On the 2nd Day of Craft-mas…a Homemade Coupon Book

Last year, my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t get each other Christmas gifts.  We had just spent a ton of money on our wedding and honeymoon, and we were flying across the country to spend Christmas with my family (not a cheap plane ticket!).  But, I just couldn’t imagine not giving him something, especially since it was our first Christmas together as husband and wife (awwww….).  So I decided that if I spent essentially nothing, it would still adhere to the spirit of the no-gift agreement.

Earlier in the year, I had seen a lot of ideas for “coupon books” for Mother’s Day, which is where I got my inspiration (found here and here).

I figured that I could easily adapt the coupon book idea for my husband.  The only real costs would be for the paper and the printing.  And lucky for me, I had a bunch of leftover supplies from our wedding that I could use!  I actually used some leftover business cards that I had used to print our registry information and include with our wedding invitations.  These are the kind that I got: Avery Two-Side Printable Clean Edge Business Cards for Inkjet Printers 8876, Ivory, Matte, Pack of 200.  They are listed on the Avery website for $17.91, but I think I got them from Office Depot or Staples for about the same cost.  Unless you’re really ambitious though, you’ll have plenty of leftover cards for other projects, so the cost really isn’t that much.  What’s really cool about this product though, is you can download a template for Microsoft Word right from the Avery website.

So I then went about thinking up coupon ideas.  Coupons for your husband are very different from coupons for your Mom, so I had to think up a lot of new ideas.  I decided to keep things clean, although a more racy coupon book might have been fun too!  I tried to think of things that my husband would like (massages, date night, etc.) as well as things that he hates doing that I could help with (dishes, taking out the trash, laundry, ironing, etc.).  I came up with 14 total ideas for coupons, but some I printed multiple times (I gave him 3 back massage coupons, for example).

  • One Load of Laundry
  • Ironing
  • Washing Dishes
  • One Back Massage
  • One Foot Massage
  • One Car Wash
  • Breakfast-in-Bed
  • Being the Designated Driver
  • Guinness Cupcakes (had to share the link for this recipe – it’s amazing!!)
  • Taking out the Trash
  • One Movie Date Night
  • One Date Night
  • One Household Chore
  • One Weekend Dog Walk

All of these items had further qualifiers, such as the back massage is good for up to 30 minutes, and the ironing is good for up to 3 garments.  I didn’t want him taking too much advantage of these!! 😉

I first created a design that I liked, just using one of the basic starburst shapes in Microsoft.  I then found a clip-art image that represented each coupon and placed that image in the background (I faded it, so that you could still read the coupon text).  Finally, I wrote in what each coupon was for.  Here’s an example of the design for the ironing coupon:

I also created a design for the front of the coupon book (and printed a plain red business card for the back of the book as well):

Finally, I printed these all out on my home inkjet printer, punched a hole in the top left corner of each, and made them into a booklet using a leftover small key ring that was just sitting loose in our key drawer.  And viola!  An almost free gift, that my husband absolutely adored.  He went through the coupons faster than you can even imagine.  My hands were definitely tired of giving massages the couple weeks after Christmas!!


On the 1st Day of Craft-mas…a Gift for a Tea Lover

The first installment of the the 12 Days of Craft-mas series features a homemade Christmas present, perfect for a tea drinker.  I love giving meaningful, personalized Christmas gifts, and what better way to do that (and save some money!) than to go the homemade route.

My mother is a big tea drinker, so last year, I made her a Chai tea kit.  (I know, it’s kind of cheating to use something I did last year, but I can’t exactly write about gifts that I haven’t given out yet!  That would certainly ruin the surprise on Christmas morning…)  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the result, since it’s already in my mom’s possession (and hopefully all used up by now!).  But here was my inspiration (from Purpose Design):


As much as I love supporting Etsy businesses, the $40 price tag was a bit steep for me.  So I mosied on over to The Container Store to look for a perfect partitioned container.  I purchased a clear plastic box, which was divided into eight different compartments, found here.

I then went over to my local Sprouts Farmers Market, where they sell bulk spices and loose leaf tea pretty cheaply.  I picked up all of the required ingredients for Chai Tea: star anise, cloves, allspice, cinnamon bark, peppercorns, cardamom, and several kinds of black tea. Another good source of bulk spices and loose leaf tea is Monterey Bay Spice Company.  I discovered them a few months ago when Groupon had a $15 for $30 deal and I needed to restock my tea supply.  Their spices and teas are very reasonably priced, but the shipping can start to add up.  Word of warning: a pound of tea is a lot of tea (probably should have realized that, but now I have probably a year’s worth of tea to drink…).

I then created a label for the outside of the tea kit, with the recipe.  I made this in Powerpoint (of course), and printed it out on some label paper than I had leftover from my wedding.  I made it the same size as the top of the box, so that it would cover the entire top.

