Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gift-giving for the discerning wellfare recipient.

Just thought I'd share a few ideas for gift-giving on a budget (because I love giving gifts and hate spending money). Forgive me if any of this seems atrociously obvious.

If even one person discovers one thing that hadn't thought of before, I'll say my job was done.

Greeting Cards:

If you're like me, you have a shoebox of birthday/wedding/graduation/thank you cards from years past. Someone less pack-rattish than me might have discarded them by now, but no. I've always held onto them for no real purpose.

I'm not that sentimental and I had no intention of ever re-reading their oft-groan-worthy messages. But it seemed rude to simply through them away.

Until I discovered this solution:

Turn your old greeting cards into a frankenstein of holiday sentiments.

Whenever I find myself in need of a card for a gift, I look through my shoebox of options, pick one out and before I do anything to it, I read it again and remember the person who gave it to me. Aw. How nice.

Then, I snap a digital image of the front and inside (there's a folder on my hard drive marked "greeting card archive") and after that, I don't feel guilty repurposing the card. The message is saved forever if I should ever want to read the note again, and now this card can live again.

I often cut the cards in half, and reuse just the front of the card. Somtimes the design of the card is such that the front can be reattached to a new back of card-stock seamlessly, or you can attach it with ribbon or rivets for extra awesomeness.

Also, I sometimes repurpose embellishments like ribbons and beads into new cards as well. Who knows. A glue stick and scissors are all it takes and it's much quicker than making your own greeting cards from scratch.


Resourceful gift-wrapping can be more than just saving and reusing bows and paper. I dream up ways to reuse all kinds of materials.

I've been known to use jars, baskets, canvas totes, tinfoil, pillow cases, cardboard tubes, and scraps of cloth as gift-packaging when I was out of boxes and wrapping paper. People think you're being crafty or something, but really, you just wrapped their gift in whatever you could find laying around. Double score.

Stretch the limits of acceptable stuffing and covering.  I've  had great sucess with: newspaper, butcher paper, sack-cloth, easter-grass, and tulle.

Here's a present I wrapped with a recycled gift bag, a gift-tag made from what was previously a thank-you card, and for tissue paper I used the plastic mesh that some onions came in:

Showers (Bridal/Baby):

I get invited to a LOT of baby and bridal showers. Like, a whole ton.

Maybe it's because I live in Provo and almost everyone I know is married/engaged, young, and of child-bearing age. Maybe it's because the world is conspiring to make me fat on pink and blue cupcakes, but whatever the reason, I find myself constantly attending showers. And buying $30 gifts for every one can add up quick. Here are my go-to gifts for the semi-aquainted-friendly-person-who-I-don't-want-to-snub-but-don't-exactly-want-to-spend-a-fortune-on:

#1) Used books. Not exactly on the top of every lady's registery, I know, but I've had great success and been genuinely thanked (and re-thanked later on) for giving books by respected authors on pregnancy, parenting and marriage-prep (for the bride-to-be). Most ladies say they don't have as much literature on parenting as they want (especially with a first child) and a handy reference book can be just the thing.

Used book stores or (if you're the planning-ahead type) usually have a whole pile of like-new books for cheap cheap cheap.

#2) Handmade gifts:

- Pacifer Clip (these have gone over great at recent baby showers). Here's an easy tutorial for a no-sew version.
- Diaper Cake (super easy, super cheap)  
- This Wash-cloth doll requires minimal sewing.
-  Frilly Apron (for brides) - look up a tutorial online. It's pretty simple sewing.


I'm not sure why people don't more often give food as a gift. At least to me. I can never get enough edible presents. It's tough to get more bang for your gift buck than with food.

Here are a couple of my favorite recipes that are good for boxing, jarring, shipping and gifting:

Vanilla Melting Moments. Photo credit:

Vanilla Melting Moments  (By Rachel Allen: Favorite Foods at home)

Biscuits:175g self raising flour
125g cornstarch
50g powdered sugar
225g butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Butter Cream:50g butter, softened
125g powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 160 C/ (325 F) Gas mark 3. Place the flour, cornflour and icing sugar in a food processor and whizz briefly to mix. Add the butter and vanilla and whizz until it comes together (a minute or two, I do it slowly). Roll into 40 small balls the size of a large marble. Place trays on (no need to grease or line) and flatten down a bit with a fork. Bake for 10-15 minutes until still very pale in colour but, slightly firm. Remove carefully and cool on a wire rack.

Keep the same bowl in the processor and whizz the ingredients for the butter cream until they come together. Sandwich the biscuits with the butter cream. Makes 20.

Sweet Onion Jam (great for appetizers, sandwhiches, crackers, cheese, etc)

Adapted from Rachel Allen's Bake. 

30g butter
3 lbs onions, peeled and sliced
275 golden caster sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground back pepper
200 ml. balsamic vinegar
500 ml. red wine.

Melt the butter in a large pan and add onions, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 40 minutes over a gentle heat. (If you are concerned about getting all of the alcohol out of the wine, you may add it after the first  15 minutes of the onions cooking). Otherwise, add the wine and balsamic vinegar after 40 minutes and stirr occasionally until the mixture is slightly thick.

You're looking for a syrupy consistency. The jam will thicken as it cools. Place in sterilized jars, seal and label.

lastly: Infused Olive Oil:


  • 6 leaves fresh basil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Put them in a pretty bottle and let them steep for day or two before sending. Done!

More food gift ideas from 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Graduation! Easter!

What a busy, fun weekend!

Ryan's parents and younger brother came down from Olympia to be here for Ryan's graduation. We got to spend some time with grandparents, dye some easter eggs, do a little shopping, and of course, make hot cross buns for Easter (a Ryan and Ruthy Stapleton tradition three years strong). 

He graduated Cum Laude from BYU which means that he was in the top 10% of his graduating class. No small feat! 

Dying Easter Eggs with friends (Note: Angry Bird and Scottish Plaid)
Office Easter egg hunt. 

One thing I'll especially remember about this weekend is the generosity of Ryan's parents to buy him the graduation gift of two new suits, which I'm sure will come in handy for law school and beyond. 

He looked great in both of them before they were even tailored, so I can't wait to go pick them up and make him parade around the house for me.  (His current set of suits are all pre-mission and have at least one stain or tear each, so these were a well-timed gift). 

When driving to be fitted for his new suits, Ryan and I had a little disagreement as to the location of the Men's Wearhouse. He wanted to make it a bet, and turns out I was right, so he got to buy me two new pairs of shoes: 

Hot Cross Buns

 Saying "So Long!" to ward friends since the ward boundaries have been redrawn.

Shaun got Ryan some pocket squares for his new suits. What a sweetie.