You may have heard… I recently birthed my first child. As the youngest of 5, I’ve had a lot of experience with babies, but almost none of that prepared me to become a mom myself. So, should you find yourself knocked up, whether you have a clue what you’re doing or not, here are some helpful tips that I learned firsthand along the way.
*I’m not getting paid off of any of the recommendations or links in this post. These are truly just what I used / use and found success with!
If you’re planning to get pregnant…
Establish a healthy diet and exercise routine. This is crucial. Before getting pregnant, I had been on about a year-long journey to clean up my caloric intake and fitness routine, which resulted in losing about 28 lbs. This made staying fit while pregnant and feeling good physically post-baby soooo much easier. I also never found myself in a situation where someone said I looked huge or ready to pop, both of which are terrible things to say to an expecting mama. I used the MyFitnessPal app to track what I ate and went on daily walks around my neighborhood. I also practice yoga regularly via YouTube with Yoga with Adriene (THE BEST). Both walking and yoga are great things to continue throughout pregnancy until you pop!
Take folic acid while you’re trying. Your doctor will tell you this too, if you discuss trying to conceive. It helps with early fetal development before you even realize you’re pregnant and get on prenatals. Folic acid is not expensive and is easily found at most grocery or all-around stores.
Remember to be patient. Stress makes it harder to conceive so if you’re all worked up about how you haven’t gotten pregnant yet, it will only make things worse! Try to relax (easier said than done) and enjoy the act of trying to make a baby! (because you won’t have as much time for it once baby arrives!)
Once you’re pregnant…
If your prenatal makes you sick, take it at night before bed. My oldest sister gave me this advice and it changed the game.
Eat small, frequent snacks to curb nausea. I often found myself eating every hour, on the hour. My go to snacks included fruit, pickles (both because of cravings and their 0 calorie-ness), low calorie popcorn, pretzels, applesauce and nuts.
Get prepared for the big day. I cannot stress this enough and I don’t just mean the basics like having a shower and setting up the nursery. Here are a few other things I did (and didn’t do but wish I had) to get ready:
Make some meals to stash in your freezer for post baby. In case you didn’t know, cooking can be tough with a newborn. Having meals that just require you to pop them in the oven or dump them into a crockpot can be a lifesaver and will help ensure you don’t just find yourself in the drive through line every day. I’ve included some recipes below that I made ahead of time and were delicious.
Make lactation cookies. If you’re planning to nurse, these will help ensure you have a healthy milk supply. I used this recipe. I would also recommend lactation smoothies. My favorite recipe calls for 8 oz chocolate almond milk, 1 tbsp brewers yeast, 1 tbsp ground flax seed, 1 frozen banana, 1/3 cup oats and 1 tbsp peanut butter. You can do some prep for these too by making small containers of the dry ingredients pre-measured out, as well as freezing some bananas.
Clean (or get someone too). You will not want to, and should not, clean post-partum so try to keep your house tidy leading up to the big day (especially since babies don’t always arrive as scheduled).
Ensure your registry has stuff to make life easier:
Baby wrap – by this, I mean the thing that you use to wrap the baby onto your body. This was hugely helpful for me when my babe wanted to be kept close to me, but I wanted to get some things done around the house. I’ve also read this is very beneficial for baby as a way of engagement. I use this one.
Baby aquaphor + bum brush – my niece, who is a nurse, gave me the advice of using aquaphor with every change (she learned this working in the NICU); this helps prevent diaper rash from occurring and protects sensitive skin. The bum brush made this so easy. You use it to apply the ointment, keeping your hands clean!
Pre-made swaddles – SO MUCH EASIER than following the steps with a regular blanket. You can also get them in heavier fabrics which are great for winter. Just think… It’s 3am and you’ve already been up a few times to feed and diaper change. You want to get back to bed quickly but you can’t get the wrap quite right… Just skip that stress! I have both SwaddleMe brand and Halo (Halo has some great fleece options for winter and can act as both a swaddle AND sleep sack for when baby can no longer be swaddled).
Lots of changing pad liners OR just get a waterproof, wipeable changing pad. Your baby will pee and poop on you. It’s inevitable and doesn’t matter if you have a boy or girl… It’ll happen, so be prepared.
Good water bottle – if you’re nursing, you will be parched! And, water intake impacts milk production so stay hydrated! Highly recommend getting a dishwasher safe one because no one wants to do more dishes with a newborn than you have to!
Baby lotion – so, this is obvious, but I’m actually recommending it for YOU, not just baby. You will be washing your hands A LOT, which means they are going to get dry. Use baby lotion to prevent dry skin and not worry about affecting baby with unsafe ingredients or fragrances. I like the Baby Aveeno.
Get your post-partum essentials ready. Here’s what I’m glad I had:
A haakaa (for my breast feeding mamas) that’s been boiled to sterilize; this is great to get a little milk out while nursing or to save any milk from leaking if you have an overflowing supply
Nursing bras / tops – I would highly recommend a few nursing bras (regular and sports bras), camis and then lots of button downs or nursing shirts. Also, flyaway cardigans or jackets are great (no buttons or zippers) because you don’t want to scrape or poke baby. If you want to shop for nursing bras, check out Target. They usually have a couple in stock that you can try on vs. trying to pick one out online. AND, if you register with Target, you’ll get some coupons that you can use for these as well!
