Sunday, June 30, 2013

Someone New and a Special Giveaway!

Today, I am beyond grateful to be featured as the "Someone New" at The Hands-On Teacher in First! It's always special to be able to link up with other blogs and bloggers, and this is a particular treat! In honor of the occasion, I am hosting my very first giveaway!

I have just finished preparing all of my organizational labels for my classroom! They are printed, laminated, cut, and ready to be added to every drawer, box, and basket in my room. :)

Have a look:

These are available in the Tally Tales TPT store as the Labels, Labels, Labels! product. The packet includes printable labels, which may be used to organize group tubs, reading instruction supplies, math manipulatives, art supplies, classroom jobs, center rotations, and more! When applicable, individual labels contain corresponding images to make them more kid-friendly for younger students. All labels are visually appealing with a combination of playful font, bright colors and designs, and clipart images. Also included are blank labels that may be customized to fit the needs of your classroom. 

Now, here's the best part: I am making the entire packet available for free through this giveaway! 

The even better-than-best part: Two people will have a chance to win!

To enter the giveaway, you may either submit a comment below this post (make sure you include your email address on the comment, please!), or you may subscribe as a new follower to The Tally Tales blog (either through Google+ or Bloglovin')! Of course, you can always choose to do both! :) Winners will be chosen completely at random. One winner will be selected from among the new followers, while another winner will be selected from among the comments. The winner will be announced on Friday, July 5th, so you have a week to enter and share the giveaway with your friends! ;)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Five for Friday (For the First Time!) 06-28-13

Before indulging in Five for Friday, I wanted to also share that The Tally Tales is now linked up to Bloglovin'! Check out the new Bloglovin' follow option in the left sidebar! :)
<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Now, moving on... I am pretty excited to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching and share my Five For Friday today!

(1) We are officially finished with landscaping in our front yard! I am so pleased with the outcome. 

 The little wreath I made is holding up nicely! I am so pleased!

I look forward to watching everything continue to grow and bloom. :)

(2)  Our dog, Braxton, has an extreme aversion to cameras. He took his typically-stubborn behavior to an all new level during a recent visit from my friend, Leslie. (I know: 2 Leslie's in 1 friendship is just too much goodness, right?!?)

Before each of these pictures was taken, Braxton was looking directly at me. The minute I tried to snap a picture, his focus went elsewhere. He's really an incredible dodger. I finally gave up and took what I could get.

(3) We finally finished a couple of projects on the to-do list this week. We mounted a new shelf in our bathroom. We needed something to hold the cable box for our TV. I know, I know; a TV in the bathroom isn't totally a necessity, but it was Russ's birthday present. I have to admit that I'm loving it just as much as he is, though. I think it takes me even longer to get ready now, though. Anyway, the shelf wasn't too difficult to tackle. The towel rod, however, was another matter entirely. The concept of "concealed mounting" was completely foreign to us. Luckily, Russ is far more competent at tasks like this than I am. He figured it out, and we now have a new shelf as well as towel rack on the wall. I am still planning to distress the edges of the shelf, and I'm thinking a frame or basket of some kind will go nicely on display there eventually. 
Russ, hard at work.
Russ, hard at work. 

Braxie and me, watching Russ work.

Almost finished!
(4) This sweet little camera has served me faithfully for the past 5 or 6 years. However, for the past 6 months, I have been missing the corresponding cable, which I need to transfer pictures onto my computer. As you can tell from the picture, it isn't a typical USB cable. I have turned the house upside down in search of this cable at least three times this month. No. Luck. I was almost ready to break down and try to find another one on Ebay when Russ, randomly stumbled upon the cable last night! It was in the remote basket. Of all places. That might have been my happiest moment of the week.

Not to make anyone gag, but, seriously, what would I do without my husband?

