Colorful Colorado Cloned {with Pic Monkey}

Just for fun.....

I love this photo that we took on our winter road trip, but I hate those darn signs by my hand.

No problem.  I'll just clone them out with PicMonkey.

Aren't I sneaky?  If you need a cloning refresher, check out my post on cloning.  I don't know why, but cloning always makes me feel like a super hero-FBI agent-faux graphic designer all in one.

Plus, really....isn't this photo so much better without those silly road signs?!


Cake. Yes, This is a Cake.

Spot the KFC cake

Can you spot the birthday cake above?

I know, hard isn't it.  Here, I'll give you a hint.  It is under that chicken.

Close up KFC cake

Well, faux chicken.  That is Mr. UpCyclist's birthday cake!  Yes, that bucket of KFC is a cake.  And no, I'm not kidding.  My mother-in-law (MIL) is a professional cake decorator.  She made the cake for Mr. U's birthday this past weekend. Mr. U loves Kentucky Fried Chicken, but rarely eats it.  For his birthday this year, we celebrated with real KFC and a KFC cake.  Isn't it the best?  Isn't my MIL soooooo talented?

KFC cake

My MIL made the faux chicken legs, wings, and breasts by coating fondant (I think she said) with crushed up corn flakes.  The cole slaw she made by hand-cutting strips of fondant that she had dyed in "cole slaw" colors and added a gel/glaze to them to look like cole slaw dressing.  And those fries?  She airbrushed each one of them with special edible, airbrush "stuff" to give them that two-tone appearance.

Here's what the inside of the bucket looks like - the cake!

Inside shot of KFC cake

And boy was it delicious!

Happy Birthday to Mr. UpCyclist and huge thank you to my MIL for making such an incredible cake.

Love them both,


Daniel Pink in Person. Pinch Me.

My soul is on fire again.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing my very favorite author in person - Daniel Pink.  You might remember him from my blog posts here and here.  I adore his last three books and literally could read his book Drive over and over again.  Have you read Drive?  Treat yourself; trust me.

I was this close to him during his talk.

Although I had heard most of what he spoke about online - I especially like this RSA Animate video of him - it was still amazing to see him speak in person.  He is so bright, clever, creative and packs a zesty sense of humor.  I can't believe I just described any part of his style as zesty.

Help me.

Three things made my soul ablaze:

  1. I publicly asked Pink which books or writers he would suggest for parents and grandparents to read.  Guess what?   He said anything by Alfie Kohn.  Check.  (remember my blog post here and here about Alfie).  A writer I am not familiar with Amanda Ripley.  And (drum roll, please), Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck.  Remember my blog post here from two weeks ago?  In fact, Pink said, not to buy his books and only buy Mindset and read it.  "It's that good."  At that point, I just about fainted as it validates everything I've been thinking and doing since November.
  2. You know when you sit by someone and strike up a conversation and that chance conversation literally changes your life.  The guy next to me did not know it, but the brilliant things he said to me will not stop playing and replaying in my mind.  I'd love to share them right now, but a) I'm still mulling them over in the most deepest way and b) my family is wondering when I will be off this computer.  Thus, more on that chance encounter another day.  I love those gifts from the universe.
  3. This event was co-supported by System Source, an IT company.  System Source splurged and bought Drive books for each one of the attendees.  Since Lil O's teacher next year is a Daniel Pink fan, too, I asked Pink to sign the free book for her.  Isn't that a fun teachery surprise - an autographed Daniel Pink book?  Lil O will deliver it tomorrow.

OK, I said I would get off this computer in ten minutes and my ten is up.

With a blazing soul and I really have so much more to write,

PS - This fantastic graphic-recorder person, Kelly Kingman, sketched out Daniel Pink's talk as he was talking! Do you see the photo all the way up above?  Isn't her work amazing?  Like learning eye-candy.  I'd love to have her sketch one of my classes or the keynote I just gave.  Ahhhhh.....

