Valentine Teacher Gifts

So I have been consulting with my very own teacher (my sister) on what teachers would like for the holidays. One thing she suggested is office supplies. Snooze to some of you, I know. But for elementary school teachers and up, that is what they really need. So I started searching for cute (naturally) school supply gifts.

I saw these cute ribbon topped paper clips and wanted to make them immediately.

I ran the saying by my sister and once she approved, I made it happen.

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Simple, sweet and not too cutesy. I like that it is something small and non-food. Even Zach approved! Which is good as his teacher will be getting these.IMG_6986-001

Can you even believe how toned down I am? This was only a three step process which is VERY unlike me.

Back in the saddle

I think we all remember last year when I was disappointed with myself with Zach’s valentines. They were really not up to my standards and I could not let that happen again.

So when I spotted these eye rings, I knew they were perfect and just what I was going to do.

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I used my Silhouette machine to create the sunglasses and cut them out. However, I am having trouble with the machine and had to cut most of them by hand. I can’t even talk about it. What will I do if that machine breaks?? Cry? Pass out? Don’t even talk to me about it.

I obviously didn’t even ask Zach if he liked it. That is such a benefit of raising a mini-Alex; I know he does not care. But he did really like the idea once I showed him these completed ones. He then asked if he could help me with the rest. Bless. I don’t think other children have to ask to help their mom with their valentines…I think it is the other way around.

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Don’t worry, I said of course he could help. We sorted them into colors for the boys and girls and he wanted to use black string for the boys and red for the girls. I am thinking it will be good bow tying practice since I need him to learn to tie his shoes like yesterday.

I included a pdf in case anyone would like to use the tags. Just click here to download it.

Done and done!

You guys, I am beat! I am so glad this last week of school is over. I mean, not really as I am staring down “17 sleeps”, as they say in Zach’s kindergarten class, with my children but glad that this hectic week is winding down.

Why so hectic, Kinsey? You are not trying to boss people around at work AND make teacher gifts for the end of the year AND figure out what to bring to the holiday party at their school AND oh, crap what to give to your co-workers. So, so true, my friends.

However, what I was doing was making those teacher gifts so that other mom’s didn’t have to. And I loved it! Check out what I have been doing.

For my #1 client, Ashley, I made these cups for her daughter’s class party. They are filled with “hot cocoa” chex mix and topped with a tag I created. I die at the cuteness. This might be my crowning achievement.IMG_5327

But then, I do love these hand-painted wooden spoons and a dish towel I did for my friend Ginny. She had two grandma teachers to deal with and we figured grandmas love a dishtowel. Or not. Either way I got to paint and cure wooden spoons! No matter that I had to open some windows as to not poison my children with the gas coming off them. Calm down, I sent them outside to play and turned on the vent fan too.

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Oh and the gift card wreathes! How cute did these turn out? Shout out to my friend Nadine for coming up with this idea for me while we waited in traffic getting to the Nutcracker market. I even sold one to a lady who was not my friend. Seriously, I picked her right up in the Kindergarten parking lot, thanks to my friend Lindsey who was showing off the wreath I did for her.IMG_6811

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I also made some additional sports bottles for Ashley. I am so proud of the whistle I can’t even tell you. Alex would like me to stop talking about it, but I know you don’t mind. I had to stare at that for a ridiculously long time to get it right….IMG_5299

I whipped up some insulated cups with a single letter for my friend Bethany. Whenever I see these at Target I buy them out. Again, Alex would like me see me change this too. Not happening. No one needs to walk by the side of the guest bed, mind your own business.IMG_5352

For Zach’s teacher and his teacher’s aide, I wanted to give them something their families could do together. I saw on Pinterest that you can purchase a Redbox gift certificate and I thought that would be perfect. There were some cute cards with the saying, “Just settle down for a long Movie Night”. But, since I like to make my life challenging I decided that was not good enough for me. I wanted to give some popcorn as well, and since microwave popcorn is apparently made by the devil, I choose these tiny kernels we have tried. They make really good popcorn and don’t get stuck in your teeth. I like how the gifts turned out, even if the kernels are a wee bit heavy for a five year old to carry.

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I also gave the Smoothly cards to my crossing guards. Ms. Bernice said she could cry. I guess Ms. Bernice loves Smoothie King as much as my boys do.

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I also gave the iTunes wrap to the mailman and James’s swim coach.

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And I was so glad I had some extra Nailed It gifts completed as James’s teachers and the support staff at his school got them. No stress for me!

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The biggest seller of the year though, was the Warm Wishes gift that is filled with cocoa mix, marshmallows and mints. We will not even discuss the number of times I had to drive to Ikea for more and more glass jars. Worth it, obviously, but Ikea and I are currently on a break.

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I would like to thank all my friends for supporting me this season!! It was so much fun to help everyone and I hope your teachers love it too. After the school break I will be gearing up for Valentine’s day. But for the next 17 sleeps I will be spending so much quality time with my children. I am clearly going to have to use some of my profits for more alcohol.

Monster Cookies and Deyhydration

The weekend before Halloween tried to kill me. I mean, I guess it I did it to myself, but you know I don’t like to take credit for negative things. Really it was just the Saturday of the weekend, when we had a soccer game, the UNT vs. Rice game and then the fall carnival at Zach’s school. Any one or two of those things would have been plenty, but all three spelled disaster for me.

All started fine at the soccer game at 8:30 a.m. My parents were in town for the football game, and as is their tradition, the boys went to spend the night with them at the hotel. Granny Marsh and Papa Wayne are so lucky they are loved so much and to get to share a bed with my wiggly boys. Sooooo lucky.

I had to swing by and get Zach at 7:50 for team photos while everyone else met us at the game. The Walls were there too and I insisted we take a photo of all grandparents. No grandparents were particularly excited, but I have one photo of both my grandmothers with me and one with both my grandfathers and I treasure those photos. To the grand-kids they are all their family and I wanted that photo for my boys.

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My mother noted that the entire neighborhood must be at the soccer game and she is basically right. Liv found someone from their neighborhood (of course) and I saw three of my friends who are not even on Zach’s team. The league Zach plays in is huge and people from all over the inner city play in it. Plus, the teams are small with only six kids on each team.

The boys insisted on going back to the hotel with my parents (again, so, so lucky) so Alex and I grabbed a quick breakfast with his parents then headed to the football game.

You all know my love of Rice football games. For real, I love them. My mom had brought the boys matching UNT shirts and small footballs they played with the entire game. We moved seats about four times and everyone is just so happy to be there and relaxed.

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James and my mom are saying “Go Eagles! Go UNT!” –  just getting ready in the parking lot.

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My parents were very pleased to learn about the Roost (where you can drink in the stadium) and even though UNT lost, we had a fun time.

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It is borderline insulting how my boys look just like their father. Rude.

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But that was not the end of our day. James, Alex and I came home early so James could take a nap and I could make cookies for the Sweet Shop at the school carnival. Why yes, I do stay at home and should have made them during the week, thank you for noting that.

I was determined to make these monster cookies I had pinned last year. They looked fairly straight forward and darling. And they were.

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So during the hour and a half before I had to leave to set up, I stood up and made dough, rolled it in powdered sugar, baked it then stuck in the eyes. Then I had to put them in individual bags, of course.

I changed (again) and raced up to the elementary school to help set up Zach’s class booth at the carnival. I sat down around four and waited for Alex, the boys and my parents to get there. The boys immediately went in different directions as there was so much to do!

Zach loved this giant inflatable slide and James went racing through the ones for little kids.

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Around five I was chatting with some of my friends and started feeling bad. Like I might throw up and my stomach was cramping like crazy, bad. They immediately thought I was pregnant (NO) because they had been discussing how hard having three kids is when I bolted off. I assured them there was no way, though I did appreciate their concern.

I tried to drink some water and sit down but it just got worse. Alex finally told me that I looked like I felt sick and should go home. You guys, I was concerned I was not going to make it home. But I did and started pounding water. I have not felt that bad since I had the flu. While I was laying shivering on the couch I counted how much I had to drink that day. The entire day I had: one coffee, two diet coke, one beer and one bottle of water. From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Factor in a lot of standing and sweating it was no wonder my body wanted to shut down.

Luckily, I had Alex and my parents who didn’t even miss a beat. Alex and the boys stayed at the carnival for a while longer, getting to do all they wanted and my parents went and got food for the boys. They came and picked them up to head to the hotel (again, so, so, lucky) all while I laid on the couch drinking as much water as I could handle. By 7:00 I was feeling close to normal and starving. I took that as a good sign.

But I was so bummed to miss the rest of the carnival. I really was. I love those things. Apparently there was an obstacle course and the cake walk. Plus someone was dressed as Frankenstein in the principal’s office who would walk around once in a while.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson and will do better next year. But I am a slow learner, so it is anyone’s guess.

What the Walls ate

Haven’t you been wondering what in the world I made for dinner this week? Well, lucky you (not you Darren), I am here to tell you. One of my friends and readers Jen, also seen here, asked if I would put some meal planning suggestions on the blog. I have been thinking about it ever since. This was months ago. Months. There are so many great bloggers who meal plan, like her and her, I struggled with what I really had to offer. Then I told myself to calm down, she literally just means, what did you eat and will my kids eat it. Because that is the question of every mother, everywhere.

I try to casually meal plan each week. What I mean by that is that I don’t clip coupons, because I can’t remember to bring them, and I don’t read circulars, because they confuse me. And yes, you should totally be taking my smart advice.

I like to look through my cookbooks and my dinner and kid friendly Pinterest boards to see what I feel like cooking this week. I am much more likely to actually cook, if I am excited about either trying something new, or making something I know my family will eat.

Anyway, on with what the Walls ate!

Monday – Out to dinner downtown with Alex. Well, crap, already blowing my meal plan. Push the fish to Tuesday.

Tuesday – Sauteed Trout with roasted kale for us and Panko-fish sticks and peas from the freezer for the boys.
Trout Recipe:
2 fillets of ruby red or rainbow trout
Tony Chachere’s
Olive Oil
1. Rub the non-skin side with olive oil and sprinkle the Chachere’s on to your liking
2. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan until hot
3. Cook fish, non-skin side down for 3 min then flip
4. You will know when the fish is done (in 2-3 more min) when you jab your spatula in it and it flakes.

Panko-fish sticks
This is my favorite and only fish stick recipe. The boys love it and I have been known to force it on their friends as well. You can use halibut like they say in the recipe (which I never have), cod or snapper. If I can get fish that has not been frozen, I like to make a bunch and flash freeze them for later. Pull them out for dinner, 10 min in the toaster oven and you are set. I obviously don’t make the tartar sauce. Please, that would be a total waste of my time. Not making fish sticks, when Gorton’s make a hell of a fish stick, no. Just the tarter sauce.

Wednesday – Rotisserie chicken, mac and cheese, roasted cauliflower and broccoli. See how fancy I am!

Thursday Black bean and spaghetti squash tacos and roasted brussels sprouts for us and quesadillas and strawberries for the boys. Just when you thought I was normal-ish with the chicken, I threw this at you.

To make the tacos easier for the weeknight, I pre-browned the meat and roasted the spaghetti squash a few days ahead when I was already in the kitchen and the oven was on. They will keep in the fridge, then all I had to do was microwave the beans, meat and squash on Thursday. I used some of the Mexican cheese and corn tortillas from our tacos, combined with Monterrey jack for the quesadillas. Everything gets used and you only slightly feel like a short order cook.

Side note: I roast everything in my toaster oven. I detest turning on the big oven to heat up my entire house. Invest in a good toaster oven (or have your mom do it for you, like I did) and it will be worth it. Everything takes 8-15 minutes in there. You most likely know this and are rolling your eyes even harder at me.

Friday – Make your own pizza. The boys think we are super fancy when I pull out the pizza stone. I buy either the DiGironio (have you had them lately? Delicious!) or the frozen dough in the bread section of the freezer. You can make it, but even I don’t do that. Mainly because I can’t ever remember to let it rise, or whatever else bread is supposed to do.

Pizza
Frozen dough (2 for a family of four, but get two extra)
Classico Fire Roasted Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese (3 packages)
Basil
Garlic Salt
1. Follow the instructions on the dough to cook
2. Top with sauce and cheese
3. You really don’t need these instructions, I am just assuming no one is still reading.

But if you are, let me make it worth your while….Why the extra dough, you are thinking. Well, to make these of course:

Pizza Rolls
Alex and boys approved, and inhaled. Clearly, I have a thing for pizza as this is my second post about making small ones and freezing them. Here is the first, in case you were wondering/trying to forget. I made these while the pizza was cooking and baked them while I was cleaning up. I have to do stuff like this before I sit down. I want to die, but it is worth it to have it all in the freezer and done before 7pm.

