Thursday, June 7, 2018

Target Finds

I have a secret to admit.  I am a morning person. My two young dogs do not let me sleep past 6:30 am on most days so I am up and ready to leave my house by 8 am.  I love to run errands early in the morning before most people get up out of bed.  This is good, and bad.  Not every place is open by 8 am.  But Target is.

I'm pretty sure that it you cannot find it at Target, then you don't need it.  Anyone else feel this way?  A few Sundays ago, I made my early morning run to Target.  I realized that I needed to find a few graduation gifts and I knew that Michael's did not open until 10 or 11.  I decided to check out the craft aisle at Target.  I found these wood signs.
 These signs were only $5 each.  Super sturdy and ready to paint.  I grabbed a few.

One tough thing about painting signs like these is you cannot remove the rope.  I am not the cleanest painter in the world and I do not want to get paint all over the rope.

Painting Tip #1:  Use a little bit of scotch tape and wrap the tape around the rope near the hole.  This way, you get paint on the tape, not on the rope.

After you tape off the rope, all you need is paint and a foam brush.  I like to use foam brushes because they cover the area quickly and evenly.  For the paint, I use acrylic paints.  They are good for most surfaces.  This is just a color I had in my paint cabinet.  It had a touch of metallic sheen to it which I liked too.  I always paint two coats, just to make sure the wood is covered.  I also paint the sides.  I usually do not paint the back because no one sees the back.

 After you paint the two coats, let it dry for a few hours.  This way, it really sets.  Then carefully cut off the tape.  You will be so happy to see that no paint got on your rope.

For the saying, I used my Cricut along with some vinyl and cut out a quote.  If you do not have a Cricut, you can easily find stickers and add those.  (Or you can contact me and I can cut out a quote for you.)

Now my gift is done, and I did not have to go to lots of stores to finish it.  And it's only 10 am.  Thank you Target!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Should We Arm Teachers With Guns?

Normally, this blog is to showcase my creative side.  I post pics of t-shirts and onesies that I design.  I post recipes that I love.  I try to be funny and cute. 

But lately, the world we live in is not funny or cute.  Since the horrific crimes that happened last week in Florida, many people have asked me what I think should happen in our schools.  I am a much better writer than a speaker so here is what I really think.

On September 11, many years ago, my viewpoint about teaching forever changed.  On that day, I quickly discovered that I was not only a teacher of reading, writing, and math, but that I was a protector of every little life sitting before me.  My job was not only to make sure my students were ready to be successful in this crazy world of ours, but my job was to make sure that each child grew up to be a part of this world.

The school year after this fateful day, I remember having one of our first lock down drills.  I was teaching first grade at the time and my students were terrified.  Imagine telling 30 six and seven year olds that they had to sit in a corner, in the dark, while you locked the door and huddled quietly with them.  Someone would come and rattle our door to make sure it was locked and we had to just sit in silence.  While this is a common practice today, it was very new then. After our lock down practice, one of my girls was in tears. She asked me, "What if the bad guys get through the door?"  I looked at her and said, "Look at Ms. Hanson.  Am I little?  Or am I big?'  To a small six year old, my nearly 6 foot frame (minus a few inches) looks really tall.  She said, "You are big."  I agreed with her and I assured her that NO ONE would ever get past me to get to them. I would always protect them.  No one would ever hurt them when they were with me.  The relief that spread over their faces was priceless and I still see their little heads agreeing with me as they realized that I would always save them, no matter what.

All of these years later, we still practice lock downs on a regular basis.  They have become as normal as fire drills. 

When something horrific like Sandy Hook or now Marjory Stoneman Douglas happens, my first thoughts are complete terror for those students and teachers.  When I hear the names and see the faces of those who died, I tear up imagining the fear they felt.  Then we hear about the heroic teachers who tried to save lives - the young teacher who hid students in a closet and sacrificed her own life.  The teacher who unlocked his door to save more students and ended up dying for it.  And all I can think of is, of course, I would do that exact same thing.  Without hesitation.  I do not teach for the money. No one that really loves teaching teaches for the money. I just got my latest contract - for my 22nd year of teaching - and I would be ashamed to show anyone what my yearly salary is. It's laughable.  Our society places teachers on a pedestal whenever it is a news story or whenever they want to tug at some heart strings, but really, we are not held in high regard when it comes to our worth.

