Showing posts with label Gifts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gifts. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DIY Christmas Gift Ideas: Bubble Bath

I was having trouble thinking of things to make Andrew for his birthday, but I thought he would like some new things for bath time. So when I came across this blog post where Laura is having the same dilemma for a little bit older son, I thought this was a perfect idea. The basic recipe requires very few ingredients, although you can customize it more with additional scents and colors if you like. I put a sticker on the plastic bottle to make it Pooh-themed to match our soon-to-be two-year-old's birthday party theme, but you could easily make this gift appropriate for an adult too, simply but making the presentation more elegant. This would make a great inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer for a wide variety of people.

Homemade Bubble Bath Recipe

  • 1/2 cup shampoo
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • few drops essential oils (optional)
  • few drops food coloring (optional)
Mix the shampoo, water, and salt together in a bowl (or in the bottle) until the mixture thickens together. Add any extra essential oils or food coloring if desired.

Monday, December 12, 2011

DIY No-Bake, No Corn Syrup Crunchy Caramel Corn

I really like caramel corn, but I am really horrible at baking it. Somehow I always managed to burn at least part of the batch. I am not really sure how, but some always burns. So after learning how to make simple hard caramel candy, I got to thinking...what if I could make caramel corn using this caramel? I tried it yesterday, and it worked great. No baking and minimal ingredients required. It is the easiest way I have ever tried or seen to make caramel corn. The only trick is to make sure to spread the popcorn out well, drizzle the sauce over it, and then stir and spread it really fast so it doesn't all clump together when it hardens.

Homemade No-Bake, No Corn Syrup Caramel Corn Recipe

  • 6-8 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Salt if desired
  1. Pop the popcorn using your preferred method. I pop mine in sunflower oil on the stove top and then sprinkle on a small amount of salt.
  2. Spread popcorn out in non-stick baking dish (like silicone) or in a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or buttered (or oiled) parchment paper.
  3. Melt the sugar in a small saucepan using the method described here.
  4. Once all of the sugar is entirely melted and caramelized, pour over the popcorn and stir quickly to coat. You can add even more salt now if you like. Let cool and you're done!
  5. Eat once cool, store in sealed containers, or package it up for gift giving.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    DIY Stocking Stuffers: Chocolate Covered spoons

    I started filling the boys stockings on December 1st and let them open one present each night until Christmas Day, when they can open the rest of their presents. So I've already been working on small treats for them. These small chocolate covered spoons are a great tiny chocolate treat for little kids who love to lick the spoon. They are also great to include in a gift basket with coffee or hot chocolate, as chocolate stirring spoons that add extra richness to the drink. If you could find inexpensive mismatched teaspoons at a second hand store that might be a beautiful non-plastic option for drink stirrers, if you are worried about plastic leaching into the hot drink.

    To make these, you simply melt some chocolate, dip the end of the teaspoon in, and let dry on a baking pan on parchment paper before wrapping in cellophane or plastic wrap and tying with a pretty twist tie, ribbon, or string.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    DIY Christmas Gift Ideas: I Love Grandma Button Apron

    The year of Aaron's first Christmas, I made these simple aprons for grandma gifts. They are pretty similar to these tote bags. I simply used an apron that I already had as a pattern and cut two pieces of fabric for the body. I sewed the right sides together, leaving a small opening for turning, turned it right-side-out and top-stitched around the apron. I made simple ties and a head strap out of lace, ribbon, or fabric pieces sewn together, again using the apron I already had a a guide for the length. I sewed these onto the body of the apron after it was completed, but you could also position them before you sew the body and sew them into the seams (like with the straps on this baby carrier). To decorate, I printed out the phrase "I Love Grandma" (or "mom," or "great grandma," etc.) on fabric transfer paper (remember to do it in reverse) and ironed it on.  Last, I sewed on three buttons in the shape of a heart for decoration. These were well received handmade gifts that were fairly quick to make.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    DIY Christmas Gift Ideas: I Love Grandma Button Tote

    The year of Aaron's first Christmas, I made these cute tote bags as gifts for the grandparents. They could also be used as reusable shopping bags, for people you know who would like a green gift. I kept these really simple. I just sewed a rectangle together on three sides, boxed the bottom a little to give it more shape, sewed a simple finished hem on the top, and added ribbon or fabric straps. Then I printed out the phrase "I Love Grandma" (or Grandpa) in fabric transfer paper (remember to do it in reverse) and ironed it on.  Last, I sewed on three buttons in the shape of a heart for decoration. These were well received handmade gifts that were fairly quick to make.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    DIY Place Mats

    This is a super easy sewing project that is good practice for a beginning seamstress. By using fabric you already own, clearance fabric, or fabric from a thrift store piece (even something like a high quality sheet or curtain could be re-purposed) you can dress up your table for pennies. A nice set of place mats could make a lovely gift.