A few heavier pads and lots of panty liners. One things I did was make “padsicles” because I saw a lot on pinterest about them. Honestly, I barely used them and didn’t even need them because I was sent home with witchhazel rounds from the hospital which were very nice. I also bought WAY too many heavy pads. Don’t make the same mistake I did!
Make sure you have the essentials in your hospital bag. There are so many posts and blogs about this, so I’m not going to go crazy but I’ll tell you some things you may not think of that I was glad I had:
A cute, two piece pajama set with a button down top. This was so helpful for nursing and it was nice to feel like I was wearing semi-real clothes. I also wore this a lot after we got home from the hospital since I didn’t have many nursing tops or button down shirts (lesson learned!).
Frida mom disposable underwear – the hospital will give you disposable underwear, but they are loose fitting. I like the Frida moms to keep everything in place, especially when I had visitors.
A robe – when you want to go raid the snacks in the kitchen, you’ll want something to throw on over whatever you’re wearing.
Your own snacks – my daughter was born at 7pm on a Sunday. The cafeteria was closed and I was STARVING. The nurses hooked me up with a small bento box but I was very glad I’d brought some snacks as well.
An extra bag to bring home hospital goodies. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take full advantage of the goodies available to you. Anything you ask the nurses for during your stay is yours to keep! You’re already going to pay for the stay so you might as well milk it!
Remember you’re in charge. I mean this in so many ways. First, listen to your body. Even though this was my first baby, I just knew when it was time to go to the hospital and then when it was time to push. Advocate for yourself and trust your body. Second, don’t be afraid to say no. If you aren’t ready for visitors, say so. You need to do what’s best for you and your family and that may mean having alone time. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to ask for help – from your doctor or nurse, your partner, and your family.
Live in the moment. It’s such a special time and goes by so quickly, so try not to think about what’s next, but be present. A great way to help with this, and your memories, is to write down what’s happening as it happens, especially for your “birth story.” Then, you’ll be able to tell your child how it all went down for years to come!
See a Lactation consultant AFTER you leave the hospital. One will likely visit you while you’re there, but you get so many people who come by to tell or ask you things, it can be overwhelming. A visit with a consultant after that’s all over can be really beneficial. Also, I wish I had taken my breast pump flanges with me when I met with a consultant to make sure I was using the right size. (Yes, your pump comes with 2 standard sizes, but it can be tricky to determine which is the right fit or if you need a different size entirely.) I ended up going for a second visit to do so, so learn from me and take them the first time!
Take advantage of online grocery ordering and pickup (or delivery!). My doctor recommended avoiding stores until babe was 2 months (and vaccinated). However, I still needed some essentials each week. Online ordering and pickup made it easy to get what I needed without setting foot in a store.
Get a baby tracker app to keep a record of feeding, changes, sleeping and other activities or milestones. You want to make sure your babe is getting enough food / hydration, which you can determine through the number of wet and dirty diapers. Also, your doctor will ask about eating and changing frequency and sleep patterns at your appointments, so it’s just easier if you have it all tracked! I’m using Baby Tracker and it’s great.
Do something with all the baby pics you’re taking. As of August 2019, the Shutterfly app offers a free 6×6 soft cover photo book each month (just pay shipping). As I take babe photos, I stash them in a folder by month and then create a free book each month to catalog how she’s growing. By the time she’s one, she’ll have 13 books – 1 with my pregnancy photos and 12 chronicling each month of her first year of life.
Combat baby poop blowout stains with the sun. Out of everything I read, I didn’t come across this anywhere. If you have some clothing with breastfed baby poop stains, put it through a wash cycle and then lay it out in the sun. The stain will totally come out like magic. You can then re-wash + dry as normal.
Avoid baby scratches by trimming their nails while they’re sleeping. I’ve found that this is easiest when I’ve got her in her car seat after a nice walk when she is snoozing. When she’s sleeping, she isn’t squirming and there’s a significantly lower chance that I cut any of her nails too short!
There you have it. I hope you find these tips helpful, but remember… Every experience is different so you just have to find what is best for you!
I don’t know how you were raised, but in my household, Easter baskets were primarily filled with candy and maybe a few springtime fun items (bubbles, sidewalk chalk) and 1-2 “big ticket” items (and by big ticket, I mean $10-$20 MAX). Nowadays, I see kids getting bikes or scooters for Easter gifts (if that’s how you roll, more power to you).
Anyway, a few years ago, my sisters and I started a tradition of putting together an Easter basket for my mom and step-dad. My mom does all sorts of fun Easter things for the kids in our family (and for us), so we figured this is a fun way to treat her in return. We all go in together to compose the basket, so it only comes out to about $15-$20/person, but you could easily simplify the list of items you include to keep it on the more “cost effective” end depending on your target spend.
Here’s what we included this year:
Healthy snacks – both my mom and step-dad are or have recently been watching their figures, and in general, want to eat healthier, so we included a variety of “better for you” treats, including:
Nut packs: we picked up individual packs of cashews, pistachios and almonds (funny story: we each bought one of these packs and coincidentally ALL bought the same brand…aren’t we cute…)
FiberNow Cinnamon Coffee Cakes: these little delights are great for when you need a fiber boost and come in at only 90 calories, which isn’t bad when you’re looking for a sweet fix; I get this off-brand from Aldi and they also do a really nice chocolate brownie and lemon bar
Whisks Parmesan Cheese Crisps: my sister got these as salad toppers for one of our family gatherings and my mom absolutely RAVED about them, so we figured it’d be fun to include
Skinny pop: there are lots of flavors of this or the Boom Chicka Pop or the Simply Nature Sea Salted Popcorn (Aldi) that you can choose from; they even have poppable bags now!
