Posts Tagged ‘Gifts’

Favorite Coffee Snack: Light Snickerdoodle Biscotti

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

If you have been a reader here for awhile, you will have no doubt that coffee is my ultimate weakness. Coffee plus coffee treats…well, where do I sign up for that? After having such a blast participating in the Better Homes & Gardens cook-off, I was asked if I would like to participate in another fun contest where our readers could vote on their favorite coffee snack. Better Homes & Gardens sent me their new Stand Mixer ($129) , a Grind & Brew Coffeemaker($99), and a 5 Piece Nonstick Bakeware Set ($34.97), (all exclusively available at Walmart) to create my snack.

Considering I severely burnt the bottom of my cookie sheet, I am a coffee addict, and my stand mixer chose that week to kick the can…I couldn’t wait to create some treats with some fresh new kitchen accessories.

If you can make cookies, you can make biscotti! Biscotti is basically a twice baked cookie that is perfect for coffee dunking. In your mixing bowl, whisk or stir on low your flour, sugar, cream of tarter, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

In a second bowl you will mix together your wet ingredients. In this bowl will be your egg, vegetable oil (only two tablespoons), and vanilla extract.

Turn on your mixer to low and add your wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Here is the new BHG stand mixer that they sent. As someone who bakes a lot, I really love how quiet this mixer is, the thoughtful attachments that are included, and the rubber suction cups on the bottom so your mixer doesn’t hop around. I am sure it is going to get a lot of love in our kitchen! I am also doubly impressed that it is a mere $129, which is a steal in the stand mixer world.

After it is done mixing, it will look like this… a big crumbly mess. You are going to be scratching your head wondering if you did something wrong. I promise you didn’t, it will all pull together.

Grab a small bowl and fill it with water. You are going to want to dip your hands in the water and then with wet hands, start kneading the dough and pulling it together.  It will take a bit of work, but eventually it will look just like that dough ball pictured above.

Line your cookie sheets with some parchment paper. This will make clean-up a breeze! I love the silicone handles on these cookie sheets and how easily they do come clean. I am not much of a cookie baker, I will admit, so if my cookies fly off a cookie sheet and turn out looking like a cookie…I am super impressed.

Divide your dough into two equal parts and then flatten the dough until it is roughly 8 inches in length, with about a 1 inch thickness. Make sure that the two balls have enough space to grow when they are baking. In two small bowls, you will have the final ingredients to dress the biscotti. In one bowl, mix cinnamon & sugar, in the other add one egg white. Brush the biscotti with the egg white and then shake on cinnamon & sugar (very liberally) to the top. Slide in a 350 degree oven for a half hour.

Now you will have a half an hour to do whatever suits you best…coffee happens to suit me best. Please ignore my travesty of a look this morning. Daylight Savings Time could nearly kill a mom. I was very happy to wake up to freshly ground and brewed coffee. I have never had fresh coffee beans or had coffee that was freshly ground.  This coffeemaker is unbelievable- you can program it to grind & brew before you even wake up.

Remind me to tell you about my embarassing story about buying coffee beans. Apparently, I didn’t understand what buying in bulk was and couldn’t understand what idiot wouldn’t fill the bag all the way to the top when it had little markings on the bag. I figured I would get all the beans I was paying for and filled that bag until it was practically bursting.

Costly mistake, my friends, costly mistake. Wow, I really feel like we are sharing over coffee together today.

Pull the delicious biscotti from the oven. Now patiently wait and drink more coffee for ten more minutes before slicing it.

With a very sharp knife, cut your biscotti on a slight angle, into roughly fifteen pieces for each dough ball. Lay them flat and slide them back into an oven that has been lowered to 325 degrees for ten minutes. Drink more coffee while you wait and eat all the crumbs that fell off. Purposely break and crumble a few because you can’t stand how good they smell and you are impatient. And you had to get up an hour early. And your kids have no mercy on you because you are tired.

For the final step, flip the biscotti and then bake the flipped side for ten more minutes. Allow them to cool and then store in an airtight container.

Eat or share with a friend! Packaged with pretty ribbon and in a clear bag, these would make a wonderful gift for someone you love. I hope you will love them as much as I do! It really is the ultimate little coffee treat!

Snickerdoodle Biscotti (adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large egg white

Preheat Oven to 350. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cream of tartar in a large mixing bow bowl. Mix Oil Vanilla and whole eggs in a small bowl and add to the large bowl, your dough will be dry and quite crumbly. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it pulls together into a ball. Divide in half. Shape each portion into a roll about 8 inches long, and place them six or so inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Flatten each roll to 1 inch thick. Combine the 2 tablespoons Sugar and cinnamon, then gently brush the tops of the rolls with the egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from the sheet and cool for 15 minutes. Cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices and lay them cut sides down on the cookie sheet again. Reduce oven temp to 325 and then bake 10 more minutes, turn over and bake 10 more. They’ll be soft in the middle but will harden as they cool. Cool completely on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.
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This recipe is a contest submission for Better Homes & Gardens Favorite Coffee Snack contest. The contest will go live tomorrow and you can vote for your favorite snack between now and March 30th. The person with the most votes will get three sets of bakeware and a $100 Walmart gift card to giveaway to their readers. Check tomorrow and throw in a vote if you love my biscotti! I was provided the bakeware sets, stand mixer, and coffeemaker to complete my submission. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

What is your favorite coffee snack at your  house? Do you have any fun tips for a coffee experience at home? We would love to hear them!

