Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

6 Tips for Hosting a Gift Exchange Party

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As a last hurrah before we tore up our main floor, I threw a gift exchange party. It was a rather small group of friends, but just perfect. It’s truly such a joy having some of my favorite people under one roof. 

Since Christmas is a hectic time (for business owners and moms, especially), I threw it on the 28th. I also threw the party mid-day and provided childcare so my friends with little ones at home could still enjoy the party. It was easy to find a babysitter since the school kids were out that week, and I just had her party with the kids downstairs and keep them entertained with food and a movie. 

I kept the party festivities rather simple. I used Paperless Post to send out the invites and manage RSVPs, but I think in the future I may try out Evite instead. I’m curious to see which one is better.

I kept the food fairly simple and somewhat dietary-inclusive. My menu: 

  • Quinoa salad (Gluten-free with avocado, cilantro and chopped chicken on the side)
  • Bananas and oranges
  • Kale salad
  • Various herbal teas as a hot drink
  • Chipotle cheddar biscuits
  • Churros

It was a simple spread, but delicious. The churros were definitely the best part of the food situation. 

I teamed up with San Diablo Churros. They catered the event and provided us with mini filled churros. We had dulce de leche, nutella and salted caramel. Each one was made fresh right there. That was the one special thing I wanted about the party. I feel like when it comes to planning a gathering, it’s best to plan one thing you want to be perfect. Everything else is a bonus. Otherwise, I personally spend the whole time focusing on all the things that didn’t go exactly as planned. 


Tips for hosting a simple and fun holiday gift exchange: 

  • Use a digital invitation service
  • Plan it on a day when not a lot is going on (post holidays, is great)
  • Provide childcare during day-time hours so more friends can come
  • Keep the menu simple and ask for help! Get a friend or two to bring a dish, cater what you don’t have time for
  • Introduce everyone, tell everyone your favorite characteristic about each guest (this is especially helpful if you’re inviting friends from different circles)
  • Do White Elephant gift exchange rules. Stealing good gifts from each other is fun!

Have you hosted a holiday gift exchange before? What are your tips for hosting a good one? 

Calligraphy-Lover’s Gift Guide

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Happy Cyber Monday! Good grief the year is flying by so quickly. I’ve been meaning to write the reprise to my first gift guide for over a year now. Here it is. If you’ve got a calligraphy/letter lover in your family, hold on to your pants. My online class at Calligraphy.org is 10% off with code CYBER2016 from now until 11/30/2016. Discount available on gifts (hint: gift it to yourself, it’s always a good idea).

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If you yourself are a calligraphile, forward this to your family and friends. Clue them in to the hottest, awesomest stuff to gift this year. I’ve broken it up into 3 price tiers: budget-friendly, mid-range and SPLURGE! All tools are great for all experience levels. They’re tools that I have in my own studio (or ones that I’m lusting after myself). If you have any questions at all, give me a shout-out in the comments below. I’m happy to reply.

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BUDGET FRIENDLY

  • Ruler: This rolling ruler allows you to easily make parallel lines! It’s awesome. I use it constantly.
  • Gold watercolor inks: Add water and apply to the underside of the nib to make gold ink. These come in separate containers that are tiny and portable.
  • Adjustable oblique holder: Your loved one looking to graduate from the speedball universal? This is a fabulous holder that works with a wide range of nibs, even crowquills.
  • Zig twin brushes: These brushes have a foam cone, so they don’t fray or dull. They’re great for beginners, heavy-handed letterers or the busy mom & pop that have mischievous children.
  • Copic Gasenfude: It’s a nylon brush marker that has a springy touch and juicy ink that won’t quit.
  • Copperplate nib sampler: Give your calligrapher the option to explore nibs he/she hasn’t tried before.

 

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MID-RANGE

  • Sakura Koi watercolor set: It’s compact, comes with a fabulous water-brush. The pigments are brilliant and archival. Great for your artist on-the-go.
  • Calligraphy.org Gift Kit: I’m biased, but these kits include one-on-one coaching for brush and pointed pen calligraphy. So if your letter-lover has no idea what he/she is doing, we can help. Or we can push him/her farther with off-script challenges.
  • really nice brush for watercolor: I think everyone should have at least one sable brush in their supplies.
  • A leather blotter: it helps get finer, smoother hairlines to write with a blotter underneath your work. or you can customize it for a little extra splurge. Mike Ward makes the most beautiful signatures.

