Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Spa-cial Mother's Day

For years I tried to find the perfect Mother's Day craft for my students to give to the special lady in their lives.  Painted bird houses were fun, craft kits were usually junk, picture frames were cliche... what could I give that I would also like to receive?

Enter hand scrubs!

Easy and inexpensive, they make a great impression.  In fact I have gotten more "thank yous" from moms for this gift than any other.  Its useful and pretty!

Here's what you need:
Baby food jars (I have started asking for these on my school supply list.  The earlier you ask the better!)
Epsom salts (I get plain, this bag will last you forever)
Avocado or other oil 
Lavender buds (optional, but this package will also last a long time)
Big bowl, spoons and measuring cups

So, in a large bowl mix 1 cup of Epsom salts to 4 Tablespoons of oil, and 1 Tablespoon of lavender buds (if you're using them).  If the mixture seems dry, add more oil by the tablespoon, but it should NOT be too oily.  Have your students help you do the measuring to make this a great learning experience.  You can also talk about ratios to figure out how to scale the recipe.  That's it!  Help the kiddos spoon the mixture into their babyhood jars and decorate with a ribbon.  Last year's class asked if they could make labels with construction paper and that was adorable so of course I said yes.

You might also want to purchase this awesome creativity by Fluttering Through First Grade... my students loved adding all the details.  I purchased people colored construction paper so that they could make the card look just like mom!  It also includes the cute gift tag for the jar.

**** Please note that I do NOT recommend the use of essential oils in this craft.  I promise the lavender buds are enough.  Many oils are not safe for use around children and you cannot account for allergies in students or gift recipients.  And heaven forbid they should ingest or get some in their eyes while helping you!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

(Easy) Emergency Ice Cream Cake

So today is my husband's birthday and last night at dinner he says he'd like an ice cream cake.  Duh, every year I get him an ice cream cake from our local Carvel.  Well this year he'd like a custom cake... with cookie dough and cookies and cream layers.  Well, if you know Carvel, you know that requires at least a 24 hour notice and I told him so thinking I was off the hook.


He mentioned it again this morning.  Here's how that conversation went:

"You know I can't get that cake, I'd have to order it in advance."
"Oh, ok." (Sadly).
"Well I can get the ice cream and put a candle in it...."
"No, thats ok...just forget it and get the regular cake."
"So you're saying you don't want me to look on Pinterest and find out how to make an ice cream cake?"
"Well NO I didn't say that!!"

Lol.  So that's what I did.  Here's the original recipe I found it you want to check it out.  I modified it by making some short cuts, but otherwise it's pretty similar.

What you need...

  • 9 or 10 inch Springform pan (Surprisingly, you can get this in the baking aisle of your local Stop and Shop if you don't have one!)
  • 2 Quarts of Ice Cream (kinda soft, like you bought them, stopped at the post office quick and then came home)
  • One container of Cool Whip, thawed
  • Package of Oreos, or Hydrox if you're a monster
  • Ziploc bag
  • Sprinkles!

So here's what I did.  I knew the original post said that the cake had to freeze for at least 8 hours.  I had about that long so I got right to work.  The ice cream was already soft so I dumped the first quart in the pan and spread it out.  Keep in mind that the first layer is actually going to wind up being the top, if that matters to you.  I then took 25 Oreos out of the package and transferred 24 of them into a ziplock and smashed them.  I ate the other one while I sprinkled the smashed Oreos on top and spread them out.  I skipped the fudge because I don't think Carvel cakes have that layer although that might be nice.  With no time to spare, I then dumped the second quart of ice cream on top and pressed it into the Oreos and smoothed the top.  Place the pan in the freezer for as long as possible.  If you have eight hours or overnight, great.  If not, six hours is good enough, no one's going to turn away a homemade ice cream cake because it's a little soft.  About  an hour a half hour before serving, remove the cake from the springform.  You do this by turning it upside down on a serving platter and wrapping it briefly in a hot towel.  Spread the Cool Whip over the top and sides, top with sprinkles and stick back in the freezer to firm up for as long as possible.  Be prepared to impress everyone with your homemade ice cream cake!  My sister has already asked me to make one for her birthday next month!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Shift Your Nutrition with Shift Shop: Free eBook!

