Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanks Black Friday!

Here it is Thanksgiving already which means Christmas is just around the corner. The turkey isn't even in the oven nor has the parade started and every merchant is trying to reach in your pockets and take your money for the upcoming holiday season. I love great savings and would be more then willing to release my hard earned money for a great bargain. The problem is I don't know what to buy anyone anymore so I'm turning to my Firecrackinmama's Christmas and Firecrackinmama's Zazzle to help me out.

Tomorrow Zazzle is celebrating Black Friday just like everyone else - only they are starting early - 3:00 pm Pacific time - 6:00 pm for us Easterners.

With these great savings on customized/personalized items I went into my stores and found them needing more items - the first being neckties. So yesterday I had some fun with my images and made some holiday ties in my Firecrackinmama's Christmas Gallery.

Back in the old days men were required to wear neckties all the time and they were rather dull to say the least. As time passed others must have thought the same thing as ties became more perky.

This picture of my great grandparents was taken in 1892
Even while relaxing my great grandfather wore his necktie

My great grandfather on my mother's side loved to dress up but he preferred bow ties.

Both my grandfather and my father were very successful Metropolitan Salesmen and of course always wore neckties. According to both my mother and grandmother both men really enjoyed dressing well.

Notice my grandfather's tie design - ah now we're talking

My Dad followed in his father's footsteps

And of course I don't know any woman who isn't taken by a man in uniform - suits alike. I believe the necktie says something about the personality of the man behind the suit.

I thought of those professionals who are always required to wear a tie - legal professionals, doctors and salesmen in particular. Apparently legal professionals enjoy my legal scales.

Of course I had to redesign it for the holidays.

Then I thought of the sports minded. They deserve a festive tie as well so:

Baseball Christmas Tree Necktie tie
Baseball Christmas Tree Necktie by FCM_Christmas
View the other neck ties from zazzle

Let's not forget the more traditional holiday ties and New Year's

There are some great gift already designed but nothing is better then creating your own personalized gift. So have some fun, save some money and give a gift someone will really cherish!


For now have a Firecrackin Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Firecrackinmama's Christmas Store

Do you know there are only 42 days left until Christmas? I love the Christmas season. It's always been my favorite holiday, except for one part of it. I hate crowds therefore shopping is extremely difficult for me. The roads around the malls are already increasing in traffic. So when the Internet came along and shopping became so much easier, I joined the crowd not only in shopping but by opening my own Firecrackinmama's Christmas Store.

I've had a lot of fun designing different products for gifts. The best part is that each item can easily be customized/personalized which is not something that can usually be done. The other day I started playing with a design and came up with:

Then of course we just finished up baseball season. There's always another year so maybe next year the Phillies will have a comeback.

I think I'll be adding to these with a football Christmas Tree Farm and of course golf.

From the sports theme I felt like playing with some road trip photographs I had taken. Actually I had to combine a few. On one of my road trips I passed a bull standing right in the middle of a field just staring out at the road. I was so taken by him that I had to pull over and take a few pictures. I'm glad I wasn't wearing red that day as I think he really might have charged me.

While playing with that image I decided to really get him mad.

Yesterday however I found an image I had of a lion cub. Actually one of my daughters took the picture on the last cruise. It is so adorable that I had to do something with it.

I have many cards that I like and a few others do too I guess as I sell a fair amount. However my ornaments are a bit different but after purchasing a few, I can vouch for their quality.

You can see more in the ornaments section.

Most of the cards have matching postage which adds to your Christmas greetings. It's amazing how the designs go on the postage perfectly. I recommend the medium size postage. I purchased the large and they are really big.

Well you get the idea.

Last year I purchased a ton of my mugs. The following you can see I used as favors for my guests.

There are a variety of sizes, colors and types of mugs in which this image can be easily transferred. Although the above mug is a frosted mug I chose a white mug instead.

I have a lot more work to do in my Firecrackinmama's Christmas Store as I first started uploading to my Firecrackinmama's Zazzle Christmas. I'm finding I have some gift items there that aren't in my Firecrackinmama's Christmas Store.

Well, time to go get ready for my real job. For now have a Firecrackin Great Friday the 13th!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NJEA Teacher's Convention - 2009

Many educators in New Jersey consider these professional days off as a vacation period. However after 40 years in education I still like to go to the NJEA Teacher's Convention. I hit the convention floor searching for "out of the box" materials. Yesterday was no exception. In between all the same old things made for students who went to school back in the 40's & 50's and still being used, I found a few booths that had ready made materials consistent with required standards that provided for diversity in the classroom. However assessment and evaluation, like always, could have been better.

