On the record.

October 12, 2009

Turns out a little online pining for my once-dormant record collection = an awesome birthday gift: a Living Small–sized turntable!

This 12″-square Numark player is computer compatible, too, meaning that my never-before-seen-on iTunes albums, such as Classics in a Dance Tempo (yes, that means Tchaikovsky Fox Trots, friends — party at the Pine Box!) and Kenny Rogers’ disco-country blockbuster The Gambler can now accompany me to work, to the gym, to the grocery store. Possibilities = endless.

Special thanks to Mr. Living Small for making it all possible.


Christmas is coming, and it’s time to wrap the gifts! Wrap Small this year with one of these greener-than-standard-gift-wrap options.

Grocery sacks (a.k.a. kraft paper). Have yourself a very Martha Christmas! Turn your grocery tote inside out for a clean look, or take advantage of the patterns on the outside to create a signature gift. Not reusable, but recyclable. In lieu of taping corners, why not stitch them, à la Wild Olive?


Newspaper. You gotta love the prezzies that come clad in this week’s dailies. You can’t use it twice, but it beats recycling après read. For a fresh twist on an old standard, take a tip from Danny Seo: use newspapers to wrap a bottle of wine. Secure with a ribbon around the bottleneck, and then cut the top portion into strips and curl with scissors, as you would a ribbon. Fancy pants!


Gift bags. Who doesn’t reuse a gift bag over and over and over and over and over…? My mother is the poster-woman for reusing those things. I’ve been getting Xmas yummies in the same gifts bags for, like, fifteen years. We speak of them in (ir)reverent shorthand: The “Shorts” Tree. The Music Shoppe. Napoleon Santa. And to this day, they incite in me veritable paroxysms when I see them arrayed in all of their glorious bounty. Ooh!

While you’re already baggin’ it, why not pump up the volume? Make your own gift bag out of newspaper (shout-out to CRAFT Mag for this idea). Head. Spinning. So. Eco. Friendly.


Decorative tins. Thrift store time! Secondhand shacks abound with tossed-out cookie tins, tea tins, candle tins, whatchamawhosiewhatsit tins. And these tins are infinitely reusable as gift boxes. Clean ’em up (and embellish as below, if you’d like), pack yer stuff, and give, give, give!


Papercraft Gift Card Box. Like the gift bag, this little bit has a long life. Slip in a gift card now. Your recipient can use it to store all kinds of objects later — things like buttons and bubblegum cigs and pieces of string.


Fabric. Use up remnants, or make a gift out of the wrapping, too. Gifting a quilter? Wrap the present in a fat quarter or two. Presenting a sheet set or duvet? Bundle it in a pillowcase. Offering a pair of mittens? Swaddle them in a matching scarf. Chez Living Small, we’re fabric wrappers almost exclusively. (Easy, because my fabric stash doesn’t seem to deplete. I think I’m lazy.) All you need is a swatch big enough to cover your gift and some yarn or ribbon. It’s tricksy at times — no slick creases, no sticky tape — but it beats having to toss crumpled gift-shells, even if you’re recycling. (I Spy Smallers! Is that faux bois fabric familiar?)

And what about pages from a desk calendar? Or tinfoil? How do you wrap it up?

Tins via Design*Sponge; Fabric-wrapped gifts via me.

Everyone loves food. (If they don’t, they should.) And homemade treats are the crème de la crème of foodie gifts. Onward to the eats!

~~~~ SAVORY ~~~~

PARMESAN BLACK-PEPPER BISCOTTI via Gourmet/Epicurious (Note: This is a big time commitment, but oh! So yummy, I’m sure.)


DO CHUA (Vietnamese pickled veggies) via Tea & Cookies


SMOKY CASHEWS via Martha Stewart/YumSugar

~~~~ SWEET ~~~~

SUGARPLUMS (yeah — they’re real!) via Handmade Homeschool/CRAFT Magazine


LEMON CURD via Joy of Baking (Great spread on scones or stirred into plain yogurt.)




