One of the first and most obvious topics we knew we wanted to cover this season is handmade gifts! As much as we love shopping, there is nothing better than giving and receiving handmade presents for the holidays.
-Rachel’s quilt for Elsie.
Elsie: Ok, so I’m going to do the intro because I wrote down in handwriting again (laughs) sorry about that. Itt wasn’t the best prep, but also I feel like it’s going well, still, so no one gives a shit.
Emma: No, don’t worry about it.
Elsie: You’re listening to A Beautiful Mess podcast today we’re devoting the entire episode to the subject of homemade gifts. While we are certainly not opposed to shopping, making gifts is always our favorite part of the holiday season.
Emma: And there’s probably a lot of people in your life who just want to receive a homemade gift like, I don’t know, maybe that weird aunt in your life. I always say Aunt and maybe I should say. “Ah-nt”.
Elsie: Aunt Emma.
Emma: Aunt Emma.
Elsie: It sounds like The Handmaid’s Tale. Don’t do that.
Emma: I don’t like it. Yeah, I have to say, aunt, and I don’t care how the Midwest country it sounds. I gotta say Aunt Emma.
Elsie: Yeah, for sure. All right. So, all we’re talking in this episode is handmade gifts, which I’m so excited, because when I imagined doing a podcast, I always imagined taking like a very specific micro subject like this. And then…but I have so much passion for the subject. Homemade gifts?
Emma: Yeah, I mean, we have a craft blog that we’ve been doing for 12 years. I’d say we’re fairly passionate about making things and the holiday season is one, no exception, but also kind of the perfect time of year to be getting the craft supplies out, or baking or whatever, you know…
Elsie: It really is. So. All right. First of all, we’re going to share what we’re making this year. Then we’re gonna share some of the best gifts we’ve received in the past. And then some things that are sentimental and kind of feel handmade, that aren’t actually handmade, or maybe they’re kind of semi handmade, if you know what I’m saying.
Emma: Yeah. So have you started yet? What are you making this year?
Elsie: All right. So I’m very excited about Christmas this year because our oldest daughter is four, it’s honestly like the perfect…I know there’s a lot of perfect Christmas ages for years to come, but four is one of the first really perfect years. And so what we’re making this year, is a Mary Poppins inspired handmade doll house that opens up with doors, has a roof that opens. It has seven rooms. It has working lights. It’s a little crazy. Like, I just got the subway tile in the mail yesterday. It’s it is a little bit over the top. And I will admit a little…lot bit over budget. But it’s really magical.
Emma: So what was the original budget? And what do you realistically think is going to be the ending budget on this project? I’m just curious.
Elsie: Originally, I was like, okay, well, we’ll build the dollhouse and then I’ll try to spend like one hundred dollars on like little things and then I’ll make the rest because I was very inspired. Our friend Mandi, Her Instagram is @mandimakes and we will link her in the show notes 100 percent because she is the dollhouse queen. She has a lot of really impressive projects where like you look at the picture and you can’t tell if it’s an adult sized real-life room or a dollhouse room because they’re that immaculate. And so she gave me like all this like pep talk and information when I first told her that I was going to do it. And I felt very empowered, like I can make this whole dollhouse. Well, first of all, one hundred dollars of dollhouse furniture is basically like two rooms, like it goes by pretty quickly. And so I immediately changed my budget to two hundred dollars. And I will say that by the end of it, I think what I’ll probably spend is around three or four hundred, which I’m fine with. Like I’m not proud of it. I’m not bragging about this. But I mean, my kid’s four year old and this is like an heirloom gift that we’re gonna keep forever, you know, and like I spent twenty dollars on a beautiful tiny little KitchenAid mixer. Like, in some ways, I’m being an idiot and I’m just going to own it.
Emma: I also feel like this is the perfect illustration of you being an Enneagram seven.
Emma: Where you’re just like because I’m like $100…
Elsie: I’m fanatical about this project right now.
Emma: You get into it and then it’s like four times as big four times the cost. It’s just like, you know, I don’t know. It’s it’s the perfect…this is how Elsie does projects sometimes, which I actually like that about you. It might sound like I’m making fun of you, but I’m not. I hitched my wagon to this star, people, like I love that about you. But also it can be a little extra. And it’s hilarious.
