Making Handmade Gifts — 15 Very Cool Projects

Gorgeous Handmade Gift Ideas featured by top US lifestyle blog, Design Mom: wooden spoons

Let’s talk handmade gifts. My tendency to focus on handmade gifting seems to wax and wane over the years. Sometimes I’m really into it — gathering ideas and supplies for weeks and then setting aside several days to work on the projects. Other times I’m perfectly content to buy something ready made.

For those of you who like to make gifts for the holidays, I’ve collected 15 really good ones that I think you’ll love. It’s a wide range of projects, and so many of them are great to make with kids. Especially 4, 5, 9 and 10.

Scotland Travel Advice From Readers

During Fall Break, while our kids had time off school, we spent three days in Scotland! We loved it so much. We spent time in Edinburgh, and spent a day on Isle of Skye doing three famous hikes — The Fairy Pools, Old Man of Storr, and The Quiraing (the image above is from The Quiraing hike). You can find a full report from our trip in the Instagram Highlights called Scotland and Scotland 2.

When we were planning the trip, we received so many helpful DMs with advice and recommendations, and I thought I would share them here for anyone else planning their own visit to Scotland. Note: Our trip was the first week of November, so the advice below may or many not apply depending on when your trip is scheduled.

Apple Votive DIY

Apple Votive DIY

Let’s make apple votives! This is the ideal fall project. It’s simple, it’s easy, and you probably have everything you need to make these in your house right this minute. They’re the first Martha Stewart project I ever tried (way back in 1997!). And they’re still one of my favorites.

Making apple votives is super easy and doesn’t take much time at all. The finished display is so pretty and festive it makes for a really satisfying project.

Living With Kids: Anne McGraw

There’s often a little internal struggle when all of our life’s dreams don’t look exactly like they did with our eyes closed. Even if the reality is just as wonderful and just as ideal, it takes a moment or two of growing pains to adjust! So I completely understand when Anne talks about her reticence to fully embrace suburban life for a while. Homes all on top of each other and neighbors knowing when you’re leaving and when you’re coming home wasn’t how she envisioned her life, but their location and all the lovely friends they’ve made in their neighborhood turned out to be a huge factor in the happiness levels of her family! Eyes closed or open, that is just heavenly.

Friends, I hope you enjoy the bright colors and bright ideas in this tour. I sure did! Welcome, McGraw family!

Recipe: Easy Meatball Stroganoff

Creamy, protein-filled sauce poured over noodles or rice? It’s a universal favorite at our house. And this is hands down the easiest version ever, because it’s made with frozen meatballs instead of stew meat or hamburger. Even your pickiest eaters will want to gobble this right up. (Even if there are a few mushrooms pushed to the side — you can’t win them all.) I’m confident you’ll declare this recipe a winner.

Usually stroganoff includes buttered noodles or homemade spaetzle or even rice. And a perfect side dish to pair it with is braised red cabbage — find the simple recipe in the notes below in case you want to make it too.

Okay, so let’s get into how easy it is to make this meatball stroganoff!

How to Make a Book Cover

How to Cover a Book tutorial featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Gabrielle of Design Mom

As a high-school student, covering my textbooks was always something I looked forward to, (so that I could fill the blank covers with I-heart-Morrissey). With a new school year, it’s the perfect time for a little refresher course on covering books, don’t you think?

Newsletter: Talking To Myself On Long Walks

For the last couple of weeks I’ve needed to get out some extra energy, and I’ve been taking long solo walks of an hour or more, usually in the evening after dinner. These are not fitness-focused walks — I’m not breaking a sweat or anything like that. I’m just walking, sort of wandering. I figured I would listen to a podcast or audiobook while I walk, and sometimes I do. But a lot of the time, I’m not listening to anything and instead, I’m just working out ideas and arguments in my head — or voicing aloud my thoughts as I talk to myself. I keep my headphones in, so maybe if someone sees me talking to myself, they’ll assume I’m on a phone call. : )

Click here to read the whole newsletter. It’s free!

Living With Kids: Alana Chernecki

Alana is agreeable and affable and just downright happy. She knows what she needs to achieve that happiness, including beautiful spaces that work for her family and inspire them to be great…and her sleeping arrangements. (You might not agree with those, but I am sure Alana would laugh and wave away your worries! She is no longer a sleep-deprived grump and wants to shout it from the rooftops!)

Come see Alana’s home. I love the story of her background, and I think you will, too. Welcome, Alana!

