Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's In Her Bag Inferencing FREEBIE

Reading strategies was one of my favorite things to teach with both my younger and my older students.  One concept that I found was particularly difficult with my younger kiddos was inferencing.  I've found that students are typically more comfortable when asked questions where they can go back in the text and find concrete answers.  Inferencing requires some higher level thinking that pushes some students just a little bit out of their comfort zone.  Perfect, right?  ... As long as you find a fun activity to ease the discomfort.  This is one my kiddos loved and it's easy to do in your classroom, too!

Using the graphic organizer you can snag for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, project the image so you can use your graphic organizer.  I liked using my document camera to project the image so I could write on it and my students could see my writing and I didn't waste a bunch of paper making copies for each student.

Plop your purse on a table or desk in the front of the room and pull out a few items.  I chose my car keys, a gift card to Sephora, and a library card.

In the "items in the bag" column, write the items you pulled out of your purse. 

Now, pick up one item at a time and ask the students what they think that item says about you.  My students picked up on it right away.  For my keys they came up with ideas like "she has a car," "she can drive," "her car is a Toyota," (because of the symbol on the key.) 

Once you have written their inferences, discuss how the items in the bag are like clues in a text.  When students find clues in a text, they can easily make appropriate inferences, too. 

We read our weekly story from the Imagine-It curriculum we were using at the time directly after this lesson and the students were making much better inferences! 

Although I used this activity with a second grade classroom, I would have no qualms about using it in a secondary setting either, depending on the ability of the students. 

Let me know if you use it in your room and how it works for you! 

Snag your FREE download here:


What Do the Songs "Row Your Boat" and "It's A Small World Have in Common?" They Can Help You Memorize your Multiplication Facts...

Last year my students had a lot of difficult remembering some of their multiplication facts... and let's be honest, I had some difficulty remembering a few of them, too.  I remember hating multiplication in school, partly because the way it was taught was never really, well, fun.  I was struggling for a way to teach my kiddos to learn to love, and remember their facts when I ran across a few songs and tricks to help them remember some facts online.  These songs were great, but they didn't cover everything, so I came up with a few new ones.  My students LOVED it.  Every day we would go through our "multiplication songs" and the students really did begin to remember their facts better.  Hurray!  In order to pass the knowledge along, I created a multiplication pack in my Teachers Pay Teachers store with songs, tricks, a fun game, and lots of practice worksheets.  Take a little sneak peek at some page previews and let me know what you think! The full product can be downloaded at the link below. 


Monday, June 24, 2013

Homeward Bound

We finally found out we're heading back home!  Photo taken in Saguaro National Park.
Last year my husband and I decided to be adventurous and look all over the U.S. for places to start our careers.  We agreed that we would go wherever the first person found a job, and as luck would have it, I found a teaching job first in Tucson, Arizona.  So, we moved - the day after our wedding...  After we moved, my husband was hired by an amazing company, but we weren't the biggest fans of Tucson.  Sure, it was nice, and a great place to start our adventure together, but we were pretty far away from any family and friends from back home.  Around November, my husband heard that his company could potentially be bidding on a job to start in the Des Moines area, which could mean a transfer that would land us back in Iowa.  We waited and waited and waited for what literally seemed like forever, and now we finally have the final word that we're heading back at the end of July!  We snapped a few pictures to announce the good news to family and friends. Take a peek and share our joy! 

Photo taken in Saguaro National Park.

Friday, June 21, 2013

DIY Farmer's Market Totes

Everybody loves some homegrown produce.  One of my favorite past times in Iowa City was perusing the local farmer's market and I was pleased to find that Tucson has some pretty great local markets as well.  Since my summer is pretty much free (woohoo - the life of a teacher) and I had some extra blank tote bags lying around after making bridesmaid gifts for my wedding last year, I decided to draw up a few designs for farmer's market totes.  I thought they were a little more stylish than the plastic grocery bags the vendors hand out - plus it never hurts to reduce, reuse, and recycle. 

Here are the materials you can use to make your own:

-Blank canvas tote bags (I purchased mine from Hobby Lobby, but you can find them at almost any craft store)
-Fabric markers (I used the black from a set of Marvy fabric markers I picked up at Michael's)
-Embroidery floss
-Embroidery needle
-A pencil (to draw your design)
-A lot of imagination

Let me know how your projects turn out!  

