December 16, 2010

a DIY Christmas

Homemade gifts are my favorite kind. I love giving them and I love receiving them. I've been making gifts to give to friends and family almost every year since high school when I used to bake my mom's sugar cookies for my girlfriends who looked forward to them every year. There were some cute button boxes that I gave to all my female relatives one year. And the batik teddy bears that I made another year. And of course many people have received my baked goods over the years. A couple of years ago we collected the walnuts that had fallen all over our neighborhood and made walnut liqueur which I poured into pretty glass bottles and gave to friends and family.

It seems things have been tight financially for as long as I can remember, which is always a good reason not to go crazy with the Christmas consumerism. But financial woes notwithstanding, I still think I would give homemade gifts even if money were not an issue for me. I just enjoy the process of making things and the feeling of giving something that was made with love.

I had fantasies of making artisan chocolates this year. D's mom gave me a silicone chocolate mold for Christmas last year and I have been dying to use it. But tempering chocolate so that it reaches just the right temperature to harden after melting can be tricky and I just didn't have the time this year to experiment.

So I settled on making jams. All you need is some fruit, some sugar and a little bit of time. I made about 14 jars to give away of three different kinds: grapefruit marmelade (from a recipe by Nigella Lawson, it's made with brown sugar and molasses); cranberry-blackberry which is sweet and tart; and pear jam with just the right amount of vanilla bean to give it some depth of flavor.

I had fun deciding what to make and cooking and jarring the jams, but what I really enjoy is decorating the jars with cute labels, festive ribbons and unique tags. I downloaded the labels for free from 100layercake, a cool DIY wedding blog and then printed them on avery labels. Get them here.

I set up a craft table in my dining room and stocked it with all the wrapping paper scraps, recycled ribbon, scissors, glue, gift tags and inspiring magazines I could find. I spent very little money, had tons of fun and now have all my Christmas gifts done. It sure beats going to the mall!

Oh- and today was baking day. I made several dozen cookies with my friend Rachel to give away and take home to my family next week. We made gingerbread boys, linzer cookies and pizzelles... but that's another post. Happy Holidays!