Dessert For Two: Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Peach Compote

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Peaches

Every time I sit down to write about a dessert, my inclination is to exclaim, “This is my favorite!” But I find that I’m saying that about every dessert. Ha! But I really do love, really LOVE, panna cotta. It’s an Italian dessert which translated means “cooked cream.” I’m not even sure when the first time was that I made panna cotta, but I do remember thinking to myself, “Okay, this is something special.”

It is a special kind of dessert, but it’s awfully simple to make. The thing that makes panna cotta exceptional is the texture. It should be light, creamy, and jiggly; but not too firm. Think: creme brulee without the eggs. It uses gelatin, but it should not be at all like jell-o. No. That would be a travesty. It’s silky and smooth, and practically melts on your tongue.

The ingredients are very simple as well: heavy cream, gelatin, and sugar. That’s it. Three ingredients. Then they can be flavored as desired. My very favorite variation uses part buttermilk and heavy cream, and is flavored with vanilla. The tang of the buttermilk with the creaminess of the heavy cream and the sweet vanilla essence is the stuff dreams are made of. This dessert is heavenly.

Panna cotta doesn’t need much of anything on top, but I think it’s splendid with fruit. Since I had some lovely peaches, I had to make a simple compote to pair with buttermilk panna cotta.

Fresh peaches are wonderful here, but if you can’t find any, you can substitute frozen and thawed peaches, or substitute your favorite fruit. Berries are magnificent with the tangy buttermilk. A little lemon juice helps brighten the flavors a bit and the brown sugar and cinnamon just kind of take it up another notch. To make the fruit a little more special, you could add a splash of bourbon or brandy, but that’s completely optional.

Last Chance to Join the Book Launch Group!

Last Chance to join the Book Launch Group for my new book, Ejaculate Responsibly! It’s totally free to join and lots of fun. The Book Launch Group is a private group and members get exclusive perks — weekly notes from me with behind-the-scenes info, discounts, a Zoom call just for group members, and the first look at book merch. 

If you want to join the Book Launch Group (with 900 other awesome people who already signed up!), send me your email address ( and I’ll send you an invite. I’m going to close down invitations this Friday (9/9), so if you want in, this is your last chance.

I’ve sent out a few notes to the Book Launch Group so far, including different color alternatives for the cover that we considered, and what it was like recording the audiobook.

I hope you’ll join the Book Launch Group! And feel free to tell your friends if you think they’d be interested.

Want more info about the Book Launch Group? You can read about it in my newsletter.

Make Mismatched Dishes into a Matching Set

Give a new life to secondhand mismatched dishes! Oh my goodness. I think I’m obsessed with this painted plate DIY. Quick: Get to your favorite secondhand shop (Goodwill, Salvation Army, D.I.) and grab all the mismatched white dinnerware you can find. Then use this super easy tutorial to create a brand new set of service for four. Or six. Or eight!

You can make as many place settings as you like, in whatever color scheme you like! The options are endless. Come see how easy it is.

Living With Kids: Kate Holbrook

[ Note from Design Mom: I am deeply saddened to report that Kate Holbrook died of a rare cancer of the eye, at age 50, on August 20th, 2022. Her home tour was originally published in November of 2019. We are republishing it today to share again Kate’s beautiful home and beautiful life as a memorial to her. If you’d like to learn more about the remarkable Kate, here are a few links:
-Thoughts on Kate’s life in The Salt Lake Tribune and in The Deseret News
-A sermon written by Kate from 2006
Kate’s obituary
-The video of Kate’s funeral
-An essay about KateWhat Kate Holbrook taught me about the love of God through food

My personal connection to Kate is through a close friend of mine and of Kate’s, Susan Hamilton. Once upon a time, maybe 16 or 17 years ago, Susan and I took a little roadtrip from New York to Boston and stayed the night at Kate’s house. That was my first time meeting her and I was immediately struck by how warm, smart, and interesting she was.

I think you’ll love this quote from Kate in the home tour below: When I feel frustrated, I try to remember the point of the house is to bring people together, not to harm relationships in search of house perfection. 

I send love and sympathy to Kate’s family and all those affected by her death. — Gabrielle ]

Kate has such a fascinating story and I’m so excited for you to meet her today. Her home is a traditional gem in a neighborhood in Salt Lake City. It’s warm and cozy and there are book cases and books around every corner — you can instantly tell this is a family full of readers. Kate also shares some of the life-altering challenges she’s gone through as well brilliant philosophies about cooking and eating as a family. Welcome, Kate!

