Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas (One Year Blogiversary FREEBIE!!!)

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Christmas break has officially started and thank goodness!  There has been an incredible ice storm around here.  I don't know that we would have made it to school, had school still been in.  It's beautiful and scary all at the same time.  The beautiful old trees are all snapping from the weight of the heavy ice!!!  One tree in the forest behind our house was completely up-rooted from the weight of the ice!  Oh my!!!  All the other trees look like weeping willows!

Because of this, I've been inside and have been quite productive!  I've made some new products, but first, I want to share with you a FREEBIE!!!  It has been a little over a year since I have started blogging and I have had so much fun and met so many new people, near and far!  I have known some people to have a big give-away on their blogiversary (is that a word?).  I love give-aways because you get a chance to win some amazing products from amazing bloggers, but I wanted to do something a little bit different.  In the spirit of giving this Christmas, I want everyone to get something, so I'm giving away my Monthly Thematic Word Cards as a FREEBIE for everyone!!!  I've done blog posts about how these cards are great in the morning so that the students can review key concepts that are being taught that month (click here to see that post), but really, these cards can be used for various things such as the title pages of thematic units or folders.  I hope these come in handy for a whole bunch of you!!!

I'm so happy and excited that I could share that FREEBIE with you.  I'm also very excited about the new products I've created.  My students love to write the room!  I made these Write the Room packages for the short vowel sounds a/e/i/o/u (the long vowel sets are on their way!).  I can't wait to use them in the new year!  If your kids love to write the room, check out the bundle pack below!

The various recording sheets allow students to think about their writing and practise reading new and familiar words, with various word patterns.

Well, tomorrow is Christmas eve and it's our nephew's birthday.  I'm pretty good with fondant but here I've tried my hand at icing (not my forte, but not bad for a first try at a cupcake cake!).  
Wishing everyone a great holiday with their loved ones!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

There's a Sale!

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I love shopping from the the comfort of my big, comfy couch!  So if you are like me, and you have to go to work tomorrow and will not be able to shop in jammies (as totally awesome as that sounds!!!), be sure to make time to check out the 2 day sale from December 2-3, at  Thanks to DeAnne Davis for the adorable button.

 Here are some seasonal products you will want to check out:

Happy Shopping!

Monday, 18 November 2013

We have a new classroom! (and a FREEBIE)

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The day finally arrived!  We moved into our new classroom...and we couldn't be happier!!!!
Construction finally ended and we got the go-ahead to move all of our centres into the class.  Moving day was exhausting, but oh SOOO worth it!  A few days later we got the okay to have the kids in, and the result was a whole lot of happy kids!  In our old (temporary) classroom we were squished, squashed, and squeezed together.  You turned around from one centre and you were in the next.  As teachers we are resourceful and creative and we learn how to make the best out of any situation and learning happens regardless of how much space we have, but it is so nice to have A LOT of space now!  The kids have discovered all of their old centres just in a new place in a new space.  The classroom is humongous, huge, massive...I've actually never been in such a large classroom and it's great!  The floors are super soft, made of some type of laminate (sponge feeling) surface.  I think they absorb sound!  Or maybe the kids have been super-quiet (like the first day of school all over again!).  Here we have it:
View of our 30 cubbies from the door.

Our word wall beside our writing centre.

Our centres board at the front of the classroom lets all the students know what centres are open at any given time.

View of the class from the door.

View opposite the cubbies wall.  We are waiting for shades.

View of the back corner.  My desk is huddled in the corner, because I never actually sit at it, with magnetic letters and words on the front.  This way it`s more than just a paper collector.

Our washroom (yeah, we have a washroom in the classroom).  I didn't get a picture of my guided reading table, but whoo-hoo I finally got one of those U-shaped tables too!

I'm big on math and mathematical language so here's our "Math Matters" Board.  Right now we've been working on measuring with non-standard units.  This board displays our work.

We took off our shoes and measured them with our snap cubes.  We took a picture of the kids with their shoe and their cubes and mounted them in the middle of the page.  I made two little recording sheets for our responses.  The JK's just had to input their number while the SK's wrote the whole sentence.  Click the pictures below to get a copy of these recording sheets for this stinkin' cute (no pun intended) measurement activity.

