Archive of ‘Just For Fun’ category

Huge Giveaway!

TPT Secondary Seller Giveaway

Fellow teachers, I am participating in a HUGE Teachers Pay Teachers Resource Giveaway hosted by Teaching High School Math. The giveaway is divided into two parts, and you have the opportunity to win either a Middle School Giveaway Bundle or a High School Giveaway Bundle. These bundles are filled with the highest-quality resources from all subject areas, donated by TOP Teachers Pay Teachers sellers.

Middle School Giveaway


High School Giveaway


For the Middle School Bundle, I have donated my best-selling unit, Finding the Main Idea: GIST Summarizing for 6-12 graders.

Finding The Main Idea GIST (c) Kristen Dembroski


Finding The Main Idea GIST Preview (c) Kristen Dembroski

You could win a FREE copy of this item!

Summarizing is such a difficult skill for students.
This is a 2-week mini-unit on summarizing and finding the main idea (called finding the GIST) with expository text. I have used this in my classroom for the past 5 years, and students find this worksheet exceedingly helpful in scaffolding their acquisition of this difficult skill. The best part about this unit plan is that you get to choose your own texts, individualized for your own students’ interests and reading levels. I suggest using news articles (especially student news publications), but you can also use content-area texts, websites, textbooks, nonfiction books, etc. The sky is the limit!

This unit includes *TWO* sample articles and summaries to review and discuss with students. One article shows a shorter, 20 word summary, and the other shows a more detailed 30 word summary. Choose which is best for your students!

This meets the Common Core Standards for grades 6-12, and it is a cross-curricular activity.

* Common Core Standards Addressed
* Learning Targets
* Lesson Plans
* Worksheets
* 2 Sample Articles
* 2 Sample Summaries
* Student Handout: A Shorter Way To Say…
* Feedback Oreo Poster (How to give constructive criticism)

Read more about this product or purchase it here.

You have from January 10 – 17 to participate and win this HUGE bundle of amazing resources. Go sign up now!

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Featured Teacher

Featured Teacher (c) Kristen Dembroski

Yeah! I am the Featured Teacher this week over on Lindsay Perro’s Blog! I feel so lucky and blessed! Please go check out her blog – she is a Top Seller on Teachers Pay Teachers, and she has so many fun and exciting math resources to help your class go ‘Beyond the Worksheet!’

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Happy 2014!

Google Rings in 2014

Happy 2014 to all! May your year be blessed with health and happiness.

I don’t make New Years Resolutions, but I do make year-long goals (is that the same thing?). I made 14 goals for 2014, and they are:

1. Finish my dissertation
2. Potty-train Ruffy (our dog)
3. Clean out / Organize the basement
4. Remodel the upstairs and get a new tenant
5. Save up and purchase an elliptical
6. Stick with the Paleo diet 90/10
7. Make a big dent in my student loans
8. Plant and eat my own vegetables / herbs
9. Create a family recipe book
10. Finish my handmade Christmas gifts by November
11. Use our wedding china
12. Go on at least one vacation
13. Go parasailing (I mean… why not?)
14. Cook an entire dinner for my family

Do you have any exciting plans or goals for 2014? I’d love to hear about them!

Hello, 2014!

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Treat Yourself

December Birchbox


If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to pamper yourself, I think Birchbox is a great way to do this. I have been a member of Birchbox for over 2 years now, and I’m obviously a big fan 🙂

I explain it to people like a magazine subscription, except instead of a magazine you look forward to receiving each month, you get a box of beauty goodies instead! When you sign up for Birchbox, you tell them about your hair, skin, and beauty preferences. They send you 5 or 6 high-end beauty samples each month to try out. I love this idea, because I get to try some great products that I would have otherwise missed. In the past 2 years, I have discovered some of my favorite beauty items, such as Orofluido Elixir, Shu Uemura, Number 4 Super Comb PrepBenefit POREfessional, Jouer Moisturizing Lip Gloss, and Benefit It’s Potent! Eye Cream.

