As I wrote in my editorial about “Giving”— this time of year can be pretty draining. One thing I have learned over the holidays is to PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS. Figure out what energizes you, and see if it can be incorporated into your gift giving. That way you aren’t completely burnt-out by the end of it all. Maybe it’s volunteering at a food pantry, donating clothes at a local homeless shelter, or shopping at local thrift stores. Maybe it’s cooking, or baking, or just listening to your favorite holiday music. Maybe it’s making really detailed lists and checking them off, or organizing a holiday event or party. Whatever it is, DO IT, and use your strengths and talents as much as you can to get your self through to 2013.
A long time ago, I discovered that I love to create. I wrote a post a while back that talks about how important my identity as an artist is to me. That being said, there are two main things that help me through the holidays:
- Although a homemade, creative gift might not be appropriate for everyone on my gift list, I find that if I spend time creating during the holidays, and giving those creations to others, I—and my pocketbook–feel a whole lot better.
- When I do shop, I try to shop from stores that give back to their community, are locally-owned, or communicate something else about my own values. Local stores like the Green Elephant, Nightingale Arts, or Mud Puddle Toys immediately come to mind. I also like to buy Do Goodie Brownies from this Bakery that gives back to it’s community and helps provide things like affordable housing. The brownies taste delicious, and can be shipped anywhere in the US.
So what is your identity? What energizes you during the holidays?
Here are some ideas for some do-it-yourself gifts. Some are simple, some are a little more time consuming. Some of them you can make with kids. Most of these I have made myself, and some I would like to make in the future.
1. Stained Glass Stationary
Actually, homemade stationary is general is so fun and easy to make–and I love it because it really encourages hand-written letters! I made stationary all the time as a teenager for all my aunts, uncles and grandparents, and it was so rewarding to get a letter from one of them written on one of my creations! Stationary can be adapted for all ages, all you need are paper and enveloped. If you want to spend a little extra money, you can buy blank stationary sets at a craft store like Michael’s.
So here is how I made my Stained Glass Stationary:
Materials: A Stained Glass Coloring Book, blank stationary, pencil, scissors or exacto-knife, glue stick or clear tape, permanent markers, or colored pencils.
Pick out a design or part of a design you think would fit well on a stationary page. Color that design, then cut it out to the desired shape. Place the design on your page where you would like it, and lightly draw an outline around it.
Remove the design, and then cut out the shape you have drawn, leaving about 1/4 of an inch space from the pencil line (you want the cut-out to be smaller than your design, so you have space to glue or tape your design to the page!).
Once you have cut out the shape, place a little glue (about 1/4 of an inch) around your stained-glass design, and place it securely on top of the hole. Or you could turn the page over and secure the design using small pieces of tape. Now hold the page up to a light. Voila! You have made stained glass stationary! If you want you can do the same to the envelopes.
2. Easy Fudge
There is something really relaxing for me about sweet smells wafting from the kitchen. Every year I try to make something sweet and edible to give to friends and family. This is the perfect gift for those people on your list who already have everything, or to give out in mass quantities to many people. This fudge is really easy to make and adapt for different flavors. You don’t need a candy thermometer, but it tastes like you used one.
The recipe I use is from my old Betty Crocker cookbook, and one batch (makes about 2 pounds) takes less than 30 minutes (and you can double or triple the recipe):
1/2 C sugar
1 5-ounce can evaporated milk (2/3 C)
1/2 C butter (1 stick)
2 C tiny marshmallows
1 C semisweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli either the dark or milk chocolate chips)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 C chopped Heath Bar Crunch
Line an 8x8x2 inch baking pan with tinfoil, extending up the sides, then butter the foil lightly. Set pan aside
Butter sides of a medium saucepan. In saucepan, combine sugar, butter and evaporated milk. Cook and stir over medium high heat until it reaches a boil (about 10 min). Then lower heat to medium and continue cooking (mixture should be boiling), stirring constantly for 6 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat and add marshmallows, chocolate pieces, walnuts and vanilla. Stir vigorously until completely mixed and smooth.
Pour mixture into pan evenly, then cover and chill for 2 hours or until firm. After that you can remove the fudge from the pan, and peel off the tinfoil. Place the fudge on a cutting board and cut into squares with a sharp knife. Ready to package up and give away!
Peanut-butter fudge: Substitute butter for peanut butter, and add 1/4 C whole cream to sugar and evaporated milk. Replace chocolate chips with peanut butter chips.
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Fudge: Use white chocolate chips instead of chocolate chips and chopped macadamia nuts instead of walnuts.
3. Matted Artwork
Do you have something that you drew, painted or otherwise created on paper? When you mat it, it looks better and is ready for framing (if your receiver so chooses). The great thing is, matting is less expensive than framing, and is a lot lighter, in case you need to ship it to Aunt Matilda for Christmas. And friends and relatives love to have something hanging in their home they can brag about to their visitors. This is especially fun if you have a child who loves to draw or paint– my parents still have a drawing I made when I was 3 that looks awesome in a matted and framed picture.
If you do want to also get it framed, matting it in a standard sized mat will make it easier and cheaper for you, so you can buy a simple standard frame instead of paying for to have it custom made.
I have hand-matted artwork in the past. But this year I was very short on time, so I took my art down to Michael’s where they made a custom-size double mat (white on black), for $20. If your artwork is in a standard size, you can just buy a pre-made mat. You then secure your artwork to the back of the mat with tape, making sure all the edges are flat, then cover the entire back of the mat with a sheet of decorative craft paper or plain white paper cut to size. It’s ready to be gifted! If you want to make it extra special, you can wrap it in clear acetate to make it have the appearance of glass in front of the artwork (it also protects it). You can also get this at Michael’s.
4. Gifts kids can make: Yarn-wrapped pencil holders, and hand-made oven mits
5. A few more ideas….
Beth is making this Homemade Chai Mix from Nadine’s Nook.
Then there is this awesome laminated photobook from Sea Kettle Diaries
Finally, if you have a little extra time, what about making a Quiet Book for your tot? I really want to do this!