Handmade Holiday: Teacher Gifts & the Goody Goody Gift Swap

This year I made two handmade little gifts for Evie’s preschool teachers and our day school director; they are all so amazing and Evie loves them so much! They take the time each day to let the kids do a finger painting or drawing, and I wanted to make something for these sweet ladies that showed them how much I appreciate what they do for my highly, highly extroverted toddler! I made the same gifts for my Goody Goody Gift Swap swap mate, an aspiring flower farmer in New York.

Check out this post for a complete step-by-step on the ring dishes. I also made each of them a bracelet out of silk cording and metal beads; my swap made had a flower charm, and the day school teachers had little sparrow charms on theirs. I got all of my supplies for the bracelets from one of my favorite local small businesses, The Bead Biz here in Helena, AL.


I used all manner of my favorite wrapping supplies: vintage stamps, tissue paper, glassine bags, washi tape, and a fleece star leftover from my Advent calendar DIY.

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I also added a personal note to each as well as one of our Christmas cards. We got our address stamp from Empress Stationery; Spark & Arrow took our Christmas photo in historical downtown Helena.

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Because festive wrapping is necessary!

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Merry Christmas to Ms. Lori, Ms. Stacey, Ms. Maggie, and Jenny Rae! I hope you each enjoy your little gifts from Evie and me!

Ring Dish DIY

A couple weeks ago I was at Anthropologie and saw the cutest little ring dishes. They reminded me so much of the pretty hand-painted tiny bowls I saw while we were shopping the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Rather than spending $10 a pop, I thought I could bust out some oven-bake clay (my favorite craft medium) and make my own version. They were the perfect little gift for Evie’s teachers, and for my Goody Goody Gift Swap swapmate! See my post on the bracelet and how I packaged their gifts here.


Supplies You’ll Need:
Oven-bake polymer clay (like Sculpey or Fimo)
Rolling pin
Craft paint
Small paint brushes
3D fabric paint
Parchment paper
Small bowl for shaping the clay (I ended up using a baby food jar lid)
Stamps and other small objects for imprinting
Round cookie cutter or a glass (not pictured); or you could just cut it out with an X-acto knife
Clear high-gloss coating (I used a Krylon aerosol spray, but Mod Podge would work just as well)


Step 1: Roll out the clay to about 1/8″ or so; thick enough that it won’t be too fragile, but thin enough to maintain a “delicate” feel. Using your cookie cutter or the rim of a glass (mine is 3″ in diameter).

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Step 2: Imprint your design into the clay.

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Step 3: Place a parchment square between the dish you use for shaping the bowl and the clay itself. Form the dish to have to have the “bowl” shape. Bake according the package directions; the general guideline is 265°F, and I baked these dishes for about 30 minutes. They will still feel soft when you take them out of the oven, but as the cool they will harden.

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Step 4: Using your 3D fabric paint, add additional texture to the dish, so that it has low areas and high areas. Let it dry completely.


Step 5: Using a small brush, paint your designs. Pull your design together by taking a toothpick or teeny tiny brush and outlining the colors and painting the letter black. Paint a gold rim for the final touch.

Step 6: Spray or paint a couple of coats of the clear gloss topcoat onto the front and back of the dish, allowing it to dry and cure completely between coats.


Homemade Gourmet Chocolate Bars

I once again teamed up with the creative girls at Spark & Arrow for another holiday DIY. This time we made gourmet chocolate bars in 3 fun flavors. Empress Stationery joined us for the fun and has provided free downloadable labels, which make these perfect for gift-giving! Head over to S&A’s blog for the full story, including step-by-step instructions, recipes, and the free download!




A Little Bundle: Gifts for Baby + Mom

Have you heard of A Little Bundle? It’s a monthly subscription box tailored for you and “your little love.” Founder Annie Lin is a graduate of Parsons Design School, and curates each bundle to the design- and socially-conscious mother. Of course it changes each month, but here are a few constants:

  • Socially-conscious products that are either hand-made, produced in small quantities, and/or support small business-owners, makers, and creators
  • On-trend products and designs
  • A little something special for the mommy in addition to products for the baby
  • A blank notecard, almost always letter-pressed and/or from independent stationery designers, sent with the intent of being your child’s first pen pal.

Here are a few of my favorite bundles:


June 2014 Bundle

Our June 2014 bundle featured a Hen & Co. Lover Not a Fighter tank, a handmade French wooden shaker, this amazing full-length bib, and a little canvas bin for me!


November 2014 Bundle

Our November 2014 bundle was a co-collaboration between ALB and Kid & Coe, which is a great resource if you’re looking for a super kid-friendly place to stay while traveling!

