DIY homemade wedding favors

This spring I have been a little in denial. I know the time is coming soon when I have to decide if I’m going to start a garden. But I just don’t know if I’m ready to commit! I dropped by a farmer’s market yesterday and was told, here in Cali, I have two weeks left to decide. I’ve been totally inspired by this hydroponic herb garden, and this DIY green house trick, but I just need something to push me over the edge, or pull me back.

(btw, if you’re thinking of starting an herb garden, don’t miss my 13 tips for starting an herb garden I picked up last year)

While I’m putting off the garden commitment, we did manage to pick out a few strands of seeds to plant a small caterpillar and butterfly garden. We stopped by our nursery and asked what plants might be good to attract local critters. We decided to make seed tape (see my seed tape tutorial here), because it is my kids’ favorite.
Seed tape is great for my kids, they love putting globs of paste on the strips of newspaper. And seed tape is also a great way to store seeds so they’re ready to plant in seconds.

Of course we had to make an extra to give away and add a few embellishments. Butterfly garden seeds on top, caterpillar seeds on bottom. All that’s left to do is lay the strips on soil, sprinkle with a little extra soil, water, and watch!

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Here in my little town we have some amazing places to pick up dessert. We have a country roadside stop for soft-serve cones, we have this incredible European-style pastry shop, and finally, we have a cupcake bakery that sells the best cupcakes I have ever tasted. Yumm. Just thinking about it makes me want cupcakes for breakfast.
Incase you can’t tell, I’m a sucker for a pretty dessert. Especially a pretty cupcake. And though I love eating them, I also like giving them away. So a few months ago, I came up with a fun way to present a single cupcake, enthroned in all its sprinkled glory. It started when we realized these make the perfect dome over a cupcake.
I ordered a set of these deli containers, and flipped them upside down.


I pulled out the drill and made a single hole in the center on top.

Then I added a favorite drawer pull that I picked up, where else?, from Anthropologie. (Note: the knobs at Anthropologie are always long, so if you get one from there, you’ll need to either cut it down or replace it with a shorter screw. Some unscrew easier than others, so check before you buy.)
We discovered that a liner beneath the cupcake is the perfect place for a secret message. If you have a particularly buttery cupcake (the best kind) and are worried about grease spoiling your message, use a layer of glassine.
All that’s left to do is snap on the dome. And there you have it, a pretty cupcake, packaged and ready to send home with a guest or birthday girl, even with a handle for easy carrying. After finishing this project I decided that the next time we have a tea party over here,

we are definitely having a cupcake tree.

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If you’re new here, you can check out my other tutorials here, or get some inspiration for other party favors on my blog, my gift inspiration board, or my pretty packaging inspiration board. Thanks for stopping by!

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I love May. I’d love to spend the entire month outside. In honor of May I thought we’d do a project that is reminiscent of May poles and of frolicking in the spring sunshine. We put together some DIY ribbon sticks.

When I first saw these clear tubes from Garnish, I was giddy with the possibilities. So I ordered a few.

Then I pulled out some leftover craft supplies: a few jewelry fasteners, leftover ribbon, one-foot wooden dowels, and some tacks I found out in the shed.

I started putting it all together. Ribbons sewn to fasteners and fasteners nailed to dowels. (If you don’t want to sew, tying knots works just as well). My fasteners allowed for three ribbons on each stick, which I thought was just right.
We did some test frolicking. The best ribbons are definitely the light, silky ones. (And as a side note, I decided to do this tutorial during my all-things-wedding weeks, because I can’t help think that a bunch of little girls frolicking with ribbon sticks would totally add to the scenery of any wedding. Or picnic. Or backyard barbeque. Or school yard. Or anything.)

Then we packaged up our creations in our tubes and added some labels (available for free here). We’re excited to spread some May sunshine. We’re off to the post office to see how the mail clerk likes them, but more importantly, the little girls who will be receiving them in the mail.

