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5 Mother’s Day Gifts for $5

Mother’s day is this Sunday! It seems everywhere I look there are gift ideas with price tags in the triple digits. Just to prove that that you can show her you care with very little $, here are 5 extra budget-friendly Mother’s Day gift ideas for $5 or less, including a couple DIYs. But truly, a simple phone call can make a difference. Your mother is priceless, so be sure to take a few moments to tell her so.

Mother's Day Photo Cards from Target

1. Target Photo Greeting Card. For the same price as buying a traditional Mother’s Day card, you can create your own personalized 5×7 Photo Greeting Card for just $3.99! There are several nice designs to chose from. You know she’ll love it!

2. A Cheryl’s Cookie Greeting shipped straight to her door ($5 includes shipping). I can personally vouch that these butter cream cookies are delicious. Don’t you think it would be a cheerful treat for mom to find in her mailbox?

trader joes body butter

3. Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter ($4.99). Have you tried this yet? Super rich and creamy with a sweet coconutty fragrance. Lots of natural ingredients, too. Mom will love it after showering or before bedtime , especially for tired hands and feet.

DIY Wooden Popsicle Stick  Seed Plant Markers

4. Herb Garden Markers DIY. The things you can make with popsicle sticks! These garden markers are pretty and practical, and Lil Blue Boo has a great tutorial and a free download to show you how.

DIY Paperclip Earrings

5. DIY Paperclip Earrings. Learn how to make these unique paperclip and string earrings by Evie S. from her post called Art From Everyday Objects: Paperclips + String. Definitely unique!

 


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Birthday Gift Books for Preschoolers

   

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend! Chloe had back-to-back preschool birthday parties, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, so it was definitely a fun-filled weekend for us!

Since we are still getting to know both of the birthday kids, I thought a good gift for each child would be a book + art supplies (my usual go-to gift). For this, as usual, I looked to my own kids for inspiration.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

For the birthday boy, who also has a little brother about Leo’s age, we chose Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Leo is WAY into trucks right now, and this is a book that both my kids enjoy. It is a New York Times bestseller, and the perfect just-before-bedtime read. It is about a crew of construction vehicles that finish up their jobs for the day and then go to sleep. The rhyming is thoughtfully done and the illustrations are in a crayon-drawn style. With this gift we attached a pack of crayola glitter crayons. Here’s the animated book trailer for Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (did you even know there was such a thing?!):

 

Bridget’s Beret

To the birthday girl, we gave a copy of Bridget’s Beret. Chloe and I both like to read this one (versus some of the books that Chloe likes that I don’t really care for – at least not the twentieth, or one-hundredth time!). This is definitely a book that will grow with her, and continue to be interesting.

Bridget’s Beret is about a young artist named Bridget who likes to wear a black beret. When her beret gets caught in a breeze and sails away, she feels like her ability to draw is lost along with it. Only when her little sister begs her to paint a sign for their lemonade stand does Bridget realize there is more to her talent after all. Such fresh and colorful girly illustrations! With this book to the birthday girl we also added a watercolor set. You can download a free activity guide for Bridget’s Beret here.

Here’s the funny thing: I didn’t realize until I bought both gift books that they were illustrated by the same author/illustrator, Tom Lichtenheld! I guess I don’t usually pay much attention to childrens’ book authors. Now that I know we like his style, we’re testing out several others from the library. Another cute book we’re currently reading is called Cloudette. See Cloudette’s sweet animated book trailer here.

Happy reading!

Just for the record, this is not a paid review. I’ve never actually done one of those, although I would love to! These are truly just some books that my kids and I really, really like!


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Cookie Jars

We were finally able to finish and deliver all the cookie jar gifts we made for the holidays this year. They are very similar to the ones from last year, but with a revised label since I took a shortcut and bought the cookies instead of making them this time. I daresay they taste just as good, if not better. 🙂


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Updated Tutorial & Printables List

I updated my Downloads + Tutorials page (see link under the header bar) with all the project tutorials and printable pdfs I’ve included on this blog. Hopefully they’ll be easier to find and use all in one place. Here are some:

1. DIY iPhone 4 Bumper Idea_2b.jpg, 2. Paper-Wrapped Jewelry Organizer, 3. bird magnets1.jpg, 4. Free Printable Valentine Flower card, 5. Chocolate Gift Jar Oreos.jpg, 6. Baby bib, 7. Halloween “Cauldron Bubbles” Treat, 8. IMG_7332.JPG, 9. “Dad” Father’s Day Card, 10. Cute Baby Hair Clips, 11. Holiday Gift tags, 12. Printable Holiday Gift Wrap, 13. Printable Holiday Cheer game board, 14. Felt photo album cover, 15. Vinyl Record Bowl, 16. Modern Happy Holidays Card


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Felt Flower Hair Clip Giveaway!

