Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Impromptu Holiday Activity Party

I am working hard this year to live in the moment this holiday break and cherish every minute I can with my children.  They are only this age for a short time and I don't want to look back and think why didn't we ever do that.  I already have some of those regrets with our oldest!  SO we made a "bucket list" of things we wanted to do as a family this holiday break.  One of those activities was to have a small holiday party with some of my girls' friends.  SO I planned an impromptu party for 8 girls and 3 activities and I kept it simple with food and had hot chocolate, whipped cream, peppermint sticks, bagels, cream cheese & juice. 

We made powdered donut snowmen...which they made and then ate:)

Using inspiration and a downloadable header from Eighteen25 we made "Holiday Bucket Lists". For these I picked up 8x10 plastic frames for $2.50 each, a HUGE pack of patterned scrapbook paper for $5 and a pack of dry erase markers for $6.97 all from Walmart. The girls LOVED it. They used the finished projects as dry erase boards to make lists, draw pictures, make more lists. I could have made these much cuter but I wanted to keep it simple and easy for the girls - and cheap:)

And finally we made holiday flour sacks/towels.  I posted about these here.  You could also just print out your TAGXEDO on cardstock and frame it as a gift:)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Flour Sacks with TAGXEDO

My friend "G" is the bomb.  She always sends me the the BEST activity sites!!  She introduced me to WORDLE which I love.  It's a site that makes word clouds and I have used it to make MANY gifts, cards, and all kinds of things.  I thought it was the best site...until "G" sent me the link to TagxedoTagxedo is basically WORDLE on steroids. It can make your word cloud a specific shape.  I know what you are thinking - WHY do I care about word clouds and what in the world would I do with a word cloud shape?!!  Well take a look at these flour sack dish towels my girls and their friends whipped out today. 

This project took about 15 minutes and cost less than $2 per towel.  I helped each child make a tagxedo jpeg file with holiday words they entered on the TAGXEDO site, printed it on iron on transfer paper and ironed it on flour sacks I picked up at Walmart.  I literally spent about 10 minutes figuring it out so the number one tip I would pass on is to make sure you click the ALL button - otherwise it will omit some of the words you have loaded.  It basically works just like WORDLE in that the more times you enter a word the larger it appears, you separate words by commas and you add a tilde sign ~ to keep words together.  After the short time I've played with it I like it better than WORDLE because  you can adjust how large a frequency word appears and it allows you to save your image as a JPEG file.  For holiday you can make your word clouds in the shape of a snowman, a star, a tree, a peace sign, the word joy and the word love.  You could also just print out your tagxedo jpeg file on cardstock and frame it.  Enjoy!!

Day Twelve of 12 Days

The last day of 12 days I usually do an "All Things Paper" theme.  This year I gave thank you notes, embroidered toilet paper (because I think it is hysterical - special thanks to Troye:) and a money tree (money being the extra paper).  Our teacher loved it!  I hope you had fun with 12 Days!!  How did you choose to end yours?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day Eleven of 12 Days

There are 2 days left until the holiday break!!  Today is "all things kitchen".  Yet another gift I LOVE to give is "hostess gloves".  These gloves save your hands when cleaning dishes or around the house - plus they put you in the mood to get organized.  Slip them on and you can channel a little June Cleaver or Martha Stewart;)  I paired this with my favorite little glass measuring cup.  It measures teaspoons, tablespoons, ounces and milliliters ALL on one cup!!  I hope my teachers love these gifts as much as I do!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Polar Express Prep...

Tomorrow is Polar Express Day!!  I've got 3 gallons of milk, some half & half, lots of chocolate and a couple CO2 cartridges ready to whip some heavy whipping cream into shape for the best cup of hot chocolate those kiddos have ever tasted.  I also have my secret weapon - homemade marshmallows, recipe courtesy of Ina Garten.  I made plain (white) and peppermint (pink) marshmallows today.  To see my hot chocolate & whipped cream recipes and get some quick party ideas check out last year's post - click here.