Life Updated: January Edition

This may be one of my favorite Januarys (or Januaries?) on record.  So much good stuff going on (and one sad) like....
  • Winter hikes with Jedi.  Just look how happy Jedi is above running through fields of snow and just being in it.
  • Lil O continues to capture my heart and soul.  Each age and stage gets more fun, which I didn't think was possible.
  • My goal before the end of March was to have ten coffee dates with friends I hardly see.  It isn't even February and I am at seven coffee dates!  Why didn't I challenge myself sooner?  Each coffee date is a gift.  I am so happy about this goal and its progress.
  • I've been reading like a banshee.  This coming week, I even get to see my favorite author, Daniel Pink, in person.  Pinch me.
  • I am hardly a girly-girl, but I love the new gifts from our friend at Chanel.  See the photo above - though, Lil O claimed the Chanel Post-it notes.  Rats.
  • I didn't take a photo, but I have lovely new college students this semester.  How is it possible that my students keep getting better and more passionate about teaching children?  I'm telling you people, my students will change the world.
  • Jedi (and our whole family) love his January Bark Box (see photo below) and all the fun toys and treats that came in it.  What an adorable concept.  He has two more Bark Boxes to go as we ordered the 3-pack for Christmas.
  • I'm not all the way there, but Brave is certainly coming alive for me.  I'm ordering this shirt to celebrate my word thanks to amazing student, K O'B.  Thank you for finding it for me, K O'B! 
  • I wish I could ignore the fact that the latest mall shooting was at my local mall.  My heart is heavy for all.  I still think this is the problem and the solution.

Be safe, you all.  Take care of each other, ok?


Bravely Telling That Voice

Remember that voice from this blog post?  The one that likes to order you around and tell you what you "should" do.

I just told it to shut up again.  Dumb voice.  It obviously doesn't know my word and mantra for 2014 is Brave.  Didn't it read my blog post yesterday?

I've got things to do, voice.  Really BIG things.

Bug off,

Brave Has Me

If you follow Upcycled Education on Instagram, you know a stack of books recently chose me at the library.  This Think Big Manifesto (affiliate link) was the first book that caught my eye; I am reading it currently.

A few things the author, Michael Port, wrote stand out to me....

  • When you think big, you start being surrounded by others who think big, too.
  • Thinking big opens doors to collaboration.
  • Change yourself and changing the world will start to come naturally.
  • Thinking big is always, always, always worth the expenditure of energy.
  • The absolute hallmark of big thinking is wide-open abundance.

I can't tell all right now as I have a few things in the works and some collaborations aren't 100% yet. Abundance has found me and being Brave will be needed to move forward the ideas in my head.

Which reminds me, I wanted to share my recent coaching session with Sue.  It was such a good one; one of my favorites.


Warming Up to Brave

Apparently, I was warming up to my 2014 word, Brave, back in November.

Keynote #3 didn't just drop into my lap.  Brave had something to do with it.

One of my favorite vice presidents at my college emailed me and asked if I would suggest someone to deliver the upcoming keynote address to our college.  For the last three years, I've been working with all sorts of movers and shakers in Washington, DC as part of a special commission, so at this point, I kind of know people - accomplished people.  I put together a list of my favorite, motivating speakers and sent the list to her lickety-split.

The next morning on a hike, I thought, "You know what?  I could give that keynote just as well as any of them!  Plus, I have something to say!"

As soon as I returned home from my hike, I emailed her and pitched my idea.  I remember thinking, "I can't believe I'm just about to send this email to her."  And before I could talk myself out of it, I hit send.  She replied right away and said she loved the idea, but ultimately, it was not for her to make the final decision; others at my college would decide.

And so, I waited.  And hoped they'd forget I even put my name in the hat.  And one day.  One beautiful day.  I received an email congratulating me.  I would be giving the next keynote address at my college.

Me.  The girl who wanted to live bravely.


Being Brave

One of my goals for 2014 overall is to give more keynote addresses.  For me, it takes bravery to get on stage in front of hundreds of people, deliver a keynote, be motivating, humorous, engaging and inspiring all at once for almost 60 minutes.

So, that's what I did last week.  I gave a 55 minute keynote to 450 faculty and staff at my college.  It was my third keynote of my lifetime.  Let's look at my keynote history so far....

Keynote #1:  For Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio.  Almost 500 people in attendance.  The topic was "Faculty Engagement." Every word of my keynote was scripted.  I even followed the script on stage.  It was good, but not amazing.  I knew I could improve; after all, it was my first keynote ever.

Keynote #2:  For a local public school district in my area.  The topic was "Fostering Creativity."  About 150 new teachers in attendance.  Hardly a word of my keynote was scripted and I loved talking about creativity off the top of my head.  Plus, the keynote was extremely interactive.  I received solid feedback from a handful of attendees.  Although I enjoyed my delivery of this keynote more than the first, again, I thought I could improve and streamline the topic a bit.  This keynote was almost 90 minutes long!  That's way too long for a keynote.

Keynote #3:  For my college.  I'll explain tomorrow how that invite came to be.  About 450 people in attendance and the keynote was streamed live to all of our campuses and desktops.  Again, the topic was "Faculty Engagement."  But, instead of citing research and data the entire time like I did for Keynote #1, I focused more on telling stories and putting the main points into my own words.  I tried - emphasis on "tried" - to make this keynote as TED Talk-ish as possible.  I don't know if I can gauge how well it went based on my colleagues' responses since they know me and are a little bias.  However, this keynote felt entirely differently to me.  I felt Brave.  I felt like I had something to say and it was my time to say it.

