My Sweet Step-dad....

Please take a moment today to do something you adore - spend time with someone, go for a walk, do a craft, something.

I will be attending my step-dad's funeral and celebrating his life.  Pop Pop (as Lil O always called him) was one of those lovely souls - full of generosity, kindness, zeal, and love.

With a heavy heart,


Life Updated: Almost Summer Edition

Right after my college's graduation last week, I could almost taste summer.  Speaking of taste, how about those homemade pop tarts from Ted's Bulletin in DC pictured above?  Aren't they fun looking and boy, were they tasty!  Mr. UpCyclist even bought me one that was peanut butter on the inside and bacon crumbles on the outside.  Yum and strange all at the same time.  Now, I have an intense desire to make my own.

Flowers.  Period.  Give. me. more.  This was the best $40 I've spent in a long time.  All of our planters are full and I even have a shepard's hook this year to hold more flowers.  More.  more.  more.  please.

I am obsessed with the recipes on the A Beautiful Mess blog.  I decided to make a kid-friendly version of their cocktail recipe for our "Cocktails and Cupcakes" night with some friends.  Lil O gave it a thumbs up.

Mr. UpCyclist just got back from Finland.  Yes, this would be his second trip there in under a month.  Puppy Jedi is becoming a pro at visiting the airport.  You remember his first trip to the airport here.  This time, an airport employee warned me that dogs weren't allowed unless they were crated.  Two minutes later, there were three police officers coming towards me.  Rats.  Busted, was all I could think.  Instead, however, the officers asked me if they could pet Jedi. Whew.

On a side note, Dr. G had her baby.  Yep, a tiny upcyclist is born!  Congratulations to Dr. G and her family.  #luckyluckykid

Off I go,


Your Positivity Ratio {for Tech Tuesday}

I just finished Daniel Pink's book, To Sell is Human (affiliate link).  Did you know there is a formula for healthy positivity?  Did you know it is good to have some negative emotions or feelings in your day to counterbalance the positive ones?  In fact the magic ratio is 3 to 1.  Three positives to one negative.  Who knew?

For today's Tech Tuesday, hop on over to this positivity assessment and see what your current positivity ratio is today.  The assessment literally takes under two minutes (maybe, under one minute - see, how positive that was?) though, don't get too hung up on your score (cue negativity, please).  Just like most things in your life, you are the master of your own destiny and your positive attitude.

Which thankfully, doesn't need to be perky and positive all the time - just three-quarters of the time for optimal well-being.  Here's my score, by the way.....

I'm a 2.5 - not quite a three.

What about you?  What's your positivity ratio?


PS - Knowing that some negativity is needed in life makes saying goodbye to perfect even more celebratory and lovely.

Sharpie Obsessed

I admit it.  I am Sharpie (marker) obsessed.  My favorite point is the "ultra fine" Sharpies pictured above.

However, I do appreciate an assortment of thick, chisel tips, too.

Lest not forget the traditional "fine" Sharpie.... a Sharpie staple, in my opinion.

And for my most recent Sharpie addition, the king size Sharpie - shown below next to a ultra fine point for comparison.

Ahhh, the joy of Sharpie obsession.

What are you obsessed with?


Summer Reading Recommendations, Yes?

It is that time of the year again where I get all crazy about what books you should read and end up spouting them off to you.  I hope life coach, Sue, isn't reading this.  Sue just wrote an insightful blog post about not telling people what to do, but instead "shutting up and listening" - as no one likes being told what to do, yet here I am telling you.  Could we just call today's post a thoughtful suggestion?

Like planting a seed.  A literary seed?

Ok, here's what you have to read might consider reading this summer in order of amazingness -

Daniel Pink's Drive
Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers
Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind
Jonah Lehrer Imagine: How Creativity Works
Tony Wagner's Creating Innovators
Daniel Pink's To Sell is Human
(all Amazon affiliate links)

If you get through this short list, email me.  I've got a few more you should could consider reading.



How I Blog {and Why Sometimes I Seem Heartless}

Artwork created by Jen

I swear, I am not heartless.  Let me explain.....

Way back in February, I started a blog series, How I Blog, to explain the blogging process and my "way" of blogging.  Most of my college students do not read blogs like I do, much less keep one, so often they ask me questions about why, what, how, and when I blog in general.  

