Simple Gifts

I posted before about some of my plans for a simple, debt-free holiday. I posted on Sunday night about the crayons I’m making for my nephew. I’m also making little toys for my niece and my Pie.

My plan is to make little treasure baskets to keep the wee ones occupied while the Mamas are cooking dinner or sweeping or folding laundry or – god forbid – going potty.

DSC_1141 This is just a little sample treasure basket that has a wooden spoon, a comb, a rock, a pinecone (I’ll need to find bigger pinecones that aren’t throat-shaped) a spoon, hair clip, tiny strainer, a homemade star rattle, empty bottle (TSA approved, of course) a little case that clips shut, a wool ball, and a book.

Since Babies like to play with what mama is playing with, I am going to use a combination of “baby” things, natural things, and grown-up things.

The best thing about this is that you can switch out items as the babes figure them out, so there’s always something new in the basket. And it’s easy to put the basket away and pull it out as a special toy for those times when mama needs a moment.

My little niece already has the rattles and wool balls that I made earlier this fall, so I’ll have to experiment with some new toys. I tried once to make these little chick toys but it was a disaster, so I’m going to try again with a new technique. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

pom pom chicks

I’ll make homemade play dough for my nephew.  He’s old enough now that play dough will be fun to mold into shapes – animals, cars, buildings. Too bad my little Pie is too young for play dough, I can’t wait to make some for her. I think I’m going to make a big batch of dough, and divide it into smaller balls of dough that my nephew can color himself with some food coloring. I’ll send the food coloring along with the dough (as well as some rubber gloves to work with!) and he and his mom can color the dough together.

Here is a super-simple homemade play dough recipe. There’s something about the smell of the salty dough that reminds me of being a kid. It’s probably because it smells just like the play dough my mom used to make for me. When I was a kid.

    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup salt
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 tsp cream of tartar
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine ingredients in saucepan, on medium heat stirring constantly until a ball forms. Remove from pan and knead for a few minutes. Divide the dough and add a few drops of food coloring, if desired, kneading to distribute the color. Keep in a zip top bag or air tight container.

And I made a little lady bug out of a rock. DSC_1142

Here’s the recipe:

    • Find a rock.
    • Paint it.
    • Add googly eyes.

It took more time to find the perfect rock than it did to make it into a bug! I just used sharpie, since my Pie is too young to participate and I have a long-standing love affair with sharpies. I don’t want to put googly eyes on the bug because it will just end up in someone’s mouth, but when Pie is old enough to participate she can use all the googly eyes she wants.

For the grown-ups on my list, I’ll be buying some things and making some things. I already bought pie pans for one person, and will be giving some  made goodies as well.

DSC_1150 So far I’ve got preserved lemons, brandied chestnut preserves and mojo de ajo.

I’ll admit, I’m obsessed.When I make mojo for myself, I buy garlic at costco and make it in a giant pyrex container. I end up with this:DSC_1053 Since I keep it in the fridge and my fridge is pretty cold, the olive oil solidifies on top of the garlic. But no matter, it melts the second it hits a warm pan. Nearly every meal starts with onions and mojo de ajo. As far as I’m concerned, there’s not much that onions and roasted garlic can’t fix.

But I digress.

I’m also planning to make pear preserves and candied orange peel for my holiday gifts. We’ll see how much I get done, and what else I come up with for the people on my list – small & tall.


  1. Love the debt-free idea. The Husband and I just bought and renovated our new house last year.......so, low funds for Xmas now. We will spend on the boys, but for each other? (No.)I hatched a genius plan: we will secretly go around the house and scoop up stuff the other one already owns and then wrap it in our fabric (reuseable) gift bags! Yay! Crazy, but still yay. This way, we both have goodies to open, and we DO always say we have everything we need. I plan to wrap the alarm clock and a butter knife. Maybe the keys?

  2. LOVE the idea of wrapping the keys. One year I wrapped the smoke detector for my dad. It was funny in my head. My mountain man and I are just starting the house search, so every purchase seems to me like it's taking money away from that goal.

    I should steal your idea of wrapping my mountain man's keys. I one time accidentally took his keys with me on a trip to CA, so it's kind of a joke with us. He was threatening to get me back, until one weekend after a camping trip I left my keys in his glove box and couldn't get myself to work on Monday!


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