Do you hear bells jingling? As the weather cools here in the Northeast, my thoughts naturally turn to the holidays and I start eagerly anticipating the Christmas season. With our fickle New England weather, I have even been known to rock the sweater and boots look a little early and end up a sweaty mess by 2 PM when the sun is out. Even though it is early in the season, I have found that a key to success for a no-stress homemade holiday is to start while my enthusiasm is high. Usually that happens right around September, which gives me plenty of time to DIY thoughtful gifts for my list.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting eight awesome homestead gifts that you can make easily (I promise!) Before I launch into my no-stress homespun gifts, here are some keys to a successful homemade holiday:
Homemade Holiday Tip #1: Start Early
One thing I hate about the holidays is the stress! The hustle and bustle of Christmas with young children can leave me wishing away the season if I’m not careful. That is why it’s super important to start early if you are hoping to make homemade gifts. Your excitement will wane as your schedule gets busier so the earlier, the better. Make a list of everyone you need to buy for in September and start brainstorming ideas. Then you can start chipping away at the list every week.
Homemade Holiday Tip #2: Be Intentional
This is embarrassing, but I have to admit that I have given homemade gifts that I based more on my skill set and abilities, and less on the gift recipient’s interests. One incident involved a massive batch of cookies, which I made assembly-style and gave out to friends. One particular friend was one. On a diet and two. Had a gluten allergy. Not exactly my shining moment as a friend or a DIY homesteader. That is why I recommend thinking deeply about each person on your list. Some questions to help you:
Will they really enjoy the gift you have in mind?
Can they use it? If your recipient lives in San Diego, a wool scarf may not be for them!
Do they have hobbies that are special to them? Is there a way to create a gift that involves that hobby?
Think about your unique, special relationship. What gift can you give that will reflect that relationship and your shared interests?
No one wants to feel generic when being given a gift, even if it is homemade. From the heart should come first, then from the home.
Homemade Holiday Tip #3: Be Selective
If the last tip was overwhelming, you are not alone! Keep in mind that you don’t need to make every single gift on your list, particularly if this is your first homemade holiday. I’m not going to go into a rant here about consumerism, but suffice it to say that culling your shopping list is not a bad thing. We have a large family and have transitioned over the years to a Yankee Swap as well as trading experiences over presents. Even if that’s not in the cards for you, you can still choose the gifts you make, and their recipients, carefully.
I only plan to make about 50% of the gifts on our list. The rest I purchase throughout the year (I store them in our basement to keep them hidden away), saving money by shopping sales, coupons, and being as organized as possible. Our average budget per gift is $25, handmade or otherwise.
Homemade Holiday Tip #4: Be Realistic (Pic of Glo’s gloves)
Put the Pinterest down, folks! Now is not the time to learn to knit, sew, or carve wooden ships. My aunt knits the most gorgeous gloves, socks, sweaters and scarves. I am not her, and although I’d love to learn to do that type of work, it’s not happening in the next few months. We need to be realistic about our current skill set and use that to create gifts that are beautifully handmade. The gifts I will share this week will be doable for even a beginner, and don’t require a lot of special equipment so there’s no need to get intimidated by the idea of a handmade gift.
1. Holiday Tea Blends
This is a great one to show your loved one that you’ve really thought about them! You can customize almost any tea blend to create a unique one-of-a-kind gift. Homesteader pros can dry herbs like mint, chamomile and lavender from the garden to really make this a handmade gift. As urban homesteaders, we don’t have enough room to grow enough of those, so we order through Mountain Rose Herbs (link.)
Three Blends I Love (feel free to use the description on your label):
*All blends are formulated to make 8 ounces of tea. You can increase or decrease, using the ratios here, as appropriate.
It’s Been a Long Day
1/3 cup of lavender
1/3 cup of chamomile
1/3 cup of mint leaves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup lemon balm
1/3 cup mint
1/3 cup black tea
¼ tsp ginger
1 tbsp. dried orange peel
2 tbsp. candied ginger
1/2 c black tea
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Store-bought add ons: tea infusers and mug (see above), local honey
2. Nourishing Lotion
Yes, you can make lotion…in the microwave! I followed this amazing tutorial here: http://www.littlehouseliving.com/how-to-make-homemade-lotion.html
For a lighter every day lotion, I use lavender and lemon essential oil. But for those friends who work with their hands, or for a great foot lotion, I like to add sandalwood. For a more masculine scent you can add frankincense also.
This also makes a great baby shower gift. You can give mom a small jar with relaxing scents mixed in to use on her belly, and an unscented one for baby massages!
Store-bought add ons: Massaging glove, exfoliating scrubber (if you want to get crafty you can crochet these!)
3. Christmas Morning Hot Cocoa
This is a great easy gift for anyone who loves hot cocoa! I package mine in mason jars with candy canes for stirring sticks. Although I can’t say that I produce any of this on my homestead, it’s still a great gift!
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Power!)
½ cup powdered milk
¼ tsp salt
Candy canes for stirring
4. Beef Jerky
If you haven’t been making beef jerky, you are missing out. Whether you make jerky from your own meat, procure it from other farms, or even from the store, it’s a serious winner. I can’t claim to be an expert but we have used this recipe: http://honest-food.net/2014/02/17/venison-jerky-recipe-chipotle/
Store-bought add-ons: Put together a basket of other snacks that the recipient will like. If they are campers, a stainless steel mug is always a winner!
5. Holiday Granola/Trail Mix
If your gift list includes a lover of the outdoors, I would recommend making them 10-15 small baggies of this awesome trail mix. We make it year-round but it’s so festive with the red and green M&Ms! I also like to use the dehydrator to dry apples from the local orchards and include some of those as well as part of the gift.
1 cup almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries
Store-bought add-ons: A parking pass and maps from local state parks, hand warmers, or moisture-wicking socks.
Bonus tip: Homemade gift packaging!