Tag Archives: gifts

Gifts for a Happy Home

Moving Day Cupcakes by Creative CupcakesMoving Day Cupcakes via creativecupcakes

Moving into a new home is a huge milestone and definitely worth celebrating with a thoughtfulgift. Flowers and home supplies are a couple of excellent choices to bring the first time you are invited to a friend or family members new pad, but here are a few less-expected options that will help make their new house feel like a home.

Seed KitSarah Rainwater Seed Kit via Design Sponge

When faced with a big move nobody needs more useless clutter, so picking a gift that is useful as well as beautiful is ideal. This seed kit by Sarah Rainwater fits both criteria; it’s impeccably designed and has all the essentials to jump start a new garden.

The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah NeedlemanThe Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman

Maybe it’s because I love receiving them, but books are one of my favourite things to give. Why not give the new homeowner one or two books that are inspiring in terms of design, but also beautiful enough to display on the coffee table. My top two picks are The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman and Grace Bonney’s Design Sponge at Home. Both are packed with inspiration and eye candy.

Decoylab's Make My Wishes Come True ClipboardMake my Wishes Come True Clipboard by decoylab

Another great gift option is this modern wooden clipboard that would be wonderful in the kitchen for family notes, or in a home office for list making.  In fact, Decoylab is one of my favourite etsy shops; one of their wooden clocks would also make a terrific housewarming gift.

A Home is Made print by Rebekka SealeA Home is Made Print by Rebekka Seale

New art to hang on the wall is a gift that most people will appreciate. This sweet house print by Rebekka Seale is lovely, and she also does custom house portraits. We have a painting of our old apartment building that a good friend gave us as a wedding gift, it’s definitely one of our most treasured possessions. If you’re looking for other artists who do custom house portraits Etsy is a good place to begin your search.

Custom Address Stamp by Felt and WireCustom Address Stamp from felt and wire

How about a custom calligraphy address stamp from felt and wire? Calligraphy adds an old fashioned touch to stationary, and while the recipient is still trying to remember their new address a stamp may come in handy.  If you’re really crafty you could even try making one yourself.

Custom Wooden Hangers by Paloma's Nestcustom wooden hanger by palomas nest

Here’s another useful and thoughtful gift idea: a beautiful custom-made wooden hanger. Or you could splurge on one for everyone in the household, that way everyone has a special place to hang their coat.  What a sweet way to say ‘welcome home’.

DIY a Practical Gift Basket like Martha Stewartimage from Martha Stewart via h&a happenings

If you’re feeling really stuck for gift ideas you can pick a theme and assemble a collection of practical gifts (ex.  entertaining, cooking, painting or laundry supplies).   Whatever gift you decide to give, the packaging can make all the difference; like the bar-in-a-box gift pictured above.

Can’t believe it’s friday already. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Posted in Culture | Tagged

I Heart You

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. (Or TOMORROW!!!! Depending on your persuasion. ) I like the idea of fêting those you care about, though I don’t buy into commodified romance.  That feels kinda oxymoronic to me.  But I fully appreciate I am in the minority here.  And we did spend part of the weekend making Valentine’s cards and cookies to distribute, so it’s quite possible I’m full of it.

While it might be a little late to get these gifts for tomorrow, I did find some pretty cool heart-shaped things during this week’s internet wander.  Maybe surprise your love another day of the year with one of these sweet finds?

Paul Octavious' Book Sculpture entitled Whole HeartPaul Octavious’ book sculpture entitled 51 Love Stories – Whole Heart.
Image via just a few prints

I love this print by Paul Octavious called 51 Love Stories – Whole Heart.  Paul is a photographer and designer who creates totally charming book sculptures.   You can order prints directly from his site.  This one would be perfect for those of you in long distance relationships!  Swoon….

Paul Octavious' Comeplete My Heart Book Sculpture

image via just a few prints

This darling automata entitled the Heart Machine is by Martin Smith.  Doesn’t this look like Amelie should gift this to her beau?  It’s full of whimsy, with a touch of steampunk magic.

