Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas Decorations

Danish hearts by ViolinKeri
I want to make Christmas decorations. Now that I have dexterity in my fingers, unlike when I was in junior primary school and making popstick stars, I can actually make some decent things. Even simple things look nice.
I'd like to make some bead angels, make some polymer clay ornaments, and whatever else I can find. They'd be great to give as random presents to brighten people's day.


(our tree is just a tree, no animals. And our candle thing holds two tiny candles, one at each end, and has people in it, not a town scene).

I'd like to make some from different cultures to remind me of our travels. In our house we've got some little ornaments from Germany- some wooden deer, and a tree made with curled shavings, and a little candle arch thing. They had them all over Germany and we loved them. Several years later my mother's penfriend sent us a tiny one. Getting the wooden tree was an 'ordeal'. We were in a Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas market) and I pulled myself together, got brave, and asked in a pretty good attempt at German, how much the little tree was. The woman answered me in German, and I asked her a few more questions. Until she said "Oh, let's just speak in English. I'm American!"

It was my first night in Germany and my first attempt at German too.

I'd also like to make some Danish paper hearts, as pictured above. I didn't see any, because I didn't go to Denmark, but when I was student teaching my mentor had one pinned to her noticeboard near her desk. It seems like a great project for kids either at home or in class, and you could teach them about different cultures and traditions while you do it, or you could buy them to give as cards or to put in your windows, if you're not in a making mood like I am.

I think I'm going to make it a tradition that every year, I'll make some more ornaments.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hi, I'm a Gravy Addict

(not my gravy boat)

I am a major gravy addict. I love it. Absolutely love it. People tell me 'do you want some roast with that gravy?' I'm exactly like this kid. (except for the something sweet) I'll eat leftover (and refrigerated) gravy from the roast the day before, heated up, and then with toast to mop it up with. So. Good. I love gravy so much that I was given a 1920s gravy boat for my 18th birthday. I thought it was brilliant. I was given a little green one shaped like lettuce leaves for my 21st. Also brilliant. I have a beautiful silver one somewhere too. Usually it's just put in a jug, and it doesn't stay there long. But it's nice to know I could present it prettily if I wanted to!

My Dad is the Gravy Maker in this family. He is also the Roast Cooker.
So you'd think, that at Christmas, I'd be able to get lots and lots of delicious, wonderful, gravy. Most important meal of the year, involving roasts too.
... nope. :(
Because my Dad cooks the turkey on the webber.
How Australian is that? We *barbeque* the turkey.*

(not our webber or turkey. Imagine this, but with a whole turkey, not just legs)
So I have to make do with fake, powdered gravy that does not taste at all good on turkey.

Okay, I know that part of the 'issue' to do with this is space. We have fish on one tray of the oven, and vegetables on the other. So it's a great additional cooking space. Barbequed turkey still tastes good.
It means that Dad and my grandfather, and when my uncle is over from Scotland, and occasionally my brother, can enjoy standing around outside in the warm weather. At least, they seem to enjoy it.

But. No. Gravy. Happens. :(

This year I think I need to put a plan into action. Because after over 10 years of this no gravy travesty happening, I am fed up with it.
I asked online, and people recommended 'Gravy in a Jar'.

It certainly looks more appetising than the powdered gravy. But I don't know if it exists in Australia.

Many foods don't exist in Australia. (and in other countries, and visa versa).
I've been talking about camping lately, asking for advice on what to take. Not only can people not understand that we're not allowed campfires at this time of year, they also insist on me taking freeze dried foods (only available in very expensive camping shops) or things like 'tinned mashed potatoes'. ... ew. Does not exist. Or they talk about making 'dump puddings' (ignoring again that we have no campfires. :P) which require 'yellow cake mix'. I have no idea what that is! And it goes on.
So apparently the USA has vast 'fake' gravy options.

Please tell me someone if those gravies in a jar exist, because I'd totally give them a go!

... I'm thinking of trying something like getting Dad to make a bunch of roasts, and then I don't eat much gravy, and then we freeze it, and Christmas will be Saved for me!

Or I could go to takeaway shops and buy containers of gravy a few weeks previous to Christmas.

I'm taking charge this year of this gravy situation. No more!

You might see me on the streets this Christmas, trying to score gravy.

