completely cut out, place it where you want it. Using a hot iron, iron the freezer paper onto the fabric., glossy side down. You will want to make sure that you iron it on completely and it is sealed all the way around. If the stencil isn't, paint will seep through where you don't want it. Put a magazine between the layers if painting on clothing. Paint using permanent fabric paint, completely covering any white in the stencil. You will most likely need to do more than one coat. To speed the process up, blow dry between coats. After 4-5 hours, remove stencil.

 Flower stencil created using my Cricut

Detroit Lion stencil using an exacto knife

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Character Space/ Character Book

When you can relate classroom activities to anything that is popular students love it. One idea for Language Arts teachers is to recreate a Facebook page for your students to fill out about a character they read. You can use Word and adjust the columns to create your Facebook page for characters. When I made this, Myspace was still popular with the younger kids so I called mine "Character Space".

All information is about the character the student chose. They need to use details from the book to fill out the page. The comments section is for other characters to leave comments like on a real Facebook page.

T- Shirt Activity

I am now dedicated to spicing up our "Teaching" section of Fly Girls. This activity is great for the first week of school when you are trying to get to know your students.  It can also be modified as a fun, artsy activity for the students to do in any subject. I am a big fan of tricking kids into thinking they are doing "fun work" when really it is the same as just writing their answers on paper.

First you need an outline of a shirt or really any object you wish. Here is one I found on

Blow the T shirt outline up to an 8x10 size. Each student will need one shirt.

And here is the activity:

As we begin a new school year and meet new people it is important that we get to know each other.  On the back of this paper you will find an outline of a t-shirt.  Follow the directions and decorate your t-shirt so we can all learn about each other.

1.   Around the collar write an alliterative adjective that goes with your name.  Example: Brilliant Bob
2.   In the middle of the t-shirt draw three things you enjoy doing.
3.   On the right sleeve name your favorite subject.
4.   On the left sleeve write an adjective people use when describing you.
5.   On the bottom of the t-shirt write one goal that you have for the school year.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Context Clues Bookmark

For many students, vocabulary is a huge stumbling block to reading comprehension. Students lose track of the meaning of a passage while stuck on the meaning of a word. Teaching kids to use “context clues” is a terrific technique to get students over this hump. This bookmark provides context clues reminders and examples for a quick and easy reference during reading. 

Do-It-Yourself Buffalo Wings

My husband is a wing fanatic – practically a connoisseur – especially during football season. Sometimes, however, a good wing place is hard to find, so I decided to do a little experimenting at home. The result was flavorful and meaty, and for a fraction of the cost you could get at a restaurant. Fortunately, my grocery store stocks pre-cut drummettes and wings, but if yours doesn’t simply buy whole chicken wings and use a large knife to separate the wing from the drummette, and cut off the tip. (Also great for pent up aggression) Use a buffalo sauce that appeals to your taste, either by experimenting with recipes or grabbing your favorite brand off the shelf. These wings are totally your own!  
¾ cup flour 
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
Approx. 20 wings/drumettes
½ cup melted butter
½ cup buffalo sauce (store-bought or homemade)

In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine flour, salt, garlic, and cayenne; add wings and shake to fully cover. (Hint: Make sure wings are completely dry before coating with flour mixture) Refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a large cookie sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together melted butter and buffalo sauce. Dip each wing into the buffalo mixture and place onto the cookie sheet. Bake about 45 minutes until wings are crispy on the outside and cooked through. Serve with extra buffalo sauce for dipping.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Deep Dish Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (Any recipe) (Find the recipe I used below)
4" ramekins or small baking dish 
Vanilla Ice Cream (We used Cookies n' Cream)

1. Preheat oven to 375° F 

2. Fill ramekins 1/2″ deep with raw cookie dough.  Place ramekins on sheet pan and put in middle rack of oven.  Bake 12-18 min., or until top starts to turn golden brown. 

