advent calendar kit and gift ideas

I almost never give my nieces and nephew gifts on Christmas (or their birthdays). I’m kind of a bad aunt that way. Instead a few years ago I started a tradition of making them an advent calendar. I started it because I thought it would be fun one year, but now it’s expected on December 1st there will 24 gifts for them to open.


This year I created a little DIY advent calendar kit. It comes with almost everything you need to create a simple calendar – bags, stickers and twine. All you have to add is the gifts and optionally some kind of clips. I’ve used the little bags for the past couple of years and they work great for me. The bags fit a nice size gift without being too big for a couple pieces of candy.

There’s plenty of ways these calendars can be displayed – on a wall, a large board or just sitting on top of a sofa table or dresser. The kit comes with 50 feet of twine, giving you plenty to work with.


The first few years it took a lot of thought about what to give, but I have developed a kind of formula over the years. There are 3 kids and I do a 24 day advent calendar, so that gives them each 8 gifts. I alternate kids everyday (marking the bottom or back of the bag with their initial).


  • ornaments – most years I try to make or buy an ornament that reflects the year or is special in some way.
  • fluffy socks (usually ones from Old Navy)
  • inexpensive gloves or mittens
  • hair ties or clips for the girls / golf tees for my nephew
  • stickers or a small notebook
  • chapstick or colored lip balm
  • candy
  • cookies or other favorite treat

Sometimes I give a larger gift to each kid like a promise to bring them to the movies or an itunes card. If they were closer I would give a couple of gifts that were more experience focused like view holiday lights or making them their favorite dinner.

I hope you’ll consider making an advent calendar this year. It’s fun to know even though I don’t get to see them everyday, for 24 days they are getting a little gift from me.


artwork keepsake notebook

A year or so ago my niece made lots of simple paintings that she hung up in my workroom for an inspiration wall. I loved looking at them everyday, but it was time to take them down. Instead of putting the pieces in a recycle bin or shoving them in a drawer I decided to bind them together into a little book.
kids artwork notebook
The book is supper simple to make (especially if you have access to a binding machine).
– Make sure all of the pages have a straight edge for the binding to go on.
– Decide on a size for the notebook (Mine is about 8.5″ x 5.5″). All of the paper my niece used was from scraps so I had to do a little bit of trimming. Some pages are smaller, but I like the layered look in the book.
– Choose a cover (make sure it’s one of the largest pieces) and cut some chipboard for a back.
– Add holes and binding to make the book. I have a binding machine so I was able to do this myself. If you don’t have one your local office supply store or FedEx office can do this for you. There are some craft binding machines you can get on amazon if you plan on making more books. I haven’t used them, but if I didn’t make notebooks for a living I’m sure I would get one. An alternate binding option is to get binder rings and punch 3 or so holes in the pages and make a loose notebook. They come in plenty of colors and sizes.

Initially the book was curling up a bit so I placed it under some heavy books and overtime it has flattened itself some. There’s still a little curl, but nothing crazy.

Right now the book is in one of the piles on my desk and it’s fun to flip through every now and then. I’m hoping I get the chance to make more books from my niece’s artwork in the future.

free download :: halloween tags and cards

halloween_tophere’s a little costume-y cuteness for halloween parties, treat bags or just sending a note.halloween_5halloween_4

two gift cards to choose from and a trick-or-treat pattern envelope template. the envelopes also make cute little treat bags – perfect for stickers and small candy bars.


2″ circle tags will add a little cheer to gifts and treat bags. put the circles through a sticker machine or add double sided tape and you have stickers. or adhere them to a lollipop stick — instant cupcake topper.


guest blog :: travel checker set

here’s a quest blog post from my niece. she came up with this project for a road trip down the east coast she was about to take with her family.

so i am going on vacation and aunt cindy and i were wondering what we could make to do in the car. i thought of a magnetic checker board.

we took some left over heavy chipboard and made squares. i painted them in two different colors and tapped a magnet on the back of them.

we found a metal case that used to hold pencils from when aunt cindy was in collage. we printed out a sticker that was in checker board form and stuck it to the outside of the tin. when your done with the game, you open the case and put the pieces in it.

this game is good for the car and the beach too because when you turn the board over the pieces will not fall. i know a checker board is black and red, but i love to be colorful!

decorated mailbox a guest post

my niece made me a mailbox from an unused box. she thought it would be perfect for the blog, so i had her write something and take some photos. here’s her post.


i am a big fan of art. i am so lucky to have a aunt who knows art. i made this mailbox for my aunt. we always write notes to each other when i am at the shop. hope you like it.  xoxo


5 steps to a 3 ring binder makeover

over the years i have collected a lot of 3-ring binders. to update them a bit (and to get rid of the vinyl covers) i have been giving them a makeover.binder_03

1. first take apart the binder. a craft knife or utility knife works for me, but you can use scissors. cut the binder on both sides of the spine. then carefully cut a slit in the vinyl on each piece and get out the book binding board that is inside. be careful not to cut the board, you will be reusing it. depending on the type of binder you have, the screws for the ring mechanism will either be on the spine or on the back. take as much of the vinyl off around the screws as you can – making sure not to bend the board.