We arrived in beautiful sunshine, parking at the Taj Mahal

and left well after it got dark. Yes, we did play for a while and had a wonderful dinner.

Before I start I should state that I am not receiving any monetary compensation for my reviews. These are simply my opinions. A few booths did give me samples which will be stated within those reviews.

My daughter and I first stopped at the PITSCO Education booth from Pittsburg, Kansas. Their hands on/real world technical booklets reminded me of tasks performance projects my kids had done in school back in the early 90's and some that I had implemented. It was a small booth without a lot of flare and not a very enthusiastic representative. We perused the few booklets that were on the table. I found them to be of high interest and user friendly. However when I inquired about assessment and evaluation of student performance I was presented with the old fashioned paper and pencil problem-solving tests in the back of the booklets. Natually I was looking for diversified tools that used specific descriptors of progress. The representative quickly defended herself by sharing that she was the technical person and not the educational representative. Hmmm...

We moved on however I checked out their site today and the company really has great philosophies and curriculum's. The moral of this is first impressions really do impact one's perception. The following samples from their site can easily be integrated and used across the curriculum.

The teacher will have to design their own assessment and evaluation tools.

Our next stop was at the National Geographic Education booth. I love stopping by there to see their materials. Not only are their visuals fantastic but their materials are well developed for diversity within the classroom. I took more time this year to speak with the rep. Turns out she lives in a couple of towns over from me. Once I start talking my daughter moves on then returns. She moved on while I started my Spanish Inquisition. The rep was very knowledgeable and showed me several items that were of high interest but low level. After all kids that are 16 years old working on a 4th grade level don't need cartoon papers or enlarged print to further insult their abilities.

In checking out the National Geographic Education website I happened upon their Explorer Magazine. Now here's an inexpensive way to enhance curriculum with diversified instruction. I think workshops need to focus more on how to integrate these supplemental materials.

The first is for K-1, the second two are for 2-3 and 4-6. The design enables the teacher to diversify on various reading levels. The Extreme is for struggling readers grades 6-12. Well worth your time to visit the site for more terrific materials. I did request samples which will be forwarded by the representative.

Our next stop was really interesting and exciting - to an educator that is. It was another small booth but the reps were energetic, personable and above all knowledgeable about their materials. It was the Rosen Classroom where I met Dan. We talked the talk a bit and then he showed me "The Price of a Pioneer Journey" aka The Oregon Trail.

The subject matter was mathematics, adding and subtracting two-digit dollar amounts, but the design of booklet took the activities across the curriculum. The pictures were awesome and enhanced vocabulary development. Examples were user friendly while the text's font and background color were easy to see and read. The book comes as a 6-pack/single copy which is great if the teacher is using math centers. Then Dan put the icing on the cake. It turns out that the teacher can get a CD for interactive tasks associated with the theme of the book.

As we continued to talk about using US history to teach math, Dan pulled out "Civil War Recipes" which focused on adding and subtracting simple fractions. If you go to the above link Google preview allows you to view a few of the pages.

I used to have to design these kinds of lessons which took hours. Now here is a company that does it for the teacher. Again the book is high interest crossing the curriculum with real world tasks. The design integrates the Standards and allows for diversity within the classroom.

While perusing all the 6-pack/single copy booklets, I found this intro to fractions grades 2-3.

I used the Google Preview to get a look at the contents and liked what I saw. A real explanation about fractions. There's still another book titled "Fun With Fractions".

Dan eventually introduced me to our area consultant, Dwight Mann, who in turn further explained the various programs and shared that Rosen Classroom also has eBooks! Wow!!

You can purchase these the same as you do a regular book but of course save them on your computer or hand-held devices. This has to be an up and coming company! Before I left Dwight, Dan and Bill, another consultant, gave me samples of the above mentioned "The Price of a Pioneer Journey" and "Civil War Recipes". In addition they gave me the following: "On the Trail with Lewis and Clark", learning to use line graphs; "Colonial Teachers" and "Life During the American Civil War", both specifically for reading but crossing the curriculum.

Our last stop at the convention was the Cuisenaire booth. There's a long history between Cuisenaire and me. I started teaching in 1969. In 1972 I visited the NJ Teacher's Convention and upon visiting the Cuisenaire booth saw Cuisenaire rods used in mathematics. At the time I had absolutely no money nor did the school and back then it wasn't unusual for teachers to regularly invest their paychecks in classroom supplies. So since I couldn't afford them, I made them out of 3/4 round wood. It took a complete weekend with my husband, a friend of his and I to paint, measure, cut and combine a set for each of my students. I have to say it was well worth the effort. The kids loved them, used them and learned from them!

