Tag Archives: gifts

Elf Approved Handmade Toys

Ice Cream Man Shadow Puppet

Ice Cream Man Shadow Puppets by Isabelle’s Art

At this time of year Santa and his elves are hard at work making toys for all the good girls and boys, but they’re not the only ones. Artisans and craftspeople are also busy making handmade toys, many of which will delight kids even more than the mass manufactured options at your local toy store.  If you’re looking for a special present have a look at some of these stylish and Santa approved toys that will feel good to give for many reasons, including the fact that your purchase will help an independent craftsperson or business continue to do what they love.

Foodle's DIY Car KitFinished Foodle CarDIY car kit by Fidoodle

This DIY car kit has everything you need to create a sturdy cardboard car that can be decorated any way you please. They also sell a creature kit that lets you make a tiny cardboard friend. This is the perfect gift for a kid with an artistic streak, and you can feel good knowing it’s eco-friendly too.

Shusha Toys - Wooden Circus SetShusha Toys Wooden Circus Set via Handmade Charlotte

Building blocks are a staple in any toy box, but this circus set by Shusha toys is a unique take that is full of creative possibilities. I know a few grownups who would be happy to receive these as well.

Henry the FoxHenry the Fox by Walnut Animal Society

Henry the Fox is just one member of the Walnut Animal Society; a charming posse of handmade animals that are the brainchildren of Lauren Bradshaw. Every animal is made by hand in the United States and is created with quality materials.

Play With My Food's Very Hungry Caterpillar felt food setThe Very Hungry Caterpillar Felt Food Set by Play with my Food

Literary themed toys are some of my favourites, and this play food set by etsy seller Play with my Food is a spot on rendition of the bellyache inducing treats found in the children’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. You can use them to enhance storytime, or in the play kitchen.

Sensa Dough by My Little OtterSensa-Dough by My Little Otter

Don’t forget the stocking stuffers. Do you get nostalgic for the smell of play dough? Well here is some sculpting dough that smells even better. My Little Otter makes dough that is perfectly squishy in a range of scents, and this holiday-themed trio is perfect for tucking in a stocking (or for giving as gifts on their own.)

Made to PLay by Joel HenriqueMade to Play by Joel Henriques

Joel Henriques is a dad who truly appreciates play. His blog Made by Joel features some of the beautiful and imaginative handmade toys that he has made for his son, and now he wants to show you how to make magical toys of your own. The directions in his book Made to Play are simple enough that parent and child can do them together. A perfect book to pull out on the next snow day.

Happy Friday Everyone!

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Simple DIY Winter Hostess Gifts

Valley and Co. Lifestyle DIY ornamentImage via Valley and Co. DIY Lifestyle

It’s always nice to bring a little thank you when a friend or acquaintance goes to the trouble of having guests over for a nice meal.  Here are some simple DIY hostess gift ideas, many of which you can make up now in bulk so that you always have something on hand to give.

Hot Chocolate

homemade gift of peppermint hot chocolateImages via My Recipes

Mix up some fancy cocoa packages to give away, including little extras like mini marshmallows, peppermint sticks, vanilla sugar and mini chocolate chips.  I’ve seen this packaged all sorts of interesting ways: layered in a mason jar like above; with each ingredient in little test tubes; in cellophane cones.

Hot chocolate on a stick, with homemade marshmallow!

Image via Make and Take

If you’re feeling a tad more adventurous, try this hot chocolate on a stick recipe from Make and Take.  This combines homemade marshmallows and chocolate blocks on popsicle sticks that are swirled and melted into warmed milk.  Mmmmmm….


vintage asian tea canistersImage via Bijou Kaleidoscope

A simple selection of individually wrapped teas together with a little jar of honey and other garnishes like lemons, cinnamon sticks, ginger root make a wonderful gift this time of year.  Bonus points if you package the tea in a vintage tea canister or other decorative box.

Scented Sugars

homemade vanilla sugarImage via Hip Hostess

trio of scented sugarsImage via Kitchen Samurai

Scented sugars make a wonderful gift and are perfect in a morning tea, bowl of porridge, or atop fresh fruit.  And they couldn’t be easier to make.  Pick up, or re-use some glass jars with tightly fitted lids, add granulated sugar and an aromatic such as halved vanilla pods, mint leaves, lemon and orange peels, or rose petals.  Let the jars of sugar sit in its closed jar for about one week and ta-dah: A uniquely sweet gift! How awesome too that this gift is shelf stable, beautiful to present and inexpensive to make.

