Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Robin Immerman Gruen for Life & Beauty Weekly

Finding new and interesting birthday gifts year after year is the ultimate challenge. Walking through stores, you often end up thinking, “Been there, bought that.”

So instead of shopping for the perfect present, why not tap into your own creativity and create a personalized gift that’s sure to make your special someone feel extra special? A handmade treasure shows how much you really care — plus it gives you a chance to express your creative side.

So, whether you’re a skilled crafter or not, try these clever and easy personalized presents for the VIPs in your life.

For Your Best Friend
Store-bought bath-and-body products are a nice gift and look beautiful in the bathroom, but they’ve become predictable. What hasn’t: Handcrafted bath scrubs in a customized container.

To start, use decorative paper to line the outside of an antique mason-type jar or a clean jam or salsa jar (with the label removed). Choose a pattern or colour you know your friend will love.

In a mixing bowl, combine the following:

  • 1/2 cup dark honey
  • 1/4 cup white cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup grape seed or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 20 drops essential oil (a scent you know she likes, like lavender or mint)

Spoon the mixture into the jar, secure the lid and tie on a tag with ribbon that tells her what’s inside (“Sally’s Lavender-mint Body Scrub”) or what to do with it (“Pamper, polish and perfume!”).

For Your Child
This idea works for your own child, or a friend of your child’s who might be having a birthday party or other special event. On this one, you will need to get hands-on help from a company called Create a Book. Fill in your child’s name, age, hometown and one of his friends’ names, and when the book arrives, your child will love that he’s the star of the story! Whether he’s into sports or loves dinosaurs, each book teaches principles and values.

For Your Co-worker
Baked goods are a tasty and comforting gift, but unless the recipient lives with a hungry crew, your tin of two dozen may go stale before she finishes it. Instead, gift her frozen cookie dough balls so she can bake them depending on her own timeframe or temptation scale (maybe two here and 10 there).

Spend one afternoon mixing up a few of your favourite cookie recipes — peanut butter, chocolate chunk or simple sugar cookies. Use a small ice-cream or melon scooper to make lots of mini-balls, then store them separately in freezer bags. For a gift, wrap two dozen in parchment and put the package in a takeaway plastic container. Tie a ribbon around the container and create a personalized label that includes baking instructions.

To give her another surprise sweet treat when the cookies run out, place a few recipe cards for your other favourite desserts on the bottom of the container.

Whether a gift is for your girlfriend, a co-worker or someone else in your social circle, it can be easily customized to make the recipient feel special. And isn’t that what gift-giving is all about?

Robin Immerman Gruen
has been a beauty editor at
Parents, Seventeen and
Shape. Now a freelance writer and editor, she has written for
American Way, Parents, Chicago Parent and
Real Simple, plus the Web sites Beauty Blitz, Total Beauty, Style Chicago, and Glossed and Found.

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