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DIY Father’s Day Gifts from Daughter: Easy Last Minute Homemade Gift Basket Ideas

DIY Father’s Day Gifts from Daughter: Easy Last Minute Homemade Gift Basket Ideas


3 Easy DIY Father's Day Gift Ideas for Dad

easy handmade father's day gifts for dad
Sparkling fun with dad and daughter | Image courtesy Unsplash user Caleb Jones

 

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person — he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

When I think of my father, there are poignant and particular things that come to mind: There’s the beep of the coffee maker when it’s finished brewing, and his hands pouring the hot coffee into his favorite sunshine yellow mugs from Hawaii; the countless warm San Diego evenings spent on the front patio where he barbecues chicken drumsticks or flips homemade burgers; and his belief in the power of a clean car to make you feel good about life, especially when it’s washed by hand on the driveway.

Father’s Day is a time when we celebrate our dad’s unique quirky life lessons. As the youngest daughter in a large family, I was in a constant state of watching and observing my dad and the things he loved and that inspired him. I’d give gifts for holidays that reflected his ever-growing collection of interests, like a bright ceramic toucan mug, a turquoise buddha to look over his homegrown pineapple plants, or a book on architecture or tropical smoothies.

Regardless of the gifts that came and went, there were three favorite DIY Father’s Day gifts from his daughter that never failed to be appreciated by my dad (and, I would suspect, most dads)—homemade coffee syrup, car wash soap, and barbecue rubs. To me, these are easy DIYs that offer gratitude and seem to scream “dad.” There’s a timelessness about them I love—and a feel-good emotion that comes along with handmade Father’s Day gifts and gift basket ideas he can actually use.

DIY Homemade Vanilla Coffee Syrup Recipe to Gift a Wakeful Morning

My dad is an early morning coffee appreciator. He’ll get it all set up the night before so that when he wakes up, he just has to press a button (a habit I’ve enjoyed myself). While the coffee brews and the scents permeate the air, he takes a moment to saunter around the front yard, talking to his palm trees, plumerias, and banana plants.

DIY Coffee Syrup gift for dad
Coffee syrup for a tasty morning | Image courtesy Etsy seller LesCharlatansCanada

He typically drinks his coffee black, but he does love sweetening things up every so often on special mornings. That’s where this simple DIY homemade vanilla coffee syrup recipe comes into play. He’s a fan of vanilla, though you can also experiment with flavors like caramel, pumpkin spice, or chocolate, if that suits your father’s fancy.

The Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

The Recipe:

  1. Over medium-high heat, whisk sugar, water, and the vanilla bean together in a saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat.
  2. Simmer on low until the sugar dissolves, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and mix in your vanilla extract.
  4. When cooled, take out the vanilla bean and pour the syrup in a glass jar.
  5. Keep in the fridge to give dad’s coffee a bit of morning magic!

 

To turn this gift into a coffee lover’s dream gift basket, you can include the following in a vintage coffee canister:

Homemade Dry Spice Rub Recipes: Gifts for the BBQ Dad

As an avocado grower and botany enthusiast, my father lives outside. On warm evenings (and even some rainy ones) he can be found at the barbecue. He grills up everything from huge salmon steaks in fish baskets to chicken drumsticks slathered with BBQ sauce, racks of ribs to hot link sausages that he slices and hands out on toothpicks before dinner. Many of the dads I’ve met over the course of my life share a somewhat similar, almost ceremonial, appreciation for lighting up the barbecue.

To help up his barbecue game, and to make grilling even more of an event, try a couple homemade dry spice rub recipes as a Father’s Day gift this year. Dry rubs add tons of flavor to meat, fish, and chicken and can be easily customized so you can get really creative.

Here are a few of my favorite dry spice rub recipes:

handmade dry spice rubs for dad
Spice up Dad’s BBQ game | Image courtesy Etsy seller SpiceExpressions

Blackening Spice Rub Recipe

  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1/4 cup thyme
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tsp oregano
  • 4 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper

*Try this on beef, chicken, seafood, or pork—anything you can grill!

Lemon and Herb Rub Recipe

  • 2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp thyme
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 4 Tbsp lemon pepper

*Try this on salmon served with tartar sauce

The Everyday Rub Recipe

  • 6 Tbsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp mustard powder
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

*Try this on chicken drumsticks drizzled with a bit of maple syrup

Here are some other gift ideas to craft a gift basket for the BBQ master:

DIY Car Wash Soap Alternative for Dad’s Sparkling Clean Ride

When I got my first car, my dad was a big advocate for keeping it clean from the inside out. I’d drive up our long meandering driveway, park in my spot outside, throw on some old clothes, and get ready to wash.

There’s something therapeutic about filling up a bucket with warm soapy water, rinsing the car, then towel drying it—especially when dad and daughter are doing it together. Making your own DIY car wash soap alternative is an often unexpected gift that will have your dad saying, “I didn’t know you could make homemade car wash soap!”

But, you can. And it’s super easy!

car wash diy soap for dad
Cheers to clean cars on cards | Image courtesy Etsy seller FeltTails

The Supplies:

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup dishwashing liquid
  • Water
  • 1-gallon bucket or jug

The Directions:

Pour your baking soda into your jug then add the dishwashing liquid. Add enough water to fill the jug almost up to the top. Shake well, then when you’re ready to wash your car, pour 1 cup of the car wash soap into a water bucket and add water. Then, wash away!

 

 

 

If you want to turn this into a dad kit gift basket, here are some more sudsy gift ideas for the car wash enthusiast:

  • A microfiber wash mitt
  • A car wash sponge
  • Microfiber towels
  • Liquid wax
  • Car polish
  • Tire shine
  • A cool bucket to hold all the gifts, and then the sudsy water

 

When I think of my dad, I think of early morning coffee dates on the front patio talking about school and future dreams, nights spent barbecuing with the entire family while a bonfire glows in the fire pit behind us, and the feeling of freedom that a new and clean car gives.

Whether you’re making coffee syrup, BBQ rubs, car wash soap, or all of the above, my hope is that these gifts inspire you to give dad a homemade gift this year that’s from the heart and that speaks to the special relationship you share.

For more creative ideas on Father’s Day gift giving, check out our Father’s Day Gift Guide. Or, connect with Elfster on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

For FREE Father’s Day printable coloring sheets for dad and grandpa, courtesy the elves, click here

Pet Lovers Gift Basket Ideas for Dog and Owner to Dig Into Bonding and Adventure

Pet Lovers Gift Basket Ideas for Dog and Owner to Dig Into Bonding and Adventure

gift basket ideas for dog and owner
A dog and his human | Image courtesy Unsplash user Yingchou Han

Growing up, we had a good-natured yellow labrador named Woody who happily traipsed through the trees and rolling hills of the neighborhood with us as if it was all his backyard. Being the youngest in my family, I had a habit of often pretending that Woody was my little brother or sister when my siblings weren’t around. I’d dress him up in tiaras when I wanted to play princess fairytales, capes when I was more in the mood for superheroes, a big straw hat or paisley print bonnet when it was time for a tea party.

Woody became my best buddy, the one who’d sit next to my stuffed animals and listen intently when I was conjuring up ideas for a new story or a cookie recipe. The one who was always up for anything, any game, I had in mind.

If you’ve ever had a dog like Woody, you know there’s an inexplicable bond between dogs and their owners—a loyalty, a friendship, an unspoken understanding. In my twenties, my friends started becoming dog owners before they started having babies, and their new furry family members quickly took up space in their hearts—and in mine. I found myself celebrating first birthdays and anniversaries of adoption dates, usually gifting presents I thought would be fun for both pet and human. My pet lovers gift basket ideas for dog and owner fall into one of three categories inspired by my meandering days with Woody: primping, rainy day relaxing, or city adventuring. Read on for some kibbles of dog-spiration so you can also have everyone howling with delight.