All Knitted Up: Knitted Headbands for the End-of-Winter Blues

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

After my holiday knitting marathon, you would think that I would want to take a little break on the knitting. I can admit it though, I am addicted to my knitting needles, but I have been attempting smaller scale projects this month instead of my usual larger scaler ones. The best part about smaller scale projects is that they offer instant gratification and they offer an opportunity to tackle new skills that you might not think you have. It is much easier to give up on a smaller scale project if the going gets to tough, unlike those larger projects where you have a sense of commitment to them. This month has been a month of tons of little projects that I am looking forward to sharing with my knitting friends on MomAdvice.

I am hoping for the end of winter, but if you are feeling a little blue about winter’s never-ending days, these knitted headbands can add a fresh new look to your tired winter coat, and make the perfect accessory to keep your ears a little warm and your hair still looking cute!  I whipped these headbands up in an evening of sitcom-watching and they offered a great opportunity to do a little stash-busting in my yarn collection (also a horrible addiction of which I suffer).

If you are a knitter, I would love for you to be my friend on Ravelry. My username is momadvice and I try to keep my little notebook updated with the current projects.

Here are two fun headbands to try that will add a little sparkle to these end-of-winter days!

shades of gray headband

Pattern: Spiral Ribbed Headband by Allison Hogue (free Ravelry Download) with  Lydia Flowers (optional, for embellishment). These were all three sizes (Large, Medium, & Small) stacked in alternating colors. I am sorry, I understand that the pattern is down, let’s hope it will come back up soon!

Needle Size: US 7 (16″ circular needles- these are the ones I purchased. Don’t waste oodles of money on needles at the craft stores!)

Yarn: Naturally Caron Country (Charcoal) & flowers were created from Naturally Caron Country (Charcoal) & Caron Simply Soft in Heather Gray, alternately.

Notes: This spiral-ribbed head wrap is a beautiful pattern that can be done very easily while watching a little television. There are no tricky stitches in this pattern so it is a great one for a beginner and for knitters who are just getting familiar with knitting in the round.

I chose a merino wool blend for the yarn because it is light-weight while still being a little warm. It is the perfect yarn for the project and the bonus was that I got it on sale for $3.99 a ball (after the holidays) so it was a very thrifty knit too!

The flower is the Lydia Flower (large, medium, and small) stacked and used some of my Simply Soft in Heather Gray for the large and small flower from my yarn stash to add a little dimension to the headband.

ivory cabled headband

Pattern: Vanessa Headband by Nancy Ricci (free pattern)

Needle Size: US 11 (straight needles)

Yarn: Premier Yarns Serenity Chunky Weight in Pristine (stash-busting)

Notes: Are you falling over right now? I am cabling!  I have never cabled before so this is my first project with cabling. This was a great introduction into cabling with very simple cables. Cabling sounds & looks much more difficult than it is. It is simply pulling stitches off your needles and pulling them into the front or the back of your work and then working them back into the pattern so they twist and vine around your project. If you can knit and purl, you definitely can cable!  If you have never cabled before like me

The pattern offers a wide band as well as a more narrow version of the same band. I chose the narrow version, but it is still plenty wide if you wanted to cover your ears with it thanks to the large needles and chunky yarn. If you use a thinner yarn, you may want to go for the wider pattern to achieve the same look.

Below is a  video on how to cable. I am telling you, it is so easy! I can’t wait to practice more cabled patterns! I will be back next month with a gazillion baby hat patterns that I have been working on…another instant gratification project that is great for practicing pattern!

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Looking for more knitted projects to cure the winter doldrums? I recommend throwing a few of these projects on your needles for an instant pick-me-up in our Crafting section and Gifts section of the site!

What craft projects are you working on now that the holidays are over?

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Holiday Crafting Inspiration or the Amy Clark Craft Factory of 2010

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

There has been a lot of holiday crafting happening this year and I can’t wait to show you some of the things I have been working on! First up, is this beautiful yarn ball wreath! Does anybody remember seeing this one in our notebook? I thought this would be the perfect craft to do a little stash busting in my yarn collection and a great wreath that would look cute even after the holidays.

day one

four hours later, off to bed with glitter in my hair and third degree burns.

the next day, three more hours of gluing to go!

I did not anticipate how long this wreath would take, the amount of supplies that I would need, or the cost of all those ornaments and Styrofoam balls.  It took about seven hours of hot gluing with lots of time spent making the little yarn balls.  It also took about twice the amount of supplies that I had anticipated. That said, isn’t it stunning and worth every ounce of effort?

Looking for more holiday wreath ideas? I have hung my beautiful Kimba-inspired wreaths for the holidays again. When spring comes my little sugared lemon drop wreath will be hung again for another year on my front door. What can I say? Handmade wreaths make me so happy!

I am so proud of how the wreath turned out and a huge thank you to life through the lens for the crafting inspiration.

I had my best friend over for a holiday craft night and we cranked out dozens of these rolled rosette hair accessories and felted loopy flowers that were featured in our notebook. I bought a little fabric for these, but also decided to use fabric from Emily’s worn out and stained summer dresses from last year. The same idea could be applied with fabric from thrift store finds that don’t fit your child, but would be the perfect material for a cute embellishment in her hair.

I made her a few headbands, but we soon found out that headbands and glasses don’t go together so good, especially the wide headbands I bought for her hair.  They are cute enough though that I just might have to wear the headbands for myself. I decided to use some of the clips I had leftover from my hair bow making days and apply them to those instead. They worked out beautifully. I was able to make a few of these to go with her holiday dresses this year.

Thanks to Happy Together for helping us look a little fancier this holiday season!

We also cranked out tons of these easy No-Slip Bookmarks for gift-giving this year that were also featured in the notebook. I use my bookmark daily and I have to say that it truly holds the pages of my book well without wrinkling my books.  It helps to have a friend that can operate a sewing machine too since I am a sewing school drop-out.

