“PICTURE YOURSELF” GIFT WRAP

It’s fun and easy to make this inexpensive personalized wrap using photos, markers and a copy machine or printer.

Start by sorting through photos stuffed away in albums and drawers, or browse through digital photos on your phone and computer. Choose your favorites, and then pick one of the following ideas to show off smiles, smirks and grins.

Andy Warhol-like wrap:

Inspired by Warhol’s technique of painting repeats of the same image of celebrities and objects such as the Campbell’s soup can, make a similar artistic collage from one of your photos. (For an example of Warhol’s painting, go online to www.wikipedia.org/wiki/andy_warhol and under “Contents,” click on “Paintings.”)

Go to a photocopy store and make lots of black-and-white copies of one of your photos. Cut them out and trim off any excess white paper so that the prints are all the same size. Glue them together in rows on an 11-inch by 17-inch sheet. Photocopy the large sheet.

With markers, fill in some of the light spaces with bright colors to enhance the black-and-white images on the sheet. Set aside. Wrap a gift with plain paper from a recycled paper grocery bag. Trim the photo sheet to size, and glue it on the front or top. Add a ribbon or bow, if you wish.

Note: Instead of using a photocopy machine, create a black-and-white photo collage of repeated photo images with a computer and printer, if you have them available. Use the preloaded photo software that came with your computer and printer, or one that is recommended.

Other quick photo gift wraps:

–For a small gift box, simply make one photocopy of a photo of the person receiving the gift. Glue the black-and-white copy to the center of the wrapped package and color it in with markers. Add a greeting and your signature.

–Choose a photo to provide a hint for what’s in the package and glue it on top. For example, if the gift is mittens, a wool scarf or hat, use a photo of your favorite sledding hill. For a box of Legos or building blocks, use a photo of a city skyline. For a cookbook, pick a photo of the family at a picnic or sitting around the dinner table.

CREATE A HOUSE OF HEARTS

     

The last of the December holiday decor has finally been tucked away in bins in the attic. Well, almost. In frigid snow-covered Minnesota, I’ll keep the white twinkle lights up that frame our outdoor windows and wind around the pine treetops in flowerboxes. The lights seem to brighten our spirits, and add warmth with their sparkle in the evening snow during sub-zero temps and blistery snowstorms — at least through February … OK, March.

This time of year I think about the happy color pink, the taste of chocolate and lovely heart shapes everywhere. Even outside. That’s why I’m inspired to freeze water with a sprinkling of birdseed in heart-shaped cake pans to unmold and hang with twine from tree branches in the front yard. It’s a suncatcher attraction for feathered friends and passersby (search Heart-Shaped Ice Sculptures at www.donnaerickson.com).

What’s next? More heartfelt ideas to create a house of hearts. Enjoy them with your kids no matter where you live:

  1. Heart-shaped cookies

Use your favorite rolled-out sugar cookie recipe and cookie cutters in heart shapes to fill your cookie jar with cookies made by you and the kids.

For a creative twist, when making medium or large cookies, use a knife to cut out a 1 inch deep and 1/4 inch wide wedge off the side of the heart-shaped dough before baking. Once cool and decorated, hang the cookie on a glass of milk or a mug of hot chocolate.

Or, poke a hole through the top of several cookies before baking. When cool, string them with twine individually, and hang from a table centerpiece of bare branches. When friends visit, they can take home a cookie heart.

Make mini cookies with your smallest heart cookie cutter. Pack in a cardboard jewelry gift box lined with waxed paper. Give to someone special with a Valentine message attached.

                             

  1. Say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day

Put a love twist on breakfast. Use strawberry jam from a squeeze container to draw a heart on your child’s toast. When you prepare pancakes, spoon the batter onto the pan in various sizes of heart shapes. Top them with fresh strawberries cut lengthwise to make hearts.

  1. Family love

Share your wedding photos with your children. Tell them how you and your spouse met, and include any funny or romantic stories they would enjoy. Look for formal wedding pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents, too. Learn their names and share family love stories and lore.

 

HEART-SHAPED ICE SCULPTURES

Make beautiful heart-shaped suncatchers out of ice to hang from a tree branch on a cold day. If you live in a warm climate, place an edible version in a punch bowl for a Valentine’s Day party with friends.
Here’s what you’ll need:
–A heart-shaped cake or small cupcake pan with a rim, or the base of a heart-shaped candy box lined with aluminum foil so water can’t seep through
–Dried flowers, leaves and rose petals for suncatcher
–Decorative edible items such as thinly sliced oranges, limes and strawberries
–Strong string or wire for a hanger
–Water
Here’s the fun:
Set some decorative items into the pan or lined box. (For punch-bowl ice, add edible items only.)
Set a portion of a 20-inch length of twine or wire in the water, making sure it is submerged near the top center of the heart. Fill with water and set in the freezer.
When the temperature outside is freezing, remove the heart from the pan and hang from a branch where a glimmer of sunlight will shine through.

SNOWBALL CANDLES

snowball

Bring extra holiday light into your home during the December holidays with candles. Instant mood creators, the flickering light not only brightens a dark winter evening, but also quiets us down after a busy day and becomes a subtle conversation pacer.
Here’s a fun way to create festive wintry candles by whipping up melted paraffin wax and frosting it over and around a round candle or votive, so that it resembles a pretty white snowball Or, add some whipped wax to pillar candles to look as if covered with freshly fallen snow. Make extras for gifts, too.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for snowball candles:
–ball-shaped candles or 2-inch or larger votive candles
–coffee can, or other sturdy tin can such as a clean 28-ounce stewed tomato can
–paraffin wax (available in the canning section of most grocery stores)
–saucepan
–medium-size heat-resistant bowl used for crafts.
–small metal whisk or fork used for crafts
–dull craft knife or brush (optional)

Here’s the fun:
1. Bend one side of the rim of the can to create a spout, then place a brick or two of paraffin wax in the can. An adult should set the can in 2 inches of water in a saucepan to create a water bath. Heat the water until the paraffin melts, keeping an eye on it at all times. Never place the can on the burner or over an open flame, because the wax is flammable.
2. Carefully pour the melted wax in the bowl and let cool, about 20-25 minutes. It will develop a firm crust, but it should not be hard. Gently beat the wax and thick liquid with the whisk or fork until it becomes a fluffy white consistency. It’s amazing to watch the transformation!
3. Kids can spread the warm whipped wax around a candle, keeping wick exposed. If your candle isn’t round, add more wax as it hardens and mold a ball shape with hands. Let wax harden before use. If you have extra wax, re-melt in tin can and add to pillar candles. (See below.)
To create snow on pillar candles, “frost” the wax onto the sides and top of a candle, keeping wick exposed with the knife or a craft paintbrush. Sprinkle with glitter for extra sparkle.

Safety note: Before burning candles, always set them on a plate or tray intended for candles. An adult should always be present when candles are burning.