Category Archives: Homemade Gifts

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Pinterest Weekend Wrap-Up

During the school year, I have my kids primarily at my house during the weekends. It’s a bit of an unconventional set up, my ex and I share 50/50 custody, rather than the traditional; all week at moms, weekends with dad. I end up at dad’s house once or twice during the work-week as well to give him a break, and help the kids with school stuff, snuggle, play etc.

It works for us.

Now that my kids are able to busy themselves with books and games, I have some serious down time for Pinterest lollygagging. Here are the cool things I’ve found over the last few days…

 

1. Pixie Geldof by Stefan Zschernitz for Ponystep Magazine Winter 2013

pixie-geldof-ponystep-10

 

2. High Waisted Jeans – I resisted these for a while but I’m coming around…

highwaist

 

3. Guy Bourdin. My boyfriend turned me on to this fab photographer who shot for Vogue. I love me some vintage Vogue.

guybourdin

 

4. Big, round sunglasses. Just big, round sunglasses.

sunnies

 

5. Jessica Comingore | Broccoli Lemon & Parmesan Soup I want to try this hot and cold.

soup]

 

6. Knitting Pattern: Leftovers Cowl by Wendy D. Johnson. I’ve been scared to learn the fair isle technique for a long time, but somehow this feels less daunting.

knit

 

7. Jan the Happy Marshmallow. Just try to be mad after you look at this.

marshmallow

 

8. Wrapper Clutch by Stitch and Hammer. The perfect bag for Spring.

bag

 

9. Yucca With Garlic Sauce (Yuca Con Mojo). There’s something about yucca that makes me very, very happy. It soaks up flavor really well and the texture is just pure comfort.

yucca

 

10. I die for bold rugs in simple rooms. Gorgeous. Rug LOVE | The English Room , Sari Silk Moorea Fuscia 8.11 x 11.

rug

 

Follow me on Pinterest, here…

Success is more than what we've been taught.

Thursday Randoms

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life.  I’ve been working on my Etsy store for 2 and a half weeks, and yesterday I finished, and launched it!  I felt so amazing after I launched it, and then it got better, I made 11 sales.

I’m telling you, the feeling that comes over you when you get an unexpected email saying you’ve got MONEY, is purely a joyful one.  I love it.  Love it, love it, love it.

Then, it got better.  I had a night out, getting mani/pedi’s with a bunch of amazing working mamas, some of whom purchased some of my products on the spot.  Cash is nice.

I want to tell you a little bit about this group.  A few months ago, a fellow entrepreneurial mama-friend and I set it up, and named it the As-Yet Unnamed Self Starting Moms Networking Group, because we didn’t feel like arguing over a name.

We did this because we have businesses to promote, networking is critical, but were tired of going to stuffy networking meetings, filled with lawyers and insurance salespeople (not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs, they’re just different than what we’re into, and those were the types who were dominating the meetings, so it just wasn’t a perfect fit) who sit around and drink wine and hope something good will come of it. We wanted to do something a little different, and limited it to self-starting mothers.  My husband jokes that it’s a little sexist, and he would probably be right, but I wanted it to be a place where women could come together and talk about our deepest fears and dreams, and sometimes it can be intimidating to do that around the opposite sex.  We will have specific events that men are invited to, because we really do value their perspective and input, but mainly it’s just us girls.

The reason I’m telling you about all of this is two-fold.  I wanted to tell you that it’s completely do-able to chase a business venture without spending a ton of money,  Etsy’s just one of the ways, there’s probably a million other great ways to do it, but this one’s good for me right now. It’s making me feel very happy and fulfilled, and I highly recommend checking it out.  Also, I want to encourage you to join our networking group on Facebook, because it’s a safe place to connect with other working women and promote your business.

Lastly, I want to leave you with this little piece of graphical wisdom, because it’s something that has been a little difficult for me to grasp over the last year, because I’ve (we’ve) been conditioned to think that money=success and that’s that, but once I practiced, I did grasp it, and it’s been making me very happy, and making me feel very successful ever since.

Success is more than what we've been taught.

Chase those dreams, they’re more attainable than you may realize (I’m aware that I sound like a cheeseball, and I don’t care).

xoxo, Mere

Homemade Anti-Perspirant Deodorant - All Natural | Yinmom, Yangmom

Confession… and a DIY

The black bar, for old time's sake.

The black bar, for old time’s sake.

It’s yet another confession-time here at YMYM!

I’m stinky.  Sometimes very stinky.  And, since I work from home, I don’t need to shower first-thing.  Some days I’m sitting here working, stinking this whole house out, and I comfort myself by pretending that I’m having a contest to see how stinky I can get.  Only, it’s just me here, so I’m competing with myself, therefore, I am the winner.