Happy crafting!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Substitute Teacher Binder FREEBIE

As I've mentioned previously, I'm a teacher, but when people ask me what I teach I always find it a little bit difficult to explain.  After going through my program at the University of Iowa, I always had the intention of teaching 5-12 English/Language Arts.  Then my first year teaching I had the great experience of teaching a second grade, fully inclusive classroom at a growing charter in Tucson.  Yes, it was a little unorthodox, but my students and I learned a ton and I learned that I love the younger kiddos just as much as the older ones. Since my husband and I might (fingers crossed) be blessed with the opportunity to move back to Iowa at the end of July, I have no idea what I could end up teaching next year.  With the entire summer off, I've been struggling to come up with classroom ideas that could work for any grade and one was a substitute teacher binder.

I used a similar format last year when I needed substitute teachers to take over my classroom and they LOVED being able to come in, grab the binder, and easily see exactly what they needed to do.  Plus, who doesn't love cheerful polka dots and chevrons?!  I hope the document is helpful!  Don't forget to leave feedback and tell me what you think!

Here's a preview of some of the pages you will get with your download:

You can download this freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers store at the link below:



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

State Pride Embroidery Tutorial

Let's be honest... when I mention Iowa, people either say "oh, the potato state," "where is that again?", or they make some joke about cows, pigs, and corn.  Throughout the rest of the nation Iowa has a pretty bad rap for lacking diversity and being a whole lot of fun.  How wrong people can be.  Yes, Iowa does have a lot of cows, and corn, and pigs, but it's also pretty beautiful and there's a lot to do if you know where to look for it.  I suppose Arizona has a lot of the same things, but I've really found that I have an attachment to grass, trees, and I suppose even humidity.  And sidewalks... hello, Arizona?  Where the hell are your sidewalks!?!  Anyway, my homesick thoughts about Iowa inspired this little bit of hand stitched art.  You can easily create one for your favorite state, too. 



A small hand embroidery frame 
2 colors of embroidery thread
An embroidery needle
A pencil, fabric marker, or fabric chalk
Thin fabric 

The outline of your state
Printer paper 
Black printer ink 
An interesting font
1. Depending on your artistic abilities, you may have to take some different steps to complete this project.  Since I didn't want to attempt drawing the outline of my state free hand, I googled an outline of the state of Iowa and copied and pasted the picture into a word document. 

2. I then chose a font on my computer to place the word "home" inside the picture.  I chose the font "English Essay" that can be downloaded for free from http://www.dafont.com.  I created a small text box, typed the word, and changed the appearance of the text box by hiding the lines.  This can be done in Microsoft Word  by right clicking on the text box, scrolling down to "format shape," selecting "line color," then clicking "no line."  

3. Print the stitching pattern you just created. 

4. Cut around the edge of your pattern, leaving a margin around the edges.  Place the pattern under your fabric  If you find that your pattern is slipping, tape may be used to temporarily hold the pattern in place.  

5. I used thin enough fabric that I could easily see the black outline created by my pattern.  If your fabric is thicker you may need to use a light box or hold the fabric against a window so you can trace the outline on your fabric.  

6. Place your fabric in your embroidery frame.  Pick out your embroidery thread and start embroidering.  I used a back stitch for the majority of the project, but you can use whatever stitch floats your boat.  There are great stitch tutorials online and on Pinterest for your browsing.  

7. Cut the excess fabric around the back of your frame if you wish to leave your project in the embroidery frame. 

Enjoy your new hand-stitched art!  

Happy crafting! 

Vegetarian Twice Baked Potatoes

My husband and I are (for the most part) vegetarian.  I say "for the most part" because we do occasionally eat fish and if we're in a social situation where meat is being served it won't kill us if there is no way to get out of it.  But... we normally eat vege foods at home.  Patrick and I had both recently been craving potatoes and I looked high and low on Pinterest for a vegetarian recipe for twice baked potatoes that sounded appetizing.  I ended up making up my own. 


