Healthy Halloween School Snacks - Juice Box Ghost

Monday, October 9, 2017

In recent years, school policies regarding the kind of treats that parents send in for parties have required they either be healthy snacks or not food at all. I am fully on board with this, because the first couple of years of having a kid in school were spent incredulous at the sheer volume of treat bags my kid brought home.

Since Halloween is basically synonymous with candy, it felt important to do something good enough to distract the kids from the fact they're not getting any candy at their class's Halloween party.

I spent a lot of time at my place of worship on Pinterest, rolling my eyes at the complex, time consuming, super cute and crafty ideas from moms who either have far more time on their hands or, like me, sometimes forget to take their meds.

But I still wanted to do something for my son's preschool class, and the Mommy Who's Psycho Notably Enthusiastic About Halloween needs to deliver.

So I looked poked around the pantry and came up with this half-assed adorable idea for juice box ghosts that you can throw together in minutes. Enjoy!

Juice Boxes
Coffee Filters
Glue Gun
Small Child (optional)
Coffee (optional... Who are we kidding. This should be the first item on every project supply list.)

He was super helpful. Super. Helpful.


Step 1 - Draw The Ghost Faces
Ask the small child to help because he wants to help and drawing ghost faces on coffee filters seems pretty harmless. Immediately realize putting a Sharpie in the hands of said small child was a mistake.

Bonus Round: Realize after you've already done half of them that the Sharpie is seeping through the coffee filters and your countertop now features a series of little ghost faces.

Step 2 - Glue The Ghosts On
Plug in the glue gun to heat up. Sip coffee. Leap into action every time the small child tries to touch the hot glue gun.

Put a dollop of glue on two edges of the sides of the each box.

Bucket List Item: do a glue gun project and not burn my fingers

Important: Don't use too much glue, or the poor teacher will be cursing your name while 17 small humans ask her for help getting the coffee filters off so they can then ask for help putting the straws in.

More or less center the ghost face on the front of the box and lightly press the coffee filter into the glue. Burn your fingers and drop the juice box. Repeat as necessary.

I knocked out enough of these for a preschool classroom in about 10 minutes, managed to drop it off at school just in time for the class's Halloween celebration, and the teacher gushed like it was the coolest thing she'd ever seen.

Next time you're scrambling for a tribute to maintain your spot in the Cool Mommy Brigade, give this a shot.

Do you have any ideas for your own super simple Halloween themed healthy classroom snacks? I'm all ears!

Cutest ever army of the undead

I pinned this post to my Halloween Party Foods board.
I tweeted this post because I can't help myself. The Twitter, it's shiny.

Halloween Burlap Bubble Wreath

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

As I mentioned already, I ended up hosting a wreath making party.

You can see the obsessively planned and agonized over burlap and ribbon wrapped Halloween themed wreath I made that day in this other post.

What I hadn't planned on, though in hindsight I should have expected, was that just like after any party where guests bring things... people left their leftovers.

Since wreath making supplies can get expensive they didn't leave the big stuff. But, I was left with a good bit of mismatched floral flotsam.

Cut to the week or so before said estrogen drenched gathering... I was helping my good friend and neighbor (and instigator of said wreath gathering) do her yard for Halloween. There was a little styrofoam skull and hands that had fallen off something else; she said I could take it or throw it away. I knew it was perfect for... some project I hadn't yet conceived.

Needless to say, I had my peanut butter meets chocolate moment and... voila! Between a square frame I'd found on clearance but didn't know what to do with, a random sampling of wreath party leavings, a little freaky fabric I pulled from my stash, and the rescued body parts, I ended up with one of my most favorite wreaths I've made.

Moral of the story... hoard other people's trash and you can make pretty things! Wait, no.... that can't be right. Anyway. Poing being: WREATH! Skulls! Halloween! HAPPEE!

I pinned this post to my Halloween wreath board and my crafts board.

Halloween Themed Burlap & Ribbon Wrapped Wreath

Monday, October 2, 2017

So I ended up hosting a wreath making party. (I know, you're totally shocked!).

I bought the printed ribbon you see above quite some time before. I fell instantly in love with it and I'm pretty sure the world would have ended if I didn't take it home.

I agonized over this project because I wanted to make sure I was absolutely certain how to deploy my special ribbon. I knew it wouldn't survive my incompetent fumbling and having to be redone several times like my much sturdier first wreath project with burlap and felt rosettes.

