gifts that encourage creativity

We made a new discovery over here that I am excited to share. We discovered how to doodle our own shadow puppets. How fun is that?

I always like to keep a few wet erase overhead markers on hand at our house. They are perfect for writing love notes on mirrors or drawing targets on windows for nerf gun shooting practice (yes, I have little boys). We discovered that with our markers and a few overhead projector sheets, we could create a new cast for any shadow performance we could dream up. You can also print right on the transparency paper if you’d like to use an image you already have, or create silhouettes of your own kiddos.

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably seen my shadow puppet theater tutorials (I made a big elaborate version here, and a simple pretty version here). Several of you have written in with beautiful versions you’ve made yourselves.

All you need is a few simple supplies.
transparency sheets (I bought three individual sheets from the photocopy desk at an office supply store)
wooden craft sticks
super glue
wet erase markers

I cut the sheets in half, then folded them in half and creased them well. I inserted the craft stick between the layers, squeezed some superglue on both sides, then set a book on top to keep it in place until it dried, and that was it. A few moments of prep followed by hours of three-act plays in our family room about princesses, Mario, and a host of other characters, real and made up. It was great.

p.s. I have a friend who teaches and talked about making a life sized theatre for her classroom. How cool would that be?


I’m not sure if you’ve been around long enough to remember the last shadow puppet theater I made for my kids? We love that thing. Just last week we turned down the lights, lit up our Christmas tree, and used our theatre to dramatize our version of the Grinch (the Grinch was played by a green T-Rex toy. Very apropos).

The only problem is, the last time I made a theater, it was an involved project. But I wanted to make another. So I came up with a slightly simpler version. I’m so pleased with how it turned out. Do you like it? I’m including the DIY here because you could totally still whip out one of these in time for Christmas.

supplies & equipment:
-panel of fabric, solid-color and thin enough so light can shine through
-contact paper
-acrylic or fabric paint
-small sponge roller (available for a dollar or two at any craft store)
-extra fabric scraps and fabric glue for embellishments
-paper or plastic to protect your work surface

1. Lay your fabric flat and cut to the size you’d like your theater to be. No need to hem the edges, they won’t fray once we’re done with them (see! so easy.)

2. Lay the contact paper down and sketch the shape of your theatre. The places where you stick the contact paper will be the places where the light is able to shine through the fabric. Cut out the shape, remove the backing, and stick the contact paper onto your fabric.

3. Get out your roller and start painting. Roll paint everywhere fabric is showing. Don’t be stingy. Roll right to the edges.

4. Allow the paint to dry. Peel off and discard the contact paper.  Now notice the fabric edges do not fray because they are painted? Nice.

5. Cut out fabric scraps for any special touches you’d like to add, and glue them on with fabric glue.

Stand back and admire your new theater! When you’re ready to use it, you have a few options, but the simplest is just to tie a piece of string between two chairs and clothespin your theatre to the string. All you need is a flashlight and a puppeteer or two and you’re ready for a performance.


I have been loving our gift retreat so far. I hope you have too. And I have been feeling spoiled by all the lovely guests and your comments about what you would make if we were all spending the weekend crafting together (feel free to chime in). We have five more talented guests still to spoil us, starting with today’s.

Anna of Hey Bubbles has been one of my heros for a long time. She lives in Brisbane with her two adorable little girls, and makes a million
for them (how cute is this girls’ apron set she gave as a gift?) She also bakes. Yum. I’m excited to leave you in Anna’s hands, which I will do right now.


One of my favourite ‘go-to’ handmade gifts for children is a handmade pencil roll.

There are a few reasons why I like this present
–  Generally I try to avoid buying more plastic toys when I’m giving a gift to a child.  Mainly because everyone seems to have so many, I know my children do, and as a mum I appreciate not having to find the space for even more toys amongst our clutter.
– If I’m giving a handmade gift I like to try and pair it up with something small that I have bought.  So a handmade pencil roll together with a cute colouring in book and maybe some stickers works really well.
– They work for boys and girls and most little kids I know like colouring in and drawing
– They’re really handy to take with you if you’re going to a restaurant or somewhere else you need to entertain a little one quietly for awhile.

I don’t use a pattern to make mine. I just measure my pencils and go for it.  But there are lots of great tutorials around in blog-land for how to make these, you just need to do a quick search for ‘pencil roll tutorial’ and you’ll find many to choose from.

Here are a couple of other ones I have made in the past.

On a different note, have a look at the absolutely beautiful knitted matryoshka dolls my youngest daughter, Polly, recently received.  If I could knit, these would definitely be on my list – they can be played with now, and it’s something beautiful enough to display as she gets older!


Halloween Tees


My kids had the greatest time with these SEI iron on kits. I think they were the Halloween hit of the year. We even had left over body parts for ironing on other things. You can’t beat that.