Fun drinks – my mom used to always include a 20 oz. bottle of pop in our Easter baskets since this was a “treat” we didn’t typically get; since neither are pop drinkers, we included:
Mini wine bottles: my mom is a sweet white drinker and my step-dad is more into dry reds, so we got the mini 4-packs from Target in each flavor; this also helps them with portion control to not overdrink their calories – much easier to open one of these for a glass than open a bottle and feel like you should drink the whole thing in one evening.
Moose Munch Coffee: this is my mom’s FAVORITE coffee, but is definitely on the more expensive side (best bet is to buy from Harry & David), so we try to get this for her every year
Major Dickason’s K-Cups: these are my step-dad’s preferred k-cups, but he tends not to buy them because they’re a little more pricey, so again, a nice little treat (plus then they both get some of their favorite coffee to enjoy)
Big ticket items – usually we try to come up with some “thing” that either they can both enjoy, or a bigger ticket non-food item for both of them. This year, we were light on ideas, but included the following:
EnerGel Pens: my husband actually bought these on impulse as they are my mom’s favorite (they weren’t in the original plan)
3-wick Bath & Body Works Candle: you can’t really see it in the picture, but it’s there! We get one of these EVERY YEAR for my mom because she loves them. And, technically it IS for both of them since it makes their house smell nice.
Mini hand lotion from Bath & Body Works: this was an impulse add – I had a coupon for a free item, so why not get a little bottle of creamy lotion in her favorite summer scent?!
And that’s it! What I recommend for you is to do some brainstorming within the above categories to build your own Adult Easter basket:
What snacks / candy does the recipient love? (think about including both salty AND sweet)
What drinks could I include?
What other $10-$15 gifts could I throw in? (Note, gift cards are always an easy idea for this and stores may even have cute Easter themed-cards too!)
And, finally, I snagged the basket, which is MASSIVE, from Target for only $5 (they have TONS of options right now).
The final countdown is on – you have 1 week until Easter, so you better get your baskets ready. Happy basket building!
I (semi-recently) learned that I’m pregnant with my first child. That probably means you’re about to start seeing a lot of baby-related posts on here, but I’ll try to keep it under control.
Today is all about a gift idea for someone else though (but not a bad idea to build this for yourself if you’re also expecting/a new mom). My SIL is 10 weeks ahead of me in her 3rd pregnancy. Since it’s #3, she’s not having a shower, but I still wanted to give her a gift as she’s about to undertake a massive task – bringing another human into the world.
We’ve been talking a lot about pumping / breastfeeding, so I decided, why not put together a little pumping / nursing basket for her.
Here are the essentials I included:
Drink bottle – apparently nursing makes you incredibly thirsty (note, I didn’t get a water bottle, but rather got a bottle that can be used for hot OR cold beverages, has a straw and also is spill-proof); I’m thinking about customizing it with my cricut, but not sure what I want to put on it. Leave any ideas in the comments!
Healthy snacks – when you’re sitting there pouring yourself into another human, or into a baggie, I guess you get hungry. I included some healthier, low calorie snacks including:
Bentons breakfast biscuit bites (chocolate) – Belvita knockoff from Aldi
FiberNow coffee cake brownies – FiberOne knockoff from Aldi
Simply Nature Sea Salted Popcorn – Smartfood knockoff from Aldi
Pretzel Slims (Everything flavor) – you guessed it – knockoff brand from Aldi
Diapers – in case you need one before or after your feeding
Wipes – see above
A onesie – in case of emergency / blowout
Tissues – just a nice-to-have for a variety of reasons
Nipple pads – things may get a little leaky on the not-in-use side
Nipple cream – well, because your nips are about to go through it…
All in all, a useful little basket that is thoughtful and more focused on mom. So often we go all out buying clothes and toys and things for the tiny human when there is a new baby on the way and we forget all about treating the adult humans who will care for them!
Hope you found this useful. Let me know what other essentials I may have missed in my basket in the comments.
As you may know, Christmas 2018 was a handcrafted Christmas. Some of the gifts I made were more family-friendly (like the homemade board game) and others were more geared toward the adults (like the Awkward Cat Calendar). As such, there were a few instances where I needed (well, wanted) a small gift for either the adults or kids in the family.
For my brother and his wife, they live across the world and are only home every 3 years. This can make gift giving tricky because I can’t do any of my obvious DIY gifts for the home since it’d be really hard for them to take back with them. So, I opted for a “disposal” gift – vodka soaked chocolate covered strawberries. First, who DOESN’T love chocolate covered strawberries, and more importantly, who doesn’t love a little booze in their dessert? I know I do.
This was a really simple recipe. Here’s what you need:
Chocolate flavored vodka – I used Van Gogh Dutch chocolate infused vodka; any kind will do, but this was oddly one of only 2 brands available in a chocolate vodka at my local grocery store (pic below)
Melting chocolate – lots of people will tell you to get the special wafers that are meant for melting; they aren’t wrong, but I prefer the taste of milk or dark chocolate, so I tend to get regular chocolate chips or chocolate squares, melt it and then cut it with a TINY bit of coconut oil to thin it up so it’s easier to dip
Coconut oil (optional, see note above)
A cute tin or tupperware for storing the strawberries
These are DEAD EASY to make:
Soak the strawberries in the vodka overnight. I put them in a glass container laid out side by side (so the strawberries didn’t get any soft spots) and poured about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of vodka into the dish.
