Sunday, November 23, 2014

14 Fabulous Finds - A Daringly Geeky Gift Guide

I love buying gifts for family and friends! So, I thought I would share a few of my favourite finds both luxury and geeky to help give some good gifting ideas for the season. Most of the links take you to Amazon because I'm a Prime member and their delivery and prices are the BEST. I want to assure you though,  I haven't gotten any kickbacks from writing this post.  I have included some promo and referral codes to you for some products I love - I see that as a win/win. If I ever DO get any freebies I promise to give them away as a prize! How fun would that be!? Enjoy! Free stuff is after the 14 fab finds.
1. Twelve South BookBook Travel Journal - Travel savvy with a case that looks like a leather bound book but hides all kinds of tech and accessories. It features soft tweed, leather accented interior - with all kinds of pockets, straps, and compartments.
  • Genuine leather "book" cover
  • Contains over a dozen pockets and straps to organize your gear
  • Stores iPad, headphones, adapters, chargers, batteries, stylus, cables
  • Old-world book design discourages theft while on the go
  • Separate plush pocket fits all iPads
This is the kind of thing you can leave on your car's front seat without worry about an immediate window smash and grab. And hello? It's geeky & bookish! Average price $99 Follow on Twitter

 2. Belkin SurgePlus 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector with Dual USB -I love this gadget and have blogged about it before for my conference packing tips post! The plug swivels so you can fit it anywhere! The 2 USB ports work great & is terrific when traveling! Average price $20 Follow on Twitter

3. Quirky Pivot Flexible Surge Protector Power Strip -I'm buying this for our family's thieves market gift exchange. Perfect for all those things you have to plug in that have big bulky AC adapters. Comes in many colours & even a smaller travel size. Average price $20  Follow on Twitter

4. Quirky Space Bar Keyboard Organizer & USB Hub -I bought this for my desk at work. It's awesome - slide the keyboard under it and get extra USB ports that are easy to reach!
Comes in a couple variations - silver and white. I chose brushed silver. If it's not available on Amazon (it sells out!) try eBay. Average price $86  Follow on Twitter

5. Birchbox - 3, 6, or 12 month luxury beauty and grooming samples for women or men! I'm getting this for both my Mom & my Media Assistant (And no, they don't read this blog! [smh] LOL) It's just so nice and fun to get a beautiful box of goodies once a month...and to give that experience to someone you love for only $10 a month is to me a no-brainer. If I don't like an item, I give it away to a friend (I HATE Lip Gloss -too sticky!) but I've really discovered some super product favs because of my Birchbox. Use my referral code to get a VIP invite and bonus stuff. Read my previous blog post for more pics and info!  Average price $10 a month - $110 a year. Follow on Twitter

6. Cashmere Travel Throw Set - You don't have to fly first class to feel first class luxury. This super snuggly soft cashmere blanket and pillow with matching eye mask makes travel and hotel stays a dream at a great price! I have this in Grey - it's WONDERFUL! I even left an Amazon review. Average price $160

7. All About Down travel pillow. When you have a cashmere travel pillow doesn't it deserve down? Some hotel pillows are awful! Plus, I love sleeping on a plane and I've read a lot of articles about how they do NOT wash the airplane pillows & blankets. If they even supply them.  I'm not a germophobe.. but... Ok, maybe I am! This pillow has just enough soft with also downy support. Bonus: This company has some of the BEST customer service I've ever dealt with. I also ordered a custom Euro 26X26 down square pillow for my new West Elm Mongolian Lamb Pillow Cover. Average price $44

8.  PicMonkey -  Give the gift of Win!
My favourite online digital photo editing site - it's awesome and FREE but the Royale features make it mighty!  A year of Royale Digital Membership Average price $33 for one year. Follow on Twitter

9. Amazon Echo - Like a hands-free voice activated Siri - $100 off for Prime members! I want for home and to put one in my Library, too! And no, I don't worry about spying. I have stock in Skynet. ;-) Watch the hilariously awkward promo ad! Look at the Mom's facial expressions! Average price $99 for Prime members & $199 for everyone else.

