Quick and Easy Reading Pillow

Reading Pillow GraphicSnuggle up with a good book and a pillow.  Make this quick and easy pillow with a built-in pocket to hold a favorite book and maybe even a few toys and a snack.  Use it at home or on the go.  It makes the perfect personalized gift.  This is a great beginner’s project.  

Materials Needed:

  • ½ yard of fabric for front and back
  • Fat quarter of fabric for pocket
  • Matching thread
  • Iron-on letters, fabric for applique or embroidery machine for the letters
  • 16” x 16″ pillow form

Cutting Instructions:

(1) 16 1/2″ x 16 1/2″ fabric for front

(2) 16 1/2″ x 11″ fabric for back

(1) 16 1/2″ x 20″ for pocket

Sewing Instructions:

  1. Fold pocket fabric in half so that it measures 10″ x 16 1/2″.
  2. Apply letters by method of your choice — applique, purchased iron- on letters or with an embroidery machine.   Choose a word that you want on the pillow.  It can be “READ,” a name or whatever you want.
  3. The word should be approximately 3″ from the bottom edge and 3″ from the right edge.READ Pillow Image 1
  4. Hem one 16 1/2″ edge on both back pieces.  Fold over 1/4″ and press.  Fold over 1/4″ again and press so that the raw edge is enclosed.
  5. Stitch along each edge.
  6. Baste pocket piece to the bottom of the front fabric piece.READ Pillow Image 2
  7. Lay the front pocket piece right side up.
  8. Place the two back pieces right sides down onto the front piece so the corners and edges match on the top and the bottom and the hemmed edges overlap in the center. Overlap the two back sections.READ Pillow Image 3
  9. Pin in place.
  10. Sew 1/4″ seam on each side.
  11. Turn right sides out through the back enclosure and put pillow form inside.

Ask an Expert // Graduation Gift Ideas and Ways to Say Thank You

GraduationWondering what to get that graduating guy or gal in your life? We’ve got some great ideas for you.

16 Gift Ideas for your Grad

It’s graduation time, and announcements will soon be arriving in mailboxes. Graduation often brings the question of what you can do for or give to graduates to help them take steps toward their future. Here are some gift ideas to get you started:

  • A toaster, blender, waffle iron or panini maker.
  • Wireless headphones or speakers.
  • A bean bag or banana chair.
  • A label maker.
  • A new journal to document all the experiences ahead.
  • A recipe book of favorite family recipes.
  • A gas card or car wash punch card near where they will live.
  • Car supplies, including oil, washer fluid, filters, air fresheners, window shields or an emergency car kit.
  • A new printer, since they are continually changing and becoming better.
  • Gift cards to favorite stores and restaurants where they will live.
  • An office supply kit for college or a future job.
  • A college survival kit, which can include things such as cleaning, kitchen or bathroom supplies, towels, bed linens or necessary treats and food items.
  • Work out equipment based on what they like to do, such as a yoga mat, pull up bar, adjustable dumbbells, free weights, etc.
  • Creative money crafts. One idea is to put money in place of chocolates in a chocolate box with a note that says “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Thecraftyblogstalker.com is full of many ideas for crafty money gifts.
  • Games are great for social events and stress relief. Board or card games such as Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Ultimate Werewolf, Uno and Phase 10 are good options. You can also check out Google’s top 10 best-selling games.
  • Books. One idea is to have friends and family sign the book with encouragement or advice. Great books for graduates include:
    • Be Happy! A Little Book for a Happy You and a Better World by Monica Sheehan
    • Reach for the Start: and Other Advice for Life’s Journey by Serge Bloch
    • What Do you Do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada
    • How Big is the World? By Britta Teckentrup
    • Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Suess
    • Yay, You! Moving up and Moving on by Sandra Boynton
    • The North Star: Ask Yourself Where It Is You Want to Go… by Peter H. Reynolds
    • The Treasure by Uri Shulevits
    • Only One You by Linda Kranz
    • Little Tree by Loren Long
    • The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Say Thank You

Now advice for the graduate: Don’t forget to say thanks! Ideas include:

  • The traditional hand-written letter, which is a classic way to thank others. This may be the most appropriate for grandparents and those who appreciate the tradition.
  • An e-mail. This is a very informal option but is still a great way to share feelings of gratitude.
  • A visit. For those living near enough, you can make a trip to say thank you in person. This is a great option for staying connected.
  • An e-card. ThankView is one that allows you to make personalized videos to send a thank you message to friends and family. Many other options are available.


By: KJ Lamplugh, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences program assistant, kirsten.lamplugh@usu.edu


The Crafty Blog Stalker: 20 Ideas on How to Give Cash for Graduation Gift – http://thecraftyblogstalker.com/20-ideas-on-how-to-give-cash-for-graduation-gift/

ThankView – https://thankview.com/

Mother’s Day // Honoring the Women in Your Life


Mother's DayMother’s Day is coming right up. Try some of these thoughtful ideas to celebrate mom, grandma, and all the influential women in your life. 

Mother’s Day has been a tradition since the 1860s when Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” and was nationally recognized in 1914 by a proclamation signed by Woodrow Wilson.  It is a great way to honor those who gave us life, nurtured us and helped us on our way through life. It is usually celebrated in May in the United States. So how can we let these wonderful women know of our love and appreciation?  Here are a few ideas you might try or adapt.

