This is technically my Daughter’s second Christmas, but it’s the first that she can actually be involved of her own accord on some things. Normally, we spend Thanksgiving at my Mother’s home and this year was no different. After turkey dinner, we usually set up the Christmas tree. Well, at least within the next couple days. My daughter was such a big help! She loves helping. “Help” has become one of her favorite words, in fact. Grandma would put the branches on the tree and ZeQara, my daughter, would hand her another.
Watching the whole interaction made me realize how much I want to create traditions with my daughter like I’ve had with my family over the years. I remembered recently watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries where they made a popcorn garland every year for their town tree. What a perfect tradition for us! Not the popcorn garland but the idea of making ornaments every year together. So, we got our first family tree, a 7ft, pre-lit, frocked beauty with pine cones on it. Then, when we got home, we set out to make some ornaments. After that the craft bug bit the crap out of me, because I decided to make some other Christmas decorations as well. I’m hoping to add to them each year and hopefully as ZeQara gets older, she will want to help more and more also. Ill do a separate post for the decor. For now, lets get down the business talking DIY Ornaments!
I had some mandarin oranges that were starting to go bad. They make the bags so big it’s hard to eat them all in time between the two of us. So, I decided to use them & turn them into decorations for our tree. It’s quite simple really. Here is how to make some beautiful dried citrus ornaments using fruit. I decided I wanted some grapefruit to add some really nice pops of ruby to the tree. All you need is a couple pieces of fruit, a sharp knife, a baking sheet, an oven, a needle, thread or twine, and time. The twine I got was from Hobby Lobby for $2.
Step 1: Slice fruit into desired thickness. I used 1 large grapefruit & 4 mandarin oranges.
Step 2: Bake fruit at 180 degrees for 4-6 hours. Depending how thick your fruit slices are, will determine the length of baking. I baked these for 5 hours. The thinner pieces were a little darker than I would have liked. I should have removed those at the 4 hour mark. A few pieces were still a little wet in the centers or around the edges that connected to the peels. I think next time, I’ll flip them over at the 4 hour mark and then bake completely. It’s okay if they are a little wet though as they will continue to dry out completely in the air. I left mine out for about 48 hours before threading them. *Could take 2-4 days to dry out enough to thread.
Step 3: Cut your thread and string up the fruit, tying it off in a bow or knotted loop. Originally, I wanted to add star anise to the centers of the fruit. I was using a thicker twine to match other ornaments I made. The needle wouldn’t pierce the star anise without breaking it and I couldn’t thread them. It might work with a thinner needle. They do look extra beautiful with the star anise centers but I opted to continue without them. I will try again next year when we make these and maybe use thinner needle and thread. They also smell quite lovely.
Step 4: Final step is just to hang them on your tree. Wallah! Easy as 1, 2, 3, and done!
>No-Salt, Salt Dough Ornaments<
A twist on a classic recipe for a baked, paintable, child-friendly Christmas craft. These require no baking, although baking can help speed up the drying process, and they are perfect to do with a toddler. The thing I love the most about this recipe is they are super messy BUT the easiest to clean up. Literally, the bowls, utensils, and my kitchen floor cleaned up super easy and fast.
The ingredients are things probably found in your kitchen already or you can pick them up at Dollar Tree. I’ll list everything I got and recommend but you can certainly mix things up a bit if you like. We had a lot of fun with it and I know you will too!
2 cups Baking Soda
1 cup Corn Starch
1 & 1/4 cup Water
*optional Scented Oil (Christmas Tree, Cinnamon, etc)
You will also need cookie cutters in the shapes you want. I got a couple 50 cent ones from Hyvee and also a 6 pack of circles. I wanted some tiny stars but couldn’t find a cutter anywhere. I also got a clay tool kit with 2 rolling cutters and a roller because I don’t own a rolling pin. Get creative with textures! I used some fake grapes and pinecones to make interesting textures by pressing the dough before cutting shapes into it. Just follows the steps below and add your own ideas for decorating.
Step 1: Heat stove top (medium heat).
Step 2: In a medium saucepan, Mix baking soda, corn starch, and water completely and place over medium heat.
