Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homemade Teacher Christmas Gift: Hot Chocolate Mix

Christmas time: time of giving gifts.  I think that I have mentioned before that in another life (back in my 20s), I was a high school teacher. I always enjoyed the gifts given to me by students that were something that I could use and/or were homemade.  As my children have gotten older, they have acquired more teachers (currently I only have two of four in school) for a total of thirteen teachers (that is A LOT) this year.  I know that is a big number, and it will only continue to grow through the years, but I do think that it is important to give all of their teachers gifts to show appreciation for teaching my children.  With that being said, I decided to make the teachers a homemade gift this year. We (the children can help too) made hot chocolate mix in a mason jar.  This makes a big batch which made it an easy choice for making for several teachers (and we get to keep and use the mix that was leftover). 

Here is the final product:

Hot Chocolate Mix


To make the labels, I just created a design on the computer (in Microsoft Word), printed on white card stock, cut out, and attached the labels to the Mason jar with double stick tape. Tie a Christmas ribbon or twine around the top, and the present is complete.  I also included a round label for the top with a "To" and "From":

Hot Chocolate Mix



Materials Needed for Packaging:
  1. Glass Mason jar
  2. White card stock paper
  3. Double stick tape
  4. Christmas ribbon
  5. Hot Chocolate Mix (recipe below)

Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe:
2 lb box Nestles Quik
1 lb box powdered sugar
11 oz. jar Coffee Mate (Original)
8 qt. box powdered milk

Directions for making the mix:  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Sift ingredients together and store in jars.

Directions for using the mix: Fill cup half full of hot chocolate mix.  Fill 3/4 of the cup with hot water.  Stir to dissolve mix.  Fill the rest of the cup with milk.  Optional: add a dash of vanilla.

Note: This makes approximately 19 cups of dry mix.  I used about 3 cups per Mason jar.




 
 
 
 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bird Watching on Dixie Street

I never posted the blog below when I originally wrote it because it was too much.  Too much of real life and real feelings.  I feel as if now, almost two years later, I can finally post it and be "okay" with people reading this.  I know that everyone in life, eventually at some point, goes through a hard time. That is what life is, going through different experiences and trying to find some way to string them all together to make sense so that you can keep moving forward.  Sometimes these experiences define who you are and sometimes you try not to let them define who you are, but the reality is that without our experiences we would not be who we are.

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Regrets, they make the world go round.  Some of us live our life with them.   Others live life without them, or at least they attempt to.  Regrets have a funny way of coming out of no where and blindsiding you on a random Thursday.  "I should have done this" or "I should have done that" seem to fill everyone's head at one time or another.  But, to live life with the weight of regrets on your shoulders will eventually break you.

I will be honest, I have regrets.  I regret that I did not try harder at sports when I was a kid.  I regret that I did not forgo the big bangs trend.  I regret that I was not always a good friend.  I regret that I did not study harder my freshman year of college.  But most of all, I regret that I did not call my father back.  I had the selfish thought that I could call him back later because there is always a later, right?  I still have his voicemail on my phone.  I have his voice saying my name, telling me how he was doing, he wanted to know how I was doing, and that he would talk to me "sometime."  That last word, "sometime," struck me as odd when I heard the voicemail the first time.  It still strikes me odd when I hear it today because he didn't say "later," but inferred some unknown time in the future. 

I cannot call my father back now.  Even though I have his number on my phone.  Even though more than anything I want to pick up the phone and hear his voice on the other end.  However, if I call his number now, nobody will answer.  I missed my opportunity because I selfishly thought there would always be "sometime" later that I could call him back, sometime when I was not busy.

It has been four weeks since my father passed away.  It was sudden with no warning, no goodbyes, and thankfully no suffering.  People are not perfect, and he never expected me to be, so I have to let go of the regret.   But, I still do not know how to let go of the sadness.  I know eventually it will seep from me, leaving me little by little until I can talk about him without feeling as if I have had the wind knocked out of me.  He once told me to always hold onto a good memory about someone because you never know when you are going to need it.  I know it will never be the same again, but one day it will hopefully be okay.  And until then, when I think of him, I will be picturing me at three years old lying on my back on a blanket beside my father watching the birds in the backyard of our house on Dixie Street.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week, Day 3

It is now Day 3 of Teacher Appreciation Week, and my kids have another DIY gift to give to their teachers.  This time it is a small jar (4 oz) of caramel cream cheese apple dip with Heath bar bits and a green apple.  This project is very simple.  Below are the materials needed and directions to follow. 

Here is the final product:

Apples and dip wrapped in a cellophane bag and tied with ribbon and raffia.
 
