Homemade holiday gifts

Garden stepping stones made by Lizabeth and wrapped for giving to teachers

Seems like every time we run into “Miss Gail,” one of Lizabeth’s childhood ballet teachers, she mentions bringing one of Lizabeth’s homemade holiday gifts out each holiday season — a scented candle crafted with tiny bits of botanicals like orange slices, rose petals and cinnamon sticks.

The year we made homemade candles, they are also went to piano teacher Judy and violin teacher Cindy. It was one of our messier homemade holiday projects, with pans and cookie sheets now doomed to a life covered in wax. Still, it was one of my favorites because the TLC we put into the project mirrored the TLC Lizabeth received from the dance and music teachers who received them.

I know plenty of teachers tire of the endless stream of coffee mugs, and some might feel that homemade gifts are just one small step above them on the “gifts we love to get” list, but I felt it was important — when our children were young — for their gifts to be genuinely thoughtful and from the heart. It’s too easy sometimes to merely buy something and slap a bow on it.

One year we crafted bars of homemade scented soaps, mixing vibrant colors and including fun surprises inside some of the bars. The supply list for this project is relatively short. Just hit the craft store for reusable soap molds in assorted shapes, glycerin soap and any colorings or fragrances you may want to add. We often crafted colorful soaps that got cut into small pieces so they could be inserted into clear bars before the bars hardened.

When we needed a low mess project, coaster sets were the way to go. We’d buy plain coasters, often gold and silver, at the craft store — then use paint pens (some fine point, some with thicker tips) to decorate them. The bottoms were often personalized and signed before we finished them off with a protective coating.

James’ mom still brings one of the kids’ homemade gifts out each holiday season — a set of glass jars decorated with special paint designed for glass surfaces. The kids used foam stamps to create floral designs, but it’s also fun to paint your own original designs. Once painted and covered with a protective medium, you can put all sorts of small gifts inside — a gift card, a favorite candy or a heartfelt thank you note.

One year, when we had a newly established vegetable garden, we chose homemade stepping stones as teacher gifts. Early on, we used kits from the craft store — but eventually we graduated to just buying stepping stone molds and the needed cement product, plus items for decorating the stones. Think small colorful tiles, rocks printed with words like “gratitude” and bits of polished beach glass.

Sometimes we added simple homemade touches to storebought gifts — creating bookmarks to accompany gifts of books or book store gifts cards, for example. Other times we headed to local businesses that offer various crafting options — making one-of-a-kind bead bracelets at a bead store or painting pottery items like candlesticks or trinket boxes at a pottery painting joint. 

Whatever you choose to give this holiday season, encourage your children to add a bit of themselves to the mix. More than anything else, I think, people value feeling loved and appreciated.

— Lynn

Coming up: Fun places to explore with holiday visitors

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