Have you ever been annoyed when someone asked you what you wanted for Christmas? Were you even more annoyed when you asked someone what they wanted and they told you stuff they needed (the cardinal sin of X-mas gift-giving apparently)? Worse, have you ever been that person, when asked what you wanted for Christmas, gave a list of shit you needed? If you’re a practical gift-giver/and appreciative-of-practical-gifts-receiver, then this post is for you. Welcome.
Pinterest, man. The best thing for would-be and pro-crafters since the invention of scalloped scissors. I decided to go homemade this year. So I found myself surfing Pinterest like any well-meaning individual begins that endeavor. Only this time, folks, I did some of the stuff I pinned. And it even worked out.
In this post I will list some of the projects I did, how easy they are to attain materials for, approximate expenses, and the difficulty (or in most cases, ease) of actually doing them. In Part 2, I’ll include more projects (I got pretty crafty this year).
My first endeavor and truly the most time-consuming one:
To make jam, all you need is a waterbath canner (and jars and fruit of course). I made Triple Berry Jam. This was my first attempt at canning, and I only tried twice (the first time, I gave up because I thought it was too overwhelming. Turns out I was overreacting) and came out with some pretty excellent tasting product. I got the berries, mashed’em and followed the directions that can be found at the link. I acquired the fruit from the farmer’s market so it would taste better—it really does, and you should always support local farmers. This means it’s a little more expensive than store-bought berries, but well worth it. The jars were under $15; I used these small, cute ones. The canner was under $35 on Target.com and it came with all the handy accoutrements. Overall, it took me about 3 hours for the entire process. Though I suspect this is because it was my first time and it will probably go a lot quicker for less OCD folk than I. You have to make sure you do all the appropriate times for cooking and heating the jar lids so that everything is sanitary and sealed properly. This is important because you don’t want to give anyone botulism. Tip: Be patient with this one. On my completely arbitrary scale of easy/affordable/worth-it homemade gifts, I give this endeavor a 7/10.
- Pickled Jalapeños
I cannot guarantee that any of these recipes are organic, gluten-free or GMO free. At least it’s a step in that direction, because you know exactly what you’re putting into these foodstuffs and products. For instance, these easy, pretty jalapeños are yummy without any added ingredients like food coloring or chemicals. I used this recipe, and again used farmer’s market jalapeños and red onion (plus a few slices of an Anaheim pepper and Fresno chili pepper per jar for color). I got the vintage green Ball jars from Walmart for under $14, and I’m glad I did, because the red onions tinted the vinegar pink as you can see in the middle jar. The colored jar hides it better.
This one only required the time it takes to heat the pickling solution and to cut up all the veggies, which wasn’t much at all for me because I’m kind of a badass at chopping (actually, my boyfriend did all the chopping for me, and he’s really bad ass. It took him 10 minutes to prep). I give the pickled jalapeños project a 10/10 (this scoring might be skewed because of how little work I actually put in on this one). Of course, you should probably like spicy things, because it’s hot as hell. Tip: Leave some seeds out if you want it less hot.
- Rosemary Citrus Soap
This didn’t require too many ingredients. I couldn’t find the suggested goat’s milk base at Hobby Lobby, so I settled with shea butter base, making my end product a variation on this recipe. I was disappointed to find the shea butter base contained sodium laureth sulfate, on which I want to blame the gooey, plastic texture, though that’s probably not a chemically sound hypothesis. I think also because of the shea butter, mine came out slightly more orange in color than the goat’s milk soap.
Grating orange peel and picking apart deliciously smelling rosemary were the most time-consuming aspects of this project. After the prep, you cut some chunks of base off the block, microwave it in 20-second intervals until it’s liquid, mix the goodies in and pour it in the molds. Last, you pop’em out of the molds (also acquired at Hobby Lobby) after like 10 minutes of cooling.
Mine did not come out looking as great as the ones in the recipe, but they smell good and they’re kind of pretty. I give rosemary citrus soap 8/10. It would probably be a higher score if I could get the right amount of rosemary so that it shows better in the bar of soap. I suspect the shea butter base is more viscous than the goat’s milk, which resulted in more rosemary suspended in the liquid rather than sinking to the bottom of the mold. Tip: When you think you have enough rosemary chopped, chop more. Coarsely. You want the sprigs to be a good enough size to see them.
- Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mix
This one requires a number of ingredients, but the finished product is oh so Christmasy. I used this recipe and added my own aesthetic flair. Once you have all your ingredients lined up, it’s pretty quick. With the bottom of a coffee cup, I crushed my candy canes in a Ziploc between two towels, so the pieces wouldn’t tear the bag. I tried a food processor at first but I didn’t like how fine the candy canes came out—not as pretty. I used these tall Mason jars as opposed to the shorter ones in the recipe. I’m sure either would be fine; I just had to pack more marshmallows in the top of mine so that the ingredients wouldn’t move around and mix up. More marshmallows never hurt anyone though. Tip: I used the bottom of a glass spice jar to press each layer tight. Overall, this project takes a lot of ingredients, a bit of work, but is fairly easy with a nice looking end result. I give it 9/10.
So that’s part 1 of my homemade Christmas blogs; the next one will include constellation jars (totally as cool as they sound), sugar scrub, and almond coconut dark chocolate bark. I wanted to change Christmas up this year, to give gifts that will be used and enjoyed (and eaten). If you do any homemade gifts or decorations at Christmas, please, share them in the comments.
Note: This post required the creation of a new category on my blog, as it has nothing to do with writing, reading, or the dark and creepy!