Personalized Coffee Mugs

You know those gift suggestion lists for “the person who already has everything”? Somehow I feel like parents always seem to fit that category, and sadly, the aforementioned suggestion lists never seem to help. Fortunately, this year, my parents had both made specific requests (Mom wanted a duster¬†like mine, and we’ve gotten Dad into Stargate SG1), but the perfect Christmas gift for Jordan’s parents was eluding us. Then I remembered a blog post I’d read on A Beautiful Mess and mentioned the idea to Jordan. He loved it (and thought they would too), so this is what we did.

How to Make Personalized Coffee Mugs

Step 1: Find the mugs

We searched high and low for the perfect mugs. We wanted white ceramic in a non-ornate style. Hobby Lobby had some in the style we wanted, but they were *huge*–as in, bowl sized. Target had some with ridges, which make for a poor writing surface, and they also had some that were rather fancy–scalloped handles and so on. Target also had one that came with… a sweater (say what?). The sweater could be easily removed, and the mug was otherwise perfect, but there was only one left. We finally settled on a pair that was painted inside, but the outside was perfect.

Obviously this technique doesn’t have to be limited to mugs if, say, you wanted to decorate some plates or something else instead.

Step 2: Buy ceramic markers

I cannot emphasize this point enough. You need dishwasher-safe¬†markers. No other kind will do. These may be marked as glass, ceramic, or porcelain markers, but I believe they should all work the same way. Hobby Lobby didn’t have any, and when I asked a store employee, she recommended oil-based Sharpies. So we bought a red and a black oil-Sharpie, and after painting on our design and letting it set for at least 48 hours, I took a wet washcloth to it (no soap) to wipe off extraneous pencil marks, and the marker started to flake. So we had to go to Michaels to get the right markers.

Step 3: Plan out your design

I drew the design on a piece of paper, then used a pencil to initially sketch it onto the mugs. I finished by going over the pencil with the ceramic marker. You could freehand the whole thing if you have confidence in your artistic abilities; I read somewhere that you can clean up mistakes if you keep a damp rag close by to take care of them quickly. I actually wish I’d just freehanded it because I ended up with some weird pencil flaking under the paint.

You’ll also notice in the picture below that we made one of the mugs left-handed. That’s the beautiful thing about decorating the mugs yourself–you can make them exactly tailored to your recipient!

Step 4: Let the design cure

Depending on the markers you buy, the instructions may differ. The markers we bought required at least 8 hours at room temperature, then baking for 40 minutes in a 375-degree oven, after heating up the oven from room temperature *with the mugs inside.*

Step 5: Fill up your gift basket

Use your imagination! We went simple with a couple bags of ground coffee and hot chocolate packets and put the whole thing into a pretty Christmas box. I don’t have a picture of the whole basket (oops!), but here’s how the mugs turned out. (This is with the oil-based Sharpies, but they were much the same with the ceramic markers.)

Love Mugs

I’d love to hear what gifts you made this Christmas!


Oh, Christmas Tree!

This isn’t our first Christmas in our house, but it’s the first one with any semblance of sanity. Although we don’t have a huge stash of Christmas decorations, we took advantage of the slower pace this year (read: not moving into a new house!) and made a nice little Christmas corner in our living room.

First, the tree.

$40 Thrift-Store Tree!

$40 Thrift-Store Tree!

We got our tree at the local thrift store. We also bought some lights there, but it turned out they were intended for bushes, not trees (they’re arranged in a mesh rather than a string), so we went out and bought some strings too.

Jordan’s coworker said wrapping lights around the trunk makes it look like the tree is lit from the inside.

Trunk-tastic lighting

Trunk-tastic lighting

Then we wrapped another string around the outside.



And can’t forget the ornaments, of course!

Can't forget the ornaments!

Can’t forget the ornaments!

We have a tradition we started our first year of marriage of buying a special ornament each Christmas to represent the year that’s past.

Our first year we bought a "J"

Our first year we bought a “J”

Our second year (not pictured) was an ornament from the university where we got our Masters.

Last year was a house

Last year was a house

And this year was very special to us as it represented the little life that is no longer with us.

Baby Bean

Baby Bean

I also finally got the nativity set I’ve been wanting for years (it was 75% off!) and some cute stocking hangers. Here’s the view of our mantle.

I love having a mantle at Christmastime!

I love having a mantle at Christmas time!

The kitties enjoy Christmas too–it means warm fires in the fireplace!

Basking in the glow of a dwindling fire

Basking in the glow of a dwindling fire

We didn’t do any outdoor decorations, but we bought a couple wreaths on clearance at the end of the season. I’m looking forward to being festive outdoors next year!

An Ordinary Christmas

For Christmas this year, my parents gave me a record player and brought some of the records I’d collected as a teenager.


Don’t let its retro appearance fool you. It also plays CDs and cassette tapes and has an input jack that’s perfect for playing from a computer or MP3 player.

Lately we’ve been listening to some old records we bought at our neighbor’s estate sale last month, but tonight Jordan decided it was time for Christmas music. “People don’t listen to Christmas music enough,” he said.

When I was a teenager I hated Christmas music, but now when I think about what it means–that God came to earth in human form–I can’t help but appreciate it. So over our Sunday-evening strawberry-blueberry smoothies and popcorn, to a backdrop of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” we talked about what it might have been like to deliver the Son of God. Was it a hard delivery? Was it easier than usual? Jordan decided, “It was surely nothing magical,” and “I imagine it was probably entirely average.”

You know how sometimes you know a thing but don’t really know it, and then one day it just hits you? That’s how I felt when Jordan said, “I imagine it was probably entirely average.” He entered the world in exactly the same way any of us entered the world. Nothing special, entirely ordinary.

Yet He was anything but ordinary.