10. Phillips Hue - Mobile & Interactive starter light kit - Through your smart phone or tablet, recreate millions of different colors, set timers and alarms, connect to your favorite apps and dim the light. You can also create your own colourful scenes for your app and also to share with the world.  Average price starter kit $188 includes base station & 3 bulbs. GREAT customer service! Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

11. Keurig - the BEST thing I ever got...ok, after my MacFamily of products and my Rav4. LOVE my Keurig! Here's my first in 2009. I've gifted this SO many times! I also bought one for our library kitchen for PD events.  Average price $130 - DO NOT buy the single. I had one and it sucked!

12. Ultra Sonic Jewelry Cleaner - As my Aunty would say DDDS - or Dirty Diamonds Don't Sparkle! I also bought this for my library kitchen - to offer jewelry cleaning during my Tech PD! Professional Development that Sparkles! #Shameless After you use up the included jewelry cleaner make your own w/ a few capfuls of bargain amonia, water, and a few drops of Dawn dish washing liquid.  Average price $32 various colours and including one bottle of jewelry cleaner.

13. iPad Air 2 Feeling spendy? The new iPad Air 2 is super thin, light, and amazing!  This will replace my iPad 2 which I will trade into Amazon (LOVE this service - it works - FAST! see more below) 

It really is amazing how Apple can transfer all your Apps, preferences, photo, data & stuff from the cloud to a new device. It took about an hour all told to get this new iPad up and running. I had to sign into a few apps to get them going but what a far cry from days of old with installation disks and flashdrives! Remember those days? I also enjoyed this feature when I set up my iPhone 6+! I do pay extra $ to get more iCloud space, but it's onlya dollar a month or  $12 a year and it supports 2 iPads and an iPhone. iPad Air 2 Average price $499-699   

14. Omaha Steaks - For the carnivore man (or woman!) who has it all! Like my Dad? One word - meat!  This is a great gift for the guy or gal who likes to grill year round. Sign up and look for the FREE Shipping offers. When I'm stumped as to what to give the person who has everything, consumables is the answer!   This gift saves my Mom, too! For a limited time, use the embedded referral code in the Tweet below to get $20 off $50 for your first order! It's a win/win! I buy so often (birthdays, father's day, thank you for the iPad day) that I get Steak Rewards! Nom nom!
Need $$ to Fund these Finds? Amazon Trade-in Rules!

Recycle Your Stuff & Make $! 
Want to earn some Amazon gift cards to help pay for Christmas gifts? You definitely must check out Amazon’s Trade-In Program. Go through your home and find any DVDs, Books, Video Games, or electronics you no longer need or use. Do a search on the Amazon Trade-In Store to see how much Amazon will pay you for a Trade In. If the price seems fair, click through to verify the condition, title, and price.You just print out a shipping label and take the nearest UPS store. Amazon gets it, and if they agree it's in the shape you said they automatically deposit the $$ into your Amazon account. I did this with my iPhone4S and got $165. I actually under estimated the value and they gave me $10 more! Note to my future self, keep the original boxes of new technology. 

FREE Graphic Gift from Me to You!

My TV studio kiddos are Tech Ninja's! Esp. my Head Techs! I was inspired by a teacher in Canada to create this for them and ANYONE who wants to use it with their own Tech Team or Geek Squad as a Badge! It's Creative Commons, Take, Use, Share....with Attribution!

Go to my Flickr Page to get different sizes - but if you want the that cool kind of transparency of the background you have to use or download the ORIGINAL size  make sure the file name to end in .PNG - Cheers!

FREE Owl Wall Decal
Hurry! You only have a few days more to sign up for this super cute wall decal! Offer ends Nov 30!
"In celebration of Picture Book Month, Live in a Story is giving away this wall decal based on Brian Won’s picture book, Hooray for Hat. " Sure, it's a little elementary-ish but I LOVE Owls! And who doesn't love FREE?
Follow on Twitter

Here are some cool suggestions from my Twitter family!

