Thursday, April 26, 2012

moving 101.

**2 Warnings**

Warning A: This is a rather boring post. Useful, but boring. Fabulous design and vibrant colors, it has not.

Warning 2: Thank you for your understanding as my posts have been a bit sparse and will continue to be for the next 22 days. Between closing on a house, packing up our current residence, and wrapping up a school year, life is a little nutty at the moment. Thanks for hanging with me! I have so much in store for you, come June!

Most people view moving as the equivalent to a root canal. The movers arrive and you are still haphazardly tossing your delicate china into cardboard containers, trying to scarf down the remnant leftovers in the fridge so they don't go to waste, and that's still before you even get to the new house. Mayhem.

Me? I LOVE moving! I love the new, fresh canvas to decorate, the opportunity to create completely different spaces with the same furniture, I love it all! If you take the time to properly plan out your packing and moving process, you, too, can be a freak of nature just like me and LOVE moving!

Step 1: Collect your supplies. It's tough to put an exact quantity of packing supplies you will need to acquire for your move, since home sizes vary so much. Generally, you will want:
  • A variety of box sizes. I tend to use more "small" boxes than any other size, as most of our items are heavy and you don't want to load up a big box with a ton of heavy objects. I also highly encourage re-using old moving boxes! This is an excellent way to save money!

  • Packing tape. If you don't know what it's for, you probably shouldn't be moving.
  • Duct tape or blue painters tape. I use this to cover up labels I have placed on boxes from previous moves so that I know what is inside each box for this move.
  • Wrapping paper. Obviously, you will want to give those glass, ceramic, and crystal valuables a little added protection from the hazards of a moving truck.
  • Saran Wrap / Food Service Film. You can buy huge boxes of this self-sticking goodness at bulk stores like Costco or Sam's. We use it to wrap the corners of our big furniture as well as to add a layer of protection to our mirrors or large painted canvases.

Step 2:  Start packing early! Most of the moving grief is due to a rushed, hurried feeling that causes us to throw things into boxes, forget to label boxes, and then not know where anything is when we arrive at our new digs! Make a goal to pack 2-3 boxes each day so that you are not having to pack your entire home in one crazed weekend. Think about packing:

  • Wall art - go ahead and start puttying nail holes and packing away large pieces of artwork.
  • Holiday decor - as much as it pains me to say, we're not going to be needing our Christmas tree in the next few months, so go ahead and start packing up all of your Nativity Scenes, Saint Nicks, and candy canes.
  • Fine china and kitchen accessories you don't use everyday - your china will be something that you want to pack away carefully. Go ahead and take the time to wrap it properly and store it away before the madness of moving day gets here.
  • General decorations - while they make our homes fabulous, our little treasures and trinkets do not necessarily qualify as something we need on a daily basis.
Step 3: Label, label, label! One of the things I have found to make the packing, pre-move, and post-move days easier is to take time to label exactly what is in each and every box I pack. I note not only WHERE the box is going, but WHAT is inside the box.

I find that labeling boxes is much easier when they are still collapsed. Therefore, I lay out what I plan to pack in each box, label the box accordingly, and then construct and pack the box. If I find that I was a bit over-zealous in my attempts to fit too much into a box, I simply mark out what didn't make it into the box.

By making a detailed list of exactly what I will find in each box not only makes unpacking easier, as you can prioritize which boxes need to be unpacked immediately and which boxes can wait to be unpacked, but it also makes it easy to find things I have already packed and discovered I need before we move.

We are exactly one month away from moving day, and are doing our best to pack a couple of boxes each evening. Fingers crossed that living in a home where there's nothing to look at except boxes will pay off on moving day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

a table makeover.

In Mr. Spouse's and my continuous effort to become true adults, we decided that when we move to la nueva casita, we wanted our bedside tables to be a bit more matchy-matchy. I am not at all a fan of the bedroom "suite" (sorry, Rooms to Go), but I do like pieces to at least resemble each other if I'm going to use them as a pair. Our present condition of no-matchy-matchy simply stems from a lack of a desire to buy something that we truly don't need at this time and just using what we had to make it work. Currently, Mr. Spouse's side of the bed dons a lovely rustic, Aspen-esque table something like this:

While my bedside table is a dark stained, cleaner-looking table like this:

Do these tables function as bedside tables? Absolutely. Do they give off the aura that we have put a tremendous deal of thought and energy into selecting them? Eh.

But as I started moving things around in preparation for the packing process to begin, I realized that we had two tables that were rather similar, but I had never noticed them being similar because I've always had them in two separate rooms!