In my first post here, I explained my scheduling of posts.  As you might recall, I plan ahead and blog for 1-3 weeks at time, which explains why many of my posts go "live" on days where the world is in crisis, yet I make no mention of it.  So far, I've blogged on sad, terrifying days like the Newtown shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings and most recently, the Oklahoma tornadoes.  Could my timing be anymore off?

However, I will employ my life coaching skills and reframe this in my mind:  Maybe the blog posts serve as a refuge from the mayhem.  Maybe.  Just maybe.

Thus, when you read a post and wonder why I've made no mention of the world in turmoil, please don't think I am untouched, unmoved, or unemotional.  You know I am as evidenced here and here.  When the world has gone awry, I usually forgot a blog post is going live as I am sending healing vibes in my mind and soul to those in need.

All the best,


Life Updated: The Reach Edition

These girls.  They are lovely.  Seek adventure.  Push themselves.  Reach.  Fail.  And reach again.

I think this is how my May is going.  Reach, fail, reach, fail, reach, fail, repeat.  I was thinking my May was all sunshine and roses, but I realized when stress came knocking on my door, I could use a reach fresher.  My reaching needs balance.  Over-reaching, over-scheduling = over-doing for me.  The opposite is also true.  I like a little something in my life to keep me inspired and fuel my soul.

It is kind of like these Katniss-archery girls below - Cousin A and Lil O.  Together, they are reaching, but with a sound balance of adventure while learning something new, keeping focused, and relishing in the fun.

Here's to May, reaching, failing, and re-adjusting my reach.

Living and learning,


Very Jane {for Tech Tuesday}

UPDATE:  My heart goes out to all the families in OK....Hug your loved ones tightly.

If you need a diversion today......

Today's Tech Tuesday is more of a fun item, than really techy.  You know how I adore handmade items, right?  Well, Very Jane (affiliate link) each day offers a daily deal.  The majority of their deals are handmade items; Most of the items are children and women specific, too.

To find out about the daily deals just sign-up via email from their website.  What I love about Very Jane compared to Groupon and Living Social alerts is I just receive ONE alert in the morning about the deal of the day (not 100 alerts).  Plus, the prices and items offered on Very Jane are fun and super affordable.




The Opportunity to Peek on Daniel Pink? I'm In.

Two things.

One:  I am completely enjoying this book, To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink.  It starts out a little slower than other Pink books, but picks up steam & becomes super practical both as an educator and parent (and wife!).

Two:  You know how I aspire to write a book, yes?  If you do, too, check out this interview with Pink to learn about how he tackles the writing process.

Call me nosey, but I like knowing how other people I admire spend their day.


Lessons from a Whiteout

Last ski trip to Colorado, I managed to find my way up to the highest runs in a complete whiteout.  The kind of whiteout where you can't see, but a few feet in front of you and like the photo above shows, the ski and ground look exactly the same.

At one point, I literally used my "I'm standing" observation  to know which direction was up and which direction was down; I figured gravity was pulling my feet in a downward direction if I was standing there on my skis.  That's how crazy the whiteout was.  

But, like all things in life, opportunity was around me.  What lessons could I take from this?

1.  Life is better in concert with others.  In hindsight, I wish I would have skied with a partner that afternoon as I was scared and felt unsafe.

2.  Some decisions are best made without over-thinking, but instead going with the flow, your gut, your intuition.  In the past, I was notoriously guilty of over-thinking most everything.  In this case, the sooner I skied out of the whiteout and the bitter cold, the better.  My decision making that afternoon was total gut.

3.  Risk is necessary to growth.  I'm finding lately I have more confidence in my decisions - even the not-so-great ones.  The key:  Not to beat myself up as much when my decisions aren't my "best" ones (like this example of skiing alone in a whiteout).  Taking a risk equals a reward no matter the outcome.

Feeling reflective,

Snack Taxi - A Cycling Team Sponsor

Have you heard of Snack Taxis?  They are reusable, fabric bags that are toxin-free - ideal for snacks and sandwiches.  They are hand-made in New Hampshire.  AND, they are a cycling team sponsor.  Isn't that cool?  Look how fun they are.....

Snack Taxi

The Snack Taxis come in two sizes - snack size and sandwich size.  Lil O and our family have enjoyed Snack Taxis for years.  They are great for food or for containing random items (like cords, gift cards, travel items, etc.).  I think we bought our taxis through Lil O's school fundraiser years ago.  They hold up so well.