I’ve received goodies that range from hair and skin products to makeup, nail polish, gadgets, and gourmet foods. Samples that don’t seem to be my style me get passed along to a friend. Once I have tried a sample, I go on to the Birchbox website and give them my feedback about the item. In return, I get points that add up to dollars I can spend in the Birchbox store on full-sized items. I saved up enough points to buy a Amika Travel Hair Straightener and Hairdryer, which excites me to no end!

Lastly, I must say that I love having Birchbox as my go-to gift for others. I have probably gifted a Birchbox subscription at least 6 times. I can buy someone a 3-month subscription for only $30, and print out the gift certificate without even leaving my home! What I will do then is grab an old Birchbox box and fill it with some goodies and the gift certificate to let my friend know to check the mail. They can then log-in to Birchbox, create a profile, and receive samples tailored just for them.

Now doesn’t Birchbox sound fun? Go ahead, give it a try! If you sign up using my special referral code (I get store points), I would really appreciate it! Click here to sign up. Enjoy trying something new and exciting in the New Year!


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13 in ’13

I am linking up with a few great blogs for this “13 in ’13” post (Miss Kindergarten, A Teeny Tiny Teacher, and Dragonflies in First). As 2013 comes to a close, I am having fun remembering all of my favorites from this year:

Military Jacket (c) Kristen Dembroski

I love this military jacket I purchased from The Limited. It’s a great fall look, very comfortable and versatile! Best purchase this year!

Frozen Movie

I went with my niece and nephew to see “Frozen,” and it certainly did not disappoint! This movie had so many unexpected treasures – Olaf the Snowman had me in stitches, and the love between Elsa and Anna reminded me of my own sister, whom I love so dearly. My husband and I really enjoyed how Disney departed from the traditional motif of true love / romance saving the day, and a man coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress. This movie was definitely about sisterly love and girl power! 

House TV Series

I love “House”! I feel like I could sit and binge-watch for hours (yes, yes, okay! I have done this several times!). I enjoy the intelligent, witty dialogue that keeps me on my toes. I also like that I learn a lot from watching medical dramas, such as challenging vocabulary. My doctors and dentists get a kick out of me when I listen and pay attention as they take notes or talk to one another, and I actually follow along. I’m so sad this show is over! 


My favorite restaurant in Milwaukee, WI is Rustico in the Third Ward. My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner here, and we always go back for our anniversary dinner together. The food is mouth-watering. The wait staff tells me that they send their chefs to Italy at least once a year to train in new recipes and cooking methods. They have locally made Gelato, and many of their ingredients (including the Lemoncello!) are imported directly from Italy. Plus, it’s located on the Milwaukee Riverfront, so Ryan and I can sit on the dock on a lovely summer day, enjoy a drink in a copper mug, and watch the boats. It’s lovely!

Holiday Cooking and Baking (c) Kristen Dembroski Paleo Christmas Cookies (c) Kristen Dembroski Paleo Foods (c) Kristen Dembroski Raspberry Torte (c) Kristen Dembroski Homemade Applesauce (c) Kristen Dembroski Zucchini Pancakes (c) Kristen Dembroski Cookie Bars (c) Kristen Dembroski Paleo Waffles (c) Kristen Dembroski

I gave the Paleo diet a try, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The Paleo diet is grain-free, dairy-free, and chemical-free. But instead of focusing on what I “can’t” eat, I focus on what I “can” eat – whole foods, meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and delicious meals I prepare myself! I can’t even tell you how much better I feel. I sleep better, my stomach is flat, I have no IBS symptoms, I have a TON more energy, and things just taste better. If you would like to read any of my posts about becoming Paleo, you can click here, here, here, here, here, or here!

Rocket & Ruffy (c) Kristen Dembroski

Though you wouldn’t call Ruffy a gift in the traditional sense of the word, he has certainly been a gift to our family. On the left is Rocket, our 3-year-old Teddy Bear, and Ruffy, a 7-year-old Yorkie, is on the right. My grandfather passed away last November, and my grandmother passed away this November. Ruffy needed a home, and Team Dembro became his new pack. Yes, it has been a challenge taking on a spoiled lap dog with a ridiculous amount of medical needs who is also not crate or potty trained. However, the joy we get from having him in our home definitely outweighs those factors. Rocket and Ruffy have found their stride, and they are now playing together after almost 2 months of staring each other down from a distance. Ruffy loves to snuggle. And frankly, having him here is like having a piece of Grandpa and Grandma here, too. I love him 🙂

Digital Citizenship Poster for Middle and High School Classrooms | Common Sense Media

I absolutely love this poster, and I think it is so critical that we have this conversation with our students (especially now that my students all have iPads in our one-to-one school). We have this blown up and printed as a poster in our school, and I have literally walked a student over to the poster and gone through the flow-chart with them to help them decide if a picture was appropriate or not to keep and/or post online. I think this needs to be in every school (and, um, place of employment, too!).

