Mix Epsom salts and baking soda in a bowl using a mixing spoon. Add food coloring, essential oil and extract, and mix quickly to avoid clumps. More blue food coloring can be added, depending on how blue you would like your ocean to be. Put a note on the jar that states: Add 2 tablespoons to bathwater.
-- Judy E. Hamilton
Holiday bath salts
Mix Epsom salts and baking soda in a bowl using a mixing spoon. Add the food coloring and oil and mix quickly to avoid clumps. For an added treat, make a separate batch without the food coloring, and layer the white and red salts in a jar for a candy-cane effect. Put a note on the jar that states: Add 2 tablespoons to bathwater.
-- Judy E. Hamilton
Energizing bath salts
Mix Epsom salts and baking soda in a bowl. Add essential oil and mix quickly to avoid clumps. Four to five drops of food coloring can be used to add a visual touch, but are not necessary. Any color that makes you feel energized would be perfect. Put a note on the jar that states: Add 2 tablespoons to bathwater.
-- Judy E. Hamilton
String bracelets on a budget
I was shopping in the mall one afternoon when I stumbled on the updated version of a string bracelet. I was thrilled to see this modern version of one of my childhood favorites making a grown-up comeback. And I was horrified when I picked it up and saw it cost more than $40. What?! It was just string with a couple of little glass beads and a knotted adjustable clasp!
As I shopped around, I realized almost every store had a version. The least expensive was $25 and the most expensive more than $200. No, thank you! For about what you spend on a cup of gourmet coffee, and a little imagination, you can make several of these bracelets as gifts for all the cool kids in your life.
You'll just need a few things:
1. Measure your string to twice the circumference of your wrist, then add an additional 10-inch tail. You'll need two pieces.
2. Loop the two in half and tie an overhand knot 10 inches from the loop.
3. Hold the pieces, one in each hand, and tie two square knots (see photo of square knot).
4. Slide on a bead. Tie two square knots. Repeat till you've added the desired number of beads. Tie two more square knots.
5. To finish it, you can either tie it off or you can tie each loose end in an overhand knot on the opposite string. Holding all the strings together, tie one overhand knot at the end of the last two square knots. Leave a tail on each end and you can slide the knots to adjust to your wrist size.
6. For a more finished look, you can separate the threads and add a crimp bead to each strand this will keep the edges from unraveling and will add a little weight to the ends to make it hang nicely.
You can personalize these by using the recipient's favorite color or birthstone.
-- Autumn D.F. Hopkins
Traditions from the kitchen
It's been years since I baked cookies and holiday treats with my aunt to give as gifts. As I get older, I realize how important traditions and memories are. So, my goal this holiday season is to remember and honor the past and to make new memories. I will share some of my most valued recipes with the loved ones in my life.
The times I spent in the kitchen with my aunt and grandmother are among my fondest memories. My grandmother loves to tell how I learned to read as a young girl by skimming cookbooks with her and my aunt. It was a weekend ritual, and it is still how we spend time together during my visits.
One of my favorite cookbooks through the years has been "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table" by Maya Angelou. She told a story about each one of the recipes in the book. That's what I plan to do -- tell the stories of the wonderful people who have passed these treasures to me. I want the recipient of these gifts to know how special they, and these recipes, are to me.
Write or print recipes on fun paper. Use craft scissors to cut them out and glue to pretty paper. You can either insert these pages into a binder or a photo album, which can be purchased at a discount store. It might be a good idea to laminate these pages or put them in page protectors. (I'm messy in the kitchen, and your gift recipients might be too.)
This is an inexpensive DIY gift that is both thoughtful and practical. For multiple recipients, scan the recipe pages to your computer and print them off at home or through the photo print services in town, such as Walgreens or Target. You can even lay out your recipe book electronically using Snapfish or a similar photo print service and print multiple copies at the same time.
-- Jen Wood Cunningham
My No. 1 DIY obsession this year has been homemade liqueurs, schnapps and cordials. The first two I learned to do, coffee liqueur and peppermint schnapps, are among my favorites thus far. The added benefit of both is that they do not require a two- to three-month "sit time" that homemade fruit cordials do.
When I give these liqueurs as gifts, I like to use flip-top glass bottles that I order from the Internet. However, you could also use large Mason jars and decorate the lids with fabric and trim.
The only problem with these recipes is keeping oneself away from the finished product before Christmastime arrives!
This liqueur has been the hands-down favorite of family and friends. It goes great in White Russians, over vanilla ice cream, in lattes or just straight up.
In a large saucepan, make simple syrup: Heat water and sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the coffee and let the mixture cool completely, about 10 minutes. Add the vanilla.
In a large, sterile pitcher or sun tea jar with a tight-fitting lid, pour the brandy and rum. Add the coffee mixture to the pitcher and stir well. This is ready to drink once it cools, but I find it tastes better if you give it a week or two in a cool, dark place to let the flavors marry, stirring a few times each day.
When you add a gift tag to your coffee liqueur, be sure to include the instruction to shake well before each use.
You can also cover with plastic wrap and secure with a large rubber band.
This is a great in hot cocoa or used as a base for candy-cane martinis. My favorite way to have this schnapps is as a revitalizing and stomach-soothing after-dinner drink.
In a large saucepan, make simple syrup: Heat water and sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Let the mixture cool completely.
Into a sterile pitcher or sun tea jar with a tight-fitting lid, pour vodka, sugar syrup and peppermint oil or extract. Stir well.
Store in a dark place away from heat for two weeks. Stir every two to three days to mix. I prefer a particularly bracing peppermint flavor, so I usually sample the schnapps after a week to see if more peppermint is needed. Then sometimes I sample it a few more times just to be sure.
-- Dennise Smith
Dennise Smith is a Charleston lawyer, fashion designer and co-founder of the local arts group Nomadic Tribes Collective.