I invite you to leave your best tips in the comments! Every educator who leaves a non-spam comment gets an automatic Twitter follow from me- I love your comments! 

Do you NEED Geeky Google SWAG?
OK, so like 10 years ago Google used to send me SWAG like this much loved tie dye T-shirt as a thanks for promoting their products at conferences through my ed tech presentations.  This was WAY before I ever became a Google Certified Teacher and got the awesome SWAG above in Seattle. But if you're a Google fan and want to share that obsession devotion, why not get some SWAG at their Google online product store? I got my Google Lava Lamp here that my kiddos so adore!  Anyway, thought you might enjoy it!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cooking with the Daring Librarian

Hello dear readers!  I'm in the mood for a break from the usual, and with the holidays coming, I'd like to share a few cooking ideas! Some of the ideas I've posted before, but I thought I would put them all together here, in one blog post for ease! Disclaimer:  I'm not a chef and most all of these recipies I've gotten from other people or places, put my spin on it,  results are not guaranteed & your mileage may vary! LOL

I think I found this while I was lost in a forest of Pinterest pins - or drowning in a Pinterest pool - you know, you go check on something on Pinterest (or YouTube or BuzzFeed or Awkward Family Photos) and you get "lost" and stumble upon things that are super cool! This recipe was one of them that I HAD to try! 
Baked Cauliflower Buffalo Bites - the best of the buffalo wing taste but with yummy cauliflower all baked in the oven and served with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks. I know this sounds hard to believe that this could give wings a run for their money, but they do!

A full head or already chopped cauliflower florettes (In a hurry? You can buy them in a bag or get them at the salad bar), 2 tbs butter, Frank's hot sauce, flour, garlic powder, paprika, milk, and blue cheese dressing & celery sticks (for serving). See photo above.

Mix up the batter (just milk, flour, paprika and garlic powder).

Dip cauliflower in batter and shake a little bit to get rid of the excess batter & place on a baking tray covered with (my fav!) nonstick aluminum foil.

Melt the butter & add Frank's hot sauce to taste - stir and set aside

425ºF until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from cooking sheet, place on wire rack so they stay crispy, make another batch - toss this batch with the sauce or have it on the side for dipping (so they don't get mushy) and serve with bleu cheese dressing & celery sticks. YUM!  

Inspired by Caulifower Buffalo Wings
from The Tasty Kitchen

When I was kid I didn't like Brussels sprouts - probably because I had them cooked from frozen or canned but when I got older & I had them roasted - WOW! They're like crack! (Not that I know what that's like - sorry Walter White -I've always been straight edge!) Add in your veggies of choice - roast them in the oven and whammy! You've got a great side dish, served either hot or cold and a great addition to all kinds of meals! Nom nom! 
1 bag of Brussels sprouts cleaned (cut off the bottom, pull off any wilted leaves, & I cut them in half)
1 large sweet onion sliced, 
6-8 garlic cloves sliced in half (I love roasted garlic!)
1lb. Asparagus cut into 2" lengths, and whatever hearty veg you like
Simple vinaigrette: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices, and a squeeze of lemon juice
Salt (I use French grey sea salt) - and add only at the end - cooking w/ salt will leach out the natural juices of the veggies
Want a spicy kick? Sprinkle Chef Paul Hot Sweet Pizza Pasta Magic (SO Amazing!) on it!  

I've also added sliced mushrooms (see above - cooking at the beach!) and, being of Welsh descent, I've of course added leeks!

Preheat oven to 375 F. Trim the tough stem off of all of the Brussels sprouts and discard. Cut the smaller sprouts into halves and larger sprouts into quarters. Remove any loose leaves as well. Just set
View a bigger size for full Nom Nom effect
the loose leaves aside; they will be roasted also.  Place all of the sprouts and leaves onto a rimmed non-stick or olive oiled baking sheet or Pyrex casserole dish. Mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar and any seasonings you like in a small bowl or measuring cup - pour over veggie and toss to coat.