    Homemade Place Mats

    • Fabric
    • Coordinating thread
    1. Cut two pieces of fabric into a 13" by 18" rectangle, or use a place mat you already have that you like the size as a pattern, cutting an extra 1/2 inch around the whole piece for a seam allowance.
    2. Place right sides of the fabric together. Pin to secure edges.
    3. Using 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew almost all the whole way around the rectangle, leaving a few inch gap open for turning.
    4. Turn right side out. Pin open edge shut.
    5. Top-stitch gap shut and around the entire place mat to prevent the place mat from bunching or pulling.

      Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      DIY Miniature Bean Bags

      I been thinking about Christmas presents for a little while now, and one short project that I already finished were these cute miniature bean bags. I made a set of six for both Aaron and Andrew. I choose to make miniature ones and fill them with rice instead of beans. I did this for a couple of reasons. The small size is easier for their small hands to hold, and they will hurt brother less should his head accidentally get in the way of a bean bag. As they get bigger (and/or more careful), maybe I'll make them a bigger set. This quick and easy sewing project makes a great frugal gift for boys.

      Make Your Own Bean (or Rice) Bags
      • fabric scraps
      • thread
      • sewing machine is optional
      • beans or rice to fill the bag
      1. Cut out two rectangles the same size for each bean bag you want to make. I cut my rectangles 3" by 4" for these miniature ones. For regular sized bean bags, I think 4" by 6" would be a good size.
      2. Place two rectangles right sides together. Stitch around three sides, leaving one open for turning and stuffing.
      3. Turn right side out.
      4. Fill with beans or rice.
      5. Whip or slip stitch the open side closed. Stitch very securely; you don't want the contents to spill everywhere.

      Wednesday, September 21, 2011

      DIY Mei Tai Baby Carrier

      Finished carrier hanging
      in our entry way
      I mentioned how we like the baby carriers here, and that I made two to carry our two boys. This is a pretty easy sewing project in general. However, positioning the straps so you don't sew them into a side seam can be a little tricky. I consulted this pretty comprehensive pattern and a few others and then worked out what worked well for us. I think these could also make a nice unique gift for new parents, if you knew the parents would like this type of carrier. Here are some general instructions about how I made these carriers and how you can make your own.*

      Mei Tai or Bēi Dài (背带) Baby Carrier

      • 1 1/2 yards sturdy woven fabric (60" width)
      • 12" square decorative fabric for pocket or applique (optional)
      • thread
      I cut 3 straps (11" by 60"
      and body (18" by 48")
      1. Lay out you fabric on a clean flat surface folded width wise. I wanted a finished body size of about 17" wide by 23" and 5" wide straps and used a 1/2" seam allowance.  I cut 3 strips 11" wide by 60" long (the whole length of my fabric). This is a good length of strap for me, and I am almost six feet tall. You may want shorter straps if you are shorter. I cut one of these strips in half (to make 2 strips 30" long) to use for the short waist straps. Then I cut a rectangle 18" by 24" doubled over, making it 18" wide by 48" long. I cut this with the 18" width on a fold so that I didn't have to sew the top of the carrier shut or worry about sewing the straps into the top seam. But if you don't want to cut on a fold, then just make sure to cut two pieces (18" by 24").
      2. Cut a 12" square of decorative fabric to use for an applique or pocket if you wish.
      3. If you wish to make a pocket, sew a double folded hem along the top of the fabric. Sew a single folded hem around the other three sides.  Center the decorative fabric on the right side of the front piece of body of the carrier. Pin in place and top stitch around the applique/pocket.
      4. For the straps, I folded the 11" strips in half right sides together and sewed lengthwise. I finished one end of each at a 45 degree angle to make a point. Turn straps right side out. I did not choose to top stitch the straps, but you could at this time to give them a more finished look.
      5. Now for the one tricky part: positioning the straps. Lay the front piece of your body fabric right side up. If using one piece for the body like I did, mark the fold line with pin and the whole piece flat. Position the straps at each corner—long finished side in towards the right side of the body, short unfinished end out (at least 3" to use for reinforcing the straps) at each corner. You may want to angle the straps like she shows, but I did this on one and sewed the other straight out perpendicular, and, personally, I didn't notice a huge difference either way.
        All straps pinned securely
      6. Fold and pin the long straps securely to the front of the carrier so that you don't sew them into the side seams. Place the back piece of the body right sides together with the front and pin around all side, leaving a gap for turning at the bottom. Sew around all sides (unless the top is a folded edge), leaving a gap for turning at the bottom. Make sure to stitch all the straps securely; back stitch over them, or sew additional seams to make sure they are secure.
      7. Turn right side out, and unfold the straps.
      8. Pin the bottom seams closed, and top stitch around the whole body. Sew reinforcing rectangles at each corner, over each end of the strap, and then stitch through the middle of the rectangle or make an X through each rectangle. You really want to make sure that the straps are really well reinforced and stitched securely to the body of the carrier!
        Body sides sewn securely
      9. Look over the whole project for any mistakes or weak areas that need attention. Trim any hanging threads, and you're done with the sewing!
      10. Learn how to tie your baby securely to yourself. I found the these instructions helpful. Now you're ready to go hiking with baby.

