Recently my granddaughter Elise was looking for a ‘Christmas Store’ project for her class room; each student makes things to sell (items must be hand made), then the classroom is set up like a store, and the public is invited to come shop one day.  The class then takes a field trip to a local grocery store and uses all the money earned to purchase food for the local food shelf.  Warms your heart doesn’t it?

Shortly after Elise asked me if I had any ideas for her project, I came upon this recipe and remembered making these about 20 years ago with her mother and sisters.   I thought about all the fun scrap booking embellishments that could be used to decorate the ornaments (not available 20 years ago); the possibilities, options, and fun were endless!  Elise approved the idea and we were in business!

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornament Recipe

1 cup cinnamon
1 T. ground cloves
1 T. nutmeg
¾ cup applesauce
2 T. Tacky craft glue

Combine cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; mix in applesauce and glue.  Knead well; dough should be smooth and stick together – if too crumbly add more applesauce, if too sticky add more cinnamon.  Roll dough on tin foil to 1/4 inch thickness; cut with cookie cutters.  Use a straw or toothpick to make a hole for hanging.  Let air dry for 4 to 5 days or more, turning twice daily.  Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on size of cookie cutters.  Decorate!  (Ornaments shrink somewhat as they dry.)

Dry and ready to decorate

Make your own ice candle luminary to decorate the outdoors for pennies and a little time.  Materials needed:  a large plastic bucket, water, rubber gloves (optional), and a votive candle.

Step 1.  Fill a large bucket almost full with cold water and set outside to freeze, keeping them out of direct sunlight;  a six quart or two gallon size bucket is ideal.  I like to set them out in early evening and let them freeze overnight, usually they are ready in about 12 to 14 hours if the temps are between zero and 15 degrees.

Step 2.  When the top is completely frozen and you can see a ring of frozen ice around the outside of the bucket that is 1 to 2 inches thick, your ice candle is ready to remove from the bucket.  A 2 inch or thicker ice candle will be sturdier and last longer, and also have a more frosted appearance when lit; a 1 inch ice candle will tend to be clear and look like glass, allowing the flame of the candle to show through when lit.

Step 3.  Turn the bucket upside down in a sink and run warm water over the bottom of the bucket until the ice candle releases from the bucket.  You will notice that the ice layer that was on the bottom of the bucket is thinner than the rest of the ice candle, this will be easy to remove and now becomes the top of your ice candle.

Step 4.  Leaving the candle upside down so the thin layer of ice is on top, break the ice in the top center of the candle, either with your hands or a chisel type object, leaving an edge of at least one to two inches for the upper rim.

Step 5.  Tip the ice candle to pour out water and floating ice chunks – and there you have it!  Place outside and set a votive candle in the center; light the candle at dusk, then enjoy the beauty of candlelight from your ice luminary!

Polka Dot Pumpkin Project

October 23, 2009

pumpkin project 3

Here is a fun and easy pumpkin project to do.  You need a few different color pumpkins, squash, or gourds, and a rubber mallet and an apple corer with plunger.

pumpkin project 4

1.  Tap apple corer with rubber mallet until through the rind, remove the apple corer.  Then use the plunger and rubber mallet to remove the core from the apple corer; save the core/dots.  Remove as many or as few circles as you wish.

pumpkin project 1

2.  Trim the rough pulpy ends of dots with a knife, then place a dot of hot glue inside an empty hole to help keep dots in place; then fill the hole with a different colored dot.  Repeat until all holes are filled – then enjoy your polka dot pumpkin!

pumpkin project 2

A fun project for kids and adults!  Besides orange pumpkins, I grew a gray pumpkin, Jarrahdale, and a white pumpkin, Valenciano, to use for this project.

Make your own soy candles

November 29, 2008

vanilla pear crumble candle

This year a lot of the gifts we give will be hand made, and my hand made gifts will be candles.

I have been learning to make soy candles, and I am surprised at how easy it is with the improved waxes available. I purchased Ecosoya CB Advanced Soy Wax from Wholesale Supplies Plus, one of my favorite suppliers, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to try to make their own soy candles. I chose soy wax because soy candles burn cleaner and longer than paraffin candles, making them a ‘greener’ choice for the home and the environment.

WSP’s sister website, Fragrance and Flavors, offers a huge selection of quality fragrance, flavor, and essential oils for candle making.  Their shipping special is a flat $2.95 on all orders over $50.00, which really helps to keep the cost of the fragrances reasonable.  Some of my favorites that I have tried and would highly recommend are:  Pumpkin Crunch, Vanilla Bean Noel, Apple Caramel Crunch, French Vanilla Pear, Spiced Cranberry, Gingerbread, Cinnamon Cider, and Cherry Almond.  Both the hot and cold throw scent have been fantastic!

I have been using jelly and mason jars for containers, and doing some fun decorating with the lids to spice them up.  For the zinc lids, I cut out a circle of scrapbook paper that matches the candle for the center of the lid.  For the ring and lid sets I spray paint the rings with Antique Brass Metallic Rust-oleum spray paint, then cover the lid with scrapbook paper.  I figure that I can make soy candles for about half the price as buying them, but that isn’t counting for my time to make them.  But it’s also not counting the fun to make them, either, or the pleasure of ‘Pumpkin Crunch’ filling my home!

Some resources I used to get started are these: Using Ecosoya Wax, and securing wicks in the container.

Please share with me if you have a favorite candle scent, or a creative idea for decorating mason jars!

pumpkin crunch soap 1

Wreath Making 101

October 29, 2008

wreath class me and deb

“Take what you need.  Pay your respects.  Leave the rest.”  Harvesting advice from the First Nation Tribal Elders

The past two Monday evenings my sister Deb and I were fortunate to spend learning about wreath making in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in a class taught by Julie Miedtke, an Itasca County Extension Educator, and Janet Christensen, a professional wreath maker.

The gathering of balsam boughs and their manufacture into evergreen holiday products is a long-standing heritage of Minnesota’s North woods.  The Minnesota wreath industry produces about $23 million dollars of wreaths and holiday greens in a short two month period each year.  In class we learned the guidelines of harvesting; how to obtain permits, how to harvest the boughs in a sustainable manner, which species are desirable such as balsam, white pine, northern white cedar, and princess pine, and how to store them once they are harvested.  Did you know that fresh boughs retain their needles best if harvested after the second hard frost?  Nature is so amazing!

During the second class we learned a method of wreath making, called layering, which produces a very full, high end wreath.  In this technique, small bunches of about 6-8 stems varying in length from 5″ to 10″ are wired around a hoop in a layering method; each wreath takes about 10 pounds of balsam or greens, and more than a couple of hours to complete.  The smell of Christmas and the Northwoods filled our class room, and then enveloped us during our 3 1/2 hour drive home.

The ideas we have are flowing, growing, and bursting at the seams; our husbands will shake their heads and wonder again why we love to make more work for ourselves.  But it’s not really work if you love it, is it?