You’re Cordially Invited to The Nutcracker!

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There are many reasons people get excited this time of year but one universal source of joy for people all over the globe is found by attending The Nutcracker ballet. This event is a long standing spectacular tradition – good for the young or the young at heart! The first performance of the ballet was held around the Christmas holiday season in 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. The popularity grew outside of Russia into England by 1934 and by 1944 the San Francisco Ballet held the first United States performance. For the last 70 years, The Nutcracker has evolved into a cherished favorite. See our Top Ten Must-See list below for more details on performances in your area. If you’ve never been before or if you haven’t had a chance to take your children yet consider this your formal invitation to make 2014 the year to experience the wonders of The Nutcracker! Read on to find where the nutcracker in playing in your state!

The Nutcracker: The Holiday Must-See Event:

  1. Houston Ballet
    Nutcracker shows tradition can still thrill.”- Houston Chronicle
  2. Boston Ballet
    “A holiday season without The Nutcracker would be like New Year’s Eve without champagne.” –The Improper Bostonian
  3. San Francisco Ballet
    Get out your iPad and interact with SF Ballet’s magical production through the new iPad application!
  4. New York City Ballet
    George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ is one of the most complex theatrical, staged ballets in the Company’s active repertory.–NYCB
  5. Atlanta Ballet
    “For Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker, the beauty of the dance makes the gift.” –ArtsATL
  6. Pacific Northwest Ballet
    Pacific Northwest Ballet can proudly lay claim to the world’s most recognized and celebrated production of Nutcracker.
  7. Miami City Ballet
    This lavish performance – one of the ONLY productions of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker ™ in the nation – features magnificent scenery, elaborate costumes, and the magical music of Tchaikovsky.
  8. Ballet Chicago2014 marks the 18th year of Ballet Chicago’s performances of The Nutcracker!
  9. Saint Louis Ballet
    “Lovely ‘Nutcracker’ spins holiday magic at Touhill.” –The Current
  10. Moscow Ballet
    Moscow Ballet performs Russian ballets in over 70 cities across North America annually. Get tickets in Your City!

In addition to attending one of these amazing events above you could always put on a Nutcracker production of your own at your school or local theater company. Check out all of the awesome Nutcracker ballet products we offer to make your production one to remember! Journey with Clara as she dances on the arm of the Nutcracker Prince through sparkling snowflakes in a kingdom of sweets. Come one, come all and experience the magic of The Nutcracker!

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5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Mom this Mother’s Day

Mother's-Day

Mother’s Day is May 11th and it’s the one day a year set aside to celebrate Mom. We all know at least one hard-working mom who deserves way more appreciation than can fit into a single day. Here are some ideas to help the mom in your life have the best Mother’s Day yet. If you really want to knock it out of the park, do them all!

#1: A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words

Simple but powerful: what mom doesn’t love photos of her kids and family? A great, framed snapshot or two is a quick easy gift for the kids to put together and is sure to melt Mom’s heart. If you like to get creative, there are many online photo services that offer dozens of options for personalized gifts from photo mugs with Mom or Grandma’s name to iPhone cases to calendars. If you’re really savvy and have some time on your hands, put together a photo montage for mom set to some of her favorite music. For art-loving moms, commission one of the many Etsy artists who paint custom portraits from photographs.

#2: Shower Her with Flowers

With all its new life, sunshine, and warmth, spring is the perfect time of year to celebrate mothers. A freshly planted flower bed will brighten the yard and show Mom you appreciate the warmth and beauty she brings every day. If she’s a gardener herself, make planting flowers an afternoon activity that the whole family can participate in. If you don’t have a yard or garden, pick up some loose stems at your local grocery store and bring spring inside! Place arrangements around the house so Mom can wake up to a fragrant and colorful indoor garden.

#3: Art Collection

While the fridge is a great first stop for your little ones’ creations, there’s only so much room for masterpieces amidst school papers, to-do lists, and pizza joint magnets. Immortalizing your kids’ art will let Mom treasure it forever and save it from the hazards of kitchen messes and faulty magnets. Especially prized pieces can be framed and hung gallery style in a hallway, or upload entire collections to a photo-sharing site to create a coffee table book that Mom can proudly show off to guests. Your kids will appreciate that you saved their masterpieces later on, too!

