Four easy, homemade gifts

I’ve been working on a list of 29 things I’d like to do, learn, achieve and improve upon this year and getting better at choosing gifts is something I want to work on this next year. It’s a work in progress though. I have no idea what to give those people who have everything and especially for those people who can buy anything. I decided months ago to do a few homemade/handmade gifts and while I’m running out of time (only 10 days left!), there are a few I’ve whipped up in no time at all.

And by few, I mean two varieties of two different things. But who’s counting?

IMG_1609

In about an hour last night, I made a half dozen jars of brown sugar vanilla body scrub, half dozen jars of white peppermint sugar scrub, six jars of cinnamon oatmeal milk bath powder and three jars of chocolate oatmeal milk bath powder for teacher gifts and small gifts to friends and family members (yes, even some of you who are reading – hi!).

IMG_1607

The best part wasn’t even how quick the process was. And it wasn’t how easy it was. The best part is how you can take so little and stretch it out to make so much – and by so little, I mean so little money and so few ingredients! These products are also all-natural and contain no chemical toxins, so they are completely safe for a home with children and pets (you can eat them, trust me!).

All four recipes use ingredients found in most kitchens, but even if you don’t have some of them, you won’t go broke buying them. I started making the sugar scrub months ago, using a recipe I found in a Reader’s Digest book called Homemade, but I found that the mixture was too oily. I’ve modified it (and modified it more last night!) and I think we have a good thing going now (I hope, anyway!). I am most proud of the peppermint scrub and the chocolate oatmeal powder because those are my little bright ideas!

IMG_1611

The sugar scrubs are so simple to make and save so much money. In a medium mixing bowl, mix three cups of sugar, one cup of vegetable oil and 1/8 teaspoon of extract. For the peppermint scrub, use white sugar and peppermint extract; for the brown sugar vanilla scrub, you would obviously use brown sugar (or a mix of brown and white) and vanilla (I would probably use 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract because it’s not as fragrant and overpowering as the peppermint). Mix thoroughly, then spoon into containers with lids. I used 8-ounce Ball jars (I purchased a dozen at Kroger for $12), which, obviously hold about a cup of the mixture. Each batch should fill three 8-oz. jars.

IMG_1614

I used the peppermint scrub in the shower this morning and it was fabulous! As is the brown sugar scrub. The sugar acts as an exfoliant to slough off dead skin and the oil renews and retains your body’s moisture, making your skin feel soft and luxe. Peppermint also stimulates the skin’s oil production and helps combat drying. The sugar scrub’s scent is not chemical, it is natural, so it is not long-lasting, but it is energizing and festive. You can also try it on your lips to remove chapped skin.

I made the milk bath powder as a companion to the scrub. What I want for these women is a moment of relaxation – a moment where they can take a few minutes out of their day to sit back and enjoy nothingness. The scrub can be used in the shower or the bath, but the powder in the bath alone.

IMG_1617

To make it, combine one cup of powdered milk, 1/2 cup finely ground all-natural old-fashioned oats, 1/2 cup baking soda, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon or chocolate. The Reader’s Digest recipe said to combine everything in the food processor, but I don’t own one; instead I used my little teeny chopper to ground the powdered milk and oats. I added all of the ingredients to a mixing bowl, then whisked it all together thoroughly. Each batch will make 12 ounces, which is three 4-ounce jars (bought nine at Kroger for about $9).

The recipe also called for cinnamon, but I wondered how cocoa powder would act, so I subbed it for the cinnamon on the last batch. And? I think that was my favorite! I had a little leftover, but not enough for an actual bath, so I tested it using a bowl of lukewarm water (hot water will dry the skin). The smell was fantastic – it’s like bathing in chocolate milk with warm oatmeal cookies on the side! Fabulous, fabulous. Milk baths are beneficial to the skin because of its natural acids: the lactic acid acts as a gentle cleanser for the skin and the beta hydroxy acid is also a skin exfoliant. There are also health benefits for the other ingredients, such as a boost in cognitive function and memory after smelling the cinnamon.

Making these, as I said, was easy and it was quite fun, too. I was rather excited about the whole thing, honestly! I’m going to tie the jars with festive ribbon – in browns and greens – and put inside bright green paper bags we’ve had on top of our fridge for several months (can you say ‘low-cost wrap job’?).

IMG_1623

Twenty-one little gifts for about $42! I’m hoping the thought, work and love that was put into these overshadows the fact that they are inexpensive gifts. And I’m no Scrooge – I’ll even throw in the recipe so they can make more!

10 thoughts on “Four easy, homemade gifts

  1. Cynthia
    December 15, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Love these, Echo! I think this would be a great task to do with the kids. Then they can tell their teachers that they actually helped make them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  2. CJ
    December 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    You’re as creative as ever! Those look beautiful!

  3. Dara
    December 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Adorable!! And great gifts! I love these kinds of gifts, even though they don’t cost a lot, the person who gave it to you spent the time thinking of you and making you something, which is a gift in of itself and I don’t care how cheesy that sounds!!

    PS I love you and can’t wait to see you Friday!!!

  4. Echo
    December 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Cyn – I thought about waiting to share, so as not to spoil the surprise, but I decided to anyway because it’s still the last week before Christmas break here and I know other moms are grasping at straws for ideas!

    Dara – good, because you’re getting some! lol! Can’t wait to see ya on Friday!

  5. Dara
    December 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Oh … I didn’t mean for me. Awkward …

  6. Michele
    December 17, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I’m gonna make some scrub this weekend for gifts. Any idea on how long it stays fresh?

  7. Echo
    December 17, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    The scrub will keep for 6 months in the fridge and the powder will keep indefinitely. :)

  8. Alisa
    December 18, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Do you have to refrigerate the scrub??

    I love this and am making some this weekend! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Echo
      December 18, 2009 at 1:00 pm

      Alisa, I don’t refrigerate mine, but the original recipe recommended it. I store mine in a plastic container (with a lid, of course) in my shower.

  9. December 17, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    I LOVE this idea. I just finished making my first two batches of the sugar scrub. Tomorrow morning bright and early I’m trying the oatmeal milk bath. I cannot wait to give this as gifts to all of the women in my life! THANK YOU for sharing!