- A cute mug (from Michaels- cost: around $3 with coupon and tax)
- A cellophane bag with a silver twisty and filled with my Chai concoction (cost: around $0.50)
- A printed recipe (no real cost)
- Assorted gift-wrap trimmings (cost: around $0.10)
There are people out there who have everything ready for the holidays by now. Every single present has been purchased, wrapped and tagged; all invitations have been sent out and been replied to; festive meal menus are not only printed on parchment paper, but the food itself has been cooked and frozen in anticipation of the big day. I'm sure there are people out there like that.
Well, not me. This is when I start my shopping and/or scramble to come up with home-made stuff. So if you're like me, fear not, here are some really fun ideas that won't break the bank and won't take 3 days to prepare. And if you're snowed in like we are today, chances are you might even have what you need to come up with personalized presents already somewhere around your home. Bonus: most of these ideas are environmentally responsible, frugal and easy as pie. Or tea.
Lots of interesting ideas can be found on the Buy Nothing Christmas site. But I've also found a number of hilarious offerings online, including an exploding frog, a soda-lightful bath fizz, bath bombs and jellies. They are fun, quick and easily tailored to your recipient's tastes (and sense of humour), and your own creativity.
The Family Fun website has a long list of suggestions that can be made with or for children, but I found the following most adaptable: a Velvet Notebook, a project that can also be made by wrapping a blank notebook, a small sketchbook, or even a photo album or two in coordinated paper or fabric.
Home-made clay for both kids and grown ups, safer to use that store-bought play dough or modeling clay. For children, you can include some plastic cookie cutters that can be found for pennies almost anywhere. For a hobbyist, you can include clay sculpting tools, and a printed recipe for baked clay.
Another cute idea is called Bandages for the soul, a collection of quotes and sayings. A grown-up version of this might be creating a wall decoration with some favourite inspirational words - an inexpensive stetched canvas painted in a favourite colour, and the words carefully painted out. If that's too hard, then use a beautiful hand-made paper and ink or an art marker.
How about some Emoticon magnets, similar to projects I've already shown how to do here. Now these are really easy and not two can be alike.
Another really inexpensive idea, although not very quick, only requires your time and your printer. Why not research a particular topic that your gift recipient might be interested in, and compile a folder with all the printed information? Or even varied articles on current health news, political analysis, book and movie reviews - I know that I hardly have time to keep up and miss being able to browse magazines or newspapers for more than just functional information. Other ideas could include how-tos, free crochet and knitting patterns (Lion Brand Yarns and Bernat are great for that), easy recipes (check out Bobbie's other blog and a bunch of others I'll think of in a bit; or Canadian Living Magazine's Make-it-tonight collection). You can pretty up easily.
Finally, if you know how to bake - even if it's only plain oatmeal cookies or no-bake-rice-krispie-squares - why not bake a batch of goodies and wrap it up nicely? My kids love those kinds of presents - and so do their mum and dad.
Remember also that a lot of the pleasure of giving is that it comes from the heart. It's not how much you spent, or how many mall crowds you had to battle that counts, it's that you were thinking of that person when you were creating your gift. And hopefully, the good feelings you had in your heart became part of the present too.
I like playing around with the Color-Halftone feature in Photoshop to create mock comic book frames with a 50s feel to them. Here are two illustrations I’m quite happy with using this fun technique.
Albatros, Digital - © R. Koleilat, 2007
Bathing Beauty, Digital - © R. Koleilat, 2007
To give you an idea of how I get to my final results, here’s a quick demonstration.
To alter your picture, first select Pixelate/Color Halftone from the Filters menu.
By selecting Fade Color Halftone from the Edit menu, you can tweak it by choosing Screen Mode with 55% Opacity (3), or Overlay Mode with 35% Opacity (4) or any other Mode you like.
Teacup, Digitized Photograph - ©R. Koleilat, 2007
Another idea for a simple, friendly present for the holiday - something you can prepare quickly, but will show that you care. And what is better than a warm cup of tea to share with a friend? How about a cup of Chai, this sweet and fragrant tea specialty from India? You definitely don't want to buy that from a store. For one, prepackaged tea bags are ridiculously overpriced, and they don't hold a candle to freshly made and brewed Chai. I know that because my dear friend Sonia taught me how to make the real thing - and I have been addicted ever since.
Here's what you need - you can get most or all of it from the bulk food store, any Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern food store, or even a good supermarket:
- Pick your gift container first, to determine how much tea you need to fill it with. A plain old glass jar, decorated with a personalized label and some raffia is usually my choice, but you can also fill a bag with the Chai mixture and pop it inside a pretty mug or teapot (2 gifts in one, yay!)
- Loose tea leaves, like Orange Pekoe, or Ceylon, enough to fill your chosen container.
- Loose Earl Grey tea leaves, about 1/4 of the amount of the tea above (you don't have to, since this is not authentic but I found it enhances the taste)
- Spices: I choose to add one stick of cinnamon, 5-6 cardamom pods, 4-5 cloves, a sprinkling of allspice berries and about 1/8 spoon of ginger (this is a very mild-tasting variation enough for about an 12-ounce jar of tea, you can add more spices to your taste)
Mix all of the above in the jar, and add this tea-making how-to:
Fill small pot with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Spoon in one heaping tablespoon of Chai mixture, and turn off the heat. Let it steep for at least five minutes, and strain into teapot. Add lots of sugar and hot milk, find a comfy spot and enjoy.
Now this is definitely not the authentic method of making Chai - but I'm trying to save you from a caffeine attack! Here's how you can come close to the real deal - a lot more delicious, but too much for me to handle.
Fill small pot with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, add a heaping tablespoon of tea, 1/4 stick cinnamon, two cardamom pods, 2 cloves, ginger and allspice to taste (optional), a lot more sugar than you would normally have in one day, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Add very hot milk and simmer a couple of minutes more. Strain and serve. But if you don't sleep for two days after that, don't come knockin' - I did warn you!
(The above quantities assume you are sharing this lovely cuppa with a friend)
This is my Christmas present for all my friends, bloggers and others. This is one present we're allowed to unwrap and use early, yay!
Here's my first idea for small DYI presents for this holiday season*: Another glass bead project. I love these little glass beads that are found in craft stores or dollar stores, usually with the floral supplies. And I love micro-glass beads even more - I actually found my little collection at a very good dollar store that has a wicked craft/scrapbooking section (don't tell anyone, but I even buy tiny canvases from there too - and funky paper and plain frames and boxes).
- Create a grouping of those with a theme - anything: different hues of the same colour, or use the same colour with different geometric shapes, 3 or 4 contrasting colours...
- If you have the patience, create a magnetic alphabet set for an small child - or just the letters in their namem, they'll get a kick out of it.
- Pack them in a pretty box with shredded paper for a unique present.