#4: Pamper Her

All moms want it, though few will designate the time and money to make it happen. I have yet to meet a mom who wouldn’t benefit from a relaxing day at the spa to rejuvenate and feel pampered. Many spas offer a variety full-day packages to choose from as well as shorter, a la carte services. If a spa day doesn’t fit your family’s budget, a gift basket with some relaxing tunes, homemade lavender bath salts, a soothing eye mask, and an afternoon off will give Mom a mini getaway at home.

#5: Maid to Order

Every exhausted mom, whether she’s new to the game or a seasoned vet, dreams of coming home to a scrubbed, spotless house and fantasizes about a deep cleaned, food-and trash-free car. Even if you can’t accomplish a full spring clean for mom, a one-room deep clean or reorganization will surprise and delight her. If you want to give her the full package, hire a cleaning service to come in or send her car to a detailer while you send Mom to the spa! She’ll return relaxed and overjoyed and I promise she won’t soon forget the Mother’s Day when she got to kick back knowing there was one less chore on her very long to-do list.

 YOUR TURN: How do you plan on celebrating your Mom this Mother’s Day?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6 Fantastic Tips for a School Book Fair Fundraiser

Book-Fair-FundraiserA book fair is an excellent way to raise funds for your school while building community at the same time. Kids always enjoy a book fair, it’s a great way to see new books up close and personal. And while you will get a lot of children that come in and out of the book fair, possibly picking up a book or two with funds that their parents sent with them – the key to making your school’s book fair a fundraising success is to get the students’ entire families and individuals from the community to attend the book fair as well. The more people that attend the book fair, the more books that will be sold, equally a bigger fundraiser return for your school. Read on to learn my 6 tips for making your school’s book fair fundraiser a success!

#1: Get Organized

First and foremost, it is super important to get the book fair organized. Start by gathering a book fair committee made up of parent volunteers. The book fair committee can work with the school’s librarian and teachers to decide on a good part of the year to host the book fair as well as possible themes (read more about themes below). Your committee will also need to work with the librarian and teachers to pick out the best books to offer during the book fair and they will be responsible for assisting in publicizing, setting up and running the book fair too.

#2: Pick a Theme

Instead of simply setting the book fair up in a corner of the media center or school library, give it more personality by completely customizing it with a theme. For example, if your school has an auditorium or gym with a lot of room to spare, consider choosing a Mad Hatter theme. You could set the space up with round tables complete with funky tablecloths, colorful centerpieces and tea for guests to sip as they browse the books. The idea is to make the book fair an event that students will want to bring their friends, family and members of the community to. The more people that attend the book fair, the higher the dollar amount for the school at the end of the fundraiser.

#3: The Perfect Invitation

In the past, there have been many school book fair’s that I wasn’t even aware of. Mostly due to the book fair flyer getting smashed to the bottom of my son’s backpack or even worst lost in the abyss he calls a locker! A great way to ensure that the families of all of the schools students are aware of a book fair, is by formally inviting them. It would be fun to send personalized bookmarks with all of the book fair information on it and then giving them to parents at parent-teacher conferences or even mailing them to their homes. If you plan to send the invitations home with the students, you want the invitation to be something pretty and fun – maybe a personalized magnet for their kitchen refrigerator.

#4: Colorful Posters

If your school publicizes your book fair only through the morning announcements or by sending invitations home with the students – you are missing out on valuable customers. Make sure that you have several different marketing funnels set up for advertising the book fair. I am a huge fan of colorful personalized posters – they can be hung anywhere, come with fun graphics and look great hanging in the classrooms, halls, media center and cafeteria. They can even be given to local shops, grocery stores and medical offices. Just make sure they are hung at eye level for the kids to see and in high-traffic locations.

#5: Host a Special Event

While your Mad Hatter book fair will be much more fun than a traditional one – it is still important to host special events during the book fair week. For example, why not host your school’s ice-cream social or meet and greet during the book fair. If your school has a parent-teacher conference, theatrical play, or sporting event that will bring a lot of people to the school – host your book fair at the same time. For parents with younger children that need a break, you could set up a craft station near the book fair. It would also be fun to host a raffle during the special event – your prizes could be book gift packs or gift certificates to use at the book fair.

#6: Be Grateful

Make sure at the end of the book fair after the last book is sold, that you thank all of the people that helped to make your book fair a success. I am a fan of personalized gift tags attached to a small gift, it’s a great way to let your volunteers know how much you really appreciate all of their hard work. It’s also fun to invite the students and families back after the book fair to share with them the purchases that the school was able to make with the funds from the fundraiser. It gives them a visual as to where there money and volunteer time helped the school, and inspires people to be a part of the process next time.

