Countdown to Christmas: Crafts, Food and DIY Gifts

This season, deck the halls, walls, and tables with these cool eats and treats.

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Gingerbread House

Dane Tashima

Gingerbread House

Buy a kit for less frustration and so you have more time to help your kid decorate with candy and other food. Besides a traditional house, you can also pick up some creative abodes from Wilton.

Hack the Gingerbread House:

-Attach pretzel rods for a chimney
-Shingle the roof with Frosted Mini Wheats
-Snip sour belts into rectangles for siding
-Put down shredded coconut for snow
-Make snowbanks out of rock candy
-Use halved York Peppermint Patties for steps
-Build a door frame with the hook of a candy cane

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Stacked Trees

Emily Kate Roemer

Stacked Trees

Your child can bring the best of the season into every room with these mini spruces.

What You'll Need: Scissors, paper, paint (optional), hot-glue, skewer, wooden disc, thread, cardboard.

To Make: Cut 75 squares, sized 1 to 4 inches, from old book pages (paint the edges, if desired) and 75 smaller squares from cardboard. Hot-glue a skewer to a wooden disc (an adult’s job), then thread on the squares, alternating paper and cardboard, from largest to smallest. Top with a star.

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Folded Boughs

Emily Kate Roemer

Folded Boughs

Your child can bring the best of the season into every room with these mini spruces.

What You'll Need: Double-sided scrapbook paper, stapler, scissors.

To Make: Stack four sheets of double-sided scrapbook paper and fold it in half lengthwise. Unfold and staple the stack along the crease, then refold. Position your paper so the folded edge is on the left. Cut through all eight layers from the bottom right corner to the top left corner to make a triangle. Starting from the bottom, make horizontal cuts into the right side of the triangle every 1 1/2 inches, making sure to leave 1/2 - 1 inch of space from the fold. Unfold. Working one layer of the time, fold down the top corner of each strip (you’ll create a mini folded triangle on each end). Once all the strips are folded, pull the layers apart so the tree stands on its own.

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How to Make a Folded Tree

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Pleated Trees

Emily Kate Roemer

Pleated Trees

Your child can bring the best of the season into every room with these mini spruces.

What You'll Need: Scissors, sheet music, hole-puncher, skewers, scrapbook paper, glue, pompoms, cardstock.

To Make: Cut a triangle (ours were 4 1/2 - 7 inches wide at the bottom and 7 - 9 inches tall) out of old sheet music (we found ours at a thrift store). Accordion-fold it horizontally at 1/2-inch increments, then punch a hole in the center of each fold (you can go through a few layers at a time). Thread on a skewer and adjust the paper to the right height.

For the base: Cut three 12x3/4-inch strips of colored scrapbook paper and glue the short ends together to make one long strip. Once it’s dry, glue one end to the bottom of the skewer, then wrap the strip around itself into a tight coil. Glue the end down; let dry (you can wrap a rubber band around it while you wait). Lay the tree flat and glue on mini pompoms and a cardstock topper. Let dry. 

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Melting Snowman Cookies

Courtesy of The Decorated Cookie Blog

Melting Snowman Cookies

Take a bite out Frosty before he melts away!

What you'll need: dough, frosting, soft gel pastes (white, orange, green), sharp knife, frosting bag, small spatula or knife, white rolled fondant, black edible pen, light corn syrup

Make it: Bake a "blob" shaped cookie and let cool. To decorate, color frosting with white gel paste and spread across the cookie. Once your base is set, roll some fondant between your palms to form a sphere for the head (colored white) and smaller spheres for the buttons (colored green). Knead a small amount of fondant with the orange color and form a triangle for the nose. Draw on a face with a black edible pen. Adhere the fondant pieces to each other and to the cookie by dabbing your finger in light corn syrup and rubbing on the areas that will be adhered. You can either draw on the stick arms with your black pen, or pipe with a thin tip and brown frosting.

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Family Photo Wreath

Alison Miksch

Family Photo Wreath

Take your pictures out of the frame and create a clever holiday decoration.

What you'll need: 3-inch circle template, colored cardstock, pencil, scissors, 4x6-inch black-and-white photos, glue stick, decorative-edge scissors, 12- or 14-inch foam wreath form, crafts glue, jingle bells, ribbon, two T pins

Make it: Use circle template to cut circles from card stock; cut faces from black-and-white photos into slightly smaller circles. Use a glue stick to attach the photo cutouts to card stock, then trim the card stock with decorative-edge scissors. Glue the photos to the surface of the Styrofoam wreath form with edges overlapping. Thread ribbon through jingle bells and tie bows. Glue the bells in between the photos as desired. Attach a loop of ribbon to the back of the wreath with T-pins and hang.