I mean, talk about long-lost twins! Obviously, some paint would be required to make them truly sisters, but they are pretty similar. This would mean I could have my newly matchy-matchy bedside tables for the mere cost of paint!

Boom goes the dynamite.

I started out by sanding the tables with my favorite sanding block to even out the thicker spots of black paint and even out some imperfections on the brown table.

I then applied a coat of Zinnser primer to both tables:

Then the fun started: choosing the paint! I knew that I wanted the table color to tie in with our bedding, but I did not want the tables to blend in with the bed. I knew that if I pulled an accent color from our Pottery Barn shams...

...the tables would be in sync with our bedding without getting lost. I really honed in on a muddy, greyish brown used on leaves in our shams:

I retrieved several paint swatches from Home Depot, and ultimately decided on Martha Stewart's Brook Trout:

I loved the grey tint in this color - it really softened up the brown and made the color a bit more peaceful (namaste) - perfect for a bedroom! As I'm also currently crushing on a good, lacquered, shiny finish, I bought the quart of Brook Trout in high gloss. Yummy!

The paint went on effortlessly. After half an hour and one coat, we were looking good! Still streaky and brush-stroke laden, but headed in the right direction.

After two coats, the only part of each table that still looked streaky were the tops:

The bottom and legs did not require three full coats, only touch-ups, but I did apply a full third coat to the top of the tables to insure a nice, even coverage. After letting the tables have plenty of time to dry and cure, I applied two very thin coats of polyurethane since these tables will be pretty high-use.

After several days of drying (better safe than sorry with that cure-time!), I am in table love!

I love, love, love the high-gloss look on the twisted legs - it really draws your eye to those details!

The smooth, lacquered table top will be the perfect contrast to our softer, cozy bedding!

  • Rather than buying two completely new tables, I used pieces I already have and just gave them a little facelift!
  • While the process did take a bit of "wait time", the actual hands-on time was minimal.
  • Mr. Spouse and I can finally enjoy being unified not only in our marriage, but also in our furniture - if that's not wedded bliss, I just don't know what is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

love is in the air.

Summer is just around the corner (648 hours away, to be exact), and warmer weather makes for warmer hearts with the result that our warmer weekends will be spent doing this:

Raise your hand if you love yourself some weddings! The food, the flowers, the friends, the frolicking - I mean talk about a joyful noise. (I hope you all noticed that "food" trumped all there.)

Not wanting any friend to go un-celebrated, Mr. Spouse and I enjoy us some marital bliss as we head to the stores, print out the 48 page registry, and strive to find the softest monogrammed towels on the block. However, as we started counting down the seconds until we get to celebrate the next two lovebirds in a week, we found a little hitch in our giddy-up. I couldn't remember if I had felt extremely efficient, and purchased a gift for the bride and groom during our last registry-rampage or not! Talk about celebration fail. Luckily, a quick text to the gracious groom allowed us to get our records straight and back in celebration mode.

Rather than suffer the shame of being a terrible friend, I decided I needed a checklist (cue jaw drop). Now, I can record all of the love muffins' wedding, registry, and gift info on one document to make sure that everyone is taken care of! My "Organizational Freak" award has been reinstated.

If you, too, want to spread the love while maintaining your organizational prowess, click here to get your own copy of my "here comes the bride" checklist!

  • No brides or grooms will go un-celebrated during their wedding frenzy.
  • The checklist keeps Mr. Spouse and I on the same page so we both know who has received a gift and who still needs some lovin'.
  • I can keep my checklist on my clipboard so that if I'm out and about, I know exactly who still needs a token of love!

How do y'all manage the summer of love?

Monday, April 16, 2012

captivating campaign.

Am I the ONLY person in the world who hadn't heard of campaign furniture before?! During my midnight explorations of my designing life-blood, little green notebook, I discovered these brass-laden pieces of utter fabulousness.

Help me, Rhonda, I need it in my house n.o.w. But what's a girl to do when Mr. Spouse politely declines the mere $2,000 pricetag associated with these buttes? Diy, obvi. 

Here's a hacked campaign-style dresser using a Rack piece from Ikea...

...that I'm thinking about doing over the summer, but instead of the blue grey, I'm thinking a firey, orangey, high-gloss, red...

...which will go perfectly with the Chesterfield sofa we bought last weekend for our office...

I'm also crossing my fingers that I will get this little Craigslist find...

...that I can paint with Rustoleum's high-gloss, black, oil paint to give it a laquered look, then replace the hardware with these puppies (lovingly found by another recent-campaign-addict)...

