Step Away from the Drive-Thru… (free printable)

I made this printable ages ago, in hopes of inspiring you all to make changes in your diets and lifestyles.  I never posted it.  If you want to make a lifestyle change, this is where I suggest you start.
Pretend the drive-thru doesn’t exist.
It’s healthy for your body and your pocketbook.
Simply drag to your desktop and save.
As a part of Project Graveyard, the month
where I post what’s been sleeping in my draftbox.
In health,
Continue Reading

Holiday Gift Ideas for Teachers: Do’s & Don’ts

holiday gift ideas for teachers, teacher gift ideas


By the end of my 7th year of teaching, I amassed 1,500 candles, 74 bottles of body lotion/shower gels, and 45 coffee mugs.

Please for the love of consumerism, do not buy these for the teachers in your child’s life.


Of course, I appreciated all gifts. It just becomes a running joke after you open that 45th: Best Teacher in the Universe Mug! Another apple-scented candle from Bath & Body Works!

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not being tacky or ungrateful, just real.  Real meaning I worked in both private and public schools here in Chicago.  With well-to-do families and those on food stamps.  Real meaning I needed basic supplies like construction paper and books.

Rather than another mug or apple candle, I wanted copy paper the most, as Chicago schools often ration it out like butter and sugar during a world war.

Given that I am on the purchasing end of the teacher gifts spectrum now that my sons are in school, I wanted to pass along some “do’s & don’ts”.

This is what your child’s teachers and therapists really want to tell you:

Many teachers make crap money.  I know I did. My first year teaching, I made UNDER $20,000 a year.  I spent at least $2000 on my classroom.  Sad, right?

What made the difference that year was the gift cards to bookstores, Target, dollar stores, etc. It really helped me build my dream classroom.
Teacher Gifts Do’s:

1.) Purchase gift cards.  Yes, they seem impersonal, but in all reality, your child’s teacher spends a LOT out of their own pocket on books, craft items, and school supplies.  If you want, include something handmade with said gift card.

Gift cards to craft stores, dollar stores, teacher stores, and Target are a good bet. The dollar bins at Tarjay alone are enough to make most teachers smile.  General mall or debit card gift cards are awesome as well.  If your child’s teacher is a coffee junkie, feed their habit with the usual chains.  Awake teachers are happy teachers.  I have yet to work in a school where the coffee pot is ever NOT brewing.

2.) Give spa treatments! Manis, pedis, massages, and the like are great for those underpaid and overworked teachers!  One lovely family, who I had three of their little ones, gave me a gift card to my favorite salon at the time.  That really impressed me.

3.) Consult with other parents on a massive gift.  One year, my first grade class bought me a digital camera.  This was way back in the early 2000s before camera phones existed. That was very meaningful and relevant to my teaching.  I used it to build my portfolio for my master’s and take great photos of my classes.

4.) Include the gift receipt! 

5.) Consider making something personal from the class. My best gifts were scrapbook of my classes throughout the year made by my room parents.  It was by far the most thoughtful gift I received teaching, and one I still cherish today

6) Something homemade from your child can NEVER go wrong.  We teachers gobble that stuff up.  I have a file with all the handmade cards, photos, and letters.

7.) Stock their classroom libraries!  Consider replenishing consumable classroom supplies: stickers, stamp pads, etc are always a good bet.  If you are of the crafty variety, I’m sure Pinterest has like 15,000 ideas for you.

8.)If money is tight, a letter of gratitude.  A genuine letter, especially if your child’s teacher has gone beyond the scope of their job.

Extra credit:  Look around your child’s classroom.   Does the teacher have collections of any kind?  One music teacher I worked with was obsessed with Hello Kitty. Imagine her delight if you added to that collection.

Any parent that would have bought me vintage lunchboxes would have been awesome {I had them all over my classroom}

So, observance is key.

Teacher Gift Don’ts:

1.) Send baked goods or food of any kind.  Your teacher may be battling with her weight or have food allergies.  For instance, I can’t eat gluten, yet well meaning neighbors drop cookies I have to toss in the trash.    My favorite “food” gift was a gift card to Whole Foods.

2.) Forget the aides in your child’s classroom.  They work just as hard as the teachers, but for even less money.  My son’s aides change his diaper and work one on one with him daily.  I adore these women.

3.) Buy clothes or accessories.   I think it’s too personal. If it’s not your teacher’s style, they may feel obligated to wear it.   If you really want to do this, please make sure to also give the gift receipt.

4.) Buy things that scream “teacher”.  The apples, alphabet, etc.  Unless your child’s classroom looks like an apple explosion by all means, feed that teacher’s apple obsession.

5.) Please step away from the scented candles, soaps, lotions, and coffee mugs.  Chances are, your teacher has a closet at home FULL of these gifts.  I have many teachers in my family who often regift these items to unsuspecting grandmothers and aunts.  Don’t add to the madness.

