Tag Archives: holidays

Gobble!

Happy November!  I don’t know about you, but our November is off to a perfect, November-y start.  While I always prefer sunny weather, there’s something wonderful about a gloomy, rainy November day.  That’s just what we’ve had today – a lovely cozy Sunday cooped up indoors away from the soggy weather outside.  It’s been wonderful and relaxing, and now I feel totally ready for Thanksgiving!  I’ve been learning to love Thanksgiving more and more over the past few years, and I feel kind of bad for it as the overlooked holiday of the year.  It’s always a bit frustrating to me that it’s very hard to find clothes and decorations for Thanksgiving, so I decided to make some of my own.  I had so much fun making my Trick or Treat merchandise on Zazzle, so I made some Thanksgiving items as well.  These designs all feature my drawing of the word “Gobble,” complete with a turkey for the o.

Gobble Pillow

There are shirts, mugs, paper plates, pillows… Go check them out at our online store!  I (along with the neglected holiday of Thanksgiving) appreciate it!

Crayon Halloween Costume

Our daughter has a long history of strong opinions about her Halloween costumes.  When she was a baby, she was a farmer.  Easy enough.  The next year I made a Trick-or-Treat bag costume for her that I absolutely loved and she tolerated.  She has always loved to dance, so the year after that we planned for her to be a ballerina thinking that she could play with the costume after Halloween.  We got ballerina dolls as gifts for her that year and everything.  And then on the way out the door to Trunk-or-Treat she totally vetoed the ballerina costume and opted to wear a too small IU cheerleader outfit she had in the back of her closet instead.  We learned our lesson.  From then on, we let her pick the costumes.  It’s made Halloween much easier and more fun.  She loves ancient Egypt, so last year she dressed as Nefertiti and carried a mummy pumpkin.  And, oh my goodness, have we gotten our money’s worth out of that costume – it’s been worn countless times since Halloween 2016.  This year she has chosen to be a puppy, and seems very enthusiastic about the idea, so fingers crossed that this year will go well again.

Her most creative Halloween costume request to date though was the year she declared, “I want to be a white crayon that draws on black paper.”  At first I panicked – how in the world was I going to make that costume??  But after a few searches on Amazon, it turned out to be the easiest costume ever.  We found her this white crayon shirt on Amazon.

White Crayon Shirt

We added white jeans (that was the hardest part of the costume actually – trying to find white pants in the stores leftover from summer in October – thank you Target!!) and a white winter hat with a pompom on top.  Voila!  A white crayon.  For the drawing on black paper part, we got my husband a black t-shirt and we all painted white designs on it to make it look like a white crayon had been coloring on it.

Black Paper Shirt

And then for the the icing on the cake, a couple days before Halloween I remembered that I had a very old crayon sweater tucked away in a drawer.

Crayon Sweater

I got it in the 90s when they were making all these sweaters with name brands on it.  I loved it at the time, and then thought that as a future teacher I should save it forever because I might have a need for a crayon sweater someday.  I just never thought it would be to coordinate with my daughter’s Halloween costume!

So it turned out that our daughter’s funny idea for a Halloween costume ended up being a fun and easy idea for a whole set of family costumes!

Trick or Treat Merchandise!

Back in the day when I had more free time, I used to paint sweatshirts.  I made shirts for every holiday – shocking, I know!  My favorite one by far was the shirt I made for Halloween.  It said “Trick or Treat” in candy and other Halloween themed letters.  My mom loved it, so I made one for her too.  I can’t remember exactly how long ago I made these shirts, but it was when I was in either high school or college.  I just celebrated my 40th birthday, so suffice it to say regardless of the exact timing, it was a very loooooooong time ago.

Original Trick or Treat Sweatshirt

So for the last 500 years, I’ve carefully pulled this very old sweatshirt out of the closet once a year to wear it on Halloween.  It’s on its last legs after all these years of use.  The paint has started to crack, the sweatshirt is stretched out and looking a bit worse for the wear.  Each year on November 1st when I carefully hang it back up in my closet I wonder if it will last until the next Halloween or not… my mom’s shirt bit the dust several years ago.  I kept thinking that I should just make a new one.  The only problem with that plan is that I just don’t enjoy redoing designs I’ve already made.  For some reason it’s tedious and just not fun for me.

