Friday, August 28, 2015

Graduation Gifts for Smarty Pants

Turns out the Butler girls are a bunch of smarty pants! 2015 brought three high school graduates to the family all of whom are going to some pretty great colleges in the fall. I was lucky enough to be invited to the grad parties and I wanted to give them each a really good gift. Since we opened the restaurant, funds have been pretty tight so I was on a strict budget. I would have loved to have written a check to each of them (they would have probably loved that too), but I had to get creative and make the gifts affordable.

What to do? What to do? I was waiting for inspiration to strike, but it never did. Not a single idea. So I polled my girls Julie and Kim for suggestions. Kim Sage (the world's greatest, most thoughtful gift-giver ever) suggested a shower caddy filled with items for the dorm. Yes! That was it! I was inspired! I thought I could make a really great gift if I personalized it to each girl and to the school they will attend. A little school spirit is just what I needed for a theme.

First up, my cousin Eileen's daughter Maura. (Actually a Sparty pants---- ahh ha ...I slay me)

Maura is attending Michigan State University this fall and will be staying in the dorm. I decided to take the shower kit idea and run with it. I found a great shower bag at Bed Bath and Beyond and used a coupon for a little extra discount. I was happy to find a fabric bag, because I wanted to embroider her name on the bag. Who doesn't like their name on stuff?

I embroidered her name on green grosgrain ribbon I had on hand then stitched it to the top edge of the bag.

I embroidered her name on a cute polka dot lanyard I found. It's kind of hard to see it in the picture below, but it was cute.

I bought a multi-pack of washcloths at Wal-Mart, pulled out all of the white ones and embroidered her first initial. At first I was a little worried as a State fan would never EVER want to see an M on anything they own, but because this is her first initial, I think it was okay.  

Total contents of the Spartan Gift Basket: 
  • Shower caddy (Bed Bath and Beyond) with embroidered name 
  • Spartan bath towel (Target) with embroidered name  
  • Three washcloths (Walmart) with embroidered initial 
  • Polka dot lanyard (Five and Below) with embroidered name
  • Lotion, gel and body spray (Bath and Body Works)
  • Spartan shower flip flops (Five and Below)
  • Car magnet (Five and Below)
  • Bath Sponge (Walmart)
  • Small toothpaste and mouthwash (Dr. Richard Land -yep I had a dentist appointment that week) 

My cousin emailed me the very next day to tell me that Maura loved the gift AND told me that a few of her friends were there when she opened it and they loved it too! Yes! Success!

Next was my cousin Colleen's daughter Katie. This gift was tricky as Katie will be commuting to U of M instead of living on campus. Honestly, I did not know what to do. Originally, I thought I would personalize a nice Michigan sweatshirt, but that would eat the entire budget. Then I thought I would get her a bunch of stuff for her car, but everything I came up with seemed masculine and, quite frankly, lame. Then I thought of a laptop backpack stuffed with goodies. I was kind of set on doing that until I was shopping at Target and I came across a great plush backrest pillow in the perfect shade of blue. And it was on sale! So very quickly this became a "Study in Comfort" gift.

A couple of years ago I made a super cute burp cloth with the baby's family name and a U of M helmet I cut from fleece fabric. That fabric has a variety of U of M logos and pictures on it. I happen to have some leftover to use for this project.   

Let's look at how cute that burp cloth was...

So cute! 

OK... back to Katie's gift...

First, I took the stuffing out of the pillow, stitched the logo on the front of the pillow, embroidered Katie's name and re-stuffed it. 

I was going to put Katie's name on this awesome throw blanket I bought on sale at Target, but decided it didn't need it. It was perfect the way it was. 

I covered off the comfort part of this gift with the pillow and blanket, now all I needed was something for her to drink out of and of course something sweet. This M cup came from Five and Below and I filled it with Lemonhead candy.  

The total contents of the U of M gift:
  • Plush backrest pillow (Target) with stitched logo and embroidered name
  • Super soft U of M throw blanket (Target).
  •  Drawstring backpack (Five and Below)
  • "M" cup filled with Lemonhead candy (Five and Below)
  • Car magnet (Five and below)

I am so happy with the way this gift turned out! Both my daughters want a pillow for their bed.

Last but not least, my niece Maureen who will attend Notre Dame. Not only is this kid smart, she is beautiful and an all-round great person. She is an idol to my two girls.
I loved the plush pillow so much that I wanted to make one for my niece as well. Maureen's gift basket was a combo of the shower caddy gift and the comfort gift. 

