We have science fair and Valentine’s Day on the calendar this month. A trip to Michael’s Crafts was inevitable. We hit the store yesterday, and after we completed our lap through all of the craft and school supply aisles, a small end cap display with Valentine baking supplies happened to catch my eye. Mini paper loaf pans– with hearts! Does it get any better? Mini + baking + holiday craft all in one.
I bought the last two bags of mini loaf pans and immediately came home to make small breads and cakes. I baked this Savory Rosemary and Pine Nut Bread in 12 of the pans and a “faux” chocolate chip pound cake in the other 12 pans I had (recipe below).
We wrapped the mini loaves in 3″ x 4″ clear plastic treat bags and used a twist tie to close. I printed labels for the bags with a small heart motif, and we will be delivering these little treats to my children’s teachers for Valentine’s Day. They make a great teacher gift because they are a single serving and are easy for little people to carry to school and deliver.
Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 small box instant vanilla pudding
- 1 small box instant chocolate pudding
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 6 oz. chocolate chips
- Stir cake mix and pudding mixes together in a large bowl.
- Add eggs, oil, and water. Beat by hand until smooth.
- Stir in chocolate chips. You can coat the chocolate chips with about 1/2 T. flour before adding to the batter to keep them from sinking to the bottom during baking. If you are making mini sized cakes, use mini chocolate chips.
- Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan. If you are using the mini paper loaf pans, you do not need to grease or flour the pans. You will fill the mini pans about halfway.
- Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If baking the mini size, reduce baking time to ~30 minutes.
- Cool 20 minutes and remove from pan. If using the mini pans, leave in the paper pans.
- The mini paper loaf pans can bake in a temperature up to 400 degrees. They do not need to be greased. To get your bread or cake out of the little pan, you unstick the corners and pull the sides away when serving.
For several years now, my teaching teammate and I have organized a class business around the holidays. My fourth grade students develop, produce, and sell a product to our school community, and we donate any profits to charity. In the past, we manufactured and sold one product (like these Mason Jar Cookie Mixes) that families pre-ordered, and we had a limited production. Since I had clearly blacked out the incredible amount of work it takes to source the supplies and organize this little venture, I spearheaded an expansion of the business into a full holiday market with six products to sell.
Students filled out job applications at the beginning of the school year, and we have been running workshops every week to make all of the products. They have been calculating our costs to date and determining product prices. On the day of the market, students will man a booth where they will provide sales help and handle cash.
This week, we are making birdseed ornaments. This is a good low cost holiday gift. The ornaments are easy to make in bulk, and after we bag and label them, they will be the perfect gift for a party host, a neighbor, a teacher, or a co-worker.
- 3/4 c. flour
- 1/2 c. water
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 3 T. light corn syrup
- 4 c. birdseed (finch bird feed packs better into the molds)
- molds (cookie cutters, muffin tins, chocolate or soap molds, etc.)
- nonstick cooking spray like Pam
- drinking straws cut into 2-inch pieces
- waxed paper
- cookie sheet, sheet pan, baking pan, tray
- ribbon or twine
- clear plastic bags
- Put a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet, tray, or baking pan. Fill the tray with the cookie cutters or molds you will be using. If you are using cookie cutters, and there is a sharp edge and a protected edge, put the cookie cutter sharp edge up. Spray the insides of the molds with the cooking spray.
- Combine flour, water, gelatin, and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl until it is well-combined and turns into a paste.
- Add the birdseed to the paste mixture and stir until well-coated.
- Spoon birdseed mixture into each mold. Pack the mixture down well and make the top smooth. The back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup work well for smoothing the top of the birdseed.
- Poke a hole near the top of each birdseed mold using a drinking straw piece. Even though the straw will be near the top of the ornament, make sure you do not have the straw too close to any edge, or it will break apart later when you add the ribbon. Make sure the straw goes all the way through to the bottom. Leave the straw in place.
- Leave the birdseed mixture in the mold for 2-3 hours. Then, remove the straws and gently remove the ornaments from the mold. Place the ornaments on a new piece of waxed paper and let dry an additional 2-3 hours or overnight.
- Thread a string or ribbon through the hole and tie, so the ornament can hang from a tree branch. I liked the natural look of twine rather than a colorful ribbon.
I love teacher gift ideas. I won’t lie. It consumes quite a bit of my time around back to school, holidays, Teacher Appreciation Day, and end of the school year. Since I am both a teacher and a parent, I am conscious of both sides of the gift giving process. My goal when choosing teacher gifts are to think of small items that are cost efficient, practical, thoughtful, simple, useful, and I like the gifts to be attractive.
Here is what works:
- a thoughtful aspect– there is a personal touch to the gift like a handwritten note (and a handwritten note of thanks is always enough!)