Elsie: Yeah, to be fair, I’m throwing myself under the bus. And anyone who wants to can make fun of my $400 dollhouse. That’s fine. Like at least it’s not a thousand dollars and I own it. And I’m very proud of it. It’s a gift for me as well. Like it’s a gift from my heart and my soul. Making this dollhouse for our daughters. So it’s all good. Anyway, the second thing I’m making this year is, so we discovered over the summer for aunt camp, Emma and I took our nieces to this ceramic painting place just like many, many towns across the US and I’m sure other places it’s just a shop where you go and you pick out a blank ceramic off the wall and then you paint it and you pick your colors and then you leave it there and you come back in a couple weeks and it’s done. So that is our Grandma, Grandpa, if you don’t want aunt Emma, I’ll sign you up right now. That’s our family gift from Nova this year.
Emma: Yeah sign me up.
Elsie: I need to start going because I think I’m enough to go twice probably.
Emma: What are we getting, a mug?
Elsie: Yes. I’m probably just gonna do mugs.
Emma: OK, cool. Yeah. Sign me up.
Elsie: Mugs are the best, right?
Emma: Yeah, I think so. It’s the most like useful to me because plates are great, but I like all my plates to match, but my mugs don’t match. So I like to get like fun ones.
Elsie: Okay well send me your colors. And I just think that she’s the perfect age and it’s gonna be one of those heart breaker gifts, you know, that you just keep forever. And it feels very magical to me. So we’re doing those, doing the mugs this year. And that’s, you know, a gift anyone can do it’s so easy. It’s probably going to just take one or two days to take her to this little shop. And then there’s a donut shop right next door. It’ll be perfect.
Elsie: And then we are also doing kind of our regular thing we do every year is either photo books or calendars for the grandmas and the great grandmas. So that’s kind of an every year thing. But it’s…it’s a crowd pleaser.
Emma: MmHmm. Ok, so here’s my thing about homemade gifts. This is what I really like to receive. And I also think these are a lot of times things they’re really fun to make. And also a lot of these are really fun to make with your kids. So if you’re doing like presents for grandparents or like, I don’t know, aunt Emma, these are some additional ideas maybe. So I really like to receive things that are consumable. And what I mean by that is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a thing that you use and then you don’t have it anymore. But just because I’m kind of at this place in my life and I think a lot of people probably relate with this where I definitely want a mug from Nova and I love calendars and photo books because that’s a whole different thing. And calendars actually are kind of consumable, but for the most part. I don’t really love to receive things that I have to hold on to or like find a place for in my home that I didn’t pick out just because I’m kind of going through a downsizing and, you know, I’m konmari-ing my house constantly, you know how that be. So I like to receive things that you use. So some examples are like, sometimes people will make like sugar scrubs and put them in cute little jars, or like a homemade soap or a homemade candle or I really love, and I know you can buy these, but I really love it when people make them and they make them a little extra special, but I love it when people make those cookie in a jar, things where it’s like, yeah, and they they will just pick more special like chocolate chips…
Elsie: You’re speaking to the soul of seventh grade Elsie because that is like very, very fun stuff to make.
Emma: Yeah. This is what I want. And the cookie jar thing, which if you don’t know that just it’s I’m sure everyone knows what this is, but it’s just a jar that’s filled with all cookie making ingredients and all you have to add is like butter and eggs or something like that. And that’s it. That’s all it is. It’s super simple, but I love it because it’s also kind of a little project, but it’s a thing that I don’t have to now find a place for this in my home. I just get to enjoy this thing that you made me and consume it. I’m going to eat the cookies that I’m going to share the cookies, whatever. And then it’s a done deal. And I love that. Homemade or not. That’s like my favorite kind of gifts. But I do think if you’re doing homemade gifts, especially for like your office or extended family or making them with kids, that’s a great way to ensure that people can enjoy it, but not feel like, you know, like there’s not this pressure of it has to be held on to forever.
Elsie: Mm hmm.
Emma: But I feel like also I’m really putting this out there, please give me that mug from Nova. I am not trying to talk myself out of the mug from Nova I want that mug!
