graduation gifts

You probably remember from this post that I am a fan of bubble wrap.

Well, a little while back, a friend of mine and her adorable family had a big occasion to celebrate. We wanted to plaster a banner on her garage door. And since the occasion was cause for jumping up and down, we decided to make it a bubble-wrap banner. So it could be enjoyed even after it was taken down. Here is my son modeling it before we snuck over to her house to put it up. (Isn’t it fun being sneaky?)

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Today help me welcome Stephanie of Stephmodo, a favorite of mine for all things kitchen and French (be sure to stop by her Etsy shop of French imports, you will be charmed). Stephanie put together this kitchen essentials list, perfect both for grads and seasoned cooks alike, and was so good to do it besides being 8 months pregnant (see her adorable maternity photoshoot here). I’ll let her take it from here. And thank you, Stephanie, for taking a moment from your preparations to bring us this list (friends, do you love those bowls?!)

1. Martha’s melamine bowl set (those colors…)
2. Wusthof Mincing Knife (perfect for cutting pizza, quesadillas or pb&j–my husband has a few things to say about this too)
3. Vintage Cast Iron Dutch Oven and Skillet (both found at an antique shop, although ebay is a good source too; we use these all the time.  I love the way they sear fish on the grill, roast chickens, and roast vegetables)
4. Microplane Zester (great for lemons or parmesan–best zester ever)
5. OXO Salad Spinner (say goodbye to wilty lettuce forever–I also use it as a crisper)
6. Zyliss Garlic Press (there is no other garlic press worth having around)


Dear Readers, I have a bit of an urgent question from Nicole, and I knew you could swoop in and help out.

“We are hosting a foreign exchange student, and we want to have a small gift for her when we pick her up (in a week!) But I am having trouble coming up with a good, meaningful idea. Any suggestions?”

Nicole, I just love that you are preparing to make your guest welcome from the moment she steps off the plane. I think anything that will make her feel comfortable and set up in her new home will be appreciated. You could spend the week buzzing around putting together a package of fun school supplies and desk accessories to help her be ready to conquer her new agenda. A couple favorites, Pinhead colored pencils from here, and a beautiful purpetual calendar she can use for the rest of her days.

What about you, readers, any ideas for welcoming Nicole’s guest?



If you are looking for a treasure of a gift, pi’lo is not to be missed. So many beautiful pieces that will last for a lifetime.


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?


Do you have any wild and crazy plans for World Cup? Playing soccer in the streets? Body paint in the color of your team? Today I have a giveaway that will let you wear your loyalty on your feet.

VirtualCapoeira has carries Havaianas in honor of World Cup (only three days!) in four essential countries, USA, Brazil, Italy, and Mexico. How does that sound for a Father’s Day suprise? And incase you missed me and a few readers gushing in this post, you need to know that havainas are not only super chic, but buttery soft. And they make the best flip flop sound of any sandal I’ve ever owned.


Dear Readers, I have a bit of an urgent question for you. Tab is looking for something for a great teacher, and the last day of school is only 11 days away. If you have any ideas, Tab and I need you!

“My youngest son is finishing 3rd grade. He has a male teacher who is wonderful. My children have all been blessed by having this teacher. I have 3 boys. Seeing as this is the last of my children to have him, we were hoping to give him something over-the-top special to remember us by.”

“I want him to remember us, but I don’t want it to be knick knacks, because he’s a bit of a neat freak. He’s in his early 30s. Not married. A wonderful sense of humor. With no real deep interests that he has shared.”

“Money is always an object, but I’d even be willing to go up to $50 if it was something I thought was great. I’d love any help on this.” —Tab

have the local creamery name a custom creation after your favorite teacher

The great thing about honoring a teacher is that it’s easy to get others on board. Get an hour dedicated to him on the radio or get his name on the reader board on the way into town. Maybe have the local pizzeria create a pizza in his honor, and give him a gift card for a few pizzas while you’re there. (I called a male teacher friend last night, and he said that good local food is always appreciated.) Maybe give him a really great pizza cutter while you’re at it, and have it engraved, so it’s kind of like a trophy, but not really.

And if all of that seems to be stretching it, try bargain shopping for a super hip bag. Include a thank you note from each son tucked inside, and you might have just the thing.

