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May 9, 2008 / Amanda Jakl

DYI Gifts for Mother’s Day

Most of the ordering deadlines for Mother’s Day gifts have passed, so that leaves buying something in a local store or making something yourself. Something about handmade gifts means much more to moms. That you spent time and effort making her something says volumes and might even put you in the “favorite kid” category.


Truffles are easy to make and there are bunch of recipes. Here are some links to start you on a path to chocolate making. Make sure to use waxed paper as a liner for whatever box you put the truffles in.

Alternatives: Cookies, from scratch or the take and bake kind, brownies, cranberry and orange loaf, blueberry loaf, all these goodies come in prepared mixes. Most of them you just have to add water and an egg and throw them in the oven. Pretty hard to screw up.

Gift Coupon Books

I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t we do this in grade school? My mom never cashed in any of her coupons when I was a kid, but I think it would be different now. Coupons seem a little childish, but sometimes moms just want to spend a little time with their children. Coupons are a way of promising that time. There are so many great templates out now that didn’t exist when I was a kid. Consider doing this for your grandmother and fill out the coupons with fun things to do with her, like going to the movies or playing a card game.

Other Quick and Easy Ideas
  • Fill a Ball jar with Epsom salts and a few drops of essential oil. Tie a ribbon and a card around the top. You could write something cute in the card like “A soothing treat, for your aching feet.” For those who don’t know, Epsom salts can be found at any drugstore for under $5, the Ball jar can be found in the canning aisle at the grocery store and essential oils can be found at craft stores, Bath and Body Works, health food stores and Whole Foods.
  • HP has a wiki page called “Holiday Gifts in Under an Hour” that can easily be adapted for Mother’s Day. I like the idea of buying a bottle of wine and making a custom label with your mom’s name on it. A five minute project that would make your mom tickled pink.
  • Have any other ideas? Share them in the comments. I’d love to know what you’re doing for your mom this Mother’s Day.
May 5, 2008 / Amanda Jakl

4 Gifts Not To Give Mom This Mother’s Day

Don\'t buy your mom a stationary bike this Mother\'s Day

The countdown to Mother’s Day is on, only 6 days left. Flower and chocolate ads are everywhere with spa specials sprinkled in. Those are lovely things, but what if you want something a little different? Have a list in hand? Well, make sure these things are not on it. Disclaimer: If these items are specifically asked for, then buy away. If not, I would avoid them.

1. Small appliances: Take out the blender, hand mixer, toaster, coffee maker, juicer, food processor, bread maker, slow cooker, microwave, and electric can opener from your shopping cart. If Mom needs one of these things, she can pick it out herself, which is a better option since many of these appliances now come in a rainbow of colors.

2. Weight loss/exercise equipment: There is only one way to interpret a gift of exercise equipment and is that the best way to say “Thank you for giving birth to me, Mom”?

3. Clothing where size is important: In addition to having to return it, if you buy a shirt too big, Mom might think “Do they think I’m fat?” and that’s not a sentiment she should be thinking on Mother’s Day. If you want to get a piece of clothing, stick to accessories, like scarves or brooches.

4. Gift cards: Gift cards are way too impersonal for a Mother’s Day gift. Gift cards should never be used as a gift for people whose last names you know. Put a little more thought into it, you know Mom will appreciate it.

April 30, 2008 / Amanda Jakl

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap – 5 Designs I Love

Barn Red Hemp Wrap from Paporganics

Now that everyone has jumped on the green train, it’s only natural to find more and more gift wrap that’s recycled. It’s not the cheapest, but it is one more way to save the planet. Here are a couple of my favorite designs and an added non-paper bonus for those who like to wrap in fabric.

1. The Barn Yard Hemp Wrap over at Paporganics is adorable! I love the little chicken and the cow. Perfect for a kid’s gift or a gift for a kid-at-heart. How earth friendly is this paper, you ask. Here are the specs from the website:

10% hemp/flax blend, 90% recycled post-consumer fiber
processed chlorine-free
vegetable-based ink

2. The Bubbly Recycled Gift Wrap is a FishLips design and is offered at the Green Field Paper Company is evervescent, to say the least. Makes me thirsty just looking at it. And they’re kicking some major booty when it comes to being earth friendly. The paper is 100% post-consumer recycled paper and the inks are soy-based.

3. Speaking of Fish Lips, check out their website. I’m having a hard time picking out my favorite, but I really like the snarky “You’re Welcome” gift wrap.

