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.
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.
I have totally been on a gift kick lately. I have several family member birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Teacher Appreciation in May; all good reasons to hunt around for fun little presents for people. If possible, I try to choose gifts that will work for many individuals, so I can mass produce or buy in bulk.
I recently had coffee with a friend that I met through my children’s swim team. TheSwimFriend has been borrowing an embroidery machine and monogramming almost anything that will fit under the sewing machine foot. During coffee, she showed me a monogrammed umbrella. I had to have one (or five). After a quick trip to Target for travel sized umbrellas, I dropped off my purchases with TheSwimFriend who kindly monogrammed them for me.
I am hoping USPS has already delivered TheRoomMomMom’s Mother’s Day umbrella, so I am not ruining the surprise. Since I used travel size, my mom can leave the umbrella in her car or stuff it in her purse on a rainy day. I had one made for Mr. Star Wars’ teacher for an end of the year gift because the teachers at school have to walk about two blocks from the parking lot to the school, rain or shine. The umbrella is just the right size for a teacher bag. I have a few more ready for upcoming birthday gifts. My favorite combination is the navy and white polka dot umbrella with the kelly green monogram.
TheSwimFriend played around with the monogram size and liked 3 1/2″ tall at the center point. The monogram also needs to have stabilizer on the back in order to keep the umbrella material from puckering.
My SwimFriend did this as a favor for me, and I would like to do something nice back. Any suggestions? TheSwimFriend has seen all of my recent gift ideas.
In my last post, I mentioned how I needed a crafty project to keep me busy on my spring break from school, and I started sewing petal pouches. “Crafty project” is really code for I-will-disappear-for-2-days-and-ignore-my-family-except-to-feed-them-while-I-get-lost-in-a-project.
Here is how it went down. I made two bags for a teacher appreciation gift I had in mind using materials I had on hand. Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars wanted a bag too, so we bought some additional fabric and ribbon and made 2 of the large petal bags for them. I now had a small collection. The collection looked unfinished since I had not tried the smallest size bag possible in the pattern. I made two more bags in the mini size. Now, I had a set, but the set would be broken when I gave some of the bags away as gifts. I returned to Hobby Lobby for more material determined to make enough bags for a personal set and have some spares for gifts (and a giveaway??).
Jump to today. Petal bags cover my dining room table. I do have enough for my own set and some for gifts, so I am starting to relax a little just in time for school to start again tomorrow. These are my plans for the bags…
Teacher Appreciation Gift: School Manicure Set
clear fingernail polish (so it can be used to stop a run in your tights, fix a fraying shoelace, or other classroom emergencies)
nail clippers (great for snagged nails during the day)
tweezers (just in case someone gets a splinter)
Tween Gift: Trendy Manicure Set
fingernail polish in “ice cream” colors
nail art stickers
Emi-Jay-like hair ties (in the mini bag)
Baby Gift: Diaper Bag Dopp Kit
baby nail clippers
travel baby wipes
Pet Gift: Dog Treat Bag
TheRoomDog’s best friend is on the injured list, and we haven’t been able to get the dogs together for vigorous playdates, which greatly reduce TheRoomDog’s need for other activity– like eating pencils. We are trying to deliver the get well gift before the treats are gone. (Bad dog, Birdie.)
I am on spring break this week and since we just replaced our HVAC unit AND my 11-year old car, an out-of-town vacation was not in the budget. I needed a crafty project to keep me busy. I had this little Valori Wells pattern from my Christmas stocking last year (that would be 15 months ago), and I thought it would be a good time to try it.
My sewing skills are limited, and I only attempt patterns with minimal steps and straight stitches. The petal bag project met my expertise level, so I started with two medium sized bags– so cute. I shared with Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars. They wanted one each, so we headed to Hobby Lobby for more fabric and ribbon (against my better judgement). Eight hours later, I had made a bag in every size. I made a bag for everyone in my house. I made a bag for the dog and the neighbor’s dog. I made bags for teacher gifts. They assemble pretty quickly, and it is so fun to pick the coordinating fabrics; I can hardly contain myself.
2 fat quarters or 1/2 yard of 2 different fabrics per bag
1/4″ wide ribbon, 2 pieces for each bag (length varies)
To make the large bag, cut two 18″ squares in two different fabrics.
Place the two squares of fabric right sides together. Stitch around all edges using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Leave a 3″ opening along one edge.
Trim fabric from the corners.
Turn the fabric to the right side, push corners out, flatten edges, and press with an iron.
Slip stitch the 3″ opening closed.
Fold down the 4 corners of the square to create the petals and press. The petal should be 5″ on both sides of the fold, so the petal will be square and even. The fabric that you want on the outside of the bag should be facing up. The fabric you want as the petals will be seen when you fold the corners over.
To form the casing, stitch 1/2″ from the folded edge beginning at the edge of the bag. Backstitch to secure the petals.
Cut two lengths of ribbon or cord ~26″ each. Beginning on one side, thread one ribbon through the 4 petals and tie the two ends together. Start at the opposite side of the bag and thread the second ribbon through the 4 petals. Tie the ends together.
Pull both drawstrings to create the petal bag.
Uses: You may be asking yourself what one might do with umm, I don’t know… say 13 petal bags. I have many ideas.
The large bag is perfect for holding Lego men.
The medium bag is a great place to keep American Girl doll shoes and socks.
The medium bag is a nice size to hold dog treats and poop bags while you are on a walk.
The mini size is made for hair bands.
The large bag would work well as a cosmetics bag when traveling.
The large bag works like a “hat” when you hold drawings for winners, or Bingo pieces, or student names in the classroom.
The large bag would be perfect for a mini manicure set for a teacher gift.
I’ve listed the basic instructions for the largest bag. I recommend ordering the little pattern card to get the measurements for the small and medium sized bags and for more specific directions (with diagrams!).
Use ~6 extra inches of ribbon length than what is called for in the pattern to make it easier to thread the drawstrings.
Wrap clear tape around the edges of the ribbon (like the end of a shoestring) and put a safety pin through the ribbon and tape. This will help thread and keep edges from fraying. Push, wiggle, then pull the fabric back to work the safety pin through the drawstring channel.
If you use this as a dog treat bag, use picnic tablecloth material as the lining, so it can be wiped clean easily.