Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thoughtful and Unique Gift Ideas

Whew, we're in the whirlwind of the holiday season full steam now.  It's been hard to find time to put together the post I wanted to do about gift ideas for Christmas, as well as other times.  Between parties and concerts and holiday shopping, it's been hard to find time to gather the pictures I needed.  Finally, I've got it together enough to post. 

These ideas are somewhat unique, yet inexpensive and very thoughtful gifts.  Obviously, they're perfect for Christmas gift-giving, but they would also make great birthday or aniversary gifts as well.

1. Wire Family Tree   I saw this idea  a number of years ago and have made countless versions of this for many people.  It's made from wire and metal leafing and your own family photos, all put in an easy to find frame.  I usually do a 16x20 frame, but I have made an insanely large version for my in-laws (I did their picture at the base of the tree and did all of their 12 children and spouses up on the branches- kind of a reverse family tree.)

There's a really nice tutorial on how to make it here.  The first one takes the most time, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly.  My hint is to just keep playing with the wire to get it how you want (and at the beginning, it won't really lay flat until you get a lot of the branches connected.)  To connect the tree to the frame, I took inspiration from all the Barbie doll packaging.  I poked holes through the cardboard backing of the frame and wired different spots of the tree and "twist-tied" it to the back of the cardboard and taped the wire down. 

2.Custom Russian Nesting Dolls:  I found a great place to buy these darling nesting dolls blank.  They come in various sizes and numbers of dolls inside.  I had the fun idea of painting the family we'd drawn for Christmas on the blanks.  I have zero painting abilities so I enlisted the help of my talented sister-in-law to paint each doll to look like the Mom, Dad and all the kids.

They really look like each of them and they're each holding an object that relates to a hobby or interest of theirs.  Here's another set, partially done:

We painted them with nice acrylic paints and then varnished them really well.  They were a  huge hit and I've got her painting a set for my family but on Japanese wooden Kokeshi dolls!  You can find the blank nesting dolls here.

3. Quiet Bag for Church:  For families, I like to put together a fun bag of quiet activities that are original and unique.  It's great for church, the doctors, trips and so on. Here are a few things I made for in the bag:

     - I spy Bags:

These can be made fairly easily with cute fabric, a bunch of small objects, some poly-pellets and some iron-on inkjet paper. Kids (and Dads) love looking for the objects.

     -Wipe-off Picture Searches:

All I did for these was go to Highlights online, download a bunch of their hidden pictures, blew them up to full page size on both sides of cardstock and then laminated them. The kids can use either dry erase markers of crayons to circle or color in the found objects.  I put all the cards in a clear envelope to keep them together. I made a couple of "erasers" out of squares of flannel.

     -Quiet Book: 

This was very inexpensive to make by putting these small 3x5 cards in a small photo album.  The cards are fun, inspirational ads from a teen church magazine from my church.  They're called "mormon ads" and can be ordered here.

     -Tag Ring: 

My kids always loved the car keys, but made way too much noise.  I made this by using tag rings from OfficeMax.  I used scrapbook letters on one side of a larger tag and put small pictures of objects starting with that letter on the reverse and another smaller tag.  I collected images online and printed them all out on one page and cut them apart.  Then I used mod podge to stick them on the tags and put a protective coating of mod podge on top.  I then put all the tags onto a large Ring also found at the office supply store.  Then babies and toddlers love it.

     -Small Car mat:

I did a tutorial on how to make these mats a while back here.   These little roads have been a life-saver for me at church.  My little guy loves to play with it and not, just at church!

     -Crayon Roll:

I love these because it keeps the crayons from getting broken and organized for those little hands.  There are tons of tutorials out there but I used this one.

     -Picture Starter:

I made this by drawing random squiggles on business card-size cardstock on both sides.  I also chose some family photos that would be fun to draw on.  I laminated all of them and put them on a ring.  The kids can draw pictures out of the squiggles and draw silly faces and hair on their family members with dry erase markers.  I made an eraser out of a small square of flannel.  The "older" kids really got a kick out of this.

     -Cute Capri Sun carry all:
This cute and waterproof bag was really fun for my daughters and I to make.  We collected a bunch of Capri Sun bags and just sewed them together using this basic tutorial here.

4. Family Picnic Blanket:  I had seen these around the internet and thought they'd be so cute and easy to make.  I ordered bandanas from an online bulk store, sewed them together (after washing), used a sheet as backing and an old comforter that I wasn't using any more. I just wrapped the flat sheet around the front to make a binding and used yarn to tie it all together (didn't even use a quilt frame, just did in on my living room floor.)  It's a fun picnic blanket that can be washed easily and in the winter, it makes a nice emergency blanket to keep in the car.

5.Custom Guess Who Game:

I saw this darling idea on a friend's blog and just had to do it for our family reunion as a prize.  It was easy to find a used copy of the game at a garage sale and at places like Goodwill. 

6.Special Plate:
This was a fun family gift that starts a meaningful tradition.  Just find a cute plate at someplace like Big Lots, DollarTree or Pier1.  Buy ceramic paint in a tube at Michaels and follow the instructions.  Basically you just write or brush on the words and bake to set in the paint.  Then pull it for the family member to use on their special day, birthday or for celebrating their big performance.  Very cute, but inexpensive.

7.Photo Book:

My parents were getting ready to sell their home so I took tons of pictures of it when I was visiting and put them together into a lovely photo book through Shutterfly.  It'll be a great record of their lovely home when they've moved across country to their new home. There are so many companies out there that make these photo books easy and inexpensive to do.  Maybe you can collect family photos and make a book for each member of the family (I need to scan all mine in first- ours are pre-digital days!)

8. Family Silhouettes:

How about make a silhouette arrangement of the grandkids for Grandma and Grandpa?  Or sneak photos of your nieces and nephews to make silhouettes of them for your sister and her husband.  I set the kids in front of a piece of white tissue paper taped to the window. Take a profile photo of them and upload it to a photo-editing program (I use picnik.com.)  Crop the photo to get just the head and shoulders.  Play with the exposure and balance and make it as dark as you can.  Then turn it into Black and White.  Then save and print them out.  I then glue the headshot onto a piece of black cardstock and then carefully cut out the profile with fine tipped shears. Flip the picture over and you've got a lovely silhouette.  Glue into an arrangement in a frame of your choice and voila, you've got a great gift.

9. Family Photo Collage:

This is a fun piece of art for the family, all done with stock photos available free online and then uploaded into Picasa (or something similar) to make a collage.  Mine says "Beus Family.1993"  You can find instructions here.

10. Family Birthday Pennant Banner:

These cute pennant banners are everywhere and you can easily find an online tutorial. I made one to say "Happy Birthday" and paired it with one of the special day plates I mentioned earlier.  You could also pair it with this darling Balloon Birthday wreath (instructions here):

Are you inspired?  I hope so. There are so many fun and unique gift ideas, that this only scratches the surface.  Enjoy and have fun!

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