Mother’s Day Gifts

Remember the birthday necklaces I made in January and posted last week? Well, I decided to make Mother’s Day gifts for my grandmothers that would go along with them. This time, I made bracelets.

I used the same amethyst chips, some silver wire, and some silver chain. I made five beaded links and connected them together with chains. I once again used a magnetic clasp, because it is one of my new favorite materials to use in jewelry.

I also made some Zentangle cards to send with them. I drew the patterns with a Sharpie pen, and then colored them with Prismacolor markers.

Welcome Home Gifts

After two weeks away, the little ones and their parents came home. While they were away, I was tasked with clearing off the chalk wall in the oldest’s room. I went a step further and added a nice little “Welcome Home” mural above the window.

The boys brought me a few things back from Martha’s Vineyard, as well. Not a week goes by without having to take the oldest to the Lego store, therefore this was one of the things they brought back:

It now resides on the shelf below my winter-themed Simpsons figures from last Christmas, plus a shadowbox diorama from their trip to Mexico and among other little gifts.

I also got a “Black Dog” t-shirt, just like the ones they get every year. They definitely get my color scheme, eh?

Now we have mostly settled back into our daily routine, except for this being the last week of summer. Next week there is Kindergarten orientation and the first day of school. Yes, this early in August we are headed back to school. Seems kinda ridiculously early, but it is happening. And so will the traffic.

DIY Birthday Present: CD With Label and Sleeve

Home-made gifts are always the best, right? I had a flash of brilliance when the four-year-old went on a field trip to the recording studio. (Side note: Where were these awesome field trips when I was in school? Pretty sure we took the same trip to the zoo on the same day every year as our field trips. With the occasional trip to the botanical gardens thrown in every few years.) He was slightly disappointed because he wouldn’t be able to sing “Rainbow Connection” during the class recording session because it was too long. So I made a mental note to revisit that idea for his mom’s birthday.

I got a lucky break when they went out of town on a surprise trip last week and we had four days to record. But even if you don’t have the equipment (or desire) to record the recipient’s favorite songs, you can still make a mix CD. Yes, I said CD. I know you can just email them a playlist, but isn’t it more fun to give a physical gift? That said, you know your own friends and relatives and you know who will just give you a funny look as if they don’t remember how we purchased music before smartphones.

I’ll leave you on your own for the burning of the CD, since every computer and system and program handles that differently. But I don have a few tips to make it even more personal:

1. Make a paper sleeve.

There are all kinds of tutorials for all different kinds of paper sleeves, but I used this one to make a sleeve similar to ones I’ve bought CDs in at the store. That gave me more room to add things like pictures of the kids recording, a track list, “liner notes”, etc. It’s got a space for the CD and a flap that folds over. I used Photoshop to create the case, using the downloads from the tutorial as guidelines. To keep the finished product free of lines, I made the template “layer 1” and just set it to invisible before printing on cardstock, then printed the templates out on plain paper and used them as cutting guides.I also made two of the folded cover, one to be the inside and one to be the outside.

2. Create your own cover art.

I tasked the four-year-old with coloring a picture to be the front of the CD cover, scanned that picture in, then resized it into the outer cover layer. You can also just take a picture and use it the same way.

3. Make a label.

I just grabbed a pack of Memorex CD Labels which have two labels per page, plus jewel case labels and downloaded this Illustrator template which I used in a manner similar to the CD case templates, except I didn’t have to print a copy of the template since it printed directly on the labels.

There you have it: Three easy steps to a one-of-a-kind (or however many you want) birthday gift. Or graduation gift. Or Mother’s Day (which is Sunday!) gift. Or…you get the picture. Have fun with it. Be creative. Especially if you are giving a mom a CD of her children singing her songs. She will love it. And possibly cry.

Quick DIY: Mini Heart Pillows

One would think it would be impossible to forget a holiday that is advertised everywhere for the month and a half leading up to it, but one would be wrong. That is how I found myself desperately making four Valentine’s at 8:00pm Thursday night. At first I attempted to knit some little heart pillows. I found the perfect tutorial and had set about on the knitting, when I looked at the clock, realized it was 9:00pm now, and saw that I was only about a quarter of the way through Valentine #1.

Change of plans, and quick. I don’t have much in the way of craft supplies just lying around. Sure, I could draw up some cards in no time, but these are for little people who are pre-reading and would really rather have something tangible. So I dug through my meager closet stash and found a piece of purple, a piece of yellow, and a large piece of green felt in my “leftovers” basket.

With just the felt, a pair of scissors, some embroidery thread, and a minuscule amount of supplemental yarn to add to the padding, I managed to whip up some cute little love pillows.