I finally found some time to make some new hair clips! These are just so fun. I can’t wait until Chloe has enough hair. Meanwhile it gives me plenty of time to build up my stash, since I’ve been giving most away as little gifts. I also decided to add a few to my sorely neglected etsy shop, and included a couple with matching cards:


Would you like to win the white felt flower hair clip in the top photo? Leave a comment below on this post and I’ll announce a random winner next weekend. Good Luck!


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Baby Craft Tutorial Roundup

A while back I started a page devoted completely to cool baby craft tutorials. There is a tab below the blog header that links to it. It contains a mix of my own tutorials and other people’s projects. So far there are tutorials for baby hair clips, appliqued onesies, felt baby shoes, burp cloths, kimono wrap, diaper and wipes pouch (poopy clutch), knit hat with earflaps, LED baby booties, diaper cake and embellishing baby tees. I hope to add more as I come across them on the net, so check back if you’re interested, or let me know what some of your favorite ones are and I’ll add them to the list.


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Japanese Variety

I seem to be stuck in a procrastination phase. I was hoping to be more productive this weekend, but I don’t think I was. Actually, I can’t even remember how I spent it all. Some of it was watching a few netflixed Alias episodes (great eye candy, although the mini anxiety attacks from all the suspense and drama are rough), surfed the net, a little gardening, attended a baby shower and put together some swap packages. I did get a little work done, too, so that’s good.

……….

Not far from my house is a Japanese supermarket called Uwajimaya. It’s a great place for exotic foods and asian gifts like ceramics, specialty papers, and traditional art supplies. We had an asian theme to our wedding (red tablecloths, paper lanterns, chopsticks, etc) and most of our food was ordered from here. I picked up the packages of candy shown above this weekend for some swaps (as well as some Haribo candy for myself). The whole side of an aisle is devoted to sweets, and of course I want to try them all.

Next door to the supermarket there is a Tokyo-based bookstore called Kinokuniya. Besides their unique office supplies and selection of kawaii, I love to browse the imported craft books. Their fine aesthetic and clean photographic style really appeals to me. Sometimes they’re written in English, too. My budget has pretty much limited me to only looking, but someday I’d love to bring a few home with me. For now I just try and soak up the inspiration while I’m there.


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Special Gifts from Grandma Rita

japanese incense

This past year, David’s grandmother moved from the Kansas farmhouse where she has lived for almost 60 years and into a retirement community. In the process, she had to do quite a bit of downsizing. Each of her grandkids and their spouses then became the lucky recipients of certain items that she specifically decided to give them this Christmas.

For David, Rita chose two smurf drinking glasses which held two small smurf figurines. The figurines look like they’d seen many a fun time in the hands of little boys, with a solid weight unlike the cheap plastic toys found today. The glasses were in surprisingly good condition, the colors still rich, probably never having seen the inside of a dishwasher. They are almost 25 years old. Due to their fragile nature and the already fullness of our suitcases, we decided to leave them safely at David’s parents for safe-keeping.

For me, Rita chose the 3 ceramic asian bowls, which I love. David’s mom says that they were purchased in California, when David’s parents were living there and Rita came out for a visit. This was before David was even born. The two blue and white pieces with the abstract maple leaf pattern look practically modern. I’ve used the smaller bowl like a lid in the photo, to hide a thin brown fracture in the larger bowl, but I don’t mind it at all. They’re beautiful and I am grateful to have them.

asian bowls

My absolute favorite item that Rita included is a small box of Japanese perfumed incense. This is one of the rare times that Google completely failed me, with no matches to the name Kyonohana. The design and construction of the package and the colors and texture of the incense very much appeals to my inner graphic designer. Although the individual scents are long gone, the general fragrance still lingers in a lightly sweet and transportive way. David’s mom said that each of these items were chosen by Rita, but I can’t help but wonder how she chose what to give. Did she guess I would love these things? Did the fact that I am half asian influence her decision? One day I’d like to ask, but for now I’ll just be grateful, enjoy their beauty, and feel good about remembering to send a thank-you card.


