LAST minute gift ideas

joyofholidaygiving

(photo credit)

Yes, it is that crazy time of year that we all think we have plenty of time to get the perfect gift or to pick it up later and then….. BAM, it’s the last week before your kids are out of school. We quickly write down our lists of the family and friends we like to express our love for and for many of us, we add on the teachers that spend a lot of time with our kids. What do teachers really want? I’m happy to give you valuable, first hand, teacher experience to help you!

Teachers LOVE gifts from the heart and things that will help with their classroom saving them time and money. School supplies, by this time of year, are getting low. You probably think, “I bought 500 sharpened pencils, how could they possibly need more?!” Let me explain. Kids love to erase. Once the eraser is gone, the pencil is no good to them (or really the teacher for that matter).  “Then buy them extra erasers.” Simple, but not practical. Erasers, when not attached to the pencil are just easily lost as their pencil counterparts.

Gift cards are a simple and very much appreciated gift. As a teacher, I treasured gift cards. As a parent, I despise giving them because you feel like you have to give a certain amount to make it worthy of gift giving but that adds up. (Amazon, Walmart and Target are always good choices (and maybe even a little splurge like a favorite coffee place!)

Are school supplies and gift cards not quite your cup of tea? Maybe those are great ideas, but you want a little something more to gift with it? Here are some gifts to present to a teacher that will definitely be appreciated (if not treasured):

  • Framed poem or special quote.
  • Organizational bins (check these out for less than $20 and shipped super quick with Amazon Prime or these which can even be decorated and quickly labeled with some scrapbook letters if you feel crafty!!)
  • Ornaments. I have a few from former students and I think of them every time I place it on my tree. It’s an excellent reminder of them!
  • Edible gifts. This is something I always enjoyed (but maybe not everyone) because I would be able to enjoy it without causing more clutter in my house.
  • Plants. Yes, a nice plant that they can either place in their classroom for a little green cheer or take home.
  • If you are so lucky to be crafty, use that to your advantage and give a teacher something homemade.

 

 

**Full disclosure regarding content on my blog. I share the items I personally love and want to share with others. I would NOT suggest or promote something I have not used myself and that I do NOT believe in.  I am an affiliate with Amazon, so for those items I am making a small amount if you decide to purchase through my site. Much of what I will make, I will be donating to different causes- Wounded Warriors, Fischer House, and other pop-ups throughout the year like Epilepsy research and St. Jude’s Hospital. I plan to use this blog to help give back while also helping my family.

Be a Santa

I love a good giving back story. In the midst of holiday shopping, Salvation Army bucket bell ringing, Toys for Tots, I think sometimes we forget that there are people on the receiving end are real. It’s so easy to just drop off unopened, unwrapped toys or stick a dollar in the red bucket.

I love this story because you can see the kids Campbell is helping and how they are effected by his kindness and heart.  While I feel like I am doing something when donating items or money, I find the most rewarding efforts are giving to someone directly.  Finding a family and providing a little extra help (anonymously or not- depending on your relationship).

I have stated before that in our house, our Elf on the Shelf provides my kiddos with random acts of kindness during his stay with us. My oldest is only 4.5, but she is starting to understand the idea of helping others, even if we don’t get recognition for it, and how it makes us feel. She has embraced the idea of doing nice things for others. One of our recent  endeavors was to pick a toy she really wanted and instead of her getting it, we wrapped it up and will be delivering to a friend. She picked the toy, picked the friend, and will help me deliver it! I thought she would be sad that she didn’t get the toy, but her face lit up when she realized she was going to make someone else happy.

This is all helping in the upcoming years when the idea of Santa changes. I am teaching my kiddos how to be a Santa as they get older. In our house, we will take the transition from Santa believing to skepticism with grace. I will sit down with each child and explain that Santa is not just one man but a group of generous people all around the world. Santa lives among us everyday and brings joy and love to others during the holiday season and the jolly man in the red suit is just a representation of those group of people. It will be the time that they will join the ranks of the other Santas and start to spread joy and love themselves.

