I’m so embarrassed that it has taken me so long to put up this post! I have been very excited to share with you all of this year’s homemade Christmas presents. I start working on them right away in January/February because it means so much to me to be able to give from the heart. It’s a trait I’m sure I inherited from my grandmother, who loved to make things to give to others. As each of her 5 children went off to college, she knitted us a special afghan that I treasure (and can’t even bring myself to take out of the drawer!).
This past year, I began working on my sister’s Christmas present just a few days after last year’s Christmas. It took a looooong time, but it is totally worth it to have a family treasure that can be passed down and enjoyed for many years. I made this advent calendar by combining ideas from several different blogs (like here and here) as well as etsy (like this). Jenn just LOVED it! I made one for myself at the same time 🙂
Another project I finished over the summer was a book of my grandmother’s recipes. When she passed away, I asked for her recipe box and books. I spent countless hours pouring over the recipes, cherry-picking her favorites, separating them into categories, and typing them up. I spent the rest of the summer cooking many of the favorites to have pictures to include in the book. I also wrote a forward that attempts to capture what made her, and her cooking, so special. The final product was printed for brothers and sisters, each of her children, and grandchildren. I wrapped each book with love and hand delivered them on Christmas, and there were many, many tears.
It wouldn’t be Christmas if it weren’t for our lovingly handmade treats, as well. My mother, sister, and I spent an afternoon making Krumkake. The plate of cookies below were made by yours truly, including chocolate-dipped shortbread, chocolate cakeballs, and peanut-butter cup cookies (are you sensing that I LOVE chocolate?). The final result is the gorgeous display of our family’s cookie haul. YUM!
Last, but not least, I got a wonderful handmade surprise from my aunt on Christmas. She had found the pattern for my grandmother’s famous House Slippers. When you visited Grandma’s house, she always wanted to make sure you were warm enough. She insisted that you put on a pair of hand-knitted house slippers. I used to fight her on this and think they were big, clunky, and hideous. Then, over time, I grew to love them. I’d remind her if she forgot to have me put them on. When she passed away and we cleaned out her home, we all imagined we’d find a pair hidden in every nook and cranny of the house. Unfortunately, for unexplained reasons, we couldn’t find a single pair in the house. Had they walked off on their own? Well my aunt surprised us (all grand- and great-grand children) all by knitting us a personalized pair for Christmas – over 9 pair in total. More tears, for certain.
I’m already hard at work on Christmas presents for next year. No, I will not give away my secrets and tell you what I’m up to! I guess you’ll just have to wait….
Howdy all Week 14 survivors! It’s that exciting time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas when classroom management requires some … creativity on my part. I think this meme sums it up quite well:
I do love this time of year, though. The ‘Holidays’ feel like magic, like home. I am excited to share some of this week’s highlights with you!
1. Revenge Review Game – To review for our assessment on the Constitution, my Social Studies class played the Revenge Review game. I split the class up into 8 groups and gave each group 8 Xs. When a team was ‘up,’ I gave them one review question; if they got it correct, they could erase 2 X’s from other teams (no suicide). The winner has the most Xs at the end of the game. I also allowed teams to earn back Xs when they ran out; if they answered a question correctly and rolled an even number on the die, they could earn back one X. The students had a LOT of fun with this! I think it’s going to be the new most requested review game!
2. Compromise Maps – As we are learning about the failed compromises that lead up to the Civil War, my students are completing maps to show the changes in the political boundaries within the U.S. These are from a new product in my store. Click here if you are interested.
3. The world’s best custodian – We really do have the world’s best custodian at our school. Joe is one of the nicest, hardest working, role-model men you will ever meet. The kids just love him. We left a bright, fun note on my board for him to see over the break. The students knew he would be lonely with the school empty, so they wanted to cheer him up. Isn’t that sweet?
4. Countdown – I officially began a Christmas countdown. If you are a fellow teacher, you know this is a dangerous thing (just like an end-of-the-year countdown). I told all of my students that they have X amount of days to think of a very thoughtful, homemade ‘gift from the heart’ for their parents. Think that’ll work on my 13-year-olds? 😛
5. Grandma’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie – Last week, as you know, was Thanksgiving. It was our first Thanksgiving without my grandmother, who passed away last November. I miss her and think about her every day. This year, I attempted her famous Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. It tasted like my childhood and I felt like she was there with us.
I’d love to hear about your Thanksgiving and your week!
You guys… Thanksgiving is only 6 days away! Less than a week! The excitement!!! With Week 12 behind us, I feel like the next month or so is just going to fly by! Before you know it, it will be time for the holiday break. Even though the days are growing cold and short, I still enjoy keeping up my High Five for Friday tradition to focus on the important highlights.
1. Vocabulary Loop Game – I was inspired by some elementary vocabulary loop activities I found on TpT and Pinterest, so I began searching for an 8th grade version. When I didn’t find one, I made my own! I have 35 laminated cards with vocabulary words we will encounter this year. Each student gets one card (some may get two depending on class size). As the first student reads out the definition on his/her card, the class listens to see if they have the matching vocabulary word. Then, the winner readers his/her definition, and so forth. The last card loops back to the first card. Sorry if that sounds confusing! The goal is to play this frequently and to beat our class record each time. I plan to add clear instructions and make this available on TpT soon (UPDATE: It is now posted here). We played it this week, and the students said it was both fun AND helpful!