The magnet board is favorite around here, and not just with Evie! I love how all of these little “busy” items fit perfectly right into that little lion backpack for her! The double-decker snack cups made from recycled material is pretty fantastic too!


January 2014 Bundle

I loved our January 2014 bundle! The Finn + Emma organic cotton romper is so soft and sweet and Evie wore it till she was practically busting out of it! The bracelets are made by a leather-maker Alexis Drake; there was one for me and one for her. And how smart is the tiny diaper bag-sized first aid kit?

A few more of our favorite surprises:

ALB4Snuppets Snack Pouch, Stuart the Penguin by Hazel Village, and Little Hip Squeaks Headband
(All of which were exclusive collaborations with ALB!)

ALB5Left photo is me and my lightweight infinity scarf and Evie in rocking her I <3 Animals tee from our July bundle.
Right photo is Evie’s nursery. There are 9 A Little Bundle Products just on this one wall of her room, and that’s not including just a cute ALB promo card that I liked so much that I taped it up! The items are, from left to right and top to bottom: 1.) Maileg Peas in a Pod rattle, 2.) colorful number blocks, 3.) wooden wheeled T-Rex, 4.) “I love you babe” art block, 5.) “You are my sun, my moon, and my stars” print, 6.) twig pencil and recycled paper notebook [lying flat on top of the middle shelf, so hard to see!)  7.)Catalina Mouse from Hazel Village, 8.) Alexis Drake Bond Bracelets, and 9.) heart nightlight.

I can’t wait to continue my subscription when we grow our family :)

Thank you Annie and the team at A Little Bundle for customer service and a customer-connection that goes beyond anything I’ve ever dealt with, and for providing a sweet little surprise each month for me and Evie! I would literally stalk our mailman on Bundle days like a kid on Christmas Eve! Head over to A Little Bundle for subscription information, and also to shop some of these exclusives and more in A Little Shop!

I also just want to add that this post is in no way connected to our sponsored by A Little Bundle. I just a happy customer!

Turning 30 in Vegas // The Food and The Sights

You’ve read how the actual journey to Vegas was a dream come true, and admittedly it was hard to top.


But when you suddenly find yourself on a free vacation on your 30th birthday, you try. (Sorry, but a day in Vegas doesn’t come close to a plane ride with NKOTB!)


Our first mission was to find dinner. We had been drinking on the plane (because Donnie bought us all free drinks, remember), had nothing to eat except for the cookies Jonathan offered us, and we were starving. How fortunate we were that just across the street from the famous Bellagio buffet, which also just so happens to be one of Zack’s “bucket list” meals. Vegas has always been so low on my to-visit list I never thought we’d eat there, so I’m glad it worked out for him, and I certainly enjoyed it too!

This place was insane. It embodies so much of what Las Vegas is: excess. We ate till we were physically ill, and we’re not even sorry.



After catching the tail end of the Bellagio fountain show, we just strolled down the Strip without any purpose. It was hot and dry and really kind of unappealing in a lot of ways. Some people were trying to shove cards in our hands that advertised naked women, others were stumbling by us with their own personal blenders of margaritas, and it was all just lights, excess, and gluttony. We’re European museum people, so it wasn’t our scene, but we took it for what it was and enjoyed the opportunity we were given! Seriously, don’t get me wrong, NO complaints here.



It really is kind of pretty in its own way, all lit up at night.



The next morning, I woke up 30 years old. Might as well make the best of it, right? My plans otherwise were to go to work and feel sorry for myself all day.

We hopped in a cab and headed up the strip to the beautiful Venetian, because that is where Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery is located! Bouchon has been on my restaurant bucket list for a very long time, and it was one of the loveliest experiences ever. We sat outside on the patio, and because of the light rain that morning and overcast skies, the weather felt perfect. You almost wouldn’t even know that the seedy Las Vegas strip was just on the other side of the wall.


I had the brioche French toast with vanilla custard, bananas and caramelized apples, and Zack ordered smoked ham omelette with (of course) a heaping of bacon on the side. The butteriest butter and house-made blackberry jam came out served the prettiest rack of toast, and it was all perfect. Dining is such an experience, and these little details are what elevates a great meal to an unforgettable one.


As were finishing up, Thomas Keller himself sent out my birthday present! Ok he didn’t really, but our waiter did surprise me with a beautiful plate of brownies and vanilla bean ice cream, served with raspberry coulis, a paper-thin candied pineapple, and my own swirly birthday candle. I was stuffed, but had no trouble making room for more!


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After Zack physically drug me out of Bouchon, we headed to…surprise surprise…a museum! The Neon Boneyard to be exact. I had read about it and seen photos, and with Zack being a graphic designer and me loving all things mid-century, we knew we couldn’t miss it, and the place didn’t disappoint. Our guide was more than excellent, and he brought the relics to life with the stories and history of each piece. I can’t emphasize enough how much you should go hear next time you find yourself in Vegas. Just because you’re in Sin City doesn’t give you the excuse to not squeeze in a little bit of culture, people.



