Tag Archives: Gifts

Little Big Guift Guide: Thriftiest Stocking Stuffers

19 Dec

Today is the last installment of a three-part series I’m doing on inexpensive, yet still fun and creative and useful, Christmas gifts. (Thrifty & Thriftier versions here.) The goal is to give items that would be a welcome gift and not just junk that will likely be tossed out at the end of the day. To be included in this gift guide it must be useful, lovely, and budget-friendly.This “Thriftiest” guide is the longest and most packed with ideas, probably because I’m used to having no budget to work with. I’ve had to get creative and I’m happy to share these ideas with you.

Almonds:  my Mom likes to put toasted almonds in our stockings. I think this is a great idea with or without a spiced, coated seasoning. My aunt once gave us all toasted almonds mixed with M&Ms, and in the days following Christmas I put it in a candy dish and visitors to the house fell upon it like they had never seen almonds or M&Ms before. Sometimes, it’ the little things.

Heirlooms: for my birthday my Dad gave me his Brownie camera that had been collecting dust in my parents’ closet for fifty years. I’ve been looking for a Brownie at yard sales and flea markets for forever, not knowing that my Dad had one in perfect condition all this time. It was his first camera, purchased when he was about thirteen. Receiving this gift was so much better than finding it secondhand: he remembers how it works and can help me open it and load the film.

Handmade: my lovely and talented twitter friend, Erica, crocheted a hat for a cousin and embellished it with buttons from her late Grandpa’s shirt. Such a wonderful, powerful gift.

Custom Spice Mixes:  my Dad loves to cook and he often tucks spice blends and rubs in my stocking. An even thriftier (and quite possibly better, in my opinion) option would be to make your own rubs and spice blends and give those instead.

Dried Herbs: Along the same line as spice rubs above, the last couple years I’ve been harvesting rosemary from my garden, drying it and sealing it in decorated plastic bags and put that in my family’s stockings.

CDs: I like to include burned cds in my family members’ stockings. The thing to remember with this option is to make it appropriate to their tastes. For my aunt I gave her meditative music she could paint to, for my uncle I gave him acoustic guitar-heavy indie music, and for my parents I gave them the nutcracker suite. Decorating the CD is a must.

Bookmarks & Artwork: If you are lucky enough to have some skill with a pencil or a paintbrush, you can make individual cards or bookmarks for gift-giving. I’m friends with a couple who did this and I still treasure and use them.

Your Own Recording:  aside from giving a mix CD, if you have musical talent you can give a CD of your own songs. A friend of mine is making one for this year and I can’t wait to get it.

Cuttings & Seeds: do you have a plant that everyone admires? I’ve had friends request cuttings of my Jade plants and other succulents for birthdays and holidays. My friend Jake has a ton of marigolds that produce seeds like crazy, and in addition to produce from his garden he gave me a cupful of seeds so that I can grow my own golden ruffled beauties.

Your Talent: Coupons are the standard for the thrifty gift and for a reason: they are awesome. Can you offer to baby sit? Do you give good massages? Skill with photoshop? You could offer to paint someone’s portrait, bring them lunch at work, make them a custom headband, run errands for them, bake them bread. Illustrate your coupon beautifully, and you have a winner.

Photos & Thrifted Frames: Christmas is the time of year my parents traditionally gave photos of us kids to the relatives (usually school or family church portraits). Since I’m handy with a camera, I like to print out some of my favorite shots of the kid and give those. Our thrift stores are always bursting with frames, so for under $2.00 I can give a lovely framed photo.

Oranges: Christmas is the time of year when citrus is in season. On her way into the Valley my aunt stops off at a local grower and buys sacks mandarins so sweet they are like candy. Sometimes they end up in the stockings but more often than not we dump all the mandarins out for Christmas snacking and then divide up the leftovers.

Thrifted Goodness: When I go thrifting I always keep my eyes peeled for things someone on my Christmas list might like. This requires you to have a pretty good feel for another’s taste, and the knowledge that they are cool with receiving vintage items. I never pass off something secondhand as new (though I know people who do). I have no shame in giving something that’s secondhand as long as it is awesome. For example, I gave my friend Stef, who adores both vintage and Yosemite, this ceramic souvenir leaf dish from the 1950s.

