10 Homemade Gifts Even the Busiest Girl Can Make

My dad tells this story about a time when I was younger and my family was going through a rough patch financially. It was Christmastime and my dad was stressing out about making ends meet, let alone giving his young family a nice Christmas.

I must have caught wind of the situation somehow, because my dad describes me as suddenly becoming very busy in the days leading up to Christmas. I squirreled myself away in my room, only emerging occasionally to ask for art supplies. My parents had no idea what I was up to until Christmas Eve, when I proudly put all of my homemade gifts under the tree.

The story usually ends with my dad confessing that to this day he still owns the gift I made for him, a small plastic container covered in construction paper and glue, with a handmade label on the lid that says “paperclips”. (Spelled incorrectly, by the way. Also there’s a wiggly line that looks like a worm curling up in distress which I can only assume is a drawing of a paperclip.)

It’s his favorite gift of all time (or so he claims) and even though I’m a little bit biased, I have to agree- homemade gifts are some of the most meaningful to give and receive. They don’t necessarily require a whole lot of time, money or Martha’s crazy crafting skills. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve made and/or received over the years:

(1) I love baking so it’s not unusual to receive a gift of edible goodies from me around this time of year. If sweets aren’t your thing, other homemade goods that can be packaged up and stored also make great gifts, such as pasta sauce, snack mixes or homemade pickles. If you want to be super fancy, why not experiment with dried herbs, chilies and spices to make your own infused oils or vinaigrettes? (For baking ideas, click here. To go straight to my favorite Christmas cookie recipes, click here.)

(2) Maybe you’re not a baker yourself, but you know someone who appreciates baked goods all the same. Save yourself time and effort by gifting them a pre-packaged mix for cookies or scones, and top with a cute cookie cutter or mixing spoon. Dry soup mixes and specialty drink mixes also make great gifts, plus they’re easy to assemble in bulk for mass-giving. (For some suggestions, click here.)

(3) Not everyone has the ability, talent or time to sew, knit or crochet gifts for all of their friends at Christmas, but even the most novice of crafters can still pull off one of these easy scarf projects simply by using their fingers. You can always find time to work on projects like these while commuting or watching Netflix. (For other finger knitting projects, click here.)

img_2185

(4) Crafts are always more fun when they’re a little personalized. Give the budding gardener in your life the supplies to make their own gardening labels like I did here using only tongue depressors and white outdoor paint. I used Sharpies on mine but paint pens or markers would probably work even better!

img_2170

(5) I have a couple of artistic friends that take their cues from nature; you may recognize this little fairy door from Instagram that I received as a gift for my birthday a couple of summers ago. It’s made entirely of little twigs, pebbles, moss and other flora and fauna that can be found at your closest park.

kbb-painted-stone-gift-collage

Another friend of mine collected smooth stones from the river near her cottage and gave them her own touch with a coat of paint. She gave them out to friends and family members last Christmas, and mine sits on my desk as a paperweight. I love looking at it every day!

(6) If staying indoors is more your thing, there are all sorts of crafts that can be made using things around your home. For example, a neighbor had just finished tiling her back splash and was getting rid of a few leftover tiles. I snagged a few and turned them into coasters using my trusty Sharpies and a coat of epoxy to seal and protect it.

(7) Even if crafting isn’t your thing you can still give a purchased gift a homemade flair. A friend of mine buys chocolate bars in bulk and turns them into tasty bouquets as gifts. (Here’s some inspiration on how to wrap candy gifts.)

(8) Don’t forget the favorite animals in your life! Once my dog G brought her favorite dog biscuits for all her doggie friends to a human cookie exchange, which you can read all about here.

(9) Looking for a way to treat a run-down friend or family member? Homemade scrubs, masks, hair treatments and lotions can all be made in bulk and popped into pretty jars for a luxurious gift. Just make sure you take note of any skin or hair conditions or other allergies or sensitivities before you give. (Click here to find some recipes.)

(10) I love scented candles but I’m always stuck with the jars they come in after they’re done. As a last-minute craft idea for a kid’s birthday party I was hosting, I grabbed one of the jars and used a mixture of one part water and one part glue to decoupage tissue paper to the glass, making a stained glass effect. They were so festive I couldn’t resist making a couple more for Christmas, plus it’s a great way of re-purposing a small jar or candle holder that needs a facelift. (Click here for more candle gifts.)

Happy crafting!

B

KBwB-Flower-50

Holiday celebrations can be fun, but only if you can ensure that things go smoothly. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to social gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to get your holiday game on. Click here to read more of them, or click here or here to read about some of the other best practices I’ve been trying to put into my place in my life.

 

10 Memorable Gifts for Family and Friends

One thing we don’t talk about often enough is that Christmas is a time of remembrance, a chance to share and create your own new memories and traditions. In a world where the holidays seem to be the only chance to truly make time for the people you care about, it seems more important than ever to uphold this sense of togetherness.

One of the ways you can celebrate the people you love is by giving them a meaningful gift that commemorates your relationship. Here are some ideas for memorable gifts that I’ve given, received, or heard about throughout the years.

(1) When we graduated from high school, one of my friends gave each of the girls in our group a picture commemorating a vacation we had taken together the summer before our senior year of high school. She personalized them with inside jokes and funny memories she shared with each of us using a Sharpie and a wooden frame. It was so simple, yet so special, and I still have it to this day.

(2) One of my favorite Internet trends is seeing all the people re-creating old childhood photos as a way of marking a special occasion. Getting a family portrait done at Christmas is one way of sharing memories with family and friends, but I happen to think that adding your own humorous flair makes the idea even more special. (Check out this site for some inspiration.)