It`s on the 2nd page of the file.  Don`t ask!

This one is fine! Ha!

We are having a great time in our new room!  Can`t wait to share our BIG adventures with you soon!

Friday, 25 October 2013

When Faith Meets Pedagogy

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Today I was very fortunate to attend the Conference "When Faith Meets Pedagogy."  It was a day to engage in personal and professional reflection as guest speakers shared many messages about the conference's theme - Opening the Doors of Faith.  
One of the presentations was on Inquiry based learning and Religious education.  In an inquiry based learning environment, the teacher's role is that of facilitator, helping and guiding the children in their explorations.  With that in mind, we help students grow spiritually, academically and socially through the materials and resources we provide.  Our role is that of nurturing children to discover their "God given" talents and gifts, so that they, in turn, can share these gifts with others.  This idea was also conveyed by Jean Vanier, fouder of L'Arche who, through video presentation, spoke to us about our very important role as Catholic Educators.  We are called to spread love - love to all those we meet, especially our students.  We love them deeply and wholly.  The Catholic faith is not rooted in symbols or statues, it is essentially rooted in a person, Jesus.  He is our inspiration and our teacher.  He taught us the most fundamental gift - how to love, and that we are all worthy of love.  As educators, we are doing his work, and are trying to be "Jesus" the teacher for our students, so that they, in turn, may love themselves and others.

What might that look like, feel like, or sound like in an inquiry based program?  Essentially, how do we as Catholic educators foster a relationship between the child and God?
We do this by inviting God into our lives and into our classrooms.
It might look like naming where we see Jesus in the students.  For example, "When you helped (friend) do up his zipper, I saw Jesus."  This may lead to students modelling this language with each other.  It might lead to a social story, or class book, thereby targeting language curriculum expectations as well as social/emotional expectations.  
It might involve socio-dramatic play involving aspects such as a mini altar (they had a "My Mass Kit" fabric set for young learners), scripture stories, dramatizations of religious stories or songs.  The important part here is the co-creation of centres.  Students are involved in the building 'process' of learning, and in the physical building of the centre.  So, for example, after reading the Nativity story, you may lead students in making a list of items/things/people that were present.  Pull in literacy and mathematics into the process by creating/finding the stated items (ex. manger, Jesus 'doll'), generate new vocabulary, label what you find/make, number or order your items, and recreate the story (sequencing) through dramatic role play. 
Fostering faith through play might involve visual arts.  One example was to give students various mediums - pipe cleaners, buttons, gears, play dough, lego, etc. and have them make a cross or other religous symbol.
Faith is fostered through the language we use.  One idea was shared regarding conflict resolution.  I've heard many Catholic educators ask students "What would Jesus do?" to students involved in disputes, but this idea takes the verbal prompt a little further.  One teacher had a mirror in the classroom, and whenever students were in conflict they were to go to the mirror and ask themselves or their friend "What would Jesus do?"  This allowed them to calm, self-regulate, reflect and problem solve more independently.  Brilliant!  Another idea was the phone with the direct line to Jesus.  1-800-CALL-JESUS.  Also brilliant!  You call Jesus on the 'phone' when you're having trouble and 'listen' to how He would help you.  
The beauty of an inquiry based approach to learning is that you can truly see the potential of each child when they are free to reach their own personal best.  Not everyone's 'best' will be the same, because as it was noted today by one guest speaker - we are God's work in progress.  We are his work under construction.  If we see the children in our care in this way, we can begin to foster their God given talents by recognizing that we all have something to offer.  This brings me back to the theme of love.  Each of us, whatever we have to offer, is worthy of love and deserves to feel loved and be loved.  In offering this love to our students, as Christ loves us, and knowing that Christ lives in us and through us, "we are an alleluia from head to toe." (Michael Way Skinner)  What a great message!  

I want to leave you with a video (click here) that was shared with us today, that was inspiring!  We didn't have the title presented to us, so we didn't know what was being created!  Talk about God given talents!  Go share yours today!