New Dog Welcome Basket: Primp With Your Pup

As a kid, I used to host spa days for Woody and myself. He’d sit next to me as I painted my nails and ate a scoop of ice cream—the ultimate in relaxation for me as an 8 year (and still as an adult). I’m not sure if poor Woody felt a little left out of the festivities, but I now send what I call a “Primp With Your Pup” new dog welcome basket to adopted pet parents. It’s a gift basket full of primping indulgence for both owner and pet to help them relax and get to know each other. Here are my spa essentials to include in any welcome home pet gift basket:

paw balm dog gift
Pawsitively relaxing balm | Image courtesy Etsy seller PawsitiveVibesBB
  • Tropical fruit scented shampoo and conditioner: For the pup mama, you can include a mango, passionfruit, or plumeria scented combo. For pup, try a shampoo with a fresh scent specifically designed for a furry friend. Tropical scents will relax and rejuvenate pet and owner, leaving them both in a sea of bliss.
  • Moisturizing balms: Add any sweetly-scented lip balm for the human, but don’t forget the paw and nose balm to keep pup living the spa life, too.
  • Clippers for pawfect nails: Pet and owner will both feel fancy with a manicure and paw clean up. Include a new pair of stainless steel dog nail clippers and a manicure set for the human.
  • Cozy socks: Keep newly clipped paws perfect by including a pair of pup socks—and maybe a matching pair for the dog mama or pops as well.
  • Ice cream: You can find Puppy Scoops Ice Cream mix for dogs in flavors like maple bacon, vanilla, and peanut butter. A pint of vanilla bean, or maple bacon if you can find it, for the human will round out this soothing spa treat basket.

Rainy Day Relaxing Pet Gift Box Ideas

Some of my best days spent with Woody were rainy ones. We’d cuddle up on the couch, his nose wet from the San Diego drizzle, and we’d watch movies, read books, and sometimes, bake a cake or order a pizza. Over those lazy days, magical memories were formed and the idea for this basket was born.

pet treats for gift basket
Comfort food for rainy days | Image courtesy Etsy seller AddiktiveDogGoodies
  • An animal-inspired classic read: Told from the point of view of a dog, The Art of Racing in the Rain is the perfect novel to read on a rainy day. It will encourage gift recipients to cuddle up with their pups and unwind with words. Marley and Me and Because of Winn Dixie are some other classic favorites to toss in your basket because rainy days always call for more than one book.
  • A movie starring a cute canine: Nothing’s better on a rainy day than curling up for a snuggle and a good movie. Watch labrador Wesley on screen try to reunite his humans in You’ve Got the Dog. It will keep a restless pup entertained and fill an owner with warm feelings about the ways in which pups can mend hearts and mold relationships.
  • A snuggle blanket: This one needs no explanation, except to say, make it big enough for two!
  • Comfort food: For pups, this might include bacon-flavored biscuits. For humans, the same.  
  • An indoor game: Celebrate and reward a pup for good behavior if he’s been trapped inside all day. Include mini doggie treats in your gift basket and directions for a game of “Find the Treats.” Thanks to a dog’s uncanny sense of smell, the treats can be hidden, and the pup can search for them. You can also include a cotton rope toy for a classic game of rainy day tug-of-war.

A Pet Lovers Adventure Gift Basket for City Explorations

Growing up in a rural neighborhood, walks with Woody included trots through the citrus groves up the hill or visiting the horses down the street. Though fashion and walkability weren’t exactly our first concern, many of my city-dwelling friends in Portland and San Francisco love this basket—and the adventures it brings to them and their pups.

matching pet outfits
Doggone adorable | Image courtesy Unsplash user Tamara Bellis
  • A leash that helps homeless pups (and looks stylish): The Found my Animal brass leash is stylish for both dog and owner while out for a stroll, and also promotes pet adoption. Including this philanthropic gift in your gift basket gives good feelings to all, from the gift giver to the gift recipients.
  • Matching accessories: Help a pooch and their pal look exceptional when they head out for their city stroll with matching bandanas.
  • Pizza, duh: Every city has a favorite pizza joint. As a funny gift, throw in a plush pizza toy for the pup and a gift card to the pizza place for the owner. For an extra special doggie date, make sure the pizza place is pup-friendly or has outdoor seating, and bring along some Pup-Peroni so everyone gets a savory treat.
  • A portable water bowl: A collapsible water bowl in case pup gets thirsty while you’re chowing down on your pizza.

  • A walkable city map: No matter how long the duo has lived in their hometown, there are bound to be new places to sniff out and explore!

When I help new pet owners celebrate finding another furry family member to welcome home, I feel like I’m honoring Woody, and each and every dog that’s ever been playmate, best friend, or shoulder to cry on for their humans. He was a loyal listener and fun enthusiast who still holds a spot in my heart—and always will. May these baskets inspire you to also celebrate all of the pups who have graced your life.

For more ideas on pup-erific gift giving, explore our Dog Lovers Gift Guide or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Tech Gifts for Teenage Guys: The Benefits of Social Media on Interpersonal Relationships

Tech Gifts for Teenage Guys: The Benefits of Social Media on Interpersonal Relationships

When I was about 10, technology began to infiltrate my childhood when we got our first computer. We’d already been venturing to my grandma’s, who had a slow giant of a desktop stationed in her dining room, whenever my sister needed to write her high school papers or when my brother and I wanted to create books on story software. But having our own home computer at our fingertips, along with all of the forms of technology that would follow after, brought a new connection with the big broadness of the world to us in our little corner of San Diego.

photography tech gift for guy
Capture the moment | Image courtesy Unsplash user Clem Onojeghuo

Growing up on a rural avocado farm pre-social media and smartphones, my siblings and I had to get really creative when we got bored. Often, this meant acting out scenes from The Flintstones on a big rock in front of our house, searching through the grove for imaginary dinosaurs, or falling back on the old classics of playing basketball or reading books. Times have changed, though, and kids are now more likely to virtually binge-watch their favorite TV shows together on social media than to meet up at the corner of the block for a recreation of the latest episode.

My experience has been that technology doesn’t actually make us less social, as many would argue about teen and millennial culture these days. No, it just changes the way we socialize. And the way we make wishlists and give gifts. Teen boys are well-known as difficult to gift for but, almost without exception, tech gifts for teenage guys are a hit. And that’s wonderful! Because gifting a camera rig system can help them create a community for themselves while they explore their artistic inclinations, a GPS tool can encourage hiking with friends or siblings, and a waterproof speaker can help spark conversations about music—a timelessly popular topic among teens.

There are benefits of social media on interpersonal relationships. If we reframe the way we look at technology in the hands of our kids, and why and how we gift them tech-based gidgets, gadgets, and whatsits, we’ll see the incredible ways in which they actually encourage socializing, creative expression, and a strong sense of self.

Tech Gifts for Teens Into Artistic Photographic Expression

modern retro tech gift
Modern-Retro tech at its best | Image courtesy Amazon

Photos and videos beautifully blend together the world of art with the world of tech. A camera rig designed to work with cellphones, for instance, is a “smart” gift idea for a teen guy who either loves photography and videography already, or who has expressed an interest in exploring it. Opening up an opportunity to become part of a worldwide artist community, this gift can bring teens together as they direct and act in movies in an affordable, fun, and easy-to-learn way. It encourages getting out there to shoot and exploring your surroundings—from nature shots to clips of their favorite hangout.

Try the Beastgrip Pro if your guy is an Oscar award-winning cinematographer in the making. It works with virtually any camera phone on the market, a versatile and adjustable system that provides the ability to shoot amazing movies right from your smartphone. There’s also an online Beastgrip community they can plug into which is dedicated to the relatively new art of phoneography.

Other gifts that bring teen guys and their friends together through the art of photography and movies include digital cameras that allow for seemingly endless snaps of their everyday life with friends and a Smart Phone Projector so they can plan an old school movie night with the help of modern tech. Or, you can really combine a vintage experience with the modern need to document everything and gift them a retro-gone-modern instax camera (Bonus gift that comes with these instant cameras: The gift of self-control. This film isn’t cheap and typically comes in packs of 10).

Tech Gifts for Teen Explorers

We tend to associate technology with holding us hostage to a screen indoors but, actually, it can help to get us outside exploring, too.There are great tech gifts on the market for outdoor enthusiasts, nature obsessed kids, or teen guys who enjoy hiking and spending time under the trees and in the fresh air. Tech gifts that encourage a sense of exploration are also a stealthy way to encourage your gamer or Netflix addict who may have gotten a little too attached to the game controller and the sofa to get out and get some fresh air while still nurturing and supporting his love of tech.

light up technology gifts for guys
Light up their next adventure | Image courtesy Amazon

The goTenna is a cool tool that provides GPS for smartphones, even when there’s no call service available, like on a wilderness hike when reception is low or nonexistent. And, it also allows groups of teen adventurers to send and receive text messages so they can disconnect for a bit, but still find each other for a meet up on the trails.

This gift would come in handy not only while hiking or climbing, but also if your teen is caravanning on a road trip to visit a college, celebrate spring break, or kick off the start of summer. Pair with a GoPro HERO waterproof camera or the Powerlight by Biolite and your guy will be a true road (or camping or hiking) warrior.

