Category Archives: Creative Gift-Giving

Gifts That Give Back from World Vision

World Vision Gifts

WorldVisionNow 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 world. The 2015 World Vision Gift Catalog invites you to not only Give a gift, but Change a life. Here’s how you can be a part of that:

  • Choose from more than 250 gifts ranging from $16 to $39,000 to help improve the quality of life for struggling children and families.
  • You can choose a gift to donate…gift a family with a goat, chickens, or other farm animals; fruit trees, farming tools, or seeds; or gift a child with an education.
  •  You can choose a handcrafted gift for yourself or a friend or family member–like the Prosperity Cinnamon Box, a beautifully carved cinnamon bark box holding 3 oz. of cinnamon. Or you may decide on the Hand-Carved Wooden Serving Spoons, History’s First Coffee Blend, or a Fair-Trade Wire Artisanal Bowl. The money raised from each purchase of a hand-crafted gift goes to the Where Most Needed fund, helping the most urgent needs of a child, family, or community. Delivery for handcrafted gifts like these is 7-10 days.
  • Gifts can be purchased/given in a loved one’s name.
  • You can choose to have a personalized card sent along with your gift describing the gift and its life-changing impact.

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Shown above is the Prosperity Cinnamon Box that World Vision sent me, so I’ve seen firsthand how beautifully hand carved it is. Filled with 3 ounces of Vietnam’s renowned sweet cinnamon collected from the Cassia tree, it would make a special gift for anyone who loves to use cinnamon in recipes! The Asian character for prosperity is carved into this unique cinnamon bark box.

The World Vision Gift Catalog’s first issue came out in 1996, and it continues to grow in popularity every year as a meaningful way to give and help others. In 2014 alone, more than 822,000 people were helped through the funds raised by the gifts featured in the catalog.

You can keep updated on news from World Vision via Facebook and Twitter 

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Olive Oil Soap

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Photo courtesy of The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gomez, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

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 Best Natural Homemade Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps (Robert Rose, softcover). 

UnknownThe book starts off by sharing some interesting history about soap making. In ancient times, soap mainly consisted of a mixture of boiled fat and ashes. The first people to make olive oil soap were the Syrians, several thousand years ago in the city of Aleppo. “The women of Aleppo realized that by adding ground bay leaves to soap, skin infections were reduced considerably; the leaves from the bay plant possess an extraordinary natural antiseptic.” And other soap-making discoveries continued over the centuries.

This book also includes preparation tips and utensil and ingredient guides so you have everything you need to make your own olive oil-based soap. The step-by-step instructions seem easy to follow and include information on therapeutic qualities of the natural soap additives in each particular recipe–additives like essential oils, beeswax, cocoa butter, kaolin clay, seaweed, and goat’s milk. Some of the 40 different soap recipes include Kiwi Soap, Lavender Soap, Marigold Soap, Seaweed Soap, Green Tea Soap, Chocolate Soap, Coconut Soap, Cinnamon Soap, Rosemary Soap…and many more great-sounding versions!

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Image from The Best Natural Homemade Soaps

I was going to try making the basic Olive Oil Soap recipe. The ingredients are simple and basic enough–mineral water, lye (caustic soda), and extra virgin olive oil. However, I wasn’t able to find lye in any stores near me, so I guess I’ll have to order some from a soap-making supplier (there’s a list at the back of the book). In the meantime, I have permission from the publisher to share the recipe with you! Note: You’ll need safety goggles, a large saucepan, and a kitchen thermometer to make this soap.

OLIVE OIL SOAP from The Best Natural Homemade Soaps

  • 7.5 oz. mineral water
  • 3 oz. lye (caustic soda)
  • 1.5 lbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Scent (optional), store-bought or homemade
  1. Wearing gloves and goggles, pour mineral water into a large saucepan. Add lye slowly, stirring gently until it is dissolved.
  2. Using a thermometer, monitor the temperature of the lye mixture until it is between 120˚F and 140˚F.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil to between 120˚F and 140˚F.
  4. Remove olive oil from heat. Add lye mixture to olive oil, stirring slowly and trying not to splash.
  5. Stir occasionally, every 15 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens and congeals (it will have a texture similar to that of light mayonnaise).
  6. Stir in scent (if using). Stir for 1 minute with a spoon (or with a whisk, taking care not to create foam).
  7. Pour into a greased or paper-lined soap mold. Gently tap mold to remove any air bubbles.
  8. Cover with a blanket or towel and let stand for 2 days. Uncover and let stand for an additional day if the mold is very large.
  9. Turn soap out of mold. Wait another day, then cut into bars as desired.
  10. Dry bars for 1 month, turning occasionally to ensure they are drying uniformly.
Soap recipe from The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gomez, 2014 © http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

 

This sounds like a great soap for your skin! Homemade soap is a great DIY gift idea, too! Do you use or have you made any olive oil-based soap, or any other kinds of soap?