Day Ten of 12 Days

There are 3 days left until the holiday break and apparently I haven't given enough beverage items this year because I have yet another one!!  I LOVE these insulated straw cups!!  I have one from Starbucks that I use everyday.  This particular one is from Hobby Lobby.  It is regularly $9.99 and they are on sale anywhere from 50%-75% off right now!!  The straw even has a stopper so you can't pull it out when the lid is screwed on.  Hobby Lobby has polka dot and striped cups.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day Nine of 12 Days

There are 4 days left until the holiday break and our teachers are dressed to the nines - or at least their shoes can be when they are traveling;)  This is one of my favorite gifts to give - a shoe bag.  These suckers retail for $25 at Neiman Marcus or you can sometimes find them at TJ Maxx or Marshalls for anywhere from $5-$10.  They are embroidered linen shoe bags and they are something you may never purchase for yourself - but they are so WONDERFUL to have when you pack!!  Your shoes stay protected and they never get your clothes dirty!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Gingerbread" Houses 2010

Hello!  I'm short on time this week so I made 2 videos to explain how I make graham cracker "gingerbread" houses.  These aren't pretty - but it's the best I could do this week so please bear with me.  The first video shows you how to cut a graham cracker without breaking it.  The second video shows you how I assemble the houses with NO HOT GLUE or MILK CARTONS!  I have also attached some of the fabulous pictures from my child's class.  The teacher picked up these white Styrofoam trays from the butcher shop at a local grocery store for FREE.  It's the perfect setting for the houses:)  Plus she asked every child to bring in their OWN can of frosting to decorate the houses with and a bag of candy to share.  Our teacher ROCKS this year!!  Good Luck!

  • I ended up using one and a half bags of cookie icing to completely assemble 34 houses.
  • I used about 6 boxes of graham crackers
  • I always make at least 5-6 more houses than I need in case anyone gets a little rough and breaks their house.  Last year only 1 child broke their house if that tells you anything. 
  • It's just easier to pre-assemble these houses and let the kids decorate them.  It takes less time in class and it lets the children do what they really love with this activity!
  • Apparently when it's late, you are making a million "gingerbread houses" and making an online tutorial you get the facts about which children and which year they are in Kindergarten a little mixed up;)



Day Eight of 12 Days

There are 5 days left until the holiday...and we are freezing our behinds off here!!  SO, today I sent in Vanilla Scented Shea Butter Infused Slipper Socks from Bath & Body Works.  These were on sale for $3 two weeks ago and now I'm kicking myself for not buying myself some.  They feel amazing!! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day Seven of 12 Days

Only 6 days left until the holiday break!  It's Friday!!  Day seven of 12 Days is an ornament.  It's simple, it's holiday, it was under $3 at Kirklands and it's FRIDAY!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day Six of 12 Days

Only 7 days left until holiday break!  Are you starting to feel frantic?  Lots to do, lots of lists, coupons, receipts, rebates...Oh MY!!  Day six of 12 days is an organizer that hopefully our teachers can use to organize receipts, coupons, gift cards, envelopes of money if they like Dave Ramsey or anything else they can think of;)  Plus I threw in a holiday notepad with a pen for them to make any last minute notes - and it fits in the organizer.  I bought the organizer at Big Lots for under $2.  They used to sell this line at Target and I loved it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day Five of 12 Days

Happy Hump Day!  There's only 8 days left until the holiday break!  Because there is still a long week ahead (of eating lunch in the classroom no less) day five of 12 days is a koozie & each teacher's favorite candy.  I figure it's a good pick me up to get them through the day:)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day Four of 12 Days

Only 9 days left until the holiday break!!  Day four of 12 days is peppermint antibacterial lotion!  It's from Bath & Body works, on sale for $2.50 (plus you can use a coupon right now:) and it smells AMAZING!!  This is VERY practical gift because sickness is running rampant this week!!  The bag is from Walmart and costs 25 cents.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day Three of 12 Days

Happy Monday everyone!  Only one more Monday after today!!  Day 3 of 12 Days is a "peppermint stripe" travel cup.  They have these sometimes at the dollar store, right now at Hobby Lobby and at Kirklands.  I got these at Kirklands for $1.99 on a SUPER sale because they are regularly $7.99!!  I love these type cups because they keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks warm.  What's your Day 3?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day Two of 12 Days

Day two of 12 Days is a monogramed eyeglass or sunglass case from... you guessed it Kirklands. (When you have an active 21 month old you are chasing around it limits the amount of stores you can do your 12 days shopping at:).  It's less than $5 regular price - with last week's sale and the coupon I got it cheaper:). They are having a HUGE sale starting today and it goes through Sunday! The gift bag costs 25 cents each at Walmart. What's your day 2?

