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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Who Needs An Emmy?

Who needs an Emmy?  Not this girl.  Nope.  Especially when I've got a Liebster Award!  I did curl my hair, put on makeup, and throw on my wedding dress to write this blog post so that I could feel like I was headed to a fancy award ceremony.  Kidding.  No, seriously, I was kidding.  I'm totally in my pajamas!  This is how rumors get started.  PJs...Girl Scout's honor.

Acceptance speech:  Angela, from The Organized Plan Book, nominated me for the Liebster Award!  Apparently she likes my tips for organizing!  We might be long lost sisters.  She has a "thing" for binders too!
Isn't she a beaut?
Let's just make sure everyone knows the rules before the chaos ensues.
1. Link back to the person that nominated me     
*Done.  If you missed it, be sure to stop by The Organized Plan Book and say hello to Angela  
2. Share 11 RANDOM facts about myself 
3. Nominate 5-11 blogs that have less than 200 followers and contact them
4. Answer the questions from the person that nominated

My 11 RANDOM facts...I'm going to treat this somewhat as a confession for your pure entertainment.  You are welcome.  

1.  I recently made 5 gallons of homemade laundry detergent.  It works. It was dirt cheap.  It doesn't have crazy chemicals in it.  I'm about 33% hippie after living in CO.  

2.  I ate a Gobstopper off the floor of my car.  You might be thinking that that's not so bad.  It had been there for a few days.  AND it was green.  I don't even like "green" flavored candy (this includes, but is not limited to green Skittles, Runts, and Gobstoppers).  In my defense, I was the one that dropped it so I felt like I knew its origin.  This was a low for me.  

3.  I can do pull-ups.  

4.  When I was little, my family went to Luby's every few weeks.  I ordered the same thing EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.  A side salad with ranch and 5 rolls.  FIVE.  Mmmmm.  Memories.  I had no interest in the blue Jello.  Give me the rolls and no one will get hurt.  Then they changed their recipe and their rolls suffered.  

5.  I follow a paleo lifestyle (I don't like the word diet) about 80% of the time.  I love sweets too much to give them up completely...and obviously I love bread, but I REALLY limit my intake of grains.  

6.  I'm a pretty good cook.  Toot, toot. Yup, that's me tooting my own horn.  I made a Moroccan spiced rack of lamb with a Shiraz and honey sauce for dinner Friday.  I love cooking for others.  Dinner party?  Yes, please! 

7.  I clean my shower while I shower.   

8.  Back to being part hippie.  I got the Excalibur food dehydrator for my birthday a few years ago.  It is huge and totally straight out of the 60s or 70s, but it is amazing.  The great reviews online are true. I've perfected apple and sweet potato chips, dehydrated strawberries, bananas, and kiwis, and next up is beef jerky.

9.  I can pick things up off the ground with my toes.

10.  This is probably no surprise to you, but I plan out a menu for the week along with a coordinating grocery list.  The daily menu and ingredient list is on my fridge.

11.  I LOVE giving Kona her doggie bath.  It is some of my favorite bonding time with her and I don't consider it a chore at all!  Melts my heart!

I'll answer Angela's 11 questions in Part 2.  I don't want to overwhelm you!  My Liebster nominations will be revealed in Part 2 as well.

This teacher bloggy world has filled my heart and blessed me beyond belief!

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Drum Roll, Please!

Are you the winner?  Did you enter the giveaway?   The odds were good around here!

Rachel V. is the newest owner of my Fraction 4 Game Bundle and she got it for FREE!  It is packed full of games to reinforce identifying fractions, recognizing 3/3, 4/4, etc. as one whole, reading fractions on number lines, and comparing fractions with like numerators or like denominators.  

Sad you didn't win?  Head on over to TPT if you want to pick up a copy for yourself!

