Five Unique Hostess Gifts

My mom is one of the most gracious guests. She always shows up with a gift in hand – even if she’s just coming over to visit the kids. While she’s originally from the West Coast, she raised our family with good Southern manners. And I try to carry on her tradition of bringing something with me to every event.

Sometimes I grab a bottle of wine and call it good, but notable occasions, like a Thanksgiving meal or holiday party, call for something more special. So…

Here are a few unique ideas to tuck in your thinking cap as you’re planning gifts this season. And they’re all around $10, which means you won’t have to break the bank shopping for all of your friends.

{ONE} Holiday Plates

A hostess can never have enough serving dishes. Really. It would be a welcomed treat to receive any one of these dessert plates. And by one, I mean you could buy a set of these precious plates from Pier One for $20 and divide them up as four hostess gifts. Fill the plate with homemade cookies, wrap with cello, add a pretty gold bow and you have yourself a show stopping gift – times four!

{TWO} Convertible Scarf

This cute little number is called the Ellie Convertible Button Scarf from Mudpie. It can be worn three ways: traditional over the shoulder, as a draped shawl or as a chunky scarf. Regardless of how it’s draped, your friend will be wearing it with a smile once she opens this gift. You might just need one for yourself, as well. The current price is $9.99. You can have it monogrammed for an additional $10.

{THREE} Personalized Oreos

For that quirky and fun friend, who also has a sweet tooth, this gift will be one she’ll remember. You can log on to the Oreo site, design your package and they’ll ship it right to you. The package price is only $10.

{FOUR} Williams-Sonoma Pancake Mix

Who doesn’t love waking up to a stack of piping hot pancakes? This is a gift your hostess will appreciate come sunrise. Package price is $10.95. If you want to splurge, you could add a pound of freshly ground coffee beans from your local coffee shop and tie them together with a pretty ribbon. Breakfast is served!

{FIVE} Custom Coasters

{via}

{via}

Of course I had to mention these adorable coasters from Qostr. They’re ideal hostess gifts you can personalize with pictures or other designs. Be sure to use promo code NOVEMBER20 to get 20% off your order. This offer is just for Neat Nook readers, so enjoy!

I’m also hosting a giveaway for one set of Thanksgiving coasters that were designed just for The Neat Nook. You only have until Monday, 10pm Central to register to win. Enter below, my friends!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a terrific weekend and be sure to check out all of the blogging goodness on Five on Friday and Oh, Hey Friday!

Fiveonfriday

-Kate

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A Lovely Oregon Adventure

K and B beach

Brandon and I just returned from an adventurous trip to Oregon to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We chose this area because we wanted to visit “wine country” and also dip our toes in the ocean for a bit. I love that we went this direction (instead of traditional Napa) because it was such a different and new experience for both of us!

We packed up our cozy sweaters and headed for a gorgeous getaway along the Oregon coast, as well as deep in the Willamette Valley. Now that we’re home, I thought it would be fun to share some pictures and take you along our little adventure.

Starting from the sky…

This was the view from the plane on the way to Portland. B took this picture, which was perfect timing to get Mount Hood peaking through the clouds.

Mt Hood

Once we landed, we rented a car and high-tailed it to the beach. I was taken back by how tall the evergreens were. The ground was sprawling with ferns as big as our car and every now and then you’d see pops of bright yellow from the maples that were still trying to hang on to their leaves.

oregon treesAs soon as we arrived at Cannon Beach, which was less than two hours away, we checked into Stephanie Inn. As you can see, it’s right on the water. The sky was foggy, which gave it a mysterious backdrop. Our room was on the second floor, so we had a perfect view of the Pacific.

Stephanie Inn

Ready for the view from our room? This was taken at sunset when we arrived. I felt like an ocean princess sitting on our balcony taking in this view and the salty air.

sunset on the beach

I couldn’t wait to throw on my boots and go for a walk down the beach. The sand was so compact and easy to walk on. And the views…

cannon beach sunset_rocks

If this looks strangely familiar, you might remember it from the movie The Goonies. It was filmed in this area.

