My father is notoriously difficult to buy gifts for because he always buys everything he wants immediately and then there's nothing left for birthdays, holidays, or special occasions. For Father's Day, he asked for tickets to a concert he wants to attend next weekend. I bought them the other day, so I'm all set ahead of schedule, but if you're still looking for the perfect gift for your father, father figure, husband (I am), or another great dad in your life, consider getting him a Man Crate.
With a sense of humor and a masculine sensibility — a brass-knuckle meat tenderizer, supplies for increasing levels of zombie threat, and a Chuck Rodent club cover are par for the course (no pun intended) — the Man Crates fulfill a wide range of interests and tastes. More than two dozen crates are pre-arranged or you can request a custom gift. Each set comes with a crowbar so your man can pry open his own gift which comes adorned with "no bows, ribbons, or fluff."
Two or three years ago, instead of a work shirt or video game (my husband's usual requests), I bought him a bacon-related gift pack from another vendor and it was very well-received. Personalized gifts are always much better than something you might buy any other day of the year because they show much more thought as to who someone really is and what they like. If your guy is a first-timer, the Tactical Baby Bag (top) offers a survival guide and other smart supplies for added energy during the sleepless nights (note: this comes with the tactical bag, not a crate).
Which ones suits your guy/dad? A few of these would work for my husband, but I think he is the retro gamer all the way.
images via mancrates
Last year, we ended up coloring eggs that were meant for a deviled egg hors d'oeuvre and I loved how it came out so much that I wanted to do it again this year. Plus, I like deviled eggs better than plain hard-boiled eggs, so this way, we can enjoy the fun of coloring the eggs and I'm more likely to eat them after.
Hard boil eggs and remove the shells.
Halve hard-boiled eggs lengthwise.
Remove yolks and mash them (if you have a ricer, it makes the filling smoother, but using any masher or fork will do).
For 6 eggs, use:
-1/4 cup mayonnaise
-1 teaspoon vinegar
-1 teaspoon mustard,
-and salt and pepper to taste
To fill the eggs, we put the mixture in a cookie press with an accent tip on it; it gives them a light and ruffled look, but you can also use a piping bag (or a plastic storage bag with a corner cut off).
We usually top them with paprika, but you can also garnish with parsley, chopped onions or chives, crumbled crispy bacon, or horseradish.
The coloring process is the same as eggs still in the shell: food coloring + water + time = colored eggs. The color won't take to the eggs as uniformly as they do on the shells, but as long as you're okay with that, you should be pretty happy with the results. I haven't tried to do ombre or anything more advanced than combining two or three colors on the same egg, because it takes a while for the color to saturate into the egg white. We're actually doing another batch of eggs next week when my sister comes to town, so I might try to experiment a little.
images my own
Over the weekend I helped my four year old make her valentines for her preschool class. Last year she was the only one that brought in handmade valentines. I know how busy everyone is, and it's certainly just easier and quicker to sign names on the pre-made cards with popular characters on them, but I'm really glad that we're still making our own, at least for now.
My daughter is really into art projects and sticker crafts. Every time I go through the craft store, I grab a pack of foam stickers so she can do her creative work. I saw this pack of foam valentines and stickers at Target for $5 and brought them home for her.
I helped her a little, but I was really proud of how she carefully put her friends' names and the decorative stickers on each one. We had some pieces left over, which I obviously commandeered to make the valentine above.
Last year, I found card stock shaped like large cupcakes (always a cupcake theme with her) and we put each kid's name on it in white foam stickers. Then I wrote "You're sweet, happy Valentine's Day" and then she signed them. Craft stores always have paper or foam in fun shapes and most have adhesive backing so you don't even need to mess with glue if you don't want to.
I know there are a zillion cute ideas on blogs and Pinterest, and I really do like the one that looks like your child is busting a lollipop through from the second dimension into the third, but I think sometimes attaining (or thinking that you need to attain) that styled perfection can be more stressful than inspiring. If you're not into commercialized characters (I'm not) or spending a fortune and you want to spend a little extra time doing something hands-on with your kids, here are three ideas I literally came up with this morning while fully intending to post links to other people's great ideas.
Parents of young ones probably have most of this on hand. I did not shop or pre-plan for this (which may be obvious when you see them), every last bit came from something I already had in my house. I've mentioned before I'm not super-DIY girl, so these are pretty simple. But that's the thing - these are little kids, they're not trying to reinvent the wheel. They just want to have fun: To them, punny sayings are still novel and giggle-inducing. And making something themselves gives them a sense of pride and extra practice on the motor-skills. So give yourself a break, mom and dad, and if you want to shoot for something slightly more ambitious than store-bought, try these:
We happen to have foam shapes that we use when finger painting, but if you're handy with scissors and short on shapes, you could make a heart from an old kitchen sponge.
I used finger paint to coat the sponge, pressed down, et voila. Then I simply pasted (I actually used double stick tape, but you can glue, too) the original square I cut out onto another colored sheet of construction paper. Your child can write the 'to' and 'from' names on it and leave as is, or embellish as he or she likes.
More construction paper and some left over lollipops here. But even if you don't have Dum Dums hanging around, they're only 10 cents each in the bulk bin, so it's really cheap.
I cut out a 6 x 6 inch square of blue paper, a corner of a sheet of yellow paper to make the sun, and cut the cloud out of white paper. I glued the lollipops on with a bit of clear Elmer's to make it look like a balloon had escaped the bunch. I tied the yarn bow on after gluing, it was much easier than tying them first.
