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Jessica’s Garden: A Homemade Christmas

Jessica-CrawfordIt’s obvious that the seasons have changed once again. Following the Thanksgiving holiday, houses are being trimmed everywhere for the next round. Lit Christmas trees glow through living room windows and bright lights adorn homes; transforming ordinary homes in the daylight to little gingerbread houses at nightfall.

Each year, it’s been tradition since Grayson was just six weeks old that he and I go out for an evening drive mid December and admire the Christmas lights.

My husband works in retail which means lots of weekends and evenings; so unfortunately we miss him through the holiday season. As a result, I try extra hard to make the holidays special for our family. Last year was the first year Grayson really understood what we were up to on our drive. But this year, I am expecting that he will find our little adventure much more entertaining. He’s already fairly enamored with the sparse lights he’s already seen.

I’m in full mode for a homemade Christmas. We survive the expense of the holiday season by incorporating lots of homemade Christmas gifts with our store-bought purchases. This week, I made homemade vanilla to send home with my family that visited for the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s very easy to make and cost efficient. And it makes a beautiful, practical and thoughtful gift.

Homemade Vanilla

I ordered bulk vanilla beans from Amazon, raided the clearance isles at HomeGoods for clamp-top glass bottles and perused the bottom shelf at the liquor store for an inexpensive bottle of vodka. Simply pop two vanilla beans in a clean glass jar and fill to the top with inexpensive plain vodka. Once stored in a cool and dark location for three months, the vanilla is ready to be used. The same bottle and beans can be replenished with fresh vodka for up to seven years. I made handmade tags with storage instructions to add a little more flare to the gift.

It would be a wonderful gift for a neighbor, co-worker, stocking stuffer, Secret Santa or even teacher; just include instructions and exclude the vodka for the latter-unless you want to have a chat with the principal. With the vanilla beans, vintage-style bottle and spirits, each gift averaged at about $7 each. It makes substantially more vanilla than you can purchase at the grocery store for the same price. And since it can be replenished for many many years, which also makes it a bargain.

This year, I started using essential oils on myself and my family. Not only do they smell wonderful, they also are believed to assist in many everyday ailments. Essential Oils are widely available now in health stores, the internet and even HomeGoods. I just purchased a starter kit from Young Living Essential Oils that I am very pleased with.

Homemade Sugar Scrub

This year for Christmas gifts, I concocted Lavender Lemon Sugar Scrub for the shower and bath. It’s also very nice to use on your hands. It was extremely simple to make, but also very cute and rustic. I combined 2 cups of sugar in the raw with 20 drops of essential oil and enough sweet almond oil to coat all of the sugar evenly (about 2 ounces). A coarse cane sugar would also work and the sweet almond oil can be substituted for olive or coconut oil. The sweet almond oil is available online and also most health food stores; mine was purchased at Whole Foods. I then packed the sugar into small clamp-top glass pots with homemade tags. The scrub moisturizes and exfoliates; another inexpensive gift to make if made in batches destined for several people. I estimated these gifts to cost about $3 each.

First Fresh Eggs

On an exciting note, our chickens that we were given by Stephanie Fleming in the Spring finally laid their first eggs this week! I had resided myself to the fact that with the days so short, I probably would not see any eggs until next Spring. But I cracked open the nesting box yesterday morning and there sat three perfectly white and adorably tiny little homegrown eggs. The breed that Stephanie incubated for us is a Bantam chicken breed called Nankins. They are a very pretty caramel and black pint-sized chicken with great temperaments. The whole family was more excited than we probably should have been about the eggs. It feels so good to raise your own food. Pretty soon, we’ll be up to our ears in eggs; or at least I hope so!

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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