Hostess Gifts

  • Quick Caramels

    six minute caramels

    It's true. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for all of you summer, hot weather, sunshine lovers, but the fall season is just about here. The temps at night are getting cooler, and the leaves on the trees are getting ready to begin their stunning metamorphosis. It's really a beautiful time of year, but I know us northern folks always hate to see summer slip by us.

    One of the quintessential fall treats is the taffy apple. I am always tempted when I see them in the produce department at the grocery store, but these delectable treats are quite easy to make yourself and kinda fun too. Today's post brings you a recipe for 6 minute caramels, and since you're already working with all the right ingredients, it's a perfect opportunity to make your your taffy apples, too.

    For the caramels, here's what you're going to need:

    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup karo syrup, light
    • 1/2 cup condensed milk, sweetened
    1. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish or line with parchment paper.
    2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan.
    3. Over medium-high heat, slowly bring to a boil until your candy thermometer reaches 360*, stirring constantly.
    4. Boil for 4-5 minutes, continuing to stir.
    5. Pour into lightly greased dish, stirring as you go.
    6. Let cool, then cut and wrap in wax paper and store in an air-tight container.
    7. Give to your best friend for Christmas. ♥

    If you are making your own caramel dipped apples, you'll just need to cook over medium-high heat for 6 minutes, then dip those apples! Roll in chopped peanuts and try not to drool. So so good.


    Photo courtesy

  • Cookie Dough Truffles

    Cookie DOugh Truffles from Baked PerfectionTruffles are a Christmas treat that nearly everyone enjoys receiving. I remember giving a box to my step daughter's boyfriend, and even though he'd already received a box or two of a different variety, he still was eager to dig in. Now, when you combine that quintessential food gift with the irresistible cookie dough flavor, you know you for sure have a winner.

    The Cookie Dough Truffle. It's simple. It's classic. It's memorable. And, for the littles in your life as well as the bigs, they are as sweet to look at as they are to bite into.

    ♥ ♥ ♥


    Here are the ingredients you'll need:

    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • sprinkle of cinnamon
    • 1 stick butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cups mini chocolate chips
    • 1 - 2 tablespoons water
    • Assorted candy melts
    1. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine the first 3 ingredients.
    3. In a larger bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients.
    4. Slowly add the ingredients in the medium bowl to the larger bowl and beat until smooth.
    5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
    6. Roll the dough into small balls and place on the cookie sheet.
    7. Refrigerate for a couple hours, or if you're in a hurry, put 'em in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
    8. Melt the candy melts according to the directions on your package.
    9. Dip the balls into the melted candy and let them set until hardened.
    10. To decorate, pour the melted candy into a ziplock bag, seal, and snip off one of the bottom corners.
    11. Drizzle!

    Makes about 20, double if you need to, or if you just want to!

    Merry Baking!

    Photo courtesy

    Recipe source

  • Upcycling Canning Jars

    votive candle holderHave you ever walked around Michael's or Blick's or any other craft supply store and had your imagination run wild with ideas?! Before I was really into hand-crafting, I'd visit there with a coworker on lunch break, and just be sort of lost, wondering what on earth a person would do with all these little things. It only took a couple of browsing sessions through Pinterest or decorating magazines, however, to get the creative juices flowing, and now I am hooked!

    Today's Christmas gift idea uses the simplest of materials and yet delivers really big. The light that flows out through the cuts in the jar as well as the gems, the way they dance as the tealight candle flickers inside, it is delightful! Here's what you'll need:

    • Pint size canning jars or wide-mouthed vase
    • Hot glued gems (available at the craft store for $2)
    • Tea light candles
    • Glue gun

    Using your glue gun, attached the gems to the outside of the jar, and place a tea light candle inside. If you want to deck it out just a little more, add a ribbon to the threaded area of the jar, but I really love the rustic yet gorgeous appearance of the bare top.

    These make really nice hostess gifts around the holidays or any other time for that matter. Choose gem colors that fit the occasion, and these are just so simple and fun that you could probably do one up quickly before you leave the house. Do you have a friend or two who are really into candles and how the light dances through the candle receptacle? These would make a great gift item.

    I adore ideas like this, and hope you do too!