I use natural deodorant, and for most people, that induces a lot of giggling.  Because everyone knows that natural deodorant doesn’t work for shit.
Homemade Anti-Perspirant Deodorant - All Natural | Yinmom, Yangmom

I’ve tried a bunch of brands over the years, and found a semi-decent one, Kiss My Face in Peaceful Patchouli (the other scents don’t work).  This only works if you’re blind to the fact that it actually kind of smells like BO, only friendlier BO. Also, it’s very wet.  It’s cold.  It’s a roll-on.  On a cold Connecticut morning, the thought of being cold and wet is not-preferable.

This morning, I realized in desperation that I’m out of Peace Patchouli!  I don’t plan on showering for at least 5 more hours.  So unless I take action, it’s going to get scary in here.

I Googled, and came across a recipe for homemade deodorant.  However, I couldn’t make it, because my sexy beefcake of a husband, (who is also quite inconsiderate, hello!?) tightened up the jar of coconut oil so much that I couldn’t OPEN IT.  Ugh!

Luckily, I had some of the body butter, which I made for presents last week (click here to see that post).  So all I did was add baking soda and corn starch (or arrow root powder) to it.  The results are pretty impressive!

Just to let you know, this formula is weird, it’s a cream, and most American’s aren’t used to rubbing cream on their armpits, so it’s a bit different, but it works.  And the best part, it works at keeping you dry too (which, Kiss My Face does not do!).  YES!

The essential oils smell lovely, and dissipate as the day wears on, so you don’t smell like deodorant.  The baking soda absorbs the stench, and the cornstarch absorbs wetness.  The nice oils keep your gorgeous, lady (or not) pits from looking bumpy from shaving.  After a busy day working and chasing for a highly-active 3 year-old, without a shower, I am stink-free and loving life.

The full natural antiperspirant deodorant recipe is below.  You’re welcome, I love your stinky butts!

XOXO,
Mere

Homemade, All Natural Anti-perspirant Deodorant
Author: 
Recipe type: Personal Care
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2.5-3 cups
 
Makes 2½ to 3 cups of goodness, which is kind of a lot. Basically it’s three 12 oz mason jars, or 4½ 8-ounce jars. My suggestion would be to just make the big batch. You’ll be glad you did, because it’s easier to whip up when it’s a lot, and because you’re the type to appreciate this kind of thing, you’ll either use it up yourself, or give it away for gifts. Omit the dry ingredients for a lovely body butter.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup almond oil
  • Essential Oils (I used Lavender, Frankincense and Lime)
  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • ½ cup Corn Starch or Arrowroot Powder
Instructions
  1. Melt the shea butter and coconut oil in the top of a double boiler. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in almond oil and essential oils (just a few drops of each, it’s easier to add more than take away).
  3. Place oil mixture in freezer for 20 minutes.
  4. When the oils are partially solid, they’ll look like yellowish goo, whip it up with a mixer until it’s got a buttery consistency. It’ll get very white and pretty, and you’ll be tempted to eat it, but don’t.
  5. Stir in your baking soda and corn starch or arrowroot powder until it’s mixed throughout. (If you omit this step, you’ve got body butter.)
  6. Throw the mixture into jars, and apply daily!

 

 

Homemade DIY Body Butter - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

DIY Homemade Body Butter

Homemade DIY Body Butter - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

I saw this recipe last year for homemade body butter, and it’s so beautifully photographed on this blog, that I just couldn’t wait to do it. My plan was for this to be a 2011 project, and since plans were meant to be procrastinated-on, here I am one year later, finally getting around to it!

The recipe calls for “100% Pure Unrefined Organic Raw Shea Butter“. But, since I made this on a whim the other day, I didn’t have time to wait for the delivery of “100% Pure Unrefined Organic Raw SHEA BUTTER”, so I went to the health food store and bought a container or regular old shea butter, and lo and behold, it worked fabulously!

Homemade DIY Body Butter - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

I didn’t have a double boiler, so I just put two pots together. Make sure to skew them a bit so the steam can escape.

It ran me about $75 dollars for the supplies and the jars, but I ended up with 9 little jars, so for 9 presents, $75 isn’t so bad! Plus, I bought WAY more almond oil, coconut oil and essential oils than are needed for the recipe, so I have leftovers to use on myself :)

Here is the recipe, found on Rawmazing.com.

