Tara Crooks
Limitless Contributor

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The time of the year that your heart is warm with thanks as you focus on the blessings you've been given as the year has passed by. One of the blessings I am counting is that our military journey has afforded us an extended family that spans the globe. We have all been given the gift of friendship and I want to celebrate by saying thank you for all the wonderful memories. But I can't help but think of how my savings account will quickly deplete if I add all of those "family members" to my gift list.


I knew that in order to save money, and add meaning to the holidays, I just needed to make the gifts myself. Those of you who are super creative are bound to have a list that stretches longer than Santa's, but for those of us that need a little "elf magic" I'm passing on my five favorite handmade holiday gifts. Now, off to the workshop...


Holiday Music Mix CD

Who doesn't love Christmas music? Gather your holiday CDs together, pick your favorite songs, or go visit iTunes for some new additions. Pull them together and make your favorite mixed holiday CD.


Family Recipe Collection

This one is one of the most loved gifts I have given my friends. Gather all of your favorite recipes, or recipes that all of your friends and family normally make at get-togethers, and put them in a book. It doesn't have to be fancy. Add some graphics and print them tied with a ribbon.



Visit your local hobby store for a multitude of ideas. My favorite is a simple clear glass ornament. Fill it with different colors of craft paint. Swirl the paint all around the inside. Turn the ornament upside down into a styrofoam cup to drain and dry. They're beautiful!


Pine Cone Fire Starters
If you are lucky enough to live in an area coated in pine cones (trust me the post maintenance people love it if we help them by picking them up), grab a bundle and make this easy craft. This is an easy, inexpensive, environment friendly craft project that works great as a gift for anyone with a fireplace.


Soup in A Jar

Layered soup in a jar makes a super stand-alone gift any time. Try this one in a mason jar and add a decorated bag of oyster crackers for flair.


Chicken Noodle Soup in a Jar

In a two-cup jar, layer from bottom in the order listed above, then seal the jar.

cup of red lentils

2 tbsp. dried onion flakes

1 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules

tsp. dried dill weed or dill seed

1/8 tsp each celery seed and garlic powder

approximately 1 cup medium egg noodles

1 bay leaf

Write these instructions on your gift tag:

Bring 8 cups of water to boil in large saucepan. Stir in jar of soup mix. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf and stir in 1 cups of frozen corn or mixed vegetables and 2 cups of cooked, diced chicken or turkey. Simmer for five minutes until vegetables are tender and chicken is heated through.