I can’t believe we only have two weeks of school left! My friends with children in private school are finishing up the year this week, and so are in a real tizzy trying to come up with teacher gifts that aren’t cheezy or obviously composed in a less-than-thoughtful-hurry. Most teachers will tell you that the more authentic the gift, the more heartwarming and memorable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bust out the craft box, mess up the kitchen, or spend a fortune.
Speaking of heartfelt, I have decided that this year I might package up a lovely Maryland or Virginia Rose or Italian Prosecco with a handwritten Haiku (#1 is studying Haiku’s now, so I figure it’s pertinent):
“A day with my kid
must have been bat-shit crazy
Here a chilled respite.”
That gift may not be appropriate for all the teachers, and frankly, could get expensive. In lieu of bubbly, our alternate theme this year will be insects, largely because #2’s teacher stuck me on Bugs and Slugs duty for the kids’ environmental unit and ever since then we’ve investigated every spider, tick, fly and moth we’ve come across. But also because it is a theme full of possibility.
I usually let my children guide the tone of our gifts, since they do after all, spend most of their day with their teacher, not I. This year’s Buzzy theme includes such silly cache as:
- “I’m so bugged this year is over”
- “I’m buzzing with excitement over Kindergarten with you!”
- “Don’t buzz away, I’ll see you next year!”
- “I’m just buzzin’ along, singing a song” (#2’s idea for the music teacher)
- “All the color in the world could never match the beauty of an insect wing” (this dramatically put by #1 for her art teacher)
We found small, inexpensive insect cookie cutters from Sur la Table (butterflies, dragonflies, flowers), and our gift will be centered around things like handmade sugar cookies packaged with the best sugar cookie recipe ever and maybe some plain cookies and baggies of frosting so the teacher’s kids can frost some too, all-natural bug spray, garden accessories, maybe some butterfly garden seeds or seed bombs, a gift card to an area nursery, etc. We’ll package it up in a pretty, re-usable box from Marshall’s or HomeGoods or Michaels.
Here are some other ideas we’ve had over the years, and a couple of quick tutorials.
#1 A Special Vase with Flowers from the garden
We collected flowers from our garden and put them in a special jar I found at a garden center. Essentially, it is a mason jar with a lid covered with wire. You put the flowers through holes in the wire and the stems are well supported. This arrangement was accompanied with a handmade card and a package of summer bulbs. Total cost: $20
#2: A hand-painted mug filled with cookies.
We tied a hand-written recipe card to the handle with a ribbon. We filled another bowl with specialty coffee beans from Ceremony Coffee and a gift card to Caffe Pronto. The apple went on its own, with a gift card to Tastings Gourmet Market attached to the ribbon since we know that teacher likes the salads there.
1) We purchased plain white ceramic mugs from HomeGoods. They cost about $4 each.
4) Using Martha Stewart multi-surface craft paint or another acrylic paint, use the tip of your finger to paint over and around the stencils. You can also use a stippling brush–the is the brush with the round sponge. This project works best when the stencils are thoroughly covered. I liked the fingerprints because they are more personal.
5) Immediately upon finishing the finger-painting, use a pair of tweezers to gently lift the edge of the stencil and pull it off. This is the most trying part of this project–just encourage your child to go slowly and to lift one corner, then the rest.
6) bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, turn off the oven and let the piece cool in the oven with the door shut. Voila!
#3 A Succulent Garden for a teacher we know loves plants and has a beach house, but sadly lacks a green thumb.
- Purchase a variety of succulent plants from an area nursery. These range in price from $1.99-$8 or so. You can include air plants, which are more expensive, but very cool looking. The total cost for this gift was about $15, including 3 plants, moss and the hanger.
- Find a cool piece of wood. We found driftwood on a walk around a local seawall. You can also use a solid piece of wood that’s been painted or stained. A great time to break out the chalk paint or milk paint and wax to get creative.
- Turn the wood or base over and attach a small hanger with a screw driver or your drill. Note: you don’t have to do this if your base is made to sit rather than hang!
- Arrange the plants in a pattern on your wood that you find attractive.
- Use a spade bit to drill holes in the wood where you want the plant to go. Don’t worry if the holes aren’t perfect–they will be filled with the plant. Your main concern is to not drill all the way through the base.
- Most succulents come in a small two-inch plastic pot, which you can use for this project. You can also use small metal cans, (i.e. tuna cans or smaller) with tiny holes drilled into the bottom for drainage. We filled in around the succulents with a tiny bit of moss to hide imperfections.
- Using hot glue or some form of very strong glue (we used our glue gun) attach the pot to the base.
- Pot your plants using soil specifically for succulents in the pot. Voila!
Succulents can survive with very little water. These plants can be sprayed with water weekly, or you can put an ice cube on the top and let it drip down. They do like bright light, so you should include a little note with tips for care.
#4 A Summer Flower or Herb Pot
1) Find a container that you like from an area nursery. Choose something special or unique. We once found a woven basket in the shape of an apple. We lined it with plastic and used that as the planter. We’ve also used old stoneware from antique stores, the lid of a metal garbage can (you have to drill holes in it), terra cotta pots we decorated with paint and decoupage and beautiful classic pottery. Just find something that speaks to your family and your teacher.
2) Choose a variety of flowers to fit your pot, keeping in mind:
- you want some plants to be tall, some to be medium, some to be small, and some to drape. See the photos for examples and an understanding of why this is important.
- as the plants grow, they will become larger and can grow into each other. You will need space for growth.
- the colors should coordinate or offset each other. That being said, the color and shape of the flowers can really impact the final arrangement. In the pot below, (which we made because after the Bugs and Slugs episode #2 wanted something to attract butterflies), the unusual greens and the different textured leaves make the pot interesting. (PS: this pot is huge and not good for a teacher gift, but it is very cool!)
Below the how-to are photos of pots we’ve made, one with functional but interesting herbs like lemon thyme, Cuban oregano, creeping rosemary, lavender and a cascade of non-edible flowers. We’ve also potted strawberries– which tend to grow up and then over the pot and have gorgeous leaves in the fall–with geraniums and other creeping, cascading summer flower varieties.
3) choose a good potting soil mix, preferably one that can help retain moisture. Potted plants need to be watered more often, so the soil is important.
4) pot the plants, water thoroughly, make a little note and perhaps attach a gift card. Voila!
#5: The Holy Shit its the last day of school gift:
When all else fails and you are in a real hurry, go for the easy route and send in some Sweethearts Patisserie macarons with a gift card and a note. Alternatively, find some very gourmet chocolate or fudge (Tastings Gourmet Market sells Michel Cuizel). One other idea is a bottle or two of A Cook’s Cafe bottled dressings with some greens from the Farmer’s Market. Tie the greens with twine so they look homey, or put them all together in a metal colander. A friend of mine filled a box with ice cream cones, a locally made butterscotch and little packages of candy toppings–that was adorable and easy too.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any cool ideas! I can’t wait to here how your gifts turn out!
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