And...for my give-away
The lucky number is #5 Lori Raines!
Check your inbox for the Vowels pack that has been sent your way.
Thank you to everyone who played along!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Vowels Pack Give-away!

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I haven't done a give-away in a while, and since I'm so excited about my Working With Words Vowels Pack, I'd like to give this package away to one lucky reader!  This pack is perfect for Kindergarten, but because of all the visuals could also easily be used for Pre-K (Junior Kindergarten).  There are also many activities that would be appropriate for the beginning of Grade one!

Vowel work is so important because vowels are the glue that hold our words together!  I love showing the kids this by removing vowels from words we commonly spell and then trying to say/sound them out without the vowels!  The kids get a kick out of this since the words then don't make sense!  They quickly get it, we need vowels!  And some vowels sounds can be tricky!  I find it common that the 'e' and 'i' vowel sounds are mixed up, or harder to grasp, at this age.  Like with any other skill children are grasping, they need repeated exposure to that skill in order to solidify it.  This pack makes teaching vowels really easy!  In this Vowel Pack you can find:

Thirty word cards with corresponding pictures.

 Recording sheets for the various vowels alone, or a sorting sheet to work with all the vowel picture cards simultaneously.

A vowel song to the tune of Old McDonald, that can be made into a class big book.

CVC and CCVC puzzle picture cards to practise creating words.

Identifying and writing the middle (missing) vowel sound (beginner level activity), or writing the whole word through phonetic spellings.

Word cards for various vowel sounds (-at/-an, -en/-ed, -ig/-in, -op/-ot, -ug/-ut) and recording sheets to go along with them.

Vowel poems/posters...

Additional posters
A cut and paste vowel craft
Rhyming with Vowels
ABC order
Colorful sorting header cards
And more!

To enter this give-away simply leave a comment below about how you might use this pack.  The winner will be announced Friday evening, 9 pm.  It's also on sale, here, in my store for a limited time.
Good luck!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Walk of Faith and Thanksgiving

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This year is the year of faith.  To mark the year of faith our school board has initiated a celebration of our faith through a pilgrimage with the cross, known as the Walk of Faith.  Over the past 2 weeks, our school has accepted the cross, celebrated our faith through liturgy and then carried the large cross to our neighbouring school.  This was a very memorable and reflective experience for students as they were able to carry the cross, as Jesus did.  The cross then proceeds to various schools in our community.  

This past week was also a short week, as we as a staff celebrated our Faith Day, which meant a P.A. Day for the kids.  This year's theme of faith day was 'service.'  We united as a staff to serve those less fortunate.  We made lunches and distributed them to the needy on the streets of Toronto.  While I know this does not permanently fix the problems on the streets, hopefully it helped make someone's day a bit easier.  Pictured above are Mrs. Albanese and myself, making sandwiches.

We celebrated Thanksgiving, giving thanks for our many blessings.  Here is our turkey craft.  We practised our fine-motor cutting and gluing with this fun activity.

We brainstormed what we were thankful for and practised our sight words at the same time.  This activity comes from my Sight-Word Read-Along Pack.  I always have these pages on big charts for choral reading with students.  I make it interactive as we circle or spell certain words, clap out syllables or use phonetic spellings to write/finish sentences.
We practised one to one correspondence and creating sets with our Thanksgiving Play dough mats.  You can find this product if you click here.  The students just love play dough!  This center never gets boring since I continually change the activity through the year by frequently changing the mats.

We have so many things to be thankful for.  It was such a beautiful weekend sharing it in the company of good friends and family!  I made this easy-peasy pumpkin barrel cake.  The idea came from Pinterest and was shown to me by my co-worker and friend.  I ran out of KitKats and had to get creative so I made it look like the barrel of pumpkins was overflowing!