So, B and I ran into a super interesting guy who was meandering along the water with his dog. He graciously took our picture. (It was windy, which is why we’re squinty and my hair is crazy. Lol.)

K and B on beach

As we got into a conversation with our photographer friend, we learned he was nearing the end of a 45-day drive from one coast to the other. He was inspired by his dad, who made the same trip more than 20 years ago. We didn’t catch his name, but we were introduced to his dog, Bernie, who was very well-mannered. (Our Leo would have sprinted off the moment he laid eyes on a seagull.)

Anyway, he was the first of many cool people we met along the way…

photographer

We woke up the next morning at 4am, not just because we were excited to get back on the beach, but also because our bodies were used to being two hours ahead! I love this picture of my sweet B drinking his coffee.

Brandon in his happy place

The daylight brought with it some interesting treasures along our walk, such as sand dollars, washed up jellyfish and all kinds of shells.

shells on beach

I couldn’t figure out what made all of the squiggle marks in the sand. This jellyfish was larger than my head. I should have dropped a penny next to it for scale. Trust me, it was huge.

jellyfish

Look at this sweet seagull chillin’ in the morning sunshine. I wanted to just perch next to him for the day.

Seagull at Cannon Beach

Oh, I also spotted this cute little fella. He was hopping around the property of the hotel nibbling on herbs from their garden. I swear he had to be someone’s pet. Look how tame he was!

Kate and bunny

When it came to food, we decided to splurge. We also tried to eat things native to the region, which were all kinds of berries, nuts and seafood.

I snapped this picture of a hazelnut grove along the way. I’ve never seen this before!

Hazelnut trees

Back to our hotel…the restaurant was led by Executive Chef Aaron Bedard. He served up a meal that could have broken records. It was pretty much the best pecan-crusted salmon that has ever touched my lips. I can say that with authority.

After dinner, we received this surprise treat at our table to celebrate our anniversary. May I introduce you to my new best friend: The Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Tart consisting of Belgian dark chocolate mousse, Oregon hazelnut crust, huckleberry compote and chocolate fudge sauce.

anniversary dessert

After our time at the beach, we headed inland for a few days. We stayed at Le Puy Inn. It was a lovely house owned by a couple, who are both architects. Every detail was in place, including complimentary wine glasses and chocolates in our room, as well as organic bath salts and candles next to the tub. It was heavenly.

le puy

We toured the Willamette Valley visiting local vineyards and wineries. This area is home to some of the best Pinot noir in the world. Apparently the area has the same latitude as the Burgundy region of France, and has a similar climate in which the finicky Pinot noir grapes thrive. Cool, right?

vineyard

There are more than 400 vineyards in this valley alone. Needless to say, we had a few options to choose from. We started off at Hawks’ View, which ended up being our favorite destination. You can see Mount Hood in the distance.

Hawk's View Vineyard

We lingered in this spot for quite some time enjoying their wine, as you can see below.

Oh, and notice the flared lip on the glasses? We discovered these are designed specifically for a Pinot noir. It delivers the wine closer to the middle of the palate, which allows you to better experience the flavors. We felt so smart learning that.

Hawk's View wine glasses

The day was simply gorgeous. We had sunny skies and didn’t even need jackets. We kept hearing how this was going to be the last sunny day in the area until next year.

Arborbrook Vineyard

We woke up to this scene the very next day. It was a breathtaking rainbow over the valley. It also meant rain was on the way. It didn’t stop until we left. Although, we came prepared. Boots and umbrellas are an Oregon staple.

Rainbow

One of the tasting rooms we picked (on day two) was called Elizabeth Chambers. They produced their wines in town and purchased their grapes from various vineyards in the area. This made it a bit different. I also loved their logo. When you have so many wineries to choose from, you start picking them like race horses – go with the look.

Elizabeth Chambers Cellar

This whole place was beautiful. It was an old power plant and is on the historic register in McMinnville. They rent it out for parties and weddings. Perfect setting for something like that for sure.

Elizabeth Chambers inside

We made time along the way to sample some craft beer and seafood chowder, which I had been craving since the moment our plane landed from Arkansas. It was delicious. I would have taken some home in my purse if it weren’t so messy.

