Holidays

I can’t lie. This year, the holidays will probably be a struggle for my family. The whole year has been a struggle really. But when I look at the big picture, I recognize that things could be much worse. We have a roof over our head, our bills are (mostly) paid, and thanks to my family, my work, and some luck in giveaways, my kids will have gifts on Christmas morning.

Sadly, for many kids, this is just not the case. It’s hard to focus on gifts when you’re struggling just to survive and provide the necessities. This I know too well. That’s why my favorite part of working with Walmart during the holidays is the opportunity to do something for others.

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This holiday season, Walmart is partnering with The Salvation Army for their Fill the Truck campaign. From Fridays to Sundays through next Sunday, December 14, shoppers can drop off new, unwrapped toys at the trucks or bins located at local Walmart supercenters. These toys will be given to parents to give to their children for Christmas. To give you an idea of just how many families can get help, last year, Fill the Truck collected more than 136,000 toys and 6,600 coats from generous shoppers. Here’s hoping the total will be even higher this year!

My family and I headed to our local Walmart with $50 to spend on toys for the drive, and we were only too excited to help. Baby Juliza was too excited to touch everything in the cart, but you get my point.

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We grabbed a doll, destined to make some little girl a fine companion, a Tonka truck, because they are the best of the best, a Flutterbye fairy, because they are apparently really hot this year, and a few Hot Wheels cars that could fill some stockings. My only regret is that we weren’t able to do more.

Next time you’re at Walmart, if you’re able, pick up an extra toy for a child who might not otherwise get one and drop it in the truck. You have one more week to get in on the giving if you’d like to do it in person, but you can donate online right up until Christmas.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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We’ve all been doing a lot of holiday shopping, and that’s great and all, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could head to a store for some other reason? Well, this weekend, you’ll get your chance to do just that. On Saturday Dec. 6 and Sunday Dec. 7, Walmart stores will offer a ton of family activities, including:

“Taste the Holidays” Food sampling

If you like to entertain during the holidays, attend the recipe demos and learn to make quick dishes on a budget. You will get step-by-step instructions for making small treats and main courses, including buffalo chicken dip, Tex-Mex meatball nacho bites and cranberry-pecan cheese balls. You can find recipes and find out if Taste of the Holidays is available in your store at www.walmart.com/entertaining.
Taste the Holidays Date and Time: Dec. 6, 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Free photos with Santa

The big guy is coming! Santa will be visiting 3,200 Walmart stores for free family pictures, a free keepsake and candy cane or a small treat from Santa. You’ll be able to choose between a 5-by-7 picture with Santa or a 5-by-7 Christmas-themed photo for free.
Photos with Santa, Date and Time: Dec. 6-7 and Dec. 13-14; 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Toy & Gadget Demos, plus bonus gift cards

Have your eye on a big budget gadget or a toy your kid really wants? Well, you can try it before you buy it during in-store demos of top electronics and entertainment gifts, including tablets, smartphones, video games and consoles. Plus, customers in store can get a $50 or $25 Walmart gift card when they buy select video game consoles:

Toys and Gadget Demos Date and Time: Dec. 6, noon – 4 p.m.

“Fill the Truck” Toy Drive

There are so many kids who will go without gifts under the Christmas tree, if they have a tree at all. Walmart is doing its part to help with the “Fill the Truck” toy drive in cooperation with The Salvation Army. Through December 14, customers can drop off new, unwrapped toys and coats for kids.

Looking for more information? Ask at your local Walmart store, or visit www.walmart.com/c/store/search/taste-of-entertaining

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links may have been used.

When I was growing up, we never really observed the Christmas stocking tradition. Now that I’m grown with my own family, it’s one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I love sneaking small, meaningful gifts into my hubby’s and kid’s stockings, and our family tradition means that we “open” the stockings on Christmas Eve.

So when Walmart challenged me to share a holiday craft project using Duck tape, I decided to try a take on this favorite tradition and create a stocking.

Glam Metallic Duck Tape Christmas Stocking

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You’ll Need:

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It’s easy enough to make a stocking shape from Duck tape, but I wanted a usable stocking — not just a pretty shape.  My solution? Line the stocking with fabric.If you have an existing Christmas stocking, you can use it to create a template for this project. Cut a large piece of brown paper or other scrap paper. The back of a roll of wrapping paper would work as well.