Homegrown Harvest: I touched on Jake giving me the fruits of his garden for my birthday, and this extends to stocking stuffers, too. Citrus plants are bountiful this time of year, as are apples and pomegranates. I know Californians like me have an advantage, but some things can be harvested in summer and saved for gift-giving now. Dried chilies, sunflower seeds, small pumpkins make great gifts.

Local Gifts: every area has something special to offer, and if you have relatives coming from out of town they might appreciate something you take for granted. Maybe you leave near the beach and you have seashells. My aunt, who lives near the ocean, gave us all seashells one year. I have a friend who lives in the city who has access to usual foreign grocery store items and I asked him for some packages of ramen. Each area has something special that could translate as something to give.

Kid-Made Crafts: when we give cards we like to let Isobel have at the envelope with a crayon first and people love it. When she’s old enough to make crafts you better believe I’m going to spread the crafty love.

Tea Sampler: If you have a few cartons of fancy tea you can easily put together a tea sampler for several people by including a couple bags from each. I do this just about every year for my family. It’s a great way to try new flavors without being committed to a whole box if you don’t like it.

Well, there you have it. Three posts’ worth of fun, creative, and thrifty ideas for stocking stuffers. If you have your own great ideas to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Advertisements

Little Big Gift Guide: Thriftier Stocking Stuffers

15 Dec

Today is the second installment of a three-part series I’m doing on inexpensive, yet still fun and creative and useful, Christmas gifts. The goal is to give items that would be a welcome gift and not just junk that will likely be tossed out at the end of the day. To be included in this gift guide it must be useful, lovely, and budget-friendly. Previously, I posted about Thrifty Stocking Stuffers, today we have Thriftier Stocking Stuffers, and last but not least, later I’ll feature Thriftiest Stocking Stuffers.

      Chocolate: I put a king-sized Snickers bar in Anthony’s stocking every year, and every year he looks forward to it. I tried branching out and giving him fancy-pants chocolate, but that turned out to be a bad idea. A Snickers bar is what he wants so a Snickers bar is what he gets. For myself I’d rather get some of these Belgian thins or dark chocolate-covered pomegranates, but hell, I’d be glad to get some plain-old dark chocolate chips as well.

     Craft Patterns: If you have a crafter in your life, you can support their habit by giving patterns in their stockings: sewing patterns, embroidery patterns, knitting patterns.

     ‘Designer’ Gifts: Give the designer in you life a font or a fancy vector. Write your gift on a piece of paper and tuck it in their stocking. I really think even a small gift, as long as it would be used and enjoyed by the recipient, is better than a more expensive gift bought with no real clue if the recipient will enjoy it.

     Rifftrax: Have you heard of Rifftrax? Some of the guys from MST3K get together and riff current box office disasters which you buy in audio format and then play along with the movie. This way they can keep the jokes coming without having to afford the rights to each movie they riff. It’s brilliant. It’s hilarious. It’s the most fun you can have while watching the Twilight series. I want to convert the world to that magic that is Rifftrax.

      Kitchen Gadgets: Spatulas wear out, pastry brushes become gross, and mandolins dull. Some kitchen gadgets are always useful. Also consider slightly more usual gadgets, such as potato ricers, melon ballers, or apple-slicers.

      Ornaments: Many lovely and inexpensive options are easy to find. I’d advise against giving ornaments unless you know the person you’re buying for has room for them. It seems like people are on one end of the ornament spectrum or the other – too many or too few. My aunt and mother started a tradition of buying each of us cousins an ornament each Christmas so by the time we left home we’d have plenty of ornaments for our own tree. If you have a friend or a relative with a new baby, an ornament a year could be a great tradition to start.

      Colorful Duct Tape: Duct tape in general is a wonderful gift item, useful for everything from making wallets, repairing household items, and taping ducks together (that’s why it’s called “duck tape,” right? I mean, I assume so.) Now it comes in various colors and patterns—even better! This is the kind of thing I’d want but wouldn’t buy for myself. While at my local craft store I found this adorable monogrammed tape and picked up a roll for my cousins.

