My first guest...

My favorite thing about being part of the blog world is connecting with inspiring and creative women, who are clever and willing to share their passions with the rest of us.

The Gifted Blog is one of my favorites - wrapping and gifting and repurposing is as you know something that makes me smile. So in addition to all the things she already does, Charissa spent a bit of time answering my questions. My gratitude Charissa for your thoughts and attention.

Without further to do...

1. I have visited Japan and one of the first details I noticed was the beauty and effort that goes into packaging and presenting, making the act of giving, no matter how small, a ritual. Can you explain how this has influenced you and your blog?

Although I’ve known I was Japanese-American since childhood, it wasn’t until college that I began to understand what about me is “Japanese”. I’m four generations removed from the relatives who called Japan home, but my love of gift wrapping is undeniably influenced by my Japanese heritage. With a grandmother and mother who love paper and wrap gifts beautifully, it is little wonder that I’m here today, writing about what I do on The Gifted Blog.

I like that blogging has helped me better understand why gift wrapping is so important in Japanese culture. I wrote a series last year on How to Wrap Five More Eggs, a seminal text on traditional Japanese packaging. The author writes, “The act of packaging an object becomes…a ritual of purification, of distinguishing the contents of the package from all similar objects that have not been purified” (pg 12). A lightbulb went off when I read that! I always knew gift wrapping was important in Japanese culture, but that helped to put words to why it is.

2. What do you think of when you hear the word "gift"?

A blank canvas for expression! I love encouraging people in their gift wrapping practice because I firmly believe anyone can add a special touch to a gift. Everyone is good at something, and you’d be surprised at the ways these can be applied to gift wrapping. I want gift wrap haters and lovers alike to see my projects and say, “Hey, I could do that!”

3. What is the most interesting material you have used in one of your gift wrappings?

A ramen wrapper.

4. As a master wrapper, what are your top 3 tricks or tips?

1. Relax.
It doesn’t have to be perfect! Over a year into documenting each gift I wrap, I remind myself of this frequently. We wrap gifts to show our love, not to attain perfection. Take some pressure off yourself and relax!
2. Play.
Gift wrapping is celebratory and temporary: the perfect medium for experimenting. Play! See what happens when you combine this with that, or try something you’ve never seen before. You may like the results.
3. Look around you – literally – for inspiration.

Some of my favorite gift wraps are the ones that start not with a trip to the craft store, but with stuff found around my house. Mesh produce bags, old t-shirts, and security envelopes can find a new life as a green and quirky addition to a gift!

5. For me the holidays are not about presents and gifts but about family and time together. What is one of the best gifts you ever received that could not be wrapped?

Hands down, my son. Even at the tricky age of two, he is a delight to my husband and me. He plays lots of air guitar/drums and pretends that my spools of thread are walruses. It’s very surreal and wonderful. Though we obviously had something to do with his presence on earth, I believe that the spark of life in each of us is from God. And I am very grateful for how that’s made us a family of three.

Thanks so much for having me, Alex! It's been a pleasure. I hope your readers will feel officially welcomed to swing by The Gifted Blog for more repurposed gift wrapping inspiration!


Transforming Toys

Thanks to the monthly newsletter that arrives in the mailbox from the mother's group I so eagerly joined when we moved across the bridge, I found this great article from the owner of my favorite used children's store in Marin. On an off note, she just happened to be there when I went in to visit the next day and agreed to share her thoughts for transforming your holiday toy wish list into something that is easy on the earth and your pocket book.

Thanks Melissa!

Transforming Toys for the Holidays

by Melissa Hereford
owner of Marin Kids Consignment

I'm sitting on the floor looking at a brown paper bag full of plastic.

I have no idea what they are, but as I pull out the first one, I can see part of a truck, wheels, a head, a face. I ask my 5 year old, "Do you know what this is?" He runs over, excitement shining in his eyes. "Mommy, these are Transformers! Cool!" He sits down next to me and plays for an hour with a bag full of what I now see are Transformers. I watch as he clicks one part, turns another, clicks and turns until a tall plastic figure turns into a truck. And I'm thinking, "For $5, I can give my kid a slice of heaven without all the fancy packaging."

Flash forward 2 months to Christmas morning or Hanukkah evenings or whatever holiday your family might celebrate that involves gift giving. My son opens a gift, happy, thrilled, wanting to play...but wait, who has the scissors...20 minutes later we are sweating and swearing as we continue to unwind the plastic twisting ties and cut through the layers of non-recyclable plastic. Oh, look how much fun he is having with the box!

As we head into the holiday season (Yes! We are!), think about what gift giving means to you and what you are teaching your kids about these important things: how to share, how to reduce waste, and how to give meaningful gifts to one another.