- a useful aspect– the gift can be used in the teacher’s daily life
- generic– if you do not know the teacher personally, stick with items that most people like (do not get too specific like Red Hot candies because you think your child had a “red hot” year)
Here is what does NOT work:
- cute for cute’s sake– a gift that has great packaging but has no purpose
- teacher stereotypes– things that fall in the apple or school supply motif arena
Below are links to 10 ideas that have a range of cost and crafty levels. All have been tested and received well by teachers, coaches, school support staff, helpful neighbors, party hosts, friends… Click on the name or image to learn how to make the gift.
- Teacher Emergency Kit (I have a few versions of the kit. Click HERE, HERE, or HERE to see different options.)
- Teacher Lunch (You could also make a bento style lunch like THIS ONE.)
- Freezable Meal
- Mason Jar Soup Mixes
- Flavored Sugar or Dip Mixes
- Manicure Kit
- Lottery Tickets (To see a different type of scrapbook paper envelope, CLICK HERE.)
- Ribbon Bookmarks
- Insulated Drink Cups
- Monogrammed Umbrellas
I have lots of posts with teacher appreciation gift suggestions. Search Teacher Gifts in the search box on my blog, click on the Teacher Gifts link in the side margin of the blog, or click on the Sirsees tab near my blog header.
I have been agonizing over holiday teacher gifts again. Each year I need at least a dozen small gifts for all of my children’s teachers. It is not something I have to do. It is something I like to do. I know how much I appreciate the gifts my students give me at Christmas, so I like to do the same for the teachers my children have. I spend a lot of time finding something that is affordable yet (hopefully) useful.
This year, I mass produced flavored sugars in small jars. Almost all teachers I know drink coffee on a daily basis, and while they don’t need a coffee mug, I thought they might like a coffee “mixer”. The sugar has a little gourmet twist to it with the vanilla bean flavor, and the gift is consumable. Teachers won’t have to store or care for it once it is used. I made extra jars to use as hostess gifts or little sirsees for neighbors.
- 2 c. sugar
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- Put 2 cups sugar in a mixing bowl
- On a cutting board, split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the inside of the bean.
- Add the vanilla bean seeds to the sugar and mix well.
- Put a piece of the vanilla bean pod in the bottom of the jar and add flavored sugar to the top.
- Store in an airtight container.
- I purchased my jars at Hobby Lobby during their 50% off glassware sale this weekend. At full price, the jars are about $2.50. They are 3 1/4″ tall with a flip lid.
- Two batches of sugar filled 18 jars. The jars hold a little less than 1/3 cup.
- I printed Flavored Sugar Labels and tied the label to each jar with baker’s twine.
- For a variation, mix 2 c. sugar with 1/4 c. whole cardamom seeds. Add the cardamom sugar to your daily cup of coffee.
It is finished. This year’s version of the Teacher Emergency Kit. It is my favorite first day of school gift to a teacher. This year’s emergency kit pouch is smaller than my past choices, so I will not be able to add a bottle of wine, which is probably what my children’s teachers really want after the first day of school. But, it is a handy little bag to store in a desk or teacher bag for daily emergencies.
The Cloth Pouch
- If you sew, you can download the Loyalty Card Holder Pattern for free from Craftsy. You will need to register on the site before downloading the pattern. I followed the directions on the Lemon Squeezy Home site. Lemon Squeezy’s sewing skills are clearly superior to mine. After much cursing and ripping out of stitches, I did make all of the bags I needed. I am trying to ignore some of the wrinkly parts in the corners.
- Lemon Squeezy used a magnetic snap, but I opted for an old fashioned button because I thought it would be a good decorative detail. After messing up multiple button holes, I was rethinking the magnetic snap decision. I think both options would have provided equal frustrations for my sewing abilities. The buttons do look prettier, so the buttons were probably a better choice for me in the end.
- Starbucks giftcard (The little bag is credit card size, so I figured it needed a coffee gift card. It’s what I would want.)
- travel sized sewing kit
- individually wrapped mints
- Aquaphor (or any kind of chapstick)
- travel sized Advil (In the past, I included individual Tylenol, Advil, and Tums in mini baggies with printed labels. I had “people” who clearly did not appreciate the cuteness of my packaging get all up in arms about my redistribution of the pills. I really don’t think the Advil police will come after me, but I went ahead and used untampered Advil to avoid any future problems.)
Other Content Ideas
- 4 quarters for soda money
- safety pins
- Tide to go stain remover stick
- cough drops
- Sharpie pen
- travel sized hand lotion
- travel sized Windex Wipes for Electronics (found these one time at Target)
- travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste
- dental floss
- hair clip, hair tie, or rubberband
- smartphone charger
- ear buds
Other Packaging Ideas
- Use a bead box from a store like Michael’s Crafts. Sew a potholder clutch or foldover cloth bag. Pick up a small cosmetics bag; I saw some in the bins near the door at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Fill a simple paper gift bag. Click on the images below to read about other versions of the Back to School Teacher Emergency Kits!
Click HERE to read about the GIVEAWAY to win two of these kits. Giveaway ends 7/31/15.