I thought I'd throw out a few ideas for last-minute Christmas gifts for those of you not wanting to go near the shops at this time of year.
These are mostly things I've made/gifted in the last few years, with great results, not too expensive or time-consuming and quite original, if I say so myself!
Vanilla sugar: I bought some Kilner jars wholesale a few years back for about 5e each, plus a huge jar of vanilla pods for about 20e (I'm talking about 100 pods!). You could use a jam jar in a pinch, but a vintage one or even a tin would be pretty. You only need about 2 pods per kilo of sugar. Split your pods almost through, to get the perfume flowing, fill your container with granulated/caster sugar and shove in the vanilla. Within days this is perfumed beautifully, and perfect for baking, coffees, pancakes etc. Just top up the sugar when it gets low, I'm still doing this 2 years on!
Vanilla Extract: A good friend of mine is a baker extraordinaire, so I knew she'd appreciate this! I washed out a lemonade bottle with stopper, removed the label, stuffed it with about 50 vanilla pods, slit with the seeds scraped off and thrown in too, topped up with vodka, and left for 6 months to mature. I texted her that June and told her "I'm just preparing your Christmas present!" Of course she thought I was just high on the pregnancy hormones, but come December she knew what I was talking about, and was really touched by the gift.
Vanilla Vodka: You could just add 5 or 6 pods to a bottle of vodka and leave a few weeks/months either. Would be nice in white russians.
Lavender Pillow: In the days when I only had one child and oodles of spare time to sew and craft, I made a woolen lavender pillow for a friend's Christmas gift. I had thrifted a brand new wool jumper with a really mad 1980s colourway, which got cut up and sewn into a hot water bottle cover for my sister, and a 30cm x 20cm pillow filled with lavender buds and polyester stuffing. She still sits with it watching tv, I'm delighted to say!
Flavoured teas: This year I've made a couple of flavoured teas for friends, all using up some loose leaf black tea that I don't drink any more. I've mixed them in clean jam jars and just topped with cling film and a rubber band, but I fully intend to add a ribbon when I'm handing them over! One has rosebuds and lavender, one has crushed candy cane and silver balls, and one is a chai mix (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, black pepper...)
I gave some of this to a friend the other week, it was leftover dough from our gingerbread house session, which I rolled in greaseproof paper and froze. Cheap and cheerful, and tasty too.
Of course there are the staples, if you can do them (I can't) - fudge, toffee, caramel, truffles etc.
Or biscuits, scones, mince pies, a Christmas cake or pudding if you're really fancy.
Oh, I just remembered, I made cranberry sauce this evening, and will be dropping a small jar of it into a neighbour tomorrow. Dead easy and so much nicer than the shop-bought stuff:
Take fresh cranberries, throw into a pot/pan with sugar, port, cinnamon, mandarin juice and zest, cloves, cherry liqueur and enough water to keep it looking like sauce instead of jam. Cook until all berries are popped, decant into small bowls for the Christmas table or jars for gifting. Freezes well. Marvel at the ease in which you can look like you know what you're doing.
One present I can't wait to give is a photobook I made online via Snapfish http://www.snapfish.ie/
It's a compilation of my favourite photos of the four of us and especially Barry and I in the last 18 months. So many of our photos feature the kids, we've been trying to make more of an effort to get the two of us adults represented too, and I love the idea of a paper book we can have on the bookshelf to flick through as we get older. A friend recommended Snapfish, and I liked the quality of her finished photobook, so I shamelessly copied her one, apart from the photos that is! We rarely print out any of our digital photos, and then you have the problem of finding a photo album (why are they so expensive?!) so this is a real lazyass mama solution to the above dilemma. All you do is upload your chosen photos (from your computer or Facebook etc) and put them into the book of your choice. You can choose the layout of the photos and can add text too. This would be lovely for an anniversary gift / baby shower / hen/stag etc, any occasion really, and their templates are lovely too! Snapfish kindly gifted me the photobook in return for a shout-out on my blog and I should receive it this week!
That's all my ideas for now, have you any to share with us?