Sunday, December 16, 2007

Last Minute Herbal Gifts

It's getting down to the wire, and the weather has kept many people from accomplishing some of the things they'd hope to do this holiday season. Just maybe it's time to decide to make some of those gifts that you won't have time to shop for.
Of course, another terrific suggestion is a gift subscription for The Essential Herbal magazine - that one is never too late to order, and with Priority USPS, there are still a couple of days to check out the site I share with my sister, or her incredibly beautiful lampworked beads and jewelry at Torchsong Studio, but for home made ideas, read on...

Homemade cookies are always welcome, as are homemade fudge, jellies, vinegars, and treats of that nature. No matter how expensive they may be, store-bought treats don't taste the same. For some great recipes if you need some inspiration, try this site: http://www.northpole.com/Kitchen/Cookbook/ Add some herbs like chopped mint, lavender (sparingly), or basil. Dried cranberries and blueberries will help make them slightly more healthy, along with chopped nuts. If there are kids in the house, letting them help will allow them to be part of the action and share in the joy of giving.

Lotion Bars are another treat that are good to make when there isn't much time. To make them, combine 1 part beeswax to 3 parts of a good skin-friendly vegetable oil, or a blend of oils. Heat with a double boiler until liquid. Cool slightly, and add a few drops of essential oil while still liquid. Pour into molds. When they are solid, they're done.

If you've been drying herbs this summer, try your hand at putting together a nice blend of herbal tea. Some of the herbs to consider would include mints, roses, chamomile, catnip, raspberry leaf and berry, basils, rosemary, thyme, purple coneflowers, elder berry and flower, hibiscus, stevia, nettles, blueberry leaf and berry, lemon balm, lemon grass, cinnamon, and lavender. There are many others. Blend a small amount, brew it up and see if you like it. If so, mix a larger quantity and package as a gift. A package of cocoa and some homemade cookies can go together to make a small basket.

Scented Sachets are another quickie. Many kitchen shops sell muslin bags for bouquet garni. These can be stenciled or stamped, and filled with blends - or simple lavender. This is a gift that we often helped children make for their mothers when we did kids programs while running the shop. They decorated the bags and filled them with lavender - all by themselves. Slip a piece of waxed paper into the empty muslin bag before the children start decorating them so the design doesn't go through to the other side.
One of my favorite gifts came when my friends and I were in our late teens/early twenties. My best friend at the time was a poor college student. She took some time and wrote me a letter, telling me what our friendship meant to her. It really was the thought that counted, and that letter meant a lot to me.

As I think of other ideas, I'll try to post them this week. Not promising, though... time is getting tight here too!

In the meantime, let me share this picture of the tree off the deck this morning. We've been very lucky with the weather here, compared to many other parts of the country. Everything was coated with a delicate icing. The trees in the fields all looked like they'd been lightly dusted with sugar.
Later this evening, a blustery front blew in. I saw it from the office window and stepped outside to take a picture. Within 5 minutes, the winds picked up and it sounded like we might lose the roof. Apparently that sound will be with us all night.
Yesterday was the last official day at the tree farm for the year, although we're sure folks will be stopping by all week to pick out trees. There are so many gorgeous trees in the fields. We never run out. Anyhow, this motley crew of tree wranglers (Mark, Scott, Sonny, Rudy, and Bob) greeted the families yesterday, helping them saw down their trees, wrapping them with netting, drilling the trunks, and helping tie them to the tops of the cars. Rudy the wonderdog was there every step of the way, making sure that everyone was in line. Hmmm.... Rudy needs a tree hat.
Lastly, just a few more gourds. Some of them will be gifts, for sure, while others will go to market this spring. They are a pleasant diversion on these cold evenings.

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