*well, slow barbeque. Over coals. For hours. Not quite the same as chucking it on the barbie.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gifts to Give To Teachers Part 3

Part 3 of my Teacher Gift Guide! Hopefully you can get lots of ideas for that special teacher in your life. Or other people who might like these ideas!

Little Vintage Violet: a collage kitBarbed lotus
13. Kits
Since food often isn't eaten in time, why not give a food making kit? Give the main ingredients for a favourite recipe, for example, biscuits or pasta. Include the recipe, and if required, a biscuit cutter.
You could also make up movie watching kits, relaxation kits, craft making kits, anything your imagination comes up with.

You could also make a Breakfast Basket, a Gardening Basket, etc.
14. Make a hollow book
There are instructions online for how to make a hollow book. It's rarely given, is fun, and you could pick an old book cover that suits the teacher. If you're the parent, your child can help with a lot of the gluing! Or, you can buy them online for reasonable prices.

15. A recipe booklet or poetry anthology
Write out your favourite recipes and present them nicely. Or write out/print out lots of your favourite poems. You could theme it, such as 'My favourite...' or 'Recipes that could be made in class' 'recipes for a quick dinner' 'recipes for tasty lunches for teachers' anything that would be useful. 'Relaxing poems' 'Poems to read to classes', etc. I recommend you make it in a way that he or she can add to it later with their own recipes or poems.

16. Hand, feet or eye wheatbags

You can buy these or make them. You just microwave for a few minutes, then put it in your bed, or in your pocket. May not be useful for an Australian Christmas, but I'm sure it'd be used once winter comes around! (Unless you're in Queensland where you might be out of luck for this one!)
I *love* mine. In fact mine (much bigger than the ones I pictured) is sitting on my lap right now. It's good for backaches, cramps and so on as well. You can find the instructions all over the internet, and buy them online or at craft fairs.

17. A Photoshop Adventure

Are you a creative student or parent? Get (good) photos of your teacher, and photoshop them into a travel (or fantasy!) adventure. Make it look like they've travelled all over the world or through time. Put them in some sort of novelty situation. And print it nicely. You don't need to frame it. This would give a kick to the teacher, and shows off your talents. If they taught you creative writing, you could write a story to go with it! Or, make them the star of a movie!

18. C.Ds
Many teachers love music. Find an appropriate cd and give it to them. Relaxation c.ds are also good, and usually anything upbeat or classical is great. Or recommend something that you love that they might also.

What's Eating Yin?Bellissima Minerals
19. Samplers
Does your teacher like to cook? Provide them with small sample bags of lots of different spices that they may not have tried before. Or tealeaf or coffee samples! (if they drink tea and coffee). Or soap samples for fancy soaps.

20. A 'Dime Store Game'.
You can make them yourself, and they look quite awesome. Also very small so they won't take up much room.

Alice The Camel from Feltboard Fun
21. Classroom resources
Look up teaching resources online, and then make some of them for him or her, or buy some. Some good ones are maths or literacy games- they can often be made just with a computer printer and a laminator. What would be fantastic is if you could add to what they taught you or your child this year. An example a lecturer gave (not in regard to presents) was when he was teaching Germany between the wars, he bought a lot of Deutschmarks on Ebay, that showed the inflated prices. This allowed the class to remember things a lot more than if he'd just told them. They could pass them around, have a look, and exclaim over it. Props. Teachers would love relevant props! If your class was learning about the economy and had a 'shop' simulation- get or make some play money. If you do a lot of acting in class, get some props for that. Some hats or something. Feel free to discuss more thoughts about this with me! Or buy or make some maths equipment, a small board game, posters for the class, anything at all that could be used! Have a look at the things you did this year, and then see if you can improve it somehow for next year's students.

Griffies Growth
22. Add to the Reading Corner, home corner or give to the class pet
Does your classroom have a reading corner? (Yes, even high schools have reading corners here! Or they SHOULD). Buy some small beanbags or comfy cushions. When I was prac teaching one of the beanbags was broken and needed to be replaced. It was shaped like a flower. Or buy some books for the classroom library shelf. Second hand would be fine. Is there a class pet? Buy it an ornament, some food, a toy. Is it a class for younger kids? Is there a 'home corner'? Add to it! Donate small food packets (eg the tiny cereal packets for travelling), dress up clothes, waldorf toys, plastic foods...

