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Purim is coming too fast!

Last year I started preparing for Purim early and really worked hard not to leave everything to the last-minute. I was so happy not to be finishing my boys’ costumes right before the sueda! However, this year, with my new job, it has been hard to get started early. Now I am down to one week before Purim and so much to do: costumes to make, shaloch manos to assemble, and food to cook. Luckily we are not hosting a sueda, so that is one less large task.

Thankfully all of my past research and checklists will help me get through it all. Here is my Purim checklist that you can adapt for your needs: Purim prep.

We did our shopping today for our shaloch manos supplies (thank you Costco) and spent the afternoon making shaloch manos as part of a charity project we have done for the past 16 years. Now my goal is to get supplies for my kids’ costumes. I always have luck finding ideas at Family Fun or Parenting magazines’ websites, so I will check there again. Here are a few links to check out:

Here are my kids from last year — my oldest as a knight and my little ones as superheroes.

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If you are like me and are behind in your Purim preparations, here are a few of my older posts to help you:

 

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Shop those Easter sales today!

Easter Eggs Plastic Colors

Even though it is Passover (Pesach), there are advantages to shopping at the post-Easter sales today! Here are some ideas for things to buy:

Baskets and filler – If you find some that don’t look too Eastery, you might buy several to use next Purim for shaloch manos containers.

Plastic eggs – If you are a teacher or a homeschooler, you can use these plastic eggs for teaching dinosaurs (they are fun for hiding around the room or for burying in the sand table with little plastic dinosaurs inside) or as containers for fun prizes at school or camps.

Stickers – Great for reward charts or art projects for parents and teachers.

Bunny ears – My kids love these for pretend play. They might also come in handy for a costume sometime.

Girls’ dresses – There are tons of great spring dresses out now. Even the non-tznius (non-modest) ones can be paired with a long-sleeved or 3/4-length shell. Take advantage of the sales!

Spring cookie cutters – Look for fun spring shapes in pastel colors. Great for your next homemade cookie-making session!

For those of you who are not Jewish or who do not keep Passover:

Baking items – They might have colored sprinkles or bunnies on them, but who cares! Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. still taste the same and why not enjoy the discount.

Candy – Stock up on your favorite Easter candy at big discounts.

Happy shopping!

For more ideas on what to buy at this time of year, check out my post “April is the time to buy…”

 

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Purim wrap-up

Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, drinks and ot...

I know it is almost Shabbos and we are already thinking about the weekend and Pesach, but before we move on, we need to wrap up Purim. This is a good time to make notes and reflect on what went well and didn’t go well this holiday.

Remember that Purim checklist I gave you in my post “Purim costumes and preparations,” well get it out and make some notes. Here are some suggestions:

Overall preparations:
∞ Were you doing things last-minute? How many days would you ideally have liked to start getting ready? Mark this down for next year.

Shaloch Manos:
∞ Did you forget anyone on your shaloch manos list that you want to add for next year? Make a note on your list (or as I do, a column on my Excel address book).

Costumes and Shaloch Manos:
∞ Any ideas you liked that you might want to use for next year – either costumes or shaloch manos (foods and containers)?

Sueda:
∞ Any notes about the sueda (either preparation, decorations, guest list, etc.) that you want to remember for next year? If you went out, anything you forgot to bring with you?

Put these notes into your typed form and reprint it. File it in your holiday binder and you are all set for next year!

Stay tuned — over the weekend I plan to post all the great shaloch manos we received this year (that will be good inspiration for next year).

 
 

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Purim costumes and preparations

Purim is right around the corner and I am really trying not to leave all of my preparations to the last-minute. I always am super organized about what needs to be done, but actually executing it seems to happen too late. Here are some tips to get you on the road to an enjoyable Purim.

Know what needs to be done:

As I talked about in my post “Review: Jewish-Life-Organized.com” I have a checklist for each of the holidays and Shabbos. It helps me remember exactly what needs to be done and I love crossing things off as I accomplish them. It also is a great place to record notes and tips from year to year.