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Advent Calendar

Alison Miksch

Advent Calendar

Make a tree by tacking 25 decorated envelopes to a corkboard -- a month full of surprises!

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Minty Chocolate Treats

Alison Miksch

Minty Chocolate Treats

Serve these goodies at a party, or package them in cellophane for a delicious holiday gift.


Recipe:
In a food-processor bowl, grind 1 box (9 ounces) chocolate wafers, 3/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/4 cup sugar. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup chocolate milk and 1/3 cup light corn syrup. Shape into 3/4-inch balls and roll in crushed peppermint candy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes about 4 dozen.

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How to Make Candy Bar Critters

This video shows you how to make candy bar critters.

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Dressed-Up Napkins

Alison Miksch

Dressed-Up Napkins

Add a little flair to your table with stamped napkins.

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Toy Drive

Alison Miksch

Toy Drive

Teach your kids to pay the love forward and donate some of their gently used toys to needy children.

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Sweet Ornaments

Alison Miksch

Sweet Ornaments

Your kids will love to see their personalized sugar cookies hanging on the tree.


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. On a clean surface, knead 3/4 cup all-purpose flour into 1 tube (19 ounces) refrigerated sugar-cookie dough until combined. Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out wreath and star shapes using cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Using a straw, poke holes at tops of cookies; bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Gather remaining dough and repeat to make more cookies. Let cool 3 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.


2. In an electric mixer on low, beat together 1 box (16 ounces) confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons powdered egg whites, and 5 tablespoons water. Increase speed to high and beat 5 minutes. Divide icing among four bowls. Cover and set aside one bowl. With remaining divided icing, tint one portion aqua-blue, one red, and one a green-yellow shade using icing colors. Transfer a third of each tinted and white icing to pastry bags fitted with #3 writing tips. With remaining icing, sprinkle in a few drops of water to thin out.


3. Frost wreaths with thinned aqua-blue icing and stars with thinned white icing. Using bagged icings, pipe names onto bottom halves of wreaths and pipe berries with leaves onto top halves; pipe names and colored dots onto stars. Let dry completely before hanging. Makes about 2 dozen.

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Brownie Tree

Alison Miksch

Brownie Tree

Stack brownies on a cake stand to make a gorgeous holiday dessert.


1. Prepare and bake 1 box (21.4 ounces) family-style brownie mix according to directions for 13-x-9-inch pan and cake variation using an additional egg. Let cool completely. Cut seven circles from baked brownie in the following sizes: 6 inches, 4 3/4 inches, 3 1/2 inches, 2 3/4 inches, 2 inches, 1 3/4 inches, and 1 inch. Stack circles to make tree. Push a bamboo skewer through the center of the tree to secure the layers, trimming if it sticks out of the top.


2. To decorate you'll need 1 can (12 ounces) whipped vanilla frosting and green, yellow, blue, and red icing colors. Place 1/2 can (6 ounces) of vanilla frosting into a bowl and tint it bright green using green and yellow icing colors. Divide remaining icing between two bowls. Tint one portion blue and the other red. Place green icing in a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip, blue icing in a pastry bag fitted with a #4 writing tip, and red icing in a pastry bag fitted with a #6 writing tip. Once tree is assembled, pipe a "garland" of green stars around base of each brownie layer. Randomly pipe red and blue dots onto brownie layers. Make a star out of a soft red candy.

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Doggie Biscuits

Alison Miksch

Doggie Biscuits

Treat your puppy to tasty gingerbread snacks.


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine 3/4 cup hot water and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl. Stir until butter melts. Add 1/2 cup powdered milk, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 large egg, beaten. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup quick oats, and 1/4 cup wheat germ. Mix until dough forms. Knead on a floured surface to form a stiff dough.


2. Roll dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut out dog-bone shapes using a cookie cutter. Place on baking sheet and bake 50 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in airtight containers. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

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Snow Globe

Alison Miksch

Snow Globe

Encase photos, crafty creatures, or holiday trinkets inside a plastic cup to make a nifty tree decoration.


What you'll need: 5-ounce plastic cup, tack or pin, ornament string, small bead, colored card stock, pencil, decorative-edge scissors, small paintbrush, white glue, opaque white glitter, 2 thin orange chenille stems, 3 black chenille stems, 1 white chenille stem, black and white felt, 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch hole punches, strong craft glue, scissors, white paper, red toothpick, small piece of white clay, 1 silver chenille stem.


