Times are tough and during the past year we’ve all had to tighten our belts in one way or another. With Christmas just around the corner, the idea of all those gifts to buy can seem like quite a daunting and expensive prospect.
You have two options. Option one is to panic. Option two is to seek out some imaginative gift ideas that look good and don’t cost the earth. Here at the Abergavenny Focus we’ve been doing the hunting for you and found some cost effective ideas to ease the burden just a little. So, sticky back plastic at the ready, and away we go…..
Decoupage Tile Coasters
This is a great alternative to buying expensive coasters – get creative and cover them in festive themed paper or colour co-ordinated paper to create a theme. These look great stacked in a pile of four and tied with a pretty ribbon.
You will need:
- Plain white coaster-sized square tiles (You can usually pick these up cheaply for under £1 per tile)
- PVA Glue
- Felt (optional)
- Paper for your tile – this can be anything from a decorative paper napkin, to cut up pieces of map or wrapping paper. You could even use a photograph for a more personal touch.
First you need to sand the surface of your tile so that it is slightly rough, which will make a good key for your paper to stick to.
Next, cut your paper to size so that it fits the area of the tile that you want to cover.
Using your paintbrush and PVA glue, generously cover the face of tile with glue and stick your paper onto the tile.
Smooth down the paper being sure to push out any air bubbles from between the paper and the tile. Go over the edges again with glue (remember PVA glue goes clear when it dries) to make sure everything is stuck down really well so that it doesn’t lift when it dries.
Once you have done this, give the face of the tile a generous coating with the PVA glue.
For an extra touch you can cut out a square of felt and stick it to the bottom of the tile so that it doesn’t scratch any surfaces.
Note: If you don’t fancy all the fussing about with paper and glue, you could get hold of some black tile paint and turn your tiles into giant Scrabble letter coasters. Just give them a slick of varnish when you’ve finished for a professional look.
We all know you can buy tealights at super low prices from a certain Swedish home furnishing retailer, but this is fun, cheap and a much more personal way of doing things. Plus you can experiment with colour and even add a scent or two. A good tip is to get onto Ebay and shop around for the best bargains. Failing that, a good craft shop should stock what you need.
You will Need:
- Paraffin wax beads, or if your budget is tight you can melt down old candles. Wax beads come in a variety of colours or you can buy them plain and add your own dye.
- Silicone cup cake tray
- Container wicks
- Liquid candle dye (optional)
- Candle fragrance (optional) – you can get some exciting flavours such as gingerbread, chocolate and mulled wine; perfect for Christmas.
- Double boiler – or if you don’t have one of these nor want the expense of buying one, use an old saucepan or pyrex jug in a pan of water.
Melt the wax in the double boiler (or your improvised version of one) and keep a close eye on it.
Next add the colour to the wax (and fragrance if you’re using it) and then carefully pour into the silicone moulds.
Wait for the wax to thicken up a little before adding the wicks to the centre of each candle.
Allow the candles to cool for ten minutes and then poke the tip of a knife into each one. This will release any trapped air.
Now leave the candles for 24 hours. You will notice that during this time they will contract and will need topping up with fresh wax.
Once they are set, remove from the silicone tray by gently warming the candles with a hairdryer. They should come free easily.
Present these candles in pretty paper cases, but remember not to burn them with their cases on!
Painted Pot O’Herbs
For plant lovers, what could be better than a live pot of growing herbs to set upon the windowsill in a prettily decorated terracotta pot?
You will Need:
- Pot of living herbs (available from major supermarkets or garden centres) It’s nice to choose something like rosemary or sage, which the recipient can then use in their Christmas cookery.
- Terracotta plant pot
- Acrylic Paints
- Colourful Ribbon (for jazzing up the pot. This is optional)
Simply draw the design of your choice in pencil on your terracotta pot and paint using colourful acrylics. Your imagination is your only limit here!
Leave your pot to dry before popping in the living herbs and adding a festive bow.
These scrummy balls of chocolate heaven make a wonderful gift, and children enjoy making them too – as long as you don’t mind the mess they’re likely to create in the process! This recipe makes up a batch of about 40 truffles, depending on how big or small you make them.
You will Need:
- 400g plain chocolate, broken up into small pieces
- 185ml double cream
- 70g unsalted butter, cubed
- Cocoa, icing sugar or chopped nuts for rolling
- Petit fours cases
- Presentation gift box for putting them in
Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted.
Next add the cubed butter and stir until it melts. You should be left with a glossy, chocolatey mixture.
At this point you can add alcohol such as 2tbsp of Cointreau, brandy, whisky or rum, but this is optional.
Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight or until the mixture is firm enough to roll.
Quickly roll teaspoons of the mixture into balls and refrigerate until firm. Roll these balls in chopped nuts, icing sugar or cocoa, shaking off the excess.
Pop the truffles into petit fours cases and transfer to the presentation box. The truffles are best served at room temperature.
Dig out last year’s Christmas cards and, using pinking shears, cut out rectangular, square and circular shapes. Punch with a hole punch, thread with ribbon and use as unique gift tags!
Me and my little girl had fun making the truffles today for a xmas pressie – thanks for the idea!