Take It Smiling

Friday, December 19, 2008

Handmade Gifts for All 2008

I am finally feeling the peace of the Christmas spirit! My to-do list is DONE and I can sit back, relax and laugh at all those folks running around last minute. No, I wouldn't do that... well, maybe just a little. I have totally finished my teacher gifts (can I get a "whoot, whoot?") and I'm very pleased with them. I hope my handmade gifts inspire you. You can make gifts just like these... they can easily be adapted to your style and craftiness-level.

Let's start with my kids at school. I teach ten 3 year olds and wanted to send home just a little something. Not something junkie and plastic, but a little something. I was thrilled when Christy at Southern Plate mentioned her S'mores Kits. They were JUST what I wanted: affordable, quick and easy. All you need are reclosable plastic baggies (preferrably without any printing on them), graham crackers, mini Hershey bars (which I purchased on sale at a local grocery store... 8/$1!) and mini marshmellos. Christy has a template for labels with all the writing done for you but I had fun making my own. They are just folded over the top of the bag and stapled (with GREEN staples, though you can't tell from the picture). I used some old holiday stickers think they turned out super cute!

As for teacher gifts, this year most teachers and helpers will receive a layered jar. I made 4 oatmeal chocolate chip cookie jars and 5 harvest soup jars... I'll post the recipes when I find them again (ack! clutter in the kitchen!) but if you need something sooner, http://www.allrecipes.com/ has lots of great options. Both turned out cute and I was able to find the ingredients on sale or use what I already had in the pantry. If you're on a budget, I highly recommend the soup recipe; I used 6-8 bags of beans total and they each cost just $.88. Plus, the recipe makes 16 servings so it will go a long way for your recipient. The cookie recipe was hard to fit into the jar, even with me packing down each layer as it was added. And I messed up one little bit... after the second layer of brown sugar, I was supposed to add the second layer of oats. I forgot about that step until AFTER I'd added the flour/baking powder/baking soda/cinnamon layer. Whoops. But I think it will be okay. Not all of that second cup of oats fit but I think it's better to be missing some oats rather than flour, baking soda and baking powder.

To decorate the jars, I tied a 1" brown ribbon through the metal hinge and clasp and then used a smaller brown ribbon to add a tag. The tags were decorated on the front but had the cooking directions on the back. I had a great time making the tags using Stampin' Up!'s "I Wish" Simply Scrappin' set. I stamped just a few things; the stickers really made faster work of it. The soup jar above (stamped with Baroque Motifs from SU) was a prototype I did for my girlfriend who wanted to use that stamp set on her tags. For me, I wanted to simplify and use what I had so I stuck with the I Wish materials plus some random things I found among my stash. I made 9 tags in all:

For two special-special folks, I decorated containers I've saved (and people always wonder why I never throw anything away...) and filled them with handmade ornaments. I used pieces from SU's I Wish again to decorate plus SU's Star Bright ornament die cuts to create the ornaments. The photo at the top of this post is one example and to the right is another. These were so simple to make and yet they are really impressive. Those ornament die cuts are just so EASY!

And then there was the one MALE teacher... yeah, you heard me. My son has a male teacher; how cool is that?! Totally cool for a seven year old boy but a little challenging for moi since I have this need on a cellular level to make my teacher gifts each year and my husband said, "No. You cannot give a guy a jar of cookie or soup mix. You just can't." My husband was, however, very supportive when I suggested I buy the teacher a Starbucks gift card. Of course, I had to make some kind of cover or box for the gift card. Duh. I found a tutorial by Andrea Walford and went to work.

I used an envelope in Very Vanilla by SU plus pieces from the I Wish set (can you believe I made all these things and still have more pieces left???) and some basic red ribbon I've had for years. I think it turned out sufficiently masculine, although my husband is convinced the teacher will never know the holder is handmade. Oh, well. Here are views of the front, back and inside.