Golden Valley beers

Our dinners in the valley were insanely good. Our first night was spent at Recipe, Neighborhood Kitchen and we hit the Dundee Bistro for our final night.

They were both highly recommended, and we understand why. You couldn’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

Recipe

That pretty much concludes our tour. B and I had such a memorable trip. I hope you enjoyed a little sample of it all. Be sure to see it in person if you ever have the chance. I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back at some point. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 15 years 😉

Here’s to plenty of adventures, my sweet friends!

-Kate

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Non-candy Treats that Aren’t Lame

Let me start by saying, I know most kids are grateful for anything they receive on Halloween night. Even the black licorice sticks and Tootsie rolls feel a little love. I mean, it’s sugar.

Non-candy treats can be just as rewarding – especially for kids who have severe food allergies. It’s incredibly thoughtful to consider offering something everyone can enjoy. The Teal Pumpkin Project is a great example of this.

So I’m a fan of non-candy treats. You can start to enter some interesting territory, though.

When kids get things like rolls of dental floss, I imagine it’s like receiving a package of dust cloths for your birthday. “Honey, here are some nice rags to wipe all of our bookshelves with! Happy birthday!” Hmm. While you might need dust cloths at the moment, and they do smell nice, they’re not exactly what you would have chosen as a gift. The same logic applies for Halloween. Think “less trick” and “more treat.”

There are tons of pre-packaged items at the store, such as bubbles, bouncy balls and spider rings.

Those are all great. Pencils are one of those things that are on the fence, though. If kids love writing, they’ll be excited to get some snazzy new pencils. If pencils remind them of homework, you may have entered Choreland. Proceed with caution.

If you want to handout guaranteed non-lame prizes, here are a few to consider.

To verify, my 9-year-old twins said these would be “awesome” in their treat bags.

{ONE} Spider Friends

Kids love little fuzzy things. My girls are obsessed with stuffed animals. So why not hand out little spider friends?

spider supplies

These are easy to make and only require a few simple items: pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes and a glue gun.

IMG_6474

Directions: Cut a single pipe cleaner into four equal pieces. Twist them together in the center. Bend each “leg”. Then glue the pom pom to the legs, followed by the eyes. Ta-da! Instant spider – that’s cute, not creepy.

If you’re feeling extra generous, you can package each spider in a cello bag with a piece of fake spider web so he has a place to live once he gets to his new home!

{TWO} Glow-in-the-dark Stickers

Kids are fascinated with things that glow. It’s the only type of toy that requires total darkness, which is both scary and exciting at the same time. And that’s pretty much the definition of Halloween. You can’t go wrong with anything in the glow zone.

glow stickers

I bought a package of 75 stars for $12. Then I divided them up (three to a treat bag) and secured with a neon ribbon to turn them into more of a treat!

{THREE} Boo Bags

ghost pop corn bags

These are just cone-shaped cello bags found at Hobby Lobby filled with popcorn. I added some details with marker to give them a ghostly look. While this is a food item, it’s still considered non-candy. And kids love salty popcorn, especially if they’re headed home to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown after their hunt!

its-the-great-pumpkin-charlie-brown-9781481435857_hr

Such a classic! We watch this every year. What’s your go-to Halloween movie?

I must mention, some parents are picky about letting their kids eat anything homemade, so this idea might be best reserved for the kids you know really well. You can put a personalized tag around the top so they feel good knowing you took time to make them something special.

Any of these ideas are sure to leave your sweet neighbor kids feeling happy – and claiming you a total rockstar. And you didn’t even have to dress like one.

Here’s to an awesome Halloween!

-Kate

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Treat Yo’ Puppies!

Leo sends smooches to everyone's pooches today!

Leo sends smooches to everyone’s pooches today!

It’s officially National Dog Day. In honor of this special holiday, I wanted to share a few fun treats and accessories for your best furry friends.

Homemade Treats

dog treats

Get tons of recipes here to spoil your pup with lovin’ from the oven.

