Link Love

Gift giving is a popular subject online – there are a lot of great ideas out there. I thought I’d share a few of my current favorites.

Author Seth Godin ruminates on the difference between a present, a favor, and a gift – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/06/gifts-misunderstood.html

I found The Gifted Blog after Charissa mented over here, and I’m so tickled I did – what a beautiful blog with so much gift inspiration!

Sites like Make, Craft and Instructables not only provide inspiration, but also detailed instructions on a gazillion projects.  Even though some of these are WAY outside my skill level, and most of them are not things I’ll ever make myself, I find lots of inspiration here, and more things that I feel I could tackle than I ever will have time for. (Bonus link – Jim Henson making puppets! http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/09/jim_henson_making_muppets.html)

I couldn’t even begin to cover all of the blogs with free instructions, patterns, downloads – internet-land has everything you might ever want to find, if you take the time to look for it. Some of my favorites are How About Orange , Jinjerup and Skip to my Lou.

I hope you find some inspiration in these links!

Advertisements

Etsy Blossoms

Hey everyone – happy Thursday!  I hope you’ve all had a good week so far. I have some amazing Etsy deals for you today, and a few tips for making the most of your spending while still supporting indpenedent creators. I have five amazing shops to share today, and I found every one of them by searching for “Clearance.”

First up is the fantastical jewelry of ChYMieRa.  I have a soft spot in my heart for fantasy nightmarish fun, and I love these delicate and dark creations! Her other shop, MayberryGeneralStore, is a cool old-timey shop that seems a perfect, softer twin to the creepy cool of ChYMieRa.Tip: PIF = Pay It Forward, this is a clue that this seller is passing along some great deal in the past to you, in spirit, through her fabulous deals. The idea is that you do the same in the future. There are some great deals out there if you search PIF, and it’s a sweet concept.  Just don’t forget to pass along your good fortune to someone else! AmysPinPals has some great destashing going on right now. I have some of this owl fabric, but in color. So cute! Amy also does custom sewing projects and has some beautiful examples up in her shop.  Tip – search for destash and take advantage of other folks clearing out their unused supplies!

Wicked Soaps has some wicked deals right now on summery soaps and scents.  The descriptions are simply mouth-watering. I think any time of year is the right time of year for lavender martini soap and milk and honey lotion. Click over to her blog for more soapy goodness and some occasional Robert Pattinson. Tip: off season = big savings!  

Mama feels Bueno stocks beautiful trims and applique that could easily transform a simple garment into something drop-dead gorgeous. I love all of the beautiful butterflies too! Tip: Combine shipping! The shipping on these bits of trim is low to begin with, but when you look at how low it is with another item you’ll buy the shop out!

 Remember When Vintage by butterflyemoon is a nice assortment of vintage goodies, and every single thing in her shop right now is buy-one-get-one half price. I just love the Julie London albums – aren’t they cool! The drum-style ice bucket would be great on a retro bar, even if it’s not Christmas. When you have a moment check out her blog to learn more about her great eco-village learning center plans, and her other Etsy shop, Circle in the Wood for some pretty wire-wrapped jewelry.  Tip: look for storewide sales, and take advantage of them!

To sum up – search for what’s on sale. The terms: “Destash,” “Clearance,” “Sale,” “Discount,” “BOGO,” “PIF” and “Pay it Forward,”  are all good places to start. Combine shipping and look for things that could be categorized as last season. And above all, have fun shopping!

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?).

Budget Conscious

It’s not hard to find ideas on how to save money these days.  For very real reasons frugality is on most minds right now. Although I don’t always practice it, I have a lifetime’s worth of training in serious savings. My mother was trained by my grandfather, who grew up during the Depression, and didn’t spend an extra penny on anything. He was quite proud of the fact that he was cheap. My mom was quite creative, and even though we didn’t have much money growing up she certainly knew how to make every dime stretch. Gift giving was one area I think my mom excelled, and I’ll share some of her ideas here over the next few months.

Of all the advice I’ve seen about saving money on presents, the most effective is probably of the “don’t give gifts” variety.  This usually involves discussing with family/friends and deciding as a whole to skip the gift giving part of holidays, especially Christmas. While this may be a great way to save money, it’s not at all fun.  And regardless of how many people you can convince when it comes to winter holidays, there will always be occasions when you need a present. Birthdays, weddings, baby showers, graduations, anniversaries…the list goes on and on. There is also something great about “just because” gifts.  So I’m just going to skip over the ways to not give gifts, and go straight to how you can afford to give great gifts!