A few ideas:

1) Teach your kids how to re-use paper bags. Wrap your gifts in brown paper bags, decorated with kid drawings and scribbles or photos, stamps, paint, stickers. If you wrap early enough, you can have art projects for weeks to keep the kids busy.

2) Teach your kids how to share. Have a toy exchange with friends. Ideally you will have a variety of ages involved, so the older kids are passing their loved legos and Playmobils, Barbies and Groovy Girls onto the younger children. Talk to your kids about passing on their toys to younger children. This gets easier as they get older, so you might have to pull a switcheroo on the younger ones. But you didn't hear that from me, I would never do anything like that to my child. Ahem.

3) Teach your kids that a previously loved toy is a good thing. When your children run into preschool in the morning, do you think they care that many other children played with that toy before they did? Make a choice to purchase 1 or 2 gently loved toys this season as part of the mix. At Marin Kids Consignment, we love consignors who bring in their beautiful outgrown toys, and the children who receive them as gifts love them even more! I promise you that children do not care if the toy has been played with by another child. If you feel guilty about giving your child a previously loved toy, take the money you would have spent on a new toy and put it in your child's college fund.

4) Teach your kids that bigger is sometimes better. Consider making a subtle step in reducing waste by giving choices: do you want 3 or 4 little Lego kits (let's say one from each family member), or would you prefer us all to put our gift money into one big Lego set? Often the bigger kits are cooler than the smaller kits. Show your children photos so they can see what you are suggesting.

5) Teach your kids that quality is better than quantity. Spend a little more to get fewer, more durable toys that last: My lego-maniac son gets new legos. He pours over the Lego catalog for months, weighing the pros and cons of each kit. Legos are indestructible. Lego's never need replacement parts. They can be (and are) passed down from generation to generation.

6) Teach your kids that Santa lives in the North Pole, not in China. Consider telling your children that Santa's elves do not make those cheap plastic goodies you saw at Toys R Us, so they cannot be requested as gifts.

Looking down at this bag of Transformers, I see how much we have in common. Although I could not see their function at first, I now see clearly how one idea can transform into another, one click and turn at a time.

Melissa Hereford is wife and mother and owner of
Marin Kids Consignment
814 W. Francisco, San Rafael


My 2010 Etsy Gift Guide

Paxton by Warmsugar

Fairy Tale Finger Puppets by The Hookery
Hedgehog family hand puppet by Geklara
Kitty Crayons by Kittybblove
(made of melted down crayons)

Felted Little Red Hen Characters by My Felted Garden

Branch Building Blocks by The Whimsy Tree

Discovery Tote by Helicopter Studios

Can you tell - I have a toddler boy on the brain!

I chose these gifts as most could be for a boy or a girl - ages 2-5, is my fair guess.

Either handmade or hand crafted, from new and old materials, these are my favorites from one of the best online sources around.

Please support handmade and your local craftsman this holiday season. Better yet, sit down with your kids and make something with them.

May the magic begin.


Made by hand

So today, on our country's busiest shopping day, I hope that you are at home, with family, enjoying time together and not at some crazy sale that started at 4am.

Instead this holiday season (and for the new year) please buy handmade, make handmade, support handmade, gift handmade, spread the word about handmade.

It's easy.

To take the pledge, just click on this button:

Then tell your family that holiday gifts this year need to be made my hand. It will make you feel better. It will make your pocket book feel better. And its good for the earth too. My favorite places to buy handmade are local holiday craft fairs, Alameda Flea Market, Waldorf School Winter Fairs (check your local school) and of course Etsy.

Making something this year, that you can share?

Send us an email with a photo and we'll post as many as we can. Send email to repurposedplayground@googlemail.com


A simple table

They lived their beliefs, and everything they made - whether a pegboard, a small oval box, or a stone barn - was an outward expression of their inner life. To an outsider raised on a diet of restless materialism, the Shaker's serene, purposefully furnished rooms are compelling.

-Celia Barbour for Martha Stewart Magazine in a article entitled Learning from the Shakers

I don't know what MS Living Magazine was from - I found the whole article that I had ripped out at the seam and tossed in the "to be scanned someday folder".

But today, as I think about setting a table for a house full of guests on Thursday, I am extremely drawn to this image. And more so the thought and intention behind the simplicity.

I am reminded of one of my most favorite sayings:

The way we do anything is the way we do everything.

I think this will be my inspiration for this day of thanks and the rest of this holiday season.


Der erste Advent

Wire Advent Calendar at Impressionen

Tealight Advent Display from Impressionen

Could be easy to recreate with an cake stand, some tea lights and vinyl numbers.
Think of the glow as with each day you approach the 25th. A perfect table centerpiece.