Small Savvy Gift Ideas

I know everyone's budget is tight right now.  The whole concept of 12 Days is that you can send in a small thoughtful item that makes a HUGE impact in a teacher's day.  Take my friend, Troye, over at For the Joy of Food - she is doing the 12 Days this year and today she sent in a whisk filled with Hershey Kisses and a note that said "We wish you a Merry Kissmass".  How CUTE is that?  There are several websites that seem to have the same list of these savvy snack & small gift ideas that are really clever and thoughtful.  Tip Junkie (you can click here to see her site ) lists 24 of these ideas along with the coordinating poem and picture - check her out!!  Below I listed a few from the sites I visted today to give you an idea of what I am talking about.  Several blogs out there also have cute FREE printable tags too - if you like a certain poem or tag line just google it to see if you can find a free printable for it!!  Post a comment if you have some that you love!!  Happy Holidays!
  1. Wire Wisk - (Filled with Chocolate kisses) "We WHISK you a Merry KISSmas!!"
  2. Loaf of Bread - For being there when you were "Kneaded", for "Rising" to the occasion, large or small. For never "Loafing" on the job, for helping others to "Heel" with TLC. No matter how you "Slice it", you do a terrific job loving Others. Merry Christmas!!
  3. Jolly Ranchers - Have a Holly"Jolly" Christmas!!
  4. Chex Party Mix - Remember Santa "Chex" his list twice to see who's been naughty or nice...so be good for goodness sake!! Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day One of 12 Days

This is day one of 12 Days... a holiday door hanger from Kirklands.  It's less than $3 regular price.  And they are having some GREAT sales with coupons right now along with the fact if you give them your contact information they take $10 off your purchase!  I also picked up 12 of these gift bags (in this pattern and one more pattern) for 25 cents each at Walmart.  What's your day 1?
If you couldn't pull this off by today don't panic - just start on Monday with 10 days.  Your teacher will still love it - I promise;)  If you need some places to shop...
  • Kirklands & Hobby Lobby have TONS of cute items, cute cups, koozies, hostess gloves, ornaments, holiday planners, holiday decor (most of it on sale:). 
  • Old Navy usually marks down their gloves & scarves over the next few weeks - and those are nice gifts for the playground. 
  • Today Bath & Body Works had some super cute vanilla infused with shea butter slipper socks marked down to $3 and holiday scented antibacterial lotion for $2.50.
  • Target & Michaels usually has some cute items in their Dollar sections at this time of year.  Items like holiday signs, festive stationary, a dish towel or some type of lotion or soap.
  • World Plus Market also has a cute Dollar section and some very useful in expensive items in the kitchen section (like mini collapsible funnels, mini whisks, measuring spoons, microplanes, etc.).

Monday, November 29, 2010

12 Days of Christmas Story

Six years ago my daughter was at a new school. I wasn't room mom, I had a new baby and so I found it hard to get to know my daughter's teachers. I wanted to do something during December that made an impact because I know in classes of 3-5 year olds December is an INSANE time to deal with the little "ones". And so I started the 12 days of Christmas. I send in one small item each day for the 12 days leading up to the holiday break - for my children's school this year the 12 days starts THIS THURSDAY. It's nothing spectacular but the teachers LOVED it and said it gave them something to look forward to each day, a reason to come to work (or at least a reason to want to come to work:). The first year I did the 12 days it took the teachers a few days to catch on. I try to shop all year round but with all the great sales right now it's easy to pick up GREAT gifts marked down. Below are the gifts I sent in last year along with the poem I wrote and send in each day (I just change the number of days to reflect the school days left until the holiday break). I will post the items from this year in a future post.
It's important to note however that this is something I do for the teacher from me. I do not collect money for this. In fact, when I do collect money for a class gift I always save that as the gift on the 12th day or last day before the break. You can always coordinate this with other parents in the classroom by each taking certain days - you just need to be sure that they are going to follow through and I'm too much of a control freak to trust (I know you are super shocked about that).  Anyway I would love to hear your ideas!
12 Days Poem
There are 12 days left until the holiday,
And some of our actions may make you want to run away.
We're all a little hyper and we've lost our listening skills,
But it's only because this season gives us such a thrill.
So here's a little gift for this very reason,
Please know how much you're appreciated during this very hectic season!

 This was day 1 of 2009.
It was just a holiday dish towel.  I posted a picture of the packaging I use.  I try to send the same type bag in each day - something that can fit in my daughter's bag and I attach the poem with ribbon.

 This was day 2 of 2009. 
 It was a monogrammed ornament.

This was day 3 of 2009.
A holiday hanger, some tissues and a notebook.

This was day 4 of 2009. 
Some Bath &Body Works soap & lotion.

 This was day 5 of 2009.
A monogrammed koozie and her favorite soda.

 This was day 6 of 2009.
Slipper socks and her favorite candy.

 This was day 7 of 2009.
Monogram dishes. 

 This was day 8 of 2009. 
It was a sign and some room spray to make her family den "warm".

 This was day 9 of 2009. 
It was "all things kitchen".  A pair of hostess gloves for washing dishes, a mini funnel that collapses and a little "scraper" to get those tough spots off the bottom of pans.

