My Super Bowl Spread

Of course I am not talking about the difference in points for the game Sunday. I am talking about the party dips I will have on hand while watching the Super Bowl. This is a big decision for me. Do I go with a cream cheese or mayonnaise based dip? Hot or cold? Do I pretend I am adding a healthy component and choose a dip that is served with raw vegetables? I went back through TheRoomMom files and photos to help me decide. I think I am going to make the hot artichoke dip because it is a favorite from childhood. I will need something on the side– The Big Sandwich perhaps?

Click on the pictures below for recipes and tips for these super party snacks.

P.S. I had to look up the spelling of Super Bowl. I was not sure if it should be one word or two. Is that confusing for anybody else?

Hot Dips

hot artichoke dip

buffalo chicken dip

pizza dip

hot vidalia onion dip

charleston cheese dip

Cold Dips

dill dip in bread bowl

sun dried tomato dip

pan fried onion dip2

bacon almond cheese dip w cracker

Black Bean Salsa Dip

Mexican 7 layer dip


Mr. Star Wars Gets a Job

rainbow loom materials

Mr. Star Wars is that kid who will knock on your door and ask to rake your leaves for a nominal fee. He likes earning money. He reminds me a little of Henry Huggins. One of my dearest friends’ parents is organizing a convention for a large organization and needs 500 Rainbow Loom bracelets. TheRoomFriend threw out a request for the bracelets probably without really expecting a response. I offered Mr. Star Wars’ services. As you may have gathered, when we dive into a project at TheRoomMom’s house there is no tolerance for low effort or half assed commitment. It’s over-the-top extreme project work or nothing at all.

Since Friday, we have “loomed” 189 bracelets. Mr. Star Wars is getting paid per bracelet. More importantly, he has used just about every 3rd grade math and time management skill he has to complete this job. Here is the list of skills we covered with this job order. I am tempted to match it to the Common Core Standards that are all the buzz right now, but I will refrain.

rainbow loom single

The Prototype

  • Pre-Planning Before we committed to the order, Mr. Star Wars made one sample bracelet. We needed to know the time it would take to finish one bracelet and how many bands we would use in each bracelet. We created a ladies’ size (24 bands) and a men’s size (28 bands).
  • Setting Manageable Goals (Ha! As if I ever limit myself to the manageable and appropriate level)– We committed to 100 bands and agreed to try to make more.

The Materials

  • Mental Math The order is for green and yellow bracelets. I hit every store in our area for the right colors. We bought bags of 600, 300, and 100. There were fewer yellow available and various shades of green. We had to do a little mental math at the store to calculate how many bands we would need to make at least 100 bracelets. 
  • Rounding we rounded each bracelet to 25 bands since that divides into 100 so nicely. A bag of 600 would give us about 24 bracelets. I bought extra… just in case we felt like making more than 100 (as if there was any doubt).

rainbow loom counting

The Assembly Line

  • Patterns We couldn’t just open every bag of bands and dump them on the table. The bracelet colors had to be consistent. We use 2-3 shades of green and 1 yellow in each bracelet.
  • Math Facts Do you remember the math facts tips from last week? Mr. Star Wars had to calculate how many bands he needed in each color for each sized bracelet. He came up with several groupings. In the ladies’ size, we have 3 colors of 8 bands each or 4 colors of 6 bands each. In the men’s size, we have 3 colors of 9 bands each and add one extra of the starting color or 4 colors of 7 bands each.
  • Grouping We count out the groups of bands in coordinating colors into a 12-cup cupcake pan. We produce 12 bracelets at a time and then re-fill the cupcake pan. After 4 groups of 12 in one size, we make 2 more for a total of 50. We then switch to the other sized bracelet.

rainbow loom sorting


  • Collaboration When we started, it took Mr. Star Wars about 5 minutes to make 1 single chain Rainbow Loom bracelet. Pulling the bands off the crochet hook and over the next band was slowing him down. We figured out a tandem system where one person holds the crochet hook, and the other moves the bands. We cut the production time to less than 3 minutes per bracelet.

rainbow loom color order


  • Problem Solving We negotiated a price per bracelet that did not include the materials. When we set the price, we worked out the number of bracelets we could make in an hour, and Mr. Star Wars came up with an hourly rate. We then divided the number of bracelets by the cost per hour and proposed a price.
  • Earnings Mr. Star Wars constantly calculates how much he will earn every time we finish another group of bracelets. Our price per bracelet is less than a dollar, so he is having to convert cents to dollars.


