Thoughtful Gifts made with Love

By Kathleen Guagliano (Katg) on October 2, 2010

With the gift giving season approaching, you don't have to be super-crafty to make thoughtful gifts for family or friends. Here's just a few ideas to make some personal, interesting and unique items that will be well received by all!

When it comes to human behavior, gift giving has always been a favorite subject for studies by psychologists, economists and of course marketers. Studies have found that gift giving is a very complex and important part of human relations, helping to characterize a relationship and reinforce bonds with family and friends. It’s also been shown that it is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who receives the most positive psychological gains from the gift. There's a lot of pleasure in the giving.

However, gift giving can sometimes be very frustrating. Annoyed by commercialism, large shopping crowds and the age old question…”what on earth does he or she need” people can sometimes be tempted to opt out of gift-giving altogether. It doesn’t have to be so.

Sometimes the most appreciated gifts are ones that you’ve created yourself. Personally, I’m not the craftiest person in the world but I’ve found a few ways to create items for friends and family that have been extremely well received. These are mostly created by using a Camera and a Computer which makes it easy. And if I can do it - You can too! Here's just a few tried and true ideas that you might enjoy!

How many times have you wanted to put a bunch of digital or scanned photo’s into an album as a gift? Maybe it's old Family Photo's you want to share or travel photo's from a group trip. Sometimes it's just too overwhelming to start - printing and organizing and it just never seems to get done. Personally, I love to cook and over the years I’ve written or constantly printed out recipes for my friends and family. Last year I decided that I would put a variety of these recipes into a book. This is where Picaboo came in. 

They have a wonderful downloadable software program and Photo books can be fully customized by dragging-and-dropping photos and captions anywhere on your pages. You have complete creative control with powerful-yet-simple editing options. Choose from a variety of professionally designed themes to get started or you can completely customize your book without a theme if you prefer. They also offer thousands of photographic and professionally designed backgrounds to customize your pages. The options are endless. 

Laying out the pages for my Cookbook was both Fun and Easy!

Cost: I have a friend who is currently making a book for her children, complete with genealogy links. She’ll probably print 4 copies and the savings will be substantial as she can fit up to 34 photo’s per page. Compared to the cost of printer ink and photo paper these days, this is a bargain. They are printed on a very high quality, almost indestructible paper at a 300dpi resolution that wont fade over time. They offer hard or soft cover and the books come nicely shrink-wrapped and ready for gift giving! 

Of course there are other sources and Photo-Book vendors such as ShutterflySnapfishKodak Gallery, etc., but I seem to always find a good coupon for Picaboo which further adds to the savings.

50% off Coupon at Picaboo

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Examples of the various types of Photo-books offered at Picaboo

You can also send your book via email using the 'Share' feature within Picaboo and personalize the message you send to your friends and family. Picaboo will include a link to your book, so you don't need to worry about attachments. You can also share your Photo book on Face-book.

Zazzle is an online retailer that allows users to upload images and create their own merchandise or buy merchandise created by other users. I love giving their Calendars as gifts and will usually create one every year with either Photo's from a memorable trip or just favorite images from my Garden. I find the small 7" x 11" size is a great stocking stuffer. With Zazzle though, they just don't stop at Calendars and Cards. If it's something that can be printed on, they have it! You'll find everything from customized T-shirts, pet clothing, postage and I notice they now even customize shoes!

Like Picaboo, Zazzle is also very easy to use and the results are high quality. The shipping is very quick, there is no minimum purchase and there are discounts for quantity. Picaboo has also added calendars to their line, which I've yet to try.

A few Calendars I've created with Zazzle

Every so often I come across a really nice Photograph I’ve taken that looks like it belongs on the wall! Just printing it and putting it into a frame, really doesn’t make it so appealing so I started looking into these vendors that will print your photo’s on canvas. Well let’s go one step further and do it ourselves! 

There are some good brands of canvas paper on the market and I’ve tried a few. Some don’t have enough grain (Office Depot brand) and I do prefer the glossy ones as it gives your printed photo an oil painting effect. Of course you’re limited on size as most of the canvas paper comes in 8 ½ X 11” sheets but If you have a large printer that accommodates 11” X 17”, there are also a few brands in this size. Size is really the only limitation here and if you want larger prints on Canvas, you can always order them from the many online vendors. 

I have an inexpensive HP printer and I find that I really don’t have to make too many adjustments and the canvas paper feeds through just fine. You can use some photo software to give a painted effect but I find that usually the grain in the paper will do this for you. It may take a little trial and error, but eventually you’ll come up with one you like. 

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You can find such pretty frames these days on sale at places like TJ Max, Marshalls, Big Lots etc.. Just size your photo to the opening size and remove the glass and you now have a cute personal framed canvas print. A gift of a favorite flower, town or scenery may be much appreciated.

Some good Canvas Papers I've used:

Media Street Royal Canvas - 20 Sheets for $19.95

Inkpress Stretchable Canvas - 10 Sheets $15.42


How about a set of pretty note cards or stationery? A Dear friend from Canada brought me a gift of some very pretty note cards this year. Her neighbor makes them and was very gracious to share her technique. She uses Pansies but I’m sure there are numerous other blooms that would press well also..

Picking and Pressing the Blooms: Pick the pansies when they are completely dry, moisture causes them to go moldy. Place the pansies on a white sheet of paper and fold it over and place in a telephone book. Leave them for a good three weeks, Place a heavy object or a brick to keep weight on the book.

Items to have on hand to adhere the Flowers: Tissues, Toothpicks, White glue that hardens clear, wax paper to put your blob of glue on, and pre-made cards for placing the pressed flowers on. 

Cards can be purchased at places like Hallmark, Michaels and Hobby Lobby, or you can make your own on a computer with heavy card stock. 

First step is to arrange the flower(s) on the card, this takes some time as your first arrangement may not be the last. Start to adhere the flowers to the card by placing a dab of glue on the toothpick and try to cover as much of the backside of the flower as you can. Carefully place the flower on the card and when situated, press it gently with a tissue. Remove any glue seepage with a fresh toothpick. It may all seem a little tedious, but the outcome is lovely.

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Here's My Pansies getting ready for my Note-card project this year! (Before and After)

This has to be one of my favorites! Every so often I'll make a book of Puzzles for friends or my Crossword fanatic significant other. I'll make a puzzle out of anything - Trips we've taken, favorite things, family, sports, a day at the beach, etc.. Sometimes I think I get more out of this than anybody else as I have to chuckle at some of the clues I come up with that drive people crazy! It does take some time, but I really enjoy it.

The program is called "Crossword Weaver" and the cost is $39.95 but there is a 25% Educational discount available for K-12, home school or religious education, to teachers, parents, and students who are purchasing with their own money. I've had it for years and it's more than paid for itself in fun! There is also a free trial version.

 And yes, it's the same program I use to create the Cubits Crosswords! 

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Make a nice little cover for the book and attach it all together in a binder or with a binder clip.

Of course, there are so many other ideas for thoughtful gift-giving such as Food, Garden items, Plants, etc...Sure hope you enjoyed these few!

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Great ideas Kat! Zanymuse Oct 5, 2010 5:42 PM 18
I had no idea! CajuninKy Oct 5, 2010 9:28 AM 3

La Cucina di Kat

Aka: “Kat’s Kitchen”. A warm and friendly place to really talk about good food, tell stories and share recipes from days gone by. Good down to earth cooking with an ethnic flair!

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