This year my family decided to exchange gifts that are either homemade or inexpensive (less than $5). I love this idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired.
The Tree. To get in the spirit of DIY Christmas, R and I decided to decorate our house with things we found in the forest. We drove up to Sunset Hill and trampled through the woods foraging for felled branches and pine cones. We felt right smart (as my grandmother would say) for getting our “tree” for little effort and no cost. After toting the branches inside I carefully arranged them on the mantle and moved on to making a door ornament to compete with my neighbor’s. I was feeling pretty smug about my homemade ornamentation until I noticed it was crawling with insects. It was practically moving. I raced over to the mantle and discovered that all the branches were festooned with buggery. I disassembled my piece de resistance on the porch, shaking it out while trying to keep the cat from eating all the droppings. In the end, my door ornament was too flimsy to hang outside, but it looks pretty nice in the entry window. The mantle looks fabulous with the branches and a few of my favorite ornaments.
The Cards. Last year my handmade Christmas cards were fantastic. I took a page out of Martha’s book and used embroidery floss to make Christmas trees. They got rave reviews, and were simple to make. This year I thought I’d go big. The problem is that I lack the crafting supplies to go big, so I asked my crafty neighbor if I could borrow some of her gear. She invited me over to take a look and what I found was a veritable workshop with all her amazing homemade gifts on display. I was inspired by her creations and they seemed simple enough. I bought some stamp ink and 20 blank note cards and set to work. Out of bravado, laziness, or excitement I decided to move full steam ahead without really planning out my theme. I just kind of stamped some images at random and added glue and glitter. Five cards in, I’m sorry to report that my 6 year old nephew could have put together something much more inventive and aesthetically pleasing. I’m going to read Martha’s page on card-making and get back to you on this one.
The Gifts. While I was screwing up the cards, R wrapped up her 2nd annual batch of homemade mustard. The first annual mustard canning event was something of a debacle. R decided to make the mustards on the night before our flight home. She not only lacked canning experience, but also the cans. She drove to at least five stores before finding one with the jars and the lids. Then she read the directions and realized one has to sterilize the jars beforehand and boil them to death afterwards. We stayed up really late boiling jars, and re-boiling them because the seals didn’t pop right away and we thought they should. Lesson learned! She started the mustard making on Sunday, and canned them last night. She spent most of the evening boiling jars, perfecting her mustard and making a big mess in the kitchen. After we’d invested several hours in canning and card making, I was pretty psyched to reward myself with an episode of Breaking Bad. I ran upstairs to grab a sweatshirt, and when I came downstairs to settle into the couch I found R standing helplessly with mustard splatter all over her arms and legs. She ran out of canning jars, and in a desperate attempt to avoid wasting any mustard she decided to “can” the leftover supply in some old jars we’ve been using for various and sundry things. The jars exploded upon retrieval from the boiling water bath and splattered hot mustard all over her, the stove, the kitchen cabinets and the floor.
I understand why people buy cards and give money.