I also created individual little labels for each compartment, to identify what each item was.  I placed these labels on the underside of the box cover.

And tah-dah!  A personalized Chai Tea kit for around $10.  Not quite the sleek stainless steel look of the one sold on Purpose Design, but pretty cool nonetheless.  And a perfect gift for a tea drinker.

Think Big, Shop Small

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving full of good food, family, friends, and of course, football!

Was anyone able to fight off the turkey-induced food coma to get up at 3am for some crazy Black Friday deals? Oh, fighting off thousands of crazed shoppers to get some good deals doesn’t sound like fun to you?! Well, here’s a great alternative: Small Business Saturday! Instead of (or in addition to) purchasing items at big box stores, think about supporting a small, local business instead. And if you have an American Express card, you can register your card and get $25 from AmEx if you spend at least $25 at a small business this Saturday.

In honor of Small Business Saturday, here are some of my favorite online small businesses that I have purchased from in the past:

Art Shark Designs

Paper Acorn



These Are Things

And here’s a shout-out to a few of my favorite local small businesses in or near Pasadena, CA (there are plenty others I love, but I can’t fit them all!):

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

It wasn’t too surprising that I decided to create a homemade gift for my husband for our first wedding anniversary (seen here and here), especially since “paper” lends itself quite well to a homemade gift.  What did surprise me is that he created a homemade gift as well!

For a long time, we had been talking about creating a world map pin board to keep track of all the places we’ve traveled.  We both absolutely love to travel, and have actually been to a surprising number of places together since we’ve known each other.  We are also planning a five-ish month round-the-world trip for next year, so we definitely wanted somewhere to keep track of all the places we are going to visit.  And that is exactly what my husband made for me for our anniversary!

He bought an inexpensive cork pin board at an office supply store and ordered a 99-cent map of the world on Amazon.  (He actually ordered two of them, in case he messed up the first – smart man, because he did in fact need to use the second one.)  His plan was then to glue the map to the cork board and be done.  Unfortunately, the map was a little larger than the cork board, so he had to cut it down a little.  Hence why Hawaii and Alaska are half missing:


But alas, those are the trials and tribulations of DIY!  (Did I really just say “alas”?!?!)

So far, we decided to just put pins on the places we’ve visited together (red) and the places we’ve lived together (yellow).  Just looking at the pictures below, I’m already noticing a few places we forgot about (like San Diego, which we’ve been to a million times together!).  Which brings up another reason this map is fun – it helps you remember all of the fun trips we’ve been on, when otherwise, those might just accidentally get deleted from our memory banks.  We’re debating placing pins on all the places we’ve been independently as well, since our board is a little sparse right now.  Maybe we’ll save that project for a rainy day…

And finally, here is a picture of our sunroom, where we proudly hung the world map pin board, so that we could see it every day.

Anyone else’s husband ever surprise them with a homemade present?  And one that turned out surprisingly well?  I didn’t even know my husband had it in him to be so crafty!!

1st Anniversary Gift – Runner-Up

Last week I shared the first anniversary photo collage I created for the Pinterest Challenge.  Before creating the collage, I actually created a different “paper” gift, based on some items I had seen on Etsy (from Joanna Ramage Photography & Design, Art & Photography of Derek Cooper, and Diana Plauche Photography):


I thought I could easily make a similar collage with my last name and our wedding date.  And again, what powerful design tool did I use?  Yep, you guessed it, Powerpoint.  It was as simple as collecting letters and numbers (all found here), inserting them into Powerpoint, making them all the same size, and then lining them up in a grid.

And here is the result:

I chose the colors to go with the accent colors in our living room, since I figured that’s where we’d display it – they weren’t chosen as a reflection of our wedding colors (although our wedding colors were sage green and chocolate brown, so not too far off).  I’m pretty happy with how it came out, but it just didn’t speak to me like the photo collage idea did.  I also felt bad giving a gift that I literally spent 15 minutes creating.  I don’t know why, but that made it feel cheap.  Even though my hubs wouldn’t have known!  I thought afterwards that it would have been more meaningful to use letters and numbers from around our house or our town, but being the procrastinator that I am, I definitely would not have had time to pull this together!  Don’t tell my husband, but I made the photo collage the day before our anniversary.

Anyhow, maybe I’ll hold on to this for a future anniversary.  Or just print it and frame it for fun one of these days.

1st Annivesary Photo Collage Tutorial

Last week when I posted the photo collage I created for my husband for our first wedding anniversary (and for the Pinterest Challenge), I promised a follow-up tutorial with step-by-step instructions.  As an engineer, PowerPoint tends to be my weapon of choice, whether for engineering presentations or crafty home projects. Word of warning: there is probably a much easier way to do this, but this is just how I tackled the project.  It just made the most sense to my brain and with my PowerPoint skill set.

