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Christmas Recap

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

We are spending the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa in Colorado. Sadly, there is no snow to be seen this week, but we did get an incredible surprise visit from Santa on Christmas Day. I’m actually not sure who was more shocked, Chloe and her cousin Paolo, or us parents. Although Chloe has seen pictures of Santa, and waved to him briefly during a short trip to the mall, she was still a little wary and didn’t want to leave the safety of daddy’s arms. Maybe next year. However, both kids made out like bandits in the gift department, including books and much desired Lego sets.

Christmas dinner was also a real treat – Roast pheasant and quail with apricots and dates (caught earlier in the hunting season by Grandpa) and prepared by Grandma Sandy and Chloe’s Aunt Liza, along with wild rice, toasted parmesean bread and procuitto-wrapped asparagus and gruyere. Dessert was freshly made chocolate peanut butter balls using Chloe’s Great Grandma Vera’s family recipe. Certainly a holiday meal to remember!


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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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Valentine Idea: Day 1 – Heart Crayons

Heart crayons – learn to make your own here, or purchase cute, handmade sets from Etsy sellers like the ones shown below:


Valentine Love Heart Crayons Upcycled / Recycled (set of 10) $5.50


20 Valentine Crayons Individually Wrapped for School Class or Party Favors $20


Chunky Heart Crayons – Lil Scribblers (TM) – Set of 9 $9.95


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Chocolate Covered Oreos + Label and Packaging Idea

For other procrastinators like myself, I thought I’d share this quick and tasty treat I made earlier this week. A search for “chocolate covered oreos” provided several good recipes and instructions (1, 2, 3), but basically I just melted a package of chocolate chips in the microwave. The cool thing about these cookies is that you don’t actually have to bake in order to have pretty handmade treats to give friends and neighbors. For packaging and display, I found tall glass canning jars at our local New Seasons, covered the lids with fabric and attached a label, which you can download here. For more packaging inspiration, marthastewart.com has a nice slideshow on 13 beautiful ways to package cookies, my favorites being the cookie gift sleeve, and the cellophane-wrapped cookies.

Download your own free “Fudge Dipped Oreos, Made with Love” Labels here.


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Free Holiday Gift Tags – Updated Colors

I was hoping to make a brand new set of gift tags to give away this year, but time just seems to be slipping away! Instead, please enjoy this updated color set, or feel free to download the original color set. Why buy tags when you can download and print them for free?!

Also, the following downloads are still available from previous years:

……

Holiday Gift Checklist 2007 / Happy Holidays Card / Printable Snowflake Giftwrap

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Holiday Gift Tags / Holiday Cheer Board Game / From Me to You for the Holidays

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Little Bird Notecard Set / Snowflake Placecards


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Summation, Holiday 2007


With David (foreground), Aundrea (hidden) and Andrew at Breckenridge

I can hardly believe that it is the first week of 2008 already. Now that things are calming down I feel like I finally have a chance to think, and reflect. The past few weeks have just been so crazy/wonderful. I started receiving a busy stream of freelance work around the end of November, then we celebrated David’s birthday the second week of December in Las Vegas/ Death Valley, on the third week we left for almost a two week visit in Colorado with David’s family over Christmas and New Year’s and the past couple of days have been spent wildly catching up on all the freelance work. I feel like I am just now able to take a full breath after all that excitement!

I didn’t write a lot about the holidays, too busy enjoying each and every day I guess. Although I didn’t get to spend it with my own parents and sister, spending time with David’s family was really great. I feel very lucky to be able to say that. I didn’t miss grey and rainy Portland hardly at all. Yes, it was super cold, but there was snow, too. Lovely, white, sparkling snow tempered with lots of sun and blue skies.

David and Paolo
David and nephew Paolo (love that chicken hat!) on the 4-wheeler.
Old Colorado City
A quick stop through charming Old Colorado City

Christmas gifts this year were simply astounding. Lots of precious handmade items along with amazingly thoughtful and useful ones. I really hope the recipients of our presents (many handmade, some purchased) felt the same. I wish I had thought to photograph some of those things, but that’s okay. Actually, if I had the time, I’d catalogue each and every thing I received. Seriously. I feel like each item holds that much specialness. It’s a good thing that I’ll never expect to have another Christmas exactly like this one.

Am I starting to sound a little gushy? I can’t help it. It’s really how I feel. Each day was an adventure. And lest I forget, a short list includes: attending mass, snowboarding at Breckenridge, watching butterflies, spotting deer, eating delicious meals, enjoying the snow, watching indoor skydiving, learning to knit hats, driving the 4-wheeler, driving a brand new Honda Civic, sewing my first slippers, cooking a soufflé, seeing fireworks on Pike’s Peak, making cookies, watching movies (notably Ratatouille and Surf’s Up), playing games, reading (Kite Runner), and so much more.


Sunset over the mountains

At this moment, I feel completely blessed. And reminds me of a saying in one of our new gifts, a 2008 calendar with photos of the family (including pets!) along with dates for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions given to us by David’s brother, Andrew, and his fiancée Aundrea:

“Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul.” -Democritus


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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 Snowflake Placecards

free snowflace placecards

free snowflace placecards

Okay, a little late getting these Free Snowflake Placecards posted. I think, in the future, I’d be better off moving these posts to Monday instead of Sunday!

It is very rare to see placecards used, but I think they are a really nice way of adding that little something extra to a nicely set holiday table. Although they are traditionally used to designate a person’s name for each place setting, they would also be a handy and elegant way to label the different dishes on a buffet table (more so in the case of food allergies, etc).

After dinner, there might even be other uses for that little piece of paper, perhaps as a mini-scorecard for a game, to use for placecard origami, or, with Thanksgiving this week, you could even have everyone write down something they’re thankful for.

Check back next Sunday Monday for the next in a series of weekly Holiday downloads.

Week 1 – Free Holiday Gift Checklist


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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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A Modern Gingerbread House

modern gingerbread house

This is the coolest gingerbread house, ever! Hard to believe that no one has thought of it before (at least that I’ve ever seen). I came across it here while perusing Redenvelope.com“Every bit as edible as the original, this isn’t your grandma’s gingerbread house. We gave the classic holiday treat a mid-century makeover, complete with garage and rock garden. A unique gift and sure-fire conversation piece, it comes assembled and ready to enjoy.”

It’s a little spendy at $78 (for an extra $10 you can add personalization, like in the photo above) and it makes me a little sad that you can’t assemble it yourself. Isn’t that the fun part? Seeing this makes me think about trying to re-create one of my favorite modern houses, maybe Michelle Kaufmann’s Sunset Breezehouse or maybe an iconic Portland-area Rummer home, complete with melted hard candy glass windows (see recipe here). Wouldn’t that be so awesome?!

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