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Gift Giving Is Getting Personal

Are you running out of gift ideas for the many special occasions your family celebrates? Check out these fast and easy ways to handcraft customized gifts that are sure to make your friends and loved ones feel cherished.

Finding new and interesting birthday gifts year after year is the ultimate challenge. Walking through stores, you often end up thinking, “Been there, bought that.”

So instead of shopping for the perfect present, why not tap into your own creativity and create a personalized gift that is sure to make your special someone feel extra special? A handmade treasure shows how much you really care — plus it gives you a chance to express your creative side. 

So, whether you’re a skilled crafter or not, try these clever and easy personalized presents for the VIPs in your life.

For Your Best Friend
Store-bought bath-and-body products are a nice gift and look beautiful in the bathroom, but they’ve become predictable. What hasn’t: Handcrafted bath scrubs in a customized container, says Brooke Palmer, a self-proclaimed crafting addict and co-owner of My Little Pumpkin Kids, a line of hand-embellished and -embroidered children’s clothes.

To start, use decorative paper to line the outside of an antique mason-type jar or a clean jelly or salsa jar (with the label removed). Choose a pattern or color you know your friend will love.

In a mixing bowl, combine the following:

  • 1/2 cup dark honey
  • 1/4 cup white cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup grape seed or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 20 drops essential oil (a scent you know she likes, like lavender or mint)

Spoon the mixture into the jar, secure the lid and tie on a tag with ribbon that tells her what’s inside (e.g., “Sally’s Lavender-mint Body Scrub”) or what to do with it (e.g., “Pamper, polish and perfume!”). 

For Your Child
This idea works for your own child, or a friend of your child’s who might be having a birthday party or other special event. On this one, you will need to get hands-on help from a company called Me and My Peeps Books (meandmypeepsbooks online). Start by uploading a few snapshots of the child to the Web site, then work with the Me and My Peeps team via email or phone to come up with an idea for a storybook featuring the boy or girl. You pick themes like families, numbers and friends, and the company creates the 5-by-5-inch hardcover book.

“Every kid loves looking at pictures of himself, so he’ll read it again and again,” says co-owner Keri Nathan Stern. “And the small size easily pops into a bag or stroller.” Bonus: At less than $30, this pint-size, personalized present won’t break the bank.

For Your Co-worker
Baked goods are a tasty and comforting gift, but unless the recipient lives with a hungry crew, your tin of two dozen may go stale before she finishes it. Instead, gift her frozen cookie dough balls so she can bake them depending on her own time frame or temptation scale (e.g., two here, 10 there).

Spend one afternoon mixing up a few of your favorite cookie recipes — peanut butter, chocolate chunk or simple sugar cookies. Use a small ice-cream or melon scooper to make lots of mini-balls, then store them separately in freezer bags, says Jennifer Lewis Benerofe, a personal chef in New York. “Whenever you need a gift, wrap two dozen in parchment and put the package in a takeaway plastic container,” she says. Tie a ribbon around the container and create a personalized label that includes baking instructions.

To give her another surprise sweet treat when the cookies run out, place a few recipe cards for your other favorite desserts on the bottom of the container.

Whether a gift is for your girlfriend, a co-worker or someone else in your social circle, it can be easily customized to make the recipient feel special. And isn’t that what gift giving is all about?

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