What are your thoughts on teacher/therapist gifts?

For more caustic wit and brilliance, please follow me via the time sucks of social media.
I want to see your pretty faces here.
I really do.
You are pretty.


{This post is reworked from one I wrote in 2011}

p.s.:My tune has changed on teacher gifts a wee bit this year, as I have 7 teachers and 8 therapists to buy for, between my two sons. 15 teachers in total. Wow.  That’s more than the people I buy for in my family!

I will share more on what I do for them exactly in the week ahead.  If you have less than 15, well you’ve come to the right blog post.


Sharing @ Happy Hour at Craftberry Bush

Continue Reading

Top Ten Holiday Gifts for Kids with Autism

holiday gifts for kids with autism, holiday gift ideas for children with autism
Need gifts for kids with autism?  Confused on what to get your own kid?  Here are the sensory seeking toys my son Moose adores and his NT {neurotypical} brother Monkey has a blast with as well.

For those who don’t know, kids with autism often don’t have pretend play like NT kids do. So buying Moose the latest action figure or Lego set isn’t going to fly.

Moose prefers to MOVE! Bounce! Crash. Spin.  Swing.  He never had interest in typical toys since the age of 2 when autism struck.

Playing with my sons is a full-body workout. An added bonus? I no longer have a gym membership.

1.) Parachute.  This helps with social interaction, following directions, etc.

hoilday gifts for kids with autism, sensory processing

@ Target {here}

2.) Exercise ball.  Great for strengthening core muscles.  Most kids with autism have low muscle tone. Don’t buy one from a sensory magazine.  A smaller size exercise ball works just fine.   Moose uses my yoga ball.  Added bonus, others in the house benefit as well.  A 2 for 1 gift!

gifts for kids on the autism spectrum
@Target {here}

3.) Scooter Board.  Santa brought this for Moose last year.  It has been used every day since Christmas Day 2011.  Good for sensory input and core building.  Genius, given that this scooter board is under $25!  Just like the ones you used in PE as a kid.

@Amazon here

4.) Bilibo.  Moose could spin for hours in this thing.  It really helps regulate him.  All kids in my house are drawn to this odd shaped piece of plastic.  I was skeptical about the reviews, but clearly, it is popular for a reason.

@ Target: {here}


5.) Tunnels.  According to Moose’s doctor, the more kids with autism crawl, the more the social wiring in their brain regulates.  Moose is in this tunnel often.


@ Target {here}

6.) Tents. Great for hiding when life is too overwhelming.  I store these behind our couches when not in use.


Tent at Target on the cheap here

7.) Indoor swing.  Moose’s Nana bought him this one from Ikea last Christmas.  The whole she-bang was less than $40.

{Ikea may still have it!}

8.) Bean bag.  We have a fancy one from Z Gallerie that we purchased before I had kids.  Great for sensory input and crashing.  If you are crafty means, these are not that difficult to sew.  But, if not, there’s some reasonable ones like the one below:


Beanbag @ Target.  Must buy in store.

9.)  Bouncy house.  All kids should have one if the funds allow.  Great for kids that live in horrific climates like our beloved Second City.  Great for tiring out the tykes.  Ours was less than $200, fits in our dollhouse, and has paid for itself already.  Plus, you don’t have to drag your kids to those flu-invested blow-up places in the dead of winter.

@ Target.  Worth the investment: Here

10.)  If you are of the financial iPad would make a fantastic addition.  There’s tons of research on the tremendous effect iPads have on visually-oriented kids with autism.  Moose doesn’t really interact with his, but the Sesame Street You Tube videos are used as positive reinforcers during his ABA sessions.  He is starting to take interest in his iPad as of this article being updated.  Yea!

iPads for Autism.  Here 

11.) If the child you are shopping for is in ABA therapy, Moose received these ABA photo cards from his Nana this year. They are pricey, retailing for $150! But, I found them on Amazon for much cheaper.  Behold:

{not #aff via Amazon}

12.) Especially in these winter months, an indoor trampoline is necessary for kids who need that sensory input.  Also, great for parents of NT kids, who just want to wipe them out before bedtime.

gifts for kids with autism

Yup. Every home with kids needs one.  @Target here

Extra Credit:

If your gift recipient is a chewer…get them the chewies or chewlery.  I need to order more, as our 20 chewies have all been lost or eaten by my evil Boston Terrier, Sir Doodle.  Now Moose is back to gnawing on Matchbox cars and his fingers.  Gah.


If you or someone you love have purchased gifts for kids with autism…please share your ideas below in the comments!

Enlighten me! 

Stay tuned for more epic holiday ideas, crafts, and musing,


For more caustic wit and brilliance, please follow me via the time sucks of social media.
I want to see your pretty faces here.
I really do.



