Author Archives: Active Spouse

About Active Spouse

I am the wife of an active duty member of the U.S. Army slowly navigating the ins and outs of married life, parenthood, and military life.


DIY Christmas Hostess Gift in a Jar – Sugar Peppermint Scrub with Coconut Oil

We recently moved to a new neighborhood, and we are surrounded by friendly and involved neighbors. Every year a Christmas breakfast is hosted at our neighbor’s house. We were fortunate to be invited this year. We were so looking forward to the event, to meeting several new neighbors who we have not yet had the opportunity to greet, and sampling all the delicious treats. Everyone was supposed to bring a dish to share. So, I was thinking and planning on what dish to bring, and completely forgot about bringing a hostess gift to thank my wonderful neighbor for including us in such a delightful event.

That being said, I decided to make one of my favorite holiday luxury items, with which I like to spoil myself every year. DIY Christmas hostess gift in a jar filled with Sugar Peppermint Scrub with Coconut Oil. Now this can be used as a hand scrub or a full body scrub. It works great to moisturize dry chapped hands from the winter cold, it is wonderful in the shower as a full body scrub and exfoliator, and you should definitely try rubbing a little bit on your dry lips this winter. The best thing about it is it is 100% safe for your body and you can even eat it (if you feel like licking it off your lips).

The ingredients to make this DIY Christmas hostess gift in a jar are simple and can likely be found in your kitchen already. Although, you may need to plan ahead and special order the peppermint oil (or peppermint extract), because many local stores either do not carry it or sell out of it very quickly once the Christmas/holiday/winter season begins.

I used organic white sugar, peppermint oil (you can also use peppermint extract), and organic, solid coconut oil. You will want an eyedropper for the peppermint oil. The coconut oil can be found at your grocers in the organic aisle or sometimes in the health aisle at an organic food store or body products store.

Melt 1/4 cup coconut oil in a microwave- safe dish in 20 second intervals until thoroughly melted. Add 15-20 drops of peppermint oil to the melted coconut oil and stir to combine. In a medium sized bowl, combine the oil mixture with 1 cup of sugar and stir until thoroughly combined. You can add more peppermint oil to increase the smell to your preference. Scoop mixture into jars. 

This should stay good for a couple of months in a sealable mason jar. Shelf life for me has been around three months (though really, you will use this up much quicker than that because it is amazing for your skin!!)

A variation of this recipe can be made with kosher salt, peppermint oil, and any other type of oil like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, any Nut oil really, or even baby oil. However, one of the benefits of this mixture is the scent and the ability to moisturize and seal moisture into your skin. So if you are using an alternate type of oil, try to get one that is un scented or scent-free or at least doesn’t have an overpowering smell. Also, baby oil will work but doesn’t have the best reputation for locking in moisture.

This is why I prefer the coconut oil, sugar, and peppermint oil combination. The smell is amazing and it keeps your skin hydrated.

I found the labels and recipe for the sugar scrub online through this blog site, Mom4real.

To finish off and package up your DIY Christmas hostess gift in a jar, fill a widemouth mason jar with the sugar scrub mixture. Secure the lid. And decorate the bottle with some kitchen twine. Don’t forget to add some embellishments. You could add a peppermint stick or some holly berries and leaves as pictured in the photo above. You may want to consider adding a gift tag on the twine as well. 

Do not forget to label the jar with the contents inside. You can either make your own label to affix to the exterior of the jar or to the jar lid, or use a free printable version online here.


DIY Christmas Gifts in a Jar

With Christmas right around the corner, I am willing to bet that many of you, like myself, are in a place where the money is all spent, the presents have been bought, the groceries are in the fridge, but there are still some precious friends, family, and neighbors for whom you would like to give a small gift to show that you care and are thinking of them this holiday season. 

Christmas cards are one way to share warm wishes with others. But if you are looking for a small token to give, DIY Christmas Gifts in a Jar are a wonderful and affordable way to do this.