Step 3: Mix constantly for approximately 60 seconds. This is when you want to add your scented oil if you choose to. I used Christmas Tree oil found at Hobby Lobby in the candle making supplies.
INSIDER TIP* Use oil sparingly. At first, I couldn’t even smell it from the bottle so I kept adding drops. Once the mixture starts cooking, the scent comes out stronger. It made my whole house smell for days and my hands from later steps. I’m not complaining as it was a festive and enjoyable smell, just a fair warning that you really don’t need to add a lot.
**The second batch I did, I actually slowly stirred in powdered Apple Cider mix, after that first 60 seconds of heating, during the 1st couple minutes of cooking the mixture. It wasn’t as strong of a smell but it was lovely. It also gave the ornaments a nice tanned color which fit PERFECTLY with my tree color scheme.
Step 4: Continue mixing constantly. You don’t want to leave the mixture to sit. Stir for about 5-6 minutes. You’ll see the mixture start to brown a little then it’ll start to bubble. Once it’s bubbling a little, make sure while stirring, you’re scraping the sides ad bottom of the pan.
Step 5: The mixture will start to turn into a doughy consistency. Keep stirring and folding the dough over itself until just after you see the last bit of liquid turn doughy. Once no water or liquid mixture is left visable, remove from the heat and fold dough for another 20-30 seconds to ensure it’s completely doughy and no liquid is left over.
*(if you see more liquid, return to heat just long enough to stir the remaining water into the doughy mix).
Step 6: At this point, you’ll want to turn off your stove (you’re done with it unless you’re making another batch right away). By the way, this will give you approximately 10-15 ornaments depending on size, thickness, and shapes. Scoop the dough from the pan into a GLASS container. My first batch, I put the dough into 2 regular glass cereal bowls. The second batch, I put into a medium size rectangular glass baking dish.
*COVER the dough with a very moist paper towel while it cools to keep the dough from drying out
Step 7: Cool for approximately 60 minutes/1 hour – Once the dough is cooled, you can roll it out and cut your shapes. *Just like with baking cookies, MAKE SURE THE DOUGH IS COOL before working with it. It’ll make it easier to work with and less likely to stick or crumble.
INSIDER TIP* Add beads, dried flowers, or any other embellishments you want to add to the ornament right away! You can also press anything you want to leave an impression behind. I did a table top piece with my daughter’s hand print and one with her foot print. I also did an ornament with a key from our home & wrote on it; “Our 1st Home” and then our address on it as well.
**********Use a straw or a pen tip IMMEDIATELY to place a hole for your ornaments to have something to hang from. I used a straw for most of my ornaments but the smaller ones worked better with a pen tip. Make sure you push it all the way through to make a complete hole.*********************
Step 8: Let the ornaments dry COMPLETELY before painting or stringing up for the tree. I let mine dry for 24 hours and they still weren’t dry, especially the thicker ones. So, I baked them at 175 degrees for 90 minutes, then flipped them over (except the embellished ones), and baked another 20 minutes. Then, I left them out on the counter to cool overnight. The next evening, we painted them. After the paint dried over night, I strung them up with the same twine I used for the citrus ornaments and hung them on our tree.
PAINT SUPPLIES (FROM DOLLAR TREE – $1 each)
6 compartment paint trays
Water color paint or Acrylic Paint
I use old Amazon boxes I cut up and taped together to make a “floor” to go underneath my daughter to catch any spills or drips. I then used a large Amazon box as a little craft table for painting the ornaments as well. No messy clean up! Keep in the garage for later projects OR toss in the recycle bin after.
>Wrapped Cinnamon Sticks with Jingle Bells<
These DIY ornaments are perfectly festive, fairly inexpensive, and very simple to put together. The cinnamon sticks came from Hyvee for about $8. There was approximately 13 sticks. I got a 3-pack of Christmas colored twine from Hobby Lobby for about $3. I got a pack of silver jingle balls from Hobby Lobby also (about $3). It’s a big pack that will undoubtedly last me for the next 10 years of Christmas crafting projects.
Step 1: Cut a piece of twine about 12 inches long.
