Leslie’s Ultimate Gift Guide!

Leslie’s Ultimate Gift Guide!



  • There are plenty of in-a-jar gifts that you can find online. For this type of thing, I’ve done something different. Last year, I made my own hot cocoa mix based off of an Alton Brown recipe. However, instead of layering it in a jar, I made individual servings. I made the mix in bulk, then spooned out 1 serving size onto some saran wrap, wrapped up the mix and tied a ribbon around it. I then gave several of these little cocoa bags to my friends. This makes it easy for someone to bring the mix to work and to easily prepare without worrying about measuring. It worked out great and the entire process took me under a week to do. Also, not having to buy jars or other packaging really kept the costs down.
  • Similar to the jar gifts, you can prepare your own spice mixes and put them into a shaker container to give as gifts. This way you can even personalize the mix to the person. If you know someone prefers spicy and someone doesn’t, you can just adjust the recipe or add a little more spice to one. This is also a pretty unique gift that the person will use over time. Although, I don’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t like to cook.
  • Bath salts are very easy to make just by mixing epsom salt, an essential oil and some food coloring. Simply fill a jar or small bag with the salts and you have an instant gift.
  • If you don’t mind sewing, you can stitch up a simple locker organizer for anyone in middle/high school. I made this for my niece quite a few years ago (she’s all graduated now) by just using scrap material that I already had then gluing heavy duty magnets to the back that I purchased at Michael’s.
  • If you’re a really ambitious craftster and know a wordie, you can make a Scrabble Bulletin Board as I did several years ago for a literary friend. I bought some old scrabble games for cheap at a thrift store, sanded the backs of the tiles, epoxied thumb tacks to them, recreated a scrabble board in photoshop, glued the printed out board to poster board with adhesive spray, glued the poster board to a square piece of cork, sewed a little bag to store the tiles in. It took me a few days to do everything but my friend loved it, so it definitely was worth it.
  • If you’re only a mildly ambitious craftster and know a wordie, you can simply make Scrabble Magnets by gluing magnets to the back of the tiles and give them as a gift as your own home-made version of magnetic poetry.
  • Know a music lover? Make them Record Bowl Coasters out of old 45″ vinyl. This is cheap and fun! You should be able to find $1 records at any used music store. At home, put an oven-safe bowl on a baking sheet, upside down; So the bottom of the bowl is up like a dome. Place the record on top of the (bottom of the) bowl, then put inside a 200 degree. After just a few minutes, you will see the vinyl start to melt and fold downwards over the shape of the bowl. Using oven mitts, take everything out of the oven, put the record on the counter with the bottom side down and mold the vinyl into any shape you’d like. To fill in the hole, just put some clear tape over it on both sides. These hold up incredibly held. I am still currently using mine today that I made waaaaay back in 2001. These are really unique gifts, especially for a college student and come out really great if you happen to find some cheap colored vinyl.

Home-made & Store Bought

I love love love love “in-a-box” gifts. As long as you know one hobby of the person, you can put together a little kit of a few small, but useful items that on their own seem silly, but together make a great gift. Here are some examples:

  • Car Washing Kit: This kit contains everything a car lover need to take care of their beautiful vehicle. You can include a wash mitt ($3), car wash soap ($5), wheel cleaner ($5), wax ($6), microfiber towels ($8) or armor all ($5). Then just put all of that into a bucket ($1). You can pick and choose what to include in the kit to keep it affordable for you. The car lover you know will definitely appreciate this.
  • Puzzle Kit: Know anyone who can’t get enough of crosswords or soduku or any brain games? Simply find a cute puzzle totebag and fill it with puzzle books of any kind (cryptograms, crossword, word search, soduku, brain teasers), a jigsaw puzzle, or a wooden puzzle. You can personalize the gift with a jigsaw puzzle by buying one with a picture or theme that the person will especially enjoy.
  • Craft Kit: For children, take a Caboodles case (you can probably find one in good condition in a thrift store or freecycle, just clean it up) and fill it with markers/crayons, scrap paper, a glue stick, scotch tape, glitter, pipe cleaners, beads, post-its, decorative scissors, stamps & stamp pad, or stickers. You can get the case, paper, stamps and stickers in colors/patterns that the child particularly likes.
  • Fit Kit: You can copy LL Bean’s Fitness in a Bottle and put together something similar for the fit person in your life. You could include sunscreen, first aid kit, shoe pouch, reflective tape, sunglasses, wicking socks, Nike+, or hair ties.