3. Remove from oven and place each ramekin on a napkin or hot pad as the ramekins are extremely hot.

4.Top with ice cream and enjoy! 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup  Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted Butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose, unbleached Flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet)

1. Beat together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla extract, and salt.

2. Sift together the flour and baking soda.  Stir into batter, then add chocolate chips and stir until well mixed.

Are you wondering what to do with the extra cookie dough? You have four options! Option 1: make more deep dish cookies, you know you want another one. Option 2: make up some chocolate chip cookies with the remaining dough. Option 3: Store the remaining dough in a plastic bag or container in the fridge for up to a week and enjoy deep dish cookies all week long. (Just don't get the cookie dough raw) Option 4: Store the dough in a freezer safe container for up to a month. 

Grocery Bag Storage Solution

I am an advocate for bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, when I remember and trying my hardest to get everything that I purchased inside my bags. Obviously, that doesn't happen and we all end up with a closet or under the sink area full of bags. Ours were stuffed inside our broom closet. It got to the point where I didn't even want to open the closet because plastic bags would start piling out one by one or ten by ten. Not the best storage solution. Something needed to be done about that. I've seen the grocery bag plastic storage solutions that can be purchased at Walmart or Bed Bath and Beyond but I wanted something homemade. I found this great pattern for a plastic bag holder/dispenser on Sew 4 Home and just had to make one for myself. I bought the fabric from Hobby Lobby and followed the pattern. Then, I stuffed and stuffed plastic bags into the holder. Instantly I went from messy plastic bag hoarder to clean and stylish.

The perfect solution for your mounds of plastic bags.

What is your storage solution for plastic bags?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Teaching Using Podcasts

In my graduate class that I am taking online we had an assignment where we had to complete a podcast and share with the class. At first I thought it was a video podcast but then when I went to do the assignment I realized it was a phone cast.  This is a great tool to use in the classroom in a variety of ways.!!!!

With a phone cast you can:
~ update your channel daily with class announcements
~ record directions for group or independent work
~ record stories that your students may be reading for a listening center
~ record announcements to play for the school in the morning
~ have students explain vocabulary terms, math problems, science concepts for absent students

The possibilities are endless. You simple register your phone with the site and start recording.  How would you use a phone cast in your classroom?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken Thighs

While I typically prefer dark meat to white, I am often hesitant to prepare these bone-in cuts myself. This is the perfect recipe to try stepping out of your chicken breast comfort zone for a flavorful, tender dish.

1-3 lbs. chicken thighs, skin removed 
1 ½ cups soy sauce
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup coconut milk
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 ½ cups brown sugar
4-5 green onions, chopped
¼ cup white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Prepare chicken by removing all skin and visible fat and pat dry. In a large bowl, mix together remaining ingredients. Add chicken, cover, and refrigerate 4 hours-overnight.

Preheat grill over low heat. Grill chicken 5-7 minutes per side, until cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

*Recipe modified from A Dash of Thyme

Yarn Wreath

I’m just now starting to explore my craftier side thanks to my crafty friends and Pinterest. This yarn wreath was simple enough not to be intimidating and makes a beautiful embellishment for any season.

You’ll need: a foam wreath base, yarn (I used multi-color yarn), a hot glue gun, and embellishments. You may also want twine or ribbon to hang your wreath, though additional yarn would work just fine. I found all of my supplies at Hobby Lobby.

 To begin, use hot glue to secure the beginning of the yarn and begin wrapping around the wreath, pushing the yarn close together so that you can no longer see the white base.

 Keep wrapping. (Hint: If you decide not to complete your yarn wrapping in one sitting – I recommend breaks!– when you come to a stopping point, simply snip the yarn and glue it down. Then restart by gluing the end where you left off. This prevents unraveling.)

When the yarn completely covers the wreath base, securely glue down the end.

Play with the embellishments to decide on a layout; then use hot glue to secure to the wreath.

