Christmas | Posted 26 Nov 2013

Christmas can be a really tough time of year. With busy Christmas shoppers to manoeuvre around, dozens of gifts to buy, and what feels like ever increasing prices for the simplest of gifts, December can end up being full of stress rather than full of cheer!

For many, this Christmas will be on a budget, so this year Jurys Inn has decided to put together some handy 'Homemade gifts with Charm' to help you give gifts that you can be proud of, and saved you a bundle in much needed cash.

While our selection of homemade gifts with charm is aimed to save you some money this winter, if you buy everything in 'high street' stores or supermarkets, it may end up costing more. However, if you manage to hit flea/street markets, pound shops, and charity shops early for some of the 'ingredients', you may be able to cut the bill.

Homemade Gifts with Charm

1) Limoncello

Limoncello provides the perfect homemade gift for Christmas as you can make a big batch and give various bottles to friends or family, plus it is very simple to make! The Limoncello needs to be made at least a week before you want to give it as a gift, and it's worth starting to look around for cute sealable bottles in charity shops etc. either before you start or while waiting for the mixture to be ready.

You will need:
Gift bottles
A large glass jar
A sieve
A funnel
A vegetable peeler.
7-10 Lemons (depending on how lemony you want it.)
One Litre of Vodka (it doesn't have to be fancy)
5 Cups Water
3 Cups Sugar

Peel the zest from the lemon with a vegetable peeler without including the white pith of the skin and place into the large glass jar. Add the Vodka to the jar with the lemon zest and cover with cling film and store it in a cool place for seven days.

A day before the mixture has finished sitting, boil the water adding the sugar until it has fully dissolved. Set it aside to cool overnight. The following day strain the lemon peels from the vodka and pour the sugar syrup into the vodka mix and stir.

Once thoroughly stirred, funnel the Limoncello into your gift bottles and store until you are ready to gift unless you are going to use a bottle, in which case chill in fridge or freezer. If you store the Limoncello in bottles with a cap or a cork, the Limoncello can keep up to two years.

2) Teacup Candles

Teacup Candle Photograph taken from Flickr user Marcie

Teacup candles really are a homemade gift with charm. They are really simple to make, cheap to put together and can be given to a variety of people - candles are always useful! Some website charge between £12-20 for one but for £20 max you can make enough for various presents and even a few for your home. However, the teacups (or unique shaped glasses/ sundae dishes) should be bought at car boots/charity shops or you may end up paying too much! If you don't have time to go to a craft store, this online candle crafting website offers great value.

What you will need:                                                                                                
Wax - you can either reuse old candles if you have enough collected wax, or an alternative would be Eco Soya Wax (available from the website above) which is great because it is easy to wash off the pan with warm soapy water.
Metal tabs for wick
Scent (optional)
Dye/Crayon shavings (optional)
Wooden skewers
Two Saucepans - one small, one large and flat

If you are reusing wax melt all of it, but have a couple of teacups on hand so if it fills more than one cup, the wax doesn't go to waste. If you are using the Soya Wax (which comes in flakes) one and half cups (of your teacup) should be sufficient.

Fill the flat pan half way with water and place the smaller pan in the middle and fill with wax flakes (it's a similar process to melting chocolate). DO NOT heat directly or put in microwave. Melt the wax over a low to medium heat and as it melts add your dye and scenting if you are including them.

Prepare your teacup by cutting the wick to a suitable length to fit your teacup and pull one end through the metal tab. With the other end you can either tie the wick around a wooden skewer and balance on top of the teacup, or place the wick between two skewers and tape the skewers together, again balancing on the top. Once the wax is fully melted, gently pour into the teacup. Leave for at least half an hour to harden and don't move it during this time. If a 'well' forms around the wick gently top up with hot wax if there is any spare.

3) Infused Olive Oils

Teacup Candle Photograph taken from Flickr user Benjamin Chun

Infused olive oils are often a luxury supermarket item or an enjoyable treat when dining out with pre-dinner bread. However, infused olive oils are not too tricky to make (or too pricey) and offer the perfect Christmas gift!

