Listen to It

james and the giant peach

It is time for our annual summer road trip, and we loaded up on audio books from the public library earlier this week. I then had to make a trip back to the library because Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss listened to the first batch of books on CD in the TV room before we even packed the car.

Audio books are a great addition to long road trips. They keep voice levels low, so everyone can hear the narrator, and it provides a discussion topic for the whole group since everybody listens to the same story (we play our books on CD aloud– no earphones, although, that is an option). All ages can enjoy a story no matter the actual reading level of the book.

We have been listening to audio books for about 6 years. I cannot gush enough about the benefits of audio books. The narrator reads the book with the correct expression and syntax modeling good oral reading skills for a child. If a child follows along in the printed book at the same time he is listening, sight words, vocabulary, writing mechanics, and varied sentence construction are reinforced. When a group listens to an audio book, it tends to prompt more discussion. This will give a child extra practice re-telling a story, identifying conflicts in the story, and making predictions about future events– all of the skills a (good) active reader utilizes.

bunnicula

I posted an audio book recommendation list awhile back. Many of the books I had on my original list are still here. The Magic Treehouse series is still our favorite. Mary Pope Osborne narrates, and her voice works well. The stories are also a good length for our car attention span. Each story is about an hour and a half.

  • Magic Treehouse (any in the series) read by the author, Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Boxcar Children read by Phyllis Newman
  • Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House book) read by Cherry Jones
  • Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing read by the author, Judy Blume
  • The BFG read by Natasha Richardson
  • James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons
  • The Bunnicula Collection read by Victor Garber
  • No Talking read by Keith Nobbs
  • Benjamin Pratt & The Keepers of the School: Fear Itself read by Keith Nobbs
  • The Wizard of Oz read by Maureen Lipman
  • The Year of Billy Miller read by Dan Bittner
  • Heavy Hitters (or any in the Game Changers series) read by Fred Berman
  • Ribsy (or any Henry Huggins book) read by Neil Patrick Harris
  • Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White
  • The 1oo-Year Old Secret (or any in the Sherlock Files series) read by David Pittu

Avoid:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events read by the author, Lemony Snicket.  (This was probably a bad choice on my part.  Not only was the author’s voice too nasal-y, the book is much darker read aloud, and the content was too old for my children’s ages.)

In my house, we all agree that the narrator is the key to a good audio book. What books have you enjoyed on tape? Who was the narrator?

no talking

 

Paper Pockets

paper pockets tied

Awhile ago I found This Pin for paper pouches that could be used for party favors or little sirsees. It was an easy sewing project (only required one straight sewn edge) and even had the option to assemble without sewing. The pockets reminded me of May Day baskets, and I knew they were a crafty RoomMom idea waiting to happen, so I saved the pin for a rainy day.

paper pocket w lottery ticketsToday is the rainy day. It turns out the paper pockets are just right for scratch off lottery tickets, which I deemed the 2014 end of year gift idea for all of the teachers and support staff at school who work with my Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss. I purchased a big stack of $1 scratch off lottery tickets and filled the little envelopes. My kids added Avery 8163 Thank You Gift Labels that I printed and signed their names. We hole punched and tied the end with curly ribbon. The Original Post with the paper pouch directions had a different suggestion for sealing the end closed.

paper pockets materials

Materials

  • scrapbook paper pieces (6″ x 7″)
  • double sided adhesive roller (I used Scotch brand)
  • hole punch
  • curly ribbon
  • Avery white shipping labels (#8163– 2″ x 4″)

Directions

  • Using a paper cutter (essential), cut scrapbook paper into 6″ x 7″ pieces.
  • Using the double sided adhesive roller, place a sticky strip down two adjacent sides of the paper. There will be tape down a 6″ side and a 7″ side, and they will meet at the corner.

paper pocket adhesive directions

  • Roll the paper up to look like a toilet paper roll with the 6″ sticky side on the outside of the roll. Carefully make sure the edges line up straight. Press the 6″ side, so it sticks to the length of the side of paper beneath it forming the roll.

