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Simple Gift How-to

Heather Holm - December 04, 2010

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“Christmas” doesn't have to mean spending $15 on each of your friends, or even spending hours on lavish and original homemade gifts. Instead, try these simple solutions, which can each be easily expanded to account for multiple receivers.

COOKIES AND COCOA GIFT BASKET

A few years ago, a neighbor surprised me with a basketful of homemade cookies. She included a homemade cocoa mix that was absolutely delicious. I was delighted! It made my Christmas extra special that year.

If you would like to consider using this idea for a Christmas gift, feel free to use any cookie recipe, and include the cocoa mix as an added bonus.

Materials
  An attractive empty basket
  1 or 3 Mason jars with lids and rings
        (The Mason jar can be small or large, depending on the size of the recipient's family.)
  Cocoa Mix (below)
  Christmas wrapping paper or fabric
  Decorative-edged scissors
  Homemade cookies
  A bow for the handle of the basket
  Paper label
  Christmas tissue paper (optional)
  Christmas mugs (optional)

Cocoa Mix Recipe
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup non-dairy cream powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 ¾ cups instant nonfat powdered milk
1 cup miniature marshmallows, wrapped in pretty cellophane or placed in a baggie tied with a bow (optional)

Directions
Mix the dry cocoa ingredients together and pour them into one of the Mason jars. Securely place the lid and ring on the jar.

Cut a 10-inch-square piece from the Christmas wrapping paper (or fabric) and place it on the table, decorative side down. Turn the jar of cocoa mix upside down (lid first) and place it in the center of the wrapping paper. Draw the ends of the wrapping paper upward toward you. At the neck of the jar, wrap the ribbon around the wrapping paper and tie it in a pretty bow. Turn the jar right side up and place a label on it with directions on how to mix the cocoa, which is to add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mix to 1 cup of hot water.

Bake the cookies, and when they've cooled, place them in a pretty container. You can decorate an empty Cool Whip container (or something similar), or place the cookies on a pretty, disposable plate and cover them with decorative cellophane.

Place a couple of layers of Christmas tissue in the basket. Add the cookies, marshmallows, and cocoa mix. Tie a big bow on the handle of the basket. Don't forget to include a card!
You can also combine the dry cookie ingredients and put them in a jar. Label the jar with instructions, such as necessary additional ingredients, oven temperature, how to prepare the dough, and how to bake the cookies. If you do it this way, you will have room in the basket to add inexpensive Christmas mugs for each member of the recipient's family.

ICE MELTER IN A BUCKET

My neighbors gave me one of these several Christmases ago, and I refill the bucket and reuse it every year. What a practical and thoughtful gift.

Materials
Empty gallon-sized bucket with lid (used or new)
Ice melter (to melt ice and snow on sidewalks and driveways)
Scoop (can be small and inexpensive)
Bow or other decoration
Spray paint (optional)

Directions
If your bucket is in really bad shape, you may want to spray paint it. You can also purchase a nice bucket at your local hardware store.

Fill the bucket with ice melter and bury the scoop in it so just a small portion of the handle is showing. Put the lid on the bucket. Attach a silk poinsettia or some other Christmas decoration to the top of the bucket. You'll be amazed at how appreciated this gift will be!

HEATING PAD

Everyone loves these! They are soothing on stiff joints and muscles. The heating pad needs to fit into a microwave to be warmed, so don't make it too big.

Materials
Soft hand towel (or similar material)
Rice
Sewing thread to match hand towel
Gift Tag

Directions
Fold the dish towel in half and se two of the sides closed. (Or you can double the material by folding the towel in half, twice.) Fill 2/3 full of rice. Add more rice if desired, but don't overfill; the rice needs to be loose inside of the bag. Fold the edges of the third side into the bag and hand baste it closed. On a sewing machine with a decorative stitch, sew a seam tag with instructions on how long to leave the heating pad in the microwave (usually 1 to 2 minutes on medium heat).

FAMILY COOKBOOK

Collect a favorite recipe (or two) from each of your relatives' families and combine the recipes into a simple, inexpensive cookbook. Give a copy to everyone for Christmas.

HOMEMADE CANDLES

Keep in mind that wax is flammable and can ignite at approximately 400 degrees. Adult supervision of children is necessary when making candles.

Materials
Paraffin wax for as many candles as you intend to make (This depends on the size of your molds.)
Tapered candles (or string) for wicks
Crayons for color (optional)
Double boiler pan
A clean can
Crushed ice (optional)
Wooden stick or spoon
Containers of various sizes and shapes (preferably discarded milk or cottage cheese carton, especially those coated with wax; or you can use glass containers)
Wooden stick or ruler

Directions
Put at least 2 inches of water in the bottom of the double boiler. Break or cut the paraffin wax into small pieces and place the pieces in a clean can. (You can also use the top of the double boiler if you want to take the time afterward to clean out the wax.) Put the can directly into the water in the bottom of the double boiler. For safety reasons, warm on low heat.

If you want a colored candle, cut a colored crayon into pieces and add it to the melted wax. Stir well for an even color.

Cut the tapered candle on the bottom (wide) end so that it is the same height as the mold. Anchor the taper by pouring at least ½ inch of melted wax into the bottom of the mold. Hold the taper in place a few minutes until the wax has set. If you are not using ice, fill the mold to the top with melted wax.

If you want to use string for the wick, you must attach a weight to the string to anchor it in place when you add the hot wax. To do this, tie a small decorative rock (or a clean rock from outside) to one end to the string and center the rock in the bottom of the mold.

Using masking tape, secure a stick or a wooden ruler across the top of the mold. Tie the other end of the string to the ruler. Make sure the rock and the string are centered properly before you add the melted wax. If using ice, at this point you should only add 1 inch of melted wax to the bottom of the mold to hold the rock in place. If you are not using ice, fill the mold to the top with melted wax.

If you want your candle to have a lacy appearance, you can add crushed ice to the melted wax. (Note: This will not work with glass molds because the water from the melted ice won't be able to drain from the hardened candle.) Here's how:

Once your taper (or wick) is anchored into the wax, carefully place a layer of crushed ice (or small ice cubes, depending on the desired appearance) around the taper. Add melted wax until the ice is almost completely covered. Add more ice and more wax, more ice and more wax, alternating between the two until the mold is full. You may want to experiment by remelting the wax until the desired appearance is achieved.

Because the mold will leak water as the wax cools, you will need to place it in a bowl or a pan and let it sit until the wax has hardened completely. Remove the mold by carefully tearing or peeling it off the candle. You can add decorations such as glitter, beads, or sequins to your candle, but you can't light it if you do this.

*Excerpted from Discovering the Magic of Christmas: 75 Ways to Make Your Holiday More Meaningful; Cedar Fort

© LDS Living, 2010
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