What about you readers? Any ideas Tab can use for giving a teacher an memorable thank you? She and I would love to hear them.

[photo from here]


I love ideas for celebrating big. I just added a couple of these ideas to my list of ways to celebrate a landmark birthday, but thought they would also be a great way to send off a beloved teacher.

A giant card where everyone pitches in

A phone call where everyone pitches in

Another fun, really big idea, get murals made here

Have you seen any fun ideas for seeing off a teacher, my creative friends? I’d love to hear.
[phone photo from here]


Get more farewell ideas from my gift inspiration board, or from blog posts here and here.


I think a fabric bloom is just the thing to give mom on Mother’s Day, don’t you? Something lovely for her to pin on to make her feel queenly. I’ve seen so many beautiful fabric flowers floating around that I thought I’d gather them here for a little inspiration in case you’d like to buy or DIY.

buy Heart of Light | Grosgrain tutorial | 100 Layer Cake tutorial

buy Emersonmade | Miss Priss tutorial | Prudent Baby tutorial

buy Twigs & Honey | buy Sarah Culleton (via here) | Ruffles and Stuff tutorial

Everyday Chaos tutorial | buy K. Autumn (via here) | Mama Monster tutorial

Salty Pineapple tutorial | Knit Picks tutorial | buy Tago Design


Clickin Moms

If you happen to be a budding photographer, you are going to love one of my new sponsors. More on Clickin Moms coming soon.


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)


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


Star Recipes?


this is me gettin’ serious in the kitchen

I’m going to dinner tonight with a couple girlfriends. As Christmas gifts to each other we’re exchanging our families’ best-ever recipes. Isn’t that the best idea? My friend suggested it.

My teacher friend also said she received recipes as a gift this year from a student, a couple of their all time family favorites. I am going to remind you of this next Christmas because I think it is one of the best ideas ever (thanks, Heather!) I can’t think of a better honor to place on the world’s educators than for them to have an ever-growing collection of loved recipes.

Maybe we can all have a gift exchange of our own here. After all, what’s better than a gift exchange among friends? After I compile my recipes today I’ll return to this post and share a couple all-time family favorite recipes as a little gift to you. I’m trying to think of just the right ones to share. And if you’d like to leave a recipe or two that would be great. Let’s say one to three recipes? I happen to know that some of you really know your way around a kitchen. And if you’ve posted the recipe just tell us a little about it and point us to the post on your blog.

I’m off to sort through recipes and mail off a couple last holiday surprises. Be back soon.

UPDATE: I’m back, and I’ve picked out two absolute favorites. If you try them I’d love to hear how they go.

I Miss Zachary’s Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
We used to be a half hour drive from Zackary’s Chicago style pizzaria. When we moved, I had to have back up to sustain me between trips to the bay area. This recipe does Zachary’s justice. If you’ve been to Zachary’s, you know that is quite the compliment.

Yield: 3 10-inch pizzas

2 Tbsp sugar
1 pkg (1Tbsp) yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups flour (all-purpose or bread flour)

Dissolve sugar and yeast in large bowl. Let stand until bubbly (about 5 min.)
Add oil and salt.
Stir in 5 cups flour until just not sticky anymore (I use my KitchenAid).

Knead. (I knead for 15–20 min. in my Kitchen Aid until I get a baker’s window, which is when you can pull the dough thin enough to see light through it without the dough tearing).
Turn into greased bowl and let rise overnight in fridge or 1 hour until doubled.
Make sauce.
Punch down dough and let rest for 10 minutes.

Tomato Sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes and puree
2 tsp minced fresh oregano
2 Tbsp minced fresh basil
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Heat olive oil, sauté garlic.
Add tomatoes and spices.
Simmer 30 min.

2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
2 1/2 cups grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated romano cheese

Spinach Pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped spinach
3/4 cup basil leaves1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated fresh romano cheese

Grind pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in food processor.
Add Spinach and basil, puree until smooth.
Add cheeses.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Putting it all together
Preheat oven to 450.
Prepare three 10-inch pans by spraying them with non-stick cooking oil.
Cut dough into 3 equal parts.
Stretch dough into circles as thin as possible without tearing, using oil to keep it from sticking to yourself and the counter. If you have trouble with this, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into three circle crusts.
Place dough in pans. Let rest for 15-30 minutes.
Bake dough for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven. Layer cheese mix, then pesto, then fill with sauce.
If crust is too brown, cover just the crust with foil, leaving the center uncovered.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Remove from oven and let cool for 3 minutes.
Dig in.

