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  • Graduation Gift Idea: Handmade Money Lei

    It’s the time of year when graduations are all around. A graduation tradition in Hawaii that’s spread to the mainland is the lei – even the supermarkets here in Los Angeles sell orchid leis at this time of year. But you can up the ante by making a money lei to give your favorite graduate. Here’s how:

    How to Make a Money Lei at chieffamilyofficer.com

    How to Make a Money Lei

    Materials Needed:
    100 new $1 bills
    12 feet of string or ribbon
    scotch tape
    decorative ribbon

    Step 1: Get one hundred new $1 bills at the bank. This is not as easy as it sounds. Apparently, today’s banking system means banks rarely get new bills, and you really need new, crisp bills for this project. However, my bank is willing to request new bills, and although they can’t guarantee they’ll get them, they haven’t failed me yet. However, it may take up to a week so if you can, plan ahead.

    Step 2: Start folding. This step is the definition of tedium. Basically, you’re making a fan out of each bill, as demonstrated in the video below:

    When I’m getting started, I put the entire stack of $1 bills in a reusable shopping bag. After I fold each bill, I drop it back into the bag until it’s time to assemble the lei.

    Step 3: Assemble the lei. You’ll need to cut 12 feet of string or ribbon. I like to use white curling ribbon, but that’s certainly not the only type that would work in this project. Once you’ve got your length of ribbon, find the center, fold the length of ribbon in half, and make a knot, leaving a long tail on the end, as shown:

    Money Lei starting the ribbon - chieffamilyofficer.com

    Next, place a folded $1 bill in the center of the knot, and tie it into place. Fan out the bill, and tape the ends, as demonstrated in this video:

    Repeat with all remaining dollar bills.

    Step 4: Finish the lei. Once you’ve tied all 100 $1 bills in place, you’re ready to finish the lei by bringing the two ends together and making a tight knot, as demonstrated in the video below:

    Cut off the excess ribbon, and cover the last knot with a decorative ribbon.

    As you can see, it’s not immediately obvious that the lei is made up of 100 $1 bills, and the drawback is that the lei would have to be dismantled in order to spend the money. However, the finished lei looks quite impressive and it’s fairly easy to make!

    I’ve made these leis as class gifts for my sons’ teachers, and they’ve always loved them – so they’d make a great end-of-year gift for your child’s teacher too!

    Poll: How much do you spend on birthday gifts?

    How much do you spend on birthday gifts? - chieffamilyofficer.com

    We went through a few years after my oldest graduated from preschool when we went to just a few birthday parties each year. But lately, it seems like there’s at least one party per month, and so I started wondering:

    How much does everyone spend on kids’ birthday gifts?

    If I have one of those fun Target gift cards that’s also a toy or novelty, I’ll load $15 or $20 on it, depending on the kid and other circumstances. But lately, the parties have been for kids who play sports with my boys, so I’ve been buying $25 gift cards at Lids.

    I’m sure how much you spend on birthday gifts depends in large part on your area, and who you hang out with. But just for fun, I’ve created a poll at Survey Monkey, and if there are enough responses, I’ll compile and post them here.

    Once you’ve answered the poll, feel free to come back here and leave a comment with the details you think we should know – where you live, how old the kids are that you’re buying for, what types of gifts you usually buy, etc.

    Take the poll here.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by antpkr.

    Tutorial: How to Make a Money Lei

    How to Make a Money Lei at chieffamilyofficer.com

    I’ve been the room parent for both of my children ever since they entered kindergarten, and I think the biggest reason I’ve been asked to be room parent each year is that the teachers know they’ll receive a money lei as their holiday gift from the class 😉 As you can see above, it’s not immediately obvious that the lei is made up of 100 $1 bills, and it’s something of a show piece. The drawback is that the lei would have to be dismantled in order to spend the money, but when I’ve asked if the teachers would prefer to just have the cash, I’ve been assured that they would prefer the lei instead.

