A glimpse into my life

Getting ready for preschool! Part one–the writing center

Dalton, as silly as ever!

I know I’ve been very scarce on here the past month (or more), but I’m hoping to change that as the school year starts back up.  We’ll be back in a routine, and hopefully I’ll have more time to play around online.  Dalton (my son) just stared 2nd grade through the Ohio Virtual Academy (we love schooling at home!) and Alyanna (my daughter) just turned 7 months and is getting out of a month-long cranky phase.

Alyanna, sitting pretty in my preschool classroom

I’ve been very busy as my summer vacation has slowly come to a close.  I’m a preschool teacher (3 year olds, my favorite age!) and I’ve been getting my room arranged for my kiddos that come tomorrow.  I have two classes (M/W and T/TH) that come for 2 1/2 hours a day.  This is my third year teaching in this classroom, and I’ve decided this year is all me (first year I was trying to learn the ropes with a Christian half-day preschool, last year I was pregnant/new mom so I introduced new things in my room pretty slowly, so this year is my year to totally shine).  I spent quite a bit of time over the summer getting activities ready for my classroom, and the past three weeks (between home visits with my preschool–another part of my job I love!) I’ve focused on getting the room ready.  I wanted to share my room setup in hopes it might help another preschool teacher out there.  I didn’t realize I could say so much about each area of my room, so I decided to break this post into multiple postings.  Stay tuned to see other parts of my room!

The writing center in my preschool classroom

This is a center that I introduced towards the end of last year, and the kids absolutely loved it!  I change it every two weeks or so to keep it new and exciting.  The bulletin board shows what the writing theme is (this one is “Welcome to preschool!”), and I show all the different answers for the writing prompts on it.  My writing prompt for this one is “Teacher, teacher what do you see?  I see a (crayon, pencil, backpack, scissors) looking at me!”.  When I introduce a new writing prompt, I’ll show it at circle time, and go through each of the options.  During free play, either myself or my aide will be near the writing center to help any students as they practice writing.  I have between four and six prompts, for them to choose from, and I add the picture so they can figure out the word by themselves.

All the fun stuff the children can do while at the writing center

I also include nameplates so they can write their own name, or the name of a friend.  Since I have two separate classes, I color-code them (one class is blue, the other class is red).    I also include a printout of the alphabet to help them in letter formation.  We do not use any tracing pages in the classroom.  As it was illustrated for me in a teacher class one time, the child may trace a letter and have it looked correctly, but if they did not trace the lines in the correct order, it’s not helping them learn how to make letters.  I model writing often during the day, and sit down with the children for one-on-one writing time to help them learn how to form their letters (if they are ready in their writing process).  I consider worksheets to be “busy work,” and I know the children will get plenty of that in the years to come.  I try to make everything hands-on and fun, so they don’t realize they are learning.  🙂

Fun little writing books

In my writing center I also make little books for them to write in.  They are really simple to make.  I find clip art online and make a book using PowerPoint (just put the clip art on the left side of the paper, since when you fold it, the left side becomes the front).  I put one piece of blank paper on the inside, so they end up with a nice little book to write in.  I love keeping some of these in their portfolios to track where they are in their writing process.  The children love to come see what new books are out each week.  Just another way of making learning fun!

I hope you enjoyed getting a peek at my writing center.  I’d love to hear about other teacher’s writing centers (or ideas that work/don’t work).  Check back tomorrow to see my art center.


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Why didn’t anyone tell me?

grilling our hobo stew and corn on the cob

Why didn’t anyone tell me how awesome it is to grill out?  I have absolutely fallen in love with grilling out.  What started as a way to not heat up our house during the heat wave has turned into (as my husband would probably say) an obsession.  My gamma had a grill that hasn’t been touched in many years, so she told us to take it.  All it needed was a little TLC (and lots of elbow grease) to get it looking brand new!  I wish I had grabbed it last year when we moved into this house.  We’ve used it each weekend now (I’d be using it every night, but it’s hard to grill and watch the little one).  So far I’ve made:

  • burgers (of course), with seasoned salt and minced garlic mixed in
  • quartered a chicken (first time ever!) and used the Trinidad Lemon Garlic Marinade from the Spice House (leftovers were turned into a very tasty chicken salad for lunches)
  • corn on the cob (only caught one on fire since I didn’t keep re-wetting the husks)
  • Hobo Stew (as we called it growing up)–burger, carrots, onions, potatoes, whatever else you want tossed in a foil packet
  • sliced potatoes, with butter and Grippo’s Bar-B-Q seasoning in a foil packet
  • baby carrots with honey and brown sugar in a foil packet

yummy hobo stew and corn on the cob

Tonight we’re making hot sausages with green beans, and tomorrow night we’re going to try to cook pizzas.  I’ve heard peaches are good on it, so I might toss a few of those on, too.

What are your favorite things to grill out?

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This month in review

Busy month, but here’s a few photos from the month of June.

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A post my husband shared yesterday on his blog, and I just want to share it on mine.


I just had to share this picture, taken by my wife today, while Dalton and his friends Ava and Hayden played in the little pool we have (a gift from his Aunt Judy). I absolutely love how the camera caught water in mid-air.

And today, bonus pics:

How exactly my wife managed to get such amazing pictures today, I am not certain, but I thank her very much for letting me post them here tonight.

I hope you are well, friends, and I will write again soon.

[edited post to reflect proper attribution of the gifted pool — sorry about that!]

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My little troublemaker….

Ignoring all the rules of what she is allowed/not allowed to do….

No photos please…I’m trying to sleep!

Uh oh…busted!

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Nothing makes a dinner even better than some homemade hamburger buns.  I made them slider-size (well, closer to it) to go with some lentil sloppy joes.  They really made the meal, and were much tastier than the ones I could have bought at the store (and a lot cheaper!).

