Friday, November 8, 2013

Blog Hop and Giveaway!!

Welcome to my blog!                  I am so  excited to be participating in this Blog Hop! 
Thank you to Jessica from Hanging out in First for setting it all up!!

We are celebrating all that we are thankful for and that includes teachers.  We want to show all of you how much we appreciate you.  Teachers do so much and this is our time to give back and say thank you!  Thank you for showing your support by following our blogs and/or stores!  Thank you for all the hard work you do, for collaborating and for sharing!  Thank you, thank you, thank you from all of us participating in this hop :)
             You have made it to blog

           Grab my FREEBIE here       

 I have created a Thanksgiving Math and Literacy Center Multi Pack. The worksheets are designed to be fun and festive while still promoting learning! Click on the image to head on over to my TpT store to grab it. I would love some feed back on what you think!

Join us by hopping through each blog and gathering lots of Thanksgiving and autumn freebies.  In each freebie you will find a picture of a pie with a word on it. That word will tell you something that teacher is thankful for.  Record all of the words on your recording sheet and follow each blog along the way so that you can enter the amazing giveaway at the end!

You may start anywhere along the hop, but if you would like to start at the beginning you may go here.  This is also where you will go in the end, for the giveaway!!

Now hop over to the next stop on your journey:


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Quick and Easy Play Dough Recipes for the Classroom or Home

I have fond memories of my mother making play dough for us when we were young. She made us the cooked kind, and I remember thinking that it took FOREVER to cool enough to play with :)  When I started teaching I began making play dough for my class. Making your own play dough is much cheaper, can be made in large batches and lasts longer than what you buy at the store. It can also be jazzed up in fun ways! When I taught preschool, we actually had the parents sign up to make us new play dough every month, as we went through it pretty quickly in our preschool classroom. I did not make it that often for my Kindergarten class. 

The first recipe is for cooked play dough. Despite what many think, cooked play dough is not a scary thing! Yes, your pan and spoon look terrible afterwards, but 10 minutes of soaking takes care of it. I have found that cooked play dough lasts a little bit longer and is smoother than the uncooked version. 

Recipe for Cooked Play Dough
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 TBS oil (see notes)
2 tsp cream of tartar (see notes at the bottom)
Food coloring or powdered drink mix (such as Kool-Aid)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium sized sauce pan. Add the water and oil (and food coloring if not using the powdered drink mix) and stir them together. Stir continuously on medium heat, making sure to move your spoon around the entire bottom of the pan. As you can see above, the mixture begins to thicken quickly on the bottom of the pan. Continue to stir until the mixture has formed a ball in the center of the pan. Carefully pinch the dough to make sure it isn't too sticky, then carefully remove and place on a plate or tin foil to cool. 

I used powdered drink mix in the recipe above. I used Kroger brand powdered drink mix in place of Kool-Aid in the recipe above. It produced a wonderful, bright red and the play dough smells like cherries!

Recipe for Un-Cooked Play Dough
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
1 TBS oil 
2 tsp cream of tartar 
Food coloring or powdered drink mix (such as Kool-Aid)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the water and oil (and food coloring if not using the powdered drink mix) to 1/2 of the dry ingredients and stir them together. Stir in the second half of the dry ingredients. You may find that you need to add a dash more flour. Once it has formed a ball, as shown above, dust the counter and knead the dough until it is smooth. 
For the uncooked version I used neon blue food coloring. I prefer the neon colors as they are much brighter than the regular pack of colors. 

Store in zip lock bags.

As I mentioned above, one of the best things about making your own play dough is that you can jazz it up. I like to add some extract, such as peppermint, cinnamon or lemon. You can also add glitter, which my students have always gone crazy over! Have fun with it! I hope your students and or children enjoy playing with the play dough you make :)

Both of these versions make great dough for your kids to play with. The cooked version is a little smoother than the uncooked, but the kids don't care a bit about that. The cooked version does last a little longer. I used play dough in my Literacy Centers every few weeks and only made it three times during the school year. 

* I like to use baby oil instead of vegetable oil - it makes the play dough very smooth and it smells good! 
*Cream of tartar is NOT the same thing as tartar sauce!! Cream of tartar is a white powder that can be found in the spice aisle of the grocery store. It is not necessary for the recipe to work, however it helps the play dough to last a little longer. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Amazing Spaghetti Squash

Now that Fall is upon us once more, winter squash has taken over the vegetable section at the grocery store. I love acorn, butternut and delicata squash, however my husband does not. I therefore do not often buy it. For a while now I have been hearing about how great spaghetti squash is, but had not thought too much about it, thinking that it was probably on the sweeter side and that it wouldn't go over so well at dinner. Oh yeah, have I mentioned my husband is Italian?

I finally bought one a few weeks ago and gave it a shot, telling him several times that it was fine if he didn't like it and that he could eat the left over Thai food if he just couldn't choke it down. Well... it was AMAZING!! We both loved it so much that we had it for lunch the next day and he has requested it several times since. In fact we just had it again last evening. One of the best things about spaghetti squash is that you get that nice, satisfying taste of spaghetti but without the heavy feeling and tiredness that a full bowl of pasta can bring on.

So, even if it sounds crazy to substitute a squash in place of your beloved pasta, just give it a try anyway; you may be pleasantly surprised. If my Italian, pasta loving husband loves it so much, chances are good you may too. And if you're worried about it being a total failure, than have a back up frozen pizza on hand that you can bake in 15 minutes :)

Here is how I make it.

Preheat the oven to 350.
 (See the bottom for an alternative cooking method)

I look for a squash that has a nice yellow color to it and that feels heavy for it's size. A medium sized squash makes enough for us to have dinner and lunch for the next day.

Wash the squash and poke a few holes in it. I use the tip of a sharp knife and poke about 8 holes.
Set the squash on a tray covered in foil (this just makes for easier cleanup) and place it in the center of the oven. Set the timer for 30 min. After 30 min flip the squash over and set the timer for another 30 min. Flipping the squash helps it to cook evenly all the way through. I did not do this the first time and there was a big squishy spot on the bottom where it had rested on the pan for an hour.

Let the squash cool for about 5 minutes then cut in half. Remove the seeds, then use a fork to gently pull apart the strands of the squash. They look just like noodles!! It's pretty cool :)

We like our spaghetti squash with red sauce (I like to get Newman's Own - it's delicious and all their proceeds go to charity), turkey meatballs and some parmesan cheese.

           Buon appetito :)
 I hope your family loves this meal as much as mine does!

**You can also cut the squash into quarters and and steam it for about 10 minutes**