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 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!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Scarecrow Ideas

Our school has an annual tradition of making scarecrows for their fall festival. This can be a daunting task but they try to make it as fun and creative as possible. For example, currently Walmart & JoAnn's have premade scarecrows for under $10 that room parents can purchase and then redecorate for their class theme. Because these scarecrows either have to stand on their own or be able to be propped up, some room parents get really creative. For example, Denise (the mother of all room parents;) made a scarecrow in a bikini one year laying on a beach lounge chair. She used panty hose that the children stuffed to make the body, arms and legs. She also has taken a black trash bag, stuffed it, then made legs and added eyes for a spider scarecrow.

Our class will be making a "Tin Man" scarecrow. My plan is to use:

  • a box for the body
  • 2 dryer vent hoses (metallic accordion) - these will be the arms & legs
  • TWO 90 degree angle dryer hose connectors (silver) - these will be the "shoulders"
  • a funnel (to use as a hat)
  • a plastic milk carton - to use as the head
  • a mask - this will be glued to the flat side of the milk carton and spray painted silver to make a face on the Tin Man
  • a plastic toy ax - for the tin man to hold
  • a SMALL bale of straw or hay - just for effect

So here was our finished product. We took 3rd place.

And here is why I may never commission a 1st place scarecrow...because this is my competition:) Isn't this AMAZING?!!

If you need some more ideas click here for a GREAT site that has TONS of ideas along with pictures.