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and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or see it all right here):

A Great Big Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies | A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty |Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls | Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details

 

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First I have to say, thank you for your kind comments on my post yesterday. It was nice getting a little encouragement right when I need it. I so enjoy all your clever and thoughtful words.

I apologize if the blog is acting strange this week. The beautiful and talented Brooke is helping me with a tune up, and I think that if I hadn’t pitched in (oops) the job would be almost done. But we are close.

One last thing. I got the nice surprise of finding out I’d been nominated for the I Heart Design Award in the blog category. Would you stop by and vote for me? Only if you deem me worthy. I won’t prepare my acceptance speech yet. You can vote once per day. And if you leave a comment there you’ll be entered into the $50 giveaway.

And now, on to something I’ve been wanting to share with you.


In the middle of finishing Valentines last week my daughter and I came up with something fun. We call them salutation stickers. We printed off a page on label paper (the best deal I’ve found is these) for her to stick on her Valentines, and an extra page to use during the rest of the year. You know, for signing cards to her friends, sealing envelopes, sending off notes in the form of paper airplanes.

I thought this was a nice intro to the next couple of posts that are on their way, which are all about photo gifts. Remember last week I told you I’d introduce you to someone special? You’ll have the chance to meet her and pile your brain full of ideas for photo gifts. Doesn’t that sound nice? I can’t wait.

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Sometimes I wish I had all day just to share ideas with you. There’s just so much brilliance going around and never enough time to share all I want to. Maybe if I stop folding laundry. Oh wait. I already did that this week.

This is a great idea Rikelle mentioned on the pre-Christmas post about giving a salad kit. Rikelle makes festive-shaped croutons to give friends during the holidays. Don’t you love that idea? I’m finally getting a chance to put this to work, for Valentines.

Alongside my bag of loving croutons will be a bag of candied pecans (just toasted in a hot pan with a spoonful of sugar) and a favorite dressing to make what may be the teacher’s most wholesome valentine this year. Below are Rikelle’s directions for making yummy crunchy croutons.

“I really do love making the croutons. I make them with a mixture of equal parts butter and olive oil, with garlic and parsley to taste. I cut out the shapes and then dip them in the oil mixture and toast them until crisp.”  (NOTE: I toasted mine at 350 for 20 min).

Thanks, Rikelle. The butter and oil combo is delish.

And since we’re on the topic, I have to tell you that my favorite croutons are those made from black bread. And I’m wondering, does anyone have a good recipe for black bread like you find in Germany? I’ve been relying on this bread mix but would really like to find a recipe of my own. I enjoyed Smitten Kitchen’s black bread recipe, but am looking for something firmer and without any rye flavor. I thought it was worth an ask.

If you’re looking for more teacher gift inspiration, I have a couple in previous posts here, or inspiration in my gift guides here.


I hope you’ll visit me at the SEI blog today, where you can meet this guy.

And one last thing. I hope you’ll stop by here and enter my giveaway. Select Registry is offering $100 to use at any of their almost 400 bed and breakfasts. Just stop by this post and
1. Mention an inn you like, or
2. Mention a favorite item from my gift or wrapping guides, or
3. Twitter about it, or
4. Post about it on your blog along with a favorite local shop or restaurant of yours.
Winner chosen on Friday.

Deb picked The Govorner’s House Inn as a B&B that she thought looked dreamy. I’d love to be there for afternoon tea.

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Yesterday we decided to combine two of our favorite things about Valentines: paper + cake (singing along to sappy love songs is also on that list).

We stopped by a local bakery and asked if they had any wafer paper. They did. We’d never tasted it plain before so we all snipped of a slice. It tasted like, um, paper.

When we got home we poured out a little food coloring. I dug out my calligraphy pen…

and the kids ran for their paintbrushes.

We made and frosted some cakes (we baked them in ramekinsand used this trick for keeping the frosting smooth), snipped our designs
a bit, and found ourselves with

three edible Valentines.

I think my 4-year-old’s turned out to be my favorite.


Stop by tomorrow to see what we came up with to display them on.

