The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I’m just going to come out and say this: it’s been a rollercoaster week.  Thankfully, I’ve had time to reflect and recharge myself in preparation for the holiday season.  It’s also that time of year when goal setting becomes part of the conversation as one year ends and another begins.  Best of all, it’s a time of year when I can convince Dan to watch as many Christmas movies as possible (so far we’ve seen Elf and Scrooged – both for the first time!).  In that vein, I wanted to start off this post by tackling my biggest DIY demon: perfectionism.  Throughout the past ten months of DIY blogging, there have been tears, yelling matches, cat attacks, and completely ruined projects.  I’ve been reflecting on all of that lately through this particular Brene Brown quote:

It’s one thing to want to produce a high quality product, but it’s quite another to seek perfection.  I’m going to take my time when working on projects and realizing that the hard work we are doing is for us and our home, not for anyone else.  Perfectionism is all about pleasing others and is clouded in a fear of failure.  I’ll take an imperfect project with a tears, please, if it means that I learned something from the experience.  Here’s Exhibit A.

A few weeks ago, Dan and I embarked on a postcard shelf-making project.  We were planning to showcase all of our postcards, sentimental greeting cards, photos, and other lightweight art on two shelves to be hung in the guest room/office (similar to this shelf project).  I painted two shelves with two coats of paint, waiting two hours in between each coat.  Including the time it took Dan to make the shelves, this was about an eight hour, or full day, project.  I was so excited to hang the shelves and share the big reveal (see, perfectionism is driving me here) that I was crushed when Dan told me that sap had actually seeped through the paint job  and we’d have to start all over again.  Frustration filled my head, yelling and tears followed, until I realized that I wanted to have a quality final product – of course it was going to be worth the wait.  So I held my head high, and decided to lift my spirits by moving on to a smaller and more manageable project: a DIY birthday gift in a jar.

I’ve seen some adorable DIY-gift-in-a-jars on Pinterest, ranging from food recipes to date night ideas and relaxation kits in a jar.  My personal favorite roundup of these ideas is from Craftoholics Anonymous, featuring 51 Christmas gifts in a jar.  While I could have modified any of these gifts for my friend TJ’s 29th birthday, I had the perfect spin on a personalized gift: the New Jersey jar.  TJ and I met at Rutgers, both native New Jerseyans who are pretty proud of our home state.  He moved to New York a few years ago but recently decided to move back to the glorious Garden State, so I had to go with something special for the occasion.

First, I found a printable stencil of New Jersey and taped it to the back of a piece of cork I had lying around.  I cut out the outline carefully so that it could serve as a fun label for the New Jersey jar.  I actually found the jar at Michaels during a 75% off sale for $1.79 (YES, I know).  I may or may not have bought five jars at that time…

Next, I thought about the most New Jersey things I could find.  Since I work at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, I can often find an R magnet in my house or office, so I decided to throw that in to the jar.  I also found this sheet of adorable 3-D stickers featuring a Jersey license plate, images of Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore, and even Jersey City (where TJ just moved!).  I also bought a New Jersey cookie cutter for about $5.

At about $9 for the whole sheet of stickers, I decided to cut them into smaller pieces along their outlines.  This was definitely the most time consuming part of the project, but also the most fun.  I knew that these stickers would really personalize the entire jar.  The real showstopper was the Garden State signature snack: saltwater taffy.

I bought a bag of saltwater taffy to really fill up the jar and provide the extra sweetness for a friend with a definite sweet tooth.  To be honest, there’s really no better way to celebrate an amazing summer night than eating water ice and saltwater taffy on the boardwalk.  YUM.

I threw everything together in the jar, making sure that the Jersey-themed stickers were spread evenly throughout the saltwater taffy.  This is the back view, where you can really see the Rutgers magnet.

Here’s the front view one last time. I punched a hole in my New Jersey cork tag and tied some twine through it to attach to the lid of the jar.  I also made a Google maps notification to mark Jersey City and personalize it even more.  Now, I’m biased in my undying love for New Jersey, but I think this is a pretty darn cute gift for under $25 – plus I got to eat some salt water taffy.  How are you getting your craftiness on during the holiday season?

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