Sunday, December 30, 2012

Returning from my break with homemade gifts part 1

I know, I know: it's been a while. As much as I missed blogging about my craft and cooking adventures, I cannot deny that taking a week-long break was absolutely lovely. Mr. J and I spent the last week traveling miles around the state to see our families for Christmas. We had to battle through two snowstorms to do so, but it was worth it! Not only did we spend lots of quality time with our loved ones, but we also made out like bandits during our THREE Christmases (one with his parents, one with my sister and father, and one with my mother's family) in two days. Between the two of us, Mr. J and I scored some great kitchenware, including a cast iron dutch oven, two cookbooks, an immersion blender, a Ninja blender and food processor, and a sushi making kit. Needless to say, we spent the majority of this afternoon playing with our new cooking toys! 

Of course, before we could have any fun, we had to deal with the more than 12" of snow waiting for us. When we pulled into the driveway, we found my car, Leopold, like this:

This makes my car look huge and me even shorter than usual.

And here's the walkway we had to shovel from the stone steps to the door just so we could get in the house:

Thanks, Mimi, for those amazing North face winter boots! I definitely needed them to trudge through this mess :)

After lots of shoveling, heating the house back to a temperature that supports life, and grocery shopping in a psychotically busy Wegmans, we had time to make almond butter and California rolls. Tutorials on those to come!

Now that it is FINALLY past Christmas, I can share with all of you the gifts I made for some family and friends.

Warning: the following is essentially a giant THANK YOU and shout out to an awesome lady, Sarah, over at Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity. From her blog (which is chock full of DIY recipes and projects), I got the idea to make homemade vanilla extract and heating pads.

Making the extract is very simple. Vanilla beans + bourbon + four months in a cupboard = magic! Our price breakdown matched Sarah's exactly because I used everything she did. It cost less than $2 each to make these customized bottles of extract! Using this formula, I have plans to make all kinds of extract right in my own pantry!

Call us cornballs, but Mr. J and I had a great time designing and printing our own labels! These little babies garnered some serious praise. The best part about this project is that it require minimal effort for a great outcome. The only drawback is that you need to be on your game to have the extract, bottles, and labels prepared prior to the day you need them.

Sarah also did a great post on DIY rice heating pads. If you have fabric, rice, and a sewing machine, you can do this project! I already had a lot of funky fabric squares on hand, so nearly 10 pounds of cheap white rice later, I had 9 sizeable heating pads to give away! (Actually, I made a tenth one, but it was my first attempt and I decided to hide its ugliness by keeping it for myself, haha.) Once I figured out how to sew the top hem shut without spilling rice everywhere, this process was really enjoyable. I cranked the cheesy holiday tunes and churned these puppies out in one weekend. Here are the beauties!

This was one of my favorites. My best friend has a gorgeous baby girl for whom I made a lot of dinosaur-themed items earlier this year. I ended up with a ton of dino fabric in my possession, and I knew my friend would enjoy a heating pad crawling with prehistoric critters! Isn't it darling?
I thought this was one of the prettiest ones:

I will share more homemade gifts throughout the week, followed by all of the awesome stuff I'm whipping up courtesy of my own Christmas gifts!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday season! What were some of your favorite gifts that you gave? What about the ones you received?