Teacher Gifts

Remember that fun holiday party I threw with Tiny Prints last year? It seems like it was just last week. Now it’s Christmas again, and I’m excited to team up with Tiny Prints again this holiday season. They sent me a bunch of goodies to jump-start my holiday gifting.* And that is huge, because I live for the thrill of the last-minute. Or I’m lazy. You choose.Custom Wrapping PaperWe’ve got so many teachers in our lives; and I like to get their gifts done early. Not because I’m organized, but because I’ve learned the hard way: it’s the last day of school, and I’m scrambling to the store in my PJs for gift cards. It feels unthoughtful and haphazard. And every year I vow to do something more special for our teachers. Thanks to my friends at Tiny Prints, I’ve got our teacher gifts under control and ready to go. (I wish I could say the same for the rest of my Christmas checklist!) 

Kindergarten GiftsI chose a personalized stationery set for each of my kids’ teachers. There are so many color options and styles to choose from, it was easy to find the right one for each teacher. Side note: I believe there’s a special place in heaven for kindergarten teachers. This set is my very favorite because I love the colors and the patterns.

Teacher Stationery SetTeachers make such a difference between having a great year and a rough one. We’ve really lucked out this year. I want our teachers to know how much we appreciate them. I think getting a customized gift shows your teacher you were actually thinking about her. Plus, having a cute notepad like this will probably make all those “Johnny forgot his homework” notes easier for her to send home.

Tiny PrintsDon’t forget the office staff. You know, the one you call every time you have a question, who reminds you your son’s lunch balance is negative. The one who delivers your daughter’s forgotten backpack at least once a week; or takes care of your son when he skins his knee at recess. Make sure they know they’re appreciated. The office staff are constantly jotting down notes and sending messages…so a stationery gift set is perfect for them, too.

Dance Teacher GiftIf your family is anything like mine, there’s a whole host of teachers that come into play after school is over. I used to be a dance teacher; and I never expected to receive a Christmas gift from a student, but when I did it really made my day. Dance teachers, gymnastic coaches, piano teachers and swim teachers (along with so many others) all really love and invest so much time and effort into our kids…so the holidays are a perfect time to show them how much they mean to us. This note set is perfect for my daughter’s dance teacher. 

Personalized Wrapping Paper Every time I work with Tiny Prints, I’m impressed with the quality of their product and the speed of their work. I’m sure most of you are more prepared with your holiday game plan than I am; but they always make me look like I’ve got my act together, even when that’s the farthest thing from the truth. 
Customized Wrapping PaperTake a look at their gorgeous personalized wrapping paper. This style is my very favorite; but they have a bunch of other cute styles. Personalized gift wrap makes gift tags or cards unnecessary. A lazy-wrapper’s dream come true. Also: the paper is so thick and opaque there’s absolutely  no risk of seeing the gift through the paper. I hate it when that happens. 

Christmas Wrap CustomA huge thanks to Tiny Prints for making my teacher gifts so effortless and beautiful this year. 

*This post is sponsored by Tiny Prints. Tiny Prints sent me all the product for this post. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who support my work. For more information on how I work with brands, please visit my disclosure policy

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Spooky Smoothies

Most Halloweens, I get to the end of the day and realize I haven’t eaten any real food all day. We even have a Halloween birthday in our family; and after all the candy, donuts and other sugar-related shenanigans, choking down that birthday cake nearly does me in every year. Spooky Smoothie BarSince Halloween is on a Saturday this year, I’m going to do a Spooky Smoothie bar for breakfast…so we can throw in a few fruits and vegetables before things get crazy. The kids and I gave the smoothie bar a test-run the other day. It was a hit! You can’t see it very well in the photo, but the “snake venom” is apple juice, and I put an eye-dropper in it so they could add some to their concoctions.
I pretty much raided the fridge + freezer for this, so here are the ingredients I used: 

  • Frozen Fog: ice cubes
  • Eye of Newt: grapes
  • Witch Fingernails: apple slices
  • Pickled Brains: frozen (pitted) cherries
  • Poison Ivy: spinach
  • Vampire Blood: cranberry juice
  • Slug Tails: frozen peaches
  • Swamp Slime: vanilla yogurt + food coloring
  • Hearts of Toad: sliced strawberries
  • Snake Venom: apple juice
  • Bat Droppings: blueberries

