Homemade gifts are always a little more special than store-bought, and this is especially true for a sentimental holiday like Mother's Day. Here are ideas for easy-to-make presents and cards anyone would adore.
BUTTON COOKIES: Your mother doesn't have to sew to enjoy these whimsical cookies shaped like oversize buttons (but if she does, she'll like them even more).
Layer the cookies between waxed paper or parchment in boxes or tins, wrap the box and tie a real button into the bow or stack several cookies and thread thin ribbon, cord or waxed linen twine through the holes to join them.
You can use any recipe for a rolled cookie that holds its shape as it bakes, such as sugar, gingerbread or chocolate cookies. To make the button shapes, cut the rolled dough with a round cookie cutter, then add an inner ring by gently pressing the rim of a glass, slightly smaller than the cookie, into the dough.
Make four holes with a skewer (if you intend to stack the cookies, make a paper template for the holes so they're evenly spaced on each cookie) and bake.
When the cookies come out of the oven, you may need to reopen the holes with the skewer.
BIKE-BASKET PLANTER: Transform a traditional aluminum-wire bicycle basket into a blooming spring planter. You may already have a basket on an old, unused bike. If not, you'll find one at a bicycle store; have the hardware that attaches it to the bike clipped off.
Line the sides and bottom of the basket with sheet moss, which will show through the large gaps between the wires for a rustic look, then fill the basket with a good potting soil mix.
Plant favorite spring flowers _ an assortment of pansies would be lovely _ preferably already in bloom. Use the planter as a window box or place it on the doorstep or patio.
FRUIT-INFUSED MAPLE SYRUP: Enjoy a long, lazy pancake breakfast with maple syrups flavored with fresh, ripe fruit. Prepare the syrups in advance (they keep for several days) and pack them into good-looking bottles or jars.
Use ribbon to tie on a handwritten tag or use an adhesive label. Try raspberry syrup, pear-vanilla, strawberry-nectarine syrup or blackberry-blueberry maple syrup. Just use the ripest, most delicious fruits and berries and combine them any way you please.
PHOTO CARDS: If you don't live close enough to your mother to celebrate this holiday together, send a personal, handmade card. Incorporate good prints of family photos in the card, and your mother can remove and frame them or put them into an album, or use color photocopies for a card that is sure to become a keepsake.
+ Mount a favorite photo onto a card using adhesive photo corners. Here's how:
Cut a piece of heavyweight art paper or card stock to fit your envelope or make the paper double the width so you can fold it in half like a traditional card. Place the photo on the paper where you want to mount it and trace around the corners with a pencil.
Remove the photo and adhere black or white photo corners (available at stationery stores) where you made the pencil markings. Slip the photo in place _it won't be attached to the paper itself, so it can be removed easily _ and write a message beneath it.
+ An accordion-fold card is like a little album.
Cut a piece of medium- to heavyweight paper as tall as you want the card to be and four times as wide as you want it to be; fold it, accordion-style, into four equal sections. Write a message on the front or leave the front blank, open the paper and write a message in the first section.
Use photo corners, as described above, to attach a photo in each section or glue color photocopies in place. Photocopies work particularly well since you can enlarge or reduce them to the perfect size.
As a finishing touch, fold the card back up, wrap a ribbon around it and tie a bow in front. The ribbon can be adhered to the back of the card with a plain, round white sticker or a decorative one, if you wish.
Send question to Martha Stewart, c/o the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E 42nd St., New York, NY 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is mstewartmarthastewart.com.
2 cups berries or diced fruit (pitted or cored) such as pears, peaches or plums
1 cup real maple syrup
1 vanilla bean (optional)
Combine fruit and syrup in a bowl. If using berries, press them with the back of a spoon until they just start to break apart. For a smoother syrup, press mixture through a sieve.
Split vanilla bean, if using, and scrape seeds into mixture. Add the bean to the bowl.
Transfer mixture to a clean bottle or another container, cover and refrigerate. Use within } days. Before serving, the syrup can be warmed in a small saucepan over low heat. Makes 3 cups.
Preparation time: 10 minutes.