Seasonal Spotlight: Homemade Gingerbread Playdough, Hot Cocoa Truffle Balls, Snowflake Crayons & An Inexpensive Decoration!

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I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.
Thomas Alva Edison

Eight years ago, I ran out of excuses.

“I’m just not crafty.”

“I’ve never been good at that sort of thing.”

“I can’t even boil water without burning it.”

I grew up with the craftiest mother.  As a matter of fact, at 79, she enjoys painting bird houses and Martha-esque gift wrapping – among many other things.  Me?  Well, as many of you know, the apple fell far, far from the tree – a concept I call “Book Smart, Not Life Smart.”    I cannot look at a toilet paper roll and see Christmas ornaments.  Nope.  I see something that should be recycled.  That’s about it.  Well, that, and a quick mental rehash of the cost per roll or something like that.  Oh yes, I am my father’s daughter.

Since I swear I can feel my brain shrinking (thanks to Dora and her cronies), I try to attempt new things OFTEN.   Well, there are two reasons really – my sci-fi brain and my mini-me.  My son, who is so quick tempered, benefits (or so I tell myself) quite a bit by watching my reaction when things don’t work out as planned.   Well, it’s either that or he has concluded I’m an idiot…probably the latter.   Believe me, my lofty ideas often don’t translate well, but the only time it’s a problem is when it involves dinner.  Hungry children do not like dinner experiments….like Italian Meatloaf.  Blech.  Snowflake Crayons?  That’s a B-I-G inedible win in our house!

For the last few weeks, I’ve wanted to share a few experiments that have turned out well for us, but haven’t had the time.    These are great last minute gifts you can throw together quickly and give to your friends and family.  A couple are perfect for the kids and super cheap to make.  To round it all out, I’ve thrown in an easy decoration.  After all, sometimes the most beautiful things are also the most simple.

And here they are…

Snowflake Crayons

I have a couple of silicone molds that I picked up at Target a few years ago.  Since then, I’ve seen them all over the place.  You don’t have to use this particular mold, but I do prefer silicone molds for this project because the crayons are easier to remove once they’re done cooling.  Also, I should note that I  don’t use this  mold for anything else because I’m certain the oils have leached into the silicone.  That may just be me, but I don’t want to find out it isn’t *just me* when my food tastes like crayons.  Eeek!

And if there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that children = broken crayons.  My nifty, super cheap mold and that simple fact make for the perfect craft in our house.  Further, I should say that we give ours a new 64 Crayola box each year for Easter, Birthday, Christmas, and when they’re requested.   My son doesn’t like the sharpener…of course.  He feels it’s grossly inept at creating a nice tip.  Meh, he’s right.   As a result,we have lots of crayons we keep in a shoe box.  Every now and again, I sort through them and make rabbits for Easter (using pinks, pale greens and yellows) and snowflakes for Christmas with the remaining darker colors.

Personally,  I think the prettiest snowflakes contain similar colors – warm with warm and cool with cool.  For the dark blue crayon, I chose any dark blue color along with a sprinkling of purple, black and very few lighter blue colors.  I tend to group the lighter blues together and pair them with white or something like that for Easter – much like what I’ve done with the red crayon above.  The hidden snowflake is a *fall* snowflake – a tribute to all the beautiful colors of our favorite season.    You can do anything you want, of course, but I think these work best for actual coloring, as well as appearance.

Note: You’ll want to be sure that all your crayons are the same brand.  Mixing brands tends to cause an odd separation due to manufacturing differences – not good.

OK, moving on to the directions.  First,  skillfully coerce your minions into removing all the paper from THEIR crayons and break them into small pieces, so they’ll melt evenly.  Preheat your oven to 250  and make sure your silicone mold is on a baking sheet.  Again, that will help them melt evenly and avoid spillage.    I fill mine about 2/3 full or a bit better of crayon pieces.  The melting process only takes around 10-15 minutes.   If they’re not fully melted after 15 minutes, check again every few minutes until they are completely melted.

Once mine were melted, and because I’m impatient, I cooled them on the counter top for a few minutes, then popped them in the freezer.   If you’d like you can press a pretty, looped string into the melted crayons before they cool, so they can be tied to a gift package or hung on a tree as an ornament.

Truffle Hot Chocolate Balls
Another very simple gift recipe is for Truffle Hot Chocolate Balls.  These pair perfectly with the super cheap customized mugs we all ordered a month or so ago.  It takes only a few ingredients to make this homemade hot cocoa perfection- confection.  As a matter of fact, I’m getting ready to make a second batch of these and the only difference between mine and the photo above is that I used holiday cellophane and tied them off with pretty red ribbon.  If I remember, I’ll take a picture of the next batch for you to see.   I think I’ll thread a large marshmallow onto a cake pop/lollipop stick and press it down into the ball before they’re refrigerated.  Then, I’ll wrap them all individually in cellophane and tie them off with a ribbon (again) and arrange them in a mug like a bouquet.   These would also make nice Valentine’s Day gifts.  Instead of using a stick, you could pick up a set of antique teaspoons on Ebay and sink them into the balls.  That would also make a nice bouquet.  All of the instructions for these yummy truffles are available HERE at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

Gingerbread Playdough
And right about now, I’m so thrilled that I saved all those empty Ragu and Smuckers  jars.  I’m going to fill them up with Gingerbread Playdough, created from a recipe I found at The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle.  I haven’t done this one yet, but I’ll be tackling this feat tomorrow in between batches of cookies.  I can’t wait to do it!  Depending on how much time you have, optional *dry* instructions are available.  That way you can combine all of the ingredients in a jar and give them to a  friend to create this fun holiday variation for his/her own children.  I expect my little people will spend HOURS creating all sorts of goodies in the play kitchen.

Epsom Salt Luminary
And since I’m working on the match-ups, it is worth nothing that Epsom Salts are on sale at Walgreens tomorrow as part of the mid-week sale from 12/21-12/24.  The 3lb carton retails for $3.79, but they’re going to be buy one get one free.  This decoration will work nicely with my front porch scheme I’ve got going.

If you’re expecting company for Christmas (like me), you may want to get some old canning jars out and fill them with a cup or two of Epsom Salts and nest a votive candle on top  for an easy decorative statement.  You could also use these on a table interspersed with decorative evergreen sprigs and red ball ornaments.   The cost is minimal and it would look fabulous!

Crafts by Amanda gives you step-by-step instructions to create a frosted luminary using Epsom Salts as well.  Both of these options are easy, beautiful and inexpensive.

As I’m sure you can tell, I have been itching to do a post like this since Black Friday.  Now that all the online deals are behind us, I can get us back to our regularly scheduled program.    Aaaahhhh….

Be sure and take a look at all the great deals we've posted today here!

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