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For lunch we hit up another Bucket List meal…the secret menu at In-N-Out Burger. A right of passage for all grease-loving foodies who don’t live out west!


Double-doubles, Animal Style fries, and Neapolitan shakes. It was the only way to go.


And it was in fact just as greasy and delicious as we knew it would be, but I think that this was the meal that caught up with us. We had been cramming in all of this rich food and by time we made it back to the hotel, we were done. We wanted to walk around the side of the Strip were the Luxor and MGM are located, but the ability to move soon fizzled. We passed out in our hotel room and didn’t drag ourselves out till we decided to head down the rooftop pool.

You know what’s crazy? It was almost cold in Las Vegas while we were there. July 10, 2014, was a cold day in Vegas. Who would have thought? I ordered my birthday $15 coco-jito and sat with my legs dangling in the pool (because that was as much as I could get in), looked at the famous Paris Hotel balloon and fake Eiffel Tower, wondered if the middle-aged women was paying the handsome 20-something to be her guest that afternoon, talked to a cute 5-year-old and her mom, and enjoyed every second that I had been given.


Maybe it wasn’t the most exciting thing to during a 36-hour stay in Vegas, but it was exactly what we needed. We do have a toddler at home, we both work for non-profits, and hadn’t had a trip together since before I was pregnancy. It really is funny how things work out. Not two weeks before, I had emphasized once again to Zack to NOT plan ANYTHING for my 30th birthday. I wanted to ignore it completely. God wanted me to embrace my 30s, I guess, so He made sure I did!


Dinner! By time we got ready for the concert, it was only about 30 minutes from starting, so we went down to Pink’s Hot Dogs. A beloved Hollywood institution we’ve both always wanted to try, but its charm and taste got lost in Vegas translation. But again, we were in Vegas for free, so there wasn’t any complaining :)

Most likely you’re only reading this because you’re a fellow Blockhead, so let’s talk #NKOTBafterDark. Coming soon is a whole post dedicated to that wonderful night, because it deserves its own.

IMG_4616 copyThe next morning, after breakfast (and no breakfast will ever compare to the day before’s, so why even write about my stack of pancakes?), we thought we’d spend the $1 we had with us in cash on a slot. So we headed over to the Bellagio and fed it into a $.25 slot. (Ok, fine. That’s not why we went to the Bellagio. We went because we heard there was a museum inside, but it wasn’t open for the day just yet.) So did you know that there are other things on a slot besides a handle? Because I did not. I was going to do two pulls and Zack was going to do two pulls. I hit a button and our $1 was gone before I ever got experience the thrill of pulling a Vegas slot handle.

I actually called a waitress over, thinking maybe something was wrong with the machine? I’m such a dork. She explained about “max bets” and “lines” and some other Vegas-y jargon we didn’t understand. But then assured us that we learned a valuable lesson for just $1, and as our reward for not be money-squandering morons, she brought us mimosas! Including an extra special “Bellagio” mimosa.

I do believe virtually all cocktails in Vegas are $15, and we got $45 worth of mimosas that morning, so THAT my friends, is winning in Vegas.

After a direct home flight from Vegas later that day, we got home just in time to tuck this little Evie into bed. It was so good to see her; we missed her so much even though we had an amazing 48 hours!

Thank you Southwest Airlines, Planet Hollywood, Three07, and the 5 awesome guys of New Kids for giving me a birthday I will not only never forget, but tell stories about for years to come. (My grandkids will be telling this story.

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Turning 30 in Vegas // The #NKOTBPartyPlane

I all but closed this blog a few years ago. I mean, life got busy. Having a baby makes life really busy. But I wanted/needed a place to put the incredible experience of being on board Southwest Flight 3451. So, hello again WordPress. Can’t believe I remembered my password. Maybe I’ll actually take the effort to post more things these days? I certainly still bake, and that baby we had is the cutest, and I’m also in the process of revamping a sad foreclosure we bought earlier this year. Anyway, that’s later. This is now:

As a little girl, I loved the 80s/90s boy band New Kids on the Block. My big sister was obsessed, so as the quintessential little sister, I of course did too. Even as their popularity waned in the 90s and I was more punk rock than teeny-bopper, I still listened to them. As an adult, it was just nostalgic and brought me back to a simpler time. In 2008, much to the joy of 25-to-40 year olds everywhere, they reunited! My mom, sister and myself had a great time reliving our younger days when we traveled to both Atlanta and Nashville to see them. So when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, and saw that all I had to do to enter a seat on the New Kids on the Block “Party Plane” (a big promotion with Southwest Airlines to promote their run at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas) was share a photo to my Facebook wall, I mean, why not? I completely forgot that I even did such a thing. No one wins those contests anyway, right?