Inside of a Snack Taxi

Erin, the owner of Snack Taxi, sent the cycling team riders these taxis to carry in their jerseys while they ride.  Are you kidding me with that awesome cycling fabric?  The puzzle piece fabric reminds me of autism awareness which is close to my heart.

Snack Taxi pile-up

If you need a clever gift, a fun back-to-school or lunch item or want to do a Snack Taxi fundraiser at your school, hop on over to Snack Taxi and indulge.  We love their cloth napkins, too!

All the best,

PS - Huge thank you to Snack Taxi and Erin for sponsoring Upcycled Education's Cycling Team!  Yay!

Live Binder {for Tech Tuesday}

I like the idea of keeping a digital binder about a subject.  I imagine a binder for all the creativity research I've collected.  Another binder for Tech Tuesday ideas.  It would be fun to have my students and I create a class binder together.  We could create a binder on special education topics or another binder on human development.  Hmmm...I might be onto something.

Live Binder, a free (and fee-based) web tool seems to be an easy resource to create online, digital binders about a given topic.

What do you think?  Give Live Binder a try?  If yes, what topic will be the focus of your binder?  Back-to-school information for parents?  A digital portfolio of your work?  Your favorite Upcycled Education blog posts.  Ha!  I'm full of myself, evidently.


Life Updated: May edition

I don't remember Mays being this great.  I am loving this month.

From top to bottom, left to right:

  • Mr. UpCyclist and Lil O (and three friends) did a mud-foam 5K together.  Have you seen the foam machines?  They are crazy cool. 
  • I will never tire of looking at this DIY fabric garland next to spring flowers.  You can find the tutorial here.  
  • On Mother's Day, Lil O let her butterflies free.  She enjoyed doting on the five of them this past week.  I love her sweet soul.
  • My college students threw a party and bought me a gift card to Barnes and Nobles for Teacher Appreciation Week.  Really?  Could they be more thoughtful?
  • I have a new favorite office - Susan from Crafterhours's house.  Woot.  We actually get so much done.  
  • What do you think of this swim-bike-run card for Mr. UpCyclist?  I think the washi tape makes it, don't you?
  • CM and I went indoor rock climbing together.  No matter what she says, she is a natural.
  • I love color and Lil O's new art style.  She's made three of her "art wheels" for me.  #buddingartist #lovethatkid
  • Speaking of swim-bike-run (two bullets ago), how about Mr. UpCyclist and Jesse the Statue?  They rocked a half IronMan this weekend.  
May, you are lovely.


Love. This. Quote. {Mother's Day edition}

Happy Mother's Day to all you super mommies and moms-to-be.  I am completely grateful for my mom, my mom-sister and friends, and the opportunity to be a mom to a Lil O - who I love to the end of the universe and back.


PS - If you haven't caught up with this super mom-blogger-home-schooler-photographer, treat yourself.  Ashley Ann's blog is delightful and her five kids are way neat. I especially like the story of Little One.

Summer Plans

Mr. UpCyclist has earned his name by being an avid cyclist - both recreational and competitive. Both on road bikes and on mountain ones.  Mr. U is all geared up for the summer and he is elated he will be competing in events from now until September.

Me?  What's on my summer to-do list?

Let's see.....
  • Spending time with Lil O and master Jedi
  • Cheering on Mr. U at all his races
  • Seeing a lovely handful of friends and family
  • Hiking, biking, bouldering (which is like rock climbing, but lower to the ground)
  • Keeping Jedi from this
  • Playing in some rivers
  • Dodging the heat when possible
  • Rereading Daniel Pink's To Sell is Human book
  • Working on some new teaching and stamp shop ideas
  • Contemplating my next moves (especially now that I am a doer and not only a dreamer)
  • Continuing life coaching with Sue
  • Figuring out some artwork for our condo in Colorado (any artists out there?)
  • Keeping tabs on the cycling team
  • Stopping to smell the roses
What about you, sweet blog reader?  What's on your summer to-do list?


Have I Mentioned Montessori Lately?

I recently attended a meeting about our state's Common Core Standards integration.  Ironically, the meeting took place on the same floor as this awesome Montessori training program based in Maryland.  It is one of the few colleges in the world where you can earn a masters degree in Montessori Education.

I swear this program is magical.  And if I redid my education degrees, I would be a Montessori teacher without question.

