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 :)

More {Free} Holiday & Christmas Art

Holiday and Christmas Chalkboard Subway Art
Image from Nest of Posies

I don't know about you, but I am a sucker for a good chalkboard look lately.  In fact, I have big plans for a chalkboard wall in our kitchen.  More on that another day.

If you like the holiday, chalkboard art pictured above, go to a delicious blog, Nest of Posies to download it.  I think it is tremendously adorable - the art and the blog.



PS -  Come back this week to see how to use a free web tool to make your own chalkboard art, K?  I will also share some Jedi birthday party photos, too :)

Jedi, Happy Birthday!

Dear Sweet Puppy Jedi,

Do you have any idea how much you changed my life?  Lil O's and Mr. UpCyclist's lives, too?  You have.  You are not only a sweetheart to our family - full of love, greetings, warmth and cuddles, but your temperament and personality are well liked by your doggie friends and even strangers.

Jedi, you've kept me from becoming the hunchback of my laptop.  You've helped me meet new neighbors and friends.  You've brought me even more into the outdoors than I was before.  You've brought complete joy to our family.

I call you Lil O's little, furry brother and I mean it.  You are an integral part of our family and I am so happy we found each other.  I cannot thank Becca from Black Dog Rescue enough for taking the time to choose you (and your siblings) from the shelter in Kentucky and nurse you back to health when you felt icky and ill.

I know I speak for Daddy and Lil O when I say this.  We love you tremendously.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Jedi!  Let's celebrate with your dog-friends today!

Love, Mom

Subway Art for the Holidays

Subway Art Christmas Holidays

I shared this free, printable subway art last year.  Guess what?  It is still available, again, this year.  

It is continues to be so darn cute.

What a great gift to print out and frame for the holidays.  Or make home holiday decor for yourself.

Get it here.

Happy Black Friday,


Happy Thanksgiving, US readers!

And you can't argue with a sweet puppy :)

Enjoy the day, fantabulous blog reader.  I am so grateful for you and your readership.


Most Popular Pinterest Pins

Yesterday, I demonstrated how to figure out which of your pins (for your website or blog) are the most popular (aka:  repinned). Today, I will reveal Upcycled Education's most popular pins.  Ready?  The results surprised me!

Most Popular Pin - Huzzah!: Paint Swatch Activities

Second Most Popular Pin - Woot, woot!:  Professor KP's Textbook Quote Activity.  Yay, Professor KP - who is now working on her doctoral degree.  I adore that smart woman!

Third Most Popular Pin - Say "Surprise":  Our Bottle Cap Mirror in Colorado.  Get cap collecting!

Fourth Most Popular Pin - Who loves a good craft?:  DIY Textbook Charms.  These would be a fun gift for the holidays.

And the Fifth Most Popular Pin:  Upcycled Education itself!

Congrats to all the pin winners.



Your Most Popular Pins {for Tech Tuesday}

When I took my Pinterest class on Skillshare last month, I learned that I could see which of my pins were pinned most often.  You can, too, if your have your own website or blog.  Simply type in this URL:
http://pinterest.com/source/your website.com/

If you want more details about this process, read Mashable's article here.

Come back tomorrow and I will reveal which blog posts on Upcycled Education are pinned most often!  The results surprised me!


Follow Me on Pinterest
Are you following my pin boards for Upcycled Education?  
Oh, you should!   The boards are like eye candy!

I Love My Pinterest Boards

Every since taking a Pinterest class last month, I am in. love. with. my. pin. boards.  They are like eye-candy, inspiration and happiness all in one to me.  I dig the names of my boards.  I dig how they look. I especially love my collection of pins. 

Do you feel the same about your boards?

I think I am in love.

If you want to follow my pin boards, click here:

Follow Me on Pinterest

We can then be in Pinterest board love together.



PS - Join me this week to learn about "popular pins" for Tech Tuesday and Upcycled Ed's results.

Clever. Organized. Inclusive.

Image for Crafterhours
Susan from Crafterhours wrote the most heart-felt post recently. Did you read it?  It really brought a tear to my eye.

For my college students taking Introduction to Special Education with me, these stickers would be perfect for kids (and adults) with special needs, in addition to citizens without.

Read Susan's post here.



Googleable Questions

What if educators and college professors stopped asking questions on tests and exams that can be answered by a simple Google search?  How might education, assessment, and standardized testing change?

