Category: gifts

Homemade brown rice & catnip cat treats & DIY gift jar.

I’m a crazy cat lady. Okay, no, let me rephrase that: I’m a crazy animal lady. I love all animals. I don’t discriminate. I’ve had both cats and dogs at various points my entire life; sometimes at the same time. I chase bunnies in our yard in the hopes one will hop into my arms and speak to me like Thumper. I feed the birds & have a bird bath in the yard (despite them shitting on everything!). I came home from the hospital after being born and shared my crib with Daffy, a little calico. Since then I’ve had Licorice (Licky), Tigger (Tiggy- notice a pattern?), Casey (canine not feline), Arwyn (Awbeez) and now Indy (also canine). My mother has had cats since she was 4 years old.

And the newest addition to the family is my mom’s new kitty, Snowflake.

Snowflake in the window (click through for homemade cat treat recipe!)

Snowflake (aka Snowy, aka snuggle face, aka Snowball, aka Arabella Snowflake, aka crazy ass, aka silly butt) is around 3 years old, and she’s deaf. We aren’t 100% sure of the extent of her hearing loss, but it’s probably around 90%. She does hear some things- specifically higher frequency things (i.e. babies/kids yelling, high pitched noise) but its not all the time and it isn’t clear how much of it she hears. Not that that holds her back at all! She’s the sweetest little mush face in the world; she’s beautiful too (for the in-depth story about how we surprised my mom with her, keep reading to the bottom of the post). She’s super friendly, loves people, loves kids, loves to snuggle… and loves to eat. Ah, a girl after my own heart. Which is funny because she’s a thin, graceful, athletic little thing!

But boy, does she love to eat. Treats, canned food, dry food, human food. She likes French dressing. Seriously. And she loooooooves catnip. We have a certified addict here.

So I decided to make her a little gift. Homemade cat treats, in a fancy little jar.

Brown rice & catnip cat treats and a DIY gift jar.

Arwyn, my mom’s previous cat, was not big on homemade stuff. She was super picky- she’d prefer to go without food than deign to eat a can of something unappetizing. She did love cat treats, but she was selective. She didn’t like soft treats, didn’t like fish-flavored ones, etc. Snowflake, on the other hand, loves all food. We haven’t hit on something yet that she doesn’t like.

I was inspired to make these by Joy The Baker, who inspires me in many ways. Her cat treat recipes have been making me think about homemade cat stuff for quite some time. Yeah, I’ve made Indy TONS of homemade cookies and biscuits and “pupcakes.” But cats? I always assumed they were too picky (or at least mine were). But Snowflake made me change my mind.

The jar idea is something I’ve been doing for a while (remember these?), but Joy also has that on her blog, and you can find them all over the internet. It’s a very simple DIY and I’ll get to more about that after the cat treats.

Brown rice & catnip cat treats and a DIY gift jar.

Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Treatsie sweets box review & giveaway!

Happy Valentine’s Day, four days early!

You know what the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is for me? Other than flowers (which I do actually love)? CANDY! I love candy. I love sweets in general, but if you buy me chocolate, especially chocolate with caramel, I’ll love you forever.

A Treatsie giveaway!

Speaking of candy, two weeks ago I was gifted with an amazing treat box from Treatsie! If you’ve never heard of Treatsie, and you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re going to want to pay attention.

What is Treatsie, exactly?

Treatsie helps you find amazing, high-end artisan sweets you’d normally never find unless you stumbled across the shop. Try our monthly subscription sample box of multiple and ever-changing vendors or order boxes from our store to get sweets right away!

The sweets you get in a Treatsie box aren’t the kind you’ll find at big box stores. We only work with small, independent vendors. By subscribing to Treatsie, you are directly supporting small businesses around the country as every Treatsie box and store sale benefits those vendors.

And they certainly aren’t! This January box included hot chocolate pops from PopBar, lavender sea salt caramels from Lillie Belle Farms, peanut brittle from Brittle Brothers, AvenueSweets espresso caramels… this isn’t your average drug store candy. And I LOVE drugstore candy, but trust me. This is better.

