Holiday Teacher Gift 2014

herb dip mix set

Tis the season when I start obsessing about holiday teacher gifts for my children’s teachers. Let’s recap. I teach at the school my children attend. I like to give a sirsee to each teacher who works with my children, so I need close to twenty little gifts at a low cost. Since I am a teacher too, I (over) analyze the practicality of the gift and whether I think the teachers and administrators receiving these holiday treats will need them and use them– and like them.

After much consideration, I chose to make herb mixes in little jars. Over the holidays, people often have guests or extended family at their house and need group food or dips on hand. These herb mixes are easy to mix by adding sour cream or mayonnaise (or both). They look pretty in the jars, are easy to assemble in large quantities, and will keep if they are not used right away.

herb dip mix ingredients

I found the recipe for the herb mixes at Bubbly Nature Creations. I tested the Fiesta Dip Mix, Italian Dip Mix, and Ranch Herb Dip Mix. The original recipes fit perfectly into the smaller jars with cork stoppers that I had. I ended up doubling the Fiesta Dip Mix and using 65 mL jars with a flip lid. The jars held roughly 1/4 c. of dry mix. I purchased the jars at Hobby Lobby.

Fiesta Dip Mix w Label

I made Fiesta Dip Mix Labels to tie around the jars. I printed the labels on green cardstock and used my paper cutter to make sure the labels were cut evenly with straight edges. We glued each label onto a piece of red cardstock that was a little larger than the green label, punched a hole in the top, and tied to the jar with curly ribbon. The red paper border really isn’t necessary and made the label a little too long for the height of the jar. I will skip that detail next time.

herb dip mix gifts

Notes:

  • The Fiesta Dip Mix would work really well as the sour cream layer in a Classic 7 Layer Dip.
  • I made extra jars to give to neighbors and take with us to holiday parties to give to the hosts as a thank you.
  • The directions at Bubbly Nature Creations tell you to use a funnel to pour your herb mix from the mixing bowl into the gift container. I rolled up paper and used that as a funnel.

herb dip mix paper funnel

A Camping Crumble

dump cake serving

Last weekend, Mr. Star Wars had his fall camping trip for Boy Scouts. TheRoomDad happened to have his annual guy golf trip planned for the same date (coincidence? perhaps not). I agreed to take Mr. Star Wars to the campout in TheRoomDad’s stead. Little did I know that the temperatures would drop to 37 degrees, and while that is not extreme cold for many parts of the country, it is arctic for us. We live in South Carolina y’all. I barely own mittens.

Mr. Star Wars and I negotiated a deal. We would spend the day at the campout and leave after dinner. Or more specifically, we would leave after dessert. Why dessert? The lure of the Dump Cake. What is Dump Cake? A fruit and boxed cake concoction that is the highlight of every campout (according to Mr. Star Wars). Basically, it is a poor man’s fruit crumble. By the time the sun went down, Mr. Star Wars eagerly accepted my offer to stop at the grocery store to purchase ingredients and make a Dump Cake just for us at home.

We opted for cherry and pineapple, but Mr. Star Wars did briefly consider a blueberry and peach combination. You can choose almost any fruit combination. I am including the recipe we used, but you can substitute any can of fruit pie filling and any can of chopped fruit of the same amounts.

Ingredients

  • 21-oz. can cherry pie filling
  • 15-oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 box white cake mix (or yellow cake mix)
  • 3/4 c. butter (12 T.)
  • vanilla ice cream to top (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

dump cake mix fruit

  • Dump the cherry pie filling and crushed pineapple in a 9 x 13 in. baking dish and gently stir fruit together.

dump cake add cake mix

  • Sprinkle the cake mix evenly on top of the fruit and make sure it covers the fruit completely.

dump cake with butter

  • Sprinkle slices of butter on top of the cake mix.

dump cake baked

  • Bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden and bubbly.
  • Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

dump cake w ice creamFor those of you anticipating the arrival of many family members for Thanksgiving, you might want this recipe in your back pocket as a back up dessert plan. I am pretty sure it is fail proof. Have a great holiday!

Faithful Friends

stone fox

Over on my collaborative teacher blog, I have a list up with books that all have a dog character. It is similar to the animal book list I created about a year ago, but this new list only lists books with dogs as pets as opposed to any type of animal. I have a student this year who will read anything I recommend as long as there is a dog in it. I think there are many young readers who have the same criteria (Miss Priss is one of them).

The list has books like Because of Winn Dixie, A Dog Called Homeless, and The Incredible Journey. Click Here to view all of the recommendations.

dog book list

In other news, one of my faithful blogging friends nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award. It is a way of giving a small shout out to blogs you enjoy. Thank you so much to Cricketmuse for including me! It is always nice to to get a pat on the back.

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog in your post (see above).
  2. List the rules and display the award logo.
  3. Include seven facts about yourself (see below).
  4. Nominate ten others and let them know you’ve nominated them (see further below).

7 Facts

  1. I need lots of projects going at all times, or I drive TheRoomDad crazy.
  2. I love mini things.
  3. I typically order my family Christmas cards by Halloween.
  4. A white t-shirt is the base to almost all of my outfit choices.
  5. I hope Alfonso Ribeiro wins Dancing With the Stars.
  6. I love spreadsheets and table (and checklists).
  7. I dislike the grocery store and shop for food only when absolutely necessary.

