Giving this year: DIY city quilts

Now that the calendar is hitting the last week of October I'm giving a little thought (very very little, mind you) to Christmas giving. I'd love to make at least a few of the gifts so I should probably get started! Maybe you're in the same boat. One thing for sure: I am itching to make a city quilt (or fourteen) from Haptic Lab. 

I've had my eye on their work for a couple of years. Their city quilts are amazing. Now they also offer DIY quilt kits, either the basic kit (pattern and instruction) for $38 or with materials included for $74.

NYC DIY city quilt kit,  photos via Haptic Lab

NYC DIY city quilt kit, photos via Haptic Lab

I can think of so many great recipients for these--as a hometown remembrance for kids who are getting ready to leave for uni or jobs or who have dreams of traveling, for friends with affinities for a certain city, for your own family to remember and mentally travel through cities you've loved together. It would also be wonderful to give the kit itself as a gift to one of your kids who loves creating things.

The beauty is that you can embroider little messages and important spots onto the quilt to personalize it and make it especially meaningful.

Boston DIY city quilt

Boston DIY city quilt

The only problem for me is I wouldn't be able to decide which city (there are 19 to choose from so far). And it's not just cities. They also offer USA and world map quilt kits--a fun gift to personalize and give someone (or, let's face it, yourself!) to document all the places they've lived or to highlight a journey. AND THEN there's the constellation quilt kits!

Haptic Labs also offers very cool ship kites and other custom kites. I think this red orange one could be fun for kite flying and equally fabulous hanging from the ceiling in a favorite room:

Here's a great little clip from Emily Fischer, the artist behind Haptic Labs, on the constellation quilts:

p.s Haptic Labs doesn't know I exist and definitely didn't pay for me to rave about them. I just get really excited when people come up with great ideas, create them, and share with the rest of us.

Definitely let me know if you decide to make one. I'd love to see what you do with it! Right now I'm trying to decide between Boston, NYC, London, or the world. 

Grad gifts

After two consecutive years of graduating my off-spring, this year I'm taking a break. Phew! Graduation and it's associated festivities are so solemn, and final, and just plain exhausting. Yep, this year I can just sit back and admire those darling graduates without intermittent anxiety attacks. My anxiety meter needed a rest anyhow.

I thought it might be helpful to round up some groovy grad gifts. Also, I'm procrastinating, and searching the Internet is my favorite go-to procrastination activity. You can thank me later.

image via  AnniePants

image via AnniePants

I LOVE this stamped penny pendant. There is also a keychain for boys.

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One of my girls' favorite grad gifts was a Scentsy warmer with their school logo. They have an entire collegiate collection.

My girls also received some cool personalized water bottles and tumblers with their college logo and name. Check out these.

For kids going out of state to college -- a little reminder of home is always nice. My girls loved these Texas Ts.

Money is ALWAYS nice. The eighteen25 girls are so clever.

Here's something super easy, quick, and budget friendly. Buy this image download for only $5. Print, slip into a frame, and voila . . . instant dorm room art.

Fail to plan . . .

I know that I shouldn't rush right past Thanksgiving. And I'm not; I promise. In fact, our second born is arriving home THIS SATURDAY from college, and after a three-month absence, I'm all a-twitter and chock-full of thanks. Sterling and I are firming up our Thanksgiving menu, so there will be more on that later.

For better or worse, Thanksgiving prep and Christmas planning must inevitably coincide, at least at my house. Cards need to be ordered. The shopping needs to be done. Decorations need installing. And then there are the thousand other miscellaneous Christmas THINGS that need a slot on the calendar: like gingerbread decorating, caroling and hot cocoa, school and church parties (that require small gifts -- so many small gifts), visiting, remembering, all manner of celebrating. 

I'm thinking of putting together a Christmas planner this year -- one that I can reuse or duplicate (in some way) for subsequent years.

The eighteen25 girls do a pretty nifty planner. Each year they update the tags with the new year. The instructions for assembly are here. And new 2013 tags are here. [Edited to add: Ha! Just saw that eighteen25 posted TODAY about 2013 Christmas planners. I'm so IN SYNC. Check it out here.

