It’s not about the Benjamin’s, baby.

Although giving a gift is a showing of affection and appreciation, there is a certain etiquette that should be followed. It can be tricky to figure out what is appropriate to give (ie the difference between your sister and your boss). Thankfully, Lauren Conrad posted an article on her blog that lays out the rules for appropriate gift giving, Ladylike Laws: Holiday Gift Giving Etiquette.

Her “rules” don’t come off as domineering, but more as helpful tips to ease the stress of certain situations. My favorite: don’t worry about giving something that has the same monetary value of what they gave you. Instead, figure out something nice that you can afford within your means. I know this comes off as a duh tip, but it never fails, each year I tend to stress about what to give certain people who I know always spend a lot of money on me. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is in a different financial situation and doesn’t always have the same holiday budget. If you give something nice and sentimental, it will show you are being thoughtful and showing appreciation, without putting yourself into debt.

I used to always stress about what to give my Mother-In-Law every Christmas. She always showers us with amazing expensive gifts (Juicy Couture anyone?) and I always felt a pang of guilt for not giving something monetarily equivalent. But then I realized, she’s giving these awesome gifts not because she has to and not because she can, but it’s because she loves us more than anything. This realization was what got me started in DIY gift giving. Her love for my husband, daughter and I is what she cares most about. So I started making her sentimental gifts related to our family. This handprint keepsake was my inspiration for one of our gifts last year. I used my husband’s and daughter’s handprint, had them both sign the bottom, and put it in a nice frame (from Hobby Lobby when it was 50% off *wink*). She loved it! How do I know? Because she is an amazing decorator and only has extremely nice high end things displayed. Where is this handprint keepsake? In the middle of her fireplace mantel, only the most eye drawing place in the living room. Score!

It’s not about how much you spend, but how much you show you care. This Christmas, we are going to make a 49 Reasons Why I Love You card display. Each card will have a different reason of love and it will be filled with quotes from me, my husband, and my daughter. She inspires each of us in different ways, and I’m excited to put all our loving thoughts into this one.

49 reasons

She’s probably going to cry, maybe I should gift some tissues too! What sentimental gift have you made for your loved ones?


To DIY or not to DIY

When is it appropriate to give handmade gifts? Alan Henry at, wrote an insightful and informative article that could keep your DIY gift from being a flop to a hit. Stick to what you know. If you don’t sew, don’t attempt to make an outfit that requires a sewing machine. Know your audience. Don’t waste your time gifting something they can make better themselves, already have, or don’t need. Henry says,“Giving a handmade, DIY gift of food, clothing, art, or a useful household item is a great idea, as long as you know you can do it well, and you’re sure they’ll love it.”

I come across adorable gift ideas that require sewing or knitting all the time. I’ve inherited a lot of great traits from my Mother, but sadly her sewing talent is not one of them. I wish I could make these items, but I’m not confident in how they would turn out. Maybe one day I will attempt to make something requiring a sewing machine, but it’s definitely not something I would pawn on to someone else. I make what I know I will be able to do well. The whole concept of DIY gifting is to make a unique something that is giftable and looks store bought. The only time someone wants something that looks it came from elementary school art class, is if it’s from their own elementary aged child.

Not to mention the stress involved in attempting to create something you know nothing about. Usually when you are creating a gift, you have a certain person in mind and a certain event to present it. There is nothing worse than attempting, failing, and being in a time crunch. That’s when you end up not gifting a DIY at all and end if buying a last minute gift card.

I believe that DIY gifting is great for any occasion, but as Henry says, know your audience. For instance, wedding showers and baby showers usually have a gift registry request on the invitation. As says, registrys should “be used as a guide” and “guests aren’t obligated to shop from the registry list. It’s perfectly acceptable to call the hostess to find out if there’s anything in particular the happy couple desires”. Since baby and wedding showers are life changing events that require certain items, I prefer to purchase an item from the registry and make a DIY gift to coordinate. I am still providing the receiver with what’s needed and also giving my heartfelt unique gift.

A great DIY gift for a baby or wedding shower is this Framed Monogram Letter from You could monogram with the couples last name or the baby’s first name initial. I could see the receiver placing this on their mantel or baby shelf. Happy Crafting!

Cook with your children

With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m reminded of all the family time that is about to be spent in the kitchen. It got me thinking… how important is it to cook with your kids? I try to let my daughter help out in the kitchen whenever she shows interest, but it can be frustrating when I’m time crunched or attempting something new.

According to, cooking with your children has a lot of benefits, like getting them interested in trying healthy foods they normally wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. My daughter used to eat anything and everything in sight, now that she is four, she has become more picky. I’m sure a lot of parents can relate… she would eat mac and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if we let her. So I’m all for her trying and eating healthy foods, and it makes sense, if she’s a part of what she puts on her plate, she will feel like she had a say in the meal, even if she didn’t. According to the article, there are a lot of other benefits cooking with your children can have:

Some  short-term benefits:

  • Kids feel like they are accomplishing something and contributing to the family.
  • Kids are more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped prepare it.
  • Parents get to spend quality time with their kids.
  • Kids aren’t spending time in front of the TV or computer while they’re cooking.
  • Kids generally aren’t eating junk food when they’re cooking a meal at home.

