Updated Baby Shower Game

It’s wild to think that the last baby shower I threw was almost 4 years ago, when I was pregnant with my youngest!  Now, we are showering the friend who helped throw this last shower.  Today, I updated the baby shower game, What’s in Your Purse?, and thought I would share the new and improved version.  The font is a 1,000 times better thanks to my current favorite design site – Canva.

What's Inside Your Purse_

I don’t have much else to share right now, except I am on spring break and plan to power through the last of my homework and hopefully make some artwork of my own.  I have just two more weekends of classes and then I am done with grad work.  Maybe this blog will spring back to life…stranger things have happened.


Best Bean Dip

Christmas 2017 is over, and while I’m usually feeling blue about this fact, this year I’m staying positive. My kids have been delightful, and I’m savoring every holiday moment with them. They helped decorate the tree, decorate cookies, helped shop for family members, helped wrap gifts, helped clean, and generally helped by being loving and in the holiday spirit. So, now that we are all sugared out, I had to break out something else for bowl game season. Go Hawks! Bean dip has always been one of my favorite snacks, and it’s no secret that I can finish off an entire bag of tortilla chips on my own, so this was a no-brainer.

My cooking has never been very precise, instead it’s based on what I have, what sounds good, and what people in my house will eat. With that in mind, I have images with ingredients and the steps. Swap out whatever sounds good and change proportions/sizes as needed!

In a bowl, mix together 1 can refried black beans, 1 can whole black beans (rinsed), and 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes. Spread smoothly into pan. Sprinkle Mexican seasoning on top, to taste. By the way, I just found three of these cheery Dansk baking pans, in yellow, at a thrift shop today for under $20!

Spread corn and choppedblackolives on top, next. I used about ¾ of each can.

Next, chop 2 avocados and sprinkle with lime juice. Layer on top.

Smooth sourcream over the top and sprinkle with shreddedcheddar cheese. I used most of a 1 lb. container of sour cream and an entire bag of shredded cheese.

Then, I sliced 4 small jalapeños and spread them out festively. These are the not-too-hot variety. I brought in my jalapeño and habanero plants before the first frost and they are thriving in the southern sunshine of my art room/office.

Best Bean Dip

1. In a bowl, mix together 1 can refried black beans, 1 can whole black beans (rinsed), and 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes. Spread smoothly into pan. Sprinkle Mexicanseasoning on top, to taste.

2. Spread corn and choppedblackolives on top.

3. Chop 2 avocados and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons lime juice.

4. Smooth about 1 lb. container of sourcream over the top and sprinkle with 1 bag of shreddedcheddar cheese.

5. Optional, thinly slice 4 small jalapeños and spread over the top.

Just Stress or Something More?

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research brief trauma hayes

This is my summer grad research brief, I have spent the last few weeks reading, highlighting, discussing, pondering, and writing my heart out on this topic.  Now that it is done, I needed somewhere to host it, hence the blog post.


Share this.

Read it.

Think on it.

Implement it.


This is the most pressing issue our schools have to deal with, in my opinion.


Questions?  I am all ears.

Passionate about this topic?  Let’s talk!


Happy end of July,


Kids’ Art Center 

Summer break for a teacher means rest and relaxation, right?  Well, some of the time, yes.  This summer I am taking a couple of classes for my master’s degree, one of which will wrap up at the end of July.  In the meantime, I am finding ways to procrastinate doing the work.  Hence last night, totally reorganizing my kids’ art center, which just so happens to share space with our dining room. Up until now, it has been a disorganized mess, just like my own art room.  Gee wonder where they get that from?  However, this disorganization prevents them from making art on a whim, which is what I need more of, in order to get some of my own work done.

I made a curricular switch a few years back to Teaching for Artistic Behaviors, which necessitated a complete overhaul of the way I teach and the space in which I teach in.  I have also been in two different elementary classrooms in the past 4 years.  Thus, I have done two total reorganizations, akin to reorganizing a small house or apartment.  So, reorganizing my own house should come naturally, no?  Actually, I have found it is hard to come home and do just that.

