Fun family tradition: gift bag exchange

When Andy and I moved in together and celebrated our first Christmas in our new house, I was amazed and confused by the number of Christmas decorations he owned.  Once we were in the house, his parents made a habit of bringing a new plastic container of his stuff with them on every visit, forcing him to take ownership of all of the things he had been storing at their place.

Tubs and tubs of Christmas ornaments, handmade pillows, candle holders and various other handmade knick knacks.  I asked him where all of this came from, and he explained that his family had a tradition of exchanging gift bags filled with goodies, and he had been included in the tradition — either through gift bags given to his mom or the gift bags she made.  Between the four tubs of stuff, there were more decorations that we would ever be able to use.

The first couple of years we were married, we received gift bags as a couple — from his mom, his aunts and his cousins.  Some would have a theme — one of his cousins, for example, sells Avon and gives everyone Avon products and candy each year.  This year, Andy’s Aunt Shelley’s gift bags had a clever Margaritaville theme.  In the gift bag was a palm tree cutout with the lyrics to Margaritaville on it.  Each gift in the bag, individually wrapped in brightly-colored tissue paper, corresponded to a line in the song.  A CD of Jimmy Buffet Christmas songs, for example, was tagged with the line, “Strumming my six string, on my front porch swing. . .”

Last year I decided it was time we reciprocate in the exchange, so I started collecting items the day after Christmas.  For my first gift bags I decided to go with a theme that would be both familiar and fun for me — holiday cocktails.  I had a blast buying things and putting the bags together.  Below are pictures of the finished product and its contents.

Contents included: a “Cheer” ornament, martini shaker or wine glass ornament, tea towel, snowflake cocktail napkins, snowflake drink stirs, and handmade wine charms.

My favorite part of the bags might have been the tag.  I used a Christmas martini stamp from Impression Obsession and 4 bar scalloped ovals from Paper Source to create the tags, which I colored and embellished with glitter.

I’ve already started collecting items for next year’s gift bags.  My theme will be — wait for it — sweet treats!  Another excuse to indulge my cupcake obsession.  🙂



Christmas crafts galore!

Oh, Christmas.  I don’t ever remember feeling this overwhelmed or as rushed to get things done leading up to Christmas.  Maybe it’s because I decided to take on a bigillion crafting projects this year, starting with our Christmas cards.  Adorable?  Yes, if I do say so myself.  Time consuming and tedious?  ZOMG yes.  Do you know that the bitch woman at the post office actually gave me a hard time about making cards that were not only — GASP — square in shape, but “lumpy” to boot?  She acted as if I was committing some cardinal sin against the US Postal Service by choosing to send such a card.  Funny, I don’t remember complaining when I shelled out the $0.88 a piece to mail them (ouch).  And last I checked, the government is always on the prowl for more money, so take my postage payment and shuttie. 

Unfortunately it doesn’t photograph well, but you get the idea of what sort of abomination I dared to send out at Christmastime.  Square!!!1!!1!

On a ligther note, let’s turn to my obsession with monograms.  I will admit that if I could have the letter P mowed into my front yard I would probably do it.  I just hope that other people are as delighted by seeing their initials on things, because this was one of the themes of my handmade Christmas gifts this year.

Exhibit A: ornaments adorned with a monogram and varying delightful embellishments.  Fun.

My Cricut, some vinyl and a little ribbon were all I needed for this project.  Oh, and clear glass ornaments.

Exhibit B: Personalized hand soap

This idea was passed along to me by a friend who had discovered an awesome blog called How Does She. . .  It’s chock full of fun and creative gift ideas for the holidays.  I loved the hand soap idea, but since I don’t have a need for gifts for teachers, I made them for friends using monograms and simple designs cut from vinyl.  I chose colors that would match their bathrooms.  I love how they turned out, and since I already had the vinyl, they cost me a whopping $1 each to make.  Check out the tutorial for easy instructions.

Heaven on a stick

And finally, I saved the most delicious project for last.  Thanks again to How Does She. . . I was inspired to try making Oreo cookie suckers for co-workers and friends.  I’m not much of a baker and don’t usually make treats for the holidays, but these were too cute to resist.

Check out their tutorial for step by step directions.  They take much better photos than I do and represent the cookies’ cuteness much better than I can.  I would like to add a few editorial comments, however.

  1. Oreos are apparently the most fragile cookies ever made.  My first batch was made with regular old Oreos and I broke several before it occurred to me to microwave the cookies before attempting to twist them apart.  8-10 seconds does the job.
  2. I would recommend using the choclate that is specifically made for melting and using for projects like these.  They melt perfectly in the microwave and were super easy to work with.  They’re always available at Michaels in various colors, but I got mine at the grocery store off of a holiday baking display.
  3. After dipping the lollipop stick in chocolate and gently pressing the two halves together, refrigerate the cookie pops before attempting to dip them in the chocolate.  A few times I tried to dip too soon and they fell apart on me.  Lesson learned.