Sparked by this worthy article,


Lil O's First Job Offer

UPDATE:  Look at this shout-on on REI's tweet.  Love. This. Company.

UPDATE II:  This story was featured in REI's internal employee newsletter, January 2013.  
Thanks, REI and REI awesome employees for reading it and caring.


Lil O's first job offer came today.  REI.  Not bad, wouldn't you say?

She was way happy about it as you can see from her grin below.  And by the way, she is home sick today. Although, she doesn't look that sick in this photo.  Hmm......

The quick back story of her job offer goes something like this.  We are all - Mr. UpCyclist, Lil O and I - taking Stanford's free online creativity class.  It started about four weeks ago and we are now in the last few weeks of the class.  I think Mr. UpCyclist has lost interest, but Lil O and I are in it until the lovely end.  

For one of our homework assignments, we had to choose a store and answer three pages of questions about it.  Questions like:  Was the door open to the store or closed?  How did you feel about it?  What were the salespeople like?  Did they greet you?  Was their noise in the store?  If yes, where was it coming from?  And the questions went on......

After answering the questions, the second part of the assignment was to look for opportunities and insights.  Evidently, creative thinkers do this regularly; they observe and look for opportunities.

(Sick-at-home supplies) 

Lil O picked two stores - REI and Peak-a-Boo Toys in Breckenridge.  We had just been at REI that day, so her observations were fresh.  I scribed for her while she answered the three pages of questions.  Then, I asked what opportunities and insights she had for REI.  Her answer, "So many."

What?  I love REI and I don't have "so many" insights for them.  Could she?

Lil O went on to list about 15 things she liked about REI and opportunities for REI to improve.  I won't rehash her entire list, but some of my favorites include:

  • You can tell what REI sells by the look of the store and the salespeople 
  • REI needs a bigger toy section
  • REI doesn't offer that much merchandise for teens.  They need sporty shoes and more jewelry 
  • REI should allow dogs in the store.  It is an outdoor store, after all, and dogs love the outdoors.  (By the way, Puppy Jedi is "that" dog outside our local REI who is secured to the bicycle rack.  Thankfully, many REI customers pet him while he waits for us to shop.  Sweet puppy.)
Our family then submitted our creativity class homework and off we went.  Ironically, the next day, I received an email survey about our REI visit the day before.  Since I adore feedback myself and I adore REI, I took the time to answer the survey questions. Many of the questions were related to Lil O's observations, so I made certain to include her insights.  I even typed in the narrative box at the end of the survey that our family had just completed a homework assignment for a class and REI was part of that assignment. I also mentioned many of the responses I included in the survey were from a 7-year old's perspective.

This post is getting long....

Let me cut to the chase.....

1) I answer the REI survey via email and include Lil O's ideas
2) A week later I get an email from the assistant manager at our local REI; he had read the survey comments and wanted to know more.  He asked if Lil O would share her thoughts with him.
3) Lil O agrees; I then email her ideas to him.
4) He likes them and thanks her via email.
5) AND BECAUSE REI AND THIS LOVELY MANAGER ARE A CLASS ACT (how's that for emphasis), he sends Lil O a handwritten thank you note, a new REI water bottle (see above; Lil O loves it) and writes, "Keep doing A+ assignments and call us in 11 years if you're looking for a job."


Lil O gets her first job offer and a lesson that thinking creatively has its absolute merits in the real world.

Go get 'em, my-creative-smart-loving-wonderfully-fantastic Lil O.  I sure am proud of you.



PS - Big thank you to Mr. S from REI for valuing Lil O's feedback and for sending me an REI coupon.  Woot, woot!

What's a Favicon? {for Tech Tuesday}

When I first started blogging here, I had no idea what a favicon was.  I saw that I could add one for Upcycled Education, but again, I wasn't sure what it was or why I needed one.

After a quick Google search, I learned all about favicons.  This post does a good job of explaining them if you want to learn, too.  I made Upcycled Education's favicon in Photoshop Elements.  The trick is to make the favicon image square and not too large of a file.  This is Upcycled Education's current favicon.  It looks a little blurry because I wanted to enlarge it to show it to you.  It generally is super small (look above and see if you can find it).

Favicons are spicy, aren't they?  They add eye candy to those cute, lil tabs and URL line in your internet browser.



