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Tess Trotter

5 Summer Crafts And Activities For The Family

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We still have a bit of summer left, so be sure to make the moments count! There are plenty of fun and creative crafts and activities that the whole family can enjoy! No special tools or skills are required to get crafty. Get ready for great fun with the entire family!

Craft Beads 

My craft beads have a variety of uses and can make a great craft activity. They are sanded smooth, left in their unfinished natural wood state, and are ready to be decorated, painted, wood burned or stamped. 

Here are some crafty ideas: 

  • Jewelry Making
  • Scrapbooking
  • Painting
  • Sorting/ Counting

Flip Flop Tops 

These wooden Flip Flop Tops are a kid favorite! They actually flip on their axis and continue to spin on the opposite side that you spun them from. They will make an excellent party favor or summer activity to do with the fam.

Alphabet Blocks 

The possibilities are endless with this colorful alphabet block set. Bring the whole family together to stack or crash these blocks. They come as a set of 15 and are painted. 

Bonus Craft Idea: Use a waterproof black pen to write on your blocks! 

Wooden Rings 

The whole family will love these Maple wooden rings. Some fun summer activities include: 

  • Ring Toss Game
  • Play Silk Streamers (just attach various colored ribbons or silk)
  • Ornament Crafts 

Enjoy family time this summer with these crafts and activities! Happy Crafting! 


HobKnobin’s 10th Anniversary: Q&A with Shyla

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Hey there! It’s Tess, Marketing Manager for HobKnobin. In honor of HobKnobin’s 10th anniversary, I sat down with owner Shyla Contreras to ask her 10 questions about the business. Enjoy! 

What inspired you to start your business?

In 2009, my soon-to-be daughter was still in my tummy. Like most moms, I wanted her to have something personalized and special from me. Her white dresser needed some color, so I decided to take off the knobs and paint butterflies and flowers to match her bedroom motif. Up until that point, I didn’t know I had an artsy, painting side to me. I remember being so proud of the knobs I painted for her dresser. 

Soon I had two kiddos, and I knew I wanted to be home with them. The compliments from friends and family really encouraged me to start painting and selling dresser knobs on Etsy. I am so thankful for their encouragement!

Have you always had a passion for crafting? 

Yes! Ever since I was little, I loved coloring and creating things out of Legos, Lincoln Logs and Wonder Blocks. My true crafting skills came from watching and helping my dad in the garage. A jack of all trades, my father can do just about anything. 

I love coming up with new creations, which is how my famous donut stands were introduced.  

Any advice to someone who is just starting their ecommerce business?  

I’ve learned so many valuable lessons along the way. It’s all about baby steps. Let your business gradually grow with you; don’t rush to be at the top. I always say to others, “If I would have started off where I am today with my busy workload, I would have freaked out!!”  

In addition, making mistakes is inevitable and sometimes necessary. In fact, mistakes have often inspired some of my greatest creations. This was especially true at the beginning stages of my business, when I was painting dresser drawer knobs, light switch covers and dresser pulls.  

Whether you are starting your ecommerce business to stay at home with your children or create extra income for your family, keeping your “why” factor front and center at all times will keep you moving forward. 

Learn to enjoy not only the busy times, but the slow times as well. Being productive is key, even when business is slow. I use my down time to create new ideas, restock my shelves, clean-up my work space, take photos of new items, work on product descriptions or check inventory. Also, during these slower times I remind myself that it’s okay to have moments when sales aren’t constantly coming in. It creates the perfect time to reflect, and causes you to appreciate the busy times much more.     

How long was it before you hired a team? Why was it time to bring in help? 

Let’s be honest, there are only so many hours in a day for this girl! When owning your own business, it is important to spend your time efficiently, and to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. I got to the point in my business where I knew I wanted to start and maintain Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I remember thinking, “How am I going to find time to do that?” I had no time to spare as it was, and I knew something would have to give if I was to take on one more task. In addition, maintaining excellent customer service is my #1 priority. I did not want to give up the integrity or high-level customer service of my business, and I knew I needed help to do so. That’s when I decided it was time for my first hire, my very talented Social Media Marketer.  

I also hired my wonderful neighbor, Heather Haws, to paint my donut stands. Another recent addition to the HobKnobin team is an Ebay and Amazon specialist, who helps me maintain those two shops. 

When I’m overwhelmed, especially during the holiday season, my husband, parents and family members have all been a huge help with getting me caught up. I don’t know what I’d do without them! 

What is your brainstorming process for coming up with new products?  

I like to look at magazines and the internet to see what the latest trends are, especially within the wedding space. It’s very important for me to stay informed on what my potential clients want. Also, a lot of my new product ideas come from client custom requests.    

What is the most rewarding thing about running your business?   

My clients and fans! I love when they share pictures of my wooden creations, or better yet when they incorporate one of my wooden pieces in a DIY project they made themselves. Their five-star feedback fuels my fire on the days when I don’t think I have much left in my tank. My business wouldn’t be where it is today without the faith and trust of my clients.   

What does a typical work day for you look like?  