Step 2: Take 2 jingle balls and thread the twine through the little loops on the bells. Once the balls are roughly in the middle of the twine, place 2 cinnamon sticks stacked on the center of the jingle balls.
Step 3: Start wrapping the twine from both ends around the sticks. Once you’re down to about 2 inches on each side, tie the twine off in a bow or knot. I did double-knotted bows.
That’s it! Hang them on the tree.
>Home Blessing Ornament – Witch Balls<
I’ve seen these before as a way to trap souls. They are so beautiful even if you don’t believe in their magic. I decided to make half of them with intentions. I filled them with specific herbs and fueled them with intentions for a safe home, attracting blessings, and filling our home with love and protection. Hobby Lobby has tons of options for fillable ornament balls; clear, glass, plastic, frosted, circle, square, and more. I opted for the iridescent glass balls because they were perfectly fitting for the vision I had in mind. I bought a pack of neutral colored feathers (about $3) as well. I already had an assortment of Herbs in my herbarium; dried rose petals, marigolds petals, witch hazel, drift wood, blessed thistle, bay leaves, elderberry, blue vervain, etc. I also had some assorted colors of glitter in my craft supply box so I decided to add some gold glitter because let’s be honest, glitter is always a necessity. You can add whatever you want that will fit inside these balls. Make them unique and your own. I got some tiny funnels from Hobby Lobby that were made to fill other bottles with sand. They were in the area of sand, shells, and all those type crafts.
If you plan to fill the balls with intentions, focus on what you want to gain from the herbs and/or contents of the ball. I also chose to fill them on the night of a Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse to add even more energy to them. I even rinsed the outside of the balls with my Moon Water from the Hunter’s Full Moon on Halloween. I’m hoping they’ll bring me some extra good energy going into 2021. I know we could all use a little extra good energy leaving 2020 behind. As I sealed the balls, I said a final thank you to God, Spirit, and Earth for all that I have and hope for. Lastly, I tied bows around the collar of the balls. I used the same Christmas themed twines I got for the cinnamon sticks. I did a few red, a few green, and left a few without string. I then hung the balls with ornament hooks. I’ve had extra in my storage box for years but you can pick them up just about anywhere. It’s always a good idea to have a big supply around for the holiday. Never know when you’ll get bit by that crafty bug and want to make a bunch of unique ornaments at home.
>Final Ornament Purchases<
I decided I wanted to add some flowers as well to the tree. I was going to buy some real bouquets from the store and dry them out but I decided that would be a bit more expensive and I’d already dropped a pretty penny on the new tree and other little supplies this year. Instead, I opted for a more long term investment and purchases some roses from Amazon. Each box cost about $10 which is much cheaper than I would have spent to get real roses and dry them out. Plus, those would have been harder to store and keep nice for next year. I know because I keep all my flowers I’m gifted and dry them out and use them throughout my home for decoration. It’s personal and reminds me of the people who gave them and/or the event they were given for. It’s a nice connection to those memories. I got 2 different colors of roses online though. They fit the theme of our tree ornaments already; dusty rose and burgundy. The boxes came with a decent supply of roses on stems that were bendable. The stems also blend perfectly with the tree. They have a somewhat velvet-like finish so they actually look pretty realistic in the tree itself. The baby’s breath I ordered I wasn’t quite so satisfied with. It was small and crumpled all over the floor as I pulled them apart. They weren’t as full as pictured or described. I used them anyways but I would have liked for them to be fuller. I had to place 2 stems in each bundle and the stems are super thick and don’t blend as well.
I have a few ornaments that are sentimental gifts from Christmas’ past. I hung those randomly throughout the tree as well and they actually fit nicely with the them. Hopefully, we can add to that collection over the year as well. I think I’ll buy my daughter an ornament every year. She probably won’t enjoy them much until she goes out on her own when she is older and I can give them to her for keeps when she starts her own family and traditions.
*See something you like? – Be Sure to Follow my Blog & check out my next post! I’ll be walking you through the rest of my crafty Christmas Decor. This DIY Mama is on a roll! (Told ya I got bit by the craft bug HARD)