I even felt like I was delivering a TED Talk.  Just a really long one.

Tomorrow, I'll share with you how Keynote #3 came to be.  Talk about being brave.....


Brave Artwork

I mentioned in this post that I wanted to experiment with engineering prints at Fedex Kinkos (they are also called "oversized prints").  I thought some Brave artwork would help me stay focused this year.  I like giving myself reminders.

I didn't even think about the lyrics to Sara Bareilles's song Brave, but a blogger/artist I like was making a neat print from Sara's lyrics and I thought, "I need those lyrics."  And I need them BIG.

I took this photo on a morning hike with Jedi.  In PicMonkey, I turned the photo to black and white since the oversized printer only prints in black and white.  I also added the black circle and text, again in PicMonkey (see photo directly above).  I continue to adore PicMonkey, as if that needs to be said.

This gigantic printer below printed out my image; I emailed it to my local Fedex Kinkos first.  You can choose from just about any size under 48 inches I believe (more info here).  I asked the Fedex Kinko's employee to print my image 23 inch x 23 inch because the spot where I think it will hang can accommodate that size.  The cost was just around $3 for the print.

I'm way happy with how it turned out.  Dark, not smudged, clear and for me, inspiring.

I can see making more art like this for my home or classroom - or even as a unique gift.

I'm still deciding 100% where I'd like to hang it.  I think in our kitchen, near the chalkboard wall, with some colorful washi tape.

Now, to big is my Brave?


My Teacher for Brave

Since my word for 2014 is Brave.  I will need a good teacher to guide me.  Actually, I will need many teachers.  This lil teacher lives right in my house.  How grateful I am to see the word Brave come alive everyday right in front me.

Brave to try new things.  Brave to speak her mind when she is wronged.  Brave to be selective about with whom she spends her time.  Brave to push the status quo.

I think all humans are brave from birth and then somewhere along the line - maybe to fit into our families, society's norms, or the boredom of some schools - we lose our bravery and calibrate to complacency.  The addiction of the status quo ensues.

There is nothing brave about living the status quo if you know you are capable of so much more.  If you know you want more.

This quote I shared in November comes to mind again.....

I'm grateful for all the teachers who will show me Brave in many unique ways.  I'm especially grateful for this lil teacher pictured above in our place in Breckenridge.  She's the epitome of Brave to me.

All my best,

My Word for 2014

I'm not usually a "word of the year" type of girl.  But, this year, words were calling me.

Nurture, enhance, brave, messy, joy, do, courage, explore.

As I was sharing my list with Lil O, she said, "Brave seems like your word, Mom."  I didn't realize I seem like a word to anyone.

Interestingly, however, I was thinking the same thing.  How will I nurture, enhance my life, be messy, seek joy, do all the things I want to do, have courage and explore the unknown?  I will have to be brave.

And thus, my word for 2014 is Brave.  It keeps capitalizing itself and just 20 days into the year, I've already taken several significant steps to honor it.

More to come tomorrow,


Love. This. Quote.

This is part of my 2014 plan....

To surround myself with people who fan my flames and I theirs.

Totally ready,


Wooden Conversation Bubbles

I picked up these wooden conversation bubbles at Joann's.  I can't decide what to do with them.  They are about the size of a quarter and very thin.  25 of them come in a pack (scrapbook section; $3.99; I used a 40% off coupon, so they were less).

I'd love to use them with my students in the classroom.  

What would you do with them?  I'd love to hear your ideas....Please email me (jen at or leave a comment below or on Facebook/Instagram.  

Slightly stumped and obsessed with their cuteness,


Favorite Start of the Semester Posts

If you are like me and are about to start a new semester, consider trying these favorite ideas.....

  • This is my all-time favorite metaphor to use with students - Captain, Crew & Cargo.
  • I love using Newsmap as students are entering the classroom.  Students are totally engaged in reading the headlines and those colors?!  Ahhhh.....
  • Do you greet your students at the front door?  This study shows you really should.
  • Dr. Gambone's Post-it Note activity is divine and so easy since we, educators, usually have Post-it Notes on hand.
  • I actually teach my college students this communication strategy.  Do you think your students could benefit from it?
  • You know I am completely obsessed with paint swatches.  This is literally the #1 reason why people find Upcycled Education.  Go see for yourself:  Paint Swatch Activities {for the classroom}.
  • Feeling crafty and have an old textbook to spare?  This is the #2 reason why people find Upcycled Education - try Professor KP's Textbook Gems or Quotes.
Have a fantastic semester!  Professor AB, that mustache is for you!

