Monday, July 30, 2018

Simple Pork Roast

Do you need a fast, easy, and affordable dinner to throw together during those frantic first days of school--or anytime, for that matter? Well, I have just the thing!

Right now, pork roasts are on sale for $0.99 to 1.99/lb in my neck of the woods. I like to pick up a couple of them at the grocery store when they're at this rock bottom price and put them in the freezer.

When I know I'm going to have a busy day ahead of me, I thaw a roast out the day before, and make sure I have all the ingredients for this simple pork roast crock-pot recipe.

Here is the unlikely cast of characters...

I know. The combination is a little unconventional, but oh my goodness, what flavor they add to a boring pork roast! 

Simple Pork Roast
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope of onion soup mix
1 can Dr. Pepper (Pepsi or Coke would also work) 
   *Note: Two-liter bottles of DP were on sale, so I will just use 1.5 cups.

Spray the trusty crock-pot with cooking spray and place the pork roast fatty-side up. Mix the above ingredients in a bowl, and pour the entire mixture over the roast. Turn the crock-pot on low, and let it work its magic while you're working your magic for the next 8-10 hours!

When you get home from work, simply peel and quarter some potatoes, open a bag of baby carrots, and add those veggies to the roast (and its delectable juices!) in the crock-pot.

After an hour or so, check the potatoes, carrots, and pork to see if they're done. (Potatoes and carrots are done if a fork easily slides into them; pork needs to have an internal temp of at least 160 degrees, juices run clear, and meat is tender.)

I forgot to take a picture of everything at supper the other night, but here's a quick picture of the little Pyrex container I packed for lunch the next day...

So there you have it, folks! One of my tried-and true-thrifty recipes! I hope it becomes a favorite go-to meal at your house, too!

Monday, July 23, 2018

How to Decorate Your Classroom Without Breaking the Bank: Step Two

Welcome back, friends! 

I'm excited for you to start decorating your classroom, so let's get going!

I am trusting that you did your homework and completed Step One: Determine your color scheme and/or theme.

If so, you get a gold star, and you are ready to roll on today's assignment!

You will need:
A. The writing utensil of your choice
B. Paper of some kind
C. Measuring tape

Can you tell I'm missing school so much that I have taken to writing everything like a multiple choice test???

Anyhow, hop in that car, and head on over to your new digs! Hopefully, you have a key and the custodians aren't waxing the floor...

Once you've safely maneuvered around all the stuff in the halls, you're ready for the next step.

Study your classroom.
I know this sounds weird, but trust me on this. Get out that piece of paper and writing utensil, and just sit in your classroom. No one is going to bother you because:
A. They are still on vacation mode and would not step foot in the building if their life depended on it.
B. They are in the building but are up to their eyeballs in their own bulletin board decorating.
C. They are custodians and are busy waxing the gym floors.

Anyway, you are safe to just sit and take it all in without interruption. While you are peacefully taking in your new surroundings, consider the following:

How many bulletin boards do you have? 
    --Which one of your color scheme hues lends itself to being the best background color for your boards? Doing all or most of your boards with the same color gives the most cohesive flow to the room, but you might want to vary the color depending on the purpose of the board.

--What IS the purpose of each bulletin board going to be? I like to have at least one instructional bulletin board that teaches a concept and one that displays student work. If I'm lucky enough to have more boards, then I like to put up class expectations, Marzano's Levels of Understanding, or something along those lines.

--Measure each bulletin board, write down the measurements on your paper, and keep the paper in your purse or wallet. Just like a bed is the primary focus in a bedroom, bulletin boards are often the biggest splash of color in a classroom. If you find a great source of background color, you can easily check your dimensions to see if it will work on your boards.

While you have that measuring tape handy, you might want to also measure and jot down the dimensions of your door(s), windows, and anything else you might want to decorate.

Are there other areas of wall space that are just begging to be filled?
We've talked before about not overdecorating your space because of attention issues, and because it tends to look busy and messy. But sometimes, there's a great bare expanse that just needs a little something. Take note of that space as well and record those measurements, too.

Are you kind of getting a general idea as to the flow of your room? the fun begins! 

With your measurement list in hand (or wallet or phone), it is time to begin LOOKING for materials in your color scheme. I would recommend shopping for the big areas, such as bulletin boards, first and then fill in with little things later.

Materials for Bulletin Board Backgrounds
--Rolls of colored butcher paper (usually found in the school media center. This is honestly your cheapest source of background and most districts have a wide variety of colors available. Check this out first!)
--Tablecloths.  Whether they are plastic, cloth, or paper, rectangular
 tablecloths can make fantastic backgrounds! Check out party store or Target clearance for these little gems. Garage sales and thrift stores can also be a great place to search.
--Wrapping paper. I check Wal-Mart and Target's clearance aisles for this nearly every time I go there.
--Material. If you find a great sale, material can be a great choice because it can be used year after year. Check out stores like JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby who offer coupons and great sales. Some stores also offer a teacher discount, so don't be afraid to ask! 
--Wallpaper or contact paper. Leave the backing on so you don't ruin the board, but these are great bargains if you find them on the clearance rack or at a yard sale. Some of the wood grain patterns would be great if you want a Farmhouse or Fixer Upper style!
--Sheets. Sometimes you can find great buys on kids' sheet sets on clearance. These also make great curtains! 

