Sucker for a Good Story

I am a complete sucker for a good story.

If you haven't seen this (two minute) basketball video here about a high schooler with special needs, do watch it.  I was teary.

Thanks, Rodney, for sharing.

Happy Saturday,


Public Service Announcement

I interrupt your regularly scheduled programing (or programming?  why are both correct? or not?) for this public service announcement....

*Hair bling option.

And tell your ice skating, cheerleading, sledding, skate boarding, cycling, and rugby & field hockey playing friends, I said so.

Yep, I'm taking a stand.  My college students have already heard me rant about this.


Spinner Activity

My college students, who I spoke about on Tech Tuesday this week, will be creating their own (reading-related) Spinner Activities to use in their content area classrooms.  Have you used a Spinner before?  Oh, I love these.

....and yes, my red frames do not match in this blog is slightly killing me, but I am going to leave them.  Remember perfect passed away in the fall.

You basically make a wheel with different graphics and question prompts.  Technically, you don't have to include the graphics, but it is uber-boring without them.  Then, you pair-up students.  Give them a jumbo paper clip and paper spinner; they use their own pen or pencil to hold the end of the jumbo paper clip in place (see photo above).  And voila, they spin away, discussing each prompt they land on with a partner.  I always tell students it is OK to discuss the same prompt multiple times.  That is the universe telling them they need more practice.  Ha!

Here's what a spin looks like.  Notice the "flick" of the fingers to make the paper clip spin.  The pen or pencil holds the tail end of the paper clip in place - smack dab in the middle of the spinner.  Big thank you to my college student models for agreeing to this photo.

I'm trying not to make a video of me (or them) spinning.  You'll just have to try it yourself to see it really works and students, of all ages, love it.  It really is engaging.

Of course, my class is creating a spinner related to reading.  What will your spinner be related to?  A get-to-know-you spinner?  A math-related spinner?  A pre-assessment of a new topic spinner?  A geography spinner?

If you want to use my spinner template, click here and modify any part of the document you like.



Easter Subway Art by Lil O

Lil O loves making subway art with me.  I realized we must make our fair share of it as she now uses the word "font" with ease.  For example, when we were skiing last week, she pointed to the trail sign and said, "Hey look, they used a different font on this sign!"  She was correct.  For whatever reason, the ski signage on that peak used a different font for their signs.

I asked Lil O how she knew the word "font" and she replied, "You always ask me to choose a font."

Evidently, subway art aids vocabulary development.

Now, I love it more.  "It" being subway art because I can't possibly love Lil O more.  Famous last words.

Enjoy - and click here to download the artwork made by Lil O (and me as her assistant).



Scribd {for Tech Tuesday}

I have a new online class starting this week.  Our topic is reading across the curriculum, which is a useful topic as most of my students are either current or future middle or high school teachers and have not been fully trained in reading.

To frame the class, I want to use the Relate, Create and Donate philosophy.  Our donations & documents will be uploaded to Scribd.  Scribd bills itself as an online library of documents.  For me, it is my favorite place to freely upload Microsoft Word or PDF documents and make those documents public (and thus, easily downloadable and shared).  It is a great tool to upload syllabi, newsletters for parents, classroom handouts, etc.

College students in our reading course, please watch this quick two-minute tutorial about uploading your documents.  Be sure to use the "tags" feature and then, copy the link to your documents - as you will need to embed that link in our course's discussion boards.

Happy Scribd!


PS - Here is an example of how I've used Scribd to make a version of graduation subway art available to the public.

Global Guest Book

I am kicking myself that I gave away an old globe.  I would love to make a global guest book like the one above.  Remember how our family has a sweet, little ski condo in Colorado?  We have a traditional guest book there, but this global one would be so. much. fun.

I first saw the idea on Jamie's blog here.  It looks like the original globe idea came from this lovely wedding blog.

Brilliant.  Now, I just need a globe.  Got one?