Linked to Thursday Favorite Things.

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Gift Wrap Ideas for Valentine’s Day

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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 heart shapes here.

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Lots of great downloadable Valentine labels for jars, gift bags, and other containers are available here at World Label.

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Speaking of jars, here’s a pretty way to dress up a jar and put a gift inside…like a food gift or candle. From The Pleated Poppy.

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Also at World Label, special treat labels and stickers for coffee or hot cocoa cups, chocolate bars, and goody bags. See instructions and downloadable designs here.

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Check out these Candy Huggers…a fun way for kids to give Valentine Candy! See downloads and instructions here at Lia Griffith.

Hope these ideas give you some inspiration for Valentine’s Day!🙂

Linked to Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine’s Corner.

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Autumn Bouquets

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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 some autumn bouquets to give to my flower-loving friends.

I love the variety of sizes and colors of these bottles! Each one of them had some sort of food item in them–after the contents were used up, I removed the labels on each bottle so I could reuse them as vases and tied autumn-colored ribbons around them before filling with flowers.

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These three glass bottles were all once containers for vanilla, almond, and orange extract.

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These two jars originally had jam in them.

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Another unique-looking bottle and jar: the small clear bottle in the foreground was from Cracker Barrel (it was a miniature maple syrup bottle–the kind they give you when you order pancakes). The larger brown glass jar in the background is actually a vitamin jar. Who would’ve thought it would make such a great vase?

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This vintage-looking soda bottle was from Cracker Barrel, too–they sell a variety of vintage sodas in their country store, and some of them have such great designs, you hate to toss them out!

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This bottle is one of my favorites–it has a long neck and a rounded base, so no worries about this tipping over! This originally had some white wine vinegar in it.

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And this large bottle had some apple juice in it–I love the detail of the leaves at the top of the bottle–much too pretty to get rid of!

Most of my labels came off pretty easily just by soaking the bottle in hot soapy water–I left the bottles in the water overnight. But sometimes I come across really stubborn labels, and on those, I sometimes use nail polish remover. I’ve also heard that Goo Gone works too, although I haven’t tried that yet. If you use products like these, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area.

Are you a glass jar and bottle-saver too? Using them as vases is one way to upcycle them. Do you have other ways of reusing pretty jars and bottles?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy and Show and Share at Coastal Charm.

33 Different Uses for Mason Jars

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…

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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.

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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!

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Use as containers for forcing bulbs. I love this idea!

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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:

  1. Storing cookies
  2. Storing homemade mixes
  3. Use for “recipe in a jar” gifts
  4. Storing saved seeds
  5. Use as containers for homemade soy candles
  6. Holding sour dough starters
  7. Storing homemade cleaners for the home (make sure they’re clearly labeled!)
  8. Storing cotton balls on the bathroom counter
  9. Storing bulk or homemade shampoo
  10. Storing bath salts
  11. Storing small office supplies
  12. Making sun tea
  13. Use as vases for fresh flowers
  14. Use as containers for homemade candy gifts
  15. Storing sewing notions-buttons and other small items
  16. 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:

  1. 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).
  2. Store leftover smoothies so you can drink later in the day or take to work.
  3. 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.
  4. Sprouting seeds or grains (you can buy these special lids if you want).
  5. Storing homemade juice or iced tea in the refrigerator.
  6. 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.
  7. Storing homemade spice mixes–use the 1/2 pint or smaller jars for this.
  8. Mixing and storing homemade salad dressings, marinades, and other sauces.
  9. Mixing and storing homemade syrups.

And then I found a few more ideas at Yahoo Voices:

  1. Start plant cuttings in jars filled with water (I do this a lot!)
  2. 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?

Homemade Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix

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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.

Orange Vanilla Coconut Scrub

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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?

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Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts and 25 Other Uses for Epsom Salt

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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.

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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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Skin Cleanser–Mix 1/2 teaspoon Epsom salt with your regular cleansing cream. Massage into skin and rinse with cold water.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Hand Wash–Mix  equal parts of Epsom salt and baby oil; put in a dispenser by your sink to clean and soften hands.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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).
  13. Toenail Fungus Treatment–Soak affected toes in hot water mixed with a handful of Epsom salt three times a day.
  14. 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.
  15. Bathroom Tile/Grout Cleaner–Mix equal parts Epsom salt and liquid dish soap; apply on dirty tiles and grout; scrub and rinse well.
  16. 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!
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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!
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.

Linked to Inspire Me Monday, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Create and Inspire.

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Pretty Clever Valentines

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…

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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)?

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A Bushel-Filled Birthday Gift

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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That’s about all that would fit into this bushel basket! I filled any open spots with some red polka-dot tissue.

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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!