That's it for now.  Wishing everyone a great week!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Back to School/Name Work

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It has been a little while since I've posted because September, is, well...September!  It has been extremely busy at school trying to figure out our new program (I know I've been teaching Kindergarten for 10 years, but everything feels new this year).  Ontario is phasing in Full-Day Every-Day Kindergarten, and we are in our second last year of implementation.  By next year all schools in the province will have FDK (Full-Day Kindergarten), formally known as E.L.K.P (Early Learning Kindergarten Program).  Our previous Kindergarten models included every-day half-day, or all day (alternating days).  With this new model of education, our cap size has gone from 20 students for 1 teacher, to 30 or more students (there really is no cap) to a teacher and an ECE (Early Childhood Educator).  We are partners in educating the children.  However, not only does our day schedule, or class size look different, the 'program' is changing too - while all our curriculum expectations have remained the same, it's play and inquiry based.  This means learning, problem solving, collaboration and discovery is happening at a variety of open-ended learning centres around the classroom.  We had to purchase new classroom items to accomodate for this, and build upon what we already had.

Here are some of our new materials and centres.  I love our new carpet, it's big enough to fit all the little bodies, and I love how it defines the space for them.  I got creative with our table configurations to make room for all students to sit at the same time (for instance, during lunch time).  I simply turned around the edges of our traditional hexagonal tables.  I also love my new book shelf which has 4 centres in one.  The front holds small books for self-selected reading and storage for bins at the bottom.  The back holds big books, storage bins and a felt board at the bottom.  Another new centre is our 'Sensory Bin' which encourages oral language development through the exposure to various tactile experiences.  Right now, it's full of pasta, I wonder what I'll put next...

We are slowly learning how to use these centres in the classroom.

While there is lots of learning happening at centres, there are still formal lessons and Guided Reading and Writing activities (such as journals) happening.  I just cannot abandon that part of the teaching/learning process!  I grew up as a learner in structured environments, and was taught how to teach, in Teacher's College, in very organized, controlled and structured environments as well, so I guess I'm learning too (new ways of looking at the learning process and my role in it).  It's not that I don't like change, but I believe in BALANCE between work and play (even though they often are not separate entities in K), and also BALANCE between student-initiated and teacher-directed activities, so I'm still negotiating my own feelings about my role in a play based curriculum.  
All of our Kindergarten classes are combined JK/SK's and we have been doing some name work as part of our exploration of 'Me', especially for the little JK's.  Every morning when the littles come in the door, they find their apple name card and practise reviewing skills before announcments.  I find this a calming way to start the day as the students are all engaged and focused for that short period of time before the National Anthem and office announcements.

We also made Rainbow names and Nature names.  The latter was especially fun since we got to go on a nature walk to collect different forms of nature.  We brainstormed what 'nature' was and made sure to point out that we were not picking living things out of the ground.  On our walk we found cut grass, twigs, flowers, leaves, rocks, pine cones, etc.  We came back to the classroom and sorted our findings and then applied them to our name.  We showed the kids how to roll the grass between our hands (as if making a long string of spaghetti), then glued it to our name.  Usually, I'm not entitled to show children's names, but this little guy is the son of a dear co-worker of mine, and she okayed the use of his work here.

We explored our family and made representations of our family using simple popsicle sticks and yellow circles.  The SK students labelled their family members.

Well, that's it for now.  Wishing everyone a great week!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Good-bye Summer (A Review of the Disney Fantasy)

