housewarming and welcome gifts

If you’re new here, welcome! I’m AmberLee, and Giverslog is my place to share recipes, gift ideas, pretty wrapping ideas, and whatever else is on my mind. I also own an online chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen. Stop by if you get a moment!
Are you ready for a peek at how my new stands turned out? I’m more than a little thrilled with them. It’s great fun transforming a set of thrifted candlesticks into bright summery treat stands for the next shindig. (See the first set I made right here).

Being able to take these apart to switch out plates is a big deal for me. Even though my kitchen now is roomier, much much roomier, than the apartment and condo kitchens I’ve somehow squeezed into through the years, space is still at a premium. Plus I like picking a melamine plate whenever I find one I like and being able to put it to use with the stands I already have.

Best of all, I figured out a new trick that will let you use any candlestick you fall in love with at the thrift store. Not just candlesticks that have a hole through the center.

The shopping is really the best part. (You can get glimpse here of the first set of these I put together.) But for this time around, here’s the list of what I picked up.

Supplies & equipment:
1. Set of thrifted candlesticks. I often find candlesticks at the thrift store that can be disassembled and have a hole all the way through the middle. To find out if a candlestick can do this, just pick one up at the thrift store and try to unscrew. But hole or no hole, any candlestick will work. On my last thrifting trip I fell in love with some sticks that did not have a hole through the middle, I discovered I could still make my stand interchangeable. Here’s my big trick. Are you ready for it? All you need to do is find a…
2. Cork that fits snugly into your candlestick. (You need this only if your candlestick does not have a hole all the way through the middle).
3. Drawer pull that lets you take out the screw. I picked up mine at Lowe’s this time around. Don’t you love the crystal knobs?
4. Allthread that fits your drawer pull. This just looks like a really long screw with no head or point. To make sure it fits my drawer pull, I try screwing it in right in the isles of Lowe’s.
5. Nuts and washers.
6. A few fun melamine plates. I picked up mine at Target.
7. Primer and paint, if you choose. I love Krylon.
6. A hack saw and drill. A wood bit works perfectly for drilling into melamine.

Here is a candlestick I took apart and found I could dissasemble and have two pieces with a hole all the way through the middle of each.

Yea for Krylon. So many possibilities with this stuff.

Now comes the easy part… Here is the how-to for putting it all together, whether your candlestick has a hole through the core or not.
1. Paint. If you’re planning to paint the candlestick, disassemble it, prime, and paint.
2. Drill. Tape the plate in the center and drill through your taped spot. Take it slow and easy, I’ve cracked a couple plates by being in too big of a rush.

3. Cut your allthread. If your candlestick has a hole through the center, use a hack saw to cut your all thread to the length you’ll need to go from the bottom of the candlestick to the top to screw into your drawer pull. Cut carefully so you don’t ruin the thread and are still able to screw a bolt or your drawer pull onto the end. If you are using a cork, cut a tiny piece of the allthread so it is just long enough to screw through the cork and into the allthread.
4. If your candlestick does not have a hole through the center, add a cork. Wedge in a cork where the candle would go. Make sure it is a super snug fit. Cut off any overhang. You want to make sure the plate will rest evenly against the top of the candlestick. Drill a small hole in the center of the cork where the drawer pull will screw in. Make the hole just smaller than the allthread, so it screws in snugly.

Here is a set I assembled by screwing an all thread through the center.

Here is a set I made by using a cork.
3. Assemble.
 Now you get to thread your whole creation together. If your candlestick has a hole down the middle, put the washer and screw at the bottom, then thread the allthread through your candlestick piece, then add the plate, and finally, screw on the drawer pull at the top. If you are using a cork, simply screw one end of the allthread into the drawer pull, then put the other end through the hole in the plate and screw it into the cork in the candlestick. That’s it. Now your stands are ready to party, or to fit neatly in your cupboard.Good luck! If you make a set, I’d love to hear how it goes.


If you’re new here, welcome! I’m AmberLee, and Giverslog is my place to share recipes, gift ideas, pretty wrapping ideas, and whatever else is on my mind. I also own an online chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen. Stop by if you get a moment!

A few months after discovering how to make this tiered cupcake stand, I walked into Pottery Barn and saw their awesome, summery, tiered stand and—being the incurable DIYer that I am—thought, I wonder if I could make that.

It is a serious condition sometimes. My husband claims he can’t take me anywhere without me wanting to try to build some part of something I saw when I get home.
I picked up the supplies a few months ago, when I was in Micheal’s with my half-off coupon, and have been waiting for an open Saturday to give it a shot. I ran across Lizard & Ladybug who had been thinking the same thing as me, and am glad I did. She made her stand with a length of conduit, and made it look so good that I returned the curtain rod I’d been planning to use.

