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Archive for the ‘Gifts’ Category

My friend Angela has an amazing new blog, Something Green.  Learn all about the tricks and products to help make your event more green from holiday stockings to renewal candles. Don’t miss the Green Glossary and Green Directory. She has been involved in the event and writing businesses for years. She’s the expert you’ve been looking for!

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I first came across Maitelates (my-tay-lah-tes) at Comet Coffee  (in the Ann Arbor Arcade) with a friend who had spent some time in Chile. She had a huge smile when she saw the chocolate dipped alfajors. She said she’s never seen them available in the USA.

I had never tasted anything like these treats. The caramel-filled shortbread-like cookies are delicate, sweet and delicious. You can buy them on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market in Kerrytown or online at Foodzie.

My parents were recently visiting and they were kind enough to buy us a sampler box. My favorite flavor – so far – is the Michigan cherry.

For more information about the cookies and the woman who makes them, Maite Zubia, I encourage you to visit her online diary.

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I remember carefully counting out the change from my allowance in order to buy stickers. I *loved* collecting stickers. There were the smelly ones, the funny ones, the pretty ones, the doubles you could sock away for later… inexpensive and personal, they were easily for a kid to collect.

My Mom Shops reminds us not only of the joys of collecting stickers, but how to put together a contemporary sticker collection book for your favorite kids this holiday season. Brilliant!

So, instead of buying an impersonal gift at the Big Box store on the outskirts of your town, make something for the kids that they can continue working on all year.

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Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed. Now it is onto Christmas, Hanukah and New Year’s Eve. Every year, I find it hard to imagine that time truly moves this quickly.

There are presents to buy, trips to schedule and meals to plan. Oy! It can make the cheeriest person feel like the Grinch. 

That said, with a little planning, it doesn’t need to be too difficult. My friend Shasta Grant, an amazing sewer and writer, blogs on The Lovely Nest about making lists and homemade holiday gifts. I hope you’ll spend a few moments on her blog to check out the coat she made for her toddler son and more. I can only imagine my fingers being nimble enough to make something like that!

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Bridesmaids Fishs Eddy presents

I love New York City and so I love the Fishs Eddy designs with the skyline: 212 New York Skyline.

Since we were getting married close to New York City (I know, I know, New Jersey isn’t New York. It’s close, though. Maybe it is another borough?), I decided to buy the Wonderful Women a present inspired by New York.

I bought these crocks and put two packages of kitchen herb seeds in each one. Placed in a reusable tote, it fit the slight green theme to the wedding. 

Perhaps, however, it was too large of a gift. I didn’t pay perfect attention to the measurements when I ordered them online and they were larger than I expected. Since a number of the Wonderful Women had to fly to the wedding (one flew internationally from Italy!), I fear that they might have been less convenient than they were cute.

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Groomsmen presentsgroomsmen presents 2

It can be difficult to come up with a personal gift to share with the groomsmen as a “thank you” for participating in the wedding.

My groom made a personalized CD for each of the groomsmen (think ‘80s mixed tape but more technologically advanced.) Not only did he choose music appropriate to each groomsmen, but he also made the CD covers and labels. He named each collection, “We Go Way Back” and chose appropriate movie images for each one.

With a quick trip to an office supply store and some careful, creative thought, you can probably do the same.

For some other ideas, see a recent guest blog about gifts from GroomPower.

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Hotel Welcome BagsI’ve always enjoyed a personalized welcome bag when I’ve gone to weddings out of state. When we made ours, we chose items that represent us and the wedding.  

We shared plant-able confetti, limoncello from Italy (where I lived for four years), marionberry jam (from the groom’s home state of Oregon), an art cube with photographs by my mother, water bottles and helpful maps. 

I was excited to have the opportunity to share my mother’s art with our guests. A professional photographer, Melabee Miller has had her photographs on four art cubes. The cubes are built like ancient Chinese puzzles. You open up the cube and discover more images inside. While we chose the white cube for the wedding, you can watch the pink one being opened up on this Youtube video. If you are interested in purchasing cubes, you are welcome to contact her directly at mmiller95(at)aol(dot)com.

Our wedding had a bit of a green theme (some potted herbs at the wedding) and we decided to re-use shopping bags for the welcome bags. Similarly, the confetti, made by Botanical Paperworks, had seeds in it and could be planted. 

We started planning for the welcome bags early by ordering the various pieces and having them shipped to my parents’ house in New Jersey. To drop them off at the hotels, we called a few days ahead to ask how many rooms were booked and then dropped them with the necessary labels. We tried to choose items that would travel easily if they weren’t consumed immediately. 

