…and in some pretty chilly weather, I was putting things away and trying to get my life back together! I hope everyone had a blissfully overwhelming holiday, like I did with my family. As per usual, I got spoiled absolutely rotten by my wonderful husband and son and my amazingly generous family. Look out world, mama has a new purse and sunglasses, shiny jewelry, and an orange standing mixer!

One of my favorite things about Christmas is getting to watch everyone open the gifts I carefully chose for all of them. This has been multiplied by a million since my son was born and I now get to watch him give them gifts he made.  This year I broke out the crafty with him, and we made some pretty awesome gifts. I wanted to share my top five countdown with you in case you are looking for a cool birthday gift, mothers/fathers day gift, or in case you might want to pin this post for next Christmas season. I’ll even make a deal with you and repost this one next fall. Wow, that puts some pressure on me to keep this blog going.

Okay, here goes!

5. Pom Pom gift tag: This was an easy, adorable way to wrap my son’s gifts. First, we used wrapping paper that he picked out (Disney’s Cars, as it was this year). Then we made these awesome tags. Thanks, Daile Lele!

Supplies:

  • pom pom balls: we went sparkly, but any kind will do (Michaels, $2 for a big bag)
  • blank tags: we made ours using the cricut, but you could buy them or cut them out by hand as well
  • glue
  • markers

Instructions: simply assemble the tag, decorate your snowman however you’d like, and then write the person’s name on the bottom! Super super cute. No one that got one of these tags was willing to throw it away. Success.

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4. Pom Pom ornament: By far, the easiest craft I have ever done. We gave one of these to my son’s daycare providers, and they loved it so much, that they did it as a last-minute craft that day with the kiddos.

Supplies: pom pom balls (same as above – I bought a BIG pack), glass ball ornaments (4 pack at Michaels, $2.50 the week before Christmas!), ribbon

Instructions: let your little one (or you) shove the pom poms into the ornament. When it is full, put the top back on, and tie a pretty ribbon on the top. That’s it. You’re welcome.

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3. Dulce de Leche sauce: Let me start by saying that when I saw this over at Chef In Training, I absolutely did not believe it. I felt that it must be impossible that I missed a recipe that required two ingredients to make caramel sauce. In a crockpot of all things – easily one of my favorite kitchen accessories. And I could do it while I slept?! Surely, I was missing something. But no, I swear to you, it is as easy as Sarah says it is.

Supplies:

  • 2 (14 oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk: In the baking aisle of your grocery store
  • 4 (8 oz) canning jars: They sell these in a case, so you’ll get more than 4, which just means more caramel sauce!
  • water

Instructions:

  • Open your cans of milk
  • Pour them into your jars (I used two jars per can of milk).
  • Tighten the jars as best you can. I didn’t have my strong husband around on this particular night, so I just tightened it as best I could and it was fine. I am really weak, so if I can do it, so can you.
  • Lay them in your crockpot. If you have an oblong one like me, I could easily fit all four. I guess if you had a round one, you might have to do two at a time. Play with it, see what works. And let me know in case I ever end up with a round crockpot.
  • Cover them with water and put the lid on. Turn your crockpot on high.
  • Walk away.
  • Come back after watching some DVR and getting a great night’s rest (approximately 10-12 hours).
  • Be amazed at the wonder that is your dulce de leche sauce.
  • Carefully take out of the crockpot, as the jar and metal top will be very, very hot.
  • Put in the refrigerator, and once cool, open them so that you can wipe off any rust that might have formed along the ring of the top.

Then, you can pretty much have fun with the presentation. I gave one to my husband to take to his favorite barista at Starbucks with just a ribbon, and a handwritten tag on it. For my son’s daycare providers, I put it in a clear treat bag (dollar store), put an apple on top, and tied with a ribbon and tag.

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I used another jar to make these amazing Dulce de Leche cheesecake bars. Seriously, if you are going to make this sauce, do yourself a favor and use one jar for these bars. A. Mazing.

The last jar is currently taunting me in our fridge.

2. Salt dough fingerprint ornament: I really want to pretend these were easy. You know how when you give someone a homemade gift, they look at you like, “Wow, these are impressive,” and you give them this look back with a shrug like, “Oh, these old things? I whipped them up while you were in the bathroom just now.” Well, for these, the look I gave them was sheer defeat. These damn little trees almost bested me. But I prevailed.

Supplies:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • Tree cookie cutter
  • Acrylic paints (any color), silver fabric paint
  • Black sharpie
  • Ribbon
  • Polyurethane spray (optional)

Instructions 

  • Mix the salt, flour, and water together.