UPDATE: Since this was our first time every playing with rice paper, I thought I’d add a few extra words of advice from here: “In order to make the rice paper stick to the cake…, you need to use some clear gel.” (Note, I didn’t use anything! I just stuck the paper right on the frosting.) “Carefully cover the bottom (the rough side) of the paper evenly with a layer of clear, edible gel. Then, turn the rice paper over and position it on top of the iced cake. …The rice paper should disintegrate after a short time of being on top of the cake, but even if it doesn’t completely disappear, don’t worry! It is completely tasteless and odorless, so it won’t be detected.”

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If you’re new here, welcome. I’m AmberLee, and since writing this post, I’ve opened up a little chocolate shop. I’d love to have you stop by, don’t forget to send me a hot chocolate flavor suggestion. Or say hello on facebook. I’d like that too.

NOTE: If you blog this recipe, I’ll be thrilled and flattered. In fact, I kept this recipe as bare bones as possible in hopes you’d play with different flavors, molds, and sticks. If you do blog, would you link back to me here? (Like this and this kind review, thank you!) I will so appreciate it. Feel free to use a picture or two, but please don’t repost all the pictures and please don’t post the recipe without my written permission. It’s taken a few years of researching and practicing with chocolate (certainly not an unpleasant thing) and some days of a very messy kitchen (but a happy family) to provide you with this recipe and with good advice about chocolate.

Oh how I love when the weather turns cold enough for hot chocolate. Something about a good cup of hot chocolate makes the world feel like a gentler place.
gourmet hot chocolate on a stick gift
This idea is something I’ve been wanting to try for a couple winters now. Chocolate, and hot chocolate especially, have always been a big deal to me. I spent the first years of my life in my dad’s hometown of Merida, Venezuela—right up the hill from Lake Maracaibo, where some of the world’s most crazy amazing cacao is grown. Our family was made up of German and Austrian immigrants who were crazy about fine chocolate. So I always felt chocolate was in my blood. Finally, my parents and family landed in Idaho, which is where I discovered that a cup of hot chocolate was the difference between a bleak winter and a cozy one.



me in Venezuela, I’m the pudgy one in booties

Enough of my life story, and on to a recipe for real, amazing hot chocolate.

I’m glad I finally took the time to puzzle this through and do a little taste testing, because the recipe turned out to be so simple, and the results so delightful. Stir one of these sticks into a cup of steaming milk or cream and in two minutes  you will have transformed it into a cup of rich hot chocolate, the blessed stuff. I can’t help feel that the act of stirring adds to the experience, soothing you over while building up the anticipation for that first sip.
hot chocolate on a stick gift

First things first: what chocolate to buy (see a whole post dedicated to this here)
The trick to making the best hot chocolate on a stick is using good, serious chocolate that melts easily. A chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter will do that. More cocoa butter means quicker melting. A bag of every-day chocolate chips won’t melt as fast. In fact, chocolate chips are formulated not to melt as fast, so they hold shape in your yummy cookies. You can also find fake chocolate (like a bag of Wilton’s candy melts, aka summer coating), which uses vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter. It will melt well, but the resulting cup of hot chocolate won’t be transcendent. And we’re going for transcendent. The candy melts are great for coating the outside if you like, because they stay pretty and shiny even if you don’t melt them just right.

If you’re on a tight budget, try using a bag of real-chocolate wafers made for a chocolate fountain or for fondue. You can also go with a good baking chocolate bar (you’ll probably want one that is sweetened, not unsweetened). If you really want to make an incredible gift, invest in some good chocolate. You’ll have to sample to pick a favorite. For most chocolate, if you enjoy eating it, you will enjoy drinking it, though some chocolates definitely stand out as drinking chocolate (Scharffen Berger, great if you like a natural chocolate), and some seem to fall short (Lindt for me did this). Following are some good other brands to consider: Ghiradelli (great if you want a dutch processed, more cocoa-flavored chocolate), Barry Callebaut, Dagoba, Michel Cluizel, El Rey, Valrhona, Guittard, TCHO, and I’ve really been wanting to try Amano from Utah.