Fold the paper in half horizontally. Lay the straight edge of your stocking along the folded edge of the paper. Trace the stocking shape onto the paper and cut it out.

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Unfold the stocking shape, and lay it on top of your lining fabric. Cut a rectangle that’s about 2″ larger than your template on all sides.

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Now, you’ll need to cover the fabric with strips of tape. I started from the bottom with two strips of silver tape. The tape will stick to the fabric, but not as well as it sticks to other pieces of tape. Slightly overlap the second piece of tape on the first for a nice seal.

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Alternate between gold and silver tape every two strips all the way up until the fabric is completely covered.

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Lay your brown paper template on top of your tape-covered fabric. This is where painter’s tape could come in handy, if you choose to use it. I put a piece in each corner to hold the template straight.

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Cut out the tape & fabric in the shape of your template.

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It’s starting to take shape now! Fold the stocking shape in half at the seam. The challenge here is closing the open edge. If we’d used a single color tape, you could just cut a few long, vertical strips and overlap it from front to back. However, we want to keep the silver and gold stripes consistent.

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Cut pieces of Duck tape 4-6″ long, depending on the placement. You’ll match up the pieces of silver tape with silver, and the pieces of gold tape with the gold stripes. However, the bottom was a bit of a challenge, so I started there first. I cut a piece of tape a little wider than the stocking. I laid it on top of the bottom silver stripe and folded the excess over the edges, sticking them in the back. Because there’s a curve, you may have to fold and manipulate the tape to get a clean edge.

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The rest of the edges will be easier. You’ll use the small pieces of tape, overlap them on the edges, and fold and stick them to the other side. Try to make the tape line up as well as possible and try to make the edges nice and clean.

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When your stocking is finally closed, you can move on to how you’ll hang it. Cut a small slit about 1.5-2″ inches from the top of the stocking on the fold.

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Cut two 10″ pieces of tape in whatever color winds up at the top of your stocking. Fold the first piece in about .25″ sections, and keep folding it on itself. Place the folded tape on top of the second, and fold them into each other. You’ll wind up with a “strap” made of tape.

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Push the strap through the slit in the stocking, and bring the ends together. Wrap a final 4″ piece of tape around the overlapped ends of the strap.

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You can stop there if you’d like, because the striped stocking looks pretty awesome as is. However, I decided to add a bow for embellishment.

How to Make a Duck Tape Bow

Making bows from Duck tape is pretty simple, and I enlisted my daughter’s help, since she loves making Duck Tape bows. I wanted a large bow to make a statement at the top, so she started with a 24″ piece of tape.

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Fold it in half so the sticky sides touch, leaving about 1/4″ of sticky side showing at one end.

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Roll the tape into a circle, using the small exposed sticky strip to attach one end to the other.

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Fold the tape flat, and pinch the center together from top to bottom.

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Cut a 4-5″ piece of tape, and cut it in half lengthwise.

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Use one of those pieces to wrap around the center of the bow where you pinched.

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Now that the bow is done, you have to attach it to the stocking. Create two rolls of tape, and put them on either side of the back of the bow.

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Lay the bow diagonally on the top left corner of the stocking (near the strap) and press securely to attach.

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You’re done!

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I’m so, so happy with the way this turned out! I just need to finish making one for each person in the family. Because the first one is mine!

What DIY projects are you tackling for the holidays? Do any of them involve Duck tape?

If you’re looking for more Duck tape project ideas, check out what the other Walmart Moms made:

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Unlike the past few years, it appears that this year, my babies really will wear store-bought costumes. They’re cute, of course, but I still had the desire to make something for Halloween. Not quite as elaborate as two costumes, but something nonetheless. So when Walmart challenged me to make DIY Halloween decorations, I couldn’t wait to dive right in.

My inspiration actually came from our front door, which is green. I’ve never been a particular fan of this shade of green, but I thought I’d work with it and turn the door into one of the world’s favorite monsters: Frankenstein. Or more accurately, Frankenstein’s monster.

Tutorial: Frankenstein Front Door

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You’ll Need:

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  • Black vinyl tablecloth (just $1 at Walmart) or large black trash bag
  • Scissors
  • Painter’s tape
  • 3 paper plates
  • Black electrical tape

Start by draping the tablecloth or trash bag over the top of your door. It was pretty cold outside when I was doing this, so I started the process from inside the house. You’ll want to have some at least 1 foot of vinyl hanging over the top of the door and a few inches on one side, which is how you’ll secure it.

