A Beehive shaped jar with a ribbon a tag and lotion tubes inside

{Freebie} Teacher Appreciation

I made this bee-themed gift for my son’s First Grade teacher.

Partly I was inspired to use bees because his teacher has a running BUMBLE BEE theme in her classroom (for example, each child has a bee with their name on it on the wall, and if they misbehave they ‘lose a stinger’ or are ‘out of the hive’).

And partly I wanted to go with bees because I found this cute beehived-shaped tealight holder at Target. It was in the Dollar Spot area, so they may not have it regularly.  If you can’t find one, a yellow or black gift bag with a bee tag on it would do just fine (and hold more, as well).

supplies to make a bee themed gift

In keeping with the bee theme, I filled it with Burt’s Bees products. I purchased the ‘Head to Toe’ kit at Target for $13. I tied a ribbon around the tealight holder and put as many of the items as I could into the jar. You could add a gift card or any other small item to the jar if you prefer.

Bumble Bee themed gift for teacher appreciation

I gave it to her with the bee letter that you can DOWNLOAD FOR FREE HERE.

bee anagram letter

I had my son write his teacher’s name at the top, and sign his name at the bottom. I also added the date in small print.

Click HERE to download the Teacher Tags.
(Then right-click and save the file).

Child and teacher with teacher appreciation gift

I think his teacher liked it, and I hope you do, too!

Renee signature

Personalized Photo Coat Hooks {DIY}

Here’s a quick (and cheap!) craft I did in an attempt to solve the ‘backpacks & lunch sacks all over the floor’ issue.  Now my boys know exactly where their coats and backpacks go after school. I hung these above our shoe organizer seat in the foyer, so it’s the first thing they see when they walk in the door.

2 coat hooks with photos

I found the hooks on clearance at Hobby Lobby for less than $2 each, but I wasn’t crazy about the design.

Coat hook from Hobby Lobby

Let’s be clear… I LOVE Fleur-de-Lys. Because of my French name, I’ve been decorating my home with them since 1992. Back then I had to import them from France because the only fleur-de-lis I could find in the US had Boy Scout stuff on it.  Fortunately I studied in France briefly, so I brought a bunch of the decor home myself.  AND taupe is probably my favorite color. But this design just didn’t resonate with me.  So it had to go.

Because the design was 5″ square, I printed a photo of each child in a 5″x7″ size (38c each at Sam’s Club – best price out there)!  Then I trimmed the photos with a paper cutter, and applied Mod Podge onto the face of the existing design and placed the photo on top. The next day I coated the top of the photo with Mod Podge, and let it dry.

Coat hook with photo decor

Then it was just a matter of hanging them, and explaining to the boys the consequences for putting their coats and rucksacks on the floor instead of on the hooks (which ranged from extra chores, to grounding, to locust swarms and other pestlience in their bedrooms).

The entire project cost me less than $5 (though I already had the Mod Podge, because really, who could live without it)?!


easter lamb cake

Easter Goodies

Easter is my MOST favorite holiday. How could you not love the pastel colors, the spring blossoms, the fun activities for kids, and the message of hope?

We made this adorable Lamb Cake with the kids, who were able to do much of the decorating, because it was fairly easy. Plus they really wanted to sneak a bunch of mini marshmallows into their mouths in the name of ‘helping’.

lamb cake with marshmallows

side view of easter lamb cake from Parents magazine

The original diagram on how to cut the cake is missing from the recipe link, so this next photo will give you an idea of how it’s done. You start with 2 Sara Lee frozen butter pound cakes. Cut a few inches of one of the cake ends off, and place it on the top of itself, on the opposite side. That becomes the head. Cut another few inches off the backside again, and cut it again into a shape that would fit into a Dixie cup (approximately), to form the muzzle or face of the lamb.

man frosting a lamb shaped cake

An aside… The 3 cutest pics you can take of your man:

  1. Napping with a newborn on his chest
  2. Frosting a cake with his children
  3. Sewing props for his daughter’s play on a small, pink Barbie sewing machine  (Yes I have that photo, too, but he’d probably never frost another lamb cake for me if I post it. LOL)

And here is the finished product, with a very happy 6-year-old:

child with Easter lamb cake

In hindsight, I would probably skip the collar. It was a sweet lamb without having to be domesticated.


And here are some more Easter treats… RICE KRISPIE PEEP NESTS!

rice krispie candy nests for Easter

I made these in muffin tins… here is my previous post about how I did them.

