Gift Ideas: Daddy Kit

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that you get a TON of gifts for your impending baby. During my pregnancy, I also found that I got a fair number of “mommy” gifts to pamper myself or make it through pregnancy (which, I actually really enjoyed – both the pregnancy AND the gifts).

The one person who seems to be forgotten in the gift giving occasion is the dad (although my hubs did get one gift solely for him at our shower). So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make him a little Daddy Kit. The goal: stock him up with snacks and treats for the hospital, along with a few other essentials and fun things to make him feel special.

Here’s what I put in my kit:

  • Snacks / treats – I decided to go a little overboard with this (shocking, I know) and themed the snacks as a rainbow; I chose 1 healthy snack and 1 less healthy snack for each color of the rainbow. This could be a fun gift idea in itself for anyone in your life!
    • Red: trail mix and cheese crisps
    • Orange: almonds and kinder joy
    • Yellow: Sunsweet dried mangoes and peanut M&Ms
    • Green: chia seed bars and Mountain Dew
    • Blue: coconut water and gummy worms
    • Indigo: nut & dried fruit mix and truffles
    • Violet: oatmeal and Double Bubble gum
  • Tylenol – for any headaches from sleep deprivation or a crying baby
  • 5 hour energy – ’nuff said
  • Chapstick
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Ear plugs
  • Mini pack of Tissues
  • Matching Daddy/baby shirts – there are lots of cute ideas for this on Pinterest. I opted to do copy/paste as my husband is a software developer and would appreciate this. I used my Cricut to cut the design out of iron-on vinyl and applied it to a white tee for Dad and white onesie for baby.
  • I assembled the kit in a handy tool box/bag with structure and lots of pockets. It gave it a great look and also gave him a cool new tool storage solution.

Other ideas you could consider including are:

  • Mini bottle of alcohol (a “shot”)
  • Cigar to celebrate
  • Reusable water bottle (and you could customize it with permanent vinyl!)
  • Coffee / coffee drink

He really loved it and the snacks were great for him to pack in his hospital bag. Plus, it was fun for me to pick out snacks I knew he’d enjoy and put it all together. Win, win!

Gift Ideas : “Oh shit” Baby Kit

Although I recently had my first child, I made this kit for my SIL (but I’m thinking I’m going to have to make one for myself too). I got the idea from Pinterest (no surprise), where you can find lots of additional ideas of what you can include in your kit, but I’ve got a pretty solid list below for your consideration.

Ultimately, the point of this kit is to throw it in your trunk and forget about it until you need it… Maybe you run out of diapers, your kid has a major blowout, spits up, etc. It’s essentially a backup to your diaper bag for when things go awry… And as I’m learning as a new parent, they WILL go awry at some point. (I’ve already been peed and pooped on so many times…)

So, what are the essentials you should include? Here’s what I put in the kit I made:

  • Diapers size 1-4 – since I was stockpiling diapers for myself, I was okay buying packs in a few sizes and taking a couple out of each to include in this kit. If you don’t have a baby, you could buy very small packs and give the rest to your expecting recipient separately from the kit. They will be appreciated!
  • Outfits size 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months – hit the clearance section for these so you don’t blow your budget. And remember, for babies, a onesie can totally count as an outfit. Also, as a nice touch, I opted to wash all the outfits in baby-safe detergent so the kit would be totally ready to use.
  • Plastic gallon bags – these are nice to stash dirty clothes in. I made little packages of diapers and an outfit in plastic gallon bags to organize the kit and make the sizing easy to find (frazzled moms and dads will appreciate this!)
  • Mini trash bags – get scented ones if you can (for stinky diapers); I found a small roll at the Dollar Tree
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bib
  • Pacifier
  • Boogie wipes
  • Tissues – I just included a small pack rather than a full size box
  • Clean shirt for mom – I went with a nice, neutral white so it could match almost anything she might be wearing in case of emergency
  • Paper towels
  • Clorox wipes
  • Bandaids – this is great for parents with multiple kids, especially some that are older
  • Ointment – see note above
  • Tylenol
  • Car freshener
  • Lint roller

I assembled the kit in a reusable shopping bag that had a stable bottom so it’d be easy to transport but could easily hangout in the trunk until needed. It was a hit and I’ve heard from my SIL that she’s already put it to good use!