(5) Last, but not least, I made my first visit to my classroom this week! They have finally finished cleaning and waxing the floors, and while the furniture hasn't been completely returned to all rooms, I was lucky enough to have most of mine returned. I can't say that I necessarily got a lot accomplished today, but I did get the desk turned right-side up! It will look much different from this by the end of July! :)

Yes, that is my desk. Standing on its side. Ha!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Read and Roll! Reading Response Question Cubes

If you checked out my recent freebie for "Close Reading Materials" you noticed the question cube template included in that packet. I don't know about you, but I love question cubes! These neat little activities allow students to literally toss their questions around among a group or with a partner. For more independent readers, this can be an independent exercise. I have more advanced question cubes that I use for modeling during small group instruction as well. You just can't go wrong with them.

Based on my obsession enjoyment of these little cubes, I have created a new packet that includes question cube templates for reading response at various points of reading. The packet contains two reading response cubes to be used at each point: before, during, and after reading.

To use them, you simply print the templates onto cardstock (or other type of sturdy paper), fold along the external tabs, and secure with glue or tape. That's it! Hand them off to kids, and watch them toss, read, and answer questions about the text they are reading. 
 With younger students, you may choose to spend time modeling appropriate use of the cubes and developing their familiarity with the questions (some of the questions included are a bit more advanced). Even in a group setting, students get excited about these; there's a sense of anticipation in waiting to see where the cube will land. Without even realizing it, students develop a more natural feel for discussion questions in response to the texts they are reading. 
 If you think you or your students could use these, check them out in the Tally Tales TPT store.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DIY: Business Cards!

So I have been debating on business cards for a while now. I originally designed a card that I loved through Minted. However, I have this slight obsession with wanting things to coordinate. In my mind, I wanted The Tally Tales blog to correlate with my business card design. Does that sound crazy? Whatever. I like things that match.

While my design through Minted was really, really cute, I decided to try to create something on my own. Something that was original and a good fit with my blog style. Is it possible that I'm a little too consumed with this blog?? Even more importantly, these are way cheaper. That is always a plus, right?!?

So I started with one of the business card templates available through Pages. However, I didn't actually use the template; I erased the original design and just used the blank template for the margin layouts. That was much simpler than having to set the margins myself. Then I began creating a card that would be similar to the Tally Tales blog button.

After many small corrections and much debating over font styles, this is what my final draft looked like:

No, that is not my real phone number. Stalkers, don't get too excited. ;)

Then, I went on a hunt for cardstock that would make a nice print paper for the cards. I wanted something that was durable for printing, but I also wanted a little accent on the back of my cards.  This search led me directly to Hobby Lobby. Of course.

I found this cardmaking pad that contains paper with various styles of colorful designs on one side. The back of each page is white, which is perfect for printing.
I selected my favorite designs from the selections. I decided to mix it up a bit, with a variety of polka dots and chevron patterns. I thought blue, yellow, and gray patterns would look best with my business card designs. 
Now, this would have worked perfectly, had it not been for a nasty little ridge that runs right through the center of each page. This paper is intended for card making, so there is a lovely, easy-to-fold line through the center. That's great if you are making greeting cards; not so much for printing business cards. I am not a skilled printer-operator; I always get confused with the direction for turning the paper and all the printer settings. So printing around this ridge was extremely frustrating for me. After struggling along for a bit, I finally got the alignments adjusted just right.

So, here are my brand new, made-by-me business cards!
I'm pretty proud of them, and I can't wait to give them to parents at open house this year! My next challenge will be deciding on the perfect way to display these in my classroom. I want something fun and original. For some reason, I have the idea of a tree in my head... I've already been googling and interest-searching ideas, but I can't seem to find anything that is exactly like my mental image.

I guess that means I'm in for a little more do-it-myselfing. :) If you have any creative suggestions for me, feel free to send them my way!

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 06/24/13

This Monday reading-list blog link-up is available through Teach Mentor Texts. This event was originally hosted by Book Journey, but I also love the idea of establishing a link-up with a kidlit focus. So once again, I am linking up with Teach Mentor Texts and sharing my recent "must reads," but I will also link up with Book Journey  since my "Just Finished" text does not fit into the children's literature genre.

