Monday, November 22, 2010

The Super Cheap, Ultra Quick, Done-in-Five-Minutes Gift. (Plus Prizes!)

'Tis the season to be stressed, fa la la la la, la la la...

When did it become de facto to play Christmas music the day after Halloween? Personally, I boycott the stations that are Decking the Halls and Jingling the Bells. I need to celebrate the  holidays sequentially, with a day or two of rest in between. I don't have the fortitude to wake at 3 a.m. November 26 to shop after spending two marathon days in the kitchen prepping, cooking, feasting, and cleaning.  Many people finish their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, while I'm just beginning to figure out where Santa could possibly leave toys in our crazy cluttered house. (For those friends who are done with their Christmas shopping...I may need to rethink our friendship.)

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. I adore twinkling lights and the kids' excitement. I relish Christmas programs and enjoy holiday music. Nine-year-olds singing Christmas carols in their fancy clothes just makes me weepy. Christmas trees need to be real--and big--and covered with homemade ornaments and sentimentality. I will never understand the "decorator" Christmas tree. Never.
I love the holidays, but I love them one holiday at a proper order. For those of you like me, who don't have your shopping done, cards mailed, and baking complete, I'm sharing a gift.

The no fail, perfect gift—that costs $5.

Best of all—you will spend a total of five minutes making this gift. Actually, I spent five minutes making five of these gifts while in my PJs and drinking Diet Coke. To me, that beats battling crowds at the mall any day.

Need a teacher present? Check.
Hostess gift? Got it.
Neighbor thank you? Easy.
Back up present for that friend who shows up unexpectedly with a gift? Ta Da!

The best part of this gift is—it isn't fattening. It can suit men or women. It's inexpensive but doesn't look cheap. It's festive but also appropriate for individuals who don't celebrate Christmas. It has a personal, homemade touch—but is great for those of us who are craft-challenged.


It's ridiculously simple. In fact, it's so simple that I'm a little embarrassed to share instructions with you—particularly if you are one of my friends who've received this gift in the past. Still—I know how time-pressed and money-challenged most of us are in December. A gift of paperwhites is easy and inexpensive. Plus really—who doesn't like receiving flowers? (Unless, of course, you have terrible allergies.)

You'll want to start your bulbs over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so that they have enough time to grow and flower. Paperwhites are one of the few bulbs that don't require a chilling period prior to bloom, which makes them ideal for forcing.

What you'll need:

Container(s) without drainage holes. I like using clear glass vases or bowls, because the roots add visual interest.


Paperwhite bulbs (available online, at nurseries, and also at big box stores.)


How to Force Paperwhites
Select a container. Add pebbles to the container—approximately two-to-three inches deep.

Position bulbs on top of pebbles, with the pointed side up. Make sure the bottom of the bulb makes contact with the surface of the pebbles.

Add water to the container, just covering the stones. Do not submerse the bulbs in water—only the bottom of the bulbs should touch the water, or the bulbs may rot.

Place container in a sunny window, and check water level every few days. Add water as needed.

As the paperwhites grow, you may find that the stems lean and fall over. Take a piece of decorative ribbon or raffia, and tie it around the stems of the paperwhites to keep them upright. Not only is the ribbon practical, but it adds a festive touch to your gift. 

When the paperwhites bloom, move them out of direct sun to extend blooming time.

Most importantly—don't forget to start a few paperwhites for your holiday decorating. We all need some flowers during the holidays, so spoil yourself, too! You can afford to grow a few for yourself. Here's the cost of the supplies I used:

Glass container: $2.99 (Remember--you can use any container without drainage holes, so be creative. You might save money by finding some gorgeous, interesting containers around the house or at yard sales.)
Bulbs: $4.98 for seven bulbs (I typically use three bulbs per container--so $2.13 per gift)
Stones: $2.99 per bag (enough for eight containers--$0.43 per gift)

Ummm...whoops. My gifts actually total $5.49 each. Which rounds down to $5. Right? Sorry.

To make up for my poor math skills, I'm giving away a set of paperwhite bulbs—six bulbs to the winner. You can either make two gifts or you can grow two containers of paperwhites to decorate your house. Just answer the question below, and you'll be entered for a chance to win the bulbs. Please make sure to include your e-mail so that I can contact you! (Winner will be selected randomly and announced on Friday.)

Here's the question:

What is the best holiday gift you ever received?

Happy indoor growing!

XO ~



  1. The best holiday gift I ever received...that is a hard one, Julie. I think I will say the Christmas jammies that my mother-in-law gave me, my sister in laws and herself. We had so much fun all dressed alike, drinking hot cocoa and taking pictures. Great blog again!

  2. I don't know if this counts, but it was during the holidays (New Years Eve Day). An engagement ring. The best gift EVER.

  3. SeaBlush, I also got an engagement ring on New Year's Eve! Best gift EVER...with a close second being the CD of our wedding music Peter made for me for our first Christmas, when we made presents for each other because we were poor! Laura already received the bulbs--but thank you for sharing your best holiday gift!