Q-Tip Philosophy

Dear 2013,

In an effort to prepare, I'm going to embrace the Q-TIP philosophy and not take everything so personally in my classroom, with students, at home and parenting sweet Lil O.

After all, perfect passed away months ago.

I'm coming for you, 2013.

With bells on.....


For the Young Fashion Designer

fashion design kit

Lil O is into fashion design lately.  Actually, she has been for a while, but now she has the fine and gross motor skills to pull it off.  Santa (aka: Amazon) delivered this fashion studio Christmas morning.

Cousin A and Lil O had the best time enjoying it......

They did challenges, used interesting materials like tissue paper, pipe cleaners, and washi tape & sketched their designs.

Lil O and Cousin A even challenged me to create a "bridesmaid dress."  You can see my design in the top left square below.  All the other designs are theirs.  I give their designs and this studio kit an A+ rating! 

Lil O gives it an A+ rating, too!  Ditto for Cousin A.

What gifts would you give an A+ rating?



A Good Holiday

It was a good holiday.  Just as it should be when we are at our real home - lots of family, friends, cheer, good food and love.  We've spent the last few holidays in Colorado at our other home, which is totally enjoyable, but in different ways.

Here's a holiday recap.  And by the way, my iPhone had over 6,000 photos on it and thus, it was giving me an error message that I couldn't take anymore. Bah humbug.  Mr. UpCyclist helped me download all those lovely photos.  Now, I am ready to take 6K more.

Lil O by our tree.......She is way into fashion design lately, so many of her presents centered around that theme.

Christmas night dinner at my sister's house.  Lil O is sporting her new outfit from her cousins.  Cute, isn't it?  I love the gun metal gray color.  I believe the entire outfit is from 77 Kids; purse from Claire's.

The three cousins on their new love sac.  That sac is a hoot.

What do you think of my new dress from Macy's?   It made of t-shirt material, which means it is so soft and comfortable.  Thanks, Mom and Hal!

Here are some day-after shots....Lil O in her fascinator headband.  That was a great find at Kohl's for 50% off that day.  Mr. UpCyclist is working on the Our Home Town puzzle.  The puzzle is of our home in Colorado.  Ahhh......

And me.   Happy, slightly tired, me with sweet Jedi in the background.

How was your holiday, Upcyclists?



PS - What do you think about the wall behind Mr. UpCyclist in the photo above?  Wouldn't it make a great chalkboard wall?

Season's Greetings

From our family to yours!  Take care, Upcyclists!


Jen, Mr. UpCyclist, Lil O and Jedi

Magnet Ornaments - Easy, Peasy.....

magnet ornaments

I saw these adorable, couldn't-be-easier-to-make magnet ornaments at Young House Love here.  I enjoy reading YHL.  The couple who makes up YHL is silly, creative and oh-so-productive.  Three of my favorite descriptors.

Lil O and I made our own magnet ornaments.  We didn't follow YHL and use Liquid Nails to glue our magnets.  But, instead, we used our trusty hot glue gun.  This project cannot be any easier.  In fact, it may go down as the fastest craft completed ever.

Which isn't a bad thing.  Especially when Mr. UpCyclist is on me to finish my craft projects as many of them are a "work-in-progress" - like for several years a work-in-progress.

Here are the supplies:  Glue gun ($2.99); we purchased ours from Joann's.  Surprisingly, the mini glue gun sticks are more costly than I always imagine.  Not break-the-bank-costly, but about $7-9 a bag.  Go figure.  This is Lil O's new glue gun.  I've had my glue gun for years and it looks sticky and glorious.  Ha!

Magnets:  I bought these for $3 at Michael's with my 50% off coupon (they were originally $6).  They are a bit chubby, but strong.  Plus, I absolutely love having extra magnets at home for other craft projects (see photos and links at the end).

I bought these 50% off ornaments at Michael's.  Lil O loves disco balls and dancing, so I knew she would adore these.  The colors are energizing, too.

To make the magnet ornaments, all you have to do is open the packages (no, duh!?) and hot glue the magnets to the back of each ornament.  Hot glue dries within seconds.  So, the magnets were ready for their fridge debut within a minute.  

