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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

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!

National Send a Card to a Friend Day: Letter Writing Inspirations and Ideas

National Send a Card to a Friend Day: Letter Writing Inspirations and Ideas

“Oh, my stars! It’s a letter from dear Willeford! He’s writing from far off America!”

3d butterfly card
Say it in 3D | Image courtesy Etsy seller anasdesignshop

You’ve probably watched a scene just like this one on some BBC period drama, with sumptuous clothes and weirdly bad lighting and various viscounts—and a character exclaiming delightedly at receiving a letter.

It’s almost unimaginable that there was a time when you could go months without word from a loved one, instead of reading about the daily life of grade-school acquaintances on social media. But there’s also probably a twinge of regret; regret that you don’t get letters anymore. The mail is often nothing more than ads and bills—there’s no mystery.

We’ve gained so much from instant communication, but we’ve also lost something. That’s why we’re so excited that National Send a Card to a Friend Day is coming around this February 7th. When you send a card, a letter, or an e-greeting, you’re giving so much more than a piece of paper. You’re giving a gift of yourself. You’re giving the gift of words. You’re sending love in an envelope—even if it’s a digital one.

Greeting Cards Are an Unexpected Event

chalkboard style card
Cards that send a message | Image courtesy Amazon seller Note Card Cafe

If you’re like me, when you get a card in the mail, you look at the envelope a few times, almost confused. You see the return address with a familiar name, but it’s not your birthday. It’s not Christmas. It’s just…a day. And that’s when you start to get excited.

You’re excited because it’s unexpected. It could be an invitation to a party, or the announcement of a baby. You open it, and it’s a note. It’s a card, hand-written. It’s heartfelt. It matters because the meaning behind it is that you were thought of.

And it’s the same with an e-card. We get so much junk and nonsense in our inboxes and social media feeds all day that the unexpected ping of something sent just because you’re you makes an enormous difference. The surprise of an e-card cuts through the chaff of our never-emptying inbox, and sends the gift of brightness.

Now, with this holiday, it’s not about everyone getting a card on the 7th. That would be had to coordinate, given the times it takes mail to be delivered. Of course, you can do that with e-cards but, otherwise, we’re looking to send them on the 7th. So get some blank cards, stock up on envelopes, stretch out your hand, and put pen to paper.

Prompts and Inspirations to Send Your Love

Obviously, we can’t tell you exactly what to say, but we can give some ideas, some prompts, some bits of inspiration:

vintage letter art print
Reading a letter used to be an everyday scene | Image courtesy Etsy seller OakwoodView

Send best wishes. Remember that these cards don’t have to be written to your best friend in the whole world. They can be to a relative you don’t talk to enough, an acquaintance with whom your main interaction is the occasional Facebook “like,” or an old neighbor who you used to hang out with until you moved away. Just send a card saying you’re thinking about them, and hope they’re doing well. Tell them you miss them. And that’s enough.

Send something personal. All cards are inherently personal, but make sure that what you’re writing isn’t mass-produced, but directed to a specific person. Ask something about them, let them know that you’re writing with them in mind. We don’t expect this from an invitation or a thank you note from a wedding, but when sending a card out of the blue, take the time to make it a reflection of your relationship.

Send your personality. Remember that while you’re sending the card to a person, you’re sending it from yourself. So find a card that reflects who you are, and how you’re feeling. Are you sending warmth and love? Are you feeling goofy? Do you want to send cute animals or cute actors (goslings and Goslings)? The writing is what matters, of course, but you also want to make sure the card makes people think of you with a smile on their face when they see it.

llama greeting card
Hay, girl! There’s a card for any personality | Image courtesy Etsy seller GreymountPaperPress

Send gratitude. Sometimes, you just want to tell a person that you appreciate them. It might be for doing you a solid one time, or it might be because you’re happy they exist, just knowing that they’re out there with their own personalities, with their greatness and their flaws, with their huge heart and goofy laugh. You’re grateful that you know them. Your life is better for knowing them. Because life is measured by the people we let into our hearts, and who we are is shaped by those around us.

