DIY Gifts for Tweens, Teens, and Young Adults

DIY Teen

Teens, tweens, and young adults could quite possibly be the hardest people to shop for – not to mention make DIY gifts for! I’ve put together a handful of gift ideas that should (hopefully) help make the process a little easier on you!

Emoji Pillows
I have given out so many handmade emoji pillows in the last year and they are always a hit! For this project, you will need pillow stuffing, yellow fleece, and colored felt. Start by choosing whatever emoji you want to make. Use your computer to blow up the image to whatever size you want your pillows to be (I usually do 14 inches across) and print your pattern. Cut the face shapes out of felt and two large circles out of the fleece. If you sew, you can sew the pillow (don’t forget to leave an opening for the stuffing!) or use hot glue. I stuff my pillow, seal it shut, and then hot glue on the faces. All done

Beauty & The Beast Shirts
For the lovestruck teen in your life, consider making “His Beauty, Her Beast” shirts! Beauty and The Beast was such a hit this year, and certainly young lovers like nothing more than wearing their hearts on their sleeve – almost literally, in this case. Locate a picture online that you like and blow up the image (I usually make it the size of a full sheet of paper). Then transfer onto a shirt using transfer paper and paint in your design. Be sure to follow the instructions on your fabric paint for proper drying to make sure your hard work doesn’t come off in the wash

Wooden Yard Dice/Giant Tower
If you’re handy with a saw, or know someone who is, then this could be the perfect gift for you to make! Simply head to your local hardware store to purchase some wood and cut it down to size. You can pick just  how giant you want your yard games to be. In this case of yard dice, either use paint or a wood burner for the dots.

Lavender Lemon Sugar Scrub
Sugar scrubs are so quick and easy to make, and can be made in a variety of different scents. I see a lot of people making peppermint scented scrubs for the holidays. As a general recipe, mix 1 cup sugar, 5 drops food coloring (unless you are okay with a more natural looking off-white scrub), 4 tablespoons coconut oil, and 10 drops essential oils. Put in a cute jar and top with a tag. Voila

Terrarium Kit
Terrariums are so popular right now, and you can do something as simple or complex as you like! You could build a terrarium yourself. Or you can put together a kit of all the items someone would need to build a terrarium: a jar, dirt, small rocks, and small plants. Craft stores have a wide variety of glass containers in different shapes and sizes, and home and garden stores should have at least a few small plants at this time of year.

DIY Gifts for Kids

DIY Kids

I love crafting, and so I look forward to making gifts for family and friends each Christmas. There are some people where I can easily think of a dozen things I would make for them… and then there are some where I just have no idea at all. Kids can be tricky people not only to shop for, but to make for, so I put together a list of five DIY Christmas Gifts For Kids!

Unicorn Tee
Homemade tees are so easy to make! First, print off the picture/slogan you want to put on the shirt. I generally recommend placing the design about three fingers below the collar of the shirt and not printing a design bigger than a sheet of paper. Next, use transfer paper to transfer the word/image outlines onto the shirt. Finally, use fabric paint (or in this case, puffy paint would work great!) to paint the pictures onto the shirt. I recently made a version of this shirt for my cousin’s birthday using different colored puffy paints and it was a huge hit! I love shirts that are both cute and positive!

Chef In A Box
Who doesn’t love gift baskets? Start that love at a young age by making the youngster in your life this chef in a box gift basket. Put together an assortment of cake mixes, sprinkles, muffin papers, and baking utensils for children of all ages. Include a book like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie or another baking-related book.

Artist In A Bag
Oh my gosh – how fun! Around the holidays, art sets of all shapes and sizes seem to pop out of the woodwork. So what could be better than one you make yourself, including exactly the art supplies you want? Check out the tutorial here.

No-Sew Playhouse Tent
I came across this adorable playhouse tent on Pinterest and immediately wished I had someone on my shopping list that was young enough to enjoy this! (but alas, all my cousins are in their teens and tweens) I especially like that it’s no-sew for those of us who still haven’t mastered the sewing machine but know our way around a glue gun. Get the details here.

Guess Who Family Edition
I LOVE personalizing board games! Some of my favorites over the years are a Harry Potter edition of Stratego, a medieval Life game, and dinosaur themed Monopoly. I grew up playing Guess Who with my grandma and was super excited when I saw this family version of the classic game. I myself wouldn’t build the board itself (work smart, not hard they say) so I would buy a used version of the game at a thrift store or rummage sale and replace the cards with family photos. You can get more information here.

Winter Décor Ideas

Christmas is my favorite holiday (even if winter is my least favorite season) and I’m so excited to begin decorating for the holidays! I’ve been working on making some new Christmas decorations this past month, and I thought I’d share my favorite ones here with you. I have TONS of Christmas pins on my Pinterest, so feel free to check those out as well!