Remove the strawberries from the vodka and dry thoroughly. Don’t SQUEEZE them (you don’t want to lose the infusion), but you do need them to be dry to the touch if you’re going to get the chocolate to stick.
Melt your chocolate and cut with a tiny bit of coconut oil (if using) to thin to a nice, dippable consistency. I have a little chocolate melting pot, but you can use a double boiler or pot of boiling water with another pot with the chocolate in it sitting down in the water. Try to avoid just microwaving the chocolate if you can – it’s really easy to burn. Also, microwaved chocolate tends to cool more quickly, making the last strawberries that you dip a little ugly…
Dip strawberries in the chocolate and place onto wax paper to dry. Put into the fridge to speed up the cooling process.
Arrange in a decorative tin or “treet” yourself!
TIP: Save the strawberry infused chocolate vodka! A few days later I made really yummy dairy free chocolate covered strawberry martinis that I adapted from this recipe. Instead, I used the following:
Chocolate syrup – to line the glass; just get crazy and drizzle it all in there
Strawberry infused chocolate vodka (from above) – I used 1.5 oz. per drink
Pinnacle Whipped Vodka – I used 1.5 oz. per drink
Sweet Creme coconut creamer – I used 1.5 oz. per drink
Put the vodka, cream and ice into a shaker and mix well. Pour into a chocolate syrup lined martini glass and top with a glob of pureed strawberries. Stir them in just a little bit and serve!
As with many of my recent posts, this was another item from Handcrafted Christmas 2018. I made this for my SIL, as she has two boys (3 and 1.5 and one more baby on the way!) so figured easy toy clean up and transportation is definitely something important to her.
The original idea for this gift (and subsequently, this post), came from a number of my fellow pinners on Pinterest. I looked at pictures to get some inspiration, but ultimately sorted out how to made this step by step on my own, so here’s what I did.
2 yards of soft, flannel fabric in two patterns (1 yard of each) – you don’t have to use flannel, but this gave the bag a really nice feel, so I opted to; it also makes the bag feel a bit more durable
Liquid stitch – you could also hand sew or use a sewing machine to make this bag. Since I didn’t have a sewing machine at the time (though I’ve since gotten one, thanks, MIL!) and I didn’t particularly feel like hand sewing it, I opted to use liquid stitch and it worked great
Grommets & kit – by “kit,” I mean the tool to install the grommets (see below pics for what mine looked like); I used this set
Something sharp to punch your grommet holes – the hubs had this random tool (see below pic) that I used that did a nice job of punching the hole, but you honestly just need something sharp to get the hole started
Super glue – I used this to keep the holes from fraying and expanding and opted for the brush-on super glue, which was helpful to keep it clean without getting my fingers stuck to anything!
Hammerand a small piece of scrap wood– if needed, to install the grommets
Rope – I used a dark blue paracord; get the appropriate size to fit through your grommets; I got mine at Wal-mart
Drawstring piece – this is completely optional – the bag works completely well without this part, but I just used one from an old coat; you can also get them on Amazon
A marker and scissors – to trace onto the fabric and then cut out your desired shape
First, I cut my fabric into circles. To do this, I flipped the fabric over and found a large, circular object (the bottom of my custom cat stratcher) and traced the circle on both pieces of fabric. Then I cut it out. It doesn’t have to be perfectly cut / edged as you will not see the rough cut edges once the bag is finished. Be sure to trace the circle on the back of the fabric.
Then, I took both pieces of fabric and put them face to face (ie, the sides of each that I wanted to show on the outside were facing each other with the opposite sides facing out). I used my liquid stitch to glue around the edge of the circle to bind the two pieces together. Be careful to stay as close to the edge as possible and make sure to leave a little bit unglued so you can turn the fabric inside out (so the right sides of the fabric are facing outward and the rough edges are hidden in the seams).
Once you flip the pieces inside out so the right sides are facing outward, carefully finish folding the seam and glue the two flaps together. Your final seam should look like this.
Next, poke your holes for your grommets and fit the larger piece through the hole. Use your super glue around the hole / rim of the grommet to prevent the fabric from fraying.
Finish the grommets by taking the other piece (the smaller part that looks like a washer) and fitting over the cylinder piece. Use your grommet tool and hammer to fit it into place and finish the grommet. I watched this video before doing my own grommets and it helped.
Finish the bag by threading the rope through the grommets. I choose a “middle” to the bag and threaded the rope from there around both sides rather than feeding it through all the grommets starting at one end and working back around the circle. Once the rope is threaded through all the holes (and long enough for the bag to be fully laid out as the circle), cinch the bag closed and put your drawstring piece on to hold the bag closed. If you decide not to use the drawstring piece, you can just tie a loose bow knot at the top of your bag.
I decided to finish my bag by putting some cute little toys inside for my nephews. This helps with the bag presentation (makes the bag shape a little better) and also demonstrates the purpose of the bag for the receiver. Tada!
A lot of people have asked me where I came up with this idea for handcrafted Christmas / why I decided to do this and I, unfortunately, don’t have a great answer. I can’t really remember! So, regardless of the catalyst, I decided to make a custom board game for one of my nephews. He is turning 7 this month, so he is reading and starting to become aware of his surroundings, including his neighborhood.
As a kid, I was always a fan of the Game of Life, but could rarely get anyone to play it all the way through with me. As I got older, I found the game Mall Madness and LOVED it, so when trying to come up with the premise for this game, I decided to marry the two to create: My Actual Neighborhood (the hubs picked the title).