       Hobbies: if you have a relative with a particular hobby you can almost always find something small to give them that would be both useful and welcome. Do they play D&D? Give them some minis. Do they garden? Another pair of gloves or a kneeling pad is always useful. Do they like crafts? Buy them another rubber stamp. Get a comic book for your favorite reader. You don’t have to get them something big to add something meaningful to their hobby.

       Napkins & Washcloths: I have friends who knit who make small things like a stack of washcloths. It makes me all sorts of jealous. They just crank them out like it ain’t no thang and they are just gorgeous. If you knit, share the love. Cloth napkins are another wonderful thing to put in a stocking. If you can’t find any while thrifting but are handy with a sewing machine, consider whipping some up.

       Boxers: I like to put a pair or two of fun patterned boxers in Anthony’s stocking every year. I don’t know what I enjoy more: shopping for them or watching him open them to find yet another ridiculous pair of underwear inside. Because they are funny it’s not weird to give with family. This is kind of a one-way gift, as opening panties of any sort in public would be weird for me. Boxers avoid that sexy connotation so they are a go.

Today’s installment was for those of you lucky enough to have a budget, but what if your budget was too strict for these ideas? Never fear, later this week I’ll be coming out with one more gift guide for really-low and even no budget gifts that still meet the lovely and useful criteria. Stay tuned!

Little Big Gift Guide: Thrifty Ideas for Stocking Stuffers

12 Dec

Today is the first installment of a three-part series I’m doing on inexpensive, yet still fun and creative and useful, Christmas gifts. The goal is to give items that would be a welcome gift and not just junk that will likely be tossed out at the end of the day. To be included in this gift guide it must be useful, lovely, and budget-friendly. Today, Thrifty Stocking Stuffers, and later this week, Thriftier Stocking Stuffers, and last but not least, Thriftiest Stocking Stuffers.

Instagram magnets: for $14.99 Stickygram will create 9 magnets out of the Instagram photos of your choice. My plan is to do this and split the photo magnets among family members.

Phone cords: for whatever reason, the necessary USB cord for the iPhone seems to always crack and wear, leaving exposed wires that result in a poor connection. I could always use an extra USB cord, and for that matter, extra screen protectors and replacement ear buds (they always find their way to the washing machine at our house) make handy stocking stuffers, as well.

Flash drives: I’m lusting after this key-style flash drive. Particularly useful for students and nerds! Especially useful for nerd-students.

My Etsy shop: Shameless self-promotion time! In my shop I have a number of smaller items that would make excellent stocking stuffers. Support small business and an active reuse market! Also, my thrifting habit.

Books: The thriftiest way to give books is to give away books you no longer want to keep (which I’m cool with as long as the recipient would be interested in it), or to find something while thrifting or at a library book sale. But don’t forget independent book sellers or even mass-market retailers. My dear friend Stefanie loves to give books at holidays and we all look forward to getting them.

Personalized calendar: for as long as my mother has purchased calendars she’s always had a cat calendar every year. Somewhere along the line Anthony and I started purchasing calendars for her as our Christmas present. After a couple years I had the idea of making her a cat calendar using photos I took of her own cats, and she loved it. When Isobel came along we made her cat and granddaughter calendars. She looks forward to this every year.

Shop Etsy faves: If you do happen to have a budget for presents, and the person you are buying for has an etsy account, take a look at items they’ve favorited through their profile for ideas. My friends and I started using Etsy faves as a wishlist and like to buy items off their lists when we can afford it. We know they’ll love whatever we buy them, and since we all know about this idea we include faves at a few pricepoints. We have had the issue of two of us buying the same present for someone only once (since faves aren’t an actual registry, after all) and overall this system works well. I love supporting small biz while making a friend happy.

Magnets: I always need more magnets, Instagram or otherwise, and by this I mean cute magnets, of course.

