Category Archives: Crafy Crap

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. . .


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!


Simple and inexpensive throw pillows

I love how a few really great throw pillows can transform a piece of furniture and really make a room.  A store that always does a great job of using throw pillows to make a piece of furniture look amazing or tie together a room is my beloved Pottery Barn.  Although I have bought my fair share of pillow covers there, it’s typically only when they are having a sale.  And even then they can be pretty pricey.

If you are looking for throw pillows in bold, interesting prints, take a stroll through your favorite home store.  Go past the bedding and head straight to dining.  There you will find linen napkins in a wide array of colors and prints which are perfectly sized for an 18″ x 18″ pillow cover.  I happened to be shopping at Pier One recently when I fell in love with some aviary print napkins that happened to be perfect for my basement.  $5 later I was walking out with the start to a pretty new pillow.

I bought a run-of-the-mill 18″ x 18″ pillow insert from Jo-Ann Fabrics (with my 40% off coupon, of course).  I don’t sew (believe it or not) so the next step was to sweetly ask my mother-in-law if she wouldn’t mind helping me out.   She’s an expert at sewing, but even novices tell me that making a pillow is a piece of cake. 

Instead of dabbing mouths at the dinner table, the napkins that I fell in love with are now poised and ready to collect drool on the couch.  The best part — the whole project cost less than $20.



Monkey business!

Ever notice how much CRAP kids have these days?  I will digress momentarily into one of those cliche “when I was a kid” rants, but bear with me.  When I was a kid we got a couple of gifts from our parents and a little cash from grandma and grandpa.  A cake, some streamers, and maybe a few balloons that my mom blew up herself — no fancy helium.  And we thought it was great.  So I am always amazed at the massive pile of gifts that my nieces and nephew get for their birthdays.  I have on many occasions observed kids opening a birthday gift and giving it about 5 seconds of attention before tossing it aside to open the next 25. 

So Andy and I are trying to move away from toys and other random stuff for gifts.  For our niece and nephew’s (the twins) 6th birthday, we decided to give them an experience — a day of fun with Uncle Andy and Aunt Meghan.  Who wouldn’t want that?!  It’s as much a gift for their parents as it is for them, really.  The plan is to take them to lunch then an indoor playplace called Monkey Joe’s.  We will finish out the day with ice cream.  Andy might be more excited than they are.

Anyhoo, I didn’t want to show up empty-handed to the party, so I made them these appropriately-themed bouquets.

They were actually pretty easy to make thanks to my Cricut and my Xyron 500.  I made the monkeys using the circle shape from the Celebrations cartridge — I think I did 5″ for the head, 4.25 for the mouth, 2.75 for the ears and 0.5″ for the eyes.  The other pieces were made using Celebrations and Doodletype.  I used an envelope template from Paper Source and banana print paper from the Reminisce Monkey Business line for the envelopes (4 bar).  A note in the envelopes told them about the plan for the day.

I decorated the pots with ribbon and put flower arrangement foam in the bottom of each.  I then attached the cutouts to wooden skewers with hot glue.  Once everything was arranged, I topped it all off with some yellow crinkle paper.  Since I used scrap for the cutouts and raided the kitchen drawer for the skewers, the whole project cost me only about $6.  It probably took me about two hours total over two days to make them.

This type of project is also great for centerpieces.  I have made them for baby showers and birthday parties — I included a few examples below. 

The monkey bouquets were a big hit and most importantly,  the twins are super excited about their big day!






