Too Darn Cute

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School
Written by Laurie Halse Anderson
Illustrated by Ard Hoyt
Picture Book

This is a darling story about Zoe Fleefenbacher, a spunky first grader with wild red hair that has a life of its own. No, really. Her hair can change the channel, pet the cat, and take out the trash. Though her crazy hair is loved by her parents and friends, Zoe’s no-nonsense first grade teacher is not so excited about having it in her classroom. This is such a fun story about working together and finding solutions. This is a great one to use just for fun, but there are several other ways to use it in a classroom. Here are a few ideas:

Classroom Discussion: I would love to use this story at the beginning of the school year. Students (and teachers) are often apprehensive about their new class. They have to learn new rules, new expectations, and a new teacher. This silly story can help break the ice and open discussion on how students can work together with the teacher to create the best learning environment. This would be a great time to talk about how the “strict” teacher was not trying to torture Zoe, but she simply wanted to create a classroom where everyone would be able to learn. Once Zoe’s hair got on board with that goal, the problem was solved. I am a big supporter of letting the class help come up with classroom expectations. When they become a part of the creation of rules, students have a greater desire to follow them. Even the “hairy” students (pun intended) tend to respect expectations that they helped create.

Making Connections: Even though this story is quite fantastical, its very relatable setting makes it a great one for connections. Sometimes it’s helpful to encourage thinking by asking questions and having a student explain or share. Some questions to promote Text-to-Self connections might be: Can you relate to how Zoe’s parents love her odd hair? Have you felt comfortable in a class the way Zoe did in kindergarten? Can you relate to having a strict new teacher? Have you ever been punished for something you didn’t think was your fault? Have you ever felt misunderstood?

Visualizing: What a fun story to visualize! There are so many fun images in this story. I can guarantee that every elementary student would LOVE a chance to draw you a picture of what Zoe’s hair can do. I love descriptions that show how her hair “went on forever,” could do several tasks “all at the same time,” and finally “exploded into the classroom.” Just about every page describes how her hair looks or something it could do. I love using a book as a read aloud and letting the students draw what they visualized before I show them the illustrator’s version in the book.

Onomatopoeia: This would be a really fun book to use to introduce the concept of onomatopoeia. There are several examples in the story that students could identify and easily demonstrate. After discussing the definition and several examples, I might have students look for examples in a book they are reading on their own. They could also incorporate them into a story they are writing or create a comic to use them.

I definitely recommend picking this one up at your next library visit. It's a fun one you and your kids will love.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Crostini

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart's website this week and pinned it so that I would remember it. A couple of days later, The Today Show had a guest chef who made these same crostini and they looked so good. I had to try them! They were super easy to make (but the tomatoes do take a little prep) and so delicious! I altered the Martha Stewart recipe by adding basil and garlic because everything becomes twice as good when you add those two magical ingredients.

Crostini means "little toasts" in Italian and is basically toasted baguette with any type of topping. Bruschetta is a common favorite, but these are a tasty mix between bruschetta and a caprese salad. The hardest part is finding a good baguette. Do you know where I can find an authentic French baguette in the U.S.? I miss that crunchy outside and soft, chewy, flavorful bread inside. All for less than one Euro on any street in France. We just don't make them quite like the French. Mmmm, I love bread!

All you need:

  • grape tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • ricotta cheese
  • baguette
Things you probably have on hand already:
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
I brushed the baguette slices with olive oil and broiled both sides. Then, I rubbed them with a fresh clove of garlic and topped them with ricotta, basil, and a few of my roasted tomatoes. YUM!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Triumph over Decorating Paralysis: Part Two

*To see the background for these projects, read part one here.

The first big decision was made and I was feeling pretty good. Turning the idea of a theme into a concrete plan, however, was a long and tricky process. Turning that plan into an actual room took even embarrassingly longer. Part two of my triumph was overcoming the infinite choices of fabrics and paints to get some color on the walls and some curtains on the windows.  

1.  Start with the fabric. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Sarah’s House on HGTV, you know that when decorating a room, you absolutely must start with the fabrics.

2.  Visit every local fabric store trying to find the perfect fabric (one that is both adorable and affordable). If you don’t find anything, scour the internet until your eyeballs bleed and then become overwhelmed by the millions of options.

3.  Create a digital image of the room so you can cut/paste pictures of different options. This will help you visualize your options. Mull over them for a few weeks, narrow your choices, and eventually pick one (even if you don’t ultimately follow it exactly).

Make sure you're OCD about lining up the squares of fabric
on the curtains so they look as realistic as possible.
These fabric samples are courtesy of

4.  Pull the trigger and order the fabrics. Stop second guessing or wondering if there’s a cuter fabric out there for a better price. If you do, you’ll wait too long and the main fabric you were going to order will be out of stock and you’ll have to pay more to order it from a different website (D’oh!).

5.  Choose a coordinating color to paint the room. I chose gray.

6.  Realize that the color you chose only slightly narrows down your actual paint options (seriously, do you know how many shades of gray there are? Trust me, there are more than fifty).

7.  Talk to the really nice lady at the paint store and let her help you hone in on a shade. The color you thought you wanted (found from a cool pin about the perfect neutral colors to use in your home) will probably look too green when compared with the yellows you plan to use. Paint Lady will have the answer and even explain the differences between the aisles and aisles of paints that they offer.

I chose Ozark Shadows from Benjamin Moore.  It's a medium gray so it's dark enough
you know it's gray but not so dark it makes the room feel like a cave.  I loved it!

8.  Watch a bunch of online tutorials on how to paint a room (some of these will contradict each other and they will most likely assume you are not a beginner who knows absolutely nothing about painting, so see step 9).

9.  Make several calls to your sister to fill in the blanks. She will also be able to provide you the moral support necessary to purchase all the materials and actually get started painting (which, it turns out, is a lot more difficult than it is in The Sims).

10.  After a few days of hard work, sit back and appreciate your masterpiece (and try not to worry about that message from your landlord telling you that the color you just used to paint the room is too dark and you need to choose a different color… but that’s a story for another time).

In part three I'll reveal the fabulous curtains I made with the new fabric! (Spoiler Alert: They pretty much look just like the curtains in the sample room pic above).

Photo credits: