gift

A grazing platter gift

A group gift can be so much easier than organising multiple individual gifts, especially if you don’t know the recipients that well. And it’s probably cheaper, too!

Today’s post is by Kate Moar, telling us about her lovely gift idea for a group (teachers, child carers, and so on).

A gift idea

Like most of us, I am very rushed and busy at the moment so I wanted to find a gift to give the office staff and support teachers at my boys’ school that was as simple as possible.

My sister had the idea of a grazing dessert platter in Christmassy colours, and I loved it..

Putting it together

It is done on a large wooden cheese board  – I got one from Kmart for $15. I shopped at various supermarkets and ended up spending  $71 – this filled two cheese boards with all the items so it worked out to be $35.50 per platter.

The platter is made from

  • Lindt balls
  • mint slice
  • cherry ripe slice
  • little pecan tarts
  • green licorice straps
  • red frogs
  • strawberry and cream lollies
  • strawberries
  • grapes
  • cherries
  • Christmas tree biscuits (I found this in Aldi or you could make your own!)
  • fruit cake
  • Maltesers
  • gingerbread stars
  • Darrel lea mint balls
  • Tim Tam bites
  • Ferrero Rochers
  • Raffaellos

Beautiful platter of food as Christmas gift

It looked really good.

It took less than 10 mins to put together and the teachers LOVED it!!!! So I achieved both goals of showing my appreciation for the teachers and not taking a lot of my time!

I took the other platter to a party last night and it was a hit too! I loved that I didn’t have to rush home and cook before going out, and it didn’t need refrigerating at the party either.

The board from the party came home, but I am happy to have made the board part of the gift so the staff room now has a chopping board or serving board the staff can use. A gift for immediate pleasure and longer term use as well!

I will definitely be doing them again next year!

Day sixteen in the Christmas countdown!

After a busy day on the Santa train, the kids were tired but happy to open the 16th flap of their advent calendars…

Ornament calendar

Back to fitting pieces together, for day sixteen the press out advent calendar provided a blue gift box above an image of Merrit the Elf carrying many gifts to Santa’s sleigh.

Elf carrying tall pile of gifts

Lego City

A simple little cupcake trolley was behind flap 16 in the Lego City Advent Calendar.

Lego cake trolley

Lego Friends

Hanging on the tree, this Lego Friends ornament is quiet cute, but it was one of the hardest Lego constructions we’ve come across. It looked like one circular piece was attached to multiple hinges and the other circular piece was floating above it – there was no obvious way to attach it. Eventually, we realised that the white space it was floating above was actually a white Lego cylinder! From that point, assembling the cupcake was easy!

Lego cupcake Christmas ornament

Christmas book

There was an old bloke who swallowed a present will amuse us tonight as we continue our “Christmas book a night” advent activity!

make gifts from memories

Giving gifts of meaning is always appreciated, and it makes me feel good to do it, too.

A $5 notepad bought because I’d love the picture is a much nicer gift than a $20 impersonal gift voucher in my eyes.

And home-made gifts show love and care as well, so why not make a meaningful gift for someone this Christmas?

Creating memory gifts

I’ve thought of a few ways to collate some memories to share as gifts…

  • frame a collection of old kitchen or workshops gadgets – or a photo of them!  Use a deep frame or a shadow box (best for reducing dust collection!) or skip the glass front and attach items onto the backboard of a frame.  It’s a great use of old things not used much but too treasured to throw away.
  • put a collection of treasured items inside a glass topped table

    Trinkets on display in a coffee table

    Display table {image courtesy of HousingWorksThriftShops (Flick’r)}

  • make a picture out of special cards or tickets – put a few on an interesting background (try scrapbooking paper for inspiration) or overlap a lot of items.
  • put some special photos into ornaments that hang on the Christmas tree
  • laminate a special or funny photo and put it into a clear containers to fill with soap  as a personal addition to a bathroom or kitchen
  • stick photos/collage onto kitchen canisters – it’s a very personalised kitchen, reuses old canisters and displays special memories in a creative way
  • use old mirrors (especially those hand held ones that could be a reminder of a grandmother or childhood) as alternative photo frames
  • make a picture or a collage of old house and car keys – a great  trip down memory lane! Alternatively, make them into a mobile or windchime.

