Monday, December 20, 2010

Down to the Wire Ten

Ten Things You Can Make as Last Minute Gifts

Collaborative or Family Cookbook: My mom is making a family version of this for my nephew's new wife: ask your friends and/or family for their all-time favorite or most famous recipes, type them up or photocopy them, and put them into a booklet or binder divided into sections (appetizers, entrees, side dishes, etc.) Add your own recipes and hints about holiday celebrations, photos of past friend/family get-togethers, etc. To add a special note, present it in a basket with all the ingredients to make one of the recipes.

Cozy Evening Bag: In a large recyclable gift or shopping bag put a warm throw or lap quilt, fuzzy socks, a CD of holiday music, a book you love to curl up with, a coffee mug, something to make a hot drink (like tea bags, hot cocoa mix, small jar of instant decaf coffee) and some snacks (cookies, candy, nuts, etc.)

Custom CD mixes: Have fun with your music collection and create playlists with interesting themes, i.e. holiday classics, road trip tunes, music for a bubble bath, rock out blasters, romantic nights, etc. Burn your playlists onto CDs and design your own mix cover art for the cases spotlighting the theme (if you can use pictures of the recipient that relate to the theme, even better.)

DVD Exchange: This is a reciprocal gift I do with friends every year that is great fun because it is always a surprise. Agree to exchange DVDs of your favorite movie or TV show of the year, or if you prefer a particular genre use themes like "Best SyFy Channel Show" or "Must-See Mini-Series." Present yours in a bag with some microwave popcorn and classic theater treats (like Twizzlers, Raisinets, M&Ms.)

Freebie Reads Bundle: Download some e-books that are in public domain or that the authors have posted for free on the internet (links to all mine are here) and burn them on CD, or print them out and place them in a binder. This works well as another reciprocal gift.

Holiday Pomander Basket: A pomander is a natural air freshener, and for this gift you'll need fruit (oranges, apples and/or lemons work best) studded with whole cloves, a basket, fresh greens (twigs from a pine tree with green needles look nice, so do any small branches you've trimmed from your Christmas tree.) Line your basket with the greens and make the pomanders (that artist woman blog has good directions on how to insert the cloves here.) Place the pomanders on top of the greens. Add little touches like candles, cinnamon sticks or other fragrant bits to add to the aroma.

Memory Album: I'm doing this for several people on my list who don't realize how often I've photographed them (being sneaky with the camera helps.) Go through your photos for the year of your recipient, print out the best and put them in chronological order in a small brag book or photo album. Add funny captions along the top or bottom border, or note the time/event on the back side. My mom made one for my college kid that shows him at age three -- and has photos of everyone else in the family at the exact same age.

Sampler Stocking: Fill a stocking with samples of anything your recipient might enjoy: granola bars, diet drink mixes, 100 calorie packs, gum, mints, etc. It doesn't have to be food, either - I like to buy sample sizes of things like hand lotion, shower gel and body spray so I can use them on road trips and in my guest bathroom, so I always a bag of them in the closet. An assortment of these along with a bath sponge or scrunchie would be fun.

Scrumptious Shortbread -- Scottish shortbread is the simplest of all cookie recipes, as the usual formula is three parts flour, two parts butter and one part sugar (tip: I find unsalted butter works best.) Here's a simple recipe that you don't have to chill or form, just press in a pan, bake, cool and cut into wedges.

Snap Crackle & Pop: Requires a box of Rice Krispies, a bag of marshmallows and a couple tablespoons of butter or margarine; takes about 5 minutes to make them into Rice Krispie treats (recipe can be found here.) You can form the mixture while it's still warm into balls, snowmen or other holiday shapes, or cut and wrap squares after mixture cools in a brownie or cake pan (tip: make your squares bite-size, wrap in foil and present in a canister or candy jar.) I've never met a kid who didn't like them.

What are your favorite last minute gifts to make? Let us know in comments.


  1. Saw a cool idea earlier tonight for krispy treats - except they were done with Cheerios, and I'd followed a link from Facebook, so I couldn't tell you where online they were... but the general idea was 1) make krispy treats, 2) form them into teddy bear shapes, 3) tie a ribbon around the neck.

    The same, yet different. I know my kids would love it.

  2. Keita Haruka12:12 PM

    Oooh! Cozy evening bag! I like that idea! :D I'm so totally stealing that one from you. The collaborative cookbook is also interesting. My partner and I have toyed with this idea from time to time...compiling our best recipies of his cooking and my baking. It's perfect. :-)

  3. Combining the cookbook and e-Reads ideas, its pretty easy to make a PDF cookbook.

    My printer (a fairly inexpensive HP) will scan multiple documents and string them together into a single PDF file. I believe a lot of printer/scanners do this.

    I also have the full Adobe Acrobat which makes it easy to add or move pages around.

    I did this for work just last week. We do a yearly cookie swap where interested bakers bring copies of their recipes along with the edibles. I added some of the recipes for potluck dishes that the group always requests (that folks were willing to share), and a photo I pulled off of Google for a cover page. Scanning the printed recipes was the longest part since my printer can't run an index card through its' document feeder and not everyone emailed me their files.

    I have quite a few family recipes including many hand-written recipe cards from my bridal shower years ago (e.g. my husband's grandmother's fudge recipe in her own handwriting). One of my next projects may be to start scanning these and make a family cookbook to distribute that is less fire-and-spill prone than my current paper one.

  4. Wow, these are all some great ideas! Certainly love the Cookbook idea. :) Thanks for the tips, I think I will try the shortbread for my Mom...she loves that stuff!


  5. Cracker candy's a great last-minute gift:,187,158188-225193,00.html

    It's easy and delicious, tough combination to beat.

  6. My new favorite, totally decadent variation of krispy treats - substitute Golden Grahams for the Krispies, add some chocolate... and you have s'mores.... yum!


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