    I’ve also been asked many times, “How do you make that?” As impressive as the finished lei looks, it’s actually very easy to make, so I’ve prepared this step-by-step tutorial to show you how to make one yourself. Since I collect money from the entire class, it’s actually a very cheap project. But I will be upfront in saying it’s tedious and time-consuming, so just be prepared.

    Click here to see the tutorial

    Teacher Appreciation Week 2012

    Teacher Appreciation Week starts today, and as my son’s class room parent, it’s my job to organize the class gift. In addition to a sentimental gift graciously prepared by another mom, I thought their teacher would enjoy something small everyday. Pulling together ideas from a couple of different web sites, I’m doing the following:

    Monday – A tube of hand cream with a note that says “You deserve a hand”
    Why yes, a tube of Nivea Creme that I got for $0.34 at Target!

    Tuesday – A container of pushpins with a note that says “You are ‘sharp’ as a tack”

    Wednesday – A pad of post-its and labels with a note that says “Just a ‘note’ to let you know you are a wonderful teacher”

    Thursday – A Scotch desk-grip dispenser with a note that says “We are stuck on you”

    On Friday, we’ll give her the sentimental gift and some cash, since – like most teachers I know – their teacher spends quite a bit of her own money on her classroom and supplies.

    Inspiration found at Surviving a Teacher’s Salary and Skip to My Lou.

    Banner ad via Escalate Media Network

    Save Money by Keeping a Gift Wrap Center

    I’ve mentioned the gift box before – it’s a stash of gifts bought on sale for when you need to give a gift. But being out with a friend who bought not just a birthday gift but also a gift bag and tissue paper reminded me of the corollary: The Gift Wrap Center.

    My gift wrap “center” is actually a bunch of containers in a closet. There’s a tall plastic bin for rolls of wrapping paper, a bag stuffed with gift bags, and boxes of ribbon. I also keep some cards on hand – inexpensive all-occasion and blank cards. Back in my pre-motherhood days, I also kept some handmade cards around but I don’t have time for that anymore.

    The paper, bags, ribbon and cards are items I’ve collected over the years, and which I’m constantly collecting. I buy wrapping paper when it’s on clearance after the winter holidays – there are always a few patterns and solid colors that can be used year round. The same goes for ribbon and tissue paper.

    I’m also a big believer in reusing gift bags. They’re expensive for what they are, and it’s rough on the environment to discard them after just one use, or even a few uses. So whenever we receive a gift and the bag is in good shape, it goes into the closet for when I need to give a gift.

    My gift wrap center reduces stress, because I’m never scrambling to find wrapping paper or a gift bag. And it also saves me money, because I never have to over spend on last-minute supplies.

    My favorite necklace: Mommy Tags

    Since the World’s Smallest Letter was such a big hit, I want to share another great gift idea, courtesy of my darling husband again (and I’m afraid that I have no idea where he finds these marvelous things). This is actually a gift I received a few years ago, but now that the boys are getting older – and I don’t have to worry about breakage or injury – I can actually wear it, and I’ve found myself going back to it several times a week: it’s the Mommy Tags necklace pictured here. Marc gave it to me after Alex’s birth, and my necklace now has a second tag commemorating Tyler’s birth as well.

    I love that the necklace is simple and goes with just about anything – that’s the main reason I wear it so often. Also, even though I went a long period without wearing it when the kids were very young, it’s barely tarnished so it’s very easy to care for.

    I have to admit, I was very pleased that Marc had picked a very reasonably priced gift for me – these days, it’s easy to find stories about the extravagant “birth gifts” that some new mothers receive. This necklace is $75 – not cheap, but not crazy expensive either. Unfortunately, I can’t tell how much they charge for shipping. This would be especially appropriate for Mother’s Day, or as a gift from the kids to Mom on Valentine’s Day.

    Note: I’m not affiliated with Mommy Tags in any way, I just like my necklace a lot!