A Celiac Friendly Christmas Craft

By Rachel Sircy

I think I mentioned last year that I make Christmas ornaments for our friends and family every year. I have wanted to make homemade clay ornaments for some time, but I haven’t done it because most homemade clay recipes use wheat flour as a base for the clay. I try to keep my home and especially my kitchen as free as possible from contaminants and so I don’t bring wheat flour into my house at all. Once, I had the idea that I could use gluten free all-purpose flour to do the same job, but let’s face it, at more than $4 a pound, it would be cheaper to go out and buy ornaments than to make them out of gluten free flour.

But, I’ve found more and more lately that Pinterest has the answers to most of life’s problems. It was there that I came across pictures of lovely white ornaments made from cornstarch clay. In cornstarch clay, cornstarch and baking soda take the place of flour as the base of the clay. So, I had the answer to my homemade clay problem. Here is the recipe that I followed from a blog called, Kleinworth & Co.:

1 Cup Cornstarch

2 Cups Baking Soda

1 ½ cups Water

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. It takes a while, but the ingredients will eventually start to resemble mashed potatoes. Once you get to the mashed potato phase, scrape the mixture out into a glass bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

This is what it looks like cooking:

pic 1

And this is what it looks like in its mashed potatoes phase:

pic 2

At this point, you can roll out the clay and cut out shapes with a cookie or biscuit cutter. I also used a clay stamp and a metal button, to stamp the image of a crown and the words “Peace” and “Joy” into each ornament. Now, the point where I differ with Kleinworth & Co. is after the ornaments are made. Their recipe calls for the ornaments to be baked at 175 degrees for 30 minutes and then air-dried for another 24 hours. I found that this baking process actually dried out my ornaments too quickly and they ended up cracking. So, I actually threw out the first batch of ornaments that I had made and made a second batch, which I allowed to air-dry overnight on the plastic table cloth where I’d rolled them out, After that, I transferred them to cookie cooling racks and allowed them to dry out for about a week. This seems like a long time, but it kept my ornaments from cracking. If you need them to dry out sooner, I might recommend drying them for a shorter time in the oven and then allowing them to air-dry overnight.

Here is the finished product:

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And my daughter even got in on the ornament making fun.

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If your children are celiac, this is the perfect clay to allow them to make hand prints. There’s no risk of contamination with this clay. Although, of course, I wouldn’t exactly recommend letting them eat any!

Have fun and have a Merry Gluten Free Christmas!

Creative, Special Book Wreaths

By: Shannon Boatwright 

the-1st-book-wreath-i-made

I had the privilege of learning a new craft before the holidays, thanks to a dear colleague. One day at school, at the start of the year, I happened to see a beautiful, very unique wreath made of the pages of a book displayed in our library. I thought it was fabulous! I discovered that my colleague had actually made it. She offered to teach me how to make one. I took her up on her offer and in time discovered what a joy it was to create something so cool, unique and special. And the interesting thing is that this particular craft is so inexpensive! Yes, it is time consuming, twisting the pages and getting everything positioned just right to make all the pieces come together into a lovely creation worthy of being displayed. But it is definitely a cheap project. I bought a few books from the dollar store, choosing books that had good pages. And also from the dollar store, I bought foam board and some more glue sticks for the glue gun I already had at home. And that’s it! One wreath costs me less than $5.

a-collection-of-book-wreaths-before-they-were-given-as-gifts

Creating these lovely book wreaths really was a labor of love. The expense is not in the materials, but in the time. I spent several hours over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday making these particular wreaths to give as Christmas gifts. I only wish I’d had the time to make more! There are so many fabulous ways you can create wreaths with the pages of a book! Or, as you’ll see in my picture, a book wreath can be made with sheet music as well. I was especially proud of this wreath that I made for my Mama.

the-book-wreath-made-of-sheet-music

So if you’re the creative type and love to take the time to make handmade special things to give to others, you ought to give this project a try! You can research them online and find all sorts of amazing ideas for your own creations.  Here’s to getting crafty and putting time and love into special handmade gifts!

New Christmas Traditions

By: Rachel Sircy

My husband and daughter and I are in Ohio visiting my family for the holidays. On the way up we listened to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, read by Patrick Stewart. I’ve seen several different movie versions of A Christmas Carol and my husband and I listen to the book on CD every Christmas that we drive up to Ohio. Needless to say, it’s a story that I know a-christmas-carolpretty well, and I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this blog post will be equally familiar with it. Most years that we watch the movies or listen to the book read aloud, I think of it as just one of those quintessential Christmas stories, one of those stories that’s told so often that Scrooge and Humbug and the Spirit of Christmas have become bywords in our culture.

For some reason as we listened to it this time, the story’s bizarre nature struck me like a blow to the head. It’s a Christmas horror story, really. I mean, the parts about ghosts wailing and rattling their chains is fairly reminiscent of hell. I started to wonder why on earth Dickens decided to tell a story about Christmas in this way, and why the public ate it up in the way that they did. How did this weird little spook story become such an inseparable part of our modern idea of Christmas?