Gift cards: Gift cards aren’t an usual gift idea, but when times are tough sometimes the best gift someone can receive is a gift card for some much-needed clothes or a luxury they wouldn’t purchase for themselves otherwise. When my cousin had her second child, my Aunt Kay said she’d by her the gift card of her choice: a mani-pedi, a massage, or one month’s worth of a housecleaning service. (For the record, my cousin chose housekeeping. I would have, too!) I like to buy gift cards for iTunes, Target, Amazon, Old Navy, or our local favorite sushi restaurant.

Dishtowels: It’s common knowledge that I’m a dishtowel junkie. They are an inexpensive way add style to a kitchen—a room that’s hard to change without major remodeling. And they fit in a stocking perfectly, too.

Mouse pad: It seems like mouse pads have a short shelf life before they get all faded and gross-looking. Adorable options abound on Etsy.

Photo books: After Isobel was born I scraped together the three brain cells I had left and made a photo book for each Grandmother. I bought inexpensive photo albums at Michael’s and filled them with photos of Isobel, starting with a shot of my giant pregnant belly and ending with Isobel at three months old. In my mom’s book I included photos of her holding Isobel plus other shots of the family, and vice versa for my mother in law. We had these ready in time for Mother’s Day and they were a huge hit. The grandmothers had their books on them at all times so when people asked about their grandchild they could proudly show off their photos. After all was said and done they cost less than ten bucks each. You can always go to one of those photo sites for a more professional looking book, but they loved their albums and still treasure them. I ended up using a photo book service to make a Friends of Isobel book, which we created to help introduce Isobel to our friends that she might not see that often. (You can read about that here.)

Cute socks: Perfect for winter, warm, cute socks are always welcome in a stocking.

Today’s installment was for those of you lucky enough to have a budget, but what if your budget too strict for this gift guide? Never fear, later this week I’ll be coming out with two more gift guides for really-low and even no budget gifts that still meet the lovely and useful criteria. Stay tuned!

Thrifty Living: 12 Creative, Thrifty Ways to Wrap Gifts

6 Dec

Here are my favorite creative and thrifty ways to wrap presents for the holidays. Have an idea? Add yours in the comments.

1. Stock up on thrifted tins. I always check out tins while thrifting and stock up for the holidays. For a quarter I can buy a unique way to wrap a gift that can then be reused and repurposed later.

2. Use colorful paper bags and printable gift tags. When I still worked at the library I did a whole lot of gift-giving: coworkers, office staff, friends and student aides all got gifts from me. The cheapest way to wrap these gifts turned out to be colorful paper bags and ribbon from the craft store plus printable gift tags that I made myself. This was the perfect way to distribute baked goods and they looked so cheerful. Free printable gift tags can be found all over the web, but my favorites are found here.

3. Wrap an ugly box collage-style. I bought a lovely necklace for my MIL one year and of course the only box I could find to put it in said something dumb on it. I used a page out of a magazine to cover the top of the box and glued origami paper to the sides and it was transformed. She ended up loving the box as much as the necklace.

4. Try fabric scraps and yarn. One year I ran out of wrapping paper altogether so I raided my fabric stash and found this vintage green cotton fabric I found while thrifting. I was able to secure this fabric with scotch tape even though it was a decently heavy weight.  Wrap as you would normally for wrapping paper, add some yarn, and you’re good to go.

5. Embellish a plain gift bag. I can’t remember if this bag was plain or if it had a logo in the middle, but either way it benefited from some scraps from my collage file.

6. Reuse a pretty jar. I save jars like this throughout the year because I like to give spiced nuts and candy at Christmas. If your jar is pretty enough, only a ribbon is needed, though you can always paint the lid.

7. Use sheet music instead of wrapping paper. I have lots of musician friends so I had the idea to wrap their gifts in sheet music. I happened to have sheet music lying around, so I made copies of it specifically to use for wrapping. Collage paper, doilies, and some pink yarn finished it off.

8. Wrap with tissue paper and add a colorful bow. Many times the tissue paper is lovely enough to use as wrapping. I keep a few spools of colorful ribbon on hand for wrapping. I get it when it goes on clearance at the craft store.