Make it: Globe: Make a small hole in the bottom of the plastic cup using a tack or pin. Insert one end of the ornament string through the hole, and thread small bead onto string inside the cup. Bring the ornament string back through the hole and tie ends together to form a loop. Put the cup upside down on the card stock, trace around it with a pencil, and then trim 1/4 inch outside the line with decorative-edge scissors. Use a small paintbrush to fill in the middle of the card stock with white glue, and sprinkle with opaque white glitter. Set aside to dry.


Penguins:
1. Fold a 6-inch piece of orange chenille stem in half.
2. Form the body by making a loose spiral around the orange chenille stem with a black chenille stem. Loop the two ends of orange chenille stem to form feet.
3. Tuck a 1/2-inch piece of white chenille stem into the top and bottom opening of the black chenille body.
4. Fold top of orange stem down to form beak. Use hole punches to make the eyes from black and white felt and glue on.
To finish: Once glitter is fully dry, secure penguins to base with strong craft glue. Press sign (glue piece of paper to toothpick) into white clay and stand it next to penguins. Add craft glue around the rim of the cup and glue to card stock. Hold in place until glue sets. Glue a piece of silver chenille stem at the junction of plastic cup and cardstock.

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Nice Gift

Alison Miksch

Nice Gift

Cheer up an elderly neighbor with a stocking full of teas and gourmet cookies.

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How to Make Clothespin Skier Ornaments

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Holly Leaf Gift Wrap

Alison Miksch

Holly Leaf Gift Wrap

What you'll need: Brown kraft paper, scissors, pinking shears, hole punch, tape, green paper, crafts glue, red pom-poms

Make it: Cut a strip of kraft paper lengthwise and fold it in thirds. Trim edges with pinking shears and punch random holes along the strip. Repeat. Unfold and tape strips around the package in both directions as you would with ribbon. Cut two holly leaves from a folded piece of green paper and glue to the top of the package. Glue on three red pom-poms.

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Artwork Sticker Gift Wrap

Alison Miksch

Artwork Sticker Gift Wrap

What you'll need: 8-1/2x11-inch full-sheet labels, scissors, markers, crayons

Make it: Cut labels to the appropriate size for the package and have kids decorate. Cut strips of label paper as ribbon and have kids decorate those as well.

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Paper Flower Gift Wrap

Alison Miksch

Paper Flower Gift Wrap

What you'll need: wrapping paper, pinking shears, tape, two drinking glasses of different sizes, pencil, double-stick tape, circular labels, rubber stamp, ink pad.

Make it: Cut strips of wrapping paper with pinking shears and tape in both directions around the package. Cut two circles from wrapping paper, one about an inch smaller than the other. Using the small drinking glass, trace a circle in the middle of the backside of the small circle; use the larger drinking glass on the bigger circle. Cut slits 1 inch apart around the circles to the penciled line. Fold the corners of the paper between the slits back toward each other and tape to form petals. Layer the two flowers on the package, securing with double-stick tape. Stamp design or words on circular label and place in the middle of the flower.

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Fringe Pom-Pom Gift Wrap

Alison Miksch

Fringe Pom-Pom Gift Wrap

What you'll need: ribbon, double-stick tape, two colors of crepe-paper fringe, button

Make it: Tape ribbon around package. Place double-stick tape in a circle in center of package. Spiral crepe-paper fringe to form a pom-pom, pressing it onto the tape. Add a second color of fringe around the center pom-pom in the same way. Tape a button in the middle of the pom-pom.

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3-D Tree

Courtesy of The Ki Blog

3-D Tree

Recycle scraps of wrapping paper by pulling together this pretty patterned Christmas tree.

What you'll need: wrapping paper, scissors, glue, ribbon

Make it: Print the tree template from The Ki Blog. Choose the patterned wrapping paper you want to use - pick at least three different styles and opt for heavier duty paper. Fold your paper in half (wrong side facing out), trace the tree template and cut. Add glue to the backside of each piece of wrapping paper; then, line up two pieces paper at the folded spines and press to adhere the backsides of the paper together - half of every tree shape should be adhered to a different pattern of paper. Continue until your patterns are glued together, completing the circle by closing the last patterns together. Decorate with ribbons on the top or by adding paper ornaments to your tree.

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Snowman Bread Tags

Courtesy of Crafts by Amanda

Snowman Bread Tags

Add some fun, wintery spirit to your kids' lunch bags with these clever and simple snowman tags.