A Treatsie box giveaway!

Continue reading

DIY magic: mason jar snow globes.

Oh, December. How I love you. Make no mistake- Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. Hands down. However, it’s only acceptable for me to play White Christmas over & over again in December. I don’t mind watching it in February or July, but I find other people take issue. Or perhaps they just take issue with me singing all of the songs (particularly this one & this one) out loud at the top of my lungs? Anyway. I wait until at least after turkey day to break out the Bing! Also, December is the Mount Everest of baking/creating: the best crafts, recipes, and decorations are happening  right around now!

Like these…

DIY mason jar snowglobes. Easiest winter project ever!

This tutorial is something you’ve probably seen all over the internet.

No, not probably. Definitely.  I’ve seen this concept more times in the past two weeks than I’ve seen my fiancee, it seems. I’m just repeating it here to show you how stupidly easy it is. And how fun it is. And chances are, you’ve already got the materials- or most of them- laying around the house. It’s a knockoff of a product that Anthropologie made (they made salt shaker ones too), hence the lack of water.

DIY mason jar snowglobes.

Continue reading

Sprinkles! A “rainbowlicious” book review & giveaway!

Back in 2011, Quirk Books sent me a delicious cookbook (this one) to review & do a giveaway for. I loved the book & every recipe in it! The frosted maple pecan cookies are some of Jay’s favorite cookies ever. So when they asked me to do a review for a new book, Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts, I totally had to say yes!

And I had to ask if I could give one of YOU a copy as well!

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts! Makes a great Christmas gift.

I love cookbooks. I love books in general, really- especially cookbooks, how-to books or DIY/craft books. I’m in the middle of redoing things around the ol’ homestead, so I don’t have easy access to them right now. Which is another reason why I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a new one.

But the main reason? It’s December! It’s time to start thinking about Christmas baking & Christmas presents. Cookbooks like this make not only amazing gifts, but provide some inspiration when we get a little stuck for holiday treats.

A review of: Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts.

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts: Here’s a guide to baking and decorating delicious desserts with a colorful twist: sprinkles! Of course you can scatter them over cakes and pies–but you can also swirl them into waffles, “embroider” them on cookies, and freeze them in pretty popsicles. Jackie Alpers shares dozens of creative, colorful, super-fun recipes, plus quick-and-easy projects (ideal for little kids), holiday treats, party-perfect sprinkles crafts (great for gifting!). She also offers simple tutorials for tinting sparkling sugars, concocting homemade pop rocks, and even crafting your own sprinkles from scratch. Sprinkles! is an awesome rainbow explosion of a cookbook you won’t want to miss.”

The first thing that you need to know is that the photography in the book (& on the front & back covers) is beautiful. Beautiful colors & beautiful layouts. It’s enough to make a food blogger a little jealous.

Continue reading

The dish ran away with the wooden spoon.

Back in June when I posted that DIY tea towel apron tutorial, I got a ton of great feedback. So I thought maybe I’d bring back the DIY thing with another really easy project: painted-handle wooden spoons.

I’ve seen these wooden spoons all over Etsy & Pinterest. Every time I see them I think “I can do that.” I even mentioned doing it to match the apron in that post.

So I finally did it.

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons!

Except these aren’t dipped in rubber like most of the ones you’ll see, they’re just painted in Martha Stewart Crafts™ multi-surface acrylic craft paint. Which, it just so happens, is both “weather-resistant” & non-toxic. They also did not cost $29.00 for a set of three like those other ones for sale on the internet. Instead, it probably cost me less than $5.00 a set, maybe even less than $3.00: The glitter paint is $2.99 & the satin is $1.99 (you could paint a ton of spoons with one bottle!), and a set of the three spoons cost me $1.00.

I think it took me ten minutes to paint three of them. I did one set for myself in pink (of course) and a set for my mother in black. Once I saw how cute they came out, I started experimenting with different colors & styles. You can paint them to match your KitchenAid mixer, to match your Le Creuset, to match your kitchen color scheme or just in your favorite color. Gold/silver/metallic or pearl paints are interesting choices, too!

