Sunday, December 29, 2013

25 Books that I Read this Year

I always set out to read 25- 30 books on goodreads, for their book challenge.  I think I have only met this goal once.  It was when I was still working at a pizza shoppe in a crazy and wild search for a teaching job, but yet still had ample time to read.  Go figure!  Now that I am a teacher, I find it very hard to find time to do anything... this might be why my blog is so spotty.  Luckily I am on Christmas break right now and I have time to do whatever I please.

Here is the list of books that I read this year for my successful book challenge:
(P.S. I will be reading 30 books by my 30th birthday, in Novemeber next year, some books will overlap, as my birthday is before the end of the year in which Goodreads gives for their book challenge.)

1.  Paris in Color by Nichole Robertson

2.  Welcome to the Dead House by R.L. Stine

3.  Stay out of the Basement by R.L. Stine

4.  Monster Blood by R.L. Stine

5.  White Teeth by Zadie Smith

6.  Naked by David Sedaris

7.  I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

8.  Chocolat by Joanne Harris

9.  The Commander's Desire by Jennette Green

10.  Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall

11.  Stardust by Neil Gaiman

12.  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

13.  Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

14.  Her Reluctant Bodyguard by Jennette Green

15.  A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer

16.  The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley (I had a paperback, but this link is for Kindle)

17.  Waiting for Wren by Cate Beauman

18.  Morgan's Hunter by Cate Beauman

19.  Falling For Sarah by Cate Beauman

20.  Hailey's Truth by Cate Beauman

21.  Forever Alexa by Cate Beauman

22.  Q&A by Vikas Swarup

23.  The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist

24.  Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

25.  Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson

What have you read this year?  Any recommendations?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Dough Ornament Craft

I found this recipe for ornaments many years ago and I love it!  It saddens me a bit that the last time I made this dough was in 2008!  Ahh!  I have got to make these every year, they are so easy and fun.

I wish I could recall exactly where I got this recipe from, but alas, I don't.  It was from some type of parenting website.

I like it, because you can make whatever shape you want by using cookie cutters and you can even dye the dough.  I made dinosaurs last time.  If you start with a great imagination, then you are off to a good start!

Christmas Dough Ornament Craft

This shiny Christmas dough ornament craft is the perfect finishing touch to decorating the tree.  It can also be altered and made into lapel pins, magnets and gift-toppers.

What you'll need:

1/2          cup salt
1             cup flour
1/2          cup water

Rolling pin
Cookie Sheet
Cookie cutters (stars, trees, etc.)
Acrylic paints (green, yellow, other colors of choice for embellishments)
Glitter glue or glitter paint

** Food coloring, if you would like to die the dough.  Add a few drops to the water before mixing it with flour and salt. You can also paint them once they have baked.  Artist's choice!**

How to make it:

1.      Preheat oven to 250ºF.

2.      Mix together salt, flour, and water until dough is formed.

3.      Knead the dough on a floured surface until the mixture is elastic and smooth.  If dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour, continue to do so until stickiness is gone.  Do not add too much flour, this will dry out dough and will cause it to crack before you have a chance to make it.

4.      Roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick with rolling pin that has been dusted with flour.

5.      Use cookie cutters to cut out as many trees and stars (dinosaurs, whatever you like!) as you want.

6.      Use a toothpick to make a hole toward the top of the shape.  Poke the toothpick into the shape, then holding the toothpick straight up and down, make a circular motion, as if you were stirring something.  Keep circling until the hole is the size you want.

7.      Place all shapes onto an un-greased cookie sheet and place into the preheated oven.

8.      Bake for 2 hours.

9.      Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

10.    Paint the trees green and stars yellow (but I say paint them whatever color that you want!  Don't be held back from your creative genius.)

11.    Use the handle end of the paintbrush to dot ornaments by dipping into paint then dotting onto ornament.

12.    When paint is dry, use glitter glue or paint to put a sparkling cover coat on your ornaments.

13.    When dry, thread ribbon through hole and tie a knot in the back.

14.    Tie onto a package, if you would like.


-      If your toppers are large enough, you can make two hole in each so that you can thread ribbon through like a button, only showing a small amount of ribbon on the front.

