Wet Felting in Bags

Every year on Christmas Eve we pick a country, cook some food from it (their traditional Christmas food if we can find it) and do a craft from there as we watch a Christmas movie.

This year we chose Latvia. Things got downgraded a bit due to illness and weather but we still had a good time with it! We cooked Bacon Buns, small pies, beans, gingerbread (we did cookies ‘cuz that is what I had) and we were going to have sausage and cabbage but that didn’t work out. The food was good…

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and so was the movie. We watched Arthur Christmas and if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to. Seriously.

The craft we chose was felting. Wet felting to be exact.

I read that the tradition started when soldiers packed their shoes with sheep’s wool which then felted from the heat and sweat of their feet.

Ew. But also kind of cool.

We decided to try doing it in a ziplock bag as described in this tutorial by Kleas. The title of the post is actually “Felting with Kids” so I felt we had a good chance of being successful here.

Basically you make your pattern…

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Then you carefully place them in a ziplock with hot, soapy water, make sure all the wool is soaked then squeeze out the extra water..

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then seal up the bag and rub/pound/poke the heck out of it.

We had varying degrees of success. Daughters did not hold together as well as mine did, but even mine lost on of it’s holly berries. The red, in particular, didn’t seem to want to stick.

Here’s what they looked like as they were drying.

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Everything looked fluffier after drying but her’s never really held together. I suspect that we were a little to impatient and didn’t pummel it long enough. I actually tried to re-do mine but that second berry still didn’t want to stay attached. We may not have used enough soap as well but neither soap quantity or length of wool abuse was specified so we may never know.

I do have a couple of tips for you if you want to try this. Make sure you use enough wool roving when you make the background. If you don’t it will end up ropey like the back of daughter’s did.

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My back looked better…

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but not perfect and that darn berry never did attach to the front!

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(
sorry about the horrible picture but it was freezing in the room with good lighting).

I’m hoping that with a little hot glue it might look OK in a frame.

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or maybe not.

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Christmas Cookies-Cheater Edition

Sorry I haven’t been posting much but, you know…CHRISTMAS.

I haven’t been crafting much but I have been shopping and wrapping and baking.

A LOT.

Even though I love baking, I’m totally down with cheating.

I make many recipes based around cake mixes (these work with both regular and gluten free cake mixes), cookie mixes and canned frosting. I also like making candy in the microwave. Heck, I don’t even OWN  a candy thermometer!

Everyone loves them so shhhhh! Don’t tell…OK?

Anyway…here is a little sampling of some of the stuff I usually make…

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tarting at 12 o’clock and going clockwise…cranberry bars, microwave cashew brittle and lemon crinkles.

The cashew brittle recipe came from Taste of Home and I have been using it for years. The only caveat I have is too make sure you cook it enough after you add the nuts and butter. It says 20-50sec but when I did it that long the brittle didn’t…brittle. I learned I had to cook it more like 1:30 but do it 30 sec at a time and watch for the color.

The lemon crinkles are a variation of cake mix cookies, which are soooo simple! I add 2 eggs and 1/3 C oil to a lemon cake mix and combine. Then roll into walnut sized balls, roll in powdered sugar and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Once they are cooled melt 1/2 of a can of lemon frosting and drizzle over the cookies and let cool again.

The cranberry bars are a take on Lazy Cake Cookies from I’m a Lazy Mom. I add white chocolate chips and dried cranberries to the bars. Then I used canned cream cheese frosting and add chopped up dried cranberries and orange zest to it.

Here is another example of what I have been baking…

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Again starting at noon we have rice krispie treats with Christmas sprinkles, chocolate lazy cake cookies with white and semi sweet chocolate chips, vanilla lazy cake cookies with semi sweet chocolate chips and red velvet sandwich cookies.

I think they are all pretty self explanatory except the red velvet. There I used red velvet cake mix and made them the same way as the lemon, minus the rolling in sugar and the frosting glaze. Then I used canned cream cheese frosting as filling and rolled the edges in Christmas sprinkles.

These I made for friends, which is why they are packed up like that)…

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his time we will start in the upper right. We have peppermint chocolate rice krispie treats, molasses crinkles and Christmas Lazy Cake cookies.

For the rice krispie treats you just use peppermint marshmallows and then top with melted dark chocolate chips (in the microwave-30 sec at a time until melted) that you drizzle over the top before cutting.

What makes the Cake Cookies “Christmas” is a bag of these suckers:

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That’s it. They are basically a mix of colored white chocolate chips and chocolate chips and they look so festive! My oldest looks forward to these every year…she even claims they taste better then regular chips. I don’t know about that but they are pretty great!