Send a photo. I know there are over 82,000 pictures of you online, most of which involve cake of some kind, for some reason. Those are cool, but there’s something great about holding a tangible photo. If you have a real, printed picture of you with a friend or family memeber, whether you printed it off your phone or dug it out of a shoebox, that matters. It moves from ephemeral to tangible. It’s a great thing to get in a card. It’s an amber-captured smile.

Send something funny. I once got a card from an old friend of mine telling me a goofy story that just happened to her. She said that only I would get why it was so funny, and it cracked me up. It reminded me of absurd things happening when we would hang out and how we’d laugh like idiots until everyone else backed off, confused. A card doesn’t have to be ooey-gooey to be meaningful. The funny story reminded me of our friendship, and was an incredible thing to get out of the blue. I felt that old connection every time I looked at it. And I laughed. That’s not a bad deal.

stationary set
A stationary set to inspire | Image courtesy Etsy seller DPanesarillustration

Send a memory. A card is something that you’ll dig up a few years later, buried in a drawer or a scrapbook, and you’ll remember when you got it, and how exciting it was. But the card itself can contain a memory. You can write someone and say, “I was just thinking of that time we drove all night to catch the concert,” or, “I was just remembering how you held me when I found out she was sick,” or anything else. It’s a bond, it’s a remembrance reaching out from the page. Each sentence, each letter, contains the sound of the band or the smell of the salty breeze or the arm wrapped around you in your sorrow—and a gratitude for their friendship.

That’s what’s amazing about sending a letter. You’re making the effort to reach out, to connect in a way outside of the speed and impermanence of our modern world. There is so much to love about the way we communicate in the modern, technological era, but there is also much to love in what we’ve lost.

But you can find it again. This February 7th, sit down and write a letter. You don’t need wax seals or trained birds or a fancy Victorian desk. You just need to think about a person, wonder what they would love to open, and get to writing. A letter is more than a piece of paper. It’s a gift that can only come from one person, and that might be the most meaningful gift of all.

Let us know your most unexpected card story on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for carefree gifting inspiration, browse our gift guides.

Easy Projects to Transform Reclaimed Scrap Wood into Rustic DIY Christmas Gifts

Easy Projects to Transform Reclaimed Scrap Wood into Rustic DIY Christmas Gifts

barnwood christmas
Christmas stables | Image courtesy flick’r user Thomas James Caldwell

Fall is my favorite time of year—the leaves change colors, the weather starts to cool, and there’s always a lovely autumn breeze. But every once in awhile, in my little Texas town surrounded by nothing but wide open plains, that lovely autumn breeze turns into a gust of destruction.  

About two weeks ago, we were bombarded with winds that were just too much for our old weather-beaten fence to stand up to. A section broke free from the support posts and began flailing about, hanging on only by a few nails near the ground. Bundled up against the cold, my husband and I went out and removed all of the fence boards and posts that seemed like they were on their last days. Now, with a heap of scrap wood at hand, the fun begins.

I love working with reclaimed scrap wood because the possibilities are endless. And with the holidays coming up, my loved ones are going to get some whimsically woodsy homemade gifts! Depending on where the wood came from—old pallets, a broken tree branch, a new construction project in the neighborhood—I like to let the character of the wood speak to what I can transform it into. And our recent fence troubles told me I was going to get to make some new Christmas home décor items for my family and friends.

Prepping the Wood for a Transformation

old, broken fence
Lord bless ‘The Menders of Fences’ | Image courtesy flick’r user Bobby McKay

The first step of any reclaimed wood project is to make it safe for the indoors. When wood is left outside for a long while, it can become a home for insects and bacteria that your gift recipients probably don’t want in their houses.

The easiest way I’ve found to prep wood is to bake it in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour. I usually use this option when the scraps I have to work with are small, or I’ve already cut the pieces to size for my project. When the pieces are long, I soak the wood in a bleach solution of one part bleach to 30 parts water. Sometimes I even bake and bleach the wood.

