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Gift in a jar

Spread holiday cheer with simple do-it-yourself presents

The holiday season can be hectic, and sometimes gifts can fall through the cracks until the very last minute. But no need to panic. Below are four easy — and thoughtful — last-minute gift ideas using a common household item: a Mason jar.

Festive M&M cookies in a jar

Whether it's sugar, gingerbread or shortbread, cookies evoke warm Christmas memories, so how about gifting a co-worker or neighbor a Mason jar filled with pre-measured dry ingredients so they can turn the contents inside the jar into a batch of delicious holiday treats?

What you'll need:

• One 32-ounce Mason jar

• 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon of baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

• 1/4 teaspoon of salt

• 1 cup of red and green M&Ms

• 1/3 cup of brown sugar

• 1/2 cup of granulated sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and pour into the bottom of the Mason jar. Then pour the brown sugar and granulated sugar on top of the mixture. Top everything off with the M&M candies.

Now, it's time to decorate the jar. Cut a 6 1/2-inch-diameter circle of red fabric and place it over the opening on the jar and seal the opening with the lid. Tie a colorful ribbon around the outside of the lid and add a festive label to the front of the jar. Lastly, include instructions (see below) on how to make the cookies.

Instructions: Pour the contents of the Mason jar into a bowl and stir. Add 1/2 cup of melted unsalted butter, one beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Stir until everything is combined. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. Roll the dough into small balls and place them on a lined baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for eight to 10 minutes.

Holiday hot chocolate in a jar

Keep your loved ones warm this holiday season with a cup of rich hot cocoa. Layer the dry ingredients (hot chocolate powder, dry milk powder, powdered sugar, mini marshmallows, crushed candy canes and chocolate chips) in a Mason jar for a fun and festive gift. Add a miniature bottle of Baileys Irish Cream for a "spiked" hot cocoa.

What you'll need:

• One 32-ounce Mason jar

• Five packets of hot chocolate

• 1 3/4 cups of dry milk powder

• 3/4 cup of powdered sugar

• Crushed candy canes

• Mini chocolate chips

• White mini marshmallows

• One miniature bottle of Baileys Irish Cream (optional)

Pour the cocoa powder into the bottom of the Mason jar. Then add a layer of dry milk powder and powdered sugar, followed by a layer of chocolate chips and crushed candy canes. Top everything off with the marshmallows and seal the lid. Tie the miniature bottle of Baileys and a gift tag to the neck of the jar with twine.

Relaxation in a jar

Bath salts are a wonderful and relaxing gift for any woman in your life — mom, sister-in-law or best friend. Add peppermint extract to the bath salts for a refreshing and festive scent.

What you'll need:

• One 32-ounce Mason jar

• 12 cups of Epsom salt

• 4 cups of baking soda

• Peppermint oil

• Red food coloring

Combine the Epsom salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Add 15 to 20 drops of peppermint oil and stir. Add more or less depending on your preference. Divide the bath salts in half, put one half in a separate bowl and add 10 drops of red food coloring. Next, layer the two kinds of bath salts in the Mason jar so the contents resemble a candy cane. Seal the lid and tie a gift tag to the neck of the Mason jar with red-and-white twine.

Gift card in a jar

Gift cards are great last-minute gift options but sometimes they feel a little impersonal. Instead of stuffing the gift card in a generic card holder or plain white envelope, put the gift card in a homemade snow globe.

What you'll need:

• A 32-ounce Mason jar

• A plastic gift card (without the card holder)

• Hot glue gun

• Glitter

• Miniature ornaments

• Water

• Ribbon

Make a line of hot glue on the inside of the jar lid, where the gift card will go. Stick the gift card into the line of hot glue, so that it is standing up and let it dry for 15 minutes. Put some glitter and three miniature ornaments in the bottom of the Mason jar and fill with water. Screw the lid to the jar and tie a ribbon around the bottom. The gift card is unaffected by the water, and the cashier can always manually type in the numbers if the gift card doesn't scan.


Local places to shop:

Jars: Mason jars can be purchased at local cookware shops like Sur La Table in Palo Alto or crafts stores like Michaels in Mountain View. You can always find second-hand glassware on the cheap at Goodwill thrift stores (there are locations in Palo Alto and Mountain View).

Hot chocolate: Want to kick your hot chocolate gift up a notch? Trader Joe's in Palo Alto offers a tin of Trois Chocolats, which features three blends of cocoa: salted caramel, winter spice and espresso. Teuscher Chocolates & Cafe at Stanford Shopping Center sells a mix of their famous hot chocolate.

Bath salts:Epsom salts are very inexpensive and can be purchased at Mollie Stones or Country Sun Natural Foods in Palo Alto.

Ribbons and labels: Paper Source and Letter Perfect in Palo Alto sell festive labels and decorative ribbons to jazz up your Mason jars.


Read more holiday stories in the Holiday Guide to Everything.

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5 people like this
Posted by Carlo
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2015 at 7:21 am

Great ideas! Check out our reusable caps that transform Mason jars into limitless possibilities. They enhance a gift (and it keeps on giving).

5 people like this
Posted by Thank you!
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Thank you, My Nguyen. I loved your well-written article with its great ideas, and helpful info on where to buy everything needed for these homemade gifts.

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Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.