If YOU want to pursue such a lovely, empowering, nurturing, beautiful degree in Montessori education, you can go here to find out more.  Of course, if you have no idea what Montessori education is all about, do visit one or more of the links below.  I really, really, really want you to have a clear understanding of what Montessori Education is - there are so many myths about Montessori Education.

What is Montessori - Part I and Part II
Montessori Mafia (I love this title!)
Montessori - the animated version - for you cartoon lovers out there

Awesome stuff,


Birthday & Beaches

Our family never goes to the beach anymore.  Besides being a two hour drive, we tend to spend all of our vacation time at our condo in Colorado, which is lovely, but having sand between your toes was missed.  

I think we also started a new tradition - my birthday and the beach!  Bonus: the B & B where we stayed welcomes dogs.  In this photo, Lil O was twirling and squealing with delight.  

I think she really missed the beach.

This photo cracks me up.  I love Jedi's dog paw in the shot.  Our family.

Jedi spent most of the weekend off-leash.  He had no less than ten dog playdates a day.  At one point, a couple said to me, "Your dog is such a delight.  We've watched him all day welcome dogs and play with them."  Yep, Jedi is a friendly pup.  Boy, did he drink his fair share of sea water.  Oh my.

We took advantage of the deserted morning on the beach.  Since Mr. U is training for a triathlon, the beach provided a chance to dig in his heels.... & Jedi's.

I told Mr. U and Lil O, no more gifts for my birthday.  Let's just spend a couple of days at the beach.  Please.

Refreshed and refueled.


Recite {for Tech Tuesday}

Huge thank you to Susan from Crafterhours for finding this Tech Tuesday gem and basically ruining any plans I had to get anything done tonight (or this week).  I am addicted to Recite.

Basically, you add a quote (or choose one of theirs), pick one of Recite's engaging templates, click "create" and voila, you have instant cool, free, downloadable, printable, sendable, amazingable art.  OK, so I made up that last descriptor.  But, really how fun is this?  I used the same quote with Recite's different templates & designs and now, I am in love.

You have to go make yourself some Recite artwork.  Wouldn't it be great framed, in your classroom, on your classroom door, made for each student as a gratitude gift, quick item to leave for a colleague, a lovely Mother's Day present?  Endless possibilities.

And that is exactly what I see with Recite, this blog, Tech Tuesdays and life.  Possibility.


LIfe Updated: Spring is in the air

Hello, Spring.  Good to see you.....

(In order from top left to right)
  1. Our family is in its third round of ice skating lessons.  Boy, have we all improved.  I still make everyone wear their ski helmets on the ice.  You know how I feel about helmet use.
  2. Lil O is a voracious reader these days.  Here favs are the Dear Dumb Diary series and the Thea Stilton mysteries.  Our library stocks the shelves with them, yay!  More love for our public library.
  3. Did I mention I celebrated my birthday?  More on that another day.  In the meantime, look at the fun present from Dr G.  
  4. You probably already saw my welcome home committee at the airport.  Jedi and Mr. UpCyclist are my two male loves :)
  5. In between convention proceedings, I managed to wrangle some time with west coast friends, Sheri and Dr. I (pictured here).  Don't we look soooo happy?  I swear we didn't stop talking and catching up all day long.  It was glorious.  
  6. I will soon be driving to a nursery to stock up on succulents.  They make me think of my week in California, which in turn makes me happy.
  7. Flying on planes has never been my favorite activity in the world because I get so sleepy, but this last haul to the west coast was brutal.  I need Jedi to become a therapy dog and join me onboard.  Petting him would have made the flight more enjoyable.
  8. Ode to chalkboard art in San Francisco!  Although, I think this was faux chalk.  Nonetheless, me likes.
  9. On a run in San Francisco, I found this gem - the Japanese $1.50 store.  Let's just say, I helped the SF economy that afternoon.
How is your spring unfolding?  


Unforgotten, Newtown.

I don't easily forgot some life things.  I remember when I found out my first boyfriend passed away when we both would have been in our 20s.  I remember when a family member rolled their eyes at me when I was ten years old and how the message sent with their eye roll made me feel.  I remember my favorite teacher, Mr. Sparkman, and how each and every day in his class I felt valued and cared for.  I remember how cool Lil O smelled the day she was born - strange, I know.

