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Five homemade gifts your friends and family will love

Package homemade coffee scrub in festively decorated jars. Carrie Snyder / The Forum1 / 5
Turn home tiles into personalized photo coasters. Carrie Snyder / The Forum2 / 5
An animal-cutout bookmark peeks over a book. Carrie Snyder / The Forum3 / 5
Remember the salt-dough ornaments you made in kindergarten? Here’s a grown-up version for gifting. Carrie Snyder / The Forum4 / 5
Take gold and silver Sharpies to dollar-store champagne glasses. Carrie Snyder / The Forum5 / 5

FARGO – This weekend, the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season, is all about buying, but this year, some gifters are all about making.

Amanda Hofland is taking homemade gift giving to the next level. The 29-year-old Fargo-based blogger plans to make, not buy, most of her Christmas gifts this year.

“It saves money, it’s fun, and I’m trying to be more crafty,” she says. “Plus, DIY gifts sometimes mean more because it shows you put thought and time into them.”

There are lots of ideas online (some simple enough for rookie do-it-yourself’ers like me). But will your friends and family actually want and use a homemade gift?

“I think the key is thinking through each gift and making it personalized to what you know the recipient likes or needs,” Hofland says.

Since I’m not much of a crafter, I enlisted the help of a few craftier friends. Efforts combined, we carefully chose and made five DIY gifts we think your recipients will love.

Coconut Coffee Body Scrub

Ingredients

½ cup ground coffee

½ cup coconut palm sugar

¼ cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined. If coconut oil is solid, gently heat it until it melts (I microwaved mine for about 20 seconds), but wait for it to go back to room temperature before adding the other ingredients. This is to ensure that the exfoliants don’t dissolve in the oil.

2. Once mixed, store scrub in an air-tight container. (Note: This recipe made about four small mason jars’ worth.)

Jar decorating ideas:

Trace the lid of the jar on decorative paper to create a label. Add ribbon, feathers or leather string. I used turquoise and red-and-white-stripes for one set; for the other set, I used handmade paper, a coffee filter, leather and feathers for an earthier look.

Sources: Free People and Heidi Shaffer

Photo Coasters

Supplies

Tiles (My favorites are 4-inch tiles that come in a pack of nine in the bathroom tile section of Home Depot. I prefer the “imperfect” look, with cracks and different coloring.)

Photos (Tip: 4-by-4 photos can be easily made by cutting down 4-by-6 prints.)

Mod Podge (I prefer matte, but gloss is available.)

Foam brush

Clear sealant spray (Tip: Make sure to use a low-odor spray if you’re doing the project indoors. I prefer matte, but gloss is available.)

Soft backing (I prefer thin, self-sticking cork from Michaels.)

Scissors

Ribbon

Optional: colored 4-by-4 cardstock paper and/or decorative stickers

Directions

1. Rinse off tiles; let them dry completely before beginning.

2. (Optional step) Tear the edges of the cardstock paper and the photos to give them a rustic look. Tear the photos to be a little smaller so the colored paper creates a border.

3. Brush Mod Podge onto the back of the photos and place them on the tiles. Let dry for 30 minutes. While drying, place stickers on top of photos if you want to.

4. Brush Mod Podge over entire tiles, making sure to stick down edges. Let dry 30 minutes.

5. Brush Mod Podge over tiles one more time, again making sure all edges are covered. Let dry 30 minutes or more. (Tip: Alternate the direction of your brush strokes with each coat so they don’t show.)

6. Spray tiles with a light coating of sealant spray. Let dry 30 minutes.

7. Cut 3½-inch squares out of cork. Peel backing off of cork and stick onto backs of tiles.

8. Once tiles are completely dry (best overnight), stack and wrap with ribbon.

Sources: Jenessa McAllister and Amanda Hofland

Salt Dough Ornaments

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for board or counter

½ cup salt

¾ to 1 cup water

Food coloring (optional) (I didn’t use food coloring because I wanted a “natural” look and to be able to paint them.)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In an electric mixer, combine flour and salt and mix well.

3. With the mixer on low speed, add water slowly until dough comes together in a ball. You may need as little as ½ cup or as much as 1 cup, so pour slowly and stop when the dough comes together and feels like cookie dough. (Note: I used about ¾ cup.)

4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to firm up.

5. On a well-floured board or counter, roll dough out to ¼-inch thick. Cut out ornament shapes using various cookie cutters. (Tip: Err on the side of too thick rather than too thin. Otherwise they’ll get brittle, especially when you’re stringing them.)

6. Transfer ornaments to prepared cookie sheets and poke a small hole in each using a toothpick. Make hole large enough for an ornament hook or ribbon. (Note: This is also the time to stamp shapes into the dough if you want to. I used masking tape and individual letter stamps to create the words “home” and “joy.” You could also imprint a child’s hand or foot or a pet’s paw.)

7. Bake for 30 minutes. The ornaments should harden but not brown. Watch them carefully, and remember, the side on the pan will brown more quickly. (Note: It felt closer to 20 minutes than 30.)

For colored dough: Add food coloring to the water in Step 3 before mixing it into the flour and salt. Adding food coloring to the dough will result in splotchy ornaments.

To decorate:

1. Make sure ornaments are completely cooled before adding any paint or glue. (Note: Water-based paint worked better than acrylic, but a wet brush with acrylic paint worked well. Markers tended to bleed.)

2. Allow to dry completely. Add a colorful string or ribbon. Store wrapped in tissue paper.

Sources: Freutcake and Heidi Shaffer

Animal Bookmarks

Supplies

Scissors

Paper cutter

X-Acto knife

Cutting mat or cardboard piece

Paper – one solid color and one patterned

Letter stickers

Craft adhesive or glue stick

Animal clip art printed on cardstock

Directions for name animal bookmarks

1. Using scissors, cut the animal face out, leaving about a ¼-inch border around the edges. (Tip: Google “free high-resolution animal clip art” for ideas.)

2. With paper cutter, cut patterned paper to the approximate width of the animal cutout.

3. Cut solid paper smaller than the patterned paper so there’s a border around it.

4. Arrange and stick stickers to the solid-colored paper, trimming the edges with the paper cutter.

5. Cut a piece of patterned paper a little larger than the name piece so there’s a border.

6. Glue all pieces together, as the picture shows. If the name is too long to fit horizontally, place it at an angle and trim the edges.

Directions for cutout animal bookmarks

1. Using scissors, cut the animal face out, leaving about a ¼-inch border around the edges. (Tip: Google “free high-resolution animal clip art” for ideas.)

2. Using an X-Acto knife, cut along the bottom half of the animal cutout, following the border. Make sure to put the paper on top of a cutting mat or a piece of cardboard so you don’t damage your table. (Tip: The thicker the border, the sturdier the bookmark.)

Sources: Jenessa McAllister and Amanda Hofland

Sharpie Champagne Glasses

Supplies

2 champagne glasses

Gold and silver Sharpie pens or paint pens

Wet Wipes

Directions

1. Wash and dry 2 champagne glasses (I bought mine for a dollar each at Target).

2. Draw alternating gold and silver dots and circles about a half-inch to an inch apart, covering about half the glass. Keep Wet Wipes handy to quickly erase mistakes.

3. Let glasses set for 24 hours before using. Hand wash only.

Source: Meredith Holt

Meredith Holt

Meredith Holt is a features/business reporter for The Forum who covers topics in health, mental health, social issues, women's issues, arts and entertainment, food and more. She also writes a column on health and wellness, body image and media representationShe was a copy editor/page designer for six years prior to joining the features team in March 2012.

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