Carne Mechada
Here’s a little something from my Venezuelan heritage. This is amazing stuffed in these (you can get them here if you visit Napa) along with a little creme fraiche.

3 lbs. sirloin or flank steak
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 cloves garlic
3 onions, chopped (one to cook with meat, two to add later with peppers)
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, 12 oz.
1 small can pimientos
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp. thyme
1/2 Tbsp. oregano
1/2 Tbsp. cumin
Olive oil for sauteing

Seal beef in olive oil in the pan.
Add the wine, garlic, half the chopped onion, the bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 3 hours. Check occasionally to make sure some liquid remains, if liquid is almost gone, add more wine or water or beef broth.
Remove from heat, let cool, pull appart with two forks to shred.
Saute the remaining onions and the green peppers in olive oil.
Add the meat and remaining ingredients. Simmer another 30 min. until all the flavors are blended.

Serve over rice and black beans, with fried ripe plantain slices on the side to make the traditional Venzuelan dish known as pabellón criollo.


Ahh, to be 20 again. I admit I wouldn’t mind it—if I could be promised I’d end up with the same people in my life I found the first time around. but I’d take more road trips next time, and maybe get out to the east coast for a bit. and in school i’d seek out the best professors earlier on, the eccentric and optimistic ones. and I’d spend more time doing nice things for my friends. what about you?

I have a little deal with myself when giving grad gifts. If the grad is getting a gift card from me, they also get some unsolicited advice—in the form of this lecture on CD. And I don’t feel too preachy because this is good stuff.

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, by Tina Seelig
I originally heard it as a lecture, but it’s also recently become a book. And it has advice like

“you don’t have to wait to be anointed,” and
“never miss an opportunity to be fabulous,”
and my favorite right now,  “you can do it all, just not at the same time.”

inexpensive grad giftI also gave this grad a lecture from Marjorie Hinckley, a warm and charming woman from my church, who gave the commencement speech when I graduated and said wonderful things like “I hope you have developed some real, intellectual curiosity. If you have it, you will never, never be bored.”


pretty-bicycle-bells-and-handlebar-flowers-21Here’s a quick project that will pretty up any set of handlebars, whether they belong to a little girl or one who’s all grown up. The petals on these flowers are super-reflective, so you might also want to plaster them all over the bag you ride with too.

pretty-bicycle-bagsHere’s a picture taken at dusk using my flash.
reflective-bicycle-accessoriesThe petals are super reflective thanks to a secret ingredient: contractor grade retroreflective beads, which I ordered from Cole Safety. More on this below.
1-how-to-make-a-pretty-bicycle-handlebar-flowerYou’ll need:

a silk flower of your choice (daises are fun, so are roses)
white acrylic paint and sponge brush
the secret ingredient, retroreflective glass beads
a button for the center of the flower, I chose to make a fabric-covered button
soft, sewable velcro for strapping the flower to your handlebars
you may also need ironing starch if you’ve chosen a flower that isn’t very stiff
how-to-make-your-bicycle-reflective1A little more about the secret ingredient: Retroreflective glass beads are the same thing contractors use on street signs and highway traffic lines, layered on paint to make it reflective. They reflect light back to the source it came from without scattering or wasting much. I ordered mine here in a small, 8 oz. bag. They are great as long as nothing is layered over them. So if you decide to add these anywhere else on your bike, be sure not to add a clear coat on top or you’ll compromise their reflective super powers.


Remove the center of the silk flower. TIP: If you’ve chosen a floppy flower, starch and iron it first. It will keep the petals from bending over when the tips get heavier from the paint.

Start by pouring the beads onto a plate to get them ready for dipping. Paint the parts of your flower that you want to be reflective a few at a time. Acrylic paint dries quickly and you want the paint to still be wet when you press it into the beads.
how-to-make-reflective-bicycle-handlebar-flowerGently press the painted area into the beads. Continue painting and dipping until you’ve covered all the areas you want to be reflective.