DIY Homemade Body Butter
Author: 
 
Makes 2½ to 3 cups whipped butter.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Organic, raw (I used regular, and it was fine) shea butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup almond oil
  • Several drops of your favorite essential oils. I chose Lavender, Frankincense and Lime
Instructions
  1. Melt shea butter and coconut oil in the top of a double boiler. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in almond oil and essential oils of your choosing.*
  3. Place oil mixture in freezer or outside to chill for 20 minutes.
  4. Whip until a butter-like consistency is achieved.
  5. Place in clean, glass jar and enjoy! A little goes a long way.
  6. *Not all essential oils are skin friendly or child friendly. Please do your research before adding.
  7. Tips:
  8. You can use what ever oils you wish, just make sure you keep the ratio 75% solid to 25% liquid.
  9. The chilling step is crucial. If you don’t chill it properly, it won’t whip or stay whipped. About 20 minutes in the freezer usually does the trick for this batch. Make sure you scrape down the sides before mixing.
  10. Since this recipe does not contain any water, it will not mould. You should keep in a cool place but it does not have to be refrigerated.
  11. I do not know the exact shelf life but I know it will keep at least a few months, plus.
  12. The body butter melts as it goes on and gets a little oily but absorbs beautifully, quickly and leaves your skin very soft.

 

This stuff feels amazing on your skin, and really gave me a boost on a cold, rainy Connecticut day. It’s also a really nice texture for a nice back rub with your favorite back rub provider.

I made cute little labels, which you can print for your own gift-making awesomeness!

Homemade DIY Body Butter - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

There’s one which lists the fragrance, if you choose to use the same oils I did, and a generic one in case you want to experiment with your own combinations.

DOWNLOAD BODY BUTTER LABEL WITH NO FRAGRANCE INFO

DOWNLOAD BODY BUTTER LABEL WITH FRAGRANCE INFO

DIY Homemade Body Butter - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

Homemade DIY Body Butter - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

Here’s a link to the type of jars I bought, which I found at my grocery store (Stop and Shop): http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Quilted-Jelly-Canning-Case/dp/B000VTSYA8

Happy holidays, enjoy your gift giving and receiving!!!

xoxo, Mere

 

Snowy White Dough Ornaments - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

Smooshing Some Dough

ments - Yin Mom, Yang MomIn an effort to increase that loving feeling that is just so needed in this complicated world, I’ve been spending more time lately doing crafty stuff with the kids, for two reasons:

1. Cold weekends are a huge catalyst for cabin fever, (kids bouncing off walls, making mischief). Crafts contain the mess to one room, and give the kids something to do for at least an hour.

2. Crafty time forces me away from the distractions of the computer, to spend quality time with the kids, really joke around and talk to them, give each other compliments, etc.  It’s good old fashioned family time, something that’s too easy to forget to do when you’re busy working hard to get things accomplished all the time.

So, this weekend we decided to make some of the pretty white DIY ornaments that I’ve been seeing around Pinterest lately.  These are so much freaking fun to make.  One of the main ingredients is corn starch, and I don’t know if you’ve ever made oobleck, but if you have, you know that corn starch is seriously awesome to play with.

While I mixed up the dough, I just gave Brooke a plate of it to dip her hands in, and she loved it!  It’s got such a groovy, smooth texture, and it feels cold.  She preferred to to call it corn syrup, and said it feels like metal.  OK.

Snowy White Dough Ornaments - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

Brooke wanted to wear a crazy scarf around her head. I think it gave her a certain, mushroomy quality!

I found the recipe on a great blog called The Woodside Kitchen

Snowy White Dough Ornaments
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ¾ cup water
Instructions
  1. Stir ingredients together over medium-low heat until the dough thickens up. You’ll know it’s ready to remove from the heat when it’s the texture of soft play-doh. Remove from heat and allow it to cool a bit before kneading it out.
  2. You can sculpt it, roll it and cut it with cookie cutters, make thumbprints, handprints footprints. Use the end of a paintbrush to poke a hole for hanging on the tree.
  3. To dry the ornaments, place them on a pizza stone or on a pan covered in parchment paper, then cook in a 175 degree oven until they feel hard. Basically you don’t want to take them out until they feel hard and brittle. If there’s any softness, keep them in there. For thicker ornaments, this could be up to 2 hours. Thinner ornaments harden up in about an hour.

 

Snowy White Dough Ornaments - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

Done!

This dough is SO fun to play with (again, cornstarch is awesome).  It’s easy to roll out, is extremely smooth, and stays VERY white.  The finished ornaments almost look a little sparkly, like snow. It’s lovely.

We made the cute little mitten ornaments we saw on My Buddies and I, and we also did some fun stuff with cookie cutters.  Brooke had a cool idea to layer 3 thin stars together, and it created a cool effect.