Luckily, my husband had a brilliant idea to save the day – and my beloved “Trick or Treat” sweatshirt.  He told me about a website called Zazzle.com.  You can create your own designs, add them to the site, and have them printed on shirts and a plethora of other items.  So I decided to draw a new version of my “Trick or Treat” design and color it with colored pencils.  Since I was drawing it rather than painting the same exact thing again, it wasn’t an annoying project for me.  (In fact, I enjoyed it so much I decided to make little signs like it for each holiday and season… stay tuned for more!)

Trick or Treat Colored Pencil Drawing

My husband scanned my drawing and with the magic of technology and his brilliant computer skills, he turned it into an image to post on Zazzle.  I put my “Trick or Treat” image on a shirt and ordered one for me, our daughter, and my mom (to replace her old one, of course).  I was so excited and nervous to see how they would turn out, but I was thrilled when they arrived.  They totally preserved the hand drawn look of my original drawing without the tediousness of creating each item individually.  I love them as much as my original shirt from so long ago.  I was so excited that I started exploring the Zazzle site some more and found that I could put my design on lots of different items… pillows, mugs, stickers, greeting cards, treat bags, totes… and on and on.  Our house is going to be full of “Trick or Treat” items this Halloween!

Zazzle Trick or Treat Stuff

 I always got lots of compliments whenever I wore my original “Trick or Treat” sweatshirt – people often said they wished they could get one for themselves.  So at the risk of sounding like Yogurt from the movie Spaceballs (“Merchandising!”), I thought, “Why not?” and posted my “Trick or Treat” items for sale on Zazzle.  Please check out my new little Zazzle shop at https://www.zazzle.com/most_wonderful_time if you think you might want some of my “Trick or Treat” items to brighten your Halloween this year!

The Joy of a New Planner

I know I have shared about my love of school supplies in the past.  This year was the first year our daughter had a substantial school supply list, and I was so excited to share my love of school supply shopping with her (and to be honest simultaneously get my school supply fix for myself).  And then we got the school supply kit order form from the school.  Apparently now teachers now get to select supplies they want in a kit and parents can order it.  It’s faster, more convenient, easier, less expensive, better for the teachers because they are guaranteed to get exactly the specific supplies they need… and utterly depressing for school supply lovers like me.  There was one item, some dot stickers, not included in the kit.  Believe me – I made an event out of buying those dot stickers.  There was a special outing and a photo op and everything.  But it just wasn’t the same.

So I came home and drowned my sorrows in my shiny new planner I had gotten a few weeks earlier.  Of course I know that phones have calendars on them now.  However, I just use my phone’s calendar as a backup to my written planner.  I have always done this – ever since high school when one of the school supplies I was always excited to get was my brand new assignment notebook for the year.  For several years, calendar books and planners were hard to find or quite boring when I was able to find one I assume because of the calendars on the phones.  Just about five years ago, I was afraid they were going to stop making calendar books and planners entirely because they were so hard to find.  I finally found a student planner reminiscent of my old high school assignment notebooks at Vera Bradley a few years ago.  I really liked it even though it was meant for high school or college kids.  And I must not be alone in my love affair with planners and calendar books because then suddenly they have apparently become cool again.  There started to be more and more cute options.  This year when I went to Paper Source to find a calendar book, there were so many choices!  (I, of course, went with the pink and sparkly option.)

My Planner

And there are so many stickers and accessories to go with the planners now!  I’ve heard that there are entire Etsy stores that sell nothing but stickers for calendars.  I have yet to check out these sites, but I am intrigued by the possibilities.  I had a lovely time filling in important dates, holiday traditions, reminders, and notes in my beautiful new planner.  In fact my new planner is so complete that I was able to transfer several ongoing lists of projects I want to do into it.  So instead of 3 notebooks plus my calendar book, I now have just one planner full of everything.  I don’t know why I find this to be so satisfying, but I do.  Perhaps it’s because it combines holidays and organizing – 2 of my favorite things.  So even if my new planner was my only opportunity to play with shiny new school supplies this year, at least I enjoyed it completely!  In a world where school supplies now come in convenient yet depressing kits, I hope that the fancy planner trend is one that lasts for years to come.

