Etsy Blossoms

I love these pillows by utilitarianfranchise. They’re cool and clever, and I think I need some for my living room! They were recently featured on Apartment Therapy too!Uniqueartpendants makes some great jewelry. I had a hard time picking pieces to show – they were all so beautiful.  I love the different collections her pieces are grouped into. It’s easy to see why these little works of arts are carried in so many museums!I love tiny things, and these books by Ruth Bleakley are superb mini treasures. Of course, not all of her books and journals are tiny, and all of them are fabulous!Aren’t the little moth notecards by Moth to a Flame great? I love that they’re actually moth-shaped! After browsing through the beautiful goods here, be sure to check out her other shops, Unearthed Elements, La Petite Abeille Ruche and The Milliner’s Daughter.WrenWillow has silkscreened hand dyed tees for every member of the family – even the dog –  in ridiculously cute designs.  I love the mandolin, and the VW, and of course the luna moth.  Check out her other shop – ArtHistory101 – for more tees, this time art history themed, and buttons and magnets with quotes and art history questions and answers.

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A Tree for Tuesday

This vibrant tree was painted by my talented cousin, Katie (the Texas one – I have two cousins Katie!) and is currently on loan from my parents. I have it in my bedroom, where I see it first thing every morning. I hope you enjoy.

Wet Wednesday

It’s raining again today – it’s been a very wet month here in Austin. Apparently the wettest on record since 1921. Central Texans aren’t exactly good at rainy weather – the traffic has been horrible – but I find this weather comforting. For me fall is supposed to be cooler, wetter and a bit more overcast. Now that summer is officially over, I’m enjoying this little bit of “real” fall.  

I snapped a few photos of the last flowering bush in our parking lot at work for you. The rain had mostly let up for a few minutes, and the sun was shining it’s brightest as it ducked behind the buildings on it’s way to sleep. I love the tiny drops of water on the flowers and leaves. Seeing the sun peek through all of that green took me, just for a moment, back to the woods I played in as a child.

When I got home this little guy was crawling up my storm door. He was moving pretty quickly for a snail – maybe I scared him getting all up close and personal like that. He never quite stood still enough for me to get a good, clear photo, but I thought I’d share with you anyway.

I hope you stay warm and dry tonight, no matter what the weather outside.

oops! Moths vs Butterflies

A big thank you to Lynette Schimming, the photographer who took yesterday’s gorgeous photo. Turns out that was a butterfly, not a moth. Oops! She was kind enough to share these photos, which actually are moths, and I was inspired to look up the differences.

It seems that butterflies normally have thin antennae with balls or clubs on the end. They usually have brigher coloring, thinner bodies, smoother wings with smaller scales, and fly around during the day.

Moths, on the other hand, have a variety of antennae, but usually without the clubs on the end. Their bodies tend to be fatter and furrier, the larger scales on their wings make them look fluffier and they are generally nocturnal.

There are more differences I found (wing structure, cocoon versus chrysalis, resting posture) but the physical ones are the ones I’m most likely to remember and be able to identify. I hope you enjoy these pretty moths (for real this time). Thanks again to Lynnette Schimming for the gorgeous photos! Happy Tuesday!

A Moth for Monday

Photo by Lynette Schimming, found on bugguide.net

Happy Monday everyone – hope your week is off to a good start. I’m enjoying a little cool fall weather here in Austin – it’s only in the 80s today, and will dip into the low 70s tonight! I love the fall and it’s so nice to get a little taste of fall down here in Austin – it doesn’t happen very often. This cool(ish) weather, combined with the fact that October is fast approaching has me in full-on fall-fever. I’m toying with forest-related crafts ideas lately, and one that I thought of was making some felt moths for my yarn wreaths. Moths are one of those things I don’t immediately consider, but when I do I realize how incredibly beautiful they are. Something about them seems much more fall-ish and forest-y than summery butterflies. I’ll share some photos once I create some creatures. In the meantime you should check out bugguide.net for some great photos of moths and other critters.

Eight Ways to Give Great Gifts

There are some basic concepts I use any time I need a gift.  These are in no particular order, and can definitely be combined. I really wanted to come up with a top ten, but most of my ideas fall within these eight categories.