And of course, the requisite HOT CROSS BUNS. Except I made mine with chocolate chips. Because that’s how I roll… (get it?)  🙂

chocolate chip hot cross buns for Easter

I brought my recipe back from Australia, so the measurements are not easily ‘translated’, but here is a similar recipe that I have also tried. That one calls for cinnamon chips, which can be difficult to find, so you may have to substitute chocolate chips anyway (oh the horror).

And finally, the photo that my youngest son will probably never forgive me for:

woman holding a baby in a bunny outfit

Hopefully he will forgive his mother’s CHEESEBALL side someday!  I already know he will probably get married on a remote beach somewhere, so there can be NO slideshow.  Haha!

Have a glorious Easter!!


A quilt square with a drawing of a moose, labeled "horse"

Creative Estates retreat

I spent last weekend in the cute mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona, with 36 other bloggers and crafters. It was 3 days of crafting, socializing & getting NO sleep (too much activity & too hard of a floor)!

Here are a few pics from the weekend!

I made the banner, water bottle wraps and cupcake toppers for the event (you can sorta see the banner on the mirror in the background). This is our group digging in to a buffet table on the first night.

Creative Estates meal


Ashley from The Shine Project gave a presentation about the amazing work her organization is doing, and then we decorated a mason jar to use to collect coins for Shine, or any other charity we support.  She calls them Change4Change. We also bought bracelets and these yellow and grey t-shirts from her, because we loved the concept of her organization so much!

(Photo via Keira Grace)

This is Mandi ~ who looks like a blonde Zooey Deschanel to me ~ decorating her Change4Change jar. Zooey or no, she was just adorable, and sooo much fun to talk to!

Shine Project jar


This is another Ashley (there were 3 Ashleys!). This one is owns the Little Miss Momma blog. She is not only incredibly sweet, but she is a doppleganger for one of my college friends! Oh and that cute baby bump is her soon-to-be second son.

Ashley Little Miss Momma

Ashley taught one of the crafts we did: making felt flower broaches. I got so irritated with the asymmetry of mine (the grey one below), that my table started calling me the ‘anal-retentive crafter’.

felt broaches craft

So when someone pulled out a Cricut & we were each asked to make a square for a traveling quilt, this is what was made for me while I wasn’t looking!

Renees Soirees cricut image

I thought it was the funniest thing ever!
The OTHER funniest thing ever was this quilt square, which was based on a funny story that happened to a car full of gals who went to the Grand Canyon. Someone saw an animal and asked what it was. Another passenger, seeing the animal facing the other direction and in the rear-view mirror, said, “I think it was a horse.” Turned out it was an elk, which elicited much laughter about whether or not said passenger (who ironically is from farm country – Nebraska) could properly identify a HORSE.  I love the way they c0mmemorated it on the quilt square (and yes I know the drawing is actually a moose… it only adds to the giggle factor)!

A quilt square with a drawing of a moose, labeled "horse"


Our closing event was a Rock Star Party. It was open to interpretation, so some wore tattoo-print stockings, some spiked or teased their hair… but everyone perfected their pouty face.

Above are: Nicki of The Hanger House, Heather of Kustom Kissers, Andrea of Bubble Wrapp’d, Tricia of Mama Marchand, and Jules of Inspired Jules.


Stephanie from Sand And Starfish was fully embracing the Rock Star theme!


When you have a room full of bloggers, you can count on a ton of Mamarazzi!
This is Steph again, and Kashoan (of Krafty Kash) snapping some of the thousands of photos that were taken over the 3 days.
Kashoan came to Arizona from Nebraska. She was my roomie and ended up being one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever met!

And a group shot during our party:

Creative Estates retreat attendees

Here’s a Where’s Waldo-type question for you… did you notice the red shoes in the air (on the right)?  Those shoes, and the expressions of shock over the upside-down crafter, are the funniest part of this shot to me.  🙂


I met some amazing women at the retreat, and I hope to keep in touch with them for many years! And that’s what I choose to take away from my weekend in Flagstaff.


More on the swag bag loot soon… still catching up on lost sleep from the retreat!

Craft items part of the swag bag


As a final note, I wanted to quickly address the infighting that has gone on about the Creative Estates event.

