Kiddo DIY Gifts

To wrap up my holiday homemade, handmade, local gift series, I’ll end up with little girl themed gifts. If you want to find out about local Wilmington gifts, holiday ornaments for friends and coworkers, or my annual Christmas panic you can read past posts.

Last year my nieces received scarves and jewelry boxes with earrings (jewelry was purchased). This year my youngest niece, Holland, asked for books, lip gloss, “world peace”, “nothing”, and “me” (meaning herself). She’s eight. The last three were hard to work with so I opted for books and lip gloss. I will do anything I can to encourage the girls’ reading so I bought three books off her list.

The ten year old, Georgia, also wanted lip gloss, which worked out as the recipe I found, made six little pots. I opted for a pink, shimmery, peppermint kind. This felt right up their alley.

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Pros and cons of this craft-

Pros:

  • It was really easy and took no time. All I needed was a microwave, a bowl and a spoon in terms of equipment.
  • The hardest part was pouring into the pots quickly so it looked nice. Didn’t look nice? Put it back in the bowl and microwave again. Easy. Done.
  • The color looks really nice in the pots but is subtle (if noticeable at all) on your lips. Very appropriate for a young person. It also feels very smooth and soothing.

Cons:

  • I didn’t have most of the ingredients I needed to make this. I bought the peppermint oil (not cheap but I can use for other things), a box of little plastic containers (so…everyone’s getting lip gloss for next Christmas), beeswax pellets (I also want to make candles so not a big deal) and sweet almond oil. I already had the shea butter. If I end up not using these items for other things then this is an expensive gift. If I do, then it’s incredibly cheap.

I knew Georgia was getting a desk for Christmas so I wanted to make her things for her room. I painted a small wooden tray black (pink and black are her colors) which in retrospect I wish I done a bigger one or made it glittery. To go with it I took two heavy paper mache letters (her initials) from a craft store and painted the sides black. On the front I used a large sheet of pink glitter adhesive paper (basically a giant pink glitter sticker) to brighten it. On the functional side these could be book ends, otherwise they’re decorative. She was a fan.

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For some reason this picture won’t turn. I hope you ge the drift.

 

 

They worked well with the two inexpensive translucent pink glasses to be used for pencil holders. At Target I found a pack of mini desk items such as a mini-stapler, mini-scissors, mini-tape, etc (all in purple) and at World Market I picked up a cute notepad and mini clothespins in different colors. Perfect for the desk which is more fun than functional.

The best part of these gifts? I got a hug after the girls opened every single one.

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I tried hard this year to simplify. No complicated crafts. No multi-month projects. This equals no tears or frustration! All in all I think it was a success! Hopefully I can keep this up every year…

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DIY Christmas: Vintage Bell Jar Ornaments

As we’re previously discussed, the goal this Christmas is handmade, homemade or local. So far, I’ve only made one exception: books for my niece. No matter what the rule is, the exception can always be made for books.

The holiday season can be kind of a weird time when you’re the new person at work or your friends generally fit under the category of “recent”. When you haven’t gone through Christmas together you don’t know what the norm is for them. Do you plan to get them nothing but then they show up in your cubicle with a thoughtful gift? Were you going to throw a few cookies in a red and green bag only to find a gorgeous array of fudge on your doorstep? Best to come prepared. Plus these are all people you want to show affection to- you just don’t necessarily know how much!

This year’s remedy and featured homemade gift will be bell jar style ornaments. I found this idea at My So-Called Crafty Life, a blog I’ve used for guidance periodically. The number one thing you should know about this DIY craft- at no point did I want to give up. It was easy to assemble and fun to watch come together. The second thing you should know- it is not easy to find a lot of the little pieces you’ll want to put into your bell jars. If you’re going to do this project, it might be a good idea to start in November when stores seem inappropriately ready for Christmas. Once you hit December you’ll be very disappointed, staring at empty shelves. (Unless you use the Internet. Word on the street is the Internet has all sorts of fun things.

First things first. Take two-piece, plastic wine glass and shorten the ends. No, I don’t recommend using a hacksaw but that’s all I had. The stems you can just get rid of.

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For 5.5 oz wine glasses use a scalloped edge 3″ paper punch to cut out your bases. I took a red piece of thicker paper and used modge podge to glue it to a pretty winter wonderful design on lighter paper. The base needs to have a little heft to it.

Tacky glue did the trick to secure my little guys to the bases. The tallest trees you see here are 3″. Even 3″ was a little high for the wine glasses.

