The perfect Christmas gift can start at homeWritten by Autumn Lee | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Finding the perfect Christmas gift can start right at home. And it can be done by enhancing store-bought items with some creativity.
Gretchen Fayerweather, a food, nutrition and hospitality instructor at Owens Community College, shared several ideas doing just that. Not only will it give you a chance to explore your artistic side, but she said these ideas can save time and money:
- A more sophisticated fruit bread. Start by buying a white or yellow cake mix, and instead of adding oil, try using pumpkin butter, apple butter or applesauce. Mix in your favorite nuts and fruit. Fayerweather’s favorite is a combination of pumpkin butter, cranberries and macadamia nuts. The recipe is a little more upscale than normal fruit bread, and people are more likely to eat it, she said.
- Cookie fun. Fill plastic mixing bowls with dry ingredients to make cookies, items to decorate, such as sprinkles, a small beater and cookie cutters. Fayerweather suggested checking out a local dollar store for the items. Attach a sticker with the recipe.
Or try this variation: Prepare your favorite cookie dough, cover it with colored plastic wrap and twist the ends closed and tie with ribbon. And then attach the baking instructions. Fayerweather said the cookie dough needs to be refrigerated and can be kept in the freezer for three to six months.
“You can have Christmas cookies in July,” she said.
- Going green. Inexpensive canvas bags can be filled with homemade granola, trial-size cleaning agents and bowls or a cutting board made of bamboo. For an added touch, buy remnants of fabric, cut them into squares, sew the edges and tie them together with ribbon for a homemade set of napkins.
- Share some flavor. Fill small jars with your favorite mix of herbs and add a label that is handwritten or created on the computer. Fayerweather suggested buying herbs in bulk to save money. Some of her favorites are a tri-mix that contains 90 percent kosher salt, 5 percent white pepper and 5 percent granulated garlic, and an Italian mix that has basil, oregano, a little bit of crushed red pepper and salt. The herbs could also be placed in a planter with a recipe to create a winter windowsill garden.
- Hot and chocolate. Dip an iced teaspoon in chocolate and put it in a mug, along with some homemade or store-bought biscotti. The biscotti can be dipped in chocolate, too. For adults, add 4-ounce samples of coffee. For kids, include hot chocolate samples.
To get your creative juices really flowing, Kevin Schroeder, Owens assistant professor of fine arts and program facilitator, offered the following ideas:
- Make your own Christmas cards. Cards can be embossed by soaking the paper in water and pressing it with a piece of cardboard cut to the desired shape. Soaking the paper makes it pliable. Pine needles can also be used to emboss the image on the paper while leaving the scent behind.
Another technique involves using wood, leather or linoleum to create an image to be used like a rubber ink stamp. After the ink or paint is applied, use a wooden spoon to rub across the stamp to pick up the image details. A slightly different technique involves using a piece of Plexiglas. Schroeder said the image can first be drawn on a piece of paper, and then placed under the Plexiglas as a guide when painting the design. Take the painted Plexiglas and transfer the wet paint onto another piece of paper.
“You can do whatever speaks to your personality,” he said.
- Play with some clay. Activ brand clay can be modeled into any shape and can be air dried, Schroeder said. Other clays, such as Premo and Sculpey can be baked in the oven to produce a unique gift.