Monday, December 12, 2011

Festivus: Homemade Gifts In Bulk

While some may say that I'm a Grinch, I love giving gifts during the Holidays. While receiving a few gifts is nice (of course), I normally go out of my means to ensure everyone I know and love gets some kind of gift. And that can get expensive. So this year, I swore I would not spend the money I normally do and instead make a bunch of homemade gifts.

I also realize that by reading this, many of my friends & family will now see what they will be getting this year. So if you expect a gift, try not to read. The element of surprise is the price I pay to inform the public of what they can do. You're welcome, world.

Now that I gave that warning, let's get started. I tried to keep things simple and came up with two ideas: dry dog treat jars (for my friends and their wonderful canines) & white chocolate peppermint bark for everyone else outside of immediate family. With ingredients for those two ideas, I can cover a lot of people at a cheap price.

So first, the peppermint bark. Did you know that it is super easy to make? By using this simple recipe by Paula Dean, I made a delicious chocolate peppermint bark while saving the bank on ingredients. In fact, I already had them in my home.

Another perk is that making the bark is a good excuse to use a hammer. I lightly hammered away at a bag full on mini candy canes for the peppermint part.
Making the bark took no more than 10-15 minutes, then I left it in the fridge for a few hours while seeing friends. It turned out great, and since it made about 2 pounds of candy, I should have a lot of friends & family covered.
I was able to get the plastic baggies from Hobby Lobby.
So I have been planning for months on making the dry dog treat jars for loved ones that allow dogs to run their life. I used the dog biscuit recipe book I bought to find a recipe where the ingredients were (at least mostly) dry so the recipient could easily make the treats. I actually only found two that met that qualification. So I gathered the ingredients in bulk at the local organic store (I'm sure they enjoyed the extra business!) and went to town. In order to fit the ingredients into the jars, I had to tweek the recipe a little bit. Hopefully it'll turn out ok, and just leave the recipient with a smaller batch.
I also added a few little things to make it special, like a cloth topper with a paw stamp, some yarn, and a tag listing the instructions. By the way, did you know there are loads of websites and blogs that offer free tag templates that you can print off at home? I ended up using this site for ours.
So over the next month as I ship out and give away these gifts, I'm trying one last bulk gift as a stocking stuffer for immediate family: re-useable hand warmers! I saw this great idea first on pinterest (officially addicted), and had to try it! But instead of sewing hearts, I made boring rectangles so I could make as many as possible with the fabric I had. Plus sewing a small pillow case is quick & easy to do. Most of you should know by now that I'm all about that.

I actually haven't used a sewing machine in ages, so while I needed a little bit of practice, I could see each hand warmer pattern improve over time. It was also a good learning opportunity for the husband, who wasn't lucky enough to be offered Home Ec. in school. I guess my small farm town school wanted to prepare girls to be stay-at-home moms, not that there is anything wrong with that. But then again, we also took industrial arts (aka shop) in middle school too. Though from what I've heard, both classes were recently cut due to the district's budget (of course).

But these hand warmers are great. The fleece is fuzzy; and with rice, they are reusable. Just pop them in the microwave for a bit (for ours, 50 seconds) and it's hot & ready. You just need to be able to get past the steamy rice smell. Since they are so easy & cheap they are to make, I'm in the process of making a lot.
So there you have it, three gift ideas that are cheap, easy, and quick. If you decide to try out these gifts, you will get more than just the accomplished "yeah, I made that," feeling. You will also feel the warmth and joy of being able to give to all of your loved ones. There is nothing better than seeing the smile and receiving the hug from a relative that loves the trinket you just gave. Or the soft "thank you" for the small toy you gave your friend's child. I love that feeling. It makes up for all the cruel, cold, and twisted events that I have to read about and report at work.

Now that you've made that perfect gift, let's get to wrapping it. Next week, I will attempt an entry about green gift wrapping. I hope I will be wrapping gifts by then.

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