This Christmas, I was informed rather short notice that my spouse needed eight (which was later corrected to nine) gifts for the team and subordinates at work. Now, we had originally planned on purchasing some Frango mints at Marshall Fields in Chicago the last time we were visiting for just such an occasion. However, we failed to do so, and the purchase price plus shipping was just not in our budget this year. Add to that list, something for our amazing babysitter, our children’s play friends, and our dear neighbors to whom we also felt inclined to gift this year.

The best solution I can think of, that was affordable, would provide me and our kids some fun, and also gave me a creative outlet this December, was to do DIY Christmas gifts in a jar. Now, these jars can be decorated and filled with anything that you want. In previous blogs I have mentioned doing gifts in a jar filled with ingredients to make cookiesexample. However, this year I decided to go a bit more simple with assorted candy (chocolate and licorice) and hot chocolate powder with marshmallows.

My DIY Christmas gifts in a jar were decorated as several characters this year, to include Santa Claus, Reindeer, Elves, and Snowman. You can decorate the jars as simply and inexpensively as you want or rack up that craft store bill with add-ons. I really was trying to make a meaningful but super-affordable gift this year, so I simply used the acrylic paint stored in my art cupboard for most of the detail work, and added some twine around the jar lids to tie on the gift tags. I did purchase a few buttons and pipe cleaners for embellishments. 

Some other ideas would be to add a jingle bell to the twine label, to purchase or print festive Christmas labels, to add holiday themed fabric over the jar lid, or glue other embellishments onto the jars. I include some ideas for additional embellishments with each jar description below.

Some materials you will want include pint sized wide mouth mason jars with or without lids, small foam brushes, acrylic paint, colored buttons (like black, red, green or white), glitter (like gold, white, red, green, etc.), a hot glue gun and glue sticks, twine (like the standard kitchen packaging twine or red and white wine), Christmas labels with a whole punch and fine-tip permanent marker, and a pair scissors. 

If you have mason jars without lids plan on covering the Jar mouth with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Some of my jars did not have lids, so I covered the mouth of the jars with aluminum foil, and then secured the foil to the jar (and also disguised the shine a bit from the sides), by wrapping kitchen twine several times around the mouth of the jar and securing with a knot at the back. This also gave me a great place to attach my gift tag.

A tip from experience, do not open your packages of candy to fill the jars until the night before or the morning of the day you plan on gifting the jars. You do not want the candy to become too moist or too hard and dried out, depending on the conditions where you live or inside your home.

The Santa Claus Jar

For the Santa Claus jar, I used black and white acrylic paint and gold glitter for decorations. Using my foam brush, I carefully painted a stripe along the middle of the jar in black paint. Let that dry before moving onto the next step. And then with white acrylic paint, I painted an outline of a square over and centered on the black line in the center of one of the sides of the jar. While the white paint was still wet, I sprinkled on gold glitter and gently tapped the glitter into the white paint with my finger. The idea is for this to look like Santa’s black belt and gold buckle.

That’s it!

Now you could go fancier and use black satin ribbon (½”) for the belt and actual brass buckles from your local sewing center or gold metallic cardstock cut into a buckle shape.

Fill the jar with any red candy you like. I think red hots, red licorice bites, long strands of red licorice, sour candies… But be sure that it is all red.

The Reindeer Jar

For the reindeer jar, I used half-inch red buttons and brown pipe cleaners. If you want to add an extra detail, you can also paint eyes on your jar (black acrylic paint). I did not include eyes on my reindeer jar, going with a more abstract look. If you want eyes, with the foam brush, carefully paint black eyes in the top-third of the jar. In the middle-third of the jar, use the hot glue gun to secure one red button in the center of the jar, below the eyes. This will be Rudolph’s nose. Around the mouth of the jar, below the ridges for the lid to screw on, bend two pipe cleaners (in opposite directions of each other) around the mouth of the Jar and twist the ends to secure the position and keep the ends separated in a ‘V’ shape to form antlers on each side of the jar. Using a third pipe cleaner, wrap the pipe cleaner around the jar and just above or below where you did the two antler pipe cleaners. Twist the ends together at theback of  the jar to look like a tail, and aim the ends down and away from the bottle.