In this season of giving, be a Santa. Remember your neighbors, maybe a struggling family in your kids’ school, or ask friends if they know anyone who needs a little extra help.

Some easy, inexpensive ways to help:

  • Provide a meal
  • Wrap up some warm gloves, socks, and hats for someone
  • Wrap and deliver an age appropriate present to be added to their holiday celebrations
  • Drop a grocery or gas gift card in their door
  • Donate a gently used coat to a local family
  • Provide a few cups of dog or cat food to help with the furry friends in their home
  • Provide a basket of favorite snacks

This year, don’t just wait for Santa to come, be a Santa to someone else.

Holiday Spirit

Today I felt truly in the holiday spirit. It’s been a little tough with my husband gone and we have had our Christmas tree up since Halloween to celebrate a little Christmas before he left, but that is all we had. We usually hang lights outside with moving reindeer, hang garland and lights over the doorways inside, hang our stockings along the railing, and place all kinds of trinkets around the house. Until yesterday, we still just had a tree. I knew I was going to keep it a little more low key this year, but I was struggling and needed to do something a little more.

Last night, I quickly pulled things out in anticipation of some company. I got out the Advent calendar, my kids stockings and placed them on some unused stocking hangers, Santa’s key and bell, and our trusted elf. It started to feel a little more like Christmas.  It’s been nice, and calming.

Then, today– I was in full crafting Christmas mode. I made my daughter’s teachers’ Christmas gifts and changed my seasonal chalkboard. I felt accomplished!

So let’s first start with the Christmas gift. I am pretty proud of myself with it. It wasn’t my original thought for a gift, but I saw a similar one in my friend’s house and thought it was perfect. I decided to make a holiday card holder. Let me tell you, it was one of the easiest things I’ve made. All it took was a wooden plaque from Michaels, along with some gold glittery scrapbook letters, snowflake stickers, gold ribbon, and small cloths pins. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous line, I could have been in and out of Michaels in 10 minutes! Loving my finished project!!!

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My second project today was doing my seasonal chalkboard. I made it last winter with a LITTLE help from my husband. He has all the tools and he taught me how to use them and I cut, stained, and screwed it all together!  Every holiday/season, I google seasonal chalkboard ideas and this is this year’s:

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I am not an overly artistic person but I will say, the chalkboard pen is a MUST! This was my first time using it and drawing the pictures and writing the letters were SO. MUCH. EASIER! Plus, not chalk dust which is a HUGE perk! I am still working on my lettering as I have taught early childhood for so many years and the fancy stuff is over my head, but I’m slowly learning.

My house now feels a little more like Christmas and while we aren’t completely decked out like most years, my kids and I are happy with what we have.

Sven the Elf

Raise your hand if you have an Elf on the Shelf?  Yep… that’s what I thought, just about everyone. 😛

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We have our own Elf on the Shelf (and it’s still not too late to get yours!). My 4 year old named ours 2 years ago—- SVEN. Yes, because the craze of Frozen is never lost in this house.

So here’s my take on the elf: He is in your house to watch your kiddos and to report back to Santa, yet there are tons of pictures taking over Facebook of the little guy getting into all kinds of trouble- cozying up with Barbie, knocking down ornaments, drinking syrup, and all other kinds of mischief. What is that actually teaching the kids?? That they can’t misbehave because there is an extra pair of eyes reporting to Santa, yet those eyes that are watching them are allowed to do whatever they want?!

Ok, so maybe I’ve put too much thought into this whole Elf of the Shelf thing, but I wanted to do something that was more meaningful and to not give conflicting ideas to my young children. Last year, my daughter was old enough to actually care about the Elf and find Sven every morning. We tried a new tradition. Every morning, she woke up, found Sven and read a note he left. Every note gave a random act of kindness. Yes, a three year old needed some help and maybe some of it was lost on her, but it started our December tradition.