Then, with the rustic boards prepped and ready to become something new, I’m ready to dive into a world of possibilities.

Christmas Tea Light Candle Holders

I decided to make tea light holders for my aunt who loves the cozy atmosphere candles create. This was also the easiest project on my to-do list, so I tackled it first.

wood tea light holders
Reclaimed wood candle holder | Image courtesy Etsy seller GFTWoodcraft

The Materials:

  • A 15-inch piece of 4’x4’ fence post
  • A miter, circular, or hand saw
  • A 1.5-inch diameter self-feed bit or spade bit
  • Sandpaper, 80 grit
  • Wood stain
  • A 1 to 3-inch paintbrush
  • 3 tea lights

The How-To:

  1. Using a saw, cut the fence post into three unequal lengths. I prefer to decorate in sets of 3 or 5, so I cut my 15-inch piece of post into 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch pieces.
  2. Using a 1.5-inch bit, drill into the top of each piece about 1/4 to 3/8-inch deep. Most tea lights are about 3/8-inch tall so, for safety, don’t drill more than 3/8-inch into the wood or the tea light will sit too low and could catch fire.
  3. Sand each piece to remove any rough patches and splinters. Sanding also exposes the inner layers of the wood and makes the grain pop. This is a great opportunity to bang up the pieces a bit. I like to take a chisel to the corners and give any flat faces some personality by hitting them with a ball-peen hammer. Make sure to blow on each piece to remove any dust and debris before the next step.
  4. With your paintbrush, apply the stain to each piece. Don’t forget to stain the depression (where the tea light will sit), as well as the bottom. It’s best to do this step outside or in a well-ventilated garage because the stain gives off fumes.
  5. Let the stain soak into each piece for about 5 minutes—a little longer for a darker color, shorter for a lighter one. Then, wipe each piece with an old rag or paper towel to remove the excess stain and let the pieces sit outside or in a well-ventilated area for several hours to dry.
  6. Once the pieces are dry, place one tea light in each piece, wrap thoughtfully and beautifully, and place under the tree.

To make these really festive, I decided to tie fabric ribbon around each one and used a hot glue gun to add fake berries and a small twig from a pine tree. Now my aunt can arrange these on her coffee table, mantle, or dining table as a lovely winter decoration.  

Wall Sconces to Warm up the Winter

With so many planks of scrap wood from the broken fence, I was tempted to make sconces for every member of my family, but I started with a pair for my best friend, Jodie, who just moved into a new home and is looking for some rustic wall décor.

rustic wood wall sconces
Rustic wall sconce | Image courtesy Etsy seller KrohnDesigns

The Materials:

  • 2 fence boards
  • A miter, circular, or hand saw
  • A drill and drill bit
  • 1.5-inch drywall or wood screws
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper, 80 grit
  • A level
  • Clamps

The How-To:

  1. Choose two of the straightest fence boards available—these need to be able to lie flat against a wall.
  2. From your fence boards, cut two 16-inch wall pieces, two 5-inch platform pieces, and two 2-inch support pieces.
  3. Cut off each end of the support pieces at a 45-degree angle.
  4. Sand each of your pieces, making sure there are no sharp edges or splinters.
  5. Add a string of wood glue to one of the 45-degree edges of one support piece. Affix the support piece 2-inches from the base of the wall piece, making sure it is centered and vertically level. Use a clamp to hold the piece in place while the glue dries.
  6. While the glue is drying, drill one pilot hole through the wall piece and into the support piece. Your drill bit should be slightly smaller than the width of the screws you’re using. Then insert the screw into the pilot hole.
  7. Add a string of wood glue to the upward-facing edge of the support piece and to the back edge of a platform piece. Then affix the platform piece to the wall and support pieces and clamp it in place.
  8. While the glue is drying, drill three pilot holes through the wall piece and into the platform piece and insert screws into the pilot holes.
  9. Keep the platform piece clamped to the support piece until the glue dries completely.
  10. Repeat steps 5 through 11 for the second sconce.
  11. Finally, drill two holes in the wall piece of each sconce, one centered at the top and one centered at the bottom. These will be used to mount the sconces.

