It’s a few weeks before the big day now and I’ve almost finished the Christmas shopping. Don’t judge me! When I say I’ve finished, I mean that I’ve got a lot of the exciting stuff for the young people and am sitting here scratching my head and counting my remaining pennies and wondering what to get the Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents – on a budget of a few last quid. These are also the people who are old enough and have enough money to buy themselves whatever they need. So I started to think outside of the shops about what I could give to them to represent the spirit of the season without breaking the bank.


I can’t knit and sewing is an activity I find frustrating rather than relaxing. I am not a crafting genius or an expert artist. Baking is not something I enjoy (my son calls the kitchen my workshop – I’m a fixer, not a cook) and I haven’t the inclination to make jam or jelly. Last year I made some damson vodka, which was lovely but very messy and not something I was in a hurry to repeat this year despite having bought some expensive Kilner jars.


Luckily, I do have an imagination and some “doodle drawers”, in which I collect bits of string, paint, ribbon and other bits and pieces that might come in handy for rainy day arts activities. Over the years I’ve experimented with putting rhinestones on clothes, and in the summer I bought a tin of blackboard paint from Aldi that has taken me through a few activities with plenty to spare. I’ve got a decent toolkit with a selection of tools, saws, picture fixing kits and other bits of hardware.


When a neighbour had a skip outside their house and I noticed some fresh-looking bits of wood, so I salvaged them, and then I headed out to the charity and pound shops to see what else I could add. I found a beautiful solid frame for £4 and a few cans of spray paint for £1 each. I already had some art canvas’ that Dunelm sell for £1.50 and acrylic paints in the doodle drawers.


A selection of my son’s pictures filled the charity shop frame and will be a beautiful fun gift for someone. Several online photo retailers offer lots of free prints, and often charity shops will give a discount deal on items, so some good-quality frames can be picked up quite cheaply. Pictures of children are always a welcome gift.


I sawed the wood that I had skip-dipped up and painted it with blackboard paint and drew the word “Yule” on with chalk and sealed it with a sealant spray (another doodle draw item from the past). It still needed a little something else so I embellished it with rhinestones and then attached a piece of ribbon. This is such an easy idea and can be adapted for any non-Christian family.


I was going to make a photo-hanging piece with the other painted wood, with a string attached to the lower bit and photos pegged with some small wooden pegs but my son loved it so much, and wanted to help, so it’s turned into a room sign for him. I printed a picture of Thomas out from the internet and made a template from that and his name and spray-painted it onto the wood. The string, again was in my doodle drawers, from a gift I received last Christmas.


Looking back through my summertime photos, I found another that would make a great template and this time used some acrylic paint on a make-up sponge onto the canvas. I think it turned out well, do you?


I’m on a home-made presents roll now and I’ve found out how easy it is to make candles at home. They are not as cheap to make as the ideas above, but still are cheaper than buying from a shop. Fizzy bath bombs also look like a good idea, and before you know it, the present list is complete, in plenty of time for the school holidays.


And, relax.


Written by our regular contributor Catherine.

Website: http://www.mummylion.co.uk
Twitter: @mummylion

All views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Room To Grow.

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