Spooky SmoothieI had a label for “mud” that was supposed to be Nutella; but it disappeared while I was setting up. You could label really any food with these labels and your kids will be grossed out. Mine loved it. I gave the kids a cup, they filled it up; and then I blended each smoothie individually. Then I poured it in a black cup with eyes glued onto it. Super quick and easy. 
Smoothie Order FormI decided to change things up a bit for the older kids, with a blind order form. (You can download it here). It’s a checklist of the ingredients, and they pick what goes into their smoothie without knowing what they’ll end up with. Bonus: you don’t have to make the table look pretty with labels and bowls, etc.–just pass out an order form and keep the ingredients in the fridge until you need them.

If you want the printable ingredient labels, they’re available over at Honest to Nod.

Happy Halloween! 

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Caramel Pecan Pie

Let’s talk about pie. There’s nothing better than homemade pie. In fact, I’ve never met one I didn’t like. The only obstacle in my love affair with pie is that I’m terrible at making pie. Like really, really bad. Pie-making for me usually turns into a full cardio workout with a lot of swearing; some burned gunk in the oven, a huge mess in the kitchen and a sad, sad looking pile of fruit at the end. But there IS one pie that I can pull off consistently: Caramel Pecan Pie! 

Thanksgiving Pecan PieThis pecan pie became part of our Thanksgiving celebration around the time my grandmother wasn’t well enough to make pie anymore. She was the expert pie-maker in the family, and she passed the torch to my mom. They make it look easy as…well, pie. Maybe with another decade of practice, I can achieve consistent results. Until then, I’ll stick to pecan pie. 
BattleOfthePiesGraphic copyWhen my buddies at Wayfair invited me to be a part of their Pie Bake Off*, I jumped at the chance. Not because I’m awesome at making pie; but because I love a good contest. And since I’ve only got one pie in my arsenal, deciding what to make didn’t require a lot of thought.  
Pie
I’m sharing the recipe with you here today, in case any of you are similarly pie-challenged. Plus, it’s delicious. My husband claims it’s the best pecan pie he’s ever had. And he’s extensively explored the wide world of pecan pie. For real, though, the pie holds together beautifully without being too gloppy; and it’s topped with beautiful caramel-glazed pecans.

Pecan Pie

Caramel Pecan Pie
Serves 8
Perfect, easy pecan pie; topped with crunchy caramel-glazed pecans.
Print
Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
For the crust
  1. Favorite homemade (or frozen) pie crust recipe
For the filling
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 C. Karo syrup
  3. 1/4 C. packed brown sugar
  4. 1/4 C. sugar
  5. 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (melted)
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 tsp. salt
  8. 1 C. chopped pecans
For the topping
  1. 1/3 C. packed brown sugar
  2. 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  3. 3 Tbsp. honey
  4. 1 1/4 C. pecan halves
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Prepare crust, according to your favorite recipe (or package directions)
  3. Roll crust to fit a 9" pie dish; with about 1" extra dough hanging over the sides.
  4. Gently ease the crust into the pie dish.
  5. Pierce with a fork in several places.
  6. Tuck the edges under, or make your favorite edge design
For the filling (combine in a large bowl)
  1. 4 eggs (slightly beaten), Karo syrup, brown & white sugars, melted butter, vanilla and salt.
  2. Mix to combine.
  3. Stir in chopped pecans.
  4. Pour into pie pan
  5. Bake for 40 minutes. (check crust intermittently to make sure it's not burning).
While the pie bakes, make the topping
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey and brown sugar. Stir constantly over med/low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans and stir to coat.
  2. After the pie has baked 40 min; remove from over and spread topping evenly on top. Cover the edges of crust with foil and return to oven 10-15 minutes; or until the topping is bubbly and warm.
  3. Cool completely; and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Christina Williams https://christinawilliamsblog.com/
PecanAnd there you have it. My one pie wonder. Happy baking! 
Caramel Pecan Pie

*This post is sponsored by Wayfair. Recipe and photos are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who support my work. Visit my full disclosure policy here, for more information on how I work with brands. 