Serves 2 people as a main dish and 4 people as a side dish

2 large baking potatoes 
2 TBS butter or butter substitute (I used Earth Balance Olive Oil spread) 
2/3 cup chopped baby portobello mushrooms
2 TBS chopped fresh chives
2 TBS fresh rosemary 
2 TBS fresh thyme 
1 4 oz. container goat cheese 
Olive oil as a non-stick agent 

First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  

While your oven in preheating wash your potatoes.  Rub olive oil on the outside of your potatoes and stab several times (on both sides) with a fork.  

Once the oven has preheated, place the potatoes inside and let cook for about 45 minutes.  Check occasionally to make sure the potatoes are not burning or getting too squishy.  

While the potatoes continue to cook, saute the chopped portobellos in olive oil in a small skillet on medium-low heat until they begin to change to a slightly darker color.  If you would like your portobellos to be crunchier like bacon bits, toss them on a baking sheet and place them in the oven to bake for a few minutes or until slightly crispy.

When your potatoes have finished cooking, remove them from the oven.  Using tongs or another way to hold onto the hot potato, cut the potatoes in half length-wise.  

Use a spoon to hollow out the inside of each potato half.  Make sure you leave some potato around the flesh so the twice baked potato "boat" will still hold it's shape.  Scoop the inside of the potato into a medium sized mixing bowl. 

Using a potato masher, squish the chunks of potato to create a smoother texture.  Mix in 2 TBS of butter, chives, rosemary, thyme, portobello mushrooms, and goat cheese.  Mix with a spoon until the mixture is combined. 

Spoon the potato mixture back into each potato "boat."  Decrease the temperature of your oven to 350 degrees.  Place the potatoes back inside and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are warm.  

Serve and enjoy! 

Finally Saying Thanks

First look picture with my dad on the day of my wedding.  A memory that I will never forget.  Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography.
Ok, I realize this post is a little late considering Father's Day was on Sunday, but, hey, it's never a bad time to appreciate Dad. 

I will admit that I probably wasn't the easiest child to raise.  Sure, I didn't get into much trouble, but I was certainly headstrong and opinionated - even when I wasn't knowledgeable enough to form a decent opinion - and I always thought I was the authority on decision making.  Whenever I was set on making whatever poor decision I was about to make, my dad would frequently redirect me and say "you're frontal lobe isn't fully developed until you're 21."  This was my dad's way of saying I was too young, too stubborn, or too uninformed to make the best decision and this was why he was offering his guidance. 

And he was right.  I never fully appreciated everything that my parents did for me until, probably, long after I was 21.  About the time I was getting married was the time I was starting to realize the part they played in helping me through life, college, and becoming the adult I am today.  Our relationship is a lot different now, and I would like to think it's a lot better.  After teaching second grade for a year, I now understand how difficult it is to pour your heart, soul, and a lot of effort into something and have a child not appreciate the outcome.  Granted lesson plans and child rearing are on totally opposite ends of the effort spectrum, but I understood a little bit about how it could be so difficult to reason with a child with an "under developed frontal lobe." 

So, since I've been blogging a lot about my wedding, let me tie this in.  I struggled for a long time figuring out what to give my parents on the day of my wedding.  No tangible item could really express the appreciation that I had for them, but I wanted to try.  I opted for books.  I have an affinity for books, being an English major, so it was fitting in that aspect.  A lot of that affinity likely has to do with the memories I have of trips to the library and reading stories together with my parents.  But, regardless, I picked out books, the one for my dad being "My Father, My Hero."  Now, my family isn't a super emotional, over the top family, so this expression of emotion was probably a lot as far as my family goes, but on the pages of the book, I decided to write my own thanks.  I didn't get the opportunity to see my dad open it, but my mom said he cried.  I would like to think partially because I was finally an adult, and finally able to say thank you for everything he had done.  In other words, my frontal lobe was fully developed. 

Another thing I wanted to do the day of the wedding was a first look with my dad.  If you're a reader that is planning your wedding, it is absolutely a moment that I urge you to fit into your pre-wedding events.  The moment that I was able to share with my dad was priceless and our photographer Misty was even able to snap an amazing picture of the moment.  It's honestly one of my favorite pictures from the wedding and we have it displayed on the wall of our living room.  I hope if you choose to fit this idea into your wedding you treasure the moment as much as I do. 

