christmas gifts and favors

Suburban Soiree

Teacher Gift Ideas... They Actually Want

Christmas, Tuesday TreatsAmy WileyComment

I love many teachers and many of them are also close friends. A reader reached out and asked for teacher gift ideas and I was happy to share. I am passionate about doing my best to bless teachers.

I’m always quizzing my teacher friends about what they want… and what they don’t want. Bottom line… they love gift cards and useful things! You can still be creative and make it pretty, but practical is the way to go. Teachers don’t need another coffee mug or clever sign. I know many also would rather not receive home-baked items for a number of reasons. With all that in mind… here are my go-to teacher gifts.

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Fancy Markers and Pens

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Teachers have a deep appreciation for good pens and markers. This is an affordable, functional gift any time of year! I like to give these pens and these markers. A fresh package full of fun colors is such a treat.

A Little Chocolate and a Gift Card

Gift cards paired with chocolate are another one of my go-to gifts. I love these little boxes of caramels from Trader Joe’s with a convenient slot for the gift card.

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My other favorite I’ve given dozens of times over the years is a bag of Ghiradelli chocolate caramel squares. This is my favorite variety, but there are so many to choose from. I use a hole puncher to put two holes at the top of the bag, then thread ribbon through and tie a bow. You can give as-is or step it up by adding a gift card to Starbucks or Amazon. I like to use glue dots to attach them.

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Personalized Notepad

The next idea came from a wise teacher friend of mine. These notepads come in sets of 8. You can put a different name on each one and give them to all the teachers on your list! This is a lovely gift and it comes out to under $4 per notepad. I like to wrap them in a cello bag and you can easily add a gift card to the mix if you like.

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Money Tree

I did this several years ago for a class gift to our preschool teacher. Everyone donated money and we presented it as a money tree. You can find tiny live Christmas trees this time of year just about anywhere, or use one like this so it will last forever. I thought this little flocked tree was darling. Simply tie paper money with twine or ribbon all over the tree. Who wouldn’t love this?! I used dollar bills I had on hand for this example but of course you could go bigger… especially if it’s a group gift.

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It’s a great time of year to bless the teachers who do so much. Happy gifting!

Movie Night: Elf Pets: Santa's St. Bernards Save Christmas

Christmas, Movie NightAmy WileyComment

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We are in pretty deep with the Elf on the Shelf with my daughter these days, so I decided to get the new movie, Elf Pets: Santa’s St. Bernards Save Christmas. I am pleased to tell you that we were pleasantly surprised and delighted by this little movie! Of course we needed an Elf Pet and book too.

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We usually watch An Elf’s Story to celebrate the arrival of our elves, Percy and Snowflake, but we enjoyed switching it up. The new movie focuses on kindness and Christmas spirit. It offers a lovely message to kids this time of year.

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When Pottery Barn Kids had an Elf on the Shelf collection a couple of years ago, I got these plates. It’s so fun to set our table for the first Christmas movie night of the year!

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The plates make me smile every time.

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I highly recommend this one. It’s sweet, thoughtful, not too long, and appropriate for little ones. My kids named the dog “Peppermint” and my daughter sleeps with it every night.

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For dinner, we grilled steaks and finished up the rest of our Thanksgiving leftovers as sides. Dessert was the amazing Blue Bell Christmas Cookie ice cream. It’s sooo good!

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Here’s to a season of Christmas movies, elf shenanigans, kindness, and Christmas spirit!

Be a Gracious Holiday Guest: How to Get Invited Back Next Year

Hosting, Christmas, ThanksgivingAmy WileyComment
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Note: This post contains affiliate links.

I absolutely love checking the mail each day (I really do), but this time of year is the BEST.  That's when Christmas cards fill the mailbox along with invitations to celebrate the season.  Now that the parties are starting to fill our calendars, it's a good time to brush up on how to be a good guest.   I've hosted events at my home for anywhere from 3 to 100 people... am I'm here to offer my advice on how to be the ultimate party guest from a host's perspective.

R.S.V.P.

This is the most obvious one on the list, but I couldn't leave it out.  Do your best to respond early and stick with that response.  As a host, it's much more fun to hear from people who eagerly accept right when the invitation arrives than to get, "oh by the way I'll be there tomorrow" or "ya, we're not going to make it" at the last minute.  Sure, things can always come up, but a gracious guest enthusiastically responds at the first opportunity.

Get Excited

When you show up, be excited to be there.  Pretend if you have to... or pound an espresso on the way over if you're tired.  Ha!  As a host, it's always nice to have guests who are eager to participate in whatever is planned.  A dumb party game?  Jump in and have fun with it.  Singing cheesy Christmas carols?  Belt them out as loud as you can.  A girls' party with a craft and you're not the most crafty?  Do your best and just enjoy it.  Hosts who put thought into activities love guests who are excited to participate.  So, don't be too cool or too awkward to be a part of the fun.

Bring a Hostess Gift

Now, I never expect a guest to bring me anything.  However, I love to bring hostess gifts wherever I go.  Who doesn't love a little treat?  Especially after doing all the work to throw a party.  My hostess gifts are always inexpensive, but wrapped and presented in a festive way.  Here are some ideas from my absolute favorite place to shop for these, sure to make you the favorite guest.

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TEA TOWEL // PLATTER // SPRINKLE OREOS // CUPS // BOOK

Don’t forget to add a gift tag or card so that the host knows who it's from.  Hostess gifts are often piled on a side table and left until the end of the night.  Your host will want to know who was so thoughtful.

Timing is Everything

Be on time.  It's okay to be fashionably late, but don't push it... and for the love of tinsel don't be early!  At the end of the party, if pretty much everyone has departed, you should take the cue and make your exit too.  Don't linger too long.

Eat the Food

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This sounds silly, but have you ever spent hours getting food ready, timing it perfectly so it's hot right as guests arrive, but then had to spend half an hour convincing your guests to grab a plate?  Don't be shy.  Jump in and enjoy what your host has cooked up (or catered) because it's for you!

Mix and Mingle

The hostess can't talk to everyone at once.  It always makes me so happy to see guests introduce themselves to one another and start conversations.  I love how Lysa Tekeurest's book Uninvited talks about using social settings as opportunities to look for those who are on the outskirts, sitting alone, and make them feel included.  Instead of wondering who is going to talk to you, look around and see who needs a friend.  It's always a good idea to come with a few funny stories (funny, not complaints about some "terrible" thing that happened to you) in your back pocket to use as conversation starters.

Do a Clean Sweep

I also would NEVER ask my guests to clean anything.  In fact, if I do spot a guest cleaning up I tell them to stop.  BUT, to my point above, if you're feeling awkward or don't know who to talk to, find something to do.  Take a stack of plates to the kitchen.   Pass out cake.  Go around and see who needs more coffee.  It's a great way to busy yourself if group settings aren't your favorite and it helps the host.  Have you ever had a bunch of kids over and when they leave you realized someone picked up all the toys in the playroom?  It's as refreshing as a day at the spa.  

Dress to Impress

My theory is that it's always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.  A guest who shows up looking their best is excited to be there.  (See above.)  In the past, we've thrown big Christmas parties and noted "festive attire" on the invitations.  Guests who show up in a sparkly dress, crazy Christmas sweater, or wearing a Santa hat are my favorite.  I shared some of my favorite finds for Christmas parties here. Never miss an opportunity to dress up.  Even if it's a casual get-together, look your best.

Follow Up

The next day, or even on your way home, let your host know how much you enjoyed the party.  A handwritten thank-you note is always appreciated.  You could also text a few party photos and say, "thank you for having me!”

Follow these tips you're sure to be on the guest list for years to come!