Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to upgrade a dollar store gift

Love Love Love the dollar store. I'm always saying "I can get that at the dollar store for less." Little gifts are a prime example. At work we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with mylar balloons, cards and treats. If I got these at the grocery store or Target they would be $3 or more each, for the simplest versions, for a total of $5-10. Not a lot, but you don't have to spend that much! Here's how to take simple gift items from the dollar store and upgrade them:

Helium balloons:

First detach the curling ribbon. Then tie the ribbon around the neck of the balloon where it indents leaving a long tail. Next, carefully roll the neck up to the ballon and tie the ends together to make a snug roll. Then take a scissors and curl the end of the ribbon that is dangling. Buy a large plastic clip or other item for a weight and there you go! Just like from the party store. Make sure to put your weight on the floor or table before tying to see how tall the balloon is going to be. I like to retie the excess curling ribbon to the weight in shorter strands and curl those too making a curly puff at the weight.


If you have curling ribbon at home, add a second strand in complimenting color before rolling neck. tie both end to the weight

Do a three balloon bunch and stagger the balloons so that the second balloon reaches halfway up the top balloon and the third reaches halfway up the second. Tie the three strands together about a foot below the lowest balloon and then tie to weight. You can use all three of the same balloons or use a printed one for the top one and two solid or patterned ones for the bottom two.

Greeting Cards:

Upgrade your greeting card with a pkg of scrapbooking stickers from the crafts isle. First sign the card. Then add a bit of decorative confetti or colored dots from your paper puncher to the center of the card. Close the card and seal it in the envelope. Use one of the stickers to seal the envelope flap. Use a few others on the front of the card surrounding the person's name or greeting.


Add something of interest to the inside of the card like a lottery ticket (my aunt's favorite). Try a package of stickers or tattoos for kids, or some flat candy like pop rocks. Add something that relates to the card like a single balloon for a birthday card, a couple cute bandaids for a get well card, a package of seeds in a floral thank you card, etc.

Embellish plain cards with glitter, ribbons, stickers, and such. This works really well for those cheap boxes of Holiday Cards. Decide which area should be glittered like the snow, the rooftops, a certain animal or heart on the image... Then look for a part of the image that would look nice with a thin bow of ribbon or tinsel on it and glue it in place. Like an animals neck, or a tall building etc. You can add puffy or sparkly stickers like foil stars in the sky or butterfly on a flower. The card now looks handmade!


I love mugs because they're practical and cute. You can choose cheesy printed ones or solid color ones that go with your theme. First choose a mug to fit the occasion. Put some tissue paper or paper shred inside if you don't have much candy. Add a baggie of candy with the twisted side down. Take a thick piece of ribbon and wrap the mug from the top center (securing end with tape if necessary, around the bottom and back up top. secure with a sticker. Cut the tail of the ribbon into a V or / shape. Or tie in a bow. Add a homemade gift tag to mug handle or bow if desired.

Stuff the mug with other simple goodies like 2 pkgs of hot cocoa mix and a baggie of mini marshmallows, 2 packages of instant flavored coffee and a bar of chocolate, a small stuffed animal and a mini helium balloon, a single potted flower, etc.

Try this idea, which I love, a mini birthday cake in a mug. Or this one here.


If you're buying them at the dollar store (yes, they do have some there sometimes!) get three or so. If you're buying a simple $3-5 bouquet from the grocery store, it's perfect as is. Remove the outer plastic, group the flowers if necessary and wrap the end of the stems in a plastic baggie or bit of tin foil. Then take a $1 roll of wrapping paper and fold it into a large rectangle slightly askew with the printed side on either the inside or the outside and cut. Choose a paper that reflects the occasion.Place the bouquet diagonally along the paper and fold the point near the flower just above the flowers towards the outside. Roll the paper into a large cone and secure with clear tape. If you have curling ribbon cut a long length and fold in half. Tie a knot making a loop. Slip the loop over the tip of the cone and pull up towards the flowers. Secure to the cone just below the flowers with clear tape or a sticker. curl the ends of the ribbon. Just like at the florists in France!