And even with slamming the fridge door, they haven't fallen off yet.  Thanks, Young House Love, for the idea.

It feels soooooo good to get back to crafting lately after a nationwide stressful week.  Did you see yesterday's post about DIY Chalkboard Ornaments?  That's another easy craft, too.   Again, crafting fuels my soul.



{More magnet ideas here.....}

DIY Chalkboard Ornament

DIY chalkboard ornament

Crafting fuels my soul.  Does it do the same for yours?

This ornament could not be any easier.  Seriously. I'm slightly embarrassed that I am writing a tutorial about it.  But, since not everyone is a crafter, I figure, better to explain the process than leave it to chance.  This ornament is also under $5, which is good because today Lil O and I are bringing the ornament to an ornament exchange and we were supposed to stay under $5.  Mission accomplished.

Here we go....

First, gather your supplies.  The ornament was literally $1 from our local Dollar Tree store.  I purchased the chalkboard spray paint from Joann Crafts with a 50% off coupon.  I think it cost $3 after the coupon.  Yay!  I also used a coupon to buy the chalkboard bistro marker, but in the end decided old-fashioned chalk for ($1.49) looked best.  Chocolate is optional!  Lil O gifted that piece of chocolate to me. Ha!  I will explain the painters tape in a moment.

chalkboard ornament supplies

Tape off the top of the ornament and the string with painters tape, so it does not get covered in spray paint.  Then, go outside and spray away.  I like to keep my arm moving while I spray paint so it doesn't get too globby.

After you spray the first coat, let the coat dry for a few hours.  I wasn't in a hurry, so I left the ornament to dry overnight.   Then, spray a second coat and let that coat dry, too.

The next step is key.  You have to "cure" your chalkboard surface.  You do this by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk all over it.  Lil O and I had extra fun by rubbing the chalk all over the ornament with our hands, too.  Girls just gotta have fun, right?

For the grand finale, with a damp paper towel, wipe off the cured chalk.  Your ornament is now ready for chalk doodles and giving!

Easy, no?

If you make a DIY Chalkboard Ornament, post a photo on our Facebook page here.  I'm certain it will brighten my day (and maybe others).

Speaking of today, have a fantastic day, Upcyclists!  I hope to post more craft ideas before Christmas.



Love. This.

I can't remember where I found this. But, I love.....

xoxo, Jen

What helps me live with Newtown, CT

This has been a tough few days.  I'm not going to lie.  I've put on my happy game face for my family and Lil O, but the shooting in Newtown weighs a bit on my soul.  I find myself hugging and kissing Lil O more, sharing more I love yous with my family, using lessons learned from my coaching sessions with Sue, and smiling more at neighbors and strangers. 

I really believe if our communities and the people in them were more connected like I describe in my blog post here, we would experience less violence and acts of terror.   Thus, I have stepped up my connection with others. It is why I teach, after all.  Why not connect, not only with my students, but with the world, yes?  Maybe that's why I like to blog, too.  Connections.

I also have found a few things that help alter my perspective.  Did you see this quote from Mr. Rogers?    

I am a spiritual person, but not religious, however, there is something very soothing about this image and text.  My favorite part is, "I have so much to show you...."  I think of all the beauty in the world.

I saw this video on Design Mom's blog.  I love it.  It is uplifting and clever....students are so incredible.

And these three beings.  They help me. They remind me how precious and amazing life is.

Thinking of you, Upcyclists.  If there is something that is helping you and you are willing to share, please leave a comment below.


My Thoughts on the Connecticut Shooting

My heart.  Oh, my heavy heart.

This weekend has been absolutely bittersweet.  Sweet because of spending so much time with family and Mr. UpCyclist returning from a trip to Finland and Sweden.  Bitter because of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  So many lovely, innocent lives and families changed forever.

I've had just a few days to process the act of the shooter.  My thoughts continue to swirl in my head.  As an educator, I've had many family and friends ask my opinion on the topic.  Is it a school problem?  Gun control issue?  Mental healthcare concern?   Community challenge?  What?

