Have Fun - Home-made Christmas Presents
Nothing gives more satisfation than seeing a friend's face light up when you give them a gift. And when the gift is homemade, it makes it all the more special.
Bath salts are one of the easiest (albeit, smelliest) things to make. Make sure you do this in a well ventilated area. You'll need the following:
The base mixture for bath salts is equal parts Epsom salts and baking soda. To a cup of base mixture you first add your colouring (that is, if you want colours) a few drops at a time, blending it with your hands (making the gloves a moral imperative) until the colour is uniform. Then do the same with the essential oils. The total amount of scent needed will vary based on the oils used as some are more potent than others. You can try your hand at blending the oils for different scents, which is often fun and sometimes nose deadening. A couple of good combinations are patchouli/sandalwood/vanilla, rosemary/peppermint (easy on this one unless you don't particularly like that friend). You can also buy already blended scents. Aura Cacia has some wonderful blends (Tranquility is excellent) and the Body Shop sells perfume oils in their various blends.
You can also make 'bath bombs', you know, those fizzy bathtub Alka Seltzer type balls. All you do is add citric acid to the bath salt base (or straight baking soda) at 4 parts base to 1 part citric acid. Then after you have finished the above simply use an unscented base oil (bath or massage blends are fine as long as they are unscented) and add a few drops at a time until the stuff will hold a shape. You can mould it with your hands or stuff it into oiled molds. Make each 'bomb' using about 1/4 cup of the stuff. Then just let them dry for a week or so. Make sure you take them out of the mold to dry. Otherwise be prepared to drop it mold and all into the tub later...
Another quick and easy gift though is for people who abuse their hands a lot at work or whatever. You can make a hand softener using sea salt, base oil and essential oils. Just add the oil to the salt a bit at a time until it turns into a sort of granular mess that is not at all 'liquid' then add a few drops of essential oil. To use, they just rub this stuff into their hands and rinse off.
Surprise Your Loved One
When making a homemade gift for a loved one that you really want to surprise learn a new skill if possible and when the 25 December dawns they will be really surprised. It may be something as simple as some of the men out there learning how to make a really nice breakfast for their loved one on Christmas morning, especially if she was up all night preparing the dinner, or a poem and/or photo done in nice calligraphy in a home made frame or something.
If you have a number of skills you can combine them, and make the present somewhere where the other person will not see or at least keep the 'work in progress' somewhere they will never find; we're not all like Rolf Harris and only going to reveal what it is with the very last brush stroke.
One year my daughter sewed me a sampler of a poinsettia then framed it. It cost around £3 for the materials and frame. She spent hours making it and it's not perfect, but I still have it and wouldn't part with it. Home-made presents are the best.
Magazines and books often have several alphabets with decorative letters in cross stitch. Materials are minimal if you apply these to:
What do we never give other people enough of, and always feel bad about it? What doesn't cost anything? The answer, of course, is time.
There are as many variations as there are people on this planet.
There - you just had to look at this one, didn't you? A nice way to present walnuts ready-to-eat is to crack them in large amounts beforehand, put the nuts into the kitchen mixer and chop them quite small. Then pour runny honey into the mixer and make a delicious spread. Pack the mixture in nice jars and present them as gifts to loved ones!
A Present to the Generations
Setting up a family genealogy site can be a present to everyone in the family and to the generations to come. Family diaries, photos, births, deaths, marriages, anniversaries and more can be posted, with every family member having their own log-in and every group having their own photo albums. Family chat rooms added to the site can link loved ones around the world, and carry the news of important events fast. You can set up a family site by getting a webspace and adding tools from the web such as photo albums, chat rooms, calendars and more. You can have a site prepared for you by paying a webmaster to collect the components and assembling it to your order.
Some useful free tools can be found at:
Future generations will have the wonderful gift of entries, photos and more from their forebears.
'Adventskalender' - Advent Calendar
In Germany it is a very nice custom to give children (but not only children, of course) something called an Adventskalender (Advent calendar). It is a sort of calendar which covers the time from the 1 December to the 24 December (the Germans, and indeed most Europeans, exchange presents on the evening of the 24th). Those you can buy in the supermarket are very flat cardboard boxes; you hang them on the wall, and every day you may open one of 24 little doors behind which is a small piece of chocolate in the shape of a star, a Christmas tree, a bell, a parcel or other objects connected with Christmas.
