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gifts to make: lavender-laced caramels, herbed salts and more, with gayla trail

clematis-in-roseUH-OH. MY HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS (a.k.a. pumpkins) are frozen solid to the front steps, and at the next thaw will become orangey puddles, I suspect.  Christmas lights? Similarly a bit behind schedule—and I haven’t even pondered any holiday shopping. But I saw that my crafty gardening friend Gayla Trail had once again outshone me with a roundup of homemade gift ideas, including lavender-laced caramels, herbed salts, bath “tea bags” and more.  She visited with me on this week’s radio show to give us the details (including a chance to win one of the fun garden T-shirts she designed).

prefer the podcast?

YOU GROW GIRL Gayla Trail was the guest  on the latest edition of the radio show. You can listen anywhere, anytime: Locally, in my Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) region, “A Way to Garden” airs on Robin Hood Radio’s three stations on Monday at 8:30 AM Eastern, with a rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. It is available free on iTunes, the Stitcher app, or streaming from RobinHoodRadio.com or via its RSS feed. The November 18, 2013 show can be streamed here now. Robin Hood is the smallest NPR station in the nation; our garden show marked the start of its fourth year in March, and is syndicated via PRX.

Confession: Despite all my years at “Martha Stewart Living,” Gayla is far more adventurous in making things than I am. We both cook, and can, like mad—but she goes further. After purchasing a small copper still, Gayla spent her summer making hydrosols (floral waters—such as rose water), and just bought a set of wood-carving tools to try her hand at spoons and other implements. Impressive.

And she can sew—to make the oversized muslin packets for herbed bath “tea” bags, for instance. (My last attempt, in junior high school sewing class, resulted in the project becoming stitched to the lap of my dress.  The bell rang before I realized what I’d done, so I had to wear it, like a lopsided fabric collage, to my next class. Nice.)

Gayla Trail's homegrown, homemade smudge sticksGAYLA’S RELATIONSHIP to the garden so intimate that every bit of it seems to make its way into the rest of her life, and into the lives of lucky friends who are recipients of her many giftable goodies, such as:

Bundles of twiggy herbs from the garden become smudge sticks like these (and in the photo above).

lavendersaltCoarse sea salt and combinations of herbs get whizzed together in the food processor, then packed into pretty jars. Our mutual favorites: Salamoia Bolognese (with garlic, rosemary and sage), and her Lavender Sea Salt (above).

Lavender and honey infuse the flavor of her luxurious but not costly homemade caramels (photo up top). Hint: Instead of greasing the pan, use a Silpat mat when turning the thick concoction out of the pot to cool into a slab before cutting it up.

Preserves and infused vodkas and other delicious things she made all season get tucked into baskets together, like a sampler of her garden’s offerings, and given to the luckiest friends of all.

Evergree Amaryllis, photo by Gayla TrailOK, even Gayla admits it: Sometimes there are gifts you can’t make yourself (although she and her partner, Davin Risk, did design the garden T-shirts in the giveaway described in the box below).  Who wouldn’t want an unusual amaryllis bulb, like one of these, or the one above)?

Knowing Gayla, of course, she’d pot it up lovingly in a unique container she found for a song while thrifting last summer, then wrap the ready-to-grow baby beautifully before sending it on its way. Oh, and probably with a homemade card attached. That’s just how she is.

how to win a garden t-shirt

Gayla Trail in her Plant Lover t-shirtI’VE BOUGHT A COUPLE of T-shirts to share with you from You Grow Girl’s online shop. Messages include “Plant Geek” and “Microfarmer” and “What Would Nature Do?” and “Soil Power” and “Garden Hoe” and more fun designs. That’s Gayla in one, above. All you have to do to enter to win is answer this question in the comments box way down below:

Making any gifts this holiday season?

No worry if your answer is no; that’s fine. But do jump in anyhow, gift ideas or otherwise, for a chance to win your choice of design and size from among these.

I’ll pick two winners at random after entries close at midnight Sunday, December 8. Good luck to all–and happy holidays.

(All photos by Gayla Trail of You Grow Girl.)

  1. Michelle Rines says:

    Hi….my husband and I make candied citrus peels for holiday gifts, and they are always a hit with friends and family. :)

  2. Dahlink says:

    I want to follow-up on Susan’s comment about having a special family photograph framed as a gift. This is something no one else can give. A few years ago a friend told me her brother-in-law took photographs of her garden at its peak, and had a photo book made for her. It was her favorite gift ever!

  3. Nancy says:

    yes! lots o’ homemade gifts . . . mustard, oatmeal marigold soap, spicy hot cocoa mix, mint extract. and a pair of bright red fingerless gloves that I must get cracking on! great shirts — thanks for the giveaway. xo

  4. Ann says:

    I have been making sugar hand scrubs. I made one called the gardeners hand scrub with sugar and dishwashing liquid. I really turned out great!

  5. Kim says:

    I have been making spoon butter for wooden spoons and cutting boards.
    Also love giving away canned goodies from my garden.
    Home made gifts are the best!!

  6. Pat Yurkunas says:

    No, but I wish I had the time! My friend not only made different jams and chutneys, she embroidered the linen covers based on the contents!

  7. Laura says:

    Beach Plum Jam, Cornelian Cherry Jam, Peach Chutney – it was a great year!
    Also, I have fun cutting up calendars to make fun, personalized, laminated placemats.

  8. Peggy says:

    I am (almost ashamed) that I am not making anything wonderful for gifts but I simply do not have time. I am like Margaret, behind and wondering how it can possibly be time for Christmas???
    Please count me in for a cute tee shirt. And Merry Christmas to everyone.

  9. Barb says:

    Homemade peanut butter fudge, scrapbooking, crocheting two blankets, going to also try to make baskets out of dried out birch bark. I really enjoyed this post on homemade items and thank you for a chance to win a free giveaway. :)

  10. Debi Slagle says:

    I am making zucchini bread for family and friends. I had an abundance (who doesn’t?) so I shredded and froze it. I have enough to make 14 loaves. It makes for a refreshing and unusual holiday treat. And it is made with love.

  11. Deborah B says:

    Our blueberries did great this year, and I canned extra jars of blueberry jam for presents. I have a killer recipe for non-dairy hot fudge sauce that I will make next week and package in some old-fashioned jars with clamp-on lids. And I’m working on table-runners and a lap quilt.

  12. Jessica says:

    We didn’t make gifts this year (couldn’t) but we did hand make our Christmas cards for the family. Our family moved into our new home last month (I HATE MOVING), so we are STILL unpacking and there was no way we could get a garden going. We has to leave our previous garden (the last of my tomatoes!) behind :( We are going to try to throw some canning jar “treats” together (sweets and bath & body) for the family but everything’s going last minute here. Waiting to get back on pace! :~)

  13. Paula Longo says:

    I am going to attempt to make a few gifts! A home made growing chart for a friend’ s new baby and dog biscuits for my friends with furry kids.

  14. Rhonda says:

    I used to make alot of gifts,i do still make a wonderful pound cake that everyone asks for so this year maybe I’ll make one for a special someone. Would love a tshirt!

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