Lastly there are these babies.

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They aren’t terribly Christmassy but they are easy! They are made from Bisquick and you can find the recipe here. Like the other recipes they work with either regular Bisquick and the gluten free version. I haven’t tested the healthy kind, but who wants healthy cookies?


What about the molasses crinkles you ask? Now those are made from scratch. From a family recipe. Which I can’t share under penalty of death…well, maybe not death, but it wouldn’t go over well so…sorry.

I think I’ve given you plenty to work with though.

And remember, the mixes are our little secret!

Nancy Drew Themed Cookies

The oldest and I are big fans of the Nancy Drew PC games.  We just love them! Every now and again Her Interactive has a contest and we love to enter them. This time it was to make Nancy Drew theme cookies. After much debate we decided to make Sinclair’s Oaxacan cookies from Secret of the Scarlet Hand and a cookie that looked like the necklace from The Captive Curse.

Here is what they should look like:

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We decided to make the first using a cake mix cookies recipe I have adapted and the second by making a bagged sugar cookie mix. After submitting I think we may be disqualified for this but oh well. We will see what happens.

Anyway…

I knew we would want to do a stained glass cookie sort of thing to make the “jewel” in the necklace. We crushed up some life savers for that purpose. Then we made the dough, chilled it, and started cutting out the shapes…

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The trial cookie we made was left a little too long in the oven (7min) which caused the life saver bits to bubble and turn black.  Also stick to the pan.

We only put the second batch in for 5min and they came out looking much better but they still stuck a bit. We were able to get most of them loose but not without trauma.

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And that’s not the worst of it. One of them was sticking until suddenly it wasn’t and it went flying  into air and landed behind the microwave.

But at least three survived and we decorated them. The green one was our decoration test cookies and it got eaten before we could really get a picture of it but here are the other two, modeled by the oldest!

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Next up were the Oaxaca cookies. It’s hard to see, but the cookies had a sort of face on them and were filled sandwich cookies.

We mixed up the cake mix cookies..

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and formed them into balls, onto which daughter tried to carve features. Once we baked them you couldn’t really see them so we pressed them in while the cookies were still hot. That worked pretty well.

I didn’t get very many (well any really) pictures of the process because by then everyone was pretty silly. And sticky. And I was a little afraid to ruin my camera.

I did get a picture of the finished product though!

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They are looking a little too happy if you ask me but nobody did 😉 In the game they are poisonous so…

Not sure how authentic these are but we had a blast making them (and are still giggling about the flying cookies) so I consider the experience a success!

Shortbread Bites

I have been doing my Christmas baking this week and was looking for another cookie to fill in the spaces in some tins I was putting together.

These little lovelies looked perfect!

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Santa’s Shortbread Bites from Baked Perfection

Aren’t they adorable? I even had all the ingredients!

I think my first mistake was not using a food processor. I wasn’t sure if a “knife blade” was the same as the regular blade so I decided to do it by hand. I measured and mixed flour and sugar. I cubed up the butter and started combining. After a ridiculous amount of time it finally formed a ball. A crumbly ball, but a ball none the less!

My next mistake was not taking the hint when it was nearly impossible to “flatten the dough” at all, never mind into a 8″ x 5″ rectangle. I persevered and managed to cut a sheet full of 1/2″-ish cubes and stuck them in the oven. They were inherently unstable though, and just bumping the cookie sheet on the way into the oven made them crumble a bit.

At this point I was feeling a bit frustrated so I decided to wrap up the rest of the dough and put it in the fridge to see if that helped it hold together better.

20 minutes late I removed the cookies from the oven…

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Um…not quite.

They tasted good though so I thought “maybe the rest of the dough in the fridge set up!” and I went and got it and unwrapped it.

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Nope.

At this point I gave up.

Shortbread Bites?

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Waste of butter 😦

Coffee Sugar Scrub

Daughter and I were looking for something to make her teachers for Christmas.

Said something has to be:

1. Easy, as Daughter has to be able to do most of it herself.
2. Cheap, because poor
and
3. gluten free and milk free so Daughter can work with it and not get exposed to anything she shouldn’t.

After perusing Pinterest I decided to try a sugar scrub. I liked this recipe from Happy Mothering:

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I also like this one from Hairspray & Highheels:

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I ended up sort of combining the two and putting my own twist on it.

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I
 used:
3/4 C coffee grounds
1/4 C used coffed grounds
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C olive oil
1 TBSP ground ginger
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Now, I didn’t really have any used grounds since we have a Kuerig machine so I broke open a couple of those suckers!