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  • Be prepared for these to look a little crumbly. I was not prepared for this, and, being the non-baker that I am, thought I would add a little more water. DO NOT DO THIS.
  • Because, when you go to the next step of your project, kneading the dough, it will be so sticky that you can’t even touch it without it covering your hands and adhering like crazy glue.
  • Once I managed to clean myself up, I read online that I could add flour and fix my mistake. If I were you, I’d have some extra flour on hand anyway. I found this pretty difficult to knead and roll out without adding quite a bit more flour to the mixture (upwards of 2 tbsp). I’m a bit challenged when it comes to using the rolling pin, so it’s possible that this was just a faulty operator issue, but either way, it tested my patience. Little man thought it was cool though, so naturally, we trudged on.

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  • Once you manage to roll out the dough (hopefully with more ease than me), use your cookie cutter to make trees and fingers to make the “ornaments”. I also used a straw to put a hole in the top for the ribbon and hook. I’ve seen this done as a family craft, where everyone makes one finger print, but since my husband wasn’t home (and my son’s fingers are way cuter anyway), we just went with his.

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  • Once we had finally made trees (about an hour after we started this falsely advertised “easy” craft), I looked online to see the best way to let them dry. The inconsistency in posts was unnerving. Some let the trees air dry, while others baked them. I had no idea what to do, but I  knew that I wouldn’t try to make these again, so I decided to split the difference and do a little of everything. First, I baked them at 200 degrees in my toaster oven for 10 minutes. Then I let them air dry for one week. That’s right, a whole week. I really wasn’t in the frame of mind to still be interested in this project a week  later, so this was a major let down.

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  • One long week later, we painted them. We used acrylic paints and small brushes for the ornaments, sharpies for the “strings” and date, and silver fabric paint for the star outline at the top.

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  • Spray with polyurethane to give a little shine.
  • Tie a ribbon through the top and wrap em up. Then pour yourself a drink.

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1. Art calendar: I will warn you that this project takes some serious time. Unlike the tree ornaments, however, I was prepared for this one to take a while. If you are doing this with older kids, you might be able to knock it out in a couple days, but with a toddler with a short attention span, plan ahead, and don’t make this art project the reason he grows up to hate art.

I had seen this project idea before my son was even born, and I was so excited to do it last year. However, he didn’t really understand the whole concept of handprint art and was largely uncooperative, so we made shaken paint ornaments instead and I put this project away. This year, I knew he was ready. Over the summer I start preparing the projects I wanted to do and then, beginning in the fall, we started doing a project a week. After about four weeks with no art, I knew we had to get moving, so we upped to it a full-on art marathon in the month of November.

Supplies: Basically, everyone in the craft closet gets to have a part in this one. Be ready for a few trips to Michaels, and to have a designated space where this stuff can sit and dry as you work on it for a while. This was not my husband’s favorite part. You’ll need a smattering of the following:

  • Finger paints
  • Paint Brushes
  • Construction paper
  • Accessories: googly eyes, sequins
  • Markers
  • Lots and lots of hand wipes

Instructions: Pick one art project for each month in the calendar for your child to make. You can type in a holiday or season combined with the word “finger paint” on Pinterest and get quite a few ideas. Here is what we ended up with:

jan

(January – handprint snowmen, freehand painting)

feb 

(February – heart stencil, freehand painting)

march

(March – handprints, pot of gold template printed and cut out; I let my little man paint the “gold” on yellow construction paper and then I just glued it on)

april

(April – fingerprint flowers)

may

(May – wine cork “stamping”)

june

(June – handprint sun)

july

(July – finger print flag)

august

(August – handprint crab with googly eyes)

sept

(September – apples cut in half and used as stamps)

oct

(October – pumpkins made by painting and stamping little man’s knuckles. Have them make a fist and then paint the top of their hands. This was his favorite to make!)

nov

(November – Indian corn template, finger print kernels)

dec

(December – handprint tree with sequin ornaments)

When your child has finished making all of his/her masterpieces, scan them onto your computer and save them as individual jpeg files. (Bonus: you have the originals, so consider framing them and using them for a cute seasonal decoration!) Insert them as the pictures for each month of a printable calendar. I got good deals using PrinterPix and Shutterfly, but Vistaprint, Staples, and really anywhere that allows you to upload pictures for a calendar will work.

For your cover, I’d recommend using a picture of the little artist if you can. For my two year old, this brings about a whole other kind of headache. I decided just to roll with it though, and make a perfectly imperfect collage.

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So there you have it. Seeing the way these all came together makes me smile, which is sort of the point. So go ahead, tuck these away and use them the next time you want to make a gift for someone. I’ll even act surprised if you make one of them for me.

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