I got so busy hostessing at the wreath party, plus ended up sharing my glue gun with basically everyone, that I didn't manage to finish it until after everyone left. Which was probably for the best, because my frustration levels with the natural tendency of wrapped wreaths to come out unevenly is not really suitable for public consumption.

But finish it I did, and I am so so so happy with how it turned out! 

It's deceptively simple. This project is really about patience. I should probably get some of that before I attempt another wreath like this. But, totally worth it. Because it's. so. pretty!! Morticia Adams would be proud.

Oh, and I totally made another Halloween wreath with the party leftovers. Because of course I did.

I pinned this post to my Halloween wreath board and my crafts board.

Pirate Theme Birthday Party - DIY Water Bottle Labels

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When my first one turned 6 and wanted a pirate themed birthday party I took plenty of pictures of all the projects with every intention of turning them into a series of DIY pirate party blog posts.

That kiddo is about to turn 10 and my second is about to turn 6... and wants a pirate themed birthday party. 

So this is me, finally putting it all together for you and for me. I'll add links and make a master collection once I get enough up.

Custom Labeled Birthday Party Water Bottles
For reasons that escape me, making your own labels for water bottles is one of the easiest ways to impress people with your party planning prowess.

I love them because they're a quick, cute and kid friendly project.

Flat(s) of bottled water (I get the little 8 oz bottles, I find there's less wasted)
Scotch tape

Printed labels (download a free PDF printable of the water bottle label pictured above)

There are 7 bottle labels per page, so just do the math for how many pages to print based on the number of water bottles you're doing.

1) Cut out the labels. 

If your kiddos are old enough, they can do this with scissors. If you're lazy like me, a paper cutter will make quick work of this, but that's decidedly not a kid friendly option.

2) Tear the existing labels off the water bottles. I highly recommend letting the kiddos do this. It's fun and easy.

3) Tape the new labels on. This is pretty kid friendly, though if precision matters to you then your mileage may vary.

That's it. That's the project. It's so self explanatory I thought about just throwing up the picture and the printable download, but for the sake of search engines and all I figured I should include some words.

Learn From My Mistakes
These labels won't survive being dunked in a cooler full of melting ice at a party. Which should go with out saying... yet here we are.

I pinned this post to my Pirate Theme Birthday Party board, which mostly consists of mind blowing cakes made by incredibly talented people (read: not me).

I shared this post to my obligatory blog Facebook page.

I tweeted this post from my ShesAlwaysWrite tweeter thingy.

Other Pirate Theme Birthday Party Posts
Pirate Theme Birthday Cake

Mixed Messages

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

There's no doubt about the kind of negative messaging women get about their bodies from fashion. I have learned that goes double for fitness gear.

I thought the problem was that I was really, really overweight. Turns out that wasn't it at all.

Now that I've lost 140 pounds and am eyeing my first Half Ironman, I realized I need a new wetsuit.
2015 Chicago Triathlon ~ size 14

The one I wore 80 pounds ago is simply too big now. I passed it on to an awesome woman in my running group. She's a far better swimmer than I will ever be and races more often, so I'm happy to see it get used like nature intended.

My old suit is a size Large/Athena ("Athena" is code for "fat" in triathlon world) only because it was the largest size available anywhere, from anyone. I really needed one a few sizes bigger. Many women who need suits that much bigger go for men's suits. I'm very short and very curvy - men's cut suits simply aren't an option for me.

Imma be honest, the suit baaaaaaarely fit when I was size 22. That alone was depressing, because I'd lost 50 pounds at that point. But it's stretchy enough it got the job done, with the caveat I could only sort of breathe, on account of even women's cut wetsuits aren't intended for my pre-mastopexy 40J girls.

That said, it saved me in several races, and made the biggest race of my life so far possible because hello, Lake Michigan was 59 degrees. It was all I had and I was grateful it got me in the (really fucking cold) water.

Cut to present day. Based on my shiny new weight, I figured I'd need a Small. That's my regular size now in most things, and they're stretchy.

To my dismay, based on my measurements (a muscular 5' 2" and 135-140, which is somehow both a size 4/6 and technically overweight) I discovered I need either a size Medium/Athena or a size Large.

This is from the size chart of the wetsuit company that was the first (and may still be the only) brand to offer designs in Athena sizes and with designs that account for things like hips and boobs.