I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour for the buns.  I also forgot to butter one pan of buns before they went into the oven, hence the few that are a lot lighter.  🙂

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Au Gratin Potatoes

I tried the Au Gratin Potatoes and Ham from A Modern Christian Woman‘s blog.  The first pan was so big we were eating on them for a week.  So this time, I tweaked them to be smaller and fit what we had on hand, and they turned out delicious, so I thought I’d share my version of them.  Make sure you check her’s out too!  Wonderful!  We enjoyed the potatoes with some polish sausage, and a nice salad.  Great dinner (and very cheap, too!).

Au Gratin Potatoes

For the cheese sauce:
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4- 1/2 tsp. (or more to taste, I’m not sure how much I put in–kept sprinkling it it) cayenne pepper
1/2- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (we’ve done it with cheddar and colby)

For the potaotes:
4-5 potaotes, sliced thin (we peeled them the second time we made it)
1/4- 1/2 pound polish sausage, cubed
1/2- 1 small onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (depends on your taste)
1/2- 1 cup shredded cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and spray a square 9″ glass casserole dish with cooking spray (or use butter).
  2. In a medium saucepan,  melt the butter and whisk in the flour.  Add the milk, mustard, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Whisk occasionally until it starts to boil and get thicker (I prep the potato ingredients during this time, and only have the heat on medium).  Take the sauce off the heat, and add the 1 cup cheese, stirring until it’s melted.
  3. Place half the potatoes in the bottom of the dish, and top with half of the sausage, onion, garlic, and cheese sauce.  Repeat the layers one more time, and top with the 1/2- 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly.  Enjoy!

A few tips:

  • After you slice the potatoes, keep them in a water bath–this prevents them from changing color.
  • Mix the onions and garlic together–makes it easier to evenly spread the garlic in the dish.
  • Play with the spices to get them to your liking.  Taste the sauce before adding the cheese.  When you think you have it just right, add just a little more to it (since it has to coat all the potatoes).
  • It seems to take me about 45 minutes to prep everything and get the sauce made–make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make it.

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The wonderment of a child

Oh, how I wish I could be a child again, just to have simple pleasure and wonderment from my world around me.  Just watching my children enjoy all the wonderful things that surrounded them at the zoo yesterday made me take a little more time to get the same enjoyment that they did.  As we grow older, we seem to lose the time we use to take to enjoy all that is around us.  Take a minute to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you today.

Alyanna getting her first glimpse at the elephants.

Dalton enjoying the polar bear.

Alyanna and her Nana checking out the penguins.

Dalton and his Nana

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Black bean and corn salad

With summer approaching (and the threat of higher temperatures), I’ve been making more dishes that don’t require cooking.  One of my favorite ones to make (and munch on all week) is black bean and corn salad.  It’s awesome on my tortillas (as I’ve shared before), great with tortilla chips, awesome on its own, wonderful on crackers…the list is endless.  I never seem to make it the same way twice–it all depends on what I have on hand.  I hope you enjoy it as we do!

Black bean and corn salad

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2-2 cups black beans you cook yourself)
  • 2 cups frozen corn (you do not need to cook the corn)
  • 1-2 jalapenos, (mostly) seeded and diced
  • 1/2-1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2-1 small onion (I love using a red onion, but have used whatever I have on hand)
  • juice of 1 lime (have used lemon juice before)
  • fresh cilantro (I usually use a handful), chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp cumin (also have used chili powder instead)
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  1. Combine black beans, corn, onion, green pepper, jalapenos, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, olive oil, and cumin to make the dressing (a trick I learned to get more juice out of the lime is to roll it around on the counter top while applying pressure to it.  Gets it nice and juicy!).
  3. Add the dressing to the salad, mix well, and chill for a few hours.
  4. Right before serving, add the tomatoes and mix well.
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Preschool DIY’s

I’m a preschool teacher (3 year olds–love them!!), and our school year just ended.  Since I have the summer off, I figured I’d work on getting stuff ready for next year.  I found this awesome website, Teach Preschool, that has given me numerous ideas of what I want to make for my classroom for next year.  I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to.

Kool-aid scented rice:

I followed the directions found here, and made up three scents of rice–pink lemonade, blue raspberry, and lemon-lime.  I love the way they smell, and they dried very quickly.  I’m looking forward to using these in my classroom.  I’ll be making more scents of these as the summer goes on.  I think they will be great for sensory play, and for use in many art projects.

Light Table:

I’ve been wanting a light table for my classroom, but they are so expensive to purchase pre-made.  I decided to google it, and found quite a few directions on how to make one (here’s the one from Teach Preschool).  Mine is made out of a clear scrapbook paper plastic box that I frosted the lid, painted the inside bottom with silver metallic paint, and painted the outside in black paint.  I put a strand of garden lights in it, and it works great.  I know my kiddos are going to have a blast playing with it.  I tossed some of my scented rice on it for the photo.  🙂

Art daubers:

I love doing dot art, but don’t do a lot of it since the daubers are so expensive (unless I hit up the local bingos).  I never thought about making my own, but this post showed me it could be done.  I had a really hard time getting the makeup pads to stay on, so I modified it by putting a piece of flannel fabric over it to help secure it.  I’m hoping the kids have as much fun playing with them as I did.


Magnets are always fun to play with.  I loved this set of magnetic sticks, and made up a set. Now I just need to figure out how to turn the back of my book area (or the back of one of my toy shelves) into a magnetic board (and the other one will be made into a felt board).

These are just some of the things I’ve been working on so far (and preschool has only been out a few weeks).  My class is going to rock so much next year!