High-Tech Music Gifts Are Pitch Perfect for Teen Guys

acoustic guitar tech gift
Acoustic meets digital | Image courtesy Amazon

From rock concerts to school dances to karaoke in the car with friends, music is one of the most poignant ways that teens connect socially. Think back to your high school days, the songs you listened to and the people you listened to them with. I bet memories of music easily float back to you, no matter how far from that era you may be now.

Long afternoons spent by the pool or on the warm sands of a beach during the sunny summer months are also quintessential moments in the life of many teens. Instead of throwing in a pair of headphones and tuning out the world while lounging, encourage your teen guy to play DJ the next time he heads to the pool. Music is a surefire way to spark conversation among teens, and high-tech music gadgets are a top ten hit when it comes to gifting.

The Superstar Backfloat Speakers can be thrown straight into the pool, providing party tunes for the musically and tech inclined. They’re high-def, Bluetooth speakers that connect straight to your teen guy’s smartphone, aka his favorite playlists. They can also float in the jacuzzi, tag along with a group to the beach, or even be toted to various backyard gatherings, like Memorial Day BBQs and block parties.

teen guy interpersonal relationship social media
Friendship in the digital age | Image courtesy Unsplash user Anna Vander Stel

If you’re looking for other musical tech gifts that are fun for the whole crowd, consider a guitar sidekick smartphone mount so your teen can venture out for an open-mic night at the local coffeehouse. Or, maybe he’d love the portable Crosley Messenger Turntable to bring a bit of soul-filled vintage flare to his best friend’s birthday celebration or a couple graduation parties.

Like Mitch Albom says, “Devote yourself to your community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” This is the true essence of these tech gifts for teens guys. The well-known rumor that technology makes us less social often makes us hesitate when we think of purchasing a tech-based gift for someone, teen guys in particular. Though the gifts themselves are cutting edge and cool, I think it’s important to remember what these gadgets really offer: Community, bonding, creative expression, and an opportunity to explore the world around them as they dive into young adulthood.

For more ideas on tech gift giving, explore our Video Games Gift Guide or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Teaching Generosity to Kids: The Giving Tree Party Ideas for a Fun Lesson on Kindness

Teaching Generosity to Kids: The Giving Tree Party Ideas for a Fun Lesson on Kindness

“Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.”

― Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

the giving tree generosity lesson
A childhood classic | Image courtesy Amazon

Over 50 years ago, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein took root in the world. It’s a small, green library classic that has since been gifted at birthday parties, baby showers, and graduation celebrations countless times. Though the exact meaning has been debated, most of us can agree that the overarching lesson is an important: Teaching generosity and kindness to kids.

When I was a little girl, I’d curl up on my grandmother’s floral print couch and pour over the pages of this book. As an adult, I carry with me some very valuable lessons I learned from it, like reminding myself to go barefoot (as the boy in the story does) or focusing on the things I need rather than the things I want. And, perhaps most importantly, this book taught me to be willing to sit next to those who need support, even in silence.

When teaching kids about generosity, like with most things in life it is better to show them than to try to tell them. Children, it seems, often have a natural spirit of giving that can be seen in the way they offer a friend half of their sandwich at lunch or their younger sibling a taste of their ice cream cone. But sometimes the idea of generosity is one that can use some guidance to really bear fruit. And, that’s what’s behind this Giving Tree Party: An opportunity to teach little ones about kindness, sharing, and selflessness with the help of one of the most well-loved books of all time.

Here’s how to pull off a simple yet meaningful get together inspired by The Giving Tree, a storytime party that lets imaginations, and hearts, take flight.

A Giving Tree Lesson Idea: Donating Books to Charity

In The Giving Tree, one of the main lessons comes from the tree who continues to give and give to the boy according to his needs as he moves from one life stage to another. Books themselves are similar in their abilities to influence and affect us: I can pick up certain books from childhood and get just as much meaning from them as I did years ago—sometimes even more with a little more experience and wisdom under my belt.

kids book lessons
Guess How Much I Love You… | Image courtesy Unsplash user Annie Spratt

Books help shape the backbone of a child’s thoughts, experiences, and creative ideas. They have an amazing ability to challenge and question the way a young mind views and connects with their world. So when you send out invites for your generosity gathering, encourage each little guest to bring a copy of their favorite book. Mine, for example, would be any book dreamed up by the imagination of the wondrously wordy Dr. Seuss.

At the party, ask the children to inscribe something simple inside the cover like a quote or a few lines of their favorite passage from the story. What did this story teach them? Why do they read it again and again? What do they hope someone else can learn from it?

Let the children know that, after the party, you will be gathering all of the books up and donating them to a charity, school, or the local library. Sharing a piece of themselves through their favorite story will resonate with your young guests. It’s a simple, yet thoughtful way to give something personal and timeless, to experience reciprocal altruism and learn it can be better to give than to receive. And that is what this activity is meant to inspire, just how simple it can be to give of ourselves from time to time.

Easy DIY Flower Pot Ideas to Watch Generosity Grow

generosity blooms
Generosity sprouts and grows | Image courtesy Unsplash user Alisa Anton

When I was a young girl, I’d spend hours at a time in my grandma’s rose garden picking flowers to create elaborate bouquets for our neighbors alongside all the other nature obsessed kids on the block. It was clear how touched people can be by something as simple as a picked flower delivered to their doorstep. This party activity is an easy DIY for kids of all ages, from toddlers to middle schoolers, but the adults will enjoy it too!

The Supply List:

  • Small watering cans
  • Soil
  • Wildflower seeds

The Directions:

Have each child fill their watering can up with soil, then plant the seeds. These mini wildflower gardens-to-be can be donated to a local business they visit on a regular basis. It’s a unique way for them to see how their generosity grows—literally. The next time your little one ventures in for a dentist appoint or to pick up a gallon of milk, maybe they’ll see their seeds in bloom. This exercise in watching the continued effects of their generosity is one way to help keep them interested in reaching out and sharing a bit of themselves with those around them.

Giving Tree Activities Teach Generosity to Kids

kind acts on leaves
May your kind acts be like leaves on a tree | Image courtesy Etsy seller SunnyLuLuDesign

This Giving Tree activity is an interactive, hands-on way for kids to see how small acts can make a big impact (especially, when we all work together).

Before the party, draw the outline of a bare tree on some butcher paper and hang it on the wall. Then, after everyone has settled down from seed planting, give each child three leaves and have them write down something kind or generous they will do for someone else on each leaf. When they’re finished, read the leaves out loud and tape them onto the bare tree one by one. In the end, you’ll get to see the beauty of how big the tree gets when each person does just a few small acts of kindness.

As an added bonus, keep the tree up for a few months and, amongst the parents, casually keep track of the kids as they follow through on what they committed to. You can even surprise each child with a thank you gift once they’ve completed their three acts of giving to show that our kindness often comes back to us in unexpected ways. Maybe they get two tickets to the movies to share with a friend or two passes for an afternoon ice cream outing with a sibling. It’s a wonderful activity to show how one small act of giving often leads to another.

The Giving Tree Read Aloud Storytelling (With a Sweet Snack)

The read aloud storytelling is my favorite part of The Giving Tree gathering, where we all get to immerse ourselves in the imaginative world of Shel Silverstein. But, before we finally dive into the book, let’s first bake up a sweet snack together.

peach means generosity
You’re a real peach… | Image courtesy Etsy seller BeckeysKountryStore

Below is a simple recipe for a peach pie. Peach blossoms symbolize generosity, so this is a wonderfully symbolic snack to treat your guests to, although you can also substitute apple as a filling, ala the fruit offered by the Giving Tree itself.

The Ingredients List:

  • Pastry (enough for a 9-inch double crust pie)
  • 5 cups fresh peaches, sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter, diced
  • 2 tbsp sugar

The Baking Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Stir flour, cinnamon, and 1 cup of sugar together.
  3. Peel and slice the peaches and mix them together with the dry ingredients.
  4. Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry.
  5. Place peach mixture into the pie pan and top with diced butter.
  6. Layer on the top crust and cut three slits. Seal the edges, then sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Before placing the pie in the oven, cover it with foil so it doesn’t brown. During the last 10 minutes of baking, remove the foil.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is perfectly golden and the juices are bubbling.

After the pie has cooled, if the day is nice you can throw open a few blankets under a backyard tree and read the featured story while the kids each enjoy a slice of fruity pie. You could even make it a popcorn reading where one child reads a few sentences and then passes the book along to someone else to read the next paragraph or so.