Store Bought Treats

personalized dino bone

Three Dog Bakery is the ultimate treat stop for your pup. Check out this giant peanut butter dino bone for $10.99 that you can have personalized.

Cute Dog Collars

This cute number is from Custom Collar. The buckle can even be engraved.

This cute number can be found here for $15. The buckle can even be engraved.

Funny Food Bowl

This seriously cute bowl can be found here.

This seriously cute bowl can be found here for $25.

SQUIRRELS!

What dog doesn't love a squirrel? This plush toy can be found here for $XX.

What dog doesn’t love chasing squirrels? This interactive plush toy is designed like a puzzle to keep your dog busy – and happy. It can be found here for $23.

Trendy Fall Sweaters

I can't even stand the cuteness of this picture. Look at this argyle purple sweater with matching scarf. Perfect for melting hearts when the weather turns cold. Get it here!

Holy cuteness! Look at this argyle purple plaid sweater with a matching scarf. It’s perfect for melting hearts when the weather turns cold. Get it here for $26.

I’m off to do some shopping for my sweet little guy. Have a fun day treating your sweet pups.

-Kate

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Surprise Trip to Kansas City

Kansas City Fountain

One of the many fountains in KC. {via}

This past weekend our family decided to head up to Kansas City to surprise our friend, Katie, for her 40th birthday.

40th Mug

Witness my favorite 40th birthday gift. {via}

We didn’t surprise everyone, though. Katie’s husband had planned an exciting and fairly elaborate evening in the Plaza, and he invited us up for the shenanigans. You know we’re always up for that. Even if it was a last-minute decision, we couldn’t say no to a party – and especially one with these fun friends of ours.

Doomers Forever

We have a group of friends in Kansas City that we lovingly call The Doomers. The name was coined when we were all in a sand volleyball league together. The guys chose the name based on comic characters they watched when they were young.

While the name sounds menacing, like a group of ballers straight out of the volleyball scene in Top Gun, the truth is, we were more interested in the free pitcher of beer and endless laughter at the end of each game.

top gun volleyball

We were definitely not this intense – or tan.

We started the friendship as a group of 12 twenty-somethings with big dreams and significant others who eventually turned out to become spouses. We met every Thursday night in Westport for these games.

The venue was as interesting as our group. It was one-half beach volleyball club and other half country western bar complete with a mechanical bull. You’d find yourself in a shared restroom covered in sand wearing flip-flops (if not barefoot – so gross, I know) standing next to a beautiful woman dolled up in her pointy boots, tight-fitting jeans and perfectly teased hair. It all became normal as we made this a weekly thing. Each of us was faithful to the team – and to each other.

Over the course of 15 years, we’ve attended weddings, swaddled newborns, suffered the loss of parents, supported a divorce, and remained tried and true to celebrating milestone birthdays for each other.

Doomer kids

This is just a few of our offspring from several years ago. We’re up to 13 little doomers now!

When we were all turning 30, our friend Ovey started a tradition of engraving each person’s name on a silver mug on their birthday. We also had a disposable camera (that was when those were a thing. #oldschool). You had to take a picture of yourself on your birthday with the camera. After we all entered “Club 30,” we processed the film for the memories.

Now that we’re a decade older, we’re recirculating the mug, which may or may not have been lost at some point. When you have a group our size, things are bound to get lost.

Birthday Mug

This is a picture of Katie and her husband, Mark, enjoying the fruits of The Birthday Mug!

While a few of us have moved away from Kansas City, we seem to be able to pick up where we left off at any given moment. I’m so grateful the team of “Doomers” remains in each of our hearts – no matter how old we are.

Here’s to a lifetime of good friends!

-Kate

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Friday Wrap + Five DIY Valentine’s

Happy Friday! It’s been an inspiring week visiting my dear sister in Atlanta. She’s been having some health issues, so I went to help out around the house and just catch up on life. It’s been awhile since we’ve done that. We live many miles away from each other and both carry a lot of responsibilities – so it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. Do you ever get that way? Before you know it, weeks and sometimes months have passed before you’ve talked to the people you probably need the most – like a sister? Well, that was us. We were overdue for some serious sister time, so I was beyond excited to jump on a plane to fly further south to see her.

sisterDuring my visit we caught up on great stories, and I gathered some of the best advice on raising healthy girls, creating strong friendships, and being honest about your own limitations. I can sincerely say my sister has all of these things figured out. How blessed am I to have her in my life as a role model and friend? Beyond.