Though, I believe it is all of those things, I believe the real answer lies in a blog post I wrote almost a year ago.  Assets.  Our humans, our citizens, our adults and our kids need more developmental assets. Period.  The more you have, according to the Search Institute research, the more likely you will avoid high-risk behaviors like violence and suicide.  What I notice about the majority of the assets is they are related to connection - connection with others, connection with school, connection with activities, connection with spirituality, connection. I believe the shooter possessed very few, if any, assets.  Very few, if any, connections.

Don't believe me?  Look at the asset list for the highest age group - 12-18 year olds.  Do you think the shooter possessed more than five of those?  Five out of forty?  Come on.  That's a human whose soul is starved, lost and unvalued.

While the FBI works on its profile for a shooter - be it a school shooter, theater, mall, post office, whatever shooter, I think I know what the profile is.  A human with few, if any, assets.

We can't change history, but we can learn from it and influence the future.  One asset.  One connection at a time.

Download the assets lists here and figure out how you can contribute to the assets of others.  I realize there is no "adult" asset list, but I think the age 12-18 year old list could be modified to fit the adult age range.  If you haven't read my initial post on the developmental assets, read that, too, to understand them here.  If you are still stuck what to do, try following this blog post about emotional bank accounts.  That's an easy one you can do on a daily basis with every single person you come into contact with - man, woman and child.

Be safe, Upcyclists.  Give your families a hug, kiss and cuddle from me.

With a heavy heart,


PS - I know the question will come up, what about humans who can't embrace the assets?  What about those who just cannot connect?  I think this article and blog post from a mom of a mentally ill child speaks to the need for increased mental healthcare and support in the US.  For those humans who just cannot connect, we will need to implore more.   And if you do read her post, I found the comments others left fascinating and thought-provoking.

Dear Santa....Bike #3

Dear Santa,

You would make Mr. UpCyclist's holiday (and life, for that matter) if you would please, please, please bring him a Surly Pugsley fat tire bike.  He has been asking for a Pugsley for years.  When he sees a Pugsley, it literally stops him in his tracks and he gawks and stares (and drools).

And, you know him.  You know he will ride that darn, gigantic, phat Pugsley that we don't have room in our garage for nor a proper bike rack on our cars until he is old and gray.

What do you think?


I volunteer to give up all my other "Dear Santa" posts for Mr. UpCyclist to have this one.

Say yes,


Dear Santa....Bike #2

Dear Santa - 

Remember this summer when we tried cani-cross and all the "joring" sports?  Well, our family would love a Diggler bike scooter.  Puppy Jedi would be soooo happy, get a tremendous amount of exercise, and we would be over-the-top elated to rip around our neighborhood and trails on a gigantic scooter.  

Have you seen their latest video, Santa?  Doesn't it look so darn fun?

Please add this to our holiday wish list, ok?  And if it isn't asking too much, please include the tug & tow accessory, as well.

We have been real good this year, Santa. I promise.


Dear Santa...... Bike #1

Dear Santa,

Since our family is a family of upCYCLISTS, could you please add this to our holiday list?  It is from a Dutch company called Babboe.  This is the "city" edition.

We would also welcome the "cargo" edition below.  It looks like Lil O could bring a friend - or two.  or three with the cargo model, yes?

Mr. UpCyclist and I could stock the bikes with a cute, brown haired kid (we don't have any blonde ones around here), one furry puppy - who is going to try to jump out - and all our favorite gear (like rock climbing, river walking, snacks or crafting supplies.  Ha!).

Big thanks, Santa.

I have a few more bikes I want to request in the coming days......I hope I am not being too forward.



PS - Thanks, Sue.  I fell in love with Babboe while visiting your Pinterest boards.  Yay!

Teaching Videos {for Tech Tuesday}

Today I hope to give and get.  I will share with you one of my favorite videos that I like to use in some of my classes (and recently, used this video in a public speaking engagement).  And you will share with me a useful 30-60 second video that could be used similarly, OK?

Give and get. That's our deal today.

Here is my "give"......

What do you think?  Are you ready to share your favorite video?  Of course you are!  Just leave the URL in the comment section below or email your video link to me at jen at upcyclededucation.com.

You're the best!


My Favorite Family Sport

In efforts to balance work + play (and sanity), today's post is play related.  Yay!