The jars were quite heavy and the ornament boxes were difficult to wrap since they were round so I went the green way and used brown paper gift bags. I love these bags because they are reusable (less waste in a landfill and less energy used in a recycling plant) and simple. They can be dressed up for the nicest gift or decorated by my kids for birthday parties. I stayed simple and just hung a star ornament from SU's Star Bright die cuts plus a little wooden bead (can you believe I've had these beads since I was a child?) on the silver elastic cording that came in the Star Bright kit. I love the way they turned out. I wrote the To: From: information on the star so they doubled as gift tags.
There you go; my handmade teacher gifts for 2008. I hope you've enjoyed seeing them and maybe are even a little inspired to try making them yourselves.
Happy holidays, everyone!
PS: FoodieMama.com is having a contest about food gift items. Let's see how I do! Thanks, Tara, from Feels Like Home for letting me know about the contest!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Philanthropy Boy

My oldest son made me very proud today. He walked into the kitchen after school and said, "Mom, can we have a hot chocolate stand?" I said, "Sure, hon," thinking this was a great way to spend some time outside since it wasn't actually freezing (a welcome break from our recent weather). But then, my boy said, "We're going to donate half the money we earn to a homeless shelter, a quarter to an animal shelter and then who ever works at the stand will split the rest." Seriously? My seven year old son thought of this? My son thought of this instead of making a Christmas wish list to mail to Santa? My heart filled with love and pride as I thought, "That's ma' boy!"

So I put on the kettle of water and scrounged up some holiday mugs and cocoa mix. He brought up a kid-sized table from the basement and called our neighbor for a marshmallow donation. Within ten minutes we were set. And the timing was perfect... it was just dark enough to really see our Christmas lights shining bright!

We're lucky to live on a court full of children eager to help. As employees, they were entitled to a share of the profit, of course. Each took their duties seriously whether it was advertising (knocking on every door), measuring out the cocoa mix, stirring the water, adding marshmallows, taking the money or babysitting the youngest staff member (my 14 mo. old).

Considering they were out for just an hour (before it was too dark and cold) and only 4 out of 7 houses had someone home, they did pretty well. After deducting their salary, the children made $12! Not bad considering their customers were 2 adults and themselves. How sweet it was that after setting everything up, they all ran into their houses to fetch a dollar and buy a cup of hot cocoa from themselves.

The math went out the door in the end; the proceeds will be divided in half. We plan to donate $6 to our town's homeless shelter and visit our county Humane Society with our $6 (plus lots of love for the animals). Sure, it's not much but isn't the point just that he had the idea? I love that he's ready to make a difference and already believes he can.

And as if the evening weren't rewarding enough, I was even able to finally snap a picture worthy of a holiday card. Here it is - our holiday card 2008 photo - da da da dum:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away Now

Just because you can’t stand that sweater or your kids don’t use those toys anymore is no reason to clutter our landfills. Instead give away your used but in good condition items to a charity organization that can put them to good use. Check out JustGive.org’s list of organizations at http://www.justgive.org/html/ways/donate_goods.html. The site even features information on volunteer vacations and making event (i.e. wedding) leftovers go the distance.

Buying Mom-made

Consider buying mom-made gift items this holiday season. Why? Buying mom-made supports mothers, many of them stay home with their children and create their products around the needs of their family. Buying mom-made means you’re buying something HANDMADE. That’s special in this day of mass-produced, under-priced stuff (could that pair of gloves for your brother-in-law REALLY cost just $9.99 to make and distribute or is someone else paying for the deal somewhere down the line?). And buying mom-made means you are buying something UNIQUE. Check out http://team.etsy.com/profilest/moms.shtml for a list of Etsy stores that are mom-run, http://tipjunkie.com/shopathon for more mom-made shops

The Story of Stuff

Have you seen it yet? Have you seen “The Story of Stuff” at http://www.storyofstuff.com? You’ve gotta see it… it talks all about the extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal of STUFF. It is eye-opening – did you know products are MADE to be consumed so that you have to buy new ones? It’s good for the economy, but at what price? All of those battery-operated toothbrushes are sitting in landfills while the battery acid pollutes our water. Gross.

I’ll Have a Green Christmas

Diane MacEachern, author of The Big Green Purse (http://www.biggreenpurse.com), puts it “The more money you spend on green products, the more you encourage manufacturers to reduce pollution, save energy and water, use less packaging and protect natural areas.” Check out Tree Hugger’s gift guide called, “Give Green to Save Green” at http://www.treehugger.com/giftguide.

Copyright ©2010 Andrea Diuguid. All content, including text, photographs and concept design elements featured in this blog are © Andrea Diuguid.