These sconces are fast and easy to make, and will add charm and personality to my friend’s home. I used black drywall screws to make mine since they have more threads to give your sconce a stronger construction. Plus, the black adds a rustic touch. I also put two extra drywall screws and two drywall anchors in a plastic bag so Jodie has all that she needs to hang these as soon as she opens my present!

A Versatile, Year Round Centerpiece Box

Centerpiece boxes let you change out your decorations again and again while still having that country barn appeal. My mother-in-law loves to host dinner parties for her friends, so I thought this would make a nice gift for her so she can display her creativity at each party.

reclaimed wood centerpiece box
Reclaimed wood crate box | Image courtesy Etsy seller Love4PawsCafe

The Materials:

  • 2 fence boards
  • A miter, circular, or hand saw
  • Drill and drill bit
  • 1.5-inch drywall or wood screws
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper, 80 grit
  • Level or carpenter’s square
  • Clamps

The How-To:

  1. Choose two of the straighter fence boards you have and cut three 18-inch pieces for the bottom and long sides, as well as two 5-inch pieces for the short sides.
  2. Sand each piece until there are no sharp edges or splinters.
  3. Add a strand of wood glue to the edge of one of the short sides. Using a level or carpenter’s square, affix the short side to the long side, making sure the pieces meet at a 90-degree angle. Use a clamp to hold the side in place.
  4. While the glue is drying, drill two pilot holes through the long side and into the short side edge.
  5. Insert two screws into the pilot holes.
  6. Repeat steps 4 through 6 to attach the second short side to the same long side.
  7. To attach the second long side, add a strand of wood glue to the free edges of both short sides. Again, make sure the pieces meet at 90-degree angles and use a clamp to hold the sides in place.
  8. Drill two pilot holes for each short side, going through the long side and into the short side edge, then insert screws into the pilot holes.
  9. To attach the bottom, flip the box upside down. Add a strand of wood glue to the edges of the two short sides. Use a clamp to hold the base in place.
  10. Drill two pilot holes for each short side, going through the base piece and into the short side edge, then insert screws into the pilot holes.
  11. Let the glue dry before filling your centerpiece box with decorations or gifting to someone extra special, and creative.

Depending on the look of the wood, I might stain the boxes after sanding. But sometimes the raw, unstained piece is perfect—my mother-in-law can stain it herself to match the other wooden furniture in her home.

When the weather kicks up and makes a mess of my yard, it’s tempting to just toss all the debris and be done with it. But I’m glad we took the time to repurpose our old fence wood. Not only did I have a blast getting creative and making some new items, but I now have several gifts that I can check off my list this holiday season.

With a more people to tend to on my Christmas gift list, I’m sure I’ll be returning to the pile of scrap wood a few more times. Making gifts by hand makes this joyous time of year even more meaningful, and I know my gifts will be memorable. When the shreds of wrapping paper are all cleaned up, and everyone has had their fill of Christmas goodies, what’s really important is letting your loved ones know you care. And what better way than by gifting them something made by your own two hands?

Too often we get stressed out about gift giving, especially around the holidays. During this special time of year, giving gifts should be a source of joy—not stress. If you’re running short on ideas, let the elves help you make magic this season. Browse Elfster’s Gift Guides for everyone on your list, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram @Elfstergram, and Twitter @Elfster

Fourth of July Party Ideas : Decorations of Independence

Fourth of July Party Ideas : Decorations of Independence

Fourth of July Party Ideas - Decorations of Independence


Looking for some pretty ways to show your patriotism this Independence Day? Well, thank your lucky stars and stripes, because Elfster has a handful of helpful hints. This weekend, we’re celebrating the land of the free by rounding-up a few complimentary party-planning ideas to help make your Fourth of July sparkle.

Take a look at these great tips and tutorials from our favorite holiday events bloggers, and feel free to join the blog party by adding your own ideas and links!


