06 October, 2010

Home-made Potpourri

This one is another great idea for a home-made Christmas present. It costs very little and is easy to make.

Get an old jar (it doesn't matter what it looks like) and clean all the label off. It doesn't even need a lid. Now collect flowers whenever you see them, and add them bit by bit to the jar. Leave the jar on a warm windowsill, uncovered, so that the blossoms dry out. You can also add fragrant leaves like eucalyptus and lemon-scented geranium, or small buds of anything with an interesting scent. Remember to keep the flower heads whenever a dead bunch of flowers is going into the bin!

Once you have a good amount that's nicely dried out, add a few drops of your favourite scent. You can even use inexpensive perfume for this (keep an eye out at garage sales and dollar stores). You can add bulk to the mix with pine cones, small leaves, or even pieces of bark and stems.

To give it as a gift, you can present it in a few different ways. It can go in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon or twine; you can give it in a nice fancy jar, a small inexpensive jewellery box, a nick-nack container (check your second-hand shops!) or you can even click here to make a simple box from origami - you just make two, one slightly bigger for the lid. Even an old bottle would be suitable as long as you can get the potpourri inside!

05 October, 2010

Gifts in a Jar: Bubblebath

Probably the simplest home-made gift ever, but it can still be really nice.

Get a pretty jar from your local dollar store or second hand shop. You could even use an old wine bottle if it has a screw-top lid. Clean well and remove any labels.

Back at your dollar store, find some nice-smelling bubble bath or shower gel. (Optional: perfume, essential oil or other scent if you wish to add it).

Fill the bottle with the bubble bath. Make a pretty label on your computer, or decorate a small gift card to attach to the bottle. You can dress the bottle up with ribbons, a bow, a silk rose, or raffia. If you wish, you can add a sprig of rosemary to clear bottles to add to the look. For kids, put in a small toy and decorate with stickers. Check more bottle-decorating ideas by looking at images on Google - some of them are just amazing!

01 October, 2010

Phew, it's been a while

And I haven't blogged in so long that I've forgotten how to type. Maybe.

I've been a busy little bee today in the kitchen, baking a cake for Jay's 14th birthday tomorrow. When it comes to cakes... and my cooking "skills"... um, there aren't any. I can cook an ordinary packet mix and it will taste acceptable, but the aesthetics of my decorating leave much to be desired. So today, much as I expected, my cake tastes like pretty much nothing. The banana can be detected (this is acceptable) but the chocolate cannot, and this is, well, disappointing if not unsurprising.

The real surprise so far is having extracted the cake from the tin without it disintegrating. I pondered how horribly sweet the icing would be on a tasteless cake and went a'Googling, and discovered Ganache. It's now cooling so that I can check if it will be thick enough not to slide off the cake in a gooey mess.

My industriousness has led to me thinking about Christmas. It's late for an Aussie to begin thinking about Christmas. It's ridiculously early for a Finn to, since the over-commercialisation of Christmas hasn't yet saturated the Helsinki streets, and you can wander into a shop on December 23 here and be out of the checkout in five minutes flat.

I have a few tried and tested ideas for do-it-yourself gifts, and I'd like to add a few more. Stay tuned... but don't hold your breath in case I completely forget to post anymore!