First dance photo with Dad.  Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography

It's also customary that the father of the bride gives a speech at the reception after the wedding and my wedding was no exception.  A few weeks before the wedding I had asked my father to make a wooden box for Patrick and I that we would use in lieu of a sand or candle ceremony.  The idea was that Patrick and I would each write each other a letter that we would put inside the box and read on our first anniversary.  During our wedding ceremony, we put the letters into the box and sealed the box.  The box also contains a bottle of wine that we will drink while we read the letters.  The box my father made was beautiful, but I didn't make the connection until he gave his speech.  When I was born, my father made my crib - a task which took countless hours of what he called "love and labor."  The box was another work of "love and labor" completed by my dad.  The box now sits on a table in our bedroom and I can't wait to open it in about a month on my first wedding anniversary. 

The top of the wooden box my dad made for our box ceremony during the wedding. 

Overall, make sure you cherish your family and fit this into your wedding.  They are the ones that make the memories you'll remember. 

Showered With Love (and two easy peasy paper pinwheel tutorials)

My girlfriends that helped so much to make the bridal shower and wedding a success.  Ignore the bad haircut... I, not so smartly, decided to get my hair cut and colored by someone new right before my sister-in-law's wedding and what you're seeing in this picture is the aftermath.  At least it was growing...
Like I've mentioned before, we have amazing friends that helped us IMMENSELY with our wedding as did our family members.  Another amazing thing they did was plan a bridal shower at my parent's church and a bachelorette party the weekend before the wedding.

First of all, I have some amazingly talented people that I hold close to my heart.  They came up with games to entertain people of all ages, helped decorate to make everything absolutely gorgeous, pulled together food and snacks, and showered us with a lot a lot of love.

Because we didn't want to spend a whole lot of money on the bridal shower, we used a lot of items that we could re-use for the wedding.  As you look through pictures, a lot of the wedding decorations were vintage thrift finds, Etsy scores, and DIY projects.

To cover the tables, I bought light blue plastic table cloths from Oriental Trading Company for about $1 a piece, then threw down lengths of burlap to act as a runner (purchased from Michael's) and used vintage handkerchiefs found at various thrift stores around town and on E-bay to add some color to the tables.  Patrick and I spent a lot of time wandering around thrift stores in the Iowa City area collecting items that we would be able to use for the wedding.  We found a TON of inexpensive glass and milk glass vases to use as our centerpieces for both the wedding and the bridal shower.  Here's where I'll tell you something that definitely surprised me - sometimes buying your own items is cheaper than renting them.  I was a little stunned to learn that it was cheaper for me to buy mason jars and own them than it was to rent them through our venue.  What?!  It certainly seems a little backward, but the best part is you can either make money off of selling them after your wedding, pass items along to your guests, or another person that might want to use the items at their wedding.  So a word to the wise - definitely check out how cheaply you can find items elsewhere.  In our case, it was cheaper to buy nearly everything, and we definitely lucked out that we were working toward a more vintage-y vibe to begin with.  If you're looking for thrift stores in the Iowa City area, we had luck at Goodwill, Artifacts, Stuff Etc, Houseworks, Crowded Closet, and Decorum. 

Table cloths, paper plates, and napkins from oriental trading company for cheap, cheap, cheap!  Also, a few of our thrifted cake stands and borrowed platters.

A few days before the bridal shower, my mom and I started working on some paper centerpiece ideas.  Again, if you haven't noticed, I'm all about strangely whimsical pieces, so we made a ton of paper pinwheels and flowers and tied everything together with paper flowers and vintage buttons my mom and I had hanging around.  I also made a few banners using hearts from a paper pack I bought at Michael's, a white Sharpie paint pen, a single hole punch and some twine.  Pretty simple, right?  Since I've used the same idea with any paper I choose by making a cardboard heart template first - to date I've used the template to make birthday banners, graduation banners, and a going-away banner.  It's a super quick and easy way to make a party a little more festive.

A glimpse at one of the pinwheel centerpieces my mom and I made using paper from Hobby Lobby, paper flowers, and a few buttons.  (A simple tutorial for how to make a traditional pinwheel is located at the bottom of the page.)