I attended a women’s conference years ago, early in my corporate career. The keynote speaker was Elizabeth Dole, and some of the things she said really hit home. She asked the crowd, “Would you rather work for a man or a woman?” She cited some study that said most women employees would rather NOT work for a female. “Why?” she asked. Why would we fail to support someone who was fighting the same fight we were (climbing the corporate ladder, breaking glass ceilings, etc)? Shouldn’t we be on the same team? “We women are OUR OWN WORST ENEMY!” said Dole. I have never forgotten her words, especially after she told the following story (she told it much more eloquently than I will, but here goes):

A story about geese and how they work together

Valentine’s Day Treat Toppers

These treat bag toppers are a unique way to hand out valentines or Valentine’s Day treats, and they are suitable for classmates, coworkers, neighbors, teachers or friends.

various valentines treat toppers filled with candy


In my shop you can choose 2 of the topper styles from the following:

Collection of valentines day treat toppers
♥ Nerds saying (2 styles included)
♥ S’more toppers (2 different sayings – see below for an idea of what to put in the bag)
♥ Heart toppers (2 styles – can be used with conversation hearts, or do what I did and make homemade playdough and cut it out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter)
♥ Peeps toppers (4 styles included – you can buy Peeps in red or pink at drug stores, in 2-packs or multiple packs)
♥ Reeces Pieces topper
♥ Mint topper (I used York heart-shaped peppermint patties)
♥ Dum Dum sucker / lollipop topper
♥ A gift card holder for a teacher or anyone else who loves coffee or tea (2 styles to choose from)

S'more themed valentine treat topper

Each page has 2 toppers, so print up as many as you need (eg, 24 students divided by 2 = 12 copies) then cut them and staple them to the top of a zip-top bag. If you don’t have a color printer, put them on a thumb drive or camera card (like an SD card) and take them to a local copy store. It runs around 29c for a color copy, or 39c per color cardstock page at most print shops (UPS for example, but you could also price them at Staples, Office Max, Kinkos, or any local copy shop).

Paper with 2 treat toppers ready to be cut out

Here are downloadable instructions, but they really are very fast and easy to do. Even my first grader had no trouble helping me assemble them, and he filled out the “to/from” info on the back of each topper.


instructions on how to assemble a treat topper


UPDATE: Sonoran Living viewers, feel free to use the coupon code “ABC15” when you check out in Etsy, to get 15% off your treat toppers! (Good through Feb 14th, 2012, on this listing only).

Happy Valentine’s Day!!


{PRESS} TV Appearance

On Friday, February 10th, the crew from Renee’s Soirees will be demonstrating a Valentine’s Day craft on Sonoran Living Live, on the local ABC affiliate: KNXV, ABC 15. If you aren’t lucky enough to be in Arizona in February (it was 70 degrees today… just sayin’!), you can watch it online after the show. I will be doing this craft with some 6-year-olds. Wish me luck!!!

Heart Bark {recipe}

Photo of heart-shaped chocolate bark with heart sprinkles


I had some melting chocolate leftover from Christmas so I decided to purdy it up so I could give it away re-purpose it for Valentine’s Day. So I made some chocolate bark in a heart-shaped mold (specifically, this one from Wilton):

 Mini Heart Silicone Mold, large

Chocolate heart-shpaed candy in a red heart bowl

Heart Bark
by Renee’s Soirees

8 oz milk or dark chocolate
8 oz white chocolate
2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
any pink, red, or heart-shaped sprinkles

Melt the brown chocolate and 1 tsp vegetable oil in the microwave on 50% power in 30-45 second intervals, stirring in between. Do this until it is melted but not necessarily in a liquid state.  Drop by spoonfuls into heart mold. (You can also use a bar pan lined with waxed paper, or heart-shaped cookie cutters on a piece of waxed paper).  Carefully push chocolate around mold or cookie cutter until it covers the whole bottom, but try not to splash it onto the sides too much. Put pan in freezer for 5-10 minutes (or refrigerator for 15 minutes), until firm.

While you are waiting for that to firm up, melt white chocolate and 1 tsp vegetable oil in the same fashion.  Once the brown chocolate layer is firm and cold, spoon the white chocolate on top and even it out with a toothpick or small spoon. Sprinkle heart-shaped sprinkles on top and put pan in fridge or freezer until chocolate is cold and solid.  Gently push bottom of  silicone mold inside out to ease the candy out.

Unless you have 2 heart molds, you will have to reheat the remaining chocolate and repeat entire process again, as this recipe makes about 12 hearts, and the pan only has 6 heart molds.  But these are still surprisingly quick to make.

Yield: Approx. 12 chocolate hearts

Print version of recipe here.

Serve these at a party, or package them in a zip-top baggie with a Valentine topper, and hand out to classmates or coworkers!


Baggie of heart bark with a heart topper

Tip: Use a quality chocolate. I have also made these using a generic almond bark from a grocery store. It was AWFUL. I like the Wilton candy melts (available at craft stores), but you could also use Ghiradelli or Callebaut chips or bars.

Option: If you would like these to be a Peppermint Bark, add 1/4 tsp peppermint extract to each batch of chocolate. YUM!