    You could also buy some work out clothes and a yoga/pilates mat, roll out the mat and put the clothes laid out flat on the mat, then roll up the mat with the clothes inside. I haven’t tried this one, but it should work.

  • Spa Kit: Fill a jar or bag with home-made bath salts (mentioned above), a pumice stone, nail file and buffer, home-made neck wrap (fill a sock or fabric-sewed-in-a-tube with rice and a few drops of an essential oil), scented candles (with the person’s favorite scent), small jar of home-made exfoliator (brown sugar & olive oil), small jar of home-made toner (apple cider vinegar & water). You could even buy a robe and stuff some of this stuff in the pockets.
  • Traveling Kit: If someone you know is traveling somewhere next year you can get them some travel-related items. In a small piece of luggage or backpack, include a Moleskine City book, Not For Tourists guide, stamped envelopes, notepad and pens, travel pillow, phone cards, universal adapter, travel-size products (toothpaste, toothbrush), small empty bottles for liquids, water bottle, umbrella, TravelMate or first-aid kit.

Store Bought

  • Magnetic Measuring Spoons – Crate & Barrel – $7.95: I know, these are a little bit pricey but they are the best measuring spoons I’ve used! There are two ends to each spoon so you can use one end for dry ingredients and the other for wet. Each one has a magnet in the middle so you know longer have to deal with that annoying ring or worry about losing them. I use these every time I bake! Dishwasher safe, only come in white.
  • Cheese Grater & Storage Containers – Ikea – $5.99 (2 pack): These are one of the most useful unitaskers I own. You just shred the cheese directly into the container! And if you end up shredding too much, each container comes with a lid you simply put on then can store in the fridge. Since I don’t buy package shredded cheese, both these containers really are a life saver. I use them several times a week! Dishwasher safe.
  • Pizza Cutter – Pampered Chef – $5.25: You don’t necessarily need a PC one, but I do love mine. However, a pizza cutter in general is very handy for cutting quesadilla’s, calzones, brownies, and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve had this one for several years now and it has definitely held up. I use it at least twice a month. Dishwasher safe.
  • Chef’s Knife – Victorinox – $29.99: This is absolutely the best value of a chef’s knife for under a hundred bucks. I was given one for my birthday and fell in love with it! Chopping up vegetables is sooo easy now. No idea how I managed without it. I use it several times a week. Not dishwasher safe.
  • Tool Kit – Ikea – $7.99: I bought this cute and cheap tool kit over four years ago, brought it with me to four different apartments and still have all the pieces! It comes in a cute case that is great for storage. It easily fits on a shelf or in a drawer. I can’t count the number of times roomates have asked to borrow a screwdriver or hammer from me. This holds all the basics you’ll need and hasn’t failed me yet.
  • Roku Player – Roku – $80-130: This was my Christmas gift last year and I have gotten more use out of it than I had expected! I mainly use the Roku player to watch Netflix Instant Watch movies on the living room tv. I can watch the hd streams and all this is to no extra monthly cost. The Roku is invaluable when I have friends over or when my roomates want to watch a movie, because there are thousands of movies to choose from. I have over 200 in my queue alone. Makes for a much better selection than just trying to choose from 30 or so dvd’s that you’ve seen a bunch. If you know someone who has Netflix and does not have any of the three gaming consoles, I highly recommend this gadget.
  • Books: Vagina Monologues, Ishmael, I’m Just Here For The Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking, From Panic to Power, Push, On The Road, Airframe, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Timeline, and The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.
  • Video Games: Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure (Wii), Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (Wii), Super Mario Galaxy (Wii), The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (PC, Xbox Arcade), LittleBigPlanet (PS3), Flower (PS3), Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3), and Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3).
  • Movies: Slumdog Millionaire

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