My latest obsession:

As a DIY’er, I have a huge appreciation for things that others have made with their own hands.  I’m in heaven on State Street in Madison where you can find tons of handmade items in various little shops.  It was at a shop in Madison that I got the inspiration for my magnetic photo frames.  So when I discovered Etsy I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

purseThe self-described place to buy and sell all things handmade is a mecca of cool stuff.  From photography to jewelry, all items are created by the people who choose to sell their items there (similar to ebay but without the bidding).  Many sellers even offer custom made items.  When I was looking for a chic purse in black and white, I stumbled on AbbaDabbaBags.  She didn’t have any bags in black and white at the time so I contacted her to tell her what I was looking for.  Not only was she willing to make the bag to my specifications, she was enthusiastic and had it done and shipped within a week.  I even got to choose the color of the lining (Tiffany blue, of course).  And all for about $40.  Seriously.  That’s my purse to the left.

Then I discovered the Scrabble tile pendant rage.  Seller HomeStudio makes some sweet designs for an sweeter deal — 032209-007choose any four pendants for $28.  This was the perfect package because I would not have been able to choose between the four I fell in love with.  I have worn the bird pendant a few times since getting them and have gotten several compliments.  And this seller was equally great to work with — when my package arrived postage due they not only reimbursed me the $0.34 due, they refunded the original shipping costs.  It’s pretty rare to get service like that anymore.

032209-0041Etsy is also a great place to satisfy my cupcake obsession.  I am in love with all things cupcake — wrapping paper, cards, baby onesies and even the real thing on occasion.  I saw that some sellers offer felt cupcakes that can be used as pincushions.  Adorable!  Determined to try this out, I bought a pattern from seller Umecrafts.  I don’t sew, but her instructions were easy and she even offers additional tutorials on her blog.  Again, another great buying experience.  My first pincushion turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.

Etsy is my “happy place.”  A place where creativity and consumerism converge for the ultimate shopping experience.  Check it out and I guarantee that you too will be hooked.


Decorating tip: Pottery Barn “on the cheap”

I won’t pretend that I’m not flattered.  I have had several friends tell me that they dig my taste when it comes to decorating.  Some have even asked if I would come over and decorate their houses.  I wish they weren’t kidding.  The idea of spending someone else’s money to redecorate an entire room is my idea of the ultimate fantasy.  While I am no professional decorator I have found that friends like my ideas so I have decided to share some of my favorites here on my long-neglected blog.

I get a few catalogs that I like to think of as my own version of porn.  One example is the aforementioned Paper Source catalog.  But paper isn’t the only thing that gets me hot.  Picture me turning a Pottery Barn catalog sideways, carefully eyeing the gorgeous subject of a photograph from every possible angle, mumbling “Oh yeeeeeaaahhh” to myself.  That, my friends, is the life of a home decor junkie.

But let’s be real.  Pottery Barn is generally pricey — some would say overpriced — and I sometimes just can’t bring myself to pay their prices for the objects of my desire.  So I find an alternative or — no surpise here — do it myself.

Take for example these framed photographs that caught my eye this past summer.  Lovely, yes?


But this set of six framed photos will run you around $199 (although I think they’re on sale now).  Since something like this was perfect for the family room I was decorating I decided to create my own framed photos of nature.

While on vacation in Marquette I did some hiking in the woods behind our house, snapping photos of pretty greenery.  I tried to take advantage of the sunlight whenever possible.  I also took some pictures on the beach of Lake Superior.  Back in Waukesha I took some photos of plant life while walking Steve at Minooka Park.  I am not much of a photographer, but when all was said and done I had several great photos to choose from.

I enlarged the photos to 8″x10″ and purchased simple black frames with a white mat from Kohl’s.  A grand total of $40 later, I had my own series of framed photos .  These photos are not only special because they were taken in a place that is important to me, they look pretty darn good on my wall (if I do say so myself).


I would advise that if you decide to do a similar project that you order matte prints.  They look much nicer in a frame.  I neglected to check that box when I ordered these and I couldn’t bear to waste these prints.

Anyway, if this idea floats your boat but you don’t want to wait until spring to take your own photos, feel free use these photos that I took and never used.  And if you love the look of the apothecary jars, go to TJ Maxx or Marshall’s.  They have a wide selection at very reasonable prices.

Happy decorating!