9. Use a small piece of fancy paper for accent. A very creative friend of mine made me a necklace and sent it to me in this lovely packaging. I like how she decorated a plain box by adding a strip of fancy paper around it. I bet the sheet of paper was pricey, but using it sparingly makes it last.

10. Reuse a gift bag. I saved so many gift bags from our baby showers that I finally had to go through our gift bags and get rid of some. I didn’t throw them out, though! I donated them to Goodwill. Speaking of, you can find all sorts of lovely gift bags at good will for cheap.

11. Just add a huge bow. Sometimes one large statement is all you need.

12. Add a creative card. I don’t recommend giving tequila for every occasion, but in this case a lime made the perfect card.

Gift Tag Goodness

14 Dec

This year I wanted to create my own gift tags for our Christmas presents. In the past what I’ve done is decorated the package with a sharpie and listed the “to” and “from” in the designs. The first ones always turn out really well but after that I get impatient. If any of you have ever received anything from me in the mail, you know my handwriting is a crapshoot: sometimes it’s neat and legible and fancy, and other times you’d think it was written by a doctor. Or a cat.

I really wanted to make my own cute, printable gift tags this year. I’ve seen them on etsy and I thought I could harness my photoshop abilities to come up with something pretty. I’d even offer it here because who wouldn’t appreciate a free printable in time for the holidays? Well, I’m embarrassed to admit, I failed. I mean, I accomplished making gift tags. I just utterly failed to make them cute.

I am determined to have cute Christmas gift tags this year, so when I failed to make them myself, I asked my Angela of The Red Star Designs if she would help. She agreed to let me offer them here for readers at home who lack the time or patience to make them themselves. I did not even have to specify that I wanted cute  gift tags because all her tags are cute.

Click the photo below and you can save the jpeg version to print them out. My personal fave is the green one with the red and white snowflakes.

Thanks so much, Angela!

Etsy Picks: Stocking Stuffers

5 Dec

Today I finally had to surrender to my to-do list. I’ve been so busy lately between the shop, my photography business, working full time, being a wife and mother and other family obligations;  I had to realize that I can’t do it all. I wish I could, but it’s better that I save my energy and do a few things well than do a lot of things crappily.

This means I may not get to add more Christmas items and stocking stuffers to my etsy shop in time for Christmas. Although it’s terribly disappointing, I’m glad to not have to live under the stress of trying to constantly accomplish things and instead can enjoy time with my family and focus on my photography clients and celebrating the holidays.

I am going to follow through on my promise to post my Etsy Children’s Picks post because I am nearly done with that one already. I hope to have that up next week. Since I don’t have time to devote to adding more things to my shop I’m going to promote the items I do have up.  I’ve also chosen some other awesome finds from Etsy that would also make perfect stocking stuffers.

I’m also extremely proud to announce that I’m a part of a new Etsy Street Team – Team Librarian.  Check us out, and if you have an Etsy shop and are involved in the library field or just have an intense love of books, contact Lisa and join forces with the best Street Team out there: Team Librarian.

1. Vintage Lion Placemats

I’m selling the pair of these in my shop and I just love their 1970s charm.

At the time I listed the estimate of the shipping based on the information I had. I can come down on the shipping (depending on your location), so if you are interested, convo me with your address and I can quote you an adjusted rate.

2. GreebleMonkey 2011 Calendar

Aimee Geese is a photographer and blogger living in Colorado. She sells calendars on Etsy that feature her gorgeous photography.

I am not exaggerating when I say I wish I could be half the photographer she is.

3. Austrian plate

I love using little plates like this to hold jewelry or my vitamins.

4. Felted ‘Shrooms

If I received these babies in my stocking, there would be much squeeing of approval.

5. Peacock Earrings

Peacock feathers are always in style.

6. Houseplant Needlepoint

A cute little stocking stuffer.

7. Fairytale Jewelry Box

8. Cassette Tape Appliques

Inexpensive and adorable.

9. Vintage Owl Vase

Could your desk use some pimping?

10. Itty Bitty Silver Music Note Ring

A fave.