I absolutely adore a good theme. I tend to go completely overboard when it comes to the brainstorming and idea part of planning, and a theme really helps me focus. The best way to pick a theme is to find inspiration. Whether it’s finding that one item that would be perfect for someone (see the pirate themed gift below), or being inspired by a  broader concept that isn’t as obvious (see Family Feud-style gift below).

I once created a pirate-themed gift for my hubby. It all started with an eye patch. The kind you get in the drug store when you have a real medical reason to have one.  I made a polymer clay skeleton jointed with paper clips holding a stuffed heart, a homemade banner that spelled out “AARGH!,” stuck in some gummy skulls and used pirate stickers from the dollar store to decorate a plain bag. It was a hit!

I think it would be fun to do a Family Feud style themed gift. Perhaps for a foodie you could do, “Name something you would put on a pizza” and include a nice pepperoni, pizza crust mix, a pizza spice blend, tomato sauce and some beer to have with your pizza.  You could really get creative with these, just spend some time looking online for questions and find one that inspires you!

Often theme gifts are also container gifts, but container gifts aren’t always theme gifts. In this category I put gift baskets, stockings, gift bags, really any container filled with smaller gifts.  I am a fan of this type of present, and I tend to do some variation every Christmas for several folks. The container can be anything you can imagine. Think beyond the traditional basket and consider, for example, covering shoe boxes with fabric or decorative paper and embellishments, or using vintage trays picked up at a a thrift store to gather your items. 

One of my nieces loved was a pretty little purse filled with lip gloss, a change purse (with change), a key ring, a necklace, and a tiny stuffed toy.

The year that I gave everyone a stocking for Christmas was one of my favorite version of the container gift. I filled felt stockings with toys and games and candy. We spent the morning playing with paddle balls, punching balloons, trick puzzles, and noisemakers, all while hopped up on sugar. Good times.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing! I can google a “child of the 80s” list and spend an hour reminiscing (if anyone will listen). The key to using memories in your gifts is to know the recipient pretty well. It’s not enough to know their age and assume everyone who was alive in the 70s will go bonkers over something from “The Love Boat.” If you don’t know them very well, skip over this one. But if you know someone fairly well, and pay attention when people tell their stories, you can come up with gifts that are both ridiculously inexpensive and truly tear-worthy. 

For a class once I wrote a paper about my mother and the things she had taught me. It was basically a string of stories from my childhood. For Mother’s Day I printed up that paper book-style, and made a cover out of fabric glued onto cardboard. My mom absolutely loved it, and it cost me only time and a little effort. I didn’t buy a single thing for it.

I’m a big fan of handmade gifts. My mom is just about the most creative person I’ve ever known, and growing up we were pretty broke. We made A LOT of gifts. This is an area where some skill and knowledge can come in handy, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t make a nice handmade gift. I truly believe anyone can, if they are willing to put in the time and a tiny bit of effort. If you can follow basic instructions you can make a nice gift! 

My grandmother had a little decorative wall hanging by her front door for longer than I was alive. It was something I think my dad made for her. It was a trio of canning lids (the flat, lid part, not the ring) painted black, with flowers cut out and pasted into the center of each, glued onto a ribbon in a row. I think there was a bow at the top. It wasn’t a work of art,  but it was displayed proudly where everyone would see it every single day.

Regifting. There, I said it.  If you can get over the guilt you know you do it. I think there are some basic rules you can use to minimize regifting guilt. Don’t regift something that’s obviously used. Don’t regift something within the same group (don’t give your brother what your mom gave you last year, especially if she’s right there!). Don’t regift something that was given or received with sentimentality.  If it is meaningful to you, or to the person who gave it to you, don’t regift! At one point I used a system where I stored gifts I had received, new in the box, with a post-it on the outside saying who had given it to me, and the date. Then before I went shopping for a gift I would check out my regifting closet shelf.