Some long-term benefits:

  • Learning to cook is a skill your children can use for the rest of their lives.
  • Kids who learn to eat well may be more likely to eat healthfully as adults.
  • Positive cooking experiences can help build self-confidence.
  • Kids who cook with their parents may even be less likely to abuse drugs.

Wow. It really makes me step back and realize I need to make time, have patience, and encourage her to help with family meals. The author of the site Cooking With My Kid, set a mission in 2009, make 365 recipes in 365 days all with kid-assistance. This challenge has changed the way they eat, cured pickiness, and created a special bonding experience. Check out her blog where she posts recipes, how to videos, picky busters, and super cute photos of her kids making some mouth watering meals as a family.

All this talk about family in the kitchen reminds me of the perfect Take This Make This gift tutorial. Framed family recipes. So sweet and beautiful!

Substitute your imagination for your money

Christmas is coming! It’s time to put out the lights, put up the tree, and pull out your wallet. Wait, what?

It’s probably no surprise to you that Christmas is the biggest shopping season of the year. We have to buy for everyone on our list, and how can we resist doing a little shopping for ourselves what with all the great deals retailers (online and instore) are offering.

According to IBIS World, $228.4 billion was spent on holidays in 2010 (which includes spending on food, gifts and parties related to holiday events). $135.16 billion was spent at Christmas, which is estimated to account for 59.2% of sales alone and Christmas gifts account for at least 47.2% of total sales. That’s a lot of money.

Check out this video from Reporter Stacy Johnson says it best, “Christmas is a magical time of year. It’s when your money magically goes from your pocket to someone elses cash register”. With the average American spending around $1,000 each year on Christmas gifts, it makes sense. And this amount has gradually increased each year. When is it too much? The video gives 5 tips to save during the Christmas season, number 5 being, do something for someone. Being able to substitute your imagination for your money puts the benjamins back in your wallet.

Janey Osterlind, a contributer at, says to Make Something for the people on your gift list. “I’m not suggesting that you knit sweaters as Christmas gifts (unless you actually are talented at knitting and have some sort of fashion sense). Making a Christmas gift that is appreciated and used requires some creative thinking and knowledge of the recipient. A little thought could produce a pretty awesome gift while also saving you money.”

Some of you may only have a couple of people on your list, and some of you may have to unroll a scroll, so I’ve included this great link from, 100 Homemade Christmas Gifts.  “Homemade Christmas gifts don’t have to look like they came out of your 3 year-old’s Sunday School class. There are some amazing homemade gift ideas that can be made by real-life moms on a real-life budget!” My favorite, a DIY book on “tape”. Genius!

Give a gift that means more… to them and to you!

I’ve always said that creating and giving a DIY gift can be a rewarding experience for the receiver. Can creating DIY projects also be a rewarding experience for the giver? Mark Frauenfelder, founder of BoingBoing, founding editor of Wired Online, editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine, and author of Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World, thinks it can. In his article written for the Huffington Post, The Courage To Screw Up: Why DIY Is Good For You, Frauenfelder proposes that the process of DIY is engaging, fulfilling, and beneficial. From his own DIY experiences, he has discovered the benefits which can make the crafter an overall better person.

Using your brain, working with your hands, and finding a unique meaning behind each gift makes it special not only for the receiver, but for you. We have a human desire to create, invent and improve. But we are contained in the idea that gifts need to be expensive, mass produced products. Our idea of gifts has become less about quality, and more about quantity. Instead of really thinking about what the person means to us, why we are honoring them, we try to minimize the risk in gift giving in hopes that it will be accepted. What does this say about the meaning of a gift? Shankar Vedantam has written a thought provoking article for the Washington Post about how we as a society have dispatched from the psyche of giving, Searching for a Sense of Meaning in Gifts. Vedantam states, “The idea of the gift goes back centuries. But gifts don’t mean the same thing today as they once did: For one thing, people have far more stuff then they used to, which makes getting a truly unique gift less likely. A lot more gifts also change hands these days, which makes it harder to put a great deal of thought into each gift”. He quotes Antonio Callari, an economics professor at Franklin and Marshall College, “The very idea of the soul of the gift has been lost. The gift has lost its character as a gift and become a product, a commodity”.

How do we fix this and make gift giving what it once was? We minimize the risk of gift giving and bring back its thoughtfulness by creating something from our hands and heart. This not only makes for a better gift, but makes us better people. DIYer, Desiree Campbell at, says “Keep in mind that handmade items are not just beautiful but special…I love to give them and I love to receive them”.  Check out Campbell’s DIY tutorial list, 25 handmade Gifts Under $5. It’s hard to choose a favorite from her list (and I don’t think I can) but I plan to make these Cowgirl Cookies in a jar for my co-workers! We love getting baked goods at the office, and creating this DIY project will be a rewarding and beneficial experience for me as well! Yippie ki-yay!

You can watch Mark Frauenfelder talk about the benefits of DIY on The Colbert Report here.