Roast covered with aluminum foil for 20 min, remove foil, stir and turn the veggies and check to see if they're done. Roast uncovered another 10-20 min. When they are done, the loose leaves will be crispy and browned and the sprouts will be fork tender. Ovens vary, I have a Kitchen Aid convection oven so I always have to adjust.
When done, sprinkle with the salt, toss, and serve! Nom, nom! I take a big container to school for lunch and I also keep one at home for dinners.

Dinner Ideas: 
What to make with this? You can top a Trader Joe's frozen pizza (this can sometimes fool picky nephews to eat some veggies) --- sometimes!
You can also add the veggies to corn & shrimp chowder, Maryland crab, or any kind of soup
You can toss them chilled with a light vinaigrette & serve with crispy bacon pices for a picnic
Add them to an omelet with cheddar cheese
Toss them warmed up with pasta, parm, & herbs
What would YOU do with them?
Drunken Sugared Nuts & Brie
Great for a holdiay party!
14-ounce round of Brie
1/4 cup of brandy
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts or pecans or better yet, a mix of the two! (see photo)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Mix the sugar, nuts, and cover with the brandy all together in a covered container and chill in the fridge for at least 24 hours up to a week (or 2!)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Place the brie on an ovenproof dish or pie plate. Bake for 4 or 5 minutes or until the brie is slightly softened. Spread the sugar mixture in an even layer on top of the warm brie and bake for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the sugar melts and gets all awesome bubbly!

On Town House Crackers or with apple or pear wedges. Enjoy! 
Adapted from a Paula Deen recipe
Easy Sausage & Onion App! 
Here's my favourite, easy to make and always popular party appetizer recipe! My friends like it, my nephews fight over it, and it only takes about 10 min from start to finish...and you can make it days ahead of time, it just gets better! (originally posted last Christmas)

1 half onion, sliced - yellow, white, or sweet Vidalia!
2-3 tbs (to taste) Maile grainy mustard
2-3 tbs (to taste) Dijon mustard
2-3 tbs (or more) Brown sugar
2-3 tbs water
1 package Smoked sausage, whatever is on sale, regular beef or turkey  - sliced into rounds
Combine first 5 ingredients into a microwave-safe container or dish and microwave about 4 min- stir well before and after.
Add sausage slices, stir to combine coating all as best as possible, add maybe a couple extra tablespoons of brown sugar over the top & microwave 4 additional min.
Take to party or refrigerate overnight. You can even make it a day or two ahead of time - it just gets better!

Zap in the microwave to warm through, stir from the bottom up to get the now savory sweet sugar sauce, and serve!

For presentation you could, right before serving, sprinkle a little brown sugar on the top for a nice cover.
Serve with tiny silver appetizer forks (used in seafood, too) or toothpicks!

Turkey in a Blanket?
You can also take these slices & onion slices wrap them up in 1/4th of a crescent roll triangle and bake for a type of pig in the blanket.  Enjoy!

All my cooking pictures on Flickr

What are your favourite recipes? Please comment with your ideas, feedback, or if you have a "go to" easy app or recipe to share!  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It Can Wait and YouTube Teen Celebrities

  #X Before You Drive
Here's a news story written by our MHTV correspondent, 8th grader the uber awesome herself, Stephannie J.
"AWESOMENESS TV and many of your favorite celebrities, including James Maslow, Demi Lovato and R5, have joined the movement to stop texting and driving and you should, too! Check out this video featuring some of your favorite YouTubers. Weekly Chris looked pretty good in that video, am I right ladies? (Steph's words, not mine!) So how can you join the movement? Go to and take the pledge. Spread the word and make this known! #itcanwait"  Thanks Steph!