Life Updated: Spring Break Edition

It's been a busy, amazing week.....

  • Spring break or bust.  Yay, for Colorado!
  • Mr. UpCyclist is learning to telemark ski (see bottom, right photo; notice how his heel is free and he has to do a deep knee bend on his turns).  Notice I am not learning.  Ha!
  • Lil O finally has ski poles.  I've been working with her on how to plant them and moving her to more parallel turns vs. wedge turns.
  • It literally has been snowing for a full 24 hours in Colorado.  Which makes up for the lack of snow in Maryland this year.
  • I think I O.Ded everyone this past week with cycling jersey photos and blog posts.  If you managed to escape my jersey wrath, click here.
  • I had a 90 minute massage today and I just want to say thank you to the universe.
  • Since I learned how to open a PayPal store, I think I need to sell more things.  New project (& products) coming soon!
  • Did you see this photo on Instagram?  Sometimes I don't make the best decisions.  What's that saying?  Life is an adventure?  Yeehaw!


Placing the First Jersey Order

As mentioned here, the jersey shop is now closed.  It is time to place the first order, so the jerseys arrive before summer.  Pinch me, ok?

If you wanted to purchase a jersey, but missed the first cut-off date, email me to add your name to the waiting list.  My email is jen at



Handcrafted Soaps & Tour Idea

Yesterday, Mr. UpCyclist, Lil O and I went to visit with Kim from Fresh Soap Company in Breckenridge, Colorado.  Fresh Soap Company is a cycling team sponsor and Kim is inventing a "cycle soap" in honor of the team.  Isn't that so cool?  She is working on the recipe and look now.

There are many reasons I wanted to collaborate with Kim.  She is a small business owner, completely engaging to be with and I thought, we cyclists get dirty...we really do need a soap sponsor.  Kim, without hesitation, agreed.  

Another reason I like collaborating with Kim is because she is a true innovator.  Look at her Grandma's Blueberry Muffin soap (packaged in fabric), her Shades of Grey soap (that she can package with the first novel) and Lil O's fav, Do You Like Pina Colada soap.  Kim's soaps don't get any cooler.  Plus, every soap is handmade by Kim in her soap studio & shop, which you can visit when you are in Breckenridge or mail order online.

Visiting with Fresh Soap Company made me also think, I need to take a cycling team sponsor world tour.  Can you imagine? I can visit with Snack Taxi in Massachusetts, Coach's Eye (who also makes Jing) near Michigan State University, Disabilities Claims Clinic in Florida, pick up a treat for Jedi at Honest Kitchen in San Diego (& see Dr. Irwin), and make it back to Maryland to have a relaxing acupuncture treatment with Dawn Acupuncture - I will need it after all that lovely travel.

Of course, the team has so many generous sponsors, I will have to plan two more mini-world tours to visit with them all.



PS - I'll come back soon to show you how I made those cool sparkly stars in the images above.  I am digging the stars these days.

Boundless Textbooks {for Tech Tuesday}

Two things I like:

1. Free

2. College students not paying high prices for textbooks. Remember the post here about discount textbooks options?  I prefer low price textbooks that are high quality.

Oh, let's add a third thing I like....Boundless textbooks!  The are free, appear to be high-quality, and look at all the disciplines they serve.

College students, before you purchase another textbook, check with your instructor to see if you can use a free Boundless text instead.

I'd love to know what you think of Boundless when you do.


A Jersey with a Message

Weeks ago on Facebook, I put out an all-call for short quotes to include on the team jersey.  There were so many great submissions like this one from life coach, Sue....

I also like this one from blog reader & college student, CR, "Believe you can and you're halfway there..." (Teddy Roosevelt).  Sadly, that quote is too long for the collar space.  Thus, I went with a quote from my aunt who is also an educator as it fits the space and speaks to the spirit of Upcycled Education....

I can't give it all away, but there are three other quotes included in the jersey design.  The only way to see them is to order a jersey & show your support for the team.  Ha!  