23. Earrings, necklaces, hats etc

Does your teacher wear jewellery? Have you seen her out and about wearing them if not in the classroom? Does your teacher wear a hat? These can be nice gifts for males or females. Just make sure it's non allergenic. Ask students if she wears gold or silver more often. Many teachers like wearing bright and colourful things in class. Or novelty earrings. Many young male teachers I know enjoy wearing caps when not in class. Ties might also go into this category, if the male teacher wears them. If your teacher has long hair, how about some nice hair things?

24. Things to make the class less stinky.

... kids smell. Buy your teacher some sort of way to freshen the air. Reed diffusers are a good one (as long as no one has allergies!). There are also more natural ways to do it. I suggest you look it up! It's good to have a wide base as well, so that it will be less likely to spill.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gifts To Give To Teachers Part 2

This list is going to be so comprehensive by the time I finish! I might have to add to it annually or something. Some of the things on my list might be a bit weird, but I think that's okay- only so many people will see my list, and maybe it will bring some originality.

From CountryRoseDesign: That's a piece of original artwork on that card!
7. Really nice cards

If you want to add to your Christmas Card giving experience, why not buy (or make, if you're talented!) a really nice card that can also be considered a work of art? Not only are you getting a nice card, but a small piece of art that the teacher can frame if he wishes, or generally display. You could write a poem on the back, or just a nice message.

Very reasonably priced from PennyPaperworks.
Made using a recycled postcard by studioBBN

8. Notebooks
An appropriate notebook never goes astray, at least for me. I'm addicted to spiral bound notebooks. You can link it to what the teacher is currently doing too! For example if I just taught about sustainability, a notebook made from recycled paper would be great, and show that something has sunk in.

9. Food. Early. And hygienic looking.

If you're from one of my aforementioned 'trustworthy families' and you'd like to give food to your teacher, why not do it, but give it two or more weeks before the end of school? Then the teacher will have a chance to enjoy it, it won't be overshadowed by 10 plates of biscuits all on the same day. This might be a controversial one, but if you know that your teacher is very busy or stressed, it might be nice to provide a nice, possibly frozen, dinner for him or her and his or her family to enjoy. This could be VERY useful during report writing season! Obviously you'd have to be cautious about allergies and things like vegetarianism, and probably avoid foods that are very uncommon or unique unless you're pretty sure that everyone would like it if they tried it. Or just go the delicious cake/biscuit route, but early.

From Smallpackagess

10. Nice Christmas Ornaments

A nice Christmas ornament for a teacher should be a) non religious b) not with the name of the child on it or worse, face (except maybe a tiny signature somewhere), c) small.

In my opinion anyway. Maybe your teacher LOVES giant Rudolphs (check that he actually loves them, and hasn't just been given masses by people thinking he likes them, perpetuating the cycle).

11. Some of those grow a tree/mountain things

If you think your teacher likes a bit of fun without going too crazy, this could be an option. Little crystal growing ornaments, that only last as long as you want them to last. He or she could use them in the class too! They're not expensive, at least here. You can often get them for $2 at shops like The Reject Shop or Cheap as Chips. To this category I'd also add things like 'instant snow'.

Ones by KuteKlipboardsbyAmy
12. Great Clipboards

These are attractive and useful, and I almost never see them being given.
Other great things around the place right now are very attractive empty boxes, magazine boxes, document trays, etc. You can get them from The Reject Shop or Officeworks, and they get so battered so quickly that it'd be useful. I also don't think it'd matter too much to 99% of teachers if it didn't match what else they had in the classroom.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gifts To Give To Teachers

Now that you've read my 'Gifts Not To Give To Teachers and Why' series (which might be added to later!)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
and left me some lovely comments, I'm going to start on 'Gifts To Give Teachers and Why'. Like the What Not To Gives there will be exceptions to my comments (for example, the teacher might be very prepared, or a brand new teacher who needs a lot of stuff), and I truly believe the best thing you can do is get to know the teacher a little, or ask your child if you are the parent. Like before, feel free to argue.
This list is also not in any particular order.

Magnets by magnolyadesigns, $5.50

Bippityboppityglue, $3.50

I Heart Grammar Magnet $3.50 Vozamer does some AWESOME ones that I certainly wouldn't turn down as a geeky teacher!