I just got back from Coach Summit in New Orleans which is probably a series of blog posts in and of itself, but this one is just about the newest program that I'll be starting next week, Shift Shop.  At summit we got to hear the creator, Chris Downing, talk about what makes this program (available NOW) so unique, including the meal plan.

There are a lot of rumors going around that this nutrition plan is no carb, or ketosis, but that's not quite true. The Simple Shift Plan is straightforward and simple to figure out: You take a quick quiz to find your calorie level, then find the corresponding plan that tells you how much to eat from a series of color-coded food lists.

While the Simple Shift isn’t technically a Portion Fix program, it can work with the Beachbody Portion Control Container System if you already have them. If you don’t, you can get them here, but it's not necessary to follow the program.

WEEK 1: The first week features a fairly standard balance of macronutrients with a moderate amount of starches and legumes (beans and peas).

WEEK 2: The second week cuts back the starches and increases the protein.

WEEK 3: Now it’s time to get serious.You’re eating starch- and legume-free so that all your carbs come from veggies and fruit. Comfort foods are gone.

It’s NOT a Low-Carb Diet

Keep in mind that The SHIFT SHOP nutrition plan is not a low-carb diet. At the start of the program, carbohydrates make up 40 percent of your daily diet, dipping down to 30 percent by Week Three.

It’s also not a ketosis diet, where carbs dip down to 10 percent of your diet. Ketosis diets also feature reduced protein, so as to force your body to utilize fat stores. Given protein is important in helping with muscle growth and recovery, the SHIFT SHOP doesn’t take that route.

If you had to align the Simple Shift with any diet trend, it’s not far off from Paleo eating, thanks to the progressive elimination of grains and legumes. The exception to this is the inclusion of diary, but thanks to the extensive list of choices in the protein food list, those foods can easily be left out.

As someone who has been following the 21 Day Fix style meal plan for a couple of years now, I'm looking forward to trying a new eating plan, and thankfully Beachbody gives me all the tools I need, including a recipe booklet with EIGHTY ONE recipes that I'm going to share with you!  And if you're looking to see results from Shift Shop, click here!  We have a challenge group starting soon with all the accountability you need to see results from this three week program!

Just click below to download!

Who is the SHIFT SHOP for?

Because of Chris’ “ramp-up” method, and because there’s an incredible modifier to follow, anyone can use the SHIFT SHOP to reach his or her next level of fitness:

• Men and women of any age or fitness level
• Beginners looking to start their fitness journey
• Graduates of Beachbody beginner programs, such as 21 Day Fix, and people of intermediate fitness levels who want a bridge toward more extreme workouts
• Those who enjoy athletic activities and want to become leaner, faster, stronger — as well as former high school and collegiate athletes who want to get back to where they were
• Anyone who wants to achieve significant results quickly

I hope you'll join us!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Seven Pinterest Worthy Valentines You Can Make (With Your Kids) in an Hour or Less!

I feel the mamas out there who want to do it all for their kids... I'm one of them.  But making Pinterest level Valentines for all THREE of my boy's classmates (not to mention my own students) is kinda low on the priority list.  And if that's you, then I've rounded up some super easy, but impressive looking Valentine crafts that you can make with your children in less than an hour.  All the supplies are fairly easy to come by and I particularly searched for those that you can get on Amazon Prime or your local Dollar Store.  Just click the photo to be brought to the instructions and free printable, if needed.  Feel free to add more easy ideas in the comments!

Much Love!

And my personal favorite....

These are the Valentines my boys are making.  I ordered these heart shaped glasses from Amazon and I'm sure they'll be a hit.