Click here to download my Purim prep list.

Coming up with costume ideas:

Many Halloween costumes are made for winter weather. However, Purim weather can be hit or miss. Sometimes warm, sometimes cold. So I rarely buy pre-made Halloween costumes. They can also be quite expensive. However, if you can borrow or swap with someone else, that is always a great idea. Around Halloween time, you can also check resale shops for some good deals.

Here is a timeline of Purim costumes for my kids over the years.

2006: My oldest son was Elmo. This was his first year dressing up. He had an Elmo shirt that he loved and I paired it with a red long-sleeved shirt and red sweatpants.

2007: Pregnant with my triplets and working in a new job, I was a bit behind on Purim prep, so we borrowed a Tigger costume from my best friend, Lori. My oldest son loved it!

2008: This year I had triplets less than a year old and certainly no time to figure out costumes. My oldest was Buzz Lightyear, also thanks to my friend, Lori, and her endless supply of costumes of all sizes! The little boys wore frog bibs and matching frog jumpers from my Aunt Cathy.

2009: This was the first year I made a costume. I love to do crafts and this year was determined to make something for my oldest son. I took a piece of velvet fabric and used fabric sticky seam to fold in the sides to make it look like a cape. I lined the edges with a gold trim and sewed/glued a clasp onto the neck. He had a matching crown from school and we found a scepter at the party supply store. He added a cheap party necklace. This has become his favorite dress-up costume. The little boys were too young to dress up or go out, so I did not have to come up with a costume for them.

2010: This year I made costumes for all the boys. They decided on tigers. I followed an idea from Family Fun magazine where you decorated a black sweatshirt and sweatpants with duct tape. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart ran out of orange duct tape, so I had one orange tiger and three white tigers.

2011: All the boys had their own ideas for what they wanted to be this year. Which, of course, meant FOUR different costumes. My oldest wanted to be a wizard, and the little boys wanted to be a teddy bear, cat, and dog. Again, I got the ideas from Family Fun Magazine. I cut out spots from felt and safety-pinned them to sweatpants and sweatshirts. Then I made headbands with attached ears made of sticky felt. The little boys still love to wear their animal ear headbands. My oldest also still loves to dress up in his wizard costume.

Another great source for costume ideas is Parenting Magazine. Here are links to Family Fun Magazine’s and Parenting Magazine’s costume ideas.

This year, my oldest wants to be a knight, to continue his medieval interest. I hope that one won’t be too hard! The little boys thankfully want to be superheroes. I already have capes that we bought them for Chanukah, so their’s will hopefully be easy!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Email and online tips, Family ideas, Holidays

 

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Holiday gifts, Part 1 — Store-bought gifts

Chanukah is just around the corner, which means we are all searching for the perfect gift for loved ones. You want to give something that the recipient will like, but won’t become clutter. I like to give personal gifts that match the person’s interests and needs, but sometimes that can also be difficult (and costly).

I have found that having a list of “go-to” gifts is very helpful. I sometimes stock up on these items if I see them on sale, just to have them on hand in case.

Here are some of my favorite gift ideas:

Store-bought gifts for anyone:

∞ Picture frames or other photo gifts

∞ Candles — I like soy candles best because they don’t use harmful chemicals.

∞ Decorative notebooks or journals — In the fall you can get lots of cute notebooks and folders in the school supplies section. Otherwise book stores and stationery stores are great places to find neat journals.

∞ Personalized notecards — Visit sites like Ink Garden or Vista Print.

∞ Picfolio Mini or Picfolio Minutes albums — Visit Creative Memories. If you want to order anything, let me know!

∞ Books — Check to see if your recipient has an Amazon wish list and get them something they have posted.

∞ Favorite hand creams

∞ Cookbook holders — We have been through several of these. They are great to hold up your cookbook and keep it clean. The Container Store currently carries them.
∞ Gift cards to a local kosher restaurant or Amazon.