Gift Ideas: Craft Basket

Wow – I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post! Needless to say, I’ve had some other things going on (namely, a baby, which you can read related posts about here).

If you’re up to date on what I’ve written about so far this year, then you probably know I’m on a gift basket kick (and it doesn’t stop with this one… A coffee basket, “oh shit” baby kit, number of prize baskets, little explorer set, college survival kit, and local flavor basket are still to come!).

This gift was for my niece who turned 4. Kids get SO MANY toys these days that I wanted to get her something that’d be fun and she could get excited about, but that wouldn’t just be yet another thing she’d outgrow and would clog up her bedroom or playroom.

This is also a great gift if you have a set budget for two reasons:

1. You can get as few or as many things to go in it as you can afford. It’s totally customizable.

2. You can get lots of great additions at pretty cheap prices without sacrificing quality. I made this entire basket from a trip to the Dollar Tree.

Below is a list of items I put in my basket, but remember:

  • Customize it for the recipient – I wanted easy to work with materials for little hands; for an older recipient, you could get paints, brushes, and other more advanced craft tools and supplies. Or, if you know your recipient has specific craft passions (like using a cricut or a sewing machine), you could get items that specifically work with that.
  • These are just a starting point – if you see something that speaks to you, go for it!
  • Present your collection of items in a usable basket or container and finish it with a cellophane wrap and some ribbon.

Items in my craft basket:

  • Ribbon
  • Double sided tape
  • Glue stick
  • Washi tape
  • Glue dots
  • Pop up dots (for 3D crafting)
  • Sticky note pads (I got one that is shaped like the letter of her first name and a few others in fun shapes and colors)
  • Crayons (neon and glitter – all kids need both, let’s be serious)
  • Kid scissors
  • Pompoms
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Mini clipboard and notepad
  • Ruler
  • 3 Hole punch
  • 2 colors of glitter paper
  • A pad of colored paper and half sheets of colored paper

And the best part… The shopping! This gift is not only great for your recipient but will be enjoyable for you to put together too. Have fun!

Gift Ideas: Adult Easter Basket

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!

Gift Ideas: Nursing / Pumping Basket

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.

Gift Ideas: Reversible Drawstring Toy Bag

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.

Materials:

  • 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!
  • Hammer and 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

Instructions:

  • 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).

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

Gift Ideas: Custom Board Game

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:

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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. 
    • 20181217_203610.jpg
    • 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.
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    • 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.
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    • 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:

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  • 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:

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Gift Ideas: A Year of Dates

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.

Materials:

  • White and navy cardstock (or whatever colors you want)
  • Paper cutter
  • Various stickers and markers
  • 12 envelopes
  • 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.

Instructions:

  • 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.

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  • 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.

Happy dating!

  • 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
  • Other ideas:
    • Horseback riding
    • Beach day
    • Laser tag
    • Ziplining
    • Paintball
    • Bike ride
    • Amusement park or water park
    • Other sports game (soccer, baseball, football, hockey, etc.)
    • Concert
    • Play / musical
    • Comedy show
    • Murder Mystery Dinner Theater
    • Bowling
    • Kayaking / canoeing / paddle boarding
    • Hike
    • Escape room
    • Go kart riding
    • Museums

 

Gift Ideas: Couple Christmas Kits

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.

Materials:

  • Mugs (I used white ones from the Dollar Tree, but you could use clear or a light color)
  • Oil-based paint markers, like these
  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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?

Merry Christmas!

Gift Ideas: Family Tree

This year, my husband and I (okay, okay, I basically coerced him) decided to do handcrafted Christmas. What is handcrafted Christmas, you ask? Well, basically we made homemade or personalized gifts for everyone on our shopping list. This started, in part, because I love to craft and wanted to try a bunch of different projects (but I don’t need a million crafts laying around the house), but also, my side of the family was doing a gift exchange this year, so I wouldn’t have the opportunity to buy for everyone. This way, I could still shop for my gift exchange assignments, but I could make everyone in the fam a personalize, heart-felt gift too!

As much as I’ve been wanting to post about these ideas for weeks now, I decided to wait until just before and then after Christmas to avoid any risk of anyone seeing their gift ahead of time. But, since I know my mom doesn’t read my blog regularly (thanks a lot, Ma hehe), I figured I’d be safe posting her gift a few days early.