4. Paper Source always has a great selection and if you hop over to their PS green choices, you’ll find a decent number of recycled gift wraps. I like the Robots, the Mexican Tile, but my favorite is the Goldfish. Click here to check it out.

5. Maybe I have a thing for fish. Natural Elements Paper offers a Koi Fish Gift Wrap that is just plain cool. This company is crazy eco-friendly. I can’t even list all the ways their paper is green to the nth degree. Go read it for yourself here.

6. Lagniappe offers fabric gift bags in every shape and size imaginable. And at prices that won’t break the bank, you don’t have an excuse not to order a couple bags.

April 27, 2008 / Amanda Jakl

A Great Example of “What Not To Do” in Thank You Note Writing

I was reading Dear Abby today and came across this mortifying example of thank you card writing, or should I say lack of writing. I’ve included a link and pasted it here since I think it’s worth reading. Read it for yourself:

DEAR ABBY: A friend and I attended a bridal shower of a friend’s daughter. After the young woman opened her gifts, we were escorted to another room where blank note cards were strewn on a coffee table, surrounded by envelopes and stamps. The hostess instructed us to write on these folded cards our names and what we had given the bride-to-be.

The hostess told us to write: “Dear Mary (using our own names, of course), Thank you for the nice afghan” (or whatever we had given), and place the card in one of the envelopes. We were then told to address and stamp the envelopes, but not to seal them so (I assume) the “too busy” bride-to-be could sign her name.

As I foolishly followed these ridiculous instructions, I was tempted to thank myself for the 30-minute drive I had made in each direction to purchase a gift, and the 45-minute drive I made to attend the shower.

How stupid are we going to feel when the “thank-yous,” in our own handwriting, show up in the mail? My son says I should refuse the letter.

And do you want to know the “topper”? I asked the bride-to-be before leaving when her wedding was. Get this — it’s in two days. I am not even invited to the wedding!

What’s wrong with this generation? Please shed some light on this. Thanks, Abby. I feel better now that I’ve vented — stupid, but better. — FEELING USED IN KANSAS

DEAR FEELING USED: Nothing is wrong with “this generation.” What you have described is a family that never learned basic good manners. Rather than an “afghan” — or whatever your gift was — the bride-to-be would have been better served to have received a book on etiquette.

I understand the craziness surrounding a wedding and the showers that go with it. Many things happen in a very short period of time. But weddings end, life goes back to normal and people will remember how tactless you were. I made my husband help me fill out thank you notes on the flight to our honeymoon destination. We finished all of them in two hours.

While I like the idea of people filling out their own address on the envelope, I draw the line at writing your own thank you note. It defeats the whole purpose of writing a note in the first place. A thank you note is supposed to express gratitude to the giver while also showing how gracious the receiver is. It might sound pompous, but a thank you card is a two-way street. And the bride in the Dear Abby column made it a one-way dead end. It only showed how discourteous she is and how little she thinks of her guests.

My only complaint is how mild mannered Dear Abby’s response was. This is
something that shouldn’t be happening. Then again, how do you confront something like this while being discreet? What would you do? Leave a suggestion in comments. I’d love to know what you think.

April 26, 2008 / Amanda Jakl

First Anniversary Gifts – Paper

The traditional first anniversary gift is paper. But what does this translate to in real life? I don’t like the idea of giving stationery to your loved one. It seems so impersonal and cold, something that your aunt would give you, not someone you’re passionate about. Without further ado, here is the list.

  • Make a photo album, hey it’s made out of paper, right? If you don’t have a lot of photos from your first year together, use your wedding photos or even baby photos. I made a book for my husband for our first anniversary that chronicled our first year of life. First year of life, first year of marriage. Cheesy, maybe, but he loved it. (And he was the cutest baby.) I use My Publisher, it’s easy to use, provides professional results and is reasonably priced.
  • Make a love/favor coupon book. You can design your own or use a kit. I like the one over at Paper Zone. Personally I would use it as a template and use papers that better suited my husband’s and my taste.
  • A saucy book like the Kama Sutra or something equally racy. It’s never too early to keep things interesting.
  • Tickets to a play, concert, exhibition, etc. But it has to be an event that both parties want to go to, otherwise it wouldn’t be a very nice anniversary, would it?
  • Paper roses are an interesting take on a clichéd gift you might want to consider. You can buy them here or fold them yourself with these directions.
  • Make a cootie catcher, also called a paper fortune teller, and personalize with “in jokes” and pet names. Click here for directions on folding one.
  • A good old love letter. It’s nice to actually hold a letter in your hand and read it over and over again. It’s just not the same in e-mail form.
  • Put together your family tree. Martha Stewart has a wonderful template and if you hire a calligrapher, it could turn into a very elegant gift.