These, of course, you wouldn't even dream of giving to one of your close friends, and perhaps you wouldn't even give it to a family member. But you can easily make a much better one yourself. First, you buy (or make) 24 little gifts, eg, a nice biro, a hairclip, one of those glass-bead-bracelets that are so fashionable at the moment, a pencil sharpener, anything, be it as silly as it may. You will usually end up filling nearly the whole thing with candy and chocolate bars for lack of better ideas. Then, you make the calendar itself. This is where you can't worm yourself out of using your imagination as you could with the presents. You can do anything you like, eg, wrap the presents up as small parcels and hang them on a pine twig, or attach 24 little stockings to a long pole to hang on the wall or, if you live in the same house as the person you want to give the calendar to, you could just pin the stockings or parcels to the wall in their room while they're out. You can paint a Christmassy picture on a wooden board with 24 hooks on it and hang the parcels/stockings on the hooks.
I made one a couple of years ago from those little boxes the films come in. I started looking for small enough objects (eg pop sox - one per day! and things made of material mainly, which can be squashed into them.
These little round plastic containers have a press-on lid. When I had found 24 tiny presents, I put them in, put them into some kind of order, and stuck a tiny Christmas motif sticker on each. Then I cut a long length (a yard and a half at least) of gift ribbon and lay it along in front of my row of boxes. You simply string them together by opening the lid of the container, laying the ribbon flat across the top and popping the lid back on again. Tie a loop at each end and decorate by curling the ribbon or tying baubles on. You can number them with felt pens to keep tabs (1 - 24 for the days in December up to Christmas). This can then be strung across a window, over the fireplace, or anywhere on a wall with two drawing pins.
Other Advent calendar ideas are:
These are very simple to make and also double up as presents. You need to take a piece of card (like the stuff on the back of a pad of A4 paper) and cut out two Christmas tree shapes or bell shapes or snowflake shapes (you get the idea) - you can use any shape just as long as there are two of the same. These shapes need to be about 5cm high. Once you have your two shapes, cut one of them from the middle down to the bottom and the other from the middle up to the top. Once you have done this, slot them together at right angles. Sometimes a glob of glue helps at this point just to hold the card together.
You now need to paint your card the appropriate colour depending on what shape it is you have. When it is dry thread a double length of cotton through the top; don't do this before painting because you will get nasty globby painty bits all over the place. this is a good thing for kids to do if they can be trusted with strong enough scissors. It is also a pleasant change on the Christmas tree from all the glitter.
It's quite easy making homemade potpourri... with it, you can stuff little boxes, cheap plastic shapes, jars, or baskets.
How easy? Well, you can buy some fragrant flowers or clippings and then just dry them out. Some florists will gladly give you some of their more 'undesirable' flowers whose stems might be cracked. You can also throw in some nuts, rind (from fruit), leaves, acorns, dried fruit, roots, whatever you please. You must ensure that they are dried out appropriately; flowers can be placed upside down in a warm place for a bit, and they'll dry out within a week and a half; fruits should be dried for quite a bit longer, as they contain considerably more moisture.
For the actual fragrance, it is fun to mix and match scents... try out some spices, like cinnamon (very popular for holidays), nutmeg, vanilla, and liquorice. Also, you could try some extracts, particularly orange, lemon, or rum. Orange juice and honey work well too.
Alternatively, you can use essential oils like rose, allspice, grapefruit, musk, lavender, oregano, frankincense, freesia, gardenia, poppy, ginger, heather, hibiscus, whatever is pleasing to the nose.
Before you start making the pot pourri mixture, you should already have chosen what scents you are about to infuse it with - this means trying it out ahead of time, making sure that the odour is pleasant. If you're a bit uneasy about mixing things, and coming up with possible failure, try talking with a florist - they most likely have more than enough experience to go around.
Combining the ingredients is rather easy... just throw all your dried bits into a bowl and add a bit of your oils/ spices. Toss it around a bit, as if it were a salad, making sure not to saturate the mixture, as this would just make a messy mulch.
Use the Talents you Possess
The best advice is to create gifts you know won't be much of a struggle - choose gifts that suit your own personality.
If you're fortunate enough to have had the time to fiddle around on a guitar, create a recording of your compositions. Alternatively, compile a tape of your favourite songs and give this as a gift. You can decorate the box/sleeve yourself either by drawing/collage or a photograph.
To make it, you need some old-fashioned clothespins (the ones made of one piece of wood), a few googly eyes from a craft store, some small red puff balls, brown felt cut into the shape of holly, some red or green ribbon, and a hot glue gun. First, you glue two of the clothespins together so they lie next to each other in the same direction. Take a third, and glue it so that the pinning ends are in the opposite direction of the two you've already glued together, thus making the reindeer's body. The googly eyes go where eyes would, the red puff ball where a nose would, and the brown felt just below the 'antlers' as ears. Then make a small loop of ribbon and glue it behind the head clothespin so you can hang it on the tree.