Anyways, here is the almost done art center, located near their table in one of our wonderful built-ins.  I forgot to take before pictures, but trust me it was overflowing with things.  My almost 3-year old loves that he can get out his play dough, tools and mats all on his own.  Before, it was a hassle and he complained about lifting the box down, to get off the lid, and get access to the supplies.  Now, the bin stays put since it is open and well-organized.

Smaller items were organized into a 3-drawer plastic organizer.

Other items were organized into shoe box plastic tubs, open bins, and a large hanging file system for the paper.  By the way, all of these bins were either repurposed from other places in the house, or found in thrift shops.
The art center is ready to use, and the kids couldn’t be happier!  Now they can find everything, reach it themselves, and hopefully put it back on their own as well. I’ll keep you posted on their ability to put things away…

I added picture labels to make it even easier for my non-reader, something I have all over my own classroom.  Now it really feels like a corner of my classroom at home.

Jester Park Natural Playscape

One of the best play areas we’ve ever been to is in the backyard of the Des Moines metro area – Jester Park Natural Playscape. It’s a mere 25 minute drive and worth it! 

We missed out on a play date earlier this weekend, and so made the trek this morning. Though it’s 82 and humid, there is some actual cloud cover and hardly anyone here! 

My kids plunged into the pond immediately. They played hide and seek with rocks, fished, made rock piles, climbed, splashed, jumped, and were totally engaged in creative play. 

There was minimal fighting and mama enjoyed soaking her feet and the views. 

The baby bison are just adorable. 

We had some lovely discussions about native plants and the organisms that benefit from them. 

The natural building area is a fantastic idea, however, we never made it out of the water! 

The metal work was one of my favorite views. 

These creatures were fun and functional! 

Oh Des Moines, I love how you’ve grown since I was a kid. I’m so excited for summer off with my kids and the adventures we have yet to have. Being a teacher enables me to remain a kid at heart with my two, and for that I’m so grateful.

Sweet Cream Cake

I made a lovely, dense, rich cake last weekend from one of my grandma’s cookbooks – there is just something so wonderful about old cookbooks.  The way recipes are described and explained – it so much less detailed and matter-of-fact than any of the modern cookbooks I own.  There was a certain level of assumption about cooking and baking knowledge, that no longer is found in contemporary cooking explanations.


I whipped it up, and frosted it, with an almond flavored butter cream frosting on grandma’s wedding pottery (pictured here), to boot.  Fitting, since the old Joy of Cooking, (1946 edition) this recipe came from was a wedding gift.


This photo shows my grandparents – Mary and Gene – on their wedding day, with both sets of their parents.  There is a photo somewhere of my grandmother holding her wedding Joy of Cooking cookbook that I will have to look for.  That would be a nice addition to my kitchen decor, an homage to one of the two people who guided me most in the kitchen.  My other biggest culinary influence being my mother.

The Joy of Cooking is something I have been reading since I was a little girl.  I find the older editions so intriguing, as one can find explanations on how to prepare a wide variety of dishes, including game, unfamiliar German desserts, fallen from fashion puddings and fruit cakes, and lists and lists of coffee cakes.


I settled on creating a gluten-free version of the Sweet Cream cake, just because it used what I already had on hand.  I substituted the Cup for Cup flour, for the cake flour.  The recipe below is verbatim from my grandmother’s cookbook.

My kitchen helper helped by stirring, combining, and spit shining the butter cream almond flavored frosting bowl.  The cake, frosted, right.  I left a small section unfrosted for those crazy family members who find frosting too sweet!  As much as I enjoy trying new recipes, this will be one of those cake recipes that goes into my repeated rotation.  Thank you for continuing to influence my kitchen habits, Grandma.  Miss you.

