stocking stuffer gifts

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!


So it has taken a little longer than expected, but I finally have for you the final game gift promised from this post. Here’s a little project I did with my kids as a follow-up to our Tahoe vacation.

I am always looking for ways to use pictures from favorite trips or memorable periods of our life. I like the pictures not only of the people but of the details that were important to us at that moment that we could easily forget.

Did anyone play with shrinkie dinks as a kid? I remember having a Rainbow Bright set. Did you know you can get blank sheets of them for your printer? It’s almost more fun than I can handle.

We printed off a few pictures from our trip. For photos to work on shrinkie dinks, they  need to be a bit washed out to make the final color true. We had fun picking out the pics. For this project we picked out several subjects that were in transit.

We added a little hand-drawn detail with a water-based marker.

Then cut along the lines.

And then came the fun part, we popped them in the oven. It is so much fun watching them curl up and become itty-bitty versions of themselves. Note, if you have an emergency and some curl over themselves, don’t panic! Just put them back in a little longer and they should flatten. Use a butter knife to carefully and gently flatten them a bit if you need to.

We added stands and have a pretty fun final product. Candy Land, anyone?


Have you ever played with glass etching before? Once you invest in a bottle of etching cream the possibilities are endless. We decided to make a mirror for a  little friend of ours, so I thought I’d share.

Glass etching cream
Sponge brush
Vinyl or contact paper and something to cut it with (I used my Silhouette, but you can use scissors or a craft knife)
Something pretty to etch

I picked up this mirror at Target and wish I would have picked up more than just one. Isn’t it the perfect thing for a little girl to admire herself in?

I used my Silhouette to cut out a sweet tiara. Did you notice I used regular contact paper? I wanted to save my premium Silhouette vinyl for other purposes (I have about a million things I want to try), and since I had a whole roll of contact paper, and the Silhouette can cut anything thin, I went with the contact paper.

I ran it through my Silhouette with the backing still on, then peeled off just the negative space of the design and stuck it on the mirror. Run your finger over the design a few extra times and make sure all the corners are stuck down.

I loaded up my sponge brush with etching cream and brushed it on. A good friend taught me to paint it on heavy in multiple directions, and give it a few minutes longer to sit than the bottle directs, so I usually do.

Once the time is up, you just rinse, dry and peel away the contact paper.

And that’s it. The perfect mirror for a little princess.


Silhouette SD

I hope you’re enjoying my Silhouette fest! Don’t forget to enter my GIVEAWAY for a Silhouette SD of your very own. You have until Wednesday. And don’t miss the great discounts offered by Silhouette for GiversLog readers. Once you have this machine, your head will spin with the possibilities.


A few more gifts for dad that are small, but not cute. (See part 1 here).

a whole case of miniature things to stow in his glove box

a portable water sterilizer, and cable yo-yos for organizing his office

a good documentary or a super cool book

a ratchet kit and gel to clean anything

a little version of New York

mini laser tag and a spy camerafor the dad who thinks he’s Bond

a mini version of a ceiling fan to put in your tent, portable salt and pepper

mini mini golf

a sweet pair of shades, a pocket lantern

thumbprint cookies from Whimsy & Spice, a pocket fishing pole (this one is pictured, though this onehas better reviews)


We have this great supplier here in Sac that collects vintage soda from everywhere. They’re called Blue Dog Beverages and they’re fantastic. I had a chat yesterday with Bob Lake, one of the owners,  about what he might recommend for a good soda sampler. He put together a little tour of root beers for me (a little bit like this one, from Erin), starting with River City Rootbeer, which is brewed here locally. I thought I’d share Bob’s recommendations with you, incase you’d like to put something together for dad for next Sunday.

After I hung up with Bob I headed right over to a Nugget to pick up my loot, but Bob mentioned that you could probably find most of these at BevMo too. I’ve also put together some tags to add to the overall effect, and I’m posting a few blanks labels incase you want to write your own message. You can download them here.

Rootbeer Tour Labels (2275)
Stripey Tags, blank (2164)

(helpful hints: You might have to right click and choose “save link as” or “download linked file.” Also, you can resize these once downloaded by inserting them as a picture into a Word document. And finally, if you need printable label paper, I bought this kind and have been very happy with it.)

River City, from here is Sacramento, California. Bold and hearty, like Dad.

