Brown Paper Packages: Festively Accented

The countdown to Christmas has officially begun! This year, I am feeling particularly festive and on top of the holiday (90% of my gifts are purchased, wrapped and under my fully decorated tree in my decorated house).

But, every year, I try to do something fun and themed with my gift wrapping. In the past, I’ve done the classic mix and match of cute Christmas printed wrapping paper, but starting about 3 years ago, I switched over to a brown paper base. There is a two-part reasoning behind this: 1, I like how clean and classic brown paper looks – it goes with virtually any color scheme of decor (except maybe like glittery / white / silver modern) because you can accent it any way you’d like and 2, I found this giant, and I mean GIANT, role of plain brown paper in the attic of the house we used to rent before we bought our home. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have just taken it with us, but, well, we did. Sorry, Dave.

Anyhow, it’s so massive, it’s lasted me through many years of Christmas and projects thus far. You can see it used in the first post in this series, Brown Paper Packages: Tied Up With String, or in other posts, like How to Host a Murder: 1880s Western or Thanksgiving Crafts for Hosting.

Last year, I went with brown paper wrapping accented with red and green glittery pompoms. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my wrapping (what is wrong with me?!), but I got the pompoms at the Dollar Tree. I took two approaches to using the pompoms last year:

  1. I would put a few together for a cute bunch in the middle or corner of a present and write “To” and “From” in permanent marker near it. (I would usually do a mix of red and green and big, medium, and small.)
  2. I’d first draw some sort of picture that would be meaningful or related to the receiver and incorporate the pompom within it. For example, I did Santa playing basketball with a pompom as the ball for my nephew who plays basketball and a kitty with a Santa hat with the pompom as the ball at the tip of the hat for my niece who loves kitties, like me. You get the idea. And, like with #1, I’d just write the “To” and “From” in permanent marker (I also did the drawing in permanent marker).

They were cute. Sorry I can’t show you them.

This year, I saw some cute Christmas picks at the Dollar Tree and grabbed them just because. Then, when thinking about how to accent my brown paper packages, I decided, why not add a 3D element to my gifts and use the individual pieces of the pick?! So, I got a few more picks and a little bag of acorns so I’d have a good selection to work with and plenty for all of my gifts.

I also decided to do something a little differently for the “To” and “From” labels. As per the above, I’d done permanent marker and last year I did stamping. I always used to love gift tags and selecting which tag to give to which person, so I decided to look for some of these. What I found instead of the classic sticker gift tags were these cute little gift tag books with glitter that are on a sticky pad that pops them off the gift. I got a couple of packs of these to go with my Christmas picks and acorns (all of this from the Dollar Tree; the little book gift tags came in packs of 18 for only $1!). Then, using some classic white glue to secure my pick elements to the gifts, I went to work!

The final result was this:

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Thanksgiving Crafts for All

I love my mom, but one thing she is not is crafty. She can come up with crazy, fun ideas, but actually executing them is not her strong suit. The good news – she is incredibly self-aware on this point. So, that leaves the (Thanksgiving) crafts to me – hooray!

Every year at our Thanksgiving dinner, we take time to say what we’re grateful / thankful for. Sometimes, we get a little wild and do this through crafting. If you’re looking for a fun Thanksgiving craft good for most ages, I’ve got a couple of ideas to share:

  • Thankful Turkey Board – this was a bit of a twist on our normal ‘This year I’m thankful for…’. Rather than saying WHAT we were thankful for, we each drew two names of people at our celebration and wrote down something that we’re thankful for about that person. This was easy because it was all family, but this might be a little tougher if you’ve got a mixed group of family and friends or you have folks who bring a friend/date that no one has met before. The names were written on pre-cut ‘feathers’ and we wrote the thankful messages there too. Then, we read them off one by one and one person added the feathers to the turkey board. It was a really nice activity and left us with a cool final product!
    • Materials:
      • Foam board (Dollar Tree)
      • Wrapping paper (optional) – I covered my foam board with wrapping paper to give it a little somethin’ extra, but this definitely isn’t required
      • Red, orange, yellow, and brown paper to cut the feathers out (feel free to veer from the norm of traditional Thanksgiving colors)
      • Markers for writing the names / messages on the feathers
      • Scrap newspaper, padding, foam, or batting (something to stuff your turkey body)
      • Brown paper – you could use a brown paper bag, wrapping paper, or similar
      • Googly eyes or white paper to make the eyes
      • Pre-cut color letters (optional)
    • Instructions:
      • If you’re going to wrap your board with wrapping paper, do this first.
      • Then, build your turkey body. I cut out the general shape and then started by gluing around the edge of one half of the turkey. Then, I stuffed its body and glued around the other half. NOTE: before you start stuffing/gluing him, be sure to add your eyes (either googly eyes or white circles with a draw-on black dot for the pupil), beak (yellow-ish triangle with a rounded tip) and waddle (I drew this on with a red marker). These parts are MUCH hard to add after your turkey is on the board and fluffy.
      • Next, cut out a zillion feathers. Okay, okay, you don’t need a zillion. Last year we had 17 people at Thanksgiving and I needed two per person (each person drew 2 names), so I cut out 34 (plus a few extra just in case). I took my craft paper and folded it hamburger style and then drew a feather with the base at the folded edge and the side at one end of the paper. Then, I folded it accordion style so I could cut 10-12 feathers at once (5-6 folds x 2 since the paper is folded in half). You could also just draw one, cut it out and then use it as a stencil to draw and cut the rest, but this will take longer. (See below pics illustrating my method.)
      • Finally, write each person’s name on two feathers and add the letters to the top of your board. Firstly, you don’t have to add ANYTHING to the top, but I figured my mom would keep this and would want to remember when it was from, so I added the year. Secondly, as you can probably tell, only Thanksgiving is done in pre-cut letters. I hand-wrote 2017 on the board.
      • At your Thanksgiving celebration, have everyone draw two feathers and complete the activity before dinner. At the end of dinner (or whenever, really), have each person read theirs one by one and use a glue stick to paste them up on the board in a feathery way.

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  • Individual Thankful Turkeys – we’ll see how this goes tomorrow, but this year, we are making individual turkeys that have what we’re thankful for on them. This is a good craft if you have family/friends that are a little bit older / can handle some crafting (not great for young kids). All my nieces/nephews who will be at the dinner are 9+, so hopefully it works out!
    • Materials:
      • Used toilet paper rolls – I started collecting these about a month before, just to be safe. You need one per person attending + one extra for an example turkey.
      • Red, brown, yellow, orange, tan paper (or whatever color variation you want for your feathers)
      • Glue – liquid glue will work a bit better for this one
      • Pens/markers to write on the feathers and the TP rolls
      • Googly eyes – I got a big pack at the Dollar Tree for $1, but you could also just draw eyes onto your turkey
    • Prep Instructions:
      • Similar to the above, make your feathers. I had 5 colors of paper, so I made 5 feathers for each person. We have a slightly lighter crew this year (only 14), so I made a total of ~80 (5 p/p, plus the example + some spares)
      • For this craft, you also need to make enough beaks and waddles for each person. For both, I used the same feather / folding approach. I drew one waddle and folded my paper a bunch and then cut it out (so I could get several waddles in one shot). The beaks were super easy as I just cut squares that can be folded in half to create a triangle beak + triangle that can be glued to the body.
      • Then, write at the bottom of each TP roll. You, of course, don’t have to write at the bottom, but I wanted it to be obvious what the turkeys were for, so I wrote ‘I’m thankful for…’ and then each person will write their thankful items on the feathers.
      • Finally, cut slits into the side of the TP roll directly across from one another; when the craft is put together, the fan of feathers will be slid into these slits to keep the feathers in place / upright.
      • That’s it for prepping the materials for this craft. Below are the instructions for actually DOING it, which you’ll need for your dinner guests and to assemble your sample turkey. At your dinner, provide your crafters with the materials (beaks, waddles, feathers, eyes, markers/pens, glue), the sample turkey and instructions.
    • Assembly Instructions:
      • Start by writing on your feathers. I chose 5 generic things one might be thankful for (think Family Feud top 5 answers on the board…).
      • Next, glue the bottom of the feathers together in a fan.
      • Then, glue on the eyes, beak and waddle. Fold the beak square in half and glue one triangle to the body with the other as the 3D beak. Glue the beak FIRST and then add the waddle. Remember, the top of the waddle goes on top of the beak, not below.
      • Finally, slide your feather fan into the slits on either side of the TP roll and examine your handiwork. It should look something like this…

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For other Thanksgiving related reading:

Black Friday Shopping Team Shirts

Every year, my two sisters, my husband and I are crazy enough to go out just before midnight on Thanksgiving for Black Friday shopping! Usually, my niece and her husband join us, but they won’t be this year.

