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.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Go Green on Black Friday

Check out http://re-maker.blogspot.com/2008/11/go-green-on-black-friday.html and go green on Black Friday! What a great idea.

Seasonal Series

I have a tree stamp called Tree Tile by Rubber Soul. I just love it. But, I've always used it in the same way -- StazOn on SU! Glossy White paper, inked in autumn colors with daubers. I've been very happy with the effect... until now.

Mothers and Daughters Creations challenged us to create a table decor item last week. After completing the challenge (and WAHOO! I won), I was inspired and went on to create an image in a frame. The next thing I knew, I was making a series.
At first glance, the series looks like it's about the seasons. And, that's true, that is part of it. But for me, it's about the treatment of the stamped image. I made an effort to treat the image differently in each season:
  • Winter - Stamped in silver on vellum paper, embossed with white sparkly powder
  • Spring - Stamped in brown on white paper, colored with watercolor pencils and blender pens, dotted with permanent marker and hole-punched green DP (which was then covered in sparkles!) WHEW!
  • Summer - Stamped in black on navy paper, covered with hole-punched leaves of two shades of green, two DPs and colored vellum
  • Fall - Stamped on glossy white paper, colored with inked daubers

I really enjoyed creating this... and to think, the frame only cost me $.33.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wahoo! I Won!

I am so excited. I just found out I've won the Mothers and Daughters Creations weekly design challenge for table decor. I am stoked to go created more!

Thank you so much, MDC!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Calling All Craft Bloggers

Hi there, fellow craft bloggers. What do ya say we share the love and promote one another? Let's do a button swap and a give a Twitter shout out about each other and see what we can do. Leave a comment with your URL and I'll be in touch! As a list grows, I'll post here to increase exposure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

MDC Table Decor Challenge: Part II

Once I finished the table decor for the Mothers and Daughters Creations challenge, I made the framed image above left. I thought it would be a cute wall decoration. But then I couldn't help myself and I made a winter scene too! How cool would it be to change out the scenes for each season? So now I'm going to make spring and summer scenes and display these proudly in my kitchen. Fun! (And using the same tree image in different ways is a fun challenge for me.)

MDC Table Decor Challenge: Part I

Mothers and Daughters Creations put out a challenge to create a table decor item. I couldn't resist! I used an old hot chocolate container to create a flower vase (for faux flowers... I don't think it could hold water). I like that I can fill the container with candy to give as a hostess gift and the hostess can reuse as either a flower vase or food container.

It couldn't have been simpler. Here's the supply list:

  • Target $1 scrapbook paper set, ribbon set
  • Stampin' Up! Dotted Autumn set
  • Stampin' Up! So Saffron paper
  • Stampin' Up! Cranberry Crisp ink
  • Stampin' Up! Whisper White cardstock
  • All Night Media clear embossing powder
  • VersaMark ink
  • Adhesive
  • Faux flowers
  • Decorative ribbon

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Children's Books -- MUST HAVES

I have three children. My eldest is a 7 year old boy, my middle a 4 ½ year old girl and my youngest child, a boy, is 13 months old. Of course, three children means we have three times the norm of many, many things: food, laundry, doctor’s visits, TOYS.

So, as we approached my youngest child’s first birthday, I thought long and hard about what to give him. Friends asked, “What does he need? What doesn’t he have?” Do you know I couldn’t answer? Sure, our doctor kit is now approximately five years old and missing a few pieces, but do we need a new one? No. Sure, my son already enjoys pushing around cars and trucks but since he’s got so many left from my eldest, does he need new ones? No. How about clothes? Nope, have them left over from my eldest as well as many friends. Hmmm…

Then, it hit me. Can you ever have too many books? No way. I don’t know about you, but I read 2 – 3 books per night, per child so that’s a lot of reading. Translation: that’s a lot of repetition. We’ve been reading the same bookcase-worth of books for seven years now. Ouch. (It actually is painful sometimes.) With this is mind, I decided to have a book-themed party where everyone could give the birthday boy a copy of their favorite book. This worked beautifully for our guest list as the vast majority of kids invited were the friends of my other two. They’d been read to all their lives so I figured they had to have favorites. I was so right and, as I gazed at the very manageable stack of new books after the party, I was at peace. Gone was the usual post-party angst regarding where we’d put all the new stuff. Where would all those tiny pieces go so they didn’t get lost? How long would it take my fingers to heal after untwisting all those wires to free all this stuff? Instead, it was “Ahhhhh. Look at that lovely pile of books for us to read.”

