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 once every few weeks, and it is something I really look forward to. It really feels wonderful to take time out and pamper yourself this way.
I thought it would be fun to make my own bath salts and came up with these Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts. They are very easy to make…you just need some Epsom Salt, Peppermint Essential Oil, and Tea Tree Essential Oil (you can find essential oils at your local health food store). I did not add any food coloring to the salts, but you can add a drop or two if you want–I prefer to just keep them the natural white. The peppermint scent is really refreshing, and the tea tree oil is good for your skin, so these two oils make a great combination!
I also discovered that soaking in Epsom Salt has health benefits because it’s rich in both magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium plays an important role in many bodily functions like muscle control, energy production, and the elimination of harmful toxins. Sulfate plays an important part in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins, and also helps detoxify the body of environmental toxins. So, soaking in an Epsom salt bath is an easy way to increase your body’s levels of magnesium and sulfate. No wonder it’s so refreshing! Your body and muscles will be relaxed, toxins will be flushed out, and the salts also help reduce the swelling of sprains.
Here’s how I make my bath salts…
PEPPERMINT TEA TREE BATH SALTS by NancyCreative
Makes enough for one bath (I multiply this recipe by 4 and keep it in a large jar)
- 2 cups Epsom Salt
- 5 to 7 drops Peppermint Essential Oil (depending on how strong of a scent you want)
- 3 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
- 1 gallon-size zip-loc freezer bag (I like using freezer bags because they’re thicker than regular storage bags)
Put Epsom Salt in zip-loc bag and add the drops of Peppermint and Tea Tree essential oils; mix oils into the Epsom Salt by squishing ingredients together in the closed bag for several minutes. You can use it right away or store salts in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. To use, add 2 cups of the bath salts under the running warm or hot water in your tub. To get the maximum benefit from this Epsom Salt bath, you should soak for at least 12 minutes. And you can do this 3 times weekly, if you have the time! :)
I like to make larger batches and keep it in a jar in my bathroom; that way I don’t have to make it so often. These bath salts make a great homemade gift, too–you can make a double batch and put it in a jar tied with a pretty ribbon.
Here are some other uses I found for Epsom Salt, if you’re interested in trying some of these out. The first one I try will probably be the skin cleanser. If you try any of these out, let me know!
- Skin Exfoliator–Add a drop of essential oil (or a Tablespoon of olive oil) to a handful of Epsom salt and massage over wet skin. Or just use the Epsom salt by itself. Rinse thoroughly. Makes your skin smooth and silky. Can be used on face as well as the whole body.
- Olive Oil Epsom Salt Scrub–Mix 1/2 cup Epsom salt with 1/4 cup olive oil; scrub skin in the shower and rinse thoroughly for soft, smooth skin.
- Skin Cleanser–Mix 1/2 teaspoon Epsom salt with your regular cleansing cream. Massage into skin and rinse with cold water.
- Bath Crystals–Mix 2 cups Epsom salt with a few drops of fragrance or 1/2 teaspoon glycerin. Store in airtight container until ready to use.
- Blackhead Remover–Add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 3 drops of iodine into 1/2 cup boiling water. Apply mixture to blackheads with a cotton ball.
- Hand Wash–Mix equal parts of Epsom salt and baby oil; put in a dispenser by your sink to clean and soften hands.
- Hair Volumizer–Combine equal parts deep conditioner and Epsom salt and warm in a pan. Work the warm mixture through your hair and leave on 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
- Remove Hairspray Buildup–Combine 1 gallon of water, 1 cup lemon juice, and 1 cup Epsom salt. cover mixture and let set for 24 hours. The next day, pour mixture onto dry hair; leave on for 20 minutes, then shampoo.
- Itchy Skin Remedy I–Mix 1 Tablespoon Epsom salt into 1/2 cup of water until completely dissolved. Spritz on itchy skin or bug bites with a spray bottle, or dab on with a cotton ball to help relieve itching. Or use as a compress on the skin area. Can also use on minor sunburns.
- Itchy Skin Remedy II–For mosquito bites, bee stings, mild sunburn and poison ivy, make compresses by soaking a cotton washcloth in cold water that has been mixed with Epsom salt (2 Tablespoons per cup). Then apply to skin.
- Foot Soak–Mix 1/2 cup to 1 cup Epsom salt in a large pan or plastic tub of warm water and soak feet for 10 to 20 minutes–soothes achy feet, softens skin, smooths calluses and removes foot odor.
- Epsom Salt Pedicure–Mix 1/2 cup of Epsom salt with warm, soapy water; soak feet to soften skin; remove polish, cut and file nails and calluses; then soak feet in an Epsom salt bath for 5 minutes (use another 1/2 cup of Epsom salt in a large pan of water).
- Toenail Fungus Treatment–Soak affected toes in hot water mixed with a handful of Epsom salt three times a day.
- Splinter Remover–soak area in concentrated Epsom salt water to draw out splinter. Or, add enough water to 1/8 cup of Epsom salt to form a paste. Apply mixture to injured area and let sit for 10 minutes. The magnesium sulfate in this paste works to gently pull the splinter to the surface so you can pull it out easily.
- Bathroom Tile/Grout Cleaner–Mix equal parts Epsom salt and liquid dish soap; apply on dirty tiles and grout; scrub and rinse well.
