Monday, May 26, 2008

Uncommon Gifts and Wrappings

My friends Paige and Tammy lead and co-lead a small group for Church of the Highlands at Paige's house once a week. They asked me to come and talk to the ladies in the small group about making gift baskets. I have already posted about some of these ideas, which I will link back to my original posts. There were a few that I haven't posted about before, and I will present them in a little more detail.

I decided to make a Spa or Relaxation basket. This would be a great gift for a lady who needs some time to herself, maybe because of a stressful job, lots of small children, or maybe just to relax and detoxify. I used a bamboo bowl as my container and placed shredded paper in the bottom. I made bath salts and poured them into a pretty jar, and added soaps, a loofah sponge, and bath gel and lotion. I recommend the Aromatherapy products at Bath & Body Works. I love the Eucalyptus Spearmint, but the Peppermint is also nice. I added the bottle of Johnson's Vapor Bath that I just posted about. Candles and music are essential for true relaxation. This CD is Dreaming Wide Awake by Lizz Wright. I have also made my own CD's from some of my favorite music to put in these kinds of baskets before.

I added a pair of cute slippers that I found in the gift shop of the hospital where I work. They are really comfy and look very spa.

Next to the Spa basket is a Gift for a Guy, which I have posted about before.

The hat box in the background holds a lady's gift. Inside it is a frame, a journal, a lint roller, a small book, kleenex, and candy. There are many other small gifts that could be placed in it. This kind of box can be found at T. J. Maxx. Home Goods, and Hobby Lobby.

This is the Get Well Basket that I talked about in my last post.

This is a baby gift wrapped in a baby blanket. This blanket was only $4 at Walmart. I posted how to do this last year.

Smith's Variety in Mountain Brook has these drawstring bags in various sizes. They are nice to hold small gifts.

After we talked about gift baskets, we had a bath salt making class. We used Epsom salt as the base, then each person chose the color and fragrance they wanted. We used small Ball jars.

We had a lot of fun and I hope everyone will enjoy using their bath salts.

Gift baskets are fun to make and great to personalize for the individual recipient. It is also practical to make the container a part of the gift itself. Have fun making gift baskets!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Get Well Basket

This is a combination of comforting items that you can put together for someone who is feeling under the weather. These just happen to be some of my favorite things, but there are many ways you can personalize this for your recipient.

Chicken soup has been deemed for years as one of the cures for the common cold. I don't know that this is necessarily true, but it is very comforting and tasty. Homemade chicken soup is the best, but I didn't have time to make any, so I used Progresso Rich & Hearty. I found an old-fashioned looking Ball jar and filled it with the soup. It took almost 2 cans to fill this jar.

Cough drops are also nice. Halls makes these new natural menthol drops that I like. There are several flavors, but wild cherry is my favorite. I found this little jar at World Market to put them in.

Both the soup and the cough drops look more special in these containers.

Another product I really like is Johnson's Soothing Vapor Bath. Menthol and eucalyptus are my favorite fragrances. I often use this in a hot bath. It smells wonderful and it makes nice bubbles. I found this jar at World Market also.

I poured it into the jar through a funnel:

It now looks like fancy bubble bath.

Some of the other items that I used were: Vicks VapoRub, Sudafed Shower Soothers, and Kleenex. The chocolate and bubble gum bandaids were more World Market finds.

An absolutely essential remedy for a sickness is chocolate. I like to put various treats in these pill holders, then they will have some for each day of the week.

Oh, yeah, by Saturday they will be a lot better.

Last but not least, I love the Feelin' Better Bag by Hartley's Herbs. I use mine often for tired muscles. Simply heat it in the microwave for 2 minutes. It is very warm and soothing. I like the original fragrance, but it also comes in lavender. They are actually now on sale for $12. To order one, go to Hartley's Herbs. To read more about it go to this post.

This is how my basket turned out. I added a card that I found at a hospital gift shop, but a handmade card would also be good. (I ended up not using the Johnson's Vapor Bath in this basket. I used it in a Spa basket, which I will feature in my next post).

Show someone you care with a Get Well Basket. It will probably aid in a much speedier recovery.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quick Tip for Softening Butter

I love to use butter in cooking and baking. To me, it tastes so much better than margarine. The problem with butter, however, is that it is very hard when you first take it out of the refrigerator. That makes it difficult to use in recipes which call for softened butter, particularly cookie recipes. When I am short on time, I will microwave it for about 10 or 15 seconds. If you aren't careful doing this though, sometimes it will be too melted, which will make your cookies flat.

I found a cool idea in 101 Cooking Tips, a publication which I have referred to previously. When you remove the butter from the refrigerator, open the wrapper and slice it up. Then leave it out at room temperature for about 30 minutes. It should then be the perfect texture for mixing into a recipe which calls for softened butter.

So have fun baking!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rainy Day Blueberry Muffins

I have enjoyed inclement weather since I was a child. I particularly like thunderstorms, especially at our house now. We had some pretty bad weather today, with the tornado warning siren going off four different times. James Spann kept us safely informed, however. James became quite angry and indignant today when he saw footage of a school bus traveling down the interstate in the rain. He said it was unacceptable. I would never want to get on the wrong side of James Spann, weather-wise.

I did go out on our porch and take a few pictures of the rain. It was intense.

Some people did not take the situation very seriously.

There was fun and frolicking. Don't tell James.

I like to bake on rainy days, too, so I decided to make blueberry muffins. I realized I had posted my blueberry cornbread muffin recipe before, but not my basic recipe. These are wonderful. They taste like cake.

Blueberry Muffins

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh blueberries

Combine ingredients and fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into a greased muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins

They are extra good served warm with butter. Don't wait for a rainy day to make them.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

By special request from my husband, I made sweet potato pie tonight. Gil used to eat lunch with his dad a lot at Mills Restaurant in Woodlawn. We ate there together, too. One of our favorite things they served (besides new potatoes in their jackets), was sweet potato pie. My recipe tastes a lot like theirs did. I make this in a similar fashion to my sweet potato casserole - just butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. If you like sweet potatoes, you will really like this pie.

Sweet Potato Pie

1 Pillsbury All-ready Pie Crust
4 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick melted butter
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Place pie crust in a pie dish and set aside. (Note: My pie dish is pretty deep).

Boil sweet potatoes in their jackets until tender, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut ends off and carefully pull off peeling by hand. Place in a bowl and mash up. Beat in remaining ingredients with a mixer and pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Boil potatoes until tender:

Peel, mash up, and beat in remaining ingredients. Pour into unbaked pie crust:

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. If you place it on the bottom rack in your oven, the crust on the bottom will be crisper.

Expect accolades from all who consume it, particularly from those of the male persuasion.