∞ Magazine subscriptions — Check out Discount Mags, Magazines.com or Amazon.

∞ Family games

Store-bought gifts for kids:

∞ Fisher-Price toys — Great toys for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

∞ Magazines like “Wild Animal Baby,” “My Big Backyard” or “Ranger Rick” from the National Wildlife Fund.

∞ Art supplies

∞ Viewmasters and reels — A great Shabbos toy.

∞ Books of any kind — I especially like to buy Klutz books, leveled books, or sticker books (That way I don’t have to worry as much if the child might already have my selection.)

∞ Pretend play toys and costumes

∞ Games

∞ Kids’ cookbooks or kits

∞ Puzzles — We have gotten some great original and handcrafted puzzles from Heirloom Puzzles.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Family ideas, Holidays, Reviews

 

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Don’t go broke, teachers!

Being a teacher can be costly, because you often spend your own money to get things for your classroom. Here are a few tips I have used over the years as well as some from Scholastic.com:

BOOKS FOR YOUR CLASSROOM:

- Swap books on http://www.paperbackswap.com (see my previous post on “My favorite find – swapping books.” You can create your own wish list and then get books as they become available from other members.

- Also shop at your local children’s resale shop for used books. I have found great chapter books this way.

- Sign up for emails from Scholastic, too, and you will be alerted to their local warehouse sales, where you can snag great deals on professional and kids’ books.

My classroom library (2010-2011)

PROFESSIONAL BOOKS:

- Scholastic.com has a fairly new program on their teacher homepage called Teacher Express. You can get eBook versions of their various teaching books. Several times last year offered 500-600 titles for just $1! My co-teacher and I stocked up on lots of great titles that we use all the time.

- Before buying a professional book directly from the publisher or teacher catalog, be sure to check the price on Amazon. You can often get a new or used one for much cheaper there.

- Take advantage of the numerous teacher websites online that offer free lesson plans and materials.

SUPPLIES:

- I always have my own set of supplies in the room for students to use if they do not have their own, something gets lost, or if I have students from other classes working in my room. They include: file folders, spirals, colored pencils, crayons, markers, glue, glue sticks, a few scissors, and index cards. I can normally get the other items I need from the school office or our beginning of the year supply order. Stock up on these now during the back-to-school sales.

- This is also a good time to get binders and folders for your own files and resources.

- Containers and bins: With students moving into college, now is a good time to get plastic containers or cloth bins that you need to organize your classroom or store things.

My cabinet with games, manipulatives, and centers.

- Use your newsletter to let parents know of any classroom wish list items. Parents are often willing to help out if they know what you specifically need. Last year we were short on playground toys and a generous parent sent in jump ropes and balls. This is also good to do around the holidays and end of the year. It can never hurt to ask!

TEACHER DISCOUNTS:

There are several stores and companies that offer teacher discounts. Check them out:
http://www.officemax.com – Teacher MaxPerks
http://www.officedepot.com – Star Teacher program
http://www.containerstore.com – Organized Teacher program
http://www.verizon.com – teacher discount on your cell phone plan
– OfficeMax, Office Depot and Staples also have special Teacher Appreciation Days before school starts where they give away free stuff and special discounts.

- Show your teacher ID at other stores and ask the manager if they have any extra supplies they would be willing to donate to your school or their own teacher discount program.

REUSE EVERYTHING:

You would be surprised what supplies can be reused in the classroom. Items that I like to save include:
– small boxes and tins
– cardboard
– plastic containers (small and large yogurt containers are good for painting, sorting manipulatives, etc.)
– wire coat hangers (for mobiles)
– tissue paper

OTHER CHEAP SUPPLIES:

- Scrapbook paper: I like to use this to mount things that I plan to laminate and use over and over again like for games or bulletin boards. Wal-Mart has cheap multipacks of scrapbook paper, which won’t fade and is thicker than regular construction paper.

