A Homemade Christmas


Basket of soaps and lotions

In today's difficult economy, the big advice is "trim your gift list," "give homemade gifts." I've been doing that for years. The odd Christmas is the one where some fortunate few on my list get fancy storebought doodads. So for me the challenge is how to put a new twist on the same old stuff. That stuff being my homemade soaps and lotions. Okay, so maybe you don't want to do the soapmaking thing, but stay with me, because it's the twists that might give you some ideas. One of the things I do with all the milk from my cow, goats and sheep is make milk soaps. I also make lotion bars, lip balms and candles. This started for economic reasons, as well as a desire to eliminate unnecessary chemicals from my body and, of course, to "live off the land" (chuckle). There are also a number of small children in my extended family, with whom soap gifts do not make a big impression. 

Beeswax candles

In past years I have frequently traded with other crafters at craft shows for handmade toys, clothes and other items I thought my dear ones would enjoy. This past year the gas loving pickup was not taken out any more than necessary, so this was not possible. Think, think, think, what to do for the little guys. I also make various sizes and shapes of bags filled with dry rice, that go in the microwave for a few minutes and can be used as a heating pad, or can go in the freezer to be used as an ice pack. They also make interesting toys. Think bean bags. So some of the little ones will be getting teddy bear or flower boo-boo bags. Dollar store mugs will be stuffed with candies and homemade hot chocolate mix, with mini marshmallows and a cinnamon stick. For the adults, they will be stuffed with homemade vanilla mocha latte mix and a cinnamon stick. A friend sent me a recipe for "dangerous chocolate cake," dangerous because it is mixed in a mug and microwaved for 5 minutes, meaning you're only 5 minutes away from evil calories any time of day or night. Some of these will go out to a chosen few.

My five year old has worked his way up from 25 piece jigsaw puzzles to 100-300 pieces. The dollar store had an abundant variety of these and so I thought, "Why not?" You're welcome, parents who will be inundated with all these tiny puzzle parts. But why not revive an old tradition – board games and jigsaw puzzles instead of TV and videos? Okay, so that part isn't homemade, but it's not expensive either.

A few other gifts in the works are photo books and specialty bath items. 10-25 picture photo books are available at the dollar store, and I have stacks of digital photos on CD. I prepay for photos to get them for less than 10 cents apiece and am assembling several of these for loved ones. Some may have captions, and some not. But I know the recipients will have fond memories when they pick them up and enjoy them. I make little cloth bags with ribbon ties for soap ends and lotion bar packaging. Some of these will be filled with milk bath, baking soda bath, and sugar face and body scrub (in sandwich bags). I may break down and do a few larger versions of these bags to hold all those jigsaw puzzle pieces...

Tina Johnson
12/9/2013 2:57:11 PM

For anyone who knits or crochets. I have made cotton dish cloths (usually 2 per gift) and tied them with ribbon on a classic small bottle of dish soap (such as Joy) that costs about 99 cents. They make great "just a little something gifts" and they have been a big hit. I have also added my crochet pot scrubbers I make out of some old school polyester yarn I got at a church fair. Not sure if you can find this yarn these days. I haven't looked myself.

Robyn Dolan
12/24/2008 8:45:54 AM

Cindy, that's my kinda gifts. I sure don't have time to make a labor intensive gift for everyone we give to, but remaking a thrift store or garage sale find, with a certain person in mind is right up my alley. And really, most of us don't really need anything, but truly appreciate the little tokens of affection.

Cindy Murphy
12/22/2008 7:37:25 AM

Hi, Robyn. You've got some great ideas there. My boss's family always does a homemade Christmas...but they are elaborate gifts of fancy hand-sewn dolls, woodworking projects, stained glass windows and such. You've shown here that gifts need not be expensive or too terribly time consuming to make. I am not a crafty person; I admit that most of the gifts I give are store-bought doodads, (and because I am non-crafty, this is probably a good thing). There are a few things I make though - I did the home-made hot chocolate in dollar-store mugs last year, (using a super-secret recipe from my friend), and for those who enjoy the Christmas "spirits", I put little bottles, (the kind they used to serve on airplanes), of coconut rum in the mugs along with the hot chocolate mix. Flower-arranging I can do well - garage sale finds of holiday teacups and teapots get filled with greenry and berries from the shrubs in my yard. And this year there were loafs of pear bread - good, good stuff. My teenage daughter is the crafty one in the house. Her collages are always in hot demand. She just finished one yesterday for her best friend, Sarah - a two-foot tall metal "S" that she found at an antique junk store for $2.00 was covered in thousands of 's's she cut out from old magazines, (my GRIT back issues were off limits!). To keep all those 's's from coming loose, I helped her laminate it. Ta-da! For just a couple of dollars and some time, she's got a pretty nifty wall-hanging to give to her friend. What a person can make as gifts does not need to be limited by funds, but only by his or her imagination! Happy Holidays to you.

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