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Here is all the dry stuff in a bowl:

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Then I added the oil….

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At this point I figured out that I should have mixed up the dry stuff before adding the oil but too late now!

Once it was all mixed up…

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I transferred it to a jar I had been saving.

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You can’t really tell in the photo but there is still a label attached to the other sides of the jar. This was basically a trial run so that scrub will be transferred to a better container (along with the rest still left in the bowl) once I buy some small mason jelly jars. Since as far as I can figure this recipe should fill 3-4 of those jars Daughter will need to make 2 more batches to cover all her teachers and therapists gift-wise. It’s easy enough for her to do on her own and cheap enough too, since we have plenty of ground coffee and spices!

Coffee Sugar Scrub=Teacher gifts success!!

Edited to add….we made some more scrub and found cute containers for teacher gifts 🙂 I ended up printing some labels for the tops too.

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Advent Box

This is something we started last year. Hubby and I noticed that all the small gifts we carefully chose and wrapped for the kid’s stocking were, not ignored really, more like overshadowed, by the bigger gifts on Christmas morning. Who could blame them really? A bookmark or some lip balm really can’t stand up to the latest video game or that sweater you really wanted. The Advent box was an attempt to remedy that.

We decided that we wanted to have a gift opened everyday in December but to give everyone a gift every day was going to be expensive. Luckily our family of five divides nicely into the days before Christmas (with one day where hubby and I both open one) so we decided we would get five gifts for each person and alternate opening them. I like this because 1. it lasts all month, 2. it lends a bit of anticipation to things and 3. it lets everyone have the spotlight (and not have it).

Here is the nitty gritty:

1. Gift prices range from $1-$5 with most being $2 and under,

2. In order to differentiate one person’s gifts from another we each have a different wrapping paper.

3. No food (candy and treats are for stockings)

These are just our family’s rules, you certainly can make your own or forgo them altogether! I think guidelines are helpful though so you don’t get one person receiving $10 gifts and others $1.

Now I had to come up with the Advent box itself.

Basically I started by wrapping an open box in wrapping paper. I chose a red paper with tiny white polka dots.

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This is last year’s box so it’s a little worse for wear but you get the idea. The unwrapped inside doesn’t matter as you will see soon.

Next you take some of that fake snow “fabric” that is typically used under trees…

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and place it into the box so it lines the inside.

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There will be some hanging over the sides and that’s OK.

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I have to fold my piece of snow fabric in half to make it fit right but you may not have too. It all depends on how big your box is.

I don’t attach the snow at all, but you certainly can if you like. If you want to do that I suggest waiting until after you put the gifts in because they will pull the fabric down a bit.

Next you wrap your gifts…

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and stick those puppies in the box!

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I like to use paper with all different colors, but you could easily use a color scheme if you like.

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and I love these little bows! I got them at Walmart for about $1 for a tube of five.

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We have a lot of fun with this! It really makes you think when you have a small budget. Sometimes the gifts lean toward white elephant while other times you really score (like with the black Friday $1.97 DVDs this year).

One of my son’s favorite gifts last year was a set of Angry Birds lip balm. Some other ideas are hand lotion, glade candles, holiday socks, lip gloss, small bottles of booze (for me and hubby), bookmarks, fancy hair elastics (we are a family of cheerleaders after all), dollar tree mugs, colored or holiday pencils and small tools.

Whatever you choose, every gift gets appreciated, and that’s the whole idea!

Beachy Christmas Ornament

Here I go again with the beachy versions of winter stuff.

I finally found some clear, fillable ornaments and was so excited (yeah I know) to try my hand at making one of the many (many, many) versions on Pinterest!

Problems appeared. I had no Holiday themed sprinkles for this one…

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or floor polish for this one…

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or fake snow with little trees for this one…

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What I did have was some left over beach sand and shells from my badly executed Summer Sand Globe. I also had a few smaller shells I had purchased while in Bar Harbor this summer.

Game on.

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All ready…

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ittle non-native shells

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arger native stuff

First you put some sand into the ornament…

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not too much or it gets really heavy!

Then you add some beachy stuff like shells, dried seaweed and such.

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and trimmed it out with some ribbon!

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(
please ignore the ramen in the background)

I like how this came out. It’s much nicer than the sand globe and will be the perfect gift for a certain land locked friend of mine 🙂

I do wish it was a little more colorful but without the addition of sea glass, which is very hard to find, there is no real way to add color and still be authentic.

Oh well, I will stick with realism!

My beachy Christmas ornament? Well…

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it’s authentic!!