One of my favorite quotes of all time (aside from those scattered throughout The Giving Tree) is by Simone de Beauvoir who writes, “That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

The Giving Tree Party is an uplifting and warm gathering. It’s a way to come together and show kids firsthand how simple and wonderful a little generosity and kindness of spirit can be. May we all go out into the world—whether with the help of peach pie, watering cans, or sweet, simple stories—and give our all to generosity, encouraging our kids to do the same.

For more ideas on encouraging kids to give generously, explore our For Kids Gift Guide. Or, connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Creative Hostess Gift Ideas: Easy DIYs Offering Gratitude at Summer Dinner Parties

Creative Hostess Gift Ideas: Easy DIYs Offering Gratitude at Summer Dinner Parties

“I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer—its dust and lowering skies.” – Toni Morrison

dinner party summer spread
Savory summer bites | Photo courtesy Unsplash user Brooke Lark

As the sensations of summer loom on the horizon—the blooming of roses, strawberries making their way to the stands at the farmers’ market, spring sweaters staying put in the closet and being replaced by sundresses—I begin to daydream of summer dinner parties.

As with each new season, my favorite part of summer tends to revolve around gatherings, time spent sharing meals and stories with friends and family. In the warmer months, the options for dinner party dining are plentiful, from tables inside adorned with fresh flowers, to picnic blankets on the lawn, to twinkle-lit decks and patios.

When I receive a summer dinner party invite, I like to be prepared with some creative hostess gift ideas that feel genuinely thoughtful. From a s’mores kit, to a treat yourself lounging bucket, to a picnic basket filled with goodies, here are three of my favorite gifts I like to bring along with me to summer parties. But, more important than the gifts themselves, are the feelings I hope they leave behind: contentment, gratitude, and a little bit of self-indulgence.

A Make Your Own S’mores Kit for the Sweetest Hostess

The tradition of s’mores is one I’ve loved and looked forward to every summer since I was a kid. Whether I’m roasting marshmallows at the beach or around a backyard bonfire, it’s still the sweetest-smelling dessert I’ve ever made. And, as they’re usually reserved for the summertime, they’ll forever remind me of the season of sand, sea, and sun.

s'more summer treats
S’more summer, please | Photo courtesy Etsy seller FavorBoxParty

I love putting together seasonal cookie kits as gifts (a mason jar filled with layers of flour, sugar, and Halloween sprinkles in the fall, anything green and red for winter, and pastel colored M&M’s in the spring), but in summer, I step out of the box, and the jar, and wrap up the makings for ooey-gooey s’mores.

They’re fun to have on hand for last minute camping or beach trips, and they don’t require any time on the recipient’s end spent measuring ingredients or sweating over an oven when it’s hot outside.

The Ingredients List:

  • 1 chocolate bar
  • 2 big marshmallows
  • 2 graham crackers
  • A piece of clear cellophane
  • A length of cute baker’s twine or raffia

To put the kit together, break the chocolate bar and graham crackers in half. Then, on an open piece of cellophane, place two pieces of graham cracker, followed by a piece of chocolate, then the marshmallows, then another piece of chocolate. Top it all off with the last two halves of graham cracker and there you have it! Now just wrap it all up and gift to a lucky hostess.

Hostess Sand Bucket, er… Gift Basket… Ideas

gift basket for summer
Poolside lounging in style | Photo courtesy Etsy seller InfinityLOVECo

This hostess gift is for your friends and family who could use some rest, relaxation, and a bit of lounging. It was inspired by my sister who chases three kids around daily and always feels like a million bucks when she’s able to paint her toenails, slather on some sunscreen, and lay her head back to lounge in the sun with a good book.

Sometimes, summer calls us all to take a few simple moments to unwind and enjoy being by some form of water—and that is exactly what this gift is offering your favorite hostess.

What to Put in a Beach Bag Gift:

  • A pair of flip flops
  • Nail polish
  • Sunglasses
  • Magazines or a new book
  • Sunscreen or lotion
  • A new beach towel

Stuff all these goodies in a sand bucket or woven tote and gift it to a hostess who may be in need of some summer poolside rest and relaxation. Remember, if you don’t want to go with this detailed of a gift, any one of these single items will make a beautiful hostess gift on their own. You know your hostess best and what will encourage her to get footloose and fancy free this summer!

Picnic Basket Gift Ideas for Summer

a summer picnic gift
A picnic ‘neath the shady trees | Photo courtesy Unsplash user Bonnie Kittle

My love for summer picnic baskets started a few years ago and now it knows no limit. Summer evenings spent in Portland always meant packing a basket with favorite things from the local market down the street before venturing to concerts in the park or outdoor gatherings with picnic party foods. We’d grab a baguette, a few selections of cheeses (like bacon cheddar or dill Havarti), a bottle of San Pellegrino, and top it all off with some kind of sweet or tangy spread, like tomato jam homemade from the spring or summer season’s bounty. Throw in some raw vegetables and salumi and you have all everything you need for an easily transportable meal.

This gift is wonderful to bring your hostess in the summer; perhaps it will spark the idea of getting together as a group to venture to some neighborhood outdoor activities. Even if a live concert isn’t on the calendar, there’s still something so nice about spreading a picnic blanket down on the grass, opening a basket, and spending a few hours of the day chatting and eating bit by bit as the summer sun goes down.

To properly pull this hostess gift off, you’ll need:

  • A vintage-style picnic basket (check your local thrift stores)
  • A fresh loaf of bread from a local market or bakery
  • Some specialty cheeses available at high-end marketplaces or local cheese shops
  • Bubbles, like a bottle of San Pellegrino or a light sparkling lemonade
  • Homemade tomato jam, or a locally crafted option from your farmers’ market

A Homemade Tomato Jam Recipe to Preserve Summer’s Bounty

While I like to include my homemade tomato jam in a picnic gift basket, your hostess would be equally delighted with a couple jars of this as a stand alone present as well. Here’s my go-to recipe for preserving summer’s fresh tomato bounty:

summer tomatoes make jam as a gift
Sweet and savory summer tomatoes | Photo courtesy Unsplash user Vince Lee

The Ingredients List:

  • 2 pounds of ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne


The Recipe:

  1. Add the ingredients to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring consistently so that the bottom does not burn.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir until the mixture thickens into a jam. Remove from heat and cool.
  3. Transfer to well-sealed jars and enjoy!

Arrange your jam alongside your other items in your hostess gift basket, or simply add some twine for a rustic bow, then gift as a show of your gratitude for the gathering.

Whether you’re making a sweet treat s’mores kit or pairing a cute pair of flips flops with a brand new towel, I hope these homemade hostess gifts have given you creative tidbits of inspiration for the season of summer dinner parties ahead.

The warm and sunny weather seems to bring along with it the best excuses to gather together and share a meal with those you love. And, it’s always more fun to arrive with full arms and a full heart, offering your own unique token of appreciation to friends and family who generously open their homes and kitchens to you each summer.

For more ideas on hostess gift giving for summertime soirees, explore our summer gift guide. Or, connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Patriotic Party Ideas for Your Memorial Day BBQs and Backyard Block Parties

Patriotic Party Ideas for Your Memorial Day BBQs and Backyard Block Parties

Memorial Day BBQ
A splash of a backyard gathering | Image courtesy Unsplash user Frank Mckenna

Memorial Day signifies the unofficial start of summer when light sweaters are replaced with swim suits and backpacks are replaced with beach bags. Growing up, this often meant holidays spent around a beach bonfire with roasted s’mores, grilled hot dogs, and homemade flag cakes. Some years, the holiday was spent at large backyard gatherings of close friends, with music, swimming, barbecues, and water balloon fights to fill the day.

However you celebrate on May 29th, in honor of those who have sacrificed for us, it’s a day of gratitude. We acknowledge what is most precious to us in life by spending time in the company of family and friends, usually outside with a backyard gathering or barbecue. Whether you’re hosting a small intimate party this year, or a large one, here are four of our favorite activities to enjoy the day in a patriotic way.

Patriotic Words and Phrases for a Memorable Game of Charades

I love charades for its promise of deep belly laughs and getting to look ridiculous while acting out silly scenes with family and friends. I remember the first time I introduced the game to my niece. We were coming up with ways to stay entertained in an empty house that my parents were moving into and, with no board games yet unpacked, we made up our own charades game on index cards. From acting out dolphin dances to pretending to be a scuba diver in search of rare mermaids, the game we created was definitely one with our own unique spin to it.

