Monthly Archives: December 2013

Homemade Christmas Crackers!

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So, I haven’t been great at posting lately….not because we haven’t been making and doing things, but I just haven’t fit in the time to actually write about them! My camera roll is filled with photos of projects! I guess I haven’t been as motivated, and I got sick before the holidays. It is amazing how the number of page views on my blog has dropped since I haven’t been posting as regularly. Anyways, it was December two years ago that I started this blog! I have written about 221 art, craft, and cooking projects and have had well over 110,000 views, read by people from hundreds of different countries all over the world. Pretty cool. So to everyone reading today, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
On to my project… Part of our family tradition at Christmas is to pop Christmas Crackers at the start of dinner. Honestly, I think a lot of the tradition comes from just looking for stuff to keep the kids quiet while everyone is trying to enjoy their large Christmas and Thanksgiving turkey dinners. But I have to say that when I was shopping for crackers last week, the quality of the prizes inside are not what they used to be! I don’t know how long a corkscrew would entertain the kids…
So, we thought we could make much more personalized crackers ourselves!
We found the snaps at Michaels, although, I think these would still be great without the snap, if you can’t find them. I think a package was about $2.50 for 12 at Michaels.
After we found the snaps, we had to shop for the stuff to go inside. We ended up finding stuff at Walmart, Winners, and of course, the dollar store. We bought an assortment of toys and chocolate, then sorted them into piles for each person. Here are some of the goodies:

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We originally were going to use paper towel and toilet paper tubes, but it was hard to find stuff to fit inside. So I ended up buying a couple sheeets of Bristol board and cutting it up into squares. (Make sure the width of the squares are more narrow than the length of the snappers) We picked a cute red and white wrapping paper for the outside. I should have taken a photo of the snappers so you could see what they looked like, but you can see them at the right hand side of the picture below.

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To roll the crackers, we piled everything together..

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Then, we added the snap and rolled the Bristol board around everything as tightly as possible. I added a piece of scotch tape at either end. Be sure to add the snaps at this point if you are using them.

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Then wrap them with wrapping paper. The paper should be about 2 inches longer than the tube at either end. I put a piece of tape to hold the wrapping paper in place.

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Then. all that was left to do was to tie the ends. I used an elastic cord. This part was a little tricky for the kids to do, so I did all of the tying. The tricky part is to make sure the snappers are sticking out at either end.

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Then, as soon as each one was tied, we added a gift tag so we could remember who each cracker was going to. We ended up making almost 20. We made enough for John’s family on Christmas Eve, and my family for Christmas dinner. This was a great hostess gift to bring when someone else is doing the cooking. I have to admit though, I did miss the tissue paper crowns….maybe next year I will add them in! If I had a little more time, it might also be cute to add a little joke that would be personalized for each person, or a fortune, or something like that.

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Merry Christmas.

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Chocolate Haystacks

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This is one of my all time favourite cookies. I had no idea of the name, then Sam and I went to a craft sale and at the bake sale table, they were selling Chocolate Haystacks. So as soon as I got home, I searched it and found the recipe. The best part is that you don’t even have to bake them!
You need
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of cocoa
1/2 cup of milk
3 1/2 cups oats
1 cup of shredded coconut
(I also added about 1/2 cup of hemp hearts, and some chia seeds. Shhhhh…)

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Start by mixing the sugar, butter, milk and cocoa in saucepan,

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Bring the mixture to a boil

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Keep boiling for about five minutes.
Then gradually add about 3 1/2 cups of oats and 1 cup of coconut. As I said before, I also added hemp hearts and chia seeds, and I slipped in some chocolate chips too.

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I used two spoons to spoon it out onto a cookie sheet, and stuck them in the fridge to cool. (When I say fridge, I mean I put them outside for 10 minutes) I really need one of these refrigerators that has the extra full size drawer compartment.
I forgot to take pictures when I made them, so here is what they look like spread out on a cookie sheet frozen. Which reminds me…
These taste amazing frozen! I popped the ones we didn’t eat in the freezer, and of course, from time to time (like every day) I reach in and grab one. Because I am incapable of waiting for them to thaw, I have been eating them frozen, and they are really good!

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Here is a much nicer picture I found online…

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And check out this idea. You could use the same recipe with chow mein noodles, and make little birds nests!

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Hope you enjoy!

Shortbread

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I could tell you that this amazing and delicious shortbread recipe was handed down in my family for generations…but I would be lying. So, instead I will come clean and admit that the recipe is actually from the Toronto Star circa. 1986…but it was given to me by my mother. It is really scary that 1986 doesn’t seem like that long ago… (it’s actually only 27 years ago). I know…that means I am getting OLD! Speaking of getting old, I have had a few moments like that lately. The other day, I was working with a grade 7 class and somehow the topic of 9/11 came up. I asked the class how old they were when it happened, and where they were or what they remembered from that day…. it turns out that most of the class hadn’t even been born when it happened! Anyways, enough about me feeling old, let’s get back to the shortbread!

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I have made this same recipe for several years now, and at this point, I don’t even read the recipe. You only really need only four ingredients (although I ran out of vanilla extract, which I would add if I had it)
You need: 1 cup rice flour, 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 pound of butter, and 1 1/4 cups of sugar.
Before you start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

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Make sure you have let the butter soften at room temperature, then chop it into smaller chunks or cubes.

