Thursday, July 30, 2009

DIY Seedlings: Ron's birthday gift


My husband's birthday was on July 27 (and so was my dad's... they were born on the same date!) and since this is the first birthday Ron and I are celebrating as a married couple, I wanted to give him something a little bit more special. So I took an idea I'd seen in a recent issue of "Real Simple" (I love that magazine, by the way) and gave him little hand-folded glassine envelopes with small slips of paper inside, one for each year of his life so far. On the slips of paper, I wrote either a memory I have of Ron or something that I like about him.

Here is one of the less gag-inducingly cheesy things I wrote:


The story behind this is that before we started dating, I wanted to covertly show Ron that I was all deep and stuff (har har) without looking too obvious. I happened to have a copy of "The Book of Disquiet" by Fernando Pessoa, an amazing work of prose poetry, in my purse and hauled it out to show to him while we were hanging out at our graduate school's happy hour. Ron said, "Oh, I've heard of that. I wanted to buy it but the book store was sold out." I was so happy that my nerdy little flirting ploy had worked out. In fact, it worked out so well that we got married two and a half months ago. Thanks, Fernando!


On the cover of the box, I wrote lyrics from "One April Day" by Stephin Merritt, which was our first dance song. We chose it because a) it's short (less than two minutes) and b) the lyrics always make me tear up a little bit. They say so much in so little time about the mysteries, frustrations, sorrows, rewards and joys of being in love. The stickers are based on Japanese paper designs and the dotty tape is actually for scrapbooking.

While I was making this gift, I wanted to make sure that many of the materials I used were recycled. The box used to hold a paper frame I purchased and the slips of paper are from a legal pad that I used at my reporting job back in NYC and then practiced Chinese characters on when I moved to Taipei and started studying Mandarin.

The original gift mentioned in the "Real Simple" article was made by a mom for her daughter. Each slip contained a childhood memory and the envelopes were placed in a jar. I think that's so sweet -- it must be so nice to read all these things about yourself that you've totally forgotten about. Here are some other ideas I thought up for this kind of present:

  • Instead of notebook paper, use paper ephemera with a sentimental meaning for you and the recipient, like a subway map from a vacation, an old syllabus from a class you took together, fliers from shows, take-out menus from your favorite restaurants, etc.
  • I think this would be a great gift for someone who is going off to school for the first time, or for your significant other or friend before a long separation. You can make envelopes for each of the days you guys have to spend apart before you are reunited. It'd be like getting a handwritten letter every day! (Ron and I had to spend a year and a half apart while he worked in Taipei and I worked in NYC. I wish I had thought of this back then, but considering that it was six months before we saw each other again for the first time, that would have been a lot of writing!)
  • In addition to writing memories or sweet things on the slips of paper, you can also write jokes, the URLs of interesting Web sites, very simple recipes or draw little sketches. Anything the recipient might like.
On a tangent... the cloth I photographed Ron's gift on is traditional Taiwanese fabric. It has many names, like A-Ma cloth (grandma cloth), peony cloth or Hakka cloth (Hakka people are a subgroup of Han Chinese that my mother's family belongs to). I love the bright colors and exuberant floral designs. Hopefully I'll make a dress out of it if I get my sewing act together!

這是我送給Ron的生日禮物. 不會太肉麻嗎?哈哈!


  1. This is such a thoughtful and creative gift!! I'll have to borrow this idea.

    Thanks for sharing and Happy Belated Birthday to your Dad and Husband!

  2. Hi Catherine!

    Your husband is really lucky to have you as his wife! You are so sweet and considerate. I love this idea! :)


  3. That is so sweet. I love this idea! Your husband must be very happy with it. It's not only sweet, it looks great too.

  4. Aw, thanks guys for your sweet comments, they really brightened my day! Ron seems to be enjoying it... he's been saving a few envelopes to open per day.

  5. I have no idea how I didn't figure out you had a blog 'til now :O! And what a great one! Thank you so much for your kind comment, it really made my day :D

    What a sweet present! Every Valentine's day I write my boyfriend a note about little things I love about him but this is so much better. I may just steal the idea xD I also like the idea of the jar...but I guess I have some time to think on it ^_^;

  6. What a great idea!!!! I wanna steal this too please! I did that for the hubby when we were engaged and I think I kinda got burned out from the idea but that seems so long ago now (ha ha) and the box makes it more sentimental (I had made a paper chain. cheezy...I know). And the chinese....I only recognize like...4 characters!! This sucks.

  7. What a great gift! He'll def love it :D

  8. This is such a gorgeous and thoughtful present, wow! I'm in awe of your creativity.

  9. this is one of the sweetest ideas


  10. this is such a sweet idea, you're so thoughtful catherine!! I'm sure your hubby must feel like the luckiest man alive, cos he sure is!! :)

  11. the best blog i till now...keep it up...!!!