Holiday planning

So you guys, part of me is rebelling at the very thought of this post: Zero waste holiday gift ideas. I like to celebrate my holidays in order. Like, let’s do Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and THEN Christmas (for me. I’d love to hear about other traditions). I don’t need to see candy canes in October. Why am I seeing candy canes in October?!

But here’s the thing: Zero waste takes time. It takes patience. It takes planning. And so here we are. (Deep breath.) I may be rebelling at the thought, but I know it’s necessary.

Ta-da! Two half-pints for the "gift pantry" and three pints plus an extra half-pint for the fam. I also ended up with a bit left over, which went into another jar that could be devoured immediately.

Jam is usually very well received because not everyone makes it.

Roberta actually gave me this idea last month (hi, Roberta!) when she posted a comment about collecting containers for homemade lip balm for Christmas presents. It occurred to me that if we put our heads together and brainstormed ideas now, this could be a Very Merry Zero Waste Holiday Season.

So let’s blow the comments up. I want to hear your ideas, what you’ve done in the past, what you want to try. I want recipes! I want how-to steps!

And if this goes well, maybe we can talk about meals and decorating, too, in another post soon.

(And kids’ gifts. That’s an entirely different problem.)

Anyway, I am not (totally) greedy, so here is my contribution to the discussion:

First and foremost, my gifts will contain homemade jam. (Blueberry, raspberry and cherry, and peach butter just to show off.) This is especially fun to give to someone who doesn’t can themselves. I wrote a post on making jam HERE.

Idea Two: I like to give small presents to my coworkers — not everyone does, but I think it’s fun — and for the women in my office, I’m leaning towards a sugar scrub in cute recycled jars.

Which reminds me: Favorite mother-in-law, I may need more cute recycled jars.

Anyway, here’s a scrub that’s been Trisha tested. I made it as-is, but I don’t see why you couldn’t literally use ANY kind of sugar — white, turbinado, whatever. Maybe pulse it around in a food processor if it seems too coarse.

It's brown sugary, all right.

It’s brown sugary, all right.

Mix together:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup very fine salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

(That’s almost too easy.)

Idea Three: I have discovered the joy of Citrus Bliss essential oil and have been using it to scent everything from my All-Purpose Cleaner to lotion. The lotion has been a surprise hit with my girls. (Well, it does smell like a dream.) I think this might make a nice teacher / bus driver gift. Abby has a few friends’ moms on her list … maybe this and/or the scrub?

Anyway, I’m trying to figure out how to give you a recipe when I kind of just wing it. I like to use coconut oil with a little beeswax added to thicken it up … some drops of Citrus Bliss … and then I stir it periodically as it cools to kind of fluff it up. If you need an actual how-to, HERE is a post describing how I made Bea Johnson’s All-Purpose Balm. It’s the same idea, just less beeswax and coconut oil instead of olive oil.

Lastly, I think a bottle or jar of homemade vanilla would be a great gift. This one needs to be made NOW, though, if you want it brewed in time for December.



I’ve been making my own vanilla for three years (if you can call soaking beans in vodka “making”), and there’s no going back. I actually bought a “starter kit” at the farmers’ market (cute bottle and a few beans for $14 — that didn’t include the alcohol), but I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I think I can simplify the process (and make it less expensive AND use fewer containers), as follows:

Step 1: Get a bottle of vodka or bourbon. It doesn’t even have to be good vodka or bourbon. I go cheap.

Step 2: Procure your vanilla beans. You’ll probably need five or six (maybe more) depending on the size of the bottle you purchased.

Step 3: Half the beans; slit lengthwise and scrape some of the paste out. Drop that whole mess into the bottle (beans, paste, the works).

Step 4: Store in a cool, dark place. Take it out and shake it periodically. The longer if sits, the better it is … but a month or two should do it.

(Step 5: When you decant into bottles, refill your original container with more vodka or bourbon. You now have a never-ending supply of vanilla.)

Wait, bonus gift: Homemade vanilla syrup using said vanilla. Post HERE. (A bottle of vanilla syrup, a jar of locally roasted bulk coffee … that would do it for me. Actually, that’s how I plan to get through the holidays. 😉 )

Okay friends, your turn now. Even though I don’t want to think about Christmas, I am rather excited to see what you all have up your sleeves. I think this could be a lot of fun.

Next up: Well, that’s a good question. I wish I had an answer.