50 Jar Gifts: idea #19 – secret message

image from My Sisters Suitcase

This would be a great gift for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or a birthday. The basic idea is to write a message, one letter at a time one side of a group of small objects. Then number them 1 to whatever and put them all together in a bottle. When the gift is opened, they put the object in numerical order and then turn each piece over to read the message. You can use wooden game pieces like the example above or paper or even candy. I did it with a variety of hard candy for my dad’s birthday last year and not only did he enjoy it but his grandsons had a great time figuring out the message.

To tie the idea into sharing family stories, the message could be the start of a story or a favorite memory about the person. It could be the starting off point for story telling or you could record the story on an audio or in a book or even just written down on a piece of paper. Here are some more secret messages in bottles ideas.

image from Lessons Learnt Journal

image from Club Chica Circle

If this idea inspires you, let me know. I’d love to share your project here too.jar gift logos20

Want some more ideas? Visit my Pinterest board dedicated to jar gift ideas.


Dune: daring & phase 7


I was so pleased to see that Dune was in phase 7 on this week’s phase report. Just one phase to go until she is ready to be a guide dog. Way to go Dune! We are proud and happy for your progress.

Here is the basics of what Dune is learning in phase 7.

I think daring could be Dune’s middle name. She loves new adventures, going places, meeting people. Not much phases her. From the beginning Dune was always ready to learn and do new things. She learned to do the stairs in our house in record time. Some pups take weeks to be willing to try the stairs, Dune had them mastered in hours.

When we went to the State Fair, though cautious she was curious about the animal. (Except Dune wanted nothing to do with the pigs.)
There was only one thing that she really struggled with. We went to a museum that had a Plexiglas floor as part of an exhibit. She was determined that walking on it was a bad idea. The other pups were more easily persuaded but not Dune. With a lot of work we got her walk across it, but she wasn’t happy about it.

50 Jar Gifts: idea #18 “Anyone” Story Prompts

Anyone Story Prompts

This is the fifth in the series of story prompt jar gifts with questions geared for anyone. The idea is a set of questions in a jar that you can pull out to help anyone to remember and record some of the events from their lives. I printed it on chipboard but they could be printed on cardstock. There is a different color on each end of the question so that once you have answered it you can turn it over in the jar and keep track of which questions you haven’t answered yet. The questions are intended you spark your memory and lead you to other thoughts and memories. Let your them flow and see where they take you.

back of story prompt questions

The first sheet in the file is the back of the story prompts. This sheet is optional but it helps in keeping track of which set of story prompts the question comes from and adds more color to the jar. I start by printing four copies of the first page (full bleed if your printer has that option) and then feed these pages back into the printer to print the question pages. (You should refer to your printer manual to know the right way to feed these into your printer.)

anyone story prompt questions

The next four sheets are the questions. After printing these pages need to be cut apart by cutting the sheet in half (the long way) at 5.5″ and then every 1 1/16″ to finish cutting the questions apart. I also like to use a corner rounder on each question but that is optional. But it looks nice and will help the questions not get so dog-eared with use.

anyone story prompts question sheet

anyone story prompt questions

anyone story prompt questions

The last page has an insert for the canning jar lid (wide mouth quart or pint and a half work great) and a set of tags to tie on to the jar with simple instructions. There is a journal cover so that you can also give them a place to record the memories for sharing and future reference. Cut another piece of chipboard or heavy cardstock for the back along with some blank or lined paper for the inside. Then bind them together by your chosen method. I’m lucky enough to have a wire binding machine but you can get the journal bound at your local copy center. This sheet isn’t strictly necessary but it helps pull the gift together into a nice package.

journal cover, lid and labels

I am putting the jar and journal in a gift bag along with some treats to munch on while answering the questions to help get them started on recording their memories.jar gift logos19

Feel free to use these files for personal use and gifts. You can download pdfs here.

Questions come from those at StoryCorps.org.

Dune: duplicate & phase 6

Yeah for phase 6! I had myself mentally prepared for another phase 5 this week. Sometimes when a dog jumps a phase they are in the same phase the next week. I even stayed up until the phase report came out a 2 a.m. this morning. Bill was working late so I decided I’d read my book for book club (The Rent Collector) and wait for it to show up. I’ve been paranoid to do that because last time I tried to see the phase report in the middle of the night with Zodiac something went wrong with my access and I didn’t get to see the report for a couple of days. Here is a short description of what Dune is learning in phase 6.

Phase 6

Dune had an older brother (puppy in training #6) Zodiac the first 4 months that we raised her. She looked up to Zodiac and wanted to be just like him. Even though the were opposite in color and gender they were so much alike in other ways. It was amazing how many times when Dune was young that she would be laying in the exact same position as Zodiac, a duplicate of him.

It was fun when the tables were turned and Dune was the older pup and Emma (puppy in training #8) was the one looking up to Dune and wanting to be just like her.

Dune: determined & phase 5


I was pleased and surprised when I saw the 5 by Dune’s name on the phase report today. Now she is right on track with the other dogs assigned to training strings at the same time she was. If she moves forward one phase each week, Dune could theoretically graduate on May 10th. Odds are against her graduating that soon though. Here is a short description of what Dune is learning in phase five.

With a basic nature that is both analytical and adventurous she has been the only puppy out of 8 so far to learn to use the dog door into the garage. Puppies in training don’t get to have free access to the backyard, but we have a dog door that we put in when we had a pet dog and our cat still uses. As a puppy she happened to put her paws up on the door and it flapped outward. The next day she tried it again and this time pushed her head on through. The door is high enough off the ground that her belly got high centered and she tittered for a moment. But she was determined and managed to get herself on through. Thank goodness Bill was right there on the outside to snag her. It took a few weeks to teach her that the dog door was not an option for her, but she caught on.

Dune: demanding & phase 3

This week Dune has progressed to phase 3! Yeah! It was so good to see her progressing again. We will probably never know why she spent two weeks in phase 2 but on to bigger and better things for our girl. Here is the short version of what she is learning in Phase 3.

Phase 3

Looks like I need to add phase 3 long version to my to do list along with phase 2.


We knew right away that we had our hands full with our new puppy Dune. Maybe it was the trauma of flying in cargo but Dune was the noisiest puppy we have experienced. She knew she didn’t want to be in the kennel and she let us know.

The first few nights we didn’t get much sleep because she was so demanding. I just kept reminding myself that if we gave in now we would really have a battle on our hands. It was tough to tell when your message went from “I want out of here” to “I need to pee” or “I just pooped in my kennel.” I kept a flashlight by my bed and moved the kennel to the side of the bed so I could check on her without getting out of bed. The first night was almost none stop cacophony. But each night after that it got better.