Fill the jar with any brown candy, like chocolate M&Ms, malt balls, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate dipped pretzels, etc.

The Elf Jar

For the elf jar, I used white acrylic paint, white glitter, and half-inch red buttons. With the foam brush, around the top of the jar and just under the ridges for screwing on the lid, carefully paint upside down triangle’s overlapping each other all the way around the jar. This will be the color of the elves shirt. While the white paint is still wet, sprinkle on and gently press and white glitter. Down the center of one side of the jar, glue on three evenly spaced red buttons. These will be the shirt buttons for your elf.

Now fill the jar with any green candy, like sour apple, mint flavored M&M’s, Green gumballs, etc.

The Snowman Jar

For the snowman jar, I used black half-inch buttons, and black, green and orange acrylic paint. With the foam brush, paint on two eyes and a smile in the upper one third of the jar. The smile should be four to five evenly spaced dots of black paint. The idea is for the eyes, the smile, and the buttons to look like pieces of coal. So, do not try to make the black circles look perfectly circular. You want the edges and lines to be irregular and uneven. But, definitely try to make the positioning on the bottle symmetrical and proportional as you would with decorating a real snowman. For the nose, you want to make an elongated triangle on its side to look like a carrot shoved into the middle of your snowman’s face. I accomplished this by putting my brush on the jar and keeping the point of the nose still, I arced the other side of the brush downwards to form the wider base of the carrot (or the nose) where it would enter the snowman’s face. The base of the carrot (nose) should be centered between the eyes and above the mouth. 

In between the smile and the top button, paint a green line all the way around the jar to be the scarf. To the left side of your snowman’s face, along the line of the scarf, paint a small knot (think about drawing a butterfly with four wings) and then draw three overlapping lines coming down from the knot to form the tassel of your scarf. I then added on tiny lines at the end of each tassel of the scarf to be fringe. The three Colburns should go down the middle of the jar, centered underneath the mouth and between the eyes. You can either keep the buttons in the middle-third of the jar or center them over the middle- and bottom-thirds of the jar.

At the bottom of the jar, measure out and fill the jar with hot chocolate powder for as many cups as you want to provide. I aim for 4 to 6 cups of hot chocolate which is usually 2 to 3 tablespoons of powder mix per cup. Then, fill the rest of the jar with white, miniature marshmallows. The goal is for the jar to be mostly filled with marshmallows so it looks like a white Snowman, so you need to limit how much hot chocolate powder you put in the bottom. Otherwise you’re going to be gifting a muddy snowman!

I decorated the lids in the same color paint that I used for the scarves.

Indirectly heat lotion

Get All the Lotion Out of a Bottle

I love thick lotions and body butters, but there is always an issue with the bottle. Either there is a little lotion left inside the bottle that just refuses to come out through the pump or dispensing cap, or I don’t like the bottle aesthetic and would prefer the lotion in one of my favorite glass bottles. It is difficult to get all the lotion out of a bottle, and leaving lotion in the bottle is like throwing away good money. The best way to do this is with either a very small spatula or by indirectly heating the lotion. Continue reading

Under the Sea Refreshments

Under the Sea Birthday Party

When my eldest daughter turned one while our family was stationed in Hawaii, we embraced the local tradition of elaborately celebrating the milestone with a big birthday party. An Under the Sea Birthday Party theme may not have been the most original idea, considering the island culture, but the planning and execution of the party details, food and beverages, decor, games and prizes was fun and simplified since all the necessary resources were at hand. You can go as over-the top or basic as you want when planning an Under the Sea birthday party for a boy or girl, and you can customize your party to your child’s age, favorite color, ocean animal, and food. For my daughter’s party, I chose coral and sea mist for colors, and a range of animals depicted in the decor, games and food. Continue reading