These would make beautiful stocking stuffers or are a perfect gift to keep on hand for last minute giving. I gave these to the kids I read to each week with a book for the holidays. These are so fast to make and are a great way to use up any leftover ribbon you might have laying around.  The most expensive part are the cute buttons, but they are a fun way to personalize these bookmarks.

Thanks to Maryjanes and Galoshes for this easy craft that has added a little something special to my gift-giving this year!

I made this beautiful red scarf for my brother who had gotten a new gray winter coat this year. I am going to have to cast another one on the knitting needles for my husband who was so kind to model it for me.  For more pattern inspiration, be sure to check out my Knitting Trendy Gifts of Warmth.

Merci Scarf

Pattern: Merci Scarf by Susan Rainey

Needle Size: US 8 Needles (I used size US 9 needles, which created a little bit wider scarf, but you could use the US 8′s that are recommended)

Yarn: Premier Yarns Serenity Chunky Weight in Molten Lava (2.5 skeins)

Notes: This scarf is so simple and fast to whip up that it would make the perfect gift to give to any man in your life. The pattern is one that you can complete while watching your favorite shows on television and is almost impossible to get off track.  This yarn was also perfect for creating a really warm scarf, perfect for our Midwest winters.  This pattern is perfect for a beginning knitter or for a last minute gift for someone special in your life!

I knitted two more ruffled scarves and another Republic Hat for gift-giving. I forgot to take a picture of the hat and other ruffled scarf, but they did turn out so pretty! These ruffled scarves are definitely a statement piece, meant to add a punch of femininity to your winter coat! I made one in this light gray for my best friend and then one in a charcoal gray for my sister.  Now I want to make one in a couple other colors for myself!

Beautifully Ruffled Lace Scarves

Pattern: Ruffle Lace Scarf by Suzie Blackman

Needle Size: US 10 Needles (40″ circulars)

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Heather Gray

Notes: If you want a scarf that is wildly impressive, can be created with a single ball of yarn, and looks like a million bucks than this would be the perfect gift to give this holiday season. It is a very mindless knit, but is an INSANE amount of stitches, especially in the last two rows (over one thousand stitches!). The beauty of this scarf though is that you only need to know how to knit, purl, and yarn over to create it.

The twisting is created by knitting the scarf length-wise, rather than width-wise and through the series of yarn overs. As pictures above, you can see that it is really hard to see your stitches, let alone if it is actually going to twist. The good news is, as you cast off, you will see that scarf naturally twists, making that beautiful ruffled twist.

This one is definitely a statement piece and is also a statement of your absolute love for whoever you might make it for!

I followed the pattern that is linked above, but added four more rows to give the scarf a fuller appearance. I repeated rows 11-14 two times before I started rows 15-16. I am really glad I did and love the lush fullness of this scarf.

Here are the finished teacher scarves that I made! Each one had a $5 Starbucks gift card tucked into the pocket that was created in the scarflet. Next time I make this, I will have to write on the label though that these were scarfs. The teachers thought they might be hats…which I guess you could do too!  Regardless, I got such wonderful compliments and tried to make each of them unique with flower embellishments or different unique buttons and colored embroidery threads on each one. We also made one for our babysitter who has been a true Godsend to my family and helped me manage the day-to-day of my site by caring for Emily one afternoon a week. She is my secret weapon of productivity on the site. I wish you all could have a Miss Janie for Christmas!

Anthropologie-Inspired Scarflets

Pattern: Anthro-Inspired Scarflet (available as a free Ravelry download with your free Ravelry membership) by Kim Seio & Lydia Flowers (optional, for embellishment) or cute buttons.

Needle Size: US 8 Needles (straight) for both the flowers and the scarflet

Yarn: Premier Yarns Chunky Weight in Pristine (scarf) & Yarn Bee Boucle Traditions in Black

Notes: I followed the sizing and increases that ilikecookies(another Ravelry member)  had shared in her pattern. She said, “Increased until 30 stitches, worked 15 rows even until ribbed section and knit 15 rows of ribbing to make a slightly larger scarflet.”

I added a black Lydia Flower (size small) with a red button center to finish it or colorful buttons with contrasting embroidery thread to finish! For more pictures of these, please visit this post.

I finished all of my knitted gifts with these homemade gift tags. I used my Silhouette Craft Cutter and used the rounded rectangle template to make these simple tags out of ivory cardstock that I had leftover from our treasure boxes we made this year. As a holiday treat to myself, I bought myself a personalized stamp from Babyjewels (an Etsy seller) and I have to say, it really added that professional touch to my gifts!  They have one for knitters and one for crocheters too. She is on holiday vacation, but you can be emailed when she comes back.

Here the gifts are all lined up. Next year I will have to do a video tutorial on my signature bow. Every gift should have signature bow on them and I have perfected my signature bow over the years. When I ran out of ribbon this year my husband proclaimed a “state of emergency.” He sure is a funny guy.

The gift factory is closed until next season!  I hope you have had great success crafting your own gifts and are continuing to get lots of handmade inspiration on MomAdvice for your holiday giving needs!

Fun Holiday Kid’s Craft: Painted Mugs

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Today we are continuing our handmade gift focus with another gift that is easy to make, but that make thoughtful gifts. I wanted to share with you what we made last year for our special teachers. We will begin with beautifully painted coffee mugs made by your fabulous children. What you will need for this craft is plain white mugs like I have pictured above. I buy these at our local thrift store for $.25 each and there is usually no shortage on white mugs that are being donated.

The other thing you will need is a porcelain paint set. These can be found in the painting supplies of your craft store. You are looking for the set that does not require any heat-setting. These paints cost $4.99, but you can bring that 40% off coupon to knock down the total.