Snowy White Dough Ornaments - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

I used the last remnants of the dough to make some simple little thumprint ornaments, because I need some smaller, filler ornaments to sprinkle throughout the tree.

Snowy White Dough Ornaments - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

This was such an amazingly fun project for us, and I’m pretty excited to make more of these really soon.  This could just be a year-round kind of project for us.

Snowy White Dough Ornaments - Yin Mom, Yang Mom

The finished product!

A Little Extra Thoughtful Gift Giving

Yesterday we had a kid birthday party to go to.  I was expecting to run to the toy store at the last minute (like I usually do) to pick up Legos, or some such age-related plastic, which, after a busy week trying to juggle full-time work with school conferences, 3 days of early dismissals and 2 days of missed daycare due to a vacationing  provider, paired with being down 1 vehicle , I wasn’t exactly experiencing that thoughtful, generous feeling.

Brooke came to me, and showed me a Play Doh heart she’d made for the birthday guy.  Sweet, but not exactly socially acceptable as a birthday gift.  I told her we can give him that, but we should also get a toy.

She says she wants to find one of her toys that’s “boy-ly” (boyish?) to give him, ie: a regift.

I must have really been wiped out, because I found myself saying “Brooke, in this society that we’ve found ourselves living in, it’s generally expected that we buy something new for someone’s birthday”.

Then I stepped outside of myself for a minute, and slapped the realization back into my brain, that my daughter is offering to give him something of hers which she treasured (if only for a day or so), which is thoughtful, and isn’t that real point of gift giving?  And my kinder, gentler, liberal, non-consumerist spirit kicked in to gear, and I actually got excited for the kid birthday party!

She picked out this cute little alligator, which could be considered boyly, and was only played with once or twice, and in excellent shape.

Next up was the issue of wrapping paper.

One thing that presents a continual challenge throughout my adulthood, is gift wrapping.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that my sister Allie is a serious, gift wrapping champ.  Her gifts are impeccable.  There is usually some element of surprise, such as your name spelled out in tiny little stamped letters in gold ink on some stark white, heavy stock, with perfectly rustic twine or some shit tied into some kind of weird but amazing bow shape that you’ve never seen before, pulling it all together, perfectly. There is never more than 3 pieces of tape involved.  It’s special, beautiful, thoughtful, and therefore feeds my self consciousness efficiently!

Well, not anymore, because I love myself, and my sister loves me too, so what’s the fuss? And, last year, a good friend taught me something that has forever cured my wrapping related self loathing (thank you, Cindy).  Hand painted gift wrap!  Here’s what’s so great about it:

1. You don’t have to wrap the present perfectly with this paper.  It’s made by kids, therefore it’s crinkled, sloppy, and sometimes a little ripped.  THAT’S THE CHARM!

2. You can make it the day of the party, which keeps the kids occupied, so that they’re busy, instead of asking you 25 times if it’s time to go to the party yet.

3. It’s special, because it’s hand made. So, if you don’t have appropriately themed paper, it’s OK!

All we had on-hand, yesterday was this cheap tissue paper from the dollar store.  Add some white paint and it’s a work of art!  Plus, I had a chance to sit at the table with my beautiful daughter and teach her how to make a five pointed star.  There are few things I love more than sitting down at the table with a cutie pie and some paint, and in this over-scheduled world, when there’s an opportunity to bond like this, it’s just the nicest feeling!

So the moral of this story is that you don’t have to be perfectly neat to be cool, thoughtful and memorable.  If your inner self is a little sloppy, embrace it!  If your inner self is perfectly neat, embrace that too!

Either way, when you get creative, you end up with something extra special that feels good to share with someone you care about.

xoxo, Mere

 

For more inspiration, here are a few more cool examples of kid-make-able wrapping paper for you and your little ones!

Pom Pom Wrapping Paper – Housing A Forest

Wrap it up | In Stitches – A Subtle Revelry

Lego Print Wrapping Paper – Mamalibrarian

DIY Wrapping Paper Tutorial - Sugar Bee Crafts

scarf

Yarn. Yeah Baby.

It’s on.

About 4 years ago I became obsessed with yarn.  I learned to crochet (thanks to the Happy Hooker), and made a whole bunch of wool longies.  If you’re unfamiliar with that concept, basically it’s a wool diaper cover.  For those who don’t cloth diaper, be prepared for a combination of horror and mystification:   http://www.diaperpin.com/clothdiapers/article_wool.asp

Later I learned to knit, (thanks to Stitch and Bitch).  I liked the look of knit better than crochet, especially when using hand painted yarn.  I also learned to hand paint my own yarn to save myself about $10 on a skein.  This is really fun activity and I really hope to have some time in the near future to pick it up again.