Just finished Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

I'm not sure exactly what I expected when I began reading this book. My mother-in-law highly recommended it, so I thought I would enjoy it. I knew it would include a homeless man and a wealthy art dealer (the back of the book said so), and based on reviews, I thought it would be a good read. What I did not -in any way- expect, was an emotional, gut-wrenching story that revolved around the interwoven narratives of two astounding characters. I found myself completely absorbed in the lives of these two men who share their faults and misfortunes shamelessly, all the while shaping tales of very similar matter-of-fact faiths. I don't want to divulge too many details of this book, for the sake of those who have not yet read it, but I will say that these authors wrote this text as a tribute to a woman who lived her life with complete abandon to God's will for her time here. The details of the narrators' relationships with that woman leave you laughing, crying, hurting, and wanting to wrap your arms around every scrumptious blessing of your life, all that the same time. 

I have read other book reviews, in which readers criticized the "religious" undertones in this text. I can't refute that; these authors are shamelessly abandoned to Christ, and their understanding of a relationship with Him has carried them throughout their very tumultuous lives. It only makes sense that the same premise would guide them through the pages of their narratives as well.
"There's somethin I learned when I was homeless: Our limitation is God's opportunity. When you get all the way to the end of your rope and there ain't nothin you can do, that's when God takes over. I remember one time I was hunkered down in the hobo jungle with some folks. We was talking 'bout life, and this fella was talkin, said 'People think they're in control, but they ain't. The truth is, that which must befall thee must befall thee. And that which must pass thee by must past thee by'." ~Denver Moore

Currently ReadingThe Alchemist (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott  

To Read: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On the Menu: Almond Flour Biscuits #FoodieFriday

So, I'm pretty excited to share my experience with this recipe, as well as participate in the Foodie Friday link-up through Home Maid Simple!
I found this original recipe at Coconut Mama. I've actually made these biscuits twice so far. The first time I made them, I had no problems, even though the recipe hints that the dough might be sticky and cumbersome. The second time I made them, however, I decided to cut the recipe in half. I think I might have gone a little heavy on the butter (nondairy) though, because the dough was way messier to deal with than the first time. So instead of actually cutting the dough into biscuits to bake, I literally just plopped a clump of dough on the pan and adopted a come-what-may attitude.

It appears that you cannot mess up the flavor of these biscuits. Does anyone else appreciate that statement?!?

While my final products did not necessarily look like typical biscuits, they were very tasty. We weren't at all disappointed!

I wish I had taken pictures the first time I baked these, because that batch actually looked pretty and tasted great. But why linger over presentation issues? ;)

2 1/2 cups almond flour (plus about 1 cup for dusting the dough as needed)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup dairy free buttery spread (or butter)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, salt, and baking soda.
In a large bowl, blend together buttery spread, eggs, and agave.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until a nice dough forms.
Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper up to 1 1/2 inches thick.
Dust dough with extra almond flour if it is sticky and/or misbehaving.
Cut the dough into biscuits using a mason jar with a 3-inch wide mouth.
Using a spatula, transfer biscuits to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until biscuits are browned on the bottom edges.

Like I said, these don't look so impressive. If you remember a page scroll ago, though, I did not promise pretty; I promised tasty. I'm being brave here and sharing my "oops" of a presentation just because I think the recipe is worth sharing. I hope your biscuits look prettier than mine, but taste every bit as good! :)


On a side note, I have to share my sincere excitement about being selected as the "50 Follower Giveaway Winner" at Learning with Mrs. Langley! She is sending me several resources from her TPT store, and I know they will be spectacular! I feel so honored! Make sure visit to her blog today.  :)

A Few Things on a Thursday!