Elsie: Yeah, you’re getting the mug don’t worry. But I get I get what you mean. Like everyone has a pile either the day after Christmas or, you know, you you’re in denial and it’s like months after Christmas of things that, you know, you donate or you return or whatever. Like that’s normal. You don’t have to feel bad. Like everyone gets something they don’t want at Christmas, right?
Elsie: It’s not ungrateful. It’s just real.
Emma: I don’t think it’s like that big of a thing. I just think when you’re thinking about that’s probably one of my fears. When I’m making someone something is like, are they really going to use this or want to keep it? So I feel like that’s a great way to kind of take that pressure off. And there’s still lots of things you can make that people will use up and consume. So you don’t have to you don’t have to have that pressure. But I feel like if you know someone like when I make something for my husband, I generally know like I just know him really well. So it’s different. But if I’m making something for a friend, sometimes I just put all this pressure on myself. And I feel like that’s a great way to kind of like take it off.
Elsie: Yeah, that’s good. Okay. Well, I wanted to share a couple of the homemade gifts that I made in the past that I’m really proud of and then also the best homemade gifts I’ve been given.
Emma: Yeah, let’s hear it…
Elsie: These may be possibly inspiring for someone who is like looking for a project. So the best homemade gift I’ve ever made in the past by a lot for sure is that IKEA hack kitchen that we made last Christmas for Nova and this year it’s Marigold’s favorite toy. And it’s just like the gift that keeps on giving. And actually, I already got Marigold, a new little mixer thing to go with it for this Christmas because they broke a couple things last year. And, you know, as it goes, like it’s a very well-loved toy. Let’s just put it that way. So I will link that in the show notes and then I’ll also link Laura’s version. And I mean, honestly, if you go on Pinterest, there’s like 8000 other versions people have done. But you just take these little IKEA kitchens and make it your own. Make it look like your kitchen or make it look like your dream kitchen, whatever you want. It’s a lot of fun. And yeah, a very practical gift because I mean, it’s like every kid’s favorite toy. And then. Yeah. Other than that, I think my favorite gift I’ve ever made is like when in our early days of dating I would make like big scrapbooks and I don’t really make them any more. But I like to look back on the ones that I made a lot. So they’re kind of special. And then as far as gifts I’ve been given. So a couple times people have made us toys like plush dolls for the girls. Someone made, I’ll link this in the show notes, a beautiful set of dolls that looks like our girls. And that was one of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in my whole life. Our friend Rachel has made me quilts several times and those are super special. And then on Instagram, people make the cutest little illustrations of the girls pretty often. And several of them we have printed out and framed in our house. And it’s such a sentimental gift. Like, I think it would be a great gift to sort of like hire out for someone with kids to hire someone to make one of those little illustrated portraits. So I’ll link to a couple of my favorites as well. And then obviously, anything that our kids make at school, we have like a rock in our house. That’s just a giant painted rock…
Emma: I was gonna say, you got to say the rock. This is the best thing ever.
Elsie: And it has stickers on it that says my dad rocks.
Elsie: I know that it’s dumb, but it’s — it’s staying in our house forever. You cannot separate me from that rock.
Emma: It’s not dumb. It’s the coolest thing ever. Are you serious? Oh, my gosh. No…
Elsie: It’s special. And I love those little school gifts. So, yeah. And our kids like to paint and stuff. So anything like that. I feel like those are great gifts to give people, you know, like especially if if you think you can actually get colors and they’re going to like the painting. Great bonus points. But even if not, it’s a painting by a kid. It’s adorable.
Emma: It is cute. We started to, at our holiday house in Springfield, where you come for the holidays. We have like a kids gallery wall. And it only had one drawing on it when we shared the tour. But I already got another one from a neighborhood kid, Opal. And it’s really good. She did a great job and it’s a painting she made us. So I got that framed. I still need to hang it up, but I love kind of having a spot for that.