This page was featured on:

Also partying this week with:

The Girl Creative

Keeping It Simple


Tip Junkie handmade projects

Fun Stuff Fridays

Valentine’s Gift Card Holder

2 gift card holders with images of a coffee cup and hearts

I made one version of this gift card holder for teachers, because that’s how I intend to use it, but I also made one without a named recipient, so it can be used for coworkers, bosses, employees, coaches, friends and more!  Because of the hearts, it works great for Valentine’s Day, but it doesn’t specifically mention Valentine’s Day, so it could be used year-round.

Available here!

5x7 print with coffee cups and hearts with room for a gift card

5x7 print with hearts and coffee cups and room for a starbucks card


Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Valentine Pocket tutorial

{Tutorial} Valentine’s Day Heart Pockets

My mother, a retired teacher, used to make these with her students every year. She hung them on the bulletin board for February decor, plus during the Valentine’s party, classmates could add valentine cards to the pockets.

Here are some examples of the finished product. My mother, the most creative person I know, made all but one of these (you will note that I am missing part of that creativity gene). She challenged her students to incorporate hearts into everyday items (notice the butterfly and ship below).

2 decorated paper heart valentines day pockets

It’s going to be painfully obvious here, which one was made by me…

2 paper hearts used as pockets for valentines day at school

You can see better on the red heart above, how these open and act as a pocket.

Mom made hers more than 40 years ago, and after about 20 years she decided to extend their durability by  laminating them (then you need to use a craft  knife to cut the pocket open again).  Mom hangs these on the mantel every February even now, and they have held up just fine.

I have also done them with younger kids, too (first grade).  I just help them with the stapling, so they won’t staple in such a way that it prevents it from being used as a pocket.  And for any age group, you can use a salad plate or manila folder template to help them draw the half-circle that becomes the top of the hearts.  Use a toddler plate or something that is approximately the same distance across as the folded paper, otherwise your heart will look cut off.

Use reusable adhesive aka mounting putty to attach it to your walls, mantel, desks or chairs (Scotch and Elmer’s make the putty in the US, and it’s called Blu-Tack in Australia).  You could use tape in a pinch, but in a classroom setting, these pockets can get a little heavy for that.

Here is the tutorial. Click the photo to save or print a PDF version to use as a reference (but trust me, these are NOT hard to make).

Instructions on how to make a heart pocket

I think it’s the coolest thing ever, that I hang (on my bannister, with a heart garland) the very same pocket that my mom used to put my Valentine’s Day card in when I was a kid. And I intend to pass along the ones I made for my kids as well.

Hope you liked this Valentine’s Day craft, and I’d love to see your finished products! (Obviously I need serious help on the decorating portion.)


This project featured on:

Tip Junkie handmade projects

A red basket full of baggies with gingerbread playdough inside

{FREEBIE} Gingerbread Playdough Topper

A red basket full of baggies with gingerbread playdough inside

I decided to make some homemade Gingerbread Playdough for my son’s classmates as soon as I saw the idea on Pinterest. But I knew it would be cost prohibitive to buy 20+ mason jars to package them the way she did. So I made this printable topper that can be printed and stapled to the top of any snack or sandwich-sized baggie.

I am also going to take these to Christmas dinner to put on the Kids Table so the kids have something to keep them busy while we’re in the kitchen. And I’ll give them along with my traditional pumpkin bread gift to my neighbors (or at least the ones with kids or grandkids).

The best thing about this version of playdough is that your house smells like holiday cookies are in the oven every time the kids play with it!


zip top bag with gingerbread playdough inside and a printed topper

This topper will be free until Christmas Day (25 December). And next holiday season, it will be in my Etsy shop.

2 ziplock bags with paper toppers that say Gingerbread Playdough

See below for the recipe and the topper download. By the way, this recipe is very forgiving!  I pulled not one but two blonde stunts while I was making it! First I lost track of how much cream of tartar I had added (which affects how thick it will be) and secondly I got distracted by two little men and burned it on the stove. But I crossed my fingers and stuck it in a plastic container in the fridge, and sure enough, it had the perfect texture the next day!

Download the playdough toppers HERE.

I usually print toppers in color on 65 lb cardstock at a local copy store, and borrow their paper cutter while I’m there. I rolled the dough out pretty thick (1/2″ or more) and cut them out with a gingerbread cookie cutter. But you could just as easily roll them into balls and put them in the bag that way.

I’d love to see photos or links showing how you used these!


Recipe for Gingerbread Playdough (if you double it you will get 7 or 8 snack-sized baggies worth)
More holiday ideas on my Pinterest board


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