This time I found the shower caddy at Target for about a 1/3 of the price. What a steal! I embroidered her name on grosgrain ribbon that I already had on hand and stitched it to the top edge. 

Unlike the U of M and State gifts, I couldn't find a lot of Notre Dame items locally. If I were a little more prepared, I would have ordered spirit wear online, but we all know that I have to wait until the last minute to start a project. I still wanted everything to be Notre Dame specific so I just needed to improvise and make it myself. 

First, I found navy flip flops at Target and I stitched little felt shamrock buttons on with gold thread. Cute! 

On a trip to Wal-Mart, I picked up a navy blue tank top on sale for $3! I pulled up the Notre Dame logo online and traced it right off the computer screen. (Of course my printer was out of ink; otherwise I would have printed a pattern). I wanted the gold to be metallic. I didn't want to cop-out and use a golden yellow fabric. I knew the logo had to be shiny like the Notre Dame football helmets, and I found the perfect soft metallic gold fabric at Jo-Ann Fabric. I ironed the fabric to HeatNBond adhesive and then cut the pattern out. Then I ironed the logo to the center of the tank top.  

After it cooled down, I stitched around the whole logo and added a little shamrock button to the center.

I bought a dark navy bath towel from Target and added the same logo to both the towel and the pillow along with Maureen's name. I also added some shamrocks to the towel. 

I found a metallic gold striped cup at Target too and it was perfect for this gift. 

I don't know how or why I ended up with so much stuff from Target. I kind of hate shopping there now. I used to love it and I used to find amazing deals, but then I didn't, so I stopped. I'm glad I gave it another shot, maybe I should start shopping there a little more often.

Total contents of the Notre Dame Gift: 
  • Plush backrest pillow (Target) with logo and embroidered name
  • Bath towel (Target) with logo and embroidered name
  • Flip Flops (Walmart) with shamrock felt buttons (Jo-Ann Fabric)
  • Navy tank top (Walmart) with logo and shamrock
  • Gold cup with metallic stripes (Target)
  • Shower gel, lotion and body spray (Bath and Body Works)
  • Shower caddy (Target)
  • Bath sponge (Walmart)
  • Manicure kit, hand mirror, toothpicks, hair ties, travel toothpaste with toothbrush and Blistex (Dollar Tree)
  • Toothpaste and mouth wash (Dr. Richard Land -kids had a dentist appointment too)

I was there when my niece opened her gift and her reaction was priceless! She seemed to genuinely like everything in the gift. I also received messages from both my brother and my sister-in-law thanking me for the gift. They loved it and showed some of their family and friends who loved it too. 

I am so happy with the way these gifts turned out! 

I think I know what all future grad gifts from me will look like! 

Congrats to you three smarty pants!! I hope you have an amazing experience at school! 


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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Boxwood Wreath

I have been looking for a boxwood wreath for the front door and I've had luck finding some, but at a big price tag. A price tag I think you know by now that I would never spring for. Target has a beautiful Smith and Hawkin wreath for $44.99. Yeah, for many people that is probably affordable and a good deal. Me, not so much. I knew I could make my own wreath for less so I started scouring the Internet for preserved boxwood. I quickly learned that by the time I bought all of the supplies and paid for shipping, I may as well just buy the Target wreath. 

Yesterday we trimmed the bushes and I asked Mike to cut deep so I could have some long boxwood branches. I thought I'd give it a shot making my own wreath with fresh boxwood, I mean, what did I have to lose? We were just going to throw out all of the clippings anyway. 

I had a grapevine wreath in my sewing room (who doesn't) for the wreath and I started with a small bag of the clippings.

I didn't do anything to the clippings to preserve them, I just started weaving the branches into the grapevine wreath. I'm hoping that I didn't make a giant mistake by not doing anything to protect the clippings. Knowing my luck, I will pay for that in a week or so when my wreath turns yellow. 

I added as many clippings as I could since I wanted it to have a very full look. Then I took clear thread and wrapped it around the entire wreath to help contain the loose leaves. I didn't want it to look compacted. I still wanted it to have a loose look, but not a fly-away look. 

I picked up an awesome resin "R" from Hobby Lobby for $5 and I thought it would be perfect for the center of the wreath. 

This was such a quick, easy and inexpensive project. I am absolutely in love with how it turned out.

What do you think?

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