DIY Cinnamon Ornaments

A Christmas tree is never complete without those cute little ornaments made with love by your children or grandchildren.  Here’s a fun craft perfect for kids during the holidays!

Cinnamon dough can be rolled and shaped by hand or with cookie cutters.  The scent of cinnamon will warm your house as they dry and with a little spritz of cinnamon essential oil, these delightful decorations will continue to smell delicious over the years.

You will need:

1 cup of ground cinnamon, plus a little more for the work surface

4 tbsp white craft glue (Aleene’s Craft Glue is a great choice)

3/4 to 1 cup of water

Acrylic paints for decorating

Wax paper for lining workstation

Rolling Pin

1 small Straw to punch a hole for hanging

Gather your ingredients.  I didn’t have enough craft glue, so I substituted wood glue.  This worked really well; however,  I noticed the cinnamon smell disappeared as soon as they were completely dry and the drying time was lengthened by a few days.

Stir together cinnamon, water, and glue.

The mixture should be the consistency of cookie dough.  If too thick, add a little more water 1 tbsp at a time until the consistency is right.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for two hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and layout on cinnamon sprinkled workstation.  If you have boys, you understand the importance of laying out the dough just so.

Roll out the dough to be 1/4″ thick.

Make impressions or cut dough into shapes.  Use a drinking straw to punch a hole for hanging.

Lay each ornament flat to dry, turning over 2 times a day, for 3-4 days.  Dough may curl within the first 48 hours of drying.  Avoid this by turning over as soon as you notice any curling.  To speed drying time, bake ornaments on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200° for 2 1/2 hours, turning ornaments over every 10-15 minutes.

When the ornaments are dry, paint them with acrylic paints or decorate with craft glue and embellishments or glitter.

Create hanging loops by threading ribbon through holes.  Each year, refresh the scent using a few drops of cinnamon essential oil.

12 Days ’til Christmas

With twelve days to Christmas, I’m looking around and you’d never know I got an early start on things . . .

My kitchen is insane.  One of my counters is a huge cluttered mess because my daughter figured out how to open the child-safety locks.  She’s quick to dump out sugar, flour, and anything else she can get her hands on.  I just can’t have that this time of year.  I still have baking to do and I refuse to go back to town for another bag of sugar or flour this season.  And of course, there’s a stack of everything else that she shouldn’t touch–the gingerbread house, the bucket of rice, the bucket of Halloween candy.  I should probably throw out the Halloween candy.

My Christmas cards are addressed and some of them stamped, but here they sit in a heap on my desk.  Why does it always seem more tedious to go to the Post Office for stamps than it does to address 100 cards?

My laundry never ends and you don’t get a picture for this one.  I am notorious for washing, drying, folding, and never putting away.  I know . . . I know . . . why go through all of that effort and never put it away?  I’m not sure.  But, I do know it’s the same reason I never take the dishes out of the dishwasher.

All of shopping is done, but my tree looks like this.  The little one will not stay out of the presents and we don’t want the chance of someone knowing what they’re getting before they open it, so unfortunately, the majority of our gifts are still hidden.  We are running a trial period with gifts in plain boxes so the one year-old can work on not touching them.  Thank goodness for thredup boxes.

Tastefully Simple Holiday Giveaway

Tastefully Simple offers a variety of easy to prepare gourmet products to make everyday meals and entertaining a breeze.  Add Tastefully Simple to your holiday lineup with my Tastefully Simple Holiday Giveaway.  One lucky reader will win the Baker’s Wish gift collection (a $50 value.)

 

It’s a baker’s wish come true! This assortment includes our luscious mixes for pound cake, cookies and freshly baked bread – plus a ceramic ginger spice serving tray and espresso organizer. Shipping box dimensions: 14.5″ x 7.25″ x 17.75″.

Absolutely Almond Pound Cake Mix™
This classic dessert is excellent served alone or topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Just add butter and water. Kosher. (0g trans fat per serving)

Bountiful Beer Bread Mix®
Our signature bread mix is so simple to make – no kneading or rising time. Simply add beer or any carbonated beverage. Kosher. (0g trans fat per serving)

For the Love of Cookies™ Mix
Chocolate Chip Toffee Almond Cookie Mix. Just add butter and an egg for crisp, chewy cookies that taste homemade. Kosher. (0g trans fat per serving)

Oval Organizer
Ideal for holding magazines and much more, our espresso oval organizer is perfect for any desk or home décor. Double-stitched faux leather with pebble trim.

