The Your Home and Garden team let us in on their handmade, budget-friendly gift ideas and show us how we can recreate these at home
1. Flower frame
Shelley Ferguson, editor-in-chief: I’m gifting framed dried flowers as I used to make them as a little girl. I remember hunting for the prettiest blooms and squishing them between baking paper and big books. This time I cheated and used pre-dried flowers from a Markantonia arrangement (you could also use potpourri). I still experienced a wave of nostalgia when I made this project again decades later. Surely that translates into a meaningful gift!
1. Pick flowers in the morning when they have just opened. Immediately after cutting, plunge stems into cold water and recut underwater and at an angle. Leave in water to absorb as much moisture as possible.
2. Cut off blooms for pressing. If you have a flower press, place a sheet of cardboard and then a sheet of blotting paper on base. Arrange flowers on top, leaving 5mm between each. Cover with another sheet of paper, followed by cardboard. Add the top part of the press and tighten. If you don’t have a press, heavy books will work. Leave in a cool, dry place for a week, then replace paper if necessary. Leave for 2-3 more weeks.
3. Place and frame flowers. I used a double-sided frame I bought overseas; if you can’t find a similar one, buy 2 cheap frames and replace the backing in one frame with the glass from the other (check that the second pane will fit into the frame safely before buying).
2. Candle kit
Fiona Williams, editorial assistant: My sister loves candles, and I know these marble candle holders, $10 each from forkeeps.co.nz, will suit her new renovation. I’ve added a couple of candles to complete the gift. If you wanted to, you could include a statement candle or a snuffer, too.
3. Linen tea towels
Shani Luckman, art director: I like giving and receiving practical gifts, and linen tea towels are not only a useful everyday item but look gorgeous hanging in the kitchen. Plus, they’re really easy to make!
1. Choose a mid-weight absorbent linen (I used duck egg ‘Vintage’ linen, $46 per metre, from Martha’s Fabrics).
2. Wash and dry linen first to allow for shrinkage.
3. Measure and cut a 50x70cm piece of linen.
4. Mark a 1cm border around all edges. Fold over each long edge along the line and iron. Fold again so you can’t see the raw edge. Sew.
5. Repeat for the short edges.
Optional: Sew tape or ribbon across one corner so you can hang it up (do this before finishing the hem, so you can tuck the ends under the hem).
If you have any leftover linen, tear strips to tie around the tea towels.
4. Herb garden
Catherine Wilkinson, senior designer/stylist: This gift looks good and is useful at the same time. Fill with herbs you know the recipient loves!
1. Buy a terracotta pot with a base tray. Mine was $19.98 from Bunnings. Using masking tape, mark off areas you wish to paint and paint them; I created a scallop pattern. Paint tray to match. Once dry, carefully remove masking tape.
2. Plant 3 herbs, evenly spaced, in pot. Top with potting mix. Water well.
– This is for indoor use. If for use outdoors, spray a protective sealant over the outside of the painted pot before planting.
– Once planter is wrapped, you could tie on the herb scissors with twine.
– For that extra touch, add herb markers by painting small wooden stakes in chalk paint and writing the herb names on them in chalk.
5. Festive snowballs
Vanessa Nouwens, stylist: I always make these at Christmas for friends, family and neighbours. They are super easy to make and my two daughters love helping out. This year, the balls are going to be gifted in these inexpensive ceramic canisters, $6 each from Kmart. After the treats are gobbled up, they can be used to store sugar, tea, coffee and more.
– 1 packet malt biscuits
– 50g butter
– ½ cup loosely packed brown sugar
– 2 tsp cocoa
– 1 tsp vanilla essence
– ½ tin condensed milk
– A few glacé cherries, finely cut (optional)
– 1 small packet marshmallows
– Desiccated coconut, to roll balls in
1. Put malt biscuits in a large resealable bag and seal. Roll bag with rolling pin until biscuits are small crumbs.
2. Melt butter in a medium bowl and add brown sugar, cocoa and vanilla.
3. Add crushed biscuits, condensed milk and sliced cherries, if including, and mix together.
4. Cut marshmallow into smallish pieces. Use biscuit mixture to coat each piece of marshmallow and roll into balls.
5. Roll the balls in coconut, place on a baking tray and leave in the fridge overnight to harden.
6. Chocolate bark
Stephanie Attwater, chief sub editor: I wanted to make something that everyone would enjoy yet would take only minutes to prepare. The answer was chocolate bark. It came out looking more impressive than I’d imagined and disappeared rapidly once the photoshoot was over.
– 200g good-quality dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids)
– 100g good-quality white chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids)
– Toppings of your choice – I used chopped dried apricots, Craisins, crushed macadamias and walnuts, and chopped crystallised ginger
– Little pinch flaked sea salt
1. Put dark and white chocolate in separate bowls and melt each in the microwave in 30-second bursts. Remove and stir until entirely smooth.
2. Pour dark chocolate over 2 baking paper-lined trays and spread out with a spatula to form a fairly thin layer. Dribble white chocolate on top in an artistic pattern. Scrape a toothpick across for a marbled effect.
3. Sprinkle on the toppings and press them lightly with the flat of your hand to fix in place. Sprinkle with salt and leave to set (if it’s a warm day, refrigerate for 10 minutes or so until set).
4. Carefully peel bark from baking paper, break into big shards and wrap in cellophane with a ribbon, or package in a gift box or a jar that can be part of your gift. It will keep for 2 weeks.
Photography by: Melanie Jenkins and Wendy Fenwick.