I start the day by responding to clients, vendors, employee emails and client order requests.  Since I sell worldwide, I’m a 24-hour business. My mail carrier comes earlier in the day, so it’s important that I ship out any completed client orders right away.  Next, I prioritize orders to determine which ones get made first and which ones are ready to be sent to my painter. I’m constantly updating listing descriptions, taking photos of new products, reviewing inventory and corresponding with clients. Nothing is more important to me than making sure my clients are happy!     

Roughly how many orders have you had to date? 

Between my two Etsy shops, I have had 18,197 orders. On Ebay, Amazon and my personal website, I have had between 2,000- 3,000 orders. Wow… It’s hard for me to believe I’ve shipped out over 20,000 orders!     

What is your favorite item to make?  

Any new item is my favorite item to make. I love custom requests, because it puts my talent to the test. Variety is the spice of life! 

What does the future of HobKnobin and Toying Around look like? 

It’s hard to say where the crafting and DIY industries are going, but I hope to let my customers be my guiding force. I’d love to continue my success by creating new pieces to share with my potential clients.  


Crafty DIY Activities For Men

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Everyone can get crafty, including men! I receive a lot of product requests from men who are looking to get creative. So whether you are a man looking for a new hobby, or are brainstorming gift ideas for the special guy in your life, I thought I’d share my top DIY activities for men! 

Clack Sticks

Clack sticks are a musical instrument made out of wooden dowels. They are banged together to create a rhythmic beat. My client, Eric Thorpe-Moscon, recently reached out to request my birch wooden dowels to use in making these clack sticks. This is such a clever idea, and would make a wonderful and creative gift for any man in your life! Check out Eric’s store here.

My wooden dowels also serve other crafting purposes. Use them as sticks for photo props, make your own flag, create pinwheels and more! As I always say, the crafting possibilities are endless.

Engraved Signs

There’s nothing like personalized décor. So how about sprucing up your man cave? My wooden rectangles and circles make the perfect signs. Crafting is an artistic way to express yourself, so engrave or write a custom message that speaks to you. It’s the perfect finishing touch to any room.


Love nature and the outdoors? Birdhouses have been around for centuries, and are here to stay. They make the ultimate outdoorsy crafting activity. Buy a premade one to paint, or build one from scratch. One of my clients purchased my circular shapes to use as the base of his custom made birdhouse. Get creative with it!

Pick up a new hobby! Create more personalized gifts and décor! Whatever the reason, DIY activities can be enjoyed by both men and women. Happy Crafting!


My Wooden Stamps Used For Lemony Snicket Book

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What a wonderful opportunity! I had the pleasure of working with the incredibly talented Rilla Alexander, a famous children’s book illustrator. She needed a custom stamp for her latest event celebrating her book with Lemony Snicket, Swarm of Bees. I made her a custom wooden stamp and she added her own rubber design to it.

Rilla Alexandra and Daniel Hander (aka Lemony Snicket)

Just take a look at the cover! The book is full of bees and tomatoes.

I ended up buying a copy of her book that she personally signed to my sweet niece Tayliah Bridgeman.

Lemony Snicket is responsible for numerous children’s books, including Swarm of Bees illustrated by Rilla Alexander. His books have sold more than 70 million copies, been translated into 40 languages and have been adapted for the screen and stage. You can purchase Swarm of Bees here.

Such A Great Month For My Donut Stands!

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Remember my previous blog on how my donut stands ended up at J-Lo’s? Well, the good news keeps on coming!

I recently returned from a Vegas trip and have never experienced such great service! Pastry Chef Sara Steele uses donut stands from yours truly for her famous churro towers.

And just look at how she incorporated both my husband’s and my company logo on the dessert!

Not only that, but my stands were featured alongside Chef Lorena Garcia on CBS’s The Talk. Churros never looked so good!

This year has been incredible in so many ways, and I could not be more grateful.

If you are an event planner or chef, I have just the supplies you need to take your business to the next level. Message me for bulk pricing.


Redecorating Your Home… DIY Style

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It’s crazy how expensive it can be to decorate your home. Skip the overpriced décor and craft your own DIY accent pieces to give your home a more personal feel. Plus, just imagine how great it’ll feel when guests ask where your homemade items are from… they’re from you, by the way. Happy Crafting!

Small Wood Finials

A must for any redecorating venture, my small finials are very versatile and fit a variety of your decorating and embellishing needs. Options include adding them to…

  • the end of a small curtain rod
  • the top of a small box or jar
  • shelves

and more!

Wood Pillar Candlestick Holders

My tall wood pillar candlestick holders make a beautiful addition to your fireplace, tables or dining room table. Each candlestick is ready to be stained, spray painted or painted with acrylic in a color that matches your décor. This set can make a room go from drab to fab!

Wooden Bowls

Ready to really use your crafty side? Get ready to paint, burn, stamp or decoupage these wooden bowls to match your décor. Or leave them as is! They make a great addition to your kitchen, or can be used as jewelry bowls.