Serving Tray
This ceramic ginger spice serving tray is the perfect size to display our pound cake, breads, cookies and more. Microwave-, oven- and dishwasher-safe. (15″ x 6½”)

 

Mandatory Entry: Visit my Tastefully Simple website at  www.tastefullysimple.com/web/rperry.   Find the Recipes section and browse for one you’d like to try.  Come back here and leave a comment with the recipe link.  It’s that simple!  This entry must be complete before all other entries are counted.


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Giveaway ends Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm MST.  No purchase necessary to win.  Winner will be selected using Random.org.  Winner will have 24 hours to acknowledge prize before new winner is chosen.

DIY Christmas Gift Jars

I love the Christmas holiday. The lights, the baking, feelings of joy, and shopping. . .well, not really shopping.  Shopping is always a bit stressful this time of year. I never seem to know what gifts to give and I never stay within the budget I set for gifts.  *Enter* homemade gifting.

There is a variety of jar recipes from cookies to soup mixes found online and in books such as the Gifts in a Jar series by G & R Publishing.  Do-it-Yourself Christmas jars are fun, easy, and inexpensive.  Attractive and consumable, these gifts are always well received.

Craft Basics:

1-qt. Glass Mason Jars with Lids

Scraps of  fabric, tissue paper, or recycled paper bag

Ribbon or string

Optional Trinkets for Decoration: beaded wire, small cookie cutter, little whisk or wooden spoon

Christmas recipe cards or cardstock for printing jar tags

Orange Dreamsicle Cookies are a popular gift jar recipe:

Gather your ingredients.  Be sure your jars are clean and dry.

Pour in the first layer– 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

Add 1/2 cup of orange flavored drink mix as the second layer.  I suggest to add a little less;  1/2 a cup tends to be too sweet and tangy.

For the third layer, pour in 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tsp. baking powder.

Tamp the ingredients to pack them firmly.

Then add the fourth and final layer, 1 1/2 cups white chocolate or vanilla chips.

Screw the lid on tightly.

Top the lid with a scrap of fabric or paper and tie securely with ribbon or string.  I used a circle cut out of brown paper I saved from the tubing of gift wrap.


Attach optional embellishments and a recipe tag that reads:

Orange Dreamsicle Cookies

Directions:  Preheat oven to 375°.  Empty dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 cup of butter or shortening, one egg, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.  Blend thoroughly.  Form into 1-inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until tops are golden.  Makes 2 1/2 dozen.  Notes:  Dough will be a little crumbly.  After mixing, it should knead into balls.  If not, add an extra egg white to the mix.

Another popular recipe is Country Bean Soup.  I found a wonderful list of ingredients and instructions to create a dozen jars of soup mix posted on The Savings Lifestyle.  In my recipe for this soup, I suggest using diced ham or a ham hock.

Gifts in a Jar: Country Six Bean Soup. The Savings Lifestyle.

Consider hosting a Christmas Jar Party with a small group of friends.  Plan your list of recipes and have each person pitch in money toward items you purchase or each bring certain items for everyone to share.  I found these cute little canning party printables that can be customized for such an occasion.

There really is no wrong way to make a gift jar.  The idea is simply to choose a recipe in which the dry ingredients can be layered into a mason jar in a festive manner.

This past week I found a recipe for Pistachio & White Chocolate Chip Cookies by Honest Fare.  I plan to scale back the recipe to fit it into a jar layering, first, with rolled oats, then flour, baking soda, salt, a small circle of parchment to create a barrier, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and top with a ziplock bag full of white chips and chopped pistachios.

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Pour sugar layers into large mixing bowl.  Cream sugars with 1/2 cup unsalted butter on high for 3 minutes.  Add 1 egg, 1 tbsp. milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla and beat for 3 minutes.  Remove parchment barrier from mason jar.  Pour remaining dry mix into butter mixture and thoroughly blend.  Fold in pistachios and white chips.  Drop heaping spoonfuls of batter onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until tops are golden.

Channeling Creativity

I put myself into a Secret Santa with a group of Facebook friends.  The woman for whom I’m buying is a lover of Twilight and the character Jacob Black.  I looked everywhere for her requested gift–a Jacob Black pocket calendar–to no avail.  I started brainstorming and remembered my dear friend Georgia had some Twilight jewelry she was getting rid of on etsy.  I purchased a First Beach stone pendant with hopes of buying more stones and beads from the craft store to make a wire necklace.