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Wow!  Where did the summer go?  I wish I could say I relaxed this summer, but I really didn't.  Despite that, I did have a lot of fun.  The reason why my summer flew by was that we had barely moved into our new home, when I had to start packing us up to go on our first family vacation.  We went on a Disney cruise with my good friend and teaching partner Alessia Albanese, our families and 2 other families!  It was fabulous!  And I'm not just saying that because I haven't been on a vacation in 6 years!  I've been on 2 other cruises to compare it to, and this was, by far, the best cruise I've experienced yet!  
We were on the Disney Fantasy and we did the route that went to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay (Disney's private island).  The service was fantastic and the staff was always friendly.  Our waiters were cutting up our kid's food and sometimes even fed them!  The nice thing about the dining rooms is that there were three of them, and you rotated each night to a different dining room.  Your server rotated with you.  This kept things new, fresh and entertaining.  The best dinner evening was at the Animator's Palate which was art inspired.  They had large screen televisions surrounding all the tables on each wall.  Not only did Disney characters such as Crush from Finding Nemo appear and speak to you personally, but one evening we were asked to draw our own 'character.'  Well, this character came to life on the screen in a musical ensemble moving and dancing.  We became the illustrators of the show!  Some of the nightly shows and entertainment were jaw-dropping as you felt you were watching a show on Broadway, especially their version of Aladdin.  
They had a Kid's Club for ages 3 and over.  While my daughter was hesitant at first to go, she quickly saw what a great space this was.  Although I wasn't able to go in, I saw on-line that they had life-sized thematic rooms such as Andy's room from Toy Story.  The kids had electronic bracelet devices that would allow them entry and exit and parents had to provide the password (you decide this upon registration) in order to pick up your child.  Parents were not allowed in this space unless it was an 'open house' for all parents to go with their children.  My daughter had a great p.j. party night and other fun events.  I brought my son once to the nursery, hoping he would sleep but there must have been too much excitement going on as his usual 3 hour nap turned into a half hour nap, I was told.  The 2 kids pools were nice, but a little small, however this has been my experience on other cruises as well.  They were chlorine water, which is different from the other boats I've been on that had salt water pools.  Surprisingly, the adult pool section was just as big as the kid/family section, only it was empty.  Most people on the cruise were with small kids and therefore stayed in the kid's area.  The Aqua-Duck water slide was the high-light of the pool area.  The slide veered over the ocean at one point.  Aaahhh!  The one area I was very disappointed with was the fact that my not-yet potty trained son could not swim in the pools.  No children with swim diapers were allowed in the pool.  I absolutely understand that when people are in such close quarters bacteria and germs can spread quickly, and goodness knows no one wants their kids to be sick, or to be the cause of someone else's sickness, but I just wish this was advertised or told to me before booking.  I may have waited another year before taking this trip.  My son did enjoy Nemo's Reef (the spectacular splash pad where swim diapers were allowed), but saw his sister and all her friends swimming in the pool and wanted to join in.  I have to say that they were very clean on the boat, which made me feel good about preventing illness.  Each time we went for a meal in a restaurant, whether breakfast or dinner, we were given a wipe for our hands.  This was done for each person and for each meal.  
We booked a wine package with Disney which was cheaper than bringing our own wine and paying for a corking fee.  We also booked the Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique which is a must for all little girls.  My little one got her hair, make-up and nails done and parted with a cute crown and Mouse head clip.  We brought a Princess dress for her to wear, which also came in handy for the Princess theme night.  The other theme night - Pirate Night, was also great!  They gave everyone Mickey mouse bandanas, but so many people went ALL OUT in full costume, beards, long hair and all!  There were many Jack Sparrow look alikes!    
The ports were also very nice.  We had been to St. Maarten and St. Thomas 6 years ago and went back to the exact same beaches this time:  Orient Beach in St. Maarten and Magen's Bay in St. Thomas.  Castaway Cay was a lot of fun.  There was a huge barge with slides that went straight into the ocean.  It did have some seaweed (blackish, not green, floating in the water and on the sand).
I know this post was not at all teaching related, but I have had SO many people ask about the Disney Cruise, or want to go on one in the near future, so I thought I'd share our experience!
School starts on Tuesday, so it's time to shift gears!  Good-bye summer!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Back to School Promotion and FREEBIES

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It's that time of year again!  Back to school!  The cleaning, organizing, planning, preparing, cutting, gluing, laminating has begun.  Well the list could go on and on....
There is so much to do when starting a new school year, that I would like to help make your life a little easier!  I will be having a promotion going on in my store:
Buy 2 items and get the 3rd item FREE!
(Third item must be of equal or lesser value)
This promotion is on starting right now, August 7th, until August 31st!

Click HERE to take you to my store.

Here's what you need to do to get your free item:
1.  E-mail me at
2.  Tell me your TPT username
3.  Let me know which 2 items you have purchased
4.  Let me know which item you would like as a freebie
That's it!