According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge) Dickens wanted to use people’s awakened interested in Christmas (in his day Christmas traditions were changing; Christmas trees were becoming popular as were Christmas cards) to promote awareness of poverty and social injustice. So, he created a strange story about a tight-fisted misanthrope being scared straight just in time for him to spread some Christmas cheer.

I have said all of the above to say that I have been thinking about the new Christmas tradition that Dickens created, and that has got me to thinking about creating new Christmas traditions of my own. Since my daughter – I’ll call her HRH (short for Her Royal Highness) – was born, I have been trying to find ways to simplify the holidays, honor the memories of loved ones, and teach HRH the true “reason for the season.” Here are three new traditions, two I have tried and one I want to try next year.

  1. Homemade Christmas Gifts: One way that I have been trying to simplify Christmas is to make each child on my list a gift rather than just buying a billion toys that will get thrown into the corner to collect dust after the child plays with them for a week. I want each child in my family circle to have something meaningful, something that Mommy or Aunt Rachel made them that they can keep and pass down. The work that goes into a homemade gift is personal. I think about each person as I make the gift, and that thought is part of the gift. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely buy a few toys as well, but my main gifts are almost always something I have made.
  2. Honoring Loved Ones: My husband’s grandmother passed away in 2012, and her passing was keenly felt by all the family. This year I wanted to revive a tradition that Grandma Sircy started during her lifetime – making a personalized ornament for each member of the family. I began this year with a simple project, wrapping styrofoam balls with fabric, yarn or tulle. I suppose this falls in the same category as the homemade gifts, but this particular homemade gift is really a tribute to Grandma Sircy – something to remind us of her.
  3. Making the story of Christmas come alive for children: My brother and sister-in-law found a Christmas activity on Pinterest that I absolutely love, Joseph and Mary on the Shelf. The idea behind this activity is basically the same idea behind Elf on the Shelf: you make it seem like toys (or Nativity set pieces) are moving around the house while the children are asleep. However, this particular version of this activity comes with the added bonus of teaching children the Christmas story. My brother and sister-in-law partially set up their Nativity scene, putting up the stable and adding the animals to it, BUT they left out Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, the wise men and the shepherds. They began the month of December by reading their children the Christmas story from the Bible and that night and each night afterward, the children have to find Mary and Joseph who are somewhere in the house, making their way toward the stable in Bethlehem. One night, Mary and Joseph were found on the kitchen counter “eating” some of the kids’ chicken nuggets to sustain them for their continued journey. Mary and Joseph arrived in the stable on Christmas Eve and Jesus, the shepherds and wise men were waiting for them on Christmas morning.

So, these are my new Christmas traditions, ones that I hope will bring the spirit and the reason for this holiday season close to my family. If anyone has any traditions that they have created for their family, or that their parents created for them, I would love a comment about it!!

Suggested Reading: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

Want That Last-Minute Gift?

By: Stacy Thompson

So if you are anything like me, you have absolutely no time and no inclination to visit a mall, store or shopping venue at this time of year — but you want more than anything to give a perfect gift or something useful to those you love. Well, I can’t promise the perfect gift, but I can give you a guide to making, yes, making, a personalized, comfy and cozy present for anyone on your list. I give you…the No Sew Throw.

no sew throwThere are many videos on YouTube that can help you on your quest (and I recommend searching them before you start) but here are some tips to get you started:

  • Buy 2 yards each of patterned and solid fleece (or 1 1/2 if you want a smaller throw) from your local craft store (Michael’s, Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, etc.).
  • Pick out your patterned fleece first and buy the solid to match. I had a great time with this and took some really wild patterned fleece and toned it down with solids. You could also use two solids, but with different types of fleece — ultra-soft and heavier fleece may work well together.
  • Trim the fleece and pin together, right sides out. Make sure the fabric matches up and pin together to keep it from bunching or overlapping.
  • Cut out corners — Usually 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 squares on each corner. (See the photo.)
  • Cut 1-inch-wide strips.
  • Then, there are a few different ways to go with the ties.
    • Knotted ties
      • Cut 4 x 4 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 4 inch long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Tie the two fabrics together, twice – make sure the knots are secure
    • Threaded tie
      • Cut 3 x 3 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Cut 1/8 inch hole through both strips near the top of the strip, on each strip.
      • Feed bottom strip through the hole in the upper strip.
      • Feed bottom strip through the hole in the upper strip. (You can feed through one more time if you want to—it depends on how you want your throw to look.)
    • Braided tie.
      • Cut 3 x 3 squares at each corner.
      • Cut 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips.
      • Cut 1/8 inch hole through both strips in the middle of the strip, on each strip.
      • Starting in the middle of one side, feed the right side strips through the left side strips. Continue to feed the right side through the left side until completion.

