Monday, December 1, 2008
Homemade Inexpensive Holiday Gifts & Christmas Crafts
It's the first of December already, and time is flying by again this year. It seems no matter how many years pass I can never be completely ready for the holidays. I say to myself every Thanksgiving that this year will be the year that I'm going to have everything I wanted to accomplish finished by Christmas....yeah right.
In the meantime, I've done a bit of searching and found some great things to share.
These decorative candles are great for your holiday mantel or table centerpiece. Wrapped with the sheet music of your favorite carol and pictures of your family, they're a great family keepsake or seasonal decoration.
1. Photocopy music or photos onto regular printer paper. 2. Trim the paper so it's no taller than the candle. 3. Affix the paper to the candle with straight pins. 4. With an embossing gun, heat the candle until the wax saturates and melts completely through the paper. Remove the pins. 5. Embellish the candle with ribbons, charms or other notions.
1. Wrap various ribbons around a candle. 2. Attach alphabet charms with adhesive dots.
1. Glue pressed leaves on candle. Coat with decoupage medium. 2. Adorn with ribbon and a mini tag.
1. Cut canvas to fit around candle. 2. Stamp "believe" on the canvas with StazOn ink. 3. Set a snap on the canvas. 4. Pin embellished canvas to candle. 5. Heat with an embossing gun until the wax saturates and melts completely through the canvas.
HOMEMADE COCOA KIT GIFTS
Layer 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup miniature marshmallows. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.
Per serving: 142 cal., 20% (29 cal.) from fat; 3.7 g protein; 3.2 g fat (1.9 g sat.); 30 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 1 mg chol.
Layer 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup powdered milk, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, and 3/4 cup chopped Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra). Add a few cinnamon sticks to top of jar. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.
Per serving: 158 cal., 14% (22 cal.) from fat; 3.4 g protein; 2.4 g fat (0.8 g sat.); 33 g carbo (2.1 g fiber); 1 mg chol.
PEPPERMINT STICK COCOA
Layer 1 cup powdered milk, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.
Per serving: 172 cal., 17% (29 cal.) from fat; 3.7 g protein; 3.2 g fat (1.9 g sat.); 37 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 1 mg chol.
Layer 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup espresso powder, 1 cup powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or miniature chocolate chips. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.
Per serving: 141 cal., 23% (32 cal.) from fat; 4.1 g protein; 3.5 g fat (1.9 g sat.); 28 g carbo (2.3 g fiber); 1 mg chol.
Photos by David Prince
Sources: Vintage straight-sided Ball canning jar. Rounded 1-liter French canning jar from the Container Store (www.containerstore.com or 888/266-8246). Vintage metal-clip jar. Glass 1-quart cracker jar with aluminum screw-top lid from the Container Store.
A perennial winter favorite, hot cocoa with all the trimmings (mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and a cherry-red gumdrop) sports an even sweeter look packaged as a cone. This makes a great gift for babysitters, teachers, and neighbors. Be sure to add a tag letting your recipients know the cone contains enough for four servings.
3/4 cup cocoa mix
2 (6- by 12-inch) cone-shaped cellophane bags (available at party stores)
2 clear rubber bands (we used ponytail holders)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup mini marshmallows
1 large red gumdrop
1. Pour the cocoa mix into one of the bags. Close the bag with a clear rubber band, then trim the end of the bag 1 inch above the band.
2. Place the cocoa-filled bag into the second bag and flatten its top so the end doesn't stick up.
3. Layer the chocolate chips and the marshmallows, then top with the gumdrop. Secure the bag with the other rubber band.
Christmas HOT COCOA KIT
You can make one of all of the above cocoa mixes (mocha cocoa, pepp. candy cocoa, mexican cocoa, etc) and put them in a basket with cute Christmas cups, Christmas Hershey's Kisses and marshmallows...mmmmmmmm :)
Another Homemade Cocoa Kit
This easy-to-make kit, with cocoa mix as the centerpiece, is a fun holiday gift. Package it in a pretty gift box lined with tissue. Include Hershey's Kisses — they further sweeten and deepen the chocolate flavor — and marshmallows for dropping into the cocoa, if you wish.
Spice-Kissed Hot Cocoa Mix For 8 cups
* 1/3 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup superfine sugar
* 1 whole star anise
* 2 cinnamon sticks, each about 3 inches long
Mix together all of the ingredients. Place in a tin or jar that seals securely. Add a recipe card with the following directions: Hot Cocoa 8 cups whole milk Spice-Kissed Hot Cocoa Mix 8 Hershey's Kisses (optional) Marshmallows (optional)
In a heavy saucepan over low heat, bring 1 cup of the milk to a simmer. Stir in the cocoa mix. Mix until well blended. Add the remaining 7 cups of milk and bring back to a simmer.
Remove the star anise and the cinnamon sticks and discard. Serve hot, along with the Hershey's Kisses and marshmallows, if desired.
From Christmas Family Gatherings © by Donata Maggipinto. Used with permission of Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit chroniclebooks.com.
IN-A-JAR Recipes from Allrecipes.com
Brownie Mix in a Jar
Who doesn't love brownies? Nobody, that's who. That's why a brownie mix in a jar makes a great gift: it looks cool, it's easy and inexpensive to make, and it turns into brownies! I like to keep a couple of these on hand for "emergency" situations, like when someone gives you an unexpected gift and you want to look like you already planned something in return.
