Let’s face it . . . conjugating verbs is nobody’s first choice activity.

One of my students lets me know exactly how he feels about conjugation, choosing the verb "vomir" (to vomit) every time I give the class the option of selecting their own verb for a conjugation . . .

One of my students lets me know exactly how he feels about conjugation, choosing the verb “vomir” (to vomit) every time I give the class the option of selecting their own verb for a conjugation . . .

As a French teacher, I am always trying to think of new ways to get my students more familiar with verb conjugations. The traditional worksheet tends to be less-than-scintillating, and at this time of the year I find that students have a low threshold of tolerance for tedious activities of any kind. SO, inspired by the traditional concept of color-by-number art . . . and by the awesomeness of conjugart (which blends conjugation and art quite impressively!), I have made a present-tense review color-by-conjugation worksheet. It covers regular ER and IR verbs, as well as the verbs I like to call the “fab four” (être, avoir, aller, and faire – four insanely useful and common, yet highly irregular, French verbs). If it looks useful, I’m including the two links to download it below (one is for the key/cover page, and the other is for the coloring page!)

thumbnail - color by conjugation - free download


Instructions Page – Color Conjugations

French Present Tense Color by Conjugations

Because who doesn’t like coloring???

Not So Happy. . .

My nieces and nephews are an endless source of delight. . . and also ridiculously fickle water-works.

Anybody who spends time with kids aged four-and-under probably knows exactly what I mean. As easily as they are delighted, they are enraged and as much as they enjoy life, they also become frustrated by it on a very regular basis! SO, as near-constant paparazzi to four of the coolest kids I know, I have gathered my fair share of upset-kiddo footage alongside the happier moments I usually share. Just to keep things in perspective,I am sharing some of those more . . . dramatic moments.

Keep in mind that no children were actually in pain or hurt during the filming of footage used for the following montage. Their reasons for crying are listed at the end of the video, for those of you who are interested.

Also, I obviously make no claims to the music (Happy, by Pharrell Williams) that accompanies this video – all rights and such remain with the original artist.

I might be a horrible person, but I think I’m hilarious.


I just made Baklava for the first time!

What is baklava, you ask? Well,Google give us this handy definition:

baklava defined


OR, you could just look at this beautiful visual straight from my very own kitchen!

baklava - cooking

I used the Pioneer Woman recipe, because, after reading her book, I decided that she is a kindred spirit and that I just absolutely love her. Her recipe for Baklava is fairly simple and straightforward. The only thing I might change about the directions would be to melt the butter, or at least let it get very very soft, before putting it on the uncooked/layered Phyllo dough. If you don’t do this,  the thin sheets of dough will tear. This might seem like common sense, but (embarrassingly enough) some of us could still use the directive. I might also put a flashing warning sign above the recipe regarding the RIDICULOUS amount of sugar/calories these bad-boys have . . . I mean, let’s just say that you wind up mixing butter and sugar with TWO CUPS of honey at one point. So, maybe don’t eat this if you’re diabetic. Health-factors aside, however, the Baklava was delicious and a smash hit with the crew who requested it!



Springtime Magic: Photo Proof

Sometimes the stars collide and I manage to snap a photo at the right moment to show exactly what I am seeing and the magic of this beautiful changeable season that is Spring as it surfaces around me in New England! These are a few of those moments from the past few weeks . . . for your viewing pleasure!

the long-lasting bubble

This bubble last for whole minutes on the grass at Lynch Park!

rain rain

The rain became an impressionist painting through my windshield.

frosting sand

The sand on Wingaersheek Beach looks like frosting.


Even the overcast sky shines with new dimension.

a perfect day

An absolutely idyllic day at Wingaersheek Beach.

watermelon love

A surprisingly hidden and beautifully  revealed symbol of love from my watermelon.

Free Printable: Candyland Madlibs!

candyland mad libs

Every year, as part of the annual school dance preparations, we include the making of Mad-libs. . . after including these as part of the table decor a few years ago, they were met with such positive feedback that we’ve included them ever since! Functioning as a fun ice-breaker and a laughter-filled prelude to dancing, were can you go wrong? (Well, I mean, they are mad libs . . . they tend to go gloriously wrong.) Finding theme-specific mad libs, however, can be something of a challenge. Thus, I have undertaken the writing of original mad libs from time to time, and our recent Candyland Prom was no exception. If you would like to download and use a PDF of my two Candy Land Themed Mad-Libs for use at your own sweet event, feel free to click the pink link and do so with my blessing! Also, if you want to make changes to anything or use the candy-stripe font I used on anything else (for uniformity’s sake), you can find the font available as a free download here.