Secondhand gifts can also be from thrift stores or yard sales. Really! That piggy bank on yesterday’s post – thrift store purchase, $5.00. It’s a cute vintage piece that cleaned up well. All it needs is a rubber stopper and it would be perfect for a gift for the right person. We once found a really cool bird feeder at a garage sale, cleaned it up, and gave it to a family member who loves to feed the birds. He was thrilled! I think the key here is to find things that are in good condition, and are good gifts for the intended recipient. Also, there are some people (you know who you are) that are never going to be happy with a secondhand gift. Just don’t even bother. Luckily you can pick something from another category!

Everyone likes food. Everyone. Handmade or store bought, sweet or salty, old favorite or new discovery. There is something out there to tickle the fancy of any person on your gift list. In most cases I like to make my own food gifts. Even if you’re not experienced I guarantee there are yummy treats you can make all on your own and even become famous for among your friends and family.  One of my favorite techniques for finding a new recipe for gifts is to head over to allrecipes.com and start poking around. Look for the recipes with a lot of stars and a lot of ratings. Then read the comments. The cooks who post there are usually quite adept at recipe adaptations, and with just a little research you can have a signature gift. I’m just going to throw this out there – Mom’s Zucchini Bread. Unbelievable!

A surprise party fits the bill here, so does a big trip or a ticket to a sporting event. But so does a movie marathon at home, help running errands, or game night. The key here is to make it truly an event, and make it something the recipient will appreciate. This year for my husband’s birthday I got everyone to meet up at the bowling alley. There was a vague “Big Lebowski” theme (Ok, mostly just the white Russians), cupcakes, little plastic trophies, and party favor buttons with bowling balls or my husband’s face on them. I didn’t spend too much money, and didn’t go all out and extravagant, but we had a blast.

I’ll admit it, I’ve maligned the gift certificate as a gift option. In the past I thought it was pretty much a cop-out. More recently I’ve found myself appreciating the well-thought out gift certificate. I pretty much only get a pedicure these days when I get a gift certificate for it. The important thing about giving gift certificates is choosing something the recipient will enjoy, and choosing something they may not splurge on themselves.

Coupons fall in this category too. You’ve seen the coupon books with cute little illustrations and promises to do one favor or another for the recipient. I’ve made them, given them, and received them. My experience has been that the thought is appreciated, but most of the time you would do those same favors regardless, and the recipient is probably not going to tear out a coupon and demand a favor. These really can be great on a budget though, and perhaps the coupons could be more of an announcement of something you are definitley going to do, maybe even with a specific date.

So tell me, do you have any other types of gifts you like to give? Any tips or tricks for giving on a budget or stories of your favorite gifts (given or received?).

Etsy Blossoms

I’ve got some fun finds today for (a very late) Etsy Blossoms. These finds are the start of a new series here on Blossom Daily.  I’ve been thinking about the holidays and planning gift ideas lately, and I thought it might be fun to do a series on gifts. Today’s Etsy shops all have fantastic building blocks for beautifully wrapped gifts. I’m a firm believer in a beautifully presented present, and the key to that is creativity. These shops make it easy!

First up is The Gilded Bee. These amazing paper products are just crying out to be attached to thoughtful gifts. I love the idea of using paper flowers on simply wrapped packages. You can also see more creativity on her blog.

Have you ever wrapped presents with fabric? I especially love to use fabric with great textures, like the fantastic chenilles on Chenille Bliss.  This great collection of fabric includes some choice bits of barkcloth in addition to the chenille. Don’t forget to check out her Other Etsy shop and Christmas Etsy shop.

I love the muslin printed ribbon and Parisian themes from French Affairs.  There’s just the right amount of classic, ornamental, and a touch of glitter. There are also some great Halloween items in her shop. And don’t forget to check out her Other Etsy shop.

Buttons have so many uses, other than just fastening clothing. The Elusive Lemon has some beautiful buttons – I love these wooden ones. What a great simple packaging idea – a button threaded onto some twine, tied around a gift.

Finally I’m ending with some super-cute vintage themed tags and cards from The Paper Place.  I think the “Baked Goodies” tag at the top would be great on christmas cookies, perhaps with some bakers twine? I love the movie clipboards too – so retro fun!

Have a good week everyone!