Happy Sunday!
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Friday, March 28, 2014

April FREEBIE Hiding in Five for Friday

It's like an Easter egg hunt!  Kind of.  Maybe just a little bit.  There really is a "prize" for you! Hunt through this Five for Friday, hosted by Doodle Bugs, to find your April Freebie!  Here's a little carrot to keep you going!
Can you find me?  Keep reading to find the link to this freebie!
You know how I like to take advantage of the free clipart on TPT, right?  I talked about it in this post if you want to read more about it.  Well, I recently came across this must-have set from Krista Wallden of Creative Clips.  I love her clipart and this set is FREE! So many possibilities!
I'm loving the variety of colors!  I'm thinking these would be great to write a short & sweet note to co-workers telling them you're glad they are one of your "peeps".  How would YOU use these?  
Still looking for The Great Egg Hunt, huh?  Keep at it!  It's somewhere around here!  I was looking at a class photo from my husband's elementary years and just had to count the kiddos because it seemed like there were a million kids in his class.  I was right.  39.  Say what? THIRTY-NINE.  Granted it was 25 years ago, but still.  I've had as few as 18 (GLORIOUS), and as many as 29 (OMGracious).  What's the most you've ever had?  

In case you haven't heard, I'm giving away a FREE copy of my Fraction 4 Game Bundle!  It includes a 102 page color version, as well as a 102 page grayscale color ink costs too much version!  A winner will be announced Sunday, March 30th in the morning.   Want a chance to win?  Of course you do!  CLICK HERE to get entered!  If you want to see the details on this bundle, check it out HERE!
Isn't she pretty?
This sucker was a labor of love, but I sure do like using purposeful games to make learning fun for the kiddos.  I have always enjoyed playing games and the camaraderie that goes with it, and that has transferred over into my teaching.  Did you know that my husband proposed during a game of Yahtzee?  I shook the cup of dice, tipped it over, and out tumbled a ring!  Side note-that ending up being the first time he ever beat me at Yahtzee.  I must have been distracted...
The great hunt is over!  If you're ready to snag a copy of my April Freebie, look no further.  HERE SHE IS!  You earned it!

I'm so thankful for the "extra" daylight in the evenings!  Losing that hour of sleep was rough, but I feel like I've been way more productive in the evenings after CrossFit & cooking dinner than I was when it was getting dark at 6:00 pm.  Kona, the pup, is loving it too!  She gets fetch time while we cook each evening.  When it's sunny, sometimes she'll just lay in the yard sand, and soak up the rays. She melts my heart!  
Surely I'm not the only one with an insane number of pet photos on their phone...

Happy Friday!
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Fraction Game Bundle

Oh, fractions.  How I love and loathe thee all at the same time.  I think fractions lend themselves to lots of engaging hands-on activities and they are so applicable to real life.  On the other hand, it can be tough for such young minds to wrap their little brains around the concept and REALLY GET IT.  Sure we can teach them "rules" about bigger and smaller numbers on top or on bottom, but if they GET it, they don't need those rules.

I thought about saying that finishing my fraction game bundle felt like giving birth, but then I decided that might not sit well with readers that have actually given birth...to a baby.  So instead, I'll just say that I'm finally done!  Another one bites the dust!  To celebrate, how about a GIVEAWAY?

The giveaway begins today and a winner will be announced Sunday, March 30th in the morning!  If you'd like to take a closer look, head over to TPT to see the preview!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Free Gold Nugget for YOU!

It just wouldn't be very nice of me to tell you all about my homework routine and not share any of my resources with you.  So I share.  For free.  My last two novels posts were all about my homework routine.  If you read them, and you're interested in giving this system a try, then you have just hit the jackpot.  You know organization has a special place in my heart, so I reworked my files just a bit so that I can share them with you.  

OMGracious.  EVERY.PAGE.IS.EDITABLE.  You read that correctly.  FREE AND EDITABLE.  Woot!  Shout it from the roof tops!   Hop on over to grab this FREEBIE.  

This is a PowerPoint file so that you can completely customize it.  You'll need a little knowledge of PP, but nothing too extreme.  You might want to insert/delete/resize rows or columns, change font, and replace some text. I put notes under each slide to explain and offer tips.