Keep in mind, before letting your children loose on painting these, they require a clear coating on them first to prep them for painting. You have to wait one hour for these to dry. After that, give your children some paint brushes and let them decorate their mugs.


Once these are all painted, let them dry overnight and then apply the final clear coat that will go on top of them. The clear paint is contained within the paint set and just requires a quick brush on top of the mugs. I was able to paint three mugs with one set of paints, in case you were planning to do several of these. Once the clear coating has been applied, they are good to go in the dishwasher after ten days of drying.


Here is what my kid’s mugs turned out like! They were so proud of their art work and we plan to give these as gifts to a few special teachers including my son’s art teacher that has inspired him so much this year and our sweet bus driver that braves the bad weather to pick him up.

These painted mugs can be filled with treats, drink mixes, gift certificates to the coffee shop or a bookstore, or whatever else you can think of. We did these for our teachers this year, but one year we made these as grandparent gifts and they were really loved by them too!

Our mugs will be packaged with these jars filled with cocoa mix for our teachers. I had this ribbon leftover from my gift wrapping supplies last year and found these adorable Christmas Story gift tags at Walmart (9 for $2) that I tied to each one with the instructions for the cocoa. The jars were over in their kitchen supplies for $2.97 each to put the cocoa mix in. To save on this expense, try the Crystal Light containers for easy transporting and to keep your gift more thrifty.


I also saw these reusable shopping bags over in the gift wrap supplies at Walmart and scooped these up to package up our gifts. These bags were $2 each and can be reused over and over again. These bags are flat-bottomed, which makes them a little easier to stay standing upright underneath the Christmas tree.

I chose reusable bags last year for gift-giving and they were a total hit! I am such a fan of the Target bags and the clever designs that they implement into their bags. These bags folded up into the size of a small cosmetic case and had a pocket in the front too, perfect for tucking a gift card or a note of appreciation to someone. These were only $1.50, but everyone was so excited to get these.

These have just a couple of pieces of tissue paper at the top, but the bottom was stuffed with newspaper that would have gone in our recycle bin. The newspaper helped these stand a little more upright since they were not flat-bottomed. I felt proud about my eco-friendly alternative and am hoping to convert some of my plastic-bag-lovin’ family members over to the joys of reusable bags.

Do you do gifts for your teachers? What do you plan to give this year? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!

Knitting Trendy Gifts of Warmth for the Holidays

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

It is that time of year again where I am kicking my knitting needles into high gear to create beautifully knitted gifts to give for the holiday season. In my opinion, nothing could say I love you more than something that you have weaved together with your knitting needles. I have a lot of top-secret projects in the works, but I wanted to show a few ideas and patterns for some lovely knitted gifts that would be perfect for this holiday season’s time of giving!

These ain’t your grandma’s knitted gifts though! These are trendy & cute knits that anyone would love to wear and own. I vow to never make my friends and family wear ugly or itchy knitted items. With all the effort that goes into knitting, you might as well make something beautiful!  These are just a few projects that I am working on right now and almost all of the patterns are free and easy for a newbie knitter!

Be sure to join Ravelry for fun & free patterns for your knitting & crochet projects! I love staying connected with my readers so you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and, of course, Ravelry…just to name a few! Chances are, if you search for someone named momadvice, you will likely find me there!

Beautifully Ruffled Lace Scarves

Pattern: Ruffle Lace Scarf by Suzie Blackman

Needle Size: US 10 Needles (40″ circulars)

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Off-White (On sale at Michael’s for $2.50!)

Notes: If you want a scarf that is wildly impressive, can be created with a single ball of yarn, and looks like a million bucks than this would be the perfect gift to give this holiday season. It is a very mindless knit, but is an INSANE amount of stitches, especially in the last two rows (over one thousand stitches!). The beauty of this scarf though is that you only need to know how to knit, purl, and yarn over to create it.

The twisting is created by knitting the scarf length-wise, rather than width-wise and through the series of yarn overs. As pictures above, you can see that it is really hard to see your stitches, let alone if it is actually going to twist. The good news is, as you cast off, you will see that scarf naturally twists, making that beautiful ruffled twist.

This one is definitely a statement piece and is also a statement of your absolute love for whoever you might make it for!

I followed the pattern that is linked above, but added four more rows to give the scarf a fuller appearance. I repeated rows 11-14 two times before I started rows 15-16. I am really glad I did and love the lush fullness of this scarf.

Anthropologie-Inspired Scarflets

Pattern: Anthro-Inspired Scarflet (available as a free Ravelry download with your free Ravelry membership) by Kim Seio & Lydia Flowers (size small)

Needle Size: US 8 Needles (straight) for both the flowers and the scarflet

Yarn: Premier Yarns Chunky Weight in Pristine (scarf) & Yarn Bee Boucle Traditions in Black

Notes: These little scarflets are my teacher gift this year because they knit up so quickly and are perfect for anyone who doesn’t like to wrestle with a scarf.  You can see in the center picture that you create a little knitted pocket to tuck one side of the scarf into. My plan is to stick a $5 Starbucks gift card in the little pocket as a fun little surprise for gifts this year.

I followed the sizing and increases that ilikecookies(another Ravelry member)  had shared in her pattern. She said, “Increased until 30 stitches, worked 15 rows even until ribbed section and knit 15 rows of ribbing to make a slightly larger scarflet.”

I added a black Lydia Flower (size small) with a red button center to finish it.