And if you want your chocolate to come out pretty, you’ll need to temper it. I’ve written my full tempering instructions here. But if you are new to chocolate and tempering scares you, just dip your creations in melted, chocolate-looking, summer coating.

chocolate wafers meltable

Word of warning: no water!
There is one thing you need to know before working with chocolate if you don’t already: never let water or alcohol touch it. Not a drop. You can be stirring a potful of smooth, decadent melted chocolate, then get one drop of water in it and the whole thing will get grainy and seize up. It’s a sad experience. (If this happens to you, use the chocolate for a recipe like brownies or ganache that uses chocolate and liquids).

So then, if you’re planning to introduce vanilla, use a vanilla bean or vanilla paste, not vanilla extract. If you want to add food coloring, use a gel or powdered form, not liquid.
chocolate homemade candy

Hot Chocolate on a Stick
Yield: 10 cubes of hot chocolate (ice-cube-tray size)
(use 1 oz. hot chocolate on a stick per every 1 cup milk or cream)

Equipment:
Ziplock bags or piping bags
A double boiler or pan with a glass bowl that can sit over the simmering water
Some kind of chocolate mold, ice trays work great
Stir sticks or a bag of wooden craft sticks like I used (like these, available at any craft store)

Ingredients:
8 oz. chocolate (see note above), bittersweet, semisweet, milk, and white chocolate all work
3 Tbsp cocoa, sifted (dutch processed cocoais more mellow, natural cocoais stronger, pick your favorite)
6-8 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar, sifted, depending on how much sweeter you’d like your hot chocolate
pinch of salt

Feel free to play with other fun ingredients to throw in, ground spices, crushed candy. Just remember, no water and no alcohol or your chocolate will sieze.

6 cups milk and 2 cups heavy cream if you plan to enjoy these right away

Method
(read a whole post about melting chocolate, including how to melt in the microwave, here)

  1. If your chocolate is in a block, chop it into even-sized meltable pieces. Simmer a couple inches of water in a pan, then turn down the heat so the water is below a simmer. I like to remove the pan from the heat, but if you keep it on, keep that water below a simmer. Place glass or stainless steel bowl over the top to make a double boiler. If the bowl touches the water it’s alright, as long as your water is mildly warm, not hot. Dump chocolate into the clean, dry bowl and stir as the chocolate melts. (If you are patient and let those chunks melt slowly, keeping them from getting over 90 degrees F or 88 degrees F for milk and white chocolate, the chocolate will stay “in temper” and will still be nice and pretty when it cools.)
  2. Once the chocolate is 2/3 melted, with just some pieces of the chocolate unmelted, remove the bowl from the pan, dry the bottom with a towel and continue stirring until chocolate is fully melted. This is just one more step to keep the chocolate from getting too hot.
  3. Add cocoa, sugar, and salt and continue to stir until combined. The chocolate will be thicker, as thick as frosting if you’ve put in all the sugar, but stir on. You can pop it back over your double boiler for a minute to make it a bit more liquid, or pop it back in the microwave for 5 or 10 seconds on half power. If the chocolate looks and feels grainy it’s possible you’ve accidentally gotten a drop of water in the mixture. If it has gotten water in it and has seized up, it will still taste alright, it just won’t be as pretty or smooth or melt quite as fast.
  4. Scoop chocolate into a ziplock bag and clip off the corner.
  5. Pipe the chocolate into your chocolate mold, tapping the mold on the counter to make sure all the chocolate settles into the mold. Add a stir stick and you’re done. The stir stick should stay upright without any trouble. If the chocolate bursts through the bag in places you don’t want it to, just put the whole thing in another bag. If the chocolate starts to get too thick to squeeze, just put the whole thing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or so at half power.
  6. Let the chocolate cool either at room temperature or in the fridge if you’re in a hurry. I find the chocolate pops out of the mold nicely if it’s been in the fridge. It’s okay to cool chocolate in the fridge, just don’t store it there, because chocolate soaks up the odors of other foods pretty quickly.
  7. If you don’t like the look of the chocolate once it is removed from the mold, you can dip the cubes into a new batch of plain melted chocolate for a shinier finish (again, try to keep chocolate from heating over 90 degrees, or use candy melts, which don’t need to be in temper, they will stay shiny and pretty even if you go above 90 degrees). This also lets you add sprinkles or crushed candy or just lets you dip in fun patterns. I like dipping at an angle into a different color of chocolate.
  8. In order to enjoy these, heat up any combo of milk, water, half and half, or cream. I like 6 cups milk with 2 cups heavy cream. One ounce of chocolate on a stick should be melted into one cup milk or cream. So a standard ice cube-tray block, which is 3/4 an ounce, should be melted into a mug with 3/4 cup milk or cream in it.

