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A Simple, Upcycled Gift Idea for Grandparents

First of all – if you are one of Olive’s grandparents, STOP READING NOW unless you want to totally ruin your Christmas gift! Remember y’all…Santa is watching!

If you are not  one of Olive’s grandparents, read on for a super cute, simple Christmas gift idea!


Phew! OK now that we’ve gotten rid of the riffraff, I wanted to share the handmade gifts that Olive and I whipped up this year. Because my family reads this blog, I typically share the gifts we’ve made after Christmas is over, but that’s kind of useless for you guys and leaves you in the position of trying to remember for next Christmas, eleven months later.

Given that most of us can’t even remember what day it is most of the time (no? Just me?) I thought that this year I’d write a few posts about the gifts I’m giving – for grandparents, for Olive, Santa presents, and why I think it’s so important to have Olive choose gifts or her loved ones, too.

This first post features a super simple craft that makes use of secondhand materials and works out to under $10 for four gifts. Your kid’s grandparents will absolutely love it (I hope!)


Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • A plain white mug for each recipient (I went to Value Village and found four mugs for about $7)
  • An oil-based Sharpie paint marker
  • Rubbing alcohol and an old rag
  • An oven 

Here’s what you do:

  1.  Thoroughly clean your mug – especially if you bought it secondhand – and let it dry completely.
  2.  Hand your kid the marker and let them go to town! I just bought one red marker for the sake of cost and simplicity, but you can use as many colours you like. I really try to be hands-off about this process, I let go of how I want it to look and I just let Olive draw whatever she likes. The only direction I give is telling her who each mug is for and encouraging her to think about what that person likes.
  3. If your child makes a mistake you can spray some rubbing alcohol onto the rag and use it to erase the paint. This takes the pressure off and is also equally helpful for parents with less than perfect printing who sometimes need a few tries to get it right. Ahem.
  4. Let the mugs dry for 48 hours, and then put into the oven and bake at 375 F for half an hour. It’s important to put the mugs into the oven before turning it on to preheat and bake. After the 30 minutes is up, turn the oven off and allow the mugs to cool in the oven completely before removing them.
  5. You’re done! The tutorial I read advised hand washing to preserve the drawing for as long as possible, so I will pass that on to Olive’s grandparents.





This was so easy and fun for Olive to do – and it made a useful gift that will brighten her Grandparents’ day when they drink their morning coffee.

She liked to draw a little smiley face at the bottom of each mug and had a lot of fun decorating them with reindeer, seals, and cats.

My one complaint with this craft (it’s the first time I’ve done it) is that after baking, the vibrant red market turned into more of a dark red/magenta colour. It wasn’t quite the Christmas vibe I was going for but since the mugs will be used year round I’m not too bothered by it.

If you do want it to look Christmassy, using green might be a better choice.

We also did a tiny extra gift for Olive’s grandma who loves puzzles. While I was at the craft store buying the red paint pen, I happened across a blank puzzle for $1.50. I bought it and after we finished decorating the mugs, Olive got out her regular markers and drew a picture on it (a spider with a butterfly and a grasshopper in its tummy, of course), then we took it apart and put it in a card box.


We’ll put a picture of the finished puzzle on the front of the box to serve as a guide, and since Olive will be with her dad’s family for Christmas this year, she and her Grandma can work together to assemble the puzzle.

Next up…2016’s Christmas book pick for Olive and why I think it might be my best yet!


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  • Reply carolqellis November 17, 2016 at 4:46 PM

    Awesome ideas – and I am a grand parent. But here is the thing – these ideas will work in reverse -I can make them with my wonderful grand daughter for her parents! Thanks so much.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine November 21, 2016 at 2:17 PM

      Aw, what a fantastic idea! I kept thinking as I was making them – damn, I wish I had her make one for me! 😉

  • Reply Livia November 17, 2016 at 7:11 PM

    As much as I love this ideas – and I do – I love Olive’s glasses even more! They look great and she looks so grown up!! Did she pick out the frames?

    • Reply sweetmadeleine November 21, 2016 at 2:18 PM

      Haha, oh my gosh, I do too. Yes, she picked them out herself! I thought it might be a bit of a struggle to get her to wear them all the time (but I’ve been pleasantly surprised in that regard!) so I wanted her to absolutely LOVE them. She made me put on my reading glasses and then tried to pick ones that were similar, lol!

  • Reply Louise November 18, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    Madeleine I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I know it won’t be easy but you are being incredibly selfless by making it seem like a minor detail in this piece that you and Olive are spending it apart. I wish every seperated parent could read your blog as a lesson for how it should be done x

    • Reply sweetmadeleine November 21, 2016 at 2:20 PM

      Thank you, Louise. I’m going to do a post in the next few weeks addressing this – how to cope with missed holidays as a divorced/separated parent. It is a challenge, and one I definitely wish I didn’t have to deal with, but Olive and I have found some ways to make the best of it.
      Thanks so much for your kind words.

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