Thankfulness and Gift Ideas for Homesteaders & DIYers

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Can it still be Thanksgiving? Don’t get me wrong – I’m looking forward to Christmas and enjoying the weeks leading up to the holiday, but Thanksgiving is pretty special. Not only is there a massive feast featuring a smorgasbord of goodies from mashed potatoes & gravy to green bean casserole to mandarin orange salad to pumpkin pie, but people are usually so darn happy. You’re supposed to reflect on all the things you are thankful for and to cherish friends and family. It’s awesome!

I was particularly thankful for the snow that fell the morning on Thanksgiving Eve. It was just enough to cover the ground but not enough to hold CK and I hostage at my mom’s. Not that that would be terrible, but I loved being able to scoot back down to our house on Friday and still have a weekend to shop, run errands, clean, and generally spend all of Sunday in my pajamas. I am thankful for an amazing fiance, an eccentric family that always keeps me laughing and on my toes, incredible friends that warm my (sometimes cold) heart, a fun-loving pup and an adventurous pony, a job that teaches me something new every day, and a head full of dreams that inspire me to keep on chugging.

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Things got a little weird around Thanksgiving for my nephew, CK, and me. Look at that snow! Anyway, now on to…

Gift Ideas for Homesteaders and DIYers

Black Friday and Cyber Monday just wrapped up, but I’m sure a lot of people still have Christmas shopping left. Even if you don’t, just let me think that you do. That way I won’t feel so bad for only being about 25% of the way done with my shopping list! As I was contemplating gift ideas for myself and for the crafty folks in my life, as well as thinking back to some of my most prized possessions, here are some gifts that stood out from the rest of the pack.

In the Kitchen

  1. KitchenAid Mixer – 5-Quart Artisan Series. You can’t make a list like this and NOT include the KitchenAid mixer. This is still on my wishlist. From talking to friends and family, the 6-quart professional series is probably overkill. And the 5-quart comes in a ton of awesome colors like persimmon (my fave) and green apple!
  2. Marcato Atlas Pasta Maker. It’s been listed for a great price on Amazon. Store-bought pasta simply can’t compare to homemade pasta.
  3. U.S. state cheese slate. Shhh, I picked one of these up for my best friend (who doesn’t know this blog exists… yet) who loves maps and anything to do with states. Made from Maine slate and shaped as a particular state or you can even get one shaped like the U.S.
  4. Victorinox 8″ Straight Edge Chef’s Knife. Trying to slice up a whole chicken will get old really quickly with a dull knife. I love this chef’s knife! It’s not a super expensive investment, and it sharpens easily. We use a simple sharpening steel to keep the edge sharp.
  5. Cute apron. Who said you have to stick to perfectly utilitarian gifts for a budding or experienced homesteader? Check out Etsy for a variety of stylish and fun aprons that will protect your clothes from flying sauces without sacrificing style.

In the Craft Room

  1. Brother CS6000i Sewing Machine. This is the sewing machine I’m lusting after right now. Maybe Santa will surprise me with one! A friend bought a cheaper, simpler model Brother sewing machine and upgraded pretty quickly. This machine would get you far more mileage before you felt like you needed something more heavy duty (e.g. if you discover that quilting is your long lost love).
  2. Fiskars Rotary Cutting Set. This is another item on my wishlist. So much easier and more precise than slicing away with a pair of scissors! Also a must for someone getting into quilting!
  3. Walnut Hollow Wood Burning Tool. This thing is so much fun! I bought it to burn table numbers into wood slices, but it’s also been fun to play around with the different tips and application methods to create little works of art. Very versatile!
  4. Craft-oriented jewelry. Check out this awesome measuring tape and sewing machine charm necklace on Etsy! Really cool idea for someone who might already have all of the equipment they want and enjoys unique jewelry.

In the Garage/Workshop

  1. DEWALT 18-Volt Drill/Driver Kit. I love Dewalt anything. CK would probably say my love for Dewalt is directly correlated with my love for yellow things. And it’s also because my miter saw (first major power tool purchase) is Dewalt and it’s amazing. Lots of DIY projects require or would be made easier with a good drill.
  2. Energizer Head Lamp. The first time I bought a head lamp, I picked up a fancypants one from a local hiking/outdoors shop. It worked fine, but eventually I lost it. I bought a cheapo Energizer head lamp, and that’s all I’ve bought since then. No need to spend much on a head lamp, but having one definitely comes in handy when working late on a project (or hunting for the rogue nail that fell behind the washer).
  3. Gift certificates to local workshops or classes. This is a great idea for a DIYer that might be exploring woodworking, pottery, etc. interests. If your gift recipient is in an urban area, you can definitely find shops or organizations that offer these classes. Even in my smaller city, there are a couple of places to choose from for anything from painting to pottery to woodworking to blacksmithing.