This clever idea just requires some construction paper and glue. And of course 25 little things that fit under 25 little cones.

This darling sewing project from Kristen Doran Design

In Germany, the first of Advent is a big deal. Its the beginning of that joyful and magical countdown to Christmas, promising a little treasure everyday. From a small morsel of chocolate to a more elaborate toy to build on your own, Advent Calendars can be a lovely DIY project for the holidays. You can make something to use over and over again, or something more streamlined like the paper envelopes shown above.

The nugget is still too small, so I'll save this project for next year.

Do you have a favorite Advent calendar that you have made? If yes, email me a picture at repurposedplayground@googlemail.com

For more ideas + inspiration, see the recent post at Cool Mom Picks

For more from Germany's Impressionen, click here


I saw it's potential...

I mentioned the rummage sale I couldn't resist a few weekends ago. I schlepped this rather sad ottoman/stool/pouf home with me in the rain, because for $3 who could resist.

When I pulled it out to reupholster, my husband replied, "What are you planning for this thing? You must have seen it's potential because this is uuugglyy."


Another rainy weekend later and a fruitless trip to a nearby fabric store (trips to fabric store no longer feasible with one fast and clever 19 month old hooligan), I came home lamenting that nothing I try to do these days works the way I want it to. Once over my self-indulgent pity party, I combed through my box of fabrics and what do you know, found just the perfect thing.

I ended up using this old Pottery Barn twin bedskirt and part of a chair cover of the same pattern that I knew I would never use. I love using bedskirts and curtain panels for projects because you can use the finished seams to your advantage.

I took it all apart, even the hinges and the upholstery tacks on the inside of the lid.

A massive amount of staples later, and I am extremely happy with the outcome.


Choo Choo: Part I

One very chewed on board book

Plus 4 rattan baskets found at Urban Ore for 99 cents each

Plus 1 Lack coffee table from Ikea

Plus 4 cans semi-gloss spray paint, my favorite whole punch, a handful of cable binders, a few gobs of museum putty and one stellar train set.


A train table that doesn't look like train table and can be converted into an art or play dough or coffee table in less than 3 minutes.

Plus, everything gets hidden in the baskets below - with images so this little nugget will know what goes where. In theory that is.

Lessons learned from this project:

1. It always takes more spray paint than you think.

2. Just spray painting something is not easy as it looks on HGTV - it takes a really long time.

3. And it smells really bad (and it atrocious for Mother Earth) - I might need to think of another solution.

4. Museum putty was great idea but did not withstand turbo toddler terminator. He hasn't discovered one track - which is keeping the whole thing attached to the table. Please, do not use because it is not baby safe.

5. Cable binders may just be one of the world's greatest inventions. Ooh, the uses are endless!

This is only Part I. I usually don't post until a whole project is done, but this one is going to take a bit longer than usual. And anyway, its supposed to be a Christmas present.

When the reinforcements (woodworking uncles and artist grandma) arrive for the holidays, we'll do Part II and make this a train table worth writing about!

So stay tuned...


A little luxury

image found here

I have a vice and it has nothing to do with anything used or recycled or repurposed.

It's white 400 thread count sheets.

But I do have a secret. And its called the Linen Outlet.

We didn't have a regular wedding which meant we did not have a regular wedding registry. At the time we lived in a one bedroom apartment in the city, with no guestroom and no room for table settings for 12. We had bedding and we had everyday dishes, there was nothing else we needed.

But now, in a house with ample space, a guestroom, a pull out couch in the living room, a linen closet and our first non-family guests coming for Thanksgiving next week, I allowed myself the guilty pleasure of new sheets. The secret is that it was not so guilty.

Different from your standard discount store like TJ Maxx or Marshalls, the Linen Outlet has extremely helpful employees and multiples of the same thing. So if you want all white fitted sheets and pillowcases, all you have to do is ask. In and out in 10 minutes, and I can scratch this little task off my list.

But why only white you ask? Well, that is my other secret - keep things simple and the same. It means you never have to figure out what matches or what fits on what bed. And, it makes for a tidy linen closet. And well, that is just the next best thing to new white sheets.


A modern take on the holidays

My first holiday post. No way!

Well, maybe my wreath project was first officially.

Anyway, the new CB2 catalog came today thanks to the tenants before us who seemed to get every possible catalog know to man. I peeked in it and found these three ideas - 1 that could be recreated over your own dining room table (if you can make holes in your ceiling), 1 that is just too cute and 1 that is simply inspirational.

You see, I like new things and old things and borrowed things. And for me, inspiration is everywhere.

Forgive the Sharpie - I am playing around with different ways to display images and things that catch my eye, without using Photoshop or Illustrator.