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The top 1/3 of the door will become Frankenstein’s hair, so trim the excess around the edges and from the bottom. Next, cut a zig-zag pattern for the bottom of the hair.

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Next, we’ll make the eyes. Lay three paper plates on top of one another and cut off the top 1/3 of each. Take one plate, and trim the edge off it, leaving you with a wedge shape from the middle. This will be the template for the eye pupils.

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Lay the pupil template on top of your excess black vinyl and cut two wedges. Lay those wedges on top of the other two plates and glue the vinyl pupils to the center. You could also just use a couple pieces of painter’s tape to attach them, if you’d prefer.

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Finally, fold 4 large pieces of painter’s tape and attach to the back of the plate. This is how you’ll attach the eyes to the door, ensuring that you can remove them pretty easily when the time comes.

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Now, you’re ready to attach the hair. Lay the top of the hair piece over the door with your 1′ of excess vinyl hanging over to the inside. Fold this and the excess from the side, and secure it from the inside with painter’s tape.

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You can also use some loops of painter’s tape to secure each point at the bottom of the hair to the door, so it won’t flap away. Stick the eyes to the door. I used the panels of our door as a reference for where to place the eyes. I placed them in the space between the top and bottom panels.

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Finally, you’ll need to use electrical tape to make stitches and a mouth.

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This came out so awesome that I can’t wait for Halloween! We’ll remove the eyes if it rains, but the vinyl and electrical tape should hold up to the weather.

With big Frank guarding the door, we also wanted to make him a little friend.

Tutorial: Painted Frankenstein Pumpkin

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You’ll Need:

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  • Pumpkin (we chose a foam craft version)
  • Green, black and white craft paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Large screws

Though I absolutely love the result when I do the work, I’ve never been a fan of gutting or carving pumpkins. This project is definitely easier and less messy. Start by painting your whole pumpkin green.

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Once the green paint dries, paint the top third of your pumpkin black, with a zig-zag bottom. This will be Frankie’s hair.

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Paint white half-circles for the background of the eyes, and paint stitches and a line mouth. You can use the same shapes from the door design or you can improvise.

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Finally, once the white eye half-circles dry, paint black pupils in the middle.

The last step is what really makes this project cool.

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Twist your large screws into the sides of the pumpkin. The final effect gives little Frankie “bolts”, and it’s awesome.

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Now, our front door is protected by big Frank and little Frankie. I think our trick-or-treaters will approve.

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So what about you? Are you decorating the house for Halloween? This would make a great entrance for a Halloween party. I’d love to see your projects if you’re planning any! For now, check out what the other Walmart Moms are doing for this spookiest of holidays:

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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For the past three years, I’ve made my daughter a DIY Halloween costume. In 2011, there was the peacock costume; the mermaid costume came in 2012; and last year, she was a wind-up doll. In my heart of hearts, I’d really like to make her costume this year too. Alas, Hurricane Juliza is in town.

Costume-making is awesome, but it’s a time-consuming, detail-oriented task. With my little crawler getting into everything these days, I don’t know that I’d have the time or the patience to make something really special. Especially since I couldn’t make a costume for Ja’Naya without making one for Juliza too. So when Walmart offered me the opportunity to purchase some Halloween costumes for my family, I took it as a sign from the Universe that I should give myself a break this year and let the kids be cute in store-bought costumes.

Fortunately, Walmart has a ton of affordable costumes, and the selection for kids is great. The baby costume selection was a little slim, though, and most of the costumes were animals. There was a dog, two different cows, a bear, a lion — even a dragon. Cute, but not really what I had in mind for Juliza. So when I came across this baby flower costume, I scooped it up. Because…well, just look at her:

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How cute is that? There are no words!

Of course, there’s a slight problem. She’s at an age when getting her to keep stuff on her head is a challenge. Distracting her with something else works for a while, but inevitably…

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Still, for just $15.97, I’m happy to have a cozy, warm costume that she’ll be able to wear outside without getting cold. I’ll have to cross my fingers that Halloween in Georgia this year is actually cool, and not warm enough to make this costume uncomfortable, because it’s happened before. We’ll see.