Here’s how I did it:
Create the game premise. Before you start designing a board or anything else, it’s important to have a plan for how the game will be played. That way, you’ll know what the board should look like and what pieces, cards and other materials you’ll need. I decided that I wanted to include pictures of his neighborhood, so, for the gameplay, each player would draw a card that would give them a “mission” for the game. This “mission” would include 3 places on the board that they’d have to go to in order to win. I then created cute little scenarios to accompany each combination of locations. For example, one scenario was: You’re having a sleepover with your cousins at Grandma’s. Start at home and pack your bag. Then, go pick up your cousins from their house. Lose a turn at their house because they aren’t ready. Finally, head to Grandma’s for a night of fun. Other scenarios require the player to go buy something (like craft supplies for a gift for mom or dad), for which they must first earn money. In order to earn money, they can either complete chores at any of the locations (each location has a corresponding chore and payment amount) OR they can get lucky and land on a board space that pays them (for losing a tooth, having a birthday, etc.). I outlined all of this FIRST so I could think through how to design the board and what other pieces I’d need to create.
Design the board. My next step was to draw out what I wanted the board to look like. I did this on paper first and really started by thinking about the locations I wanted to include (I included 6: his house, his school, our house, another aunt & uncle’s house, houses of his grandparents on either side and his mom’s work, which is Wal-mart, so it worked out for a few of the missions) and where they exist in relation to one another. My original sketch was pretty tough to follow, so I added color and it looked like this:
Note, I added the park as somewhat of an afterthought because I had a lot of dead space and I also wanted a neutral location for all players to start. The same is true with the Community pool (I had a few extra blocks I didn’t know what to do with).
Create the board. Next, I transferred my design concept onto the actual board. I wanted to get an understanding of the sizing of each space / the board overall so I could create the other pieces to scale. Since my original design was on a letter-sized sheet of paper, I wanted to try to scale it so I wouldn’t have to rework all the spacing. My final sizing was roughly 4:1 (just under) with the fold down the middle of the board. This required a little math to convert onto the board, but I just counted the number of spaces I needed vertically and horizontally and then divided the length and width dimensions of the game board accordingly to create evenly sized spaces. The materials I used to create the board included:
Tri-fold board from the Dollar Tree – I used one side flap and part of the main board piece to create a board that had a pre-built fold down the middle.
Exacto knife and cutting mat – I used this to cut the top and side to get the size I wanted. It’s really hard to cut straight, so a metal ruler would have been incredibly helpful for this part, but I didn’t have one so I free-handed it (after making line markings, of course).
Ruler and pencil – for measuring and marking everything; as mentioned, if you have a metal ruler, even better as this will help you with cutting too!
Calculator or brain – to do math
Add board details. Once I had the basic layout of spaces, I went back through and added pictures of each location and other board accents. For the pictures, I printed them out at home on plain computer paper and used double stick tape to attach them. I decided to include arrows on each space to indicate which way a player could move (like how roads work). I also added stoplight symbols on some spaces and location markers on others; more about what these mean below. To finish the game board, I applied a thin layer of mod podge to the bottom. I decided against applying a layer on the top because I was worried it would prevent it from folding nicely and/or would make the colors run.
Create your supplemental materials. Now that the board was done, I needed to create everything else to go along with it. The supplies I used (referenced below as well) included: paper cutter (super helpful for getting straight cuts!), stamp pads in red and blue, letter stamps and a location symbol stamp, number stickers (Dollar Tree), colored dot stickers, printer and a few colors of paper. Note, the preview / google docs version of some of the below templates don’t display correctly. For best results, download and open with Microsoft Word.
Money – I looked at pictures online of board game money to get an idea (and also based this off of the style of American money since that’d be familiar for my nephew). You can see my money template here.
Mission cards – I used Microsoft word to create 4 cards per page and wrote out each mission using a numbered list. I made sure to keep the formatting consistent so each card would be the same size. Then, on the back, I used stickers and stamps to label each as “Mission” with a number (so they can switch up what mission number they have each time they play). I made a total of 10 missions. You can see my template here.
Stoplight cards – as I mentioned, I drew little stoplight symbols on the board with marker, so I needed cards to go along with them to indicate what they mean. Each stoplight card had some sort of driving-related incident – a speeding ticket, out of windshield washer fluid, ran out of gas, etc. If the player lands on the space, they must draw a card and then either pay the fine (if they’ve earned money) or lose a turn. Again, I used Microsoft Word; you can see my template here. I printed these on colored paper to distinguish them from the mission cards. For the back, I used colored dots to make the little stoplight symbol.
Location symbol cards – these are like bonuses throughout the game. If you land on a space with a location symbol, you’d draw a card and earn money for some reason (babysitting your cousins, helping an elderly person carry their groceries, picking up your neighbor’s dog’s poop, etc.). I used a different color of paper for these and used a location symbol stamp to mark the backs. My template (Microsoft Word) is here.
Instruction sheet – definitely don’t forget this! You can see my template here. I laminated it after printing just because I love laminating.
Location Chore Payment Card – as mentioned, if the player needed to earn money to make a purchase, he or she could choose to visit an additional location and lose a turn to earn some cash. I created this little guide here to indicate how much money would be earned at each location.