For Memorial Day, you can put your own twist on this classic game by making it patriotic. Write down the names of famous American places, people, and objects on red, white, and blue notecards, then get all your friends and family together to take turns acting them out. In this version, you can even include props for an overall experience bound to give guests of all ages a good laugh. Here are my favorite cue cards but, as always, feel free to fine tune them and let your creative juices flow!

patriotic photo props
Glitter-dusted liberty props | Image courtesy Etsy seller CraftingbyDenise

Famous American Places, People, and Objects Cue Cards

  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Firecrackers
  • George Washington
  • The Liberty Bell
  • The Constitution
  • Freedom
  • States
  • Picnic
  • Baseball
  • Pie
  • July
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Yankee Doodle
  • The Founding Fathers
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Hot dogs
  • Martin Luther King
  • Hamburgers
  • Ice cream
  • John Hancock
  • The Star Spangled Banner
  • Barack Obama

A Build-Your-Own Hot Dog Bar

Hot dogs will forever remind me of long summer evenings spent at the beach in Southern California. There’s something so quintessentially all-American about them—and the smell as they brown on a charcoal barbecue while you sip on something cool and refreshing. For a Memorial Day BBQ that sticks in your friends’ memories, an epic build-your-own hot dog bar will help keep things simple for you and fun for your guests.

We all know the typical staples—ketchup, mustard, perhaps some pickle relish. But, add some unique toppings and your hot dogs will go from everyday to holiday party fare. You can even buy some flag toothpicks as the pièces de résistance of your hot dog decor.

build your own hot dog bar
Hot dogs on the BBQ | Image courtesy Unsplash user Matt Heaton

The best part about this spread? You can arrange it all before the afternoon of your BBQ. Then, when it’s time to cook, just leisurely turn the hot dogs on the grill while you stand back enjoying the company of your guests. Here’s how I like to arrange my own hot dog bar masterpieces:

The Sauces:

  • Mustard—both Yellow Mustard and Honey
  • Ketchup
  • Garlic aioli
  • Chipotle sauce
  • Barbecue sauces in Smokey and Honey varieties
  • Hot sauces of all kinds

The Toppings:

  • Chopped sweet onions
  • Chopped bacon bits
  • Crushed potato chips
  • Crushed bbq chips
  • Baked beans
  • Chopped pickles or relish
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Grilled onions
  • Feta cheese
  • Cheddar cheese

The Buns:

Don’t hold back when it comes to your buns. There’s white, wheat, and even gluten free. Providing a variety of buns lets guests feel like they’re getting a slightly fancier version of the typical hot dog spread and allows them to fine-tune their meal to their own tastes.

The Dogs:

As I do with the buns, I throw a variety of hot dogs on the barbecue, from beef franks to chicken sausages to turkey dogs—even a vegetarian option.

Flag-Raisingly Fun Cake Decorating Party Games

american flag cake topper banner
Sweetly patriotic | Image courtesy Etsy seller SoSimpleSoSweet

When I was a kid, my mom would often include cake decorating as an activity at our birthday parties rather than having the cake pre-made ahead of time. She’d put out sprinkles, different colored frostings, and toppings of all sorts. To this day, she is still the queen of uniquely whimsical birthday party ideas—and of the annual 4th of July flag cake, which is what inspired this next idea.

Cake decorating party games are a sweet option to while away an afternoon, especially when sprinkled with a small dose of competition to make things exciting. For this activity, you’ll want to start by giving teams of two a small, pre-baked square cake and bowls of white frosting.

The point is for everyone to work together in teams to use red, white, and blue toppings to see who can come up with the most accurately patriotic American flag. Cakes can then be displayed a long table and a winning team selected by a panel of cake-judges. Whichever team wins can take home a prize, like a mason jar filled with red, white, and blue candies or a patriotic pint glass.

Flag-inspired Cake Toppings:

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • cherries
  • raspberries
  • yogurt covered pretzels
  • coconut shreds
  • red sprinkles
  • blue sprinkles
  • red licorice
  • mini marshmallows
  • red, white, and blue M&Ms

Give your guests a time limit of a half hour and when the bell dings, time’s up and voting begins. Extra points for accuracy—and deliciousness!

Water Balloon Dodgeball

water balloons for memorial day games
A colorful assortment of water balloons | Image courtesy Unsplash user Aaron Burden

When my brother and I were growing up, hot summer days often meant spending hours filling the huge sink in the laundry room with massive amounts of squishy water balloons. Then, we’d gather a few friends from the neighborhood, venture outside amongst the lemon and avocado trees, and let the water balloon dodge ball dance begin.

For this game, you might want to encourage guests to come in swimsuits or have a change of clothes on hand as they’re bound to get soaked. Fill red, white, and blue water balloons and, to give the game a twist, hide a soft prize inside a few of them. Let the guests throw and dodge until all the balloons are gone and a winner prevails. Then, encourage everyone to search the lawn for the prizes. Whoever finds them gets to keep them, along with a gift card to a local movie theater to help beat the soon-to-be-summer heat.

Whether you’re celebrating Memorial Day with a few close family members or hosting a block party for the entire neighborhood, we hope these ideas have given you some patriotic party-planning inspiration. From charades to dodgeball to a hot dog bar, enjoy spending the long afternoon in the sunshine with the company of those you love.

For more ideas on patriotic parties and gift giving, explore our Memorial Day Gift Guide or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Mother’s Day Party Game Ideas and Family Activities That Are as Unique as Mom

Mother’s Day Party Game Ideas and Family Activities That Are as Unique as Mom

playing games with mom
Mamas are the best playmates | Image courtesy Unsplash user Thiago Cerqueira

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” —Stevie Wonder

On Sunday May 14th, we celebrate mothers, motherhood, and all motherly bonds. This year, as a way to pay tribute to Mom and all the holidays she’s planned, prepared, and beautifully hosted, we’ve rounded up some ideas on how to throw a Mother’s Day party complete with game ideas and fun activities.

From mom-inspired bingo to creating a new annual tradition of The Mom Awards and a sibling-selected one-of-a-kind bouquet, here are seven ways to say I love you this Mother’s Day. Here’s to you, mom, for all you do!

Mother’s Day Bingo Party Games to Call Out Mom’s Quirks

custom tea bingo
If mama loves her tea | Image courtesy Etsy seller BingoShop4U

Bingo is a go-to in the world of party games. On Mother’s Day, customize your bingo cards completely to cater to Mom. Put together a list of fun questions and use the answers as your bingo space-fillers.

Here are some ideas for questions to show off how well you know your mama:

  • What is mom’s pet peeve?
  • What is her go-to outfit for running errands?
  • What is the last movie that made her cry?
  • What book is mom reading right now?
  • What food does mom refuse to cook?
  • What is mom’s most used saying?

You can make your own customized bingo cards on the computer or find pre-made, downloadable cards online. Then, it’s time to get creative with your bingo markers.

My mom’s favorite candy is peanut M&M’s, so I’ll be putting out a big bowl of them to act as markers—and snacks. Pick anything small that reminds you of your mom—something she’ll be happy to keep, or eat, when the game is over.

Family Cook-Off Ideas to Get Mom Out of the Kitchen

homemade salad recipe
Don’t forget the salad | Image courtesy Unsplash user Brooke Lark

Sometimes, when siblings gather at mom’s house, she’s the one to cook up a meal for the group. Instead, my idea is a family cook-off to give Mom a break from the kitchen—and the rest of us to show off the culinary skills she’s inspired in us.

Have each member of the family whip up a dish for the event; fresh spring foods that bring outdoor picnics to mind are perfect for Mother’s Day luncheons or early Sunday dinners. If little ones want to get involved, help them throw together something simple like a Mediterranean salad made with spring mix, tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, and olives with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing.

When the meal is ready to be served, have Mom try to guess who made which dish. Which of her kids is the meatball maker? The cupcake queen? The master of all things green and veg? An interactive meal will make for a memorable Mother’s Day event. You could even vote for the best dish amongst yourselves and whoever wins can offer to do the dishes as a present for Mom!

Handmade Mother’s Day Card Ideas

I’ve always tried to follow the etiquette behind thank you notes, and enjoy making handmade cards for any occasion, but especially for Mother’s Day because mom is particularly wired to appreciate something made just for her. I especially love the idea behind making what I call “combined” cards, or cards that are from several family members.

best mom ever card
Let your card do the talking | Image courtesy Etsy seller SimplyCBoutique

For this interactive Mother’s Day card activity, work alongside your family to come up with a card theme for Mom, something like “In mom’s home we…” Write out the phrase at the top of the card and let the ideas flow from there. Maybe your first line is, “We say only kind words,” and your brother adds, “We watch the sunsets,” and your sister includes, “We eat dessert first.”