After we hear about the victims and the heroes, we always are forced to learn about the killer. We hear his/her name over and over again.  But, we also hear about his background and none of it is shocking to me.  Family deaths, horrific childhoods, troubles in school, troubles with friends, antisocial behavior, weird Instagram posts, and the list goes on and on and on.

We wonder how this one slipped through the cracks.  I will tell you how.  In our schools, we are cutting counselors and social workers because we just do not have the funds anymore.  Our class sizes are huge - imagine having 32 or more first graders sitting in front of you.  Or even scarier, imagine having 40 or more junior high students sitting in front of you. Each one coming with their own baggage, each one having stories to tell you and needing your time and energy.  Many students are coming to school needing love and attention that they are not getting at home.  Spoiler alert - not all parents are great.  These students need someone to talk to but, oh, that's right, we don't have anyone for them to talk to anymore. 

Our school district is cutting behavior specialists to pay for a minimum wage hike. Our district has to come up with over a million dollars to do this because the voters of Arizona passed a law. So the person who is most involved with those students who exhibit erratic behavior is getting fired so that we can pay other people more. While I think all of our staff is important, I also believe that someone who works with behavior issues is extremely valuable.  Especially today.  Especially with everything that is happening in our city.  Our state.  Our country.

Children today are growing up in a world where changing your image on social media is the norm.  Posting a picture to get enough likes is how you determine your self-worth.  And we wonder why our children have self-esteem issues and why they shut down and why they act out.  Our children are being taught to never accept no as an answer. When they do not like what they hear, they act out until they get their way.  Now, I am not a parent, so I probably have no business saying this, but we are creating a generation of selfish children who do not know right from wrong.  And we wonder why bad things are happening. 

Now, I'm not about to get into a huge debate about guns.  I grew up around guns.  I was terrified of them when I was little.  But then, I grew up, and I learned how guns were supposed to be stored and used.  I have dated several guys who always had guns in their cars and I was never scared to be in them.  While saying this, I do believe that some guns need to be banned. No one can convince me that these machine gun rifles are necessary for any civilian to have.  It's absurd. 

Finally, our President has made the suggestion that we, as teachers, need to be armed and carry guns. Teachers currently pay for their own school supplies. We pay for our Master's degrees that we have to get in order to keep teaching.  I have no doubt that we would have to pay for these guns, the classes that go with them, and anything else it takes to be a responsible gun owner.

But the cost of a gun is not my issue.  When did becoming a teacher also mean that I get to be a police officer or the member of the military?  I do not have the right to tell a parent to move their car out of a no parking spot but I would suddenly have the right to carry a gun into a school.  Are you kidding me? 

Have you ever been in a classroom? What are the chances that this gun would get into the wrong hands?  The news story would be of an irresponsible teacher that could not handle her class.  I have worked with a LOT of teachers and I honestly, would trust very few with carrying a gun around a school campus.  Some teachers have trouble working a laminating machine.  Can you imagine them trying to fire a gun in a stressful, life saving situation? I cannot imagine anything good happening from that.

So, here is my long answer to a short question.  Should we arm teachers?  My simple answer is no.  I love the current posts and memes about arming schools with counselors and social workers and qualified teachers who can listen to our students and give them the attention and love that they really need.  This is what our schools need. This is what our nation needs.

This teacher will never carry a gun into a classroom. But this teacher will protect every student who walks through her door.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Creamy Tomato Soup

Back in October, I planted two tomato plants. They got HUGE very quickly.

By the end of November, I easily had 30 or more tomatoes on each plant.  (One was a regular size and the other was a cherry tomato.)  This was amazing but this was also about the time my 3 month old puppy discovered my garden.  She was drawn to the tomato plants and started to eat the plant.  Thankfully, she left the tomatoes alone but she was killing the plants.  (Puppies are SO much fun.)

I decided to pick all of the tomatoes.  Most of them were still green but I left them on my counter.  Now, it is January and I am still enjoying these tomatoes that have now turned red.  What to do with so many tomatoes?  Make soup, of course!

Click on the link below to print my recipe.  I added some dried basil to this soup when I added the tomatoes.  I forgot to put this on the recipe.  You can also add fresh basil.  Just chop it up.
Creamy Tomato Soup

                                       I just love the smell of onions and garlic, don't you.

My prized tomatoes. (Okay, they did not really win a prize but I was super proud of them.  I used both cherry tomatoes and my bigger tomatoes.  I even used a green tomato. Why not?)