Make the game pieces. Thankfully, my husband got a 3D printer for Christmas in 2017. I don’t have any great recommendations for you on how to create pieces without one (maybe find random knick-knacks around your house that you could include? Maybe make little cardboard people or stands?), but here’s the pieces we used from Thingiverse:
Dice – don’t forget this – they need something to tell them how to move about the board!!
Make the game box. I found a really helpful blog about how to make a board game box here. My husband was adamant that he didn’t want to just use a clothing gift box, so I followed the instructions using a couple of boxes I received some shipments (Amazon, Wal-mart, etc.) to create a custom-sized box. Then, I covered the entire thing with thing brown paper (from my massive roll I’ve used for all my gift wrapping). I used mod podge to adhere the brown paper to the cardboard. Then, I printed out pictures of all the locations on the game board and a few others (his dad’s work, restaurants and stores they go to in their area, the mall, a park, etc.) and used these to cover the top and sides of the top piece for the box. I used mod podge to adhere the pictures to the box and then applied a thin layer of mod podge on top as well to give it a shiny finish and protect it. I also made sure to include the name of the game right in the middle.
Once I had everything done, I used baggies and a little box we had laying around to keep the cards, money and game pieces organized. Here’s the final product:
I’m guessing it’s the sheer ridiculousness of the title that drew you into this post, right? I cannot claim any of the magic that you’re about to see as my own – only (most of) the words are from me. The rest is the great and fabulous talent of a very good friend of mine, heretofore referred to as HC. (Yes, there’s a story. No, I’m not going to tell it. Count your blessings.)
HC has a niece who was turning 5 this year. For whatever reason (what DOES go on in the minds of children?), her niece requested a black unicorn cake with a fairy perched on the tip of the horn. Ummmmm. Okay. Let’s break that down.
A unicorn cake, in its own right, is hard enough on its own, especially if we’re talking 3D. You have to make multiple layers to give it dimension and then, of course, you have to figure out a way to mount the horn and add detail on a…vertical surface.
A black cake is also incredibly tough. Black isn’t a color that’s easy to make with frosting and fondant can be a pain in the butt.
A fairy perched on anything other than the cake is just absolute madness and also…a fairy…with a unicorn? I guess they are both mythical…
Anyway, despite having all the odds stacked against her, she created this gloriousness:
Flower foam (optional – this may or may not work for you)
Fairy, if desired
Take a deep breath. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
Party day -2: Roll out the fondant for your appendages (so, in this instance, the white fondant).
Eyes / lashes: roll into thin, worm-like shapes. Mold together into eye curves with lashes toward the ends and let dry.
Ears: Cut the shapes out of white fondant and pinch from the back to make an ear shape. Option to put onto a stick to dry (this will make it easier to put into the cake).
Horn: Roll out a long worm-like piece of fondant and wrap around a straw, leaving the top a bit unfinished so you can wrap around the fairy’s foot when you assemble. Let dry. Option to stand up in the flower foam to dry. (Note, this could cause the fondant to slide down the straw; you may be better off letting it dry on its side and accepting that one side may be slightly flattened.)
Party day -1: Make the cakes and let them cool.
HC made a total of 6 of each size in a couple of flavors that’d pair well together. Feel free to get super creative and dye the mix for the layers (so the inside will be as magical as the outside).
Party day: Make the frosting and stack the cakes, layering with frosting in between.
*TIP: Use a cake board so it’s easy to move the cakes once they’re together.
Create two cake stacks with dowel rods through the middle to help them keep their shape: one stack of 6″ cakes and the other of 8″ cakes. As you can see from the pics below, the 8″ cakes are stacked up to 6 and the 6″ cakes are stacked up to 5.
Paint your accent pieces (eyes / lashes, ears, horn) and let dry.
Roll out the fondant for the main cake body.
Cover the sides of the cake stacks in frosting to adhere to the fondant.
Drape the black fondant over the cakes, covering each cake stack separately.
Start smoothing the lower part of the fondant sides with getting it to stick as your primary objective. Smooth up. Focus on having one good side (the front).
Use the fondant smoother to smooth into place and the pizza cutter to trim the excess fondant away.
Apply fondant accents (eyes / lashes and ears). You will want to use a combination of fondant glue and frosting to get the eyes / lashes to stick since they are attaching to a vertical surface. You may need to use toothpicks or straws to keep the ears standing up. Insert the horn into the cake.
Apply piped frosting accents. To create a multi-color effect, put stripes of frosting down each side of the bag, twist off the top and then slide it all down toward the tip. Be sure to use the frosting to cover any imperfections / the insertion point for the horn / any support for the ears.
Depending on when you assemble and when your party starts, you can store in the freezer to keep the frosting from sliding until you’re ready to present it. Putting the frosting and/or cakes in the freezer to flash-freeze as you make the cake is also a good idea. Your hand heat will warm the frosting which could cause your various designs to lose their shape.
IF YOU MUST transport, arrange a trustworthy passenger to hold it and don’t plan on going far.
I would say “that’s it” but….well…that was a lot. Good luck. Leave a comment below if you decide to attempt this crazy feat and god speed!
If you read the title and thought ‘I don’t like cats,’ you are not alone. But don’t stop reading! Even if you are not a cat lover like I am, you can use the information to create a custom calendar about something you DO love…like your family, dogs, flowers, nature, etc. It’s totally customizable.
As this year was handcrafted Christmas, I decided to finally give in to what one of my sister’s had been basically begging me to make for years – a calendar full of awkward cat pictures. She does not have cats, so she finds it absolutely hilarious when they sit in awkward ways to lick their butts or generally lay very strangely. So, what better gift than 12 months of weird pics of cats? Here’s what I did.
