gifts for landmark birthdays

We are in complete back-to-school mode here. But summer is not officially over. Not yet.

The final day of summer is still a couple weeks away. So I’ve been thinking. We need one more bash to send summer off right.

It recently occurred to me, while I was packing away groceries, that I could fit a pinata

in the freezer.

Of course I immediately got to work on making a pinata. I pulled out my Elmer’s glue, an old Amazon box, and a stack of tissue paper and got to work.

It took me all of a half hour.

We picked out a few ice cream sundaes in a cup. How cool would it be, by the way, to do a grown-up pinata with Hagen Daaz?

And we picked out a few good fixings too to go along with them.  We poured them in Whisker Graphic’s sweet little Bitty Bags.

Now here comes the sneaky part.

We’ll invite a few little friends for homemade cookies.

And of course there will be homemade cookies.

But we’ll also sneak the pinata from the freezer to the tree when no one’s looking. So we get to suprise everyone when the ice cream and fixings come tumbling out.


I adore all things paper. And I adore flowers.

So this crepe paper flower pin has become a staple for me to give on all occasions that deserve a big to-do. And a little to-do (we gave one to my kids’ school secretary on secretary day). It is very fun to clip on a gift, and is a good grown up version of pulling a bow off the top of a gift and sticking it on top of your head. Don’t you think?

So here are a couple pics I’ve snapped of a few I’ve made, with an exact how to, now that I’ve gotten it down to a science.
2 lengths of crepe streamers, each about as tall as you (same or contrasting colors)
Needle and length of thread about as long as your arm
Masking tape (optional)
Hair pin or safety pin


  1. Thread and knot the needle. Thread the needle and knot the thread using the traditional method, or just use a small strip of masking tape and fold it over the end of the thread, sticky sides together, in place of a knot.
  2. Match up the streamers. Lay the streamers one on top of another, so you have a double-layer streamer.
  3. Stitch the streamer on one side to create a ruffle. Begin stitching the double layer streamer. Stitch all the way up one side, leaving a small margin on the side where you are stitching so the thread does not tear through. Use a basic running stitch, down from the top, up from the bottom. After sewing several stitches, compact the streamer down on the thread so it is folded into a ruffle. Your ruffle should be tight, but not too packed. The streamer will naturally begin to take a spiral shape that resembles a flower. The extra thread is going to want to tangle as you stitch, so be careful.
  4. Tie off the thread. Once you have sewn through the entire streamer and created a spiral ruffle, tie off the thread using the traditional method or using a small strip of masking tape.
  5. Fluff the layers of streamers, then knot the thread again. Use your fingers to slightly pull the two layers of streamers apart from each other, creating a fuller flower. Prepare the thread to sew again by tying off the end or folding a small strip of masking tape over the end.
  6. Arrange the ruffle into a flower and stitch the bottom together. Begin shaping the ruffle into a flower. The tight stitched sides of the ruffle will be the base of the flower and the unstitched sides will be the top of the petals. Create the center of the spiral by folding the end of the tight stitched side of the ruffle against itself. Push the needle through both sides of the ruffle, right about at the same point where you stitched to create the ruffle. Wrap the ruffle around to create another half loop and stitch through this second layer of the spiral. Continue wrapping half a loop at a time, and stitching the base together until you have created a flower.
  7. Stitch on a pin and finish. Stitch a few loops through the flower and around one leg of a hair pin or around the stationary side of a safety pin. Tie off the thread or secure with a couple small strips of masking tape.

And there you go. You have the perfect I-AM-Special hair piece. simple, festive, and pretty.


Melanie over at You Are My Fave did the sweetest thing to honor her grandfather on his big bash for turning 90, she made photo buttons for all to wear. (p.s. Don’t miss her ice cream party in a box idea over at Marta’s today).

And here, a little more personalized button inspiration.

From Cup of Joe.

Available here.

And monogram buttons from Natalie Jost, made especially for her by Emily of Orange Beautiful.

p.s.  more fun buttons available here.

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One reason I love writing this blog is that I find out about some of the coolest companies and their offerings. This sponsor is one of those. When I found out about Audio Heirlooms, I had to run here and share. Just wait, I’m sure your mind will be racing like mine, running through possibilities and people who you could completely delight with this new find.

Meet Evan Roberts.

Evan has pieces on radio stations  across the U.S., and has worked for a couple places that may sound familiar, like WNYC and the New York Times. He’s worked on some weighty pieces, ranging from refugees in the Middle East to exonerated prisoners in California. You can see a few more shots of Evan at work on the Audio Heirlooms Facebook Page. Including a shot of him gathering audio in a chicken coop (Evan?) I’m telling you, the man takes this job seriously.

Now I’d like to introduce you to what Evan does.