1. Good, Strong, Non Tacky Magnets, or awesome pretty/cool pins.

I've seen some LOVELY strong magnets that are little and tasteful, and often could be themed to the teacher's interests, and can be very masculine or very feminine or very themed (I love Victoriana stuff!). I know we'd appreciate them at school *or* at home on the fridge. From my experience it's only when teachers get ones with apples on them or 'world's best teacher' or an owl, or they're really flimsy, or really huge, that it's not wanted. There are some wonderfully crafty people out there, and also kids can make some really professional looking things, using strong magnets you can get from craft shops and some really pretty big buttons. And if the hand made ones break after a year, at least they were used.
Try to keep them small and strong. If the teacher is using them to put a note on the fridge or the magnetic whiteboard, he doesn't want them covering up whatever they're attaching.

Really awesome pins: I've seen some hilarious or awesome ones in shops and online. Ones that *I* would like involve little animals, flowers, etc. By 'pins' I mean ones for noticeboards. Thumbtacks with pretty things on them. You can make your own!

2. Really attractive split pins, paper clips, useable but pretty erasers, pens, etc.

Like the pretty thumbtacks, have you seen those little paper clips that look like feet, or flowers? *wants*. Useable though attractive erasers could be cool, as would pens- they always go missing in class! For male or female teachers.

3. Notepaper
I know I'm always writing down notes, and I can't imagine I'll be any different as a teacher. There're some really pretty/appropriate funny post its out there too. I *always* use post its.
Along with this goes really pretty/attractive printer paper. (note, I've made an exception about apples in the above case! See, I *told* you there were exceptions!)

4. Something from your travels, or your culture

Are you an ESL student? Do you travel a lot? Find something from that culture to give. Particularly if it's *from* or *of* that *culture* rather than being a tourist item. (Unless the teacher has always wanted to go to that particular place and would get a kick out of a snowglobe from [town]!)
For example, some chopsticks and a chopstick rest, a recipe book, a tourism dvd, a small traditional piece of artwork, or even something that could be used in a unit of work in class!

5. A book

A book that you particularly like and want to recommend, a book for the classroom, a non fiction book, a book that you feel the teacher will enjoy, a book of crossword puzzles, a book that would be a good resource for the class, a teaching type book, a book on one of the teacher's interests, a joke book to make her laugh, anything. If it's not to his or her exact taste, I can almost guarantee that it will go to good use somewhere! This might be one of those 'ooo, not sure about that one, Chiara!' things, but I personally would even love a second hand book.

Message in a Bottle

6. A letter.
This has often been quoted as the best present ever from a student or parent. A letter or note or card expressing gratitude, revealing that the teacher has helped, or whatever you'd like to write. Teachers treasure this sort of sentiment, they almost never get closure from students. This is particularly poignant if the student is a 'troublemaker' or 'difficult', or the teacher has spent a lot of extra time on that student, or if the student just sits quietly and doesn't ever cause a fuss or attract attention.
It could be written hastily on a piece of computer paper, or on a gorgeous hand made card, or typed up, or even emailed. Better yet, it's practically free!
I've seen some examples of this being done as a 'note in a bottle'.

You will warm the cockles of the teacher's heart. Once I made one of my male high school teachers cry by giving him a Christmas card and a (shame) christmas pudding. He was the art teacher and many people found him very difficult to deal with as a student.
Imagine working day after day, doing your best, and being unappreciated by hundreds of teenagers, or dozens of pre teens. This is why I gave gifts to mine, even in High School.

To Be Continued...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Which presents not to give teachers and why: Part 3

Want to know what not to get your child's/your teacher this year? Read on, and make sure you check out the first two parts of this! Arguments are welcome.

10. Fruitcake or shortbread.

I've been guilty of this before. It's probably not so bad, and since it was suggested by my teacher mother, it can't be too horrible, right? But I just realised that we have two old fruitcakes in the pantry right now. Hmn. At least you're usually fairly sure that it's clean, and it does last for a long time and won't go off! But it's another of those 'teachers get a lot of this at Christmas' things. So proceed with caution! When I got it for teachers, it was for high school teachers, who don't get many presents in the first place, so hopefully they didn't get 20 that year.