11. Clear Glass Bowl

I use bowls this size to feed my cats. Also perfect for a personal portion of salsa.

12. Neko Case

A Japanese cat-themed case for your iphone or ipod touch.

(And yes, I think I’m very clever.)

13. Peacock Dish

If you don’t buy this my Mom will “borrow it” from me. Permanently.

Internet friends

13 Sep

I know the nicest people of all the interwebs. I really do. I have received letters and cards and even presents from people I know online but have never met in real life. My husband is, by now, used to receiving packages in the mail from people he doesn’t know. Most recently was the awesome Klingon Bird of Prey corkscrew from Amanda. I’m sure when Isobel gets a little older she’ll just assume that the interwebs sends everyone presents from time to time.

I talk about people I know online to my husband, but he’s not very good with names, so I have developed an elaborate system of referring to online people in ways he’ll remember: a descriptive word about themselves, or a present they sent us, or their location or even occupation.

For example, my twitter friend shinyinfo is known to Anthony as “science fiction librarian,” or sometimes as, “Chicago mountain dew girl,” or lately, “my twitter wife.” Megan Boley is referred to as, “New mother with cats in Chicago.” Leah is called “the Chicago librarian with snarky boyfriend.”

The Alaskan family of Piper, Ryder and Ollie is usually called, “The Alaskan Family” or just “The Alaskans I know” and Ollie, is “Alaskan Baby.” I actually know another Alaskan who rocks, but I don’t think I’ve discussed her with Anthony, even though I told her we’d adopt her and save up to send her to that expensive ukulele boarding school. Oops

Sunday has sent me numerous awesome presents, and the most recent awesomeness came in the form of a gorgeous hand-knit sweater that I’m just itching to put on Isobel as soon as the weather turns cold. I think Sunday was originally called “the girl I sent those bear ears to” but Anthony recognizes her now as both Sunday and Subspace. Her Viking boyfriend, Mike, is still referred to as “Sunday’s boyfriend who slouches in front of the Xbox.”

Gigi made this hat for my baby cousin Victoria and also made several others for Isobel. Anthony knows her as, “My friend from Portugal” even though she lived in Portugal two countries ago. I should call her, “My jet-setting European friend.”

My flickr and twitter buddy Ryan is known as “that guy in LA with the shrimp heads rolling around in the car, the one whose party I was invited to” but more recently, “the one who knows all those Top Chef contestants.” Ryan and I have mutual friends in Omar and Alicia and their tiny new baby Olivia but I think Anthony recognizes them by name now. For awhile there they were called, “Remember? They sent Isobel that amazing cardigan?”

Speaking of amazingness, flickr friend 2 of 62 sent Isobel this hat and an amigurumi doll of Isobel dressed up as a cat. She is known as, “my awesome Canadian friend with the Maine Coons.” Actually, I have met a lot of awesome Canadians now that I think about it.

East Coast friend Shannon once sent us pickles, jam, mincemeat and scrumptious pumpkin pancake mix. I usually call her, “the girl who sent us the pumpkin pancake mix and pickles.” Oh, were those pickles gooood. I met fierceflawless through pumpkin pickle girl and I call her “tattooed cat mama in Atlanta.” I seem to make friends online according to geographic location because I’m zombie-buddies with Atlanta’s Windsor Grace and April. Together we’re going to defend humanity from the Zombie Hoards through our team we call ZAFT.

Midwest-turned-Southern- native Dingey took pity on my poor Martha Stewart-less soul and sent me her old issue of Everyday Food numero uno. I know, I’m still getting over that astounding act of generosity. She also sent me an awesome glass plate depicting the History of Thread but the mail man broke it when he wedged it in my mailbox. Jerk. The corner smashed off and the whole thing cracked down the center. And it had the gall to slice my finger! I’m pretty sure I just call Dingey “Dingey” though since it’s such an awesome nickname. I know her real name, but Dingey is just so cool.

Networking has allowed me to meet so many people I’d otherwise never meet from all over the globe. I really feel that through networking I am more intimately acquainted with America, which is a wonderful thing. I’m so grateful to have met you all.