Sweet Cream Cake, from The Joy of Cooking, 1946 edition

Beat until light and lemon colored:
2 eggs
Sift, then beat in gradually:
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift before measuring:
1 2/3 cake flour
Resift with:
2 1/2 teaspoons tartrate or phosphate baking powder or 2 teaspoons combination type (see Baking Powder, page 447)
1/4 teaspoon soda (if sour cream is used)
3/4 teaspoon salt
Add these ingredients to the egg mixture in about three parts alternately with thirds of:
1 cup rich sweet or sour cream
Beat after each addition until the batter is smooth.  Bake the cake in two greased 8 inch layer pans or in a greased 8 inch tube pan in a moderate oven 350°. Allow about 25 minutes for the layers and about 3/4 hour for the loaf cake.

Almond Butter Cream Frostingfrom Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, makes about 2 cups

In a large mixing bowl beat 6 tablespoons of butter until smooth.

Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well.  Slowly beat in 1/8 cup milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Gradually beat in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.  Beat in enough additional milk to reach spreading consistency.

Boredom Buster Books

I finally got around to creating a set of small take-along binders for my two kids.  They are forever wanting to be busy, constantly restless in restaurants, and my eldest is always wanting to write or draw something.  Here is what my solution looks like:

A half-sized, mini binder filled with pocket dividers, page protectors with activities, and lined paper in the back for writing or drawing.


I drew some simple, blank-ish images for the kids to creatively fill in.  My thoughts were to update these every now and then with more simple line drawings.


We absolutely love the Crayola dry erase markers – washable, wipeable, bright, and not smelly!

My five-year old, as we speak, is working diligently on  her book, all while giving me suggestions for more pages.  I haven’t even dived into the free printable sections of the internet yet, but suspect that will be the next place I look for page ideas.


I made quite a few simple pages with writing practice.  My eldest is working hard on learning her rather long middle name, address, and phone number.  This certainly can’t hurt!

Now I am debating whether or not to make a set of these for the drawing center in my classroom.  I could fill  it with some simple drawing ideas for the younger grades, or even with FAQ in drawing.

Balancing Act

With grad class on hold and winter break in session from school, I have managed to do some of my own artwork.  At any given time I have a minimum of five projects going, absolutely filling my brain and art room.


This is a painting I did for my sister, as a Christmas present.  I painted a woman in a similar style, dressed to the nines, holding an axe.  It now hangs in her office.  I really enjoyed that particular painting, and the idea of juxtaposing femininity with a stark axe.  So, I decided to juxtapose suit and tie masculinity with a pink frosted cupcake.

In any case, I really enjoyed working on this painting.  Acrylic isn’t something I work in as often as watercolor, yet I keep finding myself moving further away from realism and being drawn towards abstraction, and acrylic is the way to make this happen.

Whenever possible, I draw from real life, making my family members pose for me.  This break, my five-year old has figured this out, and began requesting me to draw her while she does various poses.  She tried to convince my two-year old to do the same, however he cannot sit still.

A couple works in progress, with the blue underlayer still showing.

Another work in progress, before reworking the nose and hand a few times.

Someone give me some more painting subject matter, quick!  Before grad class starts up again in February!





Autumn Gardening 

September (and half of October) has flown by – that will happen when most of your week is busy with school, family, and grad work. I have a short break between classes right now, so I’m in frantic finish some projects mode.

Earlier in September, we harvested a 22 pound moon and stars watermelon from my parents’ garden. Funny to think that my son weighs about the same…

We took it to a friends’ house and only ended up eating some of it, enjoying leftovers during the remainder of the week.

I took this shot with the Prisma app, of my mom’s garden and our melon with a large zucchini. I always find fall to be so bittersweet, the coming cool balanced with the bountiful harvest as a result of the long, lovely summer days.

We also harvested some ghost peppers, by night, wearing gloves of course. I opted not to try these beauties. Though Eric and a friend said they were, “pretty warm.”