- Tissue paper: I like to buy the large multi-packs from an art supply store or Wal-Mart (if they have a good craft section) to keep on hand for various art projects.

- Foam stickers: Look for these at your local craft store or Wal-Mart. They big tubs are great for a variety of projects.

- Teacher-store sales: Back-to-school time is when teacher stores often run their own sales. They will often have certain brands on sale certain weeks. Check out your local store for details.

- Yard sales, flea markets, swap meets, auctions: If you have time to shop yard sales, these can be a great place to find books, toys, games, craft materials, decorations, organizing materials, fabric, clothing for costumes, etc. Go at the end of the day when sellers are most often willing to get rid of items at low prices. You can also sometimes find items at Good Will, Salvation Army and other resale shops.

- Check out online flea markets for specific things you need (http://www.ebay.com, http://www.craigslist.org, http://www.tradeamericaonline.com)

- Teacher resource centers: Various organizations around the country collect high-quality industrial items to sell for “creative reuse.” Some reuse centers also offer workshops and classes.

Trash for Teaching, Los Angeles, CA, http://www.trashforteaching.org
Resource Depot
, Riviera Beach, FL, http://resourcedepot.net
Creative Reuse Warehouse
, Chicago, IL, http://resourcecenterchicago.org/crw.html
The Imagination Factory
, Columbus, IN, http://kid-at-art.com
The Recycle Shop,
at the Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, MA,
http://bostonkids.org/exhibits/recycle.html
Arts & Scraps
, Detroit, MI, http://artsandscraps.org
ArtScraps ReUse Store
, St. Paul, MN, http://artstart.org/reusestore.html
St. Louis Teachers’ Recycle Center
, St. Louis, MO, and Crestwood, MO, http://stlouisteachersrecycle.homestead.com/
The Scrap Exchange
, Durham, NC, http://scrapexchange.org

FREEBIES:

- Free publicity: Write to publishers to ask for publicity materials for various books your class is reading (newer books are best). These packets may include posters, fact sheets, DVDs with author interviews and other resource materials. Plan appropriately because the materials may take a few weeks to come. Your local bookstore may have these materials as well.

- Contact companies you like: If you have a product you just love and use often, let them know. Send an email and tell the company you are a teacher and would love samples if possible.

- Kids in Need Resource Centers: If 70 percent of the students in your school are enrolled in the federal free lunch program, you are eligible to shop at a Kids in Need Resource Center. Kids in Need gets supplies to kids and teachers from manufacturers and retailers such as 3M and OfficeMax. To find a location nearby, go to http://www.kinf.org/.

CHARITIES THAT CONNECT DONORS TO TEACHERS:

- http://DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that connects donors with classrooms in need. You submit a project proposal to the website and ask for a set amount of money to purchase something specific. Items are sent directly to your school if your project gets funded.

- http://iLoveSchools.com lets teachers “shop” in their store and create a wish list of products, services, and resources. Donors can browse your wish list and purchase specific items for your classroom.

- http://supplyourschools.org/ connects teachers in under-privileged schools with donors to help provide students with basic class materials. Using a gift registry setup, teachers list items their students need, and donors select what they’d like to purchase.

http://www.adoptaclassroom.org/index.aspx links donors with classrooms, and teachers use the donations to purchase supplies through the site’s network of online vendors.

* Additional tips from “How to Find Things for Free (or Nearly Free)” by Louise Rozett on http://www.scholastic.com.

 

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Purim costume ideas

Well this year I haven’t done as good a job at preparing ahead for Purim. However, my older son wants to be a tiger. So where do I go for great and cheap costume ideas – Family Fun magazine. I get a subscription to their magazine and love all their great crafts and ideas. However, I don’t have time to search through all my issues to find the October ones. Instead I went to their website and in seconds found just what I wanted. They even had a pdf version of the instructions with pictures. The idea needs relatively cheap supplies and will be fun to create. If you still need an idea, check out Family Fun’s website and check out their Halloween section under Holidays:

Have a great holiday!

My little tigers!

 

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