The Heart Machine by Martin Smithimage via laikingland

Here’s a little video of the Heart Machine pitter-pattering away.

Mini anatomical heart in a jar necklaceimage via kivaford on Etsy

Over on Etsy, I saw this Anatomical Heart In a Jar Necklace.  This one isn’t for the quaint of heart, but it’s original and oddly beautiful.  It reminds of the Oliver Jeffer’s book Heart and the Bottle, which would also make a beautiful gift to that special someone who finally freed your heart to love in daring and extraordinary ways.

Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffersavailable on Amazon

There are nerds in everyone’s life who’d appreciate these Star Wars love cards in Aurebesh I think.

The Wallaroo Geek Greeting Cardsvia the Wallaroo on Etsy

And last but not least, by Canadian glassworks company Tsunami Designs, has this Ventricle Vase available by custom order.  Designed by Eva Milinkovic it references “the organic beauty of the human heart”.

Tsunami Glassworks Ventricle Vaseimage via Tsunami Glassworks

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Great Gifts for Valentine’s Day

I admit, I agree wholeheartedly with Mandy’s sentiments about Valentine’s Day mentioned on our blog last week. I for one have always hated the ads that start up in January, urging us to express our love by purchasing hugging teddy bears, heart-shaped cubic zirconia pendants, and over-priced bouquets of red roses. At the same time, I like the idea of a day devoted to showing my family and friends how much they mean to me, even if deep down I know this should be part of my regular routine and not reserved for some random day in February.

(Photo: We Heart It)

Sometimes, I think the smallest gestures make the biggest impact. I can imagine filling these bags, the template for which is available on The Sweetest Occasion, with a batch of rich and gooey homemade chocolate chip cookies for an unexpected take on the traditional Valentine’s Day chocolate.

(Photo: The Sweetest Occasion)

If homemade isn’t your thing, pick up some macarons, the airy French meringue cookies that have popped up in hip bakeries across the country. I think Rocq’s heart-shaped versions are especially apropos this time of year and who could resist such decadent flavours as peach mango and red velvet bourbon vanilla?

(Photo: Pink Memo)

Feeling nostalgic for Sweethearts, the childhood candy associated with this holiday? Save the empty calories and pick up a set of these stamps which would be perfect for making a homemade card or wrapping paper.

(Photo: Paper Source)

Whether you make or buy a card, take the time to include a personal note. This is the occassion to overcome your shyness and pour your heart out to the one you love. Having trouble crafting the perfect poem? There’s an app for that. The iWrite: Love Poems app provides writing instructions to help you express your feelings. There is even an erotic poem app for those looking to spice up their love life this Valentine’s Day!

(Photo: Hub Pages)

The one thing to remember is that no holiday should be stressful. So ignore the commercials and do something personal for your loved one this year. I promise you that he or she will appreciate it more than any teddy bear. And don’t despair if you are single on Valentine’s Day- use it as an opportunity to remind your friends and family how special they are to you with a little gesture, even if it is as simple as a hot chocolate and a hug.

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Paint Chip Projects

I am still settling into my new place and so far the biggest stumbling block, besides having the delivery guys unceremoniously dump my couch three floors below my apartment door, has been trying to choose paint colours.

paint chip samples

Photo: Apartment Therapy

Before I moved in, I was sure I knew the perfect hues and collected a small sampling of paint chips from my local store. But now that I have been in the space for a while, none of my original picks seem right for attic rooms with sloping ceilings and little natural light. So it’s back to the paint store for a few more chips.

Bicycle with rainbow wheels
Photo: Buzznet

Not only am I ready to give up and pull a random colour out of a bag like Rachel Berger did for her 100 Colors, 100 Writings, 100 Days project but I’m also feeling a little guilty about all those wasted swatches. Since they can’t be recycled, I wanted to find a way to reuse them in a way that wouldn’t resemble a third grader’s art and crafts activity.

