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.
Recently, I became unafraid to make pie crust from scratch. It happened when
Miss Priss I needed to bake a pie after she won a persuasive writing contest at school. We had to bring in the pie she described in her essay for a class pie tasting. I put off making the pie until the last minute– as in really late the night before it was due– and I was forced to make a homemade pie crust since I could not get to the grocery store at that late hour to buy a pre-made one. Turns out, they are not that hard to make, and you really do notice a difference. I’ve tried a few different recipes and prefer the crust recipes that use Crisco as opposed to butter (see links below).
Miss Priss’ winning pie was a Chocolate Brownie Drizzle Pie from Paula Deen. Tonight we are having Strawberry Pie and last week (in honor of Pie Day) we ate this Sugar and Cream Pie that was heavenly.
Strawberry Pie Ingredients
- 1-2 pints fresh strawberries, stems and leaves removed
- 3/4 c. water
- 3 T. cornstarch
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 t. fresh lemon juice
- 1 t. lemon zest
- 1 9-in. baked pie shell
- 1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped
- Cut 1 pint strawberries into bite sized pieces and line the bottom of the baked pie shell with the strawberry pieces. I quartered the strawberries and dropped them into the crust, but you could slice them and place the slices evenly around the shell to make the pie more decorative.
- In a saucepan, bring to a boil 6-8 whole strawberries with 3/4 c. water. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
- Combine cornstarch and sugar and add to the berries.
- With a whisk, stir constantly until the mixture is clear and thickened. Pour thickened strawberry mixture through a sieve to remove any chunky pieces.
- Add lemon juice and lemon zest to the strawberry liquid.
- Pour liquid over the strawberries in the pie shell. Chill several hours.
- Serve topped with whipped cream.
- If you do not chill the strawberry pie long enough, the strawberry syrup will be runny and not hold together when you slice the pie. This does not affect the taste of the pie, but it looks pretty messy.
- The original Crisco pie crust recipe can be found HERE. I use milk in place of the water.
- Pioneer Woman has a good Crisco pie crust recipe HERE.
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.
It is (roughly) the third anniversary of TheRoomMom. When I started writing in June, 2012, I wanted the blog to be a resource for parents (mostly moms) with school aged children. I wanted to share all of the behind-the-scenes information I have as a teacher and as a mom– how to communicate with your child’s teachers successfully, what makes a really good teacher gift, how to handle homework effectively, how to plan and write a research paper– that kind of thing. Well, I am a little crafty; I like organizing parties; I love children’s literature, and I create teacher resources for educators, so I started throwing in group food recipes, party ideas, craft projects, favorite book lists, and lesson ideas for the classroom. TheRoomMom became a repository for all of the experiences I have as a teacher mom of elementary aged children.
Around this time of year, I take a little inventory and think about the future of TheRoomMom empire. What is my dream? Someday, I would love to write a children’s chapter book. All of the experiences I share here are my notes for the unwritten novel. I haven’t figured out my characters or my story, but I know the seed of the book is somewhere in here.
I have other dreams too. They vary, but most of the dreams involve working for myself and having an income I can use for non-essentials like sending my kids to a sleepaway camp similar to the one I attended growing up.
Happy birthday to TheRoomMom and here is to continued growth and good ideas!
Thanks to Peppy Zesty Teacherista, Teach Create Motivate, Third in Hollywood, and Sparkling in Second Grade for asking the dream question.
Happy Independence Day, America.