Between chats, loads of laundry and meeting her friends, we found time to flip through a few magazines. You know how much I adore magazines. So now I have some fun ideas and projects I want to do around the house.

conversation heartsI’m also excited to get my Valentine’s cards started this weekend. I’m a sucker for Valentine’s Day. It’s such a sweet holiday to reach out to friends – and of course your special love – to let them know how much they’re appreciated. No big fancy gifts are needed.

I think a handmade card with a thoughtful note is the best kind of gift you could give – or receive.

I’ve always enjoyed making cards, and I have a few simple and cute ideas to share with you!

{ONE} “I Love You” Sign

I Love You ValentineThis card uses the “I love you” sign in American Sign Language, which is to tuck your middle and ring finger down while leaving all other fingers up. What better way to show your love on Valentine’s than with this sweet card? My daughter Clara made this by tracing her hand on a piece of construction paper, then we cut it out and taped a roll of Smarties under the two “down” fingers. Any round candy would work great. <3

{TWO} Cupid’s Arrow

Finished Arrow

This is the finished Valentine. Once I assembled the arrow, I tied a message onto the Pixie stick with a little piece of tulle.

Cupid’s arrow is a classic Valentine design. This is a sweeter version that uses a shot of sugar. I used a Pixie stick as the base and taped the arrow designs right onto the stick.

Cupid's Arrow

I drew triangles on a piece of construction paper (left) then cut them out to make an arrow tip and end (right)

Cupid's Arrow

Next, I made fringe by cutting diagonally on the end (top left) and then I simply taped the arrow pattern to the Pixie stick.

{THREE} Highlight of My Day

Highlighter Valentine

This is probably the simplest idea. Tie a bright-colored ribbon around a highlighter and attach a cute message. Voila, Valentine!

If you’re looking for a non-candy Valentine option, this is a fun (and kind of practical) idea that uses a highlighter. Isn’t it a darling way to brighten someone’s day?

{FOUR} Coo Coo for You!

Cocoa Puffs

I layered white copy paper that had the Valentine message over a piece of pink construction paper (left) then I tied a plastic spoon to the side of the box (right)

I’ve always loved those little individual boxes of cereal – the kind that come in an 8-pack of different flavors. Here’s a cute idea that turns them into a Valentine gift. Write a quirky message that ties in the cereal to include on the box, then tie a plastic spoon to the side. Super easy. Here are some quotes to try (with a typical breakfast pack):

  • Lucky Charms: You’re my luckiest charm.
  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch: You’re cereal-esly cool.
  • Cocoa Puffs: I’m coo coo for you.
  • Cheerios: You bring cheer to my day.
  • Honey Nut Cheerios: Nuttin’ is better than your friendship.
  • Golden Grahams: Your heart is good as gold.
  • Frosted Cheerios: You’re the frosting on my day.
  • Trix: No trix, you’re a great friend!

{FIVE} Award-winning Friend

Award Winning Friend

To finish this design, I stapled a Valentine message on the back and then covered the staple on the front with a heart-shaped foam sticker.

Every award-winning friends deserves this kind of Valentine. It’s also a basic Valentine that doesn’t require candy – unless you want to attach this to a beautiful box of chocolates. That would be perfectly okay! The only things this project needs are baking cups (various designs and sizes so you can stack them), ribbon and a stapler.

Award winning Friend

I cut “fringe” on the baking cups (top left) then folded a piece of ribbon (top right) before stapling it to the back of the stacked cups (bottom left). You can see the front view of the assembled ribbon (bottom right)

I hope these ideas inspired you to pull out your glue sticks, scissors and markers and spread a little love in your world. Here’s a free downloadable PDF of the Valentine’s messages shown in all of the pictures above.