Paper – I used a thicker cardstock
Laminating pouches & laminator – optional, but this will not only create a better looking final product but, if you laminate like I did, you can create a calendar that can actually be used for years to come
Markers – also optional, but I drew some designs on each page. You could totally print these off when you print the basic calendar layout if you don’t like to draw
Hole punch – I used a cat paw shaped one for some added fun; feel free to get creative
Binder rings – you will use these to put all the pages together but still allow it to fully open and hang; you could also use ribbon or similar, but I wanted something a little more hearty. I used these ones.
Picture corners – totally optional, but I wanted to give my sister the option to replace the cat pics with others in the future, so I put all the pictures in using these picture corners.
If you don’t end up using these, you’ll need glue or double-sided tape or some other way to attach the pictures to your calendar
Choose your pictures – you will want anywhere from 3-6 pictures per page, depending on the size of the photo. I had a number of 4×6 pictures that I cut down to a much smaller size because, well, cats are smaller than humans, so they take up less frame. Since my calendar was all cats, I selected all my pictures and then organized them into themes and matched the themes up with the months:
January – snuggly kitties (since it’s cold outside)
February – all pics of Dex, since he was born in February
March – all pics of G; we lost him in March of 2018 😦
April – window perch pics since it’s starting to get a little nice out
May – all pics of Jameson, since he was born in May
June – Gemini sign, so pics of my “twins” – they are actually from different litters, but the same mama, but they act like twins with how they’re always together
July – cats and humans
August – sun porch pics
September – all pics of Molly since she was born in September
October – I call this the ‘murder series’ – my cats are indoor/outdoor and they are pretty serious hunters and, as such, bring us lots of ‘presents’
November – twosomes and threesomes
December – cats in boxes (like Christmas…with presents…ya know…)
Print your calendar – this part is easy. You can use my calendar template here. I did not include the numbers for the month because I laminated my calendar. When you laminate paper, you can easily use dry-erase markers on it like on a whiteboard. So, my sister can add the dates on the appropriate days of the week depending on the year and use this calendar for years to come.
Draw pictures and laminate – after I printed each of the calendar pages out, I felt like they looked a little bland. I’m not a huge fan of clipart, so I decided to hand draw two small images on either side of the month name. I chose images that I could (mostly) successfully draw and that would make sense for that month / their family. After everything was drawn, I laminated each page.
January – New Year’s party hat and confetti / noise maker and a snoman
February – snowflake and hearts
March – shamrock and an Easter egg (although, unfortunately, Easter is SUPER late in 2019 at April 21)
April – flowers and balloons (they have a birthday in April and April flowers bring…May showers…)
May – balloons and an umbrella with rain (they have two birthdays in May and April flowers bring…May showers…)
June – sunglasses and a flip flop
July – American flag and balloons (they have a birthday in July)
August – a sun and a schoolhouse (my sister is a teacher, so it’s back to school for her!)
September – an apple and a football
October – leaves and a pumpkin
November – turkey and shopping bags (we LOVE Black Friday shopping)
December – Christmas tree and a present
Organize your pictures on the page – for this part, I HIGHLY encourage you to punch your holes on each month FIRST and then layout your photos. I made the mistake of not hole punching first and laid out all my photos, stuck them on and then had to try to work around them to create the holes on each page in roughly the same spot without ruining any pics. It was annoying; do better than I did. As a tip, you need holes at both the top AND bottom of each page. The holes at the top of the picture page will be used for hanging and at the bottom will be used to attach it all together. Be sure to remember that when you flip the month page up, it will be upside down and backward, so you need to put your pictures on correctly so they don’t end up upside down.
Stick your pics and add the rings – once I had all my pictures cut to size and arranged, I started placing them on the page. After all my pics were in, I put my rings through to put the calendar together and that was it!
To complement the calendar, I provided my sister with two command hooks to hang it up (I thought hanging from two spots would be better than a center hole since the calendar had some weight to it) and some ultra fine point dry erase markers to write on each month (these ones).
Here are some pics:
(Apparently I didn’t take a photo of December…oopsies!)
As part of Handcrafted Christmas 2018, for the hubs, I decided to do a Year of Dates. I saw this idea on Pinterest from a number of pinners done a number of different ways. Everyone has their own preference to creating, so ultimately you do too, but I’ll include a number of different ideas / options / opinions below to give you an idea of all the variables you get to make decisions on.
This is a great idea for couples who don’t typically go out a lot together. We are generally homebodies and would much prefer a night in working on projects or hanging out than getting organized to go out. However, that sometimes means we don’t always make it a point to spend quality time together, so for this upcoming year, I decided to give us an excuse to do that.
White and navy cardstock (or whatever colors you want)
Various stickers and markers
Any supplements for various dates (print-outs, actual tickets, treats, etc.)
Box to hold finished dates
Variables: As mentioned, there are lots of different ways you can execute this gift. Below are a few callouts to the variable decisions you can make about how to do it.
Book vs. box – I saw lots of pinners who used a binder with page sleeves and letter size paper (or A4) for each date; I used a box with cards in envelopes because I got a few actual gifts to supplement some of the months
Pre-purchase vs. Post-purchase – some pinners recommended purchasing all the materials and tickets for every date in advance so the gift would be fully pre-paid and there’d be no excuse NOT to go do it; I opted not to do this for a few reasons:
We may change our minds on what a certain date is or where, so I didn’t want to be locked in
I want to use Groupon for some of the months and most Groupons only offer the promotional price for 120 days, so this wouldn’t work for anything after April
That’s a lot of money to spend at once vs. spread out over a year; especially if you’re already budget conscious at Christmas (who isn’t??), you may also want to opt to buy a few things only and save the rest as deferred payments.