French Onion Burgers Recipe

French Onion Burgers |

I love grilling at the end of summer and into the fall. These French Onion Burgers definitely have a fall feel to them. Each juicy burger is topped with slow-cooked caramelized onions and melted Gruyere cheese served up on a buttery toasted brioche bun with a thick slice of garden fresh tomato, a handful of arugula, and homemade herbed aioli. It sounds like something you’d order in a restaurant, right? So fancy! But it’s easy to put together and would be great to serve for a fall BBQ party or anytime you’re in the mood for a burger that will knock your socks off.

Talk Shop Live!

I’ll be going LIVE on Talk Shop Live this Friday, August 26th at 7:00pm ET. Please join me to talk about my new book, Ejaculate Responsibly, order an autographed copy, and commemorate Women’s Equality Day! I’ll be staying up late that night, because it will be 1:00am for me in France. So I hope you’ll join in, ask me questions, tell me I don’t look sleepy, and help me keep the energy up. : )

This is my first big marketing event for my book and I am so excited they invited me. Talk Shop Live hosts events for mega-celebrities — like Dolly Parton and Ringo Starr — and people get to interact with them and ask questions, and the celebrities get a chance to talk about what they’re working on. But it’s not just for celebrities! It’s for non-celebrities like me too. And it’s so much fun! Thanks in advance for helping me make this a really successful event.

Newsletter: Audiobook News

I’ve got two newsletters to tell you about. The first one went out to my Book Launch Group. I’ve been getting lots of questions from readers about the audiobook — will there be one? will I be the reader? So I wrote up some behind-the-scenes updates about the the audiobook version of Ejaculate Responsibly that I thought you might enjoy.

Click here for the Book Launch Group newsletter.

The second one includes a report from our trip to the U.S. — the first time our kids had been back in three years! Plus an update on my nephew and his babies, and a request for your help coming up with ideas for custom pencil slogans.

Click here for the Design Mom newsletter.

Living With Kids: Michelle Waters

Michelle is a total joy. I know you’re going to be moved by her words, her enthusiasm for her city, and even her love for a feature in her basement renovation. You’ve just got to adore someone who describes her basement-turned-kids-bedroom like this: “I figured that exposed brick is a thing nowadays, so now I’m trying to make exposed concrete a thing, too.” I enjoy people who make things a thing, don’t you?

And her memories of a bittersweet home project…oh, it made me swallow a gulp.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this one, Friends. Enjoy it, please. Welcome, Michelle!

DIY: Vintage Classroom Posters

Many years ago, when I was putting together a bedroom for Oscar, to encourage Oscar’s love of marine biology, I hung posters of shark diagrams and catalogues. But instead of framing them, I turned them into old-school classroom-style, pull-down posters — or as I like to call them: DIY Vintage Classroom Posters. I received quite a few requests for a tutorial on how to make them, and I’ve got it ready for you today.

There are a few reasons why I’m so pleased with this solution. 1) It’s inexpensive — far cheaper than framing a poster. 2) It’s easy to do and not-intimidating. 3) It looks great — and adds some fun texture to a wall. 4) It’s an appropriate solution for an inexpensive poster or a temporary hobby/interest.

With kids, sometimes their interests change from month to month. In June they love the Olympics, and in July they love antique cars. As parents, you want to encourage their interests, and hang up the latest poster they bring home, but it can be hard to invest in expensive artwork or frames, knowing that their interests will likely change sooner than later.

So for me, this tutorial is an ideal solution. It makes the poster look great on the wall, but isn’t a big investment of time or money. If Oscar’s passion for marine biology continues, the posters will continue to look good, but if he decides he’s into something else, it won’t feel like a big sacrifice to say goodbye to the shark posters. Does that make sense?

I think vintage-style posters work best for this project, because we’re going for a look that is similar to the old pull-down posters used in classrooms. Those posters are what inspired this project in the first place. Anything that has diagrams or notes, or looks like it could appear in a textbook, would work for this. Botanical prints. Biology drawings. Old maps. Stuff like that.

And the how-to process is as simple as can be. Once it is put together, it can go on the wall immediately. No waiting.

Ready to get started?

Newsletter: Coming to America!

In this newsletter: The three states we’ll be visiting on our trip to the U.S., 12 tips for hosting the perfect picnic, how to build simple crate shelves, a lovely home tour in Atlanta, and an update on my Nephew and his babies.

Click here to read the whole newsletter.

I also sent out the first message to my Book Launch Group for my new book Ejaculate Responsibly. The message discusses some of the other color explorations that the book designer, the legendary Bonnie Seigler, created for the cover. And a little history of the cover font, Avant Garde.

Would you like to join the Book Launch Group? (It’s free!) Here’s the link.

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