Shopkins Birthday Party

I have so loved planning our daughter’s birthday parties over the years.  The teacher in me relished in creating party themes based on some of my favorite children’s books.  And while I still hold out hope to get to throw a Mo Willem’s Pigeon themed party someday, I had figured that this year our daughter would have her own strong opinions about choosing a theme for her birthday party.  I was right.  About 6 months before her birthday, out of the blue as we were leaving the grocery store (one of her favorite places to go), she announced that she wanted to have a birthday party with a shopping cart and a ball pit.  Hmmmm.  Not much to work with, right?  I thought this was just a whim and that surely she would forget and pick another better theme for her birthday party as the date got closer.  Nope.  She stuck with the shopping cart and ball pit idea and began telling every random person that she was having a shopping cart and ball pit birthday.  What to do, what to do?  After 4 years of perfectly planned classic children’s book themes this was almost more than I handle.  And then it hit me – Shopkins!  Thanks to the Shopkins (which our daughter also loves anyway) I was able to plan a party with a nice theme that naturally revolved around shopping carts.  As far as the ball pit went, I figured we could always add a ball pit to any type of party!

So I started hunting for everything and anything that might have to do with Shopkins, grocery shopping, and, of course, shopping carts.  I found ideas on Pinterest; darling Shopkins birthday supplies at Party City and Target; shopping carts (big and mini), toy food, and balls for the ball pit on Amazon; Shopkins ribbon at JoAnn Fabrics; and berry baskets, brown paper bags, Shopkins themselves, Shopkins games, stuffed Shopkins, and a neon sign that you might find in a grocery store that says “FUN” at Michaels.  Even though I had pooh-poohed the idea at first, I have to say it ended up being the most fun party to plan and throw.

I put a brown shopping bag on the front of the invitations.  I figured “born to shop” seemed appropriate for our daughter’s birthday party.  The insides of the invitations had pictures of Shopkins along with the party information.

Shopkins Party Invitation

I also used the little brown shopping bag idea for food labels and table decorations.

Tiny Grocery Bags

I was able to find the perfect shopping cart of our daughter’s dreams on Amazon and filled it with stuffed Shopkins.

Shopping Cart Full of Stuffed Shopkins

I also found mini shopping carts on Amazon and filled them with Shopkins to use as table decorations for the party.  And after the party, our daughter still loves playing with them!

Mini Shopping Cart Filled With Shopkins

Since one of the Shopkins is a box of popcorn, and since our daughter loves to eat popcorn and loves balloons, I made a giant box of “popcorn” made out of yellow and white balloons.

Balloon Popcorn

The favors were so much fun to put together.  I collected all kinds of Shopkins “stuff” as well as chocolate chip cookies since there is a cookie Shopkin and put them all together in a berry basket, again something that might be found at a real grocery store.  I tied them up with some Shopkins ribbon.

Shopkins Favors Filler

Shopkins Party Favor

I also used the berry baskets for centerpieces which were honestly a quick fix.  The centerpieces kept blowing away because it was really windy, so I grabbed some rocks from our daughter’s rock collection in the backyard and stuck them into some extra berry baskets and used hot glue to attach the paper shreds and centerpieces to the tops.  Even though they were a last minute idea, I ended up loving them!

Shopkins Centerpiece

The birthday girl herself needed to be all decked out too of course.  In addition to a Shopkins shirt we found at Target, I made her hairbows from some of the Shopkins ribbon.

Shopkins Bows

The food was really fun and easy to plan since many of the Shopkins characters are food anyway!  In fact each food item was also a Shopkins character.  We had apple juice, strawberries, a giant doughnut from a local bakery, cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, Shopkins fruit snacks, and popcorn.  I also made a cake in the shape of a shopping cart per our daughter’s request.

Shopkins Food

Shopping Cart Cake

Party activities included the ball pit (obviously), the balloon popcorn, a Shopkins pinata, a really fun game of “Fastest Shopper” which was kind of like an Easter Egg hunt except with little grocery bags instead of baskets and toy food instead of eggs, and a bunch of Shopkins games.  They were all big hits!

Ball Pit

Shopkins Games

All in all, it was a great celebration.  It had everything I wanted in a party, even if it wasn’t based on a classic children’s book.

Cute decorations – check.

Fun theme – check.

Good food – check.

Fun activities – check.

And most important, happy birthday girl – check!  It also had everything our daughter wanted in a party.

Shopping cart – check.

Ball pit – check.

Thanks, Shopkins for saving the day!

4th Blogiversary

Another year, another blog.  In fact I’ve been writing this little blog for 4 years now!  Last year I said a lot had changed over the years, and this year there are more big changes.  I’m no longer working at my dream job teaching preschoolers.  Instead I will be a substitute teacher.  It is a very bittersweet change.  I was so sad to leave the preschool, but I’m so happy I will still get the opportunity to be in classrooms with children while simultaneously having a more flexible schedule now for my actual dream job – being a mommy to our precious daughter.  I also hope to have more time to relax and actually get to do and enjoy the craft projects and celebrations described in this blog.  I also hope to be able to post blog entires about them more often.