Evan makes personalized Audio Heirlooms. Do your realize what this means? You can have a personalized audio documentary (ahh! I love documentaries!) An audio documentary with crisp audio, artful timing, and all of that good stuff, made just for you. Audio Heirlooms has dropped in and recorded a baby’s early moments, bridesmaids prepping for a weddinga pre-wedding manicure (how great is that?), and more, which you can check out on their site.

I love that Audio Heirlooms makes the whole process simple and fun. With an audio card, for example, Audio Heirlooms will give you a toll-free number to pass out to all your friends and family who you want to make an audio appearance in your piece. Everyone can dial in from home and leave their fond wishes by  phone, simple as that. This would be so ideal for my family, we are spread out everywhere.

Audio Heirlooms has all kinds of happy customers, including Scott Hamilton (the Scott Hamilton) and Kimberly Williams-Paisley (wife to Brad Paisley, the Brad Paisley). I already feel cooler just for knowing about this company.

If you’re like me and are stowing this idea away for a few big upcoming celebrations and honorees, you can subscribe to the Audio Heirlooms newsletter to stay posted and get some samples and inspiration. Or contact Audio Heirlooms and get a free sample CD.

I’ve already started putting together my Audio Heirlooms wish list.
I would love an audio of memories of each of my grandmothers. One I’m really close to and the other I never got the chance to know. (These are a couple pics of them. Aren’t they lovely?) Would love to pass this on to my daughter.

I’d love to get an audio card of wishes either for my baby or for my daughter when she is baptized next year.

Do you know whate else I would love? An audio cookbook. I have some relatives who can share a recipe the same way some people tell a good story or joke. Would this not be the perfect grad gift?

Also, would really love to get a series of bedtime stories for my little ones to drift off into their dreams to the sound of beloved grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts.

I’d love to hear, who would you like to get on tape? and what would you want them to share?


Seriously. I meet the most thoughtful people with this blog. I didn’t want you to miss some of these ideas. They’re brill. Just a few more picked out from many great comments and emails.

One more from the lovely and clever Jen, about the same lucky girl who got the shoes,

“They have four busy kids and she practically lives in their old mini-van.  She dreams of having a little car just for her to drive around, one with no room for kids :-)  She has been wanting a new car for quite some time, but it’s just not possible.  Her husband rented her a car for 40 hours.  I thought that was super thoughtful and original!  This was probably her favorite gift of the weekend.”

Photo from birthday mastermind Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day, whose celebration you may have read about when I mentioned the paint fight. Both Jordan and Michelle’s friends used

and a few more…

“my husband’s family makes a big poster on the front door and hangs it inside for the big day, and a few days after. the title says ‘What we love about the Birthday Boy/Girl’ and all the family members write something special.”
Thank you, Marta!

“In high school, I posted ‘Happy 18th Birthday Alina!’ fliers on about 20 telephone poles around Alina’s house.”
Thank you, Kristina!

“Hubby’s bday is coming up and I love spoiling him. For his 30th, I bought tickets to the Oakland Athletics game for us and 8 other couples. Each person got a goodie bag – water, peanuts, red vines, all things baseball. At the bottom of each inning I gave each person a small piece of paper that had ‘fun facts’ about him… We will NEVER forget that birthday…”
Thank you, Brooke!

“A friend of mine went out on her birthday to find her workmates had all made up t-shirts saying ‘I Love Jess’, and they gave her one saying ‘I am Jess’ to wear…”
Thank you, Clare!

“I’ve always kept really extensive journals, so for birthdays, I will sometimes make small booklets with pictures of me and the birthday boy, captioned with snippets from journal entries I’ve written about them — kind of like a very personalized version of scrapbooking.”
Thank you, Cyndie!


Make them a beautiful countdown calendar to their big day.

Call friends and family and commission three-minute speeches and serenades.

And while you’re commissioning, get a portrait of them from a talented artist or from a group of loved, less then professionals.

Host an art gallery of their life. Hang pictures on walls, prop them on tables, or wear them. (I had fun browsing this collection of photo pendants. UPDATE: you can have one personalized for just $15.)

Serve from a menu of their life. Do a cookbook.

Get their picture in the paper on on a blog that is awesome.

Run a race together, make it somewhere pretty or for something important.

Get away for a road trip.

Write their name in lights.

Get something signed by someone important.

Host an improptu photo shoot.

Or a paint fight.

Decorate something big.

More ideas to come. Stay tuned.
(images: lemon fluff from here, signed book from here, phone from here)

UPDATE 03.21.10
Here are just a couple more big celebration ideas I love.