Troubleshooting: A few of you have had trouble with your chocolate seizing. Tiffany provided this great note  to help out (thanks, Tiffany!), “if the chocolate begins to seize (since for some reason, both of my batches seized, I’m thinking it’s the humidity in the air where I am) you do not have to throw it out. Just put the bowl back over the hot water and add a little bit of vegetable oil (I used somewhere between a tsp and a tbsp) after stirring over a little heat, the chocolate will get smooth again. Also good to note, chocolate can seize if you add any cold ingredients.”

How to store it: Dark chocolate will keep in an airtight container for up to a year, milk and white chocolate for several months. Remember, don’t keep it in the fridge because it is really good at absorbing odors.
hot chocolate on a stick3

cinnamon hot chocolate

Variations: Try adding a pinch of your favorite spice. We tried adding a little extra punch by lining the outside with red hots. Very fun. You can also leave out the cocoa and sugar all together and replace it with 8 servings of your favorite packaged hot cocoa. And if you have any strokes of genius for flavors, we’re collecting flavor ideas at my hot chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen.
mold

As you can see, we played around with a few different molds, like this water bottle ice cube mold from IKEA. The classic ice cube mold was my favorite though. It works best for submersing the entire block of meltable chocolate in a standard mug.
UPDATE: Love Prince Pi’s suggestion of molding these in shot glasses. Also love how the Kitchn (yea!! they tried my recipe!!) made do with a single pan. TinaMarie also made the great suggestion of using small Dixie cups. And finally, check out this beautiful version Sprinkebakes made using a chocolate transfer sheet and birch spoons. You will love it.
hot chocolate on a stick 2

This was fun, but a mess to open (chocolate in egg shells).

Happy melting! And if you have a moment to peruse my shop or become a fan on facebook, I’d love to have you!


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DIY SEED TAPE

09.02.09

homemade DIY seed tape gardener gift

We managed to find a little time this weekend to make our own seed tape. My four-year-old walked into the office to find me with flour paste, a paint brush, and dozens of strips of newspaper. He was instantly intrigued. He ran to get his own brush and we got started.

The intent of seed tape as I’ve seen it is to make planting easier when you have teeny tiny seeds that need to be planted just inches apart (like carrots and radishes). But it’s also fun for gifting flower seeds or giving away seeds you’ve collected from your own garden. And it’s a pretty simple and very kid-friendly project.

DIY seed tape flour pasteHere’s what you’ll need:
-1/4 cup flour + enough water to make a paste
-strips of paper to make the tape: black and white newspaper (no colored ink), single-ply toilet paper, and a thin paper bag all work
-something for dabbing on drops of the paste, like the back of a paint brush
-and seeds!

homemade gift for gardeners seed tape

Making the paste is simple. Start with the flour and mix in water until you have the consistency of a paste. A quarter cup of flour will go a really, really long way.

Check the planting recommendations for your type of seed. Dab the paste onto your strips of paper as far apart as you would plant the seeds. Drop the seeds onto the paste. Drop the same number you would if you were planting. That’s it. Just wait for the paste to dry completely (a couple hours will do) and you’re ready to roll up your tape. Store it in an air-tight plastic bag and it is ready to go for next season. Most types of seeds are planted shallow enough that all you’ll need to do is lay the tape down and sprinkle a bit of dirt over it. Then it’s ready to be watered and to grow.

