So many times over the years I’ve wanted to give gifts to people I associate with regularly, but who don’t fall into the usual categories of family and friends – coworkers, my kid’s teachers, friends from church – but couldn’t really afford to shell out the money necessary to buy nice gift(s). What to do? Why, make something, of course!
There are several categories of gifts that you can choose from.
If you are able to cook or bake, then an obvious choice is a box of cookies or candy, or perhaps a decorative sack of Chex mix or candied nuts. A different gift I received one year was hot chocolate mix with candy cane stirrers dipped in white chocolate and rolled in large sugar crystals. If you have a bit more to spend, you could include a holiday mug.
Your choice is only limited by your ability and budget. When I was a child, a friend of my mother made a wide variety of traditional German Christmas cookies, and gave us a box every year, which we looked forward to eagerly.
An easy and inexpensive choice is a bag of molasses cookies. Presentation is almost as important as your gift. A work friend made these one year, and presented them in decorated brown paper lunch bags, tied with a ribbon. Include a recipe card too!:
- 1 cup Sugar
- 3/4 cups Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
- 1/4 cup Molasses
- 1 whole Egg
- 2 cups Flour
- 2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg together until well combined. Dump in dry ingredients, stirring dry ingredients together lightly. Mix together until dough is combined.
In your hands roll dough into walnut-sized balls, then generously coat each ball with sugar. Place balls on a baking sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes, allowing to bake for about a minute after cookies begin to crack.
Remove cookies from baking sheet and allow to cool before packaging.
Hints: You can substitute butter for shortening, if you like. If you don’t have all of the spices on the list, substitute with what you do have, but don’t overdo on cloves or ginger – they are really strong!
Another category is homemade Christmas ornaments. I have made and gifted German paper stars (and I use them on my own tree too). I first learned to make them when I was about ten years old, and our church youth group made them to sell at the church bazaar. You really need accurately cut paper strips, which fortunately you can now buy on the internet.
Best prices: http://highhopes.com/paper.html
Alternatively, you can cut your own, but this becomes tedious if you are making a lot of stars. On the other hand, you can use any decorative paper you have, as long as it is decorated on both sides, and is long enough to cut into strips. I have even made them from the colored newspaper funny pages, although newsprint is a bit light weight.
Add a decorative string or ribbon to hang them on the tree, and add embellishments, if you like. I personally prefer the plain white ones that are dipped in wax, and sprinkled with glitter. You could also use spray adhesive and glitter, or just leave them plain. The width of your paper strips determines the finished size. A one inch wide strip will produce a four inch diameter star. Here is how they are made. It’s a bit tricky at first, but you will be able to do these quickly in no time:
Take a look at your local craft store (or on the internet) for ideas. There are hundreds of ideas for every budget and ability. For example, I have made ornaments from pine cones I picked up under the trees at work and down the block from my house, decorated them with ribbon, a small bird from the craft store, some craft store berries and a bit of glitter. Pine cones make pretty wreathes too.
Personal care or home gifts. That would include homemade candles, soaps, bath salts, body scrubs, lip balm etc. Here are some ideas/instructions:
Now it’s your turn – what is your favorite homemade gift idea?