But I’m not the only one with a lack-luster library. Why not consider rejuvenating your friends’ libraries this year too? They will thank you for not giving their child another thing to collect dust once the thrill wears off (ever notice how the thrill doesn’t wear off of books for kids?). To get you started, here are my absolute favorites, appropriate for children birth through third grade (at least):

On The Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier
This gorgeous tale describes the wondrous happenings across the planet as your child was born. I’ve made sure each of my children have their own copy so that they will always know how very connected they are to our environment.

I Hate Everyone by Mij Kelly
A selfish Queen Bee learns to be polite in this clever story. The typography lends to the excitement; as the Queen yells louder, so do the words on the page! The richly colored images are sure to in trance your child as they learn that being nice is the best way to be.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Can you spot the little flea in each picture? Did you notice each animal moves just a bit on each page? Your child will enjoy predicting what’s next by looking at the pictures in this fun book. The day may start sleepy but it sure ends up bright!

My Very Own Name Personalized Storybook
Animals gather round as a new baby joins the wood. To decide the baby’s name, each animal offers a letter. “D” might come from a donkey or a deer, for example. Based on the information you provide upon ordering, the animals spell out your special child’s name. The birthdate of this woodland baby matches that of your child as well. I’ve purchased this book for all of my children. When they were younger, they loved hearing their names as part of the story. As they grew, they began identifying the letters presented my each animal. The illustrations are gorgeous as well.

How Do I Love You? By P.K. Hallinan
This fun rhyme describes all the lovable things about your child (“I love it when you’re happy and I’m sorry when you’re sad. And even though it may not show, I love you when you’re bad.”). It’s a wonderful way to reaffirm a parent’s love for their child, no matter what their behavior. The drawings are vividly colored and lots of fun!

This author/illustrator has an entire series of love-affirming books worth checking out.

Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson
If you’ve never read any of the Bear books, you are in for a treat! In this episode, beautifully illustrated rhythmic poetry tells of Bear’s friends caring for him when he is sick. Each animal does something special for Bear and, in the end, Bear cares for them when they become sick.

Also look for Bear Wants More (featuring American Sign Language for “more,” Bear Snores On, Bear’s New Friend, Bear Stay’s Up (a Christmas story) and Bear Feels Scared.

Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry & the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood
This quick board book is such fun to read. Your child will love how they, as the reader, speak directly to the mouse about his juicy, red, ripe strawberry and the very big hungry bear who loves to eat them!

Go Track a Yak! By Tony Johnston
Go on a silly journey to save the little baby who won’t eat. Thanks to outstanding typography, you’ll find yourself in character as a dim-witted dad and cranky witch. My children have enjoyed the story on many levels over the years; different parts make them laugh as they get older.

Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler
Join Cowboy Gene and Cowgirl Sue as they each call their eight cows in for the night. But, when a storm blows down the fence, the herds mix and mayhem ensues. Through witty rhymes, we find Cowboy Gene and Cowgirl Sue in love and the herd size doubled!

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
Do you deal with any picky eaters? Can you imagine SEVEN of them? This rhyming tale will entertain you and your picky eater as you watch one mother become exhausted by her seven silly eaters… and then watch their favorite foods magically combine to make one delicious birthday cake for Mom!

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood
This fable describes how all things are connected here on Planet Earth. Beautiful watercolors vividly depict the land and creatures of our world. This is a MUST read for children to help them understand the importance of preserving Earth’s ecology.

For even more book ideas, check out my list “Children’s Books – MUST HAVES” on Wishpot.com.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life Gets In The Way

It is my heart's desire is to be on a craft design team. I've crafted for years and have often been told, "You should totally sell that!" But that's not me. I can create until the cows come home, but hit the pavement and promote my stuff? Let's just say I'm still stuck in the barn.

So I started this blog, designed the logo, edited the template code (I'm a web designer by trade) and became active in social media forums to learn the ropes... but what I haven't done is craft anything. I've been so busy online, I've lost sight of my passion. I create. It's my stress-reliever. It grounds me. But I haven't created anything (other than this blog and my online presence) in weeks.

True, life in general has been quite busy lately. Three kids, Halloween, Dad away two outta three weeks away for work, a trip to NYC... no wonder I haven't found the time to create. But excuses no more! Tonight's the night. Tonight, the children will be in by 8:30. I will be seated at my craft desk by 8:32 and I will craft.