Calatrava Wing (c) Kristen Dembroski

My favorite blog post is about the Art of Writing Conference at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I attended this conference twice this year, and you can read about it here and here. It is a wonderful opportunity for aspiring authors and artists – I love attending each year!

Paper Chain (c) Kristen Dembroski


I have to say that I am very proud of myself for publishing my first book, The Paper Chain. It has been a cornerstone of my classroom teaching, and I have seen my students grow by leaps and bounds from using this text. Now that it is for sale as well, I enjoy knowing that it will positively impact so many other classrooms and students as well. It’s a great feeling! It is available as a digital download and in paperback.

My Loving Family (c) Kristen Dembroski


As a gift for my mother, my family got together for a family portrait. This picture is my favorite, and captures my family perfectly!

Flying (c) Kristen Dembroski

My favorite memory this year is when my husband took me up in his airplane for the first time. He recently became a pilot, and I am so proud of him. I tell my students about the hours and hours of studying, reading, and training it took for him to accomplish his goal. Many people are afraid to go up in his 2-seater propellor planes, but I couldn’t feel more safe than when I am in his ‘hands.’ He is an extremely intelligent and conscientious person, and he is always in control. Though I get air sick, it was a lot of fun and oh so beautiful!

My goal for 2014 is to finish my dissertation. I have 3 chapters written, and 2 to go. I CAN DO IT!!!

I have been actively concentrating on finding Joy in life, and this has been the single best thing I could have ever done for myself. Joy begets joy, and it’s that simple. I avoid expending energy focusing on the negative, and I look for the happiness, humor, and opportunities instead. I’m a very goal-driven person, so it’s easy for me to set my sights on the outcome and forget about the journey along the way – finding joy helps keep me present in the moment. There is so much to love about life!


So, how was your 2013? I hope it was filled with lasting memories, joy, friends, and family. I wish you all the happiness in the world in 2014!

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The Joy of Giving & Merry Christmas 2013!

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you all had a most wonderful day yesterday. I had a great time celebrating Christmas 3 times! We began the morning at my husband’s mother’s house, the afternoon with my immediate family at my sister’s house, and the evening with my extended family at my aunt’s house. Festivities from morning ’til night – that’s how I roll!

As cliche as it is, I find that the joy of Christmas comes from giving, not receiving. For weeks or even months, I look forward to watching someone open a gift I carefully selected or handmade. It brings me such joy! Here are some of the gifts I made this year that I couldn’t wait to give:

Paw Print Ornaments (c) Kristen DembroskiPaw print ornaments for my mother and sister of our 3 dogs: Tyger, Ruffy, & Rocket. If you want to make your own, these are the wonderful ornament directions I followed (I added nail polish for flair).

Canvas Print (c) Kristen DembroskiMy sister and I ordered a canvas print for my mother of a family photo session we had done this fall. She plans to hang it over her fireplace. She was SO excited! We ordered from

My Animals Coloring Book (c) Kristen Dembroski

My Animals Coloring Book (c) Kristen DembroskiI made coloring books for all of my nieces and nephews for Christmas. They were a hit! (P.S. If you want to purchase a copy for yourself, you can click here).

Donating Blood for the Holidays (c) Kristen Dembroski

I really wanted to give back this year, and I thought I had picked the perfect way to do so. I am O negative, which is the universal blood donor. I went in to the Wisconsin Blood Center the day before Christmas and donated a pint of blood. The problem was that when I went to leave, I blacked out. I came to with a team hovering over me, covering me in icepacks, palpating my feet and legs, and holding a fan on my face. What?! Woops.