    Display of old keys

    Mount some old keys to remember their secrets! {Image courtesy of TakiSteve (Flick’r)}

  • use an old window frame from a family home to create a shadow box or picture frame so the frame and the contents bring warmth and happiness
  • turn old wooden items into Christmas decorations
  • make a wreath (of Christmas or perhaps to hang outdoors all year round) out of old tools, garden implements or kitchen gadgets
  • make a patchwork quilt or throw rug out of some favourite fabric items like
    • baby clothes and blankets when the youngest child grows out of them
    • old tablecloths, runners and doyleys from your grandparents
    • a few favourite dresses or t-shirts

      colourful patchwork couch

      Is this a colour statement or a collection of memories? {image courtesy of Maleva Apaixonada (flick’r)}

    • tea-towels from various places you’ve visited
  • make a hanging rack by sticking objects on a length of wood – you can use cutlery and kitchen tools bent to shape, handles from various tools, door knobs, Lego or wooden blocks, and all sorts of things
  • use some old lace and some glue to create a lamp cover or even a decorative bowl

    Two bowls made form lace doilys and glue

    Two bowls made from lace and undiluted glue {image courtesy of Christine Majul (Flick’r)}

  • make a snow dome using a laminated photo or some small items, like a toy car, animal or person

Of course, the hard part may be giving up your work when it’s time to hand it over!

Have you ever been given a gift based on memories and treasured items?

 

* All Flick’r images are used under the creative commons licence.

Foam Christmas decorations

My children have made Christmas decorations for the boys in their classes this year, having already made hair ties for the girls.

child-made decorations in Christmas card envelopes

Foam decorations made by my children for their classmates

We used a craft kit of foam decorations which they decorated and popped into an envelope with a Christmas card.

The kids loved colouring in the ornaments, to the point that my son even coloured along the edges of some!

children working on foam ornaments

My children enjoyed making these ornaments (excuse the marked table they were working on!)

Foam decoration kit

The kids were excited and got into the decorating before I got photos taken so I only have shots of the kit in part!

foam Christmas ornament craft kit

Foam ornament kit from Art Star

The kit made things very simple and the kids enjoyed making the decorations.

The kit contains 12 foam Christmas ornaments (three each of four designs), lengths of golden string, four small textas and some glitter glue. The packet states ’embellishments included’ and there were two tubes of glue so I thought there was something else to glue onto the ornaments – it took a little while to understand it was glitter glue and that was classed as an embellishment.

The biggest issue with the kit is the size of the textas – they were cute being so small but didn’t last well enough for my kids thoroughly colouring in the ornaments and writing messages on the back. In particular, my kids used a lot of red (on Santa’s suit and other decorations) so ended up using their own textas and pens.

But you could certainly use the kit for a quick Christmas activity or as gifts like my children have done.

Christmas stars – a fun craft activity

My daughter and I made some Christmas stars for her to give as gifts to her kinder friends last year – like for my son, I wanted something other than candy canes and it is so much nicer to make something.

Making Christmas stars

I was inspired for these stars by Crafty morning’s snowflake ornaments. I prefer to make stars rather than snowflakes don’t mean Christmas to Aussie kids – and I think mine look more like stars anyway!Materials for making bud stars

Materials

cotton buds
coloured cardboard
glue
glitter
ribbon or similar for hanging
scissors and hole punch

How to make the Christmas stars

cut cotton buds into two pieces – uneven sizes is the aim so don’t worry about making them equal or matching sizes!

Cotton buds cut into pieces

Add glue to a piece of cotton bud – I found the easiest way for my daughter was to have a blob of glue on a plate and put the pieces in the glue.

Child putting pieces of cotton buds into glue

Stick 5 or 6 pieces onto cardboard with the cut ends together and the other ends spreading out to for a star shape.

child sticking buds onto cardboard

Spread some glue roughly between the cotton bud pieces – close to the centre, reaching out to different lengths.

Glue between cotton bud peices stuck on cardboard in star shape

Sprinkle some glitter over the star.

Glittery cotton bud stars

This stage needs adult supervision or assistance for younger children. Cut out the cardboard around the stars – it is easier to cut roughly around each star and then neatening it up. Rounded edges look nicer, I think, but sharp corners could be effective, too.

pile of cut out cotton bud stars

Then simply put a hole in the cardboard of each star, thread through some ribbon or twine and you’re done! I made a little loop of the ribbon so it would be easy for the kid to hang the stars on a tree, and it also made it easy to hang a number of stars on a length of ribbon at home, too.

cotton bu stars hanging in a row

The stars are small and light enough that my daughter could pop them into an envelope with a Christmas card to hand out to her friends.