I’ve never made a wire necklace.  I’ve never strung a set of beads.  I’m not even sure I ever made a  friendship bracelet as a child.  Oh, heaven help me!

My pendant came in the mail and its varying green and white striations were more beautiful than the picture showed.  It was also a fixed with a rhinestone bling, but I scratched it off when I saw that it was too much for the transformation I was about to make.  Sorry Georgia.

Ox and I took off to the craft store yesterday afternoon to find the right stones and beads for the necklace.  He helped me with much enthusiasm I might add.  That’s another reason why I love him!  We came out with a little multi-purpose tool kit, beading wire, bead clamps, toggle closure, silver beads, blue glass beads, flat round copper colored beads, green stones, and turquoise.  I based my color scheme off Stephanie Meyer’s description of First Beach:

The beach only had a thin border of actual sand at the water’s edge, after which it grew into millions of large, smooth stones that looked uniformly gray from a distance, but up close were every shade a stone could be: terra-cotta, sea green, lavender, blue gray, dull gold.
Twilight, page 115

Playing on these beaches as a child, my favorite stones to find were blue beach glass worn smooth by the crashing waves.  I couldn’t resist adding a bit of that in there.

After dinner last night, I prayed for creativity and knowledge and anything else I may need, and quickly got to work.  Within 15 minutes I had a rough idea of where I was going with this 3-strand wire necklace.

I removed the beads, added bead crimps, and started to replace the stones on the wire one at a time.  I love how it turned out.  I used scraps of the chain I cut from the one that came with the pendant to finish off the necklace.  This allowed me to use the toggle to make a matching bracelet.  I’m currently wearing the bracelet as I write this.

I’m so in love with this set and so very sad to send it out the door.  I hope  the receiver of this gift is as much in love with it as I am.  I’m sure she will be.





And because I just couldn’t help myself, I made my darling daughter a “pretty.”

I can hardly wait to go back to the craft store to get more beads and make a pretty for myself.  Hmm. . .I wonder if Santa knows I’ve been a good girl this year?

Day 5: Getting Back on Track

So far so good.

I’ve kept to my decision to eliminate soda from my life and when I found myself wearing “comfy” clothes because nothing else I wanted to wear seemed to fit me right I never cursed myself with negativity.  I’ve been drinking a fair amount of water to replace soda, but know I need to drink quite a bit more.  That is my new goal for the day–drink plenty of water.  It will both hydrate me and help curb my appetite.  Often times, thurst is mistaken for hunger.  Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and a bit of water when I feel like snacking, should eliminate my all day hunger problem.

Now that you know where I’m at on day five, let me tell you it hasn’t been easy.

Day three was almost a wreck.  I went through day one and two just fine.  I had no cravings for a Coke and no headaches from withdrawal.  Then on the third morning, I found a new bottle of Sprite on the kitchen counter because my son wasn’t feeling well the day before.  I took down a glass, picked up the bottle, and began to open the cap.

Then something inside me screamed, “What the H are you doing!”

Thank goodness for that.  I struggled through the rest of the day.

Day four my family and I were heading to town and stopped at the local store before heading out.  I walked straight to the cooler and stared at the Coke.

Oh, so sad.  How I miss you.  What will I ever do without you in my life?

*Sigh* and then some *tears*.

No not really.  I was happy to think I didn’t need it.  I grabbed a Calypso lemonade and ended up taking just a couple of drinks because I’d rather have water. 

Hah! Water.  Who would’ve thought?

My Thoughts on “Scanner Chatter”

Yesterday, a tragic incident unfolded in a small community not too far from me.  Ox is a volunteer with our local fire department and because of that, carries his radio everywhere he goes when he’s home from work.  In the early evening an advisory went out that there was an officer down; the suspect had fled the scene in an unknown direction with the officer’s gun.  They gave a vague description of the truck and later gave the license plate number.  Nothing more was heard as my husband stepped out the door to sit with firetrucks that were moved to another location due to an event going on in the local  fire hall.

A couple of hours later, posts of the incident surfaced on Facebook.  I realized the incident happened in Three Forks, Montana, where we go to church.  My sister-in-law and her children were to be in Three Forks last night for a Sunday school activity, so I immediately called her.  I was relieved to find out that no one was at church or going to be a church.  The entire town had gone into lock-down earlier that day, which left time to contact everyone and cancel the activity.  What a relief!

