Prep Craft and Gift Ideas

     It is summer time as I post this blog note.  School is out, the kids are already  looking for something to do, I am a busy person with limited funds.  I was taught to make my own fun and I learned how to make many of the gifts I have given over the years.  This page is to help you transition from the convenient habit of buying an easily forgotten gift and the inconvenience of paying for it later when the bill comes to a new simpler way of living.

     First things first, though.  Like with our initial prepping, we made lists of what we have, what we thought we needed and the amount of money available to spend on those items.  To budget out gifts and occasion giving, do the same. Make a list of all the anticipated family occasions where you are expected to give or exchange gifts.  There are birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and special events like a new birth, a wedding, a retirement or housewarming.  

     Look around your home and think what do I have in the way of raw materials.  Before rushing out to buy a craft kit to keep the kids busy, do a little research and find a craft that uses what you have or allows you to gain a skill you have been wanting to learn. 

     For example, say that you have been wanting to learn to hand sew.  If you have no needle or thread you can start your creating with as little as one dollar at the dollar store.  A mending kit comes with needles thread and a needle threader, some time even a little scissors.  You can purchase tiny spools of thread in an assorted color pack at the same time and you are ready or should I say AS ready to learn to stitch as any school girl in the American Colonial period.  

     The sampler above left was made by a young girl learning her letters, numbers and stitching techniques.  There was no embroidery hoop or frame used and a needle to this child was a valued possession, kept and used until it broke, then sharpened and reused.  Begin with a simple back stitch whose instruction can be found in a Simplicity pattern or even on You Tube.  Double strand the thread from the dollar store and you can create a sampler, stitch a clever saying on a pillow, mend your wardrobe, or make a rag doll for gift giving.


Braided Easter Egg Bread Recipe 
     If you already know the basics of sewing and want to learn how to make bread, you need flour, yeast, and salt, sugar and baking powder.  These things may be in your pantry right now.  You can find basic bread recipes at with still photo instructions, or video at Martha Stewart living, Rachael Ray or on YouTube.   Make bread and while you are at it find the recipe for the bread you don't eat....this is a craft dough recipe that makes air hardening play clay. Also, buy a good polyurethane liquid sealer.  Bake bread, learn your craft, then take some of your specialty breads and seal them with polyurethane to make a beautiful bountiful centerpiece that lasts forever, this too can be a gift to the homemaker who loves the look but has no time to bake.  The clay you can make from the same ingredients as bread making can also be used to busy the children, learn to sculpt and in the making of gifts.
     If you or your children are more bent toward science and warfare, there are a number of blogs and sites available to teach the catapult, and potato cannons and other dangerous 'crafts'. 

     Be sure to stop in in the next month to check for more ideas for gift giving, craft /skill building and low cost fun projects that use what you have and offer an alternative to watching yet another rerun  this summer.

Extracts for Cooking and Gift Giving

   All my research through the old cook books in the family and on the internet bring me to state:  Extracts are essential oils and flavors extracted from fruits, nuts, seeds and plants suspended in alcohol and used to flavor food.  They are used for the aromatic flavoring of foods. You can make a sugar cookie without vanilla extract, but without the complementing flavor and aroma, it tastes like a sweet soft pretzel.  I like sugar cookies to taste like sugar and orange cake to taste like oranges.  I like the house to smell like the food cooked here as well.   
     I make vanilla extract with South American vanilla beans.  I bought them at the local Seventh Day Adventist owned and operated organic food store.  I use the cheapest vodka I can buy and jelly and jam jars originally purchased at Wal-Mart.  They have already been used as jam jars.  They should be boiled to be reused and new lids need to be purchased. 
     I make a label with clip art from my computer to reflect the taste of the recipient of the gift. The label is pretty much a glorified name tag on the front.  On the back label, I include the ingredients, and a date of production with instructions if needed.
These recipes are no cook, just combine ingredients, store in a cool dark place for three weeks or so and shake the jars every 2 to 3 days. 
3 vanilla beans
½ cup 40% alcohol by volume vodka
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Zest from 1 lemon
½ cup 40% alcohol by volume vodka
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Peel of one orange (navel) remove as much of the pith, white part as you can
½ cup 40% alcohol by volume vodka
Other ingredients that make a good gifting extract are, walnuts, almonds, roses (yes, for baklava), limes, onion, and chili peppers. 

Pot Holders and Basic Weaving

     This might be a spoiler for family who read this blog, but the grandson is making pot holders for gifts to give later this year.  He is getting pretty good at it and doesn't know he is learning basic weaving, basic darning and basic crochet skills.  The basic weaving skill of up and down, over and under can be translated later into darning as in repairing a worn sock or mending worn fabric of any kind.  The terms for weaving pot holders are the same as weaving new fabric over a worn sock heel.  I can show him how it is done and he will be able to do the same since he has the experience from the potholder craft.  When the weather cools off a bit, I will pull out my crochet kit and he will see how the single crochet done to get the loops off the frame are just the basics for making afghans, and the collars and cuffs on sweaters and jackets.   