Insert pun about soaring hearts, and you're done!
A take on one of my favorite valentines.
This required the most work (i.e. tinkering with my printer). First I grabbed a toy train and a piece of green construction paper and wrote the message in black Sharpie. When you write your message, try to leave yourself at least a half inch border of blank space at the bottom. I propped up the train with a few small foam stickers so the wheels would look straight.
I took a picture of the train on the paper and printed it out on 4 x 6 inch photo paper (make sure you choose the borderless option). Then I glued the cotton balls on the photo paper to look like the steam from the engine. If you don't want the valentine to be 3D, you could put the cotton balls on the construction paper and then take the picture before printing, getting basically the same effect.
If you make any of these, let me know!
images are my own
My husband and I don't really do Valentine's Day. We used to, when we were young and first dating. In fact, I recall a few gifts that I certainly hope my daughters' boyfriends do not buy them when they are 16. But while we do write each other cards, we stopped exchanging gifts for minor holidays, although he does often buy me an orchid plant (my favorite flower to try to keep long-term), which I'm generally able to keep alive for about six months. Who doesn't love fresh flowers, especially in the winter? (Of course, with two little kids, we'll be lucky if we can sneak off to dinner alone together. Calling all babysitters.)
It might be snobby, but I'm not really a fan of red rose bouquets or carnations; they just feel very predictable. I'm attracted to more lush, interesting flowers like ranunculus, anemone, peonies, and of course, orchids. I love this low, tight arrangement (above) from Olive and Cocoa. The vessel is simple but lovely, and more interesting to me than any theme-y Valentine's Day vase, and something I'd definitely use again. Red's my favorite color so of course I like the shades of the blooms, especially the dark ones. What I really love are the little red mokara orchids at the top, which are the same kind as were tied onto curly willow branches that trailed down from my wedding bouquet. I like the idea of giving an arrangement rather than a bouquet, but that's my personal preference.
Also, I'm not saying that you necessarily have to go this fancy, but before defaulting to red roses, think about your partner's true favorite flower. Taking note of that and offering even a few stems is more meaningful than a big bouquet just for the sake of Valentine's Day, in my opinion.
If your loved one isn't a fan of flowers, there are always edible treats. Chocolate is ubiquitous, but again, think of what your partner really loves. Cheryl's makes really delicious cutout cookies, as good as homemade. My dad was given an assorted box of their cookies for Christmas 2012 and we devoured that sucker. They have several gift options at a variety of price points. The "long-stemmed" cookie arrangement is kind of funny, and the best part about giving an edible treat is you'll probably get to have some, too.
Do you go all out or keep it small to celebrate Valentine's Day? Or do you think it's a ridiculous holiday perpetuated by the industrial greeting card complex?
Happy new year everyone! Well, this year is definitely not starting the way we'd hoped. My youngest daughter is (hopefully) near the tail end of a bug that made her sick for several days, starting on Christmas, and she spiked a fever yesterday morning at 6am. Shortly after the clock struck midnight and 2014 began, my husband got ill and has been sick since. Today I'm trying to help them however I can while my older daughter and I are crossing our fingers that we do not get sick, too.
Needless to say, not what we were hoping to be doing today. Even though 2014 is off to an inauspicious start, I'm holding out hope for this year. 2013 wasn't a bad year, but it was a hard year. While I'm proud of starting my freelance career, working on this blog, and my family, I did not feel like myself for the majority of the year. I was (and still am) a bit homesick for my old house and for New York. I was (and still am) exhausted because my baby, at 14 months still does not sleep through the night. I'm hard on myself and onmy body, still a little heavier than I wanted to be by now. It's funny, I felt much more confident in who I was and how I looked and dressed when I was in high school and college than I do now.
So that's what I'm hoping for this year: to find myself again. To--as much as I can with small children--do the things that make me happy, to make time for myself, to try and push myself out of my comfort zone, to get outside more, to find some energy again and to not always be so tired, to learn something new, to get a little more organized, to dress more like who I feel I am, and to accept that certain things are out of my hands and try to let them go.
I'm not giving myself a deadline for these things, because I don't think the added pressure is necessary. These goals have been on my mind for a while, so I feel committed to them.
And that's what I wish for each of you, too: that you find what fulfills you, whether it's personally or professionally. Happy 2014!
image via santarosaredwhiteandboom.com
This sampler set of dark chocolates is delicious with subtle flavors and also helps sustain communities in Madagascar, where the chocolate is harvested and produced.
Mini Chocolate Sampler, $12.99, madecasse.com
I don't know if it's weird or nerdy to include stickies in a stocking, but I think these are really happy and fun. The dots and pie pieces separate from each other so you can mark your books, textbooks, or magazines adding emphasis however you like.
Hay Color Notes, $5.75 each, huset-shop.com
Adorable ceramic cat magnets. Need I say more?
Kitty Cat magnet trio, $28, babasouk.ca
(Price is in Canadian dollars, final price in USD should be slightly less than $28 but depends on the daily conversion rate.)
Even if you live in warmer climates, you can still have a White Christmas. I'm from Syracuse so I'm used to snow at the holidays, but I'd much prefer this type.
Cotton Candy Snow Balls, $3.29, perpetualkid.com
images via retailers listed
mom, wife, market editor, crazy person.
A La Plage
Back To School
Black Crow Studios
Carrier And Company
Hampton Designer Showhouse
In The Details
Kips Bay Designer Showhouse
New York State Fair