 This was day 10 of 2009. 
Our teacher travels a lot so we bought her a packing list and these bags to pack her shoes and delicates in case the airport security decides to rummage!!

 This was day 11 of 2009. 
It was a magazine subscription to Southern Living with a Southern Living vase.

This was day 12 (the last day) of 2009. 
It was "all things paper" and I gave her the class gift we collected of $100 - and since she had everything else monogrammed I figured her toilet paper should be too!  Our teacher used that money to buy gas so she and her family could visit their family in an out of town state.  I can NOT say enough about how wonderful cash gifts are...they are not impersonal to a teacher - they can make all the difference!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Starbucks Peppermint Brownies

It's sad. I have passed my addiction of Starbucks onto my girls (although their addiction is more to the food than the drinks:). Two summers ago it dawned on me while shopping at Williams Sonoma that I could save a ton of money if I started making Madelines myself instead of purchasing 3 of them every morning on my drive through Starbucks. And so birthed the summer of Madelines. I made vanilla, I made chocolate, I made marbled and they ate them up for WAY less money!

SO, last year when my girls fell in love with Starbucks peppermint brownies I decided I had to find a way to replicate the recipe. Tonight was my first attempt and I must say I think I nailed it - or at least I came darn close. Try them and see...warning these are VERY rich!!

My Version of Starbucks Peppermint Brownies

Make an 8x8 pan of brownies and let them cool. The recipe doesn't matter as long as you do NOT overbake them - they should be fudgy when cooled. If you want to use a box brownie mix I suggest Ghiradelli. If you want a scratch recipe I suggest Martha Stewart. Ina Garten has a great recipe but it makes a HUGE pan.Next cream 1 - 8oz package of cream cheese (softened), 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and 1 tsp peppermint extract.
Dump the cream cheese mixture over the brownies and smooth over as an even layer. Place the brownies in the fridge.

Next you need to make ganache. Now don't panic - it's just a fancy word for the most amazing, yet versatile chocolate concoction you have ever made. You simple take 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and heat it GENTLY over medium to low heat on the stovetop. You are waiting for tiny bubbles to form on the edge of the cream in the pan. Watch it carefully you do not want the cream to burn or boil. As soon as you see these tiny bubbles creeping up and the cream is hot you take the pan OFF the heat (and don't forget to turn your burner off as well:). Then you dump 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips into the cream and let it sit for 2 minutes.

And then you stir.

And stir.

And stir.

And when the ganache is smooth and glossy you take the brownies out of the fridge and you dump the ganache over the peppermint/cream cheese layer and smooth. You need to chill the brownies for at least 15 minutes so that the ganache can "set". Then you cut into those suckers and enjoy! Remember they are VERY rich so cut a small piece! If you want them to look EXACTLY like Starbucks I suggest you mix a little powdered sugar with milk until smooth and then drizzle all over the ganache top layer. But, I say why waste the calories;)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holiday Shirts 2010

It's that time of year! You know, shopping for gifts and realizing how outrageously expensive everything is - or maybe how cheap I really am. I like to take this time of year and browse the stores (Starbucks in hand) looking at all the amazing new nifty items.....and then I try to rip the ideas off for WAY less. You know, it's in the holiday spirit and all...plus that saves more money for Starbucks. What? HELLO, it's peppermint mocha season, oh and don't forget those peppermint brownies (which I am working on perfecting a recipe I'll post later this month).

Take these adorable holiday koozies. Now are these not precious?!! If you want them they are $10 (which I actually would purchase for that price) at your local Hallmark store. Or....

You could have your MIL (shout out to JeJe) purchase these shirts and then trust you to rip the idea off and make your precious babies (and cousins, but only the ones that didn't ban gifts;) these holiday shirts. And BONUS, you don't have to applique this year. OK, maybe the boy tie shirts but really I'm a little over the applique - at least my sewing machine is. It's not very friendly with Heat-N-Bond. Who knew?

Now don't look to close. Beenah, Amie you can look away now. This was my first one so I've got some work to do. I plan on adding a brown trunk - but I was too excited not to share. The best part about this project is that you can purchase shirts at Walmart anywhere from $3.50-$5.00 (toddler or children's is the difference in price), the ribbon I bought on sale at Hobby Lobby for $1 a spool (that would easily make you 6-8 shirts depending how big you make the tabs) and the star button was 2 for $2.49 at Hobby Lobby. I did put some FrayCheck on the edges of the ribbon - but basically I made the shirt in the picture for $5:) Not to bad!! Happy Holidays!