This weekend I got to work and love the result. Though I have to admit, about half way through the process was wondering if I should have just shelled out for the Pottery Barn original. But hopefully I have a few tips that will make it simpler if you’re like me and love a good DIY.
tiered cake pans ($18 with my coupon)
drawer pull that lets you take out the screw (I found mine at Lowe’s, $3)
all thread that is compatible with your drawer pull (I try screwing it in right in the isles of Lowe’s, $2)
conduit ($3)
bolts and washers
melamine plate

hack saw, clamp, file (UPDATE: see below, you may not need these at all)
hammer and nail
Don’t forget to use your coupon when you go to pick up your tiered pans. I used my JoAnne’s coupon at Michaels (you knew you could do that, right?)
I opted for a thicker length of conduit to keep things sturdier. I cut three lengths that were just over six inches long. If I did it again I think I’d cut them right at six inches.

The most challenging part was cutting the conduit. Cuts need to be perfectly straight in order to avoid a leaning stand.

UPDATE: Thanks to Layne and Nicole, I now know you can skip this part, entirely. You can pick up a pipe cutter for just a few bucks (thanks, Layne!), or you can have your conduit cut right in the plumbing section (thanks for letting me in on that little secret, Nicole! )

I started by using my hack saw to score a dotted line all the way around the conduit, to make sure it was even and matched up all the way around. Clamp the conduit, saw a couple times just to score the surface, open the clamp and rotate the conduit just a little. Repeat.

Then I used the same technique to slowly saw around the conduit, sawing little by little, opening the clamp and rotating as I went, until I had a nice even cut.

I then used my file to finish evening off the end. Hold the conduit close to the file to make the work quicker. Just don’t file away your fingers.
Now all the hard work is over. If you can get through this part you’re practically finished.

I marked the center of the top pan and used a hammer and nail to pierce a hole. I then lined it up with the other pans to find the spot to pierce the last two holes.
For the base, I used a melamine plate I had left over from my DIY cupcake stand. Lizard and Ladybug uses the smallest pan from the nesting set for the base, which turned out great. I just wanted to save that pan for actual baking. I think it will turn out the perfect sized personal birthday cake.

Drilling a hole in the center is not too tough. Just use a wood bit in your drill and take your time so you don’t crack the plate.

Finally, the only thing left to do is assemble everything.
That’s it. Now all it needs is some cupcakes or cups full of strawberries.
I think one of my favorite parts is the storage. Mine is now stored away inconspicuously in the cupboard above my fridge, waiting for our first summer shindig.



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!


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.


I spent yesterday gathering advice for planting my expanded herb garden. I’ve resolved never to have homemade pizza again without fresh basil sprinkled on top! Yesterday I spoke with two amazing women, a friend who runs her own nursery here and my amazing Idaho S-I-L. (The one who taught me to make this salsa.) I thought you might like to hear their thoughts. But first, you have to see what my S-I-L gave me last year:

Seriously the best birthday gift ever. This is an herb garden she started from seeds for me. I almost cried I was so happy. I have managed to keep much of it alive since, so I feel ready to expand. So here, from Laura (my local California girl) and Cherie (my Idaho girl) are a few tips for growing your own herb garden.