Sven made his very first appearance today. We start on December 1 because Thanksgiving weekend is just too crazy for us and it gives me some time to get my Christmas self ready. The kids were thrilled to see Sven and it’s nice to have the first year where both kids are really engaged. We first read the book so my youngest knows what Sven is all about and to remind both of them the “rules” of the elf. He came with his first note and his first task and my daughter wanted to get started right away. I think this is a perfect way for us as a family to step out of the craziness of the season and to really help spread holiday cheer. Isn’t this the perfect time to teach our kids kindness, generosity, and love? If we start early and be their role models, we can raise beautiful, caring, compassionate young people!

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**Full disclosure regarding content on my blog. I share the items I personally love and want to share with others. I would NOT suggest or promote something I have not used myself and that I do NOT believe in.  I am an affiliate with Amazon, so for those items I am making a small amount if you decide to purchase through my site. Much of what I will make, I will be donating to different causes- Wounded Warriors, Fischer House, and other pop-ups throughout the year like Epilepsy research and St. Jude’s Hospital. I plan to use this blog to help give back while also helping my family.

My favorite things…

Happy election day all! Yes, I realize it’s a huge oxymoron for sure. Between the lead up to today and now the long lines (which is a good thing because that means people are actually taking the time to voice their opinion in a constructive way), we need something a little more uplifting. Because this election has the whole nation on edge, let’s think about something happier- hot cocoa, holiday lights, Christmas trees, cookie exchanges, family and friend get togethers.  Today, we leave all the stress and animosity of election day behind to talk about some of my favorite things!
Are you headed to a cookie exchange this season? Maybe 2 or 3? I know I have at least one on my calendar. My FAVORITE cookie for a cookie exchange is Magic Cookie Bars983028I butter the pan instead of using a crisco spray, but otherwise, I follow the recipe. I love these cookies for exchanges because they are a bar vs a traditional cookie so you can easily make 2 dozen in one pan, 4 dozen in two pans. They are super easy. Almost zero clean up! I hve also made my own graham crackers in the past but the blog I found them on is no longer working so I haven’t done that in a while. (The recipe I found was ridiculously easy to follow and make and I am so bummed I can’t find it.)

I always head to my in-laws on Christmas day and every since I dated my husband, I came with a dessert. I always brought a bowl of Reindeer Chow. It can certainly get a little messy making it and it cannot be done in a rush, so make sure you have a bit of time to do it correctly, otherwise it is super easy to make and always a huge hit. I also would bring along a cheesecake. chocolate_raspberry_cheesecake_1My father-in-law and nephew especially like this cheesecake and request it every year. There have been a few years I couldn’t quite get to it and to make it travel 4.5 hours to their house wasn’t always ideal but they can rest assure that they will get it this Christmas. While the Keebler Ready Crust no longer has it on their website, I was able to find it on this blog. It’s the perfect combination of tart and sweet and super easy to make.

A fun holiday tradition we have is to head to look at holiday lights. One of our favorite places to head is Meadowlark Botanical GardensMeadowlark Garden Winter Walk of LightsIt has always been a low key event when we go with not a ton of other people. You get a nice stroll through the park and finish up at the fire. It’s great for little ones to point out different animals and plants, but the adults can also enjoy the hard-work and intricacy of the lights throughout. It’s a great event to get you out of the house and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg $13 for adults and $7 for kids (2 and under are free) and you can save $2 off online ticket purchase on Mondays through Thursdays through December 8 (excluding Thanksgiving). There are over 500,000 lights on display during a .6 mile walk (so not too long so even the littlest ones can get through it). You can pick up hot chocolate before the walk and then shop at the Snowflake Shoppe at the end of your trip.

