using herbs for homemade gifts

The herb garden is my favorite!  The immediate reward compared to the little input in maintaining it is what I love. The little plants are inexpensive and several of them come back every spring. You’ll be surprised how particularly prolific herbs are! The delight in stepping out of the farmhouse kitchen and cutting a handful of sage for the chicken roast can’t be easily surpassed. Of course, the herbs’ various scents are pleasurable for even the littlest ones in the family : ).

They enjoy chewing on the leaves of most of the herbs. “Spearmint tastes like chewing gum, but it doesn’t make a mess in your hair.”

Over the summers, we’ve put together little herb favors from our own harvest. Homemade food gifts are always cherished for their thoughtfulness. Maybe consider presenting the herb-infused gifts to friends with a list of serving suggestions.

Lavender sprigs are a delicate bundle to gift.  It will brighten anyone’s day gathered in simple ribbon.  This takes no time nor effort, yet it may cheer the recipient alongside a simple batch of cookies or a pot of soup.

Salt-Herb Blends – Sprinkle a custom seasoning onto vegetables and meats before cooking, or pass it at the table.  Combine 1/4 cup coarse salt with 2 to 4 tablespoons mixed ground spices, chopped fresh herbs, or zest (be sure to refrigerate fresh-herb and zest blends; discard unused portion after 1 week).  Try mix-ins such as caraway seeds and pepper; thyme and lemon zest; toasted black-and-white sesame seeds; and chile powder and oregano.

Herb Infused Honey – Enhance the flavor and aroma of an ordinary jar of honey by putting in two or three sprigs of fresh herbs into the syrup.  Lavender is a wonderful addition!

Herb Infused Olive Oil – Choosing a pretty bottle always makes the gift special.  Wash the herbs and dry them thoroughly.  Extra virgin olive oil will taste best.  Add the herb sprigs, a couple of whole garlics (unpeeled) and even a little chile pepper for a full flavored oil.  Oil is often used for preserving food, so it will not go bad at room temperature.

Herb Infused Vinegar – Select a favorite mild vinegar (white wine or rice) and add 5 herb sprigs to 2 cups of vinegar (a 12-16 oz. bottle will do great).  Oregano, rosemary, tarragon, or thyme, lightly crushed or left whole add a fair amount of flavor to the vinegar.  The vinegar can be stored at room temperature. 

 with love, Damaris

The Best Way to Make Candles With Kids

I have been curious about candle making for years, but really never looked into it. I was intimidated by the supplies, the hot wax, my lack of tools, etc. After Nathan and the boys harvested our honey last fall, I finally had a ready supply of beeswax. After a little bit of research, I learned that candles can be made by using a slow cooker. This made all the difference for me! Hand-poured beeswax candles were something my girls and I could do together with jars we already had. The only things we needed were wicks (available at any craft store). In my opinion, this method is the BEST way to make candles with kids! Also, making our own candles was fun because by choosing the ingredients, we ensured the candles were non-toxic. Plus, they’ll make really cute handcrafted gifts!

We didn’t add any scent to the candles because I wanted the beeswax’s natural aroma to come through. Maybe next time, we’ll add essential oils for the aromatherapy benefits which help stimulating or relax the senses. It seems that a good ratio is 10 drops per candle that might hold about 1 cup of wax.

The simple candle-making formula (regardless of the melting method) is 4 cups wax + 1 cup oil.

Essentials:

Wax: I used our beeswax reserved from last year’s harvest of honey (most of the wax comes from the caps which the bees put on the completed cells of honey. The caps are cut off in order to drain out the sweet honey!) and a bag of 100% beeswax chips. There are a couple other choices of wax at the craft store such as soy wax (from soybean oil) and paraffin (from petroleum), but, of course, beeswax looks, feels, and smells delicious!

Oil: I used coconut oil. Palm oil would be great too. The oil of your choice should be a solid at room temperature. I was curious as to why oil in addition to the wax is used and found out that many candle makers will add shortening to their candles to give the candles a creamier consistency and help them to adhere to their containers. Coconut oil is a natural alternative to the shortening.

Slow Cooker and Slow Cooker Liner: It was the perfect way to melt the wax + oil without watching it carefully over the stove. It doesn’t have the danger of boiling over plus it’s hard to burn anything in a slow cooker! We did use a slow cooker liner, and when we were done using up all the wax I rolled it up and threw it away. Couldn’t have been an easier clean-up. Using a slow cooker also allows for children to help without trying to work on the stove top with a bowl of hot wax that’s melting over a boiling pot of water. Also, the process is not rushed since the slow cooker can retain its temperature for a long time (especially on the warm setting). With the stove top method, the wax will begin to harden around the edges fairly quickly once the heat is turned off.

Measuring cup with a spout: I tried using a ladle to pour the wax into the jars, but the hot wax dripped off the side of the candles. Once it cooled and hardened, I was able to scrape it off, but the spouted cup worked so much better! I did use the ladle to pour it into the measuring cup.

Jars: This is the fun part! You can use mason jars, mugs, tea cups, little crocks, anything that is heat resistant. Reusing an old candle jar is very frugal. If there’s a bit of wax that can’t burn, freeze the jar for a couple hours and the wax should pop right out or use a butter knife to pry it out.

Wicks: We bought these at our local craft store. At least 6 inches is good and trim off the extra length. If the jar is more than 2 inches in diameter, you may want to use two or three wicks so the wax melts evenly.

Hot glue gun: Eva hot glued all the wicks to the bottoms of our jars to keep them in place. It work perfectly!

Easy Steps:

  1. Line the slow cooker (I used these) and add the wax and oil.

  2. Turn the crock pot on low for 1-2 hours. Whenever the wax has melted, you can turn it off (melting time will depend on the amount of wax).