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Free Holiday Cheer Board Game

Holiday Cheer Game

Holiday Cheer Board Game – download free pdf here

A couple of weeks ago while I was shopping at Michael’s I made several spur of the moment holiday purchases, including 2 foamy-style rubber-stamp blocks and 3 packages of epoxy stickers. I have no idea what made me pick these items up because I don’t stamp, or use stickers (much). There was just something pretty and tactile about them that made reach out and place them on the check stand. (Actually, I was just going to buy one stamp, but it didn’t have a sku tag, so the checkout girl asked if I could grab another. Then I heard myself saying “I’ll just take that one, too”). Thank goodness they didn’t cost much!

So I’ve had these foamy stamp blocks on my desk for a while now. David asked me why I bought them and I guiltily mumbled something about probably returning them, or using them for… something. Later, I found myself tossing one around and noticing how it bounced merrily before settling. Then I thought Eureka! I could design a holiday game for my nephew with it! (Okay, so I didn’t say Eureka!, but that word perfectly described how I felt. As in: Whew! If I can make something useful/fun, then I can be excused for making an impulse buy. After all, it must have been fate at work that day, right?).

This picture is misleading. These are the two stamps I bought, but only one is used for the game.

How to Play: Here was my thought process. The foamy stamp block would work like a die that you roll (there is a snowman side, a snowflake side, a kid’s face, the words “Let it Snow,” and two blank sides). Whatever lands face up is the icon that you’d move your game piece forward to on the board. Sounds pretty easy right? The only kicker is that when you roll a blank side you lose that turn and don’t get to move forward. I designed the whole game board with this idea in mind.

I should mention here that I don’t know anything about three and a half year old boys, or any kids at all for that matter (although two of my good friends are now expecting!). Paolo, our nephew, lives in Austin and we rarely see him. I could be totally wrong about skills at that age or his interest in something like this. However, the other night when I explained this game to Marcy, she said it sounded like Candyland, which I looked up and is rated for ages 3+, which is perfect.

To make a long story short, you can download my Holiday Cheer Game here. It’s pretty large, with a full size of 17 x 22″ so it has to be printed out (or tiled) in four sections if you’re printing it out on regular letter-sized paper, like I did. Then I pasted the sheets to a larger piece of thin cardstock for durability/foldability.

Playing Cards: Unless you happen to find the same stamp block at Michael’s, the best way to play is to print out a second set of pages and cut out the squares from the game board to use as cards. Instead of rolling a die, you would set the stack of “cards” face down and each player would draw a card and then move his or her game piece forward to the nearest icon indicated. You would also have to cut out some “blank” cards to use as “lose a turn.”

Holiday Cheer Game

These are the simple plastic playing pieces I made . I would have preferred something more 3D, but they seem to work okay.

Game Pieces: I made game pieces out of Shrinky Dinks plastic (I am having such fun with that stuff!), but any small objects will do. Playing pieces from another game, a set of erasers, coins, bottle caps or anything that will fit on the squares should work.

Advanced Play: Depending on the level of the players, you can make the game harder by adding additional rules. For example, instead of two players sharing a square, maybe the original player gets kicked off his space and moved backward to the nearest same icon. Or maybe he moves all the way back to start! It’s up to you.

Have fun!


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Free Holiday Gift Tags

Free Holiday Gift Tags

What happened to this past week? I could swear I blinked and suddenly it’s Monday. I’m happy to report that the working from home business has picked up quite a bit in the last few weeks (thus hardly any real posts from me). However, I was able to whip up a page of free holiday gift tags to share with everyone tonight. I printed the set shown above on plain white cardstock from our laser printer and I have to admit they turned out pretty damn good for such a short turnaround. Hope you guys enjoy them too!

Download the above pdf with outlines or this pdf for a version with cropmarks.

Be sure to check out the other free downloads listed at the top right sidebar if you haven’t already!


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Free Download & Print Holiday Giftwrap

Free Download & Print Gift Wrap

Isn’t giftwrap fun? All the colors and patterns. I love how it looks so festive and promising. I especially enjoy the process of wrapping. If I had a dream house, I’d have a gift wrapping station complete with ribbon organizer. However, in our small house, we have to be more economical and limit ourselves to only a few rolls (not including the enormous one that a friend gave us, that will literally last our entire lifetime). Also, one major perk of being a graphic designer is that printers always give away free sheets of wrap around the holidays. I love that.