At the end, you’ll have a long card that goes back and forth between you and other family members and is entirely unique to traditions your mom has created for your family. You can come up with your own theme, or try one of the ideas below:

  • In mom’s home we…
  • My mom is…
  • What we love about you, mom…
  • If I could give you anything, it would be…
  • I love mom more than…

A Truly Unique Flower Bouquet for Mom

fancy flowers for mom
Fanciful flowers for mom | Image courtesy Etsy seller theflowerpatch

When I was younger, my siblings and I would spend hours outdoors in search of the perfect flowers for Mom’s bouquets, from wild daisies to snapdragons to sunflowers. Today, instead of bringing separate flowers to mom on Mother’s Day, we each choose a unique flower to bring and arrange them all into one large bouquet that differs from year to year. In addition to this being a fun and creative activity, the floral spreads are always unique—unlike any Mom has seen or received before.

Make sure to snap some photos so that each year you can look back on bouquets past. If you’d like, you can even give the bouquets a theme, like Gathered from the Garden or Lovely, Lively Yellows. DIY floral gifts for Mother’s Day are a wonderfully fresh way to give a sweet smelling thank you to the mom in your life.

Family Photo Ideas for Mother’s Day

photo props
Moms loves a good laugh | Image courtesy Etsy seller delphineblue

As a kid, you may have fought with your mom over having to partake in family photos. When I was younger, we’d put on Christmas sweaters in November and traipse begrudgingly through the grove in the still-warm San Diego sun. But today, I love going to my parent’s house and reminiscing over old Christmas shots; it reminds me that all the complaints received from my siblings and I were worth it for Mom.

This Mother’s Day, set up a spot in the house or yard to take family photos—no complaining allowed. This so easy it can even be done as a last minute DIY gift for mom, no elaborate plans required. You can make them silly with props found at the dollar store, like big glasses and tape on mustaches. Or, you can make them a bit more serious by having everyone bring a solid colored shirt or sweater, take the shot on a simple backdrop, and create the illusion of a styled studio shot. Whatever suits the personality of your family best is what Mom will love the most.

Mom Awards Are a Sweet Treat

mom award
And the award goes to… | Image courtesy Etsy seller Littlepictureco

I don’t need to know your mom to know she probably deserves an award or two. The Mom Awards are all about making your mom feel recognized for everything she does for your family.

Have each family member come up with their own award for mom, from The Best Smiler in the Face of Spills to Fastest Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich Maker Ever. Then, present Mom with the award at an evening ceremony sweetened up with dessert bites and sparkling grape juice in flutes.

Awards can be anything from seashells to trophies to certificates, and the desserts can also be a wink, wink at showing mom how much she’s loved. Here are a few ideas for what to serve that have a hidden message just for mom:

  • Cheesecake bites because she deserves a bit of indulgence
  • Strawberries and whipped cream because she’s naturally sweet
  • Heart-shaped cookies because you love her
  • Lemon bars because even when you do something sour, she still turns it around for good
  • Chocolate cupcakes because she needs chocolate—double chocolate, in fact

Recreate the Best Memories of Your Mom

reading with mom
Recreating memories | Image courtesy Unsplash user Annie Spratt

When I was a kid, my brother and I would climb into our bunk beds every evening and my mom would sit propped up at the side with a pillow to read us a bedtime story. First, it was picture books like The Maggie B., then, as we got older, it was Judy Blume’s chapter books like Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Whichever book she read, we always looked forward to that time of day—every day—and grew up with a love for reading and words because of it.

Put a twist on the classic bedtime stories Mom used to read to you this year and host Mom-Time Stories. Everyone can pick and read passages from her favorite books, quotes she lives by, or parts of books she used to read to you all as kids, like Dr. Seuss or Peter Pan. Even song lyrics work. Whatever you choose, the words will be special and speak to your own mother’s personal story of motherhood.

Whether you’re celebrating your mother, or someone who represents all that a mother is—compassion, care, strength, beauty, resilience—our hope is that these ideas will create an exciting event for you to come together with people you love this Mother’s Day and share laughs and memories. From bingo to a collaborative card, possibilities abound. The real focus is on being together, showing love, and, of course, celebrating all things Mom.

From all of us here at Elfster, Happy Mother’s Day! We know you’ll make it a beautiful one.

For more mom-spiration and gift ideas, explore our Mom Gift Guide or download our free Mother’s Day Card printable!. Or, connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

Last Minute DIY Mother’s Day Gifts: Elegant Breakfast in Bed Ideas for Mom

Last Minute DIY Mother’s Day Gifts: Elegant Breakfast in Bed Ideas for Mom

breakfast in bed
Life’s little luxuries | Image courtesy Unsplash user Toa Heftiba

The smell of coffee, morning sun streaming in through the window, the tang of freshly squeezed orange juice—there’s nothing quite as special as a thoughtfully prepared breakfast in bed to fill a soul up with happy content.

The older I get, the more I can comprehend why moms enjoy—and very much deserve—a luxurious sleep-in every so often. They get to stretch out, ignore the alarm clock, and not have to think twice about cracking an egg, flipping a pancake, or pouring their own coffee. That’s why I’ve put together all the necessary ingredients for a delicious last minute DIY Mother’s Day gift surprise.

Here are my favorite breakfast in bed ideas for mom. From the vase that holds the flowers to the mug that holds the coffee to the tray that holds it all, make it handmade for to embrace minimalist giving while still offering gifts that feel extravagant—and straight from the heart.

DIY Dot Mugs That Are Dishwasher Safe

My mom still keeps a ceramic coffee cup on her kitchen counter that I made in elementary school. To this day, I watch her refill that coveted homemade mug up with pride. And when she’s not using it, it sits alongside one that my niece made her with photos of some of their favorite shared memories plastered to the side.

dot mugs dishwasher safe
Dot, dot, dot | Image courtesy Etsy seller LucySuiSF

The idea of a mug decorated with acrylic paint is a simple one, but it never goes out of style. When it comes to creating this gift at the last minute, I’ve found a gold dotted mug is the perfect balance between crafty and quick.

The Supply List:

  • An oven safe white mug
  • Gold acrylic paint (oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe)
  • Multi-sized circle sponges

Crafting Instructions:

  1. Make sure your mug is clean of any stickers, dirt, or fingerprints.
  2. Next, dip your sponge in your gold paint and stamp your polka dots.
  3. Bake the mug in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then let sit for 24 hours to set.
  4. Wash, then gift while mom lounges with breakfast in bed!

If your mom is a true coffee lover of Friends proportions, present the mug to her alongside her own pot of locally roasted French press coffee. A dollop of whipped cream on top and a sprinkle of cinnamon make this an extra sweet treat.

Twine-Wrapped Glass Vase Gift Ideas

Flower bouquets are a classic Mother’s Day gift, though they can sometimes feel impersonal. To give them your own twist, try these DIY twine-wrapped vases. They’re a super simple present for mom that will let your fresh cut flowers take on a refreshingly custom spin.

twine wrapped vases
Twine is divine | Image courtesy Etsy seller 4thAvenueWoodworking

You can leave the decor simple and rustic, or you can see what sort of things you find around the house, on Etsy, or at your local craft store. If your mom loves the beach, glue on some seashells that you pocketed on a recent trip. If she likes jewelry, pick out some artful beads to add a bit of color. Possibilities abound with this crafty homemade gift that even toddlers can help out with.

The Supply List:

  • A glass bottle, anything from a wine bottle to a leftover jam jar
  • Rustic twine or string
  • A hot glue gun
  • Decorations (optional)
  • Fresh cut spring flowers

Crafting Instructions:

Starting at the bottom of the vase, add a drop of glue and press the end of the twine into it. Add more glue, wrapping twine as you go around the vase from the bottom up. Wrap and glue, wrap and glue, wrap and glue—a little bit at a time. Once you get in the rhythm of this craft, you’ll realize how simple it is. Hot glue your decor over the twine, if you’d like, then arrange your flowers inside, maybe also adding some greenery for extra color. Whether you fill your vase with wildflowers you picked in your backyard or a bouquet of red roses you picked up at the store, they’re sure to shine wrapped in twine!

