Now that the Christmas shopping season is underway and gift-giving is on our minds, I thought it would be a great time to tell you about some gifts that help benefit children and families living in extreme poverty in the U.S. and around the … Continue reading
Have you ever made your own soap before? I really like the idea of using homemade soap with natural ingredients and have been interested in trying to make some myself. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to review the new book, The … Continue reading
Valentine’s Day is just a few days away…if you still need ideas for ways to wrap or package your Valentine gifts, treats, or candy, here are some fresh ideas! Above, Valentine Present Toppers from Julep look really easy to make–see instructions and downloadable … Continue reading
I am such a jar and bottle-saver! I save glass jars and bottles of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I was starting to get quite a collection and running out of space to put them, so I thought I’d make … Continue reading
I’ve become a mason jar-saver, and I have a small but growing collection of different shapes and sizes that have held jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, and other homemade foods that friends have given me. So I was glad to find a helpful guide at MidwestLiving.com on 15 Ways to Use Mason Jars. Then I found more ideas at a few other sites. These are all great ideas because they’re so simple!
Here are a few from Midwest Living that I plan on using…
Silverware holders–use each jar to hold a napkin and “silverware setting for one”–the jar can also be used by your guest as a drinking glass. Or organize spoons, forks, and knives in three different jars for a buffet-style arrangement.
Or you may just want to use the jars for serving your beverages in–they’re great for outdoor parties or picnics because they’re so sturdy!
Use as containers for forcing bulbs. I love this idea!
Make an easy centerpiece–just float a pretty blossom in a jar filled with water.
Other Midwest Living ideas include:
Using jars to store dry foods like oatmeal and other grains, rice, lentils, dried fruit, sugar, flour, salt, dried beans, pasta, etc. They come in handy if you buy bulk foods. Add your own homemade labels.
Keep your desk organized–use jars for holding pens, pencils, markers, paint brushes, and scissors.
I found more uses at a site called Care2. They list 50 uses for mason jars! These are the ideas from their list that I use or will use most:
- Storing cookies
- Storing homemade mixes
- Use for “recipe in a jar” gifts
- Storing saved seeds
- Use as containers for homemade soy candles
- Holding sour dough starters
- Storing homemade cleaners for the home (make sure they’re clearly labeled!)
- Storing cotton balls on the bathroom counter
- Storing bulk or homemade shampoo
- Storing bath salts
- Storing small office supplies
- Making sun tea
- Use as vases for fresh flowers
- Use as containers for homemade candy gifts
- Storing sewing notions-buttons and other small items
- Use as containers for loose change
These uses are from a site called Keeper of the Home. Here are some ideas I like from her list of 31 uses:
- Storing leftovers in the refrigerator–soups, stews, cooked rice, veggies–pretty much any kind of food that will fit in the jar (if you need extra lids, you can purchase some like these).
- Store leftover smoothies so you can drink later in the day or take to work.
- Keep track of how much water you’re drinking–if you drink from a quart-size jar, you can easily keep track of how much water you’re drinking each day.
- Sprouting seeds or grains (you can buy these special lids if you want).
- Storing homemade juice or iced tea in the refrigerator.
- Keeping herbs fresh in the refrigerator (like green onions, cilantro, etc.) by filling a jar 3/4 full of water, then placing your bunch of fresh herbs in it-the herbs stay fresh longer than if put in the produce drawer.
- Storing homemade spice mixes–use the 1/2 pint or smaller jars for this.
- Mixing and storing homemade salad dressings, marinades, and other sauces.
- Mixing and storing homemade syrups.
And then I found a few more ideas at Yahoo Voices:
- Start plant cuttings in jars filled with water (I do this a lot!)
- To be more eco-friendly, use mason jars instead of plastic containers for your lunch–they’re a great container for soups and salads.
So all together, that’s 33 different ways to use mason jars–plus all the other ideas at those sites that I didn’t mention!
Do you have a collection of mason jars? What different ways do you like to use them?
If you like making homemade Christmas gifts, here’s a great idea I found at MyRecipes. Just about everyone loves hot cocoa, so you really can’t go wrong giving this! You can get jars like the one above at Wal-Mart, or you can use whatever kind of jars you like. This recipe makes enough to fill a 1-quart jar (12 servings; I upped the amount of the mini chocolate chips and crushed peppermint candy from the original recipe, since I had some extra room in my jar). If you want to use smaller jars, you can divide the mixture up equally between those. A ribbon tied around the neck of the jar makes this hot cocoa gift really festive, too. And you’ll need to add a tag that gives directions on how to make the cocoa (directions are included in the recipe below).