Nora from JustMakeStuff is a master of organization. I'd like to hire her to run my life, and if she'd consider working for absolutely free -- I think we could make things work. She even has an entire wrapping center at her house. (Last year, it should be noted, I put up a long table in my bedroom and stocked it with wrapping supplies. I left the table up for about two weeks, and was fairly successful at corralling my Christmas mess into that one location. Three cheers!) Nora's planner incorporates a Christmas section into an existing organizational binder. See here (click on links for all of the downloads and instructions). Also, she has an entire Christmas category (along the right side of her blog) that is super fun and instructional.

If you are more of a virtual planner, Real Simple has an "Ultimate Christmas countdown Checklist" that breaks tasks down for you by date . . . and you do get to virtually tick the boxes . . . which everyone knows is exceedingly satisfying.

There is an app (of course) called The Christmas List, which is primarily a shopping app -- tracking items to be purchased, wrapped, mailed, etc. The app also includes a budget feature which allows you track the amount spent on each person on your list. (But I hate budgeting . . . so THERE.]

Whatever organizational method I end up utilizing, I'm dead set on simplifying. Manageable -- that's going to be my mantra this year.

And guess what? Jordan's Christmas is already making it's way to France. ONE DOWN . . .


What about you guys? How do you keep Christmas simple? How do you focus your big kids on the real joy of the season?

Present planning

I roll my eyes at holiday displays in October (ugh! don't rush me, Costco!). But, I'll admit it, my Christmas gifting wheels are beginning to turn. I'm definitely not one of those organized souls who has everything all bought and wrapped by July 31st but I do like to bookmark potential gifts all year round. (We just watched What About Bob here and I think I'm going to take a Bob approach to the holidays this year: "baby steps to Christmas, baby steps to Christmas")

October's the time when I start making some decisions, especially if I want to (a) make any of the presents or (b) order from websites like Etsy. With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few of the gift ideas I've bookmarked lately. (Ahem. If you are MY KIDS, click away from here. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.)  

. . . 

First of all, if I were an expert quilter I would make this polaroid quilt for one of (all of?) my kids. You know those good ol' keepsake memory quilts made from old team/school tshirts? How about doing something a little more design-y while still honoring the trip down memory lane? (Tutorial here.) The beauty is that you could put pretty much anything inside the polaroid photo frames: embroidered words, fabric images (like the one below), abstract designs, or--how about this?--have all the kids draw a picture of themselves and then transfer the images and stitch over them in the polaroid frames for a perfect grandparent gift. I'm telling you, I'm going to learn to quilt JUST TO MAKE THIS project.

Photo via  Freshly Picked

Photo via Freshly Picked

For avid reader and book lovers, I'm sold on anything from the Literary Gift company. I mean. A handbag from a book?  

A typewriter pin for $8? 

See also: the novel posters (where the entire text of the book is hidden in the poster), book cover posters, and literary maps

Speaking of maps, this writeable globe is pretty cool. I love its look and can see it being used for years of geography studying and globe challenges.

Know anyone who owns a gadget? Anyone at all? This cordito from Etsy seller This is Ground is such a beautiful solution to carrying all those cords and chargers around. They've got lots of other cool leather things: cord tacos, phone cases, folders.

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I already mentioned the Forever Young locket I got Maddy last year as a special keepsake. I think this fortune cookie necklace from Etsy seller Christina Kober would be another lovely option for a nice, heartfelt gift for a teen. I think I might send something like this to Lauren, who will be far away (whimper) for the next two Christmases. I love that you can personalize the fortune, too, that hangs down from the clasp at the nape of the neck. What would yours say?

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Who doesn't love a pair of funky socks? It looks like Sock It To Me has kind of cornered the market on distinctive, fun socks. In addition to this American Gothic pair I spied on Pinterest, they also have a Chat Noir, a Starry Night one, and many more.  Including super stripes.