Have a wonderful weekend and be sure to hug your sister if you have one!

-KateFiveonfriday

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DIY: Jars of Joy

Jars of Joy

Designed by The Neat Nook

My girls and I recently attended a party that included the making of Jars of Happiness. One of the moms had smart words to share with this group of 3rd grade girls to set the stage for kindness, respect, and inclusion toward each other. Such important lessons for any age, but I especially like the idea of talking to my girls about this now. #nevertooearly

Party Pic

We had fun at the party, if you couldn’t tell.

The mom encouraged the girls to write happy friendship memories on little slips of paper and store them inside the jar. At the end of the year, they can go back and see all of the kindness that filled their year. How sweet is that?

Jar of Happiness

These were the jars the girls made at their party. They used Mason jars with cloth stretched across the top. They cut a slit so the notes could easily slip inside. The initials were simply large stickers. Cute, right?

This project reminded me of a gift my son, Evan, gave me one Mother’s Day. He decorated an old Mason jar, wrote personal messages to me on slips of paper, and then tucked each of them down inside the jar. I was a puddle of tears when I opened the gift, and it’s still one of my most treasured gifts today. The jar sits on my nightstand, and every now and then I’ll dig into the jar to see what words of comfort my son will provide. I call this my Jar of Comfort, not to be confused with the one in my freezer containing vanilla ice cream.

Jar of Comfort

This is the jar from Evan. He took little pieces of tissue paper and glued them to the side of a Mason jar. Look at those sweet words, too. Talk about an instant boost in your day.

Evan’s gift actually inspired me to make something similar for one of my coworkers one Christmas. We drew names and had to make or find a gift that didn’t cost us anything. We had to get super crafty, so I decided to make a Jar of Joy. I found a clear, glass jar and spent the next hour or so typing 100 joyful messages for my friend. I printed them on bright colored paper and tucked them inside the jar. It was an easy gift, but one that was hopefully appreciated for many days (at least 100!) Here’s a printable list of 100 Days of Joy if you’d like to make your own!

Whether you make a jar to share with someone else or keep for yourself, this project is a great way to capture and organize your thoughts and share a bit of happiness. Call it whatever you’d like, too. As you saw, we have jars of happiness, comfort and joy in our house. Who wouldn’t want a little more of that goodness in their life?

Have an awesome day, and let me know if you try making one of these. I always love seeing pictures of your creations!!

<3 Kate

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Gift Wrapper’s Delight

Christmas Packages ChristmasPackages2Last Friday I shared an amazing YouTube video I stumbled upon that features the art of Japanese gift wrapping. I was seriously astounded by the simplicity and beauty of this technique. In the meantime I discovered a helpful link that outlines how to do each step in detail – tutorial style.

Japanese Diagonal Wrap

This is an easy tutorial from WikiHow. Be sure to scroll down to part two in the instructions.

These videos inspired me to share some of my own go-to wrapping secrets. They’re all super simps. Even though I love wrapping, I don’t do fussy.

My top five (easy) wrapping styles:

Quick tip: Buy solid color paper so you can use it any time of year. Then customize it with seasonal ribbons and toppers.

{1} Tootsie Roll Wrap

Tootsie Roll Wrap

I love wrapping odd or round-shaped items (like candles) in this fashion. Just roll the paper around the item, gather the ends, and secure with ribbon. I found this glitter paper at Walmart!

{2} Peek-a-Boo Package

Peek-a-boo Wrap

I had a little helper with this one. Those are Avery’s sweet hands. She loves the peek-a-boo wrap. Below are the easy steps.

Wrapping Tutorial

1. Wrap the gift with a solid paper as the base. 2. Measure a second piece of paper slightly narrower than the gift, so the first layer shows on the edges.

Wrap Tutorial

3. Use a hole punch or edging punch to fancy up the edges. 4. Wrap the two sides together before securing with a bow. I use a smidge of double-sided tape to hold the paper in place.

{3} Built-in Card Pocket

Built in Card Pocket

Attaching gift tags and cards can be troublesome if you have to carry your gift very far. This package has a built in pocket for you to easily tuck your card and go! It’s all in how you fold the paper.