Two fabulous artists granted me permission to use their graphics in an "unsecured" document.  The polka dot background is part of a FREEBIE from Mrs. Mac's TPT store.  I encourage you to download the freebie and leave her feedback.  The black and white stitched frames are part of a FREEBIE from Jena Hudson's TPT store.  Go download and tell her thanks!

I know this system isn't for everyone, and that's ok with me.  I just wanted to share the resources I have just in case you want to give it a try! 

What are you waiting for?  Go download and create your own homework binder! 
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Homework is Done!

Let me guess.  You've been on the edge of your seat waiting for this post?  Let's just pretend I'm right.    If you need to catch up, read this post first.  It gives an overview of my homework packets, how they are organized, and how they are differentiated.
Copying:  I keep a homework binder each year.  What's in this snazzy binder?  Glad you asked!
-My check/note sheet, which I'll talk about in the next section.

-A copy of the last few packets.  I scan each packet before I copy it so that I have a soft copy on my computer, but I keep a hard copy of the last few weeks in case I need to reference it or run another copy.  

-My complete list of what reading passages have been used.

-Pre-printed Missing Homework slips

-3 pocket dividers (one for each homework packet level).  This is where I stash pages to use in future packets.  If I have 6 spare minutes, I'll hop on SuperTeacherWorksheets.com and try and get the grammar page picked out and printed for the next packet, or work on my spiral math page.  If I'm using a challenging page (for my above level group) and an on-grade level page (for my on and below level groups) , I'll be sure that I print 1 challenging and TWO of the on-grade level.  This way I have one grammar page to put in each level's pocket divider.  Some might say this is a waste of paper but it's for my sanity's sake.  It makes copying the packets much easier for me when each packet has its own 6 pages..

When it's time to run the packets, I put all 6 of the pages for each packet in the same order.  I put a small code on the top of the front page to denote level.

Collecting:  I have a homework turn in bin for kids that want to turn their homework in before it's due on Tuesdays.  Prior to the kids arriving Tuesday morning, I mark off the kids that turned it in early.  Kiddos have to turn in homework at the back table by their cubbies as they unpack first thing in the morning.   I stand there and mark them off as they turn them in.  If I need to walk away for a minute, I put the check sheet on top of the pile that I have marked through.  The kids are trained to just add to the stack.  My check sheet acts as a divider so I know where I left off.  If a kiddo doesn't have their homework ready to turn in, they take a Missing Homework slip, fill out what packet number, tape it in their planner, and then show me.  The Missing Homework slip has to get signed by their parent.

Reviewing:  I purposely select homework pages that are going to be relatively easy for me to check.  I don't put any kind of grade. None.  I just circle things that are incorrect.  If the entire page is correct, I put a smiley face or check mark so they know I looked at it.  If I notice that something in particular really tripped a kid up, I make a note on my check sheet so I can make a point to re-teach the concept with that kiddo and provide some extra practice.  Notes on my check sheet also allow me to look for trends or students that could be retaught together.  I do take the time to write each kiddo a short note in regards to their homework on the front cover slip.  I always put something positive, and if needed, I add a comment about where I see room for growth.

Redo & Homework Helpers: There are NOT enough hours in the day.  But since I believe in homework and I want my kids to take it seriously, I HAVE to follow up with their mistakes.  Sometimes we use 5 minutes here and there, and sometimes we set aside 20 minutes because so many people had similar mistakes on a concept. Sometimes I take two minutes and drop in during lunch.  Sometimes I hop outside a few minutes before school starts.  Sometimes I pick a few kids that "got it" and like to help others, and invite them to having a working buddy lunch where they help each other with my support.  We make it work.  To make sure that someone doesn't slip through the cracks, I keep track on my check sheet when I pass homework back that needs corrections.  Some kids have to keep it clipped on the side of their desk so it doesn't "mysteriously" go missing.  

One last note.  I train kids at the beginning of the year to code assignments in regards to how THEY felt about it.  It is good insight for me.  It's amazing when a kid marks that something was too easy, but they have a ton of mistakes.  Too Challenging is coded TC,  Just Right is coded JR, and Too Easy is coded TE.  They know to put the mark in the bottom right of the page and circle it.    

