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Canada Issue 520

Making It for the Holidays

Get creative this holiday season with DIY gift ideas

The holidays are upon us and so is the prospect of having a little more unstructured time with the kids (whether you’re ready for it or not).

And because we’re all about multi-purposing, we’ve got some savvy ideas that combine activities you can do together, with some of your holiday preparations. We call them combo platters, where you can check two things off in one.

Combo Platter #1 – Craft & DIY Gift for Grandma and Girlfriends
Everyone loves a spa-inspired gift, so why not make up some energizing bath salts together (it couldn’t be easier) and package them up for lovely prezzies. For each batch, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups Epsom salts
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp baking soda
  • 6 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 10 drops rosemary oil
  • 15 drops peppermint oil (you can substitute all these oils for 25 drops of lavender essential oil to make a calming variation of the salts)
  • Food colouring (optional)

Pick up the ingredients in a large drug store or a health food store. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl except for food colouring and mix very well. If using food colouring, add a few drops at a time, stirring constantly until you reach the desired colour. Pack into jars (you can use Mason jars or other decorative jars—recycle old jam jars or check at the dollar store), garnish with a ribbon or tag and just say spaaaaaaah (or send everyone off for a relaxing bath).

Candied Orange PeelCombo Platter #2 – Cooking Fun/Hostess Gift
Make up some gourmet Candied Peel and package in cello bags or small cookie tins for a yummy hostess gift.

For each batch, you’ll need:

  • 2 large oranges, ¼ inch of top and bottom cut off
  • 4 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 cups water
  • Chocolate for melting (optional)


Cut peel on each orange into four vertical segments. Remove each segment (including white pith) in one piece, and then slice into ¼ inch-wide strips. Save the rest of the orange for eating. In large pot of boiling water, cook the peel for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and drain again.

Bring 3 cups of the sugar and 3 cups water to boil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar which will create a simple syrup. Add peel. Return to boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until peel is very soft, about 45 minutes. Drain well.

Toss peel and remaining cup of sugar on a cookie sheet, separating strips, until coated. Lift peel from sugar; transfer to a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet. Let stand until coating is dry (it will take about one to two days so you will want to plan ahead if you are making hostess gifts for a certain occasion). Once dry, melt chocolate over a double boiler and dip half of each peel in the chocolate. Place on rack again and let dry. Store in an airtight container—it will last up to three months.

(For another easy little-cook recipe that makes a great hostess gift and treat for the whole family, try our Peppermint Bark.)

Easy Craft/Holiday Dinner Placecard HolderCombo Platter #3 – Easy Craft/Holiday Dinner Placecard Holder
Create a place card holder from candy canes—your dinner guests can take them home after dinner as a favour (and the kids will enjoy sneaking a candy cane in the process). Take three full-size candy canes and set together in an easel-pattern (two in front, one in back) with the long sides all together and the hooks facing out. Hot glue gun them together or attach with a strip of Velcro green garden tie, or use an elastic band and cover it with ribbon. Cut out a rectangular name card from cardboard, write the name on it, and place it on the holder. Alternatively, you can attach four small candy canes in a similar manner and slide the card in between the candy canes on top. 

Deciding what to do over the holidays can be as tough as choosing from a Chinese restaurant menu, but with our combos, you’ll be done like dinner.

Tested by Robyn B., Toronto
Tagged under holiday, gifts, home, craft
First published 2009.12.08