A different approach to the paper pinwheel.  (Tutorial posted at the bottom of the page.)

Like I mentioned before, I have a lot of talented friends, like Kelley, who made these scrumptious scones and cupcakes.  We were certainly well-fed that day!

Cupcakes made by Kelley
Amazing, savory brunch scones made by Kelley

So, if you're looking to make your own paper pinwheels for a bridal shower, wedding, or just for the heck of it, the steps are actually fairly simple.  First, let's start with the traditional pinwheel.


Decorative scrapbook paper (I found mine at Hobby Lobby) 
A wooden dowel rod, straw, pencil or object to hold your finished pinwheel 
Paper flowers (found in the scrapbook section at Michael's) 
Scissors or a paper cutter 
A ruler 
A pencil 
A high temp. hot glue gun 
Hot glue sticks 

1. Start with a square piece of paper.  I used an 8 x 8 piece, but any size will work - just remember that the smaller your paper, the harder the project will be to work with.  You will see both sides of whatever paper you use.  Since the back of my paper was white, I chose to use adhesive scrapbook tape to tape two pieces together. 

2. Using a straight edge and a pencil, faintly draw a line using pencil that connects two corners of the paper. Repeat on the other side.  You should end up with a "x" across your paper. 

3. Using a ruler, measure in approximately 1 inch from the center "x" on the paper.  Repeat on each line.  When you are done your project should look about like this. 

4. Using scissors, cut along each of the lines from the corner to the 1 inch mark.  Repeat on all four sides.  Once you are done cutting, you will see four "flaps."  

5. Put a small dot of glue in the center of your paper (where the x makes a cross.) Fold the left side of one of the flaps to the center.  Hold the end of the flap on the glue with the tip of the hot glue gun for approximately 30 seconds or until the glue sticks.  Repeat on each "flap," folding down just the left side. DO NOT fold down the right side.  I don't worry about being too neat with the hot glue because I always decorate my pinwheels with flowers and buttons, which typically cover up any unwanted goobers.  

6.  Attach any buttons, paper flowers or other decorations to the center of your pinwheel.  I find that these decorations dress up the project a bit more and also help hold everything together. 

7. Because I wasn't worried about whether or not my pinwheel would spin, I hot glued the finished product to a wooden dowel rod.  I did, however, recreate this project with a group of second graders using construction paper, straight pins, and cardboard straws.  After completing the pinwheel, we used carefully poked the pin through the pinwheel and both sides of the straw.  We then bent the end of the pin parallel to the straw.  I hot glued the pin to the straw so the kiddos would not poke themselves.  Make sure you leave a little space between the pinwheel and the straw and you should be able to make your pinwheel spin.

Enjoy your finished pinwheels!



Decorative scrapbook paper (I found mine at Hobby Lobby) 
Paper flowers (found in the scrapbook section at Michael's) 
A ruler and pencil OR a paper scoring board
A high temp. hot glue gun 
Hot glue sticks

1. Create a square with decorative scrapbook paper.  I used one that was 5 1/2" square.  Using a paper scoring board (or a ruler and pencil) score the paper in an equal pattern.  I chose to score the paper every 1/2", but depending on the size of your paper, you may choose to score the paper every inch or even two inches.  If you are using a ruler and a pencil, make a mark with the pencil in the same pattern. 

2. Following either the score lines or the marks you made with your pencil, fold the paper back in forth in an alternating pattern (just like folding a fan.)  Your paper should look like this:

3. Once your paper is completely folded, fold both ends together. 

4. Using your hot glue gun, glue the sides together to create a "fan" shape. 

5. Repeat steps 1-4 to create another "fan."  Depending on how squished or stretched you want your final rosette to be, you may need to create more than 2 fans.  For this project I used only two. 

6. Using your hot glue gun, glue the sides of the fans together to create one rosette.  You will need to hold the paper for a few seconds to make sure everything sticks.  

