Things that (P)inspire Me: Teacher/Neighbor Gifts

**To read previous post in this series, go here.

This week’s “Things that (P)inspire Me” post could be best friends with the “Twelve Weeks of Christmas” series… total B.F.F.  This week, I want to look at Teacher/Neighbor gifts, but with a GPP spin — thrifty, crafty, and heart-warming (I just added the “heartwarming” part for today…. it seemed appropriate).

As I mentioned in this previous post, I think it’s important to remember teachers, neighbors, and any service providers during the holiday season, as they are often underpaid and under-appreciated.  This doesn’t mean you need to give them something particularly personal, as you are not necessarily “friends” with them, but some gesture will always be well-received (I speak from 6+ years as a teaching artist).

So, I have turned to Pinterest as a vehicle for organizing these ideas, and along the way I’ve offered my own tips.  A lot of these “pins” are things I have tried before but didn’t get any pictures.  As always, please click on the image for a link to the source website.


Epsom Salt & Sugar scrub

Ooohh… spa-tastic.  I made these last year for my mom, mother-in-law, and Josh’s aunts (so does that make them my aunts-in-law?).  At the time, I just used epsom salt, pure olive oil, and Vitamin E oil, but I like this recipe even more (and it’s just as easy/cheap).  Here’s a pic (it’s from Do It Yourself Crafts).

I especially like these during winter because they exfoliate as well as moisturize.

DIY Sewing Kits

Pinned Image

This super cute sewing kit was made over at  The creator of this particular project was inspired by a similar (but far less cute) sewing kit at Anthropologie, originally priced for $48.00 (what!??!?).  This could easily be done for less than $4.  Dollar Tree has sewing kits for $1, mason jars can easily be purchased at any craft store or Wal-mart.  The top part is a pin cushion, and that could be made just by gluing polyfill (or balled-up plastic grocery bags), and covering with fabric.  Perhaps another option for a more firmly packed pin cushion would be to fill a nylon knee high with sand, tie the end, then cover with fabric.  Attach a label or tag, and ba-bam!

I want one!

Heating Pads and Hand Warmers

Pinned Image

This particular project comes from The In Between Girls, however I have been using the same method for years.  These hearts are actually meant to be used as hand warmers, but if they were made bigger, they’d be great as heating pads to treat sore muscles.  My grandmother has made countless heating pads this way (she sewed them).  I did the non-sewing kind myself, and all it took was a clean tube or knee high sock (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this kind of presentation with a gift), filled with rice, and closed with a knot on the end.  Stick in the microwave for about a minute, and that’s it!  When filling with rice, I would recommend not letting it be too packed in, because you want it to have some flexibility, especially if you want to be able to wrap it around your neck (but not in a creepy way).

Linen Spray

homemade linen spray

homemade linen spray

Yeah, I pinned myself.  I made these the other day, but I really believe they’d be perfect for acquaintances like teachers and neighbors.  In case you missed it, here’s a link to check out the whole tutorial.

Obviously, these ideas have a bit of a girly touch to them, so maybe your loyal mailman or child’s T-ball coach wouldn’t appreciate linen spray or heart-shaped hand warmers as much as…. sayme (“Cold hands are for sissies!”).

That’s where baked goods come in!  Here’s a link to a GREAT resource for even more teacher/neighbor gifts for both genders:  Sassy Sites: 161 Gift Ideas.  If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see a lot of fun ideas for the DIY-challenged.  I’ll admit some of these are a bit kitschy-er than I would probably do, but they could definitely be a good jumping off point for you.  Here are two (less kitschy) examples:

S’mores Kit


Cowgirl Cookies (or cowboy)

Put all the ingredients into a jar and attach directions.  Mmm……

Cowgirl Cookies

Hope these help you in the gift scramble!   (Christmas is only two weeks away, after all — Eesh!)

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Other things you might like…

Things that (P)inspire Me

Twelve Weeks of Christmas

This hilarious picture of Ryan Gosling:

It’s like he’s speaking directly to me?  Right?!?


Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 9: Homemade Linen Spray (Febreze alternative)

***To catch up on what you may have missed — the 8 other “Weeks of Christmas” — go here.

Last year, I received a bottle of linen spray as a Christmas gift.  At first, I was dubious.  I mean, a gift like that reeks (get it!?) of just-something-else-I-don’t-need-that’s-going-to-take-up-space-that-I-don’t-have.  However… I soon changed my tune.