Elsie: Yeah. There’s nothing more special in kids art. And then. OK. As far as sentimental gifts that you can buy, but it kind of feels homemade, or it has like that extra special touch, I have a few ideas for this. So I already said calendars. You can order these calendars like basically anywhere. I’ll add a couple links in our show notes of of places where you can order calendars. You can also make them. We, I know last year we put a template on the blog the last couple years. I don’t know if we are the share, but you know, it’s a Photoshop file. It can be converted somewhere online, there’s gonna be a template if you want to print them out. Maybe our blog, maybe not. Photo books! You know, there’s so many different services where you can just use an app on your phone and print a book of iPhone photos you’ve taken throughout the year. Definitely a great gift for grandmas. I think this year I’m going to make one for my husband of just like pictures of him with the girls and then…
Emma: We’ll have to just link all our Canon posts, basically this episode, because so many of them are like great ones for sharing a photo gift or a gift that like features a photo.
Elsie: For sure. So yeah, in conclusion, making homemade gifts, I think that it’s the most magical part of the holiday season for me. You know, it’s just spending several weeks making these gifts. And even if you don’t feel like making a gift, you can put work and effort and love into your wrapping. Like you can put it into your cards, you can put it into whatever thing you choose, like it doesn’t have to be every single thing is homemade. You can just pick one. And yeah…
Emma: I was going to say, I love getting a gift and then like a handmade card, especially like a couple times Trey’s made me a card that’s like a pop up card. Oh, homemade pop up card. And I just love that kind of thing too. I think that’s really fun.
Elsie: Yes, agree agree agree. So yeah, this year’s extra special for us because they get to make some things with our daughter and I can sort of make things with Marigold. She can contribute the handprints and stuff. So it’s beginning. All right. So let’s move on to the guilty pleasure treasure. It’s been a while since we did one of these. And I think I have a good one. Finally.
Emma: Do you wanna go first?
Emma: Mine’s medium good. So you should go first.
Elsie: Ok. So mine is the classic film, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which I watched for the first time on the airplane ride home from China. And I was like, I kind of want to watch this musical. And as soon as I watched it, I knew in my heart that Nova would love it. Even though that makes no sense. And up until that point, she had only really watched cartoons. But she does love Abba. And anyway, as soon as we got home, this was like our whole maternity leave. We watched Mamma Mia! Here I go again. Here we go again? I don’t get that wrong. I think I got it wrong.
Emma: I don’t know which one it is to be honest.
Elsie: We watched it every day and we did also watch the classic, the original Mamma Mia! A little bit, too, but not as much as Here We Go Again. And yeah, it’s amazing. And I have, if you make it to the end of this episode, I have a little treasure Easter egg for you of Nova singing an ABBA song. And if you haven’t watched the movie, I feel like it’s the most adorable of all these famous actors. It’s like the most adorable that they ever get.
Emma: Yeah. It’s like I haven’t seen it, but Meryl Streep’s in it. Right? I mean…
Elsie: Yes, Cher.
Emma: Oh, really?
Elsie: Yeah. Lots of lots of people. Colin Firth is one of the dads. Yeah.
Emma: That’s cute.
Elsie: It’s…it’s just wonderful. And they all wear basically ABBA costumes. And it is 100 percent pure solid gold entertainment.
Emma: (laughs) Cool.
Elsie: What’s your guilty pleasure treasure?
Emma: Mine is…I’m about to get mine updated today. Later today is I get fake eyelashes.
Emma: So that is my guilty pleasure treasur, that I wanted to mention on this episode…
Elsie: Eyelash extensions.
Emma: Yeah. Eyelash extensions. Cause I guess you can glue on fake lashes at home. But this is the kind…
Elsie: Okay so tell about your life before and after you had these elusive eyelash extensions.
Emma: Before my life was terrible and I looked terrible. And now my life is perfect and I look perfect. No, not really. (laughs) That would be great.
Elsie: Honestly, more than you think. They make a huge difference. So I had mine on for almost a year and then a couple months ago I was like, I’m going to save a little bit of money and time and I’m going to take a break until at least the new year. And guess what? Three weeks later, I texted her back and I was like, I can’t take it. When is your next appointment? And I want them even bigger this time.
Emma: Yeah. I’m thinking about getting mine bigger sometime. I won’t at my appointment today because you have to I have to tell her ahead of time because it takes more time and she has to budget for that obviously. But yeah, if you don’t know, if you’re not familiar with eyelash extensions, there are things that you can get. They basically glue on longer eyelashes to your eyelashes. In a nutshell, that’s what it is. And you have to get them refilled every three to four weeks. That’s what they recommend. Because your eyelashes will naturally, they will come off. You know, they’re they’re just glued on.