Last year, this was our holiday blog collage.  I altered it to reflect this very important thought for today.

Skiing is my favorite family sport.

It is a sport kids pick up rather quickly when they are taught early how to ski.  It is a sport the whole family can enjoy together even with young kids (probably because most kids, like Lil O, are fearless on their skis).  And by the way, I swear Lil O is significantly faster than me on her skis (and Mr. UpCyclist, sorry babe to rat you out publicly).  When we race Nastar, she consistently earns gold and platinum medals.  Me?  Bronze.  And Mr. UpCyclist?  Hey, our entire family can't be medalists.  Mr. U has other great sports moments....like in mountain biking.

Back to skiing.....it is a sport that you can literally enjoy your entire life.  Have you seen how many 80+ older people ski and rip at it?

Thus, I'm planted a seed today - albeit, an expensive seed - teach your kids to ski early, got it?

You'll thank me when you are 80 years old and can still keep up with them on your skis.



PS - Mr. U and I snowboard, too.  From teaching snowboarding in my 20s, I am pretty certain you can pick up snowboarding at most any age.  Skiing, on the other hand, is best learned young.  Oh, and don't forgot about our lovely ski condo rental.  It would be fun to have cool blog readers rent it.  See you on the slopes!

Scholastic Books Warehouse Sale

It is that time again.  Rock bottom prices at the Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale.  Click here to find a warehouse sale near you.  If you are in my area, the sale begins this week.   Last year, Lil O and I went and scored so many books for so few dollars.  You do not have to be a teacher or librarian to attend.  Anyone can go and shop.

Have fun!


Learn to Type {for Tech Tuesday}

Lil O has been asking to have her own blog.  Sure, you can blog.  You just need to know how to type.  Thus, I found a free, online typing program called Typing Web that will track her progress, teach her the home row keys (plus all the other zillion keys, letters, numbers, punctuation and symbols), and she can do it at her leisure.  No pressure, Lil O.  Just jump on the computer when you want to practice.

I also created a worksheet for her to track her typing lessons.  You, sweet blog reader, will have to wait and see that nifty worksheet in 2013.  That's when a new website for kids rolls out called Cwist - Challenge with a Twist!  Nifty name, no?  The worksheet and three typing Cwists will live on that website.

Until then....type on.....

Calendar Download for December

Scout Creative does it again.  A sweet December calendar to freely download, print and fold..

Super cute for your desk, huh?

Just for you, lovely Upcyclists (well, you and the rest of the free world),


Quotables - The Perfect Gift for an Educator

The Other Jen has come out with a product that I need badly.  Really neat cards with an inspiring quote on one side and a short bio of the quote author on the other side.  Of course, the brilliant Other Jen has many keen ideas how to use these quotable cards on her website.

My mind is spinning with all the ways I want to use them with my students, colleagues, in training sessions, at conferences, in workshops, etc.  I want a pack like yesterday.

Oh, I just thought of something - these cards would make a LOVELY gift for a classroom teacher for the holidays.  At just $15.95 + shipping what a great gift for an educator.  This introductory price, by the way, ends today!  So order, now.

Go to the Other Jen's website for more.  And no, this isn't a paid advertisement.  I am just admiring another, dare I say, amazing Jen.

Yes, I am full of myself today.


The "Other" Jen

UPDATE:  My department ordered a set for me!  The only catch is I have to share with my colleagues.   No problem.  I'm a great sharer ;)

Homemade Dog Treats - Make That "Homecrafted"

For Jedi's birthday party favors, Lil O and I baked up some gluten-free pumpkin, parsley and brown rice dog treats.  It was fairly easy following this recipe here.  We made a few modifications including:

  • We bought all organic products.  Yep, only the healthiest for Jedi and his friends :)  We found the ingredients at our local organic market.
  • We baked two batches.  The first batch without parsley, the second batch with parsley.  I think the look/texture of the dried parsley and the nutrition it adds makes the parsley a must!
  • Our neighbor and faithful blog reader suggested we roll out the treats between wax paper lightly dusted in flour as the first batch kept sticking to the rolling pin.  The wax paper (we used freezer paper) was a nice rolling trick.  Thanks, S!
  • We took the leftover canned pumpkin and stuffed a Kong for Jedi and then froze it.  He will love that delicious snack.  He always loves a frozen Kong.