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Don’t worry about any glue peaking out from under your figurines. The glitter will cover it up.  I just love this little camper from Michael’s!

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Use a hot glue gun around the top of your wine glass to secure it to the base. A little homemade paper funnel will help you pour in your glitter. Be generous with the glitter!

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Aren’t the books underneath the tree perfect for my book club?!

 

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I hot glued a pearl bead (Joann’s) on top of each wine glass. It’s also how I secured the red twine around the top. So far all seems very sturdy!IMG_0901

I went to Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, AC Moore, and Hobby Lobby to get all the pieces you see before you.

Michael’s: Better for the more expensive but very different pieces. I also saw a cute VW bug and a little fireplace.

Jo-Ann Fabric: There I was able to buy a mixed bag of mini-trees in a reasonable size. Michael’s only sold them in large quantities. I also found the glitter deer and a couple old trucks I’m going to use for another project.

AC Moore: The first time I went by they had a wonderful selection of tiny deer, trees, snowmen, etc but they never replenished their shelves so I couldn’t buy anymore.

Hobby Lobby: Their Mayberry Street miniatures line didn’t offer many holiday items but I did find the books which I used under 4 of my trees for gifts for my book club members. I also bought the paper punch there which was considerably cheaper than at Michael’s and I couldn’t find it at all at AC Moore.

I really enjoyed this project although I cracked a couple wine glasses, spilled a ton of glitter and had to go back to the craft stores several times. Normally when I find a craft on Pinterest tears and frustration are a component of the end result but I enjoyed every moment of making these.

My Unreasonable Obsession With Gift Baskets

I don’t know many people my age who love gift baskets. I don’t think many people really think about gift baskets. I mean, why would you?

I do. Often. It’s my favorite kind of gift to give. One of the very best gifts we received for our wedding was a honeymoon basket from Tyler’s mother. It was a large beautiful rectangular basket filled with everything we could have wanted for our road trip honeymoon: a tablecloth, two cloth napkins, two candles, a bottle of champagne, olives, cheese, crackers, summer sausage, smoked salmon and a beautiful handmade card. It was incredible. (Forgive the lack of photo. I was a little distracted at the time. )When we received a small monogrammed cheeseboard and knife from a friend, we were completely set. We loved our gourmet driving snacks of salmon and cheese and upgrading our meals with candles and cloth napkins at night.

This basket was the catalyst for me. Since then I’ve given three wedding baskets and I won’t be stopping any time soon. I have no idea if the recipients enjoy receiving them as much as I enjoy making them but at least I’m having fun!

This summer two friends were planning a honeymoon road trip and I was inspired to make a similar basket to the one we received. My mother has an excess of baskets and she was kind enough to give me a few. I took a medium rectangular one and filled it with a mustard yellow polka dot picnic cloth (made from an old curtain I had), two navy cloth napkins, a bottle of bubbly, scones, homemade apple butter and a small pouch that contained plastic cutlery and wet wipes. Plastic cutlery and wet wipes are two items that I consider mandatory for a road trip. You need them if you’re going to avoid eating unhealthy gas stations snacks (or to wipe away the Cheetos). Unfortunately the photo of this basket was lost in a tragic I-forgot-the-passcode-to-my-iPhone-and-had-to-have-it-reset incident.

The next two baskets were for celebrations on the same weekend. So much love in such a short period of time!

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This basket was for a lovely couple that chose their wedding weekend hashtag as #keepingupwiththewoneses. Adorable. Don’t be concerned though. Their last name is not Wones. I don’t think I could handle that. To pad the basket (another gift from my mother) I used another curtain from my apartment in Austin. I didn’t line it to make a nice tablecloth. If I put more thought into it, I would made it into a table runner.

I’m all about gift baskets including something tasty, something to drink, something practical and something cute. Their go to alcohol is Tito’s vodka, so I had to include a bottle. I added a jar of my peach jam to give it a homemade tasty feature. For a while I had been wanting to support my friend and former coworker, Caroline Robe, by purchasing one of her beautiful handmade wooden kitchen items. This basket gave me the opportunity to purchase her salad spoons. Aren’t they beautiful? Then to make the basket fun I added a succulent in a jar by The Coastal Succulent (keep it local) and an embroidered hoop with their wedding hashtag. Unfortunately the embroidered portion took longer than I would have liked and the gift was late. It had vodka in it though, so who cares.