This is a rich, chocolatey cocoa mix that makes a great cup of hot cocoa! And it has a nice touch of peppermint, so it’s perfect for the holidays. If I have the time, I may just make my own hot cocoa mix from now on!
HOMEMADE PEPPERMINT HOT COCOA MIX adapted from MyRecipes.com
Makes about 12 servings, enough to fill a 1-quart (32-ounce) jar
- 1 cup powdered milk
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy or candy canes (I used 3/4 cup)
In a 1-quart jar, layer powdered milk, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, chocolate chips, and last of all, the peppermint candy on top. Cover jar with lid, tie a pretty holiday ribbon around the neck of the jar if desired, and attach a homemade gift tag with cocoa-making instructions on the back.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR BACK OF GIFT TAG: “Mix contents of jar in a large bowl. For each serving, place a slightly heaping 1/3 cup cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water. Store remaining mix back in jar or another airtight container.”
NOTE: This mix will fill a 1-quart jar (about 12 servings, with each serving being a slightly heaping 1/3 cup), but if your containers are different sizes, just keep the ratio of ingredients constant.
Are you making any homemade Christmas gifts this year?
Linked to Inspire Me Monday.
I love orangey-scented things, so I thought I’d try making a scrub with epsom salt. Not long ago, I did a post on Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts and mentioned some of the health benefits of epsom salt. I thought they would be great to use in a body scrub, too. This scrub is thick, like a paste, and is scented with orange essential oil and pure vanilla extract. It smells so good and makes your skin really nice and soft!
ORANGE VANILLA COCONUT SCRUB by NancyCreative
- 1 cup Epsom Salt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 8 to 10 drops Orange essential oil
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small or medium-size bowl or other clean container, combine Epsom Salts with coconut oil using a spoon or spatula (Note: If the coconut oil gets much above 76˚ it can turn into liquid form–so if yours is liquidy, refrigerate your coconut oil until it solidifies). Add orange essential oil a few drops at a time, stirring after each addition. Add the vanilla extract last and blend everything well. Store in a shallow jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. You don’t need to refrigerate this scrub unless the temperature in your home gets much higher than 76˚ (or when you notice the coconut oil turning to liquid form), because then the mixture will be more runny. You can use this scrub 1 to 2 times a week to keep extra dry or rough skin areas smooth and soft.
When using, wet your skin all over in the shower and massage the scrub into your skin. You don’t need to use a lot–just pinch up about 1/2 teaspoon at a time from your jar or container–a little goes a long way! This is great for rough skin areas like knees and elbows. Don’t use on face or other sensitive areas. Also, be careful when using, because the oil from the scrub can make your shower or tub a little slippery. If you want to use this on your feet as a foot scrub, it would probably be safest to give your feet a separate foot scrub/bath while you’re sitting down using a small plastic tub; that way, you don’t have to worry about slipping in your bathroom tub or shower.
It’s fun making your own bath and skin care products, and so much cheaper, too! I think they work just as well as any you can buy. Have you tried making any for yourself?
There’s nothing like a relaxing soak in the tub with bath salts to make you feel revived and refreshed! The challenge is finding the time to do it! I decided a few months ago to start making time, at least … Continue reading
Here are some fun handmade card and gift ideas I came across for Valentine’s Day at MarthaStewart.com…maybe you’ll see something you want to try out! See below for the links to these ideas… Above, left to right each row, a hand-stitched Valentine, … Continue reading
I have a friend who has a birthday right around Memorial Day weekend. So this year, I decided to put together a gift with a red, white, and blue theme. Okay…it’s actually red, white, and teal–but that’s close enough! :) … Continue reading
Valentine’s Day will be here very soon…and after baking some Jumbo Chocolate Chippers, I realized they would make great homemade Valentine’s treats! They’re the perfect size cookie for those smaller-size clear plastic treat bags you can find at craft stores or Wal-Mart. Or, if you want to be fancy, you can use special Valentine treat bags. Just fill the bags with some cookies, tie them up with ribbon in different shades of pink and red, and add a gift tag if you want! Who wouldn’t love to get a cute little bag of yummy cookies?
