Quick and Cheap Christmas Basket Ideas


Many Dollar Stores or craft stores have inexpensive baskets in a wide variety of sizes, over the years I have collected several.

For a young girl: small purse or change purse, a make-up bag could be used as well. A bottle of nail polish, perfume, glitter, makeup, nail file, mirror, earrings, stickers, notepaper, fancy pens or pencils, etc.

A cute basket lined with a new dish towel; inside I placed some very cute shapes for cooking eggs and pancakes in (I found these at a specialty kitchen store for under $5); a bottle or two of flavored pancake syrups, a boxed or bagged pancake mix.

Wine drinkers: small bottle of wine, two wine glasses, box of crackers, small paper plate with cubed cheese and maybe pepperoni or a cheese ball, candles for atmosphere. One can add a wine bottle opener or stopper to this if so desired.

For a couple: two mugs, hot cocoa mix, two spoons, and a light blanket or throw, nice note to cuddle up together on those chilly winter nights.

For your best girl friend a basket full of all kinds of things she would enjoy. I call this one the Pamper your BFF gift basket: A candle or candles, bubble bath, bath soaps, body spray, small box of chocolates, some chamomile or green tea bags or flavoured coffee, some organic body lotion. a loofah or pretty bath sponge, and a little note that says to pamper yourself because you deserve it.

For the serious coffee drinker: 2- 3 small bags of finely ground coffee you can buy from your local grocery store, 2 coffee mugs, & chocolate covered coffee beans.

For the baker: A rolling pin, measuring cups and spoons, a loaf pan, cookie sheet, some cookie cutters and an apron.

For the Writer:
A dictionary, word of the day calendar, pens, and a colourful mug

For the Tea Drinker: A small teapot, 2 mugs, 4-5 different teas, flavoured honey sticks, & a cream and sugar set.

For the Gardener: Mini indoor herb kits are a great idea for the gardener in your life.

When time is running out and you need to get creative:

A few ideas came to mind utilizing some household items that already exist in our homes.

Now a really good idea came to mind using pipe cleaners. Make a tree out of them and then use tea bags as ornaments and give to the tea lover.

Cake in a mug: This is one of my favourites, place a large mug and the directions in the mug and wrap with coloured cellophane plastic wrap with a bow to secure the top.

Cake in a Mug
4 tablespoons flour (cake flour)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, any kind
1/8 teaspoon baking powder (a pinch!)
1/8 teaspoon salt (a pinch!!)
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
2 -3 drops vanilla (optional)

In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, tiny pinch baking powder and tiny pinch salt. (This can also be mixed directly into the large mug).
Add egg and mix into dry mixture.
Add oil and milk and mix well.
Grease a tall, large mug, and pour in this mixture, scraping out with a spatula.
Place in microwave on High for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes. Time will vary for this recipe – best to keep an eye on it
in the microwave as mine usually is done in 2 minutes.
(Best slightly undercooked, so be careful).

** For those that prefer a white cake or perhaps a gluten free cake there are many variations to this recipe via the internet.

Photo: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Quick & Inexpensive Homemade Christmas Gifts for Everyone on Your List

This year we decided we were going to make homemae gifts for Christmas.. This might sound intimidating at first. I can hear the groans.. ” But I don’t have the time!”. I think you do and will find the time.

Here is a short list of things anyone can make in a very small period of time.

1. A gift basket ( one can purchase cheaply at any Dollarstore), one can include things you might already have in your home, such as homemade jams, herbs you grew over the summer, popcorn, muffins, brownies, homemade cookies, teas, or chocolates, even plants!  Ever get a banana bread in a jar?


2. Tins of popcorn: I am sure, we have a seen those tins at the Big Box Stores that sell anywhere from $8.00 to $10.00.

3. If you are a crafter, why not make homemade earrings, broaches or bracelets for the ladies on your list.  If you crochet, make some doilies or make quilts, why not make a pillow sham or tablecloth for a gift using material leftover from another project.  Even better why not make a picture frame or tissue holder box cover.  How about a homemade Christmas ornament?  If anyone makes candles, there is another option, scented candles in a variety of scents.  Gloves, socks or slippers that are knitted or crocheted will certainly be appreciated on those cold winter nights.


4. The ladies on your list would love some bath bombs or as they are often called bath snowballs.  There are a variety of sites that contain directions on how to make these.  Homemade bubble bath or bath oil made from any leftover herbs would be a great gift.

5.  These ones are for the men.  Homemade BBQ sauces are easy to make and take me on average about 5 minutess to prepare.   Those of you with wine and beer kits why not put those to good use and give those as presents.  You can personalize the labels for each person on your list.

6.  What about the animals?   I found several recipes for organic cat and dog treats that only require time to mix and bake. Dog and cat toys are quite easy to make.  Use organic catnip for the cat toys and honeysuckle for the dog toys.  Cakes appear to be the latest trend for our pets.  The internet has a great deal of information on these, just ensure the ingredients are safe for your animals. Getting back to the knitter and crafters, a dog sweater or collar for your dog buds is a good idea.  Dog beds or cat beds can be given as gifts as well if one has the materials to do so.

7. Yes, we cannot forget the kids: popcorn, cookies and chocolates will certainly be appreciated but in moderation.

8. The picky one on your gift list.  We all have one of those, don’t we?  Make them a homemade Christmas card or make them a caramel dip for apples.  Maybe the wine might be best with this one.  If all else fails chocolate gets them almost every time.

Some other ideas include:  Homemade journals or photo albums can be quick projects for gift making

Have fun 🙂

All Photos : http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/search.php?search=candles&cat



The Random Acts of Kindness Challenge Update Nov 29th

It has almost been a month since I posted this blog.  Officially, this week marks Random Acts of Kindness week.  As we move closer to the Christmas season many of us are seeing  requests from various charities for their financial support.  Why not take the time to buy some non-perishable food items and drop them off at a local Safeway or buy a child a toy or teddy bear and donate it to a store collecting gifts for children.

