Five easy handmade gifts that won’t break your budget

Five easy handmade gifts that won’t break your budget

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Japan

‘Tis the season for giving gifts, and the folks to remember are many. Teachers, neighbors, coworkers and countless others have lightened your load over this past, not-so-easy year, so why not show your thanks with inexpensive yet thoughtful gifts that easily come together from materials you just might have on hand? Here are five DIY craft projects that result in cute and quirky keepsakes suitable for gifting all those who’ve brightened your days in some small way.

Homemade coffee syrups

Coffee-addict friends and coworkers might appreciate this easy way to add a tasty twist to their morning brews. To create the syrup that will serve as the base, whisk one cup water with one cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil on the stovetop, stirring all the while. Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring every two minutes or so. After allowing the simple syrup to cool, add several drops of vanilla or peppermint extract, pumpkin spices or other flavorings. Transfer into a clean glass bottle. To make cinnamon brown sugar syrup, use brown, rather than white sugar, to create the syrup. Next, add two cinnamon sticks and allow to simmer gently for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to steep for another three hours. Remove cinnamon sticks and seal in a clean glass bottle.

Bath salts

To whip up a small batch of bath salts, you’ll need 2 cups of Epsom salts and half a cup of coarse salt such as Dead Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt crystals, along with the dried herbs and essential oils of your choice. (Epsom salts sold in Germany are sometimes labeled as Bittersalz.) Mix the sea and Epsom salts together. Add 20 or more drops of the essential oil of your choice, along with several stalks of finely chopped herbs such as rosemary or lavender. Place in a pretty airtight container to store.

Festive berry bowls

All you need is a jar, cling film, rubber band and ribbon, along with the moss and berries foraged while out on a winter walk. First remove the label from a pretty clear glass jar by allowing it to soak in warm, soapy water. Line the bottom of the jar with bright healthy green moss and add just a few drops of water. Next fill the jar to the top with small cut sprigs of bright red berries, holly leaves or other bits of evergreen. Cover the top with a piece of cling film and use an elastic band to seal it. Decorate with a fancy, festive ribbon. Every few days, remove the plastic cling film and add just enough water to keep the contents moist and green.

Salt dough ornaments

Salt dough comes together easily from just three ingredients. Mix four cups of all-purpose flour with one cup of regular table salt. Gradually add 1 to 1½ cups of warm water to the mix, stirring with a spoon. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, lay out on a flat service and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and soft and can be worked like modeling clay. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper until it is about 3 to 4 cm thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and remove the excess dough, which can be rolled out and used again. Add design elements and texture with a fork, pencil, drinking straw, stamps or other tools. Cut a small piece out of the top of the ornament to accommodate a hook or ribbon later on. Transfer the parchment paper and ornaments onto a cookie tray and bake at low heat for an hour or more. The ornaments are done when they are dry; they do not need to brown.  Once the ornaments have cooled, color with acrylic paints.  Add glitter if desired.  Seal with a clear spray. Add a pretty ribbon or hook.

Reindeer beer

A standard, half-liter brown bottle of your friend’s favorite beer can be made to look just like Rudolph with this easy upgrade. Take two brown pipe cleaners and form them into identical shapes resembling antlers.  Affix by wrapping around the top of the bottle. Glue on a pair of googly eyes and a red pompom nose to complete the look.

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