Homemade Gift Ideas!

I am all about homemade. As my friends know, my nickname is MiniMartha, and believe me, it’s deserved at this time of year. My hubby lives in fear of what nutty thing I’m going to try for the holidays next. This year it was the light display out front. I was channeling my inner Clark Griswold. I don’t feel that the 600 lights I have out front are enough, nor are the Snowman and Santa. Plans are already in the works for next year. I want more on the lawn and I am determined to do the garage as well. Hmmm, I wonder, maybe I COULD start on the garage this year……my hubby will drag me in the house LOL.

My 2010 Light Show

So, onto the topic of this post. Homemade gifts! There really is nothing like them and they are so personal too. I know some can be time-consuming, but they can also be a lot of fun! Being that I am a Martha Stewart addict I have made several of her crafts and now am adding to my repetoire.

Here are some ideas that have gone over well for me and have been received with great enthusiasm as well as some new ones for you to try that are low on budget, but huge on appreciation!

1. Homemade bath fizzies and soaps

Here is the bath fizzies link from Martha Stewart’s website. I made them in my mini-muffin tin so they were just the right size for a bath. The citric acid was a little bit tricky to find but I did get it at a wine making store and apparently someone else had the same idea as we wound up splitting the bag.

For the homemade soaps I simply bought the soap from the craft store, followed the directions and went to town. Here is a craft where you can really get creative too with colour and scent! I used my mini loaf pans as a mold and they turned out great! I had a little trouble getting them out of the mold at first but I popped them in the freezer for a few minutes and then they slipped out no problem! Wrap the bars in cellophane, tie with some raffia and maybe a strip of a favourite wrapping paper and you’re done!

2. Bath combo kit!

I’ve done this for a few occasions and it has always gone over well. This year I’m adding to it with handmade crochet face cloths. I include either a bar of the soap from above or make pretty baggies with bath salts and with the facecloth what a gorgeous simple gift!

I also did a variation on this for my sister’s wedding shower a couple of years ago. In a prettily trimmed paper bag I included a CD of girly fun songs, lavendar or vanilla scented bath salts (simply add scent to epsom salts and mix, mix,mix!), a tea light and 3 yoga stretches on cards. The salts are available at drug stores, the tea lights you can even probably get at the dollar store (or IKEA may have some nice ones too). The scents are available at craft stores and well, the CD’s are available just about anywhere now.

3. Scarves

Living in Southern Ontario we do indeed get some cold weather and since I taught myself to crochet (yes I tend to get a little bit overambitious) I’ve made several lovely scarves and cowls for gifts.

You do not need to be a crochet expert (or knit) to make a simple scarf. You can simply repeat one stitch row after row and they turn out lovely. I suggest the Belle Scarf on LionBrand.com and the yarn for it is even on sale this week at Michaels! Check out the yarn company sites themselves, I have a few listed in my links, they all have lovely patterns! And who doesn’t like to be warm outside in winter?

And now a couple of new ideas for 2010!

1. A wreath

These are in no way as intimidating as they may look, and you don’t need to spend a fortune either! Michaels has wreaths that are plain and ready to be decorated (and I believe they are on sale at the moment as well) with ribbon or ornaments or anything you want! If it were me (and it’s possible it will be this week), I’d pick up the wreath there and then you simply get a roll of wired ribbon (it works best in my experience) and start at the top and wrap it from back to front as you go around the wreath in a spiral ending with the two end at the back of the wreath. Simply use a glue gun to secure them, add a bow and you’re set! Of course if you’re me, remember the nickname, glue gun on some ball ornaments, and glitterfy it!

2. Snowglobe

Yes I have seen this from Martha Stewart’s website, but I’ve also seen it in other places in recent days. Use up some of those jars you have lying around, or get the family to finish the jam or sauce in a cool jar. Clean it out well! Use that handy-dandy glue gun to stick an ornament or figure to the inside of the lid (the lid will be the base so the jar will end up upside down). Fill with water, add a teaspoon or so of glycerine (Bulk Barn has it) and some glitter. It’s all about glitter. Shake, shake, shake! You can further decorate by adding some fabric to the lid so it looks prettier too!

3. Beverage gifts!

From a friend of mine and using a now favourite product of mine (Starbucks VIA) in a fun and exciting new way (more ways for me to continue my addiction):

Give with tumbler glasses with a serving pitcher (again, you can get really nice ones at the dollar store nowadays and I’ve seen others at the Superstore too!) and the following recipe:

Spiced Coffee Liqueur

Ingredients:
2 cups hot water
4 packets Starbucks VIA Italian Roast
3 cups sugar
2 cups vodka

2 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf

20 whole coriander seeds

1 vanilla bean

Directions:
Dissolve coffee and sugar in hot water. Add vodka. Split vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape and add beans and pod to liqueur. Break cinnamon stick into pieces and add. Stir cloves, bay leaf and coriander into liqueur. Do not crush cloves or coriander. Chill for two weeks and allow spices to infuse into liqueur. Strain and serve by shaking equal parts coffee liqueur and milk with ice. Keeps well, refrigerated, for one month.

Consider bringing all the fixings for dessert – including ingredients for fresh, homemade hot fudge. Combine a gallon of vanilla ice cream and holiday cups or bowls with the ingredients below, festively displayed in a clear glass jar from which the finished hot fudge can be served.

Mocha Malted Hot Fudge Sauce

Ingredients:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon cider vinegar
3 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons malt powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 packets Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Italian Roast

Directions:
Finely chop chocolate and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, whisk together cocoa, sugar, salt and milk until mixture forms a smooth paste. Place over medium heat and stir in the cream, corn syrup, vinegar and 2/3 of the chocolate. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking or stirring frequently. Boil, whisking frequently, until the sauce reaches 220 to 225 F on a candy thermometer, about eight minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter, malt, vanilla, coffee and the remaining chocolate until the sauce is smooth. Strain and set aside for a few minutes before serving. If not using right away, chill sauce in airtight container. Re-warm before serving. Keeps well, chilled, for three weeks.

Adding the below recipe and ingredients to festive baking supplies makes a sweet holiday gift indeed – just don’t forget a candy thermometer.

Coffee Toffee with Milk Chocolate and Pretzels
Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup corn syrup
8 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup almond slivers
1 cup chopped pretzels
2 packets Starbucks VIA Italian Roast
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate (milk chocolate is preferred)

Directions:
Bring sugar, water, and corn syrup to a boil. Stir in the butter when temperature reaches 280 F. When temperature reaches 315 F, stir in the salt, almonds and 1/2 cup pretzels. Cook the mixture until it reaches 320 F. Remove from heat and stir in the coffee and vanilla. Immediately pour the toffee into greased pan. Let toffee cool for 15 minutes and sprinkle on finely chopped chocolate and spread to evenly cover the surface. Sprinkle on remaining 1/2 cup pretzels and gently press. Break toffee into squares and store in airtight container for up to two weeks at room temperature.

I hope these ideas have got those creative juices flowing! If I come across any others I’ll be sure to post them! Happy Crafting!!! And if you have any you’d like to share I’d love to hear them!

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