If you have more time than money this Holiday Season—or just prefer to give and receive homemade gifts—here are my best ideas that cost less than ten bucks.
Spa Set. Give all the stressed-out folks on your gift list the gift of relaxation. Make your own bath products and then assemble them in a nice basket.
Bath Salts. 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup sea or rock salt, 20 drops fragrance oil, food coloring. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until fully combined and color is even.
Bath oil. 1/2 cup almond oil, 1/2 cup castor oil or aloe vera, the oil from 6-8 Vitamin E capsules, 25-30 drops fragrance oil. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with wooden spoon until combined.
Bubble bath. Mix 3 cups clear, mild dishwashing detergent; the oil from 6-8 Vitamin E capsules, 1/4 cup glycerin, 25-30 drops fragrance oil, food coloring.
Salt scrub. Mix together Epsom salts and enough almond oil (better) or baby oil (cheaper) to resemble very wet snow. Add essential or aromatherapy oil for fragrance and soap colorant if you desire.
Place your spa products in individual bottles or small jars and decorate with ribbons, labels and or embellishments. Add other items you can pick up at the drug store such as a wash cloth, pumice stone or loofah.
Family Cookbook. Gather up your family’s best-loved recipes and create a family cookbook, then make copies of it for family members on your list.To add illustrations to your family cookbook, scan old family photos of the person who is known for making the recipe to include on a particular page. Add a section for birthdays and addresses, too.
Stepping Stone. Garden stepping stones are easy to make with a small amount of ready-mix concrete from the home improvement center. No need to buy expensive kits at craft stores, just look for a decorative mold to use.
To make a round stone use an old plastic 5-gallon bucket or similar. Coat with Vaseline before pouring in the ready-mix. When it has set the stone will slip out easily.
Follow the instructions on the ready-mix bag. Pour in about 1.5 inches of cement. When the consistency is right, have your child put in his footprints and or handprints. Add the date if you wish, and decorate with various seashells, marbles, mosaic tiles, and so on.
Coffee Lover’s Basket. Have a coffee lover on your list? Here are a few ideas to include in a gift basket for any java junkie:
Chocolate-dipped plastic spoons with sprinkles and a bow for decoration. Add a box of chocolate-dipped cookies or homemade biscotti. Make your own home-made dessert coffee mixes:
Mocha: 1/4 cup instant coffee, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup sugar
Café au Lait: 1/4 cup instant coffee, 1/2 cup dry milk, 1/2 cup sugar
Spice: 1/4 cup instant coffee, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice.
For the mixes above, combine ingredients then store in a tightly covered jar for up to 6 months. For each serving, place 2 teaspoons mix in cup. Fill with boiling water.
Grandparents’ Calendar. This is a gift sure to be joyfully received by grandparents and other family members, too. Using the calendar template in your computer’s word processing program print out calendar months on 8.5 x 11 card stock.
On the blank backsides decorate with your kids’ artwork, photos, poems and clip art. Add birthdays marked on the appropriate dates and other memorable occasions, too.
Bring the finished pages to your local library to laminate (most libraries will allow you to use the laminating machine provided you bring your own materials) or quick copy store and bind them together. This is great for grandparents but can be modified for any member of
No-Sew Fleece Blanket. Choose polar fleece in an appropriate pattern, sports team, juvenile character, jungle print, plaid, solid or other motif at a fabric or craft store when it’s on sale.
Baby blankets require about 3/4 yard; you’ll want a yard or more for adults and older children. Because fleece is quite wide (60 inches is typical) one yard makes a nice size blanket.
You can make a heavier blanket by layering two fabric panels or a lighter-weight blanket by using one layer only. Cut about 2.5-inch strips on the edges then tie them together to add fringe. Polar fleece never frays, even with washing.
Cookie Jars. Layered to look like “sand art,” cookie mixes make the perfect gift for family, friends and teachers. Layer the dry ingredients to make brownies or cookies in a one-quart, wide-mouth canning jar. Decorate the jar with ribbon and attach instructions.
Since people usually receive so many baked goodies this time of year, a treat to make at a later date is usually appreciated. Even if they do not want to bake them, the jar makes a great display piece for the kitchen.
Here’s a recipe:
Chocolate Chip Cookies: 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 2 1/2 cups flour mixed 1 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt .
Layer ingredients in the jar in the order given, pressing each layer very firmly in place before adding the next. Everything will fit if you are diligent to pack each layer tightly, particularly the brown sugar and flour. Use the end of a wooden spoon as a packing device. Measure carefully.
Attach this message to jar:
Empty jar into large mixing bowl. Thoroughly blend mix. Add 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine (not diet or tub variety), 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix until completely blended. Shape into balls the size of walnuts and place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 F for 7 to 10 minutes, or until just slightly golden. Do not overbake. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to racks to finish cooling. These cookies will not firm up until completely cooled. Makes 2 1/2 dozen delicious cookies. Enjoy!
Art Frame. Purchase an inexpensive picture frame from the craft store or a department store like Target or Walmart. Have your child decorate the frame with acrylic paints. Place a photo of your child inside the frame once it’s dry, and you have a great gift for a grandparent, friend or another relative.
Read-Along Videos. Have your kids get dressed in their pajamas, and cover one of their beds with stuffed animals. Set up the video camera on a tripod and record yourself reading bedtime stories to the kids and the animals. Wrap up the videotape with copies of the books you’ve read for a great gift for cousins who live far away. Not only do they get to read along with you, they get to see their cousins whenever they watch this story time.
Old Family Photo Reproductions. Having old photos duplicated professionally can be expensive. But you can do this yourself for very little and with extraordinary results.
Take the photo to your local quick print shop. No matter how this original photo appears (black and white, sepia tone) make copies of it on the self-serve color photocopying machine. You won’t believe the result. You will not be able to tell the copy from the original. And the cost? About two bucks or less for any size up to 8×10. It’s just the best gift, and quick, too.
Frame the photo appropriately and you will be unable to differentiate it from its original, even if it is printed on lightweight photocopy paper. Once placed into the frame with the backing board in place and glass on the front, you will not be able to detect that it is a photocopy. Be sure to give your recipient a written account of who is in the photo and other details you may know.
Question: What is your favorite homemade gift to give or receive?