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25 Handmade Gifts of Christmas (Part 4)

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about coming up with holiday gifts for all those special people in your life—your children’s teachers, your friends and neighbors, the babysitter, your hair stylist…What better way to say Merry Christmas and thank you for all you do then to present each and every one of these hardworking individuals with a heartfelt, handmade gift? And because I know we are all busier than the big man in red this time of year, your very own Simply Family holiday helper (that would be me) has rounded up the best of the web, 25 handmade gift ideas—complete with tutorials, pictures, and packaging ideas. Here are the next five gifts. Move over Martha Stewart, let’s get crafting!

Handmade Vegetable Soap

(Adapted from http://candleandsoap.about.com)

What You Will Need: 9.4 ounces Crisco (or vegetable shortening), six ounces olive oil, six ounces coconut oil, eight ounces water, three ounces lye, 0.9 ounces of fragrance oil or essential oil blend, and a mold. Will make a two pound batch.

To Make: Mix your lye solution and set it aside to cool. Measure and heat your solid oils until completely melted. Measure and add the liquid oils to the melted solid oils. When both the lye and the oils are at about 100-110 degrees, slowly pour the lye solution into the oils. Stir with a stick blender, alternating short blasts with the blender and stirring. Mix the soap until it reaches a light trace. Add the fragrance oil. Mix them into the soap thoroughly. Pour the raw soap into your mold and let it set for 12 to 24 hours until it has cooled off completely and is hard enough to cut. Remove from the mold and slice into bars. Let cure for an additional two to four weeks. How impressed will your loved ones be with you when you hand them homemade soap? Mine would probably pass out from disbelief…

Modge Podge Photo Frame

(Adapted from http://tidymom.net)

What You Will Need: unfinished wooden frame (from your local craft store), scrapbook paper of your choosing (could even be holiday paper), Modge Podge, stain or acrylic paint, paint brush/sponge applicator, and an Exacto knife.

To Make: Paint or stain the wooden frame to start, and allow to dry completely. Apply a thin layer of Modge Podge to the front of the frame using the sponge applicator brush, and attach the scrapbook paper. Lay the frame facedown, and use the Exacto knife to cut around the edges and center of the frame. (Don’t worry if the cuts are not perfect, you can always sand the edges down with a sheet of sand paper.) The author suggests applying three more top coats of Modge Podge to your completed frame, allowing the frame to dry for 10 to 15 minutes between each coat. You can even hot glue a sparkly brooch or a bow to the frame for a little added punch. Add a photo, and you are good to gift!

Holiday Wine Label Printables

Okay so I realize you probably aren’t going to have the time (or the desire) to make and/or bottle your own wine, but a nice bottle of red or white—complete with a “home printed” label—makes for a wonderful holiday hostess gift.

What You Will Need: a bottle of your favorite “holiday cheer”, adhesive paper, and a festive printable label (click here). Cheers!

Cookie Puzzle: For the young and young at heart alike

(Adapted from www.marthastewart.com)

What You Will Need: (for the gingerbread) three cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting), ½ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, eight tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick) softened, ½ cup packed dark-brown sugar, two teaspoons ground ginger, two teaspoons ground cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon ground cloves, ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, ¾ teaspoon coarse salt, one large egg, and ¾ cup unsulfured molasses. Click here for the Royal Icing ingredients and recipe.

To Make: Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Set aside. Mix butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Mix in spices and salt. Mix in eggs and molasses, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add flour mixture, and mix on low speed until combined. Divide dough in half and pat into two discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. To make puzzles, cut rolled dough into six rectangles, each six by nine inches (reroll scraps once). Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Bake until cookies are set and edges are just starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. While cookies are hot, use a pizza cutter or pairing knife to cut out desired puzzle shapes. Carefully lift edges of parchment to keep puzzle pieces together. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Click here for directions on icing the gingerbread cookies. Package in a cute Christmas tin or decorative box with a note that says you must complete the puzzle before consuming!

Survival Kit in an Altoids Tin: For the manliest of men

(Adapted from www.fieldandstream.com)

What You Will Need: fire and light items, water and food items, signaling and navigation items, tools and medical supplies, various multipurpose items, and a “Day Hunter” kit (I haven’t got a clue). Luckily Field and Stream knows what’s up: for a complete packing list click here.

Looking for more gift ideas from local merchants for the loved ones on your list? Don’t forget to check out the first annual Simply Family Gift Guide in the December issue of the magazine!