Well, I did.

I was sitting at my office on a pretty uneventful Monday, when I got a Facebook notification telling me that, out of about what I estimated to be over 50,000 entries, I was one of 10 winners!


Actual transcript of that crazy moment | the most glorious FedEx package

After spending 24 solid hours in denial, and convinced this was a big mean joke, it became VERY real when I had a FedEx package from Southwest Airlines on my doorstep with our passes, hotel confirmation numbers, and airline tickets.

The craziest part of this crazy story was that this just so happened to fall on my 30th birthday! So my husband and I spent the last day of my 20s traveling from Birmingham to Chicago and we mingled with the New Kids at the gate before hopping on the Party Plane to VEGAS!


Delicious Southwest Coffee en route to Chicago at 6am | Party-ready in my new three07 outfit!

I loved getting to know some of the other winners. Everyone was really sweet and funny and of course we all shared the bond of loving the same group of 5 guys for about as long as we can each remember. A lot of people don’t realize, but this was a standard Chicago>Vegas Southwest flight, so while we are buzzing around with excitement, the rest of the passengers were just wondering what was wrong with us and why we are all dressed up so cute for a 3 hour flight. They were completely oblivious, I’m sure, to the fact that there was a rotation of New Kids’ Greatest Hits on rotation in the airport’s PA system.


Hanging at Gate B11 waiting for our guys to whisk us away to Vegas! (I have no idea what to do with my hands!)

After DROPPING MY PHONE mid-selfie with Danny, I tried to regain my composure and talk to Jon. JON! Y’all, understand that he has always been my favorite. He was standing by himself over near the wall while everyone else was going bananas. I might have been a huge dork in this conversation, but I actually GOT to have one with him!


“Um, you’re my favorite. And, um, I love you. And, um, I almost got kicked out of your Atlanta concert in 2008 because I jumped a barrier to try to meet you. And, um, my mom used to play Happy Birthday that you sang to be on my birthdays. And, um, tomorrow I turn 30. Um, bye.”…… It was not my finest hour. 

As I’m sure you can imagine, Gate B11 and the surrounding areas went nuts when they realized what was happening. We grabbed a group shot with the guys before boarding. I squeezed in between Danny and Jon and loved my life a lot in that moment. How about how my husband looks like the long-lost 6th member in this shot?


(Photo Credit: screen grab from the official Party Plane video on NKOTB.com)

The guys were hilarious and clearly having as much fun as the winners. Jordan did the safety demo (to the tune of their 1990 hit Step-by-Step, obvi) and Jon passed out peanuts to every single passenger. I’m an educated, smart, professional 30-year-old woman, but when Jon Knight handed me a bag of airplane snacks…I just giggled and smiled like a doofus.


At any given time Joey was serenading us over the P.A. system, and Donnie bought unlimited cocktails for the entire plane.

I was devastated my big sister couldn’t join me, but Joey was lovely enough to record a video greeting for her in which he lamented her absence and assured her we weren’t having THAT good of a time without her.

And how about this VIDEO SELFIE with Jordan?! I treasure these 22 seconds of video very much. He’s. So. Cute.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I found out I would be meeting them. I’ve loved the New Kids since I was a little girl, one of my earliest memories was screaming “we won’t go!” at their concert here in Birmingham when I was about 5 years old. What if they were rude, arrogant, jerks who ignored us the whole time? To say that they were none of these things is an understatement. They were gracious, warm, funny guys who thrive off of being with their fans. They spoke to everyone of us, took time to take all of the selfies and videos our hearts desired, and asked us questions about ourselvesNKOTBselfes


Donnie made sure his new pal Zack Nichols was in our selfie. They are best friends now I guess.


Did I really end up on TWO New Kid Instas? Dying.


A “behind-the-scenes” of the Jordan selfie shot before he crawled over the seat to get a selfie with me…ME.


I also had a great time talking with their photographer, Brian Babinaeu. Brian also photographs for the Boston Bruins, the Red Sox, and is a killer food photographer. Since I’ve spent virtually the whole of my career being a prop stylist, we had a fantastic conversation about photography. We even swapped info, and I’m crossing my fingers we’ll get to work together sometime, NOT because I’m a fangirl, but because he’s incredible at what he does and working on a story with him would be an amazing experience!

Fortunately, when the wheels went down at the McCarren airport, the party didn’t stop. After getting big hugs goodbye from the guys, we headed to our comp’d hotel room at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, right in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, and we were given tickets to see the opening night of the four-night run. Follow the link to check out Part II here, and Part III coming soon!