Gifts from the heart

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Nov 16, 2006
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Just came accross this article and thought it might interesting to share:

Gifts from the heart

Only 39 days till Christmas. And there's a major gift list to tackle.

You can hit the ground in fast-paced stressful strides — amid the mire of holiday traffic and crowds — to shop for gifts.

Or you can opt out for some leisurely at-home time with the family — sharing wintertime weekends and evenings making personalized gifts for those near and dear.

"I almost always give handmade items as Christmas gifts, especially to my family members," says Heather Hart of Ash Grove. "I like to give them something I've made instead of bought, because it's part of me and it's more from the heart."

"My grandmother, Laura Nell Hall, would much rather have a handmade gift --whether pricey or not — than anything else," says Hart, who's been crafting gifts since high school (cloth jewelry boxes, then placemats, potholders and other sewn items). These days, she's creating jewelry for Christmas giving.

Hart says making her own gifts is relaxing, fun, challenging and rewarding, plus something she can do at home while spending time with her family. She's already introduced her 7-year-old son, Nicholas, to the traditional gift-making fold.

Last year, he made foam ornaments for folks on his gift list. Foam crafts — which can be cut, glued together, written on and painted — are currently a hot item with kids, says Bryan Crowder, manager of Hobby Lobby on Battlefield Road, which carries kits and supplies for a variety of craft projects for all age groups.

Popular for holiday projects are woodwork, scrapbooks, needlework, soap, candles, stencil-art and quilts, Crowder says.

Particularly hot:

"There seems to be a surge of interest in dried floral arrangements this year. We've got a lot of people coming in for supplies to make seasonal dried arrangements they're intending for Christmas gifts," he says. "... And molding, decorating and personalizing steppingstones — with handprints, messages and colorful jewels or stones — is a very popular Christmas gift project."

While many of the supplies for homemade gift projects can by purchased at local craft supply stores, a trip to the pantry or grocery store may be required for other projects, such as the deliciously attractive gifts-in-a-jar.

Gifts-in-a-jar, explains University of Missouri Extension nutritionist Judy Leuders, are simply food mixes attractively layered in a jar.

"These are composed of nonperishable ingredients layered in quart canning jars with instructions included on what to add and how to prepare the product," she says.

A host of recipes (and instructions) for jar-gift soups, special pancakes, cookies and other baked goods can be found at www.momsbudget .com and http://busycooks .com.

The lids of the jars can be decorated in a variety of motifs by gluing circles of fabric or lace (an inch or so larger in diameter than the jar lid) to the flat lids, forming a skirt when the rim is screwed into place.

When giving, you can combine these jars with a new pot or pan to cook or bake the food item. Or you may want to add an aromatic homemade spicy hot pad or plate on which the final product can be served.

A hot pad can be created out of spices enclosed in cloth or, as Phyllis Shaudys suggests in her book "Herbal Treasures," you can make a spiced-up hot plate by gluing a series of 3-inch cinnamon sticks (in any arrangement you choose) on a 6 by 6-inch, 1/4-inch thick plywood base with a felt bottom.

Instructions for the jar-food prep and hot pad use and storage can be hand-written or computer-generated and attached to the jar, gift-tag style, or glued to the back of the gift.

Folks with a computer set-up have a host of personalized Christmas gift options available, says Gloria Downey, of Bois D'Arc.

Creating a personalized photo CD — along with musical accompaniment — is one idea. And a paper-bound photo album is always a welcome gift.

"If you've got a scanner, you can personalize an entire set of note cards or stationery for a creative gift," Downey says.

Objects or photos can be scanned and the images can be printed onto blank pre-cut cards or correspondence stationery sheets, she explains.

Complete sets containing the notecards or paper, plus envelopes are available in most electronics supply outlets and the office section of retail stores. Once printed with the personalized image or message, the materials can be repackaged in the original box and wrapped up for gift-giving. ... 60365/1005