Anyway, just in case she revolts against the costume, via headpiece or temperature, I grabbed her a Halloween onesie for $3.25. So at least if I have to change her, she can still be in the Halloween spirit.

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Her big sister chose her own costume. Ja’Naya considered a skeleton, and a fairy and even Robin Hood, but in the end, she choose an Alice in Wonderland-themed costume: A playing card.

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I’m actually really digging her choice, and it cost just under $20. The costume came with everything except the tights, which we grabbed from the accessory section for just $3.97.

She’s in a new school district this year, and I’m not sure yet if they allow the kids to come to school in costume, but if they do, this one is appropriate for school. She’ll have to throw jacket over it if it’s chilly out, but that’s not a big deal.

There’s a part of me that’s relieved to have the costume choices out of way with a few weeks to spare. But of course, there’s that other type A part of my brain that still wants to make DIY costumes. Someone, please talk me off that cliff…

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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This year, my hubby and I have the best gift we could possibly get for Mother’s or Father’s Day: Baby Juliza. Still, I’ll take any excuse I can get to make him feel extra special, because he really is an awesome dad. But what do you give a man who doesn’t really need anything, and whose wants are slightly out of budget? I mean, if anyone wants to get him a sports car, I’ll be happy to let you, but mama needed to be a little more thrifty.

When Walmart challenged me to do something special for Father’s Day under $25, I was genuinely stumped for a bit. Until I remembered how much my hubby loves to grill. It may sound like a cliche, but the man genuinely enjoys getting his barbecue on. And I’m happy to stand back and let him. He’s already a master in the kitchen, but he gets really inventive with the grill and turns out delicious meals. So if I’m honest, this gift is really for both of us.

I decided to make a barbecue-themed gift basket/bowl with stuff from Walmart. Here’s how you can do the same.

What I Used:

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The bowl should be big enough to contain marinated meat or ice so it can be used as a mini cooler. With this in mind, at the last minute I decided to grab his favorite beer, Heineken. What can I say? The man likes to enjoy a cold one while he’s outside grilling.

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If I’m honest, that final addition is probably the thing he’ll most appreciate about the whole package.

Once you’ve assembled everything, simply arrange it in the bowl and tie with a ribbon.

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This is the type of thoughtful gift I love. It’s fun and speaks to his interests, and it contains stuff he will actually use rather than items that will only hold his interest for a little bit and soon be forgotten. It’s a gift that will create memories for us.

Also, this pretty much guarantees that I don’t have to cook next Sunday. Mommy FTW.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

My family and I usually spend Memorial Day weekend at Atlanta’s Caribbean Carnival, but with several family members who have served or are serving our country, we are well aware of the other implications of the holiday. So when Walmart challenged me to share a craft project for Memorial Day, I wanted to come up with something that would allow me to show my patriotic spirit, no matter how I choose to celebrate.

With that in mind, I decided to create a flag case for my iPhone.

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You’ll Need:

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The idea is to create red and white stripes on the bottom of the case. This is easiest to do when you start with a white case, since there’s no such thing as a white sharpie (though paint would do the trick). The surface of the case needs to be semi-porous, or the Sharpie won’t be absorbed. You should be able to tell by feeling the surface. If it’s hard plastic, it won’t be absorbent. If it has a slightly textured finish a bit like silicone, it is likely porous.

Use the ruler to find the vertical center of the case. Make a small pencil mark along one edge at that point. Then make similar marks at 1/4″ intervals. Do the same along the other edge.

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Using your ruler, lightly connect the pencil marks on both edges. You’ll wind up with a series of pencil lines. Be sure not to make the lines too dark, or they could show later.

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Use the Sharpie to fill alternating stripes with red. You can use a ruler or straight edge of some sort to keep the lines straight, but beware that the Sharpie will bleed. I had better results just drawing over the pencil lines freehand.

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Next, color the entire top half of the case with the blue Sharpie, and allow the marker coloring to dry and set for at least 2 hours.

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You’ll be using the rhinestones to create a star in the center of the blue. I simply printed out a star graphic found on Google so I could decide how to lay the stones.