11. Bad Smelling Candles

Smell the candle before you buy it. Is it something you'd want burning or sitting around in your house? If yes, proceed! Candles, though generic, are one of those 'quite often greatly enjoyed' generic presents (Though some years you might get dozens of them, like what happens with chocolates). If not- please, choose a different one or something else entirely.

12. Giant Candle Holders

It goes in the 'where are they going to put it' category. Especially if Christmas themed. Keep it small, and try to keep it tasteful.

13. Bad smelling/cheap lotions and toiletries.

a) because teachers get too much of it.
b) because well, it's often really gross, and will not be used.
c) I have an issue with people assuming "She's female! She loves toiletries!!!" I do appreciate the sentiment behind bubble baths and things like that, that imply that the teacher can go and relax now, but most women after a certain age have a brand of hand cream, body lotion, etc, that they use already, so I've always been wary of getting it for anyone past their teens. But ah, forget it, can't get people to change years of traditional thinking just like that. :) Just make sure it smells nice, okay, and is decent quality? ... and please not Lavendar, even if I do like purple. An example of 'please use common sense when you buy'.

P.S. If you're getting chocolate AND a strong smelling soap- beware! Soap smells soak into chocolate SO fast.

And try to keep it age appropriate. My Mum keeps getting some that's clearly marketed at tweens- complete with cartoon 11 year olds, and glitter. You might be able to get away with that (and bath toys!) for me, but for 50 year old ladies? I've always found that odd. Though, some does smell really nice, or if it has cartoon animals on it, or has a theme like frogs, I can see teachers thinking that's cute. :)

14. Things that might be implying that the teacher is getting old, or that she/he's ugly or fat.

In conversation about this topic, several people have talked about getting anti aging cream. When they were in their 20s. (was it a joke? Were they saying the kids were stressing her out and she might need some anti wrinkle cream?) Similarly, makeup goes into that category, unless you have a decent reason (you're an Avon lady and you have some awesome lipstick that you really think the teacher will like, and the teacher wears lipstick generally), it will seem like you're saying she's unprofessionally dressed, you think she has bad makeup now, ugly, or that she should 'go out on the town' or something. (Though that could be a nice sentiment since teachers should go out and have a life. That would go into the 'if you have a decent reason' category). It is also inappropriate to buy things like a weight watcher's membership.

15. Inappropriate Jewellery or Makeup
Are their ears pierced? Check before you give.
Are they over the age of 14? Please, no play makeup for kids!

16. Totally random crap. Glitter or fake snow does not make it better.

"Unless you were the class mom of my 3rd grade class. With $30 she bought the teacher this mini mailbox looking thing, stuffed with pinecones, some fake snow, and a drawing made by her son.

I'm sure that got a prime spot in the teacher's house!

I think that says it all, from this Etsyer!
If it's dusty things from your own house, please try to pick things that are awesome that you think she'd like. Or at least dust it off. Thanks!

17. Gifts assuming that the teacher is exactly the same as any other woman or teacher.

This is a hard concept. People assume certain things about teachers. That they all like to read. That they all like bubble baths. That because they're female they like crotchet or craft. That because they're male they don't! I don't expect many people to 'get this right', but I thought I'd throw it out there- teachers are people. Try to get to know the teacher and aim for that person as an individual, rather than 'she's a teacher.' 'he's a man'.

18. Clothes.

Mum once got a skirt, and a top, from one of her students parents.
... both about four sizes too small for her. Had this parent never seen my mother? The parent was Chinese, ESL, and I'm wondering if she just bought a 'large' size and forgot that Asian sizes are not 'large' for us fat Australians.

19. Underwear.
In what world is this appropriate? I've heard several anecdotes while researching this list saying that underwear was bought by parents or students. CREEPY. Do NOT do it. EVER. Unless maybe you're a lingerie sales woman. Even then, you'd still not know what stuff the teacher likes, and she also probably doesn't want the child (or you) thinking about it. *shudder*.

20. Anything at all wink wink, nudge nudge.
Yes even if the teacher just got married.
Unless you as a parent are so close to this teacher (friendships happen) that you were invited to the Hen's Night.

Feel VERY free to add to this list, and I'll make another post when/if I think of more things not to give teachers for optimum present giving!

As before, I'd like to emphasise that all gifts are received knowing the kind intention, particularly if it's from a student. These lists are merely to help you in your decision making.
Please check out the first two parts of the list!
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