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This basket was for one of my oldest friends and her husband. Knowing her as I do I knew that a gift should be carefully chosen. She’s practical but likes her practical items to also be aesthetically pleasing. She’s recognizes thoughtless or impersonal gifts quickly. They are also moving and I did not want to add to the stress of their packing. Luckily my gift basket strategy would fit the bill.

You’ll recognize the fabric from the other basket. I had more than one window at my Austin apartment and therefore more than one curtain. The basket was one I had been gifted from my mom again.

Drinkable item: Brut Rose bubbly wine from Palate– I was told this was a safe and tasty wine

Homemade items: Tomato jam and Strawberry jam (I like to have both sweet and savory)

Tasty items: Pepperoni and Salami that needed to be kept cool but not refrigerated, perfect for a basket. The company is also based in Virginia!

Practical items: A small cutting board from Caroline Robe’s Blasfemme Designs, two cloth napkins and hidden behind the board were plastic cutlery so they could eat the treats on the way home if they wanted.

I think my dream job might be to make gift baskets. So if you know how I can get this going, let me know. In the meantime as you plan your holiday gifts, I highly recommend the often overlooked gift basket. It’s very handy when you’re giving to a group of people like a family or your office.

Happy crafting!

Annual Christmas Present Panic: Balancing Thoughtful Gifts with My Budget

On November 1st I felt the annual panic. Lighted wreaths appeared on the telephone polls outside the wine shop. Target’s Christmas light selection appeared behind the newly discounted candy. We are moments away from hearing the Nutcracker theme on the speakers in every mall, post office and dentist office.

What does this all mean? As a overly zealous planner, it means I need to know what I’m doing for Christmas gifts. Every year I try to balance three key issues:

  1. The Budget- I don’t have a large budget for Christmas gifts, but I love elaborate gifts. There is no logical reason for this but I am always concerned about my gift “not being enough”. Nor can I resist purchasing “the perfect gift” when I come across it.
  2. Homemade- Trying to keep my budget low goes hand in hand with making homemade gifts. The problem with homemade gifts is unless you’re especially gifted (get it?!) you may find that yourself staying up late at night working on overly intricate hand-embroidered items or making gifts that you’re not sure anyone actually wants.
  3. Materialism- Why are we stressing ourselves out over gifts when there are so many people who don’t have anything? Do you actually need anything this Christmas? Are the gifts you’re giving contributing to the closets of the one you love or are they things they will appreciate? There is so much excess in our country. I don’t have any desire to contribute to it more than I already do.

I truly love to give gifts. I don’t always succeed in giving personal, thoughtful gifts but I always try and I like the process. None of this would bother me if I didn’t.

This year (as I do every year) I’ll be doing my best to only give homemade/handmade, local gifts or immaterial gifts. We’ll see if I can do it! I’ll be sharing ideas for you to do the same if it appeals to you. Here’s last year’s Christmas gifts if you need some ideas to get you started!

Fall Apple Butter & The Difference A Year Makes

Last fall I made 36 little 4 oz jars of apple butter. It was the first time I’d ever canned anything and I was terribly nervous, but every jar sealed. As I fretted over jars that struggled to remain upright in the boiling water bath, two girlfriends sat on my couch trying to find their way through recent heartbreak.

Although I enjoyed their company, it was unnerving to listen to them, one being recently divorced, as I prepared for my wedding. Those little jars were to go with an equal number of little jars of smoked salmon that Tyler caught, smoked and canned in Alaska. Together they were our wedding favors. Homemade items that felt like they represented us. At the time “us” felt far apart with me in Texas preparing my DIY wedding items and the Alaskan boy in Alaska fishing and golfing and feeling like the wedding was still far off.

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The two crockpots crowded my kitchen. I didn’t have enough counter space so they sat on stools while the sterilized hot glass jars were filled on my counter next to the stove. I didn’t know what to expect. Was the apple butter supposed to be this dark? Yes, it’s perfect. Was it smooth enough? Yes, it will continue to break down as you process it.

I didn’t question loving Tyler or marrying him, although I did question whether or not I was going to make it through our wedding planning. Throughout my life I’ve questioned the longevity of marriage but not whether trying was worth it.

This weekend we celebrated our first anniversary with starting the search for a dog to be a member of our family. We toasted our marriage with beers over queso.   When I decided to make apple butter two days later to share with my coworkers and friends- the people who have newly become important to me- Tyler wasn’t in Alaska. He was helping me. Or at least keeping me company.