Finish your throw with either knots or by sewing in buttons or other ties — and then, sit back and enjoy the smiles! Free to contact me (stacyt11@hotmail.com) if you need some help.

Happy Holidays everyone — and I look forward to seeing you all in 2017!!

A Recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent

By: Jordan Tate

Hey there, guys! I’m coming at you today with a recipe for homemade laundry detergent! Why? Because it’s so easy, so cost effective, and it totally works. I saw this recipe a while ago and I knew I wanted to start making our own laundry detergent because it’s cheaper and healthier to use. I just had to wait until we got through our stash of store bought detergent first! I don’t know if you’re like me or not, but I can tell you that I spend far too long standing in the detergent aisle comparing prices against the healthiest, safest option for my family, and I just can’t afford the really high end brands that have minimal ingredients.

I ended up having to make a trip to Walmart as well as Target in order to find all of the ingredients, but I actually saw the labels where all of the ingredients would be at Walmart – they had just run out. So you should be able to get everything you need in one trip. Here’s what you’ll need (one each):

  • 4lb.12 oz. box of Bora
  • 4 lb. box Arm and Hammer Baking Soda
  • 3 lb. box Arm and Hammer Super Washing Sod
  • 3 lb. box Oxi Clean
  • 1 bar of Zote Soap

How to make your own laundry detergent

Directions
Step one: Pour all of the dry ingredients into a huge container/bucket/pot and stir really, really well. I poured all of mine into a 2 gallon glass container (also available at Walmart or Target). I found that the stick end of a wooden spoon worked well to mix it all up, but I also used my hands.

How to make your own laundry detergent

Step two: Grate your bar of Zote soap with a standard kitchen grater into the already-mixed jar of goodness. (I used the smallest grate size on my hand held grater and it took me about 10 minutes to grate the whole bar.) I love the way this stuff smells but I can’t pin-point what it reminds me of. Hotel laundry? College laundry rooms? I’ll figure it out eventually.

How to make your own laundry detergent

How to make your own laundry detergent

Step three: Mix the grated soap until it’s well incorporated throughout the mixture and applaud yourself because you’re done!

How to make your own laundry detergent

BONUS: The Oxi Clean container comes with a laundry scoop marked in tablespoons. You only need ONE tablespoon per laundry load, and TWO if your laundry is extra dirty.

Total cost to make? $18.26. And it should last a family of four about six months! If it lasts us 6 months that’s $3.04 per month for good quality detergent. What do you have to lose? Give it a shot and let us know if it worked for you!

How to make your own laundry detergent

5 Minute Fall Necklace

By: Leah Prescott

I have been dying to share this easy DIY project that combines two of my favorite pastimes: thrifting and crafting! Tassel necklaces are very trendy right now and these are the perfect way to add a little splash of color to your outfit as we head into fall. All you will need are vintage beaded necklaces, embroidery thread, and lobster clasps.

DIY tassel necklace
You can buy inexpensive bead necklaces at Michael’s craft store, but we picked a few up from Palmetto Thrift and also used a few vintage necklaces that belonged to my grandmother. The best part about this project is that the tassels will be interchangeable, so you can change them anytime to get a different look. Both retro and handcrafted, these necklaces end up different from any you will find in a store.

To create the tassels, you will use the entire bundle of embroidery thread. Take it out of its wrapper and tie an extra piece of thread firmly around the middle of the bundle, being sure to leave some extra length. (This will be the top of the tassel). Thread a bead on to those threads and tie them firmly to a lobster clasp. (Now you can hang it anywhere).

DIY tassel necklace

Next, holding your tassel-in-progress by the top, fold down the bundle so that all threads are hanging together neatly. Tie another piece of embroidery thread about an inch down from the top to create the tassel. It looks best if you wrap it a few times and tie firmly. You can try to hide the ends of your knot in with the rest of the hanging ones, but good luck with that. Remember, boho style is perfect in its imperfection. At least that’s what I told myself.

Finally, trim all the threads hanging down so that they are all loose and tassel-ish! Hang from your necklace and you are all done! Isn’t that adorable?

As you can see, we went a little tassel crazy at my house. But once my twins got started making them, they just couldn’t stop. I hope you enjoy this project as much as we did. Happy Tasselling!

Déjà Brew Skin Scrub

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

coffee

You know how a good cup of coffee can get you going in the morning, but did you know that coffee can also brighten your skin and temporarily minimize cellulite? That’s why I love this recipe for coffee skin scrub, a wonderful way to reinvigorate your skin and your senses in the shower. It’s also a great way to reuse your morning coffee grounds.

Homemade Coffee Sugar Scrub Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Ground Coffee
  • 1/2 cup Used Ground Coffee
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon

Directions

  • Pour sugar and coffee grounds into medium sized bowl.
  • Mix in coconut oil (add more if you like a wet consistency).
  • Add cinnamon and mix well.
  • Place mixture in lidded container.

Enjoy!