We had good family friends growing up who home-schooled their 7(!) children AND managed to make homemade holiday gifts every year. And when we say that we have decided to do homemade hostess gifts this year, we think you might look at us as we did her, with a mixture of awe, envy, and, yeah, a bit of ire for making you feel so inadequate.
But we promise you, we are not that person. So when we say this is easy, we mean it.
The reason we do a little homemade gift is we found that no one needs or remembers a bottle of wine. Ditto flowers. Chances are you're buying a gift because they are hosting a party, remember? So, unless they are a 22-year-old, they've probably got these areas covered.
You could buy a gift, but first, there's the question of money. Somehow it's hard to buy an appropriate gift that's under $25, and often under $50.
True, if you thought ahead and ordered a bunch of personalized gifts on line, these would be memorable, appropriate, and probably not that expensive. But if you're the kind of person who has it together enough to do this, you probably don't need our help.
By the time you spend time and money going out to buy a gift, you can take care of all your hostess gift needs in one fell swoop by gifting them all a jar of homemade vanilla extract.
The recipes are pretty similar. We first read about doing this in Ben & Birdy, but then we preferred adding in the seeds as described in the Kitchn, but added in some details. We ordered vanilla beans in bulk from Made Spice Company. You can get organic fair trade vanilla beans for a bit more from Mountain Rose Herbs (although, when looking at the higher prices, bear in mind you’re getting a lot of gifts from these!). We ordered a set of these amber jars from Amazon.
Once we had our ingredients and jars assembled, it basically took an hour on a Saturday afternoon to assemble a whole set of them. Just slice down the beans, scrape seeds into the bottle, put the bean in too, and then fill with vodka. (Some people just put in the bean without scraping out the seeds, but we found this took forever to steep. The best part about this gift is it's a project that your kids can do with pretty little supervision.
We loved looking through to find pretty downloadable labels. Our favorites were from Tasty Yummies and these from bre purposed. We just printed them onto sticker paper and punched them out. Make sure to choose the label before you buy your punch, so you can get the appropriate size. We tried to change a square label to fit an oval punch, and that simple mistake tripled our time.). Alternatively, just choose a square design that fits onto a pre-cut label.
We keep our extra labels in our Savor recipe file, so we have save that step in subsequent years.
Ideally, you'd start this about a month or so before the holidays. We found it needed to steep a lot longer than they’d said. Plus, that way you can buy vanilla beans in bulk. But the labels all give a place to put in a "let it steep until" date, so even the night before your gift giving isn't too late to start this.
It’s a gift that’s useful, pretty, fun to receive, and, best of all, easy to do!