      *This is what worked well for me and my husband (who is the same height but with wider shoulders) and our two toddler boys. This doesn't mean this is the best design for every adult and baby combo out there. Personally, while I see these used all the time here for even really little babies, I don't think they are the best type of carrier for infants. I am sharing these instructions with the hope that it may be useful to someone wanting to make their own carrier, but use your own judgment as to what would be best for you and your baby. I am no baby wearing or baby carrier expert and take no responsibility for how you choose to make your carrier. Our children are obviously the most precious cargo there is, and we should take great care when transporting them.

      Thursday, August 11, 2011

      DIY Watercolor Paints

      Paint for art projects is another supply that I have put off buying here lest it end up in Andrew's mouth. There are lots of different recipes for all sorts of paints out there. This basic recipe for homemade watercolors can also be found at I Can Teach My Child and lots of other places on the web. I have never tried to make watercolor paints before, but these turned out really well. And just like the glue, I love that these are made with all edible ingredients, just in case. I used a couple of trays that held yogurt cups for a paint tray, but you could use an egg carton, large bottle caps, small cups, or other recycled pieces. Or if you were going to give these as a gift, you could even use a store bought paint tray for really nice presentation.

      Homemade Water Color Recipe

      • 3 Tbsp baking soda
      • 3 Tbsp corn starch
      • 1½ tsp corn syrup (Homemade works great!)
      • 3 Tbsp white vinegar
      • Food coloring
      1. Put baking soda, corn starch, and corn syrup in a bowl. Add the vinegar. Kids will have fun watching it bubble and fizz up.
      2. Mix well.
      3. Separate into try sections small containers.
      4. Add food coloring for each color desired. The gel food coloring I used made really vivid colors, but did take a while to mix in.
      5. Let the paints dry overnight. (Or use now to make your own paint with water pages and let those dry over night).
      6. The next morning the paints will be thicker and in a more solid state, but they will still be wet to the touch.  They are now ready to use!
      7. Have fun painting, and then cover and store for next time.
      I used this recipe to make 12 small amounts of colors (6 for each of my 2 boys), but you can obviously make less colors and have larger amounts.
      Both of my boys had a lot of fun painting dinosaurs with these wonderful watercolors. Their finished pictures look really cool.

        Wednesday, July 20, 2011

        Paper City

        For a little extra gift for Aaron's third birthday, I printed and cut out this neat paper city from Made by Joel, who has a lot of simple ideas for making things for children. As a guy who makes things for his son and daughters, he has some unique ideas I haven't seen before. This is kind of like paper dolls, but for boys too. You could even pair this with new crayons, markers, or paints for a more complete gift. You could also give an older child a pair of scissors and let them cut it out themselves.

        It would also be cool draw your own. You could make your own paper home, city, and family for your children to play with. Maybe I could do this in time for Christmas.

        At the very least, it is a neat rainy day activity that will keep a preschooler entertained for quite a while. It also packs up small for a traveling activity.

        The only problem with a paper city right now is that baby can destroy it like Godzilla. So for right now, it is an activity for Aaron to do while Andrew naps. But that is good too because it is a nice quiet activity.

        Friday, July 8, 2011

        Family Friday: A Happy 4th Anniversary!

