Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday gift idea - frugal, personal, and crafty trifecta!

I took the kids on a nightmare trip to Hobby Lobby today. I love that store. And yes, I love my children. But the two don't mix well, even with one strapped into a shopping cart. They like to touch and pick up and run and hide and... well, all of that stuff. Sometimes I morph into "that mom" who screeches "NO! Don't touch!" repeatedly throughout the store. Ugh.

Nonetheless, I managed to pick up a few supplies for Big Girl and Two to engage in a little bit of festive craftiness over the coming days (more on that in another post), and I browsed one of my favorite rows: the prefab wood stuff.

In years past, I acquired a couple of cute step stools from a craft store and painted them blue, with stars, moons, and the like, and personalized them with my nephews' names. I've also picked up plain wood birdhouses on clearance at Lowe's (I love clearance stuff - I could spend hours browsing) and painted them as gifts. One for my mom was solid white with tiny pastel flowers and butterflies. I also did one for my in-laws with the Texas flag on the roof.

I'm not a fantastic artist, but I love making gifts like these. I can personalize them for the recipient, and they're fun projects for me. Now that Big Girl is getting older, she can also start participating (another vague reference to the stuff I got at Hobby Lobby today) and I expect my relatives will be thrilled with her handiwork. So here, in short, is my mad plan for painting neat stuff to give as gifts:

  • Buy plain, pre-constructed items - bird feeder, picture frame, step stool, trays, etc. - or, if you're ambitious and super-crafty, make your own.
  • Paint and otherwise decorate items. For the step stools, I used several layers of blue for the base coat and also used several clear coats on the finished product in the hope that they would withstand a bit of rough treatment from the boys. With the bird houses, I used a final clear coat in case the recipients wanted to use them outside. For items that will be kept indoors, you could use beads, shells, and other assorted bits.
  • Choose a design and/or color scheme to appeal to the recipient. Hence the Texas flag bird house. Sports teams are also good, or hobbies or other interests can be used as a theme for the project - gardening, birds, hats, pets or other animals, etc. I have a project for Two rolling around in my head, not quite crystallized, which involves John Deere tractors and a farming theme. Stencils are also a great way to produce a design or picture, and even personalization.
  • Give yourself enough time to finish the project and to let it dry, and then you're set.

I want to revisit the step stool idea for my own children sometime. They both love anything that's personalized - are all kids like that? I also have an idea about making UGA birdhouses for relatives who are big Georgia fans. This would likely involve a stencil to get a good facsimile of the Georgia "G" - and I don't know if I would attempt Uga. I don't think my skills are quite up to painting a bulldog.

So, this is *not* the direction I'm going this year with holiday gifts, but since I'm already finished with most of my acquisitions, I'm already thinking about next year. And I'll definitely have my eyes open as I peruse the clearance aisles, particularly after Christmas. I may be able to pick up some cute "plain" stuff that the kids and I can paint and decorate for next year's gift giving. They demonstrated a marked interest in the wooden bird houses when we were shopping this afternoon...

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