It's intense, I believe in it, and it works for me.  Suggestions for improvement?  Ideas?  Did I inspire you to try something new?
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Making the Most of Homework

Planning, differentiating, copying, collecting, correcting, and even some nagging..... My homework routine use to be a major stressor.  It has come a LONG way.  Though it's still not perfect, it works for me, the kiddos, and their families.  
The Gist:  It's a weekly packet.  I don't try and make it "fun" or "cutesy", but I do make sure it's pertinent, doable, and something we've covered.

*If you're new around here, I like to share my DUH moments for the benefit and enjoyment of others.  When I first changed over to weekly packets, I ran them Monday through Friday.  No bueno.  If I didn't have the packet ready by the time I left Friday for happy hour, I spent my Monday morning acting like a maniac trying to get my stuff together and pushing my co-workers out of the copy line.  Not a good way to start the week. Also, kids that forgot their homework on Friday often "got away with it" because I didn't realize it until the end of the day.  To make it even worse, do you think that kids that forget on Friday after being reminded on Thursday are going to remember on a MONDAY? Ya, right.  Insert mega face-palm DUH moment.  Hand them out on Wednesday and they are due on Tuesday.  That gives ME Monday and Tuesday to do last minute prep if needed, and it gives me Thursday and Friday to nag remind them to turn it in or sit and help some of my lovelies through it.  Know what else?  That gives families a weekend to work on it.  Brilliant.  Weekday evenings can be jam packed with sports, church, meetings, etc.  This Wednesday to Tuesday schedule gives them 7 days to pick from.  I have received so much positive feedback from parents about this schedule, and who doesn't love happy parents?

Phew.  This is going to be a long post. 



Planning:  I follow the same format each week.  This consistency makes it easier for parents to know what's expected and so much easier for me to pull packets together.  

-Front of 1st page:  There is a small section at the top for their name, classroom #, the date range, what they thought was the most difficult with their signature, AND a place for parents to sign saying they "reviewed" their child's homework and what THEY think their child struggled the most with.  Below this information is a grammar assignment covering a previously taught concept or a very short writing assignment.

-Back of 1st page:  This is the reading passage.

-Front of 2nd page:  The questions/assignment that go with the reading passage are on this page.  I am NOT A FAN of putting the story and questions front to back.  It isn't ideal when you are trying to get students to show proof and go back to the story.  Running the story on the back of a page and the questions on the front of the next page put them side by side.  This is ideal and so much easier for these little kids.  Just another one of my DUH moments.

-Back of 2nd page:  I put a short math assignment that reviews the most currently covered concept.  No more than 10 questions.  

-Front of 3rd page:  This alternates between social studies and science, and it's usually on the most current topic.  

-Back of 3rd page:  This is always the most time consuming on my end, but I think it has the highest value.  I make a spiral math review with 6 questions.  I've tried saving myself some time and finding something on TPT to purchase, but it just hasn't worked.  As their teacher, I'm the one that knows exactly what past concepts are the tricky ones for them, and I know just how to word them.  This page is so personalized to MY kiddos.  I have a template, and after 8 years of 3rd and 4th grade, I've got quite the bank of past questions to choose from.  These are 6 challenging questions.

Differentiating:  Remember when I said my system isn't perfect?  Just wanted to remind you.  Having leveled homework packets was a goal of mine for YEARS.  About 3 years ago I finally felt like I was in a place to handle this.  I do 3 levels: above level, on-level, and below.  I differentiate the reading passage/questions, math concept review page (not the spiral), and sometimes the grammar.  The science/social studies and the spiral math page are the same for everyone.  To make differentiating easier, I highly suggest you find resources that you can use throughout the entire year, whether it be a book to photo copy from or a subscription to a website.  For homework purposes, I really like SuperTeacherWorksheets.com because it is SO easy for me to differentiate.  The reading passages are sorted by grade level and most of the math and grammar have an easier or more challenging version available.  It's $20 a year.  Worth it!  In a perfect world, I'd have a high reading/on level math and vice versus, but I don't.  Shame on me.

