Christmas Cocoa Kit

I donated to the teacher gift fund, so my children’s classroom teachers will be getting a group gift card from the class for the holidays, but I always like to send in a little something extra and personal.

This year’s Christmas teacher sirsee is a Cocoa Kit. I am not sure why I like “kits” so much (in the past year we have given Ice Cream Sundae Kits and Teacher Emergency Kits), but this kit is something the teachers can use at school or share with family at home. I should be able to create an assembly line in my kitchen and pack them up pretty quickly. I am going to make extra to take with us as hostess gifts to holiday parties or to give as gifts to friends and co-workers. What are other festive sirsees to give this holiday season?

The Cocoa Mix: Click here for the Cocoa Mix Recipe I used. I put about two servings of cocoa mix in the plastic bag that went into the box. Alternately, you could simply buy pre-made cocoa mix.

The Chocolate Stirrers: I originally saw these candy spoons on Pinterest. I adapted the idea to make cocoa stirrers. Go to the Cocoa Mix Recipe for directions about how to make the chocolate filling for the spoons. After the chocolate is melted, turn the heat off and let cool slightly (5 min?). While the chocolate cools, rest plastic spoons on the handles of wooden spoons (or another kitchen item) to hold the spoons level. Place a gallon Ziploc bag in a large measuring cup and fold the top of the bag over the edges of the measuring cup. Pour chocolate into the Ziploc. Pull the Ziploc bag out of the measuring cup and hold it like a pastry bag. With scissors, snip off a very tiny piece of one corner and fill spoons with the chocolate. Hold your finger like a stopper over the opening of the bag as you move from spoon to spoon. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on the chocolate and let set.

The Other Contents: I added mini marshmallows and a few cookies to the kit. I used snickerdoodles because I think they are a good dipping cookie for cocoa or coffee. I think gingersnaps or a classic Christmas sugar cookie would work well too.

The Packaging: I need to buy stock in Avery labels and clear gift bags. I own almost every size possible. I wrapped the bowl of the candy spoon in a 3×4 inch clear bag and tied with raffia ribbon. I used my trusted clear bead bags for the cocoa mix, cookies, and marshmallows and printed small labels for each item. The boxes are Wilton Treat Boxes I purchased at Michael’s.

The Gift Tag: I printed a message and directions for making a mug of cocoa on cardstock and tied it to the top of the box. When we are actually getting ready to deliver, I will have my children sign their names on the tag rather than using The Room Mom!

Book Journals

Last year, the school librarian where I work sent an e-mail to all parents suggesting we start a book journal with our kids. When our librarian’s son was in the first grade, she started recording every book title her son read in a basic black and white composition journal. Her son is now a 9th grader and is still adding to his book journal.

My niece started her book journal when she was in the 4th grade. When I visited last summer, I asked her if she had any new book recommendations for me. She could not think of any suggestions immediately, so she handed me her book journal. I paged through all of the titles dating back 4 years. When I would ask about specific titles, it immediately sparked discussion. Without her yearly lists, she would not have been able to recall nearly as much.

The book journal is a great tool for several reasons. To begin with, it shows how much your reading improves by looking at the book choices from year to year. My son moved from the Jigsaw Jones series (2nd grade range) to Henry Huggins (4th grade range) last year alone.

There is a sense of accomplishment when you see a list of completed books. It is fun to be able to announce that you read 49 books during the school year!

The list prompts memories of books you might have forgotten. It also shows if you followed one author or style of book during a certain period. If you need some new book choices, it is easy to return to the list to help jog your memory for author names or book series. What are other good ways to log book lists?

What To Do: List the grade level at the top of each new page. List the date the book is completed in the left column. List title then author name. In addition, you could add reading level, page count, a rating scale of some kind. Keep it simple so it is not a chore to complete.

 

12 Days of Christmas Gifts, a Summary

After I wrapped up the Christmas gift series last week (ha ha– wrap, gifts…), I realized you have to do a lot of scrolling through previous posts to see the full gift list. So, for those of you who came late to the party, here is a summary of the 12 days of gift ideas. I probably should have done it this way in the beginning, but it sure does make one long post.

Click on the names that go with each gift day for links back to the original posts to get specific product information.

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Day 1: Watercolor Portraits

Watercolor paintings by Susan Woodard

Day 2: Jelly Marbles

Low price point, good stocking stuffer, great gift for children’s birthday parties

Day 3: Calling Cards

Give to adults or children, monogram or full name

Day 4: Monogrammed Ts

Purchase cotton Ts and take to your local monogrammer

Day 5: Man Gifts

Personalized steak branding iron

Reserve a spot at BBQ judging school with friends

Personalized needlepoint belts

Nike ID athletic shoes

Day 6: Mini Crock Pot

Keep dip warm at parties.