I’ve been prepping plants to bring in for the winter, as we had our first frost this past week. My Rosemary plant is so happy it bloomed this fall – I’ve never seen this before. They have the loveliest lavender delicate flowers. I look forward to fresh herbs in the howling, bitter dead of winter.

Our pumpkin and squash plants flourished this summer – some were intentionally planted and some volunteers from the compost pile. We picked these three beauties last week, before the frost.

Then we discovered two more large, but still-green pumpkins in the garden! Those sneaky little devils.

The pumpkins, frost, and coming of October inspired me to set up for Halloween.

I put my pulled the corn roots, after harvesting my black corn. The creepy roots, combined with my ceramic pieces from AP art class in high school, create the perfect spooky mood by my front door.

A few dried stalks, a rubber snake, and a ceramic-cast hand are perfect in the now empty planters at my front door.

I placed a few random ceramic masks, created from molds, around on the ground, slightly covered in leaves. My kids still find these frightening, so outside decor they stay.

Roasted Beet & Carrot Tart

31f2e27f-2fc8-4fe9-adc5-1ca6a1a6f001I love love love love fall.  This fall has been supremely more busy than most of the previous autumnal seasons combined, for our family.  But, so it goes.  I got my recent Martha Stewart in the mail last week and was itching to do some baking – it has been far far too long since I have whipped up something creative in the kitchen.

first-dayGrad class, new school, eldest child starting kindergarten, and upcoming presentation at the art educator’s conference has been keeping me racing from one event to the next.  I look forward to some down time in December, perhaps.  Here is a hilarious picture of the three of us on our first official day of school. Big thanks for Eric for taking this picture and holding it together far better than I on her first day of kindergarten.

I found recipe for a tart that looked divine – but being short on time and dealing with some picky eating phases, I swapped and changed a few things.  For starters, I made a simpler sauce from sour cream and pesto.  WIN!  I just love a successful Martha Shortcut, as I call them.  Let’s be honest, her magazine and recipes are amazing but simply not realistic for most of the population.

I roasted the beets and carrots smaller than recommended, to speed up the cooking period.

Martha Stewart’s recipe called for a hazelnut-cilantro chermoula sauce.  This is a North African sauce that can also be served over eggs at breakfast.  It sounded wonderful, other than the cilantro, I absolutely hate cilantro, it tastes like metal to me.  I would have made the sauce, had I had the lemon and hazelnuts needed.  Instead of cilantro, I would have opted for parsley.

I swapped the phyllo for 2 sheets of puff pastry, because it was what I had on hand.

It baked up beautifully and made the entire house smell amazing.  Every time I see beets, I just want to get out my paint set and get to work depicting them in layers of acrylic and swirls of watercolor.

My children both enthusiastically devoured their tart, asking for seconds and thirds.  My daughter declared, “This is the best pizza you have ever made, Mommy!”  Grateful for being short on time and ingredients to find this delectable tart that we will be sure to be making again soon, with some variations in the roasted veggies on top.


Roasted Carrot & Beet Tart – adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2016 issue

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.  Peel and cut 3 medium beets into 1/2″ slices.  Peel and slice in half, 1 pound of carrots (about 12).  Put on rimmed baking sheet, and toss with about 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.  Roast, turning once, for about 30-35 minutes, until browning in spots and becoming tender.  Start checking on veggies around 25 minutes, for doneness.
  2. Place 2 thawed puff pastry sheets onto a large baking sheet.  You may cut to fit together.  Overlap slightly, wetting with fingers, and pressing together to make a solid sheet.  Brush lightly with olive oil.  
  3. For sauce, combine: 8 oz sour cream with 2 tablespoons pesto.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or till pastry is puffed and slightly golden.
  5. Remove from oven.  Spread pesto sauce over entire puff pastry.  Arrange roasted beets and carrots on top.  Reduce oven heat to 375°.  Return tart to oven, bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until sauce is set and pastry is done.
  6. Slice and serve warm.