Here they are in pink:

DIY painted wooden spoons.“pink dahlia”

Here they are in black:

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.“beetle black”

Here they are in light green:

DIY painted wooden spoons!“scallion”

And finally… here they are in glittery pink:

DIY pink glitter wooden spoons. Crazy easy & cheap to make!“bubblegum pink”

Awesome, right? No wonder the dish ran away with the spoon; look at how freakin’ cute the spoons are!

This is what you’ll need:

  • Acrylic paint. Mine is useable on wood, fabric, metal & glass among other surfaces, and like I said above- it’s non-toxic. Of course, you’re not painting the part of the spoon that touches the food, but why take a chance? I actually highly recommend the Martha Stewart line; it comes in a zillion colors (the colors I used are named above). I used the satin & glitter finishes, but you can use a gloss, metallic or pearl if you prefer, it makes no difference. All of them are non-toxic & weather resistant.
  • A small paintbrush.
  • Scotch tape.
  • Wooden spoons. I got mine in a 3-pack at the dollar store, you can buy whatever ones you want, or you can freshen up old ones you already have at home (as long as they aren’t recently oiled or varnished).
  • A pint jar or drinking glass, deep enough & with a wide enough mouth to accommodate the amount of spoons you’ll be painting without having the painted parts of the handles touch each other or the glass itself.

How to make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.

This doesn’t even really need a tutorial, it’s pretty much self-explanatory, but here goes nothin’.

The first thing you’re gonna do is gently wash the spoons in hot water with mild dish soap. Let them dry thoroughly. Then, you’re going to tape them where you want the painted section to end. Very easy. I made them all even so that when the spoon parts line up, so does the paint. You can paint as far down as you like, but I’d leave a decent amount of plain wooden space above the spoon part.

How to make those adorable painted handle wooden spoons.

Okay… once they’re taped, get your glass or jar handy & get your workspace ready. Paint your spoon handles with a thin coat of paint, placing them handle side up in the jar or glass as you go. Make sure the painted parts are separate from each other as they dry. After one hour, check to see if they need a second coat (they probably do). Keep the tape on and paint a second coat. Let them dry again in the jar.

It's so easy to make your own colored-handle wooden spoons. Here's a tutorial!

After 2-3 hours you can remove the tape to check if they’re even. If not, just re-tape the spoon a little bit lower and fix your mistakes. Keep the spoons in the jar for 12 hours after they feel dry just to be sure. Let the spoons cure for 21 days (or according to your paint directions) before using or washing them again. If you screw up & get paint on a spot you don’t want it, you can sand it off with some sand paper once it dries.

The glittery ones took about 4-5 coats to look good, but if you paint a solid color underneath then paint the glitter, it’d take less.

And that’s it… you’re done!

If you want a less perfect look, you can definitely paint them without using the tape. Go freehand. Be wild.

Adorable DIY painted wooden spoons.

Adorable x 1,000. I just love them.

Another idea: before painting, drill small holes at the end of each handle in the same spot. Sand away any rough patches & then wash/dry/paint the spoons as directed above. After painting, while it’s still wet, poke a toothpick through to make sure they stay clear. When they’re dry, tie them all together with a pretty matching ribbon for a throw-in gift (or stocking stuffer).

You don’t have to make it solid either- you can do stripes if you’re daring (ha!). Just place the tape all the way up the handle leaving spaces in between for painting. You can do polka dots in another color once the first color is totally dry, too, using a pencil eraser to make the dots. Or you can use pinking shears to cut the tape so yours isn’t a straight line around, but a zig-zag. Tons of ideas!*

Like this “zebra” style version I did (it’s more like an Ikat pattern, really):

DIY hand-painted wooden spoons to spice up the kitchen!

So, how easy is that? Very. Go get on it. And make yourself some fancy spoons!

*Yoyo also sent me a link for this post at that shows you how to cover the spoon handles in fabric or Washi tape! It’s a bit more complicated than using just the paint, but it’s worth it judging by the photos.

Tea towel apron D.I.Y.