We grownups need to model this for our kiddos. Like transparency and creating a positive digital footprint, we don't have any credibility if we're texting and driving the same time we tell teenagers to X before you drive.
My new crosover RAV4 (Squee!) has hands free paring with my phone and I will use that - but I don't touch my phone when I drive...even at a red light - and yes, I'll X before I drive.
Visit the site to take the pledge, get more information, and MAKE Your Own MEME!
 Click to see ours!
YouTube Teen Celebrities
Did you know there was a whole cadre of teen real people celebrities who have their own YouTube channels? Like the MAGCON Viners I discovered last year (thanks to my 8th grade girls for filling me in!), these kids have MILLIONS of followers!
A couple have even leveraged their celebrity status & now make a living with endorsements. Here's a couple examples. I found out about Meredith Foster (700K+ followers)  because #MereBearsBacktoSchool was trending this summer on Twitter. 

She had my heart by taking out the trash! So she's a beautiful smart, Californian Christian but not preachy, nice, upbeat, & creative young girl - what's not to like?  Her big back to school giveaway created a frenzy online but that was how I found her!

Then I Googled (duh!) and found out about Bethany Mota (2M+ followers) who most say was the first and some say the original YouTube beauty advice teen and now is a beauty and fashion mogul. She was even a Project Runway guest judge the other week! Of course in the above video she makes (IMHO) the grave blogger or vlogger mistake of starting a post by apologizing for not posting - but maybe her teen followers need to know WHY!
Oh and who is this Chris that Stephannie was talking about? He's WeeklyChris! (800K+ followers) - a cute dude in Canada - NOT THE one who must not be named who has turned into a real life jerk  & who I made a return books Blabberize parody about a couple years ago....

This one is quite charming and says all the right things in the video below about what makes a girl attractive: honesty, natural, innocence, no drinking or smoking, and smiling....clever lad!

Want to know more? I didn't even mention 02L! Check out this article on Flavorwire

Is It Time to Start Caring About Teen YouTube Celebrities?

Parents & Grownups: So what's all this AwesomenessTV about? Check it out

Sunday, October 12, 2014

ISTE, Stirring the Pot, & Education Advocacy

Four years ago on Doug Johnson's awesome The Blue Skunk Blog a commenter named Glynda said

I just read in the SLJ that Teacher librarian Gwyneth Jones is now a board member of ISTE. Perhaps she can help ensure that administrators are not only aware of NETS-A but also following them."

ISTE NETS & the Common Core
I recently ended that four year elected term on the ISTE Board of Directors and as I reflect upon my service, participation, and accomplishments balanced with Glenda's comment, I can say that if that was the sole standard of success - I failed! I couldn't then, and I can't now, "ensure" that admins are aware of NETS and I surely can't make them follow the NETS.

I think we ALL must have an ongoing conversation with our Admin & staff about how we can integrate ISTE NETS into our daily instruction. Just like teaching technology in isolation, it shouldn't just happen once at a professional development in-service. 

You know what would really help sell the NETS to admins?  Having something that makes the connection between the Common Core & NETS.  It would be great if ISTE could spell out direct correlations from NETS to the Common Core. This would get our admin's attention, right? We DO have a Position Statement with an infographic showing why the NETS can maximize Common Core success.  ISTE Connects also produced this excellent blog post -  Common Core: It’s not what they know — it’s how they’ll use it  Great conversation starters! Is it enough? Is it an ISTE NETS & CCSS toolkit all wrapped up in a digital bow? Nope, but it's a beginning!

In 2010,  I blogged & gushed about the honour of being elected - and said that I "would love to inspire all Admins to share more with the community in an ongoing conversation their hopes, dreams, & plans for their kids! No need to have JUST a newsletter home - an Admin can have an online relationship and inspire the world!" Now my new principal Tweets from our school account! W00t! My district made a Twitter account for every school - some admins are involved more than others - but it's a start! boards of associations, sometimes move slowly. School librarians and teachers of ALL subjects, let's keep plugging away! These organizations need our voices and our passion. Never give up, never surrender, keep advocating. Keep serving. Whether on ISTE, ALA, AASL, YALSA, NEA, NCATE, METC, TCEA, or your local ISTE or library affiliate?  Wherever you can lend a hand, give an idea, take charge, or stir the pot - do it!