Are you headed to an event with a grab bag? I have LOVED any and all of Beautycounter’s Holiday Sets, but my three favorite that can be good for any and everyone are the Naughty to Nice Gift SetThe Jet Set, and the Shimmer & Shine Gift Set. I love these because ANYONE can use them! The Naughty to Nice Gift Set is a small spa experience. It combines the Charcoal Cleansing Bar with the Purifying Charcoal Mask, giving a luxurious at home spa regiment. The Jet Set is perfect for that friend or family member who is always on the go. It is a travel set of the shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and charcoal bar in a travel pouch. Perfect for a carry on or gym bag! The Shimmer & Shine Gift Set combines travel sizes of the famous Sugar Scrub and Body Butter with a luxurious shimmer body oil. 12276954_1017875141597900_933821065_nAll of these are packaged and delivered in a limited edition red gift box so only a bow is needed to hand these out! If you don’t know Beautycounter, they are a company on a mission to get safer products in the hands of everyone. The US has ban only 11 ingredients in the skincare industry and no laws have been passed since 1938. Beautycounter has a rigorous and thorough screening system in place to get the SAFEST ingredients in their skincare and makeup products. They are not all natural or organic but their products all score a 1 or 2 on the EWG website (which is a non-profit organization that rates products on a 1-10 scale based on their ingredients. If you have not been on there, highly recommend!)

Do you have a kid that has everything?? I have the gift for you!! A subscription to any of the Kiwi Crate is exactly what you need. kiwi-crate-june_zpsbe7ddecdMy daughter has received either a 3 or 6 month subscription of the Koala Crate for her birthday or Christmas and she looks forward to getting them each month. They are filled with 3-4 activities that center around a theme (oceans, colors, farms, etc). It keeps her busy for a few hours and it’s something we do together and we either keep the stuff around for a short period of time or it’s now something she can play with for a long time– for example, she has made a stuffed snake, a stuffed cloud, a tote bag, weather sock and chart, or a wooden car that we have kept around, but items like a glow in the dark moon, 3-D tree, and other crafty things that we adored for a little bit but then after a quick picture of it, found it’s way to the garbage.

Have a friend that has everything?! Have you heard of StitchFix?? o-stitchfix-facebookI am OBSESSED with it.As a busy mom of two small kiddos, I find myself picking up most of my clothes at Target (which is not a bad thing at all— I love my Target clothes), but I tend to buy the same style and I am not a good shopper for myself. StitchFix is a personal stylist who sends you 5 pieces (clothing and accessories based on your preferences) and you have three days to try on and send back what you don’t want and buy the things you want to keep. I do it about 1-2 times a year as I tend to try to buy everything in my box and it runs me about $200, which is WAY more than I would ever spend BUT it’s the clothes I get the most compliments on. What I love most is that you can link a Pinterest board to your account and write notes to your stylist to get the best match. I usually state I want machine washable items that are great for a day with the kids but don’t make me feel mommy. They have provided me with things I have LOVED that if I saw it in the store, I would never have bought for myself. It’s definitely a fun treat.  I love getting a gift card from there.

My very last favorite thing is to take the month of December and make it Random Act of Kindness month. Many families around the country have those pesky little Elves on the Shelves. We are one of them. The first year, luckily my daughter was too young to realize what was happening because I could not keep up with moving it around and coming up with creative things for the elf to do. It took 2 years for me to rethink the whole idea and now our Elf comes down from Santa and gives my kiddos an act of kindness to do each day.  To start you off, here are some ideas thanks to this amazing blog:

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100 ACTS OF KINDNESS FOR KIDS