Pantone swatch mosaic rendition of a Manet painting

Photo: Tim Fraser Brown via Shape + Colour

This awesome reproduction of Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Berger took designer Tim Fraser Brown and his friends four days and 5000 Pantone chips to make. This is definitely not a third grade project but it is perhaps an overly ambitious goal for my limited palette of chips.

Coffee table with paint chip top
Photo: Ready Made

An internet search reveals hundreds of amazing projects. One of my favourites is this table treatment, which would be an excellent way to disguise a scratched surface or to dress up an inexpensive piece of furniture like IKEA’s Lack table. By using double-sided tape, as Ready Made suggests, you can change it up whenever you like.

Box and bow made with paint chips
Photo: Style With a Smile

I’m always trying to cut down on using store-bought gift wrap, so I can’t wait to try Jonathan Fong’s paint chip box and bow to jazz up a birthday present.

Coaster craft project using paint chips
Photo: Crafty CPA

The trick to projects like these is to make something that you will actually use, which is why I love the Crafty CPA’s paint chip coasters. And the bonus is that you don’t need to go steal dozen of cards from the paint store to make these; you can just add to your coaster collection when you are done with your latest samples.

Shredded paint chips on a wall
Photo: Babble

While I may be no closer to choosing colours for my walls, at least I have some ideas about how to reuse all those pretty paint chips. What do you do with your colour strips once the decision has been made?

Posted in Design | Tagged , , , , ,

Last-Minute Holiday Gifts

Everyone I know seems so stressed this holiday season, complaining that none of the tasks that this time of year brings are done. I am more or less on top of it: cookies baked, cards mailed, presents (mostly) bought. But with a move planned just three days after Christmas, I am run ragged and I know that I must have forgotten something or someone on my list.

(Photo: Meadowbrook Farm)

Nothing is worse than having to scramble for a last-minute gift. So before you grab that bottle of wine from your shelf or think about re-gifting the box of chocolates you received last week, here is my present to you: simple recipes that take only a few ingredients and require minimal prep time but produce spectacular results.

(Photo: Savory Sweet Life)

Peppermint bark is a holiday favourite and you can make it in less time than it takes to drive to the mall to buy a tin. There are several recipes for this but the best one I have tried comes from my old friend Jennifer Hamilton at Sweetspot. I made a batch the other night and wrapped presents while the chocolate layers cooled.

(Photo: Little Birdie Secrets)

You could package it up in a dollar-store tin but I think the bark is so pretty that all it needs is a cellophane bag, some ribbon, and a gift tag like Little Birdie Secrets used for their equally simple Holiday Pretzel Kisses.  I also love the idea of molding the bark in cookie cutters, like they did at peas & crayons.

(Photo: peas & crayons)

(Photo: One Charming Party)

One of my other go-to recipes this time of year is Sweet and Spicy Nuts, which beats a tin of Planter’s any day. You can adjust the spices to your taste or based on what you have on hand.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

2 cups pecans

1 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. brown sugar

1 ½ tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. nutmeg


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the nuts on a foil-lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Melt the butter in a small dish in the microwave.

Mix together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and add butter. Stir to mix.

Add the warm nuts and toss to coat.

Spread the nuts back on the baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool and break apart any clusters.

(Photo: Martha Stewart)

A cupful of these nuts wrapped up in a simple paper cone, the instructions for which are available from Martha Stewart, makes the perfect hostess gift!

Everyday items can be upcycled into wonderful packaging for homemade gifts. Jen at A Thousand Words wrapped empty Pringles cans with leftover paper to create a festive container for Christmas cookies. So don’t panic. Take a few minutes to put together these simple sweet and savory treats and you will be all set for a last-minute gift.

(Photo: A Thousand Words)

And if it turns out you don’t need them, you will have something special to serve family and friends when they come over for the holidays. Or you will have a little treat for yourself for when you finally cross the last thing off your holiday to-do list.

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