In the Garden

  1. The Backyard Homestead book. Super helpful book with lots of specific ideas on how to grow the most food in your backyard. Great book for someone just getting started with urban homesteading/farming.
  2. Plant Nanny Wine Bottle Stake Set. I used to work at Smith & Hawken, a gardening and outdoor furniture store that has since closed, and these Plant Nanny stake sets were a huge hit! Great gift idea for the gardener who also enjoys relaxing with a glass (or two) of wine. Helps keep plants hydrated and is a fun way to use up some bottles.
  3. Heirloom seeds. You can get really creative and involved with seed packets! While you want to make sure you pick seeds that can be grown in the gift recipient’s region, you have a lot of freedom to choose special and unique seeds for veggies or flowers. A great place to pick up heirloom seeds is Seed Savers Exchange.
  4. Funky bird feeders. In particular, I really like this owl bird feeder – I love all things owl! It never hurts to attract birds to the area. Birds will chow down on those pesky bugs that want to consume prized veggies.

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Simple DIY Twine-Wrapped Bottles

My wedding is about nine months away, but I’m trying to get a head start on some of the “basic but fundamental” decor pieces. And I’ve found that it makes the wedding feel more real to start working on some of the DIY decor. It’s much easier to see the design come to live when you’re engaged in hands-on projects. Of course, I’ve been hounding Pinterest and a slew of wedding photographers for inspiration on how to achieve these seemingly contradictory pairs: simple and elegant, rustic and polished, stylish and unique, inexpensive and memorable, easy and fun. Shall I continue?

There’s a lot of pressure on everybody these days! The bride and groom and/or their families need to host a spectacular event to celebrate such a special day “that only happens once,” wedding vendors often fear bridezillas (side thought: can we make “frankengroom” a thing?) and unbearable expectations, and wedding guests are bombarded with fears of wearing the wrong thing, buying the wrong gift, and spilling wine on the bride’s dress. That last fear is still very much legitimate.

In a nutshell, wedding planning is stressful. I’m also very stubborn and am working with a tight budget, since CK and I want to pay for the wedding ourselves. We pretty much have to DIY some portion of the wedding, but I worry how things will turn out. I don’t think of myself as a very crafty person, but I’m learning and improving! Enter the simple DIY twine-wrapped bottles. Ours will serve as part of the centerpieces at our guests’ tables.

I’m sure anyone reading this blog has seen these bottles all over Pinterest, Facebook, etc. I certainly read a lot of the instructions and scoured for example photos. My twist on the twine-wrapped bottle trend is below.

Simple DIY Twine-Wrapped Bottles

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Supplies:

  • Bottle
  • Mod Podge or similar adhesive
  • Foam brush
  • Hemp twine, yarn, or other type of twine
  • Newspaper (optional)

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Time to complete each bottle: ~ 1 hour

Steps:

  1. Pick a bottle, any bottle. I lucked out with free liquor bottles from a local distillery. Wine bottles are also very popular, but I wanted something a bit different.
  2. Gather your supplies. Put newspaper down if you’re like me and tend to get glue, paint, etc. EVERYWHERE when getting crafty.
  3. Brush on a thin layer of Mod Podge to the top of the bottle. If you’re not familiar with Mod Podge, it dries clear so don’t freak out. Tie a simple knot at the top of the bottle. Hold the knot in place while it dries to ensure your twine is sitting flush with the top of the bottle. Alternatively you could skip the knot; admittedly, it doesn’t look as nice, but I like the added security of the knot, since my bottles have to lie dormant for many months and still look great when the wedding rolls around.
  4. Proceed to wrap the twine down the bottle row by row. If you choose to do the knot, you’ll have a little extra twine to wrap over at the beginning – not a big deal. Go slowly! Make sure you’re wrapping tightly. Brush the Mod Podge on about an inch or two at a time as you make your way down the bottle.
  5. When you get to the end of your bottle or to the point where the bottle curves back in (and then becomes impossible to continue wrapping tightly), brush on a healthy helping of Mod Podge to secure the end.

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Love the fun shape of these bottles! It really does take an hour though to finish wrapping one of these bad boys. I’ve made three so far and haven’t gotten significantly faster. But my wrap job has gotten tighter and straighter each time.

When you get to the end of the bottle, don’t be afraid to glop on the glue. It dries clearly and isn’t that noticeable.

Here is how the bottle first looked coated in Mod Podge:

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About 15 minutes later:

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And there you have it! Your own cool twine bottles. I’ve seen a lot of yarn-wrapped bottles around, but it’s not really my style. I love the look of the thin twine, and I dig the natural hemp color. Just realize that it takes more time to wrap each bottle if you use a thinner twine or yarn. As an added bonus, the hemp twine I picked up smells very grass-y. My immediate reaction was to shout, “OMG THIS SMELLS JUST LIKE COW MANURE,” as soon as I took a whiff. Upon further investigation, it just has a very pungent earthy grass smell. I actually like it a lot. I have a “freshly cut grass” scented candle, and I love farm smells. Just a heads up though.