Maybe if I put it out there for others to see, I'll really do it. What do you think?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Tie-Dye Fun

Have you seen the adorable Halloween tie-dye shirts from Family Fun? They are so cute, we had to make 'em. My daughter, at right, wore hers to school today and she beamed with pride as she showed everyone the jack-o-lantern faces she drew on it. We used an undershirt from my son plus a $1 box of Rit dye and, presto! Instant Halloween shirt.

Here's what we did:
  1. I created the dye bath according to the directions on the package.

  2. We twisted the shirt into multiple peaks to create many jack-o-lantern faces. (See also the picture of my brother-in-law with his shirt. We made just one large peak in the shirt's center to create the single jack-o-lantern.)

  3. We let the shirt sit in the bath for an hour (I dyed multiple items so the water:dye ratio was a little off. Less water to cover less material would have created a brighter orange in less time.)

  4. I rinsed off the shirts following the directions.

  5. We removed the rubber bands and laid out the shirts to dry (VERY exciting for my daughter).

  6. Once dry, I ran the shirts through the washer so that they'll be safe to wash with other clothing items later.

  7. Once dry, we used Bic permanent markers to create the faces.

Sunnbrook Farm Designs' post about creating shopping bags from old t-shirts really struck a cord with me too. Plastic bags are the bane of humanity as they clog landfills because they are too expensive to recycle (returning bags to the grocery store for recycling just isn't enough) and injure animals as they litter the ocean and streams. SO, why not create Halloween treat bags using the above tie-dye method and an old t-shirt? I tried, but failed miserably. I couldn't figure out how to set-up the bobbin on my sewing machine so I tried Heat n' Bond instead. Well, considering my Heat n' Bond is 8 years old... didn't work so well. The tie-dye turned out cool but the seams busted immediately; how could they ever hold a ton of candy? Oh, well... maybe next year.

Monday, October 27, 2008

HSM3: A Trip Down Memory Lane?

Have you seen it yet? Have you seen High School Musical 3? I took my kids on Saturday but to be honest, I was just as excited as they were. And even though my expectations were high, I was not disappointed. For 112 minutes and 12 songs, I lived vicariously through these six+ individuals going through the angst of high school graduation, college selection and long-distance first loves.

As a base review, let me say that the song and dance numbers are a real step up from the made-for-TV movies, though not all-together original. They pay homage to many movies from "my day" -- I recognized "Footloose," "The Breakfast Club" and "Grease" at the very least. But, you know what? Those musical numbers work; they were used appropriately at just the right time to convey the same types of emotion as in their predecessors. And they are darn catchy (the soundtrack is bound to be in my little girl's stocking this Christmas).

What I didn't expect was to go on such a personal emotional journey. Suddenly, I was seeing my future... As Gabriella sang about dreaming of prom her whole life, my eyes welled at the thought of my daughter going to prom (true, she's 4 1/2 now but time is flying!) and as Troy gave his graduation speech, my eyes welled AGAIN at the thought of my now 7 year old son graduating from high school. Wasn't he born yesterday? How is he in 2nd grade already?

And on top of that, I began reliving my own history as well! And I don't just mean senior year of high school. Instead, it was like I was five years old watching Grease at the movie theater (which is my earliest memory of being in a theater). Sure, in hindsight the content was SO inappropriate but I certainly didn't get it at the time. What I did get was the wonder of the music and dancing. Soon after, my sister Monica and I had the double LP. Do you remember it? It looked like the Formica diner tables with pictures laid across. We listened to it over and over again, standing on the couch as we performed with one another. Monica was always Danny Zuko and I was always Sandy Olson... why, I don't know. Maybe it was because I was the youngest and poor Monica had to give in or I'd cry for days? Regardless, we loved re-enacting the whole thing, start to finish. So now I wonder, will the High School Musical trilogy be for my kids what Grease was for me? Will they be off at college, dancing in a bar and suddenly screech because the DJ is playing a montage of HSM songs that they haven't heard, let alone thought of, in years? Will their memories of seeing the movie (and subsequently dancing and singing in the kitchen with Mom) come rushing back to them as they dance along in some random bar while away at school? I hope so!

(The soundtrack to High School Musical 3 is offered on Amazon.com for $9.99 and on iTunes for $12.99.)

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