I love a good treasure hunt.



PS - Thanks for all the great quotes submitted.  I so appreciated your help.




Cycling Jerseys on Sale! Yay!


The cycling jerseys are finally here!  Yippee!  You remember the sketch of the jersey, right?  It looks just like I wanted it to look - lovely, bright and alive.  The team riders will be wearing the jerseys all year long.  Want to join us and purchase a jersey?  For $60 (includes all fees and shipping), you can support the team and order a jersey this week.

Even the backside is pretty.  See?   Look at all of our amazing sponsors!

There are even more sponsors and joy here on the side panels....Are you smiling with me?  Look at the many allies of Upcycled Education - Mod Podge, Sue @ Constant Journey Coaching, Diggler Scooters and Pic Monkey.  I could cry.

Plus, I learned something new in the last 24 hours - how to open a PayPal store.  Woot, woot!

Support the team.  Look cool.  Buy a jersey today.  The first order must be placed in five short days - by Thursday, March 21st, 2013 - so don't delay.

Completely psyched and over the moon,





Love. This. Quote.

Ha!  I love this quote as it speaks to so many things in life. 

With my students, we use it to talk about the changes in neuroscience (and learning). Researchers have learned so much over the past decades about how our brains grow and process information.  However, like most things in life and in education, change (and new discoveries) are inevitable.



Favorite Apps {for Tech Tuesday}

I'm certain, like me, you have your favorite apps.  If so, would you mind sharing them in the comments section below?  In fact, I will pay it forward and trade with you.

Here are my current favs....

  • Wunderlist - I originally blogged about Wunderlist here.  It helps me stay on top of my to-do lists.  It remains a favorite app of mine.
  • Coach's Eye - This app is new to me, but I am using it with my weekend students to give them feedback about their presentations and teaching style.  It was originally marketed to coaches, but I think it has great promise in the classroom.  And Tech Smith (makers of Jing) gifted the app to me as they are a new cycling team sponsor.  Yay!
  • Pages - This is the Facebook app that lets you manage any business/organization pages you administer.  It makes keeping up with Upcycled Education's Facebook page super easy.
  • Google Drive - I am fast becoming a Google lover - I know, I'm a little behind.  This app lets me see all my documents that are within my Google Doc account and modify them from my iPhone.  Google Drive makes me feel productive.
  • Instagram - I haven't really marketed Upcycled Education's Instagram account, but if you want a little "more" of Upcycled Ed, become a follower.  I like to get my micro-blog on with Instagram and share behind the scenes photos and activities.
Those are my current favorite apps.  What are yours?  I'm listening.....



His Stealth Antelope Move {from my moving car}

Photo by Yoga Mom Sylvie

See this face?  How can I be mad at this face?  I mean really.  When you pull an antelope move from a moving car what do you expect?  Cheers?  Applause?  I mean, Jedi's leap out of the car window while the car was slowly moving today was flawless.  Executed with perfection.  No broken bones or injuries.  Can I really be mad? 

Of course I can be.  Mad, upset, disappointed, pissed, saddened, the whole nine yards - maybe ten.

However, thankfully, I already had a phone appointment scheduled with life coach, Sue, this morning.  You bet this was the first "issue" we discussed.  And the only issue.  

