Freebie: Printable gift tags

In the past two evenings, I’ve wrapped most of my presents. Man, how do people with tons of kiddos handle it? For my small family plus several friends to whom I ship presents and a few local friends we exchange with, I felt like it took hours. I know my mother in law wraps things across several nights, which is probably the right approach. Wrap until juuuuust before you start smooshing the ends closed out of boredom and frustration. Then break for the evening and enjoy a cocoa with peppermint schnapps. (I have no idea if this is part of my mother-in-law’s strategy, but I’m imagining it will be part of mine in the future, heh.)

I have a cousin who is a master wrapper. I used to love to come babysit her kid during the holidays, because her wrapping station would be in full swing, with baskets of gorgeous ribbon and thick luxury paper strewn about. The most I can handle is some accidentally-coordinated paper from Target (I tend to gravitate towards the same kinds of colors and simple graphics every time I need to pick up something new), which tears on the corners if you pull too hard. I also have a few spools of bakers’ twine which I’ve been using to excess (though I do have a plastic bin corralling all of my ribbon and bow options, of which I decent selection, generally left over from craft projects). I theoretically like the idea of package tie-ons, and I read enough blogs that try to convince me that’s what my elegant wrapping is missing. I know that I do not have the patience to gather little bits and bobs for sheer festivity, or the energy to make 30 air-dry-clay ornaments with people’s initials stamped in them. Thank you, blogging world, but I’ll pass on the tie-on.

I do, however, indulge in gift tags. Sure, we have the peel-off kinds, 25 to a sheet, artwork comprised of a haphazard assortment of clip-art-looking Christmas icons. I also have an impulse-control problem when I go shopping for cut-price holiday accoutrements just after Christmas (it’s why I don’t let myself do it every year, but I also have gotten some drop dead gorgeous cards this way), so I’ve picked up some nicer adhesive tags along the way as well. However, my favorite gift tags are the ones that I’ve designed myself.

Presents all lined up to be packaged for mailing!

Presents all lined up to be packaged for mailing!

For the past 6 years, I’ve put together a mix CD for some of my friends and family containing holiday songs that includes old school standards (Bing on “White Christmas”), oddities (“Mele Kalikimaka” always puts a smile on my face), familiar songs done in fun ways (“O Little Town of Bethlehem” as performed by Belle and Sebastian), lovely instrumentals (the stunning version of “O Holy Night” that was featured on an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip played by displaced New Orleans musicians), and originals (Guster did an amazing song called “Tiny Tree Christmas” that is probably one of my top ten Christmas songs now). If you know me at all, you probably can guess that I design artwork to go in the cover of these mix CDs, with a track listing and everything. If I’m feeling super amibitious, I adapt that artwork into some gift tags to use for that year’s presents. I know the Internet is just riddled with adorable free gift tags for you to snag, but I thought I’d share mine with you now, in case you’re staring down a mountain of unwrapped gifts, with gift receipts to be attached and price tags to be picked off, and boxes to be located and tissue paper to be smoothed down. Lovely tags always motivate me just a tiny bit more to see it all finished off, here’s hoping you get some use out of them! Click inside to get the goodies!

Sewing machine cover

Every now and then I get bitten by the desire to go ahead and improve the heck out of something that doesn’t necessarily need it, but it looks tons better for the effort. After dealing with a few skirts with falling hems last week and figuring out my sewing machine has a blind hem stitch built in, I taught myself to use the stitch and got very excited by the results. Spending a few hours with my sewing machine always renews my enthusiasm for it (not that I am unenthusiastic about it ever, but I hate that the first step of basically any sewing project is measuring and cutting things, which I tend to have little patience for).

Patting myself on the back for such a professional mending job, I was all set to pack up my sewing machine and stow it back on the darling little sewing table Tim’s mom got me for Christmas last year, when it struck me how boring the white vinyl cover for the machine is. Honestly, it’s such a pretty little machine, robin’s-egg blue, a gift from Tim a few years ago after I’d repeatedly said that I wouldn’t buy one for myself, as I’d always feel guilty if I didn’t use it a particular amount. (This is not me planting a gift idea, this is literally how I weigh what I’ll purchase for myself. The algebra of whether I’m cool with the asking price vs the quality of the item vs how much use I expect to get out of it, it is some very complicated mathematics up in my head.) If I could let it sit out on display (and to entice me to use it more often), I would, but I know that ordinary dust can wreak havoc on the inner workings, so I dutifully pack it up each time I’m finished.