  • Ladies, what if this was our goal for every day:
Makes you smile, doesn't it? ;)
  • Have you informed yourself about the changes complete disposal of google reader? If not, you need to check out this two-part post available through DesignByInsight: "Farewell, Google Reader." All changes go into effect on July 1st, so if you normally use Google Reader to follow your favorite blogs, you'll need a new option. I transferred all of my blog subscriptions through Blogger, and it hasn't been a problem at all. DesignByInsight offers some great alternatives as well. No need to worry; you won't lose track of your favorite blogs! :)  (I sincerely hope The Tally Tales is on your subscription list by now. Just sayin'.) 
  • Mississippi Bloggers and Readers: have you connected with Mississippi Women Bloggers yet? The directory is steadily growing, and I am so excited about learning from other MS women! You can follow them on Twitter as well. 
  • I have started to get the first twinges of back-to-school fever. Yeah, I know it's still June, and I'm not even ready to start the early-to-rise routine again yet. I am, however, ready to plan for a back-to-school night. I've been on the hunt for some original ideas to use in my classroom. As if I needed another excuse to play on Pinterest...
  • I'm also pretty excited about some upcoming blog posts. I don't want to spoil any surprises, but I will say the future might hold a little bit of menu experimentation and DIY action. Gah, summer is so much fun. 
  • Share your opinion, please: What are some of your favorite Tally Tales moments? What would you like to see more (or less) of here? I would love to hear from you!
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Freebie! Close Reading Materials

UPDATE: While these resources are still available in The Tally Tales store, this product has been expanded to include a variety of additional materials, and it is no longer a "freebie" at this point. I apologize for any confusion this may cause. I hope this post is still informative and provides you with insight into a few of the materials available within that product. Thank you.

As I briefly mentioned in an earlier post, I have been trying to learn more about close reading instruction this summer. Based on some of the materials I have gathered, I created a brief packet of printables, now available for free on The Tally Tales TPT store!

This packet contains various materials for close reading instruction in an elementary classroom. I have created printable charts for text coding strategies, a question cube template, and task cards for reading literature as well as informational text. I think these materials could be used with elementary students at any grade level, but you may choose to use them more as models for younger readers.

Check out the previews below:

If you think you might be able to use these, feel free to visit The Tally Tales TPT store and download them for free! As always, I welcome any feedback or recommendations you can offer for this product or any others available through The Tally Tales store.

* If you are interested in creating your own TPT store, I would love to refer you! Simply use the following promo link when you sign up:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Great Blogger Tutorials!

I've made a couple of small additions to The Tally Tales blog lately, and I just thought I would share the tutorials I used here, just in case anyone needs the same advice I needed. My search for tutorials also led me to find a few new blogs that offer excellent freebies and tutorials for various aspects of blogging. Even if you don't need the particular tutorials I have linked, I would recommend checking out the links. There are so many talented people out there, offering awesome resources for new bloggers!

There are two main changes I have made to the blog: I have created and added a customized blog button as well as social media icons.

  • How to Add Social Media Icons

Not only does LeeLou Blogs offer a simple, user-friendly tutorial for adding Social Media Icons, but it also offers free social media icon banners. If that style fits your blog design, you can not only download the banners for free, but you can follow the instructions to install them on your own blog.

I followed the tutorial available at LeeLou Blogs, and this is the final product for my social media icons:

There are so many amazing freebies and tutorials available at this site, so it's worth a visit!
  • How to Create Your Own Blog Button

I encountered a few problems with this function. Every tutorial I searched would provide the perfect design and coding instructions for creating a blog button, except for one problem: once I installed the button, I would see my button on my sidebar, but the code box beneath it would be completely empty. I thought I was doing something wrong, until I noticed that, according to the comments on the tutorials I was using, several other bloggers encountered the same problem. I did notice that the tutorials I used were created in 2012, but most of the users who experienced problems with those tutorials were also trying to follow them in 2013. I suppose it's possible that blogger made changes throughout the year that interfered with the coding in those tutorials. Either way, I finally found a code that worked! So I'm going to provide the tutorial I used to create my button, as well as the final code that worked for installed the "Grab my Button" feature on my blog. 

After searching through various tutorials, I finally decided to use the one available at Teacher Blogging Basics. (Click to view the link.) I preferred this one, because it provides instructions that coincide with Photobucket, which was my preferred tool for imaging. So I followed that tutorial until the end of Step 3, where the HTML code is provided. This is where I encountered a problem. 