In fact I’ve already found time this summer to write more blog posts and work on some projects I’ve had waiting in the wings for years. One project is learning to do hand lettering so that I can make better seasonal signs, chalkboard designs, cards, you name it.  I’m planning on taking a class in the fall, and I’ve already been experimenting with some practice books at home like The Hand Lettering Ledger by Mary Kate McDevitt.  This book is so much fun that our daughter decided to join in and practice her letters as well…

Handwriting Practice

… and also draw some elephants.  Because every handwriting book needs an elephant or two, right?

There’s An Elephant in the Handwriting Book…

Besides learning to write fancy letters, I am also looking forward to hopefully being a room mother in our daughter’s classroom this year.  When I was growing up, my mother was room mother extraordinaire – the mother of all room mothers you could say.  On the first day of school kids were always thrilled to find out I was in their class because they knew that meant my mom would be bringing fabulous parties for even the smallest of holidays all year.  I was always so proud of her, and I’m eager to follow in her footsteps.  I’m already strategizing (and stressing) about how to make a beeline at back to school night to find the sign up sheet for room mother to make sure I make it on the list before it is all filled up.

So hopefully I’ll have lots to share on my blog this year.  Even though my blog STILL hasn’t made me my millions yet, I’m looking forward to having more time for it.  I’ll see how this year goes and decide whether or not to keep doing it in the future.  It’s fun to share ideas, and I hope you enjoy reading them.  Thanks for reading!

Mother’s Day Tea… Hoosier Style!

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and since my family is outside at the moment working on a top secret Mother’s Day gift, I have a bit of free time to share one of my favorite Mother’s Day ideas with you.  At our school we always hold Mother’s Day Teas.  The moms all come in and visit their children’s classes for some special treats.  The kids and teachers spend weeks preparing for the teas, and I haven’t been able to share anything about them in previous years because of a risk of spoiling the surprise.  However this year, I am in a different classroom so I can safely share about the theme we used in the past.  (Mum’s the word on this year’s theme though until after the big event tomorrow!)

In our old classroom, our thematic unit for May was Indiana.  After all, with the Indy 500 going on, May is Indiana’s time to shine!  As a proud Hoosier, I always had a lot of fun with this theme – especially when it came to planning a Mother’s Day Tea around all things Indiana.  The children made ball point pens topped with peonies (the state flower of Indiana) for their moms.  They put them along with tissue paper peonies they made in Ball jars (yup, also from Indiana).  These were the gifts and the centerpieces for our party.

Peony Gifts

We used napkins we found at Party City with peonies on them as well.  We also had the children make “LOVE” placemats for them and their moms inspired by famous Hoosier Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” artwork.

Mother’s Day Tea Table

The food we served also had something to do with Indiana – chocolate milk, cheese, and yogurt from a local creamery.  We also included popcorn, which of course, is a very big deal in Indiana.

Indiana Mother’s Day Tea

Finally, we had the children sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” for their moms during a special program.

I always absolutely loved this Indiana themed party – I’m sure it could work for any celebration, not just Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Hoosier moms as well as moms everywhere!

Kindergarten: You Had Me at “Seasonal Crafts”

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post, and I’ve been meaning to write this one for quite awhile because it is very near and dear to my heart.  However, it’s been a very busy time at our house and this is the first chance I’ve had to actually sit down and do it.  One of the things that has kept us so busy is preparation for kindergarten.  Yes, it’s spring not fall – but we’ve had a few orientation events looking ahead to when our little one heads to school.  I expected these events to be very bittersweet.  On one hand, as a teacher I love school.  On the other hand, as a mommy I hate to send our little one out into the world.  I know that kindergarten these days is often not allowed to be what it used to be, or frankly what it should be.  Even in kindergarten, the focus is more and more on worksheets and academic skills instead of learning how to learn and love school.

However, after attending the preliminary orientation meetings, I must say that the sweet has totally overtaken the bitter.  The staff at the school addressed every one of my concerns with what are, in my opinion, the “right” answers.  The teachers explained that they would start the year working on routines and getting along with others and how to be good citizens, and I began to smile.

The teachers said the children would be doing a lot of coloring and explained the importance of coloring for writing development and building hand and finger strength, and I began to grin.  (I was also reminded of one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard.  A few years ago, one of my friends told me about how her daughters’ first grade class had earned a party.  They could choose any activity they wanted as a special reward… watch a movie, play a game, have a treat, anything.  With all those choices, the class voted to… wait for it… color.  The six and seven year old children in the class felt that they didn’t get any time to color and thought it would be the most special activity they could imagine.  Heartbreaking.)