Basically, you layer all the dry ingredients in a jar, then add a tag explaining what wet ingredients (like eggs and oil) to add and how to finish the recipe. There are countless variations; this one comes from Allrecipes.com and includes pecans, which have no business in a brownie but can be replaced with chocolate chips or even coconut. In addition to the ingredients themselves, you'll need quart jars and tags for the baking instructions. Buy everything in bulk and you'll have enough lovingly homemade gifts for everyone on your list.
One final note: this doesn't have to be a regular old brownie mix. Search Allrecipes.com for "in a jar" and you'll find loads of brownie varieties as well as cookie recipes. Yet another variation: Family Fun's Hot Chocolate Cones, which rely on cone-shaped bags instead of jars.
Holiday Peppermint Bark
Spray a large cookie tray with non-stick spray and then line it with a piece of way paper. Take several large candy canes or a bag of peppermint candies and crush them into small pieces. (How much peppermint flavor you like should determine how many you chop up.)
On the stove, melt two bags of white chocolate chips at a low temperature. When melted, add most of the crushed peppermint and stir it in. Pour the mixture onto the cookie tray and spread over the tray until flat and even. Sprinkle the remaining peppermint pieces on top, pressing them in with a spatula.
Let it cool. Peel off wax paper and break into pieces. Enjoy!
MORE Cocoa in a jar
Layer the ingredients for homemade cocoa in a jar, add a ribbon and a tag, and you have a simple but stylish gift. Our mixes will fill 1-quart jars (12 servings; see below for sources), but if your containers are different sizes, just keep the ratio of ingredients constant. On the back of the tag, write: "Mix contents in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water. Store remaining mix in airtight container."
And what about this cool DIY gift for your favorite guy (or gal)...
The Winter Emergency Car-Kit
Think of a friend or loved one stranded in the ditch while the snow continues to pile up. Not a pretty picture, is it? A homemade emergency kit not only helps ensure their safety, it also says you care.
Start with a large coffee can. Decorate it as you see fit, starting with blank or holiday paper wrapped around the outside. Now, fill it with the following:
* Rock salt, filling roughly half the can. If the car gets stuck in the snow, the salt will help give the tires some traction and, hopefully, get it unstuck.
* A few roadside flares.
* A couple granola bars (stranded people get hungry).
* A pair of stretchy knit gloves (which are very small until you pull them over your hands). Maybe a knit cap, too.
* A small flashlight and a pack of fresh batteries.
* A mini first-aid kit with bandages and aspirin.
* A small bottle of water. Yes, it may get frozen, but it's still worth having.
* A pocket-size book of Sudoku puzzles to pass the time waiting for the tow truck.
* A small, laminated sheet of emergency numbers, like AAA, towing services, etc.
* If you're really ambitious, add a compatible Energizer battery, or To Go powerpack for the recipient's cell phone. Because the battery will invariably die the moment the car gets stuck.
Everything but the rock salt should go inside an oversized Ziplock bag to keep it from getting mixed in with the salt. All told, the kit shouldn't cost more than $10-15, unless you add the Energi To Go (which costs around $20).
Here's a site that offers 'how to's' on making your own creative Christmas projects and crafts;
and here's a cute project that's great if you want to recycle those favorite Christmas cards;
How to Make Greeting Card Placemats
Recycle your Christmas cards, or other greeting cards, to make pretty placemats for your table. This is one way to keep and display some of your prettiest, or most memorable, greeting cards. Next year, you can bring them out for holiday entertaining; perhaps your guests will even recognize their own cards in your selection!
Christmas cards or greeting cards
clear contact paper or self-adhesive plastic film
drinking glass or cardboard circle template
optional: wrapping paper or card stock as a backing; glue stick
Craft Project Instructions:
Assemble your collection of greeting cards and a circle template. You can make a circle template from cardboard, or use a drinking glass to trace around.
Begin tracing four to six inch circles around key areas of your greeting cards, centering the most pleasing designs.
Cut out the circles.
For the backing, cut a piece of clear contact paper, wrapping paper or card stock in a rectangle that is approximately 20 inches wide by 26 inches long (or trace around an old placemat).
If using contact paper, peel away the backing and lay it on the table, sticky side up. If the paper curls up at the sides, find something to weigh it down at the corners while you proceed with the next steps.
Arrange the greeting card circles in a trial run on the table. You can use a layout like the one shown, with three circles in the top row, then four circles in the center row, and a bottom row of three more circles, with the circles overlapping so there are no spaces between them.
You could also try a pyramid (like the triangle shape of a Christmas tree), or maybe experiment with a wreath design.
Once you have a design that you like, begin placing the greeting card circles on the backing sheet. If you're using wrapping paper or card stock, swipe a glue stick across the back of each circle, just to hold it still until the top contact paper is in place.
Cut a piece of contact paper the same size as your backing.
Peel away the backing paper of the contact sheet and carefully place it over your card design, aligning the edges as well as you can, and smoothing out any bubbles.
Trim the placemat all around, leaving about 1/2 inch to one inch of space around the card circles. You can keep the corners square, or place your circle template close to each corner, tracing around the upper section of it to round off the corners.
Cut the cards into different shapes - triangles, or free-form shapes, instead of circles.
To make a reversible placemat, glue two identical shapes together, with right sides out, so a design can be seen on either side of the placemat.
Write the year of construction on the placemat somewhere, to create a dated archive of your favorite card collections.