1. Do it. It is so much cheaper than fresh herbs from the grocery store, and you will have basil for your pasta and Tai food, mint for your lemon aid, rosemary for your potatoes, thyme for your chicken dinner, and you will generally be a happier and better fed person.
2. Don’t start with cilantro
. It’s trickier than other herbs and may get you frustrated if you’re not a diligent grower and harvester. (UPDATE: though I just got a comment from Sherry who makes it sound easy. Thoughts, anyone?)
3. Pick a sunny spot with good drainage
. Most basic herbs love the sun and don’t want to be too wet. Just a few like partial shade, like cilantro (which we’ve already decided is high maintenance), lemon balm, and mint. If you want to plant in a container, you can plant each herb separately or put them all together in one big bowl. Or plant them in pots according to the recipes you like to use them for, a Tai pot, an Italian pot, a chicken dinner pot. Use a soilless potting mix that will drain well.
4. Speaking of mint, plant it alone
, in its own pot. It will take over all the other herbs and take over your whole yard if you let it.
5. Pick a spot near the kitchen if possible, so you can step right outside and snip off a sprig without having to hike across the yard.
6. You can start from seeds, but start with at least a few from plants for instant gratification. Big woody plants especially are good to just buy as plants (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano). Be sure to water them before you transplant. Grassy herbs grow quickly from seeds (chives, parsley) and my S-I-L recommends starting these and other seedlings right in the pot or the outside spot where they’ll be living permanently, if weather allows.  The grassy herbs especially are delicate and don’t like being transplanted. UPDATE: The most helpful article I found for planting from seeds was this one.
7. Plant some perennials. I’d never realized how many herbs will come back year after year. Try sage, thyme, lemon thyme, chives, oregano, fennel, marjoram and mint. A few of these will get too mature and woody after a couple years. Sage and thyme especially you may want to replant every few years.
8. Try a few annuals.
You have to go with basil for sure. Big-leafed sweet basil or genovese basil are good all-purpose basils. Plant them when it’s hot outside, when you plant your tomatoes. My S-I-L also likes lemon balm and dill.
9. Don’t over water. Water every few days when the top few centimeters of soil is dry. Don’t over fertilize. Once a month should be enough. If the soil is too fertile, the plants will produce too much foliage and won’t have the intense flavor that a good herb should have.
10. Once the plants are taller and established, throw some mulch down over the soil. It will keep weeds from growing and keep the soil moist. Leave a bare spot of soil right around the stem to avoid a slug problem.
11. Harvest often. Harvesting promotes growth. It keeps plants in their growing cycle instead of letting them mature and finish their life. So stop by your garden before dinner each night and snip away. (Never tear.) You can harvest up to a third of the foliage. And if you see a flower, clip or pinch it off. Once an herb flowers it’s trying to finish its life cycle.
12. If you want to try to keep your plants through the winter, you have some options. Rosemary can thrive by a sunny window. You will lose basil, thyme, and sage after a frost, but you can also try variegated basil, which doesn’t flower like other basils so it can be brought in during the winter near a sunny window and last for months.
13. Eat it! In order to use fresh herbs instead of dried, double or triple the amount called for because fresh herbs aren’t’ as concentrated. Try to add them near the end of the recipe. If you harvest herbs and can’t use them right away, chop them up, put them in ice cube trays, cover them with a little boiling water and freeze them to use in soups once the weather turns cold.


“I need a gift that is heavy on the creative to make up for the lack in cost. It is for my husband’s coworkers that are getting married. They are in their late 40’s and this is a second marriage for both. Help!” —Andrea

Andrea, great question! I’m sure our readers have some fabulous ideas of things they’ve given or enjoyed getting for their own weddings. One possibility is to have an artist do a custom drawing of their home, which you can give as is or turn into stationary. You may be able to find a landscape designer who does sketches and will do the job on the cheap, or even a talented student nearby. Also be sure to check etsy. Holly of Holly’s Houses also does custom stamps of homes, and they are completely beautiful, though she is not low cost (found via D*S).

What about you readers, any low-cost high-value wedding gifts you’ve seen? If you have any suggestions for Andrea, we’d love to hear.


If you’re new here, welcome! I’m AmberLee, and Giverslog is my place to share recipes, gift ideas, pretty wrapping ideas, and whatever else is on my mind. And if you have a moment, stop by my chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen. In the meantime, happy thrifting!

UPDATE: Find a simple trick I discovered to make a single-layer cake stand out of any candlestick right here.

At long last, here is the much-requested thrifted cake stand tutorial. This was a gift I made for my S-I-L for Christmas, and I’ve been wanting to make one for myself ever since. Of course, in my world, finishing a craft without a deadline is impossible. So I used last week’s tea party as the day by which it had to happen.

Because my S-I-L is quite the party hostess, I thought I’d like to come up with a version where the plates could be switched out.  You know, like the wristwatch you had in middle school with the interchangeable wrist bands (there are a few of those I’d still like to own). So keep your eyes open for more pretty plates, because you can switch out plates as your parties demand. Any plate with a hole drilled in the middle will do. Or add a tier by using a longer allthread and a few more candlestick segments. It’s all occasion!

So then, if you’re up for a little shopping and assembling, let’s get started.

Shop. First, let’s go shopping, the very fun kind of shopping. This is a good excuse to stop by your favorite thrift stores, flea markets, and houseware shops. Go in search of pieces that will make your heart go pitter pat. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A drawer pull you think is pretty. For me, this was a good excuse to stop by Anthropologie.
  • An allthread to match, so it will screw into the drawer pull. Pick these up at any hardware store.
  • A bolt and washer that fits, for screwing on at the bottom.
  • Paint, if you so choose.
  • A drill and bit for drilling a hole in the plates (more on this below).
  • A candlestick (or pieces of multiple candlesticks) with a hole through the center. Some have a visible hole, others need to be unscrewed and have the center dowel removed. When in doubt, try unscrewing.
  • A set of plates, melamine or ceramic will do.

I believe the drawer pull cost me $8. Everything else combined totaled a whopping $4.88.
Make sure your allthread and drawer pull are the same width. If your drawer pull has a rod like mine, you should be able to unscrew so the allthread can screw directly into the pull. It took a little torque but we got ours out. Pick up two allthreads if you’re going to want to change between two and three tiers with your cake stand. You’ll need an allthread for each different height.

