2011 Holiday Gift Guide: For the Kids

Christmas is fast approaching! Just two and a half weeks away, can you believe that? I feel like the season has just arrived – in fact we just picked out our tree on Sunday and we’re just beginning to decorate around here.

I’ve also been checking gifts off of my Christmas list like crazy. My goal to be finished by December 1 has come and gone, but I’ll blame it on the DIY nature of some of these gifts and how they’re taking muuuuch longer than anticipated.

When it comes to non-handmade gifts, I’ve been putting together fun ideas for family and friends (many for Liv!) and these are a few that I have my eye on. Hopefully they can provide inspiration for you, too. (Check out the guy’s gift guide here.)

Scout is awesome! Liv received him as a gift (at one of my baby showers) and adores him. She really began interacting with Scout at about 8 months and to this day carries him with her all around the house. You program Scout (via a USB cord to your computer) with your child’s name and he makes up silly songs about their favorite color and foods, asks for hugs and even sings sleepy time songs at night.

I love the design of this wheely bug. I’m all about well-made wooden toys for kids and this lady bug looks like so much fun.

If you’re on the search for adorable illustrations, check out boygirlparty.com. Susie is a local San Diego artist and her prints are perfect for a kids room.

Designed in Switzerland, the Bilibo has won awards for design and play. It’s all about the imagination with it’s classic, simplistic design: it can be a helmet, sit and spin, doll cradle, train tunnel, shovel, water basin and much more! Nearly indestructible and built for indoors or out. (Really hoping to get this for Olivia!)

Jenga is an oldie but goodie!

Melissa and Doug makes the best products – and when I saw this art easel I thought that it would be a great addition for projects as Liv gets older! Plus Amazon offers free (Mom Prime) shipping so no worries about the large size. *Update* just saw nearly the exact same version at Ikea!

Every new walker needs a push cart, and one that holds toys (or learning blocks) is even better. Liv has one very similar this (go Zulily) – the wooden design is stylish and she absolutely loves it.

I am not a fan of plastic, flashing lights, blaring buttons toys. But kids are and Liv LOVES them. This book is a happy compromise – it keeps her entertained in the car and is a special treat when she has to sit for long periods strapped into her car seat.

This guy looks awesome. I’ve been eying it as a potential birthday present for a friend’s son but this bouncer would make a great Christmas present for the 18 month – 3 year range! Or turn it in to a stationary rocker with this base.

I’m looking into building Liv a little play kitchen and these felt veggie PDFs from Etsy artist BuggaBugs would be so cute. There are so many awesome felt foods on Etsy! *Update* just found out there’s a huge selection available at Ikea as well.

Another really awesome handmade toy from a smaller Etsy artist is this little wooden train set, toddlers would get oodles of fun out of it.

A box of practical jokes is just what every nine-year-old boy needs this Christmas… it’s filled with a whoopee cushion, magic ink, snapping chewing gum, a squirt ring and more.

A superhero cape! So cool. If I had a three-year-old boy this would be in his stocking.

Do you put together puzzles with your family? We often have a big puzzle going in the den or near a fireplace during the winter and family casually adds pieces as they walk by or over a glass of wine at night.

Have you ever played Apples to Apples? So much fun! Great for a night in with family.

These personalized alphabet prints are some of my favorites, I love the colors.

Create and customize your own Christmas stocking this year by picking out fabrics and prints at 1154 Lill Studio.

The plasma car is apparently one hot commodity this Christmas, just check out these Amazon reviews! *Update* Zulily is featuring this on their site through 12/8 for 40% off!

Role play costumes are such a fun way to inspire the imagination (and storing dress up gear is as easy as a cool mini trunk – unlike storing many other toys out there), this fireman’s costume comes with some fun accessories.

Oh man, do you remember auto bingo?

Now that Liv is walking (running!) I would love to get this 4-in-1 Radio Trike for her for Christmas. For ages 9 months to 5 years, it converts from a stroller to a steering trike, learning-to-ride-trike, and finally a classic trike.

These colorful birds by Etsy artist katikamade would make a beautiful baby mobile or nursery decoration.