Pretty Printables- Sparkler Holders

Porch Decoration- Patriotic Bunting

Party Favors – Let Freedom “Ring”Photo credit- Simply Creative Insanity

3D Cookie Cupcakes- Tutorial

Berry Lemon Napoleon- Dessert Recipe

Polka Dot Tablescape

Star Medallion- Tutorial

Pennant Banner Printables

Pie Decoration and Party Ideas

Tee-Shirt Pom-Poms- Tutorial

Strawberry Shortcake Popsicles

Red, White and Blue Kabobs

Confetti Popper Rockets- Tutorial

Photo credits: Lisa Storms , Simply Creative Insanity
Easy-as-Pie Thanksgiving Placemats

Easy-as-Pie Thanksgiving Placemats

History unfolds right before your pies, with this precious pop-up placemat idea!

We love how PubliQue Living transforms plain sheets of recycled paper into charming table pieces for every occasion. (Check out the products on their website.) But in the Pilgrim spirit of “making do,” this Thanksgiving, we just had to try the idea ourselves… DIY-style!

We armed Intern Steph with some Bristol Paper and an X-Acto knife, and told her to re-create the Mayflower for our Thanksgiving table… After a good cry, she got right to work and this was the result!

Say what you will of her historical accuracy (or the judiciousness of giving an intern a knife), we think Stephanie did the pilgrims proud on this one, and here’s how you can create your own!


• Large sheet of bristol paper or poster board
• X-acto knife
• Pencil
• Silhouette drawing or clip-art


First, draw or trace a simple line rendering onto your canvas, using your imagination or clip-art. Position the image somewhere around the corner of the page, an inch or two from each edge.

When creating your image, be sure to account for “negative space” by drawing closed, polygonal shapes within the overall outline.

Next, carefully use your X-acto to cut out these interior shapes, little by little, with a cutting board underneath.

After the interior shapes have all been removed, trace the overall outline with your X-acto, leaving the image’s bottom horizontal line uncut.

Finally, fold the image upward (along the bottom horizontal line) to bring your pop-up to life!

DIY Fall Fridge-scape

DIY Fall Fridge-scape

A freezer-burned chicken cutlet is no reason to give your fridge the “cold shoulder” this fall!  (Thanksgiving is, after all, a time for overlooking past prejudices.)  Here’s a simple way to clear the shelves and show your icebox some well-deserved appreciation. For a fabulously fanciful fridge, try this pretty new eco-friendly craft!


• Empty aluminum soda cans
• Self-adhesive magnets (or double-sided tape)
• A strong pair of scissors
• A mechanical pencil

Start by carefully cutting the tops and bottoms off of the soda cans and flattening out the remaining aluminum.

Next, draw an autumn leaf pattern onto the material with your mechanical pencil. This can be done free-hand, or by tracing actual leaves you’ve collected from the neighbor’s yard. (Only kidding!)

Now, cut out the pattern and engrave your leaves with life-like veins by retracting the lead in your mechanical pencil. Using the point to draw lines from the tips of the edges to the base of the leaf, you can achieve a deeper grove if you place a towel under the aluminum while carving.

Finally, stick a self-adhesive magnet, or some double-sided tape, onto the back of your leaf. Make as many magnets as you’d like, arranging them in a whimsical wind-swept pattern across your fridge.

Now you’ve got yourself a sustainable fall fridge-scape, made faster than you can say “cranberry sauce”!

Fast n’ Festive Halloween Favors

Fast n’ Festive Halloween Favors

Halloween Party Favor Bags Think quick! It’s almost Halloween and you’ve pretty much wolfed down your colossal candy stockpile. All that’s left for your guests is one measly bag of morsels, giving you the sense that somewhere in a day-glow painted boiler room, Willy Wonka is weeping.

