Wedding Season Approaches: Gift Basket

I am, I admit, one of those annoying people who takes one look at a registry and gets B.O.R.E.D. bored. Putting gifts together with a little more thought and whimsy is more my style, so to that effect here is an “Anniversary Basket” that I put together for one wedding. The best thing about it? It’s a picnic basket!

The basket contained: 2 dessert plates, a bottle of champagne, 2 champagne flutes,
tea lights, and celebration poppers, all nestled in tulle and ribbon. 
Any chance to rhyme and I’ll do it!
I was very specific about the instructions!
In the interest of “reduce, recycle, and reuse,”
keep old packing paper for just this purpose –
propping up poppers!
Also, secondhand stores are a great place to find baskets, just steam and reuse!

Valentine’s Day Card Countdown Day Two

This is a gold envelope with the flap removed and a blue notecard cut to fit inside. Pull it out for a sweet note! Decor: stickers and a flower image (Better Homes and Gardens is a great source for those).
Standard Valentine’s Day fare: cardstock, sky print stationery, puff-paint style lettering (the dot at the end of each letter hides any shakiness) AND an old-school valentine cut up for the heart.
This is a favorite. Ever wonder what to do with those little gift books people give you? You know, the ones with quotes about friendship? Thank them politely, read through them once or twice, and then – ta da! There’s something about this one that feels so wistful.

Peanut Butter Fudge…Butter

Okay, so I made some fudge today. I have never made it before, and my forays into the kitchen are honestly few and far between. But in favor of my “make all my gifts in 2010” resolution, I am trying to think outside the box of paintings, boxes, and painted boxes.

So I made this recipe, found in my mother’s house on a sheet of green paper, author unknown:

“Peanut Butter Fudge”
1 cup plus 3 tbs peanut butter
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tbs baking cocoa
1 tbs vanilla extract
Does anyone see what’s wrong with this equation? Look again at the butter content. Needless to say, my peanut butter fudge is really just fudgy peanut butter, extra butter. So.
I put it in jars. Like true butter, it went willingly. Now, paired with a tin of pretzels and a bow (because what jar is not better with a bow?), you have chocolate covered pretzels, do it yourself style. Make a cute Martha-type label and you’re good to go.
To make some chocolate fudge spread meant for that purpose, try The British Larder, an adorable recipe blog, and the source of the above image (copyright grey area resolution notwithstanding):
To see how the professions do gifts in a jar, try this site and you’ll see what I mean about the bow:

I don’t know why both of these sites are from the UK. I suspect it’s because the Brits just do chocolate better. Ever had a Kit-Kat over there? It would blow your mind.

Light the Way Outside the Box

If you really want to go homemade this Christmas, think candles. They’re warm, they’re pretty, they smell good, and flame is comforting. Since you can buy candles $2 for a dozen at your neighborhood Wal-Mart, a regular old candle isn’t so much the way to go. Instead begin to think of what could be holding the candle, and that, my friends, is fun that could go on all year. Here I have included my two favorites, which are the reason I began thinking candle crazy in the first place.

You’ll Need:
The first container I chose is a light blue Earl Grey Winter White tea tin – fantastic. Or, it would have been, if I didn’t try to melt down a little red candle with a big green one. That equals brown. So included with the Earl Grey tea tin is my handy chisel, which with the help of a hammer is the best way to convince stubborn wax to regroup. Before trying to remove wax from an old container, put it in the freezer first.
The second holder, my favorite, is the tiny teacup. I found this at Goodwill for .59 cents, chipped handle and waiting for me! Also at Goodwill and the like is a good source of wax – old pillar candles. Sometimes they smell good, sometimes they don’t, but a scentless pillar can be combined with the endingsof an old Yankee Candle Co. candle or similar that has a really quality scent. Wal-Mart can also come to the rescue here with a few .25 cent scented votives to put into the mix.
Wicks – this is the only thing I recommend buying new, because an old wick is not strong enough to withstand the hot wax and gets curved. Then when you try to light the candle, the flame can’t follow the curve (can you tell I am speaking from experience a’la my tea tin?). Secure the wick at the bottom of your container with a little dab of hot glue.
Finally, you need an old pan from a second-hand store, because as easy as it is to wipe out a warm waxy pan with paper towels, there’s always the chance that your roommate will catch you.
Making the candles:
Put 3 inches of water in a large pan and bring to a boil. Then place the secondhand pan containing the wax chips into the large pan of water. In fancy kitchen land this is called a double-boiler. Reduce the heat to low, and patiently let the wax melt. It will take longer than you expect and then suddenly be as thin as water, so don’t leave it unattended and burn your kitchen down. Once the wax is liquid, pour it into the containers! With larger candles, pour in stages, letting layers harden before pouring more. If you don’t, the wax does this weird thing where it caves in at the center and then up around the wick, so it looks like a giant bellybutton. Not really the idea.

Light and enjoy!

Mini Spruce

Once you’ve made all your pearl decorations, a mini spruce is in order! This served as my first “college try” at a Christmas tree while in school and then became a gift for my mom. I used in tact pearl strands as the garland and the “star” is a rhinestone brooch pinned to a ribbon. The tree skirt is a scrap of lace from hemming a real skirt!

The Compilation Gift

I am a big fan of what I like to call the compilation gift, which is basically just fancy for gift basket. The fun thing about putting these together yourself is you can be more personal and creative than buying them ready- made. I like to go to secondhand stores for the container itself and be open to the surprise of what I find. Here is one fun compilation gift:

     This ceramic popcorn bowl is a great example of something that can inspire. The filling for this particular gift is 2 scary movies, local Kopper Kettle Candies (which can also be tailored to the recipient’s likes), and microwave popcorn. A gift certificate to a local movie theatre is also a great addition to a gift like this. For those who would like the experience of cooking popcorn on the stove, you could include little single-serving baggies of popcorn kernals, a little bottle of olive oil, and handwritten instructions for the pop:
              Take one small pan with a lid and set the stove to medium. Put in popcorn kernals and enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, cover, and wait till the popping stops!
     Another container for a gift like this could be a cute pan itself – the possibilities are endless! Fill the bottom of the bowl/basket/container with crumpled paper before putting in the goodies, that way everything sits nicely on top. For an extra finish you can buy shrink wrap at your local craft store, which is activated with a hair dryer.