  • Time Management We need to mail the bracelets by Saturday in order for TheRoomFriend to get them in time. We set a goal (200) and divided that by the days we had. We had more time to work this past weekend than we will this week, so we adjusted for that. We set a quota for each day.
  • Rewards TheRoomFriend offered us a bonus for any bracelets we make above 200. We should hit 200 by tonight (Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss are looming while I type). We now have an incentive to go above the goal. I have to say, I am impressed and would hire Mr. Star Wars in a heartbeat.
rainbow loom bracelets

Almost 200 Rainbow Loom bracelets. They are like big bags of green Ramen noodles.

A Classic Party Dip

7 layer dip finished

As you may remember, I do not care about watching football, but I do care about having tasty football snacks. Today I made the classic Mexican 7-Layer Bean Dip. There are many varieties, but they generally start with a bean dip base followed by taco topping layers. I use Fritos Original Bean Dip as my base, which I think adds a little something something. I also use freshly chopped tomatoes rather than salsa, so it is a little less soupy than some I have tasted.

I have never had problems locating cans of Fritos Original Bean Dip until today’s grocery trip. To my horror, I found out that my local Publix no longer carries the bean dip because not enough people were buying it. So, I tried a few other stores and finally found two cans at the gas station convenience store. I think that probably sums up the nutritional value of this party dip, but honestly, who can refuse the stuff?

7 layer dip ingredients


  • 2 (9-oz) cans Fritos Original Bean Dip
  • 1 container guacamole (about 10 oz.)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 pkg mild taco seasoning
  • ~12 oz. sour cream
  • 2 c. Mexican cheese blend, grated
  • 3 green onions, chopped

7 layer dip bite


  • Scoop the 2 cans of bean dip into a 9 x 13 casserole dish and spread evenly across the bottom with a spatula.

7 layer dip bean dip layer

  • Dollop the guacamole on top of the bean dip and gently spread out using the spatula. Try not to disturb the bean dip layer. It’s kind of like frosting a cake.

7 layer dip guac layer

  • Sprinkle the chopped tomatoes on the guacamole.

7  layer dip chopped tomatoes

  • In a small bowl, mix the taco seasoning with the sour cream. Combine well. It will be a light orange color. Spread the sour cream mixture over the guac and chopped tomatoes. Gently spread with the spatula trying not to disrupt the layer beneath.

7 layer dip taco seasoning

7 layer dip sour cream layer

  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
  • Sprinkle the green onions over the cheese.

Mexican 7 layer dip

  • Serve with Frito scoops or tortilla chips.
  • Can be made ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

7 layer dip individualHave you seen the individual Mexican Layer Dips on Pinterest? I had some extra ingredients and made a few in ramekins. Very mini and cute.

Math Fact Madness

math facts flashcards

I attended a parent meeting earlier this week hosted by Miss Priss’ first grade teachers. It was a kind of state of first grade discussion and a heads up of school work that is on the horizon. The hurdle this spring is the math facts tests. This is my second time around the math facts race track. I will admit that I am the kind of mom who sits with my child every night and runs flashcards for 10 minutes (hey, I am a teacher and a rule follower, and I was told to practice every night– I can’t help myself).