Well snap out of it! Halloween is no time to neglect your friends, or your crafting either. You’ve got no time to waste going to the store to buy more candy and party supplies, so you’ll have to make do with the bare essentials…

Don’t just stand there! Grab that old pad of construction paper, and find some scissors and tape, pronto! Today we’re making decorative fun-sized candy bags. Even though you still have a tummy ache, and your tongue has yet to return to its original color, with these cute little favors, your guests might just overlook your stinginesss with the sweets!


1.  Cut a standard sheet of construction paper in half, lengthwise.

2.  Fold the longer two sides inward to meet at the middle of the page.

3.  Make a fold (inward) at about 4.5 inches from the edge of the page, on each end.

4.  Cut the paper on the four creases created in the middle, stopping at the edge of the folds.

5.  Glue or tape the outer edges of each side together.

There you have it. You now have your very own miniature party favor bag, in any festive color that you want! Think of it as a blank canvas. Now, using more construction paper, you can customize the bag to look like just about any Halloween character imaginable.

For our motley crew, we created an owl, a mummy, a bat and, of course, Frankenstein. But the possibilities are endless. This Halloween, if you want to save your guests a trip to the dentist, give them these bite-sized party bags. (And enjoy the extra treats ’til Turkey Day!)

Garden Ghouls for the Docile Decorator

Garden Ghouls for the Docile Decorator

Step away from the carving knife! We know that the spirit of Halloween might not feel the same without going Friday-the-13th on an unsuspecting pumpkin. But this year, make good with the gourds! We’re talking a little less violence, and a little more ingenuity. Try using unconventional materials! The Elfster team recently gave it a go, and came up with this rollicking gang of garden ghouls! Now, we admit, these guys are about as intimidating as a team of teacup poodles…but they’re also every bit as cute! Use a cornucopia of less popular grocery store finds, and you can craft a creepy crew of your own! Here’s how…

Boniatos make beefy bodies for these little imps. With their irregular shape, and natural divots and dimples, it isn’t hard to picture these potato-like roots as tiny trolls!

A Yellow Squash might not look appetizing with a case of the warts that would make a toad blush, but that very quality makes it all the better for Halloween decor. Just turn the squash upside down, and voila! A knobby stalk becomes a crooked nose. Half of the work is done for you!

Baby Sweet Potatoes also make excellent schnozzles for these grubby grumps. And for lips that say “Boo!”, just cut a round sliver or two.

Pearl Onions are truly nature’s “googly eyes” and should be used as such whenever possible. The roots look like natural pupils, but to enhance the surprised look, simply glue a black paper hole-punch in the middle.

Mini Indian Corn Cobs, though hardly substantial enough to eat, sure make great teeth for these garden goblins. The husks can also be used to portray mischievous mustaches and eyebrows!

Ginger Root really reaches out and grabs you when used as a pair of calloused “monster hands”. It will also make your gnomes look like they’ve dug themselves up from the grave!

• Finally, match sticks bring the whole project together. If you’re like us and can’t bear to bring a knife to your adorable creations, just use these tiny dowels to attach the parts.  (They also add a spark of whimsy to your little buddy’s custom-made propeller hat!)

This Halloween, for guilt-free decorating, take our advice.  Try your hand at no-knife crafting… And no one gets hurt!

A Taste of Fall

A Taste of Fall

Little Pumpkin with Fallen Orange Autumn Leaves We elves may make a mean cup of eggnog, but by the time autumn rolls around, we’ve only got pumpkin on the brain! We don orange body paint and sit patiently in the patch for hours on end.  We plead for families of four to take us home. We contort our faces, holding toothy grins for longer than is probably advisable… This works up quite an appetite.  That’s why we love this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins! Forget the fancy Indian corn and pretentious sprigs of wheat. From now on, we’re filling our Horn of Plenty with these bad boys…

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

makes 12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

muffins Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and lining a muffin pan with liners. In a large bowl, mix together the almond milk, vegetable oil, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract until smooth. In a different bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix to combine, and add in the chocolate chips. Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl with the wet ingredients. Mix together until combined, but don’t over work it! Spoon the batter into the muffin pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Photo and recipe: Another One Bites the Crust