Remember the hollow candlesticks I picked up for this tutorial? I’ve had no problem finding several every time I thrift. And especially if you’re planning to paint, you can use as many pieces from as many candlesticks as you like.
Paint. Time to get busy. If you’re planning to paint the candlestick, disasemble it and paint.

Drill. Next you’ll need to drill a hole right through the center of the plate. Both times I’ve sent Brent out to the workshop to take care of this for me. Though I do like the chance to use a power tool every now and then. His advice is to use a wood bit for drilling through melamine and a ceramic bit for ceramic. He also suggests picking up an extra plate. That way if one plate cracks a bit, you have a second chance. You can drill a few extra holes in your broken plate and get a little practice. He taped the plate right in the center, then drilled through there.

Assemble. Now you get to thread your whole creation together. Likely the allthread will be too long, so you’ll need to cut it off. If you want to alternate between two and three tiers, make sure you get an allthread that will be the right length for each. Finally, thread the washer on and screw the bolt on the bottom.
And there you have it. A pretty tiered cupcake stand, and an excuse to have everyone over for a party. Once the party’s over, just disassemble and store it flat until the next shindig.


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




homemade cloth napkinsMy parents are in town for the week (ahhh, so nice). With a couple extra baby holders in the house, I felt brave enough to take on a sewing project, a set of cloth napkins.

I found some fun fabric at a small local place a friend just introduced me to and matched it with some fabric grandma gave me from her days of sewing in the ‘ 60s. The first napkin set went well. I suffered no sewing disasters, which I’m prone to having. So I really got saucy and tried mitered corners on the second set. Here’s one of my better corners, ready to sew.

mitered cornerI like this as a possible housewarming gift. I’m thinking if I ever get a yudu or a gocco, screenprinting a set may be more my style. Or just picking up one of the beautiful sets would suit me too.

cloth napkins screenprintedscreenprinted napkins by olofsdaughter’s

cloth napkin-woodblock-lake_cloth napkins in pretty colors, hand dyed napkin, woodblock napkins




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.


I have been wanting this book for some time, Pasta: A Passion(by Sweet Paul among other authors). And if I could justify it, I would love this super elegant pasta and parmesan tool to go with it.

favorite pasta cookbook

I also wouldn’t mind one of these breadbags, filled with rustic, just-baked Italian bread, of course.
hostess gift breadbag basket

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Brent chasing cowsChasing the cows back home.

We have one neighbor who has made the country extra hospitable for us. He taught us much of what we know about cows and has been very patient when our cows wind up in his pasture, and very helpful in chasing them home. We just found out he’d gone through surgery and were trying to think of a nice little something we could drop off to say we were thinking of him. We decided on locally grown strawberries and home-made wheat waffle mix.

breakfast care packageThis waffle mix is a long-time favorite of our family. In fact, one year we gave it out as our Christmas treat. It’s nice to have in the freezer for that morning when you wake up wanting a serious breakfast without too much work.

Homemade Wheat Waffle Mix
2 1/4 cups wheat flour (home-grind it for some serious wheaty goodness)
3/4 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup shortening or butter, room temperature
1/4 Tbsp. salt

Sift wheat flour and baking powder into bowl (sometimes we intentionally forget to sift). Add sugar and salt. Cut in shortening or butter using pastry cutter, two knives, or your food processor.

Here are the directions to give along with your waffle mix.

Homemade Wheat Waffle Mix (keep in freezer)

Wheat Waffles
2 cups mix
2 Tbsp. oil
1 egg
1 cup milk

Wheat Pancakes
2 cups mix
1 egg
1 cup milk

homemade wheat waffle mix


san francisco with kidsone of our early adventures to San Francisco

travel guide for kids2

I just added this to my Amazon cart: the San Fransisco City Walks with Kids. It’s a set of cards, each with a walk to take the kids on in the city. I would have loved to have this as soon as we moved to northern Cal. Though not having it hasn’t stopped me and the kids from some great day trips (my kids call them “adventures”) to the city.
Available for San Francisco, New York, D.C., Paris, and London.

city guides for traveling with kids2I’m a fan of Fodor’s, and had to share these as well, their guides for travel with kids. Available for
D.C., Paris, New York, San Francisco, Boston, London, Chicago, L.A., Denver, Montreal, San Diego, Seattle, and many more.

paris moleskine city guide
And, of course, if you know someone moving near a metropolis, any matropolis, in the entire world, don’t forget about the beautiful Moleskine city guides. Just looking at the list of guides available makes me want to get on a jet and go. Madrid! Milano! Torino!

California and Northeast landscape book
And one final pick that makes a great gift for someone moving, especially to a new planting zone. (My SIL gave me one of these and made me very happy. Now she just checks in on occasion and trims a rosebush for me or reminds me to water.)
Available for California, the Southeast, the Northeast, Texas, the Midwest, and the Mid-Atlantic.

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