Indoor Days


My four-year-old son, Lincoln, has been hugely into hopscotch lately (and by extension, this means my little Henry is too, since he thinks he can do anything his brother is doing).  Living in central Texas, it’s not practical for us to spend much time outside in the summer hopscotching.

Enter:  masking tape hopscotch in our living room!  This is an easy-peasy project for any day that is too hot, too cold, too windy, or too rainy to play outside.  And can you imagine how fun would it be to have hopscotch in your hallway or mudroom?  Very.

Guess what items are needed?  Yep!  A roll of masking tape.  It doesn’t get simpler than that.

Masking tape hopscotch has stayed on our floors for up to a week with no ill-effects (but you will definitely want to test it out in an inconspicuous area first to ensure your floors won’t be marred.)  I’ve even done some light mopping over the design without any trouble.  When you’re tired of hopscotch adorning your floors, simply pull up the tape.  This was Henry’s favorite part.

What are your favorite ways to keep busy inside when the weather outside is less than stellar?

Do you have any special memories of indoor play from your childhood?


Darling Clementine

Crystal stops by GiversLog a couple times a month to share her fresh ideas. When she’s not writing for GiversLog, Crystal can be found mothering, knitting, and cooking. Stop by and see what’s new at her etsy shop: monograms, Greek keys, and chevron stripes. Oh my!


This post is brought to you from Idaho! Our trip is going swimmingly, and I am snapping many pictures to share with you.

But first, I have to say how much I am loving your comments on my Ann Clark giveaway. The things you do with cookie cutters and the cookies you make and eat have me inspired. I am thinking of launching a full-on kitchen experiment to find a good chocolate sugar cookie recipe. It is going on my must-do list along with making this skirt, mussels, and artisan bread (I updated the post on making these magnificent loaves with a few details you may need if you’re missing the book). I’d better get busy.


But first, something I promised long ago. Remember when I shared every last thing in my gift and wrapping closet? I told you I like to keep $5 and $10 gifts on hand to mix and match as gift emergencies require. Well, here are a few favorites (with more to come). Do you have any favorite emergency gifts? I’d love to hear.

for twisting, and a good bookto show how.
(image from here)

A blank umbrellaor parasoland fabric markers.
(I know, the parasol is over $10, but still affordable, and I knew you’d love it.)

Gumballs and a vintage-looking machine.

A ball on a band. Kids will be busy outside for hours, making this a good gift for mom too.

The bilibo mini.

Bath crayons,for little ones whose best ideas come in the tub.

Lollipops! Really, if you’re going to eat pure sugar, isn’t this the way to do it?

A coloring page that goes forever.

A super classic top.

Binoculars. Of course.

A can of chalkboard paint,for doing something like this.

Brain food. Fun for hours.

And finally, crayon rocks. And maybe a fun handmade pouch for toting them everywhere.
(Pouch found via here.)


Today my little daughter turns seven. I can hardly wait to show you what sweet gift we picked out for her. (Right now it is all wrapped up, so I’ll snap a picture once it’s out.) It has to do with her new, most earnestly loved endeavor—sewing. She is taking a class and is fully engrossed in it. She has this adorable grandmotherly teacher, whom I love. And I also love that someone in the family will really know how to sew, if things keep going as they are.

So in her honor, here are a few fun gifts for the budding seamstress. (see more ideas here, and if you’re looking for gifts for the more experienced, grown-up version of a seamstress, try here).

Dress form for girls (via DesignMom), house sewing basket by Kath Kidson, mug pin cushion (via here), softies sewing book, sew your own skirt kit and doll kit, measuring tape sewing pouch, design sketchpad where lines dissappear when you photocopy your designs (via cupofJoe), hand printed mix pack of fabric from melbomba


Today marks day one of extended birthday bash mania here in our house. I love that my kids share a birthday week. It’s kind of like our combed-down version of carnival or mardi gras. Parties for days! The kids and I go craft crazy while Brent shakes his head at our ambitious plans, disappears with a book for a while, then comes back to try to help me rein in the mess.

Just last night we finished mario hats, a mario pinata, toad cakes, and tea party invites. We were focused! We may have gotten further but my girl came down with a little earache. And before all falling into bed exhausted, we also managed to make these, which my son is taking to preschool to hand out to all his friends on his big day.