paper pocket rolled

  • The inside of one end of the roll will have the remaining sticky edge exposed. On a hard surface, press the edge down flat sealing the end closed.

paper pockets pressed end

  • If desired, sew a zig zag stitch along the pressed end leaving a 3/8″ seam allowance. Backstitch at the beginning and end, so the thread does not unravel. The sewn edge adds detail to the pocket but is not necessary.

paper pockets sewing

  • As an additional decorative edge, you can cut with craft scissors to add a scalloped border. My (crappy dull) craft scissors did not cut through two layers of paper well, and I ruined some of my ends.

paper pockets fancy edge

  • Gently press the pocket flat and attach a label to the front.
  • Hole punch the center of the open end.
  • Fill with treats.
  • Tie curly ribbon through the hole and use scissors to curl.

paper pockets pile

Alternate Finish

  • Do not press flat after sewing the one ending closed.
  • Fill with treats.
  • Holding the pocket with the closed end flat on the table, pinch the opening closed the opposite direction (up and down) and press the corners slightly.

paper pocket closed

  • Roll a little adhesive in the center of the open top and press firmly.
  • Sew (or use more adhesive) to finish closing.

paper pockets sewn closed

I know you are probably thinking, “Her teacher gift label should say ‘I am so lucky to have had you as a teacher this year’ since it would go so well with a lottery ticket and that is what everybody on Pinterest would do.” I just don’t do play-on-word notes.

5 more days of school where I work! Bring on summer…

Teacher Appreciation Idea with a Twist

rosemary bread teacher gift

In my last post, I shared a banana bread recipe baked in mini loaf pans that I wrapped up to give as teacher appreciation gifts. Most people have a family banana bread recipe, so it is not that new and exciting. I was thinking it might be a nice twist to bake a breakfast bread recipe that may not be as widely recognized. I pulled out a recipe I have for Rosemary-Olive Oil Bread because I needed a few more teacher sirsees this week. This is a savory bread, and a slice tastes REALLY good toasted.

rosemary bread sliced

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 2 t. dried rosemary
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 T. freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 c. apple juice
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • Pam or Crisco
  • standard loaf pan (8″x 4″) or 3 mini loaf pans (5 3/4″ x 3 1/4″)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray or grease the pan with Crisco.
  • In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, pine nuts, baking powder, rosemary, salt, and lemon zest.

rosemary bread dry ingredients

  • In another bowl, blend the eggs, apple juice, and olive oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

rosemary bread dry and wet ingredients

  • Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and smooth the surface.

rosemary bread pan

  • Bake 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

rosemary bread baked

Notes

  • The pine nuts can be replaced with chopped walnuts or pecans. You can also use a combination of nuts if you only have a 1/4 cup of pine nuts and need to add a few pecans to make 1/2 cup. This combination has been tested and approved.
  • If using mini loaf pans, fill about halfway with batter. I get about 3 mini loaves per recipe. Reduce the cooking time for the mini size. After about 30 minutes, watch until the top is browned, then test the center to determine if the rosemary bread is baked through.
  • Wrap with parchment paper and have kids decorate with stickers to give as gifts.
  • These work well as a teacher appreciation gift, hostess gift, or housewarming present.

rosemary bread cooling

Teacher Appreciation Idea

banana bread teacher gift

Rather than throw away the two black bananas sitting on my counter, I baked banana bread. Teacher Appreciation Week is next week, so I used my mini loaf pans and wrapped up the loaves to bring as teacher thank you gifts for my children’s teachers. I always get hungry mid-morning at school and need a little breakfast-y bite. I thought my kids’ teachers might need a little snack too. The mini loaves are a good size for eating at school since they equal about two servings (and taste great with coffee). Teachers can share with a co-teacher or have a bite in the morning and finish the little banana loaf at lunch or at the end of the day.