Elsie: So, yeah, when you are natural lash falls off, then your fake eyelash falls off along with it, right?
Emma: Yeah, that too, because it can’t just float. So I got, I had gotten them some years ago and then I couldn’t keep up with it. I’m not very good at doing appointments during the week or I always felt kind of guilty about it. And then actually earlier this summer when I’d gone with you guys to China and you know, we would have like early nights because it was a kid friendly trip. So I had a lot of time to think and read my romance novels, as I’ve mentioned before. And I was like, you know what? I work for myself and I work really hard. And I work most weekends. And I love that. I love working. I have no problems with it. I’m not complaining. I’m really lucky in life. But I also do this thing where I won’t take time during the week to, like, go do things like I get very anxious if I can’t get my dentist appointment over lunch or at the very end of the day or the very beginning, because I feel like I’m wasting my company’s time. And so that was my big hang up with the eyelash extensions was I was like, oh. Because sometimes I can get like a five o’clock appointment. But like, she doesn’t work at night or the weekends because, you know, this is her job where she works during the day and then she has her evenings and weekends off. Like myself. So it’s just difficult to get these appointments and not feel kind of guilty about it. But when I was in China, I just kind of had this realization like Emma, you do work really hard and you always give everything that you need to get done, done. So you’re really, like no one’s putting this pressure on you. You’re putting it on yourself. You’re the only person who’s telling yourself that it’s not OK for you to take this time. You’re the only person saying that. No one else is saying that. No one else feels that you’re not actually messing anything up. So if you really want to go get these eyelash extensions, do it! Like you’re the only one stopping yourself. So…
Elsie: I feel like this just became a metaphor for like a lot of things in life that people won’t do for themselves or people won’t, you know, like give themselves a little perk or whatever. But I agree with you, like, yes, it’s annoying doing the appointments. And sure, it’s like extra money that you’re kind of wasting it, but they do make me happy. So…
Emma: I love them. I love having them. I think they’re really pretty and I enjoy having them. And I also really like chatting with my gal. She’s great. Yeah, but you can also like listen to podcasts during it or whatever. Like it’s I don’t know, it’s a nice just thing I do for myself and it’s a guilty pleasure and I love it. The end.
Elsie: The end, indeed. All right. So. Well, just one more thing. I just wanna say I support you. Good for you. OK. So I’m going to close us out today with a reader question. And it is a pretty simple one it came from Instagram and it is, how do you store your photos? All right. So I have a good and a bad side to my photo storage. Apart that I’m proud of, a part that I’m not so proud of. So, ever since Nova was adopted, we have taken a lot of instax photos right before we went and got her. I took all the instax photos of the 10 years that we were together without kids and put them into one box in my office up on the shelf. And since then, we have accumulated about an equal amount more photos of just like a year and a half. So we’re definitely taking a lot of instant photos. It’s…I always say it’s like my favorite thing to waste money on is that film because like, yeah, it it’s kind of a waste of money, but it’s magical and special and she loves doing it. And the photos are, they’re the only way in life anymore that you get this like unfiltered photo, the way that our parents photo albums looked when we were little, you know, where it’s just like pictures where people didn’t know they were having their pictures taken. And like for for us, it’s a lot of like severe upward angles because a four year old like shooting up at us, lots of double chins lots of stuff like that. And I love it, honestly, because I just think that there are a different side to family photos than what you get from like your Instagram photos and like the type of photos that people take these days. These are the opposite of that. And I love it. So I love those. They’re in a basket in our living room, at some point I will probably transfer them either to another box or an album. Maybe, not sure yet. But for now, I just love the basket because we take them down and look at them all the time. And there’s a lot of good memories in there. We even took the camera to like Disney and stuff. OK, so the part I’m not so proud of is just scrapbooks slash photo books slash photo albums. I don’t have a system right now. I don’t know what I want to do. I think is like the first step. I don’t know if there’s like the perfect photo album out there for me or if I need to just devote myself more hardcore to doing photo books or if I should adapt Emma’s album technique or whatever you call it, habit. So she’ll explain next…system. Yeah. So I am open to suggestions if anyone has this perfect setup that works really well for them. We take a lot of photos. I haven’t printed out as many as I should lately and I know that I have some catching up to do, but it’s something I’ve been putting off. So, do you want to tell us about your photo storage?