Republic Hats

Pattern: Toddler Republic Hat or Adult Republic Hat (you can find the pattern in the side bar) with Lydia Flowers (Size Medium & Small)

Needle Size: US 5 Needles (circular) & US 8 (straight) for the hat embellishment

Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn Merino Worsted (for hat) &  I Love This Cotton! in Ivory for the flowers

Notes: If you are looking for a perfect hat pattern for a novice beginner who is learning how to knit in the round, then these patterns are the perfect patterns for you. In the pictures above, I actually used the Toddler Republic Hat pattern for myself since I have a smaller head than most normal adults. I adjusted the length to 5 1/2 inches long. Linked above is also the adult-sized version that would be a perfect holiday gift for just about any girlfriend or sister to wrap underneath your tree this year!

The embellishment is the Lydia Flower in both the medium & small sizes, stacked using size eight straight needles. If you don’t feel ambitious enough to knit a flower, you can finish it with a simple button and skip that step altogether!

Gorgeous Gathered Scarves

Pattern: Gathered Scarf by Maryse Roudier

Needle Size: US 4 & US 7

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton Ease in Lime

Notes: I didn’t get a chance to show you what I created for my sister & best friend last year for Christmas. Pictured above is my stunning sister wearing one of my gathered scarves!  Since they both read the site regularly, I had to keep these gifts under wraps and knit them when they weren’t around. I knitted these gathered scarves as holiday gifts to give with a set of fingerless gloves.

This pattern is so easy for a beginner and was a gift that was loved by both of them.  You actually use two different needle sizes to create the gathered effect on these scarves which added beautiful detail and a bit of ruffling to the scarves. I loved that the cotton is so stretchy and soft. I would definitely recommend this pattern especially to a beginner who is looking to add a little variation to the traditional scarf!

Waffle Stitch Fingerless Gloves

Pattern: Waffle Stitch Fingerless Gloves by Jill Toporkiewicz

Needle Size: US 7

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton Ease in Lime

Notes:I made a set of these fingerless gloves to go with the gathered scarves that are pictured above. The girls that I gave them to have tiny hands and wrists like myself so I modified the pattern to accommodate a smaller hand (after realizing just how huge these were after making a sample glove). I reduced the CO to 28 stitches and then only repeated the waffle pattern four times to reduce the length a bit on these. They turned out absolutely perfect and were a fast and easy knit!

This fingerless glove pattern is ideal for someone who hasn’t mastered knitting in the round yet because you simply seam these to create the glove. These are a really fast knit and are perfect for my coffee-loving friends who like to have their fingers free for their coffee chugging in the morning!

Super Cozy & Fast Fingerless Gloves

Pattern: Cosy Knitted Hand/Wrist Warmers

Needle Size: US 5

Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn Merino Worsted

Notes: Fingerless gloves are great for layering underneath gloves or worn alone in chilly weather. I have been dying to make a pair for myself to keep my hands warm in the chilly morning air when taking my kids to school.  This was my first time starting on double-pointed needles so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do these, but this pattern was so simple that it made it a great pattern to get the hang of knitting in the round!

These look so tiny off your hands, but stretch perfectly to accommodate your hands. The pattern is so quick that you could easily knit these in an afternoon of knitting. I have a feeling I am going to be making a lot more of these as holiday gifts this year!

I did the pattern just as directed except using size 5 needles and they were the perfect size!

Prayer Shawl for Comfort

Pattern: Alice’s Lace Shawl in The Prayer Shawl Companion

Needle Size: US 13

Yarn: Lion Brand Homespun in Granite

Notes: Holidays can be so hard for those who have lost someone and prayer shawls are a wonderful gift to give to comfort them through the holidays. While perhaps not as trendy as some of the projects above, it is a gift that will be appreciated nonetheless!   I have made this lace shawl so many times and you can read more about the shawls that I made for my grandma & mom last year.

These are beautiful gifts that can be personalized and tailored for that special person who might need a little extra comfort during the holiday season. I highly recommend, “The Prayer Shawl Companion,” because it offers patterns, prayers, and even the importance of color choices and what they symbolize when creating your gift. I love to add pictures, charms, and symbolic colors into each of my shawls as gifts.

It is one of those gifts that will be long remembered and appreciated!

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Looking for more knitted gift ideas for the holidays? I recommend throwing a few of these projects on your needles for the holiday giving season and also visiting our Crafting section and Gifts section of the site for more gift-giving inspiration!

Cupcake Hat

Dulce Neck Cozy

Ruffled Shawl

Rainy Day or Snowy Day Scarf

Disclosure: The knitting book link is an affiliate link and is provided so you can locate the book quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me some yarn instead.  Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely?

What handmade gifts are you working on for the holiday season? Please share your ideas and links here!

Giving With the Scraps of Life: 10 Painless Ways to Give to Charities

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Do you ever feel like you don’t have the means to donate to make a difference in someone’s life? I often felt that the size of my wallet was a hurdle to the type of giving that I imagined that I could do in my adulthood. When financial times were particularly difficult for our family, I always envisioned the day that would come when I could give more to worthy organizations.

In the last few years though, I began to realize that there are so many more ways to give than I ever imagined possible. I refer to this giving in my house as my, “scraps of life giving.” There are so many things that I have within my possession and that I can do with the limited talents and budget that I possess that the possibilities for good old-fashioned giving are endless.

Today I wanted to share with you a few, “scraps of life giving,” opportunities that you just might not be aware exist! Within this list, I am confident you can find a few opportunities for giving a few scraps from your life to a worthy organization.

Clean Out Those Couch Cushions & Pockets- Do you have a spare change jar in your house that has been gathering dust? Rather than saving it for something for yourself, consider taking that donation to a worthy organization instead.  Ronald McDonald House Charities is just one great example of where your change could be put to good use.  While you are visiting the drive through for your next dollar soda (one of my own favorite inexpensive indulgences), consider dropping your change off in the boxes at your local McDonald’s and know that your change is being put to great use.

