Homemade Christmas Gifts

I had a blast making gifts to give away this Christmas.  It’s not often we have the time or the money to get gifts for all of our family and friends, but since I’ve been unemployed “temporarily retired” for the past two months, I’ve had time on my hands to make homemade gifts!

Last year I took the Buy Handmade Pledge.  Call me Ebenezer Scrooge, but I just don’t feel good, for many reasons, about the amount of “stuff” Christmas has come to generate commercially:  mass-produced presents, plastic, all those cards and wrapping paper, etc.  I much prefer to give and receive things handmade or homemade, and to support individual artists as often as I can.  This year was my chance not only to buy a few handmade gifts, but to make several things myself.  With only a few exceptions (suet + cages for feeding the birds, mason jars, and a calendar I had printed up using my own photos of my friend Bev’s garden), nearly all of the gifts we gave out this year were handmade!

 

 

Just about everyone got some sort of food – things I have canned, pickled, or otherwise preserved.  Some of the gals got all natural (homemade!) body care products.  My mom and sister got handmade (and fabulous) Hair Towels from an Etsy vendor. 

Here’s some of what we gave:

Cayenne Pickled Green Beans

 

 

PA Dutch Pickled Eggs & Beets

 

 Mustard

(GREAT recipe for mustard HERE.)

Pickled Jalapenos

 

Bergamot Bath Fizz, Rosemary Mint Sugar Scrub, Lemongrass Ginger Sugar Scrub, Lavender Hibiscus Bath Salts, and Lavender Rose Petal Bath Salts – ALL  of which I learned how to make thanks to Stevie at Garden Therapy.

 

 

 

 

I had way too much fun making my own labels with some crafting paper  I had on hand, scissors, and a glue stick!

Lavender-Hibiscus Bath Salts

 

No photos of the Sourdough Starter or the VERY hot Tomatillo Salsa, but we gave away plenty of those too.

It was so much fun making everything and being able to give so many things that I had made myself.  This year it truly was better to give than to receive!

She Certainly Can…Can-Can…

Ella Fitzgerald, anyone?  We may not be “having a heat wave,” but I am looking forward to warmer weather and canning!

It’s been years since I’ve canned anything.  There’s something about those finished jars all lined up that is so lovely and satisfying…I’m hoping that between our CSA weekly produce and the veggies we grow ourselves we’ll be able to can a few things besides FIGS.

Come August and September, I suspect I’ll be googling every fig recipe out there and working on a few fig jam recipes…here’s hoping all my friends and family like it, because I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone will get for Christmas this year!

Mr. B and I moved into a place last year that has 4 really old, healthy, and well established fig trees on the property and last year we literally couldn’t give them away fast enough.  Birds, squirrels, neighbors – together we were no match for the trees, which continued to produce figs faster than we could keep up with.  Purple splats stained the yard and walkway.  There were many happy insects in our yard.

THIS year, I’ll be prepared…with jars, lids, and a new pressure canner.  Here’s the one I’m looking at:

It’s an All American, and it gets pretty rave reviews.  People seem to like that it doesn’t use a gasket – fewer parts to wear out and replace down the line, solid construction, and a good guaranty.  These beasts (and they are big) seem to last forever.

While it will hopefully solve the problem of what to do with all those FIGS, it sure doesn’t solve the “but where are we going to PUT it” issue.  Sigh.

Still, it will be worth it to can up  some pickles, green beans, pesto, roasted peppers, and my husband’s amazing tomato sauce!

Anyone else out there thinking ahead?  What are some of your favorite things to can?