Paleo Christmas Cookies (c) Kristen DembroskiPaleo Christmas Dinner (c) Kristen Dembroski

Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some wonderful food to cook/bake for the holidays. I made a plate of Paleo Christmas Cookies, Mashed Cauliflower, and Coconut Almond Green Beans. The cookies are Cutouts (my personal favorite), Chocolate Peppermint Macaroons dipped in Godiva Dark Chocolate, Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies, and Energy Bites (my second favorite). I had 2 helpings of the Mashed Cauliflower because I thought it tasted aMAzing! I didn’t tell my family it was cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, and most of them couldn’t even tell!!!


Today, we are enjoying the leftovers and relaxing. The dogs are pooped!

Rocket & Ruffy (c) Kristen Dembroski

Have a wonderful day!


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Last School Day of 2013

Our last Friday before Winter Break was so much fun, I just had to snap a few pictures to share!

Holiday Assembly (c) Kristen Dembroski

The Friday before school let out for 2013, we had an all-school Holiday Assembly. Each grade, 6 – 8, creates a volleyball team, and they compete for the honor of playing against the staff team. The Poms team performs, the Choir sings the National Anthem, and the Student Council veejays. What a treat this year – one of our students was surprised by his older brother returning from military service a day early and showing up at the assembly. The soldier was a former student of mine, all grown up and in his military uniform. Oh, how I cried! It was very touching. The students were all very well behaved and they had a great time! Winter Break Last Day (c) Kristen Dembroski1. A few other highlights of the day – the top left is my FAVORITE gift I received. A donation to the Sandy Hook Fund is such a perfect, meaningful gift for a teacher!

2. One of my classes was about 15 minutes ahead of my others, so we had some time to enjoy a small bit of ‘Home Alone’ – yeahhhh!!! (P.S. I gave them the options of ‘Elf’ and ‘Home Alone’, and they picked ‘Home Alone’ because they’ve been ‘Elf’ed to death. Is that even possible????)

3. The bottom left is a card for our wonderful custodian, Joe. I have learned in my 7 years of teaching that custodians and secretaries are the most valuable and hardworking in our school. Joe ‘The Custodian’ is much loved by staff and students alike, and he was recently diagnosed with cancer. We learned that he would be working all through the Winter Break cleaning and painting our classrooms, so we decided to leave him a few treats throughout the school: cards, notes hanging on the walls, student-made posters, etc.

4. We left with only 5 days before Christmas, and I made sure to remind every student to take some time to thank the people in their lives that matter, and to try and make something nice for their parents for the Holidays (even if it’s just a heartfelt card).

5. And finally, our Student Council gave every staff member a car charger for our iPads, which is very helpful.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe rest of December, and I hope January doesn’t come too soon!


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Christmas Card 2013

Hello to all of my dear blog followers – friends, fellow teachers, and just all around awesome people. I just wanted to wish you all a very merry holiday season. Per our family tradition, the Dembroskis have created a holiday card (created at, and I’d love to share it with you all. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! Love, Team Dembro xoxo

Dembro Christmas 2013 (c) Kristen Dembroski

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

It’s December – YAY! I am officially ready to hear Christmas music and get in the holiday spirit. Bring on the red Starbuck’s cups, tinsel, and all the other Holly Jolly.

So we have 3 full weeks until Winter Break – a long haul for the students, especially since we are working on our Argument Unit and there is a lot of work yet to do. I used a countdown clipboard last year, and this seemed to help. I would refer to it whenever students seemed to have zoned out – “Guys, we still have X days left.” They understood the visual reminder that we aren’t there yet. It’s not time to check out, people!

Christmas Countdown (c) Kristen Dembroski

It is a very simple project to create this Countdown Clipboard. The backing is just wrapping paper that I cut to fit, then laminated. I did this so I could change out the backing to match any other time of year (ex: Countdown to Summer). The numbers are index cards, also laminated.

I like to put a student in charge of changing the numbers. In 8th grade, this is a fun project for students – they often fight over who gets to make the switch each morning.