Here are my conclusions after my coaching session:
  1. I am way too hard on myself.  Sue reminded me that perfect passed away in the fall.  ....I seem to forgot her passing....
  2. Jedi is lovely, but our family has dropped the ball on his training since last summer.  
  3. No excuses, our family is signing up for a training class with Jedi.  Like now.
  4. Dog training classes don't have to be boring.  I am exploring other training opportunities like a nosework or agility class for Jedi and our family.
  5. I am not alone in this. I have Mr. UpCyclist, Lil O and a ton of other dog parents to consult.
  6. Perhaps, Jedi is preparing me for when Olive takes a leap of faith - maybe as a teen?  Oh my.
  7. Sue is amazing.  Really, she is.  She asked me what Jedi might have thought about the window leap.  Really?  What does Jedi think? 
I think Jedi LOVED that leap.  I think he's been dreaming of that leap for months - every since he hung out the window for the first time - is my guess.  I think Jedi is BRILLIANT for choosing a non-busy street & time of the day when the car was going at just the right speed.  I think Jedi has been PRACTICING his standing leap for weeks in the forest and wanted to see if the same skills apply to moving vehicles.  I think Jedi, like his family, appreciates ACTIVITY and ADVENTURE.  I think Jedi wanted to try something NEW and CHALLENGE himself and deal with the repercussions later.  I think Jedi is more like a HUMAN than I could have ever imagined.


He's still going to a training class.

What a morning,


PS - Did you ever have a dog leap out of your moving car?  Tell me about it below.  I need strength in numbers.

Life Updated: NYC with the Family

Our family loves New York City.  It is a pretty expensive city to visit, so we try to visit every other year.  2013 was the year.  If you follow Upcycled Education on Instagram, you've already seen most of the photos I plan to share.  But, I wanted to add some text and tips to them, especially since, blog reader and good friend, MG, is heading to NYC with a group of high school students next week.

Get some sleep before you go, MG!  Huzzah!  

Hello, Times Square!

One of the main reasons we went to NYC this year was because of Lil O.  Besides, Lil O being a huge city-girl, she also received Broadway tickets to see Annie for the holidays.  This is the first time Annie has been revived on Broadway in 30 years ago.  The show was absolutely delightful! I would go again in a heartbeat.

And yes, Lil O is sporting the same hair bling from early January.
That stuff stays in her hair for months.

When we visit NYC, we like to do things in "zones."  For example, we do everything we want to do in Midtown Manhattan.  Then, everything we want to do in the Upper East Side.  Everything we want to do in Chinatown.....  Otherwise, you spent either a lot of money on cabs and subway rides or your feet wear out from walking.

Of course, we eat, sight-see and shop along the way.....

A little girl's dream.

We sometimes meet up with old friends, like JC, whom I have known since I was 8 years old! And guess what?  JC is a literary agent!  You remember how I want to write a book one day, yes?  JC and I are scheming.

We had lunch at Eataly which is a lovely Italian market, but you need to
really LOVE food, like crowds and appreciate Italian products.

Alright, alright...I will stop talking about old friends, dreams of authorship and love for Annie.  Let's get to our family's favorites....

Cartwheeling on the Highline Trail
Lower Sides of Manhattan:

  • The Highline Trail - This converted railway is awesome.  More awesome than we thought it was going to be.  It is a lovely, funky, outdoor path that parallels the Hudson River.  The whole trail - one way - is about 1.5 miles.  We started at the north end and walked to the south end (ending at the Standard Hotel), then we cabbed closer to China Town.
  • Joe's Shanghai - In Chinatown, a good friend recommended this restaurant.  Joe's is notorious for their soup dumplings (see photo below).  Basically, you nibble on the edge of the dumpling, slurp out the soup, and gobble down the wonton-ish wrapper.  Lil O was thrilled!  SPECIAL NOTE:  Joe's gets packed!  Get there before 5pm to a get a table quickly.
  • Peking Duck House - This restaurant is our general "go to" in Chinatown.  We love the plush atmosphere and food.  If Joe's is too crowded, you won't be let down at Peking Duck House.
  • After Chinatown - which we prefer to visit at night as it feels more lively - we usually shop in Chinatown and then, walk through Little Italy (as it is right next to Chinatown) and grab a dessert before hopping either the subway or a cab back to the hotel.
  • Other recommendations from JC:  Pizza at San Marzano's and Cuban food at Cafe Habana (famous for their corn).  For kids, Peanut Butter and Company is recommended (check out their menu!).  And Mama Mariah from this homeschooling post here loves Rice at 292 Elizabeth Street (they are open; their website is just wonky).
  • REI - We would have visited this location in Soho, but we ran out of time.
Slurping soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown, NYC
Since I mentioned hotels above, we have stayed at:
  • Marriott Marquis in Times Square - What a fun location and if you request a room overlooking Times Square, it is pure entertainment!  This is where we stayed this last trip.
  • Residence Inn near Times Square - If you want a small kitchenette (in case you are traveling with small kids or like to have leftovers to munch on....), this is a good location.
  • Roosevelt Hotel - A very stately hotel in a great location.  We scored a room there via one of our last visits.