Since this turned into a novel, I'll save Part Deux for another day!  What does your homework system look like?  Does it need a makeover?
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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Low Down on Editable PDFs

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, this FREEBIE just might be helpful to you.
If you're a buyer and you've ever struggled with the editable PDF component of a purchase, download and save these directions for working with Editable PDFs to help you get the most our of your future purchases.

If you're a seller and you ever include editable PDF pages in your files, feel free to include this instruction page in your product.  No need to give any credit.  I've started including this page in the zip file when the product contains any editable PDF pages.

Click HERE to download from Google Documents (for free)!

Happy Monday!
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sunny Days

When I heard the news, the Seasame Street song Sunny Days started playing in my head.  OMGracious!  Me?  For real?  Rachel, from A Tall Drink of Water, nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award!  I'm beyond honored!  Since we're all grown-ups, I went with Joshua Radin's cover of the song to share with you.
My shiny trophy!

Okay, let's get down to business!  

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award are:
1.  Post 11 random facts about yourself.
2.  Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
3. Nominate 11 bloggers you think bring sunshine to the world.
4. Make up 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

11 Random Fact about ME:

1.  I love to bake and I think I'm pretty darn good at it.  Making sweet treats for others is one of my favorite ways to show friends and family my love for them.  I once flew from San Antonio to Chicago with a homemade 3 layer carrot cake that I decorated for my father-in-law.  Made it through security with no problem...except they all wanted to know where their cake was.
2.  I want to do a sprint triathalon, but need some swimming lessons.  I can "swim" for fun, but I need some help with technique and efficiency so I can ensure I won't drown be the last one done.
3.  This is a must after sharing #2.  I was on a neighborhood swim team in middle school. My parents weren't able to attend my first meet, but I got second!  
4.  This is absolutely necessary after sharing #3.  There were only two of us competing in that particular race.
5.  When I was in middle school, I used my blow dryer to blow out a candle.  That worked out about as well as you can imagine.  I've grown intellectually since then.  
6.  I watched YouTube videos to learn how to snowboard.  I'm super visual, and don't like to inconvenience others, so I figured it was a good way to do some initial learning before actually being on the mountain.
7.  It's my husband's fault, but I'm a coffee snob.  Pour over with high quality beans is a must.  I drink it black.
8.  If I'm home when it's on, I watch Wheel of Fortune.
9.  Right after college, one of my best friends and I were looking for an apartment to share.  We found this amazing gated community with little houses.  It was like an apartment complex, but with "mini" homes.  We were in love.  When we went into the community center/sales office, the lady politely informed us we would have to come back in 40-50 years or so because it was some sort of retirement community.  Darn.
10.  I use when/then phrasing with my dog as if she is a student and understands.
11.  I rarely carry a purse.  Wallet? Yes.  Purse? No.

Rachel's 11 questions for me to answer:

1.  Who was your favorite teacher?  I don't remember the names of any of my elementary school teachers.  I didn't like school and moved because my dad was AF, so I'm not to blame.  My favorite was a middle school math teacher, Mr. Melcher.  He sticks out in my mind because he was serious about learning, but he had a great sense of humor.  
2.  What kind of car do you drive?  My husband and I switch back and forth with each other.  We have a Toyota Highlander and a Toyota Camry.  Both are paid off and they are NOT getting replaced until they die.  I'm a practical girl.  
3.  What is your perfect summer vacation?  My husband and I like to do stuff on vacation-we aren't very good at laying on the beach or by a pool.  I like to go somewhere where we can explore 3 very different areas.  When we did CA one summer, we spent time in Napa, San Francisco, and hiking/camping at Yosemite.  I love to camp and be unplugged from technology!
4.  What's your favorite childhood cartoon?  Jem and the Rockers!
5.  Are you a morning person or a night owl?  Normally I tend to be more of a morning person, but when I can't sleep, I can stay up until 2 or 3 am working on the computer.
6.  What is your best trait?  I think my best trait is that I try to always focus on people's intentions, and they are almost always good.  I don't get bent out of shape about too much.
7.  What is the first thing you do every morning?  Kiss my husband's sleeping head if he's still in bed.
8.  Do you have any pets?  Yes!  Kona, our dog, melts my heart.  We got her from the pound when she was 2.  I still have the first picture I took of her.  She was in her kennel at the humane society, looking over her should at us.  She is so loyal and loving.
9.  What is the best part of teaching?  I love helping kids realize that they ARE smart!
10.  Would you rather visit the beach or mountains.  No questions asked, mountains.
11.  What is something you can't stand?  I think being a female in today's society is so hard, and it kills me when I hear/see females tearing each other down instead of building them up.  And on the less serious side, for the love of the person driving behind you, use your turn signal BEFORE you actually start turning the wheel or applying the brakes.