I have a huge family – 4 siblings and lots of nieces and nephews. Family is really important to my mom (and to all of us, really), so I thought it’d be neat to make her something to showcase her big family, which is how I landed on creating a family tree.

I did a lot of researching online to get ideas for a family tree, but nothing I saw was really striking my fancy. There are lots of options on Etsy where you can get a printed version of a tree with text and it looks cool, but I didn’t just want a sheet of paper for her. There are also lots where you have a physical tree and then can hang little pieces with names, but I didn’t love this either, so I decided to create something of my own design. Here’s how I did it.

Materials:

  • Baltic Birch plywood (HIGHLY encourage getting nice wood for this – you will see below my first draft which was AWFUL in part because I used crappy wood)
  • Paper and pencil for drafting / practicing
  • Scroll saw or other type of saw to cut out your design
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain – I used Varathane Stain + Poly in Kona Semi-Gloss
  • Dremel or other carving tool (I used a Dremel Model 290 Engraver)
  • Command strips for mounting (I used the large velcro strips – I put them on the back of the tree and just left the wall side protective strips on so it’s super simple for my mom to hang up)

Instructions:

  • Draft the design. I made several iterations of the design before I got to one I liked. I started by writing out all of my family members’ names and grouping them together by family. I thought about including birthdates as well, but ultimately landed on just first and middle names. Once I knew I wanted to make an actual tree, I took my draft and turned it into a general tree shape with branches off the trunk for my mom’s kids (me and my 4 siblings) and then smaller branches coming off of our branches for the kids. Not all of my siblings have kids (for example, I have no children), so I either left it as a singular branch or added some small nubby branches for texture. My oldest sister has a kid who is already married and may be having children soon, so I made sure to include room on the branch for her husband’s name and two little branches off of their main branch for their future kids. Once I had my general design on paper, I put it onto the wood. Most of this I did free-hand, but you could find an image online and print it out. (The size I wanted would have been too big to print at home, but you can always print at FedEx or OfficeMax too!)
  • Cut it out. For v1, I used a jigsaw. This worked okay, but combined with the crappy plywood, it left choppy edges with some splintering. For v2, I used a scroll saw (never used one before this!!) and it came out super well. The biggest difference for me between the two is that it’s much easier to control YOUR speed on the scroll saw. You can set the speed that the blade moves, but you also move the wood rather than the saw, so it’s much easier to navigate slowly and steadily. Be sure to wear protective eye gear and keep your fingers away from the blade!
  • Sand and stain. You definitely want to sand the edges where you cut, including the tips of the branches. Be sure to give the front face a nice, quick sand using a high numbered paper (the higher the number the finer the grit, which means you’ll take less off for a smoother finish. If you have super rough edges, use a lower number grit to get more off at once). When you go to stain, definitely put down a cover for your workspace (it will make clean up SUPER easy) and be sure to start with the edges and then fade into the face of the tree. On v1, I forgot to do the edges first and you can see where I did them after the fact, which created somewhat of an outline effect to the tree. Do the edges as you go part by part staining in the rest of the tree to create a seamless blending. Let dry for at least 2 days in a well-ventilated, temperature controlled area (I let mine dry in my craft room instead of my basement so it’d go quicker).

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  • Carve. DEFINITELY practice on a scrap piece of stained wood first. Do not just dive straight into carving your piece. You need to get the feel for the tool and how it reacts to the wood and the stain. Be careful about making your letters too small – you may end up popping out any small portions completely, which doesn’t look great. Again, this is another reason to use the quality wood – I didn’t have any parts pop out completely, even with some pretty small letters. I free-handed all of my letters. You could use a metal stencil if you want, but if you practice enough (I had an entire tree of practice), then you can probably get away with free-handing as well. Just remember to go slow, take breaks, and breathe. Oh, and do a first pass of all the names and THEN go back and re-do any letters that didn’t come out quite right.

That’s it! All in all, v2 probably took about 4 hours in total (minus the lag time between staining and carving). It really wasn’t that tough of a project, but definitely learned a lot between the first and second version. If you apply what I’ve shared above, your first version will likely be amazing! See the huge difference between versions below. You can barely even read the names in v1, whereas v2 is clear and clean. Using better wood and a darker stain likely made this difference.