An Easy DIY Wooden Serving Tray

The sight of a beautiful wooden breakfast serving tray being carried into a bedroom doesn’t have to be reserved for Pinterest accounts and home magazines; there are tons of creative ways to put together your own handmade trays simply and in a short amount of time.

rustic serving tray
Simple, rustic elegance | Image courtesy Etsy seller TheStationHome

I love when folks use chalk paint to personalize their trays, or tiles to create interesting mosaics. But for a quick and easy reclaimed scrap wood gift, I’ve found this tray to be the easiest one to create. And, if you’re super short on time, you don’t even have to paint it at all—just add handles. It will be beautiful however you make it.

The Supply List:

  • A piece of reclaimed wood approx. 19 ½” long x 13 ¾” wide
  • Simple steel handles
  • Paint or wood finish
  • A drill

Crafting Instructions:

  1. Salvage a tray-sized piece of wood, or have one cut to size at a hardware store.
  2. Paint—or don’t!
  3. When the paint is dry, attach your handles. I’d suggest going with handles that have visible screws from the top so you can easy screw them down.
  4. You’ve just DIY’ed a breakfast tray fit for a Mother’s Day queen!

A Homemade Butter Croissants Recipe

The idea of making croissants tends to scare some of us away; they look so elaborate and detailed. But, in reality, beautiful, buttery homemade croissants require less than ten ingredients—many of which you probably have on hand in your kitchen already. Plus, once you get the technique down, the art of croissant making will become second nature to you. You just may find yourself in your kitchen weekend after weekend, windows open, the smells of a French bakery enveloping your every sense. Here’s how to whip up a buttery batch for your mom’s breakfast in bed.

homemade buttery croissants
Beautiful and buttery | Image courtesy Unsplash user Alisa Anton

The Ingredients List:

For the Butter Mixture

  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup flour

For the Dough

  • ¼ oz active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 cup warmed whole milk
  • ¼ cup cane sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 ½ cups flour

 

 

Baking Instructions:

  1. Beat your butter and flour until combined in a small bowl.
  2. On a piece of parchment paper, spread the mixture into a 6 x 12” rectangle. Cover this with an additional piece of parchment and pop into the fridge for about an hour and 15 minutes.
  3. In a big bowl, dissolve your yeast in warm water, then add the milk, sugar, egg, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour to form a dough.
  4. Move the dough onto a floured surface and knead with your hands for about 7 minutes or until it becomes smooth and elastic. Roll it into a 12-14” square.
  5. Take your butter mix from the fridge and remove the top layer of parchment paper. Place it top-side down over half of the dough, then remove the additional piece of parchment. Fold the remaining dough over the butter and seal the edges.
  6. Roll the dough into a rectangle of about 12 x 20” then fold the rectangle in half by bringing each side to meet in the middle. Repeat this rolling and folding action two more times. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  7. The next day, unwrap the dough and, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a 20 x 25” rectangle. Cut that rectangle into 5” squares, then cut each square diagonally in half to form two triangles.
  8. Finally, shape your croissants! Roll the triangles up beginning from the wide end then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you’d like them to have the traditional croissant crescent shape, curve the ends down. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  9. Bake for 12 minutes at 375 degrees.
  10. Serve them to your mother warm, alongside her steaming hot coffee!

Whether you’ve been planning an elaborate Mother’s Day for a month, or you end up throwing something together the day before, we have a sneaking suspicion here at Elfster that your mom (or any mom you may be celebrating) will love it just the same.

From croissants to gold-dotted mugs, the components of a special breakfast in bed are made whimsical and wonderful by what they represent from the gift-giver—love, appreciation, and the desire to say, Unwind. Relax. Enjoy the slow pace of your morning—you deserve it.” Gifts to encourage a calm and serene mind are always well-loved, especially by moms.

From all of us here at Elfster, a happy Mother’s Day to you and yours! May it be lovely and love-filled.

For more gift-giving inspiration for your mom, visit our Mother’s Day gift guide. Or join the Elfster world on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram. We can’t wait to meet you!

DIY Mother’s Day Flower Arrangements Picked Fresh to Surprise Mom with a Classic

DIY Mother’s Day Flower Arrangements Picked Fresh to Surprise Mom with a Classic

“A mother is one who fills your heart in the first place.” Amy Tan

DIY floral bouquet
A bouquet of beauty | Image courtesy Unsplash user Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Flowers are so naturally and intrinsically linked to Mother’s Day gifts. When I was a kid, I can recall using every last piece of pink and red colored tissue paper in the house to create a special faux flower bouquet for my mom, Nini. One year I tried to perfect the art of piping frosting in the shape of her favorite flower, plumerias, on top of a double chocolate cake. I also have memories of wrapping green tape around her most-used pen to secure a rose at the top and presenting it to her while she sat at her desk organizing her stationary.

Flowers, celebrating the bounty of the spring season, and my mom are all irrevocably linked in my memories. This saying often comes to mind, “I’d rather wear flowers around my hair than diamonds around my neck.” If it brings a vision of your mom to mind as well, these DIY Mother’s Day flower arrangements are freshly picked for her.

Happy Mother’s Day, to my mom and all the moms who appreciate the beauty of the natural world—and the ways in which it inspires their daughters.

An M-O-M Floral Alphabet

Once you’ve seen how fun creating these colorful floral letters can be, you may just find yourself doing it for everyone, from your mother to the mail lady. I like to simply spell out MOM with my letters, but you could also choose a nickname or short family saying. Then I wrap the letters individually to create more of a surprise element—what are the letters going to spell? Interspersed within my layers of eco-friendly wrapping paper or tissue, I’ll hide Hershey’s kisses, photographs, and even seashells I’ve picked up from various beaches while traveling. I think opening a gift should be part of the fun!

floral alphabet letter
F is for flower | Image courtesy Etsy seller HelloLittleBear

Many friends I know love using silk flowers on this craft so their floral alphabet stays lovely forever. I personally enjoy the look and smell of fresh mini roses, so often use those instead, even though they wilt in a day or two. Either way, your gift will be naturally beautiful—and your mother will love it.

The Supply List:

  • Silk (or fresh) flowers
  • Cardboard letters
  • Glue gun

Instructions:

  1. First, cut the flowers as close to the stem as you can.
  2. Next, arrange the flowers starting from one end of the letter and working up or down from there. Sometimes, an ombre hued color scheme can be fun. Or, start with the smallest buds at the top and the largest at the bottom.
  3. Try not to let the flowers droop too much over the edge. A little extra is fine, but keeping them in line with the letters will make your alphabet appear more uniform. I’m normally one for organic shapes, but in this case, neatness works in your favor.
  4. Once you have the flowers where you want them, glue them into place on the letter and watch your floral alphabet take shape.

A Photo Flower Pot Bouquet

flower pot bouquet
Terracotta whimsy | Image Unsplash seller Gemma Evans

Even a simple floral arrangement can make a bold statement. But, if you’re looking to change things up for Mom this year, opt for a flower pot bouquet that uniquely integrates photos of the two of you. It’s super simple and sure to please. I like to choose pictures that conjure up old memories and stir up conversations. The best part? This is a therapeutic craft that can be done while sitting outside and sipping iced tea in the sunshine.

The Supply List:

  • Mod Podge (I prefer matte finish over gloss)
  • A foam or sponge brush
  • Your favorite photos
  • A hot glue gun
  • A terracotta pot

Instructions:

  1. First, print out your image or images. Make sure the size fits on the pot you’re using. I find the simplicity of one photo in the center looks minimal but beautiful, though you can work with multiple photos if you’d like.
  2. Cut the photos and decoupage them onto your planter. Decoupage, if you’re new to this whole thing, is simply the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it.
  3. Once they’re decoupaged down, seal them in with 3 coats of Mod Podge, the wonder worker. Let each coat dry on its own before applying the next.
  4. And that’s it! It’s one of the simplest and best looking floral mother’s day gifts out there. Just add flowers!

DIY Dried Flower Candles

floral candle
DIY dried flower candles | Image courtesy Etsy seller CuteThingsOnEtsy

This sweet craft combines two of my mom’s favorites—flowers and candles! You will have to prepare this one ahead of time though, or buy dried flowers if this is a last minute gift for mom.

The Supply List:

  • Pressed flowers (directions below)
  • Pillar candles
  • Paraffin wax
  • A double boiler
  • A metal spoon
  • A paintbrush

Instructions:

  1. First, you’ll want to preserve your flowers. The easiest way to do this is by placing them between two pieces of wax paper, then between the pages of a heavy book. Add pressure by placing a large rock on top. Let sit for two weeks.
  2. Next, use a metal spoon and a double boiler to heat your paraffin wax over low heat, continuously stirring.
  3. Dip a paintbrush into the wax and form a coat over the part of the candle that you want to decorate. Press the flowers into this coat of wax, then apply a second coat. Let cool for 25 minutes.
  4. Using a dry cloth, softly buff the candle before gifting.