-      These make adorable pins to wear to school.  Just don't make a hole.  Glue a pin to the back of the completed ornament instead.

-      Uncooked salt dough doesn't keep well, so only make enough dough for the ornaments you are going to make.  If you are only making a few toppers, halve the ingredients above.  The listed amounts will make enough ornaments for a classroom of 20.


When I was a kid, we would make these all of the time!  The recipe was given to us by my mom's best friend, Libby.  She passed away a couple of months ago and as a tribute to their 50 year long friendship, I share this recipe with you.

Cinnamon Ornaments

Makes: 12- 15 ornaments
Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time:  2- 1/2 hours or 1 to 2 days drying time

3/4    cup applesauce

1       bottle (4.12 ounces) cinnamon

Other supplies:

Cookie cutters
Drinking straw
Colorful ribbon

1.      Preheat oven to 200ºF.  Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed. (You may need to use your hands to incorporate all of the cinnamon.)  Using about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll dough 1/4-inch to 1.3- inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Cut dough into desired shapes with 2-3-inch  cookie cutters.  Make a hole at top of ornament with drinking straw or skewer.  Place ornaments on baking sheet.

2.      Bake 2-1/2 hours.  Cool ornaments on wire wrack (or dry ornaments at room temperature by carefully placing them on a wire rack.  Let stand for 1 to 2 days or until dough is throughly dry, turning occasionally).

3.      Insert ribbon through holes and tie to hang.  Decorate with opaque paint markers, or paint found at regular craft stores, if desired.

**Tip:  If a different size bottle of cinnamon is used, measure 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.**

Book Space

I live in a small apartment.  I mean, my apartment can fit inside of the classroom, in which I teach.  No matter the size, I enjoy it and I find it cozy.  One thing that is tough about an intimate living area, is the lack of space... for things, like books!  I love to read.  I have hundreds of books, though, I am working on breaking my attachment to books I didn't particularly care for.  But, that is neither here nor there.

On Sunday, I woke up and decided that that was the day to do some apartment makeover activities.  It was the second day of Christmas break, after all.  I only have three weeks to get as much stuff as possible done.

So, I reattached the thing on the bottom of the front door, that had been partially ripped off and consequently was beginning to trap me inside.  I had to stick the tip of my foot between the door and the screen and kick the door back... every morning, in the dark, in order to get out of my house.  Score! One thing fixed!

I purchased some nice frames and a painting at Kohl's, at majorly discounted prices, for my bathroom.  And I hung them up too!  Score!  Two things!  They really spruce up my bathroom.

I hung a frame and some 'Z's above my bed.  Let's face it, when I moved into this place a year and 8 months ago, I only focused on the living room and kitchen area, as these are the only places that people would be seeing, when visiting.  Score, three things!  I was on a roll!

I plan on adding wings to the frame and spray painting the 'Z's gold.  

Now, the most amazing thing that I did on Sunday, was purchasing 4 wooden crates from Michael's, some stain and poly coating, and a brush.  I was in desperate need of some bookshelves or something of that sort to get some newly acquired books off of my living room floor.  When I was at Michael's and I saw these crates, I was struck with an idea.  I ran with it and I am extremely happy with the results.  At first, I wanted to hang them all in my room, but they stick so far out, that I was afraid I would smack my head on them.

I ended up putting two in my living room, on top of my other bookcase.  I am still trying to figure out where exactly I will place the other two.  If I do choose to hang them in my room, I think I am going to need some brackets, to help support the weight of the books, so that the crate doesn't rip out of the wall.

I am very happy with the results and I think they look as if they have been in my living room all along.

Wooden crates from Michael's, $9.99 (4 total)

I suggest getting the smaller cans of stain and poly, because I could probably make 100 more of these crates and I would still have enough stain and poly to make at least 20 more!  I got a brush (Linzer Stain and Poly) that is specifically for stain and poly.  It is amazing!

What a difference, huh?