Also known as: sewing for the lazy & talentless.

I’m going to preface this by saying that yes, I went to F.I.T., also known as the Fashion Institute of Technology, for Fashion Design. This is true. Yes, I have a dressmakers mannequin in my house, which you will see shortly. And yes, I spent a good many hours seated at a massive industrial sweatshop-style sewing machine, once even witnessing a girl sew her fingers together. This is all true. And yes, I also took draping & patternmaking classes. I did very poorly in them, though, to be quite honest. Yes, I also made my own dress with a Peter Pan collar, skirt with a zipper up the back & light summer-weight coat. Yes, I did also create patterns for a business suit with a Batman-style collar & fishtail skirt out of muslin. But they weren’t exactly loved by the faculty. Not the design aspect- but the patterns (and consequently the poor sewing of said patterns) themselves. My strong suit was not the actual making of the clothes, but the designing. And yes- Professor Wong made it quite clear that in order to DESIGN them well one must understand how to CREATE them well. I understand.

That’s also why I transferred to Fashion Illustration shortly thereafter. I make a better artist than seamstress, and I despise patterns.

However, that’s not to say I can’t do some damage with a needle & thread. I’ve made- all sewn by hand, mind you- skirts, shirts, handbags & scarves. I spend a fair amount of my time sewing Jay’s police uniforms as well. I’ve had a sewing machine of my own in the past, but it wasn’t a very large or expensive one & all it was good for was straight seams on thin fabric. Investing in a really good machine for me would be dangerous. First of all, I might injure myself or sew my own pants to whatever it is I’m trying to make, and second, it’s very possible I might become obsessed and never stop making things.

Make your own half-apron out of a tea towel! Insanely simple, and can be sewn by hand or with a machine!Gettin’ myself all ready to be crafty!

Then nobody would eat, and this would become a sewing blog. In the words of Sweet Brown: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

So because of all this, I rely on the professionals to make my aprons, as a rule. I have beautiful vintage ones, gorgeous Jessie Steele ones, whimsical Anthropologie ones and amazing aprons handmade for me by the wonderful Yoyo of I love them all to bits, but sometimes I feel guilty wearing a stunning apron & then getting it covered in wet flour (which basically becomes a super glue once it dries) & other messy stuff. I mean, let’s be honest- they’re too pretty to get really dirty. And when I make strawberry or cherry jam, and I know I’m going to get splattered on, I actually avoid wearing one of my super cute aprons because of that. ‘Cause I know I’ll NEVER get the stains out, and I’ll be crazy sad for the rest of my life (especially since every apron I own is either one of a kind, vintage or limited edition, so I can’t replace them). However in my internet travels, I happened upon this blog post with a how-to on making your own tea towel apron, and I thought “Oh crap! I HAVE that tea towel!” One Ikea shopper can spot another, you know. Then, I was surfing the internet & found this post. I figured that the fact that I found these two posts within a short amount of time was kind of kismet, and anyway, Yoyo is always saying how fun it is to make half-aprons from tea towels, and it seemed so stupidly easy, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I went out, bought some ribbon and made one with that very same Ikea tea towel.

D.I.Y. tea towel apron: super easy to make, takes about 15 minutes if you sew it by hand!

I love it.

I’m not afraid to get it dirty & wipe my disgusting dough-&-batter covered hands all over it.

How to make your own tea towel half-apron using just ribbon & a towel. No sewing machine required!

Yet it’s still cute! It actually looks like a skirt from the front, not an apron. Functional yet still adorable… sounds good to me! Plus, it took me basically 15 minutes to make it by hand. If I had used grosgrain ribbon (easier to fold than satin) & had a sewing machine, it would’ve been finished in 5. It’s that easy. It makes a great gift, too. Maybe for a wishing well gift; make the apron and give that plus the three other towels from the pack with some wooden spoons. I’d even dip the ends of the wooden spoons in a paint to match.