Uses for Pot Noodle Pots over Christmas
The Pot Noodle1 pot can come in handy over the Christmas period for making some rather interesting and useful gifts for children and adults alike.
You'll need one pot noodle pot, decorations of any sort and glue. All you have to do is cover the pot in glue and decorate as you wish.
You could make musical shakers for children. Put different amounts of rice in each pot and cover with tin foil which should be securely stuck down with Sellotape otherwise rice will go everywhere. The outside of the pot could be decorated with wrapping paper. Kids will love making music.
Livening up Dull Presents
If you're not 100% happy with what you bought/made, you can always make it look much posher with a bit of strategic packaging.
Anything clear (a glass vase, bottle of vodka, so on) looks fab wrapped in bubble wrap and covered with that see-through pearlised cellophane you get in stationery shops all over the place. You can see right through it, but can't see exactly what's in it.
If you're wrapping something in a box, and there's some space around the item, chuck a few wrapped toffees (buy a mixed selection in foil wrappers) in with the gift. Foil covered chocolate balls/stars/Santas are great too. Then, when you've wrapped it, tie two toffees or stick two Santas to either end of a piece of nice string, wool or embroidery thread, and stick them on to the parcel with a sticky bow, so they dangle down over the side. Or, if you're padding it with shredded paper, sprinkle some star sequins or glitter in with the paper (as long as this won't affect your gift!)
Bottles of wine/spirits are good wrapped in paper or cloth - tartan from a remnants shop will look mega Christmassy. Again stick your wrapped sweets to the end of the string, and tie around the neck of the bottle, leaving the ends pendulous, preferably at different lengths.
Simple drawstring bags made of velvet or any stiffish sparkly fabric, embroidered or otherwise, depending on your taste, are good for small and larger gifts alike and are almost part of the present. With a small non-breakable gift, wrap it, put it in the bag and chuck a load of those toffees in as well and hey ho you have a Lucky Dip!
Not buying into the modern message of the holiday season - wanton materialism - is a refreshing concept. Pay heed to the following Researchers ideal Christmas presents.
A few Christmases ago I was the poorest I've ever been in my adult life. Rather than going out and blowing a big wad of money on presents, I put my natural cooking talents to work. I made chocolate truffles and lemon bars for everyone on my list. I found recipes for each that were simple and required few or no expensive ingredients. I then purchased decorative paper wrapping for the treats, such as tissue paper and curling ribbon, which are very inexpensive. Then I distributed them to friends and family. They were a big hit!
Everyone loves sweets and goodies during the holidays, despite the danger of putting on a few pounds. If you can cook, I advise finding recipes for breads, cookies, chocolates, even savoury goodies. Make your own packaging or use cookie tins from last year. Not only will you be putting a part of yourself and your love for that person into the gift, but you will be cutting down on wasteful packaging and helping the environment.
A Christmas Hamper
A few choice food items, in an inexpensive wicker hamper from a kitchen reject shop (like Spoils in the UK) surrounded by shredded magazines (bright, colourful and free if you have a shredder at work). You don't even need to use a basket, though it does add that authentic feel - you could just cover a box in wrapping paper, and maybe dress up the gifts with ribbons cut from coordinated wrap.
If you can bake a stollen or Dundee cake, that's great. Make some jam and draw scrollwork on the labels, or if you don't fancy making jam, buy really fruity jam and replace the labels. Who'll know?
Pickles are easy, as are apricots steeped in brandy - a nice jar or bottle makes this kind of thing look great.
When you make your Christmas pudding, make enough for two. Wrap in muslin and decorate with a ribbon. This is a cute way to wrap up sweets that won't shed chocolate powder too. Or you can put them in a box you've covered with a collage of pictures cut from Christmas catalogues, or nice wrapping paper.
A really nice bottle of wine shouldn't cost you more than UK£6. If you aren't a wine pro just pick one that gets a good review in the Sunday Times Style magazine - they're always good quality.
Some cheap but nice fresh fruit from the market finishes off a really nice offering. Especially good for parents or elderly relatives (who will probably like it even if you're a terrible cook) but also a nice luxury for anyone really, as long as they weren't expecting a Palm Pilot...
A Flower Pot
Clay flowerpots can be prepared with emulsion paint then your children (or you) can paint patterns on them with match pots of strongly coloured emulsion. A coat or two of varnish after it's dried will finish it off. Then fill the pot with compost and plant a few miniature daffodils or some other bulb.
Article from: www.bbc.co.uk