Oh... and as for my students?  We're currently reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio, so I think these will go over well. Lots of freebies on the site, so check it out!

We're also doing a super fun and creative Valentine box activity.  The students are using their imaginations to create the most unique boxes to catch their Valentines, and I'll be awarding superlatives using this file I created on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Each of the 30+ awards are available in both color and ink-saving black and white.  I like to print them on neon colored paper, the kids love them.  If you have an idea for additional superlatives, be sure to let me know in your feedback.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How I didn't get the results I wanted from PIYO

Today was my final workout in PIYO, which for the uninitiated is a pilates/yoga blend workout from Beachbody.  I had heard so much about the program and had seen testimonials and since I love Chalene so much, I thought this would be a great summer program for me to work toward my goal of completing three Beachbody programs this year.  And it was.  The problem was me.

I started out really strong with PIYO.  Even though it was summer and I was off from school, I would wake up at 6 am and get my workout in before the kids woke up and we had to be a million places.  Somewhere along the way though, I stopped working out in the morning and instead started doing the program in the evenings after the kids went to bed.  I became tired and distracted.  A couple of times I'm embarrassed to admit that I even QUIT before the cool down or skipped workouts entirely during the couple of heat waves we had (in my defense I made them up later).

The other problem was my nutrition was not in check.  I ran a couple of accountability groups over the summer months and while I ate pretty well, I was not as strict in my portion sizes.  We also had a number of events going on like everyone does that time of year, and while I would admit in my group that I had gone off the rails, I didn't really take serious measures to NOT reach that point in the first place.

I worked hard in PIYO.  I sweated in PIYO.  I burned and I yelled at Chalene a few times (I'm sorry I said that you weren't my friend anymore). I completed every workout, although maybe not as prescribed in the calendar.  I did get results that I could feel, but not really the ones that I could see, and that's what I wanted.  Here's what I did gain.... posture, alignment, CONFIDENCE, inches (which is amazing, I actually love my legs now), my upper body strength is greater than it has ever been, even my husband notices, I just feel stronger and more flexible.  But what I WANTED was an amazing transformation photo.  I wanted abs!  I wanted to lose pounds along with those inches, which has always been a struggle for me.  I wanted people to see my transformation and say WOW!  But that didn't happen and the only one to blame is ME.

Now, the old me, the before Beachbody me, would not have even completed the program so I have to give myself props for that.  The new me is able to recognize my mistakes so that I don't make them again and I'm really grateful for that.  So this week I'm going to start 21 Day Fix Extreme and I'm going to remember this experience.  I'm going to think of that transformation photo whenever I'm tempted to have an evening snack or to finish the kids food (darn you chicken dinosaurs!).  Perhaps after this round I will try PIYO again, because now I know what I need to do get those guaranteed results.  And if you are working on a program right now, or thinking of starting one soon, I hope that you'll learn from my mistakes and get the results you have been dreaming of too

Final Losses:
Waist: .5 inch
Chest: 1.5 Inches
Thigh: .25 inch
Bust: 1 inch

Final Gains:
Bicep: 1 inch


Monday, August 8, 2016

Easy Grilled Shrimp with Corn and Black Bean Salad

My Family is a big fan of meals that have separate components.  Like a taco bar where you can pick and choose the things that you like and together they make up a meal.  There are no stews in the McDermott household (although I personally love them).  So enter this quick, family friendly and husband approved meal I made last night!

For the shrimp:
Uncooked shrimp, thawed and peel
Chipotle seasoning (use no salt added, put as much or as little as you like)
EVOO (just a splash)
Himalayan salt (if desired)

Mix all the above together in a bowl and let it marinate for a while.

For the salad:
About a cup of corn, frozen is ok, fresh is even better!
1 can of black beans, rinsed well
1 Medium tomato, chopped (or equivalent cherry tomatoes, which is what I used)
1 small red onion, diced
Rice vinegar (just a splash, you can substitute with your favorite vinegar instead)
Himalayan salt
Teaspoon of garlic, or more to taste

(I forgot I had lime in the fridge, that would have been great as a garnish!)