Are you still there?  Almost done!

Time for me to nominate 11 bloggers that I think bring sunshine to this bloggy world!  In no particular order:

My 11 questions for the nominees to answer:
1.  What's the last good book that you've read?
2.  What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
3.  Dogs or cats?
4.  What subject are you least comfortable teaching?  Why?
5.  What will always put a smile on your face?
6.  How often do you cook?
7.  Do you watch the Olympics?
8.  Do you type or hand-write your lesson plans?
9.  Have you ever used a sick day to do something fun?  What did you do?
10. How do you de-stress?
11.  If you weren't in education and money didn't matter, what "job" would you want?

Phew!  That took some work, but I enjoyed sharing about myself and can't wait to learn a little more about all of you!   Being a part of this teacher bloggy world brings some extra sunshine into my life!
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Yours For the Taking

All you need to know is that I woke up feeling extra generous today, and that benefits you! Head on over to The Rolly Chair on FB and leave a comment sharing what you most look forward to during Spring Break for a chance to win a FREE copy of Match Maker, one of the games in the fraction game bundle I'm currently working on.

Feeling lazy?  Need a sneak peek to convince you?  Take a look!
She's pretty, right? She's also very functional and requires just a bit of cutting to set up.  Print, cut, play!  No weird circular or zig-zag cuts...Ain't nobody got time for that, especially teachers!
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Monday, March 10, 2014

You're Invited to the PARTY!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  If you aren't already following I'm Lovin' Lit, there has never been a better time than NOW. She is doing multiple giveaways every day through March 14h to thank her followers and celebrate her blog birthday!  Oh, did I mention that I donated a Winner's Choice that will debut in her giveaway soon? As if this wasn't sweet enough, she is doing a freebie each day on TPT.  So far, there has been a background set, a decorative ribbon set, and a frame set that ALL match! Coordinating FREEBIES? Yes, please, and thank you!  What are you waiting for?  Congratulations, Erin!
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Sunday, March 9, 2014

TPT Cover Text that POPS!

I know it's Sunday afternoon, and unfinished lesson plans are looming, but sharing about cute snazzy text is way more fun!  I had another palm hitting forehead DUH moment.  Most of you smarty pants probably already know this, but I'm going to share for those few souls out there that don't know this simple easy secret! 

We all know that cover pages are really important for TPT products.  We all also know that cute fonts are a huge part of that!  But did you know you can make cute fonts even snazzier?  Before I share my DUH and quick how-to, look at these 2 photos of a cover page for a product I'm working on, and see if you can spot the one and only difference!  
Yep.  The outline of the title text is the only thing that's different, and boy, what a difference it makes!  I was admiring the cover page of an item I purchased during THE.BIG.SALE, and found myself all gaga-eyed over the text.  What pretty outlines the text had!  After doing a bit of searching on the internet with no success, it finally hit me that I can do that with the fonts I already have.  

1 word:  WordArt.  (This feels more like two words....)

2 more words:  Well, DUH.

Here's a quick how-to for PowerPoint!

Insert WordArt instead of Text Box

A box will appear with Your Text Here.  Type what you want.

Here's where you make it snazzy.  Change the font type to what you want.  Then work with the fill and line, and the weight of the line!  So much better!
Well, DUH.  For those of you that were un-aware like me, GO make SNAZZY text NOW!  Happy Sunday!
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