These fake mustaches would be the neatest stocking stuffer for boys or the young at heart.

I love wooden puzzles and this numbers puzzle would make a very cool Christmas gift for Olivia.

The Pocket Guide to Magic is a fun peak inside the tricks of the trade.

Check out these awesome trucks made out of recycled plastic milk containers! Right up my alley and these guys have received great reviews on Amazon.

I found BriarClaire on Etsy and fell in love with her beautiful felt hair clips, she’s made three custom sets for Liv and they’re very well-made and precious! and at a very reasonable price.

This sleeper is just adorable for little boys or girls.

I’m hoping to get Olivia another pair of these Ugg Mary Janes for the winter (she’s grown so quickly out of her 9 month size!). They keep her feet warm and with a pair of tights look just adorable (my favorite pair of shoes of hers to date). I’d also like to get her a boot pair of uggs because they’re perfect for this time of the year. Why do baby feet have to grow so fast?

Love Tea Collection! Olivia has several outfits by them and these are my favorite two dresses right now, thank goodness it doesn’t get too cold here in San Diego and a long sleeve undershirt is all you need to create winter outfits.

This cute striped hat or deliciously fuzzy version will keep those little ears warm this winter!

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Mom, Dad? If you’re reading this you now have a great idea of what I would love to get for Liv this Christmas (or her birthday which follows closely behind!). Hope this inspires everyone for fun and popular gifts for the kids! If you’ve found something awesome for kids this Christmas, please leave it in the comments.

And don’t stress about last-minute shipping – Amazon Mom Prime offers free 2 day shipping if you regularly purchase a baby-related item once a month. We live by it in this household. The above post contains some affiliate links.

New Kitchen: Custom Calendar Art

In the week of blogiversary giveaways, I posted that recently I had turned my favorite calendar into new wall art for the kitchen.

Previously, the gap on the wall looked like this:

Sorely in need of something large and in charge to both soften the room and fill up blank space.

I’m pretty picky about art, especially something so prominently placed that’s going to be seen day in and day out, so I had a hard time (a really, really hard time) coming up with a solution for the space. I had one large Ikea square frame in my little frame collection and realized that this area of the kitchen might just be the place for it. After testing out on the wall I determined that two stacked would be better and picked up one more. Progress was made! Now I needed to find art.

When I came across this calendar on the Rifle website by chance, I fell in love with the style of the illustrations! There were several months in the calendar that I thought would especially work well and in one of those crazy moments where the stars collide and you make up your mind on the spot, I bought the calendar online.

While I waited for the calendar to arrive I set out to find mattes for the frames since I knew that the calendar pages were 11×11″ and not my 22″ frame size. I usually err on the side of white but the linen mattes from the office wall collage were some of my favorites, and a similarly textured matte would look great in the kitchen against the natural woods and jute rugs. After much price comparison I went with Michaels where they cut the mattes for me for ~$20 each (I usually buy my all white mattes on eBay where they can be custom cut and are the cheapest).

But then the calendar arrived and oh no! Not only were the beautiful illustrations visible in the frame but the title of each month was too:

Why hadn’t I thought about that? Not what I was hoping for.

After a little creative brainstorming I ended up cutting apart other pages of the calendar with similar foliage and tried to camouflage the lettering by covering it up.

In tutorial form (because I am all about visuals), here goes:

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DIY Art with Creative Cover-Ups
mfra

Materials: frame, matte, art to frame, photocopy of art to frame OR similar art (for the purpose of camouflaging whatever it is you’re trying to hide), scissors, glue stick

Cut, position and glue!

Cut as closely as you can to your copied art (via photocopying, scanning and printing, or purchasing a duplicate of the same piece) and hide your lettering (or whatever it is you’re hoping to make go away).

And here they are hanging!

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Love the look of the linen matte (which has a slight texture) against the illustrations and love the dark frames that compliment our oil rubbed bronze kitchen faucet and pendants.

 

It’s all about bringing in different elements in different places. The dark wood barstools compliment the dark wood range hood, the lighter walnut cabinets are similar to the doors, the dark slate tiles have the same leathery grey as the counter tops and now the oil rubbed bronze is evident in both the faucet, pendants, cabinet pulls and art.