Mini Heart Pillow DIY

Materials

  • Colored Craft Felt
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery Thread
  • Stuffing (can use fiber fill, left-over fabric/yarn, basically whatever you have on hand to fill the pillow with)

Instructions

  1. Cut two matching heart shapes from the felt. This can either be done with a template you create on paper or, my favorite method, by folding the felt in half while cutting to keep the hearts as close to each other in shape as possible.
  2. Using all six strands of embroidery thread (to make it stand out; use less if you want a more subtle effect), back-stitch the name of the recipient or your desired message onto one of the felt hearts. This tutorial from wikiHow can help if you have never done a back-stitch before. Note- I don’t knot my thread, i just leave a bit hanging at the beginning of my work on the wrong side of the fabric.
  3. Holding both hearts wrong sides together, take all six strands of thread and a running stitch around the edges to hold the pieces together. Be sure to stuff it as you go so you aren’t trying to push a whole pillow’s-worth of stuffing through a tiny hole at the end.
  4. Bring the end of your thread through the middle of the pillow, putting the needle in between the felt pieces at the edge and taking it out the same way at the opposite edge and cut the thread close to the pillow.

And that is it. You have a nice little gift to show your love and appreciation of a loved one in a very short amount of time. I think each of these took me around ten minutes from start to finish. It may take you more or less time depending on how proficient you are at sewing and embroidery, of course.

What kinds of gifts did you give for Valentine’s day?

Wrapping Up 2013

It’s completely cliché, but appropriate in this case. That is because I am ending the year with a write-up of my Christmas presents. Ok, not mine (which were approximately 95% coffee-related. I don’t plan on sleeping until 2015 with my new caffeine supply.) but the ones I actually got made.

It never fails, I know Christmas happens at the end of December, yet I always seem to wait until November to start making Christmas presents. I swear one of these years I’m going to start earlier. I make no promises on which year that will be, but one of these years I’m going to do it.

Anyway, on to the presents I managed to finish in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. First up I finished a shawl for one of my grandmothers:

This is also the thing I took the most pictures of:

Thanks to the remote viewfinder app for my camera, I can be my own model:

Next up is a warm little set for a friend, a basket weave hat

and a pair of fingerless mitts.

Here’s how they look on the hand (well, one hand, anyway):

Next up is a cross-stitched iPhone cover for another friend:

Unfortunately, the edges flared out and it became kind of misshapen as you can see in the picture.

Last we have what I’m calling the “Meta Coffee Cup Cozy”

because it is a picture of a coffee mug to go around a morning coffee.

I also gave my other grandmother her half-made scarf with the needle cable still through it and capped at the ends. But I obviously had to take that one back because I am still finishing it. Not bad for starting way too close to Christmas to actually get anything done. Maybe 2014 will be the year I don’t procrastinate on Christmas gifts…

(P.S. – Click on the name of the knitted gifts to go to the Ravelry project page for more information on the item.)

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Well, only a little bit while I was filling the bottles, and when testing out the solution.

What do you do when a kid is really deep into a phase of character obsession? You give in and make everything about his birthday presents reflect that, or course. Well, you do if you are me and generally terrible at coming up with gift ideas.

Confession: I like to make a good chunk of the gifts I give just because I walk into a store to buy something for a person and can spend hours wandering in circles without coming up with anything. At least with making something I can tailor something generic into something I think they will enjoy.

So, what do you give a four-year-old who has a ton of toys and yet mostly just plays with whatever his baby brother is interested in because that’s how four-year-olds are? Bubbles. Also, because that is how I like to keep him occupied outside while said baby brother naps in the mornings.

I made a home-made bubble solution using 1 part baby wash (so it won’t sting so much if bubbles get blown into baby brother’s eyes, ahem), 1 part light corn syrup (so the bubbles are more elastic), and 2 parts water. I also made them slightly more special than store-bought bubbles by creating four smaller bottles of scented bubbles. I added a teaspoon of extract to each of the 3 oz containers to make chocolate, peanut butter, orange, and vanilla bubbles. Then I poured the rest of the bubble solution into the corn syrup and baby wash bottles with the labels removed and set about making my own labels for each bottle.

I created a Batman-esque symbol using his name and then labeled the bubbles with their ingredients, just because that is always a good thing to put on a label. I love Photoshop and Illustrator. Just saying. Anyway, I printed them on clear labels (and forgot how horribly the ink smudges on those labels so my mother and I had to layer packing tape over the top before we stuck them to the bottles) cut them out and stuck them on.

Did I mention I did all of this the day before his birthday party? Yeah, I’m really bad at waiting until the last minute on things like that.

But not as bad as the other part of his gift. Which I will tell you about on Wednesday since I started out writing this as all one post and it got very long and very wordy very quickly. But don’t worry, that one has a story that is just as entertaining as this was, or perhaps even more so.

Do you have a go-to gift idea? What do you get for small children when their birthdays/other gift-giving holidays come around?