General date ideas vs. specific activities & dates – for a few of the months, I picked a specific activity and corresponding date that we’d go. I didn’t do this for every month because, depending on the time of year, we may have a packed calendar and may need to work around other commitments. I didn’t want to buy tickets or spend money on something only to have to reschedule or miss out on something with one of our families. Also, my husband is not the type to be dictated to. He WILL, but it’s not his favorite, so I wanted to create some control/choice in the gift for him.
Okay, let’s get into the how to and the date ideas.
Brainstorm a list of dates that match your budget and location. Pair each date idea with an appropriate month. Determine the idea for each month BEFORE you start creating the date cards.
Identify an image, drawing or sticker you can use for each date idea (pre-plan your cards). I ended up using a lot of stickers, but I also hand-drew a few cards. It doesn’t matter if you are a great drawer – this is for your other half, so hopefully they’ll be understanding of your drawing abilities.
Create date cards. I had a couple of sessions when I sat down to do this. For me, it definitely wasn’t something I could just do in one go, both for time and creativity reasons. I used a variety of markers, stickers and drawings to illustrate each card and date idea.
Purchase and organize any supplements.
I purchased some boxed candy to go along with May and July, both of which are “movie months.” I also created a supplemental doc to go with June which you can see here. We are going on an all-family cruise in June and our date will be to pick and enjoy an excursion together.
Label box and stack cards inside.
Here are some date ideas I used along with a bunch I didn’t. Keep in mind that you will have other ideas that are specific local activities unique to your area. There are a few on my list that are unique to where we live, so while you may not be able to do them, I’ve left them here to get you thinking about what you could add from your neighborhood.
January – we’ll be going to see our city’s basketball team play; I got us super good seats (we aren’t doing so hot this season, so they weren’t terribly priced)
February – Tea for Two at my favorite tea room
March – Ice skating
April – Mitchell’s Ice Cream Factory tour (and ice cream!)
May – Dinner and a movie – we really want to see Avengers 4 when it comes out, so I picked May because it comes out May 4
June – Excursion on our family cruise
July – Drive-in movie
August – Picnic
September – Mini golf and ice cream
October – Glassblowing
November – Paint night
December – Couples’ massage
Amusement park or water park
Other sports game (soccer, baseball, football, hockey, etc.)
If you’ve read Gift Ideas: For the Host(ess), then you’ve seen my dot design mugs. That technique, explained in the aforementioned post, was used for one of the sets below. As you may have seen in Gift Ideas: Family Tree, this year was handcrafted Christmas, where everyone on my shopping list received a handcrafted gift (in many cases this was alongside their regular gift). However, handcrafted Christmas or not, the below idea is great for a cost-effective, yet thoughtful and cute, gift idea. You could make this for a couple, like I did, or you could make it for a family or single person – just customize with the number of items you include.
Mugs (I used white ones from the Dollar Tree, but you could use clear or a light color)
Glitter (try to get fine glitter – it will lay better)
Dishwasher safe Mod Podge + application sponge/brush
Letter stickers or paper letters
Mug cake packs or mix (there are lots of great recipes for homemade mug cake mixes on Pinterest) – I bought mine at Walmart, but I’ve seen them at Aldi and Giant Eagle too
Fireside Coffee Mix & Jar (read the recipe I used here)
First things first, you need to make the mugs. I used 4 different techniques:
Dot Design – place sticker letters onto the mug and, using the oil-based paint marker, put a bunch of dots around the letters. Remove the stickers and fill in with dots, as needed, to ensure the letter (or word!) is visible.
Letter Block – place sticker letters onto the mug and, using the oil-based paint marker, draw a shape (square, rectangle, circle, diamond, etc.) around the letter. You could use a stencil but I just free-handed and it worked out okay. Then, color in the shape surrounding the letter. Remove the sticker and touch up as needed.
Word Transfer – print out whatever word or name you would to transfer onto the mug and trace the BACK of the word with pencil, coloring in the letters completely. Then place the stencil against the mug with the front facing you (the backside with the pencil you just colored should be against the mug). Then, trace the letters again, fully coloring them in. Remove the stencil and you should have a pencil marking of the word on your mug. Using the oil-based paint marker, trace the letters of your word/name.
Note: If you’re using any of the above techniques with oil-based paint markers, you MUST let them dry overnight and then bake at 250° for 2 hours on a baking sheet. Otherwise, the paint will come off in the dishwasher.
Glitter dipped mugs – these were kind of a pain in the butt, but I followed the directions from this pin. The hard part was really just getting the glitter evenly dispersed with no white spots and no clumps. I found that pouring some glitter out onto a sheet of paper and gently dipping the mug onto it gave me a more even layer than trying to hold the mug and sprinkle glitter onto it.
Once you’ve made your mugs, now you can make your Fireside Coffee mix (and mug mixes, if applicable). Don’t forget to add a label with directions for use!
Finally, put it all together. Since I didn’t make my own mug mix, I put the little pouches in the cups for a cute presentation. And voila – you have a cute, easy, and cheap gift. Who doesn’t love coffee and dessert with adorable and personalized mugs?