7. Decorate your fan using paper flowers or buttons. 

Happy crafting! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We Got By With a LOT of Help From Our Friends

Choosing bridesmaids is a tricky business.  Let's step back a few steps.  My husband and I met while he was working as a cook and I was working as a waitress at a little place called the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City.  It's actually a fantastic little eatery in downtown Iowa City right in the middle of all of the cultural happenings the city has to offer.  Yes, it's Iowa, but you would be surprised how interesting the little microcosm of Iowa City is.  Anyway, essentially, I worked with a ton of my best friends.  Couple that with being in the English Education field and you end up with quite a few girlfriends.  So, regardless of the fact that we limited our guest list so we would have a small wedding we had an enormous wedding party.  While it was a little difficult to manage at times, I wouldn't have changed it for the world. 

After we asked everyone to be in the wedding party, they all graciously offered to buy their own attire.  After a lot of deliberation, the girls pretty much settled on the same dress (my maid of honor chose to wear a different style).  Because I didn't want everything to be too matching, I asked the girls to pick out their own shoes, accessories, and do whatever they pleased with their hair and makeup.  I mean... come on... I'm already asking them to wear a dress that they may not like... it's pretty rude to dictate that they feel even more uncomfortable.  Truth be told, I LOVE the way it turned out. 

Photo taken by the talented Misty Como at Focused Photography.  Check out her website at http://www.focused-photo.com/
Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography.   Strapless tulle embellished tea-length wedding gown is Oleg Cassini from David's Bridal http://www.davidsbridal.com/Product_Tulle-Embellished-Tea-Length-Gown-CPK437_Bridal-Gowns-Shop-By-Trend-Vintage-Inspired   

Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography.  Dresses worn by the bridesmaids are Alfred Sung D438 in Mango.  Dress worn by the maid of honor is Alfred Sung 462 in Garnet.  All bridesmaid dresses were  ordered from Bridesmaids.com http://www.bridesmaids.com/d438.html.  Personalized hangers for the bridesmaids were ordered from Etsy.
For the groomsmen, we knew it was going to be hot - and let's face it- asking everyone to buy a suit or rent a tux is asking them to incur a pretty big expense.  So our gents wore black pants, fitted white button up shirts, black belts, and black Converse sneakers.  We purchased light blue skinny ties and I made black LEGO tie clips for them. 

The dashing gentleman in their black pants, white shirts, black Converse sneakers, blue skinny ties, and LEGO tie clips.  Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography.
The groomsmen and ushers.  Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography.  The groom's grey suit was ordered from Men's Warehouse.

The men sporting their sneakers.  Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography.
We really could not have been more thankful to everything that all of our friends did to make our wedding the best day ever (in my opinion.) Many of our friends had to travel to get to our wedding, showers, rehearsal and everything else in between.  And the best part was they did it with a smile.  Who could have asked for a better crew. 

If you're looking to make your own LEGO tie clip, the steps are as simple as can be.  I ordered 6x1 LEGO pieces from the LEGO website and blank tie clips off of Etsy.  Use your hot glue gun and in seconds you have LEGO tie clips.  Pretty snazzy, right? 

Tackling Wedding Stationary Without Breaking the Bank

I am a Pinterest addict.  Seriously, the number of pins that I have is embarrassing - well, maybe not for me, because I have no Pinterest shame, but I've been told that I have an embarrassing number of pins and all of this began when we started planning our wedding.  My theory: if I think I might make it, be inspired by it, or use the pin later in some way, I pin it. Well, long story short, I fell in love with all the gorgeous letter press wedding stationary I saw on Pinterest and after a quick trip to a few places around Iowa City I decided that the letter press option was going to be WAY too stinking expensive.  With everything else going on, I definitely was not going to have time to craft all of the invitations, save the date cards, and everything else you have to send out for a wedding, so I went with a suggestion from made by my sister-in-law, I checked out a website called Wedding Paper Divas.  Wedding Paper Divas has great customizable templates at a variety of prices, plus I was really pleased with the fact that someone proofreads your invites before they start the printing process.  In some cases, you also have the opportunity to make everything match.  I wasn't too concerned with this, because we wouldn't be sending everything out at the same time.  So, after we finished ordering everything, we ended up with thank you cards, save the date cards for the wedding, bridal shower invitations, and save the date announcements for a second ceremony we had the day after our wedding.  Remember how I told you we got married on a Friday?  We decided to have a second ceremony, the day after our wedding so anyone not able to come on Friday still had the option of celebrating with us that Saturday.

