Uplift yourself and others by giving homemade gifts this holiday season.
"Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted." -Buddha
Christmas this year is just not going to be the same. Whether it means keeping a safe distance from loved ones or missing those who have been lost to the virus (or otherwise in my family’s case), things are just going to be and feel different.
That’s why I have been coming up with some simple ways to spread more holiday cheer to friends and family near and far. Because we need it this year more than ever.
Giving is such a powerful act and when we can take the time to make things ourselves it adds an extra layer of peace, love and uplifting energy.
Holiday Snail Mail
I haven’t always sent a Christmas card, but since I stopped sharing photos of my kids online and my husband posts about 3 a year I have tried to make it a habit.
This year I stepped it up a notch and did a full on letter, with a collection of photos, full of my best attempts at humor, in an effort to put a smile on the faces of friends and family. I gave a quick synopsis of our year, shared our news of baby #3 and topped it off with a few of our favorite kid quotes from 2020. So far it's been a big hit.
I’ve always had aspirations to fill tins of cookies to pass around to friends and neighbors and I finally made it happen this year. I even got the cookie recipe book my mom used when we were growing up, gifted to her by my grandmother, which made it feel traditional and special.
This is a great practice for non attachment, because making all of these goodies and then giving them away without eating a bunch requires some dedicated effort!
In my tins I included:
-Red ribbon Spritz cookies
-Christmas tree, star and snowflake sugar cookies
-Candied orange slices dipped in dark chocolate
The recipes for the cookies and bars are in the Cooky Book (I used the sugar cookie recipe from the New Cook Book), but the orange slices are super easy to make.
Canided Orange Slices:
-Cut an orange in half
-We juiced ours because it is one of the kids' favorite things to do in the kitchen, but you could skip that step
-Use a spoon to scrape the fruit off of the peel
-Slice the remaining orange peel into slices
-Add to a pan and cover in water
-Bring the water to a boil, then strain it out (I do this twice to get rid of bitterness)
-Cover in water again, pushing the slices down so you need a minimal amount
-Add sugar, I used 1/4 cup for two orange peels
-Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid is gone (watch it closely!)
-Lay the slices out on a piece of parchment paper, sprinkle with sugar and let dry overnight
-Heat up some chocolate chips until melted
-Dip the slices in the chocolate, again laying out until dry
-Store in the refridgerator
I had a stash of jam jars overtaking one of our kitchen cupboards that I’d been saving for no known reason. The pretty red and white plaid lids felt quite festive so I thought to turn them into candles! I had never done it before, but it was actually quite easy and very simple .
I ordered a candle making set online and got out my essential oils! These make the perfect item to drop off on the doorsteps of anyone you want to spread some light to.
Simple DIY Candles
+Add wax to a glass Pyrex measuring cup (the jars I used held about 2 cups)
+Microwave for 5 minutes (if your wax is not liquid continue to heat for 30 second increments)
+While wax is melting in the microwave, place your wick in the holder and set atop jar (I had a placemat laid out to protect the countertop)
+Carefully remove wax from microwave (glass will be hot) and add your desired scent (I probably added 30 or so drops)
+Pour the liquid wax into the jar and position the wick to be as straight and centered as possible
+Let sit to dry in a place safe from small hands (mine took about an hour and a half to fully solidify)
+Trim the wick, put the lid on and adorn with gift tags or ribbon
The kids and I made a variety of ornaments this year, but the salt dough and orange slices were my favorite. I got a house cookie cutter to make some special ornaments for some families that had moved to a new house this year which felt more meaningful than a generic holiday shape.
-½ cup flour
-¼-½ cup water
(I doubled it, but we made A LOT of ornaments. I also added some food coloring to some of it, not completely mixing it in to get a marbled effect.)
+Slowly add in the water to get the right consistency, it’s similar to playdough and you don’t want it to be sticky
+Knead it until it is nice and pliable, then roll out and cut out with cookie cutters
+Use a paper clip to poke holes for string, making some concentric circles until the hole is the desired size
+Let air dry overnight or put them in the oven at 200 and check regularly
For the orange slices, simply slice your orange and lay on a wire rack atop a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Set your oven to its lowest temp and then flip the slices every hour or so. The cooking time will depend on how thick you cut the orange, the thinner the faster. It is important for the slices to be completely dry to avoid them from going bad (you are dehydrating them which preserves them). You can also give these as part of potpourri, or a pantry item to be used in teas and soups.
We threaded string through ours, adding some wooden beads and salt dough stars.
A monk once asked the Chinese Zen master Hui-hai, "What is the gate of Zen practice?" Hui-hai answered, "Complete giving."
It feels so good to make gifts, getting to add in some extra care and love to the whole process. It's also a fun way to get the kids involved and teach them the deeper meanings of what we celebrate.
I hope this inspires some lovingly made gifts and merry making in your home this Christmas!