For Your Mom or Grandma- After You Have Left the Nest

When children grow up and leave home, it is very hard for their moms. They still worry about their children, and miss all the fun times and meaningful interactions they had together.

Creating an “All about Mom” questionnaire can be a way to remind your mom how much you love her, and of all the good she has done. Not only does this gift come from the heart, but it’s simple to do and can to involve everyone. Try one of these questionnaires:

All About Mom from One She Two She

All About Mom or Grandma from The Crafting Chicks

Try having all your siblings fill out the same questionnaire (be sure to send them the questionnaire in plenty of time before Mother’s Day). You can present the completed questionnaires to your mom or grandma on Mother’s Day along with her favorite treat or flowers. Another idea is to roll up all the questionnaires, tie a ribbon around them and attach a little bag of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses.

From Mom, to the Kids

Sometimes on Mother’s Day we leave the rest of the family out of the celebration.  Recognizing and sharing with your family why you love being a mother to them can strengthen your parent-child relationships, build lasting bonds, and remind you why you are glad to be a mother. You can use this form to write to each of your children, young or old, telling them why you love being their mom or grandma. Roll it up and tie it with a ribbon, then attach a treat such as Sweetrts. Here’s a printable tag you can attach as well. Mother's Day 2

Download Happy Mother’s Day.. From Me! Form Mother's Day TagsDownload Printable Tags

For Other Women who have Influenced You 

For many women, motherhood may not be a role they have had. They may not have become mothers for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they may have never married or not been able to bear children. They may be a neighbor, close friend, aunt, teacher, etc.  Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of not being a mother. These women often play a vital role in the nurturing and “mothering” of other’s children.

Create a similar questionnaire and fill it out or have your children fill it out for the person who is special to you.  You could also take a picture of them with your children, frame it and have your children write a special note to them.  Write a letter telling them how they have impacted your life, and let them know of your love for them.  You could top it off by inviting them over for a meal or special party to honor them.

For After Your Mother is Gone

After my mother died, it was hard to celebrate Mother’s Day without her, so I decided to reach out to some wonderful aunts of mine who I had interacted with during my growing up years. I purchased Mother’s Day Cards, and wrote a note telling them of my love for them.  I was surprised at how many of them responded back about how much my thoughts had touched them.  Some other ideas you might consider:

  •    Send a note of remembrance to a someone who has lost their mother.  This might help the child be reminded of the fine person their mother was, lessons she taught them or what wonderful characteristics they have inherited from her.
  •    Send Mother’s Day notes or cards to neighbors who you love but are not your own mother. You may want to recount a fond memory and thank them for their influence on your life.

Mother’s Day Brunch Fruit Dip

Melted white chocolate is blended into cream cheese and lightened up with fresh whipped cream in this effortless, delicious fruit dip! Perfect for serving at Mother’s Day brunch.


  •    ¼ cup milk
  •    4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  •    8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (very important!)
  •    ¼ cup sugar
  •    ½ cup heavy cream
  •    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •    Fresh fruit (berries, apple slices, pineapple wedges, kiwi fruit, etc.)


  1.     Heat milk until hot but not boiling. Whisk in white chocolate until melted and totally smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2.     In a large bowl, beat sugar into cream cheese. Mix the white chocolate mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
  3.     In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream and vanilla until soft (not stiff) peaks form. Gently fold this whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
  4.     Cover and chill for at least 4 hours (to overnight). Serve with fresh fruit dippers, and/or vanilla wafers, graham crackers, etc.


If the cream cheese is not completely at room temperature, the melted white chocolate will re-solidify into little chunks once you mix the two together.

Pretzel Flowers

These tasty little flowers would make a cheery gift, and this recipe would be a great one to make with children.


  • Pretzel twists or squares
  • White chocolate pieces or candy melts
  • M&M candies


Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pretzels on parchment, and place one candy melt on top of each pretzel. Warm in oven for 2 minutes, or until candy melt is soft, but not melted through the pretzel. Place M&Ms on top of the candy melt in a circle to make a flower shape Let cool for an hour or two before storing in an airtight container.

Microwave Instructions: 

Place pretzels topped with candy melts on a paper plate and melt in microwave at 50 percent power for 30-50 seconds.  Arrange M&M candies on top in a flower shape. Let cool for an hour or two before storing in an airtight container.


This article was written by Marilyn Albertson – Extension Associate Professor – Family & Consumer Sciences, Salt Lake County

Fruit dip recipe from http://oneshetwoshe.com/2014/04/white-chocolate-cheesecake-fruit-dip.html

Ask an Expert // Are Holiday Layaways Worth It?

layawayWhat’s the deal with  layaway programs? Learn how to assess if layaway is a good option for you and how to set up your own layaway savings plan from USU Extension finance pro Amanda Christensen.

Layaway Highlights:

  1. Read the fine print
  2. Look at the cancelation policy
  3. Will the payments fit into your budget?
  4. Is there a sale price credit?
  5. Will you be tempted to overspend?

Set Up Your Own Layaway Savings Plan:

  1. Set a goal and stick to it
  2. Make a plan
  3.  Set up an automatic transfer
  4. Watch sale prices
  5. Stick to your list


Be sure to watch the video for the details on each tip.

Amanda Christensen is an Extension Assistant Professor for Utah State University. Follow her on Twitter: @FamFinPro, Facebook: Fam Fin Pro, Instagram: @FamFinPro.