Salt Dough Ornaments 2.0

A couple of years ago I posted about making last minute Santa hand print salt dough ornaments (pictured below). We had so much success that we wanted to use the recipe again to make ornaments again this year. It doesn’t hurt that its super affordable, I already had everything to make these in my house and it’s a total breeze. I promise this is one Pinterest project that you can’t mess up! O is older so I opted to let her help with everything.


The recipe:

1 cup salt

2 cups flour

1 cup warm water

As mentioned in the previous salt dough post, I discovered using my stand mixer and dough hook were most effective. This worked well because I literally just let O dump the ingredients together and I flipped on the mixer. Once mixed well I kneaded it a bit more by hand… I’ve noticed a little body heat and elbow grease make the dough smoother. Then I helped O roll it out in 3 batched on parchment paper (wax paper would work too) and let her do her magic with a handful of holiday cookie cutters. I used a straw to make holes so that I could hang them by twine later.

I baked as many as I could fit on a cookie sheet at a time at 200F for about 45 minutes and flipped them over for another half hour on the back side. I just kept watching and peeking in on them.

The next day we were ready to paint! I used an egg carton to hold small amounts of acrylic craft paint that she chose to decorate her ornaments.

She had a field day and painted most of them in one sitting!

The paint dries fairly quickly so I followed up behind her writing her name and the year on the back of each ornament and then tying a string through the hole I’d made earlier.

Ta-da! These are gifts for family members, special friends and neighbors. So if you’re reading this and later receive one as a gift just act surprised (wink wink).

A Very “Gotrocks” Christmas – 2014

Well hello. I know, I’m a slacker in the blog department lately… but you know… the holidays are busy. While I have a few recipes and things coming to the blog soon, I wanted to share our family Christmas card. I had a lot of help from two very special elves this year so I’ll give you a peek at how it came together before I share the finished product.

First, Meredith of Lifelong Memories Photography (go look at her gallery or you’re missing out!) took some amazing shots of O with Santa during a “mini session”. Let me tell you, this chick has it together. Photos with toddlers can be quite the challenge but Meredith kept it upbeat, changed scenery to keep O interested and was super patient with O (and us… because I’m sure Hubby and I were all up in her business trying to “help”). The location was spectacular! It was just 15 minutes from our house in Cincinnati at an old craftsman style home in Northern Kentucky that a friend of Meredith owns. She had it decorated so beautifully. I felt like we were in a magazine!  She really captured some darling moments and I knew we’d be making a killer Christmas card with them. Check out some of our favorites!

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Our pictures came back a little over a week later and we selected 10 to keep. Meredith edited a few things like a light switch on a wall near the stairs, and cropped some images for better composition and then she sent high quality images via Dropbox. So easy. No mailing or shipping and I could send them directly to my next elf.

Katie of kmd designs (etsy) and Life of Kate / Almost Vegan (blog) is the next trusty elf. And like Meredith, she knows her stuff. You may remember that she did our amazing invitations and game prints for the Little Man Mustache themed baby shower my sister and I threw for our other friend Kait. All I did was share our Dropbox file with Katie and give her a few of my ideas for the card and verbiage. I was hoping to do a postcard this year. I liked that we’d probably be the only (or one of a couple) holiday postcards that our friends would receive. I also loved that postcards are inexpensive to print (thanks to Vistaprint and a coupon code) and postage is only 34 cents (but postcards must be 4×6 inches or smaller to qualify). So Katie shot back a few starter designs a day later and we tweaked a couple things. Before I knew it I had a high quality file ready to send to print. That’s one of the great things about Katie and her etsy… everything is in pdf so she sends it as soon as shes finished and there is no wait for shipping. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

Here is our finished product. Excuse the Sharpie… it’s covering our address. I’ve already received countless emails, facebook messages and texts telling me how cute it is and asking who did the photography and design. THANK YOU Katie and Meredith!

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Holiday Centerpieces [on a budget]

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I had the pleasure of hosting a casual family get together over Thanksgiving. Nothing too fancy- chili, macaroni and cheese and some spirits. No need for place settings but I wanted to have the house feel like the holidays without having to decorate for Christmas just yet. I’m like Nordstrom: you will not see Christmas here until Thanksgiving. Obviously due to the holiday I had time restrictions and I’m always looking to be budget friendly. So I scoured the grocery store earlier in the week for a little inspiration.