While that little bit of change may not seem to really make a big difference, the organization collected over $20 million dollars in spare change last year. That change goes to helping keep families together by providing shelter for them while their child is being cared for at a nearby hospital.  Just think of that impact you are making on a child and family’s life with that simple gesture of donating your change!

PS- RHMC’s Day of Change is happening on September 9th! Plan to take your change to your local McDonald’s & RSVP for the event here!

Call Up a Cell Phone Donation- The rapid rate that families go through cell phones these days is quite amazing!  With most cell phone plans now, the opportunities to upgrade come around every couple of years.  The dilemma of what to do with those old, outdated cell phones is no longer a problem now that organizations like  CellPhonesForSoldiers.com are around. Visit the website to find a place to drop off those gently used cell phones to the cause.

Cell Phones for Soldiers will recycle the cell phones, and use the proceeds to provide pre-paid calling cards and cell phones to troops serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Just imagine that you can give a child or spouse the opportunity to hear from their loved one with something that was just taking up space in your house. How beautiful is that?

See Any Worthy Donations In Your House?- The cost for eyeglasses is astronomical when you don’t have an insurance plan that covers them. For lower income families, a pair of glasses can be the equivalent of a week’s salary or more, and is a cost that most just can’t afford. Consider taking your gently used glasses to a local Goodwill, Lion’s Club, or to LensCrafters and donating them to the worthy cause of helping those who need them.

Think of that child who is struggling in school because his family can’t afford a pair of glasses for him and think of that pair of glasses that are gathering dust in an old drawer in your house that could be benefiting him. It seems like a win-win situation to share the gift of sight with someone else.

Craft Your Way to Giving- Do you have the gift of crafting in your possession? You may not realize how valuable that talent is, but it can make the difference in the life of a child, a soldier, or someone who is undergoing treatment for an illness. A quick Google search of your craft skill and the word charity should pull up a number of worthy organization that you can give to.

I am a knitter and am currently working on knitting caps for a chemo drive through an organization. It is something that I can easily do while watching a little evening television with supplies that I already have on hand, but can make the difference in the life of a patient undergoing chemotherapy. I have found though that knitting has been a fantastic gift to share in so many ways and I always try to keep one charitable giving project on my needles at all times. Whether it is whipping up a cap for a chemo patient, donating a blanket to a project like Project Linus, or knitting a prayer shawl for someone who could benefit from this comfort, I am so proud I can use my talents for someone else.

Consider donating your crafting talents to a local homeless shelter, teaching a craft to underprivileged children, or just creating crafts in your spare time that could make someone’s day a tiny bit brighter. The possibilities with the gift of crafting truly are endless!

Whittle Down Your Shoe Collection Charitably- I will admit that I have a bit of a shoe purchasing habit and have developed quite a shoe collection over the years. The good news is that your old shoes do not need to go to waste because of a worthy organization called Soles4Souls.

Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people just like you. The charity distributes these shoes free of charge to people in need and has donated over 10 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes. These shoes have been distributed to people in over 125 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States.

In our town, the local New Balance offers a drop-off location for the organization which makes donating just as easy as all of the errand-running that you are already doing. Consider weeding through your shoe collections and giving to someone who doesn’t have the creature comfort of a good pair of shoes.

As you can see, the possibilities for giving are endless without really spending a dime. Of course, the best gift you could ever give to any organization is the gift of yourself. Read to a child, mentor a child, serve at your homeless shelter, visit a nursing home, or help at an animal rescue shelter… these are just to name a few!  For oodles of volunteer opportunities, please visit VolunteerMatch.org to find a worthy organization to donate your time and talent to.

Not enough giving opportunities  here? Here are 5 more easy giving ideas!

5 Surprising Things You Could Be Giving Today

  1. Soda Can Tabs- Collect these for a metal donation to Ronald McDonald House charities.
  2. Expired Coupons- Military families can use expired coupons for groceries.
  3. Books- Better World Books can take your old books, pay you, and the books that are sold create a donation to literacy programs.
  4. Old Cars- Goodwill will happily take your old clunker off of your hands.
  5. Diapers- Give your diapers to the diaper bank charity in your town to benefit needy families. If you are a Michiana resident, call 237-7888 and leave contact information to arrange for a donation drop off in our town.

What are your favorite scraps of life giving opportunities for your family? I would love to hear the giving opportunities that your family takes part in!

Creating Beautiful & Frugal Treasure Chests

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

When I was a little girl, I had a beautiful musical jewelry box with a twirling ballerina where I would store all of my little treasures. I wanted to create a little box just like that for my son and daughter so I headed to Michael’s and picked up the supplies to create their very own boxes to store all of the important treasures in their lives.

These wooden boxes were $4.99 over by the wooden crafts and paint supplies. I also selected two bottles of spray paint in the clearance section of the store. You just want to make sure to select a spray paint that says that it will work on wood so that your paint will adhere to your project.

When I got home, I spray painted the boxes evenly and then cut out the images that I wanted to decoupage on my treasure chests out of heavy card stock.  I used my Silhouette craft cutter (remember to get those entries in!) to cut out the images, but you could also stencil your images on heavy card stock and then cut them out with scissors.

If you do have  a craft cutter, I chose the princess set, a pirate flag, and a treasure map as my images. Each set was printed and then cut in two different colors that would look nice with my painted boxes and could be layered upon one another to create the images. The treasure map printed out without a “map” within it, so my husband added his art with a Sharpie to the map.

Now comes the fun part! It is time to get your decoupage on! If you have never decoupaged before, it is the coolest craft ever, requires no skills at all, and makes everything look fabulous. Just pour Mod Podge (I used a bottle of the matte finish I had in my craft supplies) into a plastic cup and then use a small sponge brush to glue each cut-out on to your boxes. Once you have glued all of the pieces on, do a light layering of glue over the entire surface, being careful to not shift or cause bubbling around your images. Allow it to dry, do another layer, allow it to dry, do another layer. Two to three layers should be plenty, but you be the judge!

