Quick and Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts

Sometimes, the festive holiday season loses a bit of its happy glow as folks race against the clock -- not to mention the pocketbook -- to find and fund ?"just the right gift.?" Yet so often, the simplest, homemade gifts become the ones most cherished by those who receive them. Consider these five simple Christmas pleasures as you?'re planning your holiday gift-giving for friends and family.

1. Homemade Christmas cookies are as fun to make as they are to receive! From buttery oatmeal-raisin, to sweet gingerbread, to colorful orange and lemon slices dusted with powdered sugar, individually wrap your confections in plain clear cellophane paper and tie them up with a glittery ribbon. Or pack them loosely in an ordinary Mason canning jar, the top covered with a pretty print fabric square. Perfect!

2. Do you knit or crochet? Today?'s fabulously soft and textured yarns are perfect for a tasseled pair of bed slippers or a one-of-a-kind hat, gloves and scarf set. Potholders, earmuffs and mittens are quick and easy weekend projects, too. Wrap your Christmas gift in plain tissue paper and tie with a strand of red or green rick-rack. 

3. A basket of pinecone fire-starters is just the thing for friends who have a woodstove or fireplace. Dip the pinecone ends into melted candle wax, allow them to dry on a hard surface, then tuck them neatly into individual little peat pots. Tie your bows with cotton string. Each cone, pot and all, gets tossed into the firebox and acts as a wick to quick-start kindling ablaze.

4. For those last-minute Christmas party invitations, a homey cinnamon-apple garland, handmade by you, is sure to be a welcome change from the typical bottle-of-wine for any host or hostess. Just core and slice apples to form apple rounds, sprinkle with cinnamon and dry them on a cookie tray in a slow, 170-degree oven until they're leathery but not crisp. Remove them and use a pencil to drill a little hole at the top of each apple slice. Then continue drying until they'?'re hard to the touch. Use glittery twine or holiday-themed raffia to string the dried delectables into a holiday garland. They?''re sure to spice up any room!

5. Craft a homemade Christmas tree ornament that can hang on a tree or in any window all season long. Start with a plain clear-glass ornament globe from any hobby shop, and give it your special holiday touch. Blue glitter glue, iridescent bugle beads and tiny rhinestone stars daubed on with clear-drying hot glue make a perfect night scene. On the other side, write the year in gold glitter glue. Don?'t forget to include a hanger with your holiday gift.

So why fret over the season of giving, when you can have so much joy hand-crafting some very special Christmas gifts? You can be sure their impact will last long after the season'?'s over.

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