     The pot holder project started when we made a trip to the local thrift store.  I found a plastic bag with a green metal pot holder frame, a brand new plastic yellow frame with a crochet hook attached, and several baggies of the weaving loops for $2.92.  I went to Wal Mart and found the potholder refill loops in a kit for three dollars in the clearance section of the art department.  There are lots of craft kits there that use basic skills that can be built upon later.  After a couple of days, we were at the laundry washing big comforters and using their big dryers to get it all done at once, when I pulled out a loom and started a pot holder.  He was on his tablet playing some game but about halfway through, he was watching me weave.  By the time I was ready to crochet off, he wanted to pick the colors for the next one.  So, I told him okay but this time you do it, I'll show you. 

     Next week, I will show him how to weave with just yarn.  My grandmother "let" me make a dozen woven "pot holders" from a some baby yarn and then she stitched them together to make a baby blanket.  I thought it was magic!  The real magic was, I learned how to do it myself and was able to add another row when my brother got a little bigger.  A  single row of eight yarn woven squares is a neck scarf.  Add more for a fashionable length.  

Patchwork Potholder 
     This is a rug made from recycled t shirts and a pot holder loom.You can make a loom if you want to go really back to basics.  I have used one half inch brads and a picture frame for a loom in the past.  These looms work best with yarn and not those stretchy loops that come with the potholder kits.  It also makes a blanket work up faster if it is a nice large frame!
     You can make a loom from nails and a wooden thread spool, to make these bracelets, and make them longer for drawstrings, and even longer (miles longer!) a hat or to stitch into a circle to make a rug. This round loom weaving is closer to knitting than the flat loom, but it is weaving and is easy to do for kids or adults. 
Larger round looms can be bought in a set of several sizes from Jo-Ann etc or made from larger spools.  It's easy to make a stocking knit hat from these looms and it is just wind the yarn on, in and out and then over the next row, instructions come with the looms.  

     My treasured grandmother made a beautiful afghan from the smallest round looms called flower looms.  It looked like a blanket of daisies.  My mom has it now, and it is mine next!


Prep gifts from The Kitchen

     At the last minute before a holiday, many craft magazines and the major women's magazines recommend a food gift.  That's great if you are putting together a gift basket as a house warming gift or to take to a large family dinner.  A basket of baked goods is a great addition to the meal. 

     Sure, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and prepping for holiday fun and a last minute basket of baked bread can be a remedy after the shops are closed.  But a prepper Prepares.  Being prepared means looking ahead and making provisions for what will come.  A prepper's gift basket was prepared ages ago!

     The way you get those great prep gifts from the kitchen at holiday time is to set aside items as you make or acquire them and keep them for the holidays.   When you preserve a basket of apples, or make apple butter, take ten percent of your yield and mark it, "Do Not Open 'Till December 25th".  As you go through the summer and fall, continue to set aside products for the holiday season and when the time rolls around that you are ready to make baskets of preserved goods, just add some festive holiday stickers and a ribbon, then decide who gets which!
$13.79        Don't forget to consider the container a gift as well!  You can purchase a case of Mason jar drinking glasses.  Then go to your pantry or larder, get out the cocoa, sugar and dehydrated milk and a bag of marshmallows.  Here's a recipe that works.  Mix ingredients, divide into four glasses and pack the marshmallows on the top.  Screw on the lid, add a tag with instructions to add hot water and enjoy!  If you really like the person, divide the mix into zippered storage bags and give all four in a BIG jar!  You can make this gift and vacuum seal the dry goods, storing them until needed during the winter.  
  • 2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup powdered nondairy creamer
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

      Sometimes when I buy bulk, I like to break down a large container into smaller packages and vacuum seal them.  If I am putting together a five gallon bucket of baking staples, I break down a ten pound bag of flour into four two pound bags and mark them with a sharpie.  Three go in to the bucket with packages of sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and other items that are the bones of many breads or meals.  The left overs go into the kitchen canisters to be used.  It is at this time you can make your gift mixes.  The vacuum sealer is out on the counter, you have broken into a large bag of flour, now is the time to go from making a little mess to making a big success!  

     You can make and seal several bread mixes or cookie mixes when you make a batch for home use.  For example, make a double batch of sugar cookies, part out half and seal it with a 3"x 5" card inside with : just add eggs and butter (and write the amount).  You can dress up the packaging later one cold night before the holidays.  Just don't pass up the chance to mark everything!  

     Gifts from the kitchen don't have to be baked or require the recipient to do any cooking.  You can give kitchen gifts.  As an avid yard sale-er, I have an assortment of blue enamel roasting pans.  I have two favorites and two sets with lids that I never use.  I know someone who has NONE!  Perish the thought!  The trick to giving a used or vintage gift is in the packaging!!  If you take the lid and place it along the back of the pan making a nice back drop for a presentation you can tape it in place.  Then fill the pan with shredded news print, left over paper Easter grass, or raffia up to the level of the roaster.  Place some pot holders, oven mitts, an apron, tea towels, a cook book even some spices on the bed of straw.  Place it all in a large gift bag and tie it shut with a ribbon.

     If someone on your list has just moved into a home, the gift of a kitchen in a basket can be a real money saving blessing for them! You can go themed with just the measuring cups and spoons in a small basket or a quart size mason jar with ladles, spoons and spatulas.  Oh, if you made the wooden spoons and spatulas, you could be my new best friend!  

     Prepper's are able to do last minute, on the move, improvisational adapting to surroundings and are prepared to do it to live, but if you are still here come the holidays, why didn't you prep for it?  

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