Tip: Using striped paper for this particular fold is great because it’s like camo for a pocket. Where did it go?

Card Pocket Wrap

1. Measure and cut your paper several inches taller than your gift box. 2. Pull and fold the paper down to create a little tri-fold. This will form your pocket. 3. Crease and flatten out the paper and then wrap as usual.

{4} Stamps & Such

Ornament Wrap

I always have a roll of white butcher paper on hand for the kids to color or paint. It also makes great wrapping paper. Snaz it up with a few stamps and then add a pretty topper – like these gold ornaments and ribbon.

Gold Stamps

I used a pencil eraser dipped in gold ink to make mini-polka dots on this package. See how easy?!

{5} Showstopper Toppers! These are a great addition to ANY package you wrap.

Pom Pom Gift Topper

Pom-pom toppers are super easy to make. I also like the addition of stickers – like these initials – to further personalize the gift. Yes, this one is for my Clara 🙂

Acorn Gift Topper

Natural elements, like acorns, make awesome toppers. I hot-glued these to some artificial greenery and embellished with some scraps of sparkly ribbon.

Seashell Gift Topper

Speaking of natural elements, I always have more seashells than I know what to do with when we get home from a beach vacation. Using them as gift toppers is a fun way to share part of the shore – especially in the middle of winter! I just hot-glued this to a ribbon.

Holly Gift Topper

I happen to have a holly tree in my yard, so I snipped a few twigs as toppers. Get creative by searching your house and garden for treasures. Anything green and natural will be perfect on a package – especially wrapped with red ribbon.

Okay, show-and-tell time, my friends. I’d love to know how you wrap your gifts and goodies. Comment below or take a pic and share with us on Instagram. Be sure to tag me @katejandersen. Until then, happy wrapping!

-Kate

P.S. Only one week until Christmas!!

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The Best Gifts for Teachers

TeachersThis thankful Thursday is all about teachers. I’m willing to go out on a limb here to say teachers are some of the most patient, kind, humble and intelligent people on the planet. My sister, Debby, has been a 4th grade teacher for many years, and she certainly fits this description. Not all teachers are perfect (who is?), but they’re certainly special. So when it comes to making your Christmas list, be sure to check it twice for those teachers of yours.

Since the best gift is a thoughtful one, I asked a few teachers for some ideas. Here are the top five faves!

GiftCard#1 Gift cards: I was originally thinking of offering a slew of ideas besides gift cards, but after my research it became clear. These are by far the most favorite and preferred gift. If you’re worried about it not being personal, you can make it extra special by getting a gift card from your teacher’s favorite store and wrapping it in a box that’s her favorite color or fits her style.

These adorable gift card holders are on Etsy.

These adorable gift card holders are on Etsy.

Most teachers love gift cards from bookstores, craft stores, spas, coffee shops and local restaurants.

If you have a super organized group of parents, you can coordinate getting one big gift card, which will make that terrific teacher of yours feel like she’s getting a bonus. You could also purchase several smaller gift cards and display them on a photo holder with a pretty bow tied around the base. The holder makes a great desk accessory, too!

Photo Holder

Something like this would be perfect for holding gift cards.

Using a plant or little Christmas tree is another fun way to arrange an assortment of gift cards. My sister had a class use a lavender tree one year, and she said it was lovely.

This is a live tree with gift cards tied like ornaments.

This is a live evergreen tree with gift cards tied like ornaments.

Speaking of group gifts…

#2 Gift Baskets: Jump on a site like SignUpGenious or BringIt to make a list of your teacher’s favorite things. Have each family sign up to bring one item, and then turn it into a big gift basket. That way your teacher gets items she loves or needs – and ensures she doesn’t get another dozen coffee mugs.

One thing NOT to give teachers is coffee mugs. Their desks, counters and cabinets are brimming with mugs, and they don’t need any more to add to the stash.

coffee mug

As cute as this is, just walk away! That goes for knick-knack ornaments, too.