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Then, put the butter into the food processor and blend it for a few minutes.

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Then, slowly pour the sugar in. I let the food processor go for 3-5 minutes, depending on the speed. You want it to be light and fluffy.

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Then, in a seperate bowl, mix the flour and rice flour, then slowly add to processor. We added a spoonful at a time.

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When you have mixed in all of the flour, pour out the mixture onto the cookie sheet. Kneed it a little by hand to ensure everything has mixed together. I do this right on the cookie sheet.

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Then, pat it flat onto the pan.

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Then, to give it the traditional shortbread look, and to ensure it cooks evenly, I poke it with a fork in rows like this…

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Put in the oven for about 12 minutes, turn around so it evenly browns and bake for about another 10-15 minutes, maybe more depending upon your oven. You will know it’s done when it turns a golden brown colour, like this:

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The trick is to cut them right when they come out of the oven. They are soft, and cut easily without crumbling. If you wait until they cool, they harden and it will be much more difficult to cut.
I start by slicing the pan into halves, then quarters…

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Then slice the opposite way…

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I let them cool in the pan. If you try to take them out too soon, they will be more likely to crumble, but they do taste delicious when warm!

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They last about a couple of weeks, but like any baked goods, are better fresh.

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This was my fourth batch this week. I gave it out as presents to the kids teachers, friends, and hostess gifts. I packaged them up in a little box with a couple jars of homemade jam. The kids had 14 teachers between them this this year, so I had quite a production line going on in the dining room this week.

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Thank goodness, it is all done! Gifts all delivered and we are now officially on holidays. The last batch is for us to enjoy!
Take care, enjoy the holidays!

Pinterest Button

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I did it, I finally did it! I figured out to add the “pin it” button for Pinterest to my blog!!! And, yes, it took me a while.

So, from now on, below every post, you can pin my blog posts to your Pinterest account by just clicking on the Pinterest icon. (I know, just what you need, more time on Pinterest, right?)

Anyways, am going to try to post more often, have so many projects I haven’t written about lately!

See you.

Sequinned Ornaments!!!

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I have been making these ornaments for years. I have made them with Dylan and Sam, and they are amazing to do with a class too. The materials are cheap, the results look amazing, and it keeps the kids quiet for hours….win-win for everyone!
All you need is a styrofoam ball, a scrap of tinfoil, some pins, beads and sequins.
Start by wrapping the styrofoam ball in tin foil. I have even used the wrappers from the Ferrero Rocher Chocolates (did I spell that right?) Anyways, people I know are used to my hoarding tendencies, so when I walk around at Christmas asking for their chocolate wrappers, people are usually pretty good about it. Either that, or it’s a good excuse for pigging out on chocolates…once again, win-win for everyone!

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Then, after you have wrapped the styrofoam ball, add a bit of glue and stick in a pin to hold on a loop of ribbon or string to hang it from.

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Then, start adding a pattern of beads and sequins onto the pin, be sure to leave about a half to a third of the pin open, because if you don’t leave enough space on the pin, it gets really hard to handle and won’t stick properly.

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Then, dip the point of the pin in white glue. I find it is easiest if you pour the white glue into a little container.

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Then, stick the pin into the styrofoam ball…

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And repeat about 100 times… Here is a little more done…

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and a little more…

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and some more…

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Almost done…

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And….. finally…. finished!

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Here it is what it looks like on the tree…

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And, here are a couple different colours, using different sequins and beads…

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Good luck!

Felt Kiwi

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Before I start, I have noticed that I am getting longer and longer between posts lately, and the number of views per day is also going down, so I am going to try to write more regularly… in order to quit my job, I think I am going to have to step it up a bit! Just joking…I’m not quitting my job. I would have to be making some money to do that…But, on a related note, I have reached over 100,000 views! And, that’s all the reward I need. But, if anyone out there wants to be my manager, I’m hiring! lol

So… just because we have absolutely nothing better to do, my daughter Samantha and I decided to make some felt food. I had a pile of felt in the basement, so after searching on Etsy and Pinterest, we came up with the idea to make some food. Sam, was interested in helping for the first few pieces, but lost interest, and I have continued. I have a box of felt beside the TV, and I have been working away the last couple weeks. I will share a couple of my favourites with you. I’ll start with how I made Kiwi fruit out of felt.
Start by cutting out three circles of felt, see the picture for colours. Smallest one should be white, middle is green and brown is slightly larger.

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Then, with embroidery thread, stitch the white circle in the center with long stitches like this…

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Then using black embroidery thread, stitch the seeds. They look the best if they all radiate out from the center.

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Then, to make the back of the kiwi, I wanted it to be a little rounded, so I cut a Y into the circle…

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Then, fold the felt over, tucking the middle of the “Y” in.

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Then sew it closed. You can play around making it slightly bigger or smaller, so it is the same circumference as the front..

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Then, sew the front of the kiwi to the back. The best stitch to use to make all of your stitches look even is a blanket stitch…which is just looping the thread under your needle before you pull the thread tight.

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Finally, when you have stitched around about three quarters of the way around, stuff it with some polyfill.

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Then sew the opening closed. Here are a couple pictures of the finished kiwis….

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