We thought we’d do a twist on melted heart crayons by adding initials. Didn’t they turn out sweet? They’re so bright and pretty they left me wanting to make more, maybe with a message on them next time. And they were pretty simple. Here’s what we did:

1. Ravaged the crayon drawer for all the ugly crayons. Anything that was still pointy was safe. But all the dull, broken crayons came out for us to peel the label off and break into smaller pieces. Next time I will keep the same brands of crayons together. The crayolas melted much slower than our stash of crayons collected from restaurants.
2. Preheated the oven to 190 and arranged the crayons in a candy mold. I wanted to keep the temp low because the mold I used was meant for chocolate and isn’t too heat resistant.
3. Melted the whole batch for a good ten minutes, until they’d all melted.
4. Pulled them out of the oven and put them into the fridge for ten minutes.
5. Next we worked on the initials. We scratched the letters into the surface with a pencil. The wax was still a tad soft and it was super easy to get the letters just how we liked. Then we melted a black crayon in the microwave and painted over the letters with a small brush. We had to throw the wax back in once or twice, but it wasn’t too trickey.
6. We wanted the black to meld with the rest of the crayon, so we put each crayon back in the mold, letter side down, and popped them back in the oven for another four minutes, as long as it took for the letters to just begin to show signs of melting.

After they cooled, we were quite pleased with the result.

Scratching out the initials.

et viola!


Places to Doodle


Just looking at these is bringing on the doodling urge. Are you feeling it too?

on a shower curtain
(I am so doing this for a highschool grad)

on a toy boat

on your chair

on your rocket ship

on a garland

on matryoshkas

in a comic book

on a train

on your doll

on your keds

on a t shirt (via Design Mom)


One stack of rainbow sticky notes, all packaged up and ready to brighten the mailbox of my little sister (shh, don’t tell).

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



Trusty Planners


I love planning. At least as much as I like doing. Am I the only one? No matter what the project, I like to revel in the planning stage. Trips, workouts, grocery lists, renovations. Did I tell you my husband and I planned our kitchen 35 times before we built it?

Also, I love when one of my friends comes up with some big idea. I like to hear all about it. And sometimes, when someone’s taking on a new project or new stage in life, I think the perfect thing to give them is something they can keep by their bed for scribbling down thoughts and strokes of brilliance. Here then, are a few favorite planners and notebooks.

unbound 2010 datebook by purgatory pie press

DIY cereal box notebook tutorial

yearly agenda by Lina Carta

of course, love the pocket notebooks by oh joy

the grid notebook

printable planner, via here

printable, perpetual calendar

your life in chapters (LOVE this)

the Laurel Denies yearly, completely beautiful

one year of white pages, brilliant

baby shower notebook set

Cath Kidson’s dream home planner

free printable meal planner

poster calendar

and one more poster calendar

tiny book

matchbook variety pack

the all-weather journal for the adventurous types

8-days-a-week planner
the smiley journal

lucky notebook


Did you see this post on Design Mom? If you did, did you love it? I adored Design Mom’s idea for a gift for the whole family and also her readers’ ideas. Following are a few.

-nativity costume

A couple Christmases ago, Gabrielle received a package from her sister that included nativity costumes for the whole family. My kids would be thrilled about this. And I’d be thrilled that they were thrilled.

Here a few more from her clever readers. Wouldn’t you just jump up and down if you received any of these?

  • Family Games (love the reader who suggested Settlers and Ticket to Ride, love these, anyone else?)
  • A collection of books to read out loud, like Harry Potter or Narnia
  • A ‘family date night’ basket
  • A museum or zoo membership
  • A one-year Netflix subscription (um…have I told you that my 4-year-old is trying to put TiVo on his Christmas wish list? He never wants to miss an episode of Sid the Science Kid again.)
  • A new book specially chosen for each member of the family
  • A set of new Christmas picture books, given early with hot chocolate
  • And finally a homemade memory game with real family memories-homemade-memory game


I have never wanted to doodle so badly in my life. Last week I told you I’d come across two books that were love at first sight for me, and here is number two.

oodles of doodles

Coloring books are fine and good, and I’ve enjoyed many moments coloring with my kiddos. But this is different, every page of this book begs for you to unleash your imagination. In fact, I’m surprised bookstores just leave it out, un-shrink-wrapped. I’m sure there is some copy in some bookstore where someone could no longer resist and pulled out their pen and started doodling right then and there.

I’ll share a couple pages with you. Just wait for it, the doodling urge will hit. Get a scrap of paper ready.
oodles of doodles 2

oodles of doodles 1

The master mind behind Oodles of Doodles is Nikalas Catlow. Visit here to check out his other books, including puzzle books and other doodle books and more. Or just follow his blog about children’s book design here. Currently in the works is an Apple and Egg book (you can meet Apple and Egg on his blog) that’s due to hit bookstores in the spring.


A few things you might want to have on hand in case anyone shows up to your Halloween party sans costume.
simple halloween costume ideas DIY disguises

disguise them as a cupcake, their own mother won’t recognize them
if you haven’t checked out these beards, you really should
you can at least disguise their thumb (via One Pretty Thing)
super hero cuffs, always cool
love this very royal crown
many scary bandannas available here
it’s a knitted wig!
get the Where The Wild Things Are hat pattern (via One Pretty Thing)
mustache bandages and ring are also very handy in a pinch

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