Here's a look what we used: 

Pictured above is our save the date card for the wedding.
Pictured is the design we used for our save the date for the second, separate reception. 
When you're inviting some people to only the second reception, the wording can be a little tricky.  We chose to call it a celebratory reception.  The wording we used on the back was "Please mark your calendars for an open house reception celebrating our marriage." 

Although the prices on Wedding Paper Divas were pretty affordable, we opted to use kits we found at Michael's to make the formal invitations for the wedding and the separate reception the next day.  We decided to use two different invitations so they would be easier to tell apart.  Keep in mind that you can think outside the box a bit.  We used different ribbon and fonts to make the invitations a little more unique.  If you're looking for some great fonts that you can download for free, check out the cute ones posted on the blog Kevin & Amanda http://www.kevinandamanda.com/

If you're having a hard time getting those fonts to a useable point on your computer, there are quite a few handy tutorials on YouTube.  

Here's a look at what we used.  Let us know what you think!

The wedding invitations we made from kits found at Michael's art and craft supply store.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to Take Engagement Pictures - the cheap way (and directions for how to make a wedding date banner)

Photo taken at Wilson's Apple Orchard, Iowa City, IA.
Once you get engaged, everyone wants pictures and you'll likely need pictures for your invitation or save the dates.  After looking into a few photographers around our area, I learned that having pictures professionally taken is really expensive, especially if you add the words "wedding" or "engagement" into the sentence.  Now, don't get me wrong, photographers have to do a LOT when it comes to traveling to the site of your pictures, supplying props, editing the photos, so they definitely earn their money.  Frankly, another aspect that scared me was whether or not I would get the pictures I wanted.  I was worried that working with a photographer would mean that I wouldn't be comfortable asking for the poses and I had a fear that we would end up with something worthy of the Awkward Family Photos website.  So we opted to take our photos a different way.  After spending hours on Pinterest with Patrick looking through engagement photos that we liked, we met with a few of our friends who agreed to take snap some pictures for us.  Luckily, Patrick had started dabbling in photography and had gotten a decent Cannon DSLR camera for graduation.  We showed our friends Katy, and S.J. what we were looking for and off we were to take some shots. 

I'm pretty in love with the way they turned out, plus they didn't cost us a thing. 

Below are just a few of the photos we ended up using.  ( I won't bore you by posting all of them.)  

Photo taken at Mormon Trek Park, Iowa City, IA.
We used the picture featured above for almost everything.  I love how simple it turned out and how vibrant the colors printed. 

For editing, we used a website called Piknik, which unfortunately no longer exists.  Piknik allowed us to alter the appearance of our photos (to an extent), without having to pay for expensive software like Photoshop.  Now, Piknik and Photoshop are miles apart from each other when it comes to editing capabilities, but for the few bits we wanted to alter, Piknik worked well.  If you're looking for a similar option, Google + supposedly has similar editing options that Piknik once did.  If you choose to try Google + for some of your photos, leave a comment to let us know how it worked! 

Photo taken at  Wilson's Apple Orchard, Iowa City, IA. 
One suggestion I have, if you wish to take your own engagement pictures, is to make sure you have props.  Patrick and I used a small chalkboard with a chalkboard marker (I found that the chalkboard marker was a great investment because the writing showed up more vibrantly on the chalkboard.  Just make sure you bring a wet paper towel to wipe off the writing), and the wedding date banner pictured above.  If you're interested in making a banner with your wedding date, follow the simple instructions at the end of this post.  Also, make sure you look at poses online so you have some ideas for pictures.  Ask your photographer to leave some space around the sides of some of your pictures so you can better size your photo to fit into templates if you choose to use it for your wedding invites or save the date cards.  Also, don't forget to take a LOT of pictures.  You won't use very many, but it's better to have more than not enough.  

Photo taken at Wilson's Apple Orchard, Iowa City, IA. 


Ahhh... the joys of back blogging.  Since I made this project almost a year ago, I unfortunately do not have any pictures to post of the process, however, the project is so simple, I doubt you will need them.  