Wrap in brown or white butcher paper instead

For a surprise bouquet or to better travel with it, fold the top point down covering the flowers. Make a loop with a thick piece of ribbon like an awareness ribbon or several strands of curled curling ribbon and secure to the flap with tape or a sticker

To make a hand bouquet, trim stems to a foot or so. Take two squares of stiff transparent colored plastic wrap and stand bouquet up in the middle. Pull the plastic taunt around the stems and secure with a rubber band, the edges of the plastic should just de-pass the flowers. Or wrap in a spiral with thick ribbon, folding the end under and securing with straight or sewing pins.

Sometimes we find a great second hand or dollar store book worth passing on. Wether for a joke or for a serious read, here's how to spiff it up and make it a more substantial gift. First and foremost, dedicate it on the inside cover with a little message or the occasion and the date. Slip a pretty bookmark or length of thick ribbon, with V cut edges, inside the pages. Wrap the book the short way with a width of brown or white paper or wrapping paper. Then wrap again with a slimmer length of contrasting paper or a thick piece of ribbon with the ends cut short and trimmed into Vs or slants.


Stack three books from largest to smallest and wrap as above.

Instead of inscribing the book, paste a bookplate inside the front cover with the recipient's name on it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"SUSHI" Baby Shower Gift

My cousin is having a baby shower tomorrow and I wanted to make her something original. I love the idea of disguising items as food so I decided on baby clothes as sushi and maki.

Here's what I got at Target for only $17:

She's having a girl so I picked pinks and reds as the color scheme and they also apply well to raw fish colors. I also needed a plate to display it all on and I found this at Target for $2:

I thought it looked kinda oriental and the colors were perfect.

3 pack white onesies $7
3 pack washcloths (2 white, 1 pink) with fish toy $5
2 pair socks (1 red, 1 pink) $2
1 pack of 4 clip on hair bows $3
1 decorative plate or platter $2
1 black plastic table cloth $1
rubber bands on hand
clear tape on hand
scissors on hand
greeting card $1
scrapbooking stickers $1
shrink wrap gift bag with bow $1
2 pairs of chopsticks on hand

Sorry for all the crazy photo angles. I was snapping pics with my iPod from all angles.

First, remove all the tags and separate the items.

Take the two white wash clothes with pink trim and fold them in half twice the long way so that when you roll it up, the pink is in the center. Towards the end of the roll, tuck the last bit under so the pink doesn't show. Repeat white the other white wash cloth. Secure with rubber bands. You now have two maki.

Take one onesie, a pair of socks and two hair bows, these will form two maki. Turn the onesie face down on the table and fold both arm sides in. Then fold in half the long way. You should have a long white strip. fold a sock in half (toe to the top of the cuff edge) and lay on the edge of the strip so that the sock cuff edge is flush or just past the edge of the white strip. Top with a hair bow and roll tightly to the center of the strip. Carefully hold that roll in place and turn the whole thing over. Then repeat on the other side, being careful to place the sock cuff edge on the same side as the other, and roll towards the center. You should have a double S shaped roll. Secure the whole thing with a rubber band. Repeat with a second onesie, the other pair of socks and the other two hair bows. You now have 4 more maki.

Place the final onesie face down on the table and fold arm sides to the middle. Fold the pink wash cloth in thirds and place atop the folded onesie. This will give your sushi more thickness. fold the bottom edge of the onesie over the wash cloth and then fold 3 more times forming a rectangular shape. This is your sushi rice. place the fish toy on top and secure with 2 rubber bands.

Here's all your sushi so far:

Now to add the black nori seaweed wrappers. Open the black plastic table cloth and unfold once. cut along the first fold and open that piece up. You should have a long strip of plastic. fold that piece in thirs the long way to give the strip nice clean folded edges. Adjust the width to best suit your sushi. wrap the strip around the sushi's middle and cut to size. Tuck in the end for a clean finish and secure with tape.

Repeat to make strips for the maki. The washcloth ones are easiest. Simply wrap, tuck the end and secure with another rubber band.