 

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SPLURGE

DIY: Having Fun with Plain Wrapping Paper

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I don’t have giant stashes of gorgeous wrapping paper. I have rolls of white, black and kraft butcher paper. And the occasional roll of gift wrap. But it doesn’t always match my mood or occasion, so here’s a fun little DIY I did to dress up my gifts this year.

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Santa doesn’t have this much creativity when it comes to his gift wrap. That would take him way too long.

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The key to this whole operation is in the marker. Some time ago Sakura sent me their Pigma Professional brush series. I use them for everything. Heck, they’re even in our brush lettering kits that I send out to all of my beginning brush students. These brushes come in 3 sizes: fine, medium and BOLD. I use the fine brush for small detailed work and little illustrations. I’ll use the medium in cases where my x-height letters are about 3/4″ tall. The bold I’ll use for everything else.

The bold brush is pretty stiff so you still get very fine hairlines even though you can get a ton of drama out of the side of the marker.

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And when mine dry out, I’ll use them on textured paper for a more organic look (like above). Want to learn how to make these easy-peasy holly berries? Watch the video below.

Supplies

  • Pigma Professional BB Brush
  • Large sheet of white or kraft paper
  • Sakura Koi red marker (optional)

I love the BB brush, but you can get similar results from even a crayola marker. Granted, if you want this kind of drama to scale, you’ll need to make smaller holly berries and leaves.

Basic jist: get a piece of paper and spread it out on the floor or table. Draw out the berries first in random clusters of 3. Then draw in the center of the leaves, coming out from the berries with a light touch. A fine line helps. Then fill in the remainder of the leaves with two mountains and meeting just beyond the tip of the center line of the leaf. Fill in any awkward blank spaces with leaves. Messy is usually better in this case.

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If you want to go for a more ornamental approach, draw out a berry grouping on cardstock. Watercolor paper is going to give your cluster more texture and depth. Punch a hole near the cluster of berries.

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With your scissors, cut around the cluster leaving a 1/4″-1/2″ border. Thread through ribbon or string and use as a decoration on your gift.

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Easy? Brainless? Awesome? Yes to all three. Happy last-minute gift-giving and wrapping!!

Printable: Vanilla Labels (Easy Neighbor Gift)

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I’ve had this brilliant idea since the beginning of September, but leave it to me to wait until the last minute to actually finish it off and post about it! EEP! This is quite possibly the easiest and most brilliant neighbor gift you can give this year (or next!).

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So, vanilla bean paste has become a staple in our home, so much so that we buy it in bulk. It’s mine and Chris’s favorite thing to add to our whipped cream (we have that “on tap” with our cream whipper
). The other thing I keep thinking about with holiday gift-giving is that there’s an overload of sweets that will spoil. Why not give the gift that’s gluten-free, vegan, won’t spoil and EVERY foodie will LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!

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Vanilla bean paste marries the convenience of vanilla extract and the potency of vanilla beans. Mr. FoodMadeByTom taught me the glories of this stuff way back when I took a class of his on making chocolate mousse, steak and veggies. But we didn’t use it for the steak and veggies. Although I’m sure there’s some universe where vanilla bean paste has been used in making a fancy-pants steak.

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I bought some small vials/jars from Specialty Bottle and a giant bottle of vanilla bean paste and filled each one. It’s just a sampling of vanilla bean paste, just enough for an extra potent recipe of vanilla whipped cream. Here’s the recipe for our whipped cream:

Ultra Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons (pretty sure Chris puts a full tbsp) vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Put all ingredients in the cream whipper and charge. If you’re doing it the old fashioned way, put heavy cream into a chilled bowl and whip with a stand or hand mixer. Whip until firm peaks form, fold in sugar and vanilla.

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See below to download the vanilla labels. I’ve made two versions, one for home made extract the other for vanilla bean paste. Enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

DIY: Simple Rope Necklace Tutorial

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It’s unreal how long I’ve had this DIY in the queue.

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I made these necklaces back in 2013, just before I went to L.A. for a girls’ weekend. Back when I made this, I had an idea for a giant rope necklace, but didn’t have any giant rope. Turns out you can find this type of stuff in the upholstery section, but making your own rope is hyper fun. And insanely easy.

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It adds a little bit of quirkiness, but it doesn’t look nearly as home made as it is. I love that.

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For the simplest of necklaces, here’s what we’ll need:

  • Cotton twine: any kind (I found mine at Home Depot)
  • scissors
  • tape
  • jump rings
  • chain (16+ inches)
  • pliers

Click the link to see the full tutorial.

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