December 16, 2015

Do-It-Yourself Holiday Crafts

sock snowmenBy Rheagan Rizio, USC student, Be Well blogger

Winter break is here!  If finals time left you too busy to begin preparing for the holidays, don’t worry. Here are several holiday craft ideas that can be used as gifts, as home decorations, or even just as fun treats for yourself. Hopefully they’re fun, easy activities that make your holiday season a little less stressful!

Hot chocolate kit:

I’ve always wanted to give and receive this as a holiday gift. Essentially, it’s a cube of chocolate attached to a spoon: to enjoy, simply place the spoon in hot milk, stir, and the chocolate will melt. Pour melted chocolate into flexible ice cube trays. Then take plastic spoons and stick them, spoon-side down, into the chocolate cubes (it may be best to let the chocolate solidify for a little while prior to adding the spoons, otherwise the spoons may not stand up straight) and set the tray somewhere safe to finish solidifying. Once the chocolate has completely hardened, remove each cube (the flexible tray should peel off, enabling you to get the chocolate out without breaking it) and put each one in a small, decorative bag. Add miniature marshmallows, peppermints, small chocolate chip cookies– anything that you think your guests might enjoy with their hot chocolate.

*Tip: to make peppermint hot chocolate, substitute a candy cane for the spoon: the peppermint candy will melt slightly in the hot milk, infusing the hot chocolate with a refreshing minty flavor).

Sock snowmen:

An adorable, fun holiday gift or home decoration! All you need is a white calf sock, rice, two rubber bands, and some buttons. Cut off the foot part of the sock and tie one end of the other piece closed (the part that extends up the leg). Invert the sock (one end should be completely sealed, and fill it a little over halfway with rice (depending on how fat you want the snowman to be). Tie off this section with a rubber band: this makes up the body. Fill up the next section with more rice and tie off the top: this makes up the head, so it should be smaller. Attach the buttons to the snowman, either by sewing them on or using a hot glue gun, to make the eyes and buttons. Small hats can be made from the foot part of the sock by cutting off the toe part and using the toe as a small cap (sew the sides of the fabric together, and sew the hat onto the snowman’s head to prevent it from falling off. Small scarves can also be knitted for your snowman.

Decorative candy jar:

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Fill a mason jar with a small candy (ex: M&Ms, skittles, Hershey’s kisses, etc.) and attach the lid. After this, decorate the jar and use it to ornament your home or give it to holiday party guests. My favorite way to decorate them is to take a cloth doily and tie it to the lid of the jar with a festive ribbon.

Homemade Christmas tree ornament:

I’ve made several of these types of ornaments, and they’re always really fun (although some have turned out better than others). All you need is a clear glass ornament and some paint. Take the top off the ornament, pour in a generous amount of paint and swirl it around so it coats the inside of the ornament. Once it’s thoroughly coated, pour out the excess paint and leave it to dry. You can even pour in multiple colors at a time to make a multicolored ornament. Additionally, for a different look, you can put crayons instead of paint inside the ornament: using a blow dryer, melt the crayons and tip the ornament around to swirl the color all around the inside.

Pine cone Christmas tree:

Also very simple to make. Paint a pine cone with green paint (I find it easier to stick the pine cone into a container filled with paint, as it coats it much more evenly). Leave the pine cone to dry, and once it has dried simply glue either colorful candies (I like to use Skittles or M&Ms) or beads to the cone to mimic Christmas Tree ornaments. I always like to arrange several painted pine cones in a setting with cotton balls to mimic snow and create a little wooded diorama for my house.

Miniature snow globes:

One of my favorite holiday traditions is making my own custom snow globes. All you need is a clean, empty jar (it can be large or small, depending on what size snow globe you want to make), small plastic figurines (for the scene inside the snow globe), water, and glitter. Using a hot glue gun, glue the figurines onto the inside of the jar’s lid and leave this to dry completely. Pour glitter into the jar (if you want to use something a little heavier try hard plastic confetti), then add water. Once the figurines have dried onto the jar’s lid, simply screw the lid on tight, invert the jar, and shake it whenever you want to create a snowy winter wonderland.

Graham cracker gingerbread houses:

Another favorite holiday tradition is making gingerbread houses. However, making them out of real, homemade gingerbread can be time-consuming and costly, and therefore for the past few years I’ve made them out of graham crackers (the crackers are lighter than the gingerbread, and therefore the houses are much more likely to stay standing). All you need for each house are 5 full graham crackers: 1 full one per side wall (2 total), 1 full one per roof (2 total), and split 1 in half and use each half to make the front and back walls of the house. To make the icing to stick the crackers together, use 3 egg whites, 5 cups of powdered sugar, and 1/2 of a teaspoon of cream of tartar. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on medium speed, then add the powdered sugar in a little at a time and beat for around 5 minutes (or until the mixture thickens). Refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready to use it (make sure to cover it in the fridge). Once the house is built, you just need several types of candy you want to use to decorate it: once you finish, set the house in a safe place to dry. I personally like to decorate my gingerbread house with candy still in its wrapper: it’s much more colorful, and the candy stays fresh much longer.