I sometimes daydream about having my own crafting room filled with colourful baubles, doodads and other upcycled delights that can be stitched, glued and strung together in my fairyland of endless free time.
The reality is that I mostly do this stuff in a messy frenzy a couple of weeks before the holidays. For those of you who aren't like my talented friend Sarah from digginthedirt.ca and don't have a pantry of homemade preserves to dole out or the skills to gift your friends, say, a loaf of home-baked, artisanal sourdough bread (yes, Sarah promised me all this and a new hand-knit hat!), I've got a few options that require little time and minimal skill.
If you have any baking abilities at all, you can, of course, go the classic route and bring your buds your favourite fresh-baked cookies (check out Sarah's gingerbread cookies). A bigger no-brainer, though, involves doling out homemade cookie, brownie, granola or soup mix in a jar - basically layering your recipe in a Mason jar with cooking instructions on a crafty tag. Just google "recipes in a jar" for a play-by-play.
Speaking of jars, another craft goddess friend of mine, Tiffany, has just put together little jar parties-turned-gifts on her blog, tiffanypratt.com. Basically, fill Mason jars with random personalized magic bits and bobs like foraged pieces of cedar, pine needles, stones, New Year's Eve kazoos, jingly bells, maybe a vintage jewellery trinket, some organic candy, all depending on the person.
Everyone could use a jar of my fave creamy cleaning scrub (not for your face but for counters, sinks, stoves). Again in a jar, mix 2 cups of baking soda, ½ cup castile soap, 4 teaspoons veggie glycerin and 5-plus drops of essential oil (mine's eucalyptus). I got this from womenandenvironment.org. Just tie some twine around it, tag it and voila.
Speaking of scrubs, DIY organic body scrubs always go over well this time of year. A basic recipe using 1 cup gritty stuff (organic sugar, alone or with Epsom salts or coffee grounds), ¼ cup quality oil (I'll be using Ontario-grown organic sunflower oil, but grapeseed and olive oil work well, too) and whatever tarting up you like: vanilla extract, lemon/orange zest, lavender or grapefruit essential oil, dried rose petals. We're talking one-two-three-done.
A couple of readers are making DIY lotion bars as gifts this year. Put ½ cup of coconut oil, ½ cup organic/fair trade shea butter or cocoa butter and 2/3 cup of grated beeswax (like from old candles) in a large Mason jar; then put the jar in a saucepan filled with a few inches of water. Stir until well melted and mixed, then pour into muffin tins and let cool.
FYI, there are way more recipes for DIY body care, cleaners, baby and mommy balms/oils/powders at makeyourcosmetics.com and in my latest book, Ecoholic Body.
Have even the most basic sewing skills? In the past I've made vintage band T-shirt pillows as well as eye masks and eye pillows (filled with flax and lavender) from remnant fabric. This year readers suggested coffee cup cozies from recycled jeans or felted old sweaters: wash old wool in hot water, then cut/stitch to fit coffee cup; sleeves are easiest.
Loop scarves are all the rage, but if you have no knitting or sewing skills, no worries. Cut the hem off an old T-shirt; then, using the torso, slice into horizontal strips being sure to keep the vertical seam intact so each strip becomes a loop. (See instructables.com/id/DIY-Looped-Scarf) Tie loops together with a scrap.
You can braid neck-laces and bracelets with these loops, too. Honestly, old Ts can be transformed into everything from halters to grill mitts. Scope out generation-t.com. I promise you, you don't need the Ghost of Martha Present to do any of these projects.