This week, I’m providing the two printable designs shown above – Giftwrap 1 – sapphire snowflakes on chocolate and Giftwrap 2 – tiny blue-grey snowflakes. The files measure 11×17″, but will work on letter size sheets. They can also be overlapped (or “tiled”) to create a larger sheet.

Tip: The most useful giftwrap-related item we have is a jumbo roll of white curling ribbon. It sounds pretty simple, but it never fails to look good and work for every single occasion.

See the upper-right sidebar for links to the previously posted goodies.

snowflake giftwrap

snowflake giftwrap


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Free Holiday Gift Checklist

checklist

checklist

I am a big fan of list-making, and with the holidays coming up I thought this Holiday Gift Checklist would be an handy way to get organized. It’s a single-page printable pdf that you can use to plan out recipients and gift ideas while keeping track whether the gift has been purchased or made, wrapped, and given or shipped. Plus, in the upper right I’ve included a small at-a-glance calendar for November and December. This way you can see where you are and how much time is left for shopping, crafting and/or shipping. Hope you find it useful!

Next week: Free Snowflake Placecards

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am planning to provide a free download each Sunday from now until Christmas. It’s my way of saying thanks and giving a little back into the blogosphere this holiday. Feel free to check back next week!


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Thoughts on Sewing + Handmade Holidays

pin cushion

New pins and cushion on a separately purchased yard of Amy Butler’s Nigella Water Lotus from Bolt

I had a really nice day today. It wasn’t too out of the ordinary, really. This morning my husband and I went to a meeting and afterwards I had a doctor’s appointment (I ended up getting a tetanus booster, and not to be a baby, but it still hurts). I worked from home this afternoon and tonight I just finished a batch of Chocolate Chip Truffle Brownie cookies that turned out heavenly (tip: buy a box of Truffle Brownie Baking Mix from Trader Joe’s and follow the variation on the side). It was all I could do to stop myself from eating more than a few spoonfuls of batter alone. No doubt I’ve reached my quota of calories for the remainder of the week.

Next to the doctor’s office is a fabric store, so of course I decided to pop in for a moment. Now that I’ve finished my 1st, 2nd and 3rd projects I felt like it was okay to pick up a few basics I didn’t have – a pin cushion, a seam ripper and threader, a measuring tape and some glass-head pins. Who would guess a tiny box of those pretties could be so expensive? I adore them, though. So dainty and colorful. I immediately stuck some in the little cushion once I got home.

Now I am thinking about the next project. I have to tread carefully here with my limited skills and experience. I don’t want to tackle anything too difficult, because I don’t want to frustrate myself into quitting. I don’t want to do anything too boring, because it will feel like a waste of time. I also don’t want to make something that will just sit around unused. Our house is so small that things “lying about” can quickly get out of hand. If it were up to my husband, our house would more resemble a monk’s cell, than a comfortable home.

I’m also beginning to think about Christmas gifts. Every year I think to myself maybe this year I’ll only give handmade (or recycled, or organic, or local). But each year I chicken out. I have given some though – a set of greeting cards with vellum for my mother-in-law, a hand knit scarf for my mom, homemade dog treats for Barkley and his best friend, Mia. Maybe this year will be the year. I know that some people around the blogosphere are already making that commitment. I’m just not sure I’m ready.

However, one site that I’ll be checking out everyday for the next month is Sew Mama Sew’s blog (based in my area, as a matter-of-fact) that is featuring Handmade Holidays: 30 Days of Gifts to Sew. Today’s inspiration was all about aprons, including links to tutorials. Check out this awesome list:

November 1 ~ Aprons
November 2 ~ Pincushions & Pins
November 3 ~ For the House
November 4 ~ Lunch Bags
November 5 ~ Tote Bags
November 6 ~ Blankets for Baby
November 7 ~ For your Purse or Pocket
November 8 ~ Whimsy
November 9 ~ Fabric Ornaments
November 10 ~ Ties and Belts
November 11 ~ Reading & Writing
November 12 ~ For the Table
November 13 ~ Placemats
November 14 ~ Kids’ Clothes
November 15 ~ Warm those Toes
November 16 ~ Gifts for the Crafter
November 17 ~ Purses
November 18 ~ For Baby
November 19 ~ Tech Gifts
November 20 ~ Gifts for Organization
November 21 ~ Pillows
November 22 ~ Fun for Hair
November 23 ~ Soft Toys & Games
November 24 ~ Sachets
November 25 ~ For the Kitchen
November 26 ~ Embellishments
November 27 ~ Gifts for Warmth
November 28 ~ Drawstring Bags
November 29 ~ Fabric Boxes
November 30 ~ Gift Compilations