If you want to add a little antiquing to it, just use a little sandpaper to rough it up. Oh, look at that vintage map on top of that little treasure chest. Don’t you just love it?

Once they are dry, they are all ready for treasure filling. Just imagine what could be stored in here. I see my son’s filling with rocks and Pokemon cards & my daughters will be stuffed with glittering plastic jewels or tiny little doll accessories. Whatever is in them,  I have a feeling that these treasure boxes will be loved for a long time.

These would make fantastic birthday gifts and are right within a frugal gal’s gift allowance (a mere $6 in supplies each!) and would be a gift that would be long- remembered!

Gift Giving: Sweet Little Ribbon Rings

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010


We finished our last day of school on Friday.  That week was extremely busy and I found myself scrambling on Thursday to pull together teacher gifts to give to our teachers. In year’s past, I just bought each teacher a bouquet of flowers. This year, I wanted to try making the fabric rings that were featured in our notebook on Make It Do instead and thought it would be a great craft to do with my kids.

I don’t sew and didn’t have any fabric laying around so I opted to follow the directions for this project, but replace the fabric with ribbon instead. The ring forms were found in the jewelry-making supplies at Michael’s ($2.99 for six ring bases) and I was ready to go.


You really could do just about any width of ribbon between 5/8″ and eve up to 1 1/2″ depending on how big you would like your ring or what you already have in your craft supplies. I will say that the lighter colored ribbon was easier to work with because the darker ribbon showed any little blob of glue that got stuck to it.

I couldn’t wait to make a few for myself and, of course, my glue gun conked out on me and I will have to buy another one. Luckily, it had enough steam in it to make the gifts and I am so proud of how they turned out!


We paired these rings with big bags of  Honey Nut Granola, tied with some yellow ribbon. I made a double batch and then baked it in the oven while I worked on the ribbon rings. I also tried to write a heartfelt note to each teacher to tell them what they have meant to our family. I have a feeling that these mean a lot more than any gift card or gift I could create for them- at least I hope they do!

Do you do teacher gifts? What did you make this year or what have you done in past years? I would love to hear your ideas!

Gift Giving: Putting Your Own Spin on Photo Journals

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I could not wait to show you guys what I made for my moms for Mother’s Day this year.  Unfortunately, to keep it a secret, I had to wait until the holiday was over to show them to you. That being said, these photo books would be perfect for just about any occasion, including the fast approaching Father’s Day holiday!

I know that many people are fans of the photo albums that you can create online, but I had never done one before. I adore taking pictures of my family, but I am not very good about printing them out and sharing them the way I should. I thought it might be neat to share with our moms this year a brag book that that they could enjoy for years to come. I admit that I prefer to make handmade gifts for these occasions (I doubt either mom will ever forget our infamous ping pong wreaths last year), but I knew that there could be a way that I could put a unique spin on these photo albums and add my own homemade touch.

I first weeded through all of the pictures and tried to get a good representation of both of the children as well as pictures of them with the other family members. After selecting my pictures and template (through the photo site I used), I then went to Quote Garden and tried to find a quote for each page of the photo album that would fit the pictures that I had selected. All in all, the process took four hours because of my own admitted perfectionism. I chose a soft-back cover (to save money) and I also visited Coupon Cabin to find a coupon code that I could use towards my purchase. These each cost roughly $16…and it was worth every penny.

These were a few of my favorite photos and quotes that were chosen:

“Everything is beautiful at the ballet” A Chorus Line

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” Katherine Hepburn

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of  a child. There are seven million.” Walt Streightiff

“I have the same goal I’ve had since I was a girl. I want to rule the world.” Madonna

“Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet.” Vietnamese Proverb

“There’s no place like home.” Wizard of Oz

“The Force is strong with this one.” Darth Vadar

“A boy’s story is the best that is ever told.” Charles Dickens

“Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.” Author Unknown

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius

“And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen.” Terri Guillemets

I can honestly say that my copy of this book has already become lovingly worn as I have placed it on my coffee table and glance through it almost daily. Each time, I walk a way a little misty-eyed, a little more thankful, and really proud of my amazing kids.

As the gifts were given, there were a few tears and a whole lot of pride radiating from our proud grandma and nana. It is the perfect gift for purse-toting and brag sessions. From what I hear, they have already made the rounds in their workplaces and churches. To me, that is when you know that a gift is a total success..when it just must be shared!

Just a few quick tips:

- Don’t forget to check for coupon codes through whatever photo book publishing site you use. There are usually multiple coupons available. Be sure to compare which coupon will offer you the most bang for your buck. My 20% off coupon, for example, was less than the shipping cost so make sure you crunch those numbers before ordering. Just Google, “Photo company’s coupon code”  and you should get plenty of codes to use towards your purchase.

- I found it easiest to sort my pictures by date first so I could group pictures together on pages easier. Sorting by date also helps to allow the flow into the different seasons of the year and pictures to flow a little more naturally.

- Choose a template with a neutral palette, that will compliment and not detract away from the beauty of your photos.

- Edit your photos before putting them into your book. I use Picnik for my photo editing needs and I absolutely love it. You don’t need to get carried away with the editing (unless you just love to), but it can be a great tool for saturating the color, adjusting color temperature, switching to black-and-white, or adjusting the exposure or contrast in a photo.

Looking for some added Father’s Day inspiration? These crafty bottles brimming over with treats were a hit with my hubby last year.  Our dads also really loved our movie gifts and handmade photo compact disc jackets filled with great music in years past.