Why You Don't Hate No Child Left Behind

Students, parents, teachers, community members, yadda, yadda, yadda love to tell me how much they hate the federal law No Child Left Behind.  When they do, I ask just one poignant question, "What do you hate about it?"  Their response, "I just hate the whole law.  I mean, they are leaving children behind!"

Really?  Have you seen the law?  Have you seen what it includes?  Then, I educate them.  I am a teacher, after all, right?

No Child Left Behind (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), like most federal laws, is divided into chapters.  Well, they are not called chapters, but instead the law is divided into titles.   Each title speaks to a different topic related to providing the most high quality, public education the US Department of Education can encourage and/or require.

The titles are hard to "hate."  Who doesn't want....

Title 1:  Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged (Meaning, children who are at risk for not having successful experiences in school.  This includes children from poverty, students who struggle with literacy, and a discussion about high school drop-outs)

Title 2:  Preparing, Training and Recruiting High-quality Teachers and Principals (includes a useful section about preparing teachers to use technology.  Huzzah!)

Title 3:  Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient and Immigrant Students (My favorite group of students to work with - English Language Learners - Yay!)

Title 4:  21st Century Schools (Sadly, this includes topics that need addressing:  drug- and gun-free schools.  Boo!  But, it is reality)

Title 5:  Promoting Informed Parental Choice and Innovative Programs (just say, "innovation" and I'm in!  This section talks about magnet and charter schools and gifted instruction.  Woot, woot!)

Title 6:  Flexibility and Accountability (Think standardized assessments and lots of metrics to measure student progress)

Title 7:  Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education  (You know how much I adore my Navajo students)

Title 8:  Impact Aid Program (Think construction of buildings. This section is a snoozer, to me)

Title 9:  General Provisions (Think "the basics" - how many days of schools should be required, defining key terms, prayer in schools policy, etc.)

Title 10:  Repeals, Redesignations and Amendments to Other Statues (This title is a bit of a default for topics that might be addressed in other federal mandates or have been amended)

Do you see what I mean?  What's to hate?  

If you are going to "hate" anything, hate the fact that only a small percentage of the federal budget is allocated for education (explained here) and thus, laws like No Child Left Behind could use more financial support.  Period.

Who knows what the next four years will bring with re-elected President Obama.  I am not thinking miracles as far as education goes, but maybe some updates to No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Remember what my inside source said here.  Some freshening up could be on the horizon.

All the best,

PS - Just in case you want to read the entire No Child Left Behind law in all its splendor, click here.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

After my recent coaching session with Sue, I remembered how much I love the book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball, and how I could really stand to reread it again.

Have you read it?  It is soooo good.  And so true if you every feel like you are caught up in someone else's agenda, yet you want to stay true to yourself.

See what you think.


UPDATE:  My four-pack of coaching sessions with Sue is just about to end.  Mr. UpCyclist and I just chatted today about the benefits of coaching and how I love it and need it.  Guess what?  I am going to extend.  Sue, you haven't seen the last of me!

PS -  Confused about me & life coaching?  If yes, read here.

Updated Blog Colors - You like?

You might have noticed Upcycled Education got a color lift.  Yep, those little circles all changed colors. PS - For my mobile users, you might need to go to "web version" to see the new and improved changes :)  Here is the new blog header:

What do you think?  Do you like the new, semi-strange color scheme?

In case you were wondering, I aim to recolor the blog every season or two - part of the allure of the design I was thinking.  I am using the Pantone color guide to help me.  Since I am a wanna-be-designer, you will have to consult this Wikipedia entry to explain Pantone and their expertise a la color.

According to Pantone, this is this fall's color guide.  I used just a portion of this season's colors.  And since I am a wanna-be, I still have a long way to go to 100% color match.  But, I tried.  And I am happy.  Or at least, I think the colors look interesting.  Slightly different.  Unexpected.  And less perky than they were before.  Not that I don't like perky; I just prefer less perky colors to roll into winter.

I'm curious, which colors would you have chosen?  Maybe in the spring, we can have a contest to recolor Upcycled Education using the 2013 color guide.  Interested?


PS - In case you can't remember what the blog header used to look like, here is the before/summer blog header:

Now, the after/fall-into-winter blog header:

Which is your favorite?  I might like them both.