YOUR TURN: What other tips have you seen used to make a school book fair a success?

photo credit stock images via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 Ways to Turn Your School’s Spring Fling into a Fundraising Machine

Spring-Fling
Springtime is right around the corner and with it comes Spring Fling. Spring Fling is a fun social event celebrated by many colleges and universities. It consists of a series of events organized by different student groups or Greek Life members. The activities range from sporting events to carnivals and usually culminates with a big dance at the end of the day. If your school is planning to celebrate Spring Fling, it is the perfect opportunity to raise funds for your school or a local charity. Doing so is easier than you might think, read on for my 7 favorite ways to turn your school’s spring fling into a fundraising machine this year.

#1: Get Donations

To start, I recommend connecting with local businesses and school sponsors to collect donations. The organizations can either donate funds directly to your charity or they can provide items that will be essential to the success of your Spring Fling. For example, they could donate paper supplies, food, items to give away at raffles or even a space to host the Spring Fling.

#2: Sell Tickets

A great place to internally start to raise funds is by selling tickets to the Spring Fling. You can choose tickets with stubs to be used for a raffle later on in the day, plus they make fun keepsakes. Or, if your school is hosting a carnival as part of Spring Fling, you could sell roll tickets for not only admission but food, beverages or carnival rides or games.

#3: Marketing is Key

A great way to market your upcoming Spring Fling is through goal posters. You can customize each poster to include the name and date of the event, along with the day’s activities and the goal amount that you are trying to raise for your school. Posters can be hung all over the campus and in local shops, inviting students and the community to the big event!

#4: Announce Your Goal

A great way to show students, facility, staff, and the community the amount that your school is trying to raise during Spring Fling is with a giant thermometer. It could be displayed in the main entrance of the campus or outside where everyone passing by will see the progress. Just remember to update the dollar amount as your donations start to roll in.

#5: Special Delivery

When I was in college, a sorority offered a paid gift delivery service to raise funds during Spring Fling. For a certain dollar amount, you could have either a rose, candy bar or balloon delivered to that special someone by a girl in the sorority. You could take this idea a step further and personalize each gift by allowing the person who is sending the delivery to customize a gift tag to go along with the treat.

#6: Silent Auctions and Raffles

Whether you choose to host a silent auction or a raffle is completely up to you. Silent auctions are great for big-ticket items that will be popular, causing a bidding war. Raffles are great because almost everyone can afford to purchase a raffle ticket or two. Both of these activities will equal big bucks for your charity at the end of the event. By using a stubbed ticket for your silent auctions and raffles, you can collect the individuals names, phone numbers and email addresses to add to your mailing list.

#7: Make a Loud Statement

If part of your Spring Fling is a sporting event, consider selling customized megaphones in the bleachers. Not only are they a lot of fun for everyone (kids and adults alike!) but they will yield a pretty penny when it comes to raising funds for your charity. Plus, it’s just a fun keepsake  from what is sure to be a memorial college activity!

How does your school celebrate Spring Fling?

photo image credit Nathan Greenwood via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Creative Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, No Cooking Required!

St.-Patrick's-Day

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, which means now is the perfect time to start thinking of fun ways to celebrate. Whether you are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser at your child’s school, having friends over for a fun pot-LUCK, or simply celebrating quietly at home with your children – it’s all about shamrocks, rainbows, leprechauns and that ever elusive pot of gold!

While St. Patrick’s Day is a lot of fun, it doesn’t mean that it has to be a lot of work. There are many fun ways to celebrate this day, from sharing lucky messages and hosting relay races to surprising friends with simple treats and sharing a rainbow with someone you care about. The best part, you don’t have to slave away in the kitchen because my 5 favorite creative ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day don’t include any cooking at all, read on to get started and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

#1: Send a Lucky Message:

Want to surprise your child’s classmates, soccer team or even your co-workers on St. Patrick’s Day? Purchase lucky messages customized with your favorite Irish graphic on the front and your personal message (maybe a sweet poem or fun limerick!) on the back. Then, tie each message to a bag of gold candy or rainbow skittles – leave these little surprises on their desks or tuck them inside their gym bags for a St. Patrick’s Day surprise they won’t forget. In fact, they will think they have been visited by a leprechaun!