2. now cover the front and back with the label paper. my labels are not large enough, so i use a sheet and a half.  leave some of the board visible on the edge that meets the spine. wrap the labels around to the inside.binder_05
3. for the spine you are going to need book binding tape (i use filmoplast t tape). it is important to use this kind of tape. it will allow you to be able to open and close the binder time and time again without ripping or wearing. you can get rolls at talas online or somewhere that sells book binding supplies. if you can’t find it, the alternative is to use a piece of book cloth and pva glue.

cut three pieces of the tape – one a little longer than the spine and then two slightly shorter. center the spine on the longer piece of tape. take the cover of the binder and place it next to the spine. you want to leave some space in-between – at least as thick as the board. fold the cover up to make sure that there is enough clearance for the rings. do the same with the back board. flip over the binder and press the tape with a bone folder. do the same on the inside – making sure to get the tape in the space between the boards.

4. cover the insides of the covers with another label sheet. don’t worry if it doesn’t meet the spine.binder_06
5. take the shorter pieces of the tape and place one on each side of the spine board and cover boards. take the bone folder and make sure to get the tape down inside the space between the boards. that’s it – a new and improved binder.

i like the simplicity of kraft paper with white, so that is what i have been using. you can get full sheet labels at office supply stores and print a pattern, photos or an inspirational quote on them.

other options are paper, book cloth, wall paper, washi tape, gift wrap …  the possibilities are endless. if you are going to go with an option that doesn’t already have an adhesive you will want to use a pva glue. it is a book binding glue. regular glue might warp the board or rip the paper.

happy organizing!

2012 ornaments

every year i try to give my nieces and nephew an ornament so that when they have a tree of their own they won’t have an empty tree. this year a took a striped sweater my grandmother used to wear and made some hearts.

the ornaments were super simple to make. i took two squares of the sweater, sewed them together with a heart. then i cut around the heart. i used some bakers twine to create loop for hanging. now, i just need to wrap them up.

five steps to a teeny tiny witch hat

my niece is having a birthday party this weekend with her friends and just like her younger sister she is a party planner. this year she is having an orange & purple halloween themed party. for the craft part of the party they will be decorating mini pumpkins. my sister mentioned she was going to look for some mini hats for the pumpkins – but since my niece was sleeping over i said we could just whip some up. we didn’t have time last weekend, but today i went ahead and made some purple hats.

the hardest part of making these was figuring out how to make a cone. after some experimentation i figured they can be made from a quarter of a circle. so here is how to make a tiny witches hat.

one: cut out a circle 8.5″ in diameter and then cut out 4 quarters
two: add some glue to one of the straight sides of a quarter. hold the corner and roll it into a cone. this takes a bit of practice. i stapled the bottom of the cone to hold it into place while the glue dried.
three: make 2.5″ circles (i used a paper punch). inside that circle i used a flower punch for the stem to go through
four: cut little snips on the bottom of the cone and fold up the tabs
five: glue the cone tabs to the circles

now the girls can concentrate on painting and just top their little pumpkin with a hat.

daisy garland kit

my mom was going to watch my sister’s kids last week and wanted to take a little craft to do with the girls – so i put together a simple little spring daisy kit. in some glassine bags i packaged scraps of white and yellow paper, bakers twine, a flower punch and a hole punch. i made a sample flower and sent my mother on her way.

the flowers are easy to make:
– take two of the punched out flowers and glue them to either side of the twine (don’t worry about lining up the petals – they look more natural when they aren’t even)
– add a yellow dot on both sides of the flower
– keep adding flowers until you are done
– hang up anywhere you want to add a little bit of spring

weekend worktable

weekends in my office are my favorite. probably because there is no pressure of having to get orders ready to mail by 5:00. or maybe because i don’t really answer email or send proofs, but work on projects that i don’t get to during the week. usually i don’t even sit at my desk, i use my laptop on my worktable in the other room – far away from printers and databases.

this weekend i did have to do some work for two very important clients – my nieces. they needed their valentines. they both gave very specific art direction. however there was a problem – was weeks ago i ran out of envelopes for my tiny valentines. so they got something even better – handmade envelopes. i couldn’t give them just plain white envelopes so i printed a pattern on some paper and started folding and glueing.

and now they just have to had their name and some sticker hearts and they will have the perfect valentines to hand out.