Homemade seed tape garden

strips of newspaper homemade seed tape
I also had to pretty mine up a bit. I found this tutorial for a newspaper flower, and since I was already slicing up newspaper anyway, it was perfect.

homemade seed tapeDuring this part my 6-year-old joined me and we made flowers side by side. She even made me a newspaper heart. Do you like it?homemade valentine

This particular package of seed tape is going for a special purpose, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll share it with you very soon.

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B-cherry jamLet me just tell you about this sweet cherry jam. The first time I had it I felt like I was getting away with something. Like ordering an ice cream sunday and getting two cherries on top. I hunted down the friend who made it and told her I really needed the recipe. And being the angel she is, she presented me not only with the recipe, but also with my own jar of this heavenly jam. I’m not usually the type to crave jam, but something about the half cherries in bright pink-red jelly makes me feel indulgent every time I have it. So, without further ado, here is the recipe.

free printable jam wedding favor5Sweet Cherry Jam
yield 6 half-pint jars

Ingredients
3 lbs ripe dark sweet cherries
1 package (1.75 oz) pectin
1 tsp lemon peel, finely shredded
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 cups sugar

Equipment
6 or 8-qt. Dutch oven
half-pint canning jars, sterilized and heated before adding jam
boiling-water canner

Method
1.
Wash and pit cherries, then halve them. Measure 4 cups of halved cherries.
2. In dutch oven, combine cherries, pectin, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high, stirring constantly. Add sugar and continue to stir. Bring to rolling boil, then boil for one minute longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with metal spoon.
3. Ladel jam into canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process jars in boiling-water canner for 5 minutes after water begins to boil. Remove from canner and cool on rack.

B-cherry jam 4
As for the packaging, I used this tutorial to cover the lid just to the rim (I didn’t tuck the paper under the lid for obvious reasons). And here is the label I created, in case you’d like to download it:
Free Printable Jam Label (1700)
decopage jar lid

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I’ve put together a set of Father’s Day DIYs I’m hoping to get to you over the next few days. With a little luck, you’ll get four DIY Father’s Day gifts in four days: Th, F & M, T. (Click here for all Father’s Day gift ideas.) free-printable-hostess-fathers-day-gift-hot-sauce Here’s the first DIY project: homemade hot sauce. Use any recipe you like, but I’ve had my eye on this recipe, which I hope to try next week. Hot sauce works as a hostess gift or DIY favor, but I like to think it’s particularly good for dad. Presented with breakfast in bed, of course. Kids can help color the label and maybe help make the hot sauce, if they can keep away from the peppers!

Homemade Hot Sauce Labels (1941)

I also put together some free printable Father’s Day wrapping paper this morning, which you can download here:  Father\'s Day Printable Wrapping Paper (1342)
You can print it on these labels.

free-printable-wedding-favor-hot-sauce-label free-printable-diy-wedding-favor-hot-sauce

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Here’s a little trick I learned, originally for making piping bags out of parchment paper.  (The parchment bags are great for icing cakes or piping dough. I used parchment bags to pipe my cookie dough in the previous post). But it works out to be a fantastic way to make a gift cone out of celephane, too. I like keeping my gift wrap supplies to a minimum, so I like getting one more use out of something in my wrapping closet.

hot-to-fold-a-gift-cone

row 1: start with a triangle of celephane, fold up corners as shown
row 2: pull up on corners to tighten the cone and elimate the hole at the point, add a piece of tape

note: If you plan to use this to pipe icing, not as gift wrap, you’ll need to add one more step. After you’ve made the cone, fold down the corners at the rim of the cone and secure them back with tape. It will help the cone hold together better as you pipe.

