My Mother’s Day present to myself (plus a tool wishlist)

When it comes to gifts, I like to tell people what I want. For the past few years, I’ve taken it a step further when it comes to Mother’s Day, and I’ve bought myself a present.

The first time I did it, I bought Bluetooth earmuffs. They felt like a bit of a nice-to-have, but I knew I’d enjoy listening to podcasts when I was driving the tractor. The “nice-to-have” factor is hard for me. I try to be pretty practical and frugal most of the time. (I did buy used ones, so I felt better about having a bit of a discount.)

This year I bought a new-to-me cordless reciprocating saw (secondhand on kijiji). This has been on my wishlist for a while. We have so much scrub and brush around the farm. I thought a reciprocating saw was my best bet for pruning and trimming. It can get down in the dirt easier than a chainsaw (and is much lighter), so that I can mow right over the stump. Plus, not being limited by an extension cord was key. The pond shore needed more clean-up, and I was not stringing extension cords together until I could reach.

Note that I said “needed” more clean-up. The saw has been put to work, and I am loving it. I have cleared the pond shore, the septic bed (and then Matt’s Dad came and helped with a few bigger trees), one side of the pond trail and along the treeline at the edge of the front field.

The piles of brush are enormous, which leads to the next thing on my tool wishlist: a wood chipper. (For now I’m borrowing our farmer’s.)

Also on the list, a box trailer (so I don’t have to borrow Matt’s Dad’s) and a battery powered nailer (I am converted to battery tools).

Working around the farm makes me happy. Having the tools to do it is like a gift that keeps on giving.

Do you buy presents for yourself? How to you justify nice-to-have versus need-to-have? What’s on your tool wishlist?

The season of making

I love making presents for people. (And I love getting handmade presents too).

Some of my making so far this year has been peanut butter balls for Matt, blanket shawls for several people (need to make one for myself–I love those shawls), chocolate zucchini breads for my team at work (using homegrown zucchini of course) and a wood sign for a special colleague.

Life lessons wood plaque

I’m not good at making friends at work, but Tania and I really connected. In the new year, she’ll be starting a new job in Toronto. I will miss working with her.

When I was thinking about a going-away gift, I thought back to the conversations we’ve had during our late evenings in the office. Usually, we end up talking about life and what’s really important. I thought about this growth chart that Becky from sketchy styles made. It is full of good lessons for any age.

I scaled it down a wee bit, added checkboxes rather than height markings, changed a couple of items (“drink good wine” seemed appropriate for my friend) and renamed it a to-do list rather than a hero chart (Tania is the queen of to-do lists).

Life lessons wood plaque

I gave the sign to Tania yesterday, and she loved it. She also totally got it. That’s the best part of gift giving: finding the perfect gift that matches up with the people you’re giving to.

Are you making any gifts this year? What’s the best gift you’ve ever given? Have you ever received a special handmade gift?

Linking to: Happy Housie Get Your DIY On: Wall Decor

DIY ruler growth chart

Matt’s and my nephew population increased by two last year, bringing our total allotment to four. For each of our nephews, whether he counts his age in years or months, Christmas is a big deal. But there’s an extra specialness for nephew’s first Christmas, as you probably expect.

My sisters were very specific in their gifting instructions:

“Please remember he will only be about 9 months at Christmas and does not need tons of presents. His favourite toys are currently boxes, paper, strings on his Dad’s sweatshirts and his socks. As you can see, he has simple tastes and you do not need to spend a lot of money on him this year.”

The instructions didn’t really help. The little boys still got a lot of gifts.

The one who followed the directions best was probably my Dad. He gave each of the boys a stick.

Of course, he did hand turn the wood very carefully on his lathe and then sanded them smooth and varnished them. They were special sticks… and were winners with the boys.

Matt and I also made something for the boys, although they didn’t appreciate them as much as the sticks.

We made growth charts that look like big wooden rulers.

DIY kid's growth chart

I thought these were pretty clever when I first saw them online. Plus, if my sisters ever move, they can take this with them much easier than a door frame or a piece of drywall.

I’m not going into a full tutorial on how we made our rulers, but don’t worry, I will give you my templates, some tips, and posts on two other blogs that will give you everything you need to make your own.

There are lots of examples of these types of growth charts online and lots of tutorials out there. Here are the two posts that were most helpful to me:

  • Sketchy Style’s DIY Growth Chart – This one is more of a life chart than a growth chart–super inspiring and fun. Becky’s tutorial for transferring type onto wood was revolutionary for me. No stenciling! No painting! Wonderous. (The font I chose is Baskerville Old Face in case you’re interested).

Detail of DIY ruler growth chart

  • Decor and the Dog’s DIY Growth Chart – Michelle’s tutorial turned me on to paint pens. Transferring type to wood isn’t fool proof, and the paint pens helped me be super precise for the touch-ups. Plus, I was obviously inspired by Ike’s cute photos… although my model wasn’t quite as cooperative.

Baxter modelling with the growth chart

I made my growth charts out of half inch plywood, roughly 10 inches wide by 6 feet tall. I liked the layered edge that was visible from the plywood. Since they’re so thin, they’re pretty light weight, so a simple sawtooth picture hanger on the back was all I needed.

And here are my templates, just in case you want to make your own ruler. If you’re going to transfer the type directly from paper onto wood, you’ll need the reversed file.

Tomorrow is my third nephew’s first birthday. He lives a bit far away, so I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like. I’m hoping my sister’s able to squeeze in time–and get my nephew to hold still long enough–to make the first mark on his chart. Happy birthday, Cole. It’s been very special to see you grow over the past year.