What you need: 1 tea towel (or one piece of fabric cut to 21″ x 27″ and hemmed 1″ around), 1 spool of wide ribbon (thin ribbon doesn’t quite work) needle & thread (or sewing machine). Any tea towel will work, as long as it’s cotton or linen. Don’t use those terry cloth ones or ones that feel like a bathroom towel. Ikea has a ton of options; from the set I got mine from to fancier ones. I personally love the cupcake printed ones, the rose print/pink gingham or the multi-colored stripes. And they’re all inexpensive yet they look beautiful. But you can buy yours anywhere! Even the dollar store.

Okay… so here’s the how-to, direct from Slow Mama:

  • Cut two pieces of ribbon for your ties that are one and a half yards long each. For each piece of ribbon, put a quarter-inch fold in one end, then fold again and press (this will keep your cut edge from unraveling). On the back of your towel, align the folded end of each ribbon along the top edge of the towel so that the folded section is centered over the towel’s side seam. (I set it up so the wider edge of the towel went around my waist)
An insanely easy Do-It-Yourself apron made from an Ikea tea towel!Very simple to do this with fabric as well. Just cut & hem it to size (the size of the towels are 20″ x 26″) and then sew your ribbon on.

  • On your sewing machine, position the needle over the seam of the tea towel, then stitch a few lines back and forth over the ribbon (this will hide your new seam from the front). If sewing by hand, the same principle applies. See photo above. Repeat for both sides.
  • Try on the apron to check the length of your ties and trim as needed, then put the same fold in the free end of each tie and stitch those closed, too. If you want, you can switch thread color to match the ribbon. I didn’t. Also, using satin ribbon makes the folding harder, unless you iron it first- which I didn’t. Grosgrain would make it slightly easier… but either way, it’s really not that big of a deal. I stitched just the sides, but you can stitch across if you like. Or use a serger to prevent the ribbon ends from fraying.

The easiest apron tutorial on the internet. 15 minutes from start to finish, even if sewing by hand!

And that’s it! Your basic apron is done. Now you can add things if you want; add a pocket made from another towel, add a monogram, etc Also, just a random thought, but if you’re making it for a little girl (or boy!), depending on their size you could make a full apron from this tea towel. It wouldn’t be that hard to just turn it around the other way, sew some ribbon for around the neck and then sew some halfway down for the waist. You could also use slightly thinner ribbon. Make one for you, then make one to match for your little one!

Big thanks to Yoyo, Simple Simon & Company & Margaret Cabaniss from Slow Mama for the inspiration to finally make one of these. It was so quick & fun, I might just make more.

So what do you guys think… should I post more D.I.Y. stuff or household-y stuff on here? Or should I stick to the edibles?

A homemade life.

“That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.”

-Aimee Bender


A couple of years ago I read a book by Molly Wizenberg (the blogger behind Orangette), called ‘A Homemade Life.’ It was part of a book club selection- and no, this wasn’t just your average, boring, every day book club- do I look or sound remotely boring to you? It was an awesome one I had with three high school friends (that I’m hoping we can start up again soon- HELLO LADIES ARE YOU LISTENING) where we chose books involving food/recipes and cooked from them, then blogged about it. But anyway, I loved the book. Why? Well, it was just a good book for one thing. Secondly, it turned me on to Molly’s blog, which I had been previously unaware of (I know, I know) and it turns out Molly is cool in tons of different ways. She named her new baby girl after June Carter Cash! Automatic points. But besides all that, I liked the title of the book.

A homemade life. That sounds good to me. I have a homemade life. Homemade pumpkin spice lattes, homemade sodas, homemade jams, homemade breads, homemade pickles…. basically, whether it’s made with a needle & thread or a pot & wooden spoon, I’m down.


And see, here’s the deal: I also like homemade Christmas gifts. I like homemade gifts in general, actually; one of my absolute favorite gifts of all time is a Victorian dollhouse cabinet my uncle Pat made for me. He made it 100% from scratch; four floors, five rooms, doors between rooms that open & close, five fireplaces, staircases complete with newel posts & bannisters, clear plexi-glass door on the front with a glass knob, all the furniture included. It’s beautiful and it remains a treasured piece to this day. I miss my uncle dearly, but when I look at that dollhouse I think of how amazing he was & I feel like he’s still here. And the same goes for a lot of objects around here. The holidays can be a bittersweet time- I miss so many people who aren’t here with us anymore, and I’m reminded of them so strongly this time of year. Which is both good & bad, happy & sad.