    Photo courtesy


  • A Gift That Keeps on Giving

    festive pomandersMy mother told me about a little cooking trick that she used for our evening meal. My father often came home very hungry and tired, and if dinner wasn’t ready or at least filling the kitchen with wonderful aroma’s when he arrived, he would grab the peanut butter and saltines and snack. So, the trick was to chop up an onion, put a little oil in the skillet and sauté the onions. Worked every time to make my father just a bit more patient for dinner!

    We all love to walk into someone’s home, and especially our own, and smell something wonderful….fresh baked cookies, bread coming out of the oven, etc. Today’s craft is just one more aromatic you can add to your repertoire….the Festive Pomander. Here’s what you’ll need to pull this one off:

    • thin-skinned oranges
    • ribbon, ¼” wide in 1 yard strips
    • straight pins
    • scissors
    • large paper clip
    • cloves

    If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you know I’m not going to suggest any craft or recipe that is complicated. Well, at least not very often. This craft is like so many others that I share….easy! This one is so easy that it has been used as a craft for grade school children. I think we can do this one with no problem.

    1. Put your orange on top of a strip of ribbon, and pull the ribbon up along the sides.
    2. When you get to the top, cross and turn them, then pull the ribbon back down to form quadrants. Secure the ribbon with straight pins to keep it in place.
    3. Tie the ends of the ribbon in a knot, then a bow, and trim ends to desired length.
    4. Next, take the end of the paper clip and punch small holes into the orange skin about 1/8” apart along both edges of the ribbon, one side at a time.
    5. Working quickly so that the holes don’t close back up, push cloves into the holes. Repeat along all the edges of the ribbon.
    6. Remove the straight pins, and you’re done!

    These make lovely hostess gifts around the holidays, and smell so darn good!


    Photo courtesy

  • Better Than Nutella?

    nutellaI remember the first time I tasted Nutella. My step daughter brought it over, and I thought it had a weird name and at the time I wasn't very adventurous with food. I almost didn't try it, can you imagine?! But just one lick, and I was hooked.

    And, apparently I'm not alone, because back in 2007, February 5 was chosen as World Nutella Day! A couple of fans decided that just enjoying it in the privacy of their own homes was simply not enough. They reasoned that any food that has the capacity to create childhood memories that last for a lifetime should have it's own day, no?  Not sponsored by Nutella, these fans stepped up and created a day set aside to celebrate, to get creative with, and most importantly, to EAT Nutella. Sounds good to me!

    Imagine what a homemade version of Nutella would do for your awesome factor with  friends and family. You don't have to tell them how easy it was either....they will think you are pure genius when they taste it. Who knows, maybe you could even give Nutella a run for their money.

    You'll need:

    • 1 cup hazelnuts
    • 4 teaspoons coconut oil
    • 6 ounces 65% dark chocolate, melted
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1. Dump your hazelnuts onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and roast in a 350* oven for about 10 minutes.
    2. Let the nuts cool, then wrap them in a dish towel and shake to remove the skins.
    3. Next, put the nuts in your food processor and process until smooth.
    4. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you have a nice smooth butter.
    5. Jar it up, and store in the fridge until you're ready to give it away (unless you eat it first, which is likely to happen so you may as well just make a double batch). It'll keep for a good month if you manage to resist.

    I dare you to try this.


    Recipe adaptation


  • Peach Freezer Jam

    Is anyone else's garden going absolutely nuts about now? We've got an abundance of fresh food that we're gobbling up, but it's just too much for the two of us. So, we've been sharing some of it with coworkers and friends. This must be a common "problem" because, just yesterday, one of my husband's coworkers gave him a jar of Raspberry Refrigerator Jam that his wife had made, saying "take these to work and give them away, there are just too many for us!" Looking forward to cracking that jar open.

    This, of course, got me thinking about my favorite fruit of all time, the Georgia Peach. Is there anything better than a ripe, juicy peach, you know the kind that drips down your chin when you bite into it?  Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about.

    So, let's buy extra at the market and whip up some super easy Peach Freezer Jam to give away during the holidays. It'll keep in the freezer for up to a year, and in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Here's what you'll need to fill 7 pint jars:

    • 14 large, ripe peaches
    • 10 cups of super fine sugar
    • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 packages of Certo (pectin)
    • 1 1/2 cups water

    Did I mention this is an EASY recipe? Here's what you do:

    1. Peel, cut and mash peaches, leaving some texture.
    2. Add sugar, stir and let sit for 10 minutes.
    3. Combine both packages of Certo with the water, and bring to a boil.
    4. Boil for 1 minute until the Certo is completely dissolved.
    5. Add the prepared Certo and the lemon juice to the peaches and stir for 3 minutes.
    6. Pour into prepared pint size jars and cover with lids.
    7. Let the jam sit at room temperature for 24 hours until set, then freeze.
    8. DONE!