Bryant Park in Midtown is lovely at night.  Plus, there is free ice skating.
You just pay for skate rental ($14).
Doesn't the Empire State Building look divine?
In Midtown, we like....
  • Shake Shack - Yum!  Hip, busy, and fun for burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  We hit Shake Shack after seeing Annie and it was bustling at 10pm.
  • Bryant Park - (see photo directly above). It was magical at night all lit up and glorious.
  • Evergreen Cafe - the most affordable, down-home and tasty breakfast near Times Square.  I could probably eat there all mornings.
  • NBC Tour - Yep, we paid our $24 and took a tour of NBC studios.  Since Lil O loves Saturday Night Live skits, like this one, she was elated to be on the set!  I must say, it was enjoyable to see the "behind the scenes" stuff.
  • Rockefeller Center - This is always a good classic to visit.  The ice skating is way too expensive for me, but I love the feel of RC, the shops that surround it and being outside amongst the waving flags.  Our favorite shops there are the Nintendo and Lego stores.  Of course, 5th Avenue is right there brimming with shops like the American Girl Store.
  • The Today Show - We often wake up early and try to get our faces on TV by huddling outside the Today Show.  This time, we decided to sleep in :)  However, look below.  We did get our faces on a giant jumbo-tron at Times Square. Do you see us?
  • Carnegie Deli - We grabbed lunch to go and ate it on the train back home.  Mr. UpCyclist highly recommends the hard salami or pastrami sandwiches - which are expensive, but literally last for four meals (and I am not kidding).  Lil O likes their chicken tenders.  And me?  Their black-n-white cookies.  Woot, woot!
Can you spot the three of us in the above photo?

And now for our favorite restaurant in Midtown.....Cue spotlight.....
  • Udon West - Lil O loves udon soup, so Yelp led us to this small, local restaurant.  It was SOOOOO tasty.  We liked the shrimp/tempura veggie and fried chicken udon soups best.  Yes, I did just say fried chicken and udon in the same sentence.  Trust me on this one.  The three of us are still craving this soup.  Oh......
Pinch me.  This place is pure udon heaven.
That clump is shrimp and veggie tempura that you just break up
and throw into your bowl of soup, which I suggest you do.

Favorite Upper East Side places to visit....
  • Dylan's Candy Bar - Owned by Ralph Lauren's daughter, this is our favorite place to visit and buy souvenirs for friends and family.
  • Serendipity - This is a funky classic in NYC.  You "have" to indulge and order their frozen hot chocolate and share it with 2-3 friends.  Since there is usually a long wait to get in, call ahead and score a coveted reservation like we did.
  • FAO Schwarz - This toy store is a classic (right by the Apple Store, I might add).  We like to hit it on the way to Dylan's.  Their candy section has been expanded and rivals Dylan's.
  • Central Park - Need I say more?  Photo below.
There is so much to do in Central Park; walk, ride, bike.  Ice skate.
Visit the zoo. Just be.

Upper West Side places to visit....

This trip, we didn't have time for the Upper West Side, but if we had time, we would have hit:
  • Whole Foods - On Columbus Circle.  You know of my admiration for a good Whole Foods, yes?
  • Alice's Cup of Tea - JC recommended this for kids and as an alternative to Serendipity. 
And to top off a trip to NYC, we indulged in these sweet, little gems.  Macarons, which apparently are all the rage.  We loved this lovely shop, the Macaron Cafe.  Their packaging and macs were brilliant.