And......I got to make labels again!

Label for the bag.


Recipe for Caramel Cream Cheese Dip:
(Makes 4 jars that are 4 oz each)
Ingredients
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
1 (15 oz) tub of caramel apple dip
1 bag of Heath bar bits (I found this in the baking aisle)

Directions:
In a small mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and 4 spoonfuls of caramel.  Use a hand mixer to blend well, until creamy.

Materials Needed:
  1. Cream Cheese dip (recipe above)
  2. Caramel apple dip
  3. Heath bar bits
  4. Green apple
  5. 4 oz Mason jar
  6. Medium-sized cellophane bag
  7. Ribbon
  8. Raffia
  9. White card stock to print out labels
  10. Printer
Final product of the Caramel Cream Cheese Apple Dip with Heath Bar bits.


Directions:
  1. Make the caramel cream cheese apple dip using recipe above.  Spoon mixture into 4 oz Mason jar until the jar is about 3/4 full. 
  2. Carefully wipe any dip off of the jar that spilled.
  3. On top of the cream cheese and caramel mixture, drop a healthy spoonful of caramel.
  4. Top caramel with Heath bar bits (see picture below).Place lid on top of jar and close tight
  5. Make labels on white card stock for the top of the jar by using Microsoft Word.  Draw a circle and type in a text box inside the circle: "Caramel Cream Cheese Apple Dip with Heath Bar bits." Print.  Cut out circle and, using double stick tape, place on top of the jar lid.
  6. Make rectangle labels on white card stock by using Microsoft Word.  Draw a rectangle and type in a text box inside the circle: "A good teacher deserves and apple.  You deserve the whole tree!"  I used an apple clip art to add to the label.  Last, type your "to" and "from" information.  Print.  Cut out labels and punch a hole with a hole puncher in the top left corner so that you will be able to run the ribbon through it.
  7. Place jar in the cellophane bag and top with green apple.
  8. Using the ribbon and raffia, tie the bag shut (be sure to attach the label with the hole to the ribbon before tying in a bow.
  9. Give to teacher.
One last picture....

Apple Teacher's Gift

If you like what you see, please "share" or "like" or "pin" my post.  Thanks!

Click here to see Teacher Appreciation Week, Day 1
Click here to see Teacher Appreciation Week, Day 2

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week, Day 2

For the second day of Teacher Appreciation Week, my children are taking cookie jars to their teachers.  This is a post with two projects in one because for one of my daughter's class, she took a cookie jar full of cookies to her two teachers (Project #1).  However, for the other daughter it was a class gift for which I supplied the cookie jars for the two teachers, and all of the students brought a cookie for each teacher to fill her cookie jar (Project #2).

Here is Project #1:

Project #1

The lids have labels too:

Label for top of cookie jar

Another picture just because I can:



Project #1 Materials:
  1. Clear glass or plastic jar with lid.
  2. Ribbon
  3. Paper for labels
  4. Printer to print labels
  5. Double stick tape
  6. Cookies
Project #1 Directions:
  1. Print the labels.  To make these, I simply went to Microsoft Word, drew a rectangle, and typed the label: I am one SMART COOKIE because you are my teacher! Thanks!
  2. Print the "to" and "from" tags.  To do these, I again used Microsoft Word, drew a square, and typed the "To" and From" information.
  3. Cut out all labels.
  4. Using double stick tape, attach the labels to the cookie jar.
  5. Fill the jar with cookies.
  6. Tie a bow around the top.
  7. Give to teacher.
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Now for Project #2: the class cookie jar gift.  To do this, one parent needs to supply the cookie jar(s) as shown here:

Project #2
This project also has labels on the top of the jar:

Labels for top of cookie jars

When you tie the ribbon at the top of the jars, make sure the jars can still open easily since students will be bringing cookies to put in the jars.

Make sure the lid can still be opened after the ribbon is tied.

Now, because the students are to bring a cookie to the teacher to fill their cookie jar, everyone's cookie needs to be wrapped individually in a clear cellophane bag (as shown below) or a clear zip-top bag.

Cookie inside of a cellophane bag

Because I seem to be label happy, I made a label for the cookie in the cellophane bag as well (directions are below).