What you'll need: white plastic bread tags, paintbrush, acrylic paint (in orange and pink), black marker, toothpicks, sealer spray

Make it: Start with your snowman's cheeks - dip a paint brush in pink paint, dab on a piece of paper to remove excess paint, and then dab your paintbrush onto either side of the bread tag cutout. Use orange paint to make a carrot shaped nose. Finish by using the black marker to make dotted eyes and a mouth. Let dry and repeat, and then spray with sealer to set.

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Foam Tree Forest

Courtesy of The Speckled Dog

Foam Tree Forest

Don't throw away your holiday-inspired ribbon scraps and extra craft supplies. Instead, transform them into a fun forest centerpiece for your Christmas table.

What you'll need: foam tree forms, pom poms, ribbons or yarn, pins, hot glue, embellishments like buttons and sequins

Make it: Starting at the base, pin a scrap of ribbon or yarn to secure. Wrapping from bottom to top, cover the entire foam tree, securing with pins as you go. Once covered, hot glue a pom pom to the top and add embellishments like wavy ribbons, buttons, or sequins. Repeat until you have a mini Christmas forest to add to your decorations.

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Sock Advent Calendar

Courtesy of Elsie Marley

Sock Advent Calendar

Don't stress when the laundry bandit steals one of your kids' socks - turn the lonely leftovers into a fun advent calendar to countdown the days to Christmas

What you'll need: 24 socks, number stickers, ribbon or rope, clothespins

Make it: Hang a piece of ribbon or rope on your wall - you can make any shape you like, just make sure it's long enough to hold all 24 socks. Then, add the number stickers to your socks and attach them to the ribbon with clothespins. Place a special trinket or piece of candy inside each sock and let your kids pick a present every morning before Christmas.

Copyright & copy 2011 Meredith Corporation.

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Peppermint Hot Cocoa Bark

Tara Donne

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Bark

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Melt 11⁄2 cups white chocolate chips in a microwave and pour into the pan; spread into a rectangle about 1⁄4-inch thick and freeze 10 minutes. Melt 11⁄2 cups semisweet chocolate chips. Spread over the white chocolate so that the edges are even. Sprinkle with 1⁄4 cup crushed starlight peppermints and 1⁄3 cup mini marshmallows. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Pull off parchment and break into pieces. Makes about 24 pieces. 

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Cookie-Butter Truffles

Tara Donne

Cookie-Butter Truffles

Combine 1⁄2 cup softened unsalted butter, 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1 cup cookie butter (such as Trader Joe's), and 1⁄4 tsp. vanilla in a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium low. Use a small scoop to form 1-inch balls; roll with your hands to smooth; and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Melt 1 (12-oz.) bag of semi- sweet chocolate chips. Dip each ball into the chocolate with a fork, letting excess drip off. Place balls back on baking sheet, sprinkle with crushed Speculoos cookies, and chill until firm. Store in fridge. Makes 32. 

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Pretzel Snowmen

Tara Donne

Pretzel Snowmen

Melt 1 (12-oz.) bag of white-chocolate melting wafers. Dip 18 pretzel rods in chocolate and spread it over each one with a spoon. Let dry on parchment paper, about 20 minutes. Melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe eyes, buttons, and twig arms as shown. Let chocolate set, about 10 minutes. To make top hats, use leftover white chocolate to "glue" together licorice coins and licorice gumdrops. Cut strips of red fruit leather for the scarves and use orange Nerd candies for the noses. Attach all to snowmen with white chocolate. Makes 18. 

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White-Chocolate Snowflakes

Tara Donne

White-Chocolate Snowflakes

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt 1 (12-oz.) bag of white-chocolate melting wafers and transfer to piping bag with a small, plain tip. Pipe 21/2-inch-wide snowflakes onto the parchment (for perfect snowflakes, use our template), decorate with nonpareils and sanding sugar, and let set. Gently press onto chocolate cupcakes topped with pale-blue frosting. Makes 18. 

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Chocolate Salami

Tara Donne

Chocolate Salami

In a bowl, melt 1 (12-oz.) bag of semisweet chocolate chips and 6 Tbs. butter. Stir in 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/3 cup slivered almonds, 1/3 cup walnuts, and 1 cup chopped mixed dried fruit. Chill mixture for 1 hour. Place half the chocolate mixture on a large piece of plastic wrap, forming a rough log as you go. Wrap with plastic, then roll to finish molding. Twist ends of plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm, about 45 minutes. Repeat with remaining chocolate mixture. Unwrap and dredge each log in powdered sugar. Remove excess, then slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Makes 36. 

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