Anyway I am definitely not one of those people that turns her nose up at a hand-knit scarf or a pair of crocheted slippers. I love when Yoyo sends me a package of homemade aprons, table runners, etc. I really do adore handmade gifts. I love when people give me things they made for me, and I think most people whom I’ve given homemade items to are thankful in return (perhaps some more than others). That isn’t to say I don’t like store bought gifts. I do. I love them. My KitchenAid mixer (“Lola”), laptop, iPhone & handmixer count among the best gifts I ever received. But a beautiful homemade gift can speak volumes. Time is money, and talent isn’t to be overlooked. If someone thinks highly enough of you to spend their time creating something just for you… then you’re a very lucky person indeed. Last year I gave a variety of homemade jams, jellies & pickles as additional Christmas gifts: candy apple jelly, Amaretto cranberry sauce/Chinese apple-cranberry sauce, vanilla-brandy chestnut jam & gingerbread spice jelly, and some regular ol’ pickles just to name a few. I also gave some individually-sized homemade chocolate chip panettone. To be honest; I did in fact throw in store-bought presents as well, however, so it wasn’t a completely handmade/homemade Christmas.

Why am I writing all this? I’m not really sure. All I know is, I was making some apple-cranberry-ginger preserves (for gift giving!) and it all occurred to me. What with Christmas rapidly coming, and the gift-giving time of year upon us. So I felt the need to get it out, “onto paper” as they say. Or in this case… my blog.



Makes about 3-4 half-pints


  • 4 cups peeled & diced apples (I used McIntosh, but any apple on the softer side will do)
  • 2 cups fresh whole cranberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (depending on your taste)


  1. Sterilize your jars and place your lids in hot water. Set aside, keeping your jars hot.
  2. Add apples, cranberries & water in a large saucepan. Heat them over medium heat, stirring occasionally,  until they’re just warm, then add sugar. Stir until sugar is completely mixed in, then bring to a boil. Cook this way (still stirring every now & then) until cranberries begin to pop.
  3. Add lemon juice, ginger, and allspice. Lower the heat to a simmer, and continue to peek at it and give it a good stir every so often, until the cranberries have softened & broken down & the mixture is a pinkish red.
  4. Continue cooking until mixture is on the thick side. Do not let it get too thick- as it cools, it thickens more. Ladle into hot jars & wipe rims clean. Place lids & bands, and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Let cool, check seal, and proceed to give as gifts!


This is a really easy recipe that comes together quickly and doesn’t require a lot of hubbub. No extra pectin, no special materials. It gels easily and you’re done before you know it. That’s why it’s so great for giving as gifts! It’s a terrific entry way into canning, too (just read this post before you start).

However- regardless of how “easy” a gift may be: I hope people who receive homemade gifts appreciate the effort and thought that go into them. It’s not like going into Williams-Sonoma & buying a jar of expensive preserves or a box of peppermint bark & wrapping ’em up; these people are spending valuable time over a stove, stirring a pot. Chopping fruit or vegetables. Lovingly seasoning it to perfection and cooking it (or baking it) into a personalized gift just for you. If you don’t appreciate it, then I hate to say it, but you’re probably really shallow.

And shallow people don’t get jars of delightfully gingery apple-cranberry preserves. At least not from me.


Here are some great places to get ideas on buying or creating homemade gifts:

And if you create homemade jams or pickles to give as gifts, Well Preserved‘s Pimp That Preserve contest entries from the last two years can give you some excellent ideas on how to decorate those jars to really make an impression, as well as the Facebook album with all the 2011 entries (you don’t need Facebook to view it). It just so happens that I’m a 2011 Pimp That Preserve winner *cough*these are the winning jars*cough* so I might know a thing or two about this.

What do you think? Do you like homemade gifts? Do you prefer to give them or receive them or both?