I like this company a lot. They made it possible for me to have a wetsuit at all. But... damn. Way to make a girl feel like crap.

I shouldn't be surprised, I routinely have to size up to Medium or even Large in running gear. It all tends to run small. But it pisses me off to no end. I shouldn't have had to spend the last decade feeling grateful I was able to force something to sorta work when I spent just as much money as everyone else.

It was far worse when I started out at a size 26/28 - finding fitness clothing was my biggest barrier to becoming fit.  With exception of the Danskin brand, which will have my loyalty forever for clothing me in accurate sizes when no one else would, the "plus size" offerings out there all run just as ridiculously small as their regular sized options. (Case in point... I bought a size 3X Garneau bike jersey that finally fit when got down to about an XL, a real world size difference of 22/24 to 14/16.)

Let me be clear, this isn't about how I feel about my body. I've done a lot of physical and mental work to make peace with my body. What upset me so much is that the average woman is not a size 4. And I will always identify with the women who are not a size 4 because I spent the last couple of decades being just about every size a woman can be.

No woman who is motivated enough to be out there, doing the hard work it takes to race, should be made to feel like she is regarded by equipment makers with disdain simply for existing in a normal, human sized, age grouper body.

The average beautiful, healthy woman is a size 14. And she should not be made to feel like an outcast when searching for something like an expensive piece of equipment to facilitate participation in an endurance event she is doing to feel good about herself and her health and her body.

Women are constantly criticized for our bodies and told to fix them. But fitness gear is cut for anorexic, flat chested pixies. There is little available to comfortably fit most normal, average sized, everyday women with hips and breasts. It's patently absurd that even someone like me, who has gotten down to wearing XS and S in clothing sizes, is forced to be looking at the uppermost size range of what's available on the fitness gear market. And even then, it often doesn't fit because they aren't cut for any sort of real bust.

I can deal with what that does to my dysphoria in therapy. But it doesn't change what it does to the vast majority of us when we are out there sweating in the training trenches, actively doing the right thing for our health, yet are faced with size charts saying we aren't even invited to the party.

No wonder we all hate ourselves.

DIY End of Year Teacher / Therapist Appreciation: Gift Card Bouquet

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Once again I found myself at the end of a school year with half a dozen teachers, classroom aids, therapists and drivers to thank for all the wonderful work they do supporting my special needs kiddos.

I poked around Pinterest for weeks, but was having a hard time finding something that made sense to give to all the different types of professionals, 4 of whom work inside the same classroom.

This adorable concept caught my eye, and a teacher friend confirmed it's something she would like to receive. But at that point I had less than 24 hours left to sort it out and the store I had time to go to didn't have the kind of mini plants I needed.

My backup plan was Starbucks gift cards and and using my savior Tagxedo to make personalized word cloud cards to put them in like I did for the classroom supply teacher appreciation gift basket a few years ago. But it didn't seem nice enough after having my heart set on the floral idea.

This bright, pretty pot of begonias caught my eye as I was doing one last desperate wander through the grocery store. I thought about the little sticks that hold cards in bouquets. And voila! Idea mashup.

The store didn't have any floral card holders, but the craft section had little dowels and  mini clothes pins. The flowers and crafty bits were only about $11 total. I already had card stock at home. Problem solved.

Not officially a project until there's
a reason to break out the glue gun!

I made the word cloud cards half the size of the ones I made last time to make sure they weren't too heavy for the little clothes pins. That allowed me to print two at once on the same piece of card stock. (Free printable card templates below).

This is what you're going for on the front/back of the card stock.

You'd think that would save time and paper, but if your spatial relationship skills are anything like mine then correctly flipping the paper to print the back results in a lot of headdesking and cursing and this...
My incompetence is flexible.
I also managed to get some with upside down text.

I used a ruler to find the center point and my scrapbook cutter to separate the halves because my scissor work leaves something to be desired.

Almost never actually use it to scrapbook but
I've found a hundred other uses for this little gadget.

This is the point at which I enlist the child whose academic and therapeutic team is being appreciated. They've spent the last two years teaching him stuff like how to interact with other humans, and have made impressive progress in getting him to write his name.

The Sharpie was a calculated risk.
Also? When did my baby get so big?!

