Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Night Before Christmas Teacher Brunch

Yesterday the Wetumpka Elementary PTO treated faculty and staff to a Night Before Christmas Teacher Brunch. This event was a highlight of my holiday season, and I hope it showed our WES family how much we love them.This has been a difficult year for many families in our school, and fundraising has been challenging. So we strove to plan an economical but festive celebration rich with a spirit of welcome. The fun started with this invitation.

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through W.E.S.

Not a teacher was working; not one child filled a desk.

The Multi-Purpose Room was decorated with holiday flair

In hopes that good times among friends would be shared.

PTO board members were dressed in their jammies for bed,

While visions of service danced in their heads.

And teachers during planning periods and staff during breaks

Enjoyed coffee and trimmings with a breakfast buffet.

More rapid than Indians flew all staff and faculty

To enjoy a long winter’s nap in front of the tree.

Now Kindergarten! Now First Grade! Now Second and Third!

On Fourth Grade! Mrs. Willis and Staff! Spread the word!

On December 18th, join the PTO for holiday cheer –

A small thanks for the sacrifices you make through the year.

Faculty, staff and PTO will exclaim when festivities are through,

“Happy Christmas to all, and we thank God for our school!”

    We decorated our school's multi-purpose room for Christmas morning with tables decorated like beds, stockings tied to chairs and a lighted Christmas tree.


Letting board members bring in bedding to make beds of the tables added to the homey atmosphere without adding any cost. Above, WES President Holley Collier added old-fashioned charm to her blue and yellow quilted table.


Board member Tara Brown used a holiday tablecloth, green bed linens and holiday stuffed animals to make her bed festive. In the background, board members Toni Grant and Lindsay Tyler hang stockings.

Board members brought in stockings, and we scattered the different styles around the room. Tied to the chair backs, our stockings added a festive touch.

I decorated three of the beds, much to the dismay of 6-year-old Emma, who tattled on me to her first-grade teacher for "stealing" bedding and toys from the kids' bedrooms. "She even took Mary's teddy bear!" she exclaimed.

To cut costs, instead of having the party catered, we prepared the food ourselves. Many of our teachers serve breakfast foods during their classroom Christmas party, so I wanted to steer clear of breakfast casseroles and other traditional favorites. We delivered with a menu of blueberry French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with syrup, a fresh-fruit garnish of strawberries and orange slices, and bacon. A board member's husband bought the bacon for us through his restaurant, and we kept it in a cooler to cook throughout the day. Board members prepared or gathered the blueberry French toast, fruit and extras items. I have shared the blueberry French toast recipe before, but for convenience I am reprinting it below. (We got a lot of requests for it from our faculty!)

Blueberry French Toast

From the Peace With-Inn Bed and Breakfast in North Conway, N.H.

1 loaf French bread
3 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups milk
¼ cup flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ stick cold butter
3 ounces cream cheese
2 cups blueberries
Maple syrup
Liberally butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. Cut bread into 1-inch thick diagonal slices and place in baking dish. In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add sugar and vanilla; stir in milk until well blended. Pour mixture over bread, turning slices to coat well. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, turn bread slices over in baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and cold butter (cut into chunks) in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Cut cream cheese into small chunks and scatter on top of bread. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over bread with cream cheese. Liberally scatter blueberries on top and bake for 45 minutes. Serve with hot real maple syrup. Serves 12. (Note: This recipe can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

Food labels marked our tables. I am sharing our printables in hopes that they might benefit someone else planning a Night Before Christmas brunch. Click on any of the printables to copy and save our files. Find our food labels below. Consider tucking these -- along with a few holiday greetings -- into a wire Christmas card holder on the buffet.

For an economical but thoughtful favor that fit our theme perfectly, we bought a variety of holiday mugs and invited each teacher to choose one to fill at our coffee bar. I framed the printable sign below to display on a table of mugs.

(Click to save or print.)

I did not decorate a Christmas tree in my sitting room this year, and instead asked Joe to set it up in our party space. The heaviest mugs we collected found their place on the table, but most of our collection made it onto our "Christmugs" tree.

With a variety of colorful Christmas mugs and a few more neutral selections, our tree looked merry and bright.

Our mugs were not expensive, but the thoughtfulness behind the gift seemed to really touch our teachers. "This is for me!" many exclaimed when prompted to choose a mug. Santa mugs, like the ones pictured above from Party City, were favorites among our faculty and staff.

And who could resist a coffee bar with a bountiful selection of flavored creamers and syrups, whipped cream, chocolate chips, sprinkles and candy canes?

Teachers dropped in throughout the day to have their cups filled -- in more ways than one, we hope!

Above, the hard-working, talented women of our PTO board who put their hearts into yesterday's Christmas party (left to right: front row, President Holley Collier; second row, Jennifer Simpson, me, Kelli Law, Honey Pierce and Tara Brown; third row, Nichole Holt; back row, Lindsay Tyler, Toni Grant and Allison Judah). To get into the spirit of The Night Before Christmas, we wore pajamas to serve. And to add a fun element to the day's work, I asked board members to vote on the Most Festive Pajamas and Best PJ-Personality Match. Our Pajama Queens took home poinsettias we used for decoration (gifts for the board from a PTO plant fundraiser earlier this year).

It took a lot of work to pull everything together, but the day was such a blessing to all of us. The collage below shows a few of our beloved faculty and staff at Wetumpka Elementary.

Twas the night before Christmas at W.E.S.
Our faculty and staff are truly the best!

"A truly special teacher is very wise,
and sees tomorrow in every child's eyes."
~ Author Unknown

Still to come this week, a thoughtful teacher gift and a giveaway!

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