When we first approached the booth one of the consultants was demonstrating some weird method of doing math. She had quite a gathering. Leaning against a table behind her was another representative who looked as though he was bored until we came along. I told him about making the Cuisenaire rods which instantly put a smile on his face. That casual conversation lead to the the Writing Destinations Program kit that was right behind him. Would you believe I never got his card so I apologize for not providing a name. At any rate he was quite enthused about this program and went into great detail explaining how to use it successfully.

The consultant first showed us the Writing Resource & Journal book. I really liked what I saw.
  • Strategy support – color-coded editing and revising system
  • Word choice – mini thesaurus, sentence combining, transition
  • Prewriting – graphic organizers and semantic mapping
  • Writing tips – genre definitions and language support
  • Grammar and punctuation – glossary and guide
  • Conferring – student-teacher conference records

I was most taken by the Reading Rods Vocabulary Builder. It is such a simple method to enhance students' vocabulary in writing. Basically a rod has four sides with a different synonym on each side. For example if the student uses the word "run" and doesn't want to repetitively use it, he/she can turn the rod, finding three other options, "dash", "sprint", or "scamper".

I think this is the first time that I've ever seen a hands-on approach to writing. The worksheets lead the student through each stage of constructing well developed complete sentences while the explicit instruction manuals provide supports for the teacher. Multiple strategies and resources motivate the student while the assessments include a pre-assessment for baseline data, benchmark assessments and post-assessments for summative data. I believe this program is well worth your time to review.

Our consultant gave my daughter and I a sampler set for grades 3 and up. Now that I've had time to review the packet I am even more impressed as I can see the program being easily used in a diversified classroom.

So once more I had a quality day with my daughter who teaches 4th grade, enjoyed some professional growth, shared our finds at a wonderful dinner with my husband who joined us and remembered why I don't gamble.

For the rest of you, have a Firecrackin Great Day!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bull Humbug!

I took a day off to have some good relaxing fun manipulating photos for Christmas cards at my Firecrackinmama's Christmas Store. I started off with one of the photos I had taken on a road trip last year for work. As I was riding along a rural road I happened to pass this Angus bull staring out at the road. Even as I stopped he didn't take his eyes off me as I moved closer to the fence. So I decided to have some fun with him and made a Bull Humbug Christmas card.

I thought it would be humorous to stain his white areas like candy canes. Then I added the red barn, decorated Christmas trees and snowmen. Naturally I couldn't help but relay his facial expression as "Bull Humbug".

I had another picture of an Angus bull that I had extracted. He too was not pleased when I stained his white with a candy canes. I then found another image of a group of Angus cows. Yep, I stained them too and added Santa hats then slid the image in behind the bull. Just a little humor.

Finally I did get serious and used another of my images from last year. I took this image when we went to pick out our Christmas tree then added the Seasons Greetings and frame. After I was finished I thought it looked pretty good.

I think I'll be ordering some of these. I placed an inside verse but that can easily be removed and customized to whatever anyone wants.

These last two cards have sold well. You just never know who may have the same tastes.

It should really read Scuba Dog's Mexican Christmas. Hmmm... maybe I'll go back and change that. The background is of a beach bar in Majahual, Costa Maya before it was destroyed by Hurricane Dean.

This last one was taken in Cozumel.

I had fun decorating this scene.

A day off and some relaxing fun. What more could one ask for - ok, selling a million dollars worth of designs. What a lovely dream!

For now have a Firecrackin Great Day!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Phillies vs. Yankees - It's In Their Eyes

You can tell a lot from the eyes and now that we have our brand new 46" HD TV we can really see the eyes. I am a Phillies' fan from way back through thick and thin. Last year the Phillies' had winners' eyes. They were intent, focused, and glistening with confidence. I don't see that this year. Their eyes are intent, appear to be focused but they aren't glistening with confidence. Whereas the Yankees have the eyes of wanting to take the World Series away from us. But what would I know, I'm just a woman.

A woman on a Firecrackin mission! We have tickets tonight and I plan to go in full Phillies' gear. I plan to be hoarse tomorrow. As my daughter said on Facebook, I'll probably breathe in so much lint that I'll be coughing up a rally towel. Don't ever say it can't be done!

We did it once-

We Can Do It Again!

I'm hoping tonight that the fans will be on a "Repeat, Repeat" roll. I'm hoping tonight that Lee will repeat his last two performances and give us hope. I'm hoping the Phillies send the Yankees home with a blow out game.

So as you watch you're favorite team tonight, let's hope the Phillies' eyes shine with a winning light :)

Let the Bell Ring On!!!

Have a Firecrackin Great Day!!!