Posts filed under "christmas gifts"

Homemade Christmas Prep {Vanilla Extract}

I've got a fantastic diy Christmas gift to share with you. Classy, useful, and homemade. Not pipe cleaner ornaments from the kiddos homemade... or crochet potholders from Grandma homemade, either. Both are lovely but this is an ooooooh kind of gourmet-gorgeous-homemade.

Isn't it a little soon for Christmas stuff? No way. Two reasons:

1. Seven kids. New baby. Homeschooling. All things considered, I'm actually starting a little late.

2. This gift needs time to become lovely. Two months minimum. If you do start late, you can easily add a note to the package: "Do not use until 1/25/2014" (or whenever).

What you will need for Gourmet Homemade Vanilla Extract:



No, not for you to drink, feisty ladies. It's an ingredient. I wasn't tempted to drink it at all actually.  I've had only one run in with vodka in my life... and Vodka won. Besides that, it reminds me remotely of the smell of nail polish remover. Can you tell I'm not a big drinker?

This brand of Vodka came with a very high recommendation for taste plus it's gluten-free and made in Texas, USATito's Handmade Vodka.

I love this photo because it just screams motherhood. Kitchen in a state of distress (although that's a good thing because it is being transformed into something better). Baby watching my every move in the background, waiting bug-eyed for me to be finished with my diversion. Bottle of almost empty Vodka on a piece of painted plywood. (I consumed none of the horrid beverage because I have responsibilities, eh?) And finally, a poorly lighted photo taken by a cheap camera. I am what I am and grace and mercy make it all good. (How's that for some deep theology? Forgive me, dear husband.)



Get the good ones. Do not buy dried up ones from the grocery store for this recipe. Go gourmet. There are various places to do this but I was pleased with the service from Beanilla. I ordered a couple extra so that Professor could play around with them in some recipes. Now that I'm looking around a little, I do see that Amazon carries a very similar product here.

If you're not into ordering from multiple places, Beanilla does sell kits for making vanilla extract. It's more expensive but might make a lovely single gift. 



I have a fascination with containers and bottles of all kinds, especially glass. Perhaps the real reason that I went for this project was because I got to place an order from Specialty Bottle. I used their products to package sugar scrub last year. Please note that shipping is a real mood killer when you go to check out. Glass is heavy and hard to package so it's not cheap. You'll probably at least double your bottle prices with the shipping. Just be aware and factor it in to your budget. I also just checked Amazon and they do have similar bottles for a good price if you have Prime. But really, you can use any glass container for this.

The bottle on the left is full but still clear because it was filled just before I took this picture.

The temporary countertop is painted plywood. The pink curtain is an old sheet. Minor inconveniences for  long term kitchen awesome!



I think I like labels almost as much as I like bottles and jars. On the recommendation of other DIYers, I placed an order with this company. I'm super happy with the result. I usually make my own for things I make but I needed something spill proof and Christmas worthy. Select food grade labels because they're vinyl (waterproof/vanilla proof) and can be repositioned if you stick them on wrong the first time.



There are a billion recipes online but I love the photos and recommendations on The Italian Dish. Her pics are so pretty (although she has no baby in her pics, which is most unfortunate).

It took me only half an hour to put it all together and the kids could easily have put this together by themselves. The kids scraped wallpaper while I jazzed up the environment with the awesome smell of real vanilla beans.

Perhaps the absolute best part of this whole thing is that this is a gift that will last for a very long time. When you hit the bottom of the bottle, simply add more vodka and let it steep again. This might be a cute hostess gift when paired with a bottle of vodka!

When I placed my bottle order, I added a few more for myself. We go through tons of pure vanilla extract in our house (I'm a smoothie junkie) and usually purchase the large bottles at our wholesale club. I plan on keeping a rotating stock, using one bottle while the others continue to steep. In the long run, this will be a much cheaper option. And healthier for those of us with gluten sensitivities.

Incidentally, we are thinking about having our Jellybean tested for Celiacs since she has a number of symptoms but are going to do an elimination diet with her first to get some data. If anyone has a moment to send up an Ave, I'd appreciate it. It doesn't sound that big on paper but you try telling the kindergartner she can't have a piece of birthday cake. I'm a softie... we'll see how it goes.

Linking up with Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee (temporarily hosting for Hallie) for 5 Favorites


Posted on October 30, 2013 and filed under "christmas gifts", "five favorites", "handmade Christmas", "vanila".

Beautiful Christmas Gift Giving

One of my readers sent me information about her family's ministry project this Christmas. Her husband is a designer and put together this gorgeous Christmas story shirt. 100% of profits are donated to Mary's Meals. I would love to own this shirt. Thanks so much for sharing this, Bridget!

From the Schulzy Website:

Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with this one-of-a-kind Schulzy design! The shirt tells the Christmas story with scripture from Luke 2 subtly printed in the backtground. Made of high-quality pre-shrunk 100% combed ring spun soft cotton with a fashionable ladies’ custom-contoured fit.

100% of profits will be given to help Mary's_Meals provide school meals for hungry children. Orders made by November 16 will be shipped no later than Wednesday, December 5, 2012.

Retailers, please contact us directly for bulk orders.

God bless you and yours this holy season – and thank you for your generosity to Mary’s Meals!
Note:  When ordering sizes, please know that this style of garment runs small, so pay close attention to the "fits sizes" description that comes directly from the shirt manufacturer.


Moving on now to one of my very favorite gifts to receive ever...

Beautiful citrus fruit from Schacht Groves. These lovely growers also happen to be my cousins so I know that this fruit is coming from good people. And, I know that it is soooo delicious.

This was the scene at my house last week...

Mommy! Fed Ex is here! It's a big box....

*I gasped with glee as I saw the SCHACHT GROVES label.*
Open it! Open it!

Crash asks, Why are they a little green?

They are green, son, because Louis and Kelly do not spray their oranges with chemicals or dyes or waxes that change the orange's natural color. All oranges are a little green early in the season, it's just that some people hide it with stuff that we don't really want on our food. (I obviously had studied the included information very well.)

"Don’t be fooled by the bright oranges and yellows of the citrus you find in the grocery store. Early in the season it’s often picked green and the skin is treated with ethylene gas to bring out the bright colors. But Schacht Groves ships only all-natural Indian River fruit. Sweet, juicy fruit is the only criteria.

On average, citrus from the Schacht Groves Indian River region is 25 percent heavier and juicier than the same size fruit grown outside Florida. Early in the season you may find that the citrus is a little green around the edges. Or you might see a few “wind scar” blemishes common to citrus grown in Florida. But the proof is in the tasting.

Peel away the thin, slick, “zipper skin,” taste a section, and you’ll discover the juiciest, sweetest, most delicious citrus fruit found anywhere on earth." (About our fruit)

Wait... did you say that these are Louis and Kelly oranges???!!!

Yes. I did.

General chaos ensues....

We spent the next half an hour gorging ourselves on our very favorite oranges. There is nothing, even at our local farmer's market, that compares. Knowing that the fruit we were eating was still on the trees only a few days previous was a sweet thought. Knowing that the groves they came from are family-owned and operated and naturally maintained was even sweeter.

If you need to something gorgeous to send someone this Christmas season, please consider ordering from Schacht Groves. Navel oranges, ruby red grapefruit, honeybell tangelos, valencia oranges.... so delicious. Our box arrived with a pretty flyer that explained the approach and mission of Schacht Groves, so your gift recipients will know why your gift is so special.

*We control and maintain quality by harvesting fruit  
grown in our own Indian River groves.

*We offer you the freshest fruit possible by picking, packing, and shipping your fruit within a 48-hr time period.

*We offer citrus fruit as nature intended—free of wax and color-enhancing gases. Our fruit is simply washed in a mild-soap solution, rinsed, dried, and packed.

And... if you already live in the land of alligator and hurricanes (I love Ohio), please pay a visit to their store in Vero Beach. You can purchase fruit by the bag, fresh juice, marmalades and local honey. They give tours of their unique packing house at any time and grove tours can be arranged. Did you hear that,  homeschoolers?? Grove tours! Happy field trip. :)

Posted on November 14, 2012 and filed under "Schacht groves", "christmas gifts", "oranges".

7QT: Christmas Gift Planning

I started my Christmas prep this year with a plan to keep most purchases meaningful, meaning that they would either be the work of our own hands or purchased from a home business or responsible company. That is the ideal but I'm sure we'll be deviating from it often enough. Handcrafted is usually more expensive and our current Christmas budget must be respected. So here's my modified plan... make quality, budget-friendly gifts and win free stuff (meaningful free stuff, of course). Things are coming along very nicely and I will continue to keep you updated about my small victories and discoveries as we get closer to Christmas...

If you would like to find a way to give one gift to several children in one family, I direct your attention to the Fort Kit. I put my first one together and all I have to say is... I love grommets! I love to sew but had absolutely no intention of sewing endless numbers of loops or whatevers onto 3 sets of Walmart sheets. I bought an inexpensive grommet tool and some grommets and had a great time. If any of you have used a snap setter, it's the same principle.

I didn't use all the items recommended in the kit, but we got pretty close. Most items were from Walmart or the dollar store. The only thing left to do is to sew up a bag to keep everything in and iron on something fun, perhaps a last name. Or, if I run out of time, the no-sew version will do just fine.


Shower soothers. Remember these? You drop them in the bottom of your shower and have a lovely steam bath of sinus loving vapors. They were a great blessing to my burdened cold season head. It turns out that SudaCare stopped selling them because some people were eating them. *blink*blink* Now the cheapest box you can find of this discontinued product is about $50.

Anyway, I found a recipe for something similar using menthol crystals and Eucalyptus and made my first batch. I almost burned my eyeballs out making them but the finished product was lovely. My next step is tweaking the recipe (found in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Natural Beauty Products)  because they only lasted for 2 minutes in the shower before they fizzed out... which is not even close to long enough. Look out kids! It's menthol day again!

These will be packaged handsomely and given to some of the men on our list. I'm also thinking of adding them to our Etsy shop once I have the recipe right because they are so nice.

Speaking of our Etsy shops (multiple, meaning we can't seem to stop opening more of them), I'll be adding homemade laundry soap soon as well. I really enjoy using it and do not get headaches anymore when I do laundry. Cookie and I packaged a bunch up with scoops in sweet little bags and carted them to a craft show a couple weeks ago. It was an unusual item to sell but I was pleasantly surprised by the high interest. We managed to come home a bit lighter than we arrived.

The funniest moment at the show was when they raffled off our donated items. "And now, from Melody at table number 12, we have some lovely... laundry soap!" I felt badly for the woman who won it. She was probably hoping for the tissue box cover shaped like a turkey. :)

I will be writing a full post about laundry soap and other allergy friendly household stuff in the near future. Hopefully, the shop will be fully set up by that time and I will link it then. It has been quite a while since we've been open since I generally close for new babies and busy times, but Cookie and I are getting the itch to get busy again.

(Incidentally, if I run out of time to buy or make you a Christmas present, you are getting laundry soap. But feel free to inquire about purchasing in the meantime.)

It just occurred to me that the major problem with this post is the off chance that someone I give Christmas gifts to will stop by. I am pretty confident the gentlemen won't be here so I'm safe there... but just in case, I have to keep the best stuff to myself. I'm so sorry. Visit my Pinterest page to make guesses about what I'm making for everyone else.

The kids will be making little gifts again this year. Button has already started hers...

Tutorial at Wild Olive
The others will choose various types of crafts or food that they can make and give on their own.

As I mentioned, I've been trying to win a few contests this year for handmade items to give. I have been unusually successful in this regard so far! My favorite win was from a giveaway hosted by Hallie at MoxieWife who was offering an infinity scarf from Connected in Hope. The beautiful scarf was made by the hands of a woman who is working to support her family... and that is an excellent kind of gift to be able to give.

I also won beautiful handmade soap from a giveaway hosted by Grace on Our Catholic Life of Grace. I am absolutely crazy about handmade soaps of all kinds. Three big reasons: 1) Made by people running small businesses who are working to support their families, 2) Commercial brands and formulas have a very noticeable and negative effect on me and using natural products gives me great relief, 3) handmade soaps also tend to be visually lovely so it is an all around pleasure to give them as gifts.

Since I know the recipient of this soap does not read my blog, I can post it here for your viewing pleasure...

*Warning* A post is coming in the near future in which I will preach at length about the benefits of avoiding most commercially manufactured cleaners, make-up, soaps, and lotions. It will include information about how to make your own products (much cheaper than purchasing), where to buy them if you can't make them, and a lengthy monologue in which I will whine about my desire to make my own cold-processed soap but can't because I don't want to have caustic materials (lye) around the house while the children are still young.

Do not be alarmed. I am still a comfort-loving, dishwasher-using, climate-control kind of girl. I do not love camping and I still shop at Walmart. I have no desire to live off the grid (although I think that would be objectively cool) and I can't grow a garden because I can't figure out how to keep the hoards of suburban deer out of it. But some lifestyle choices just make sense. Now if you excuse me, I have to put on my bonnet so that I can go hug some trees, eat my additive-free lunch, and nurse my 2-year old. :)

Joining Jennifer at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday
Posted on November 9, 2012 and filed under "christmas gifts".