Juliana Goodwin, News-Leader1:32 p.m. CST November 26, 2014
This is the first Christmas since college that I have not been working full time so I have more time to devote holiday joy. And that means I am making a lot of homemade gifts this year (so if we’re related, stop reading this column).
I love homemade gifts, but I want to give something people will actually use. I’ve come up with several fun, easy presents and all these do-it-yourself (DIY) ideas cost $10 or less. I have specific directions for lovely gifts like a rosemary, lemon, sugar scrub, and then some precious ideas I found online. If you’re someone who has a basic amount of supplies, like glue, stickers, leftover ribbon, then these ideas will probably cost you even less.
When looking for supplies — from vases to frames and glue — a dollar store is an excellent place to start. Deals is another good choice for inspiration.
A holiday centerpiece is a great gift and can easily be put together for $10 or less. I went to Dollar Tree and bought a vase and LED pillar light. I filled the bottom of the vase with cranberries and tied a piece of ribbon leftover from last year’s Christmas and have an instant centerpiece. Those make nice hostess gifts.
Michael’s sells beautiful journals for $1 and I bought one for my grandmother-in-law and I am going to ask her to fill it with memories of people in her family- ancestors my daughter will never meet. When it’s full, she can give it back to us for my daughter to read when she grows up.
Another journal idea is to buy a “G” for grandma or grandpa and ask all the grandkids to write down their favorite memories with that grandparent or why they love that grandparents. That will mean a lot more than a pair of slippers.
Michael’s has a great selection of dollar bins with a variety of items including spice jars. I plan to fill several spice jars with my own herb blends that people can use to dip with olive oil.
I found an adorable homemade tea wreath at Kojo-designs.com, which could be easily be put together for $10 for the tea lover in your life. You need clothes pins for this wreath and the Dollar Tree sells clothespins for $1. If you don’t know a tea lover, this wreath could be transformed for a chocolate lover. Simply replace tea bags with Ghirardelli chocolate bites or your favorite chocolate with similar packaging. This is an excellent idea: http://kojo-designs.com/2010/03/kojotutorial-tea-tea-tea-kitchen-wreath/
Aside from what I found, I also asked the experts for their picks. Dee Komas, floral designer at Michael’s, said the store had a large selection of ornaments — from glass to wood — that can be personalized and are less than $10.
She also suggested taking an assortment of the $1 items and making a gift basket.
I found vintage looking miniature frames in the dollar bins and I plan to hot glue magnets on the back and fill the frames with photos of my daughter to make refrigerator frames. With printing and magnets, that will cost me less than $2 each. Black and white photos of grandparents are wonderful in these.
Rob Benedict, store manager at Hobby Lobby on West Kearney Street, said if you have a baby or toddler, you can buy kits to make their handprints in plaster, which are $10 or less (those are great keepsakes).
Another idea is to buy clear glass ornaments and personalize them with photos, sand, whatever fits your theme.
Speaking of ornaments, I have directions for a hot cocoa ornament that I found on Pinterest that would be nice for a child or co-worker. Another fun idea with this is to make it with your kids, place several of the ornaments around the tree and every Friday night in December, take one down and make the hot cocoa together.
Hobby Lobby and Big Lots sell a variety of inexpensive plain onesies, shirts, aprons, that you can personalize with a child’s handprints or a poem or family saying. You can buy special paint or markers for clothes, but you should look for the 40 percent off Hobby Lobby runs in the Sunday News-Leader or this idea will break your budget.
Here’s a fun idea for the bird lover in your life or someone who’s homebound: bake a loaf bread (can use refrigerated dough) in the shape of a wreath and press a ton of birdseed into the bread before you bake it. They can put the wreath outside for the birds.
And finally, I’ve always loved decorated wine bottles filled with Christmas lights and this year decided to make my own. I’ve seen painted ones at craft shows, but I am not artistic so I decided to create my own easy designs. I used stickers on one; made Rudolph for another and wrapped one in red netting. If you are artistic, you could paint a snowman, Santa, cross, whatever you can manage. If you need inspiration, just go to Pinterest and type in decorative wine bottles. There are tons of ideas.
If you don’t drink you can ask friends, coworkers or a restaurant for used bottles or corks. Enjoy making these:
•You’ll need: 9-12 assorted corks, 1 (4 x 6) photo frame, glue
You can make this with larger frames, like 11 x 13, but the corks don’t fit perfectly so you will need to cut corks to fit. I suggest buying a knife at Dollar Tree because you need a sharp knife and using it on cork will dull it. Be careful when cutting cork because it can slip. It’s best to boil the cork for 3-4 minutes before you cut it, to tenderize it.
I like the 4 x 6 frame because corks fit perfectly. I bought a $1 frame from Dollar Tree and spent $1 in glue. I lined up the corks to make sure they fit and then glued them individually to the glass on the frame. You can remove glass, if desired, but be sure to keep the cardboard there. Then I placed a light pot on top of the corks while the glue dried. That’s it.
Rosemary, Lemon, Sugar Scrub
If you’ve ever bought a sugar scrub you probably paid upwards of $10, but you can make it for much less. If you’re not familiar with a sugar scrub, it’s basically an exfoliant. Rub it all over your hands or feet and then rinse it off. It leaves your skin feeling smooth. I adore this gift and had all the ingredients on hand. I bought this container at Michael’s for $2.99 but an alternative is to buy two or three spice jars from the store’s $1 section and give smaller portions of this scrub to two or three people.
•You’ll need: 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil, zest from 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, small glass container with airtight lid or a two mini mason jars (like mini jelly size)
Note: You can make this coconut or olive oil. Coconut is a little more moisturizing but it costs $8-$10 a container. If you plan to give away two or three of these, it’s worth buying a bottle. Olive oil works great, too, and lends a nice yellow hue to this scrub.
