Cross-posted on the LBYM Board. Whew! Now that Christmas is actually over, I'm really pleased with how my crafts came out. I was up until 3 am the night before Christmas, though,next year, if it's not done by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, I'm not doing it!! I made the following: Nanna's biscotti (hand-dipped in chocolate); Container candles in china teacups, wool scarves, hand-made soaps and salt body scrubs. I have included instructions for most of these below; A lot of people on my list received some combination of the above, arranged on cute Christmas baskets that I found at the dollar tree store and tied with ribbon. The presentation looked awesome, too! 1. Nanna's biscotti (almond biscotti), which I hand-dipped in milk chocolate (I don't have the recipe with me, but will post it tomorrow if anyone is interested)2. Container candles in china teacups (made with recycled candle wax (cost - nothing) and the teacups were from a thrift store ($0.38 per teacup), I think the wicks and wickholders cost me a couple of dollars, but I actually bought them a long time ago and had never gotten around to using them. Use a double-boiler (not one you want to use for cooking again - I actually bought a metal kettle with a wooden handle at the thrift store for about $2 and it worked great, because I could pour the melted wax really easily). Melt the candles and fish out the old wicks, etc. I cut out any debris that had fallen into the old candle. I had old candles with a scent that i liked, so I didn't add any scent. I also used the mix of old candles that I used to get the color that I wanted. Secure the metal wick holder to a piece of wick that is about 2 inches longer than the depth of the teacup. Tie the other end to a pencil or a wooden skewer. Dip the holder in the melted wax and fix to the bottom of the cup. Use the skewer to straighten the wick in the candle and then pour wax into the candle until it comes about 1/4 inch below the top. Let sit. When candle is cooled (about 2 hours, I found), the wax will have created a well around the wick - add additional wax to cover and fill the well. I found that for some of the candles, I had to top it up a couple times to get a nice flat candle at the top. 3. 100% Wool scarves: these were no-sew scarves with fringe, turned out great: you cut the wool into the size that you want - I cut them selvage to selvage, so mine were 54" long; then you carefully pull threads out of the weave at the edges (one by one) until you have a fringe that is about 1.5" long. Then knot the last one or two threads in each of the corners, so that the scarf won't lose any more edges. Tip: I learned from experience that it was best to measure the width and then pull a thread or two through the entire cloth to use as a guide when cutting. (Cost for two 18" by 54" scarves: $12 for one yard of superfine wool)4. home-made soaps with varying ingredients & scents: cost $35 - I bought a 10 lb. block of glycerine soap at Michaels, which cost about $30, which was the bulk of the cost. I also purchased some interesting plastic containers at a thrift store for molds and used plastic yoghurt, ricotta and sour cream containers as molds, also. Some of my favorites were green tea (actual green tea leaves & a little tea for scent) and tangerine oil combined; milk, honey & oatmeal (using powdered milk) and pomegranite-mimosa. I also made rose and peppermint. I have about half of the soap left over and I made enough soaps to give 3 soaps each to 9 people on my list, so the cost per person was about $1.94. After looking at a couple of stores, I decided that the cost per volume was comparable to purchasing relatively cheap regular soaps. 5. salt body-scrubs (personalized scents) These cost about $8.50 each, compared with purchasing them for about $20-30) My experience here was that the best salt to use ended up being the coarse kosher salt from the grocery store. The sea salts that I had purchased specifically for this purpose were too coarse. The one set that I made with the sea salt, I actually put in the cuisinart to try and make it more fine. I had purchased a while ago these beautiful blue Bell jars with the old-fashioned wire closures for about $2 apiece. To make the body scrub, I filled the jar most of the way with salt to measure out how much salt I needed, then dumped it into a porcelain bowl. To the salt I added sweet almond, avocado and vitamin E oils, mostly almond oil as I had the most of that on hand already, essential oils for scent (no more than 5 or 6 drops), then for some I added dried orange peel and/or cloves which I had chopped up pretty fine in a coffee grinder that I use for spices. The cloves and orange peel was primarily for visual interest, it didn't add significantly to the exfoliating capabilities. I also added one drop of yellow food coloring to one that I did with all citrus based scents to give it a little more color. One I did with pomegranite juice and seeds that I had ground up - it turned out a beautiful color. I added enough of the oil in each case so that when I mixed it in and let it settle it just covered the salt with a thin layer of oil. Less oil and I found it was too rough.
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