• Need a quick batch of cookies? Keep a box mix of cake on hand. Instead of the listed ingredients, add two eggs and a half-cup of oil to the mix. Mix and shape, then bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. They are really good, and you can get pretty creative.
• Inexpensive gift idea: cute holiday coffee mug with a bar of chocolate, a packet of hot cocoa or instant coffee, a peppermint stick and a decorative holiday pick or spray. Place inside a gallon-size zippertop bag, tie with a ribbon, then trim off the zippertop, leaving just the plastic. Looks nice.
• Instead of going out and buying extra items to have on hand for guests, just borrow from your neighbors. Extra towels, place settings, silverware, kitchen appliances: It’s a pretty good bet that someone on your street has it for you to borrow. If you don’t know your neighbors well enough to ask, maybe you should start planning a get-to-know-you party right now.
• Inexpensive gift idea: On the front of an empty photo album or scrapbook, print out and arrange color photos of your recipient in a collage. Glue the photos to the front of the album and cover with a decoupage glaze, like Mod Podge. Let dry and glaze again. You’ve just made a one-of-a-kind gift!
• “When holiday cookie time comes, I keep a plastic pitcher of hot water in the sink. I toss cookie cutters into it when I am done with them, so the corners are soaking. They really seem to only need a rinse and a quick brush-off afterward. Mine don’t get caked up with dough.” — Jill C., via email
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