Child putting a cotton bud star and Crhsitmas card into an envelope

Scented sachets

kids filling fabric bags with scented leaves

It took concentration but the kids loved filling the bags for their Grandparents’ Christmas gifts.

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually get my kids to make presents for their grandparents each Christmas. It can be difficult finding things to make as I want it to be something the grandparents can keep and enjoy rather than just a scrap of paper with a scribble on it, and ideally it will be something at least a little bit useful!

So one year they made scented sachets as gifts.

Steps to scented sachets…

  1. I pulled out various bits of material I already had and let each child choose fabric to use.
  2. For the chosen fabrics, I cut a rectangle of about 18cm x 5cm# and used a sewing machine to create them into bags* – some with a lace trim
  3. we then walked around the garden together, collecting stuffing for the bags – we used home grown lavender, gum leaves, native mint leaves and miscellaneous leaves. Yes, you’d probably get better long term results from dried plant matter but I wanted the kids to be involved in the whole process and didn’t mind if these sachets didn’t last more than a few months.
  4. the children then had a lovely time filling their bags with the scented plant material
  5. I hand stitched the opening of the bags
  6. The kids lovingly wrapped their gifts and put them under the Christmas tree.

For older children, you could get them more involved in making the bags, too.

 

# Some I cut in 10cm x 9 cm pieces if that fitted my material better

* To make the bags, simply fold the fabric in half with the right sides touching and sew along most of the open edges, leaving a small opening to add the filling. To trim with lace, simply pin the lace between the two pieces of fabric (so the pretty part is hidden from view as you pin and sew) and sew as per the plain bags.

Tiny Christmas pudding gifts ~ recipe

I’ve been busy so left it a little late to plan the gifts for prep/kinder teachers the children wanted to make. So I looked back through the Love Santa recipes and found Anna’s tiny Christmas puddings 🙂

These will be easy enough to make quickly, I figured, and the kids could be involved in every step – and enjoy the final decorating phase. So this is what our final gifts to the kinder teachers looked like:

Tiny Christmas puddings ready to be wrapped in celophane

Tiny Christmas puddings ready to be wrapped in cellophane

Making tiny Christmas puds

And this is what we did to make them…

I bought a fruit cake from the supermarket that we have enjoyed many times – it’s just a homebrand cake but it is moist and not too heavy. I’m not a huge fan of the dark traditional Christmas cakes as I find them too heavy and dry, but you could certainly use one if you, like my husband, do like them.

Ingredients

Prepared fruit cake – bought or home made!
yoghurt
icing sugar
red & green jelly babies
red & green smarties

Quantities will depend on how many puddings you want to make 🙂 I used about half a cup of icing sugar and 1.5 tablespoons of yoghurt and most of a purchased 1 kg fruit cake.

Small packets of jelly babies and/or smarties should be enough as long as there is enough red and green ones in there!

Instructions…

Cut the cake – slice off about 3cm piece

Slice cut off a fruit cake

Slice off a generous piece of cake

Cut the slice into smaller pieces. Roll each piece into a ball – actually, you’ll need to form the shape as it will fall apart if you try rolling it.

Fruit cake shaped into small balls

Not very glamourous at this stage – balls of fruit cake

Put the cake balls into the fridge for a while – I left them there overnight. This helps them firm up a little so they are easier to work with.

As the balls were fiddlier and less stable than I expected, I also tried do big pieces to effectively make small cakes for my son’s teachers. These were also easier for little fingers to decorate (and quicker to prepare!).

Small Christmas cakes, decorated and gift wrapped

Small Christmas cakes, decorated and gift wrapped

Slice up the jelly babies – making small red circles and long, thin green strips. Cut the green smarties in half.

red and green smarties and jelly babies on a plate

Whole or sliced, jelly babies and smarties are colourful

Mix the yoghurt and icing sugar to a reasonably thick mixture.

Spoon some icing over the cake balls.

Decorate the tiny puddings with the red and green lollies. I created a holly effect but my son just had fun making the cakes colourful!

Child's hand decorating small Christmas cakes

My son enjoyed adding lots of colour to the small Christmas cakes!