The teachers explained that they would have discovery time each day for science experiments and social studies activities, and I found myself drawing little hearts and smiley faces all over the presentation handouts.

And then – be still my heart – the teachers said that they would do many seasonal crafts, and I almost started crying happy tears.  It was all I could do not to jump to my feet and cheer.  Clearly, as the title of this blog indicates, I do love seasonal crafts.  However, it wasn’t just my love of all things seasonal that made me so happy to hear this.  I was under the impression that seasonal crafts were no longer allowed in any elementary school anywhere.  Think back to your days in elementary school – I’m willing to bet that several of your happiest memorable activities revolve around various holiday projects and parties.  At least mine do.  Of course being able to make a hand turkey or a bouquet of spring flowers out of tissue paper won’t ever be tested on a standardized test, but I believe the benefits of doing seasonal crafts are much more far reaching than any skill and drill worksheet could ever be.  They help children follow multiple step directions.  They help develop hand-eye coordination.  They help children learn to take pride in the way their work looks and always do their best.  They help children express their creativity by putting individual touches on each project.  And most important of all, they are fun.  They make children happy, and they help them realize that school is a fun place to be.  No real learning can take place until children feel happy to be at school.

Thanks to the wonderful fist experiences at our daughter’s new school, we can tell she already does feel happy about it.  A few days after our first orientation visit, she wrote a book about how to get ready for kindergarten.  She drew smiling children riding on the school bus, and she drew rooms in a school full of more smiling children and bustling activity – just the way school should be.

Happy School

I’m so grateful to know that schools like this one still exist.

Valentine Arrows – Part 2

And now an arrow Valentine’s Day card to go with the candy bar from last week!

For the background of the card I used 8.5″ by 5.5″ white card stock folded in half.  I attached doilies to the fronts of the cards.  I found these beautiful pink and gold doilies last year at Michael’s, and I noticed that they have lots of doilies in the stores this year too.  It seems like doilies are cool again – just a few years ago it was nearly impossible to find even plain ones at any store, but now there are really pretty varieties of colors, designs, and shapes all over the place.  I plan to stock up so that I’ll have plenty on hand if doilies become hard to find again in the future!  I cut strips of shiny gold poster board for the shafts of the arrows.  I attached the gold strips to the centers of the doilies with pop up dots.  I punched hearts out of red card stock for the ends of the arrows and attached them with pop up dots as well.  I stamped tiny Valentine’s Day tags with a stamp and punch from Stampin’ Up and tied them to the gold pieces with red and white baker’s twine.  That’s all – pretty quick and easy.

I realize the clock is ticking, but you might even have time to make these and get them in the mail in time for Valentine’s Day.  At the very least you’ll be ready WAY in advance for Valentine’s Day 2018!

Valentine Arrows – Part 1

Even though I say “It’s Always the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I’ve got to admit, this winter hasn’t been the best.  Around here it’s been dreary and wet and ugly.  During the month of January all I wanted to do was hibernate.  I spent a good chunk of my free time curled up on the couch completely unmotivated to do much of anything.  On the plus side, I got to watch a few IU and Butler basketball games from beginning to end, something I haven’t been able to do in years.  On the downside, I didn’t get around to doing any blog posts or any craft activities.  But today, the sun is shining and I feel energized and ready to come out of hibernation (even if the groundhog felt otherwise).  So I’m saying farewell to the doldrums of January and greeting February with a smile and a cute Cupid’s arrow project you could make to give your friends for Valentine’s Day!

You will need chocolate bars, heart shaped chocolates, and Pixy Stix.  Cut white pieces of paper the correct size to wrap around your chocolate bars.  Wrap the bars and tape them on the backs.  If I made these again, I might also wrap some pink doilies around the bars to make them look a little more colorful.  Use glue dots to attach the Pixy Stix to the tops of the bars.  Punch hearts out of red card stock with a heart shaped punch.  Use glue dots to attach the heart shaped chocolates to the hearts then use pop up dots to attach the hearts to both ends of the Pixy Stix to be the ends of the arrows.  I finished the bars off by wrapping some red and white bakers’ twine around them, attaching little stamped tags, and tying bows.

Stay tuned for a matching Cupid’s arrow card coming soon… assuming I stay motivated and the couch and college basketball don’t start calling my name again!