Not too long ago, I found pictures of Gift Holding Cards made with scrapbook paper. I filed the idea away knowing I could do something along the same lines in the near future. Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars wanted to give scratch off lottery tickets as end of year teacher gifts again (mostly because they know they get to scratch any leftovers), and I have spent three days engineering my own gift holding cards to hold the lottery tickets.
I used scrapbook paper and located all of the various trim, ribbon, sequins, and embellishments I have from American Girl projects. I dug out craft scissors with the decorative edges and my fancy hole punchers. You can really use any kind of decorative materials you have on hand (stamps, stickers…).
Cut two coordinating pieces of paper to 4″ x 6″. Fold one piece over about 2/3 of the way along the 4″ side and press firmly to crease. I first sewed the folded piece and any front trim together along the folded edge before attaching to the back piece. I then stacked the two pieces together, lining up the edges, and sewed around the outside to attach the folded piece of paper to the back leaving the top of the pocket open. If you don’t sew, double sided adhesive roller tape along the edges would work too, but I must tell you, sewing paper is super fun.
We filled our gift pockets with the lottery tickets and slipped a small handwritten note in the front of the pocket. The pockets also fit gift cards. I think they would be a pretty way to deliver a thoughtful note too. The Original Blog Post with the pocket idea had single fancy tea bags in the pocket.
It was TheRoomDad’s birthday this weekend, and there were many little opinions about the birthday dessert he should have. TheRoomDad typically does not go old school like I do and want a yellow cake from the grocery store with butter cream frosting (my favorite birthday cake). So, I made the executive decision to serve strawberry shortcake. TheRoomDad loves fruit desserts, and we all thought this particular version of strawberry shortcake was delicious.
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. flour (plus more for rolling out dough)
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
6 T. cold butter cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1/2 c. plus 3 T. heavy cream (plus more cream for serving)
1 large egg yolk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine 1/4 c. sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Use a fork (or a pastry cutter) to cut in butter until the dry ingredients resemble coarse meal.
Whisk together egg and 1/2 c. plus 2 T. heavy cream in a separate bowl. Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until the dough comes together.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough into a 6-in. square, 1-in. thick. Cut 4 rounds using a 2 1/2 in. cookie cutter. Place shortcakes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Whisk together egg yolk and 1 T. cream in a small bowl; brush over the tops of the biscuits.
Bake until golden brown, ~25 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet immediately and cool on a wire rack for ~15 minutes.
Cut ~16 oz. of strawberries (the standard container size, about 2 cups) into quarters/bite sized pieces and put in a bowl.
Top with 3 T. fresh lemon juice and 1/4 c. sugar. Stir gently without crushing the strawberries.
Let stand about 1 hour.
Cut shortcake biscuits in half like a hamburger bun.
Place biscuit halves in the bottom of a bowl. Top with sweetened strawberries making sure to get a little strawberry juice on there too.
Drizzle heavy cream over the top.
You can serve the shortcake with whipped cream rather than the liquid heavy cream.
Use a glass with a thin rim to cut the biscuits if you do not have a round cookie cutter.
Trying not to overknead the shortcake dough, keep reshaping leftover dough and cutting more biscuits until the dough is used. The final biscuit can be formed by hand rather than using a cutter.
I am exhausted. The teachers at my school all feel the same way. We pass each other in the hallway with a slight nod and a reference to the remaining time until our summer release. I am not sure why this year I feel more tired than usual, but since it seems to be a common theme, I put together small “restful” gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week. I found directions at MarthaStewart.com for sachets filled with lavender. Apparently, if you place lavender under your pillow while you sleep, it will bring sweet dreams. Sign me up!
The parents’ group at our school organizes daily events for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week, but I usually like to send an extra thank you to all of the teachers who work with my two children. Since I work at the school my children attend, I know teachers put in additional time with my kids who arrive early and leave late every day. The lavender sachets are meant to be a fancy version of a card. Just a small sirsee to say that we appreciate our teachers.
5″ fabric squares with pinked edges (Hobby Lobby sells 24 packs of assorted fabrics)
lavender buds (Whole Foods sells small quantities in the spice section, I ordered in bulk from www.thesage.com)
Last week my school held its annual Field Day and served bananas as part of the mid-morning snack to the students. Guess how many teachers and staff have leftover bananas at home? My family does not eat that many bananas, so it was time to bake. I made a batch of Ina Garten’s Banana Crunch Muffins and bagged them up as little sirsees for my children’s teachers. We are close to the end of the year; we have testing next week, and teachers need a little appreciation gift when it gets close to the final weeks of school. (Alert: Teacher Appreciation Week is May 4-8 this year.)
These muffins taste the best fresh out of the oven, but they are still mighty delicious the next day. Ina Garten’s Recipe includes whole milk, granola, coconut, and walnuts. I used buttermilk in place of the whole milk and replaced the walnuts with pecans because it saved me a trip to the grocery store.
The muffins are baked in cupcake liners, but after the muffins cooled, I placed each muffin inside a Specialty Wilton Cupcake Liner that has tall, scalloped sides. The large liner protects the muffin inside the clear bag. I tied the bags with curly ribbon and added gift enclosure cards with a handwritten label. We arrived at school early and put the treats on each teacher’s desk for a breakfast surprise.
The first time I made chocolate sheet cake for TheRoomDad, I brought it with us to tailgate at a college football game. When TheRoomDad’s friend took his first bite, his knees got weak. Since that tasting, I have shared the cake at many group events. Last year, I brought the cake to the retirement party of the beloved receptionist at our school. I originally baked a glazed lemon cake for the event, but this happened.
So, I baked the chocolate sheet cake as a back up. People again had to grab onto something for support after the first bite hit their lips. It’s that good. There are many recipes available for chocolate sheet cake. I checked. The Pioneer Woman has a no-fail version that uses butter. My recipe uses margarine. You may also see versions of something called Texas sheet cake that are basically the same thing. I have not compared the recipe I currently use to the one my mom always used, but I am sure they would be close– fudgy cake, frosting that absorbs into the top layer while the cake is hot, a little pecan crunch to balance the moistness of the cake. Heaven. We had friends join us for Easter dinner last weekend, and I dusted off the recipe and served a slice of sheet cake to everyone with a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream. It did not disappoint.
2 c. flour
4 T. cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1 c. water
1 c. margarine (2 sticks)
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 c. granulated sugar
Sift together flour, sugar, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
Boil water, margarine, and cocoa until melted stirring to combine. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well.
Place in a greased 10 x 15 in. sheet cake pan and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
Prepare frosting while the cake is baking and pour the frosting over the cake while it is hot (important!).
1/2 c. margarine (1 stick)
6 T. buttermilk
4 T. cocoa
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans
1 (1-lb) box powdered sugar
Bring margarine, buttermilk, and cocoa to a boil in a medium pan.
Add vanilla, nuts, and sifted powdered sugar. Mix well. It will seem to dry at first but keep mixing.
Pour over the hot cake. Gently spread close to the edges with a spatula. The heat of the cake will help the frosting spread to the edges.