10 Blogs

  1. An Education in Books
  2. Food Like Cake
  3. Reading with Rhythm
  4. Shoes on the Wrong Feet
  5. This Kid Reviews Books
  6. Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane
  7. Cafe Casey
  8. The Deployment Diatribes
  9. Sew Lindsay, Sew!
  10. The Pensive Sloth

Teacher Birthdays and Coffee Cake

sour cream coffee cake center slice

My school has a birthday buddy system among the teachers and staff. It is basically a birthday version of Secret Santa. People who want to participate secretly draw a name from a hat. On the birthday buddy’s big day, the assigned person anonymously brings a small gift (not to exceed $10) and usually a food treat too that can be shared with the faculty.

In honor of my buddy’s birthday this week, I got her a small personal gift and baked a coffee cake that I left in the staff kitchen. The birthday buddy had the first slice honors and then kindly e-mailed everyone to let them know that a treat was available in the kitchen. When I arrived on the scene at 9:47, there were two slices left. Teachers are always hunting around for a little snack mid morning and/or need a bite to tide them over if they have forgotten to pack a lunch. Teachers love having a group snack appear in the staff room or faculty kitchen.

sour cream coffee cake on cake plate

Ingredients

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 c. sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 c. sour cream
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 T. cinnamon

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream butter and 2 c. sugar. Add eggs then sour cream and vanilla.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
  • Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

sour cream coffee cake batter

  • In a third bowl, combine remaining 3/4 c. sugar, chopped nuts, and cinnamon.
  • Spray bundt pan with Pam. Spoon half of the batter into the pan and spread gently with a spatula to level the batter. Sprinkle 3/4 of the nut mixture on the batter.

sour cream coffee cake center nut mixture

  • Pour the remaining batter over the nut mixture and gently smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture on top.

sour cream coffee cake baked

  • Bake for 1 hour. Let sit for ~20 minutes and then invert the bundt pan onto a plate.

Notes

  • Speaking from experience, the baking powder ingredient is important. It is NOT baking soda. There is a difference!
  • Make sure the bundt pan is greased well or the cake will not come away from the pan cleanly.

sour cream coffee cake slice

 

Cookie Decorating Party

cookie party pipe and flow

Last summer, we visited a newly opened cookie and cake decorating shop in St. Louis while visiting Sewing Sister. Sweetology had a wall of sprinkle choices, an entire counter for mixing icing colors, and shelves full of tools and cutters for creating shapes to decorate pre-baked cookies, cupcakes, and cakes. It was dessert decorating heaven.

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Sweetology Cookies and Cupcakes

Miss Priss wanted a cooking birthday party of some kind– preferably a party with lots of icing and sprinkles. I briefly toyed with the idea of hosting at home but then began scouting cupcake and cooking locations. I started by calling our local cupcake shops who offer party packages, but I learned that the party’s primary activity is mixing the batter and baking cupcakes. We wanted to spend more time actually decorating.

I finally called the Southern Season cooking school near our home, and they worked with me to organize a party with pre-baked cookies and lots of decorating. The staff at our party showed us a pipe and flow technique, so everyone got to use piping bags (so fun) and they offered a variety of decorating materials to top the icing too.

cookie party invitation

The Invitation: I like paper invitations. I am about the only mom who still sends invitations via USPS, but choosing an invitation is one of my favorite parts of planning a party. I found lots of cute invitation options with a cooking or cupcake theme, but it was harder to find an invite with a cookie design. I finally found This Invitation on ArtFire.com. The owner e-mails a proof and then prints the paper invitations and mails them the day after the sample is approved. It is a home business, and it took over a week (8 days) to receive the proof (her store site states she will send a proof in 3 business days). The owner replied to my e-mail inquiries, but the turnaround was too long for my OCD tastes.

cookie party icing supplies

The Cookies: The cooking school had a long table covered in white paper. They had various bright colored icing in piping bags and “looser” icing in plastic containers. They provided small plastic spoons and toothpicks to help with the icing distribution. There were 5 pre-baked sugar cookies in fun fall shapes at each place. The girls received a short demo about how to pipe a design using the piping bags and “tighter” icing.

cookie party icing cookies

They needed to wait a few minutes for the piped icing to set. Then, the guests spooned small amounts of the loose icing into the open spaces on the cookie and spread it gently into the nooks and crannies. As a final touch, the kids could add sprinkles. I forgot to ask what type of icing we used, but I think it was probably royal icing since it hardened pretty quickly.

cookie party thank you favor

The Party Favors: The cookie school had clear plastic boxes to transport any uneaten cookies home. I printed business card sized Cookie Party Favor Card Inserts on card stock and put them in small reclosable bead storage bags (3″ x 5″) I purchased at Michael’s Crafts. Miss Priss added 1 t. of jimmie sprinkles and 1 t. of nonpareil sprinkles to the baggies. It looked like edible confetti! We added one little baggie of sprinkles to each box of cookies. The cooking school distributed a copy of the sugar cookie recipe too.

cookie party thank you favor finished

The Time: We booked the party for 2 hours, but 90 minutes would have been perfect. The girls decorated every cookie Southern Season had, and we still had 30 minutes left before parents arrived. I ended up siting on the floor with our group and playing games like Telephone and the Grocery Store Memory game because a dozen 2nd grade girls who have just eaten boatloads of sugar and have nothing to do is a deadly combination. I actually had to tell several of them to stop licking the table.

cookie party cookie box

The best part of the party was the clean-up. None for me! If you plan a cooking party of some kind, do not try this at home. Outsourcing this party was the best decision I made. If your child would like a cooking birthday, start with the cupcake stores in your area. Almost all of the cupcake shops near me had private event options. Have you hosted (or attended) a cooking party of some kind? What worked well and what did not?

cookie party finished cookies