I had never stained before, my first two crates look great, because I took my time.  The last two have a few drips here and there, but I think it adds to their charm.  I chose a matte poly, in order to keep the 'rustic' look.  I wasn't looking for a high shine manufactured look.

Here they are at home and filled with books.  I really think they look great and they were so simple!

I mean, even the dinosaur is happy to have them near!

The best thing is that they got my extra books off of the ground and made room for more, that will undoubtedly come in the near future.

If you are wanting to do this project, may I suggest that you give yourself plenty of time? Before you put the poly coating on, your stain has to sit for an hour.  Also, please have good air flow!  My apartment was not ideal for this and I was getting some serious black lung and holes in the brain.  However, I used what brain cells I had left and placed my fan in the kitchen, facing an open window and all was well.

Choose a stain that works well with your existing decor and have fun!

A simple project that delivers great results.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Should I Call These?

In my last post, I mentioned that I made some reindeer candy grams, in addition to some other ones made with candy canes and marshmallows.  If you want to make these as well, check out the supplies below.  BTW, this is a very easy treat to make... that is if all of your candy canes aren't broken like mine!  Well ok, they weren't all broken.  I needed 62 (ended up with 70), so I bought 6 boxes of 12... many were broken, thus leading me to buy a total of 96 candy canes in order to fulfill my duties as the leadership teacher.

What should these be called?  My student showed me a picture and then I decided in my brain how I could make them, but I am sure they already have a name.  Hmmm....

Photo by: Me, Tiffiny Hargrave

Supply List

2- bags jumbo marshmallows (1lb 8oz.)

3- 12 oz. bags of wilton candy melts (I used light cocoa)
70 -peppermint candy canes
Festive sprinkles and or candies
Parchment Paper (plastic wrap)
Cookie sheets (1-2 depending on how many you are making)
Treat bags
Cute tags

** Amounts can easily be adjusted to the amount that you wish to make. **

1.  Prepare candy melts according to package directions.

2.  Stick a candy cane into the middle of a marshmallow.  Repeat until all candy canes are in a marshmallow.

3.  Dip the candy cane/marshmallow into the chocolate (candy melts), using the candy cane as a handle and sprinkle with your choice of festive decorations, straight away.

4.  Place the treat onto a lined cookie sheet (I generally prefer parchment paper, but I just ran out before making these, so I used plastic wrap and it worked excellently well.)

5.  Allow to harden.

6.  Wrap up and give away!  Hooray!

Any ideas for names?

Peppermint and chocolate covered marshmallow sticks?

Peppermallow treats?

I have no idea what these should be called!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Candy Grams

We have been in the middle of a huge candy gram sale at school for the past two weeks.  We always do this as a huge Christmas time fundraiser for leadership.  This year we decided to make wild rainbow reindeer and  peppermint candy canes with chocolate covered marshmallows.

They have been selling like hot cakes.

Here are the rainbow reindeers:

Photo by:  Me, Tiffiny Hargrave

My students worked really hard to make these today and I think that they turned out really well.

If you would like to make some of your own here is the supply list:

Fruity candy canes
Colorful pipe cleaners
Small googly eyes
Small colorful pom poms (for the nose)
Elmer's glue
Hot glue gun and glue, if you are doing the gluing and your kids or students are not.

We folded the pipe cleaners in half and then about 1-1/2 inches down, we cut the 2 tips off.  We then took the folded pipe cleaner and twisted it around the candy cane a few times.  Once that was secure, we then folded each tip in half and twisted one on each antler that is already secured to the candy cane. Put tiny dabs of glue (or hot glue) on the eyes and stick them on.  Now, put a small dab of glue (or hot glue) on the nose and stick it on at the bottom of the curved end.

I think the wild colors really make these a ton of fun, but the great thing about these is that you can use any type of candy cane and colors that you wish!

** I suggest you use a more permanent type of glue, other than Elmer's.  We had some eyes fall off.  So, the hot glue would be perfect, but if you are working with kids, perhaps Krazy glue... but that seems equally dangerous to me.**