Party supply stores and Oriental Trading are also great places to check out for inexpensive decorating items.

I hope this gives you a good starting place for your decorating adventures! Remember to stick to your color scheme and your budget. 

And whatever you do, have fun!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How to Decorate Your Classroom Without Breaking the Bank

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Or is it Tuesday? (If you're a teacher, I know you can totally relate to this day-of-the-week dilemma in the middle of summer.) Whatever the day, I'm glad you could join me!

As I took my morning walk around the neighborhood today, I realize that it's beginning to look a lot like back to school time. In my neck of the woods that means the schoolyards are getting gussied up, teachers' cars can be spotted in the parking lots, and the crosswalks are getting a fresh coat of paint.

And now the soles of my walking shoes are also sporting some fresh white paint.

Since I've been around the block a time or two and have the footprints to prove it, I thought I would offer some friendly advice to those of you setting up your classrooms for the first time.

If you read my last post, you know I'm all about saving money. I also like my classroom to be bright, cheerful, and welcoming. Believe it or not, I can accomplish both of those goals without spending a lot of money and so can you.

Make a decorating plan.
I'm sure you've probably heard Benjamin Franklin's quote, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." While you can just accumulate random items and decorate, it will probably lack a cohesive look and you'll likely spend more than you need to. You will feel much more organized if you spend time analyzing what you really need and want for your classroom.

Step One: Develop a color scheme
Just like your home, your classroom will have a more cohesive, put-together look if you stick to two or three dominant colors when you decorate. That's not to say that you can't have items in your room that aren't those colors, but the majority of the room should be for maximum effect. Too many colors can look chaotic and can be distracting for those with focus issues.

If you'd like to do a multi-color scheme such as pastels or rainbow colors, think about using a neutral such as black to anchor all of those hues.

Here are some other considerations when creating your color scheme...

*Is there already a predominant color in the room? 
If you look at the picture above, this classroom had lots of blue in it that I couldn't change. Because blue and gold were our school colors, the trim, bookcases, chairs, etc. were all some shade of blue (not by my choice). That particular year, I decided to go with a "black & bright" theme that wouldn't compete with all the different blue accents.

Another year in that same classroom, I decided to go with muted tones of the school colors. I was loving the Farmhouse look at that time, so I incorporated lots of fabric that complemented the painted trim.

My accents also went with the Farmhouse theme and blue/yellow color scheme...

In yet another classroom, I was stuck with an ugly green counter-top and a huge bright blue cabinet. (Yikes!) I decided to pull things together with a blue and green decorating theme. I used these fans hanging from the ceiling and also as bulletin board accents to help create a balanced look.

In your classroom, do you have elements such as desks, wall color, chairs, etc. that have a dominant color that you can't change? If so, I've found it easier over the years to try to complement that color rather than fight it.

*Do you have a school-wide theme that you need to implement?
If you do, your color scheme might come from that. For example, if your school is doing a bee theme, black and yellow would be an easy fix throughout your room. 

If you have school colors that you like, you might want to incorporate those into your classroom. For example, my new school colors are black and gold. I'm also kind of liking the whole pineapple decorating thing that's going on all over Pinterest this summer. I decided to use both of those ideas to guide my decorating for this year.

These mini posters will make a great bulletin board for my room! I get to weave in the black and gold, plus I get to add a touch of pineapple without committing to a whole room of it. Definitely a win-win!

*Look for an inspiration piece.
Do you have a favorite piece of decor that you just love? Use that as a springboard for coming up with the best colors for your room. For instance, one year I just fell in love with this flag...

It quickly became the focal point of my decorating that year. 

1. The walls of that classroom were ivory already.
2. I used a matching red fabric with ivory polka dots to cover the mini bulletin boards over my windows. (Fabric was found on clearance)
3. I painted some older furniture black and incorporated it into my room. (I already had the paint from previous projects and the wooden furniture was given to me)
4. I found a black and ivory checked wallpaper border in the clearance section of a discount store. 
4. The school's colors at that time were red, white, and black.

Now that sounds like I was quite lucky, and I was, but actually it all came together because I had a PLAN. And because I had a plan, I could focus my attention on gathering items that coordinated with my plan and tune out those that didn't.

Okay, enough blabbing from me--are you ready to give it a try? Your first assignment is to come up with the color scheme for your room. Study your classroom for a bit, think of colors you love, possibly look for an inspiration piece, and find out if you have a team or school theme for the year.

Armed with that information, come up with two or three colors that complement each other and stay tuned for Step Two: Gathering Materials.

Until next time!

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