Winter

Pinecone & Candle Centerpiece
I’m a big fan of projects that look elegant and expensive, but can be done yourself fairly easily and affordably! If I was going to buy this in a store (which I wouldn’t, because I’m cheap… I mean, thrifty), it might cost $20 or more. Instead, you can make this yourself, mostly with items you can find at the Dollar Store. All you need are a tray, a few votive candles, some pinecones (maybe even some greenery), and flocking spray. I had the HARDEST time finding flocking spray but came across it at Home Depot of all places (and for only $3). Simply give your pinecones a good spraying with the flocking spray then wait for them to dry before assembling them in your tray. Voila!

Pillow Covers
There’s a great tutorial for this here, complete with a video. All you need is a throw blanket (the kind you can buy at WalMart for $2.50 this time of year) and a sewing machine. Once I finished the first one, making covers for all my throw pillows was a breeze!  You could make pillow covers for your bedroom the same way, just adjust the pattern.

“May You Never” Painting
I love this quote! It’s cute, but also such a good reminder to never outgrow the simple joys in life. As far as paintings go, this one is pretty simple. You can paint the background as simple or complex as you like (I myself painted in streaks of darker and lighter red to make the background a bit more dimensional). If you are up to the task, you can freehand the words in. I myself am NOT up to the task (whenever I freehand my words tend to run downhill), so I use transfer paper to transfer the word outlines onto the canvas and then fill them in. You could even add a little snow or glitter if the mood strikes you.

The Road So Far (Supernatural Pun Intended)

My first publication was the easiest process I’ve ever undergone when publishing, for better or worse. It was back in 2010, the fall after I graduated high school. I happened by chance upon Less Than Three Press’s website and saw that they were putting together an anthology of m/m romance with a theme of wolves and the full moon. I’d written screenplays before but never a novel. There was only a month until the deadline, and I managed to whip together a 25,000 word novella that I thought was a clever spin on the anthology’s theme. I submitted it to them with just a brief cover email (no pitch required), and shortly before Christmas they told me that they wanted to publish it. After that, the editing process was incredibly brief, with hardly any plot edits being made to the story. What a cinch! (Looking back, I wish my editor and I had seen the unintentional similarities to another popular book at the time and removed them, but as they say – hindsight is 20/20.)

Since then, I’ve published more than two dozen stories ranging from short stories to novellas (including a re-release of that first story The Wolf and the Moon), and I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. It takes me longer to write a story (which is probably for the best quality-wise), and my editing process with my editors is much more intense (also for the best), but I’m MUCH happier with the quality of the stories being published. I shy away from that original publication of The Wolf and the Moon because of the previously mentioned unintentional similarities that made my story come across as a spinoff, but I couldn’t be happier with the second edition that we published earlier this year. The entire setting/time period of the book has changed, but the central love story is exactly what I always wanted it to be – better even, this time around.

Back in 2010, being published easily was incredibly fortunate for me. It gave me the confidence I needed to continue writing and gave me faith in my own abilities as an author. If I had had a rough time with that first publication, I might not have pursued writing further. I’ve learned so much since that first publication and am putting those skills to use as I revise my first novel length romance. I’m hopeful that as I continue this extensive editing process, I will craft a book that is ready to hit the shelves of stores across the country. Join me as I continue this adventure by signing up for my newsletter, full of music and book recommendations, craft and recipe ideas, and monthly giveaways (not of my own books, I promise)!

My Favorite Romance Movies

In no particular order, here are my top ten favorite romantic movies:
The Notebook
PS I Love You
He’s Just Not That Into You
Safe Haven
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Princess Bride
Along Came Polly
The Proposal
Fifty First Dates
How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days

Do you have a favorite that’s not on the list?

Halloween Decor

This is my first year decorating my own house for Halloween, and I’m excited for my first ever trick-or-treaters! I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween (even though my boyfriend and I met at a Halloween party), but as long as my decorations stay cute and not gory, I’m all in! Here are my three favorite Halloween crafts I’ll be making this year. For more, check out my Halloween Pinterest boards @KaylaBain-Vrba.

Halloween

Haunted Village
The hardest part about this Halloween craft is that the dollar store hasn’t rolled out their Christmas department yet so I can buy all the little houses and people! I may have to wait and make this one for next year. Once you have the pieces, just spray paint them black and be as creative as you like in organizing your Halloween town.

Skull Candle Holder
This project is fairly cheap to make, with everything you need coming from the dollar store. Three plastic skulls, two terra cotta pot bases, and some black paint. Voila! Glue your creation together, and top with a candle

Spiderweb Pillow
This is an easier crafting project, especially if you already have a throw pillow to cover. It’s just black fleece and white puffy paint! You can even print off a spiderweb template online and transfer it onto the pillow if you’re worried about your lines getting wobby.

Should Books Have Content Warnings?

If you’re a reader of fanfiction, you’re familiar with content warnings. At the start of their stories, authors will list potential triggers for readers as to why they might not want to read the story: slash, self-harm/suicide, abuse, death of a main character. It’s similar to movie ratings, when they say it’s rated R for language and violence. Video games are rated T for Teen or M for Mature. Even CDs will have a warning of explicit content. Books on the other hand, remain largely disclaimer-free. (I believe some novels that are erotica say ‘for mature audiences’ on the back, but they don’t specify the reasoning.) Which begs the question: if essentially every type of media includes content warnings, should books?