My favorite pot.  Pioneer Woman, of course.  How can you not love a pot with a butterfly for the handle?

Simmering goodness.  This makes a lot of soup so I pour it into individual containers and I freeze them to take to lunch. This would go great with some grilled cheese sandwiches.  Or would taste great all by itself.  Enjo!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Be Happy! Be Crafty!

Hi Friends!

Many of you have asked me what vinyl I use for my shirts and other projects.  One of the sites I use is Happy Crafters.  Their vinyl comes in so many colors and styles.  Can you say Mermaid print?  Click on the link to the right and you will see all of your vinyl dreams come true.

Here is a Thanksgiving shirt I made. 

This shirt took me no time at all because this vinyl is so easy to use!

More pictures and videos of vinyl projects will be coming soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why I Love Blue Apron?

Let me first start this post by saying I am not getting paid or sponsored by Blue Apron meals.  This is just me, being honest about something I really love.

About a year ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to try Blue Apron for free.  I had no clue what Blue Apron even was.  She explained that it is a meal delivery service.  You get three meal kits delivered to your door.  It includes all ingredients and step by step recipes.  It normally costs around $60 a week but you can try it one week for free.

All I heard was free food.  So I signed up. I thought, one week?  I will try it for one week and then cancel my subscription and never think about it again.  Well, that was a year ago and I cannot imagine cancelling.

Here are six reasons why I love Blue Apron.  (Six is my favorite number so that is why I have six reasons.  Just in case you were wondering.  If not, just keep reading anyway.)

Reason #1:  Everything is measured for you.

You know, how you can start making a new recipe and it calls for 1/4 of a cup of something you never use. So you buy a whole box of an ingredient, use it once, and then it goes to waste in your pantry?  With Blue Apron, if you need a 1/4 cup, then send you a cute little package and it only contains that 1/4 of a cup. No extra waste. And no extra measuring.
 Reason #2:  Trying new recipes.

I love to cook but I'm also skeptical to try new things.  Blue Apron forces me to try to use new ingredients. Take these meatballs for instance. They contain yellow raisins. Yellow raisins in a meatball?  Are you crazy? Yes, crazy good.  And I have cooked plantains, and shrimp and grits, and shishito peppers, and the list goes on and on and on.
 Reason #3:  Quality ingredients

The fruits, veggies, and proteins that Blue Apron sends are always packaged in a way to preserve freshness. (Does that make sense?)  I feel like I am opening a big box to my local farmer's market.  Everything is crisp and green and colorful.  And if it's not, then they credit my account. (See Reason #4).  Look at this catfish and squash. I have never had catfish before trying Blue Apron and now I try it everywhere because it's so good. I need a catfish pond. But then I would probably think they were pets instead of deliciousness.
 Reason #4:  Amazing Customer Service

One month, I received two boxes instead of one. They were the exact same meals, just two of everything. First I panicked, thinking I had ordered two by mistake.  I contacted them immediately.  They said it was their mistake and I could keep the extra box. This was three extra meal kits.  $59.95 for free!  My sister enjoyed these extra meals.

Another time, I got an avocado in my box.  It was really small.  And when I opened it, it was pretty brown. Now avocados are tricky little beasts so it did not surprise me that this one was bad, but I emailed Blue Apron anyways.  I told them what happened.  They credited my account $20 and apologized.  $20 for my avocado?  All I wanted was to let them know to check their produce.  I did not expect any money.

Reason #5:  Less Time (And Money) at the Grocery Store

I hate grocery shopping. Seriously, I would rather do many other things than go grocery shopping.  Is it the people?  The crowds?  Having to bring groceries inside and put them all away?  I'm not sure, but with Blue Apron I go to the grocery store only once or twice a month.  I usually go to get my dairy products and my fruits and veggies - unless the Farmer's Market is open and I go there instead.

When I first heard about Blue Apron, I thought it sounded expensive.  $59.95 for three meal kits.  Each kits has two or  more servings.  There is usually a protein and one or two sides.  I am actually saving money using Blue Apron.  Since I don't go to the store very much, I don't buy all of the extra snack stuff and I am not throwing out food that I never eat.  I only buy what I need.

Each kit makes me two or three meals, depending on the size of the sides.  Sometimes I just take the sides as my lunch the next day.  The sides are my favorite parts of these kits.  So many ways to use delicious fruits and veggies.