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Ironically, I had some great timing on this post because today is the last day to enter for a $50 Snapfish gift card for Father’s Day. Please head over there and get your entry in today! And yes, I actually had to pay for all of those photo books so I am extremely jealous you can get one for free!! Entries are due by 8PM eastern time tonight! Good luck, friends

What did you do for Mother’s Day gifts this year? What is up your sleeve for Father’s Day? Please share!

All Knitted Up: Knitted Gifts With a Purpose

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

My knitting needles have been clicking at high speed these days with knitted gifts that needed to be turned around quickly. That being said, there is nothing more meaningful to me than knitting with a purpose. I love to have an intention that gives me the opportunity to focus on someone really important and make a gift to show them what they mean to me.

My girlfriend, Kathy Friend, has been such a gift to me.  She is the first person I call when I need help with a big event in my life. She has helped me find clothes that fit, she helps me feel more confident by guiding on me on good style choices, and she is my sounding board on the difficulties of working from home. She is my friend through and through. It is rare that you find someone that genuine in your life and I am so thankful for her friendship.

For over six years, Kathy and her husband have been trying to adopt a little girl named Anya from Russia. There has been much paperwork, many hurdles, and so many life lessons that they have garnered from this experience. After waiting this long, they are in Russia now to get their little girl. My heart skips a beat when I think about it.

I wanted to create a gift for Anya that would be meaningful and hopefully remind her of coming home.  I made another Bon Bon Baby Blanket but larger, that could be her travel blanket as they make the flight from Russia to America. It was done in all of the colors of the US flag as she comes to America, to live with her family that love her more than life itself.

Please keep the Friend family on your prayer list as they finish the final details of bringing Anya home. It is such a big moment of transition for all of them and I am so full of hope for this little family!

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Welcome to America Travel Blanket

Pattern: Sweet Bon Bon Blanket by Suzanne Middlebrooks (available as a free download for Ravelry members)

Needle Size: US 9 Needles

Yarn: Lion Brand Homespun Candy Cane Red, Lion Brand Homespun Hepplewhite (used as the garter stitch section throughout the entire blanket), and Lion Brand Homespun Blue Sky Montana

Notes: Homespun yarn is definitely not my first choice when it comes to a baby blanket. For a travel blanket though, this yarn worked really well and created a beautiful design throughout the pattern with the mix of colors. If you were creating a baby blanket though, cotton yarn would definitely be my first choice!

This pattern is a great one for a beginning knitter and the only stitch you need to know is  the kfbf combination, which I found how to do on You Tube. Because of the width of this blanket (a cast on of only 96 stitches) it comes together very quickly and it makes a beautiful chevron pattern with a garter edge.

I stuck to the 96 stitch cast on and just made the blanket longer so it could be draped over her legs. My little Emily was a great helper and held my yarn for me as well as letting me use her as a model for travel blanket sizing.

I could not be more proud with how this turned out. It did take a lot longer to make then I had thought (four weeks almost), but I am so proud of the results!

I hope it will be something special for her and something that she will be able to snuggle up with for a long time. Welcome to America, Anya! We can’t wait to meet you!

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When my I spoke to one of my girlfriends and found out that her mom was ill, I wanted to do something…  anything to help her.  For me, learning to knit was as much a gift to myself as it is a gift to others. I asked what color was her mother’s favorite and she shared with me that her mom really loved pink. I put my needles on a speed of eleven, and worked on this shawl for hours at a time until it was done. I wanted it to be there when she needed it most.

I wanted this prayer shawl to offer warmth and comfort while still being fashionable and something that I myself would wear. I went back to my favorite shawl pattern, “Alice’s Lace Shawl” by Alice Beck in the The Prayer Shawl Companion book.

For me, half of the beauty of a prayer shawl is in the details. It isn’t just the knitting that makes it beautiful, it is the personalization that is created for that special person. I found the beautiful cross charm at Michael’s in the jewelry section. It was $7.99, but I used my 40% off coupon. The yarn was marked down to $2.99 a ball and it took two balls to create.

I used ribbon from my ribbon stash to pull it together and printed a prayer out for her that came from the book that is highlighted above. It was printed on pink polka dotted paper that I already had in my craft supplies. Tucked in tissue, it was shipped Priority and sent to the sweet recipient to let her know she is being prayed for by someone who has yet to even meet her.


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Pretty In Pink Lace Shawl

Pattern: Alice’s Lace Shawl by Alice Beck (from The Prayer Shawl Companion Book)

Needle Size: US 13 Needles

Yarn: Bernat Softee Chunky Solid in Antique Rose (2 Skeins)

Notes: Prayer shawls can be simple or complicated, but the idea behind them is that they are woven together with yarn and with prayer. As you create them, you pray for the person and ask God that the shawl can offer them comfort through difficult times.

I found a fantastic book on prayer shawls called The Prayer Shawl Companion by Janet Bristow & Victoria A. Cole-Galo. The book offered thirty-eight different patterns that could be used to create a unique prayer shawl for someone in need. In the pattern book, I chose, “Alice’s Lace Shawl,” because the pattern had only one row of pattern and then a row of purling and a row of knitting. It was simple enough that I could concentrate on prayer and complex enough that it created a scalloped edge with just enough lace, while still being warm.

This project took me six days of straight knitting every single moment that I had. The lace shawls that I created with Homespun Yarn knitted up much, much faster than this one, but they didn’t have any pink Homespun at Michael’s so I had to go with a less bulky yarn.

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Disclosure: The knitting book link is an affiliate link and is provided so you can locate the book quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me some yarn instead.  Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely?

What crafts have you been working on? How do you benefit others with your crafting abilities?