A thrifty gift guide, Eagle County | VailDaily.com

A thrifty gift guide, Eagle County

Daily staff writers
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Patrick Shuck

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” With words like collapse, meltdown, layoffs and depression flying around like apocalyptic little bees lately, Vail Daily staffers are focusing in on thrift over glitz with our annual gift guide. For the sake of your bank account, embrace your inner-cheapskate and try one of our do-it-yourself gift ideas. And don’t worry, if you’re not feeling crafty, we’ve got a few under-$20 ideas that don’t involve any mixing, knitting or downloading.

Happy holidays!

Make-your-own bath salts, cost varies

If the price tag attached to most bath salts makes you shudder, consider making your own. The process is fairly simple ” it takes just three or four key ingredients to mix up a big batch of bath salts, which can then be portioned out into pretty glass jars and given to friends and family members as gifts.

Bath salt recipe

4 cups of Epsom and/or course sea salt

1 cup baking soda

1 to 2 teaspoons Essential oils (lavender, vanilla and eucalyptus work well)

Dried lavender or other flower petals (optional)

Homemade or store-bought labels, decorative ribbons and tags

Clean glass canisters, or decorative jars with lids

Small muslin bags or spice satchets

Mix the ingredients well, pour into a container and attach a small muslin bag with a ribbon to the outside of the jar. Go one step further and make your own gift tags: “Use 1 to 3 tablespoons per hot, relaxing bath.”

Nature’s Providers (970-949-9404), located in Avon, carries Epsom salt, essential oils and small muslin bags. Wal-Mart and Home Depot in Avon carry containers, ribbon and salt. You can also scour antique stores or thrift shops for interesting bottles and jars.

” Caramie Schnell

Wine cork trivet, http://www.karmakiss.com, $12.99

Finally, something you can do with that giant collection of wine corks you’ve been cultivating in your junk drawer (maybe that’s just me). Either way, this 8-spoke stainless steel trivet base makes it easy to create a wine cork trivet. Better yet, save corks from bottles you unburdened for special occasions ” your special someone’s 30th birthday, or your anniversary, perhaps.

” C.S.

Build-your-own MintyBoost, http://www.makershed.com, $19.99

Wait, don’t throw away that empty Altoids gum tin. Instead, turn it into a MintyBoost ” a small and simple USB charger for your iPod, camera, cell phone or anything you can charge via USB port. Warning: some small-scale soldering is necessary but, according to the site, “even if you’ve never soldered before it should be pretty easy.” The kit comes with everything but the batteries and the gum container, so be sure to include those in your gift so your gadget-geek buddy has everything they need to get building.

” C.S.

Knit ornaments, $4 to $27, depending on what you have on hand

If you just finished knitting a pair of socks, put your leftover yarn to use. These knit Christmas ornaments make for a quick, cheap gift for the women in your life. You’ll need no more than 100 yards of sock yarn (1/4 to a half skein). If you don’t have leftover yarn lying around, a skein of sock yarn sells for $16 to $23 at The Yarn Studio in Minturn. Plan to devote two to three hours to making your ornament. This pattern calls for knitting a tube similar to the top of a sock, and securing it around a Styrofoam ball ($3.48 at Wal-Mart). To finish, attach an ornament hook to the top or, because ornament hooks with the metal cap (as shown in the photo) are tough to find in Vail, crochet a loop for hanging.



Sock yarn or double-knit yarn (less than 100 yards)

One set size three or four short double-pointed needles

2-inch (5 cm) Styrofoam ball

Darning needle


For sock yarn, cast on 30 stitches. For double-knit yarn, cast on 27 stitches. Leave a long tail attached at each end.

Knit until tube is 2 1/2 inches (6.5 cm) long. Cut yarn, leaving a 6-inch (15 cm) tail. Thread needle with tail. Transfer stitches from knitting needles to darning needle. Pull closed and secure.

Stretch yarn to fit ball inside. Thread darning needle with remaining tail; baste around top. Pull closed and secure. Replace metal cap from ball and attach metal hook, or crochet a 2-inch chain, fold into a loop, and secure for hanging.

(Pattern courtesy of Gayle Mausolf, owner of Yarnings yarn shop in Skippack, Pa.)