Cake Stands/Candlestick Holders

These wooden items have two different uses… candlestick holders or cake stands! They are a great way to decorate your home. Simply add your ideal color to them by staining, painting or spray painting. They are sure to complete the look of any room in your home.

Whether you’re looking to freshen up the look of your home with a couple pieces, or are trying to completely change up your current décor, DIY projects will help add that personal touch to your redecorating.


Have A DIY-Themed Staycay This Spring Break

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Spring Break is a time for relaxation and a retreat from the stresses of everyday life. However, you don’t always have to travel far to have a good time. DIY projects are the perfect way to make the most of your Spring Break in the comfort of your home, while also saving money. Not to mention they will be a huge hit with kids who are out of school for the week! Here are a few DIY ideas for the ultimate staycay.

Plant Flowers

Spring is a season known for blooming flowers and plants, so what better way to celebrate than by planting your own flowers? Use my tall wooden flower pots to plant several different kinds of flowers, and enjoy watching them bloom. These unfinished wooden pots are also great for painting! Use your creativity to add a personal touch. Order them today!

Decorate Bird Houses

As the season approaches, the birds will as well. What better way to support the environment than by making a pleasant home for earth’s winged creatures? My unfinished wooden birdhouses come ready-to-decorate and paint. Check them out today!

Create Toothy Fairy Boxes

The Tooth Fairy keeps busy during the Spring too! What better way to hold those baby teeth than with a personalized box? Whether your kids want to keep their teeth in the box until the Tooth Fairy comes, or you want to use them as keepsake boxes, these unfinished wooden boxes are the perfect craft idea. Order yours today!

Whether you choose to travel or stay home, you can always find fun activities for Spring Break. Just enjoy yourself and have fun!  



Crafting: A Stress-Relieving Activity

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Unfortunately, stress is an all to common phenomenon for many of us. However, did you know that DIY projects and crafting are super beneficial to your happiness? Here are a few reasons why crafting is deemed a stress-relieving activity.

Your mood will improve.

Studies show a correlation between crafting and our moods. In fact, the use of crafting to bring people together dates way back! Thousands of years ago, quilting offered women an escape from isolation. In addition, clay work has been shown to reduce adverse behavior.

Creativity allows people express themselves in a unique way and encourages a different outlook on life. This alternative perspective helps turn negative thoughts into positive ones.

Crafting helps relieve stress and anxiety.

Crafters experience a sense of satisfaction when finishing up their creation, which results in reduced stress. A study titled The Influence of Art Making on Anxiety: A Pilot Study, found that even minimal exposure to art can greatly reduce a person’s anxiety levels. Crafting also serves as an escape, allowing crafters to focus on the positives.

Experience more happiness.

DIY crafting is an activity that naturally triggers dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for happiness and bliss. In a study with 3,500 knitters, 81% of participants reported feeling happier and more at ease.
Picking up a hobby is fun and fulfilling. It gives us a necessary outlet to express ourselves and find joy. Feel free to browse through the HobKnobin site to find the perfect craft items!  

The Ultimate Wedding Décor

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Happy National Wedding Month! To commemorate this special time, I thought I’d share my favorite wedding décor ideas.

A wedding is one of the most momentous times in a person’s life, and ensuring the wedding décor is unique and personalized can really help the day feel that much more special.

No matter what essence or theme you are trying to bring to your wedding, I have options for you!

Sign Holders

These wedding sign holders are carefully handmade out of hard maple wood. Each wooden circle is sanded and smooth to the touch, ready to be painted or stained with your color of choice to match your theme. These holders are a great way to display your wedding signs or table numbers!

Cupcake Stands

My wooden cake stands allow you to feature your cake and/or your cupcakesall while saving you valuable table space! They make an eye-catching centerpiece for any wedding. I left them unfinished, so you can paint or stain them in a color that matches the rest of your décor!

Napkin Rings

My hand-painted, napkin ring holders will add a finishing touch to your rustic-themed wedding. Set your wedding reception tables in style!

These wedding décor items are sure to add a personal touch to your wedding. Want some more craft and décor ideas? Browse my shop today!

How My Donut Stands Ended Up At J-Lo’s House!

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2019 is already off to a great start! The Executive Pastry Chef of the Chica has been using my stands to display her renowned Churro Towers. The chef herself, Sara Mae, sent me the sweetest note about how much of a hit the stands are! 

“Hello Shyla and Happy New Year! I purchased some adorable doughnut stands from you about 2 months ago and absolutely love them!!! I am The Executive Pastry Chef at Chica inside the Venetian, and I am using them to display my Churro Tower which has become such a huge hit! I even have guests asking about the stands!” 

In addition to her amazing praise and feedback, Sara let me in on a fun fact. She recently sent some of my stands to Chef Lorena Garcia to use for Christmas Brunch at Jennifer Lopez’s home. Lorena ended up leaving them there, which means something I hand crafted is at J-Lo’s home right now! The year has already brought so many delightful surprises, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Check out these mouth watering photos of Sara’s Churro Towers. If you are visiting Las Vegas soon, be sure to dine at Chica! Make a reservation here.