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December 2013

Mary's Modern Homemaking

Homemade Holidays
By Mary Frances

Mary's Modern Homemaking archive


Homemade decorations are the best.


Let's play with our food! When is the last time you heard that?

When I was young, many households were, well, what one would now call "frugal." Most moms stayed home, while dads worked. So making do was a way of life. If it was in the cupboard, something fun could be made from it.

I remember making macaroni necklaces. One time I even made a bracelet to match. That was a lot of fun for me. I also recall making a mosaic from dried beans. My mom thought this was a very special gift.

Stuff like glue or paste, play dough, and even finger paints were made as opposed to bought. It was cheaper that way.

In today's world, it might even be safer to make your own things to play with. My short time in retail has really opened my eyes to a lot. Kids will be kids. You never know what will end up in their mouths. So if you can make something at home with ingredients in your cupboards that you know are safe to eat, then by all means do so.

Well, I say, let the fun begin! Forget the glitter, store-bought paste, and stick-on jewels. Head for the cupboard. Look for sparkling sanding sugars, sprinkles, dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, and the like, small silver or gold dots, and colorful hard candies. Beans, rice, and dried coconut are good as well. They may be pricey, but places like King Arthur Flour or Wilton give you a lot to choose from. As for paste or glue, try making a batch in your kitchen.


Colored sugars sparkle like glitter and are safe to eat.


But be careful about using food items for decorations—to avoid bug invasions, these should not be put in long-term storage with other Christmas ornaments.

The holidays are here! What could be more special than making, using, and giving something handmade?

For the Christmas dinner table, your kids can make place cards or napkin rings. Elsewhere in your home, imagine a beautiful handmade ornament, card, or tree topper.

How about using cookie cutters as an unusual tool for making these decorations? They come in all shapes and sizes and are inexpensive. You can find them just about everywhere: dollar stores, thrift stores, and supermarkets. Trace around the cookie cutter shapes or dip them into finger paint and use as a stamp. You can color them in or cut around the outline.

Hopefully there is still a sewing basket somewhere around the house. Search through it for ribbons, lace, buttons, and trims. Maybe there's a fisherman in the family. Ask for some fishing line, which is good for hanging such things as tree ornaments or window decorations.

Need a way to add some color to your artwork? Try homemade finger paint. It's fun, safe, and edible. Besides, the kids will enjoy measuring out the ingredients and mixing up a rainbow of colors.

Are you a neat freak and hate the idea of "dirty" hands? Then some paint brushes from the dollar store are just the ticket. Use for brushing on the paste, glue, or paints.

Oh yeah, some scissors are also a must. Add some construction paper, old greeting cards and colored envelopes, tissue paper from packages—and a bit of imagination.

Paste/Glue Recipe
This is a recipe from my mom.

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cold water

Put the flour in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the water a little at a time. Mix until it is the right consistency. It should be smooth and thick for paste or a little runny for glue. Use more or less water as needed.


Homemade finger paints are fun to make.


Finger Paint
This recipe is from babycenter.com. I lost my mom's recipe,
but this comes very close to the way I remember her making it.

2 cups flour
4 cups cold water
Food coloring

First, whisk the flour and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens, being careful not to burn; use a double boiler if you have one. Allow to cool and add a large pinch of salt, about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon. Divide into small cups. Add food coloring a small drop at a time and mix until you get the right color.

Note: My previous column Have Fun with Play Dough has instructions for making play dough.


Mary Frances lives in Ravensdale, Washington, and loves finding healthy ways to keep her castle clean. She believes that what we clean with can be just as important to our health as what we eat. When she's not cleaning, Mary Frances battles the blackberry vines in her yard. Also enjoy Mary Frances's blog, All American Gal.


Mary's Modern Homemaking copyright 2013.
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