Jessica, yay for your mom!!!!!!!
It's GREAT that you want to make something special for your mom! I'm not a really experienced knitter or anything, so what I like to do to "jazz" up a project is maybe pick out some cool yarn; it kind of helps to make up for what I'm lacking in skill! No matter what you pick, your mom will love it, not just because it's a "mom thing", but because you cared so much to do something so special for her.
If you can afford it, maybe splurge on some cool yarn (it doesn't have to be a pricey yarn to be nice). For some project ideas, I recommend Sally Melville's "The Knit Stitch: The Knitting Experience, Book 1" because it's REALLY well written and geared towards beginners (I'm just returning my copy to the library). You can browse it in the library or at a bookstore to see if the projects make sense (that's what I do)
There's the "Have Fun! Scarf"
; it uses four different kinds of yarn
the "Minimum Scarf"
; knit to be a dressier scarf in a "luscious" yarn
the "Maximum Scarf" (sorry I couldn't find a picture for that one)
the "Shape It! Scarf" here
. The "Shape It! Scarf" is cool because (to quote Sally Melville), "I like to wear triangular scarves, but I often have too much material at my neck and not enough at the ends. I also like to wear rectangular scarves, but I often have too many wraps around my neck and not the right amount of material in the ends. So, why not a scarf that combines the best of both...that offers a triangle with just the right coverage at the neck and with the neds just the right size?" (she recommends this project be done in a bulky weight novelty yarn, especially ribbon) This scarf also wears a bunch of cool ways, too.