Dad’s, originally from Chicago, Illinois

Abita, from Louisiana

Olde Rhode Island Molasses Root Beer, I’ll let you guess where this one’s from

Capt’n Eli’s, from Maine

Waialua, from Hawaii (note, this one was not on Bob’s list, but I had to throw it in after reading reviews)


A few favorite small surprises that I’m considering for Father’s Day. Plus a few I’m not considering, but am loving.

a bulletproof hankie “for the promiscuous idealist whom lives in elegant danger” (thank you, MAKE) and another with a map of NY

the 4-in-one tool and the pocket worst case survival guide

a couple things to make dad smell manly

a Morse code kit and the pocket MAKE guide

a pen and pencil all in one and a hip case to put it in

a ping pong set and a pocket fire starter

a pinhole camera kit and a pocket knife worthy of a true mountain man


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 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!


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


Thanks, everyone, for the help.


I always worry about gift cards in paper envelopes on Christmas. I hate to send them off like that, among all the bigger presents. I worry they may not be able to hold their own during all the excitement on Christmas morning. So here are a few ideas for putting them in something that’s less likely to get thrown out with the wrapping.

This is my long-time go-to for wrapping a gift card, one of the $1 frames I pick up when I develop photos.

I love pillow boxes, and they’re so quick and easy to make. Download a template here.

Just a little something I created from a cream carton. Do you like it?

Fabric envelopes are the best. I cut this from a sheet of felt and glued with fabric glue. It took me ten minutes. That’s my kind of fabric project. (Can you tell I’m having fun with my new baker’s twine?)

This is my new favorite thing. It’s made from a milk carton and meant as a sandwich holder. (I’m saving all my milk cartons now and using this for everything, from packing lunches to care packages to organizing every drawer in my house.)

And for more inspiration for giving gift cards, don’t miss Gift Card Girlfriend. Shelly has put together several thoughtful ideas for presenting gift cards. (I love her idea of giving a family the iPhone geocaching app and a list of caches in their neighborhood. So thoughtful.)


-kinder eggsphoto from this 100 possibilities project by sheenacv

Meet the best stocking stuffer ever, the Kinder Egg. Possibly the greatest gift German engineering has given the modern world. Have you ever had one?

You start with a chocolate egg wrapped in foil. You unwrap and bite into the chocolate shell, which is smooth milk chocolate  outside and yogurty white chocolate inside.  After you’ve devoured the chocolate, letting it melt over your tongue, you come to the plastic capsule, which might be the best part. Because that little inch-tall capsule could have anything in it.

You open it up and out spills your prize. A small toy, often in five or six or ten little pieces with a set of instructions you unfold and follow to assemble some fantastic little gadget. The best is when the capsule itself is part of the gadget. I’m telling you, this is German engineering at it’s finest. The gadgets are so clever, in fact, I just found this weekend there’s a whole flickr pool devoted to them.

There’s only one problem. I can’t find anywhere to buy them in the U.S. I know I’ve seen them somewhere before (I’m in northern Cali) but haven’t managed to find anywhere in the last few years. I’d love to throw a couple in stockings this year, but I’d also love to have an inside source for picking them up to use as birthday surprises. Anyone?

-kinder surprise egg toys
from the flickr pool:
row 1
row 2, left, right
row 3
row 4, left, right
row 5, left, right


stocking stuffersDoes Santa visit your house on St. Nick’s Day? He visits ours. Well, I guess it’s not so much a visit as a doorbell ditch. But he leaves behind stockings full of goodies, so that’s good enough for us.

I consider myself a purist when it comes to stocking stuffers. There always has to be a mandarin or tangerine in the toe. And I insist on nuts, always in the shell, even though I’m the only one who will eat them.

This Sunday when Santa comes, the mandarins will be authentic, straight from the north pole. And naturally they will have the appropriate produce stickers (they can be printed on labels like these). Maybe Santa will leave some mandarins for the neighbors too.

Download from DropBox by clicking here: Printable Santa Produce Sticker

or download here: Printable Holiday Produce Sticker (3123)

printable chritmas sticker producechristmas oranges


Acrylic Rings


I’ve been browsing for something fun to give my crafty, girly, teenage sister, and am having way too much fun looking at jewelry.-DIY handmade shrinkie dink ringsI think I got hooked on shrink film in my childhood, making Rainbow Bright shrinkie dinks. I can’t believe I’ve never tried making my own shrinkie dink rings. Can’t wait to try it with this tutorial. I might have to get together with my SIL and her cricut, we could make some pretty, pretty things.

-shrinkie dink skyskape ringthis skyskape ring is so dreamy, isn’t it? I want one for myself too.

-scroll ring chrysanthemumlove these filigree rings from oh, hello, friend (and don’t miss oh, hello’ friend’s blog, it’s just heaven)

-novelty ringsand I had to throw in this spectacles ring, which i totally needed in college—I would have looked so much cooler during the hours I spent getting to know every corner of the library