Santa receives a gift

Little girl  offering a gift to Santa

Offering a special picture to Santa

Last night, we attended a Christmas picnic at my daughter’s kinder. It was a lovely night and we had a special visitor towards the end of the evening.

As my daughter had known that Santa was visiting the picnic, she created a gift for him in the afternoon. The gift being a drawing on a piece of cardboard.

Seeing Santa

When Santa arrived, not surprisingly, lots of children ran over to him.

The band was playing ‘Santa is coming to town’ and the children were happily looking at their Christmas  hero.

Each child was given an icy pole by Santa, and Santa moved around to greet other children and chat to some adults.

My daughter had her icy pole in hand then grabbed her gift and followed Santa, trying to get his attention. Reaching out her gift, she was able to give it to him.

Santa’s response

Santa was surprised to be given a gift, thanked her warmly and leant down to kiss her cheek.

For the rest of Santa’s visit, her cardboard gift was in his hand. He also carried it up the street when he left, as witnessed by a friend 🙂

Snata holding bells and a cardboard gift

Santa waving bells and holding a child’s gift

My very excited daughter has since described Santa’s beard as being like ‘sheep’s fluff’ – soft and cuddly.

Gifts for Santa

My children often talk about giving something to Santa, and have left gifts for him on a number of Christmas Eves. However, it is the first time a gift has been physically handed to Santa.

It was a lovely memory for us and a special way for her to finish kinder – thanks Santa 🙂

Have you or your children ever given a gift to Santa?

Simple Christmas gift

small black magents with varius Christmas themed stickers

Plain magnets and stickers – an easy and cheap material list!

To solve the issue of what my son could give to his classmates for Christmas, we decided on a card and small gift for everyone rather than trying to choose who to give a personal present to.

 

Christmas magnets

I found some magnets and Christmas stickers so our gift idea was found!

Foam Christmas stickers and plain black magnets

Foam stickers give a better result than flat stickers, I think. They are bigger and will look better on the fridge!

If you manage to get stickers and magnets exactly the same size, then all you have to do is stick on the stickers! However, the odds are you won’t be quite so lucky.

Creating Christmas magnets

If the sticker is bigger tan the magnet, you can just take off the backing paper and attach the magnet. It will look great from the front and back but (and this is a big but!) the exposed glue surface will attract dirt and dust and soon will become messy.

CHristmas stickers with magnets attached, one with backing paper and one without backing paper

The red surface of the left Christmas magnet is sticky and will soon be messy – the Christmas tree will stay nicer.

The sticky surface will also make it difficult to put the Christmas magnet into an envelope or gift wrapping.

I traced around the magnet on the back of the sticker and then scored the outline. I actually prepared a pile of them before my son got involved, but older children could possibly score the paper themselves.

stickers with the backing paper scored around a magnet's outline

Trace around a magnet with the blade of a craft knife or pair of scissors

It was then easy for my son to peel off just that bit of backing paper and attach the magnet, leaving the rest of the backing paper in place.

Child's fingers peeling off backing paper then atatching a magnet to a sticker

Peeling off the relevant bit of backing paper and attaching the magnet was managed by four and six year olds.

That’s it – no drying time or finishing touches needed! And because they are small and light, it’s easy to just pop them into an envelope with a Christmas card and you’re done. In half a day, my son had a gift and card done for all his classmates (and writing the cards was definitely the most time consuming task!)

 

an array of Christmas magnets and a child's hand

My son proudly laid out his completed Christmas magnets

Safety for children

child sitting on a tree branch

Climbing a tree is an acceptable and healthy risk, but not everything children want is safe enough

Whether it is from advertising or simple interest, kids will ask for all sorts of things for Christmas (and birthday) gifts.

There may be many reasons to decide against a particular item for you child (price, values, practicality, appropriateness, and so on) but one I have been reminded of this week is safety.

Considering safety of a gift request

This week, a mother contacted us about not wanting mention of a mermaid tail in her daughters’ Love Santa letter as she had decided it was not appropriate for her daughters.

I know very little about mermaid tails so I am not saying they are or are not dangerous.

But the point is valid.

If you don’t think your child’s gift request is safe or appropriate, then that is your decision and the child should not get that gift.

Choosing what is safe

At one level, safety depends on the specific child. That is, the child’s age, personality and physical abilities will impact on what is suitable for that child, and that takes someone who knows the child to make that decision.