Post above contains #aff links.  I was not perked by any mention herein.  Though I should be.

*updated from 2011’s post

Continue Reading

sweet potato oven fries recipe

sweet potato oven free recipe

Most store-bought fries are coated in flour or wheat starch, so the convenience factor for my family is out of the question.   Luckily, with enough experimentation, this recipe replicates what I miss so much about those bagged and easy fries.

With a little more elbow grease and cleanup, at least I know what is going into our food.

As an added bonus, my boys are gobbling up these lil vitamin a powerhouses.  For those on SCD or GAPS diets, I hear butternut squash works well, but then you can’t use any starches to coat them.  Maybe they could be coated with a nut flour?  Hmmm.  I smell another recipe coming on…

I n g r e d i e n t s
– 2 large sweet potatoes
– 2 T potato starch
-Misto sprayer with extra virgin olive oil {or melted coconut oil or ghee}
-kosher salt or large grain salt

D i r e c t i o n s
0.) Preheat oven to 425 degree.
1.) Scrub potatoes and cut in half . Or save the time and use a fry cutter.
2.) Place the raw fries in a large baggie and toss with the potato starch {corn starch can also be used, but I prefer potato starch}
3.) Arrange on a glass baking dish lined with parchment or a nonstick silicon pad {this is key as it gives the fries more crisp}.  I use the non bleached variety.
4.) Spray the fries with olive oil sprayer.  Sprinkle with salt.
5.) Bake for 15-20 minutes.   {I’ve found that if you have a convection setting you don’t need to flip them during baking, if not, you should}


Have your fries…and eat them too,


Continue Reading

hauntingly beautiful…


Music haunts me.  A song will come on the radio, and suddenly I’m taken back to age 16.  19.  25.  29…

This song, from a local band here in Chicago called Farkus {yes, aptly named from that evil character in A Christmas Story}, will forever remind me of this year.

Take a listen.


Here it is on iTunes. This Happens Everyday by Farkus. It will be the best 99 cents you’ve ever spent on music this year.

Happy Halloween,


Continue Reading

Halloween Alphabet Word Wall Tutorial


From my Halloween archives.  For those of your new to my site, this is one of my favorite projects I made for my children: seasonal/holiday word walls.  This one, in particular, is my favorite…


Although Moose is in special ed preK 5 days a week, I still make a huge point to homeschool with my boys.  We have a “circle” time each morning.

Concepts like holidays are still tough for Moose to grasp, so I decided to take this Halloween up a notch with a Halloween/fall word wall!  This project would be great for kids preschool through 5th grade.  The older kids can brainstorm ideas.  Younger kids would benefit from exposure to new words.


Children with autism are primarily visual learners, so I want Moose to really “get Halloween” this year. Hence, the word wall with picture cues. That’s one of the tough parts of autism is holidays…

Monkey is talking up a storm, so this word wall will also build his prior knowledge and vocabulary.

Enough of the teacher talk.  Making a visually based word wall is important for all readers. I don’t think it’s enough to have “just the word” unless you are talking sight words, then different story.

But if your word wall focuses on nouns and verbs, why not include a picture?

I think having a themed word wall will break up the monotony of having the boys’ favorite people, places, and things on our usual ABC word wall.

So here’s what I used-


-two nails
-silver cord ribbon
-a pack of clothespins from the dollar store
-chip board letters ala Tar-jay dollar sections
-contact paper for durability
-various photos, clip art, magazine photos, old Halloween cards


1.) Choose a wall with at least five feet in length.
2.) Paint your clothespins and adhere letters.
3.) Brainstorm various concrete words associated with Halloween/autumn.
4.) Create ABC cards with photos, clip art, and WORDS attached.  This can be done in MS word or picmonkey’s collage feature.
5.) Use ghetto lamination: clear contact paper on both side of the Halloween abc cards, so young kids won’t rip your hard work!







Some extreme close-ups of a few of my favorites:




Sharing @

This post marks Day 11 of 31 for
Here are the other posts…

Continue Reading

Halloween Wreath: Nevermore…

halloween wreath, Poe-inspired wreath

My theme for Halloween decorating this year is elegant, but creepy.  So, I took my famous recession wreath {named solely so it can be interchangeable throughout the seasons}, and made a Halloween wreath inspired by one of my favorite authors Edgar Allen Poe.