Treat yourself.  Aren't these macarons so pretty?

Mr. UpCyclist just leaned over my shoulder and said next time we go, we are visiting this math museum, which normally wouldn't excite me.  But, check out their photos here.  It looks amazing.

Dear reader, do you have a favorite NYC restaurant, shop or attraction?  Would you be so kind and leave a comment about it below?  NYC is such a great city, but since it is soooo big, knowing where to go makes it very helpful.



Inc. Lover

Here is something you may not know about me.  I am addicted to Inc. magazine.  Yep.  I love Inc.  I could read it any day of the week.  I covet each monthly addition.  I even save my old magazines.

Why?  Inc. is inspiring.  It makes me want a small business.  Inc. fuels my creative and entrepreneurial spirit.  Inc. enjoys useful technology as much as I do.  AND, education, parenting & life in the 21st century needs to be engaging.  Inc. engages me without fail - every. single. article.

Which magazines engage you?

In love,


My Students' Pin Boards

My students curated pin boards related to special education topics.  I am so proud of their work.  Without even trying, the boards are up to 100+ followers; that speaks to the quality and relevance of their pins.

See for yourself at their Special Education Pins.  And if you like what you see, support them by following and/or sharing with your teacher friends, families and colleagues.

If you are interested on how we incorporated Pinterest in our classroom, click here to read my initial post on the subject.

Amazing college students, I tell you.....


Jersey in Progress

As most of you know, Upcycled Education is launching a cycling team this spring.  Why a cycling team?  I want to capitalize on the upCYCLING part of the name and put together a cycling team to be ambassadors of the sport, promote quality and creativity in education, and showcase our gracious sponsors.  If you want to read more about the "why," click here.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on our {work-in-progress} jersey design.  Primal Wear, out of Denver, Colorado, is making the jerseys; they make the nicest, brightest, most-awesome cycling jerseys   ever - in my opinion.  And since Mr. UpCyclist owns more jerseys than dress shirts (ok, that might be an exaggeration, though not by much), I know high quality jerseys.

Uber-excited for the final jersey design and the team launch....



Mr. Printable {for Tech Tuesday}

Today's Tech Tuesday definitely wins the award for the cutest Tech Tuesday of all times.

Don't you agree?  Look at all these free, lovely printables at Mr. Printables.

Alphabet Books from Mr. Printables

How about this free, printable map from Mr. Printables?  These colors speak to me.

I like the options at Mr. Printables.  For example, you can choose a color map (like the one above) or you can print a black and white one and color the map yourself.

There are also upcycled ideas like this one from Mr. Printables....

Seriously, could Mr. Printables be any cuter?

Actually, it did just get cuter.  The gal who runs Mr. Printables is named Olive, which makes Lil O very, very happy.




Holy moly, eureka!  You go, Dr. Deborah Persaud from Johns Hopkins University.  You keep working your medical magic.

There are a whole lot of kids and families around the globe that need you.  Read more about this incredible break-through here.



Fish Philosophy {New graphic}

I was having too much fun on Pic Monkey the other day making this graphically reminder.  Plus, I sooooo adore the Fish Philosophy.  Don't you?  If you aren't familiar with it, have a look here.  It works fantastically at school, home, and in business.



Love. This. Quote.

Sailboat photo found at Photo Pin.  Sadly, I closed the window before
I could see who the photographer was and give he/she credit.

I saw this quote on a Sweet Green window in D.C. and it chose me.

Sometimes quotes do that.  Don't you agree?

My very best,


Brilliant Idea for Losing Teeth

This is such a clever idea from Mrs. Wade's blog, I just can't stand how fantastic it is.  Losing a tooth is monumental for most kids, why not get some extra writing and public speaking mileage out of it?


Mrs. Wade, you are a talented teacher.