I had a lot of fun once I figured out what I was doing and got the hang of it.  I dipped the regular Oreos in white chocolate and decorated them with crushed peppermint, sprinkles (or jimmies if you’re from Wisconsin) and crushed Oreos (an attempt to make use of my mistakes — see #1).

Then I dipped mint Oreos in milk chocolate and decorated them with crushed peppermint, chopped Andes mints (which you can buy pre-chopped at the grocery store) and sprinkles.  FYI: the Oreos with the mint filling came apart much easier than the regular Oreos.  They seem to have a softer filling.

I also loved their Oreo sucker holder which they again generously provide a tutorial for, but I just didn’t have the patience or time.  Instead, I bought some baskets on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics, shoved a foam block inside, popped in the suckers and made it all pretty with crinkle paper.  Not as cute as their sucker holder, but it serves the same purpose and it was really easy.

My next project will be themed gift bags that have become an annual tradition in Andy’s family.  The women in his family exchange gift bags filled with fun things, including store bought and handmade gifts and goodies.  They often have a theme — for example, last year, Andy’s Aunt Shelley’s gift bags has a sweets theme.  My favorite item in the bag was a “P” shaped ornament that looked like a cookie.  Our theme?  Holiday cocktails.  More on the gift bags soon. . .


Birthday hat pictures

Well, the hat was a big hit. And my niece looked adorable in it. And Steve never has to wear it again, so all is right in the world.


ZOMG, cupcakes.

I’m a little obsessed with cupcakes.  I think they’re just about the cutest things to ever grace bakery shelves, and these days they can be found just about everywhere from wrapping paper to jewelry.  Yes, even Tiffany’s is in the spirit. 

So when it comes to throwing parties, I like cupcakes to take center stage.  I recently had a blast hosting a baby shower for my good friend Katie.  Katie decorated her nursery in yellow and lavendar gingham with butterflies.  Using that as my inspiration, I made lavendar gingham invitations, yellow and lavendar butterfly garland, and various other paper goodies.  The piece de resistance?  Giant cupcakes with yellow frosting and lavendar butterflies made from edible paper.  Seriously.  The butterflies were edible.  I was in love with these cupcakes.



Then fast forward to today, when I just finished what might just be my cutest project ever.  My adorable niece Morgen turns two this December, and what better theme for a 2 year-old’s birthday party than cupcakes?  We’ll be celebrating on Thanksgiving since the whole family will be together — a rare and special occasion.  Not only did I wrap her birthday gifts in my favorite cupcake paper, I made tags to match, complete with glitter.  Then I decided to try my hand at a party hat.  I’ve seen many DIY hats on paper crafting websites so I decided to make one decorated with what else — a cupcake.  And ZOMG is it cute.  Although Andy begged me not to, I made Steve model it for me.  It’s like he knew it was pink — he ran the other way when he saw it in my hand and you can just tell from the expression on his face that he’s pissed at me. 

Well, anyway, I’ll have to post pictures of Morgen wearing it at her party.  I’m hoping she’ll like it more than Steve does.  Until then — have a cupcake!  They’re not just cute, they’re delicious too!


I am, in fact, a paper geek.

That being the case, why not share my obsession with the rest of the world?

Creativity is in the air in our house.  Andy recently blogged about his very cool canoe trip on the Wisconsin River and started picking up the guitar again.  And I’ve been crafting up a storm.  Why, you ask?  Well, it just so happens that I recently opened my own shop on Etsy – the website to buy and sell handmade items.  I’m huge Etsy fan and frequent shopper, so why not join in the fun?

Paper Geek is my pride and joy – a collection of some of my favorite items that I have been making and giving as gifts.  While I definitely won’t get rich off of it, I’m having a blast selling this stuff.  Another excuse to craft and another way to make people smile.

I’m currently in the process of re-stocking and listing items since being the lucky “victim” of a sneak attack by The Handmade Movement two weeks ago – I was humbled and honored to be “attacked.”  So anyway, stop by and have a look when you have a chance.  And if you know someone who might like my stuff, pass the link along. 

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  Stop back for updates.

But for now, back to my geekery. . .


Steve’s Spot

All up in my grill








Oh!  Hi!

Blogging hasn’t been a priority lately, but we’ll be back soon!


Steve’s Spot

What you are seeing here is a dog, comfortably snuggled under the covers on MY side of the bed, refusing to move.

And why should he? It’s Steve’s world — I just live in it.


Steve blankets