The left side of those frames is a window under construction (boarded up) waiting to be turned into the top of a built-in bar (potentially in many many years ;)). But as of now, the new art compliments the room really well! And I’m glad I found a fix for art that I really do love.

All kitchen makeover posts can be found right here.

Going Green: Sustainable Furniture

It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to add a post to my Going Green series, so I thought I’d take a moment to mention a little research I did just about this time last year. We’re doing our best to live as sustainably and low-impact as possible (more on that here) and purchasing green furniture when affordable is something we considered for Liv’s nursery.

DIY Bedskirt, Bed Skirt, Nursery, Girl's Room

To me there are several ways to purchase ‘green’ furniture: upcycling (bringing new life to thrift and old finds), recycling (reusing what you have) and purchasing new with eco-friendly in mind. Admittedly, we do lots of the first two and very little of the last, mostly because it’s just too pricey.

A few examples of Craigslist, thrift store or upcycled finds that have found a new home with us:

But when it came to Liv’s crib I decided to buy new, namely because I was a brand new mommy and I wanted something that I knew had passed all recent safety tests and also because I knew it wasn’t uncommon for little ones to gnaw on the wood in their cribs (and if I found a cool hand-me-down I couldn’t be certain the paint was non-toxic).

Side note: did you know that babies spend somewhere around 4,200 hours (or 175 days) in their crib during their first year?

Here are a few guidelines that I tried to follow closely when searching for the right crib (though I suppose you could go by this list when searching out any green furniture):

*Sustainably harvested wood (even better if it’s a fast growing, fire and decay resistant hardwood such as Paulownia wood)
*or formaldehyde-free MDF (bonus if it’s recycled)
*Water based paint (no lead, oil, phthlates or VOCs)
*Glue-free (aka formaldehyde-free)
*JPMA certified (for cribs)
*Tip proof (also for cribs)

But price! Oh my goodness, the price of eco-friendly cribs is in the $600-2500 range (yes really, $2500! Check out this cool but crazy expensive one) and we definitely couldn’t do that.

After much research I came across the Babyletto Modo 3-in-1 crib (listed here at babycribstation.com) and after further research discovered it was built from solid New Zealand Pine from sustainable forests, had a non-toxic finish (no glue, no paint emissions) and is JPMA certified. Plus being a 3-in-1, if we choose to have Liv use it as a toddler and big kid bed it will last even longer (though we’ll hopefully have baby #2 by the time she’s ready for a big kid bed AND I’d love to design a cute, mini upholstered bed for her). I love the modern, clean lines of the crib and while I’m not necessarily a matchy-matchy person when it comes to furniture, it fits in pretty well with our existing dresser and bookshelf.

It’s a bed that I anticipate using for 10+ years and that will see (hopefully) many babies (both ours and whoever we pass it down to – granted it still passes all safety guidelines), so at $379 I thought it was a steal!

Modern, Contemporary, DIY, Makeover Nursery, Do It Yourself

As far as the rest of the furniture in our house? We rarely buy new. Our bed, dresser, the armchair in our room, Liv’s dresser, Liv’s changing table, our living room bookshelves, big leather chair, office desk, office credenza, guest bedroom headboard, dining room bookshelves and dining room buffet table were all Craigslist and thrift store finds or passed down from a family member. But we occasionally buy new when we find a steal or save up for something we love, like our couch (which was the very first piece of furniture we saved up for together), dining table (that expands to seat 12 and collapses to seat 6 – a feature I was really looking for), Liv’s Ikea bookshelf, office West Elm bedframe (to match my DIY headboard), office World Market bookshelves and WM side table.

We try to eat healthy (we participate in CSA, make our own baby food, have a mini garden and even have two city chickens), avoid creating too much trash (by recycling, composting and even cloth diapering) and when remodeling, reuse and repurpose materials (like for our kitchen). We’re not super strict about it but I figure every little bit counts, and if we all make small steps today we can make big impacts for future generations!

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