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Once I had the pattern set, I transferred it onto the case. I had planned to use hot glue to attach the rhinestones, but I thought KrazyGlue would be more secure. Of course, you have to be super careful with it because it bonds instantly, even when it gets on your skin. You also won’t have a lot of wiggle room to move around the stones, but it’s less likely they’ll ever come off.

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Allow the glue to dry for about a half hour.

Finally, cover the entire case with a couple of light coats of ModPodge. I learned the hard way that I didn’t let the Sharpie dry long enough when the blue started to streak in the ModPodge, as you can see in the photo below. I caught it before I got too far, so you just want to make sure the Sharpie is fully dry before you get to this step.

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ModPodge recommends allowing each coat to dry for about 20 minutes before adding another. I left it alone for 30 minutes just to be sure, and I did 3 light coats.

Allow the finished case to dry for a few hours before you attempt to put your phone in it.

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Now, I have a fancy case that will show my patriotism on Memorial Day and every day, if I choose.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

Mother’s Day is one of those special holidays when you want to give your mom the world. After all, she brought you into it (and has probably reminded you a few times that she could also “take you out of it!”). Flowers and candy are great, but if you’re like me, you probably want to give a gift with a little more meaning.

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If there’s one store that specializes in gifts with meaning, it’s Uncommon Goods. Every product has a story, whether it’s handmade, made from recycled materials, or just thoughtfully designed to fill a gap that you never realized needed to be filled.

If the mama on your list also happens to be your favorite style maven, finding a great gift can be even more challenging. Here are five gifts the stylish mama on your list will love:

Books for Mom, by You

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How often do you tell your mom you love her? Well, these books give you an easy way to show her, and be specific about why. The What I Love About Mom book offers pages of prompts for you to complete. Warning: This one may induce tears when she realizes that that you really do love her taste in clothes, and that her encouragement to follow your dreams meant so much to you. For younger kids, the Dear Mom arts & crafts book is full of activities to complete that will make mom smile. For example, what do you think a better name for mom would be? Maybe “Queen for a Day?” Write it down! The illustrated book includes 48 pages of writing and drawing prompts, and even things to cut out.

Price: What I Love About Mom: $10; Dear Mom Arts & Crafts Book, $9 (aff)

Something Shiny for Her Wrist

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What mama doesn’t love to receive jewelry? This fabulous brass cuff is inspired by nature and designed to be reminiscent of a birch tree with lovers’ initials carved into it. You can honor both parents with this gift, or you could personalize it with moms initials and yours. Or if you’d like, you can get the cuff without the initials — just the heart cutout. Either way, she’ll appreciate the sentiment and wear it with pride.

Price w/personalization: $100; Price without personalization: $85 (aff)

Celebrate Her Flock

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Again with the jewelry? Yeah. Well, I doubt there’s any mom in the world who would mind constant reminder of her children she loves so dearly. Whether you opt for the locket or the bracelet, this locket made of sterling silver will make her day. Inside, on nests of copper, she will find up to four Peruvian opal “eggs” symbolizing her children. Way to make mom tear up on Mother’s Day!

Price: Nest Egg Necklace, $68-74; Bracelet: $68-74 (aff)

Something to Hold Her Pretties

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Now that you’ve given her some new baubles, she needs a place to store them, right? This particular box is something special. It’s made of recycled bangles, but not just any recycled bangles. These have a special meaning for Indian women: Married women wear beaded bangles symbolize the bonds of love and marriage. When they break, they usually end up in the landfill, but a group of fair-trade artisans recovers them to handcraft these boxes.

Price: $48 (aff)

A New Purse. Because Purses.

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If there’s one thing in my closet with which I personally have an unnatural obsession, it is purses. I love them. In all shapes, sizes and colors. I get this love of handbags from my mom. Which means that no matter the purse, as long as it’s pretty, she’ll love it. Well, this one is better than pretty. It’s sustainable, too. It looks like it’s made a croc skin, but that wouldn’t be very green, would it? Instead, it’s actually handmade in the U.S. of sustainably harvested cork, which is then pressed into this fancy pattern. That’s what I’m talking about. And while you’re at it, give her the matching wallet.

Price: $60 (aff)

What unique gifts are you planning to give the moms on your list for Mother’s Day? You can find many more ideas at Uncommon Goods.

Disclosure: I have received compensation for sharing these gift ideas with you. However, as usual, all opinions are my own and 100% authentic.

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