ripe bananas

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 3/4 c. regular oats (not instant)
  • 1 c. mashed ripe banana (about 2)
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Crisco or Pam
  • standard loaf pan (8″x 4″) or 3 mini loaf pans (5 3/4″ x 3 1/4″)

banana bread sliced

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Stir in oats.

banana bread dry ingredients

  • In a separate bowl, combine mashed banana, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and eggs.
  • Add wet mixture to dry mixture. Stir until just moist.

banana bread combining ingredients

  • Pour batter into an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan coated with cooking spray or greased with Crisco. Bake for 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack about 15 minutes and then gently turn pan over to drop the loaf out of the pan. Serve warm or let cool completely on the wire rack and wrap in foil to store.

banana bread mini pans

Notes

  • If using mini loaf pans, fill about halfway with batter. I get about 3 mini loaves per recipe. Reduce the cooking time for the mini size. After about 30 minutes, watch until the top is browned, then test the center to determine if the banana bread is baked through.
  • Wrap with parchment paper and have kids decorate with stickers if giving as gifts.
  • These work well as a teacher appreciation gift, hostess gift, and housewarming present.

banana bread cookedYou know I love teacher gift ideas!

I have a few ideas in the hopper for Teacher Appreciation Week and end of the year, but I like to keep the pipeline stocked. Any other suggestions out there?

Life Skills

sleeping bag

A long standing tradition in the 4th grade at my school is a 3-day, 2-night science field trip to learn about the ecosystems of barrier islands in South Carolina. For many students, it is their first time away from home without their parents.

We stay in cabins and eat in a dining hall, so we don’t expect the students to pitch a tent or cook meals over an open fire. However, the children do need to be able to eat family style at a table of 12, and they have to make their own bed. Whether a child is attending a sleepaway camp or just a sleepover at a friend’s house, there are a few handy life skills that are good to know by about age 10.

Packing

  • Children should be able to roll a sleeping bag and get it back into a stuff sack or tied into the roll. Even if kids don’t ever attend a campout, they might need to use a sleeping bag on a sleepover at a friend’s house and will need to be able to put the sleeping bag away.
  • Kids need to know how to make a bed. I think hospital corners would be aiming a little high, but it is helpful to know how to get a fitted sheet around the edges of a mattress and pull blankets up straight.
  • Have the ability to fold clothing and pack a bag in a semi-organized fashion. Folding clothing does not have to be the perfect fold in thirds around a shirt board, but kids should be able to get a shirt or pants folded in half, socks together, and have an idea about layering items in their bag.

Meals

  • Many families have activities after school that run through dinner time, and it can be difficult to sit together at the dinner table. When you do have family meals, remind kids that they should pass food to everyone at the table. Don’t serve yourself and then set the dish right in front of you forgetting to offer food to other people.
  • Leave enough food in the dish, so everyone gets a first helping.
  • Practice asking to have salt and pepper, ketchup, or seconds on an item passed rather than standing up and reaching across others at the table.
  • Show kids how to wipe a counter or table. Push the sponge (or cloth) in one direction, so all the food crumbs stay in front of the sponge rather than wiping in a rapid circular motion. The circular motion smears dropped food all over the eating space grossing out the potentially OCD adult sitting nearby.

wiping a tableHygiene

  • My son, Mr. Star Wars, still needs occasional help washing his hair to get it clean and rinsed well. Most days, he can wash it by himself, but I do a deep clean every few weeks. Help your child practice washing hair on his own and understand all the pieces and parts that are supposed to be washed in the shower. Part of our 4th grade trip is a visit to the pluff mud pit. Several students needed a second turn in the shower after this particular activity.
  • Learn how to get and use Kleenex when needed.
  • Let kids apply their own sunblock every once in awhile. The sunblock sticks work well on faces for inexperienced sunblock appliers. Using a mirror while applying sunblock helps too.

mud pit

What are other good skills kids need to have when they are away from home? One skill I learned at camp is how useful a poncho can be for many things besides rainy weather– like bug protection, sun protection, mud protection…

BI poncho