When 60 minutes a few weeks ago interviewed several of the families from the Newtown, CT shooting, I knew I wanted to watch the segments to help me process that event.  I am the slowest processor in the world.  It takes me sometimes years to make sense out of things.  Plus, you know how much I adore Lil O and my amazing colleges students.  How does life continue after such tragedy? A question that was actually asked of the families in the interviews below.

There are so many take-aways from watching both the segments 60 minutes aired for Part I and Part II.

Again, being the slowest processor in the world means new take-aways will come to me hours, days, weeks and years later from this blog post.

Quote credit

Four take-aways immediately resonate with me.....

You are not alone.
In the US, there is often-times a negative stigma attached with getting mental health help.  I think that is why I openly talk about my life coaching with Sue.  I want whomever is reading this post (or older posts) to know, you are not alone for even a minute.  There are trained people in the world who can help get life in order, make sense of ugly things, and provide much needed life support.  Every community in the US offers free and paid for mental health help.  We just need to help each other connect with those services without judgment.

It really takes a village.
Asking for help from others is not a sign of weakness, but a sign you understand this cliche and you understand that, "Many hands make light work."  There is such strength in numbers and I wish more collaboration, not less, would take place in our communities.  It is not me, mine, or my family's.  But, instead we and ours & us collectively.

Look in a mirror.  Make change.
One of the dads, who lost a child in the Newtown shootings, eloquently said in the 60 minute segment (Part I, I believe), "Look in mirror and say to yourself, this will never happen to me. If you think for even the slightest shadow of a doubt that it [the shooting] could happen to you or your school or your community, what will you do to change your home, school, community or country now?"  I don't think there is a human on earth who could look in the mirror and know with certainty they, their families, their communities, or their country is 100% out of harm's way.  The latest incident in Boston attests to this uncertainty.  Sadly.

There is another quote, from a different dad from the Part II segment,  that speaks to me "....we [victims of Newtown] use tragedy to evolve society."  I am forever looking for what lessons a tragedy or life's events can teach me.  Thankfully, when I can't find them, Sue or friends & family help.  For me, personally, Newtown immediately changed my energy level with Lil O.  When I am tired and cranky, do not feel like playing and Lil O obviously wants to play, I find myself thinking, "A parent from Newtown would give anything to be in my shoes right now.  I get to be with my daughter.  I get to enjoy her company."  Just that small mind shift reminds me how grateful I am to have Lil O in my life and I immediately embrace the opportunity to interact with her. 

Life is never perfect.  Which is a good thing as I said good-bye to perfect in the fall.  My goal now is to learn, evolve, embrace and hold hands to make that moment better than it was seconds before.


PS - If I can point you to Sue or another person (or service) in your community to help you make sense of the world, please email me.  I'd love to help.  Find me at jen at

Appreciate Those Amazing Teachers, OK?

It is almost national Teacher Appreciation Week - May 6th-10th, 2013.  I'm certain there is an educator you'd like to say thanks to, yes?  Here are my favorite picks for gratitude presents.....
  • DIY Teacher Gift Packs - Like the one pictured above.
  • Word Cloud Gifts - These look so great framed or made into a card.  For the clouds, you can use adjectives to describe the teacher or include all the students' names within the word cloud.
  • Printable Art Work - Even though it doesn't look like Feed Your Soul is keeping up with their free downloads, there is still plenty to choose from on their site and it is all for free!  I love their artwork framed.
  • Mod Podge Reflection Tools - I think I would just about cry if anyone were to Mod Podge me a gratitude gift.
  • Easy peasy, Free Printables from Amy at Mod Podge Rocks - These printables would also be great framed for a teacher.  Check back each Wednesday for a new printable from Amy.
  • Origami Owl Locket - My cousins - a mother/daughter team - rep these amazing lockets.  They wouldn't arrive on time (I don't think) as Teacher Appreciation Week is nearing.  But, I would be happy with a card saying IOU - your gift is on the way!  And really, could these lockets be any cooler or cuter?  
  • Rubber Stamps - Speaking of gifts that may not arrive on time, any of the teacher rubber stamps would be a fun gift for a teacher to say thanks.  It takes about 10 days to receive your order, so you may need to give an IOU first.
  • DIY Artwork - I continue to be in love with these letter stories.  In fact, I just made one for my mom to give as a wedding shower gift.  I think any (amazing) teacher would dig.
I know we, teachers, uber-appreciate it when parents, families, and students say thanks.


PS - Do you have any other clever gift ideas?  If yes, please share a link or idea in the comment section below.