A birthday card where everyone pitches in

A birthday call where everyone pitches in


Do you make a big deal out of landmark birthdays? We have a few of these coming up in our families. So I’m collecting ideas. Have you done anything fun or had anyone give a great gift for a 30th, 40th, 50th, or 60th birthday? I’m looking, so if you think of something, won’t you stop by and let me know? Nothing is too big or too small.

Vic of lost had friends draw pictures for her dad, portraits or otherwise, then posted them all on a blog for his birthday. Brilliant. They’re a must-see.


I wanted to let you know, I took action with the mosquito situation. I had the county mosquito handler (not sure what to call him?) stop by, and I now know ev-ery-thing about the local bug population. I know what week to expect what breed of mosquito, in fact, I think I’ll jot down these unwelcomed guests on my calendar, like I do with the welcomed kind. It could come in handy for planning barbecues.

Also, someone I know pretty well was in the NYTimes yesterday. It was something I’ve been wanting to tell you about since Monday, but want to collect my thoughts first. I’ll try this weekend. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a nice one. We’re starting today with some yummy food, clams and chocolate. (Not together.) I hope your weekend is great!


I am so excited to introduce you to my friend, Rachelle. I have secretly been wanting to have her here on GiversLog since I began blogging. Because she is good. She is the type that comes up with the perfect thoughtful thing to do for every occasion, and then does it. (And we saw her husband, Tyler, holds his own too.) She also happens to be an amazing photographer. So of course that means the coolest, most meaningful photo gifts for friends and family. I asked if she’d stop by today and share a few gifts she’s given, and lucky for us, she said yes. And so, without further ado, I’ll turn you over to the lovely and talented Rachelle.

I love the beginning of the year.  I always take the time to reflect a little more.  I like the calm that comes after December, and the biggest gift-giving season, Christmas.  I take the time to wonder, were my gifts what I wanted them to be?  Was I as prepared as I wanted?  Did I stay in budget?  Were my gifts meaningful?

A friend recently shared with me a break-down of different types of gifts: a gift of something needed, a gift of something wanted, and a gift to treasure.  This was helpful.  I realized that mostly the kind of gifts I want to give are memorable, meaningful, and gifts to treasure.  I also realize that even more than money, these gifts usually take time!  I have given a few of these gifts in recent years and recognize their value to me and to the receiver.

I love photography and I love combining this with giving.  I have done some of this, but one of my resolutions this year is to better plan for it. I want to better capture the moments with my camera that will help make my gifts meaningful and ones to treasure.  There are dozens of fun gifts you can put together using your photos, and we’ll get to those. But first, let’s start with photo albums…oh what fun! You have so many options when it comes to these.

1. One year I gave my dear friend on her 30th birthday a book of “Thirty reasons why” she was loved.  I had secretly gathered this information and photos for several weeks before hand and the finished project, like all of these type, was a treasured gift.  I loved seeing the sincere qualities her children came up with and the fun things her siblings shared.  I loved being a part of sharing her parents and husband’s love for her, in addition to my own.

2. I also did a photo book for a dear friend who was moving with our favorite memories with their family.  I am not sure who cried more, me putting it together and remembering the special times we had or her receiving it.

3. This last year for Mother’s Day I made my mom a book entitled, “Lessons we learned from our mom”.  Getting input from all four of my younger siblings, I came to better appreciate my mother and all that she had taught us growing up.  I could see ways she had helped to shape influence us all for good.

4. For my twins’ preschool teachers, I interviewed each of the preschool kids and took their photograph.  The book had the child’s photo, what they liked best about preschool and why they love their teacher.  I printed the pages on 5×5 prints and “mod podged” them to a board book.  It was a huge hit!

5. The last one I will share was an idea I had this year for my husband. He is a content man with few wants or needs.  He isn’t high maintenance and coming up with gift ideas is always a challenge.  So last year, 2008 I struggled and in the end wasn’t really thrilled with the gifts I came up with.  They definitely qualified as meeting needs and wants, but I LOVE to give a gift that the receiver will treasure!  In my quest to do better this year I began in January writing down one thing every day that I love or appreciate about him.  This project began by being for him, but as the year progressed it became such a labor of love for me.  It was such a rewarding experience to be “on the look-out” for the greatness EVERY day.

Have you made any albums as gifts? I’d love to hear about it. Plus I have a few photo gifts up my sleeve for tomorrow and am excited to share.


If you want to proclaim your love and you’re a little bit country you can always climb the water tower and paint your message there. But here are a few other, more legal (and every bit as poetic) options.

in the shower

in the snow

on your sandwich

on a banana

on your arm (via here, get custom  temporary tats here)

in your hair

in the sky (get a price quote here)

in the night sky (via here, get instructions here)

on dessert (image from here)
(UPDATE: for those of you who are pie people, cupcakes for clara
just dropped by and shared where she proclaimed her love on a pie)

in dessert