Get inspired

I've done it - I've watched the whole season of Design Star - even though I knew who the winner was. And indeed, the winner was perfectly chosen.

You may not be into HGTV shows and for that I don't blame you. But if you are into repurposing or you just love before and after photos, here is the episode full of inspiration for turning old into new.



Christmas in October

Yes, Christmas was on my brain in October. Only because I knew I had to start this.

Step 1: Buy balls at Scrap, a whole box full for $10

Step 2: Set up Craft Night with dear friend (who is now also a mom and we never get to see each other the way we used to). Then, put on husband's calendar as he will be on nugget duty.

Step 3: Empty the box of balls and separate the colors, so that you can start to visualize a color palette.

Step 4: Pick your balls. The dull ones, the shiny ones, the small ones, the big ones, just pick them all. Once you have a solid pile and a color scheme that you are happy with, go for it.

Step 5: Be patient, be patient, be patient. Hot glue is a wonder tool, but it takes time to dry. And if you hurry, the balls will either fall out of place, fall on the floor and shatter into a million places or a drop of boiling hot glue will drop on your finger and it will still hurt after three days. So be patient - take it as a practice in mindfulness or make it a crafting meditation. Whatever works for you.

Step 6: Stop when you are tired or getting uninspired or at a loss of what ball to place next. My partner in this crafty caper had the space for us to leave everything as is. I left my half-completed wreath and headed home.

Step 6: Start where you left off, with a renewed energy for getting this baby done!

Step 7: Hold it up and let someone look at it - checking for gaps and holes or imbalances. It helps to know what end is up, though this can change once you have held it up.

Step 8: Step away, you are done. Don't overdo it. Less could very well be more.

Step 9: Store it away from little tiny hands and careless husbands.

Step 10: Hang your mighty creation in time to say "Happy Holidays"

Check back in December when I do my holiday decorating.


A family who eats together...



...stays together. Is that how the saying goes?

In our city apartment, we never had room for a dining table. At one point we created the contraption you see in the before picture with an IKEA table top and an extremely heavy solid metal base we found for $25 at the annual Bernal Heights Hillwide sale. It wasn't pretty but it seated 8 people for Thanksgiving, and in the end it was my first successful attempt at cooking a turkey that took the show - no one even noticed the table.

Well, when it made the move across the bridge and we placed it in our new dining area, its imperfections and makeshiftness stood out like a really really sore thumb. So, I set out to find the perfect dining room table.

Craigslist landed nothing fruitful - anything worthwhile was either gone or too far away. I visited the usual suspects, but you know how I feel about new furniture. I ventured instead to the East Bay, to two furniture stores I have always wanted to visit.

In the Wooden Duck (a local favorite for furniture made of reclaimed wood), there she was. The most outstanding dining table. Perfectly imperfect and rustic and heavy and long and...$3000. I laughed out loud. The nugget looked at me funny. "Let's go kiddo, maybe in my next lifetime."

Right next store is Urban Home - a consignment store in a huge warehouse space. Full of light and space to explore, I found more than just a dining table though I tried to stay focused and on task. I snapped a few shots of the table (made locally from reclaimed wood and vintage table bases and priced at a tad over $300) that caught my eye, grabbed the nugget from behind the rolled up carpets and headed back home.

Two days later, the table was strapped to the top of our car and well, you see the result!

As for the seating, the benches are IKEA Lack shelving units turned on their side with Iris chair pads and Capita legs (different heights available). Functional for keeping nugget trains and automobiles nicely tucked away when not in use. As for the booster seat, its a Mutsy that I found on Craigslist. I like it because of its modern un-baby look and the straps are long, which allowed me to secure it on the bench. Now the nugget is up high with the grown-ups, exactly where he wants to be.

A last trick for rented homes and apartments, hang your own lighting or ask your landlord to do it. If it doesn't require a change to the existing electrical hardware, it is easy to put up and then take down when you leave. And really, it makes such a huge impact. We hung a Kroby light fixture and even installed a dimmer switch. The switch we'll probably leave for the next tenants - every overhead light should be on a dimmer in my opinion.

We've found a few upholstered high back chairs that just need new covers and we're all ready for this year's Thanksgiving. Now I just have to cook a damn turkey again.


Rolling toy bins

If one talks about play things, one has to talk about storage that holds play things.

I love these.

And I am really sorry that I don't remember on what amazing blog or website I saw these on, or when. I used to save images for my own inspiration only, before I started this blog. So, please, have you seen these? Do you know who should get credit?

This idea could be used for some many different containers. I just love the modern rustic look of these.

Please note, these may not be the best solution for your child's toys if you have a new walker. Please, save these for when they are solid on their feet!