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If you’re new here, welcome! I’m AmberLee, and Giverslog is my place to collect gift ideas and pretty wrapping ideas from talented friends and bloggers (plus I throw in a few ideas of my own). I hope the next time you’re stumped about a gift for a teacher, grandparent, hostess, or anyone else that you’ll pop in and I can provide some inspiration.

handmade-teachers-gift

I saw this DIY project sitting next to my sis-in-law’s sink and instantly knew I wanted to make a version with my kids to give as gifts. So we got to work and made one as a Mother’s Day gift for grandma and several as end-of-year gifts for teachers. The project is pretty basic, just a photocopy on a transparency inserted into a hand-soap pump. But we met with a couple disasters along the way, so I’ll run through the process for you.

diy-teachers-gift1. Start with a bottle of hand soap that has a clear blank area. I picked up these bottles of Lavata at Target (the Brazilian Citrus smells so yummy). DO NOT use foaming soap or hand sanitizer. When we tried each of these and the ink dissolved off the transparency.

personalized-teachers-gift2. I then gave my kids one note card for each grandma or teacher we’d be giving a bottle to. I had them draw a picture using just a pen. If you already have a piece of art your kids have created, that works too. And homespun poems can be just as great. I wanted my kids’ pics to fit into a set of hand-drawn frames. Here for download are the frames I drew for the project:

download from DropBox by clicking here: Handsoap Frame Art

or download here: Printable Hand Drawn Frames (3989)

personalized-teachers-gift23. For older kids you should be able to skip a step: just print the frames page and put your kids to work drawing directly on the paper. But I found the small drawing space was a little tough for my 4-year-old especially. So instead I reduced my kids’ art to fit in the frame and taped it in place (use a scanner, photocopier, or just your camera to take a picture and reduce your kids’ artwork size). Double check the frame size against the soap container you’ll be using, so you can have it reduced or enlarged if necessary.

4. I took my page of artwork to FedEx Kinkos and had it photocopied onto a page of transparency paper. (We tried using our inkjet printer and laserjet printer to print the transparencies at home, and the results were a mess. Both times the drawing separated from the transparency and dissolved into the soap.) I let my kids add a little color to the transparencies with some permanent markers. UPDATE: The yellows and reds have run, but the blues and greens held fast. You may want to stick with those safer colors if you add color.

free-printable-mothers-day-gift5. Finally came the easy part. I just trimmed each frame to fit the bottle, rolled it up to fit through the neck of the bottle, and slid it in. It unrolled in the bottle and I replaced the pump behind the art work. And that was it. They turned out great. In fact, I think I’m headed back to Target to pick up one more bottle for the music teacher.

handmade-mothers-day-giftThanks for stopping by. If you’re new here, don’t go without taking a peep at my gift guide index and pretty wrapping index. Hope to see you again soon.

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fo-martha-bnThis week GiversLog was invited to be part of the Friends of Martha Blog Network. While deciding the right way to celebrate, I considered thinning my biennials or airing my sheets or making something from gooseberries. All good things, but for now I’ll celebrate with a Martha-inspired post, starting with, what else, a great gift idea from Martha.

herb-seed-garden-cardSomething about spring time makes me want to read Secret Garden again and share springiness with everyone around me. One perfect and very do-able idea comes from Martha: a handmade card with small envelopes of herb seeds tucked inside, just waiting to grow up and become an herb garden. If you’d like to make this gift yourself, you can buy the envelopes here.

gardener-gift-herb-seeds21Or, if you’re looking for something less crafty, you have options. My favorite are these herb grow bags from Jamie Oliver. However, I also love Olive Barn’s kitchen herb garden kit, which allows you to pick out the three spices that your gift-getter will use most.

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Kathleen at Twig & Thistle has ideas of giving that are so perfect and complete in themselves. I hope you don’t mind if I pass on just a little more of her beautiful work.

Get instructions and templates for making these lovely bottles of homemade vanilla extract from Twig & Thistle. These would be perfect as a wedding favor, as Kathleen says, and even nice enough to give to a hostess for an overnight stay. Here are places to buy vanilla beans for your homemade extraact and sticker paper for your labels.

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