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DIY Skull Crystal Balls

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know I’ve been cooking up some spooky fun with my Sprout by HP and its 3D scanning technology. A couple things before we get started: 1. This post is sponsored by HP.* They sent me the new 3D scanning platform so I could use it for this project. 2. I’m a complete newbie to 3D design. 3D scanning and printing seem so futuristic and overwhelming. But if I can do this, anybody can. And, 3. I’m late for everything, so I’m giving myself 10 bonus points for doing a Halloween project before the month of October. 😉Crystal BallsIf you need a refresher on the Sprout all in one desktop, you can check out my previous posts here and here. Or check out the Sprout Creator Gallery to see all the other fancy things people are doing with the Sprout. Sprout has also unleashed a host of new updates, including a Stop Motion app; and dual-screen Adobe Illustrator capabilities. I can’t wait to try them out! For this project, HP challenged me delve even further into Sprout’s capabilities. I think Bryce was initially more excited about 3D scanning than I was. And to show him how easily he could use the 3D platform for his work, I did a test-run with one of our creepy Halloween skulls. After the skull, I scanned in a bunch of fruit, but that skull was haunting me. So I ditched the fruit and turned this into a Halloween project.

Sprout 3D ScanningHere’s a look at the scanning process. Sprout guides you through the whole thing step-by-step. First you plug in the 3D platform, and let it calibrate; then it tells you where to put your object. Hint: glue dots work wonders to keep your object in place. And use a blob of play-doh as a wedge to scan tricky surfaces.

Sprout 3D ScanNext, Sprout scans your object in eight different segments. As each segment scans, you see it pop up on the screen. After the whole cycle is through, you simply reposition the object on the stage so Sprout can scan the missing surfaces. You can scan through as many cycles as you need to make sure the whole surface is scanned. When you’re done, Sprout magically merges all the scans into one complete 3D object. 

Sprout 3D EditorThen, you can open your object in the 3D editor. Here you can play with the size, orientation, and outside surface of the object. I’m not going to lie…I actually had a great time flinging the skull around just to watch it spin. Also, sorry about my creepy witch fingers. I’m double-jointed. But this is a Halloween post…so it’s perfectly festive.

3D ManipulationYou can resize things without losing quality or detail. 

Sprout 3DOr make it smaller. After you’re done pretending to hold a tiny skull in your fingers, get back to work. From here, you can choose to send your object to a 3D printer; or save it as a 2D image. I turned my skull into a series of 2D images showing different surfaces of the skull. 
SkullsThen I printed them on transparency; and made these creepy crystal balls. This project is inspired by these amazing crystal ball candlesticks by Flamingo Toes. She’s got a great in-depth tutorial, so hop over there for more details. 

Halloween SkullsI followed Bev’s instructions for the crystal ball part; and instead of using candlesticks, I spray painted a bunch of treat cups, turned them upside-down, poked a hole through the bottom, and hot glued the ornament into the hole. 
DIY Skull DecorationsI used the largest clear ornaments I could find this time of year (4″). How fun would it be to do a mini-size?! For the base, you could use small paper cups, or even toilet paper tubes cut in half. I discovered it’s best to leave the bottom of the cup white, otherwise, the skulls are hard to see. We’ve had these on the table for a few days, and I still get creeped out when I catch a glimpse of a floating skull as I walk into the kitchen. 
Skull Crystal BallsHere’s one final shot of Mr. Skull and his ghostly mini-me. In the 3D design software, I took the outer surface off…so what I printed is just the “structure” of the scan. Like a skeleton of a skeleton. I thought it looked creepier this way. But you can also edit your objects to look like wood or metal which is super cool.
DIY Halloween Crystal BallI’m always on the lookout for awesome, yet inexpensive Halloween decorations; and this fits the bill perfectly! Since they’re visible from both sides, these would make fantastic centerpieces for a spooky Halloween dinner. Or make a tiny version as a place card! You could also put a battery-operated tea light in the opening in the ornament to give it a glowing effect.

Oh, and I made a printable of the skulls for you. Download it, print them out on transparencies, and then follow Bev’s instructions for making the crystal balls. Happy Haunting!

*This post is sponsored by HP. Photos and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who support my work! (If you want more information on how I work with brands and sponsors, read my fancy pants disclose here.)

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