” Sarah Mausolf

Snowboard collage, $16 to $36

Turn an old snowboard into a collage for your loved one’s wall. A handful of customers at Scully’s Art and Gift Store in Eagle-Vail made these mountain decor decorations. Remove the bindings on the snowboard with a screwdriver and sand the top of the board with sandpaper (79 cents to $1.29 at Vail Valley Ace Hardware in West Vail). If you want to paint the board, start by coating the top with a layer of Gesso primer ($7 at Scully’s). Paint the top of the snowboard with the colors and design of your choice. You can find a set of paints for under $20 at Scully’s. Arrange the photos on the snowboard, then cover them with Mod Podge ($5 at Scully’s), a collage glue often used to seal finished puzzles. Mount mirror clips on the wall to hold the snowboard ($2.79 at Vail Valley Ace Hardware in West Vail).

” Sarah Mausolf

Homemade cookies, cost varies depending on what you have in your cupboards

Put those cooking skills to use and try your hand at baking homemade cookies for your friends and family. Check out the Thrifty Shoppe in Edwards for old bowls, baskets and linen napkins. Wash everything thoroughly. Lay the cloth napkin in the bowl and fill it with your favorite cookies or try this recipe for Trail Ridge Tassies, a cookie that resembles a mini-pecan pie. Even better, this recipe from “The Rocky Mountain Sweet Shoppe Cookbook” was developed expressly for baking at high altitude, so it will (hopefully) be hard to mess up.

Trail Ridge Tassies

1 cup flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup soft butter


1 egg

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

24 pecan halves for decoration

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 24-cup small muffin pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Sift together flour, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add butter and cream cheese and, using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in butter until blended and soft dough forms. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Using a floured rolling pin, on a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a floured 2 1/2 fluted or round cutter, cut out 24 rounds, gently pressing pastry into bottom and up sides of cups. Refridgerate pan with pastry cups for 30 minutes.

Make the topping. In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat egg until foamy. Gradually add brown sugar, vanilla and melted butter. Beat until smooth. Remove pastry cups from refridgerator. Sprinkle a heaping 1/2 teaspoon full of chopped pecans into each cup. Ladle a teaspoonful filling on top of pecans. Top with a pecan half.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until filling is set (pastry edges will be golden brown).

Remove from oven and cool in pan 20 minutes. Using a small knife, gently loosen edge of pastry from each muffin cup and remove from pan. Let cool completely.

Store between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Do not store at room temperature or freeze.

” C.S.

Infused olive oil, $17 and up

One bottle of extra-virgin olive oil ($10.99 to $20.99 for a 1-liter bottle) can be turned into a very useful gift for friends and family who love to spend time in the kitchen. All you need to make the gift unique is to pour it into a decorative bottle with a cork top ($4 to $7 each at Pier One Imports in Avon). Buy the herbs and spices ($1.99 to $5.99. Citrus peels work well, too) from a local store or pull them from your home garden if you happen to have one, clean and dry them, then add to the olive oil. Cap off the bottle and let it sit for one to two weeks. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor. Wrap it up and put a bow on it ($3) and give it away for a Christmas gift that will keep on giving.

” Charlie Owen

Infused vodka, price varies depending on ingredients

This is easy and as far as drinking goes, somewhat healthy (if that’s really possible). Buy or find a large jar with an air-tight lid ($10 to $18 at Pier One Imports in Avon or use an old mason jar) and clean it thoroughly. Actual vodka infusion jars with spouts can be purchased at home ware stores but they’re quite a bit more expensive. Choose an unflavored vodka that’s been at least triple distilled. A 1.75 liter of Svedka, $22.99, is five times distilled and is a good, affordable vodka. If infusing your vodka with fruit (go organic if you can), choose three, good-sized pieces (or three handfuls, if you’re using berries) of fruit ” cucumbers, oranges or pears work well. Wash the fruit, chop it up (unless you’re using berries, then keep them whole) and place them in the jar. For herb-infused vodka, use two to four fistfuls of herbs ” rosemary, basil or lavender work well. Place your herbs or fruit into the jar, then fill the rest of the jar with vodka. Cap off the top and let it sit out of direct sunlight for two to seven days.

Feel free to taste it from time to make sure the mixture is achieving your desired flavor. When you feel the vodka is properly infused, wrap the jar in gift paper, tie a bow around it and make a friend or family member happy. Maybe they’ll let you enjoy the gift with them.

” Charlie Owen

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