#2: Host a Shamrock Relay Race Fundraiser:

St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to get outside to have a little fun under the rainbow. You could host a shamrock relay race at your child’s school to get the kids outside while raising funds to support your school. Before the big day, invite the children to decorate the fence surrounding the sports field with laminated shamrocks and metallic gold and green garland. During the relay event, you could sell green balloons for a dollar, inside each balloon is a surprise note and treat – (remember, to have a jar of push pins for everyone to pop their balloons.) Also, don’t forget to keep track of your fundraising efforts so everyone can see how this fun event is also supporting your school.

#3: Share a Rainbow:

If there is one symbol other than the shamrock that signifies St. Patrick’s Day, it a colorful rainbow. A fun activity to enjoy with your child’s classmates is to create a large colorful rainbow chain to hang from the ceiling of the classroom. Offer rainbow colored slips of paper to each child, let them write their name on along with their favorite poem or quote. Then, work together to create a loop chain by combining each piece of paper to the next. You could even connect all of the chains from all of the classes in the school for a larger than life rainbow chain. It would be fun to take a picture of all of the school children together holding the chain, then give the framed photo as a gift to the principal!

#4: Top of the Mornin’ to Ya:

It never fails, some children will find themselves at school on St. Patrick’s Day morning having forgotten to wear green! Oh no, let the pinching begin! To avoid those nasty pinches, fill a basket full of green ‘no pinching’ buttons or green wristbands and place them in the front office. You can sell them for a quarter to any of the child or staff member who forgets to wear green that day. You could even announce the sell of the buttons/wristbands during the morning announcements or set up a table at the front entrance of the school.

#5: Reading the Rainbow:

St. Patrick’s Day is another great holiday to inspire more reading in youngsters. Get with your child’s teacher or librarian to create a list of 6 books that are St. Patrick’s Day themed. Label each book with a color; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Encourage the children to read all of the books by offering them a pot of gold at the end of the reading rainbow. Every day a child finishes reading one of the books, they will receive a sheet of paper in that corresponding color. At the end of the week, the children get to engage in a St. Patrick’s Day craft using the colorful sheets of paper they have collected. Then, they can turn in their masterpiece for a bag of gold chocolate coins, candy or other small trinket!

What creative ways do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with your children and their classmates?

Use Goal Posters to Motivate Yourself and Your Team

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Can you believe we are almost a whole month into the new year? Are you and your team still on track to reach all of those goals that you made? If you are having a hard time staying motivated to reach those goals or you have a team that is floundering – you may want to consider adding goal posters to your motivation tactics.

Goal posters are fantastic for both personal and work specific goals and you can use them in a variety of ways.  For example, if you are running a local animal shelter that has a goal of placing a certain amount of dogs and cats into new homes this year – a goal poster is a great way to lay out those goals in a visual form. Our goal posters come in a set of 10 so you could give each member of your team or volunteer staff a poster. Then, let them have the creative freedom to customize it with 5 things they would like to do to help the animals find new homes this year. When they are finished, they can place the posters throughout the shelter as a daily reminder of these goals and mark off those goals that they reach throughout the year, celebrating those achievements as a team.

Another idea is for sport’s coaches and team captains to utilize goal posters to individually motivate the members of their team. The posters can be personalized with your team’s name and photo for that added fun touch! Then, you can give each team member a goal poster to add their own sports related goals to, then help them choose a reward they will receive once their goal is hit. Whether their goal is to practice basketball for 1 hour each day, practice their swim strokes or complete 5 marathons this year – a goal poster can really motivate and remind them of their progress. They could hang the poster inside their gym locker or you could even line them up on the wall inside the gym where they will see them everyday as they practice their sport. It’s a great visual reminder of their goal and their teammates can congratulate them when they reach their specific milestones.

The idea is to let each individual choose their target goals, encourage them to write them down on a goal poster as a daily reminder of what they want to achieve. Don’t forget to verbally motivate and congratulate them on the progress! It’s a great way to boost morale and feel more confident about achieving their goals too. It is even more exciting when they reach those milestones since those around them will see their goal posters, the achievements they have made and can join in on congratulating them on their success which in turn motivates them to work even harder and set more goals for the future!

5 Super Sweet Ways to Use Gift Tags as Valentines

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Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, making now the perfect time to start getting your valentine’s list and ideas together. I am a huge fan of valentines that don’t require a lot of time or energy to put together. However, I am looking for valentines that aren’t only simple – they need to be cute, fun and memorable.