Step 1: Use Word Art to create a large number 1 (or any other number, depending on the milestone you’re celebrating!) that is to your liking.  Play with the font, type, size, etc.

Step 2: I then used the custom curve tool to trace the number 1 as close as I could to create a custom shape (you’ll see why in the next step).  I basically just clicked every inch or so, making sure to place some extra points in the corners.  FYI, you can easily edit the points after the fact if you don’t quite like how it turns out (but that’s for another tutorial).  The picture below shows tracing the “1” in progress.  The red outline was the original Word Art “1” that I chose – the blue is then the part I’ve traced out so far.  I know this sounds tedious, but it’s actually pretty easy and takes less than a minute for a simple shape like this.

Step 3: In PowerPoint 2010, you can create custom shapes by adding, subtracting, intersecting, or doing a union between two or more already existing shapes (here’s a tutorial, if you’re interested).  (If you have an older version of PowerPoint, sorry, this won’t work.)  In my opinion, this is a fantastic addition to PowerPoint 2010, and makes it much more powerful for home design use.

I started out by making an 8×10 inch rectangle (which is the final desired size that I wanted to print) – I left it shaded in blue, just so you could see that it’s actually there.  I then placed the custom-shaped “1” at the center of that rectangle (the “align” tool is great for this).  I then selected both the rectangle and the “1” and chose Combine Shapes –> Shape Subtract to subtract the 1 from the rectangle (FYI, this tool probably won’t appear standard in your toolbar and you’ll have to add it – the tutorial I link to above tells you how to do that).  So basically what this leaves you with is a filled in rectangle with a “1” cut out of it.

Step 4: I then started bringing in pictures.  I went through my Picasa album from the last year and found fun pictures that would remind my husband of all the fun things we did during our first year of marriage.  I decided to give these a border with knotched edges.

Step 5:  Start placing and resizing the pictures so that they roughly follow the shape of the “1” opening in your rectangle.  You can bring some pictures to the front or move some backwards to create a layered collage effect.

Notice that I filled in my new custom shape in white, instead of the blue shown above.  You could choose any color, however, to add some pizzazz or to match your decor.

Step 6: Once you’re happy with the placement of all of your pictures, group them all together and then send them to the back.  They will now show up “behind” your rectangle and only the part inside the “1” cutout will appear.  You can always make adjustments at this point if parts of your pictures are cutoff or if there is any white space showing.

At this point, you can also play with the fill color and borders.  I chose to just have a white background, and a thick black outline (notice that the black outline is not only around the “1” but also around the rectangle – so you can crop this out later if desired, which is what I chose to do).

And that’s it!  You have a personalized photo collage to give as a gift, using nothing more than PowerPoint.

I’ll be back later this week to show you what my runner-up gift was.  It was also a photo collage of sorts made in PowerPoint, but I decided that I liked the “1” idea better.

Happy PowerPointing!!! 🙂

Starting Things Off with a Challenge

What better motivation to write my first post than a challenge?  And one with a deadline!  Last week, Sherry from Young House Love and Katie B from Bower Power announced the second Pinterest Challenge.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it?  To actually create something based on the hundreds or thousands of images that we’ve all pinned on Pinterest!  You know who you are – you spend countless hours (not at work!) pinning gorgeous inspiration for your house, your wardrobe, your life, your travels, your pets,…,you get the idea!  But do we ever actually do anything about it?  Well, here’s our chance!

So my first entry in the Pinterest Challenge just so happened to coincide with my first wedding anniversary.  The customary gift for a first anniversary is “paper”, and since neither my husband nor I wanted to splurge on an anniversary gift (how on Earth would you splurge on paper anyways?!), I decided to turn to Pinterest for some DIY inspiration.  I had noticed a couple of cool photo collage ideas a while back, so I dug up those pins (found here, here, here, and here on Pinterest):


I decided to do a take on a photo collage as an anniversary gift.  I wanted to use pictures from our first year of marriage, and create it in the shape of the number 1.  So now is where my engineer’s brain kicked in – many of you crafty folks out there might have printed out pictures and assembled the collage by hand, or used Photoshop, or some other method that I can’t even envision.  But what did I do?  Yep, I fired up PowerPoint, my favorite design tool.  But before I bore you with the details, here are some pictures of the final result:


And a few close-ups:

And finally, a shot of the lovely new piece of art on our living room mantle:

For those interested in the step-by-step procedure, I’ll be back with another post with detailed instructions and pictures of each step (posted here).  I will warn you that there’s probably an easier way to do this, particularly if you’re a user of Photoshop.  But since I spend a lot of my day using Powerpoint anyways, this was the easiest approach for me.

Also, be sure to check out the other amazing projects that our Pinterest hosts came up with: