Five Homemade Holiday Gifts You Can Make Now

So you want to occupy Wall Street? If you really want to stick it to the corporations this year, give homemade gifts. Buy the things you need to make them from independent businesses and give presents that have your unmistakable stamp on them.

Yes, it's just barely past Halloween and Día de los Muertos, but some of these take a little time to make--and honestly, wouldn't you rather do this now, before the craziness of December sets in?

5. Hot cocoa mix

A couple of cute cups from a thrift store, a molinillo from a Mexican market, and a big sachet or jar of hot cocoa mix is a great last-minute gift. Use the 5-4-3 rule: 5 parts powdered milk, 4 parts powdered sugar, and 3 parts cocoa powder. Add a teaspoon of regular, non-kosher salt (mandatory), a teaspoon of cornstarch (mandatory, helps keep it from clumping) and a teaspoon of espresso powder (optional). Shake it all together and let the dust settle before opening it.

4. Vanilla extract

Eight vanilla beans per fifth of vodka is the rule. Cut them in half lengthwise and crosswise, drop them in the vodka (you shouldn't need to drink any to make them fit, but, uh . . .) and age anywhere from two months (i.e., Christmas) to six months. If you need them more quickly, add a couple of extra beans to the vodka. Shake occasionally and make sure you strain before you bottle. Use brown or green glass, not clear, to keep the vanilla flavor from succumbing to sunlight. Don't throw away the beans, either -- once drained, toss them in a bag of sugar to make vanilla sugar in about two weeks.

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