Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Paper Flowers

Remember making paper flowers out of Kleenex when you were a kid? I think more than a few trees were sacrificed for my paper flower making. Well, here's an easy, more efficient way to make them. These are super easy to attach to card stock if you like to make your own valentines.

First, the cast of characters... Baking Cups and Assorted Brads ( you can find these at Target, Walmart and craft stores)

To make the carnations you will need 3 baking cups of the same color (I used pink) and a pink brad.

Place the 3 baking cups inside eachother and turn them inside out. Then push brad through to the back.

Secure brad by opening up the flaps.

Flip the "flower" back over to the top side of the brad and begin crumpling each baking cup around the brad.

Continue until each baking cup has been crumpled and ta da - your carnation is complete.

To make the daffodils you'll need two yellow baking cups, one white baking cup and a yellow brad....
If you would like to secure your flower to a piece of paper then first punch a hole through the paper using the brad and then remove the brad.

Place the two yellow baking cups with their white sides together and then place these inside the white baking cup.

Secure the baking cups together with the paper by punching the brad through the baking cups and the previous hole you punched in the paper.
Secure the brad, then flip over and crumple the two yellow baking cups around brad and then flatten out the white baking cup. Your daffodil will look like this..

These are so much fun and you can even use pipe cleaners instead of brads to make little stemmed flowers to make a bouquet. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter Party Ideas and 2009 Recap

SO I know everyone's holiday parties are over, but if you are looking for some winter projects for January/February or ideas for next year below is a few. For our classroom party this year I had parents bring in bottled water, a veggie tray, fruit tray, cookies, cupcakes, and a few salty snacks. I supplied a "hot chocolate bar" which included zoo pals children's cups with LIDS, homemade hot chocolate, fresh whipped cream, homemade marshmallows and crushed peppermint for toppings. The children decorated winter themed bags from Oriental Trading (to then take all their goodies home in), made bookmarks and penguin thermometers from Oriental Trading, scarves (see pic below) and snowmen out of powdered doughnuts.

Homemade Hot Chocolate
Really the powdered stuff just won't do after you make the real thing!! Plus it's much better for the kids and it's not difficult to make!
3 cups Whole Milk
2 cups Half & Half
1/4cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Milk Chocolate Chips
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
Combine the milk and half & half together in a pan and heat until it starts to simmer (watch the sides of the pan and when the milk begins to form tiny bubbles pull it off the heat). Whisk the chocolate into the milk and when it's melted add the vanilla and sugar. Gently reheat and serve. TIP - I actually have a great thermos/dispenser I bought at Target a few years ago. You just press a button on the top and the hot chocolate squirts out. If this isn't something you want to invest in then once the milk is reheated pour it back into the carton and wrap with foil to transport to the school.

Fresh Whipped Cream
2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
The colder the cream the faster it whips so make sure you store it in the back of your fridge. Pour the cream into your mixing bowl and turn your mixer on high. Whip the cream until soft peaks begin to form (this means you can see the ripples the beater makes in the cream). Add the sugar and vanilla and whip a bit longer until the sugar is incorporated. Make sure not to whip it too long or it will turn into butter.

I'll be posting a more detailed "tutorial" on these later this week.

Prior to the winter party we also did food crafts the 2 Fridays in December before break. The first Friday we made gum drop art (pictured at the top of this post and then right below is a peppermint snail, a butterscotch bug and a gum drop tree lollipop)which were inspired from the Martha Stewart site.

You make these using gum drops, peppermints or butterscotch candies, licorice rope and candy perils or jimmies for the eyes. The dollar store is a great place to purchase cheap candy. This is definitely a project for 2nd graders and older. Have the children use their scissors to cut the gum drops in half, then use the sticky side to attach the gum drop to the peppermint or butterscotch candy. If you want your bugs to have antennas then have them cut the licorice rope and attach it to the sticky side of the gum drop before they press it onto the peppermint. We then just used baby wipes to clean the scissors and it worked really well. If you want to make gum drop trees just have the children push the lollipop sticks (available at any craft or candy making store) through the gum drops. Cut another gum drop in a different color and attach the pieces with the sticky sides to the green gum drops and finish it off with licorice rope as garland. The kids also made gum drop snowmen and some even made their own little people. Let them be creative. NOTE: Your teacher will love you more if you bring cute bags for the children to take their candy art HOME in.