We made it in our new kitchen in our new house because we are homeowners now in a town that is just now beginning to feel like home. I once again worried that the apple butter wasn’t smooth or dark enough (cook for longer!) and I struggled to find all the jars and lids as I still don’t know where we’ve put everything.

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I know it is the first of many more anniversaries. After all, I’ve told him we’re required to make it to our 50th. After that, we can reconsider.

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To make your own apple butter (with extra love) I recommend Martha Stewart’s Overnight Apple Butter. Great for wedding favors and coworker surprises.

Lessons From the Garden

1. Starting the day with productivity instead of a snooze is a recipe for success. I’ve been getting up early before work, pouring a cup of tea, turning on some easy wake up tunes, and putting on my gardening gloves. With the heatwave (it’s called summer) and the humidity (my welcome back to the South) it’s the only time I’m willing to weed and work out there. Regardless it sets the tone for my day. I feel happier and kinder when I start the day surrounded by the beautiful things we’ve worked so hard to grow. To date we’ve eaten spinach, peas, arugula, two tomatoes (the squirrels ate two beautiful ones too), a beet and there’s a zucchini in my refrigerator that I’m about to cook up.

Oh look a delicious treat.

Oh look a delicious treat.

A delicious treat for squirrels apparently

A delicious treat for squirrels apparently

2. I am a very small part of a very big world. Even in my 15 x 15 little garden plot I don’t have a very firm grasp of what occurs nor a lot of control. If I did the spinach, peas and potatoes wouldn’t have disappeared. Our pea vines have yellowed, wilting from the heat. Our spinach supposedly drowned. Our potatoes have slowly vanished from nematodes. Constantly in life I am reminded that most of the time I am seeing only a very small picture of the world. I have to work hard to understand my garden and I have to work hard to understand why so many tough things are happening in the world right now. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out either.

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3. I think a lot about my grandmother when I’m out in the garden. I am told that she spent a lot of time in her yard working on her plants. I’m sure she never grew vegetables because she was a terrible cook but I imagine if we knew each other now we would enjoy talking about it. I started wearing garden gloves recently to keep dirt out from under my fingernails. My dad told me that my grandmother drank gelatin to strengthen her nails. It’s such a small thing but I think of her when I wear my gloves. I never met her. I’ve heard a lot of things about her, positive and negative, but I would have really liked to know her. Gardening is one of those things that just makes me feel more connected. 

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4. It’s a process. The peas withered from the heat but I can try again in the fall or earlier next spring. Next time we plant potatoes we’ll know to take action earlier. We have learned and we can try again. There’s no one and done.

Success!

Success!

My First Garden

When I was a child in elementary school, we had a garden. I was pretty young and I don’t think it lasted more than a few years. It bordered our neighbor’s fence. I remember wishing we could ask for the melons back that had grown into our yard.  I remember wondering why we had so many radishes and wanting to grow something else. But that’s really it. It wasn’t something I grew up with. It was only the last few years that I started wanting to grow food myself. I started with herbs. I killed them. I progressed on to care for my friend’s lemon tree. It lives but I wouldn’t say it prospered. Were these signs? No way!

So, when we were looking for a house in Wilmington, we specifically had our eye out for a yard and a landlord that wouldn’t mind a garden. Plus isn’t it cute?!

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I voted for a small raised bed garden that wouldn’t take up too much of our time. I was worried about getting in over our heads. I was overruled.

It's a little bigger than I intended...

It’s a little bigger than I intended…

I would guess the garden’s about 12 x 15. It feels pretty enormous when I’m weeding. It pretty much always needs weeding. Please don’t look too closely at the photos. I’m learning!

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(These are from Easter weekend.)

For the most part we’ve targeted our favorite foods: spinach, carrots (not doing too well), purple and yukon potatoes, peas, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, beets and arugula. There’s also a basil plant and some green onions in there as well. I don’t think Tyler will be partaking in any zucchini and beet eating but I think I can handle that!

We’ve also started a small compost bin out of an old plastic bin I had previously stored my crafts in. It was a lot more fun when our landlord in Austin worked for Compost Peddler. They provided the bucket and a paper bag each week when they picked up the our food scraps. No smell, no ick. Then our landlord would bring compost home sometimes! Convenient.

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Pretty, pretty progress!

We’re hoping that if our garden is productive, we’ll be doing some canning this summer. Fingers crossed!