Certain things are clearly not safe and thus easy to decide against – like small Lego pieces for a baby or guns for any child, for example.

Whereas other things may be less clear. So to decide if something is safe enough to give to your child (or the child in your life), here are some suggestions:

  1.  do some research online – if you know little about the item, it is hard to judge it so find out what it is, what’s it made of and so on.
  2. look at the age group it is suggested for
  3. find out what other people think of the item and what experiences they have had with it – ask parents you know but also look for some online reviews. Even if you disagree with a review, it may give you some questions to ask or information about the item’s features.
  4. think about whether you would have used and enjoyed it when you were that age – this can help you view your child as a person rather than as your ‘baby’ who needs to be protected
  5. If you can, go and touch and try the item. Does it feel sturdy or likely to fall apart? Will it put the child high above the ground or travelling fast? Does the packaging and instructions promote dangerous activities?

Saying no to the child

If you decide a gift is not safe, what do you tell the child?

I think it helps if you don’t promise anything so you don’t have to back track 🙂

Beyond that, I tell my children that I don’t like a potential gift and give them a reason. I may simplify it to suit their knowledge, but I let them know to maintain their trust and get them thinking . It also means that I have already set the expectation that I won’t get it later nor allow them to buy it themselves a few months later.

How do you tell your children you have decided against them having something they would like?

Love Santa letters

Just to compete the above story about mermaid tails…

Santa understands safety and works hard to never give children toys or gifts that are not safe. And when Santa writes to children he never promises any particular gift will be given because he knows things may change between writing the letter and Christmas Eve.

As each Love Santa letter is individually adjusted, it was not difficult to remove any mention of the mermaid tails for the girls mentioned above, keeping everyone happy and safe.

Stepping stones

stepping stones- i remember when i was a little girl i made unique stepping stones for my grand parents. Dad poured the cemet in to a frame him and mum made and my older sis and i put pebbles and stuff on top. I still some times see it at my grandmums house on her wonky path!

Christmas banana cake – to eat or gift!

As much as my family loves bananas, we seem to get soft black bananas sitting in the fruit bowl way too often. So a good banana cake recipe is a must!

This recipe is a mix of some other recipes with my own Christmassy touches.

Banana cakes wrapped as Christmas gifts

Simple but effective presentation of a yummy Christmas gift!

It takes a while to cook but is moist and yummy, and suitable for making into gifts, serving for Santa or simply eating!

Making it as small loaves and wrapping it in red and/or green cellophane is a nice gift idea for hostesses, teachers, leaders and others you want to say thanks to. You can also make it as muffins and roughly half the cooking time, but I don’t think muffins look quite as nice as a gift.

Love Santa’s Christmas Banana Cake Recipe

3 eggs
5 large bananas – the riper the better!
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
2 cups white self-raising flour
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1.5 cups raw sugar (I use 1 cup smart raw sugar to reduce the GI)
0.5 teaspoon of nutmeg
1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 cup cherries (I use jarred cherries but you could use a tin) – cut in halves
4 tablespoons cherry juice (from the jar! Otherwise use cranberry or orange juice)

Preparing a Christmas banana cake

My son loves making sure the mixture is evenly spread out in the pan!

Beat the eggs together

Add the bananas – many recipes will tell you to add the mashed bananas but to save myself washing an extra dish and because the kids find it fun this way, I put pieces of banana in with the egg and mash in that bowl.

Mix in the oil and juice.

Add flours, spices and sugar and make sure everything is well mixed.

Stir in the fruit and nuts

Pour into your greased cooking pan(s).

Cook for about an hour at 160°C

Cool on a tray and voila!

 

Christmas banana cake

Moist cherry pieces add a nice surprise to this Christmas banana cake.

 A couple of notes…

You can use any nuts you like – 3/4 cup chopped nuts of any type will work. I just happened on the almond/pecan mix because it’s all I had in the cupboard one day when I made this cake! Pistachios could be an interesting alternative I think – or chestnuts may add an authentic Christmas taste for people in the Northern hemisphere!

If you don’t have wholemeal self-raising flour, you can use white. I prefer to use a mixture because it is healthier to have wholemeal but gets too heavy if you didn’t use some white flour.

If cooking with young kids, I strongly suggest chopping the nuts and cherries before you call them into the kitchen – they get bored if they have to wait!

Share your Christmas story
Instagram