As the night progressed, news crews poured out information using Facebook posts and “scanner chatter” as their source.  Before officials actually released the information, the public already knew which officer was involved and that he was shot and killed.  They even knew when the suspect was found dead and the general location of where he was found.  Nothing irritates me more than a mass of people with scanners that have no business listening to them.  Before officials can release information, they have to properly notify and contact many other people involved including family.  Information really doesn’t need to be released until those measures have been taken.  We all want to know what’s going on for our own interests and safety, but I advise everyone to be cautious of when and how they share information from “scanner chatter.”  This is entirely my opinion, but I know I’m not alone in this thought.

My heart goes out to the family and friends involved and I hope that all were notified properly before seeing and hearing what was going on through rapid spread of “scanner chatter.”

For those of you that don’t know, back in July, my daughter had a seizure.  She was a little fussy, so I set her down to go fill her sippy cup with milk and watched in horror as she turned blue from head to toe.  I wasn’t sure what was happening and thought that it could have something to do with her asthma.  I dialed 9-1-1 and was greeted by first responders who I consider 2nd family.  Within the hour, my daughter and I were in the ambulance heading to the Bozeman ER.  Many people knew about it because of “scanner chatter” and I appreciate the concern, but think about this:

One responding member, on his way home after I’d left in the ambulance, passed by my dad.   Because of confidentiality, he could not stop and tell my dad even though he thought he needed to.  Why? Because it was a matter between Ox, our children, and I.  If it was important to inform my parents, I could have told the responder to do so, or just do it myself.  My point is that what had happened was no one’s business unless I decided it was.  I didn’t need people walking and driving by the scene to catch a glimpse of what was going on.   I didn’t need listeners sharing the information with others who may not have heard it.  It’s one thing to be concerned and quite another to be nosey.

How are you using your scanner?

Oh Christmas Tree

Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Decorating the tree with my family is one of my favorite holiday activities.  Most people are picky about their lights, but I’m not.  I grew up with multi-colored lights on the tree and Ox prefers white lights.  We’ve decided that we like the tree best when it has both types of lighting. This year it’s multi-colored lights because our white strand broke last year and we haven’t bothered to buy a new one since.

I didn’t notice until just now that my tree looks like it’s leaning worse than it was before.  The trunk is crooked half way up the tree.  I think we’ll need to readjust the stand to straighten out the shape of the tree rather than the trunk.

I love a Christmas tree that is decorated in a collage of fun and memories.  Here are a few of my favorite ornaments:

The 2009 Hallmark edition of the Polar Express Sleigh Bell.  The Polar Express is one of our favorite books and movies to watch during the holidays.  As a Hallmark collector, I don’t think I’ll ever sell my ornaments, but it’s fun to know this little treasure is worth 3x what I paid for it.

This porcelain bell puppy is an ornament from my childhood.  I have a little collection of them my mother gave me when I moved out of the house.  It was always a big deal to me that she allowed me to hang them because they were so fragile.  They make me smile.

This ceramic Santa ornament has always been a favorite of mine.  My mother painted it.

Who doesn’t love handmade ornaments from their children?  This adorable little ornament was finger painted by my 18 month old son, who is now six.

My oldest son went through a phase of obsession over Jack Sparrow and pirates in general.  Thank goodness Hallmark makes collectible ornaments like this one.

For each of my children, I have a baby’s first Christmas ornament.  I almost missed out on getting this one for my darling daughter.  They were out of stock in my area and as soon as Christmas was over, this elegant “B” is for Babies and Booties ornament doubled in price.  I happened to snag it two months after Christmas from an eBayer who had no idea about its increased value.  I managed to buy it for $19.99 + shipping.  A sweet deal!

This is our family in the courthouse after Ox’s adoption of my boys.  A perfect ornament for a beautiful memory.  I love how Hallmark has everything we need any year we need it.

In all my life, we’ve never strung popcorn on our tree.  Partly because I’d eat it and mostly because I’d put my feet in it.  This is as good as it gets for me.  With my love of popcorn, it’s only appropriate to have an ornament like this.

My little girl can hardly contain herself with all the decoration, lights, and excitement.   We put a few ornaments down low that are fine for her to touch, but continually encourage her not to touch the tree.  I think we may have a similar meltdown when presents finally go under the tree.