The code just doesn't work. I don't know why. I just know it does not work. If you use it, you will end up with an empty box beneath your button. To find the correct HTML code, go to wikiHow here. This link also provides instructions for creating the button using Photobucket, but I just felt like the tutorial on Teacher Blogging Basics was a bit more user-friendly (aka: it included pictures).

My final product looks like this:

  • How to center sidebar widgets
I know this should probably be a simple task, but I could not figure out how to make individual widgets appear centered in my sidebars. SNAP! provides a tutorial that worked perfectly for me! I thought I would include this link in case you are frustrated by the simple things as well. ;)

Monday, June 17, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 06/17/13

This Monday reading-list blog link-up is available through Teach Mentor Texts. This event was originally hosted by Book Journey, but I also love the idea of establishing a link-up with a kidlit focus. So once again, I am linking up with Teach Mentor Texts and sharing my recent "must reads," but I will also link up with Book Journey  since my "currently-reading" text does not fit into the children's literature genre.

Just Finished

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. 
I originally grabbed this book as a quick read to fill my time in between Hunger Games trilogy books. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself pulled into the witty, emotionally-engaging narrative of young Abilene Tucker, as she struggles to balance the uncertainty of her new home in Manifest, Kansas with her longing for her father, along with her appropriately-childlike longings for play, mystery, and adventure in everyday life. Interwoven through her 1936 narrative is the 1918 tale of Manifest, a town with a delicately tragic past. I found myself completely absorbed in these characters and this town. However, I wouldn't recommend Moon Over Manifest as a beach-read. This is a book best enjoyed on a front porch with the blanket of a warm southern breeze and the refreshment of a southern iced tea. 

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
This is the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I loved these books, but I think my favorite one is the second book, Catching Fire. Mockingjay left me with mixed emotions; I couldn't stop reading it, but I didn't always like what I was reading. I won't share any gruesome (and some of them would, indeed, be gruesome) details here, just in case some of you haven't read Mockingjay yet. I will say that, in the end, I was left with more of a "So-that's-how-it-ends?" feeling, rather than an "Oh-my-goodness-I-can't-believe-it's-over-and-I-have-to-read-this-again" feeling. You can't just stop reading after Catching Fire, but while reading Mockingjay, I really wanted all of it to just draw to the end. I felt very tired for those characters.

Currently ReadingSame Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

To Read: The Alchemist (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott

Also, if you are looking for an awesome reading adventure, (and if you ever had a secret obsession with The Gilmore Girls) you may want to check out the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. This post includes a full list of books read or mentioned on The Gilmore Girls. That should keep you busy for a while! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

To the first man I ever loved...

Happy Father's Day to the best father/coach a girl could ever have! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

On the Menu: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (or Raisin or Berry) Cookies

I know, I know: this recipe title is a bit confusing. I originally obtained this recipe from Clean Food by Terry Walters, and according to that recipe, you can use either raisins or chocolate chips (or both) to bake these cookies. I have tried it both ways, and the outcome has always been tasty. However, very few people in my family like raisins, so I don't use those quite as often now. Sometimes, I even like to use dried cranberries for an extra zing of flavor. So basically, this recipe is completely adaptable, depending on your personal preferences and tastebuds. I love to make these cookies, and I have yet to meet a person who did not love to eat them!

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup unbleached white flour (or brown rice flour)
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut *
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips or raisins or dried cranberries

Note: This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

*We aren't big fans of coconut, so I leave this ingredient out. Again, this depends on your preference!


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, flour,
coconut (if you use it), cinnamon, and salt. 
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together maple syrup, oil, and vanilla. 
3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until evenly combined.

4. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips (or raisins or dried cranberries).

5. Press dough into equal-sized balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake for
15 minutes (or until lightly browned). 

That's it! I can guarantee that the hardest part will be trying not to eat them all at once!

If I can make any recommendation for baking these cookies, it would be to make sure you use enough maple syrup. Follow the recipe closely for that ingredient, and if anything, use a little extra. If you use too little, the cookies will be too dry. Use the right amount, however, and they will have a nice, moist texture.

If you experiment with a new ingredient, please comment and let me know!