-High temp. hot glue gun 
-Hot glue sticks 
-Wooden numbers corresponding to the scheduled date of your wedding (I found mine at Michael's) 
-Picture hanging hardware (The kind with the triangular loop at the top) 
-Yarn, string, or twine 
-Paint (optional) 

Optional first step: If you would like to paint your wooden numbers, do this first.  I would suggest painting the front and the back to make sure you don't see any unfinished edges in your photos.  I chose not to paint mine because I was comfortable with the natural color.  

1. Plug in your hot glue gun and let the glue warm to a usable temperature.  
2. While you are letting your glue gun warm, lay out your wooden numbers on a large, flat surface (I used my kitchen floor.)  From right to left, lay your numbers backwards.  (Imagine someone is facing you looking at the numbers.)  Space the numbers out on the floor how you would like them to be spaced on your banner.  Make sure you leave more space between numbers that need to be separated (where a comma would appear if you were writing the date.)  
3. Use the hot glue gun to glue one picture hanger to the back of each of your numbers.  Make sure you glue the hanger near the top so your numbers don't droop once you tie them onto your string.  
4.  Once you have glued a hanger to each of the numbers cut a piece of string long enough to hold all of your numbers and still give you space at the end to hold the banner.  
5. When the glue attaching the hangers to the wooden numbers has dried, string your string through each of the picture hangers, tying a knot with the string around each hanger to keep the number in place.  
6. Repeat typing a knot around each hanger until all of your numbers are tied to your string.  
7. Take beautiful pictures with your new wedding date banner!  Enjoy!  

Planning the Big Day - Our Backstory

Well, my husband and I have been married for almost a year now, so, perhaps this post is a little late, but, better late than never I suppose...

Here's our story:

Last year was a crazy year.  My husband graduated from the University of Iowa in December and I graduated in May.  For any of you that have gone into education, you are well aware of the fact that your last year in the education program is a little hectic.  So between practicum assignments, student teaching, working as much as possible, completing competency tests and all of the rest of my coursework, we decided it would be a good idea to plan a wedding.  Let's just leave it at the fact that things were a little crazy...

I've always been a do-it-yourself kind of person and my parents very much raised me to be this way.  Between my handy dad and my crafty mom, I suppose I picked up a few things along the way, particularly the mantra that if you want the job done correctly, be prepared to do it yourself.  Plus, how else are you going to add your personality to something like a wedding when someone else does everything for you?  There's always the money factor, too.  I'm cheap, there's no way to sugar coat it.  So with a lot of help, time, and elbow grease, the wedding planning began.

We started by booking a venue.  I will say that the venue was probably one of our big splurges.  Since my husband and I were partial to Iowa City (this is where we met, went to school, and were living at the time) we decided we wanted to have the wedding there.  While it would have been great to have our wedding at the church I grew up in, it just didn't seem right.  To me it seemed to one-sided.  Patrick had no connection to this church and it was in my hometown, which, nothing on Muscatine, but it lacked the venues for the reception that we were hoping for. This pretty much ruled out the getting married in a church idea.  Since it wouldn't be a church we belonged to, it just seemed kind of wrong, and so did joining a church for the sake of getting married there.  We ended up settling on Celebration Farms, in Solon, just outside of Iowa City.  This may have been a gamble because at the time we were reserving our date, the site was under construction, but we were able to see the site plans and were promised that we would be refunded our deposit if after the site was complete we weren't pleased.  We ended up loving it!  Since we wanted a smaller wedding, we booked the smaller barn and amphitheater on a Friday.  Yes, a Friday.  Honestly, the decision went back to the price and scheduling.  Everything was cheaper and/or more available on a Friday.  Did this make some family members angry?  Yes.  Were some people not able to make it to the wedding because it was on a Friday?  Yes.  I'll get to my solution for this later.

After we scheduled the venue, of course there's the purchasing of the dress, the showers, the flowers and everything else... just so I don't have a post a mile long, I'll break down the planning tidbits into individual posts.  Enjoy! 

Hello, there!

Hi there, stranger!  Let's get acquainted!  My name is Katie.  I'm an early twenty-something, new wife, new teacher, new Arizonan, getting settled into my life with my wonderful husband.  Come along with me on my adventures in teaching, marriage, crafting, shopping, and everything else in between.