    These make perfect hostess gifts, and I bet your neighbors, coworkers, and family members won't turn them down either. Really, who wouldn't love a jar of Peach Jam any day of the year?

    Merry jam making!


    Recipe adapted from


  • A Gift for That Special Teacher

    I'm so pumped about finding and sharing unique and affordable gift ideas for our Christmas Notebooks! Last week we found some rather tasty savory and sweet recipes for the holidays, plus a very cool gift idea that utilizes the Christmas cards from past years. If you missed those posts, make sure to check them out and print for your notebooks.

    Today's creative idea comes from none other than the ever-lovely Martha Stewart. What you see pictured to your left is a glycerin soap that is easily made in a mini loaf pan! This is a project that the kids can help with, and would make a terribly unique and welcomed gift for their teacher. Equally, these happy little striped soaps work well as stocking stuffers, secret Santa gifts, and even hostess gifts.

    Here's what you'll need:

    • 2 cups clear glycerin soap (available at your craft store)
    • 2 cups white glycerin soap
    • peppermint oil
    • red food coloring
    • plastic spoon
    • mini loaf pan
    • isopropyl alcohol in spray form (98% preferred)


    1. Melt glycerin soap according to the package directions 1/4 cup at a time.
    2. Stir in a drop of peppermint oil with the plastic spoon.
    3. For the clear glycerin, add drops of red food coloring until you get the shade of red you like.
    4. Pour the 1/4 cup of melted glycerin into the loaf pan, and cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
    5. Remove from fridge, score the top with a fork and lightly spray with alcohol (this helps the layers adhere to one another).
    6. Repeat the layers, alternating the colors until the pan is full.
    7. Set in refrigerator for 4 hours.
    8. After 4 hours, set the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes (this makes removing the soap from the pan a cinch).
    9. Carefully slice so as not to dislodge the layers, and wrap!

    Make sure to print this gift idea and put it in your Christmas Notebook. If you haven't created your Christmas Notebook yet, it's not too late! This simple organizing task with really pay off as the holidays approach, so take the time to put yours together. You can find the posts for that here, here, here and here.

    Merry soap making!


    Photo courtesy

  • Christmas Hostess Gifts

    'Tis the season for giving, right? You may already have a list of Christmas gift ideas - for family, close friends, your kids' teachers, perhaps a few co-workers or neighbors. As you begin planning and budgeting, don't forget host/hostess gifts for holiday parties.

    Fresh flowers are always lovely, but may mean a little extra stress for your host if she has to suddenly find and fill a vase. One year when I hosted the family meal, my mother-in-law had a floral arrangement delivered to my house ahead of time. It was a fun surprise and I had time to put it in the best place, considering all of the food and place settings. Another nice alternative suggested by Crystal is a small potted live tree. An evergreen is a perfect choice at this time of year.

    Because the holiday season is one with impromptu gatherings as well as scheduled parties, it makes sense to plan ahead and keep a stash of appropriate gifts available. This tip comes from Jennefer at Shopping'sMyCardio, and she has some clever hostess gift suggestions in food, drink and game categories.

    If you're travelling to another part of the country, items from your home city or state are ideal. This could be a local food or beverage  - think coffee from Seattle or pecans from Georgia. Or you could select something created by a favorite hometown artisan such as a small piece of art or pottery.

    If you're the DIY type, there are a myriad of options. No surprise, but Martha Stewart is a great source: for food, try these spiced pecans or caramel bourbon vanilla sauce. My favorite, though, is a "morning-after" breakfast basket, perfect for the host who was up late and has had enough of meal-preparation!

    There are several other things that could be made in large batches, then available for all your upcoming parties. Hostess With The Mostess has all the elements you need to make homemade natural citrus-mint cleaning products. This set of tile coasters, from Lindsay at The Cottage Home, could be designed with a Christmas motif, or if you know the hostess well, with her favorite colors. Homemade spa products would be a luxurious treat - Mother and Baby Health has gathered a variety of ideas from lip balm to body scrub.

    What's the best hostess gift you've ever received, whether purchased or homemade?


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