When it was time to bag them up for the party favors, I jumped on Photoshop Elements 10 and made a label for the treats.  You can see Lil O's faux business name.  "Olive loves Jedi.  Homecrafted Organic Dog Treats for a BFF - A Best Furry Friend"

And by the way, I designed the logo.  Lil O said she envisioned something else.

Crazy kid.

Jedi totally approves of these dog treats.  He is like me and will eat just about anything with the word pumpkin in it. Remember this post here and my pumpkin fascination?

While we are on the subject of dog treats, do you have a favorite dog treat recipe?  I am looking for more recipes that aren't wheat-based.  I think Jedi does better gluten-free like most dogs and humans.

All the best,


PicMonkey {for Tech Tuesday} + Free Download

Subway Chalkboard Art Printable and Free

Since still mourning the loss of Picnik, I have at least embraced PicMonkey.  It is almost the same as Picnik - easy to use, lots of cool fonts, neat effects and it's free.  I do miss Picnik's ability to connect directly to Facebook and Picasa photos, though.  That made photo editing sooooo easy.

With that said, PicMonkey is doing the trick lately as evidence by the faux chalkboard art I created above.  If you want to make your own faux chalkboard art, download the chalkboard backgrounds here.  Then, upload your favorite background into PicMonkey.  To make the chalkboard art, I chose fonts that looked semi-chalkboard-ish and then faded them about 25% and blended them using the "difference" option.  You can see those features in the PicMonkey screenshot below.

PicMonkey is also easy-to-use for photo-editing, in case you want to embrace it for what is was most likely intended for.  Also, if you'd like a free download of the art I created above, click here and enjoy.  I think the art would look snazzy framed or on a bulletin board in your classroom.  Plus, I love that quote by Sue Monk Kidd.  My dreams are definitely lined up in a queue.

Onward, you photo-editing-art-creating-amazing-blog-reader,


PS - Special thanks to Kellie at Nest of Posies for the post that inspired this new pastime. 

A New Kind of Party for Our Family

As many of you know, Jedi celebrated his first birthday the past weekend.  Since our family is totally in love with Jedi & slightly kooky, we decided to throw him a first birthday party at a local dog park - decorations and all.

We brought human and dog treats to celebrate.  Plus, party favor bags for all of Jedi's dog friends.  The favor bags included homemade dog biscuits (check back later in the week for the recipe) and samples of Jedi's dog food, Honest Kitchen (leftover from his stint as a spokesdog for their company).  PS - Did you know Honest Kitchen was featured on CBS Sunday Morning last week?  I heart that company.

We asked all of the party-goers to bring a donation for Black Dog Rescue - the amazing rescue that chose Jedi from the shelter in Kentucky and nursed him back to health. If we ever adopted another dog, it would be from Black Dog Rescue in a heartbeat.  

We had quite a crowd of party attendees.  About 10+ dog friends and 30 lovely humans all bundled up in the cold.

Oh, the dogs played!  Only one got bit :(  Many got chased, licked, smelled, wrestled or just explored the dog park.

The kids were quite happy.  They brought Jedi toys, cards and items for the rescue.  I should mention that some families who attended the party don't even have a dog!  Yes, you heard me.  They just like Jedi and so they attended.  Doesn't that tell you how sweet Jedi is?  He is.  What a temperament on that sweet pup.

Case in point, Lil O's friend, N.  She doesn't have a dog.  Her mom asked her to choose between attending Jedi's party and another party she was invited to - a human party.  She chose Jedi's!  N also made this sweet card for him.

The party-goers were so giving.  Here are some of the donations for Black Dog Rescue - new toys, leashes, collars, chew toys/sticks, gift cards, and cash!  I know the rescue will appreciate all the new items.

Have you ever thrown a party for a pet?  Do you have another way you like to celebrate your pet's birthday?  I'd love to hear.  We are already brainstorming celebration ideas for next year and Jedi's second birthday.

Jedi's Mom, Jen :)