Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is Teacher Appreciation week - a time to show teachers (and/or daycare providers, administrators, etc.) just how grateful you are for all that they do for your children.  

There are quite a few websites you can go to in order to get ideas of just how to show your appreciation.  I tend to go the 'handmade' route when giving gifts, so this year I decided to make chocolate covered pretzels and brownies for my daughter's daycare providers.  I hope they like chocolate...but what do they expect from a mom who is 8 months pregnant?  

I used two different 'recipes' to make the chocolate covering on the pretzels.  

(1)  Wilton Candy Melts
I went to Wal-Mart and saw Wilton Candy Melts for $3.25 (usually much more expensive at craft stores such as Joann and Michaels).  I thought I would give them a try since their sole purpose for existence is to melt, mold, and harden.  

  • 12 ounce bag of Wilton Candy Melts
  • Pour the bag of Candy Melts into microwavable bowl
  • Microwave for 2 minutes at half power (power 5 on my microwave)
  • Mix
  • Microwave for another 25 seconds at half power
After melting the chocolate, I used a silicone scraper to coat pretzels rods with chocolate and placed them on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.  A 10 ounce bag of pretzel rods contains about 27 rods but you have to remember that some of them will be broken.  I bought two bags of rods and found that the 12 ounce bag of Wilton Candy Melts made about 30 rods. I sprinkled pecans on half of the pretzels and then put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  

The pretzel rods turned out really well - the chocolate hardened like a charm and didn't get soft after sitting at room temperature.  

(2)  Nestle Morsels
 A recipe I retrieved online was to use semi-sweet morsels and shortening as the chocolate dipping.  The recipe was 12 ounce bag of morsels and 1 tablespoon of shortening.  

  •  Combine 12 ounce bag of morsels and 1 tablespoon of shortening in microwavable bowl
  • Microwave at half power (power 5 on my microwave) for 1 minute
  • Mix
  • Microwave at half power for another 30 seconds, or as needed.  
After melting the chocolate, I dipped Snyders Olde Tyme pretzels (regular pretzels) into the chocolate with a pair of tongs.  After being dipped, I tapped the pretzel gently (holding it with tongs) to remove excess chocolate.  I placed them on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper and put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  

While the pretzels covered easily with the chocolate, the chocolate seemed to soften after being set out at room temperature...perhaps it was the shortening?  In the future, I will stick to the Wilton Candy Melts. 

I put the pretzels in decorative plastic bags and put them in a basket that I decorated with flowers and ribbon for my daughter's two daycare providers.  My husband said they would think the pretzels and brownies in the basket were store bought, so I made a little tag stating that they were handmade (by my daughter).  I used one of the many fonts I downloaded from Kevin and Amanda


Shockingly enough, I was unable to find Teacher Appreciation Day greeting cards.  So, I decided to take some blank cards and make my own using this Word Art I created.  I printed it out on colored paper and glued it onto the front of a blank card.  Feel free to download here:

For the administrators and a few other people who work closely with my daughter, I put together bags with some of the chocolate covered pretzels and brownies.  I decorated the bags with a little name tag for each, and a little flower to dress it up. 


 Hope these give you some ideas for future gifts! 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gift for Fellow Crafter

As we get older, it seems to be such a struggle to figure out what to give friends or family members as gifts.  Of course,  handmade gifts are always super special to the recipient.  However, sometimes LEARNING a craft can be a wonderful gift as well!

This year for my mom's birthday I signed us both up for jewelry-making class at Joann Fabric.  I had to check around at several stores, as they all seem to offer slightly different classes and schedules.  If you search for the location of a specific store location, you can download their class schedule online, which is quite convenient.  In my experience, the larger "superstores" offer a wider variety of classes and times than the smaller stores. 

Michaels also offers classes, but at the time I called them, they only were offering a scrapbooking and cake decorating class.  Unlike Joann, they do not offer their class schedule online. 

I made a card for my mom stating what the gift was (obviously I had to check with her before booking the class to ensure she was available).  I definitely could have been more creative with the card, but was pressed for time.  

With the card, I framed a picture of my mom and my daughter, so I could actually give her something tangible (and somewhat sentimental). 
She loved the gift and we both look forward to spending time together learning how to make jewelry! 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby's New Room

We are expecting our second baby girl in less than three months, which will make she and her sister only 18 months apart!  While it will be very exciting to have two girls so close in age, it is also a little nerve racking.  We have started to get the baby's room in order, but I feel that I'm falling a little behind.  The crib and dresser are set up and I have picked out the bedding (we are keeping the double bed in the baby's room).  My plan is to coordinate the crib bedding with the quilt set I got for the double bed.  While I haven't taken any pictures of the bedding set up in Baby Girl II's room, I found some pictures of the set online. 