  3. Hot glue (a drop of super glue or a bit of melted wax will work too) the wick bases to the bottom of the jar. Ladle the melted mixture into the measuring cup and carefully pour into the jars. If wax spills on the sides of the jar, wipe it with a paper towel immediately or allow it to dry and wash it off (dish scrubber + hot water).

  4. Add the essential oil to each individual jar (optional).

  5. Place all the candles out of the way and allow them to harden for an hour or two (depending on their size).

  6. Once the wax hardens trim the wick down close to the hardened wax.

  7. Allow candles to cure for 48 hours before burning.

with love. Damaris


Mother's Day Gift Ideas {under $10 and under $30}

With Mother’s Day only couple weeks away, maybe you’ve had your Mother’s Day gift already lined up for weeks (ahem). Just in case you haven’t, I’ve put together a little shopping guide! I looked for exquisite and inexpensive gift ideas appropriate for daughters to gift moms, husbands to gift wives, and sisters or friends to gift each other. The gift selection is from Amazon and World Market, because the comfort of online shopping can’t be beat : )

Gifts Under $30

The VeryVera Cookbook: Recipes from My Table

This fabulous southern cookbook will ensure one’s table is splendid for all summertime gatherings. Stress-free get-togethers are around the corner!

Pom-Fringe Cotton Pillow Covers

The pompoms are so on-trend! The colors are neutrals and guaranteed to look good with most combinations. These pillows are easily mixed with what one already has.

Umbra Tesora Jewelry Box, Copper/Concrete

I love the mix of soft metal with the rough ceramic. Anything to help a woman get organized is a winner, plus the rosy copper makes it a must-have.

18K Gold Plated Initial Bar Necklace

Everyone needs an initial necklace! This dainty bar can be easily layered and makes a sweet personalized gift.

Felt Letter Board

This letter board will be fun to move around the house! Useful for menus, love notes, and making your kids look for all the lost letters : )

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering

This is a beautiful book is full of stunning pictures. Great comfort-filled recipes with easy to find ingredients.

Black Round Straw Tote with Black and Ivory Tassels

It’s the perfect time of the year to add a new accessory! This round tote is so fun for summer! It’s softer than straw plus the tassels make it oh-so-chic.

Glass Water Bottles with Wood Lids

These glass water bottles are very practical and beautiful – best combination in my book.

Ivory Macramé Pouch

Boho and hip, this macramé pouch can double as a clutch. Classy enough in ivory for every woman.

Square Black and White Geometric Carved Wood Cutting Board

Cutting boards need replacing every so often. Made of mango wood and enamel, this one is perfect!

Gifts Under $10

Castelbel Floral Matisse Wild Rose Hand Cream

I have this hand cream, and it’s very luxurious for the price. It is creamy but not greasy with a lovely rose scent.

Cactus Potholder

Who needs a little more cactus in their life? Maybe one just needs more fun in the kitchen : )

Botanical Print Ceramic Nesting Measuring Spoon

The green shade of these measuring spoons will bring a smile to the baker’s face. So fun to update an old set or just have two!

Fueled by Coffee French Press

The gold finish makes this French press a feminine treat. Let’s go for that second cup of coffee with frothed cream!

Rose Iced Tea

Everyone drinks so much more in the summertime! This tea is extra special and unique.

Lagoon Blue Etched Wood Salad Servers

The teal etching is beautiful and ethnic. Perfect to use for Mother’s Day brunch!

Moroccan Rose Soap Petals

We currently have these in our bathroom and have gifted them on numerous occasions. The fragrance in the water is faint but the feel is luxurious. They are the true size of rose buds or larger.

Gold Dust Korean Beauty Hydrogel Sheet Mask

Enjoying supple and dewy skin might mean one needs a little pampering and lots of hydration. This Korean line is making an appearance everywhere!

Gold Love Chains

Wearing bracelets is a summer thing, and this set is so delicate! They will be charming to wear with both casual and dressy outfits.

Watercolor Ceramic Tea Rests

Most people don’t enjoy their tea with the bag still in it. These pretty dishes are the graceful solution to the next shared cup of tea. They could also hold rings and watches at the bedside table or while doing dishes.

with love. Damaris


If It's Not Too Late…A Shopping Guide!

Over the last twelve years of parenting, we have purchased or crafted many presents, and found that some toys ended up in the trash broken or in a donation box a few months later. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have felt the frustration of wanting gifting for children to be both fun and valuable?? Of course, add into the mix the opinions of what is ‘valuable’ to a 9 year old, and it really can get exasperating! hah!

All these items below our children own – still own, and they use again and again. Isn’t that what we want them to do with all the well-thought-out and purposeful presents we gift them? Nothing makes me more happy than to watch them use these toys and tools over and over, year after year!

This guide includes presents appropriate for our seven children – from the little toddler to our oldest who is 12. You’ll notice that the guide includes many simple gifts that are practical, useful, and for their enrichment. For example, our girls use their donut pan and cookbook while having conversations with me and each other, and learning the importance of cleanliness, precision, and proper temperatures, and how materials can be blended and mixed to create new textures, aromas, and tastes. Most of all, they will understand that mistakes can be quickly forgotten with the next batch of donuts!

For our boys, carving shapes out of wood or simply reducing a stick to a single toothpick (or knife) has been a popular pastime for centuries, and could sometimes be a necessity. Carving teaches them about the properties of wood, taking proper care of tools, and using proper techniques for safety in addition to experiencing the pleasure of handling one’s own smooth, carved creation. I hope you’ll find an idea or two for some affordable gifts that enrich your children, enhance their skills and build their creativity! Obviously, I didn’t attach pictures, but each item does have a link- I hope this is helpful for your family!

Girls –

Boys –

Both

with love. Damaris