 ...add on a couple of brass corner pieces and we should have a swoon-worthy campaign coffee table!

My last little campaign project will be to transform this credenza (don't mind the absolutely TERRIBLE picture)...

 ...into something like this from Honey and Fitz:

 Or go a bit more smoky blue gray like this:

...for an under-the-tv storage piece.

Is anyone else out there loving campaign furniture as much as I am? Maybe I'm going a bit overboard, but I just can't wait to tackle some of these diy's!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

a bouquet of sharpened pencils.

The year was 1998. I was a brace-faced sixth grader busy earning my gold medal in awkwardness, when it happened. A spunky little actress in a minor film known as "You've Got Mail" whimsically described the most blissful nugget of goodness I could have ever imagined: a bouquet of sharpened pencils. Meg Ryan knows me. Like she really knows me. She knows that nothing makes my heart go pitter-patter as much as a bouquet of sharpened pencils. Nothing. But then, I ran into a pint-sized setback. Six year olds.

Unfortunately, six year olds see pencils as nothing more than a chew toy. Maybe some of the time, we can use a pencil as a scribe's utensil, but 99.9% of the time, it's a chew toy. So how am I, the lover of all things whimsically Meg Ryan, supposed to create little bouquets of sharpened chew toys? I had to set up a system for my munchkins so that they could transform their chew toys into pencils.

As I researched systems for corralling dull pencils and making sharpened pencils available to everyone whenever they needed one, I found the most PINspiration in this system by Andi over at Pencils, Glue, and Tying Shoes (well hello, adorable blog name!):

Talk about simplistic genius! I loved the idea that all of the dull pencils would be together in one bucket. In the past, anytime my kids needed their pencils sharpened, they either brought the pencils to me (nevermind that I'm just standing here delivering the most mind-boggling lesson EVER) so that I could sharpen them, or they would pop up whenever it suited their fancy, and proceed to allow the pencil sharpener to devour their entire pencil. 

So last summer, I snagged two mini metal pails in the Target dollar aisle and (shocker) whipped up some labels!

Then, Santa got sick of being in a parka, so he brought me a little gifty in the middle of July in Texas, y'all:

Y'all. Meg Ryan might have just said her infamous line straight to my face. Talk about my heart skipping a beat. Yes, it's just a pencil sharpener but this is, by far, the best.pencil.sharpener.EVER. I don't know if you can see it, but right above the grey dial, there's a little light bulb that turns on as soon as a pencil is completely sharp. So, rather than kids leaving their pencils in the sharpener until the dinosaurs come back to life, as soon as they see the light, they know their pencil is sharp. I die.

Our pencil buckets and sharpener sit on a backwards-facing desk at the front of our room right next to our orphaned crayons.

Now, at the end of the day, one of our classroom jobs is for a helper to sharpen all of the "dull" pencils and refill our "sharp" pencil bucket. Since we have the Christian Louboutin of pencil sharpeners now, it's an easy peasy task and no pencils have to meet their Maker in the depths of the sharpening cogs.

  • Sharpening pencils has been completely turned over to the kids, and they can handle the task. They know that one helper sharpens all of the dull pencils at the end of the day, and the sharpener insures that the pencils are sharpened properly and efficiently.
  • The pencil buckets cost a whole 200 cents to create.
  • A very noisy, distracting, but unavoidable classroom occurrence has been streamlined to cause the least amount of disruption possible.

How do y'all manage your bouquets of sharpened pencils?

Monday, April 9, 2012

morning meeting breakdown.

Happy Monday, y'all! I know that I shouldn't be counting, but only 6 more Mondays to go! Hooty-to the-hoo! I thought I would get us started off this week by showing y'all how I run our calendar / morning meeting time. My kids love love love Morning Meeting! It's our special time to share exciting news, talk to our buddies, problem solve any skirmishes we are facing, etc. Oh yeah, and we talk about the calendar, just a little bit.

Last week, I shared with y'all how the kids enter the room and drop off all of their goodies. Once they have settled into their desks, the nuggets complete some morning math work in their Math Journals. Now that we are well into the year, we have also started incorporating a bit of grammar into our Math Journals in the form of sentence correction (the muffins LOVE seeing all the silly mistakes I have made in my messed-up sentences!).

After our morning work, we then move into Morning Meeting. Students know it's time to come to the carpet for Morning Meeting when they see this pop up on our ActivBoard.