What I got:

4 bags of cranberries at $1.50 each

2 large naval oranges at 99 cents a pound

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I started by finding some of my favorite vases with broad or straight sides. And of course my favorite mason jar. Then I thinly sliced the oranges (a mandolin is helpful here if you aren’t a great slicer) and discarded the smaller slices and the ones without the star burst pattern. I set them aside to make a little pot of stove top scent (Psst: Toss orange slices, 5 whole cloves, a splash of vanilla and a couple of cinnamon sticks in with 2 cups of water and simmer for a holiday scent that fills the house and lasts all day!).

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I lined the sides of my vases with the orange slices and filled them with cranberries. Then I filled each vase with water until the cranberries were just slightly afloat.

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I placed each vase around the house and had intended to run to get fresh white flowers (hydrangeas? roses?) to completely the centerpiece vibe. But I really liked how simple and cheery they were without flowers so I saved myself the trip and left them as they were. I grabbed a little beverage chalkboard I had and made a quick “Give Thanks” sign.

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These were complimented all night! I especially like that they are appropriate for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas and New Years. Oh, and the fact that I made 5 centerpieces for less than $8 is pretty awesome too.

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Easy, inexpensive and quite darling if I may say.

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Per family tradition, we spent some of the weekend decorating for Christmas, putting up the tree, making gingerbread houses, baking blue berry muffins and listening to the Michael Buble Holiday Pandora station. Here’s a peak:

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We rearranged the family room to accommodate for a tree in the window. O had a ball hanging ornaments all over however she pleased. She would occasionally step back and say “It looks beautiful!”

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We made a batch of my famous “Real Blueberry Muffins” from scratch. O has become quite enthusiastic about baking and insists on helping in almost every kitchen activity. Aprons are her new favorite “dress up”.

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I got a Wilton Gingerbread house on sale at Michael’s the other day for $9. Total impulse purchase but O has been asking to make it every single day since we bought it. I finally caved… she was so excited (below is her actual “excited” face). Mom note: this was a great excuse to use extra Halloween candy or undesirable candies left over.

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While I’m at it… I have to tell you a life changing secret that I only discovered a few years ago. Bold and italic there, friends. Truly a life saver. It saves tons of time and even more stress if you assemble the  gingerbread house frame using hot glue rather than the icing provided in the kit.

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I use mine on high but I think any setting will do. I just put hot glue on the seams that I want to attach and hold in place for a few seconds. Repeat for all the sides and do the roof pieces last. Hot glue… what can’t it do?

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Then O and I developed a little rhythm. I’d make a “blob”, she’d choose a candy to place there. Almost all of the design choices here are hers. I did make the door, windows, wreath and bow. But she made the roof with me, sidewalk, sides of the house and all. I just kept piping icing and she kept sticking candy there. You know, between stuffing her face with m&m’s. I cheated and did the bow and Dum Dum trees with hot glue as well.

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Snow Day Salt Dough

The other day O and I had an unexpected snow day. Hubby worked in the morning and my already short day at work got cancelled all together. I took the opportunity to do a little toddler holiday craft with her. And you guys, I turned to Pinterest. Surprise! Having done salt dough before with kids, I basically knew what I wanted to do but I needed the recipe.

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All the recipes were mostly the same. Here is what I found over and over on Pinterest:

1 cup salt

2 cups flour

1 cup warm water

Optional: powdered tempura paint or food coloring to add color.

Mix all in one bowl. I started string with a spoon and quickly realized my Kitchen Aid dough hook would have been perfect for the job. After it was well blended I just dove in with my hands. The more you knead it the smoother it gets.

Bake at 200F for 20-45 minutes depending on thickness or dry overnight.

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I rolled it out on wax paper, used a cup as a cookie cutter to make circles the right size for O’s hands. Then I helped her make her hand print on each cut out. This is where there were tears. Apparently the kid thought these were cookies and she was really excited about cookies… but then I had to burst her bubble. She just wouldn’t accept that they weren’t cookies. So Mom of the Year over here let her take a bite and she was really disappointed that these were not cookies.