Reason #6:  They have an app for that.

The Blue Apron app allows me to choose my meals for the week. There are eight different choices.  Eight!!!  I can choose two or three.  There are vegetarian options.  I do not get Blue Apron every week, usually I choose every other week.  I still like to cook other things too.  The app lets me look at a month at a time and I can choose what weeks I want delivery and what weeks I want to skip.  If I don't like the options, I skip the week.  (The only recipes I have not enjoyed are usually Japanese inspired or include using black garlic.  That stuff is nasty.  No, really, it is.)

If you are interested in trying Blue Apron, let me know.  I can send you a week for free. But beware, once you start Blue Apron, you might never go back!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day Place Mats

A three day weekend means more time to get stuff done - more time for laundry and cleaning and crafts.  Okay, maybe not more time for crafts but I added these place mats to my to do list so I had to get them done.

My sisters bought me these burlap place mats for my birthday. (It only took me a month to get them decorated.)  They were all folded up so I sprayed them with water and ironed them.  You can still see some of the wrinkles but I'm going to just live with them.

First, I had to decide what to paint on the place mats.  I used my trusty thesaurus to find words that meant the same thing as "eat."  (This is a lie - I actually used  Same thing, kind of.)  It might be fun to use different languages and different ways to say eat but my kitchen isn't really international so I stuck with English.  There are LOTS of ways to say "eat," so I chose six of them and typed them up in Cricut Design Space.  Each one is about two inches high.

I cut out each word using orange vinyl. Why orange?  Just because I don't use orange a lot and this project can use any color.  I needed to use the stencil part, not the word itself, so I carefully had to peel the stencil off of the vinyl backing. This got tricky, depending on the size of the word and the letters.  This took the most time and patience.  (I also kept the orange words because I thought I might be able to use them for another project.)

After making the stencils, I placed each stencil in the corner of a place mat.  Now, burlap has holes in it.  (I remembered this the hard way.) Make sure to protect your work surface.  I used a roll of cheap table cloth that I cut apart along with newspaper.

Using a sponge brush, I painted using black paint. Don't use too much and use a dabbing motion to fill in any spaces that need more paint.  Then peel off the vinyl right away. I kept a garbage bag nearby to throw away the now black vinyl.

Once you peel it off, set it aside to dry.  I let it dry for about an hour before I was sure it was ready to be put on my table.

Here are the final products.  What do you think?

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Distant Hours - Book Review

Even though I do not remember how my love affair with books started, I LOVE to read!  I think it had something to do with my teachers, of course, and my Papo, my mom's dad.  He had an office that was full of books.  Two of the walls were floor to ceiling books.  I remember going in there as a little girl just sitting at his desk looking at the books of Hemingway and Faulkner.  Such stories and such adventures everywhere I looked.  Thankfully, I still have lots of his books lining the shelves of my home.  And so thankful I have a few weeks off each summer to read more books.

The latest book I checked out at the library (Yes, the library!!!  You can check out FREE books.  It is amazing!) was Kate Morton's The Distant Hours.  I found her name on a must read books list.  I had never heard of her before so I was intrigued.  Here is what Barnes and Noble website says about it:

"The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Forgotten Garden mesmerizes readers with this haunting tale of long-buried secrets and the twists of fate that can alter lives forever.It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and unexpectedly delivered to Edie’s mother on a Sunday afternoon. The letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, where the eccentric Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiancé jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie searches for her mother’s past but soon learns there are other secrets hidden in its walls. The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. In this enthralling romantic thriller, Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning a rich and intricate web of mystery, suspense, and lost love."

At first, the storyline confused me because it goes back and forth from the past to the present and then to the past again.  I found myself just wanting the stories to get finished instead of the jumping around in time.  My aunt told me how much she loved this author so I just kept reading. 

By the middle of the book, I was hooked.  The characters were haunting and so complex. They stayed on my mind even when I was not reading.  The characters were not especially likeable but they all contained such sorrow and mystery.  The castle mentioned in the book had just enough creepy in it to be intriguing. 

At the end, I thought I had it all figured out only to realize that I was wrong.  The ending was perfect and made sense.  I was sad and relieved to find out what had happened to the characters.  They are still with me, even though the 562 pages are done.

Prepare to be drawn into the depths of this story.  I cannot wait to pick up another Kate Morton story.