Linen spray is awesome!

If you’re like me, you love the effects of Febreze, but you dislike the smell (really, I sorta hate it).  And if you’re like me, you have a serious problem with allowing dogs on the furniture (I try to stop myself, really I do, but they’re just so darn cuddly…).  We-ell… Linen spray is a great solution.  I find myself using it weekly on the couch, the rug, and our bedding.  If we burn bacon or something and there’s a particularly strong smell in the apartment (because you know these NYC apartments don’t have exhaust fans or good ventilation), we follow up with a few sprays of the stuff.

So… when I was thinking of Christmas gift ideas this year, I wanted to sort of pay it forward with this great gift.  (I know, I know… the phrase “pay it forward” is usually reserved for loftier causes like charitable contributions, but I couldn’t think of a better way of describing it… and linen spray really is pretty awesome.)

When I looked up prices for linen sprays, specifically the amazing one that was given to me, I found they were a little more expensive than I expected/could afford.  So, I did the Google thing and found a few recipes, combined my favorite parts of each one, and I think I ended up with a pretty good mix (and it was made from things I already had at home so it was FREE!).

Here’s the finished product:

homemade linen spray

homemade linen spray

And here’s how you make it…

You’ll need:

  • Water
  • Isopropyl alcohol or vodka
  • essential oils
  • a spray bottle
  1. Combine 1 part isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or vodka to 5 parts water to a spray bottle.  I used an empty Bath and Body Works spray bottle, then removed the label (this took a little time and effort — about one episode of Pan Am — plus acetone, windex, and a lot of scraping).
Somewhere in between….
(I actually got all of the label off, but then I was so excited, I immediately slapped on the new label without taking another picture.)
2.  Add 20-40 drops of any essential oil (or more, depending on how strong you want it to be).  Essential oils are HIGHLY concentrated, so it really only takes a little, but the actual amount should be at your discretion based on the size of your spray bottle.  Here’s an eBay seller with really great pricing.  (It’s totally affordable when you consider how long one bottle could last.)  For my particular mix, I did about 20 drops of jasmine oil and 20 drops of eucalyptus oil (this is for an 8 oz.-bottle).
3.  Screw the lid back onto the spray bottle, and shake the contents.  This is to emulsify the oil and water, since they naturally separate.
4.  Make a label for the bottle, including pertinent info like “Shake before use.”  Print it off on adhesive paper and attach.
Here’s what my label looked like:
linen spray label

linen spray label

I love damask.

Here’s the document, in case you want to do something similar:  GPP linen spray label

Note:  When attaching the label, you may smudge the ink a bit. To get rid of these smudges, carefully erase them with a pencil eraser.

And here’s the finished product (again):

homemade linen spray

homemade linen spray

And a little bit closer…

diy linen spray

Something that I didn’t note on my label, that may have been smart in retrospect:  The spray will initially give off an alcohol smell when you first spray it.  However, after a few seconds — once it evaporates — this smell is gone and the essential oil fragrance remains.

Now… because I had all of these things lying around my house, I was able to make this project for free.  However, if you don’t have any of these things, it would still be super affordable.  I searched each item and found at found at least one affordable source (listed below):

Spray bottle, Dollar Tree.  Here’s an 8 oz bottle and a 28 oz bottle.   $1

(I also remembered that Dollar Tree sells linen spray for $1 on their website.  However, I have actually used their stuff before and I found it to be very weak.)

Water, your faucet, free

Isopropyl alcohol, any drug store, $0.50-$2.00

Vodka (an alternative to the rubbing alcohol), can be found a variety of places.  Here’s a link to some pricing.  $1-$20

Essential oils, available a variety of places, including eBay, $3.00

Approximate Total: $6… more likely less.

Consider the oils an investment, as they will last a long time and could potentially create dozens of bottles of linen spray.

(And if  “dozens of bottles of linen spray” seems a bit daunting, but you still want to be able use the oil beyond this project, here are some other great uses: here, here,  and here.)

I think this linen spray would be great as a teacher/neighbor gift.  Hope you found this tutorial helpful!


Other handmade gift ideas:

Vinyl record bowls

Tile Coasters

DIY dry erase boards