If you would like to follow our example and transform these mad-libs into part of your decor by making them look like large-scale Candyland game-cards, check out the picture and explanation below for some inspiration!

madlibs - on the tables

We printed the mad-libs on cream-colored stock paper (they are formatted tw0-to-a-page) and then used a paper cutter to make uniform 3.5-inch squares of tissue paper in the requisite colors to adhere to the backs of the mad-libs (using either double-sided tape or glue sticks, depending on availability!).mad libs - game cardsTo keep with the colorful theme, I bought the brightest mechanical pencils I could find at Target (which, incidentally, is also where I purchased the polka-dotted paper cups to hold the pencils). I also bought small fake lollipops from Etsy vendor Twisted Lolly Boutique and hot-glued them to some of the pencils for an added candyland-accent!

DIY Tutorial: Tulle Puff Wands

Every year, a few times a year, I am faced with the question of centerpieces.

puffs in a row

Cut flowers are pretty and generally okay, I guess . . . but they tend to be expensive, not to mention difficult to transport, oftentimes fragile and, in the long run they’re inconvenient. They cannot be prepped very far in advance, but they also don’t last long past the date of the event – rendering them VERY high maintenance for the limited time they’re used. THUS, over the 4+ years of event aesthetics-coordination I’ve undertaken at work, I have continued to seek out new and innovative centerpieces. For example, one year, we had fish as centerpieces. Now, even though there were 15 VERY delighted new-fish families  afterward the event ended, I would probably never do that again just because of the sheer logistical headaches it caused. 15 mini-fish-bowls and gallons of water later, I decided that I should go more towards practical instead of interesting in the future. As a result, over the years, we’ve wound up doing some very fun pieces, including candy-jars, silver leaf branches and several others. This year,  with an impending Candyland themed prom, I thought I would share the latest innovations in centerpiece decor in the form of a tutorial.

Heading - DIY puff tutorial

 Step 1 – start with the raw materials. You will need:

Raw Materials

Step 2 – Measure and Snip

Cut 5-6 foot strips of the tulle/gauze ribbon- each strip will make one “flower” or puff, so plan accordingly. I found that 7 of them filled a typical vase nicely!

Step 1

Step 3 – Fold ‘n Roll

This step is a little self-explanatory. I eye-balled about 5-6 inch folds in the ribbon. If it helps your measurement sensibilities, wrap the tulle around a book which you can then slide it off of. At the end of the fold ‘n roll stage, you should have a loose-yet-neat little coil (pictured below on the right).

step 2 - tulle rolling

Step 4 – Sew

Once you have your little packet of tulle, sew straight across the middle , effectively making the piece bow-shaped. I sewed from the middle out, just to make sure it was a reinforced and tight cinch in the middle.

step 3 - sewing through the middle

Step 5 – Peel Back the Layers

At this point, you just take the bow-like creations that came from Step 4 and shape them, peeling them out layer by layer so that the tulle gains some shape and starts to resemble a blossom.

tulle puffs26

Step 6 – Hot Glue!

There is no picture for this part, because I had my hands a bit full. First I hot-glued two paper straws together for each “stem”. I put the hot glue directly into one end of a straw, and then took the second straw and creased it so that it would fit easily into the other straw, attaching them where I had just put the hot glue. That done, I dabbed hot glue onto the base of each tulle puff and held the straw-stem in place for a moment while it began to set.

Step 7 –  Finishing Touches!

Remove any loose glue-strings and arrange the stemmed tulle puffs as desired in your vase of choice. Then, step back and survey your handiwork. They are like a miniature garden of hothouse Truffula Trees!
tulle puffs!!!

They are so colorful and bright!!!


White Ink, “The” Todd, and My Tattoo

It’s been a few years since I decided to get a tattoo. As a confirmed wuss, my initial qualms were all about the pain-factor, but as time went on and I had more adult experiences with pain, I realized that tatttoo-ing wasn’t so daunting after all. I mean, getting a tattoo (a) has a built-in time limit (it can only last so long) and (b) results in a desired effect – you get something you wanted at the end of the pain! I’ve experienced physical pain in my adult life without either benefit. The pain-factor dealt with (at least mentally), and a simple idea in mind, I set out to find a skilled artist that would be able to give me a white tattoo. This was easier said than done. Most places I looked into seemed to be reluctant to work exclusively with white ink (for lots of reasons, which I encourage you to read up on if you are considering getting one).


Me, just a few minutes prior to getting my tattoo, having done oodles of research on the details . . .

Why Would I Want a White Tattoo, you might ask?

So glad you’re curious.