Many parents dread math fact tests and wish the whole process would go away, but it does have long term benefits. Students who have automatic recall of math facts by 4th grade can handle long division, multi digit multiplication, and higher level math concepts more easily because they are not struggling to do the small stuff. The head of the primary grades at our school compared math facts to letter sounds. If students don’t know how letter sounds work, they can’t combine the letters into words and sentences. Math facts are your building blocks to bigger math ideas. Even though it may seem like your child will never master math facts, there are strategies to help make the process easier.

math facts flashcard kit

At Home

  • Make flashcards using 3 x 5 notecards. Write the math fact on the front of the card vertically since math fact tests are typically set up with the math problems presented vertically. Use a Sharpie pen to write on the front and write the answer on the back in pencil, so the answer won’t show through the card.
  • Spend no more than ten minutes at a time running the flashcards. There is more benefit to small amounts of daily review rather than one big chunk of study time the night before the math facts test. If you your child really wants to master the math facts, there really is no way around practicing every school night. That means plan to review 5 nights a week.
  • There is no need to practice all of the cards. As a student practices math facts, keep two piles of flashcards. One pile should be the cards kids know without hesitation. The other pile is the math facts that take longer to answer. Continue to practice the more difficult pile. Occasionally mix some cards in from the easy pile, but don’t feel you have to practice every single math fact every single night.
  • At our school, students graduate to the higher numbers upon mastery of the lower numbers. We start with addition and subtraction facts for the 1s, 2s, and 3s. When Miss Priss passes this first test, she will add the 4s math facts but will need to maintain the previous facts. Create sample tests in the style of the school’s test and practice them at home. Include a variety of facts on the test.

math facts 8s test

At School

  • The point of the math facts test is to demonstrate automatic recall, so students need to complete the tests in a short amount of time. A little strategy can help if your student gets nervous when the timer starts. Move left to right across the test and top to bottom– just like reading a book. Do not jump around. Have a system for filling in answers.
  • Be prepared to skip, skip, skip. Often students will fixate on one problem while the clock runs down. Do not pause at one problem too long. If the answer isn’t produced quickly, skip the problem and come back after reaching the end of the test if time allows.
  • Make flashcards of any of the missed problems and practice those flashcards only. It is ideal to practice only two missed math facts at a time. Once the two missed facts are mastered, then add two more that were more difficult until a passing grade is earned.
  • If your child is truly not improving on his or her math facts tests, speak to the teacher. Some teachers will let a student take a test before school without the distraction of other students or let a student call out answers orally to the teacher in a one-on-one situation. This will build confidence, so the student can then take the test whole group.
  • It is not the end of the world if your child never completes a 50 problem math facts test in 2 1/2 minutes (or whatever the goal is at your school). But, it is worth regular review during the school year even if your child never gets that speedy.

math facts flashcard sample


  • Nothing beats a plain old paper flashcard. Students can use these on their own or with a partner. We even keep a set in the car, and Mr. Star Wars will practice for ten minutes on the drive to school. I imagine Miss Priss will do the same.
  • Try to create rhymes or clues to help cement the answers. I think most people are familiar with the 9s trick for multiplication up through 9×9 where you separate the sum and the two numbers total 9.
    • 9×2 = 18– 1 is one less than 2, and 1 and 8 add up to 9
    • 9×3 = 27– 2 is one less than 3, and 2 and 7 add up to 9
  • We have one website and one app we use for a little variety. There are a ton of choices out there. If you are looking for an online tool, try to find practice where you can set the time, the operation, and the maximum numbers that will be viewed in the problems. That way you can target the practice to the range you need. Here are two online resources I like.
  • Give your child practice paper tests likes the ones they will complete at school. Even use a timer to make the practice as authentic as possible. Our school combines addition and subtraction on the same test in the primary grades, and students master up to the 12’s in first grade. Below are links to homemade practice tests for my first grader.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that I have found to master the math facts. As much as your child may want to “wing it” there is no getting around daily practice to become really proficient. That daily practice can be in a variety of forms (flashcards, practice tests, online games, etc.), but it does require repeated review– and lots of it.

The Gateway Book


I contributed a guest post to an upper elementary teaching blog, Minds in Bloom. The post is about helping kids find their gateway book and then using that gateway book to generate spin off books that build a love of reading. See my survival book list or the guest post for an explanation of a gateway book.

My favorite part of the article is the Book Trails. This is a list of books that can be generated from one starter book. Check out the post to see how to build your own book trail!

candy factory book trail

Here is a sample book trail for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Create a list of related books to keep a child reading.