Label to seal the cellophane bag



Project #2 Materials:
  1. Clear glass or plastic jar (large because it will be filled up by the entire class).
  2. Paper
  3. Printer
  4. Ribbon
  5. Double stick tape
  6. Cookie
Project #2 Directions:
  1. Print the labels. To make these, I simply went to Microsoft Word, drew a rectangle, and typed the label: We are SMART COOKIES because you are our teacher! Thanks!
  2. Print the "to" and "from" tags. To do these I again used Microsoft Word, drew a square, and typed the "To" and From".
  3. Cut out all labels.
  4. Using double stick tape, attach the labels to the cookie jar.
  5. Tie a bow around the top.
Project #2 Extra Information: Make sure the parents of the students in the class know to bring a cookie and which day to bring it to school.  Also, have them wrap their cookie in a clear cellophane bag or zip top bag.  I used a medium sized cellophane bag, cut the length of the bag to better fit the cookie, then closed it with a special label with double stick tape (see picture above).

Please share or "pin" this project if you like it, thanks!

Click here to see Teacher Appreciation Week, Day 1 Project.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week, Day 1

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week at my daughter's schools.  The first gift that my children are giving their teachers is a jar of M&Ms:



Looks like a rainbow, right?  There is even a poem for the label:



And a great label idea for the top of the jar:


Now you want to make it, right?  Don't worry, it's easy!  I have found this project in several different places, but here is my version.  Below are the materials you need and the steps to complete the project.

Materials (for one gift):
  1. Clear plastic or glass container (mine is a glass container from Michael's) with a lid.
  2. 1 bag (14 oz) of M&Ms
  3. Ribbon to tie around the top of the jar.
  4. Double stick tape
  5. Paper
  6. Printer
Steps:
  1. Separate the blue, green, yellow, orange, and red M&Ms into separate bowls (discard or hide in your closet and eat the brown M&Ms....I recommend hiding and eating them).
  2. Layer the M&Ms in the container.  Order (from bottom up): red, orange, yellow, green, blue.
  3. Make the label for the poem.  I went to Microsoft Word, found a rainbow border, typed the poem, and printed the label.
  4. Cut the label out to fit on your container.  Use double stick tape to attach it to your jar.
  5. Make the round label for the top of the container.  Again, I used Microsoft Word and found a round border, typed the "To" and "From" information, and printed the label.
  6. Cut out the round label and use double stick tape to attach it to the top of your jar.
  7. Tie a ribbon (hopefully you can find a rainbow ribbon, but if not use another color that is in the jar (red, orange, yellow, green, or blue).
  8. Give to the teacher!
Please share or "pin" this project if you like it!  Thanks!
Here are more pictures of the project (the bright colors were so photogenic that I could not help myself!):




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Communication Etiquette: Top 5 Rules You Should Teach Your Children

I grew up in a time when there was only a land line phone for each house, no cell phone.  A time where you were lucky if you had a long enough phone cord so that you could move from one place to another in your room. A time that did not have call waiting or caller id.  We actually had to answer the phone when it rang instead of looking at caller id and deciding not to answer because we weren't in the mood to talk to that person right then.  If it was a salesman, you had to talk to them.  If it was a friend that you were mad at, you had to answer the phone because what if it had been someone else and you had missed that phone call?  We did not have an answering machine for years, so I would have never known who was calling if I didn't pick up the phone.  There was no call waiting, so phones were often busy.  But, as always, the world keeps evolving and things change.

Our children are growing up in a world of instant satisfaction.  A world full of cellphones, computers, iPads, e-readers, etc.  If you can't reach someone on their home phone, you can call their cellphone, text them, email them, chat with them on the Internet, etc, etc, etc.  However, is all of this instant satisfaction of reaching someone driving you crazy when it comes to your kids and their communication with their friends?  Is it time to put some restrictions or rules or something on them?  Should I place some old-school crackdown on how they are to communicate with each other?  I have talked to some of my other mom friends, and they seem to be facing the same issues of what we need to teach our kids.  So, here is my top 5 list of what we should teach our kids about "Communication Etiquette."