You can infuse olive oil one of two ways, with fresh ingredients or dried ingredients. Fresh ingredients can be risky as any water attached to them, or stored in the oil, can grow into a microorganism called Clostridium Botulinum which thrives in oxygen free environments and can be an extremely dangerous poison causing botulism. So to be on the safe side - assuming a keen desire to not accidently poison friends and family - using dried ingredients may be the best course of action. However, if you would like to use fresh ingredients you can learn here.

What you will need:
Gift bottles for olive oil, preferably with a good seal or corked.                                 
Olive Oil                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Chosen dried herbs/vegetables/chilli (amounts dependent on bottle size)
Pan (optional)

Most recipes give a guide of one cup of olive oil to 3-4 rosemary sprigs (dried) or to 1 tbsp of chilli flakes with 1-2 dried chillies, but generally, how much or how little you put in is up to you.

Clean and maybe even sterilise your gift bottles and fully dry (water = botulism). Once dry, take your chosen dried herb (rosemary etc.) and place in bottle. Now some recipes state you can add the olive oil and store in a cool dark place for 1-2weeks.

Alternatively you can heat the oil over a medium to low heat (ensuring it is bacteria free) until a few bubbles start forming - be extra careful heating oil and if it starts smoking take it off the heat straight away and allow to cool for ten minutes. Once heated, pour into the gift bottle and seal/cork. Keep refrigerated until ready to gift.
Infusing Garlic oil is a little more complicated; take a look at a safe recipe here.

4) Microwavable Pillows

If you're adept with a sewing machine (or sewing by hand), microwavable pillows are a great gift to make this Christmas, especially with feeling the pinch of energy prices rising this winter! Curling up with a microwavable pillow can keep you warm without using too much energy (heating/electric blankets etc.) making it the perfect gift.

What you will need:
Fabric (must be 100% cotton as man-made fibres can melt in the microwave) and not contain any metal traces)
Sewing kit/machine
Fragrance oils (optional)

Decide on the size you want to make your pillow/s and allow a ½” for the seams. If you hand sew make sure the stitches are small to prevent the rice from leaking out. If you want a fragrant filling, place the rice in a sealed container with the oils and let sit for a day or two (occasionally stirring) for it to absorb and evenly distribute the fragrance.

Sew all the sides (with the side you want on the outside facing inwards) leaving a hole big enough to pull the material through. Once you have the pillow case with the correct side facing outside, funnel the rice into the pillow- filling to about ½ - ¾ full. Keeping the filling at the other end of the pillow opening, sew the hole closed and voila you have your microwavable pillow.

5) Body Scrubs

Body scrubs are as easy as they come for homemade gifts with charm. Body scrubs are again one of those supermarket/high street luxuries that either gets bought once in a blue moon or not at all. Everyone loves getting these little luxuries at Christmas, but you don't have to spend a fortune buying them, especially as they are so simple and cheap to make.

What you will need:
Plastic or glass containers
Coarse sea salt
White/brown/cane sugar
Coconut/almond/olive/baby oil

The above ingredients depends on how many different versions of scrub you would like to make. Handy body scrub labels can be found on the Martha Stewart website. See the brief list of the different ones you can do below but once you have an idea of amounts you can create your own concoction of body scrub!

Coffee Scrub (coffee apparently reduces the appearance of cellulite):
2 cups of ground coffee, ½ cup sugar (brown or white, or both), 3tbsp olive oil, 1tsp vanilla extract (optional but smell lovely) - combine all the ingredients with the oil last and mix well. Put into container and add instruction label (optional) with 'apply to body and thoroughly massage into skin and then rinse'.

Vanilla Coconut Scrub
½ cup coconut oil, ½ cup brown sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix together warming the coconut oil if it is too hard to mix. Put into container and add instruction label (see above).

Ultimate Sea Salt Scrub
1 cup coarse sea salt, ½ cup baby oil - mix together, cover bowl and leave to sit for 24 hours, stir mixture and put into container. Add instruction label with 'Apply to body and massage into skin for a few minutes, rinse'.

Delicious Scrub
1 cup cane sugar, 1/3 cup Celtic sea salt, ½ cup coconut oil, 2-3 tbsp almond oil, a couple of drops lavender oil (optional) - combine all the ingredients with the oils last, mix well and put into container. Add instruction label (see coffee scrub).

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