I will pause here to tell you about our ActivBoards - they are interactive white boards, very similar to Smart Boards. The entirety of our Morning Meeting is completed on the ActivBoard, rather than a bulletin board - students complete jobs on our calendar activities by either writing on or moving objects. In the past, this has meant that one student would approach the board and complete the task for that page while the other 22 students sat idly by. No. Fun. I quickly realized I needed some sort of tool to help keep the students sitting on the carpet engaged and loving calendar life!

When considering the tool I wanted to create to help my munchkins remain fully engaged in Morning Meeting, I wanted to accomplish a couple of things:

  • I wanted the tool to be re-useable. I did not want to create a binder that would have to be constantly refilled with new copies, etc.
  • I wanted any tasks that can be completed individually to be included in the document.
  • I wanted the document to be sturdy enough for kids to be able to write on it on their lap or on the floor so that they weren't having to bring a clipboard to the carpet as well.
After much brainstorming and researching, I came up with this system. As soon as the kids see our Morning Meeting cover page flash onto the ActivBoard...

they grab all of this...

...and head to the carpet! You can grab your copy of the independently-completed Morning Meeting boards in my TPT Shop!

From here on out, I will show you what the kids see on the ActivBoard and what they will then complete on their Morning Meeting board while sitting at the carpet. We first talk all about today:

So as one child fills in the information on the ActivBoard, everyone else is writing the same content on their Morning Meeting board.

Our next page teaches the "logistics" of a calendar. We talk about how each month can start on a different day (not every month starts on a Sunday). We practice remembering on which day our current month began, and then filling in the calendar for that month through today's date (i.e. today we would fill in the 1st through the 9th). One child fills in the calendar on the ActivBoard...

...while everyone fills in the name of the month and the dates on their Morning Meeting board.

Our next page helps us practice the order of the days of the week. It also provides us with a special time to share two specific days that we particularly enjoy during the week! Here, the child manipulating the ActivBoard drags the correct days of the week to their proper box, and then explains why s/he chose their two favorite days of the week. Like I said, this is such a fun time because it's a great way for kids to be "spotlighted" for their hobbies and extracurricular activities. They tell us which days they have different practices, which "special" classes at school they enjoy most, etc. It usually ends with someone saying, "I didn't know you did/liked                      !" H-E-L-L-O classmate lovin'!

The kids at the carpet also practice writing the days of the week in their own spaces - this is a WONDERFUL way to practice spelling those tricky days of the week!
Our next two slides are very group-participation-oriented, so I did not deem it necessary to include on the Morning Meeting boards for students to complete at the carpet! At the beginning of the year, we use our ten frame to help us practice recognizing even and odd numbers, visualizing simple addition facts (8 is 5 red dots and 3 more yellow dots, etc.), and other review skills.

We also work together on our Hundreds Chart! We practice highlighting as we chant our skip counts, we practice adding and subtracting bigger numbers (48+51 or 98-72) by moving up/down and right/left on our hundreds chart. We practice counting coin values (counting by quarters, nickels, etc.) and counting or skip counting backwards!

Our next page highlights how many days we have been in school. It helps us practice our place value, proper number formation, and writing numbers in expanded notation.

On their personal Morning Meeting board, I simply had the kids write the number of days we had been in school, and then write that number in expanded notation.

On the next slide, I have kids practice writing the time they see on an analog clock in digital format, or vice versa.

So while the student is at the ActivBoard completing the assignment, the nuggets at the carpet can be doing the same thing!
We also practice counting our coins and writing the amount we see using both a dollar sign and a cent sign. Generally, I will tell the students I want them to make a given amount and we see all the different ways we can make that amount with our coins! We practice making the amount with the most coins, the least coins, etc.

While a student is manipulating the coins on the ActivBoard, all of the friends on the carpet are showing the given amount with different coins!

Our Morning Meeting on the ActivBoard does continue on with class bar graphs and other class-wide polls, but (just like the ten frame and hundreds chart pages) I did not include those in the document for kids at the carpet because everyone is participating!

I printed this document front/back on heavy cardstock and then laminated it. This allows the students to write successfully either on the floor or on their lap, and we can just erase the expo marker at the end of Morning Meeting making the document last throughout the year! We are as green as the Grinch, amen?

  • This tool is sturdy and re-useable - prime for daily use by six year olds!
  • What kid would prefer to write with a pencil on paper when they can write with an expo marker on shiny paper?! Expo = Ecstasy for a first grader.
  • All of the kids are engaged and practicing these calendar skills DAILY rather than only practicing when they're at the ActivBoard. Happy nuggets, happy teacher.
How do y'all run your calendar time? How to you make sure all of your kids are engaged and excited about this daily routine?

Don't forget to go get your own copy of our Morning Meeting board over at TPT!