Personally, I’m torn on the idea. Many people believe that seeing and hearing explicit content is more severe than reading that same level of explicity on paper, which I tend to agree with. That being said, I recently became a big fan of Sherrilyn Kenyon and will be the first to tell you that her novels are graphic – not necessarily in terms of gore or sex, but in abuse – often toward children. I read one of her novels once that was so incredibly graphic that I was tempted on more than one occasion not to continue reading. That’s not to say that the abuse is gratuitous or doesn’t enhance the plot. In fact, it defines her characters. That doesn’t make it any less shocking to read. Should I have been warned going in that there was graphic child abuse in the story? Or does it take away from the story if we provide a warning that might give away a secret to the main character’s past and development? If we start putting warning labels on novels, how do we determine the list of potential triggers to warn people of? It really is a delicate balance that could easily be tipped either way.

Do you think we should be putting warning labels on our novels to avoid inappropriate audiences from stumbling across them? Is your mind made up one way or the other, or do you have any thoughts on this debate? I’m eager to hear your views.

DIY Fall Decorations

I love all manner of crafting and am getting started on my fall decorations. Here are three projects I’m working on, all at different levels of crafting experience so there is always a project for everyone! For more ideas or complete directions, stop by my Pinterest @Kayla Bain-Vrba.

Fall

Give Thanks Bottles
My boyfriend drinks whiskey and the bottles are so lovely I hate to throw them out. I’ve saved a bunch over the course of the year and this is one of several bottle art projects I’m making this year.

Pumpkin Painting
I just finished my version of this painting and am waiting for the oil paints to dry before I can seal and hang it. It’s not as complicated as it looks, and my best advice is not to worry about it being perfect. Depending on where you hang it, no one will see it up close, so it helps to back up and take a look at it from a distance. Don’t worry about the imperfections you can see as you paint at arm’s length, they will blend nicely at a distance!

Pumpkin Toilet Paper Covers
These are so cute and simple that I had to pin them! All you need is some printed material or even tissue paper to wrap around your toilet paper rolls. I think the bathroom gets forgotten sometimes during seasonal decorating, and it’s always nice to spruce up the room with a little color.

Some Of My Favorite Authors

I’ve always been a reader. When I was young, I would read for hours a day. Growing up, I read almost exclusively fantasy, and my favorite authors were JK Rowling (of course), Tamora Pierce, and Christopher Paolini. I’m eagerly awaiting Tamora Pierce’s book about Numair. Even though I am now much older than her target audience (I read her series in middle school), I’ve been waiting for Numair’s story for what seems like forever!

Now that I’m older, I still read a lot of fantasy, but I’m a lot more interested in the romantic elements. When I’m looking for family oriented contemporary romance, Sheryl Woods is always my first stop. Her Chesapeake Shores series was so sweet, and I really enjoyed getting to meet a different family member with each story while catching glimpses of the happily-ever-afters of previous stories. Jodi Picoult writes excellent novels where the surprise ending always catches me by surprise. And when I’m looking for a hot and heavy romance and adventure combo, Sherrilyn Kenyon is always the way to go. Her League series is my favorite, and I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for the next installment!

Who are your favorite authors?

Authors (and other celebrities) Ruined By Their Ego

I think that in an author’s world, a certain amount of ego is not only a good thing, but necessary. When you spend months or years writing your novel alone, you sometimes need to tell yourself how great an author you are, how wonderful your story is, and how much your fans will love it – or you may not make it to the end of the writing process. Being an author can be very lonely and solitary work, and if you don’t share your story during the writing process, you may tear yourself down with self-doubt and criticism. That being said, there is definitely such a thing as too much ego.

Authors (and other celebrities) must realize that their “fame” and success are due to their fanbase. That’s not to say that authors should try to write only what they think their fans will want; they should still write what they love and then find an audience who will appreciate. In my opinion, anyone in such a position needs to be gracious of their fans. Without fans, their work will not sell and they won’t be able to continue doing what they love. I remember sending fanmail to actors as a child and how excited I was when I would get an autograph back – especially personalized ones! I fortunately have never run into a position with an author where they were ungracious toward their fans, but I have had an incident with a filmmaker that turned me off to his films.

Growing up, I wanted to be a filmmaker, and I sent fanmail to two directors whose films I loved, looking for advice and encouragement. Understandably because of how busy they were, both had their secretaries respond. One secretary sent me a heartfelt letter wishing me success and included more than 100 pages of photocopied articles where that director discussed his filmmaking technique, stories, and provided advice for aspiring filmmakers. The other essentially blew me off and said that the director was too busy to communicate with fans. That same director also once told his fans that his films were “just movies.” The first director was Peter Jackson, who I still admire to this day. He continues to be a source of inspiration for me, both through his films and what I have learned of his processes. The other director was George Lucas, and I have no desire to watch another of his films.

Have any of you had experiences with authors or other celebrities who don’t appreciate their fans?