When I was pregnant with Leif, I did some dying (My supportive husband mixed the dyes, I wore heavy duty gloves and a mask, you shouldn’t handle the powder when you’re pregnant.  Thank you Jared for not being annoyed that I asked you to do that.).  I fell in love with a colorway by Three Irish Girls, and was short on cash, so I decided to try my hand at copying it.  Yes, I am not ashamed to admit I can be a huge copycat sometimes.  It’s a survival skill.

This is the yarn I was coveting: http://www.threeirishgirls.com/product.php?productid=9&cat=2&page=1

Mine turned out a little garish, but I’m garish, it’s ok. This yarn sat in a closet for 2 years.  Then about a year ago, I started my first knit project, a simple scarf:
Then a whole year later, yes, a simple scarf took me a whole year, it was finished and ready to wear!  Check us out!

On another note, check out the horrible haircut I gave my son!

I love that we can share clothes already!

Now that it’s done, I’m itching to pick up the needles again.  I saw this project on Pinterest:

http://www.purlbee.com/colorblock-hand-warmers/

I love this, but if I were to make it colorblocked, it would cost me about $85.  So, it’s going to be one color, well, not really, I bought multicolored yarn, but since I only needed to buy one skein, it cost $22.  I bought this beautiful yarn from Three Irish Girls.

Maeve by Three Irish Girls (Springvale Sock)

No, I will not be dying this time, it’s a time issue.  I’ll keep you posted when this is finished, two or four years from now!

I made another one with a pinched crust and it was much prettier, but of course I forgot to photograph it.

I was sorta wrong, a little right, but mostly wrong.

I’m a reluctant believer.

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while now.  A while back Allie told me about her pie crust recipe.  I told her that I felt store bought, refrigerated dough was adequate. She didn’t believe me.  I was adament.  She wouldn’t buy it.

I realized it was time to break out the big guns, and tell her something I’d been keeping in my back pocket for a while.

I told her a story.  Three years ago, I baked a beautiful pie for Thanksgiving at her house.  It was a caramel-apple-pecan pie.  It was so lovely, and I even made tiny leaf shaped peices out of the dough and laid them all around the edges.  It was Martha-worthy.  I brought it to her house, and everyone oohed and aahed.  Later that night, it was time to eat pie, and I remember seeing Allie take a bite, and say to my aunt, “Mmmm, I just love homemade pie crust”.  I just smiled (evil-like) on the inside, because I’d used Pillsbury on that pie.

I never said anything, partly out of respect for Allie’s strong food ethics, but also because I somehow knew that someday, the perfect opportunity would arise for me to throw that in her face.

So, during that fateful conversation, she was saying, Meredith, you HAVE to try making homemade crust, it’s actually very easy if you have a food processor.  It takes, like FIVE MINUTES!

I could not bring myself to believe her, so I replied by telling her the story about the Pillsbury crust.  She was…. completely undeterred.

I decided that I’d eventually get around to making it.  And I would blog about how difficult it was, and how my kids drove me nuts while I was cooking.

The perfect opportunity arose in a totally unexpected way.  There was a death in the family.  I needed to make food for the family of the person who died. I wanted to make them something really special, because they really deserved it.  Thanks to a little urging from Allie, a pot pie was born!

Making the dough was, as hard as it is to admit when I’m wrong, really easy.  It didn’t take 5 minutes, but maybe 15, which still isn’t bad.  The kids didn’t drive me nuts at all, in fact, they helped and were really cute.  The pot pie itself did take a little more work, but I would just recommend, as Allie told me, make the dough, put it in the fridge, and make the pie another time when you have an opportunity to concentrate a little more.

You can click here for Allie’s amazing pot pie recipe, and here for her favorite pie dough recipe.

I also made one of these pies for ourselves, so I killed two birds with one stone.  I’ve eaten a lot of pot pie in my days, and actually love the worst ones.  The ones that are frozen, in a box, with some kind of slimy, salty gravy inside them.  They are so good.  The homemade pies I’ve had were usually terribly disappointing and flavorless.  But let me tell you, Allie’s pot pie is epic.  It has tons of flavor, savory, salty, sweet and wine-y.  The texture of the crust is almost like that of a croissant.  It’s buttery, flaky and tender.  You will make this, I tell you!

Here’s a few highlights:

Helpin.

Licking butter, gross!

This is what it looked like when it was “ready”.

I made another one with a pinched edge, and it was much prettier, but of course I forgot to photograph it.