Allow your wreath to dry and hang with extra yarn, twine, or ribbon. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spicy Chicken Pizza

1 recipe Pizza Crust
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/4 cup Onion, diced
1 Red Pepper, diced
1/2 cup Mild Salsa
1 block of Pepper-Jack Cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon dried cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease pizza pan with cooking spray; set aside. In a skillet, saute onions and red pepper until tender. Remove from heat and add salsa to vegetables.

2. Roll out pizza dough; poke with fork. Spread pizza dough with salsa-veggie mixture. Top with shredded chicken and cheese.

3. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Recipe from Sargento

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Since we are packing up and moving soon, I decided it was time to start using up everything in the freezer. Creative ideas in the kitchen have been at a minimum lately because of this and us not wanting to buy too much stuff in the grocery store. We aren't moving too far but the less food we have to bring with us the better. I probably have 10 frozen bananas in the freezer so last night, I decided to try a new recipe and make peanut butter banana bread. It turned out great and was extremely moist.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Recipe from Joy The Baker

1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 5 bread pan with Crisco; set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients ( flour,soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice).

2. In a separate bowl, combine bananas, yogurt, peanut butter and butter. Mix using mixer until combined. Mix in eggs and sugars until blended.

3. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix until combined. Pour batter into prepared bread pan.
4. Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in pan before moving to wire rack.

5. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

30 Minute Chili

My sister gave me this recipe and it is really, really easy and yummy. It calls for two cans of beans but I used one can of beans and one can of corn. Also, I used chili powder and cayenne pepper to taste instead of taco seasoning. Happy Fall!!

1lb ground beef
1 can red kidney beans
1 can Mexi Corn
Chili seasoning to taste (I used a few tsp of chili powder and a few dashes of cayenne pepper)
small jar of marinara sauce

Toppings such as cheese, sour cream etc.

Brown ground beef with some chopped onion. Drain kidney beans and mix in with beef. Add marinara sauce and chili seasoning to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes. EAT!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Muffins

My favorite part of fall? The return of pumpkin! This was another Pinterest-inspired recipe, based on the simplicity of two main ingredients. (No eggs, no oil – just pumpkin!)

1 box yellow cake mix 
1 can (15-oz) pumpkin
½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients with an electric mixer on medium speed, 2 minutes, until well combined. Divide batter among 18 greased muffin cups. (Tip: Try using an ice cream scoop to measure out the batter.) Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Dust muffins with powdered sugar.

( Emily’s tip: Try adding milk or white chocolate chips to the batter!)

*Recipe modified from Sweet Verbena

S'Mores Bars

We all have an addiction to a great new website called “Pinterest”.  Imagine a giant bulletin board, filled with pictures of all your favorite things, that you can share with friends and family – that is Pinterest. Create personalized boards for design, travel, art, crafts, books, and my favorite: food. It was through Pinterest that I discovered this yummy recipe, and once again, set out to try my hand at baking. The result was gooey deliciousness!

½ cup butter, softened 
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 all-purpose flour
¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 large chocolate bars (Hershey’s)
1 ½ cups marshmallow cream/fluff

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease square baking dish.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually add to butter mixture, mixing on low speed until combined.

Press half of the dough mixture into the bottom of the greased dish. Place chocolate bars, in a single layer, over dough. (The bars may fit nicely side by side, but if not, break them apart to create an even single layer) Spread marshmallow cream over chocolate. Flatten remaining dough and lay over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stir-Fry Chicken

2 Chicken Breasts, diced
1/2 cup Cornstarch
2 Eggs, beaten
Olive Oil
2 tsp Honey
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Lime
1 Green Pepper, sliced
Handful Baby Carrots, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
Rice, cooked according to package directions

1. Add beaten eggs to shallow pie pan. In additional bowl, add cornstarch. Dip diced chicken in eggs and then dip into cornstarch. In bowl, combine honey, soy sauce and lime; set aside.

2. Add chicken and olive oil to pan. Cook chicken on medium heat, 10 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked and no longer pink.

3. Meanwhile, in additional pan, cook veggies until tender on medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low. Add chicken once cooked and sauce mixture. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until sauce is heated through.

4. Serve over rice.