Last year, we all got cute, matching Christmas shirts for a few bucks from Walmart and wore them while shopping. For whatever reason, we love matching as a group, but it also did prove useful for finding each other in a crowd because we were all wearing bright green t-shirts.

This year, we decided to go a little harder for Black Friday shopping and get custom shirts with our BF roles on the back (The Driver, The Planner, The Line Holder, The Wanderer). And, because I’m me, I thought “why not make them?!” so I did. Here’s how:

Materials:

  • T-shirts – I bought ours from Joann Fabrics. I got long sleeved t-shirts for $5 a piece in a bright green again. Last year, we all wore long-sleeved shirts under the tees, so we decided to just go for long sleeves this year. Plus, the weather is showing as ~28 F, so it’s going to be cold.
  • T-shirt transfers – depending on what color shirt you buy, you will need to get either white/light or dark transfers. You can get them in packs of 5 or 10 from Joann Fabrics.
  • Computer + printer (make sure it’s an inkjet or that you get laser specific transfers)
  • Iron
  • Wooden cutting board
  • Pillowcase

Instructions:

  1. Design your shirts. We wanted something on the front and the back, so I knew I’d need at least 1.5 transfers per person. We went through a few iterations of design before settling on the ornament. TIP: when you’re doing a t-shirt transfer, anything that you don’t cut out and don’t have printing on will be white. So, if you want to do words, you need to cut out each letter individually or there will be a white background between the letters. Not a big deal for white tees, but on colored shirts, it looks a bit odd. That’s why I used a background image with the writing on top – I wanted somewhat simple shapes to cut out for the front since we were doing lettering on the back. We tried a Christmas stocking and a Christmas tree before landing on the ornament. The shape was just perfect for the words we wanted. You can use fancy programs (illustrator) for this, but I just used good ole Microsoft word with images and text boxes. For the back letters, which we made white to stand out on the green, I just created text that had a black outline with no fill. This actually made printing a lot cheaper because it required less ink since the transfer is white!
  2. Wash your shirts. I like to do this before putting on the transfer. That way, once the final product is done, I don’t feel like I need to wash it before I wear it. It’s already clean!
  3. Print and cut out your transfers. When I’m printing a huge amount of color like this, I’ll print one transfer at a time. That way, if your ink starts to go and you need to change it, you don’t have a bunch that are a waste because the color is funky. To cut out the ornaments and letters, I used a combination of scissors and an exacto. For the most part, I used the scissors. The exacto came in handy for the small inner parts on letters like P, A, and D.
  4. Prep your ironing materials. Ultimately, follow the instructions in your transfer pack, but mine called for a pillowcase over a wood cutting board and an iron pre-heated to the cotton setting. Be sure to iron the article of clothing first, especially where you’re going to put the transfer on. Then, iron the pillowcase on the cutting board. Then insert the cutting board with pillowcase between the layers of your project (front and back of the shirt, for example) and place it where your image is going to go. IMPORTANT: Be sure to try on the shirt and determine where you want the image to go based on how it lays on your body. I made this mistake once and the shirt looked so weird because the lettering was too low.
  5. Apply the transfers. Remove the backing from the cut-out transfers and place the image on your shirt (or whatever you’re using). It’s okay if the edges curl up a bit – you will then take the parchment paper that came in the transfer pack and place it over the image, being sure to smooth the transfer down completely. Then, iron over the whole transfer image for anywhere from 30-120 seconds, depending on size. You can check to see how well it’s binding at any point and continue ironing if needed. Be careful, the clothing will be HOT.
  6. Repeat for all shirts or the other side. If you’re doing a two-sided shirt, I recommend doing one side of all the shirts first and then going back and doing the other side. This will allow the image to cool before you press it into your ironing surface to do the other side. TIP: if you’re doing free letters on the back, like I did (free meaning they are individually cut/placed), I highly recommend using a straight edge to keep them all in line.