Holiday Ornaments

Got kids or visiting grandkids looking for a fun sparkle mess of a craft, because this one is perfect.  Pick up some simple glass baubles (or a less breakable material like Styrofoam balls if little ones are involved) and create a masterpiece for your host’s tree.

DIY glittle baubleImage via Shelterness

Simply coat the bauble with a glue stick and dip/sprinkle with sparkles.  For a snowball look, coat in Epsom salts.  It’s really simple and fun if you’re a crafter.

snowball ornament made with epsom saltsImage via My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

homemade glitter ornamentImage via Ideas Home Concept


knit washclothsImage via PurlBee

If knitting is your thing (it’s mine!), these charming washcloths by Whit’s Knits are made from a soft machine-wash cotton.  The “log cabin” design makes for a visually interesting colour blocked look that are sure to be soft yet durable.  For the full tutorial with loads of pics, just visit Purl Bee.

Hope you find time to relax and enjoy as the holiday season starts ramping up!

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Ikebana for Mother’s Day

Ikebana arrangement by Katsuko ThielkeKatsuko Thielke via ikebana.org

Flowers are a staple of Mother’s Day, but before you stop by the florist for a bouquet consider giving her a true work of floral art with an ikebana arrangement. For those who don’t know, ikebana is a specific type of Japanese floral arranging that aims to bring humanity and nature together. Ikebana is an art form that is exceptionally powerful because of its impermanence.

Ikebana arrangement via Nori Nodaimage via Nori Noda

Biku Designs Ikebana arrangementimage via biku designs

Another idea would be to get together with mom so you can both try your hand at Ikebana inspired floral arrangements. Gather the materials beforehand, purchase some wonderful teas and spend the afternoon centreing yourselves while creating flower arrangements.

Ikebana arrangement via Coated Arms

image via coated arms

It takes years to learn and master the art of ikebana but here are a few of the basic principles and materials you will need to get started.

A few popular styles of ikebana are:

Rikka- meaning standing flowers.

Nagiere- a non structured design the often features a tight bundle of stems and an asymmetrical triangular shape.

Seika- where three main branches represent ‘ten’ heaven, ‘chi’ earth and ‘jin’ human.

Jiyuka- a free form design that often utilizes materials other than flowers.

This website gives a good overview of the various styles with pictorial examples.

Japanese Flower Vase for Ikebana ArrangementsJapanese Flower Vase from Doug Smith Pottery


Container- the container you choose should be cohesive with the type of arrangement you’re trying to create. Don’t be afraid to use an unconventional object as a vase.

Kenzan- also know as a ‘floral frog’, is a small disk with pins protruding from it that sits at the bottom of your container. It will hold the stems or branches in place which will help you achieve your desired shape for the arrangement.

Flowers, Grasses, Vines and Branches- Really any kind of plant life can be used, but some popular choices are orchids, long grasses, cherry blossoms and branches of Japanese Maple.

Small Garden Shears- a pair of small pointed garden shears will be helpful for trimming and cutting plants.

Ikebana arrangement by Junkoikebana by junko

When you’re finished creating your masterpieces mom and you can exchange them so you each have a memento of the day.

Happy Friday everyone and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there!

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , ,

Mother’s Day Gift Guide: Home Sweet Home

A pretty papercut card for Mother's DayPapercut Mother’s Day Card by Ashley Pahl

Mother’s Day is less than a month away. Have you figured out what you’re getting your mom? If you haven’t there is no need to panic. I’ve rounded up a few ideas for design conscious mothers who wants to bring a little beauty into their homes. Skip the bubble bath and flowers and give her something that will show how amazing and stylish you think she is.

Penguin Book Deck ChairPenguin Books Deck Chair via art meets matter

For the literary mama who likes nothing more than relaxing outside with a good book one of these deckchairs printed with classic Penguin Book covers will be a welcome surprise. Made in England, these elegantly crafted chairs are perfect for the patio or deck.