A Hanging Flower Chandelier

This flower chandelier is delicate, unique, and perfect for all of the truly special moms out there. You only need a few items to create whimsy and a spring flourish of color—and maybe a DIY spirit.

floral hanging chandelier
A sky full of flowers | Image courtesy Etsy seller BegoniaRoseCo

Put on a playlist of your mother’s favorite songs, hang this over the dining room table, and plan a spring-inspired dinner or picnic party for you and your family. It’s simple. It’s creative. It’s so very special.

The Supply List:

  • Long floral stems, like snapdragons
  • A 10-inch embroidery hoop
  • Washi tape
  • Clear thread
  • A metal ring
  • A needle

Instructions:

  1. Begin by wrapping your embroidery hoop with washi tape.
  2. Then, thread a needle through the stems of your snapdragons, pulling it all the way through.
  3. Next, bring both ends of the thread around the embroidery hoop, letting your snapdragons hang below it so that stem isn’t smashed up against the washi tape—about an inch or two. Tie the thread in a double knot and trim the remaining loose end of the thread.
  4. To make the chandelier easy to hang, tie three pieces of thread equal distances from one another. Then, bring them together at the top and tie them onto a metal ring.

Like the wonderful Maya Angelou once said, “I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”

Whether you’re using fresh flowers or felt ones, creating a timeless floral gift for your mom or someone who embodies everything the title of mom means to you, is bound to create special moments and memories this Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day from the entire Elfster family. May your day be filled with flowers and magic, friends.

For more floral gift-giving inspiration for mom, visit our Mother’s Day gift guide. Or join the Elfster world on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfstergram. We can’t wait to meet you!

Whimsical English High Tea Party Ideas for a Non-Traditional Spring Birthday Celebration

Whimsical English High Tea Party Ideas for a Non-Traditional Spring Birthday Celebration

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” – Thich Nat Hahn

nontraditional birthday celebration
Whimsy and tea | Image courtesy Unsplash user delfi de la Rua

I love everything that tea parties stand for—the warmth, the conversation, the feel-good nature of them. I have similar feelings about birthday parties, so once I came up with the idea to combine the two, I was one happy gal.

I threw an all-ages high tea gathering for my sister’s 30th birthday last year so we could include my niece, who was still a toddler at the time. It was intimate and hosted outdoors, with whimsical twists on traditional food and decor. I added a few touches of magic to the surroundings by way of bright whites and flowers, put my own creative spin on the tea sandwiches, added a charcuterie spread, and even included an interactive dessert that allowed both parents and their little ones to express their artistic freedom through cupcakes.

The birthday celebration itself wasn’t exactly traditional, but I wanted to somehow still give the guests the feel of a classic English high tea party, so I sent them home with party favor bags of scones and preserves to have the next morning with a warm mug of Earl Grey. It was a quiet gathering filled with softly spoken conversations that left time for tea-drinking and all the goodness it brings—most importantly, enjoying the company and companionship of those you’re with.

Here are some ideas on how to recreate the gathering yourself. Here’s to throwing a tea party even Alice would be proud of!

Magic and Whimsy Wherever You Go

flower tea pot
Flowers + Tea Pots = Whimsy | Image courtesy Unsplash user Shruthi Gowda

It honestly doesn’t take much imbue a party with an air of magic and whimsy. This celebration can be hosted indoors or out. Here are three tips that will take any space from mundane to magnificent:

Tip #1: Shop around at vintage and antique shops in search of old tea pots. Or, gather them from family and friends so they hold memories and stories within them. Use these as your floral bouquet holders and when the party is over, send each guest home with one, or with their borrowed kettle now full of wildflowers.

Tip #2: White naturally adds whimsy to any space. Go for big bunches of white helium balloons around the table and in the background. Use white fabric for your tablecloth and napkins. Bring out your clean, white plates and cups to serve from. Keep it easy and minimal, adding only a few pastels here and there. Add clear twinkle lights if you’d like; even during the day, twinkle lights tend to add a special touch to your surroundings.

Tip #3: Fancy things up with rustic greenery and twigs. Sprigs of lavender always look beautiful, too, if you have them available to you.

Serving a Spread to Delight and Surprise

Fun and fancy is the golden rule for classic tea party food. But, I like to bring some twists to the traditional in two ways. First, I jazz up the tea sandwiches, avoiding the expected cucumber and cream cheese or chicken salad options. Then, I take bread and butter to the next level by adding a simple charcuterie spread to the table. Here’s my idea of a modern high tea snack:

charcuterie spread
A simply beautiful charcuterie spread | Image courtesy Unsplash user Jessica Ruscello

A Classic Charcuterie Spread

In addition to your bread and butter, add jams, nuts, hunks of cheese, sliced apples, an assortment of salami, and other in-season fruits. A spread like this will make your table look beautiful, but it will also give your guests variety with a side of surprise.

Fresh Caprese Tea Sandwiches

I like to make mine with fresh basil, a slice of mozzarella, a thick tomato slice, a drizzle of balsamic, and some black pepper and sea salt. Any kind of bread will do, but I prefer soft sliced bread cut into triangles to evoke traditional tea sandwiches.

Fanciful PB&J

I spread natural peanut butter and an assortment of homemade jams onto white bakery bread. Then, I use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes, like hearts and stars.

When you serve your spread, don’t forget the tea! And, most importantly, the dessert…

Build Your Own Cupcake Bar

A hands-on activity (especially one that involves a sugar high) is great if young guests are starting to get tired from the tea, the chatting, and the sitting.

DIY cupcake stands
A delightful DIY cupcake stand | Image courtesy Etsy seller myEroom

First things first, before I build the cupcakes, though, I like to build the cupcake stands. For this DIY birthday show stopper, I suggest going thrifting to find a few colorful China plates and tea cups. In addition, you can also reach out to friends and family to see if they have any they’re looking to get rid of so you can upcycle them.

To create the cake stand, all you have to do is glue the plate to the cup and there you have it—one single-tiered plate stand.

Then comes the tasty part! For the cupcake bar ingredients, I like to bake up vanilla cupcakes and set out an assortment of colored buttercream frostings. Pastel colors, in particular, seem to add that extra fanciful element to a tea party, along with the vintage china.

For the toppings, I focus on all things sprinkles! I like to mix and match white bowls brimming with pastel sprinkles, primary colored sprinkles, and shaped sprinkles, too. You can, of course, add more toppings to your cupcake bar. I just love the simplicity of a “sprinkle” of color on a plain white cupcake. But here are some other interesting ideas for unexpected toppings:

  • Diced fresh fruit
  • Chocolate chips
  • Coconut shreds

High-Minded Scone and Preserve Party Favors

Does anything seem more tea party-esque than scones and preserves? I don’t serve them at the gathering itself because I like to keep people excited about the tea sandwiches, the cupcakes, and the charcuterie spread. But, I do love to send my guests home with a party favor pack of homemade scones and mini jams.

blueberry scones
Handmade blueberry scones | Image courtesy Unsplash user Brook Lark

Here’s my go-to simple scone recipe. It’s an easy one I started making with my grandma when I was a kid, and it now seems to be ingrained in my memory! Feel free to add in your fruit of choice, like blueberries or blood oranges.

The Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, frozen
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

The Baking Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine your first four ingredients in a large bowl, then grate in your frozen butter. Use your fingers to work it in. It will look a bit coarse, but that’s okay.
  3. In a small bowl, mix your egg and milk, then stir it into the flour mixture.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, take your dough and knead it. Roll it out into a circle about 1/2 thick before cutting it into 8 triangle-shaped wedges.
  5. Place the scones on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and get ready to indulge in a sweet treat.
  6. Wrap your scones in a favor bag alongside your jam to gift away in minimal fashion (I’m all about embracing that minimalist gift-giving trend of 2017).
kid tea party
Tea for all ages | Image courtesy Flick’r user RebeccaVC1

As children, many of us got together, sat in circles, and drank pretend tea. As adults, it becomes more rare to focus on that element of simplicity and magic. That’s why I love to make my tea parties whimsical and fancy-filled by thinking outside of the box, putting my own spin on them, and inspiring guests to host their own tea-infused traditions as well. Because no matter what the gathering entails, the true tradition remains the same: to be together, sip on a cup of something warm, and chat the day away.

For more tea-spiration on gatherings and gift giving, explore our Tea Gift Guide, or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.