3-homemade-handlebar-streamers-and-flowersIf you’re using fabric-covered buttons, prepare them now according to the package directions. If you’ve never made these buttons before, you need to try them. They are super simple and require no sewing or special equipment. Just fabric and the buttons.
handmade-reflective-bicycle-handlebar-flowersReassemble the flowers and put the button loop through the holes in the center of the flower.

handmade-velcro-bicycle-handlebar-flowersOverlap two pieces of opposing velcro, one facing up and the other facing down. Tack the center together where they overlap either by handstiching or with a sewing machine. Then sew the center of the velcro to the button loop poking out from the back of the flower.reflective-safety-bicycle-accessoriesYou’re finished. All that’s left to do is find a bike or bag and strap it on.



Here’s the Father’s Day DIY I think I’m most excited about, an upcycled handlebar bag. I’ve been in love with bike accessories lately, they make me want to pedal everywhere I go. Plus they are great gifts for kids, grads, retirees, and just about everyone in between. So I thought I’d try making a couple of my own.
handmade-diy-fathers-day-gift-bicycle-bagReflective straps…to show Dad you care.
handmade-diy-fathers-gift-reflective-bicycle-bagThe bag is made from a water bottle and a used sock (wash it well!)
1-upcycled-crafts-bicycle-handlebar-bagYou’ll need
a waterbottle and an old sock that fits it,
iron-on reflective tape (I found mine at JoAnne’s on the notions wall, surprisingly bike shops didn’t carry it)
ribbon that can be ironed
the closure of your choice (I ended up using parachute buckles along with velcro)
3-upcycled-recycled-craft-from-water-bottleStart by trimming off the water bottle at the length you want. You’ll want to soften the opening by holding a lighter near it, just enough to melt the very edge of the plastic.
4-upcycled-recycled-diy-craft-water-bottle-socksSlip the sock over the bottle and position it the way you’d like it to end up. The sock hugged the bottom end of the water bottle  well enough that I didn’t need to do anything more to finish that edge. At the opening of the water bottle, allow a few inches to finish off the bag, and trim off the heel.

upcycled-bag-craft-from-a-sockI decided to close the bag with a draw string. Take the sock off the bottle and turn it inside out. I reinforced the edge on my sewing machine, then folded it in to make a channel for the ribbon. TIP: I shaped a pipe cleaner into a circle the size of the water bottle opening, then folded the fabric over the pipe cleaner. I left the pipe cleaner in while I sewed the channel, leaving an opening for the draw string ribbon to come out. Once it was done, I pulled out the pipe cleaner and threaded the ribbon through the channel with a safety pin attached to the end.

5-diy-handmade-fathers-day-giftCut the ribbon and reflective tape long enough to wrap around the bottle, plus allow several inches to wrap around the handle bars and attach to the closure.

6-handmade-reflective-bicycle-handlebar-bagI needed to trim my reflective tape before ironing it on, which I did with my paper cutter. Iron on the tape according to the manufacturer’s directions.
8-handmade-bicycle-handlebar-bag-fathers-day-giftI took my bag outside and tried out the length of the ribbon on the handlebars. I sewed half the parachute buckle on one side, but wanted my other side to be adjustable. I decided to attach the other parachute buckle by sewing velcro to the ribbon. A more elegant solution would have been using a parachute buckle with an adjustment feature, but this worked!
7-upcycled-recycled-diy-craft-socksThe final step is to attach the ribbon to the sock. I did this in just one spot for each ribbon. With the sock on the bottle still, I slid a piece of ribbon under the sock to reinforce the back where I would sew the ribon to the sock. I tacked the ribbon in place on the outside. Then I slid the sock off the bottle, turned it inside out, and finished attaching the ribbon.

handmade-fathers-day-gift-bicycle-bagSlide the sock back on the bottle and you’re set. Dad now has a handy spot carrying keys, maps, a granola bar, or if he’s really lucky, a pocket GPS

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I’ve thrown together a new gift guides page, incase you’re like me and like to see as many ideas as possible in one glance.