The second Friday we made graham cracker houses. I pre-assembled these houses at home the night before so it would take less class time and so they would be dry and ready to decorate. I know there used to be a project like this that used milk cartons but that's too much trouble for me. I just bought Great Value brand graham crackers and Betty Crocker White Cookie Decorating Icing in a bag (you can find this in the cake aisle of the grocery stores and Walmart). This icing is worth the splurge because it works like glue and sets in a matter of seconds. You just squirt some on the side hold it together for 5-10 seconds and then work on another side. I actually made little boxes and let them dry for ten minutes before adding the pitched roof. Below is a picture of what they looked like when I was almost done making them. I then just took the left over bagged icing and other canned icing and let the children use M&M's, gum drops, mini candy canes, fruit by the foot and little cookies & pretzels to be creative and decorate the house. Again, Martha Stewart's site has some great ideas. I do find though that when you give the children a picture or an example they get stuck on making it exactly like the example. If you just give them the house and the supplies they are far more creative.

Some other great ideas I received from my daughter's teacher and friends:

  1. Let the kids unwrap Hershey Kisses wearing mittens.
  2. Have the children try to wrap presents wearing mittens.
  3. Have the children in pairs decorate each other like snowmen using toilet paper, scarves, hats and folded orange cardstock with ribbon to attach as the nose.
  4. Using a straw and two dixie cups have the children move M&M's from one cup to another sucking the M&M onto the end of the straw. The first one to move all their M&M's wins.

Where to begin....

I have a small confession to make - I have the tiniest problem of over-committing and also the need to knock the socks off any project or assignment that's given to me. The result of this would be after seven years of volunteering at school, my husband goes running in the other direction or can be found rocking in the corner of the house yelling "No, NO" over and over again when the terms room mom, PTA or fundraiser is brought up. Lucky for my friends (and hopefully you) I've become a pretty decent resource at classroom parties & activities, auction project ideas, the "how to schmooze your teacher after your child has made them want to pull their hair out because they don't make enough money for this crap" ideas, and the "I want my teacher to love it so much they'll cry" ideas (although I strongly suggest that you are giving some sort of cash along with these gifts if you really want your teacher to love you and your child).

Let me first say my mother was a teacher for over a decade, her best friend taught (and is still teaching) for over 20 years, almost everyone in my husband's family is (or is studying to be) a teacher and I have a kick butt friend at the best university in existence who sends me the coolest, cheapest gift ideas. While God didn't grant me the patience or gifts for the teaching profession I have a unique perspective on teachers' needs when it comes to classroom help. I also have some unbelievable stories that leave most parents gasping and most teachers nodding their head saying "yes, that actually does happen"! The first step to being a room mom is to use common sense, don't think that you are now your teacher's BFF, DON'T use this position to constantly ask questions about your child's progress (that's what SCHEDULED conferences are for) and do NOT create MORE work for your teachers (they have enough and aren't paid enough for what they do have). Your role as room mom is to make the teacher's life easier by organizing parties, projects and activities that are AGE APPROPRIATE and do not ensue chaos in the classroom. Hopefully this blog will be a forum for ideas on how to do this and I'm hoping a place others can share their ideas with me.

SO let me tell you what you most definitely won't find on this blog - anything that has apples, pencils, World's Greatest Teacher, mugs, teacher gifts with your child's handprint or thumbprint... you get the idea. I don't care how cute it may be YOUR TEACHER DOESN'T WANT IT! Save yourself the time and trouble. And while I'm on the subject I am a BIG proponent of cash and gift cards. I always give some sort of creative gift with it but I always give cash or gift cards for occasions and I've never regretted this decision and either has my children's teachers. In fact over the past seven years I've had teachers use the cash/gift cards they've received to purchase dresses to their daughter's wedding, fix their cars that desperately needed it and one who cried at the end of the year because she was going to be able to get her tooth fixed. I'm sorry but in the end every parent sending in $2 for a VISA gift card made all the difference that no hand print apron ever could.

My suggestion for getting started is getting to know your teacher. I start with a Teacher Profile. Preferably you should send this to your teacher at the beginning of the year, but it doesn't matter if it's the middle of the year - it's not to late. Below is the one I use. Feel free to change it or add your own categories, just make sure you adhere to the answers your teacher's give you. My SIL (who's the mother load of ideas for room moms:) had a poor friend last year who kept getting these beautiful, expensive flower arrangements when she specifically said on her Teacher Profile she was allergic. Again, don't be stupid, use the information your teacher spent time giving you and GOOD LUCK!!

Teacher Profile
(Please fill out and return to So & So’s mom)

Full Name:
Family Names (please list spouse, children & pets):

Hobbies or Interests:
Favorite Store(s):
Favorite Restaurant(s):
Favorite Flower:
Favorite Candy:
Favorite Drink/Soda:
Favorite Snack(s):
Favorite Cake:
Favorite Color:
Anniversary of becoming a teacher:
Anniversary of teaching at this school:

What projects, programs or special events can I assist with this year?