Tis the holiday season of gift giving. There are a variety of ways to express your creative side and make homemade gifts your family and friends will treasure. I am blessed to have many amazingly talented sisters in my family. They all have the gift of creative craft making who like to share talent and ideas with me. Most will probably tell you I am a pro with shears, my extent of crafting, but I do know a bit about gardening and crafting with herbs and flowers. Together, we bring creative ideas to the table.
Handmade soaps have always been a favorite of mine to make. They are simple to craft and the variety of soap textures, scents and shapes are endless. I purchased a melting pot soap maker and a variety of molds years ago and will be breaking it out this week in preparation for soap making.
I prefer using moisturizing glycerin (clear) or goat milk for a creamy white soap. Some ingredients you can add are ground apricot kernels (great for facial soap bars), quick oats, chamomile, lavender, rosemary and a wide array of essential oils. Use caution when mixing ingredients into your soap base, as some of them may discolor your soap. Clear glycerin is prone to discoloring. Melting soap slowly and adding a color stabilizer can prevent it from happening.
For information on color stabilizers go to: http://www.brambleberry.com/
Slice lemon or orange rinds and place into the soap mold after you have melted and poured your soap base. Soaps look particularly fancy when wrapped in 1 ribbon and a sprig of rosemary or lavender tucked under the ribbon. They make great stocking stuffers.
SPRINGTIME IN DECEMBER
Forcing indoor blooming bulbs is a beautiful way to bring the vibrant color and fragrance of spring into your home. It is a perfect gift for anyone, even for the garden challenged. Hyacinths, narcissus, crocus, and amaryllis bloom nicely indoors.
Forcing bulbs to bloom requires the bulbs to be stored in the cold for a period-of-time. They will then be ready to plant. Most bulbs purchased at garden centers have already been hardened off and should be ready to grow indoors.
There are two methods to force bulbs in either water or soil. Select a container for the bulbs. If you are using the water method to force blooming, use a small glass vase or shallow bowl. Fill with polished pebbles, place the bulb on top (roots down, nose tip up) and fill with water. To keep the bulbs secured in the pebbles, place the bulb deep enough so the basal plate is touching the water. The basal plate is the bottom of the bulb from where roots grow.
Forcing bulbs in soil is as simple as the water method. Fill your container with soil and place the bulb on the top layer of soil. Bury the roots but not the bulb. Make sure the bottom is touching the soil. Water thoroughly and place in a sunny location.
Baking is another family favorite. My sisters, moms and I each bake two to three different varieties of cookies and have a cookie exchange in December. We often have eight to 10 types of cookies we share with each other and enough to box up for the special people in our lives. Our cookie exchange is a tradition I look forward to every year and the kids love it, too.
If youre looking for that perfect ginger-bread cookie recipe, you can follow the link to an article last December, www.idahostatesman.com/2011/12/21/1925491_u-of-i-master-gardener.html
Another delicious idea for gift giving is making apple butter. Apple butter was a staple in our refrigerator as kids. My sister, Katie, makes the most delicious apple butter ever, and she gave me permission to share her special recipe. Fill a big crock pot with about 20 cored and peeled apples. You can use a variety of apples. Add two cups cider or apple juice and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours.
Blend in a food processor, put the apples back in the crock pot and add two cups sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. each of nutmeg, allspice and ginger. Stir well and cook on low for another six to 10 hours. The apple butter will be creamy delicious and ready to jar, decorate and give.
Get your creative ideas flowing, purchase local goods for crafting and bring your homemade gifts to the tree for giving. I am so very thankful to have such a diverse group of loving sisters who continue to share their great ideas and awesome talents with me. Together, we can create anything.
If you have questions for future articles or would like to share your crafting ideas, zip me an email to: IdahoGardenGirl@gmail.com