My best,

Three Books I'd Recommend

Just in case you want some inspiring New Year's reading, here are three books I would recommend in a heartbeat.

Unthink by Erik Wahl
If you like reading about creativity or how to foster more creative thinking in yourself and others, Unthink is a super read.  I like to write in my books and I marked more things in this book than I usually do, which is a great sign to me.

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
Pink's books are always rock solid, in my opinion.  This one is no exception.  As a teacher and parent I am constantly "selling" ideas and attempting to move others.  This book captures the science and psychology around both. Since Pink seems to be doing a fair amount of speaking around the country featuring ideas from this book, you might be lucky enough to catch him and have your book signed :)

Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck
This book is probably my favorite read from the past couple of months.  It is very "coachy" and you know how I adore {personal} coaching.  Plus, every human on the planet could benefit from a growth-mindset as described extensively by Dweck in this book.  I'm hoping Mr. UpCyclist will read it soon, too.  It is that good.

Do you have any book recommendations for me?  I just went to my local public library to get a new stash and all the titles I wanted were checked out.  Thus, I let these books find me.


*All the links for books are Amazon Affiliate links, which means if you click on them and purchase anything from the link, I will earn a small commission.  Thanks, Amazon!  With that said, I would highly recommend these three books regardless. 

You Would Think I'd Remember

On second thought, I think I better title for this blog post would be, "You would think WE'D remember."

Every year, in early January, my sister emails (or calls) me to wish me and Mr. UpCyclist a happy anniversary.  I am always so grateful she emails or calls because, per usual, I have totally forgotten it is our anniversary.

As soon as I find out, I rush to email, text or call Mr. UpCyclist - who has also forgotten our anniversary - as I try to beat him to pretend-remember.

Are we pathetic or what?

So....Happy Anniversary to us!  The couple who cannot seem to remember their own anniversary and you can imagine this year how shocked we were to find out it is our 10th one.

Oh, my,


PS - Mr. U brought home the lovely flowers pictured above and a tasty strawberry with green tea icing cake from Whole Foods that evening.  He acted like he'd been planning that all week long.  Ha!

PSS - One day I'll share with you our wedding story - picture Grand Teton National Park, a blue bird day, two strangers we didn't know, one random dog, and the coolest judge in Wyoming.

Med O

Ya'll, when did Lil O get so big?  I'm wondering if she needs a new blog name.  Med O?  

Actually, I'm more wondering how all this time has passed by.....

Gosh, I love this kid,


PS - One day, Lil O signed something "Lilo."  I said, "Whose Lilo?"  She responded, "Lil O!"  Ha!  Lilo = Lil O when you smush them together.  Clever gal.

PSS - The photo above was taken in Breckenridge.  There are all these cool old buildings from the early 1900s when Breck was a bustling mining town.  This one is right on Main Street, right on the sidewalk, people walking by it all day.  I don't like to walk by it, though.  I like to dream about what Breck must have been like back then and take photos.  You can see another cool building in Breck here and a very Lil, tiny O.

Video for Thought

This video kind of spoke to me.  Ok, I lied.  I cried.

Does it speak to you?  If you are a parent, student, or teacher, what's the impact of self-perception on our lives?


2014 On My Mind

Many of my favorite bloggers have publicly shared their goals and their "one little word" for 2014. 

Am I the only one who is still processing 2013 and attempting to envision 2014?  Thankfully, Jedi and I are in the same boat.  Strength in numbers, I tell you.  

But, this I know.  2014 is going to be pretty amazing when the noise in my head comes to fruition.

What are your 2014 goals or your one little word?

Super curious - maybe it will inspire me,


Love. This. Quote. & Engineering Prints

We are just wrapping up our time in Colorado.  As many of you know, we have a ski condo we rent out to others in Breckenridge.  Though, you can't see them in any of the photos, we now have artwork all over the walls. Actually, you might remember the artwork from here and here - oh, and from here. I am in total love with all the artwork we created.  

Anyway, I don't have great photos of our giant magnetic board.  Let's just say it is humongous and awesome.  I plan to print some engineering prints (also called "blue prints") at FedEx Kinkos for the magnetic board.  They cost around $5 and only print in black and white.  The prints are supposed to be huge - which is good because I have lots o' space on that enormous magnetic board.  The quality is supposed to be OK so, I am calling this project an experiment.

I'm thinking the above photo and quote might be engineering print #1 for the condo.  I took the photo from the chairlift one day skiing.  Isn't Breckenridge beautiful?  I then turned the photo to black and white and added the quote all using PicMonkey, which you know I adore (hint:  I saved the PicMonkeyed image in their highest resolution; my hope is that will help with this little experiment of mine).

Have you made any engineering prints?  Do you have any advice for me?

I'd love to hear....