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I adore the Timex Weekender series. Great for teen guys or gals. (Or moms named Annie.)  Handsome, colorful, and inexpensive.

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And I think this scratch-off map is fun to keep track of your family's travels (at Restoration Hardware; their stocking stuffer section always has a good bunch of options).

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When I attended my cousin Lindsey's beautiful wedding, I noticed so many lovely details. They had birch place card holders at each plate and I have loved using mine here at home as a holder for a rotating gang of art postcards. I thought it would make a great gift for the girls I work with at church, paired with a small inspiration poster. Or they could make great friend gifts for teen girls to give with some fun card or ticket or photo. Etsy seller Vermont Branch Company sells 10 birch stump place card holders for $12.50. Or, if you're handy with a saw and have access to some gorgeous branches, you could make these yourself. (By the way, if you're trying to find a good friend gift, wedding sites are a good resource for ideas. Their favors tend to be classy and relatively inexpensive.)

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What's on your list of gift ideas this year? How do you plan your family gifting? Though I don't follow it strictly, I really like the guidelines my mom told me many years ago: 

Something to wear
Something to read*
Something to play with
Something you need. 

I'm too rebellious of a shopper to abide by it completely but it does help guide me for the sake of variety and fairness. 

p.s. I promise not to overdo the whole Christmas in October thing, but I do have a post on holiday card ideas in the works. Don't stress. No worries. We've still got all the time in the world. Baby steps. 

*I promise we'll cover books another time. 


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The real push presents

I was driving the carpool to school today when the radio hosts started chatting about the new(ish) tradition of a husband giving a "push present" of fine jewelry to his wife when she has a baby. I don't think this was a thing when I was having babies in the nineties. Back then, I think the philosophy was that the push present was, well, your baby.

I'm all in favor of gifts and occasions, though, and the topic got me thinking. There are lovely showers and congratulations and gifts for new mothers and, really, that's great. But then it's a long trudge across the desert after that. No built-in present moments. No congratulations. And yet, it seems to me that there are plenty of moments ripe for thanking and gifting later in motherhood. For your consideration, a few currently thankless parenting moments that are ripe for gift giving, in celebration of a different kind of pushing:

-teaching your child to drive without perishing 
- getting the college applications finally submitted 
- finally getting your boys to aim better in the bathroom (and to clean up)
- getting the high-stakes school project completed

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- pushing them to keep their arm or leg casts dry for six weeks in the summer 
- dropping your child off at college
- getting your 12-year-old son to ask a girl to dance rather than sit it out
- sitting through a dozen years of music practicing and school concerts
- getting them through school and graduated

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Okay, parents. What other tough, thankless moments could be candidates for push presents?

Instagram Gift!

I know it's only March, but I can already feel the end of the year lurching towards me. With Madison's graduation and Jordan's mission staring me square in the eyes, I'm feeling like I'd better start getting my ducks in a row (and yes, I'm now fresh out of cliches). For Christmas I made one of these photo books for each of my kids -- a soft-cover book with instagram pics from all of 2012. {Note: You don't have to use Instagram, but I'm lazy so I have lots of Instagram pics.} Now I'm thinking this could make a cool end-of-the-year or graduation gift. And seriously, folks, you can't beat it for $10.99. (I'm not a paid spokeswoman, I just play one on this blog. No, seriously, Artifact Uprising doesn't even know I'm writing this.)

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This is the book I made for Sterling and I. For the kids' books I selected photos that I thought would be memorable for each individual kiddo. That took some time, but I had a ball putting it together -- reliving the memories . . . eating cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes are a theme here. 

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The book is approximately 5" x 5" and I thought the printing was fantastic. Unlike the traditional scrapbooking I did in the late 90s, none of the pics are cut in the shape of the Easter bunny. No, this is way more classy.

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I thought this would be cool for Maddie to make for her friends -- maybe all pics of their senior year. I'm going to make one for Jordan to take with her when she goes to France -- with a picture of me ON EVERY PAGE. Just kidding. Sort of.

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Any other good graduation or end-of-year gifts out there? I'm all ears.

Enjoy your weekend!