In my humble opinion there are two things you have to have to give a good gift: a little forethought, and a little creativity. I give myself months to come up with presents. I start thinking about Christmas in August, and other occasions are usually in the back of my mind. I keep lists of gift ideas for various people. For example, I was out with my hubby last weekend and he said something that made me think of a great present for him, and I pulled out my little notebook and scribbled it down.  Now that I have an idea for him I can start looking for ways to make it happen on the cheap.  In the past we’ve limited each other to tiny dollar amounts for gifts so that money could go elsewhere. He came up with my favorite on a budget of $5.00. We were engaged and saving money for the wedding, and he had gathered photos different people had taken of us on their digital cameras and cell phones and had them printed up. He then took a collage frame we already had up with pictures of a party years ago, and replaced the photos with some of us. The rest were placed in the little plastic album they give you for free.  It was the sweetest gift – made me cry and everything. 

Some of the ideas I’ll share with you involve a little money, but some will be completely free!  A lot of those will involve making something, but I’ll try to share things that don’t require tons of skill, or tons of extra supplies. When you’re ready to start planning gifts I would suggest you jot down a list of people first. Then take a bit of an inventory of what your resources are. Do you have any skills? Any supplies or materials? Any money? Anything lying around the house you don’t need? Even old, worn out clothes can be a resource – they are fabric after all!  Think outside the box and get ready for the gushing thanks you will receive when you present your thoughtful and creative gift!

Are you inspired? I hope so! I know I am!  Tomorrow I’m going to start with some basic ideas that I hope will be a good jumping off point. I’ve got some tips for Etsy Blossoms on Thursday about buying handmade on a budget, and Friday I’ve got some link love.  Oh, and wait till you see what I’ve got next week!

 

Family Ties

"Solace" by my sister, Abigail Murray, at http://www.violetbloomart.com

Hi everyone. Sorry for my disappearance – missed blogging, that’s for sure! Unfortunately we had a couple of deaths in my husband’s family, so my time has been spent offline with family, celebrating the lives of two wonderful aunts, and taking comfort in having a close-knit family for support.

These past couple of weeks really emphasized to me the importance of family. When I was a kid my dad always told my siblings and I, “be nice to your sisters and brother, they’ll be the only constants your whole life. No matter what else happens, they will always be there, and they’ll be your best friends.”  It took years for that to sink in, and a lot of experiences to truly believe it, but here I am, headed towards middle age (gasp!) and I really do know in my heart that my family is the most important thing in my life. Through the years I also have come to understand that it’s not that way for everyone. I feel very lucky that I got that with my own family, and when I married my sweet hubby I gained a big, close, supportive family that truly considers me one of their own. I hope that all of you have some family in your lives (whether blood related, adopted, or gathered) that can provide you solace when you need it.

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!

Seashell Inspiration

I love going to Anthropologie for inspiration. I can’t afford most of the beautiful things there, though I occasionally splurge on a cute kitchen accessory. Last week my sister was wandering around there and absolutely fell in love with these bottles.

Not so much the price tag though. By the weekend she had a plan to create her own version to display her favorite shells. My Saturday sales-going provided several interesting bottles, and we spent Saturday evening crafting! I tried to take pictures of the process so I could share it with you all!

The first step is to gather your supplies. We used vintage bottles, seashells in assorted sizes, polymer clay, and bakeable adhesive.

After washing the bottles thoroughly and pairing them up the shells, we decided to add small shells inside the bottles, just for decoration.

Next we decided on the colors of polymer clay that would look good with the bottles and shells. We mixed colors for most of them.

We wrapped the lip of the bottle with a thick coil of clay and pressed the shell deeply into the clay.

We pulled the shell out and applied a good thick layer of glue to the clay.

Then, we pressed the shell into the clay again, pressing it around the shell and stabilizing the whole thing.

Then we baked the whole thing according to the polymer clay package. Be sure the combination of your shell and bottle will fit in your oven – we just barely made it!

After cooling, you have a beautiful new display piece. These look great grouped together!

Thanks all, I hope you enjoy! Happy crafting!