You can find a variety of recipes for sugar scrubs online, but be careful because some recommend adding ingredients that could be harmful to sensitive skin, such as dish soak or extracts used in baking. I have highly sensitive skin and adapted this recipe and it has worked for me.
Directions: Stir together sugar and olive oil. Zest one lemon and mince 1 tablespoon dried rosemary. Stir rind and rosemary into sugar mixture and mix until well combined. Place in an airtight container. Wrap up and give it away.
If you know someone who enjoys baking, they will probably love this homemade vanilla. It’s wonderful, but needs to be started today because it takes a couple of weeks and improves with age. I usually only use one vanilla bean and let it rest for six weeks, but since I got a late start this year, I used two beans because I don’t have as much time to age the vanilla. If you want to tell the recipient of your gift not to use it until January, then you can use only one vanilla bean per container. You can buy very inexpensive vodka to make this. Don’t waste your money on the good stuff.
•You’ll need: 1 mini decorative bottle, 2 vanilla beans, enough vodka to fill the bottle
Rinse bottle and set aside. Slice vanilla beans in half and place on vanilla bean inside the bottle. Scrape some of the inside seeds out of the other vanilla bean and place the seeds in the bottle with the second vanilla bean. Fill with vodka, seal bottle and set in a dark place for three weeks. Give vodka with pod still in it.
Ornament filled with hot cocoa
•You’ll need: 1 clear glass or plastic ornament (available at Walmart or craft stores. Average $1 each), 2 packets hot chocolate mix with marshmallows, Christmas sticker, curly ribbon to decorate
I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was easy and cute. It’s perfect when you want to give a small gift and kids can help. This costs about $2 to make. I decorated it with a sticker and ribbon but you can leave it plain or use something else.
Remove the top of the ornament and carefully fill it with two packets of hot cocoa. This is the hardest part of the process. Then put the top back on, add a sticker to the front of the glass and tie a ribbon around the top of ornament. When you give this, attach a label saying there are two servings of hot cocoa in each ornament.
If you have a toddler, a stepping stone is a wonderful keepsake. You can buy complete stepping stone kits at craft stores for around $10, but those only make one. I’ve found it more affordable to buy a stepping stone mix ($5.99 at Hobby Lobby), and then go to Dollar Tree and buy little gems and stones for $1 a bag and use a disposable tin cake pan for the mold (also available at Dollar Tree for $1). Lowes has stepping stone mix, too. If you only want to make one you can buy a kit, but if you plan to make several, you’re much better off doing it yourself.
NOTE: You must use a tin, disposable pan, not a real cake pan or you will not get the mold out once it has dried.
•You’ll need: 1 box stepping stone mix, tin or disposable cake pan, spatula, white glitter (optional), decorative stones
Stir the mix according to package directions. Pour into desired mold, I find an 8 x8 cake pan or round pan works best. Smooth the top of mixture with a spatula. Sometimes, I add white glitter to the mix. If you want to do that, sprinkle it over the mold now.
Help your child make a footprint into the mold, pressing down firmly. I keep wet paper towels nearby to immediately wipe off their feet. If you’re not happy with the mold, smooth it over with a spatula and redo it. Then, press decorative stones in desired pattern around the print. When done, set it somewhere where it will not be disturbed for 2-3 days. Check it and be sure it is solid. I usually wait an extra day to make sure it’s set all the way through. Demold and you’re done. I can often use the same mold twice.
Decorated Wine Bottles
• You’ll need: Wine bottles, strand of lights (20-50 bulbs), stickers, bows, ribbon, glue
I pulled wine bottles out of our recycling and tried to carefully pull off the label. Some were easy; some were impossible. Then, I soaked the bottle in warm soapy water and then washed it. Once the labels are off, you need to be sure to wipe off the glue residue. I used a combination of rubbing alcohol and Windex. Be sure your bottle is streak free before you start to decorate it because streaks will show through the glass when the lights shine inside.
I suggest strands of lights that range from 20-50 lights (any more is too much). You don’t want a cord that has a connection for another strand on one end, or it won’t fit. Dollar Stores, Deals and Dollar Tree all sell Christmas lights for $1. You will want to keep the bottle near the outlet because the cord will not be long.
For red one: I bought red netting in the Christmas section at Dollar Tree and wrapped it around the cleaned wine bottle. I used a rubber band on the top to hold the netting in place; and glue and tape around the bottom to secure it. I have tons of leftover netting, which I plan to use as a table runner. This cost me $2 to make, including lights. Then gently tuck a string of lights into the bottle being sure to leave enough cord out to reach the outlet.
Rudolph: You will need 4-5 brown craft brown pipe cleaners for the ears; google eyes, a red nose (use bow or pomp om) and white paint to make a mouth. I bought everything at Dollar Tree, except the paint. I had old paint; I did not have a brush so I just used a Q-tip instead. Glue eyes on clean bottle and then glue on a nose or use a red bow for nose. Paint on eyebrows and a mouth. If you have bells or a scarf, you could use those around the base of the bottle.
Gems: This is the easiest one of all. I bought gem stickers in the scrapbook section, but snowflake stickers would be nice, too. Then I tied a ribbon around the stem of the bottle. I plan to fill it with white lights.
Snowman: First, I painted a snowman on the glass, then I used glue all over the bottle to make dots and sprinkled white glitter on the glue. Snowflake stickers would have been nicer. When the snowman was dry, I drew a face on and tied a snowflake ornament around the neck of the bottle. I filled the bottle with lights.