As long as we’re talking about getting into the holiday spirit, why not show you a picture of my tree? Yes, we do own a bigger tree, but we felt it was best to put up the little tree this year since we are still house-training our new dog, Ruffy. From a dog’s perspective, I imagine it’s pretty confusing to have a tree indoors that you aren’t allowed to pee on, amiright? Both my husband and I are allergic to pine, so we’ve always had a synthetic tree. One of my favorite holiday stories involves 2 special, identical ornaments on our tree. We both received the same ornament the year we were born, and we’ve been hanging on to them ever since. I put them side-by-side on the tree and love seeing that we were meant for each other from the start. We also have a pickle hiding in our tree – a Scandinavian tradition (you’ll never spot it in this photo!).

Christmas Tree (c) Kristen Dembroski

Have you begin getting ready for the holiday season?


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Cooking Up a Paleo Storm

Our family tradition is to spend the weekend after Thanksgiving decorating the house for Christmas. We put up the tree and Christmas lights, which is such a fun thing to do as a family. I have one very important message for our new dog, Ruffy: Thou shalt not lift thine leg on the Christmas tree. And I mean it!

Since I was in the spirit, I also decided to cook up a storm this weekend. It’s great to have a fridge full of prepared foods that are ready to go. I spent practically the entire weekend in the kitchen. I’ve run the dishwasher 4 times in the past 2 days, sheesh! My husband assures me that our dishwasher is eco-friendly and actually uses less water and resources than handwashing, so that’s good.

I’d love to show you what I made. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am trying to switch to a Paleo diet. I am doing this slowly, and I’m up to 2 meals a day plus snacks. Hopefully I can make the permanent, full switch and stick with it!

Raspberry Torte

This recipe is from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC. The recipe is actually for a pie filling, but I decided to make it into a frozen treat instead. Next time, I would add little sticks to make popsicles, yum! Ingredients: fresh raspberries, lemon zest and juice, medjool dates, and coconut oil and butter.

Raspberry Torte (c) Kristen Dembroski

Homemade Apple Sauce

I keep saying to my husband, “This was so easy to make, and it tastes SO much better than store-bought apple sauce. Why wouldn’t anyone just make their own?” This is a Paleo applesauce with only 3 ingredients: apples, honey, and water (oh, and a dash of cinnamon). Tastes phenomenal, and no added sugar! Find the recipe here.

Homemade Applesauce (c) Kristen Dembroski


Zucchini Pancakes

This recipe is also from the book Practical Paleo. I got to use my food processor a lot this weekend! These taste wonderful and actually don’t use too many eggs (only 3). I plan to warm them up for breakfasts throughout the week, in addition to my Paleo Waffles I blogged about on Thanksgiving.

Zucchini Pancakes (c) Kristen Dembroski


Apple Cider Beef Roast

I also came up with my own ‘recipe’ for a beef shoulder/roast I picked up at the grocery store. First, I added coconut oil, sea salt, and black pepper and pan-seared the roast in a skillet – a couple of minutes, just enough to seal in the flavor. Then I transferred the meat and oils to a casserole dish which I filled with apple cider (not covering the meat, but probably about an inch high). I see now that I need to purchase a Dutch oven – hint, Christmas gift! I baked the roast at 400 degrees for about an hour. It was very juicy and tasty! I served it with a side of baked yams and roasted squash. P.S. The dogs LOVE squash. Who knew? I always try to sneak a few vegetables into their food, and this one was a hit!

Beef Roast (c) Kristen Dembroski


Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Here’s a link to the recipe for these amazing chocolate chip cookie bars. I added walnuts to mine. My husband and I are definitely going to fight over these!

Paleo Cookie Bars (c) Kristen Dembroski

Later this week, I hope to make these Energy Bars. You know, my favorite thing about Paleo recipes is how SIMPLE they are! Just a couple of ingredients, things I already have on hand, and nothing crazy or exotic I have to go to a speciality grocery store to find. It’s perfect for me and my busy teacher lifestyle!

I have one more thing to share with you all regarding Paleo foods. I found a great new blog called Nom Nom Paleo. She’s great! She recommended this Spiral Vegetable Slicer. I have wanted one of these for a while, and the reviews were great and the price was right – I ordered it! Excited to give this a try. Squash spaghetti, anyone?


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