Here’s what you could end up with:

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. If you’re looking for some last minute craft or food ideas, check out:

Happy Birthday: Poem Candy Board

The ladies in my family have a tradition of celebrating big birthdays. You may have read Take A Trip: Royal Caribbean Bahamas Cruise, which was in celebration of my sister’s 40th, but that’s just one example. For the males in our immediate family (aka husbands), we like to do (age) days of celebration. So far we’ve done 30, 40 and 60 for the various husbands. We tend to send something (gift, poem, pics, jokes, thoughtful things) every other day for the number of days that equals the age. For my step-dad’s 60th, I made the above board as one of my assigned days (we rotate in an order and pre-plan gifts so we don’t duplicate).

You can do one of these for various celebrations or occasions – it starts by thinking about what you want to say and then filling in the blanks with candy/snack names that can replace common words. Sometimes you need to fudge it a little. Here is what I did; the bold words are the candy/snacks.

To: Sid King Size Zero Bar (his last name is King)

Dang, it’s almost the Date of your birth! 60 – what doesn’t Kale you makes you stronger! Remember to be Kind to the ones you’ve been raisins – they might be a Lifesaver one day if you go Nuts! And eat lots of Fiber so you don’t have Unreal poops! Happy 60th birthday and many s’more.

 

Materials:

  • Dang Coconut Chips (Whole Foods)
  • RXBar Chocolate Chip (Whole Foods or Walmart)
  • King Size Zero Bar (Zero is his favorite, you could pick any kind if you happen to want to use the word ‘King’)
  • Kale Chips (Walmart)
  • Kind Bar (Walmart)
  • Raisins (Dollar Tree)
  • Lifesavers (Dollar Tree)
  • Peanuts (Dollar Tree)
  • FiberOne Brownie (Walmart)
  • Unreal chocolate bar (Whole Foods)

Gift Ideas: 40th Anniversary

If you’ve seen my 33rd Anniversary post, you know I like color-themed baskets, especially for anniversaries. This basket celebrates the 40th anniversary, for which the traditional gift is a ruby. I was gifting family friends for a surprise anniversary party, so I figured a color basket would be the perfect gift that’s not too over the top but also still thoughtful. Here’s what I put in mine:

  • Apple pie candle – a candle is a staple for every color basket for me – you can find them in pretty much any color / flavor and at a number of price points (the Dollar Tree even has candles!). This one was $3.33 at Walmart.
  • Red duct tape – this is another staple for me, especially when the basket is for a couple; it’s also one of those things available in almost every color. This roll was $3.48 at Walmart.
  • Skittles – there are boxed candies out there for pretty much every color too; I like to get a chocolate and non-chocolate option unless I know specific flavors the recipients like. These were $0.98 at Walmart.
  • Lindt Milk Chocolate – sometimes it’s fun to get (semi-)fancy chocolate; the milk chocolate is the red bag (blue is dark, white is white, and there’s probably a few other options with flavors). This was a more expensive buy at $3.78 from Walmart.
  • Big Red Gum – must do for a red theme – the theme is in the name! I think this came in around $1.98 for the three pack at Walmart.
  • Red mini spiral notebooks – these are a fun addition that is neutral enough that anyone will like it! These were only $0.27 each!!
  • Red pens – to go with the notebooks; these were $2.48 at Walmart.
  • Red sticky notes – again, pretty neutral (who DOESN’T like sticky notes??) and available in a variety of colors; also, very cheap, coming in at $1.27.
  • Trail mix – I got lucky and found a trail mix in the checkout line of the grocery that had red packaging; I thought it’d be a nice, small addition (and they were super cheap at $0.47/bag at Aldi!)
  • Red mini cups – these were an impulse, fun add-in. I got them at Walmart for $1.99 and then sadly found them at the Dollar Tree for $1 😦
  • Red plush heart – again, this was an impulse buy, but at only $1 from the Dollar Tree, I couldn’t say no.
  • Basket – also a Dollar Tree buy; I highly encourage you to buy all your ‘fillers’ first so you can find the right size basket. I probably could have gone with a slightly larger one. I was also able to pick up the red cellophone basket bag. This was totally a bonus buy – I have never seen colored bags like this at the Dollar Tree, so I totally got lucky.
  • Apples (not pictured): we are going apple picking on the day I plan to gift this basket, so I’m planning to get a few, nice Red Delicious apples to add in as well!