Emma: Yes. So photo storage for me is two things. And like Elsie, I have one that I’m really proud of and one that I’m like, I wouldn’t say I’m not proud of it, but I it’s kind of just like a bare minimum. And I think it could be better. OK, so I’ll start with the one I’m more proud of. So I do an annual photo album, which means I have an album that’s labeled by the year. So. Currently twenty nineteen. Soon I’ll have my 20:20 going, and throughout the year I print photos and put them in the album. That’s in a nutshell. That’s it. That’s the whole system. But I think what really works for me about it is I try to do it basically every month. And if we just had a vacation or if we just had a holiday, then I have a lot. I will print easily 20 to 50 photos and then some months. I only print like five or six photos because, you know, I just worked a lot that month. Maybe it wasn’t a whole lot going on. And I’ll also… I edit most of my photos on my phone. Like these are mostly phone photos and I edit them with A Color Story. Our photo editing app. But sometimes I don’t even edit them. Like if I realize I have a bunch of photos and I feel like stressed for time, the thing it’s most important to me that I get the photos off my phone and into my annual photo albums. To me, that’s like the most important part of the goal. So I don’t even edit all of them. And then I also sometimes will print something that like was from like if Elsie posted an Instagram story of something we were doing. I will like screenshot that story…
Elsie: She puts puts a lot of embarrassing photos in her albums, like that’s a big part of it for her is like she likes to have the, the truly embarrassing stuff.
Emma: Yeah, I have like screenshots of us in like Skype meetings. Like I have no shame. I just, I want to remember my life, all of it. The beautiful, the weird, the funny, all of it. It’s all good to me. So that’s the thing I do. And I’m really proud of it. I will do like special albums throughout the year. Like we just went to Iceland this past year on a friend vacation. I made a special album that was just Iceland because basically my annual album was getting too full. Because I had really good year this year, guys.
Emma: Like a few weeks ago? You already made an album from a few weeks ago?
Elsie: Yeah. Whoa. OK. Next level.
Emma: But it’s just photos. I just print the photos and put them in the album and that’s it. I don’t know…
Elsie: I still have stuff from like last year I haven’t done yet.
Emma: Yeah, I think it’s key, at least to me, it’s key that I do it quickly because it doesn’t accumulate. Once it starts to feel like a task that’s like too overwhelming, then it’s like, oh no, I can’t get this done. So I like to make sure that it’s like, oh, no, I can do this. I’m going to do it one evening and it will be done. And that’s why sometimes I don’t even edit photos, because if I’m like, I don’t have time, I only have 2 hours, then I’m like, I’m just gonna print it. And it just is what it is. My face won’t look that perfect and I don’t care. Anyway, so that’s the thing I’m proud of because I really keep up with it. It really works for me and I love looking in our past albums. I look at them pretty often, so I love that. And the thing that I’m not as proud of slash feel like it could be a little bit better is my electronic or digital storage of my photos. So currently I really just save a lot of them on my phone, which is not really backed up and not a great system.
Elsie: Really bad really bad.
Emma: Yeah. And the other thing I do, but I do it really sporadically, so I really feel like it could be a lot better is I will save my photos in folders in Dropbox and that’s good. Yeah, that’s good. I just I don’t make it as much of a habit. I think in my mind I’m like, but I have these printed out photos, so I’m good, but I really need to back them up digitally because you know what if we had a fire in our home or something like, you know, and I know that, but I still haven’t made a priority, so I need to work on that.
Elsie: Nice. Well, I mean, I think we should show a picture in the show notes of your photo album. OK. And. All right. So I think we are done with this episode. Let’s cue up nova singing ABBA…
Nova: “Dancing queen, feel the beat of the tambourine, oh yeah. You can dance you can dance having the time of your life…Woo see that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen” Please leave a review of mommy’s podcast. Remember that she’s trying to do her best and aunt Emma too! Thank you.