Say goodbye to the blinking lights, plastic silver balls, and larger-than-life inflated Santas that have come to mark the holidays. Instead, go back to nature to find your home-decorating inspiration and celebrate the season from its root. Charm friends and family with handmade gifts presented in beautiful, rustic packaging.
Gather sprigs from pine or fir trees, fallen bark from birches, or holly berries and leaves from the woods and yard. Display the native treasures in glass jars on your mantle for up-close observation and appreciation.
1. With a pencil, draw a pattern on an orange. Try family members' initials or seasonal symbols such as stars.
2. Pierce the fruit along your lines with a needle, spacing the holes about a clove's width apart. (Erase any visible lines left on the fruit's skin.)
3. Insert cloves into each hole. Arrange pomanders in a bowl and place on a table or your mantle.
1. Cut recycled holiday cards or cereal boxes into small rectangles.
2. Punch a hole in one end.
3. If both sides are blank, stamp one side with a holiday print.
4. For the other side, invite guests and family to write notes of thanks and hope.
5. Hang on branches displayed in a vase.
1.Arrange 3 cinnamon sticks into a star shape.
2. Crisscross 1-mm-thick hemp twine 3 times around the center, and tie end into a loop.
1. Nestle 3 anise pods in a row and secure with nontoxic glue.
2. Wrap twine around the center of each pod, weaving around each "petal," and tie the end into a loop.
1. Collect 20 to 30 pinecones from the woods.
2. Mix the whites of two eggs in a bowl (enough for 36 pinecones).
3. Drizzle pinecones with egg whites using a pastry brush. 4. Sprinkle with crystal sugar. Let dry for 4 hours.
5. Tie string around bottom, leaving a loop for hanging.
1. In bowl, mix 2 cups flour, 2 cups salt, and 1 cup water.
2. Stir, and then knead into a ball.
3. Roll out dough to a 1/4-inch thickness.
4. Cut into shapes using cookie cutters, and poke a hole through the tops with a pencil.
5. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes or until hard.
6. Loop a ribbon through hole and tie a knot.
1. Cut an open paper shopping bag along one fold and scissor out the bottom of the bag.
2. Wrap your gift in it.
3. Recycle a wine cork and use it as a stamping device by dipping one end of it into ink or a dark fruit or beet juice.
4. Apply to the surface of the bag in patterns inspired by the season.
1. Sew first button 4 1/2 inches from the top of one side of a small paper bag.
2. Fold top over twice (about 1-inch folds), toward the button side.
3. Align second button with first on the second fold.
4. Unfold to sew second button.
5. Refold, and wrap twine in a figure 8 around both buttons.
Get creative with a DIY approach to gift-giving. Spread some edible joy -- with a healthy kick.
Preheat the over to 325 degrees. Combine 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. In a large bowl, mix 4 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and spread granola evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool before transferring to airtight glass containers. Deliver with a tag giving helpful suggestions of serving with yogurt and fresh fruit.
Not your typical chocolate beverage, this sweet concoction includes cinnamon and cardamom, known in Ayruvedic medicine for boosting energy. Bonus: It's made with flavonoid-rich dark chocolate, which prevents hardening of the arteries. Fill a jam jar with the dry ingredients, then attach these instructions: Combine with one quart soy milk and whisk together over medium low heat for about five minutes before serving.