A Sweet-Smelling Thank You

Tomorrow is my children’s last day of school. It also marks the beginning of one of the busiest times of the year for my family. Both boys have early July birthdays (within 7 days of each other) in addition to both a dating and wedding anniversary for Paul and I in the same 10-day period (yes – I insist we celebrate both!), a rush of entertaining visiting out-of-town family, and a whole new summer routine to adjust to. I know all of this on a logical level. And yet, somehow, the reality of it always takes me by surprise.

Annually, I struggle to get teacher gifts and boys’ birthday party invitations together before the last day of school. This year was no exception, and the budget was tighter than ever. So, I did as I do: I got creative.

Last night, between the kids’ bedtime and 1 AM, I designed and printed 2 party invitations on Canva (a seriously awesome and easy to use online graphic design tool), and pulled together 6 french country style imprinted flower pots for the teachers with my favorite soothing herb – lavender.

And let’s face it – after a year with my boys, those teachers can use some soothing.

The invitations were free (with the exception of printer ink and paper), and each thoughtful teacher gift cost less than $6!

Here’s what I used for the teacher gifts:

  • 6-inch standard terra cotta pots ($1.47 each at Home Depot)
  • Lavender plants ($3.98 each at Walmart)
  • These adorable¬†stakes from Dollar Tree that are 4 for $1, and a paint pen
  • White exterior flat latex paint
  • Antique wax
  • Matte polyurethane
  • Freezer paper
  • glue stick
  • Packing tape
  • Spoon
  • This cute free graphic from the Graphics Fairy

I was very excited to try out the freezer paper image transfer method I’ve been seeing all over Pintrest, and I am pleased to report that it is magically wonderful! The hardest part was trying to convince my printer not to be an a-hole and accept the DIY transfer paper nicely. It was a difficult conversation, but the printer eventually did as it was told.

Here’s the gist of the transfer method: take a standard piece of copy paper and use a glue stick or spray adhesive to attach a regular ‘ole piece of freezer paper (cut to the same size as your copy paper), attaching the matte side of the freezer paper to the copy paper (leaving the shiny/waxy side of the freezer paper up). I took my graphic, sized it to fit 6 to a page in Paint, flipped it to mirror image (this part is very important if using graphics with words), and printed the image on the shiny side of the wax paper sandwich.

After giving my pots a whitewash with the latex paint and allowing them to dry (this is a good dry brush tutorial) I cut my little decal out of the sheet, carefully attached tape to the sides of the back of the decal (to hold it firmly in place for the next step), then pressed it on to my pot. Then, I vigorously rubbed or burnished it using the back of a metal soup spoon, working in an up and down motion (side to side tends to blur the image) for 1-2 minutes, making sure to rub every bit of the decal. Once you are sure it is on there, pull off the paper and tape to reveal your finished product of glorious-ness.

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I went back in with a very light dry brush application of antique wax, making sure NOT to brush over the newly imprinted image (the wax would smudge the imprint). I let the ink dry for at least 2 hours (if you are not, say, trying to do all of this in one single mad night because you are a disorganized procrastinator, let dry longer just to be sure!); then came in with a coat of matte polyurethane to seal the pot. Once dry, I potted up the lavender.

I was so delighted to find the little garden stakes at Dollar Tree – they added just the right final touch. I used a paint pen to make sure the writing on the stake would be water proof.

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And here is the finished gift:

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If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have made a note card in Canva that had plant care instructions on one side and written my note of thanks to the teacher on the opposite. My very best ideas tend to appear in the rear-view mirror of life. Alas.

Cheers to all of the teachers of the world. Thank you for educating our children, however moody/difficult/sleepy/uncooperative/silly or mischievous they are, with all of your hearts and souls. May you all enjoy a sunny and untroubled summer holiday!

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