Why ISTE and not ALA or AASL? 
Though I go to AASL every other year & have presented several times, I feel that ISTE is more cutting edge, progressive, & inclusive. For years I spent my own money as an investment in my profession going to and presenting at the ISTE conference. I met amazing educators, collaborated with inspiring leaders and change agents, and ISTE honestly, changed my life!
In contrast, the ALA conference made me feel like a redheaded stepchild. Someone once asked me at the DC ALA conference in 2007 what kind of librarian I was,  I said "middle school librarian" all chirpy like & excited and she smiled condescendingly, raised her brows, and murmured dryly "how adorable." Womp womp. OMFG!*  Bless her heart! Stunned.
I also wonder why, out of 50 Library Mover & Shakers every year, Library Journal magazine (and I'm a grateful recipient of that award, mind!), why are there only 2 or 3 school librarians? Hmmmm?  Also, how come AASL or ALA don't ask people like Joyce Valenza, Kathy Scrock, Doug Johnson, or heck me! (LOL) to be a keynote or feature speaker? What's with that? Why don't we celebrate our own peeps? This is a conversation that if I were on the ALA or AASL board I would bring up - and it might NOT be popular. Stir, stir, stir!

Keepin it Real & Grabbin That Spoon
Yeah, stir, stir, stir!  Whilst on the ISTE board you know I tried to keep it real and stir the pot with the obvious but often unasked questions.  I wanted to passionately represent and advocate for librarians and school-based educators.  The majority of our ISTE membership are the people who work in the schools - the classroom teachers & librarians in the trenches - who are there for our BEST customers, our kiddos!  Never forget the kiddos! For a while there, I was one of only 2 school based board members - the rest were VP's, higher ed, superintendents, corporate, & big wig types. (I admit to many moments of being a tongue-tied fangirl!)  It was a lot of work and a lot of my summer, evenings, and weekends. I tried really hard to do my best & I loved every minute!
Stir The Pot, But with Respect
It's super important to strike a balance being an education advocate, pot stirrer, and question asker, with staying professional and respectful. I mentioned some of this in a previous post How to Train Your (New) Principal.
Believe me, I delete a lot of Tweets! I bite my tongue every day. I write long heated blog comments ranting & raving at education issues that irk, annoy, anger, & irritate me. I just deleted a whole paragraph naming some!  What do I do? I cut & paste them into an email draft & I sleep on it - then usually delete it the next day. Take the high road. Be positive!  I often think, would my Momma be proud of that? If it's iffy - I try and steer clear. But if I get to know you personally, I might rant a bit in private over a pint but not in PRINT! Cause like, I'm human! And I'm a redhead! LOL

It was a true honour to serve and four years later I can assure you that ISTE truly has their heart in the right place when it comes to advocating for kids, teachers, and technology integration. If they hadn't I would NOT have run for or accepted my second term.

I'd like to thank all the ISTE Staff in Eugene for their commitment to the members, all my supportive and inspiring fellow board members, and Dr. Kecia Ray ISTE Board Chair, for her mentoring, inspiration, and leadership.  I'd also like to thank Brian Lewis, the new CEO - who really gets the fact that branding is important and that ISTE really needed a branding overhaul. Dag, we look good now! ISTE Rocks!
WOW...that was an unusually large amount of blathering. I reserve the right to edit this later! LOL I should sleep on it -- but talking dead is on and I really need push Publish before I go to bed. Night friends!

Common Sense Media - Alignment and Standards
ISTE Board nomination packet! Why not you!?

*OMFG - Oh my fairy godmother! What were YOU thinking? My Momma might read this blog! 


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