2. 28th Amendment– This past week, I had my Social Studies class split into small groups and research/propose a potential 28th Amendment to our Constitution. Their class presentations included 3 pieces of evidence and an explanation of how the proposed amendment connects to the principles of our constitution. After a rigorous day of debating and voting, the class reached consensus on our new 28th Amendment: Legalize Gay Marriage. I was very proud of my wise, hard-working, respectful class!
3. Holiday Change Drive Update – We are continuing our school wide change drive to provide a holiday donation and gifts to the local Ronald McDonald house. The jugs are right outside my classroom, and I get to see students walking by all day long dropping their change in. It is so heartwarming to see! In case you are wondering, the girls are totally winning right now 😉
4. Book vs. Movie – This past week, we read “Battleground” by Stephen King, then watched the movie version (from Nightmares and Dreamscapes on TNT, which I purchased on Amazon). I had my students make a T-chart of all the differences they noted. Afterward, we discussed this handout that I made regarding reasons a director would make changes from the original text version (CCSS RL8.7 – click for this free download.). The students told me they had always wondered why there were differences, and they enjoyed trying to figure out the logical reasoning behind them (besides just assuming the director just ‘felt like it’).
5. First Snowfall– Most of the United States is under a cold snap and has received some snowfall this week. Wisconsin, of course, did not escape this fate. We have only an inch or so, but it is freeeeeezing (literally! it’s less than 10 degrees)! I just hate being cold. Dear Elsa, I do NOT want to build a snowman! I’ve even had to break out sweaters for the dogs. To highlight a silver lining, I will say that I do enjoy my winter fashion, from sweaters and boots to scarves and hats. I am also looking forward to a bit of a thaw coming up, as I was told we might return to the 40s soon.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you all had a most wonderful day yesterday. I had a great time celebrating Christmas 3 times! We began the morning at my husband’s mother’s house, the afternoon with my immediate family at my sister’s house, and the evening with my extended family at my aunt’s house. Festivities from morning ’til night – that’s how I roll!
As cliche as it is, I find that the joy of Christmas comes from giving, not receiving. For weeks or even months, I look forward to watching someone open a gift I carefully selected or handmade. It brings me such joy! Here are some of the gifts I made this year that I couldn’t wait to give:
Paw print ornaments for my mother and sister of our 3 dogs: Tyger, Ruffy, & Rocket. If you want to make your own, these are the wonderful ornament directions I followed (I added nail polish for flair).
My sister and I ordered a canvas print for my mother of a family photo session we had done this fall. She plans to hang it over her fireplace. She was SO excited! We ordered from CanvasonDemand.com
I made coloring books for all of my nieces and nephews for Christmas. They were a hit! (P.S. If you want to purchase a copy for yourself, you can click here).
I really wanted to give back this year, and I thought I had picked the perfect way to do so. I am O negative, which is the universal blood donor. I went in to the Wisconsin Blood Center the day before Christmas and donated a pint of blood. The problem was that when I went to leave, I blacked out. I came to with a team hovering over me, covering me in icepacks, palpating my feet and legs, and holding a fan on my face. What?! Woops.
Our last Friday before Winter Break was so much fun, I just had to snap a few pictures to share!
The Friday before school let out for 2013, we had an all-school Holiday Assembly. Each grade, 6 – 8, creates a volleyball team, and they compete for the honor of playing against the staff team. The Poms team performs, the Choir sings the National Anthem, and the Student Council veejays. What a treat this year – one of our students was surprised by his older brother returning from military service a day early and showing up at the assembly. The soldier was a former student of mine, all grown up and in his military uniform. Oh, how I cried! It was very touching. The students were all very well behaved and they had a great time! 1. A few other highlights of the day – the top left is my FAVORITE gift I received. A donation to the Sandy Hook Fund is such a perfect, meaningful gift for a teacher!
2. One of my classes was about 15 minutes ahead of my others, so we had some time to enjoy a small bit of ‘Home Alone’ – yeahhhh!!! (P.S. I gave them the options of ‘Elf’ and ‘Home Alone’, and they picked ‘Home Alone’ because they’ve been ‘Elf’ed to death. Is that even possible????)
3. The bottom left is a card for our wonderful custodian, Joe. I have learned in my 7 years of teaching that custodians and secretaries are the most valuable and hardworking in our school. Joe ‘The Custodian’ is much loved by staff and students alike, and he was recently diagnosed with cancer. We learned that he would be working all through the Winter Break cleaning and painting our classrooms, so we decided to leave him a few treats throughout the school: cards, notes hanging on the walls, student-made posters, etc.
4. We left with only 5 days before Christmas, and I made sure to remind every student to take some time to thank the people in their lives that matter, and to try and make something nice for their parents for the Holidays (even if it’s just a heartfelt card).
5. And finally, our Student Council gave every staff member a car charger for our iPads, which is very helpful.
I hope you all have a wonderful and safe rest of December, and I hope January doesn’t come too soon!
It is definitely my favorite holiday of the year. FOOD FOOD FOOD!
Between my husband and myself, we have 3 families to visit on Thanksgiving. Since my mother had to work on Thanksgiving for early Black Friday Sales (ARG!!), we only visited my husband’s 2 families this year. We will celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom on New Years when the holiday sales and craziness are over.
I did really well keeping with the Paleo diet – Thanksgiving is kind of a perfect holiday for that! I stuck with the meats and vegetables. I also started the day out with an amazing Paleo breakfast. You can find the recipe for the Paleo Waffles here. I made a full batch on Thursday, and I’ve been warming them up the leftovers for breakfast.