And now mix all of THESE in a bowl!  Salad's done!

To grill the shrimp, I sprayed a grill pan with some cooking spray and grilled on high for just a couple of minutes.  You have to really watch them and turn them when they get pink.  Once they're pink on both sides, they're done.  I served this dish with some rice on the side for the kids and husband.

The reason why everyone liked this dish is because they could just eat the parts they like.  The kids were a little picky with the salad, mostly pushing the black beans to the side, but they did give them a taste, so I was happy.  I would consider this dish one red and one yellow if you are following 21 Day Fix.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Book Review: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

I had been scrolling around on Instagram one afternoon when I came across a post that showed the cover of the book Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. The user said that she'd seen it recommended all over Instagram and was going to start reading it that day.

Of course I downloaded it right away.  As I began reading, I thought about how hard a topic September 11th is to teach to fifth graders, especially at the beginning of the school year.  They are still so little, you don't have a close relationship just yet, and you don't know what they do and don't know about that day.  I was hoping that this book might be a way for me to teach September 11th in a way that is grown up enough for brand new middle graders, but also still gentle enough for brand new middle graders.

The story opens up in Chicago airport on September 9th, introducing the four middle school students whose point of view the reader follows throughout the book.  Their paths unwittingly cross on that day and then separate back to their normal lives and normal problems as a Muslim girl in Ohio, an African American boy in Brooklyn, a girl who has just moved from New York to California and a boy living in Shanksville, PA.  The rest of the story follows these children in the 48 hours that preceded September 11th and then their experiences on that day.  I felt that the author truly captured how quickly all of our lives changed, making our big problems seem so small and brought back my own memories as a college student, sitting in class and hearing the news that the first tower had been hit.  Just like some of the children in this story, I was told that class would go on, only for the second tower to be hit and to be sent home.  Home was student housing hundreds of miles away from my family on Long Island, and practically unable to get in touch with them as phone lines became overwhelmed.  For the character Sergio, a Brooklyn native, going home meant witnessing the damage of the attacks first hand, while worrying about his new friend, a New York City firefighter.  Baskin never goes into too graphic detail, but does retell scenes that one might have seen on the news.

Overall, I felt that Baskin clearly captured what we all felt on September 11th, whether as a middle school student or adult.  It was difficult at first to keep track of all of the characters, but each lent something unique to the story, and I appreciated that they were from around the country and showed how it didn't matter how close you lived to one of the crash sites to be affected as an American.  I feel like this would be an excellent read for middle grades students, either on their own or with their parents.  Children born post 9/11 are quite used to adults telling them about September 11th, but this book should speak to them in that it is told from the perspective of children their age.

And, if you should have the opportunity, take your school aged children to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.  My husband and I went with our then 6 year old son in 2015. There were a few exhibits we excluded him from, but overall, it was an educational experience for all of us.  So many years had passed, and we always say "never forget" but we had forgotten.  The memorial was filled with people and yet it was perfectly silent.  It felt awkward to take photos, so the only one I took was of the piece "Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on that September Morning" by Spencer Finch.  Here is a link to a New York Times article that tells all about the artist and piece.  It is huge and truly breathtaking.  It is true that everyone always talks about how perfect a day it was.  The weather and the temperature were just right and the sky was just beautiful.  Baskin writes about it in one of my favorite quotes from the book:

In case you are interested, here are a couple more resources that you might find helpful in teaching September 11th to your students.  The first video is called "Boatlift" and is narrated by Tom Hanks.  It tells the story of boat captains in New York Harbor rushing to aid survivors in bringing them to safety.  The second is a reading of the book 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy.  This is the story of a Kenyan tribe across the world in Africa who wishes to bring comfort to the people of America by bestowing upon them their most precious gift.  

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