I think the flowers and cards are just fine on their own. Or possibly paired with something cute and handmade by the kiddo like these hand painted bookmarks we made for the teaching team when my first son was growing out of this same early childhood program.

I had already bought a pile of Starbucks gift cards because I'd given up on finding the right floral solution when I stumbled across the begonias. Since the gift cards were already on hand, I taped one inside each of the personalized teacher cards.

It took longer for the glue gun to heat up than it did to make the card holders.

It would be lovely to give one to each individual team member. I was on a tight timeline, had already spent $100 on Starbucks gift cards and didn't want to figure out how to carry so many full size flower pots into the school. The whole team works out of the same classroom, so in this case I put all four gift cards into the same flower pot. You may want to go with the individual approach, depending on your school team's configuration.

Teachers + Therapists = Appreciated!

Free Printable PDF Templates
Here is a variety of templates with a couple of generic teacher friendly word cloud pictures and thank you messages. If you don't have the time or patience to tinker with custom word clouds and Photoshop, you can mix and match these to whip up homemade cards in less than a minute.

Two Smaller Cards on One Page

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Dual 4.25x5.5 Cards - Outside
Image: General Teacher Word Cloud, Flower

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Dual 4.25x5.5 Cards - Outside
Image: General Teacher Word Cloud, Apple

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Dual 4.25x5.5 Cards - Inside
Message: Thank you for helping me grow!

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Dual 4.25x5.5 Cards - Inside
Message: Thank you for helping me learn!

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Dual 4.25x5.5 Cards - Inside
Message: Thank you for being my teacher!

One Larger Card on One Page

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Single 5.5x8.5 Card - Outside
Image: General Teacher Word Cloud, Flower

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Single 5.5x8.5 Card - Outside
Image: General Teacher Word Cloud, Apple

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Single 5.5x8.5 Card - Inside
Message: Thank you for helping me grow!

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Single 5.5x8.5 Card - Inside
Message: Thank you for helping me learn!

Word Cloud Teacher Appreciation Single 5.5x8.5 Card - Inside
Message: Thank you for being my teacher!

I pinned this post to my teacher gift ideas board.
I shared this post to my Facebook page.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other: On Tater Tots and OCD

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I've been prepping big batches of freezer meals lately because my sweet, beautiful, kind, generous cousin has Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Since I live half a state away, this is one of the only ways I can do something concrete to help.

(If you're so inclined, you can donate here to help with living and medical expenses for her and her 10 yr old daughter.)

Since I'm staring down marathon training, I've also been prepping them in multiples because I'll be happy to have some easy freezer meals on hand once those long runs get reaaaaaally long.

Both of us being down to earth Midwestern girls with a foodie side, I've made a variety wide range of dishes for her freezer and mine. A recent week of chilly rain had me craving something warm and homey, which of course meant comfort food hall of fame contender Tater Tot Casserole.

I had about half the stuff on hand for a single batch. I hit the store to get stuff for a triple batch.

I ended up with far more than the triple batch I was aiming for, so winning!


As I started with the tot layer, I noticed a problem.

Yes. I had to rearrange them for symmetry and retake the photo.
Because if I didn't, the world would end. Obviously.

If your brain is wired like mine, you will spot the problem right away.

If your brain is not wired like mine, you are rolling your eyes right now.

And let's be real, if you're not a Midwesterner or raised in a church social atmosphere you're probably wondering what the hell this and why anyone would want to eat it.

Figured it out yet?  No? Here's a hint...

Houston, we have a problem.

If your brain is wired like mine, you are now filing away the fact that these two distinct products exist so you will not find yourself trapped in the same OCD hell at some future date.

If your brain is not wired like mine, you are wondering how I survived this long and putting me on your mental list of easy targets in the zombies apocalypse.

It is exhausting living with a brain that turns something like this into a heart pounding, short of breath, paralyzed with indecision problem.

But it also makes us creative and resourceful. We do what we've gotta do. Even if that means an impromptu jigsaw puzzle session with frozen tater tots so the crazy people who live in our heads will shut up for a while.

It may be hard to live with, but at least we have the comfort of  knowing when the zombies come, we OCD folk will be the ones with generators and a freezer full of casseroles.

The Follweiler Cycle
This is how an OCD brain works, y'all.
And knowing is half the battle.

This post is pinned to my board Eavesdropping on the Party in my Head
This post is shared on my Facebook page ShesAlwaysWrite