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After she made about 15 prints, I made holes  for a hanger and we left them to dry. I let them dry overnight (as my Pinterest sources repeatedly recommended) but I found them to still be soft, damp and still a little malleable. So I popped them in the oven as many of the sources also recommended. Um, no. NO. No. no. 20 minutes? Nope. 45 minutes? Nope. Try MOST OF THE DAY. I just kept peeking in on them. Not only did they not dry quickly… I realized they weren’t drying evenly. The bottom side that faced the pan was still wet halfway through the day! So I flipped them. And I continued to keep an eye on them. I lost track of exactly how long they were in there but they did eventually dry.

I had originally thought I’d spray paint them silver (a color I knew I had on hand) but I stumbled upon another idea on Pinterest to paint the hand print to look like Santa.

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I used acrylic craft paint that I already had. I’ve broken Santa down into steps above. To be honest, I did these in stages… between laundry, dishes and a tv show’s commercials. An hour maybe total. My only flaw was that I had already punched the holes. Santa will be hanging sideways… but that is ok with me. I was having fun and really considered adding glasses to Santa as a little tribute to O but decided it might be too challenging and time consuming. I sharpied her name and the year on the back. These will be given to great grandparents, grandparents, aunts/uncles and special people over the next few days. If you’re one of these people… pretend you never saw this! Of course, ours already hangs on our tree!

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DIY Pinterest Inspired Mantle

 

Let’s be honest- what isn’t inspired by pinterest anymore? I recently got inspired to transform my ho-hum mantle into a holiday masterpiece. Check out my Holiday Mantle inspirations here. First order of business: color scheme. I chose a red and gold vibe… since my husband got to choose our tree decor this year (mine would have undoubtedly been red and gold)… ant it would coexist nicely with the tan wall and modest white mantle.

{ho-hum mantle}

I always believe in using what you have – I gathered up a few things. First I grabbed a few things that traditionally go on our mantle: stocking holders, stockings, etc. Then I gathered anything that touched on the red and gold thing I was going for. This included a hodge-podge of items pictured below.

{Clockwise from top left: white candles in holders, old red satin tree skirt, twine, twine wrapped wine bottle, gold picture frames, nutcrackers, stockings, stocking holders (center), red ribbon, beaded garland strands in gold and red, gold glitter sticks (hard to see), red ornaments (and one random gold one), glass vases, monogrammed pitcher. * not pictured: sticks and twigs}

The only thing I bought for this project was gold spray paint (for the frames and twigs)… and a little bit of twine that I stumbled upon on my way out of the hardware store for a buck. So this is literally a $6 project for me.

Think about your mantle in layers so that you don’t throw a bunch of stuff on it and spend all day balancing and removing items.

Layer one is the red satin tree skirt. I bunched it up and folded it to fit the mantle. Other ideas for a first layer could be evergreen garland, a boa -wouldn’t a white one give a cool snow effect?!- any fabric, brown craft paper, mirrors to reflect a little light…. the list goes on. Try anything!

Layer two is where I added my frames. This layer serves as the back ground so you can add anything. Mirrors, faux trees, lights, family photos, holiday pictures, anything you can imagine!

 

 

I also threw on a couple of the large sticks that I spray painted gold … I guess they are technically part of layer one.

Layer three is to add height. I used a tall thin vase and the twine wrapped bottle. I added some gold twigs and a few gold glitter sticks.

 

 

With the fourth layer I sort of skipped to the front of the mantle to hang the stockings. I knew I should add them while I could still make them symmetrical and not have to move much to do so.

 

 

{Stockings hung by the chimney with care}

Then I started layering in a little more height and personality with these nutcrackers. A little off the color scheme but still fit if you ask me.

{Hubby’s nutcracker collection}

{Better view of nutcracker addition. Starting to see a composition!}

{Scattered the tiered candle set for height and balance}

{Create a little vignette by putting ornaments and globes in a vase}

{Coming together!}

With the excess ornaments, I tied them to some of the frames so they could “hang” and give a few more pops of red. I also made “JOY” garland from a little bit of twine and paper. Tutorial coming soon on that and the twine wrapped bottle. There are a couple of empty vases that I plan on adding cranberries to after my next grocery trip. But all in all, that was pretty cheap and easy!

Tada!