Category Archives: Education

Becoming Conference Highlights

I just returned from the Becoming Conference, where I learned so many tips about saving money, preparing food and party planning, not to mention hospitality and organization.  It was such a fun girls’ weekend with my mom and my sweet babe in tow.  The decorations were lovely (using the thrifty skills that we were taught), as well as the cake, cheesecake and cake.  Did I mention there was cake?

I thought I’d take a few minutes and share the highlights from the weekend, along with a few of my favorite tips that I learned.

  • I thought this year’s sponsors were particularly AWESOME!  Although I’m not a coffee drinker, International Delight provided gallons and gallons of free iced coffee, with plenty of their new creamers for tasting.  We received some awesome coupons and goodies from sponsors, as well as a handbag and set of greeting cards from DaySpringCents of Style provided a beautiful “Becoming” necklace and a ten percent off coupon.  This is a great company for purchasing inexpensive accessories and they host really great sales on Fridays.  De Wafelbakkers provided some fun water bottles and a coupon to try out their pancakes.
  • I decided to go to Jenny Martin’s (Southern Savers) session on cutting your grocery budget in half.  I have already been to her longer workshop but I thought I could use a refresher since I recently decided to get back into couponing since I had taken a break after giving birth.
  • Best tips:
    • It’s important to learn what a “good/rock bottom price” is for a product.
    • Grocery stores cycle most products on sale every six weeks.  Buy enough to last six weeks, until it is on sale again.
    • Wal-Mart will price match grocery store ads for stores within a fifty mile radius (you must take the ads with you to Wal-Mart).  This helps save on produce.
    • You’ll save more money by not having brand loyalties.
    • To save on meat, buy local and buy in bulk.
    • To save on produce, buy from the farmer’s market or local farms for the best price.  You can check out this website for some help with pricing questions.
  • Barbara Hemphill presented a very helpful session about organization and clutter.  One major statement that I took away was “You can keep everything you want if you’re willing to pay the price in time, energy, etc.”  That gave me a new way to think about the things I keep and the reasons why.  Perhaps another blog post for another day!
  • My favorite session was by Edie of Life in Grace and Ruth of Living Well Spending LessHospitality and Party Planning on a Budget.  These two gals were such a dynamic duo in a very subtle way.  It’s really hard to explain but they contributed equal amounts of “heart” and practical ideas.  I was reminded why it is important to make people feel welcome and to extend a heart of love toward others.  I learned some great tips about planning a lovely party on a small budget, such as using scrapbook paper for pennants and party hats (which can be reused).  I’m going to use all of this information to plan my little nugget’s first birthday party in a few months.

  • Miss Mustard Seed presented a session on DIY around the home, which is her specialty.  I admit I went to this session as a dreamer because I feel that I lack a lot of skills to “do it MYself”.  I was encouraged because she said it’s okay if you don’t take a fancy to every type of DIY.  I think I’m going to focus on crafts/decorations for parties and my sewing lessons; I’ll leave the upholstering to expert gals like Miss Mustard Seed!
  • Although I had attended Jen Schmidt’s (of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) 80% Off Lifestyle and Loving It session the past two years, my mom wanted to attend so I tagged along with her.  I was reminded how much I have been wanting to learn to make my own cake stands and decorate with them for parties/events and I was reinspired to shop my favorite thrift stores for some fall clothing.
  • The last session included Jen’s Ten Minute Dinners and a special presentation by Jackie Brown of Mom on a Mission and the Freezer Fairy.  I loved this one because I am learning more and more about freezer cooking and she had so many great tips on how to freezer cook with more wholesome and less processed ingredients.  I have yet to really dig into her blogs but here are a few things I learned from her last weekend:
    • Fresh eggs can be frozen, without the shells.
    • Place a cooling rack (can be found in your local dollar store) in between freezer casseroles so that they don’t fold in on each other with the aluminum foil covers.  You can remove the cooling rack once the casserole is frozen.
    • I learned the proper way to freeze (cool food to room temperature, avoid air in the freezer baggies, use quality baggies, etc.)
    • She uses a plastic shoe box to freeze food in baggies, as well as another to defrost in the fridge (to avoid messes).
    • Keep a freezer inventory sheet.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference and I hope you’ll join me on August 8-9, 2014 at Ridgecrest so we can enjoy some girl time and learn lots of new things together!