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day! :)
I found some great ideas for packaging homemade Valentine treats over at Martha Stewart.com…there are 13 different ideas altogether and I thought I’d show you a few of my favorites! The photos I’m posting are all from Martha’s website. Anyone would love getting some sweet treats wrapped up like these for Valentine’s Day!
I love this idea for homemade heart-covered treat wrappers! You can use these for wrapping sweet breads, stacks of cookies, or whatever other goodies you’re wanting to give.
To make the wrapper, just fold a piece of red or pink tissue paper in half three times, forming eight layers; then use a heart-shaped craft punch to cut out hearts (or you could cut the hearts out free-form with scissors if you want to make your own heart shapes). Cover the surface of your ironing board with paper towels and place a sheet of wax paper on top. Then arrange the cut-out tissue hearts on the waxed paper and cover with another sheet of wax paper. Run an iron (set on medium heat) lightly over the layers of paper to set. If you don’t want to use waxed paper, you could purchase some cello wrap, tinted pink or red (or even clear) and use that to wrap up your goodies.
Tie your sweet bundles up with some waxed twine in red or pink, some red raffia, or some pretty ribbon (1/8″ to 1/4″ wide would work) and add a cute little gift tag if you want. You can download some fun Valentine gift tag designs for free at Heather Bullard.com…click HERE to see them! The tags also look great used with treat bags the way Heather has shown them.
Another idea I liked at Martha’s site were her cookie boxes…
You can just buy standard white or brown paper boxes and place your cookies in individual cupcake liners (if you need jumbo liners, you should be able to find plain white ones at your local craft store in the baking supply section; Wal-Mart carries them, too). Tie up the boxes with pretty ribbon, and you’re done!
The last idea I wanted to show was the set of miniature gift bags…
There is a free template on Martha’s site that you can download with the 3 patterns shown above. Just follow the instructions for putting them together and fill them up with candy or other goodies.
Hope this gives you some inspiration for your Valentine’s Day treat-giving!
Lavender is one of my favorite scents. I have several lavender bushes–one in the front yard and one in the back. The photo above is of my backyard bush. I started making lavender sachets because I didn’t want all that wonderfully–scented lavender to go to waste! The sachets are so easy to make, too. Start out by clipping a bunch of stems from your lavender bush. Lay these stems out on a flat surface, like a tray, and spread them out to try. You can let them dry outside or inside. You’ll need to give them at least a few days to dry.
When the lavender has fully dried, you can easily remove the lavender buds by rubbing them off the stems. Remove the buds from all the stems, and make a little mound with all the buds (the lavender smells so good when you’re rubbing them off the stems!).
Then all you need to do is fill pretty little pouches with your lavender buds. If you don’t have your own lavender bush, you can buy lavender buds at some craft stores or you can purchase them online.
I bought these pretty drawstring pouches at Wal-Mart in their craft section; you should be able to find pre-made pouches at your local craft store, too. Instead of pouches, you could also cut squares of thin material, place a mound of lavender buds in the center of the square, and then gather up the sides and tie with a bow.
These sachets are nice to use in dresser drawers to keep things smelling fresh, and you can also hang them in closets, using the ends of your drawstring ties or ribbons to loop or tie around a hanger. They make great little gifts, too! You can also attach one to an already-wrapped gift as an added adornment.
I love to give gifts from my garden! During the summer months, when I have a lot of different flowers blooming, it’s fun to create colorful arrangements to give to others. I put this particular basket together for my friend Alisa, who recently had a birthday. I found this vintage yellow wire basket at a flea market, and when I saw it I thought it would be perfect for Alisa, because she lives on a small farm and I could just picture it displayed on her front porch or somewhere in her farm home!
I save glass bottles and empty cans from jam, applesauce, vegetables, and other food items to use as vases–they’re perfect for small arrangements of flowers and herbs to give to friends and neighbors! And they’re cute when you tie a colorful ribbon around them. When I put together Alisa’s basket, I made 6 smaller arrangements using the glass bottles and cans as containers, and grouped them into one large arrangement in the yellow basket–it made a really colorful, eye–catching display!
Here’s a close–up of some of the flowers and herbs I used in this yellow basket arrangement–Daylilies, light and dark purple blooms from my two Butterfly bushes, Knockout Roses, Lavender, Spearmint, and some bright yellow flowers that I think are called Heliopsis. I just love seeing all those vibrant colors together. And the best thing is, all of these flowers and herbs come up every year–they’re all perennials–so I get to enjoy them and share them with others every summer!