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Special section Thrifty gifting

We've searched to the North Pole and beyond for easy, yet impressive, things you can make at home.

Best homemade gifts

7 splendid homemade holiday gifts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.

Place ½ cup of the sugar and the warm water in a medium-size saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat, add the pecans and stir to coat with the syrup. Let the pecans soak for 10 minutes, then drain them.

Place the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the cinnamon and cayenne pepper in a large plastic resealable bag and shake to combine. Add the drained pecans and shake to coat well. Transfer the pecans to the prepared baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer.

Bake the pecans until they are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let the pecans cool on the baking sheet. The pecans can be kept for up to two weeks.

7. The classic candle
Use pieces of crayons and candles to create this gift, based on instructions from Dahlstrom's book, "Cool Crafts to Make Even If You Don't Have a Creative Bone in Your Body!"

How to make homemade candles:
1. Fill a saucepan about half-full with water. Put a can filled with chunked candle wax or cut up old candles in the saucepan and place it on the stove. The water will boil and melt the wax in the can as it simmers. (Don't put in the microwave.) After the wax melts, add bits of old crayons or old candle pieces to add color (you need to use a couple of saucepans if you want different colors). Turn off the stove.
2. Cover a work area with waxed paper. Use a potholder to lift the can out of the water and onto the waxed paper. Put a bowl of ice water beside the can of wax.
3. Cut a piece of candle wicking the size you want. You will be making two candles at a time. A good length is about 16 inches long. Plan on having extra wicking to hold on to when you are dipping the candles. Dip each end of the wicking into the wax and then quickly take them out, keeping the two candles separated.
4. Immediately dip each end of the waxed wicking into the ice water. The wax will cool quickly. Repeat back and forth quickly between wax and water. The ice water will set the wax almost immediately so you can quickly move back and froth from the can to the bowl as the wax starts to build up on the wicking.
5. After about four or five times, you'll have enough wax. Alternate and have one side in the wax while the other side is in water. As the candles get bigger -- this will keep them from sticking together. When the candles are the size you like, hang them over a chair back or rack to dry. After they are dry, cut them apart so you can use each one. Slice off the bottom to even out the base.
-- Posted: Nov. 21, 2007
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