Christmas in August: Homemade Neighbor Gifts

Studio 5 Contributor Kiersten Blanchard has some great gift ideas you can start tackling now, that will be the neighborhood hit come Christmas!

Preparing your neighbor gifts now can save you a lot of stress later and even some money. In December you’ll simply deliver the gifts, then kick your feet up in front of the fire and enjoy some hot chocolate!

Homemade Jam in Etched Glass Jars: Berries are in season, making the next few weeks the perfect time to make homemade jam. Sure Jell Premium Fruit Pectin has great recipes for both freezer and cooked jams. To make the gift unique and festive, etch the glass with a fun Christmas design or even the initial of each recipient’s last name.


Homemade jam

Glass jars

Etching cream (available at craft stores)

Latex gloves

Craft Knife

Clear contact paper cut into small squares

Design (to create a template)

Cutting board

Foam brush


Make sure the jars are clean and dry. Place your printed design on the cutting board and cover with the contact paper (with backing still intact). Use a craft knife to cut the design into the contact paper. Remove the section you’ve cut out, reserving the template. (If you’re doing letters, remember to reserve the center of letters such as A or O.) Remove the backing from the template and carefully place it on the jar. Press the template to the glass so that there are no bubbles or wrinkles. Using a foam brush, apply a thick layer of cream to the glass. (Avoid spill as the cream will eat through surfaces. Do it in a well-ventilated area. Do not get the cream on your skin!) Wait five minutes. Rinse off the cream with water and remove the stencil. You may want to practice a once or twice with a simple template until you are comfortable with the amount of cream to use.


You could also use the etched jar for homemade salsa. Put away until December then give with a bag of tortilla chips.

Homemade Scented Pinecones: Leafs aren’t the only thing preparing to fall to the ground this autumn. Pinecones are all around – in the park, up the canyon, or even in your own yard. Scented pinecones are an inexpensive way to give the wonderful scents of the season.


Pinecones of all sizes

Essential oil (available at Michael’s)

Large baking sheet

Aluminum foil

Large heavy-duty kitchen garbage bag

Cinnamon sticks

Small ornaments (optional)

Glass vase (Robert’s: clearance price $2.79)

Ribbon (to tie on vase)


Place pinecones in large bag and sprinkle with favorite Christmas scents. (Oils come in several scents including Apple Spice, Cinnamon, and Sticky Buns.) The larger the bag, the more oil you will need. A good rule of thumb is 1 oz. oil per pound of pinecones. You can include cinnamon sticks if desired. Let the bag sit for several weeks, rotating each week to blend the mixture. When you’re ready, distribute the pinecones among vases. You may want to include small ornaments to add color. Finish the look by tying a cinnamon stick in a ribbon around each vase.

Chocolate Goodies: Christmas and chocolate are two of my favorite things. Put them together and, well…what more could you want? This year, treat neighbors to a sweet chocolaty gift.

All September, Bakers Cash and Carry* is having a chocolate sale. Stock up on chocolate and supplies now, and have what you need to make the treats in December. Here are a couple to choose from…

Chocolate & Carmel Dipped Apples: Just like a favorite from popular candy shops!


Apples (usually best when they’re a little tart)
Caramel (Peter’s brand sold in bricks at Bakers)

White chocolate wafers (Bakers $11.67 for 5#)

Apple sticks (Bakers $1.49 for 25 sticks)

Cinnamon & sugar

Parchment paper

Clear cellophane bags (Bakers 10¢ ea.)

Clear apple box (Bakers 55¢ ea.)


Wash and dry the apples completely. Place a stick in each one. Follow the directions on the box for melting the caramel. Be sure to reduce power to 30-40% power (or defrost setting) so the caramel doesn’t burn and harden. You can also use homemade caramel. Dip the apple in, covering it completely. Put it on parchment paper to cool for about 30 minutes. Melt white chocolate wafers in the microwave stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning. Dip the caramel apple into the white chocolate. Sprinkle a cinnamon and sugar (mixed together) on top while the chocolate is still warm. Let cool completely. To finish it off, you can wrap it in a clear cellophane bag with a ribbon, or in a clear apple box with a ribbon around the stick.

You can also get creative in your decorating. If you don’t do the cinnamon and sugar on top, you could make the apple look like a snowman. You could also drizzle melted red and green chocolate wafers over the top to make it festive.

S’mores Kits:


Graham crackers

Large marshmallows

Chocolate bars

Clear boxes (I purchased 3 different sizes, including the apple box from Bakers. They range from $ .55-$1.25 ea.)

Twine or metallic elastic


There’s not much to do, but assemble the kits, and tie them together with a festive bow.

*Bakers Cash and Carry

44 West Vine St., Murray


Decorated Wood Letter Blocks: Wood letter blocks make a cute decoration for any home. The problem is finding time to make them. Start now and complete just a step or two a day on many sets. Soon you’ll find you have a great gift ready to go long before you need them!


Wood letters (from The Wood Connection* – “Littlest Joy” set or individual letters of “Snow)

Wood Glue


Plastic (shoebox) container

Chopsticks or bamboo skewers

Soiled cloth

Foam brush

Sand paper

Festive card stock

Pencil & scissors

Glitter (and Clear Acrylic coat to spray on after)

Acrylic paint

Mod Podge



Mix wood stain and pour into plastic container. Dip each letter into the stain, making sure all surfaces are covered. Place the letter on the bamboo skewers (over the shoebox) so that they drip off into the box. Allow them to sit for a few minutes to absorb the stain. With a cloth that you don’t mind getting dirty, wipe the excess stain from the letters. Let dry.

Once the stain is dry, trace each letter onto cardstock. Cut them out. Using wood glue and a foam brush, glue each card stock letter to the surface of the wood letter. Let dry. Sand the edges so that the paper matches up with the wood edge. Dip a paint brush in paint and wipe off excess. Gently brush the edge of each letter. Apply Mod Podge over the top.

To glitter a letter, apply a coat of paint. Apply the second coat, and when it is still wet, dip the surface of the letter in glitter. (Spread the glitter onto a paper plate to make this easy.) Once dry, spray with clear acrylic coat and let dry. Add embellishments.

*The Wood Connection is offering viewers a 15% discount on the two projects above. Just mention Studio 5. The offer expires September 10, 2010.

The Wood Connection

6680 South 300 West

Murray, Utah


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