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Easy Felt Photo Album – Tutorial

felt album cover

Yay! My first real sewing craft project (okay, not including pant hems or that dog pillow I did in 7th grade)! Anyway, this was so easy. As I wrote previously, sewing just doesn’t come naturally to me. I wanted to start small to ensure at least moderate success on my first foray back. My mom sewed a lot when we were kids, to the point where all three of us had sunday outfits of matching fabric and I wasn’t even embarrassed (hey, I was young!). I wish I had paid attention back then.

I remember seeing these covers somewhere before. The construction seemed fairly straightforward, with only three pieces stitched together. Another bonus is that felt doesn’t unravel, and is forgiving to work with. If I can make this then I know that everyone else can, too! Fun fact: according to Wikipedia, felt is the oldest form of fabric known to humankind and predates weaving and knitting.

Items Needed
2 sheets of felt
photo album insert
thread
embellishment (optional)

Instructions
For the album above, I chose a red embossed sheet for the outside, a smooth dark brown for the inside, and red thread. I’m not sure of their types, but the red sheet was softer and floppy, like typical craft felt, and the brown one was stiffer. The album insert came from Target.

1. Begin by measuring the album opened flat on a table, and add .25″ to the top and bottom and .5″ to the sides for seam allowance. For example, if the opened album measured 10″wide x 6.5″tall then the end measurement would be 11″wide x 7″tall. Cut this rectangle out of the outside felt cover sheet.

2. Measure the front cover. Add .25″ to the top and bottom only. For example, if the front cover measures 4.75″wide x 6.5″ tall, the end measurement would be 4.75″wide x 7″tall. Cut out two of these shapes – one for the inside front cover and one for the inside back cover.

3. Lay the pieces together as shown below (large red outside piece face down, with two brown pieces facing up, matching outside edges). Stitch around the whole perimeter, keeping about .1875″ from the edge and backstitching at the end. I used a sewing machine, but this could be done by hand, too, and might look neat using a blanket stitch. Trim the thread ends.

felt photo album diagram

4. Now tuck the front and back covers of the album into the side pockets. That’s it!

Adding An Embellishment
I happened to have a set of EK Success “Inspirables” metal charms that I bought for our wedding and never used. For this project I chose the “Love” charm. Using the same red thread I stitched it onto the lower right of the front cover for a simple finishing touch. Craft stores are filled with neat ad-ons that could be glued or stitched on. Or simply cut some fun shapes out of the remaining felt scraps and stitch them onto the cover before completion.

The inside. This will be a gift to Marcy so I’ve included one of her wedding photos.

The red thread makes a nice contrast on the brown

Detail of the spine and discreet backstitching to keep the thread from unraveling

Detail of the “Love” embellishment, hand-stitched with red thread


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Inspiration: Lotta Jansdotter Simple Sewing

lotta jansdotter simple sewing

I’ve finally bought a copy of Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing. I have loved her designs for ages, and own two of her adorable tissue box covers (read that post here) and a set of sticky notes my husband gave me last christmas. Her designs and patterns, to me, are the epitome of fresh, organic and modern. If I had inexhaustible funds I’m sure I would surround myself with many more of her products.

Anyway, I really want to learn to sew. I’ve thought about it for ages, but frankly, I’m scared. I see it as being a very difficult and unforgiving medium, though so many people do it very well. I’ve had a hard time just hemming up my pants, despite a very instructive lesson from my mother-in-law. And it’s not like I’ve never had a successful sewing experience. It’s just that I’ve also had some very frustrating experiences, too.

I’m hoping this book will help inspire me to change all that. It includes patterns and instructions for some basic, yet cool items that I would love to make for myself and possibly even give as gifts.

Tip: If you use the link above to her store, the book will come signed by Lotta. I didn’t know this until after I had already purchased my book from Border’s (with an email newsletter discount). Plus, while we were there we met and chatted with a very nice couple in the cafe about sewing and crafts. Rachel and Owen, if you’re reading this, it was very nice to meet you. 🙂

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