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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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is the 3 Day Refresh for You?

The first time I bought the Three Day Refresh it sat in my pantry for about 6 months.  I was kind of intimidated.  Three days of depriving myself??  NO thank you.  I was used to eating so much food on 21 Day Fix.  It seemed like a good idea at the time I bought it, but never seemed quite the right time to break out the box.

Then one day in June of 2015, a little black dress from Neiman Marcus showed up at my door!  What was this!  In the middle of the night my husband ordered it for me because he thought I would look nice in it (isn't he a keeper??).  I tried it on right away, thinking I would wear it to an upcoming wedding in July.

It.  Didn't.  Zip.

It got up to my chest and stopped.  I felt so bad I was going to have to return this beautiful, romantic gift.

Now I had a goal.  Fit into the dress.  I started hitting 21 Day fix hard and decided that three days before the wedding, I would do the Three Day Refresh.  The general plan on refresh (which can be vegan if you choose) is to drink Shakeology, special high protein shakes twice a day, a fiber drink and healthy fats and veggies throughout the day.  You are supposed to cut out all dairy, and are not really supposed to drink coffee, but I don't like green tea, so I learned to drink my coffee black.

The first day was hard.  I got kinda hungry around lunch time.  Some people don't like the refresh shake, but I happen to think it tastes like vanilla Shakelology.  I have also read reviews where refreshers get bad headaches, either from detoxing or caffeine withdrawal.  I didn't have this problem, but I was already eating clean and had cut out a lot of caffeine from my diet.  I also didn't mind the fiber drink (no, you won't have to run to the bathroom, it just helps you feel full).  You are allowed an optional cup of broth in the evening and I was all over that.  The second and third day were much, much better.  I was feeling lighter and healthier, and I wasn't having any cravings and actually didn't feel deprived after all.   The recipes in the book were actually pretty yummy, I still like to eat the steamed veggies with coconut oil. I didn't even bother with the broth after the first night.

Aside from helping me lose pounds and inches, and detox my system, the Three Day Refresh helped me break a plateau and break some bad habits.  I was using the wrong portion size for my peanut butter serving and stopped really caring.  I was also snacking at night, which I didn't need to be doing.  It was just habit.  I highly recommend Three Day Refresh if you are having any of those blocks standing in the way of your goals.

So... here are the results of my first Three Day Refresh....

I lost 5.8 POUNDS and 3.5 inches... and not only did I fit in the dress and feel great, I also fit into my engagement ring, which hadn't fit in over 7 years.  AND it stayed off!  If you'd like to try Three Day Refresh, I can coach you through it.  I'll provide you with a customized shopping list and eating plan based on your preferences.  Just give me a shout through one of the contact methods on this page!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Clean Eating at the Club

A lot of people are surprised to hear that I do justaboutall my shopping at the whole sale club (and yes, I usually buy my fruit pre-cut, I'm THAT lazy).  In fact this summer I have not stepped foot in the grocery store!  I have said MORE THAN ONCE (to my husband lol) that if it doesn't come from BJs, Amazon Prime or Beachbody... we're probably not getting it.

The purpose of this post is to share with you how I shop for my clean eating haul and to show you that you can actually save by shopping the whole sale club once a week, as opposed to the grocery store.

So here are my staples.  Some I buy once a week, twice a month or less.  I use these foods to make my lunch every day, but some also do double duty as general pantry staples and for dinners.  I do buy cuts of meat, snacks my kids and husband love, etc. but these are the basics.  When I am shopping the basic rule is the less ingredients on the label the better.

  • Eggs
  • Tomatoes (lots of tomatoes) $4.99 and $5.99
  • Cucumbers $2.59 for 3
  • Lettuces (I usually buy two types to mix it up a bit) $2.79 each clamshell
  • Celery $3.99
  • All natural peanut butter
  • Fruit (I buy 2-3 kinds per week (and always apples), that way it doesn't go to waste) $3.79 (strawberries) and $1.69 (organic bananas)
  • Fresh veggies for dinner sides $5.79
  • Lemons
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Red onion
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Coconut milk (I've made the switch from skim this summer) $2.79

So out of the list above, this week I did not need to purchase the PB, eggs, lemons, vinegar or yogurt (I already have them from a previous shopping trip. Everything else totaled less than $35 (ETA the prices).  Thats less than $5 a day to eat clean and healthy for at least one meal a day, and that's a hypothetical where I eat all the food and don't share it with my family!  TBH I spent more on shoes, clothes and water guns than I did on food this week lol.

These are the foods I keep on hand for dinners, etc.  They're always stocked, and I actually didn't need to buy any of them this week!

  • Ground turkey
  • Sliced cheddar cheese
  • Turkey burgers
  • Frozen chicken breast
  • Frozen onions and peppers
  • Frozen, pre cooked chicken breast strips
  • Uncooked frozen shrimp
  • Organic skim milk ( the boys drink it) 
  • Organic whole milk (for the baby)
  • Kalamata olives
  • Steel cut oats (I get these through subscribe and save)
  • Feta cheese and/or blue cheese crumbles

OF COURSE I also have the food my boys love, such as chicken dinosaurs and frozen waffles, but if you are looking to healthily your diet or that of your family, I hope that these lists help!  Please post your questions or comments below!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Quick and Easy Father's Day Gift

The Mother's Day gifts in my class went over so well, we had to do something amazing for Father's Day.  Those poor dads always get overlooked with the end of the year craziness in fifth grade.  When I taught first, I had time to invite them in for donuts with dads, but now we have moving up ceremony and field trips and picnics, oh my!  So my son came home with this adorable gift for Mother's Day (the finished product pic is actually his) that my team and I decided to recreate.  It was quick and inexpensive but it looks like so much more. I can't wait to hear how the dads loved their gifts on Monday morning!

What you need:

So here's what I did.  I took each student's photo with their object.  I got in too close on some of mine, so make sure you take a step back.  When the prints were ready, (DON'T use your pharmacy's "ready in seconds" feature.  Make sure you use one hour photo AT LEAST, otherwise the ink on the photos will run.  I used the CVS app to order prints that would be ready the next day)  I cut a set of templates 3.75 x 3.75 out of card stock.  The students used these as a tracer to cut their photo to the appropriate size. 

Next, I called students in pairs to my desk so I could make sure they followed the directions, since I only made one print each.  Scratch that, I started by calling students to my desk in pairs, until I found a student who could make these in her sleep, and then I made her the expert in charge (yay for student leadership) and she ran the rest of the project.  Full disclosure here, lol.  (Hey, it's June, I have reading assessments to do!).

  • Using the brush, paint the surface of the tile with a very, very thin layer of Mod Podge.
  • Place the photo on the painted surface and smooth it out really well.
  • Cover the photo with a second really thin layer.  Watch your brush strokes!  You want to make sure they kind of all go in the same direction.
  • Place in a safe area to dry.

By the time I Gabby got through the whole class, the tiles from the beginning were dry enough to add the felt dots to the corners on the underside.

I then called each student up to wrap their tile with Kraft paper.  (Yes, me).  I was surprised at how many didn't know how to wrap a package, so it was a great experience for them.

I wrapped them in twine and into their lockers they went to make dad happy on Sunday!

See the reading assessment book under all those presents?

Oh, and I used this adorable little craftivity from Mae Hates Mondays, it's a Father's Day wallet card.  I'm so over the ties and tool boxes, not all dads have those things, but they all have wallets!  I hope you like it too!

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