If you have any winter coats, blankets, gloves or scarves you no longer use wash them and donate them to a local charity collecting winter clothing items.

I challenge you, the reader to commit a random act of kindness once a week for one person or family until Christmas.  One can get really creative with this but you cannot divulge who you are or take credit for ir.

Some ideas I came up with are:

Shovel someone’s walk before they get home from work.

If you go through a drive thru coffeeshop or fast food place, give the person at the window a $5,00 bill and tell them to use it for the next person.

Leave an envelope of money in a grocery cart.

If you know someone that is really struggling financially leave them a grocery store card in their mailbox or a box of canned food items, some used clothing, whatever you think they need.

Buy some cookies for some aged people in your neighbourhood and leave them on the step, ring the doorbell and run fast as to not get caught.

Drop off a bunch of older VHS movies to a senior center or nursing home.

This can be a fun way to help someone else and boost your level of happiness knowing that you made someone else fell good too.

Buy a few teddy bears, some fancy pencils, some children’s books and donate them to a school in your community where the kids are from low income homes.

Buy a christmas ornament, wrap it and leave it in the library with a card that says for you.

Got any old coats or blankets, take them to a local shelter drop off box and let someone who needs it, use it.

Give someone a plant in the spring.

Get some flowers delivered to a widower, include an uplfting quote on the card.

Anonymously donate money to the library for two yearly library cards for people who are low- income.

Please comment with your experiences and ideas.  I would love to read what you did.  Enjoy yourself and you will because you will be making someone else feel good to.

The Christmas Eve Angel

The Christmas Eve Angel

He walked with a limp that slowed down his pace

He was unshaven and appeared out of place

He was allowed on earth for just one night

and he hoped the task would make things right

He had been called to visit a little boy who some thought soon would die

To deliver a gift that he had never seen

and travel to a place he had never been,

The wind roared as he walked into the cold winter air

tugging at his parka he grabbed at his hood and tucked in his hair

The only guides he was given to find the address was a star above an old abandoned shack.

a Christmas globe that sat in a window sill and the name of the child, being Jack,

They told him it wasn’t too far just past a dead end sign

He managed to find the house just fine

Looked at his watch and saw it was about nine

When he arrived at the front door he saw people praying in a circle their heads hung low

He knocked on the door watching a young woman approaching quite slow,

“Come in, “ she said “We’ve been waiting for you to arrive.”

“You must go upstairs and sit with our son as he is barely alive.”

He walked upstairs and knelt by Jack’s bed

Jack smiled and the angel put his hand on the boy’s head

Jack came bounding out of his room, the colour had returned to his cheeks,

Something they had not seen in many months and several weeks,

Someone said our prayers were answered and he was the one.

They heard the angel whisper “ I have sacrificed myself to save your son.”



Angela H. Penn © November 2011.

Twas A Magical Evening at the Greenhouse

Twas a magical evening at the Greenhouse.

The first thing you notice is the smell of the plants, something living, the scent of fertile dirt.  At this time of the year it catches you by surprise as snow has now covered what was once, merely months ago grass.   The ambience was tranquil among the trees decorated in shades of blue, gold, white, purple and green.  Everything gleamed in the traditional colours of Christmas whether it was lights or stockings or glass ornaments, even the purses and scarfs glowed.  One could walk into different areas and the colour of these areas would all be the same.  I was particularly smitten with the blue section, the aqua tree and it’s ornaments, the shade of peacock blue that mixed in with the aqua were beautiful along with the glass blown vases, candle holders & coffee mugs that adorned one table.  The richness in detail was magnified by the baby blue and midnight blue paintings and sketches that covered the walls in this area.  The waft of blueberries sent me back to my childhood when my Grandmother and I would go berry picking together.  This memory made me smile.

The essence of pine and sandalwood seemed to follow me no matter where I went, until I sauntered into the baked goodies.  Any die hard dessert person would have thought they were in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  After several samples of almond bark, cookies, cakes, and pies I decided to try some not so sweet offerings such as the perogies and sausage that were around the corner from the desserts.  Shortly after, I ventured to the Minnie’s Café which is named after the resident female cat, where to my delight I soon discovered the complimentary coffee, which mixed with the sugary desserts seemed to further energize me and heighten my senses.

As the evening progressed I sat down near the fountains and listened to several classical versions of Christmas songs performed by two very talented young ladies.  I found myself sipping my coffee and singing a note here and there, sometimes humming in unison with the musicians.  I thought about why I had not been singing anymore, when did I abandon this activity and why?  I was even amazed that I sounded so good and then it hit me of course it is Christmas time and singing has always made me feel good about my life.  Singing is a part of who I am, as is my desire to write.  My X-mas spirit had waned a great deal in the past few days with some recent developments that had disappointed me and I needed a day to digest these matters.  I decided that this had to stop.  I am in an environment that is peaceful, I am enjoying myself here and I felt that inner glow rise up in me and shine.

Soon after, I was greeted by a local resident of the Greenhouse by the name of Charlie who seemed perfectly content to not only jump on my lap from out of nowhere, but linger for several minutes where he rubbed his chin on my arm and shoulders.  It was only later I learned his name was Charlie through one of the employees at the greenhouse.  He was a friendly little gent, gray in colour and was a tabby, not much older than 8 months.   I wonder if maybe Charlie was an angel, perhaps a sign that God was listening and felt the sadness that I had been dealing with in the last 24 hours.  Had Charlie been sent to comfort me ?

To all a good night and may the magic of the season bring you many blessings~ xx