Tag Archive | cheap

Christmas gifts: warm hearts, warm hands

We’re on the last batch of homemade Christmas gifts now with Rana’s contributions. It is fun doing this with a little bit older child since she is capable of more. Since she jumps at the chance to use the sewing machine, I chose a project with some easy sewing: pocket handwarmers.

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For each of the kids’ projects, I took little videos where they explained what they were doing and who their recipient was. After Christmas, I shared those videos with our families. But Rana’s video is so funny because she goes into full-on TV hostess mode. And she explains the project as well as I can, plus, she’s cuter. Take it away, Rana! (The picture below will link to the video. Click it!)

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

After adding the lavender and rice to the little handwarmers, we sewed up the hole and called it good. But then I started thinking that maybe the recipients needed something to store them in during warm months when handwarmers aren’t needed. I whipped up some little pouches while Rana was at school, but let her choose the ribbons for the drawstrings. There! Now they were ready to send off to cousins. Just a few seconds in the microwave, pop them into their coat pockets, and they’ll have toasty fingers.

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Christmas gifts: magnetic personality

This week we’ll see how Konik got in on the DIY Christmas action. It’s a challenge to find projects appropriate for an adult but still within a 4 year old’s capabilities and that don’t involve glitter or popsicle sticks. Oh. Wait. His projects did involve glitter and popsicle sticks. Hopefully to good effect!

For his aunt, Konik made some pretty little magnets on a metal tray to use as a little message board. We all run out of fridge space, right? This project came from Pugly Pixel. It’s pretty straightforward: dip little round magnets in glue, dip in glitter, ta dah! You’re done. We had a package of ten small, round magnets for Konik to decorate and three different colors of glitter. I put the glue and glitters in separate yogurt lids destined for the recycle bin. Because 4 year old dexterity doesn’t offer a lot of finesse, I figured it would be easier for Konik to fingerpaint the glue onto the magnet rather than trying to dip them and end up drowning them in a sea of glue. That could only end badly. Glue, glue everywhere… Best avoided. So, gluey magnet was dipped into glitter and then set on a can to dry. Konik probably would have glued and dipped magnets all day if I had had more; I think he was mildly disappointed when he got through all ten.
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The second part of the project enlisted help from Mr. Gren. We had a small, metal tray which would become the message board. Konik got to trot out to the garage with his papa and “help” (watch) drill holes into the top corners. Come on, glitter and power tools?? That’s crafting at its most awesome. When he came back in with his newly-drilled tray, I let him thread a ribbon through the holes for hanging, and then he proudly stuck all his magnets on it. It was cute seeing how much he enjoyed doing this. Sitting back and watching him work was the best part for me.

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Cinnamon Cabins

Every year, Mr. Gren and I get our kids a new Christmas ornament just for them. Sometimes we let them choose, other times we surprise them. Either way, they always look forward to seeing their new ornament on the tree. We didn’t want this year to be any different just because Mr. Gren is unemployed. The kids have already missed out on a lot this year because of it. The hitch is, we can’t buy ornaments this year. When we moved, I didn’t bring my full crafty equipage, which limited my options for DIY ornaments. Basically, I have yarn or fabric. I wasn’t feeling it, though. Mr. Gren suggested that I make something that would remind the kids of the year we had Christmas in the cabin. Last week, I was browsing around etsy for fun and happened across some cinnamon clay ornaments. Cinnamon clay… hmm….

I did a search for a recipe and found several sites all giving the exact same recipe. I don’t know where it originated, but apparently it’s the most popular recipe on earth because it was everywhere, from women’s magazines to homeschool groups to pagan & Wiccan forums. Try that for a conversation starter, sometime. Or maybe the opening line to a bad joke. Anyways, this recipe, in addition to copious amounts of cinnamon, also called for equally generous quantities of applesauce and glue. This struck me as odd since I knew there were plenty of homemade play-doh recipes out there that never included so much as a drop of glue. “Kneading” said dough also seemed a dubious proposition, although it must work somehow given the pervasiveness of this particular recipe. Still, I wasn’t sold. The next day, I did another search and, miraculously, the first link that came up was a question by someone looking for a cinnamon clay recipe that did not include applesauce and glue. And somebody actually had an answer! She referenced this site: The Holiday Zone. It has both versions of cinnamon clay.

Just a little bit of paint for the finishing touches.

I copied down the recipe and then realized that this was going to make a lot of dough. I only needed to make three ornaments! With Mr. Gren’s help, because I am pathetic at math because he loves me, we reduced the recipe by a third. I’m going to reprint it here so that the unadulterated version of this recipe will live in at least one more place on the web.

Cinnamon Clay

3/8 cup flour
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1/3 cup salt
1/2 Tbsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 Tbsp ground cloves (optional)
1/3 cup water

Mix dry ingredients with water to form smooth, stiff dough. Sculpt as desired or divide dough and roll it out flat between two sheets of wax paper to 1/4″ thickness and cut out with cookie cutters. While dough is still soft, use a straw to poke a hole near the top for hanging. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes to dry.
This recipe makes four to five 2.5″ ornaments.

Some notes from my experience: It may be better to dissolve the salt in the water rather than mixing it with the flour and spices. The salt wanted no part of this. While I was kneading the dough, grains of salt were abandoning ship left and right. Thank goodness for the wax paper that made cleanup easy. Also, this dough puffs up quite a bit when you bake it, so take that into account when creating your shapes.

Look close and you can see the salt.

I don’t have a house-shaped cookie cutter, so I had to form my own little log cabins. The puff-effect distorted their shape a little, but it doesn’t matter because the kids were enchanted by their very own little cabins. And that was the goal.

All three little cinnamon cabins