        On 7-7-7 Nathan and Anna were married. Since then, counting any place we stayed at about a month or more, we have moved roughly 10 times (distances from 1 mile, to 1,000 miles, to 10,000 miles). We also have two amazing boys now. First, we reduced ourselves by half (2 = 1), and now we have doubled our number (2 + 2 = 4).

        Yesterday, we celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary. We chose to stay home rather than dealing with the hassle of going out and walking or riding a bus quite a ways to someplace nicer than KFC. I made homemade lasagna and Chocolate Chip Brownie Cheesecake. I gave Nate a traditional 4th anniversary gift of fruit (chocolate covered strawberries). Nate gave me a modern gift of a blender and some beautiful lilies (much nicer than geraniums).

        We had a quiet evening at home and watched our wedding videos. Aaron couldn't quite get over that the grandmas were singing before they were grandmas and grandpa was talking before he was a grandpa, but both boys love to watch our wedding with us.

        We want to thank everyone who took part in our wedding and our lives. We continue to grow more in love and look forward to what He will do in our future.

        Thursday, June 30, 2011

        DIY Child's Drum

        This toy is super easy to make, and what child wouldn't love a drum of their very own. I made one for the boys before, when we were living with family, and the boys wanted to be just like their Uncle Caleb. But the recycled pretzel container drum obviously didn't make the cut for items to move half-way around the world, so I made a new drum for Aaron's third birthday, and he loved it.

        First, find a cylindrical container, and clean it. This time, I used a cardboard container that formerly contained 3 kg of ice cream. Next, cover it with paper, and decorate it. Then, find something to use for drumsticks. This time, my husband cut two pieces of bamboo for drumsticks. Incidentally, the thin bamboo stick was sturdy enough to break the brand new saw blade (that's China for you). In the past, we have used other sticks, pencils, and chopsticks for drumsticks.

        If your child wants to pretend to be in a marching band (like Uncle Caleb or Christopher Robin), you can add a string to be worn around the neck, as long as you are there to make sure it is not a strangulation hazard.

        Now our boys are all ready for a hero party. Both boys love this simple and free (well except for the saw blade) toy. Perhaps we'll have to get another "big old kind of ice cream" (as Aaron would say) so that they can each have one.

        Wednesday, June 29, 2011

        DIY Thomas Board Game

        My mom made tons of games for us when we were kids. A lot of them were educational, but some were just for fun. For my son's third birthday I wanted to make him a special board game that he would really enjoy. He loves Thomas the Tank Engine, so I decided to make a Thomas-themed board game. After I decided on the theme, it was a pretty straight forward process.

        First I found a piece of cardboard. I used part of the box from the new toilet seat, but any sturdy cardboard will do. You could probably even buy new cardboard if you wanted to, but I have no idea where I could but it here.

        Then I had my husband print out a map of the Island of Sodor he downloaded from Wikipedia. Because Nate is amazing and computer savy, he was able to make it large enough to fit on two pages and added direction arrows, start here, and end of the line markings to the document before printing. This made my job easier. I just added additional stops, basically black dots, for the trains to stop at along the track. Then I glued the map to the cardboard and put some Thomas stickers we had on for decoration. Next I laminated the whole thing, with tape because that is all we had at the time.

        I also had my husband print some engines from Thomas coloring pages we found online. Again because my husband is so cool, he was able to shrink them down and adapt a Thomas engine to match the rest before printing them out. I colored them, cut them out, and then laminated them onto cardboard. Then I made little stands so the trains can stand up as they move along the track.

        I wanted the game to help emphasize some of the good morals that are taught in the Thomas stories so I made consequence cards to be used when a player lands on a stop that has a name written on the map. Things like helping a friend shunt freight cars move you ahead, but being bossy or boasting move you back a few stops. If you want to make your own game you can download the free printable game cards here.

        The rules are simple:
        1. Roll the die
        2. Move that number of stops
        3. Stay there if it has no name
        4. Or pick a card and follow the consequence if it has a name
        5. The fist one to the end of the line wins
        Or you can simply push the cars around the Island of Sodor and have fun reading the cards, which is what Aaron's favorite thing to do with this game so far. I guess it is good to has gifts that you can grow into.

        I am really pleased with how the game turned out, and Aaron is too even if he plays the game differently than intended. It is a gift Aaron loves and cost me basically nothing to make since we had the cardboard and die already. It did take a little paper, ink, and tape, but the only real expense was my time.

        What do you think would be good themes for board games?

        DIY Gifts

        Miniature Bean Bags
        Here are some Do-It-Yourself Gift ideas:


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