- Slug Remover–Sprinkle Epsom salt on areas where you have a slug problem–on floors, patios, or garden beds–the salts will help deter slugs. It’s supposed to help keep raccoons away, too, if you have a problem with them!
- Fertilizer for House Plants–Add 2 Tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water and stir to dissolve. Fill a spray bottle with mixture and use this to feed plants once a month.
- Keep Lawn Green–Use same mixture as above, 2 Tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water, and sprinkle on your lawn to keep grass healthy and green. Or another tip says you can use 3 pounds of Epsom salt for every 1,250 square feet. Apply with a spreader or dilute the Epsom salt in water and use a sprayer.
- Natural Insecticide–Mix 2 Tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water and spray onto your plants to safely and naturally get rid of insects like cabbage worms and spider mites. For roses, just use 1 Tablespoon per gallon of water to help discourage pests.
- Prep Garden Soil–Sprinkle up to 1 cup Epsom salt per 100 square feet, then work it into the soil before seeding or planting. This helps seeds to germinate better and helps mature plants transition when replanted. Note: If you’re growing the herb Sage, do not do this–sage does not like Epsom salt!
- For Tomato Plants–Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Epsom salt per hole before planting your tomato seeds or small plants. As plants mature, work in 1 Tablespoon per foot of plant height around the base of the tomato plant every 2 weeks.
- For Fruit– Mix Epsom salt with water at a ratio of about a quarter-cup of Epsom salt per 500 square feet when you irrigate your plants. Epsom salt supposedly reduces the amount of fertilizers you need and makes the fertilizers you use more effective in growing fruit.
- For Rose Bushes–Soak unplanted rose bushes in a mixture of 1/2 cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water before planting to help roots get stronger. When planting, add 1 Tablespoon of Epsom Salt per hole before planting each rose bush. After planting, you can spray the bushes each month with the same liquid mixture (1/2 cup per gallon of water), or work into the soil at the base of each plant 1 Tablespoon of Epsom salt per foot (in height) of each plant. Another tip says to add 1 Tablespoon Epsom salt diluted in a gallon of water per foot of plant height every 2 weeks.
- For Trees–Work in 2 Tablespoons per 9 square feet into the soil over the root zone (or dilute in water and apply) three or four times a year, at the beginning of each season–this helps prepare the trees for the change in weather.
- For Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron)–Work in 1 Tablespoon per 9 square feet into the soil over the root zone every 2 to 4 weeks (or dilute the same amount of Epsom salt in water and apply).
The name Epsom comes from a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England. It’s not actually salt, but a natural pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.
I think I’ll be using Epsom Salt a lot more now that I know about the benefits it has…have you used Epsom salt for any of your beauty, household, or garden needs? Do you have any tips of your own for how to use it?
Sources: Epsom Salt Council and several other sites linked to within the post.
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, dainty doily envelopes, a gift-in-a-card seed card or seed starter Valentines, heart envelope cards–envelopes that turn into Valentines, fun heart-and-lollipop flowers, card bookmarks or heart bookmarks, a chocolate wrapper with a special note on the reverse side, poetic wrappings with poetry written on paper or ribbon, heart-shaped soap with a message, or conversation heart cookies. All fun, unique things to give and to get!
Are you making any handmade cards or gifts for your Valentine(s)?
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! :) I thought I’d tell you how I put this together in case you wanted to try this idea out sometime!
I used this rustic bushel basket as a gift container…the red, white, and teal design was perfect, because the birthday girl, Alisa, loves red and teal. I wish I could say that I had painted this design on the basket myself, but I purchased it this way from an antique/gift shop. If you can’t find the right rustic basket from a shop, you could paint your own design on a new bushel basket or keep it natural and unpainted, depending on what your gift color theme is. Unpainted bushel baskets are pretty reasonable. If you just need one or two, your local craft store is probably your best resource. If you want to buy in bulk, here’s a site to check out–the Texas Basket Company. I haven’t ordered anything from this site, but it looks like they have a good variety of baskets to choose from. These baskets make great gift containers because they’re very reusable…they can be used as large plant containers inside or out on a porch, or used to hold other decorative or practical items inside the home.
Next, you need items to fill the basket! My friend loves flowers, so I decided to get her a Vinca plant that she could either keep in a pot or plant in the ground. I included a pot in her favorite color, teal, and lined it with a plastic bag, putting the plant on top of that. If she decides not to pot the plant, it’s a cute enough pot for her to use as a pencil or brush holder, since she is a wonderfully talented, artsy person!
I also had another gift item, a set of four vintage ice cream sundae glasses for her family of four, that I put in a gift box. Because this “bushel basket” gift had a red, white, and blue theme, I decided not to wrap the white box and just tie it with a fun red polka-dot ribbon.
That’s about all that would fit into this bushel basket! I filled any open spots with some red polka-dot tissue.
And voila! There you have it…a creative, eye-appealing gift that’s also very functional and practical!
It’s not hard putting a gift like this together–the key is knowing what the person likes, what their interests and hobbies are, and what colors appeal to them. Antique shops and flea markets are great resources for finding unique containers and smaller items to tuck into a gift container. Garden shops, craft stores, and sporting goods stores are also great places to find special-interest gifts. And, of course, handmade items and homemade goodies are always wonderful gifts, too. It’s fun when you find just the right things to make a one-of-a-kind gift for the person you’re celebrating!
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!