This year I was also looking for fun valentine’s not only for my son’s classmates and teachers, but valentines that could double as a sweet surprise for my own child and husband. I also needed to come up with a valentine idea that could be used at my son’s school dance to raise funds for their class trip.

I immediately thought of adorable gift tags – not only are they completely customizable, but I love the generous size, affordability (40/$15), versatility (you can view your finished design before you order) and cute designs too. Here is a peek at how I plan to use these cute gift tags this Valentine’s Day:

  1. Class Valentines

    My son is planning to give a stack of colored pencils to his classmates – by tying them up with a personalized gift tag for each child, the valentine will be more personal and fun!

  2. Teacher Valentines

    My son is giving each of his teachers a hand-painted tote bag complete with supplies for their classrooms. This gift is taken to a whole new level when finished with a personalized gift tag with the teacher’s name on it and a special note from my son.

  3. Secret Surprise

    I love to tuck special surprises into places that my son can find throughout the day on Valentine’s Day. I plan to add a cute personalized gift tag inside his backpack, lunchbox and coat pocket – each tied to a special valentine treat!

  4. Husband’s Need Love too!

    I also love to surprise my husband on love day – instead of giving him a traditional Valentine’s Day card; I plan to surprise him with tickets to a comedy show. I plan to wrap a gift tag around the tickets instead of a card and since these gift cards are a generous size (2.75 “x 4.25”) it leaves me a lot of room to write in a special message to my special man.

  5. School Dance Fundraiser

    My son’s class is raising funds for their end of school class trip. We decided to sell personalized gift tags (we ordered designs that both boys and girls will adore) and tied them to roses and small boxes of chocolate. The children will be able to purchase the treats for special delivery throughout the week of Valentine’s Day and during the dance as well.

4 Steps to Using Fundraising in Your Home or Classroom to Reach Common Goals

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When you hear the word fundraising – what is the first thing that comes to mind? Usually, you are bombarded with that dreaded feeling that your child’s school is trying to get you sell items to fund a special project or initiative. And while school fundraising does have its purpose, have you ever thought of the impact it could have on your family or students if you used fundraising to motivate them to reach common goals?

I am not talking about selling popcorn to everyone in your office or sending the children door-to-door to sell wrapping paper. I am suggesting that you use fundraising as a way to motivate your family or students to complete desired tasks and reach common goals together as a team. The concept is the same as traditional fundraising, however the objective is entirely different. Read on for my favorite tips for using fundraising to motivate your family or students to reach a common goal and the necessary steps to keep them on track.

1.    Choose Your Goals

Gather your group, whether it is your family or your students and discuss the goals that you want them to reach together. I think it is amazing to choose goals that your group will benefit from now as well as in the future. This is really an opportunity for a discussion – whether your goal is to decrease screen time hours, get more exercise or eat healthier for your family or turning in all homework on time, committing to community service hours or working quietly and independently for a designated time each day for your students – the objective is the same, to reach a common goal that is beneficial to the group as a whole.

2.    Pick Your Prizes

Once your group has outlined the goals that they want to work towards in the coming weeks, it’s time to pick prizes to add a little extra motivation. For family goals, a great prize is a year-end family vacation, a fun item for the home that everyone will enjoy or a joint prize that the family can enjoy together such as an annual pass to the local amusement or water park. For students, one of their favorite prizes includes free time, think a week’s worth of no homework, or a year-end pizza or pajama party. Remember, the prize has to be a big enough deal to your group to get them excited to participate or your fundraising will fail.

3.    Organize It

Once you have designated your group goals and picked the prizes that you want to work towards, it’s important to organize all of that information in one place. I recommend a large dry erase fundraising thermometer that can be placed in a central location where your family or students will see it on a daily basis. If you are setting this up at home for your family, I suggest the kitchen or family room. If you are setting this up in your classroom, then I would position it front and center where your students will see it throughout every day.

4.    Get them Excited!

I recommend gathering your group together at least once a week to add their progress to the thermometer together. Give the children the opportunity to fill the thermometer in with a dry erase marker. Get them excited by talking about how much further they have to go to reach their goal and how far they have already come. Then, discuss ways that they can reach their goal more quickly and ways that have been hindering their success. I also think it is a great idea to keep your fundraising goal at the top of your group’s minds by periodically discussing their progress throughout the week. Also, congratulating them on a routine basis for their progress so far is great for morale. The idea is to keep it simple, fun and at the top of their minds!

How have you engaged a group to reach their fundraising goals – do you have tips you could share? Your comments support us all!

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