12/13 Real Bride Danielle: Gifting like a Rock Star

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Cupcake paper mason jar embellishment

Ah the holidays, a wonderful time of year where families hemorrhage money trying to get each other awesome and thoughtful gifts. I don’t know about your broke ass, but mine has a long list of people that I’m obligated to gift to. When I was still in college (and even more broke), I struggled to check everyone off my list with the least abuse to my wallet possible. I’m one of those rare people that LOVE everything gift related, like crafting, wrapping, giving and receiving gifts. My fiancé Michael’s family is really big into homemade gifts. Gift cards are simply not as thoughtful as say, a hand-knitted scarf or homemade cookies. With that in mind, Michael and I have always tried to make at least one gift each year. In the really poor years, sometimes those were the only gifts people might receive from us. Some projects are really simple to set up an assembly line to make several. I also like to make a few spares for the just-in-case gifts. These I wrap (or bag) in non-Christmas specific paper and attach blank tags to. They get stuck in the closet along with a pen. This keeps me covered when Great Aunt Ethel decides to drop in for a random visit with a gift after not being around for the past 10 years. You look like a total rock star when you come out of the hall closet bearing a pre-wrapped gift that is “already” sporting her name.

Here are three of my favorite handmade gifts that even the most DIY-challenged person should be able to handle:
Real Bride Danielle's Santa Cookie Mix

Santa Cookie Mix in a Jar

Cookies in a Jar
Skill Level: Easy

Items Needed: See jar recipe below
My family always has mason jars lying around from canning food. The quart mason jars make perfect cookies in a jar. No, not pre-cooked cookies, but cookie mix that you layer in a jar all pretty like to impress your friends and family. I’ve also heard them called sand art cookies.

I used Avery 22802 Printable Tags and Avery 22808 Round Labels to jazz up these jars, but only because I already had them lying around from a different project (vanilla extract). I used the Avery Design & Print tool on their website to print up these cute labels. You can also use a cupcake wrapper on the top lid to give it some flare.

Real Bride Danielle's Santa cookie Mix gift idea

Here’s the recipe for the cookie jars:

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup M&Ms
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
Approximately 1/2 cup of chocolate chips

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Add to quart mason jar
  2. Layer remaining ingredients in order listed above, packing tightly with each layer
  3. Force about 1/2 a cup of chocolate chips into the very top and secure with lid. I was able to get up to as much as 3/4 cups of chocolate chips into some of my jars, but only by brute force
  4. Embellish jars and add the following instructions

1 Jar Cookie Mix
1 stick softened butter
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Baking Instructions:
Empty jar in large bowl and sift together
Fold in butter, egg and vanilla
Roll into walnut sized balls
Place 2” apart on greased cookie sheet
Bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes

Cost to make 12
Dry Ingredients: about $30, but I had most of this stuff in my pantry already
32 oz (quart) Mason Jars: I had these laying around.  Case of 12 on Amazon $25

Total price:  ~$55
Price per jar: ~$5

Real Bride Danielle's Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract
Skill level: Easy

Items Required:
Sealing bottle
Vanilla beans
Plain Vodka (at least 80 proof)

This one is a bit pricier and won’t be completely ready in time for Christmas, but makes a great any time gift. I got the 8 oz jars from Everything Kitchen (but you can also get them from Amazon here). I made 15 bottles of this, so I bought 1/2 lb of vanilla beans from Beanilla, but the general rule is you need at least 3 beans per 8 oz of vodka. I used Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Grade B beans. I found the cheapest, least flavored vodka my local liquor store had.  The Avery 22808 labels were used on my bottles, but you can use whatever you wish to embellish your bottles.

  1. Wash and sanitize glass bottles
  2. Cut 3 vanilla beans in half. Take the halves and split them lengthwise to expose the vanilla inside. I left mine split but not completely separated since they seemed to go into the jar easier.
  3. Put the three beans into 8oz jar. Pour vodka on top until nearly full, leaving a bit of space at the top. Cover tightly and store in a cool dark place for at least 8 weeks. Shake the jars weekly to help the process along. The beans can be removed after 8 weeks.

Cost to make 15
8oz glass bottles: $45 (with shipping)
1/2 lb vanilla beans: $65
1.75L Vodka: $10

Total: $120
Price per jar: $8

Real Bride Danielle's Handmade Corn Heating Pad

Handmade Corn Heating Pad

Heating pads
Skill level: Easy
Special Skills Needed: Ability to sew a vaguely straight line

Items Required:
100% cotton fabric- prewashed
Sewing materials
Whole kernel corn

Supplies to make homemade heating pad

Heating pad supplies

This year’s gift is corn heating pads. They can be heated in the microwave or frozen for hot/cold therapy. You can find whole kernel corn at your local farm supply. I got a 50lb bag for $9 at Tractor Supply Co, but you can get it in smaller bags if you ask. I happen to be making 20-30. You can make these any size and shape. I decided to make mine long and skinny. I’m using 2 fat quarters on mine, one for the heating pad, one for a sleeve.

  1. I took a fat quarter and folded it in half the long way inside out. I cut three inches off the end of mine, but cutting isn’t necessary.
  2. Next, stitch it on the bottom and long side, leaving the top open, and flip outside right.
  3. I filled mine in sections, pinned off that part to keep the corn mostly in, and stitched the section closed. This way all the corn doesn’t fall to the bottom but creates an even heating experience.
  4. Repeat until full. Stitch top shut.
  5. I made a slightly larger sleeve to go over mine to keep it clean, but, the sleeve isn’t necessary.

Cost to make 12
Using only 1 fat quarter: $36
50lb bag of corn: $9

Total Cost: $45
Price per pad: $4

Hopefully I gave you enough time to get your craft on and make some sweet hand made gifts for the holidays this year.

Do you make gifts for your loved ones? What are some of your tried ‘n’ trues?