As you put together your basket, you may want to accent with red tissue paper. Since all of my fillers were truly red, the basket was red enough without any help. I finished it off by making a card to explain the gift and put it in a red envelope (of course).

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Gift Ideas: Mommy’s Night Out Basket

Really, this could be a ladies’ / girls’ / guys’ night out basket, but the general idea is supplies you’d need / want for going out or to a party. I made this for my sister-in-law who has a young son (and now, a year later, another one on the way), as I know how much she enjoys the rare occasions to get out of the house and have a little fun.

As with most of my baskets, I started by picking my theme, creating a long list of materials to pick up and then hitting The Dollar Tree to find as much as possible. Of course, there are always things I can’t find there, but it’s a good way to get a deal on a number of things so I have more room in my budget for bigger ticket items or to build an even bigger basket of stuff!

For this basket, I included the following:

  • Her favorite drink to pregame with (Crown and Coke – mini bottles of each)
    • I tend to use old school glass bottles for baskets I make, where possible; I think it gives a more sophisticated look (it’s probably all in my head)
  • Water
  • Aleve / Tylenol
  • Band-aids (hello blisters!)
  • 5-hour energy (to go all night!)
  • Chapstick
  • Gum
  • Ponytails
  • Dunkin’ Donuts gift card (for coffee/breakfast the morning after OR a super late night drunk snack – open 24 hours)
  • And of course, the “basket” which was really just a small tub from the DT

I kept this basket pretty small, but other ideas you could include are:

  • Mini / regular flask
  • Foldable shoes (I tried finding these for her but couldn’t find a pair I liked)
  • Uber / Lyft gift card
  • Condoms (depending how you roll…)
  • Glow sticks
  • Mixed CD or playlist
  • Any other essentials you / your friends always need on a good night out!

Happy basket building!

Room Replica Diorama

I honestly don’t recall what prompted me to create this, but it was for a friendly colleague of mine who worked remotely. Anyway, I decided to create a miniature version of the conference room in our main office. Really, pick a room and go from there.

Materials:

  • Shoe box
  • Paints + brushes
  • Camera & printer
  • Popsicle sticks (tongue depressors)
  • Tissue paper
  • Colored paper
  • Foam board
  • Small glass rocks
  • Hot glue and gun

Here’s how I did it step by step:

  1. Observe the room. You can’t make an accurate replica without the details.
  2. Plan your key elements. The room I chose didn’t have a ton of details (and to be fair, I was super lazy about the table and people), but I wanted to make sure it would be detailed enough that the recipient would “get it.” For this, I took photos out the windows, in part because it had a great view of the lake, but also because the windows were pretty prominent. I wanted to bring the outdoor elements in. I also decided to include the table, plant, dry erase board and TV.
  3. Build. Disassemble the box a bit and then paint all four interior sides white. Two of my walls were white in the end, but it’s just like primer when you’re painting your walls. Do any additional painting to get your final colors, but be sure to let the white dry completely first. From there, I built the wall elements, which included printing and cutting out the photos and adding a small piece of white foam board as a dry erase board and a small black piece as the TV. However, I decided to take the TV a step further and printed a miniature version of one of our business’ powerpoint slides and glued it onto the TV as if someone was giving a presentation in the room. Then, I sacrificed a glue stick cap as my orange vase and used tissue paper to create the plant. Finally, using popsicle sticks, small glass rocks and printed headshots, I created the conference room table and a bunch of little people (our favorite co-workers of the time). I would highly recommend hot glue for this – the bond is much quicker than cold glue, which is helpful for standing materials.

In all honesty, this is definitely one of my lesser quality crafts, but it’s such a random and funny thing that I decided to share it anyway.