DisclaimerThe above sponsors did not pay me to mention them in this post.  I have expressed solely my opinions regarding this conference and sponsors.

Summer Learning Series – Part 3 – Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

Chicken Sunday is a meaningful, multicultural story that I used to read to my third grade students during the first part of the year.  The story involves forgiveness, love and honesty as three children find themselves in a bit of unmerited trouble while trying to purchase a gift for Gramma Eula.  On their way to purchase a hat from Mr. Kodinski, they are blamed for throwing eggs at his back door.  They cannot tell Eula why they were near his hat shop but she encourages them to find a way to earn his trust and show that they are not guilty of throwing the eggs.  Pick up the book at your local library to find out exactly what they did to earn Mr. Kodinski’s trust.

Ideas for sharing this story with your children:

  • Read the story together with your children.
  • Discuss the questions found here or add your own.
  • You can also take this opportunity to learn about other cultures.
  • Create Pysanky eggs with a tutorial like this one.
  • Take this opportunity to learn about or review measurements by creating your own “Honesty Soup”.  For example, one cup of truth, two tablespoons of integrity, etc.

No matter the day of the week, I hope you enjoy reading Chicken Sunday!

Adapted from the Heartwood Ethics Curriculum.

Summer Learning Series – Part 2 – Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Today we’re continuing our Summer Learning Series, lessons I previously taught, based on The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum.

One of our trademark Boone weather patterns is a good ole summer rain storm.  When these usually arrive after a “hot” day (hot being a relative term for our area), I am reminded of a book that I loved to read to my first grade students when I was teaching classroom guidance as a school counselor. I will never forget a particular first grade class where I brought the book, Thunder Cake.  In this story a little girl is afraid of the approaching storm and the accompanying thunder.  Her babushka (Russian for grandmother) helps her overcome her fear by taking a fun journey to collect ingredients for making “thunder cake.” 

Materials Needed:

Character Trait:  Courage


  • Read the story together and discuss the following questions (or any other questions you may think of):
  • What is the meaning of courage?
    • How did the little girl show courage in the story?
    • How did the girl’s babushka help her face her fear of storms?
    • What are some of your fears and how can we work together to help you work through those?
    • Have you or your child ever helped someone find courage in a fearful situation?
    • Share with your child how someone helped you overcome a fear.
    • Collect all ingredients for the thunder cake and make the cake together.  Enjoy!

I recall one particular class where a little girl asked for a copy of the recipe and went home and made the cake with her mother.  She brought a piece to me the next day!  I’ll never forget that sweet gift and how great it must have been for her to do something fun with her mom, based on a story from school.

My husband recently rode his bike in the Blood, Sweat and Gears event in Valle Crucis, NC and we hosted a “carb load” dinner at our home for some of his pals that were riding, as well.  I took the opportunity to make Thunder Cake and it was particularly a huge hit with my husband.  Who knows, maybe it was because of the special ingredient?  What’s that, you ask?  Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out!


$5 Or Less Rainy Day Summer Fun with Kids

What is a mom to do about all those days that it rains (maybe everyday these days but I would rather deal with a little storm each afternoon than extreme heat)?  There are several things you CAN do when it’s raining so get your galoshes out and let’s get moving!

