This year, Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars have several teachers who are dog owners. It gave me a little inspiration for a new teacher gift idea for the holidays. We got out a dog biscuit cookbook and tried out a few organic dog food recipes. Most of the dog treats need to be refrigerated after baking, so we narrowed down our choices to two recipes that can be stored at room temperature when finished. (CLICK HERE to see the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company cookbook information.)
We liked the recipes that made a dough that rolled out, so you could cut fun shaped dog treats. We used bone, fire hydrant, and squirrel cookie cutters. The dough is a little sticky at first, and we kneaded in a little extra flour to make it easier to work. We tried to roll the dough about 1/4″ thick, but if you have kids rolling out the dough, you might have some batches that are thicker. Increase the baking time if you have thicker biscuits. We watched until the biscuits were browned on the edges.
There are many dog treat recipes available online. You need to know if your dog has any food sensitivities, and the dog biscuits should never have chocolate, raisins, onions, and a few other items that are toxic to dogs. Many of the recipes I found had specialty flours (we used brown rice flour and oat flour), so check your pantry before starting. CLICK HERE for one recipe from the Bubba Rose people that is similar to the ones we made. Our cookbook said it is easy to swap out the “flavor” ingredients for something similar– it did not recommend replacing the flours. For example, if a recipe calls for cheddar cheese, you could replace with provolone. If a recipe calls for ground chicken, you could replace with ground turkey.
When we are putting together our gift boxes, we are making sure there is a mix of shapes in the gift box (or bag). We are also wrapping up a few gift boxes for our neighbors and friends who have family dogs.
Yes, we start planning class Valentines early at our house. I am sure that is no surprise to the readers who have been with me for awhile. I always need a Valentine of some kind for my students, and Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars are still at ages where they bring in Valentines to distribute to their whole class. While it would be the most efficient to think of one type of card and mass produce it, the three of us usually make different kinds of Valentines for each of our classes.
This year, Miss Priss is filling small colored paper sacks with assorted jelly beans. We closed the little bags with a label that says, “Keep Calm and Eat a Jelly Bean.” To finish, Miss Priss signed her name at the bottom of each label.
- Celebrate It Mini Paper Sacks, 2 1/2″ x 4″ (coin envelopes or other mini bag would work too)
- assorted jelly beans in Valentine colors (we picked our own at the fill-a-bag Jelly Belly station at the grocery store)
- Avery 8161 labels (1″ x 4″)
- Fill each sack with ~one tablespoon of jelly beans (don’t overfill the little bags).
- Fold over the top flap and close with the sticker label.
For the past two years, my students have operated a small business at the holidays selling Mason Jar Cookie Mixes to the families in our school community. It is part of our focus on business and financial literacy skills that we cover all year. This year, we changed it up a little and manufactured layered cocoa mixes. The new business had a lower overhead, and it was easier to source pint sized Mason jars, which translated into (a little) less work for the teacher-supervisors!
The cocoa mixes make great gifts for friends and neighbors at the holidays and are easy to assemble. Whether you are making 27-dozen like we did or just a few for gifts, it is an easy DIY holiday gift.
- 1/2 c. powdered milk
- 1 T. original powdered creamer
- 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1/8 t. salt
- 1/4 c. semi sweet mini chocolate chips
- 1/4 c. crushed peppermint bits
- 1/4 c. mini marshmallows (or enough to fill to the top of the jar)
- In a pint Mason jar, layer ingredients in the order listed above beginning with the powdered milk.
- Press firmly after the chocolate chip layer and again after the peppermint bits layer.
- Fill to the top of the jar with marshmallows.
- Attach a tag with a ribbon that says, “Mix jar ingredients in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 c. mix in a mug and stir in 1 c. boiling water. Store remaining mix in an airtight container.”
- I found 5 oz. bags of crushed peppermint at Walmart in their holiday baking display. If you can’t find pre-crushed peppermint, buy classic candy canes and crush them yourself. If you are making really large quantities, order online from a source like Candy Warehouse in 5-lb. bags.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Mr. Star Wars is going to a friend’s birthday party this weekend, and we shopped for a present today. I am starting to believe that shopping for a boy around age 9 or 10 is difficult. We have been giving a lot of small Lego sets for birthday presents, which are usually around $10 at Target, but I think it is possible we are aging out of Lego gifts (insert RoomMom’s heart breaking here). Mr. Star Wars chose the classic Battleship game as the birthday gift for this party.
Battleship is a great game and gift. In fact, board games in general might be the answer to my gift dilemma for this age group. As a teacher, I completely approve of this choice. When kids play games, they reinforce great critical thinking and planning skills needed in the classroom. Socially, they learn to take turns, cooperate, and communicate with their opponents. Another great feature is the fact that a variety of ages can play together. Look for sales at Target or WalMart and pick up a few of these games to have on hand as a gift for your next birthday invitation.
- Battleship: Players must understand coordinates and a grid. They also use the process of elimination to zero in on targets.
- Hedbanz: Players activate background knowledge and categorize to ask questions that will narrow down options to arrive at an answer. It encourages targeted questioning and the ability to move from general to specific rather than haphazard guessing.
- Apples to Apples: Participants take an adjective and consider scenarios where the word would be used to create a logical pairing from cards in the players’ hands. It requires vocabulary skills and understanding of context.
- Trouble: Weigh pros and cons of moving the game piece out of the home base or advancing a piece that is already on the board. There is the opportunity to gauge risk and reward. We also really like the popping noise the plastic bubble makes when you press it to roll dice.
- Boggle: This game tests a child’s bank of sight words as well as uses knowledge of all of the phonics rules and patterns. If a player is smart, he will locate a base word, then start to add rhyming words or endings (like IN to PIN to SPIN to SPINS) to generate bigger lists.
- Connect 4: This game works well to help kids begin to anticipate different results of one move (cause and effect). A child can predict what will happen two or three moves out and adjust her choice. There is also a little bit of pattern sorting in this game too.
- Monopoly: Budgeting, counting money, and making change!
- Kanoodle: This pocket game contains colorful connected beads that are stacked into shapes. Players use lots of spatial thinking and logic to solve the puzzles.
Do you like to give games for birthday gifts? If so, what are good game choices?
One other tip– if you have games that your children do not play anymore, think about donating them to a classroom. I like to keep games in the back of my room for students who are early finishers or for a rainy day when we have indoor recess.