Here are some back to school freebies from my store:
Vocabulary Cards:  I like to use these at the writing center for students to use with creative writing.  They use these cards to create sentences or short stories.

Stamping Numbers:  These simple stamping and tracing pages are a great way to introduce the skill of stamping, while reviewing number concepts, at the beginning of the year.  I show the kids how to take care of the stampers and ink pad so that it can be used throughout the year for all our stamping activities.  I show them to close up the ink pad when done and to put each stamper back into the spot from which it was taken.  

Apple Numbers:  These number cards can be used for creating number lines, counting and seriating, or stick magnetic tape, or felt at the back for use on a chalk board or felt board

New beginnings are exciting and although I don't go back to school until the first week of September (don't be jealous...we go until the end of June!), school is on my mind.  So while I try to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, I will also be thinking about the year ahead!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Liebster Award!

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I am so honored to be nominated for the Liebster Award by Najat from iHeart Second Grade!!!  The Liebster award is given to up and coming bloggers and is a great way to get to know other bloggers. 

Here are the 'rules' for accepting this nomination:
1.  Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2.  Nominate 5-11 blogs with less than 200 followers.
3.  Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator.
4.  Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5.  Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6.  Contact your nominees by comenting on their blog, or sending them an email to communicate the nomination.

So here are the questions I was given:

1. What is your favorite food?
Anything salty.  I prefer salty over sweet.
2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why? 
I love to teach reading.  It's such an important skill and in kindergarten it's fascinating to see the kids become more proficient throughout the year.
3. Name one book that has inspired you and explain why. 
I haven't had time to myself to read much of anything lately.  As an English Major, I enjoyed reading personal narratives, biographies or autobiographies.  We can learn so much from the life experiences of others. 
4. Name one talent you have.
Dancing.  I grew up at the dance studio and love teaching the kids at school various dances for different productions we have.
5. If you could go on vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you choose? 
I'd go to Hawaii.  I've always wanted to go there.
6. What is your favorite TV show? 
I'm fascinated with home shows, maybe because we just bought a new home...Property Virgins, Love it or List it.
7. What is your favorite movie?
I don't have one.
 8. What is your most favorite place to shop for clothes? 
Winners (like a T.J. Maxx), Gap, Banana Republic
9. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
Being able to share ideas and meet so many fantastic teachers throughout the world.
10. If you weren't a teacher, what career path might you have chosen?
I always wanted to be a teacher, but I entertained the thought (briefly) of becoming a lawyer.  After hours of doing report cards, I know I could never do a 'desk' job.
11. What chore do you like doing the most?  
Laundry.  You stick it in the machine and it disappears...oh wait, then you have to fold it!

Here are 11 random facts about myself:
1.  I am married.
2.  I have 2 beautiful children.
3.  I have been teaching for 10 years.  
4.  I enjoy making and decorating fondant cakes, a hobby I picked up on one of my maternity leaves.
5.  I still remember how to tap dance.  I guess it is like riding a bike, something you never forget.  
6.  I love making and doing crafts.  On my other maternity leave, I started making boutique bows for my daughter.  Since I could not express myself creatively in the classroom, I started doing creative stuff at home.
7.  I have been on 2 cruises and will be on another next month.  It is definitely the best way to see the world!
8.  I played the flute in grade school and high school.
9.  I like to shop and find great deals!
10.  My favorite season is summer because of the weather and since I am home with my kids.
11.  I am afraid of dogs, not the wet-nosed, tail-wagging, five pound cute puff balls, but those BIG dogs!

Here are the blogs I nominate for the Liebster award:

Click on the buttons to visit their blogs.

Questions for my nominees:
1.  Who or what inspired you to teach?
2.  What is your favourite subject to teach?  Why?
3.  If you weren't in the field of education, what would you be doing?
3.  Where would you travel to, if money were no option?
4.  How many hours of sleep did you get last night?
5.  What is your favorite television show?
6.  Who is your favorite author?
7.  What is your favorite season?  Why?
8.  Are you a morning person or a night owl?
9.  What is the best dish/meal that you make?
10.  Why did you start blogging?
11.  What have you learned from blogging?