  1. Call once and be done.  If my child calls one of her friends, be it on her land line or (gulp, because my kids don't have one) cellphone, she should only call once.  If her friend (or parent) does not answer, calling repeatedly until someone does can be somewhat, well, irritating as all get out.  Teach your child that there may be a reason that they are not answering, maybe they aren't there, or maybe they looked at caller id and know that they can't talk while doing homework.  Maybe the friend that they are calling for isn't there and the parents are trying to put a younger sibling down for a nap and the incessant calling is disrupting their already fried patience.  Or, like I said, maybe they aren't home.  Leave a message and they will call back.
  2. Continuous texting with no response is not allowed.  If your child sends a text message to one of their friends and the friend does not respond immediately (because maybe they were not attached to their phone, they are kids, and were outside playing or weren't allowed to use their cellphone at that moment), tell your child not to keep texting their friend every 10 minutes until they respond.  What if they don't have an unlimited texting plan?  What if they are having family time?  What if you send your friend's mother over the edge with the constant texting and she throws the phone out of the window while driving down the highway?  Not that I would do that, I'm just using an example.
  3. Unless it is a homework emergency, calls should be stopped after a certain time put in place by the parent.  All children have a bedtime, but none of them are the same.  Do you want your child to be receiving calls all the way up until bedtime or do you want some down time?  Whatever your time frame is, let your child know that they cannot talk on the phone past a specific time and tell them to tell their friends that so that they are not calling all night long.
  4. Cellphones must be handed over and put in the parent's room at a specified time.  If your child is not allowed to talk on the phone after a certain time (this includes texting and social media), then they do not need their cell phone.  Putting the cell phone in your bedroom ensures that your child will not be using it later than allowed.  I taught high school for several years, and I was amazed at how many kids said that they were exhausted because they received text messages in the wee hours of the morning so they couldn't sleep.  Ridiculous, their parents were way too naive about cellphones and their misuse.
  5. All social media accounts will be monitored for content, parents will be friended, and parents will be allowed to "follow."  This includes all social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.  I know I am probably leaving some out, but you get the point.  If children know that their parents are going to be keeping tabs on them, they are less likely to post words or pictures that they would not want their parents to see.  Good rule for kids to follow: if you wouldn't want your parents to see it, don't show it to your closest thousand friends.  I am not asking you to invade their privacy and read their diary, just know everything that they post on the Internet because that's not private anyway.  Do not be your kid's best friend, be your kid's parent.
Honorable Mention: Cellphones, telephones, or technology of any kind are not allowed at the table during meal time or during family time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What a Mom Wants and Does Not Want for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is coming.  The most useless of all of the Hallmark holidays.  I am not being unromantic or uncaring, but what is this day really for?  It's for the stores to make money off of poor uninspired (or incorrectly inspired) males.  I have been Googling "Valentine's Day gifts for her" just to see how misled the men in this country are, and I was right, it's bad.  This holiday is not a "one size fits all" gift giving day, no matter what the mass marketing efforts may lead you to believe.  Sure, it's great to feel as if someone cares about you, but hopefully you feel that every other day of the year too and don't need some outrageously expensive gift or misguided gift to make you feel that way.  If you do, you might want to head to the nearest psychiatrist's couch because you have some issues that a professional needs to sort out with you.  For the rest of us (and by us, I mean moms), let's explore what the marketing professionals think that we want and need for this wonderful day of hearts and cuddles:

  1. Chocolate.  They think we want chocolate?!  Ok, so we always want chocolate, but if they even knew us (or looked at our Pinterest boards), they would know that our New Year's resolution (which, might I remind you, was barely a month ago) was to get fit and lose weight.  Now they are trying to sabotage our efforts.  Thanks for not being supportive.
  2. Silk Robe.  Any of you ever try to hold a squirming baby or toddler while wearing a silk robe?  Let me clue you in: it is near impossible, they just slide right down.  Not to mention all of the spit up or grease stains from grubby hands that would be all over it.  Just something else we will have to clean.
  3. A Love Story.  One that rhymes.  No kidding, there is one called Me Without You and it rhymes just like Dr. Seuss.  So now you get to read tongue-twisters with your kids and during your alone time.  Sounds wonderful, I'm so excited.
  4. Roses.  My opinion on this is not going to be popular.  I think these are dumb.  I always have and I always will.  Why do you want to spend money on something that is going to die in a few days?  Buy an azalea bush, it will last years.
  5. Bath Salts.  Now, this is a nice idea, but with it there needs to be a written contract signed by the husband stating that he agrees to babysit the children in another area of the house where they cannot be heard in the master bathroom while mom takes a bath with the door locked for as long as she wants with no interruptions.  Otherwise, this too is a waste of money.
So that is what is being marketed to the poor unsuspecting male.  However, here is the list that they should be given:

  1. Dinner cooked by someone other than Mom.  Here's the catch: no one can ask Mom where anything is in the kitchen or how to cook anything and the kitchen must be cleaned up by someone other than Mom.
  2. House cleaned by someone other than Mom.  The entire house, floors, dusting, toilets, sinks, everything.  Nothing says love like a husband who knows how to use a toilet brush.
  3. A bath.  Alone with no kids knocking on the door or sticking their hands under the door trying to get your attention.  And no husband knocking on the door asking how much longer he has to keep the kids because they are getting a little hyper active and they won't listen to him.
  4. Homemade card from the kids.  Because this will make a mom's heart melt like no other thing can. 
  5. The remote control.  Because frankly, we are tired of ESPN and the Outdoor Channel.