Now if you are a friend or relative and want to commemorate the first anniversary of a couple you know, here are some ideas. These gift ideas are not romantic in nature, but are thoughtful and for the most part practical. I wouldn’t recommend a husband giving this to his wife, or vice versa, since it seems more practical and I believe that the first anniversary gift should be a bit more romantic. Most people don’t do that much for a first anniversary, I know I didn’t, these gifts are perfect, small, simple and not too costly.

April 25, 2008 / Amanda Jakl

Thank You Cards – Luxurious Letterpress

While I favor blank cards over a traditional thank you card, there are some wonderful designs out there. And of all styles and forms of printing, letterpress is the most luxurious, the most elegant. Letterpress says “Money is not an issue, quality is.” I’ve put together a small list of letterpressed thank you cards and the links to buy them. All are very reasonably priced, so there’s no excuse for not having a few on hand.

Paperd Together Rosehip Thank You Note

Papered Together’s Rosehip Thank You Note

Lizard Press William Morris Thank You Card

Lizard Press William Morris Thank You Card

The White Aisle Damask Thank You Note

The White Aisle Damask Thank You Note

Night Owl Paper Goods Golden Folksy Floral Thank You Note

Night Owl Paper Good Golden Folksy Floral Notecard

Blackbird Letterpress Chocolate and Blue Notecard

Blackbird Letterpress Chocolate and Blue Notecard

Joie Studio Thank You Card

Joie Studio Letterpress Thank You Card

Sunlit Letterpress Cherry Blossom Thank You Card

Sunlit Letterpress Cherry Blossom Thank You Card

The Paper Peony Thank You Note

The Paper Peony Thank You Note

Orange Beautiful Thank You Card

Orange Beautiful Thank You Card

Blue Ribbon Thank You Card

Blue Ribbon Thank You Card

Letterpressed Many Thanks Card

Letterpressed Many Thanks Card

The Petite Press Periwinkle Thank You Card

The Petite Press Periwinkle Thank You Card

April 23, 2008 / Amanda Jakl

Get Well Soon: 7 Gift Ideas under $25 to Bring to the Hospital

Teleflora\'s Fire Engine Bouquet

Flowers are probably the most popular gift brought or sent to a loved one in the hospital. But have you seen the prices of flowers lately?!? When my grandfather had his hip replaced, I looked online and couldn’t find anything under fifty dollars. I’m not a complete cheap skate, but nothing seemed worth the money these retailers were asking. Of course since I lived out of state, I didn’t really have a choice. Here are a list of ideas for last minute gift (as most hospital stays usually are) shopping that stays under a $25 budget.

  • A handful of mylar balloons from the dollar store make an impressive display. For a bit more, add candy bars and tie them right above the balloon weights.
  • Rather than bring flowers which will eventually die, buy a small house plant (on sale right now at most home improvement stores and nurseries for under five dollars) and a small planter. I’ve found several cute planters at the dollar store and local thrift store and the price can’t be beat.
  • If you’re intent on bringing flowers, buying stems directly from a florist or even a couple bunches (my local store sells three bunches for $12) from the supermarket are always more economical than buying in the hospital gift shop. Don’t forget to pick up a vase or bring one from home. You can pick up a vase at the dollar store for just that, a dollar.
  • Most patients have time to kill, pick up a bunch of magazines and a book of crosswords and put them in a gift bag. Don’t forget a pen or pencil!
  • Put together a little basket of dominoes, a deck of cards, some dice, maybe some UNO cards and you’ve got at least an afternoon of games for one person or more. Throw in a few granola bars for a treat. The best part is that you can buy almost everything at the supermarket.
  • Stop at a local craft store, like Michael’s, and check out the kid’s craft kits. Friendship bracelets, dream catchers, crochet or knitting projects, even a simple paint-by-number kit won’t be too messy for the hospital bed and can be completed in a short period of time.
  • And one gift idea for spending more than $25. If money isn’t an issue, a wonderful resource for get well gifts is CareGifting. This is a company started by two women with an emphasis on natural products. Their philosophy, stated on their website, is to “choose all natural, pure and organic products to the greatest extent possible, realizing that when the body is working on healing it doesn’t need intrusion from products that can further strain the immune system.” I can’t agree more. After browsing through their products, I would like some of these collections as Christmas presents, as I don’t see myself in the hospital any time soon.