I omitted the pepperoni and added a layer of sauce. You will want to make more and will be so happy you have those TWO extra balls of dough to do just that. Plus, you can use up all the cheese and pizza sauce and feel super proud of yourself. No? Just me?

Cook the delicious mounds of bread, cheese and sauce, flash freeze them and then pop them into a lunch box. Mom of the year. I am certain they will make children forget about all the yelling this summer has brought.

No? Just me? Liars…

Don’t be scared by these tacos

Because they are delicious. These black bean and spaghetti squash tacos are from my favorite blogger, turned cookbook author, Smitten Kitchen and are so, so good.

Alex and I are back on the paleo kick and these basically fit the bill. I added ground beef to make it “a meal” for Alex, but they would be just as good without. They sound super weird and off-putting, but the spaghetti squash acts, sort of like the lettuce/peppers on a fajita and all the seasonings make it very flavorful. Why do I ever doubt Deb??

Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen cookbook
Makes enough for sixteen 6-inch tacos

3 pounds spaghetti squash (either one large or 2 small) – You don’t want to go any larger than 3 pounds because there won’t be enough seasoning to flavor your squash mixture, but feel free to go smaller
1 lb ground beef (you will not need it all for the tacos)
2 tablespoons (about 1 lime) freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained very well
roughly 1/4 cup finely diced red or white onion – only used for garnish, add as you like
crumbled queso fresco or Cotija cheese – both are so similar in taste and texture that it doesn’t really matter which one you use
fresh cilantro leaves
10-16 6-inch soft corn tortillas

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prep and cook up your spaghetti squash. Rinse your squash, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, throw about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each half, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place both halves face down on a rimmed baking sheet. 
  2. Roast the squash halves in the pre-heated oven until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 25-40 minutes, or longer depending on the squash. Remove from the oven and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. 
  3. While the squash is cooking, brown the ground beef. I added the same seasoning for the squash (see step 4). 
  4. Prep your squash ingredients. In a small bowl mix together the 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Add the 2 tablespoons of lime juice to the bowl and whisk to combine.set aside. 
  5. Dice up your red onion, wash up the cilantro and trim off the bottom stems, rinse and drain your black beans and throw your cheese into a bowl. 
  6. When the squash is finished cooking, let it cool for a few minutes so its easier to handle. Working over a large bowl, gently scrape out the flesh with a fork. 
  7. Pour the chili and lime mixture over the squash strands and toss well to combine. You will notice that the color of the squash will change from a golden-yellow to an orange color.
  8. You can heat up your tortillas at any time, either while your squash is cooking, cooling or after it’s been mixed together with the spices. 
  9. Then just assemble your tacos. Sprinkle each tortilla with a layer of black beans, squash, cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!

I had left over black bean/ground beef mixture and squash. I frozen them separately and then reheated later. Such an easy and healthy meal.

For the extras

Last week was the boys final week of school. James is out of the twos program and Zach is out of the school, headed to kindergarten in the fall. I am currently in complete denial about it, which is preferable to the mini-panic attack I was contemplating. Three months, people.Three months exactly until they have school again. Terrifying.

Last week I was all sorts of crazy after getting back from a wedding in St. Louis on Monday, pre-K graduation Thursday, then rolling right into Alex’s birthday Saturday. I had previously set up the teacher’s gifts, so I was ready for that. But what about those extra people, you know, the directors, art/music teacher, etc? I didn’t want to phone it with a Starbucks card (because I did that for Christmas, let’s be clear, I am not above it.) but I was tired. I really didn’t want to get too crafty.

As if, that was possible. I was purchasing the Target gift card for the teachers when I spotted these 8GB zip drives in the check out aisle for 5.99. Surely I could come up with a clever saying for that, right? I feel everyone can use a zip drive. I seem to always loose them and for 5.99, they seemed perfect.

It took me a while, but I landed on the phrase, “Hope we didn’t drive you too crazy this year”. Because you all know I am a handful.

In case you could use this as well, I set up a PDF file. Just cut out the gray rectangle and you are ready to go!