The others are more tricky. you need to take off the rubber band and hold the rolls securely. Slightly unroll one end and start wrapping with the plastic strip. When you get to the other edge, make a V fold and tuck it into the place where the first roll touches the second. Then continue wrapping the other roll, trimming the plastic strip to fit, and secure the whole thing with a rubber band. Adjust the plastic wrap to make it look nice if needed and tighten it up by pressing a butter knife or pencil into the V fold area and ends. Repeat with other set of maki.

Place all the elements on a plate. You should now have this:

If you want, you can top the whole thing with a pair of chopsticks or two. I used ones from home that I bought at an asian market in a huge pack. Freebies from LeeAnn Chins would work too.

I then taped the gift receipt inside the card, signed it and slipped it in the envelope. I printed out this label and taped it to the outside of the envelope and decorated it with scrapbooking stickers.

Here's what it said:


For Baby

3 short-sleeved bodysuits

2 pairs of socks

4 clip on hair bows

3 baby washcloths

1 bath toy sponge

For Mom & Dad

1 serving platter

2 pairs of chopsticks

Finally, I put the whole thing in the shrink wrap bag with the card underneath. The corners stuck out so I folded then twice and taped them down in back. Then I tied it off and trimmed the excess on top.

Then the fun part! Shrink wrap that thing till the contents don't want to slip around on the plate. do the top and bottom. I love shrink wrap! I live in Minnesota so I always look forward to shrink wrapping the windows in the winter.

When you're satisfied, add the pretty bow and you're done!

A beautiful, unique and practical gift for about $20.

If you make something similar, I'd love to see it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Non-Food item "dessert buffet"

I've been seeing a trend recently for dessert buffets that don't feature sweets like this school supply display or this all-soap display. I love the idea as so many people are watching what they eat and this is a guilt free option!

Here's a couple of other non-food "dessert" buffet ideas:

A Book Club:
assorted bookmarks
little book lights
book labels
tea bags
literary inspired magnets or other trinkets

A Casino Party:
poker chips (chocolate or real)
decks of cards
colored dice
arm garters
translucent green visors
dollar sign rings and bracelets
dollar print pencils and notebooks

Spa Party or Sleepover:
eye masks
nail polishes
toe dividers for painting nails
nail files
cotton towels, or wash cloths
mini lotions and other beauty products
manicure kits
cucumber slices for eyes
pairs or moisturizing gloves or socks (they have them at DT)
foot pumice stones or files
flip flops or slippers

New Year's Eve Party:
assorted party blowers
assorted noisemakers
party hats and tiaras
beaded necklaces
plastic champagne flutes
mini aspirin and Pepto Bismol
flavored chap sticks
streamers and confetti
party poppers

The possibilities are endless!

Try a Christmas cookie recipe exchange party or a DIY sushi party. How about a scrapbook party? A tea and coffee item buffet works for mother's day or a birthday. Or try gardening supplies, seed and bulbs for a gardening or lawn care party.

And here's some tips for putting it all together:

* Place small items in apothecary jars or in fish/candy bowls with scoops

* small items can also be wrapped in squares of wax paper like a candy and piled on a dish

* line flat items in rows, overlapping some, on square trays or dishes. I bought white rectangular sushi plates at the Dollar Tree.

* highlight stand-up items by attaching a flag or tag to it.

* present items on their own mini cake stand. You can make them from Dollar Tree candlestick holders and small plates, cardboard circles or stove burner covers. Spray paint to match color scheme

* display round or rolled up items in a cupcake holder

* stand tall items in rows. Use the foam lined tray technique and then cover the foam with filler like paperclips, shredded paper, glass rocks, river stones, etc.

* fill pretty glasses like martini, wine and sundae glasses with items.

* use the popcorn cone technique to display light-weight items

* bag like items and sets of items and top with a decorative bag topper

* put items on a stick and display upright in a foam lined tray or upside down on a plate with sticks in the air.

* use chinese or bent spoons to highlight small but special items. Line them up on a tray.

* and for the creative types, disguise your items as food items like cakes, maki sushi rolls, cupcakes, sundaes, candies, lollipops, etc.

Remember, You don't need a lot of everything! Try 4-8 of each item. Guests can chose one of each or make their own treat bag from items offered.

Have fun and please post a comment
if you try something similar!!