Since I wasn't able to find any wall art to match the set, I decided to make my own!  The picture below will go above the dresser (I sent it away to get it printed in 16"x24"):

I am not yet sure how I am going to hang the photo - whether I will frame it or adhere it to canvas and hang it with ribbon.  I also created and ordered three complementary prints that will match (each measuring 12"x16") that I plan to hang above the double bed.  I will post pics when the prints come in and I finally figure out how I'm going to hang them.  Total price of all prints:  $15 (including shipping)!  I ordered them through Artscow during one of their many promotions.  I have ordered 4"x6" and 5"x7" prints as well as photobooks, coasters, and tote bags through the company and been very satisfied with the products.  However, I have never ordered "poster size" prints so I am anxious to see the quality. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coloring and Activity Pages

While on Facebook this evening, I saw a friend had posted how much she loved Color Wonder paint.  Having never heard of it, I decided to Google it to find out what it's all about.  The "paint" is clear, but magically appears on special paper.  Gone are the days of set up and clean up...where we had to wear smocks and worry about staining our clothes.

While on the Crayola website, I browsed around to see what other craft ideas they had to offer.  I happened upon the "Coloring Pages" section, which was actually quite impressive - well organized with not just coloring pages but also activity pages.  From puzzles and games to cut and color, they have quite a variety to choose from.  The beauty of it is that you can print them all at home for free, stick them in a binder, and save them for a rainy day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Activities for Children

Although I am not a full time stay at home, I am always after ideas of little projects I can do with my daughter when she gets to the age where she has the dexterity and understanding of what we are doing.  I happened upon this wonderful website called No Time For Flashcards.  The woman who authors the web site also writes for other parenting blogs and offers some very creative and fun projects for parents and kids to do in order to enhance learning.  You can subscribe to the website via email or Twitter.  I subscribe via email and receive daily emails that I file away for a rainy day. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Holiday Gifts

It is always a struggle to figure out what to give teachers and classmates for holiday celebrations (with budget an obvious concern).  There are a total of ten children in my daughter's daycare class (nine plus her) so I felt I could spend a little more on each child without spending too much total.  Since they are ages one to two, I didn't really want to get candy or sweets to put in their Valentine's bag, so I decided to go to the Dollar Store to buy stuffed animals (can be found cheap at Michael's, Target $1 spot, Dollar Store, etc).  I made personalized Valentines and had them printed as a 4x6 photo and put them in an envelope, then wrapped the cards around each of the stuffed animals' neck by punching holes in the envelope and tying ribbon through it.  They turned out very cute - the teachers raved about how much the kids would love them. 

Below is the Valentine I made, and at about 15 cents each, it's not that much more expensive than the generic ones you buy in the stores:

For the teachers, I made truffles and put them in a candy box (purchased a a package of 1/2 pound candy boxes at Michaels), which fit about six truffles.  I then put a personalized label on the front of each and tied it with a bow to jazz it up a bit.  

Below is the label I made:

Triple Truffle Tryout Results

It was a toss up on which recipe I liked the best.

Trial #1
  • 1/2 cup evaparoated milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (11.5-oz. pkg.) chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
COMBINE evaporated milk and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

STIR in morsels. Stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in almond extract. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in nuts, coconut, etc. Cover; refrigerate until ready to serve.

***This recipe formed very well but was not as rich tasting as Trial #2.


Trial #2
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) chopped semi-sweet chocolate
Heat cream, butter in medium saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Add chocolate. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes; stir until chocolate is melted. Return to heat for a few seconds if necessary to melt chocolate. 

Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until firm enough to roll. 

Roll chocolate mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in nuts, coconut, etc. Store at room temperature in airtight container.

***This recipe did not form as well as Trial #1, but I only allowed it to chill for 1 hour, so I think the longer it could chill, the better.  This recipe was very rich and I thought it was the better tasting of the two.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Triple Truffle Tryout

Tonight I tried three different truffle recipes to determine the best 'base' for making truffles.

(1)  Heavy cream, butter, and chocolate;
(2)  Heavy cream and chocolate;
(3)  Evaporated milk, sugar, and chocolate.

I will post the best recipe so you can try it.  My guess is that the evaporated milk recipe will be the best as it seemed to have the best consistency before being chilled.  I will also post pictures.  The wonderful thing about truffles is that once you find a 'base' that works well for you, you can make it in mass and separate it into separate bowls before chilling, so you can add different fillers (coconut, chopped almonds, crushed cookies, etc.)