  1. Put change in a vending machine.
  2. Hold the door open for someone.
  3. Do a chore for someone without them knowing.
  4. Tell a joke.
  5. Return someone’s cart at the store.
  6. Give candy to your bank teller.
  7. Leave a letter in a library book.
  8. Feed the birds.
  9. Leave happy notes around town.
  10. Put a small bin in your car to collect recycling.
  11. Call your grandparents and ask them about their childhood.
  12. Pick up litter.
  13. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  14. Compliment a friend.
  15. Wash someone’s car.
  16. Write a thank you note for your mail carrier.
  17. Plant something.
  18. Bake dessert for a neighbor
  19. Walk dogs at the animal shelter.
  20. Check in on an elderly neighbor.
  21. Set up a lemonade stand and donate the profits.
  22. Send a card to a service member.
  23. Bury treasure at the playground.
  24. Set the table for dinner.
  25. Leave bubbles on someone’s doorstep.
  26. Put money on a stranger’s layaway bill.
  27. Tell someone why they are special to you.
  28. Donate outgrown clothes.
  29. Buy a coffee for a stranger.
  30. Pass out stickers to kids waiting in line.
  31. Talk to someone new at school.
  32. Write chalk messages on the sidewalk.
  33. Weed or shovel for a neighbor.
  34. Donate food to the food pantry.
  35. Bring flowers to your teacher.
  36. Tell a manager how good your service was.
  37. Tape change to a parking meter.
  38. Donate socks and supplies to the homeless shelter.
  39. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger.
  40. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while to say hello.
  41. Tape money for the ice cream truck to a friend’s front door.
  42. Take treats to the fire station.
  43. Read a book to someone.
  44. Leave heads up pennies on the sidewalk.
  45. Donate a book to a doctor’s office waiting room.
  46. Tell someone how much you love them.
  47. Say hello to everyone you see.
  48. Make someone else’s bed.
  49. Hold the door open for someone.
  50. Wave at kids on school buses.
  51. Sing songs at a nursing home.
  52. Invite someone to play on the playground.
  53. Tell the principal how great your teacher is.
  54. Donate a toy to Toys for Tots.
  55. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
  56. Say thank you when you see service members.
  57. Fill a kindness jar with candy for another family.
  58. Make a thank you sign for sanitation workers.
  59. Make a busy bag for a family with young children.
  60. Bring cookies to the custodian.
  61. Help make dinner.
  62. Donate new pajamas for foster kids.
  63. Make a get well card for someone.
  64. Bring your neighbors’ garbage cans up for them.
  65. Take care of someone’s pet while they’re away.
  66. Leave a popcorn surprise on a DVD rental machine.
  67. Share a special toy with a friend.
  68. Clean up your room without being asked.
  69. Tape a video message for faraway friends.
  70. Leave kindness stones at the park.
  71. Give a candy bar to the bus driver.
  72. Send dessert to another family at a restaurant.
  73. Give spare change to the food pantry.
  74. Buy extra school supplies for a teacher.
  75. Make muffins for your pharmacist.
  76. Teach someone something new.
  77. Reuse paper when you are drawing.
  78. Pay for someone’s toll.
  79. Give someone a hug coupon.
  80. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  81. Write a note for someone’s lunch.
  82. Collect money or items for your favorite charity.
  83. Donate coloring books and crayons to the children’s hospital.
  84. Write a poem for a friend.
  85. Ask for donations instead of birthday gifts.
  86. Help someone unload groceries at the store.
  87. Make a candy gram for the police department.
  88. Collect books for the library.
  89. Adopt an animal online.
  90. Decorate tissue boxes and hand sanitizer for nursing stations.
  91. Make a homemade gift for someone.
  92. Clean up your toys without being asked.
  93. Deliver water bottles to the homeless shelter.
  94. Create activity bags for families of deployed soldiers.
  95. Give high fives to a friend.
  96. Make a thank you card for your librarian.
  97. Dry the slides at the park with a towel after it rains.
  98. Make play dough for a preschool class.
  99. Send a postcard to a friend.
  100. Smile at everybody. It’s contagious.

I hope this helped to take you away from the craziness today and enjoy some great things to come!! May we all find a little unity and peace over the next few months, regardless of the outcome today. Happy Tuesday!