CANDIED CITRUS PEEL via Martha Stewart online


PEPPERMINT BARK (a Christmastime staple) via Bon Appetít/Epicurious

Happy cooking!

The Twelve Days of Craftsmas

December 12, 2008

So the economy’s in the pigpen. Gone are the free-wheeling seasonal shopping sprees of yesteryear. For 2-aught-8, it’s a homespun holiday, kitted out with handmade gifts — from decor to delectables — that are not only simple and/or lickety-split quick (read: perfect for the well-intentioned procrastinator in all of us), but also easy on the pocketbook.

That’s right: It’s Fa-la-la-la-la Time at Living Small, and from now until December 24, I’m bringin’ it, Craftsmas-style. Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

  • Easy wreaths to make your front door (or favorite wall) look festive.
  • A sweet tree skirt — literally — for your faux or factual fir.
  • Simple paper ornaments, from teenies to gangly-danglies.
  • Clothes-cum-home decor and more!
  • Art and desk supplies that scream “too cool for school.”
  • Food, food, food. For people. For pets. For nourishment.

Merry Craftsmas, guys and dolls!

Photo: Shauna Alterio’s craft room, featured in ReadyMade magazine, Iss. 36.

Babies, babies everywhere! I know a boatload of ladies who are either preggers or just post-partum — and that means it’s time for me to get crafty. Exempli gratia: this knitted bear softie, stitched with love for a friend’s little girl, Clio Robin, born in September.

I’m guessing that you know at least one woman who’s expecting, so, in lieu of making you dredge the world wide web for baby projects, I’ll bring the projects to you. (Plus, a few off-the-shelf items, in case the baby comes early, or you’re not feeling the DIY verve.)

Knits and Sews

  • Cloth Diapers from T-shirts. Not into swaddling baby’s butt in plastic? Try zipping off a dozen of these second-life diapers. An especially lovely present for the craft-happy momma who is kind of busy right now.
  • Birdmobile. Think Calder, not Caped Crusader. This twig-and-twine mobile blooming with tiny birdies is so adorable, I want to make one for my house. And I don’t even have a baby.
  • Kipling Sweater, Goldie Dress, and Zebra Cardigan. A trio of baby knits for all seasons and a range of ages. The Kipling Sweater, for a newborn, comes complete with a preppy-meets-super villain poppable collar. The Goldie Dress, knitted here with a variegated orange/yellow/turquoise yarn, makes the most of cute with little cap sleeves and a simple, Nehru-look split neck. And the Zebra Cardi kills with its customizable stripes. (I’m thinking chartreuse and aqua, or orange and royal blue.)

In the Kitchen

  • Baby Food, chez vous. Gerber, go home! Check out the comments on this post, which will lead you a bazillion baby food-making sources. If you’re into home canning, push your advantage: a presentation of homemade, organic baby mash could make an excellent welcome-to-the-world gift.
  • Compostable Baby Wipes. Every diaper-wearing baby requires some sort of baby wipe. So why not make your own biodegradable scrubbies with household ingredients? Better for baby, better for the planet.
  • Ikea-hack Play Kitchen. So maybe you don’t make this in the kitchen, and maybe this can wait until the baby can stand on its own. But this pretend prep-station comprised of Ikea components (and a few mini frypans) is one of the coolest kid crafts I’ve seen. What up-and-coming chef wouldn’t flip his lid for a little kitch like this?

Store-bought, but Still Rad

  • Wooden Toys. In the event that you’ve already given your fave kidlet a metric ton of t-diapers and host of birdmobiles and six gallons of mashed bananas, there are always wooden toys.
  • Organic onesies and tees. Etsy artist Foxy & Winston silk screens animal prints onto organic cotton onsies and t-shirts. Love the orange armadillo, in particular.
  • Hand-quilted bibs. Beautiful fabrics transform the everyday to art. From Set Carré, another Etsy crafter.

What little crafts have you created? Any suggestions from those with kids?