Leftover Easter Ham and Egg Casserole Recipe

Easter has come and gone and you are left with a pound (or three…) of ham. It was just two of us this Easter dinner, since our toddler is still an extremely picky eater and our infant is just now managing pureed vegetables. I bought the smallest ham I could find, but it was still 4 pounds of meat. Sunday’s Easter dinner was delicious, with honey baked ham, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, and spiced peaches. The next day’s lunch and dinner of ham and mashed potatoes, and then ham, smothered in honey dijon to camouflage the taste, and cheesy potatoes were equally filling, though not as satisfying. And now it’s Tuesday, and I still have at least four days of ham left in my fridge and a spouse traveling for work. I despise throwing away food so it is up to me to polish off this ham. And, I am already sick of it. In comes my delicious, palate saving, Leftover Easter Ham and Egg Casserole Recipe. Continue reading

Dyeing eggs

Fun Easter Celebrations for the Family

We have had more fun this weekend enjoying Easter themed activities together. It is so easy and requires very little additional effort to Google local events in your own area. But, if your family is more home-oriented, or you have guests in town, there are several at-home activities to choose from as well. Whether you choose local or home events this Holiday season, just be sure to include fun Easter celebrations for the family as a whole, in addition to activities geared towards different age groups. Do not forget that this weekend is for everyone’s enjoyment and spiritual well-being. Continue reading

Baskets for small children

Perfect Easter Baskets for Small Children

Just in case the Easter Bunny needs a little assistance in choosing sussies (small surprises) for my children’s baskets this year, I did a little research and store patrolling to see what items were available that have a little Easter flare. My girls are at a wonderful, but difficult age for stocking an Easter Basket, as His-Bunniness surely already knows. Small candies, gum and chocolates are still not an option in our household. Same goes for most art supplies. However, at any age, you cannot go wrong with Easter books, crayons, coloring books, hopping toys, stuffed animals, bubbles, bouncing balls, and toys. My girls are 27 months and 8 months and a joyful handful. I picked out a few items that I would love for the Bunny to bring them this Easter Sunday. In my opinion, the perfect easter baskets for small children should contain an assortment of themed goodies. Now, I believe that the HOLY-day should be put back in our Holidays, so I looked into Jesus themed coloring books and board books, but I felt like the coloring books were much too advanced for my two year old to enjoy and we already have our fare share of religious board books. So, these items are not included in the photographs below. But, I do highly recommend such items for your Easter baskets. The options below are selected to fit inside a traditional, small/medium sized Easter basket. Continue reading

Work Appropriate Valentine’s Day Desserts

I love any excuse to be extra-festive, merry, and eat desserts. Birthdays, major holidays, new hires, retirement, kids’ fifth grade graduation… you get the point. It’s relatively easy to bring a little festive cheer into the work place with a pleasant attitude and maybe a desk decoration or two, however, as I mentioned, I like desserts. Desserts for major Holidays like Christmas and Halloween are pretty straight forward (red and green or orange and black decorations, pies…), but, it can be difficult to come up with work appropriate desserts for holidays like Valentine’s Day. Sure when you’re a kid at school you can bring candy-grams and lollipops or conversation hearts and pink heart cookies in to your classmates, but XOXO and hearts may not be the most professional approach in the job place. You do not have to skip holiday fun because it trends towards mushiness and expressions of love; you can wish your colleagues well and be thankful for their friendships and show it through some work appropriate Valentine’s Day desserts like Oreo Cookie Balls and Iced Cake Donuts.

For my recipes and decorating tips go to:

Oreo Cookie Balls


Iced Cake Donuts – coming soon!



Oreo Cookie Balls Recipe

I received a batch of Oreo Cookie Balls from a dear friend for Christmas a couple years ago and that same day I asked for the recipe! I’ve changed it up a bit, added a few more steps and punched up the decor for an extra-chocolatey kick. You can eat these at home (they will not last long), share with friends and neighbors, or take to a work party. Everyone loves this dessert. If giving as a gift, dress it up on a festive plate or in a paper dessert box. These do get a little ‘melty’, so keep them refrigerated until ready to be devoured! I think the best way to serve these is to have a combination of flavors in a batch (mint, chocolate, strawberry) and different finishing decorations (crumbs, sugar, chocolate, sprinkles, etc.) so that everyone can enjoy the many flavors that are packed into one dessert. Continue reading