It can be so fun having three granddaughters and coming up with craft projects for them. This time of year it's even more so since there are so many things you can do. Today I will focus mainly on Christmas ornaments and cards. Making your own ornaments and cards is one of the highest ranked 'searches' on Google. It seems everyone wants to save money but I like to think it's also about giving something you've made yourself adding that extra special ingredient: Love! Not only can you make these for yourself, but they make great gifts for teachers. You can make a few cards, tie them together with a Christmas ribbon and done! I have even given these to friends as a hostess gift since I always love receiving homemade note cards that my friends have made.
Here are a few ideas I've found that are not only fun and easy; some are even sustainable! And that always makes a good balance.
Salt-Dough Christmas Ornament
Oven 200 degrees
1/2 cup salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup water
parchment paper or silicone mat
Put parchment paper or silicone mat on baking sheet. Mix salt and flour in bowl; add water while slowly stirring until dough is sticky. On floured counter, roll dough to 1/4"-inch thickness and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter of your choice. I used a snowflake cutter. Place cookies on baking sheet, pierce hole in the top with the end of a chop stick (for hanging ribbon) and bake them for 4 hours. When cool, draw your own choice of designs with a red or green permanent marker. You can even use metallic permanent markers. Loop ribbon through hole and tie with a bow.
Cinnamon-Scented Tree Cookies
This is another version of the common salt-dough recipe except you add ground cinnamon and cinnamon essential oil to give them a nice color and fragrance. I used a star cookie cutter but you can also use a gingerbread man cookie cutter since the color is so similar to gingerbread cookies. Since it calls for a lot of ground cinnamon, I purchased it at my local natural food store where they sell it in bulk and is so much less expensive.
Oven 250 degrees
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1/2 cup ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon essential oil (more if you like; I added a full teaspoon)
Parchment paper or silicone mat
String or ribbon
Mix dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Add cinnamon essential oil to water and stir well. Add water to dry ingredients and mix until liquid is completely absorbed. Knead for a few minutes. Chill, covered, for 1-2 hours in refrigerator before proceeding.
Roll dough flat on parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut designs with a cookie cutter or create them freehand with small knife. Pierce holes in the tops with chop stick.
Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1-3 hours. Remove when very firm, and set aside to cool. Thread with string or ribbon. Be forewarned: it's going to smell real yummy in your kitchen but, sadly, they taste awful!
Slices of dehydrated fresh citrus resemble little stained glass windows when the lights of the Christmas tree shine through them. You can embellish them with glitter glue for an extra 'blingy' look!
Oven 170 degrees
large clean kitchen towel
parchment paper or silicone mat
Using a sharp knife, make very think slices of the citrus fruits, cutting horizontally through the fruit to expose the triangular sections. Place a slice in middle of towel, bring edges over slice and press to squeeze out the juice. Do this gently so you don't tear the membranes of the citrus. Do this until all the liquid is out of the slice. When you are pressing the slice, it 'gives' like the bubble wrap (that comes in shipped packages) that we all love to pop.
Arrange slices on parchment-lined baking sheets. Place in oven for 1-2 hours until the slices are completely dried. Keep checking them after the first hour; you don't want them to get so dry they become shriveled. Open the oven door once in a while to allow steam to escape.
Once cooled, embellish with glitter glue (optional) and thread ribbon or decorative string through the top of each slice.
Paper Drop Ornaments
You can use a variety of paper to make these extra-easy ornaments. I used card stock in red, green and white colors but my favorite is using old Christmas cards. I painted the back side of the card gold or red or whatever color goes well with the printed side. This way it looked 'finished' once the ornament was done.
Colored paper or old Christmas cards
Ribbon or colored cord
Cut two 12-inch strips, tow 10-inch strips and one 8 3/4-inch strip. Line them up in this order: 12, 10, 8 3/4, 10, 12, with one set of ends even. Loop ribbon or cord and tuck the two ends in between two of the strips and staple ends a half-inch or so down from edge. Line up the other ends evenly, gently bending the outer strips as needed, and staple a half-inch or so from edge.
You do not need the strips to be the exact size I have noted here. I had different sizes of squares, so just cut the strips so there were two that were the longest, 2 medium length ones and then one slightly smaller than that. I ended up with a variety of sizes, which is nice for a more balanced tree, if you're using several ornaments.
Paint Chip Christmas Cards
Have you ever painted a room and had leftover paint chips? This is a great idea to put those paint chips to work! OR. You can be like me, sneak around all the Loewe's and Home Depots and 'borrow' a few chips that are the colors you want. These cards can be made for Christmas or any occasion so just choose the colors that are appropriate. I made these in just a few minutes and they make a great gift for teachers or friends alike. You can also make note cards using card stock cut to the preferred size. I stock up on blank cards and envelopes from the discount basket usually found after the holidays.
Paint chip samples
Card stock or blank greeting cards
Self-healing cutting mat
Trim the paint chip sample cards to desired size, if necessary, using craft knife, ruler, and self-healing cutting mat. **NOTE: Instead of trimming mine, I glued them on the card and trimmed them later.
Working in a well-ventilated area, apply aerosol adhesive to one side of the card. Carefully place paint chip sample on card remembering that the adhesive dries quickly, so if you need to adjust the angle, so do right away. Let dry. Once dry, place card on self-healing matt and using the grid ruler to guide your craft knife, trim off excess paint chip sample so it's the same size as the card.
Load stamp with ink and apply the stamp to the front of the card. Let dry completely in a safe place to prevent smudging. This may take a bit of time because the surface of the paint chip is coated and not porous. Test carefully to avoid smudging the ink.
'X-ray' Botanical Note Cards
This came about in a fun way. I was trying to create a botanical-themed card by placing leaves from a tree on the card front then spraying with spray paint. The problem was the leaves kept moving or I couldn't get them to lay flat and the end result was disappointing, to say the least. Another problem was the the paint didn't show up very well on the white card. So, I painted the card front with a dark, midnight blue acrylic paint. After it dried completely, I placed a tiny branch from a mesquite tree on it and spray painted it with silver paint, holding the can directly over the card about 24 inches, letting the paint 'drift' down. The result was so cool! It looked like a photo negative or x-ray of the branch. I then snipped three different sizes of aloe vera branches and placed them on another card (again, painted a midnight blue), spray painted it with silver and got the same, fun product. I plan on exploring this a little more in the future and come up with a whole bunch of different X-ray Botanical Note Cards!