  • grapevine wreath form
  • creepy cloth ala Dollar Tree
  • crow
  • 20 gauge floral wire
  • hot glue
  • fabric flowers {some homemade, and some from Forever 21’s accessory section}
  • my grandmother’s broken pearls
  • white spray paint
  • stick stolen from Mother Nature
  • various gems and such
  • leftover berry picks from momnivore’s dilemma’s most popular project: the tabletop pearled Christmas tree

  1.  Spray paint small stick for crow to stand on. Set aside.
  2. Drape creepy cloth over wreath form, and cut away excess in the center.
  3. Arrange flowers and berry picks.  Use clips or dabs of hot glue to hold them in position.
  4. Center stick across the middle of the wreath. Use a short length of jewelry wire to set in place.
  5. Twist pearls around the stick.
  6. Use same wire to fixate the crow’s feet.  No, I’m not talking wrinkles here.
  7. Stand back, and admire.



Have Halloween projects over your own?  Join the over 140 other ideas at our Halloween link party!

{just click the button}

This project is bought to you by my 31 days of Halloween insanity.

Here’s my other posts{not visible in RSS, sorry- please click over}:

Sharing @  House of Hepworths, The Shabby Creek Cottage

Continue Reading

on letting go…

Back Camera

It was a dark and ugly morning.

I really did wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  I found myself tense, short with the kids, needing a shower.  I looked up in the mirror, and the bags under my eyes screamed back at me.

You know it’s a bad morning when you make it a point to get dressed and wear some make-up every day, and you looked like hot hell.  I vowed not to wear yoga pants, anymore, and today, I just didn’t care.  I pulled them out of retirement, and left the house with the evil yoga pants, no bra, and full winter gear.

I dropped Monkey at Nana Magic’s before I took Moose to school.  I planned to have a brief, but lovely afternoon, working before carting Moose to the clinic for therapy.  Eating a quiet lunch.  Updating some stuff on the classroom creative.  Until Moose’s teacher pulled me aside just before I was about to leave.

A few weeks back I learned that a spot was opening for Monkey at Moose’s school in the regular ed 3 year old program.  I felt nervous about it, because I wanted to homeschool this year, but part of me thinks school would be great for him.

“That spot we mentioned that was opening in December?  It’s opening next week.  He can start Monday.”

You know what else starts Monday?  5 mornings a week of ABA therapy for Moose.

Monday looms like a planned c-section.  Everything is about to change, and I’m not sure what the outcome with be.

My quiet mornings with the boys will be loaded with in-home therapy.  My house must be in tip-top shape again, just like the Early Intervention days.  My home will feel staged, like a relator showing it.  No crumbs.  No mess.  Putting our make-up over the acne of everyday living type of thing.

It just feels bittersweet, like the time alone with the boys is fading. God, they are 3 and 5 now.  So much of my energy has gone into “fighting autism” and “healing” that at times, I don’t feel like I’ve had a normal motherhood.

But what is normal, anyway?

I look at some of my friends, whose children don’t have special needs, and wonder what they worry about.  College funds?  Elite preschool acceptance?  These things seem so auxiliary to me now.

I just want potty-training and full sentences for Moose.  A normal childhood as possible for Monkey.

I look in the mirror, now that I’ve been at this for 5 years, and I just look tired, and I find myself questioning it all.

When I sent Moose to preK last year, I didn’t shed a single tear.  It was best for both of us.  He was impossible to work with at home, and school ensured that he was getting what he needed.

But with Monkey?  It’s different.  He just turned 3 two weeks before the school cut off, so he’s a young 3. I kept Moose home at that age.  This year was supposed to be our year of “mommy and me” afternoons, and it’s been cut short.  But I know Monkey having neurotypical modeling of peers is important.  Separation from me is important.  I saw the snack that his preK offers and almost died. Gluten and dairy ladened.

Maybe it’s the universe telling me to let go.  I found myself crying after I pulled away from Moose’s school.  Like, full out, crying, and I’m not really the type to cry anymore.

The afternoon put the morning into perspective.  I need to put the computer away more in the mornings like I have been.  Blast music and dance with the boys.  Turn off the phones.  Be more patient.  Plan better. Organize the night before. Have life showroom ready.

And  burn the yoga pants.

Off to put on a happy face,



Continue Reading

a quick Halloween vignette

halloween vignette

A few old hardcovers with the spines facing inward, mixed with a craft store skull, a few reject flowers from a future etsy shoppe, my year round sparkly owl, and one of my dollar store must-haves for Halloween made a quick and easy Halloween vignette.

Everyone at Moose’s birthday party loved my Halloween decor.  I can’t believe how many people don’t know the wonders of creepy cloth.  Lots of dramatic effect for $1.

The bright side?

It’s all kid-proof, for the most part.  The sparkly owl isn’t glass, but it’s heavy.  And if pitched at the innocent dog, could result in an ER visit.

My vignettes are rearranged by the boys all day. You should see what my crow’s nest looks like now.  It needs an after{math} picture.

So the top of the bookcase was the safest choice.  My dog thanked me.

See you back tomorrow for more 31 days of Halloween.

I may need to take a sick day, though.

I feel a autumn cold coming on…


Continue Reading
1 2 3 38