What was your favorite treat you found inside of a hotel welcome bag?

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Welcome Bags

We fly to New Jersey today for the wedding. Wow. It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that it is so close. The excitement is really building. Most of the major things are taken care of and we can start to relax.

This afternoon we are going to drop off the welcome bags at the hotels. We don’t want any of the out of town guests arriving a little early to miss out on anything. I put the bags together when I was home in September so they would be ready for us. 

I am excited about what we put in the bags – a little something from the places important to both of us – but we don’t want to give anything away too soon. I promise to blog about it after we get back from the wedding.

The bags and our wedding have a bit of a green theme. We decided to reuse shopping bags for the welcome bags in order to minimize the waste we are producing during the wedding. At the wedding, there will be potted plants that the guests can take home.

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Looking at the book during the showerHands down, my favorite gift at the shower last weekend was a book that the Chief Wonderful Woman, the Wonderful Women as a group, the Mother of the Bride and my fiancé all contributed to. The Chief asked everyone to send her pictures and she put them together in a square, red book (by Shutterfly.) 

The images are organized by era – infancy, childhood, high school, friends’ weddings, etc. I think I am most touched by the pictures of me with the Wonderful Women years ago… there is the picture of us in college, in high school… these are the people I grew up and continue to grow with.

In this era of Facebook, we often upload pictures and forget about them. I look forward to carrying this book with me from home to home and looking at it in the future. I’ll remember not only my friends and how we all were, but also receiving it at the shower. 

I am still glowing from the memory of Sunday and the memories brought into the present by the book. Thank you.

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cake tastingToday was a sweet, sweet day. It started off with cake tasting at our venue and ended with chocolate making.  

The Mother of the Bride and I were each given a plate with four different generous slices of cake. The venue made four cakes total and we took home the rest of the four cakes. I had no idea that we would not only taste the cake, but be able to eat it for the rest of the week. That’s what I call preparing for the wedding. 

Our meeting took about an hour, since we discussed many of the final details of the big day (seating, order of the day, etc.) How does time fly by so quickly? It seems just yesterday we were taking off our winter coats and meeting with the same people in January. I’m both overwhelmed by everything that has to be done at the end and amazed by how much we’ve already done. 

I spent the afternoon making the chocolates for the wedding favors. I had planned to make 3 per person, but I ended up making 5 (apparently an odd number is good luck for a bride. I think any amount of chocolate is good luck for anyone!) It was fun, but I could use a massage on my lower back after leaning over for three hours. The Mother of the Bride and I still have to package them in little bags.

Chocolate favor making

To prepare to make the favors, I had experimented with various flavors and techniques for chocolate making in Michigan. I thought that I’d try using squeeze bottles this time, but that proved to be a disaster yesterday. I kept melting the chocolate on low in the microwave and the chocolate wouldn’t melt. When it did, it wouldn’t flow nicely through the very small tip (even after I gave the bottom a good slap.) Finally, I microwaved the bottle some more and it imploded. The bottom was sucked inward and the chocolate was mixed with the melted plastic. That is not something you want to serve to your most beloved family and friends. I threw out the dreaded bottles and bought a new double-broiler on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond yesterday. So today, I knew what I was getting myself into and was ready. 

If you plan to be a DIY bride like I am, I recommend practicing making the items ahead of time (especially if it is food!) I was able to practice in Michigan and then order everything that I needed to have it ready for me at my parents’ house when I arrived last week. I did overdo it a little; there were twice as many bags of chocolate than I needed and I even made more chocolates than I thought I would (see how important math is?) Anyone need a bag? Or seven?

Yesterday was a busy day, too. I finished packaging the hotel welcome bags and wrapped the presents for the Wonderful Women. (More on that after the wedding. Can’t ruin any surprises!) After shopping for the double-broiler (called a “bagno Maria” in Italian – literally, Maria’s Bath?), I bought some special wines to share with our guests at a wine pairing station. We’ve made sure that my fiancé’s home state and our current state (Michigan) are represented. A friend told me that there is New Jersey Exit Wine. Perhaps I’ll look for that. Am I allowed to make the joke about what exit I take for the store? I didn’t think so. 

Tomorrow I’m off to pick up the wedding license, meet with the DJ and visit with my great aunt before going to a dance class with my parents. Somewhere in between then, I might have a slice of cake and a chocolate or two that went awry and wasn’t counting. Luckily, there are more than a few.

Chocolate favors

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