First, I’m the epitome of pale. Imagine the palest person you know and then imagine one shade of outrageous pale lighter than that . . . if I didn’t have pigment in my skin or hair, I could probably pass as Albino. I’m the kind of pale where I get a sunburn just so that I can be normal-people-pale. Almost every year without fail, during midsummer, somebody will say: “Wow, you’re so pale!” when I’m actually feeling fairly tan. What does pale-ness have to do with anything? Well, Being this pale, I think that a dark tattoo would be EXTREMELY eye-catching. As a distractible person, I would probably see it out of the corner of my eye and constantly be distracted. Seriously, if I got a black tattoo on my arm (the location of choice) I’d probably wind up compulsively checking it out . . .  I might even develop an awkward twitch.

Second, I think they are pretty, yet subtle. I maintain that I see no point in getting a tattoo where I cannot actually see it with my own two eyes. Point of personal preference, I know, but I want to get a tattoo for myself. Quite frankly, I could care less if other people can see it because it’s something I’m doing for me. Since I consider it somewhat personal, I like that white tattoos play into a more understated style.

There are other little reasons/thoughts I’ve had on the subject, but those are the two main lines of thought.

Finally, a few weeks ago when I was visiting a dear friend in the greater Los Angeles area, the opportunity to get some ink from a skilled professional finally arose. After reading dozens upon dozens of reviews, I wound up booking an evening appointment with Todd Sorensen at his tattoo studio The Velvet Grip Family in West Hollywood.

The lovely Todd Sorensen, who tattooed me one fine Thursday evening in April


The Hollywood Examiner has a nice article all about Velvet Grip Family and the author, Jeremy Meyer, describes the whole place perfectly. “A simple way to understand the dynamic of this place is imagining the assembly of a Justice League of superhero’s but instead of fighting off villains they are piercing and tatting to your own desire.

My own personal “superhero” of this particular league, as the owner, might be the Nick Fury of the team. Or maybe he’s Iron Man.  Regardless, Todd (who goes by “The Todd” according to many internet resources) was great. Very chill, very nice, very good at artistic input, and I honestly appreciated that he encouraged me to only get a tattoo if I was 100% confident that I wanted one. He clearly knew what he was doing and my simple line of text was a piece of cake for him, but he still took his time and did a nice job. . . even when I got a little woozy from the blood-sugar plummet after a few minutes. For somebody who has been around & tattooing people as much as he has, I’m sure it would have be easy to see somebody like me and chuckle or roll your eyes, but there was none of that at all – he was great!

My appointment was at 10:30 pm, which is tantamount to the middle of the night when you’re a high school teacher. To pass the time before leaving, my dear friend Jen and I engaged in your typical, rebellious pre-tattoo activities.

pre-tattoo activities

When the time came, Jen gallantly drove me into West Hollywood, where I signed waivers and wrote out the phrase “à Dieu soit la gloire” for the bajillionth, and final, time. (“à Dieu soit la gloire” translates to “to God be the glory”, in case you’re wondering!)

waivers and designsThen the short-lived, yet remarkably uncomfortable, inking process began. I was nervous. I had a lolly-pop (from See’s candies, by the way, a SCRUMPTIOUS west coast place). Jen held my hand and we talked about how, two years previously, she was in labour and giving birth to her son; a fact which rendered the whole tattoo thing quite minor by pain-comparison. Todd photo-bombed one of our goofy “Abby’s nervous” pictures, rendering it even goofier, and far awesome-er.

getting inked

In retrospect, I should’ve gotten a real picture with Todd, even if only for posterity, but both Jen and I forgot.

Barely an hour later, Jen and I headed back home to bed, and I was the proud owner of the quite-irritated forearm bearing my very first tattoo.

Fresh Tattoo v. 2 Week Old Tattoo

It took about a week before it looked fully normal/not-red, but it didn’t really hurt after the actual-tattooing-process was finished, despite the initial angry-red hue you can see in the “before” half of the photo above.

The very next morning after my tattoo adventure, I got on an airplane and flew back to Massachusetts, where I was greeted by the only people back home who I had told about my concrete CA tattoo plans. My sisters’ mini-van door slid open to pick me up from the Logan Terminal for Virgin America, and I was immediately greeted by the excited exclamation from my four-year-old niece, “We – We’re THE SAME!!!” Confused, I turned . . .  and discovered that my sisters had, in solidarity, “tattooed” themselves and all of the kids with a variety of French phrases on their left arms!

THE SAME AS ME!!!They were so proud of their “tattoos”, and as soon as I stopped laughing, we commiserated over the shared experience of having words on our arms, which I assure you is quite novel.

All-in-all, quite the daring adventure for this hum-drum teacher-girl!