(3) Can’t decide on just one photo? Commemorate a special event, trip or person by putting together a mini-scrapbook as a gift, or create your own professional-looking photo book using a service like Blurb or Shutterfly. I did this for my sister for her birthday a couple of years ago and it’s still one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever given.

(4) The only thing that a bookworm loves more than books is books about books, which is why I created a personalized reading journal for a friend of mine one year for Christmas. A big part of our friendship consisted of raiding each other’s bookshelves, talking about what we’ve read, and looking for what titles to pick up next. Using a blank notebook I created lists of virtually every category I thought would be of interest and included quotations from some of his favorite novels. Plus, there was still lots of space left over for his own thoughts, doodles and notes. I ended up liking it so much I wish someone had made one for me!

(5) If bacon is more your thing than books, consider taking the book list idea and fill a notebook with favorite recipes, or lists or favorite wines or restaurants or try. I’ve carried a recipe binder for twelve years now filled with the food my family and friends love. Some of the recipes from there have made their way to other people’s recipe binders, too. Don’t limit yourself to just a binder either- recipe cards, notebooks, duo-tangs or even your own self-published version could all work.

(6) All that work it takes to create a book can be daunting to some people. A time capsule is a great way of sharing memories that cuts down on the time and effort put into designing a book. For example, if there’s been a new addition to your family this year, get each of your relatives to write a letter to be opened at a later date to commemorate baby’s first Christmas. Some families turn this into a yearly tradition by gifting children their own dated ornaments, or instead create a ritual like buying seasonal pajamas each year to be open and worn on Christmas Eve.

(7) Put your kids to work by getting them working on their own Christmas projects for family and friends. My co-worker’s daughter painted portraits on canvas for all of the friends of the family one year; the portrait she painted of our other co-worker and the beautiful message she included with it brought me to tears. She also made me this awesome re-creation of my dog, Gemma, using Perler beads. (I love how she kind of looks like the Pink Power Ranger.)

(8) Can’t turn your kids into a Christmas craft-making factory? Make your life easier by re-purposing their artwork to make unique gifts for family and friends. Spoonflower is a great tool to turn your kids drawings into fabric, wallpaper or gift wrap, and sites like Society6, Café Press and Zazzle allow you to upload any image and print it onto apparel and accessories like iPhone cases, beach towels and tote bags. (And more! Honestly, none of these sites paid me to say that.)

(9) You don’t really have to feel guilty about re-gifting something you know that someone else has been coveting. One of my best book buddies unloaded a huge stack of books on me one Christmas because she knew how badly I wanted to catch up on the series we were both reading. Sure, I know it was something she already had but the fact that she wanted to pass them on to me so I could enjoy them as well was worth way more than the money she could have spent. Just throw in a gift card to your favorite local coffee shop and you’ve set the recipient up for a lovely afternoon.

(10) At the end of the day I think one of the nicest gifts you can give is your time. When I look back at my holiday memories, I remember the experiences more than anything-going skating with my friends, my Uncle taking my sister and I to The Nutcracker ballet, dancing around the Christmas tree with my fellow members of Toronto’s Swedish community. If you really want to do something memorable as a gift this holiday season, do something together. I guarantee it will be more meaningful than anything that can be bought in a store.

Happy memory-making!

B

KBwB-Flower-50Holiday celebrations can be fun, but only if you can ensure that things go smoothly. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to social gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to get your holiday game on. Click here to read more of them, or click here or here to read about some of the other best practices I’ve been trying to put into my place in my life.

Ready, Set, Celebrate!

Now that Halloween has passed we’ve all inevitably started talking about the holiday season. (Here in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving a little earlier, so there’s really nothing else to look forward to during the month of November.)

This is the time of year when everyone’s schedules start filling up with celebrations and social events. Unfortunately, each of those events come with its own set of tasks that make people start feeling frantic instead of festive. There’s just so much to do. A friend of mine put it very eloquently: “I love Christmas, but there’s just so much s@&! to do!”

Planning is kind of my thing, so I often share how I organize my holidays on the blog: here’s how I get a head start on Christmas cards, how I plan my gift shopping and my Boxing Day strategy. If you really have the drive to plan far ahead, you may find this post on cleaning up after the holidays useful.

For the past couple of years I’ve carried out the Swedish tradition of baking seven different cookies at Christmas time. Here’s what’s been in my arsenal so far: Traditional Swedish Gingersnaps, Maple Butter Cookies, Jam Slices, Vanilla Horns, Rugulahs, Orange Crunch Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, Midnight Mints, Butterscotch Confetti, Date Pecan Bars, Chocolate Roll, Pineapple Log, Marshmallow Roll, Butterscotch Bars etc. (Stay tuned- in the month of December I’ve got seven brand new cookie recipes for you I think you’re going to love.)

I love writing about the holidays and all the kindness it brings out in people, but I realize for some there can be a dark side of the season. A couple of years back I had a very difficult Christmas so I channeled that energy into writing a blog post about being alone during the holidays– and how you’re really not alone if you feel that way. (You may also want to check out this post if you’re feeling down.)

And if that isn’t enough holiday goodies for y’all then you’re in for a treat- for the next six weeks or so I’ll be sharing more of my favourite holiday recipes, some fantastic Christmas gift ideas and some of my secrets for staying sane during this busy time of year.

Don’t worry if even reading this post is giving you the shakes; this holiday season, we’re all in this together!

Holiday celebrations can be fun, but only if you can ensure that things go smoothly. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to social gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to get your holiday game on. Click here to read more of them, or click here or here to read about some of the other best practices I’ve been trying to put into my place in my life.

Do you have any tips on how to survive the holidays? Save us by commenting below or email your suggestions to keepingbusyb@gmail.com