Day 7: Author’s Tool Kit

Write and publish your own book– order extra copies to give as gifts too

Day 8: Photo Gifts

Have a photo turned into a paint by number

Make “best of” albums to highlight any family events from the previous year

Personalized postage stamps

Personalized skins for smart phones or other electronics

Have photos, names, or monograms inserted into a set of Tervis Tumblers

Day 9: Gifts with Tiny Pieces

Barbie sized kitchen playsets

Calico Critter mini animal playsets

Quadrilla wooden marble run

Build your own Lego set

Day 10: Consumable Gifts

Cupcake supplies or other tools needed for a hobby– the other suggestion was unusual spices and rubs for a grill guy (like my husband)

Magazine subscriptions

Food delivery of some kind– Wolferman’s English muffins for Christmas day brunch

Day 11: Gift Ideas for This Year

Flavored olive oil

Personalized dog collars and other pet accessories

Neon cord wrap bracelets with charms

preppy casserole carriers

Custom rubber address stamps

Day 12: Family Calendar

Customized family calendar

Star Snack

Miss Priss earned kindergarten Star of the Week last week. Since all students receive this prestigious award at one point during the year, I am not so sure it is a terribly big honor, but she was excited. Requirements? Send in several pictures of your family (= work for me). Send in special show and tell (= monitoring from me). Send in special snack on Friday (= opportunity to get carried away for me).

If you read about the Dill Dip, you know that I take kindergarten snacks very seriously, and my daughter has a much better sense of what is appropriate. Nevertheless, she was Star of the Week, and I thought it deserved something special– Heath Bar Apple Dip with pretzels and apple slices. The first time I tasted this stuff, I practically fell down. Let me know if you think it is as delicious as my family does.

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz block cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 bag Heath toffee bits (or crushed Skor bar)
  • Apple wedges (I like Granny Smith apples, peeled)
  • Snyder’s Dipping Stix or Snaps (optional)

Directions

  • Cream together cream cheese, sugars, and vanilla
  • Stir in Heath bits with a spoon
  • Serve with apple wedges and/or pretzels
  • Note: cut apples into pineapple juice to keep from turning brown

On the 12th and Final Day, I Gave a Traditional Gift

Well, it is here. The final post for Christmas gift ideas. This year will be the tenth anniversary of our family calendar. Not only do I include family photos and all of the standard holidays, my family calendar has all school dates and special school events for the grandkids. If it is your birthday or anniversary, a picture of you is on that calendar day. If you have a special reunion or favorite sport event, it is highlighted.

I would be lost without this calendar. I know my mom would too. It helps me keep track of my siblings and their families since we don’t live very close to each other. It also acts like a little yearbook. When I started giving this gift, my second niece had just been born. Now there are 9 grandkids in our family! What special traditions do you have for your extended family?

The Template: I built a massive Word document with tables and text boxes. Each year, I open the old calendar and update the months. I just checked out Shutterfly, and they now offer the option to customize the small “day” squares as well as the photos in the top page where the name of the month is listed. I am sure other photo websites are beginning to offer more flexibility in what you can add to your calendar. I may change over to Shutterfly this year after testing out the options.

The Months: I include pictures that relate to the specific month. For example, April this past year had all of the Easter pictures of the grandkids. If there is a month that does not have related pictures, I can dedicate that page to the grandparents or one specific sibling and his/her family.

The Dates: It is usually pretty easy to go to school websites and get a calendar of the current academic year. I cannot always get the dates for the following academic year, so sometimes school dates won’t go beyond June. I also include items like Final 4 (for my dad and brother) and Kentucky Derby (for my husband) and Mardi Gras (for me). It is fun to add dates that are not national holidays but are special events for my family.

The Photos: I keep a file on my computer throughout the year. Any time a family member forwards a picture, I save it to my calendar folder. OK, I will be honest. I have a main calendar folder with sub-folders of all the past calendars listed by year. Within those sub-folders are 12 sub-sub-folders, so everything can be saved by month.

The Printing: I save the document as a PDF and have it printed at FedEx Office. It is color printed on white cardstock, front and back. I have spiral binding inserted at the top and ask for a hole to be drilled at the bottom for hanging.

Thank You: Thank you, Beth. You inspired me to start this tradition many years ago when I saw a calendar your sister made for all of your family members!