#3 Goodies: I know it might seem like teachers live at school. I thought that when I was little. I’d see a teacher at the grocery store and think, “What are you doing here – in public?” Spoiler alert, teachers have lives outside of school. Many of them are working parents, too. They don’t have much time for things like baking, so edible gifts are a welcomed treat for them to enjoy and take home to their families.

Christmas Goodies

These are peanut butter cookies with M&M features and mini chocolate-covered pretzels for antlers.

If you go the route of homemade treats, be sure you’ve tested the recipe and packaged the goods in a new container that looks appetizing. No one likes sketchy food – even if it is dipped in chocolate.

#4 Board Games: Teachers usually have to provide their own supplies, books and games for the classroom. So checking your teacher’s wish list is always a thoughtful idea. In addition to stocking up on Post-its and pencils, think about adding a fun board game to the class. With a long winter ahead, a quick game of Cranium or Bananagrams might be the ticket to a teacher’s sanity. Here’s an awesome list from Education.com that recommends games by age group starting at preschool.

cranium

Our family loves Cranium.

#5 Handwritten Notes: Good old-fashioned letters that are written from the heart always make priceless gifts. Pretty much every teacher’s goal is to help children, so to receive hand-written confirmation that they’re making a difference in a child’s life can be incredibly affirming and joyful. You definitely can’t go wrong with this gift!

I hope this was helpful. If you’re a teacher, let us know what else you’d add to this list.

May you all have a day full of gratitude! #ThankfulThursday

-Kate

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Gifts from the Heart of Your Kitchen

As a girl raised in the south (yes, the acronym is GRITS), I was taught to never show up empty handed to someone’s home. Hostess gifts not only validate your good manners, but also thank the person who has just spent hours cleaning, cooking, baking, decorating, fretting, and putting extra toilet paper in the bathrooms prior to your arrival.

Most guests deliver a bottle of wine or pretty candle, which are both perfectly acceptable. But if your hostess is truly the mostest, why not thank her with one of these unique and delicious gifts? And did I mention they’re easy to make and require less than four ingredients each? It’s true.

I researched, tested several recipes, and pulled together the easiest (and in some cases, safest) options for you to make. Drum roll…

Rosemary Infused Olive OilRosemaryWhat you’ll need:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 sprigs dried rosemary*
  • Bottle or cruet
  • Funnel

Directions: Cook the olive oil with rosemary sprigs in a saucepan over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rosemary infuse in the oil for 1 hour. Transfer the sprigs to your glass bottle. Funnel the cooled oil into the bottle and seal. Store at room temperature for up to 2 months or in the refrigerator for 6 months.

*Using dried herbs is a much safer method. Moisture from fresh herbs can cause bacteria to grow. Drying herbs removes the water, while leaving the essential oils. This time of year, I get fresh herbs from my grocery store and dry them at home.

Download a Rosemary Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

Vanilla Infused Honey

vanilla honey

Here’s a batch of homemade vanilla lavender honey from Etsy.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Mason jar or honey pot with an airtight lid
    honey pot

    Look at this adorable honey pot with dipper from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Directions: Pour the honey into your mason jar or pot. Use a knife to split the vanilla bean open lengthwise, down the center. Scrape the seeds out of the bean and add them to your container of honey. Stir well. Add the bean pod to the jar and seal the container. Let it sit for one week to infuse the honey. After that, it’s good and ready to slather onto some warm, buttered biscuits.

Download a Honey Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

Citrus Finishing Saltscitrus saltsWhat you’ll need:

  • 1 cup flaky sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Mason jar or airtight container

Directions: Preheat oven to 225 F. Mix the salt and zest in a bowl. Spread across parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an hour or until peels are dried and crumbly. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer salts to an airtight jar. Store for up to 2 months. This recipe was adapted from Whole Foods Market.

Download a Finishing Salt Gift Tag complete with serving suggestions.

I think I’ll make several batches of all of these goodies so I’m armed and ready to spread some flavored joy. ‘Tis the season, you know. I hope you decide to whip up some deliciousness for yourself. Oh, and be sure to let me know which one you like best.

Cheers, my friends!

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