  • Watauga County Public Library – Always a local favorite for story time!  Story time each day at 11am and Baby Lap Time each Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30am.
  • Boone Bowling Center – Kids fifteen and under bowl free until August 7th!  Note:  does not include shoe rental.
  • Michaels Craft Store of Boone is participating the Passport to Imagination crafting program for kids.  It meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am-12pm and $2 reserves a thirty minute time slot for your child.
  • Ashe County Cheese Factory – I thought this place was pretty fascinating as a kid.  Worth a little trip over to Jefferson to watch some cheese production and have a bite of the good ole squeaky cheese!
  • Children’s Playhouse of Boone offers a ton of children’s activities for $5 per person per visit.  If you have a membership, there is no additional charge.  Infants twelve months and younger are FREE.  The hours are Tuesday-Friday 10:00-5:00 pm Saturday 10-5:00 pm in June and July (10-3:00 pm August-May).

Have fun splashing to these fun activities!

Summer Learning Series – Part 1 – Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

As a former school counselor, one of my favorite things about my job was going into the classrooms and teaching a guidance curriculum.  This included character education and I would love to share some fun little lessons that I have adapted from The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum, which is what I used at my first school.  Today I would like to share the story of Ish and an easy lesson you can do at home.

Materials Needed:

  • Book – Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (available through Watauga County Library)
  • Paper
  • Crayons, paint, pens/pencils, colored pencils, or markers, etc.
  • Any art materials you may have in your home

The Story:  Ish is the story of Ramon and how he learns about having the courage to draw by being encouraged.  Ramon loves to draw and is proud of his drawings until his brother makes fun of them.  Ramon is discouraged until he learns how much his sister, Marisol, admires his artwork.  Marisol encourages Ramon to continue drawing “ish-ly”, instead of worrying about making his drawings “perfect.”  I won’t spoil the entire story for you.  I still enjoy reading it, myself!

Character Trait:  I used this book to teach COURAGE/ENCOURAGEMENT to my first grade classes.

Activity:  Using your art materials, work with your children to create “ish” drawings or write “ish” poems.  For example, in the story, Ramon draws a vase and when he says it’s not very good, Marisol tells him it’s “vase-ish”.  It doesn’t have to be perfect – it can be whatever you like!  Use this story to teach your children about doing their best with their work and play and having courage to express themselves with art.  You can admire each other’s drawings and poems and have fun doing it.  After you have collected a few “ish” drawings/poems, make a book for your family.  Have each person present their “ish” creations to the family and share encouraging words with what you like about their drawing/poem.  Have fun!

My Reflection:  I loved this story because it allowed for creative expression in the classroom and practice with how to say encouraging words to one another.  The story shows how a young child appreciates another child’s work and how each person can do their best with creative expression and it doesn’t have to be “just right”, according to someone else’s standards.  Reading this story recently brought back a lot of great memories in the classroom!  I hope you enjoy this little lesson, maybe on a rainy day or a sunny day in the backyard.


Manners Mentor

logo2Join us this summer in the High Country for high impact classes where your kids can become the best version of themselves.

Investing in manners today will help your children thrive in their relationships throughout life.  Students will learn to be confident, at ease and thoughtful in any setting.

  • Learn social manners for our digital world;
  • Make easy introductions and first impressions;
  • Prepare for relaxed dining experiences;
  • Use the skills you teach them to become reflections of their hearts.

Classes being offered:

It would be my pleasure to share dates and times with you. Contact me for more information.

Understanding End of Grade Tests

In a few weeks, many students throughout the High Country will take the North Carolina End of Grade Tests (EOG’s), which are often a source of stress amongst students, teachers and parents.  As a former school counselor, I spent thirty percent of my time coordinating testing.  Although this was not my favorite responsibility, I did spend the last month of the school year working with students (and parents) to “tame” test anxiety and help them with test-taking strategies.  Here are a few tips I have learned along the way:

  • If your child does not already have a consistent bedtime and/or eat a healthy and filling breakfast, be sure to start this routine before test week so that he or she has time to adjust to these healthy changes.  Fatigue and hunger make it very hard for anyone to focus on a task on any given day, not to mention the last test of the year.
  • Sometimes the actual test format can be intimidating because it is unfamiliar.  Teachers spend lots of time reviewing for the test and working through practice tests.  However, did you know that you, as a parent, can access past forms of the EOG’s?  Check out this website at the North Carolina Department of Instruction (NCDPI) to download released forms of the test.
  • Answer sheets with bubbles can also be a form of stress for students that are younger and less familiar with this format.  You can find practice bubble sheets here or generate your own sheet, if this is something you feel would help ease your student’s mind.
  • It’s a good idea to bring your own #2 pencils (not mechanical) but you can communicate to your student that there is no need to stress if they forget them one day.  I have never known a school to not provide extra pencils during test week.
  • If needed, students should use the calculator that is provided to them on the day when calculators are allowed (usually known as Math Calculator Active day), as well as the sheets of blank and graph paper for all math and reading test days.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget about these simple resources but I have seen students benefit from being able to work out a problem or answer with paper or a calculator.
  • When it comes to reading the test score report, each number can be really confusing.  Most parents and students are familiar with a score of 1, 2, 3 or 4.  Your child’s teacher can answer more specific questions about this part of the score report.  A score that I often found to be overlooked was the percentile in each subject.  For example, a child scoring in the eight-fifth percentile has scored at or above eighty-five percent of the students that have already taken the test in the norming year, which is the first year the test was administered.  You can find this and more complete information in NCDPI’s Understanding Your Child’s End-of-Grade Test Scores document.
  • Last, feel free to contact your child’s teacher or school counselor with any test questions or concerns you or your student may have.

This post was limited to my experience with coordinating the EOG’s but information about all standardized tests with NCDPI can be accessed via the NCDPI website.  Testing and accountability programs are constantly changing.  This post is intended to assist parents and students with general test-taking tips and understanding of scores.  Please refer to current publications and information from your child’s school and/or the website listed above.

Vacation Bible Schools

Summer is coming and High Country Churches will be opening their doors to community children for Vacation Bible School.

If you have a VBS that is not listed, please let Melissa know.  There is no charge to list your VBS.


  1. Perkinsville Baptist Church, June 16th – 20th, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, God’s Backyard Bible Camp
  2. Boone United Methodist Church, June 17th – 20th
  3. Mount Vernon Baptist Church, June 24th – 27th, 9:00 am to 12:15 pm
  4. Alliance Bible Fellowship, July 15th – 18th
  5. First Presbyterian Church, July 15th – 19th, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, Athens

Becoming Conference 2013

As a busy mom, have you ever wished you could get away for just one night of rest and relaxation?  I have just the opportunity for you!  Jen Schmidt of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam and Jenny Martin of Southern Savers are teaming up for a third year of hosting the Becoming Conference, taking place on August 9-10, 2013.

When thinking about this conference, I have a picture of frugality and creativity.  The conference’s Facebook page shares that “Becoming 2013 is a weekend designed to encourage and inspire women to live more intentionally by becoming more creative, purposeful, and frugal.”  The hostesses and guest speakers have been blessed with an ability to share their gifts with others through their blogs, and now the Becoming Conference.  The conference is located at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain, NC, ranging in cost from $80-$100, depending on room occupancy.  Past topics have included:

  • Conquering Meal Time Mountain with 10 Minute, $10 Dinners (& less)
  • Living Large on Less
  • Becoming a Professional at On-Line Shopping
  • Everything you want to know about Painting Furniture
  • A Fresh Look at Beauty and Style
  • Creative Inspiration and Easy Trash to Treasure Projects
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful
  • Creating Purposeful Moments in our Mothering: Casting a Long Term Vision
  • Using Photography to Transform Your Family’s Moments into Memories

Becoming’s Facebook page has shared some new speakers this year, including Ruth from Living Well Spending Less, Edie from Lifeingrace and Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate.

Becoming is a great way to relax, connect with other women and learn some new skills for your home, family and life, not to mention the awesome swag bag.  Be sure to “like” the Facebook page so you can stay up to date with registration information, which should be posted in the next few weeks.  I hope you will join me for this incredible opportunity and blessing.