This time, however, the white vinyl cover just seemed so blah. I thought to myself how many lovely fabrics I have that are left over from projects and from the remnant bin at Joanns (my complex buying mathematics somehow don’t seem to apply to craft materials, when I will buy anything that strikes me, whether I can think of an applicable project or not) and eyed up the cover. It was basically a white box. Surely I could recreate it. Things get much prettier inside!

Speedy little project – scarf organization

Oh man, this is a little annoying to admit, but we have a mouse in our house. Well, presumably, we have more than one, but then you’d lose the rhyme. We suspect it doesn’t help that we have an open wall in our living room (you’ll see it on the house tour soon, promise!), but we have some furry little buddies that pop in occasionally to check things out in our living space. We sometimes seem them darting out of the corner of our eyes, which has led to the discovery that while I am not scared of the mice, I will still squeal like a piglet when I’m startled by one, heh.

Their favorite place, however, is our coat closet, probably because for a time we were keeping tons of dog treats and food in there, so it was a little mousey smorgasboard. We’ve since learned how to store the food better, and moved most of the treats into a separate area, but they’d been having such a field day in the closet, that the whole thing needed a MASSIVE cleaning, which Tim undertook. He said it was revolting, and I believe him. He scoured and disinfected a bunch of surfaces, we discovered that mice will eat candle wax (whaaat?), and also that my computer-paper box full of scarves was a fun little place for them to take a nap. Ew.

While Tim was pulling everything out of the closet anyway, he decided it’d be an excellent opportunity to weed out some things to donate, so I went through all of the scarves and chose which ones I could part with and which to keep. Then everything got washed thoroughly, because again: ew. The freshly-washed keeper scarves then sat in a pile on the dining room table for a few weeks, as I tried to decide how I wanted to store them. Putting them back in a paper box in the closet didn’t seem wise. Even though Tim had managed to block off the easiest way for the mice to come in (a gap along the interior door molding), and we’d removed the food temptations, the most intrepid mice were still finding a way in through the light fixture (whaaaaat?) and while we knew they wouldn’t stay long without food, I still didn’t want to give them a cozy place to nap before they found their way back home.

More inside. I’m basically done with the mouse-talk now. Promise.

Cable in the kitchen!

Okay, as I mentioned in the home tour yesterday, we undertook a little project over the weekend: installing a TV and cable in the kitchen! (By “we” I of course mean Tim. I helped hold the TV in place while he screwed the mount on the back of it, but other than that, I was outlet shopping for nearly the entire project.)

It’s worth noting that I am a little bit of a television fiend. Several of my friends are unplugged from cable, and while Tim and I have discussed it, he decided he’d like to be able to watch sports in our home, whereas I would hate doing without a DVR, which I understand is a luxury, but it’s such a useful tool to me. We’d been with DirectTV since we moved, but had a separate internet service, so consolidating services to WOW meant we’d be saving money. Tim is excellent at researching new service options (he regularly checks out things like car insurance to make sure it’s worth staying where we’re at), so he presented a bunch of options to me and we decided to make the switch. One of the benefits of our new package is that we can tape 6 things at once (I’d usually skip taping things and watch them online later if I knew we’d have regular timeslot conflicts), which is delightful. But even more exciting, the package we chose lets you have a second cable box (which accesses the DVR) for just a few extra dollars a month. So even though we’re a long time from redoing the kitchen, Tim ran cable and electric in the corner by the door so we’d have a TV in the kitchen!

I know, that picture is crazy, things get neater inside.

Refreshing patio furniture

When we volunteered to host my dad’s surprise 65th birthday party, suddenly a lot of little things seemed like necessary improvements in the weeks leading up to the party. Tim spearheaded a bunch of these tasks: clean out the garage (and man, it looks AWESOME), tackle the insane weed problem happening on the brick patio, deal with the mosquito population that seems to have set up camp under our deck. None of it was super-pressing, but we knew our list would make our guests more comfortable and make us feel better about showing off our house to a lot of people who hadn’t visited it yet.

One item on the list that Tim identified was cleaning up some patio furniture we’d been using for ages. (I don’t remember the full history of the set, but I think at one point, Tim’s mom owned it and it was painted a pale pink. The glass-topped tables have been dining furniture in a few of Tim’s apartments, as well as our first apartment together, and in the dining room of this house, before we bought a proper dining set.) Every now and then, we’d comment on the flaking paint and think “oh, we could sand that down and repaint it someday.” Turns out, Dad’s party was the perfect impetus for “someday.” So with prompting from Tim, I rolled up my figurative sleeves and tackled the set, which consisted of two table frames and five chairs, decorated with scrolls and ivy leaves.

From flaky to fresh, pictures inside!