Melona glass topper for your houseplantsMelona Glass Plant Topper via Design Sponge

This geodesic plant topper from Melona Glass is like jewellery for house plants. Designed to capture and reflect sunlight, this topper will be good for her plants while adding some sparkle to her home.

Merchant #4 Three Tier Cake StandThree Tier Cake Stand from Merchant No.4

Is the mom on your list a baker with a love of minimalist design? Then give her this three tiered wooden cake stand. When it’s not being used to serve appetizers or desserts it will look beautiful in her kitchen.

Treehouse fabric bucketTreehouse Fabric Bucket by Jenna Rose

Jenna Rose’s printmaking completely inspires me, as do the beautiful housewares she constructs from her hand-printed textiles. Whether the lucky mom who receives this needs somewhere to store her knitting, her magazines or anything else, a beautiful fabric bucket will be much appreciated.

Ceramic hanging pendant lamphanging lamp by Farrah Sit

How about this gorgeous hanging lamp from Brooklyn ceramics artist Farrah Sit? The porcelain casts a warm glow perfect for a bedroom, or anywhere that needs a little bit of illumination. You can also customize your light by adding or subtracting bulbs.

DIY Painted Wooden SpoonsPainted Spoons Tutorial via House of Earnest

DIY Painted Spoons

Of course I need to add at least one DIY idea; it’s my secret mission to turn everyone into a crafty dynamo. In all seriousness, even if you’re not the least bit craft-inclined this painted wooden spoon tutorial will be a cinch to pull off, and what a gorgeous gift for a mom who likes to bake or cook. You can find the directions here.

If you’re planning on purchasing a gift online for Mother’s Day I’d recommend doing it as soon as possible to ensure that it will ship in time for the big day. I know many online shops will offer expedited shipping prices but it’s always best not to leave it till the last minute.

Happy Friday Everyone!

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The Quirky Kitchen

Colorful colander, bowls, measuring cups and spoons by Joseph Joseph
Image from Joseph Joseph

Food and design are intrinsically connected. Design influences the way food is prepared and crafted, whilst food has always been a great source of inspiration for designer, spawning iconic design objects. In the design enthusiast’s home, cooking  can be more fun when you have the right tools and tableware that can add a little more interest to the preparation.

Karate chopper

Novelty knifeVia Fing Kisher

The Karate chopper makes chopping lettuce enjoyable and as easy as breaking plywood boards. A giant hand-shaped cutter, this will definitely get the kids to enjoy making their own salads (and hopefully get them to eat their veggies too!).

OCD Chef

Image via Swiss-Miss

This cutting board is definitely on my household item wishlist, and will appeal to many who are avid crafters and designers. The board is made from bamboo but features a grid and etchings reminiscent of a rubber cutting mat. It even has angle measurements! The board is from Fred and Friends, a company that makes functional objects that are also highly entertaining.

Joseph Joseph Nest 9

Colorful nesting utensils from Joseph JosephNesting kitchen tools from Joseph Joseph

Images from Joseph Joseph

This set is a great way to keep some basic kitchen tools organized while adding color to your kitchen. The set includes a strainer/colander, two mixing bowls, a sieve, and a set of measuring spoons. It was designed to stack together with a perfectly flat top, so that it occupies the least amount of space while forming a complete spectrum! This would definitely make a great housewarming gift.

Pantone Mugs and Cups

Colorful mugs from PantonePantone mugs look great on the shelf

Images by Renee Alfonso

And speaking of adding color to your kitchen and cupboard, the Pantone mug series would definitely be at home in any design enthusiast’s kitchen. Each ceramic mug is designed like a Pantone swatch, complete with the color number! Apart from the standard mugs they also come in espresso mug size.

Vintage Pyrex

Scene from Mad Men

Scene from Mad Men

Retro Pyrex serving bowls
Image from I ♥ Pretty

No household has been complete without a Pyrex dish since the mid twentieth century. For the vintage enthusiasts or those looking to add a little vintage flair into the kitchen, classic Pyrex is definitely the way to go! Vintage pyrex sets are functional, and fun, going straight from the stove or oven top to the table, and will give any kitchen that trendy Mad Men like flare.  Pyrex has come to have somewhat of a cult following in recent years, and many people collect them.

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